Newsflash: The world is constantly changing, so don’t panic…

In the last week or so, you’d be forgiven for checking the sky to see if it’s falling, with breathless updates from everyone on Ping, the new ‘social’ network from Apple, and Google new Instant search in amongst the usual technology and social media news.

In the rush to be the first to update, it appears that SEO may or may not be dead, the Long Tail of search may or may not be hobbled, and Ping may or may not drive sales, kill Spotify, or lead to Google Music overtaking iTunes when it eventually launches.

In the words of someone far more intelligent than me…

Don’t Panic.

Having played around with Ping, it’s obviously an initial first step which is quite likely to increase sales purely by allowing social recommendation within iTunes, and the simplicity of it at the moment is particularly useful on mobile devices rather than the desktop. And if it’s showing signs of early success, it might expand out to encompass more areas, including applications. But there are obvious limitations to what you can do at the moment.

And if it does expand out in terms of the social aspect, it’ll still conform to the same basic principles of reputation,engagement and gaining influence which have ruled all social interaction since we first emerged from caves.

image

Google Instant is initially more disruptive and scary. Suddenly you’re getting real-time suggestions and results as you type your search terms, and that will have an effect on the nature of how search is performed via Google (so around 75% of the search market in general).

This is going to have an effect on both natural organic results, and on the effectiveness of paid search campaigns. But I suspect even the employees at Google can’t quantify exactly what that might mean at the moment. It’s likely to improve the search experience for mobile, as the real-time changes will be easier to use than revising your search via a keypad/touchscreen, and we all know mobile is the biggest priority for Google these days.

But I don’t think Google has done anything which will have an enormous effect on CTR rates for paid search, which is where a significant amount of revenue lies. Impressions may change as search behaviour changes, but I suspect that campaigns on the eventual results page someone was searching for will remain the same as the paid search placements will still be located and displayed in the same way.

There may be an increase in overall clicks as you may find your advert is now appearing more times for a search, and could catch someone’s eye earlier in the search process, before they refine their search to their ultimate results, but all it means is that Google is doing more of the work on the fly. Impressions are likely to rise, especially in the early days of novelty, but that can only be a good thing as generally you’re only paying for a click-through.

Natural search is going to be more significant, but again, I’m guessing most of the people that currently rank for a term will still rank for a term, especially in a short timescale, and while it’s only available to those searching after they’ve logged into their Google account (I don’t know what the logged-in percentage of searches is – anyone know?). There’s talk of page titles becoming more important, but even if you change them today, you’ll have to sit on your hands while your page is re-indexed, so it’s worth spending a few days actually seeing some results before you start worrying.

And by then, we’ll have access to something which makes the digital world a fun place to experiment – real data on what people are doing.

So take a deep breath, and relax for a moment. The technology world will always be changing at a fairly rapid pace, but the biggest benefits from making changes to your paid and natural search set-up are going to come from the benefits of knowledge rather than trying to rush to be first. And if you’ve been sticking to best practice so far, it’s going to be a case of minor adjustments rather than rushing to make wholesale changes. I’d be far more worried about the disruptive nature of the digital world on traditional businesses and lifestyles than changes within the digital ecosystem. Technology changes are the things that make working in their world interesting and fun.

The Absolute Radio Live Amp is a top 10 music app on iTunes

Seeing as it’s one of my first projects since joining Absolute Radio, and it’s the first iPhone project I’ve worked on, it’s been great to return from holiday to find this:

Absolute Radio LiveAmp - Top Ten Paid iPhone app

Absolute Radio LiveAmp - Top Ten Paid iPhone app

Yep, that’s the Absolute Radio LiveAmp at number 7 in the list ofthe Top Ten Music Apps in the iTunes store. For just 59p you get photos, videos, event info and a Twitter stream from the best live events in the UK.

Now to crack the top five!

Woolworths online is a case study in waiting

So Woolworths is going to return as an online-only retailer, having been bought by Shop Direct (which owns Littlewoods and Choice) after going into administration.

Woolworths closes (Pic by osde8info on Flickr)

Woolworths closes (Pic by osde8info on Flickr)

It’s going to be very interesting for a number of reasons.

The first is trying to guess what it will actually sell. It had a music download shop, which closed with the High Street stores, but there’s logical reasoning to suggest digital downloads make a lot of sense. The PaidContent UK article has a quote which claims Woolworths will do entertainment and everything that made it famous on the High Street – but was it really famous for entertainment?

After all, it started by selling children’s clothing, toys and stationary. And Shop Direct might have seen success with Littlewoods, but that’s a name known for catalogue shopping.

And while there’s evidence that ‘bricks and mortar’ shops can do well online, the same evidence lists the top four retailers as Amazon, Argos, Play.com and Tesco.com.

An interesting post on the icrossing blog uses the example of Dixons to show that the move online is the right decision, but mentions how Dixons bought and integrated online photo service Pixmania and the search and affiliate expertise it had.

And that’s where I think Woolworths could very well fall down.

No-one has stated, or even managed to suggest, what the belief will be – and ‘The Bankruptcy of the Non-Descript‘ is what I believe caused the collapse of Woolworths, Zavvi and MFI. (Just realised I’ve restated Mark Earl’s ‘Purpose Idea’ from the other angle.)

Sadly the awesome Brand Tags doesn’t include Woolies. But I doubt entertainment would be first on the list. It’s Pic’n’Mix in both sweets and belief. A ‘five and dime‘ store with sweets, entertainment, furnishings, cookware, pens and paper and other random stuff.

That has a benefit offline, should you need a selection of random stuff, and not want to wander round a larger department store, or go for the clear low cost of Poundland. And if you’re of a certain age, you could meet with your friends and have a cup of coffee.

But online we already have Tesco and Argos. And anything is just a click away.

And in entertainment, Woolies is facing Amazon, iTunes and a music industry that is struggling to workout what it should do to survive.

And those loyal customers who used it as a meeting place are likely to have already found online alternatives – and if they’re not online yet, the prospect of Woolworths won’t make them buy a new PC and broadband.

But maybe there is a loyal niche group who could find a solution – there’s a small group on Facebook discussing it, even if the dreaded brand word crops up too much for my liking.

And I like the fact the Woolworths site is currently displaying a form for comments on the good and bad about the business. Even if the reassurance it’s returning is a bit naff. ‘I haven’t shopped since Woolworths closed’, a man sobbed.

But whether Woolworths becomes something really different and cool with a purpose that makes sense, or collapses for a second time in a supernova of pic’n’mix, it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Belonging to Seth Godin’s ‘Tribe’

Seth Gogins Tribes available to pre-order

I’ve been a bit remiss in not blogging about Seth Godin‘s latest book, promotion, and social experiment until now. Mainly due to the hundred and one things I’m thinking about – but I have no excuse as my pre-release copy came yesterday as a special gift given to everyone who pre-ordered and signed up for his Triiibes social community.

So far, I’ve got about halfway through in an evening and found it pretty inspiring and hard to put down. In addition, I’ve met some new people, learned some new things, and somehow volunteered myself for a couple of small projects via Triiibes – talk about building engagement right in! And what’s interesting is that although Seth is the nominal root of the community, he’s not putting himself up as the leader, but watching what evolves and responding where needed. I would link, but I’m afraid it’s still invite only.

On the bright side, you can get a free audible version of Tribes, read by Seth Godin himself, for a limited time. You can also get Tribes on iTunes for 95p. There’s also his Tribes presentation on slideshare, and the Powerpoint file to download with accompanying notes.

There really is nothing to stop you becoming inspired to lead your Tribe. And if you still would like the dead tree version: Tribes is available on Amazon for pre-order.

That is probably enough of the Seth worship for one week, but then I saw this great post: ‘Failure as an event‘  which describes the potentially career-ending mistakes and failures which have occurred during his career, and how he’s used them to learn from, and not succumbed to fear. And he’s published it in the middle of a book launch!

Genius!

I’m not an early or late adopter. I’m a cheap adopter…

That’s why my latest purchase isn’t a top of the range iPod Touch or an Alienware PC, as much as I’d love to have the cash to spend.

Nope, my latest gadget purchases were a £10 1Gb discontinued Technika MP3 player (closest one I could find online is this), and a £9.97 Technika MP3 cassette adapter, due to the fact both of the cars in my possession come from a time when cassette players were the standard equipment.

The joy of being able to drive around in an open top car, and not being forced to listen to the radio! Now comes the dilemma of which online MP3 store to register with to keep things nice and legal. I suspect the only real viable option involves an ‘i’, at least until Myspace gets into gear.

Myspace MP3 store is a huge threat – but not to Apple

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the new Myspace Music store will pose a threat to the Itunes and Ipod Applopoly. But I’m a little surprised by Last.fm co-founder Martin Stiksel being so ready to dismiss the threat to streaming music services.

The growth and success of Itunes, added to the image of Apple products and services, gives it a fairly secure position at the moment, and it would take something pretty revolutionary to overturn that. Certainly I’ve encountered enough people who have lost music collections from Ipods yet won’t switch to an alternative to realise Apple devotion works across all their products and services. And enough alternatives exist, even including supermarkets.

However, plenty of people already use Myspace to listen to individual tracks by their favourite artists, and offering a streaming radio service without limitations would make this option extremely attractive. And would seriously threaten several services.

I recently heard a stat regarding Last.fm which is pretty believable. Apparently just 25% of Last.fm users actually visit the website, with most using the ‘scrobbling’ tracking software, and possibly the downloadable radio player. It makes sense as the Last.fm site is hobbled by 30 second clips, and limits on the amount of times you can listen to individual tracks by specific artists. And although it does a reasonable job of finding similar artists, it won’t let you play the specific inspiration before sending you round the houses, which leaves the similar artists without any context. The arrival of Myspace could push Last.fm to concentrate on scrobbling and displaying widgets, which will either lead to new and interesting revenue streams, or could put a real chokehold on the traditional display advertising on the website.

Meanwhile Pandora.com is still on a U.S only lock down. And when you’ve taken something away from users, it puts you in a far worse position than when you’re launching for the first time. There’s no news on any re-opening to non-American markets, and in the meantime, along comes a site already extremely popular, and proposing free music streaming. Suddenly the non-U.S. world forgets Pandora exists. That’s going to limit expansion!

And then you have a myriad of small rival streaming services, like Meemix, which has a plethora of great add-ons and ideas around their music service – but has a corresponding amount of niggles and flaws, as if the ideas exceeded the ability to deliver in a simple and user friendly way.

Myspace can be far from user friendly – but enough people are already familiar with it and accept the problems to mean they’ll jumping all over new music options. And various research shows that the early adopters who jumped ship to Facebook etc are likely to still have a Myspace profile and pop in occasionally, so a fair few profiles could be fired up again to explore a new music option.

At the end of the day, it could be really good news for consumers, as Myspace plans to offer DRM free downloads (possibly pressuring others to follow suit), and it could prompt some serious thoughts about giving more value to users in the streaming market, and some serious attempts to differentiate and move ahead. It’s not often I praise and support Myspace, but for once their plans have my vote.

Myspace MP3 store is a huge threat – but not to Apple

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the new Myspace Music store will pose a threat to the Itunes and Ipod Applopoly. But I’m a little surprised by Last.fm co-founder Martin Stiksel being so ready to dismiss the threat to streaming music services.

The growth and success of Itunes, added to the image of Apple products and services, gives it a fairly secure position at the moment, and it would take something pretty revolutionary to overturn that. Certainly I’ve encountered enough people who have lost music collections from Ipods yet won’t switch to an alternative to realise Apple devotion works across all their products and services. And enough alternatives exist, even including supermarkets.

However, plenty of people already use Myspace to listen to individual tracks by their favourite artists, and offering a streaming radio service without limitations would make this option extremely attractive. And would seriously threaten several services.

I recently heard a stat regarding Last.fm which is pretty believable. Apparently just 25% of Last.fm users actually visit the website, with most using the ‘scrobbling’ tracking software, and possibly the downloadable radio player. It makes sense as the Last.fm site is hobbled by 30 second clips, and limits on the amount of times you can listen to individual tracks by specific artists. And although it does a reasonable job of finding similar artists, it won’t let you play the specific inspiration before sending you round the houses, which leaves the similar artists without any context. The arrival of Myspace could push Last.fm to concentrate on scrobbling and displaying widgets, which will either lead to new and interesting revenue streams, or could put a real chokehold on the traditional display advertising on the website.

Meanwhile Pandora.com is still on a U.S only lock down. And when you’ve taken something away from users, it puts you in a far worse position than when you’re launching for the first time. There’s no news on any re-opening to non-American markets, and in the meantime, along comes a site already extremely popular, and proposing free music streaming. Suddenly the non-U.S. world forgets Pandora exists. That’s going to limit expansion!

And then you have a myriad of small rival streaming services, like Meemix, which has a plethora of great add-ons and ideas around their music service – but has a corresponding amount of niggles and flaws, as if the ideas exceeded the ability to deliver in a simple and user friendly way.

Myspace can be far from user friendly – but enough people are already familiar with it and accept the problems to mean they’ll jumping all over new music options. And various research shows that the early adopters who jumped ship to Facebook etc are likely to still have a Myspace profile and pop in occasionally, so a fair few profiles could be fired up again to explore a new music option.

At the end of the day, it could be really good news for consumers, as Myspace plans to offer DRM free downloads (possibly pressuring others to follow suit), and it could prompt some serious thoughts about giving more value to users in the streaming market, and some serious attempts to differentiate and move ahead. It’s not often I praise and support Myspace, but for once their plans have my vote.