What we can learn from Gmail.

For years after its initial release (remember when you had to be invited?), Gmail was in “beta”, or the software equivalent of “previews”.  Only recently did Google strip the beta moniker from its logo on Gmail, Calendar and a lot of its other products.
Could a consumer have told the difference over the last 5 years?  Not likely.  Beta was just Google’s way of protecting itself, yes, but also its way of saying, “We are committed to changes on a daily basis until we make our product  better, and then we’ll figure out even more stuff to change until we can better it still.”
Not a bad way to think about any product, don’t you think?
I heard a Web Marketing Guru speak about how to design a website, and he said that websites are never final; great websites are in a state of perpetual beta. 
He was right, of course. By studying analytics, conversion rates, etc. we should be making constant changes to our designs to make even the smallest of improvements (increasing an surfer’s time on the site, whether they sign up for email lists, etc.).  A small improvement a day adds up to a monstrous improvement in a year.  Your website will be a conversion machine!
But why not apply perpetual beta to other things as well?
Your advertising campaign should be in perpetual beta. You should constantly be looking at your results, making adjusting, surveying, modifying, and beta-ring your campaign.

What else?

Well, shows, as opposed to movies and books, are in perpetual beta.  Films get shot, edited and released, and are never tinkered with again.  Books are written, edited and published, and are pretty final.  But plays and musicals change a bit each night with each audience and new actors, etc.  And that’s what makes them exciting.  You can always find a way to improve.
What about non-show stuff?
Well, if you’re a yoga-ite, then you’re in perpetual beta; always stretching, extending, reaching for more.
And you know what else?  Without getting too self-helpy . . . our lives are in perpetual beta.
It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to take long intense looks at ourselves, our products, our campaigns, and push ourselves to make improvements . . . and then start over again.  It ain’t easy
But being in a state of perpetual beta is what leads us to professional and personal success.

Anyone can advertise on the NY Times! Except for guess whom?

I was reading a review on The Old Gray Lady the other day (not in print, mind you, but online) and I noticed an interesting ad appearing on the page.

It didn’t look like an ad that would normally appear in the Times, actually. It was for a smaller company that I wish I could remember (couldn’t have been that good of an ad) but I think it had something to do with discount mortgages or something.

There was an “advertise with the NY Times” link right underneath the forgettable ad, so I clicked, because I honestly wondered how that forgettable company afforded that placement.
And it took me to a brand new offering from the NY Times . . . Self Serve Advertising!
It seems that the NY Times has developed their own version of Google’s web-changing AdWords program, which they call Self Serve, for clients with a budget under $10k (sounds perfect for Off-Broadway, doesn’t it?).
It looks awesome!  You can upload your own ad or if you don’t have one, you can use one of their templates!  You can set your own daily budget so you never spend more than you’re comfy with!  You can start with as little as $50/day!  You get reporting, tracking and more!  And you can pick exactly what section you want to advertise in!  It’s perfect!
Where do I sign up?
Where do I . . . where do I . . .
Oh.  Wait a second.  It looks like . . . yep . . . huh.
The NY Times does not allow self-serve advertising in the Theater section.
Let me say that a different way.
The NY Times Online allows you to advertise in all areas of the The Old Gray Biatch except for the Arts section (and Opinion & Politics).
I mean . . . wow . . . ok, ok, keep it up NY Times . . . keep pushing us further away, cuz you’re doing oh so well in the meantime.  What was it again?  A loss of 61 million in the first quarter?  That’s like more than 4 Lestats.
If you’d like to be discriminated against because of the business you’re in, click here to check out Self-Service Advertising on NY Times Online.
And then take your money to Google (which serves ads to the NY Times anyway).

From Google: Ticketing tactics in a tough economy.

One of the benefits of giving Google gaggles of cash each month is that you get access to a team of googlites that have access to more data than you could ever dream about.
And they share it.
So I’m going to share it with you.
Here’s an email I got from my Google Entertainment Team with a bullet point list of what to do in times like these . . . and frankly, anytime.

Making Greater Impact With Less Investment

The impact of the current economic slowdown has shown a ripple effect across numerous industries. Ticketers are not immune – the industry continues to see volatility in both Broadway and sporting event ticket sales, while concert sales remain strong.  Maximizing return on investment is an important priority for everyone.  In response, we have compiled a quick list of tactics that can help you deliver results to support your ROI goals:

    • Effectiveness and Efficiency Always Drive Value.  Use data-driven insights to guide your marketing messages and outgoing media strategies.  Google tools like Insights for Search and Ad Planner can help you keep an eye on emerging trends.
    • Target the Right Customers. New technology allows you to reach audiences with increasing granularity, yet still at scale. Now more than ever, it’s important to translate consumer insight into targeting precision.
    • Measure, Optimize and Repeat.  Use measurement tools to better understand what is working and how to make adjusts that can lead to improved results.  57% of online advertisers have used site analytics to evaluate their campaigns, but only 38% have used the data to inform their next steps. Don’t just store findings – use information on consumer behavior and ROI to optimize campaign performance.

Due to the challenges we all face in today’s economy, Google recently launched Measuring Up in a Downturn, a site comprised of additional strategies and Google tools – many free – that can help you achieve your ROI goals.

Thanks Goog – for keeping us on track (and for keeping us spending money with you, of course).
Do check out that Insights for Search site.  You can see search trends over years of any phrase you want:  Broadway, Off-Broadway, Your Name (you know you want to).
You can also figure out things like this . . .

The Top Rising Google Searches (past 30 days) in Category: Ticket Sales

  1. dane cook
  2. no doubt
  3. ncaa tickets
  4. dave matthews tickets
  5. dave matthews
  6. dave matthews band
  7. nickelback
  8. live nation tickets
  9. george strait
  10. yankee stadium
Yikes.  After reading this list, I figure I have two choices:
A)  Give up theater because there isn’t a Broadway show on the list
B)  Go see if Dave Matthews wants to do a musical!
Thanks again, Google.

2 Things To Do If You Want To Be A Broadway Producer

Recently, as the final question to an interview, I was asked to give one tip to any people watching that wanted to be a Broadway producer.

I gave two.

  1.  Produce as much as you can of whatever you can.Produce readings (even in your living room), festivals, showcases, benefits, beauty pageants, dog shows, whatever.  Get in the habit of learning how to put things together.  You’ll learn so much from every different production you put together, regardless of their success or their size, because shows are like snowflakes.  No two are alike and they need a lot of care or they’ll just eventually just fall to the ground and get walked on and turn into a pile of wet disgusting slush that will ruin any decent pair of shoes.

  2. Meet as many people as possible.Since I used the snowflake cliche, I’ll use another one.  So much of producing is about who you know.  I’m not saying you have to know Andrew Lloyd Webber or Phil Smith or even me, but producing is a collaborative art.  You’re going to need to know playwrights, directors, actors, and yep, investors.  Lots of them.  And you never know who is going to be the next Pulitzer prize winning playwright or Google-like CEO that always wanted to get involved with Broadway.  Start meeting people today.  However you can.Here’s a great story about a guy who understands how important this tip can be for any business and travels needlessly to prove it.

Speaking of tips, CTI has got a few of them and they are willing to share.  Check their website for info on these two upcoming programs:

– Producing
Reading, Workshops, and Showcases: A Practical Approach (March 6th)

– The 28th Annual
3-Day Weekend Producing Conference (May 15th – 17th)

– – – – –

Only 4 more days to enter the Broadway Fantasy Virtual Investment Game, WILL IT RECOUP?


Don’t forget!  You must be an email subscriber in order to validate your entry and the email address on your entry and your subscription must match.

Don’t get caught in your wet suit.

Part of the documentary I’m shooting involves interviews with celebrities that work in difficult industries, face failure every day, but never give up, despite long odds and longer hours.

I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Seth Godin, Dr. David Sidransky, Doyle Brunson, “Rudy”, and more (You’re going to love these things when we’re done).

I also wanted to interview the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  I knew it was a long shot, but hey, the risk/reward ratio was pretty good.  It took me about 3 minutes to shoot an email off to the press dept., and if it got through, it’d be like hitting the lottery on my birthday after getting an opportunity to invest in a tour of Wicked.  In my pitch letter, I made sure they understood that we could do the interview in as little as 15 minutes.

Two days later, I got an email back from Google’s press department saying that Larry and Sergey’s schedule “leaves next to no time for media opportunities.”

Hmmmm, really?  Not even 15 minutes?  Sounds like a “He’s Just Not That Into Me” excuse to me.  I would have much rather the truth, because I don’t care if you founded Google or you founded America . . . everyone has 15 minutes if you want to give it.

So . . . I couldn’t let them get away that easy.  🙂

I FedExed Larry and Sergey a copy of The 4 Hour Work Week, which teaches readers how to be more effective with time management, so they have more time to do the things they want to do, while still making googles of dollars.  (I also just happened to know that they had hired the author of 4 Hour, Timothy Ferriss, to speak to their employees.)

I included a letter that quoted their press rep’s response, and told them I was sending them the book “to help put a little more space in your week.  You’ve given me Google.  I’m giving you time.  Seems only fair.  When you’re done reading it, give me a call so we can set up the interview.”

And guess what happened???  Guess who just called me?????

Ok, truth is . . . they didn’t.  But wouldn’t it have been cool if they did?

Think I was too much of a smart a$$?  Think I was risking pi$$ing off powerful people?  Think they really are too busy and that their time is really too tight???

Look at the photo below . . . it was featured in an article in the NY Times last week about how Google missed profit expectations (That’s Sergey in the wet suit.  It looks like that suit is the only thing that’s tight for Sergey).

It’s ok that they didn’t want to do the doc.  You’re going to get lots of people telling you they don’t want to be a part of your projects.   When Google isn’t interested, go to Yahoo, and then AOL . . . and you’ll find someone eventually who you connect with.  Keep googling.

But when the situation is reversed, and people are asking you for things?  Make sure the people doing the talking for you aren’t blowing smoke up your server.

Tell people you’re not interested.  And tell them why.  The truth always comes out, and you don’t want to feel like you’ve been caught without a wet suit.