By Kyle Austin
Add comment February 28th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
While the Oscar winners adorned the front of the New York Times Arts Section yesterday, a blogger was plastered on the front of the Business Day section – The second being a far more impressive feat. Last week Joshua Micah Marshall was honored with the prestigious George Polk Award for legal reporting.
The Polk Awards, truly the Oscars of journalism excellence, recognize journalistic integrity, superb reporting and protecting the public. Established by Long Island University in 1949 to memorialize CBS correspondent George Polk who was slain covering a civil war in Greece, the Polk Awards have become one of America’s most coveted journalism honors.
While the recognition is always newsworthy, Mr. Marshall’s win caught more attention then previous winners, for one simple reason – He’s not technically a journalist. He’s a blogger. Marshall who is the editor and publisher of the well known political blog “Talking Points Memo,” was recognized for “leading the news media coverage of the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys across the country, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,” on the Talking Points Memo as well as on its sister site “tpmMuckraker.com.”
The win marked the first time an internet-only news organization was honored with a Polk Award. After numerous black eyes in the media as of late, including GizmodoGate, the win is a huge win for the blogging community as it still struggles to gain trust, recognition and respect among the general public.
Noam Cohen who penned the piece on Marshall’s story for Business Day highlighted the importance of the win for the blogging community nicely:
“To scores of bloggers, it was a case of local boy makes good. Many took it as vindication of their enterprise — that anyone can assume the mantle of reporting on the pressing issues affecting the nation and the world, with the imprimatur of a mainstream media outlet or not. And most reassuringly, it showed that fair numbers of people out there were paying attention.”
However, even Marshall has a slightly different interpretation of his craft:
“I think of us as journalists; the medium we work in is blogging. We have kind of broken free of the model of discrete articles that have a beginning and end. Instead, there are an ongoing series of dispatches.”
That’s what gives bloggers more power then any singular news organization. No longer are articles and topics separate and distinct. Journalists and their readers feed of each other. Everything and everyone is connected and isn’t that what World 2.0 is all about?
“I take it for granted … that my readers know more than I do — and this is a liberating, not threatening, fact of journalistic life.”
Add comment February 26th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
(Photo Courtesy of ZDNet)
By Kyle Austin
Hollywood returned last night, the writer’s strike firmly placed in the rear view mirror. It was a night to reconvene and celebrate; as host Jon Stewart paraphrased “Welcome to the makeup sex.” It was certainly an interesting night of making up and most of the critics weighing in this morning seem to have come to the same conclusion: There were some makeup jitters.
With the event seemingly rushed together after the Hollywood strike ended; the producers of the show were rushed into putting together a program that seemed somewhat aloof and all over the map. Stewart, who was one of the few stars on-hand that appeared to bring his “A” game, shined during his opening monologue but seemed to vanish behind a long-list of video montages during the rest of the telecast. It was evident that the producers had planned to go through with the show sans-writers and didn’t have time to re-work the show once the strike ended. The rest of the night was mostly unmemorable with little known actors and even less appreciated movies (at least among the general public) accepting awards with less then memorable speeches.
However, one person who did shine, even without appearing, was Steve Jobs. Not only did his Pixar created film Ratatouille take home best animated film, he also scored the best product placement of the night for that other company he runs. In a spoof on popular culture and technology, Stewart joked about how great it was to watch Lawrence of Arabia on his iPhone and even maneuvered the device on its side so he could joke about the ability to watch it in widescreen; which got Apple the close-up of the logo that most product placement specialists would die for.
At Racepoint Group we’ve had some great success with product placements including stints for NeuroLogica on Grey’s Anatomy and ER (The CereTom should be up for an Emmy). We also understand the complexities of making it happen. Obviously it is much easier for a brand and product like Apple and the iPhone, but a win for their folks nonetheless.
3 comments February 25th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
So how will Dan Farber save the sinking ship that is CNET? News broke yesterday on News.com (or maybe Valleywag) that Jai Singh, senior vice president and editor-in-chief at CNET will be leaving the organization on March, 10, 2008 and will be immediately replaced as editor-in-chief of CNET’s News.com by Dan Farber. CNET will have to look elsewhere to fill Singh’s other corporate hats at CNET, but the big news is the change of quarterbacks in editorial content.
CNET may not be in as dire straits as many make them out to be. Sure, their overhead is far greater then the overhead that Michael Arrington and Om Malik are working with at TechCrunch and GigaOm respectively. Sure, they’ve lost touch with the next generation of “techies” who like the coolness factor of TechCrunch, GigaOm and even the Valleywag. But the one thing they still have going for them is a domain that drives traffic and an aggressive reporting style.
According to Compete site analytics CNET.com had seven million unique visitors in January and its news property News.com had 1.2 million unique visitors. Comparatively, TechCrunch attracted roughly 900,000 unique visitors and GigaOm drew around 200,000 visitors last month.
However, when you look further at these numbers you can see where TechCrunch has blown News.com out of the water with its “cult like” following. When taking into account multiple visits by the same user, TechCrunch’s visits jump up to nearly four million visitors in January while News.com’s visits only jump up slightly past two million visits in the month.
GigaOm is still running a distance third in this breakdown with a little over 425,000 visitors last month. Interestingly enough Valleywag’s following beat out Om’s following in January according to Compete with over 900,000 visitors. Although, it looks like Owen Wilson and Valleywag’s site visits are dropping sharply.
What does this all mean for Dan Farber and CNET? They have a punchers chance in the battle of breaking technology news and blogging. While the personalities on CNET’s expansive blog network haven’t built followings in tech circles like Michael Arrington and Om Malik they still have a property that drives every day web surfers looking for technology news. However, even Arrington thinks that Farber could be the right guy to turn things around for CNET. Although during the article he paints a far less rosy picture for CNET, citing Comscore numbers from last year that show a slump in visitors to News.com.
Farber has more then two decades of history in technology journalism and is credited with building the ZDnet’s blog network while serving as VP of editorial content at ZDnet. He has also become an accomplished blogger in his own right with his Between the Lines blog that he co-posted with Larry Dignan (Who now becomes editor-in-chief and chief blogger at ZDnet). Farber will bring his blog and title of chief blogger to CNET along with his experience in new media.
There may be other new gimmicks in Farber’s arsenal as well as he recently gave this insight to the Silicon Valley Watchers Tom Foremski:
“Everybody is blogging these days, there is nothing new about it. I’m looking for something different to do.”
With a fairly large commitment from the leadership team, Farber will likely push for an overhaul of News.com. He might do well to follow suit with Fast Company and build a social network into the new site. It would certainly assist News.com with retaining visitors and creating interaction once people visit the site. If he’s grown tired of blogging perhaps he follows Robert Scoble in video blogging on the site.
Two things are for sure, CNET’s News.com will change and it’s not dead, at least not yet. In fact, maybe Farber will buy the personality that is Michael Arrington and TechCrunch – As long as it doesn’t cost him $100 million.
Add comment February 20th, 2008
By Guest Author
Another senseless act of gun violence erupted today – this time on the rural campus of Northern Illinois University. A graduate student is being identified as the gunman who went on a murderous rampage that left five students and the gunman dead. A total of 21 people were shot.
Our sympathies are with the victims, their families, and their friends.
The shooting has unleashed another 24/7 cycle of news coverage. The cable channels, wire services, and national newspapers have been updating the story continuously since it broke this morning. One of the remarkable aspects to this tragic story is the significant role that social media networks and the Web are having on the coverage.
The Web continues to transform the news industry – the way to cover the news, research the news, and present it to readers. For example, CNN is showing photographs of the victims from their Facebook pages. Facebook is fast becoming a news destination for reporters looking for personal information about people suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The cable station even has video of Facebook as an unseen user clicks through the individual pages of the shooting victims.
CNN has also been conducting online research into the identified suspect – finding photographs and other Web content to help fill out its profile of him. ABC News is doing the same. They posted a story today containing information culled from users of an online music community where the killer was allegedly an active participant.
CNN is among the first news outlets to set up an online forum for readers to sound off on the shootings. Hundreds of readers have already left comments behind on the tragedy. CNN has used the forum as a way to gauge national reaction to the shootings.
But it wasn’t only readers wanting to communicate using the latest technology. According to the Washington Post: “Inside the library (at Northern Illinois), more than 50 students gathered around computers. They searched for news and to send messages to friends and relatives, and also tried to use their mobile telephones.”
Add comment February 15th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
Like everyone else, I’ve been full absorbed in the Microsoft bid for Yahoo! over the last two weeks and I haven’t had time to discuss a truly innovative twist in the world of networked journalism.
I must say a year or so ago I thought Business 2.0 would have been the one to make the move online and create a social network for its subscribers and readers.
Alas, it is Fast Company that has outlasted Business 2.0 and made the investment in talent (Robert Scoble for one) and in online properties to shake up the media landscape. On February 8th Fast Company re-launched its site and became the first major media Website to try to blend journalism and online community.
Edward Sussman the President of Mansueto Digital (offshoot of Mansueto Ventures which owns Fast Company) made an announcement along with the re-launch in a post that can be found here. Here are Edward’s thoughts on what this initiative is:
“First off, here’s what it’s not: It’s not a pure social network. A pure social network tries to recreate what Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook calls the “social graph” of a community that already exists. You go to Facebook or MySpace and find the friends and co-workers you already know. The real world gets reproduced virtually. Maybe you meet a friend of a friend. We’re not that. We’re an entirely new community of people brought together because we want to share ideas about business. We like business. We think it’s important. Work gives more meaning to our lives. We believe business profoundly helps define our culture. We don’t always know each other yet. We’re an open community. Feel free to introduce yourself to a stranger with interesting ideas. Try not to pay too much attention to the resume info on their profile pages – pay attention to their ideas, what they write or say.”
However the really cool and definitely new feature to the site is summed up nicely by Edward here:“
Our newest online FastCompany.com editorial employee, superstar tech blogger Robert Scoble, www.scobleizer.com will continue to cover Davos and CES and SouthbySouthWest. We’ll even be introducing a full slate of professional video programming (featuring Scoble and Shel Israel, among others) on www.fastcompany.tv on March 3. We are, however, an open forum. Write an interesting blog post and you’ll find yourself featured on the homepage of FastCompany.com alongside Scoble, McGirt and Fishman. Respond to one of our articles and you may find yourself in an exchange with the author. Or perhaps you’ll add the author to your contact list so you can keep talking about related issues. Suggest an interesting Fast Talk question for the community to debate and you’ll find not only fellow readers mixing it up but our writers and editors as well.Contribute a provocative video and tens of thousands of our million monthly visitors might take a look. Join a group centered around a Fast Company core topic and engage other experts in your field. Fast Company is about eight core topics: innovation, technology, leadership, management, design, social responsibility, careers, and work/life balance.”
Social interaction is the direction that all media is going and hats off to Fast Company for taking the first crack at it. Sure there will be some issues (the site went down within hours of launching because of the amount of traffic it was seeing), but that’s the price you pay for being the first to market with a new innovation.
Here at Racepoint we plan to be active participants in Fast Company’s networked journalism environment – Engaging in conversations around topics at the forefront of the industry including social responsibility, innovation and leadership.We also plan to blog along with the likes of Scoble and Chuck Salter on the Fast Company site.
Larry Weber, our visionary of the social web, made this insight in his most recent book. “In traditional publisher or corporate-controlled media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television, the communication are overwhelmingly one way. Professional journalists research and write stories that are edited and disseminated to the public. Social media such as blogs, however, allow everyone to publish and to participate in multithread conversations online.”
The line between the two has become increasingly blurry over the last couple years and with Fast Company’s latest initiative the wall between the two may be brought down for good.
3 comments February 12th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
Bold, courageous and inspirational aren’t words often thrown around to describe Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang. However, after leaking its pending decision to reject Microsoft’s bid over the weekend to the Wall Street Journal, these descriptors for Mr. Yang are flying around today.
Yahoo! formally rejected Microsoft’s offer this morning in this short-winded but very calculated press release. They followed that up by having Mr. Yang’s internal email to Yahoos fall into the hands of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Yang’s email offers much more insight into the board’s decision to term Microsoft’s bid as “substantially undervaluing” the company.
The key to Yang’s email is his discussion of future growth opportunities. Something that is mentioned in their press release this morning but not expanded upon. We all know that Microsoft’s current proposal does not substantially undervalue Yahoo! as it currently stands, so it is crucial that Yang and the rest of the board illustrate its plans for future growth, if it is positioning or even posing to stay an independent company. Of course, many think this is purely posturing, to get Microsoft to pay $40 per-share (another number that was discretely leaked to the Wall Street Journal over the weekend).
Robert Hof of BusinessWeek, is still thinking of this as a posturing from Yahoo!. Very high-risk posturing.
However, Jerry Yang, Sue Decker and their board of directors do finally deserve applause for having the gall to stand up to Ballmer and company. It’s the first time in what seems like an eternity that they deserve a round of applause (Especially, after I read this weekend in the most recent Fortune, that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had agreed to sell to Yahoo! for $1 billion in the Fall of 2006 but then Yahoo! reneged its offer and left Zuckerberg room to wiggle out).
However, while you’re standing applauding the often ridiculed Yahoo! senior team, you should really be paying attention to the smoke & mirror show that is their strategic communications strategy.
Yes, you’ve heard that Yahoo! has a “few good men” in its advisors group and in addition to the biggest bankers in the world this also includes strategic communications assistance. Mr. Yang and company are being assisted through the process by Robinson Lerer & Montgomery as well as The Abernathy MacGregor Group. Both specialize in transaction communications including unsolicited takeover bids, proxy contests and mergers / acquisitions.
The Abernathy MacGregor Group notes its philosophy as:
“Our approach to transaction communications involves: simple messages, forcefully stated; rigid control of statements; intensely detailed program rollouts; contingency planning; constant feedback from investors; thorough media monitoring and an emphasis on the positive elements of shareholder value creation.”
The simple message is evident in Yahoo!’s official release this morning. The bid-rejection letter was applauded by those at the Dealbook for leaving the door open to Microsoft to negotiate on the bidding rather then slamming the door as Delta did to US Airways in late 2006. The key being that the release focused on “undervaluing the company” rather harshly stating its disinterest in a takeover.The Silicon Alley Insider’s (SAI) Henry Blodget is also calling Yahoo!’s communications and investor strategy “brilliant” so far.
The first rule of any negotiation is to create the perception of alternatives. In this case, the alternatives Yahoo wants to create the perception of are:
· Other bidders · Other merger options · The ability to just say no and go it alone
He then takes you through how Yahoo! has achieved this through strategic communications in the last 48 hours. By the way, notice in the reports from the New York Times they cite information to “A source close to Yahoo!.” This is textbook control leak strategy although Michael Arrington doesn’t seem to know what it means:
“In the past 48 hours the NYT, WSJ, and Times have learned the followingYahoo is seriously considering outsourcing search to Google as an alternative to a Microsoft merger (this isn’t an alternative, but it has been carefully positioned as one, and most media outlets–including blogs–are presenting it that way) Yahoo may start new merger talks with AOL and Disney (two companies that haven’t yet publicly disavowed any interest in the idea. Neither company would be crazy enough to try to outbid Microsoft, but never mind) Yahoo wouldn’t even consider any offer less than $40 a share (i.e., jack your offer up and we’ll talk). Microsoft offered $36 a share for Yahoo just last summer (i.e., even Microsoft thinks the company is worth a lot more than $31).”
Henry is dead on with his analysis and I encourage you to read his full post as he also takes you through how Microsoft is applying strategic communications on their end as well. Expect more of the same in the upcoming week.
I expect Yahoo!’s strategic communications advisors to follow Yang’s note with an exclusive Q&A for him or Sue Decker with a reporter at the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal that they trust and have built a solid relationship with. This would be a similar strategy to what Ballmer and advisors agreed to with Robert Guth of the Wall Street Journal last week.
Let me know who you think they will go with for exclusives.
Miguel Helft at the New York Times and Kevin Delaney at the Wall Street Journal would seem to be the natural fit given they have followed Yahoo! for the longest time and have been mainstays on this story as it has developed.
My money would be on Miguel and the NYT’s to land this.
Add comment February 11th, 2008
By Guest Author
By Peter Prodromou
People can find something to criticize about everything, including the transparency of Bono’s “Red” campaign. The Red campaign was started a little over a year ago and includes corporations like the Gap, who donate a portion of sales proceeds from Red branded merchandise to help with medical issues in developing countries. It seems the New York Times has questions about how much of that money is getting to these countries.
That’s the problem with today’s brand of corporate social responsibility (CSR). It simply too sporadic and even if it isn’t — the way it’s executed leaves people with the best intentions open to criticism. This trend points to the glaring need for companies to reform their views and execution on social corporate responsibility. Companies today need to ingrain in their DNA and their corporate positioning the spirit of CSR.
We applaud Dell, Gap and every other participant for joining the Red campaign. Now we ask them to be truly bold. They can begin by reframing their corporate images around a handful of the most important issues in the world today – whether the environment, solving poverty or something else. They should think not only about giving, but empowering societies by developing and providing them with the tools they need to elevate themselves.
Imagine a cleaner world brought to you by a Green General Motors, or a future bastion of democracy in the developing world with entrepreneurialism powered by accessible computers. That’s the true spirit of CSR – the kind companies must focus on to lead and compete in the 21st century.
Add comment February 7th, 2008
By Ben Haber
In December I wrote that a 30 second commercial during the Superbowl was going for $2.7 million. If not for the unfortunate outcome of the game, I would have said the commercials were the least memorable part – and USA Today seems to agree.
According to the paper, celebrities showed up in 18 ads this year, but not one of the advertisements cracked the top five in USA Today’s ‘Ad Meter’, and exclusive real-time consumer rating of the ads.
For businesses, these kinds of results may be even more disappointing that the game itself.
Add comment February 6th, 2008
By Kyle Austin
By Kyle Austin
It has rained for three days in Boston (the guy upstairs must be taking it as hard as me). I should have never written the pre- Groundhog Day post. Since then I’ve been stuck in some sort of bizarro Groundhog Day myself.
As Bill Murray (Phil Connors) once said:
“You want a prediction about the weather, you’re asking the wrong Phil. I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”
Now that I’ve dragged myself back to post, some thoughts from the last couple days:
Add comment February 6th, 2008