Showing posts with label liquid hip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label liquid hip. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 31

Frighteningly Good: Neil Gaiman

Rather than find some superficial tie-in for Halloween, I'd like to give a nod to an authentic one being promoted by author Neil Gaiman. It was an idea he had back in 2010. It was simple, straightforward.

Instead of filling sacks with sweets and other treats (although you can do that too), why not be part of All Hallow's Read and give someone or everyone a spooky book for Halloween. It doesn't have to be today. Make it sometime this week. Not only would such a gift be memorable, but it's a hit for literacy.

If you think a book might be too much to give, there are always comics instead. The point is that a book is safer than candy and it lasts that much longer. Who knows? Maybe it will last an entire lifetime.

The pitch for All Hallow's Read by Neil Gaiman. 

Let me be clear. This brilliant idea wasn't my own. It belongs to Gaiman and I was fortunate enough to learn about it as a fringe benefit to publishing an alternative review site call Liquid [Hip]. We do more than review the occasional author or artist. We listen to them long after they make the list.

Not only has Gaiman put together a website to promote the idea, but he also published this video to explain.

In keeping with the spirit of this exceptional idea, I've put together a quick list of books with a spooky slant. Some of them have been reviewed on Liquid [Hip] and others are part of a short list for any week when we haven't had a chance to find something new. (A couple just mean something special to me.)

Five titles that are great fun for Halloween.

Hobgoblin by John Coyne. Although meant for young readers, it is also one of Coyne's best before joining the Peace Corps. It's about prep school student Scott Gardiner whose love of fantasy role playing begins to blur with the real world. Despite some story problems, it's well worth the read.

It mostly holds a special place for me because I stumbled upon the book as a young teen while traveling alone. My flight was late on arrival, stranding me without any cash in Dallas. I couldn't convince the store clerk to give it to me on loan so I read as much as I could in the airport bookstore. It took months to track it down again because I had forgotten the author's name and Hobgoblin was so ubiquitous.

The Stand by Stephen King. The Stand is easily one of the heaviest horror books ever written. There are plenty of people who love it and hate it. But as far as end-of-the-world scenarios go, it's hard not to appreciate a mutating flu virus that paves the way for an apocalyptic confrontation.

As King was one of my favorite authors for many years, I had to include him. The Stand is my favorite, even if King had written other stories that were more frightening (It) and sometimes more disturbing (Survivor Type in Skeleton Crew). Ironically, I've only reviewed one of his books on Liquid [Hip]; a collection of short stories called Just After Sunset.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Although I have yet to read Horns, Heart-Shaped Box was an amazing debut about an aging death-metal frontman who decides to buy a ghost on the Internet. Mostly, he bought it because he wanted to believe he didn't believe in the supernatural or his former persona.

Besides being a great book that I had the privilege to review, I had no idea that Hill was also Stephen King's son until I finished the book (although it was obvious there were King influences). While it gets a little wonky at the end, it was great to find someone focused more on the supernatural and less on hack-and-slash horror.

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. Although many people know Simmons for his science fiction and fantasy, he wrote one of the most riveting horror stories I've ever read. It's about five 12-year-old boys who would have been content to come of age riding bikes in their small town of Elm Haven, Illinois. Unfortunately for them, there is an old evil that is coming to life again under their quiet town.

Although I don't know if it would hold true today, I remember this book as the scariest I had ever read. In fact, it was the only book that once kept me up at night because the idea of going to sleep with the story still in my head was too much. It didn't help that the same night I was reading it, my apartment door (which I believed to be locked) blew open with such force that I thought someone was breaking in. While it does resemble an outline, it might be the better book.

Midnight by Dean Koontz. While Odd Thomas is probably his most memorable character, Midnight was one of his most memorable books. The transformation of the people who live in Moonlight Cove, Calif. — whether surrendering to their wildest urges or becoming affiliated with computer-enhanced intellectualism — is frequently nerve-wrenching with its frenzied pace and genre-bending bite.

While Koontz is likely too popular for review on my alternative site, Midnight will remain one of my favorites from this well-known author. The idea of chemically induced evolution is perhaps even more relevant today as what was once science fiction now resembles science fact.

There are countless more I could list. Several of them can be found on my growing online bookshelf, including one by Gaiman with co-writer Terry Pratchett. (One for now, I am certain). If you want to grab up something short, look for Roald Dahl or Rudyard Kipling. All of these gems can be considered lovely stuff. So I hope you will consider Gaiman's idea seriously. If not this year, the maybe next.

Special note to Neil Gaiman: Anytime you want to talk about creating an online campaign to support All Hallow's Read, do not hesitate to drop me a "note". While it already has strong grassroots support, a little push in the right direction would give a groundswell to make it permanent.

Friday, February 17

Sharing Nonsense: Warner Music Group

Unlike many, I don't have anything against Warner Music Group (WMG). They have produced scores of solid albums from talented artists on their label and several dozen independent labels for more than 200 years if you trace it back to Chappell & Co. It's the third largest music publishing business in the world.

However, it is kind of remarkable that it has been able to accomplish as much as it has, given that the company is also its own worst enemy. Last fiscal year, it reported a net loss of $205 million.

The company likes to say the loss is associated with its hard work to make the transition to the digital music industry. But the truth is that the company isn't trying to transition to digital. WMG is trying to make the digital music industry transition to it.

Some might even say it is the cornerstone of its current business vision. It has long been regarded as having views that make other SOPA and PIPA supporters look reasonable. In fact, it is the most aggressive label in removing content on YouTube. And now, it seems to be arbitrarily enacting a model that cost EMI a contract with OK Go last year.

Warner Music Group in action. Disabling video embeds. 

As some people know, we run a little side project called Liquid [Hip]. It's a site that reviews all sorts of things, with music accounting for about 50 percent of the content. Yesterday, we reviewed an alternative rock/metal band called Janus. They're signed by Realid (pronounced Reality with a D), which happens to be owned by WMG.

Whenever we can, we try to include video embeds of bands to give readers an idea of what we hear. For Janus, we chose the new lyrical video Stains, which is the advance single off their new album due out in March. We think if the album is indicative of the single, it will catapult the band to the next level.

Since embedding was enabled, we thought it best represented the sound while showcasing the single. After the first hour, however, embedding wasn't disabled but the playback was replaced with a message: This video contains content from WMG, who has blocked it from display on this website. Watch it on YouTube. The message is inaccurate. It really means any website.

That's fine with me. We picked up a replacement video. Unfortunately, it doesn't represent as strong, doesn't link back to the artist's channel, and caused some people to send emails asking us about it.

It makes sense that they would. For the first hour or so, the review was read by several hundred people and shared by a few dozen. All that went cold after the lockdown. And it never came back for the band.

To their credit, Janus tried to find a solution because they wanted the lyrical video up too. They even said so on our Facebook page.

They even included a link to the lyrical video; the same video. The image capture shows how that turned out. Janus couldn't share its own video, not even on Facebook.

Given the block was so extreme, we decided to cull through all of our old posts. Sure enough, every WMG video and every WMG indie label carried the same message. So we replaced all of them, even the one that we helped give life to: it had ten views when we shared it. It has 9,700 views today.

Personally, I don't care about the drop off of interest, other than how it affects the band. I don't care because when we first launched the review site for fun, we promised ourselves to never compromise on cool. Listen, don't listen. Read, don't read. Buy, don't buy. I couldn't give a shit about going viral.

We emphasize this fact with our tagline: we cover cool, not popular. Never once did we expect the site would hit 50,000 views in the course of a month. But that's still not how we measure success.

We measure success by giving exposure to what we think is cool (which is a higher bar than what we like). And when people who read the reviews thank us for introducing a new band or a label writes us a note to thank us for what we are doing or another review site follows our lead and asks us for links to a purchase site or a band likes a review not because it is easy but because it is hard, well, it feels worth it.

WMG, on the other hand, ought to give a shit about going viral. The more people exposed to the music, the more people are likely to buy the album. The more people exposed to the music, the more likely they are to become fans. And the more people exposed to the music, the more likely they will buy Stains, Nox Aeris, past albums, merchandise, and future albums even if we never review them again.

It's painfully clear the embed block is not about piracy. It's about shrinking the sales funnel for short-term control and, in some cases, attempting to elevate views on YouTube even if most people in the business know that the majority of video views are fueled by embed views.

A different digital strategy and policy could help people help WMG. 

All of this really isn't a big deal. I removed/replaced about ten WMG locked down videos (except the one above for purposes of illustration), even if it hurts WMG and related label artists because I refuse to carry their WMG content message on our site. I don't intend to put the videos back either.

What I would like to avoid is feeling forced to omit WMG and related indie label artists outright. So instead of boycotting WMG as some have done, I wrote a few ideas for the new owner, Len Balvatnik, to pass along to the fine folks at WMG who didn't respond to my inquiry about the video block.

• Always assume the first single is an investment in the album and let people share it.
• Be courteous to reviewers by disabling 'embedding' outright and not after the fact.
• Recognize that people who view embeds follow them to the band channel (you win).
• Add advertisements that run inside the embeds to increase potential revenue.
• Include an end title card with a direct link to the purchase site of your choice.
• Weigh the merit of publishing clips (in some cases) as opposed to full-length videos.

The question ought not to be about how to prevent people from sharing WMG content outside of its social media assets, but how WMG can maximize revenue because people want to share its content.

I appreciate the concern about piracy (although embedding a video in a review is a revenue generator and not a detractor). Piracy is something everyone ought to be concerned about. But companies such as yours need to remember that most people are happy to purchase music as opposed to pirating it.

Right now, most regulations WMG wants to implement as well as the overzealous WMG lockdown and blocking practices alienate people who are paying loyalists and does nothing to curb the appetite of real criminals. In fact, almost every practice currently employed by WMG alienates people, empowers pirates, and diminishes the fading respect people once had for the brand. Please try to do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 4

Flipping Forward: 2012 Ahead

I've never been a proponent of sharing firm news here unless it's relevant. But this year, it's relevant.

There are plenty of changes ahead for me and my firm, and some of them will inevitably land here (but not all at once). After writing and sharing more than 1,400 posts related to communication, this space is starting to feel overdue for more diversity, especially as it applies commentary, curiosity, and creativity.

I don't necessarily have a direction per se, but I did invest most of last year on projects leading up to this year. The direction fits right in with some of the advice I shared last year — less talking and more doing. Doing pays dividends.

Copywrite, Ink. will undoubtedly remain the hub of my business activity (and I don't mean this blog, but the company behind it). After building this company for more than 20 years, it makes good sense to keep evolving it. However, what we do and how we do it has been changing for some time.

Since the beginning, communication and writing services has been at the core of the company. And while much of that will remain, the company also increased its investments in several incubator projects, both proprietary and partnered. With some of these projects maturing this year, we're shifting toward an invitation-only structure: We will decline more prospective accounts than we accept.

While some people might think this is counterintuitive given the economy, I am confident the new model is a better fit with a new economy. It will be a better fit with a company vested in creation as much as communication. And, it will be a better fit for me, because too much of the communication industry is settling on client servitude — over-concentrating on things like reach, frequency, and clicks rather than the hard work that makes those things tick.

Don't fool yourself. If those are measures, you have the wrong objectives. Carry on without them.

Liquid [Hip] is one of our creation projects. What began as little more than a whim 18 months ago has grown steadily from a few hundred visitors a month to tens of thousands. I still consider it a hobby of sorts, but only because it's fun to be immersed in creative works. It also gives me a venue to experiment with social media without any of the constraints that are sometimes imposed by clients.

If you've never visited, Liquid [Hip] is an online review site, which only reviews things the reviewers actually like. There is a heavy emphasis on music and books, but our editorial rotation allows us to pick up apps, film, fashion, gadgets, games, and good will. It's not for everyone. We cover cool, not popular.

Currently, we're busy corralling all the reviews, but there are some other exciting prospects for Liquid [Hip] in the months ahead. I'll share some of these developments as they mature in actualities.

Celebrating Legacy. Last May, I had the good fortune to meet one of the most highly decorated police officers in the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Retired law enforcement professional Randy Sutton envisioned an online legacy archival system after several deeply personal experiences made him reassess life and invest two years into developing something that could add value to other people's lives. Celebrating Legacy was the outcome.

While there are several other great people involved (to be introduced in the future), what originally started as a communication project quickly evolved into a creation project. Borrowing from years of behind-the-scenes experience with several social networks, I became a lead project architect.

Currently, Celebrating Legacy is pre-alpha with internal program testing slated for January. We'll immediately follow this up with an invitation alpha phase. There is still some dust on the site itself, but you are more than welcome to visit the front porch or submit an application to become an alpha tester. At its earliest stages, I anticipate alpha testers will have access to 80 percent of 'year one' services.

Yorganic Chef is a hybrid creation-communication project for our firm, which is also maturing this month. The site will sport a placeholder page until about mid to late January. Once launched, Yorganic Chef will provide people a place to order ready-made gourmet meals in the Los Angeles area. The meals will then be delivered to the customer's front door on a schedule convenient for them.

The venture is the brainstorm of Nick Diakantonis, who has 25 years of culinary and entrepreneurial experience. Years ago, he was one of the founders of Pasta Ditoni's (a wholesale pasta distribution company) as well as Piazza Market, which is located in Ohio.

Los Angeles will be the first of many markets where Yorganic Chef will open. Initially, Diakantonis planned to make Las Vegas his test market until an angel investor of sorts lobbied for his company to start in Los Angeles. Having seen the menu, this is the right project at the right time and in the right market.

Odds & Ends. The projects above represent the forefront. Personally, I have a book to finish this year (sigh, maybe), a children's book to illustrate, and two concepts for board games that were the direct result of hanging out too much on Kickstarter last year. This creates a nice array of options, and some of it has even prompted me to invest some holiday downtime into rekindling dusty skill sets in fine arts.

At the same time, I will stay on with UNLV and have accepted an invitation to speak at the Nevada Parks & Recreation Society conference in April. The topic will likely be social media, perhaps a parsed version of last year's social media class (the deck almost refined enough to share online).

And, although I am extremely reluctant to come out of retirement from politics, I have been asked to work on a Nevada State Senate race, two State Assembly races, and one Congressional race (as campaign manager on any of them, if I want it). We'll see. These aren't decisions to make lightly.

A Conclusion Or Perhaps An Opening...

I've had some wonderful opportunities to meet hundreds and thousands of people in the seven years since I started this blog. Not all of them are in communication, but it's the communicators who need to hear this the most. Unless your company is doing, social media is an exercise in spinning wheels.

Sure, there are a few communication blogs that become popular enough. But most of them eventually fade away. From my original 2005 blog list, not one remains. From my Fresh Content Project list last year, maybe 20 percent are viable today. And if I added all the communication blogs up, maybe one in 1,000 monetize social media into speaking, authoring, or consulting.

Keep that mind, especially when you ask yourself what you are going to write about this year. It's the wrong question to ask. Unless you teach social media, you really need to be doing something else. And then you can write about that. Care to join me? I know 2012 will be great year. I hope it is for you too.

The first social media story (Friday) this year runs down a few social networks you've forgotten about and whether or not their recent changes are enough. And then, on Monday, I'll follow it up on why politics cannot be measured by social media or media relations as much as grass roots.

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