“What Will The TV Spot Look Like?”

I was meeting with our investors today about Newsvine and the subject of product “explainability” came up. It seems that every time we think about adding a new feature to Newsvine, it becomes progressively harder to explain exactly what Newsvine is. This is a fairly common problem in product development, and if not dealt with swiftly can lead to consumer confusion and adoption issues.

One of our investors then proceeded to tell me how it works at Apple (he was behind a lot of Apple’s successful product marketing and development). He said:

“The answer to every product question that comes up at Apple is ‘What will the TV spot look like?'”

In other words, if you can’t think of a 30-second spot that neatly and efficiently explains your company, your product, or whatever other consumer-facing thing you happen to be working on, you aren’t building the right thing.


27 comments on ““What Will The TV Spot Look Like?””. Leave your own?
  1. Don says:

    Don’t just read the news, control the news …
    Don’t just follow the story, write the story …
    Don’t just hope you’ll get the complete story, get the complete story …

    Where all the news means ALL the news: Newsvine.

  2. Ryan says:

    I think Don’s up to something here.

  3. Joshua says:

    I dunno, I think while Don’s suggestion is really cool for someone who already know what Newsvine is, if I went and told my mother-in-law that, she still would have no clue what I was talking about.

    I’ll think on this one and come up with my own contribution after a little mind-tumbling. Good game though.

  4. Don says:

    You might be right Joshua, but on the other hand, your mil (notice no f there, so don’t get mad at me *wink*) won’t use it anyway. She isn’t the target audience, is she? But I might be wrong … wouldn’t be the first time :-)

  5. Joshua says:

    I think she is precisely the target audience. Someone who uses the web to check news, is interested in news and might contribute something every now in then.

    I don’t think she’d ever turn out to be a huge contributer, but she’d certainly use the site I think.

    But that raises a good question for Mike, what exactly is the target audience. I guess before you try to make a TV ad you should at least know who you’re trying to hook. Everyone, people who’d just read, people who’d be heavy contributers, etc…

  6. Mike D. says:

    Yeah, Josh is right. Obviously, different audience segments are meant to do different things around Newsvine, but really, you should be able to come up with a spot that explains things pretty reasonably to someone’s grandmother. I think the people who really want to “get” Newsvine (techies, early adopters, newshounds, etc.) have very little trouble getting it. The bigger challenge is just the everyday person who may get their news at CNN.com, MSNBC.com, or Yahoo News. It’s much tougher to pitch the casual passerby.

  7. Sean S says:


    Open on an exterior shot of a house door. It’s morning, there’s dew on the ground, and birds chirping.


    A newspaper hits the door and falls to the ground atop the “welcome” mat. Alternate shots show it’s just a typical newspaper, and before any additional details are revealed—


    Another newspaper; this time, though, it’s got more pictures.


    Another! This one has moving video(!) on its pages and—




    An entertainment magazine, last night’s baseball game program and a laptop (with sound)!


    All kinds of news, multimedia, audio, video, and even people start flying in (from nowhere) hitting the house, door, and bushes …

    Which we now see in a wider angle, effectively covered in the stuff; the onslaught seemingly over. We hear the door knob turn, and everything/body goes silent.

    Back in closer we see the door crack open and from inside at least three or four vine branches emerge … and quickly gather all the news, media and junk, and pull it inside!

    Cut to flash shots of the Newsvine.com site itself with voice-over narration — something like:

    “News just got a whole lot smarter. Have you? … Newsvine.com. Get smarter here.”

  8. Ryan says:

    Heh, I like that one. Perhaps here’s another twist it could take:

    A newspaper hits against a door, followed by another, and another, and magazines and so on until there is a massive pile in front of the door. Then, it opens and a guy looks at the massive pile of newspapers that are before him.

    Then the voice over says “There’s a better way to get all the news… Newsvine.com Get smarter here.”

  9. Calichef says:

    Those would actually be great commercials, both of them, perhaps even as one of those two-parters that are so popular lately. That first one would make a great super bowl-type commercial. It’s highly memorable. Kind of reminds me of “Cat Herding.” I doubt that Newsvine is ready to commit a few million to one thirty second ad, though. But someday, maybe.

  10. Aaron Jones says:

    How about this:

    Scene: Suburban neighborhood, nicely cut green grass, square hedges seperating the yard, with little houses.

    Men start coming from their front door and walking down the driveway to get their papers. As they pick them up and say hello to one another, they look across the street.

    The camera shows the center gentleman at an angle and begins to zoom out over a pile of papers that fill another neighbors yard, let’s call him Bob (the pile might equal the size of a single story house).

    A camera cuts to the house with the papers and we hear the sound of a door opening, (camera cuts back to the other side of the street) as all of the men stretch their heads to see Bob.

    The the camera then shows the pile, and Bob sticks his head out and waves with a goofy wave and there is a freeze frame.

    Now a 50% opacity overlay screen, and the words: “Get all the news. Get smarter here. Newsvine.com”

  11. Shaun says:

    I don’t have time to flesh this out.. but what about putting a real person “inside” a news story?

    The real person would be like a reporter but just observing and commenting. The point being you are involved with the story not just reading about it.

    As for the other ideas, reading newspapers is a boring premise.. it just is. Newsvine is more about interactivity and feeding the monkey.

  12. Sean S says:

    My second idea didn’t go through, but basically we see the same content as being delivered — this time in their respective environments.

    Open with a newspaper on a stand getting yanked offscreen by a vine. Cut to a magazine on a rack; same thing. Cut to a news reporter covering a story, mic in hand — YANKED!

    This would be fun. Imagine even some high profile opiners or celebs being yanked off screen by some CG vine!

    Anyway, concept is that Newsvine (the vine) grabs all the content for you, organizes it, and displays it.

  13. Sean S says:

    I like that idea Shaun. It really emphasizes the participation part — which is what really makes Newsvine unique.

  14. El says:

    Before you try to make a TV ad you should at least have a “picture” of the spot in your mind.
    Just go to a stock photography site and start looking for “visual” ideas.

  15. Adrian says:

    Sean S – your first idea is ace! Humor goes a long way in advertising – people will remember it. Out of everything on this page, your idea will remain with me for the rest of the day because it made me chuckle. I think it expresses not just the idea of NEWS – but news inside the realm of the world wide web.

  16. Aine says:

    Keep It Simple Sweetheart (*grin*):

    Newsvine – The People’s News and Wire.

  17. Corey Spring says:

    Here’s how I might see a print or web ad for Newsvine.

    Don’t settle for yesterday’s news. Get the full story now from every angle (and even add your own) at Newsvine.com

    Cut. Print.

    I assume we’re all waiving our fees on this one because we enjoy Newsvine so much.

  18. Brian Ford says:

    I think you go simple: Show a shot of Bill O’Reilly (and an alternate spot with Al Franken and another with Limbaugh, etc.) and they should be doing what they do best as pundits: Pissing off the opposition.

    Ask the question: Do you want to get your news from this guy, or do you want to get your news from everyone else?

    And then some sort of crowd shot of varied everyday people from different walks of life and professions and some seeding action shots. (Heheh.)

    And then you could even cap it off with some kind of Joke about how O’Reilly, Franken and Limbaugh are welcome to contribute.

  19. Especially with a web-only company like Newsvine, the traditional marketing strategy of communicating your value proposition through a 30 second spot is just not enough. It’s essential to have that value proposition and make it readily accessible, but people are far less receptive to that kind of bullhorn marketing than they used to be.

    I recently read a book called Brand Hijack that looked at case studies of successful brands the author considered “hijacked” – that is, they’ve been defined by their customers or users. Examples include In N’ Out, The Blair Witch Project and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rather than blasting a 30 second message at consumers, they allowed their brand to mean different things to their customers. The effect has been massive success almost entirely through word-of-mouth, and a very cheap marketing budget to boot.

    I’m not saying that kind of success is easily repeated, but I do think consumers react better to marketing that isn’t pushed at them from the top-down. You definitely need to have that message to bring focus to your more surreptitious marketing efforts, but I think more times than not it’s a huge waste to just throw that 30 second message at your audience.

  20. Just reading the first couple comments on this post, something jumped out at me. Phrases such as “not the target audience” and “different audience segments are meant to do different things around Newsvine”. Have we brought the media to the people? Sure, Newsvine, Digg, and others are making excellent progress, but these quotes still bring out the fact that there is still a long way to go. People are still being fed their news, and that news is still being infused with opinion on its way.

    Sure, your grandmother can get to newsvine.com just fine, and, god willing, make an account. Most likely, she will end up simply reading the news. To her, it probably won’t be a whole lot different than reading CNN.com or MSNBC.com, or even the Drudge Report. Is blogging and social networking giving people control over the media, or is it simply becoming the new media, feeding the masses through blogs and news aggregators?

  21. Stay tuned for Mike’s new book:
    “Sneaky blogposts and you: How to save yourself millions by not having to hire Ad Agencies.” ;)

  22. Jakob Heuser says:

    One challenge we constantly faced was “cutting” the extra features away when looking at the outward facing product. Sure Feature ABC is cool, but it’s not the core experience. In our case, the community is something that “happens”, but it is such a difficult concept to explain, we don’t. Instead we focus on the other juicy stuff, and let the community happen on its own. Interestingly enough, this has resulted in some of our most evangelical users who can explain our product better than we could.

  23. bejoy says:

    hi mike, i launched my bookmarklet site, called masala which means spice. take a look http://mas.a.la i submited this article just for example, http://mas.a.la/story.php?title=What-Will-TV-Spot-Look-Like

  24. Greg says:

    Expanding off your comment about the lay person, I think one of the main problems your site faces right now is that it doesn’t emphasis enough what makes Newsvine different from CNN. I’ll be honest, even though I am a technical guy, I never really paid attention to this new approach to generating news until I read your post about starting Newsvine way back when. It was only then that I started understanding what other sites like Digg, Newsvine, and etc were all about. Could it be said I had been hiding under a rock, sure, but it didn’t occur to me – nor did it interest me to care that these kinds of sites were out there until I started exploring and seeing the potential.

    As a newbie to this approach, I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect or what they were really all about when I first started exploring – and I was actually trying to find the difference. Had I not been looking, I probably would have over looked these features that make Newsvine different from a CNN type site.

    The one thing I like about Newsvine is that it is very easy to use and intuitive, unlike Netscape – however maybe it comes off too much like a CNN in terms of layout. Even though this is an excellent method of displaying news, inadvertenly it may not give enough emphasis to the tools that allow user feedback and or submission.

    Take for instance this page.

    If you notice right where the article ends, it gives the sense of a scroll stopper to the user. Even though the scroll bar shows that there is additional content, visually it looks like it is the bottom of the page, meaning I may not even scroll past this point and thus I miss the commenting tools.

    I may see the vote button at the top or bottom, but if I don’t have context around its functionality, how would I know what it means or what I should vote for. Even with the disclaimer verbiage on the bottom button, it still doesn’t really give me that much context.

    I also admit that the tools in the header don’t really give that much context if I don’t “get” what this site is all about – beyond just being able to read news. I’m also not sure about the 60 sec tour ad – it appears just as such, an ad – nothing really entices me to take a tour – what are you going to show me, why should I even click this, – these are some of the initial questions that pop into my head.

    I hope some of these comments help you with making Newsvine even more powerful – again, they are only meant to offer an honest opinion from an outsiders point of view.

  25. Mike G. says:

    Keep in mind Apple also has the “Reality Distortion Field” going in it’s favor, so keep that in mind for your ads with Newsvine.

  26. ian says:

    He has a company that makes computers, or, a computer that makes companies. Anyway, you wouldn’t understand.

  27. Stephen says:

    What I’d have for an advert – pretty boring, but still:

    80’s style cop-music/Mission Impossible-style theme.

    A far-off shot of a News building (aptly called NEWS corp).

    A guy is seen coming down from an open roof-window, ala Mission Impossible. Stopping just before hitting the ground, acrobatic skills are used when detaching himself. Using more acrobatic skills, he navigates through entire rooms of laser-sensitive-alarm systems. Finally, he reaches a lone computer, encased in glass. Using all manner of tools, he finally enters the casing. Retrieving a disc, he leaves, feeling happy with himself, not noticing that he walks into a conveniently-placed Stand With Vase On Top. The vase falls off, and all manner of alarm systems activate.

    Panning out, a frame appears, with narration: There is a smarter way. Get Smarter – Get Newsvine.com.

    Sometimes the clichéd ads are the best.

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