Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

New Rules Communications Archives

Illuminate - Duarte Debuts New Movements Marketing Practice


The Silicon Valley firm that helped Al Gore create a movement to curb climate change introduces strategy team to help leaders spark and sustain change. Guest post by Chris Knight 

In 2012, Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez set out to write a book to help business leaders envision the future and make their big, audacious visions a reality. In their 2016 book Illuminate: Ignite Change through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols, they lay out a five-part taxonomy for leadership movements.

Based on four years of in-depth research, Illuminate is rich in case studies about how great leaders like Apple's Steve Jobs, Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used speeches, stories, ceremonies and symbols to mobilize the masses.

In a review of Illuminate, Forbes’ contributor Nick Morgan highly recommends the book for organizations that are keen on thinking through and telling stories that take

“best advantage of human cultural symbols, signs and signposts along the way. You can run an organization without telling stories to bring employees, customers, and the public into your fold – but you can’t run it very well.”

Story continues...

#IN2Summit: Is Content Marketing Failing Us? 3 Ex-Journalists Say 'No'


From right: Michael Kanellos, (standing) SanDisk; Scott Lowe, Activision; Stephanie Losee, Politico; moderator Henk Campher Allison+ Partners.

The Holmes Report's Innovation Summit in San Francisco featured a panel of former journalists, now engaged on producing a broad range of editorial content for large brands, speaking on the topic of Content Marketing.

The first question was should the average person know anything about Content Marketing? They all nodded vigorously: No, because it is all about great content, and since the goal of Content Marketing is publish editorial content of substantial value then it is no different from the goals of independently produced content.

Story continues...

Embargoes And The Rebirth Of Trade Media

Embargo Twitter thread 

In this Guest Post, PR industry veteran Mike Maney makes a strong case for embargoes. I work with embargoes because publishing a press release before its time is not a scoop. If I'm smart enough, I can come up with an original and exclusive angle on an important story, from having time to ask the right questions. 

By Mike Maney

A common complaint among the media is that embargoes are the spawn of Satan. An unnecessary evil foisted upon reporters for the sake of squeezing every last drop of digital ink from a marketer’s jargon-filled pitch.

Story continues...

Redefining Public Relations: Are You Persuaded By 'Earned Influence'?


Paul Holmes (center) gives an award to Inner Circle Labs in early 2014.

Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report, writes that, "The importance of defining public relations has never been greater than it is today."

That’s because as various communications disciplines converge, as corporate reputation and brand image begin to blur, as clients seek solutions that encompass paid and earned and owned and shared media and engage multiple stakeholders, PR people find themselves competing with rivals from advertising, from digital, from other disciplines to offer critical insights, develop truly differentiated strategies, and to provide multichannel execution.

Story continues...

Edelman Hires Outsider To Run Silicon Valley PR



Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm, has named outsider Kelly Schwager, General Manager, Silicon Valley. She replaces Maria Admundson, who was promoted to global chair of the Technology group. 

Schwager was the CMO and Senior VP at Streetline, a startup specializing in connecting cars with parking spaces. She also worked at Silicon Valley companies SAP, Symantec, Veritas, and Cunningham Communications. 

Edelman Announces Its First Senior Diversity Exec - Trish Smith

Trisch Smith

Diana Bradley at PR Week reports that Edelman, the world's largest privately owned PR firm, has appointed senior executive Trish Smith (above) to a new senior position: "Diversity and Inclusion MD."

Smith's appointment is part of the agency's plans to establish a diversity and inclusion leadership team. The group will be comprised of about 10 staffers who will set goals and develop strategies for improving diversity within Edelman's workforce and culture, said Smith.

She reports to Edelman US COO Julianna Richter.

Smith will be very busy:

Story continues...

Intel Launches "Free Press" News Magazine

I've been writing a lot about how every company is a media company and Intel is one of those companies that understands this idea very well.
Intel has put together an editorial team that seeks to use the best journalistic practices to publish high quality news, features and video. It is separate from its newsroom but staffed by some of Intel's corporate communications team.

This morning I spoke with Bill Calder and Ken Kaplan about the project ( Here are some notes from our conversation:

- With all the changes happening in media, journalists are having to cover a lot of beats and they don't have the time to do in-depth reporting on Intel, or much in-depth reporting at all. It is frustrating because there are some great stories within Intel that aren't being told.

- We know we have the expertise in-house to report on these stories so we thought why not do it ourselves? We have people on Intel's communications team that are former journalists so we put together a team, that includes us and one or two others, to try and tell these stories.

- Our communications team, for good or bad, is very focused on product launches. But there are so many other stories to tell. Intel is a very large company with many interesting projects, and people.

-It is very much a dream position for us, we've been talking within Intel about doing something like this and its great to be able to have the resources to launch this venture.

- Anyone is free to use the stories from Intel Free Press. Our goal is to have some of the largest news sites running these stories, in whole, or in part.

- Our biggest challenge is credibility. People tend to distrust corporate blogs, so we have to show that our stories are fair, and high quality, so that people trust us.

- Our goal isn't to compete with other news sites, we aren't going to do a deep dive into the technology or benchmarking our chips. It's about telling stories that haven't been told yet. For example, a story on our VP of Investor Relations (Caught in the Crossfire: Intel's Investor Relations Chief - SVW)

- We will also write about our partners, showing some of the interesting things they are doing. There will be a wide variety of stories every week.

- We also have a team of about 15 people that produce "Circuits." This is written for Intel employees and only available internally. There is a lot of great content there that we will publish on Free Press.

- Intel Free Press will be our main job. We may expand the team by bringing in outside contributors, other journalists. We want to create a media brand that is clearly distinguished from the rest.

- We decided not to use bylines so that we can use one voice and give it more of a news agency feel. And that should make it easier for other publishers if they want to reuse all, or part of our stories. They don't even have to attribute it to Intel.

- Success will be measured by the take up in search results and also the stories being re-used by major media outlets. And that should also lead to bloggers linking to the stories.

- Our legal department has been pretty good about it.

- We've set up Free Press as being separate from the Intel newsroom although there is a link from the newsroom.

- You can follow Intel Free Press on Twitter: @IntelFreePress.

Foremski's Take:

It's great to see a large company taking this step and willing to experiment with new approaches to communications. I recently spoke with Cisco, and it too is following a very similar strategy, wanting to produce a news magazine with stories sourced from within Cisco but not focused directly on Cisco.

(Cisco Plans Relaunch Of [email protected])

It's good that Intel has established a separate brand for this venture because that will help it track its progress and also help establish credibility outside of the main newsroom. Credibility will be established over time and by consistent, high quality content.

Some news organizations might see Intel Free Press as a competitor. It is possible that they might not cover a story, say the one on Intel's VP of Investor Relations, because Intel has already written that story. I was on a Bulldog Reporter panel last year with Kara Swisher, the former Wall Street Journal columnist and now at All Things D, and she was berating companies for posting a news announcement on their own website, saying that she wanted the scoop. Intel Free Press won't be writing those types of stories so Kara should be OK with that.

I'm looking forward to tracking this venture and seeing how it is received by other news organizations.

- - -

Intel Free Press.

Please see:
Every Company Is A Media Company

PR Firm Horn Group Launches iPhone App

This looks like an interesting development:

Shannon Latta EVP at Horn Group writes:

Today we announced our very own iPhone app, live in the iTunes App Store. We think we're the first agency like ours to design a mobile app like this -- that combines agency news and industry insights, sharing and commenting functionality, and a handy directory of our entire staff -- for clients, prospects and employees. Have you seen anything similar from anyone else? I know Lewis PR has a news aggregator for the iPhone but it's nothing like what we've built.

Here's our launch package:

We're seeing a lot of interest from marketers who want a mobile presence for their brand. We think it's becoming as important as having a website and agencies have to evolve to meet this need. Our iPhone app, built entirely in-house by Horn Group ID, shows off some of our new mobile capabilities. We can quickly and affordably build applications like our own for clients -- ideal for sales, marketing and employee communications.

I applaud Horn Group for taking this step and I look forward to hearing how it is used and if apps are a good vehicle for PR.

Meet IBM's Jon Iwata: "Most Forward Thinking" Communications Professional...


I've been fascinated with Jon Iwata ever since he was appointed head of IBM's Corporate Communications and Marketing. It's highly unusual for one person to hold both positions and it could mark the beginning of a new trend.

As a senior VP of Marketing and Communications at IBM, the world's largest computer company, Mr. Iwata has a tremendous amount of influence within the computer industry and beyond.

It's the combination of such roles that interests me greatly because it offers the possibility of a completely new role with new vistas of possibilities. I'm curious about what this means for IBM and if such a pioneering role could be replicated at other companies.

Jerry Swerling, Director of PR Studies and the USC Annenberg Strategic PR Center, describes Mr. Iwata as a man "whose name invariably comes up when you ask knowledgeable professionals to name the smartest, most forward-thinking people in the business." (Here.)

I've spoken with Mr. Iwata and with Ben Edwards, IBM VP and Director of Digital Strategy and Development. Check back later this week for the interview.

But first, here is some background on Mr. Iwata and his leadership in an initiative within IBM focused on "citizenship" and IBM's "Smarter Planet" strategy. I include a video and some extracts from his speeches.


From: IBM Press room - Jon C. Iwata - Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications - United States

- He holds a B.A. from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University.

- Jon joined the communications function of IBM in 1984 at the company's Almaden Research Center in Silicon Valley. In 1989, he joined IBM corporate headquarters in Armonk, New York.

- He was appointed vice president of Corporate Communications in 1995 and senior vice president, Communications, in 2002. He assumed his current role on July 1, 2008.

Here is an extract from a speech at the Yale Club in November 2009:

(via Toni Muzi Falconi at PR Conversations.)

One day soon, every employee, every retiree, every customer, every business partner, every investor and every neighbor associated with every company will be able to share an opinion about that company with everyone in the world, based on firsthand experience. The only way we can be comfortable in that world is if every employee of the company is truly grounded in what their company values and stands for.

What are we doing about this at IBM? We have created a new discipline within my organization that puts together brand management and workforce enablement, or what we used to call internal communications. This may sound to some like external and internal messaging coming together - employee as brand ambassador. Sure, that's an aspect of it. But the centerpiece is something quite different. We call it the IBM Brand System.

Picture a framework with five columns. From left to right the columns are labeled what it means to look like IBM, to sound like IBM, to think like IBM, to perform like IBM and ultimately to be IBM.

Here is an extract from a speech on the future of PR at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in March 2010 by Lara Levin:

USC Annenberg | IBM's Jon Iwata gives Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium audience a preview of the future of public relations

"When you think about the PR profession -- what it'll look like 10 years from now - start not with PR but with the world at large; not with the decade, but the century," said Iwata, adding that a century from now, the world will look back on the early 20th century as a time when "civilization took a great leap forward," marked by "changes in what people know, changes in what people expect and ultimately changes in behavior."

Though attempting to analyze such a period of change while simultaneously experiencing it continues to prove difficult, Iwata identified new disciplines in the corporate function, emerging from an environment characterized by transparency and readily available information. At the core of these emergent disciplines is a stress on behavior management--a sense of corporate integrity permeated down to and communicated directly from the individual employee.

"Lincoln said character is like a tree, reputation is like its shadow," Iwata said. "Many believe their job is to manipulate the shadow rather than tend to the health of the tree. In this world of transparency and democratized media, it is increasingly difficult for organizations and individuals to lead double lives. There can be no image management without behavior management.

"People care about the corporation behind the soft drink, or bank account, or computer - they do not divorce their opinions of that company from the company's products and services."

Iwata went on to suggest that the behavior and subsequent image of a company goes far beyond the surface, indicating a need for the instillment of unique corporate values among all employees, as "they only matter if lived and applied consistently by everyone in the company."

According to Iwata, it is through the consistent maintenance of and adherence to a brand's values and promise that they are able to succeed in another emerging discipline--that of building constituencies. The idea of merely reaching an audience and achieving message penetration is not enough. "Pumping out information only adds to the nosie and compounds the challenge of being heard... Value will come from offering perspective and useful information and providing a contribution to our audience's knowledge."

Citing Apple as a company that does this well, Iwata suggested, "They don't just advertise, they teach. They don't just sell, they create learning experiences in their stores. They want you to learn everything their product can do, so then you will teach others... In the process they recruit new and loyal customers that become advocates and evangelists."

Crafting and disseminating a valuable message and building this constituency is no longer, however, the task of solely communications professionals. Iwata described a third and final major shift as the development of the eminence of a company's workforce--training employees to act and communicate as experts who produce valuable information for the public and extend the power of the brand.

"2010 is the year that corps grapple with and ultimately accept that their employees are engaging with social media... But simply having your people on the net is not the differentiator. It's what they do once they get there."

YouTube - Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium - "Looking Ahead of the Curve: PR/Communication in 2010"

(Jump to about 21.00 to cut out welcoming remarks.)

I hope this has whetted your appetite for finding out more about Mr. Iwata and his pioneering work at IBM and how that might influence the broad practice of corporate communications and PR.

Jon Iwata (coastw) on Twitter

Swagapalooza: An Offbeat Funky Promo Platform

I went to Swagapalooza Tuesday eve, and ran into some friends, Nick Aster, publisher of the Eco site Triple Pundit, Robert Scoble, Renee Blodgett, and Shannon Clark.

The premise of Swagapalooza is to invite 85 bloggers to hear five minute pitches from a variety of companies and at the end of the evening leave with a bag of swag.

There is no obligation to write about anything.

I had a fun time primarily because I had expected some kind of super-smart marketing event, after all, Guy Kawasaki (Super Spamurai) was the keynote speaker. I expected a crass display of bloggers transformed into spammers, Twitting marketing messages all night long because of all the free stuff they were going to get.

It wasn't anything like that. Instead, the presentations were so wonderfully unrehearsed and so funky, and so funny, that at times I thought we might all be in some hidden-camera reality TV show.

The Tweets were hilarious, the running commentary was very funny.

But, there were plenty of moments when I really couldn't tell if things were carefully rehearsed comedic sketches -- or the real thing.

Fortunately, we weren't in some twisted TV reality show -- all the presenters represented real companies, even the guy who looked like a very young Christopher Walken and talked like him -- was real.

Nearly a billionaire...

Guy Kawasaki kicked things off with a long, rambling, top ten tips for entrepreneurs. There was lots of good advice. But it was clearly just a gig for Mr Kawasaki, he stayed in his green room before the event and didn't mix with anyone, and he was long gone by the time the presentations were finished.

Mr Kawasaki did reveal something interesting: he said he was offered the CEO position at an early stage Yahoo. But he didn't think Yahoo had much of a future and didn't take the job. He said if had taken the job, he would be a billionaire and he wouldn't be where he is today, in a dingy night club talking to a 100 people. Ouch.

"5 minute" presentations...

We then saw a bunch of "5 minute" presentations that were more like 15 minutes, repetitious, and some were becoming tedious. But, it was this authentic approach, rather than some slick presentation, that I enjoyed.

The other neat thing about Swagapalooza was that the companies weren't the usual tech startups I normally see. There was Black Garlic, which sells a delicious black garlic that tastes like licorice; a guy told a very long story about his inspiration for a bicycle helmetlock; there was Equmen - a male underwear company with engineered supports for a svelte figure; a company selling a bacon flavored hot sauce (not yet FDA approved so no samples(!))( Nick Aster was wondering if bacon might have jumped the shark - I think he could be right); WhiteyBoard, selling a roll of adhesive backed white plastic in 6 sizes for turning any surface into a whiteboard; Backflip - a protector for your iPhone with a 'kickstand' so that you can stand it up on a table; Gorillapod - a flexible camera tripod; and a few others that I don't recall...

The only tech company was Fotobabble with its "talking photos." I spoke with Kamal Shah, the CEO, he said that you can annotate any photo with any audio. Such as for promotional uses but also for family photo albums.

The swag bag...

The "swag bag" was a collection of fairly innocuous samples, not much different from the tchotchkes you find at trade show booths, I didn't feel tainted or corrupted by the modest value of its contents.

Also, our fellow audience members were great, most weren't from the tech industry, they were food bloggers, etc. It was very refreshing to spend some time outside of the normal geek groups and echo chambers.

The organizers launched their web site last night, LaunchHear.

Interesting format...

My buddy Nick Aster said he loved the format and we discussed maybe doing something similar in our neighborhood. The local music club in our San Francisco, Divisadero neighborhood (The 'Dero) is The Independent, and on Mondays, when it hasn't any shows, it opens up with a free movie night. What if Mondays at The Independent were to become a platform where local businesses/shops could make a pitch, pass out some samples, engage with their neighbors? It could work...

- - -
Here is a PearlTree of web pages, focused on the event, put together by Shannon Clark - it also has some of the Tweets.

 Swagapaloooza San Francisco March 2010 

The Myth Of Online Conversations: Lots Of Chatter But Not Much Discourse . . .

On the eve of the NewComm Forum in San Francisco I've been thinking about how our new media technologies are being used, and the unique two-way nature of our communications.

Internet 1.0 meant we could publish to any computer screen be it mainframe or pocket. Now we are in Internet 2.0 and that means that any computer platform, be it mainframe or pocket, can publish back. We now have a two-way Internet, an Internet on steroids.

But what is so striking about the online world is how little conversation takes place, how little two-way communication happens. One comment to an article is not a conversation. 300 separate comments on an article is not a conversation. If you look, these interactions peter out within one or two exchanges -- is that a conversation?

There's a lot of 'preaching to the choir,' which doesn't encourage conversation because the choir agrees with the sermon. I rarely see an online conversation that moves beyond one or two exchanges, or that doesn't degenerate into name calling. [Here is one example of a great (rare) online conversation that is well argued, reasoned, and fascinating: Goodbye Dubai | Smashing Telly - A hand picked TV channel.]

Twitter: not much conversation going on because it's not set up for that. Facebook, has a little more room for conversations but I rarely see much. All we have in social media is all still very much a "broadcast" media/communications channel. Yet we hear so much about "conversational marketing" and so on. But it doesn't (yet) exist.

The next phase of the Internet is when we have lots of conversations, that's Internet 3.0. (That's the real semantic web.) We don't have it yet because we're not yet used to it. Our most recent media communications paradigms are all broadcast based.

With Internet 1.0 we complained about information overload. Wait until we, most of us, complain about conversation overload.

- - -

The Largest Gathering Of Social Media And New Communications Experts Of 2009


SVW is one of the sponsors of the NewComm Forum, April 27 to 29 in San Francisco. NewComm is one of my favorite conferences of the year. I'm very pleased to be asked again to speak at the conference, my fifth time ( quickly time flies.)

The conference is organized by the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR -, a Palo Alto based think tank. I'm honored to be an early member of SCNR and a founding fellow.

At the conference you will be able to take part in presentations from SNCR fellows such as:

• SNCR Fellows Laura (@Pistachio) Fitton, author of Twitter for Dummies, and Shel Israel, author of Twitterville, with industry analyst and co-author of Groundswell, Charlene Li "Twitter: Exploring the Impact of Micro-communications Tools"

• SNCR Fellow Alan Kelly, president, The Playmaker's Standard addressing the question "What's in a Tweet"

• SNCR Fellows Paul Gillin and JD Lasica discussing "A World Without Media: What Will Fill The Void?"

• SNCR Fellows Joseph Thornley and J.D. Lasica with Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang and Amy Muller, GetSatisfaction discussing "Things That Go Bump In the Night - Challenges of Managing Social Media"

And there is lots more. . . Social media and new media experts gather at NewComm Forum in San Francisco April 27-29

Please see:

If you send me a message through Twitter I will send you a discount code. I'm @tomforemski

New Rules Blogger Etiquette . . . What's OK to Publish?

I was at an evening reception Thursday and someone I know walked up holding his Flip video camera up to his eye and I put my hand up to shield my face. He said why are you doing that? I said I didn't want to be filmed right now.

"Why are you upset?" he asked. I said I wasn't upset but in fact I was upset by his rudeness. I'm not a media slut like many in this business. Everyone else jumps at any publicity. I'd rather be selective and I'd rather that someone ask me first.

In today's age where everyone can publish and Twit anything at anytime I think it is time for some new rules etiquette especially for those people that need to have it spelled out.

I go to a lot of events and I have a lot of conversations and people tell me lots of things that would get them into trouble if I published it. Yet they trust me and trust that I won't burn them but I'm not sure everyone understands this etiquette especially those that are new to publishing.

Sometimes people ask me "Can I blog that?" when I say something. Sometimes that's OK but at least they are asking first.

My line is: "This conversation is just between the people in this group, If I wanted the world to know what I just said then I would have blogged it myself," and usually I say it with a smile. And usually people understand that there are new rules and that if people over step those rules then others will take note and future conversations might be rather stilted.

The new rules are don't publish private conversations--these are not public conversations--and ask first.

- - -

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Case Study In Online Brand Management: Wells Fargo Continues to Ignore The Conversation...

How should big brands manage their online reputation? Certainly not the Wells Fargo way...

Even though Wells Fargo has a blog page "Join the conversation" it doesn't.

Last April I had a really bad experience with Wells Fargo and wrote about it. Within minutes I had people commenting on their bad experience! It was the fastest response I had ever had to a post!

I wrote about my bad experiences several times actually. I was wondering how long it would take for a Wells Fargo representative to notice and leave a comment. As I pointed out, I'll get over my rant but the search engines will continually bring up my story and you would think that Wells Fargo would want to leave it's side of the story, at least say, "Sorry about that, here's a toaster..." or something.

But nothing came from Wells Fargo.

Sure enough, every few weeks someone finds my rant and and leaves another story about Wells Fargo. You'd think after about a year, someone might notice at Wells Fargo and "Join the conversation!"

(BTW, last month I met one of the bank's directors John Chen, the CEO of Sybase and mentioned that someone at the bank should keep an eye on what is going on online.)

Here is a recent comment about Wells Fargo from NKB that I received on March 18, 2008. I've got quite a collection and I know I will get more.

I thought I would just add my 2 cents regarding the WF's outrageous policies regarding holds.
I deposited a bonus check for in excess of $5K from my employer via an ATM and received an email a day later saying that WF will hold $4900 for a week and the remainder for 2 weeks.
1. I am WF customer of more than 30 years.
2. The deposited check is drawn on BofA.
3. The same BofA account is used to make a direct payroll deposit into my WF account twice a month.<
4. I have had balances in my checking acct in excess of $100K over the last few years.
5. I have never had a deposit not honored.
6. The BofA check will clear overnight, I am sure. So how can WF hold my money for up to 2 weeks?
7. Spoke to WF by phone, and got nothing but policy statements.
I will probably sever my long-standing relationship with WF over this outrageous behavior. Wanted to put this on the record. Thank you.

Another commenter provided an interesting web site address: Wells Fargo Injustice

This site has been established to serve as a centralized resource which will publicly document individual instances of real or perceived employment discrimination or disability discrimination at Wells Fargo or any of its subsidiaries. In addition, ethical, information security and data privacy issues at Wells Fargo will also be addressed and discussed.

The site has a blog:

There is a recent post from that blog about a potential security vulnerability that could expose Wells Fargo customer bank records and social security numbers.

My Wells Fargo posts:

Wells Fargo Case Study: From Crisis Meeting To Conversation

From Wells Fargo: Blogs are interactive online forums that allow us to communicate and share ideas with our readers. We're here to start a conversation with you. Wells Fargo Blogs Join The Conversation I have a conversation I'd like to...

Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher - the business of disruption on April 28, 2007 02:37 AM

Case Study: Wells Fargo's Effective Brand Management . . . Not!

My RantWatch yesterday about Wells Fargo's poor service could become an interesting case study in how large companies manage their online reputations. Or how they don't. The post was hardly complimentary. I complained about depositing a check into my threadbare...

Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher - the business of disruption on April 25, 2007 12:29 AM

RantWatch: Extremely Poor Service from Wells Fargo

I used to be impressed by Wells Fargo, professional and with great service. My local bank manager even used to call and invite me to barbecues. That was when I had money in various accounts. He never calls anymore, now...

Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher - the business of disruption on April 23, 2007 03:27 PM

Evolve! Press Release! Evolve! Evolve! Evolve!

. . . IABC Takes Over New/Social Media Release Leadership

It was just over two years ago that I penned my infamous "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die" post/rant. I wondered why the press/news release did not have any hyperlinks, did not tag/label various sections for easy information retrieval, and did not use any of the new media technologies we have at our disposal.

Die-Press-Release.jpgIt quickly became a controversial subject. My headline should have read "Evolve! Press Release! Evolve! Evolve! Evolve!" But maybe it wouldn't have gotten the attention that it did.

Half the people that read the original post it said I was mistaken, the press release would never die. The other half agreed with me and set about creating a new format for the press release.

Chris Heuer agreed to start a working committee on what we were calling the new media release and we had other key help from Shel Holtz, Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Shannon Whitley

The name for the new media release is now the "social media release." I'm not keen on the name too much, as I've said before I'd prefer a more neutral term, but that's how it is being referred to.

The interesting part of all this is that the International Association of Business Communications (IABC) has assumed the responsibility of providing a leadership role in "the development of standards to govern the creation and distribution of social media releases, a format for making company news available to reporters, bloggers and the general public.."
[Please see: IABC Assumes Social Media Release Leadership Role]

We'll see how this turns out. I hate to think that my legacy to the world will be something as obvious as suggesting the use of new media technologies to reformat the news/press release but I'm glad that I'm not the only one that sees value in this approach.

However, it is still a controversial topic. There is still a lot of work to be done. And it won't be easy work. It'll be interesting to see how the IABC executes on its leadership responsibilities.

Here is the IABC announcement in old format style: IABC Assumes Social Media Release Leadership Role

And in the social media format style: IABC assumes Social Media Release leadership role

Additional info:

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a global network of communication professionals committed to improving organizational effectiveness through strategic communication. Established in 1970, IABC serves more than 15,000 members in 70 countries and 100 chapters. For more information, visit

MediaWatch Monday: 2 Years on from Die! Press Release! Die!Die! Die!

Evolving the news release with microformats...Die-Press-Release.jpg

When I wrote Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! nearly two years ago, it got a lot of attention and a lot of work has gone into creating a more modern news release that includes much of the media technologies that make up Internet 2.0.

Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Shannon Whitley are some of the many people that have worked hard to bring attention to new formats for a press/news release, which is sometimes called a new media release, or a social media release.

We are still far from what I described in the original post:

In most news stories, the spin or angle, is set by the journalist in the first couple of paragraphs.
Much of the rest of the news story is factual: what the CEO said, when the company was founded, where it is based, the stock price, the specs of a product, the price, etc, etc, etc...

Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful...

The tags would be things like: recent share price, founders, first quarter revenues, analyst quotes, etc...

And because we are dealing with tags that are attached to facts--there is no spin so there is no problem in printing the information as it is received. If we can get the tags to be finely tuned, as a publisher, I could spec out a story and assemble it automatically and then quickly edit it by hand before publishing.

Read more here...Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!

We are far from this vision but we have the technology to do this. It is because it requires a cultural change and we know that culture is always slow to change. And so we have to be patient.

In the meantime, Shannon Whitley has done some excellent work on creating those tags I mentioned, which in Geek speak are called microformats. He has been part of the hRelease Working Group and has done a stellar job in producing the basis of a standard.

Now we just need to have people start using it and refining it.

Just before the holidays, a few of us got together to do a New Media Release podcast that discusses microformats. From For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report

Content summary:The usual suspects: Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Tom Foremski, Brian Solis and Shannon Whitley. Shannon runs down the recently-released pre-specification working document, which needs your input. The group discusses the flurry of posts taking pro and con positions about the social media release.

You can listen to it here.

Shel provides some reference materials:

Working document referenced by Shannon Whitley.

The new Social Media Release site

Google Groups mailing list for New Media Release discussion

hRelease wiki

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How to suck up to Chris Anderson in 1000 words or more . . .

Ever since Chris Anderson, the powerful editor-in-chief of Wired magazine's recent momentary lapse in self-composure, in which he publicly blacklisted several hundred PR people for sending him bad pitches, the PR industry has gone into a frenzy of self-flagellation.

Masses of PR bloggers have been writing very long essays and about how Mr Anderson is right, and that the PR sector needs to get its house in order and and eliminate bad PR pitches. It is as if Mr Anderson was the first editor to discover that there are bad PR pitches and brought it to the attention of the world, and now the PR world is going to sort out the problem.

This is BS

Bad PR pitches have been with us since the beginnings of recorded history and will continue to be here. It is what separates the good PR people from the bad ones, and there will always be bad ones.

Bad PR pitches will continue because:

- many PR firms use juniors to scatter-shoot generic pitches hoping someone will bite.

- the fragmentation of media means there isn't enough time to customize each pitch for each journalist/blogger.

- many PR firms have very small numbers of people with the domain expertise in what their clients do.

Pitch perfect problem

Maybe I should publish a whitelist of PR people who are doing a great job, pitching excellent story ideas, offering exclusives, arranging interviews with their top CEOs, and generally looking out for me and my product.

Mr Anderson complained about getting 300 pitches that have nothing to do with Wired magazine. My problem is 300 pitches that are right on target, that demonstrate that the PR people know what I 've been writing about, that are thinking about related stories, and offering top access to their clients.

What happens if your PR pitch is pitch-perfect, it sets exactly the right tone, demonstrates an insight into the subject and the publication, and you still can't get an editor interested in it? That's going to be happening more and more because PR agencies are on a hiring binge while the professional media world is shrinking.

When it comes to media relations, there will be ever larger numbers of PR people, chasing ever smaller numbers of journalists, writing for a dwindling number of publications, which are publishing fewer pages.

Getting media coverage for clients is going to be increasingly more difficult no matter how good the PR pitch.

Chicken or Rooster? Engaging in online debates . . .

Over the past couple of weeks I've written a few posts that were intended to remind the PR industry that significant changes are underway in their sector, a point of view that wasn't warmly received.

Wily E CoyoteMy recent post "Wiley E Coyote: Traditional PR is running on thin air" was part of a theme I've been writing about for a couple of years. It was intended to remind my PR contacts that we have disruptive technologies in our midst, and that disruptive technologies disrupt business models. Media is hurting their industry will too...

It was interesting how many people took this personally. I had to remind them that I did not call out their PR firms by name, nor did I invent the fact that disruption is happening in their industry (it really has nothing to do with me...)

But I've also been hearing from my PR contacts about the furious debates that my posts sparked internally, within their firms, and how useful they were. And I wondered why they didn't take those discussions online--it is a perfect opportunity to share and move things forward.

Some of my friends, who are bloggers in the PR community, were frustrated that their colleagues were too bashful to take their discussions online. And I can understand that frustration. Because as I popped into various Silicon Valley events over the past couple of weeks, there were many in the PR industry that engaged me in passionate debates. But it was all offline, they wouldn't go online. Which is a shame because they had some interesting things to say.

(En)Courage Online Debate

Every time I write a post I put my name behind it and I risk everything. Anyone can step up and engage and challenge me online or offline.

But there are too many people that will only engage me offline then shy away if I ask for an online debate.

I'm not asking from them anything that I wouldn't do myself, which is to state my point of view, and put my name behind it. It is an invitation to step up and share.

Can People Distinguish PR News Releases from News Stories?

[This is response to a discussion in the comments section related to my recent post: Social Media Releases are Moving in a Bad Direction - Questionable Ethics in Masquerading as "News" ]

I think lots of people can distinguish content as promotional, as in a press release, or content that is a news story written by a journalist. The latter is trusted more because it is independent of any direct financial incentive.

But just in case readers get muddled, let's clearly mark PR content along these lines: "This is promotional content on behalf of Acme Corporation."

So if a news aggregator such as Google News picks it up by mistake readers can clearly identify the source of the information. They can see that it is self-serving, biased, paid-for-content -- and readers won't confuse it with news journalism.

But there are PR firms and PR practices that profit from a flaw in Google News, Yahoo News, and other large online news distributors, that pick up press releases and distribute them along with news stories written by journalists. There are studies that show that a significant number of readers get confused and think some press releases are news stories. Let's make things clear by marking content clearly.

If you have them, please send me examples of media using press releases in this way. I'll be publishing a few examples over the coming weeks.

This is becoming an interesting discussion and I thank people for their contributions.

It is an important issue because our society needs high quality information to make high quality decisions. Otherwise it is garbage in, garbage out, which doesn't bode well for us making the right decisions on global warming, foreign policy, healthcare, tech policy, and many dozens of extremely important problems.

Let's not let minority elements in PR, media, and search sectors profit from practices that reduce the quality of our information. Let's point out such practices.

. . .

NEW! - Get SVW on your Mobile Phone!

Mark All PR Releases: "Not To Be Distributed by News Aggregators"

Since Google News, Yahoo News, and other online news aggregators sometimes have trouble distinguishing news journalism from news releases from corporations or their surrogate PR firms, then the ethical thing to do is to mark all company releases: "Not to be distributed by News Aggregators."

It is the ethical thing to do. Because some people might mistake company releases, especially if they are in social media release format, as real news stories written by independent unbiased parties. Especially if they see those press releases on sites such as Google News, where they are mixed with legitimate news stories written by journalists from around the world.

Also, the company news release should clearly state at the top:"This content was prepared to promote the products or services of the following company or companies: [put company names here] and was created by: [PR firm or individual]."

Does anyone have any problems with that? It upholds transparency and it directly identifies the source of the content. It allows people to make their own judgement on the quality of the content.

Who'll be the first to send me a press release with those marks?

Or do you tell your clients how they can get their press release wide distribution through Google and Yahoo news? And charge them for it?

- - -

Please see: Why Social Media Releases are Moving in a Bad Direction - Questionable Ethics in Masquerading as "News"

UPDATED: Why Social Media Releases are Moving in a Bad Direction - Questionable Ethics in Masquerading as "News"

Brian Solis from FutureWorks PR and and Todd Defren from Shift Communications have collaborated on a post called: " The Future of the Social Media Release is in Your Hands."

They have both been strong supporters of my call for a different type of press release described in my post "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!" Mr Defren quickly came up with a template for my ideas. And over time, it began to be called a "social media release."


I have welcomed such efforts simply because it can make my life easier in assembling the information and materials I need when I'm writing stories.

Make my job easier

The whole point of my rant about the press release was that it was not suitable for use in today's online world. Put some links in it, (still, very few press releases have links), tab/label various sections so I can quickly find relevant information; give me links to relevant stories; give me a page of analyst quotes and customer quotes; provide me with links to stock price; provide links to other media formats such as podcasts and vidcasts. It is all very obvious stuff, imho.

Also, I prefer the term new media release, it is a more neutral term than "social media release."

But there is a much bigger and more worrying difference than just the name. The social media release is evolving into something much different - it seeks to bypass journalists altogether.

Mr Solis and Mr Defren write: engines are an incredible catalyst for news distribution: people are finding news through Google and Yahoo and as a result have become more accepting of press releases as legitimate information resources, on a par with trusted trade journals (this has been documented by several analysts tracking the media space).

Their argument appears to be that a social media release is a good thing because readers will attribute the same trust to a social media release as to content written by trade journalists. Self-serving content will appear as if it were unbiased content.

Not a good thing

Why is this a good thing? It is clearly not.

Journalists are accorded a certain level of trust by readers because of their independence. Press releases are accorded a lower level of trust because they come from self-interested parties. Social media releases (SMRs) are taking advantage of readers mistaken perception that Google and Yahoo News carries content created by journalists.

This is not a good thing. This a questionable ethical PR practice. (I'm sure this is NOT what Mr Solis and Mr Defren are advocating, I know them both and they are extremely ethical and trustworthy. However, their post is encouraging further development of the social media release to gain even wider distribution.)

SEO for social media releases

Mr Solis and Mr Defren complain that not all search engines discover social media releases. Technorati is one of those problematic search engines. Which I would say is a good thing, that the Technorati algorithm, unlike Google and Yahoo's, recognizes the difference in the content between self-serving corporate releases and the posts of bloggers and journalists.

They offer tips and techniques to overcome such limitations for social media releases and go on to conclude:

The key to the SMR’s long-term success will be the ability to truly be social; to not only deliver the news in a snazzy new format, but also to facilitate discovery through Social Media channels, encourage sharing and spark conversations, all in a way that brings customers, journalists, bloggers, and analysts together around your story and your community.

And they issue a call to action:

How you develop and issue SMRs is ultimately up to you, and given that these are the early days, the interest level is high in making sure we get this right. We’re all in this together.

My advice is don't. I am a huge fan of the work of Mr Solis and Mr Defren. But on this issue of making social media releases that can find even wider distribution to readers by using various tricks and techniques I part company.

Our society needs high quality information and it is the job of journalists to sort through many sources and try to come up with something that reflects a truth.

Companies and their PR firms create self-serving materials. And if those materials, under the disguise of social media releases, fool readers into thinking these are the same as if written by journalists-- it does not make the world a better place.

Similarly, if those self-serving materials find wider distribution than news stories written by journalists because of sophisticated tricks and techniques--it does not make the world a better place.

Let's go back to the concept of a new media release: the release of relevant content in formats that make the job of a journalist easier. Readers can still discover the original materials that the journalists use to write their stories and thus companies will still be able to present their side of the story.

Brian Solis replies:

Tom, well said, and honestly, I think we all agree here.

Perhaps we weren't clear enough in our post and for that, we will have to update it.

This isn't a call to action for people to take garbage to new levels of distribution and reach.

It all starts with thinking about what you want to say and figure out why it's important to those you want to reach.

A crappy press release is still a crappy press release regardless of multimedia or social bling.

Our intention is the furthest thing from offering tips and tricks to manipulate people.

Writing the news in a way that's helpful, informative, and relative is a critical starting point for any release to be successful now and in the future.

The reason for this post is to remind people that tricking out press releases for the sake of tapping into a trend doesn't do anyone any good.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Press releases, for better or worse, ARE already showing up in search engines as a natural part of the wire distribution process. It's just a "benefit" for the $1,000 fee you pay.

According to Outsell, Inc. over 51% of IT professionals are reporting that they get their news from press releases in Yahoo and Google news over trade journals.

It's a fact that is changing the game for PR, and it's not only being driven by journalists, but customers too.

What it really represents is an opportunity, dictated by necessity, to do things better.

As we talked about last week, PR won't change until it has to.

Our post simply explains the differences between multimedia and social media versus the packages that you, as pr pros, are buying and what/where it gets you.

Tom, there are vendors now that are selling social media release packages that aren't full social. So, we're calling attention to the building blocks and the channels to help people understand the entire game and to guide them how to tell a better story without adjectives.

As you say, "...the release of relevant content in formats that make the job of a journalist easier. Readers can still discover the original materials that the journalists use to write their stories and thus companies will still be able to present their side of the story."

This is a call to action for PR people to stop and think about the entire process and take the challenge for improvement, whether multimedia or social.

What we all agree on is that we have a responsibility to you and to our customers that we need to finally take seriously. And, in order to build/continue relationships, we have to provide information in way that works for the different groups of people that want info, without the usual b.s. or spintastic hype.

Thanks Brian I certainly agree with you on these issues and I'm glad we can both point to the dangers in moving the social press release beyond its charter. There are many people in the PR industry that love the fact that they can capitalize on flaws in the search engines to move corporate messages into the mainstream.

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Changes in PR - Is Your PR Firm Changing Too?

Every company, large and small, needs to rise above the white noise of the mediasphere and get its message out--and collect the messages about it and it's space.

Now that we have these two-way media technologies such as blogs, wikis, and RSS, and the many hybrid media formats that they make possible, how do companies achieve their basic goals of boosting sales and boosting their brand perception?

It used to be done by hiring PR firms. These days there are many other ways of getting things done, there is a fundamental change in how PR will be done. I've been writing about such changes (and upsetting a few people.)

My premise is simple: traditional media is undergoing great change and so will traditional PR for very similar reasons--but change won't happen until pain is felt, as it is being felt in traditional media. A change is certainly coming and some firms will make it others won't.

Yet many in PR feel that they can have their cake and eat it. That they can continue to sell traditional PR services and new PR services. Clients won't continue to pay for both, the money will flow to what is most effective, and most cost effective.

The new media technologies are extremely disruptive technologies. And disruptive technologies disrupt business models.

Here are some excerpts from a just published report from
The Council of Public Relations Firms: (Hat tip to Sam Whitmore.)



. . .

Clients must find and engage the best partners with the best ideas, regardless of whether they are
public relations agencies or not.

Peter Debreceny, former vice president of corporate relations, Allstate Insurance Co., expressed concern for the profession, “as many more competitors step into the traditional agency PR space.” He thinks confusion about the roles and responsibilities of various marketing and communications providers is steadily increasing and adds: “I don’t like where the trends are going.”

. . .

As for future skills, social media must become part of the way public relations practitioners do business or
they will become obsolete.

. . .

Hybrid compensation models are likely to develop that are more closely tied to audience
engagement than hourly revenue.

. . .

Clients often serve as catalysts for revamping PR agencies’ business models. Says State Farm’s Fernandez:
“Things are changing, and we don’t have a mandate to buy PR from PR firms and ads from ad agencies.”
Thus, to become communications partners, public relations agencies must illuminate how they develop the
best ideas from all the media tools available.

. . .

Within the public relations industry, practitioners increasingly understand that the media communications
landscape has changed dramatically. A Council of Public Relations Firms’ survey in the 2006 third quarter found
that a majority of public relations agencies (52%) say they have run into advertising agencies or other
marketing providers that are pitching and/or delivering services today that they consider traditional PR services.

. . .

For public relations professionals, 2007 will be an important year to determine what path they take as an
industry from the critical crossroads they’re at today. Will agencies embrace social media and move to
incorporate its various forms into client communication strategies? Or will they allow outsiders to furnish
those services? It promises to be a very interesting period ahead.

Read the report here:

BTW I had no idea I was quoted in the report:

Sometimes, it’s helpful to consider the views of non-PR communicators.

Financial Times reporter Tom Foremski, who hosts the SiliconValleyWatcher blog, says
he’s often asked to recommend public relations agencies to companies and also how to choose public
relations agencies, especially ones that understand a bit about new media and, specifically, the blogosphere.

“Here is a key pointer:” he advises, “If you are looking for a PR company that understands something about
blogging, find out who in that organization blogs, and how long have they been blogging, and what is their
blog page rank and traffic. You will find that in many large PR agencies, it is their most junior staff that are
the in-house bloggers, and there lies the rub. PR companies that ‘get it’ have senior staff as bloggers, and
they blog regularly, and they have decent traffic, and they also use other types of new media such as wikis.”

Media Architect Josh Hallett Joins Voce

Josh Hallett has joined Voce Communications, which is quite a coup for this Palo Alto PR firm. Voce is one of my favorite Silicon Valley PR firms because they really understand new media/social media and are building a great team of leaders in this area.

Josh has been working with many large newspapers, creating the infrastructure for their blogs and online forums. He is what I like to call a media architect, a software engineer that knows how to implement the media technologies that make up Internet 2.0.

Voce's Mike Manuel writes:

. . . “conversation” and “community” are words that easily roll off the tongues of marketers these days, but too often it’s without knowledge or regard for the technology that’s required to carry these things from conference room concepts to real-world experiences.

This is where Josh excels. The guy’s a master translator between marketers and web developers, between ideas and experiences, and ultimately, between companies and customers.

Josh is the newest addition to our growing team of social media strategists here at Voce. Earlier this spring Andrea Weckerle, a DC-area blogger and author of New Millennium PR, joined our gang, as did Scott Sigler, author, podcaster and social media provocateur. And yeah, yours truly continues to act as this team’s lead wonk.

From Voce Nation - Now With More Cowbell

Earlier this year I published a video of Josh talking about his experiences building media systems for companies such as New York Times. There is tons of great advice and stories here:

Social media in the enterprise: How to deal with IT roadblocks

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A Reader Writes: The Death of the Press Release Won't Happen

[I recently received an email from a reader in reference to my infamous post: "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!"]

By Harry Zane

I am retired from a career that began in journalism, turned to PR, then to marketing, and finally to consulting. And I agree wholeheartedly with what you said in your column. However, I am astonished that in 2007, PR is still slogging lower and lower into a press-release and press-conference tactical miasma.

I think the media, despite their constant carping about their dislike of press releases, are largely responsible. Many years ago, while working at a major university, I can recall a meeting of journalists and educational PR pros when the biggest complaint was that we PR folks sent out too many press releases. So we cut back, and the first complaints came only weeks later – from reporters, who couldn't understand why we were pitching stories without sending them "press releases."

I recall as well some 25 years ago working at a then major technology firm in Massachusetts when I had to fight endlessly with my peers and executives to keep the self-absorbed, self-unaware nonsense out of press releases. My "reward" was praise from the editor of the biggest industry trade journal. He really liked my releases because, as he said, they were brief and contained "no bullshit."

I took little comfort from his attaboys, however, since he ran unedited the competition's endless column inches of yammering right next to, or well above and ahead of, mine (the longer copy, rather than concise content, better fit his need for lead story layouts), creating the impression to casual readers (most trade journal readers are) that the competition had more to say than my company. Needless to say, this didn't sit well with the puffery-spouting peers and execs I'd just vanquished, either.

The reason, of course, for his actions are entirely explicable. His was a labor-intensive business, and he needed the free copy. Such is the fate of all media today: copy, no matter how untrue, uninformative, or unbecoming the author, trumps solid content.

PR people won't stop creating press releases because PR people, be they consultants, or employees will not stop serving the pleasure of their benighted bosses and clients; most media will continue to take content anywhere they can find it for little or no cost; and reader expectations for something better will continue to spiral downward with the whole sorry mess.

You are obviously a dedicated journalist with healthy amounts of skepticism and ambition. Your idea is sensible, laudable, and intelligent, but I don't see it happening. Ever.

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The Trajectory of Ideas or Why My Older Posts Show Up Fresh on TechMeme

Die-Press-Release.jpgTodd Defren from Shift Communications dropped me a note to point out that my Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die! post is on the front page of TechMeme. That was written in February 2006.

But the date doesn't really matter. I've noticed that happen with some of my other posts. Search engines will kick them back into view and others will reference them and they live again in the mediasphere.

It's interesting to watch what I call the trajectory of ideas. Sometimes I will write something I think is significant and 2 people will tell me they thought it was important. Yet I can write the same piece a year, sometimes two years later or more, and 20, or 200 people will pick it up and discuss it.

That's a totally understandable phenomenon because more people now understand the ideas and conversations that emanate from Silicon Valley about the changing nature of media and its changing mediums. With simple technologies such as RSS we can now create totally new forms of media, and totally new ways to distribute and generate media.

- - -

Please see:
Ross Dawson's Trends in the Living Networks: Deconstructing the press release: how tagging will change journalistic workflow

Brian Solis: Future of the Press Release - Acceptance

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3-dot Weekend . . . Social media and IT; There are iPhones and non-iPhones; Gaia hackers upset kids

Social media and IT . . .

If you missed my panel on social media at Intel Developer Forum, you can watch it here. You can find out how Intel has been using blogs and wikis. It is always interesting to see how a very large and established company such as Intel (Intel is a sponsor of SVW) is able to change and embrace social media - it is not an easy process. We also had an Intel lawyer on the podium.

- - -

iPhone religion . . .

I meet a lot of people and many of them like to talk about their cell phones and then go on to tell me why they don't have an iPhone, and/or don't need one. This is interesting because these are unsolicited and unprovoked comments. It is as if just the presence of my iPhone stirs some pangs of guilt or justification.

Let me say this: I like my iPhone, but I'm not religious about it, but many people are religious about their non-iPhones. Which is interesting.

My response is this: think of the opportunity cost to you in your business and professional life. Waiting for another price reduction or until your contract comes up for renewal makes sense if you are the average consumer. It makes no sense if you live and work in Silicon Valley, if you are in media, in PR, or are a developer, or an investor. Saving a hundred or few hundred later, will cost you bigtime now because you will be behind in experiencing and being experienced with this platform.

The iPhone is a media delivery platform of a unique kind. My colleague at TechOne Steve Gillmor, says this:

The iPhone has effectively replaced my laptop for much of my working day. The extent to which I can create the necessary metadata to do my various jobs determines what applications I use.

The iPhone does have problem spots but they are mostly software fixes--it will get better very quickly. What is the cost to you in not having experience with this platform? It is far more than saving a few bucks.

- - -

Blue moon . . .

Lunarr invitations. Let me know on Facebook (send me a friend request) if you'd like to check out this unique collaborative platform created by two Japanese entrepreneurs based in Portland, Oregon.

Lunarr: A Once in a Blue Moon Company with a Unique Collaborative App

- - -

Gaia hackers . . .

My 13 year old daughter Sarah is very sad this week, someone hacked into her Gaia Online account and stole all the things she had collected from over a year's worth of work, and erased all her friend info and other malicious damage. I did some searching and there are several sites that teach others how to hack Gaia user accounts.

I sent Sarah this to cheer her up . . .

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The Trajectory of Ideas in the MediaSphere . . . and Dredging Up the Past

Die-Press-Release.jpgThe most fascinating aspect of being a journalist blogger is observing what I call the trajectory of ideas. How publishing a post can reach just six people, who will see it as significant and respond. Yet a year later, or two, the same post will resurface yet this time seems relevant to 600 or 60,000 people, who will comment on it, or respond to it, and discuss it further.

I love to watch this happen and that's why I generally never ping my colleagues in the media about a post (which is not the way things are usually done...) because I want to see what the organic effect of the mediasphere produces.

Sometimes this is frustrating. There are times when I feel I have discussed an important issue yet hardly anyone seems to notice, 2 people will say that it was great. Yet other times my posts seem to hit a chord I didn't realize was there and the uptake is surprising.

There are several posts recently which seem to have resurfaced. One is my classic: Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die! A late night rant about putting links into press releases, which is now revolutionizing the PR industry, believe it or not(!) leading to what is also known as the "social media release."

Permalink Concrete

A more recent example is a post about a bad experience with Wells Fargo Bank. I wrote a second and third post, hoping to get a response from the bank, I even started linking to sites that reported shady Wells Fargo practices. Nothing. I even found a page on Wells Fargo's site "Welcome to the conversation" promoting their blogs.

I wrote that I have a conversation here that I would love it to join. I pointed out that I will get over my rant, but the search engines will continue to dredge it up time and time again.

Why didn't Wells Fargo leave a comment, right there next to the rant, offering an apology and a free toaster :-), or just an apology so that its view is represented each time the search engines dredge up my complaint.

Nothing from Wells Fargo. But I do get comments and emails every few weeks from people who have had bad experiences with Wells Fargo and they found me through the search engines.

. . .

Please See:

Wells Fargo Case Study: From Crisis Meeting To Conversation

From Wells Fargo: Blogs are interactive online forums that allow us to communicate and share ideas with our readers. We're here to start a conversation with you. Wells Fargo Blogs Join The Conversation I have a conversation I'd like to...
Posted by Tom Foremski on April 28, 2007 2:37 AM

RantWatch: Extremely Poor Service from Wells Fargo

I used to be impressed by Wells Fargo, professional and with great service. My local bank manager even used to call and invite me to barbecues. That was when I had money in various accounts. He never calls anymore, now...

Posted by Tom Foremski on April 23, 2007 3:27 PM

Will Social Networks Turn Journalists into Social Pariahs?

I've been thinking about journalist sources. I know some of mine are among my FaceBook and LinkedIn friends. Could that become a problem in the future?

What if I write about Apple and Steve Jobs thinks it has been leaked and sacks a friend who works at Apple, because he can see my social network even though that's not my source. What about a two degree separation? A friend of a friend...could that still cause a problem?

Should I keep my network private?

PR In Crisis: Will top execs snub grass roots activists . . . ?

By Tom Foremski

Strumpette, the popular blog site for the PR industry, has laid down a gauntlet, inviting the top 50 executives of the world's top PR firms to confront the changing nature of the PR world.

This is an interesting issue, one that seems to be splitting the leading edge elements in the PR industry from the trailing edge traditionalists.

This is the first part of a remaking of PR. It is similar to the changes the media industry is going through.

However, Strumpette's call to arms could be a false dawn because the PR industry has been very slow to change, it needs an economic bust to change its habits. Either way, it is all part of the process that PR needs to go through.

Here is an excerpt from Strumpette:

To the Leadership of the PR Industry:

Where are you?!! Listen: We had a Call to Action last week where we invited a number of you here to a debate about the future of the business. Not one showed up. NOT ONE! Well, that's marked a turning point.

WE'RE OUTRAGED! While there's absolutely a growing cancer in our industry, you (plural) seem bent on lining your pockets exclusively. Regrettably, your peers are involved in behaviors that will surely kill our business. And when it goes to hell and you make off with your millions, we are the ones who will be left holding the bag.

Media industry is going to hell in a handbasket - Where is PR industry's handbasket?

By Tom Foremski

With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry? PR companies and corporate communications teams are still going about their business in the same way, and seem to be thriving.

You would think that there would be a corresponding shakeup in both industries. After all, one is dependent on the other. The PR teams work with the journalists to find stories, and help them research whatever information is needed for their articles.

Always Linked

There has always been a close correspondence between the fortunes of both sectors in the past. This could be seen in the dotcom dotbomb fallout.

PR companies suffered large losses when thousands of internet related companies went bust. Job losses in both media and PR were directly related to the fact that there were now far fewer customers.

Fewer dotcom-related firms meant less demand for advertising services and thus less demand for PR services. But now there is a growing disconnect; the mainstream PR sector is booming while the mainstream media sector is fading fast.

The PR boom paradox

Over the past two years the PR sector has been growing quite nicely. The PR firms serving Silicon Valley companies have been been hiring people steadily as the local startup companies seek to raise their visibility.

Every PR firm I know has many vacancies, and there is a very short supply of experienced PR practitioners in the 5 to 8 year experience range. And the demand for PR services continues to grow as new startups come onto the scene and want to raise themselves above the noise level of their competitors.

Yet the number of media outlets continues to shrink. There are fewer mainstream media outlets, there are fewer journalists to pitch stories to; and there are fewer pages to carry stories because there are fewer ads.

Mashup metaphors: The Cows are coming home to roost

What this means is that the realities of this situation have not yet hit home. The realities are these:

-Companies can sell their products and services with a far lower cost of sales these days, because it is easier than ever to reach their customers directly through search engine marketing and blogs.

-This means there that there is far less value offered by mainstream media and mainstream public relations in the product and services sales process. . .

. . .

The above is an extract from a post I wrote 18 months ago, in January 2006. Since that time, the disconnect between the fortunes of mainstream media and public relations industries has grown tremendously.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently cut 100 newsroom jobs, 25 per cent cut. Business 2.0 is on its last legs, yet 18 months ago it had increased ad rates on booming sales.

The IT trade media, all the computer magazines from the East Coast are dead or online only. And private equity vultures are snapping up declining media companies.

Things are getting far worse for media companies yet PR companies continue to boom.

Are PR firms doing more new/social media?

Yes, a little bit more, but most of their time is spent doing traditional PR practices, trying to influence the publication of stories into smaller numbers of media outlets and they can't get enough staff...

Something is seriously out of sync here.

From Press Release to News: Cutting out the independent media

Shannon Whitley is behind the very interesting PRX Builder, a way to produce company press releases that include many-media, links, etc.

PRX Builder now has a feature that allows companies to use Google AdWords to advertise the "news headlines."

Although news releases should not be advertisements themselves, there’s nothing wrong with hawking your headlines to get peoples’ attention.  That’s why I developed NewsAds™ for PRX Builder.

What’s a NewsAd? 

NewsAds are advertisements that are published to the Google AdWords network.  You know, the ads that appear besides the Google search results and on web pages across the internet.  PRX Builder now offers NewsAds as an additional feature for each news release.  Publish your release through PRX Builder and then create a NewsAd about your release on Google AdWords.


This is an interesting development because parts of the PR industry thinks it can do quite well by getting around the media and publish directly to potential customers. Yes, they can, but few people ask if this strategy makes much sense.


My PhotoMorgan McLintic, over at Lewis PR recently wrote about an event discussing the successful use of search engine optimization to get a high Google ranking for a press release.




I asked a few people after the session what they thought. Everyone said you want people to find your content online. Agreed. No-one said they'd ever bought anything based on finding a press release.

Everyone agreed a PR team should know which media might be interested in a press release, and that they should be approached directly. No-one felt that media would spend much time reading releases they'd stumbled across on the web.

SEO PR - missing the target?


A high Google rank should not be confused with a successful news release. Readers know when something is from the company. Readers respect independent media articles over those from a company. Much better to promote those independent media pieces than press releases, imho.

But with independent media rapidly disappearing, what are the PR firms going to do? Publish to Google it seems...

UPDATED: GOOG Doubling its PR Crew--PR and Press Needn't Apply

[UPDATED: Google says that 25 new people are joing this month and that they have plenty of PR professionals on their staff, with many years of experience.]

When I was over at Google late last month, I caught up with corporate comms bosses David Krane and Brian O'Shaughnessy. They told me that their staffs were being doubled in June with about 50 new people joining their teams.

I asked how many of those new people were from the PR industry. I was told none. How many of those new people were former journalists, again I was told none. They are all new hires straight out of the top schools in the US.

There is only one person on the Google communications team that was once a journalist, and only for a very short time. There are very few people, about 5 or 6 recruited directly from the PR industry.

This is the policy of Elliot Schrage, head of corporate communications.

I can understand that it is often worthwhile to hire people that have not been taught how to do things because then you can teach them your ways of doing things.

But there should be more media professionals on the GOOG team, imho.

UPDATE #2 (Aug 18 2007- I didn't notice that Google had sent me an email shortly after publishing this post, asking for further corrections - here they are. BTW the comments section is a quick way to post corrections because my Gmail inbox gets incredibly crowded. )

From GOOG:

I believed when we spoke I explained that the team was getting roughly 30 new college graduates (the number is actually closer to 25 - as you have corrected- thank you) However they are joining Google over the next few quarters - not "next month". While I will concede that these recent college graduates are not media professionals - these are entry level PR positions and these are incredibly impressive young people that believe in Google's mission and want a chance to make their mark in Mountain View or in our offices in New York or DC or even on the YouTube comms team.

And as I noted earlier they are joining an incredibly seasoned team of PR professionals - in fact, the Directors on the team have an average of twelve plus years experience in agency, corporate and technology PR and journalism experience. These are communications professionals that have joined from such PR teams from Cisco, Microsoft, Gap, and VeriSign.

The bulk of their direct reports have joined from the a variety of fields including media and politics - however the vast majority come with solid communications experience (either in house or on the agency-side). Google is very proud of the team assembled (and continues to look for new additions) --- and we are also very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead and to not correct the record is a disservice to their experience.

Movable Type Scales Up, Goes Open Source

By Tom Foremski

I use Movable Type to publish Silicon Valley Watcher although many other bloggers moved to Wordpress a long time ago. I like it because I know it and I don't want to learn another platform if I don't have to, plus it works. So I was very interested to get a briefing on the new Movable Type, Version 4.0.

I spoke with Chris Alden, EVP and General Manager of the Professional Division at Six Apart. He said that version 4.0 represents the largest investment of engineering years that the company has ever made in Movable Type. And it answers critics who said that Six Apart was spending more time building its hosted services businesses, than on Movable Type.

I can't wait to try it. It has social/community features built into the platform. Users can rate posts and each other; they can be given special publishing rights, they can be given permission to write posts without moderation, they can even publish their own blogs on the blog.

There are a lot of new content management features built in, favoring large scale deployments. It is designed for four types of users: large publications such as New York Times; Universities and academic uses; Marketing and promotional; and internal blogging within large organizations.

A lot of features, previously available as plug-ins, are integrated into the platform. And Six Apart will release "functional packs" that are targeted at different types of users, such as large media companies, that contain specialized functions that don't need to be in the base platform.

Also, the look and feel of the software has been completely redesigned--the first time in five years.

And, Movable Type will be available under an open source software license in Q3. The open source version will be based on Movable Type 3.x series with some Version 4.0 features.

"It will be a similar model to that of MySQL, which offers an open source licence as well as a commercial version that is supported," said Mr Alden.

The current Movable Type version 4 is beta, but the shipping version is just 6 to 12 weeks away.

Wordpress is a good blogging platform and popular among individual bloggers but Movable Type, with its ability to run multiple blogs from a single installation is gaining ground in enterprise applications.

I'm looking forward to trying it out and moving SVW to the new platform-- after the beta period.



Additional Info from Six Apart:


Story continues...

PR Watch: Horn Group To Keynoters - Get a Clue!

Sabrina Horn, head of Horn Group, Silicon Valley's top independent PR firm, says she has heard too many sales pitches from conference keynoters from large IT vendors--and they are making a mistake. appear almost defensive when you only talk about yourself and your products in these keynotes...

Ms Horn suggests...:

Audiences today really want to hear what you think about the industry and where it's going. What should we be worried about? What are you worried about? Where are our opportunities? What are your ideas? The dirty little secret is, if you did that, we'd probably like you more and want to buy even more from you.

Link to Horn Group Weblog: Get a Clue!


I agree. A CEO makes a keynote speech at large conference and delivers a sales pitch?! What a wasted opportunity.

A sales pitch can be delivered in a video, an advertisement, it shouldn't be delivered in a keynote. I usually skip them because 95 percent of the time they are sales pitches--and I know plenty of other journalists and bloggers that do the same. 

A Keynote Is A Unique Opportunity

At conferences, a cavernous, cathedral-like room is filled with thousands of people in a darkened space happy and willing to be there. It is a perfect setting to deliver an experience, something hard to forget.

Apple is very good at this sort of thing. I remember several MacWorld keynotes from Steve Jobs and guests that were unforgettable. (One of them was when Mohammed Ali was there, just a few feet away from me.)

UPDATED: ZDNet Offers Sponsored Blogging ... And Other Tales From Outcast CEO Event

Outcast PR's CEO Dinner was good this year, much better than last year. I didn't write about it last year because I had nothing much to say about it, this year was different.

I've got lots of interviews, lots of video to publish from the event. And I have lots of stories to tell too, which will appear over the weekend and over the following days.

Here are some teasers:

-ZDNet advertising/marketing services will unveil a new business model. Buy our marketing services and we will write your corporate blogs as part of a sponsorship deal. 

"It is going great," said Chris Jablonski, a former ZDNet blogger, who is now in the marketing department at ZDNet. "We've set up blogs for Computer Associates and other large IT companies. If they don't have a writer we will write their blogs for them." The blog posts are not identified as ZDNet authored. It is similar to how public relations companies ghost write for clients.But will it work in this context? Is it a new and viable media business model? UPDATE: The blogs are labelled as sponsored blogs. Here is an example: The blog is written by ZDNet on behalf of Dice. ...   

-Sam Whitmore from Sam Whitmore's Media Survey. This time I interview Sam instead of the other way around.

-Come back to hear Sam's take on the implosion of the East Coast IT trade media.

-Plus, there is an upcoming merger in the works for Sam.


Don't miss:

  • -Video interview with Satish Dharmaraj, CEO of my favorite, favorite, Web 2.0 company: Zimbra.
  • -Tim Turpin from Outcast interviews me and my hush hush project.

I'm still getting used to toting a video camera around with me, so some of the interviews might be a little experimental in quality. I will do better next time around, and the time after that too, I promise  :-)

Which PR Agencies Are Doing A Good Job Using Social Media, Digital Communications?

I was asked this question by one of my readers in Russia. Is it the large PR agencies or the smaller boutique agencies that are best at using digital communications and social media?

My reply was that while some of the agencies have pockets of knowledge and experience within them, generally, none of them, large or small, are using digital communications and social media well, or even reasonably well.

Yet they will all tell you, and their clients, that they have an experienced practice in new/social media.

If a PR company is not using social media to effectively promote and market itself--then how can it do it for its clients? It can't.

Show me a PR agency that has bloggers amongst its top execs and also across levels within its organization. And is using podcasting and vidcasting to represent itself.

Show me a PR agency that does that, and you will have shown me a PR agency that "gets" social media and digital communications.

There is no "generational gap" in understanding these things, there is an "experiential gap."

The only way you can know how to use these digital communications effectively is by doing. It is not something that you can read about and then do it.

(PS: There are a couple of smaller agencies that get it but they are very rare.)

Wells Fargo Case Study: From Crisis Meeting To Conversation

From Wells Fargo:

Blogs are interactive online forums that allow us to communicate and share ideas with our readers. We're here to start a conversation with you.

Wells Fargo Blogs Join The Conversation

I have a conversation I'd like to invite Wells Fargo to, but they seem to be rather shy.

RantWatch Extremely Poor Service from Wells Fargo

I've been biting at Wells Fargo's ankles for a couple of days because they insist on sitting on my checks for up to ten days. Everyone and their grandmother knows they could clear and deposit a check into a customer account in a Silicon-Valley-micro-second.

My complaint has resonated with my readers, some have shared similar stories. But nothing from Wells Fargo.

I'll get over my annoyance with the bank but the search engines will continue to dredge up my complaint, plus comments, for a long long time.

I asked some friends in PR about this puzzling lack of comment from Wells Fargo: "They are probably having a crisis meeting and you'll get a response in about three weeks time."

I'm looking forward to it. BTW, I don't feel that I've been unfair or mean with Wells Fargo, I have a legitimate complaint. If anything, I'm doing Wells Fargo a favor, I'm helping it to figure out how to respond to these types of bad publicity situations.


Case Study Wells Fargo's Effective Brand Management . . . Not!


RantWatch Extremely Poor Service from Wells Fargo

The Metrics of Influence: BuzzLogic Tracks The MediaSphere

Brand management is a tricky thing. How do you know who is blogging or writing about your brands, and if the sentiment is positive or negative? There are millions of online "conversations" happening every day.

BuzzLogic, based in San Francisco has developed tools that allow corporations to track conversations across thousands of online sites, blogs, mainstream media and anywhere else online, in almost real-time.

And those tools can also determine how influential a site, a blogger, a writer is. And who they influence. After all, there is no sense in galvanizing a response team to an unfavorable post on a blog if its influence is zero.

The company recently completed its Series A funding, raising an impressive $9.6m after bootstrapping the venture for more than two years. "Its good to have a salary," smiles Rob Crumpler CEO. It is also good to have the validation that a VC investment brings.

BuzzLogic recently moved out of beta and in mid-April launched its BuzzLogic Enterprise service. More than 160 customers, many Fortune 500 companies, collaborated with BuzzLogic in the beta phase to refine the service.

"Companies are interested in knowing about themselves, how they are perceived and how their products are perceived," says Mr Crumpler. "And companies want to be able to spot potential problems before they grow into much larger issues."

There are many examples where a complaint online can mushroom into a major public relations disaster. Jeff Jarvis, a prominent New York blogger and his complaints about Dell is one such example.

The company's two key features are its algorithms and its visual display of the results which gives users an excellent view into the influence of a particular site on a specific topic.

Todd Parsons, the chief product officer explains: "Just because someone is influential within one sector doesn't mean that they are influential in other areas. Our algorithms can analyze influence and allow companies to focus on those sites that really matter. We can also track the rise and fall in influence of a particular site."

The algorithms cannot measure sentiment, but users can quickly tag online content according to positive or negative sentiments, which can be shared with colleagues.

Email alerts will warn of possible trouble in real-time. But each customer applies their own response. This can include contacting people and also getting involved in the online conversations.

BuzzLogic's technology also learns from its users, which should mean that the service continues to improve over time.

Foremski's Take: BuzzLogic's visual presentation of its data is excellent. The visual data is presented within a user interface that provides a view into who is participating in each conversation, over a specific period in time, alongside summaries of the content.

It is a service that could be used in many ways, not just for brand management. It could uncover new types of buzz bubbling up that could provide business opportunities for some companies. And it can also be used to test the effectiveness of a public relations campaign.

The role of search engines is one that is not yet part of BuzzLogic's measurement. Search engines can dredge up negative comments time and again, and can help sites gain influence despite other factors.

Services such as BuzzLogic's can give organizations an insight into how they are perceived without requiring focus groups. But most organizations don't yet know what to do with such data and what the appropriate response should be. But they will figure that out over time.

[Wells Fargo should take notice...]

- - -

Case studies:

Story continues...

Global English: Teaching English As A Service To Global Companies

The Web 2.0 Expo has dominated most of my week and I'm exhausted talking with "Web 2.0" companies. So Wednesday evening, it was a pleasure to have a much different conversation, with a company called Global English.  

Anastasia Marin from Connecting Point Communications had whetted my interest in this company. It teaches English to the employees of top multinational corporations such as IBM, Deloitte, Hewlett-Packard, using unique online techniques.

It is sold as an online service using the enterprise software model, and costs $400 per seat per year. Multinational corporations are using the service to improve the English language skills of their professional staff in places such as China and India, and 98 other countries.

The company is 8 years old, private, profitable, with revenues between $20m and $30m, and about 100 staff.

Labor Crunch

But isn't English already a common skill among people in tech and business sectors? Deepak Desai, CEO of Global English says that this is not always true.

"The competition for staff means that global corporations are having to look further afield. Outside of the major cities, fewer people speak English as a second language, or speak it well."

This is true even in India, where English is widely spoken. "I was surprised at how large our business in India has become," says Mr Desai, who grew up in Mumbai, India.

Global English uses a variety of learning techniques and technologies, some involve voice recognition to check on pronunciation. And it has a broad range of metrics to measure and check on progress. If you lag, you'll get nagging emails to do better, and your boss will see your report card.

But it's not just English that is taught. It also teaches the cultural context of the language.

"People need to know how to converse in different situations," says Mr Desai.

Lingua Franca 2.0

English is certainly the lingua franca of business and technology. And combined with the Internet--the other lingua franca of our times--it makes for a killer communications application.

I consider the English language, plus the Internet, as the key technology accelerating the globalization of our economies. But will English continue to dominate?

Global Mandarin

Mandarin is the language that many business professionals are learning. As China's economy grows ever larger, Mandarin is certain to challenge the dominance of the English language in global business transactions.

Mr Desai nods, and says that his children are learning Mandarin. But Global English won't be changing its name anytime soon. "It is important to focus," he says. Which is very true.

A New "Fair Use" Proposal: If you re-publish my content then publish my AdLink

News aggregators and bloggers that carry third party content should carry at least one advertising link associated with that content.

It would be the fair thing to do and a large aggregator such as Google News could help establish this practice. 

Google News publishes the headline  and the first paragraph of a news story on its site. Since news stories are written in an inverted pyramid format, the headline and first paragraph contain most of the value of a news story.

Therefore, it's only fair that if you take most of the value of a news story, then also publish one advertising link from the original site.

And if you are a blogger and blog the content or quote it, then the same would apply: publish one advertising link from the original site alongside the content.

- For example, if you'd like to republish part of this article, you might agree to publish one of my three advertising links alongside the content:


          -Silicon Valley Watcher-reporting on the culture of disruption.

          -Silicon Valley Minute-Startups pitch in less than a minute.

          -Intel Core2Duo is here!


It's your choice which one of the three to carry, and your choice to do it or not.

But over time, it's a practice that would be seen as a mark of respect to the original content creator.

And it would help the original content creators recoup some of the cost of producing it--and it would encourage good content.

Google News doesn't monetise the news content it harvests from other news sites. If it carried one advertising link along with every news story it features on Google News, it would be respectful of the original content producers. And it would be in a leadership position that would influence others to do the same.

Also, many of the news sites run Google AdSense advertising links, Google would be bringing more clicks into its realm and do it for a good cause.

Also for RSS syndicators too:

- If you syndicate my content then please syndicate my accompanying AdLinks--don't strip them out. It's only fair.

If you re-publish my content -- then publish my AdLink.

This should also be an option for a new type of Creative Commons license.

For example: 

- Feel free to make money by republishing this post or anything else on SVW.

- As long as you make sure you preserve my links in the copy.

- And give attribution to SVW through a live link.

- And publish one of my AdLinks alongside each piece of content.

It should become the new "Fair Use."

Maybe Technorati could be the first to adopt this New Fair Use--it has been a champion of the blogosphere for many years.

Or maybe Digg will do it.

Whoever does it first will gain a spot in history, and a permalink spot in Wikipedia.

As for Google, do no evil is fine, but do some good is better, imho.


Please see SVW

The virtuous trackback A proposal for paying for content

April 7 - 2006


We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

 April 4, 2006


Technorati tags: ,

Greetings from the Green City of Las Vegas

I've been in Las Vegas since Wednesday for the New Communications Forum speaking on two panels and a workshop. This is one of my favorite conferences, founded by Jennifer McClure and Elizabeth Albrycht.

I'm also a founding fellow of the Palo Alto thinktank the Society of New Communications Research, which is closely connected with the conference and provides most of the speakers for the event.

I'm backed up terribly on my emails but I'm meeting lots of excellent people and having lots of excellent conversations about the future of media and public relations, as we try to figure out some of the the new rules. I'll have more to write when I get back to San Francisco.


Thinktank formed to study the new communications channels and their impact on society
Think tank studies new communications channels and their impact

. . .

It has been about two years since my last visit to Las Vegas, and it has changed and grown a lot. I was thinking that Las Vegas might qualify as one of the greenest cities in the US because of the Hoover Dam nearby, which provides all of its power and water.

However, the green part of the equation must be balanced against the huge number of visitors arriving by burning massive amounts of carbon from airplanes and cars. Plus if Las Vegas were more conservative in its use of electric power and water, there would be more for other communities, and less carbon powered electricity would be needed overall.



Silicon Valley has become Media Valley - someone should tell NYC

 Silicon Valley is rapidly turning into Media Valley--and New York, NY should look out--the capital of the media world is shifting about 3,000 miles westwards.

Some of Silicon Valley's largest companies are media companies: Google, Yahoo, EBay, for example are media companies--they publish pages of content and advertising around it.

Some of the most interesting and most valuable new Silicon Valley companies, such as Youtube, Facebook are based here in Northern California. So is Craigslist, the seventh largest online media company in the English language world (in terms of traffic).

Take a look at Business 2.0's 25 startups to watch and look at how many of these mostly "social" media and advertising companies and are based in the Bay Area:18. Only two are based in New York.

Masters of the Universe

But if you work in Manhattan you feel at the center of the media universe. Midtown and the Avenue of the Americas is where the capital of the media industry has sat for many decades.

Whenever I am in New York, it feels as if I am in the coolest, the most media saviest place in the world. Just as in the famous New Yorker magazine cover, in which New York is depicted large and the Rest of the World is shown as distant, small, and uninteresting, that's the way it feels to me when I'm there.

As a media professional, New York has always been a mecca, where I love to be. It was one of the perks and attractions of working at the Financial Times that our US HQ was smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, in the ITT building, and I loved those opportunities of working in New York.

Which leads me to my point, New York's media industry doesn't see the shift that is going on because it feels as if it is master of its universe. It has noticed that its business models are under tremendous pressure but it hasn't noticed the shift westwards, the competition in Silicon Valley and in Santa Monica.

Google, Yahoo, Ebay, etc, are keen to portray themselves as technology companies rather than media companies--it is much more conductive to establishing partnerships and ad network deals in which they benefit far more than their old school media partners. If they were seen as more media company than technology company, I'm sure things would be different.

The New York Times, for example, would not give over its online front page to Google AdSense, which means Google owns the advertisor relationship ("if you would like to advertise on this site click here").

If Google were seen more as a media company the partnership advertising deals would be a lot different.

Our media industry is growing

Which is why our media industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Last time I looked New York's media industry was contracting, facing lower revenues, layoffs and a confused future. But still building skyscrapers(!)   New York Architecture Images- Times Tower.

Let me help out the New York media industry...

Five basic rules for media company success:

-Tomorrow's media industry is all about being technology-enabled and community-powered.

-Get your content as near-to-free as you can with machine harvesters such as spiders and searchbots.

-Use algorithms and community-power (also nearly free) to organize the content.

-Publish it widely and in many forms (video, podcasts, etc) through the amazing scale that the global internet provides and that our media technologies (RSS, media platforms, TCP/IP, etc) provide.

-And remember Foremski's First Law of New Media: Content is infinitely scalable.

The GOOG threat to traditional PR

I ran into Andy Lark, earlier this week. Andy used to be corporate comms chief at Sun Microsystems. He now spends most of his time as Chief Marketing Officer at LogLogic, a fast growing enterprise software company.

LogLogic, like many other startups, uses a PR agency to help get its message out to potential customers. Andy told me that he recently noticed that he was starting to spend more money on buying Google adwords than on PR. And when push comes to shove, I know where most cmpanies will put their money. You can pin a ROI on GOOG adwords that you can't with PR

This is a very significant crossover point. It represents one of the many threats to traditional PR. And there are many PR agencies that only understand the old approach, no matter what they say about new/social media.

There is a disconnect in the PR world that is going to hit that industry hard.


Additional info:

Andy Lark's Blog.


Andy Lark agrees...blogging is disrupting PR

Press releases are not blogs - social media discussion

By Tom Foremski

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the "social media press release" following a panel I was on at the Third Thursday event last Thursday. Stowe Boyd later raised some good points about the PR industry and its use of the word "social" and "audiences" in the context of blogging.

The problem lies in the terminology that the PR industry is using. It wants to use the blogging platform to distribute press releases but these are not blog posts. And the way the PR industry uses "social" is far different from what has been the accepted understanding.

Many people have gotten hung up on the terms being used and that is understandable. And that is why I prefer more neutral terms that won't snag people's cultural sensitivity, that's the point of communicating clearly. However, we aren't going to get rid of the term "social" in the PR context and the discussions are good because they promote and educate others on what is being talked about.

When it comes to companies communicating with their customers, partners, communities, their staff, a blogging platform is a perfect vehicle for press releases because Movable Type or Wordpress has all the tools and features built in for discoverability by search engines, and by others. It has links, tags, keywords, it has trackback and talkback, it can accumulate information over time, it is a type of free-floating document on the internet.

These days, we don't publish to a web site or sites, we publish to the internet. We publish conversational documents.

And the reason documents published through blogging platforms work well is that Google loves blogs. The googlebot loves fresh content that has lots of links, especially from blogs because they are useful sources of great information. Which is another benefit companies get from using a blogging platform for press releases, the content gets into the Google index really fast.

What happens when the googlebot starts picking up corporate press releases launched from blogging platforms and finds out that this is not regular blog content? It won't take much to filter it out.

That's why publishing regular corporate press releases through a blogging platform won't work for long. The content has to change, it has to show that it can initiate and carry a conversation. It has to become a good member of the online society. Otherwise it becomes the dull person seen in the corners of parties, unable to engage with anyone. That's where "social" has meaning.

- - -

Here is Mike Manuel's report on the discussion :

Third Thursday Raises Stink

A new year of Third Thursday meetups kicked off earlier this week, the topic was the social media press release. A quick thanks to our guest speakers: Shel Holtz, Brian Solis, Tom Foremski, and Joel Tesch. Also, special thanks to Chris Heuer for leading the discussion. It was a good introductory chat. The entire thing was recorded as part of the ongoing NMRCast series, you can grab the feed over here.

Of course, if you haven't seen this already, Stowe Boyd thinks our talk just proves (to him) that PR folks still have a lot to learn about social media, and he says so in a kick-to-the-nuts sort of way.

He makes some valid points, the kind those of us stuck inside the PR echo chamber need to hear from time-to-time. I'll give him that, but I also think Stowe makes some bullshit assumptions about the PR industry and the changes many of us are already working to incite. For example, why he misses (or dismisses) efforts to form a standard PR microformat for press releases (i.e., hrelease) in his diatribe about the social media press release is, well, strange to say the least....

Read Chris Heuer's retort for balance. Brian's too.

Update: Stowe responds point-for-point to the link hords. A must-read for anyone. Technorati Tags: ,

Some additional links:

The Long Tail: Long Tail PR: how to do publicity without a press release (or the press)

New Comm Forum conference and discount for SVW readers

new comm forum conference in Las Vegas I've been speaking at New Comm Forum since the first one in January 2005 and it is my favorite conference because of the people it attracts and the topics.

New Comm Forum is about trying to figure out the new rules of communications in media and PR brought about by the use of two-way media technologies that we have at our disposal, such as blogs, wikis, social media releases, etc.

This year it is in Las Vegas from March 7 to 9 and SVW readers can get a $200 discount by using the promo code 612SHN.

More information is here:

Wednesday: Talking about SVW on two panels

Wednesday morning I spoke on a panel alongside some of the top journalists covering Silicon Valley:  David Kirkpatrick from Fortune, Jay Bonasia from Investor's Business Daily, and Rachel Konrad from Associated Press.  (More details here)

Then in the evening, I did it again, I was on a panel with Om Malik from GigaOm, and Matt Marshall from VentureBeat. What was interesting was that in the morning I addressed an audience of public relations professionals, and in the evening I spoke to an audience of media professionals--both audiences are trying to understand what blogging is about and how it impacts their work.

I knew many of the people at the evening event, which is a newly formed "tech writers" group organized by Dean Takahashi and Elise Ackerman, reporters at the San Jose Mercury.

The group consists of about 50 of the top reporters covering Silicon Valley. Dean and Elise have done an excellent job in bringing reporters together--it is extremely rare that we can chat with each other without PR people or others in the mix.

We met in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. Matt spoke first, then Om, and then it was my turn to talk about the trials and tribulations of becoming a blogger journalist. The content of the evening is all off the record. However, I can write about some of the things that I talked about.

I spoke about how much I liked my job, and some of the many unexpected discoveries and insights that have occurred since I left the Financial Times in May 2004. I also said I didn't particularly like the work of trying to build a business and all that entails.

The operational aspects of running a business are time consuming. I'd much prefer just going out, talking to people, coming back, and writing. That is the simple life that every journalist wants. However, an independent blogger journalist has to do 15 other jobs/tasks too.

So it was great to hear Matt and Om talk about this aspect of their work and to hear about their pain. I just hope that we managed to discourage the assembled hacks from rushing out and doing the same as us, we don't need more competition :-)

The mumbo jumbo of social media

By Tom Foremski

Tuesday evening I was in CNET's HQ in downtown San Francisco for my first Social Media Club experience. Social Media Club is a creation of my friends Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, and it consists of bringing together small groups of people to discuss subjects and to share in idea creation.

The format is "world cafe" which means people discuss and debate in groups of four or five. After 20 minutes or so, everyone changes groups, and continues the discussion. Then everyone changes groups one final time. Towards the end, the entire room is invited to share their experiences and ideas.

It was time spent in the way I love to spend time: talking about media with some very interesting people. The topic that evening was social media and what could be the most powerful thing social media could achieve this year, and our role in it.

Within my groups that evening, a common theme was trying to understand what is meant by "social media." It is a term that is used a lot these days, especially within the world of public relations agencies, who create "social media news releases" (BTW, I have never received a social media news release), and some agencies have "social media practices."

The term social media seems to have become a catchall for the world of blogs, online forums, search-discovered content, trackbacks and talkbacks. I'm not a big fan of the term but it is becoming more common.

I think a better term would be "conversational media" because it is more descriptive and more neutral than "social" which invokes many other meanings. But I can live with the term, especially since there is some sort of common understanding starting to slowly emerge.

Tuesday night we all struggled in defining social media, then we struggled to figure out what could be the most powerful things it could achieve.

There were many common thoughts expressed that evening and many uncommon insights. One common theme that emerged was that social media needs to become a lot more inclusive and relevant to a lot more people.

For example, blogging is the largest component of social media, yet only a tiny percentage of people read them, and even fewer numbers write blogs. We often forget, that for the vast majority of people, all of our chatter about blogging, social media, etc, is just so much mumbo jumbo.

Tuesday evening was full of mumbo jumbo. Our challenge is to translate it into a common language and make it relevant and useful to the majority of people. Because it is a powerful thing and one that can change society for the better, imho.

Doubleclick survey finds online ads are very effective

Doubleclick, the online ad network, just announced survey results that prove online ads influence people to buy stuff.

The company clearly hopes that its report will influence online ad buying. But influence is best expressed when it comes from third-parties that do not have a self-interest, which is not the case here. 

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey results revealed that influencers consider online advertising a key factor of their shopping process, second only to websites, as a source of further learning about purchase decisions. Nineteen percent of influencers cited web advertising as a source of information when they were researching a purchase, compared to 8 percent among the remainder of the sample.

Both segments cited websites as their top source of research when they are shopping, but influencers clearly rely more on the web than non-influencers, with 40 percent of influencers citing websites for this purpose versus 31 percent of non-influencers.

This part is curious: "influencers consider online advertising a key factor of their shopping process, second only to websites."

Aren't most online ads found on websites? Isn't context important in advertising? Will we get free floating online ads with no website needed?!

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey:

Edelman creates tool to create social media news releases

I caused quite a stir earlier this year with my Die! Press Release Die! Die! Die! post. It came about from my frustration with the usefulness of the conventional press release. I offered some characteristics of what a new media press release might have, such as more links, labels/tags to quickly find information, and have links to related news stories, etc.

Many in the PR community have been working to create a more useful press release, which is wonderful. I applaud all efforts to make my job easier.

Edelman [an SVW sponsor] just released a tool/template it calls StoryCrafter that helps produce what has come to be known as a "social media news release." Shift PR has produced one too, and so has PRX Builder.

I'm not a big fan of the term "social media" I think "new media" would have been sufficient--and a more neutral term. But as long as everyone agrees on one meaning that is fine.

PR companies are extremely competitive and so the vying over whose social media release tool/template is better than the rest is only just beginning. Will there be one standard for social media releases? Maybe, but not yet. Let's try out these and other formats. I'm sure that a set of best practices will develop and everyone will benefit.

What interests me is if the PRnewswire and Businesswire services will carry social media releases. My understanding is that they charge extra for every link carried in a news release. Since links reduce the need for long press releases, their business model is threatened.

It is clear that the newswires are facing more than one challenge to their business model and are becoming increasingly irrelevant as news distribution platforms.  The Internet is so much better at distributing information, it is vastly cheaper, and has far greater reach.

PRNewswire and Businesswire charge a lot of money,  money that could be better used in communicating company news through formats such as the social media news release, and technologies such as RSS.

All that is needed is a ruling by the SEC that a company's RSS enabled newsroom and its web sites, satisfy requirements for broad and immediate dissemination of material information. I don't think that we are far from such a ruling, IMHO.


Dan Farber's Experimental Blogger Army...

By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

ZDNet Unveils the Next-Generation of Business Tech Publishing, Weaving Voice of Bloggers Around News, Product Reviews, Vendor and User Content

In 2003, led by ZDNet veterans Dan Farber and David Berlind, the site launched blogs and later in 2005 original podcasts, adding context and perspective to the day's news in a way that only experts and well-connected insiders could offer. Farber and Berlind quickly amassed a network of more than 30 bloggers that today includes some of the most authoritative and well-respected voices in the IT community.

I'm proud to be part of Dan Farber's blogger corp over on CNET's ZDNet IT news site where I publish IMHO (in my humble opinion). The ZDNet blogs have grown from strength to strength, largely because of Dan's leadership.

It is great to work on Dan's team because he exhibits a tireless pursuit of news. I don't think I've ever seen him without cameras and laptops attached.  I wouldn't be surprised to one day see him with a SNL Al Franken satellite upload dish on his head because that is how tenacious he is as a journalist to file a news story first.

Dan is everywhere, at many of the events that I go to. And I tend to avoid the obvious daytime news events because there are dozens of other journalists covering them. I go to the evening roundtables, the salons, because the journalists with day jobs are home with their families. That's when I get a chance to come home with exclusive content--except that Dan is often there too.

The ZDNet blog section has just had a new coat of paint, it has been relaunched with a new design-- everyone had to submit new photos of themselves. It is an experiment in media publishing that is well worth watching.

I've no idea if the venture is profitable. I and my fellow ZDNet bloggers are paid based on pageview numbers. The more pageviews the more money.

How much money? Well, I have never cleared the $500 per month base rate and I think that many of my colleagues there are in a similar pay bracket. The Apple guy has been the top performer, $4k per month and sometimes much more. It's pocket money for most  since nearly all of the ZDNet bloggers (except me)  have days jobs in well paid professional sectors (i.e not journalism!).

The money-for-traffic payments are becoming common at other publishers. Business 2.0 for example, has such a system for its recently launched staff blogger section. 

In theory, such a system of reward for content performance could encourage sensationalist headlines and posts. Or encourage  posts that goad the Apple community, which reliably responds in large numbers and with a lot of passion. (This is John Dvorak's favorite way to boost traffic on a slow day :-) But so far, that hasn't happened to any obvious degree over on ZDNet.

Although the financial performance of the ZDNet blogger group is not known, I will bet it is far more profitable than ZDNet's dwindling group of salaried journalists. And Dan's blogger elite is far faster in covering breaking news than the salaried journalists.

Look at the coverage on ZDNet on Yahoo's reorganization. The news was released late in the day, about 6pm Pacific Time, which is just about heading home time for the salaried journalists. But the ZDNet bloggers kicked up a storm of coverage, well into the night and early morning.

I like being part of ZDNet's blogging experiment and I think it is well on its way to becoming a Wikipedia section on how old media ccompanies can create a viable new media group.

My two cents on the project is that I could do with some basic support on the production side of things, such as a copy editor to look over my shoulder and correct those things that we become blind to because we have to edit ourselves.

And a production assistant would be great too. Putting in those links, adding images, pointing to other relevant and worthy content is something that adds value and richness to a post but is often difficult to do as a standalone journalist, when it is late at night and the analog world of sleep beckons.

Also, we know from the hundreds of years of producing news: great journalism is created by teams and not by individuals. Just as everything else in the world that is consistently good,  is the product of teams... IMHO.

The acceleration in the disruption of media

I'm often invited to talk to groups of people about what's going on in the media sector, and I often start with a simple observation: At no other point in our lives will we be witness to such a massively disruptive/destructive time in the media industry.

That's exciting to me because the transition in the underlying business models in media are happening much faster than in software, hardware or anything that Moore's Law has been able to unleash. The disruption means there are many opportunities to create new types of very viable media businesses while the old guard figures things out in committees.

The dark side of all of this, however, is not very appealing and it is something I've been writing about for nearly two years. To put it simply, what happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk? By which I mean what happens to us if we lose the "Fourth Estate" - that fourth vital "component" of our society?

I look at media--in all of its forms--as the way society thinks things through ...

Story continues...

SVW Vidcast: Chris Pirillo at Peet's - also Robert Scoble and Chris Heuer

Chris Heuer introduced me to Chris Pirillo, who was in town for his pre-wedding party thrown by Robert Scoble. We went to Peet's on Market Street and spoke about his new project to create a publishing platform. Robert Scoble and Chris Heuer join in. 


You might be thinking why another publishing platform? Well, I agree with Chris, we don't yet have a publishing platform that has been designed by publishers and Chris has been publishing online for many years.

"None of the publishing platforms, and that includes Wordpress and Drupal have all the features that I want as a publisher, there is a lot missing. Also, I need a better way to monetise my content and so what we are developing is in essence the type of tool that I need. It will all be open source so anyone can use it. We'll make money on the services side for businesses," said Chris Pirillo.


Link to Chris Pirillo

Foremski's First Law of New Media

My good buddy Tom Abate at the San Francisco Chronicle keeps reminding me that I should share my "Foremski's Law." It is something I've been talking about with small numbers of select individuals over the past 18 months or so....

Here is is.  Foremski's Law: Content is infinitely scalable.

I"ll explain, some time soon, or if you ask me in person. This points to the keys to the kingdom, if you dig, and I know that you do... :-)

Bursting the myth of contextual ads! BlueLithium shares proprietary data...

The conventional wisdom, as proposed by Google et al, is that placing advertising on a web page in its context gets the best results. Mortgage ads on mortgage pages, etc. In fact, Google recommends to its AdSense partners that Google ads should blend into the page, same colors etc.

BlueLithium, the online ad network, says that this isn't true when it comes to serving ads based on users' behavior. Its BL Labs research division found that out-of-context ads perform better: (BlueLithiumClick here for BlueLithium press release)

BL Labs analyzed over 400 million impressions across numerous sites, evaluating click-through rates (CTR) and conversion, or action-through rates (ATR), across several pre-determined behavioral and contextual categories. It also analyzed nine behavioral categories containing over 10 million impressions for patterns across various contextual categories. Analysts discovered that ads shown in the same context as behavior had a higher CTR in seven of the nine categories while ads shown in a different context had a higher ATR in five of the categories.

The "shoppers" category showed the highest CTR from ads on career sites and the highest ATR on female-oriented sites. "Travelers" had the highest CTR on food sites and highest ATR on career sites.

These types of findings will help to support online publishers because online advertising will be more effective and better able to support a greater diversity of content. Otherwise the subject matter of content will be designed for the ads, which you can see this happening already.

Two years ago I became a journalist blogger . . . and discovered a terrible thing

It was about two years ago that I started "blogging." I had left the Financial Times in early June and took the summer off, I spent most of it chatting to people about my plans.

It was a good exercise, to try to explain to others what I was doing. I wasn't sure myself.

It took me most of the summer to boil down a 30 minute explanation to one sentence: I am publishing an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.

Two years ago I knew in my gut that we were at a crucial point in a rapidly changing media sector; and that taking this risk (two kids and an ex-wife to support) would be worthwhile.

I knew that business would not be getting better for my employer because: technology advertising wasn't coming back due to the dotbomb fallout; M&A taking away large advertisers; and financial services advertising wasn't coming back either because the IPO market was a bust.

In addition, advertising was rapidly moving online...

I didn't realize at the time that I would become the first mainstream journalist to leave to become a professional "journalist blogger."

Other journalist that also blogged, Dan Gillmor, Om Malik had day jobs. It would be another seven months before Dan Gillmor left the San Jose Mercury, and two years before Om Malik left Business 2.0 to become fulltime journalist bloggers.

I also didn't realize the effect this would have on my surroundings. One of my contacts at a large Silicon Valley company told me, "Suddenly, we realized that because you had left the Financial Times to become a blogger, we needed to take blogging seriously." It was a comment I heard at other companies too.

But when I left the Financial Times I had never blogged. And I'm ready to admit, I didn't even read blogs.

However, I knew that the blogging platform was incredibly robust and that I could produce a column of Tom Foremski for a lot less than it cost the Financial Times. And that my journalism wouldn't be shut away behind a subscription barrier.

My posts, if they were good enough, would be distributed by my readers and shared among their peers. This is a far better model than trying to limit distribution of content to paid subscribers.

True, I didn't have a business model at the time, but I knew a business model for online publishers would be inevitable.

I also knew that the costs for a newspaper business are much higher than online business models can support. That means that "you can't get there from here" a wonderful American expression that sums up the huge challenge media businesses have in downsizing/rightsizing for online revenue models.

My costs are very modest compared with any traditional newspaper business, with its large legacy infrastructure, pensions, its legions of editors, layers of administrators, office buildings, distribution systems, printing presses, janitors...

The change in media business models has been created by the simple fact that it is more effective to sell products/services next to a search box than next to journalism.

The reason online companies such as Google, Yahoo, or Craigslist can provide advertising at such low costs is that they don't have to pay for the journalism.

Over the past two years I've taken up this point time and again because it is very important that our society find an alternate way to pay for journalism.

But how will we pay for professional journalism if the bulk of advertising moves to search marketing?

If we don't have high quality trusted media sources we will face a future filled with a confusion of  many mini-media sources of dubious quality and trust. In such an environment misinformation will be common and will be commonly encouraged by third parties serving their needs.

Software engineers have a term for this: garbage in, garbage out. We need high quality trusted media sources so that we can make important decisions.

And we have some very important decisions to make, about global warming, energy sources, bird flu, politics, war.  Yet the financial structure to support our professional media is being taken away by low cost online services.

I've been trying to raise the alarm on this issue since I started being a "journalist blogger."  I do know that we will solve this issue, that we will figure out a business model for professional  media, but we don't have it yet.

In the meantime, our society will face a troublesome period of muddled information that will likely lead to bad decisions.
. . .

I will write more about my adventures in the blogosphere in the two years since I left the Financial Times. I had no idea that something as simple as blogging could be so interesting and lead me to so many insights and discoveries... :-)

Techmeme tries out new sponsorship model

Gabe Rivera's Techmeme is experimenting with an interesting approach to sponsorship by selling space on its front page to three other companies.

How it works:  A sponsor's blog occupies a permanent place in the "Techmeme Sponsor Post" area of the site for the duration of the sponsorship. The technology is simple: a sponsor's blog feed is polled every few minutes, the latest post of which appears in its assigned slot (first, second, or third) along with a logo image that links to the sponsor's site. See also this post for more on this sponsorship model.

Link to Sponsor Techmeme

I see a few wrinkles in this approach:

-There is no editorial control over what the posts say.

-The sponsors' blogs will be skewed towards the Techmeme audience and thus they will not be representative of their daily output. This could put off regular readers of those blogs.

-Readers of Techmeme come to see what the in-crowd (the select group of blogs that Techmeme polls) is talking about.  They have little interest in single blog posts from sponsors who are talking to their communities.

-The sponsors are trying to sell products and services. Blog posts generally are not selling products and services.

-Blog posts in the "sponsor" area are taken out of their context, and placed on a page that puts them out of context with surrounding content.

I would tweak this model a bit.

I would offer up the three positions as  window onto the Techmeme community and let the sponsors put whatever marketing message they want (with editorial yank control from Techmeme if it should be needed).

Techmeme could poll every few minutes to see if the marketing message has changed at all.

We badly need a way to verify sources of online content - we need a "trust trackback"

LonelyGirl15 was found out to be a fake video blogger--scripted by a Hollywood production team--many millions had watched it, and many thousands tried to find out who was behind it.

What happens in a future world where phishing is applied to news sources rather than spoofing banking sites? And where there aren't enough watchdogs to spot the fakes?

A little while ago, Google News was carrying a hacked headline that was anti-US and anti-Israel. That was easy to spot; but what if Google News, or some other large news aggregator, were carrying a Reuters story that might have been more subtlety altered?

Google News, does not use humans to spot problems, it compiles the news stories using algorithms. But can those algorithms spot fakes? Clearly not in this case.

In the future, or even now, how can we know if a Microsoft press release really came from Microsoft? And the same goes for nearly every other piece of information we find on the internet. Tampered news stories might not be noticed for days or weeks.

Validating trusted sources of information is going to be very important. And part of that trust will be provided by going to web sites of long established media brands such as the New York Times, and through anti-phishing technologies such as OpenDNS, to make sure your browser is reading a valid site.

This ability to know that a news source --an individual, a company, an organisation, a community, or a government-- really said what it is said to have said in a news story, an online post, email, or any other distribution channel, is incredibly important. Otherwise there will be others who will sow misinformation in very sophisticated ways, for commercial gain.

There will be many opportunities for such misinformation in the online world. With so many sources of information, and more coming our way, there won't be enough online sleuths to flag the fakesters as there were with LonelyGirl15.

This means we need to have a way to verify the source of specific chunks of content as originating from an individual, a company, an organisation, a community, a government.

A reader should be able to click a "trust" button and have the content verified.

For example, in reading a news story: it consists of content from the journalist/news organization; there is content from the company (the ceo said..., our customers said..., the analyst said....,); and there is information from other sources, (the company stock price..., related announcements from other companies..., related stories..., etc). An online reader has to have the means of validating each of those sources of information.

This issue of sourcing also applies to the new media release project I've been working on with corporations and PR agencies. The new media release project is focused on ways of releasing company information onto the internet in many forms, such as vidcasts, podcasts, text press releases, etc.

Those companies/organisations have a duty to release their information in such a way that its origin can be verified, and that others cannot change the content surreptitiously.

For this next phase of the Internet, we badly need a mechanism to verify the source of information that we read online.

This is about creating a type of "trust trackback" that is part of the secure core infrastructure of the internet. Who is up to this task?

- - -

Coming up:

A report on my Sunday meeting with a delegation of Spanish technologists from the remote region of Asturias in northern Spain. This is a fascinating group of researchers, academics and business representatives, that are thinking in terms of community rather than technology. They are in town visiting with Silicon Valley's leading companies and research organisations.

Don't mention LonelyGirl15 . . .

My son Matt is exhausted from telling the story of LonelyGirl15 to the media so many times.

He did well, I'm not sure I could have handled that kind of attention at 18 years old. Right now, he doesn't want to to talk to anybody about anything LG15 related. He just wants to go away somewhere and be anonymous.

Matt bore the brunt of these interviews, nearly three days of talking about the LG15 media story. I always find it strange to be interviewed by the media while being in the media.

But I love talking about the media, to the media, while being a part of the media--and writing about the media. It is an Alice-in-Wonderland-inside-out feeling at times, but one that is part of this changing media landscape.

This front page New York Times article on Tuesday sparked enormous worldwide interest:


Here is some related coverage in other publications:

 Lonelygirl: a Rose by any other name
Sydney Morning Herald - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia
Her true identity was flushed out by Matt Foremski, the son of Tom, a former Financial Times journalist who now writes a blog called Silicon Valley Watcher. ...


Now, the Sequel to Lonelygirl15
... than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us.'" - The SiliconValleyWatcher, Sept. 12. ...

LonelyGirl Revealed
Red Herring - CA,USA
... The father-and-son team behind SiliconValleyWatcher, Matt and Tom Foremski, revealed Tuesday that they’d tracked down Ms. Rose’s identity. ...

The LG15 back story . . .

Wednesday was a whirlwind. I hadn't realized how much interest there would be in our part in the LonelyGirl15 (LG15) story.

My 18 year old son Matt Foremski became a prime focus for this part of the story: the unmasking of "Bree" a teenage actress from New Zealand called Jessica Rose--by another teenager.

It was a hectic day dealing with interviews from TV, radio, news organizations. Matt was mortified by the attention, the last thing he wanted was to become part of the story, he wanted to be "faceless."

When Silicon Valley Watcher broke the story of the identity of LG15, it made its way up the media chain, showing how such things propagate. And it showed which news sources are the most influential.

The first parts of the story were published in online sites, then came the major newspapers: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times with their coverage. Their stories then helped spark the interest of TV and radio news crews.

The LG15 story is not an important story in itself, but it is an important news story. This is not a contradiction, it is a description of its place in our culture.

The LG15 story shows how the media functions, how they influence each other. It shows how the media networks: blogger, citizen, mainstream, and anything in-between -- push/pull news stories up into the broader mediasphere.

To get into the broader mediasphere, it seems news stories often have to make it into flagship publications of journalist rigor, such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, the Wall Street Journal,  and The Times (London.)

Media hunger for LonelyGirl15

Today's New York Times article on LonelyGirl15 mentioned my son Matt Foremski and SVW. It's a very good article by Virginia Heffernan and Tom Zeller that takes the story much further. It identifies LG15 as Jessica Rose,  a graduate of the New York Film Academy.

Please take a look, lots of fresh information.

Link to The Lonelygirl That Really Wasn’t - New York Times

The article has ignited interest from all the major TV stations and from international press. Matt is very embarrassed by all the attention, he would rather be faceless but I told him it will all be over by tomorrow, the attention span of the national media is mercifully short :-)

How the secret identity of LonelyGirl15 was found

When we broke the news of the identity of LonelyGirl15 late Monday evening, we knew it would be a big story.

I purposely did not send alert emails to my colleagues in the mainstream media or the blogosphere, because I wanted to see its natural progression through the entire mediasphere.

When I woke Tuesday morning, I checked Technorati and Google, and it seemed that very few people had spotted and linked to our story: SVW Exclusive- The identity of LonelyGirl15.

But by mid-day several large newspapers had picked up our story and were adding to it, a great demonstration of how such things work. I spoke with Steve Johnson from the Chicago Tribune, Virginia Heffernan from the New York Times. Mark Glaser from PBS' MediaShift also contacted me, and I spoke with Tom Abate at the San Francisco Chronicle.

My 18-year old son Matthew Foremski had done the online sleuthing. I'm very proud of his diligence and his nose for a great story. He had been working on the investigation all weekend, following up on various leads and sifting through online discussions, looking for clues.

He was fascinated by the fact that millions of people had watched LonelyGirl15 videos yet none of her friends, family, school friends had come forward to reveal her identity.

There were lots of other people also trying to uncover her identity. Matt's break came when he was following up on a posting about a discontinued MySpace page that might be linked to LonelyGirl15. By searching through online caches of web pages, and Google's index of images, he was able to pull together the identity of LonelyGirl15.

Monday evening he called me with the information. I was at my first US football game, the Oakland Raiders game in Oakland. [I was enjoying it immensely, a truly pure American experience, I loved it.]

I was excited that we had the story; but I wanted to make sure we had everything we needed before posting. I couldn't get back to my computer for a couple of hours, which was frustrating; but I didn't want to publish the story until I had checked Matt's links and images.

Everything looked good and we published the story. What was interesting was the scuffle the next day over who wanted to claim the scoop.

Story continues...

The Hunt for LonelyGirl15: Life in a blogger household . . .

"Hey Dad, it looks like LonelyGirl15 is a fake," said Matthew, as I'm still bleary eyed from just having woken up. It is 9.30am on a Friday and I'm at the computer moderating comments and checking links for Silicon Valley Watcher, so I'm only half hearing what he has to say.

Matthew is 18; and he just spent the entire summer hanging out with me, the poor guy. My summer held no romps in the woods or lazy days on the beach; it was all about reporting and publishing.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree; and Matt spent the summer involved in his own media enterprises: buying and selling domain names, setting up forums to build online communities, and spotting arbitrage opportunities in online advertising networks.

"Who is LonelyGirl15?" I asked. Matt told me she is a 16 year-old vidblogger on YouTube called Bree who talks about her home-schooled life, her parents, her friends, her boy interests, etc. He told me to log onto YouTube and take a look.

I took a look; and Bree is picture-perfect in her looks, in a picture-perfect bedroom, from where her vid posts are cast.

I was so into my little corner of the world this summer that I hadn't realized what a huge following she had built up. She became the top vidstar of the summer, attracting a diverse following, and growing media attention, with articles in The New York Times, LA Times, and The Times (London).

I took a look at some of Bree's videos; and to my eye, I saw a highly professionally executed product. But then again, Matt had already told me it was a fake, so I cannot claim any special talent in spotting fakes.

Many others didn't have my hindsight and had gotten sucked into Bree's dramas, and story line, and believed it was a real person. That has to hurt, to be suckered in so publicly.

I saw a lot of anger and resentment in comments and vidblogs when it became clear that there was a group of people, professional Hollywood types no less, who had helped to create the fiction of LonelyGirl15.

The jig was up when some online sleuths had tracked the IP address of one of Bree's emails to Hollywood's huge Creative Arts Agency. The producers of LonelyGirl15 quickly took down her web site and discussion forum, leaving a post that called it a "new art form" but did not name any names.

Here is an excerpt:

Story continues...

SVW Exclusive: The identity of LonelyGirl15

By Matt Foremski and Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

One of the most interesting questions in the online world is who is LonelyGirl15? We think we know who she is.

Late last week it was revealed that LonelyGirl15, aka "Bree" was not a real 16 year old videoblogger, and her appearances on YouTube were scripted and produced by a professional team.

The creators of LonelyGirl15 published a letter "To Our Incredible Fans." In it they say:

We are amazed by the overwhelmingly positive response to our videos; it has exceeded our wildest expectations. With your help we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form.

It goes on to say:

Right now, the biggest mystery of Lonelygirl15 is “who is she?” We think this is an oversimplification. Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone. She is no more real or fictitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us.

While we know she is a fake, who the actress is has stayed a secret.

However, after some online searching and thanks to Google's cache of online sites, Silicon Valley Watcher believes it has found the identity of the actress that played "Bree."

Story continues...

Nomadig or Bedouin? Life in the cloud . . .

My good buddy Om Malik has launched a new blog called WebWorkerDaily to chronicle the virtual nature of work and its always-on effect:

Connectivity is only part of the equation, for the virtual nature of work brings up lifestyle issues. It brings up questions about how to work, and when not to work.

Link to Introducing WebWorkerDaily.

Om cites a post called "Going Bedouin" by Greg Olsen in February 2006.

By focusing almost exclusively on service-based infrastructure options, a business could operate as a sort of neo-Bedouin clan - with workers as a roaming nomadic tribe carrying laptops & cell phones and able to set up shop wherever there is an Internet connection, chairs, tables, and sources of caffeine. "Going Bedouin" is an interesting concept . . .

This is an interesting concept and something I explored in an essay in October of 2005. I chose the word "nomadig" to describe the lifestyle made possible by our mobile technologies:

We seem to be going back to our roots and becoming nomadic peoples again--or rather "nomadig" people: living in digitally-enabled groups but not necessarily *technology* focused ...

And this time around, we are no longer tied to a particular geography, and nor is our thinking. Much of the culture of innovation is no longer tied to Silicon Valley, there are centers of innovation all over the planet.

We are mobile and seemingly in constant motion, travelling thousands of miles in a day, in a week, in a month, yet we remain rooted within our online worlds as if we hadn't budged an inch. Our physical address changes more often than our online address.

And our digital technology is disappearing into our surroundings, becoming embedded and almost invisible; as the word "digital" is embedded and almost invisible in the word "nomadig."

The essay is here.

Nomadig is the basis for SVW's future arts and culture magazine that we spoke about late last year, and mentioned in early August.

It was to be called diggrz but that name will probably be changed to avoid association with Digg - the news aggregator. I wanted to make the connection with the Diggers, the 17th century English revolutionary group that advocated a defense of the commons, and despised wealth and privilege; sentiments often expressed in today's software engineer culture.

Using off-shore companies to launder Internet data?

By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

In thinking about Google handing over identifiable information about users of its Orkut service to Brazilian authorities, and disclosures by Yahoo in China, couldn't such things be avoided fairly easily?

For example, Enron set up huge numbers of off-shore companies to hide its debt and obscure its financial reports. Why couldn't such a method be used by Google, for example, to hide and obscure its data collections? 

Those offshore companies could be made responsible for administration of parts of its services. They could pass back data to GOOG but that data would be only data that was needed for specific tasks.

If there were hundreds of such off-shore companies, maybe independent, handling various aspects of GOOG's services around the world, it would be very difficult for anyone to access, or force access, to personal data on many millions of users.

Contractual agreements between GOOG and the off-shore companies could further prohibit disclosure of personal information to GOOG and others.

Authorities in any country would be hard pressed to chase down or subpoena private data from large numbers of off-shore companies if the data were to be fragmented in this way. It is easy targeting just one big player.

Maybe there is an opportunity for the off-shore financial centers around the world to move into this kind of business?  After all, places such as Bermuda, Switzerland, etc, have strong laws protecting the identity of bank customers. It would be a small shift in the law to protect the identities of Internet users.

The Internet giants could still have their behavioral data on users but it would first be collected and  laundered by the offshore companies to remove identifiable information. There would be nothing to hand over if authorities were to pressure Google, Yahoo,  YouTube or any other web services provider.


Please also see:

DARPA TinyOS developers get $5m from Intel and others

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher Who says Big Brother/Sister isn't coming? It is but under a different guise...

Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher--on March 27, 2006 05:25 AM

Big Brother brings business opportunities

With all the chatter about Big Brother, and government subpoenas for internet usage data, there are business opportunities to be had...

UPDATE: Google distributes hacked newspaper site with anti-Israel/US message...

UPDATE: A reader points out that it looks like the Irish Medical Times newspaper was hacked and then picked up by Google. I had posted this hack from Google News with an anti-Israeli message and I asked how GOOG could stop other such incidents and guarantee the integrity of the content.

Google News is one of the world's most popular web sites and a trusted brand. This means it has a responsibility to its community if it is to retain the trusted brand relationship--which Google has managed to maintain despite its super-star status.


Since Google does not employ any human editors, (it is all harvested by machines) the hack hasn't been filtered from Google News.


This calls for a Digg-type credibility system. GOOG can still use machines to harvest content, (more scalable than humans) and the readers can flag potential news hacks. The entire community benefits.

But that's if the community can detect false or doctored stories. A slight doctoring of a company earnings announcement could translate into market advantages for some, and could be difficult to spot in a timely manner by even the most vigilante citizen press corp.

Citizen journalists will be very important unless we figure out viable business models for the profession of journalism; they will be the public's prime media sources, but with the potential for misinformation too.

Private groups will increasingly finance professional journalists and collect and share the information in select groups to gain competitive advantages. Ted Shelton points out that this is the way the Venetian princes won at overseas trade.

Information about ships and prices of goods was valuable to those that had it. It was so valuable, that the Venetians managed to beat out competing trade centers--and also fund the Renaissance.

This transformed the entire known world. The Renaissance was a cultural and scientific revelation, it was the rediscovery of rationalism. This propelled humanity out of a millennium of Dark Ages and into the Age of Enlightenment, and led to our modern world. Not too shabby.

I know that there will be a new generation of Venetian princes from this next phase of the Internet. If it also brings a cultural revolution on a Renaissance scale, that would be interesting. I would certainly welcome a rediscovery of rationalism and the secular society.

PR Firms That Blog

I keep saying it, don't trust that your PR firm knows how to deal with bloggers and the blogosphere unless they have some knowledge and practical experience. You cannot "get it" unless you do it.

Here is a list of early pioneers from the Bivings Report. BTW, even if you start blogging now, you will still become an early pioneer, we haven't yet begun ...  :-)

Waggener Edstrom
April 1, 2003

July 26, 2004

September 24, 2004

Hill & Knowlton
December 2, 2004

Schwartz Communications
January 1, 2005

MWW Group
January 9, 2005

Manning Selvage & Lee
April 27, 2005

Horn Group
May 12, 2005

September 27, 2005

Ogilvy PR



Link to PR Firms That Blog: Who Got There First » The Bivings Report


Update: Trevor Jonas from Bite Communications says Bite has been blogging since February 2005.

Pushbacks and trackbacks on blogging and PR

My post yesterday about my former boss at the Financial Times, Paul Abrahams, and his confessed difficulty in "getting" blogs caused a bit of stir. Mr Abrahams is a very senior figure in the PR world, he runs Waggener Edstrom's European headquarters and is one of Microsoft's strategic consultants.

Frank Shaw, a senior colleague of Paul Abrahams, and a noted blogger with his Glass House blog jumped into the fray very quickly, leaving comments on SVW, and other places, including his own blog. [This is exactly what you do in reaction to any potentially unfavorable publicity, (even if you are in the middle of moving house and family). It is a good case study.]

Ellee Seymour, a UK based journalist and blogger, also wrote about my post. In "More PR blogging shockwaves" she mentioned:

This follows hot on the heels of Colin Farrington’s shock declaration that he was not “that keen” on blogs. He is director general of the CIPR, the UK’s major PR support organisation and clearly does not have his finger on the pulse. His comments sent shockwaves among leading PR bloggers. Here is an extract:

“I’m not that keen on ‘blogs’.

“But then I wasn’t keen on DVDs, mobile phones, Ipods and Blackberries until they suddenly became an essential part of business and social life. I guess there’s a special marketing category for middle aged male professional ‘catchers-up’.

All very interesting stuff. I see this all as part of how things move forward, this is how progress is made. The pushbacks are all part of the process to achieve understanding.

I would sometimes tell people that blogging is the next big thing, and they would laugh. I say, don't confuse the content of many blogs with blogging. Blogging is the most visible part of a two-way media technology.

Internet 1.0 allowed us to publish to anything with a browser, now, with Internet 2.0, anything with a browser can publish back. It is a two-way Internet now, it is the Internet on steroids.

But as with all important concepts/ideas, the first stage is laughter and derision; the second stage is grudging acceptance; and the third is that it all becomes damn obvious.

We are all at different stages when it comes to blogging. But what I do know, is that if you have been blogging for any amount of time, and involved in the blogosphere, leaving comments, etc, then you and I have an understanding, and we are at the third stage.

And the beauty of all of this, is that there is no need to argue with Mr Abrahams, or others about the value of blogs and blogging, and the powerful nature of these media technologies. Because we can see a little bit into the future and we know what the future will bring. I know Mr Shaw at Waggener knows the future, and I know that Paul Abrahams will know it too.

- - -

Please also see Robert Scoble, the former MSFT champion blogger:


Speaking of good and bad PR, did you see Frank Shaw’s blog? He runs the Microsoft account for Waggener Edstrom and he had to clean up a mess by another PR guy in the UK who said “I don’t get blogs.” If a PR person said that to me I’d say “I don’t get why you’re still employed.”

It seems to me that if you don’t understand something you should work hard to understand it.

Source: From Google to Kaboodle « Scobleizer - Tech Geek Blogger

New York Times censors its own news story in Britain

 William Jolitz over on The Start-up File has a good take on NYT using ad server technology to block a news article from its British audience because of British laws. He argues that courts could force other publishers to do the same.

Back when the Internet started, it was like the "wild west" - nobody really knew what you could or couldn't do. Which laws governed a transaction - where it was viewed, or where it was served, or both.

I myself did a legal paper on the subject - "Jurisdiction and the Information Superhighway", which examined a porn case that overreached across the US. At the time, the argument against self-censorship like the NY Times has chosen to do was that there would be a great cost in negotiating the rules for each readers jurisdiction, so by default the serving jurisdiction should be the only one that mattered.


Things have changed...

Now publishing (as well as other businesses) potentially can be compelled by a judge to use the same technology to require that local jurisdictions all be treated the same, in place of the serving jurisdiction. All it takes is a follow-on case where this technique is used to rewrite recent case law, and then suddenly everyone has to track and deal with local jurisdictions!

NYT moves us forward (backward)...

Truly, the NY Times has pioneered a masterpiece of regulation, and discovered new ways of limiting the use of the Internet.

Read it all:  Impact of Zoning the Internet - Should publishing self-censor to please local jurisdictions


Link to Times Withholds Web Article in Britain - New York Times

SVW: Interesting take on this issue. I've no doubt that we will have a Balkanization of the Internet in many and varied ways simply because we have the technology to do this. The Internet is not something that cannot be controlled, as popular understanding would suggest. It is something that is extremely easy to control and to track...

Mark Cuban's dumb new media business model

 Mark Glasser over at PBS's MediaShift blog has been writing about Mark Cuban's media project: , to provide “independent Web-based reporting aimed at exposing securities fraud and corporate chicanery.” Cuban hired St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigative business reporter Christopher Carey to be editor of Sharesleuth.

The revenue model is that Mr Cuban will short the stock of a company that is covered by Sharesleuth and use the proceeds to fund the site. A report by Sharesleuth on Xenthanol, a company founded to produce alcohol from wood waste hit paydirt:

On the day that the Xethanol report was published on Sharesleuth, its stock went down 14% to $5.95 — and that’s way down from the price of $12.65 when Cuban shorted 10,000 shares of Xethanol stock back in May. Yesterday, the stock was at $5.09.

Yes, we do need to find a business model to pay for journalism but this is not it. Journalism cannot be seen to be profiting from specific types of stories. This is completely unethical. Journalism should profit only from the quality and the timeliness of a broad range of news stories, and other reports.

This type of issue is not confined to Mr Cuban's adventures in media. To a lesser extent, it will become an issue at news organizations that pay journalists on the basis of how many pageviews their stories receive. This type of compensation encourages sensationalism and it discourages journalists from working on important stories that benefit society.

I only know of one major news organization that pays some of its writers on the number of pageviews but this model is increasingly used in small media companies such as Gawker Media.

Link to MediaShift . Digging Deeper::Mark Cuban's Sharesleuth Takes Business Reporting to Ethical Edge | PBS

UPDATE: I just realised that Mark Cuban is out in the stratosphere, he doesn't have anyone to tell him "it's a really bad idea, it really is." That is not a good place to be. Look out...

The future transparency of our lives and poisoning the database

Anybody who runs a blog or a web site usually peeks at the search terms that visitors input. It's fascinating stuff because sometimes you can find clues to breaking stories or emerging issues/trends.

And looking at the AOL search term database that was recently released, you can see how people use the search box to make statements, as much as ask questions. The AOL search information is fascinating reading because it represents unguarded thoughts and feelings that could not be collected in any other way.

However, I find it hard to belive that AOL believed it was innocently providing the world with behavioral data and protecting users from being identified. Yes, AOL assigned a numeric code to each user accounts search history, rather than user names. But there is plenty of information in the search terms to identify some of the users.

Now, people will be far more guarded in their use of online services. Surely AOL knew that the data could identify some users. Anybody, even the newest of newbies could look at the search data and see how it could be used to identify people. Yet AOL went ahead and released the information.

Maybe some at AOL wanted to warn others that even if a company says it is not collecting identifiable data on its users, it is not true. People ego surf, they Google their dates, they check up on colleagues and ex-lovers online, they search on phone numbers, etc.

The AOL incident has placed Internet users on notice that their lives are transparent, even in unguarded moments, even when searching for something, anything, even when companies say they are not collecting identifiable data.

One response is to be very careful what you search for. Another response is to poison the database, to create a smokescreen, to use aliases/avatars, to make sure that the data collected online contains only a sliver of the real person.

Yes, it is more work, but you can never know how such information could be used in the future. You can never know if the political climate changes, and some people become persecuted for their past search terms.

And this data never goes away. Google, for example, keeps every search term, keeps a copy of every web site it ever indexed--it never throws away a single byte of data it encounters. And others are doing the same thing, and others have to comply with government regulations in keeping data for many years.

Your every click and keystroke online is being collected by many different organisations, and that means that at some point it will be possible to track it all, and identify most of it. Welcome to the future transparency of your life.

Craigslist founder offers funds for hybrid media model

Jay Rosen, over at Press Think - Ghost of democracy in the media machine is proposing a hybrid form of professional and citizen media. And Craig Newmark of Craigslist is offering $10k from his foundation to test the idea.

In simplest terms, a way to fund high-quality, original reporting, in any medium, through donations to a non-profit called NewAssignment.Net.

The site uses open source methods to develop good assignments and help bring them to completion; it employs professional journalists to carry the project home and set high standards so the work holds up. There are accountability and reputation systems built in that should make the system reliable. The betting is that (some) people will donate to works they can see are going to be great because the open source methods allow for that glimpse ahead.

In this sense it’s not like donating to your local NPR station, because your local NPR station says, “thank you very much, our professionals will take it from here.” And they do that very well. New Assignment says: here’s the story so far. We’ve collected a lot of good information. Add your knowledge and make it better. Add money and make it happen. Work with us if you know things we don’t.

There is more about this on the site, tons and tons more. I think this approach would work only for select stories that would benefit from a large number of people helping in researching the story.

This is not a solution for creating news on a daily, hourly, minute schedule. This is overly complex, it is news editing by committee, and the funders will likely always have agendas.

Also, the business model issue is not addressed.

Craig Newmark's support for this project is interesting. I'm a big fan of Mr Newmark and regularly bump into him at events in San Francisco but I'm puzzled why he often appears as a commentator on the topics of mainstream media and citizens journalism. As far as I know, he appears to have no special credentials or expertise to comment on these topics, anymore than anyone.

Mr Newmark is a software engineer and his site, Craigslist, is an excellent online classified ads site without the journalism. How does this make him into an expert on "the media?" He is certainly an expert on classified ads.

Where is the disruptive effect of the Internet?

My recent conversation with IBM's top strategist, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, about the disruptive effects of PC technologies reminded me of a key insight I had about the Internet, that almost made me faint(!)

Two years ago, on a sunny afternoon walking along Geary Street in San Francisco, I was thinking: where was the disruption from the Internet? The Internet is an incredibly powerful technology, surely more powerful than the PC, yet where was its disruptive effect?

PC technologies caused a lot of disruption, and forced so many tech companies out of business. But where was the same carnage caused by Internet technologies?

Surely, this was a more powerful technology than microprocessors and PCs? Yet the same tech companies were still there, HP, Intel, Cisco, etc. Yes, some had disappeared but that was more to do with mergers and acquisitions that are common in maturing sectors.

And the dotcom dotbomb startup failures were a creation of those times, so they don't count in accounting for disruption. Where were the established industry sectors, whose business models were being taken apart?

As I walked and pondered this, I had a realization that almost made faint, it literally made me feel weak at the knees. I realized that I was looking for the disruption in the tech sector, but I was looking in the wrong place.

I realized that the disruption was happening in the media sector. Year after year media companies were continuing to layoff thousands of people, advertising revenues were falling 30 percent every quarter, and things continued to get worse.

This was were business models were under attack, this was where an entire industry was being forced to change to a new economic reality, this was where we can see the Internet as a truly disruptive technology: you can see the train wreck happening in front of you but you cannot get out of the way.

The disruption is happening in the media sector because the Internet is a media technology, it enables publishing and distribution. Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, etc, are all media companies, they publish pages of content and advertising.

This realization has become important in my thinking and analysis of trends. And now, with this next stage, what I call Internet 2.0 (not web 2.0 because it is more than just web) the disruptive effect will be even larger.

It will affect more companies because we now have a two-way media technology. During Internet 1.0 we were able to publish outwards to any computer with a browser. This time, our media technologies such as blogging, etc, enable us to publish back inwards from any computer screen with a browser. We get to play on either side of the glass computer screen.

And this time around, every company is a media company to a greater or lesser degree. Because every company tells stories, it publishes to its customers, to its staff, to its new hires. We now have two-way media technologies and those that can adapt and master those technologies, and become technology-enabled media companies, will survive.

Because every company is a media company, the disruptive effects of Internet 2.0--a media technology on steroids--will be so much greater than from Internet 1.0. And we've only just begun.

The new "media release" - a podcast and teleseminar

I recently participated in a podcast with Todd Defren from Shift Communications, where we discuss the new media release format, also in the discussion was Chris Heuer, who is coordinating the project, and master podcaster Shel Holtz.

The project is moving along nicely. We've also been chatting about what to call the new format. I'm not a big fan of the use of the word "social" in this context, I prefer a more neutral term. And "new media" is in danger of being overused somewhat, while "press" refers to a printing press.

A plainer and more accurate term might be simply, "media release." Then others can qualify the term if they want, depending on its use.
What's important is that the tags/labels that are used, are standard.
But the format, the way companies present their media release, is where distinctions can be made. And of course, in the content.

You can hear the podcast here. And you can subscribe to the new media release podcast RSS feed here.

I'll be discussing the format during my Ragan teleseminar tomorrow: What's in store for the future of PR?

Yahoo Finance revolt . . . and user interface fatigue

Yahoo-waved.gifYahoo Finance has been changed for the better says Yahoo, but many users disagree. Mark Coker tells me the message boards are teeming with complaints.

Here is a sample of what I saw:

There is big risk in a redesign of a popular web site because people are creatures of habit and nobody wants to have to learn a new user interface.

There are already too many user interfaces to learn, too many new "web 2.0" apps to learn, too many new digital gadgets to learn how to use. Every time I change my cell phone I have a different user interface to learn, there seems to be very little continuity.

All remote controls for consumer electronics products seem designed to each have unique user interfaces, even within the same company and the same product families. Even when it comes to positioning the power-on switch--there are many forms of expressing what must be the single most common user interface element.

I've noticed my kids always pick up user interfaces a lot more quickly than older generations. They can figure things out more intuitively. Clearly this is a skill that can be learned: quickly learning new user interfaces. But why should we need that skill?

What puzzles me is why isn't there a best practices user interface for nearly every type of electronic gadget? Surely there must be agreement on placement of keys and controls? Our typewriters have a standard interface, and our cars, why so little else?

It used to be that companies would sue others for copying the "look and feel" of their product, such as a spreadsheet program, or trash can icon. But such lawsuits are rare these days yet we have ever more user interfaces to learn rather than some basic standard formats-- onto which companies could add differentiating buttons and controls.

The lack of standard user interfaces must be the single largest obstacle in growing the markets for digital products of every kind. Nobody wants to have to learn yet another user interface when there are so many better things to do.

How much Internet bandwidth is used by spiderbots from GOOG, YHOO, MSFT et al...?

Google, Yahoo, MSN and the many other search sites and aggregators wandering the Internet with their spiderbots could be in trouble, if their version of net neutrality doesn't survive.

That's because the spiderbots eat up a huge amount of bandwidth, and if bandwidth gets more expensive, the spiderbots are going to suffer. I get 5 per cent of my traffic from more than 18 spiderbots, as they scour the Internet copying everything in their path. They use up about one-third of my bandwidth.

That's a key reason why Google, Yahoo and others, are arguing for everyone to have equal access to bandwidth--at least the last mile pipe to the home--the most important pipe.

If companies are going to have to pay extra to the telcos or cable companies for bandwidth to reach their users, they might not be so pleased to be paying for the bandwidth of the swarms of spiderbots.

I'm fortunate that more than 92 per cent of my readers come directly through bookmarks or RSS, so they know where I live. Many sites depend on 30 per cent to 60 plus per cent of their traffic from the search engines.

And they spend a lot of money to optimize their sites to attract more search engine traffic. But often, this is not quality traffic, it is fly-by-night web surfers.

Web sites should optimize for their readers, not the spiderbots. Let the search engines optimize themselves, that's their job.

If the telcos/cable companies get away with raising fees from the many online companies, to guarantee they have the bandwidth to reach their potential customers, then the spiderbots will be in trouble.

When audience numbers stabilize for a web site, and very few new readers come in from the search sites--yet the spiderbots suck up one third of the bandwidth--then things will change. More and more web sites will be posting a Robot.txt file that tells the spiderbots to go away. They will change because the overall visitor experience is slowed down by the bandwidth hungry packs of spiderbots.

We used to have estimates of how much bandwidth is consumed by email, by SPAM, etc, how about spiderbots? Does anybdy have access to such data?

I would love to know: how much Internet bandwidth is used up by the legions of spiderbots, in their constant search to find and copy new content.

Marketing or Representing? Which term is less loaded?


The term "marketing" is broadly used but it carries a lot of baggage such as "spin" and "selling."

Yes, marketing means so much more than the commonly understood term--it is how product development is monetized. But in many uses of the term "marketing" there is an uncomfortable implication that there is some kind of persuasion or manipulation going on, to sell something for which there might very well be no actual need.

"Selling refrigerators to Eskimos," or "taking coals to Newcastle," are examples of sayings that describe this issue. Marketing often seems to be about the use of persuasive marketing/selling techniques rather than the meeting of real needs--not that the two never coincide.

That's why some people are uneasy about doing "marketing" or "selling" because of cultural associations that seem to be more about smoke and mirrors rather than creating value. For example, many times I have had people tell me that the iPod is rubbish because it is "just marketing." As if "just marketing" can be applied by anybody, as if it can be bought off-the-shelf. Clearly, that is not the case, but that sentiment serves as an example of a less than positive attitude towards the term marketing.

Also, the term marketing doesn't seem to fit easily within the culture of the emerging generation of Silicon Valley Web 2.0/Internet 2.0 startups, (and older companies too). Those companies constantly talk about communities: customers, developers, consumers, etc.

But, do you apply "marketing" to those communities...? Within such a context, the term "marketing" feels uncomfortable, awkward, and even inaccurate.

Story continues...

Chris Heuer is the project lead: Signups for the new media press release (really!)

I've been working with the PR industry to figure out a better way to create press/news releases that are more useful to reporters and others, in this multi-media channel world we live in. Why limit press releases to the standard text only format and with only one link, or none?

We need a vehicle that can easily integrate podcasts, vidcasts, text, and company information that is labelled and tagged so that the right information can quickly be pulled together. We have the technologies to do that, to partly preassemble the information needed in preparing a news story.

The key, however, is to have all the PR agencies and media/comms departments in corporations to agree to a baseline standard new media press release format. We need to make sure that everyone uses the same labels/tags for things like "company founded date" or "CEO today said" etc. And agrees on other aspects of the format.

To help things along I've agreed to offer a neutral third party platform. The PR companies are very competitive and won't take the lead from each other and so we will end up with a tower of babel of different labels/tags and different formats, and we won't be much better off than before.

I've found someone with the ideal abilities to coordinate this new media press release project, Chris Heuer. Chris knows the business world, he knows the marcoms world and he knows the geek world. He's a new media renaissance man and he has agreed to coordinate this project.

I have already received many requests from people to join me in this project, and I will pass those onto Chris but please sign up again just in case. And anyone else that wants to be involved please join this discussion newsgroup.

Chris will choose the collaborative technologies we'll use to take this project further. By the way there was a nice write up about the new press release in BusinessWeek and Shift Communications' efforts, Julie Crabill and Todd Defren in pushing things forward.

Richard Edelman, head of the largest independent PR agency in the world is a strong supporter of the new media press release. Winning the support of global giants such as Edelman is key because it validates this new approach to communications. Edelman and the other giants such as Ogilvyetc have the muscle, and the influence to educate companies and individuals on how best to communicate in a multiplicity of media worlds and communities.

What will be interesting is how the PR companies and others, use the new media press release format to differentiate themselves; how they make the content compelling and available in a multiplicity of media; and how successful they are in explaining to their clients the need for new ways of communicating. Here is Chris Heuer to explain more.

Sabrina Horn: Celebrating 15 years of the Horn Group

I recently interviewed Sabrina Horn, the head of the Horn Group, one of Silicon Valley's largest independent PR companies. The Horn Group this month is celebrating fifteen years in business and Ms Horn has seen many of Silicon Valley's business cycles.

Over the past three years she has been working from the company's Manhattan office. She has returned to the East coast where she was raised. She has two young girls, five years and eight years old.

Ms Horn spent 20 years on the West Coast but she says that after the dotcom bubble burst she wanted to "get back to my roots, I needed a new challenge, even though managing a company through the downturn has been very challenging."

I asked her about some of the cultural differences between the East and West coasts. "East coast has more of an attitude of being no nonsense, direct, get the job done. But the Web 2.0 companies out here are very much like their counterparts in Silicon Valley, they have very similar cultures and you wouldn't be able to distinguish the from each other."

One of her goals was to diversify the company away from enterprise software and towards other industries and services. For example, in New York she created a business group that helps companies with web site design, and related services. Now that group brings in about 25 per cent of total revenues and she expects it to bring in 50 per cent within five years.

This is all part of a future for PR/communications that helps companies get their stories out and also publish them. "The Internet is such a visual medium that it makes sense to help companies improve their online presence."

Ms Horn is very much aware of the power of blogging and the new media/social communications technologies that are pouring out of Silicon Valley. Podcasts, vidcasts, new media oriented press releases, and the many different ways companies can communicate are readily apparent from her vantage point. But she admits that it is often difficult to convince clients on best strategy and good practices because they are often stuck in the old way of doing things.

She also recognizes that for PR companies to be more effective at what they do, they have to be recognized as strategic consultants and important partners, rather than subservient to the whims of the current marketing director.

[I've always considered it strange and unhealthy that marketing departments run the communications. Corporate comms should have it's own seat in the C-level suite. That's true in very few companies. There should be a chief Conversations/Cultural Officer or something like that because businesses exist in a society and they need to have the appropriate understanding of the conversations, the culture of that society. That's why SVW reports on the business and culture of Silicon Valley.]

Ms Horn also understands that in today's world PR firms have lost their ability to control the message, and that's a very important realization. Because it means readjusting and accepting the fact that we live in a very different media world today.

[For example, I tell companies that they cannot control their message because the world will tag/label them in anyway it wants, and in all sorts of ways. The new control comes from having the discipline to repeat a message a hundred times and more, making sure that everyone in an organisation understands and articulates a consistent message, time and again. (You'd be surprised at how rare this is!)]

Remaining an independent PR firm is tough in today's world where clients want global reach and representation. But it could be argued that smaller, independent PR companies provide more value, attention and can leverage existing partnerships in other regions to provide comparable services to the mega-agencies.

Ms Horn says that she receives offers to buy her company on a regular basis but she says she is having too much fun to take those offers seriously. "If you are passionate and involved in something, you cannot just walk away from it. I love coming to work everyday," she says.

She shared with me three rules she has learned from running her business:
-The day you think you know it all is the day you need to quit the job.

-There is always far more that you don't know you didn't know.

-Always make sure that the check clears the bank.

We need competition not net neutrality otherwise Web 2.0 dies on the vine

463_logo.gifWednesday I managed to catch up with Sean Garrett, one of the co-founders of 463 Communications, an agency that represents tech firms in Washington D.C on tech policy issues. Obviously, net neutrality was a topic we discussed, and Mr Garrett mentioned that the telcos were out spending everyone by enormous amounts on the net neutrality issue.

But this issue is a red herring because there is no way that legislation can force a pipe owner to carry all packets, including its own, on an equal basis. As Mr Garrett pointed out, the real issue is competition, "If we had real competition then the whole net neutrality debate would go away."

That is very true, it's because our access as consumers to the Internet is controlled by the telephone or cable TV companies and we don't have any choice. Efforts by municipalities to provide WiFi for local residents have often been blocked by the telcos yet this is clearly blocking competition.

If we had a broad range of competitors we could choose, and choice is good for consumers, it's also good for the vendors of the infrastructure, Intel, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems etc.

Choice would be great news for the many hundreds/thousands of startups, the so called Web 2.0 companies that are based on the premise of equal access and equal performance on the Internet. Without this capability they will die on the vine--it will wipe out the promise of this next wave of innovation.

The net neutrality debate is bogus because there is no way to mandate/regulate that the communications network owners provide equal access and performance. Because the telcos and cable TV companies want to pump torrents of bits through their pipes in the form of their own services but more importantly, in the form of high definition (HD) TV/video.

HD will squeeze everyone else to the margins and marginalize the entire Web 2.0 generation. That means thousands of small startups, plus the many thousands of VCs and other investors in those companies, will be drastically affected by this net neutrality issue. But Mr Garrett says it is difficult to get the startups interested in political issues that affect their future, that has to change.

So how do we break the local duopoly? And it is a federally regulated duopoly which means the government is part of the barrier to competition.

WiMAX, the Wi-Fi technology on steroids that has a range that can be measured in tens of miles could vault over the walled gardens of local Internet providers. But that technology is not yet ready for commercial use and it might be couple/several more years before it is ready.

In the meantime, HD will kill the Web 2.0 generation by pushing them out of the pipes, IMHO.

- - -
Please also see:

Tom Abate at The San Francisco Chronicle just finished the first in a series on net neutrality, over 200 hours of investigative work: Speed Bumps on the Information Highway

The 463 Blog: Inside Tech Policy which is also a good resource pointing to other good sources on tech policy issues.

Hot new vidstars mix with hipsters and geeks at vidblogging fest

By Lucaso for Silicon Valley Watcher

All right, so Vloggercon in San Francisco this past weekend was hot... and not just 'cause RocketBoom's Amanda Congdon was there, dig? Either the geeks are getting hip or the hipsters are going geek... either way, a new era of media is taking Hollywood and traditional video media by storm.

And why not? You've got a camera... you've got a story to tell... you're a superstar! And, now, the tools to distribute your video are here, such as YouTube and a hundred more free vidhosts.

New media superstars, like Congdon, are well on their way to becoming international celebrities (Rocketboom's audience is as large as some small cable channels after only a year and a half) while Hollywood scrapes to understand what's going on.

We've seen the blogging phenomenon put a dent in traditional print media. Now, imagine that same dent in traditional television media. That's what's happenin', dig?

Lucaso in the balcony at Vloggercon. Photo by Scott Beale of Laughing Squid.

Ok, so back to Vloggercon...

Hot 'cause we're now seeing some cultural integration, as evident by the crook in every geek's neck when 88slide's host Rachel walked into the conference hall (look out Amanda!). A new age of diversity is coming to geekland and we'll be seeing more young, new-media superstars popping up on the radar over the next year as well as some old school geeks stepping into celebrity roles.

I overheard Stowe Boyd chatting with a friend as he left the conference: "... one of the weird things is having all these people I don't know come up to me and talk to me like they know me."

Hot 'cause vloggers are working together as a community, sharing media and ideas for the good of the whole. Despite the integration of Hollywood energy, the overall vibe of Vloggercon was one of collaboration, passion, and love (yes, there was a hug fest in the closing session).

And one of the main concerns of this community is how to balance the incoming Hollywood energy with the grassroots nature of videoblogging. A token capitalist in the room asked how we're going to make money through video blogging, while the token socialist asked how videoblogging would help non-profits reach larger audiences.

At any rate, the money is coming. Rocket Boom's recent Ebay advertising success is a testament to sustainable new media ventures. Look for new video blogs, and new media superstars, to have a huge impact in the year to come.

Here's a few folks from the conference I dig:

- Noah and the 88slide crew are doing a great job with their daily quiz show.

- Jumpcut is making headway by allowing users to re-edit the trailer of the new Linklater film, "A Scanner Darkly." rocknrolltv.jpg

- And for a little sex, drugs, peace, n rock n roll(and yes, you can swear on video blogs), check out RocknRolltv.

(Note: I also chatted with Amanda Congdon at Vloggercon... look for the interview coming soon.)

Lucaso is Silicon Valley Watcher's roving culture editor - reporting on the culture of the emerging communities.

The new media press release - sign up!

I've had a tremendous amount of interest in my proposal to change the press/news release into something more useful. Yes, there was a tremendous amount of pushback on my Die! Press Release Die! Die! Die! moderate proposal, but there was also a tremendous amount of support.

Yes, I should have used a less inflammatory headline. However, I wanted to make the point that the press/news release is antiquated and a tremendous waste of valuable human labor. Why not put that work towards something that I can use?

Newsrooms around the world are decimated, there are ever fewer journalists because journalism needs to find a new source of revenues. It is cheaper and more effective to sell products next to a search box than next to journalism.

Or, as I sometimes stress my point, you can sell shampoo next to a search box but not next to a news story about beheadings in Iraq.

This is an extreme example, but the fact is that journalism is not the best way to sell products and services compared with online marketing around a search box. It is cheaper to advertise next to a search box because you don't have to pay for the journalism.

When I worked for a newspaper, the Financial Times, my employer sold products and services to pay for the journalism. The reason Google et al can sell advertising cheaper than newspapers is that they don't have to pay for the journalism. Yet journalism provides a social benefit that Google et al, do not...

So who will pay for the journalism? That is what is decimating newsrooms and that is what is making it difficult to report on the news and to provide that independent analysis/comment that independent media provide society.

This is the reason why I'm advocating change. The future is about professional media and professional communicators (PR firms, corporate communications groups) becoming partners in telling truthful, honest stories.

The future for journalism and PR is about helping communities, companies, people, tell their stories. And the best stories are compelling stories. And the most compelling stories are truthful stories.

Story continues...

Stop the MediaNews "media monopoly"?

Thursday evening my buddy Tom Abate, senior business reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle invited me to join him at a Media Alliance event at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center (why no heterosexual?) in San Francisco: The Coming Media Monopoly: Concentration of Press Ownership and Its Effects.
[I tried to get in for free and save $5 by saying I was with the media :-) ]

MediaNews, the new owner of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, will soon control nearly two-thirds of local daily newspaper circulation; the two largest weekly newspaper chains, Village Voice and New Times, merged; and there's been an escalating scramble by several large media companies to control the expanding market for ethnic and foreign-language readers. Can journalism survive in an era of Wall Street mergers and acquisitions?

Story continues...

Edelman grabs top slot in Silicon Valley PR

Edelman, the world's largest privately held PR firm late last week announced it had acquired A&R Partners--a deal that creates Silicon Valley's largest PR firm.

It's part of a series of aggressive, strategic moves by Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman. Mr Edelman has also been acquiring the PR industry's top bloggers, such as Steve Rubel, who writes Micro Persuasion, and Phil Gomes. Plus a recent deal with Technorati will extend Edelman's ability to monitor the blogosphere internationally.

The acquisition of A&R comes at a time when the demand for PR services is rising rapidly as Silicon Valley VC firms fund a new generation of what some call "Web 2.0" companies. The large number of such companies is increasing the noise level which makes it difficult for them to attract attention without professional help.

Large Silicon Valley tech companies are also increasing their PR spend as traditional forms of advertising are slipping in their effectiveness because of the turmoil in the media sector. Traditional and trade media publications are transitioning to online business models but the change is disruptive and there are fewer publications.

Public relations is potentially more cost effective than some forms of advertising. Intel recently boosted its PR spending with several deals spanning its global markets.

Pam Pollace, who used to head Intel's communications team is now at Edelman as director of the US Technology Practice.

Here are some of the details from the press release:

Story continues...

Edelman's Technorati deal and the blogosphere...

[This stomach bug has taken the wind out of my sails for a few days, my apologies about the backed up emails I hope to get to them in the next few days...]

Edelman's deal with Technorati is interesting. For an undisclosed sum of cash Edelman, the world's largest private PR firm is financing Technorati's expansion into the rest-of-the-world blogosphere. It's a savvy move, not one without risks, but Richard Edelman has been out in the forefront in trying to understand the blogosphere and the need for tools to measure influence and reach within the entire (global) mediasphere (of which the blogosphere is a subset).

There are lots of comments on the deal out in the ether, but none seem to get it. We won't know unless we know the terms of the deal, either way its a bold move.

So far, Edelman has hired the top PR industry bloggers and it is moving ahead on a course that I do not see other PR firms following. And I think it is because they don't understand the nature of the game.

Edelman's moves are very interesting because they are potentially game changing, they are risky, and bold. Let's see if the other the-game-is-still-the-same PR firms figure things out. Can they be fast followers? I don't think so . . . but I'd love to be proved wrong.

Technorati has had problems scaling its infrastructure but that's probably because it has done a masterful job on branding. It really understands the psychology of the blogosphere and it has managed to keep that balance of being a good community citizen along with its right to monetize what it is doing.

Technorati has managed to almost privatize the trackback--a key element of the blogosphere. Trackbacks seem to have stopped working but if I look at my Technorati links there are many links that don't register as trackbacks. I've no idea why that is the case but Technorati offers a solution.

Cherry picking advertising and not paying for the journalism

Cherry Pickers.jpgGoogle can sell advertising for much less because it doesn't have to pay for any journalism. Newspapers, TV and radio sell advertising so that they can pay for the journalism.

Craigslist can operate a global classified ads business with just 18 people and do it on a shoestring because Craigslist isn't paying for journalism. It can cherry pick the classified ads business from newspapers and do it insanely cheaply because it doesn't have to pay for the journalism.

So who will pay for the journalism?

Google News cherry picks the best of 4,500 global news sources and it doesn't even want to monetize the business. Therefore there is no way in hell that other media companies can compete against that--because they have much higher costs--and the largest cost is paying for the journalism.

So who will pay for the journalism? You might ask why do we need a professional media class, when we could empower a citizens army of amateur journalists, as some are trying to do.

The reason we need a professional media class is because amateurs do an amateurish job. And that is bad because our society, our economy, depends on high quality information.

In the IT industry, all software engineers know GIGO. This stands for garbage in, garbage out. It refers to the quality of the data that a software program processes. If the data is corrupted in some way, or the source is unreliable, then the end result will also be the same.

We need high quality media in abundant quantities so that we aren't harmed by GIGO.

Professional journalism is a vital pillar of our society, it is sometimes called the Fourth Estate, right up there alongside the Church, Government and the People. Yet professional journalism is fast disappearing because the business models that supported it are disappearing.

I've been asking for more than a year, "what happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?" Media is how society "thinks" it is how we figure out solutions to important problems.

And we have some very big problems ahead that demand the best, high quality information. There is Bird Flu, there are huge political issues to deal with, there are enormous ecological challenges ahead.

Yet we have a sick media sector that is getting worse.

So who will pay for the journalism? Last week Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO seemed irritated in answering the question "when will you monetize Google news?"

But this is an incredibly important question because if Google was determined to monetize Google news, then it would associate some value to the content. Then the content producers could charge Google and any others, and funnel back the money to produce high quality news media.

That would be a virtuous cycle and Google News would be supporting an extremely important and extremely vital resource that is a pillar of a healthy society: high quality professional journalism.

picker_detail.jpgInstead, it cherry picks the best and refuses to try to monetize the news it copies, which compounds the problem because it associates no value to it. Yet our society, our businesses, associate a tremendous amount of value to high quality journalism.

Google is inadvertently blocking the ability of news organisations to monetize their work. That harms our ability as a society, and as an economy, to make the best decisions.

We need to have a vibrant professional media, competing to produce the best, high quality news media. Because then we are likely to make the best decisions, and choose the best future.

I'm hoping Google will recognize that "Don't be evil" means nothing and that "Do some good" is what Google founders and employees would rather be doing (that's probably what the Founders meant so say).

Google has a chance to do some good on a massive scale. And Googlers love big challenges; the Gordian Knot of this next phase of the Internet is how to pay for the journalism we need. Google could become the saviour of the Fourth Estate rather than one of its pall bearers.

- - -
[Published in an experimental format across different sites, the first part is here, the second part is here.]

Bad Competitors and Cherry Pickers - a lethal combination

Cherry Bot Pickers.jpgAs more and more business products and services become digital, they become vulnerable to what I call "cherry pickers." Competitors can target highly profitable businesses because those businesses provide a high price umbrella.

IBM for example, spawned a massive "IBM mainframe compatible" industry three decades ago, because of its high price umbrella on mainframes.

Those companies with highly profitable business groups are sometimes using those profits to help support less profitable, sometimes rarely profitable, business groups.

Hewlett-Packard, for example, has over the years managed to use its highly lucrative printer business to help it support its PC business, and its information technology business. It could be said that H-P's sales of printer ink, at various times over the past decade, have subsidized its other business groups for many years.

And that's why H-P's most valuable intellectual property is the design of its printer ink cartridges--which prevents copycats providing printer ink at sharply lower prices.

H-P has managed to stop cherry pickers from running off with its printer ink business and allowed it operate large, rarely profitable business groups. Those business groups have provided a lot of value, to customers, to employees, and to their surrounding communities around the world.

But other companies, other industries, haven't managed to stop the cherry pickers. That's especially true for the media.

Google News is a good example of a media cherry picker. When launched in 2001 Google News quickly became a fabulous success. It was the first aggregation of news stories copied from thousands of news organisations, and published in a very accessible user interface. Google News scans thousands of mainstream media news sites, copies and publishes the headline and the first paragraph and a photograph. It is a very good service.

It's an extremely low cost for Google, the news stories are harvested by machines, and they are presented by machine. At the bottom of the Google News home page you will find this text proudly displayed:

The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.

Google News was one of the first services it launched, one of many dozens today, yet it does not monetize this service. At last week's GOOG press day, its executives were asked if they would monetize news, the answer was that it was on the list, but that there were some more important projects that would be monetized first.

One of the journalists asked, where on that list is Google News? Eric Schmidt showed a little exasperation when he answered, saying, that it is obviously below the cut off point...

(Please continue reading...)

Part 2: More on Bad Competitors...Silicon Valley is full of them

[Here is Part 1]

There is a strange phenomenon that I've encountered and it seems other people have had a similar experience [I was talking with veteran UK journalist David Tebbutt (Thinkerlog blog) last night about this].

I will sit down to write an article on a topic and I know what I'm going to write....yet I end up with something completely different. It's as if I'm "thinking" through my fingers. Until I sit down and start writing, I never know what is going to be the end product because the act of writing can change the article.

So, with the "Bad Competitor" post on Monday, I've been engaged in some online debate on this topic and I've realized a few things. I've realized that Silicon Valley is full to the brim with bad competitors.

By bad competitors I mean other companies trying to commoditize your business while defending their core business, thus everyone is vulnerable to a bad competitor, someone that can provide a product or service at a fraction of your costs.

So for the newspapers, an excellent service such as Craigslist, which monetizes less than one percent of its business, is a "bad competitor." There is no way newspapers can compete.

And there are thousands of startups in Silicon Valley that would absolutely love to be the "bad competitor" in their target market. In fact, that has to be the base line for any startup--that it can provide the product or service that is ten times as good for one-tenth of the price. Okay, this is just my rule of thumb, but you get the picture, the startup's solution has to be massively compelling to overcome adoption/switching costs.

Bad competitor startups will succeed because what they have is so much better than what is available, it is a no-brainer. And that is the way capitalism works--money finds the path of least expense--if it is allowed to.

And so the future leads to a form of capital entropy. Anything that has a cost structure high enough, that can be attacked, will be attacked. Any business that has high profit margins is extremely vulnerable to attack by a "bad competitor."

But bad competitors are only bad to the victim companies--the market loves them because the customers benefit. However, after many millions, billions of these challenges to accepted business models, at some point, we will reach a interesting point in the evolution of our global society. We will have come to a point of maximum efficiency--what happens then?

Let me put it another way. About 12 years ago or so, I remember the thrill of interviewing Dr. Eric Drexler, one of the pioneers of nanotechnology. And the interesting thing was that Dr. Drexler was not much interested in the mechanics or the science of nanotechnology.

He said that the way our industries are progressing: manufacturing, chip industry, chemical sciences, biological sciences etc, we would get our nanotechnology society sooner or later. At the time, he estimated about 15 years. Clearly, it might be another 15 years from now, but whatever--it is not a long period of time.

What struck me was this: he said, what happens when we can make anything ten times better for one hundredth the cost? How will that affect our society?

And that is exactly the path we are headed--what happens when we can make any product or offer any service for one hundredth of the cost and at least ten times the quality? What kind of society will we have?

Clearly, it will be a society that will be completely and utterly alien to ours. It will be a society where not everyone will have to work, in fact work will have to be redefined completely.

Will it be a golden age or a frightful age? I don't know, but that's where we are all headed and we will probably see it in our lifetime...

The rise of the bad competitor . . . Craigslist et al

I've been thinking about "bad competitors" after coming across this excellent speech on the future of newspapers by Phil Meyer, Knight Chair in Journalism, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at a conference in August 2005. [Craig Newmark is founder of Craigslist, the classified advertising company.]

...they [newspapers] don’t have a monopoly. As sure as Craig Newmark is sitting in this room, they don’t have a monopoly on classified advertising, and there’s lots of other stuff they no longer have a monopoly on. They have a monopoly on being newspapers. But that’s not the point. The point is that the services they provide are being provided cheaper and more somebody else. I first met Craig at this meeting and I shook his hand and I said, “Craig, you are what the Harvard Business School calls a bad competitor.” A bad competitor is somebody who will provide a better service at a lower profit margin. Since Craig isn’t interested in any profit margin at all, he’s about as bad a competitor as you can get. And this is going to continue.

Check out the The Sunday Times (of London) recent feature on Craigslist quoting Craig Newmark and Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster:

From Sunday Times May 7 magazine: Falling for super-geek

. . .Newmark drives a Prius, a petrol-saving hybrid car. Buckmaster has never owned a car. They both take the bus to work in the morning. “I don’t really want a Rolls-Royce or a huge, fancy house,” says Buckmaster. “Money is important until you have enough of it to be comfortable with. Beyond that, I think it’s a very mixed bag.”

. . . For Newmark and Buckmaster, the internet has a higher calling than money-making. It’s a view many shared at the start of the dotcom revolution. But one by one, Craigslist’s contemporaries at firms like eBay and Google have joined the rat race and made billions. The Craigslist duo could easily join the dotcom rich list if they chose to sell the company. The idea is anathema to them.

. . .Classified Intelligence Report, an industry newsletter, found that in San Francisco the main newspapers lost over $50m in classified revenues in 2004 because of the Craigslist effect.

[Please note: I am friends with the Craigslist team, and have eaten many a meal at the generous table of Jim Buckmaster and Susan Best, and Craig is often there too...]

There are bad competitors in the enterprise IT arena, especially if you look at the way enterprise software competitors are trying to turn their competitor's core markets into commodities.

Nicholas Carr over at Rough Type says it well (in reference to one of my posts about SAPs strategy.)

From Stack War:

SAP's trying to commoditize the database, by promoting, for instance, the open-source MySQL; Oracle's trying to commoditize middleware, also by promoting open-source options; and IBM's happy to commoditize the applications (while maintaining an escape hatch to "business process automation" up above the stack).

It's an interesting dynamic that, in total, would seem to simply accelerate the commoditization of everything.

-And you can see it in the music industry too. Take a look at Yahoo Music, one of my favorite web services. For just $5 per month I get access to an amazing catalog of music, any time, any place, even from a friend's computer-- you'll never use iTunes again. You'll certainly never buy another $20 CD.

-Take a look at the dozens of me-too companies in each category funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. There are more than a 120 news aggregators for example, and more coming. How many "wiki" companies are there? Every new idea in what they call "Web 2.0" is copied and commoditized within weeks.

-The outsourcing business is driven by bad competitors. Overseas IT services companies that do it for far less than local companies. They could get more money for their services but choose not to so that they can win more business.

-Somehow, in the 1980s, the US chip industry managed to persuade the US government to punish its bad competitors. In those days it was the Japanese memory chip makers and Intel (INTC) was leading the push for tariffs against Japanese competitors for "dumping" on the US market. Dumping meant producing chips for less than the cost of their production, to win market share. That became illegal.

-Robert Scoble, Microsoft's top blogger creates millions of dollars in good PR for his employer for the cost of an engineer's salary, about $100k. Microsoft's PR agency Waggoner Edstrom cannot compete with the ROI on Mr Scoble. It's something PR companies everywhere will have to face.

And there are many other examples of competitors either behaving stupidly and ruining the market for everyone. Or, competitors that don't monetize the markets to their fullest opportunity and thus are not creating wealth for themselves, their investors, or their employees.

So where does this trend lead?

Should it be illegal to make a loss in order to gain market share?

Should it be illegal for companies to make bad decisions that ruin the market for everyone?

Does a company have a moral or ethical obligation to increase the monetization of a market so that it can employ more people and provide additional services for its communities?

Are companies that use very profitable business groups to prop up less profitable businesses groups acting as bad competitors? For example, Hewlett-Packard's printer group has subsidized the IT group in the past.

Are the telcos and cable TV companies "good competitors" because they seek to block any Internet threat that would commoditize their services and thus force massive layoffs??

This bad competitor trend will only intensify because it can't be stopped.

What happens next?

The new media won't be like the old: Tell that to NYT and MSFT

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

An electronic "Times Reader" was announced by the New York Times and Microsoft (MSFT). And, it is designed to look very similar to the newspaper. Why?

A little while ago I wrote that you will know the new media because it will not be like the old media. What's the point of making an electronic NYT look like a newspaper NYT?

This shows that these two venerable old organizations don't get it.

I can think of several different ways you could craft a new type of media entity/product, and you'll see some of them in upcoming projects. And they won't look anything like a newspaper...

It continues to amaze me that NYT and other media companies identify with their distribution channel rather than what they are: these are news organizations!

A newspaper is just one way to distribute news, online is yet another. TV and radio are also excellent distribution channels. If you identify as a news organization then you can take advantage of ALL these channels. Why limit yourself?

I'd be happy to give NYT a bit of consulting advice, clearly needed.

From: A (distributed) new media column: It's a New Year and a new media. . .will it be richer or poorer?

A blog post is one very good example of one form of the new media. A blog post is a page of content that is separated from its format (thanks to cascading style sheets) and, very importantly, it carries its own communications (!)

It is a read-and-write document, a totally unique media entity. We have finally connected up the other end of the internet--it's a two-way medium now, with a host of easy, (nearly) one-click publishing tools and very easy media application development tools.

BTW, that post (January 3rd 2006) itself was an example of something that couldn't be done with the old media: it is a column that I published across three different web sites. When you click on "continue reading" it takes you to the next part of the article on a different web site.

It's an example of thinking "outside the page." :-)

The Next Big Thing...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher
I had to take a break from interviewing and writing all day long so I popped down to the Ad:Tech conference downtown. But it was 7pm so all that was going on were the evening events.

I had some invites and it was a gorgeous evening in San Francisco and so I just wandered in and out of various places, content to observe and amble around.

And this is the point of this post: I can walk into any room and talk with anybody and I will walk away with a story. I like to joke with people that there are so many stories here, that I can kick over an empty soda can in the street and find a story. And it's true, and I do it time and time again.

So this evening I met the very excellent Chris Heuer, and his delightful entourage. And the wonderful thing about all of this is that there are so few people that speak this freakish pig-latin that people in the bloggerhood speak.

I certainly didn't speak it until I became a journalist blogger about a year or so ago. And at the time, I would estimate there were maybe 150 people that understood this special language...

Now, there is at least a 200 percent jump in that number. There might even be as many as 500 people that speak this language, worldwide (most are here).

And that number will not hockey stick, it will jump onto a logarithmic scale very, very soon. But in the meantime it's great to find like minded souls.

And it is so wonderful to be here, in Silicon Valley, the birth place (again!) of the next big thing. I've spent more than 20 years here, covering Silicon Valley as a reporter, looking over other people's shoulders with my notebook in hand, saying "Wow, that looks really interesting, tell me what you are doing."

Now, my colleagues in the mainstream media call me up and say "Wow, that looks really interesting, tell me what you are doing." It doesn't get any sweeter than that.

There is a new trend emerging, but it is not where you might expect it. Silicon Valley is buzzing, there is a new energy in the air, but it is not where most people think it is.

The next big thing is ... [I'll tell you if you ask me :-)

- - -

BTW, Chris Heuer and his buddies are heading over to New Orleans next week to bring the new social/media technologies to the neighborhoods and the small businesses that anchor the city's communities. It's a real test of our collaborative media technologies; if we say these technologies are powerful change-agents then let's put them to use in the most needed areas of our society!

My focus is schools, but there are many other places that we can put these powerful and very inexpensive technologies to great use. I support what Chris and his group are doing and you can too. You can contact Chris here on his web page if you'd like to help.

The new media press release is coming!

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Yes!!! Put-this-in-your-pipe all you "Die! Press Release Die! Die! Die!" reactionaries...

This just in from Todd Defren over at Shift Communications' PR Squared blog.

I received a note from the "rising star" staffer who's in the graduate PR program at Boston University, in response to the latest series of posts.

She wanted me to know that our "Press Release of the Future" (and Tom Foremski's inspirational rant) had been passed around and discussed in class, and that the professor recently informed his students that their Final Exam would include questions on this "PR 2.0" topic.

From: Already making a difference.

New media analysts are slow to embrace new media

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Wednesday morning I took part in a PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) teleconference organized by Barbara French of the head of Tekrati, which tracks industry analyst firms. On the panel with me was David Schatsky, president of JupiterKagan--the new company recently formed when KaganResearch acquired JupiterResearch.

The topic was: The Changing Influence Of High Tech Analysts in a New Media Age and we discussed some of the blurring distinctions between analyst, journalist, and industry bloggers. Ms French shared some interesting statistics: only about 5 per cent of the analyst community are engaged in blogging out of more than 4,000 analysts.

The number of analysts blogging seems very low to me and indicative that the analyst community does not appreciate the value of publishing their own blogs. I'm sure that will change over time, but for now, Ms French says that the number of blogs is steady although there is some churn as new blogs replace ones that have become dormant.

I'm surprised that more analysts are not blogging because it is by far the best way to establish your thought leadership and expertise. And I think that the analyst community does not yet understand this fact: blogging is by far and away the most honest form of self-promotion because if you can't walk the walk, talk the talk then it will be very readily apparent.

So is it that many analysts are afraid of being "found out" as being less expert than they really are?

Story continues...

PageRank assassination and other nefarious online activities

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I've been thinking a lot about the many ways companies can engage in new types of competitive battles for the pole position on that first page of Google's search engine results--which is defined by your PageRank.

Over on ZDNet, I've been writing about the potential for PageRank assassination and other nefarious acts of information warfare:

I'm not an advocate of search engine optimization techniques--beyond the basics. Because I believe you should optimize your site for your customers and not the spiderbots. Let the search engines optimize themselves to find the right content--it's their job.

However, the techniques of search engine optimization have potential application in the reverse: they can be used for PageRank assassination. [PageRank is the relative importance Google assigns to a web site] You can apply SEO techniques to potentially cripple an online competitor by making it seem as if it is engaging in forbidden SEO practices.

Google has strict policies on what you can and cannot do to make yourself visible to its spiderbots. And other search engines also try to root out web sites that are using SEO techniques to try and trick them into a higher PageRank.

Google will dumb-down the PageRank of a web site if it believes it is engaging in non-prescribed SEO practices. And it has even banned the web site of a large corporation, BMW in Germany, to show that small and large companies can be banned from its index.

The potential for competitors taking potshots at each others' online reputation is just too tempting. And such activities can be easily disguised.

And there are many other strategies of online competitive warfare that could tempt companies, such as renting a zombie network for an afternoon or two to mount a DNS attack on a competitor.

But it doesn't have to be sneaky. Public companies are vulnerable to scrutiny by the media and investors. A competitor could encourage the scrutiny of certain weak business groups, as an example. Bringing attention to problem business groups within a competitor can be easily done in many ways . . .
[Please continue reading . . .]

The new rules of newspapers. . . and some of the old rules

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Newspapers need to get away from thinking that their distribution mechanism (newsprint) defines them. The distinction between print and online has to go away.

News organizations should see themselves as content creators. Print and electronic media are the distribution channels for their news content.

And there is no sense in locking up the content by asking readers to pay for it because we live in a world that is one big scramble for attention. We've realized that in a world with 500 cable channels, a gazillion Internet channels (web sites) and our families, friends, boss, colleagues, (and our internal) clamor for our attention is huge.

That is why if I can get two minutes of your daily attention on Silicon Valley Watcher that is great. But there is a responsibility here. Attention is a scarce resource that is why I feel a responsibility to provide something of value because I am taking time away from your family, friends, boss, etc--all these very important people in your life.

I don't want a "sticky site" I want readers to come in and out as quickly as possible. I want them to always leave feeling they got more than their time investment.

Old rules still apply

I don't want to add to the noise, I want to provide original, you-can-only-get-it-here scoops, interviews, insight and sometimes, fun stuff. And I want it available to everyone and anyone with an interest in such things.

These have been the traditional goals of newspapers for hundreds of years. The new media operates on the same principles, it is just that the distribution channels have multiplied; newsprint or online--it should not matter.

Yet in most newspapers or news magazines--the online journalists and editors have been a separate group and very much second-class citizens. That is changing rapidly but the ingrained discrimination means that many print journalists dislike becoming "online" journalists. And the blogging revolution now means that these journalists have to interact with their communities--which is even more work on top of already low salaries.That is why this transition to the new media world is tearing apart the professional media sector.

It will regroup, and it will reform, and it will become a better professional media sector because we will realize media is all about the battle for attention and professional media people are good at grabbing attention. This is a valuable talent for any business and that is why news groups will be valuable businesses--once we've gone through this transition.

Some of the new rules

In order to grab attention you need unfettered distribution and easy access. Newspapers should be available for free in public places such as restaurants and coffee shops. In fact, they already are--a lot of diners and coffee shops have a central basket of newspapers that were left behind by patrons.

But the format of newspapers and news magazines will have to change. They have to become showcases of their overall content available through any and many electronic means of distribution.

The business model can still include subscriptions, and news stands can still sell newspapers and magazines but that will be just one avenue for revenues. The business model will include many different revenue streams, of which some we know and others will be invented.

News organisations will sell attention instead of papers. And the electronic forms of distribution will enable them to sell far more different types of products and services than just printed adverts...(that's the secret of the new media :-)

- - -
[PS: I'm away most of this week at Tibco's user conference in Florida--full report when I get back.]

Are PR companies tempted to make false promises on "new media" communications?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Startups and large corporations are crying out for "new media communications" and PR companies are happy to offer their services. However, very, very few of them have the domain expertise in-house to work in the new media world of blogging, and other online "conversations."

Mike Manuel, from Voce Communications states things well in this article on Media Guerrilla: The Social Media Services Gap

Bottom line, while there are some exceptions, IMHO *very* few PR firms today can effectively balance and execute an integrated comms program -- meaning one that blends new and old media. It's not a dig, I just think a lot of people, a lot of firms are grappling with a changing media environment, a dearth of in-house expertise and evolving client needs/expectations -- basically, industry transition.

A related link from Tom Murphy on PR Opinions: Do PR people need new media skills?

Some questions to ask your PR company to evaluate its ability to work in new media communications:

Story continues...

The virtuous trackback: A proposal for paying for content

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

SVW reader Todd Defren has proposed a micropayments system for content, but I don't think such a thing would work because people don't like being nickel-and-dimed for content.
[Please see SVW: We need a Google AdSense on Steroids to pay for content.]
Also, payment for content implies that if you don't pay you don't get to read the content. I wouldn't want to lock up my content behind a subscription firewall I'd like it to be free to roam the internet.

However, what about a type of commercial trackback? What if linking to a blog post you agreed to run a small text link advert at the bottom of the post as part of the blog link policy?

For example, if someone were to write a blog post and link to this post. The blog software would ping this post and then send back a text advert link. So at the bottom of the post linking to this one would be something like this:

[Links in this post are from: Silicon Valley Watcher,, WikiPedia.

These links are sponsored by: Dreamhost--for all your web hosting needs.; "The Power to Predict : How Real Time Businesses Anticipate Customer Needs. ]

The blog software would assemble this bottom panel automatically. It would be a type of Google AdSense advertising network that is "stuck" to the content and follows the content wherever it is reffered to or quoted from. And, it could be done in such a way that everybody could share in the revenues.

For example, if one of my readers writes a blog post and refrences my post which might be sponsored by Amazon and thus an Amazon text link appears on any reffering blog post. If that link on the other blog post generates a sale for Amazon, I get a piece of the sale but so does the other blog site, and so on down and up the line.

In this way, a popular blog post would be able to have broad distribution of its content and its associated text advertising link. Those blogs reffering to the original post would bring attention to the original post and thus are creating value. They get to share in the monetisation of that value through any clicks/sales on the text ad link.

The virtuous trackback

Could you scam/spam something like this? I don't know. There would be nothing gained from just blogging other posts hoping to get affiliate clicks/sales unless those original posts carried some intrinsic value. And bloggers agreeing to such a setup would know that they are helping support the creation of the original content, thus creating a virtuous cycle in which good/great content is rewarded and monetised and reinvested in producing yet more content. It's the virtuous trackback :-)

Another aspect is that because of permalink, one popular blog post would essentially create an advertising network across many pages on the internet and it would be permanently there. Thus, the original sponsor of the original blog post could be changed, and that would be reflected in all the other, connected blog posts.

What do you think? Maybe we can get Dave Winer to comment on this since he is the inventor of RSS and trackbacks. What do you say Dave? Can you give us a commercial virtuous trackback so that we can pay for content without going to micropayments?

Links in this post are from: Silicon Valley Watcher,, WikiPedia.

These links are sponsored by: Dreamhost--for all your web hosting needs.; "The Power to Predict : How Real Time Businesses Anticipate Customer Needs.

We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Your--Face-Here.jpgI've been really enjoying my job lately. I've been writing a lot about the open source movement and the changes it is having on the enterprise software market. Ingres is an excellent example of how the most innovative business model thinkers are taking advantage of the market opportunities.

I feel that I am often in a unique and fortunate position to move quickly on stories. And that is great for a journalist blogger--which is how I define myself.

What is also very interesting is that I don't have a business model to defend, or a boss looking over my shoulder. That means I am free to call things as I see them.

For example, I've been taking on the least progressive elements of the PR industry in my attack on the press release in its current format. I've offered a design for "new media" press release which has inspired many people to create totally new types of news releases.

The role of journalism - professional and citizen

It's not that I'm the only one that sees things "as I see them" because many others understand my positions. But I often am able to give voice to those that cannot speak directly. And that is one of the major failings of "citizen journalism."

There are members of our society that need to have independent journalists tell their stories. And that is what professional journalists do every day--they help our communities tell their stories.

That is our mandate as journalists and nothing has changed in this new media world--except that the delivery mechanism doesn't rely on a newspaper delivery. It's all about the content not the delivery mechanism: paper or plastic (or digital)? It sounds ridiculous to make such distinctions when you think about it.

Dan Gillmor, the great champion of citizen journalism is right when he says his audience knows more about a news subject than he does. But they cannot tell the story. They would get in so much trouble if they wrote about what goes on at work under their own names. That is why journalists cultivate contacts over many years, so that those contacts feel safe in telling their stories.

Yes, there is no transparency in such cases, I will not reveal sources to whom I have pledged anonymity. But it is an important way that journalists can communicate news and information that could not come out into the open in any other way. And the more information is open and shared, the better it is for all.

Media is how society solves big problems

Media is how society thinks, it is how it debates and discusses important issues. That is why it is important to have a professional media class--supported by a citizens media army in the form of blogging and fact checking. That is a scenario for a high quality mediasphere.

And we need a high quality mediasphere because we have some towering problems ahead to solve. Avian flu is the most immediate, but there is a long line of equally disturbing challenges ahead for us that require high quality information widely distributed.

We have one Mediasphere

A couple of Sundays ago, Al Saracevic, deputy business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle was at the CyberSalon in Berkeley. He asked the assembly, [which featured many of the blog/media demi-gods of our times,] can you figure out a way to pay for him and his editorial teams? Al is now a blogger, and he understands that both blogging and newspaper journalism share one mediasphere--and they share the lack of a viable business model.

Blogging is not disrupting journalism--that is a false comparison. Blogging enhances journalism, it contributes to journalism, and it helps disseminate important information in a way that no other way has managed before. This combines to produce a higher quality mediasphere -- at least for now. The problem is the decimation of the professional media by the marketing money flooding toward search engine marketing.

Our current media business models cannot carry the information load because they are being decimated faster than the ice caps are melting. What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk is something that I have been warning about (thanks to Sam Whitmore) for almost nine months. And it is getting worse.

I know we can solve the challenges that face us, because humanity has incredible capabilities. But we must solve the most important Internet problem: how do we recover (pay for) the value of high quality media content? Right now, all the money is in aggregation of news/content, such as Google News, and pennies for the creators of content.

This is the Gordian knot of the Internet, figure out the value-recovery-mechanism that rewards high quality content and pays for more high-quality-content. Are there any Alexanders out there?

This is a virtuous cycle--one that Google AdSense took a baby step towards solving and then stopped.

We need a Super-duper-supercalafragalistic-AdSense that can reward quality content with real $$$ that can lead to investment in yet more quality content.

We don't have that value-recovery-mechanism and without that we are in serious trouble. Because we have no sponsor for journalism.

Selling products by advertising around journalism used to be a cost of sales. Now, it is far, far cheaper to sell products/services around the search box.

How will we pay for the professional journalism that we need? Solve this problem and you will inherit a chapter in Wikipedia. And I'll commision a statue in your (best) likeness.

- - -

- What about a virtuous trackback? - Could this be one way to pay for content?[Read]

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Case study: The elegant social engineering design of Strumpette wreaks havoc in the PR BlogoSphere

Amanda Chapel is a real character if not a real person, and the content on Strumpette is real. In an inaugural post, Ms Chapel baited the top PR blogger Steve Rubel who works at Edelman.

This is becoming an interesting case study on how to react to negative news/opinions, especially if one or more of the participants are fictional. Usually, the strategy would be to focus on the source (Strumpette) and correct any inaccuracies, address any negative comments right there at the source through comments and trackbacks.

Edelman's people have tried to do that but so far, have failed to do much that isn't fueling things the wrong way. And that is largely because of the marvelous social engineering design of Strumpette. Take a look at "Edelman Gang Gets Rough with Strumpette"

We could get some best practices out of this very interesting situation, one that has an array of moral and ethical high grounds occupied and fought over with zest and extra-hardened fingernail polish...:-) In which some of the participants could be of questionable gender and questionable morals. Let the questions continue--it is marvelously entertaining--but is anybody working in PR?

The importance of not being Earnest...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Not-Earnest.jpgGiovanni Rodriguez from Eastwick Communications, seems to think that Strumpette, the latest out-of-left-field blogging sensation written as a stylishly erotic PR blog, by Amanda Chapel--is a fake.

Maybe, but...does it matter? It is wonderfully entertaining and I sent a personal email of encouragement with some of my top blogging tips and said I'm happy to help out with any advice needed. I also said that I would respectfully keep confidential any private correspondence between us--unless agreed otherwise by both parties. [This has to become a basic rule of social etiquette in this day and age when anyone can publish.]

And, I would also keep quiet if Amanda were to be a single or group project. Either way my blogging advice remains the same.

Here is Giovanni's comment and my reply. Let me know what you think about my idea for creating a persona that several writers could share on a weekly basis...I might enjoy it, I'd give it a try, anybody else?

by: Giovanni Rodriguez on March 27, 2006 06:20 PM
Strumpette is a H-O-A-X. Sez me.

Do we have any evidence that "she" exists? Yes, there's a blog. Yes, there's email. What else?

Reply by: Tom Foremski - Silicon Valley Watcher
That's what you said last time G. You said SandhillSlave was a man and I said no way and I betcha I'm right.

Strumpette's Amanda might very well turn out to be a group hybrid personality--it would be fun either way. It is certainly entertaining so far. Maybe we could all take turns to be SandhillSlave or Amanda and play out a persona. Perhaps the real person could be hidden among a flurry of writers and able to protect their insider identity...?

What if we were to adopt a real or imaginary persona, one with a distinct blog voice/online personality, and several people agreed to write one blog post per day within the character of the blog persona? That could be interesting, and maybe even compelling content...

So for example, if Amanda is a composite of several persons then we could have several writers randomly writing as Amanda... They could be semi-fictional semi-factual stories for entertainment purposes only...and they might even protect the anonymity of insiders?

What do you think G? Could you pretend to be Amanda, or an Angela or an Angus, for one day? I bet you could do it with your theatrical background... you could probably manage all three :-)

Every company is now partly a technology-enabled media company--I explain in moving pictures

foremski-a2.jpgAndy Plesser, who organized the impressive Impact '05 conference at New York University in September, sent me this note about his plunge into blogging.

It includes a link to a video clip of myself (blush), I was on a panel with Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's political consultant and probably the most high profile political consultant in the US right now because of his experience with blogging and other media technologies, used to great effect during Mr Dean's presidential bid.

[Andy is a consumate professional and has been one of my earliest and staunchest supporters especially when I left the FT and ventured forth to test out the new media waters nearly two years ago...He and his family are also wonderful hosts whenever I'm in New York, which is not often enough.]

Story continues...

Scoble and the A-list; a beatblog Howl; Strumpette launches with a trail of breadcrumbs...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Microsoft A-list blogger Robert Scoble says he wants to be off the A-list blog roll--things are getting way too mean. Yep, that's true. I try not to be, it's too easy.

. . .

I went to the "6 Poets at 6 Gallery" event Friday in North Beach because of my interest in the Beat Generation and its historic lineage to blogging, and thanks to Allison and Erica who got there early, we had the best standing room in the house, right next to the poets. It was a fun event and I met a lot of interesting people.

The rest of the evening, however, is less easily recalled. I remember something about expressing my own personal "Howl" at the world towards the end of the night...

I could claim to have been aroused by the passionate poetic visions so wonderfully recreated. But I think forgetting to eat during the extended social part of the evening had something to do with an interesting, but highly unrecommended odyssey back home.

Let it roll: A celebration of beat and blog literature; shoot-from-the-hip-one-take-journalism

The Beats: celebrating the obscenity of literature

. . .

Strumpette: A naked journal of the PR business is the new chick on the blogging block, smart and se.x.y, and that's just her writing. Her physical description of herself promises pert parts and other fine qualities of a pertinent nature.

And she has the top male PR bloggers eating out of her hand and she just launched(!) Amanda, don't you just feel some days that it is all just too easy :-) Or, are you really A-Man-Da!

Personally, I try to go for the more challenging muckraking--I figure I can do the easy stuff later...

[BTW, Steve Rubel couldn't, wouldn't, and doesn't need to take on Richard Edelman. He'll be there a long time...that's where I'd put my 25 bucks. I'll even put 25 on you making it to Edelman within the year, if you can build your pagerank :-)]

How does public relations work in the blogosphere?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I took part in a Bulldog Reporter teleconference this morning, on the subject of Blogger PR and it was a record turnout, more than 80 leading PR agencies and corporate communications organizations called in, each with maybe two dozen people or more at each location.

The panel included Shel Israel of It Seems to me, Alice Marie Marshall of Technoflak and Jeremy Pepper of Pop!PR blog. We covered a lot of ground in the ninety or so minutes and we were all agreed on most points. And that was because we all have extensive experience of being involved in the blogosphere (I prefer mediasphere).

We heard a lot of the same questions I hear wherever I go, such as: who are the influential bloggers? How do we deal with negative posts? How do we measure how we influence the influencers? And many more...

I was the only one on the panel that is working as a journalist blogger. I do not work in public relations, I am the target of public relations. And in that capacity I am happy to share what works, what doesn't, and offer some good practices for PR.

And we all agreed on one key point: the best way to find out who is influential in your sector is to get involved in the online conversations either by blogging, monitoring, or commenting.
(Please see SVW: The metrics of influence.)

Every company to some degree, is now a media company. Every company constantly publishes stories and has conversations: within its own organization, with its peers, with its communities, with its potential hires, with its customers. Make sure that those conversations are honest and truthful.

And let go of the out dated attitude of control, or the idea of controlling a message. You have no control over how the world will "tag" you or your company. The only place you have control is with yourself, and that means that you are consistent in the things that you say, the things that you converse with the world.

I love this blogging format and I love sharing what I've learned so far. And there is a tremendous amount that we are still learning, and a tremendous amount of answers that we don't yet have--and that adds to the fun part.

I will help individuals, non-profits and educational organizations become more effective communicators. And I will help PR agencies, corporations--any commercial organizations-- figure out how to tell their stories, and have honest, truthful conversations. And also how to best use these media technologies, such as blogging, RSS, and wikis, to enable direct communications.

I have no interest in spin or marketing: those are concepts that belong in the last century.

If you need me to give a talk, or come in and speak with your teams about the many questions and issues out there, then please contact the non-profit think tank, of which I am a founding fellow, at the Palo Alto based Society for New Communications Research and its founder, Jen McClure, at 650-387-8590. There is a fee for commercial organizations, which helps to fund our work with non-profits and educational institutes.

Defending MySpace: WTF!!! Stay away from the kids let them express themselves any damn way they want!!!!!!

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

say_what?.jpgI'm sick of all this criticism of the content on All the fuddy duddies are warning of hell in a hand basket again.

I peeked in on MySpace more than a year ago and I was very impressed with the writing, the tone that teenagers could set with very few words. I found some great writing and I found some writing that could only be described as Joyceian in its form and ambition. I was super impressed. Yes, I didn't understand a lot of it--but I'm not the target audience.

Let the kids express themselves in the manner and way they want to. We are lucky that they feel able to express themselves in such a public way that we can occasionally look at it. They could lock it up and share it only among themselves.

I wonder what they would say if they read our ramblings about Web 2.0, and online business models, and Google this, that and the other?

Here is Scott Karp: Ticking time bomb.

Here is Nick Carr.

Update: Here is Dana Boyd on MySpace.

Here is some wisdom from a Lebanese writer K. Gibran:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

New rules: emerging mashups in C-level strategy and corporate comms

There is a very interesting trend emerging in how companies are dealing with the key issue of business strategy. The savvy ones are beginning to realize the benefits of combining the roles of business strategy with corporate communications.

And if you think about it--it makes perfect sense because strategy and communications are naturally linked. Yet in most organizations the corporate communications is run by the marketing group. In my opinion, corporate communications and business strategy should be one and the same. And I'm beginning to see some examples of companies implementing such positions.

Here are some examples of strategic and corporate communications roles being combined:

Story continues...

Sunday CyberSalon: Blogger/Journalist elite discuss elitism...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

It was a glorious Sunday afternoon and I was taking a rare trip across to the East Bay to catch a panel on elitism in the media. Normally I try to stay away from such things on a sunny Sunday but my friend Suzanne Hartman, a well respected top PR maven from Seattle was in town, and she was delighted to take part in this gathering of our local blogger/media elite, discussing the elitism of mainstream media and the challenge from blogging.

I have to say that Sylvia Paull, the organiser of the CyberSalon, was very impressive in how she handled what very nearly became an anarchic free for all...:-)

Here is the setting, 5pm at the Hillside Club, open to anybody with $10, and hosting a collection of some of the most influential people in the mediasphere--on and off the podium:

A Cybersalon panel of experts – including NY Times technology reporter and author John Markoff, BlogHer cofounders and bloggers Jory des Jardins and Lisa Stone, blogger/podcaster/digital reporter Steve Gillmor, and freelance trade journalist Joshua Greenbaum -- takes a critical look at the concepts of expertise and elitism in the dynamic Web 2.0 world. Our moderator is Andrew Keen, founder of the podcast.

But we could have picked randomly from the audience and assembled 20 similar panels from the people in the room.

Story continues...

You know you are a journalist and not a blogger when...

. . .You start getting pitches from PR folk and companies.

Here is Robert Scoble--Microsoft's A-list blogger:

Who made me a gatekeeper? I don’t want that job.

Don’t send me more email pitches please. Don’t beg for me to try out your software. Don’t wait for me to blog about your company or your team or your product or you. That’s what comments here are for. You have direct access to anyone who is reading this post. Pitch in the comments! If your stuff is good, someone will try it out and say so. Maybe even me.

Please read more at Scobleizer...

BTW, I am always amazed when bloggers such as Mr Scoble and others, start becoming very irritated at the hundreds of emails they start getting from PR people and others wanting a plug. Welcome to the world of the journalist--we have to deal with this stuff every day, it comes with the territory.

And as for journalists who now have to blog for their employer:

Editors at the Washington Post are wrestling with discontent from reporters who think they should be paid extra for contributing to a group Web log. The Washington City Paper reported staffers on the Post's metro section asked for extra money after learning some prominent byliners were being paid for Web logs while they would not be.
Please read more at Bloggersblog...

I used to tell my colleagues in the mainstream media "start blogging as soon as you can otherwise you will have to blog for your employer and build its media brand instead of yours!" I don't like to have to say I told you so...

And as for extra cash for extra work? Forgetaboutit. It would just accelerate the decline of your newspaper because your newspaper cannot monetise your extra work anyway.

The metrics of influence--the mania for measuring the blogosphere

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

AudienceMeasure.jpgThere is a current mania among corporations and PR companies to figure out which tools to use to find the influencers in the blogosphere. They are combing through the PageRank and Alexa rankings of online news sites and blog sites, figuring out who has the audience, who do they try to engage in a conversation about their clients. It's PR 101.

I am often asked "which blogs are the important ones, which ones should we be paying attention to, which ones should we be reading?" I can give you a decent list, but you should be able to figure that out yourselves.

In fact, you will come to know the important bloggers because they will be the ones that your peers share with you. As blogging moves out of the Geek communities and into many more sectors, that sharing principle is how influential blogs become created and distributed and that is how you will recognize the leaders.

Finding the right metrics to measure a blog's value as an influencer will never be as simple as measuring numbers of links, comments, trackbacks, Alexa rank, Technorati rank, etc. Because you have to understand the context of each blog and how it fits into its online communities. And you can only do that by being involved in those communities, online and offline.

Let me say it again: the best way to figure out who the important bloggers are in your sector is to go into the online communities as a participant. It'll become apparent very quickly.

I'm lucky to be be publishing a popular and influential news blog. Yes, I'm happy that the numbers are very good, but I don't look at them that often. The metrics that please me the most is when I hear back from readers, from emails, from comments.

What I love the best is when I meet people, from the trenches to the boardroom, and they tell me "I read you and I share you with my team." That's the kind of feedback that energizes me and makes me feel that I have one the best jobs in the valley.

NYU is tracking newspaper bloggers

A very good resource for watching what is going on in newspapers and their struggle to come to terms with blogging is, put together by Jay Rosen and his students at NYU.

I was at NYU last September at the Impact '05 conference. I was on a panel alongside Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's political strategist . Since then, the work being done at NYU by its journalism school has been popping up regularly on my radar screen. For example, the excellent IWantMedia is put together by Patrick Philips, an adjunct professor at NYU.

Facts About the State of Blogging at America's 100 Biggest Newspapers

Blue Plate Special combed through the 100 largest sites. The results show who's blogging, who's not, and which newsrooms are doing what. Look up your newspaper, and compare. (And please: help us fact check this chart!)
By Trisha Chang, Kat Ocampo, Kaitlin Jessing-Butz
Alexis Krase, Toli Galanis and Sara Williams

. . .

Also, notable on the site is Renee Alfuso's article on journalists who blog, and how obsessive it can become. She interviewed the Philadelphia Inquirer's full-time journalist blogger Daniel Rubin, a 25 year newsroom veteran and George K. Polk award winner.

Story continues...