Things that make you go & eeeee

“I’ve never had a conversation like this at work,” she said.

“It’s OK,” I said, “we’re in the cone of safety. We have to talk about this stuff.”

The “stuff” to which I refer is human genitalia and the “conversation” we were having was one in which we were trying to decide which photos can stay on mycolts, and which needed to come down.

Ahh the newfound joys of community management!

While offending photos are the exception, they are taking an inordinate amount of our time as we attempt to establish more specific guidelines for ourselves.

“OK, so speedos are OK, but if they’re wet and transparent, then…”

“…if the photo is obiously taken in a strip club, then…

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it!

Tony Dungy blogs about Super Ring Party

Anyone interested in reading more about the ring ceremony should check out what Coach Dungy has to say in his latest blog post inside MyColts .

I mention Tony’s blog post for two reason:

First, it gives me a chance to mention that today, at NOON, our social net will go live at its official .

Also, Tony’s blog gives me a reason to talk more about the ring ceremony. Apparently, the Super Bowl ring event generated a lot of interest out there in the blogsphere.

My post yesterday got picked up by deadspin and generated more buzz than anything I’ve ever posted. My blog typically gets about 100 daily visitors, but yesterday it got over 1,100! (See Google Analytics chart below. That spike on the right side is yesterday’s traffic). That spike is mostly due to a blog called “Deadspin“.

There’s quite a thread of comments, mostly quite negative about me, on the Deadspin blog. I suppose that’s where all the traffic comes from. Yikes. It’s like playing with fire!

Back to the land of the civil:

Several of the guys at the office wore their rings to work yesterday. I did not. I didn’t wear it because I feel awkward about it. After all, I did not play in the game. It’s an honor to be included as “part of the team”, and a privilage to actually get one. It seems to me the rings are best worn (in public) by the players and coaches, but I’m glad others are wearing theirs…as everywhere we go, people want to see them first hand (so to speak).

The new beta is here & SOMEBODY!

OK, sometimes I stretch movie lines a bit too far. But the emotions expressed by Steve Martin in his movie, “the Jerk,” seem appropriate. As of yesterday afternoon we’ve invited approximately 50 people into our beta, and we’re still breathing. In fact, I demo’d the site twice yesterday (for potential partners) – from two different Starbucks – and didn’t hit any errors as I showed it off. Praise the Lord!!

We’re far from ready to launch to public, but we’re learning fast and fixing things as quickly as we find them. Here are a couple of features that are unique to our system:

Dashboard to organize your content

AJ Macht insisted that our users should have a dashboard to organize the content they want to “consume”. So unlike other social networking platforms that only allow you to set up a public facing profile page (i.e. what you want the world to see about you), we’re also featuring a “dashboard” page where users can can organize their stuff.

I don’t have anything configured in my dashboard, but here’s a look at the menu of options…we’ve got “managers” set up for each content area that our users create.

Users will land in their dashboard on login and see all their incoming messages, and they’ll see highlighed any updated content from the areas they’ve designated. For example, if you set up your dashboard to notify you when your friends have added content, you’d see it from your dashboard and can more easly navigate to the content you want to see.

Friendlist manager

Another cool tool inside our system is the Friendlist manager. Unlike other systems that only allow you to tag things as “public” or “private” with “friendlist, users can tailor their profiles any way they like.

For example, if you want your cell phone to be visible to some people but not others, then you simply create a new “friendlist” called “closest friends” or something, and you tag your cell phone to be viewable by that list (and any other list(s) you like. This will prevent people on the “public” list from seeing your cell phone when they visit your profile page while your close friends will see that content when they visit your profile page.

“Colts Cred” is the social currency in our community

Most successful communities have some form of “social currency” or reputation management system. For us, that system will be called “Colts Cred.”

Users will earn “cred” for using the system and rankings will be enhanced by ratings given by other users. The screen above is the main leaderboard. We’ll have leaderboards for various subgroups (i.e. “top bloggers).

There’s a lot more to tell…this is only the beginning. It’s exciting to see people using the system that has taken so long to build. We hope people will like it!!

Social Media CEOs share their visions

In the near future… “Brands will stop trying to blast one message to all and (learn to) speak to people who are connected by a passion,” or so says Herb Scannell, CEO of Next New Networks and former Vice Chairman of MTV Networks and President of Nickelodeon Networks.

Next New Media is not live yet, but its plan is to create an online video network of niche content. According to Scannell, media is moving from mass to “micro” nets, or special interest subgroups with which brands will need to relate.

That statement got me sitting straight up in my seat. We are struggling to get big brands to see us as MORE than just a regional media channel. We’re hoping he’s right..

Next I heard Richard Rosenblatt say, “We are buying niche sites that represent vertical markets (like hiking) and adding social media…we don’t think it’s wise to try to build a community from scratch.” Richard is Chairman and CEO of Demand Media, and former CEO of Intermix and Chairman of Myspace before they sold it to FOX, so he apparently would know what he’s talking about.

It’s only 9am on conference day, and already these guys are validating our business strategy! We’ve already got an audience / community. Now we’re adding social features!

The two quotes listed above came from our first session (at EconSM), which featured top dogs from 5 different social media companies: Six Apart, Bebo, NetVibes, Demand Media and Next.

Here are some other pearls of wisdom from the CEOs

“Hits are fewer and farther between”

“Go where the audience is”

“Media is moving…from mass media (broadcast) to channels (cable TV) to Web 2.0 (micro niches)”

“Building your site with content purely via API from other sites could be dangerous – be sure to work out revenue shares on the front end”

“Advertising is over. Brands need to provide a service (add value) to niche media communities that compels members of the community to “opt in”. (Sounds like “sponsorship” to me…one note from my margin: “sponsorship” is a VERB…it needs to be ACTIVE).

“New media is not about “telling”…it is about “creating” a platform for your AUDIENCE to tell.”

Here are the questions rolling in my head:

How big does a “niche” need to be for brands to pay attention?

How can brands possibly participate in enough niche networks, and add value in personalized ways, to get the scale they need??

If someone could invent a way to help brands somehow automatically personalize messages (by community) they’d be RICH

Here are my thoughts for MYCOLTS and the NFL

Perhaps the brands that currently sponsor the NFL would want to build test programs with us to learn how to navigate the social media waters?? Or perhaps not. Maybe the larger the brand the less likely they’d be to jump into these waters, given the inherent risks to reputation. Therefore, maybe smaller brands (with more to gain and less to lose) will be the best prospects for innovative new programs.

Eventually the 32 NFL team sites + NFL will need to form a national network to make it easier for advertisers to buy across the league. If we can establish a league wide social net that demonstrates the value of our community, I’ll bet we could raise the CPM value of banners ads on our dot com sites.

What & is the DEAL with &Twitter

You ever have this experience?

You’re sitting in a room with 200 people. The conversation turns to a new technology. Everyone gets all excited. Immediately everyone starts using it…and you’re just sitting there muttering, “WTF. I don’t get it?!”

That’s how I felt in Austin, TX last week.

Twitter was all anyone could talk about in at the South by Southwest conference this year, and I don’t know why. Now I confess that I’m not using I.M., so clearly my learning curve will be slower. But why would anyone want to get messages from strangers telling them things like “I’m having a bad hair day, thinking of shaving it off”?

Still, I try to resist the urge to write off this kind of stuff, especially when other folks seem to be all excited about it. The anthropologist in me kicks in and I just observe and ask myself, “what’s going on here?” And “how can we make money off this?”

Well, I still don’t know what’s going on here (other than people simply like getting I.M. messages)…but at least one (potential) commercial application for all this digital chatter has emerged.

Woot!, a community built around buying and selling of stuff, is using Twitter to update its community about its latest deals.

Here’s an excerpt from the Woot Blog (which is pretty funny BTW) explaining why and how Woot hooked up with Twitter:

That’s right: you can sign up for a free Twitter account, make Woot your Twitter friend, and receive automatic updates when we put a new product up, when the daily product sells out, or when anything else happens around here. Twitter updates are available through your IM client or as text messages on your phone, along with the standard web-based Twitter interface. Unlike other Woot watchers (which we also love), Twitter is a one-stop way to keep up with us and your “real” friends at the same time. And unlike our own SMS service through SayNow (again, much love), Twitter will be regularly updated during Woot-Offs

Further on in the post it mentions that the idea for linking these two systems came from a Woot community member. In fact, the Woot member actually set up the link between the two systems and handed it over to Woot:

We have to thank a loyal and industrious Woot member, Jesse Newland, for starting this Twitter bot all on his own, and then passing it off to us. Kudos to you and yours, sir! We don’t know if any other online store has been so rash as to leap onto the Twitter bandwagon just yet. We’re not entirely certain that it makes any sense for us to do it. But let it never be said that Woot passed up any opportunity to insinuate ourselves deeper and deeper into your life.

This phenomenon – customers creating new marketing channels for a company just because they can – is pure 2.0 gold. In fact, this is perhaps even more interesting than the fact that you can get Woot product updates through Twitter. You decide.

Again, I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Jerry McGuire, “…why can’t we have a relationship like that?”

One Percent & Rule is kicking my butt

I heard an interesting “rule of thumb” statistic recently. Only 1% of the population of any online community will create original content for the community. The rest will read or “lurk”. Down in Austin, someone gave me a book called “Citizen Marketers,” which actually provides some research data to support this “rule”.

The 1% Rule – …is simple: about 1 percent of the total number of visitors to a democratized forum will create for it or contribute content to it. Furthermore, we postulate that about 10 percent of the total number of visitors will interact with the contributed content. Interact may be described as writing comments or voting on content items.

This rule is not hard and fast, but here is some evidence the authors have gathered:

I find this data useful for a couple of reasons.

First, I’m wondering how many people will contribute content when we launch My Colts Network. Actually, I’m HOPING some people will create profiles (gulp) and I’m ALSO hoping fans will talk to eachother. So it’s nice to have benchmarks to compare ourselves to.

Second, on this (Sports Marketing 2.0) blog I’ve noticed the 1 percent rule holds true, but I’ve also noticed that not everyone shares content for the group. Instead, many readers choose to reply privately. I wonder why that is?

Over the past few days I’ve posted 2 public invitations to create content.

First, I asked readers of this blog to contribute what they think are the top 5 trends in sports marketing over the next 5 years. Next, I invited readers to work with me to launch a Sports Marketing 2.0 event. This blog gets just over 100 readers each day, so if the “rules” apply, I should see about 10 comments on each post. So far there’s only been one comment on one of the posts. But I’ve also received about five E mails from long time readers who shared very thoughtful and insightful stuff with me privately. It’s curious, I wonder why that is?

What could I do to increase the number of readers who contribute content?

I’m glad to know about the 1 percent rule. Makes me feel like I’m doing OK in terms of inspiring community participation. However, I will say that I hope someday the readers of this blog will break the (1 percent) rule.

I do have some “selfish” ambition. I want big sponsors to discover this blog and create partnerships with the Colts. I want my own thoughts to be out there so that someone might notice ME. But I’m not JUST in this for myself. I don’t have all the answers.

The big reason I’m writing this blog is to inspire contributions from the group. The big opportunity – for all of us – is to use this platform (the read-write Web) to share information and learn. Many minds are smarter than one. I’m trying to crack the code for Sports Marketing 2.0, but there’s no way I’ll do it alone. So I’ll stick my neck out again and ask for your opinions:

what can I do to inspire more participation for this group?

And please, if you have something to say, share it with the entire group (by using the comments feature). I love getting your E mails, but when you E mail me your thoughts you rob everyone else of the benefit of your thinking. Come on, jump in…express yourself online…the water’s fine.

What do we do with Zack Legend?

We’ve got this great fan, Zack Legend, who does homemade videos about the Colts. He’s a season ticket holder who brings his digital camera to the games, films clips (like this Super Bowl video) in the tailgate lot, and inside the stadium. We’ve given him a little section on our site and we run the videos.

He’s careful not to violate the NFL rules and shoot the actual game action. What he does capture, I think, is the emotional reactions of real fans before, during and after the games. When you watch the best of his videos, you feel like you’re at the game because you identify with the reactions he’s having to certain sequences of game action. You were watching the game too, so when he reacts to a critical play, you remember exactly how you felt at that moment, and it brings a sense of that same emotion right back to you.

Zack’s videos are fun to watch and we gladly run them on our website. But we’re wondering, is there something more we could do with Zack’s videos. Is Zack’s brand strong enough to garner sponsorship dollars? Could the emotional appeal and authenticity he brings to video become part of a sponsorship activation program?

I think it could. You may remember the piece I wrote a while back about Prilosec OTC. Their whole strategy is to connect with a target consumer at a time when he or she was feeling emotional about the NFL. Zack has “bottled” those emotional mements. And he’s just zany enough that he could even pop an antacid, on camera, before some crititical play in the game, or after eating too much sausage in the tailgate lot.

Speaking of bottled emotion, why wouldn’t Coke want to place its product into Zack’s world. There’s plenty of room in a tailgate party (and inside the stadium) for Coke products to appear naturally. It wouldn’t seem too canned.

And speaking of canned, instead of high priced athletes on Chunky soup containers, why not Zack? He could really help to drive sales.

And speaking of driving, why wouldn’t Chevy want Zack to drive to games – and tailgate off – one of its great trucks…heck, Zack could even appear in the local Chevy dealer commercials.

Zack could even help us with our social network. He could be our equivalent to Tom in Myspace. Imagine if every new member of MyColts.Net was automatically linked to Zack’s profile. How many of those people would go check out Zack. We need to do something like this anyway so that fans feel welcomed into the system.

And if Zack has some cool promos to announce on his page – like a Coke rewards program – fans would be exposed to a sponsor message through a “friend”. Well, sort of. There’s risk associated with Zack pitching product, but his style is campy enough, I think, that he could get away with somewhat tongue-in-cheek product schilling while still getting the sponsor message across.

The limiting factor to all of this, of course, is money. Right now the Colts don’t make a dime off Zack’s videos. And neither does Zack. This is a labor of love. He does a lot of work to prepare them and send them to us, and we’re happy to post them, but there’s no measurable economic value. I think sponsorship could change that.

But it won’t be easy to sell. Sponsorship of content like this has never been done on our site before. We are just learning how to talk to sponsors about investing in our Website’s traditional inventory (banner ads and football content sponsorship). These wacky videos are on a whole other level.

Still, I can’t help thinking that one of the big brands might get it. Zack’s got a mini cult following on his Myspace page and on Colts . He gets recognized out in public. He gets fan mail. He’s got some brand equity as a “Colts fan”. Hey, 50% of AVID NFL fans will never attend a game in their lives. Zack gives these fans a window into what it’s like to be there. People do live vicariously through him.

Things fans will do with animals, YouTube and myspace

The fur has been flying all week long. On line wars, that is, going back and forth between Bears fans and Colts fans. But this bit of silliness really takes the cake:

The perpitrator is a guys named Ryan Hupfer, who works for Media Sauce here in Indianapolis.

Aside from being slightly bent, which he’s proud of by the way, he’s a bit of a Myspace guru. Ryan has journied cross country to meet (and make documentary video) of the people he is meeting through Myspace. He’s also got a book, “Myspace for Dummies.”

Ryan is a Colts fan, and while this video / voting campaign is very silly, I wonder if there is a method to his madness? While he (seemingly innocently) dances around the fringe of absurdity, Ryan is learning a lot about what people like. Notice that over 3,000 votes were cast in this contest in just the first few days.

For whatever reason, SOME people find this exercise in zaniness engaging. They’re playing along and Ryan is soaking in the clicks and the data. This experience could prove valuable as he looks to commercialize his endeavors. I hope he makes lots of money from the book and other things he’s doing…after all, he’s gonna have a big dry cleaning bill when that Colt gets done with that silly bear!

On a related note: There’s nothing like a Super Bowl between two teams with animal mascots to bring out the local creativity. This week I received a call from Endangered Species Chocolate, another Indy based company, who wanted to do a blue and white Colts themed bar for the Super Bowl. (Apparently, they said, that BEARS are an endangered species, so they need to raise money to help!

Each of these “campaigns”, while obviously trying to capitalize on the Colts run to the Super Bowl, are good examples of an important phenomenon which Don Tapscott (Wikinomics) describes as “prosuming”. Our customers (Colts fans) are “consuming” our product (i.e. they’re experiencing our games) AND they’re “producing” entertainment (er, promotion) based on our product. Combine consumer + produce and you get “prosume”.

Prosumers are very messy. They mess with your brand. They mess with your trademarks, and according to Tapscott, they can’t be stopped. Entire industries (e.g. music, movies, TV) are being reshaped by people who grab digital content, mix it up and post it back to the Web in new forms. It’s messy. It’s mostly illegal, but people love doing it.

So what do we do when people start messing with our brands for their own personal enjoyment? Do we call out the lawyers and run up legal bills (i.e. put our fingers in the dike)? Or do we embrace the creative stuff happening around the fringes and watch carefully to see where it leads? Perhaps our customers are telling us something. Perhaps there’s a way we can work WITH our customers / fans to evolve our brands and keep them relevant – and profitable – both despite and because of this new “mashup” phenomenon.

It’s very difficult the get the lawyers to see this stuff as “good”, but we are making strides. Our widget efforts and our social networking platform are steps in the right direction.

Zack is not an employee of the Colts, but he has become a great partner. He was doing these videos anyway, and he’s very sensitive to the fact that we cannot allow real game footage on our site, so he makes his videos “team friendly” and posts them to his Myspace / YouTube pages AND he shares them with us so we can post them on Colts . In the process he’s gained considerable media coverage for himself, and placed the team in a good light with the digerati. We’re not quite sure how close we can or should let our fans into our marketing mix, but Zack is allowing us (forcing us) to think pretty hard about the possibilities.

Next step, get bigger sponsors to see what these guerilla brands already see. Get, Coca Cola, for example, to integrate its brand into our Web platform in engaging ways. Mashup our brands to give Coke the opportunity to connect with Colts fans at the most basic levels. Do “prosumption” on purpose – and FOR PROFIT!

Challenging the & content is king & mindset

The world is flat, the earth is at the center of the universe…and CONTENT IS KING.

Or is it?

We humans have ways of drawing conclusions based on what we see with our eyes, only to be proven wrong when someone comes along with better observational tools.

Columbus saw things differently. He journied to the edge of the earth, but didn’t fall off because he was correct, the earth is a sphere, not flat as prevailing wisdom held.

Likewise, Galileo had a fresh perspective. He confirmed Coepernicus’ hypothesis and proved (thanks to his newly invented telescope) that the sun is at the center of our universe, not the earth as conventional wisdom maintained.

In both of these scenarios, the way people thought – the prevailing belief system – dictated the way most people behaved. Actions flow from beliefs. Believing the earth is flat and that it is at the center of the universe caused society to make many wrong decisions about the future. Correcting these false assumptions was very difficult, but ultimately lead to unparalleled advances in science and commerce alike.

Correcting our thinking becomes the turning point

A similar crossroads may be at hand today as the Internet forces us to rethink the media landscape. Thanks to newly visible data, we’re learning the real power of word of mouth, which always existed, but wasn’t quantifiable until now. We’re learning more and more about connectivity, one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many. As ideas flow faster and faster over the Internet, and as people are connecting with eachother, we are realizing the power of the individual and the power of community are much greater than we had come to believe.

Yet even as new data emerges, the big media companies and content creators are still spouting the same old axiom, “content is king.” This assumption is so widely accepted that few would question its veracity. This assumption is either correct, or it isn’t, and to some extent depends on how you look at it.

Check out the Wikinomics Blog for deep research on the Web’s shift from “presentation platform to community platform.” Given all the things that are changing around us, and the rise of social networks in particular, I think it’s time the NFL questioned it.

Content is king

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.– Bill Gates essay, “Content is King,” Microsoft 1996.

Content is not king

Content has never been king, it is not king now, and is unlikely to ever be king. The Internet has done quite well without content, and can continue to flourish without it. Content will have a place on the Internet, possibly a substantial place. However, its place will likely be subordinate to that of business and personal communication. – From “Content is Not King,” by Andrew Odlyzko, Head of the Mathematics and Cryptography Research Departments at AT&T Labs. (First Monday, volume 6, number 2 (February 2001)).

Point – counter point

So who’s right?

It’s pretty tough to differ with Bill Gates, who is after all the richest man in the world. But hold up a second. His quote is from 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then. If you read the Gates essay you’ll note that at the time he wrote it he included software, Microsoft’s main product, as proprietary content, i.e. a thing to be packaged, delivered and consumed for a fee.

More recently, Microsoft has changed its tune significantly. While it still sells its software (in shrink wrapped boxes or as digital downloads) products to millions of people and businesses worldwide, it is showing signs of a shift in its thinking. Over the past few years, Microsoft has been opening up to open source and even plans to embrace the “free” spirit of the Internet by giving away Web based versions of some applications in an ad supported distribution scheme.

Microsoft’s changing business model might indicate a paradigm shift. Perhaps the software giant is rethinking its business in light of new data. If you read the “content is NOT king” essay, which itself is a few years old, you may start to see things differently too.

The main point I want to make today is that community, or more specifically COMMUNICATION is the driving force of the Internet and World Wide Web; and whereas old media companies see the Internet as little more than a distribution network for content (and therefore view content as king), the people who populate the Internet are voting with their feet. They say that communication and community are the things they value most. And they’re willing to pay.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of money in the content business, and I believe the NFL should continue to pursue content deals as it has in the past; but I think we should begin to make on-online community and communication into strategic priorities. Given the fast paced nature of the on-line world, the league should act immediately to build a social networking platorm that enables fans to communicate and form community around NFL content or whatever they like. If we don’t do this then somone else will.

Must we wait for a “Steve Jobs” to come along?

Sometimes we get so close to a problem that we cannot see it. When this happens, a third party, someone from outside our “industry” has the opportunity to come along and insert himself into the ecosystem. Steve Jobs is a great example. He saw how much trouble the music biz was having with people illegally downloading music, and he lead Apple to invent the iPod and iTunes to give companies and customers a channel for authorized transactions and a device to play it with.

In my opinion, we should pay attention to Steve Jobs and we should pay attention to guys like Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, who credits his companies success to a fresh belief system: they DON’T BELIEVE IN COMPETITION. Steve is all about the money, Jeff is all about his customers. We should borrow from both and seek to achieve achieve the best of both.

Meet the new king: community

The NFL (and other sports properties) face a similar challenges. How do we allow fans to take our content – and do with it what they will – and make money at the same time? Also, how do we make money from user generated content?

The long tail is bigger than the head.

The most valuable content we “create” is our TV product, live games; and while the value of the games is huge, I’m beginning to think there may be an even bigger opportunity beyond the game. Beyond the stadium. Beyond TV. Our next frontier is everything BUT the game. It’s the conversation ABOUT the game. It’s the lives of people who care about the game. It’s a lifestyle. NFL lifestyle. It’s the brand that more people want to feel closer to than any other. The Internet gives us the means to connect directly with our customers without a media middle man. We can join our customers in community. If we can create this community, we will tap a major vein. If we don’t, we will have missed a major opportunity.

All we have to do is change our minds

In order to succeed, we need to stop thinking like the NFL. We need to stop thinking like the major media powerhouse that we have become. We need to start acting like we care about fans and sponsors – caring about more than just their money – and start meeting their needs. We need to worry less about the content we create and more about the community we create.

Walled garden vs. open source – what’s NFL’s strategy?

If content is not king, then the “walled garden” strategy is not ALL right. It’s not All wrong, but it’s not ALL right. Forcing people to subscribe to a service to gain access to exclusive content can make money (e.g. DirecTV, season tickets); but I believe there’s even more money to be made in facilitating the conversation between fans.

If you think about it, the market for conversation and community is much bigger than the market for controlled content. Avid fans are the ones who buy the content, but avid fans make up just 30% of the total NFL an base. What are we going to sell to the other 70% of our fans?

Much as Jeff Bezos started Amazon with books and expanded to include EVERYTHING, I think the NFL has a chance to start with its live games and grow well beyond the sport itself. In order to do this, we need to see ourselves as more than a sport or an entertainment product. We need to see ourselves as a uniying force. As an emotional thread that connects people at home and at work, all day, every day.

Once we see ourselves as a lifestyle, we need to realize that we’re playing catchup in this arena. We need to realize that this new business is not like the old business. It is less about command and control and much more about chaos. We need to get hip to the facts of on-line life. We need to develop our “interactive imagination.”

So, since time is running short (it’s 6:45 am and my kids are starting to stir, and it’s about time for me to jump in the shower and get my rear to work), I’ll pose the following questions as starting points to our community and communication business:

What’s our myspace strategy? How will we compete / cooperate with large social networks?

When a community like Myspace has 80 million participants you have to pay attention. Do we try to compete? Do we partner? And what do we do with Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and the other behemoths?

1. What’s our on-line sponsorship strategy?

2. What’s our widget / add-on strategy?

3. What’s our “second life” strategy?

4. What’s our social news / bookmarking strategy?

5. What’s our photo sharing strategy?

6. What’s our video sharing strategy?

7. What’s our startpage strategy?

8. What’s our calendar / venue / event strategy

9. What’s our music strategy?

10. What’s our mobile strategy (

11. What’s our “niche” strategy?

12. What’s our “points” strategy?

I realize this may seem scatterbrained, but there’s a pony here somewhere

Notice I haven’t even mentioned the pure sports social nets. We should not be thinking like a vertical, or a niche. We should be thinking like a lifestyle. What is our promise?

Can we move fluidly enough to ride this wave? I seriously doubt it unless we put someone in charge of re-thinking our business model and giv him or her the freedom to pursue it.

Much as Columbus got sponsored by Queen Isabella, someone needs to get in a boat and sail to the edge of this content centric world in order to slay the dragaons who live there.

What business are we in?

Thats the age old question. Remember the horse and buggy salesmen? He missed the boat by not realizing he was in the transportation business. Could that be happening to us?

The NFL is most assuredly in the content busines today. I would assert that we should continue to develop that business, AND we should assign a person or a team to pursue the communication business as well. After all, the Internet is not an oligarchy. It’s pure democracy. We should organize ourselves around the laws of this new land.

Do broadband Colts Fans have & personas

ClickZ recently reported on a research study which claims to reveal five unique personalities of broadband users. Ninety-percent of visitors to Colts use broadband connections, so let’s look into it…

Here are the top-level descriptions of the five groups (from Media Screen)

The content king looks to the Web for entertainment. .

Social clickers use the Internet as a means of communication.

The online insider consumes content across the broader Web. Eighty-six percent contribute to Internet content or information each month, including posting to blogs, community sites, and chat rooms.

Fast trackers typically use the Internet to seek out news and information. Content categories include news, sports, and weather. Fast trackers remain loyal to sources with frequent updates and real-time information.

The everyday pro is characterized by personal productivity and efficiency and looks to the Internet to fulfill those needs.

These handy little descriptors are examples of what designers call “personas”. Personas are fictitious characters that are created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic that might use a site or product. Personas are given characteristics and are assumed to be in particular environments based on known users’ requirements so that these elements can be taken into consideration when creating scenarios for conceptualizing a site.

In the context of software requirements gathering, a user persona is a representation of a real audience group. A persona description includes a user’s context, goals, pain points, and major questions that need answers. Personas are a common tool in Interaction Design (WikiPedia).

A book called “the Inmates are running the asylum,” by Alan Cooper, touched of a rise in popularity of this persona concept. I have not read this yet, but it looks like a good one.

Can we uncover the personas of Colts fans on-line?

I can’t draw any conclusions based on the brief thumbnail descriptions above, but I’m intrigued. I think the persona might hold some rich opportunity for us as we continue digging into the data.

Approximately 1 million people visit every month. Who are these people? What drives them? How are they different from other Colts fans who do not visit our Web site? Which of these fans are most likely to join My Colts Network and why?

These are just some of the questions that prompted me to craft the survey I’ve been writing about lately. Yet as I pour over the data I find myself wondering “what the heck does all this mean?” After all, I am not a trained researcher. I’m simply following my nose and asking questions that occur to me to ask. I feel like there must be some defining characteristics about our on-line fans that makes them not only distinct from other fans, but will reveal their potential value to the team as well as our sponsors.

I was reminded of the concept of personas recently and it occurred to me that this may be just what I’m looking for. If I can focus on finding the personas it will help us design our new site(s) with specific end users in mind. These personas might also inform our strategies for marketing to these fans in the future.

There are three main reasons why all this data matters (to me anyway).

First, the Website is already a key communications channel for teams and season ticket holders. Anything we can do to improve our service to our core customers is going to increase loyalty and hence profitability.

Second, the Website reaches a huge audience of avid fans, and these fans are most likely to buy team merchandise.

Third, these same avid fans are the best prospects for sponsors looking to leverage team affinity to sell goods and services. Many of our sponsors have already discovered that their best customers are “multi-channel”.

Multi-channel customers are most profitable

It has been widely reported that “multi-channel” customers are the most valuable to retailers.
A study in the United States by the National Retail Federation found that multichannel customers purchase more often and spend more than single-channel customers. Customers who visit a retailer’s Web site and then buy from a retail store spend 33 percent more than the retailer’s typical store customers.

I wonder if the same is true for sports fans?

Is there anything about fans who visit the Website frequently that sets them apart from “off-line” fans? And surely not all on-line fans are alike. There are probably various personas we could uncover which would help us understand what drives the on-line Colts (sports) fans. Are these people the centers of influence who determine which products their friends will buy?

I have already reached out to some friends in the research community to see if I can get some help. I would like to add some scientific discipline to this endeavor so that our results might carry more weight. If you know anyone who can help, please send them my way.