Start Your Innovation Engines

To be an innovator, you have to be able to do three things: Spot an opportunity or problem; find a unique way to fix that problem or capitalize on it; and be willing to fail … a lot.

Woody Allen said it best: "If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative." Very true.

Often I write about existing innovations and how they impact the online marketing industry. This time around, I’m focusing on a handful of innovations that I’d like to see. As far as I know, the new ideas I’m about to mention have not been created. If they have, I couldn’t find them. However, I’d be happy to be proved wrong; just let me know.

An Affiliate Network (Offers) Comparison Website

One of the biggest problems I have with the world of affiliate networks and merchant offers is that there isn’t an easy way to see which network has the highest-paying and "freshest" offers. Here’s what I mean.

At any given point in time, a merchant may have multiple programs running at several networks (not including LinkShare, which demands exclusive deals with its merchants). It makes a lot of sense. More networks equal more exposure to more affiliates who may not be members of the other networks.

But what many affiliates don’t realize is that these same merchants offer different commissions and creatives at different networks. So for example, a merchant might offer a 10 percent commission at Commission Junction, but then offer a 15 percent commission at ShareASale.

If an affiliate is about to promote a program, they probably want to be paid as much as they possibly can. So, how would an innovator solve this problem?

How about a tool that aggregates the various offers from each network and displays them in comparison for all affiliates to see in one place? Sites like and come to mind as examples of how it’s been done effectively for shopping.

An Online Video Player Quality Comparison Tool

At last count, there are over 100 videosharing sites, such as and, which enable users to upload video. The problem is that all these sites use different encoding methods when uploading video, which can make the videos look better or worse, demanding on the site. That makes it difficult for a video creator to see which one has the best quality in terms of sound and visuals.

YouTube owns about 66 percent of all video views, so there’s no question that everyone should be uploading there. However, in terms of displaying video on your website or blog, YouTube’s compression and output is certainly not the best.

An innovator would solve this problem with a tool that allows video creators the ability to upload to multiple locations and then be able to view which player has the best quality.

An Easy Podcasting and Marketing Network

Podcasting is blowing up! Market researcher eMarketer estimates that the total U.S. podcast audience reached 18.5 million in 2007. Furthermore, that audience will increase by 251 percent to 65 million in 2012. And of those listeners, 25 million will be "active" users who tune in at least once a week.

Guess what? There’s a lot of money to be made in podcasting down the road. However, the biggest issue facing the industry is that it’s still too darn hard for a non-geek to create a podcast. And even if you can create one, there are not many solutions out there to help you figure out how to market it and make money with it.

Anyone can create a blog in minutes with tools like Google’s Why can’t anyone be able do the same thing in podcast form?

Creating an audio podcast should be as easy as plugging in your microphone, hitting Record and then Stop. But it’s not. As it stands right now, an aspiring podcaster needs to find a tool to record, then once the podcast has been recorded, import the audio files into some type of editing software, add intros and music, etc. It’s difficult to do.

The even-harder part is making money with your podcast. How do you go about finding advertisers? When and if you do, what types of ads do you sell them?

I would like to see an innovator develop a tool or network that helps podcasters record and edit a podcast through a Web interface. This same solution should also assist the podcaster in finding and selling advertisements.

Mind the Gap

We’re a clever bunch, we Internet marketing geeks. We move at such a fast pace, with an even faster multitasking mind-set. It’s no surprise to me that we’re also some of the best innovators I know because we’re too busy to keep doing things that take too much time to do.

It’s hard to predict what the future will bring. Just think about the products or services or plain-old innovative technology that you now use daily, that never existed a few years ago. Now imagine what could possibly exist in a few years from today. All of those former, and future, geeky innovations were created because there was a problem that needed to be solved.

Here’s a challenge for you – actually, more of an opportunity. Get a piece of paper and write down the biggest problem you have with your daily life. Business or personal, doesn’t matter. This is an exercise; don’t worry, you don’t have to act on it – just write it down and look at it.

Now, start thinking about how you could solve that problem. Don’t worry about the logistics of actually doing it. Those kinds of thoughts will only hold you back. Simply concentrate on fixing the problem. Stick that piece of paper in your pocket as a reminder to think about the problem.

Congratulations – you’ve just taken the first step to becoming an innovator! Now please remember to send me a commission check for my guidance after you invent the next billion-dollar company from your innovative idea. I will gladly take your email, unless it comes from Nigeria.