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The un-bundling of cable, the last bundle

October 20, 2018

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Photo by brotiN biswaS on Pexels.com

For most of my life, content was bundled. This created a bundle subsidy.

The record album, something mostly lost to the confines of history, was the first to unravel. “Record stores” used to be the place to buy bundled music, if people wanted the song, they either had to buy the single, or they had to buy the record. Some records were transendent, othersw were a hit song surrounded by never-to-be-hit songs.

Napster un-bundled the record. iTunes perfected the un-bundle.

Bundling is a wet dream for advertisers and content creators because people have to buy the bundle to get what they want. Think of the traditional newspaper — if I wanted to see the sports scores, I bought the bundle. Inside that bundle were hundreds of ads that underwrote the reporting.

Now though, I get sports scores, on my phone, for free. The un-bundling of the newspaper means that we win, but at a cost.

Content was subsidized by the bundle. As it un-bundles, the money lost will never be returned. The Washington Post wants $1 a month from me. That is millions of dollars less than the older model wherein people paid 50 cents for an issue, and each home delivered issue counted as an ad served.

Think about the above math: if I pay $1 a month to read WAPO, and read 20 articles, that is about 100 ads served (assume 5 ads per article, also assume no ad blocker.) There might have been 100 ads in the Saturday Washington Post.

But that isn’t even the bigger problem. Newspapers bundled sports scores with city council meetings and sell ads around it. WAPO could write a feature on Lebron James, sell ads around the entire paper, and fund the intrepid journalist on the city desk.

This arrangement worked for newspapers, who got the bundle subsidy. It also worked sort of worked for the advertisers who got their impression numbers, but it didn’t really work for the consumer. People who got the Saturday paper for the sports didn’t read the intrepid reporters city desk story.

The result is that 3 out of 4 people in America get their news from a social platform. It is siloed and biased to their desires. Facebook and Twitter want to give consumer s what they want — thus, the algorithm delivers news that fits their worldview. While it is true that the city desk news in the old WAPO probably wasn’t getting read, at least it was getting written and served. Now it isn’t getting written or served.

On the Internet, content wants to be free and un-bundled. Podcasts, articles, shows from all over the world. Netflix is responsible for 15% of worldwide internet traffic. It is literally eating the cable bundle, the last of the bundles.

Local news, something always subsidized by the bundle, is no longer getting subsidized. We’re all the poorer for it.

What do you think? What bundled content do you still get?

About that pivot to “video, video, video”

October 18, 2018

April, 2016. As a yield strategy, I launched a video a day for the entire month on Colgate’s Facebook page. It was all evergreen content, many of it from the Colgate in 13 seconds series I created, and it was all native. During the week the content was academic, during the weekend it was athletics/spirit/fun video content.

Everything was tagged and scheduled for 3:13pm. Same time each week. I sat back, expecting awesomeness.

April is a big time for a school. It is yield time, but also a time to get in front of high school juniors making their short list. They will apply to a school in less than 10 months, so they are in it. I wanted to get our content out to them. (You can steal this idea, it is easy.)

Then the numbers began popping it. The first video got 90,000 impressions before 5:00pm that day. It was April Fools, a Friday, and it was a 13 second video of the mascot shoveling a well=loved retired professor. I was surprised, but I thought the content was strong, and Facebook was rewarding native video. 90K was a lot, so I looked again all weekend.

By the end of the weekend, that video had 900K impressions. Saturday and Sunday’s video were on track for 100K views, too.

On Monday, I created a report and sent it around to some of our HiPPos. This plan was killing it. The few thousand adnits would surely have seen these, as would high school juniors, every alum on Facebook, and most of their friends.

What is an impression?

As you might have read, Facebook wasn’t being honest about impressions. After that month, I spent some time digging into the numbers. This included autoplays on mobile. So you’re scrolling through the feed and there’s a video that plays — at a time this was newish — so you watch for three seconds — view.

Each time that happens is a view. Times 90K.

I remember looking at another video that summer. It was of Ryan Seacrest talking to the camera from a back lot in Hollywood. He told the camera that people should attend Colgate’s reunion. The video was seen 27K times in 48 hours. When I looked into the numbers, I found two things:

1. 87% of the people had watched with the sound off.

We. Didn’t. Have. Captions.

So around 23K people watched a video of a man talking into a camera with no sound.

2. This was true of many of the other views from that April. People watched a few seconds of an academic video — with no sound — and Facebook gave us a hit.

A Facebook view is still at least 3 seconds.

YouTube is better. A view is 30 seconds, and you can’t watch a video to 30 seconds, hit refresh, and watch again.

You can on Facebook.

Look, we marketers put our marketing content on these platforms to generate awareness and then generate behavior. This is often refereed to as having a goal. The goal should never be an impression, but the impressions are needed to generate the behavior. If I want you to do something, I need you to see my ask.

Video is okay. It isn’t magic. It will get impressions, though they won’t be inflated by 900%, they are still made up. It shouldn’t be a view if the sound is off, or it is less than 30 seconds, or maybe even to the end.

Video for the sake of video is like a post on Twitter about your lunch: sure its content, but it serves no purpose.

Matt thinks digital and loves Curling. In that order. 

Updated business of higher education

October 2, 2018

Note: this update involves feedback from Patricia Maben. You should follow her on Twitter. I’m always interested in feedback to make the ideas better. 

It is a dense idea. And yes, I have no idea about non-private school admissions. Though I would imagine that in-state people are different from out of state. 

Higher Education is knee-deep in an admissions cycle, trying to fill the Class of 2023. America is in a booming economy, and the richest Americans are still bathing in the Trump tax cut, which was big for people with a lot of money. More rich people can pay for the looming $70K per year fee for a school.

While many in higher ed have difficulty admitting it, a school is a business. Private or Public, it needs revenue to pay the expenses of educating people. Salaries, lights, IT staff, deans, dining halls, speakers, these all cost money.

Though it makes no money, and most are non-profits, there is a rising cost to the run the business that needs funding. Since schools don’t make anything to sell, they rely on fixed revenue sources. In the private category, if you are one of the few schools with an endowment of around one billion, the numbers are something like this: around 25% of the budget is from the endowment, 10% from annual giving, and the remaining 65% from “full-pay” applicants.  average privates, 5% endowment, 5% annual giving, 90% tuition revenue from all of students. Public schools have different math, but still use gifts, tax money, and full-pay applicants. The math depends on many factors, and full-pay includes many people getting private and public loans, but this is the business.

This Inside higher Education article talks about issues with the business:

“College admissions directors, as in recent years, continue to report a great deal of concern about meeting their enrollment goals.”

There are a number of reasons for this: some are rising costs, the decline of high school graduates,  change in the college going demographics, increased competition, – then there is the lack of a marketing strategy, both with social media, and an overall marketing strategy. Having worked in a school, I can attest to the lack of an overall strategy. When I joined Higher Ed, I was struck by the one-size-fits-all aspect of marketing.

For elite privates, a school needs a certain percentage of full-pay students, so the admissions staff makes private school visits throughout the process. This is the marketing strategy — go into a private school, especially one that has drawn students in the past, and hand out a viewbook and talk to the school counselor. The students will get viewbooks from all the schools, and they will all be about the same. Each one will focus on the school visit, all believing that getting someone on campus means they will be converted. In reality, a friend or family member went there, so the student will too. For the rest of the privates, it is a little more complex, as they focus on all high schools – public and private – and likely have no budget for viewbooks – rather they hand out “travel pieces” – a mini version booklet.

The rest of the applications will come from marketing – or what higher ed often calls – the comm plan, recruitment plan – or making people aware of the school and sharing information. This is where social can impact the decisions process. Sadly though, most social is either advancement-related, or via the dean of the college. Higher education isn’t awesome at thinking about this as a decisions cycle. Schools should be planning the 2024 class right now, using social marketing to generate awareness of the school to current juniors.

Some are. Though most wait until the spring, when they are also trying to yield the current class, to get attention about the next class.

Right now, in high schools across the world, juniors and even sophomores are thinking about college. Some students are even ruling out higher ed as an option even when it is actually feasible for them. Students who know they can go to college, know the deadline to apply. They are planning summer trips, around summer camps, to some of the schools on their list. They are probably Google searching your school, and probably not clicking on your website, because, lets face it, your website is a hot mess of confusion for a junior. They don’t know who you are talking to, or why your website features a lecture right now.

Plus, as I’ve noted on this blog, Google has taken over the differentiating part of digital, and offered stats and stories to help (if you fancy, you can read about it a few posts ago.)

What should marketing be?

Since we know there are different people coming to the school, maybe there should be separate marketing to students based on their ability to afford college as an example – likely to be full pay or full need.

Speaking of full-pays, there’s also a good take on legacies in the piece.

Generally, college leaders defend these preferences as a way to keep alumni engaged (and giving money), and to create a multigenerational spirit about an institution, while critics decry what they see as “silver spoon” admissions. While college leaders regularly defend affirmative action in public statements, relatively few speak out about legacy admissions.

The author is right, legacies are more about donations. From a business perspective, a recent graduate of a donor alum is more likely to start out life as a consistent donor. A full-pay graduate with wealthy parents starts off in a better financial situation than a student who needs to take out loans. That reality turns them into a higher giving donor faster.

That previous paragraph might be frustrating, but it is true. Rich people are the people who give to schools. Their kids are more likely to grow into the kind of person who gives to schools because they started with an advantage.

This is about the business of higher education. It isn’t about the lofty goals or mission statements.

At any school, there will be a certain percentage of full-pays. Within that population will be the people who need loans to be full pays, and the ones who don’t need loans.

Then there will be the percentage of people who are not full-pays. In this population will be some people who get aid, but need a loan to close the gap, and people who get a full ride. This ride doesn’t include incidental costs like textbooks and spending money, so some of these people will also get a loan. In short, the only ones not getting a loan will be the real full-pays, the ones who received a 2.6 tax break on income. If they made 100 million, that is about 2.5 million, more than enough to give to a school on top of the tuition.

(There are some people who pay more each year than the sticker price — they get front row seats at events, first choice in housing, and dinners with the President.)

What is the point?

The point is, higher education doesn’t talk about their target markets that well. They go in talking about the school in the same way to all people. Even though all people come for different reasons. They also start too late. So they are under increased pressure, with decreased help.

As the price tag at private schools hit 70K, it is more and more time to start thinking about admissions marketing as a business. With proper marketing tactics tied to business objectives.

What do you think? Are there any schools that are doing it well?

Matt Hames is on Twitter. You should yell at him there. Matt is also on LinkedIn, connect and agree.

 

The business of higher education

September 25, 2018

Higher Education is knee-deep in an admissions cycle, trying to fill the Class of 2023. America is in a booming economy, and the richest Americans are still bathing in the Trump tax cut, which was big for people with a lot of money. More rich people can pay for the looming $70K per year.

A school is a business. It needs revenue to pay the expenses of educating people. Salaries, lights, IT staff, deans, dining halls, speakers, these all cost money.

Though it makes no money, and most are non-profits, there is a rising cost to the run the business that needs funding. Since schools don’t make anything to sell, they rely on fixed revenue sources. In the private category, a school with an endowment of around one billion, the numbers are something like this: around 25% of the budget is from the endowment, 10% from annual giving, and the remaining 65% from full-pay applicants. Public schools have different math, but still use gifts, tax money, and full-pay applicants. The math depends on many factors, and full-pay includes many people getting private and public loans, but this is the business.

This Inside higher Education article talks about issues with the business:

“College admissions directors, as in recent years, continue to report a great deal of concern about meeting their enrollment goals.”

There are a number of reasons for this: some are rising costs, a lack of a marketing strategy, both with social media, and an overall marketing strategy. Having worked in a school, I can attest to the lack of an overall strategy. I was struck by the one-size-fits-all aspect of marketing.

A school needs a certain percentage of full-pay students, so the admissions staff makes private school visits throughout the process. This is the marketing strategy — go into a private school, especially one that has drawn students in the past, and hand out a view book. The students will get view books from all the schools, and they will all be about the same. Each one will focus on the school visit, all believing that getting someone on campus means they will be converted. In reality, a friend or family member went there, so the kid will too.

The rest of the applications will come from marketing, or making people aware of the school. This is where social can impact the decisions process. Sadly though, most social is either advancement-related, or via the dean of the college. Higher education isn’t awesome at thinking about this as a decisions cycle. Schools should be planning the 2024 class right now, using social marketing to generate awareness of the school to current juniors.

Some are. Though most wait until the spring, when they are also trying to yield the current class, to get attention about the next class.

Right now, in high schools across the world, juniors are thinking about college. They know the deadline to apply. They are planning summer trips, around summer camps, to some of the schools on their list. They are probably Google searching your school, and probably not clicking on your website, because, lets face it, your website is a hot mess of confusion for a junior. They don’t know who you are talking to, or why your website features a lecture right now.

Plus, as I’ve noted on this blog, Google has taken over the differentiating part of digital, and offered stats and stories to help (if you fancy, you can read about it a few posts ago.)

What should marketing be?

Since we know there are different people coming to the school, maybe there should be separate marketing to full-pay students.

Speaking of full-pays, there’s also a good take on legacies in the piece.

Generally, college leaders defend these preferences as a way to keep alumni engaged (and giving money), and to create a multigenerational spirit about an institution, while critics decry what they see as “silver spoon” admissions. While college leaders regularly defend affirmative action in public statements, relatively few speak out about legacy admissions.

The author is right, legacies are more about donations. From a business perspective, a recent graduate of a donor alum is more likely to start out life as a consistent donor. A full-pay graduate with wealthy patents starts off in a better financial situation than a student who needs to take out loans. That reality turns them into a higher giving donor faster.

That previous paragraph might be frustrating, but it is true. Rich people are the people who give to schools. Their kids are more likely to grow into the kind of person who gives to schools because they started with an advantage.

This is about the business of higher education. It isn’t about the lofty goals or mission statements.

At any school, there will be a certain percentage of full-pays. Within that population will be the people who need loans to be full pays, and the ones who don’t need loans.

Then there will be the percentage of people who are not full-pays. In this population will be some people who get aid, but need a loan to close the gap, and [people who get a full ride. This ride doesn’t include incidental costs like textbooks and spending money, so some of these people will also get a loan. In short, the only ones not getting a loan will be the real full-pays, the ones who received a 2.6 tax break on income. If they made 100 million, that is about 2.5 million, more than enough to give to a school on top of the tuition.

(There are some people who pay more each year than the sticker price — they get front row seats at events, first choice in housing, and dinners with the President.)

What is the point?

The point is, higher education doesn’t talk about their target markets that well. They go in talking about the school in the same way to all [people. Even though all people come for different reasons. They also start too late. So they are under increased pressure, with decreased help.

As the price tag at private schools hit 70K, it is more and more time to start thinking about admissions marketing as a business. With proper marketing tactics tied to business objectives.

What do you think? Are there any schools that are doing it well?

Matt Hames is on Twitter. You should yell at him there. Matt is also on LinkedIn, connect and  agree.

I never knew what to do with Facebook groups

September 20, 2018

Facebook has 26,000 internal groups for employees. That was a stat I heard at Facebook when they were pitching “Workplace” — an intranet that is free to non-profits, but runs at around 3K per month for businesses. It is an intranet build around the concept of groups. If your employees can build work groups, they can also build play groups and enjoy work just a little more.

For highered, the group system works perfectly for class years. Classes are groups, both when they enter the school, and come back for reunions — next fall the class of 1969 turns 50.

In the admissions cycle, the group is a yield tool. Invite the growing group of early decision applicants into the group, and prompt them to up-sell the school to the people on the fence. ED students are the unique subset of people who love you, and you love them. So getting them to sell isn’t hard.

But that was the extent of the strategy. When August rolled around the class convocated, the groups sat idle. Sure, some entrepreneurial students would pitch their group/idea/play to the people, but mostly they sat silent. It always felt wrong for a comms person to go in there and pitch things after graduation.

Facebook now lets pages join and post in groups.

I don’t know if this is something Stanford lobbied for — but this solves all sorts of issues. Before I was ousted at Colgate, I had made a policy that no one but students would post in class year groups. They didn’t need more selling — the give message should be it (giving of time or $$). Incidentally, this isn’t the policy now — there is such a push to sell nostalgia on alumni right now that even I, a non-alum has blocked all efforts.)

That said, a page can tell class year groups about events, free useful apps (like the Evertrue app) and free classes. The Page postings can actually add value, and grease the wheels for giving.

If you’re reading this and you’re a digital strategist in highered, you should craft a strategy for telling your class years content that is meaningful to them.

What do you think? What was your class year Facebook group strategy?

The emerging issue of the liberal arts and careers

September 4, 2018

This month, a whole bunch of students from the class of 2022 started at Colleges around the US.
At Colgate, the one in my hometown, 58% of them are “full pays” — they pay the full sticker price. The sticker price is about 250K for four years.

(Note: at the top end of these full pays are the 1%, who can afford 250K like it is a fancy dinner with a good bottle of wine. They probably got 100 times that in the Trump/Ryan trillion dollar tax cuts. At the bottom of the full-pay range are people who probably had to take out a loan to get them into Colgate.)

Purchase made, just about the all the people at this school want to know how this investment will lead to a job. The school even built a gleaming new Career Building to shine a light on how the school will get people a job. This has some tension with faculty, who want students to go to grad school, even though these days, that can be a crippling financial decision.

The liberal arts and employment

It is tempting to look at the 54 majors at Colgate and wonder which ones are best at preparing someone for a job. Economics = Wall Street. Political Science = Washington. Computer Science = Silicon Valley. Psychology = Starbucks. Or probably, psychology = graduate school, which most-likely adds to the 1.4 trillion (1,400,000,000,000.00) in student loan debt.

This bears out in the data. Of the 689 students from the class of 2019 with LinkedIn profiles, 118 are Economics majors and 86 are Political Science majors. The next highest is psychology majors (46) but many of them are Econ minors and show internships on Wall Street in the summer on their LinkedIn profile. Biology general 18, and biology molecular 14, combine to an impressive 34 majors, and some will be on a pre-med track.

You can check all this out if you’re logged into LinkedIn.

Computer Science sits at only 25, below Sociology 27, and History 29, but that is due to the argument for Liberal Arts Computer Science, which isn’t being made well yet, and not just at Colgate.

That leaves Environmental Studies 23, Geography 23, and Philosophy 20, in that weird place of what will this get me? That doesn’t even include the 12 English majors and 3 music majors.

The argument for Liberal Arts

I’ve argued in the past that the power of the liberal arts is not in preparing people for a job today, but preparing them for the jobs tomorrow. As an English major, I’m doing a job now that didn’t exist when I graduated. But I can remember thinking the same thing at University – what on earth is this preparing me to be when I grow up?

But that argument seems to run hollow in an era where there isn’t time to rebound from debt. When I started working at Colgate, we would proudly say that the average debt was just 13K on graduation.

But that number doesn’t tell the whole story, obviously. Average numbers are just that, an average look at a situation. The average gift at Colgate is 48K per year. While that sounds super high, the average still leaves a gap of 22K per year.

That is an 88K gap from the average.

So while it is true that an English major like me can be prepared for a job that doesn’t exist, that was obviously truer in the last century.

Indeed, a look at the majors from the class of 1989 shows Economics 148, Political Science 106, and English 91.

So while it is true that I think a liberal arts degree in something like English is a sound way to prepare someone for any job, it is getting harder and harder to make the argument that it is “worth it.”

We need to make it worth it.

To make it worth it again, we need to collectively help our kids make this investment. One of the primary resources of a country is the education of our children. If we don’t invest in the education of our children, we are missing an opportunity to make a better future.
I genuinely think that everyone should have the opportunity to major in English. They will learn to make arguments, have their minds changed, have their minds blown, convince someone of something, and soundly, and coherently make an argument. That’s the thing that Steve Jobs was looking for when he said he would hire liberal arts majors.

The problem is, the math doesn’t really work at 70K per year. The people with loans feel like they NEED Econ, whereas the people who are full pays could take English and still go and work their mom’s firm without fear of debt.

America is approaching the heady days of the aristocratic age, where learned men studies Greek philosophy and old English texts. The people who need to pay back the loan need Econ and Comp Sci.

America though, needs students who can think for themselves.

What do you think?

The New York Times is pretty sure you’re doing it wrong

August 17, 2018

Bull.

The problem isn’t getting the attention of college students, the problem is getting anyone’s attention. At any point, I can watch a movie on my phone. Right now, I could stop doing this comment and go watch a movie from an almost infinite list.

I have bad news for you.

You don’t have people’s attention. You don’t have their attention with your email, your tweet, your Instagram story, your web page, your snap stories.

It is okay, you never really did have people’s attention, but you weren’t trying before. Now you’re trying.

And failing.

How marketing used to work.

Smart marketing people got together and decided to create a print ad, TV spot, or radio spot that communicated one thing. One unique selling proposition to an audience who was watching TV or reading a newspaper. This one thing message was an interruption, so it was funny, clever, smart.

It also ran at least three times.

At least three times. Because humans don’t remember shit unless they hear/see it three times.

To recap, in order to tell people one thing, smart marketers used to use a 30-second TV spot that was designed to be seen three times.

Now, marketing people send one email. That one email has 15 things in it.

Or they send tweets. One tweet (okay, we’re good, we’ve told ’em.)

The problem isn’t that older tools aren’t working. The problem is an expectation of attention.

Marketing people, you can’t expect the attention of your target market.

/rant.