This weekend, I read the newspaper. What I mean by that is I read the physical newspaper, which is something that I have not done regularly in a nearly a decade. While reading, I remembered how skimming through the physical newspaper lends itself to inadvertently reading about different subjects.
For example, in the past, I would read the newspaper’s content by skimming through some stories, skipping some sections and for the most part taking in the entire paper. What could begin with reading a front page story about a national issue could easily lead to a back page story about Somali insurgents, or Central Asian politics.
I traded in this experience, as have many of my generation, for the customized, editor-free approach to reading the news that Google Reader and RSS feeds have enabled. Now, my news feeds are tailored to my interests, political leanings and professional focus. While my Reader and RSS feed give me greater depth of knowledge into the subjects I am interested in, it seems to come at the expense of less knowledge in a wider range of subjects.
With these changes in content delivery in mind, I became very interested in two new products that attempt to address how our news is formatted – Time Inc.’s new line of digital magazines and a new iPad application called Flipboard.
In attempt to reconnect digital readers to the old print layout of magazines, Sports Illustrated (SI) and publisher Time Inc. (magazine publishers in general, for that matter) are taking their layouts and content and, in the words of Peter Kafka, “porting their printed product to digital form, adding some audio and video, as well as selected links to the Web.” (Read more here).
On the other hand, the much-buzzed about Flipboard, (here) assembles your social media content on the iPad in a way that is similar to reading physical publications – by creating an interface that is similar to that of a magazine.
In presenting readers with digital content laid out like a magazine, Time is fighting an uphill battle against news consumption trends, particularly among young customers who didn’t grow up reading in the magazine format. Conversely, the repackaging of social media content into a magazine layout is like stuffing an MP3 player into the body of a turntable and misses the real reason why magazine/print media readers still choose the actual physical copy of publications.
How do you weigh in on this subject? Does Time Inc. have the solution to sagging sales? Will Flipboard speed the traditional media’s demise?
When Apple users were part of a devoted cult, they were willing to put up with the way Apple does business - never admitting problems (until now), keeping its users in the dark about serious bugs even when its own discussion forums are filled with dozens of people struggling to fix the issues. But the iPhone and the resurgence of the Mac have brought in millions of new customers from the world of Microsoft, and they’re not willing to give Steve Jobs a pass when the technology they depend on fails to work right. They’ve seen this movie before — Microsoft Vista — and it doesn’t have a happy ending.
Apple is having serious quality control problems with the iPhone 4 going well beyond the antennae problem that being discussed at the press conference Apple is holding at this moment. There are at least two severe problems with iOS4, the upgraded operating system that runs the iPhone. Most of the millions of existing iPhone 3G and 3Gs customers will update their OS, as they will be prompted to do automatically, and wish they didn’t.
iOS4 is excruciatingly slow on the iPhone 3G, starting with the several seconds it takes to unlock the phone. Switching between apps can be glacial, to the point where I’m less likely to use the app at all. Users are struggling to figure out how to revert to iOS3 while keeping their data intact.
Worse still, people who own both an iPhone and a Mac – i.e., Apple’s best customers – have had their calendars screwed up by a syncing bug between the iPhone’s Calendar app and Mac’s iCal. If you’re a busy person who depends on these applications to keep track of dozens of upcoming appointments and other important tasks and your calendar stops working reliably, that’s a very, very big problem.
Apple, as always, won’t acknowledge the problems, even on its own forums, and customers are very unhappy (see http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2495372 for the calendar problem and http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=11919484&tstart=0 for the slow performance problem).
My suggestion to Apple? Stop thinking that the rules no longer apply to you, and start being more honest with your customers.
When we work to help clients through a communications crisis, we advise them to stop the slow leak of damaging news and come clean. If your product or the behavior of some employees doesn’t meet the company’s standards, your customers and employees need to hear that from you. Then show you’re doing everything you can to fix the problems – and get them fixed. Otherwise each bit of negative news will trigger a new news cycle built on the story line that this is a company in crisis (see Toyota).
Does anyone feel like they are watching the Apple-version of LeBron’s ”Decision?” Sure, one is a device and one is an athlete - but they are both monumental brands in their respective industries being faced with very difficult decisions.
It is hard to argue that both the iPhone 4 and LeBron are at the top of their game – sure there are others great players, but these are the two heavyweights of their markets and its not very often they have been tested the way they are now.
Almost every man, woman and child (even those of outside of Cleveland, New York and Miami) are aware of the drama and speculation surrounding the free agency choice LeBron James made last week. It has become a parody many cannot resist having some fun with (my favorite being the skit from the ESPYs last night) and has drawn the attention and commentary of celebrities, politicians and just about anyone with a blog and remote interest in basketball.
Equally so, almost everyone knows about the iPhone 4 antenna issue. The way the iPhone 4 antenna “problem” has played out over the last two weeks feels very similar to me to the LeBron “Decision.” Both spurred great excitement around their arrival (iPhone 4 hitting the market and the day LeBron became an official free agent). Both had to make big decisions in very small time frames. Both are on the receiving end of mass media and public pressures (where to play? what to do? when to do it?).
With the LeBron decision already made, here are a few things I think Apple can learn…
Ultimately, how you handle your “decision” is quickly becoming almost as important as what you actually decide to do, but hopefully they’ll do it quickly, directly and with a bit of Apple style.
Now, lets sit back and wait for the next round of “The Decision” to play out…
Over the past few weeks, I have been fascinated with the story of the Russian spies who were assigned to “Americanize” themselves to get U.S. nuclear secrets. Not stunned by the fact that we actually had “Russian spies” in this country, but more so the technology they were using to attain these secrets and communicate with their Russian counterparts.
In reading an article in NewScientist I was able to learn more about the technology that the spies were using, and actually began to chuckle a bit. Aren’t they supposed to have state of the art gadgets Mission Impossible style? Secret communication techniques that are not easily detectable? I was especially floored when I read they were hiding messages in online images…that is so 1990’s.
Speaking of 1990’s, this story also made me a bit nostalgic for technology that has come and gone. The floppy disk, the printers that used the paper you had to tear the edges off, etc. If I had to pick two things to come back, I would wish the original Sega Genesis game console would make a come back and the Motorola V60i cell phone (my very first).
So this begs the question: What technology do you miss and wish would make a comeback?
Every year San Jose State University sponsors a contest that “challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.” Click here to see this year’s winners. (It’s so worth it.)
Showcasing bad writing - especially in such a light-hearted fashion - is one way of exposing it, educating practitioners and, hopefully, elevating quality. I think it’s time the PR industry inaugurated something similar. So here goes. Readers: I challenge you to come up with opening sentences to the worst press releases you can think of. Post them in the comments section. If we get enough submissions I’ll crown a victor in a week or two. (And let’s keep real brands out of it.)
Here’s a worrying thought: I don’t think much invention or creativity will be required.
Many of us have seen first-hand (or second-hand) the proliferation of Flip Video camcorders being used in our industry. From man-on-the-street interviews to interviews to footage shot at events, conferences and launches - video and visual storytelling has become an integral part of our profession.
I’ve started to compile some tips on how to use ‘Flip Cams and also some of the basic features of the FlipShare software. I’ll be the first to admit the beauty of the FlipShare software (and ‘Flip Cams themselves) are their simplicity — but along with that there are some pitfalls and setbacks. Hopefully this series of videos will help you get the most of your ‘Flip Cam (and the FlipShare editing software if you choose to use it)…while avoiding some of the downsides.
These were all shot using Flip Cams and edited with the FlipShare software – so you’ll see first-hand the capabilities - the audio sound quality, video quality, automatic transitions, etc. that the software builds in for you. Personally I mostly use Adobe Premiere Elements for my editing, but if I’m in need of creating a quick, easy, somewhat raw video - FlipShare makes it very easy to edit, compile and share.
For those of you who’ve read my posts in the past, I’m a big fan of learning and listening…so let me know what you think. Other tips we should/could share?
I attended the Candidates Energy Forum yesterday which featured Colorado gubernatorial candidates Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former Congressman Scott McInnis.
There certainly was a lot of political rhetoric spoken and the highlighting of resumes and experience. One of the qualifications Mayor Hickenlooper highlighted was his experience running the successful Wynkoop Brewery which is practically an institution on Denver.
He said three things he learned in the restaurant business prepared him for his role and responsibilities as Mayor:
1) Dealing with red tape. He said that restautranteurs must deal with all kinds of local and state regulations, inspections emploee matters and the like. To be successful, one must navigate through these adeptly.
2) Building a team. Building a staff that believes in you is critical.
3) Deadling with a very fickly and critical public. There is no customer that can be as difficult to please as a restaurant patron.
All words of wisdom I thought. I also thought that there are similar parallels with PR professionals. There certainly are key skills that PR professionals can parlay into a political career if they so chose. Aside from pleasing challenging clients and selling ideas to tough reporters, are there others that come to mind? All thoughts and comment welcome.
Shortly after Friday morning’s US – Slovenia World Cup match, which ended in a draw following a absolutely terrible contentious officiating call, I logged onto Twitter to join scores of US soccer fans tweeting their collective disgust over the outcome only to reach Twitter’s ‘fail whale’ screen…my second ‘fail whale’ in less than a week of World Cup play.
These fail whales led me to do a bit of research about the popularity of Twitter around sporting events and how this is being utilized by marketers.
As it turns out, both the World Cup and the NBA Finals have been a bit overwhelming for Twitter. Records for posts in a single day have been broken and re-broken, with major peaks occurring around the times points are scored. As Benny Evangelista of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in a recent blog post, Twitter has experienced several site outages, slowness, bursts of error messages, duplicated or missing tweets and timeline problems that can be attributed to the World Cup.
Beyond a discussion of why Twitter’s architecture is unable to handle the tweet traffic of so many sports fans, this points to an interesting shift in the demographic of Twitter users (see Claire Cain Miller’s excellent NY Times article here). Where once the social networking site was composed primarily of early adopters in hi-tech hot spots, it has become apparent that the makeup of Twitter has started to reflect the interests of the general population.
As Twitter more closely mirrors a cross-section of the US and the world at large, it has become a valuable tool for measuring the buzz associated with any given product or event. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog post, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries describes how Twitter is now one of the primary measurement tools for determining which brands are winning the World Cup marketing battle. Much to the dismay of official FIFA World Cup sponsor Adidas, Nike has dominated World Cup online chatter, with a dominant share of Twitter mentions.
While ambush marketing has long plagued official sponsors, the rise of Twitter and social media creates new headaches for official sponsors. As brands learn to capitalize on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, their successful domination of world events is leading savvy marketers to ask whether the sponsorship of a major sporting event is necessary in the era of social media.
For the next Olympic Games, should companies shell out millions of dollars just to have exclusive rights?
While I believe that sponsorship of major events continues to have a significant ROI, sponsors must be aware that the marketing game has changed. As Nike has successfully demonstrated, to become the brand most commonly associated with the World Cup, a company must make use of social media to drive creative content across the Internet.
When considering the ROI for sponsorship of major events, one thing is certain–sponsorships alone will not ensure a victory. Word is still out on if scored goals will.
An iconoclast is someone who destroys religious symbols. The classical example of iconoclasm is a guy named Konon, who you may or may not know as Leo III the Isaurian - further proof that names were more interesting 1200 years ago.
Today we use the term a little more loosely. It’s common to associate the term with business figures who up-end markets; Steve Jobs comes to mind. (Steve I the Appleonian?)
To Gregory Berns, Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics at Emory University (a fine institution that made the mistake of granting me a wholly undeserved degree) and author of Iconoclast: a Neuroscientist Reveals how to Think Differently, an iconoclast is “a person who does something that others say can’t be done.”
Setting aside the needless redefinition of the word iconoclast (what’s wrong with innovator?), Berns’ book provides excellent, and well-researched, information on how, and why, people generate iconoclastic (innovative!) ideas.
In the process, the book also provides some insight, from the perspective of neuroscience, on how to market those ideas.
Summarizing the results of several research studies, Berns shows that dopamine - sometimes thought of as the ‘pleasure chemical’ of the brain - is highly associated with the desire to seek out new experiences. Individuals with highly active dopamine systems are more likely pursue novel experiences and - here’s the kicker - young people have more active dopamine systems. The bottom line: market new ideas to the under-thirty crowd, they’re more receptive.
But what does this mean if you have to market to people who, like me, wouldn’t survive very long in the world of Logan’s Run? (This is tech blog, if you don’t get that reference you’re in the wrong place. Turn off your com-put-er, call a friend and start making fun of geeks).
Still with us? Good.
If you’re target demographic are grey-hairs, Berns points out that wrapping new ideas in the ‘cloak of familiarity’ can drive a “new idea to be adopted by a large percentage of an older population.” In other words, don’t position a new idea as ‘revolutionary’ to a 50-year old C-suite executive; demonstrate how it fits neatly into the world he or she already understand.
There’s much more to the book and, despite the misuse of the word iconoclast, it’s worth reading. There’s also a fabulous section that details which illegal narcotics to take in order to stimulate iconoclastic thinking. Buy the book for neuroscience, read it for the psychotropics.
Via SAI I came across the latest version of Mary Meeker’s presentation on the state of the Internet. It’s a must read. There’s really too much good stuff to summarize, and you should really click through and spend time with the whole presentation itself, but pay close attention to slide 4 which compares the growth of the mobile Internet to AOL and Netscape’s growth in the 90’s.
Another thing worth noting is slide 7 which, rightly, defines the mobile Internet as more than just phones (includes eReaders, car electronics, etc). The PC & browser -centric model of computing is fading away and that’s bound to have significant implications. One of those implications, I think, is that the way we experience the Internet is being, essentially, subdivided. We’re self-selecting the kind of Internet experience we want to have (the iPhone app experience is different than the in-car experience, which is different than the Kindle experience, etc). Social media disintermediated many of the traditional influencers that shape consumer/customer perceptions. Now that the relatively simple & static PC/browser model is being, effectively, disintermediated, there’s going to be increasing pressure on brands and marketers to ‘play’ in a multitude of different digital playgrounds, or - as I’ve written about before - digital subdivisions, each with their own formats, ettiquette, style, etc.
The State of Cleantech and Sustainability Communications