Archive for January, 2010

Living in an abbr. world

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Why is it that everyone seems to be in such a hurry in life? What is this irresistible craving we have for speed? Now I must admit that I grew up in the 1980s as part of the MTV generation so my attention span is pretty limited. Even Lisa Simpson, in an episode of The Simpsons, commented that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “we grew up in the MTV generation so we have an attention span of less than a minute.”

Armed with a short attention span and living in a business world where time apparently does equal money, we need to find ways to cut corners so we can be more productive. I completely understand that. Technologies like cell phones and mobile computing keep me stay connected to my work and help improve my productivity. But seriously, have we taken the whole speed-productivity-simplifying everything a little too far?

Which brings me to my question of the day: how many acronyms does the high tech world need? Why must we shorten everything so that we can talk faster?

The other day I was configuring my daughter’s new laptop. In the middle of cursing up a storm (yes, I’m technologically challenged J), in the same sentence I said, “just plug that into the USB drive, I’ll hook it up to the Wi-Fi network and the printer and then you’ll have your own SOHO set-up.” She looked at me like I was from Mars.

In an effort to help simplify everyone’s life in the tech world and help improve productivity I recommend that we combine some high tech acronyms. How about these?

CRM and ERP? Would that be CREEP?

HIPAA and BPO? Would that be HIPPO?

GUI and NIMBY? Would that be GUMBY?

SOHO and SAP? Would that be SOAP?

SMB and AC? Would that be SMAC?

Really now…SaaS, IP, VOIP, FOIP, ISO, CMOS, HTTP, RFID, FTP, OEM and EMEA …it never stops.

So what’s your opinion? Has the tech world taken acronyms too far?

More content, less money. The iPad’s ROI.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Tablets like what Steve Jobs and Apple just introduced have long been forecast in science fiction, so you just knew that sooner or later devices like this would become reality.

ipadFor example, in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke describes something called a “Newspad” that Heywood Floyd, “plugs into the ship’s information circuit and scans the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.”

While there will be little need to know codes by heart, Clarke’s vision of getting electronic papers on a pad-like device is finally here.  To be sure the iPad is likely far from perfect, I fully expect that it will inevitably become more refined and in the process move us much further to full electronic delivery of premier content – much of which is currently paper-based.

Sure you can get content on either a smartphone or a laptop, but neither is ideal. The smartphone is just too small and the laptop is too clumsy. I just don’t find myself sitting at breakfast surfing news on my laptop, or trying to peer into a tiny screen on the BlackBerry.

Instead I get volumes of newspaper – big piles of it that inevitably end up being recycled.  Speaking of which, the environmental impact of all that paper is not good. Paper consumes large amounts of water and energy, levels forests, and requires many gallons of fuel to get it to my doorstep. Electronic delivery has almost zero impact in comparison.

I can, however, imagine using the iPad as my daily news feed. What’s more there’s economic justification simply on the basis of replacing paid-for printed content I currently consume.  While I expect to still pay for the electronic content, the price will go down significantly.  Note that some of the publications have yet to adopt eReader technology like what the NY Times currently offers, but publishers that expect to survive will offer similar technology. Based on my calculations, I figure I could save $652 per year, easily justifying a $499 iPad.


Beyond lowering costs, the iPad will deliver a much improved experience.  Publishers will be able to blend video and printed words. Instead of a few photos, I will be able to see the entire sequence if I so desire. I’ll also be able to look up related information, or make comments. Basically it’s everything we love about the Web, but in a nice magazine-like format.  When I’m travelling, all I’ll need to pack is my iPad and a cell phone. No longer will I need magazines, books, media player, GPS, or even a laptop. And, of course, there will be countless numbers of cool apps.

Sounds like science fiction? Not anymore.

Are you still a-flutter about Twitter?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Now that Twitter has gone more or less full circle — from a great idea to an overhyped phenomenon to another social media tool — the current debate centers around what will ultimately become of Twitter.

On one hand, we have people who see Twitter as a flash in the pan. The spammers and multi-level marketing trolls will take over the service, so the argument goes, as regular folks deem it’s just not all that interesting knowing what someone you barely know ate for breakfast.  And it’s the rare celebrity who tweets themselves: most are the product of publicists. Where’s the fun in that? No thanks, the masses will conclude and give up Twitter as not worth the time or effort. Ultimately, Twitter as a company will fail or get sucked into say Microsoft and that will be that.  Biz Stone will go off and make a business of selling rocks.

In the opposing camps, pundits like the NY Times David Carr are convinced that Twitter is here to stay. One emerging view is that Twitter is like plumbing – an essential component that makes the Internet what it is. Plumbing is something that will be around the long haul. Of particular value this group says is the immediacy of Twitter and the ability to quickly take the pulse on a range of topic.

It’s the rare company these days that lacks some sort of presence on Twitter. Most have their own Twitter feeds and some are even worth following.  For the most part, many companies presence on Twitter seems to be a defensive move to keep competitors from getting a leg up.  There have been some wins. As was widely reported – and tweeted – last year, Dell said it got some $6.5 million in sales just from Twitter, and without a well-defined strategy.  That’s some serious payback.

While Twitter does have some social connection capabilities, the social experience on Twitter is unsatisfying at best. Facebook has proven to be a far more effective as a way to rekindle old friendships or forge new ones online. Similarly, I’ve found that Web 1.0 style forums are more effective than Twitter for getting answers to such daunting questions as why does my Microsoft Outlook keep getting stuck or should I get surgery on my broken wrist.  (I did).  Forums don’t arbitrarily limit message length and have much better organization and richer content.

The drawback to Twitter as a social relationship building tool is its core strength – the 140 character limit.  Because of that defining characteristic, I think Twitter’s most important value is as an open, easily accessible, and fully customizable live 24 x 7 streaming headline service. Digg, for instance, provides something similar, but in a much more regimented and structured fashion. Plus, the fact that Digg votes are controlled behind the scenes in some sort of bizarre popularity contest is a real turn-off. The upcoming overhaul could change things and help Digg to be more Twitter-like.

Taken in the context of streaming headlines, there simply isn’t something like Twitter elsewhere on the Web with a comparable level of following and infrastructure. One of the great strengths of Twitter is all the many tools and resources that let you figure out how best to tap into the vast flow of Twitter information.  For instance, my favorite HootSuite lets me build out columns based on search terms and hashtags so I can quickly find pointers to video, stories and blog posts I might find interesting or useful. It has largely replaced the need for RSS, which is just a bit too much work for most people.

As noted VC Bill Gurley explains in the video clip below, Twitter allows anyone to create their own distribution and following. If you’ve got some good content, write a compelling blog post, tweet about it and before long you’ve got a pulpit.  That alone makes Twitter a good thing, and I am personally rooting for Biz Stone & co. to hang in there.

Follow me @BrianBuzz and let me know what you think.

Death of local newspapers?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

In my November 23rd blog post, Dinosaurs Didn’t Adapt, But You Should, I talked about the impact that social media is having on local media news outlets, specifically metro newspapers. But what about local newspapers? If major metros, like the Rocky Mountain News, Cincinnati Post and Baltimore Examiner, had to shut their doors due to increased pressure from online media outlets, what are the odds of local, community newspapers surviving this threat to their existence?

Newstands gathering dust in San Francisco. A sign of our times.

Newstands gathering dust in San Francisco. A sign of our times.

As FierceContentManagement editor Ron Miller noted in his January 5th column, Why local newspapers still matter (a lot), there is definitely an important place in the world for local newspapers. Large daily metros don’t have the resources available to cover all of the important news in anyone’s town. Personally, part of my morning ritual is to eat breakfast while reading the local paper. But while the threat of online news and social media continues to eat away at profits for local papers, how will they be able to survive as advertising revenue continues to decrease? Remember, it’s the ad revenue that covers the costs of running a newspaper, not the 25 cents that I pay each day.

Zacks Investment Research had this to say about the downward trend in advertising revenue for newspapers:

The slide in newspaper circulation, which ran through the 1990s and into 2000, is accelerating. Earlier, the circulation of newspaper was falling by less than 1%, but the rate of decline accelerated to 2% in 2005, 3% in 2007 and 4% in 2008 with more and more readers migrating to the Internet. Circulation has also fallen prey to budget cuts with newspaper companies reducing the number of print pages and newsroom staff to combat the downturn.

According to the data released by the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper-advertising revenue tumbled for the 13th straight quarter in the third quarter. Also, 2009 reflected the steepest fall in advertising sales since 1987.

  • Total advertising revenue dropped 28% year-over-year to $6.4 billion in the third-quarter of 2009.
  • In the first nine months, advertising revenue also declined 28% to $19.9 billion.
  • Print advertising revenue plunged 29% to $5.8 billion, with classified advertising revenue down 38% to $1.46 billion.

Similarly, television and radio have been greatly impacted by the changes in media. According to a report written by Vocus Media Research Group (2010 State of the Media), the radio industry also felt the recession this year as revenues for radio stations dropped from the previous year, with estimates ranging from 15 to 20 percent and more than 10,000 jobs were lost. Television didn’t do much better as bankruptcies were common as more than 100 TV stations were affected by their parent companies filing Chapter 11.

So if major metros and even local newspapers are on the chopping block, what are local companies going to do to promote themselves? How can they take advantage of this situation?

In one sense the growth of social media and local online news outlets has provided local companies, such as restaurants and retail shops, with the opportunity to reach their target market like never before. Sure, local companies can advertise online in the local news outlet. But social media tools and local online news outlets give everyone a voice. In order to help build and promote brand awareness, local companies can write their own blog on their Web site, comment on and link to other interesting blogs, promote local events and share company news. This democratization of news is unprecedented in modern history.

While I want to see my local paper remain viable, I think that the rise of social media tools and local online news outlets has dramatically changed the way we absorb and view local news. I’d like to pose the question to small businesses—has the growth of social media and local online news outlets improved or weakened your business?

How to Keep the Talk Open, Consistent and Compelling

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to keep communication with editors open, consistent and compelling. It’s interesting to observe how some PR agencies get caught up in the process of reaching out to editors only when there’s an announcement or product launch. Why is that? If you think about it in terms of having a relationship with editors, then why do you only contact them when you there’s an announcement? Editors are extremely valuable resources of information and their readers are our clients’ customers. In fact, we’re both trying to reach the same audience. So instead of just talking at editors, why not partner with them on a conversation?

When I was working with Microsoft we had a program called the Columnist Campaign. The purpose of this campaign was to match up a Microsoft spokesman with a particular columnist and arrange for consistent times during a month where they would have a call and discuss a variety of topics. In between product launches and other announcements, we would initiate a dialogue about a topic that was interesting and topical from an industry perspective. We didn’t have a specific goal of getting coverage as a result of these conversations. Our goal was to simply open the line of communication, to share our thoughts and to hear theirs.

The result was that these columnists would often write about the topic we brought to table because the topic was compelling. Sometimes they would come up with a different topic on the fly during the call and get our clients’ thoughts on it. We also would often hear about a story they were working on that we might not have otherwise known about. There were even occasions when the columnist would call the bounce story ideas off of their Microsoft spokesperson for a reality check.

As we’ve been working with Tektronix (a world leader in test & measurement tools like oscilloscopes and waveform monitors) during the past few years, we’ve realized there was a similar opportunity to open the lines of communication up with our target editors. Formerly Tektronix was only focused on talking to editors when there was a product launch or news announcement. In our target engineering publications there aren’t many stand-alone columnists since many of our editors wear multiple writing hats. They have their own columns and blogs as well as write about product announcements and other news items.

When we launched our “Tek Talk” program we weren’t sure if the editors would find it as useful as the columnists did with Microsoft but right off the bat they were very enthusiastic about it. So about every 60 days, we arrange calls to have a discussion with the editors about a topic that we bring to the table. Tektronix experts discuss what they’re seeing in the industry and hearing from their customers and the editors share what they’ve been hearing from their readers. It’s a great dialogue.

The results have been similar to what we saw with Microsoft. Because of the open dialogue that we’ve developed with our editors, we’ve been able to be more helpful than ever to the editorial process. We’ve found out about many stories being worked on that we wouldn’t have normally known about and have been able to provide valuable insight to strengthen articles overall. We’ve come up with some strong topics and we’ve persuaded our editors to write articles about the issues we’ve discussed on the calls. One example is this piece on USB 3.0. We’ve also been asked to provide contributed content and have been given coverage opportunities we normally would not have been given. Our “Tek Talk” program has been a big success and a win-win scenario for both the editors and our clients.

And now with the world of social media, keeping those lines of communication open is even more key to a successful public relations and communications program. We’d like to welcome you to check out our website to hear more about strategies we’ve employed with our various clients and how we’re leveraging the world of social media to ensure our clients’ success.

Who says all print publications belong to a dying breed? WIRED magazine is looking sexier than ever in the UK

Friday, January 8th, 2010

P1010116I I was walking through a Tesco market near Bishops Stortford in England earlier today and the latest issue of WIRED UK on the newsstand caught my eye. It’s been 10 months since the premier issue of WIRED hit the newsstands in the UK in April in what the magazine modestly proclaims was the UK Magazine Launch of the Year (er, make that re-launch huh guys?). That said, I have to admit that the magazine is looking better than ever. Editor David Rowan and his team should be congratulated on their great work making every issue exciting and fun to read with one’s tea and biscuits. 

Who says an archaic paper-and-ink format publication can’t be sexy? While other less up-market magazines and newspapers have folded, publications like WIRED stand out for their understanding of what their readers want to read, brilliant writing, stylish photos, and paper stock that you just want to touch.  The texture of the cover paper stock used on the February 10 issue is a tactile sensation that hopefully won’t disappear entirely when WIRED reinvents itself again with a portable screen-based experience in the near future. One thing I think the publication might want to work on is generating more awareness among the general public and a more widespread understanding of its content. It appears that the newsstand shelf stockers at Tesco have never looked beyond its cover since WIRED was strategically positioned among its much racier UK magazine brethren like Nuts, Front and Viz!  

I read this issue of WIRED cover to cover and particularly enjoyed the interesting cover article about the new iPhone app that Jamie Oliver, one of my favorite British chefs, has developed. Now here’s a guy who knows how to develop his personal brand. He’s come a long way from his early days learning to cook in the kitchen of his family’s pub called Cricketers in Clavering, just a few miles away from where I’m staying now. From his cookbooks and his Naked Chef television show and other spin-off shows to his restaurants and his websites and his blog, Jamie Oliver lives his brand with every breath and communicates it in what appears to be a 360 degree way.

 Cheers to WIRED and Jamie today!

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