Monday, March 31, 2008

Keep your viewer experience first to keep your viewers

Just came back from visiting a site from a comment link. Didn't have a great experience, but did run into something we could learn from.

This is a critique of that site.

Looked nice. First problem - violated the old 10-second rule of Internet use, which is: if the viewer doesn't see something they want in 10 seconds, they'll go somewhere else.

Now on the face of it, it's a nice site. They get you on their mail list and then give you audio clips - about 43 of them. On the face of it, it looks like value. Problem is, that's a lot of bandwidth and these audio's don't load quickly. Also, audio has the problem that it's linear. You have to listen to the whole thing in order, can't skip around. (We won't go into the audio quality, or content.)

On this site, you simply have the name of the interviewer and guest for each audio - not what that person is, what they talk about, why you should listen. There's a promo link for each speaker, but it has the same problem - no data.

So: the conclusion is that this site is a sham. Not that it is, but that's the impression.

To improve this?

0. Redesign the page from the "WIIFM" (What's in it for me?) viewpoint of the viewer. Figure the person is coming for more data on eBay sales. So tell them why they should listen to these interviews and why they are VITAL to their success.

1. Don't assume all your audience is audio-centric. Most Internet viewers are more visually-oriented, the audio is a neat marketing gimmick and an excellent way to give valuable data, but it shouldn't be the only way to get information. As above, audio is limited, and might not fit into the viewer's schedule - a lot of people would rather have podcasts and listen to them while exercising, commuting, etc. They don't want to have to keep your page open to listen to these audios - again, that 10-second rule. If your page isn't incredibly valuable, don't figure they're going to come back.

2. Get better hosting - faster downloads. Don't try to host everything from your own little server. Pay someone with big pipes to let your stuff come down. I didn't have time to listen right then, so I set a Firefox plug-in download helper to let me get their stuff (even though they thought they had it protected behind a swf button) so I could listen to it when I had the time. And promptly ran into bottlenecks even getting the audio at all.

3. Offer other versions of this data, which are more easily scanned. If you really have valuable data, then offer a pdf mini-version which has your links in it. As well, you could very easily set up a powerpoint and then create a talking slideshow (slidecast) on This way people could find out what you are saying very quickly.

4. Same goes for your links. I clicked on a couple of them and was promptly told I needed to sign up for another mail-list - or buy into someone else's program. Fat chance. Give me a free download, or some reason to do so. Look, I just skipped the 5-part audio so I could maybe find out something from the link. When the link is just another landing page - skip it. If I click through on a few of these links and they are all just opt-in feeders, then the whole thing looks like a scam.

Quick summary: 40-some audios at 30 minutes a piece = 10 hours of stuff to listen to. No alternatives. Links are more opt-in landing pages, with no data on them. Little value here.


a. Set up the audio with summaries of what is being said, who the person is and what the take-away should be. Offer a short intro audio for each series. Intro should have who that person is and why that audio is important - excerpt best clips, etc.

b. Transcribe the audio and create a downloadable PDF with your links and ads in it, as well as giveaway and resell rights. Makes your data viral.

c. Put more visuals into this. Create a powerpoint and slidecast so that you can embed this into your page.

d. Better - host the whole thing as a blog (you can still do a members-only scene) and podcast these audios, so people can get them more easily.

e. And repeat these for your links. Give real value so people rave about your site to others.

Bottom line: you have to give great service, great value. Right behind King Content is Queen Choice. Give people options of how to get your data. Don't straight-jacket them into a single channel for their data.

AND - allow them and encourage them to download your data and re-purpose it, encourage them to share it and profit from it. This is how you get them spreading your conversation and helping you increase your base. This is where you move from static pages and organic SEO over into the social media word-of-mouth.

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