I'm having a real-time Twitter conversation with Adweek's Brian Morrissey who, as an avid runner is not a fan of the site and offers this opinion:
"the content is one-size-fits-all lame, the redirect to forums sucks out loud and it's still nike talking at me."
It's a really interesting observation as this is what Nike is probably trying to avoid. I still believe the strategy is sound, but Brands will need help when trying to establish "credibility". Morrissey goes on to say:
"it's hard b/c authenticity doesn't come naturally"
Given Brian's background which is more informed than mine (as a non-runner), I'd say the missed opportunity may be the "one size fits all" approach. As I mention below, it's the Niche perspective that presents the real opportunity. Maybe Nike can help facilitate by aggregating content from sources more credible than themselves? I still see serious opportunity here if brands can figure out the delicate balance. See Fiskateers for similar concept, different execution.
In 2007 Nike + took the marketing world by storm and made the advertising world re-think the industry, as the online meat of Nike + is basically a Rich Internet Application with community features built into it. Now I come across Inside Nike Running, which as far as I can tell offers a content rich experience equipped with RSS feeds and multiple message boards. I haven't had a chance to really dig deeply into it—but I can't help admire the strategy.
For one, Nike and running naturally spells community. Runners are like bikers. It's a sub-culture that only runners totally get and there are all kinds of levels and types of runners. Secondly, content site are extremely search engine-friendly. Many of the keywords are provided by the users themselves in the form of comments or participation in message boards. And lastly, content is sitcky—your typical product-based micro site at best provides a one time experience. Sure you can build in "pass it along" functionality—but the bottom line is that if there isn't a steady supply of new, quality content—then users really don't have a reason to come back and engage. Plus, consumers are becoming increasingly wary of "marketing speak"—IE content written by copywriters who may not know much about the lifestyle they are speaking to and come across as contrived or inauthentic.
I'll be spending some more time at Inside Nike Running as I've been recommending similar solutions to clients myself. I'm willing to bet my money on the idea behind tactic as I don't think it's a trend. Brands really need to figure out if investing in content is worth it for them. It might not be right for all brands—but for some, it could be a no-brainer. There is risk involved, if there's no real commitment to providing good content that is worth a user's time—then maybe it's better to pass on something like this all together. The last thing you want to do is have people come to your site only to dismiss it as a joke.
Still, I think there's something here to really think about. So, in 2008—if you think this is a direction you want to invest in, here are a handful of skills/people you may want to look for. Keep in mind, these are not actual titles, they are more skill sets.
Digital Information Designers
Not all designers know how to design lots of content in the online space. One you get into scrolling pages with lots of content, multimedia and features—you need people who know understand the art and science of information design. More specifically, you need good digital information designers—there's a difference.
Content-rich sites require content analysts who can organize and categorize large amounts of content in their sleep. While flashy micro-sites relied heavily on talented flash designers—content sites rely on content analysts putting some deep thought into the best ways to display, distribute and serve up content (think multiple devices, feeds etc.). These individuals will also understand how to integrate and aggregate content that may be coming from the "outside" also known as "user generated content".
People who understand the nuances, cultures and social etiquettes of online communities will be in high demand. Those who can moderate, facilitate, create and maintain conversations will be critical to adding life to site experiences like this. In addition, people with skills in this area understand how to reach out to existing communities and can help extend brands into this space without being too heavy handed or contrived.
Going up against content-rich providers on the internet such as Web MD is probably a waste of time, however the internet thrives on highly specialized niche content. People who understand how to edit and serve up this specialized content—making it both valuable and convenient will be in demand.
This is an incomplete list—there are probably more. And in reality, the micro-site isn't going away. But micro sites that don't give us a compelling reason to return may find themselves struggling in a world where people will only reward you with their time if you provide them something of value. The idea that someone will visit a site after seeing a URL on a television commercial doesn't reflect the reality of online behavior where Google acts as the ultimate remote control. As online residents become more sophisticated and demanding, they'll demand that you make it worth their time. If you can't do that—you may succeed in getting a visit to your site, but that's no guaranteed that they will ever come back, or worse yet—tell a friend about it.