Oh Ning It! The Cost of Free

April 27th, 2010 |

Ning, a community builder, is now phasing out their free version, leaving all the non-premium networks without a home. While relocating to another place may not be an issue for most people (small, non-serious niche sites), the ones who planned on making a business out of their site are pretty much left with two choices; build elsewhere or upgrade.

If you find yourself leaning towards the “build elsewhere” option, you might want to take this lesson into consideration: Even free has a price. While it’s a common sense lesson, I constantly run into people who forgo my advice to pay for something they can actually call their own, instead choosing to go the DIY route in search of free.

Free doesn't always equal freedom

I remember a client who wanted to purchase my domain name and services… only to reverse their decision and use a Ning site instead. After trying for a year, their attempt at branding the site not only failed (the brand name competed against my former brand), but they underestimated the complexity of the net in general. They thought upgrading to premium features would help. They did not understand what they were getting into, causing confusion to both the owners and the members. Oh, and they lost a lot of money in the process.

Are free web apps and sites are the devil? This isn’t always the case. I, myself, use free apps on a daily basis because I understand “the cost of free.” The cost I’m referring to can be expressed in a simple equation:

(Ease of use + Ability to grow) – Frustration with limits = The Cost of Free Read the rest of this entry »

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The World Is Flat: Will Transmedia Overtake Social Media?

March 24th, 2010 |

One of my favorite panels from SXSWi asked an increasingly important question concerning digital marketing and online storytelling: “Transmedia 2010, are we there yet?”

Presented by Daniel Lorenzetti and Juan Garcia, the panel looked at the adoption of transmedia storytelling tactics by major media outlets. For those who are just reading about transmedia for the first time, it was first defined by USC professor Henry Jenkins:

“Transmedia is not that new of a concept, but the emergence of today’s social and mobile networking technologies, combined with the myriad of entry points to brand messaging, meaning that transmedia storytelling should be central to every marketing effort, online or otherwise.”

Put simply, transmedia storytelling aims to engage consumers at every entry point by extending a story. This type of storytelling is already commonplace with TV shows like The Office, 30 Rock, and Community where branded web extras are advertised during the airing of the show itself. In this way, advertisers are extending the story from the small screen to the web.

While this is fine and dandy, and also an interesting way to extend a story from TV to the web, many social media purists are asking, “Where’s the interaction? Where’s the engagement?  The power of social media lies in the two-way conversation between brand and consumer! How do these branded web extras create engagement, NBC?”  Those are valuable questions to ask.

The future of transmedia storytelling will offer a greater level of engagement than anything we have seen with social media thus far. Check this out:

If I Can Dream” is a new web based reality show from American Idol creator Simon Fuller. Five young men and women, looking for stardom, live in a house in Los Angeles with cameras in every nook and cranny. There are even cameras in their cars. While this may seem just like Big Brother, there is a twist – users can interact directly with the members of the house through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as the story unfolds. This is a new level of engagement, a new level of reality television. What’s more? Similar to American Idol, you help choose who will become a star. The user has a direct impact on which housemate will achieve stardom.

This marks a new level of user engagement in a storyline – you have control of the outcome, or at the very least, an illusion of control, and you get to interact with characters as the story unfolds.

If I Can Dream

So is this new level of engagement better described as social media or as transmedia? Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Prager

If Content Isn’t On Facebook, Does it Even Exist (For You)?

March 16th, 2010 |

The implications of that question might be a little bold today, but not by much.

Think about your normal everyday habits online for a few minutes.

In case you haven’t noticed, your online behavior has changed drastically in just the last couple of years.  How much of your news and information online do you have to GO TO to consume, and how much of your news and information COMES TO YOU?

Facebook, Ploked, Is Facebook the New Internet?

(...Yes, you ARE very lazy.)

Now think about Facebook’s role in facilitating that “bring it to me” behavior.  How much of all that content being served up to you has Facebook’s fingerprints all over it (…on Facebook.com, on your mobile device, via an aggregation tool like TweetDeck)?

Now that we have established your semi-sad dependence on Mark Zuckerberg, what are some of the things supporting the argument that Facebook is becoming the new Internet?

What does Facebook dominate?

1) Scale

Unless you live in a cave, you are probably aware that Facebook is freaking enormous.

  • More than 400 Million active users
  • More than 50% active users log in every day
  • The average user spends almost one hour per day on FB
  • The average user has 130 friends
  • More than 3 Million Pages (company, brand, etc.)
  • 70% of active users are from outside the United States
  • More than 100 Million active users access FB via mobile devices

2) Platform

Facebook can definitely play the role of destination site if you like it that way, but its real power is as a platform.

  • More than 500,000 active applications
  • More than 80,000 websites have implemented Facebook Connect
  • More than 70 languages are supported and over 300,000 users help translate
  • More than 60 Million users engage with Facebook Connect on external websites per month

3) Relevance

Facebook offers a degree of relevancy to YOUR content that is hard to match. Ask yourself this question – what is more important to you?

Information that is streamed to you without a filter other than keywords?


Information that is streamed to you that you know is already pre-filtered by what you have chosen to receive along with  information that is shared from within your personal network?

This is about your personal preferences and trust.  Hands down the pre-filtered content will win your loyalty over the long term every time.  Facebook, 1 – Rest of the Internet, 0. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eric Williamson