Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts on 2010: Good for Journalism, Bad for Marketing .

As 2010 starts, I am reminded that I'll be starting my fifth year in social media. I started as a professional blogger for Corante (a blog most won't know about these days), and have had some pretty interesting experiences in both the marketing and journalism sectors of what has now become "social media." In 2009, I started to see a whole momentum-shift in social media as some newspapers folded and ad revenues continued to plummet; and businesses of all stripes got really itchy about using social media for their own gain--rather than to service or listen to their customers. Even if there still isn't much in the way of ROI to prove social media's worth, businesses started to see their way to exploit social media as another platform to broadcast their "marketing message." But that was 2009....here's what I think--and what my gut tells me--might happen for both journalism and marketing in the upcoming year..

Good for Journalism: Journalism gets real with hyperlocal. Thanks to the vast numbers of downsized journalists in both print and broadcast, we are going to see a whole lot more independent, hyperlocal blogs and sites devoted to towns and cities across the country, filling in the gaps where the mainstream is dropping off. Where will they get the money? Some will get grants, while others will figure out how to get local merchants to buy ads (trust me, some have already) They'll figure out how to cash in on content syndication and ad networks and other programs that are already out there, and there might even be some new ways that money gets generated.

Lots more of these independent projects will profit: esp. if they've been around for a couple of years. People will turn to them because newspapers, while they figure out what to do next, will be more than averagely awful...

Many these new projects will be founded and/or headed by women, who continue to be overlooked as either "news futurists" or "news innovators"--one of these sites, founded by publisher Mary Serreze is Northampton Media
out here in Northampton, MA. Although not formally launched just yet, Northampton Media is providing important and significant coverage on the recent spate of arsons in Northampton that claimed two lives and cost thousands in damages.

If anything I hope for this year, that may not materialize, is recognition for women as news innovators and as important players in the future of news--because so many are making that future happen in small towns all over the place.

Check out this article at Poynter.org on Rick Kupchella, former anchor at KARE-TV in Minneapolis and his BringMeTheNews site....another project pointing to the future of local (and profitable too.)

Oh, and if newspapers are smart, they'll work out some kind of deals with outfits like Helium.com and Demand Media for outsourced copy editors, many of whom will come from the ranks of downsized journalists (as many of Helium and Demand's best writers come from)....thus diminishing the fear that at least copy editing will be done in Bangalore.

The Bad News for Marketing: outsourcing social media expands

Back in the day, a bunch of really smart guys got together and wrote something called The Cluetrain Manifesto. In that manifesto was the idea that "markets are conversations" and the Internet could make those conversations happen. A lot of people in marketing found it really difficult to get this notion (actually, it's a whole like like retail sales--trust me--and thus very far removed from marketing)

What these guys didn't say is that "marketing is a conversation." However, as social media evolves, and companies get desperate to get into Facebook and Twitter and all that social media jazz, lots of marketers who'd never worked retail and who can't seem to grasp Cluetrain, just figured there were ways to make their marketing messages into "conversation."

Notice the quotes there--because many aren't concerned about what makes conversation happen, or the benefits of direct customer interaction and increased efficiency in customer service, which is what happens when a company actually *does* social media. Most companies are interested in reaping benefit from social media--such as an increase in SEO for their websites--without actually having to have any kind of conversation with anyone.

Enter the new breed of social media "consultant." Rather than actually helping a company to understand the benefits of doing social media for themselves, helping a company brainstorm innovative ways of using social media in conjunction with other marketing strategies and the like, these enterprising consultants are willing to do the social media *for* businesses and companies. Yes, that means writing their blogs for them, keeping their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. In some cases it's even managing the LinkedIn accounts of senior execs. Marketing and Public Relations firms, too, are getting into the act, with creating new positions in their firms that are pretty much entry-level jobs that require lots of "social media management"(read: writing stuff for them) of client Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Maybe there's some blogging in that stuff, but who knows. Nowadays, how many of "the interns" really know what a blog is anyway? aren't they just passe little thingies that are great for linking strategies??? (argh!)

I'm totally baffled by this kind of consulting. The logic I hear from the many folks who do it this way is that businesses just don't have time to do social media, or they don't have the staff to do it, or some other reason why it's so impractical for them to do social media in-house (and I've been accused of being a "purist" who "just doesn't understand" that some business owners don't really care to have conversations with potential customers. huh?? they'd never make it in retail.) So much of this thinking flies in the face of all the social media success stories (see this from Gaspedal) that point out how in-house social media is what makes social media effective (creating a "market" and then a "conversation.")

Now, there are those consultants who will also argue that if you teach a company how to do social media for themselves, that they won't need the consultant any more. All I can say is if that's the case, then the consultant really isn't doing his/her job: because the world of social media moves so fast that you blink and you could have moss growing between your toes. Regardless of the hype, there's no reason to believe that Twitter and Facebook are the endpoints in social media and if you know them, that's all you need.

The matter of in-house vs. out-sourced social media won't be decided: check this great discussion on Social Media Examiner on the topic. There will, though, be a lot of companies throwing money at types and kinds of social media that, over the long term, may not get them what they want: more customers and better customer relations...

So, as I look at this, I think--where am I going to be in all of this? Will I continue to straddle both journalism and marketing, where will the opportunities be, and if there is room for "purist" thinking. Honestly, with the rise in hyperlocal sites, social media, and that direct connection with community and 'customer" is going to help journalism survive. That lack of connection that comes from outsourcing will more than likely black eye a company or two, and we won't necessarily be hearing of success stories from outsourced social media. All in all, it's going to be another exciting year in the trenches, that's for sure!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dating, The Internet, and the Transformation of Rituals

A short while ago, David Rogers (one of the coolest guys I know, and co-founder of the BRITE conferences), in a post on his blog, brought my attention to something I'd been thinking about for a very long time: how the Internet has changed things not for the worse, but perhaps for the better....

To me, the Internet has had the most profound change on the ways in which we relate to and interact with one another. Since the early days of newsgroups, there have been a myriad of ways to passive-aggressively (or downright aggressively = flaming) interact with one another because our identities were concealed most of the time. Yet even among the kinds of nasties that went on when groups hide behind identities, I got to observe a subtle shift in the whole ritual of dating and mating....

Believe it or not, back in those days, there were tons and tons of young, single geek types who were having a hard time getting dates. And it wasn't because they all had Asperger's Syndrome or were otherwise socially awkward. That's a myth. More often than not, these young folks were working really long hours doing really obscure things with an embryonic Internet, developing things like, oh, Instant Messaging, and other stuff we now just take for granted....

They didn't have the time to go out and hang out doing the stuff that the folks who weren't in the computer industry were doing. When they did, they either couldn't talk about their work, or if they did, nobody at the bar understood a word of what they were saying. So, lots of them started to meet one another "on line", and then, sure enough, in time, some of them actually got married!

And, yeah, some of us said, "oh, it'll never last..."

oh ye who laugh first....

There were other big changes going on in the whole dating and mating thing that would impact a whole lot of us and cause us to re-evaluate how we date and mate at different periods of our lives. Divorce, for one thing. Lots of us didn't stay in marriages for one reason or another, and then managed to find ourselves "on the market" again at a time in life when most people would, in the past, would be celebrating their 25th anniversaries.

The biggest conundrum to being single and over 40 is: where do you meet someone your own age?

One thing I noticed is that socializing patterns change as we get older. What used to be "boys and girls together"--that time in your 20's when everybody just "hangs out" and you can meet people anywhere from a bar to a concert to a hockey game to an ultimate Frisbee match--is no longer there. The boys and girls have children of their own, and even ourselves don't quite have the same energy that we had in those days.

I have observed some other interesting dynamics of us over 40's. Men (single/divorced and w/o small children) tend to spend weekends on their own, often pursuing hobbies like boating (one of the "going out" hobbies) or woodworking in their own workshops. It seems that for a lot of men, their weekends are resting and recharging from their work responsibilities, which often involve supervising of others.

And they are certainly not hanging out with buddies at bars looking for chicks. That's the disgruntled married guys ;-)

Now, the advice given to over 40 women up to now has been to get out and do "guy things" in order to meet men. That means taking up boating or joining Habitat for Humanity (woodworking outside of the home) or some other "manly" hobby. However, this generation of over 40 women--lots like me--don't feel the need to follow men in their hobbies just to meet them.

We also know that if we go out with girlfriends, depending on where we live, we might be taken for a lesbian couple. Not good if you want to meet guys.

Now, there's much more I could write about this--about the changes over the generations of modes of dancing from partner to mosh pit, or how bowling is kind of like going to a bar and you're more than likely to meet someone married there too--but that would turn all of this into a huge article of some sort. Suffice to say that the rituals of folks of other generations that might have got them together just aren't there any more (see Putnam's "Bowling Alone" to get more of that theory.)

Enter the world of Internet dating!

I've heard tons of people my age who scoff at the idea of Internet dating--and most of them haven't looked at an Internet dating site since Love @AoL. When I finally decided that I wanted to start dating again, I was totally shocked by the variety of dating sites that are out there. You can have anything from the "hookup" (sites like adultfriendfinder.com) to the FWB (friends with benefits--like on fling.com). You can create cute profiles and chat on sites like Match.com and OKCupid, or you can go straight for the passive-aggressive-passing-notes-to-determine-your-soulmate style of eHarmony.com.

My, how things have changed-- Even the way we Internet-date--and in the course of maybe 10 or so years. That is, depending on how long it's been since the first official online dating site appeared.

To me, this is a total boon to both women and men. My experience in talking with a lot of women about Internet dating is that, well, they don't approach it in quite the way that might help them. First they should be thinking of what they might really want from a relationship. And be totally honest. Brutally and totally honest.

And men...well, they tend to go the other way and embellish just a bit--even in what they are looking for. I've caught a couple of guys with profiles on a number of different sites (mostly by comparing sites with other friends doing the online dating thing too) asking for vastly different kinds of relationships...

I guess they feel like it's the lottery: the more chances you have, the better you will be at winning *something*....

Aside from these quirks of women/men's natures, overall, women no longer need to become interested in things they simply aren't interested in, and men don't have to give up their spare-time recharge rituals to find a date.

And nobody has to go hand out in bars--where there's nobody anyway.

Suffice to say, then, that Internet dating, since its inception, has changed the ritual of meeting by changing the place we meet. With the Internet, we have a much better chance of finding that "community of affinity" and thus the person within that community who might be worth spending time with. We may also need to be more honest with ourselves--not just with what we want from a relationship, but also what our lives are like and what are our interests. For women, it no more having to get a dog because you might meet a nice guy walking one, and for men it's no longer taking that cooking class when you'd rather be home having a beer.

Think about it...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Catching a CEO with his social media pants down

When it comes to the world of social media consulting and so forth, I love when I can tell a good "emperor has no clothes" story. I've been sitting on this one for awhile because I didn't want to black-eye this particular CEO. Yet as I see more and more people advocating for outsourcing social media efforts to "virtual assistants," underpaid interns, and the like, I can no longer keep my mouth shut--as my experience is a particularly good cautionary tale for those who believe outsourcing their social media is a good thing to do....

Back in '08, I put together two panels for the BlogWorld Expo--a pretty decent conference catering to bloggers and those wanting to make some money from blogging (my impression anyway.) Conference organizer Rick Calvert was happy that I was able to put together two excellent panels on the state of citizen journalism--a topic that hadn't been fully explored at BlogWorld. I was elated that I'd be able to bring in some of the great people I know and to be part of the conference...

Meanwhile, on Facebook, I got a friend request from a particular CEO-who-shall-remain-nameless who I did not know. He's a marketing guy who has a method for explaining the ROI of blogging that makes sense to business owners. We had a couple of friends in common, so I figured what the heck. But just to make sure, I sent him an email asking why he wanted to friend me....

The reply said something about the two of us being at BlogWorld. So I figured, ok, no biggie, and mentioned that I'd be looking forward to meeting him at the conference.

Now, it's fair to mention that I know a number of influentials in New Media, as well as a whole bunch of CEOs and other execs across marketing, p.r., etc. and a whole bunch of Very Influential People in journalism. I'm something of a "niche product" myself, partly because I don't have a formal background in either marketing nor journalism, but have been able to work on a number of great cutting edge projects...and hold my own...

In other words, I'm no piker in this new media/blogging stuff. I'm no starry-eyed newbie looking to start my company blog or learn the basics of Twitter. So, I best not be patronized, patted on the head, nor treated in any other way except as a peer (as we should treat one another anyway--it's just common respect. Esp. when I'm presenting two panels at the same conference where you are sitting on only one....

So, when I introduced myself to said CEO (who I couldn't get hold of after the panel as he was rushing off to his booth--understandable) I was greeted with a real fish-eye. "Um, you friended me on Facebook?" I said. I got a "oh, yeah, yeah, that's right..." that sounded as if he had no idea who he had/hadn't "friended."

Before I'd even thought that someone else might be keeping this guy's Facebook page, I thought that he might have given the list of conference presenters to one of the people in his office and said "Friend these folks for me, why don't 'cha?" while perhaps having a second list for those who would be approached on LinkedIn.

Yeah, I know a bit about how "strategic" some people are in their use of Facebook and LinkedIn. I have my own strategy, although it's probably not as mercenary as some others. Yet if I'd stuck to my strategy, I wouldn't have taken this guy's "friend" request in the first place. (little did he know...)

Well, as if it wasn't bad enough getting the brush off, after the conference I received an email from someone in his office--not offering me, perhaps, the possibility of being an affiliate for their company, BUT TO CONTRACT WITH THIS GUY'S COMPANY FOR BLOGGING CONSULTING AND TO (POSSIBLY) PURCHASE HIS PRODUCT!

Bloody Hell!! I've been blogging longer than this guy'd been blogging, I've spoken at conferences this guy couldn't get himself into in a dog's age, and he's handed my business card over to some flunkie in his office to send me a pitch for his product?!?

Talk about your social media #FAIL!

I immediately sent the flunkie an email informing him of my background and that I was a "friend" of his boss on Facebook, and that I'd worked as a professional blogger as well as a social media consultant/strategist. And that perhaps his boss should look at people's business cards before he hands them off to someone in his office for "follow-up."

Yeah, I know the boss jargon. I've been the flunkie. I know how it works. And I know that even though social media is supposed to be personal (as in managed by the person who has the accounts) there are some people who are just hooked on the idea of handing off stuff to someone in their office (or to outsource it.) They're hooked on the idea of someone else talking for them, doing their correspondence for them, and someone keeping track of their contacts for them. But times have changed. The era of the "I'm too important to be captured" (as Madame X said to Fred Flintstone) is slowly going the way of Sean Connery as James Bond.

It's simple: if you don't have the time for social media, don't be part of it. If it's important to you and to your business--esp. if you're business IS social media, then you should be the one participating in it. And if you can't, then set up a business account for business-related social media. Don't try to be the "boss" in a social media environment--because many of us will not care how important you are. We care about how well you will connect with us.

In other words, there are alternatives to pretending that you are doing your own social media management, and that you actually "know" the people you're friending, emailing, tweeting with, etc.

Now, I know there are a whole bunch of people, including this CEO, who believe that Corporate Blogging is different from "Personal" blogging--and that because of this, the work of both corporate blogs (and probably corporate Facebooking/Tweeting) can be done by others. Corporate presences in Facebook and Twitter managed by a team or group of individuals are fine--as long as they are not directly identified with an individual, such as the company's CEO or any other person's social media profile. Especially if these accounts are going to be used to disseminate only information about products, or other kinds of marketing, or serve as a channel for customer service.

HOWEVER--when it comes to Corporate Blogging....well, frankly, lots of corporate blogs are putting out a lot of search-tweaked content that's working to bump up their search results, yet isn't the best content in the blogosphere. That's the kind of content companies like Demand Media are supplying for corporate clients that blog. Sure, it's great for the companies: it gives them more results in search and an edge over their clients. But it's hardly "social"...

Yet, there are those who believe--and advocate-- that the whole idea of corporate blogs as "social" is an "unrealistic" notion perpetuated by "blogging purists" who simply don't understand business (as one corporate social media guy once said to me--prefaced with "well, you don't understand corporate blogging." oh, really???)

IMO, and in the opinion of a whole bunch of folks I know who are doing great things with corporate blogs on a "relational" level, I'd say that the corporate bloggers are the ones who don't fully understand what has made blogging valuable to companies beyond search....

But back to the CEO: needless to say that after this experience, I've never been able to give this guy nor his product a positive endorsement. I've said "sure, he's got a great methodology for explaining ROI, but that doesn't mean he knows the landscape of social media." And, in fact, his attitude and actions towards me proved, to me anyway, that he certainly wouldn't be able to help his clients if they had to deal one-on-one with a person in a social media context.

To me, it proved that he was in the "broadcast" mode of social media thinking, and that everything should be delegated down to the lower levels--that he, as a CEO, was much too important to be engaging anyone in social media.

Especially a purist like me ;-)

Go figure.

So, the lesson to take away from this is: if you are going to engage in social media, no matter what your level in your company may be, make sure that you plan to be social--really social. If you're going to friend someone you're going to be at a conference with, make sure that you are prepared to say something positive when you meet him/her, not give the glazed over fish-eye. And please don't hand over a stack of business cards to someone in your office and tell them that it's these folks who get "x" email. Because the person who gets that email might end up catching you with your social media pants down....

update I received an email from the CEO that this post is, in part, based on (there is another CEO quoted here--the one who referred to me as a "purist." ) He offered a very gracious and sincere apology, which was very nice. He handled the criticism very well. I'm sure it was tough to hear. It wasn't easy to write, either. But I'm glad he heard it, and I am looking forward to having a further conversation with him in the near future. In this way, we can both grow from the experience.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I haven't been updating the sidebar to this blog, so I thought it might be best to post where I'll be in the upcoming months...

This week, on December 11th, I will be speaking at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at Rutgers Business School in Newark, NJ. I'll be speaking on using social media for small businesses. And yes, I'll be talking some rudimentary metrics. I hope that a more in-depth conversation with this group--something beyond the basic "what is social media"--will help this group to develop their web presences.

And in March, 2010, I will be on a panel discussing new media at the "A Century of Women in Type" Conference for Smith Women in Media. It's an amazing honor to be asked to be part of an event alongside such women as Gloria Steinem, Laurel Touby (tent), and so many other amazing and fascinating women who've made huge contributions to the world of print media.

I am so grateful to have these fantastic opportunities, and really looking forward to some fascinating conversations with entrepreneurs across both business and media. It's great being able to straddle both worlds--there's just way too much to see and learn out there...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Small Business Blogs: Good for Goosing Google, Better for Customer Communications

Good thing I wasn't lighting a match the other day when a guy told me that small business owners (businesses with <100 employees) really don't care to connect with customers through their blogs--because I certainly would have lit my hair on fire with that one!

Yes, this particular social media consultant told me that blogging fits in two categories: business blogging and personal blogging. According to the guy, business blogging, and business bloggers, really don't care about comments or connecting with customers though blogs. What they're concerned about is getting more results in search and that's all they really want their blogs to do.

I was then called a "social media purist" for advocating that even small business owners should want to connect with customers through their blogs, I just about hung up on the guy. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity that kept me on the line and listening to what he had to say....

Still, I was really shocked by this way of thinking. Sure, you can goose Google by tweaking headlines and the first 200 characters in your blog to reflect the keywords that you want associated with your business. You can even create more links for yourself by having a number of keyword and content oriented blogs connected back to your website in some way.

But if that's all you're doing, and you're not connecting with other blogs or websites or bloggers--who, believe it or not, are also potential customers-- then that alone won't get you a substantial result in Google.

See, links from others help to draw your blog into search and help to "feed" Google. You get links not just by asking people to link to you or because you bought them. You get links to your blog by linking to others, by adding them to blogrolls and the like. Google used to penalize sites for paid links anyway--and even though the jury's still out on paid links, even if Google doesn't catch you the paid link might not give good return on investment.

Still, when your money is limited, buying links probably isn't as good as a small but efficient PPC ad strategy--perhaps even a PPC campaign on Facebook. Or advertising on a local TV website or an independent hyperlocal blog.

IMHO, the aim and intention for small businesses in social media should be to connect with customers. When you think about it, social media is like old fashioned retail--where chatting with your customers & potential customers created long-lasting relationships and continued sales.

And if small businesses do not want to connect socially with their customers, perhaps they should re-think getting into social media at all. It may simply not be the place for some kinds of businesses, and that's okay. In fact, more damage can be done by neglected social media than by no social media (think: old information in search.)

Think about it....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Hire Someone to Manage Your LinkedIn Profile

Lately, I've noticed a rash of social media consultants offering to manage the LinkedIn profiles of busy professionals. It's one thing to hire someone to help write your profile out--that's like resume writing or having some good p.r. writing done. But to manage it?? You've *got* to be kidding me.

I think the idea comes from the old days of having a secretary. Having been one of those in the 1980's, I remember when The Boss would come in from a business lunch, hand me a card and say "Add this guy to the rollodex, will you?" Like a good little secretary, that's what I did...

Now, I know that a good analogy for describing what LinkedIn can be is that it is a kind of rolodex online. Well, it is, and it isn't. It is in that it's a way to keep your contacts in a place online. It isn't in that it your rolodex never left your office, and it didn't require you to have a password to get into it. Further, people in your rolodex ever able to see the other people in your rolodex? Could anybody off the street come in and search your rolodex (which could happen with LinkedIn, if you do not manage your privacy settings accordingly?)

When a businessperson hires someone to keep a LinkedIn profile, or has someone in his/her office keep track of that profile, they must first hand over a password. For some, this might not be a big deal, and they will change the password when and if that person leaves.

What, though, if that person has changed the password without telling you? What if that person has edited your information in a certain way, or added people they believe you should be connected with.

Businesspeople who do not fully understand social networking but feel they must be there may be far too trusting with the information they allow others to manage for them.

It's like I always say--if you refuse to be responsible for your online identity and who you are in social networking, then perhaps it's not the place for you. The Internet is not analogous to the old paper-and-filing-cabinet world. It is a web and everything put there has the potential to be linked everywhere else...

Further, the old paper-and-filing-cabinet world gave us a false sense of security. It was difficult to break into those places and to get information out of them. It lead us to believe that things like an office rolodex were private. But the Internet is different, and what you put there, even you are mindful of security settings, even if it is behind a password-protected wall, is, potentially, public information. (hence one must be careful with social security numbers, driver's license numbers and the like--which are not meant to be public information.) So, one has to be more responsible for one's own social identity information on the Internet than they were in the paper world.

Because, in the past, if a secretary got fired, he couldn't necessarily mess with your information. Now, he can. Ad in ways you might not even know.

So, while I can give you a whole bunch of links on the deeper and techological reasons why one should manage one's own LinkedIn profile, and not give it to a social media person nor to one's secretary, I'll simply borrow a phrase from Doc Searls which might apply: participating in LinkedIn could be said to be a public activity under private control When you give the management to someone else, you are giving away control over private real estate online.

And are you really ok with giving away the control of your business contacts and your business persona (which is contained in that profile) to someone else? Do you really want to be, on a social networking site, a lot of spin with a plethora of connections that might mean less to you than if they were sitting in a file on your desk?

And, if all you really want to do is keep track of the business cards you acquire, because they may be potential new business contacts, there are a whole host of tools to help you with that--all kinds of card readers and such. So you don't even need LinkedIn for that purpose.

Think about it....about what you want from social media. Assess whether or not you have the time for it--don't just hire someone to do it for you. Do it for yourself.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wall St. Journal Disses Women in its "Future of Journalism" Twitter list

My good buddy Lisa Williams (founder of Placeblogger.com) found something very interesting today when she checked out @WSJ's Alan Murray's new Twitter list for The Future of Journalism: there are no women on this list.

What gives, @WSJ? There are loads of women news innovators, who are creating the future of the news NOW, not just postulating about it. And it's not just Lisa, but

Amy Gahran who also won a Knight grant and edited Poynter's EMedia Tid-Bits column
Stacy Kramer of PaidContent
Susan Mernit (founder of Oakland Local)
Geneva Overholser
Shirley Brady who does a fab job for BusinessWeek...

Not to mention the numerous women who are creating journalism daily, even hourly, on their own hyperlocal news sites.

Why is it that women keep getting overlooked by the journalism establishment when it comes to who's doing the innovating? Why does there seem to be a wholesale ignoring of women's accomplishments and achievements in the brave new world of journalism on the Internet.

Or is journalism such a "priestly class" that they can't acknowledge the Mothers Superior that are keeping dialogues and their "churches" alive and growing out here in this land of unwashed journalistic barbarians (read: bloggers.)

Too many women are being overlooked by an establishment that is doing very little, too slowly, to get with the new program that is kicking the ass of newspapers and journalism overall. Too many projects and the women who are creating them are being passed by in favor of the "boy wunderkind."

If this continues, perhaps some of the most forward-thinking projects, and great lessons-learned out here will be nothing more than links on someone's blog...

Of course, the mistakes will continue to be made because nobody bothered to take a look at those lessons learned...

And if we're giving journalism the Sicilian Kiss in the next couple of years, the hegemony that ignores the women will only have themselves to blame.

When all they had to do was look around, and include some of the best, brightest and most innovative women helping the cause of journalism today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Will the FTC now help the newspaper industry get its government bailout

Last week, the FTC laid down the law when it came to bloggers and others who are not just outright paid to endorse products, but who also receive products to review. There was a lot of hoo-ha about that(with some discussion on how these new regs might impact free speech.) But no one seems to be talking just yet about the upcoming two-day public workshop on the state of journalism in the Internet Age: "From Town Crier to Bloggers:
How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?"


The workshop will take place on December 1-2, 2009 in Washington D.C. Questions must be submitted by November 6....

Now, this all seems well and good, on the one hand: as the announcement notes, there have been many changes to the advertising-supported business model, most of which have driven the price of ads down, thus causing a ripple effect that has made it very difficult for newspapers to make money from advertising....

And I'm glad to see that they want to have a government-level discussion on this...

But still, what's troubling is Issue #5 that will be considered at the workshop:
"changes in
governmental policies that have been proposed as ways to support
journalism."


Ok. The government is already in the car industry because the car guys put their fingers in their ears and didn't listen to the consumers. And the government is trying to re-tool consumer-friendly regulations to stop the banks and other financial institutions from wholesale ripping people off with fancy fiscal engineering that would baffle Einstein. So, now it appears that the government is willing to possibly find a way to stick itself in the newspaper industry because the C-suite made some serious boo-boos and didn't see the innovative writing on the wall all those years ago (1981!) when 1/4 of the subscribers to the San Francisco Examiner subscribed to a crappy dial up version of the paper:

oh, no! that Internet thing--it's only a fad!! We'll use the Internet to drive people to subscribe to the print version!!

I find the idea of the government in all of the news media far more troubling than the government fining some bloggers because they didn't disclose that they were given products to review. The latter should have been a no-brainer from the very beginning, and is a "free trade" & ethics issue. The former...well...is really scary, and most certainly has implications for "free speech."

Now, I know lots of people who've already talked about the benign government intervention that we see with NPR. Don't get me wrong: I like NPR. I think some of their reporting is the best. And they saw their way to hire my friend Andy Carvin to help them work out the social media stuff (a really smart move.) Yet if all of the newspaper industry in some way becomes beholden to the government...

Wow. We thought it was bad when "W" moved Helen Thomas to the back of the room and allowed Jeff Gannon to lob softballs...well, let's just say that "we ain't seen nothing yet!" maybe. If there's wholesale government intervention in the newspaper industry...

It was bad enough when the proposed shield law mentioned that to be a journalist one must appear in print.....

While I trust the government in a lot of ways--this is one way where I really don't. I don't think the NPR model should be the model for all of journalism in the U.S. NPR was always an *alternative* to commercial. If all is NPR, will commercial then be the "alternative"?

Doesn't that seem kind of topsy-turvy for a country that's supposed to be all about the "free market"?

John Cook's post at Gawker raises some questions about where the government might draw the line on what kind of "newspaper industry" might receive government aid:
Would Gawker be eligible for a "new tax treatment"? Hell, we're a news organization—we even called an FTC spokeswoman for comment on this very blog post. What about TMZ? They break news every day. Do they need a tax break? Or does Andrew Breitbart's budding empire at BigGovernment.com, which recently broke a couple compelling stories about ACORN and the National Endowment for the Arts that certainly qualify as "public affairs news," need any public funding? How about Politico?

We presume that the answers to the above questions in any proposed FTC scheme for rescuing the newspaper industry would be no. But the distinctions and conceptual gerrymandering required to find a way to subsidize the lumbering giants at the expense of their upstart competitors—to find a reason that Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel is firing on all cylinders as the Wall Street Journal faces secular decline, merits consideration while Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall doesn't—will, we suspect, render the whole project foul and reactionary. The simple fact that some news organizations are facing competitive pressure and shifting business models isn't an argument for government intervention into the content business.


It makes me think, too, about the hyperlocal scene, both independent and mainstream: will local newspapers be eligible for government funding? will independent hyperlocal news sites be given government funding, or will they be excluded because of another provision in the shield law that will define who is/isn't a journalist? Will local advertisers flock to hyperlocal sites, or will they continue to advertise in local papers if local papers are receiving government funds? What about local broadcast news? Will anything the FTC does impact local brodcast, or will broadcast be considered less a form of journalism and more a form of info-tainment than it already is considered?

But think about it: is it really the fault of bloggers and the Internet for screwing up the business models of the newspapers? or is that just a failure of one time honored business to innovate fast enough? And do We the People have to step in and bail out every ossified industry that has dragged its feet on innovation?

I'm not so sure of that....

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

When a P.R. Company Gets Social Media Wrong

A few months back, I ended up on the mailing list of Ragan Communications, a "publisher of corporate communications, public relations, and leadership development newsletters" firm located in Chicago. I didn't get my knickers in a bunch over it, as I'm interested in knowing how the p.r. community is understanding how and what social media is about. And I don't doubt that Ragan Communications, which has been in existence since 1971, is very good at what they do, is well-respected, and has extensive knowledge of the field in which the staff is writing about....

But...

The other day I received an email from Mark Ragan, Publisher and CEO of Ragan Communications. The subject line read "Would you be interested in this?" I thought maybe that Mark Ragan was actually contacting me about something....

Now, I may be small potatoes in the social media consulting world (oh, I've just worked on some pioneering projects in social media and journalism, but what does that matter?), but I was floored to receive what looked like an email from a CEO, someone who might actually contact me about social media, turn out to be nothing more than an impersonal pitch to sign up for their Ragan Select program. Here's the letter:

You have been a customer and reader of mine for years. But I haven't been successful in recruiting you as a member of Ragan Select. Can I try to change that?

I'm writing to a few long-time Ragan readers to offer them a free two-week trial to Ragan Select.

So what does that mean?

It's pretty simple to explain: You'll get unlimited access to 15,000 searchable case studies in our archives. And, you'll get huge discounts on Ragan products, including all Ragan events and webinars. If you have plans to register for any of my conferences, webinars or workshops, you're trial membership will give you access to hundreds of dollars in savings.

But enough selling.

It takes about two minutes to sign up for the trial. Just go here. I'll handle the rest.

Thanks for considering this. And keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Mark Ragan
CEO
111 E. Wacker Dr.
Ste. 500
Chicago, IL 60647
mark@ragan.com
unsubscribe

P.S. I know I say this all the time, but it's true. I want to hear from you. If you've made any communication breakthroughs at your company, hit reply to this e-mail and send me a quick note. I personally read all of my mail and will forward any interesting story ideas to our managing editor at Ragan.com. Thanks again, Tish. Hope to hear from you soon.

P.P.S. Also, feel free to forward this e-mail to any other communicators you work with. They can sign up for the free trial as well. Again, here is the link to the sign up page.

P.P.P.S. I shot a video explaining this free trial program. Take a look and let me know what you think.


Ok...so here I've got this email that also has several P.S's where the CEO is saying that he *really* wants to hear from me. Really?!? I sent a response to this email a couple of days ago and haven't heard a thing yet. Sure, Mark's a busy CEO, and maybe he hasn't gotten to it yet. Then again, maybe the bit about really wanting to hear from me is just another bit of marketing b.s. Make the "customer" feel as if he/she is being listened to...

This is not to say that Ragan Communications doesn't value their long-standing customers. They probably do--they probably wouldn't be in business as long as they have. I have no idea of knowing exactly, although their site is rather extensive....

But this isn't the way to handle things in the new social media world....

What this email tells me is that my business card went into some mailing list and my identity as a social media consultant--and maybe as a potential help to Ragan's own social media efforts--has not once ever been considered. I probably wasted a whole lot of breath talking to someone from Ragan, who probably has no idea what it is that I do in social media.

Which is pretty sad.

Am I insulted? A little-but hey, it's happened before and it probably won't be the last time, and I know I've got some image issues to work on. Yet I think Ragan Communications needs to not spend so much time developing content about social media inasmuch as it may need to better understand what social media is really about....

Social media isn't about content. It's about connections. It's about people. Not about your newsletters and how great you may be. It's about whether or not you are providing something of real value. And if you don't know your stuff, someone will bust you on it..

BTW, it was on Ragan's site that I read an horrific blog post that talked about "managing" negative or critical blog posts by discrediting the blogger, firing the employee who tried to put out positive responses to negative blog posts, and basically treat the whole social media scene as if it's one giant war zone. If that's the attitude of people in the P.R. industry (the poster wasn't from Ragan), I think they just might be doing more harm than good for their clients with social media.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MySpace: Perhaps the problems have less to do with innovation and technology...

This morning at OMAA Global, Jonathan Miller, new CEO of the digital media group at NewsCorp stated that it was a lack of innovation that has tripped up MySpace the once-most-popular social networking site on the net:
"There's no question that [MySpace] fell behind on the technology front and on the product front," Miller said. "This business is one of continual innovation, and we're very focused on building a product and technology organization that innovates."


What Miller did not address, however, is what people actually *say* about MySpace, as well as the audience MySpace has neglected, which is what may have contributed to the precipitous drop in unique visitor count in July to 68.4 million.

People overall have lost interest in MySpace--not because of the technology, but because of the community and its inability to mature along with the people who created it. When NewsCorp bought MySpace back in 2005, it concentrated its marketing efforts on young people (13 and over.) A heretofore network for the party-hearty crowd (I had a profile there in late 2004 at the end of my rather non-existent goth dj career) began to be promoted a place to meet "friends." But they also found that they could find just their local friends, but friends all over the country/world as well as their favorite bands, wannabe porn queens, various club nites, parties, wild self-promoters, and anyone else who'd been booted out of Friendster.

They could also post naughty pictures of themselves, construct alternative identities, and bully others. There were no grown-ups there to tell them what to do.

Since then, the young people who flocked to MySpace in 2005 (with, perhaps, a median age of 17) ended up going to College and desiring to put some distance between themselves and those friends who didn't seem to quite grow up,and the alternative identites that didn't fit anymore.

In a short time after MySpace was bought by Newscorp, upstart competitor Facebook opened itself up to the high-school crowd and with a clean, well-lit, uncustomizable community. It was a welcome change to. It established a certain cachet apart from the hurly burly of MySpace.

Facebook started as invitation only to the Ivy League.
MySpace started with the partying crowd of L.A.
Facbook was for those who went on Spring Break, not Easter Vacation.
Facebook had class.

If anything, at its height, and with people like Tila Tequila and Christine Dolce battling it out for the most "friends," MySpace had crass. Lots and lots of it.

In many, many ways beyond Tila and Christine,and Emo boys and would-be singers cum Governor-trashing escorts, MySpace made parents nervous because it of its openness-- which also allowed for the infamous "online predators."

We can't really forget all *that* particular bad MySpace press now, can we?

At that time, Facebook just seemed safer (even though everything on it is public information that organizations esp. can find one way or another, if they want.) And when Facebook decided to open up to the general public in 2006, it scored as big with the grown-up professionals as it had with Ivy Leaguers.

Adults--unless they had particular reasons for being on MySpace--weren't given to putting up MySpace profiles. But they sure did go for Facebook's clean and fun social space that didn't require customizing and didn't offer garish colors nor carry tasteless flashing banner ads.

Along the way, there would a lot on Facebook for professional adults and college kids to kvetch about with Facebook, but Facebook tends to listen to the kvetches, and makes changes when the protests or requests are vocal (hence the Twitter interface--and don't think it was the kids who were jumping for joy about *that* one.) Facebook overall is still quite fine for professionals who don't mind having others in their professional networks see a silly picture or two or know that they listen to Lady GaGa. It has also done a lot to beef up its Fan pages, making it easier for businesses to have a Facebook presence--an important thing when you consider that some very good word-of-mouth/social media marketing could be done on Facebook.

So, think about it: is it really lack of innovation or bad techology that has tripped up MySpace? Honestly, it was more of a bad community strategy, a lack of ability to understand what those who don't want to show off their belly button piercings might want from a social network. As its audience began to mature, MySpace's attitude didn't change. The folks who might have been fans of some goth emo band at 17 just might have given that band up by 22, and also got their first jobs and some responsibility that might require a little less heavy sighing and posturing.

MySpace kept its loudmouth party-heartiness, but, when the party moves on, it just wasn't up to the task. Like the guy who's still wearing a mullet and listening to Whitesnake, MySpace as a community--as an entity--is a bit out of step these days.

And I'm not sure the mullet's going to be coming back any time soon.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A few comments on coming back to blogging....

In June, I abruptly stopped blogging--and with no explanation. I didn't hear any particular hue and cry about my not-blogging. I figured that I really didn't have all that many readers, or that people were just giving me my space.

Because I really needed the space--to wrap my brain around what I'm really interested, in what my career is, and in what I'm doing with my life. Summer always seems to be a good time to do this, as lots of people take various bits of time off during the summer.

I just took three months off. Much needed. And here's what happened:

What many people may not know about me is that I've been living and breathing this social media stuff since the summer of 2005 when I attended the first BlogHer conference (which Staci Kramer wrote about in OJR, capturing some of the important highlights of that first conference.) I've traveled a lot in this space since then: from my first "professional" job blogging for Corante, to crowdsourcing with Assignment Zero, to a couple of somewhat-disastrous "conversational marketing" efforts, and now to working on my own first full-fledged social media business client.

In the meantime, I also traveled to a staggering number of conferences across journalism, marketing and technology. I spoke at my fair share of them--odd since I don't have a background in marketing, tech nor journalism.

But I use my brain. And I shoot my mouth off alot.

Still, there were parts of my life that were falling apart as I was trying to build up my professional life. My health for one thing. It seems that I have a number of chronic but not life-threatening, just annoying, health conditions. Running hither and yon, eating food that was terrible for me, having allergic reactions all over the place, drinking too much coffee and all that took a toll on my body and my nervous system. I spent a lot of time in pain, under-productive, and extremely cranky. I had a kidney stone and shingles. It was when my hair started to hurt that I realized I had to do something about all of this. And I did. I slowed down and started paying attention to what my body needed and didn't need. How my mind felt. If I was biting off too much and why.

So, my health is, well, a lot healthier than it was before. I'm much less of a bitch than I was--but that still doesn't stop me from pointing out when the Emperor (or Empress) has no clothes. That's just my nature.

My relationships too were pretty crap-tastic. After my divorce in 2001, I was pretty much a wreck, and got involved with a very nice man who has become an important part of my life. Essentially, he's more family than my "family." Thing is, we have a lot of things NOT in common. Love can heal a lot of things, but we are only human and sometimes we need more than just a love that translates into warm silences, caring, and a cuddle on the couch...

Now, some might think that relationships shouldn't be all that important when one is building a new profession and a small business. That should be exciting enough However, the woman-side of me finds relationships far more important than career-related accomplishments. If I was such a dismal failure at relationships, and totally un-desirable to the opposite sex, how could I go about being successful in my career.

Yeah, I know, go ahead and call me shallow. Or just accept me and realize I'm wired differently than you.

I digress....

Because I got tired of feeling like a relationship failure, and feeling that no man in his right mind would want overweight middle aged little me with baggage the size of King Kong, I decided to look into online dating again. I had an absolutely disastrous experience with eHarmony--where the only guys who seemed to like me were in the South (go figure) and I found their method to be passive-aggressive (not to mention the branded "dear John" emails that a person can send: "I'm pursuing another relationship on e-Harmony.com!" to be totally tasteless.) Eventually, after figuring out what I wanted--basically, to make friends with some interesting guys, and to get laid regularly with no big relationships and no proposals of marriage thankyouverymuch--I decided on a site that I felt would work for me....

Now, I won't disclose the name of the site, as I don't want people scrambling to find it or me on it--and knowing how judgmental others can be, it's best if I keep mum. Suffice to say that I've met and cultivated a nice little coterie of very interesting Alpha Males to whom I am extraordinarily special.

I am a success in the types of relationships that I am best--as a companion and a lover; a teacher and student of life. A woman who does her own thing, makes her own rules, and is comfortable in her own skin. I can't be who others want nor expect me to be. I defy conventions and shatter stereotypes and sometimes it's so hard I want to cry.

The thing is, even though I might have moments when I cry, and when I question my decisions that are so far afield of the conventional, I realize that I am happier now than I ever was in my life.

With success in relationships, and much better heath, I feel like I can come back to blogging--and in different ways. I'm keeping this blog, but will be starting a marketing-focused blog specifically on some of the developments going on now in that field. That will also be my business "website." I'm toying with the idea of personal blogging again, and have set up an anonymous blog, but I have no idea if I'll have the time for that as well. Writing, for me, is a giant pain in the ass. I'd rather be social Had to accept that one too--not easy when I've been writing stories pretty much since I could hold a pencil.

Then again, before I could hold a pencil, I was holding court. I'd always been far more social than not--it just got buried under a bad family situation and admonitions not to talk to others about anything ever.

In any event, there seems to be more balance in my life now than there was back in April and May, when I could see myself sputtering and limping along like a Chevy with a flat tire and a blown piston, not happy with anything, barely able to blog, and not really knowing why.

Turning it off was the best decision I could have made for myself--and with no fanfare nor grand declarations.

Until I became balanced and ready to turn it back on again....

Friday, June 05, 2009

What will you do if your local newspaper shuts down?

I first heard about the dire straits of central Connecticut's newspapers when I attended a journalism conference at Central Connecticut State University last November. The story wasn't making the national news, but the consequences--the threatened closing of several central Connecticut newspapers that are the "only games in town"--were potentially devastating. By January, lawmakers met with state officials to discuss what might save some of the papers in the Journal Register chain. The Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald were saved when a new owner stepped up. But other newspapers around the country haven't been as lucky.....

The Ann Arbor News, a paper in the massive Advance/Newhouse chain is slated to cease daily publication and focus mainly on their web presence, AnnArbor.com with a twice-weekly print publication starting in July. Other papers in large urban areas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Rocky Mountain News closed up print-shop altogether and are now web-only.

That's not to mention the huge numbers of weeklies all over the country that have closed up shop altogether.

So, what if legislators don't step in? What if it's not cost-effective to shut down the print product and go web-only? I asked Placebloggers about the newspaper-death watch in their regions and what they might be doing about it....

Barry Rafkind of SomervilleVoices.org , a "new media collaborative" of Somerville, MA residents, wrote about what's going on in Boston, where the GateHouse New England papers have experienced major cutbacks, and the situation between The Boston Globe and its parent company (NYTimes Co.) remains precarious. Barry told our Placeblogger group: "These cutbacks motivate our team behind SomervilleVoices.org to work harder and faster on setting up our own community-funded journalism similar to Spot.Us but using ThePoint instead. We have solicited story ideas on the blog and are looking for fiscal sponsorship from a non-profit to allow us to collect donations. "

Ross Nunamaker in Nazareth, PA, whose placeblog NewsOverCoffe is a "one and a half person show" that currently doesn't make money, said that his community " is situated in the 'overlap' area of two daily publications and gets more recognition than it probably should in the fight for subscriptions. My placeblog benefits from this because both work well with me and I recognize their coverage for potential subscribers.

"One is more 'bloated' and the other 'leaner', needless to say bloat is getting cut and lean is doing as well as can be expected."

Steve Thurston who keeps the Buckingham Herald Tribblog in Arlington, VA noted that the weekly Arlington Connection may be in "bad shape," as it is the smallest paper in a 19-paper chain, and may be treading water with a small staff of seven.

On the other hand, Steve observed some interesting things going in back in his hometown of Glens Falls, NY with its local weekly, The Chronicle: "They've always been a lean corporation and have never had a website of any real value. Everyone up there reads the Chronicle, and they run almost exclusively the ads of small, local businesses. They have I think one car dealership and occasionally an insert for a pharmacy or grocery chain. Mostly it's the local roofers, law offices, business supplies, boutiques of whatever type, restaurants, etc. "

Perhaps the solution to the problem with local newspapers isn't a singular solution. It could be that each paper has to take into consideration not just how to help it run "leaner and meaner" but also must consider the cultural landscape that it exists within. The solutions to the survival of local papers may be as distinct as local cuisine. And in that mix, placebloggers can come in and add their own particular spice to the mix to help maintain a vibrant and vital news community.

Further reading: Ross Nunamaker has created some great lenses on Squidoo on starting and maintaining a placeblog. Check out his Placeblogging 101 "Connect Neighbors to Build better Communities" lens and Placeblogging 201: "Technical and Legal Considerations" lens for some great info.


This post originally published at Placeblogger.com

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On Knowing the Rare Circumstance of Falling in Love

This a.m., @agahran tweeted a link to a story in the NYTimes by Louise Rafkin on Rafkin's work interviewing couples on how they met. Amy was a bit peeved that Rafkin's assignment didn't include polyamourous couples. Yet poliamory aside, Rafkin's meditation on her work, (as it is more than an essay) and her own troubles with finding love, struck a chord with me on so many levels....

I, too, have often found myself on the outside of love, looking in at the relationships of others, trying to discern what it is that makes their relationships work over the long haul. It's true that some are in a "staying together for the kids" kind of thing, but some of the couples that I've known over 20-odd years have gone thru that and come to the other side with many becoming stronger for what they went through.

Granted, a few have divorced--mostly because one or the other partner realized that she/he had "outgrown" the other. In other words, that their lives and values had changed so dramatically that they were no longer on the same page.

That's the thing--sometimes our values do indeed change from 20-somethings to Middle-Agers. We want more children or less children. One emerges a raging conservative, while the other slides into born-again liberalism. One 'fesses up, finally, that he's gay, while she decides she needs some younger stuff to keep up with her sex drive. One can no longer deal with the penny-wise, pound-foolishness or paranoid thriftyness of the other.

Life happens and changes us, this is true. But what of the whole "love" thing? Rafkin, like me, wonders how we know when we've found it, if so many people have such odd and unconventional falling in love stories.

Some of us just never had a good template to begin with. Like Rafkin, I didn't have good home role models to understand what love looked like in action, let alone what it might feel like. When I did fall in love, with my first husband, as I now know I was in retrospect, I didn't believe it nor did I understand what I was feeling. There was all this fear, all the time--this butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling. We shared so many interests, taught each other so much about art and music and all sorts of things at such a young age (I was 19, he was 21 when we met)but had no clue how to take all this love and build it into something that would sustain us over the long haul.

There weren't any parents to help. In fact, the parents were more willing to break us up than help us stay together....

How could love feel like fear? Well, when you've never really known love, or have seen something that was pretty horrid, and told it was love, then you can easily have a bellyfull of fear when love comes into your life. At least that's what I've figured out about my life in relation to love.

I've sat for a lot of tarot card readings in my life. Growing up with a lot of superstitions and a weird kind of Sicilian Catholicism married with oddbal Fundamentalist Doctrine of Predestination, the idea of fortune tellers as true seers of our life paths was presented as more plausible than the ideas of free will and mastery over one's own life. I've had a lot of fortune tellers tell me I'd have multiple soul mates. That idea doesn't give me the warm fuzzies. And makes me wonder about the veracity of fortune tellers anyway.

Esp. since I believe that if I can figure out what's "wrong" with my decision making on the mate thing that I'd find the right one.

But, like Rafkin, when I hear other people's stories, I'm not so sure that tactic will work any more than listening to fortune tellers.

I'm thinking more about this these days because I've decided to get out there and start dating again--because while I'm very independent and like my own space, I'd really like to share some of my secrets with someone who will understand, and will go crazy wild places with me, who knows pop culture, and may even find rollerball and Blade Runner to be his favorite movies as well. I've had a relationship for about 8 years, but we are a City Mouse, Country Mouse temperament combination that just will not work over the long haul. Lovely man, really, but as I become more comfortable with my essential adventure-geek nature, I see how we can't work unless we're living separate lives, with him on the mountains, observing me appreciatively when I cruise into his world from a drive on Adventure Road.

I've wondered about this, too. If I'm not being too shallow and wanting someone who shares what some might think are "superficial interests." So many of the long-term loving couples I've known share a foundation of religious beliefs, attend a church, and all that. While I studied religion in college, and have a love of it, I'm not a church attender. Church, no matter the denomination, isn't all that welcoming to single folk. And yes, there's the whole church-lady-with-single-son thing, but that doesn't mean he's going to be the kind of guy who can spend hours in funky comic book shops looking for British horror novels and enjoy art books with titles like "Robots and Donuts."

Doesn't mean he's going to go for a good martini and pizza dinner either.

One good thing though that I've learned in all my examination of myself and my reactions is that when I meet certain types of guys, I hear bells. Literally. Now, most of y'all might think that this means I've found that True Love Soul Mate. Hardly. As I've recently discovered about my relationship with my Dad, the bells are really alarms, telling me I've met a guy like my Dad, who's very charming on the outside and very messed up on the inside. The bells mean "stay away!"

At least I know now.

Character is something I know more about, too. I can tell a guy's values through conversation--if he's hard-working and has empathy, or is superficial and judging me by superficials rather than listening to what I'm saying. So, it's a combination of senses and observations....

Knowing all this, and no longer apologizing for who I am and the geeky things I like (although IMO, in some ways, by saying the things I like are "geeky" or "weird", I may still be apologizing) I'm looking at different things. I'm looking at cues of character. I remember meeting my first husband, and there weren't huge clanging bells at first (as there was with the second, which I now know was a big warning.) I thought he was cute, and we liked the same kind of music. It grew from there. (caveat: that doesn't mean it was all peaches and cream and other people's fault that we split up. he had a pot-smoking problem, and I had some other issues, too. marriage was too much for us. so much that love couldn't conquer all.)

So, like Rafkin, I'm wondering if love will ever happen (again) and not when. I wonder if I've examined things too well, and if I'm expecting some kind of perfection. Not really. I'm not looking for a 1970's Robert Redford look-alike who's got a shelf full of collector SpiderMan comics and works as an art restoration specialist, has never been married and exudes empathy. No, not at all. Prince Charming doesn't necessarily exist, and waiting for him is a living death. I also know that, as I slowly careen towards 50 (it's two years away) that the pool is getting more and more shallow (boy! is it shallow in W. Mass), or the baggage is getting larger and larger. We all have baggage, just as long as it's reasonable and not held together with emotional duct tape, then we're good.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I have to get out more. That's something that's very different from when I was younger. I used to be out and about a lot, which made it easier to meet guys. I used to yell at my friend Marge that she wasn't going to meet anyone sitting on her couch in her fuzzy slippers watching a Yankee game with her cats in her lap. Well, I'm not going to meet anyone in sweat pants flip-flops, eating a stake and drinking leftover wine while watching CSI. There's fear of getting out and about, for sure, as I'm not the slimmest or cutest any more (as I once was, trust me on that.) But unless I'm perfectly happy alone, and I'm not, I can't settle for a life of books, tv, and good friends.

There is more to me than that, and I want more.

I have to stop observing. I'm not like Rafkin, where observing and writing is her SF Chron assignment. It's not mine.

I'll never know if I don't jump in.

I have to jump in, no matter how fearful I am, and no matter how much the despair of being "too old" and never finding anyone might grab me by the throat and throttle me into senselessness.

I've got to shake that off like Chev Chelios and keep going...

I have to find my heart too.

That's all there is to it....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy (and then some)

From time to time I have to take a blogging hiatus. It usually happens because I'm up to my eyeballs in things and can't seem to dig myself out...and that I need to engage more in the f2f world....

Well, it's one of those times again.

I seem to be quite busy with a number of projects, including some teaching about social media--from which I've learned that I absolutely love teaching about social media and new media. It's actually fun to convey my love of all this great stuff to a bunch of people who want to learn about it.

Recently, I had something of a work-vacation. Was out in L.A., S.F. and New Orleans. While I was on the road, I realized I really like being on the road. I like being able to take a day and see a city, and I'm learning, that if I'm staying in a good hotel, to go to the bar and find out from the bartender the cool places (I don't have to know all of this in advance.)



Here I am, on a rare off-day vacation day, standing in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theater in L.A. I was tired, but I felt good. I was where I wanted to be, exploring Hollywood Boulevard, being myself for a change.

It's been a very long time since I've taken a vacation to places where I've wanted to go (not where someone else wants to go), it's been a long time since I've met interesting people who were artists and musicians and bouncers and tattoo artists. A long time since I met guys who found me attractive(yes, that's been an issue for awhile, believe it or not.) It's been a long time since I've had fun for any length of time, that wasn't punctuated with some sort of media.

I'm talking about the kinds of fun I like to have: art shows and good movies in incredible theaters and music and friendship. Even maybe dating again at some point...

And it's been a long time since I've been really, really me.

I had to go on a long journey to find me. In that journey, I had to come inside this space of social media, feel it out, make connections, re-form me, start something of a career in here, one that would be in tune with me. I have, in many ways, done that and on my terms...

So, in some way, the break from blogging is because there are other places for me to be in the social media space. There are also other places for me to be in the f2f world, where there are experiences that delight all of my senses, and people who want to talk with me and hear my voice, not just thru a device of some kind.

What may result is some re-branding. A new look, a new image, a new something. Maybe I'll come back to this. I don't know.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, May 04, 2009

SIIA Afternoon Keynote: Brewster Kahle on Universal access to knowledge

This afternoon at the SIIA NetGain Convergence of Content and Technology conference, Brewster Kahle, the Founder & Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive is speaking. I am most interested in hearing what Kahle has to say, esp. with regard to the work that's done at Placeblogger, and with numbers of sites that simply vanished when web hosting services like Geocities have been shut down.

I asked Kahle about this before he spoke, and he and I agreed that, unfortunately, a lot of it will just go away. Some is archived and could be found via the WayBack Machine. Still, some is lost forever.

Kahle begins that we could indeed have universal access to all knowledge. He's going to show how technological, copyright, etc issues are coming together...

Looking at Text, if we try to put everything online, how much is there already? and what needs to be added? the 26million books in the Library of Congress? and how hard is that to get online. One book is about 1MB. It would cost too much to put all of the Library of Congress online. But what would you get for it and would anyone care??

We're starting to get print on demand services, as well as things that let you read online in a manner similar to turning pages in a book. So, we can go from digital to print, and then from print back to digital.

When print on demand went to countries such as Egypt, they found they had lots of old books, but not a lot of new books...

Amazon does much print on demand--we just don't know it!

One Laptop Per Child devices can be used like Kindle. Kahle shows us one used in this manner.

How do we get all those books online? Shipped to India and China, but found that scan-your-own was better. Robots broke down. Created a special scanner with two mirrors that, while looking primitive, is highly effective at $0.10 per page! It takes about 12 hours for the computer to do the processing to a PDF (very time consuming but effective.)

There are 18 scanning centers across the U.S., with 200 people working for the Internet Archive and 50 scanning books. They get about 1,000 books scanned a day!

There are about 1 million books in 8 collections. All are out-of-copyright books. Copyright raises issues.

Audio: how much audio is there? and how does it get processed? About 2-3 million. and could be easily put online, but it is highly litigious. So, they stay away from highly commercial works.

One big success is among rock musicians. Greatful Dead in particular. Allows for trading of music as long as *no money is made from the activity!* But as stuff got online, trading became harder. Internet Archive offered unlimited storage, bandwidth for free. Turns out there are other bands that do what the Dead does. One to three bands a day signed up, and now there's 3,000 plus bands and their live recordings. Some communities can be helped and supported, like this community, in open ways.

Internet Archive has 200,000 audio items in over 100 collections!

It's smaller than text and different legally, so not handled the same as text

Moving Images There are about 150,000 around, and about 1,000 that are not copyrighted. 50 percent of the 150,000 are from India (!?!?!) Formats of moving images keep changing. Movies that are in IA were converted and re-coded to make it easier to find. There's maintenance of moving image archiving.

The Internet Archive has tons of old public service films and educational films that are out of copyright and uploaded regularly. But, however, IA doesn't know why people would want these films ;-)

Moving Images also include television programs. Tons of TV programs are recorded daily. See the Television ArchiveS

On site staff at the Presidio (where the IA is localted) is about 35 people. That's very small

Software has lots of difficulties in archiving. Copyright, platforms, etc. Lots of the storage of this is difficult becuase of these issues.

Started collecting the WWW around 1980's Nowadays, 4 billiion pages are archived.

Want to see your old website: go to the WayBack machine to find old sites.

If you're doing something to help people, they won't get angry at what you do with content online. If you do something wrong, you'll get in trouble.

If we're working to create the Library of Alexandria 1, might not be a great idea.If we build this thing up, what should be do differently: MAKE COPIES! Digital copies are easy to make.

They designed their own computer! (I'm very impressed)

So, we can collect up, and preserve all kinds of media over the long haul

But the library industry is imploding like many other industries. Monopolies forming--which isn't good. Libraries are getting to be central controlled, not local controlled. They are ruled by contract now, raterh than ruled by Law. They aer for-profit and not non profit.

What about the future of books? Books play a different role in our lives than other forms of media. They are like the mind. They are written by one person and are one person's idea.

What's going on with books: Book publishers having trouble making money. A couple of big players are controlling aggregation of works, as well as distribution in order to try to control the distribution on media. Google is aggregating libraries (public domain works) and putting restrictions on what they aggregate! (how awful!)

Class action law that was used to control digitizing of content--so that Google can lock up content. To Kahle, it doesn't seem right that literary "orphan" books should. Class action settlements are making changes in content. Secretly negotiated class actions effective in making legislative decisions without legislating.

What we need is a set of standards. We're also missing distance lending of copyright.

If we keep our eye on the ball (on the potential monopolies), we can have all this knowledge at our disposal.

At the end, someone confuses Kahle with the digital utopians who believe all content should be free. That's not what he was saying. What he said was how we should be careful that content doesn't get owned and monetized by monopolies--esp. "orphan" books, which no one has made money off of for a very long time. But he is not against paid-for content. Just that the payment goes to the right people

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It takes more than a village to protect kids online

Every now and then I get to talk with college-age students about social media and all the stuff going with privacy, identity, and security on the Internet (most recently at Smith College, my Alma Mater.) More often than not, I find that they really don't know too much about how to protect themselves from fraud, let alone how to construct online identities that won't hurt their job chances. Yet, the assumption continues among lazy adults that "kids know it all" about the Internet....

Well, finally, the Government and tech giants have realized the inanity of believing "kids know it all" and have teamed up in an new program that will teach kids not just how to handle cyber bullies, but also how to deal with online frauds and scam artists.

Now, I'm not thrilled that this is coming out of the Department of Homeland Security, but, when I think about it, what goes on in our little machines on our desks or in our laps could impact the larger network of computers out there.

We're never really alone with our machines, if you think about it.

The program will be administered by the non-profit National Cyber Security Alliance, has a curriculum, and will send to the schools volunteers from companies such as EMC and Science Applications International Corp. Support will come from Symantec, Cisco, and Microsoft, to name a few of the companies involved.

Apparently, one of the motivators for starting the program was the results of a study done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which found that only 3 percent of state school curriculums instructed students on proper use of social networks and chat rooms. Yet schools are often giving assignments that require Internet use.

I guess the assumption was that kids were getting taught *something* about the Internet at home. But think about it: how many of us have heard stories of parents who plop computers in kids' rooms, and then allow the kids to just close the bedroom door? How many of us have heard parents say how they want to "spy" on their kids' activities online, rather than find out how things work or what's going on in the greater world of life online?

So, I'd hazard a guess that there are indeed bigtime security reasons that may go beyond "identity theft" and "stalkers" that have become reasons for the government to create a program like this to teach kids the things they're not getting taught anywhere else.

Think about it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Never Ask a Teen-Ager How To Use Twitter

Update 6/1/09 A new study from Pace University and the Participatory Marketing Project shows that only 22 percent of Gen Y (The Millenials) are using Twitter The blurb on the study goes on to say that Gen Y has to be convinced of the value of Twitter Um, if you have to convince them so hard, then maybe it's a medium that they don't need right now--they may need it as they get older and can't text from their workplace. Sheesh! Apps, though, are hot for everyone Thanx C-Net for the link end

Ask a middle-aged early adopter! Seriously....

In a post today on the Comscore blog, blogger Sarah Radwanik notes how Comscore has observed a huge spike in Twitter traffic over the past months including an increase in U.S. traffic, with users reaching 4 million...

Comscore hasn't released their official analysis of the Twitter numbers, but Radwanik points to a post by Reuters reporter Alexei Oreskovic who recently posted about the demographics of Twitter users. Radwanik extrapolated on Oreskovic's bare-bones figures and found that "18-24 year olds, the traditional social media early adopters, are actually 12 percent less likely than average to visit Twitter (Index of 88). It is the 25-54 year old crowd that is actually driving this trend. More specifically, 45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group, followed by 25-34 year olds, who are 30 percent more likely." Check out the following two graphs showing the rise in traffic and rise in age demographic usage:





So, when Joe Blundo of The Columbus Dispatch asked his teen-aged daughter about Twitter and she told him he wouldn't like it, he should have gone to the more tech savvy folks he (maybe doesn't) know and ask one of them about Twitter.
He would have gotten a far better answer about it, and perhaps wouldn't be still scratching his head over it.

Ian Paul at PC World suggests that "[T]his means the concept of the technologically inclined "early adopter" as a young, predominately male demographic may have to be revisited."

MAY HAVE TO BE REVISITED!?!? My god! I've been screaming about this one for some time now. This just goes to show me so many in mainstream media are so in love with the hype around the youth demographic that they have failed to see what is happening right under their noses among people their own age.

How bloody insulting!

What might account for the rise of Twitter use among a not-so-youthful demographic? As a constant and continual observer of patters in online use among the marketing and journalism communities I've seen how the message of Twitter's effectiveness has not gone unheeded. And while there are many great, fun, and not overbearing uses of Twitter in marketing like @DaveTheShoeGuy, there are also a cadre of dorky, dimwitted, and egotistical multi-level-marketers and other assorted snake-oil salespeople spamming us daily with their "follows." Among journalists--many of them middle-aged--there is a high, and highly effective, use of Twitter. The journalists who use it are so good at it, I had to write a post about it.

My observations have lead me to conclude that a good understanding of how to use Twitter comes from the adept use of both online and face to face communication. Far from being the closeted geeks of old, the middle-aged Early Adopter crowd are the people who have those skills down pat. Is it any wonder that they're doing so well on Twitter (when you tease out the dorks, that is.)? Perhaps only to those dazzled by youth--but not to the truly social media savvy of us out there.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Blockbuster's Woes are Local DVD Rental's Potential Gain

Update 3/8/10 Sadly, I must report that Pick Your Flick will be closing next weekend. They started an inventory sell-off this past weekend, and will close at the end of business next Sunday. They were in operation for 3 1/2 years--not bad for a small store in an industry on life-support. Along with Pick Your Flick, Easthampton's other video store, Movie Gallery, is also closing. This leaves Pleasant St. Video in Northampton as one of the few remaining rental stores. Pleasant St. Video specializes in hard-to-find stuff. I've found things there that are NOT on DVD--hard to believe, but there are a number of reasons that some films are only available on VHS, esp. outre films by folks like Russ Meyer. Many of us hope that Pleasant St. Video will keep going as the rest of the storefront rental industry collapses

As more old-school media business models fail, and retail takes a nosedive in our crappy enconomy, is it any wonder that Blockbuster--the company that gobbled up the local video rental business-- is facing the prospect of bankruptcy?

Some of this, as Ed Oswald points out in his post, has to do with the pricing war between Blockbuster and Netflix, which also did some damage to Netflix. Netflix, however, doesn't have Blockbuster's retail space overhead, so, while impacted, didn't get totally destroyed.

There's more to it than the ascendancy of Netflix--although Netflix's community and convenience features speak boatloads about the service's value to its customers. There's also been the rise in DVR use. I'm sure lots of folks don't use TiVo just to tape the latest episode of Gray's Anatomy or Hannah Montana. They're also hooking it up to HBO and other networks, TiVo'ing movies as well as premium content series like Six Feet Under.

Yet there's opportunity in the death of Blockbuster to bring back something vital to neighborhoods: the local DVD rental store. We used to call them "video stores" and often they were run by a cast of characters that knew something about movies. And I don't mean like the condescending jerks in Kevin Smith's "Clerks." Some of my best memories were of when, in the '80's, I worked for a local "video store," where the movie geek in me got to talk with customers about movies. I could recommend movies because I'd seen most of them (a benefit from working there.) Seeing a regular group of customers, I got to know their likes and dislikes and could help them choose. I'll never forget being able to help a harried Father with a bratty son pick out something comparable to "Ghostbusters" or help someone's wife pick the best of "sword and sorcery" b-flicks (yeah, I used to watch those. Liam Neeson was in a bunch of them) for her husband.

We even used to have an old guy who used to keep a notebook of reviews of porn flicks. He had a whole system, with recommendations! His notebook was amazing, and his info, believe it or not, quite valuable to our business (Saturday night was big for couples renting porno.)

Local video rental stores were replaced by Blockbuster because of the sheer volume of new releases that Blockbuster stores could keep in stock at any given time. That, however, was easily countered when Netflix, with its almost-endless supply, could mail 'em quicker than Blockbuster could rent 'em. What Blockbuster couldn't replace, and what people are beginning to value again, is the interaction with other film afficionados. Netflix does this online through its various rating and sharing mechanisms, while stores like Pick Your Flick, the DVD rental store up the street from where I live, does it through face to face community building and interaction.


Let me tell you something about Pick Your Flick: there's *people* there. It's owned by Tim and Liz Jenks, who used to be neighbors of mine. Both Tim and Liz are huge movie lovers. They have a great sensibility about film--any kind of film. They get the reasons why Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" is a great chick flick, as much as they get how "Atonement" was kinda boring....

Tim and Liz bring to their store a relationship to their customers that continues to be sorely lacking amongst the blue shirted, khaki wearing worker bees of Blockbuster.

I'll never forget when a chick at Blockbuster recommended "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" to a customer. I wouldn't have recommended that turkey without a serious caveat and a recommendation to have a stiff cup of coffee first. And Tim and Liz wouldn't recommend it either without a raised eyebrow and a possible suggestion of something better--or a cheeky comment about Sean Connery. And on their MySpace page, they've put together a list of Top Ten Reasons why Pick Your Flick is better than Netflix

So, while another big corporate movie rental business goes bust, there just might be a very good opportunity for the small local movie rental place to boom.

Think about it.