Just like everyone else, I am following with interest and a smidgen of anxiety the swine flu epidemic (my in-laws live in Mexico City).
As a tech guy, I started to look at some of the technologies that can be used or have been used to help contain the flu and solve this global threat.
This is what I have found so far.
First of all, Internet technologies have been tapped to track the spreading of Swine Flu. Here an article on this topic from IHealthBeat. This is a Google map. And this is the CDC Twitter feed so you can follow the updates real time.
As Ogilvy PR we have developed a simple aggregator where you can follow the latest news as well as some interesting information.
But what about technologies that prevent or that can help cure the flu?
I found a press release of a company, Qualsec, that says to have a technology that can screen individuals for Swine Flu and provide instant results.
So apparently not much from the tech community to help solve this potential pandemic . Much faster and more creative is the professional spanner. Read this blog post on the LA Times on how spammers are using celebrities such as Salma Hayek to get the attention of recipients. Maybe Diego Luna and Santana are the next ones? And according to McAfee computer viruses may be the next part of the swine flu outbreak. Virtual world and reality coming together?
According to a new book released by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, journalists face “two years of carnage”.
Titled “A report, Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism”, the book also revealed it’s very possible that the biggest media companies in the US will come crashing down due to cost-cutting and reduced quality, while five in 11 newspapers will vanish in Britain. After all, more than 12,000 journalists around the world lost their jobs this year.
Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said that usually, journalism has traditionally “thrived on the emergence of disruptive technologies even as economic models have changed”. The Australian newspaper spoke to Christopher and filed a story yesterday.
In the article Warren says: “Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the basis on which the industry has survived and flourished.” Whilst journalists are using technology to find new and progressive ways to keep the public informed, in the report 70 per cent revealed they’re now experiencing increased workloads due to a shrinking of the workforce.
As to the future, 19 per cent said they were excited about the future of journalism, but 35 per cent said they were pessimistic about their prospects.
Just like the PR industry has to modify the rule book in terms of how it uses social media and the Internet to help its clients participate in conversations and reach new influencers outside heritage media; by the same token journalists and publishers face even tougher challenges to retain relevance, especially as audiences continue to fragment the world over and chose multiple sources for information. Add to this the financial crisis now sweeping the world and further cost pressures will only amplify the speed of change.
The Australian article looks at what might evolve if mainstream news organisations collapse, citing research from the City University of New York. That says an organic news organisation could evolve – based on bloggers, video shooters and photographers, it would be augmented by community managers, program developers artists and run by just a handful of editors, all on an annual budget of $2.1 million.
On a brighter note, and to update on my last post about PC Magazine’s decision to cull its print title, Roy Morgan has just released circulation figures in Australia for the last 12 months. The good news is that PC magazines did remarkably well. PC User’s readership climbed from 281,000 to 313,000 while APC went up from 275,000 to 280,000. PC Authority went up from 154,000 to 158,000, and PC Powerplay up from 111,000 to 115,000. Netguide was the only tech title to record a fall, dipping from 106,000 to 99,000. For even more analysis, check out last year’s results to compare.
Some good news to end on.
Whilst there is a lot of attention and focus right now on the recession and how it will impact IT spending, I am sure the Wednesday’s news that PC Magazine will close its print edition to go 100 per cent online did not go unnoticed. I would imagine this decision will have many asking themselves the question “if PC Magazine can’t sustain itself, who can?”
It is a trend that we have seen in Australia with PC World doing the same thing some months back.
So, is this a shock or simply a result of market forces?
Having spent nine good years myself at Yellow Pages through the late 80s to the mid 90s, there was a belief then that the print directory would disappear. It didn’t happen and the book is still going strong and has a place in most homes sitting underneath the phone. But of course, online consumption is powering ahead and at some stage I am sure it will all go online.
But in light of PC Magazine’s decision, is this going to be a watershed moment for the PC and technology magazine industry?
Arguably, PC Magazine has been the world’s number one PC publication for much of its history, so this decision will make many other publishers take note and consider their strategies.
Personally, I think online is not a problem and in fact opens new opportunities for us and our clients: deadline cycles change, faster news cycles, more opportunity for video, for reader comments and so on. Also, much easier to track and monitor stories. Bring it on.
But with the global financial crisis and such a Goliath dropping its print edition, it’s hard not to imagine it won’t have some kind of knock-on effect. Let’s hope not. Long live technology magazines, if not in print, online.
I’m going to paint a bit of a picture and I’d like to see if you can determine the common thread between the following:
A typical day for me:
- Waking up to my ipod as an alarm clock
- Downloading and listening to podcasts on my commute
- Spordically checking blackberry while on the bus
- Scouring my Google Reader for news, alerts, trends
- Conducting daily business including conference calls, blogging (on TechPR Nibbles and a personal blog), Twitter-ing, e-mailing, etc.
The common thread? It’s all D.I.G.I.T.A.L
Which leads me to think about how much information we consume each day. We’ve all heard the statistics from way back when that noted how much our brains can process every day, hour, minute, etc. But can you imagine what that stat would look like now compared to two decades ago? We are, completely, totally immersed in digital consumption. Can we ever get too full?
I love having each of my days filled with technology. Yet, I’ll admit, there are some days I just want to come home and rest my eyes and not stare at a screen. (It is during these moments that I remember how nice it is to pick up a book and turn pages!) Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever been so informed as I am now. Yes, as a member of Gen Y, I’ve grown up in a digital atmosphere of early adopters and trend-loving peers. But our world is accelerating at such a rapid pace, we Gen Y’ers are definitely not alone.
I consider a large part of my job to be consumption. Yes, I have a lot of producing to do, too. Don’t get me wrong- I love both parts. The Digital World, if you will, allows me to be immersed, 24/7 in news, opinions, reviews, trends, events and beyond and it’s done in a variety of outlets. Yes, I still love to read Real Simple & BusinessWeek when I’m on flights or sitting in a doctor’s office- you can’t beat the glossy pages, let’s be honest. Yet, it goes without saying that technology allows us to do our jobs better and to succeed. It allows us to reach for knowledge at a more rapid pace and to utilize it to the best of our ability.
Did I ever see myself working in Tech PR originally and loving all things digital? No. But it’s introduced me to a world beyond my normal interests because our clients are innovators and influencers. They inspire and they create. So, while some days we may feel too bombarded by digital devices, social media and the likes, when you take advantage of it- the consumption can truly be…delicious.
With much uncertainty and chatter on how the economic crisis will impact the technology sector in 2009, I thought now would be a good time to share some thoughts and seek other’s opinions.
In Australia, the panic button has not been hit, but keen to get a sense from our global friends on the mood elsewhere.
If history is a measure on what may happen, those hardest hit in times like this have tended to be the hardware and software vendors, especially the consumer sector. But on the flip side, other segments like the IT services industry have done ok and continue to enjoy growth with cost conscious CIOs keen to outsource to third parties to save on their dwindling budgets.
Gartner has just released its top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 (not sure if this list was produced before the latest melt down), but nonetheless it would indicate that for some software categories it may not all be doom and gloom. If there is direct business value and associated cost savings that bodes well. If there isn’t, then trouble looms. But that should be the case at any time regardless of a recession.
Personally, I still think some of these technologies may still be a low priority if the funds start to dry up. What do you think?
For ease of use here is Gartner’s 2009 crystal ball:
Incredibly, Green IT was number one last year. At a time when the environment needs all the protection it can get, this forecast is a tad disappointing. Other technologies that have dropped back in priority include unified communications, which was number two last year.
However, an analyst here in Australia, Bruce McCabe, at S2 Intelligence disagrees with Gartner. In an interview with ZDNet Australia he says everyone is still very focused on power consumption in IT hardware and there is no question that green IT has continued to move up the list of priorities.
With much commentary to come on just how the technology sector will weather the economic downturn, many of our clients will be adjusting their tactics and strategies for 2009 and into 2010.
Is there going to be a major slowdown in technology spending, or will organisations still take advantage of the benefits that technology can and does represent?
Not too long ago, I found myself standing in the middle of the “condiments” aisle in my local grocery store, staring cross-eyed at shelves full of Jelly choices. After about 5 minutes of picking up different kinds of grape jelly and studying the labels, I actually had to call my wife and ask her (with a not-so-subtle hint of sarcasm), “which of the 14 jars of grape jelly do you want?” Among others, there were organic, regular, low-sugar, sugar-free, preservatives, jam, peanut butter swirl, tall skinny jar, short wide jar, plastic jar, glass jar, etc. etc. – the options seemed limitless.
This isn’t a new discussion and there are some interesting studies that cover the impact of too much choice. I found the image that was in a recent and quite interesting National Post article particularly striking – look at all of those TVs!?.
Then, to my suprise, I read a story in the Sydney Morning Herald that actually references an experiment on too much choice and Jam…”In the experiment, two groups of supermarket shoppers were asked to sample jam. One group was given six jams to taste, the other group was given 24. Thirty per cent of the first group purchased something after the tasting, only 3 per cent of the second group made a purchase.”
For technology communications professionals, choice poses more than just challenges in our personal lives. We’re faced with the added test of differentiating both our own services as well as the products or services were are helping promote. Whether you are launching a new consumer technology, marketing an enterprise storage device, a core router or a new professional service, crafting a unique message that stands out.
We are also forced to consider the fragmentation of the media industry and understand how media is being consumed, accessed or shared by readers so we can devise the best approach to reaching a target audience is an ever-increasing challenge .
Just consider that the two stories I’ve linked to in this article are from international news sources that I found by reading Google News Alerts – not my local paper or the blogs I follow on a daily basis.
I read the vast majority of my news via my iGoogle homepage, which now includes a widget for my Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts as well as several other applications I used to have to individually check on a daily basis. Here are just a few of my Tabs on my iGoogle homepage:
PR Blogs (You’ll see my Denver Bias here as several are from my hometown)
The challenge to all of us is to be the jelly that stood out enough for the 3 percent to actually read about and then purchase.
In what has felt like a sudden onset of one natural disaster of epic proportion after another, the last thing from which one might expect to be kept informed would be a social media tool traditionally used for personal updates to a network of friends, industry peers and family. But now, a program built around “short codes,” is playing a role in disaster recovery and affecting people emotionally and financially. So with the recent earthquake in China, the cyclone in Burma and the fires in California, it’s rather surprising that a growing trend has emerged with accounts of these disasters being reported on Twitter en masse.
A recent article in PRWeek got me thinking about the value of such social media tools that, in many ways, have come to be much more than strictly “social.” As tweets began to provide status updates on those in devastated areas of China, Twitter took on a new life, a new role. It became philanthropic and educational. The Salvation Army began using its Twitter page (twitter.com/salvationarmy) to let followers know about progress on relief efforts and directed people to where they could find more information and resources. Other organizations were right in step with this as well.
“Though the American Red Cross doesn’t have a staff in China, it did use Twitter (twitter.com/redcross), as well as traditional media notifications to tell victims of last year’s Southern California wildfires where to find help during the disaster, says Wendy Harman, senior associate for new media integration at the American Red Cross,” reported PRWeek.
Tweets have continually evolved; from personal status updates to a means of spreading news and trends. However, I must admit, if tools like Twitter can make finding shelter easier, allowing loved ones to reunite or even raise money, social media just got even better. I kind of love it even more.
In an Australian first, and in a scene reminiscent of a Star Wars Jedi Council meeting, Australia’s dominant carrier Telstra has projected a life-size 3-D hologram of its chief technology officer, Dr Hugh Bradlow from Melbourne live to a stage in Adelaide, which is more than 700 kms away. Dr Bradlow’s life-sized, real-time hologram walked, talked and interacted with business executives at an Adelaide conference while he stood in front of cameras in Telstra’s Melbourne office. Cameras and microphones in Adelaide allowed Dr Bradlow to see and hear his subjects in the Adelaide audience, as they watched his high definition image projected onto a transparent screen or “foil”. Click here to see the video on ABC News.
The technology, created by British company Musion Eyeliner, has already enabled former US vice president Al Gore to speak to the Live Earth concert’s London audience from Tokyo, and retailer Target to host a model-less virtual fashion show in New York last year. UK band Gorillaz has also used Musion to give life to three-dimensional cartoon characters who performed their song at a 2005 MTV Awards concert in Portugal as rappers interacted with them live on stage.
But Telstra reckons it’s not just for entertainment, but believes there are real business applications and serious benefits from this technology. Perhaps it will help to reduce carbon emissions as executives take less flights, opting instead for their 3-Image to travel? Certainly, that would be a more productive use of one’s time, and reduce travel costs. But clearly it is early days and the costs of this technology as still quite high. This particular holographic video projection system took about half a day to set up, and to move the image the infrastructure needed was “tens of megabytes”, which Telstra ran across its high-speed internet-based Next IP network, which was launched in April last year.
So, a sign of things to come, or pure science fiction?