December 14, 2006

Chris Anderson brings a much-needed dose of rationality to the discussion

Over the last couple of days, The Long Tail's Chris Anderson has been exploring how 'Web 2.0' should help bring "radical transparency" to journalism. To his credit, he uses his own mag, Wired, as the real and theoretical guinea pig.

Transparency is concept I support wholeheartedly, but the increasing zealot-like attitude about

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the power of citizen journalism and the evils of traditional approaches to reporting was really starting to bother me. Thankfully, in today's post, Chris introduces some tenets he says should be self-evident.

Therein lies the true power of social media - to augment, enhance and improve...well, whatever. It could be journalism, marketing, search or office productivity. The point is that many of the new tools - and approaches they enable - are incredibly useful and becoming more so every day. But that doesn't make everything that came before it useless.

As always, the truth will be found somewhere in the middle.

December 11, 2006

Old Media meets New...

This morning bloggers are reporting that the NY Times has given into pressures of Web 2.0 and added subtle features to its article pages to allow readers to easily share interesting reads via Digg, Facebook, and Newsvine.

It's interesting that trusted, "old" publications like the NY Times are being portrayed as so resistant to embracing social media. On one hand, social media is disruptive to the traditional model of how newspapers make money. It takes the focus off of clicks to the actual newspaper's website by sharing it elsewhere, delivering it via RSS feeds, etc. On the other hand, though, I'm a firm believer that spreading a news story through various blogs, sharing hilarious clips on YouTube, etc. does a lot to revitalize the old brand and drives more people to the publication or TV show to check out the latest and greatest.

Some would say it's a stretch to equate sharing SNL clips on YouTube to RSS feeds of NY Times stories--but I think they're basically the same thing. New media tools are enabling larger audiences to check these items out for themselves, and re-igniting interest in those franchises on some level.


December 8, 2006

A little healthy competition...

As PR counsel, we spend a fair amount of time not only offering our thoughts on how a company or organization can refine its communications practices and spread the word about what's great, but we also pay attention to the competitive landscape and help identify ways that products or services can be uniquely differentiated from competitors. Of course, that's critical to all messaging and positioning--not just what makes a company or product great, but what makes it different or better than an alternative.

Twice this morning I noticed other voices commenting on the topic of how aggressive one should get, in terms of competitor-focused messaging and competitive-oriented initiatives in general. eWeek's Renee Boucher-Ferguson commented specifically on the well-documented rivalry between Oracle and SAP, two software companies who constantly position themselves based on their relationship with each other. It was certainly interesting to see that in some cases, too aggressive a competitive stance can have a negative effect on a company's profitability. Makes sense, I guess--noone wants to hear too much negativity or immature "I'm better than him!" all the time.

Equally thought-provoking, though, was what Tom Foremski had to say about the subject. Tom wasn't making the same point--but was merely pointing out the mistake some CEO's and spokespeople make when they spend too much time talking about competitors in interviews, and not enough time promoting themselves and how they fit into the marketplace. It's a mistake I've witnessed a few times already, and one that is well worth pointing out to a client after the fact, to avoid it happening in the future.

I discussed my thoughts very briefly with Jesse and he pointed out that there's a clear line between calling out competitors where it's appropriate and "aligning an entire product/corporate strategy around a particular competitor, rather than focusing on your own company and what it’s good at."

I have to say, I agree--do you?

December 7, 2006

Twitter - Social Media Gone Bad

I'm sure this makes me hopelessly behind the times, but I've just learned about Twitter on Scoble's blog.

According to the Twitter site, the service is "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?"

Seriously, we need this?? I mean, people don't even bother answering that question on the phone...

"Hey, man, what are you up to?"
"Not much. You?"
"Same old. You wanna come over and watch the game?"

But wait, the worst part is...there are more similar services!

This is exactly the type of crap that caused Bubble 1.0 - technical solutions in search of a problem.

For now, this is a project funded by Odeo (the company also came up with the "idea"). If the day comes that a VC funds afraid, be very afraid.

November 29, 2006

What exactly do we DO, anyway?

Mike Manuel highlights an interesting challenge for agencies - how do we remain relevant without overextending ourselves?

The core of Mike's point is valid. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for disaster. The challenge, however, is that 5 different companies/people might call the same set of tactics or programs different things (PR, corporate communications, marketing, marketing communications, etc.)

Rather than getting wrapped up in an unresolvable semantic (er, I mean, "positioning") discussion, agencies need to focus on articulating the business benefit of what they do for clients. This sets the context for any expansion of the agency's offerings/programs/tactics. If a new arrow in the quiver helps achieve the objectives laid out with clients, by all means it should be considered if you can execute it effectively.

This focus should make the labels far less relevant.

November 22, 2006

I'm not sold on Second Life

Micro Persuation today talks about the untapped potential of Second Life for business. But I'm not there yet (see my comment to Steve's post).

UPDATE: Looks like a lot of others agree.

Is Google too big for its britches?

Nick Carr digs into Google CEO Eric Schmidt's assertions (via a contributed article to the Economist) that 2007 will be the year open internet standards "will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly. Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by internet-based services that enable users to choose the document formats, search tools and editing capability that best suit their needs."

Carr doesn't so much question the "if" of Schmidt's assertion, but rather whether the "when" is correct. He wonders if "Schmidt allowed confidence to become overconfidence."

With Google shares reaching 500 bucks, the topic of whether of not the company is being set up (or setting itself up) for a massive fall is top of mind.

Personally, I'd be scared to death to bet on any $500/share stock (if I could even afford to!). There are some fundamentals behind that (for example, growth, while still strong, is slowing period-over-period). But more importantanly, the market - while rational overall and over the long term - is scarily irrational at any given point in time. All it will take is one slight misstep for all the Google goodwill to evaporate.

That said, GOOG is one of the most important companies on the planet and that is not going to change (barring an Enron-like debacle), regardless of how long it remains a stock market darling. So, Schmidt's prediction, while bold, are hardly foolhearty. He is smart to take his shots (yes, even at Microsoft) from a position of strenght. At best, he creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. At worst, he is wrong about the timing. When has a botched prediction ever really hurt anyone?

Even if Schmidt's Economist article reveals a bit of hubris, Google's relatively unique position in the market means the benefits far outweigh the risks.

(On a total aside for my fellow flacks...a contributed article in the Economist? Talk about the hit of a career! :-) )

November 2, 2006

A couple of observations from the SNCR symposium

1. For all the talk/perception that social media is the stuff of the sub-25 consumer set, the room is full of more mature folks from professional and academic backgrounds. Granted, those are the types you'd expect at anything called a symposium, but it's telling nonetheless.

2. Apparently, the social media uniform involves a jacket, no tie (preferably with jeans)!

Free for how long?

I'm sitting at the Society for New Communications Research symposium (with Mendo) listening to Paul Gillin's keynote. He's discussing how the new model of influence and publishing created by blogs and other social media is threatening to destroy the newspaper industry. One of the underlying tenets to this is that the economics of new media (free content, easy/fast syndication and small staffs) make it impossible for traditional publishers to compete.

If things continue the way they are now, there's little question that Paul is right. But the thought occurs to me that at some point, everybody likes to get paid. And AdSense can only take you so far. Aren't bloggers human? Isn't the natural inclination for the more popular bloggers or sites (let's say Scoble or Digg) to say "Hey, I'm really popular. I've got a loyal community and high traffic. Surely, a nominal monthly subscription fee wouldn't chase too many of them away."

This line of thinking obviously runs counter to the nature of social media. But it is directly in line with human nature. This makes the social media/citizen journalist/consumer-driven marketing model we know today unsustainable.

How will it need to change to address the fact that some individuals are more equal than others?

October 27, 2006

Help! Google's Destroying My Inbox!

...Well, maybe not exactly. But many members of the PR team here at Matter were not-so-pleasantly surprised to open their email this morning and find upwards of 125 to 150 messages in Google Alerts, alone.

What gives? you might ask. Isn't that overdoing it?

Well, yes. The mark of a savvy PR professional is not just thinking proactively and implementing creative strategy on behalf of a client, but also includes the regular consumption of industry-relevant news and monitoring competitors, too. Of course, there are a variety of tools and resources which make this task more manageable, the simplest of which is the Google Alert. Yesterday, however, Google revealed that they've added blog monitoring (among other options) to their alert service, which means that every active Google Alert picked up the usual news mentions this morning by aggregating these links to all of us...and every other possible mention of the companies, terms, and products we're monitoring on every blog, group, or website.

Some of our junior staff members feel pretty strongly that Google overwhelmed a lot of unsuspecting users by simply making the switch for everyone previously monitoring news and web results, without regard to the fact that many of them use other services for blog purposes. Then again, maybe it's a blessing in disguise, as many people still do not "get" just how important new media is to the news industry, and this is just one type of wake-up call that will happen in the coming months.

What do you think?