Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Talking Gigposters with Clay Hayes

Clay Hayes is the co-creator of Gigposters.com, the hugely popular website / forum dedicated to all things gigposter related, and currently features over 7,000 registered designers and over 85,000 posters. Clay will be represented at Flatstock, the annual SXSW poster convention that starts today.

Door Number 3: When Gigposters.com launched, you benefited from word of mouth and then some great nods from Yahoo and USA Today. How do new users find Gigposters.com today? How many page views a day does Gigposters get?

Clay Hayes: It’s all word of mouth and search engines. I do not actively advertise the site – no need at the moment. I don’t actually track stats anymore (I have them turned off on the server to speed things up). Once the site got super busy, it really didn’t matter to me anymore. I’d estimate it gets around 250,000 views a day.

From what I can tell, the story of Gigposters.com is one where you created a site to serve a very specific niche that you cared about and, inadvertently, an untapped community of users (poster designers in this case) discovered it and completely embraced it and helped the site grow. So is this really about luck, or timing? If someone decided to create a community site the size of Gigposters.com today would they probably fail?

It was all about timing .. and a unique idea. No one had done anything like it before… and no one has tried to do anything like it to this day. I don’t think anyone would try to compete now. It would take many years to build a collection of any substantial size.

Were you involved in the creation of Flatstock, or did the idea of it come about on the Gigposters.com forums?

The first Flatstock was a result of a few people in the GigPosters.com forums coming together to form the first event. After the first Flatstock, they realized they needed a professional organization to bring it all together. They created the American Poster Institute, and brought me on as a board member. I was on the board for many years, and resigned recently to concentrate on my own site, etc. I still help out with their website, etc., but do not make the decisions anymore.

Is SXSW a chance to grow your business or is it more of a reunion with friends across the world?

It’s 3 things really. It’s a chance to promote my site. Many people attending these events do not know anything about the scene, and having my booth there gives people the ability to go online after the show and see what the rest of the world has to offer. Its a great way for me to sell merchandise to raise money for the site (it’s expensive to run). And, it’s definitely a great reunion of all the poster friends in the best community on the planet!

Is Gigposters.com pretty user-regulated? My sense is that longtime users are pretty thorough about alerting you to objectionable content. With a site like yours, is it better to take a more hands-off approach?

I try to take a ‘hands-off’ approach as much as possible. No one likes to be told what to do, but it is my job to step in when people cross the line. There are terms of use on the site, and if people break them, I have to deal with it. Most regular users know how it works and help me out by ‘educating’ people. I can’t be on there 24/7 to answer every question – so it’s great that everyone steps in and helps out.

Since you look at more poster designs than anyone on earth, do you consider yourself to now be a design critic or an authority on gigposters?

I’m a computer guy. I’ve never really had an ‘eye for art’ like many of the people on the site. I do, however, learn by osmosis and know what people like. I’m the technical guy providing the site for people to do their thing. Mr. Behind-the-scenes.

What sort of design trends, in terms of style, colors or imagery, have you noticed lately?

More color posters – that’s for sure. Less photocopied flyers and more screenprinting. I see designers that visit the site getting inspiration by the amazing posters, and it really has raised the bar by helping them improve their own.

You offer a “Premium” service, meaning for a yearly fee ($20) users have access to exclusive content, chatting, etc. How successful has this implementation been?

It’s been around a few years now and has been very successful. These features really take the site and community to the next level and everyone who is participating benefits.

Lastly, what’s the secret to having such a loyal group of users, people who without question become premium members, hold auctions to support the site, and would probably be really, really bummed out if Gigposters.com ever went away?

I think people appreciate the fact that the site is run by one man who has dedicated his life to the site and the scene. I have lived off credit cards for 7 years now to make it all happen, and those who realize this want to help me out. I’m not suffering or anything – I really enjoy what I do. I’m not a charity by any means, and I don’t ask for anything. I do appreciate everyone’s support –it has really helped me out over the years.GigPosters.com is a very special site, with an amazing community. It’s growing more and more every day and opening up the eyes of the world to gigposter art. I’m very proud.

*image from Gigposters.com

Talking Shiner Beer & PR with Eric Webber

Eric is managing partner of Austin-based Webber/McJ Communications, an agency focusing on communications consulting, public relations and reputation management.

Door Number 3: What plans does Shiner Beer have for SXSW? Is it tough to compete with the “official” beer of SXSW? How do you position a beer like Shiner?

Eric Webber: Shiner sponsors a party (two actually) with Bloodshot Records at Yard Dog. We’re also involved in a deal with ME TV, and Shiner Records (a small label owned by Shiner Beers) has a party featuring their artists at Waterloo Records. We try to keep it about the music and the musicians more than about the beer. We do run print ads reminding SXSW-goers that Shiner is a small, independent brewery and so understands the challenges of independent labels and the bands trying to gain recognition. It’s not tough to compete with the “official” beer in that way. Miller merely buys the sponsorship, but their connection to the event, musicians or labels doesn’t go any farther than that. I think there’s an unfortunate disconnect between a mega-corporate brand like Miller being a sponsor of an event like SXSW, but I certainly understand why the organizers want and need deep-pocketed companies like that.

What are ways in which you get the word out about a brand during SXSW, given that the environment is already so saturated with messages?

We try to do it subtly. Partly because we don’t want to clash with the official beer sponsor, partly because that’s Shiner’s style and also because we don’t have a lot of money to spend. One thing we developed last year, which we’ll use again, was a “musicians survival kit.” We used Shiner Bock six-pack containers, but only one can of beer was in it. We filled the other slots with a t-shirt, a pair of Shiner logoed tube socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a bottle of water and an assortment of pain relievers. We tried to think of some of the things needed by struggling musicians who might be traveling lean and sleeping on couches during the festival. Again, it was about demonstrating that we understand them. At the parties we mostly rely on signage, including a very cool retro-poster for the Waterloo event that’s plastered all over town. And, of course, giving away free beer is always a hit.

How are the tactics to get buzz around a movie different than, say, a new mobile device or a website?

The tactics about getting buzz for a movie aren’t very much different than for, say a website. You want to get influencers on your side and let them help you with the heavy lifting of getting the word out. So you offer to give some people a preview peek, and then you hold your breath and hope they like it. That much hasn’t changed in a long time in the movie publicity business. But you know we also have the power of social networking working in our favor. So influential bloggers are important as mainstream media. And you should have had a MySpace and Facebook presence for months leading up to the debut so you can build interest and a fan base. You can work multiple angles in that regard. If music is a key to the movie, then you can talk it up among the music crowd. Or if addresses a particular social issue, you can hit it from that angle. You don’t want to only speak to movie enthusiasts. And did I mention that you have to pucker up and hope people like it?

The whole Zuckerberg interview drama unfolded in real time – on Twitter and Meebo, liveblogging and then video. How could a PR firm do damage control on a situation like this?

I’m not sure that just letting that particular fire burn out on its own isn’t the best approach. Nobody looked very good after that train wreck. The reporter came of as arrogant and ill-prepared, Zuckerberg didn’t do anything to shine either, and the audience mostly came across as churlish and immature in a lot of ways. For the reporter, she violated a number of rules that PR pros would have advised her about. First, she didn’t seem to know her audience. She said as much after the interview. That’s a cardinal sin. Second, she didn’t adapt to the changing tone. You could sense that things were going poorly, and she just forged ahead anyway. In preparing someone to be interviewed, you always spend some time talking about worst case scenarios and how they should be handled. You can’t always anticipate everything, but you can make a pretty guess about what the most obvious speed bumps are going to be.

Speaking of Twitter and Meebo, are more real-time communication tools being used for public relations? Are traditional media formats still the most important?

PR pros who don’t recognize the potential (good and bad) of real-time communications tools are, well, tools. The principles of PR haven’t changed much at all, but the speed at which information is disseminated and the channels available seems to be changing about every day. Blogging allows everyone to be a journalist, or at least for everyone to think they are. That’s a potential opportunity, but also potentially very dangerous. At the very least, companies have to keep an eye on what’s being said about them in the webular world, and be prepared to respond quicker than they would have in the past.

Getting Social with Matt Galligan

Matt Galligan is the Founder and CEO of Boulder-based Socialthing!, a new “Digital Life Manager” that is making its debut at SXSW. Socialthing! allows users to track their friends and their own movements across a variety of social media websites and networks.

Door Number 3: Why SXSW for your public launch? Was it a matter of timing, or did you want SXSW specifically?

Matt Galligan: Launching at SXSW was partly planning, partly serendipitous. We knew that we wanted to get it out to a bunch of people really quick but our original intention was to host a big party in San Francisco. None of us have been to SXSWi before, so it was a gamble, but it should be a really great forum for our launch.

I noticed that your website describes Socialthing! as a “digital life manager.” Is this bigger than “social media” or “social networking” or are all these terms really the same thing?

Digital life management is somewhat of a new trend we are hoping to start. Years ago when all we had was Friendster, it was really easy to keep track of everything, but now so many people have accounts in different places and friends on lots of networks, that managing all of that is a considerable task for anyone. So the idea behind a digital life manager is that you can interact with what is going on from one place, rather than a ton of disparate networks.

Do you think digital life, by its very rapidly changing and expanding nature, means tools like Socialthing! will always be “beta”?

That is a great point…we do believe that we will always be in a perpetual “beta” if you will, just because we are striving to always add new and interesting services and features to our product. The nice part about what we do is that if a new site pops up tomorrow that has some cool functionality but is difficult to focus on because your time is spent elsewhere, then we can help you and that service out by quickly integrating it.

What was your TechStars experience like? How do you pitch a product like Socialthing! that isn’t tangible and manages an environment as vast as social media sites?

TechStars was an incredible experience. In fact, it was probably one of the best times of my life. We learned so much about what it means to be an entrepreneur and really have a great product. We learned how to manage, pitch, scale, all kinds of stuff. When it comes to the application process, our application back then was even way more audacious than our current value proposition. Simply put, we wanted to kill MySpace. Nothing terribly special, just wanted to be way better than them. What happened is that we quickly realized that it was a ridiculous idea for a brand new, fledgling team that had nothing to its resume. But really, that’s what attracted TechStars to us: our team. Our team is what makes us really special. We are all fairly new and inexperienced with this but we really have learned how to build and awesome product and really keep that tenacity and excitement to really build a great company.

Socialthing! has both an official SXSW booth and an afterparty downtown. Which is more important in terms of getting your name out there? Or are there advantages to having an industry and a consumer presence?

There really wasn’t a whole lot of science that went into the decision to do both. Basically, we wanted to throw a really great party, because it seems like that is something a lot of people remember year after year. But the obvious truth is that a party is a horrible place to give a demo and have a captive audience, so we decided to do the trade show booth to be able to sign people up and show them what we were up to and then enourage them to come to our party. But as with your last point, I absolutely think it’s important to have a strong industry as well as consumer presence. As with what we are doing, the industry needs to know about us so that we might get a lot of cool apps integrated, but obviously without a consumer presence, then we won’t have a great chance to have some sort of critical mass.

Is Socialthing! meant only for person-to-person relationships? Would anyone want to keep track of, say, a beer company?

For now, Socialthing! is meant to help you manage your online self, and we believe that the majority of time is spent interacting with your friends and content in some fashion, so for now it is true that we are focusing more on personal relationships. But that doesn’t mean that working towards the future, that we would be opposed to new opportunities.

It seems like when it comes to advertising on social media sites, the ad industry is usually playing catch up. The technology comes first, the ads try to adapt to it. Does Socialthing! throw a wrench or make it easier for companies to advertise on social media sites?

Socialthing! will be an interesting play to advertisers. The cool thing about what we are doing is that we will know the aggregate information about a user, the content they create, their interests, etc. So with that, we are able to target advertisement much more accurately than any one individual site out there. We will see what the industry thinks of that.

Web 2.0 and the products that utilize it can live and die quickly. What have you learned about not only managing expectations and building hype about Socialthing!, but creating a brand that can survive long term?

So much of what we have done with Socialthing! was building the brand and our corporate identity. Too many companies build cool products, but don’t focus enough on the brand and they can get lost in the noise. Between our name, logo, user experience, schwag, business cards, etc., everything ties back to the brand in a strong way. Building a strong brand can be just as important to being heard and having longevity as having a strong product. Just ask Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, etc.

Why is the iPhone an important step in the development of Socialthing!?

Your social activity in real life certainly doesn’t stop when you are away from something, but in the virtual world, your social life essentially stops when you’re away from your computer. So what we want to do is create a conduit into your virtual world though the iPhone and, soon, other mobile platforms so that when you leave your computer, you don’t have to leave your blog, photos, etc., behind.

Are you worried about any kind of negative brand association with Socialthing! if, say, it becomes easier for an individual to find out things they don’t want to know about their friends (or crushes, or lovers, or enemies, etc.)?

No, it really won’t be much of a problem, primarily because we are showing you the activities your friends are already allowing you to see. Not that you couldn’t go hunting for it, but we aren’t “stalker” software because we are simply a window into your existing digital life, making it much easier to see what’s going on and interact with things. See Spokeo for stalking software. 😉

Talking Issues with Martin Ferro-Thomsen of Issuu

martin.jpgMartin Ferro-Thomsen is the Co-Founder (and Communications Manager) of Denmark-based Issuu.com, a website / web application that is one of our current favorites of the year. We think there are big, big things in store for Issuu. Ferro-Thomsen holds an MA in Culture and Communication and also blogs about Culture and Technology on www.ferrogate.com. Issuu is up for the People’s Choice Award at the SXSW Web Awards.

Door Number 3: Do you see Issuu as something a printed publication uses to enhance its online presence? Or are you guys trying to finally kill print?

Ferro-Thomsen: From what we know about new media adoption, it always happens on a cumulative basis; e.g. I still listen to AM/FM radio as well as Pandora. Print media, and the book especially, is probably the most durable, lightweight medium ever made. At Issuu we love print and we’re not trying to kill it at all. Instead we look at the obvious pain that is present when print goes online. As a former mag editor myself, I recall how we used to split up the print PDF into plain text, then lay it out in html and publish it on the web. It was insane and I bet it still happens more than you would think. The lazy version is of course making the PDF available for download, but it’s such a turnoff to the average consumer who just wants to see what’s on page 10. Instead we made Issuu, because the timing was right and the technology was there.
I’ve been watching Issuu over the last couple months and at first it was very ‘zine dominant. I’m surprised at how many larger publications have caught on. Is this what you envisioned? Issuu being used by small and large entities alike?
Yes, diversity was a goal from the outset. We wanted people to be able to look at underground photos, browse for a new digital camera and finally check what the local supermarket can offer this week – all on the same site in the same session. And that’s the great thing about this living library of ours: If you can think it, you can publish it. And that’s why we’re getting such diversified content already.
Did you buy a Kindle?
I was tempted! But I usually never buy a first version of anything. Obviously there were both technical advances and limitations to it, but what worried me most was the packaging and design. This is something we have put tremendous effort into at Issuu. If you want people to share their $5,000 business catalog, or creative life blood for that matter, it simply has to look great. The Kindle basically looks like the monitor I had for my C64 in the 80’s, which is geeky-cool alright, but a far cry from Apple cool which it should have been.
Do you see Issuu being formatted for portable devices? Why have portable e-readers not caught on with people?
Yes, I totally see us doing that in the future, and our members have asked for it already. Whenever introducing a new medium or format, you obviously have to get the basic technology ready for the market. Secondly, you must create the medium so it adds personal value to the consuming experience. And I’m not talking about loads of features that scares people away, but nonetheless happens all the time when engineers run amok. No, you need to take the content to a whole new level in a personalized and engaging way; to rethink the book, so to speak; and that’s what we’re still waiting for after several failed attempts.
Issuu brings a print-like look and feel to the web, which is great for artist portfolios and ‘zines and other generally non-commercial ventures. But it also takes away the notion of hyperlinking and non-linear page flow, which is one of the web’s greatest strengths. What do you think this says about users of Issuu? Does Issuu suffer since there’s no adclick revenue?
The only reason we are not supporting links in the document is a technical thing, and we’ll come up with a solution for this soon. You could argue that it’s almost reactionary going back to the book-format now that we have hyperlinks and the never-ending web page. But obviously that’s the way print has always been created and that’s a determining factor. Although I’m a huge fan of the web’s flexibility and ability to always guide me towards more relevant information, I think the bottomless page in essence is rather dissatisfying to the average person, and I believe that constantly changing context and subject with links is still very disorienting to many.I see the Issuu magazine format almost as a metaphor, not unlike the way iTunes continues to talk about ‘albums’ although it hardly makes any sense online. But you know the magazine, you know what to do with it and you know it will only hold a limited number of pages. I don’t think you should underestimate the strength of the familiar when you think of the constant change that is the web reality of today. That being said, Issuu is currently a very simple version of what we plan to do, and 2008 is going to be an extremely exiting year.
Right now, it seems that any company that advertises in a publication on Issuu is getting free exposure. Is this something you anticipated? Is it even that big of a deal?
I don’t think it’s that big of a deal and it was expected. Businesses and privates want the same thing: To be heard by as many of the right people as possible. The way Issuu is organized, only content someone finds interesting gets exposure and this is something we will continue to improve. Advertising is a fact of life and I’m pretty sure most people see it that way. From the little I know about newspaper history, journalism more or less grew out of an advertising leaflet. Now we’re witnessing almost the reverse phenomenon, where consumers don’t want to pay for their information and you need a business model that relies heavily on advertising to sustain itself. The good news, however, is that ads this time around are much more targeted online than with print. And in my opinion a highly targeted ad is not a nuisance, it’s simply just a great service, as long as it’s served in non-intrusive way.
If Issuu ever publishes its own annual report, would it only exist in the Issuu format or would you print it?
(laughs!) This is something we’ve been discussing in relation to other publications we’ve produced. We would probably do both, as nothing beats the smell and feel of a freshly printed copy of something you really want to read. In some places there’s still a certain conservatism when it comes to online media and credibility, where print still is viewed as superior. I’m pretty sure this will change, just as it has happened with hard currency vs. online banking. Just think of the huge usability improvement an online bank is. With Issuu most people immediately get the point, once they’ve uploaded. Most publishers too will recognize the viral benefits and wealth of digital possibilities associated with publishing on the web; in fact this is already happening.
What is the plan for the community aspect of Issuu? Do you think users will ultimately use Issuu as a collaborative tool, or will it just be MySpace-style slandering each other?
We think a successful community should be tailored to the content and the stakeholders of that content. We have a unique type of content and pretty unique members too, and with that we should be able to create something that is not about slandering. I’ve spent months on MySpace, and although I dislike it for many reasons, my respect for it is bigger. I am watching closely what Facebook is doing to not become another MySpace, and still grow bigger than them. For some reason quantity seems much easier to facilitate than quality when it comes to social media, and this is something we are aware of, keeping in mind that quality is not an absolute phenomenon, but something different to every person.
Have you ever personally published printed ‘zines or other kinds of stuff? Was Issuu created to help you with your own needs or the needs of people you know?
Yes, I’ve worked with several magazines and newspapers, both as a writer and editor and know the industry very well. But it was pure luck that I ended up here. I was put in touch with Michael Hansen, our CEO, who had developed document software for large corporations and was aware of the many unmet challenges here. I was introduced by an old childhood friend, Ruben Bjerg Hansen, who is our designer. Now we’re a bigger team that all shape the company somehow, but the original vision still stands: Rethinking online publishing using the best design and technology available.
Issuu in 2009: what’s going on?
Why spoil the fun 🙂 Stay tuned to our blog, where we introduce all the new stuff: blog.issuu.com.

5 Minutes With Brian Oberkirch

From Brian’s website: “I’m a marketing consultant focused on social media and product/service development. Like It Matters is my personal blog where I write about social media, community-based marketing and technologies that revolve around relevance.”

Door Number 3: What brands have had the most success at using social media as a marketing tool?

Brian Oberkirch: I think brands that are “of the Web” (as opposed to merely on it) have fared much better and done some really interesting things. Threadless, Etsy, Make Magazine. Probably because they don’t conceive of social elements as mere distribution channels for messages, but instead make organic community connections part of their product strategy and not a low level comms tactic. All that said, some big brands have failed and then gradually found their way using social media. Dell is a great example. Wal-mart may be another in the making. Failure is to be expected & embraced. It’s a different way to market. I wrote up some of my observations about companies & blogging (Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World) and drew up a list of company blogging methods (How Companies Blog).

Is the push to incorporate social media into an advertising campaign coming more from the ad agency’s end-client, or rather from the agency itself in an attempt to explore new media?

I think everyone is looking at diminishing returns and reduced impact of traditional marketing tools and thinking there must be something else. I think agencies are less than creative when it comes to grasping and exploring these new tools for the simple reason that they were built to do something entirely different. I actually see it as much more a discontinuity than an evolution. Firms will have to tear themselves down and rebuild accordingly. As will individual marketing peeps.

Do you think the new advertising capabilities on social media sites are becoming annoying to users and perhaps chasing them away from places that were originally created for self expression?

We’re already seeing that ad clickthroughs on social networks are horrible. Like almost not worth it. Why? They don’t add value. Instead, they subtract value. The onus is on people like us to do a better job bringing brands to people. And that really means our old tools may not map. So, the answer is “yes,” but it’s almost to be expected as we look for ways to do this. I like the way Dogster brings the right kind of sponsors in the right ways to add to their service. They balance community, brand partners, and their own self-sustainability pretty well.

Is advertising driving any innovations in terms of hardware/software/web technologies? Or is advertising simply trying to catch up and adapt to technologies being created by a community of users/innovators?

I may be the wrong one to ask about this, as I tend to think of advertising people as being hopelessly out of it when it comes to the Web. Again, there are tremendous opportunities to do meaningful marketing in the light of all the information discovery tools, collaboration environments, community hacks, etc. But mapping inherited modes of advertising aren’t going to get us there.

The traditional model of advertising as a one-way conversation is waning, yet we sense that both general users and advertisers are still somewhat uncomfortable with this new relationship of being “equal.” Do you think this could be a generational issue?

That and it’s a user education issue. The social Web is relatively new. Think about the time it took to acclimate people to online commerce habits. No one would question the reality of that market now. So yes, marketing is starting to convulse under the range of new pressures (only some of which have anything to do with technology), and we’ll be in flux for a while. Flux makes us uncomfortable, but we’ll see tons of experimentation and creativity. Out of that will come the next Amazons, Ebays, Googles, etc.

What excites you most about attending SXSW this year?
Being around all the people who are crazy, go nuts passionate about building the Web. You just get a great vibe. Like we’re all in this together.


SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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