Will the iPad Debut Without Content?

When Apple introduced the iPad as a revolutionary new way to interact with media, many were excited about the prospect of viewing their favorite TV shows, reading their favorite magazines and newspapers, and even getting their textbooks on the slim, easy-to-carry tablet.

Apple’s enthusiasm may be wishful thinking. So far, Apple is still trying to procure the content that will make the revolutionary new platform worth using.

Apple was hoping to offer TV shows for a cheaper price than they are currently offered in their iTunes store, reportedly looking for a 99 cent price as opposed to the $1.99 or $2.99 per episode that users are currently paying.

Apple has not yet reached an agreement with the networks, however, many of whom are uncertain they want to be the first to jump onto this new, potentially dangerously unprofitable, platform.

Magazines and newspapers are holding back because of concerns that the iPad doesn’t support Adobe’s Flash video technology, which many publishers use for online ads. Publishers are also only working with a test version of the iPad app development kit, so are dealing with glitches that will no longer exist by the time the iPad goes to market.

In good news for Apple’s content prospects, their new virtual bookstore iBooks is doing well. Major publishers are on schedule to deliver their titles, perhaps because readers like Kindle and Nook have already assured them that new media is a profitable way to spread content.

We’ll see if TV, newspapers, and magazines follow suit.

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Cornering the Market on Making Computer-to-TV Viewing Possible

As more and more videos and movies become available online, either through free sites like Hulu.com or through paid rental programs like Netflix, users are most frustrated by one thing: The small size of even the biggest laptop screen makes it difficult to enjoy a movie from across the room – or to share the experience with more than one person.

Many people are starting to hook up their computers to the TV so that they can watch their videos full-screen without having to sign up for cable or satellite subscriptions. This news is surely upsetting to cable networks that have been trying to figure out how to get more subscribers while the online media possibilities are changing what’s expected of them, but it’s good news for tech companies who can make that computer-to-TV conversion easy for the non-tech-savvy.

Intel has already come out with just such a product, working with Netgear. Intel’s system doesn’t work on Apple computers – or, indeed, on many laptops at all. There are three specific laptops that it works on, one each from Toshiba, Sony, and Dell and all of them available from Best Buy.

It works like a charm, though, so for users who really want the full-screen experience, it might be worth the purchase that supports those companies. It’s yet to be seen whether this is smart marketing or simply frustrating.

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How Do You Get Your App in an Apple Ad?

Last year, Apple put out a series of commercials promoting the iPhone through demonstrating a number of its best applications.

Among the lucky companies that managed to land slots were Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Gap, Epicurious and Zagat, but they didn’t get their slots because they paid Apple the most money for the cameo. Apple puts a higher premium on showcasing what their own product can do than in securing advertising dollars.

Basically, the marketers who created the iPhone apps that were then featured in the Apple commercials weren’t even aware that their apps were being considered for use. However, they got a huge free marketing boost when the Apple ads aired, and this set other marketers to putting some serious research into how to be the next lucky winner of an Apple leg-up.

The one thing all the applications have in common? They’re useful to customers and they show off the best features of the iPhone itself. Naturally Apple wants to show off apps that make the iPhone seem like an invaluable piece of technology, but the company’s brand is also hugely customer-focused, and apps that are customer-friendly have a definite advantage.

Good user experience seems to be the number-one reason to be featured in an Apple commercial. For example, Pizza Hut landed their slot because they were the very first company to offer an app that allowed users to place delivery orders. The app also made good use of iPhone features like tilting and GPS, which made for a winning combination.

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Cable TV Networks Encourage New Subscribers

Cable TV providers were panicked initially by the popularity of Hulu.com, an online video viewing service that allows consumers to watch the same TV shows they get on cable, anytime, for free.

Why would viewers continue to pay for their cable membership, the logic goes, if they can get those shows online? Comcast Corp. recently tried to get in on the action by launching a test program that will ask current subscribers to use their account information to access the same shows they enjoy on the boob tube on the Internet instead.

They will not be offering those shows online for free at all; only subscribers will be able to view them. They’re hoping this will incentivize more people to sign up for subscriptions, instead of the current trend in which online options seem to be encouraging current subscribers to cut one more item from their budget.

The eventual goal is for cable networks not to provide their shows for free anymore on channels like Hulu, ad revenue or no ad revenue, though executives say that it’s possible the two can learn to co-exist in some way.

Old shows that are no longer shown on cable may still be available, for example, or cable networks may agree to allow old seasons of current shows to be posted in hopes that viewers will get hooked and start subscribing to see the latest aired show.

If the networks all band together, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to get a lock on online TV show viewers and make illegal uploading of TV shows as dangerous as music sharing became after Napster.

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Comfort Foods Make for Comfortable Growth – Even in a Recession

Most companies right now are clamping down on their marketing budgets, trying to trim the fat where it’s not necessary.

For General Mills, that strategy was counterintuitive; they need consumers to consider their products perfect for the burgeoning recession, and they ramped up their marketing spending by 16%. Their reward? An 8% increase in revenue, with 14.7 billion in sales, and a consumer base that thought the company’s products were the perfect comfort foods for these difficult times.

General Mills provides a lot of supermarket staples, including soup, cereal, baking goods, instant mixes, and other such homey comforts. Granted, they’re in an industry that naturally endears them to budget strapped Americans. Hamburger Helper, for instance, has improved their sales astronomically, due in no small part to its association with low budgets.

The comfort factor cannot be denied, though. Many of General Mills’ products are sold in similar forms by other companies – the different being that General Mills spent their marketing money hard and fast at the beginning of the recession.

While other companies were unsure whether they were willing to take the risk to put in more marketing money, General Mills had already sewn up consumer loyalty. They had officially become the most comforting brands for the recession.

This isn’t to say that they didn’t put in some new strategies too. The Betty Crocker products, for example, now have a wide and expanding base of recipe-seekers in a spanking-new online forum. But sometimes it’s best to stick with tried and true in uncertain times – a message General Mills managed to drive home to consumers just when they needed to hear it most.

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Local Businesses uses Local and Digital Media Outlets

Traditionally, local businesses have taken advantage of local media outlets to advertise their products and services.

They spend money on ads in the Yellow Pages and the local alt-weekly as well as the major local newspaper and the local magazine publications. As everyone tightens budgets, local outlets are beginning to follow the national companies’ lead in shifting their marketing dollars toward online advertising instead.

This is probably a sound strategy, since studies are showing an increased likelihood that online and digital formats are where their customers will be looking for them. Mobile searches for local services are expected to go up from 27.8% to 35.1% in the next five years, and ad revenue for local searches is expected to improve by 5.8%.

Media outlets are making the shift as well, including putting the Yellow Pages online and launching geo-targeting services that delivers ads based on the mobile user’s zip codes to help them find new businesses in their area. Mobile offers some of the best strategies for local businesses, since simply having a cell phone number implies certain things about your location.

Social media is also on the rise as local businesses put their attention into developing personal relationships with their customers. Always one of the advantages of local businesses has been their personal intimacy, and social media is a great way to let those qualities shine out beyond the people who actually set foot in the store.

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Is Mobile Marketing Viable in a Recession?

A new study on consumer response to mobile marketing suggests that the market may not be ready for the new technique, even if the technology is. While mobile marketing is definitely going to be a part of the future of marketing techniques, it may not be wise to put all your eggs in that basket while consumer spending is still way down.

The recession is going to make mobile marketing much more difficult for several reasons, one of the most important being that it’s going to be hard to judge the effectiveness of a campaign when consumers don’t have money to spend, period.

A campaign that might be very effective when consumers are doing a little better may tank when they don’t have extra cash to spend on luxuries, and that misinformation is going to mean bad money thrown after good.

Keep it simple
The best strategy for the moment, the study concludes, is to keep it small and convenient without breaking the bank. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized and get included in mobile searches, but campaigns like mobile video are best left on the back burner until the economy takes a turn for the better.

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Newspaper Salvation Through Aggregate Status

We all know that the newspaper industry has been taking a major hit, with declining subscriptions contributing to lower print ad revenues. Newspapers have tried to adapt by going online, but the ad revenue they receive there is nowhere near enough to keep the highly-trained investigative personnel they need to perform.

One of the strategies newspapers haven’t yet considered is a fundamental change in the way they use their online platforms. The most successful online businesses are easy-to-use compilations of information – Google, iTunes, Etsy, Amazon.com. The strategy means that they can give consumers exactly the information they require in a single place.

Much of newspapers are similarly aggregators. They contain real estate ads, retail promotions, and classified sections selling everything from automobiles to new jobs. By using those naturally compiled sections of the paper, there may be a way to make newspapers valuable in a way that makes money for investigative journalism to continue and thrive.

Is it possible that by becoming an aggregate in select portions of the paper like classifieds, newspapers might just find their niche online – and that ad revenue they so desperately need?

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Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast?

Facebook is signing up nearly a million new members every day, has over 70% of its users overseas, and is a favorite time-killer for everyone from soccer moms to tweens to working professionals to college kids to the elderly.

It links people in ways that were never conceived of before, and it targets advertising so precisely that buyers are seriously getting their money’s worth. So it’s doing great, right?

Maybe not.

Facebook started as a tool for college kids. Indeed, initially to sign up you had to have an email address with an educational institution’s .edu. As it’s expanded, Facebook has been trying to keep up with the needs of tech-savvy youth as well as the seriously not-tech-savvy older generation – and it’s losing people at both ends of the spectrum.

Facebook may find some restitution in being useful as opposed to being trendy. Twitter is already becoming tiresome to many, but Facebook has continued to grow and expand as it helps families keep in touch, business entrepreneurs interact and even connects people who have been far-flung by major events such as the Holocaust.

We’ll see if being useful will keep Facebook afloat while the next trends come and go.

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Economic Woes Means Flex Time for Networks

Most experts agree: this is the worst economic downturn in decades.

Predictions that things will get worse before getting better has some media buyers believing that the recession will work to their advantage. They will be looking for price rollbacks and much more flexible terms to keep the network time spots filled.

But others are not so sure.

Right now, the networks aren’t indicating plans to implement flex time or any other concession to buyers. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, however, is the only network executive at this point willing to discuss possible pricing changes for his network. He has also indicated that CBS will be selling fewer inventories upfront in 2009.

Sellers at other networks say they have no idea how pricing will turn out this year in the upfront market. They say things could remain uncertain even longer – especially if media buyers come with unrealistic expectations, it could take longer.

According to Media.com North American CEO Doug Checkeris, the big question many advertisers have is, “Why go long now?” The obvious answer seems to be more attractive pricing. Will the pricing issue become between Networks and media buyers become ugly? Checkeris’ response: “If it’s not ugly, then we haven’t done our jobs.”

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