Showing posts with label wired. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wired. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 28

Killing Blogs: Wired Likes Linkbait


Ever since Wired magazine saw some success by declaring newspapers dead, it seems to have developed an appetite for declaring everything dead. The latest victims? Blogs. Yep, Paul Boutin says blogs are dead.

"The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge," wrote Boutin, who also writes for Valleywag. "Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers."

Hecklers like, um, Paul Boutin? (Joke.) Come on, the linkbait has never been so obvious. So here's one study Wired didn't consider:

Blog influence on consumer purchases eclipses social networks

BuzzLogic, a social media analysis company, recently released a study that suggests frequent blog readers (defined as consumers who read blogs more than once per month) use blogs as the top online navigation tool to discover other blog content, ranking higher than general searches on search engines. Here are some other findings after surveying 2,000 online consumers in the United States:

• 38 percent said blog links were the top tool for discovering new blog content, edging out 34 percent who said search engines.
• 39 percent said blog links appear to have similar impact as a trusted recommendation from a person.
• 40 percent of blog readers have taken action as a result of viewing an ad on a blog (50 percent for frequent readers).
• 50 percent said blogs influence purchases and that they find blogs useful for purchase information.
• 56 percent said blogs with a niche focus and topical expertise were key sources, making consumer useful.

"For a portion of Web users, blogs rival search as a navigation tool, which has really interesting implications for advertisers," said Rob Crumpler, CEO of BuzzLogic. "Blogs are becoming trusted guides, steering users who are seeking very specific information to places of interest online."

Crumpler is right, of course. But what makes the difference? Boutin seems to have fallen for the buzz of blog generalization. As I continue to tell my friends in the media, blog credibility doesn't come from the tool; it comes from the individuals who share insights, experiences, and knowledge. How they share information is of little consequence.

Each "blogger" has an opportunity to establish themselves as a trusted source among their readers. And, one way to damage that credibility is to rely too heavily on linkbait that declares things dead too much (like blogs from a blog, no less). Oh well, at least it's not as scary as what they put out last Halloween. Boo hoo.

A few other posts on the topic of blogs being dead, including the blog that Boutin also writes for:

mathewingram.com/work
Valleywag
Pulse 2.0

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Wednesday, November 21

Kindling The Future: Amazon Kindle


“What’s a record? A cassette tape?” — my son, 2007

“What’s a magazine stand? A dust cover?” — his son, 2037

It might look clunky at a glance, but it’s the first generation sneak peek of the future. And like most technological breakthroughs that shock the system, the Kindle, a pricey and apparently improved e-reader, is no exception.

There were 3,200 posts and counting, just yesterday, equally split between positive and negative opinion. There were 398 reviews on Amazon, delivering a divided 2.5 stars. And while Seattlest jumped with comments that included “I wouldn't use it if someone gave it to me for free,” Barnes & Noble saw its stock drop 5 percent.

All because of hyperbole before the first Kindle could ship. Yet, very few people even mentioned this fact. It was too late, with just one more example of how bloggers follow media. Social media chimes in on any story when it seems especially hot. If they don’t, their readers will be discovering new blogs, maybe better.

Here are some highlights that struck me yesterday.

"This is a disruptive approach, the sort of thing only a market leader could pull off. It changes the world in a serious way." — Seth Godin with the marketing perspective.

“It’s not going to revolutionize the industry overnight, though it sounds like Amazon is going to take this business seriously and continue to invest in it.” — Joseph Weisenthal with the tech perspective.

“Whether this will be the death of print concerns me less than if it will be yet another slow down in reading complete books -- the physical or digital kind,” — Valeria Maltoni with the human perspective (my favorite kind).

“That Jeremy is probably right. I’m excited about the new reader to be sure. But getting geeks like me excited by a new “shiny toy” is pretty easy. Getting a large market excited? That’s a LOT harder.” — Robert Scoble with the geek predictor perspective.

“So unless you live in a dark cave (without Wi-Fi) you know that the Gadget News of the Day was Amazon's release of its eBook reader called the Kindle.” — Danny Dumas, with the recap perspective, including Jose Fermoso’s roundup of eight more opinions.

Did anyone notice the media has already embraced this? They’re on the subscription list. It makes them relevant; expect many more articles ahead.

So there you go. Maybe it will be Kindle and maybe not. But there are truths inside the truth because this is playing out much like the iPhone. There was a split decision a few months back. A lot of people came out for and against it. It was all kind of silly.

But today, all that conversation is irrelevant because Apple sold 1.12 million iPhones last quarter, representing 27 percent of the smart phone market in the United States and 3 percent of the overall cell phone market.

Not bad for Apple’s first phone.

Unless there is a serious technological flaw, like charging you to put your own content on it (oh right, there is) you can expect the same with Kindle or the second generation reader that someone is already busy working on. But I don’t want to play guessing games. Instead, I’ll offer two observations.

The hyperbole is real.

Sometimes social media gives permission to craft a runaway opinion for the sake of having one. And there is nothing wrong with that. Opinions are like bottoms and everyone has one. In the age of glass bathrooms, full moons are not only invited, but some say they’re required.

The future is polar.

The Kindle aside, the technology behind it represents an opportunity to educate everyone on the planet (once there is a price point drop), giving them access to the best books ever written. And, it also represents an opportunity to enslave humankind by filtering future content and killing the last refuge of reader privacy at the same time.

“Cool,” some say. “How can I list my blog and get paid?”

Good night and good luck.

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Monday, November 5

Finding Nemo: PR Professionals


There is no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil. — Walter Lippmann

Considering some public relations professionals are still smarting from Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, and wondering if anyone loves them (boo hoo), I thought it might be useful to provide a few basics so some don’t have to keep learning the hard way.

Sure, I know working in public relations is not necessarily easy, but it does not have to be exceedingly hard either. Every spring, I share six tips with public relations students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on how to be an effective public relations practitioner:

• Think like a journalist
• Act like a businessperson
• Dig deeper than a lead investigator
• Write with the passion of a novelist
• Speak with the conviction of a communicator
• Exhibit empathy like an advocate for various publics

It’s no easy task, and not everyone is capable. But the best and the brightest in the field all have these qualities (at least the ones I know). Unfortunately, the great majority of public relations professionals (about 80 percent, I might guess) never even make it past the first bullet. So that's all I'm going to write about today.

It's not about how many of their posts or articles you read; thinking like a journalist is all about finding Nemo.

That's right. You need to find "the better fish story." And based on box office gross alone, Nemo was the best fish story of all. Seriously, that movie contained almost everything needed to make the news.

Here’s my quick tip sheet for public relations students, which originated with Jake Highton, a longtime journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno as well as some tips from the The Missouri Group. I’ve added and embellished them over the years, working with a foot in each field.

What Makes News Or How To Find A Nemo?

Impact. How much is an audience effected, how direct is the impact, and how immediate is the effect? The greater the impact or magnitude, the more likely it is news.

Proximity. How close is the action to a locality or how direct to a specific industry? The closer the connection is to home or to a particular audience, the more likely it is news.

Timeliness. When is the action is occurring or when did it occur? The fresher the story, the more likely it is news.

Importance/Effects Of Change. How will it change people’s lives, like a new law or a price increase? The more it changes people’s lives, the more likely it is news.

Prominence. Who is involved and do people know who they are or what company they work for? The more prominent the individual or company, the more likely it is news.

Conflict. How volatile are the combatants and how colorful are the characters? The bigger the conflict or rashness of the characters, the more likely it is news.

Novelty. Does it occur often or infrequently? The more uncommon the occurrence, the more likely it is news.

Human Interest. How touching is the act of kindness? The greater or more direct the gift, the more likely it is news.

Sensitivity. How disastrous or emotional is the result? The greater the misfortune, the more likely it is news.

Special Interest. Does the editor of the publication have an interest in the subject matter? The more specialized the story to a specific publication, the most likely it is news.

Almost all stories need at least one of these elements (generally, more than one) to be considered news by most journalists. It’s about that simple. If you have many, you have yourself a Nemo.

Do you get it now? At the very least, it might dispel the mystery of why a small company launching a new widget is probably spam as opposed to a salmon. It also explains why the huge whale tale seems to have been the Apple iPhone (called the invention of the year no less).

So there you have it. Where some (not all) public relations professionals are going wrong is that they are promising clients a certain amount of releases every month, but never look for anything that remotely resembles a minnow let alone a clown fish.

Who knows? Maybe that will make my "stars align" comment more palatable. That point was never meant to suggest more spam.

I was making the case that even if you have a Nemo, someone else might have a Nemo plus one. Too bad. It sucks. But there is only so much time or space a journalist or editor (or even a blogger) has to work with today, tomorrow, next week, or all year.

The general lesson is simple: don’t waste their time, especially since the average journalist’s salary is $30,000 per year and the average public relations professional is paid about twice that, which is why I can almost guarantee that the “it’s my job" sob or “you need me" cry or “I’m too busy to use AP Style" whine won’t really cut it. If anything, it will probably strain the relationship even more so. Instead of crying or inventing formulas, go find the better fish story.

And while you're at it, treat those journalists with respect. And, if they don’t respect you back right away, try to remember that other PR folks have probably lied to them a hundred times (just last week). So I'm sorry, but it's the burden of the PR professional to overcome any barriers caused by others in the field. Reporters owe you (or me) nothing. Not even a return call.

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Thursday, November 1

Making News: Publication Editors


Jack Payne, a business author (1.1 million books sold) and publisher of Six Hours Past Thursday left the kind of comment on my Chris Anderson, Wired, post that inspires me. Having "sent 15 releases over the past eight months," he has no idea why some releases get 15 pickups and others get four. (Jack, nice record).

Neither do I. Well, that’s sort of not true. Why do some releases run?

Space. Time. The Stars Align.

While this is an exercise in putting the cart before the horse (usually I share what constitutes news before making this point), there is only one thing that defines news — news is whatever the editor says is news. Period.

Key News * Las Vegas was a hybrid local/international trade publication for concierges and hospitality executives. We owned and operated it from Sept. 99 to Aug. 03 before selling it. Despite the super high cost per impression, our advertisers included In Celebration of Golf, Lladro, McCormick & Schmick’s, Lawry’s, The Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes, and many others. I was the editor; you can find a few details on my incomplete Linkedin profile.

In this publication, there was only one section where a news release could even hope to find a home. It was in a section called “Key Notes,” a two-page spread of news bits and other loose ends. At most, we had room for fourteen burbs, some of which were pre-designated. I randomly picked up an old issue today from 2002 to share why we picked ten headlines over about 500 other releases.

Concierges Added To The River Empress (Switzerland)
The publication description might be the giveaway. We were always interested when concierges were added to a property or cruise ship. Picked up from PR Newswire (it had a nice photo too).

Bonnie Springs Ranch Adds Horseback Riding (Las Vegas)
This was a local interest story. We would always have one purely local interest blurb. Plus, the cover story was on ecotourism. The owners sent me an email. They were nice.

World Tourism Organization (WTO) - Year Of Ecotourism
World tourism was always underreported in Vegas. We often covered WTO news (and other trade sources). Did I mention the cover story?

U.S. Senate Passes Border Security Act
The Travel Industry of America (TIA) had a major victory when it convinced Congress to extend the deadline for biometric passports (H.R. 3525). Biometric passports impacted $40 billion in tourism spending so, naturally, we were following the bill.

Fifth Annual ArtFest of Henderson
This was a local interest story from our longtime friend and client, the City of Henderson. We helped launch ArtFest and supported more off-Strip cultural events anyway. The timing of the event, more than the relationship, was the deciding factor.

Travelog Offers Self-Guided Tours
At the time, Travelog looked like a smart idea. It made self-guided CD tours for people who wanted to explore Nevada. A percentage of its proceeds benefited the Les Clefs d’Or Foundation. Enough said.

Local Concierge Spotlight
Every issue, we would publish the names of new local concierge association members as well as those who earned Les Clefs d’Or status. This was designated space.

National Tourism Week, May 5-11
This was a story about National Tourism Week and included a local tie-in. This was a good blurb to run because it touched local and national readership. Readers are why publications exist.

Nevada Joins U.S. Postal Service Campaign
The U.S. Post Office had unveiled its new commemorative stamps for the See America campaign. It was interesting and still exists. Check out See America if you're interested.

U.S. Grape Growers Target France
Most of our readers were affluent (they owned and operated hotels worldwide) and you would be surprised how many hotel guests ask concierges for wine tips. It was a natural fit and another PR Newswire pickup.

Do you notice anything? Not a single direct-to-publication news release made that issue, but that wasn’t always the case. On average, about 1-3 direct-to-publication news releases made it into the Key Notes section. So let’s run down the tips again:

Space. On average, we could publish “1-3” new releases. We had some 500 releases to choose from (if I could call some of them that).

Time. If I was going to pick up a release, I wanted it to be clear, crisp, newsworthy, and interesting for my readers. Since I also have a company, time was always a premium when it came to the publication. In other words, we didn’t have time to rewrite bad releases, make 10 follow-up calls (or emails), wait for PR firms to get back to us, or find the story that a PR firm missed. With 500 releases to choose from for 1-3 spots, why would we?

Stars Align. Nobody knew what the focus of our next cover story would be. So if someone happened to send in a release on something like ecotourism when the cover story was ecotourism, it automatically moved to the top of the list.

While I still think it was over the top for Anderson to publish all those email addresses, maybe this demonstrates why I am sympathetic to his plight against PR spam. Of the 500 some releases we skimmed for three spots, it used to go something like this:

• About 50 were on target, but I didn’t have space, pure and simple. Basically, they were trumped by other stories.

• About 50 had the right content for us, but were poorly written or required follow-up calls. Key Notes was always the last section to be written so time was always against our editorial team. Besides, there were 50 other stories ahead of them.

• About 400 had nothing to do with anything we published, were already covered, or were just so horrible that we were afraid the PR firm would think they were doing it right (headline example: The “blank” hotel just got bigger. Yikes!)

• Of these 400 low level releases, about 100 would contain hyped, dishonest, and even downright dirty lies. Not surprisingly, the worst 100 releases were the most likely to be written by PR people who would call me. They would ask if I got their releases, get mad if I told them there was no news value, and would try to pin me down on what I wanted. Honestly, I knew what was news when I saw it.

Is this information useful to you? It’s not always about ego, it’s about the truth. Public relations firms tend to think in formulas, but their formula does not often match any given publication. Plus, PR firms get better clients, in part, based on the decisions made by the editorial team. These editors know it. They also know that many PR firms are only interested in getting their clients ink, which is the polar opposite of editors want to do — serve their readers.

More to the point, while I agree with Geoff Livingston that being an editor doesn’t give anyone permission to be a punk, public relations firms would be best served by considering the editorial team’s needs, which varies by publication.

You see, this is all very relevant to me at the moment because, if all goes as planned, I will be wearing an editor’s hat again for “Project X” in 2008. It won’t be related to hospitality, but I already know my email inbox will be saddled with spam. Woo hoo.

Next week, I'll share a few journalist tips on what might constitute news. Why next week? Same reasons: space, time, and the stars did not align. The next three days or so on my blog are slated.

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Wednesday, October 31

Scaring PR: Chris Anderson, Wired


If you are a public relations professional who likes to pitch everything in your arsenal of potential communication and hope to get lucky, Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, has sent you a message right in time for Halloween... BOO! YOU’RE BANNED!

Not only are you banned, but you are also publicly banned with your e-mail address published for the whole world, including spam bots, to see. Yikes!

It’s days like that when I am so glad that I don’t own a public relations firm (though we provide support services). It’s days like that when I wish all the public relations practitioners took my spring class at UNLV. Don’t spam publications, I tell students (most of whom are already working). They don’t listen, but I do tell them.

Based on the comments alone, some PR folks are not ready to listen to Anderson either. (They’re more concerned that they are on the list.) Sure, I think publishing the e-mails might have been a bit over the top, but I also know that warnings don’t seem to do the trick or treat for some flacks. Maybe a shock-and-awe slasher fest was warranted.

It’s a wake-up call that Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing agrees with. For the past week or so, he’s been “blacklisting PR flacks” from his email inbox too, but he stopped short of publishing a list (those folks may never know they are banned).

For anyone who finds this surprising, Anderson and Frauenfelder are just revealing what journalists and editors have been doing for years and years, long before email blasts became all the rage. Some public relations people just didn’t know it.

Three bad or irrelevant releases, if you were lucky, and the firm’s public relations envelope started going into the trash unopened. A few years later, I personally saw reams of paper piling out of the fax machine at the Las Vegas Review-Journal; a mountain of uninteresting and poorly written blast faxes. And then, as editor of a hospitality trade publication, I’ll never forget warning a publicist to stop sending non-news with a 10MB photo every other day. He responded by sending me five photos the next. BANNED!

The horror. The Horror. THE HORROR.

More horrible is that some comments on Anderson's post allude to the idea that it’s always better to call editors instead. Look, in case you missed it, Anderson is no more likely to field 300 calls a day then he is to skim 300 emails a day. So the solution sequels floating around out there may be more frightening than the original.

Here’s an idea: give editors and journalists what they want because unlike what Kent State University tells its journalism students — PR people are obstacles on the pathway to the truth — PR people are supposed to make the job of an editor and/or journalist easier, not harder. (Bill Seldzik’s blog is how I learned about the PR witch hunt at Wired. Good one, Bill!)

Did you get that? Give them what they want! Some like e-mails, some like calls, some like attachments (some don’t), and some even like releases sent to them via fax or snail mail (if you can imagine).

None of them want to "figure out" if your client has anything interesting for them or for you. None take any joy in reading painfully written news releases or ridiculous pitches. And if you don’t know who is who, then you aren’t really doing your job.

Personally, wearing my past (and future) editor hat, I think banned on first abuse is a bit extreme. I give flacks at least three tries to get it right, under the assumption that everybody has a bad day. Then I ban them.

I also hate pitch calls. There’s nothing worse than being stopped in the middle of a deadline to take a call from a flack who wants to chat it up like a used car salesman as if he or she wants to develop a relationship. Calls are reserved for clients or people who actually do something interesting enough that as an editor, I might call them.

My point here is: don’t talk about authenticity if all you want to do is pitch non-news and non-not-news while pretending we’re buddies. I actually like news releases, provided they are well crafted, but mostly because it’s easier to delete them based on the subject line (and lead line if I get past the subject line).

I can't speak for Anderson or Frauenfelder, but most editors and journalists tend to be more forgiving if they sense they weren’t simply added to a spam list. So here's a tip: pitch when it is so good that it smacks of a groundbreaking exclusive. Email or mail releases (as they prefer) to the appropriate people (some editors like them; some don’t). Add attachments only when you’ve been invited to do so.

You never know. If you do it right, maybe you will develop a relationship out of mutual respect. Now that would be scary.

Happy Halloween!

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