Suw Charman of Strange Attractor has a go at exploding the blogs-are-diaries myth.
At the root of this problem is the confusion between the blog tool and the blog content. A blog is no more a diary than an empty notebook is a diary. Blogs become a diary when people use them to publish diary entries in the same way that a notebook becomes a diary when you write a diary entry in it.
But an empty notebook can also be a sketch book, a novel, an exercise book, a dictionary, or an infinite variety of other things, depending entirely on content. Equally, a blog can also be a tool for disseminating important news, or a project log, or a team building tool, or a marketing tool, or whatever its user chooses to make it.
She mentions conversations with non-bloggers from IT and other industries that either don’t ‘get’ blogs or find the word itself an obstacle to the potential of blogs in business that sound only too familiar. Sigh. Yes, ‘blog’ is a funny word. Just like ‘Google’… which, of course, is also just a search engine.
This is just a marvellous fisking job by Flakster who finds the following statement objectionable and comes up with a memorable term clue-butchers:
Companies Need to Raise Employee Awareness Regarding Blogging and Associated Threats … Blogging is rapidly emerging as a threat to Internet users.
I’ve been shaking my head ever since I read this ham-fisted, inflammatory piece of fear-mongering, but I still can’t quell the shrill noise in my ears. It’s the chilling bleat of innocent young clues being slaughtered in a mahogany-panelled boardroom somewhere to the south…
A careful and throughout analysis of the report’s conclusions then follows:
The three levels of threat cover:
Enterprise confidentiality – check. Bloggers might tell the truth about stuff you’d rather keep secret. Be afraid.
Integrity – um, check. I guess. If it’s the integrity of your carefully-polished message you’re worried about. Be very afraid.
Availability – pardon?
Availability – ah. That’s what I thought you said. Er… WTF?
Read the whole thing and enjoy.
I also like the conclusion Suw Charman arrived at that could be applied to oh so many research reports…
Blogs are not a threat to business. Stupidity is a threat to business. Ergo, this report is a threat to business.
Yesterday morning I went to a breakfast meeting (yes, it was an American affair ) at a very nice hotel in Mayfair. It was held by a company called Guidewire Group. It was early and I do not do early. However, this was well worth it and I am very glad I have made it there.
Guidewire Group is a name for a team of interesting people - Mike Sigal, Chris Shipley and Frank Kelcz. Their proposition is to create better communication and interaction within what they call an ‘ecosystem’ of innovators, early adopters and VCs, bringing new products and companies to market.
They do this by paying attention to ideas, products and innovation at the pre-capitalised stage and facilitating understanding between innovators and early adopters. Chris, Mike and Frank are behind two events that are of interest to me - DEMO, which is an exhibition/conference that introduces to the world the products and services that will ignite the technology landscape and challenge the status quo and BlogOn 2004 which last year was about The Business of Social Media. No prize for guessing that blogs featured prominently.
So what are these people doing in Europe and London? Bringing the kind of networking that we have seen online, among the innovators and early adopters, facilitated greatly by the blogosphere. Networking and communication is an age-old activity, which, with the expansion of various networks (telegraph, telephone, broadcast, mobile phone, internet) has changed the dynamics of technological innovation and progress. The most recent significant network, the internet, has enabled a whole new ways of interacting and tought us a thing or two about many-to-many communication and the dynamics of network effect.
My main point is that what we have learned online about networking and connecting with others can be applied offline. Transparency, openness, value-for-value transactions that do not necessarily involve money, filtering and learning how to create platforms and frameworks based around the players rather than processes to which the players are beholden to. This is where and what business should learn from online and Guidewire Group consists people who have done just that. Glad you are in London. May you prosper and all your partners with you.
Blogging software ... is merely history’s cheapest easiest publishing tool connected to history’s best distribution network.
- Jeff Jarvis in Ernest Miller’s interview
I cannot decide whether to laugh at the absurdity or out of schadenfreude about the latest suggestions to outsource low-end PR jobs by UK and Australian agencies. Most think jobs will be lost to India, where their employers are sizing up savings from workers costing only a fifth of the price. Anne Gregory, president of the Institute of Public Relations says:
I think some of the elements of practical PR are becoming commoditised and therefore price sensitive.
I could certainly see online research going out to India. Press releases could be written there if they were the sort that just required people to put words on paper - technical press releases like product updates.
Or they could realise that traditional PR is dead and long live DIY PR. How about getting your clients on to blogging to give them a way to manage their own ‘message’. And how about not calling it a message but a conversation that is carried out by the company itself rather than a polished proxy. Oh, but that would mean the end of our job as we know it? Indeed. But isn’t it better to redefine your place yourself rather than be redefined (or outsourced) out of existence...?
I like this:
- The data are irrefutable. The number of massive mega brands and their value (in terms of the premium consumers are willing to pay) is shrinking, and fast. You can’t get as much extra for a Sony DVD player or a Marlboro cigarette as you used to.
- The number of new micro-brands is exploding. Hugh (see gaving void above) is a brand now. If we define brand as a shortcut for a set of commercial attributes, emotions, stories, whatever, then any blogger with a following has a brand.
- There’s a difference between brands and branding. Brands exist whether you want them to or not. Brands aren’t going to go away any time soon. Brands are a useful shorthand for a complicated asset within an organization. Branding, on the other hand, is a thing you do. And as an activity, branding is problematic. Branding is ill-defined, usually vacuous, often expensive and totally unpredictable. I’m happy to say that you shouldn’t grow up to be someone who does branding.
Doc Searls and company would have us believe that markets are conversations. This is a great conversation-starter and a useful piece of agit-prop. But the reality is that many many brands are actually monologues, not dialogues. That doesn’t mean a conversation won’t create a better, more robust, more useful brand. But, alas, most organizations can’t handle that truth. So they do their best to do it the old way.
Big brands are dying.
Little brands are doing great.
Branding is a weird gig.
Really, I do. I mean I wish I had more to say but Seth Godin just puts it rather well. And besides, it’s Saturday night and I am off to a party.
Sure. That’s what Dianne Marsh, a co-founder of SRT Solutions and president of the Ann Arbor Computer Society, thinks:
It’s a time saver. A lot of companies are asking employees to write down what they do on a daily basis. It makes a lot more sense to keep that as a blog.
You don’t say. They also cottoned up onto the fact that blogging provides the convenience of a Web site but is a far less static environment.
It’s becoming a pain and a commodity, calling someone to constantly add content to your site. (Blogging) is a much more efficient way to keep your site up to date.
Indeed. The more people realise this, the better.
For example, Stardock‘s 25 employees built a public blog for customers to sound off on the software as well as an internal blog for software developers in Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Italy and Poland. The technology has helped form a “community” for employees, most of whom have never met face to face, said Stardock president and CEO Brad Wardell.
As more and more companies go virtual, they have to have a way to create a more cohesive environment for their employees, and blogs help do that.
Yes, they do indeed. Internal blogs are a perfect tool for creativity and a bottom-up collaboration.
The term ‘brand’ was borrowed from the cattle industry.
- Doc Searls
Jeremy Zawodny of asks his readers: Does reading my blog affect your perception of Yahoo?
My goal is to get a bit more understanding how my writing about my job, workplace, and employer matters.
- Are you a regular reader of my blog?
- Has reading it changed your perception of Yahoo?
- If you answered yes to question #2, how has it changed?
- If you answered yes to question #2, why does reading this affect your perception of Yahoo? If you answered no, why not?
The answers in the comments are most interesting. They vary of course, from ‘yes, you have made Yahoo! seem a bit more personal and transparent’ to ‘no, not much really, I just enjoy reading your blog’ type of response, overwhelmingly on the former end of the spectrum. Yes, yes, that’s great news for someone like me, flogging blogs to companies… only, I am not really surprised. I just wish there would be an easier way to show people what difference a bit of conversation and engagement can make. Especially for corporate and impersonal companies that lost their way to the customers in the maze of branding, advertising and PR.
Kryptonite is dealing with the fall-out from the revelations about how easy it was to unlock their products using just a Bic pen. A message on their website says:
Thousands of replacement locks have been sent out to customers in the last few weeks. Kryptonite continues to manufacture and ship new products to consumers on a weekly basis. The whole process of the Lock Exchange Program is a complex one with manufacturing and transportation all coming into play. We are building and air shipping the new locks to get them out to our customers as fast as possible.
Jeremy Wagstaff of LOOSE wire revisits the Kryptonite saga for a few pertinent points:
One thing that deserves a closer look are reports that the Bic pen information was not new - it was just better disseminated. The problem, some websites have said, was first highlighted by British freelance journalist and cartoonist John Stuart Clark in 1992. His methods - collaborating with a ‘professional villain’ undermined his story and the vulnerability was largely forgotten (except by the professional villain community, presumably). The original article is worth a read (PDF only).
That is interesting. So the problem was discovered in 1992 and picked up selectively by a few journalists, probably as a sort of urban myth type meme. So blogs indeed have a impact, or rather the network of bloggers. Companies, take note.
If this Kryptonite case is a Cluetrain ‘markets are conversations’ moment, maybe that is the lesson we should all be taking away, not just that some locks are hopeless? After all, other manufacturers and vendors are being quick to claim their products are Bic-pen safe…
via Steve Rubel
The great thing about new media is that we can measure everything. The bad thing is that we have no idea what the numbers mean.
- US ad serving software expert four years ago…
Blowing Smoke is an independent film about what men talk about when women aren’t around. And when it cames to talking, the people behind the film want to carry on the conversation on their very own blog:
This is where Blowing Smoke’s cast and crew talk about all that is related to the experience of making the movie and the technology involved. It is also a conversation with those who enjoyed watching it as much as we did making it. This blog has no non-smoking section.
And, in fact, you may notice that the entire web presence is based around the blog. You can watch the trailers, download wallpapers and movie stills and read about the cast (although some bits there still need tweaking), which is pretty much the functionality of a movie site. Only for the Blowing Smoke people it means that they can update any part of the web presence as and when they feel like it. No need to go into templates, just add a cast bio, or a sidebar link, or a download as if you were putting up another blog post. How do I know this? Coz our tech and design guru built it that way…
But the real deal is the blog, where hopefully most of the cast will talk about the film that has quite a few things to recommend it. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but I am sure that there is an audience for a film that involves cigars, poker, a scantily clad chick and an occassional firearm. All in the best possible taste, of course.
The producer explains his thinking behind the film, which was produced using some groovy digital technology that makes for a truly stunning quality of the picture. I hope they get to talk about that on the blog eventually.
So there it is, a film blog that intends to engage the audience rather than stream things at it. Let’s see how it goes.
A really cheesy and misplaced effort by marketing and advertising wonks to milk the blog words… a Kevin Kringgle eggnog blog. Kevin Kringgle is a creation of Best Buy. A ne’er do well. A challenged holiday gift giver. Oh, and he’s the brother of Kris Kringle.
The ‘blog’ is really bad and although certain amount of tackiness was intended, their success exceeds the intention. The site was a designed by space150 in Minneapolis, it’s all flash, complete with annoying music and pointless content, if you can call it that.
As Adfreak concludes:
It doesn’t really seem to be a blog, except for the fact that it rhymes with nog.
In September FT was doing a series of articles on innovation called Mastering Innovation. It is sponsored and so available to everyone. Yay!
There are several articles in the series that are a must-read for those pondering innovation and its mysterious ways. The article that got me most interested was called More than the sum of its parts and it basically explains, in a nice FT speak, all that magic of networks that we keep talking about here.
The challenge is no longer how to manage the business, but how to manage it within the wider context of networks. A network can be defined as a complex, interconnected group or system, and networking involves using that arrangement to accomplish particular tasks. This is especially relevant in the context of innovation which, at its heart, is about knowledge and combining a wide range of knowledge elements to create something new. Managing innovation is about bringing together different people and the knowledge they carry, and this involves building and running effective internal and external networks.
Precisely. And the $64,000 question is how to build and maintain those effective internal and external networks. There are many ways but very few actually work. What we are seeing in the blogosphere - the emergence, creation and diffusion of information, the good, the bad and the ugly fighting it out in the free market way is a phenomenon that can be understood, tames and replicated to some extent inside enterprises. Blogs are currently the most effective tool for connecting and networking that encourage innovation because they are based on the basic unit of creativity - the individual. There is much to learn from the way of the blogs, which is evolving as we speak. On the one hand, this makes it a tremendously exciting area to be in, on the other, it makes it a very frustrating experience when trying to explain all this to companies. FT does a great job:
Why do we need innovation networks? One reason is that the innovation game has simply become too big and complex for any single player to handle. But it is also about exploiting potential - making the whole genuinely more than the sum of its parts. ...Increasingly, the issue is being seen not as one of knowledge generation (creating the ideas in the first place), but of knowledge flows (spreading and applying the ideas widely). Once again, this is a vital role for innovation networking.
The overriding message seems to be that future growth through innovation is increasingly going to depend on following E.M. Forster’s famous imperative: “Only connect”. Learning to do so effectively is going to be one of the key innovation management challenges, both for researchers and practitioners, for some time to come.
There are many concepts that are counter-intuitive to the traditional businesses such as “open innovation”, where links and connections become as important as the actual production and ownership of knowledge. Another one is the concept of emergence that I have been observing with fascination in the blogosphere and elsewhere, which is alien to many command & control enterprises. Acceptance of shared learning within a network is needed before companies can benefit from the network effect in their innovation and creativity.
All this is already happening in the blogosphere - lateral and random connections, links, emergence, shared learning and exchange. Combine that with speed and you have got a dynamic and chaotic place, not a tidy, managed network. It is a marketplace of ideas where the stuff that emerges is increasingly more innovative than what any one company achieves in the traditional top-down context. Cross-polinations of concepts, self-correction of errors and inconsistencies (over time and over the network), distributed expertise that can be brought to bear on a particular issue, these are the kind of processes that the blogosphere already produces even when at its most chaotic.
There is a way to harness this and apply it inside a company. We have developed three assumptions that make this process easier for us:
- Innovation and knowledge management is a human problem, not a technological one, no IT project will solve it
- Nothing was ever invented in a meeting - agreed, implemented, clarified and elaborated but not first invented
- Basic unit of a company is the individual, not process, department or even team
In text, the molecular unit of content has shifted down from the publication to the page to the story to the post.
- Meg Hourihan
Steve Rubel notes another blog birdie and finds other places that mention the symbiotic relationship between the ‘big media’ and bloggers. This is a debate that has been covered many a time, which is not to say that more cannot be said about it. And apparently, Tom Curley, the head of the Associated Press, adds to it an interview, predicting that current news giants will survive:
The bloggers need a baseline of facts and professional analysis on which to base their work. Imagine Drudge without somebody to link to, or Wonkette without somebody to poke fun at. It’s a new community that’s forming in the news and information space. The “neighbors” may not all like each other, but we’re all part of the same network, like it or not.
Well, quite, and that is why we have a biz hippo and blog birdies on this blog…
The problem with Big Media is that it learned how to “store” trust--in brand, reputation and ritual--and so forgot what it was. But the blogger has to make trust, from scratch as it were. So the blogger winds up knowing more about the current conditions for trust capture.
- Jay Rosen commenting on an interview with Jeff Jarvis
Charlene Li of Forrester Research comes out in favour of business blogging in a research paper Blogging: Bubble Or Big Deal? When And How Businesses Should Use Blogs. Well, at least judging from the executive summary…
Although Weblogs (blogs) are currently used by only a small number of online consumers, they’ve garnered a great deal of corporate attention because their readers and writers are highly influential. Forrester believes that blogging will grow in importance, and at a minimum, companies should monitor blogs to learn what is being said about their products and services. Companies that plan to create their own public blogs should already feel comfortable having a close, two-way relationship with users. In this document we recommend best practices, including a blogging code of ethics, and metrics that will show the impact of blogs on business goals.
You can purchase the report for a princely sum of US$349. Or you can talk to us, the blog birdies themselves… Or you can do both.
A forthright article about brands, their proliferation and declining value and power. Many a brand strategist and marketing person will try shout over its message that is clear:
Marketers may consider the explosion of new brands to be evidence of branding’s importance, but in fact the opposite is true. It would be a waste of money to launch a clever logo into a world of durable brands and loyal customers. But because consumers are more promiscuous and fickle than ever, established brands are vulnerable, and new ones have a real chance of succeeding - for at least a little while. The obsession with brands, paradoxically, demonstrates their weakness.
One of the explanations is the power of the customer. In a bi-polar world of marketing strewn with military metaphors such as ‘target market’, ‘market penetration’, ‘market invasion’ and ‘price wars’, the relationship between the company and a customer is an inherently zero-sum proposition as well as the relationship of the company and the industry within which it operates. A brand is supposed to provide a haven from competition. Not anymore, if ever that was the case…
When companies can’t count on their reputations to carry them through, they’re forced to innovate to stay alive. The erosion of brand value, then, means heightened competition - and everything we know about economics tells us that the more competition, the better off consumers will be.
Over time, certain brands came to connote quality. They did provide a measure of insurance - which in turn made firms less innovative and less rigorous. (Think of the abominable cars General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler made in the late 1960s through the 1970s - remember the Pinto? - in part because they assumed that they had customers for life.) That sense of protection is eroding in industry after industry, and instead of a consumer economy in which success is determined in large part by name, it’s now being determined by performance. The aristocracy of brand is dead. Long live the meritocracy of product.
Amen to that.
George of 90% Crud pens a letter to TiVo:
Dear TiVo Inc.,
Please create permalinks for episodes of television shows. For instance, when Boing Boing posts about a show, I want them to be able to embed a link that will add a show to my ToDo list using remote scheduling.
Do you see what I did there? I didn’t tell you to type b-o-i-n-g-b-o-i-n-g-.-n-e-t into your browser, then search for “douglas rushkoff coercion.” I just included a link and if you clicked on it you were taken to the exact morsel of information that I wanted to show you. Same concept, except for TV shows.
If you need help figuring out why this is a good thing, take a look at how many people link to Apple’s iTunes Music Store and how much money they make off of it. (hint: they’re making enough on those links that they’re paying people to link to the iTMS)
And a moment later…
Update: Looks like they have permalinks now, was that a quick turnaround or has this been there and I didn’t see it?
We ask you, dear reader, do you think it was a coincidence?! Actually, we think it was but, hey, anything to make blogs look good.
The point here is that permalinks are good and that is why we keep saying that a blog must have permalinks to be a blog. Why such orthodoxy? Because only half the job in blogging is to get the blog post up, the second half is getting it out there, which you cannot really do without permalinks. They are the ‘handles’ attached to the discreet piece of information on your blog that other people can lift out and run around the internet with it.
According to a direct marketing copywriter Robert Bly the answer is no, as blogs are a big waste of time. Oh good. I am glad that’s sorted. Now I can go back to my boring job in the City instead of wasting time on this crazy blog stuff.
Anyway, many have descended on the clueless marketer. Rick E. Bruner does a splendid fisking of the guy’s verbiage:
Blog ROI. He cracks me up. For starters, this is like arguing religion or politics to try to talk to an die-hard direct marketer about anything one click-through removed from a sale. Why not talk ROI about public relations or public speaking or customer service or brand advertising, for that matter.
My sentiments precisely. Then he marshals a long list of blogs that are far from waste of time… Will be bookmarking that one.
Steve Hall’s headline gives away his opinion: Copywriter Misunderstands Weblogs, Feels Threat to Livelihood He also picks up on an interesting point that is very telling indeed:
Bly digs himself in even deeper, “And that’s another of my complaints with blogs in particular and the Web in general: the ease with which people can post and disseminate content.”
Mr. Bly one of the most powerful things the weblog publishing platform does is enable many voices to be heard. It’s called Citizen’s Media. Why should voice a opinion be limited in any way? We can certainly understand why that might threaten your multi-million dollar annual fees earned by writing all those overpriced newsletters for major corporations.
It’s the remix world, where it’s all about how you couple apps to create new ways to get good content into the distributed universe.
- Alex Williams on Skype podcasting
In a nutshell, podcasting is simply online audio content that’s delivered via webfeed. (Background: What’s a webfeed?) Think of it as radio on demand. However, it gives you far more options in terms of content and program style than radio. While the field of radio has generally settled into few established types of programs, podcasting reflects more of the variety that is available on CDs.
Plus, podcasting is like TiVo for radio. That is, you can download whatever programming you want and listen to it whenever and wherever you want. You also generally have full access to the audio archives for the programs you like. This removes time, use, and content restraints.
Yesterday I listened to an interview by Dave Winer, which made it think again the issue of audioblogging and podcasting. Initially, I was not exactly sceptical, more like neutral on the issue of audio blogging. There did not seem much point although, yes, it is cool that a blogger could post sound as well as text. Great, provided his voice did not let the content down and all that. But there is a big difference between audio blogging and podcasting, in my opinion, not in the technology but in their different direction, embodied in their names.
Audio blogging is blogging in sound, the only difference seems to be the format, not the approach. The spoken post is trying to achieve pretty much the same as a written post. Podcasting on the other hand, shifts the emphasis to more broadcasting style, i.e. the format influences the content and there is a distinct reason why something is podcasted rather than text blogged. For example, I can interview someone and rather than posting a transcript I can relay the entire experience. That’s what broadcasting does.
However, blogs do have an important role to play. There were the infrustructure for podcasting to take off much faster than blogging itself did. Blogs have done the work, they have created the ‘last mile’ for other formats and tools to spread. (Indeed, that is why we keep banging on about the network effect blogs enable when it comes to diffusion of information.) By the way, all this and more is discussed in the aforementioned interview. My favourite bit is the one about technology that users understand better than geek usually takes off big. Sounds about right…
According to Mike Rende, a guest writer on SearchEngineWatch that also has a blog, blogs can have a dramatic effect on search engine positioning. Although this is not what makes us go weak in the knees when we talk about blogs, it may be just the kind of information that a blog-friendly CIO, COO or Marketing Director may be able to use to convince his more ‘conservative’ and metrics-oriented colleagues.
Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! explains:
With blogs and RSS feeds, content is updated in real time,” said Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! “And people who want to get the updated information can get them. It is changing the way that people get their information from search engines; it is aggregating information. Since feeds are machine readable, there is no guessing game with constructing pages.
It is the advantage that syndication gives to blogs - by removing the need to visit a specific web site regularly, blogs have increased their traffic. And most importantly:
The power to subscribe and unsubscribe lies solely with the visitor, rather than a service that may - or may not -unsubscribe you from an email subscription when you request it.
It is the inherent search engine friendly nature of blogs that gets the attention of search engine marketers.
Why should search engine marketers care about blogs? “Because they have a different relationship between the user and the content,” said Watlington. “If you think about pages sitting in an index, you are waiting for the search engine to come and query your data. On the other hand, because of the feed’s relationship, the user is right there getting the data almost as fast as you create it.”
“It is an active relationship (blog) vs. a passive relationship,” she continued. “Blogs provide faster access (to data) to an informed and interested audience.”
And that’s just blogs in search engine marketing! They also brighten your teeth while you sleep and remove ring around the collar…
Morgan Stanley in its October Update from the Digital World has a lot of nice and interesting things to say about blogs and as they call it - user generated content and its distribution via RSS feed.
This is good since in the UK most people do not really understand that blogs have ‘serious’ biz applications. If they know about blogging, it is ‘kitty blogs’ or publishing fest for geeks. Sure, there are many of those, but so what? It is how you make blogs and the network work for you…
Either way, the report is unusually (for a serious business run by men in suits, that is) enthusiastic and positive about blogs:
And if there are hundreds or thousands of thought leaders and motivated, interested parties on the Internet with the ability to publish news or insights into any number of local or global issues, then it is safe to say that these blogs often become both the first source of news, a vital proving ground for authors and a source of potential community for other interested parties. For example, you’re probably going to get far more Boston Red Sox specific-content from a blog about the Red Sox made by a die-hard fan than you will from a random sports page, especially if you’re after opinions and community.
The author also gets excited about RSS syndication and Yahoo is mentioned heavily as a result of introducing RSS feeds into the My Yahoo page. (I had a look at it and it looks good - simple and functional, any problems can be put down to beta but it does have the simplicity that is needed for wider take up). I do not think I agree with the business/pricing model based on micropayments or sharing of revenue with Yahoo as the platform publisher. But there are a couple of groovy diagrams that I totally approve of, the business geek I am… Certainly worth a glance.
Rex Hammock, who knows a thing or two about publishing, has not got much time for the ‘big names in consumer maganizes’ that are still sitting in a room discussing how they can get their readers to pay for online content.
Ann Moore, CEO of Time Inc., says, “Find the market and they’ll pay.” (Huh? Where? Like at Wal-Mart?) And then they discuss how users can renew subscriptions online. I hope these people aren’t as clueless as the story by Jon Friedman of CBS.Marketwatch.com makes them sound.
How sad is it that a few days after Google announces it generated almost $1 billion in online advertising revenue in one quarter that these guys are talking about renewing subscriptions online?
Yes, content has to be paid for but your readers are already paying you with their attention, which is a scarce commodity nowadays. Does that mean advertising? Not necessarily, although Google is doing just fine from advertising, thank you very much. The web is about diffusion of information and as long as you have something to distribute, the value will not disappear. The publishing business seems to be particularly vulnerable to the spread of online self-publishing. On the other hand, Rex does not seem to be scared…
GM has launched a blog to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the smallblock engine. Steve Hall has reviewed the blog and reports that the first entry was October 21, discussing how the Chevrolet Corvette became a sports car once it had the GM smallblock V-8 was put under the hood. Another couple posts review smallbock milestones over the last 50 years.
If GM does, in fact, have plans to launch more weblogs, the medium could gain more mainstream corporate awarness and be embraced by many more companies likely sitting on the sidelines pondering the viability of the medium.
Dan Gillmore got an email PR pitch for a company that’s monitoring online discussions on behalf of corporate clients, which contained such pearls as this:
“(PR client) is a market intelligence and media analysis services firm. (PR client) is working with F1000 companies who are using our services to Manage and Monitor Digital Influencers (such as blogs, message boards, user groups, complaint sites, etc.) as an intelligence and threat awareness tool. (Person’s name), CEO could talk to you about ‘What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers’ and ‘How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.’”
and he is not impressed.
This is a remarkably myopic view of the blogosphere, but it reflects what I frequently hear from PR folks.
One of the ‘original flavour’ ones lets himself heard in the comments:
FactOne: Bloggers most often do not hold Journalism degrees and are therefore not schooled properly
Fact Two: Bloggers most often are not affiliated with a news outlet and are therefore not required to adhere to journalistic ethics and standards
Fact Three: Shock and sensationalism are the Mother’s Milk of most blogs.
Fact One: Schooled properly in what? Disguising (very thinly) their biases? How exactly does a journalism degree make a journalist out of anyone?
Fact Two: Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, Maureen Dowd and many others are affiliated with major news outlets but that did not seem to help them adhere to journalistic ethics and standards, whatever that means…
Fact Three: Oh yeah, and newspapers shy away from scandal and sensation. Anybody told them?
This is what Steve Hall of Adrants has to say about this:
The key element that public relations professionals do not understand about blogging and all Citizen’s Media is that conversation can not be manage[d] - it can be joined.
Any company that thinks they can “manage” the conversations taking place through weblogs and other conversation-enabled media is asking for a backlash so powerful, the company could be brought to its knees. In this country and in any free country, people are not told what to say, they are asked why they said it and asked to converse about it. If a public relations entity seeks to influence thought, it should enter the conversation - not attempt to ban the conversation. (Make sure you read the insanely short-sited comment from Flackboy Kevin)
Many commenters descent on that Flackboy Kevin, here is one that puts it nicely:
PR is so often about lying to look good in the face of contrary facts that many of us look to blogs to get a much more honest story. You should know about this phenomenon, because it’s like the difference between a spashy ad campaign and word of mouth. Which one has staying power and why? Answer that and you’ll understand blogs.
This is just annoying. Nothing more, nothing less. No religious discussion about the nature of blogs, just simply a sigh… A CNET article about moviemakers taking Segway on cross-country tour, describes their website as ‘blog-based’.
It seems that anything that is journal-like or in some sort of chronological order or is updated more frequently than your average webmaster can usually manage becomes ‘blog’ or ‘blog-based’. As I said, annoying.
This revolution is about the demand side getting the power to supply. That’s what the Net, free software, Linux, open source, blogging, podcasting, indy music, indy movies and every other movement growing out of connected independence is about. The Net is a whole new marketplace, a land of the free and the home of the smart, the talented and the enterprising. It doesn’t matter how big and fat and old and well-connected your industrial system is. If it doesn’t adapt to the Net’s environment, it’ll choke on its own exhaust.
- Doc Searls on Federal Plumbing Commission
Blogging is yesterday news, today the big thing is moblogging...
This is how CNET’s Rafe Needleman opened his interview with Samuli Koski-Lammi who demonstrates Blogia, a moblogging feature for a Symbian phone, at Demo Mobile. Bloggia supports 80% of the current blogging software packages. You can see the video cast here.
Moblogging is a great feature for all types of bloggers - commercial or non-commercial. Holiday snaps or better content for your company blog. The other day we talked to a niche travel company with prestigous travel writers on its books and the most obvious value added for their blog would be have their contributors moblogging. It is even more immediate than blogging and should be taking off even more what with Nokia’s Lifeblog compatibility with TypePad.
I do need a new phone anyway.
Guillaume du Gardier announces a conference on corporate blogging New Communications Forum 2005 on his blog.
If you are considering starting a corporate blog, want to learn how to maximize your current blog, or simply want to learn more about how blogging and other new communications tools such as wikis and RSS newsfeeds are becoming crucial tools for your communications toolkit, we’ve got a conference for you.
New Communications Forum 2005 will consist of an in-depth, two-day intensive workshop for senior communications professionals, taught by experienced PR and marketing professionals, who are also successful bloggers. The event will also feature practitioner panels, keynote addresses, and a hands-on demo area. Our goal is for attendees to leave the conference confident they can not only start blogging immediately, but also convince their corporations and/or clients that they should blog as well.
I guess that means a trip to Paris.
Scoble has a good post about corporate fear of blogging, which he sees as an an artifact of a management system that doesn’t empower its employees to act on behalf of customers. Many people have been asking him for ways to convince their boss to ‘get’ blogging. Scoble’s answer is one word: Kryptonite.
If you don’t know the story, do a Google search for Kryptonite and “Bic Pen”. We’ll wait.
We just watched the destruction of an American brand. 75% know about it. Why? Because of one or two weblogs and the new word-of-mouth network. Yes, Engadget and Gizmodo do have that kind of power. Engadget alone has 250,000 of the most influential readers the world has ever seen.
My second question is: “What have you heard from Kryptonite about this issue?”
Not a single person has been able to tell me the answer yet (yes, they have an official response on the home page of their site, but no one in my audiences has been able to articulate the answer to me). Why not?
I went looking for the answer. I searched Google for “Kryptonite Weblog.” None found. “Kryponite blog.” None found. I went looking for executive names. None found. So, I couldn’t look up whether any of the execs had a blog.
Only a press release on the home page. No way to have a conversation. No way to tell the company off. I looked for comments from the company on Engadget and BoingBoing. I didn’t find any, but maybe they are there somewhere. Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati, tracked the Kryptonite story in the blogosphere and did some interesting graphic analysis.
Now this is a powerful example. There are more every day although not as visible and so easy to point at. For us, bloggers, this is basic stuff that we have been learning all along with daily blogging. But how do you explain this process and the emergent mind-shift to someone who has never heard of blogging? That is a challenge we face every time we get a questions “So what’s this ‘blogging’ anyway?” It is astonishing at times that there are many people in large companies who still haven’t heard about blogs although they may be in positions where it should be their job to know about blogging. Usually their job descriptions are something like head of interactive media or community managers, or customer relations etc. Sigh.
But there is more from Scoble, namely six reasons why companies should let their employees blog:
- People don’t trust corporations.
- People don’t like talking to corporations.
- That old “markets are conversations” thing.
- Which is more believeable? (A press release from, say, Ford Motor Company, or a few blog entries from the people who designed the new Ford Mustang’s powertrain.)
- Blogs build customer evangelists.
- Blogs build market momentum and get adoption.
Responding to Scoble’s observations is Michael Gartenberg on Analyst Weblog. He says that there may be good reason to be afraid to let employees blog:
There are real issues when employees blog. Some companies have very specific legal regulations what they can say or what they can’t say. Like it or not we live in a litigious society and words as we know can come back to haunt us.
He also challenges the example:
The Kryptonite example isn’t a good example either, there were issues discovered and the company chose to be silent. A weblog wouldn’t have changed that and they could have reacted without one.
I think he dismissed the benefits of the kind of communication a blog would enable too fast. A blog would have changed the way people perceive the company and how much credibility direct and immediate communication can generate and diffuse many negative reactions. Silence should really not be an option for a company in crisis, what with the flood of information, their problems are going to be discussed. Why let others tell your story? The company can become the leader of the news on the crisis (as it should be) and its communications instead of becoming a flustered, sweating and evasive victim of the hounding media (or increasingly blogs).
There is also the issue of organisational culture and as Michael Gartenberg points out not all are suitable. Agreed. He then identified three types of blogs associated with a company:
- Using blogs and other tools to monitor the company and brands.
- Official corporate blogs.
- Employees personally blogging but identified with the company.
The first is just common sense and staying on top of new tools. The second one is what we do. Blogging guidelines and training are essential, they bring out the best in potential bloggers and keep at bay the worst.
They need to often be careful of language used that can have ramifications down the road. It’s not just as simple as getting a copy of MT and putting out your message to the world. Establishing policy and knowing who is saying what is critical. There are worse things in the world than not having a weblog and corps are right to tread lightly and to carefully establish policies and rules before they jump in.
Exactly, the legal dos and don’ts now need to be explained to blogging employees. To me it can only be a good thing to treat them as intelligent agents and educate them in the consequences of their actions. The word empowerement springs to mind…
As for the third one, employee personal blogs that are not directly sanctioned by the company is indeed trickier, however, as Michael points out a policy on personal blogs should go some way to manage the potential risks.
All in all, the benefits of blogging outweigh the risks, which is not to say that the risks should not be mitigated. That is why we have spend considerable time trying to understand the legal implication of this new medium and its impact on company communication. Oh, and have a section on bloglaw manned by our trusty blawger, David Carr.
Steve Rubel says open source marketing is the future and uses Mozilla ‘campaign’ to build momentum behind Firefox as an example:
Mozilla today launched a community effort to secure enough funds to take out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times. The full-page ad will include the names of everyone who supports the campaign along with a message about the benefits/features of the awesome Firefox browser. An individual contribution of $30 will get your name included in the ad ($10 student rate).
Now that’s an interesting way to go about it. I just think that full-page ads in The New York Times (or any other newspaper for that matter) are a waste of money but that’s a different point to the one Steve is making:
This is a big sign of things to come. Eventually tons of innovative open source marketing/public relations campaigns will sprout up online. They will be owned by folks who share a common passion and goal. They will rely on the Web and best practices gleaned from innovators like Mozilla and Howard Dean. Depending on how you look at this - this is either a huge threat or an opportunity for the public relations industry.
Obviously, you know that I say it’s an opportunity. The days of throwing a release on the wire and seeing what comes back are over. It’s time the PR industry begins to apply the new, low cost tools that are popping up everyday; tools like Skype, PubSub, iPodder, TypePad, del.icio.us and more. Firefox is re-writing the marketing playbook and is showing the world how open source marketing can work.
An interesting development, at least from our point of view - CNet news.com reports that the SCO Group plans to launch a Web site to chronicle its legal battles relating to Unix and Linux, as part of an effort to counterbalance Groklaw.net, which was set up to poke holes in the company’s legal claims. Blake Stowell of SCO says:
The site will be designed to be informational for people desiring to follow the company’s litigation. We’ve received a lot of feedback from people saying, ‘I would like to follow what’s going on, but I would prefer to not have to visit Groklaw.
As we all know Groklaw is a blog. It is run by paralegal Pamela Jones and provides legal filings and detailed analyses of SCO’s legal cases with IBM, Novell, AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler and Red Hat. It is a place where open-source fans who generally disparage SCO’s legal attack congregate. The fact that SCO feels the need to ‘counterbalance’ the blog’s function and influence should say something about the effectiveness of putting forward one’s own story using an interactive and dynamic tool such as blog.
The funny thing is that SCO does not get it, surprise, surprise and will not go the whole blog, er hog. Unlike Groklaw, SCO will not enable comments - another surprise, surprise - to let others express their opinions on their site and its main function will be featuring an archive of legal filings, hearing dates and SCO positions on various matters. Simply thrilling.
He publishes his menus, events, blogs about events, adds pictures, even moblogs. It looks like there are contented customers in there somewhere.
Sean Callahan writes about blogs and the conversations they enable at BtoB Magazine. My favourite bit:
“My interest in blogs in general flows out of my perception that society has become massively connected,” said Simon Phipps, Sun Microsystems’ chief technology evangelist, who has three blogs himself. “I agree with `The Cluetrain Manifesto’: Markets have become conversations.”
The implication is that markets, prior to the rise of the Internet, were essentially monologues. Today, with the rise of technology in general and the Internet in particular, markets are increasingly becoming dialogues, and blogs represent a perfect example of the trend.
via Steve Rubel
Venture capital conferences about weblogs and RSS are like Republican conferences on the environment.
- Dave Winer, Scripting News
ProBlogger offer tips for bloggers about How to explode your blog’s traffic by writing Articles. Well, nothing new there.. but wait, he means them to write articles for other publications e.g. ezines, that will then give ‘free exposure’ to his blog and drive audience to it. I do not understand. Why not engage other bloggers by writing quality articles on your blog instead, as God intended when he created blog?
This seems to completely ignore the whole network of bloggers and their audiences. There may be many blogs with very distributed traffic, which makes one’s ‘blog promotion’ harder in the traditional marketing sense but so what? Every blog has its own corner of the blogosphere. Getting its name and content around that world, can be the most effective ‘word of mouth’ you can imagine. Why? Because it’s credible.
via BL Ochman
A great article by Mark Gimein in the New York Metro about struggling advertising industry:
Just as years ago advertisers realized that banging audiences over and over with a catchy tagline, ad agencies are currently overwhelmed with the suspicion that the language of contemporary ads - the catchy tagline, the celebrity put in a funny situation, the twist ending, even the TV commercial itself - doesn’t work like it used to.
via Brand Autopsy
The most interesting bits were the fact that 3 out of 4 bloggers were women (74.2%), and that the three top motivations for blogging were self-expression (82.4%), Social interaction (59.5%), Entertainment (51.7%).
There was a bloggging phenomenon I never came across before - blog stealing . Apparently, this is a very frequent occurrence in the blog.pl blogs. A “thief” would hack into a blog.pl blog and start posting for himself proclaiming that it was “his blog now”. Many times the original blogger would go back into blog, change the password & then reclaim the blog space.
Weird. But it takes all sorts, as they say.
Adland decided to list 70 odd links in a new blooming niche of advertising blogs. These are not blogs advertising anything but dedicated to advertising, PR, branding and snarking the ad blogs. These are the ones that got awarded a Gold Star:
The Big Blog Company blog looks a bit different today. Well spotted. Let me tell you what we have got. This is the blog. Then there is much content and juicy goodness around that can be accessed via the navigation bar and any place you care to click. We have info about our products, about us, with pictures (I know, I know), some background info about blogs and the blogosphere and blog related stuff. And probably an extensive range of twidly little bugs and things that probably don’t work quite right, but a magnanimous person like you will not make a big deal out of that, right? Why? Because we have a hippo at the top. It’s round and cuddly (unlike us) and has a story behind it. A good story in fact, a kind of story every company should have. And a clever metaphor. So go and read the story. It’s great. Did I mention how good the story is…
Oh, and no comments moderation other than captcha and our eagle-sharp eye for manually entered spam. So fire away. Be nice. At least to start off with.
In the last few days I came across three more blogs by people who probably would not be blogging, if they did think it is a waste of time and that there is something to this ‘blog’ thing. They are all busy and influential in their spheres. Let the blogosphere be another one for them.
Soros blog looks like someone explained to Mr Soros what a blog does and he started one without actually reading or interacting with any. There is no immediate interaction but you can email your comments or questions in and if you are lucky may even find it (and the answer) as the next ‘blog post’.
Richard Edelman’s Independent Thinking has the ‘personal’ touch and we already learn that he will be blogging at the brisk 6am. The only time any of us up at such an ungodly hour is when we are travelling (cheaply and early) or when we haven’t gone to sleep yet (stuff to do with California or just working really hard.). And there is some strangeness in the comments section - you get the whole post again in the little windonw before you can read the comments.
Esther Dyson’s Release 4.0 is a great read with the personality really coming through. And in a good way.
Hm, it strikes me that none of them use a known standard blog software. I wonder why? Also, none of them have a blogroll… Don’t want or need to be part of the network?
Doc Searls unearths some stuff he has written in pre-blog era.
Marketing communications used to be like bowling: the idea was to hit distant targets by rolling things out at them. You knew you wouldn’t knock them all down every time, but with some skill you could hit most of them, especially if you put some kind of spin into your delivery.
But every marcom alley was still a one-way street. It was not the pins’ job to roll the ball back at the bowler. Well, the Internet puts an end to this game. The Internet is what Howard Rheingold calls a “many-to-many” medium. On the Internet, everybody gets to go bowling. The targets of marcom’s missiles are finally in a position to roll some messages of their own. But chances are, they won’t be interested in rolling them back at marcom. They’ll go straight after the parts of companies that are used to having marcom do their pitching for them. They’ll send emails to top executives. They’ll post notes in engineering newsgroups. They’ll root out the facts behind marcom’s well-crafted claims.
Now marcom needs to play a new game - one based on the interactive and (soon to be) ubiquitous nature of Internet connections.
... described as the companion blog to Flickr, almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.
Media Guerilla points out:
The Flickr blog looks like the company’s primary marketing tool, which is interesting. With a sound blogging strategy in place, young companies can achieve so much more exposure than previously possible.
You don’t say.
Doc Searls takes on branding…
I hate the term branding. Same with consumer, audience and market when it’s modified by target.
He explains his statements further:
And yeah, I do believe that branding matters, only so far as being clear and consistent about your name (or your product’s name) and what it means. After that, marketing needs to be about conversations and relationships (which is what markets are all about). I have lots of ideas about how to do that, but none of them involve leveraging anything from traditional marketing.
Indeed. And he certainly is not alone.
Robert Paterson has a link to a review of a book called Hope is Not a Method written by Gordon Sullivan and Michael Harper. It is considered to be one of the most important books in military and business management.
The book is an illuminating account of what it actually takes to build a learning organization in practice. Contrary to most conventional thinking, which says results come from good plans of planners executed by trained and compliant managers, it suggests that a learning organization is one designed to be successful in spite of plans which are imperfect, even though they are the best possible in an atmosphere of rapidly changing missions and resources. Good plans in a changing environment are those evolved during their accomplishment by those mandated to fulfill them, who must be willing to examine and learn from what worked and didn’t work at each stage of the way.
The authors articulate some rules for successful renewal. The first three of these bear repeating here.
Rule One: change is hard work. “Leading change means doing two jobs at once - getting the organization through today and getting the organization into tomorrow. . . . Change will not spring full blown from the work of a committee or consultant. . . You have to spend a lot of time communicating, clarifying, generating enthusiasm, and listening (including listening to negative feedback, resistance and general disagreement).”
Rule two: leadership begins with values. “Shared values express the essence of an organization.” They are what binds an organization together when practically everything else is changing.
Rule three: intellectual leads physical. “Strategic leadership is the front-end work- the in-depth, serious thinking by a leader and his or her team- that results in the creation of an intellectual framework for the future. . . Without the tough up-front work of intellectual change, physical change will be unfocused, random, and unlikely to succeed.”
And the final pearl of wisdom that will resonate with most CEOs…
The toughest part of starting is starting. This is especially so for leaders pre-occupied with incidents and situations which are pushed to the top of the decision tree because the old strategic framework is far out-of-line with the actual demands of the time. Leaders are apparently too busy to lead. Thus, the first phase of the renewal journey could be called: “Restoring leadership to the leaders.”
There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things; because the innovator will have for enemies all who have done well under the old conditions and only lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new
Ain’t that the truth…
A very interesting ‘matrix’ for understading the issues associated with introducing innovation based on technology. Dave Wilcox has developed a framework for clarifying the challenges and explains:
The point of it is that you need to deal with cultural change as well as technology change at the same time. If you try and bring technology in without commitment from the top, regard to working practices and so on, you’ll get resistance… or lots of systems that don’t work. And if you try and innovate without using appropriate tools you could be frustrated in your purpose.
He also makes a valid but frustrating point about introducing blogs and similar collaborative tools to companies:
In discussion about the barriers to introducing blogs and similar tools, there was some amazement that senior management could possible fail to see the benefit of such powerful collaborative tools. My feeling was that these managers weren’t so dumb, and could spot something that potentially challenged their control a mile off, even if they didn’t quite understand how it work.
Yes, but the point is that command and control don’t work no more…
David Weinberger blogs his impressions from a World Economic Forum meeting in NYC earlier in the week. He was asked to talk to the Entertainment and Media section, and boy, he did not like what he encountered:
...these people are thrashing. They’re floundering. They’re desperate to find a way in which their organizations still add value. They are in denial but, it seemed to me, they know that there’s just about nothing that the market wants from them. For example, at one point someone said, “Content is king.” I replied that judging from the content they’re producing, marketing is king; that’s where their real value is. Further, I said, on the Internet, connection is king. But then they want to know how to “monetize” connection. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you understand how monetizing it can kill it.
Third, they believe they’re responding to the market. They do not recognize that their market has abandoned them. They think that file-sharing is an aberration. In some unthought way, I think they actually believe that the legislation they’re back[ing] is something the market wants. They maintain this thought this by not actually thinking it out loud.
There is much more and it is depressing. The conclusion?
These are smart people and I liked talking with them. They were willing to listen. Some, in fact, even agree to varying degrees. But they are riding beasts that are in agony, and the Internet will be a sticky stain on the bottom of their massive hooves.
We are doomed.
But in his talk, David represented the Net well. He made a point to the BigCon (big content) companies that they do not really understand the “customers” and probably the whole ‘internet thing’:
I said that I understand that to them the Net looks like a medium through which content passes, some of which people aren’t paying for. But, (sez I) their customers aren’t “consuming” content. We’re not consuming anything. We’re listening to music, We’re watching video streams, We’re talking with friends. To call it content is to miss why it matters to Big Content’s customers.
By the way, the official topic of the session was how to “monetize communities”. David is right, that’s evil.
Someone send an email to Seth Godin asking for advice about how to spread the news of his business that he is being build from the ground up. Since I know what that’s like I was good to hear this:
Most successes (in books, music, movies, politics, non-profits, etc.) don’t come from where the established wisdom tells us they’re going to come from. No one bet on Phish or Boing Boing or Google or Dan Brown.
Yes, it looks like the big guys (McKinsey, Steven King, General Foods) always manage to win, but what’s really happening is that the big guys slowly fade away and the real growth comes from where no one expected it.
In a world where things are viral, you’re more likely to succeed with passive networking (strangers recommending you) than the old school active kind. In other words, make great stuff, do your homework, build your audience and when you’ve got something worth talking about, people will talk about it.
Yes, Oprah is still far more powerful than Yahoo. But at the same time, Drudge and Jeff Bezos and Doc Searls are way more influential than their offline cousins.
- Seth Godin
A warning to advertisers and marketers was issued by Intelliseek CMO Pete Blackshaw who points out that marketers cannot afford to ignore weblogs that have become a powerful influence on the brands.If a marketer makes a claim, they had better well be able to back it up one hundred percent otherwise it will be shredded to pieces by “copy-cops at your doorstep”.
Can a wireless provider spending millions to tout customer service escape scrutiny when bloggers can readily provide links to thousands of disgruntled consumers providing evidence to the contrary? Can a pharma company afford to gloss over the fine print in advertisement when bloggers elect to super-size the untold message? Can an auto manufacturer pushing a “safety” message on TV risk having consumers type their brand into Google and have it punch back a loaded shelf space of contradictory messages by consumers?
Bloggers are now serving as fact-checking, credibility-screening, gap-filling counterweights to traditional media.
Well, yes, it’s fact-checking-your-ass time!
Hm, Mr Blackshaw, for a man who seems to get the power of the blogs, he sure uses some very out-dated terms, such as consumer.
Marketing has forever become a conversation - a dialog between marketer and consumer. With weblogs, it’s been proven consumers are ready to have that dialog. It’s not so clear whether marketers are ready to join that conversation.
I don’t think so, but come on, prove me wrong…
Thanks to Steve Rubel, here are the highlights from iBreakfast on the Business of Blogging that took place on Wednesday 22nd September. There is so much good blog stuff and I will attempt to select only those bits that made me go ‘yes’ and punch the air. Brace yerselves.
- Big advantages over traditional media (not corporations, not generalists, highly networked) - networked nature of medium means Bloggers are 10 times more productive per keystroke than traditional journalists
- Saw an ad on a bus shelter this morning saying “The rules have changed but the game is the same” - but now, he feels the rules are changing so much the game itself is changing too
- Blogging is so profoundly different – we will see it drive a revolution - a revolution that will upset an array of applecarts (traditional media; the core principles of marketing; how governments and other entities interact with constituencies; etc.)
- Blogging works bottom-up; as a result, organizations that want to adopt it must shift to a bottom up mode as well (important warning to those who go into blogging thinking corporate business as usual (e.g., hiring someone to ghost-blog for CEO); stories abound of people/companies being called out for mis-using blogs - 2These attempts will fail profoundly")
- “The world is made up of small markets”
- How can business apply blogging?
- Use blogs to open authentic dialogues with customers (look at MS or Macromedia as great examples)
- Burn all brochureware and let the service/product people converse directly with constituents re: plans and goals
- Develop a community of those who use products
- Build blog networks inside organizations to make communication more efficient (forget the org charts; let teams build from bottom up)
- The ‘old saw’ that a ‘brand is a promise’ is changing – now it should read: ‘a brand is an invitation to become involved’
- We are going through a fundamental shift in the way we relate to the network and the way we communicate
- This change is not blogs per se – blogs are both growing out of this shift and being driven by it
- Today the market is moving toward new patterns of accessing information: PubSub addressing “the other half of the search problem”
- He outlined retrospective vs. prospective - Need to bring prospective approach into overall toolkit of search capabilities
- Talked about how to use blogs to promote person or company, as well as how his organization uses blogs internally for project management / collaboraton
- Noted that blogs can draw high ranks of search engines
- Noted that instant publishing, cheap and easy software, no need for programming knowledge makes barriers to entry low
- Internally, blogs make managing communications easier for his teams
Anecdote: his programmers need to submit daily status reports. Instead of reading them all in email, they publish internally via RSS which he reviews and can search via his RSS reader.
Told you. Marvellous stuff. We have got to start doing something like this in London. Watch this space…
Joe Kraus, one of the founders of Excite , has started a blog called Bnoopy, an entrepreneurship blog on September 14. Already there are two riveting posts about persistence in starting up and getting ahead with business you believe in.
The first is a story about Excite and its concept-searching technology and about meeting Vinod Khosla who funded Excite. After many a presentation to VC firms, the Excite team were still looking for funding:
By then, our deal had developed a certain “smell”—smart guys with interesting technology but an uncertain business plan. The demo to Vinod started off like they all did, but about 10 minutes into the meeting things got very different. He interrupted
“Can the technology scale? can you search a large database?”
Big Pause. It’s not the money question. No one has ever asked us this before. Ummm.
“We don’t know, we can’t afford a hard drive big enough to test.”
Then, an amazing thing happened. Ten minutes into this meeting, his first introduction to the company and us, he pulls out his his cell phone, dials his assistant and buys us a $10,000, 10Gb hard drive.
How refreshing. Although the heady days of dot.com and technology spending were nigh, this does not make this approach less effective. In fact, in the long run, it probably saves a lot more money.
But the phrase to take away from the blog post is “unencumbered by reality"…
The second post is taking persistence to a whole new level, relaying the story of Netscape putting the destinations of the NetSearch and NetDirectory buttons up for bid.
Fact 1: There were at least three bidders for the two buttons: us, Infoseek and MCI (they had a yet-to-be-launched web search and directory product that, I think, was going to be called Genuine).
Fact 2: We had a little less than $1,000,000 in the bank.
Fact 3: We were screwed.
To find out what happened, here’s the rest of the story.
via Venture Blog
There’s a headline in there somewhere. “Get Wasted. Waste Your Client’s Ad Budget.”
That $50 billion figure represent 18.8 percent of the total $266 billion U.S. ad spend as estimated by Universal McCann. The ARF says the two biggest causes of wasted media spend are ads carrying the “wrong” message and buys being made with “wrong” timing. ARF suggest after recovering from “morning after” syndrome, you walk right up to your creative director and account director and say, “Dammit, we need to test this creative before it runs!” Yes. Test. What a novel concept.
To test or to engage. That is the question.
Update: SMLXL’s Alan Moore has more good stuff on this.
The CBS apologist was asked about the role bloggers played in propelling the story to national scandal, he dismissed them as little more than journalist-wannabes, sitting in their underwear in front of their PCs, typing whatever thoughts/opinions/rants they had between trips to the refrigerator.
My first thought was if bloggers had no credibility then why was this guy on my television, defending CBS?
Even more interesting is his view on what it means for the big media reporting and journalism in general.
They function as a vast, ad-hoc quality-control department, reflecting the entire political spectrum. Suddenly readers can (and do) subject reporters to unprecedented levels of scrutiny. Facts are analyzed and checked against their sources, quotes deconstructed, grammar parsed - all of this done in public view.
This isn’t the first time that blogs have kept an issue alive. The first blog-driven controversy caused the fall of Trent Lott when bloggers located quotes from previous speeches that many believed were racist. Another led to The New York Times op-ed page instituting a policy on corrections for its columnists.
Whether a blog leans left, right or sideways, as a collective force they are working to keep reporters honest. Journalists may not like their methods - having your work sliced and diced in public is no fun - but the end result may be better-quality news.
It is entirely consistent that the birth (and subsequent rapid growth) of the digital age should give rise to big, towering arguments about the law of Copyright and whether or not such a concept could, should or will survive this new technological frontier.
As a lawyer, I have been presented with many arguments against the entire concept of Copyright as a legal and enforceable principle. Some of these arguments have a sounder basis than others. But, of all the views I have encountered, few strike me as strange and ill-thought out as this one:
If I go up to Jack Valenti or Dan Glickman and ask them if I have the right to copy this DVD, they’ll say no. I can show them the receipt and they’ll still say no. If they really want to insist that I don’t have any right to make a copy, even after I explain the physics of the situation to them, then I really ought to ask them for my money back.
Now that I think about it, this could explain why I don’t have a DVD player at home and have never owned a single DVD. Ever. It could also be that I’m just cheap. But maybe, just maybe, it’s because my inner physicist is subconciously offended by any business model that is in conflict with the fundamental laws of the universe…
If the author’s “inner physicist” is offended by business models which run contrary to the laws of the universe then I suggest that his “inner physicist” needs to get out a bit more.
Business models (like the concept of copyright itself) are an abstraction but there is nothing wrong with laws (or models) based on abstractions. Indeed, our entire tradition of law is based on expository abstraction. Companies are merely notional and entirely artificial. You cannot touch them, feel them or sense them. Yet they have a legal personality that enables them to do business. Likewise the law of contract itself is an abstraction and entirely open to endless re-working and manipulation. Contractual obligations need only be certain and made in consideration of reciprocal obligations but I do not recall reading anything about the laws of the universe being involved.
We know that some animals devour their young. Presumably that is a law of the universe.
I do think that the recording industry, in particular, has responded to the digital age with a huge degree of ineptitude. I think (indeed, I expect) that they will have to radically re-define their business models in order to adapt and survive. But the laws of the universe have nothing to do with it.
Pontificating about blogs in corporations today on the CEO bloggers club…
This may be older news but relevant nevertheless. The Daily News reports that the movie “Garden State” is taking on cult-like status among young adults in part because of the role Zach Braff’s blog played in marketing the film.
I had a look at the blog several days ago and the comments section is usually in the 1,000 plus figure. Usually comments are not an indication of much, however, in this case it shows that Zach Braff has managed to engage not only his audience but created a strong community around his blog.
The gimmick is smart PR, allowing Braff to continue the conversation he started in the movie and drawing fans back for another look.
And take it from a PR professional:
Remember how the Blair Witch Project took off like wildfire a few years back? It was a seminal event for online viral marketing. Well, blogs are making this easier and engaging for both the directors and the audiences. Way to go Zach. Show the big boys how it’s done.
This is what I am hoping too. I am in the process of explaining to a film producer how blogs could help him promote his movie. I do not think he knows what a blog is although in the last few days I sent him links to the Garden State, QT diary (whether real or fake, it is still a great example), Jersey Girl Diary and some other ones to show him what blogs are.
A blog could become the smartest and most effective way to halt (or at least complement) the spiralling cost of marketing that can swallow up huge proportion of any film budget. There is a sort of Laffer curve of revenue and marketing spend - past a certain point the marketing cost will make it virtually impossible to make profit. By the way, I did not come up with this, they did.
As for film blogs, the old value-for-value rule applies. Give the fans something interesting and they will come back for more. A production blog is a natural start. Another film producer friend of mine created an ‘accidental’ production blog for his film Den of Lions - I believe the original purpose was to give his crew’s nearest and dearest a chance to keep up with them while filming in Hungary. The blog’s audience spread well beyond those involved in the film.
I can imagine following up on the production blog with updates on post-production and news of distribution etc. There is always a story behind producing a film, usually the nerve-wracking, last-minute-problem-fixing, people exploding crisis management kind, but nevertheless, oddly satisfying once the damn film is out. Or so I’ve heard.
I will be trying to make the point about how blogs can help him reach his audience, Real Soon Now. Will blog what comes out of it.
It’s more fun to be a Pirate than to join the Navy.
A quote from Steve Jobs has been taken on as a metaphor for brand culture and brand building by Adam Morgan in his book The Pirate Inside. I just finished reading the excerpt from the book, the Introduction: Necessary Pirate.
You see, what is interesting to me is that he [Steve Jobs] doesn’t talk about processes; he talks about a type of people. He doesn’t talk about saying; he talks about being. And I find those two distinctions interesting and important. The idea that perhaps it’s the kind of people that we are or choose to be, individually or collectively, that will make the difference to our futures. Perhaps we shouldn’t focus so much on the processes we use, or the tools we have, or the architecture we discuss, or the organizational structure we find ourselves in but on who we are and how we behave.
Brilliant, simply brilliant. And compulsory reading for all around me. Please indulge me while I am having my ‘told-you-so’ moment.
...so I wrote to the company’s marketing address asking them for an evaluation license. It’s one of the perks of writing about software. I get an email back asking for more information about me, and the marketing person wants to set up a meeting with the CEO so I can ask questions.
But after a frustrating and pointless conversation with the PR person:
Then I realize that she really knows nothing, and that she probably doesn’t even work for the company. She says “we” in an odd, insincere way. She’s an outsourced public relations person. I’ve dealt with this situation a lot. She probably runs her own boutique public relations shop, so at the same time that she’s supposed to be selling the product to me, she’s trying to retain her position of authority as the owner of a company.
And the rousing finale:
Eventually I just hang up on her. For a couple minutes I ponder if I should hate this company too, and that’s not what a real public relations person wants anyone to think after a meeting.
Now, I realise that the episode was just PR done badly and one should not judge the entire industry by it. The incident does highlight that the industry uses standard practices that inevitably leads to a gaping void between the company’s ‘message’ and its hired messangers and its audience and customers. So, as Steve Rubel sums it up:
Another day, another victim.
A very interesting project called Eyetrack has been conducted by the Poynter Institute asking what people see when they view a news website or multimedia feature. Is it what the site’s designers expect? ... Perhaps not.
The Eyetrack III study literally looked through the eyes of 46 people to learn how they see online news. Here is the review the study’s key findings. For example:
We observed that with news homepages, readers’ instincts are to first look at the flag/logo and top headlines in the upper left. The graphic below shows the zones of importance we formulated from the Eyetrack data. While each site is different, you might look at your own website and see what content you have in which zones.
Advertising is also taken through its paces:
We found that ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations. Right side ads didn’t do as well, and ads at the bottom of the page were seen, typically, by only a small percentage of people.
These are but two highlights. Prove them right and read the whole thing, here are the directions:
I guess that was to be expected. First, it was techie geeks, then political obsessives and journalists, followed by ‘turned’ PR and marketing wonks. And now CEOs and other executive fat cats are onto the blogosphere.
The aim of this Club is to gather CEOs who believe in the blogosphere and its extraodinary potential and to offer them a place to share with other companies leaders the experimentation they are conducting thanks to weblogs. Corporate blogging, CRM, marketing, PR, internal communication, are part of the different ways blogs are being used today, but as we all know, we are only at the begining. And who is abble to say how weblogs will affect our business tomorrow?
So far, so good. There are two ideas behind this new club:
- Creating an online resource available for every visitor who might want to learn/share how blogs could take part in a company’s development.
- Organizing bi-monthly meetings every first thursday evening of the month in Paris to meet in off line sessions.
I guess, we will have to organise them in London too. UK companies and their CEOs have some catching up to do with the bloggers across the channel, as this wiki page listing CEO blogs would suggest. Please email me at adriana at bigblog dot net, if you are an executive and blogging about your business or you know of any who do so.
I have been using Skype, the popular VoIP application. We run parts of our business using it, talking to our designers and techies in different countries. I have introduced several friends, clients and associates to it, who after initial incredulity, happily joined the ranks of the Skyping.
So, I was not surprised that James Fallows gave it the thumbs up.
Skype’s distinction is that, for now at least, it is the easiest, fastest and cheapest way for individual customers to begin using VoIP. It works this way:
First, you download free software from skype.com. Skype runs on most major operating systems, including Windows XP and 2000, Linux, Pocket PC for portable devices and, as of this summer, Mac OS. On three of the computers on which I installed it, it ran with no tweaking at all. On the fourth, I had to change one setting for the sound card, following easy instructions on the site.
What is the secret of Skype’s success? Network effect and open and free access, which despite being the watchwords of the dot.com fiasco, are increasingly validated in this dot.net era.
Skype illustrates network economics in the purest form: free connections within the network become more valuable to each user as more users sign up. Because of the system’s peer-to-peer design, loosely related to the Kazaa file-sharing program that Mr. Zennstrom and Skype’s other co-founder, Janus Friis, invented four years ago, the system scales well - that is, it doesn’t bog down as more users join. The peer-to-peer design also allows it to work behind most Internet firewalls.
However, there seems no reason for Skype not to make it even bigger, other than eager regulators and entrenched telecoms rising to the VoIP ‘challenge’.
In the meantime, let’s Skype into the sunset.
via Boing Boing
Blabble is a blog research and analysis tool, giving companies access to the buzz of blogs.
We parse millions of blogs giving you access to influential thoughts on your brand dedicated to making sense out of the seemingly endless supply of blog information.
Interesting. They do not currently accept any new applications at this time while they are upgrade their infrastructure. But they will be accepting users again starting 6th September. But so far, so good. Let’s see what happens.
via BL Ochman
Update: Just signed up for the service, will report later.
Though the blog introduces Cindy Schmelky, 15, from Wayne, Penn with a picture and a quote “I love ringtones more than life”, she’s really just a figurehead for those articles as various members of the company’s team write them, according to Ringingphone co-owner Bob Bentz.
This is the first time (to the best of my knowledge) that a ringtone company has created a blog and though it does somewhat bring to mind Dr. Pepper / 7 Up’s infamous Raging Cow blog campaign - in that who’s really blogging is misleading - the content is not all self-serving, but is mixed the with some interesting articles from this industry.
That a ringtone company has a blog is a great idea. But there is no need to mislead readers into thinking the blog is written by a 15 year-old, when it’s not.
I can only agree with that. It is remarkable how the traditional marketing seems to prefer buzz generated by deceit and marketing ploys rather than attempt to create it by genuine engagement.
via Doc Searls
A very good overview of the difference between an interactive medium (blog) and ‘interactive medium’ (forum).
Commoncraft does some useful analysing focusing on Locus of Control, Authoring of New Topics, Intent, Responses, Tools, Chronology, Personal Connections, Pollution Control, Content Buckets and the future:
I believe that weblogs and message boards *are* different—different enough to happily exist together in the same online community web site. My conclusion is that online communities will use the two resources to fill two different roles. Their ability to fill independent niches will make the subtle differences between them make more sense.
Absolutely. As I have argued before a forum is like a collective drawing:
...each participant draws his own line(s) sometimes without regard for the others’ efforts. Who draws most lines wins. The result is a criss-cross of lines, overlapping shapes, in short, a mess that takes too much time to unravel to get any lasting value.
A blog is a painting that has been hung up on the wall and everyone standing around can comment on it, say how they would have done or why they like it. There is a clear hierarchy between the author of the article and the person who comments on it. No drawing of mustaches anywhere but plenty of interaction. To me this is what makes blogs so suitable for communication between companies and their audience.
There is also a very handy table to go with the comparison.
Imagine online ads that carry money and rules with them. If you’re a blogger or web publisher or even someone sending out email, and you fit the rules for a given ad, you can publish it. Every time you do, you get paid.
The ads deplete the money in their account and then vanish. If the ads are working, the advertiser refills them. If publishers find that readers like them, they publish them more often.
It’s upside down because control is now flipped from advertiser to publisher/reader.
The concept sounds very appealing indeed and I will comment on it later.
This post has made it round the blogosphere already but I still want to mark it here.
Start reading and writing blogs today to gain a competitive advantage!
There was much juicy goodness and after much deliberation the following is what I’d ‘take home’ from the presentation:
- Don’t overestimate the impact of blogging in the short term and underestimate it in the long term
- Blogging is another example of disintermediation cf. Travel Agents, Programmers, Dell
- Blogging not just for tech companies anymore… is the web just for tech companies?
- Blogs have a high Google rank because they are networked digital paper
- Link frequently to competitors and sources
- Connect with customers, speak in your voice (i.e. not 100% self promotion since that’s not a natural voice) and have a two way conversation through links and comments; take criticism in stride
Sun Microsystems has hired the principal author of the open-source Roller Weblogger software, a move that’s part of an attempt to build closer ties with developers and customers.
Sun is encouraging use of blogs to communicate directly and efficiently with people as different as bankers and Linux users, Schwartz explains:
What better ambassadors than our own employees? And what more efficient vehicle than a network connection?
Indeed. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
Is political blogging really a new form of journalism, destined to challenge the big boys? Or an echo chamber for the hyper-informed and/or over-agitated?
Our take: It doesn’t matter. ... Blog software took the ideas behind e-mail lists, discussion boards and home pages and combined them into a relatively easy-to-run and elegant-to-read medium. For people eager to publish online, it was like inventing cheap paper – writing was possible before, but tools were more cumbersome and time consuming.
- Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry, Real Time Wall Street Journal
via BL Ochman
Simon World has a briliant line-up of 50 blogging tips: Everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask. This one is particularly true:
44. You will encounter plenty of ignorance in this blogging caper. Much of it will come from other blogs. However even more of it will come from your friends and family. Blogging is like renovating: you find it endlessly fascinating, but no-one else gives a sh!t. They are unlikely to have even heard of blogs. It is your job to talk their ears off about it. Bamboozle them, tell them how great it is, print business cards with the URL on it. They all think your mad already.
Doc Searls has some wise words about the good news of Technorati VC funding:
I always thought bragging about bagging VC money was kinda strange in any case. If you were starting a new business in a non-tech sector, would you send out a press release bragging about your banker, and how much he loaned you to get going? I know it’s different in tech, but does it have to be that much different?
He also recalls a buzzword onslaught from an acquaintance who was on his Nth startup at the hight of the dot-com bubble who presented his business as “an arms merchant to the portals industry”.
When I pressed him for more details (How are portals an industry? What kind of arms are you selling?), I got more buzzwords back.
Finally, I asked a rude question. “How are sales?’’
“They’re great. We just closed our second round of financing.”
Thus I was delivered an epiphany: every company has two markets--one for its goods and services, and one for itself--and the latter had overcome the former. We actually thought selling companies to investors was a real business model.
That is probably one of the best and certainly the most succint analysis of what
was wrong with the dot-com era I have come across. It is true that with innovation, a new language needs to be invented too, sometimes. But there is no excuse to underwrite non-existent business model just because something is new, revolutionary and exciting.
What dot-com era has not really taught most companies is that the user rules. It wasn’t the bloated IPOs and young CEOs that sank the companies, it was the markets that found their offering wanting…
On the other hand, you need capital for development in the technology sector. It is a dilemma of most entrepreneurs that need and can get investment face at some stage. Do you keep your independence or have some money to try more new things before your business grows big enough to accumulate it?
Yeah, it’s a tough one.
CoolBusinessIdeas, a Singapore-based business intelligence company has built its new website around an open blog. The company publishes a free, monthly e-newsletter, collects new business ideas and innovations globally. It has expanded its reach to cater to an international audience. Adrants reports:
The blog and newsletter tracks emerging business innovations in overseas markets which businesses around the world can emulate. Written in a concise yet informal manner, the articles in the newsletter touch on business ideas such as “Micro-Purchasing”, “Supermarkets of the Future”, and “Innovation + Style = Lots of Customers”. The idea are intended to serve as inspiration for business professionals and entrepreneurs to think of how they can use these new concepts in their companies.
Apart from the intrusively long plug for their ‘free business ideas newsletter!’ and business books and whatever else they can think of to push to the hapless reader that came to read the blog, it is indeed a blog. With permalinks, trackbacks and categories and more. The annoying clump of text - you can tell I don’t like the ad, can’t you - is so long that they need to helpfully point to the blog by a heading ‘latest entry’ just where the blog begins. And the blogroll is miniscule, but these are early days.
CoolBusinessIdea have the right idea. Chunk-sized information, flexible trend-spotting and commenting, interesting and informal style can make them an easy but informative read and their blog the envy of their industry peers.
Some basic rehash of the goodness of blogging (which always bears repeating but we would say that, wouldn’t we?) in an article by The Globe and Mail last week.
Apparently, blogs are going big business. And according to advocates of the technology such as devotee Jim Carroll, it is about time.
Whatever it is you do by marketing, you can do by virtue of a blog.
They’re a useful and valuable tool to build a relationship with your customers so that your brand name, what you do, who you are, is in their minds. You can do wonderful things [with blogs] if you really apply your creative thinking.
Mr Caroll is future-trends author and consultant who asserts that blogs adapted for business use have a host of applications, ranging from customer relationship management to increasing consumer awareness of one’s business on-line. Blogs also seem to attract a valued consumer demographic.
A study released by Jupiter Research last year showed that 61 per cent of Internet users who read blogs at least once a month have an annual household income of $60,000 (U.S.) or more. A recent survey conducted by U.S.-based Web ad network Blogads revealed 61 per cent of blog readers are over the age of 30, and more than 45 per cent spend five to 10 hours reading blogs each week.
Now, if I could only link this ‘blog metric’ to the concept of “prosumers”, we are rolling - marketing professionals stand aside!
Note: I found the best description of “prosumers” in the Economist feature on The future of advertising.
...there is a wider group which marketers sometimes call “prosumers”; short for proactive consumers. Some people in the industry believe this group is the most powerful of all.
Euro RSCG, a big international agency, is completing a nine-country study of prosumers, which it says can represent 20% or so of any particular group. They can be found everywhere, are at the vanguard of consumerism, and what they say to their friends and colleagues about brands and products tends to become mainstream six to 18 months later.
Such people often reject traditional ads and invariably use the internet to research what they are going to buy and how much they are going to pay for it. Half of prosumers distrust companies and products they cannot find on the internet. If they want to influence prosumers, says Mr Lepere, companies have to be extremely open about providing information.
Om Malik has a scoop on venture capitalists’ love affair with RSS.
I have learned exclusively that Technorati has/or is about to close its first round of funding. My sources indicate that it was a mega-round, about $6.5 million at a valuation of around $12 million for the company. Draper Fisher Jurvetson led the round.
Uninstalled reveals that the September issue of Maxim magazine includes a short feature on When PR Goes Wrong.
The centrepiece of this feature is the complete text of a letter to editor Alex Strauss, sent by a certain New York PR agency on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. Here’s the key section of the letter in question:
“Now that baseball season is in full swing, it is the perfect time to inform your readers about this exciting exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. If there has ever been a museum exhibition to highlight in [TRASHY MEN’S PUBLICATION], Baseball As America is it. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information or visuals.”
The Maxim article includes the name of the agency… I guess we’ll just have to wait for the September issue.