Eliminate Distractions

Missy Franklin, Me and Katie Ledecky
Olympians Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and me at last week’s USA Today 30th Birthday bash.

Fathering a child, starting companies, writing books, getting work done, working out… Finding time for all of these things requires discipline and focus.

That’s why over the past couple of years and in particular recent months, I have eliminated distractions wherever possible.

Here are six things I have intentionally nixed from my day-to-day life:
Continue reading

Need Mobile Intel? Read The Third Screen

The third screenSome books capture the spirit of a marketing zeitgeist just as it begins to happen in full force. Seth Godin‘s Permission Marketing and Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff‘s Groundswell were two such books. Chuck Martin’s The Third Screen is arguably of the same caliber for the forthcoming mobile marketing revolution.

Centered around the Untethered Consumer — freed from the bondage of traditional marketing methods — the book helps marketers capture the true nature of mobile media. It serves as a solid primer, going into the history of wireless communications, and explaining why businesses have so little control over mobile stakeholders. Basically, anytime a customer interacts with a business it is strictly on their terms. It is completely an opt-in experience.

Martin’s strength lies in his discussion of mobile platforms. His knowledge of operating systems, application usage, international usage and different types of mobile media (web, apps, texting) is universal.

A pragmatic ongoing conversation in the book includes media usage patterns, and how people interact with their smartphones. Social media wonks maybe disappointed as interaction drops on the “third screen” (the first being TV, and the second is desktop computers). While interactions do occur on the phone, screen size and input methods change a person’s interaction with online media.

In addition, Martin uses significant case studies to illustrate his points, including a fantastic Cars.com case study. In the Cars.com case study, Martin details the thorough process the company went through to adapt mobile, including some a great research and listening phase. This case study alone is worth the price of the book, and could be run in Harvard Business Review (the magazine, not the blogs).

The book was written in 2010 so there is little discussion of the now growing tablet boom, though Martin does pick up the topic here and there. Martin does a fantastic job of using market statistics to back up his theories and observations.

Nitpicks include a slow start. The Third Screen‘s introduction and first chapter were repetitive, and could stand for some editorial cuts. In addition, the Pepsi Refresh case study was very questionable based on the actual business results.

However, don’t let these small items dissuade you. From the perspective of an online marketer and a former wireless reporter, this book was impressive. The Third Screen is a fantastic primer on mobile, and is a must read for any interactive professional.

Five Forms of Mobile Media

Google and the Nexus S
Image by Paul Swansen

Watching App Savvy Author (and personal friend) Ken Yarmosh speak, clarity in mobile communications becomes clear. He helps you see the primary communications forms on the medium clearly and concisely. Specifically, Ken talks about the three primary communication methods via mobile web development. There are additional tools that provide communications on top of the big three, similar to social networks that function within the larger world wide web.

From a communicators perspective, there are several ways to approach stakeholders on mobile media. Here are the five forms that most marketers use or experiment with today.

Primary Communication Methods

1) Short Messaging Service (SMS): Second generation or 2G digital cellular networks (PCS) enabled SMS, which was the death of pagers in the 90s. Twenty years later the technology is still going strong. Today, as a communication method, people love texting each other! Texting is also the primary form of donations on mobile platforms (thanks to Apple’s Machiavellian attitude about mobile app donations). Marketing via text message is not the easiest activity. People view their mobile numbers as more private than email, but if you can garner permission, this can be a powerful contact method.

2) Native Mobile Web Use: Once the domain of such protocols as the Wireless Access Protocol, native web use is still the most dominant form of mobile Internet media. HTML 5 and easy plug-ins like WPTouch make for highly accessible mobile media. Recent Pew studies show that of the 47% of Americans who read news on their mobile phones, only one in ten use apps. Another neat statistic, 40% of all Google Maps page views occur on mobile phones. Long live the mobile page view.

3) Applications: iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows… You name the OS, it’s hard to imagine that an application hasn’t been developed yet. Plus there is the whole tablet market. As Ken informed me, the applications marketplace is not the same as the smartphone market. iPhone applications are still very dominant with Android applications lagging behind in adoption rates. We’ll see if that changes with continued market domination by Android. From there, you move towards Blackberry and then MAYBE Windows 7.

This is a great way to offer a unique user experience, but please make sure it actually serves stakeholders. Marketing centric applications rarely take off. Also, it’s important to note that each application has its own development costs. Converting from iPhone to Android to Blackberry also requires separate development costs for program language coding.

Another Layer

4) Geolocation Applications: Taking advantage of the GPS enabled smartphones, geolocation networks have been the holy grail for many networks. Whether its review services like Yelp or the big geosocial plays like Gowalla, place and data are the big connections points. Coupons, gamification and integrated social networking posting have been the primary activities to date. Widespread hype has not led to mass market adoption.

5) Mobile Social: While some of the geolocation networks are social, their interactions have been primary transactional in nature. Great social networks empower relationships between people, and mobile is no different. New group texting applications like Group.Me and traditional social networks like Twitter and Facebook with their mobile applications are the leaders here. Communicating in these applications is primarily limited to participation, and posting content and outband native web links. Increasing social function in geolocation networks may become a force to be reckoned with here.

Which forms of mobile media do you like, and why?

Mobile Will Restore Brevity to Media

Motorola Xoom tablet

If social media endangered the 30 second spot, then mobile media will restore brevity to content creation. Smaller screens, less convenient input methods for text, the ability to create user generated visual media on the fly, and an evolving series of socially empowered mobile media will challenge content creators to serve a new reader. Long blog posts and articles are best read on computers and tablets, while short videos, photos and brief updates will be preferred on smartphones.

Time seems to be on mobile’s side. As 4G enters the marketplace, lightening fast wireless broadband will become an empowering technology. By 2014, mobile Internet use is expected to surpass desktop use. Consider that wireless empowered smartphones and tablets will continue to drive down the digital divide. Africa’s entire information infrastructure expects to leapfrog landline telecommunications and computers.

Serving this growing content market is not as easy as creating an app for that. As Pew research reveals, there is an app gap: “…almost half of U.S. adults get local news on mobile devices [47%], just 1 in 10 use apps to do so.” And it’s not like more folks don’t have smartphones. The app gap exists in spite of three in 10 Americans owning smartphones.

Mobile friendly web sites continue to be a critical component of success. That means rethinking content for multiple types of media will become more and more important. This is not something to sweep under the rug until a later date.

Media will need to become briefer, tighter, and should be built with the expectation of less feedback from users on mobile devices. What does brief content look like? Short videos under two minutes, microblogs with shorter content, pictures, applications, smart use of text messaging, all with an expectation that input beyond two or three sentences is too much for the average smartphone.

Going back to the Pew Research, of the above mobile news readers, 15% use Twitter vs. 4% of the news consumers. It’s no coincidence that twitter is a 140 character medium, one of the shortest media forms out there (and ideal for text message updates).

Consider the inner copywriter challenged to achieve brevity. Restoring the KISS principle, Keep It Simple… to content will be good after a period full of bells and whistles. After all, waxing poetic is the luxury of long form media. One screen’s worth of content. Can you get the job done in that short of an opportunity?