I wrote a couple of months ago about the importance of transparency in contributing to Wikipedia. Today we learned that “Wikipedia will soon begin imposing a layer of editorial review on articles about people.” Within weeks, a trusted volunteer editor for Wikipedia must approve of any change to an entry about a living person before the entry can go live. While this wait-and-see approach to revisions can prevent the spread of misinformation from pranks and hoaxes, it also limits the freedom so long associated with the site. Research shows a growing resistance to new content; content from trusted editors is more likely to remain on the site, while updates from new contributors are more likely to be removed.
So what are the marketing implications of these flagged revisions? Misinformation about a person can not only harm that person, but also affect the companies and organizations that person is affiliated with. Remember when the rumor about Steve Jobs’ death adversely affected Apple’s stock price? Incorrect information on Wikipedia can and does certainly have the same effect. Those of us interested in reputation management should keep a close eye on the evolution of Wikipedia and its processes. Is this the beginning of the end for Wikipedia? Who or what will be the next subject of flagged revisions by experienced, trusted editors? Or is this a natural progression to making an already useful site even more dependable?
My colleague Sam North, former managing editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald in Australia, has responded strongly to Umair Haque’s Nichepaper Manifesto. He doesn’t blog but has given me permission to post his thoughts. A little long for a blog post, but thought I would share it all:
If the Nichepaper Manifesto is some sort of harbinger of the future then God help us all. Unfortunately its broad sweep of generalities, trite statements and ill-informed comments are typical of the newspapers-are-dead lobby. I defy anyone to get their head around such an amalgamation of nonsense. The day the article was sent to me today (Wednesday, August 5), as usual, I read the AFR (a specialist finance and business newspaper and website which seeks - and many say succeeds in doing - to develop a perspective, analytical skills, and storytelling capabilities that are inimitable by rivals . . Nichepaper, anyone?), The Australian, the SMH and the Daily Telegraph. All three strove to impart meaningful, lasting knowledge by extensively educating, enlightening and informing me about many issues, particularly the Ozcar debacle in Canberra and the terrorism arrests in Melbourne.
Far from radically reinventing what news is, both those issues had the previous day been the subject of astonishing news breaks by The Australian, with the paper exclusively revealing that Godwin Gretch had admitted to writing the fake email and – even more astoundingly – revealing that the massive police terror raids were being carried out even as our papers were being delivered.
The SMH and The Australian had sections on local news, world news, arts, sport and business (Nichepapers?) and separate liftout sections on Money (SMH), Higher Education, Wealth and the Australian Literature Review. Both papers have interactive websites with the last figures I saw showing smh.com.au with more than 4.3 million unique browsers each month and theaustralian.com.au with 1.4 million.
The Nichepaper Manifesto says Nichepapers ‘’are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain – finance, politics, even entertainment – and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.’’
One would have thought that the SMH, The Australian and the AFR – along with their attendant specialist sections – offer all that, plus something more: eyeballs.
The latest circulation figures show that, far from the sky falling, the top three quality broadsheets in Australia – the SMH, The Age and The Australian – slightly increased circulation over the previous 12 months. And, in fact, the three papers have increased circulation over the past five years. And, while I can’t talk for The Australian, I do know the SMH and The Age remain profitable.
News (of the current definition, not the yet to be disclosed reinvented definition) still sells. The Daily Telegraph in London increased daily circulation by around 100,000 during the recent period when it was drip-feeding stories about the spending habits of British parliamentarians.
It is true that advertising has tanked in newspapers. But my theory is that everyone loves a new toy and the lure of the bright, shiny new media was difficult to resist. But in the light of a post-Christmas hangover sometimes those toys are looked at in a more critical light – they might be trendy, but are they better at doing the job?
Nielsen research released in April showed that more than 60 per cent of Twitter users have stopped using the service a month after joining; the two latest ANZ job advertisements surveys have shown an increase in newspaper job ads in June (0.9%) and a decrease (0.4%) in July, while online ads fell 4.8% in June and 3.6% in July.
What it all means, I’m not sure but I’ll finish with a blog in March from Tim Pethick, the young entrepreneur who successfully launched Nudie drinks, among other products. He told of his product Sultry Sally chips, a low fat brand available in Woolworths. Woolies, which had launched a rival product, told Pethick that he had to engage in mainstream advertising to boost the sales of his chips. Pethick wrote: ‘’to be forced into a position where I have to take a traditional, main media approach is anathema.’’ His fears were multiplied when a partner suggested advertising on 2GB.
‘’My heart sank. Strategically, I couldn’t think of anything worse. We are talking radio; worse, AM radio; worse still, talk-back radio; even worse, a radio station that everyone knows is only listened to by a few old punters – way, way off target and brand for us.’’ Needless to say the product walked off the shelves, with stores emptied of Sultry Sally chips. ‘’It is working like nothing I have seen before,’’ wrote Pethick. ‘’I love the fact that the old ways still count for something; I love the fact that I can still be surprised, be wrong and learn from it.’’
Actually I won’t finish on that, I’ll finish with the Nichepaper Manifesto which writes that ‘’Nichepapers are the future of news because their economies are superior.’’ ‘’What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness’’. And what is the lost art of profitability by awesomeness?
I quote: ‘’When you can make awesome stuff, you don’t need to find “better” ways to sell it. The fundamental challenge of the 21st century isn’t selling the same old lame, toxic junk in new ways: its detoxifying and dezombifying it, by learning how to make insanely great stuff in the first place.’’
As you can see, Sam holds a firm view towards the newspaper lobby and its future, perhaps being an ex hack and all that. But he makes his points very vividly and with passion, just as Umair did in his original post.
Of course, plenty to debate here for everyone.
The most emailed article on the Web site of The New York Times this afternoon is about how technology “has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day.” Before grabbing a cup of coffee or doing any of the number of usual things in a morning routine, people now reach for their laptops, BlackBerries, and cell phones. This article is just another example of how more and more people not only get their information online, but are practically addicted to their Internet feed of information. And people get their news from a variety of online sources—not just from the Web sites of established media, but from blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Some may be nostalgic for a crisp morning paper and a hot cup of coffee, but it appears that many more are reaching for their laptops before they even get out of bed.
I want to explore the notion of people ‘trimming the fat’. I think we are increasingly seeing people explore different avenues and ways to improve their lives and ‘trimming the fat’ provides a good platform for people to do so. There’s no denying that times are tough - the current economic climate has impacted us all in one way or another… some stronger than others. Trimming the fat helps people declutter and space-save in order to regain a sense of control over their lives. This can be a cathartic experience.
People are trimming the fat with regards to ’self’. There has never been more low-fat food options on the market, nor have we seen more weight-loss clinics and services popping up around the world (think Jenny Craig, Lite ‘n’ Easy etc…).
With reference to the ‘home’, people are decluttering their personal space to free up space in their lives. Spring clearning has become a more regular year-round activity rather than a seasonal one. Minimalist home design and decor is also becoming increasingly popular.
With regards to ‘work’, the latest technologies (gadgets, applications, hardware and software) are helping people trim the fat and stay connected to the things that matter (friends, family, colleagues, work).
Trimming out the fat in the workplace helps people work smarter and faster - ultimately encouraging more productive work practices.
Technologies such as smartphones, new ultra-thin notebooks and wireless Internet connectivity are making it easy for us to trim the fat at work - minimise downtime and remain connected.
I’m keen to explore this further. If anyone has any thoughts, please drop me a line.
Are people doing anything else to trim the fat in their lives?
Could a new social search service with a name synonymous with ‘earth pig‘ have implications for marketing and communications? I think so.
Aardvark let’s you ask questions anonymously and receive answers from individuals in your or your friends’ social networks who may have relevant expertise. The service is opt-in, anonymous and questions can be asked and received on the Web, through Twitter, email and so on. There’s a homepage where you set up a profile but the process takes seconds and you never have to go back.
I’ve used Aardvark over the past few weeks and it’s enabled me to tap into distributed expertise - from people several degrees of separation removed from me - quickly and easily. It works so well that I find myself using Aardvark over Google for knowledge discovery.
So what are the implications for marketing and communications? Here are some preliminary ideas:
- Internal Communications: It’s no secret that large enterprises have a problem with knowledge transfer and it’s no secret that social networking has been suggested as a possible solution. I think Aardvark is more realistic for connecting employees. Why? Because an Aardvark-like service could be implemented and used so easily.
o HR managers could log new employees into the system without those employees having to take any action. Job descriptions could be used to set up areas of expertise.
o Employees would use it because the system can be accessed from virtually any medium.
o Older employees not comfortable with traditional social networks? That’s fine; they can use the system perfectly well through email.
o Younger employees more comfortable with a Twitter interface or mobile app? That’s easy to implement too.
- Customer engagement: Imagine enrolling every new customer/user in an Aardvark-like service when you close the sale. Customers would immediately be plugged into a network of experts (other customers) with similar challenges or issues and with almost no effort on their part. Customers could be empowered to ask questions about products as well as issues relevant to their industry, job function etc. As the broker of the relationship vendors benefit from delivering another value-added service (at minimal cost). There’s also the potential opportunity for valuable data mining.
- Thought leadership and expert visibility: This is the one that’s really captured my attention. Currently Aardvark is anonymous and the system routes you to the best resource based on user profiles. What if users had the option of selecting to receive answers from identified experts affiliated with a company, product or service? How might this work?
o Users might opt in to direct their questions to qualified and identified experts to obtain answers that require a higher degree of credibility (medical questions for instance)
o Vendors, of course, would benefit from having a direct channel to promote their expertise and thought leadership.
o Taking it a step further, users could rate vendor responses. Top rated vendors on a topic would get the first crack at relevant questions, thereby incentivizing them to provide value each time.
Answer sites, social networks and the chaos that is Twitter address each of these ideas/opportunities in their own ways but somehow Aardvark, because of its filtering, its simplicity, and the fact that it eliminates the burden of creating original content for a destination site, seems much more attractive to me. What do you think?
Disclaimer: I support Novell’s PR in Asia Pacific.
On Monday, Microsoft released code for the Linux kernel community. Stories found below:
Two years ago, when Novell bridged the gap between Open Source and Windows,by forming an alliance with Microsoft, the Open Source community was up at arms. Novell was derided for getting into bed with Microsoft. Websites, bloggers and even journalists took sides. Novell became what one might call a second-class citizen in the Open Source community.
There were blogs calling for Red Hat to be acquired, so that they can be strong enough to fight Microsoft, because there is no one else out there to stop them.
And now, this latest Microsoft move to give up code to the Linux community. While there are a few reports saying its a move to better compete with VMWare, other commentators have said it will allow for better collaboration of virtual machines between Linux and Windows.
This could only mean good things for customers, who more and more have multiple platforms in their organisations and they just want things to work, and focus on making IT work for their organisation - not having to spend money on middleware, worry about interoperability or lawsuits.
Perhaps its a realization of Microsoft that there is no one-stop-shop solution to computing needs.
Now, tell me if I’m asking a silly question, but why is there always a rethoric of “war”, “conflict”, “competition” when it comes to operating platforms?
Yes, I believe that with competition comes innovation. But innovation can also come from collaboration, from sharing, from focusing on solving the problems.
Isnt this what the customer wants - people collaborating, proprietary coders exchanging ideas with the open source community, solving problems, looking at how applications should all work together?
And why the continuing suspicion among the Open Source community of Microsoft? Perhaps, in the past, Microsoft has not played fair.
But that’s in the past. I think the future’s about collaboration, about talking and solving problems - for the customer, for the industry - rather than conflict and competition. I believe that Novell’s relationship with Microsoft has opened the way to bigger things. It’s all about the customers and what they need to forge ahead.
The “peace” process is a long road, but it all starts with small steps, no?
“I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” - Barack Obama.
Change, we can indeed.
CNET just released a slideshow of the decades 25 biggest tech flops.
While HD DVD made the list since Blu-ray is now industry standard, I am not entirely convinced that Blu-ray is here to stay. A recent Harris Poll report indicated that consumers were uninterested in adopting Blu-ray Disc. However, a report earlier this week cited that consumer spending on Blu-ray discs was up by 91 percent, to $407 million. It will be interesting to see if Blu-ray is still around come 2019.
For any PR professionals out there who have helped launch a tech product, what are some lessons learned to avoid having a product on this list?
The New York Times article on PR and the Michael Arrington response have been a must read among PR people. I find Richard Edelman’s post the one that most clearly identifies some of the misconceptions our profession battles with.
One additional thought I’d add is that many people in Silicon Valley and in the social media space believe PR is one-dimensional: they define it as media relations. PR is not a “one-hit wonder”. It does not stand for “press release”. We build brands, enhance and protect the reputation of our clients and are here to stay. To use a music analogy, we are the Bruce Springsteen of the communications world. Not Right Said Fred.
Savvis has expanded its relationship with Ogilvy PR for global communications support, expanding a U.S. market relationship in place since October 2007.
I can’t help but shed some more light on a very interesting article on the cover of the Business section of the NY Times this Sunday titled, “Spinning the Web: PR in Silicon Valley.”
Although it provides a good broad-brush overview of some of the social media work PR practitioners are engaging in, the story is much more about a particular PR professional who is very well connected in the Valley.
Brooke Hammerling is not only noted as a good publicist for her start-up clients, but as someone who is well connected to the tech industry’s elite cognescenti, she does some business development as well. Because of her expansive rolodex of contacts, she can make the right introductions to the right dealmakers on behalf of her clients.
By now, a somewhat loosely defined influencer relations program is part of what most PR firms can offer - but biz dev is a very different beast altogether.
While PR agencies may never truly deliver business development as a distinct offering, a lesson learned here is that all agencies have their own ecosystem of contacts.
Connecting them and proactively making the right introductions within their own ecosystem can be a huge value-add and build customer loyalty.
The State of Cleantech and Sustainability Communications