One of the very important things that I have come to realize about business websites is the fact that each one needs a mission statement. That mission statement should then guide the design and development of the website so that the chief goals of the website are both measurable and attainable. My sense is that most businesses would say that the mission of their website is to drive sales but how you go about that is critical and needs to be a part of the mission statement.
For the most part what I see when I browse many websites, particularly those of smaller companies whose focus is offline commerce, are digital brochures. The focus of these sites goes along the lines of who we are, what we do, news and contact information. All of this is helpful to a certain extent, particularly to people who have never interacted with a business before, but it also certainly represents a gap when compared to the types of features that a modern website is capable of offering.
The tech world was aflutter earlier this week as Microsoft announced that (a mere four years after the launch of the iPad) they were releasing Office (specifically Word, Excel and Powerpoint) as native, touch optimized apps on the iPad. I have read a broad array of coverage on this development and none of it explored the broader implications of the move, which I happen to think are a way more important development that the arrival of new productivity tools on the iPad.
First and foremost, the arrival of Office on the iPad heralds the beginning of a major partnership between Apple and Microsoft. How so? Well, Microsoft is selling access to edit documents on the iPad (the individual apps are free to use as document viewers) as in app purchases. That means Apple gets 30% of the revenue. What Microsoft is selling though is not just full access to Office on the iPad. They’re selling Office 365 memberships which also include a license for full Office on five computers and five tablets. Please stop and think about that for a second. Apple will be getting a 30% cut of most new Office 365 licenses going forward. That is an absolutely huge win for Apple and a huge concession by Microsoft.
Having had a couple of weeks to ponder my experience at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive I have settled on the decision that viral marketing (and the content that enables it) represented the most ubiquitous theme that I recognized throughout the event.
I came to this conclusion after thinking back on the conversations I had with people I met at the event, many of whom told me they were in the business of media, marketing, media marketing or marketing technology. I also draw this conclusion based on the number of companies I saw whose goal was to help other companies harness the masses taking action (or not) on social media websites. Indeed, grabbing the attention of the masses online and moving them to act appears to be the holy grail of the internet business world these days.
When first time internet entrepreneurs (i-treps) begin to think about building their product it’s often an overwhelming thing to have to consider all the technical aspects of a web-based system. Even with pre-packaged systems such as WordPress and hosted platforms such as SquareSpace there are plenty of important considerations such as setup, design, workflow and more. Once those things are considered i-treps likely turn their thoughts to the time consuming process of acquiring the necessary talent (a programmer, a designer, etc.) to help them make their idea into a reality. Given this it’s not surprising that many new ideas end up shelved before they even get off the ground. While building out a world-class (or at least a really good) system from the start is one way for an i-trep to approach development, there are other approaches that are not only viable but also very advisable too.
Start simple. It seems like such a basic concept but too often i-trep ideas tend to take off into the stratosphere due to our expectation that great things can be built very quickly these days. It’s true that they can be built quickly if you have the right people and financial resources. New i-treps typically lack both of those things. And even if some good people and resources are available there is still a risk that the resources invested in a very new idea will end up squandered if said idea fails to get off the ground. So I say again, start simple. Starting simple allows you to prove the worthiness of the idea and gives you an opportunity to tweak the idea before too many resources have been expended on the initial concept.
Yesterday I attended South By Southwest (SXSW or “South By”) Interactive and Film for the first time and I have to say that it was a pretty overwhelming experience. My initial goal (since this shindig runs for almost a week) was to just figure out the lay of the land. My larger goal here is to do some networking and to find out what’s new and what may be next in internet technology.
So in no particular order here are my first impressions of SXSW.
I recently received an email from Blip.tv (one of the services that I use to host video on the web) reminding me that they are no longer supporting distribution to iTunes for videos uploaded to their service. It’s one of many changes that Blip has made in recent years to gain an advantage over competing video services by emphasizing their own site as a destination. I also recently noticed that Blip.tv (after being acquired by Maker Studios) closed their service to new accounts.
The advantage of having viewers watch video on a particular video host’s site (or at the very least via that video host’s player) lies in the fact that said video host can then insert advertisements that earn the host (and hopefully the video producer) revenue. So Blip’s recent change is very much about boosting engagement with ads by viewers. This also limits distribution options for content producers. This leads to the question: What business is Blip really in? Are they providing tools so that web video producers can build a following for their shows? Or are they a vehicle for brands to advertise? With the recent changes the answer is obviously the latter.
This week was a big one for those who aspire to “fix” news on the internet. Consider the following three developments.
- Ezra Klein, a well known writer formerly with Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, announced that he is starting a new internet-based publication at Vox Media. His goal with the new publication is to improve how news delivers, “crucial context alongside information.” No launch date was mentioned
- Jason Calacanis, a well-known blog entrepreneur who sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL, launched Inside.com. Inside.com essentially offers a stream of news that is curated by people and optimized for mobile devices. According to Calacanis’s launch blog post Inside.com aims to help people navigate, “this new world filled with social media, blogging and stories breaking in real time…”
- Facebook announced Paper. Paper is a standalone iPhone app that aims to help people, “explore and share stories from friends and the world around you.” Like Inside.com, Paper features curated content, but it also integrates a person’s Facebook News Feed and allows people to publish their own stories. The Paper app launches on February 3.