It’s been ages since my last blog post..

Bless me, God of Blog, for I have sinned. It’s been ages since my last post. Not because I’ve been holed up in a Venezuelan jail, or conducting a magazine-style off-the-grid experiment, or lost my fingers navigating the north face of Everest, but simply because I’ve been ridiculously busy.

By way of contrition, I’ve drafted a couple of new posts, I intend to write very soon. So there.

Is this man the Father of modern content marketing?

Content marketing is essentially non-interruptive marketing. Interesting, relevant content (in pretty much any guise) forms the basis for engagement, with the brand message laced within or around it. It isn’t a new concept by any means, but perhaps the earliest and purest example of modern content marketing was pioneered by a lawyer-turned-musician named Oswald Nelson.

Oswald Nelson 1906 -1975

Oswald (Ozzie) Nelson conceived, wrote and performed in ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett,’ an American sitcom featuring the real-life Nelson family.

The show (and here’s the content marketing bit)  didn’t just broadcast an initial sponsorship message as many such programs did, it laced the message throughout, making it an integral part of the show.

You might think this would be annoying, perhaps even the opposite of non-interruptive marketing. You might think the show wouldn’t stand a chance. But, having first launched as a radio show in 1944, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett moved to TV with ABC in 1952 (with Ozzie having negotiated a 10 year deal whether the show continued or not – unprecedented at the time) and continued thereafter until 1966, 4 years more than the contracted period!

To this day the show is the longest running live-action sitcom in TV history. Is Ozzie Nelson the Father of modern content marketing? I reckon he’s surely a contender. Take a look at this fantastic Christmas episode from 1956. Can you spot the ‘subtle’ product message?

You can’t have your privacy and eat it

Amid the furore over the bungled EU Cookie law there seems a real hysteria over ‘Online Privacy,’ with some effectively suggesting the term constitutes an oxymoron (a bit like ‘English summer’).

Take a few minutes to watch the below TED video featuring Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla…(article continues below the video)

Ostensibly, Kovacs’ points are alarming. But before we get all ‘Outraged of Surrey’ about it, isn’t this what the Web was meant to be all about? Wasn’t it all about providing content relevant to the individual rather than generically to the entire online population? Without some form of identification associated to the individual, how is any Web mechanic supposed to provide relevance? You can’t have your online privacy cake and eat it.

I think the problem here is actually one of definition. Privacy is black-and-white. A lack of privacy implies an invasion, therefore a Bad Thing. However, if instead we talk about (and provide) transparency, then things change fundamentally.

If the language around this emotive issue was based upon providing transparency as opposed to removing privacy, then I believe attitudes would change entirely.

My Collusion profile after a day at my desk.
(If you watched the video, this would make sense)

Cross-device platform publishing doesn’t exist. Not yet anyway.

Having recently been commissioned to carry out a study of the digital publishing platforms1 currently available, one aspect has become abundantly clear: everyone is chasing the dream.

The dream, depicted as a kind of candy wrapper in posters on the walls of so many publishing exhibition booths, is of a mechanism by which source content is input (one side of the candy wrapper), some magic happens (the candy itself) resulting in packaged experiences available seamlessly across desktop browsers, tablets and mobile phones (the other side of the candy wrapper).

Aspiration?

Sure, platforms exist that cater well for specific devices, and some that cater well for multiple devices, but none by using the same original, designed content, played in a form that works cross-device.  Maybe this is an unrealistic expectation. The tablet user interface for instance, inherently differs from the desktop interface. Swiping makes no sense on the desktop, whilst mouse-over makes no sense on a tablet. Purely from a design perspective then, surely it is impractical to cater for both? And what about differences in format? A page/window/panel/screen (delete as inappropriate) on one device will have a different aspect ratio on another.

In design resource alone, brands looking to publish across as wide a gamut of devices as possible are faced with an expensive undertaking. Cost pressure alone is driving demand.

It may be that initial releases require compromise in design. Alternatively, compromise may be in functionality. Either way, platforms will exist because demand dictates. And whoever caters for the demand, and does so well, is likely to do very nicely.

1Where ‘platform’ is used to describe a mechanism by which source content is input, edited, transformed and published to multiple devices in a format sympathetic to the high design value of a glossy magazine and capable of harnessing the interactivity of digital media.