Done the Impossible: RSS Explained
Someone finally had to do it. Find a way to explain RSS that maybe, just maybe, everyone can understand.
Original caption (from Common Craft): There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.
More detail on Technorati initiatives announced at Syndicate
Technorati and Edelman -- this is the joint project Richard Edelman mentioned in his keynote. Technorati is accelerating development of fully localized versions of its service in Chinese, Korean, German, Italian and French, available to public in early 2007. Edelman will have access to the localized services during development.
Technorati and Paramount Classics -- this is the project Dave Sifry mentioned in the Tuesday session. Technorati will be providing the blog conversation about selected films, and Paramount will be including the conversation on the film's website. First film is the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
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Syndicate Wed. Afternoon: Building a Business Case for Podcasting
Podcasting: "Makes sense. Do we do it now or in 6 months?"
Schwartzman's opening remarks are on his blog.
This panel did a great job covering how clued-in big media companies can integrate podcasting (and blogs) into their mix.
Mike Ellcessor from WNYC covered how his station saw podcasting as a response to the increasing fragmentation of radio. They initially viewed as podcasting as an experiment. They had a number of programs that they thought might reach beyond the usual geographic WNYC audience; in particular, On the Media, nationally syndicated by NPR, is produced by WNYC. They also podcast segments from some of their daily talk shows. Primary goal was to increase their 1:1 relationships with their audience, which makes sense for viewer-supported television :-)
Jeff Burkett manages the online properties for the Washington Post, Newsweek and Slate. His group builds online vehicles that must meet the needs of both the edit and advertising sides of the business, so figuring out how to do advertising within the podcast was one of the objectives. He commented that he is in the mass media (versus long tail) so a different set of economics applies.
[Comment: In fact, all three of the panelists here are mass media. They have both different resources and requirements than an entrepreneur or hobbyist considering a podcast as a revenue or brand opportunity or just something fun to do.]
Back to the panel. Burkett says that they just appended traditional radio and tv spots to the pod- and vid- casts, a solution that he hopes to replace with something more tailored to the new media as time goes on.
Heather Green from BusinessWeek,one of the co-authors of the well-known May 05 BW cover story on blogging, then talked about her involvement with blogs and podcasting. Since she is on the editorial side of the book, her perspective was slightly different from the previous two speakers. . The economics, at least vis her own podcast, aren't her main interest [Comment: although it might be the publisher's :-) ] For her, podcasting is an experiment; "you have to try it." She considers podcasting a disruptive technology that changes the landscape whether or not it has a business model.
Schwartzman asked the panelists how they built the business case for podcasting.
Ellcessor said they knew there was interest outside the NY area for their radio programming. Podcasting was cheap and easy for them. They also kept it in an experimental context, which let it succeed without high expectations.
Burkett related much the same thing -- podcasting was considered an experiment.
Green didn't have to build a business case. She talked about how she viewed the three publishing vehicles she has available for her content: her blog, her podcast and the print publication. She mostly uses the blog for random stuff that doesn't fit into the print story and to report on interesting "meet and greets" that don't fit into any current projects. On the podcast, she interviews interesting people, including past interview subjects. One dilemma: how much does she hold back for a story, how much does she put out there.
The entire panel talked a bit about the valuation of podcast advertising. Prevalent models, CPM and sponsorship. Green said she thought podcasts will be sold as part of a package of multiple media. This makes sense to me. She also commented that very few people are going to make any money at podcasting. My opinion: I think it will depend on how you define "make money." If we define it as purely ad-supported, she's probably right. If we look at podcasting as part of a larger package (or brand), I think it can substantially contribute to revenue. Just hard to measure.
Questions from the audience.
Sam Whitmore asked if they knew what percentage of audience listened on an iPod or MP3 player versus a computer? No one did, but there was a lively exchange about the value of knowing how the audience is listening. The iPod listener is potentially more valuable than the multi-tasking PC listener.
Someone asked WNYC, how do they prevent podcasting from damaging their fundraising efforts. The answer was pretty much, we can't completely, but we went into it with our eyes wide-open, and try to live by the creed, "first do no harm."
What's the ideal length? No answer to this one, not even from these experts. The WNYC podcasts are created from radio inventory; On the Media is its normal 59 minutes and the talk show segments range from 20-40 minutes.
For Burkett (WaPost) it depends on what the podcast is about. For example, he hates that Onion Radio News is only 30 seconds, feels it should be 5 minutes.
What instincts do you have about the listener, common traits? Mike: time pressed; Jeff: agreed time pressed, therefore harder to reach on radio and TV; Heather: classic early adopter, highly educated, high income/net worth, more women than we thought.
Finally, can the little podcaster compete with mainstream media? Panel thinks yes. Mike: talent will prevail, as long as you master the basics, offer a certain level of sound quality. Jeff: it is all about people and their passions.
The last question was an off-topic question for Heather Green related to a recent article "Is it 1998 again?"
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More Syndicate coverage: Syndicate and me. Syndicate and marketers.
Home stretch. Before I get to the Wed. afternoon sessions, a word about why I attended Syndicate.
To start with, I was personally interested in the topics, especially podcasting. So when Corante issued the call to its blogger partners to attend Syndicate and blog the event, I jumped on it. As a small business, I can afford the trip to NY or the conference registration, but not both. Covering the event was a win-win. I covered my trip, but didn't have to pay for registration. I'm very grateful to Corante and IDG for the opportunity.
In return, I am taking the commitment to blog the event very seriously. I didn't miss many sessions and hope that my marketing and PR colleagues are enjoying the reports. Given comments about how few marketing and PR folk (versus tech) attended the show, I'm glad someone with the marketing perspective is writing up the event in detail. Why?
Because change is a slow process. Marketers and PR folk who haven't yet made the leap into the blogosphere may be thinking hard about it, but still reluctant. For whatever reason. They aren't going to attend a conference about syndication, 'cause it just doesn't seem relevant in their day to day jobs. Probably isn't. Even if they are blogging or podcasting, the conference definitely has the feel of a tech (versus marketing or business) oriented event. Cause it kind of is...
But... many of the topics that were discussed are relevant to the issues on the marketing and communications plate. I hope that my blog entries about it may spark someone -- to try something new, attend the next conference, start their own conference, push hard at their industry associations, maybe even just to finally start their own blog.
So, if client work willing and the creek don't rise, I'll get the rest of my summaries up by the weekend.
Syndicate Wednesday Morning
First things first, my number one fan says maybe I was too hard on Amanda Congdon in my post about Tuesday's keynote session. Which was not my intent. I enoy Rocketboom, think she is tremendously talented and wish her and her colleagues all the success in the world. I just didn't get a lot out of her session, and thought it was a bit basic for the Syndicate audience. But she clearly has a lot of passion for what she is doing, and others did enjoy it, so there you have it.
On to Wednesday's sessions.
Steve Gillmor's "It's the Gestures, Stupid" -- The title of this session is homage to James Carville's "It's the economy, stupid" phrase from the first Clinton election oh so many years ago. As Gillmor pointed out, Carville's "stupid" (and his as well presumably) was self-reflective -- a reminder to himself of what was important, not a commentary on others. Nonetheless, there were quite a lot of us in the room with looks of total incomprehension during Gillmor's talk. Who all felt a lot better when Doc Searls commented in his closing session that even he doesn't fully understand what Gillmor is talking about.
So, I am not even going to try and summarize what Gillmor covered in his session, other than to tell you that I *think* the gestures concept and Gillmor's Gesture Bank (www.gesturebank.com) is an open source model for the aggregation of meta data. I've signed up for the public beta because I am now curious. I'm sure more than a few folks did the same. And perhaps that was the primary goal all along. We don't get it yet, but we will.....
Gillmor was followed by Steven Schwartz of Reuters, "Syndicating the Publishing World." This was a typical polished corporate presentation, with slides and all, that might as well have been titled "Why Reuters loves the Web." Schwartz was extremely good at staying on message -- I lost track of the number of times he told us that Reuters is the "world's largest news agency" :-)
Thinking about it afterward, the two sessions - Gillmor and Schwartz - couldn't have been more different. The contrast between Gillmor's informal style and Schwartz's corporate demeanor was marked. I didn't understand everything (much!) of what Gillmor said, but I got the gist that there were some important ideas lurking in "gestures." Whereas, I understood pretty much Schwartz's whole pitch, but I could have gotten the same information from a Reuters fact sheet.
More Syndicate Tuesday
Stormhoek Sauvignon Blanc is nice, but the Pinot Grigio is FINE. The wines were served at KnowNow's reception tonight (and a later party which I intended to go to but just crashed). I wish I could figure out a reasonable party for a Stormhoek gig, Wonder if they'd go for a non-geek dinner.....I could definitely do a a dog show thing....
The Edelman session this morning was by far the best today, at least for a marketing/comms person. Here's the summary of the other sessions I attended today.
Building Brands Through Compelling Podcast Content, Paul Gillin (moderator), Scott Sigler, Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger (Mommycast.com) and Audrey Reed-Granger (Whirlpool). Overall this was an interesting session, but the thing that sticks with me the most is Reed-Granger's narrative of how she got the podcast approved. The critical elements: the trust (and good track record) she had established with corporate leadership combined with a clear editorial calendar and vision for the podcast. The discussion on how to include/integrate corporate interests/sponsors was also interesting; the podcasters clearly came down on the side of a clear separation between church and state. I was also impressed by the passion they all had for podcasting.
Grokking the Big Picture, Paul Gillin (moderator), David Geller, Mike Davidson, Dave Sifry, Eric Elia. Most of this session just seemed a rehash from other conferences, other arguments. Interesting if you've never heard or read it before but otherwise ? Blah blah blah. Most interesting comment: Mike Davidson's that RSS was missing the "oh wow" factor, perhaps part of the reason for slow uptake. Not to mention RSS is still too hard for the average bear. See what I mean. Nothing that new.
Sifry did announce a deal with Paramount for Technorati to aggregate the conversation around selected Paramount films, which will be hosted on the Paramount sites. This sounds very interesting, plan to keep my eye on it. Then there was a long discussion of full versus partial feed.Yawn. Nothing new. There are arguments to be made for both. It's an easier decision for full feed if you are not trying to monetize the blog. When they got to questions the sessions turned into "speaking from the floor" and I got kinda bored. Sorry :-(
This session did spark my interest in clarifying the differences among all the different news aggregators (Techmeme, Digg, Newsvine et al), so watch for that this month.
David Weinberger, Tagging. I enjoyed this session, which was held more as a conversation than a presentation. Gist: The power of tagging isn't in the self tagging that an author does of his/her own material. That is just simple metadata. The richness comes from users tagging material that they find interesting in ways that are meaningful to them using social networking tools like flickr and del.icio.us. Because the tagging is public, we get the social effects -- others use the same tag for similar but not necessarily the same type of content and tag the same content with additional tags meaningful to them. Clusters develop around tags, and so forth. Suddenly, your tag for an article introduces you to all sorts of other material. Subscribe to the tag and you get a steady stream of stuff that you might never find in normal reading of Web sites and blogs.
Short story: this session cleared up a lot of my confusion about the value of tagging. Things to ponder: the ownership of content changes now that folks can classify things the way they want (bottom up versus top down). How other people tag our content can start to define, even change, our online personas.
Halley Suitt, Top Ten Sources. This session was mostly an introduction to Halley's new venture Top Ten Sources. She talked a little bit about the issues raised when they launched the site re: syndicating other bloggers' content and answered questions about their business model. She also read two past blog posts, one written when her father died and another on alpha males.
Amanda Congdon, Rocketboom. I didn't get too much out of this session. I sense that Amanda is more comfortable in front of the camera than behind the podium. The content was also wrong for the Syndicate audience -- there was nothing that most didn't already know.
Shopping accomplished: a pair of cute sandals on sale at Coach (hotel is on Madison Ave.)
Wednesday: the bad boys of PR and more.
Live from New York... it's Syndicate
Here we are in the lovely Terrace Ballroom at Syndicate.
Unfortunately, I missed Jeff Jarvis' opening session -- heard it was great and look forward to reading about it in other blogs.
Came in during the Richard Edelman interview. As many in the blogosphere know, Robert Scoble was unable to come due to his mother's illness; the assembled group had a moment of silence at the end of the session for the Scoble family and others who may be facing similar life situations.
Eric Norlin conducted the interview instead. Here is the report:
I came in on a round of laughter from all assembled about how every company on the planet is the leading provider of X. No one ever fesses up to being number 2. The conversation then moved to the deconstructed press release. Edelman described the "press release of the future" that has been so often discussed in marketing and PR blogs: info with tags so reporters can use it the way they want. Rather than a standard generic format that is supposed to meet everyone's needs and possibly meets no one's. (Comment: I'm not convinced of this yet --while I think it applies to tech and perhaps Fortune 500, I'm not sure all reporters are ready for this new format... yet. More on this later this week.)
They then discussed the new PR dynamic: that a 12 year-old blogger can just as easily break news as the New York Times. Edelman's take (not unsurprisingly) was that we have to listen to all the voices -- not just the usual suspects. Traditional "authority" doesn't tell the whole tale. The example was the Dove "real women" campaign, which got a great deal of its media traction from exposure in Gawker. The net: it is important to monitor blogs.
Edelman then mentioned briefly a joint project with Technorati to monitor blogs in multiple languages. Pretty sure I heard it would be available publicly as well as to Edelman staff. I'll dig into this and let you know more in a follow-up. As far as the agency's current blogging focus, Edelman said a large part of it is persuading clients to show beta products to bloggers. He indicated some success in this area, notably the X-box.
Next topic was Wal-Mart. Nothing new here, repeated the idea that perhaps PR agencies should be more clear with bloggers in the rules of engagement, vis using PR materials verbatim. The gist; credit the source or use your own words.
Edelman on what PR will look like in five years:
- Deconstructed press release
- PR hopefully have a role earlier in a product's life, not just brought in for the press conference.
- PR more robust role in the corporate suite -- Chief Listening (or Learning) Officer
- Does not see PR being disintermediated
- Hopes PR doesn't have the negative connotations it currently has (spin, flack etc.)
- "I hope PR people have the balls to say what they know." Give good advice based on listening to a wide variety of sources.
On why he blogs. Because "you can't be an evangelist unless you do it yourself." Cited advice from Linda Stone and David Weinberger. He also claimed to be one of the few PR people who blogs. True enough, if you only consider big agencies, and certainly true in terms of the total numbers employed in PR. He deserves tremendous credit for leading the way as a big agency CEO blogger. But also a bit of a false impression IMO, when you consider that there are 400-plus PR bloggers on Constantin Basturea's PubSub list.
Plan for the coming year for Edelman and blogging: retraining people, getting the numbers of bloggers up at agency (currently about 30 bloggers and only 15-20 percent of staff in regular touch with bloggers). He is making investments (Technorati project); the teams have to follow. His motto for the year will be: Be tough -- with colleagues and himself to get the most out of new media.
Some of the more interesting audience questions were about metrics. How will Edelman gauge success in the blogosphere? One metric will be how many real relationships Edelman people have with bloggers. This will be assessed by survey and listening. Someone else asked if they were modelling network effects. Answer: not enough data yet. (Comment: sounds like they are gathering it though).
His take on the best consumer brand vis blogging: Unilever. He also (unsurprisingly) endorses executive blogging, if the exec has an interesting voice and wants to do it. Doesn't have to be the CEO. One of the biggest values of the c-level blog is commnication with employees. Let your employees be knowledgable sources about your business.
That's pretty much it on the Edelman panel. More on the other sessions I attended later. Right now I am in Halley Suitt's session on the Sins of Syndication, and I want to pay attention :-)
New York, New York
I'm off to Syndicate in the morning on the crack of dawn train. I'll be there through Thursday morning, so if you are at the conference, or just in NY, give me a shout. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, cell 617/ 967-0169.
Since I am live-blogging the event for Corante, I have a media badge. It will be fun to experience a conference from the "other side" for a change.
Don't worry, I promise to use my powers for good. :-)
It's Springtime, Must be Showtime
It's a rite of passage -- that moment when you realize that the bulk of industry conferences and trade shows are scheduled in the Spring and early Autumn. Not all, mind you. There are trade shows going on all year long in the USA. But the concentration in May June September and October, at least in the US, is amazing. You could literally go from conference to conference, just returning home to get clean shirts and underwear. I suppose some people do.... At least I hope they are getting clean undies....
Anyway, here are a few conferences and events coming up over the next few months that marketing and PR folk should check out.
Next week in NYC, Syndicate (May 16-17). Everything you always wanted to know about syndication. I will be live-blogging the conference for Corante. Posts will appear here and on the Corante Marketing Hub for sure, maybe some other places too. PubSub is aggregating the blogs from speakers, sponsors and attendees.
NYC, June 8-9, the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference, sponsored by Corante and the Center on Global Brand Leadership of Columbia Business School. It is a two-day event. The first day is a "CMO Summit" for CMOs and VPs of Marketing. The second day is a "Marketer's Forum" open to the public. I'm not attending this one, as I have a conflict, but the speaker list is fantastic, so I urge you to check it out. Somewhere in my pile of email is a note that my readers can get a discount, so if anyone is interested, drop me a note and I'll dig it out.
Interested in bank marketing? I certainly am, thanks to my client who sells CRM systems for banks! The Boston Chapter of the AMA is getting an exclusive first look at TD Banknorth's new marketing campaign from Tom Dyck, TD Banknorth EVP and Director of Marketing. The presentation will be held Friday June 9 from 11 am - 1:30 pm at Banners Restaurant at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Plus we get a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Garden, including areas not usually accessible to the public.
San Jose, CA July 28-29. BlogHer. Day One is sold out, but last I heard, there was still space at the cocktail party and for Day Two. Come be part of the Business Blogging unpanel on Day Two that I am doing with Yvonne DiVita and Toby Bloomberg. We want you to come share your stories!! The whole concept of the unpanel is that everyone participates and together we build a collective deliverable. In this case, we'll call it best practices for business blogging. More background on the unpanel in this post. And more to come late May, early June.
Disclosures: I am a member of the Corante Marketing Hub and the Boston Chapter of the AMA, and a speaker at (and longtime fan of) BlogHer.
Google's Blog Search Engine
I did a couple of searches based on some of my posts, and found that I was coming in fairly highly when I did specific terms like "anonymous blogs" and "character blogs" -- things I've written about recently and/or often. In fact on the term anonymous blogs I was number 1 (which will last for a nanosecond I'm sure). So I did the same search on regular Google, and my post shows up nowhere, Or at least not in the first 21 results pages :-)
Now, if you read the fine print on the About Google Blog Search, they clearly state that results should be pretty good for anything from June 2005, when they started building the database, and they are trying to add in older stuff. I have a Typepad hosted blog, and I'm sure they sucked up those blogs right away, which explains why my older stuff is in there.
Here's my question -- now that Google has a blog search, how are they going to treat blogs in regular search over time? Will they continue to have the same weight? No small number of search engine optimization plans rely on blogs lifting the relevance of the corporate website; it's a benefit of a blog that is often mistakenly used as a reason for a blog.
If the regular Google algorithm still gives weight to blogs, shouldn't a blog that ranks highly in the blog search for a term show up a bit sooner in the regular search? Or is the reason that my post is not in the top results for the term on regular search, is that my blog IS on Typepad, and therefore most definitely a blog, and not a "website with an RSS feed?"
If that's the case, what will that mean for the hosted services? And will it marginalize blogs, and bloggers, that rely on the hosted services to participate in the conversation by creating a blog ghetto of sorts. You know what I mean: the regular search is where the validated information is, and the blog search is where you go for those "blog things." Will we then have a whole NEW industry spring up to help blogs get into both regular search and blog search?
I'm not a search engine expert by any means, and I have no idea how all of this is working "under the hood," I'm just curious.....
But it seems to me that Hugh is right -- this will change everything. I'm just not sure we know how.....
UPDATE 15 Sept.: So, the good news is that people who really dig into all this search stuff seem to think that Google's blog search is pretty good. I'll believe that -- heck it put some of my posts toward the top, and that's bound to bring some readers my way. I'm still concerned/curious about how all this is going to play out for both businesses and the user experience. Bear with me as I think out loud.
Question one: Are these blog search engines or RSS search engines? They are not synonymous. Most, probably all blogs provide an RSS feed, but not all RSS feeds are blogs.
If they are blog search engines, I wonder how you (or an algorithm) can really tell whether the "thing" is a blog, since we have a fair amount of disagreement about what a blog is anyway. And as I commented yesterday (above) if we have some search engines for blogs and other search engines for other information, how does that change the nature of our research. Which will be deemed more credible and why?
If they are RSS search engines, how does that change the user experience of using web sites. Iam a big proponent of RSS feeds on company websites. Used appropriately. If the only way to show up in these new search engines is to deliver an RSS feed, will companies start junking up the net with RSS feeds of EVERYTHING on their site?
What I'd really like to see is an integrated search where the type of content is clearly marked, ie this seems to be a blog or this is likely to be a website. If you want to restrict a search to one form or another, you can, but the search engine will tell you if it finds more apparently relevant information in another category.
Seems to me that if anybody could pull this off, it would be Google. And, yeah, that really would change everything.