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Working the stage

People at Red, Canon and Nikon are fanatical about the photography and video equipment they build. People at Adobe and Apple are fanatical about the video software they build.

This amazing video is an example of their “why”. Imagine the feeling this emotional piece would give you if it was made with your tools.

Would you take Denali home? Do you have any doubt about the strength of Ben and Denali’s relationship? Do you feel like you know them?

Would you want Ben to make a video about your business?

The next time you step off the stage (or the page) after sharing something important to you, what will leave your audience feeling as strongly as you felt as you watched this film?

Are you working the stage?


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Coming: Toll roads that cost more on critical trips

Depending on where you live, you may have paid to drive on a toll road.

Toll roads have been modernized in recent years to cause fewer traffic jams while encouraging drivers to sign up for the wireless automated payment systems they support. Instead of a toll gate that requires drivers to stop and pay with cash, multiple lanes have sensors that read an in-car device’s wireless signal that identifies your car.

That device is tied to a credit card or bank account so that the tolls are collected without stopping or worrying about having the right change. Because you didn’t have to stop to pay, the likelihood of traffic jams at toll booths is sharply reduced and makes your trip faster.

Increasing costs associated with maintaining roads have prompted toll road managers to look for ways to increase revenue on their roads. Toll roads have always charged more for vehicles with more axles. The idea there was that more axles meant more vehicle weight, which wears down the road more quickly. This formula for variable tolls has been accepted by those driving commercial trucks for some time.

So how do toll road managers find a way to get more revenue from the same traffic, but without raising tolls for everyone?

One of the ideas they’ve come up with focuses on eliminating traffic neutrality.

What is Traffic Neutrality?

Traffic neutrality is the idea that all vehicles of the same type pay the same toll. Whether you drive by yourself in a rusted out 1962 Ford Fairlane or you drive a $92,000 2014 Mercedes S550 full of Fortune 50 CEOs, the toll is the same.

Tolls for commercial vehicles work similarly, so if you drive a beat up three axle commercial dump truck carrying grass clippings, you pay the same as the driver of a brand new three axle dump truck carrying nuclear waste.

In other words, the toll is the same and the cost applied without conditions across traffic when you look at vehicles of the same type.

That’s traffic neutrality.

A new idea for raising toll road revenue

A change you might be seeing soon removes this neutrality and allows the in-car device to add additional charges to the toll based on where you are going and how important the trip is to you and your family or business.

For example, if you’re racing your wife to the hospital so she can deliver a baby, or someone is driving you to the doctor due to the allergic reaction to a bee sting, this would be sensed as an important trip and thus, the toll would be higher.

Another revenue idea is full speed lanes. Motorists on important trips pay more to drive in lanes free of interference from speed-control vehicles. Speed control vehicles drive slowly to moderate speeds in lanes not designed for “full speed limit service”.

Speed’s easy to manage since a road’s speed limit is regulated by law. However, the speed collectively driven above a toll road’s minimum speed limit is not. In order to manage these slower speeds, toll road managers pay frequent drivers a stipend to drive 10 or 15 mph below the speed limit.

Drivers are paid based on a device that monitors the car’s speed while on the toll road. If you meet your commitment, you get full pay.

These cars pull the average speed down for lanes that have not qualified for “full speed limit road access”, while not violating the law since those speed controlling cars drive at speeds above the road’s minimum speed.

Traffic volume plays into this as well. As the number of cars paying to drive at full speed increases, the demand for fast lanes increases.

When a new lane is needed, a non-full speed lane is converted to full speed and all remaining cars are funneled into the remaining non-full speed lanes. This increases traffic on the slower lanes and motivates more people to buy into full speed limit service on the toll road.

What’s this really about?

For now, this annoying toll road story is made up.  However, it describes exactly how the Federal Communications Commission is conspiring with large internet services and content providers to control internet traffic and destroy “net neutrality”, the real world internet version of traffic neutrality.

If this sounds like an idea that will hurt your business, call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to preserve net neutrality.

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Do you encourage your fans?

Linkin Park clearly understands their fans.

Some bands (or their “record” companies) would complain to YouTube or Flickr if a fan posted concert footage or photos. They’d ask to have them removed.

Not these guys. They post links on their official site that point to Flickr and YouTube videos taken by fans.

But it doesn’t end there.

From the LinkinPark website: “Each ticket purchased for the 2011 North American tour comes with an audio download of that night’s show.”

What are you doing to encourage your fans to become even more devoted?

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25 (or 6) to 54: Is that demographic important to you?

25 (or 6) to 54 is not a song from Chicago (that’s 25 or 6 to 4, video above).

It’s people.

People aged 25 (or 26) to 54 make up…

  • SIXTY-TWO percent of all social media use.
  • FIFTY THREE percent of Facebook users (687 million as of June 2011)
  • SEVENTY-FOUR percent of Twitter users.

We’re talking about a ton of people who have jobs, families, purchasing power, retirement plans, homes, cars and P&L responsibilities.

In other words – they might not be who you assumed they were. Many of them are potential customers who need and/or want what you create.


The typical social network user is 37 years old. Not a 13-15 year old who hasn’t yet gotten their license.

59% of people from ages 16 to 32 get their news online (is *that* demographic important to you?)

Are you taking social media interaction seriously from a strategic point of view? Are your competitors?


Social media use age profile (click to see full-size)

Graphic source: For the sources of these numbers, see the links at the bottom of the graphic. They’re readable when the graphic is viewed full-size (click the image).

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Pardon the asterisks, but social media’s kinda important

It’s Friday and I’m on my way back from Scout camp and on the way to the Montana Western Divisional Swim Meet. That means you get a guest post of sorts.

But I wouldn’t let you down with just any old guest post. This one has some serious stick-between-your-teeth to it. I suggest you click the “View on Slideshare” button on the lower right corner, as some of the text is really small – and it’s important enough to see.

Are you paying attention to this stuff yet? You should be.

Social media is how big, sometimes-faceless, global businesses can pretend to be just like your little carriage-trade business.

Are you going to let them get away with that?

Facebook and Twitter friends were treated to this last week – here on the blog, it had to go into the queue.

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Are you thinking about 5 years from now? Really?

What about in other markets that affect yours?

Ever want to know at least a little bit of what Google might be thinking?

This 5 minute excerpt is the meaty part of a 45 minute long discussion about the future with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen to what Schmidt says about the inevitable intersection of TV, radio, video, internet – ie: of media in general.

Sure, it’s obvious. And it’s just one aspect of what he’s speaking of.

But are you considering it in your marketing? In your product delivery? In what your products and services look like? In who you have on your staff, the skills you’re looking for in new hires and the training you’re offering to existing staff?

You don’t have to be in the tech business for this to have a profound impact on you. Has the iPod has affected businesses other than those who make cassette players? Surely.

What often separates the big dogs from everyone else is that they think ahead, they look ahead and they position themselves to be at cruising speed when that next big thing gets traction and hits cruise control.

Focusing merely on survival is not only a great way to never make it to top speed, but to find yourself on the wrong highway altogether.

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The thing in the way of amazing

Creative Commons License photo credit: Br0m

You know the thing I’m talking about. The thing that just wouldn’t go away. It’s so big, you can’t see it.

It’s like that creep at the dance who just wont take no for an answer. Or that thing hanging over your head that you *know* you have to do – but you just can’t seem to get to it.

Maybe because you don’t want to do it, or maybe because those “pesky customers” keep calling or having you run across town doing stuff for them.

So the money is coming in, but there’s that thing you gotta do.

What’s worse

In this case, it’s work that you make for yourself by doing all that stuff you’re doing for clients. So, it’s kind of a good thing, but it’s also stacking up.

More every day.

Video and still photography are good examples. You go out and capture an event or a portrait or some such and then there’s the studio’s editing station sitting there.

Just. Mocking. You.

The Pile

Thousands of frames have to be edited, corrected, cropped and perhaps a few of the images or a few moments of video are turned into amazing artwork.

Hours and gigs of video have to have the sound cleaned up, bad takes removed, frames removed for whatever reason, titles and effects added, and so on.

These tasks are labors of love at times, but at others, they are long hours of brutal grunt work.

How much did you say you make an hour for this work? Is that editing time factored in? (different discussion for a different day)

Editing might be fun when there are a few hundred shots of something you love shooting, like landscapes, sports, portraits or what not.

It might not be as much fun when there are 5000 sit and grin shots of kids or families or what not. Video – same deal.

Just say no (mostly)

What if you didn’t have to do it?

Don’t think about the WHO quite yet, but on what you get when you don’t have that work weighing down on you.

It’s the time and what you do with it.

How long after these marathon editing sessions does the “wow, this is gonna take x hours of editing time” thought process start creeping into your shooting?

When shooting something with fast action in it, does this “force” you to dial back from 6.5 frames per second to 3?

Does it enter your mind as you shoot 3000 frames (or 15 hours) of wedding coverage, or some marathon sporting event? Do you eventually get the equation in your head that every x shots = 15 minutes of editing?

Does that put a box around your creativity, even subconsciously?

Eventually, I’m guessing that it will.

You, Robot.

At some point, one risk is that this editing work will become mechanical.

If you think about it a bit, how could it not after months, years?

So…if you aren’t doing all that editing….What would you get done instead?

What about the work that you are totally in love with?

Isn’t that really where you want to spend your creative synapse firings? (assuming we all have but so many)

Isn’t that the work you *really* want to spend hours of loving, creative, out of this world editing time?

Just a question. You don’t have to answer.

Me, Nutcase

Let someone else edit my video/photos??? Am I NUTS? Perhaps, but that’s beside the point.

Think about it anyway. Not so much because you are the only one who can do it (really?), but because you really are the only one who can do that other stuff you do.

If you aren’t a photographer or videographer, you likely still have something like this on your plate.

Yet you still do it and it’s adding miles/hours between you and amazing.

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Pardon the effs, but what the eff is social media?

Today’s guest post is a great powerpoint from Marta Kagan describing why you should care about social media.

Don’t get distracted by the eff word (all full of *’s) or the big numbers.

Get the message.

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Being unsociable is a poor choice for the SEC

Night Train
Creative Commons License photo credit: dickuhne

Yesterday’s heads up from Mashable about the Southeast Conference’s (SEC) proposed new media policy had the social media world (among others) buzzing in a hurry.

The bottom line? No social media usage will be allowed at SEC sporting events.

What exactly does this mean?

It means no Tweeting from the stadium to your buddy 1500 miles away just to annoy him (even more) about missing the game due to an out of town meeting.

It means no Posterous live blogging from your phone by email.

It means no bouncing, fuzzy YouTube video of your team’s band playing your favorite song (see below), no LSU dance team shots on Flickr ( not even to your daughter who is trying out next year) and absolutely, certainly no pics or video of the Texas Luvs on your Flickr page or photoblog when UT visits your SEC school.

We just talked about the SEC and their new network on ESPN last week, using them to illustrate a lesson for competitive strategy, so it’s interesting to compare that to this because they’re both about competition.

“Protecting the brand”

The spokesperson will talk about how they’re protecting their brand and that their TV network has exclusivity and so on.

And I can understand that. Really, I can. And I understand what happens if you don’t protect and defend your trademarks.

But it’s still a bad idea because it doesn’t build the brand. It doesn’t build fans. It doesn’t engage your fans.

Instead, it ticks them off.

Some would say that the SEC is protecting their members’ brand, but they are already well in control of that.

Don’t believe me? Just try putting a Gator, “‘Bama”, the LSU Tiger or a Razorback on anything for retail sale without an explicit license to do so.

Some would say that social media will cause TV coverage to “leak” viewers (and thus money due to ad buys, etc). While I disagree, it’s easy to see how the SEC would view that as diluting their brand if they approach this from the wrong angle.

Fact of the matter is, it *strengthens* their brand by being everywhere, increasing the ability of fans to become rabid fans by consuming even more information about their team. For rabid fans, its one more way to attempt to satisfy their need for info.

A reader over at hit the nail on the head, noting “This is another case of big business not “getting it”. This reminds me of when the sports venues freaked out about televising sports events because they thought no one would come to the stadiums any more.” (the rest of the comment can be found at the link).


If I’m SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, I don’t want to find 529 Google hits on “LSU band neck“, as I found today.

I want to find 52900 or 529,000.

If I stumble across a YouTube video of rural village kids in Ghana calling the Hogs, I’m not furiously dialing the YouTube CEO to complain, instead I’m thrilled that our fans are so rabid that they are spreading the word – even in Africa. I might even have someone dig around and find similar things to show off to the press and fans.

If I’m the SEC commissioner, I want the entire South er no, I mean Nation planet to eat, drink and sleep my conference’s sports.

I want to walk into a street cafe in Paris and hear someone talking about last weekend’s Georgia-Florida game – with a French accent.

I want people clinging to SEC football and basketball long before they start clinging to guns or religion.

And as a little side benefit, I want the other conferences to go to sleep at night dreaming they could do what my conference does.


When we went over the story about the new SEC/ESPN network last week, it was clear that other conferences are ticked off. Even Notre Dame seems torqued, perhaps because they’ve enjoyed that level of exclusivity for years.

The rest of the gang? They wish they had the same “problem” that the SEC has.

Now imagine that you’re the Big12 or PAC-10 commissioner.

First thing you do the day that the SEC announces that wacked-out social media policy?

Fly in GaryVee, call a press conference and have Gary announce a new Big12 social media contest, website, program and what not. We’re gonna show the best ones at halftime and on tv so you can enjoy them as you munch on a big bag of Doritos. Maybe you even come up with a way to get the crowd fired up during the game with crowd-created videos – even those made earlier in the game.

Use your imagination. Remember our “go after their strength” discussion.

Think long term

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with this is the long-term damage that this could cause to SEC schools.

If I’m the guy looking for endowment money or selling season tickets, the last thing I want to hear about is a stadium cop tossing a fan out of a game because they are filming a jerky, not-exactly-1080p high-def video of the Razorback cheerleaders on their iPhone.

If you do that today, that fan will remember that for the rest of their lives.

It is entirely possible that their memory will likely be strongest when you call to ask for endowment/scholarship money, season ticket renewal or when their kid starts talking about going to your school.

A prime example: Former Arkansas athletic director Broyles made numerous and valuable contributions to the rise of Arkansas sports during his accomplished tenure.

Despite that, you don’t have to look far among Arkansas alumni to find someone who vividly remembers the student body being yanked around by Broyles during the last 30 years. Some still stew about it after 2 decades.

So when you find that SEC school’s potential booster and you ask them to help out your school, what kind of memory do you want them to have?

A Frank Broyles moment? A stadium cop moment? Probably not.

Engage and Enable

The SEC should be encouraging discussion and interaction about SEC sports.

They should be engaging new fans and enabling their fervor to grow, rather than finding a new way to tick off an entire generation of college students – the same folks that your successor will be looking at for high $ donors 20-30 years from now.

UPDATE: Seems the SEC has been a tad surprised by the substantial negative reaction to their proposed social media policy. As a result, they’ve relaxed things a bit (Twitter and the like are OK now), but video is still off the table.

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Free, Seth, Malcolm and Reinvention

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If you haven’t gotten a free copy of Chris Anderson’s Free by now, you didn’t try hard enough.

The free ebook versions were pulled off the net recently, but a little Googling will still reward you if you look at the publisher’s site. Likewise, the free audiobook version of Free is still on iTunes (a 6 hour+ listen).

While I’m planning on commenting further about Free in future posts, reading what Seth said about the whole Free thing has provoked me to comment a little early about it.

In particular, his response to Malcolm Gladwell’s comments about Free got me going, especially given that I read it not long after posting last week’s Beacon column about the news business.

During the dustup between Malcolm, Chris and Seth, Seth says this: “People will not pay for yesterday’s news, driven to our house, delivered a day late, static, without connection or comments or relevance.”

When you describe a newspaper that way, it sure sounds quaint and outdated, if not irrelevant.

How can your business/product/service be described to make it sound like that?

While “people will not pay” might not be 100% true today, that day is rapidly approaching as my parent’s generation ages. Of course, people also might not pay for it online. Figuring out how to make it work is the premise of Free.

We’ll talk more about the strategy of Free (or not) in the coming weeks, so in the meantime, do your homework: take a listen (or read) Chris Anderson’s Free and consider how it might reinvent your business, or at least, impact it.

You may not be in the newspaper business, but the reinvention of your business is just as important to you and Free might help you figure it out.

Should you give it away?

If you have trouble with ideas on this, think about what would be most painful if your strongest competitor started giving it away. Likewise, what would pain that competitor the most if you gave it away? It’s a place to start the thought process and might even identify a new value proposition for your business.

All of this is less about free and more about finding a way to reinvent your business. Not necessarily because your business is broken, but because strategic reinvention before you need it beats the crud out of reinvention focused on survival.