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August 09, 2005
Tuesday
More people reading blogs - news flash
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Red Herring reports:

U.S. blog readership in the first quarter jumped 45 percent to 49.5 million people, or one-sixth of the total U.S. population, a report said Monday, suggesting the blogosphere is becoming increasingly alluring to online advertisers.

I am hearing this from all sides and have been invited to a couple of conferences for advertisering industry to speak about blogs and advertising. Hm, I am not sure they’ll like what I have to say but I will try to make sense of the relationship between such two different worlds - the blogoshpere and media industry. Well, the first thing I notice, apart from the bitching from both sides, is the media industry’s eyes watering as they are trying to focus on blogs. Too small for those big-budgeted and gloss-filled vista and the range of vision is adjusting with the declining revenues, impact and channel fragmentation and other disruptive goodness.

But back to the blog ‘metrics’:

As far as advertisers are concerned, blog readers are a desirable demographic—young, wealthy, likely to shop online, and with high-speed Internet connections. They visit 77 percent more web pages than the average Internet user.

Blogs are addictive, that’s the real news flash. Heh.

Quote to remember
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It’s natural enough to think of the growth of the blogosphere as a merely technical phenomenon. But it’s also a profoundly human phenomenon, a way of expanding and, in some sense, reifying the ephemeral daily conversation that humans engage in. Every day the blogosphere captures a little more of the strange immediacy of the life that is passing before us. Think of it as the global thought bubble of a single voluble species.
- Measuring the Blogosphere, New York Times editorial

August 08, 2005
Monday
Blog Visitors More Affluent Than Average Web Users
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Who’d a thunked it?

Blog visitors are 11 percent more likely than the average online user to have household incomes of at least $75,000, and are also 11 percent more likely than the average Web user to connect via broadband.

I thought bloggers are time wasters, having nothing better to do then blogging about their cats and reading other blogs… In their pyjamas. And that nobody really cares what bloggers write about.

Something tells me that this should get the marketers’ pulses racing:

The report--authored by comScore Network’s Graham Mudd and DoubleClick’s Director of Research Rick Bruner, and sponsored in part by Gawker Media and SixApart--also found that blog readers visit nearly twice as many Web pages as average Internet users, and are more likely to shop online. According to the report, 51 percent of blog visitors made an online purchase, compared to 39 percent of the all Internet users.

Bloggers brace yer’selves - you’ll have to beat them off with a stick.

cross-posted from Media Influencer

August 06, 2005
Saturday
Doing it my way, all the way…
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And that is exactly what Kamal Aboukhater, the producer of the movie Blowing Smoke, has just done. He has produced the film his way - deeply un-PC screenplay about cigars, men and women using cutting-edge digital technology - and now he is releasing the movie via the Blowing Smoke blog.

bs_poster.jpg

So having done all that, getting good people on my side working with me, I didn’t want to become a slave to anyone. I didn’t want to wait for my movie to travel up the long and tedious chain of command until someone finally made a decision to release it.

... There will be no waiting. I can, audience willing, get immediate response and won’t be at the mercy of a movie studio or distributor. One thing I have learned about audiences, thanks to blogs, is that they are not a unified mass of “consumers.” They are individuals, choosing something (like what to watch) for many and varied reasons. Some might want to watch Blowing Smoke because they like cigars, some might be drawn to the poker, and others may want their opinions about women and men confirmed. Whatever the reason, now they can do so easily. And, if they feel like it, they can let me know their reactions and opinions.

And he really does not like the studios, but he seems to like bloggers:

Major studios seem to be the last to adopt and adapt to innovation and trends. And, just like with video and DVDs, they are again missing the boat, unaware of the new possibilities for reaching their audiences. They might have caught glimpses of the future, such as Firefly, Global Frequency, and Garden State. This is thanks to a new band of warriors, better known as bloggers, who add strength to the voice of the fans, fighting for more choice for themselves and, in the end, all of us.

The point is that he can go all the way to his audience, by-passing the intermediaries. Sure, the path is not clear, the journey may be either uneventful or too bumpy, but Kamal is aware of the experimental nature of what he has done. He is enjoying the comments from those who understand and appreciate what he is trying to do. As he said after the ‘launch’:

It’s no longer just about the movie but about an opportunity to add another dimension to the infrastructure that’s already there - the blogosphere and the internet.

It has taken a while to get to this point both in terms of understanding and then realising the idea. I feel privileged to have been part of that process and enjoy working with Kamal whose open mind has been instrumental in this adventure. In return, he can be blamed for my blossoming addiction to cigars, the quality of which would make any cigar afficionado weep with joy, or envy. Whilst discussing the final details of the Blowing Smoke ‘release operation’, I savoured a particularly good Hoyo de Monterrey. Who says the days of plotting in smoke-filled rooms are over…

I shall leave you with an exhortation: Boxed BS available now! Get your own! Oh and, BS download is Coming Out Real Soon Now!

cross-posted from Media Influencer

August 03, 2005
Wednesday
Every second a blog - but not for the long slog
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In today’s Guardian Jane Perrone writes:

80,000 new weblogs are being created every day. Technorati tracked more than 14.2 million blogs this month, compared to 7.8 million in March.

But the statistics show not everyone who starts a blog stays the course. Although the blogosphere has doubled in size in just over five months, only around half of all blogs are “active” - in other words they have been updated in the past three months - and just 13% are updated every week or more often.

But that does not really matter, does it? As I often point out, talking about blogging as a unified subject is focusing on the format and missing the most fascinating aspects of the phenomenon. It is like judging the success of printing press by the impact the Communist Manifesto, or the Bible or trashy novels for that matter, have had on the world. And this is actually what happens - there are people complaining about how blogging can be toxic by causing confusion or lack of transparency and credibility(!) and many arguing that blogs are nothing but self-absorbed rubbish at worst and an online version of tabloids in terms of facts and reporting at best, etc etc etc. Even is such objections were true, which they mostly are not, they are irrelevant to the understanding of what is happening with communications and the ability of audiences to connect not only with the ‘broadcasters’ but also with themselves.

My point in the article is that we should not be focusing on the numbers - that is playing the game by the big media rules - but on those aspects of blogging that are truly revolutionary. Self-expression, individual creativity in the public space/domain giving rise to a new online social infrastructure, on top of the technological one.

If you know somebody, how long does it take to know what they are thinking? It’s a long drawn out process. But with blogs it’s the other way around - you meet the person’s mind through their blog.

I see this every day and I myself have found a number of amazing people in a very short period of time. That makes blogging a social activity par excellence. And this is before the pyjamas even come into it. grin

Cross-posted from Media Influencer

August 02, 2005
Tuesday
Quote to remember
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But if the Web itself isn’t being remade, it’s certainly remaking us in fascinating ways.
- Scott Kirsner, a contributing editor at Fast Company in an article for Boston Globe

July 28, 2005
Thursday
Golden rule for podcasters
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Podcast unto others as you would have them podcast unto you.

- David Tebbutt, with apologies to Luke 6:31. 

Is corporate blogging worth the hype?
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Apparently yes. Backbone Media asked bloggers at hundreds of companies to participate in an online survey and conducted in-depth interviews with leading individuals from six corporate blogs that were selected as representative of the diverse spectrum of the corporate blogging world.

What we discovered was that for the majority of our survey sample, (which includes some of today’s biggest corporations and scrappiest underdogs), corporate blogs are living up to all the hype. We discovered that corporate blogs are giving established corporations and obscure brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a personal level, build trust, collect valuable feedback and foster strengthened relationships while and at the same time benefiting in ways that are tangible to the sales and marketing side of the business.

Well, it’s not exactly a new flash, is it?

Update: Realised that my post reads as if I were sceptical about the report or did not consider it important. On the contrary, I am glad it was produced and big thanks to the Backbone Media. I will blog more about it as soon as I get round to reading it in detail.

Is PR getting it?
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Richard Edelman of Edelman PR firm writes on his Speak Up blog about how PR industry is increasingly on the defensive as to its standards, effectiveness, credibility, honesty, etc etc.

Status quo is not acceptable for our industry. We are being dismissed as eyewash or even worse as obfuscators.

Yep, that sounds about right. He consults Jay Rosen and mentions Doc Searls:

As we discussed the problem, we came to an agreement on what needs to change. We should modify our vocabulary. We talk with pride about developing messages for our clients. What about Doc Searls’ view that in this democratized world, we don’t need messages? Maybe the idea of controlled messages is something that worked in a world of relatively few media and is now obsolete. We have to get away from anything that smacks of control and manipulation of audiences. We should opt for public relationships where the operational words are dialogue, transparency and speed to market.

A fairly predictable discussion in the comments ensues, with David Weinberger weighing in with a forceful explanation of what he means by knowledge being a result of ongoing conversations:

Yes, I am pushing that conversation thing hard. Here’s a key to making sense of me: After farting around with the idea for a long time, I’ve come to fully and literally believe that knowledge does not consist of a set of true statements, but is indeed something constantly emerging from conversations. I finally came to this belief after realizing that the old idea that we argue about something and then settle on a belief is a false characterization of our situation. Rather, we argue and discuss forever, we rarely come to universal agreements, and the conversations are going to continue as long as there are humans. Our hope should be (IMO) not that we come to universal agreement - it ain’t gonna happen - but that we have more conversations with more people, in a bigger world, and that the quality of our conversations gets better. That’s as close as we’re going to get to knowledge. IMO.

Hm, a bit Popperian, I’d say… and makes sense to me. As for the PR industry? Unless those involved in it truly understand that a message/image/impression cannot be controlled and that the companies are not founts of all knowledge, they’ll probalby follow their media cousins.

July 23, 2005
Saturday
Good people talking
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Alan Moore of SMLXL and one of the authors of the book Communities Dominate Brands will be speaking at an IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) event on Monday 25th July 2005. More details here.

Alan has much good stuff to say especially under the title of the talk: Consumers are doing it for themselves!

My only gripe is why do they still use that horrible term ’consumer‘? Grrrr!

July 21, 2005
Thursday
Business press on business blogging
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Kyle Wingfield has a go at the increasingly noticed issue of business blogging in Wall Street Journal Business Europe.

He coins a wonderful analogy of what it must feel like for companies toying with blogging:

This may feel a little disconcerting at first; after all, the primary way that companies communicate with the public emulates the style of television broadcasts: a one-way message sent from one source to the masses. Think of it, though, like learning to ride a bicycle: The off-balance sensation eventually will give way to a confident, even liberating, feeling that allows you to go farther, faster, than you could before.

As I already said somewhere in a comment, I think the article makes a point for business blogging without overstating it or mocking it, which is the two extremes so many mainstream commentators fall into. Oh, and I get quoted a lot… grin

A day earlier there has been an equally positive article on the merits of blogging for business in the FT. Here is a good summary for those without paid subscription courtesy of Niall Cook of Marketing Technology blog who rejoices in the good press FT gave business blogging:

I love the Financial Times. They always make me feel good about the crap I’ve been spouting at my ever-sceptical colleagues for the last two years.

Two mainstream business press articles on business blogging in two business days? Hm, may be blogs are, like, getting out there, like, among the business people…

July 19, 2005
Tuesday
‘New internet’ tools in the media’s face
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Wired Media Hack talks about  FCC chairman Michael K. Powell noting that most of the significant pictures of the London suicide bombing attacks didn’t originate from professional photographers employed by news agencies but from witnesses at the scene using cell phones and digital cameras to document the tragedy.

Before, blogging was largely fixated on the failure of mainstream media. Now it has become a necessary supplement, and in some cases, a substitute. But Powell takes this a step further. To him, London showed that blogging has morphed into the art of raw, personalized storytelling.

It certainly isn’t reporting and this should not fuel the misplaced debate about blogging vs. journalism. But it is a development that was to be expected.

You really felt as if you were there as opposed to watching CNN or reading MSNBC.com, which are fine for the facts but stale and a bit removed.

Again, the myth of objectivity makes for a ‘detached’ (often read biased) reporting of facts that made the bloggers appear in the first place after 9/11 when many people felt that the media reporting was not on the same planet as them. This time, the media actually sourced its news from the ‘citizen journalists’ and we are all better informed for it.

And now there is Technorati.

The number of posts on blogs tracked by Technorati increased 30 percent, from about 850,000 a day in July to 1.2 million on the day of the attacks. Nine of the 10 most popular search requests involved the unfolding tragedy in London.

If you think about it, Technorati has become a public utility on a global scale.

Indeed. And not just Technorati but other search applications (such as Ice Rocket, PubSub, BlogPulse etc) built around dynamic content. Here is a very good explanation of the difference between Google and traditional search engines (wow, I am using the word traditional in internet context, I feel so old!) and Technorati.

Google, for instance, views the web as the world’s largest reference library, where information is static. Instead of the Dewey Decimal System, Google employs its PageRank technology, which orders search results based on relevance. Google uses words like web page, catalogs and directory, which are more than just words: They convey an entire worldview.

In contrast, Technorati sees the internet as a stream of conversations. This makes it much more immediate. Google requires two to three weeks to input a site into its search engine. (Although it does post frequently updated content from news sites.)

David Sifry, the guy behind (and in front of) Technorati uses a phrase meme epidemiology (love it!) as in:

In meme epidemiology, knowing the first person to say something is the first step to understanding the contagion, why some memes are contagious while others aren’t.

That is exactly the kind of stuff early bloggers were figuring out for themselves. On Samizdata.net, we have worked out fairly soon that blog something about guns, freedom, abortion, Iraq, Afganistan, multi-culturalism etc etc, you’d get more comments and more people linking to it. We, in the Editorial Pantheon, used to call it the tabloid-effect as it was predictable and rather crude. What Technorati has made possible is tracking much more subtle and niche memes and conversations that result in much emergent goodness.

There is also a mention of the Chinese blogosphere and how Technorati tags are helping the bloggers by-pass the Chinese policenet.

One indication that the phenomenon that Sifry spawned three years ago has worked itself into the fabric of internet life is that in China, bloggers are using Technorati tags to get around government censors. The Adopt-a-Chinese Blog program works by volunteers announcing their intention to host a blog on their server by employing a special Technorati tag. That way, bloggers in China can locate the blogs through a special page. Since the pages are served outside of China, the government can’t censor them.

Now we are talking about the proper use of technology!

cross-posted from Media Influencer

July 18, 2005
Monday
Bob Lutz:  To blog or not to blog?
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General Motor’s ‘executive’ blogger, Bob Lutz is giving an insight into his experience with blogging in Information Week. He talks about the importance of unfiltered conversation, showing the bad with the good  as a means to buildling lasting credibility. Sounds familiar?

His concluding advice is obvious given the success of the Fast Lane blog:

To me, the blog is a way for GM to be culturally relevant. It allows us to be on the leading edge of new technology while getting our strong views out there about our cars and trucks. So far, response has been outstanding, with more than 5,000 visits and 13,000 page views a day.
To any senior executive on the fence about starting a corporate blog, I have a word of advice: Jump.

Told you so.

For those who can’t get enough of Bob Lutz, here is an interview he gave to AutoWeek.

via NevOn and cross-posted from Media Influencer

July 14, 2005
Thursday
Study discovers some blog readers unable to find own arse with both hands
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WebProNews.com author Shel Holtz misses the whole ‘blog thing’ on several levels with the following remarks:

Study participants-selected because they weren’t blog readers but were otherwise web-savvy-were taken to the blog and asked to react. Most didn’t know they were looking at a blog at all and were surprised and confused when told they were. Many said they would expect a blog to indicate clearly that it’s a blog. (As I look around the PR blogs I read, few use the word “blog” prominently in their titles, subheads, or other identifiers.)

Well Shel, that is because it really does not matter in the slightest if a person reading a blog knows they are reading ‘a blog’ rather than ‘a website’.  Frankly in a few years I expect we may stop using the term ‘blog’ in any case, not because blogs have vanished from the world wide web but rather because what we now call blogs will pretty much be the world wide web.

Also, the article says “Most participants couldn’t figure out how to navigate around the blog”.  Far be it from me to question the aptitude of the people behind the Catalyst Group Design study quoted but are they seriously saying that test subjects could not scroll down a page? What does one make of that?

Oh, and yes, I suspect within the next few years blogs are indeed going to put rather a lot of PR people out of a job, namely the ones who do not ‘get’ blogging and the implications of new media.  Sorry Shel.

July 13, 2005
Wednesday
Back from a trip abroad
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Did you miss us?  The folks at tBBC have been away, scattered to the four corners of the earth on.... shock horror… holiday!  Still, with the terrible events of a few days ago here in London, methinks we picked a good time to be out of town.

But upon return it was interesting to see a lot of blog related news in the media.  Obviously the UK political and commentary blogosphere went crazy in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocity but this item also caught my eye on Market Watch called Newspapers urged to be blog-friendly:

“Up until 2000, newspapers regarded Internet media as a ‘pet,’ and would not mind much even if they share some news articles with portals,” said the Korean Press Foundation. “Today, the pet has grown up to be a tiger that eats up much of newspapers’ power in both revenues and impact,” the researchers said, according to the Taipei Times.

Indeed, but in truth there are a few newspapers out there who are treating this as an opportunity as well as a threat.  It may not appeal to me politically but the Guardian has been quite enlightened regarding blogs and new media generally and as a result has positioned itself very well as one of a small number of global rather than just national ‘papers of record’.  Now if only they would start adopting blog style best practices regarding external linking…

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