Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Moving Day:

17, October, 2008

Hey, this blog has gone legit. I’ve moved it to

If you’d like to return, update your bookmarks. Might help to resubscribe to the RSS feed too. It’s supposed to convert automatically, but you never know.

See you on the other side. . . .

Kill the Paper, Save the News

8, October, 2008

Today the Interactive Advertising Bureau sent out a press release crowing about the continued growth of online advertising.

Short version: Interactive ad revenue up 15 percent for first half of 2008 vs. first half of 2007. Total revenues topped $11 billion for the first six months of ’08.

The day before, my favorite news-about-the-news newsletter, I WANT MEDIA, included the following items, in this order:

It brings me no joy to observe this continued bloodbath in the newsrooms of America.

But the sad litany above is clearly related to the continued rise in digital advertising revenues. Instead of laying off people from newspapers and hiding in the basement, leaders who are dedicated to the future of news just have to quit snorting sawdust and let the newspapers go. Not the news, but the newspapers.

Another item linked to in I WANT MEDIA made the point: Overextended media baron Barry Diller, head of the recently disassembled IAC, talked to the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Newspapers are suffering as advertising moves online. You are a director of Washington Post Co. Do you think newspaper companies will survive?

Mr. Diller: If they call themselves newspaper companies they are probably going to be toast. It will depend absolutely on what the product is. We’re still at such an early period to talk about the death of journalism.

Which is to say: There’s hope, but only if you drop the paper–and keep the news.


Free Social Web Presentation: A $495 value!

24, September, 2008

I’m about to go do a presentation on social media. The topic this time: How to use various search-and-discover tools to monitor what’s being said in the socialwebosphere about you, your company, your partners or competitors, your spouse, your enemies, etc.

The audience is a group of people who do PR, marketing and communications for non-profit groups in the healthcare field. The people in attendance paid $495 to hear my presentation–though, to be fair, a lunch, dinner and a bunch of other, far more interesting speakers are part of the deal too.

But I thought I’d share the useful stuff right here in my blog, where everything is free. And–this is a guarantee–worth every penny.

The presentation lists a bunch of tools you can use to monitor what’s being said out in the social web. I know there are many others, but the ones I’m listing are both user-friendly for late adopters and likely, at least as a group, to produce a good scan of what’s being said in blogs, on Twitter, on discussion forums and hyperlocal news sites.

If any readers of this blog know good tools to supplement or replace the ones I’ve listed here, please leave a comment below. I’ll update the list and republish the full list in a later post.

Anyway, it’s about 12:30 p.m. and I’m on at 1 p.m. Better run.

Here’s the handout I’ll give out.

Learning to Listen In

The following tools help you monitor the many conversations happening all around the Internet. Some comments may involve your business, institution or key people. You may not want or need to respond. But knowing what people are saying is vital.

Listening is also an easy way to familiarize yourself with the baffling world of social media. Later on you may want to use these same techniques in marketing, branding, communication and customer service efforts. Talk like a marketer, though, and they’ll hate you.


Most of these tools let you save your searches. Some send results to your e-mail, your iGoogle page or any RSS reader [Yahoo360, Netvibes, Bloglines, etc.]

Be sure to “listen” not only for your institution or firm’s full name, but for its nickname, short name, common misspellings, etc. Don’t forget about the names of key people.

The following tools are listed in approximate order of value. Start with Google Alerts, and see which others turn up content you’d otherwise miss.

  • Google Alerts The most basic way to monitor what’s being published on important topics and events. If nothing else, set Google Alerts for keywords and have results delivered to your e-mail box.
  • Filtrbox Can dig deeper and help analyze content that turns up. Monthly fee for high-level use. For some, it may be worth it.
  • BlogPulse A Nielsen service, it monitors blog content
  • Omgili or Twing Both of these monitor the “deep web”—message boards where most search engines don’t prowl or
  • Twitter Search To listen in on what’s being said on this annoying, oddly compelling platform For alerts:
  • Topix Aggregates local news better than most. A good way to see what your local press is reporting without having to visit their sites

Digital Journalism Worst Practices [Reprise]

23, August, 2008

Two weeks ago I published an entry about the list of finalists of the 2008 Online Journalism Awards. I was impressed overall with the quality of the entries, and emerged with a sense of hope about the future of digital journalism [should a business model ever be discovered to fund it].

But at the bottom of the entry I included some of the Worst Practices in Digital Journalism the winners also exhibited. A few days later an e-mailer suggested, correctly, that I’d “buried the lede,” as we say in newsrooms. This is to say my list of worst practices got lost at the end of an entry about good practices.

So: I’ve reposted the Worst Practices part here. Enjoy. Or not.

Segregating “video” from other parts of a package, or even labeling it as video. Media of all types should be integrated into a whole package. Calling out “video” rings of an anachronistic brag: “Hey, lookit, we did some video, too!” I demand this practice be stopped immediately.

Layering a show-offey Flash entry page above the package. Flash pages waste time, bandwidth and user patience. They add no value. They impress nobody other than their own designers. Stop it, I tell you, stop it!

Placing the whole 3-part, 120-inch wordroll at the center of a digital package. Long blocks of text work okay on paper. They deliver a lousy experience online. Keeping those wayback-style reports at the center of digital packages tells me the newspaper folks are still in control of the website, fighting the future, defending the interests of their print reporters and slowing the new organization’s transition to a financially stable future. In fact, how about this: Instead of sticking “videos” in the sidebar of an article, how about putting “articles” in the sidebar of a visually-driven presentation. [“Hey, lookit, we wrote an article about this too!”] Editors who take offense at that suggested inversion, I submit, may want to consider that next buyout offer very seriously.

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The Web 2.D’oh! Roundup

22, August, 2008

The Print ‘n’ Read ™ Feature: How Obama Really Did It

I regularly choose a story I encounter online that I find so valuable it’s actually worth printing it out on paper for later reading. This time it’s the remarkably thoroughgoing and fascinating “How Obama Really Did It,” appearing in MIT’s Technology Review.

A remarkable piece of near-real-time history [six, count ’em, six screens long], the piece describes how and who pulled off Barack Obama’s social networking strategy.

One favorite detail: The forgotten chapter about how McCain, during his 2000 campaign, was precocious in his use of the Internet, raising $1 million online before it was cool. Author David Talbot then goes on to detail his adventures trying to deal with John [“I’m getting more familiar with computers”] McCain’s current website.

[A tip o’ the fez to TechPresident for the pointer to Talbot’s piece.]

Mario Sundar’s Top 10 Blogs

I’m delighted to report that this very blog . . .nearly made Mario Sundar’s list of Top 10 blogs. Oh, it didn’t make the Top 10, but it was nice to be mentioned.

Sundar, “community evangelist” at LinkedIn, proclaimed recently that blogging’s demise has been grossly exaggerated. He goes on to list his 10 favorites. After that list he mentions this humble author among those who “don’t blog as often as they did in the past. Here’s hoping they’d resume their prolific blogging sometime in the future.”

I hereby pledge to try really really hard to post [nearly] every [week]day [when my day job permits] [and my family appears in no imminent danger of forgetting what I look like entirely].

As you might expect, Sundar’s Top 10 includes a few worthies that likely don’t appear on most folks’ RSS dashboards: Jason Kottke’s 10-year-old [!] highbrow take on liberal arts and Harvard Business Online’s Conversation Starter, for instance.

He also includes the indispensible Boom Town by Kara [“I only do digital”] Swisher of the Wall Street Journal. Among my few brushes with fame I include my memorable visit to Hoover Dam with Kara way back in our callow youth at The Washington Post. If I recall, she purchased a swell pair of cowboy boots.

And Finally, Our Regular Sighting of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse ™

Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints rumored poised to purchase Facebook A Worthy Blog Directory [Seriously]

21, August, 2008

See the ugly row of badges on the right rail of this blog? They link to blog directories that, in theory, aggregate the “best” blogs and present their content in a way that organizes the vast, incoherent blogosphere for easy consumption.

Nearly all of them suck, including the ones whose badges I display. Go ahead, click on ’em [on the rail, not above]. Or don’t click; I have nothing at stake. These directories deliver very little user value and, contrary to their claims, are hardly worth a moment’s notice. [I stuck them on their a couple months ago so I can see whether having my blog listed directs any traffic my way. Answer: Hardly a trickle, though blogcatalog has trickled the most.]

Which brings me to [which must be one of the most valuable URLs in Electroland]. The site has been relaunched by its owners, Six Apart, the corporate unit behind the blog platforms TypePad and Movable Type. My observations are preliminary, but it looks awfully good to me.

Unlike many directories, has sentient beings picking the most worthy content. Evidence suggests these beings are literate, smart and funny. lives somewhere between [which uses human “guides” to select content], [an increasingly annoying aggregation site which launched with a similar idea as but increasingly delegates its picks to legions of Twitteurs, with results I consider disastrous] and the old-school content directories of Yahoo in its callow youth. [This Yahoo comparison is made in the TechCrunch preview post about]

Three favorite things about

Though it’s a product of Six Apart, it features plenty of blogs on other platforms. God love ’em for putting users ahead of crass self-interest.

The top entry of the day weaves together a bunch of blog entries with wit and smarts. If blurb is a verb, these folks blurb extremely well.

Its list of Top 10s are ecumenical and tightly edited, a mix of picks by editors and various Electroland personages [Craig of Craigslist’s 10 Favorite Blogs, Glen Abel’s Top DVD Blogs for Smart People]

Perfect? Of course not. Spend half an hour and you’ll find plenty of crap to scrape off your shoes. But the signal-to-noise is pretty high, and I find that’s main topic pages function as daily “news” reports that cover the basics in each area but are full of wiggy surprises.

Say, I wonder if I can get a badge for my blog?

n.b. My blog is now proudly displaying a “featured blogs” badge on the sidebar.–Sept. 9

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GSP Liveblog: The Future of Facebook Commerce

10, June, 2008

Liveblog from Graphing Social Patterns East is boring even me. My sincere apologies for two dull entries just posted. New format: Three Points

Session: Facebook

1. By using attributes from profiles, marketers can target ads and applications to people by geography, interests, activity on network, etc. Use [Facbeook] people “like you do keywords” when buying Adwords keywords. [Note to self: Icky but fascinating.]

2. Application example: Open Table permits restaurant reservations across network rather than requiring people to visit their site to make reservations. Could be targeted geographically, by interest, by network activity, etc.

3. Another example: Someone “friends” a dentist and their friends see an ad for the same dentist. [Ickier than the rest, for some reason.]

My takeaway: People’s Facebook home pages will soon fill with [more] targeted commercial clutter [than there is currently]. What’s that I hear in the distance? Could it be a death knell?

GSP Liveblog: BuddyMedia and “App-Vertising” [Ack.]

10, June, 2008

Michael Lazerow, HealthBuddy speaker

“We live at intersection of social media. . .and advertising.” [Which is to say: They help marketers reach social network users.] It’s App-vertising!” [Ahem]

[Lots of stats showing ubiquity of social network use. Smells of hopeful, evasive fiction.]

Who cares most about distribution in this marketplace? Brands, says he.

Observation: Low click-through rates on banner ads on network. Buyer has power: They have so many choices, why will they choose a particular platform?

“The application is the new ad unit. Impressions are not an end, but a means to an end”–engagement with the brand.

Ad agencies, media companies are ill-placed to. . .live in this social world.

Appvertising: Share app; target; “Your friends are now in your ads” [Ack. Ick.] Widgets: Sprout is the main mover, allowing people to build flash applications on the fly.

FedEx application permitted choosing/shipping of “virtual” product [attachment] to send to a friend. The value is branding. “Check your dudeness.” Time Inc. app: View yourself as with celebrity hair, etc.

Yes, but what is the “metric” for “engagement”: Says he: “Um, it’s a work in progress.” Pulling data and producing reports. “We get paid on engagement”–installs, unique visitors. Beer campaign, 20 percent of users came back 100 times or more to measure their “dudeness.”

Bottom line is: Engagement is the metric that matters to people branding on social networks, not impressions. “Impressions are like air”–huge inventory, lower demand.

GSP Liveblog: LinkedIn Presentation

10, June, 2008

Adam Nash, Sr. Director of Product for LinkedIn [My comments in brackets]

[Intro: A video that shows Toby of The Office, talking about social network abuse at Dunder Mifflin]

What sets LinkedIn apart? Unlike purely goof-with-friends networks, LI is a “purpose-driven Network.” [Which is to say: Business only. Duh.] Based on trust, developing a business profile. Users: Time-starved business folks who value their privacy.


  • 8.6 million monthly page views: 361 pct growth in year. Now fourth highest social network in PVs
  • Demo: 41 years old, avg. income $100k-plus
  • New[ish] feature: Company posting employee directories on LinkedIn. 65 percent of them have fewer than 200 or fewer employees

LinkedInnies are “suceptive to messages” aimed at small business users. “You won’t find a page with 12 different ad spots.” Advertisers can do broad campaign, or aim at certain kinds of users, or custom segments. All that data in your profile? It’s used to match you with ads.

Members want productivity applications–things that will save them time or do things they can’t now do to reach people.

Open Social based applications to be launched. . . in Q3.

LinkedIn makes money four ways: Ads; classified job ads; premium subscription products for some users; enterprise deals for big companies. [Note to self: Am I paying for a premium subscription? If so, why?]

Data viz plans: New apps to (for example) show who’s moved where, understand relationships between people and companies, etc. [I’d love to see my LinkedIn network represented as a Venn diagram.]

Unbelievable quote: “I have a number of interns starting next week [!]” that will explore new kinds of visualizations. [Dude: If it’s a strategic priority, why are freaking interns getting the work? What, you can’t find people via LinkedIn who can do the job?]

iPhone plans: “It’s a little bit spoiling” that with LinkedIn mobile you can now walk into a meeting and find out about people five minutes beforehand. “We’ll pursue” mobile “very aggressively.”

So Simple. So Smart.

20, May, 2008

On Tuesday night, while results from the Kentucky and Oregon Democrat primaries were coming in, the New York Times had this wonderful tool above the fold on its home page.

NYTimes Delgate Slider

Meantime, the folks over at offer the considerably more complicated (if subtle) calculator shown below.

CNN delegate counter

Making complex material simple but accurate is one of the highest callings of journalism. Both sites attack this particular complexity well. But I give the nod to