Last week at LeWeb12 Paris, I was interviewed by Celine Louis, the editor of the official Orange blog, about Pixplit. You can find the full article here and the video interview below.
I would like to ask for your help and it won’t take more than 1 minute.
We are trying to get my startup, Pixplit, nominated for a Crunchies ’12 Award. Simply follow each one of these 5 links and once the page loads click on the “Nominate” button:
- Best Collaborative Consumption Service: http://is.gd/Hu2uda
- Best Mobile App: http://is.gd/Mnu1s3
- Best Design: http://is.gd/VWiekf
- Best International Startup:http://is.gd/O2IqaF
- Best Time Sink: http://is.gd/44wWGQ
Voting is open till December 6th & it is possible to vote for us every day. A lot of exciting things are coming up soon for Pixplit. We hope to add a Crunchie to that list and with your help it will be possible.
A few weeks ago my friend Roy Zu-Arets (disclosure: I created his wikipedia page) who is the most gifted musician and very original composer I have had the luck to meet and I began working on a fun side project that involves music & social media. We call it “The Vibe Of Now”.
The idea behind “The Vibe Of Now” is to create a musical micro-blogging experience – release of original compositions that are created in a spontaneous, immediate, unplanned and instant way and reflect what the composer is feeling at that moment. The entire production process is also very fast. We meet at Roy’s studio in Hollywood three times a week (Mon, Wed and Fri) for 1 hour. It takes us 45 minutes to record a piece, mix the video with stereo audio that we pull out of the recording console and publish the clip to YouTube.
Both of us have worked and released products that reached millions – I have done it in the internet space at Snap, JDate and ICQ and Roy has worked as a composer, pianist and producer with many artists, performed in prestigious halls in front of thousands and produced platinum and gold albums. But this small side project has its own magic and is very exciting for both of us. Users from all over the world send us their feedback on the music videos and how they touch them. Our YouTube channel metrics are growing week after week – the number of daily views, subscribers (now is a good time to become one), friends, comments and ratings.
A few days ago we reached a new major milestone with the release of Roy’s first solo piano solo album (after a 20 year career of playing, producing and composing with and for others) called “Confessions of a Composer”. The album features selected tracks from the first series Roy released to YouTube during the summer of 2009 plus a few bonus tracks recorded with guest musicians. You can buy the album on iTunes , Amazon or order as physical CD.
We are also about to put the “The Vibe Of Now” concert. It will be a very original and different show from a typical piano recitals, and it will feature the album pieces, variations on a theme of known songs but with some twist, and original compositions that will be composed during the concert together with the viewers similar to the process that happens at the studio. If you are interested in bringing Roy to your venue, university, tech-conference, town hall or your next corporate event, please contact us.
Next for us are a few additional mini projects:
* A special album for the holidays which is being finalized these days (Update: It is now live)
* Collaborations with some of LA’s finest musicians
* A 100% live session that we will stream to the web using UStream and twitter
* And probably a few more fun projects since the tools we have in our hands allow us to do almost anything and take it to the masses.
Last thing – this project would not exist without users’ feedback. So if you have one for us, a request, suggestion, media inquiry, touring/booking request or a testimony/album review, please contact us using this form or on twitter – royzuarets or jaym.
What is OutLoud?
OutLoud is a way for publishers to promote an article/piece of content and have it appear inside the Outbrain widget on pages across the large Outbrain network.
How does it work?
A publisher who would like to promote an article would pay $10 per month per article s/he would like to “amplify”. OutLoud targets articles by relevancy and audience engagement — when it thinks someone will be interested in a promoted article (because they are reading something similar), Outbrain shows a link inside their widget. Articles that people seem to enjoy more get an audience lift. Because of this focus on reader interest, there are no traffic guarantees with OutLoud, but there also isn’t a limit to how much exposure you could receive. The more interesting the article, the more successful it is in drawing a large audience.
Comparison to other CPC based programs
Although not positioned this way, OutLoud seems to me as an attempt to get into the multi-Billion-dollar text ads marketplace that has been dominated by programs such as Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing (btw, you can use this link to sign up and get a $25 credit for Yahoo Search Marketing). Even if Outbrain does not want to position the new product as competition to these advertising programs, the publishers/advertisers who will sign up for Outloud will do that as they would like to find how this traffic aquisition program performs compared to other programs they use. Based on Outbrain’s post, an average article will drive 50 to 100 readers a month which translates to $0.10-$0.20 CPC ($10 per months / 100 or 50). To me this range seems to be at the low end of Google’s average CPC rate for many keywords in many categories, and therefore worth the test.
- Introducing a subscription based model in an industry that for the past 11 years (since Bill Gross invented CPC and founded Goto.com/Overture) has been using cost-per-click text ads is innovative, unique and very interesting. I give the Outbrain team great credit for introducing this model into such an established industry. Their challenge would be to get advertisers who are so used to working in a certain format to adopt a new one.
- AdWords or Yahoo’s search marketing consoles have become pretty complicated and require you to create campaigns, ad groups, ads, manage keywords, bids and placements, not to mention the different optimization techniques you have to use constantly. Outbrain is on the other side of the spectrum. Its approach is super simple which makes it very easy and attractive for a non-techie publisher/blogger to get started. Simply sign-in into Outbrain self service system, add url(s) to amplify and check out. Felt like “AdWords for Dummies” to me.
- Favoring relevant content by giving it more impressions sounds similar to Google’s Landing Page Quality Score (LPQS) that influencing a keyword’s minimum bids, ad ranking and actual CPC. This vague concept allows Outbrain not to commit to a certain # of impressions a link to an article gets for the $10-per month rate. To be honest, I am having mixed feelings about using a black box approach, especially when it is done by a company and product that I like. As an advertiser, I want to have as much info as possible about how, where and when my money is spent. As a Google AdWords & Yahoo advertiser (I manage a campaign for my wife’s birth doula business) I have too many unanswered questions about keywords, quality scores, min bids, etc. that I can not get answers from Google nor from Yahoo.
- Publishers who have been using OpenID to sign into the Outbrain dashboard can not checkout and pay (due to security issues related to OpenID). According to the dashboard they should contact Outbrain for a solution. I hope this limitation get addressed soon.
[If this feature is already in place then well done Outbrain team. If it does not work this way, then here's my first and most important feature request]
I don’t want my campaigns to be like the gym membership that people forgot to cancel. I hope that Outbrain has implemented subscription based services based practices and that it sends an email a few days before the renewal date with a reminder about the upcoming renewal and with some data on the past month’s performance. If their service works well and delivers viewers to my content there is no reason I would cancel it.
An interesting concept, easy of use, affordable pricing and a product that I like very much as a blogger. I am going to give it a shot and try OutLoud to drive some traffic to my wife’s birthspeak.com website and compare how it performs compared to the Google and Yahoo campaigns I am currently running.
To read more about Outloud, check out the official post here.
Two last notes unrelated to OutLoud but very related to Outbrain:
1. A few weeks ago I was walking the exhibit hall at BlogWorld Las Vegas and looking for Outbrain’s booth in order to say hello to the team. I kept walking and walking, looking for a booth that has the 5 starts logo I know so well but I just could not find it. Eventually, after looking at the floor map and navigating my way according to it, I found the Outbrain booth and immediately shared my thoughts on the new logo via twitter. Well, based on the current logo on Outbrain’s website it looks like someone has put a pause on this rebrand process. And if I had something to do with it, then I am glad I could help. But right before publishing this post I read Eze’s post on VC Cafe and saw the new logo which makes me puzzled again (Yaron, I said it once and will say it again – why Mii?).
2. Looks like Outbrain is now testing/migrating to showing images that are scraped off of the destination pages inside the widget . Smart move to increase CTR on links especially if you are an OutLoud advertiser.
I have known Roy Zu-Arets since our sons attended the same day care a few years ago. Since then I have been closely following his unique journey in life which includes music, Judaism and a constant struggle of a musician trying to make it big.
After all, it is not easy to do what he is trying to do given his background. He started playing piano at the age of 3 and began his professional music career at the age of 12 (!). In his early twenties he was already a busy music producer, composer and pianist in Israel. He played with many artists, produced mega hit records and concerts like Rita‘s “A Great Love” 4 times platinum album and tour, HaYehudim (The Jews) debut album called “Separate Reality”, one of Meir Banai’s albums and many others including Guy Zu-Aretz (his brother) upcoming album. He wrote scores for movies and theater and had a successful and busy career in the Israeli music industry. But then he decided leave everything behind and went after his dream – move to the US to become a musician in the premier league. He first spent a few years in New York where he attend Julliard & Mannes music academies, and then he moved to Los Angeles where he is trying break into the small, close group of Hollywood movies score writers. In the mean time, he is slowly establishing impressive milestones n the US which including producing Taking Back Sunday’s “Where you want to be?” platinum album, and writing MacHeads soundtrack, but he has not gotten to work on a really big movie since in Hollywood it is very difficult for a “nobody” to become “somebody”.
This might change though, very soon, thanks to the way he uses YouTube to share his talent, music and work process with the masses. Every morning, as part of his warm-up, he improvises melodies based on his mood and feelings. None of these melodies were composed before and he does not memorize notes – he “simply” plays the melody that is going in his head at that very moment. His studio neighbors, owners of a video production company, heard him play and suggested to video tape those short improvisations and publish them to YouTube as part of a documentary series called “Confessions of a Composer”. The videos are recorded using two iPhone 3GS phones, the sound is recorded separately using Roy’s studio equipment (thus the high quality), and then they mix and edit everything to a short video clip that gets posted to YouTube. This entire process happens 5 days a week, Mon-Fri.
I predict that it is just a matter of time until one of Roy’s improvisation videos will become a major hit on YouTube. Naturally, the variation on a popular songs tend to get more traffic and views (probably not enough views given the quality of these videos), like Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” (see embed below), Michael Jackson’s Earth Song and Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling. But the improvisations are even more fascinating to watch, as they truly show his qualities as a composer and pianist.
From what I have gathered from Roy, the amount of feedback he has been getting after a few weeks of daily videos submissions is unbelievable. This includes comments, ratings and many emails from YouTube viewers from all over the world. More than that, a well known Hollywood director who stumbled upon one of his videos and loved it, already came to meet Roy at his Hollywood studio.
So, here are two video clips that illustrate how talented and versatile he is. My recommendation is to subscribe to his channel as well as go back and watch all the videos uploaded since the project began on July 13th. You will get a daily injection of heavenly and inspiring music from such an extraordinary & gifted talent.
I read earlier today that Twitter is turning three today. As a parent to three young boys, one of them is a few months younger than Twitter, I had some thoughts on twitter’s development during his first two years and how similar they were to the first two years of a baby that grows to be a toddler.
Just like every baby in its first year, very few understood what twitter meant when he made his first voices and mumbles. But this fact did not stop many to get impressed, excited, happy, loving and forgiving.
During the second year, an age referred also as ‘the terrible twos’, twitter was really trying to test the boundaries and our (the users) patience. He misbehaved by going down frequently and acting immaturely. But at the same time, he had these magic moments that created huge excitement among us.
And as twitter approached the age of three, things have become much better. He behaved much better & didn’t go offline that often, and he became really friendly and played along really really well with others (using its robust API).
My blog gets a fairly small number of visitors and page views every month. But just like TechCrunch, Fred Wilson and Sean Percival, I decided to take a look at my Google Analytics account and see how much link love social media services like Twitter, Facebook and others send here.
Below is February 09 referring sites data and a couple of observations:
- February was not a usual month for this blog in term of traffic. At the begining of the month, my Tropicana’s poor re-branding post was picked by FastCompany and the blog recieved (and still continues to) large number of readers.
- As pointed out by the bloggers I mentioed above, social media services are becoming major traffic drivers in the overall mix of referring sites. Specifically in my blog’s case, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Ginx (a Twitter interface), Facebook and Outbrain appear high on the list. In addition, their positions improved compared to previous months.
- Users referred by social media services seems to be of “better quality” than users referred by Google. These users tend to spend more time and often read more than the specific page they land on. In addition, a smaller percentage of them, compared to users referred by search engines, hit the browser’s Back button immediately after seeing the landing page (bounce rate %).
I will keep following whether this trend continues to grow over time and post about it.
Despite what a few bloggers have posted lately, despite the fact Google wants to buy Twitter very much, despite Twitter’s speculated price tag, I am calling the Twitter executive team not to sell itself to Google’s.
If Twitter will be part of Google it is probably going to go down at the same time Gmail and other Google services go down (you can check status here). This would leave millions of folks in the twittersphere with no effective tool to immediately post their rants.
Consumers are consumers no matter what online service or product they use. Once we use a product and like it, we are emotionally attached to it and become very passionate about it. This has not changed for years, but in current days, we (the consumers) have powerful tools such as blogs, twitter and facebook, to express ourselves quicker, louder in order to make a change.
Seeing companies make a (stupid) decision and then revert back as a result of users protesting against it using all sorts of social media applications is a pretty common thing in the online world. The last example was Facebook and its T&C fiasco. Seeing more an more big offline companies acting the same way is a nice surprise for me.
Take these two sentences:
“We underestimated the deep emotional bond they had with the original packaging. Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.”
“I feel it’s the right thing to do, to innovate as a company. I wouldn’t want to stop innovating as a result of this. At the same time, if consumers are speaking, you have to listen.”
If you think they were told by Mark Zuckerberg or another executive of some popular web company you are wrong. They were said by Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America, who is about to announce today, according to the NYTimes, that Tropicana is going to scrap the new packaging and return to the old one. Why? Because we , including myself on this blog, complained about the new design and asked for the old one.
Just like Wheeler & Katz wrote in their book “Brand Atlas, Branding Intelligence Made Visible” : “Stay customer centric. The best brand decisions can only be made with the customer’s needs and experiences in mind. See the world through the eyes of your customers.”
So, I applaud to PepsiCo for listening to its loyal customers and acting fast. I can’t wait to see the good old carton, with orange & straw, in stores.
Yesterday this blog & I reached some pretty encouraging milestones:
Milestone 1- My previous post, about Outbrain’s round B, was my 200th post since I began blogging almost 2 years ago. Who would imagine that would happen so fast?
Milestone 2 - The same 200th blog post made it to Techmeme and that was the first time my blog was featured on the popular tech news aggregation service.
Milestone 3 – My 198th post about Tropicana’s terrible re-branding was mentioned in this FastCompany article about Pepsi’s logo redesign. That article has been sending tons of new traffic to my blog. It was the first time a post I wrote received over 1000 unique page views in one day (to be precise, 1127 UPV on 2/11/2009).
I wonder what would be the next one?