Category Archives: Audience Development

The psychology of paywalls [Quote]

“Paywalls are psychological as much as navigational, and it’s a lot easier to put them up than to take them down. Once web users get it in their head that your site is “closed” to them, if you ever change your mind and want them to come back, it’s extremely difficult to get that word out.”Scott Rosenberg, former managing editor of

Yes, But How Do You Feel? Sentiment Joins the Web Analytics Toolset

The New York Times examines sentiment analysis:

An emerging field known as sentiment analysis is taking shape around one of the computer world’s unexplored frontiers: translating the vagaries of human emotion into hard data.

This is more than just an interesting programming exercise. For many businesses, online opinion has turned into a kind of virtual currency that can make or break a product in the marketplace.

Amy Martin briefly mentioned sentiment during her presentation at Twitter Boot Camp in June (the sentiment stuff is in slide No. 9). The concept caught my attention because it strays from typical number-centric measurements like page views, user-session times or velocity. For someone like me, who believes numbers and non-numerical “soft” analysis must exist in harmony, it injects a much-needed psychological component into the audience dynamic. This commingling of data and feelings is why NBC Local’s mood tool is so interesting.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the touchy feely business. Sentiment’s power as a data point is limited because it’s a loaded concept with infinite variations. If my “positive” could be your “neutral,” how can a measurement tool adequately capture sentiment on a broad, numerical level? It can’t. Not reliably, anyway. Wild swings and spikes will appear in graphs, but small percentage shifts between open-ended terms are too ambiguous to rely upon. That’s why sentiment needs to function as a general data point for online engagement. It’s a single tool on a big analytics workbench. Facebook Store Good Step Forward for Online Retail has opened the first retail store within Facebook, according to the Associated Press (don’t worry AP, I won’t quote you).

This is what the Facebook shopping experience looks like: Facebook Store Facebook Store

Seems like you’re shopping in a widget, right? You are. And that’s awesome.

Shopping within a widget or ad is nothing new. The move is notable because a major retailer offering its products through a massive audience platform is evidence the big companies are starting to get it: They need to sell their goods where audiences already gather.

Creating a retail experience within a popular social networking service is an important acknowledgement that online audiences are empowered to go where they want, when they want. Companies need to work with audience behavior, not bend it to their will.

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Piracy Is About Choice, Not Free

Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek just landed a future customer (me) with this comment in the New York Times:

“Piracy is essentially the consumer’s wish to have everything on demand. It’s not like people want to necessarily have it for free,” Mr. Ek said. The problem is that there have not been commercial services “that allowed people to discover new music and easily share music with friends,” he said.

Well put.

Content Creators vs. Content Aggregators: Can’t We All Get Along?

ReadWriteWeb looks at the increasing popularity of Breaking News Online, a news aggregator that’s harnessing the power of Twitter and other Web platforms (and it just happens to be run by a 19-year-old). Within the piece, ReadWriteWeb hits on the central issue of aggregators: can they use original content created by other outlets to turn popularity into profit?

All of this is fascinating, but isn’t BNO still just an aggregator? In traditional media outlets “aggregator” is a dirty word (unless they are the ones doing the aggregation). In fact, Breaking News Online does very little original reporting. The company is going to monetize its research flow, editorial judgment, distribution channels…and links to other peoples’ content. If BNO is successful, there is a real risk of original content publishers objecting to the fact that someone else has found a way to make money off of (links sending traffic to) their content.

This aggregator antagonism needs to end. Like it or not, content creators ultimately benefit from the increased exposure and traffic aggregators supply. Creators are generally lousy at Web distribution because they can’t shake the allure of lock in (you need to read my content on my site), but aggregators — unencumbered by oldthink — know the value of broad and diffuse distribution. Compare Breaking News Online’s Twitter presence with that of most mainstream outlets and you can see the stark difference: BNO understands you have to serve the audience through the platforms where it’s already congregating. Repurposing RSS feeds as tweets isn’t enough.

What kills me about all this content creator chest pounding is that these organizations are missing the central point: As long as aggregators point traffic back to source sites, both sides benefit in this relationship.