Hats off to sheriffs who query Wild West claims

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Almost exactly two years ago, in this column, I suggested the folks at the tiny website 2Oceansvibe “take a whole box of reality pills”. This was a comment about a breathless press release they issued about their launch of a digital radio site.

I remarked, at the time: “Consider an internet radio station. It broadcasts a ‘drive-time’ show. How many listeners is it going to attract?

“Most people are not fiddling with their computers at those times – they are on their way to work. And that is where they will be reached by conventional radio stations.”

In response, the head clever boy at 2Oceansvibe, one Seth Rotherham, launched a tacky personal attack on me and at the same time neatly ducked the issue of listener numbers.

Well, as many who follow matters digital will know by now, Mr Snake Oil Salesman Rotherham has had his bubble of internet hot air well and truly burst.

An IT boffin, Shaun Dewberry, decided to look into the numbers of listeners 2Oceansvibe was claiming – up to 35 000. He also looked at similar claims (of 50 000) being made by Darren Scott’s Ballz Visual digital radio site.

His findings were that both stations had only fractions of that audience, something which led both 2Oceansvibe and Ballz claiming they were misled by their service provider, Netdynamix.

Both stations had about 200 to 300 listeners, said Dewberry.

According to Rotherham, who reportedly fired Netdynamix, audited figures showed that his station had, in fact, an average of 572 listeners (he has since claimed that up to 2 000 listen in – but if these are the sort of figures for people who believed there are farms in Eloff Street... )

Rotherham went further, in an interview with local tech site mybroadband.co.za, to say about those 572 souls: “To that end we are very excited – 572 upwardly mobile opinion leaders is worth a lot to a lot of brands out there.”

What Rotherham fails to explain is how he knows that these 572 are “upwardly mobile opinion leaders”. No market research has been done, so this is clearly another creative suck of his own enormous thumb.

Let me repeat what I said two years ago: “The people who may be listening via the internet – would the quality be as good as an FM radio signal? I don’t think so – are likely to be, to put it politely, not the sort of people advertisers would be interested in.”

As for the the “bright future” for internet radio, let me just repeat a figure provided by mybroadband.co.za: the world’s most popular internet radio station has an audience of just 14 000.

The problem is that advertisers can certainly be misled about numbers on internet radio – and many others in the world of cyberspace (like social media, for example) end up wasting their budgets for very small results.

It is good to see that there are moves, in the wake of this exposé, to tighten up on the auditing of cyberspace locally. The often despised old-fashioned media (like us in newspapers) are at least accountable through real figures of real readers – and we still deliver results.

Another interesting fact about 2Oceansvibe – which Dewberry has not gone into – is the extent to which the site has been optimised for search engines like Google. SEO (or search engine optimisation) is a basic tool of the smoke and mirrors artist and enables a site to generate a huge number of hits by using the sort of word which search engines will pick up on. 2Oceansvibe is riddled with these obvious tricks – which is easy to see when you use the facilities and tools available on a site like alexa.com.

The sad thing is that there are too few sheriffs like Dewberry on the digital wild west frontier to keep the snake oil salespeople in line.

So an Onion yet again for 2Oceansvibe... and a suggestion that perhaps you might consider changing your name to Smokeandmirrors.co.za... because it’s more reflective of reality.

Orchids, though, for Dewberry and mybroadband.co.za for shining a light into these murky corners.

How many of us have wanted to tear our hair out with call centre people: they don’t listen, they can’t solve your problem, they even cut you off.

I was fully prepared to do battle with Nedbank’s call centre recently after my credit card was declined. I don’t often use the thing and when I do, the account is settled promptly – and I hate my good name being threatened. But, I encountered the Amazing Ayanda, one of the people at Nedbank’s call centre. She calmed me down immediately by pointing out that the card had effectively cancelled itself after I entered the wrong PIN three times in a row.

She advised me how to sort that out and then, after looking at her screen (which had details of my cards), spent 10 minutes giving me advice on how best to use them. She gave me more useful information in those 10 minutes than a host of Nedbank people have given me in the past 10 years.

Ayanda told me she is based in the Durban call centre – and clearly, Nedbank has chosen the right person and trained her. But more than that, she is a people person and can (almost) sell ice to Eskimos. From a marketing point of view, she did more for Nedbank than 100 TV ads.


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