My Social Media and Marketing Mathom Room
In the universe of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and LOTR: “Anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort." (Tolkien, cited on World Wide Words)
Going forward, when I have a small collection of various bits that don't quite merit a full post of their own, but which I am not quite willing to throw away, I will be posting them to my social media and marketing mathom room.
Associated Press takes on the fair use standard - The blogosphere was abuzz earlier this week with the news of takedown notices sent by AP to parody web site The Drudge Retort citing copyright infringement. While it seemed to back down (and yet not) from the hard line stance, the AP party line seems to be that verbatim quotations from AP stories on blogs is not fair use, whereas paraphrasing and linking is. This is a complex issue, and won't be resolved in the court of blogger opinion. It will take the inevitable lawsuit. In the meantime, if you'd like to know more about fair use and implications for bloggers, check out EFF's legal guide for bloggers (hat tip Kami Huyse for the reminder).
In my opinion, AP is paying attention to the wrong problem. Instead of worrying about the potential lost licensing revenue from bloggers using AP content under fair use, it should be thinking about how to reinvent itself in a new media landscape. In the simplest terms, AP is a news aggregator. It has a lot more competition now than it did a few years ago, and establishing a perimeter defense just doesn't seem like the smart move.
Some will advance the quality argument -- a professional organization like AP adds value to the story that cannot be duplicated by Internet sources or citizen journalists. Buffalo chips. Sure, AP has some stellar reporters who write great stories. But the agency is less and less needed to serve this intermediary role when the media, whether social or mainstream, can more easily go to the source.
Which is why I agree with Michael Arrington, Jeff Jarvis and others who suggest bloggers stop using AP stories as source material. Go to the original source. If you must use the AP information, and really, you shouldn't need to, paraphrase and link, don't quote. Unless you want to be the test case in a lawsuit, this is the safer course. And perhaps AP will realize that it should have been more careful in what it wished for.
Link exchange requests: PR's Amateur Hour - Last week, I advised to never ever ask for a link exchange from a blogger. If you didn't believe me then, believe my friend and mom blogger Julie Marsh. She writes this week that link exchange requests are worse than PR spam.
Ranking systems- As regular readers know, I think ranking systems are inherently flawed in that they are created by human beings with biases. As long as we know and acknowledge the limitations, they are not that harmful. If we forget that these structures were created by people with a point of view and are generally anything BUT objective, we end up attaching far more importance to them than they deserve. Robert French has a nice analysis of the Ad Age Power 150 that touches on some of these points.
That's it for this edition of my mathom room.
Internet pets on strike in support of the WGA
So I am in the middle of writing a fairly serious post about customer service, and then I found this video by the writers of the Colbert Report on YouTube.
Earlier this week, I ran across a new book called Blogging Heroes.
And no disrespect to any of the bloggers profiled or the author, I am appalled at the title of the book.
In fact, disgusted.
What appalls me? The use of the term hero.
The book profiles 30 high-profile bloggers. Whether we need yet another book profiling a few top-ranked bloggers, I'll leave to the market to decide.
But the bloggers profiled aren't heroes. Blogging PEOPLE, in the sense of the gossip magazine, or Blogging Superstars? Sure. Those are already trivial terms and seem eminently suitable for this "literary" work.
But to call them heroes trivializes the term.
And that really offends me.
The folks profiled in the book have done a great job building and promoting their blogs. That makes them interesting, and perhaps good, examples. But they aren't heroes.
Blogging heroes are people like Susan Niebur of Toddler Planet who has used her own diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer, a very rare form of breast cancer that is not diagnosed from a lump in the breast, to spread the word about IBC. To the point of giving up her anonymity in the process. That's a hero.
And not just Susan. Many, many people use their blogs to chronicle their battles against life-threatening and fatal diseases. To help others. Stricken with the disease or simply trying to support someone who is. They are heroes.
Milbloggers. Young men and women thrust into a war not of their making, but determined to serve their country. I don't necessarily share their politics, but I have no doubt that bloggers like Chuck, who blogs at From my position on the way and who was seriously injured in Iraq last year protecting a fellow soldier, or Jean-Paul, now in his second tour as a Guardsman, are a lot closer to a hero than some business blogger.
Parents, lovers, partners, friends, children, siblings. There are examples all over the blogosphere of people sharing their sadness at the loss of the loved one. And chronicling the process of healing. Sure, sharing their own pain may be in small measure cathartic, but to do it so publicly? That's heroic.
And we haven't even touched on the political. Dissidents in politically oppressive regimes who use the blogsphere to spread the word. At great personal risk. Native reporters in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan who continue to dig for news, at great personal risk. Sometimes death. These are heroes.
Everyday, people put their hearts, souls and beliefs online. And not for link rank. For love. For a cause. That's heroic. Because it just might help someone else. Whether it is someone the person knows, or someone she's never met... it doesn't matter.
So, count me offended at a book called Blogging Heroes. Because somehow, no matter how highly ranked, how popular, how famous...
They aren't heroes.
At least not mine.
[Bonus Link: Scott Baradell is equally unimpressed.]
Pencils Down: How fans can support the WGA
I twittered about the Pencils 2 Media Moguls campaign earlier this week, but today United Hollywood posted an amusing video promoting the campaign.
More on the Writers Strike
The writers are doing a great job communicating their story on the Internet. I wish them luck, and will be doing what I can as a fan to support them. If you want a good summary of the issues, watch these two videos.
And check out these sites:
- United Hollywood (sign the petition)
- Writers Guild of America West
- Writers Guild of America East
- Pencils down means pencils down
The issue is resonating particularly loudly in the fandoms I follow, chiefly the Whedonverse and Battlestar Galactica. Joss Whedon has posted on Whedonesque multiple times and Ron Moore of BSG just started his own, personal blog (versus the scifi.com one he sporadically posted to last year.) And of course writers Jane Espenson and Mark Verheiden, whose blogs I read on a regular basis anyway, have been covering the strike in their usual articulate fashion.
Who will win the writers' strike?
I have no idea who will prevail in the current screenwriters' strike. If I have sympathy for a side, it is probably the writers, since they have some valid points, and appear to be marginally less greedy than the networks and the studios.
But it really doesn't matter who wins that battle. Because that's not the real battle.
The real question is, do we really care about TV anymore, full stop. The answer is, of course, yes, but perhaps not as much as the studios and the writers' guild would like to believe.
Because I don't think network TV is going to be the winner here. Unlike the last strike in 1988, when folks turned to repeats of shows they hadn't caught the last time around, now we have real alternatives. And we aren't limited to what the networks, all gamillion of them, want to show or when they want to show it.
In about four to six weeks when the current inventory of new episodes is depleted and we enter the repeat zone, we will get our first glimpse at how the social media explosion could play out.
What will we see? Here's my prediction:
Netflix will do quite well. Certainly within the current subscriber base as we actually have time to watch old TV shows and movies that we meant to see but didn't. They *must* have new subscriber campaigns ready. Not like the strike was a big surprise.
We'll be watching even more online amateur video - long, short, episodic, and everything in between. For amateurs, talented and un-, their moment in the sun. Will everyone be a brilliant success? No. Some of it will be really really really bad (although with shows like Caveman setting the bar...) But we are going to discover some really talented folks online in the next few weeks, and not just comics, pundits and musicians. Much of this material is already there, online, waiting for us to find it. Well, now, we've got the time. Carpe diem.
I'll also be interested in what happens with online product swap services like Swaptree, whose president Greg Boesel I met at Web Inno last night. Not as easy as just paying the fee to Netflix every month, but folks now may be more receptive to the effort required to get started swapping the books, cds and dvds they no longer want for ones they do.
What do you think will happen?
Thirteen to One
In honor of last night's stupendous Red Sox performance in game one of the World Series, here are 13 things that I've been meaning to write about. Mostly social media and marketing related and in no particular order.
1. A new social network The Point attempts to harness the power of collective action to bring causes to the tipping point. People and organizations post their causes on the site as an if/then. The basic idea is that if enough people do whatever the action is – if the cause tips, then some other thing would happen. Once it emerges from alpha, it could be an interesting vehicle for a company that is supporting a charitable cause. If enough individuals/customers do something (volunteer, quit smoking, whatever) then the company would do something as well -- donate money, sponsor an event, and so on. From Jeremy Pepper, who works for the company, via Twitter.
2. Last week Doug Haslam from Topaz Partners emailed me about a social media survey done by his client, community builder Prospero Technologies. What was most interesting about it, though, wasn't the survey. The sample size of 50 from a population of the company's customers is neither large nor random, and the results were pretty much what I'd expect given that population: generally positive about social media with no clear idea of what is working and what isn't. I do however give the company credit for actually asking its customers, rather than assuming. What was most interesting was that Doug was pitching other marketing and communications bloggers; both Shel Holtz and BL Ochman wrote about the survey. If you wanted more tangible proof that the media landscape is shifting, this is it. We aren't just the media relations folks. With a nod to Dan Gillmor, we are the media. Ain't that a kick. Doug also blogged about this phenomenon.
3. "You could be a Durex Condom Tester and Win $1000" Durex is
pimping for recruiting condom testers on-line. Must be that new form of word-of-mouth: virile marketing (seen on Media Buyer Planner).
4. Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules by Mike Moran. Not much news here for anyone already deep into social media marketing and communications, but a good read anyway. I'd recommend this as an intro text for experienced marketers who want to come up to speed quickly and get some practical advice on what they should do next. Plus Moran is funny and he says lots of things I agree with :-) (via pitch from Peter Himler)
5. Society for New Communications Research is holding its annual Research Symposium & Gala in Boston December 5-6.
9. I've been playing around a bit with Photrade, a new photo sharing site. It's now in closed beta but I have three invites. Email or twitter me if you want one.
10. Courtesy of Scott Baradell, a great example of why we should NOT write blog posts simply for search engine optimization.
12. Thank you to all the PR and marcom students who have been reading the blog and leaving comments. I love to hear from you, even if I disagree with you.
13. Are the comment spammers getting a little more clever? Check out this one on an old Marketing Roadmaps post, comment left up purely to use as an example. Someone less suspicious might not catch it as spam, as the comment is pretty innocuous. BUT: I almost always follow commenters back to their sites. It's a great way to discover new bloggers and get to know my readers better. AND: I am always a little suspicious when I get comments on really old posts.
Blurring the lines -- just what is advertising on a blog?
Most online advertising is easy to spot. Skyscrapers or banners with blinking lights and flash animations. Text ads with the clear tag "XYZ Ad Network" or Google Adsense.
But what about blogs that are sponsored by a company. For example, Scratchings and Sniffings, a pet blog sponsored by Purina.
Or blogger relations -- where companies reach out directly to bloggers with products and exclusive stories and other blog-worthy material?.
Are the posts that result from these efforts advertising or editorial? It has to be one thing or another, right? After all, in the" good old days," it was black or white. It was advertising or it was editorial and never the twain shall meet. Right?
I mean, we've never had evaluation labs that did paid reviews of products and applied a seal of approval. Oh wait a minute. Yes we did.
Magazines and newspapers never sold editorial-like space for advertisers to write their own stories. Oh wait a minute. Yes we did. And do.
And it wasn't really a problem. It just was.
And is. Readers have always been, and still are, able to apply their own judgment to the material they read, no matter how stupid advertisers seem to think we are. The Web is no different.
And all these approaches have their place in our informational ecosystem. So, let's put a little definition around the issue.
What is advertising, what qualifies as "advertorial," and when can we expect that a blog, podcast or Web site is serving up "pure" editorial content?
Advertising. The advertiser has complete control over the ad content and landing pages. Paid or pro bono, using rate cards not that different from the old magazine CPM. Examples: site advertising, Google AdSense, BlogHer ad network, Blogads.
Advertorial. This is where I put things like Pay Per Post and blog networks like Parent Bloggers Network. In the print world, of course, the advertiser has complete content control and the magazine simply dictates a common format. Online, it is a bit different, but the end result isn't. Online, the advertiser has control over the initial factors -- what is to be reviewed or written about and who will be writing. But, after that, the blogger is more or less free to write what he pleases.
That said, we can certainly expect a certain cognitive dissonance effect; paid reviewers will be more likely to be positive about a product, regardless of their opinion, or lack thereof, before starting the review. While they aren't being paid to voice a view contrary to their own opinons, as were the subjects in Leon Festinger's original research in the 50s, the mere fact that they are being paid by an entity with a vested interest is bound to shape the review.
But so what. Readers can make up their own minds. And will. However, full disclosure of relationships is absolutely essential. If the service or network does not require full disclosure, I strongly advise both advertising companies and bloggers to stay away.
Sponsored blogs fit in the advertorial category. Even if the writer is totally independent, a certain sensibility is bound to affect the blog. The sponsor may not say "don't trash me" but the writer isn't going to. Unless there is such an egregious situation that the blogger wants to divorce the sponsor. Likewise, I consider review networks like Parent Bloggers to be advertorial because even though the writer is free to write whatever she wishes about the product or services, there is a prior agreement that there will be a post.
Caveat: Do not confuse pay-per-post type writing with freelance writing. Paid posts on a personal blog reflect the personal opinion and style of the blogger -- some are short and breezy, some funny, some deep and introspective. The clients are not paying for the in-depth research, impartiality and writing skills that we might see on a sponsored blog or from a professional freelance writer.
This does not mean that bloggers cannot be freelance writers. They can. It just means that we need to understand that there is a real difference between pay-per-post writing and freelance writing, and the fees each type of writing should command.
Independent editorial. The blogger may take advertising, but the expectation is that the blog contents are 100% owned by the blogger, in all senses of the word. The blogger may be receptive to pitches from blogger relations, marketing and PR firms, but there is no quid pro quo. The company making the pitch had better tell a compelling, relevant story that offers something of value to the blogger. Or risk being ignored, or worse, ridiculed.
Companies that get this right can have long, mutually beneficial relationships with bloggers. Get it wrong? Just ask Wal*Mart.
Pay Per Post and other paid blogging services can supplement blogger relations, but in my opinion, do not replace it.
They can however coexist. Just as advertising, editorial and advertorial have been working together to tell us the story for years.
Newspapers: Not just for birdcages and puppies
This has been a busy week, hence the radio silence. I have quite a few posts "burbling" for next week, but none ready for prime time yet.
However, I did want to share one thought about the future of print media. I actually started thinking about it last Friday morning when I attended a roundtable with the new editor of the weekly community newspaper held by our local Chamber of Commerce. It became more relevant when I learned about the Steve Rubel-PC Mag-Jim Louderback silliness.
Of late, and from many corners, "we" (that would be pundits, publishers, bloggers, flacks and poets. Not me in the royal we sense) have been discussing the pending death of the newspaper and print media. To be replaced by the Internet, blogs, citizen journalism. Whatever. Maybe.
I think it is quite likely that the Internet and other "immediate" media (mobile phones for example) will shortly become a primary, if not the primary, source for breaking news. If they aren't already in many communities. Replacing the current king, the TV. One boob tube for another really :-)
But, I do not think that online media yet replace some of the best things about traditional media. And not just because we have birdcages and puppies.
Which is why this is yet another prematurely reported media "death" along with the poor press release.
What are the best things? Newsprint on your fingers as you delve into the Sunday Times. Understanding what the editor thought was THE story by what you see on the front page -- whether it is the daily paper or the local weekly. Taking the paper to the beach, just because, and hoping it doesn't blow away. Not to mention the other places people read print media where they just don't tend to bring the computer. You know where I mean.
The deeper thinking we find in monthly magazines and features. Columnists. Pictures. Ads. Yes, ads. Dirty little secret, but people like the ads. I always check the top right corner of page 3 of the NYT. The simple fact of the time we carve from our day to "read the paper" -- it is different time than the time we spend online. At least for me.
Yes, we find a lot of great thinking in blogs. Some of the best, and often as good or better than the print media. But... there's a discipline in a newspaper column, the limited number of words where every one counts. It's something special. At least for me.
And as Robert French reminds us, if we are trying to reach farmers in Appalachia, we better look to traditional media.
Will we see the shrinking and possibly the eventual extinction of the metropolitan daily, with a few national papers and online surviving to serve the bulk of our news needs? Probably. Eventually. But my bet says that the local paper will last much longer. It serves a basic community need that bits and bytes just cannot. A regular citizen stands very little chance of seeing his, or his child's, picture in the NYT or Time magazine. On or off line.Or even on TV.
But the local rag cares. And that matters. A lot. And if it is your kid, there's no number of online printouts and links sent to friends that match the feel, the flavor of seeing it in print.
Back to Steve and Jim: So glad to hear you've patched it up but come on... I suppose it is a reminder that things said in Twitter aren't private, but really, the exchange doesn't merit the time spent on it by the collective PR and media blogosphere.
So, I'll just leave you all with a suggestion. If by some chance you are getting a print publication (paid or comp) that you don't have time or inclination to read, cancel the subscription. And if you can't get off the comp list (it does happen folks, trust me), donate the publication. Take it to the local high school computer lab. Or the barber shop. Or a homeless shelter. Just because you don't read it, for whatever reason, doesn't mean someone else won't be thrilled to get it. But don't chuck it in the bin. Trees are far too precious for that.
On another note, thanks to Kent Newsome for his kind words. I am indeed thinking about my candidates for Thinking Blogger and will write next week.
Finally, my sympathy and prayers to those affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy. There are no words.
What's so wrong about "audience?" - another social media press release flap
Big blog kerfuffle over the social media press release.
Short story: Panel to discuss in San Francisco last week, including Shel Holtz and Chris Heuer. Stowe Boyd attends, writes critical post. Robert Scoble chimes in against press release. Lots of people comment.
As readers here know, I don't have any problem with press releases, old or new format, as long as the PR people do the real job of crafting well written and newsworthy announcements without BS. The press release and other materials created for announcements are just the documentation of the story. They aren't the story.
However, I do want to comment on one aspect of the linguistic nit-picking that has crept into this disagreement, and that is the word "audience." Just exactly what is so wrong about talking about the audience?
When we tell a story, whether to a friend, a colleague, a journalist or a neighbor, in person or on a blog, to one person or many, we should always think about them. What are they interested in, how will this story be more compelling to them, how can I make this a better story for the person/people who are listening, what parts of the story will make them want to participate, pass it on, and so on.
And guess what! Not all people are interested in all stories. Everyone doesn't participate in every conversation, online or off. It helps us tell a better story when we think about the people who are most interested in it, and tell it for them. Telling it for them is what makes them want to chime in.
So, I suppose we could advise people to frame their stories, their blogs, their outreach to best reach "the people who are most interested in it." Or we could just get over ourselves and understand that "the people who are most interested in a story" are the audience for the story. Doesn't mean they are passive. Doesn't mean they don't participate. Doesn't mean we are simply talking to or at them, not with them. Doesn't mean we aren't part of our own audience -- we are.
Just means they are the ones who care.