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.

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

called it

Yesterday, in my post about the media and the Nashville floods, I suggested that maybe the lack of national media attention was due to the lag between the tuned-in minority  and the traditional media.

Turns out I was right. Today (Tuesday) after the pinnacle of the event (late Sat through Mon a.m.), Nashville has popped up on the national radar, taking equal staging with the arrest of the would-be Times Square bomber.

nashville cnn flood

It’s been suggested that the Nashville flood is not a national story because it doesn’t effect anyone outside of Middle TN.

Think about this:

How would the national media react if Hollywood was hit with a disaster (earthquake, flood, or locusts!) and disrupted the movie industry? A major portion of the U.S. music industry (and not just country) resides in Nashville.

Or what if Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Gardens were flooded? Today in Nashville, an NFL stadium and an NHL rink are underwater.

What if the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was going to be shutdown for the next few months affecting national conferences, tradeshows, and meetings? The largest non-casino hotel in the world and the largest hotel in the United States outside Las Vegas is now shutdown indefinitely .

And these are just the three biggest examples. Nashville is an integral part of the U.S.

Nashville now provides a new twist on an old joke:
What do you get when you play a country song backwards? The water recedes. (original joke)
And speaking of jokes. Them poor Tennessee cows. They taste better.

UPDATE: Newsweek thinks I’m right as does CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

you missed it


If your only source of news is national media, you may not realize that a U.S. city was heavily damaged this weekend.

Yes, the Gulf oil disaster should be the top story and the Times Square car bomb attempt was news as it happened. However, the 38th largest MSA in the U.S. (and the capital of one of its states) was (is) being destroyed by flooding and the only place I was getting information about it was through Twitter.

I am a fan of Nashville for many personal and professional reasons. I have several clients and friends there. I consider it “my big city”. It’s where I fly from and where I go when I need resources that aren’t available locally.

WordPress guru @studionashvegas has a great post about how Nashville has been forgotten and makes some good points about how social media, the community, and traditional local media are the future of information…

National media is dead. Local media, and social media, are the blend of information services we need to survive.

If consumers can’t find the information they need, they will seek it out or create it themselves. We’ve already seen this happen with citizen journalism about in-depth topics. It’s now happening with the real time web for breaking news.

Sure. There can be a mob mentality in these situations where mis-information is disseminated exponentially. But that’s exactly the reason why credible news orgs should be participating in social media offering facts such as @tndotcom, @nashvillest, and @wkrn did during the Nashville event.

The lesson for (any) media is this: Consumers’ first concern is always with what’s happening NOW. They’ll mull the consequences later. Your worries need to lie with why you’re not offering immediate information in an immediate media environment instead of worrying about how to create the souvenir of the news the day after it happens.

Part of the lack of national response for Nashville may come from the lag between the real time web and when traditional media figures out there’s a story. I wrote a post about this phenomenon of the tuned-in minority back in 2008. More recently, I tweeted this on April 20th. I saw the story pop up in newspapers and on TV three or four days later. We’ll see if Nashville gets on the radar in the next few days.

UPDATE: I called it. It was an issue with the tuned-in minority. http://shotgunconcepts.com/2010/05/nashville2

[ btw — if you want to help people in Nashville, you can find info here:
http://nashvillest.com/2010/05/03/so-nashville-is-flooded-how-can-i-help ]

punish your biggest fans

A memo from the top brass at the New York Times was sent to employees about the plan to charge for online content at nytimes.com…

Today we are announcing that we will be introducing a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011…we have chosen a metered approach that will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number.
(Read the full memo here)

There is no doubt that there will have to be a paid model for online news. Journalism is not free. But what’s the revenue solution for online news consumption? Hard to tell.

But I do know that penalizing your best and most frequent users is not the answer.

While I can see their plan is to try to have their cake and eat it too — I think it would work better in reverse. Give it to the power users. Those influencers would spread the links, ideas, etc to occassional users who would pay.

connecting the dots

Another printed newspaper went away today and with typical media self-absorption, the paper reported their own obituary with an in-depth report complete with a full page front page farewell. This death comes on the tails of last week’s Pew Research report that apparently shows that the public is not concerned with the demise of newspapers.

First off, I think the reports of the death of newspapers are widely overstated — because they’ve been over reported by the subjects themselves.  The Narcissus Media demands that other news orgs report on other news orgs. So the Seattle and Denver news deaths were front page news from the NY Times down to the Podunk Weekly Times (circulation 51).  The editors of other papers were interested in the deaths of these papers so they thought you would be too.

Plus some of these papers (which are actually for-profit businesses!) needed to die just like some banks need to die right now. Over-consolidation and over-monopolization of newspapers have caused unrealistic expectations from shareholders of these bloated behemoths corporations. (Radio, you’re next!) The reality is that with more available media outlets some markets can no longer support more than one major daily newspaper. (but what about the San Francisco Chronicle, you cry? Prediction: If the Chronicle does go under, there will be a new nimbler newspaper pop up in its place within a month.)

Despite the naysayers — there will always be a market for news and information. Sure, now is a rough economic time for any industry that depends on ad dollars — but a sensibly run media organization that’s looking to the future will be OK in the long run. That doesn’t mean that information will always be printed on sheets of dead trees and thrown on your doorstep. That model is going / will eventually go the way of the dodo. I think the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is a good coal mine canary to see if a traditional newspaper can transition to a new distribution model.

Every pundit, guru, and almost everyone in media has put their two cents in about the journalism “crisis” and have come up with a plethora of ideas from micropayments to new distribution models to crowdsourcing. Some have merit and some are “just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” (a favorite phrase of the pundits). From my seat in the nosebleed section, I see that newspapers (and all traditional news media) have two main problems that need to be solved before the ship sinks:

Problem 1) — a house divided against itself cannot stand
I rail and rant against organizations that have no marketing/business strategy. And while having no strategy is a bad problem, there’s something that’s even worse — and that’s having two strategies. News organizations are particularly prone to this problem because of the supposed “editorial wall” (there’s a great post here about this problem). Walk into any traditional media outlet and ask 5 people what’s the organization’s plan for dealing with the new realities of communication, and you’ll get 5 answers that will be biased by the side of the wall they’re on.
REALITY: People read the newspaper for news. Go try to sell advertising in a paper that has no news content and see how far you go.
REALITY: Reporters want a paycheck. That Mac needs electricity to run. Advertising supports the economics of journalism.
SOLUTION: Every news organization needs to kill their separate internal tribes, come up with one war strategy that everyone agrees on, and fight the white man before he takes your land.

Problem 2) — the Brand has been forgotten
There’s a disconnect in perceptions when it comes to news coverage. While the news orgs are saying “You’ll miss us when we’re gone!“, the public is saying “uhhh, no we won’t“. It doesn’t matter who is right. But guess which group’s perception matters to the bottom line and staying in business?

Brand is perception. Perception is reality. What changed the public’s perception of the news brand into something they think they can live without?

Alot of people blame the emergence of online media for journalism’s current troubles. And while it’s a major factor, online is not what is killing newspapers. Newspapers saw the Internet coming way before you had your first AOL account. The trouble was that their first line of defense didn’t work in Web 1.0. When Web2.0 rolled around, they saw they missed the opportunity so now they’re trying to out amateur the amateurs — which is killing the brand image they’ve been cultivating for 50, 75, or 100 years. It’s not hard to find ameutuer-ish crap on the Internet, but it is hard to find sources of information that you’ve trusted for years.

The news media have not done a good job selling their USP. Instead of focusing on the one thing that they could do better than anyone else (local news), they wrapped 2% of news into 98% of other stuff that could easily be replicated by competitors and sold it as such.

The sale to the news consumer is not “you can’t get this type of information anywhere else”. It devolved into “buy a subscription and get a CD and an umbrella“.  News media have forgotten what they’re really selling so the consumer has forgotten as well. The public thinks they won’t miss the newspaper because the newspaper has cultivated a brand that they are the place to get the items that the public can now get other places in better ways. But there is no better way to get local news.

Problem 2 is the bigger problem and the one that will take the longest to fix. But the fix needs to start today.

Plus there’s a third problem of trying to fit old mass media models into new media which I addressed last fall.

stories

So over the past two years gas prices rose about $2/gallon from what they were. Supply and demand? That can’t be causing it. The oil companies were sticking it to us. Let’s start a chain email to not buy gas on a certain day. That will show them. If gas prices change that dramatically in only two years, the outrage in the streets showed that something must be horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, gas prices have fallen back down the same $2/gallon in only about two months. Where’s the congressional inquiry this time?

In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote. We were told this meant the country was divided. Last week, Obama won 52.6%. We’re being told this means the country is united.

Prior to big news the next day, the main news story on Sept 10, 2001 (and for many weeks before) was about an FBI intern who might have been murdered by a US congressman. Can you remember either of their names?

In the end, marketing is nothing more than telling a story to people who want to hear it. And even though they are not viewed as marketers, the media and government are some of the best marketers on the planet. While your marketing budget struggles to achieve proper reach and frequency, those who have constituencies or who own printing presses, transmitters, and online attention have a constant captive audience who don’t filter information the way they might from other sources.

An unfortunate side effect of the 24 hour news cycle is that there’s a lot of filler. And sometimes the filler becomes important just because there’s nothing else to take the place. All the really smart people I know keep their mouths shut 99% of the time. When they do speak, what they say carries some weight and you know it’s important. When you used to read a single newspaper and watch one of three nightly newscasts, the important stuff was distilled out for you. People are still consuming it that way, even though it’s no longer produced that way.

And throughout history, politicians and governments have steered the masses. Everyone knows this. But other than a few who are well-informed, everyone usually goes along with the propaganda.

Here’s the marketing lesson for you: People are irrational and will ignore facts, common sense, and their own memories if you can manipulate their worldview.

But how to manipulate that worldview? Tell them a story they want to believe.

I think this coffee is better because of how the company selects the beans. Every one knows that this computer OS is better than the other one because of the kinds of people who use it. Everyone is wearing these jeans. This car is superior because of how the company produces it.

With all the facts and common sense, we’d see that many current consumer decisions would be different. But marketing is not about the facts. It’s about the perception. And perception is reality.

update on nyu journalism mediashift

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about an NYU student who wrote a post about the online knoweldge of GenY in her journalism class.

From communicating with Alana, I knew there would be a follow-up from the professor’s point of view. But as with most things you watch for, I missed it yesterday until a reader tipped me off. (Thanks, Simon!)

The professor didn’t necessarily respond, but PBS Mediashift’s facilitator Mark Glaser did dig a little deeper and found some interesting things.

zero tolerance social media

For the last couple of months, I’ve been on the receiving end of Peter Shankman’s thrice daily HARO email blast.

I think it’s great — on many levels. I have functioned as a source for a few reporters doing marketing and/or business stories. But I really enjoy HARO more as a great example of how the web2.o (sorry) economy functions and how that new economy is sometimes a threat to the mainstream establishment. Like a typical web2.0 (sorry) service, HARO is free — both to reporters and sources. And that’s a problem to HARO’s old school competitor, PR Newswire. It’s a great case study of the conflict between the economies especially when Shankman and PR Newswire head David Weiner have discussions in public comments about their businesses.

But even with all that, what I enjoy most about Shankman and the HARO are his reprimands and banishments for the good of the list. You can imagine that publishing email addresses and phone numbers for reporters at major media outlets to a public list of over 24,000 sources would be like crack cocaine for PR flunkies who enjoy spamming and pitching irrelevant topics to those reporters. But if someone steps over that line, Shankman severely punishes the offenders. Take the lead of tonight’s HARO for example:

Hey listen – I hate to bring this up again, but it would see that WOW Public Relations, specifically Nan Murray and Chris Burres, continue to SPAM HARO reporters. Now, I know for a fact that I’ve kicked them off the list, but for whatever reason, these people don’t get it. Here’s the problem: They continue to spam on behalf of their client, [redacted] – I’ve talked to [redacted], and he’s told them to stop, yet WOW public relations continues to SPAM reporters. So, if you get an unsolicited email from them, know that they’re not welcome on HARO, ever. I’d never, ever work with them, nor would I ever recommend them. I personally have added @[redacted] to my killfile, and you all might want to consider doing the same. It’s sad – some people just continue to do the wrong thing, despite being told repeatedly why it’s wrong.
[Edited: Peter said he thought he was too harsh on the client in the next morning’s HARO and has asked me to omit the client’s name.]

I’ve noticed that these outings and banishments happen rarely. But there’s usually an uptick after a massive influx of new members. (Shankman got a plug from Seth Godin earlier this month — so now is a tumultuous time.)

Shankman warns offenders, but some don’t listen (see above) and face the consequences. It’s very much like the first week in a prison or boot camp, learn the rules or face the wrath.

Look on the web and you’ll see a lot of criticism of his tough stance. I think some of that has been generated by the PR establishment or people who have been on the receiving end of a public lashing. But Shankman’s zero tolerance policy is necessary. For HARO to work or even exist, he needs the trust and respect of the reporters. They have seen he means business.

The problem with the web being open for anyone is that the web is open for anyone. Anytime we see a major step forward with communication, the snake-oil folks show up with viruses, spam, and other noisy junk. I wonder if email spam would have gotten to its current critical mass if people could have punished those who abused the system.

While you hear alot from web2.o evangelists about the goodness of open source / cluetrain / kum-bah-ya / feelgood communication, it needs to be remembered that there will always be people who will take advantage of the system. And that needs to be accounted for. Shankman’s HARO is a good example of how the community can deal with it.

embedded and right

A NYU journalism student has written an “embedded report” about Quarter lifers / GenY’s outlook on journalism and online media for the PBS Mediashift blog.

In the online journalism class that I teach, I find the exact same results as Alana at NYU. Turns out most of this demographic that media and marketers think are totally saturated in online engagement — just aren’t. In fact, I made the same point back in July 2007.

Every semester, I introduce members of this “online” generation to things that you (as an assumed engaged online user) think are basic knowledge. Flickr. Digg. Twitter. They’ve never heard of them. Most of them are on Facebook and watch (not upload) video on YouTube, but that’s about it.

As companies develop marketing plans or the media develops media strategies, it needs to be remembered that most people (not just this demo) are NOT actively participating in online activities. Building the entire campaign and platform to focus on online users will make you lose in the short term. You need to be online, but you can’t expect it to pull all the weight at this point in time. Online growth is phenomenal, but we’re not ready to throw away other parts of the mix for younger demographics. And it goes the other way, too. I know of many marketers making the opposite mistake and just focusing online to younger demographics, when older demos (especially boomers) are going online and participating.

When I do posts like this, the online community thinks it’s heresy and I usually get a few disbelieving comments/emails. But YOU are online and if you’re reading a blog like this one, then it’s likely that your worldview is skewed. I’ve made the challenge before….

Get your head out of Dungeons & Dragons a/k/a Second Life and get out in the real world to start promoting this thing that you’re so passionate about. And I don’t mean at a conference full of tech people. Go to a local Chamber meeting, find a small business person, and ask them if they’re using blogs to talk to their customers. When you’re checking out at the grocery, ask the mother behind you if she reads Dooce. Ask a marketing director if she checks a blog search engine for mentions of the company.

You may be surprised at how out-of-touch you are by being so in-touch. If you’re wondering what other journalism students think about Alana’s embed, I’ve assigned my students to react to her post on thier blogs by next Monday.