Confronting the mayhem in Media and Marketing

Creating the Interactive Page

As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible. — Marshall McLuhan, Playboy

McLuhan reminds us that all things new eventually become boring. Radio constantly proves this point. You get excited when you stumble on your favorite new song, maybe up to the point of singing or dancing in the privacy of your car or shower of course. Within a few weeks or months, because every radio station has played the hell out the track, you give up on the song.

Technology, unlike media, gains utility once it becomes invisible due to scale and awareness. Think of the fax machine or Facebook. Both technologies were essentially useless until other people joined the network. You cannot send a fax to yourself and Facebook in its infancy was nothing more than an empty sounding board. As the barriers of entry diminished (after all the first Facebook users faced a social cost) the technology matured to the point of utility. Remember too that technology gets replaced as the fax machine did via e-mail and the Internet.

Most printed pages, like the fax machine, will get replaced by some combination of technology. Until that point print’s longevity will hinge on interactivity with digital media and networks. Pages largely communicate through images and text. While images and text can convey a message in a visually impactful way, the interaction is limited between the reader and the material. For over 40 years, the industry has tried to extend the experience beyond the reader and the page by first using bar codes.

Bar codes have provided some level of interactivity for over 40 years and have mutated over the years to fit different applications. Mobile or 2d bar codes are the newest kids on the block that can contain embedded data, trigger text messages, or redirect the user to online content. Bar codes still have limitations. They are visually disruptive and require an application and scanning device to read. Mobile bar codes also require a defined strategy and supporting backend system (pURLs, databases, landing pages, content, analytics, etc.).

Another option to make the page come to life is Augmented Reality. In fact, news outlets were reporting the permature death of mobile barcodes last week after vendors made strides at the E3 show. Several companies are offering AR solutions for publishers. Generally these require the user/reader/viewer to download an app to their smartphone and then hover over the printed content. The app will recognize which page you are on and offer additional, online content to go beyond the page. Publishers such as Esquire and Instyle were early experimenters that direct readers to a movie of Robert Downey, Jr. and online landing pages respectively. The experience for the consumer, so far, has been nothing short of painful. First the user has to download the app, launch it, awkwardly point it toward the page, wait for the app to recognize the content, and then be direct to the content which, more times than not, is a complete let down.

McLuhan also famously said that “the message is the medium.” In the case of bar codes and AR, the medium sucks. Until the experience because effortless, seamless, and rewarding, the user will find the message through the more efficient medium. For this reason, the interactive print needs to be part of an object aware environment.

For instance, your smartphone would recognize the magazine you just sat down to read. The app auto downloads and launches offering different options. One option might be to read the magazine on the phone while another option might offer video summations of the articles to watch. You leave the magazine at page 32, but then later pick up where you left off on your phone. Much of this interaction could be accomplished today using near field communication (NFC) technology. For now this technology and application is just like the introduction of the fax machine or Facebook — it is waiting for the boring ubiquity.

Ultimately, to gain adoption, the whole experience has to be seamless and intuitive. Period.

photo: mattjiggins


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Diversity of Age

“The kids came to each new technology fresh, without preconceptions, and they picked it up more quickly. They dreamed up uses for their phones that, for reasons no one fully understood, never occurred to grown-ups. The instant text message, for instance. […] The technique had spread from Finnish children to busienessmen because the kids had taught their parents how to use their phones. Nokia employed anthropologists to tell them this.” — Michael Lewis describing Nokia’s market research with children from Next

Psychologists suggest kids are more willing to experiment because their “self” is not fully developed. They care far less about social norms, policies, procedures, and the like. Think about it. When meeting someone new, one of the first questions is often “What do you do?”. We respond not by sharing our hobbies, interests, or passions. We say something like “I’m a lawyer.” Adults, for better or worse, tend to define their “self” not by who they are but by their functional role in society — we are our jobs. And lawyers should look and act a certain way. Kids are not bound to by these prejudices and normalities. They can be risk takers.

When technology or society shifts, the normal social structure can get inverted. Kids start teaching their parents instead of the other way around.

Industries experiencing rapid change or technological upheaval might want to start paying attention to or hiring kids. After all, they do not see the flux. They see something new and exciting. Something they might well have to teach you.

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What do Matzo and Printing have in common?

A short distance away a highly regulated factory is filled with expensive, custom equipment that churns out tons of product everyday. It does not produce cars or medicine or packaging. The Manischewitz factory bakes unleavened bread (flour and water only) at a specific 600º called Matzo. The tasteless, dry bread is more like a cracker and sees most of the sales during the Jewish observance of Passover.

Manischewitz spent over 14 million building a state-of-the-art food line to make the bread. High capital expenditures and regulation give the company a dominant position in Matzo and kosher food production. Imports from Israel have recently given the company some competition in terms of price and market share. What’s a kosher food manufacturer to do? The company is expanding the definition and market. Instead of being dependent on one holiday, the company is marketing Matzo as a vegan, kosher, vegetarian food base that can be used in Matzo candy or a Matzo red velvet cake.

The printing industry is a manufacturing process with high capital costs. Prints competition comes from changing communication preferences, particularly from digital competition.

How could you expand the definition and market for your products? What will be your Matzo red velvet cake?


source: The Matzo Economy, NPR’s Planet Money

photo: sigckgc

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