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the big blog company | Trends
“Oh wow, that's a big blog you've got there!”
Some important bloke on some important blog.

Joining the dots...

March 29, 2005
Tear down the siloes
Jackie Danicki • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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This Creative Commons-licensed iPod stand (”Seeing as the new iPods don’t come with docks, and no-one wants to spend $30+ on a bit of plastic or metal to stand their iPods on, I’ve drawn up a template for a simple, functional and attractive iPod stand you can download as a pdf, print out, stick on some card and assemble,” says the creator) is a very good example of what SMLXL’s Alan Moore is talking about here:

[A]ll these additional devices iTrip, Airplay, etc are brand building for Apple, without Apple spending a cent...And this I think is important to think about as companies work on their siloed approaches to innovation, marketing etc. That by creating a product, a service, an innovation process, that people can co-create value, eiither economically or from a perspective of it being a valuable experience. That has got to be good...[W]hat Apple has done to my mind is great marketing. Because you don’t even know it exists.

Homework assignment from me: Spend five minutes thinking about how your company can apply this concept to its business model, rejecting siloed approaches to innovation and marketing.

March 20, 2005
Niche explosion kills several (big networks)
Jackie Danicki • Events • Trends 
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Saturday night’s American Cinema Foundation panel at the American Film Institute in LA, moderated by Cathy Seipp, was fascinating on several levels.

The theme of the event was “Mass market, smart content,” and featured four TV writers/producers/directors: Paul Feig (creator and executive producer: “Freaks & Geeks;” director: “Arrested Development;” director and writer, the feature film “I Am David;” author: “Kick Me: Adventures In Adolescence” and the upcoming “Superstud: How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin"), Scott Kaufer (executive producer: “Boston Legal;” writer: “Gilmore Girls,” “Chris Isaak Show,” “Murphy Brown"), Rob Long (co-creator and excecutive producer: “Men, Women & Dogs,” “Love & Money,” “George & Leo;” executive producer: “Cheers") and Tim Minear (executive produer: “The Inside,” “Wonderfalls,” “Angel,” “Firefly"). Together, they tackled the issue of how successful television writers manage to keep their distinct viewpoints when writing for the mass market.

I believe wholeheartedly that there is no such thing as ‘the mainstream,’ and that the mass market is dead, and being replaced by a mass of niches. I also believe that the mass media is not being destroyed, merely altered radically, and individuals are being liberated from the mass by the unprecedented choice of personal relevance that (thanks to things like blogs, mp3s, TV on DVD, podcasting, and TiVo) they have today - and that choice of personal relevance is increasing exponentially at a rapid rate. So the topic of the panel was extremely appealing to me as a total geek on the social ramifications of emergent technology tip.

I didn’t want to hit the guys over the head with the beliefs I laid out above, so I asked them if they thought that TV series on DVD (which they all seemed to agree was the best thing to happen to TV in a long time, even if the lack of leadership in the Writers’ Guild means that they get screwed out of decent earnings, receiving only 2 or 4 pennies per DVD sale), TiVo, and that greater choice of personal relevance is going to affect what they do in any significant way. Every panel member had something to say about that, but the most interesting answer came from Paul Feig, who said that the bottom line is that the show that draws the most advertising revenue wins, and it will always be that way.

Except I am sure that it won’t always be that way, and that the advances in emergent technologies and the rebirth of niche will bring about that dramatic shift a lot sooner than we may think. The business model of broadcast must change if it is not to die (and with only 12 per cent of US viewers getting their TV via antenna these days anyway, ripping it down isn’t a bad idea). As viewers (read: customers) get used to having that personal choice of relevance, they will throw their attention (read: value) to the places where they can get it: cable, satellite, and the internet. And if you think advertisers won’t pick up on that and move their ad spend accordingly, I’ve got some stock in broadcast that I’d just love to sell you.

The kicker being, I don’t believe that advertising revenue is going to be the bread and butter of TV on cable, satellite, and the internet. Sure, there will be ads in the world as long as there are lazy, clueless companies who believe in ”just in case” marketing. But the costs of that kind of marketing are rising, the effectiveness declining, and profits down as a result.

Which brings us to my point: This drive to niche dovetails very nicely with the need of companies to put customers at the beginning of the value chain instead of at the end of it. The increasing emphasis on the individual also means a move from push marketing to engagement marketing. So instead of wasting a great deal of money on a TV ad, a company can spend a fraction of that on, say, developing great blogs to provide value and engage the niche they are targetting. (They can throw some podcasts up there while they’re at it.)

So here’s the question I really wish I had asked the panel: Ten years from now, who exactly is going to be spending the kind of money on network TV ads that they need to maintain this broken system? And if that money isn’t there, will you be running over non-TV-watching freaks with your Kia instead of your Mercedes?

March 16, 2005
State of the blogosphere
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Trends 
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It must be the time of year - the spring is upon us, Easter round the corner, rebirth, growth and all that. And so we Sifry’s Alerts’ report on the State of The Blogosphere. Part 1: Growth of Blogs:

We are currently seeing about 30,000 - 40,000 new weblogs being created each day, depending on the day. Compared to the past, this is well over double the rate of change in October, when there were about 15,000 new weblogs created each day. The remarkable growth over the past 3 months can be attributed to the increase in new, mainstream services such as MSN Spaces, and in increases of use of services like Blogger, AOL Journals, and LiveJournal. In addition, services outside the United States have been taking off, including a number of media sites promoting blogging, such as Le Monde in France.

But not all is well in blogland and the Spam Squashing police have been busy:

There is a dark underbelly to these numbers, however: Part of the growth of new weblogs created each day is due to an increase in spam blogs - fake blogs that are created by robots in order to foster link farms, attempted search engine optimization, or drive traffic through to advertising or affiliate sites. We have been battling the spam situation in a significant way for about 2 months - prior to January, spam wasn’t much of an issue. All of these charts reflect Technorati’s databases after spam blogs have been removed…


March 15, 2005
Trajectory of happy surprises
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Trends 
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Henry Copeland summarises this years blog reader survey:

This year’s survey continues the trajectory of happy surprises.

Last year, we got 17,159 responses. This year, 30,079 blog readers responded.

Last year, 61% of responding blog readers were over 30 years old. This year, 75% are over 30 years old.

Last year, 40% had family incomes greater than $90,000. This year, 43% exceed that figure.

So we are talking adults with income. Good news. And it gets better:

The most interesting news comes in section 8. Aficionados of PR-speak will recognize these questions as benchmark tests to identify who is an opinion maker, a member of the ten percent of Americans who are believed to set the agenda and steer the opinions of the other 90%. To qualify as an official “influential,” RoperASW, the leading firm consulting in the field, you have to answer 3 of those questions (excluding a petition) in the affirmative. Clearly the blogosphere is crawling with certified grade A opinion makers.

Before I rush off to advertising, branding and marketing agencies clutching the survey to my chest, I shall read on:

How much credence should you give this survey? The survey was designed as much to provoke as to prove. I’ll paraphrase what I wrote last year: the survey’s responses are a fragment of a sample of a subset. There are millions of bloggers.

And then rush off… clutching the… you know the rest.

But remember also that the blogosphere is all about biases and conversations and boot-strapping and not waiting for some authority-- a newspaper editor or university dean or foundation officer or venture capitalist or government agent—to tell you something but figuring it out yourself, and, finally, about sharing fragments of imperfect data with peers to arrive at some useful collective knowledge.

As Trent Lott and Howell Raines learned, the blogosphere’s numerous voices can capture and amplify ideas that are too complex or contrary for traditional organizations to see or speak. (This year, we can add Howard Dean, Dan Rather, George Bush, Eason Jordan and Jeff Gannon to the list of public figures rerouted by bloggers.)

Amen to that. And here are some pretty numbers.

March 03, 2005
“Anything is possible”
Jackie Danicki • Trends 
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In a very brief post, Fred Wilson encapsulates the thoughts that jolt me every day when I consider the times we live in and the reasons I love the things I get to be involved with in working for tBBC. The amazing thing is, many of us who are aware of these developments are incredibly nonchalant about them. The even more amazing thing is, the progress does not stop here.

Link via Jeff Jarvis

Employees neutered
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Trends 
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Ephraim Schwartz writes about his impressions from the annual Demo conference and notes that this year’s show heightened his awareness to one trend in particular:

...high anxiety over what employees can publish in both e-mail and blogs. There was a slew of products that monitor employee communications in one way or another, mapping them to corporate policy on everything from offensive language and sexual harassment to outright prohibition of personal e-mail.

He finds OutBoxer probably the fairest to employees. As soon as an e-mailer hits the send button, if there’s a dirty word in there, a notice will pop up explaining which rule was broken so the writer can reconsider.

Another one, IPLocks’ Information Risk Management Platform, doesn’t give employees a second chance. It tracks employee access to sensitive company data and sends alerts to appropriate managers when employees step outside of normal usage patterns.

There are several more such as Fortiva Archive that monitors emails after they have been sent and the WhatCounts Appliance Series which monitors and evaluates blogs and e-mail before they are published or sent, routing posts to HR managers and/or legal when necessary.

I agree with Ephraim Schwartz that these products point to a disturbing trend and no amount of justification based on the combination of privacy issues, new government regulations, and a litigious society can convince me that this is the way to treat your employees and get the best out of them.

For example, can you imagine a legal department reviewing every blog post? If you’ve ever waited for legal to approve a document, you already know that you might as well give up now and forget corporate blogging. It’s probably not worth the aggravation.

Between lawsuits and regulations, I wouldn’t be surprised if, spearheaded by legal departments everywhere, all employees will someday soon be sent to class to learn a new, neutered, corporate-approved written language. Of course, companies may want to revamp their job descriptions for their vice presidents of corporate communications. May I suggest a more classic title — something like “Minister of Truth”?

Hm, where have I seen this before...?

March 02, 2005
Quote to remember
Jackie Danicki • Quotes • Trends 
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I gave my blogboy presentation to a bunch of strategic guys at a certain major mass media company (not my employer’s) the other day and said that the mass market was dead, to be replaced by the mass of niches, and the young MBAs in the room screeched as if I’d goosed them. Fine, I said, imagine that things won’t change and others will come along and eat you up bit by bit. You’ll still be there, but you’ll have new competitors and your growth will be gone.

-Jeff Jarvis, president & creative director,

February 22, 2005
Quote to remember
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Quotes • Trends 
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The reason you’ve heard of podcasting is because no one first “demo’d” it at a conference and no corporate marketers were involved: No offense to VCs and the people who try to get their ideas in front of them. And no offense to big corporate marketers who are somewhere creating the next great gizmo. And no offense to the bloggers and journalists who serve as the acolytes of VC-funded start-ups and consumer electronic marketers…

But, when something is going to be big. Really big. You rarely see it demo’d.
- Rex Hammock

February 20, 2005
The New Middle
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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Greg at Social Twister, has a good link to Seth’s Godin’s analysis of the movement of the tectonic plates of marketing.

Seth Godin talks about the new middle:

Marketing dollars are also moving from magazines (stagnant) to adwords and online media (skyrocketing). Marketers are busy building viral campaigns, funding blogs, and yes, by the way, investing in products that are cool enough to actually blog about. But who’s deciding?

My guess is that this is not an organized, top down effort led by the fancy CMO or VP of Marketing. I think it’s all happening around the edges while the middle (TV etc.) implodes. This is accidental and random and it’s going to get ugly, fast. I wonder how long before smart marketers realize the new middle of the marketing department is all that extra stuff.

Greg takes it a step further, extrapolating to other areas that are affected by a similar trend:

It makes me think just how many middles are feel pressure inwards and that could be fighting implosion. We’ve got blogging going after traditional journalism, podcasting going after radio, and maybe even vlogging going after TV on one level or another. We’re also seeing greater and greater disintermediation of the production process, beyond the actual creational efforts. Amazing times indeed.

January 21, 2005
If it’s worth blogging, it’s worth blogging right
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Trends 
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Back at the beginning of October, I blogged about the British Heart Foundation’s Stop Smoking Blogs. Back then I wondered where the blogrolls were, and made a point about how the network effect is what actually makes blogging so useful.

For some boring reason, I stumbled upon the BHF’s blog project again today, four months later. Still no blogrolls, and the Technorati results for the blogs show the results:

Sorry, no results found.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: Anyone can set up a blog. Some 23,000 blogs are created every day. Understanding the medium, the elements that make it so powerful, and the network that surrounds each individual blog is the bare minimum that an organisation needs in order to be on their way to successful blogging. For every company that thinks it doesn’t need that knowledge, or believes some know-nothing PR or web agency that tells them they have this blog thing all figured out, we’ll have another example of mediocre-at-best blogs that are barely - if at all - hooked into the network they need to engage. (Just two days ago, a PR who claims to be an expert in blogging admitted to me that he had no idea that linking to someone’s personal email address instead of their professional blog, in the context of a professional blog post, was bad form. The mind boggles.)

So I am afraid Niall Cook’s prediction for this year, that there will be more examples of bad corporate blogging in 2005 than you would care to shake a stick at, is proving to be true. And - give me strength - we’re barely through mid-January.

January 16, 2005
Blog or Die? Sort of…
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Trends 
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Shel of the Red Couch has an excellent post that echoes pretty much what we have been thinking and observing about the evolving blogging phenomenon. This is one of the best descriptions of its impact so far:

I believe, blogging will fundamentally change communications from what it is today to something less controlled and more credible. It has already begun to do so, at a phenomenal rate, and at a time when many industries are dealing with broken business models. For example, traditional publishing--newspapers, magazines and books are all dealing with issues of reduced profitability. Blogging didn’t break their models--the Internet contributed by fragmenting news distribution and by siphoning off ad revenues.

Indeed. As I tried to explain to anyone who will listen, blogs are not changing things/industries/world by themselves, they are merely the first that are using the infrastructure (internet) that has always had the potential to do so. The fundamental shifts within particular industries such as publishing, journalism, PR & marketing are to do more with the very same factors that gave rise to blogging. The ability to communicate, produce and shift large amounts of information has shown up those industries for what they are - industrial era throwbacks forcing old methods onto a changed landscape. Their lack of credibility is not new, we have learnt not to trust adverts and marketing campaigns and regard PR as synonymous with bullshit. It wasn’t blogs that made that so, but they provided a networked platform to spell this out.

“Blog or Die,” someone has charged, represented the same bubble-headedness of the dotcom era, when businesses were told that if they didn’t have a website they would go out of business. Personally, that was sound advice, but too limited. Companies who didn’t have an internet strategy, they were likely to succumb… Companies that wait too long to adapt to fundamental change die. Or, at a minimum they get boxed in. Look at what did online to Barnes & Noble.

Blogs are becoming an increasingly effective alternative that has the potential to replace many traditional communication methods or at least force them to adapt and evolve. Such an alternative is very powerful, as it represents the tipping point for those industries that have boxed themselves in.  If the only way to present yourself to the world is to have that glossy brochure, flashing-banner website or 30 second commercial, companies will pay up or they risk not showing up on their market’s radar at all. This can last only as long as there is no other way. And so, the most revolutionary aspect of blogging seems to me its ability to offer an alternative, not as easy, sleek and packaged, but far more effective and far more affordable, than traditional marketing. It is early days and there is no need to jump into far-reaching and potentially embarassing conclusions. As long as there are companies that are fed up with the traditional marketing and have desire to communicate with their customers and markets, blogs are in business. Let’s keep blogging and see what comes out of the wash…

Or as Shel concludes:

Businesses today need to rethink how they communicate with people who make a difference to them, particularly customers and prospects. How do you feel when you have an important question, and go to the Web site and have to scroll ad nauseam through FAQs, without find an email link or phone number? If you do call, how do you feel listening to the 659 options you need to navigate before you get an actual human who speaks in a language you do not understand? Which do you believe more--an official press release, composed by a committee of mid-level tacticians, or a blog posted by a team of mid-level technicians building products that interest you? Which management team do you trust more. Companies who ignore blogging will die. Blogging will not kill them directly, but companies that ignore blogging will die from linked factors like lost customers and credibility.

January 14, 2005
RSS: “There’s no excuse not to do it”
Jackie Danicki • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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A big-name British journalist and author recently said to me in an email:

Who or what is RSS? It sounds vaguely like the extreme Hindu nationalist party involved in the murder of Gandhi.

That kind of ignorance is about to be Nooked.

Fergus Burns, CEO of Nooked, came down to tBBC HQ yesterday to meet up with me during a flying visit from his base in Glasgow. If a company wants to generate RSS feeds from their website so that journalists can subscribe to them, Nooked has their webmaster insert a few lines of code (literally: two or four lines of code, depending on the job) into a page on the company’s website - this has to be done only once, and then Nooked can scrape the site and generate those RSS feeds. Nooked also hosts the feeds, so they can produce comprehensive stats and validation services for the company, too. (The good news for PR agencies: Nooked also does white label deals. For any PR company that wants to differentiate itself, especially in the tech realm, offering this as a value-added service would make a hell of a lot of sense.)

Journalists are increasingly begging for companies to put out RSS feeds and stop spamming them. Indeed, there are quotes aplenty from the likes of American journos like Dan Gillmor and John Udell on this subject. Here in the UK, uptake of RSS has been much slower. But we’ve had a few journalists attend our blogging bootcamps here in London who are using it, including news editor Jemima Kiss, who told me:

I’m a big fan of RSS and seem to regularly send pestering emails to my favourite sites asking why they don’t have RSS feeds as well as email newsletters! I’ve unsubscribed to as many newsletters as I can. I get 500+ a day - about two-thirds of which are junk - and it’s such a waste of time. RSS is the single biggest thing for web publishers to get their heads around. And it’s so easy, there’s really no excuse not to do it.

With Microsoft adding RSS feed reading to its MyMSN homepages - looks like Yahoo opened the floodgates on that one by adding RSS headline reading to its MyYahoo hompages - maybe more companies will sit up and take notice of the fact that flooding journalists’ email inboxes does not an online PR and marketing strategy make. And once they realise that they’re bombarding their customers (or people they wish were their customers) with spam, too, and that perhaps pushing at these people isn’t the cleverest move to make, well, then we’ll be making some progress.

January 10, 2005
Quote to remember
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Quotes • Trends 
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Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like ‘news as conversation’ fall away, because you’re shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you’re certainly not part of it.
- Simon Waldman in guest article for PressThink

January 08, 2005
The state of blogging
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Trends 
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Another interesting report on blogging, by Pew Internet & American Life Project, this time with pretty numbers…

The Pew Internet & American Life Project began asking about blog creation in the spring of 2002. In June of that year, 3% of internet users said they had created a blog or web diary that others could read. By the beginning of 2004, the figure had grown to 5% of internet users. Our survey in late November showed that the number grew to 7%, which represents more than 8 million people.

And a pretty picture:


On a sad note though apparently 6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators But 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is. Oh, well, nobody’s perfect. grin

December 14, 2004
Longhorn, Blogs, Linux: Predicting ‘05
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Trends 
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Yep, it’s that time of the year. Predictions everywhere. Let me start with a list I understand. Well, it might have to do with the fact it mentions blogs…

Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research peers into his crystal ball for Computerworld:

2. PDAs will become passe. Disconnected ones, that is. Over time, the real action will be moving core PDA functionality, centered on personal information management, to other devices such as cell phones. This will cause major IT headaches, since few cell phones are controlled by IT these days.

So, Tomi Ahonen was right about the mobile winning the battle of the most ubiquitous gadget. Which is good news for us since Tomi also thinks (mo)blogging is the future.

3. More people will lose their jobs over their weblogs. It’s happened already, and it will happen again. If you’re posting about your job or employer without consent, you’re taking a lot of risk with your future.

And more people will gain jobs over their weblogs. But essentially right, there are legal issues as well as cultural that will make it likely that some blogger may loose a job. This is why we set up the Big Blog Company, so businesses do not have to fear blogs but embrace them. In which case, you’d better change from pyjamas into something more suitable… And guidelines. Guidelines help. And treating your employees as intelligent agents and explaining to them why writing about some things may not be a good idea.

4. But more corporations will create official blogs. Corporations have seen the weblog light, and blogs will become common for business use. Unfortunately, far too many of these efforts will just be marketing fluff disguised as weblogs.

I like this prediction. A lot. Have corporations seen the weblog light? Certainly not in the UK, but we are working on it. But I too expect to see more faux, marketing fluff blogs with ‘jumped on the bandwagon (that we don’t really understand or care to understand)’ written all over them…

6. Wi-Fi will be ubiquitous, but not in the workplace. Wi-Fi is readily available in public places such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. IT shops, however, will slow deployments a bit over fears of security. End users will take matters into their own hands, so expect to see lots of ad hoc networks springing up.

Good news, more wi-fi everywhere enables me to leave the house, which has got to have a positive influence on my well-being. Also, good for meeting people in a cafe and being able to show them the blogging marvel live over a cup of coffee. Priceless.

7. VoIP will be a mainstream technology for business users. Voice over IP is perhaps the hottest technology in the telecommunications industry today. VoIP-based services will grow even more as a mainstream technology for business use. Expect a lot of competition for the trillions of minutes and billions of dollars’ worth of voice calls that business users make each year.

Marvellous. Where would we be without Skype...?

Oh, and there is some stuff about Longhorn, Moore’s law and Linux. 

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