I don't read as many books as I use to (5 to 7 per month), but I read a lot more content than I use to. Blams blogs and RSS for that.
Here are my Google Reader stats for the past 30 days:
So, assuming that 1750 posts average 400 words, I read some 700,000 words. If an average book has 70,000 words, I read 10 books per month.
So, the point is made: I read too much. But what about quality?
I mean, I don't expect to suddenly come around Michail Sholokhov, but what is the overall quality in terms of the information delivered (not so much on the form or "beauty" with which is delivered)? Well, I'd say rather good. There is a certain degree of redundancy, whenever something big happens (Chrome, Steve Jobs Keynote).
To prevent too much repeated stuff I try to keep my feeds variate. I'd say it is 20% Social Media, PR & Marketing, 20% Geek stuff (linux, ajax, design, usability, etc), 20% science, and the rest is randomness that I come across with (music, literature, arts, etc).
Another thing I usually do is rotating feeds. I'd say I add and delete around 5 feeds per month, thus my feed reader is not static, but always changing and evolving.
In comparison to when I read just books and magazines I can say today there's less quality, more variety and infinite availability.
Finally, I'd like to share a couple of the "best blogs you probably never heard about". I'll toss in some of this nice discoveries every now and then.
- Cheaper than Therapy: Music business and economy. If you want to know what record companies are up to read this blog
- Bits or Pieces: Amazing thinking regrading cloud computing.
Feel free to share your own reading habits and "feed gems".
Kudos to the developers
PrintWhatYouLike.com was created by Jonathan Koomjian and Cassie Schmitz, two web developers in Des Moines, Iowa who were frustrated that there was no way to print web pages without wasting reams of paper.
There is a reason why shopping therapy exists. Its not by chance that some people are compulsory buyers.
Then why on Earth is online shopping so tedious? Because information Architects, designers, marketers and managers have lost sight. They have focused too much on usability (if they have succeeded or failed is matter for a separate discussion, and particular for each case) and too little on something else.
Buying stuff should be fun. Or as close to fun as it can get. It must be a pleasurable experience. Once we understand that our abandonments will invariably go down.
Let’s take a look at the typical shopping process:
So, on this fairly simple process a regular customer has 4 different moments where he can change his mind and decide to abandon the transaction. (Actually: 3 to abandon, 1 not even to start it). There is a reason why they call it a “funnel”; it grows smaller towards the bottom. There’s no way to avoid this, at least not until marketers are granted mind-controlling powers.
Now, let’s break things apart.
I won’t focus on advertising / ads / the like since it is not my area of expertise, and even if it were it deserves a post by itself.
These are usually dull, factoid filled, uninteresting and marketing-messaging overloaded. The fact that sites can still sell stuff despite landing pages talks loudly about the urge people have to buy stuff. And that is when those landing pages are not entirely built around flash, take forever to load and/or say absolutely nothing.
Landing pages should be:
a. simple, clear call to action, uncluttered and fast to load.
b. a continuation of whatever creativity you displayed on advertising (if you didn’t use adwords, that is)
Overall a landing page should be no more than a revolving door towards the “real” shopping process. Demanding users to spend time on yet another page of the process is a bad idea. A Terrible idea, as a matter of fact.
Landing pages should be little else than just a hook, some sort of very quick “click on me” glimpse that should engage, pump-up and excite customers. Massive information, details, galleries are all out of place on 90% of sales-intended landing pages.
If the landing page is just a hook, product pages are where the fireworks should happen.
When you walk into a store to buy a new shirt you don’t go and see the tags on the shirts and then decide if they are nice. You do it the other way around. You go for the shirt you like, take a good look at it and then check the tag to see if it is the right size, if it should be ironed, if it made out of cotton, etc.
Humans are visual animals. It takes a nanosecond to like or dislike something. Details come into play afterwards. Product pages should be designed and wire-framed around that very concept.
That being said, people also go and take a look at the tag inside the shirt at some point. Information should be easily available upon need, but it must not take real estate out from the visual and more appealing tidbits of content.
Ease of use is crucial, since everything people would normally want to know should be only 1 click away. Everything “secondary” can lay a little deeper, but not too deep.
Fast loading times are also very important. Every second a user stares at a blank or partially loaded screen is a second they have to change their minds.
Now, what about that “entertainment” part I mentioned at the beginning of the post (some 600 words upwards)? How can anyone make a product page entertaining? It is all in how stuff is presented.
Given the exact same content, designers and IAs have the ability to make something either dull or appealing. Forget usability for a second and think if the way you present information, pricing and pictures is going to be eye-catching and, more importantly, if it will get the user craving and wanting more. Try to make them desperate to get that product.
It is very hard to make a cart look interesting. Tons of potential sales are lost at this very single type of page. The only way to “fix” this to a certain extent is with surprises.
Toss in a killer offer to add to the cart. Set shipping date before what you promised on product pages. Offer some sort of free / cheap upgrade. Do something, anything that sets the customer’s mind in a “I should take advantage of this” mindset.
Sorry. Not much to do about this. Copying credit card numbers, filling out forms, inputting tons and tons of data is never going to be fun.
The only thing that can alleviate the pain for customers is allowing them to use services where they might have already created an account (PayPal comes to mind as an example).
Picture online purchases as a water stream. If there are no obstacles or curves everything flows. If you start adding rocks and meanders things will slow up. Let purchases free-flow within your sites from entry to payment. Make call to action links and buttons clear. Keep messaging short. Rely heavily on images.
Test. Analyze. Test again. Do Multivariate. Try different things and try bold things. The worst assumption people in charge of websites make is that anything even a little bit radical will confuse users. That is not the case if innovation is clear and natural.
And, remember, with shopping process' web analytics are the only thing that will help you put your mouth where your money is.
People in the ranks of alltop, so-called "gurus" such as Scoble or Jeremiah are what we consider as "influencers" in the under-under-under world of web-oh-two(too)-cool. This guys have crept out of the background noise of the bloggosphere and twitterati and made themselves more prominent than the Nerdy Average Joe that lurks the very same services this influencers use.
With raging ranks of followers and some fans that would make Tommy Lee jealous (I've seen commenters praise and sustain some of the most outrageous and, dare I say, dumb remarks) the influencers get an amplification power similar to the one achieved by Spinal Tap's "mine go to eleven" boxes.
The effect of this is quite simple: more people listen (and reply) to this guys than they do to the other "participants in the conversation". Some call that higher reach.
The outcome is a paradox.
Remember the days of mass media? Remember all the Social-web-2.0-power-to-the-masses fuzz? The premise was that everyone could be a Journalist, everyone could have a voice.
Certainly everyone can have a voice. But not everyone's voice can be heard. Since there is so much content out there there is no way everyone can get an audience. I'll agree that there is content out there that is of little or no appeal to most of the audience, but there is quite a deal of excellent and original writing that goes unnoticed.
The issue becomes that the same means that was (allegedly?) allowing a revolution in communications is now fostering individuals and groups of people that resemble more and more traditional media. The only difference is that they never had their content in print to begin with.
All the top-ranked blogs out there have heavy editorial lines. On the other end of things many newspapers and magazines are relying heavily on blogs and have opened comments on their usual content. The difference between those is becoming harder to tell. There are hints that tell them apart, such as very segmented content (most blogs deal with one general theme, whereas newspapers cover tons of different topics), very visible faces / personalities behind blogs and a general lean on the side of bloggers to share opinions more explicitly.
The way Marketing bucks have to deal with this popular blogs is resembling more and more that of traditional media. Or maybe worst. But that's ok.
Now, to round up the paradox idea -if you haven't understood what the main paradox is so far: bloggers resemble journalists and vice versa, even when they both shout out loud that they are quite different- yet another issue pops up when bloggers monetize their content, and while doing so their so-called transparency is put to the trial. I'm affraid many have succumbed to journalism's worst sin: selling of. Of course this is not the case with all bloggers.
The other fairly visible tendency I see in some of this influencers is that they are tending to rely on repeating themselves and using the same couple of formulas over and over again. One of the overly-used ones is deceiving the readership into believing they are participants when, all truth be said, they are being leached.
There is a fine line between calling for interaction and dialogue and abusing those who follow you to get content and ideas.
It might be just that I am a cynic. Very cynic.This post belongs to the shifting times, blurring lines series. Read them all or learn what the series is about.
Edit: David, makes some similar remarks over his blog as well.
What is the difference between the online presence of traditional media and the new heavily popular blog driven sites such as techcrunch?
Do forums serve a purpose for support organizations within companies? Marketing? Public Relations?
Who should fund this things inside a corporation? who should be the stakeholders? Who is accountable for success or failure?
This and other similar questions pop-up like fungi on a hot wet day when working on Social Media Marketing.
The landscape of media and online marketing is rapidly changing. Most of the time changes happen just quickly enough so that people involved in them directly tend to have a feeling of being just one step behind what is happening. Traditional organizations, thinking and decision-making won't do it anymore.
I intend to write up a series of posts looking at things that I consider are changing, at differences that are becoming more pronnounced and percieved differences that aren't so.
Last Thursday I had the honor to attend "DigitalTalk". The best way I can describe it is as "endogamy-powered mini-TED".
Here's the dynamics of the talk: 20 speakers, no audience but the other keynoters, everything is recorded on Video for future release n the form of a blog. The only premise on what to talk about is that you have to "inspire the other 19 speakers".
Even though I had relatively little time to prepare my dissertation I decided to do something entirely from scratch, as opposed to recycling what I had already presented both on WeMedia and Wordcamp.
I did not speak about Social Media or the Online world in general, but rather centered my presentation on having ideas and sticking to them (and when to bail out!). I was rather pleased that the rest of the invitees had similar approaches.
It was quite an inspiring event. And I for once was thrilled by the fact that others think I can give an inspirational speech. It was also quite pleasing to be sitting "on the same table" as:
- Mariano Amartino (Uber Bin),
- Ariel Arrieta & Damian Voltes (Punto Fox)
- Alejandro Sas (Buongiorno)
- Andy Freire (Axialent)
- Adrian Herzkovich (Fox)
- Eduardo Mangarelli (Microsoft)
- Esteban Galuzzi (Intel)
- Federico Tessore (Inversor Global)
- Gaby Menta (AcroWorld)
- Gonzalo Alonso (Google)
- Gustavo Buchbinder (WebAr)
- Horacio Werner (Cisco)
- Juan Carlos Lucas (Innova)
- Juan Pablo Bruzzo (DineroMail)
- Leonardo Piccioli (OfficeNet)
- Martin Hazan (MRM)
- Martin Migoya (Globant)
I haven't got enough words to thank Mariano, Ariel and Damián for such a wonderful way to spend a Thursday.
Videos should become available at digitaltak.tv soon and I'll be posting comments and reviews / opinion on them as they are made public.