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Happy Birthday!

posted in Media on March 19th, 2007

A bit more than a year ago, a famous Dutch newspaper, primarily aimed at the group of people with higher education, went forward with an idea to attract a new group of readers, namely the myriad of young professionals who didn’t have the time to read the full story behind events and only wanted a bit more than a blurb.

The publisher came up with a way to, basically, spoon feed information to their prospective, future clients and they called it NRC.next. The journalists like to think of their publication as a way to get up-to-date on what has happened in the world in the fastest way possible.

Now, a newspaper on it’s own wouldn’t really be worth the time to talk about, but NRC.next is different. They are one of the first Dutch newspaper to embrace crossmedia publishing and embrace it the right way.

Apart from the actual, printed, publication, there’s the online edition, with additional information. Many of the journalists also contribute to a platform that could actually be considered a blog. NRC.next even toyed with the idea of publishing podcasts but it would appear that that step was just a bit too much.

The best thing? Half of the web-based content is freely available to everyone, either via the browser or through a RSS subscription.

The resulting numbers speak for themselves, after one year, they are still standing strong, In a market that is very highly saturated, they managed to gain a foothold and attract an audience that normally wouldn’t bother reading newspapers due to time constraints or the lack of interest.

The newspapers distribution time is also different to that of it’s parent’s. While NRC Handelsblad is published in the evening, targeted at decisionmakers who want to relax after a long day at work and spend some quality time with the latest news, NRC.next is published in the morning and is supposed to be on your doorstep at 07:00am.

The idea behind that is simple, I figure: “if you’re the first to bring news to your reader, you win (and get paid, eventually)”, And it makes sense, if your client has a chance to get his news somewhere else, say, on the web, for free, there’s no incentive left to actually buy your publication.

While I don’t read NRC.next regularly, I’ve still been able to enjoy the newspaper for quite some time now and in fact still have the first issue at home. As a reader of the first hour, I have to say that this publication manages to amaze in ways previously unseen, in the Netherlands anyway.

So here is to you, you editors, you journalists, you bloggers, all of you who make NRC.next the great thing that it has become. I compliment you on a job well done. You’ve managed to amaze the (Dutch) publishing world, for a year already, don’t stop now.

As one wuld expect from a market leader in (publishing) innovation, NRC.next also gifted it’s readers with something very special: a 14 track CD.

The songs are a compilation from tracks published my favorite, online, music publisher Magnatune as well as from jamendo.com.

I’ve been listening to these tracks while writing this post and, like the newspaper, the featured songs are of high quality. The listing is very diverse, however, it doesn’t try to cater to all wishes at the same time but rather present the listeners with new music they probably haven’t heard before.

The whole album, free of charge, is available via this link, cover art and all is, naturally, included.

How to sell digital music 101

posted in Marketing on January 14th, 2007

Whenever you read news from the entertainment industry, you hear C - level staff complaining about how bad digital music is hurting sales and how hard it is to sell music to people because everyone just pirates it, you’ve heard those for years now, you’ll keep hearing them for quite some time more.

Sure, there’s Apple and the iTMS, which is doing quite well - because there are lots of iPods out there and people are easily tricked into buying more than one song ( “come on mom, it’s only a buck!” ). The whole store is doing well, in fact, a lot better than the top 10 stores that sell DRM-secured Windows Media Audio files together, but there are still those that dislike how Apple handles DRM.

Now, I don’t feel like getting into the whole DRM discussion more than I have to, mostly because I’m no expert on it, but from personal experience I know that certain DRM schemes are hurting the customers and put them off.

For example, my ISP provides those that subscribe to one of the better packages with credits for their (WMA-powered) online music store. You don’t pay for it 1:1, it’s all included in your subscription. A nice idea, it keeps people from downloading pirated music … or does it?

In the past, I’d “buy” my albums at the store, then proceed to a P2P site to download the MP3s, including coverart and intelligently named files (rather than “artistid_tracknumber_trackname.wma”). Technically speaking, I didn’t do anything bad, I didn’t share those MP3s with anyone and I was able to listen to them on the device of my choosing (I have / had quite a few devices and I dislike the idea of losing 50% of my media library because of device lock-in). I didn’t even bother downloading the WMA-encrypted files, why waste bandwidth after all?

So, you won’t believe how happy I was when I first discovered the goodness that is MagnaTune. Sure, they haven’t signed any uber-famous acts like Britney Spears or Robbie Williams (who’d want them anyway?), but that doesn’t mean that any of their artists aren’t great musicians. All of the performers are screened and the team from MagnaTune then decides who actually gets to be included in their portfolio.

While that is a a good feature on it’s own, here’s what I really love about them: when you buy a CD, you get to decide how much you pay for it. Say, if you’re short on cash, you could spend a couple bucks, burn that CD, then impress your girlfriend with it while you propose to her. She accepts and you’re so thankful that you decided to buy the CD again and now pay a bigger amount. Granted, I’m quite sure this hasn’t happened (yet), but it’s one way to describe their pricing policies.

When you buy a CD, it’s up to you how you want it. There are quite a few different formats, high and higher bitrate MP3, FLAC, WAV, everything really. And if you happen to lose your music along the road, you just hit up their re-download form and you’ll get a mail with all your music downloads again, at no extra charge, naturally.

Another thing I love is that with every album you purchase, you get three tickets to give away to friends. They can then download the same album you bought for free. Sure, you could send out more tickets, but then again, why hurt those that try to please you?

Like every good web-based company, they have a blog available, with lots of great information, should you be looking for more reading. Oh, and they’re working on a Second Life space too.

Another company that just gets it is CANDdYRAT Records. Like MagnaTune, they have a nice selection of artists in their line up. They approach marketing in an innovative way, if you ask me. I am, like most people, too busy to go out and look for music, I’d much rather get a list of suggestions (just like last.fm and Pandora do) and then take my pick.

Recently, I’ve been using YouTube to discover new music and came across a great clip called Drifting from Andy McKee. The whole clip is available on YouTube and the user that uploaded it, who actually is the owner of CANdYRAT Records, had another 44 videos available for my entertainment.

I was so fascinated by the Andy McKee stuff that I kept watching clip after clip. His music sounds great, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have bought it if I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the guy in action. Thanks to the use of some innovative marketing of his assets, Mr. R. Poland managed to turn a listener into a customer and so I decided to order my very own copy of the “Art of Motion”.

Ordering the CD didn’t go down without a hitch though, the first time I tried, Paypal asked me for a credit card, even though I had enough funds in my account to cover it. After asking for some assistance from CANdYRAT Records, I was quickly presented with alternate solutions. In the end, I tried again with Paypal a day later and it just worked. During the whole order process, I received quick replies to emails whenever I had a question and was finally told that my order would arrive in 7 to 10 business days.

Well, what do you know - 2 business days (not counting Saturday, where postal service is, technically speaking available) later, I received a small package with the CD I longed for.

With both companies, support has been great. I wasn’t hassled by any DRM-schemes, I received personal support whenever I had questions and paying for the media was easy too. So if you’re looking to expand your media library, have a look at both MagnaTune and CANdYRAT Records, maybe you’ll find your new favorite artist(s) there…