Sony has recently experienced what is shaping up to be the most disruptive and dangerous public cyber-attack to date. According to Sony, they discovered their PlayStation and Qriocity networks had been compromised on Tuesday, April 19. The following day, Sony took steps to bring these networks offline, leaving millions of gamers isolated without access to online play or any of the other offered online services. It was two days later before Sony issued a public statement clarifying that the downtime was because of an outside incursion to their network. On April 26, the public received its first glimpse of the full extent of the damage. In a statement released on the PlayStation Blog, Sony revealed that user information, including name, address, country, email address and birthdate, had been obtained by a third party. In this statement, Sony also stated that it had no reason to believe that users’ credit card information had been compromised. However, three days later, hackers claimed to have 2.2 million credit card numbers, including CVV security codes, belonging to Sony users.
It is now a month after the intrusion and Sony is still struggling to provide users with online services. This attack underlines why online security is essential for any brand managing a user network, especially those that store sensitive information. Yet perhaps the most valuable lesson to take away from the Sony cyber-attack is crisis management. Any digital security expert will tell you that no system is unhackable. Even the most secure network can be penetrated given enough time and effort. Many feel Sony’s customer frustration stems more from mismanaged PR and a general lack of information. Sony has continued to share information with users through the PlayStation Blog and has also offered other services for customers, including free identity theft protection for subscribers. However, PS3 users attempting to log on to the network received only an error message announcing that the server is currently undergoing maintenance. In the weeks following the PlayStation Network intrusion, Sony lost over $2.08 billion in stock value as investors sold in droves. This crisis is likely to change the way consumers view the brand, and it’s still yet to be seen if gamers will be willing to trust Sony again. Without a doubt, this cyber-attack has wreaked havoc at Sony and the aftermath is still to be determined.
Ever since the Web went 2.0 and users started liberally handing out personal information, privacy has become a hot-button issue. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to be pressed by the public and government on privacy. Even Internet giant Google faced harsh criticism when it launched the social service Buzz last year. Google admitted fault right away and released updates to address the public’s privacy concerns within a week of launch. When Google experienced an attack against Gmail, it not only provided information on the kind of the attack, but also detailed steps outlining what was to be done to prevent such attempts in the future.
Digital crimes are no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies. Today, almost everyone from the biggest brands to individual bloggers store user data in one form or another. It could be a simple email newsletter distribution list or sensitive financial information like credit card or bank account numbers. More than ever, it is important to know that your data is secure. Sony is a cautionary tale for brands. Users expect that if they share their information with a company, every measure will be taken to protect that data and handle it in an ethical fashion. Equally important is for companies to have a contingency plan in place for how to handle an attack or misstep when one takes place. Quick communication and transparency are key when handling user privacy issues. And always, always remember that there is someone out there smarter than you. Don’t ever assume that your data is safe. Ask questions of those that manage your network and stay informed as to the security measures you have in place to protect your users’ data.
In summary, if you haven’t put any thought to your network’s digital security plan, now is the time to start. A harmful attack can tarnish your brand image just as much as it can compromise user information. Just keep the following things in mind:
1. How is the user information on your network stored and what safeguards are in place to protect it? If you don’t know, find out.
2. What is your plan if an attack takes place? Knowing how to react can mean the difference between public sympathy and scorn.
3. Be transparent. Always tell your customers how you plan to use their information and if it is ever compromised, be sure you tell them every step of the way what is being done to prevent such missteps in the future.
Users just want to know that you have their best interests in mind when dealing with sensitive personal information. Due diligence is required to protect it, and honesty and open communication are the key when managing user expectations.
The head of Google’s display advertising business has predicted that spending on graphical online advertising, digital video, mobile and other non-search formats will increase almost tenfold in the next few years, as the internet sucks up yet more marketing dollars from other media. Neal Mohan, Google’s vice-president for display advertising products, believes that many billions of dollars worth of ads will be bought using automated “real-time bidding” technology that will transform how media agencies operate.
P&G Increasing Branded Digital Content
With Soap Operas becoming history, P&G has reinvigorated digital branded content opportunities as a primary source of innovation. P&G is actively teaming up with publishers, not just to sponsor content but to create content together, signaling a shift from paid media to owned channels such as Petside.com.
Tablets and Smartphones Supplement Traditional Media
A new report from Nielsen shows that 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone owners are multi-tasking with their devices while watching TV, representing the largest chunk of time they spend with those devices. It remains to be seen if these devices are increasing engagement with shows or providing a distraction, either way this behavior presents advertisers with additional opportunities for cross-platform campaigns through mobile platforms.
According to eMarketer, 72.8 million people, or 23.2 percent of the US population, will play games on their mobile devices this year. eMarketer’s estimates exclude mobile users who play pre-installed games, which offer publishers decent brand exposure but little in the way of monetization opportunities.
Facebook Allows Users to Tag Brands in Photos
Last week, Facebook announced that users are now able to tag Pages for brands and products in their Facebook photos. Tagged photos will appear in the Photos tab of a Page, rather than on that Page’s Wall, and anyone can tag a Page — even if a user hasn’t “Liked” it. Page admins can also remove photos from the tab by going into Edit Page > Posting Options > and unchecking “Users can add photos.”
Continuing their assault on the “old retail” way of doing things, Groupon keeps finding new ways to build on their platform. Their latest thought: Let’s drive revenue from mobile. Citing a new mobile service launched last Tuesday they call Groupon Now, which helps users decide where to go when hungry or bored, Groupon’s VP Mobile Partnerships Michael Shim thinks they’ve just scratched the service of local discovery. Now, more than ever, they’re helping users answer the question, “What can I find around me?”
Nearly 1 in 5 Smartphone Users Check-In
According to comScore, 16.7 million mobile users checked in in March 2011 – representing 7.1% of the total mobile population and 17.6% of smartphone users. Mobile users that check-in show greater mobile media usage – including greater access of mobile retail sites, news sites and tech news sites – as well as stronger early adopter behaviors than average mobile users with a higher likelihood for owning a tablet. And they’re more exposed to mobile marketing too! Almost 40% of those that check-in recall seeing a web or app advertising during the month of March.
Bing Incorporates Facebook Recommendations
In an attempt to further differentiate from Google, on May 17th Bing will start adding Facebook recommendations to its search results when users are logged in to the social network. Friends’ recommendations will be incorporated into the existing search results similar to how they are utilized through Facebook Connect on other sites. Furthermore, Facebook updates from brands that are relevant to the search term will also be included in the results without being charged.
When it comes to innovation in the digital space, it’s no secret that Google is the one to watch. This past week was the annual Google I/O conference where they revealed their latest and greatest for 2011. Here is a quick recap of the announcement highlights and what to expect to hear more about in the coming year from the interactive giant.
A Unified Mobile Delight
A good portion of the announcements revolved around the growth and success of Google’s Android mobile platform – to date there are over 100 million activated devices and 200,000 apps in the Android Marketplace with over 4.5 billion downloads. Currently, there are separate operating systems for tablets (Honeycomb) and smartphones (Android). Google I/O 2011 not only set the stage for updates, but also the introduction of the next phase – a unified mobile operating system, currently nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich. Launching in Q4 2011, the single operating system will work across devices, bringing the advanced features currently available on their tablets to their smartphones.
Google Entertains Us
In 2011, Google is getting into the movie and music spaces with two important initiatives:
- Google Movies is now providing rentals to the masses via both YouTube and the Android Marketplace. YouTube now offers 3,000 titles for rent, and now Google Movies for Android will bring rentals to tablets and smartphones for $1.99.
- Google Music is a cloud-based storage and streaming system that will store up to 20,000 songs and provide users the access to their music library from any connected device. It will compete with Amazon’s new cloud player and is currently in an invitation-only beta stage.
Android Interacts with Smart Homes
Google is also pioneering an initiative that will allow for automated home control from Android devices. Android@Home is a new framework for developers to create apps that interface with our homes, such as lighting, appliances, home theaters, etc. There are already partnerships in the works, so expect to see these types of apps by the end of the year.
New Devices and New Pricing Models
As the tablet revolution ensues, Google brings another option to the table with the Chromebook. The laptop-style device is Internet-only capable and allows users to always have access to their personal cloud. What’s interesting is the pricing models Google has set forth. The new devices can be purchased, starting at a competitive price of $350, but Google is also initiating some subscription models. To position Chromebooks to niche markets, Google education editions can be rented to students for a $20 monthly subscription and business editions will start at $28/month.
Google is always pushing innovation, and I’m sure these newly announced highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Be prepared to adapt as new platforms and digital opportunities come our way.
When I look at a book in the store, I think about it in terms of what I’m going to learn and be able to share after reading it. After all, reading a book is an investment of time you’ll never get back, so I always try to make sure I’m looking for the best return. In the hope of jump-starting your reading list, here are three books that are well worth the investment – both in buying the book and taking the time to read it.
Drive by Daniel Pink
Drive is a great, easy-to-read book about what motivates people. If you’re in a leadership position at your company, this is a good look at how to get the best out of the people with whom you work. If you’re in the advertising industry, I thought it was interesting to think of Pink’s conclusions in terms of how to motivate consumers to develop a relationship with a brand or purchase a product.
Pink delves into a deep discussion of motivation and which factors intrinsically motivate people versus extrinsic motivators. Pink also discusses the need for autonomy, mastery and purpose in work. Being able to apply the above factors as a frame of reference when working with motivating teams or consumers makes this book great for any discipline, but especially planning and brand management.
It took me about two and a half hours to get through this book – it’s a pretty easy read and it’s structured to make it a quick read. I appreciated the summaries at the back; Pink provides a “Twitter Summary,” “Cocktail Party Summary” and a more detailed summary for easy reference once you’ve finished the book.
Perfect Pitch by Jon Steel
Yep, I admit it – this is a well-known advertising classic. But if you haven’t read it, it’s worth reading. Or if you have, it’s worth reading again. I recently re-read this book and looked at it in a whole new light. For me, re-reading this book reminded me that every single client presentation should be approached with the same intensity and care as a new business pitch. Every presentation is an opportunity to tell or remind your audience why they hired you, why they should care and is a chance to show how much you care.
Steel emphasizes the need for storytelling in presentations and the importance of making a personal connection with the audience. He also has great tips for delivery, presentation aids and the importance of fitting the presentation for the audience.
This book is the “perfect” read for anyone who has to give a presentation in just about any field, but at 288 pages, it’s a bit lengthier than Drive. This book took me a good four or five hours to get through, but I did spend some time pondering Steel’s stories and tips.
A Leader’s Legacy by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
This book is a good reminder about always keeping in mind the legacy you are leaving behind. Whether it’s the legacy you leave behind at a job when you move on or your life’s work, it’s always worth thinking about. I was reminded of this on Friday at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast, where Suzy Welch asked a simple question “What will you regret at your 70th birthday?” Keeping your legacy in mind is an effective way to keep yourself focused on what is most important to you.
The other thing I think about when I think about legacy is that of a company. What will your company’s legacy be?
Kouzes and Posner focus on four main areas of development – significance, relationships, aspirations and courage. Each section has about five to six subsections, with examples being “Leaders should want to be liked,” “The best leaders are teachers” and “It’s not just the leader’s vision.”
Kouzes and Posner have set out a clear path to thinking about your legacy, and this book is a quick read, well worth the two hours it takes to get through it. It’s broken up into easy sections that can be read in the five minutes while dinner is in the microwave or you’re waiting for soccer practice to end. These sections are structured with a clear moral or thought to keep in mind for each part, so you can walk away with ideas to implement after each one.
Pushing the Limits of Storytelling
One of the highest rated news apps in the iTunes store isn’t news at all. Rather, it’s a 15,000 word, 13 chapter interactive behind-the-scenes “opus” for the blockbuster video game Portal 2. This in-depth look inside the offices of Valve costs only $1.99 in the iTunes store and is garnering perfect 5-star reviews.
With a valuation of $153 billion Apple has surpassed four-year reigning champion Google for the top spot in Millward Brown’s annual BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study. Driving the 84% growth in brand value are the launch of the iPad and the iPhone expanding to Verizon. Other notable changes include Amazon passing Wal-Mart as the most valuable retail brand, Blackberry falling 20% in value, and Facebook jumping 246% over the previous ranking.
Remembering coupon print outs or searching for that coupon confirmation email might soon be a thing of the past – LevelUp is taking strides to seamlessly automate the coupon redemption process. The daily deals site by the makers of SCVNGR solidified a partnership with American Express which will allow users immediate coupon redemption when they use their card to pay. Just register your AmEx card with your LevelUp account, load your deals to your card, and then pay with your card at point-of-purchase – no need for further verification, the discount is automatically applied when you swipe.
Groupon is preparing to launch Groupon Now, a mobile app that will connect customers with real-time coupons for retailers in their vicinity. Tap the app’s “I’m hungry” button, and you might be offered a discount on a slice at a pizza parlor a few blocks away. But you’ll have to move fast: The deals will be time-sensitive and good for just a few hours. Groupon’s daily-deals e-mail business isn’t going away, but the company’s focus is clearly on nailing its mobile strategy. Groupon says the app will launch in its first city — Chicago, Groupon’s hometown — later this month.
User interface design is constantly evolving in the digital space. As users adapt to their various online environments, so must designers and developers consider the changing landscape. “The fold” is a concept derived from newspapers, which refers to the invisible line on a web page where the user must start scrolling to see the rest of the page’s content. So in traditional media, newspapers were often delivered or displayed folded up and the area “above the fold” is the first thing the reader would see. Therefore, the most eye-catching headlines and images get the readers’ attention and draw them further into the publication.
In the digital space, depending on your monitor size, browser window or the mobile device you’re using, the fold invariably will be different. The early years of Internet design were critical to designing with the fold in mind because users were not accustomed to scrolling inherently. Often, designs were limited to the area above this fold because of user limitations for scrolling the page. Now, with trivial screen resolution statistics and varied browser window sizes, scrolling behavior has become second nature to users – no longer something to be avoided.
While users have acclimated to scrolling online, several recent studies have shown that users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the fold. So it will still be well-advised to keep the most critical messages at the top of your designs. With the emergence of so many varied screen resolutions, there is no longer a well-defined height where the fold must be met. It’s not necessary to throw out the calculations of your target audience’s fold statistics, but it doesn’t mean that you should design the entire home page or pages within this confined space. Use the insight of your fold statistics to guide your critical content within this space, but allow for continued valuable and engaging content to entice users beyond their fold.
Source: Starbucks.com, Southwest.com
Scrolling Beats Paging
Because of users’ limited attention span, long pages can be problematic for users. Users prefer site pages that get to the point and let them accomplish their objectives quickly. So while it is recommended to design beyond the fold, consider limiting unnecessary content and keep it to manageable pages so your user is not overwhelmed.
But if you do have a long article, it is best to present it on one long page. Usability studies have shown that scrolling beats pagination, because users are inherently lazy. They prefer to simply keep going down the page to read their article, not clicking to advance the page. But be mindful that your content must be prioritized and the key enticing content must be presented above the fold.
The Information Foraging theory says that people decide whether to continue along a path (in this case, scrolling) based on the information scent. In other words, users will only scroll the page if it’s relevant and valuable to them. The key is to make sure that the scent remains. A common way to break that scent is to stop giving them the options they are looking for.
The New Fold
With so many variables for your mythical fold, it can be a frustrating exercise in futility attempting to design for a pixel-perfect solution across so many screens and devices. While users can scroll your page beyond the fold, it is important to design and plan your users’ goal or your business goals above the fold. Users will inevitably scroll the page if the layout encourages scanning and if the initially viewable information makes them believe the page is worth their time to continue discovering. It is up to you as a designer to pay off your users’ gamble by providing them valuable content to engage them further with your brand.
So fear not the fold, for they will scroll. The goal is not to force everything above the fold, but to ensure your most important content that will grab the user’s attention is within the topmost pixels. And remember: allow your content to flow down the page as it’s much easier for users to scroll down the page than to click across multiple pages. Embrace the fold and break beyond the boundaries with engaging and relevant content for your audience.
A Google-commissioned study on smartphone usage has confirmed just how addicted we are to our devices and revealed how we use them to help make purchasing decisions. Nearly 80% said they use their phones for shopping and shopping-related activities and 70% use their phones in stores. Most people (67%) said they use their smartphone to do product research and then purchase an item in a store, followed by the 23% who research on their phones, check the product out in the store but then ultimately purchase it online. Get more stats through the link.
Bin Laden Death Sends Internet Traffic Soaring
As news of Osama bin Laden’s death made its way across the globe Sunday night, Internet traffic exploded. At the news event’s peak, Twitter said that users were sending off more than 4,000 tweets per second. Akamai’s Net Usage Index, which measures traffic to top news sites, registered 4.1 million page views during President Obama’s announcement. That represents a 28% increase in North America and 24% increase in global web traffic compared to the averages for that time.
HBO Launches Free Streaming on iPad and iPhone
HBO launched its “HBO Go” app for iOS on Monday, which allows existing paid subscribers from select providers like AT&T, Dish and DirectTV to stream more than 1,400 movies, series, documentaries and specials via iPad and iPhone.
Time Inc. Subscribers Now Have iPad App Access
While we’ve seen television expand access to mobile devices via “TV Everywhere,” the print industry has struggled to recreate the model and has pursued a pay-per-digital-edition model. In an important step forward, publishing house Time Inc. has reached a deal with Apple that allows its’ print subscribers free iPad app access to their subscriptions. In addition to People magazine, starting Monday Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune subscribers will have iPad app access. Next item of business – the digital-only subscription model.
Seven Ways to Help Tornado Victims
The death toll has climbed to over three hundred people, and thousands more are injured, homeless, and without power or clean water after catastrophic tornadoes ripped through the south. Read on for seven simple ways you can help the victims online through Twitter, Facebook, or a quick text that can make a big difference.