Digital rule #1: Don’t host where you register

One of the challenges of digital strategy is that you are – in most instances – wedded to a history of previous technology decisions. So while you may come in to an organisation to overhaul the strategy, you might find yourself constrained by some bad search engine optimisation, platform and publishing choices or hosting restrictions.

Generally these kind of problems can be undone with time. With money. With resources.

But there is one particular challenge that can be terribly difficult to unlock. And it happens at the very beginning of your digital journey – with your domain name registration.

Domain names are like your business name on the internet. They tell everyone where to find us. We all know that to order a book online, we visit Amazon.com. To search, we visit Google.com or Bing.com. These are domain names.

To get one of these domain names, we need to register that name with a Domain Name Registrar. These are companies that are authorised to sell and manage domain names. Popular registrars include GoDaddy.com, NetRegistry.com.au in Australia – and many others.

But registering your domain name is like registering your business name. You may register with the relevant authorities, but you don’t setup your business in the same office. You do so elsewhere.

And you should do the same with your domain name and your online business.

When you register your domain name, you will usually be offered hosting. That means that you will be provided space online to upload your website. While this may be convenient – and perhaps even cheap (or free) – I tend to avoid this situation.

Like any business, domain name registrars go through ups and downs. And should the registrar’s business fail, it can take your registration details with it.

If you have your website hosted with the registrar, you can lose both the website and the domain name.

I had a client recently who purchased a small business package with one of the country’s largest and most reputable brands. This included domain name AND hosting AND email and more. It sounded like a no-brainer and the package was purchased.

A couple of years down the track this package was discontinued. As it turned out, the domain names were registered through a European registrar (not locally as we expected), and the email, domain name registration and hosting were all outsourced and rebranded locally.

My client had expected that the emails that were being sent were just marketing spam, so ignored them until the website was offline. What followed was literally months of follow-up, documentation and phone calls until the domain name could be transferred.

Even the largest and most powerful brands can change their strategy mid-stream. So even if you are registering your domain name with a brand you know and trust, my advice is to host your website elsewhere. At least if something changes you won’t lose both the name and the business/technology.

Bursting the Blandness Bubble

So much advertising is bland, characterless, unimaginative. It makes me wonder how agencies are briefed and sometimes why. But it’s easy to live in a bubble and only see what you are directed to see. Some days you need to burst that bubble.

You are welcome.

Interaction: GroupM’s Take on Digital

I am always interested to see how different lenses on the same subject reveal insights. For example, B2B marketers have a particular skew when it comes to digital and social media – it is hard edged, data driven and technology enabled. This is particularly true for large scale tech companies – but is an approach that has been resonating across industries for some time. B2C marketing, on the other hand, operates in a high velocity world that can turn on a tweet – responsiveness is no longer just a customer service issue but one that impacts the entire value chain.

We are, after all, ever closer to our customers than ever before.

Social and digital media, however, often feels like it operates in a bubble. An ever-increasing bubble it seems, but a bubble nonetheless. When I watch Gruen, for example, I struggle to recall even the most popular or widely discussed TV commercials shown – my habits have now been so deeply skewed by on-demand viewing and timeshifting that TV by timetable seems so last century.

But this is merely the bubble that we choose. The lens that we select.

And there are movements and trends that continue in their own parallel universe that operate at different speeds.

The GroupM Interaction 2017 report is interesting particularly because it applies a media lens across everything from ecommerce to fake news, television to bandwidth. I particularly like the section on privacy and the impacts that widespread security breaches are having on consumers’ sense of trust.

The report identifies four creative challenges facing both brands and agencies:

  1. Getting the attention of the consumer in a low attention world. As the buyer pushes the seller towards viewability, the consumer is pushing the brand to greater ‘watchability.’
  2. Meeting the costs and measurement implications of the constant iterations of formats and functionality.
  3. Finding the balance of enough variation to meet the needs of ever finer segments without undermining the overall brand proposition. (The Marriott Hotel Bogota has 57 images on Expedia.com. Marriott / Starwood operates over 7000 properties. That’s a lot of images.)
  4. The creation of new classes of content for e commerce environments.

While I can agree on the surface with these challenges, I wonder really whether our attention spans truly are shrinking – do we really have the attention span of a goldfish? And if this is not true, what does this mean for the remaining three challenges?

I have a sense that we are consuming ever-larger volumes of media each and every day – but it’s not necessarily in the format and channel that lends itself to the kind of tracking and measurement that business clients have come to expect.

A recent article from BBC Health questions the notion of the shrinking attention span by unearthing the starting point for this theory – a Microsoft report referencing the Statistic Brain website. Apparently there is no evidence pointing towards a shrinking attention span, nor support for the widely held view that goldfish have attention spans. In fact, Dr Gemma Briggs from Open University suggests that attention is entirely contextual – ”How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”.

And that brings us back to the question of lenses and touches on the topic of Fake News – a subject also covered in the GroupM report. One of the suggestions in the report points towards the emergence of a “purpose driven media” and an incentive structure created to drive this:

The most shared and most monetized stories come from authentic news sources. A way of decreasing the incentives to the bad guys is to increase the incentives to the good guys. A simple adjustment in the revenue sharing model would go a long way.

And that’s where the future of media becomes extremely interesting. Given the emergence of organisations like Sleeping Giants, a purpose driven media may be a necessary development to help restore trust, authenticity and – dare I say it – respect in the media and advertising industry.

Download the Interaction 2017 report here.

This post was imported into WordPress in one click using Wordable.

A Market Like No Other For Goodness Sake

When I was a vegan I became fascinated by the machinery of modern agriculture. And I don’t just mean the tractors – I mean the massive supply chain, refrigeration, logistics, buying and planning mechanisms that bring fresh food to our tables. It seemed that there were more than a million miles between the source of our food and its destination.

It made me realise there were more complexities in the market of markets than I had understood.

In the face of this I wondered what impact a personal choice – such as becoming a vegan – may have on the larger world. What could be achieved by my small, defiant action?

But the road to change is never straight forward or as direct as you’d like. It can sometimes take years for a motivation to move to action. Or for the conditions for success to align like stars in a horoscope.

Over the years, I have learned that good intentions and personal choice only go so far. At some point you have to choose and commit.

And if the times are right and the stars are aligned, something may just happen.

On Sunday, 19 March 2017, a new fresh produce market comes to Sydney. It’s the first ever For Goodness Sake Market.There will be over 50 stalls, including fresh produce, artisanal goods, hot food, coffee, fun for the kids, music and more. It’s a new, regular market in the heart of the city at Royal Randwick – but its roots are deep in the Australian farming world.

Growing up on dairy farms in Western Australia, Clive Burcham could hardly imagine a life spanning continents and working in emerging technology with some of the largest brands in the country. Not only is Clive the driving force behind one of Australia’s leading digital and creative agencies, The Conscience Organisation, he’s been deeply involved in social enterprises that directly impact disadvantage and global poverty. And now he’s turned his attention to his heartland. To farmers and their families.

It’s obviously been a long journey to return to the start – but the world will be a better place for it.

The Fair Farmers Market kicks off on Sunday, 19 March from 8am and will open every Sunday thereafter. There is wheelchair access and parking is by gold coin donation to Ozharvest.

Game Changers: So Bad it’s Good

Is this ad, “The Game Changers” from the Department of Finance, the worst waste of taxpayer’s money or the most ingenious?

Clearly performed by members of the Australian Public Service and not by professional actors, the dialogue comes across as clunky and cliched. Creative Edge’s Dee Madigan calls the ad “hilariously bad”. But I wonder.

It has been revealed that the agency Together Creative has been paid $37,400 for marketing services over four years. That’s around $9000 per year.  Let’s say half of that budget was used on this video aimed to recruit the next wave of graduates to the Finance Department.

With around 130,000 views on YouTube, the video has cost the department around 3c per view. And no doubt those views will continue to climb.

Sure, it may be difficult to watch as you wash your paleo pear and banana bread down with a perfectly balanced almond milk latte, but I can’t remember the last time anyone was talking about working at the Department of Finance. Or maybe that’s just me.

The Importance of Being Informal

For the last (almost 10 years), a group of marketing and social media enthusiasts have been meeting for coffee. We arrive around 8am each Friday at Sydney’s Single O cafe in Surry Hills for coffee and conversation. Some of us work in social or digital media as a profession. Some of us are involved as part of an interest. And a few are only in it for the coffee.

Over the years, we have seen regulars become friends. There have been weddings and children. There have been breakups and tragedies, visitors and ring-ins. And it has been the most brilliant way to spend a Friday morning ever conceived.

Last week, John Kerrison could not make it to Surry Hills but he beamed in via Facebook Live. Here’s what he had to say (and why he’ll be back more regularly).

Why Serious Marketers Aren’t Taking Snapchat Seriously, Yet

In my first “official” marketing job, I dealt a lot with branding. And print. We did brochures and collateral. There were events to host, conferences to attend and exhibition booths to use for conversion. And there was this largely irrelevant thing called “the website”.

But I had an inkling that there might be something to this internet lark, so I kept at it. I created campaigns that would start with an envelope delivered to a desk, would follow it up with an email message, exclusive code, some marketing information and an invitation to an exclusive event. Then the event itself was pure “money can’t buy” access to the best talent at our firm, thought leadership and good food and drink. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was designing omni-channel experiences. And they were extraordinarily successful.

In fact, they blew everything else out of the water.

One of the reasons these program worked was because we could track marketing activation. We knew when invitations were delivered in person and via email. We knew when something was ignored. We followed up religiously. And we adjusted the program as we went. It was agile before “agile”. There was no name for this kind of marketing, because it was simply about paying attention. I was doing my job.

These days, marketers have forgotten what their job is. They seem to think it’s about content. Or about technology.

It’s neither of these things.

It is about paying attention – to your customers and to your business. You have to balance doing what’s right for your customers and doing what’s right for your business. Sometimes it is a fine line. Sometimes it’s obvious. And walking this fine line will help you make decisions about everything else – about the content you develop or amplify and the technology you use. After all, it’s no use having the best YouTube channel if your audience all live on Facebook. And you won’t have a job long if you spend all your budget on Snapchat ads when your buyers are all middle aged men in suits.

It’s the balance that’s importance – one eye on your boss, one eye on your customer. Respect for the company that pays you and respect for the person who pays your company.

And is with this simple focus that I can confidently look to Snapchat and know that there’s not much value there for most marketers, right now. As this infographic (via MarketingProfs) shows, there are some astounding “engagement” figures and certainly plenty of stickiness. But a decade of social media use has made us wary of the big numbers that sound as hollow as “reach and frequency”. And there is no reliable analytics platform that can provide anything more detailed than a “like” here or a message there.

That doesn’t mean that Snap won’t improve. But it’s a long way away from being a sophisticated digital platform for marketers. And while that one glad eye might be turned towards your audience, marketers will need to keep that serious eye on the stormy CEO who holds the marketing budget.

 

Wordfence Launches Cyber Attack Activity Report

No matter whether you run a personal blog or a professional website, you will find yourself at some stage, the victim of a cyber attack. These cyber attacks, often referred to incorrectly in the mainstream media as “hacking” can take a variety of forms including:
  • DDOS – distributed denial of service attacks engage networks of computers to bombard your server with requests
  • Brute force attacks – where the attacker attempts to guess your login details usually using an automated system that can send hundreds if not thousands of requests very quickly
  • Malware / spyware – where a piece of malicious code is inserted into your system which allows another person (or a program) to take over your computer
  • Ransomware – where a small program activates on your computer, encrypting all your data requiring the payment of ransom before you are sent a key to unlock your own machine.

Despite the relative openness and transparency on the web, few people or firms openly talk about cyber attack. This means it is difficult to gauge just how widespread these cyber attacks actually are and whether we should be personally or professionally concerned about this phenomenon.
Now, each month, creator of the WordPress firewall plugin, WordFence, have begun producing a regular report on cyber attacks. This report collates attack information based on the plugin’s install base (WordPress powered websites and blogs all around the world). And while this is just a subset of websites and platforms that live on the internet, it provides a great insight into cyber attacks, including:

  • The IP address from which the attack originated
  • Country of origination
  • Number of attacks launched
  • Types of attacks.
This first report reveals that 13 out of the top 25 IP addresses originate in the Ukraine. France comes in second with 7. As the report explains:
Most of these originate from Iliad Enterprises. Iliad is a large organization with many subsidiaries and over 4000 employees. They tried to buy T-Mobile in the USA 2 years ago. The netblock for these IPs is registered to Iliad, but the attacks may originate from one of many subsidiaries of Iliad, like the ISP ‘Free’ in France.
So, how many attacks are we seeing? The report states that there were:
  • 63 million complex attacks – attempts to exploit weaknesses in your website code, plugins or database
  • 67 million brute force attacks – attempts to guess your passwords and user IDs.
What can you do about your WordPress / web security?
One of the biggest holes in your website / WordPress security will be patches. Make sure you are:
  • Regularly patching your site – updating it with the latest changes
  • Regularly updating your plugins – turn off the plugins and functionality that you don’t use, and update the ones you do.
There are also some basic security approaches that you should implement, including:
  • Complex user passwords – require that your users all have complex passwords that consist of upper and lower case characters, numbers and symbols and have a substantial length (more than 8 characters)
  • Put in place a mechanism that blocks users after a small number of unsuccessful login attempts
  • Add a web firewall to monitor and protect your code from unauthorised updates.
Why should you care?
Even if you are running a small business, cyber security is an issue for you and your brand. Sites that are affected by malware, for example, will find themselves blacklisted by Google. That means that every time someone searches for your business or tries to visit your webpage, Google will step in and ask you whether you want to proceed to an “insecure” website. And then, of course, there are other issues – from loss of files, customer data and more.
Quite simply, these days, brands simply cannot afford to be lax. The good thing is, that there are a growing number of integrated solutions and plugins for most platforms. Take the time to secure your site and hopefully you won’t have to make the time to clean up a problem down the track.

Sleeping Giants Take on Fake News and Brands – Is Your Brand Ready?

We have all heard about the vast network of fake news sites that spread disinformation during the recent US Presidential Campaign. These sites use the same clickbait strategies that propelled sites like Upworthy to the top of the digital media scrapheap – inflammatory headlines, sensationalist stories and catchy hooks that tempt you to click just once more.
What Upworthy’s content strategy revealed was a unique combination of skilled teams, data and insights would help the organisation create content that was “viral ready”. As Joseph Lichterman explained in this Nieman Lab article:

Using the user data it’s collected, Upworthy found that elements like humor and a story structure that built in suspense would draw in readers and keep them on the page and better engaged.

This meant that even to tell a story with real information and verifiable facts, the goal for Upworthy was to grab and own the attention of readers as a priority, delivering news and information as a lower priority. As Amy O’Leary, Upworthy’s Editorial Director explained, “If I were to tell you, ‘Hey, I’ve got a 5,000-word piece on fast-food workers’ wages,’ very few people would be excited about that”. Instead the story would focus on building rapport with the audience, engaging through an imaginative framework of shared experience and emotionally engaging writing and opening up into the ethical challenges that come with enjoying something you eat while knowing the background and facts of its production. As O’Leary suggests, “I think we’re reaching deeper into people, because the approach is one of openness and not judgment”.

It’s worth reading more of the article to learn how Upworthy used data to drive its curation process – but what is fascinating (and concerning) is the way that this model has been co-opted by the fake news movement. By ignoring facts as the basis of news, these fake news sites have effectively defined a whole new genre of content catering to our own sense of digital isolation and disconnectedness. If we have learned anything from the last decade in this Age of Conversation, it is that when we (as consumers) come face-to-face with the vast anonymity of the internet, we rapidly seek our tribe – and we do so through the media at our fingertips – visuals, text, keywords. We seek the connection via keyword and conversation – and naturally enough find ourselves in an echo chamber.

Those of us who work with digital technology and audience strategy have – to be honest – been taking advantage of this approach for years. I often say that both love and hate Facebook and its targeting for I know how useful and powerful it is as a marketer, but equally how invasive and manipulative it is as a consumer. So much so that I consciously manage my engagement and sharing on Facebook and limit what I click on etc. But I also know that even my limited engagement there – and on every other digital channel – leaves enough breadcrumbs to be valuable to the brands and businesses seeking my attention. These days my choice to click comes down to context and location.

Because I know that every click rewards not only the brand but the advertiser too.

With the massive rise in programmatic advertising over the last two or three years, most advertisers and planners are unlikely to even know where their branded advertising will appear. It could appear on alt-right websites (the term used to mask white supremicist oriented websites), pornographic websites or even across the dark web. The powerful retargeting tools now in the hands of marketers and their trained algorithms means that ads that you first see on a mainstream website will follow you wherever you may go online. And while the web has some amazing resources, it also has some deep and nasty crevices.

So what do you do when your brand starts advertising in this murky digital world?
Imagine, for example, that you visited a fake news site with outrageous headlines and you did so out of curiosity. What kind of advertiser, you wonder, would support a platform that knowingly creates fake news and information that demonises your own audiences (the people who are your customers and supporters). This NY Times article explains such a situation:

One day in late November, an earth and environmental science professor named Nathan Phillips visited Breitbart News for the first time. Mr. Phillips had heard about the hateful headlines on the site — like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” — and wondered what kind of companies would support such messages with their ad dollars. When he clicked on the site, he was shocked to discover ads for universities, including one for the graduate school where he’d received his own degree — Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “That was a punch in the stomach,” he said.

Rather than to let this slide, the professor sent a tweet to his Duke questioning its affiliation with a “sexist and racist” site. Eventually this was sorted, as the NY Times revealed.
But in the background, a movement known as “Sleeping Giants” was arising to combat this kind of fake news. This shared Twitter account and network of followers are using a similar approach – naming and shaming the brands that support these fake news networks. The Sleeping Giants publish a list of brands who have discontinued their support for fake news sites – starting with the Breitbart network. But we can expect more of this kind of activity in the coming months and years. The question for brands in all this – do you know where and who your ad dollars go to? And how will you respond when you find your brand in places you don’t expect or want?

Mapping the Internet – 1973 to Now

Believe it or not, there was a time that the Internet was knowable.

There were defined limits. Connections. Points of reference.

When going through some of his father’s papers, David Newbury, lead developer with Carnegie Museum of Art, found a map of the Internet from 1973. Back then, it wasn’t even called “the internet” (with or without a capital “I”).

Fast forward forty-odd years and the online landscape has changed dramatically.

internetnow

In this more recent map, you can see that the connections, sites and locations are wildly different. Now powered by data from Alexa, this map of the internet shows the vast majority of websites from the no 1 ranked site, Google, through to sites that barely rank a mention. But even this massive map doesn’t include all sites. Just a selection.
And that’s the most amazing aspect of all.

There’s more to the web than we know or can see. It’s like the future. We only understand it moment by moment, experience by experience.