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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our "Quotes of Note" Posts To Return

We have gotten a number of e-mails inquiry's  asking what happened to our "Quotes Of Note" posts.
These are little gems of wisdom we pass along as we come across them. Some pertinent, some just humorous truisms. 
We promise to try and post more as we find or hear things that peak our interest.
For now here are two that come to mind off the top of our heads:

From Advertising & P.R. Giant Ogilvy:

"Video is a great way to increase interaction, 
adding video to our client's e-mail campaigns has boosted interaction by 200% to 300%" 

Wow, can't argue with that one!

From Colonel Sanders (Yes, that Colonel Sanders):

When asked what business model he adapted when devising his Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchise, He replied:

"Keep It Simple Stupid"

More Too Come!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flash Player 10.2: More Efficient than WebM

For all of you that have been pondering the new WebM as a delivery platform for your online videos vs the tried and true Flash/H264 medium, take a look at this post by Jan Ozer (video tech guru to the masses) posted on "Streaming Media": In case you don't want to read all the technical jargon we'll cut to the chase. Our take is that Flash/H264 encoding isn't going away anytime soon. To add to the confusion it is important to also be aware of the fact that Google's WebM (VP8 codec) is also facing a patent challenge! Whoo.... It looks like a long time before all this shakes out. It's kind of like the VHS vs Betamax challenge of twenty plus years ago. We will point out that although Betamax was the clearly technically superior, it was the VHS format that eventually won out. So, although the path for today seems clear...that could change in the not so distant future. The point is that as marketers we should go with what is working NOW! We can always encode our content as technology changes.
Here's Jan's post:

Adobe released Flash Player 10.2 on February 8; here's a bullet list of the new features:
  • Stage Video, a "hardware accelerated video pipeline" for more efficient video playback. The key thing to note here is that websites need to update their SWF player file to harvest the benefit, but NOT their video library, so re-encoding is NOT required. 
  • Multiple display full screen support, so you can watch a video in full screen on one display on a multiple monitor workstation.
  • Added support for custom native mouse cursors.
  • Sub-pixel text rendering enhancements that should enhance text readability, especially for complex character-based languages.
  • Support for GPU rendering in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser.
You can read all about the new announcement here; my tests focused on the video acceleration aspect of the announcement.
Specifically, I tested extensively on a MacBook Pro and my Hewlett Packard 8710w notebook, and you can find the notebook specs and procedures here. As an overview, I played back a 720p video from YouTube in a variety of browsers, first with Flash Player 10.1, then 10.2. Then, just for fun, I tested the CPU requirements for playback via whichever HTML5 codec each browser supported.
The Cliff's Notes version is this: In all browsers but Google Chrome, Flash Player 10.2 does substantially reduce the CPU required to display the video, which should mean improved video playback on all platforms that support Flash GPU acceleration.
Flash Player 10.2 is more efficient that any implementation of HTML5-based WebM, though it's close on several platforms. Regarding HTML5-based H.264 playback, on the Mac, Safari playing HTML5-based H.264 is slightly more efficient than Flash Player 10.2, as is Internet Explorer 9 in Windows.
Mac ResultsI know that you can read tables at least as well as I can, so I'll just point out the highlights.
In the Firefox Beta I tested, Flash Player 10.2 reduced CPU requirements by ten percentage points, a reduction of 26%. With Flash Player 10.2 (but not 10.1), Flash playback is more efficient than WebM, but it's close.
Firefox Beta 4.0b11
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
With Safari, the drop of 2 percentage points amounts to 12%, which is nice, but Flash Player 10.2 still trails HTML5-based H.264 playback on that platform. To put that in perspective, however, Flash Player 10.0 required 37% CPU, and now it's down to 15%, so Adobe has pretty much leveled the playing field in two dot releases.
Safari 5.0.3 (6533.19.3)
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
H.264/ HTML5
Every party has a pooper, and that's why we invited Chrome to this review. On both platforms, Flash Player 10.2 required more CPU to play back video version 10.1, including an increase of 29% on the Mac. Even with this boost, however, Flash Player 10.2 is substantially more efficient than HTML5-based WebM.
Chrome 9.0.597.94 beta
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
Windows Results
Flash Player 10.2 was 53% more efficient than its older sibling on Firefox in Windows, and dramatically more efficient than WebM on the same platform.
Firefox Beta 4.0b11
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
Meanwhile, Internet Explorer 9 is shaping up to be an exceptionally efficient browser with media, whether Flash or H.264.
Internet Explorer 9.0.8080.16413
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
H.264/ HTML5
Apple's HTML5-based H.264 playback was the absolute worst that I saw in my tests. If you're playing YouTube videos in Safari on Windows, you're definitely not going to want to opt for the HTML5 option.
Safari 5.0.3 (7533.19.4)
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
H.264/ HTML5
Here's Chrome again, spoiling the party for Flash Player 10.2. Even so, Flash is still much more efficient then Google's own codec playing back via HTML5. Why do we need WebM again?
Chrome 9.0.597.98
Flash Player 10.1
Flash Player 10.2
That's it. While the performance boost that users realize will depend upon their computer and browser, it's a big step forward that any user with a supported GPU will appreciate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

QR Codes Can Grow Your Business

What are QR codes and how can they help your business? 
Quick Response codes (QR codes) and other two-dimensional codes are expected to achieve widespread use this year – and for good reason. Consumers want immediate access to what’s relevant and QR codes are being used to make that possible.

If you’re not yet familiar with QR codes, they’re similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference between the two is the amount of data they can hold or share.

Bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Their ability to hold more information and their ease of use makes them practical for small businesses.
When you scan or read a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile device to a web browser.
Any of these desired functions are easily achieved by properly creating your QR code.  It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generator, described below, and it all takes just a few minutes.
The ability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for businesses and consumers alike.

The Origins of QR Codes

While QR codes are still considered a novelty here in the United States, they’ve been actively used for over a decade in Japan where they were invented.  QR is a registered trademark of Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota.  Denso Wave has elected not to exercise their patent rights of QR codes and that has encouraged their widespread use.
There are other software companies that have created 2D codes that work much like QR codes, with Microsoft being the most notable.  Microsoft developed their own proprietary software to create codes known as MS tags.  Unlike QR codes, which can be read by a number of different readers, MS tags can only be read by the Microsoft Tag Reader.
ms tag
MS tag to Microsoft Tag Reader app.
Choosing to use QR codes or MS tags is a personal choice.  It seems that MS tags presently allow for more possibilities for creative graphic designs, such as incorporating images and logos into the tag.  Nevertheless, those capabilities have to be weighed against the reach and ease of use of open-source QR codes.

How QR Codes Work

QR code Generators – There are a number of sites for generating QR codes and they’re all free.  An Internet search for QR code generator will offer many choices.
One that has worked well for me is Kaywa, a site created by Datamatrix, which is another pioneer of 2D codes.  You can use it to create QR codes that link to a web page, text, phone numbers, or SMS.  Another with even greater capabilities, including customizing the color and format of your codes is Kerem Erkan.
QR code Readers – The QR code reader app that works well on my iPhone is i-nigma, which claims to be the most widely used reader in the world.  It accommodates virtually any type of camera phone. For the android, you can also try Barcode Scanner. If you already own the popular price-checking app Red Laser, they’ve recently adapted their technology to accommodate QR code reading.

Applications for QR Codes

SharingThere’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes.  While a video or landing page is easily shared, you could go further and share an entire eBook and even multiple pieces of content that share a common link.
Community – Sharing is how you build community, and one of the favorite arenas for doing this is Facebook.  You can use Likify to create a QR code that links your mobile device to a fully functioning LIKE button for your Facebook page.
This greatly simplifies the process of merging your other communities with your Facebook page – and it is all accomplished in one click.
Additionally, the accompanying signature “thumbs-up” clearly suggests the purpose of the code.
Calls to Action – After building a community, the next logical step is to mobilize them to take action.   What are you trying to accomplish?  You can alternate special offers by simply linking your QR codes to new landing pages, and you can combine then with email opt-ins to build your list.

A QR code can direct visitors to a Facebook page welcome tab where the calls to action are Liking the page and a list opt-in.
SEO and SMO – Earlier this month I wrote an article on social graphs where I discuss how web objects such as images, music clips, and videos add valuable content to your social graph.  QR codes enhance both your search engine and social media optimization.  Now you can increase traffic to those searchable objects to further optimize them by encouraging more sharing.
Social Proof – To help build a community offline, it can be helpful to use your vibrant online communities as social proof of your influence and expertise.  As one example, you can use QR codes to link to specific blog posts that have earned an abundance of activity.
Analytics - QR codes most commonly link to urls, which is why link shortening services and now automatically generate a QR code for sharing your shortened links.  Using as an example, you simply click on the “more” link after you create your shortened link, where you are taken to a page that not only gives you the QR code, but useful analytics. is another site that provides analytics and the ability to customize the color of your QR codes
This screenshot shows how serves up analytics and a QR code for a shortened link. Scan it to go to a list of recommended QR code readers.

Practical Uses of QR Codes

Here are some ways for using QR codes that are mostly in practice now, as well as a few that I believe we will be seeing in the very near future.
QR Codes could be used:
  • The back (or front and back) of your business card.
  • Your brochures and other marketing materials.
  • The sides of trucks and trailers.
  • Product tags and packaging
  • Convention and event nametags
  • Restaurant menus
  • Event ticket stubs
  • Point-of-sale receipts
ask your questions
QR Code at the Naperville, IL Public Library assists visitors with helpful advice.
QR Codes could link to:
  • Installation instructions
  • Sources for replacement parts and service
  • Directions to your business
  • The process for hiring your professional services
  • Valuable coupons and special offers
  • Recommendations for complementary products and services
  • Free mp3 downloads
  • Customer feedback forms
google local places
A QR code on a café in Seattle, WA links to Google Places and reviews on Yelp and around the web.
How you can you maximize your effectiveness with QR codes:
  • Provide explanations about their use and benefits
  • Encourage actions that support your marketing plan
  • Assuage the fears of the technically challenged
  • Give reasons to come back
  • Experiment with the size, location, and color of your QR codes
  • Study your analytics
  • Make the process fun, such as a QR code scavenger hunt
  • Experiment

Practical Examples

United Airlines – Many of the major airlines are now using 2D codes as digital boarding passes.  I recently learned that by the end of 2011 all carriers will be required to provide this service for international flights.
united airlines
United Airlines 2D code boarding pass.
I tried this myself and it works like a charm.  My only suggestion is to not rely on the link, but rather to save a copy of the image on your phone.   You don’t want to risk not being able to find a good signal when you need it most!
Google Places – When you register your local business with Google Places, you’ll receive a decal for your place of business that includes a QR code to your company website. Be sure that QR code links to the most relevant information that potential customers are interested in – such as hours of operation and current specials and offers.
The Cure Starts Now Foundation – This non-profit foundation is creatively using QR codes in partnership with a local small business, and the results have been favorable for both organizations.
The Cure Starts Now Foundation was started in 2007 by Keith Desserich and his wife Brooke, in honor of their six-year old daughter Elena, who died of brain cancer.  They partnered with Graeter’s Ice Cream, based in Cincinnati, OH, who created a special flavor of ice cream for the cause – Elena Blueberry Pie.
The marketing campaign used a QR code linking to the Cones for a Cure landing page, where your contact information is exchanged for a coupon for a free scoop of Elena Blueberry Pie ice cream.
cones flex
Cones for a Cure billboard with QR code.
The campaign not only surpassed the fund-raising goals, but it also helped to increase revenue and distribution for Graeter’s – who actively participated in the fund-raising on a per scoop basis.  The campaign will be rolled out again next year in twice as many cities.

The Future of QR Codes and Tags

The potential for QR Codes is limitless.  What’s most exciting is how they take what social media is doing well now, bringing people together with technology, and extending it to enhance the experience.
The next generation of barcodes will hold even more information – so much that an Internet connection will not even be necessary.  The content will be effectively embedded in the code.  Imagine scanning a digital code to manifest physical reality?
It’s amazing to consider where this can go.

J. Korham/SME

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Salesforce uses On Line Video

An informative video from the recent Google B2B Marketing Summit
Click on the link:

Video content on websites wins customers

Marketers may want to add video content to attract consumers to their sites.
Specialty marketing news company Brafton News reports that consumers who do product research on the web seem to like it when they can literally see the benefits of products and services, courtesy of online video content. ComScore's State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy Q2 2010 shows that the number of viewers who watch video content on retail sites is outpacing the growth of total internet video viewers, and it suggests video sponsors are outselling the competition.

ComScore reports that videos placed on retail sites reached 43 percent of U.S. consumers last month. The number of consumers who watch clips on ecommerce sites has grown 40 percent over last year, and the number of videos watched on retail sites has increased by 79 percent over July 2009.

This should come as good news to marketers as it seems watching videos positively impacts consumers' spending habits. Ninety-six percent of internet buyers are video viewers, and 83 percent of online spending comes from consumers who have seen a video ad. Plus, watching a video on a retail website increases purchase likelihood by 64 percent.
Marketers who plan to add video content to their sites should remember to appropriately tag clips to increase search visibility.
Additionally, the study indicates it could be worthwhile to allocate marketing dollars toward video ads on traditional video properties. With this in mind, the latest comScore online video rankings reported by Brafton show that Hulu currently delivers the most ads to consumers, but Google properties, such as YouTube, are quickly gaining ground as video advertising sites.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

HTML5 Video FAQs:

*You’ve been hearing a lot about HTML5 video, but you’re probably unclear about some of the details.
What is HTML5 video?
HTML5 is the next generation of the HTML standard, and it includes new support for embedded multimedia, including video, audio, and dynamic graphics. With HTML5, these will all display without plug-ins.
If HTML5 doesn’t specify what video formats will work with it, why are there only three that do?
That’s a choice made by the browser vendors. They have a variety of choices available to them of formats to work with thevideo tag, and currently only three do: H264, WebM, and Ogg Thedora. The browser makers could have chosen any formats to work with the video tag. Since none of the three are cureently supported by all the browsers, this creates fragmentation.
How do H.264 and WebM compare in quality?
They’re roughly equivalent. Hardcore video enthusiasts give the edge to H.264, but consumers won’t be able to tell the difference.
When will the majority of Web browsers support HTML5 video?
The big shift will come when Internet Explorer 9 is released. It will bring HTML5 video to a great number of people. It will take a while for it to get broadly adopted by users, so perhaps 18 to 24 months. The other browsers are already on board.
I hear companies should offer a fallback to Flash. What does that mean?
Flash can play H.264 video, meaning the same streams that are supported in an HTML5-capable browser. You’ll want to configure your player so that the most people can see your video using one or the other platform. Actually, it makes more sense to have Flash be your default player with an HTML5 fallback. This way, you get the benefits of Flash (as discussed later in this FAQ) that HTML5 video can’t yet match.
Does HTML5 video support playlists?
The standard doesn’t. Playlist support would have to be built on top of it with JavaScript and custom HTML. Some Online Video Providers, such as Brightcove, offer this to customers.
Does HTML5 video support adaptive bitrate streaming?
No. HTML5 video can perform one bandwidth check prior to beginning streaming, to test the viewer’s bandwidth and serve the appropriate stream, but can’t monitor the connection once streaming has begun. Plan on having a minimum of four different bitrates for each file. Some recommend having six.
Does HTML5 support pre-roll ads?
The HTML5 specification doesn’t. You can write JavaScript and logic around your video in order to create a pre-roll system. Ad servers and ad networks are now starting to support HTML5 video.
Does HTML5 video support overlay ads?
The HTML5 specification doesn’t. Content owners would have to write custom HTML and JavaScript to create an overlay system.
Can HTML5 videos be clickable?
That’s not part of the HTML5 specification and would need to be written by a developer.
How do HTML5 video analytics compare to Flash video analytics?
The HTML5 video standard doesn’t include any analytics support. OVPs offer limited analytics based on the playback event information they’re able to pull from browsers. The analytics data is limited to what can be extrapolated from that data.
Does HTML5 video offer live streaming?
The only system that does is Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming, which can serve live video to desktop or mobile devices using the Safari browser. It delivers H.264 files that are chunked over HTTP. Content providers combine this with live Flash streaming, using it as a fallback only for iOS devices.
Does HTML5 offer DRM (digital rights management)?
This isn’t supported in the HTML5 standard. The only way to create a DRM system is by using plug-ins, which means that it’s not really HTML5 anymore.
Does HTML5 video support closed captioning?
This isn’t supported in the HTML5 standard. Some proof-of-concept work is currently being done to create a solution.
When will HTML5 video catch-up to the features offered by Flash?
Perhaps as soon as 12 to 24 months we’ll see full parity. Developers are moving quickly.
Why is so much attention being paid to HTML5 video when so many features are still missing?
Because Apple’s mobile devices don’t run Flash. If it wasn’t for that, there wouldn’t yet be much interest in HTML5 video. It becomes important, however, because it’s the only way to reach iOS users who are attractive to content providers and advertisers.

*Info from Troy Dreier and Jeff Whatcott