Endeavor Digital, Inc.

Digital Content Publishing and Distribution

How to keep your content valuable and keep customers paying for it!

Why Free Is Not the Future of Digital Content in Education

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http://www.wired.com/2015/03/free-not-future-digital-content-education/

The important takeaway from the article above is the value proposition.  Content with real value will always be able to command a price, despite downward price pressures.

Take the music industry, as cited by Mary Cullinane in this article.  It has a history of downward price pressure.  Look back at the days of record stores, when music was distributed exclusively on vinyl or tape (cassette or 8-track – take your pick!) and later on CDs.  New releases always cost more than items that had been out for a year or more.  That’s because the content hadn’t changed (it was still the same song!) and, thus, its value hadn’t increased.  More people owned the album and it had gotten considerable play on the radio, so there was less interest in buying a product that could be heard almost everywhere.

The invention of the CD may have been the most insidious attack on the music industry in history!  Within a short time, the average person was able to find ways to copy CDs and distribute them to friends (or pirate them for sale).  Suddenly, the value of the music content dropped because consumers were able to easily access the content without paying for it.

It was an even shorter jump to playing the music from a hard drive.  Even the music industry’s attempt at protecting content using the CDA format for tracks on the CD was short-lived as software enabled conversion to alternate formats such as MP3.  And again, the value of the content declined because “sharing” became exceptionally easy and users didn’t have to pay for their favorite music.

Eventually, the music industry stabilized to where we are now.  You can buy just one song on iTunes for around $1.00, or unlimited streaming music from Spotify for $9.99 per month.  Sure, it’s easy to make copies of music and give it to friends for free, but the cost to consume it has become so low that it seems more of a hassle to copy and share it than to pay the minimal amount required to own it or stream it.

But, even with all of these developments, why couldn’t music maintain its value?  Imagine if the music industry had a business model whereby the song itself changed, improved and needed to be updated occasionally to be “true”.  (I think I hear someone saying, “It does change – I had to buy it again when it came out on CD.”  That’s not a change to the music, just to the platform that presents the music.)  If a song really did change, or improve, or adapt to your needs (perhaps automatically playing louder when sensing a listener with hearing loss, or alter the song to better suit your tastes such as using a female voice instead of a male voice, or alter the sound of a rock and roll song to make it a country song), music would maintain a higher value.

One company I worked for in the 1990s had a strong value proposition.  Our products were the best and most expensive in the industry and management was committed to never reducing prices.  The strategy to accomplish that goal was to always offer more value.  Improved software, improved hardware, new development was always in process.  And it worked.  Despite never reducing prices, every year we sold more than the previous year, despite an ever-increasing number of competitors with lower priced systems.

Mary Cullinane, in her article, posits that educational content will fall into the same category of having ongoing value, or increasing value, because it will be adaptable to the needs of the student.  Thus, she is confident educational content won’t be free.  And, while I agree there is little risk of transitioning to a free approach, she ignores one significant element capable of an adverse effect on educational content’s value proposition.  That effect is competition.

Competitors may enter the market with lower priced solutions which can have a negative impact on sales or the pricing for her company’s products.  But competition alone does not necessarily mean that educational content, or any other content, will become free.  Let’s go back to the company I worked for in the 1990s.  New competitors were constantly entering the market and all of them had lower priced options.  Yet, every year, our company increased sales and exceeded goals.  That’s not to say that we sold more units than our competitors did.  Many of them probably sold a greater number of units than we did.  But our model wasn’t built on a value proposition that required us to compete on a “who can sell more units” basis.  Our model was built on manufacturing systems that did more, did it better, did it more reliably, and continually provided our customers with more features and benefits than any competitor could offer.

There are many examples of this approach succeeding.  Software is an excellent one.  Many software companies sell very expensive solutions (a number of Adobe and Microsoft products come to mind) in the face of free competition.  This would not be possible if the free products worked just as well as their expensive counterparts.

No matter what you manufacture or sell, if your value proposition involves offering a superior product or service, combined with strong support for what you sell, you won’t have to succumb to giving it away for free and you can control your company’s destiny.

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How important is “user experience” to your company?

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If your answer to that question is anything but “It’s the most important thing”, you should probably review your priorities. Everything your company does, every product you release, every decision you make, every interaction with a customer or prospective customer, should be based on providing the best possible user experience.

Before the internet, the old saying was, “Satisfied customers tell 2 people, dissatisfied customers tell 10 people”. That was probably accurate.  But today, the internet has made it easy for satisfied or dissatisfied customers to tell MILLIONS of people!  When you are considering a product to buy, how often do you check reviews, see how many stars the product is rated, or read blogs for more detailed information?  Studies show that the number of people researching in these ways has only grown over the last decade.  It probably makes sense that a certain element of the old adage still applies.  If you search on the internet, you’ll see good reviews and bad reviews, but it’s probably easier to find more bad reviews because people tend to be more emotional about things that upset them.

More importantly, think about your own experiences.  How many times have you decided not to engage in additional business with a company where you had a bad experience?  Was it a bad experience with a customer service rep?  Difficulty buying something on a web site?  Internet service that can’t stream your movies effectively?  It doesn’t matter what it was, if your experience was poor and you decided not to do business with a company because of it, then you will probably understand the results of a January 2015 survey about data storage management products and services conducted by IDG Research.  One result of that survey was that 83% of respondents said that improving the user experience is critical or very important, and listed it as their #1 business goal for 2015.  This industry recognizes the value of the “user experience”.

So how important is user experience to your company?

How to Protect Yourself Against Hackers (or Pirates)

RVP-LogoIt was another blog post that inspired this one.  That post provided advice and instruction to protect yourself against hackers – How to protect yourself against hackers (or at least make it difficult for them).  The author assures us that, if someone really wants to access your information, they will find a way to get it.  But there are steps you can take to make it more difficult for the hackers and, following those suggestions, you might just keep your data protected.
 
The same can be said about pirating your digital content.  That is, if someone really wants your content, they will probably find a way to get it.  But there are steps you can take to protect your content from theft, unauthorized use, and illegal distribution.
 
DRM (Digital Rights Management) can be an effective tool to protect content from piracy when distributing electronically (via download).  Copy-protection of CD or DVD discs is another deterrent to theft of digital content.  You can also protect content when distributing on USB Flash drives, or “thumb” drives as they are often called.
 
Will using these strategies guarantee your content cannot be used in unintended ways?  No.  But you will have made it much more difficult for someone to use it in unauthorized or illegal forms and these protection strategies are effective for almost all content.
 
Let’s examine it objectively.  Unless you have developed a hacker-proof operating system or you have the next film in the Star Wars franchise, hackers and pirates aren’t likely to spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to steal your content.  Most digital content publishers serve a particular and limited audience which means the effort/reward level is not high enough to warrant extraordinary means to access or utilize the content illegally.
 
Is it worth it for you to protect your digital content?  Ask yourself these questions:
 
–          Does my business growth and success depend on my digital content?
–          If my digital content was used regularly without the users paying for it, would it hurt my business?
–          Do I want to sell more of my content?
–          How important is it to collect information about who is using my content?
–          Is my content among the most commonly misused?  (Categories of high misuse include instructional/training videos, independent films, PDF documents, audio content, and Ebook/EPUB files.)
 
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is probably worth the additional investment to protect your content.  Studies have shown that protected content tends to sell more copies because “casual” sharing isn’t easy, and when that content is available in electronic forms for download, it increases sales even more while expanding the reach to a greater number of international customers.
 
Click here to have your digital content evaluated for the benefits of protection!

“Digital delivery lies at the heart of customer centricity.” (But customer experience is key.)

Michael Weeding

“Digital delivery lies at the heart of customer centricity.”

That statement was made by Michael Weeding of AMP Financial Services at the ADMA (Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising) Global Forum in Australia.  He went on to say:

“It’s obvious you’ll struggle as an organisation if you don’t find a way to make digital a relevant part of every piece of the customer experience. But then again, it’s not always understood exactly what you need to do.”

He was speaking about the role and positioning of his company in the financial services industry, but the message is applicable to almost every business today.  At the heart of that message is the customer experience and nothing is more important to the success of your business.  Weeding recognizes that, in our connected world, the ability to deliver, enhance and elevate the customer experience depends on digital delivery.  (Here is a link if you would like to read the article: http://bit.ly/1kUDbvg.)

He is also correct that it is not always clear what you need to do to create the best customer experience.  Often, the message gets too caught up on the mechanics or the metrics or the technology related to the customer experience.  What social media tools should we use?  How often should we be “touching” our customers?  What’s the next big thing?  Weeding offers a compelling message for his company’s future, and it’s one all companies should heed:  How can we make this the best possible experience for our customers?

I agree with him.  The customer experience is the most important consideration for every business because without the customers, where would any business be?  But I will take it a step further and say that businesses are too focused on the customer experience as it relates to bringing in new customers and not focused enough on the experience of the existing customers.  At the core of Endeavor Digital, we have always tried to make every customer interaction a strong and positive experience whether the customer is new or one that we have worked with for years.  Of course, we use tools and various strategies to bring new customers on board and to stay in touch with existing customers, but what good would it be if those customers, and prospective customers, had a less than satisfactory experience once they put their trust in us?

The message is clear.  Put your customers first.  Give them the best customer experience.  Use digital delivery as a tool to enhance that experience.  But don’t forget that your customers’ experiences are what makes your company.  Consider this:  No matter what digital tools we use, or what marketing strategies we utilize, nothing has ever been more powerful for us than a positive recommendation from an existing customer.  From our perspective, those recommendations speak more about the customer experience than anything else.

Ron Hershey, President

Endeavor Digital, Inc.

Who should be blamed for internet congestion?

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At Endeavor Digital, we treat our customers with respect and fairness.  We want every customer to have the best experience possible.  We’d like to believe that all companies operate with that goal in mind, that their leaders know this approach is the best way to build a loyal customer base and grow the company.  Realistically, we must acknowledge that not everyone approaches business that way, especially after reading this article.  The way the involved companies choose to approach business, along with the impacts of upcoming changes in the way the internet is managed and governed, means changes are on the way.  The effects of those changes may be nothing short of enormous, with the distinct possibility of profoundly negative impacts to the customer experience and the ability to deliver digital content to your customers with a high-quality experience.

The article discusses a study of internet traffic congestion which found the problems are often sporadic, but can be significant and last for months at a time.  Let me say that again – months!  This article looks at the backbone of the internet, ISPs, and cites Netflix as the example of a video content service provider.  Each player is pointing fingers and saying it’s the other’s fault.  (In short, Netflix is accused of purposely routing its service through already congested channels which the ISPs say makes them look bad; the ISPs are accused of slowing the traffic to extort additional money from the content provider.)  David Clark of MIT, one of the organizations doing the congestion research, said the initial report is “preliminary and doesn’t assign fault for congestion, but it does point to a poor experience for ISP customers and Netflix”.

Isn’t the customer experience the most important concern for business?

When a customer has a poor experience, the customer doesn’t care whose fault it is.  But rather than partnering to solve the problems, the ISPs and Netflix, along with the companies providing the internet’s backbone hardware, continue blaming each other while the customers suffer.  We can debate whether or not the accusations are true, but where does that leave your business and the quality of customer experience you can offer?  Isn’t that what’s most important to you?

Please share your thoughts on this.  Do you think the issues of internet infrastructure and management will affect your business?  Do you think you’ve already been affected?  In what ways?  How does your business plan to manage these issues?  What are you doing to ensure your customers have the best possible experience?

How your e-commerce store can outpace Amazon

shopping-carts-798x310It might seem ridiculous to think that a small business could outperform Amazon in the world of e-commerce.  But this article (http://bit.ly/edishareamazon) presents four ways you can effectively improve your ability to compete.  It doesn’t matter if you are selling electronic delivery of digital content or CD/DVD/Blu-Ray discs (obviously, our primary sphere of interest!), or any other product, these suggestions apply to e-commerce in general and they will improve your success rate.  Read it and tell us if you agree!

The FCC, Changes to “Net Neutrality”, What It Means for Digital Content Publishers, and What You Can Do About It

That’s a mouthful of a title, but it’s size is outdone by the FCC’s shortsightedness in revising the rules of the internet.  If you have been following the news about “Net Neutrality”, you probably have some idea about what the FCC’s changes to the internet will mean. The most important change would allow content providers (Netflix, Google, etc.) to pay for more bandwidth from internet service providers (ISPs). Sounds great if you want to watch a movie on Netflix. But, there is only so much bandwidth to go around, which means other internet services and activities could slow down considerably. And, if the content providers are paying more to provide their service to you, what do you think that will mean for your bill? It’s pretty safe to assume that these internet behemoths will raise your rates rather than provide this upgraded service for free.

Even though no one wants to pay more for internet usage, that’s not the worst consequence of the FCC’s decision. This decision will hamper the growth of digital content publishers and other smaller companies who can’t afford the increased fees for premium bandwidth, thus having the effect of squelching innovation and reducing the competitive environment in favor of a more monopolistic model. Don’t believe it? David Talbot (MIT Technology Review) reports that venture capitalists and investors are already shying away from tech startups and other companies that rely on high-speed internet access to deliver value. Further, wireless companies are preparing to structure their bandwidth for companies willing to pay for it, so you won’t get a break with mobile devices.

Smaller companies will have a harder time delivering content with quality results. For video streaming, that could mean poor video quality, stuttering video, buffer resets, audio problems and other issues. (Even before the FCC’s changes we’ve all seen these problems!) It also means less bandwidth is available for internet uses such as web surfing, communication (Skype, chat, e-mail, etc.), and other cloud services – pretty much everything you do on the internet!

Another effect of these proposed changes is that ISPs will be able to shape the availability of internet content for its customers. Imagine not having access to certain web sites because your ISP has decided they don’t want you have access to it. The content could be restricted because of the ISP’s owners’ values, or they don’t get paid by a certain site to be sure the content is available, or they don’t want you to be able to access their competition – it could be for any reason. How might that impact our lives and the ability to provide content to customers?

Finally, there are those who suggest the lack of internet neutrality will lead to a rise in piracy. Digital piracy is at relatively low levels in the US because content is widely available and reasonably priced. For only $8 per month, you can have access to all of the content on Netflix, Hulu Plus, much of Amazon’s library or your choice of any number of streaming services. With unfettered access to such vast sources of content, there has been little need for unauthorized sharing sites or illegal distribution of content. But, if consumers’ access to quality content becomes more limited or more expensive, it is likely that digital piracy will grow.

Where does that leave your company and your ability to distribute quality content? Are you prepared to spend like the giants to ensure your customers have a quality experience? Your success is directly tied to providing the best customer experience possible. How will you compete for bandwidth to deliver your training material, movies, audio seminars, documents, presentations, software, digital subscriptions, or any other digital content? And how will you prevent your content from falling victim to piracy?

What can you do about it? Roberto Baldwin offers the following suggestions:

“Send the FCC a piece of your mind. Comment on the proposed rules. Tell them what you think about fast lanes and tiered internet access. Some prominent companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter and 50 venture capitalists have already written to the FCC supporting net neutrality rules. To help you contact the FCC, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has created Dear FCC. The site offers a form letter to send to the FCC. Take in consideration that all comments sent to the FCC are public record, so keep it clean.”

 What else can you do? (Spoiler alert – here comes the shameless plug!)

One option is distributing content on disc. The use of CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs has been declining in favor of electronic distribution because of faster and more widespread internet access, as well as the incredible proliferation of mobile devices that don’t have disc drives. And while distribution on disc is still appropriate for certain types of content or situations, mobile devices and internet speed/access make long-term reliance on disc-based distributions impractical as your sole source to counteract the FCC’s decisions.

A better option is to change the way content is delivered electronically to users. Leveraging e-Delivery to distribute content mitigates the need for “priority” bandwidth, offers deterrents to piracy, and provides the best possible customer experience. Use it to deliver virtually any form of digital content including video, audio, documents, Ebooks, HTML presentations, Flash content, software, and more. To learn how e-Delivery can mitigate the loss of “net neutrality” for publishing your digital content, visit http://www.endeavordigital.com/e-Delivery.aspx.

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Welcome to the Endeavor Digital Blog!

Welcome to the all-new Endeavor Digital blog!  Here we’ll share and discuss the different forms of publishing digital content, explore pros and cons of different methods, and welcome your thoughts on each discussion.  Join us and check back often!

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