Jill Sobule , famous for singing “I Kissed a Girl” and “Supermodel” for the Clueless soundtrack (way back then), sang at the All Things Digital conference earlier this week. There she was asked by Kara Swisher and Co. to put together a quick song on News Corp. big-boss Rupert Murdoch. No word on if the single will be made available on Murdoch’s MySpace page.
This week Google and Microsoft both made major announcements as Google launched Google Wave while Microsoft launched Bing. While both are newsworthy, it showed that both companies are far apart in their quest to rule the Internet world.
Google Wave offers users the ability to operate an entirely new communication system with real-time typing, easy file-sharing, playback and more (see this post in Mashable for a great guide to Google Wave) and Google’s goal is to completely change the way we communicate online. While there is still a lot to be seen, if Google Wave can incorporate what people are already using (Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, etc.) then it would seem to be in a very strong position. Additionally, the new file-sharing ability could make it a very useful businesses tool.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to join the party with Bing, which they hope will turn into the catch-phrase, “I’m not sure when that movie is coming out, I’ll Bing it.” The site is advertised as search engine that will help people make decisions by presenting the best information for users to make informed decisions saving time and money.
While Bing sounds interesting and I look forward to trying it out, I’m left with the feeling that I can get everything the site offers on Google or another site. However, what Google is presenting with their new Wave product is unparalleled and leaves us wanting to try it out today, not once it is released this fall.
The problem for Microsoft is that while they were putting together a comprehensive search engine that can be catchy and useful, Google was preparing to change the way we communicate.
What do you think of Google Wave and Bing? Which are you most excited about?
Despite the economic downtown, there was a tangible aurora of excitement and significant buzz surrounding what the coming year has in store for the tech industry at TieCON East 2009. More than 650 serial, emerging and hopeful entrepreneurs joined luminaries and funders at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA on May 21 and 22 to interact with one another, share ideas and form financial and/or technology partnerships.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and State Treasurer, Tim Cahill gave rousing speeches that fell in line with the theme of the event – Sustainable innovation. Cahill discussed Boston as a hub of innovation and the importance, potential and growth of the tech industry in MA. They also spoke of their support for local entrepreneurs and the work TieCON EAST is doing to help drive the state’s economy forward.
Cahill was followed by an impressive keynote panel of “start-up superstars” to formally kick-off what has become the East Coast’s largest annual gathering of tech entrepreneurs, including moderator Mike Grandinetti, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and Managing Director of Southborough Capital, Larry Bohn, Partner of General Catalyst and Founding Partner Maria Cirino at .406 Ventures. Each of the speakers has had multiple start-up successes as entrepreneurs and enthusiastically shared their key learnings and mistakes with the audience. Larry and Maria also shared their perspectives and cumulative wisdom in their roles as investors / board members. Both described the resilience that many of their portfolio company executives have demonstrated day in and day out in the face of the current economic environment. It was a very thoughtful and dynamic discussion that kept the audiences attention until late into the night and struck the perfect chord to launch the event.
The energy continued in the second day with presenters and panels focusing on the following themes: cloud computing, clean tech, health care IT, green IT and mobile tech. There was tremendous excitement about mobile apps stemming from the popularity of the iPhone. As expected, clean tech drew much attention but one of the most interesting components to this discussion was the debate about whether the ITC VC model is right for clean tech. The cloud computing panel included moderator Wade Roush, Xconomy’s Chief Correspondent, Greg Arnette, Co-Founder & CTO of Sonian Networks, Larry Bohn, Managing Director at General Catalyst, Richard Soley, Chairman & CEO of Object Management Group and Matt Tanase, VP Technology Strategy at Rackspace. It was an interesting discussion as presenters and audience members sought to cut through the hype and define true cloud computing and how it will play a meaningful and significant role for companies as part of their broader technology infrastructures. Panelists were familiar with the challenges in finding ROI in the cloud technologies and services and helped answer questions on how best to benefit from this technology offerings.
All in all, it was a great event and will hopefully serve as one of the spring boards as we begin emerge from this economic downturn.
Del Jones, who makes a living interviewing CEO’s for USA Today’s Money Section, became the latest reporter to promote their Twitter aptitude with a Money Section cover story today on CEO’s tweeting (Well, it was supposed to be about the USA drifting away from capitalism toward a European-style hybrid of capitalism and socialism).
Twitter’s 140 character limit doesn’t cater to a colorful story. As Baker noted in November of this year in an interview with RaceTalk:
Stephen Baker: The story “Why Twitter Matters,” came out in May, a week after I opened up the live thread with the Twitter community, which allowed them to contribute to the story (May 8-9). Anyway, I got a lot of input, but the trouble with it was people didn’t want to write paragraphs. I was hoping they would craft the story with me. They just wanted to give me ideas and leave the story writing to me.
RT: I imagine it was tough for them to contribute 140 characters at a time?
SB: Yes. I thought they may try to write paragraphs together (140 characters at a time). When I set it up I thought it was going to be so easy. I would write the topic sentence for the paragraph and while the responses come in, I can go off to the Modern Museum of Arts and enjoy myself for half an hour – and then come back to see the paragraph constructed. It ended up being pretty chaotic and took a lot more work than a regular story.
The one difference between the two examples being: Baker set out to write a story about Twitter using Twitter, Jones simply set out to write a story using Twitter that ended up having more to do with Twitter than his intended subject matter (Guessing the editors played a role in that as well.)
As Dan Gilmor notes in his own post about the USA Today Twitter-piece today, the end result of a reported story centered around 140-character blurbs is, not surprisingly, a disjointed one.
In fact, Jones story reminds me of a former USA Today column – Larry King’s discontinued one, which included Mr. King’s disjointed conscious stream in no particular order (I’m guessing that is why Larry has taken to liking Twitter so much). Only this piece isn’t as fun, given it’s the disjointed thoughts of many people and it comes on the back-end of the huge WE GET TWITTER plug from USA Today (pictured above).
Yes, Twitter (as a part of social media) may be a huge piece of the future of journalism. The New York Times apparently gets it and it is likely that the USA Today understands it as well. But the future of journalism isn’t pieces like this…. At least I hope it isn’t.
Om Malik and the GigaOM Network have launched a new revenue model today, taking the form of a subscription-only service called GigaOM Pro. The site, which will cover infrastructure, mobile green IT and consumer, has already launched and subscriptions to the service are currently available for $79 per year.
GigaOM Pro was introduced by Malik this morning and he outlined the thinking that went into the service:
We have created a research-driven platform that allows informed insiders, our community of readers and our network of analysts, editors and reporters to engage on an ongoing basis. We want this to be your one-stop shop for getting a grip on some of the newer technology trends. We are kicking it off by following some of the most rapidly changing sectors of the technology industry…and will add more in the coming weeks.
Malik also notes that it was obvious he would not be able to build a next-generation media entity on advertising revenue alone – a notion that some newspapers may want to think about more closely.
At first look (and without a subscription) GigaOM Pro looks like a great site. Each section is set up similar, and features a weekly update, “long” view, research update and a quarterly wrap-up. There are also data highlights and research, and much of the content is written by GigaOM’s regular contributors.
Preston, who’s first move in her new position was making her Twitter account public, will work full-time on expanding the use of social networks and publishing platforms to improve the Times’ journalism and deliver it to readers.
The move comes a week after the Wall Street Journaldrew attention for a social media memo to staffers on guidelines for editorial use of Twitter and Facebook. The Times,which has similar (but slightly less rigid) policies in place, has shown leadership in using social media to crowd source stories. In addition, it has also countered its competitor’s “Journal Community,” with TimesPeople, its own social network.
It also isn’t the first newspaper or print outlet to create this type of position. The Los Angeles Timesnamed Andrew Nystrom (@latimesnystrom), Senior Producer of Social and Emerging Media in March of this year. Shirley Brady has also been working within a similar role at BusinessWeek for some time as Community Editor.
As David Kaplan notes within his piece on the news for PaidContent (which included a quick interview with Landman), the new role likely has less to do with blocking twitter use (as Gawker insinuates) and more to do with encouraging staffers to utilize social media for reporting on stories. In addition, there is a plethora of opportunities for the Times to leverage Twitter, Facebook and other sites to increase reader engagment. Imagine a destination page under the New York Times domain that essentially did what MuckRack does with all journalist’s tweets, but did it only for reporters and editors writing for the Times. TimesPeople could be combined with that to create some kind of morphed social network / tweet destination site – TimesTweets anyone? How about standardized NYT’s hashtags on breaking news or “ask the editors” tweet chats?
However, we shouldn’t get too excited. One can’t help to wonder if naming Preston (with decades of editorial experience) over some outside canidate with social media experience is the best option. While the New York Times often has the best intentions in mind when it comes to evolving their digital strategy, their tactics aren’t always sound.
Many clients (brands) still look at press releases as marketing speak; heavy in product and service jargon that journalists covering the beat have a hard time understanding – let alone the typical consumer. As communications continues to shift towards direct-to-consumer interaction, press releases also need to adapt.
Of course, savvy clients are big fans of Google News so they should understand that the modern, digital press release is read by hundreds to thousands of consumers on the Web (including potential sale’s leads) in its original form (both on Google News and other news aggregator sites). So what is the best way to maximize the return on investment on digital releases today? Here’s a few basic tips.
Free is Good: Now more than ever, those of us within this industry need to focus on return on investment. Sometimes there just isn’t the prospective return there to pay for the distribution of a press release on a paid distribution wire. While it is still necessary in most cases to use pay-for wire services (i.e. BusinessWire and MarketWire) for major corporate (investor / financial) and product announcements, a large percentage of clicks on press releases come through Google. Social media distribution services like PitchEngine, which are free in their most basic form, also get picked-up on Google. While we still advise that clients use this tool as a supplement to pay-for wire services for major announcements, these free services can be used as alternatives to paid services for lesser announcements. In addition, although BusinessWire has added new tagging features within the last couple weeks, which includes Facebook and Twitter, PitchEngine and other social services tend to allow for better social sharing capability (or Re-tweet-ability) than their paid-for counterparts. Once the release is up, it’s important to make sure the release is shared across communities (i.e.: Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc).
Shorter Headlines: Given that we live in a 140-character world with the advent of Twitter, one would think that we would begin to shorten other aspects of our communications toolbox. It hasn’t really happened to date. Brands continue to spend too much money, with too many words, with the aforementioned pay services and headlines are continually wasted on Google News. Google news only supports 63 characters with its headlines, yet companies continue to make their headlines longer than most tweets. It’s important that companies not only shorten their headlines, but also include search keywords within the first 63 characters.
Hyperlinks or Anchor Text Up-front: In addition to allowing for easy click-throughs to corporate Websites or micro-sites, the use of hyperlinks (or anchor text) also weighs releases as more relevant in the eyes of Google’s search engine. Google’s search patents, which have been disclosed over the years, illustrate how and why Google’s engine ranks anchor text and hyperlinks so highly. Using anchor text with keywords (as part of an SEO strategy) in the opening of your release builds relevancy, leading to more link views and inevitably more clicks on the release, and your Website.
Using Hyperlinks, in Addition to Full Domain Names: Although Google continues to score anchor text (i.e. RaceTalk) higher than full domain names ( i.e. http://www.racetalkblog.com), consumers still click on full domain names. Press releases distributed through paid services are often likely to see Website click-throughs higher on full domain links than the hyper-linked alternative. It’s important that you include both within your release (especially for the corporate Website).
Market your Return: Once you’ve got the right service and the right format for your release, and the results that come with it, make sure to market the return on the release up the ladder. Free services like PitchEngine offer you click results on your release and paid services like BusinessWire offer you much more. BusinessWire offers paying customers full click-through results that tabulate which links viewers clicked on within the release, which site referred them and where (wire, Google News, etc) they viewed the release. It’s imperative that these results (especially the amount of traffic driven to a Website or product page) are shared with the client or up the ladder (for PR folks working in-house).
This morning, WIRED magazine’s Alexis Madrigal and Michael Kanellos of Greentech Media joined W2 Chairman Larry Weber in a panel discussion co-hosted by Racepoint San Francisco and Digital Influence Group on “Powering Clean Tech with Social Media.” Despite the early hour, the panelists jumped right in, discussing hot topics including green washing, alternative fuels and funding.
Alexis, who is writing a book on the history of the greentech movement in the U.S., called for a new sense of “Manifest Destiny” in relation to clean tech. He reasoned that since we have to transform systems on earth, we should acknowledge up front that its going to be hard, messy and part trial-and-error. Both Michael and Alexis agreed that the innovation needed to transform the space has to come from innovators from within and outside the clean tech industry. They cited the Gates Foundation’s work in health as a prime example of this type of collaborative innovation — working together the industry can achieve the changes needed to make real strides in clean tech.
As for social media, both panelists agreed that blogs, twitter and social networks can serve as effective conduits for organizations to get their messages to businesses, and that few organizations are successfully using social media to reach consumers. All is not lost on the social media front, though. This just means organizations have a lot of room to grow in their communications with consumers.
All three participants cautioned companies to participate in social media with a thoughtful approach and, above all, a clearly defined strategy. They noted that one of the biggest social media mistakes companies make is to engage without first learning the community’s standards. Overall, they expressed a sense of excitement that people are using social media more and more to communicate about clean tech and other issues of shared interest. It is, after all, a much more normal and personal way to communicate than traditional types of media.
Here is an interesting part of their conversation on how Meacham is trying to create a sustainable revenue model for Newsweek by cutting its circulation numbers in half and following in the footsteps of the Economist with an intellectual and deeply analytical approach to reporting:
CHARLIE ROSE: Chapter one of the new “Newsweek.”
JON MEACHAM: Chapter one. What we have to do is go to our base. As you will feel there, this is better paper. It’s a more handsome magazine. We have been doing this for 76 years, and I want to say quickly, we stand on the shoulders and in the shadow of all the folks who have put this out, put this out week in and week out. And this is not a reflection on what we have been. It’s about what we have to become. We’ve been at 2.6 million subscribers for a long time. Mass audience. Costs a lot of money to print that many magazines, put them on trucks and deliver them. We’re going to bring that down. We’re going to charge a little bit more for it. Still less than $1 dollar a week, I think, for most folks, which is much less than a cup of coffee in most urban places. And ask people who care the most to pay a little more, and then be able to take that demographic, that audience, and tell advertisers this is who you’re reaching. You want to reach these people, because they’re people who watch you. They’re people who watch “Meet the Press.” They are people who hopefully buy hardback books about history.
And our calculation — our research shows that there are about 28 million people. I sometimes think of it as the virtual Beltway. You may not live in Washington, but you are part of that sensibility. And you read a lot, and you check into the electronic kinds of conversations.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me read your page about this. “A new magazine for a changing world. As we see it, ‘Newsweek’s’ role is to bring you as intellectually satisfying and as visually rich an experience as the great monthlies of old did, whether it was Harold Hayes’s ‘Esquire’ of Willie Morris’s ‘Harper’s,’ but on a weekly basis.
“In our interview last Wednesday afternoon on Air Force One, President Obama noted one of the key lessons he had learned. Americans not only have a toleration but also a hunger for explanation and complexity and a willingness to acknowledge hard problems. ‘I think one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Washington is this notion you have to dumb things down for the public.’ That was the president. You say we could not agree more.”
And I say I totally believe that. You know, in terms of the response that you get when people find interesting things done in an interesting and intelligent way. You know, there is — it lights up the human experience.
JON MEACHAM: Yes. And it’s about character, and it’s about people, and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to start with Obama, who is the, agree or disagree, the most fascinating figure of the age.
How bad could it possibly get? As BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine wrote, people are currently more satisfied with airlines and even their cell phone providers than newspapers. In fact, Even Burger King, Comcast, and the U.S. Postal Service had higher scores then newspapers.
For an industry that is struggling to survive right now, this is not a good sign. How are newspapers going to be able to increase revenue when their customer base is unsatisfied and shrinking? Will consumers really pay for online content that are not happy with, then they can go to industry-specific blogs instead? For an industry that primarily based on providing news, a lot of the major news these days has been focused on the industry’s inability to make money and/or stay in business.
So why have people become unsatisfied with newspapers? Here are a few reasons:
Less Content: Over the weekend I was talking to my father and he remarked at how thin the Boston Globe has become, saying that it used to take him the whole day to go through the paper, and now he can read everything within an hour. With thin papers comes less content – not an appealing trait.
Old News: Thanks to the Internet, blogs and Twitter, by the time an article reaches the newspaper it’s old news. Unless a story has additional information and analysis, then it doesn’t provide the reader with anything new or unique.
Increases Prices: Let’s face it – almost everyone under 40 is not going to pay for a newspaper when they can get more relevant content online for free. With increased prices (for less content and old news) newspapers are not exactly attracting customers, and are likely turning off some of their current ones as well.
With that said, last time I was on a plane I bought a newspaper for the flight, and found it to be much more enjoyable then the flight itself.