It’s Time To Revisit Our Mobile Strategy

Here is the latest in my series of essays, Local Media in a Postmodern World.

Time to Revisit Our Mobile Strategy

While local media companies focus their attention on the creation of apps, the way most people are accessing their content is through the open Web. We simply must pay attention to how we are being viewed and apply creative efforts to monetize that. Most TV stations use content management systems (CMS) that serve complex web pages to users who click on links they like on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any other of the major mobile apps people use. This is a self-destructive strategy, for not only do our monetization efforts go unnoticed; it puts unnecessary hurdles in user paths before they can read or watch the links.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Ateamsm“I pity the fool” is my favorite saying from the A-Team, the 80’s NBC drama/comedy featuring a team of actors with terrific chemistry. That line is from Mr. T, but the title line comes from the leader of the A-Team, actor George Peppard. It’s tongue-in-cheek, or sorts, because it was always used after something went terribly wrong, but the group ended up winning after all. I’m referencing it here today, because I want to share a couple of recent illustrations about my own prophecies from years past.

We’re at the dawn of the postmodern era, the age of participation (See my October 2003 essay, Participatory Journalism). While my industry, local TV, found my words fascinating, none of it made sense to them. I kept studying, analyzing and writing, but wherever I went to speak, people I was desperate to reach simply couldn’t grasp the concepts. Today, however, I can see things I predicted coming to pass, which both encourages me and makes me sad. “If only” is a phrase with much sorrow for someone who cares.

I live in Huntsville, Alabama, and while I once was the news director at WAAY-TV, my favorite TV news source is WHNT/News19. We got 8 inches of snow Wednesday and Wednesday night, so Thursday, the entire community was shut down. It was a very special snow day for families across the Tennessee Valley, and WHNT-TV led their evening news with clips and photos sent to them by average people (and some REALLY talented). In truth, the programs were filled with such stuff, so the reality was that everyday people produced the news that was on the TV station. This is what I’ve meant by the “Age of Participation.” Everybody is a media company today. Every. Body. And Jay Rosen’s “Great Horizontal” is pumping out content every hour of every day. What was “the news” yesterday here in Huntsville? Grown-ups and kids playing in the snow. The sun came out. It got up to 42 degrees. Roads cleared quickly. And through it all, everybody (well, nearly everybody) had the day off.

the dress

Then, there’s the story being featured nearly everywhere of “the dress” that’s gone viral. What color is it anyway? Is it blue and black or is it white and gold? It began as a question posed by the everyday owner of the dress on Tumblr and spread like wildfire after a Scottish entertainer passed it along. Even major celebrities got in on the act, people like Taylor Swift and, of course, Kim Kardashian. The mystery was solved by another everyday guy who simply tilted the screen of his laptop back and forth. Science then got in on the act, with Wired calling it an optical illusion.

The point is that “the news” is increasingly created and reported by you and me. Meanwhile, the debate over “real” journalism marches on, something I would suggest is a pretty serious waste of time. I mean, what IS “real journalism” anyway? The professionalization of the press is less than a hundred years old, and it has led to the cultural mess we have today, because “the pros” covet celebrity (I mean, CBS led the friggin’ Evening News with Bob Simon’s death — led the news with it! Really!).

We’ve lost our way, folks, but I trust the people to eventually find a way to keep each other informed about what’s important. The only issue is access, but that, too, has become a part of the Age of Participation.

The people formerly known as “the audience” are a whole lot smarter than we ever thought.

Online advertising’s solution

eyesMediaPost’s comical commentator George Simpson took on an issue Friday that deserves further review. The matter of “Viewability” is hotly debated in advertising circles, and Simpson, well, had a little fun with that. He faked attendance at a conference in Phoenix, and his post is a memo to his boss (at NBC).

Christ, what a shitstorm. Apparently in the world of Internet advertising, you can buy an ad and even if no one sees it, you still have to pay for it.

…on the one side you have advertisers telling Web publishers to prove that the ads they’re selling appear on users’ screens — as opposed to parts of Web pages that people never actually see. On the other side, you have the head IAB guy (from CBS — figures, right?) saying that if 70% of ads are viewable, everybody should relax and have a Coke. Meanwhile, you have these agency guys saying they are not happy unless all 100% of the ads they buy can be seen. Over in the corner, the ad-tech vendors are saying that 100% ain’t possible.

It was GREAT. Almost made me forget about Brian (Williams) for a few minutes.

…The fact is that nobody sees every ad in any medium. But the Internet wove that sackcloth coat they’re wearing with all that talk about accountability. Lol, as they say.

Simpson’s column is hilarious, but the many comments left are not. Viewability is the Holy Grail of the digital era, but the advertising industry is built on the mass marketing reality that Simpson notes above — that “nobody sees every ad in any medium.” All of the examples he uses are from the mass media playbook. Remember that it’s a one-to-many playground, where Wanamaker’s dilemma is played out (here’s an interesting take on that from today). Frankly, there’s so much money at stake here that nobody REALLY wants to take a chance on something different. This is why 100% viewability remains a difficult task. Remember also, the wonderful observation by NYU’s Clay Shirky, “Institutions will always try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

But the REAL problem for the institution of advertising is that the Web can deliver one-to-one advertising in ways we’ve never known before. This is not mass marketing with all of its cute terms and acronyms, so I disagree with the “experts” that 100% viewability is impossible given current technology. Folks, it ain’t the technology that’s the problem; it’s the application of technology.

Here’s the solution that nobody will embrace (remember: too much money): Approach consumers individually (via cookie or whatever) and let what I call the “browser view” determine advertising, and this is especially important for mobile. When somebody clicks on a Facebook (or other social media) link (currently the default behavior of consumers) and in so doing comes to visit your Content Management System (CMS), respect them. Only one ad. One. And that ad can be anywhere in that browser view, which guarantees “viewability.” It ain’t rocket science, my friends, but it does require a different approach to marketing.

For video advertising, see youTube. They wrote and continue to write the book. Every time I wish to watch a video anywhere, my automatic response is to head for the “Skip This Ad” feature.

The People ARE in Charge!

picardfacepalmOpinions from various corners of the television industry, when placed together, can often open a reader’s eyes to deeper truths about events challenging the broadcast and cable status quo. This is why I try to keep my eyes open for clues that light the path to tomorrow during my reading and study time. Today, I want to provide you with a classic example of this.

First, let’s go back to November of last year and a Mediapost article about the future of television. TV: Evolution or Revolution by Charlene Weisler is a nice overview, although it lacks anything really “new” or profound about what lies ahead. There is a quote in this article, however, that I find utterly fascinating. It comes from Joan Gillman, COO of Time Warner Cable Media. This is no foot soldier making this statement on behalf of TWC; this is a top, top-level executive:

“We have trained the consumers to consume media whenever and wherever they want, but what hasn’t caught up is the measurement.”

So basically, TWC believes that the people’s demand to explore media “whenever and wherever they want” was actually implanted in them by the cable giant. Really? This is pure poppycock and anybody with half a brain who’s been paying attention knows it. The people have FORCED media companies into providing them with the content THEY want when and where they want it. It takes a very special kind of arrogance to make the statement “we trained the consumers” when, in fact, the very opposite is true.

This is important, folks, because if you’re of a mind to be influenced by what Ms. Gillman says, you’re going to make mistakes, serious mistakes on the path ahead. For crying out loud, how can anyone so highly placed — at Time Warner Cable, of all places — not acknowledge the revolution of the people brought about by technological disruptions? Wow. It blows my mind.

Now let’s move over to an article from The Street Friday about, well, the future of television. Why Streaming Old Shows Could Backfire on Television Networks by Leon Lazaroff is a reaction piece to the Thursday announcement by Les Moonves in which “his network had signed a deal to license its super-show CSI to a U.S.-subscription-based video-on-demand service, known in the industry as SVOD.” The article contains this remarkable response by Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger from an investor note:

“We believe networks need to wean themselves off of SVOD (subscription video on demand) licensing, which we believe is the primary driver of the demise of ad-supported video consumption.”

Wait. What?

Here’s another seemingly intelligent human being (I mean the guy advises people on how to invest their MO-NEY) whose head is actually stuck up his backside. Really, Mr. Juenger? Get onboard the Cluetrain, for crying out loud.

What would happen if the networks actually TOOK this advice? Once again, anybody paying any attention can easily come to the correct answer: Bye-bye networks. Hello? The people are in charge today, as Jay Rosen first tagged them, “The people formerly known as the audience.” This moron actually thinks that people would climb back into the casket of viewing on somebody else’s schedule complete with commercials to pad the ride.

OMG!

So here’s the point. Both of these quotes point to a self-deluded ignorance that has gone to seed. It’s rampant out there, folks! This is exactly why the industry is doomed to collapse under the weight of such ill-informed and ignorant leadership.

Repeat after me: The. People. Are. In. Charge! We need to be meeting their needs and not our own, for in pressing our needs first, we are guaranteeing ourselves an empty chair at tomorrow’s table.

The Right Way to do Customer Service

I received this 2 days after contacting Vanguard

I received this 2 days after contacting Vanguard

It’s been many years since the “Dell Hell” episode in the life of Jeff Jarvis, and customer service across the country continues to have its ups and mostly downs. In my limited experience, however, I sense that companies are really trying to use technology to assist with the heavy lifting today, although we still have a very long way to go (will somebody please invent a replacement for telephone answering technology?).

I want to share with you today a remarkable experience I had last Wednesday with Vanguard USA, a manufacturing company that specializes in photo, video, and hunting accessories. In my case, I was looking for a quick release shoe (see photo) for Alicia’s old tripod, made by Vanguard under the Forceguard brand. My search for this was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, and I ended up on Vanguard’s website. They offered 10 or so quick shoes, but the dimensions weren’t offered, so I was stuck. On their contact page, right under their phone number, is an email address. At first, I was taken aback. I mean who knew? I clicked on it, opening my Outlook and presenting me with a simple method of contact.

Below is the entire email chain. Note especially the time stamps. Every company in America (hell, the whole world) could learn from this, and I am happy to present it here for you:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 12:28pm

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m in need of a quick release plate for an older Forceguard (Vanguard) tripod (MG5-OS). The opening for the plate clasp is 1 1/2″ x 1 3/4”. Do any of your QS products (except #40) fit that criteria? You don’t give the dimensions.

Sorry, but I really NEED this.

Thanks,

Terry

Terry Heaton
7435 S Catawba Circle NW
Madison, AL 35757

12:59pm

Terry–

Thank you for your email and your interest in our products.

You need the QS-36. You can purchase it from our website at www.vanguardworld.com

We thank you for choosing VANGUARD and we hope to keep you as a satisfied customer.

Michelle Rainbolt
Repair Technician
Vanguard USA Inc

1:22pm

Your are amazing! Thanks.

Terry Heaton

1:27pm

I ordered the part, Michelle. Too bad I can’t request overnight shipping. Seems like something’s missing in your ordering process. I need that sucker and was willing to pay what’s necessary to get it. Boo-hoo.

Terry Heaton

2:01pm

Terry–

Call me here at the Service Center 800–875-3322 x120 and I will see what I can do…

Michelle Rainbolt

2:39pm

Terry–

It will be going out today 2nd day air. Tracking # is as follows: 1zew00150265006143

Michelle Rainbolt

3:03pm

You are SUCH a blessing. Can you give me name/email of your supervisor? I’m so often underwhelmed with anybody’s “customer service,” that I’m really trying to come to grips with the opposite. Love to get you a raise.

Terry Heaton

Thursday, February 5, 2015 12:48pm
Email to Michelle’s supervisor:

Dear Lynn,

I had just a wonderful customer service experience with a staff member of yours yesterday. I’ve got to say that in all my years of contact with various “customer service” units, I’ve really never had one quite so positive as I had yesterday with Michelle Rainbolt. You know, everybody has horror stories, and I always dread contacting companies, because it’s just so often useless. Just the fact that your company provides an email address online that is actually watched is remarkable, and I appreciate it so much. I sent my need (a little Quick Shoe for an old tripod), and Michelle got back to me within the hour to give me the information I needed. Unbelievable! I then went to your website and made the purchase. Unfortunately, speedy delivery was not an option, so I wrote Michelle back to thank her and tell her I wished I had the option of 1 or 2 day delivery. She got back to me immediately and actually gave me her direct line. So I called and spent 5 minutes on the phone with her, where she was able to arrange 2nd day delivery for me. I’ll now have my part tomorrow, and I am one truly HAPPY customer.

Give Michelle a raise, pat yourself on the back, and go tell your CEO that I said he runs a terrific company.

Thank you so much,

Terry

1:24pm

Terry,

Thank you so much for the kind words for Michelle.
I have shared your email with the whole company, because you are correct too often we only hear the bad.

Thanks again.

Best Regards,

Lynn A. Slagle

A rant: Wake up, grow up, and shut up!

muslimskilled2Writers write, and so I write.

I am deeply saddened, shamed, and angry over events in Chapel Hill, NC yesterday. I need to vent or rant, so please bear with me and forgive me for that which you might find as offensive in this post. I’m sorry, but this needs to be said, and said by me, for I am absolutely sick over the defensive, sloppy thinking that exists right here in the USA.

Those of you who know me well likely follow me on Facebook, where I’ve engaged in a long and heated debate with my friends over the phrases “Islamic Terrorism” and “Islamic State.” This was largely brought about by the Paris slaughter of the staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo by men pretending to represent the Islamic faith. My 45 years as a professional observer (a.k.a. journalist), my 3 years as an ethics professor, my understanding of human nature from 17 years as a recovering addict, my education as the former Executive Producer of The 700 Club, my knowledge of Life as a senior citizen, and most importantly, the crossover experience I’ve had with my own family in Amman, Jordan all provide a somewhat different view of the Middle East than most Americans. You’re free to pay attention or not.

I am a student of postmodernism and the originator, writer and publisher of the concepts of postmodern journalism. This, too, influences me, because my studies reveal a different world developing after the invention of the internet. This cultural shift is enormous and similar to what happened in Western Civilization in the wake of the invention of the printing press. We can only imagine the possibilities, if we allow ourselves to view culture as permanently altered.

I need to pause here and explain myself, because it will help you understand the perspective I’m about to offer.

Premodernism (before the printing press): “I believe, therefore I understand.”
Modernism (between the printing press and the 60s counterculture): “I think and reason, therefore I understand.”
Postmodernism (today): “I experience or participate, therefore I understand.”

The big change with the internet is that global communications is now 3-way in terms of culture: Up to down, down to up, and, most importantly, down to down. That is what will change everything, and it’s already doing so. If the people of a any culture can talk to each other AND TO THOSE OF OTHER CULTURES, it removes the absolute authority of those who are in charge. The statement: “In war, the victor gets to write the history” is challenged, because truth among humans isn’t so much relative as it is multi-faceted. If you don’t think so, you’ve never taken a Japanese tour of Pearl Harbor.

So back to Charlie Hebdo. People, please. Acts of terrorism, regardless of where they originate, cannot be Islamic. It is impossible, and I don’t care whose religion or philosophy tells you otherwise. As part of my education, I sat with my Palestinian son-in-law for an evening with two Islamic Studies PhD professors from Amman, Jordan. Here is a quote from one of them concerning my issues with terrorism. “If you ever see a bearded man wearing the kuffiya (head scarf), holding a machine gun, and proclaiming ‘The Islamic State,’ you will know he is a fraud.” They went on, “That is as far from the Islamic State as can possibly be.” We don’t understand this, because we’ve been taught to fear any group that is different from us, especially when our religious leaders fill our heads with nonsense about Islam itself. Why do they do this?

It’s complicated, of course, but in the end, it’s all about poverty, power, money, and other selfish considerations. It’s convenient to dehumanize an entire race rather than learn the truth, but, again, the internet has no choice but to challenge that, because we can all talk with each other now. Everything is connected and the mere push of a button away. How could we not learn? And therein lies the problem, for there are many forces across the globe that would rather we not. This includes, especially, the Zionist extreme in Israel. If you are willing to approach the Middle East with an open mind, then I encourage you to make Mondoweiss (“The War of Ideas in the Middle East”) a part of your daily information diet. Founded and written (mostly?) by those of the Jewish faith, it is a truly intelligent examination of the entire region. If you are a thinker who likes to think, you will have your eyes opened here.

And this brings me to yesterday’s tragic, incredibly sad, and totally avoidable events in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where 3 young people (I call them “kids.” They were 23, 21 and 19.) were executed in their condominium by a 46-year old lunatic caucasian named Craig Steven Hicks. The crime of these people? They were Muslims. Their loving hearts were shut down by bullets to the back of the head. And what for? Their religious beliefs. How incredibly un-American, and yet, we should expect nothing less, given the constant drone of pejorative “Islamic this” and “Islamic that.” To paraphrase Richard Dreyfuss’s character in the movie Jaws, “This was no parking lot dispute; this was an execution, a hate crime!”

May God have mercy on us all. If you’re truly disgusted with the news in today’s world, go look in the mirror, and DO something.

It is clear to me that special interests, regardless of their trappings, are incapable of uniting us as citizens of the planet Earth. We are honestly like the “Island People” of the Pacific cultures. When trapped together on a small piece of land surrounded by water, there is an understanding among the local born and raised that “we all need each other.” That may seem utterly idealistic, given the place we’ve found ourselves at the end of the modern era, but the 21st Century has just begun.

Now, to my dear friends in the Christian Right: you especially have the burden of necessary self awareness in this. You have used the Islamic faith as a puppet in justifying yourselves as contemporary Pharisees. You have forgotten your first love and have diminished the teachings found in the red words. You’ve also been misled into believing that Jesus came to Earth to destroy the very things you now practice. “He pleaded the cause of the poor and the afflicted,” Jeremiah wrote of King Josiah. “Then it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know Me, saith the Lord?” Judgement, the book says, begins with the house of God — those who know Him. Can you not see that you have perverted all of this in order to protect and bless yourselves?

You will not argue against me on this, for I was there during the rise of your glory. Pat Robertson himself taught me how to raise money. “Here’s why people give their money,” he said, “and in this order: How does it help me? How does it help my family? How does it help my neighborhood, my community? How does it help my state? How does it help my country? And, the very last, how does it help others?” This is an abomination to Life, and it/He will surely spit you out at some point. Damn you for your lies and how you manipulate others for your own gain. As I said on Facebook, please wake up, grow up, and shut up, for you are not blameless in world events, up to and including genocide.

Stay tuned as history writes itself with everybody’s help. We will either save or destroy each other. The choice is up to us, each of us. Let us make the right decision.

#ChapelHillShootings #MuslimLivesMatter #Islamophobia