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Shazam, Hippopost and Paying the Taxman – Sonia Carreno's 2008 Favourite Things

2008 was such a great year for adoption and innovation.  Here are three things that made me either smile or think hard about being online this year.

Favourite Application
Shazam ScreenshotPicking a favourite application is not easy.  I’m sure that there are applications that are more useful and some that may even end world hunger but I just can’t resist mentioning Shazam.

Think of all the times you’ve heard a song playing but didn’t know what it was. Whether on the car radio, a shopping mall, at a friend's house, or a bar, the Shazam application "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, quickly scans it against its database of around 5 million songs and then sends a text message to your phone telling you the name of the artist and song title.  The iPhone application is hooked up to iTunes so the song is yours in under a minute. 

Shazam not only serves a cool purpose, it also speaks volumes about the progression of sophisticated search technology. Brilliant.

Notable Industry Realizations
While a big theme this year was about “letting go” and having marketers accept the uncontrollable nature of social media (there were some great talks from Unilever and General Motors on this topic in 2008), I found a more constructive theme warranted deeper reflection.

“Pay your taxes, rent the users and focus on context” – these big directional thoughts were shared at the Kelsey ILM Conference in Santa Clara this November.  Mark Canon, President of New Media, Yell UK delivered a riveting talk about how publishers need to shift gears and stop trying to boil the ocean.  His no-nonsense speech opened with a clever taxman metaphor for search engines and how we should all just get used to the fact that we need to pay them through SEO or SEM. 

The speech went on to urge publishers to focus on meeting contextual needs of the users as opposed to trying to own them with content as that ship had sailed and the investments required to develop loyalty would lessen the chances of success.

Intersection of Online & Offline Media
Hippopost Logo
I’m a sucker for personal snail mail…

Hippopost is a Canadian start-up that allows consumers to send free personalized postcards to friends and family.  Users create postcards using any digital image they choose.  After picking their photo of choice, they pick an ad to sponsor the postage and finally hit “Send”.  Hippopost then produces and mails each postcard to the recipient's address.

From the consumer standpoint, I love the fact that you can self-select the sponsor.  It’s really a win-win because the advertisers get the benefit of socially targeted audiences.

Hippopost Online™ for marketers allows their web site visitors to create and send postcards from their site, and there’s also Hippopost Social™ with sponsor postcard opportunities within photo sharing and social networking communities such as Facebook.

Whether this will take off or not, it’s a refreshing spin on direct mail and really speaks to the consumers’ desire control their media.

Honorable Mention  – what’s not to like about this ridiculously useful tool.

Sonia blogs at Passage Communications. Her most popular post this year was Immersive Marketing… Alternative Realities or Plain Old Delusions?. The Ghost of Christmas Future learned a lot from this post!