CDNs Marketing Message Of “Cheaper Than Akamai” Not The Right Focus

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I have been saying for some time now that CDNs need to do a better job of delivering a clear, concise message to the market of who they are, what they offer and how they are different from other CDNs in the industry. With nearly 40 CDNs now in the space, it’s never been more crucial for CDNs to stand apart from one another. Yet, with more new entrants, and more vendors all vying for much of the same business, few CDNs are really delivering any clear message at all. And don’t take my word for it, ask customers. They still don’t know the differences between vendors and in many cases, I don’t think the vendors do either.

For starters, this whole sales/marketing pitch of "we’re cheaper than Akamai" is pointless. Can someone please show me who isn’t cheaper than Akamai? Enough already. If all it took was a CDN to say they are cheaper than Akamai to get business, then Akamai would be losing a lot of CDN business right now, which they aren’t. So when nearly every CDN in the space is all saying the same thing, "we’re cheaper than Akamai", how is that a marketing message? I hear so many CDNs lead with that and I get so many e-mails from CDNs highlighting that. Ok, great to mention to a customer, but when every other CDN is saying the same thing to that customer, how is that making you stand out? It’s not. At this point, it would be unique if a CDN said we are more expensive than Akamai.

Why aren’t CDNs leading with propositions that customers want to hear? I keep saying that customers are complaining that they want better reporting and better customer service, and while some CDNs do highlight that as part of their offering, they are still not leading with that as the message. I challenge every CDN, especially the new entrants over the past 12+ months to write down what their marketing message is. Then compare that to what you read on your competitors websites and in their press releases and don’t be surprised when it’s nearly identical or is extremely vague and uses all the same marketing buzz words. This is really easy, yet many companies are simply falling in with the crowd getting lost in buzz words and bad marketing speak.

For instance. Simply by operating a CDN you are NOT helping customers monetize content. CDNs keep saying they are helping customers monetize their content yet then when I ask them if they have any of the offerings that truly enable the monetization of content like transcoding, authentication, meta data management, syndication tools, custom APIs, analytics tied into advertising etc…. most of the CDNs don’t offer any of these services as of yet. Simply delivering bits is not enabling monetization. Anyone can deliver bits. It’s all of the other pieces of the content ecosystem that really drives the monetization of content. Some CDNs have a few of those pieces, but the majority of them don’t.

Also, the marketing message that some CDNs are leading with calling themselves the third largest, or top-three CDN etc… is pointless. Who cares. Customers don’t. You are not going to win business simply by saying that to a customer. And quite frankly, what is it based on? CDNetworks says they are a "top-three global CDN", with us all assuming that Akamai and Limelight are the number one and two. But Panther Express says they are the industry’s third largest CDN and if we are basing this on revenue, then isn’t Level 3 the third largest CDN considering they said they did $100 million in CDN revenue for Q1 of this year?  The bottom line, it does not matter who is number three or number four. None of that matters. Think about this. Do you want to be known as the number three CDN in the industry, or do you want to be known by customers as the number one CDN in the industry when it comes to customer service and reporting. It’s a no brainer. We all know that in any industry, simply calling yourself a large player does not guarantee you success, long term viability or customers. Enron anyone? Size does not equal longevity.

When I started this blog it was to write about all things online video related and it seems all I have been doing is writing about CDNs for the past six months. I don’t call out CDNs in any post to make them look bad and don’t let my harsh criticisms of the CDN market suggest anything other than my love for wanting the CDN market to grow stronger and learn from its mistakes. We read a lot of great things about the CDN players but it’s also important that as an industry, we don’t allow ourselves to get to caught up in them and stay focused on what can be improved upon. Right now, I would say that the majority of CDN players really need to improve upon the story they tell of who they are, what they offer and how they are different from others in the market.