Thursday, October 13, 2005

Really Simple Syndication

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a lightweight XML format designed for sharing headlines and other Web content. The format has been active in the developer community for a couple of years, and is fast gaining acceptance of the average user.

Recent reports suggest that less than 2% of the adult internet surfers are currently subscribers of RSS. Now that is a very small number, but it is growing rapidly at the rate of more than 40% every month. And why shouldn't that be - afterall, the temptation of being able to dynamically subscribe ( or unsubscribe ) to the content that you are interested in is hard to resist, especially when the facility comes for free.

The rapid growth of RSS as a media for information dissemenation has also captured the imagination of interactive marketers and they are beginning to figure out ways to monetize this channel. But the question everyone is asking is - "How good is 40% growth per month given that the base is a miniscule 2% of adult internet surfers ? How soon is RSS going to be a BIG enough media channel that we can monetize from it ?"

Since RSS started off as a channel for the developer community as the next cool thing, no one ever cared about the usability of this channel. Infact, most of the users don't even know what RSS is even though a majority of news sites prominently display the "RSS", "XML" or "Atom" symbols today. To top that, the user who dares to click on one of these symbols is displayed an obscure XML file and does not know what to do with it.

If RSS is to become a BIG channel for information dissemenation going forward, someone would need to figure out how to market RSS as a service to the users and also make sure that it is really simple for the end users to subscribe and read the RSS feeds. It goes without saying that efforts have already started on both fronts, with companies like "Feedster" taking on the challenge of marketing the RSS service to the end users and companies like "Google" bundling easy to use RSS readers with their popular products like "Desktop Search". With interactive marketing majors putting their weights behind this new media channel, it shouldn't be long before this channel tips.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Optimal dayparts for advertising

Would you believe me if I told you that "there are some parts of a day where online advertising is most effective" ?

A recent survey conducted by Atlas reported that lunch break and evening time ( just before bedtime ) yield as much as 35% higher conversion than other hours in the day. Now, this does not imply that people do not visit websites during the rest of the day or do not click ads at all during rest of the day, but this certainly is concrete statistical evidence to support that a product has as much as 35% higher chance of getting purchased if the advertisement is displayed during these hours.

That leads to an interesting question - "If the information about optimal dayparts is public and well researched, why don't all advertisers display their ads only during these dayparts ?". A look at the laws of demand and supply would easily answer that question ( and is a phenomenon witnessed today on television advertisement ). Lets say that all the advertisers want to advertise only on the prime dayparts ( similar to prime slots on television ) - this would create a very high demand, and given taht the supply of the media on these prime dayparts is limited, would cause the cost of the media during these hours to be raised significantly. In this scenario, advertising on prime dayparts would mean fewer eyeballs and significantly narrow reach to the target audience at the same or higher cost while there is lots of cheap media lying unused on other dayparts. Pushed to the extreme, the market would eventually swing back and breakeven at a point where the media cost during the prime dayparts is 35% higher than the media cost for the remaining dayparts.

So does it really make sense to run after prime dayparts for interactive marketing ? While there is no absolute answer to this question, the key lies in setting up good metrics to measure the progress of the campaign and gathering the statistics from your campaign to build/optimize your media plan. With a good plan, you would certainly be able to find the eyeballs to market your product.