Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Media: A Murky Line in the Sand for Journalists

The Washington Post and National Public Radio (NPR), so well known for investigative journalism, have at long last issued guidelines for their journalists on using social media. Implicit in the guidelines is that for a journalist, particularly one for these hallowed institutions, participation in a social network can be hazardous to your livelihood.

NPR makes a point of encouraging its journalists to utilize the “highest level of privacy tools available to control access to your personal activity when appropriate…. It’s just not that hard for someone to hack those tools and make public what you thought was private.”

The Washington Post goes a little further, noting, “All Washington Post journalists relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens….What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account.”

(Certainly, these are lessons that some of our politicians might keep in mind as well! Virtually no one has a private life anymore.)

My colleague, David Rosen, perhaps put it best when he commented that “since social is the main way people associate with political groups (for many, and for the majority very soon), journalists have to give up their personal lives for their jobs. It’s like a new priesthood.”

Technorati Tags: The Washington Post , National Public Radio , social networks, journalist, Social Media, David Rosen, public relations, Makovsky

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Next Chapter of Blogging: Regulation?

You know that social media has really arrived for business-to-business use when the talk turns to regulating an influential sector of B-to-B bloggers.

Workforce Management magazine writes that partly due to a review of advertising and blogging guidelines by the Federal Trade Commission, “some HR blogger practices are coming under scrutiny”… about reporting standards and disclosure of conflicts of interest. The article’s authors Ed Frauenheim and Rick Bell cite the example of Joel Cheesman, who writes the popular HR industry blog Cheezhead (incidentally just acquired) – who they said hasn’t disclosed that he is also a consultant to some of the companies he writes about.

However, a deeper read of the piece shows that there may be less here than meets the eye. While Richard Cleland, a Federal Trade Commission assistant director of advertising practices, states that the agency hasn’t taken a look at the HR blogosphere in particular, he does say that knowledge of business relationships between HR industry bloggers and vendors they write about could affect the credibility of their posts.

The real story here may be that “HR bloggers are breaking news, stimulating discussion and challenging the stronghold of traditional media organizations that cover human resources, including Workforce Management,” as the article went on to say.

The fact is that transparency issues are nothing new when it comes to the media. They can and should be brought to light regardless of whether the medium is a blog or one of the nation’s leading newspapers.

Take The New York Times, for example. Clark Hoyt, the Times’s Public Editor, deconstructs the newspaper’s reporting for biases in a Sunday editorial page column. Last week, he took to task the respected consumer technology columnist David Pogue, who is a Times contributor, not a staff reporter. Pogue’s Thursday product review column is coveted real estate for electronics manufacturers. However, not everyone knows that Pogue also writes instructional manuals – sometimes for the products he writes about. .

Even though Pogue’s editor was satisfied that Pogue was doing a good job of separating his interests when he wears his NYT hat, for some reason he didn’t think it was important to disclose the possible conflict in print. Hoyt said that the newspaper is now going to disclose this information.

As bloggers become more important to the news distribution “system,” they will increasingly be confronted with the transparency issue. In that sense, they really have arrived.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tapping the Social Media for Product Innovation

Yes, you can … unleash the power of the social media to create successful new products.

Check out the video at in 3-minute Ad Age in which Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research describes how Del Monte created a community called “I love my dog, dogs are people too” for the express purpose of dialoguing with dog owners…and not just your average, every day kind of dog owners, but the kind of dog owners who do everything with their dogs.

In just six weeks, with input from the online community, Del Monte was able to develop a successful new dog snack, Snausages Breakfast Bites.

BTW, my best buddy, Oliver has a special fondness for eggs. Although he prefers them scrambled with his kibble (no bacon).

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Friday, August 07, 2009

More Sad News for the Fourth Estate

In case you missed it, The New York Times has reported that the rate of decline in print circulation at the nation’s newspapers plummeted more than 7% in April compared with the previous year. And we’re not just talking second and third tier papers. Of the top 25 newspapers in the United States, all posted declines in circulation, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, which posted a tiny 0.6% gain.

And a new study released by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg School for Communication finds that:

• Globally 22% of newspaper readers have recently dropped their print and magazine subscriptions because they can read them online.
• In 2008, Internet users spent 53 minutes per week reading online newspapers, compared with 41 minutes in 2007. Heavy internet users spend 63 more minutes a week reading newspapers online than light users.
• While teenagers don’t read newspapers, they are more interested in the news than most previous generations.
• Those who love their print newspapers are extremely loyal and will miss them terribly if they go away.

Jeff Cole, who leads this eight-year ongoing study of Internet, has been an outstanding guest speaker at a number of Makovsky-sponsored events for our tech and health groups. His work underscores why clients can’t afford to ignore online and social media.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking BusinessWeek

Check your newsstand for the August 3rd issue of BusinessWeek. No, the cover story isn’t the story (“The Incredible Shrinking Boomer Economy”) – even though it’s a very interesting read, especially to me (a boomer), and the reporting continues to rank among the most thoughtful in the business media. It’s the size of the publication itself, indicative of where the media and advertising dollars that support it are going – online. I counted 11 full pages and a few partial pages of advertising, not including the cover positions, that are attempting to pay the freight. When I saw the cover I did a double-take and wondered if it was a Freudian slip. I owe much of my business knowledge to reading BusinessWeek from cover to cover each week for years when I first entered business. Now I usually peruse the publication online since I don’t have the time to leisurely stroll through it myself. Apparently so do tens of thousands of others.

In fact, BusinessWeek’s print circulation continues to hover on or about 900,000, while its online readership continues to modestly grow (to 3.5 million unique visitors, up 1% from last year), as Nat Ives recently reported for Ad Age. With BusinessWeek’s future at stake as McGraw Hill seeks a buyer, even one of its own reporters, Bruce Nussbaum is brainstorming about what business model would work to keep it in business – a hybrid subscriber/advertiser model highlighted by “curated” conversations by smart editors or participants on business issues, or an elite subscriber print magazine at a higher fee.

In fact, most media consumption is going online – even for C-level executives – as my colleague Ken Makovsky wrote recently in his blog. A Forrester Research report earlier this year attested to the fact that BtoB marketers are racing to make up for lost time in adopting social media marketing into their plans -- 91% of of those who make buying decisions in the BtoB technology sector read blogs and watch user-generated video.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Social Media vs. eMail vs. PR

eMarketer recently published a very interesting article citing a Nielsen Online study that shows social networks and blogs edging out email in popularity among people in the U.S. and other leading digital countries worldwide.

At the same time, according to the article, an IDC study found email to be more effective than social media advertising with respect to customer acquisition. Forty-three percent of social network users NEVER click on ads in the medium, and of those that do click on them, only 11% purchase anything. Eighty percent of nonusers of social media click on ads and 23% of them purchase.

My view: public relations blows this out of the water. Relevant information that gets circulated via PR to the right places seems to spur action according to our early business-to-business campaigns. For one of our clients, for example, our campaign to bloggers got upwards of 30% of those targeted to visit our blogger resource site for more information.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So Much for Lipstick on a Pig

A Cornell study shows that traditional media still beats social media to the news. In the study, reported by Steve Lohr of The New York Times only 3.5% of the time did news storylines originate in blogs and then find their way online. For the main, traditional news outlets have a 2.5 hour jump on the blogs according to this analysis of the last three months of the 2008 presidential campaign. The researchers used extensive web analytics, and while there may be some flaws in the methodology (e.g., it focused on soundbites that could be ‘fingerprinted’ and tracked across media), it’s considered a breakthrough piece of analysis. There were just a handful of blogs that were responsible for breaking news in this study.

In my view, using the presidential campaign may not have been the most relevant tactic for tracking the path of stories between traditional and social media. Most campaign rallies are closed to the general population and covered mainly by correspondents (for the most part from the mainstream media) – so it’s only natural coverage will originate most of the time from correspondents who travel with the candidates. That said, in our public relations campaigns for business-to-business companies, we find that getting a piece of coverage in the traditional media is often an important factor in seeing information spread through the social media, although the lag time for social media pick-up is longer, from days to weeks.

However, the study’s authors point out that even since this study was conducted last fall, the social media universe continues to morph quickly. The implication that if the study were done today, the results might be a little different.

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