Archives for October 2008

I didn't get the memo

So when did “they” decide that the word “blog” refers to an individual entry and not the wrapping? Isn’t “Did you read my latest blog?” the same thing as “Did you read my latest newspaper?” The story is not the paper, and an entry is not the blog.

Or maybe I was asleep when somebody decided otherwise.

A pre-election video treat

This wonderful video is a classic example of what remixing can accomplish. From the “unfair and unbalanced” 23/6 website, this is a commentary on the debates and on the process of “talking points,” something we all intuitively sense but have never seen displayed with those words on top of themselves. Enjoy.

Thanks to Duncan Riley at The Inquisitr.

Thank God for geeks

It’s been quite a week. Following a PowerPoint presentation to a network group on Tuesday, my laptop (HP Media Center) apparently didn’t disconnect from the projector properly, which brought about a “blue screen of death.” It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course, but by Wednesday morning, it was apparent that I needed help. My life is on this computer, and while I have back-ups, it’s a terribly disconcerting thought to stare at such an intimate, lifeless old friend.

In came Richard the Geek (smile when you say that), not to be confused with Joe the Plumber. This laptop has two hard drives, so he mirrored C to D and then physically swapped them. After multiple chkdsk commands, reloading Windows and a bunch of other fixes, he was able to restore life to my baby. I’m still reloading some programs.

The best we can figure is that something happened in the “function F4” command that the computer didn’t like. Richard also said it was possible that I’d hooked up to a projector at sometime in the past that loaded software on my laptop to establish the connection. I had settings in the display properties that shouldn’t have been there. Ah, the travails of a traveling dog-n-pony show.

Anyway, I’m back with a renewed appreciation for people who start taking computers apart when they’re five years old.

News is a conversation (revisited)

A new report from Rubicon Consulting reveals interesting insight into the world of online communities, and, in so doing, adds more evidence to the growing axiom that news in the 21st Century is a conversation, not a lecture. This is an old topic for me, and I don’t hear it discussed much anymore. The basic premise is that people aren’t gathered in a theater watching a stage anymore; they’re watching (and in constant communications with) each other.

A news department’s role in a “news is a conversation” paradigm is to start — and sometimes advance — the conversation.

The Rubicon report notes that while online participation is rising, only about 10% of web users produce the vast majority of user-created content. The rest are more or less voyeurs. This ratio is a fact at this point in the Web’s development, and a lot of observers point to it as evidence that the online world isn’t ever going to reach the Utopian level of participation that its proponents espouse.

But this view ignores the degree of influence that this 10% group has on the rest. The Rubicon report shows that online reviews and comments written by users are second only to word of mouth as a purchase influence for most Americans. And if such activity can influence purchase decisions, imagine what it does to matters of conscience, health, politics, crime, and, especially, the media.

So smart marketers are increasingly looking for ways to “influence the influencers,” but there’s precious little research available on, among other things, the degree to which this group can be influenced. My personal belief is that they are influenced by the values of speed, transparency and authenticity, and that news organizations can do no better than implementing these into their output.

News is a conversation, and we need to accept it and execute strategies and tactics to enable the its continuation. Comments are only the beginning.

Despite what you hear, RSS has not "peaked"

symbol for RSSAn insightful new report from Forrester (What’s Holding RSS Back?) suggests that RSS (Really Simple Syndication) as a tool for marketers is vastly underutilized and that growth of the technology is hindered by ignorance of the public. While RSS use has increased since Forrester first measured it three years ago, it’s still only a staple of just 11% of North American internet users. The report prompted new media PR guru Steve Rubel to declare that RSS “has peaked,” which set off a series of blog postings crying “foul.”

From RSS Usage is Much Higher than 11% to RSS Adoption Stalling Because It isn’t Joe Six Pack Enough, people jumped on Rubel and the report in general. It doesn’t appear, however, that anybody actually read the report, because I don’t find this “peaking” business anywhere.

What I do find is good information, especially for marketers, on how to use RSS to make a difference for themselves. The report does reveal the weakness of the technology in terms of consumer acceptance, but it goes the extra mile by probing open-ended survey questions as to why. People don’t use RSS, because they don’t know what it is, why they should use it, and how it works.

Report author Julie Katz goes on to make three recommendations to address the ignorance:

  1. Advertise syndication as “easy information.”
  2. Create RSS tutorials.
  3. Collect and share customer testimonials.

RSS feed images from the website inquisitr.comFor information-seekers, RSS is a life-changing experience, and let me give you an example of exactly what this report is talking about. My 27-year old future son-in-law is a manager at a GameStop store. He’s an XBOX360 guy and an expert at “Call of Duty.” He wants to make retail gaming his future and is in with a very good company. Thinking that staying informed about the online gaming industry would benefit his career, I asked him a few days ago if he’d ever heard of RSS. He hadn’t, but that’s no surprise, so I walked him through setting up a feed reader and loading it with news feeds from his industry. He faithfully uses it now, and I hear him quoting things he’s read from the feeds. He admits that he is “the guy in the know” at work.

Now he knows what RSS is, why he should use it and how it works. He’s a convert, and his information-gathering life is changed as a result.

The real problem with RSS — and the Forrester report does not get into this — is that traditional media companies and advertisers are the most ignorant of the whole lot. Moreover, there’s no incentive for them to become educated, because they cannot see how to make money by using a consumer pull technology like RSS. The best Steve and I see are feeds from companies designed with one thing in mind: drive traffic back to their portal sites, so they can monetize the page views.

RSS can be so much more, and unlike Steve Rubel, I think RSS is a technology just waiting for the right push from somebody. Besides, it’s used in so many ways by people who don’t even know it’s RSS that it’s hard to make any argument that the technology has peaked.

(Originally posted in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel newsletter)

Book review: Tribes

TribesI’m going to do you a favor this morning, and that is to strongly (that’s not a strong enough term) recommend you go out today and buy Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes. Order it, if you must, but I recommend you go to your favorite bookstore TODAY and read this book, especially if you are a regular reader here.

Where do I begin? I’ve read most of Seth’s work, and I think this is his most important. It is prescient — perhaps even providential — absolutely nailing the biggest hole in our culture today: the need for its leaders to step forward. As the book teaches, you don’t have to be in charge of anything to be a leader, and to my friends and colleagues in local media everywhere, this means you.

The book so profoundly tracks my own life journey that I found my spirit leaping time and time again, and the book is so filled with sensational quotes (perfect for PowerPoints) that I’m sure you’ll be reading them everywhere. Here are a few favorites (in no particular order):

The rush from stability is a huge opportunity for you.

Leaders have followers. Managers have employees.
Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.

A crowd is a tribe without a leader.
A crowd is a tribe without communication.
Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd. Smart organizations assemble the tribe.

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there.
People will follow.

The print and broadcasting industries badly need the wisdom that’s in this book, for leadership is what’s so badly missing. Media is run by managers and beancounters, neither of which stand a chance of rescuing anything (including their own jobs). That task falls to the heretics, and that’s the essential message of this wonderful book. You want to know why all the numbers keep heading south?

“In unstable times, growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations, instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less.”

I could go on and on, but you need to read the book and let it free your mind to embrace all that is you and your passion. Then go out and change the world.

I’m with Seth on this: we need you.