My kind of birthday town, Ann Arbor is

“How many birthday deals can you get in one day?” That was the question that drove the creation of the Ann Arbor Birthday Deals video I had the opportunity to work on. The piece is posted to TheDigitalBus.com, the blog run by Ingenex Digital Marketing.

The premise: Derek Mehraban, the Ingenex Digital Marketing CEO, celebrated his 40th birthday in August with the entire Ingenex team. Everyone piled into The Digital Bus — a fully-restored 1972 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper — in search of free birthday offerings. A number of Ann Arbor businesses provided complementary food and gifts — birthday candles, ice cream, truffles, cupcakes, ice tea, etc.

Erin O’Neill, content producer at Ingenex, drove the project. She shot the video and developed the concept. She said she wanted something “madcap” when she gave me the raw footage to edit. Drawing inspiration from reruns of “The Monkees” and Buster Keaton films, my touches included speeding up the action, creating humorous titles, and adding light uptempo music. Both Erin and Derek offered tremendous input during the editing process.

Working on projects such as this affirms my love for digital media and digital marketing. I find digital technology streamlines the creative process. Erin captured the footage on a small digital video camera and I edited it on my laptop using Final Cut Pro software. Digital also provides a mass outlet where others can provide immediate feedback. Various versions were uploaded to YouTube so the Ingenex team could offer input, and the finished piece was promoted through social media.

The video also serves as a showcase for Ann Arbor and its various businesses. The city is a great place to live and work and that comes across in the piece. Thank you to the following companies that were visited during the birthday outing: Ben & Jerry’s, Bubble Island, Cake Nouveau, Circumference, Cupcake Station, FOUND, Northside Grill, RoosRoast, Schakolad, and TeaHaus.

For a complete list of “A2” birthday deals, go to: http://arborwiki.org/Birthday_Deals.

Me and my laptop, strolling down the avenue

I like my laptop. I mean, I REALLY like my laptop. I was recently asked what is the one thing I couldn’t live without and I said, yes, “My laptop.” I wasn’t entirely kidding. I rely on it quite a bit in addition to things like, oh, food, water, oxygen, shelter, and clothing.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

It’s hard to believe I didn’t own a laptop until about five years ago. “Are you crazy?” a friend asked me in my pre-laptop days. “Why don’t you have one? You seriously need one! It’s awesome!” I didn’t understand what she meant then, but I do now.

My laptop is my “all in one” device. I use it for practically everything related to creating and consuming media — Internet browsing, sending/receiving
e-mail, writing copy, editing video, watching DVDs, listening to music, etc.

Then, there’s the portability. I use my laptop at the digital marketing firm where I work, at home, the library, the coffee shop, etc. The fact that I can take it wherever aids in productivity — a change in location will usually reinvigorate me if I’m working on a project and I start to lose focus.

My first laptop was a Dell. I used it for a few years before buying a MacBook Pro. It was a huge upgrade! The difference is in the hardware — the screen is much clearer and brighter, the speakers are superior, the trackpad is easier to maneuver, there’s a built in memory card slot, etc. I’ve always liked Apple products, but I have so much more regard for them now.

It’s interesting how we form attachments to products. I take note when Apple introduces new merchandise and people wait outside the company’s stores for days to buy it. I can’t see myself doing that, but I do have some understanding why the company inspires such loyalty and even fanaticism. I spend so much time on my laptop doing so many different things that it’s hard not to feel at least some connection to both Apple products and the Apple brand.

Row, row, row your show, gently down the stream

Online video streaming is pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say?

I now stream most of my entertainment online which is why I haven’t been inside a video store in years. A trip to the video store used to be such a routine part of enjoying TV shows and movies. Now, the concept almost seems archaic – driving to the store, browsing the shelves, waiting in line to check out a DVD, having to return a film to the same location, etc. And don’t forget late fees! Oh, those late fees!

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

What had been a successful business model for years began to erode once the concept of online streaming caught on with the public and the amount of available content became extensive. Blockbuster, once the nation’s dominant provider of home video and video game rental services, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. My independent neighborhood video store closed long before that.

I’ve been a Netflix member for a few years now, and I subscribe to their streaming service. I’m fond of documentary programming and they have an extensive selection of shows from National Geographic, Discovery, and History Channel. I’ve also watched several cable TV shows via streaming – “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” “Louie,” etc.

It’s been interesting to observe Netflix’s business model change as a result of streaming. When I first joined, the company primarily handled DVD rentals. Their streaming selection was limited and it was included as a bonus to members. Now, their offerings are vast and feature many newly released mainstream movies. The service now holds real value, and so I can understand why Netflix recently began offering streaming as a separate service.

And then there’s YouTube. I admit that I’ve enjoyed all the top viral videos along with what seems like the rest of the general viewing public – “Chocolate Rain,” “Friday,” “Charlie Bit My Finger,” etc. I’m amazed that a family video of one brother biting another brother can be viewed 484 million times!

I love the controlled chaos of YouTube. It’s like decades of pop culture exploded and landed on the site. YouTube satisfies whatever random thing happens to enter my head at any given time on any given day – a favorite scene from a movie, a song I enjoyed when I was a teen. It’s rare that I can’t find something.

Again, streaming comes down to convenience and accessibility, concepts the digital marketing agency knows well. If the mantra of today’s consumer of news and entertainment is “I want what I want when I want it,” then providers like Netflix and YouTube are happy to oblige.

Holy Storage Space, Batman!

I’m amazed at the dramatic increase in digital storage capacity in the last decade and a half. I was going through my storage unit one day last week after work at Ingenex Digital Marketing, and I came across my old SyQuest disk. I bought it for a desktop publishing class in the mid-90s, and I used it to save flyers and other print materials I had designed. The disk is a removable hard drive that measures 5.25 square inches — huge by today’s standards. Despite its size, however, it holds a mere 44MG, or megabytes. It was the largest storage unit I had at the time.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Now, I carry a 1GB, or gigabyte, flash drive in my backpack for whatever miscellaneous items I might want to upload/download — text documents, photos, etc. I also have a 500MB external hard drive that mostly contains image files. And then I own a 2TB, or terabyte, external hard drive, which I use exclusively for videos. I was curious on the size differences so I asked my friend, a math teacher, to do the calculations.

1,000K = 1MB
1,000MB = 1GB
1,000GB = 1TB

Therefore…

1GB is about 23 times(x) 44MB
500GB is 11,500x 44MB
2TB is 46,000x 44MB

Needless to say, that’s a huge jump in only 15 years! But, what does this mean as far as the larger social picture? I wasn’t sure, so I pulled in one of my co-workers here at Ingenex. Her blunt assessment: we’re a culture that likes to accumulate “stuff” and all this space encourages us to acquire more “stuff.” (Truth be told, she used the other “s” word.) She mentioned, as an example, that she has saved every paper she ever wrote in college. She admitted that she doesn’t need to hold onto the documents, and hasn’t read many since the time of her studies.

Personally, I take hundreds of digital photos whenever I go on a trip. I store the photos on the 500MB hard drive I mentioned, but rarely look at any. Actually, a lot of the images aren’t even that great — I’ve been known to take snapshots of trash. It was interesting at the time! And then there’s music. I’ve downloaded hundreds of songs over the years. I’ll hear a song playing in a store or on the radio while driving, and I’ll acquire the track soon after. More often than not, I’ll listen to it once or twice before losing interest.

So, why do we keep all this unnecessary digital material? What compels us to hold onto so much, as my co-worker calls it, “stuff?” Because we can! The technology is available and we gladly use it — which reminds me of an old Doritos commercial. The tagline went: “Go ahead and crunch. We’ll make more.” Well, the producers of digital storage could very well amend the slogan to: “Go ahead and store. We’ll add more space.”

Social Media: My Source for News, Comment & Community

Remember the days of waking up, stepping onto your porch, picking up the newspaper, and reading the latest headlines? I have a vague recollection. It’s been some years since I subscribed to a newspaper.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Remember the days of waking up, turning on your laptop, opening your browser, and finding out what was making news? That memory is also starting to fade.

Increasingly, I get my information through social media, particularly Facebook. I’ll often start my day at Ingenex Digital Marketing by visiting such online news outlets as The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, or The New York Times. However, I’ll usually exit after a few minutes given that I become overwhelmed by the amount of content. Other than the very latest news, I don’t always know where to look or what’s most relevant to me.

That inevitably leads me to Facebook to see what is on the minds of the people in my network. If there’s breaking news, someone will probably pass on word. If there’s some controversial issue, people will likely discuss it.I found out about the death of Whitney Houston through Facebook. Someone in my network posted it minutes after it was announced. That was a first — I had always learned of such things firsthand through TV news.

And then, we’re now in the final months of a presidential race. So, of course, there’s also been a great deal of political discussion on Facebook. I know people on both the left and the right and in all places in between, and I’ve been intrigued by the viewpoints shared. I may not agree with everything that’s said, but I’m more likely to consider the thoughts presented given these are folks I know and with whom I have a relationship.

It has become even more apparent to me since I started working at a digital marketing agency that social media is the modern equivalent of a town square. There’s extra joy in finding out positive news from people I know, and there’s a certain comfort in discussing tragedy from friends and acquaintances. What it ultimately comes down to is community — people want to feel connected to one another. The newspaper and other more traditional forms of media may have helped bind people in the past. Now, social media seems to fulfill that role.

New Media Driver’s License will change your life – or at least get you to start a blog

I recently finished work on a master’s degree in digital media at Michigan State University. I was out of school for a few months and interviewing for jobs, and the topic of social media came up on a few occasions.

“Digital media, eh? Do you know about search engine optimization and search engine marketing? Have you ever worked with Google AdWords? Do you write a blog? Have you ever devised a digital marketing strategy?”

“Uh.. Mmm.. What’s a SEM?”

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

So, I walked away from a few interviews without an offer, but with a desire to delve into social media and digital marketing. I had heard of New Media Driver’s License (NMDL) course at MSU, but didn’t think to take it while in graduate school because it wasn’t part of my master’s curriculum.

I enrolled in the summer 2012 session and it turned out to be a tremendous experience. I learned about search engine optimization, search engine marketing PPC, digital PR and social media marketing. I worked with Google AdWords. I started a blog. And I devised a digital marketing strategy.

After the course concluded my NMDL instructor, Derek Mehraban, offered me an internship at his Ann Arbor based digital marketing agency. My first day at Ingenex Digital Marketing was interesting and everyone was eager to help me. I could tell after my first day at Ingenex that I would come away with a host of digital knowledge. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, and my first day jitters quickly subsided.

I’ll have more to report on what I’m learning in the days and weeks to come. Again, I encourage you to take the New Media Driver’s License class.

Also, I encourage you to look into Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor. It’s a Cuban-inspired restaurant a few blocks from the office, and our entire group went to lunch there on my first day. I had the chicken frita with guacamole and it was excellent.