Thursday, October 26, 2006

Color the Future

A number of PR, marketing and advertising firms are trying to figure out this new, social media -driven world. In fact, a number of us working in those firms are trying to find ways to help our clients get there. It's a long haul, as many cultures and business models have grown up doing one way and are now trying to change. When a bulk of your revenue comes from marking up printing and reselling advertising space, how do you adjust? If you're used to working with traditional media and heap praise on people for getting major hits in top publications, how do you change to the high-touch and conversational environment of the blogging/podcasting/MySpace/Second Life world?

At least one group of very smart people are trying to do something about it by starting fresh. Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, CC Chapman and Joseph Jaffee have launched crayon. This is a company devoted to social media from the get-go, so it's not like clients will come to them and say "so, we really want to be in the New York Times... oh, and what about this blogging thing?" Considering that they held a launch in Second Life, they've already got the right idea.

These are people whose advice I heed, so I'm eager to see where they go with this.

And in this world that is constantly in metamorphosis, there is plenty of passion.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Coffee Filter

I've talked a lot on this blog about the concept of a "filter." That is, as we continue to be bombarded by information filters will arise to help others separate the wheat from the chaff. The filters will take different forms for different people, or even different types of information. Maybe it's Amazon for filtering through products, or an individual whose taste you admire. Maybe it's TiVo and its recommendations, or Google and its algorithms for choosing what appears on Google News.

Or maybe it's Starbucks.


A few years ago I looked at the shelves at my local Starbucks and wondered why it suddenly looked a lot like Pottery Barn. My initial instinct was that the coffee company was veering far from its roots in an attempt to leverage its demographic. I figured that kind of venture would fail. I was only half right.

The company failed at selling dishes, but it succeeded at selling entertainment. An article in Sunday's New York Times lays this out nicely (reg. req.). Keep in mind, Starbucks' original concept was to become the "third place." Work, home and another place to be. Of course, when you have a number of people gathering, you have a community. In this case it's a community with an average age of 42 and income in the range of $90,000.

Perhaps my favorite quote in the piece comes at the end:

Thomas Hay, a 48-year-old contractor from Hartsdale, N.Y., said Starbucks helped him by editing down his cultural choices. Looking over the selections the company makes, he said, he has the impression that “some people of caring hearts and minds have looked at this and felt it was worthwhile and beneficial and would create a good vibe in the world.”
It's not just that this guy trusts the brand, it's that he's overwhelmed by what's in the market and needs some way to find the "good stuff."

So, in the future, PR people are going to have to figure out what filters they need to target and how to best reach the decision makers. It's not going to be easy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Where the People Are

Battlestar Galactica tried something new leading up to its new season: Webisodes. You can argue whether these were just television on the Web or something more, but they added a little more excitement to the whole premier.

But it appears that the Webisodes will be no more, at least according to TV Squad (also seen in Newsweek).

The main reason the Webisodes are done has to do with contracts and how they're written. NBC calls the Webisodes "promotional material" and therefore won't give the writers true credit. But anyone watching them knows they were much more, as they helped advance the plot.

Why am I reporting this? Because in that same piece, TV Squad points out that the Webisodes attracted much more interest than the broadcast version of the show itself.

"Last month, nearly six million people streamed BSG episodes within two days of the premiere. Compare that to the 2.2 million people who watched the third-season premiere of the show."

These aren't NBC's only problems, as the broadcast giant is laying off workers and rethinking "prime time."

Also this week, The Financial Times reported that BusinessWeek reporters are being asked to do more reporting straight to the Web. According to the piece, online advertising grew 61 percent last year while the print side hardly moved. The online side now represents 13 percent of all ad revenues, so it's obviously more attractive.

People are moving to the Web, not in small numbers, but in droves. Those industries that adjust have a chance to survive, those that don't will perish.

A few years ago freelance writers fought a similar battle. If you sell an article to the New York Times to run in the print publication, then the Times earns money on that content by selling it online, should you get part of that revenue?

Eventually that argument was settled and now freelancers find a clause in their contract expanding the use of their material.

TV and the Writers Guild of American need to get out of their own way. They tie writing and credit to TV and broadcast, they need to redefine their product.

Serving PR like Takeout?

A PR Store just opened up the street from me. I haven't been in there, though I do remember hearing about the concept a few years ago.

While it's interesting, the person quoted at the end of this article is correct. Cookie cutter PR just doen't work. Especially now that the media world is fragmented. I know that I've received a large number of pitches, but few (if any) actually speak to my particular focus. Though, recently I have had some success in pitching bloggers, those tend to be the kind that use a blog model but act more like a traditional news operation.

Then again, it doesn't seem like the PR Store is actually about pure PR. It's more like a gimicky advertising shop, or even what used to be the corner print shop... with a twist.

I think what bugs me about it is that it's not actually selling PR. It's selling marketing, printing and design. It just confuses the issue.

Christopher Glenn

CBS News Reporter Christopher Glenn died on Tuesday. I bring this up only because I loved his Saturday morning segments when I was a kid. I can remember shushing my brother when they came on, and they made more of an impact on me than the hours of cartoons I watched.

It's part of what seeded my interest in the news business. And I know I'm not alone on that one.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anonymity in the New Media World

Early in my career I made a conscious decision to remain behind the TV camera as a producer. There were many reasons for this, but among them was a desire to maintain relative anonymity. When you're a TV reporter or anchor, everyone knows who you are and you never have any downtime. I remember Chet Curtis once commenting that as he sat in the stands at a Pats game, people kept calling to him , to which he had to constantly wave and respond. He couldn't just be the guy in the stands, he was always a guy everyone knows. He didn't just represent himself, but the entire TV station.

It can get exhausting. It's also why most TV anchors and reporters do what they can to keep their home hone numbers and addresses unlisted. It works to a degree, keeping the quick snoopers out, but if people want to find you they will.

Still, when it came to blogging I never thought about doing this anonymously, though I find there are plenty of people who do. What I can't figure out is, if you want your thoughts broadcast to the world, why wouldn't you put your name on them? Yes, there may be occasions when a blogger should remain anonymous, such as if they're using their blog to report, first hand, about government corruption, or if they're inside a war zone. But for the most part, how can you trust information if the person writing it won't put their name on the page?

In fact, most newspapers have taken strides to remove the veil between readers and reporters, offering up phone and email in the stories themselves. There are times when a source may remain anonymous (though I think this is often a crutch) but the reporter never does.

So why do bloggers remain anonymous? I'm not sure. I know that if a legal issue came up they could probably be uncovered, but that's just not enough. If you're going to write your thoughts and criticize people (which often happens) then put your name out there too. It's only fair.

There is one blogger local to me who maintains his anonymity, even as he can often be highly critical of individuals or even the local government. I'm not going to link to him just on principle.

I continue to read his blog, but with each post I wonder who this is, what axe he has to grind and whether he has any credibility at all. It was one thing when he only wrote about a few local restaurants, but it's quite another when he tries to go after politicians and take on other, more weighty issues.

The frustrating thing is, he does great work. Why not tell the world?

Friday, October 06, 2006

TV Recommendation

There is a show on TV with some of the best writing I've heard in years. I'd put it up there with the Aaron Sorkin-era of West Wing, perhaps even better. It tackles though issues, is an emotional force and makes you realize what TV can do. This isn't Lost, though that is a fine show. It's certainly better than Grey's Anatomy or even Law and Order.

The problem is that most people dump this show into the science fiction genre, then refuse to watch it under the idea that "well, I just don't like sci-fi."

I'm talking about Battlestar Galactica, which begins it's third season tonight at 9pm ET. If you haven't yet seen this show, please give it a chance. It's amazing. It'll rattle you a bit, it'll make you think, it'll get deep into your brain.

It can be violent and raw, so this isn't a kid's show. Also, the name is pretty much the only thing in common with the campy 70s show, so just forget about that one. This is an entirely new idea.

Don't turn up your nose, just turn on the TV.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bad TV Remade

So TimeWarner has dug deep into its own archives to find content to sell to the Russian market. The mega company is taking old shows and remaking them in Russian language with a few local tweaks, like changing a Chicago apartment to a Moscow apartment.

I like the concept, but they couldn't find better shows? According to the CNN story, they're remaking Full House, Step by Step, Suddenly Susan and Perfect Strangers.

I mean, really. All the properties that TimeWarner owns, and Perfect Strangers is the best they could export?