|It seems like only yesterday but on December 19th it will be five years since we first officially and publicly announced our plans to launch Creative COW Magazine. Five years already? Time flies. At the time, it was an insane gamble but the last five years have proven it to be a risk worth taking.|
When I first came up with the idea for Creative COW Magazine, Creative COW was struggling and barely making it month to month. I was handling much of the site design and maintenance, was our only salesman, and added to these duties were a myriad of other jobs that needed to be done every day. Kathlyn cautioned me that if it failed, we would have to pull the plug on the site and walk away. But I knew that if the COW was ever going to truly compete against the likes of Videography, TV Technology, Studio Monthly, Broadcast Engineering, DV, Post, Millimeter, Film & Video, Video Systems and many other magazines -- whom many industry advertisers took far more seriously than they did, Creative COW -- we'd have to meet the magazines on their own playing field.
Yes, I was aware that the magazine business was in real trouble and that many magazines were struggling. But I also knew that there was a reason that they were struggling and it had nothing to do with the cost of paper or the fact that the world was indeed changing -- something I am all too painfully aware of, I assure you. The reason that I felt they were losing audience was that they had lost their focus as to whom they really served.
At a time when many publishers are failing, Creative COW Magazine along with USA Today and the Wall Street Journal -- as well as others too numerous to name here -- are growing and prospering. Why? Because they make something that readers WANT to read.
At a time when the audience is looking for answers and ideas to help them in volatile markets and a rapidly changing world, the only answers that many publishers can come up with, is to take short-cuts. Some of our competitors have fallen to the point of running a single "feature" story and filling the rest with press releases and calling it a magazine.
We work very hard on Creative COW Magazine and Tim Wilson and I are always on the phone discussing ideas, looking at what people are talking about, what we think the members of Creative COW are interested in -- and from there, we begin the process of designing and crafting each issue. I don't use the word "craft" loosely. We don't slap down whatever we get and call it an issue. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into every phase of each issue of Creative COW Magazine: planning, development, and finishing.
Sure, some issues are clearly better than others, but I can honestly say that I cannot point to a single issue of which I am ashamed or embarrassed by. We have been fortunate to have many of the best and brightest working industry pros take our calls, work with us to craft stories about their projects, their tools and their workflows.
We have watched the audience and advertisers vote with their interest and their support. We are grateful for it and know that in order to keep it, we can't take short cuts and make the kinds of compromises that have relegated many of our competing titles to the ash heap of history because they became irrelevant to those they once served.
I once had the Editor-in-Chief of one of the top-ranked magazines in cinematography come up to me at a trade show and tell me that, "You guys have set the standard for the industry and are the team to beat." Her words, not mine. She asked how we got away with not making the kinds of compromises that she was forced to make, compromises and concessions she was forced to make to curry the favor of advertisers. I looked at her and asked: "Would you like to know the truth? I'll tell you but you may think it harsh." She said she'd like to know, so this is what I told her...
"When advertisers have told us that in order to get their business we have to do a write-up on them in our magazine, we simply ask them point-blank: 'Let me see if I have this right. You want us to make the same kinds of compromises and do the same kinds of stories that have largely crippled those magazines that survive and have killed many others -- compromises that have made them largely irrelevant to their audience and have destroyed their credibility -- and you want us to do that. Did I hear you right?'"
She told me in response: "You don't really do that, do you?" I told her that not only do we do it but that she better start doing it too, if she wanted to save both her job and her publication.
Our audience would expect nothing less from us than to get it right. Tell the truth. Tell the story. Serve the audience. Don't sell us out.
So that's what we did and what we do.
It's been a tough five years. The beginning was really tough, as we started this with no investors, no money in the bank other than just enough to cover the bills. It was all a gamble. A major gamble. One sizable misstep and we'd have been just another magazine in the ash heap of history -- and the COW itself would have been there, as well.
So, thank you more than you know for being our guide, we watch you and we listen to you and we make the magazine in answer to the kinds of things we see you asking about and discussing. You truly are our rudder and set the course that we will follow.
We jokingly and lovingly refer to you as The Body Bovine and you are our navigators in the perilous waters of today's rapidly changing marketplace. Without you, we'd have ended up on the rocks, long ago, and these five years would have never happened.
The best always,
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine
|The newest issue of Creative COW Magazine explores the idea of Divergence in acquisition, production, and distribution in broadcasting. Gone are the days when the Big 3 networks -- CBS, NBC and ABC -- could count on the audience coming to them. Now, the networks are addressing issues of shrinking audiences, rapidly expanding production modalities and issues, and a proliferation of devices that take television out of the Big-Box-at-Home and into the hands of the audience who wants it everywhere, anywhere, all the time, and on their terms.|
In one of our very best stories ever, longtime COW host and one of the people responsible for ABC.com, Robert Longwell, looks at how ABC Television is taking their programming where the audience is. It is one of my favorite Creative COW Magazine articles ever, and it should prove to be an audience favorite, as well. Robert explores behind-the-scenes ideas and techniques that are making ABC.com one of the must-have destinations for users of a myriad of devices that are taking television outside the home.
A few years back, we did an issue entitled "Portable Media." It was a huge success and it has proven to be one of our most popular issues. The "Divergence Issue" is even better and takes the idea of portable media and other new technologies that are creating true market "divergence," into areas that are far beyond what was imagined even just three years ago when we created the Portable Media issue.
But this new issue is far more than just portable media and if you take the time to read its great articles, we guarantee you that it will be time well spent.
So, visit www.creativecowmagazine.net and see what is happening inside ABC, and also many other teams who are hard at work to meet the challenges and demands of today's rapidly changing audience.
|I knew that the new iPhone 4 was going to be a winner the moment I saw it. I thought to myself: "Hey, even Tim Wilson's going to end up getting one of these." That's saying something, because even though Tim has been a fan of the iPhone, in principle, he also has resisted the iPhone siren call because as he says: "It runs on AT&T, doesn't it?"|
But not even AT&T could stop the irrepressible Mister Wilson from getting in line at his local AT&T store for Day One of pre-orders for the new iPhone 4. (Man, he must have had his skin crawling as he stood there!) But the iPhone 4 looks to be *that* cool, and about 650,000 pre-orders in 24 hours on the first day -- enough to crash Apple's servers due to the heavy load -- attests that many others agree.
Will many others argue ad nauseum that the iPhone sucks for this reason and that reason? Undoubtedly, and they can have their opinion while they justify using phones far less fun because they point to AT&T or other reasons.
Who cares what the naysayers think? I sure don't.
I'm walking around with my desktop office machine, my iPhone, my iPad, all synced through the cloud -- with each having much of the same exact stuff on all of them. Yes, it's "Cloud Computing v1.0," but it's quite compelling and is what I hoped computers would be like one day.
But hey, we only went for the WiFi iPads because, as Tim Wilson will soon learn and to which we always say: "One AT&T account is quite enough, thank you."
|Yes, my iPad makes MUCH better calls and is a FAR more pleasant experience, than trying to use my iPhone for calling. Not only is the clarity much better but the volume (when needed in louder situations) is much better and has greater "presence," as well.|
While talking with Tim Wilson on the phone the other day, we began talking about Skype and wondered if there was a Skype app that would work on an iPad. So while on the phone talking with Tim, I went to the iTunes Store and downloaded the Skype app. Within a minute or two, we were talking via the iPad.
I didn't wait for the 3G iPad. I didn't want one. I sometimes joke that "I already have one more AT&T account than I want." The only thing I truly hate about the iPhone is that it is on AT&T. I never knew what a dropped call was until I got onto AT&T. But talking across a WiFi connection, using Skype on the iPad, is quite a nice experience.
And once the soon-to-ship iPhone OS 4 is delivered to users this Summer (up here in the northern half of the planet), multi-tasking comes to both iPhones and iPads and then the fun really starts.
That Apple sold so many of these things so fast that they had to delay their introduction of the iPad in other countries around the world, is no surprise to those of us who use them now. It's a remarkable invention and for use around the office and the home, I prefer to route my calls to the iPad and let my iPhone sit ready for road trips.
Wait, I use GM's OnStar hands-free calling in my car when I'm on the road. I guess that leaves AT&T to fill in those rare moments when nothing else is available or better. And seeing as how there's little that isn't better than AT&T, that doesn't leave the iPhone used for much.
One of the nice things about living in Paso Robles, California, is that in the 1930s and 40s, then world renowned Polish-born pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski made it his home and built one of the early vineyard/wineries in the area. He came here at the advice of one of his world traveling friends for the mineral rich hot springs waters in which he soaked to relieve the pains in his hands (which was destroying his ability to perform), and their medicinal effect enabled Paderewski to play for locals in the famed El Paso de Robles Hotel -- one of the only 5 star hotels in the western USA at the time.
Sadly, the wonderful "Hot Springs Hotel" as it was often called, burned down in 1940...
GETTING TO THE POINT (BY A SOMEWHAT CIRCUITOUS ROUTE)
Over the past couple of decades, Paso Robles, due to its ties to Paderewski, instituted the annual Paderewski Festival, held in the Fall. In November of 2008, Paso Robles and Tarnów, Poland signed a sister city agreement due to their mutual historical ties to Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
AND FINALLY, THE POINT...
With all of this said by way of introduction, I wanted to point to one of my favorite videos uploaded by one of the COW members from Poland, Michal Jaskulski's recently uploaded "Making of" video for the music video "Emily Dickinson's Much Madness," directed by Michal Jaskulski.
So, with a time-tested and boldly red wine-soaked Paso Roblan tip of the ole cow hat to our friends in Poland, here is Michal's story...
|As many of you already know, we have been having a contest in our Video-Reels section looking for the best TRAILER entered. We are awarding $1,000 to the winner, and we will give $500 to the person who leaves the most astute and insightful comment when voting. So, even the voters have a chance at winning. We have had some great trailers entered and you can see and vote for your favorites by going to http://reels.creativecow.net/trailer-contest.php Remember, the voting closes January 14th, with the winner being announced on the 15th.|
In the last few days, we had a new music video entered by Matt Kresling that seems to have struck a creative nerve with many of our members. The video has garnered 13 five cow votes so far, with not a single 4, 3, 2 or 1 vote in the bunch, so far. It really is quite a piece of work and you can see it at http://reels.creativecow.net/film/2974
When we launched the Videos-Reels section last year, we had no idea that it would take off as quickly as it has. This new addition to Creative COW already accounts for over 100,000 views a month and it is growing fast. The number of reels is also growing fast and they represent an incredible number of nations around the world. Just check out the Sort By Nation link and you can see for yourself.
Thanks everyone, it is incredible to see how everyone has taken to this new area of Creative COW.
|Last year, around this time, we posted that in late November of 2008, the COW passed the Google Analytics ONE MILLION unique visitors a month marker. This year, as we wind down to year's end, we have passed the Google Analytics 2.2 MILLION unique visitors a month threshold. In fact, Q3 of 2009 sustained growth that saw the COW growing by adding another 100,000 visitors every 10 days or so.|
Against this backdrop, the other day I read a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that said: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." When I read this, I had to smile, especially considering the last 15 years or so that Kathlyn and I have been building media professionals communities online. I read Ghandi's words out loud to Kathlyn, and she smiled. It was the story of Creative COW in a nutshell.
In the beginning, many people in the industry didn't get it. But those that were trying to keep their jobs -- floundering in the wake of rapidly changing technologies and production processes -- they got it. In fact, as Kathlyn and I have mentioned before, the most rewarding experience we've ever had at trade shows, is when people come up and talk about how they've been coming for a decade or more and how the community we've help build helped save their job. That will humble you, when you consider their family and ponder how something you have done has helped someone else protect that family. It is truly an honor that we do not take lightly.
In the beginning, the industry trade magazines and other well funded entities in this field, ignored us. We sent press releases time and again that never received coverage, as they chose to ignore us. Just like Ghandi said they would.
When we changed our strategy and launched Creative COW, they laughed at the company with the funny name. Ghandi got that one right, also. In fact, we once heard from one of the people that had worked with one of these companies, that on the day that we announced we'd be going into print, the company they worked for had a meeting in which they mooed and laughed and talked about what an aborted foray into print this would be. "Who's going to read a Creative 'COW' Magazine?" they laughed. The answer? Their former readers, it seems.
Every year that goes by, there are fewer and fewer magazines in this market, and there are more and more websites opened, but there is still only one Creative COW -- a site with more combined traffic than all of them combined.
Is it because we are so smart? No. Then why is it happening this way?
Once upon a time we received a call from a billion dollar publishing conglomerate (who I won't name to spare them the embarrassment) that had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in this market, trying to lead in this market segment. They called us from England on a speakerphone from their board room and asked how on Earth we always managed to beat them? They told us that no matter the money they spent, we just kept growing and undoing everything they were trying to accomplish.
We told them the simple answer: we listen to our people and we build that. They wouldn't believe the simple truth, and because of it, they failed -- not long after selling off at fire sale prices the under-performing company they tried to build.
We have failed plenty ourselves. Having just passed 59, I look at my failures -- and my successes -- and my failures have ample company, while the successes don't come anywhere near the "populace of profusion" that my failures occupy.
What surprises me, is that some people will not listen to their failure and the lessons it is trying to teach them. They will keep going the same way, time after time, in a strategy that has never worked and that is failing -- doing it again and again. [Insert sound of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" here.]
Unlike most businesses, we do not hold monthly or quarterly strategy meetings. In fact, truth be told, we hold them DAILY. Daily? Yes, it is THAT important in a rapidly changing world such as ours is today.
The time it takes us to hold these meetings is more than made up for in a company that can turn on a dime and rapidly respond to the ebb and flow of today's business climate.
Sound crazy? It works. It also allows us to try things and to play to our opportunities in ways that we could never exploit if we met monthly, quarterly or annually.
As I wrote in one of magazine columns a while back: God gave you two ears and one mouth and is trying to teach you something in the arrangement.
We watch this market like hawks in flight. We constantly discuss what we see and where we are spotting opportunities. We fight aggressively to prove the vitality and practicality of what we see, believe and are bringing to market.
Our competitors quit laughing some time back. Now some of them call us liars and say that the comparative statistics we publish are false. Most of our partnering companies see the desperation in those words, but for the few that believe their claims, I ask them why their lawyers never contact us? We aren't misrepresenting anything, and our publishing of these numbers is just that -- us, posting data that is available from 3rd party sources. Nothing more or less.
So we continue to compete and they compete against us. Another magazine in this market announced last October that they will go "all digital" in 2010. Two others against whom we have had to compete already went to web-only in 2009.
Tim Wilson and I understand the move to digital but not when the titles doing it have a tiny web-footprint to work from. Tim and I call these kinds of moves "imploding onto the web" and we believe that failure in print does not entitle you to success on the web.
The market is thinning and we continue to hold our daily strategy sessions and to do everything we can do to guarantee that Creative COW Magazine will continue to grow in 2010. We don't plan to go all-digital anytime soon, and would only consider such a move if there were a distribution technology that our members saw as especially valuable to them and worthy of such a change.
Don't let your own strategies be timid in 2010. Learn to thank like a marketer. Market. Listen. Fine-tune. Move. Assess. Move again. Refine. Learn from your mistakes. We do.
Today, you have to experience your failures quickly and move to your next step of refinement quickly. It makes me think of that old song by 38 Special called "Hold On Loosely (But Don't Let Go)." You have to hold and measure the move with fluidity and a ease and speed of movement that allows you to quickly adjust.
The advantage that mammals had over the dinosaurs, was that the mammals were stealthy and agile.
There's a lesson in that one, too.
Have a great New Year and we wish you every success in the days ahead.
|Those of you who read some of my posts may have bumped into my enthusiasm for Philip Kotler's "Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence."|
If I had to pick the single most important business book that I read during all of 2008 (when I started it) or 2009 (when I finished it), it would be Chaotics. To be honest, people that read this book don't really finish it, they keep referring back to ideas and bits of it -- flashing through its pages so as to rekindle points raised within the book. As a tool for understanding the rapidly changing economy and world system, it is without peer -- in my humble opinion.
I have recommended this one to many key leaders in Creative COW and most of them have taken the time to buy it and have told me that they too, now consider this one of the most important books they have ever read. I also recommended it to one of the top sales and marketing people that I know at one of the major hardware manufacturers in this industry, and he called one day to thank me for telling him about it. We ended up talking for almost an hour about some of the key points of the book.
I could tell you about what's in it but then, many would roll their eyes and say that it would be boring. Well, let me put it this way: there's nothing quite as exciting and stimulating as the stress of watching your business and career crumble right before your eyes. Many people I know in this industry (and others), have no real idea what is going on in the world today. Just how truly all-encompassing and sweeping the changes are that are affecting the world, business, and the way we must adapt in these radically changing times. They are succeeding by luck and chance, more than by design.
Chaotics puts the world under the microscope and explores ideas that will change the way that you look at the world.
Do yourself a favor (or favour for my British friends), do your family and your career a favor, read this book.
You can thank me for steering you to it, later.
|We are happy to announce that Creative COW has just launched a discussion forum related to Closed Captioning. This is something that we have wanted to add to the forums line-up for a long time, now. But finding the right person to support it has been tough.|
Recently, Jason Livingston wrote us and asked if we would consider adding a forum for Closed Captioning. When we checked out his credentials, Jason has quite an impressive resume, one part of which is both writing and supporting closed captioning systems.
We look forward to working with Jason, and if you would like to stop by the new forum, you will find Closed Captioning now listed in the COW forums line-up.
|Since the introduction of Creative COW Magazine back in early 2006, we have been asked repeatedly to make the print edition available to our friends and members around the world. Unfortunately, we were not set-up to accommodate international mailings and we had no way to bill them and maintain the record keeping -- well, unless our small team wanted to work around the clock! ;o)|
But recently we have added the means to allow our friends worldwide to receive the print edition and we are delighted that the response has been beyond our expectations, with orders arriving quite regularly. It has become somewhat of a hobby here at headquarters to watch them and have the team ask: "Wow, did you see that one from Siberia? Amazing!" (Yes, we really got one from a producer in Siberia.) Our sincere "thank yous" to our friends and members around the world who enjoy the magazine so much that the PDF/digital version is simply not enough.
Watching a dream grow is always an amazing thing. I remember back to when we first launched our fledgling attempt at building a media professionals community back in early 1995. We quickly figured out that usenet groups were not going to be the future and that listservs were OK, but they were not very functional and in a visual medium such as we are in, listservs are far too limited to build anything that will matter over time. So, we elected to build a website, and having just passed the 2 million unique visitors a month threshold just this month, and to see the magazine grow to the level that it has -- becoming the strongest player in this arena -- we marvel at what can happen when a team dedicates itself to excellence.
We marvel at the people who come to the COW and who are signing up for Creative COW Magazine. We are humbled to see the work in our videos-reels section and to see various jobs that are represented in our magazine registrations. When we see people that work on some of the top shows and channels, as well as occupy places on some of the top film studio teams around the globe, it makes us want to work even harder to guarantee that the site and the magazine -- as well as the many other services we provide -- will be useful and serve the needs of our members.
It was said long ago, that if you want to achieve something that is great, serve. Therein lies the secret to the magic behind Creative COW.
You are our focus and listening to you and acting on what you want is our function and commitment here at the COW. Without you and your ideas and feedback, this would be little more than a tiny site among millions on the internet. (And it stopped being that, years ago.)
Thank you to all of our friends who are taking the time to tell us that the COW Magazine is different and is worth signing up to have it in their studios at the Vatican (yes, that one came in too), in Siberia, in England, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden,and a myriad of other wonderful places, as well. We are honored beyond belief that the COW Magazine will be finding its way to your studios and suites around the globe.
It's an amazing world, isn't it?
Oh, and because we want to make sure that our friends get them as quickly as possible, our magazine is being sent FIRST-CLASS to all of our subscribers. In fact we like to say that's...
BECAUSE A FIRST-CLASS MAGAZINE DESERVES FIRST-CLASS DELIVERY™
Seems many of you agree.