Showing posts with label Fresh Content Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fresh Content Project. Show all posts

Monday, March 7

Closing The Count: Popularity Vs. Quality

Fresh ContentThis is an imperfect accounting of the Fresh Content Project, but the case is made. There is no correlation between popularity and content quality. None at all. Not a stitch.

When comparing fresh pick authors against Alexa traffic measures*, the scale is neither right side up nor upside down. The better call is semi-random. It seems to be semi-random because marketing makes up the difference. The more people market their content, the more popular their blogs. Nothing more or less.

Ergo, the people in the top spots make it their business to be there. The people who do not have a different business.

The following is a list of 84 of 250 Fresh Content providers. There might have beeen an oversight. If there is, it isn't intentional. Visit the link for each quarterly list.

Likewise, some positions may change in the final report or ebook. And, there are many ways to consider the count. For example, combining multi-author blog picks would elevate several. For the purposes of this round up, we concentrated on authors.

There is also no distinction drawn for frequency. Looking at the percentage of posts published vs. the percentage of those picked could suggest some very different conclusions. So can looking at this list in such a raw form. Because it is not a rank.

beansThis list is nothing more than a count — determined by picking a single post per weekday. We then compared this count to Alexa global traffic (*hardly a perfect measure) but against those that are listed. In some cases, we identified non-principal authors as contributors, showing the rank of the blog they contributed to as opposed to their personal blogs.

Please keep in mind that the list is not an endorsement per se and we may have a different outlook on some blogs today. But specific to the experiment, there were many days when five fresh pick posts might be published (and we only picked one) as well as days when a post that would have never been picked suddenly soared to the top.

But all that aside, taking a look at the list shows how 'semi-random' popularity can be. The complete list of fresh pick authors is below.

84 Fresh Content Authors From A Field Of 250.

1. Valeria Maltoni. Communication, Traffic Rank 23.

2. Geoff Livingston. Communication, Traffic Rank 35.

3. Ike Piggot. Communication, Traffic Rank 55.

4. Ian Lurie. Internet Marketing, Traffic Rank 12.

5. Jason Falls. Social Media, Traffic Rank 13.

6. Roger Dooley. Neuromarketing, Traffic Rank 24.

7. Adam Singer. Digital Marketing, Traffic Rank 18.

8. Brian Solis. Social Media, Traffic Rank 8.

9. Bob Conrad. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 66.

10. Louis Gray. Technology, Traffic Rank 31.

11. Bill Sledzik. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 69.

12. Jay Ehret. Marketing, Traffic Rank 33.

13. Chris Brogan. Social Media, Traffic Rank 3.

14. Danny Brown. Social Media, Traffic Rank 14.

15. Lee Odden. SEO, Traffic Rank 5.

16. Beth Harte. Marketing, Traffic Rank 45.

17. John Bell. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 41.

18. Dave Fleet. Digital Media, Traffic Rank 34.

19. Shel Holtz. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 42.

20. Mitch Joel. Digital Marketing, Traffic Rank 20.

21. Andrew Weaver. Traffic Rank 70.*

22. Jay Baer. Social Media, Traffic Rank 15.

23. Jeff Bullas. Social Media, Traffic Rank 16.

24. Jeremiah Owyang. Web Strategy, Trafic Rank 11.

25. Arik Hason. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 39.

26. Jed Hallam. Social Media, Traffic Rank 61.

27. Kami Watson Huyse. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 49.

28. Jennifer Riggle. Marketing, Traffic Rank 36.

29. Maria Reyes-McDavis. SEO, Traffic Rank 33.

30. Dan Zarrella. Social Media, Traffic Rank 21.

31. Gini Dietrich. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 22.

32. Heather Rast. Branding, Contributor Rank 13.

33. Jeremy Myers. Internet Marketing, Traffic Rank 59.

34. Ben Decker. Communication, Traffic Rank 48.

35. Jon Jantsch. Marketing, Traffic Rank 6.

36. Mike Schaffer. Social Media, Traffic Rank 62.

37. David Armano. Digital Marketing, Traffic Rank 26.

38. Marketing Profs. Marketing, Traffic Rank 4.

39. Amber Nusland Social Media, Traffic Rank 27.

40. Olivier Blanchard. Social Media, Traffic Rank 28.

41. Priya Ramesh. Marketing, Traffic Rank 36.

42. Doug Davidoff. Public Relations, Contributor Rank 22.

43. Didi Lutz Public Relations, Contributor Rank 22.

44. Len Kendell. Marketing, Contributor Rank 22.

45. Patrick Collins. Branding, Traffic Rank 55.

46. Francois Gossieaux. Marketing, Traffic Rank 52

47. Shane Kinkennon. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 63.

48. Anna Barcelos. Marketing, Contributor Rank 22.

49. Pamela Wilson Writing, Contributor Rank 2.

50. Adam Vincenzini Social Media, Traffic Rank 44.

51. Carl Haggerty. Communication, Traffic Rank 66.

52. Kyle Flaherty. Communication, Traffic Rank 68.

53. Mike Cassidy Social Media, Contributor Rank 15.

54. Rachel Kay. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 64.

55. Sean Williams. Social Media, Traffic Rank 67.

56. Sree Sreenivasan. Journalism, Contributor Rank 1.

57. Lauren Fernandez. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 54.

58. Lisa Barone. Branding, Traffic Rank: 7.

59. Sean D'Souza. Writing, Contributor Rank 2.

60. Jordan Cooper. Branding, Contributor Rank 13.

61. Taylor Lindstrom. Writing, Contributor Rank 2.

62. Rob Reed. Mobile, Traffic Rank 46.

63. Peter Himler Public Relations, Traffic Rank 57.

64. Christina Kerley. B2B Marketing, Traffic Rank 47.

65. Michelle Bowles. SEO, Contributor Rank 5.

66. Audrey Watters. SEO, Contributor Rank 5.

67. Larry Kim. Social Media, Contributor Rank 2.

68. Jonathan Fields. Social Media, Traffic Rank 17.

69. Kristi Hines. Blog Marketing, Traffic Rank 10

70. Barbara Nixon. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 56.

71. Aaron Brazell. Social Media, Traffic Rank 31.

72. Mark Smiciklas. Social Media, Contributor Rank: 13.

73. Joel Postman. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 51.

74. Callan Paola. Advertising, Contributor Rank 40

75. Jason Keith. Social Media, Traffic Rank: Social Media, Traffic Rank 38

76. Erin Greenfield. Public Relations, Contributor Rank 43.

77. David Meerman Scott. Public Relations, Traffic Rank 25.

78. Ted Page. Advertising, Traffic Rank 58.

79. Christian Arno Social Media, Contributor Rank 16.

80. Julien Smith. Internet Marketing, Traffic Rank 19.

81. Kelly Day. Advertising, Traffic Rank 40

82. Chris Koch. Marketing, Traffic Rank 50.

83. Ari Herzog. Social Media, Traffic Rank 29.

84. Marta Majewska. Social Media, Traffic Rank 60.

85-250. It Doesn't Matter. Traffic Rank: 1-250.

There is nothing to be gained from listing the 160+ blogs that never saw a post picked. While it is true that several land at the top of some lists, this experiment always aimed to celebrate authors rather than disparage them. Being picked even once ought to be an achievement given the caliber of the people writing content on a daily basis.

If quality doesn't equal popular than why do some blogs become popular?

Fresh ContentIf popularity is your objective, it all comes down to common sense. Market your product heavily. Investing time in social networks and money (design, search engine optimization, and traditional marketing) will accelerate readership until hitting a proverbial tipping point where popularity can propel the project forward alongside marketing.

It's much more difficult to publish quality. In fact, quality seems to make little difference at all, with grocery vanilla, not flavored content drawing more interest. No, processed content is not better for your readers. It's only better for you.

You can see it traffic numbers across the board — 2007 was a defining year for communication bloggers. Social networks provided an opportunity for blast marketing. Never mind what some people advise. Those who poured on between 50,000 to 100,000 tweets saw traffic spikes (50-60 per day).

And that was only Twitter. There were dozens of others too (some now long forgotten). And, there was a surge in opportunities for grassroots marketing, everything from business card books to speaker droughts. Some even called for businesses to be more human while stripping away any human element from their home pages and replacing it with hard cold sales messages.

There is nothing wrong with any of it. But there most certainly is a difference. Anyone who worked hard to position themselves at the top deserves some admiration in that anyone could have but did not. However, don't think for a minute that heavy marketing (time or money) is any indication of someone being better than someone else. On any given day, number 32, 84, 156, or 245 could have been number one.

"Is a single leaf any more or any less part of a tree because of the length of the branch it grows or the proximity of other leaves around it or its current condition without regard to the potential it will achieve? Well then, there is your answer." — Rich Becker

Monday, February 28

Farming For Quality: The Best Content Is Not At The Top

Fresh ContentWhen applied to social media, organic doesn't resonate with everyone. There is a reason it doesn't. It has become one of several analogies that have been distorted to fit any number of new meanings (much like sustainable did). And most of those distortions were all aimed at making fake look better.

The original meaning as it was applied to content is much more holistic. Let's stick with its content origin today; the analogy came from food. Applied to blogs, it draws a distinction between processed and organic much like Hollywood draws a distinction between a celebrity and an actor/actress. One is popular; the other has talent. Sometimes, but rarely, one can be both.

The Three Types Of Content Farmers.

Processed Content. Convenience food is commercially prepared designed for ease of consumption. While often popular, most convenience foods contains saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. They provide little to no nutritional value but tend to have enough flavor to appeal to a mass audience. To keep up with demand, some farmers might use pesticides and chemical fertilizers to speed things along.

It applies to social media in that some of the most popular blogs on the Web become automated over time. Their owners have formulas for almost everything they do, including how to pick topics, write posts, and distribute to more consumers. Many of them have a following of distributors; people will promote anything they do regardless of quality. A few of them cut corners.

Organic Content. Organic foods are produced using environmentally sound methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. Not only is it better for you, but is tastes better too. The only downside is that it takes much longer to prepare.

It applies to social media in that some of the less popular blogs carry superior quality content, with every post being well thought out and original. Sometimes these authors pick up on other people's ideas and expand upon them, but always with their own research and added value. In general, they tend to be equal parts: inspired by offline events and trending topics. The advice they share is almost always grounded in communication strategy.

Private Label Content. This is where most farmers started hundreds and thousands of years ago. The results are often mixed. Some gardeners have green thumbs and some do not. There are any number of reasons for the variations. It could be the climate, soil conditions, seeds, talent, or perhaps just never finding whatever it is that they may become passionate about.

It applies to social media, with the exception that we can capture a snapshot of where they start as opposed to real farms that are in operation today. Most bloggers start with a few posts, testing various crops to see what what works best for them. If one sticks, they start sowing a field. Not all of these private farmers do, nor will all of them stick with it. The bulk will give up for whatever reason.

The Fresh Content Project.

In tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, we found something interesting but not surprising. The analogy of processed vs. organic vs. private label fits. It even fits as a mix of the blogs we covered — originally about 100 and eventually about 250.

Fresh Content MixSpecifically, about 10 percent of the blogs covered were processed (A List), 20 percent organic (B List) and the bulk, 70 percent, were made up of private gardeners (C-Z Lists). This was not by design. It just happened to break out this way.

The original list was compiled from several dozen social media lists that had been previously published by people we knew. From these lists, we built a Twitter list with two purposes.

First, all their blogs were reviewed for consideration. Second, blogs that they tended to recommend with some frequency were also considered. We also added some additional blogs after we were introduced to new authors who wrote guest posts for one of the blogs we were already covering. There was a vetting process.

We also did not make any distinction between multi-author blogs and single-author blogs. Instead, we considered these authors a variation of sharecroppers. Or, in other words, they might have been private gardeners but planted a fresh idea on real estate owned by someone else. More people are exposed to their stock, but everybody remembers the blog they write for as opposed to who wrote the content.

Content Farmer Consumption.

While this is an extremely rough snapshot (something we'll revisit before any final report), we estimate that more than 50 percent of the content consumers rely on A-List content farmers for information. Specifically, they are popular authors.

fresh content consumptionIt's not surprising. Consumers tend to bookmark, friend, follow, and subscribe to people who seem popular. You can only read so many blogs no matter how you stack them. So people gravitate to reading what their friends or associates read, quality content or not.

Popular content providers usually have another leg up too. If they speak regularly or have a book published, they attract more followers much in the same way samplers do at supermarkets. Familiarity attracts readers, even if that familiarity is thin.

In contrast, private gardeners are very different. Many are happy with sharing content between a handful of colleagues. Most, but not all, believe that once they have found the right content mix that more and more people will eventually place orders, subscribe, and follow them too. They capture approximately 30 percent of traffic.

Ironically, many private gardeners are also responsible for sending more traffic to the processed content farmers. It might seem odd, but private gardeners are continually telling consumers who enjoyed their cherry tomatoes to follow the A-lister who inspired them. Conversely, few A-List content farmers credit private gardeners in the same way.

Quality Content Comes From Everywhere.

While I won't say that every private gardener can produce quality content, I can say that any private gardener with experience and talent is capable, whether they own their own space or want to be a sharecropper. In fact, during the experiment, even authors with no prior experience were frequently picked as having written the best post of the day.

quality contentIt's much like any garden with a talented gardener. You might not find their brand at the supermarket, but you will enjoy the salad they serve. Collectively, although many are hit and miss, private gardeners served up 35 percent of all fresh picks.

Sometimes A-List providers can too. Much like every vineyard has select wines, some A-listers maintain the private garden that preceded their massive operations. And occasionally, though only a sliver in comparison to the quantity they produce, you can usually find some quality from time to time. They served up 20 percent of all fresh post picks.

The bulk of fresh content picks came from organic farmers. They generated more than 45 percent of the highest quality posts. And, even when their posts were not "fresh picks," we frequently shared their work as an "also read" pick across various social networks.

Why Popularity Does Not Produce Comparable Quality.

Once upon a time, almost everyone who wrote a blog could be considered a private gardener. But as social media became mainstream, many were faced with a choice much like farmers — automate or retain the quality that made them popular.

Some remained private gardeners or dropped out. Some shifted the priorities of their business with more time to expand while retaining quality. And others became automated, propelled mostly by popularity. The tells are relatively apparent.

Processed content inevitably includes a post or two or 20 about how awesome the author is or how some lesser blogger picked on them or how they captured 5,000 followers in a weekend or how you have to have as many followers as them to be taken seriously. If posts like that still manage to be shared by 250 people or more, their blog can rightly be likened to processed yellow American cheese singlesconveniently packaged in individual wrappers.

While I am not suggesting abandoning the popular communication bloggers outright, the fresh content experiment did find that organic authors invest more time to produce quality content for a significantly smaller audience share. Proportionately, in terms of quality, most people are following the right people.

The best place to find quality content is to start stacking the deck with more organic content providers and frequently sampling private gardeners who have the potential (if not the passion) to become organic farmers. The only downside is that it takes a little more time to find them. However, it seems a small price to pay considering we all know what too much processed content can do over time — it could make your entire communication strategy flabby and reactive.

This is the fifth lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors. Next week, we'll conclude with a list of picked authors and any plans to produce a short e-book.

Monday, February 21

Writing Content: Lessons From Fresh Pick Authors

fresh ideas
Every writer has a punch list of sorts. Elements that help them transform good writing into great writing.

My punch list consists of five — accurate, clear, concise, human, and conspicuous. I don't always hit the mark, but that is what I shoot for on good and great days. Many of these characteristics seemed to fit in while running the Fresh Content experiment. However, there were some other qualities — originality, insight, and an expansive view — that added quality to the content we read.

If you want to become a better writer, someone who offers up quality content on a regular basis, these seem to be among the top five characteristics of quality posts. Almost every fresh pick post during the course of the experiment included them. While there were exceptions (especially the fifth point or on particularly slow days), the majority included these five characteristics.

The Five Characteristics Of Quality Posts.

1. Accuracy. The content has to be accurate in terms of what it is trying to teach. And the most common failings in communication lessons tend to happen on two extremes — overt generalizations and elevating exceptions.

For example, we had little patience for top ten lists that included rules such as limiting every post to 250 words. It's not true. Economy of language has nothing to do length. It has to do with telling a story in the right amount of words.

Conversely, we're hardly convinced that every viral video needs to look amateurish because one or three or fifty examples did. There are hundreds of videos that prove the opposite. This is one of the failings of best practices in general. While they can be useful, circumstances and outcomes vary.

2. Originality. The content had to be original, with originality taking two forms. It had to be original in that it couldn't steal the best content from several solid posts without attribution. And it had to be better than a "pile on" topic post.

new ideasAlthough I've known it to exist, plagiarism is surprisingly common among communication blogs, even popular ones. It becomes more obvious when you're scanning several hundred. We had no patience for it and dumped any blogger from the list when it became obvious their spun content was something more than collective unconscious.

Pile on posts are different. There comes a point when you have to ask yourself if the world needs another Kenneth Cole Twitter post. Unless you have some exceptionally unique insight to offer on the topic or want to refute a colleague's conclusion, let the media follow the media.

3. Insight. More often than not, posts that tended to rise to the top offered exactly what I mentioned in the second tip. They frequently went against the grain because better communicators gave considerable thought to the communication challenge.

There are dozens of examples that pulled from the greater collection of fresh picked posts last year. A few that come to mind include The Flow of the First Mover by Ike Pigott, which fused analogy and truth; Digital Case Studies: Punch Pizza by Arik Hason, which adds analysis to a promotional success story; and The Five Ways Companies Organize for Social Business by Jeremiah Owyang, which detailed communication structure not unlike we did for fan groups a few years ago.

The primary point is that playing follow the leader like the media often does isn't very valuable unless you can add something else to the story. For example, while everyone was writing about the Gulf Coast oil spill last year, I always tried to focus on less covered topics related to the crisis. On the front end, I didn't write about the topic du jour but rather how all stakeholders were handling the communication differently.

4. Humanity. Throwaway posts and bullet lists usually don't include any semblance of humanity. They're not memorable. There is much more power in sharing a singular story, especially when the story telling is as unique as the content.

humanityLast year, Erin Greenfield shared her first-hand experience at creating a promotional video; Rachel Kay shared her thoughts on how people react to earthquakes; and Geoff Livingston saw the damage caused by the oil spill first hand. You can't fake the passion exhibited by each author. There is no formula.

While it's unlikely to happen every day someone sits down to write, there is something to be said about finding the passion and purpose in the topic you want to cover (and by that I mean beyond any organizational objectives). Don't just write about what you know — write about what makes you passionate. And, when your personal interests don't fit the organizational goals, look for links that help tie them together.

5. Expansive. Too many myopic posts become boorish. It's one of the reasons why links generally lend a little more to any story. It shows evidence that the author isn't considering their point of view to be absolute and helps create content with more depth in fewer words.

While there were some exceptions, the greater majority of fresh content picks were inclined to share supporting and conflicting points of view. It might be worthwhile to point out that this wasn't a condition for inclusion, but rather a post-experiment observation.

One thought of caution: Simply dropping in links to draw the attention doesn't work in the same way. The links included have to be as thoughtful as the content. All too often, we had to brush aside posts that recapped the same private bubble lists that raved about the same three people day after day after day. Sometimes I was tempted to leave a comment — you're friends through thick and thin, we get it.

There are no rules to social media.

light bulbI might like to stress that these five all provide a solid guide, but there are no rules to great writing (blog posts included). And while there is something to be said about design, positioning labels, post times, and share times, focusing on quality content will pay higher dividends over the long term than over analyzing all those details some people prescribe.

I also hope this helps guide some of the people who have asked me to share "all" the blogs that were included so they might learn what not to do as much as they can learn what to do. While I will be including a master list of all those picked some time after the fifth lesson next week, I'm hesitant to include those who were never picked because the intent was never to disparage, popular or not.

This is the fourth lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Monday, February 14

Getting Attention: Is Online Popularity A Great Big Lie?

popularMore than anything else, exposure remains the number one measure for Internet success. Facebook page managers want more fans. Twitter account holders want more followers. YouTube producers want videos to go viral. Bloggers want more traffic. More, more, more.

But more is not always better.

If exposure is the measure, then the biggest losers are all winners. There are thousands of examples. Here are a few.

Nestle learned that fan pages could become a billboard of outrage on behalf of critics. Kenneth Cole exhibited no empathy for Egypt on Twitter. With 1.4 million views, Microsoft wins with this video gem. And Kathy Sierra would have never quit blogging.

Great marketers know that they don't have to convince everyone to love the Ford Taurus. They know that they only have to find people who like the features that the Ford Taurus offers. Likewise, Christina Aguilera wants to be known for her singing. Right now, people are more likely to know she blew the National Anthem at the Super Bowl and tripped at her Grammy performance.

More only works for vanilla.

VanillaWhen you give coffee-flavored ice cream to kids, they make funny faces (so do I). But that doesn't mean we always have to serve vanilla, the most popular ice cream flavor. We also don't always have to eat pepperoni and cheese pizzas, which account for 25 percent of all pizza sales. And we don't all drive white cars, which is the color 21 percent of car buyers prefer.

It seems only social media gives more value to popularity than personal choice or quality content. People watch videos that are watched, like Facebook pages that are liked, follow Twitter streams with followers, and leave comments on blogs where they "think" more people will see their comments.

Ironically, most of those leaders tend to offer exactly what you might expect. Vanilla, pepperoni, and white. In tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, we found popularity to be the biggest lie of all in democratizing the Internet.

Of all the communication blogs we covered, those at the top of the Advertising Age 150 underperformed with three in the top ten failing to produce a single post that could be called a best fresh pick of the day (note: not all Ad Age participants were tracked). That doesn't mean they are necessarily bad blogs, but it does mean that they serve up more than their fair share of vanilla, pepperoni, and white. The placement of the top ten fresh picks show how far off that list can be.

Of those those that we picked with regularity, Valeria Maltoni is ranked 25th; Geoff Livingston is not ranked; Ike Pigott is ranked 607th; Lee Odden participates on Top Rank, which is ranked 10th; Jason Falls is ranked 15th; Adam Singer is 83rd; Ian Lurie is not ranked; Danny Brown is 23rd; Maria Reyes McDavis is not ranked; and Bob Conrad is not ranked.

pepperoniAdvertising Age isn't alone. The few communication-related blogs that make it into the Technorati top 100 rank underperformed too. PostRank, which relies on activity, didn't prove to be any better of a measure. And neither did SEO, which is one of several reasons Google is trying to fix its algorithm.

Specifically, SEO proves a site can lead people to it, but no indication that people will find something useful when they land. And, that other popular consideration — bounce rates — tends to mislead. People only look at one or two posts on blogs; those that pertain to their topic of interest, which is usually aligned with the topic du jour. Few people go back and read the same ones again.

There was only one measure that seemed solid. And most people overlook it.

People tend to savor of the quality that comes with being different.

Time on site. The most popular bloggers hold people's attention for about two minutes and those minutes are sometimes spread across as many as three or more pages (and that includes time for people to leave a comment). Higher quality posts tend to hold people for about four to five minutes (based on real time graphs, not averages that are also misleading).

Even among blogs that were picked for one or two posts during the year, we noted small surges in the time people spent on the fresh pick post compared to other posts read. This held true even for fresh pick posts that didn't draw very much traffic. Those posts were enjoyed by the traffic they drew. And that makes all the difference.

red carIt reminds me a little bit about the Twitter stunt shitmydadsays. Two million fans with long gaps between tweets and never a response. Did they ever read the book? It starts out as if it could be funny, but never delivers. And yet, it's triteness is offset only because it is vanilla. It's perfect for a television series on CBS, even though it lost 25 percent of its audience after the first show. It has a balanced following now, being saved by William Shatner.

That's how it goes sometimes. Did you ever consider that nobody boasts about eating vanilla, ordering a pepperoni pizza, or buying a white car? Not really.

They may mention it in the moment, but the memory of commonplace isn't all that memorable. And, when you think about it, if the content (not the personality) isn't memorable, then how could it ever be influential? Quality content makes people think.

This is the third lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Monday, February 7

Revolutionizing Social: Does Activity Equal Experience?

Social Media Revolution
A few days ago, Arik Hanson called it right. Anyone who looks up David Mullen will find less social activity than they might have found a few years ago.

Does that mean David Mullen no longer understands digital marketing?

Not at all. As Hanson points out, he has different responsibilities. And tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, we found Mullen is more often the rule than the exception.

For example, the Decker Blog is relatively light on content and two of the authors have a minimal following on Twitter (without custom backgrounds no less). Yet, Kelly and Ben Decker still managed to co-write a well-read post on the top ten best (and worst) communicators of 2010. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Bill Sledzik, associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Kent State University, took one of his frequent social media leaves of absence. Rob Reed doesn't post or engage with a byline very often, but that doesn't make him less than a founder of Max Gladwell.

It might make you wonder. Does taking time off, shifting priorities, or working behind the scenes as opposed to being a visible participant make a difference in social media? Perhaps in perception, but not in practice. If the Old Spice campaign taught us anything about social media, it was that an advertising agency might understand social media without an active presence.

In fact, it seems to be another rule and not an exception. Most major social media brand successes that social media experts talk about do not come from social media experts at all. They came from communicators and business owners who happened to include social media as part of their mix.

Old Spice is only one example. And while I had a much more tepid view of the campaign, most experts called it the best social media campaign despite the producers of it not measuring up to their own activity-based social media standards.

A revolutionary way to look at online activity, experience, and influence.

Social Media RevolutionDuring the American Revolution, many people played many different roles. Thousands of people rightfully earned the moniker, including more than 100 as signers of the Declaration of Independence and/or United States Constitution. However, we don't remember all of them. We remember a few, which is based more on the degree of their influence as opposed to their activity.

We picked four names to demonstrate the distinction. And while the specifics might vary, their historical status is remarkably different. But then again, the founding fathers didn't meddle with definitions. They had more important things to do.

Authoritative Influence. As commander in chief of the Continental Army, George Washington made decisions that largely influenced the course of the war. While he was also as statesman, his visibility as a statesman was secondary to the decisions he was given authority to make. Today, elected officials, judges, legislators, investors, and network owners can also set the course of a network or the entire online landscape regardless of authored participation.

Innovative Influence. Although he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most influential documents produced during the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wasn't necessarily an active author or publisher like many of his colleagues. By today's measure, he tended to write less but when he did write, his words were profoundly influential in that they often included innovative ideas that still have an impact today.

Persuasive Influence. Much more consistent in his writings than Jefferson was Thomas Paine, author of the widely read pamphlet Common Sense, which consistently advocated for American independence. Later, he would also move to France and became deeply involved with the French Revolution. His writing often set the agenda for others to follow. Some have even gone so far as to suggest without Common Sense, Washington would have raised his sword in vain.

Activity Influence. Samuel Adams is often praised as someone who had been steering his fellow colonists toward independence long before the war, and was frequently in the midst of the political affairs in Boston. Like the majority of the founding fathers of this country, he is remembered less for his contributions despite leading many of the activities that led up to the Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party.

Boston TeaIn looking at activity, Samuel Adams, second cousin to John Adams, was an active participant throughout, perhaps even more so than the founding fathers most people know by name. However, Washington was still the more suitable person to lead the army and Jefferson better suited to write the Declaration.

What this might teach us is that activity does not substitute for formal experience or lasting influence, even if it sets the stage for events. It might make us reconsider activity as a social media measure all together.

The seven personas of the activity in social media.

The Fresh Content experiment captured varied online activity, beyond publishing content. It showed that the people who have the most experience are not always the people who are active, day in and day out.

On the contrary, sometimes it showed the participant lacked education, experience, and expertise. It also revealed a subtle set of motivations between those who are the most active. Without assigning labels in a confining sense, these are the seven types of personas we saw frequently.

Professors. While not all of them carry the title "professor," educators tend to be passionate about the subjects they teach. They tend to be active in various networks, sharing their education and experience with students and colleagues, often balancing out the bad advice of others or providing attribution when someone doesn't know their idea is less than original.

Publishers. Whether they serve as editor or reporter for a firm, dedicated online magazine, or a social network, content publishers and providers are paid to develop content for their company brand while establishing their own presence. In some cases, they may develop some keen insights. In others, they can be likened to a music critic who can't play an instrument.

Peace keepers. Online community managers become exceptionally skilled in keeping multiple windows open at the same time. Some of them expand a personal network while managing the online assets of a company, network, or publication. In other cases, their job descriptions better match an online customer service manager than a communication professional.

Promoters. While their experience and expertise varies, there are dozens of people in the communication field that either use social media as a primary promotional tool for their firms or for themselves because their primary products are book sales, affiliate commissions, or paid speaking opportunities.

Preachers. There is a segment of communicators that are simply passionate about social media. They see the space as some sort of revolution to unhinge traditional marketing. Some would even outlaw advertising all together if they could, but only because they see any sale is exclusively based on relationships and every transaction the result of a personal connection.

Provers. A majority of professionals who become increasingly active in social media are attempting to prove they know social media. Some of them are attempting to launch a new consulting practice while others are looking to land a job at a firm that that might be dazzled by large follower counts and clout scores. Some social media firms never break away from this category. Neither do those who have nothing to prove, except to themselves.

Pretenders. Compared to any other category, these people tend to have one of the highest network activity levels, with some even leveraging social network monitoring tools to do the dirty work. They are generally one of two types. The occasional A-lister who produces more content than humanly possible by raiding lesser known bloggers in order to look like they came up with the idea first; and the busy bee, eager to please, but without any formal experience to generate their own ideas. They are easy to spot.

DelawareNone of these descriptors are meant to disparage (except the last, perhaps). And many individuals fall within two or three categories at a time. The real intent here is to help professionals distinguish just who they are listening to: An inexperienced egomaniac, a parroter of other people, or a self-promotor paid handsomely to work once a month in between business card books.

Social network activity doesn't sort these people out. Likewise, social media measures don't distinguish from the general who ought to be running your campaign, the author who ought to write your white paper, the writer who might be best suited to add frequent content, or the wildly active independent who is important but never remembered enough for their contributions.

Sure, there is truth to the wisdom in thinking that someone who professes to be a social media expert might engage in social media. Then again, the overstatement of this fact is misleading, given you won't find many advertising agency commercials on television or a steady stream of press releases about about every public relations firm outshining their clients. It's all relative.

This is the second lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Monday, January 31

Publishing Content: How Much Is Too Little Or Too Much?

not everyone looks good in a derby
Chris Brogan says the more you post, the more traffic you get. Julien Smith sees it differently. He says writing fewer posts can drive more traffic.

Considering they co-authored the book Trust Agents together, some people might assume they'd be on the same page about this topic. But they aren't. They're both a little bit right, and both a whole lot wrong. They're writing about what works for them.

How often should you post on a blog to get more traffic?

It's the wrong question because it depends. It depends on you. It depends on the subject. It depends on the audience. It depends on the field.

It's almost like buying a hat. It depends on you. It depends on the hat. It depends on where you want to wear it. And while you can try on other people's hats as much as you like, none of them will fit until you find one that fits you. Even then, it still won't fit for every occasion or forever. And sometimes, somebody might already be wearing the hat you fancy.

In tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, our team had all sorts of reactions sifting through the reader every day. Some daily authors kept our interest. Some daily authors bored us to tears. And some daily authors made us hate social media.

Conversely, some occasional authors made us wish for more. Some we forgot about completely. And others, well, let's just say we wondered what they would write about if they didn't write about what other people had already written about.

Three truths about frequency and blog authors.

blogs1. Consistency. No matter what you decide — daily or weekly or in between — consistency matters. Not only does it matter in terms of frequency, but for quality as well. Daily authors do have an advantage in that readers might forgive a few flat posts as long as they nail at least one a week or every other week. However, consistently posting on the topic du jour or self-promoting drivel becomes maddening to read. Inconsistent bloggers also have it harder; they practically start from square one with every post. Nobody knows them well enough to know whether they wear a hat or not.

2. Clarity. Not all that different than a batting streak in baseball, authors ebb and flow. In looking at the ten authors who made the top five in at least quarter, all of them had short, sustained bursts of high quality content — two or three superior posts within days of each other. After each burst, quality waned as they caught their breath or took a break. The lesson is one of humanity. Nobody is such a genius that they can write a riveting post two or three times a day. Einstein couldn't even fit into a hat like that.

3. Comments. Most social media measures that include comment counts are baloney. Sure, comments give authors insight, but there is context to consider. Asking the same audience to leave insightful, conversational comments day in and day out just isn't going to happen. It would be just like expecting people to compliment your hat every day. Besides, we found even the sloppiest controversial posts consistently outperform high-quality educational posts in comments, especially if they are published daily. We also found popular blogs draw more comments because people want the author's attention or the attention of the author's readers. People who say "best post ever" rarely ever mean it.

A quick look at the top of the scale.

Fresh Content Top ThreeThe top three most picked authors included Valeria Maltoni (red), Geoff Livingston (purple), and Ike Pigott (green). All three have different publishing styles, ranging from daily to semi-consistently, to inconsistently. They also have different writing styles, ranging from strategically educational to timely provocative to wildly well crafted. About the only thing in common outside of a few shared ideas is that they all know what fits them as an author.

Measurements at a glance overwhelmingly favor Maltoni, with Livingston drawing more comments and shares, and Pigott having the smallest bounce rate and longest time on site. However, on any given week, each of them can out "traffic" the other. The same can be said about the quality of the content they provide.

While Maltoni might appear to deliver more quality, the graph doesn't account for the ratio of picks to published. For example, Pigott published significantly less and Livingston took several breaks during the year. More important than trying to decide which offers more quality posts is to note that higher peaks are followed by deeper valleys across all three.

For methodology, the scale awarded five points for each fresh pick post, diminishing them at a rate of one for each week following. In other words, one post would be scored a "5" and then drop to a "4" on the following week. The diminishing number would be added to any fresh pick that it overlapped.

A quick look at another section of the scale.

four bloggers from fresh contentThe next grouping is more indicative of most quality-oriented bloggers. It includes Lee Odden (purple), Jason Falls (blue), Adam Singer (green), and Ian Lurie (red). It uses the same methodology as above.

Basically, whether authors published daily or not, the best authors tended to deliver about one outstanding post every four to five weeks regardless of how often they publish. That doesn't mean the rest of the content is fluff. It simply means that their best content — most original, engaging, and inspired — comes at a pace of once a month. In comparison, about half of the fresh pick authors deliver one exceptional post every three months. The greater majority, including those that weren't tracked by the experiment, only do so once or twice a year.

As an additional point of interest, we began covering Lurie in the second quarter. Odden seemed to publish more in the beginning of the year than at the end of the year. Also, while it was too complicated to show three more bloggers on the graph, these patterns fit the other three as well: Danny Brown, Maria Reyes McDavis, and Bob Conrad.

So what should we consider in deciding content frequency?

hatsIt depends on your ability to deliver consistent high quality content within whatever schedule you set. It depends on the audience, and how much about your area of specialty they can digest. It depends on the subject matter because the more specialized it becomes, there are naturally fewer topics to write about. It may even depend on the saturation of the field.

Conversely, Brogan and Seth Godin are very general in their writing. While that means their groundbreaking posts are even further and fewer between in favor of a high frequency fortune cookie styling, it's the derby that fits for them. What's more important is to determine what hat might be a fit for you.

This is the first lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Sunday, January 16

Ranking Content: Fresh Content Providers, Fourth Quarter

Fresh Content ProvidersThis is the fourth and final quarter that Copywrite, Ink. has published a snapshot of its year-long experiment called the Fresh Content Project, which puts popularity to the test.

We tracked more than 250 blogs, daily, and picked a single standout post per day (with weekend posts spilling into Monday). There is no algorithm. It's a human decision-making process, one that considers content and context.

If you have missed any posts along the way, you can find them in one of two places, with weekly recaps of why the posts stood out on this blog under Fresh Content Project or on Facebook, where the links are provided without commentary.

There were 36 Fresh Content providers in the first quarter; 38 Fresh Content providers in the second quarter; 39 Fresh Content providers in the third quarter; and 38 in the fourth.

If there was any noteworthy trend in the fourth quarter of the Fresh Content Project, it was the number of guest contributors chosen, some even writing a blog post for the first time. This may even be one of the lessons you can take away from the project. On any given day, almost anyone can provide some insights that are better than those at the top of any list.

Following are 38 communication-related professionals who wrote Fresh Content picks. While some are suited for specific tastes, the top of this list (those who were picked more than once) demonstrated unwavering consistency in writing something fresh. The comments are yours.

38 Fresh Content Communicators By Quality Of Content

1. Valeria Maltoni consistently provides topical articles about business and communication, which often translates into useful and applicable information. Recently, her content has taken a more conversational tone, but even with the shift in presentation the conversation opens more doors for consideration.

2. Nowadays Ike Pigott splits his posts between Occam's RazR and Social Media Explorer, which recently adopted a funky home landing page. No matter where you find his analogies and insights, expect crisp writing across a variety of topics.

3. Especially in December, Geoff Livingston excelled at turning popular communication topics on their head, sometimes blowing holes in concepts that are poorly constructed despite nagging popularity. Reading Geoff Livingston is one of a handful of places you can find a foil.

4. After following popular topics for months, Danny Brown broke away from the trappings of sameness to deliver several biting commentaries on the state of social media. Doing so helped us appreciate that reading Danny Brown can be educational and insightful anytime he rubs against the grain.

5. Ian Lurie is an independent thinker when it comes to choosing topics related to Internet marketing in that he doesn't seem to belong to or follow any social media-communication-marketing bubbles that exist. Personally, we found his blog, Conversation Marketing, one of the best discoveries since the Fresh Content project started.

6. Adam Singer blends web markering and public relations at The Future Buzz, including well-thought analysis on topics such as why independent bloggers have better blogs than their corporate blog counterparts. What you'll like best about his blog is his consistent approach to multi-discipline thinking.

7. Shel Holtz has been a mainstay in communication for as long as I can remember. His blog, A Shel Of My Former Self, remains a must-include among the communication offerings out there because he often provides a thoughtful commentary on what could be done better from a strategic standpoint. The only time he raises a cautionary flag is when he leans too heavily on "should" instead of could.

8. Louis Gray, author of,
leans toward the technological side of communication, frequently infusing hardware along with the software and social networks that everyone else seems to cover. Add him to your reader to round out what communicators need to know to keep pace with change.

9. Jay Baer's Convince & Convert may be running a bit thinner since the release of his book, but there still is value to be found from time to time. Among his best thoughts in the fourth quarter is why Facebook could be hurting company web sites and why public relations firms are still struggling with social media. Conversely, Baer sometimes writes from both sides of the fence.

10. You would see much more from Bob Conrad if he didn't have a day job. But that is also why The Good, The Bad, The Spin is one of the best examples of why not all great communication blogs peak in popularity. He's too busy doing to be overly concerned with the promotion of it all.

11. If you haven't discovered that some understanding of psychology and sociology has become increasingly important in communication, spend more time with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley. He's tapped one of the least understood aspects of communication and marketing, stuff we only cover occasionally around here.

12. It's great to see Beth Harte adding more content to the communication conversation again. The Harte Of Marketing nearly slipped from the radar for nothing more than time management, but Harte has recently added more worthwhile content, with an emphasis on strategy.

13. Didi Lutz is one of the newer voices we were introduced to in the fourth quarter for a contribution to Spin Sucks. She is one of several people in the fourth quarter who prove you don't necessarily have to have a blog to have great ideas.

14. John Bell works on the public relations side at Ogilvy, but consistently provides public relations pros with a taste of advertising. Digital Influence Mapping Project delivers on the promise of 360-degree thinking, which will likely be one of the lessons learned from this year-long experiment.

15. Heather Rast, writing for Social Media Explorer, seems to have been inspired to write deeper and more meaningful content than when we were first introduced to her in the third quarter. On her own blog, Insights & Ingenuity, there is a greater emphasis on marketing and branding from an operational perspective that we found even richer and more enjoyable.

16. Gini Dietrich and Spin Sucks deserve props for two reasons this quarter. In addition to providing several worthwhile contributions to the field, Spin Sucks introduced more hard-hitting guest authors than any other multi-author site this time around. While it sometimes waffles back and forth between idle and instructional, you can always count on good content.

17. Based in New York, Peter Himler doesn't provide nearly as much content as he used to on The Flack, sharing short content and video embeds instead. However, every few months he writes a post that resonates in helping people understand some of the changes taking place in the profession.

18. Doug Davidoff, CEO of Imagine Business Development, is another Spin Sucks contributor who demonstrates why communicators need to pay attention not only to what their peers say but also their employers. If you are not thinking about business, then you're not really thinking is one bit of advice that could be pulled from his contributions there.

19. Although Ben Decker and Kelly Decker are two people, it was their joint post on the top ten best and worst communicators of the year that earned some well-deserved attention in the fourth quarter. In fact, it is the occasional long-format addition to the Decker blog that will convince you to keep it in the reader.

20. Jason Falls has been hard pressed lately while he tries to balance being an author and an editor/manager on Social Media Explorer, but there is little doubt that he understands social media more than most. The transition probably hasn't been easy, and by now Falls has probably learned that multi-author blogs are harder to manage than writing most posts yourself.

21. Kami Huyse continues to offer up the occasional breakthrough post at Communications Overtones. With sixteen years of experience, it's no surprise that her thoughts on outcome-related measurement are among the best in the business, especially while many focus on counts that don't lead anywhere.

22. Erin Greenfield may be a student, but her contribution to Waxing UnLyrical demonstrates how sometimes the best lessons come not from years of experience but rather the single experience of learning the hard way. Her inclusion also proves that on any given day, someone who writes their first blog post can outshine every other contribution.

23. Adam Vincenzini's writing is sometimes a little rough around the edges, but we still consider COMMSCorner to be one of those blogs that we wish we had been tracking longer as part of the Fresh Content lists. His thinking is fresh, not always overburdened by the challenges other communicators seem to struggle with.

24. Jason Keath, who is the founder of a social media education company, offers up his problem-solving insights that tend to be a blend of applying some of the new tools emerging within the space. He also keeps up on several innovations and interesting campaigns that work hard to bridge the gap between online and offline worlds. You can find his blog here.

25. It's hard not to appreciate social media insights from Jeff Bullas and his blog. Lately, however, there has been a bit of a shift as Bullas has become somewhat more enamored by his success and is starting to offer a lot more "me" content than we've seen previously. No worries. He'll likely get back on track this year.

26. Pamela Wilson is one of several contributors to Copyblogger who has expressed some keen insight into myth-busting, especially as it pertains to online design and search engines. What we like best about Wilson is that she thinks beyond design being pretty and more about it enhancing communication and generating outcomes (usually purchases). She's one to watch. We wish she had her own blog.

27. Dave Fleet has hosted Conversations At The Intersection Of Communications, PR And Social Media for some time. And, like many longtime communication bloggers, he has significantly reduced his postings over time. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does make us miss when he was much more active in the space.

28. Priya Ramesh is the director of social media for CRT-tanaka who helps keep the venerable BuzzBin alive by infusing some common sense into social media. Several times in the fourth quarter, Ramesh has offered reminders that the best place to start with social media is by conducting an audit in order to provide a better benchmark.

29. Christina Arno joins one of several dozen guest bloggers who turned our heads in the fourth quarter. Her post on the Jeff Bullas blog resonated in that if companies hope to grow globally, they really ought to start considering translations that help people all over the world understand content.

30. There may be a bit of sensationalized writing at the Blogging Bookshelf sometimes, but Tristan Higbee is a sharp thinker and a seasoned blogger. Like many communication-related bloggers in the fourth quarter, we were happy to discover him as a guest writer for one of more than 250 blogs we were tracking.

31. While Captains of Industry seems to have lost some steam last year, Ted Page, chief creative director, wrote just enough worthwhile content to hold our interest. Among them was an insightful interview with musician Kevin Connolly that demonstrates why communication can stand to learn from a variety of seemingly unrelated disciplines.

32. It's hard to fathom anyone not including ReadWriteWeb in their reader. In the fourth quarter, the one author there that caught our attention was Audrey Watters, who is a little less known than many of her colleagues but no less prolific. Most often she approaches content like a reporter, which is frequently a refreshing change against the backdrop of opinions.

33. Brian Solis continues to do a solid job at leveraging his presence to provide more in-depth analysis and reporting on various social networks that are emerging in the social media space. Having read Brian Solis for so long, the transition from his early roots in social media is as interesting as his best posts.

34. Taylor Lindstrom is another contributing author (and editor) for the well-known Copyblogger. She doesn't write there all that often, but it's always interesting when she does. Among our favorites in the fourth quarter was her take on why writing doesn't need to be difficult (even if it isn't easy). She reminds people that good writing starts by writing something, anything.

35. Jorden Cooper is a professional stand-up comedian, which made it all the more enjoyable to discover that his thoughts on social media made more sense than many thoughts offered up by "social media experts." He sometimes lends welcome wit to Social Media Explorer.

36. The best reason to follow Jeremiah Owyang is the occasional comprehensive report he provides from the archives and analytics being done at the Alimeter Group. It doesn't happen very often, but you can make sure you capture one or two by subscribing to Web Strategy.

37. Lately, David Armano seems a little less like the David Armano that made many people read his work at Logic + Emotion. Part of the challenge seems to be that, much like Edleman, he is chasing the elusive (and nonexistent) influence metrics grail. He's best to read when he writes from his core: how design contributes to communication.

38. Although Mark Smiciklas has his own blog, it was his cross-posted content on Social Media Explorer that created an introduction of sorts. While we don't agree with every facet of his model, there is something to be said for starting to think about how online and offline communication might work better together.

Sunday, January 9

Ending An Experiment: Best Fresh Content

Fresh ContentIn 2009, I became increasingly interested in the affect of popularity on the content people choose to read. Specifically, I began to wonder what would happen if popularity was removed from the equation.

The Fresh Content Project became a social media experiment to find out. Every day, staff and I selected one post every day, drawn from a field that grew to 250 blogs written by authors with varied degrees of experience, expertise, and popularity.

These five posts are the final five chosen as part of the experiment. You can find every post listed on Fresh Content Facebook. Next week, we'll list everyone chosen in the fourth quarter, ranked by the frequency their posts were picked. In the weeks that follow, we'll share all the data we discovered along the way.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of December 27

The Magic Words.
While most people equate the magic words as the power of please, Ike Pigott offers up that they might mean the power of "no." At least that is what he says as it relates to social shopping, against the grain of those who have propelled the notion forward. For Pigott, that does not mean social shopping won't work eventually, only that he sees several other rungs in the ladder are needed before the idea can really take off, at least until there is clear WIIFM. Of course, the company that can make it happen early (or some facsimile) may profit, the reality is that not every small business needs to be ahead of the curve.

Five Social Media Tips for the Hospitality Industry in 2011.
Although Didi Lutz includes some of the basic tenets of communication in her top five tips for hospitality, the refresher proves worthwhile enough. She suggests that employees know the key messages, are involved in the process, are guided by a professional, evaluate for outcomes, and moderate the conversations. The concepts aren't revolutionary to social media, but they might seem fresh for people in the hospitality industry who were relatively late to adopt social media. They are entering the space now, and most of them are falling short.

The Retail Social Media Model.
Mark Smiciklas offers up a reminder that retail operations might be fundamentally different than B2C companies. In his list of developing a better retail model, Smiciklas places a heavy emphasis on integration. This includes appreciating that national brands might have a very different feel at various locations. It might be worthwhile to consider while developing any program. More than that, what really resonates within the post is the idea that the physical location and the social media program need to be on the same page.

Lessons from 2010 and Finding Focus for 2011.
Danny Brown ended the year (and began the new one) with some personal and professional anecdotes. His lessons from 2010 include removing the myth of invincibility, why letting go of bitterness is healthy, and how friendships can build business. For 2011, he intends to focus on strengths while outsourcing weaknesses, living life more fearlessly, and breaking up redundancies. Meant more for the small business person rather than business executives, several of these tips can be applied anywhere.

Madison Avenue Strikes Back.
Geoff Livingston points out the obvious after reading someone's prediction that Silicon Valley may one day replace Madison Avenue with some day happening this year. His primary argument is that for all the buzz about underdogs unseating the establishment, it hasn't happened yet. One example: individual bloggers that once graced the top of some ranking lists have been replaced by the same media they were supposed to replace. Likewise, advertising agencies will likely buy out or adapt to keep pace with social media or other communication services.

Sunday, January 2

Running Companies: Best Fresh Content

Fresh Content ProjectThere are five kinds of companies you can run: innovative, protective, flash-in-the-pan, subservient, or a failure. The choice is yours. The world is riddled with them.

While the innovators take risks, the protectionists attempt to preserve those moments when they had one great idea that gave them a foundation that could be sustained longer than a one hit wonder. Almost all of the rest fail, with the exception of subservient companies — businesses that make their money filling some need that innovators and protectionists have.

These five fresh picks (actually four since one was scrapped) help paint a picture of the protectionists, companies that are trying to hold on to something they have while the world closes in on them. Almost all of them act like dying empires that will eventually become failures unless they are lucky enough to find a leader willing to lead them out of the muck.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of December 20

Failure To Innovate: Yahoo Loss Someone’s Gain.
Yahoo has had a long tradition of struggling with acquisitions that retain the original brand. MyBlogLog, Delicious, and a host of other social media related sites will be sold or scraped in the weeks ahead. The topics have been covered to death, but Heather Rast pulled something else out of the discussion. The problem wasn't simply treating these services as step-children, but rather a deeper problem tied to innovation. I might go a step further. There seems to be a culture of protectionism.

How Social Media Boutiques Are Winning Deals Over Traditional Digital Agencies.
Some people will have mixed feelings about Jeremiah Owyang's assessment, but how one feels is separate from the battle between large agencies and social media boutiques. I don't agree with the assessment that immature brands rely on traditional agencies, but I do agree that large agencies need to understand where social media fits or they will allow yet another beach head to establish on the shores of their clients. The last time, agencies eventually won, buying up many of the best web designers or, at least, made them servants.

Net Semi-Neutrality: New Rules from the FCC
Sometimes compromise is a good thing. Sometime it's not. Gini Dietrich shares her take on the FCC's decision to adopt “net semi-neutrality,” which is a hybrid of the worst kind in that it pretends to preserve some freedoms by giving up a few of them. Yes. It can be likened to offering up 25 percent (or more) of your neighborhood in order to preserve the majority. On the other hand, it does temporarily sooth the savage beast that really built the Internet, companies that laid the wires and the cell lines only to it cut deeply into their primary revenue streams.

Yuletide Crisis Containment.
Peter Himler covers a just under the radar crisis communication story that was passed over by many, even after it was covered by The Wall Street Journal. The crisis includes a civil suit against Ernst & Young, which has adopted a position of silence. While it is generally acceptable to not comment during a lawsuit (and sometimes prudent), Ernst & Young didn't stop at simply offering one of the few acceptable times to avoid comment. It claims the case has no factual or legal basis, but then refuses to back up the statement. It's hard to say where this might go in the year ahead, but there is no denying they've taken a risky route.

An Open Letter to PR Professionals.
Doug Davidoff begins by saying "There are three gaps that PR and social media professionals must bridge if they want a seat at the table and to be treated with the seriousness they deserve." Those three gaps include: better processes, better prioritization, and better alignment with the goals of the business. It makes sense. All too often the profession finds itself developing industry best practices when the only best practices that ought to matter are those that directly benefit the business and the publics that the business hope to reach. The same can said about social media. All the buzz is nice, but how does it support the mission?

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