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What a year it's been...another record breaker for Creative COW

Last year, around this time, we posted that in late November of 2008, the COW passed the Google Analytics ONE MILLION unique visitors a month marker. This year, as we wind down to year's end, we have passed the Google Analytics 2.2 MILLION unique visitors a month threshold. In fact, Q3 of 2009 sustained growth that saw the COW growing by adding another 100,000 visitors every 10 days or so.

Against this backdrop, the other day I read a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that said: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." When I read this, I had to smile, especially considering the last 15 years or so that Kathlyn and I have been building media professionals communities online. I read Ghandi's words out loud to Kathlyn, and she smiled. It was the story of Creative COW in a nutshell.

In the beginning, many people in the industry didn't get it. But those that were trying to keep their jobs -- floundering in the wake of rapidly changing technologies and production processes -- they got it. In fact, as Kathlyn and I have mentioned before, the most rewarding experience we've ever had at trade shows, is when people come up and talk about how they've been coming for a decade or more and how the community we've help build helped save their job. That will humble you, when you consider their family and ponder how something you have done has helped someone else protect that family. It is truly an honor that we do not take lightly.

In the beginning, the industry trade magazines and other well funded entities in this field, ignored us. We sent press releases time and again that never received coverage, as they chose to ignore us. Just like Ghandi said they would.

When we changed our strategy and launched Creative COW, they laughed at the company with the funny name. Ghandi got that one right, also. In fact, we once heard from one of the people that had worked with one of these companies, that on the day that we announced we'd be going into print, the company they worked for had a meeting in which they mooed and laughed and talked about what an aborted foray into print this would be. "Who's going to read a Creative 'COW' Magazine?" they laughed. The answer? Their former readers, it seems.

Every year that goes by, there are fewer and fewer magazines in this market, and there are more and more websites opened, but there is still only one Creative COW -- a site with more combined traffic than all of them combined.

Is it because we are so smart? No. Then why is it happening this way?

Once upon a time we received a call from a billion dollar publishing conglomerate (who I won't name to spare them the embarrassment) that had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in this market, trying to lead in this market segment. They called us from England on a speakerphone from their board room and asked how on Earth we always managed to beat them? They told us that no matter the money they spent, we just kept growing and undoing everything they were trying to accomplish.

We told them the simple answer: we listen to our people and we build that. They wouldn't believe the simple truth, and because of it, they failed -- not long after selling off at fire sale prices the under-performing company they tried to build.

We have failed plenty ourselves. Having just passed 59, I look at my failures -- and my successes -- and my failures have ample company, while the successes don't come anywhere near the "populace of profusion" that my failures occupy.

What surprises me, is that some people will not listen to their failure and the lessons it is trying to teach them. They will keep going the same way, time after time, in a strategy that has never worked and that is failing -- doing it again and again. [Insert sound of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" here.]

Unlike most businesses, we do not hold monthly or quarterly strategy meetings. In fact, truth be told, we hold them DAILY. Daily? Yes, it is THAT important in a rapidly changing world such as ours is today.

The time it takes us to hold these meetings is more than made up for in a company that can turn on a dime and rapidly respond to the ebb and flow of today's business climate.

Sound crazy? It works. It also allows us to try things and to play to our opportunities in ways that we could never exploit if we met monthly, quarterly or annually.

As I wrote in one of magazine columns a while back: God gave you two ears and one mouth and is trying to teach you something in the arrangement.

We watch this market like hawks in flight. We constantly discuss what we see and where we are spotting opportunities. We fight aggressively to prove the vitality and practicality of what we see, believe and are bringing to market.

Our competitors quit laughing some time back. Now some of them call us liars and say that the comparative statistics we publish are false. Most of our partnering companies see the desperation in those words, but for the few that believe their claims, I ask them why their lawyers never contact us? We aren't misrepresenting anything, and our publishing of these numbers is just that -- us, posting data that is available from 3rd party sources. Nothing more or less.

So we continue to compete and they compete against us. Another magazine in this market announced last October that they will go "all digital" in 2010. Two others against whom we have had to compete already went to web-only in 2009.

Tim Wilson and I understand the move to digital but not when the titles doing it have a tiny web-footprint to work from. Tim and I call these kinds of moves "imploding onto the web" and we believe that failure in print does not entitle you to success on the web.

The market is thinning and we continue to hold our daily strategy sessions and to do everything we can do to guarantee that Creative COW Magazine will continue to grow in 2010. We don't plan to go all-digital anytime soon, and would only consider such a move if there were a distribution technology that our members saw as especially valuable to them and worthy of such a change.

Don't let your own strategies be timid in 2010. Learn to thank like a marketer. Market. Listen. Fine-tune. Move. Assess. Move again. Refine. Learn from your mistakes. We do.

Today, you have to experience your failures quickly and move to your next step of refinement quickly. It makes me think of that old song by 38 Special called "Hold On Loosely (But Don't Let Go)." You have to hold and measure the move with fluidity and a ease and speed of movement that allows you to quickly adjust.

The advantage that mammals had over the dinosaurs, was that the mammals were stealthy and agile.

There's a lesson in that one, too.

Have a great New Year and we wish you every success in the days ahead.



The greatest book you will read all year -- or next

Those of you who read some of my posts may have bumped into my enthusiasm for Philip Kotler's "Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence."

If I had to pick the single most important business book that I read during all of 2008 (when I started it) or 2009 (when I finished it), it would be Chaotics. To be honest, people that read this book don't really finish it, they keep referring back to ideas and bits of it -- flashing through its pages so as to rekindle points raised within the book. As a tool for understanding the rapidly changing economy and world system, it is without peer -- in my humble opinion.

I have recommended this one to many key leaders in Creative COW and most of them have taken the time to buy it and have told me that they too, now consider this one of the most important books they have ever read. I also recommended it to one of the top sales and marketing people that I know at one of the major hardware manufacturers in this industry, and he called one day to thank me for telling him about it. We ended up talking for almost an hour about some of the key points of the book.

I could tell you about what's in it but then, many would roll their eyes and say that it would be boring. Well, let me put it this way: there's nothing quite as exciting and stimulating as the stress of watching your business and career crumble right before your eyes. Many people I know in this industry (and others), have no real idea what is going on in the world today. Just how truly all-encompassing and sweeping the changes are that are affecting the world, business, and the way we must adapt in these radically changing times. They are succeeding by luck and chance, more than by design.

Chaotics puts the world under the microscope and explores ideas that will change the way that you look at the world.

Do yourself a favor (or favour for my British friends), do your family and your career a favor, read this book.

You can thank me for steering you to it, later.


Posted by: Ronald Lindeboom on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:21:31 am chaotics, business, books

At long last: Closed Captioning discussions come to Creative COW

We are happy to announce that Creative COW has just launched a discussion forum related to Closed Captioning. This is something that we have wanted to add to the forums line-up for a long time, now. But finding the right person to support it has been tough.

Recently, Jason Livingston wrote us and asked if we would consider adding a forum for Closed Captioning. When we checked out his credentials, Jason has quite an impressive resume, one part of which is both writing and supporting closed captioning systems.

We look forward to working with Jason, and if you would like to stop by the new forum, you will find Closed Captioning now listed in the COW forums line-up.


Posted by: Ronald Lindeboom on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:59:29 am closed captioning

By popular demand: Creative COW Magazine print edition available worldwide

Since the introduction of Creative COW Magazine back in early 2006, we have been asked repeatedly to make the print edition available to our friends and members around the world. Unfortunately, we were not set-up to accommodate international mailings and we had no way to bill them and maintain the record keeping -- well, unless our small team wanted to work around the clock! ;o)

But recently we have added the means to allow our friends worldwide to receive the print edition and we are delighted that the response has been beyond our expectations, with orders arriving quite regularly. It has become somewhat of a hobby here at headquarters to watch them and have the team ask: "Wow, did you see that one from Siberia? Amazing!" (Yes, we really got one from a producer in Siberia.) Our sincere "thank yous" to our friends and members around the world who enjoy the magazine so much that the PDF/digital version is simply not enough.

Watching a dream grow is always an amazing thing. I remember back to when we first launched our fledgling attempt at building a media professionals community back in early 1995. We quickly figured out that usenet groups were not going to be the future and that listservs were OK, but they were not very functional and in a visual medium such as we are in, listservs are far too limited to build anything that will matter over time. So, we elected to build a website, and having just passed the 2 million unique visitors a month threshold just this month, and to see the magazine grow to the level that it has -- becoming the strongest player in this arena -- we marvel at what can happen when a team dedicates itself to excellence.

We marvel at the people who come to the COW and who are signing up for Creative COW Magazine. We are humbled to see the work in our videos-reels section and to see various jobs that are represented in our magazine registrations. When we see people that work on some of the top shows and channels, as well as occupy places on some of the top film studio teams around the globe, it makes us want to work even harder to guarantee that the site and the magazine -- as well as the many other services we provide -- will be useful and serve the needs of our members.

It was said long ago, that if you want to achieve something that is great, serve. Therein lies the secret to the magic behind Creative COW.

You are our focus and listening to you and acting on what you want is our function and commitment here at the COW. Without you and your ideas and feedback, this would be little more than a tiny site among millions on the internet. (And it stopped being that, years ago.)

Thank you to all of our friends who are taking the time to tell us that the COW Magazine is different and is worth signing up to have it in their studios at the Vatican (yes, that one came in too), in Siberia, in England, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden,and a myriad of other wonderful places, as well. We are honored beyond belief that the COW Magazine will be finding its way to your studios and suites around the globe.

It's an amazing world, isn't it?

Oh, and because we want to make sure that our friends get them as quickly as possible, our magazine is being sent FIRST-CLASS to all of our subscribers. In fact we like to say that's...

BECAUSE A FIRST-CLASS MAGAZINE DESERVES FIRST-CLASS DELIVERY™

Seems many of you agree.




Maintaining astronomical growth in stagnant market conditions

In December of 2008, we hit the venerable Google Analytics 1,000,000 totally unique users a month threshold. In January 2009, we crossed over the 1.1 million marker. February found us hitting the 1.2 million level. Then, in March, the 1.3 million level was passed. And so on and so forth until, today, in September of 2009, we have reached the 1.7 million totally unique users a month marker. (Being that we serve a professional audience, we always drop during the Summer months but bounce back fast in mid-August or so, as vacation season ends and people get back to work.) At our current growth levels, we will hit TWO MILLION totally unique users a month by February 2010 or thereabouts.

We have been doubling every year for the last few years and this current cycle appears that it will be no exception. We will have doubled again, from one million to two million totally unique users a month, in a little over a year.

It's rough to keep up a growth curve like that, year after year. Especially when the technology behind all of this is quite expensive when you hit the level that we have hit -- not to mention that we compete against companies who, for the most part, are international publishing conglomerates that are mostly billion dollar enterprises.

Back when I used to teach business classes to active business owners and managers for a couple of the banks here in Central California -- as well as speaking at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo's business classes -- one of the things that I pointed out regularly was that uncontrolled growth kills more businesses than under-capitalization. Surprised? Don't be, you can adjust and rescale a business to meet the level of monies available, far easier than most can figure out how to succeed with a business that is demanding more and more resources quickly due to the growth that is driving out of control.

Juggling these kinds of growth levels -- and the demands on both people and the technological backbone that supports it all -- is a real feat in a market wherein the number of available sponsors from which to draw support dwindles with each new acquisition. What used to be 10 companies a decade ago (in some cases), is now a single company.

Building something like Creative COW is a constant juggling act and it's one in which every ounce of both human and technological resources are constantly being drawn on and leveraged to maintain the kind of astronomical growth that we have to support here at The COW.

Sometimes, we have phone conferences and our team discusses the next phase of what we need to do to assure that The COW does not collapse under the weight of its own popularity. It isn't always easy but when you have a team such as we have built over the last decade, the job is doable and we look forward to early 2010 when the COW will in all likelihood be rolling past the 2 million unique users a month marker.



We will, we will ROKU

I don't know if this latest gadget we bought to bring Netflix streaming to our home is pronounced Roe-Koo or Rock-You but I will tell you this, we have been quite impressed by it and it does rock. ;o)

In fact, we have been talking about dropping our cable television altogether and just using the ROKU. Why? For $99 we bought a device that allows us to use our $14.99 a month Netflix account to watch what we want, when we want. Is everything available? Not by a long shot. But there's more than I have time to watch.

Cable here in Paso Robles, California means just one company to choose from and at about $84 a month for the account, that works out to $1,008 a year for 100 Channels of Nothing's-On-When-You-Really-Want-It.

Sure, they have On Demand and some of it's free but we have had it lock up so many times and have had to reset our converter so many times and walk through the process after the picture freezes -- that we have grown so sick of it and no way I'd trust it for Pay-Per-View.

But with our $99 ROKU hooked up to our wireless modem, we log into Netflix and download many TV series and thousands of movies. Concerts and documentaries are there, too.

We still get our DVDs delivered from our choices and watch them, but it really is a great thing to be able to log into your $14.99 Netflix account and grab things on the fly that the cable company is charging a lot more for.

We will ROKU, indeed.



Interpreting National Geographic's Best Photographs of 2008

A friend of mine sent me an email this morning that contained quite a number of 2008's winners in National Geographic's ongoing Best Photos competition.

These winning photographs are an amazing body of work by some very talented photographers, and yet they seemed to cry out for some kind of setting and interpretation.

So with a tip of the hat and with a nod and a wink to my love for Gary Larson's Far Side, I offer the following interpretations of these great photographs.

I hope that you find them funny. If not, click on some other page -- one that doesn't offend so many, quite as easily.



And Moses said: "Let there be flies on the land!" And he reached out his hand...




Another Wal-Mart family photo moment. "Bobby, hold still back there. Now, mister."




The field goal is good! It's good! Maurice knew they'd be going all the way to the Superbowl.




Suddenly Bob got confused when he saw all of the little fishies, and did not know if he were coming or going. The only thought that came to him clearly was: I am not a vegetarian. That much he knew. The fishies knew it too -- but they weren't much smarter than that.




Steve fell during one of his cloudwalking forays and unfortunately, he missed all of the branches -- but eventually, he did find the ground.




What is it, Marge? I just waited through the Winter holding that egg you left me, and it grew. You wanna keep it? It seems friendly enough.





The beans were having a near debilitating, bloating effect on Mike. So much so that even though he was the leader of the clan, no one would swim in his wake. He was alone for the first time in his life and the stress made his bloating even worse.




Honey, do you like my make-up? Do you think it makes my eyes look puffy?




And on the final day of creation, God said: "I knew I forgot something." And he spoke to the Mountain of Faucets and turned on the waters and began to fill the empty seas. And it was good.




The photographer drew back in fear, the thought racing through his head: "What if they turn on me?" After all, the Grouper was gone in minutes. The Earth was changing -- and the meek truly were going to inherit the Earth.




I swear we are not alone, Wilma. For miles now, I have had the feeling that someone has been following us.




One thing he knew, Sally was cold as ice. She always had been, and he did not know how much more of it he could take. After all, his face was flush with the heat he felt for her. She, on the other hand, burned for Bruce, her first love who was off serving in the Banana War.




The waves refused to crest. After all, mankind had not appeared yet and so there were no surfers to impress. "So why go to all the effort?" the ocean thought to itself.





Posted by: Ronald Lindeboom on Aug 11, 2009 at 11:05:29 amComments (1)

The top of the pile in my 'What's Next for the Recording Studio?' list

Well, we are adding all of the paint, the draperies, room-tuning baffles and other niceties to the Creative COW's new audio facility, Mancave Recording Studios. Soon I will roll-out the COW's 'Building a Recording Studio' series of articles and it will be very cool as we took hundreds of photos documenting every step. We will address the subject in bite-sized pieces and each article will cover one aspect of building a professional recording studio. Now that that is over, what's up next? The mixer and soundboard is next on the list. What have we decided on? The Euphonix System 5-MC is where we are heading. Why? The system is able to control multiple software tools and operating systems, so that our existing purchases of Steinberg Nuendo and Apple Logic will work alongside the upcoming Digidesign ProTools system we will be adding down the road. If you haven't had a chance to check out the Euphonix boards in action, there are demo videos online at http://www.euphonix.com/pro/music/video.php

All of us here at Creative COW are very excited to see the Mancave nearing completion. Next, I'll have to fly Tim Wilson out from Boston so that the two of us can get lost for days in the new facility. (Tim's about as big a music freak as I am, so I have a feeling that talking him into coming West won't be all that hard.)



If you want to get the new Issue of COW Magazine, this is the time to sign up

If you haven't yet signed up for your free subscription to Creative COW Magazine, now is the time to visit www.creativecowmagazine.net and sign up. I am working on the database and wanted to give some of you stragglers a chance to get in on this issue before we do the final cut-off. The Magazine continues to grow and is becoming quite popular in studios and companies around the world, so take a couple of minutes and sign-up now

Is it a good magazine? Well, here's what Christian Glawe told us: "I have to admit that, when I first heard about the magazine, I was a little skeptical... 'What can a magazine offer that I can't find online?' But all you guys have done is create the single best magazine in our field. Period." -- Christian Glawe, editor/compositor



COW Magazine #13 is at the printers and it's a cooker

The new issue of the Creative COW Magazine is at the printer and will soon be arriving in the mail for those in the United States who have opted for the hardcopy edition. For our international members, we will shortly have our PDF editions added to the magazine website for downloading. You will not want to miss this issue as Tim Wilson has sought out a great body of guest writers for this edition -- doesn't he always? -- and it will give you a window into a world of production that maybe you have never explored before. We are calling it the Games Issue but don't let the title fool you, this is definitely not kid's stuff. This issue is one that is filled with ideas, techniques and inspiration -- drawn from a market that has the music and movie industries drooling at numbers that dwarf those other two major entertainment markets.

Give us a day or so to decompress and you will find the new issue in the Magazine website.

Congratulations, Tim. You did another masterful job on this one. I am proud to work with you and ride shotgun on this journey.



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