Corporate Content Marketers Frustrated with Legal Blockades

A recent article in NZ Entrepreneur highlights the legal constraints in large Australasian multinationals making things very difficult for their content marketers. Battles cries of “bottlenecks, or drastically altered pieces of content and missed deadlines” are being blamed on legal departments, impacting the ability of brands to engage their customers.
Savvy marketers recognise that customers hate ads – but they love to shop – so giving them information that helps them make better decisions is a sound marketing tactic. In addition, with more Internet users using ad blocking software the impact of ad marketing is declining markedly in response rates. This is also hurting advertising platforms and agencies. Apple’s new iOS operating system also supports ad blocking for mobiles. iOS ad blocking apps.

This is driving more and more corporate marketers to content marketing – becoming publishers, journalists, informers, educators, motivators and decision supporters. That makes well executed content marketing a powerful strategy for building brand profile and trust. Content marketing has been voted as the most important digital marketing trend three years in a row.

Have legal departments recognised this change?

Content marketing indirectly promotes brands as well as goods and services. As such, it falls within the domain of laws such as the Fair Trading Act 1986, and possibly, Advertising Codes of Practice. Add to that issues like copyright law and even the Harmful Digital Communications Bills and one can see the concern mounting in legal hallways.

Content marketing needs to avoid making bold claims without consideration to traditional marketing compliance. However, good content marketers know that referring directly to claims about products and services actually works against the educational and entertainment goals of content marketing. In addition, they declare conflicts of interest, and value transparency – making clear what is fact and what is comment.

So on one hand we have marketers wanting a free hand in publishing copy, and on the other we have legal teams wanting to protect the company.

Its up to each department to ‘educate’ the other – so everyone knows exactly which rules apply when, and where they apply. With such a diverse range of content available to marketers, there needs to be an easier way than submitting every piece for approval. I tend to favour providing marketers with clear parameters and pre-permission envelopes – stay within the lines and you are cleared to publish. Go outside, and it needs to be submitted for approval. It’s up to legal to draw those lines, and for marketers to honour them. Only through mutual trust can the blocks be overcome.

Its mainly when editorial becomes advertorial that problems arise – so there is a major defining line right there. No product claims – no problem. Go to press.
Native advertising? The traditional rules still apply.

When producing a broad range of content types, from advertisements, movies, opinion posts, blogs, advertorials and even ‘how to videos’ the subtle application of different laws can become murky.

With the aim of content marketing to attract, acquire, and engage a specific audience towards taking a desired action, content pieces must meet both value and relevancy goals. Most advertisements, and even many advertorials do not fit within the definition of content marketing. Good content marketing should be more editorial in nature – with either an education or entertainment spin. The difficulty lies in the definitions adopted by regulating bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority – which adopts a ‘wide net’ approach, even capturing content that ‘advocates ideas or beliefs’. However, if content marketers share their ideas and beliefs with integrity and label advertorials for exactly what they are, this lays a sound foundation to avoiding legal issues. Declare any conflict of interest, be transparent and make ‘accuracy’ an overarching principle.

Others who remain stuck in the grey zone may feel more comfortable engaging professional writers, and journalists, who are more in touch with media laws. Don’t expect one professional to cover all options. Leave the commercial advertising with the ad agencies, the brand with PR companies, and bring in professional content marketers to bridge the gap.

Summary

To mark a roadmap forward:

  • Clearly define what is, and what is not content marketing – distinguished from advertisements, advertorials and PR pieces.
  • Define a content strategy for the various goals – customer engagement, brand development etc and know how-to advice, thought leadership and opinion pieces fit into that strategy.
  • Establish clear legal compliance parameters, with clear checklists to help define where different content pieces fit within that envelope.
  • Create a two-way communication channel between legal and marketing to establish ‘pre-authorised’ release and when content needs a closer look.
  • Consider using disclaimers on pieces that fall into grey areas as defined by regulatory bodies.

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Has Alleged Ebook Price Fixing Impacted Ebook Sales?

United States Government accusations that Apply conspired with major book publishers to fix the price of e-books are meeting with strong denial from Apple. The action is estimated to have cost consumers more than US$100 million ($121 million) in the past two years, adding $5 to the price of each ebook on Apples iPad. Apple retains almost one-third of the list price. Apple is the main competitor to Amazon in the ebook market.

Settlements have been reach with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster but proceedings against Apple and Holtzbrinck Publishers [trading as Macmillan, and Penguin Publishing Co Ltd] are ongoing.
It is claimed that Amazon was forced to follow Apple’s lead and raise prices on ebooks for its Kindle reader.
The EU is launching a similar inquiry.

Amazon has its own ebook Kindle Store, but also sells book on behalf of third party book stores.
Most publishers were seeking to sell ebook versions at the same price as the print versions – averaging $15 for fiction, but Amazon were selling them at only US$9.99. Publishers claimed this was too low, so using Apple’s “agency” model set the customer price directly, at whatever level they wanted. The agreement stipulated that Publishers would not let anyone else sell e-books for less than Apple.

It’s hard to see how, with the large number of self publishers now releasing books on Kindle, and setting their own prices at will, that any price fixing would be sustainable. What do you think?

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Calibre – What A Dream Piece of Software

I am eternally grateful for the many open-source software products made available – most of which are well design and elegant to use. However, now and then one comes along and blows my socks off…this is how I felt when I watched the demo of Calibre.

Calibre acts as both a ebook format converter and a library management system. It is not just the amazing diversity of the software that made my day, but the beauty of the design. I just had to share it with you all.

I highly recommend you download Calibre and see for yourself.

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Google or Facebook – Who Will Win the Social War?

Since Google released to the public its social networking entry, Google+, the press has been speculating on whether or not it would disrupt or even overtake Facebook.

Facebook is certainly fighting back by adding a group contact system and rumoured more new feature to roll out shortly.

Although Facebook has a huge head start, it is somewhat constained by its incumbent technology style thinking – whereas Google is more adept at moving the technology line to new zones.

Google represents a real challenge to Facebook – and in spite of the tough challenge ahead in overcoming or breaking apart the Facebook network, those individuals who find the constraints of Facebook don’t serve their needs will be the first to loosen the web. With over a billion Google users – not all of whom spend time on Facebook – that’s not a bad starting point. Google appears to be focused more on convergence of chat, social network, video chat etc, making it a kind of 3D version of Facebook. Facebook, in a partnership with Skype followed Google to offer multiuser video chat, but it appears its overall pace of development is well lagging that of Google.

It will be a matter of time to see how Google leverages its video and search capabilities a unique advantage over Facebook – but one thing worth betting on is that they will find a way.

In spite of Facebook’s leadership in the social network arena, it already appears to be playing the follower role, rather than the leader – unable to respond with Google-like innovation.

Facebook is cleaning up its feature set, finally hiding the ‘Poke’ button inside a menu, rather than occupying a very visible space next to ‘Add Friend’ and ‘Send Message’ buttons. In its place, new ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Friend’ buttons now indicate sharing status. Its all rather messy and convoluted, and the demand for identity proof via cellphone or university creditation is a bit much.

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Google’s Big Panda Not So Cuddly

According to Google their latest algorithm supports ” sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”. In contrast, it will penalise low quality sites – with little added value, content copied from other sites [including RSS feeds] and sites that are just plainly ‘un-useful’. This will include content farms, and article directories, which will impact back-link tactics by article marketers. Just two days following the change, Ezine Articles claims to have a 35% reduction in monthly unique visitors. Normally, 57million, this represents a significant drop in traffic. However, it is likely the impact will only apply to low quality articles – you know the ones, 320 words of drivel that tell you nothing. Perhaps Google has just helped Article Ezine to filter out its spam quality articles. It will however impact news aggregators such as the popular Huffington Post.

According to Alexa statistics, EzineArticles has dropped 16-17% in ranking with a 11-13% decline in reach over the past week. Its too early to see how long term this impact will be but it must sure have the sites team working hard to respond to the potential threat.

The change is estimated by Google to impact 11.8% of queries. The goal of Google’s change is to create a “healthy web ecosystem”. The change was made in the USA only, with other global regions to be rolled out in the future.

Fortunately, since launching in 2006 my business strategy was to always provide valuable content – aka no auto-posting scripts or automated blog posting plug-ins for WordPress. I do however use RSS scripts to add specialist content updates to my websites, however this accounts for less than 5% of total content. I doubt this will impact the ranking of these sites. Its early days yet, but I have not noticed any negative impact.

The lesson here is to always aim to provide value to customers – no value, no point making the effort. Personally, I think it’s a good thing to get rid of spam sites. Maybe the BIG and FAST strategy most top IM gurus proclaim is the way to go may not work out so well afterall.

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New Ebook Publishing Tool

Barnes & Noble has just released a new tool for publishing ebooks through thier BN.com website.

PubIt! allows self publishing authors to upload Word, txt, rtf, html and other files. PubIt! converts the files into e-books. The e-book will be available within 72 hours.

The sales deal for selling the ebook at Barnes & Noble is:

  • Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 – 35%
  • Books priced below $2.98 and over $10 – 60% [pretty hefty fee]

I would be interested from hearing from any readers who have tried out this service.

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Domain Investors or Squatters?

I was reading an old CNN article on domain investors this morning. Whilst I was well aware of this practice it got me thinking as to why Google hasn’t been all over these crappy link sites that are pulling in tens of millions of dollars a year using ‘bait and switch’ tactics.

I am struggling to see a parallel investment model for domain trading. When one considers property investment or share investment, there is a legitimate business behind it. Not that domain investment is not a legitimate business, but it is certainly in the black hat arena along with other tactics that Google has slapped all over the show.

Of course, we then have the other extreme, where in Australia you cannot get a ‘.com.au’ domain without it being attached to an Australian registered business – owned by an Australian domicile. This sort of builds a wall around international business which is frustrating for those attempting a legitimate entry into that market.

So what are your views on domain investors? Are they investors or squatters?

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Is the Perceived Value of E-books Changing?

I was just browsing through the Kindle books on Amazon and came across this interesting comment on a book about sleep disorders:

“This book was recommended by my doctor…….I’m not paying $12.99 for something that isn’t even worth $4.00 to hack down trees for.”.

An interesting comment on a book where the digital version sells for more than 3 times the print version.

Its interesting to see how the mindset is adjusting to the ebook evolution. At first buyers were resistant due to the emotional connection with holding a paper book. Add to this the lower perceived value of an electronic download. As the convenience of ebook readers started to take hold, the value attached to ebooks appears to have risen.

The strange thing about books is that buyers tend to subscribe a large part of their value judgement to the size of the book, rather than the value of the content. Will ebooks change this?

One has to wonder where it will be in another two years, when someone resists paying for the information purely on the basis that the cost of the printed book is less than the cost of the Kindle version.

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Google Releases Adsense Revenue Share

According to the Economist, Google has revealed the split of its advertising revenue with online website publishers as being:

  • Content Network 68%
  • Search Network 51%

Big media companies negotiate their cut individually.

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New Release – Getting to Cloud

The second new release in The Logical Organization Management Insight Series aims to calm the nerves of both buyers and sellers of Cloud Computing technology.

Getting to Cloud – Discovering New Business Opportunities with Cloud Computing

Getting to Cloud - Discovering New Business Opportunities with Cloud Computing

Cloud is the missing power base that underpins data warehouses and advanced analytics. So many businesses are either prevented from implementing BI solutions or stall early into the project through the lack of processing power or clean data quality management. Cloud provides the opportunity to leverage the significant benefits of BI, without reliance on outdated, overloaded IT infrastructures.

Cloud computing is so much more than a power base for BI – with its foundation in virtualization technology, it is the platform that will transform the competitive base of business. No longer will small businesses be constrained in competing against their larger competitors through lack of IT resources. Cloud remedies that.

Cloud also impacts the IT reseller market – rather than disintermediation of resellers, Cloud offers an expanse of new service and product opportunities that were previously beyond the technical or financial scope.

Getting to Cloud looks at the questions both buyers and sellers need to be asking themselves right NOW. It provides detailed ROI case analysis and savings data for use in business cases…and so much more.

Find out more about Getting to Cloud by clicking here

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