Archive for category Social Media

Monetizing newspapers: Reforma and the NY Times

I’ve strongly criticized Mexican newspaper Reforma for maintaining a paid content model for their online presence. I thought it unimaginable that in 2010 a newspaper still charged for content. It is, however, the first Mexican newspaper I check online and the one I read the most. I do it only because my parents being paper subscribers, I get to use their online account. Reforma offers high-quality content but its site design hasn’t changed in a long time. Still, it’s my first choice.

The recent announcement of the NY Times, in which they introduce their new long-term strategy to increase online revenue by setting up a “pay wall” for frequent visitors to (incidental readers will have a set amount of articles they can pull up for free) turns out to be very similar to what I think Reforma has had in mind all this time. I’ve seen giving out “free access” to content more and more in the last year and that is exactly what the new model at the NYT will look like (they are postponing the launch of this new model until January 2011). Browse superficially, don’t pay. Want more and more pages, subscribe. People like me are loyal to a news source and therefore more willing to pay for it content.

I’m not suggesting that the way has operated in the last 10 years has been the ideal one. They come across as slow, old-fashioned and not forward thinking. However, I’m sure that with this announcement, more and more newspapers and news outlets will adopt this type of model. I think Reforma will start giving out more free content to attract incidental and superficial readers and will also enhance their monetization efforts for loyal visitors. At the end of the day, both newspapers will meet in the same place after going through very different paths.

I’m comfortable with the NYT’s new model. Whenever my browser ends up in one of their pages or articles and I want to read it, I just make a small note on my Kindle and then look up that article in my Kindle subscription to the Times. I won’t have to become a paying “frequent reader” because I already pay Amazon Digital Services $14 a month.  Did you notice the last words in bold? That’s the reason digital readers/tablets/Kindles are a whole different story. A story in which, I think, the true secret to sustainable revenue lies within.

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4 Quick Aviation Take-Aways

Sunset Take-off (Southwest Airlines)

I hope I’m not boring my four readers with more aviation content here. The fact is, my Reader is now full of aviation-related feeds and the research I’ve been doing at work in the last 3 months is merely about the airline industry in North- and Latin America. I’ve also been spending a lot of time tracking the Social Media activities of companies in this space, both airlines and airline suppliers, and I’ve learned a lot about the intersection of aviation and new media.

The good news is, it’s really interesting stuff and I want to record it somehow, using this everlasting resource (aka my rarely updated blog). Here are some of the take-aways:

  1. Unlike North American airlines, Latin American airlines are strong, privately owned and professionally managed companies that show figures of growth and profitability (look at Gol, Avianca, TACA and Azul). The roles have switched and these airlines now represent strong competition to the legacy North American players. While Latin America is home to some of the most profitable airlines in the world, North American airlines struggle to survive and find a path towards profitability. On the other hand, North American carriers still account for 57% of the world’s domestic passenger traffic and 17% of the international passenger traffic, making it the biggest airline market in the world.
  2. Both markets show signs of consolidation; Colombia-based Avianca and El Salvador-based TACA formed a new Latin American airline powerhouse with annual revenues of over $3 billion pushing it into the top 50 airline groups in the world.  Continental’s entry to Star Alliance marked the first step of a strategic partnership with United that many believe will lead to an eventual merger.
  3. 2009 was the year Social Media became important for airlines. Although carriers like JetBlue and Southwest have been active in Social Media since years, we were amazed by the strategies airlines like Lufthansa, Virgin, Continental and Volaris implemented this year. It is all an interesting preamble of the center stage position that Social Media will have in 2010 for airlines’ marketing and communications.
  4. B2B companies in this space are struggling to find context for Social Media activities. The key here will be to clearly connect Social Media to business objectives and gain a better understanding of how to measure the direct and indirect ROI of social media. Also, I always insist on the fact that Social Media can have a direct and traceable impact on the bottom line, serving purposes like lead generation or more cost-effective communications.

I hope you will find this useful in any way possible, dear reader. Comments or additional take-aways are highly welcome.

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Push recovery notifications

This morning, like every morning, my various digital devices pushed notifications to me in the first hours after waking up. First thing I do is pick up my Kindle before entering the bathroom. When I turn it on, the current issue of the New York Times has been delivered to my device via “whispersync“, a fancy Amazon word for pushed digital content technology. Today, the last business day of October 2009, the first sentence of the New York Times frontpage reads:

The United States has emerged from the longest economic contraction since Wolrd War II.

Happy news and definitely a good way to start the day. Next, my iPhone with the amazing new CNN app pushes the following notification to my home screen, immediately after turning the device on:

The largest stimulus program in the nation’s history has created or saved just over 640,000 jobs, the Obama administration said.

Another good indication that this country is apparently pulling out of the “great recession”, a terminology we’ll possibly use when we tell our kids stories about 2009. The way these notifications are pushed to me every morning make me think of the digital aspect of our lifestyle and how these technologies contribute to widespread innovation and in turn, in a tiny way, to this recovery. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that crisis and recessions make us think about new, more efficient ways to do everything we do and that unleashes innovation. Then, the achieved innovations fuel the economy and generate growth again. All part of a virtuous cycle that we tend to ignore when we concentrate only on the down times.

These innovations and the digitalization of our interactions with media never cease to amaze me and keep me ticking…even during recessions.

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Volaris: Social Media Best Practice

Last week I had the tremendous opportunity to attend a very important Latin America airline leaders forum in Colombia. During the last keynote lunch, Enrique Beltranena, CEO of Mexican low cost carrier Volaris, talked about the importance of Social Media for airlines and used the example of his own company to illustrate the impact and potential that this set of new tools have as part of the marketing mix. He stated clearly that Social Media should not be used as a substitute of traditional marketing channels but rather as consistent complement of an existing strategy.

I could write a long paper just describing the wide set of innovative channels the airline uses to communicate with its customers, achieving intimacy and focusing on them rather than on their products (which also happen to be disruptive and innovative); but in this post I’ll try to concentrate on the emerging digital channels they have chosen to formally incorporate to their mix. And this takes me exactly to the first step of their strategy: As Beltranena explained showing a slide with a big amount of emerging media categories and social networks, they had to first choose which ones they’d use according to their usefulness and relevance to their overall marketing strategy. They ended up choosing the fastest growing channels in Mexico after their assessment: YouTube, Facebook, Twitterand a Volaris-branded blog (coming early 2010). The message here is that these channels won’t necessarily be the ones everybody should pick for their Social Media strategy. In each case, resourcefulness, relevance and fit should be analyzed before picking a given tool. For a different company maybe MySpace of Flickr could prove to be more efficient and adequate channels.

Then Beltranena showed this video, which, in a nutshell, answers the question of why Social Media is not a fad. The best part of the afternoon was watching the faces of important CEOs and airline leaders while they saw the video with awe and realized that they had to do something about this quickly. Hopefully, they will take the matter seriously and, like our friends at Volaris, assign (human and budgetary) resources to it and instruct their CMO to make Social Media a cornerstone of their marketing and communications strategy.

To get a feel of what Volaris is doing, go to their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels and see how they are first listening, then connecting and at the end communicating with their customers. Please note the customization of the content according to the channel and the continuity they exercise in each one of them. Also try to see how they seek a healthy amount of activity that will demonstrate engagement without bother the user with excessive tweets, posts, videos or content.

I’m proud to say that Volaris is the first Latin American airline to successfully deploy Social Media as part of an innovative and disruptive marketing strategy, setting a precedent and putting Mexico’s name and digital literacy high above. Congratulations from this humble blog to everybody making it happen.

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Monetization thoughts on-the-go

I just downloaded the WordPress iPhone app as part of a strategy to blog more. I realized that very often I want to write about something (like an article I was just reading about New Media and its impact on Old Media) and 140 characters would only let me post a simple thought completely out of context. That is, admit it or not, both the best and worst of Twitter. It is also one of the opportunities the company has to monetize the service. Why not charge for triple characters or unlimited characters on an affordable monthly basis (I would probably pay $5 for triple characters a month). I’m sure that companies using Twitter as their emerging customer service channel would pay even more to have unlimited charcters. In a board meeting full of New Media executives not so long ago, I heard something vey interesting about the future of Twitter: It would become a new standard, pretty much like what email is today. I’m not sure how value-added features like unlimited characters would contribute to making Twitter the “new email”, but I’m sure it’s one possible path towards monatization.
Going back to that New Media article, monetization is what both old and new media folks are trying to figure out.

Dear readers, expect relatively shorter but undeniably more frequent posts in this blog. I still owe an extensive post on my new job, my new life in Miami and other interesting developments. I hope you’re enjoying so far.

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Tweeting the Chasm

I’ve found myself in plenty of conversations about Twitter lately (like probably everybody). These conversations are for the most part about “getting it”, people asking (me) what Twitter actually is and the pungent question they always ask: Why is it important what I’m doing? Who cares? Well, nobody cares, that’s exactly the point. Twitter shouldn’t be used to showcase trivial, out of context and irrelevant musings. Its greatness comes with everything else that it does, like opening innovation to build upon its platform or like providing this super-freshness to the web we interact with everyday.

Then I opened my (physical) mailbox one Saturday and there it was, Twitter on the cover of Time magazine. A printed proof that Twitter has crossed the chasm. I’m sure the editors regretted not waiting one more week to print that story when they saw the role Twitter played in the overwhelming coverage of the #IranElection. But, then again, that situation continued to cement Twitter’s entrance to the mass media category and find its way into more and more conversations of un-geeks and “normal people”.

The part I liked the most about the Time story was the argument they made about Twitter’s legacy as a technology and an online communication standard:

(…) the key elements of the Twitter platform — the follower structure, link-sharing, real-time searching — will persevere regardless of Twitter’s fortunes, just as Web conventions like links, posts and feeds have endured over the past decade. In fact, every major channel of information will be Twitterfied in one way or another in the coming years

As a new media geek, I’m not only convinced of this but I’m enjoying the network effects and the way this new technology has tweeted its way to the other end of the chasm. Jeremiah Owyang’s tweet (@jowyang) came very much in handy the other day:

New to twitter? Here’s a tip; answer “what’s important to me” instead of “what am i doing”

Im @bernardososa on Twitter

I'm @bernardososa on Twitter

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Our Logo

One of the good things I managed to accomplish last year was to publish a blog for our club at school: The Babson Latin America Club. With this blog (available at I want to offer a forum for all club members and people interested in doing business in Latin America to express their thoughts, post related info and stay in touch. We are posting all club events there and valuable career development info, as well as linking to relevant stories, articles and events.
It will also be a very valuable resource once we start to fully market our big event for this year: The Latin America Entrepreneurship Forum at Babson College.


Much more to come about that very soon.

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The Future of Social Networks

For my final project for the class “Social Networks and Virtual Worlds” I gave myself the task to analyze what the future has in store for Social Networks. I wanted to know what would be the themes students would discuss in this class a few years from now. Although I couldn’t quite predict which Social Networks would still be around and which would be the new ones that would have “crossed the chasm”, I found very interesting insights conceptually about the direction in which these systems will develop. 

During the semester-long course we read Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, both Forrester analysts. This post by Charlene Li helped me understand the 4 conceptual components that Social Networks will pursue in order to become “like air” for us. The last of these points, “Market Value defined by Social Influence” is key when trying to make sense of the monetization strategies that Social Networks have in place today and will seek to implement in the short-term. As this Business Week article points out, Google has an ambition plan for this already, developing a sort of “PageRank” for people, based on the influence they have in their social media surroundings.

Below are the slides I’ll use for the presentation tonight. I must say that I really enjoyed this “virtual” class and I learned a lot from fellow students and the keynote speakers we had the privilege to have during the course. A big thank you to Prof. John Bourne for making this course a (virtual) reality at Babson.

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Groundswell on Censorship

I just started reading “Groundswell” by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff and Chapter 1 includes this hilarious take on Internet censorship:

You can’t take something off the Internet. That’s like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool.

Couldn’t agree more.

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Attending class in Second Life

Today I attended my first class in Second Life, the famous virtual world for the elective Social Networking and Virtual Worlds. It was an interesting experience and it certainly changed my skeptical perception of the uselessness of SL. Yes, I thought it was kind of absurd to spend time and money in a world that really doesn’t exist…but the truth is that today we experienced a real class, with a real speaker, with real slides and with real interaction. Just like the one you have in a real-world class. I must say that I’m positively impressed with the result of this experiment. The learning process and setup time for all attendees is still very high and complicated but I guess this can be reduced in subsequent meetings.

The guest speaker (who interestingly is physically located in New Zealand) was Mary Ellen Gordon, the CEO of Market Truths, a company that among other things assists brands and firms to understand and interact with their customers in SL. She gave examples of companies that have successfully played a role in SL and have found that there are unique and beneficial characteristics using this channel as part of a marketing mix.

Our class in SL

I want to use this post also to introduce the blogs of my classmates Deanna Briggs, Katrina Gosek and Jesse Mendenhall. Keep up the good work guys!

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