New consumers of digital lifestyle products

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A view by George D'Souza, a well-known content strategist in India, provides reasons why Indian consumers cannot relate to technology information portals and magazines in India. He says there is a need for new way of writing, and also recommends a merger between information portals and e-commerce sites. Twitter Id: @geoneld

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New consumers of digital lifestyle products

  1. 1. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle ProductsHow shall we tackle the brave new world out there?PrefaceThis is not an article about technology or evolution of technology. This article is aboutaudiences and audience psychology; it is about writing for consumers, and about why onlineinformation providers are still overwhelming readers with PC-era technical writing.The article provides two arguments: One that there is a lack of leadership among onlineinformation providers in the DLP space, and two, online information providers are notcompleting the purchase cycle of a consumer and are losing out on advertising as well assales revenue.The article deliberately restricts itself to editorial-generated content, and does not extenditself to audience-generated content. It does not evaluate the impact of social mediaapplications like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and does not seek to debate the advantagesbetween editorial-generated content and audience-generated content.Audiences come to editorial because of trust. Whether this trust is generated by an editorialteam huddled in a newspaper office, or a bunch of diverse people located in differentcountries, it does not matter. If trust is available anywhere else, they will go there.Again, the focus is on writing for consumers. The article finally points to an opportunity forany company willing to marry good consumer writing with an online DLP store. 1/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  2. 2. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Finally, the word writing is used as a convenience. The arguments made for consumerwriting can be extended to any form of content.History of the Digital ConsumerThe consumers of digital lifestyle products are no longer geeks and technocrats. Theinnovators and early adopters are now swamped by a mass of early majority users. Howshould online information providers evolve to cater to them? Should they still be talking thelanguage of innovators and early adopters? These are questions that are presenting achallenge.To understand why technology consumer writing is still so technical, a bit of history isalways helpful. The main reason is technology information providers suffer from nostalgia.There is a reason why technology information providers write about digital lifestyle products(DLPs) in the manner that they do: talking top-down, laced with technical stuff, critical andbereft of simplicity, or alternatively in a boring verbose way. This is because writing abouttechnology has its origins in the work of computer engineers of the 1980’s.Tier-X Techies – The GeeksMost technology information providers–print magazines–started around 1979 (ComputerShopper), 1982 (PC Magazine) and 1983 (PC World), when DOS was being rewritten, byBill Gates and Paul Allen, for license to IBM, to be bundled with its PCs. Around the sametime, the Apple Macintosh hit the markets with its mouse and graphical user interface. 2/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  3. 3. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011This was an era that spawned a new breed of people, with huge interest in technologyproducts, mainly because they loved the skulls, bones and brain fluid of these new machines.They were able to write strings of text–software–that gave them control over how thesesystems worked. A computer person meant significant technical skills and knowledge.Information providers arrived, whose task was to whet the appetite for information of thisnew breed of technology aficionados, keeping them excited with the newest releases andthose in the pipeline.Unfortunately technology information providers have never escaped from this psychology.Tier-Y Techies – The CTOAs technology adoption increased, wherein rows of PCs could be tied together, corporationsstarted building complex technology systems, focusing on business growth. A new line oftechies became available, adept at large wide-area technology deployment—networking.Information providers started catering to these professionals who took decisions on whattechnology platforms to invest in, how to use technology to drive business growth, cutemployee costs, manage customers, etc.Again, the writing continued to be focused on technologists and technocrats. 3/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  4. 4. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011The Tech ChannelAround the 1990’s, multimedia PCs became the most desirable products. These PCs fuelleddemand for techies who could assemble and service these PCs. They were mainly two types:traders and service providers.Traders: Traders discovered opportunity in selling hardware and software. They becameresellers, whose main focus was to sell products that provided good margin. Theirinformation needs were how to maximize gain rather than the skulls, bones and brain fluidof technology. They wanted to know how to sell high-tech products to customers.Service Providers: Possibly Tier-1 techies, they assembled and maintained PCs for homes,while those with financial backing were able to expand in to services for corporations. A fewothers became indigenous packaged software developers, in areas of finance and payroll,anti-virus and security, and business.Early Indian Home User was a Software EngineerIn India, as the software industry boomed, the technology user community was inundated byswarms of software programmers, who were also technically well-honed. As a resultinformation providers did not have to work hard at simplifying writing, since readers couldunderstand all the technical jargon well.As their clout grew, so did their bank balances, marking an increase in their purchasingtechnology products–gadgets and gizmos. Information providers assumed that if you owneda PC you were already jargon-savvy, thus there was no need for consumer-oriented writing. 4/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  5. 5. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011From the Tier-X, Tier-Y, Tech channel and the software engineer, all were technicallyinclined; so were the information providers.The Era of the Multimedia PC – The First Signs of a Digital ConsumerMultimedia PCs, with better graphics and a CD-drive, started becoming popular in the1990’s. Prior to this period, PCs were boring machines. Multimedia on the PC played animportant role in making the computer relevant to the person at home. It became anedutainment device.Some of the key local trends around the multimedia PC era were:  Intel’s ‘Pentium Inside’ campaign for assembled PC manufacturers;  The assembled computer segment in India coming together to develop a branded multimedia PC called – Millennium PC;  Explosion in growth of multimedia software on CDs;  Computer magazines bundling CDs–and later DVDs;  PC becoming an Edu-tainment device [since Indians are more focused on education];  Multimedia institutes like Apple Arena and Edit Institute.Information providers thought it would be important for all PC owners to know how totroubleshoot their PCs, so information continued to be oriented toward Tier-X techies. 5/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  6. 6. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011The Biggest Non-Event in 30 YearsThe biggest non-event of the last 3 decades was the commoditization of the PC. It neverhappened because the notebook took over–now any place became office space and playstations–as notebooks became cheaper, the mobile phone became more sophisticated, andbefore anything, the notebook replaced the PC as the point of access for the Internet.Pre-Internet EraIn the pre-Internet era, information about technology products reached a user [PC consumer]through the local reseller/assembler, retail store, a ‘computer’ friend, and magazines. Eventelevision channels rarely did any reviews of technology products before the Internet.It may be worthwhile to look at the purchase process in the PC era. When a user wanted tobuy a technology product, he would: 1. Read some Indian and foreign technology user magazines; or 2. Ask a local assembler; or 3. Ask a ‘computer friend’; or 4. Visit a local retail store; or 5. All of the aboveThe Internet world today is a Search, Download and Print (SDP) world. With Adobe pdffiles now available within the browser, there is no need to even download too – SP world] 6/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  7. 7. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Effect of Internet on Computer MagazinesThe Internet had a devastating impact on consumer technology magazines. Few USPs justflew out. Some key changes were:  Free software available on magazine CDs/DVDs became redundant;  Magazines were no longer looked upon for research data and articles;  Frequency was made redundant; everything is available right now.Indian magazines found readers were getting free software online; they were able to directlyexchange files with other like-minded individuals, and print was becoming an irrelevantmedium. Foreign consumer magazines like Computer Shopper and PC Magazine quicklybecame online-only brands.Multimedia Moves OnlineFaster broadband speeds saw the migration of multimedia from the desktop to online.Multimedia did not become mobile with the advent of mobile phones. It became mobilewhen the PC got replaced by the notebook. It is only recently that mobile phones startedreplacing notebooks. With displays getting larger–tablets–the mobile phone is set to becomethe ubiquitous DLP commodity.The New ConsumersOver the last 10 years, a new set of people is adapting to the Internet every year. Those bornin 1990’s are now the leading consumers of the technology world. Interactivity with 7/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  8. 8. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011technology is a way of life for them, and not something they learned at an institute. E-mail,messengers, software music players, and online video, are the new ‘normal’ for them.Digital by itself is being redefined. It has moved from being PC technology to a fusion ofmobile phones, television and video. Furious mergers of technology: Radio and musicsystems, cameras and video, computing and communications are creating new DLPs everyday. It is indeed a brave new world out there.Key Learning: When technology becomes ubiquitous, users are consumers – not techies 8/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  9. 9. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Immediate Goals for Online Information ProvidersThe first thing that online information providers need to do is to redefine digital technologyas it stands today, and then define the DLP audience. As a publishing strategy technologyinformation providers must always cater to the lowest common denominator – i.e. the leasttechnology-savvy with the most capacity to spend–among the target audience.As technology becomes commoditized the audience interest shifts from skulls, bones andbrain fluid to skin complexion and eye color. It becomes less about how much the CPU isover-clocked than about ergonomics, ease of use, and response speed.The question to ask is: Where does Online Information Providers stand in the scheme ofthings? Is the audience a DLP consumer or Tier-X techie? If the answer is the former, thenthe story of Online Information Providers has to be modified.The common categorization of DLP products is:  Basic Necessity – objects needed for daily life;  Yuppie – objects aspired for after the next raise;  Splurge or Luxury – impressing the world of new status.Steps for Online Information ProvidersStep 1: Define the Lowest Common DenominatorThe Lowest Common Denominator has changed. What are the characteristics? What are thebuying habits? What is the income source? What are the main products purchased? 9/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  10. 10. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Step 2: Recategorize the SectionsThe new categorization should bring about the fact that the information is for the consumer.Step 3: Redesign the Final PageThe final page, where the product is actually displayed, should be redesigned to look simplerand helpful.Step 4: The Writer SellsTrust is what magazines and information providers bring to a buyer. Trust is brought aboutby credibility of information. Credibility is achieved by providing clear concise explanationof the upsides and downsides of the product, from a point of view of the buyer.The attitude to writing should be like “How Stuff Works” and “10 steps to FinancialFreedom”. Writers have to be down-to-earth, honest, customer-facing sales guides, alwayspresenting the facts and benefits of a product, and lightly nudging the buyer if the product isunsuitable to his or her needs.The ratings game should to be relevant to the consumer. The parameters used formeasurement have to become lowest common denominator-compliant. 10/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  11. 11. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011Phase II – The StoreCatalog Publishing Never Went OnlineThe odd thing about publishers is that they had an active catalog business in print, whichmigrated to television as the ‘Home shopping network’. However, surprisingly, catalogpublishing did not migrate online.Catalog publishing is nothing but a print magazine store–where the shelf display is the pagesof a magazine. Technology information providers have never demonstrated the logicalextension of getting in to the ‘online catalog’ business.Also, online information providers are happy remaining providers of information–i.e. news,reviews, while the business of selling products is left to online stores and markets, a grossunderutilization of the potential of the Internet.Even today, print magazines continue to offer special deals on products, and productbundles, to their subscribers, while television channels run their shopping networks.An online store completes the lifecycle of a buyer: create interest, allow research, providechoice, and call for purchase. The strategy should be to develop a synchronicity betweeninformation site and the shopping site.Some questions to ask before developing the store are:  Should it sync with DLP resellers?  Should the store be owned by online information provider or should multiple stores be linked to the information provider? 11/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  12. 12. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011  What should be the USP? Lowest prices in India?  Should the online information provider take ownership of warranty, returns etc.?  How would warehousing and dispatch be handled?  Would resellers be allowed to offer specialty stores, like ebay.in?  Should all advertising lead to the store?  Should consumer be allowed to click out of the site to an advertiser’s home page?The Purchase ProcessHere we look at every aspect of the purchase process and list the to-do’s under each segmentof the process. The aim of the to-do’s would be to enhance effectiveness of each segment.Create Interest  News  Columns on trends and directions  Consumer-oriented writing  State of the marketAllow Research  Cross-brand comparisons and evaluations  Reviews, ratings  Call center  Online chatProvide Choice  Unrestricted wide variety of offering  Different payment options 12/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  13. 13. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011  Loans and discounts  Product bundlesPermit Purchase  Lowest rates in India  Auctions  Shopping cart etcPost Purchase  How to best use the products you purchased and what to upgrade to  Software downloads  Service and support centers 13/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  14. 14. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011A Note on Communications TheoryDuring any form of communications there is a gap between when the event occurs and whenthe audience becomes aware of the occurrence. This gap is completed by the existence ofmedia which propagates news, just like a wave is propagated through the atmosphere. Ifthere were no medium, there would be no awareness of the event.Information providers thrive in this gap by becoming the medium (hence the word media).The faster and better they fill the time between occurrence and awareness the moresuccessful they can be.The biggest loss in any medium is Time Lag, which can be corrected by depth of the news(analysis and insight).Any form of communications has three components:  Transmitter (event or occurrence via writer/reporter/editor )  Media (via print, television, online)  Receiver (reader or audience via PC/notebook, mobile)Transmitter and receiver have their own internally generated losses due to noise(preconceived notions or interpretations) which cannot be monitored and controlled.However, losses in the media can be controlled.Losses in the message are due to:  Reporter/Writer/Editor timeliness or perception  Print/Broadcast quality – where the news is positioned or importance given 14/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.
  15. 15. Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only. Writing for Consumers of Digital Lifestyle Products February 10, 2011  Time lag – frequency of media, time of appearance on TVThe Internet has reduced the time lag and hence the Gap. Thus, it has created a disruption inthe medium. Information is now available instantaneously whether news or analysis.Thus the only challenge is credibility. This is a kind of loss that exists in the receiver but canbe controlled to an extent by the medium. The Internet has put a high price on credibility. 15/15 Developed by: George D’Souza geoneld@gmail.com Freely and widely distributable with copyright credit to author.

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