The Meltwater Social Web Analytics team came round today to tell me about their plans for their service. They are starting out with the confidence and aggression that typified Meltwater’s entry into the ‘traditional’ media monitoring six years back… and they’ve done pretty darn well in that regard.
For speed to market, they are currently white labelling Techrigy‘s rather nifty SM2 service (shout out to @aaronnewman), and I understand this will form a ‘base’ or a foundation for their endeavours going forward.
I enjoyed our conversation. In the short hour we had together we covered approaches to quantifying influence, assessing Twitter, semantic analysis approaches to gauging sentiment (aka tone), the growth in the number of Social Web Analytics vendors, the importance of the UI and ‘prettiness’ of charts, and pricing.
We debated my assertion that no one service serves all needs right now, and that a stable of differently capable services (often at different price points) is required. We even had time to chew over how Racepoint Group has achieved such distinct leadership in this field and the prospects for data visualisation.
Which is a super segue to another couple of interesting videos on my continuing obsession with and search for data visualisation technology and approaches to assist PR consultants in influencing and be influenced more effectively and efficiently.
The AlloSphere space consists of a 3-story cube that is treated with extensive sound absorption material making it one of the largest anechoic chambers in the world. Standing inside this chamber are two 5-meter-radius hemispheres constructed of perforated aluminum that are designed to be optically opaque and acoustically transparent.
There are currently two projectors, soon to be multiple high-resolution video projectors, mounted around the seam between the two hemispheres, approaching eye-limited resolution on the inner surface. The loudspeaker real-time sound synthesis cluster (around 500 individual speaker elements plus sub-woofers) is/will be suspended behind the aluminum screen resulting in 3-D audio. Other clusters include simulation, sensor-array processing, effector-array processing, real-time video processing for motion-capture and visual computing, render-farm/real-time ray-tracing and radiosity cluster, and content and prototyping environments.
Anyway, probably best understood in the video. If anyone has two large hemispheres they no longer want, please let me know @sheldrake.
On a more immediately applicable scale, check out SweetNTweet below. It shows a lovely little application (built with the open source Processing 1.0) in which search keywords are entered and to which Tweets from Twitter gravitate in the form of candy-coloured petals. On reaching their destination they reveal their 140 characters of wisdom and beauty.
Does it really show any promise of helping PR consultants visualise their landscape. Nope, but it’s really quite pretty and might spark something more relevant in your mind!
“They’ll be our social media journalist, chronicling in 140 characters or less what’s going on at Pizza Hut.”
With so many companies trying to figure out a social media strategy along with best practices for using tools like Twitter, the idea of a Twintern seems like a win-win. As long as Pizza Hut understands that it’s just the first step in getting their feet wet within the Twitter and blogo-spheres, and they’re not a “journalist” just because they’re creating content, or micro-content in this case.
Pizza Hut, isn’t disclosing what they’ll be paying the Twintern to manage their new Twitter handle (Already 1,000 plus followers), but they’ll likely find a very talented and capable individual (Read: Their IT people are about to get inundated with applications) for a bargain-basement price. More importantly, they’re creatively using the “casting call” as a social media publicity stunt to heighten their mind-share in the space.
While content creation will be a big aspect of the new Pizza Hut gig, Clifford rightly notes that social media monitoring may be the more important job responsibility:
“The Twintern must also play social-media defense, monitoring Twitter for any mentions of the brand and alerting superiors whenever anything negative about the Hut is being said. (Applicants should study last week’s YouTube gross-out video posted by Domino’s employees, which was quickly passed around Twitter, to understand why.)”
The Domino’s case study is yet the latest example in a line of recent PR fire drills which have bubbled up from social media platforms as companies failed to respond in a timely matter (Motrin, Amazon).
While Domino’s has done a lot of things right after missing the YouTube video for the first 24-48 hours (pictured above – as it has been taken down), the delay in reaction put them in very a deep hole. A hole that wouldn’t have been nearly as big if they had quickly identified the video through Radian6 or a similar service and responded quickly within the YouTube community and through Twitter.
Since then, they have done a good job of following the crisis communications’ handbook by creating their own YouTube video response (below) with CEO Patrick Doyle and fostering conversations with their new Twitter handle (100+ more followers than Pizza Hut).
However, while the fallout from “booger-gate” has created an “opportunity” to grow Domino’s social media presence, Pizza Hut finds themselves in the more enviable position: cautiously observing and moving slowly into the social media space rather than falling in backwards in reaction to a crisis situation.
In this age of media convergence, journalist Darren Garnick is a jack-of-all-trades, simultaneously pursuing careers as a newspaper columnist, TV field producer and documentary filmmaker. He is the Boston Herald’s “Working Stiff” business columnist, has written political and history specials for PBS and field produced for CNN, ESPN, Lifetime and The Travel Channel, and also blogs about pop culture at cultureschlock.com. We had a chance to catch up with Darren recently and ask a few questions about himself and the newspaper industry.
RaceTalk: What types of stories do you like to cover in your column for the Boston Herald? Are there specific topics that you really enjoy writing about?
Darren Garnick: My official beat is the American workplace. I mock outrageous corporate memos, stick up for the cubicle guys and search the universe for unorthodox careers, offbeat characters and inspirational stories. The business pages have a reputation of being boring, and lately, depressing. I strive to make business relevant to the average person, someone who might otherwise flip or click past biz stories for sports or empty celebrity entertainment.
I understand these readers, because I personally dread sitting through Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club meetings. However, business is deeply relevant to everyone, regardless of income or social status. It’s what we eat, wear, drive and breathe.
RaceTalk: What is the most memorable column you have written?
DG: What I enjoy most about journalism is the excuse to experience the most outrageous things — subjects that most people would never have an opportunity to experience — just for the sake of good copy. I once slipped into big clunky alligator claws for a few hours as the mascot of the Lowell Spinners (Single A Red Sox). The claustrophobia made me appreciate the amazing limberness and agility of college student interns.
I’d never profess to understand the challenges of being a working mother, but I also lasted 24 hours in a pregnancy simulation suit called “The Empathy Belly.” The suit’s inventor told me I held the longevity record for fake pregnancy, but I cannot confirm this.
RaceTalk: You have written about some very interesting topics on your blog. What have you enjoyed most about blogging?
DG: Freelance writing is a daunting exercise, and requires a willingness to accept a lot of rejection. With my blog, there is no rejection. Every single one of my ideas is brilliant and gets eagerly snapped by the editor-in-chief, who yes, happens to be me. It also allows me to track, for my own amusement, how many people are interested in my old work. I’m quite delighted, for example, that there is a small underground cult that worships the Costa Rican sloth.
RaceTalk: You’ve been involved with all different types of media (newspapers, blogs, TV). Which do you enjoy most, and which do you think has the most advantages?
DG: I am in love with newspapers and am mourning their national decline. My grandfather drove a delivery truck for the Boston Herald and he used to save all the front pages from the 1969 moon landing and the Watergate scandal and even the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Red Sox. My basement is filled with newspaper headlines (hope my fire insurance people don’t read this) and I’ve had fun photographing my children with famous headlines so they can later remember what they looked like when they were totally oblivious to world events.
But I also love YouTube. Being able to post short films there have opened up enormous opportunities I would never have in the pre-Internet era. I think that once enough newspapers collapse and the bloggers have nothing to write about or link to, there will be smart business people who will rehire the best journalists and launch more on-line mags like Slate and Salon.
RaceTalk: What do you think of the whole Twitter craze? Have you been tempted to begin tweeting?
DG: Funny you ask. I’ve been a holdout for a long time on Twitter. I never understood the appeal of updating your Facebook status every 10 minutes and Twitter just takes it to the extreme. That being said, I’ve found my Facebook status to be one of the most effective, low-pressure ways to send out article links. I can still blitz the masses, but it is less intrusive than an email because people can choose not to click on it. Sure, people can also choose not to open an email, but the Facebook status just seems more of a soft sell to me.
As for Twitter, I recently signed up figuring it “can’t hurt.” But I’m not sure how it helps more than the Facebook status, quite frankly. I am NOT someone who carries around a BlackBerry. I’m glued to the keyboard at my desk enough, I need to be off the grid for at least 10 minutes a day. But what the heck, please “follow me” @darrengarnick.
RaceTalk: Time Magazine recently published a list of the ten most endangered newspapers in the United States. What was your reaction when you saw some of the names on the list (i.e.: Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle)?
DG: Time got a lot of credit and buzz for this doomsday list, but it actually was first compiled by 24/7WallSt.com. That being said, it was a list that frightened the hell out of me and every breathing journalist. How can the Globe, the paper that used to weigh 250 pounds on Sundays, possibly go out of business?
Then again, how could Ford or GM possibly disappear?
Aside from Affleck’s dubious credentials as a media analyst, this is laughable because most of the print media was anti-war after an initial honeymoon period with Bush and Rumsfeld. Google “Mission Accomplished” and “Iraq” and my point is proven. And newspapers declining because of inadequate early coverage of the subprime mortgage crisis? Are you kidding me? Newspapers were losing ads to Craigslist and Monster.com YEARS before anyone paid attention to careless loans, Bernie Madoff or U-Pick-the-Scandal.
The most convincing evidence I’ve witnessed about newspaper woes happened before a recent breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express. Like many hotels, this one provides a free USA Today at your doorstep. I always swoop in like a vulture on my paper, eagerly devouring the box scores first, then swinging over to world and national news, following up with “Life” for dessert. As I walked the halls at around 9 a.m., when most people are awake on a weekday, I noticed that maybe only half the newspapers were taken. My friends, a 20-something and a 30-something, left their papers on the floor.
If you can’t convince people to read the colorful, mind-candy newspaper for free, then well, the newspaper industry has a huge marketing problem.
However, I do think that newspapers will survive and eventually thrive again. Just in a different form. Maybe there will be a once-or-twice-a-week print edition that contains magazine-style stories and columnists who you can cozy up to on the couch, leaving all the breaking news to the Net.
Journalists disappearing? Who else is going to show up to those Zoning Board of Appeals meetings?
John Koblin chronicles their conversation in a piece for the New York Observer today:
Randy Stross is a huge douche bag,” said Mr. Musk. Ms. Lacy let out a long, loud belly laugh.“And an idiot,” he continued. More guffawing.” Mr. Musk continued to tee off on Mr. Stross, and wondered aloud how anyone who lived in Silicon Valley could produce such a story. “Well,” said Ms. Lacy, who began to chuckle again, “a lot of people agree with you.” It didn’t take much to know where she stood. “There was a huge outpouring of letters to the editor, and actually, I should point out, that The New York Times printed a retraction,” he continued. “Oh, did they?” she asked. “Of course, when they print retractions, it’s on page 27—like micro-fine,” he said, prompting more laughter from Ms. Lacy. “They actually printed a retraction, yeah.”
In which, he praised Musk for standing up to his detractors, calling it “awesome.” He also noted that the Times’ article was edited and corrected for errors.
But was it really retracted?
Actually no, says Koblin:
A correction—not a retraction—ran and the headline was softened. (It changed from “Only the Rich Can Afford It. Should Taxpayers Back It?” to “Should Taxpayers Back a High-End Electric Carmaker?”)
Koblin also got some eye opening quotes from New York Times’ editors airing their displeasure with Musk and Ms. Lacy:
“I think Sarah Lacy was too busy giggling to do Journalism 101 and call Randy or me for comment to make sure what Elon was saying was accurate,” said Tim O’Brien, the Sunday Business editor of The Times, in an interview. “Because it was not only inaccurate, it was flat-out wrong. We wrote a clarification of the headline. We didn’t retract the story at all; we stood firmly by the story, and I still stand by Randy’s column.” “You can’t help but watch that interview and marvel at the squishy familiarity between Lacy and Musk,” he continued. “And I wonder whether or not some journalistic blinders had popped off.”
As for Musk, it’s unfortunate that someone as talented as him, would turn to a personal attack to get his point across. Let alone, utter the word “douchebag” as the CEO of a company. Musk and Tesla have been media darlings, with the Stross piece being the exception to the rule. He’s graced the cover of Fortune and was featured, at great length, within GQ. However, this blatant personal attack on Stross could change the tide.
“The press rarely grants an autumn reprise for those it loved in the spring,” is a saying that New York Times columnist Russell Baker made famous, which others often cite when describing the fickle nature of the media. They build you up to take you down and it’s never a good idea to open the door to the inevitable take-down by attacking them.
As Marc Gunther recently told me, Shai Agassi and Better Place are already the new media darlings of the electric car circuit. In part because they have a very charismatic CEO. One that I’ll bet will never be caught uttering the word “douchebag.”
Kutcher, then realizing that CNN was ready to take him on, had two very interesting observations about Twitter and social media:
He found it amazing that one person can have as big a voice as an entire media company (on Twitter).
After being invited to join Larry King Live to discuss this Twitter showdown, he noted that this is an Internet saga that should be discussed online, not on television.
With both parties closing in on 1 million followers (but CNN still in the lead) it looks like Ted Turner’s house is saved. However, Kutcher has made his point that certain individuals can be just as powerful (if not more) on Twitter as a large news organization.
Yesterday Marriott announced that they are ending their automatic free newspaper service for hotel guests, following a 25 percent drop in demand by their guests at a combine 2,500 hotels in the United States. The hotel’s announcement stated:
The company’s 30 million Marriott Rewards members will be able to update their online profiles and receive their preferred newspaper automatically. Guests who are not Rewards members will be asked for their preference at check-in. Guests will have a choice between USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, the local paper, or no paper.
This new model can reduce carbon emissions by 10,350 tons a year (each newspaper is responsible for half pound of carbon dioxide).
The move also reduces Gannett’s daily newspaper distribution by approximately 50,000 (a whopping 18 million newspapers every year).
The change comes after a 25-year partnership between Marriott and Gannett, where Marriott’s hotels distributed 1.3 million copies of Gannett’s newspapers daily – accounting for more than half of their 2.3 million paid circulation (as of September 2008). This is clearly a huge loss for Gannett that couldn’t come at a worse time.
“You think using Twitter is a social-media strategy. It’s a tactic, a tool, not a strategy.”
Now my post elicited some responses via Twitter (@sheldrake) questioning my definition of the word “strategy”. So for clarity… your social Web strategy is the long-term “how” that follows the “what” of your social Web objectives.
I also agree with number 2 on the Ad Age post… if “every tweet has to be approved by legal” then your organisation is not ready for the social Web let alone little old Twitter. (I’d also argue that you’re most likely not ready to do business in 2009!)
And at number 3, Ochman’s post picks up on the second issue teased out in my post, that of setting clear expectations for your corporate Twitter profile. To paraphrase, herein lies the danger that Twitter is adopted for monologue rather than dialogue. But employed wisely as per my last post, with real people on hand to pick up on the conversation, the corporate Twitter profile can be an appropriate flag waver and conversation starter.
Of course, the social Web is about people, and not information technology. So it would be good to see Ad Age adopting so-called pretty URLs that people can understand than the incomprehensible ones they have today.
As we have seen over the past six months, it’s no longer a question of if your local newspaper will shut down, but when. In Boston the Globe appears to be hanging on by a thread, as the paper is projected to lose $85 million in 2009, after posting a loss of $50 million in 2008.
So the question becomes, where will you get your local news?
Wade Roush (Xconomy) addressed this question last week and made a convincing argument that various blogs in the Boston area are well-equip to provide us with news on various topics, such as Over the Monster for Red Sox news and GlobalPost for international news. While Wade recognized that these blogs don’t fill the Globe’s shoes when it comes to muckraking and watchdogging, they can certain provide us with (sometimes even more) information on the topics we’re interested in reading and learning about.
Another story in Sunday’s New York Timesmade the argument that we may soon be getting out local news from a computer:
A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyper-local news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.
The sites, like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources. They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.
The article goes onto point out that these sites are still not quite ready for prime time (and don’t have a good revenue model), but have been pushed forward due to the newspaper industry’s current standing.
So while your dog may no longer bring your morning newspaper to the front door…
…there are still many people in line ready to step up and take on the responsibility of delivering the news.
I was happy to see Larry’s Twebinar trending as one of the most buzzed items on Twitter last Thursday. His interview with @bostonmike led to a lot of new dialogue, and Mike has continued the conversation by posting the Twebinar deck to SlideShare (embedded above). If you missed the Twebinar, the audio from their conversation is available here.
Would love to continue the conversation here as well. What was your feedback to the Twebinar?