NYT and The Daily on iPad: Media Companies’ Missed Opportunity

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The launch of The Daily on the iPad is likely to be a step in the right direction, but media companies (Newspapers, Periodicals, TV & Radio) are still trying to put an engine on a horse-drawn buggy and calling it a car.

The Bad News First

Media companies need to realize that going digital is not just about turning picas into pixels. It’s about sparking a relevant dialogue that is wrapped around content delivered at the right time on the right device that empowers that user experience.
The best example of what NOT to do is my hometown’s newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch (locally owned along w/ TV & Radio Stations). By now you’ve heard of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice. Well, the paper had YouTube remove the video due to copyright claims. True as it may be, had the video not been posted, it would never have gone viral. They insisted on viewing the video on THEIR site in hopes of benefiting from the ad impressions. Hours later after backlash from twitterverse, the video was back up, but now on the paper’s YouTube channel (great!).
But this “mine, mine, mine” philosophy about content is the same antiquated approach the music industry had about MP3 downloads. As soon as they realized that the horse and buggy industry was gone, they adapted and are reemerging and embracing the digital space.

The Good News

Media companies power is NOT in controlling the content, but rather creating, curating, validating and distributing the content. Think about it. You’re pitching a company on a big project and you need facts. What’s more reputable – a quote from my blog or The New York Times? Media company’s editorial process means the content is well written and based on fact. Their access to the insiders of a story is deep and wide which ultimately means better content.

The Inconvenient Truth

This is NOT 1990 anymore.
The internet changed EVERYTHING.
Facebook changed EVERYTHING.
Twitter changed EVERYTHING.
Content is everywhere so convincing viewers that your content is better is like Gary Vaynerchuck convincing the guy chugging Boone’s Farm that a $50 of wine tastes better! YOU know it’s better! I know it’s better! But to the Boone’s Farm guy?…Not so much. And even then, I’m not convinced it’s worth what your charging. I am convinced, however, that when I subscribe to a newspaper I get a tangible object delivered to me. The exchange of value is simple to demonstrate. But content delivered to me on screen?? It’s not the same.

What to Do?

Here’s where I think media companies are missing the boat…ARCHIVES! This is where people can and will be willing to pay. Imagine if you will, a freemium subscription model for media companies where they BREAK the free news that goes viral because they empowered consumers to share as they see fit under creative commons. They get the traffic as long as the story is hot. They’re on their home turf doing what you do best -breaking important news. NOW, let’s say a year later, I’m writing a report to submit to a client and this story has the facts I need to cite. THIs is where I’d be willing to pay for premium content. I’ll pay market value for that news story. The price is set by demand tracked by their analytics and social sentiment. So one story may be $50, while another may be $1. The best part? Subscribers get the story for free! Think about it, pay $50 for 1 story or for a 1 year subscription. The choice is obvious. Now your web site is a backchannel for all stories and the breaking story is the gateway. News breaks that relates to archived story? Sell it!!

In A Nut Shell

  • Your content is not as valuable as you think.
  • Your content does not belong to you. Liberate your content to the masses and the masses will thank you! Ask Ted Williams.
  • Create user experiences that are designed for the device in which the content is consumed. Repurposing content is a no no.
  • Don’t treat your digital ad inventory like the red-headed step child. It has value if you hire someone to monetize it to it’s potential.
  • Forget everything you think you know or you will be a black smith serving horseless society.
  • What you learn about digital this will be old news by evening drive time so don’t just break news, break new ground.

QR+RETAIL=Killer App or App Killer?

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Is anyone old enough to remember Merry-Go-Round clothing store? If you are old enough to remember, you’ll probably chuckle when I say it was my first job right after I quit Burger King at the tender age of 16.  I LOVED working in retail. You should have seen my skinny tie and bandanna collection!  I went on to manage Benetton stores all through college (this is the 80’s folks – United Colors of Benetton, remember?), then later worked for The Limited stores.  I STILL LOVE RETAIL!  In fact, I can outlast my tween daughters on a day at the mall!

I also LOVE digital.  So a couple of years ago, when I first heard about Augmented Reality(AR) apps and saw QR Codes and glyphs in action, my first thought went straight to how they can be used in a retail environment.  What is commonplace today in Japan is shaping the vision of the future in the U.S. with great videos showing  how the analogue and digital worlds can be integrated into a unified user experience.  Great right? Well not exactly.

As I was shopping with my daughters today when we stumbled into The Gap.  Much to my surprise I see a QR Code on a display (only 1 in the entire store).  I of course was curious and got out my favorite QR reader on my  iPhone, NeoReader (try it, it will work from this web page). First of all, the display was on a table that was about 2 feet high.  I debated internally if I wanted to get on a knee in the middle of The Gap to scan, but in the end, my curiosity got the best of me. It took a second to register the QR tag on my screen but I finally got the happy “ding” and my browser launched!  My excitement was completely squashed when I saw this…

NooooOOoooo…. what a let down and major #fail.  So we’re not quite here yet are we?   But it did start my wheels turning?  What are the killer apps for QR codes in a retail experience?


Engage me

It’s easy to go with a simple link to a product page.  But what are you going to ask me to do next? Give me social tools to share my adoration for this product.  Let me save this in a favorites list that I can refer to later or email to my Aunt Helen as a hint for my birthday. Think and engage!

QR Codes Clicks = Purchase Intent

Don’t use QR codes to show them 5 angles of the product they can hold in their hand.  Give them details that will help inform their decision and feel smart about their purchase.

Listen to Your Customer

This is your chance!  Your customer clicked on the QR code indicating interest.  100 clicks on product A, but only sold 1 today? Why?? They are holding their mobile device and in the perfect scenario to provide you feedback.  Ask one question – “do you like this? yes/no”. Feeling lucky? Ask “why/why not?”! Feed this data back to your buyers.  Just imagine the data you could capture if this was a branded app where you know the demographic profile of the respondent! WOW this can be powerful.

Make it Easy

It was interesting to me that I had to think before I scanned! Me, the uber geek was contemplating NOT scanning a QR code.  I have to admit, I felt like a dork scanning a QR code and it was only worse that I had to kneel down to do it. Place codes at eye level for signage.

Commit to the QR

Train the staff on what the QR tags are.  Give them talking points at two levels for the novice and the expert.   This becomes part of your brand experience. You NEVER want to have your associate say “I don’t know” even if it’s NOT a sku.

Cross-Media Optimize the Campaign

Use the QR Code to launch to the video of the TV spot that features the product their holding in their hands and vice versa.  Use QR codes on print ads with a call to action the rewards the customer with a promotional offer then list nearby stores based on their location.  And if you REALLY want to get crazy think about linking  location based systems (LBS) such as Foursquare, Gowalla and even now Facebook Places.  Why not have them checkin via QR code?

The QR Opt-in

Email marketing is not dead! Ask for their email address and reward them with an offer that they can redeem in the store at that moment!  What do you think the redemption rate of that coupon would be?  What was your cost of acquisition and the lifetime ROI of that one simple click??

Beyond the Sign

Think of new places to put QR codes.  Put them on the price tag with product specific information.  Heck, put them on the LABEL.  When that tween goes home after a day at the mall, they invite their friends over for an impromptu fashion show! Empower their friends to scan the tag then snap photos of their friend wearing that item to share.  Just imagine them posting their new outfits on DailyBooth.com holding the price tag w/ the QR code. Their friends can instantly scan and engage the exact product with the nearest store location.

Educate Me

Most people will walk by and never notice the squiggly squares.  Talk up the codes!  Tell your customers about QR codes and why they will enhance their shopping experience. GONE is the day of “can I help you find something?”!

Inform Me

When I was in the dressing room today, I needed a different size shirt.  How amazing would it be if I could scan the QR code on the price tag to see if the RIGHT size was even in stock? Make the QR code a customer service tool, NOT just a marketing tool.


  • Don’t put you QR Codes knee level!!
  • Broken QR codes are NOT good for  your brand
  • Don’t link a generic webpage.  Create an in-app experience designed specifically for mobile browsing
  • Commit to the QR code or don’t do it

Admittedly, QR Codes can be borderline gimmicky.  Think gimmick, you’ll get gimmick.  But on the other hand if you can think of ways that ENHANCE the brand experience in a very simple way you can bridge the analogue world with the digital to build loyalty, engage, spark dialogue and spread word of mouth.

What do you think? Are there any great application of QR codes you can share?

iPhone App Siri – The Greatest User Experience EVER!

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My wife and the new iPhone app Siri have a lot in common – they both have great personalities, they are brilliant AND gorgeous <insert brownie points here>.

I recently attended a meeting of the local IxDA (Interaction Design Association) where they showed videos from Interaction10, this year’s conference for interaction designers.  One video struck me as particularly poignent in my quest for the ultimate user experience.  It was a presentation by Cindy Chastain called Thinking Like a Storyteller.  Her challenge to the audience was to think about interaction design as a story that has a beginning, middle and an end and to create characters to drive that story.  The system feedback is a character that interacts with the user (also a character in the story).  This is the beauty of Siri – “she” has a personality that makes me feel happy.

The iPhone personal assistant app Siri is telling a story like no other on the iPhone.  I’ve never experienced a more relevant app that throws away the paradigm of what we expect from the iPhone UI to create the worlds greatest user experience.

From the ease of use – click a button, say what you want and poof you have results; to the super-friendly feedback – “ok, got it. Just a second while I find that for you”.  Siri has really managed to create not just a character, but a personality that is driving the story line.  Powered by Nuance’s famed speech recognition, it’s accuracy is pretty amazing.  But even that becomes commonplace after a few iterations.  THE REAL amazing thing is how brilliant the application is.

Famed sage Robert Scoble recently wrote about it calling it “The Future of the Web”.  What makes it so amazing is the integration points of web services.  It doesn’t just take me to Opentable to make a reservation, it allows me to make the reservation from within the application.  Want to find a PG-13 movie playing near you? NO PROBLEM!  Just say “PG-13 movies near me” .  Wanna tweet? Sure, say the tweet command and faster than you can say OAuth – poof – you’ve tweeted.

It’s the perfect amalgamation of elegant design, technical genius, unsurpassed user experience, utilitarian perfection and anthropomorphization of the iPhone.