cords

Last week, every hipster and useless list website on the web were raving on how you could wrap cords around a MacBook brick. As the kids say, the meme went viral. This week, the damage control has started.

Let’s look past the first obvious thought of, “Are we really out of things to get excited about?” and focus on those cords.

Everytime I saw that cord wrapped so tight around that brick, I cringed. I had flashbacks of radio remotes and proper care of audio equipment. I would have gotten caned by the PD if I had packed up a mic cord or even a power cord up so tightly. (not a typo for canned as in fired. I do mean caned as in beaten with a reed) There were other people who did pack up tightly and it meant that the next time you were out on the road with only one mic cord and a tight wrap had shorted the connected in the XLR connector, you were out of luck.

BTW – as we’re here in the Christmas season, the need to pack up tightly is also the reason you have problems with your lights each year.

Which in a longabout way brings me to my point – please stop listening to these people.

Junk content sites have hired a bunch of college-fresh punks (or monkeys at typewriters) to continuously churn out content to feed the never-ending web beast. It’s the same problem with 24-hour cable news. There’s not enough real content to fill the hole so you get stupid editorial pitches for “business articles” that offer great tips such as you shouldn’t eat a whole lobster at the office for your lunch.

There’s no journalistic ethos on the web, if there was any to start with. There’s very little research done except to poll the writer’s Facebook friends. People can be duped like idiots by presenting non-content in an infographic. Bad information is passed along like Typhoid Mary.

What to do? Do the same thing you do when your crazy aunt emails you some crazy rumour that was debunked on Snopes years ago. Stop spreading bad content. While I despise the writers and the platforms that encourage them, the real trouble lies in you.

making the old work with the new

NBC’s Million Second Quiz was a flop.

I can hear the pitch meeting now…

It’s a way to combine TV watching and online participation! It’s got an online element! It’s got an app! It’s like Words with Friends! It’s the new #hashtag buzzword synergy blockbuster!! We’ll promote it until people are sick of hearing about it!

And without all the hyperbole, I agree. On paper, it should have worked.

However, I’m a trivia game show buff and I’m fairly well plugged in. I’m smack dab in the target market. But I watched about 15 minutes of it and thought, ‘Meh’.

Why didn’t it connect?

On first glance, I suspect it’s because the nation has achieved Ryan Seacrest over saturation.

But realistically, I think it’s because just like gathering together some eggs, flour and sugar doesn’t make a cake, putting trendy elements together doesn’t make a hit. There has to be something greater there. It has to be something people want to invest in.

I think the over promotion of it hurt as well. The promos felt like a mother standing in JC Penny trying to convince her son that the husky pants were cool.

And a reason that continues to pop up is that media still have no idea how to adapt. Trying to stick real time competition and app play into a TV show is like the newspaper or magazine promoting that you can flip through ‘pages’ on their site or app. It’s the old “try to wedge the old thing we know how to do into that new thing the kids are talking about”.

It’s a good lesson for all media. Stop trying to build new things on old foundations. Take your existing equity to develop a new base and build from there.

just a tweet

It should be obvious to anyone by now, but real time publishing is powerful. It can also be dangerously chaotic and unreliable. There’s a wonderful example of it today with the @AP twitter hack. A single tweet made the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge 140 points.

Incidents like this along with the recent Reddit witchhunts in the Boston bombings will cripple the development of new media journalism. There are archaic methods of checks and balance in traditional journalism, but how do you implement something like that across the crowd? And if you could, does it defeat the instantaneous nature of it? It’s a question I don’t have an answer for. Do you?

btw. The tweet should have been an obvious fake from the beginning because hackers don’t use AP Style. Mental Floss has a nice breakdown of that here.

AP twitter hack

death of the daily

Almost two years ago, I wrote a scathing review of the new iPad only newspaper “The Daily”. Today, News Corp announced they’re closing down the Daily.

While I’ll stick with much of my initial critique of why it ultimately failed, there’s a simple distilled reason of its failure. A digital newspaper failed for the same reason that traditional newspapers are failing. It’s not about the platform, whether that be an iPad or newsprint. It’s about the content and the audience (and the revenue model)

tradition

freedom from wantI am a staunch traditionalist.

There’s a reason things have been done the same way for a long time. It’s because those things work. Ain’t broke, don’t fix.

Every year around this time, magazines and TV shows start to wear on my traditionalist vein.

“New and exciting recipes for Thanksgiving” is the call of the headline. The magazine’s test kitchen or the celebrity chefs are rolling out alternatives as they reinvent the traditional bird and sides.

And I ask why.

How often does the average American roast an entire turkey EXCEPT in November or December? Do people not crave the holiday feast since it’s such a rarity? People cook this meal so infrequently that there’s a hotline to help them with questions.

And yet, turn on the TV or open the magazine to find someone telling you that you should prepare “Fruit-Loop encrusted turkey drumsticks for a new and exciting taste”. “Forget the whole bird and impress your guests with roadside turkey sliders with a Sriracha cranberry sauce!”

Even as I write this, my wife is planning to abandon a traditional pumpkin pie for something called Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie which sounds like a November mashup concert between Queen and AC/DC. Doesn’t bother me though as I deem any sort of pumpkin pie as a cooled jiggly inedible jack-o-lantern leftover. That recipe came straight out of the pages of this month’s Southern Living magazine. Southern Living used to be a good barometer of the traditional South, but now has been taken over by hipster editors and writers who overly rely on tales of grits and football to fake true Southern credentials.

It’s not just food. “Traditions” are now created to sell things like Elf on the Shelf. The masses are hooked into a faux tradition that was only conjured in 2005 to sell a book. The value of holiday traditions have been replaced with marauding crowds and the economic effects of Black Friday.

Change is inevitable. We wouldn’t pick out the stuff on a Thanksgiving table even 100 years ago and certainly not the original feast with Squanto and Company. Change will happen to us like frogs in the boiling pot. One day, there will be questions of why more people don’t eat the traditional Fruit-Loop encrusted turkey drumsticks anymore. The folks who ask that question will be accused of being square and out of touch.

Who’s responsible? As with most things, I blame the media. The media’s daily job is to convince millions of people to abandon what they know from experience to be true/right only to be replaced with an idea created by a few fresh-out-of-college 20-somethings looking for a hip story or trend.

So I ask you to join the rebellion this year. This Thanksgiving and Christmas, try something truly daring and off the wall. Ignore the hipster media kids. Do everything that way it would have been done in your childhood. Tell your friends to have a Merry Christmas.

Tradition is the new black.

monday morning quarterbacks

We’re in the 24-hour period when everyone in America is an ad critic, but it’s not as great this year. As I tweeted during the “big game”:

I’m not going to get into critiques of the individual ads. In general, I agree with the ad critiques of most of the major critics with three exceptions: I liked Kia’s “Sandman” and I disliked Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” and the Coke polar bears.

But here are some larger points about the biggest night of the year for advertising:

1) Out of a little over 50 total ads, around 38 ads were released BEFORE the game. This ruins the Super Bowl advertising experience. While it does create a little pre-game buzz for some advertisers, it ensures that your ad will be seen by consumers as a ‘rerun’ during the game and an excuse to go get another spoonful of guacamole.

2) The main problem with many Super Bowl ads (and a lot of advertising in general) is that the agency and the client forget what advertising is meant to do. There needs to be a call-to-action. You must raise awareness of your brand. At some point, the ad needs to make someone come to you and give you money in exchange for goods/services. Prime example last night was the kid peeing in the pool. Clever ad. What was the ad for? Some people might remember tax prep, but what kind of tax prep?

3) Sure seems to be a lot of excitement over TV ads. Traditional media is not dead. It’s just transformed.

4) I beg one thing from the creative teams who will work on concepts for next year’s ads. Don’t try to make a “great Super Bowl ad”. Instead, try to create a “great ad” and it will shine in any media placement. We’re sick of monkeys, celebrities, talking babies, and the like. Super Bowl ads have become clichés. Don’t be a cliché.

PR firms and bloggers are like matches and gasoline

Blogger outreach in PR is like working with gasoline. Work with it correctly and it makes the vehicle go. Do it incorrectly and it blows up with disastrous consequences.

I am amazed at the number of PR firms who have an astounding lack of understanding at not only the basics of public relations, but also the basics of civility and common sense.

Until yesterday, one of the best recent examples of this phenomenon was ConAgra’s PR firm tricking bloggers about Marie Callender food, but some email exchanges yesterday provide us with a classic textbook debacle.

Instead of a recap, I’ll just let you read the story of how a few employees at BrandLink Communications have nearly destroyed their business with a bad pitch to the Bloggess. (warning: profanity-laden)

Their first basic mistake was relevance. While the point of PR is to get mentioned in as many forms of media as possible, too many firms just blast their entire contact list with every pitch. Look at the placement (whether it’s a blogger or traditional print/broadcast outlet) and see if what you’re pitching is similar to the type of content and audience they have.

For some reason, I keep getting emails from a PR firm who wants me to write about MRI machines here on the Shotgun Marketing Blog. They have not researched. Shoddy research doesn’t count either. I get a few pitches a week wanting me to write about guns and/or ammunition.

The well-researched personalized pitch works. Take a look at the 2nd half of Mark Schaefer’s post back when I was pitching bloggers about Brand Zeitgeist.

Another tenet of sending out good pitches is basic proofreading. If you look at the quotes from BrandLink Comm’s original pitch, it’s rampant with spelling and grammar errors. There’s now an entire generation of young professionals who are now sending out professional emails with the laissez-faire style of online communication and texting. It might work with some bloggers, but you’re going to immediately be deleted by the traditional editor who has an AP Stylebook sitting next to the Bible.

While BrandLink Comm had a bad pitch to start with (as The Bloggess tried to tell them with the Wil Wheaton link), this issue was compounded by arrogance, hubris, and rudeness. In PR, you’re basically going with hat-in-hand and asking for help. Be respectful of their audience and their time.

And when you do mess up, say you’re sorry and mean it. BrandComm has sent the Bloggess an email apology and apologized on their Facebook page, but the offensive VP (Jose) continues to be glib and use non-apologies on his Twitter feed.

All PR firms who reach out to bloggers need to have a training with all their employees using this instance as the prime case study. (Need a trainer?)

And always remember, reply-all is the most dangerous thing on your computer.

Update: This is not the first time that Jose has ticked off a high-profile blogger.

Follow-up Post: PR firms, ad agencies, and other marketers should find a partner for disaster

TED2012 Full Spectrum Audition

Probably a heck of a long shot, but I’m throwing my hat in the ring for the TED open auditions.

These crowdsourced TED talks are MUCH shorter versions of the regular 18 minute TED talks. They are also supposed to utlilize a different type of story telling. For my one minute TED audition, I went with a combination of a few of their suggested ideas and came up with a ‘blizzard of images’ (new slide about every 3 seconds) that are choreographed to my point.

And I do have a point. It’s a kind of a different riff and new take on my “marketing in the collective consciousness” work.

Overall, the basic idea of my TED audition is:

  • For the past 75/100 years, society has been “learning” a huge amount of knowledge from the media, marketers, and others.
  • You’ve retained more of this meaningless pop culture knowledge than you realize.
  • You can quickly communicate a large idea with others in our culture using seemingly meaningless phrases and ideas because you’re both working from this basic pop culture framework.
  • The definition of “the media” is changing from “them” to “us”
  • Will “we” do a better job than “they” did?

(Think of it as a less musical version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire“)

Obviously, the final version of the talk will be longer than this so I can get the whole point across. I would love to present it in Long Beach at TED2012.

(I could also present it to your event! Contact me)

learning marketing from local media

So your {insert local media outlet} is offering a free seminar that will “teach you how to market your business”.

How benevolent of them to offer such a community service.

I’m amazed at how many small businesses are suckered into attending these events and don’t realize the true motivation behind the “seminar”.

If the radio station is sponsoring this knowledge fest, I’ll bet you my hat that they will try to convince people that radio is the best option. The newspaper seminar will tell you the printed word is the way to go. The TV station’s seminar will tell you why radio and newspaper are a waste of money. And now added to the mix, you have agencies that have a small social media following teaching the way to Facebook and Twitter bliss.

Think about this: Would you go to the “How to choose the best place to buy a car” seminar hosted by the local car dealership?

The truth is that every advertising medium has strengths and weaknesses. It depends on what you’re trying to communicate and who you’re trying to reach.

Just because a salesperson has the words “marketing consultant” on their business card doesn’t mean you should listen to them about your overall marketing strategy. They’re doing their job trying to capture as much of your marketing budget as they can. You should never let someone sell you advertising; you should buy it.

The only reason to ever go to the local media outlet’s seminars is that they typically offer some really good deal to the attendees. If you’re planning on buying from them anyway, it’s a good way to save some money. It’s like going on vacation and sitting through an hour of a timeshare pitch just to get free theme park tickets.

And shame on marketing speakers who lead biased events like this.

the daily disappointment

UPDATE (2 years later): They finally killed The Daily.

So yesterday, I was all giddy (in a professional way) about the advent of The Daily, the world’s first news publication built specifically for a tablet (read: iPad). I actually “tuned-in” for the live stream of the launch (which began late). But the more I watched, the more I soured. (which probably came through on Twitter)

And it’s my fault. I was expecting too much.

I guess I was envious of what they could do with a fresh slate. There were no sacred cows to kill with the “this is how we set hot type” luddites, no internal turf wars that hinder what could be done with an online news publication, no online/print revenue streams to shield with an opportunity for a real understanding of an online revenue stream, no technology limitations of how content could be presented, and more. It was a chance for a complete re-invention.

But what did they do? They put together a gussied-up online newspaper.

It’s completely made up of the same multimedia content that you can find on any major market newspaper website — just presented like your iTunes albums (and will users flip through with the same uninterested abandon?)

Crossword and Sudoku!? Wow. They might as well as have included Alley Oop, Ann Landers (who is still dead), and the horoscope (update: Corey says they have a horoscope.)

One of the Daily’s first tweets (where you think they would promote the coolest stuff) was that you could share articles on Facebook, Twitter, or email. That’s so unique to this new and exciting platform. I can’t do that with any other site. Email? Tell me more! (btw – it’s not really social sharing if it’s inside the paywall)

I thought of writing a huge post about The Daily, but it would have been full of snark like the above. Instead, here are a link, a personal anecdote, and a quote that pretty much sum up my overall thoughts:

  • This article from GigaOm does the best job of quickly pointing out the flaws and foibles of The Daily.
  • This morning, I’m teaching one of my college classes and today was the day I had already scheduled to talk about web design, user/reader experience, etc. So I started out by asking them about yesterday’s launch of The Daily as a new way to interface news. In a group of 48 students (most in their late teens/early twenties) who are enrolled in a journalism school, not one of them had even heard of The Daily.
  • And finally this from James Lileks’ Bleat

    As for New Media platforms, I’ve looked at the Daily app for the iPad, and I can only say this: it’s always going to come down to tomorrow. Yes, yes, do the in-depth stories, the culture stuff, the lite ‘n’ brite features, but when it comes to NEWS, don’t tell me anything tomorrow I didn’t know today.National and international news has to be updated hourly, or it’s still fishwrap. Without the added functionality of, you know, actual fishwrap.