Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Race week - Boulder Mountain Tour

It’s funny the mixed feelings I have leading up to a race that I’m going to compete in. This week is the Boulder Mountain Tour north of Sun Valley, Idaho bringing in 1000 people from all over the country for the 2nd largest Nordic skiing race in the country. It’s a 32 kilometer race (~20 miles) so it’s considered a “Nordic marathon” albeit one on the short end (many are 50k). On the one hand, I’m as fit as I’ve been in awhile – no excuses with the trails out my backdoor and having nearly 2 hours back per day in my life without a commute. I only miss a handful of days a year working out as a result. I was surprised when I was randomly selected at a meeting for a body fat test and it was only 5%. On the other hand, I also find myself thinking that I’m not very fit with the accompanying excuses – work/family limits the duration of my workouts, my skill level (big factor) in Nordic is mediocre, I missed a week of training 2 weeks ago due to a knee injury, etc. Also, when you live in a place like Sun Valley, there are some super fit people who are nearly fulltime athletes and I simply don’t have the time/desire to put that commitment into it. There are guys in their 50’s and 60’s that would kick the butt of 99.9% of those under 30 not to mention the 20 & 30 something skiers in the race.

Barring extreme cold (see this interesting article on Nordic skiers getting asthma from racing in extreme cold) or injury, I’m going to be out there Saturday. It’s a fun, well run event with lots of great people to ski with. Check out some of the pics to get a feel for the race – the scenery is fantastic. Last year was fun despite my 4 crashes – the course was icy in spots since there hadn’t been fresh snow in weeks. We may have the opposite problem this year with a soft course due to all the snow we’ve been getting. I went out yesterday on part of the course and it was definitely soft/slow.

Update: The excerpt below from an article on the race captures how challenging the race ended up being. The picture above (courtesy of the Wood River Journal) gives you some feel for the amount of snow coming down and the mayhem created at the finish line.

It was a worst-case scenario—heavy snow starting 30 minutes before the race start at Senate Meadows near Galena Lodge, and continuing for nearly the entire two-and-a-half hours that it took to get 782 racers across the finish near the SNRA headquarters.

Chief of Race Rick Kapala said, "It was a really, really tough race, hard for the average competitor. It was tough for the lead racers, too. We had a lot of reports of stepping on skis and banging poles. The snow made it impossible to pass because you got bogged down in soft snow. It was also impossible to ski in front."

Though my time was worse this year (the winners were even slowed by 15-20 minutes), I managed to move up about 160 places which I was pleased with given the conditions (it was extremely tough to pass). I also felt fresh at the end unlike last year. I've never skied in worse conditions in terms of visibility and saw many crashes as people veered off the course or tried to pass and buried their ski tips in the snow banks.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Podcasting momentum -- it's personal this time

I finally joined the MP3/iPod revolution. I've been listening to podcasts for some time but like 80% of the podcasting audience, I've listened to them via my PC. There have been two main reasons why I've held off.

  1. Since I don't have a commute (a common time to listen to podcasts), the other logical time to listen is while I'm working out which I do every day. I guess you could say that I've been a purist not wanting something to blunt the suffering I do when I'm working out -- some kind of odd remnant of being a middle distance runner where the runner who is willing to suffer the most often wins.
  2. Apparently I have sensitive ears as I've never been fond of little earbuds in my ears. I'm willing to trade one pain for another now that I'll be lulled into a podcast stuper during my workouts :)


Two items kept me from buying an iPod.

  1. I don’t care for Apple’s corporate practices such as how they sue bloggers, keep their audio formats proprietary, etc.
  2. I found a MP3 player that is perfectly adequate for my needs including having the ability to record messages (at 1/3 the price). This is handy when I’m working out as I often have ideas I don’t want to forget while I’m out on the trail. My last voice recorder mysteriously disappeared (having a 2 year old in the house makes this a somewhat frequent occurrence).


On a more macro level, market growth figures for podcasting are interesting to track. Here are some figures in the Bridge Ratings:

  • 5 out of 300 have downloaded a podcast
  • 20% of those people listen weekly
  • The average user downloads 6 podcasts and spends 4 hours listening per month
  • Only 20% use the MP3 format to listen
  • By 2010 a median estimate is that 60 million people will be downloaders of podcasts

(Hat tip to RSS Applied for pointing out these stats)



Google and Microsoft - Lessons why you never say never

Mike Langberg of Knight-Ridder has a good piece describing how Google is increasingly having to eat its "Don't be Evil" words. At a young age, my parents often told me "never say never". I've certainly learned that as a parent but it's also applicable in the business world where there are few absolutes in a dynamic market. Early in the days of focusing on vertical markets at Microsoft, some of my counterparts would say "Microsoft will never do vertical applications" in response to questions about how IBM and others who'd been "partners" had turned around and competed with them. Though it was hard to imagine when we were such a tiny group that Microsoft would ever do vertical applications, I'd resist the temptation to say that as there's little I hate more than having to eat my words. Instead, I'd give partners a few insights into how Microsoft thinks. In this case, it was the fact that Microsoft's DNA is to only do things that can be sold in millions (or at least 100's of thousands) units. That does indeed eliminate most vertical applications but there are some exceptions as the later acquisitions of Great Plains (and others) show.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Benefits and best practices for marketer podcasts

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m co-presenting with Ron Bloom (CEO of PodShow) at the upcoming iMedia Brand Summit that starts next weekend. I’ve been tagging various relevant articles, podcasts, etc. and have invited others to do the same. One of the items that I have tagged is a whitepaper from Podblaze. While I’ll be addressing podcasting more from the vantage point of podcasts as an ad medium, it’s also good to know how podcasts that you create yourself can be helpful for your business. Not unlike websites, many marketers will both have their own podcasts as well as advertise on podcasts (e.g., to drive listeners to your podcasts).

10 Benefits to Adding Podcasting to Your Marketing Mix. There are also additional benefits that may apply to your specific product, brand, service, or niche that may not be listed here.

  1. An additional communication tool for your business.
  2. Increased online visibility to your target market.
  3. Increased internet visibility from the search engines.
  4. Increased internet visibility & traffic from the RSS, Blog & podcasting directories. What You Don’t Know About Podcasting Could Hurt Your Business: How to Leverage & Benefit from this New Media Technology.
  5. Communication medium is more powerful than text. This means increased potential results for your marketing message.
  6. Improved level of perceived expertise from your target market.
  7. Value added offerings to your target market that are only available in audio format.
  8. Increased mind share from your target audience. People listen to podcasts while doing other tasks online. They can also take you messaging with them on their portable media player such as an iPod.
  9. More frequent touch points and more frequent “top of mind” participation from your target audience.
  10. Increased perception of your product, service, brand or value in customers minds.

Podcasting Best Practices: The following best practices should be applied to your podcast to achieve maximum effectiveness:

  1. Know your audience/target market.
  2. Be organized in the messaging that is to be delivered
  3. Have notes & an outline to keep the show on topic
  4. Edit show appropriately for both content, quality and length
  5. Deliver valuable, informative, engaging and entertaining content to your listeners that they can’t get from any other media.
  6. Ensure good quality audio by using proper recording hardware and software
  7. Provide show notes for listeners to review content of the show before and while they listen to the podcast
  8. Use proper tagging of Meta data so that you podcast can be found and organized easily by podcasting software and directories.
  9. Ensure that the RSS feed for the podcast is valid and in compliance with the 2.0 standard. Additional functionality is required if you want the podcast to be apple iTunes friendly.
  10. Submit your podcast to the popular directories so that your podcast can reach a greater audience.
  11. Ping the major podcasting, RSS and Blog directories after each podcast to ensure that your podcasts are updated.
  12. Have the proper web server technology that can handle delivering the content quickly and be able to handle the server bandwidth issues. Don’t underestimate the importance of this critical point.
  13. Have an experienced podcasting consultant design, map, and oversee the entire process to ensure success the first time. This will ensure that you will achieve maximum market impact with this new media format. Your audience will not be forgiving of a poorly executed podcast strategy.

Few great ideas happen inside a conference room

In my career, I’ve seen very few great ideas come out of a conference room setting. Everyone seems to accept that inspiration comes from other places so why is it that most offsites are in bland conference rooms, hotel meeting rooms, etc.? Earlier this week, we tried to practice what we preach by having our firm’s leadership team come to Sun Valley for a mix of work/fun. Thankfully we all enjoy skiing/riding fresh powder. Here’s a pic from when we were heading out on a typical Sun Valley bluebird day.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Business Plan writing tips

Nearly every business needs to write a business plan whether they are raising money or for their own strategic planning purposes. I’ve begun tagging some compendiums of tips via Del.icio.us that you can check out here. If you are interested in being notified of new articles I tag, add this RSS feed to your RSS reader.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Option value

Fred Wilson has another good post – this one on option value. I’ve highlighted a couple excerpts below…

Option value means the potential for a gain.  If you own 20% of a company, you own 20% of the current value plus 20% of the potential upside. It's the latter that I am calling option value.

So the next time you buy or sell early stage stock, think less about the current value of what you are buying, because there honestly isn't much value in an early stage company, and think more about the potential value creation, the odds of success, and the time frame it would take to get there, and value what you are buying or selling as an option.  You may be surprised at the results of that analysis.


Brand T&E -- what's good for the Ritz is good for you

Joseph Jaffe proffers the notion of Brand T&E lifting the idea from sales where a good sales person fully utilizes their travel & entertainment allocation to build/maintain loyal customer relationships. The Brand T&E notion makes a ton of sense whether you are a consumer or business brand. It’s easy to go hunting for new customers when in fact your loyalists can often have an even greater impact than you can due to their perceived objectivity. Worth a read…


Monday, January 16, 2006

2010 predictions starting to happen sooner than expected

[Originally posted in May 2006] A little while back, I had this post about 2010 predictions for the Interactive Marketing industry. Much to my surprise, one element of the predictions is already kicking in (i.e., online ad models transferring to other mediums). Boston Globe makes the first move. Considering they are a part of the NY Times family, I'm sure it won't be the last move you see from the NY Times Company.

Update: Google buys a radio advertising firm

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lab for Web 2.0 publishers?

I have a friend that has a nice business focused on a local market – Sun Valley,Idaho (yes, the famous ski resort). With the plethora of Web 2.0 services coming out, it struck me that some of those Web 2.0 might want to showcase their services on a site that gets disproportionate visibility to the size of its local market since it’s by far the #1 site for Sun Valley and is visited by both visitors and residents. The visitors are a virtual who’s who of the VC and corporate world (not to mention Hollywood). I’m certain they’d be open to testing some things out whether it was an end-user service or a back-end technology. Perhaps one of the companies that Michael Arrington has highlighted on TechCrunch. If you know a company that would like to highlight their service on a local information site, let me know (see my profile for my contact info). As an added bonus, they can write off a trip to Sun Valley since it will be business. With the dumps of snow Sun Valley has been getting this winter, that isn’t a bad thing. Here’s a pic from near the top of the mountain on a typical day.