Traditional media, ghosts, online friends and no comment…

Well a month has passed since I arrived in the United States. Here is a meek attempt at a catch up.  You may find some interesting stuff here.

America’s traditional media challenges continue

In case you missed it, the Pew Research Center has published the 2009 edition of their “State of the News Media” an analysis on American journalism.  The findings present a challenging environment for traditional media.

Perhaps least noticed yet most important, the audience migration to the Internet is now accelerating. The number of Americans who regularly go online for news, by one survey, jumped 19% in the last two years; in 2008 alone traffic to the top 50 news sites rose 27%. Yet it is now all but settled that advertising revenue—the model that financed journalism for the last century—will be inadequate to do so in this one. Growing by a third annually just two years ago, online ad revenue to news websites now appears to be flattening; in newspapers it is declining.

The report is a comprehensive look at newspapers, magazines, television, radio etc.  I plan to review this in some depth…

<Supplemental – TechCrunch reports that the US Newspaper industry lost $7.5 Billion in advertising revenues in 2008 – still $37 billion though!>


The problem with ghost writing

This brought a smile to my face.  Marketing 101 if you’re going to ghost write something whether it’s an op-ed, a blog, or a tweet, let the “author” know about it.  Doh. <Hat tip to Jim Horton>


Grooming your spokespeople – how many online friends do they have?

Andrew Smith reports a journalist using LinkedIn to check the credibility of a spokesperson.  Nothing too surprising there, however how many of us are actively managing our spokespeople’s SEO?  Very few I imagine.


The art (or not) of attribution

This is a great article by Clark Hoyt in the New York Times.

It would be wrong, however, to lay all of the blame with the sources. News organizations are sometimes too eager to pounce on misstatements and missteps, leaving those they cover understandably wary. Credibility runs both ways.

PR depression, online PR slides, online journalism, Spectrum 48K, McDonalds, social media and the best telemarketing call ever…

From the perspective of a long-time PR practitioner, I have to admit that I find this thoroughly depressing.


Karen Miller Russell has an interesting post on measuring social media.  The post is based on content from the recent Edelmen summit in the US. Via Mr. Collister.


SlideShare has a collection on online presentations on the subject of (ahem) PR 2.0. Via Mr. Dugan.


And speaking of online slides, Neville Hobson shares some of the content from his recent CIPR talk.


Chris Green, Editor of UK publication IT Pro, shares his views that journalism online is about more than writing, it’s about search engine optimization, generating comments, and driving the visitor to read other content on the site. Andrew Bruce Smith has some detailed perspective.



Clive Sinclair pioneered bringing computing to the masses in the early 80s with the ZX80, ZX81 and the Spectrum 48K.  Chris Vallance from the BBC has an interview with the man himself… who doesn’t use the InterWeb :-)


Steve Rubel shares his views on how to get productive with social media, and I’m sure we can all do with help in that department. has an interview with Jill McDonald, McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer for the UK and Northern Europe.

We’re not an online retailer, but our consumers are spending more and more time online, so what is the appropriate way for McDonalds to manifest itself online and engage and entertain our target audience? I really want us to take a step back as a brand and look at how we should be using the digital space.


If you haven’t already heard this Tom Mabe telemarketing call, I suggest you do, it’s absolutely fantastic..

Plain speaking, ethical, hip but mad as a badger…

You’re celebrating what?

I touched on this earlier in the week but we really need to start providing some perspective when talking about the impact of <insert online buzz word here> on communication.  There are still a couple of people who shower, dress, go out of the house and listen to the radio.

This is all about balance, let’s not lose perspective. 

My job involves online communication or conversation or whatever you want to call it, but traditional communication still rules the roost (in my little world).

In the same way, PR people are often accused of using business speak rather than using plain simple English. [Hence the creation of tools such as  Bullfighter]

I don’t mean to be rude but to me this is an example that brings both strands together rather nicely… and not necessarily in a good way.


Fascinating to see the ways in which the idea of community is taking shape these days: business communities, where customers come together to interact with companies and brands; communities of giving, communities of technologists, and of everyday people who are passionately interested in anything from epic literature to even their credit scores.


Now stop me here if I’ve missed something.  But is this post just about what in the dark ages before 1995 we old people called a “party”?

Haven’t communities been around since we climbed down from the trees?

As I said maybe it’s me.


What makes you think about ethics?

Kami Huyse wants your help pulling together some ideas on how to get communicators to think about ethical behaviour.


The in-crowd…

I don’t know why I found this amusing… but I did…

OK, OK, I know why I found it amusing.

From Gaping Void via Themenblog.


Approaching bloggers

Dustin Wax at Lifehack posts How to get a blogger to promote your product.


New PR podcast (to me)

The Publicity Show… Lee Kantor and Elizabeth Gordon interview PR and media practitioners. (I realise that everyone probably already knows about it, but I didn’t and it’s my blog :-) )


“Mad as Badgers”…. well it is Friday….

Via Colin McKay



PR Spam: The post I meant to write

Often I find that one of the defining characteristics of a burning online issue is a lot of hyperbole, coupled with people taking themselves far too seriously as the self-appointed defenders of what’s acceptable in “their” online universe.

They should chill out.

Don’t get me wrong we should call out laziness, stupidity and malpractice but let’s keep a sense of perspective and reality.

I had meant to try and put some of these thoughts down, but I regretfully didn’t.

This was one of the reasons I was cheered up when I read Neville Hobson‘s post today: PR spam is mostly the result of being careless.

What’s my definition of ‘PR spam’? Any one or all of this:

  • The product or service being pitched by email is so obviously not one that I would have much interest in, a fact that would be very easily apparent if the pitcher had taken even a cursory glance at this blog or listened to my podcast.
  • The email includes an unsolicited Word document attachment. And it’s worth noting that not everyone uses Word. I do but the pitcher doesn’t know that.
  • The pitcher writes a pseudo-friendly greeting but it only looks like a bad database mail merge. My favourite: “Hi, Neville ,” (notice the space between my name and the final comma). A close second is the simple “Hi ,” with that same space (yes, I’ve had lots of emails like that).

Mostly, I regard such PR spam is just another consequence of being online and being accessible. You know, along with the email offers for knock-off replica watches, Viagra and other sexual performance enhancements, and winning the Euro lottery.

The only addition I’d make is that I’d include the words “lazy” and “stupid” “silly” to “careless”.

Read the full post and there’s some good stuff in the comments.

Thanks Neville!


My son reminded me that silly is a better word :-)

The PR spam victims bite back… and the response…

Bad or irrelevant PR pitches are nothing new. 

Many of us, in our more quiet moments, will admit to probably not investing the time and effort we should have from time to time (a long time ago obviously :-) ). 

The key thing is to remember your mistake and learn from it. 

We’re seeing more journalists and bloggers publishing lists of PR firms they are blacklisting. [Ref: Chris Anderson last October]

Now a guy called Matt Haughey is doing something similar as has Gina Trapani.

See here and the PR Spammers Wiki for more details.

(For the more evil minded among you, although it’s a Wiki, you won’t be able to edit it without the right log-in.  You could always ask, but I get the feeling you won’t get a favourable hearing :-) )

Todd Defren, whose firm is on the list, has posted an “open post” (I am assuming that’s the correct blog equivalent…) to Gina.

I like it.  It’s conversational.

Brian Solis, whose firm is also on the list takes a different tack. (I have to admit I came away thinking about meat more than anything else and I’m not sure that was the objective!)

I hope that before any “holier than thou” PR person starts to crow, they stop and realize that we all live in greenhouses on this matter.

We should strive for best practice, reinforce the right and wrong way to communicate (online and offline) and reflect that sometimes mistakes happen, and sometimes people are more or less forgiving.

That’s not to say that I am adopting a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil stance on this matter.  To be honest, even this little blog receives a lot of “PR” pitches that don’t make the mark.

If you’re going to engage online, then for the love of jebus do some research.  That’s what Internet browsers and search engines are for…

On a related note, Alice Marshall offers some advice on the importance of being proactive before an issue arises rather than hiring shady companies to try and out rank negative blog posts.

Hear hear…


A well built house starts with the foundations…

I am a self confessed grumpy old man.

As a result I found myself absent mindedly nodding and grunting in agreement with Todd Defren’s post “Everything is Important“.

Ironically, people say, “Think Big Picture” when they want to coax you to forget about the details.  But the more you think about The Big Picture, the more you realize:  Everything’s Important.

Great results depend on good strategy, good understanding, creativity and great execution, but they also depend on getting the basics right.  It isn’t the most exciting element, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important – it is.

Bonus link:

Todd has also published a guide to create SEO-friendly press releases.

Survey reveals how teenagers are communicating…

I find it quite disturbing that the further away you move from your teenage years, the more you become like your parents, even though you were always adamant you’d remain hip and cool when you got older….

Anyway, enough of my personal struggles, on to more interesting, though related, matters…

Habbo, the virtual world for teenagers, has released a global study on the communications preferences for 11-18 year olds.

They surveyed over 58,000 teenagers around the world and the findings are very interesting…

  • 76% use instant messaging (#1) to stay in touch with friends online.
  • 72% hold e-mail accounts, though it’s used for more formal communication with parents and employers (or old farts like you and me).
  • 40% do not view social networks as an important part of their communications mix.

The major growth area since the last survey two years ago is mobile.

  • 71% listen to music on their mobile phone (up from 38%)
  • 70% use their phones to take photos and video (up from 11%)
  • 64% play games on their mobile (up from 14%)
  • 25% use their mobiles for web access, e-mail and instant messaging
  • Nokia is the number one mobile brand – but Sony Ericsson and Samsung are catching up.

It seems to me – and maybe I’m wrong – but there’s a lot of blog post inches dedicated to the brave new world of Web 2.0, but very little discussion on how the growth in more powerful mobile devices will impact how people of all ages find and share information. It’s a big area and a big part of the changes we’re seeing.

It probably deserves more respect – and look on the bright side there’s loads of opportunity for blog hype….



Why Gen Y Feels Overwhelmed – Business Week [via Amanda Mooney on Twitter]

Habbo’s second Global Youth Survey reveals the digital profiles of teens online – Press Release

Habbo’s Second Global Youth Survey reveals shake up in teens’ favourite mobile brands – Emmi Kuusikko, Director, User and Market Insight

Are you a Moofer? – Murphy’s Law

And you thought managing press lists was complex…

Brian Solis writes about the impact of  “Web 2.0” on Public Relations.

While I sometimes think that Brian is in danger of veering into the world of the bubble, his writing is always interesting, thought provoking and worth a read.

His latest post talks about how content and conversations move to where people see value and as a result we can expect social media to continue to fragment.

A potential nightmare scenario for the poor overworked PR professional.

Brian has also mapped his social network:

I have to go and lie down, I think my eyes are bleeding…

Don’t get me wrong, this inter-relationship of outlets, media, channels, tools and sites is very interesting.

We should all be tuned into to this discussion.

We are seeing some very interesting examples of how social media is helping businesses, groups and individuals.

But I’m still struggling to see how “normal” people will have the time and interest to maintain 30+ online channels, in addition to having a life and doing 5-10 minutes work during the day.

I think we have some way to go. I hope it’ll become a little easier. I know it’ll have to become a lot clearer.


Traditional media is dead, no it isn’t, yes it is…. etc.

You’ve probably already seen the data released by the Newspaper Association of America which shows that total print advertising in the US declined 9.4% to $42 Billion, the largest decline since records began in 1950.

Total advertising revenue in 2007, which includes online revenue, decreased 7.9% to $45.3 billion.

Not stellar results, but not the end of the world either.  I believe we’re seeing a re-balancing of media consumption and the dollars are following the audience.  The challenge for the publishers is to compete in the new areas where it makes sense.

One thing you can be sure of is that there’s a lot more changes to come but don’t sign the death warrant for traditional media just yet. Newprint will be with us after I’ve shuttled off this mortal coil…

Frank Shaw concurs and has an interesting quote from Chris Anderson:

The truth is that the newspaper business is still a huge industry and will be around in one form or another for the rest of my life. That is not to dismiss the declines, but only to note that there’s still a lot of money there and what is required is strategic change, not giving up the ghost.

Anderson’s post is worth reading for some balance.

Web 2.0: Is it time for adult supervision?

I’m sorry I missed Euroblog 2008 it looked like a great event with a great line-up. I have made a personal commitment to try and get out a bit more.

There’s no question that this new online communications stuff is important. It’s not just important for PR people it’s has pretty major societal implications.

I get that.

I do.

I believe there’s a transformation underway that will (has?) certainly impact how people find and share information, how they connect.

But hold on.

Sometimes traversing the Interweb I stumble upon commentary which really sticks in my brain and nags me.

I get the feeling that some people are really losing the run of themselves.

There’s so much excitement online, sometimes it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective, a sense of the difference between right and wrong, of the difference between the relevant and the irrelevant.

While I realize I might attract the ire of some, I think people need to get a grip and step outside the Internet bubble a little more.

Last night I was doing some browsing on the aforementioned Euroblog 2008.

I was reading some posts, comments and even watching some videos.



1 minute 40 seconds from the end this video from Euroblog, it moves to a panel session.  Now the video is edited so I apologize to Philippe Borremans in advance if I’m misrepresenting his comments, but in the video he states that (my transcript):

"I think wikis and Wikiepdia has been mentioned very often during these two days and I think we need to get off the idea of these cases where some things (that) are in Wikipedia are are not 100% correct, and what have you, I mean if you look at it… this is a global thing it’s a global encyclopedia. I don’t know how many edits and new (pieces of) information are added every second, but if you compare that to the amount of mistakes in there I think the positives much more important than the negative."

When I listened to that last night it really stuck in my head.

In fact it’s stayed with me all day today.

I’m sorry.

I fundamentally disagree with that sentiment Philippe.

I absolutely disagree.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Wikipedia is considered the second most credible source of information for young people.

How can it be acceptable that we just shrug our shoulders and say "well it’s not accurate but it’s cool and loads of people add stuff to it"?

This isn’t an anti-Wikipedia rant per se.

Wikipedia is a phenomenon, an amazing achievement.

But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to its shortcomings because it’s a cool example of Web 2.0 collaboration.

I think people who share that view would change their opinion very quickly if they found some negative commentary on themselves or if something erroneous turned up on their client.

Let’s rememeber Wikpedia’s willingness or ability to address inaccurate information isn’t exactly stellar, this is well illustrated from this Sunday Times article:

But as the sum of what we all know and agree, the wisdom of crowds has no greater value than Trivial Pursuit. Wikipedia is full of mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings. What happens if you try to do something about it? William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and an expert on global warming, disagreed with a Wikipedia editor over a particular entry on the site. After trying to correct inaccuracies Connolley was accused of trying to remove “any point of view which does not match his own”. Eventually he was limited to making just one edit a day.


[Disclaimer: the article is based on an interview with Andrew Keen who believes that Web 2.0 is killing our culture – not something I necessarily agree with..]

If Wikipedia is being held up as an encyclopedia, then it should be expected to meet the same criteria as any other respected encyclopedia. End of story.

I had another moment listening to episode 324 of the ever excellent For Immediate Release.

Regular contributor – and someone I have a lot of time for – David Phillips was talking about (5:28) YouTube’s announcement that it was going to introduce live video streaming making it a "platform for interactive citizen television" offering "an unlimited number of TV channels on your laptop" or other device.

That is without question my idea of hell.

Who is going to sit through all the garbage?

Who is going to do the shopping, bring in the wage? What about the poor dog?

There’s a quote I am very fond of:

“The stone age was marked by man’s clever use of crude tools.  The information age to date, has been marked by man’s crude use of clever tools.”

– anonymous

The delivery of video, the accumulation of user generated content, twits, blogs etc are only the beginning. The real shift (especially for communicators) will be the next generation of tools that enable people to manage and mine this information in a meaningful way that respects the fact that they are already suffering from information overload.

Don’t get me wrong.

These shiny new things are very interesting, in fact they are very important.

But please let’s not lose sight of their weaknesses and failings.

We all still live (most of the time) in the real world.

Reality is a good thing, let’s not lose sight of it.