Possibly one of the most inadvertently candid comments I head last week came from an executive at a publishing house who said (and I paraphrase), “We’re just throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what sticks.” Fair enough. The way people access entertainment is changing rapidly, and it’s better to try and fail than to sit on the sidelines and wonder how you missed the Next Big Thing.
Failure is hard, I know, so I have a little advice:
- Keep It Simple – Don’t invest large dollars in a complex projects that take years to launch. Services like iTunes work when they’re easy-to-use. They fail when they grow overly complex or illogical (note to iTunes: time to rethink the basic navigation!). Build your technology in a way that encourages modularity and expansion.
- Keep It Free – When I wrote about consumers being nickle-and-dimed to death with new media offerings, I wasn’t joking. Think about what consumers are paying and determine if what you’re offering is worth another buck or two a month. Consumers are already paying for cable, broadband, phone service, extra phone services, fees and surcharges, and regular entertainment. At some point, there’s going to be a backlash against all these fees.
- Keep It Open – Don’t lock your business into a single service provider. Don’t hook up with Verizon to the exclusion of Cingular. Don’t lock in to iTunes and ignore other services. Don’t assume that everyone knows that your website is the only place to access “your” content. Likewise, don’t assume that everyone is using the same media player or, gasp!, a Windows customer. Embrace diversity like you never have before.
- Keep It Social – Do not fear your customers. Let them talk back to you. Let them talk to each other. Keep the barrier for interaction low – and make sure you have someone on staff who is smart enough to judge the difference between healthy debate and outright destruction. Allowing a little dissent creates a level of authenticity largely missing from corporate new media offerings.
- Keep It Moving – Don’t assume that you’ve met the demands of the market with your latest killer app. After everyone else steals your idea (and you know they will), you’ll need something just as cool as a follow-up.
Finally, make sure that you and customers are having fun.