Saturday, June 27, 2009

9 Ways to Get Bloggers to Cover Your Business

Blogs have leveled the playing field in the media business. On the production side, blogs make it possible for anyone to publish content. Meanwhile, for those seeking coverage, blogs have developed into an ecosystem where there are hundreds of thousands of specialized media outlets, creating unprecedented opportunity to get your business’ story in front of the right people.

Moreover, if you’re seeking coverage, there is no longer a need to employ an expensive PR firm to pitch your story (though as I’ll explain, it can be a helpful shortcut). However, bloggers can be a particular bunch, and at highly trafficked blogs, the amount of stories to choose from vastly outnumbers time in the day to write them. Without further ado, here are some of the top strategies of highly effective do-it-yourself story pitchers:

  1. Identifying the Right Blogs: It seems like common sense, but you’d be amazed at the amount of untargeted, unsolicited pitches that arrive in blog editors’ inboxes. Unless you’re completely new to the blogosphere, you probably already have a few outlets in mind, but to find more and build a list to contact, try Technorati, Technorati, Google Blog Search, or Icerocket.
  2. Establishing Yourself in the Community: One big difference between blogs and traditional media is the community that often develops in the comments. Commenting on the blogs you read and eventually plan to pitch gets your name and face (upload a photo) in front of the author, and will make them more apt to dig into your story when it arrives.
  3. Interacting on Social Networks: Another way to get your name in front of a blogger is to interact on social networks. The easiest and least invasive way is to follow them on Twitter, and reply to some of their tweets. LinkedIn and Facebook are other options to consider, but since these are reciprocal friend networks and some bloggers are more private than others, it’s not right for everyone.
  4. Following Each Blog’s Submission Guidelines: If a blog has a submission form for press releases, use it, even if you’ve found a blogger’s personal email address or phone number. Likewise, while interacting with bloggers on social networks is a good thing, don’t use them to send your pitch, unless a blog explicitly tells you to do so.
  5. Personalizing the Pitch: If you’ve been following the instructions to this point, this part should be a breeze. In your pitch, be sure to note a recent interaction you’ve had with the blogger elsewhere, and if applicable, reference a story that they recently published that you found insightful or relevant to your own pitch.
  6. Getting to the Point: Brevity is your friend when it comes to pitching blogs. You should be able to establish why what you’re pitching is newsworthy within the first few sentences, and add supporting details in the form of either links, attachments, or inviting the blogger to call or email you with questions.
  7. Making the Blogger’s Job Easy: Take note of the way the blog you’re pitching formats its articles. Do they like to include a company logo? Pictures of the company’s founders? Embedded videos that demo the product? By making these elements a part of your pitch, you make the story that much easier for the blogger to write.
  8. Setting an Embargo Time: If you’re not pitching your story exclusively to one blog, it’s often wise to set an embargo – a specific date and time that you’re asking the publication to honor before publishing a story. Blogs depend on breaking news first in order to get traffic, and if you’re not working with them exclusively, they’ll at least want the news at the same time as everybody else. Along those lines, sending them the news after other publications have already written about it is poor form.
  9. Putting the Press Release on the Wires: Finally, once your embargo time has passed, you can send the press release out on a PR distribution service like PR Newswire or Businesswire. Bloggers still monitor these services for stories in their interest areas – for example, I monitor PR Newswire feeds for topics like “social networking” and “social media.”

The Long Tail of the Iphone App Store

A new report underscores just how long the long tail is in Apple's App Store. More than half of iPhone applications have less than 1,000 active users and only 5% had more than 100,000 users as of May, according to the latest monthly metrics report from mobile ad network AdMob.

The data is based on usage by 15.1 million unique users across the 2,309 free iPhone iPhone (and iPod touch) applications in the AdMob marketplace. The findings should come as little surprise to iPhone app developers already well aware of the difficulty of cracking the App Store's top 10, or even top 100 list.

A lucky few are also plucked out of obscurity to be featured on the store home page, giving them a huge advantage over competing apps.

With more than 50,000 free and paid apps now available, brands must build promotional expenses into the cost of launching new iPhone apps. Why do so many fail to gain more than 1,000 fans? "There are any number of reasons that an application could fall into this low-use category. The apps could be brand new, very old, targeted to a niche market, or not provide a good user experience," according to the AdMob report.

But the company argues that a significant portion (14%) of apps have built a strong base of tens of thousands of users. "As more and more iPhones and iPod touches are sold worldwide, usage of the medium and long tail of apps should increase," wrote Mike Fyall, AdMob's manager of product marketing, on the company blog.

For marketers advertising in third-party apps, how do they keep from getting stuck on apps that no one is using? Jason Spero, AdMob's vice president and managing director for North America, said advertisers typically buy certain audiences across mobile sites and apps in its network or placement on premium publisher sites rather than selected apps.

In its May report, AdMob also said that the iPhone accounted for a growing share of U.S. smartphone traffic on its network, increasing to 69% last month from 59% in April. It represents about half of global traffic. Smartphones now make up 37% of all mobile traffic in the U.S. as well globally.

Friday, June 26, 2009

BodyTrace - Good Idea, BAD Business Model

The BodyTrace is a wireless scale that sends your weight to the Internet. It will be available in November for $119 and it costs $19.99 for a three month weight loss subscription. This is a great way for people to monitor their weight and I can see a great tie in with the food you ate that day, how much you worked out, etc, etc, etc.

However, this is a perfect example of a good idea with a bad business model. I suspect very few will pay 19.99 for a 3 month subscription or 19.99 for an annual subscription for that matter.

In today's world, I really would have expected a Freemium business model (Free + Premium), An Iphone app at Launch (because everyone will ask) and some tie ins with value added weight loss programs / products / services.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The New Normal: Rentalism

It's the New Normal. ABC News has begun a series about how American life, society and culture are changing because of the recession and the collapse of the financial system.

ABC's Linsey Davis takes a look at how renting versus buying can make good economical, and environmental, sense.

Video Clip here.

It's one of the first things we learn as kids and now the concept of sharing is all grown up. Some call it rentalism or zipcar capitalism.

If you can be assured of having a car when you need it, then why not share cars?

Car rental is just the beginning. Dwindling credit, pay cuts and job losses are responsible for a shift in how we spend.

The average U.S. person consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago. Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff" project, and soon to be book, talks about how more stuff can become a burden, not a bonus.

More Americans are shying away from ownership and choosing to save money, space and natural resources. Since 2004, Zipcar's membership has grown 100 percent annually.

On, you can rent jewelry and sunglasses. is the Netflix version for baby toys. On, you can even rent art.

The advantage is you can have different pieces at different times and you don't have to keep the same piece and also, economically, I think it would be less expensive.

Not only less expensive, less taxing on the environment and less of a hassle

We are getting back to realizing that more and more stuff is not really what makes us happy.

Rentalism may be here to stay for a long time. In fact, shows us the evolution of what you no longer have to own. That company makes it possible to rent man's best friend.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tagga Interactive SMS Campaigns

Tagga is a new SMS service that made it easy for individuals to set up free interactive SMS campaigns. Since then the company has shifted gears, changing its business model to help larger marketing agencies (the sort with actual budgets) set up their campaigns. Now the company has closed a $400,000 funding round led by a number of independent investors out of the US, Canada, and the UK.

Tagga’s core service remains largely the same: pick out a shortcode (we’ll use ‘TECH’ for this example), and then invite people to send ‘TECH’ to 82442, Tagga’s special phone number. You decide what these vistors receive after opting in, with messages that can include things like an invitation to check out your website or an interactive poll.

Tagga’s intial business model was to append ads to the end of its outgoing messages. CEO Amielle Lake says that the company swapped models in November after finding that advertisers weren’t yet biting at the chance to appear at the end of the texts. What the company did notice, however, was that some of North America’s 30,000 advertising agencies needed a good way to manage SMS campaigns and had no idea how to do it.

Thus, the new Tagga Agency Platform was born. The company now helps marketing agencies create SMS-based campaigns, allowing them to schedule when they’d like their messages sent out, create voting campaigns, and build mobile websites. The service also takes care of any issues involved with carrier fees and device problems. Lake says that 12 advertising firms have signed up for the service, and that some US government representatives are building SMS campaigns as well.

EcoDog (Household Energy Management)

EcoDog, maker of a so-called “watchdog” device that lets consumers patrol their home energy use, is the latest in a series of startups rolling out simple household energy management systems — withTendril and Trilliant perhaps the most well known. A little late to the game, it just secured an undisclosed amount from angel investors toward a $4.6 million round of capital.

Notably, one of the investors is Tom Page, the former head of major California utility San Diego Gas & Electric, and Enova, its parent company that is now known as Sempra Energy.

Like many of its competitors, EcoDog’s FIDO Home Energy Watchdog system lets consumers break down home energy use by appliance and dollars spent. It consists of both software and hardware sensors that attach to your computer and circuit breakers. EcoDog says the system, which lets consumers view information directly on their home computers, will give them a sense of how expensive power is at different times of day — the biggest step toward conservation. When paired with controllable switches and appliances, the device has the ability to turn off appliances and electrical outlets on its own.

This all sounds well and good, and smart grid concepts like this are enjoying widespread support these days. But it’s unclear how EcoDog plans to differentiate itself from the growing field of similar companies. In addition to Tendril and Trilliant, you have Greenbo, EnergyHub and even Google and Intel trying to do roughly the same thing. At this juncture, it looks like a wave of consolidation in the space is increasingly likely. And if there is a breakout star, it will probably be a startup that started raising capital earlier.

Possible Twitter Revenue Model

Finally, Twitter is talking about how it bring in revenue. Sort of. In an interview today, the company still comes across as grasping at straws rather than having a rock-solid plan.

Co-founder Biz Stone told Bloomberg today that the still-fast-growing micro-messaging site plans to “show we’re making some money” this year by giving supersize consumer brands such as Starbucks, Dell and Whole Foods ways to to pay to better bond with their customers on Twitter.

Too bad Bloomberg’s report doesn’ t make it sound like Twitter has anything as concrete and clever as Google’s advertising programs. The article mumbles around non-mission-critical ideas like paying to verify consumer brand accounts, or to offer confidential internal statistics from the site as business intelligence to determine the effectiveness of a Tweet campaign.


Despite its ever-increasing role as a global communications medium and an embedded part of heavy Net users’ lives, Twitter hasn’t sold a convincing profitability story yet. There haven’ t been any stories of large amounts of cash flowing through its users’ bank accounts. Dell claims to have sold $3 million in computer equipment and related gear and services through the site. But Dell’ s quarterly income is $12 billion — four thousand times the company’s puny Twitter-derived sales. And what was Twitter’s take on those sales? Zero.

It’s important to remember at this point that Google went two years without a revenue plan in sight, then suddenly launched AdWords, the beginning of a $20 billion annual market for Google-served ads on bouth the search engine and on other sites.

Could Twitter come up with a system like GoogleAdSense, which delivers targeted ads to other people’s websites? There’s certainly cash and time on hand to develop some sort of Twitter-powered system for making money on other sites and services.

For now, there’s not extreme pressure on Twitter to start making money. The company has raised $57 million in funding and doesn’t seem to have extremely high operating costs, since it only serves short text tweets and not images or video, which cost many times more to serve than text.

So at this point, the burning question isn’t a big one: Should Twitter throw around some ways for brand managers to spend money there, or should the company wait until it has the revenue model for which it wants to be known? Google’s management deliberately kept adds and co-branding deals off the site until AdWords was ready. Twitter should probably do likewise.

A Brief History of Twitter ...

Venture Capital Bootcamp Video

For those of you who were not able to attend the VC Bootcamp put on by DFJ Gotham Ventures & Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati at Columbia University, we will be streaming it live to the player below. You should also be able to watch the event via the player below after the event is over.

Click the "On Demand" button on the player below to watch a recording of the event.

Yahoo Rolls Out Self Service Ad Product

Today Yahoo rolls out the first version of its self-serve ad product, My Display Ads, a bid to win over local advertisers and convert search advertisers to display. Yahoo isn't the first to offer self-service display; Google, MySpace and Facebook have all rolled out similar self-serve display ad systems. AOL's is developing its own self-serve system that new CEO Tim Armstrong wants pushed out the door.

But with its scale and premium display properties, Yahoo is applying some heat to this space, as it hopes to convert search advertisers -- or businesses that haven't done any online advertising -- to display.

"This just opens up access to small advertisers, which we think is important to the overall market," said Yahoo Sales Senior VP Joanne Bradford.

It's a bit of a free-for-all in the local ad market right now, with both automotive and real estate crippled, and the incumbent media, TV, radio, newspapers and yellow pages all struggling with their own compromised business models. But that doesn't change that it's a $13.6 billion market that someone is going to sort out.

"The opportunity here is to get more share out of the local ad marketplace," said Curt Hecht, president of VivaKi Nerve Center, a unit of Publicis. "Google got there first, but there's an opportunity to make the self-service side of media a little easier."

Yahoo partnered with Seattle-based start-up AdReady, which provides creative tools for advertisers to develop their own ads, a bit like what Spot Runner tried to do for the local TV market. Advertisers can pick creative off the shelf from more than 800 display ad templates -- including dancing cellphones, ads proclaiming "Amazing Values" or countdown clocks -- or bring their own.

Ads can be purchased on a cost-per-thousand impression basis or as part of a cost-per-click auction. The ad inventory fed into the system includes both Yahoo-owned and network properties through Yahoo's Right Media exchange.

Klaussner had never bought an online ad until it tried My Display Ads as part of a Yahoo pilot in the spring. For its Memorial Day sale, in addition to its normal TV and newspaper inserts, Klaussner blanketed the Greensboro DMA with online display ads.

Foot traffic turned out, well, pretty good. So Klaussner is a convert, and is increasing its spend for its next sale and adding the Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte markets to the next campaign, which it would not have done if it meant buying TV and newspaper advertising there.

"We use Yahoo for our bigger advertisers; it's something we could never do in the past with small folks," said Chris Whitesell, director at Klaussner's digital shop, Spider Digital. "It's a great opportunity, and we're going to use it for another client in High Point [N.C.]"

The second type of advertisers Yahoo hopes to win over are those that use search, and thus are accustomed to creating self-serve advertising. The hope is they might want to try display either instead of or in conjunction with search advertising.

Converting search marketers
"Anybody can run a search campaign, but not anybody can run a display campaign," said Citibank analyst Mark Mahaney. "It's a natural product offering by Yahoo."

But it's not just local advertisers. Mr. Hecht said he thinks some of the bigger search-advertising shops will avail themselves of display, as will national advertisers that want to do something specific in a local market, or even ad networks looking for targeted Yahoo-quality inventory.

It also gives Yahoo a performance-ad product besides search. "Performance inventory is such a dominant force of online advertising right now," said David Berkowitz, director-emerging media at 360i. "The recession is only enabling that further with the need for accountability."

My Display Ads has been in development for some time, and the effort pre-dates CEO Carol Bartz and Ms. Bradford. Indeed, it's the first significant move into a new market for Yahoo since Ms. Bartz arrived in January, and the first news on display, Yahoo's core business. Still, observers cautioned not to read too much into Yahoo's local play.

"There are more systemic issues they need to resolve," said Quentin George, chief digital officer for Mediabrands. "This might give them something incremental, but it's not going to have that big an effect."

Source: AdAge

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

iPhone OS Update 3.0 Available Now!

Here are some of the features.

Cut, cop and paste This is just as Apple execs described at the OS 3.0 announcement. Just double tap a selection to get the cut/copy/paste commands to appear. You then can change the highlighted area by dragging the blue "grab points" around the page. Once you get to your pasting area, just tap the screen again and select the "paste" button. I like the "shake to undo" option, as well. There's just one caveat: at present it seems to be working for notes only.

Landscape keyboard This is one of those "careful what you wish for" situations. After haranguing Apple over the past twenty months to give us a landscape keyboard for texting, notes and e-mail, I have to admit that it does take some acclimation now that I have it. Though the landscape keyboard is much wider with larger buttons, it's also a lot shorter. It did take me a couple of days to get the hang of it. Don't think that I'm not complaining, though, as it's quite the opposite. I love being able to use two hands, but I had grown accustomed to the one finger tap dance on the vertical keyboard. On the other hand, the new ability to view my e-mail inbox in landscape mode is very welcome.

Typing on the landscape keyboard took some acclimation.

Multimedia messaging While the process is easy, I haven't been able to actually send a message to a phone number just yet. Each time I tried, the connection timed out so I assume that AT&T hasn't readied things on its end. I also wasn't able to receive an MMS without the tedious process of clicking the link to to see the image.

Like with other cell phones, you can start an MMS while in the messaging application or you can pick a photo first and then send it in a message. It's an intuitive process in either case--the photo appears in the typing area of the message application and you can delete it if you change your mind.

Text messaging Deleting and forwarding individual messages in a texting thread works just like the e-mail app. When you select the "edit" button, small dots appear next to each message. Hits the dots for your desired messages before pressing the "delete" or "forward" options.

Spotlight results are organized by category.

Spotlight Spotlight is a simple affair, as well. As you type in a search term the results appear below the search bar. What's more, the results are grouped together by category for easy navigation. Swiping to the Spotlight screen was a bit sluggish, but that should improve as the update is perfected.

Stereo Bluetooth I was very glad to see a stereo Bluetooth profile arrive with iPhone 3.0. I tested it with the LG HBS-250 stereo Bluetooth headset. The pairing process was easy and incident-free. In the music player, a small Bluetooth icon appears next to the player controls. Press it to route audio to the headset; you then can toggle back and forth between the speaker and the headset. Music quality was quite satisfactory--a big improvement over the iPhone's external speaker and on par with the standard wired headset. Of course, your experience will vary depending on which stereo headset you choose.

Camera upgrades After you take a photo, a tiny version of the shot will appear in the bottom left corner of the viewfinder. Tapping that image will take you directly to the photo viewer.

Safari In the browser, a useful upgrade makes it easier to open links. If you tap and hold on a Web link, a new menu will appear with choices to open the link, open it in another page, save an image, or copy the link.

Other additions The other new features, like the voice recording app, the shake to shuffle feature, the revamped stocks app and the forwarding of text contacts and meeting invites, worked exactly as described, which is to say they're simple and intuitive.

info from CNET.

Amazon's A9 Acquires Snaptel

From the Snaptel Blog ....

SnapTell acquired by, a subsidiary of

We are very excited to announce that SnapTell has been acquired by, a subsidiary of, Inc.! We look forward to integrating our solutions and technology into the Amazon experience to make shopping even more fun and easy for customers.

SnapTell has been a leader in visual product search technology and our solutions have been used to deliver reviews, prices and information for millions of visual search queries. It has been tremendously gratifying to see the SnapTell solution become one of the most downloaded iPhone and Android applications. We are even featured in an iPhone TV commercial! Throughout this period we have carefully listened to our users and added innovative features to provide a great visual shopping experience. One of the most heard requests was how we could integrate better with Amazon’s fabulous shopping experience … We should be able to do so pretty well now. ☺

Customers can continue to browse, review, and purchase products through SnapTell’s expanding recognition categories. And of course, we will still continue to improve the app based on customer feedback. We look forward to offering future products and services that we hope will resonate with our users.

We are excited to join forces with a company that has innovated on behalf of customers for over a decade and is a pioneer in online shopping. Like Amazon, we believe there is a lot of innovation ahead for visual shopping and we are thrilled to join at this exciting time.

As always, we encourage people to ask questions or provide feedback through our blog at or directly to us at info at snaptell dot net

The SnapTell Team

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Apple Hype Machine

You gotta hand it to Steve Jobs.

Apple’s presentation at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday offered nothing in terms of the kind of revolutionary products for which the company has become duly famous. No dazzling product announcements. No game-changers. All the company did, really, was announce that its two main products — its Macintosh computers and the iPhone — were going to be a) faster and b) cheaper. Isn’t that what every other tech company in the world announces on a quasi-regular basis? How is this possibly news?

Yet here was half the free world live-blogging, it seemed, while Twitterers were tweeting like crazy as the event ran on for more than two hours. And headlines appeared on the home pages of both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Why all the attention? Because Steve Jobs over the years has done such a great job of creating expectations at such events — expectations he often fulfilled — that now, even when there is no real news to report, everyone acts as though there is. Truly, the triumph of hype.

As for Mr. Jobs himself, he did not appear. He is still scheduled to return to work at the end of this month, according to Apple. Let’s hope this isn’t hype as well.