Commentary

Video Killed The HTML Star

First it killed the radio star (think MTV and look at the radio industry today). Now it's doing a number on the Web. The rush is on to "videoize" everything on the Web. Of course, like any fad, it's pretty mindless at first, with people emptying out their video libraries and putting any video anywhere. The truth is, what the world doesn't need is more video junk. What we all yearn for is video that is relevant to us and engaging (a hip Internet word for entertaining).

Enter the video newsletter.

But first let's step back and remember why companies do newsletters in the first place. Usually it's part of a CRM program. As many of you know, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and the idea is that once you've acquired a relationship with a customer or prospect, often at great cost, it's cheaper to keep the relationship and strengthen it over time than to go out and get a new one. Lots of companies bought into this idea, rushing out and buying all this CRM software that tracks customer information and marketing touches and builds great big files of knowledge. The problem was that in order for someone to be part of your CRM system, to stay connected to your company, to read your e-mails, they had to want to be connected.

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All of these CRM programs and strategies assumed that your communications, often newsletters, would be compelling. This is where the plan often fell apart--because HTML newsletters, with their heavy doses of text, are not only often boring, but hard work to read; and the last thing people want at work, where they get more than 75 percent of their e-mails, is more work.

In a broadband world, we now have the ability to use video to elevate the traditional newsletter to the level of entertainment. And with the right technology driving your video newsletter, you can always make sure the content is relevant to every individual.

Two good examples are IBM's ForwardView video newsletter on the B2B front, and Royal Caribbean's Explorer video newsletter for B2C. Both of these publications use a rich media publishing platform that allow for the automatic customization and personalization of every recipient's newsletter.

So, based on what you know about someone in your CRM system, your newsletter can get more individually relevant, and thus more compelling, over time. Both of these newsletters have custom video and Flash stories, usually about 90 seconds long, starring a host and featuring reporters. The companies can even run interstitial ads before or after the stories, trigger instant subscriptions and run polls and all kinds of other useful and interactive functions.

I believe that IBM was the first company to do anything like this, introducing ForwardView more than three years ago. Now the evidence is clear that this approach to a more compelling CRM communication through rich media newsletters is dramatically more successful than the old print HTML style. These video newsletters cost more to produce, but the results, according to companies like these, more than justify the investment.

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