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Aug 12

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients

Client News: Boxee momentum drives series B funding

Coming out of CES this year, Boxee gained a lot of momentum. During the first half of the year we targeted mainstream business press to raise Boxee’s profile for content partners. Articles in the New York Times, The Washington Post, All Things D, and more drove interest from hardware makers, content partners, and even more press. That coverage subsequently also generated attention from the investment community even though Boxee had just raised their Series A in November of last year…

From that interest, we’re happy to announce Boxee has raised their next round of funding. Here’s the news from their blog:

We are happy to announce that Boxee closed a $6M round of financing led by Boston-based General Catalyst with participation by prior investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. Neil Sequeira from General Catalyst will join our board.

We closed our Series A late last year, but given the momentum and opportunities we’ve seen over the past few months, we thought it made sense to bring in a new partner and additional funds.

General Catalyst brings more than just money to the table. We wanted a partner to help us as we strengthen our relationships with big media and cable companies. As we learned (the hard way), it is a complicated world.. Neil and General Catalyst as a firm have years of experience, deep understanding, and extensive network in these industries, and we are looking forward to working together with them.

Going forward we plan to focus on:

* Improving the product – We are working on the Beta release (due later this fall), but also looking beyond Beta and into the roadmap of 2010. The idea is to have a healthy mix of development driven by user feedback (which is the essence of the upcoming Beta) and innovation that comes from within Boxee.
* Adding more content – We believe Boxee can be a great partner for independent content producers as well as big media companies. We will try to bring more TV Shows, Web Shows and Movies from ad-based, subscription-based and a la carte type services.
* Attracting more developers – While we have an App Store on Boxee, we know it needs some love. For Developers, we know it needs to be easier to develop and monetize apps. For users, we’re going to make it easier to find apps on Boxee. Last but not least we’re going to extend the APIs so everyone can do more with Boxee.
* Bringing Boxee into devices – Boxee today is mostly serving a tech-savvy audience – those who feel comfortable connecting a computer to a TV. To make Boxee more accessible for a mainstream consumer it’s important for us to get Boxee embedded into connected TVs and Blu-Ray players, game consoles and set-top boxes. We’re already talking to device makers to ensure Boxee works on a variety of platforms for 2010.

We are really excited about the future and glad to have General Catalyst and Neil as part of the team.

Here’s the coverage so far:
NYTimes: Bits
TechCrunch/Washington Post
CNet
New York Observer
The Deal
Read Write Web
Digital Media Wire
Light Reading
Broadband TV News
Inquisitr

Jul 30

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients

Client News: Redux unleashes addictive entertainment

If you’re like us, sometimes you want to move your hands away from the keyboard and mouse, take a break, sit back, and just be entertained… whether it’s Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell in the ‘H is O’, a TED Talk, or Patches, the horse that thinks it’s a person, there’s something to be said for great entertainment.

But finding entertainment on the Net has become difficult if only for the sheer mass of stuff that’s out there. More than 20 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and while there’s a myriad of web services where you can share stuff, none of them are focused on entertainment (video in particular). Enter Redux…

Redux is a place to find great entertainment, recommended by people who are into the same videos, photos, music and websites as you.

Today we introduced 1500 lucky Mashable, TechCrunch, and Webware readers to Redux, a personalized entertainment guide to the web.

Unlike other sites, Redux is all about entertainment – no need to import your friends, post updates about your status, or worry about pimping your profile. Users submit their favorite links and include them in channels of entertainment like Fail videos, sports highlights, dance music, and other themes (GI Joe PSAs!). Users who join a channel can watch everything that’s submitted in real-time, and submit their own favorites for others to enjoy.

The newest feature – the one reporters have highlighted most – is TV mode which plays videos submitted to the site one after another in full-screen. As with the regular mode, the most recent activity on the site rises to the top so newly submitted or commented videos rise to the top and play next.

The site will publicly launch in a few weeks time (they’re in private beta now), but if you’re looking for an invite in the meantime, message us on Twitter (@S2) and we’ll hook you up!

May 19

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients

TuneUp Now Available For Apple Retail Customers

We’ve called TuneUp the ‘must-have’ plug-in for iTunes for a while now… turns out others agree. As of this morning TuneUp’s iTunes plugin to quickly correct missing song info, find cover art, list upcoming concerts, and present web content relevant to any playing track (wow that’s a mouthful), is available at Apple Retail Stores and at Apple.com. As a DJ myself, the software has been a godsend for organizing my huge music collection. Additionally I’ve loved the fact that cover flow is now practical on my iPhone.

Today, over 250 Apple stores will start selling a retail-packaged version of TuneUp for $29.95. Additionally, both the retail and online versions of TuneUp now include numerous user interface enhancements and feature
improvements as we mentioned last week.

And if Apple selling TuneUp doesn’t convince you it works – listen to this… since launching the product in the summer of 2008, TuneUp has amassed over 200,000 registered users in over 150 countries, and cleaned more than 125 million songs. Stats like these enabled TuneUp to become the #1 most downloaded iTunes software from CNET’s popular site, Download.com.

So what are you waiting for – go to your nearest Apple store and get your copy (or start downloading now at TuneUp Media).

Apr 17

Posted by andrew

Posted in Marketing, Social Media, Stage Two

Squeezing the "juice" out of Twitter

Every PR person/NMD will tell you that should be taking part in the ‘conversation’, but as Mark Redgrave points out, the first ingredient to taking part in this conversation is listening. No service has more ears positioned against its doors than Twitter, our 140 character friend. The character limit makes it easy for consumers to spout off succinct complaints, praises, and questions (or status updates about lunch, changes in weather, and most recently tax hatred). The length also makes it easy for companies like @NYTimes, @comcast, and @biritemkt to listen to what customers are saying. Below you’ll find some advice about monitoring Twitter along with two tools we use to keep track of Stage Two clients like @boxee, @BugLabs, @Splashtop, @LegacyLocker, @Pogoplug, and @12seconds.

Searches

The first element of monitoring Twitter (and using the tools below) is constructing the right kinds of searches. The most obvious is just searching for the company name, but even that can be problematic. As an example, Bug Labs twitter search is ‘“bug labs” OR buglabs‘ (similar issue for Legacy Locker). On the other hand, boxee’s service includes the option to automatically tweet based on usage, so our search changes to “boxee -watching -likes -recommends“. Building effective searches can be quite a challenge, and you might even want to make specific ones regarding positive/negative feedback (for example, if you were in charge of monitoring conversations about Sony, I would set up this search).

Beware the mob…

One other tip on Twitter issues we’d like to share: beware the mob. Due to the rapid-fire nature of Twitter communication, there’s a certain degree of FIRE, AIM, FIRE, FIRE, AIM, READY? If something starts going wrong (ahem, Domino’s… Amazon…), it tends to go very wrong. How you react in these moments can either pour gasoline on the fire, or put it out completely. Like everything, there’s no specific “do this” or “don’t do that” when it comes to disaster control. But you need to be ready for when it happens and be ready to move quickly, before it has the chance to escalate wildly beyond control.

Tools

Tweetdeck LogoRather than spend all day at the Twitter Search web page, we use tools to passively monitor tweets in realtime. The tool we use most is Tweetdeck. Its columned layout lets you monitor a twitter account (including direct messages and replies), 12seconds videos, and multiple twitter searches on the same screen. Tweetdeck can also send tweets and record 12seconds videos.

I currently have a twitter search set up for each client, along with my twitter account (@academik), 12seconds account, and Facebook status updates (outside the realm of client monitoring, but worth mentioning). From the same interface I’m able to see everything that’s being said to me and about my clients, quickly answer questions and reply to complaints. It’s the swiss army knife of Twitter. My only complaint is that I can’t monitor two Twitter accounts (@academik and @s2) at the same time, but that’s also the number one request on Tweetdeck’s User voice page so I’m hopeful it’s in the works.

Sideline LogoWhen we need more robust search functionality we use Yahoo’s Sideline application. Advanced search options allow you to monitor tweets with “all of these words”, “this exact phrase”, “any of these words”, or from a specific person, to a specific person (tweet starts off with @name), or about someone (tweet mentions @name). You can combine these searches into one twitter stream and monitor it in Sideline or separate your searches into different tabs. I prefer Tweetdeck’s columned approach so I can see it all at once without having to switch between tabs, but for a single product Sideline’s search depth makes it a valuable complement to Tweetdeck.

Regardless of how and what you’re tracking, remember that while Twitter is now almost ‘mainstream’ (@Oprah!), your main focus should still be on the things that add value for your customer, of which Twitter plays only a small part (and despite media hype, is unlikely in our opinion to ever truly be used by the masses). A great customer experience starts with setting a consumer’s expectations, delivering a product that exceeds those expectations, and finally making sure their interactions with you over the phone, via email, in chat, in person, and lastly, yes via Twitter, fulfill their needs in a way that makes them an evangelist for you.

Oct 21

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients, Events

Client News: boxee wins CEA i-Stage Competition

Congratulations to Avner, Dave, Gidon, Tom and the rest of team boxee for winning CEA’s i-Stage event yesterday afternoon. boxee’s unique social media center was voted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and judges Ryan Block (gdgt), Molly Wood (Cnet), Jeff Pulver (VOIP/Online TV pioneer), and Kevin Kelly (Wired) as America’s Next Top Gadget (err, software?).

boxee beat out hundreds of other companies to become one of 14 finalists, then went on to win the competition yesterday and will receive a turnkey exhibit booth at CES along with a check for $50,000. They’ve got an amazing team of engineers that continue to push the limits of what media center software should do – making it easy for anyone to organize, enjoy, and explore their media in new ways, including socially!.

See the official announcement from the CEA here, footage from CNET, a video interview from local Vegas news here, and make sure to follow boxee’s blog as there are many more innovations to come.

Sep 16

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients, Events, Gadgets

Client News: boxee.tv selected as CES I-Stage finalist

We’d like to congratulate our favorite social media center company, boxee.tv, for being selected as one of 15 finalists for the CES 2009 I-Stage eventI-Stage is a new event for CES, which they’ve labeled with “Think you’ve got America’s next top gadget? Prove it. “  The event is being judged by Kevin Kelly (Wired), Ryan Block (Engadget/gdgt), Jeff Pulver, and Molly Wood.

The 15 finalists will unveil their products before a live audience on Monday, October 20, at CEA’s 2008 Industry Forum, scheduled October 19-22, 2008, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.
Good luck Avner and the rest of Team Boxee!

Jul 25

Posted by andrew

Posted in Marketing

Update your software. Fix your dog.

I ran into an old friend not long ago, and as she palmed her 1G iPhone I asked her how she liked it. “I love it! she replied, “It’s like I’m in a relationship and it just gets better because Apple is always giving me updates!” It got me thinking. Too many companies (Apple included, with Leopard and MobileMe) are patching/fixing software instead of updating it to be more valuable to consumers.

WindowsUpdate

The above Microsoft Update is an example of something most of us have grown so accustomed to that we hardly take the time read them anymore–I can’t remember the last time I read through one. One could also read this update as, “Everything you hold dear may be in jeopardy.” The point is Microsoft is a leviathan, they can get away with this stuff.  The little guys, the start-ups out there, cannot. Imagine you’re a financial monitoring site such as Mint.com and you issue a similar sounding alert asking users to update their passwords because of a flaw that (gulp) allows anyone to access their banking information. Users would flee faster than audiences did from Gigli.

Think of it like this: you take your car into the dealership for a routine tune-up and find out there’s been a recall. There are two ways for the manufacturer to position this recall; one makes you think your car is more road-ready than when you brought it in. The other implies a flaw in your car making you question its road-worthiness. Both are forms of maintenance, but the impression left with the customer is much different.

What impression are you giving your customers when you communicate product enhancements, patches, and updates? Believe it or not, something as simple as a product update or a bug fix is something that should be thought about from the marketing side, not just the technical side of the organization.  At Stage Two we believe that everything you do to your product has impact on your customers’ perception, and you never want to let that slip.

Jul 15

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients, Marketing, Press, Social Media

Client Launch: TuneUp intros killer iTunes Companion

The music lovers at TuneUp Media, a client based here in San Francisco, launched their iTunes Companion software today. Here’s an overview of what they are doing:

What’s the one problem most people have with their digital music collections? They’re msesy, err… messy. They’re missing albums, artists, or track names (Track01 ring a bell?). For most of us, this is something we tolerate because we don’t have the time to fix songs one by one, and previous tools are too complicated or ineffective to bother with.

TuneUp Cleaning MusicIntroducing the new TuneUp Companion for iTunes. TuneUp plugs into your music collection and automatically fixes your mislabeled song information. It takes the audio “fingerprint” of a song, compares it to over 90 million songs in the Gracenote database, and fills in the missing info. No more “Track 01’s”. No more Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones, and TheStones. No more headaches looking for music on your iPod or iPhone. We like to say, “It’s your music’s new best friend.”

TuneUp also automatically finds missing cover art for your albums and lets you pick from up to 4 options so if you really want that import cover, you got it. You can even save all of the album covers at once with a handy “Save All” button.

So you’ve cleaned your music, found your cover art, what’s next? TuneUp integrates seamlessly beside iTunes to present the web’s best content in the “Now Playing” tab. Every time you hit play, TuneUp searches the web to provide music videos from YouTube, merchandise from eBay, song/album recommendations from Amazon, and news from Google for the artist and song you’re playing.

Additionally TuneUp lets you know when artists in your collection are coming to town with a “Concerts” tab. Even better, they pull information from both national and local sources so you won’t miss the next Justice concert, or the next show from local artist Sean Hayes.

TuneUp has something for everyone, and you can try cleaning your first 500 songs for free at www.tuneupmedia.com.

Useful links:

Coverage so far (will be updated throughout the day):

Apr 18

Posted by andrew

Posted in Clients, Marketing, Social Media

How-to: Offering Client News Feeds

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a semi-controversial blog post today on the “wrong ways” to pitch news (to ReadWriteWeb specifically, but it probably applies to many other publications as well. BlogHerald chimes in here too.) and Mashable has a similar post. One of Marshall’s key insights was regarding how Voce Communications shares their updates with an OPML file. We thought it was a good idea, huddled up, did a little Yahoo! Pipes magic, and here we are: presenting Stage Two Consulting’s client news.
Stage Two feeds - yahoo pipes

Here’s how we approached it, on a client-by-client basis, in no particular order (note that this only includes currently active clients and only those for whom we are doing outreach):

Bug Labs – the company has both a blog and a twitter feed. All blog posts end up in the twitter feed, and other miscellaneous news does as well. We chose to include the twitter feed only (although also considered doing both, and filtering out the duplicates).

DeviceVM – has a blog and issues press releases through PRWeb. We’ve included the blog feed, and also created a filter from PRWeb’s feed to find DeviceVM content.

TuneUp Media and Spleak – have no blog at present, so all news will come via PRWeb filters.

In addition to the PRWeb filters, we created Google News filters for each client. For each given filter, we added a prefix with the company name OR “Press Release”/”News item”, here’s a sample output:

Pipes RSS OutPut

Also, we’re including the Stage Two blog, but leaving out our personal blogs and Twitter feeds for now.

The process was fairly simple to accomplish using Yahoo! Pipes. We’ve never used it before, yet from start to finish took less than 45 minutes. It was pretty darn easy, well done Yahoo!