Tech innovation and enthusiasm is clearly alive and well in our nation’s capital. Last Thursday, I attended the Digital Capital Week 2011 Core Conference, an all day affair at the Artisphere, where entrepreneurs, creatives, developers, marketers and communicators from around the world came together to network and share information.
One of the highlights for me was the Disruptive Entrepreneurs panel, where Ruha Devanesan introduced us to PeaceTones, a nonprofit that supports talented, unknown artists from developing countries build their careers while giving back to their communities. PeaceTones trains artists on their legal rights and marketing techniques, and helps them distribute their work internationally.
The music industry has changed so much in the past decade. Music today is digital and easily shared, making it difficult to monetize less direct consumption—even for the big record labels and well-established artists. For musicians from earthquake-ravaged Haiti or the impoverished favelas of Brazil, the struggle to “make it” is nearly impossible to overcome.
PeaceTones leverages the power of social media platforms to spread these artists’s work globally. They film personal narratives and create music videos for their artists and then teach them how to self promote using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms. PeaceTones also uses Kickstarter, the world’s largest platform for funding creative projects, to raise funds to launch the artists’ albums. This effort has been tremendously successful in helping these artists share their music with a global audience. And the best part is that 90% of all product sales go directly to the musicians and their community’s development goal.
Later in the day, I attended the Responsibility in Media in a Global Age panel where Alex Howard of O’Reilly Media declared identity to be “the biggest issue of the digital age.” The group discussed how, when working a story, today’s journalists need to be “data scientists” and know how to tap into the ever-evolving tools that help verify someone’s identity. Food for thought: networked identity – what qualifies as an individual in a new media environment? What happens to self-identity when presented through networks of social connections? For example, does an enterprise Twitter account with multiple authors presenting a single “voice” qualify as an individual? I’ll let you chew on that…
We all know that it’s increasingly challenging for media to manage breaking news and fact check for accuracy, but as this panel discussed, the social tools being used to share information in real time (i.e. Twitter and YouTube) are having a massive impact, especially in areas of extreme conflict, as we saw with the Arab Spring uprising. Anthony De Rosa of Reuters shared, “especially in the developing world, the notion of responsibility is changing. You need to know when to burn access in order to get the story out fast. You either report what’s happening now or you get left behind.”
Also in this session, Google’s Caroline McCarthy (formerly of CNET) shared one of her favorite Twitter handles: @MrDisclosure, a whistleblower who tweets when investors don’t disclose their investments in their tweets – check it out!
Toward the end of the day, I attended the Winning Mobile Campaigns, hosted by Ogilvy client, Ford. Panelists agreed that it’s unclear if QR codes have a future. “It’s a bridging technology, not the final destination.” They also shared their thoughts on some of the exciting technologies we can expect to see used in mobile marketing campaigns of the future. Some of my favorites:
I was delighted to see one of my very favorite startup CEOs on the Winning panel – the mind-blowingly brilliant Brian Wong, of kiip, a company that offers marketers an entirely new model for in-game advertising. Kiip’s long-term goal? To “own every achievement moment on the planet.” For example, people are rewarded for exercising for a certain length of time or for leveling up on a game they play on their smartphone. As Wong says, “we think of happiness as a resource. We’re trying to mine happiness rather than create it. We’re learning more every day about how to tap into those key moments and create affinity for a brand.” Pretty impressive thinking for someone who isn’t yet legally old enough to rent a car!
Overall, a fantastic conference, and I look forward to attending again next year. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the most exciting technologies you’re looking forward to in mobile marketing campaigns of the future.
Media, often chastised for their slow recognition of the impact of technology, is now embracing the digital world and rapidly reinventing its business. That was the theme shared by a panel of media representatives at DCWEEK yesterday. A case in point offered by Angie Goff, with NBC Washington: she raised eyebrows from bosses two years ago when she solicited input from viewers through Twitter, but now it is the station that actively promotes her Twitter handle on-screen while she broadcasts.
Insights from the panelists on the state of media today in a digital world:
• Angie Goff, NBC Washington, on Crowdsourcing: “What people like drives our news content. Whether a journalist or not, everyone has a voice. We are crowdsourcing with people that know more than journalists. We make people feel like they have a piece of the news. I’m surprised that more news outlets don’t have social media reporters that sort through content and data.”
• Vijay Ravindran, Washington Post, on Audience-Building: “Moving from a general content provider to a specific content provider is challenging. You have to know what you are best at and you need a concentrated strategy. We are for Washington and about Washington, we are not a national paper of record.”
• Susan Poulton, National Geographic, on Quality Journalism: “As we opened up to other audiences, some at NatGeo worried whether the quality of photos and the quality of writing would be the same. What we found was that the level of curation was raised by attaching the NatGeo brand and some of the photos submitted were just absolutely amazing.”
• Vijay Ravindran, Washington Post, on Monetization: “Everyone has been focused on building audiences and there has not been much innovation around monetization. There will be a flood of innovation surrounding monetizing original content or it will get smaller and smaller. Those are the only two options. The key for the music business when it went digital was to own the total experience not just the music.”
• Angie Goff, NBC Washington, on Content Creation: “More than ever now, there is a need for constant content. We don’t care where it comes from, but the key is making it relevant and something our users have shown an interest in. We don’t want to be a commercial.”
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?
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 NY Times got me again. To say that this is a great read for any marketer is an understatement and it may be worth reading more than once.
At the risk of violating one of the premises of the article, the section that really struck me from a communications standpoint was a concept the article attributes to Cass Sunstein called “cyberbalkanization.” Essentially this is the ability for anyone to easily use online and social tools (as well as traditional ones) to surround themselves with news, opinions and ideas that are in-line with their own existing ideas, perceptions and beliefs. This eliminates the need to listen or learn from anyone that has an opinion outside of your own - this part is towards the end of the story.
While I believe much of this has been around for years via traditional media catering to specific consumer, business and political interests, the future is certainly accelerating the opportunity and dropping the barriers to entry while increasing the gap between opposing views. Instead of paying for subscriptions or content, I can now get almost whatever I want, free and delivered to virtually any screen I want while mashing it up with any other content I wish. I’m able to create my own happy little news world - surrounding myself with my preferred bloggers and authors (thanks to my RSS feeds, readers) and my own social networks (that , naturally, consist of likeminded ”friends”). It is easy to see how small my world can become and how easy it is to block out the culture, ideas, thoughts and perspectives of those outside of it.
From a technology standpoint, some research groups are working on ways to try and intesect this trend. Take a look at the Dispute Finder project developed by Intel (Disclosure: Intel is a client) and UC Berkeley - here is a good video of the project as well. Through a Firefox extension, I’m able to read all the news and views I want, as normal. But when the Dispute Finder picks up a keyword phrase, I’m presented with the option to hear two perspectives of the story one supporting it and one opposing.
Until this type of technology is available for broad use, we’re faced with the challenge of determining how we speak with people and communicate with them if they’re not even listening or tuning in. Certainly we need to understand the habits of our target audiences (both online and offline) as well as the technology they use to gather their information - but we also need to be willing to listen to opposing views, learn from them and find ways to apply that knowledge to reaching our audience. Some of this may be engaging with them in discussion (online or offline) and that it is the beauty and fear of social media. I also think this is part of the reason we all jump to read the cyclical “PR is Dead” story or the debate about the death of embargoes (search Twitter for #newscartel) or how the media industry is dead (or dying - @themediaisdying).
We should be paying attention, and more importantly, we should be listening and learning.
There’s no doubt that 2009 was a year that (further) changed our job as PR professionals. As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, it’s an all new, ever changing world and we need to learn, move and adapt quickly. But, in concrete terms, what does that mean?
From my point of view (mostly from the agency side) I thought I’d list out the priorities for a tech PR practitioner in 2010. I think they stand for both experienced professionals and people just getting into PR.
One thing is for sure: our job is indeed getting more and more complex, challenging, and fascinating. All three qualities that have kept me in the same business for so many years.
1. Becoming a Content Creator. Technologies and the media environment are making it possible for companies to reach out to their stakeholders directly. PR must lead content creation. Cisco has done that very well for quite some time now, with News@Cisco. IBM is now following with the recent hire of Steve Hamm. I am sure many others will follow. A content strategy is pivotal in any good public relations plan.
2. Telling Stories Visually. As PR professionals we need to become better visual storytellers. Read The Back of the Napkin for inspiration – you can get the new companion workbook to put Roam’s principles into practice on Amazon. Perfect way to start the new year!
3. Learn how to use multimedia tools. Now that you’ve put Content and Visual Storytelling at the center, learn how to make news using all the multimedia tools available and how to develop and manage an editorial calendar (or hire people who do it well.) We will see more journalists getting in-house to do precisely this. Steve Hamm at IBM won’t be the only one.
4. Get a Room! I mean a media room. Nowadays it is so much easier to have a studio close to your executives or your clients so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. This can be very handy in times of crisis where you want a quick response. In this post you can find specific suggestions on my favorite equipment.
5. Become a social media expert (if you are not one already.) Social Media is integrated in everything we do. PR professionals that are not at least proficient in Social Media, are going to be obsolete before the end of the year. So, don’t rely only on “experts”. Become an expert.
6. Think 360. Talking about integration, don’t stop at social media. Think about all the communication disciplines. Clients and companies face communication or reputation (or both) challenges. Rarely can something be solved by one communication discipline. PR, AR Marketing, IR, HR (Internal Communication), and in some instances Sales and Customer Service needs to work together in a more integrated way than ever before.
7. Develop new services and become more efficient. More for less is here to stay. Now that companies have learned (by necessity) to do and demand from their agency partners to get more for less, why would they go back to getting less for more? For agencies that means providing higher-value services and be more efficient in providing traditional support.
8. Identify the right measurement criteria for your needs. If #7 is true (and believe me, it is), ROI is going to be even more important than before. Flexible measurement solutions, that cost less than 10% of the total investment, will become critical for the success of a Corporate Communication department and for the agency.
9. Integrate your customers in your PR planning. As consumers are co-brand managers, really playing a major role in shaping global brands like Google, Apple and Ford, B2B companies need to work closely with their customers so they can become co-brand managers too. What they say, think or write about will affect your reputation and brand building. A hint? It’s not just about developing and pitching case studies.
10. Understand where influence begins and how it works. Too often I hear that PR is going to die (yawn) because social media is changing the media landscape so there is less and less traditional media. The reality is that PR is not only media relations. The big opportunity for PR professionals is to understand the new “influencer” landscape to a greater detail than before. Understand the ecosystem where your company or client belongs to, and how to engage those influencers and the people who influence them.
My best wishes to a wonderful 2010.
By that I mean, get a media room.
Nowadays it’s so much easier to have a studio near where your executives or your clients are so you can easily shoot video without taking away a lot of their time. In a time of crisis, this allows for a quick response.
In this post some suggestions on the equipment to buy:
Like a lot of people yesterday I sat slack-jawed as the impact of Bloomberg’s acquisition of BusinessWeek filtered through Twitter. I’m still having trouble understanding how BusinessWeek is in better shape without many of the incredible talents who are now left to chart new courses.
As the departures settled in - compounded by the week’s AP layoffs - I realized that my own response is really based on the vague sense that this period of destruction will be creative and beneficial.
I have no objective reason for believing that journalism will be better off for these changes, and deep down I know that the arguments of pessimists have as much going for them as those of optimists.
Nevertheless I can’t shake the belief that we’re headed in a good direction, even if it the road is painful. I’m not one to proselytize, but here are my articles of faith:
Is this blind faith? Perhaps. But I see new reasons to believe in it every day.
I was quick to post my criticisms yesterday to Rupert Murdoch’s apparent decision to delist his media sites from Google. Too quick it seems, as in my rush I neglected to consider a possible counter argument, blogged here by Mark Cuban.
The core of Cuban’s post appears to be that Murdoch is right because Twitter and Facebook are on their way to eclipsing Google as the primary content gateways and that these sites pose no threat to publishers. I think he’s sort of right and sort of wrong.
Departing once again from my rule to never disagree with billionaires, here is what I think is right and wrong with this argument:
- Cuban: “This is not 1999, nor is it 2004, nor is it 2006, nor is it 2008. The calendar is about to turn to 2010. What worked and made sense 3,5 and 10 years ago, no longer does.”
o Me: Yes it is 2009, not 1999, 2004 2006 or 2008 - but in 2009 the Wall Street Journal get’s about 25% of its traffic from Google and 10-15% of its revenue as a result.
- Cuban: “TWITTER IS SURPASSING GOOGLE as a destination for finding information on breaking and recent news of all types.”
o Me: Surpassing? Maybe. Actually, let’s just say that’s definitely true. Surpassing isn’t the same as surpassed. Look at the numbers I point out above. That’s all still true. The numbers aren’t likely to change dramatically in the short term. They may change eventually and perhaps sooner then I think, but not tomorrow and probably not within the next 12 months.
- Cuban: “Whats more, TWITTER POSSES NO THREAT to any destination news site.”
o Me: No, you can’t fit a whole news story in 140 characters. You know what you can fit? News. Some people will want the whole story, some won’t. On the other hand it’s worth bearing in mind that newspapers aren’t just about breaking and recent news. Journalism, especially the kind that you can get at the Wall Street Journal and only a few other destinations, is bigger than that.
- Cuban: “if I trust a newspaper, tv or any brand, I can follow it on twitter and expect the news to come to me.”
o Me: Totally agree, good point . . . as long as you know who you want to follow. If you don’t you know what would be really helpful in finding out? Google.
- Cuban: “Having to search for and find news in search engines is so 2008.”
o Me: And for 25% of the Wall Street Journal’s visitors, so 2009.
- Cuban: “Nor am I saying that Google is toast and has no role. Non real time feed users will continue to source news through Google. I just see that as a declining number in an era where much of our first crack at news is via our phone. But, perfect or not, the bottom line is that in this new era of twitter, things have changed.”
o Me: I’ve been pretty critical but actually, I think this is right - or will be right. I do think more and more content discovery will happen outside of Google and Google News. I also think it’s quite possible that the competition could eclipse Google in this area. Here’s where I get off the bus, however: why delist? It’s just . . . unnecessary. You want to charge for your content? Charge. Why make it impossible to find through Internet users’ most popular form of discovery: search?
I make it a rule not to disagree with billionaires but Rupert Murdoch’s apparent plan to make News Corp sites invisible to search engines is mystifying.
The media industry isn’t dying; it’s changing, and while it undergoes this metamorphosis there will continue to be a lot of hand wringing, a lot of failed experiments and a lot of creative destruction. This is a bad thing, obviously, for those employees and companies that are left out in the cold, but journalism will survive and professional news gatherers will continue to be paid - even if we don’t precisely know how (though I suspect some pay walls will work).
So things are changing and we don’t know who’s going to end up on top. It’s only natural that publishers would experiment and it’s absolutely natural that they would turn their ire on search engines (Google, principally) that seem to be responsible for putting their business in jeopardy.
But making your content invisible to search engines? Murdoch rationalizes this by saying: “What’s the point of having someone coming occasionally?” and “If they’re just search people… They don’t suddenly become loyal readers.”
Why indeed? And while we’re at it, why sell first year subscriptions at deep discounts? Why sell single issues at newsstands or in bookstores?
Perhaps the misunderstanding stems from the use of the phrase “search people” as if we were a class or a generation. Search people aren’t a slice of the population or a demographic, they’re people, as in: people-people, as in: the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and the investment banker, the lawyer, and the day trader.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, search engines are everyone’s gateway to the Internet making them, by default, the gateway to the content, all the content, found therein. To be sure, today’s dedicated readers will probably continue to be dedicated readers - those that currently pay, anyway - but what about the (hoped-for) readers of tomorrow? They’re to become dedicated readers how?
That’s only part of the problem, however. The larger issue is one of relevance. Its one thing to institute a pay wall, readers can decide based on headlines, first paragraphs or third party commentary whether an article is worth a micropayment. But removing something from search engines is, almost by definition, synonymous with removing it from the Internet itself. How can you be part of a discussion, part of a community of interest if no one can find you or if the barriers to interacting with you are so cumbersome (Murdoch also seems to indicate a coming wave of fair use lawsuits targeting, presumably, blogs)?
Murdoch wants his readers on his terms but the Internet doesn’t work that way. News - but not journalism - is basically free and plentiful. Journalism has a low, and lowering, barrier to entry. Asking people to pay for your content, find your content without the benefit of search engines, and continue to read your content as it stands roped off from the rest of community is asking too much.
Or so I believe. I could be wrong. I’m no billionaire. Maybe rendering the Wall Street Journal obsolete is part of some master plan to reinvent the media business through Seppuku.
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