Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts

2/2/10

THE BATTLE TO CONTROL ONLINE PRICES

The struggle to control prices of digital content sold online continues, with producers and distributors battling over prices for downloads of books and music.

In the latest skirmish, Amazon removed Macmillan books from its website after the company protested that online retail was using monopoly power to force publishers to accept prices no higher than $9.99. Macmillan and other publishers have now signed distribution deals with Apple that allows them to price downloads at $12.99 and $14.99.

Producers, of course, want higher prices because they produce higher revenue and better profits.

The struggle to control prices is not unique to the online environment. In the offline world, producers of books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs have long struggled to gain limited shelf space because there is a large oversupply of products and retailers’ have selection preferences for popular, rapidly selling products.

Large national and retailers have also used their bargaining power to push wholesale and manufacturer suggested retail prices downwards. Wal-Mart, now the number one music retailer in the World, uses its purchasing and sales power to sell large quantities of music at the lowest price possible—the basic price/quantity model for all the products it carries.

What is new in the offline world is that the conflict does not merely involve struggles over the price and quantity strategies of retailers, but that the retailers are using the media content as a joint product with their proprietary digital hardware.

Amazon wants content prices low not merely to sell more books, but because it helps it sell Kindle, its e-book reader. To date, it has been able to do so because it was the leading seller of both products—something it learned from Apple’s strategy with i-Tunes and i-Pod.

Competition in distributing content, even just a little competition, helps shift some of the power away from the retailer and back to the producer. Apple was forced to back away from its enforced price of 89 cents for a download when recording companies made deals with other download providers and threatened to end the rights for Apple to see their popular music. Apple is now playing spoiler to Amazon in the book downloads and Amazon has agreed to carry Macmillan books again.

Newspaper publishers are now seriously testing and considering a variety of e-readers as ways to reduce production and distribution costs. As part of their strategies, however, they would do well to learn from the experience of the music and book business. They need to remember that a basic rule of business is that if you don’t control price, you don’t control your business.

5/3/09

Seeing through the Haze Surrounding Websites, Blogs and Social Media

Communicating regularly is hard work. It takes skill; it takes a voice; it takes having something to say; it takes time. Making money from it is even harder.

The functions provided by websites, blogs, and social media clearly make it possible for people to express themselves in ways never before imagined, to share their opinions, to express their hopes and dreams, and to share the details of their lives. Media companies are watching these developments and many are rushing to provide content on any communication technology or application the public uses.

Although large numbers of people are trying the new technologies, they are reacting to them in different ways. Some find them highly useful and satisfying; some find them worthless and disappointing; some find them a worthy pastime; others find them a waste of time. What this means is that—like all technologies—they are more important to some people than to others. Consequently, managers need to be realistic in assessing their potential, the extent to which they are being used by the public, and the extent to which they provide opportunities that media companies should pursue.

Because those promoting the technologies are self interested, uptake figures are easy to come by. Finding out who has tried the technologies, but decided they were undesirable is harder. However, research is showing some interesting results in that regard. We now know that 60 percent of the people who try Twitter stop using it within a month, that only about 5% of blogs are regularly updated, that more than 200 million blogs have been abandoned, and that about 37 million web domain names are deleted every year.

Most people and organizations who try these new communication opportunities make limited use of them or give up on them altogether because of boredom or because the opportunities don't provide sufficient results. This is not to say they are not unimportant, however. A good number of individuals and companies are using them to create new abilities and opportunities to communicate with friends, colleagues, and customers and to establish new businesses and revenue streams. Doing so, however, takes commitment that most people and firms are unwilling to make.

From the business standpoint one has to be realistic when evaluating the opportunities presented. Media executives need to ask hard questions: Do all media companies need to provide content across every available platform regardless of the cost and effort? Are all types of news and information appropriately carried on all platforms? In what ways is branding and marketing for the company actually served by these engagements? How are these monetized? What are the returns on the investments? What are the risks of not engaging these technologies?

Success is not easy in this technological environment. It requires investment, effort, regular activity, and provision of content that people want. Media managers choosing to use these new technologies must be clear-headed in their decisions and pursue well-founded strategies or they will be lost in the maze of competing and alternative opportunities.

4/17/09

THE WILD AND WOOLLY WORLD OF CABLE, SATELLITE AND BROADBAND MARKETING

Increasing competition among cable, satellite, and broadband suppliers, combined with slower growth in consumer uptake because the industries have reached maturity, is leading to aggressive marketing efforts to wrestle market share from other companies.

If the leading companies followed classic marketing strategies, they would be offering consumers better arrays of networks and services, better customer service, and/or better prices in efforts to attract more customers.

Instead, many of the largest competitors have been engaging in acts that harm customers and consumers by using illegal and deceptive marketing practices and strategies designed to unwittingly wring greater revenue from their customers. Although the companies apparently think there are benefits in behaving badly, their marketing practices are increasingly getting them into trouble.

Aggressive telemarketing—which has always offended consumers—has landed a number of leading firms in hot water. Comcast and Direct TV have just admitted charges and are paying fines to the Federal Trade Commission for violating telemarketing rules by ignoring the federal do-not-call list. The FTC has also filed a suit against Dish Networks for similar violations.

Companies tend to advertise heavily when competition is high and ads for cable, satellite, and broadband services have helped the revenues of thousands of television stations, newspapers, and magazines across the U.S. Unfortunately, the veracity of advertising claims in cable, satellite, and broadband services has been widely questioned by consumer groups, governments, and other competitors. In recent months Bright House Networks filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about the practices of AT&T, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureau chastised Cablevision for advertising claims after complaints from Verizon, and Verizon itself has been sued for misleading claims by NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.

The industry also sought to market different levels of broadband Internet services to customers and planned to charge different rates for users—a strategy that would allow them to advertise a low price even when many customers would have to pay a higher price based on usage. Plans by Time Warner, Comcast, Frontier Communications and other firms to offer tiered service plans have now been dropped after complaints by customers and legislators.

Cable and satellite firms have traditionally been mavericks and rogues in the media industries and many Internet service firms followed their example. Even though the industries have matured and the number of players has been significantly reduced through mergers and acquisitions, the wild and woolly world they created is still evident in their marketing practices.

We can only hope they will learn to become good corporate citizens—or at least firms concerned about their own reputations.