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The Membership Imperative and the Persistence of Audio Content
16th July 2015 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC
00:00:00 00:31:05

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We’ve been talking a lot about the benefits of the “logged in experience” when it comes to email list building and marketing automation. There’s even more to it than that.

Birthday boy Jerod Morris joins me for this episode to talk about interesting things we’ve spotted in the endless content stream related to digital commerce. We discuss why web analytics are usually horribly wrong (and what to do about it), and marvel at the staying power and popularity of audio content.

Tune in to hear us discuss:

  • The statistical power of the logged in experience
  • The folly of looking at the wrong metrics
  • The most powerful form of media on earth
  • The future of independent audio content
  • How Jerod produces multiple podcasts
  • A brief intro to Brian’s new show … Unemployable

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The Membership Imperative and the Persistence of Audio Content

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Brian Clark: Hey, everyone, and welcome to another episode of New Rainmaker. I am Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media and your host.

Today, in the co-host chair is a guy many of you know and hear a lot of on Rainmaker.FM. It’s his birthday, so I said, “What the heck? Let’s have Jerod Morris come on the show, and we’ll chat about some stuff that’s been of particular interest to us.” First of all, Jerod, happy birthday! How young are we?

Jerod Morris: Thank you very much. I am 34 years young today.

Brian Clark: Ah, still a babe. Just a child.

Jerod Morris: I don’t know, every year I’m starting to feel less and less like that.

Brian Clark: It’s funny because, when you’re 18, 34 sounds like the most ancient thing you’ve ever heard.

Jerod Morris: I know. Then you get here, and it’s like, “Oh.”

Brian Clark: The sprint from 18 to 34 is like, “Wait a minute!”

Jerod Morris: Yeah. “What happened?”

Brian Clark: Wait till you wake up and you’re 48. I still feel 20, so I don’t know. Except you tend to creak a little more.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. That’s already happening.

Brian Clark: Okay. Today, we’ve got just some stuff around the news that’s been interesting. I know we both tend to find stuff that we’re reading and share it with whomever it may be appropriate for, but especially among the Rainmaker group we’ve got going here. You actually found a really interesting article over at FiveThirtyEight. That was a dude at ESPN, Nate Silver, right?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, Nate Silver.

Brian Clark: Very bright people over there, very data driven. This was an article that was right up the alley of something we’ve been talking about, but it doesn’t surprise me because it’s a real issue. It’s a real problem on many fronts, from stats to marketing automation to web experience in general. Tell us a little bit about that article.

The Statistical Power of the ‘Logged In Experience’

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What if I told you that we have no earthly idea how many people are visiting websites, for the most part. Literally, we have some basic estimates. Some are a little bit better than others, but as the article points out, estimates that you’ll get from a comScore or one of those other big rating sites can vary vastly from what actual websites report, what their internal traffic reports are. It really just comes back to the nature of cookies. That’s what this article is talking about is how little we actually understand about how many people are visiting our website.

It even has some crazy stats about the proportion of traffic that is actually bots, which are mindboggling. The big takeaway for me was where the passage says, “Unless you have a serious paywall, and therefore have users who are logged in a 100 percent of the time, there’s just no way to know for sure how many individual real-life people visit your site in a month, week or day” — which struck me as just another huge benefit of what we’ve been talking about with this ‘logged in experience.’

When people aren’t logged in, you really don’t know who they are. You don’t know how many real uniques you have because it could be the same person visiting your site on four or five different devices. There’s all these different variables, but you eliminate so many of those variables when people are actually logged in.

It talks about the trends with Facebook now, basically presenting content from The New York Times, from BuzzFeed directly on Facebook, and publishers going along with this. For Facebook, the big benefit, of course, is they know exactly how many people are reading those articles. They’ve got actual logged-in people with faces.

We’ll see Google and Apple going down this road. It’s just further confirmation of the trend that we’ve been talking about — the power of a membership site and the information that it gives you — which is actually accurate, unlike the estimates that we’re basically relying on for traffic data.

Brian Clark: Yeah, when we say a membership site — and we’ve talked about those before — Facebook is a membership interface. You’re either in or out. A paywall is a membership interface, whether you charge money for it or not. We started using the term, when we’re talking to people who may not be as sophisticated, we just call it a ‘free paywall.’ You register. You get access to information, but then all of a sudden, you’re having an access-based, logged in experience.

As far as the particular focus here of traffic numbers, comScore or whatever, their estimates of Copyblogger’s traffic are way off as far as what we see internally, but this is exactly why. It’s not just stats, but that’s a pretty huge thing, obviously, for being able to do any sort of data analysis of what’s happening with your audience. We’ve talked about in the past before, the whole marketing automation and adaptive content experience, the problem with cookies. It’s the same thing, cross platform. You’re losing the cookie. You’re losing your automation because we live in a mobile to desktop to whatever world.

The ‘logged in’ aspect of it allows you to say. “Yup, okay. It’s you.” It doesn’t matter if you’re on your phone, your iPad, or your desktop. Now, we’re able to give you this more personalized experience, give you the content that you want instead of just trying to feed everyone the same experience and hope that it’s relevant to a certain percentage. It’s just another move towards having some incentive, something great that prompts people to register for access, as opposed to the old school, “Opt-in to our email newsletter,” or whatever the case may be. It really is interesting. You’re seeing more and more of this.

Speaking of publishers that are caving into Facebook, as an aside, I read this great article about Gawker, of all businesses, and Nick Denton. I’m not a huge fan, but I have respect for Nick and what he’s done. Obviously, I just wouldn’t want to be in that nasty business. But I do respect the fact that he’s standing up and saying, “You’re crazy to publish your stuff on Facebook. Are you a publisher? Are you in control of your business or not?”

It was a really interesting article. I’ll have to pull that up for the show notes. A lot of it has nothing to do with this, but I did notice, in the middle, he took a fairly principled stand against turning everything over to Facebook — of course, we’ve been warning that since 2007.

The Folly of Looking at the Wrong Metrics

Jerod Morris: Yeah, exactly. One other thing, too, that I wanted to point out about that article is it’s further confirmation of the folly of looking at the wrong metrics. Jonny and I answered a lot of questions about this with Showrunner with people asking, “What metrics should I look at?” “How important are downloads?” — and this kind of thing.

It’s similar to people who look at their site and just look at page views or just look at unique visitors. Obviously, you want those numbers to be growing. Trends can be important, but the actual numbers themselves mean so little. What really matters is engagement. Not just how many uniques are coming to the site, but how many you can convert to actually doing something and to getting them into a place where you can, as you talked about, use marketing automation. Or get them into some logged in experience where you can just learn more about them.

I hope that articles like this and people understanding just how little those big overview numbers mean and really dig in to the numbers and the kind of data that will actually drive results for you.

Brian Clark: I think the whole one-size-fits-all web experience is going extinct. It’s the membership interface that allows you to provide a truly rock-solid, personalized thing. I should mention that, if you’re interested in the intersection of the logged in experience or a membership interface, content, email, and marketing automation, Jerod and I are actually doing a webinar in couple of weeks, 10 days, something like that.

Jerod Morris: Yup.

Brian Clark: That will be in the show notes as well. It was announced on Copyblogger, but we’ll link that up for you. We’re going to — it’s half and half — explain the strategy of the intersection of all those things to build a really responsive and high-converting email list. Then Jerod is going to show you how to actually execute on that using the Rainmaker Platform if, in fact, that’s the tool set of choice that you would like to use. Of course, we’re rather fond of it.

Jerod Morris: Actually, the other day my dog woke me up at 3:00 in the morning, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Do you ever have those times where you can’t get to sleep? So you either spend three hours just sitting there wishing you could sleep, but you don’t. You end up just wasting the time?

Brian Clark: All the time.

Jerod Morris: I said, “Screw it,” and just decided to get up. I was actually really excited. There’s some Rainmaker features that I wanted to dig in to and play with, so I got to spend the first three hours of the morning in total quiet, total seclusion, no distractions just playing with some of the new features. It was really entertaining, really educational. I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve learned and some of the different fun things Rainmaker can do on these webinars. Those are really fun.

Brian Clark: I would like to commend you for being productive. I do that, too. Sometimes I wake up at 3:30, and I’m like, “You know you’re not going back to sleep. Just get up, put on the coffee.” Those are always fun days around 4:30 in the afternoon — “Oh my God, I’m tired.”

All right, what else we got to look at today?

The Most Powerful Form of Media on Earth

Jerod Morris: I have a question for you because you used to live in Dallas. Did you ever listen to The Ticket when you lived in Dallas?

Brian Clark: It would be on here and there. The funny thing is, it’s my wife who listens to sports radio.

Jerod Morris: Really?

Brian Clark: She used to listen to The Ticket. She’s fanatic about listening to ESPN, and now, of course, she has satellite radio in the car and in the house. I’m just like, “Who are you?” In many ways, she’s the dude in the family, yet I have all the bad characteristics of a man as well. But, as an aside, yes, I am familiar with the program.

Jerod Morris: I’m not from Dallas, and when I moved here, I would always listen to ESPN radio. I’m a big sports fan. I would start to listen to The Ticket, but it’s very inside-Dallas type talk. They’ll talk about sports, but you have to live here for a while to get some of the jokes. I remember talking to someone who lived here for a while, and he’s like, “Just keep listening.” He’s like, “You’ll eventually get it, and you’ll become a dedicated listener.” I was thinking about it, and over the last two years, maybe three years, I bet I have spent more time listening to The Ticket than consuming any other type of media in total.

I say that to preface the discussion of this article that you sent, which is from The Observer, entitled Radio — Yes, Terrestrial Radio — Is the No. 1 Medium in Terms of Reach. We often here about how radio is dying. It’s just this dead medium, yet while it’s changing — the stations that are doing it right, and The Ticket is certainly one of them. They were first sports talk radio station that consistently wins Marconis. The ones who do it well continue to not just survive, but thrive. How is that when we’re supposed to be in this era when radio is dying because there’s so many threats to its existence?

Brian Clark: Yeah, it was a fascinating thing. It caught me off guard when I saw the headline and I read the story. Obviously, we’re very interested in audio from a podcasting, on-demand type approach, and obviously, this is a huge justification that people really, really enjoy audio content. I’ve got several interesting things about this that popped in my head when I read this. First of all, before you read this article and I sent it to you, did you know what the first video ever played on MTV was?

Jerod Morris: I did. That I did know, yes.

Brian Clark: For anyone who doesn’t know, it was The Buggles’s song Video Killed the Radio Star. There was a bit of irony that in 2015 no? Not yet? Okay, number one, people love audio. It is ingrained in our culture from a media standpoint. There’s a lot of reason for that. I don’t know about you because you just said you are a heavy Ticket listener, and I don’t know what the context of that is. But to me, it seems that radio continues to dominate because of the car. The radio in the vehicle is technology that everyone understands. Agree or disagree?

Jerod Morris: I think in part because that’s when I got into it, but what the smart stations have done is allow their feeds to be picked up by programs like iHeartRadio and, more importantly, create their own apps. I don’t drive that much because I work from home, and probably 95 percent of the time I’m listening to The Ticket is just on an app on my phone. I just have it on. It’ll be in my pocket. It’ll just be kind of around and on. I think, certainly, the car helped, but I...