I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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July 02, 2009

From The "Stop Whining About Obscurity And Start Rethinking Content For Usability" Dept.: What's your iCalendar Strategy?

At  a number of events I've been to recently, one common refrain has been "Gee, how is it that no one knows about all the cool stuff that's going on in sector X around here?  We've been working hard to get the word out, but we're still flying under the radar."

Around the same time, I was fiddling with my Google Calendars, trying to integrate them and add additional calendars to them (like weather, holidays, etc.).  I was really surprised to see the scarcity of things already registered with Google that I could add.  There's an option for adding a URL for different organizations' iCalendar feeds, but no way readily apparent to me to search / discover such feeds, either on Google Calendar itself or via a logical search.  

I went to the web sites of some organizations with events series that I like to get to, to see if they offered iCalendar feeds that would place those events on my calendar, so I could have them there as reminders if by chance I could get to them.  So far, no joy.  Reassuringly, I'm not alone with this idea or my curiosity at the lack of feeds, or their discoverability, as this post by Jon Udell suggests.

If you are a publisher with a series of events you'd like people to come to, how can you publish an iCalendar feed?  Here are a number of options for tools to publish calendars on your site that also support publishing an associated iCalendar feed.

I also checked out services like Eventbrite  and Eventful, thinking that these intermediaries logically would publish iCalendar feeds for organizations that publicize and manage individual events through them.  Again, no luck -- maybe I'm missing something?

The broader point:  Democratization of publishing tools means content exposed as content will find it harder and harder to get its day in the warm sunlight of user attention.  Smart publishers will think about how they can expose their content in formats and applications that are more tightly tied to how users employ that information.  Many things can be turned into event series -- if you are a recipe site, how about a "meal-of-the-week" series?  If you are the US Government -- or Forbes.com -- where's my iCalendar feed for economics statistics announcements?  Other examples: interest rates integrated with interest rate calculators, apartment rental listings integrated with mapping applications that support getting directions...  what can you think of?


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