A Metric Morning for Digital Content Marketers

December 30, 2010

Hard data about the success or failure of online initiatives is tough to locate. I routinely delete news releases from privately-held companies that assert “Record revenues” or “profits double in the last quarter.” If the news is so good, why not provide some facts and figures?

That won’t happen because the numbers are just not that impressive. So data are expressed in art history major metrics. Interesting to some but search baloney to me.

This morning (December 30, 2010) I spotted some allegedly hard numbers. Now I don’t believe that these data are rock solid. Figure plus or minus 25 percent on a good day. Nevertheless, I find the attempt at quantification encouraging.

First, item: “Some iPad Magazines Seeing Steep Sales Declines.” No big surprise to soap and shampoo marketers. “New” and “improved” compete with weird discounts to lure grocery shoppers in Harrod’s Creek. The write up makes clear that some online publications for the trendy iPad gizmo are declining. The juicy part of the write up are the alleged data. Here’s one example:

According to WWD.com, a fashion-oriented news site, reported figures for sales the iPad edition of Wired fell from a stunning 100,000 copies of its debut issue in June to just 22,000 and 23,000 copies in October and November. Other publications reporting numbers to the Audit Bureau of Circulation saw less-dramatic drops, but drops all the same:Vanity Fair held steady at 10,500 iPad editions in August, September, and October then dropped to 8,700 copies in November.Glamour moved 4,300 copies on the iPad in September, but fell steadily to 2,775 in November, and has seen sales drop from a steady 13,000 to 11,000 in November.

My take? Making money online is just as tough with the iPad as it is with more traditional services. What’s easier is that non technology people can get excited about a product or service that is colorful, easy to use, and on the nifty new gadgets. Will these products or services repay their development costs and generate the type of revenue from the good old days of ink on paper publishing? A few will. Most will tank because software is different from making content. Read the original write up for more data.

Second item: “How Much Did Those AOL CDs Cost? A Lot.” The nugget in this post was this metric:

in the early 1990s our target was to spend 10% of lifetime revenue to get a new subscriber. At that time I believe the average subscriber life was about 25 months and revenue was about $350 so we spent about $35 to acquire subscribers. As we were able to lower the cost of disks/trial/etc we were able to ramp up marketing. (Plus, we knew Microsoft was coming and it was never going to be easier or cheaper to get market share.) When we went public in 1992 we had less than 200,000 subscribers; a decade later the number was in the 25 million range. …”

For search vendors, calculating revenue per deal is a dark art. In my experience, AOL style marketing spends are the exception, not the rule. And AOL style metrics? Better to hunt for gold nuggets in Harrod’s Creek.

Third item: “Facebook dominates Hitwise list of Top Searches.” The good part is not the top ranking of “Facebook” as a term. Nope. The tasty morsel is the list for 2010 that does not include Google. In 2009, the Google hit number 6. These fuzzy data drop the GOOG out of the Top 10. Good news. YouTube.com pegged number 3 in 2010 searches behind the Facebook log in and Facebook key word. What’s ahead for Google in this list for 2011? Probably more Facebook clicks. Worth watching even if the Hitwise data give me a headache.

Implications for search marketers? iPad apps may disappoint. Spending for marketing is a big deal. The Google’s pulse jet may be sputtering which might open wider the Facebook Web search opportunity.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2010



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