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September 27, 2005
Mobile music video
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The MediaPost column Just an Online Minute has an interesting factoid:

The band the Presidents of the United States of America shot its latest video using only mobile phone cameras. That just may be a first. The video for the band’s “Some Postman” was reportedly filmed in Seattle in only a day using several Sony-Ericsson mobile video phones. If this catches on, the advertising industry, its high-priced agencies, production company partners, and all related hangers-on could be in even more trouble than they are already. We don’t know what the associated costs were, but you can bet your bottom dollar they were less expensive than shooting a regular music video.

This is it, with all that cheap (but user-friendly and effective) technology, I wonder how agencies and commercial film-makers are going to keep their grip on advertising budgets. There is value in their expertise and migrating to new tools they will discover a whole new world. I know one who already has.

September 22, 2005
High mile blogging
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So it has come to blogging about how to be productive when you are 30,000 feet in the air. Makes sense to me… but probably not to all those people who keep saying, well, I can see some how companies might use blogging but the range is rather limited. I mean, how can you have a blog about cheese, for example!

The new has just started and is sponsored by Connextion by Boing. I look forward to reading as I’ll be flying quite a bit in the next few months.

September 09, 2005
Our Master’s Voice
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Adriana has participated in a BBC Radio 4 discussion about the use of blogs for businesses and how it is part of the way New Media is challenging entire business models.

If you are curious what blogs mean to the commercial world… or just want to hear what a great sounding voice Adriana has, you can listen to her here (requires Real Audio Player).

September 06, 2005
You are it!
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A VC in NYC likes to keep things simple. Blogging to him is about three things: Posting, Subscribing, and Tagging. And it is about far more than putting text into a blogging software and hitting a publish button.

Blogging is way bigger than that.
Podcasting is blogging.
Posting photos to flickr is blogging.
Building a link roll on is blogging.
Posting your cell phone videos of your cat on vimeo is blogging.
Building your personal page on is blogging.
Anytime a user posts their content on the web in a place they control for the world to consume, they are blogging.

This makes sense. And it is part of the growing understanding that talking about blogging in isolation, as something that ‘bloggers’ do is missing the point. Often people who haven’t really looked at blogging talk about ‘bloggers’ as if they were some alien species that invaded the online world. This is especially true for marketing and advertising types - they need to stick to their understanding of markets by demographics and their categories and by dimissing bloggers as something different from consumers, they feel they can cope with them newfangled things called blogs. 

Every time I talk to a person involved in “traditional media” who wants to understand the Internet, I tell them one thing – user generated content.
Until you get user generated content, you don’t get the Internet.
And blogging is the platform for user generated content.

Subscribing is not about technology but about human behaviour… of choosing to read what you like.

...readers vote every day about what content they like and what they don’t. They do this by subscribing or unsubscribing to RSS feeds of the blogs they like.

And finally, there is tagging:

With 10 million or more bloggers posting a couple times a day, how do you keep track of all that user generated content? You can’t in an absolute sense. But you can establish a framework for user generated content and build on top of it. That’s where tagging comes in.

Everything I have seen so far (and I have been blogging for more than 3 years) leads to me agree with VC’s conclusions:

I believe that together posting, subscribing, and tagging will profoundly change the worlds of media, entertainment, commerce, and communication.

We are five years into the posting revolution, two to three years into the subscribing revolution, and maybe one year into the tagging revolution. We are just looking at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done with these techniques.

August 26, 2005
Quote to remember
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... advertising in general is designed to get people to pay attention to things that they might not otherwise notice. Sometimes ads are effective, and sometimes they aren’t. But we have to recognize that most forms of advertising, and not just this one, almost always detract from the user experience. But they are accepted by most people as a necessary evil because most of us recognize that developing content costs money, and we accept advertising in exchange for free content.
- Search Engine Spam on O’Reilly’s Radar

Marketers eager For Google IM
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I have now installed Google Talk as a proper geek and testing it with my gmail-owning friends… (by the way, the quality of the voice was nowhere near as good as on Skype). I have no plans to move away from Skype that has won my affection over the year I have been using it.

The new Google IM application isn’t yet ad-supported. But if and when Google is ready to monetize it with ads, it doesn’t look like there will be any shortage of marketers. Carat Interactive media buyer Sarah Fay said her agency has placed ads on all the major IM networks.

We’re big fans of it, and we’re using all of the IM products of the other providers of that platform. We would be just as likely to use Google as another IM property--if they get themselves to the same level of usage as the others.

Other instant messaging services have a multitude of ads. America Online’s AIM, for instance, displays banner ads above users’ contact lists. At MSN, users can download “skins,” which will brand their contact list and message windows.

It is the users choice to display skins to their contacts that one of the big draws of IM advertising, which is seen as giving the ads a ‘viral nature’.

As an ad vehicle, I’m a big fan of instant messenger. The proposition is, because it’s viral, and it’s chosen by the person who displays it on the IM screen, you gain an instant credibility.

I must be missing something here as I can’t see how the credibility is generated. So I like the colours or a look of some ‘skin’, choose it for my contacts to see, who know exactly what skins are available and what ads are pushed through them. Something here gets lost in translation, as choosing a particular ad sponsored skin is based on availability and (limited in my view) aesthetic preference, not a particular endorsement of that brand. But that’s may be just my geek side talking…

There is an interesting snippet among all this:

Still, it’s not clear that Google will allow display advertising on the product. Google Director of Product Management Georges Harik told OnlineMediaDaily that Google developers were not convinced that advertisements are the appropriate way to monetize an instant messaging service, and that the company is looking into ways to profit from the service “in a way that’s consistent with the user experience.”

I have a feeling that this view of user experience might subscribe to the don’t-push-the-bloody-adverts-at-me’ school of thought...?

August 25, 2005
Studios notice blogs - for advertising…
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For a new film, “The Constant Gardener,” Focus Features is intent on building its audience in a different way: by taking aim at readers of niche Web sites and blogs.

So far, so good. Using a blog to spread the news about a movie. Hm, nothing new here. But wait, it seems that all this amounts to is…

Focus, an art-house unit of Universal Pictures, has purchased ads for “The Constant Gardener” on the political blog Wonkette, as well as the Web sites of politically oriented publications like Harper’s, The Nation and National Review.

The news is that studios advertise on blogs?! I guess it is a big shift if all they did before is used ads indiscriminately everywhere. James Schamus, a co-president of the studio, says:

We looked for the places that sophisticated moviegoers seek out to find things that interest them. These are the people who are engaged with the world, who are informed about the big conspiracies going on out there.

I don’t know about the big conspiracies and I have been hanging around the blogosphere for a while. The point of blogging is that things get a bit more transparent, on the whole. Or does he mean the various nutters who do peddle conspiracies online? A niche audience indeed.

The article lists several films where studios dipped their toes online.

Ever since the release of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999, movie studios have strived, and failed, to replicate the groundbreaking Internet campaign that made that film a marketing phenomenon. These new ad campaigns on the Web suggest that studios are becoming more determined to identify and reach niche audiences online.

Blogging works. But not if you do not understand the audience and pigeon-hole it before you start, just like the marketing person at ThinkFilm that bought banners at the bawdy gossip sites Gawker and Defamer:

Some movies just lend themselves to online advertising. ‘The Aristocrats’ is dirty, it’s obscene and it’s unrated, which is sort of like the Internet itself.

How about it’s free, dynamic and caters for all tastes… Geez.

But let’s be positive, Seth Godin, whose blog is worth reading, considers Focus clearly ahead of the curve in seeking an audience based on online behavior. I wonder then what he’d make of the Blowing Smoke blog.

Another marketing wonk weighs in, Joseph Jaffe:

The movie is about getting people to talk about a social issue. Blog readers want to be able to respond and add their own points of view.

Spot on. And how exactly does one do that with an advert? Ah, you are supposed to interact

The “Aristocrats” ad also invites visitors to submit their own version of the film’s unprintable joke. ThinkFilm, which has an advertising budget well below the $30 million that major studios typically spend, is hoping that this interactive component can propel an ad throughout the Web, creating a cost-effective campaign.

Note the language, it is ‘the interactive component’ that is going to ‘propel the ad’ creating ‘a cost-effective campaign’. Not you and me, dear reader.

Apart from taking issue with pretty much everything in the article (my favourite gripes on my blog have been about marketing and advertising, for those who don’t know me), I am blogging about this because it points to a trend that is obvious to most people engaged with blogs. The big guys are starting to notice although they can’t seem to get ‘engaging’ any time soon:

Studios need to stop trying to reach the most people and focus on reaching the best people.

Indeed. But don’t stop there, try to do more than just target interactive adverts at them…

cross-posted from Blowing Smoke blog

August 23, 2005
Isabella Oliver - maternity with style
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Vanessa Knox-Brien and Baukjen de Swaan Arons launched Isabella Oliver (named after their children) in 2003.  They saw the lack of stylish maternity clothes available on the market when they were pregnant themselves.

For Vanessa, previously head designer at Victoria’s Secret, and Baukjen, with her background in marketing the road ahead was obvious. Along with the level headed Geoff Van Sonsbeek who runs operations they decided to launch a maternity wear brand that would cater to
the needs of the modern and stylish pregnant woman.

It gets better than that - they have a blog caled Baukjen & Vanessa diary.  It is clean and stylish looking, with photos in the posts. The only (minor) gripe I’d have is that there are, as yet, no links in the sidebar. Girls, a blog is not just an online brochure, it’s a part of a network of blogs, so show us what blogs you read and engage. But it’s early days and judging by the content, it is turning out to be an interesting niche blog well worth watching as it documents the creation of a company. Their first post tells a story of a dynamic venture:

In May last year we moved into our own premises in Kentish Town - it reminds me a bit of the warehouses in Tribeca - and business has continued to grow. So far so good. In August we’re launching in the USA, which is really exciting and a bit scary for me, its home country and full of family and friends - another reason for doing an online diary as they’re a great way to keep in touch!

Vanessa is a New York designer but they set up in London and this month they are expanding to the US. She’s just blogged about their 100th US order:

We’ve been live 2 weeks in the USA now and are happy to announce that we have had our 100th order today at 11.30!!! So thank you to all the stylish, pregnant ladies back home who have supported us and keep having those babies!!

Give mothers with style a chance!

via Blogger me

Optimised blogging
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Search Engine Optimization, Inc. a full service search engine optimization firm is blogging at SEO Inc. Blog . dedicated to search engine marketing. Readers of the Blog will be able to keep track of emerging search engine marketing trends and read valuable analysis from experts in the field.

It didn’t hurt, did it?

SEO Inc. saw that there was a definite need for an extensive Blog dedicated to search engine marketing from the agency point of view. Additionally, SEO, Inc. will be using the Blog as a news outlet. The SEO, Inc. Blog aims to provide companies interested in search engine marketing with detailed information so they can make better marketing decisions. The Blog also caters to search engine marketing professionals looking to keep updated on the most current events within the search engine marketing space.

That’s about right, I couldn’t come up with better reasons to blog myself - SEO junkies have another place to hang around now. I know sounds far more exciting than it really is. 

Quote to remember
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From its beginning the Web has looked to many marketers like an opportunity to address micro markets through “personalization” (in quotes because marketing’s idea of personalization is the anti-Christ of real personalization), one-to-one marketing, addressing a market of one, etc. Yes, a car company can build a web page unique to my interests and preferences. Oh goody. But the real difference is that before I get to that page, I’ve talked with my friends and with smart, informed, funny, passionate strangers about the car. The most important characteristic of this new market of “ones” is that we’re talking with one another, and we’re telling one another the truth about your products. Marketing is much less interesting than these conversations.
- Dave Weinberger in Fast Company’s blog 3Qs

August 21, 2005
Feed fatigue: Filtering the filters and measuring authority
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This is a long post, so I won’t make you wait for me to get to the point: Real authority in the blogosphere cannot be measured by current tools, because current tools cannot account for the fact that we choose not to read some blogs precisely because they are authoritative.

One thing that happens when you let RSS do the work of pointing you towards interesting information: You quickly grow weary of certain blogs that are updated several times a day.

I do think it’s important for bloggers to post often, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to build up a dedicated audience. (As Adriana points out to people about the huge number of visitors who hit Samizdata on a daily basis, what is really interesting is that so many of them are repeat visitors and make the effort to check the site once or more each day. Maybe I’ll post some other time about what this means in terms of building an emergent brand.) And I myself used to blog several times per day, in part because it was a big element of working with tBBC, and in part because...Well, I wanted to, and I had the flexibility in my work day to do so. No more.

But there are only a handful of blogs that I really get excited about seeing updated several times a day - in particular, my guilty pleasure blogs, like Perez Hilton‘s. I ignore those in my aggregator until the weekend, and then Saturday morning is a big, indulgent catch-up session.

I recently deleted Steve Rubel‘s blog from my list of RSS subscriptions. Why? Because he’s almost too good at blogging. He updates his site several times a day, and nearly everything he posts is interesting or downright absorbing. But it’s daunting to see that there are 25 or so unread pieces from him in my aggregator, just waiting to be read.

More to the point, lots of the other blogs I read also read Steve’s blog, and link to all the cool stuff he posts with their own take on each item. So I was getting a lot of duplication in my aggregator, with the truly useful posts being the ones which added commentary to the information. Anyone who used to read Glenn Reynolds and no longer does may also be familiar with this scenario.

This isn’t me trying to knock Steve or Glenn, both of whom are phenomenal bloggers and put enormous time and effort into being stellar human filters (Steve starts blogging at 4.30 or 5 AM, seven days a week). But as I know that the stuff they link to will be linked by other filters who are also commentators, and whose insights stimulate my own thoughts, it makes more sense for me only to read the filters who add relevant commentary to those links. (Your own requirements, as always, may vary. Isn’t it great that we all have the choice to tailor this stuff according to our own needs and wants?)

This is another good example of the network effect of blogging: I don’t read Steve or Glenn anymore, but the stuff they link to reaches me anyway. And because of attribution inherent in blogging, I know it when a commentator has found an interesting link via one of them. If someone asked me to name a big PR blogger or a big politics blogger, I’d name Steve Rubel and Glenn Reynolds. If someone asked for more names for each of those categories, I could keep going, naming bloggers who I’d never before read personally, but who I see getting hat tips all over the place for linking to noteworthy items. (This is particularly true of political blogs, of which I have wearied of late; I know that Kos and Atrios and Michelle Malkin are popular information filters, but I can’t say I’ve ever spent more than two minutes on any of their blogs.)

My point once again: Real authority in the blogosphere cannot be measured by current tools, because current tools cannot account for the fact that we choose not to read some blogs precisely because they are authoritative.

So how do the metrics fetishists propose to measure authority in light of this? I’m still waiting to hear.

Cross-posted at The Hole

August 17, 2005
Letter to Dell
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Jeff Jarvis writes to Michael Dell…

Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer’s friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.

... and describes how that happens:

I blog. And I shared the story of my Dell trevails here. The topic resonated with hundreds more people. Go read the many comments here and here. Too busy? Then have an intern or an MBA do it for you.

And then have them read all the many posts of other bloggers who pointed to my posts and shared their dissatisfaction with your products, service, and brand and, in many cases, announced that they were no longer going to buy your name: See some of those posts here or here and you’ll learn a lot.

Heard of those new podcast things? Well, you’re in one.

Now go read the press this generated, because the press is reading blogs, even if you’re not: here (where Fast company turned consumer dissatisfaction into a verb: you got Dell’d), here (ZDnet not just in America but in India, where your many customer-service people are probably reading this, even if you’re not), here (a mainstream newspaper), here (an influential online news service), here (a consumer PC magazine), here (BusinessWeek, guys), and plenty more here: Just Google it; you should be doing that every day.

Yes, the meme travel gets interesting in the blogosphere nowadays…

August 15, 2005
New York state of mind
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It looks like I am going to be in New York in September (final dates yet to be confirmed) and would love that to provide an excuse for a geek dinner for the local bloggers and blog groupies. The date is 15th September and the venue, preferrable somewhere in Manhattan, is yet to be arranged. If you are in the area, please join me. You can add your name to a wiki I set up for that very purpose, following a highly successful tradition of geek dinners organised by Hugh Macleod and Lloyd Davis in London. By the way, there is one tomorrow - London Girl Geek Party, guy geeks eat your hearts out.

For those who look for meaning in everything, I shall be in New York after attending the Johnson & Johnson Global Communications Conference in Jersey City (for senior communications professionals no less) during 12-14th September, talking about… well, you’d have to wait and see, won’t you? grin

Will keep you posted. In the meantime, just add your name to the wiki, damn it. Don’t you like fun and bloggers and geeks? No need to answer that…

Blog advertising - not marketers toy
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... or, as AdAge calls it, the ‘dark side of innovation’. As BL Ochman would say, puh-lese…

Kris Osen in AdAge wonders:

Is it safe to advertise in places on the Internet that are essentially run by consumers and cannot be controlled? How can they protect themselves and their good names when blog and chat-room users are liable to say and post anything? It’s not just pornography or off-color language that worries them. What if consumers got angry about something involving a marketer’s brand, and their remarks got linked to across the Internet?

The article has a telling sub-title: Blogs and Chat Rooms Pose Risks Despite Coveted Demographics. Interesting. So what happened to those pyjama wearing, navel-gazing techies, politicos and all-round geeks who are so not the desired ‘target market’. Or has the holy grail of ‘Mainstream’ exposure moved online and into niche audiences? My, we have come a long way. [/sarcasm]

Another ‘interesting’ thing is the terminology used in the article to describe chat rooms and blogs (which finally are being recognised as interactive formats although still clumsily lumped together). Consumer-controlled spaces is what they call them. Hmm.

But all is not lost because blogs are more predictable than chat rooms and they can be monitored, contained, controlled and neutred. Hit them where it hurts, take their ads away!

The other major difference is that because the postings are predictable, the content can be monitored and controlled by automation or by human beings. If something objectionable is posted, an ad can be pulled within minutes…

Feedster is using filtering technology that, among other things, collects and reviews blog postings over time. So the firm that is running an ad campaign on blogs(!) can keep an eye on wayward bloggers:

Feedster squirrels away a record of everything a blogger has written to establish a pattern. The firm knows if the blogger uses profanity, proper grammar and spelling, whether the language is on the level of PG-13 or NC-17, even how often they go off topic. The advertiser chooses the set of attributes it can live with. “Then if something objectionable occurs, it would take us about seven minutes to stop the ad...”.

Seven minutes! How cool is that?! Alright, I give in. It is perfectly fine for companies to know what conversations are happening about them as Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek points out:

Companies need to be tuned into the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s amazing how many companies have no idea about all the bad things that consumers say about them—really vicious.

However, something has got lost in the translation - the idea is to join those conversations, not to control them.

Update: Doc already said pretty much the same thing. I guess, I am not fast enough these days…

The ”Try impossible” headline was my two-word response to the Ad Age headline, “Marketers wrestle with hard-to-control content”. I had other objections, like calling blogs a “consumer controlled space” and lumping them together with chat rooms; but my main objection was to the “control” assumption.

And states the point clearly:

Freedom from advertiser control, which has prevailed in varying degrees in traditional media for the duration, is one of the reasons we have blogging.

August 12, 2005
Trump thud
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Donald Trump has a blog! Trump University is its name, with a tagline Ideas and opinions from Donald Trump and his circle of experts.

Well, to each his own, but the point is that he’s joined the ranks of bloggers… Or has he? The comments are moderated. That, of course, is no major sin as there are many trolls, spammers and blogroaches out there. But Mr Trump seems to employ some PR people to nicely spin any comments that might land on his blog.

Ike Pigott posted a comment to Trump’s blog, nothing drastic, to see if it clears the screening process:

Mr. Trump, welcome to the world of blogging. I’m sure you’ll find this forum an excellent model for feedback.

Regarding your statement: “My career is a model of tough, fair dealing and fantastic success--without shortcuts, without breaking the law.”

How do you reconcile a claim such as that with the Vera Coking case in Atlantic City? While it is true you have broken no laws, most people will associate your use of eminent domain as a violation of “fair dealing” and “without shortcuts.” (Especially in the political climate we are in post-Kelo v. New London.)

And this is how the comment appeared:

Mr. Trump, welcome to the world of blogging. I’m sure you’ll find this forum an excellent model for feedback.

I think I’ll just use BL Ochman’s message to Donald Trump:

Gimme a break!

You don’t want to run a comment, don’t run it, but don’t freaking edit a critical comment into an endorsement. Puh-lese.

Donald the Blogger: You’re fired. And your trackbacks don’t work either!

Not much to add to that. Well, apart from that trackbacks can be a bit iffy. grin

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