Web 2.0 Offline - A Real Life Example

One of our local radio stations is providing its listeners with the option of recording their voice for special song dedications. One of the listeners, actually speakers now, has turned this into a real offline Web 2.0 application.
Most of the people recording their dedications just do that, they say to whom they would like to dedicate this song, and how much they love that person, blah blah blah.
One of these people took this service to a really new level. She started recording certain messages to certain people. Talking to one of her friends, she would wish him a safe trip to his destination, and wish that he accomplishes the goal of that trip. To another friend of hers, she would apologize for the things that she said yesterday and ask for forgiveness. She would have two friends who are not really understanding of each other's differences, and talk to both and try to find a compromise or a midway where they can communicate again together.
All this is done publicly, and all listeners would listen to this. It is becoming more like an interesting series of stories related to this one person, who they have never met, but started to know and identify with!
Next? She became a star! Other listeners who are familiar with her messages started recording their own messages just thanking her and complementing her on how great a job she is doing to get friends closer to each other!
One person decided to use the platform her own way, she used it for her own interest. She became famous, others start to complement her, and eventually new ways of using this recording service will be used by other people.
The radio station is only providing the context for people to record and publish their messages (and they get paid for each sound recording). The users are finding creative ways of using it, and since they are given the chance to publish their voice, they are doing the word-of-mouth advertising for the service since it makes them famous.
This is a really great example of how any application can be utilized in a context where the users can find ways to actively participate in the creation of content, and they will definitely do the marketing for that service or experience provided.

Music Community and Stardom on the Web

I recently started working on a project for online music sharing, uploading, and community building. Several different directions presented themselves so far.
Creating a huge database of rare and very-har-to-find music collection is one of these, and I got to know one serious enthusiast working in this direction like crazy.
Another idea, by Tareq, was to announce to singers from wherever, to record a song, and we can then record them singing and upload the video clip on our website. This way, they can have a recorded video of their song, distributed to a huge number of people, who will then vote for their favorite song / singer. Another idea is to provide users with software that allows them to edit tracks and songs as they like.
I then came across a bold initiative working on promoting singers through the web. They have a descriptive title and slogan, your free road to fame.
Their model is focusing on unheard of singers who are bold enough to record their voice in any format.
The site is functioning but the launch is scheduled sometime this month. This is a clear implementation of the Rady-Fire-Aim approach; they have something to start with (eight songs!) and they are probably working on the tweaking, improvements, and development. The design is quite simple and intuitive, and can use the services of a professional designer!
The lesson for me...? Immediately start with whatever I have and fine-tune from there.


Advertising For What People Really Want

The classical cycle of advertising starts by first researching what your customers want. You collect data, and you spot trends. Then you research (or guess) to where these people are paying attention; what media they are watching, what events they are attending, and what streets they are passing through.
Other forms of advertising exist of course, but I will not get into them here.
In this model, you try to be where the customer is, you try to present them with a message that you hope they are looking for, and you try to answer questions you assume are in their minds.
With the Web and with search engines, this model is facing some limitations. Now, people have a "place" through which they can search for whatever they want whenever they want.
When I open the TV, I want to watch a certain program, I don't want to see anybody's irrelevant advertisement. When I go to a concert, I don't care who sponsored the singer's flight, I just want to enjoy the event.
BUT... When I'm about to plan for my holiday, I actually want to know which companies have the best deal.
This is one of the very rare instants in which you can target your advertising only to the people who are willing to receive your information.
This is how "search marketing" started to evolve. Smart companies started to know the importance of being listed high on search engine result, and the amount of traffic it brings to their websites. Enter SEO (search engine optimization).
This field aims at having your company listed at the top of search results for the keywords related to the products/services you offer. This is done by researching what people are searching for, how they might view your product, and most importantly how search engines work.
This involves both technical and marketing knowledge, and it is both, an art and a science. When internet marketers discovered this in the late 90's, they started manipulating search engines with certain unsavory techniques that would list their pages at the top of search results. Many of these pages were meaningless, full of irrelevant content that was just designed to attract users to the page. And since these sites had advertisements on them, they would make money just because many people viewed those ads. Of course the ads were irrelevant, and the users dissatisfied. This is one of the reasons that industry crashed.
Now, since search engines are much more sophisticated, and can detect these techniques, webmasters are trying to improve their content as much as possible, and trying to implement legitimate techniques that would rank them high on search results. Eventually, I hope, the most relevant and highest quality content should be rewarded by being at the top. However, the Web is made by humans, for humans. There will always be the human factor, and we will always need to market. This makes it more and more interesting. SEO is there to stay.
You can familiarize yourself with the basic terms of this industry by referring to this SEO glossary.
Many other resources exist in this field.
Discountclick is provider of this service and even have an affiliate program, with a generous 20% commission on all sales generated through any publisher.
My favorite SEO tools site is seochat. Check the left sidebar and try them, they can give you a great idea bout these concepts and help you understand your site or blog. To help you understand how search engines read your site, try the spider simulator, which shows exactly how sites are indexed.
Since I'm interested in many things in life, these fields are really exciting for me. They allow, force, and help me to learn more and more of everything, and keep my mind connecting stuff together.


Advertise or Blogsvertise?

A very creative and descriptive name for a service I recently got to know about. I also signed up and look forward to participate in their program. It is a program that pays bloggers to post their ideas about advertisers' products or sites. 
What was really interesting and different about them, is that they don't have rigid rules for discussing the featured products.

"You do not have to necessarily endorse the advertiser's website products or services, just mention them in your blog. You can relate to in your own life, review the site, compliment or even complain about it, it is entirely up to you."

But their strategy seems to be based on links, since they require no less than three links pointing to the website reviewed, which is mainly aimed at generating traffic, and more importantly improve the rank of that site. I read on the JustMakeMoneyOnline Blog that they are also promoting a new innovative advertising service for bloggers based on video ads.
It's very easy to register for this service, and they alert bloggers for the available tasks in which they can participate.

Zeki Ziki

In Turkish, Zeki means smart, which is a word derived from Arabic.
Ziki is a website, that reminds me of the word "zeki", because that's what they are!
I couldn't believe that they will actually make a Google ad with my name as the keyword.
Their service is very simple, but brilliant: you sign up, but you have to be one of the first 10,000 people to do this, and you just ask them to promote your name. Within minutes I googled myself and found a sponsored link with my name, pointing to my personal page on Ziki.
Then they provide you with a personalized homepage, with a photo, and a blog. Moreover, you can add whichever feed you want to that blog. Guess which feed I added;)
It's also an opportunity to make new friends, get to know people and promote your work.
Try to sign up asap, these limited places might just be taken.


My Flake From Pageflakes

Pageflakes is as customizable a service as I can think of. They provide us with the ability to creat pages, with "flakes" on them. These are rectangles with customizable content and size. We can choose any of the numerous flakes already included in their site. We have both options of having our flakes private or public for other people to see. At the same time, we can export any of the flakes and add them to our site or blog, as I did here on the sidebar. This is the feed for this blog, and you can subscribe from here.
Shortly, I'll be making a full page consisting of my favorite flakes. Stay tuned.


The World in the Eyes of Google

Google This was the title of a TV show on Alarabiya, which consisted of two parts: the first was a translation of the documentary, and the second was a discussion of the documentary by a panel of specialists in the field.
As a Google fan myself, I was interested in watching and getting to know more about the company and its services.
What was really interesting was thinking about the inevitable dilemma such a company will have to face, even if they had the most noble of intentions: in order to serve us better, they need to provide innovative and better products/services, and in order to be able to do that, they will need to collect more and more information about us, and keep that information stored, so they can base their developments on a sound history of searches, links, thoughts etc.
The same applies to us, the users; if we want better services and a more personalized experience, we will have to share some information about ourselves. Our privacy is the cost.
Maybe this is something that comes with becoming a celebrity.(Time magazine named me, and "You" person of the year.
So, what do we do, when faced with such a situation? Do we do our best to try and escape all the systems that try to "understand" us by following us in everything that we do?
As Seth Godin mentions in one of his posts,
"The thing is, privacy is an illusion. You think you have privacy, but the video surveillance firms and your credit card company disagree. If we're already on camera, we might as well get some benefits from it. If we choose."
Instead of trying to find the blind spots of the surveillance cameras and trying to avoid them, I think we should just come out and dance in front of these cameras! I don't see any other choice. At least these cameras will know we have nothing to hide.
Saatchi & Saatchi's CEO, Kevin Roberts expresses a similar attitude in the second point of his credo,"If it ain't broke... Break it!"
We usually fall in the trap of trying to mend minor details in our hope to get back to the old pattern of doing things. This new attitude suggests that maybe if things started to break, they are not fit to the new situation anymore. Therefore...? Break it and go on.
Our "privacy" as we know it, is starting to break, and we might just be better off adjusting to the new system, and hopefully making good use of it.


Hyper Text and Hyper Evolution

If you are wondering what "Web 2.0" is, this is a perfect explanation...

Couldn't embed it for some reason. But here is the link.



Toolbar, a New Model

Just got to know about a new toolbar provider, Agloco. They are advertising for a new toolbar, which is yet to be distributed, and sharing the revenue with referrers. That's a very interesting model compared to Conduit's.
While Conduit let's you make your own toolbar, with any links you want to any money-making program, they only impose the search box which is not an optional component. From that box, which is powered by Google, they earn their fees from clicks on sponsored links.
Agloco on the other hand, have their own standard toolbar "Viewbar", with a contextualized advertising section that earns money from clicks, a search box, earning the same way, and a 'rich media' platform. Members who refer users will be "partners" owning the system, each with a share that depends on the number of referrals they send.
Two interesting models for monetizing your web presence, you can sign up for this system through this link.    


The Benefits of a Local eBusiness

Was my first reaction. Especially when I first heard about Vital Edition a newly-opened online book store targeted to Amman locals.
What about Amazon? And How will they compete with Adab wa Fan, the joint venture between Maktoob, "the biggest Arab online community" and Aramex, the top Arab express courier?
After some investigation and a meeting with the owners, I realized that they can not only compete, but they have some real advantage over their main "competitors".
When I order a book from Amazon it takes no less than two weeks to arrive to my part of the world. I have no idea how long it takes with Adab wa Fan. With Vital Edition, they deliver the books within 48 hours, which is really a big difference in convenience, and in the reduced cost. (their delivery is free)
I have no official statistics but people having credit cards in Amman are very little in number, and even these are still skeptical about making online transactions with credit cards. With VE you pay cash, and only after receiving your book.
Moreover, there is this personal element in their service where you can call a local mobile number and talk to a person, not just a machine.
Parallel to their online efforts, VE is creating an offline presence in cafes  in Amman, by renting display stands in outlets. This helps increase awareness of their brand, and gives a new dimension to customers experience in the outlet.
Maybe this is another cycle repeating itself where the local store has some advantage over Big Corps.
What still needs to be achieved is, well, the P word. Profitability doesn't seem to be coming in the near future. I think this would be only possible through adding more local products and categories in the same way, and reducing over-heads by only providing delivery from affiliated suppliers. Another challenge is to improve their variety and provide choice for the customer. Currently, they have a limited range restricted to top best sellers in each category.
Nawwaf Uteibi and Mohammed Kilani, the founders, are motivated not just to make a good business, but to make a difference in the reading habits in their town.
Local publishing is also being valued more and more, especially with giant media companies covering the globe for the major event.
Similarly, local publishing is gaining more value for the fact that huge world events are covered and scanned by big companies who cannot scan every detail in every town, and because of cultural and language barriers.
Spring Spotters is a network of "spotters" who contribute by sharing new, and interesting business ideas and models. They openly encourage locals, who have cultural and geographical reach to share any developments in their locations. They also give prizes for popular articles.
Another project, is Home Turf Media's new blog network which is a hybrid of both. It is "glocal". The reach is global and the network is interlinked. At the same time the content of each blog is highly local. This is quite different from most blog networks, in that they are based on location and not subject. So far they have a small network of five blogs, and still in the beginning.
Seems we have different options; you can have a global business, and you can have a purely local one... You can also choose to go glocal.