Monthly Archives: May 2011Blog

Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than All Print Books

This is interesting. Back in the ’90s it was said that “all things that can be digital will be digital,” which makes perfect sense in an Internet world. “Bits” are “weightless” while “atoms” are not. There are few marginal costs in their production, they’re cheap and easy to ship, they can often be sold without the usual intermediaries, and information (text, photos, audio, video, and movies) can easily be converted. It would be the “democratization” of information where anyone could be a publisher, movie producer, or rock star, with direct access to audiences.

And, of course, in a large way, we’ve seen this come to pass, with blogs, YouTube, and social media leading the way. But not without some consternation, eg: Napster, which led to lawsuits against music consumers, the decimation of newspaper revenues, and Hollywood’s foot-dragging as it clings to antiquated business models.

And now we’ve learned that, at least for Amazon’s Kindle, digi-books are outselling paper ones. This should not be surprising as we’ve already seen the same shift from physical products to digital in the music industry. But it’s telling that consumers prefer digital in a growing way across all media. The prophecy is coming to pass.

But also telling is that such conversions are not always consumer-driven. Online banking, digital tax filing, medical records, and other services are also increasing because businesses understand the economies that digital provides. Whether consumers like it or not (think of humanless phone menus and automated customer service: “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that …”), we’ll see more of our lives converted to digital. This conversion of daily life is especially true with smartphones connecting almost everyone relatively cheaply.

If you are looking to leverage these advantages for your business, remember to look past the bottom line. Implement digital in ways that benefit, better yet, delight your customers, as Amazon has done with the Kindle. And beware of “economies” at the expense of the customer experience, which is the other side of the digital two-edged sword.

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Apps 6 Times More Popular than Web on Phones, Less Popular on Tablets

There’s a debate among mobile developers. Are apps the surefire way to consumers’ wallets, or are mobile websites the golden road? On smartphones, apps have proved hugely popular. These tiny programs that usually do one thing well have clicked with consumers to even Apple’s surprise. Apps have made some developers rich and, for others, provide a viable income stream. But apps are not necessarily an efficient way to deliver functionality. To reach the widest number of users separate apps must be developed for each mobile platform and maintained and updated across these platforms. And for people to get them, they have to be purchased, downloaded, and maintained on their devices.

On the other hand, is the mobile web. Functionality developed for delivery through web browsers only requires one vector of delivery and maintenance, and programs are much more easily distributed and maintained. Browser technology is great for almost all of the functionality that apps now deliver, and there are no app store policies for developers to deal with.

Typically, consumers follow the easiest route, right? Well, not according to the following recent data. Maybe it’s the shiny icons, cool names, or flashy home screens, but consumers greatly prefer apps on their smartphones (although not quite as much on tablets).

The study, conducted in April 2011, found that on smartphones, apps were used 85% of the time, but the Web browser was used just 15% of the time. On tablets, apps were still popular but were used just 61% of the time as compared with Web browsing, which was used 39% of the time.

Says Jing Wu, from Zokem’s research team, “it can be speculated that for tablets, the bigger screen and the better overall user experience in browsing contribute to the relatively higher face time for Web browsing. On smartphones, on the other hand, a smaller screen and, of course, better availability of apps contribute to the apps’ dominance.”

It makes sense that the smaller the screen, the more likely a consumer would prefer an app.

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The State of HTML5 Video

It looks like the promise of standardizing video delivery with the advent of HTML5 will take a little longer to fulfill. As usual, no one among the companies that already dominate the web wants to agree on how to best serve users.

HTML5 added the <VIDEO> tag, theoretically freeing us from using the de facto standard for video playback, the notoriously crash-prone Adobe Flash. The reality, sadly, is much different. Of all the major browsers, not one of them fully supports the tag. Firefox and Chrome can only play HTML5 video if it uses the WebM codec, while IE and Safari will only play H264-encoded video. When you throw mobile browsers into the mix, things get even more confusing. Most mobile browsers use Webkit, the open-source browser platform that Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome are based on. This would be great, but different mobile devices support different profiles and aspects of the highly complex H264 codec, which means potentially more encoding for those devices.

In the view of these companies, upon whom we rely to make the web useful for everyone, it’s apparently more important for each to promote their own standards so they can dominate some facet of the web for themselves. And, of course, it’s users who suffer. Don’t they understand that no one should own the Internet? Be prepared for more laborious workarounds for both users and producers of video to deliver video to people.

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Figuring Out Twitter

Twitter is one of today’s biggest and most important, and most talked about, social networks. But how do we use it in business? The answer escapes many people who expect social media to provide instant access to customers and an immediate flow of business. The fact is, Twitter is a town square, or “water cooler” experience. You go there to talk, listen, share and learn. Social media is a place to make connections. Business derived from those connections takes time to develop, and typically goes to people who’ve become skilled in the medium. New users must cultivate those skills to use Twitter in a way that helps them.

The advice for marketers is simple. Make sure you’re ready for a long Twitter tenure (that is, don’t sign up today and complain about not many followers tomorrow). Participate in specific discussions and with target groups by using hashtags and following lists. Reply back to people who you find interesting and compelling. Twitter is made for talking, but everyone likes to hear something back. Pay very close attention to trending topics and engage the moment you see something at all relevant to your brand.

There’s a lot to learn about using Twitter. There’s also the concern that you’ll be left behind if you’re not using social media in some capacity. Check out the following article, and then think about what you need to do to start executing a social strategy.

Read full article: Why @garyst3in Is My New Online Home