Cross-device publishing finally exists!

In May last year, I wrote a post relating to the abundance of systems (or rather posters and presentations of systems) claiming to represent the much-vaunted ‘content-goes-in-here-and-comes-out-working-everywhere’ solution.

At the time, I was working as Chief Product Officer at an international agency. The agency worked with many brands, all of which had a significant interest in – if the many presentations, posters and banner ads were to be believed – the myriad solutions available to them.

The problem, as it turned out after much research, was that none of the systems actually delivered on the claims. Sure, some excelled in one area or another, but none provided the ability to assemble, animate, integrate and measure the same content across the many devices our brand customers demanded. This represented a real challenge, especially as I was under pressure to propose a solution for a retail client desperate to provide its customers with an interactive derivative of their catalogue on iPad.

Working closely with the tech team, we architected a solution that drew upon some of the elements of some of the systems available. It was never going to be a scalable platform solution, and would certainly mean that processes and workflows would have to be duplicated to produce subsequent catalogues, but at least it would provide the vehicle for our client to launch an attractive, ecommerce-enabled catalogue on the iPad. It was pretty successful as well, going straight into the Guardian’s Top30 iPad apps list – much to the joy of our client. Everyone was happy. Until the second catalogue.

You see, the inevitable impact of not having a platform solution, a solution that addresses many of the repeat tasks associated with producing subsequent pieces, is that processes must be repeated. The producers on the project had to repeat tasks; Developers had to repeat tasks; Our customer’s own design team had to repeat tasks. OK, the result was going to look great but the work involved was also great. There was an unavoidable cost implication.

At this point I want to make something clear: I don’t write this blog as a means to publicize or promote. I write it purely as a commentary on what I experience in the industries in which I work. My opinions are my own and they are always considered. I feel it’s important to mention this given that I’m about to refer to a solution, a platform, in which I have a stake.

Let me explain: Having left the agency last year, I joined a small tech company with which I’d been associated a few years prior.  The company intended to launch the supposedly ubiquitous solution I’d been searching for: a SaaS-based platform providing the tools to create, animate, integrate and measure, interactive, shoppable content experiences that work across web, tablet and mobile. Sound simple? Of course not.

A few months ago, the first version was launched. We expected some hiccups and we had them. But since then, thanks to the brilliant product team and the scrum process to which they so diligently adhere, we have released no less than 20 new versions. And last night, we went live with undoubtedly the most significant version to date.

I’m not going to use this post as a feature list, or even explain the significance of yesterday’s update. All I’m going to do with absolute confidence, is say the solution, apparently ubiquitous in May last year, finally exists. It really does.

And guess what? the first live App, produced by Conran, with no need for coding whatsoever,  went straight into the Guardian Top30 iPad apps list! (This time for a fraction of the cost to the customer…)

The website is here. The product is truly impressive. And yes, mine is a thoroughly considered opinion!

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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?