Segmentation In Google Analytics

Google recently announced some cool new features in its analytics reporting. Though I thought it would be good to look at Advanced Segments and how it can be used to help you make more detailed and faster decisions on your ad campaigns, there has been  a lovely new video produced that does the job, so let me share it with you.

So to recap, what is Advanced Segments?  It lets you isolate and analyze subsets of your traffic. You can select from predefined segments such as “Paid Traffic” and “Visits with Conversions” or create your own segments with a flexible, easy-to-use segment builder.

Enjoy the video. You can also see lots of new feature of Google Analytics at the dedictated Google blog

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A Painful Lesson in the Power of Social Media for Retailers

What’s that coming over the hill – is it a Social Media Monster?  

Reggie James Social Media

It has been hard enough for many of our well known high street retailers at the beginning of 2013. Many of the names we grew up with that had a special place in our personal and business lives, have now gone.

Supply chain issues, staff retention and loyalty, logistics and distribution, competition and price points have all been contributing factors to the lack of foot fall that in part, led to the demise of these much loved brands.

Though these factors all probably existed before their demise, they somehow survived over the years, employing people, paying the rent and selling to customers.

When the Internet monster came along, many high street brands looked at the beast as a friendly platform that could be used as brochure to sell their wares and occasionally give useful information like opening times and location maps.

As search engines matured and Paid Search (PPC) ad platforms developed the behemoth grew and demanded attention and regular feeding but gave return to those who could train and manage it.

Now a new beast has entered our midst. It started like a playful puppy, rolling over and letting us tickle its tummy and made us all laugh. Now it’s growing up fast, demanding all our attention, time and money. It wants to play all the time and those who try and ignore will pay a painful and powerful price. This is the Social Media Animal.

Its Here – Dive In

Animal metaphors aside, the truth is that Social Media, in all its different facets is here and unlike the search platform before it, is not only integrated into search, but has crossed the personal/business divide right under our noses. Brands that ignore this social game shift will be left wanting as their customers embrace the new platforms and look for deeper engagement form their suppliers.

It’s the medium size companies that are ignoring the shift. The large corporates that employ the top graduates and bright minds from the top universities have listened to their business customers and consumers alike and have embraced and actively jumped feet first into the brave new world.

The fortune 100 top companies in the world are some of the biggest users of Social media – why? Because it prolongs the lifetime value of a customer and that customers tells everyone about the experience. The latter being the most valuable marketing around – word of mouth. Word od mouth is so important to brands now that it has its own organization – WOMMA

Some Big Company Social Media Facts

THE FACTS

  • Fortune Global 100 companies have more accounts on each platform than ever before with an average of: 10.1 Twitter accounts, 10.4 Facebook pages, 8.1 YouTube channels, 2.6 Google Plus pages and 2.0 Pinterest accounts.
  • Seventy-four percent of companies studied have a Facebook page.
  • Ninety-three percent of corporate Facebook pages are updated weekly.
  • Forty-eight percent of companies are now on Google Plus.
  • Twenty-five percent of companies have Pinterest accounts.
  • Each corporate Facebook page has an average of 6,101 people talking about it.

Source  – Burson Marsteller

Big Data is Not Just for Big Companies

The saviour for many companies has been the ability to splice and dice data in a way that can be used intelligently. Only now are companies making use of the large amounts of data that they collect as well as sit within their organisations.

BY intelligently segmenting and reverse engineering the data, one can understand the real sentiment behind a company’s brand perception and sentiment. In essence you are creating a true portrait of your audience.

Working at The Speed of Opportunity

Accenture  coined the phrase and it has been said in many different ways before but the agile approach to change whilst encompassing the new social business tools, can help organisations, especially businesses at the front–end like retailers, to really take the competitive advantage during this period of change. The opportunity is now and  planning for the future should start across the whole organisation today.

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A Year on The New York Subway Courtesy of Instagram

Rebecca Davis creates a beautiful and touching Instagram flip-book of a year down in the New York subway.

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Using Twitter To Build Link Relationships

For those of you who don’t follow SEO guru Rand Fishkin’s, SEOmoz, I thought it would be good to share their excellent Whiteboard Friday session from last week.

In this session from November 2nd 2012, Ruth Burr, Lead SEO at SEOmoz talks about Using Twitter for Link Relationships.

So, what exactly does this mean? Well this is a new and on-going technique that is beginning to gather pace and was originaly discussed at the recent Pubcon Las Vegas

As Google continues to refine its search results alongside the growth of inbound marketing, the cry of ‘content is king’ is more important now than it has ever been.

Here the excellent Ruth Barr takes us through how to use Twitter’s powerful link reach.

If you cant see the video, please click here

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RTG Ventures & Aderra Announce ‘JV’ on Fan App

LONDON, UK–(Jan 3rd, 2012) – Last February, RTG Ventures, Inc. and Aderra Media Technologies announced a partnership to exploit concert digital technology for the benefit of the artists who would retain control of their content. The relationship has now identified another dimension, for the two companies to pursue, that of a joint venture for the specific purpose of developing a fan application (app) which will leverage the global diversity to the fan base. A Letter of Intent has been agreed by both parties.

The announcement sees the fruition of a series of long awaited concepts that will be shaped to combine leading edge technology that address the needs of fans, artists and management alike. The app will encompass gig-goers, social location services as well as unique content and engagement that are potentially habit-changing for music fans.

Describing the genesis of the JV, Aderra CEO, Ed Donnelly commented:  ”Having met with RTG Ventures in Los Angeles in November we were impressed by the technology that RTG Ventures digital and development agency, Digital Clarity were developing. It was then that we explored using some elements of their technology platform to encompass in an app.”

Steve Baughman, who is spearheading the app’s development, “Capturing that chemistry between an artist and his or her fan base is indescribable. There is a real desire of fans for a full experience which creatively goes beyond the music. When done right, the app will capture the essence of the artist and link it to the audience in whatever form it takes. And it crosses geography, demographics and expectations to meld the experience. To combine Aderra’s rich history in music, now combined with a technology development and marketing partner in RTG/Digital Clarity, we are all looking forward to 2012.”

Reggie James,  Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications at RTG Ventures Inc. said, “The ability to work closely with Aderra and have access to their wide range of diverse and major artists including; Metallica, Zac Brown Band, Smashing Pumpkins, Mark Ronson and Deadmau5″. The JV marks a major step forward in the growth plans for RTG Ventures with the ability to scale the business and avail these artists to the other major business focussed technology platform being built in addition to the app.

ABOUT RTG VENTURES

RTG Ventures offers Music & Entertainment Technology Solutions and Digital Marketing Services. Harnessing the strength of its digital marketing agency, that has a trusted reputation over the last 8 years, the company has applied its knowledge process in developing cutting edge technology platforms for web, mobile and tablet devices.

Using Digital Clarity’s application in the Marketing and Social arena, RTG Ventures offers a unique value proposition of intelligent, analytics based technology solutions with the support of an experienced digital marketing team. RTG Ventures, Inc. is an OTC:QB company. Symbol RTGV.

ABOUT ADERRA

Aderra is a state-of-the-art capture and content delivery firm for both entertainment and corporate live events. With its patent-pending technology, Aderra records any live event, concert or performance, duplicates thousands in minutes, which are then available for sale on custom branded flash drives before the audience has left the venue. Aderra’s turn-key operation provides everything from on the spot recording & editing to music licensing clearances, giving you an additional revenue stream from every live performance.

SAFE HARBOR PROVISIONS

The foregoing contains certain predictive statements that relate to future events or future business and financial performance. Such statements can only be predictions, and the actual events or results may differ from those discussed due to, among other things, those risks described in RTGV’s reports filed with the SEC. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. This document is published solely for information purposes, and is not to be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities in any state. Past performance does not guarantee future performance. Additional information is available upon request.

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US Trip – A Focus Toward the Future

As you are all probably aware by now, I returned about 2 weeks ago from a trip to the US that saw me take-in Los Angeles and New York.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share some the experience with you and more importantly outline the exciting new opportunities arising from some of the meetings.

Why the trip?

In my audio I talked about learning from the last 12 months and our 1st year. My last two blogs looked at everything leading toward the new technology and positioning our company in a brave new world.

The blog today, is looking at my trip to the US and how it would truly test the new concept from people in the music and entertainment business, as well as seasoned technology pros and investors who had held on to the coat tails of the silicon valley dragon.

For me, New York is a given. It is the historical soul of the advertising industry and as such, was core in the agenda. Meeting those that share an entrepreneurial vision of what we are looking to achieve is crucial. Also, re-establishing links with people who we had approached tentatively a few months back was also important in outlining the RTG roadmap for future growth.

So with meetings and schedules prior to Thanksgiving, it transpired that the first leg of the journey would be Los Angeles.

So why LA? Simple. To meet with like-minded people and give the technology platform an airing with the most prolific individuals within the entertainment industry, it was an opportunity too good to pass.

On top of this, we have deep relationships in LA. Meeting Aderra for the first time was such a powerful event that it will no doubt prove pivotal as we move forward and I will dedicate more time on this particular aspect of the trip in my next blog – very exciting.

Again, though the reasons for the trip may be obvious, It was key to capture the hearts and minds on both coasts to make the trip worthwhile.

Testing Concepts

The whole purpose of the trip was multifarious. I had been (and still am) running the agency Digital Clarity, for the best part of 2011 until recent months where I had taken the helm of the technology, to review and bring into a modern arena.

I have spoken in detail already about two things:

  • Major changes in the music and technology arena – commoditization, engagement and scale.
  • The shift in our technology offering and the need to address the changing market ahead of the curve.

On top of having to re-position RTG’s proposition, the trip to LA and NY would be the litmus test that was required to see whether the prototype, concepts and ideas for our new platform would fly or be shot down in flames.

Los Angeles

Linda Perry had made significant in-roads over the last 12 months to not only (re)establish relationships with major investors but also major names in music and technology. On top of this, it was these major heavyweights we were to meet alongside some people we had already spoken with tentatively and who had been kept warm waiting for – you know what.

If New York is where the money is and the San Francisco/Bay area is where the technology was being built, then Los Angeles was the meat in this musical sandwich.

To keep this short and to the point, we met with several major, successful names, and with all, I outlined and described the expanded technology offering to the industry which would allow us to be First Mover. The First Mover position is not said lightly. It is a position that is both coveted and difficult to achieve. Yet that observation was made by one of the toughest guys in the sector.The dots were connected.”

After crossfire questioning, it was apparent that what I was describing to them was not only something that was needed but would also allow the music business to look at data to make business decisions. This was no longer social media, but social business.

After a gruelling session with one of the savviest technology, music and social investors in town, I was greeted with the words, “Tell me more, this is genuinely investable…!”

Without question, the idea of streamlining our offering and focussing on revenues was unequivocally accepted by all, as well as the wholehearted acceptance of our view on the future. The confidence of knowing what we have in development, augmented with a digital marketing agency both working in harmony, was proving a potent value proposition.

With these thoughts firmly embedded in my mind, I was soon leaving the sunshine of LA and heading for more seasonal climes in the Big Apple.

New York

New York in all its glory with the holiday season round the corner is quite a site. The buy-in in Los Angeles was key to the next leg of the tour.

In New York, my first meeting was with a dynamic duo that runs one the most successful ambient media companies which feeds directly into the leisure and luxury brand arena. Former high level music men, they immediately saw the value in our repositioning and approached us with a likely scenario of how we could work together. As they outlined, finding ‘data value’ against their offering was now becoming crucial to their business as well as giving them an edge, not just in the US but in the important emerging markets of China, India and South America.

Another meeting in New York was with a wonderful and charming individual who heads one of the most enterprising private hedge funds based out of New York, that has its eye on application of technology on a global basis. The discussions centred around intelligent debate about the global, political climate and its effects on technology and infrastructure. This led to how technology with a human face is the right approach in a more socially connected planet.

Partnering for Success

Expanding Digital Clarity’s brand is one of the most important discussions that we had whilst in New York. Digital Clarity’s DNA runs deep in the evolution of digital marketing. Emulating this to the next level, without diluting its offering led to a discussion in a meeting that is currently being explored. Though still in its infancy,  it has the possibility of helping the company take a big leap forward in establishing a footprint in the US for the Digital Clarity brand.

The Missing Link

The learning over the year and the rapid development of digital technologies in the past decade or so has radically changed the way in which we can interact with the music industry. Likewise, the impact of social media upon the music industry has also made it much easier for musicians to interact with their fans.  Having the ability to have all your music, video, imagery and data managed, and reported in one interface is not unique. Having reports that makes sense of data from over 30 social and music platforms is powerful. But having an algorithm that gives you the ability to model forecast and make sense of engagement & sentiment that in turn, indexes against commercial return – suddenly becomes very exciting.

In a recent report looking at key findings of their fifth annual survey, global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, found that there was a large rise in adoption rates of social technologies. They also noted that levels of reported benefits remain high when organizations use social tools for internal purposes but have also increased among those that use them for communicating with customers or for integration with partners and suppliers.

This report and the level of investment that is being ploughed into the types of technology our company is engaged in, is not only a testament to our vision but paint a bright future, endorsed by the meetings in Los Angeles and New York.

The Future is Bright

Unlike before, it transpired that everyone I met and who I’ve have highlighted above, could see the need for this new platform.  It also became rapidly clear that if we were serious about our business, RTG would need to position itself as the pulse at the heart of this conurbation where decisions were made.

Next Steps

We are busy. Tablet based interfaces alongside an app are in the offing alongside a website platform that will give users a login into the powerful pulse gateway. Where possible, I  will keep everyone updated to the progress, partners and opportunities that continue to arise as we build toward 2012. We are moving forward with reinforcing support and will have some great news later this month. Thank you for sticking with us.

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US Trip – Part 2, Technology

So, I mentioned in my last post some of the structural changes that were being made. I wanted to take this opportunity to share and update you on some the changes to our technology platform.

In doing so, it is important to put things into perspective and to understand that the review process, which has been both a positive experience and crucial to realign the company’s vision toward a meaningful market, which in turn leads to revenues.

Square Pegs, Round Holes

CloudChannel was born out of a concept that would look to change the way streaming media was monetized online. Aimed at rights owners, the idea was to disrupt the blanket media license model that exists today. Why? The idea for the platform was created back in 2010 and the evolving landscape has put paid to many of the good ideas that were to be developed.

With the growth of ‘the cloud’ or ‘cloud computing’ that was defined as ‘computing as a service’ as well an accessible storage area that houses applications such as data and the like, the name was beginning to look cumbersome and at best, a little confusing.

On top of the name, CloudChannel had become an unwieldy beast that was adding on new features at a rate of knots that was akin to a juggernaut heading toward stationary traffic.

As alluded to in the recent audio interview, it has been a busy time trying to unravel CloudChannel’s first phase alongside the plethora of different elements that had to be built in moving the platform forward.

As the commoditization of micro-payments and streaming technology became commonplace, the various delays and market changes meant that CloudChannel would be playing catching-up in certain areas and trying to sell a new concept in others. In many ways, creating more layers, parallel to what already existed and was extensively being used.

Development time to make the platform viable was also becoming an issue. Software that would allow scalability alongside application developments would have become challenging, in the original framework architecture. Alongside this, the application of Social Media into the platform was sadly more of an afterthought than a core consideration.

When one also looked some of the disparate elements of the project, it was also clear that when looking at the reporting capability of the technology, there would be a challenge to pull data into logical segments that would make sense. In other words, the management capability was being focused on but not the important reporting layer that made sense of the data.

In short, the sentiment of CloudChannel was there but it would have created another hoop to jump through before using the strong channels that existed already and have any deep penetration and engagement.

Again, though the above may seem harsh, as I mentioned earlier, it is important to put this into a rational perspective. Through a direct approach, it is vital to understand, It is not a lesser technology, it’s a real technology that has huge scope (beyond music) compared to the CloudChannel concept that no-one understood, was confusing and which meant something different to everyone I spoke to. More importantly, it allows us to focus on deliverables and revenues.

Deconstruction

A brief and un-scientific straw poll into the market showed that that the world was moving to the beat of a different drum. That drum was driven by Social Media and it was becoming crucial to all aspects of business. From the corporate Fortune 500 to the music and entertainment buying public, engagement was the name of the game.

Having to re-engineer a software platform is never easy, doing this with an incumbent piece of technology made the challenge stronger still.

Head in the Clouds to finger on the Pulse

The delivery of the new technology is based on stripping out all that is unnecessary and non-actionable and moulding the product around need.

Taking the DC pragmatic approach, it was agreed that a fast scalable platform would be used to ramp-up development and ‘ruby-on rails’ was the weapon of choice.This would also allow for first stage shaping of the platform for tablets and mobile apps.

So, where are we today? Well, testing of beta in a controlled environment has started and we hope to roll this out to selected partners at the tail-end of January. I mentioned in my last post, the quote from Eric Ries, author of the Lean Start up, “The goal of a lean start-up is to move through the build-measure-learn feedback loop as quickly as possible.” Well, given where we started 12 months ago and the review and application of much needed changes, we have come a long way, quickly.

I hope that gives some insight into what has happened over the last few weeks. As much as I would love to say more, it would be wrong of me to do so at this stage, mainly due to commercial restrictions.

In my next post, I will outline some of the meetings and feedback of the new approach and discuss some of the exciting forward looking plans for 2012 and beyond.

US Trip – a Review, Part 1

As the last of the Thanksgiving turkey is consumed and celebrity chefs talk about elaborate ways to endure more food for another week, it is clear that the festive season is in full swing.

All this thought of food led me to think about an old saying – “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In other words, you don’t know how good something is until you try it.

So I have been to the US and wanted to share with you why I went and the results and feedback of people tasting the RTG pudding. Before I do, and like the proverbial turkey, I thought it best to break this into bite size chunks. So, this will be the first of three posts, as it is important to share what we are doing with the company and the rationale behind our approach on how we move forward.

The Challenge

Following on from my recent audio interview that took stock of the 1st year of RTG Ventures, I highlighted what I described as ‘wholesale changes’ that had to be made to make the company not only a viable business for the future, but also a company that has a strong value proposition going forward.

Having looked at all the spider web of layers as well as different divisions, holding pages and stop-start programs; the process of creating a lean and nimble business could only be done with an intelligent and pragmatic process that would question the value of each area, within the current structure.

2011 had seen forays into arenas that were not always core to the strengths of the company. The diversity of so many businesses within a relatively small company was not only untenable but confusing. It was important to assess the central core of the business by directing a laser beam on the execution to revenues of the business identified. The core I talk of, was also reflective of growth and low hanging fruit in the wider business community – mainly the growth of digital music distribution and that of online marketing and social media across web, mobile and tablet devices.

It was clear that with an ill wind blowing across western financial markets, lean and agile was the only way to grow to derive revenues and deliver back, shareholder value.

So, with the stewardship of the technology in-house we applied a Digital Clarity consultative and pragmatic approach.

The Result

As mentioned in my audio interview, the analysis have been thorough and the results have created an exciting new structure that compliments the skills of the company and addresses the needs of both a central market in the music and entertainment industry, as well as a broader playing field in the digital marketing space.

The result is that RTG Ventures is now focussed in obtaining new business as well as building out great new technology. Therefore, moving forward the company shall be described thus:

“RTG Ventures offers Music & Entertainment Technology Solutions and Digital Marketing Services.

Harnessing the strength of its acquired online marketing agency Digital Clarity, the company has developed a software platform that fills the needs of artists, management and labels in a complex and ever increasing social economy.

Using Digital Clarity’s application in the social and marketing arena, RTG Ventures offers a unique value proposition of intelligent, analytics based technology with the support and insight of an experienced digital marketing team.

RTG Ventures offers companies a complete, seamless and powerful solution in marketing, alongside cutting edge technology platforms for web, mobile and tablet devices.”

If I may, I’ll borrow a quote from Eric Ries, author of the Lean Start up, “The goal of a lean start-up is to move through the build-measure-learn feedback loop as quickly as possible.”

So, using real world thinking, we are building a real world company.

Practical Changes

Behind the scenes and over the next 4-6 weeks will see changes that roll-out to reflect the new era of RTG Ventures. Alongside the wholesale changes there will also be cosmetic changes to areas such as websites and naming conventions.

Unlike before, the changes will have reasoning and where necessary, be communicated via various channels. I say where necessary as we need to keep a competitive advantage in what we do.

In my next blog, which will come out Wednesday, I will talk about the deconstruction of our technology and in my penultimate blog of the series, I will go into detail on the trip and why I had to test our new approach in the harshest and biggest entertainment arena in the world, Los Angeles, California.

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Microsoft’s Xbox ‘Kinect Effect’

Having just seen this wonderful advert for the new Kinect Effect, I can’t help but wonder, why cant Microsoft get the games guys building their business software?

Rather flippant comment but one that begs the question as to why their business team cannot innovate like Google or Apple yet their games machine will probably save the company. Enjoy the ad.

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Social Media Advertising Diversifies As Revenues Rise

Watching a re-run of Mad Men at the weekend, I almost yearned to be back in the old world of advertising. All the trials and tribulations of Don Draper and his team at the advertising agency, Sterling Cooper seemed like a walk in the park compared to some of the complexities faced today by both clients and agencies alike.

Madison Avenue has always had its fair share of challenges as the world of media evolved. Though the complexities exist, so do the opportunities, no more so than now. As brands, big and small wonder how they reach the ever changing consumer and business client, Digital Clarity is perfectly poised to embrace the need to understand, execute and analyse a world full of diversity driven by data.

A little like Sterling Cooper and other agencies around the world, Digital Clarity has evolved itself. This journey started before even Google’s AdWords platform existed, the agency has diversified to offer a bespoke service to advertisers and agency partners alike. A lot of our recent work has come from companies fed up with agencies who only work in one area and who do not understand the ‘joined-up’ commercial complexities that impact business today.

From being a pure-play Search Marketing Agency; the company has moved into design and development, mobile marketing and social media, both as a strategic implementation partner through to using social channels as an advertising platform.

This last area seems to show much promise to add to the company’s current offering. Here are a few reasons why.

At the recent Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco last week, Dick Costolo mentioned that Twitter’s monetization efforts are working better than expected. On top of this, the Twitter CEO also outlined that Twitter would be offering new and innovative ad formats to the array of advertiser falling over themselves to advertise on the social media platform.

Twitter’s advertising platform was a long time coming and in part, this was due to the company looking to strike the right balance between the mass advertising models that have existed historically and the new more sophisticated tools available to brands and their agencies today.

Twitter will bring in $139.5 million in global ad revenues in 2011, according to a new forecast from eMarketer, up 210 percent from just $45 million in 2010.

Currently, the main advertising offerings from twitter are broken into three main areas.

  1. Amplify the reach of Tweets through ‘promoted tweets’.
  2. Driving conversations and interest around brands through ‘promoted trends’.
  3. Targeting a follower-base of advocates and influencers for brands through ‘promoted accounts

Like Facebook before it, advertising was a sure way of raising revenue on a platform that had a captive audience and an equally excited number of brands looking to reach this group.

Again, according to research firm eMarkerter, Facebook will make $4.27 billion in revenue this year, more than double the $2 billion made in 2010. This breaks down as $3.8 billion from advertising this year, up 104 percent from $1.86 billion in 2010.

More interesting however, is that the company should make $470 million from ‘Facebook Credits’, a virtual- currency program that lets users buy items in games, more than triple the $140 million it made last year.

All these various business models give Digital Clarity a unique insight that many can only dream of and puts the agency in an excellent environment to apply these methodologies to tools we are building out for RTG Ventures as well as new customers.

As mentioned earlier, diversity creates complexity. Complexity creates opportunity. Opportunity exists for those who can make sense of a changing market for its customers.

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Apple iPhone 4s – First Ad Is All About Siri

After all the hype around the new iPhone from Apple, the 4s seems to be quite a success with over 4 million units sold if the first 3 day. This is heading for a new gadget world record.

Now the dust has settled a little, people are talking with great reverence about the voice function, Siri. According to Apple, “Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.”

The first iPhone 4s ad has been released and guess what, it’s all about Siri.

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Can You Pitch It? Yes, I Can

I attended the Yes Pitch Live event yesterday that was organised and hosted by the YESnetwork held at CityPoint. I was so impressed, that I thought I’d put some thoughts down.

The YESnetwork is the Young Entrepreneur Society and was founded by the effervescent Carly Ward , a young and dynamic business woman destined for great things.

The event allowed young entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to a judging panel  who would offer 4 months mentoring and investment readiness. The panel was chaired by Jonathan Pfahl founder of the Rockstar Mentoring Network.

To hear such professional pitches by young and ambitious individuals was a refreshing and positive change to all the negativity we hear so much in the media about the state of youth in society today.

There were 2 winners on the night. The first winner was Annaliese Morgan of Fuchsia Pets Online that dealt with professional pampering of pets. The other joint winner was Jack Tang of The Student Job an excellent and innovative free site for Students that provides both money making and money saving opportunities with a unique pricing model. Both Jack & Annaliese are shining lights and ones to watch for the future.

I was there as a team of four business advisors , who were on hand for the evening to provide advice, in my case anything on Digital Marketing. I was accompanied by David Tutin of thresix communications and two ladies specializing in Business Development and Tax Consultancy from the Law Firm Mishcon de Reya.

Carly has been invited to talk on ‘The Surgery’ on Radio 1 this Sunday at 9pm and will also be appearing on ‘Up For Hire LIVE’  on Richard Bacon’s show on BBC 3, 20th October. Can she pitch it? Yes, she can.

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Power Is Nothing Without Control

Many years ago, I remember a wonderful advert for a tyre company that showed a sportsman who at the Zeitgeist of 80’s track and field, was seen in a rather odd and uncompromising position.

The company was Pirelli and the sportsman was the athlete, Carl Lewis. Lewis was named “Olympian of the Century” by magazine Sports Illustrated and had won 10 Olympic medals including 9 gold and 10 World Championships medals – a true great.

So imagine my surprise walking past a billboard and seeing this athlete, who would later run for a seat in the New Jersey Senate, posing in black Lycra. Though this in itself was not the issue, it was what he had on his feet,  that was the real double-take moment.

The advertising agency Young & Rubicam (Y&R) who were working on the Pirelli account, had Lewis in the starting block position on a wet race-track wearing red, 6 inch high heels, heels that wouldn’t have been out of place in an episode of Sex in the City.

I was reminded of this advert when talking with a contact who attended the recent MusicTech in San Francisco and registering for the forthcoming Music 4.5 event in London . Looking through the list of attendees and talking with my contact, it was apparent that there was a lot of buzz around the changing shape of music and content in general.

When looking at these new technologies, the bands as well as the fans and consumers of this sexy new stuff, it made me realise that there was a common denominator that ran through all of these platform, a thread that was so important but not being properly addressed.

Whilst independent artists, bands and their management are using online platforms like social media to attract new fans and sell music and merchandise, all of the information being collated is disparate and does not join up. This is also true of large record labels.

Even those that are savvy enough to have a basic management system still don’t know how well their various platforms are doing, let alone analyse, implement and influence their existing fan base and crucially, reach new ones.

In a connected world, this is a major disadvantage. If a band post a video on YouTube after a gig, how do they know how many Facebook pages the video got uploaded to or how many times that video was tweeted. Also, if a band is playing a gig at the Best Buy Theatre NYC, they have no idea of where their fans in the crowd are from, let alone know if 40% of their fans travelled from Boston.

This is important. Bands and their management want engagement, fans ‘need’ and want to feel they are being heard and are part of the whole connected experience.

After a long hard look at look at the needs of these groups and rather than re-inventing the wheel, RTG Ventures technology, CloudChannel, is well into building something that will not only fulfil the need to know but actually manage and influence the data.

Music is a powerful force. Augmented to video and strong imagery it becomes even more so. If one adds Social into the mix, then it goes beyond power and into a new realm. Understanding this power and harnessing it is the next stage of evolution within the entertainment industry.

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Hitting the right keys in music marketing

This first appeared in imedia connection, 23rd August 2011

MTV has just reached the big three zero, and the place where music videos first found a permanent home has witnessed more change in the music industry in the past five years than in the rest of its history combined. Changes in the way music is promoted and distributed are currently so profound that it seems more likely that MTV has a much better chance of being here in another 30 years than many of the traditional record companies who created and controlled the video content MTV ran in 1981.

Whether TV will be its leading distribution channel, though, is another matter as the market provides ever more options for performers to get their video content directly to the paying public. So where is music video promotion heading, and what role do digital marketing experts have to play?

Digital distribution channels such as YouTube and Facebook have already brought about one revolution in the way consumers access music videos — given that video traffic is expected to account for around 90 per cent of total global consumer traffic by 2015, music video is becoming a massive part of the content landscape. But being able to piece together a solid YouTube promotional campaign is only part of the picture for anyone who wants to make money from music videos. To create campaigns which exploit the full range of promotional services on offer is going to present a steep learning curve to many in the digital marketing industry.

Closing the skills gap

The amount of digital startup services appearing to exploit the video end of the music industry means a steep learning curve for marketing experts. Agencies need to quickly learn how to exploit these channels and integrate specialist campaigns with their existing digital promotion skills. Niche marketing, distribution and monitoring services are maturing with the likes of Audigist offering artists a way to distribute and earn from their video content.

Every part of the video marketing process is getting its own assistance. Take analytics, for example — Google Analytics et al are on hand to provide endless detail to monitor and inform general digital strategy, but analytics services designed specifically for the music industry — Next Big Sound being an interesting example – are popping up to pitch a bespoke alternative.

It’s important that digital marketers with an interest in the music industry take up this challenge now. Artists with a profile can reach the mass market through the big players, such as iTunes and Spotify but emerging talent is looking beyond the new digital ‘establishment’ to go direct. This segment represents the bread and butter market for digital agencies — there are plenty of emerging artists out there who want to promote their work, but need affordable consultancy in order to get beyond the most basic digital marketing tactics.

Those currently working in the ‘mainstream’ of digital marketing have a huge amount to offer the music industry, particularly when it comes to drawing together the key content distribution channels so that search, social and mobile integrate well. Bridging the skills gap between generic and specialist services is the step the music industry needs to see more of.

So, the advice for digital marketers who want to build a client list in the music industry is to try and build experience quickly. For instance, consider doing some promotional work for an artist free of charge or at minimal cost. As long as they are aware that the relationship is helping to build your expertise it may still offer a great solution all round. A specialist partnership may also work — look for a like-minded agency who you can share skills with, or a freelance consultant who you can bring in to work on specific projects. Whichever approach fits best, it’s clear that music video content and the internet are a potent and very current opportunity for digital marketing practitioners.

Reggie James is managing director of Digital Clarity and SVP Communications at RTG Ventures Inc.

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How a Share Buyback Can Build and Shape Great Companies

Most shareholder and investors have heard of corporations authorizing share buyback programs. So, what are they and how do they work? What are the benefits to the company as well as the shareholders, traders and investors in that company?

What I’d like to do is take 5 minutes of your valuable time and share, educate and inform you on the importance and significance of a company share buyback and why with the buy-in of investors, it can help build and shape great, admired companies.

So what is a share buyback?

Well, the simplest definition is in Wikipedia: A share Buyback (or Stock repurchase) is the reacquisition by a company of its own stock. In some countries, including the U.S. and the UK, a corporation can repurchase its own stock by distributing cash to existing shareholders in exchange for a fraction of the company’s outstanding equity; that is, cash is exchanged for a reduction in the number of shares outstanding. The company either retires the repurchased shares or keeps them as treasury stock, available for re-issuance.

Who does share Buybacks?

Many companies. In the last few days there have been numerous share Buybacks, here are a few:

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK)
Limited Brands Inc. (LTD)
VanceInfo Technologies Inc

The 2 major principals of a Share Buyback

Joshua Kennon who writes for About.com and as well as other respected financial publications puts it simply and I’d like to quote him direct along with his excellent example:

Is overall growth as important as growth per share?

Too often, you’ll hear leading financial publications and broadcast talking about the overall growth rate of a company. While this number is very important in the long run, it is not the all-important factor in deciding how fast your equity in the company will grow. Growth per share is.

An over-simplified example may help. Let’s look at a fictional company:

Eggshell Candies, Inc.
$50 per share
100,000 shares outstanding
——————————————-
Market Capitalization: $5,000,000
This year, the company made a profit of $1 million dollars.
==================================
In this example, each share equals .001% of ownership in the company. (100% divided by 100,000 shares.)

Management is upset by the company’s performance because it sold the exact same amount of candy this year as it did last year. That means the growth rate is 0%! The executives want to do something to make the shareholders money because of the disappointing performance this year, so one of them suggests a stock buyback program. The others immediately agree; the company will use the $1 million profit it made this year to buy stock in itself.

So the very next day, the CEO goes and takes the $1 million dollars out of the bank and buys 20,000 shares of stock in his company. (Remember it is trading at $50 a share according to the information above.) Immediately, he takes the shares to the Board of Directors, and they vote to destroy them so that they no longer exist. This means that now there are only 80,000 shares of Eggshell Candies in existence instead of the original 100,000.

What does that mean to you? Each share you own no longer represents .001% of the company. Instead, it represents .00125%; that’s a 25% increase in value per share! The next day you wake up and find out that your stock in Eggshell is now worth $62.50 per share instead of $50. Even though the company didn’t grow this year, you still made a twenty five percent increase on your investment! This leads to the second principle.

Principle 2: When a company reduces the amount of shares outstanding by declaring a stock buyback program, each of your shares becomes more valuable and represents a greater percentage of equity in the company.

If a shareholder-friendly management such as this one is kept in place, it is possible that someday there may only be five shares of the company, each worth one million dollars. When putting together your portfolio, you should seek out businesses that engage in these sorts of pro-shareholder practices and hold on to them as long as the fundamentals remain sound. One of the best examples is the Washington Post, which was at one time only $5 to $10 a share. It has traded as high as $650 in recent months. That is long term value!

So, if we combine the 2 principles highlighted above the share buyback is a positive confirmation of a company’s maturity and self-belief. In a tentative and sometimes fragile market, this can only be a good thing.

References & Sources: Thanks to Joshua Kennon and Bloomberg & WSJ

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Live Music, Arcade Fire and the Aderra, CloudChannel Deal

I read an interesting report on the BBC website yesterday talking about the challenges facing the live music industry and how we consume and engage with the live experience.

The piece highlighted the demise of major venues that were once a stalwart of the music scene and more importantly for new bands, part of the ‘must play’ circuit attended by A&R and music execs.

While the O2 centre has been declared the most popular music venue in the world for the 4th consecutive year, Leicester’s Charlotte which hosted such ‘unknowns’ as Oasis and Coldplay joins Brighton’s Engine Room along with Manchester’s Music Box in closing their doors for the last time.
The famous 100 Club on London’s Oxford Street has only just avoided the same fate, after a high-profile campaign supported by Sir Paul McCartney and Ronnie Wood.

Whether we like it or not we live in an X factor world where over produced, highly glossed, manipulated reality television is virtually on tap. Live music is the perfect antidote for those looking for more but the challenge for venues both large and small is the way society and consumers part with hard earned cash to feel the experience.

Feargal Sharkey CEO of UK Music, an umbrella organisation which represents the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry said, “The real issue for us is what’s going on in the little rooms at the back of pubs and clubs and bars. There are real problems there”.
He continued, “We’re fairly convinced the Licensing Act is causing problems and barriers at that small-scale level – and that’s the foundation of our industry. That’s where everybody starts their career. The government says it is openly committed to removing red tape around live music and, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, there might be something positive to say.”

Why the Aderra & CloudChannel deal is important for Live Music

The breaking news yesterday that Aderra Media Technologies is working in Partnership with RTG Ventures streaming media monetization technology, CloudChannel is a giant leap in the potential salvation of the venues that Feargal Sharkey talks about and how live music can commercially embrace the digital age.

Aderra records any live event, concert or performance, duplicates thousands in minutes, which are then available for sale on custom branded flash drives before the audience has left the venue. The potency to Aderra is added by CloudChannel. CloudChannel changes the traditional media license model by providing media rights owners with the tools they need to mass-syndicate content themselves. CloudChannel is designed as a syndication system that streams content to any internet-enabled device. The Aderra & CloudChannel partnership is all about generating content that can then be monetized using a cloud-based service.

When I finally got home yesterday, I saw an advertisement for the new album by Montreal based band, Arcade Fire. The advertisement evoked everything that live music delivers and the feeling of unity between the band, audience and venue. I liked it so much I thought I’d round off my thoughts by sharing the video.  So, are live music venues in demise? No, just changing for the better.

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Hexagon Mapping Techniques – Nuggets of Learning

The world is full of books on management processes and principals when it comes to tackling difficult questions within a group environment. The Brain has two distinct sides, or hemispheres, the Left Brain vs the Right Brain, each responsible for different things. Most of these processes involve taking a Left sided view of the Brain or a Right sided approach. Very rarely is there a ‘whole’ brain approach.

Bev Wilkinson, Nuggets of LearningEnter Hexagon Mapping. The event was attended by a diverse group ranging from Theatre Directors to Book Publishers and also included a number of learning and development consultants looking to benefit from this business process.

The process of arriving at an answer through a collaborative process where everyone has input and from which a strategy can be created for moving forward. I attended a session on Hexagon Mapping Techniques at the Bar des Arts in Guildford that was led by the dynamic Beverlie Wilkinson who was supported by the equally charismatic and creative, Kate Bendy. Both Beverlie & Kate are principals at fast growing learning & development company, Nuggets of Learning and Development. Nuggets of Learning and Development are a boutique consultancy based in Bramley Surrey.

The objectives of the programme focussed on four main areas:

  • Think strategically as a group
  • Visual representation of the thinking
  • Bringing ideas and people together to reach consensus
  • Encourage participation without confrontation

Stage 1 – Initiation

The first stage was to define the objective of the process. This involved a trigger question that would generate some basic ideas and get the ball rolling. Our group had the question, “How to build and maintain effective relationships in business”. This definaition involved:

  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Creative thinking
  • Group discussion
  • Creating a framework

Stage 2 – Divergent Thinking

This stage is where each member of the group is asked for one idea which was captured on a hexagon. This process continued till the group has collated approximately 48 hexagons.

Stage 3  – Emergent Thinking

The groups stands in front of all the hexagons and sees where there may be a natural pairing.

Stage 4 – Convergent Thinking

The group then labels the hexagon clusters using words that capture and reflect each cluster.

Stage 5 – Review and reflect

The group reflects on the process and decides on the next steps.

This process provided an excellent process that allows space for individuals in a group to think, participate and reflect on a decision making process that they feel they are all truly part  of.

Unlike other direct response mechanisms such as Brainstorming, Hexagon Mapping allows for a strong and natural process to take place that creates tangible results.

Camera: Nexus S Google Mobile Phone

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The Future of Social Search – Social Media Week London 2011

An excellent event sponsored by I Spy Marketing at Microsoft’s London HQ in Victoria.


Chaired by Nick Jones, MD of I Spy, the session was kicked off by Orla Malone of Facebook. Orla gave an overview of Facebook’s current advertising offering and shared some case studies on how brands were using Facebook effectively.
This was followed by I Spy’s excellent CEO and former Yahoo Sales Director, Jim Brigden. Jim outlined the need to have an integrated tool that allowed both management and tracking across search and social advertising campaigns.
Amy Clarke, Ecommerce Manager and Radisson Edwardian delivered an excellent client perspective on the effectiveness of Social Media used by an upmarket hotel group and the need to get buy in across the group.

Amy shared some interesting views on how Radisson are using Blogging, Twitter, Interactive video and Facebook to connect with customers. Their excellent blog for the May Fair hotel even delivered Trip Adviser comments bad and well as good – true openness.
The session was rounded off by Colm Bracken, Group Search Manager at Microsoft Advertising and Dave Coplin, Director of Search – both giving their insight into how Social was transforming the Search landscape.
The event was opened by the effervescent and international Social Media maestro, Mel Carlson. All in all a ‘super-exciting’ event.

#smwldn

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Xoom to the Moon – Motorola’s Super Bowl Spot

Motorola Xoom “Empower the People” Super Bowl 2011

As news of the new iPad heats up (iPad 2), Motorola has just released a beautiful and emotive advert that ran during last nights Super Bowl final and takes aim at Apple.
Using Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb for tablet software, this advert combined with some of the Xoom’s excellent features with sure have Apple’s creative team in a bit of a tizz. Nice play on the Orwellian 1984 / Apple Mac angle. Enjoy.

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Sneak Preview of Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb

With all the buzz going round the market as to when Motorola will launch the new Motorola Xoom which will run Android 3.0 codenamed Honeycomb, one would be forgiven that the new Apple iPad 2 and BlackBerry Playbook had been superseded before they had even hit the street.

The interesting play between the new iPad, Playbook and Xoom is that they are all running different software, with the Xoom and Playbook running tablet specific software compared to the new iPad that will run Apple’s current OS, albeit with some enhancements.

With no launch date yet for the undoubted star of the recent CES Show in Las Vegas, the Motorola Xoom is creating the kind of noise that normally comes with the launch of a new Apple device that many say has taken the Cupertino, California company by surprise.

To add fuel onto the tablet fire, Google has an announced an event for February 2 to show off its Android 3.0 operating system to an expectant and demanding hoard of Android fans with a view to turning the iPad 2 & PlayBook enthusiast to the Google way of thinking.

Prior to the launch Google have released a video highlighting some of the features.

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