Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ghost Blogging

The subject of "Ghost Blogging" just won't go away and I'm debating whether this is a battle worth fighting.

There are many companies out there that want a blog, but just don't want to commit the time and resources to doing it, so instead of saying "this isn't for us," they want to bring in a ghost blogger in order to do the job for the CEO or some other overworked executive who received the mandate "get us a blog!"

The pro argument goes something like this: CEOs don't write their speeches, they don't write their op-ed pieces, they don't write the bylined articles in their name, why should blogging be any different? Over on the side of the communications companies that want to provide this service is the argument that in most cases they're already doing the research and writing the bylined articles, what's it to write a few blog posts too? Oh, and there's money to be made.

Those against have a basic argument: blogs are about transparency and having insight into a corporate executive. It's impossible for someone else to get into that voice and BE that person.

Christopher Barger, director of GM Global Communications Technology made an interesting point in an interview I listened to recently: people accept that op-eds and speeches aren't written by the person listed on the byline, but that hasn't worked, so as communicators we need to do something different.

It's a fair point. Though, I feel like most people DO think that the person whose name is on the op-ed actually wrote it, or at least had a lot to do with its creation (and yes, I've written a few of those). Frankly, it's the communicators who accept the falsehoods as truth.

So if you take Barger's argument to its conclusion, then by ghost blogging, are we just going to kill another avenue to the customer? Will people learn to distrust blogs as well? Or, are people already distrustful of anything coming out of a corporate entity, so then does it really matter?

And is the next step "ghost tweeting?"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Private Lives in the Public Age

Remember "The Truman Show"? That was the Jim Carey movie in which the main character, Truman's entire life was played out on TV. At the time people thought it was a little extreme.

But today a lot of us are playing that out in one way or another by putting more of our lives online. You can read my resume over on LinkedIn, or read this blog to find out about my media work, then scoot over to the Tanoblog to find out out my family and maybe check out a few of my pictures.

But all this openness has its limits. My blogging on my family blog has curtailed as my kids get older, and I don't put many photographs of my own face out there.

While catching up on some podcasts recently I heard Shel Holtz answer critics who said he didn't give enough of his reasons for leaving crayon. His response was simple: his personal reasons for leaving the company are, well, personal, and they're no one else's business. His readers, of course, felt a sense of entitlement to hear more about his life since he puts so much out there.

That's the catch. How do you share what you want with whom you want without sharing too much with too many? Vox and Tabblo offer some options for this by providing privacy controls and letting authors choose who sees what content, but it goes beyond blogging and photo sharing.

I was discussing this issue with a relatively young reporter at a top business publication when the discussion turned to Facebook and how she can't differentiate who sees what. She started working with Facebook in college, but as the site moves away from being just about personal connections and develops more as a business networking platform, she wants some way to keep her worlds separate but still use the service and all it offers. In other words, she wants to keep her college pictures and stories private, but make elements such as her professional connections and achievements public.

Facebook is quickly becoming an interesting social networking platform and one that could, very well, become a standard for companies looking to add a social networking component to their services. But, I still have stories and pictures that I only want to share with close friends, and other things that I'm happy to share with the world. I need a way to control that.

To survive, Facebook is going to have to find a way to address this issue, or someone else will come along who can.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Elite or Mainstream?

Flickr is as de regueur as you get when it comes to Web 2.0 technologies. At this point, if you're in the blogging world it's assumed that you have an active Flickr account, or at least understand how to use one.

So during a recent conversation with the CEO of a Web 2.0 property aimed at a local audience, I was pretty surprised when he mentioned that he didn't have immediate plans to work directly with Flickr. He pointed out that most of his target audience used more mainstream services, like Shutterfly. After thinking about it for a minute, this made complete sense. When my friends send me pictures of their kids, it's NEVER through Flickr, but it's always through Kodak or something like that. Though, I really wish they'd use Tabblo, it's so much easier to view 30 slightly different pictures of a kid in a single frame than having to page through them one-by-one.

Being a boastful dad as well as a bit of a shutterbug, you'd think that I'd be a regular Flickr user. I have an account, but don't really dabble too much. Though, I have been known to use Tabblo to share with smaller audiences. Tabblo used to be a client and I continue to use the service because it's easier to share with controlled audiences, like my parents or my son's baseball team.

In fact, many times I have tried to get readers of to post pictures from around the city on Flickr or Tabblo and have never received much of a response. I talk with these people on the soccer sidelines and at school events. These are people who already read blogs, they're lawyers, doctors, financial executives, technology experts and VCs. They all have digital cameras, many have DSLRs and nearly every one has a Blackberry and/or cameraphone. Yet, they're not about to share those photos on Flickr.

Back to the CEO from above, he noted that Flickr tends to be a young, urban crowd when he's going for the parental, suburban crowd. I guess it's possible that as the urbanites age and move out to places like Newton, they'll take their Flickr accounts. Or maybe those accounts will end up collecting dust once the kids come.

So when people ask about Web 3.0, they're a little ahead of themselves. We still have a lot of work to do in order to make Web 2.0 a reality with mainstream America.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Redefining Competition

I know I haven't posted in a very long time. There are some good reasons for this, but I'm not going to go into them now. I have been continuing my work over at and also doing more new media work at Schwartz, but as for writing about media, I've held off.

But recently I had a situation that I thought others could learn from and it falls under the heading of "competition."

During a recent launch my team and I reached out to both Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe as well as to Wade Roush at the relatively new site (if you aren't reading Xconomy, you should be). Our feeling was that while both have similar missions, Xconomy has a much smaller audience and wouldn't be much of a competitor to the Globe. In fact, I felt the site was probably still flying under the radar of the Globe, as it measured its tenure in weeks rather than decades. Probably something the editors were reading and watching, but not something they'd consider a direct competitor.

I was wrong.

Kirsner informed us that yes, Xconomy was competition for him and because the client appeared first there, in a long and detailed profile, he wouldn't do something similar in the Globe. He did interview the client and quoted the CEO in a different piece, but wasn't going to do more than that.

On the one hand, this showed the fledgling Xconomy a lot of respect, since Kirsner went so far as to praise the reporters and the work. But it also taught me something else about competition: it's not about the readers, it's about the mission.

Even more, it's about the mission of particular reporters and columnists. So it's not about whether the Globe thinks Xconomy is a competitor, it's about whether Kirsner believes it. Since he has his own blog and video segments in addition to his Sunday Globe column, this makes sense.

It just hadn't occurred to me before.

But just because they're competitive doesn't mean they don't acknowledge the other's work. Krisner has linked to Xconomy stories on his own blog to give a background, so it really comes down to "coopitition" and how the stories move forward.