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From eMediaVitals: Qualcomm spreads the gospel on new e-reader display technology Feb 15, 2010

Posted by magnostic in Book publishing, e-readers, Innovation, Magazines, Media, Publishing.
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I’m going to pretend I haven’t posted here in nearly eight months. Anyway, this post originally appeared on eMediaVitals:

Apple hasn’t cornered the market on cool color e-readers, despite what you might think from the overhyped iPad. By this fall, expect to see a new generation of devices that support full color and full-motion video, featuring new Mirasol display technology from Qualcomm.

The technology, from Qualcomm’s MEMS Technologies subsidiary, was originally designed for mobile handsets. But Qualcomm has scaled the technology up to larger form factors, such as the 5.7-inch display it demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January (below).

Qualcomm expects to begin announcing partnerships with e-reader manufacturers this summer, with the first Mirasol-equipped e-readers reaching the market by this fall, according to Cheryl Goodman, director of marketing for Qualcomm MEMS Technologies.(There are rumors that the Kindle will be one of the devices that use the technology.)

The core element in the Mirasol display is called an Interferometric Modulator, or IMOD. Qualcomm can describe itbetter than I can:

The device is composed of two conductive plates. One is a thin film stack on a glass substrate, the other is a reflective membrane suspended over the substrate. There is a gap between the two that is filled with air. The IMOD element has two stable states. When no voltage is applied, the plates are separated, and light hitting the substrate is reflected as shown above. When a small voltage is applied, the plates are pulled together by electrostatic attraction and the light is absorbed, turning the element black. This is the fundamental building block from which Qualcomm’s mirasol displays are made.

Or, as Goodman notes, “it’s a very thin, very simple design. The display becomes more crisp and bright depending on the ambient light in the room.”

The technology has three distinguishing features for e-readers:

  • Support for full-motion video. A rapid refresh rate will replicate the experience of watching digital video on a desktop, says Goodman.
  • Support for full color. “Everyone wants a solution that’s color,” says Goodman. “Kindle and other e-ink displays do a great job showing monochrome text. But magazines need a full spectrum of color. Our display technology is the window to their content.”
  • Low power consumption. “Consumers have an expectation of battery life of weeks, not hours,” says Goodman. “Low-power devices are critical – otherwise you’ll have frustrated users.”

Too many publishers have a limited view of e-readers as a distribution channel for what I call SOC – same old content – either a digital edition of a print product or a replica of the website. Technologies such as Mirasol could give publishers an opportunity to create a completely new content experience for users.

“Most publishers haven’t fully embraced the concept of rethinking the magazine,” says Goodman. “They need to be more flexible with new formats and let go of certain aesthetics that work on other platforms.”
If Goodman sounds like an evangelist, that’s because “publisher liaison” is now part of her job description. She took on the role after fielding so many questions about the technology from journalists at CES.

Spreading the Mirasol gospel to publishers is an interesting role, since Qualcomm won’t get any direct business from the content producers. “It’s not a direct win for us,” Goodman says. “But we want publishers to know about us and our technology, so when they have discussions about e-readers they know what questions to ask.”

Engadget had a chance to play around with the prototype device and provided a quick review.

New Resource for Media Professionals Jun 22, 2009

Posted by magnostic in Journalism, Media, Publishing, Trade publishing.
2 comments

I have a new gig overseeing editorial operations for a startup called Vital Business Media. Founded by a couple of former Penton Media execs, the company is developing a series of “targeted online communities” for different verticals. The first site, eMediaVitals.com, is for publishing professionals, specifically those neck deep in the transition from print to digital. The coming-out party is Wednesday when the CEO, Prescott Shibles, hosts a B2B workshop examining six proven methods for making money in the digital publishing space. The workshop content is so good, we’re charging real money for it. I’ll be writing and blogging and performing assorted other content development functions for the new site as we go live.  Media colleagues, let me know what you think.

Corporate Journalism: When Marketing and Media Collide May 6, 2009

Posted by magnostic in CMO, Content, Corporate journalism, Journalism, Journalists, Marketing, PR.
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I spoke last night at a CMO Club dinner in Boston on the topic of Corporate Journalism. (Many thanks to Pete Krainik for the opportunity.) I’ve written about some of this before, but here’s the gist of what I talked about:

In early 2002, I was working at McKinsey in a newly formed internal communications group called Knowledge Services. The group formed to develop new methods to capture the intellectual capital the consultants were creating through their client work.

Our first task was cleaning up an internal document repository called PDNet, which contained more than 11,000 documents, most of them PowerPoint decks that were relevant only to the people who wrote them. The problem? The documents had no context, just a bunch of bullet points and factoids. Without the consultant to provide the story around the slides, their usefulness to anyone beyond the authors was limited.

Our group was asked to audit those documents, weed out the outdated, irrelevant and redundant ones, and add context to the rest.

For the latter task, we came up with a basic approach: get the authors on the phone, get them to talk through the slides, and ask them a few questions to fill in any holes. We then transcribed the conversations, edited them, and appended the text to the slides. Instant context. The documents were now much more valuable to new associates coming on board, or anyone else who needed to get up to speed quickly on a topic.

An interesting thing happened during these calls. The consultants we interviewed about documents they wrote 3 or 4 or 5 years ago would often respond, “I’m happy to talk to you about this document, but what we should really be talking about is the current work I’m doing with X client.” We had tapped into a vein of intellectual capital that hadn’t been mined – it was bouncing around inside the consultant’s heads or on their hard drives, and they hadn’t had time to develop it further to make it sharable.

This led us to create a new service line: creating articles and white papers that the consultants could share directly with clients or pitch to external publications. It was basically the same process as described above: We would interview the consultants, have them walk through whatever supporting PowerPoint deck they had cobbled together, ask a few clarifying questions, do some additional research, and deliver back to them a first draft of a paper.

The consultants loved it, because the process was easy for them – spend an hour on the phone with an editor, then review/revise two or three drafts until the paper was client-ready. It was a very efficient way to capture and share the firm’s learnings and enhance McKinsey’s already impressive thought leadership on key topics.

This was the beginning of what I and former colleague David Churbuck dubbed “corporate journalism.” We didn’t invent the phrase, but we glommed onto it as a way to explain to people how our approach was different from traditional mar-comm.

(The phrase may have been coined in a book called “Beyond Spin: The Power of Strategic Corporate Journalism,” by Markos Kounalakis, Drew Banks and Kim Daus in (2000). More recently, consultant David Meerman Scott applied many of the principles of corporate journalism in his book, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR,” which talks about new methods for marketers who now have the power of digital media to communicate directly with their target audience.

In a broad sense, “corporate journalism” means applying journalism skills –writing, editing, objectivity, interviewing, research, and a good bullshit detector – to marketing communications.

Corporate journalism is an effective method for uncovering hidden pockets of knowledge within your organization. It can be used to capture the expertise of your subject matter experts – from the CEO down to the front-line worker – and publish that information in ways that better position your company as a trusted resource in your market or industry.

There are three main benefits to this approach.

1. Influence – aka thought leadership. By tapping into the knowledge across your entire organization (not just from your executives), you can develop fresh insights about your company, your products, your customers, and the industry you serve. You can then package this information in a way that establishes you as an expert in your market space.

2. Credibility. The concept of corporate journalism also means unleashing journalists inside your company to ferret out the trouble spots. In this time of transparency and authenticity, corporate journalism means presenting the bad with the good. Otherwise people will just view it as more spin.

I’m not talking necessarily about taking all of this information public, but you’d be well served to uncover pockets of discontent among employees or customers before someone else blogs or tweets about it.

Being open and honest in your communications will build trust among your customers or prospects.

3. Reach. If you create content that is authentic and believable, and you openly share that content with your community, good things will happen:

  • Others will link to it.
  • They will comment on it.
  • They will share it with friends or colleagues.

As a result, your sphere of influence will expand. Your website will become a destination. You can actually host a conversation instead of (or in addition to) chasing it around the blogosphere.

You will give customers, prospects, or any other constituent a reason to come to your site, and a reason to return.

What makes for compelling content?

There’s no real rocket science here. It has to be:

  • Informative
  • Timely
  • Relevant
  • Accessible

For all of your target groups.

The accessibility piece is key, and often overlooked. It’s often hard to find useful information on a corporate website. That’s why more marketers need to treat their corporate site as a living, breathing media site – lead with your best/most timely content, offer user-oriented navigation, and make it all searchable, sharable, and ratable.

What kind of content can you create?

The good thing about capturing the insights of employees and executives across your company is that it can be packaged and distributed in many ways. In the early days of digital media we called it “skinning the pig” – how many ways can you package a single source of content? For example, from one on-camera interview with a subject matter expert, you can create a video or podcast that can be published on your site. You can also use the transcripts as the basis for:

  • Q&A’s
  • White papers
  • Website copy
  • Articles for external placement

    You can then promote and link to those assets via:

    • Blog posts
    • Twitter tweets
    • Facebook groups
    • Social networks specific to your industry

    That’s a pretty broad set of assets from a single source of content. And it’s a much better approach than sending out press releases and hoping that someone writes a story about you. (A quick aside – journalists generally don’t read press releases – and just because the search engines pick them up doesn’t mean anyone else reads them either.)

    This combination of corporate journalism and social media can be a powerful platform for exchanging ideas and information, across your company (internally) and outside your organization and with partners, suppliers, customers.

    Corporate Journalism in Practice

    I just wrapped up an engagement with Manpower, the global employment services agency. Their corporate website is about as pedestrian as it gets – lots of traditional marketing copy, some press releases, a few white papers or research reports. Nothing inherently current, and nothing remotely compelling to the thousands of temps and contract workers that the company places with clients.

    Manpower’s business is fueled by corporate clients who hire Manpower to fill gaps in its workforce, either temporarily or full time; relationships with the individual workers are mostly transactional (give us your resume, we’ll match you with an employee). But the company decided it needed a better connection to these job candidates. Two years ago, it commissioned a new web property that would serve as a career management resource for professionals, specifically those in IT, engineering and finance – a key focus for future business growth.

    I was brought in as part of a team of consultants with Truman Company to help Manpower develop the content strategy for the new site.

    Our first step was to audit their existing content. We asked the marketing team for their content; they gave us white papers and press releases. They weren’t thinking about content the same way as we did – so we cast a wider net to gather any material that drove their business – executive presentations, the reference guides given to job candidates at local branches, sales support materials, and so on. They had a boatload of useful information about interviewing skills, resume preparation, local job markets, workplace diversity issues, etc., but they had never published most of this material anywhere electronically.

    The next step was to re-cast this content and make it Web-ready and suitable for the target audience.

    Next, we recruited a group of internal subject matter experts – career counselers, diversity experts, HR professionals – to blog for the new site.

    We also filmed corporate executives on the topic of career management, and posted the videos on the site.

    We also conducted formal and informal interviews with a broad range of internal stakeholders to identify the top-of-mind issues from their dealings with clients and job candidates – and turned those insights into articles or online discussion forum topics.

    The site, called MyPath, is currently in public beta. There are still plenty of kinks to work out, but this site represents a HUGE cultural shift for Manpower. They are embracing the concept of engaging directly with a core target audience. They are attempting to shift their business model on the fly to serve them well into the future. And they’re doing it by embracing the fact that they’re now a media company that can create compelling content to engage directly with the people who use their services.

    The last example comes from the public sector and is referenced here.

    Any marketer can learn from these examples. There’s inherent value in talking with your constituents – be they internal employees or external customers or prospects – to find out what they really think about a topic, an issue, a brand, a strategy. 

    It’s not easy. It often requires a culture change – specifically, how introspective are you willing to be? How much of the onion are you willing to peel back to find out how people really feel about your company and its products or services? And how much of that knowledge are you willing to openly share with your constituents?

    Corporate journalism is a great way to:

    • take the pulse of your target audience,
    • develop insights that can be packaged and served back to the community,
    • engage and build credibility with the customers and prospects who will help your business grow well into the future.

    The good news: There’s no shortage of out-of-work (or soon to be unemployed) journalists who have the skills to assist any marketer heading down this path.

    Head-Scratcher Apr 21, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Customer service, Customer support.
    3 comments

    Today I had some problems with my Red Sox season ticket account. I filled out and submitted the online tech support form describing the problem. A few hours later, I received an email saying I didn’t provide enough information – they needed my email address.

    Opposite Ends of the Customer Service Spectrum Apr 16, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Customer service, Marketing.
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    I had two diametrically opposed customer experiences in the span of 48 hours this week. On Sunday, I was lucky enough to be in Augusta, Ga., for the final round of the Masters. Simply walking the golf course was enough of a religious experience in itself, but I gotta say, those Hootie types who run Augusta National Golf Club sure know how to cater to their patrons. From the security guards at the front entrance to the bathroom attendants who deodorized every stall after each individual use, every employee was polite, upbeat, smiling. They ran their concessions, merchandise shop and security checks with assembly-line precision, and they managed the flow of the massive crowds around the course with a sense of humor and a gentle hand. Employees clearly have been trained to act appropriately but also to be human, to engage with the patrons and make them feel welcome. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Contrast the Masters experience with our flight home the next day. Start with the unsmiling US Airways agent at the check-in counter in Columbia, SC. Grumpy. Move to the gate, where an agent announced a couple of minutes before our scheduled boarding time that the flight was delayed by some mysterious system crash that prohibited the airline from “releasing” the crew. His colleague handled questions from anxious passengers in the textbook airline manner: by never looking up from her terminal. The hour-plus delay caused my brother and I to miss our connection in Philadelphia.

    Here’s what should have happened once we arrived: The airline knew we were going to miss the flight (they do, after all, have the data). They should have had a customer-service agent waiting for us at our arrival gate in Philly, who could have apologized to us (by name) for the inconvenience. They could have said they took the liberty of booking us on the next available flight and handed us a couple of vouchers for a hotel (if we had to stay overnight) and a hot meal. This would have diffused any angst we were feeling and turned a negative experience into a relatively positive (or at least neutral) one.  

    But as anyone who’s stepped inside an airline terminal knows, that’s not the way it works. Here’s what really happened: We landed in Philly with minutes to spare, huffed and puffed past 10 or so gates to catch a shuttle bus to the terminal where our next flight was leaving from, and ran from the bus to the departure gate. Six minutes late – no plane, no agents. So we lug our bags past another dozen gates to US Air customer service, where five or so agents sat slumped behind the counter, talking among themselves or staring aimlessly at their computer screens.

    “I can book you to Boston tonight or to Manchester [our original destination] tomorrow morning,” the disinterested agent said, propping up his chin with his left hand and talking through his fingers. “What about a hotel voucher?” we asked. “The delay was due to field conditions – we don’t reimburse for weather delays,” he answered. Uh no, that’s not what happened. And on it went. We ended up flying to Boston, paying an extra $70 for a van up to Manchester, and complaining about US Scair the entire way. The next day, I sent an email asking for a reimbursement, and a US Air “customer relations” rep politely told me to go pound sand.

    OK, it’s probably unfair to compare a private golf club rolling in dough with a struggling airline just trying to survive. But why can’t we expect companies, regardless of their financial situation, to require employees to use rudimentary social skills and basic common sense when dealing with customers? It’s really not that difficult.

    Bucket List: The Masters Apr 7, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Personal.
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    I’m off at the crack of dawn tomorrow, heading south for my first visit to the Masters in Augusta, Ga. A bucket list item, for sure.  

    Amen Corner, Augusta National

    I’m Guessing They Haven’t Heard of Twitter Apr 2, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Media, Weird.
    1 comment so far

    My buddy Mike Z passed along a portion of a job description from a local broadcasting company in upstate NY:

    “Expected to log onto the computer on a daily basis and use department electronic mail and message boards to receive and send messages important to the department’s objectives. Also, expected to check mailbox, voice mail and e-mail messages periodically throughout the day.”

    I suggest they add the following, just so there’s no gray area: “Upon arrival each day,  expected to greet co-workers, proceed to assigned workspace, and sit in chair. Also expected to consume food, drink coffee (or other preferred beverage) and take potty breaks at established intervals throughout the day.”

     

    Tom Asacker on Relevance Apr 1, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Advertising, Marketing.
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    Nice post by Tom Asacker on the importance of being relevant with your marketing message.

    If you’re interested in owning the most important real estate in the marketplace – that space between your customers’ ears – then make sure your message is different, to gain their attention, and desirable, so it will be relevant to them when they’re exposed to it and when the need arises to recall it.

     

    “Bailout” as Ad Copy Mar 19, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Advertising, Marketing.
    1 comment so far

    Leave it to clever marketers to turn an increasingly toxic word like “bailout” into advertising fodder:

    dennys_ad

    What Drives Word of Mouth? Interesting Content Mar 13, 2009

    Posted by magnostic in Advertising, Blogs, Broadcast TV, Marketing, Social media, Viral marketing, Weird, Word of Mouth.
    2 comments

    Compelling content will drive word of mouth for your brand, even if that content is irreverant and in the form of *gasp* a 30-second spot on broadcast TV. Exhibit A: McDonald’s talking fish. 

    YouTube views of most popular posting of the spot: 246,757 <warning: this tune will stick in your head like spackling paste>

    Google blog search results for “McDonald’s talking fish”: 29,921

    Members of McDonald’s Filet O Fish Commercial fan club on Facebook: 289 

    The spot’s been running for two weeks.

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