By Guest Author
Of the most enduring images of the turn of the previous century, few are as romanticized as the clash between powerful media barons – men of ingenuity, cunning and vision competing for the hearts and minds of the American public through the ink-stained pages of their daily papers. These papers would go on to sculpt and define American culture throughout the 20th century – from the Rockwellian paperboy on the city street corner, to the incorruptible and square-jawed reporters who inspired the creation of Superman’s Clark Kent, and the real life journalistic heroism of Woodward and Bernstein.
Another word for all of this Americana is history – the newspaper as another relic. But this week’s news of Jeff Bezos and John Henry making their plays for major broadsheets gives these relics a new shine. What does the Washington Post mean to Jeff Bezos, whose entire success has been built upon disrupting and superseding old, worn out business models? Why did data and analytics maven (and Boston Red Sox owner) John Henry purchase the Boston Globe, despite every indication that the newspaper industry might be in its death throes? Are these venerable papers simply trophies, or is there something more promising and more powerful at work here?
Perhaps it’s that these two see what their Gilded Age predecessors did, that they have acquired immeasurably important soapboxes? Even as circulation numbers and ad revenues fall, few can argue that there’s no power behind the Washington Post and Boston Globe mastheads. They provide quite a platform.
But beyond that, perhaps there’s a less cynical reason to take over these old institutions? It is very possible that that romanticized image – the newspaper as the servant of civil society – is something that the new owners see as a public good that should be maintained, regardless of profit margins. Both Bezos and Henry have the financial ability to allow these papers to continue their work without having to meet the financial demands of a publicly held company. There is a strong argument to be made for the philanthropic maintenance of these papers that allows them to continue their mission and disregard the financial realities of the 21st century.
And then, especially for Bezos, there’s the appeal these papers hold for the disruptor. Clearly, there’s no lack of thirst for news and information, and even as these papers floundered financially, they maintained their status as a driving force behind political, business and cultural conversations. Who better than the person who has spent the better part of two decades redefining how we purchase and consume the written word to try his hand at revitalizing the newspaper industry? Is the answer in digital distribution? Hyperlocal journalism? An increased crossover between social media and traditional reporting?
For both Henry and Bezos, these acquisitions mark the next step in their campaigns to make their mark on the future of the media industry. Bezos completely changed the way consumers access and purchase media, while Henry integrated his sports TV network into an media ecosystem that helped support the Boston Red Sox, while also operating as an independent media outlet. Perhaps both see, in newspapers, not the flagging sales numbers of an aging print medium, but the flagship property in a more complete influencer-based media model that provides consumers with timely, personalized and thought provoking information in new and exciting ways, from a name they can trust. While the ink is barely dry on the sales of these two long-standing media institutions, it is no question that these new owners can be trusted to bring a fresh eye to the news industry and will not hesitate to challenge and disrupt long held norms and accepted ways of thinking. It may be awhile before we can truly say if this new era of the entrepreneur-turned-newspaper-baron is merely a passing fad or the dawn of a new chapter for the media industry, but it’s an exciting turn of events that will no doubt change the way that those who work in and around the media do business and consume information.
This post originally appeared on State of Engagement.
August 7th, 2013
By Guest Author
Here at Racepoint Group, we’re constantly keeping our eyes and ears open and on the lookout for the next big thing. We work hard to identify up-and-coming trends in a variety of industries. The Internet of Things (IoT) is something we’ve been hearing a lot about for the past few years.
The term was coined to describe the phenomenon of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, and is slated to reinvent homes with refrigerators that tell us when our food is expired and smart thermostats that adapt to our climate preferences.
One of Racepoint Group’s clients, Spansion Inc., is a leading provider of Flash memory technology, which plays an important role in the function of the smart home. In short, the advances in embedded systems and Flash memory technology have allowed advanced intelligence, connectivity and user interfaces (and the convergence of the three) to become a driving force of device innovation.
Racepoint recently helped Spansion launch the “Smart Home Facebook Photo contest” to raise awareness of Spansion’s involvement in the IoT with regard to energy management, smart home appliances, home automation and security and surveillance. (You can check out Spansion’s post on the topic here on the company’s Memory Matters blog.)
Rather than hear about “Internet of Things” and smart homes from industry experts, Spansion wants to hear what their consumers think. We’d love your help in achieving our goal. Here’s what it’s all about:
- Take a picture of a home device or appliance you’d like to see made “smart.” Or, draw your concept or idea for a smart home device or appliance. Kids’ drawings are welcome!
- Describe in a sentence or two, how your dream home would make the device or appliance smarter – so it makes your life more efficient, convenient or fun. Extra credit for a creative connected solution; showcasing added intelligence to minimize the need for connectivity; a cool new user interface or solving a yet-unsolved problem!
- Post your photo and description to the Spansion Smart Home Photo contest.
- Make sure to “Like” the Spansion Facebook page in order to be eligible to win.
The grand prize for the contest winner is a Nest Smart Thermostat and an Apple iPad, and at the end of the contest, Spansion will curate a Smart Home gallery, featuring the most fascinating/creative entries received and showcase what consumers really want in the next-generation smart home.
Stay tuned here and on the Memory Matters blog for updates. Thanks and good luck!
June 28th, 2013
By Guest Author
Regardless of how many precautions are taken to ensure a pleasurable experience, there are unknown variables that can turn that pleasure cruise into a voyage of the damned. Cruise lines will put every effort they can to prevent a bad situation from happening, but the human element is unpredictable and can cause a great deal of problems.
When the unimaginable happens, it can be very damaging to the cruise line name. Even if the situation happened thousands of miles away, mainstream media will make sure that “so-and-so” cruise line is held responsible. Damage control needs to take place immediately in order to quell loss of income from these voyages.
1. Responsibility - Accepting responsibility immediately when something goes wrong is a start. By claiming responsibility from the beginning, the company can begin the healing process by showing the public that they made a mistake and are taking measures to make things right. It’s all about showing an effort to the situation. Even if the captain is personally to blame for causing the circumstance, the company needs to acknowledge that the responsibility of putting him or her at the helm was a mistake.
2. Expedience - In order to reduce accusations and speculations, the public needs to be updated of changing information as quickly as possible. Mainstream media has a habit of taking unsubstantiated facts and reporting on the tragedy as quickly as possible. This usually tends to be based on information that doesn’t have a solid foundation. As news reporters, it’s their job to report on situations as quickly as possible in order to be the first broadcast agency to do so. This is why numbers and statistical information are always differentiated at the beginning of a story. If the cruise line intervenes with its own information based on facts, then the fear-factor of journalism can be reduced.
3. Making Amends - Not everyone can be bought off with free tickets or refunds. In order to heal the damage caused from a bad situation, a more active approach needs to be analyzed. Obviously, an internal investigation needs to be conducted and the findings made public as to why this situation happened in the first place. A public effort needs to be displayed by the company showing everyone that steps are being taken to ensure the troubles never happen again. And finally, a humanitarian outreach needs to be embellished in the public view in order to show that the company cares deeply for its patrons.
4. Follow-ups - Continuous follow-ups placed in public view of methods and technologies to prevent the past mistakes needs to be a priority. The Internet has provided a location for a wide range of people to keep stories and videos alive for decades. Any detrimental video needs to be accompanied by one that shows remorse for bad decisions. Although bad news usually lives longer in the memories of people than good news, a great deal of effort and a change of policies within the company can keep the situation from being one that bankrupts the cruise line.
The bottom line is that no one is perfect. Not every contingency can be planned for as the random element will always exist. The best a company can strive for is to diminish the amount of damage the press can wreak on any bad situation. Not everything can be quelled by throwing money at it.
Jason Miner an expert freelance writer loves writing articles on different categories. He is approaching different bloggers to recognize each other’s efforts through “www.blogcarnival.com”. He can be contacted through e-mail at jasonminer8atgmaildotcom.
April 3rd, 2013
By Guest Author
This is a guest post by Mandy Miller.
Ah, new logos. You don’t have to have 10 or 20 years of business experience under your belt to know logo development is no walk through the park. Scale that to the magnitude of a brand like American Airlines. Unchanged since 1967, American made quite the stir as they unveiled their new logo in January. Now, while branding experts and business analysts may look at this as “a changed customer experience” (I can’t say a logo has that effect on me, but this is why I’m not a branding expert) and talk about how this marks a milestone for the company and its future, I’m more interested in the paint behind the logo, quite literally.
American got creative with this one. They named the new logo “Flight Symbol” (how original!) and it “contains the eagle, the star, the ‘A,’ and refreshed shades of red, white and blue. Together, they represent a clean and modern update to the core icons of our company.” Colors to match the American name. Refreshed. Modern. Icon. Cool. Focus in on that last part, specifically the “clean” part. I have a different interpretation of that, so keep reading.
Tune out all of the background noise of a new logo, improved services and shift your attention to the news of American’s new poster child, a beast of a machine called a B787-9 Dreamliner. American is adding 42 of them to their fleet. As many airlines strive to become greener, the overall eco footprint/efficiency of an airline is a hot area of discussion in the airline industry. At its core, this new addition is an efficient aircraft and does fit the mold for the company’s vision to be cleaner (if we’re talking efficiency). When active, this new fleet will take on the logo/new paint scheme for American (see photo-please note that the aircraft pictured is NOT the Dreamliner).
Now, look at the rest of American’s fleet – it sports the old logo and paint job. I’ll admit it. It’s iconic. American was known for the simplicity of their logo/design. Nostalgia aside, a brand has to be consistent, right? While a massive painting overhaul won’t be completed overnight, the entire fleet has to match that new paint scheme of the Dreamliner eventually. That means each plane has to be stripped of its current look, which involves LESS paint, and be plastered with the new design which involves MORE paint.
It may not seem like a big deal, but that paint is weight and weight is waste. Think about lugging around five cans of paint – that weight you carry is transferred to the object you paint, planes included. For the talented Captain and First Officer flying that aircraft, weight is everything and they watch their weight like a bride a week before her wedding. Careful calculations go into every flight – my plane weighs this much and has to go this far and at this speed – how much fuel do I need? The heavier the plane is, the more fuel inefficient it is.
Rewind – remember that part about the change being a “clean update.” If you connect the dots, it appears the company has recently announced the addition of its flagship efficient aircraft and switched its logo/paint scheme, only to make the rest of its fleet more inefficient. Wasted fuel means more emissions. Higher fuel costs mean higher ticket prices. Blah. Blah. Blah. Bummer.
This is merely an observation, but as I pieced together everything, it was quite the funky path to follow. Further, Boeing’s Dreamliner family has experienced some electrical troubles in recent weeks and it’s possible it could be grounded until the problems are targeted and fixed – quite the messy situation.
A logo is more than a fun and cute design. It can communicate a lot about a company and is an important part about how a brand is positioned in the market. A fancy exterior can catch your attention, but remember that even the best gifts and surprises don’t always have fancy wrapping.
February 4th, 2013
By Guest Author
This is a guest post by Liz Iannotti.
By now, if you haven’t heard about what some are calling the “lip-synch-gate,” I would be quite surprised. In the few days since the presidential inauguration where Beyoncé either did or did not lip-synch (jury is still out), the news has spilled over from US Weekly and Gawker into CNN, NBC Nightly News, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune. It seems like EVERYONE is talking about it. Which has got me wondering: why do we care so much?
I get it; it was disappointing to hear that such a wonderful performance may not have been live. When Beyoncé ripped that earpiece out of her ear at the climactic moment of the National Anthem, we as viewers wanted to believe that she was so into the song, that she said to herself “I’ve GOT this!” and belted out the end that moment, in her own way, live. Well, this may not be so. And not only does America feel duped (there’s just something about lip-synching that feels dishonest, even though it’s quite common), the news seems to be really bothering us beyond a fleeting thought of “ugh, that’s too bad.”
Why? I think it’s because as a society, we are ingrained with this idea of authenticity. Everything has to be real, true and exactly like “they” said it was going to be. Arguably, we value truth more than past generations – because now, we have the technology and the means to find out if an event, a person or a brand isn’t actually doing what it claims. Think there was a lip-synching mishap? Slow down the broadcast on your DVR and watch it back as many times as you want; zoom in on the HD-image of the singer to see if her lips really are moving exactly in synch with the sound. Think there was something fishy with a college football player’s famed girlfriend? Comb through tweets, articles, text message dates, call logs and obituaries to find holes in the story. Think your Subway sandwich isn’t really a “footlong”? Measure it against a ruler and create a social media campaign to attract the brand’s attention to that missing inch of grinder-goodness.
There’s nothing wrong with demanding authenticity and certainly nothing wrong with the truth. Consumers should be able to put faith in their favorite brand. They should be able to expect quality service when they walk into a retail store or to get their latte the way they like it. The onus is on brands and retailers to step up to the plate. They need to be even more aware that these days, consumers expect, are looking for and won’t settle for less than a real, and good, experience.
Did Beyoncé sing live? I think we’re all hoping for a yes — it would be a little victory in our search for authenticity. But brands and retailers beware, we’re holding you to that same standard; we hope you will deliver!
January 25th, 2013
By Guest Author
This is a guest post by Nate Towne.
Let me be frank – I can get behind some folks’ desire to ban porn. It leads to moral depravity, tempts innocents down the road to corruption, [insert silly conservative reasons to ban porn here], blah blah blah. I get it. I don’t support it by any means, but I get it. But a ban on Food Porn (a.k.a. photos taken of food to be shared across the internet) is just redonkulous, for lack of a better word.
To what do I refer? Today Mashable reported in its article, “The Death of Foodstagram,” that some restaurants in NYC are banning patrons from taking pictures of food in restaurants, citing this increasingly-popular practice is, of all things, a distraction. To diners and to staff alike.
According to Moe Issa, owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, on why his restaurant has banned food photos, “Some people are arrogant about it. They don’t understand why. But we explain that it’s one big table and we want the people around you to enjoy their meal. They pay a lot of money for this meal. It became even a distraction for the chef.”
And at Chef’s Table, you will pay a lot of money for the meal – the current prix-fixe price is $225 per person plus tax and 20% service fee. Cheap, it ain’t.
To me this seems like shooting yourself in the foot. Or the cash register. Restaurants cater to Foodies – folks that live for food, to eat, to discuss, to share, and yes – to review. Foodies love taking photos of food – especially food that is elevated to a higher plane, food that is art itself due to composition and plating. The very best chefs (and probably some of the worst) know that we “eat with our eyes” first and that an artfully arranged plate can be jaw-dropping, and thus can demand higher prices. Why else would we pay outrageous sums for an appetizer that’s roughly the size of a small vole? As humans, we like to experience new sensations – and as a global community with instant connectivity through social networks and technology, many of us are compulsively driven to share with others.
How many of us have spied a delicious dish on Twitter and made plans to visit the restaurant that served up that dish because of the photo alone?
How many chefs have achieved celebrity status because pictures and word of their food artistry has spread to the masses via Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr?
Are we less moved to action by a tweet that simply talks about food vs. shares a photo of the culinary masterpiece in question? I argue yes, yes we are.
A ban on patrons taking pictures of food in restaurants is sheer ludicrousness on many fronts, and one can only imagine the restaurants banning the practice will suffer due to negative social backlash against the policy as well as a noticeable reduction in the number of patrons visiting the restaurant. It’s hard enough to launch and keep a restaurant successful, why handicap your efforts in such a manner?
I predict such bans will quickly fade into obscurity – and that patrons will take pictures of food regardless. Because this is the Age of Digital, and it permeates every aspect of our lives. The efforts of a handful of restaurateurs trying to stem the tide of progress are as silly as a ban on taking pictures of food in restaurants. What’s next: not allowing patrons to ask what’s in a dish that’s being served?
I know I’d rather eat at Arby’s before I’d eat at a restaurant that won’t allow me my God-given right to capture my palatable property in digital format and share it with my peeps. True story.
Just don’t make me eat my words. They’re ever-so filthy.
January 24th, 2013
By Guest Author
This is a guest post by Marcus LaRobardiere.
On more than one occasion I’ve been called an old man, which is not entirely true- I’m only 23-years-old – but I do and always have had, a few habits/tendencies that beg to differ. For instance, on Saturday mornings, instead of watching cartoons like the rest of the kids my age, I was watching Flip Pallot, an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, fly fish the shallow waters of the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
As time went on, I began watching the likes of Anthony Bourdain and the other personalities on the Travel Channel. At that time, the channel was loaded with interesting shows about traveling, not like the subpar, 20LB ice cream sandwich toting shows it seems to be full of now. So you can’t imagine how excited I was to discover Uncommon Content’s Reserve Channel.
Reserve Channel gives unprecedented access to some of the more extraordinary people and places life has to offer. I discovered this gem when I saw a tweet from Jimmy Buffett, promoting his daughter’s new monthly travel series, “EX-PATS.” Upon further investigation I was hooked, and somewhere in between, Anthony Bourdain’s appearance on “On the Table w/ Eric Ripert” and seeing “EX-PATS”I couldn’t get enough but it dawned on me, this could be the coolest thing no one will ever see.
Despite the great content, I couldn’t help but think this was bound to fail. When a YouTube channel begins, it’s essentially starting at square one. Where cable networks and programs already have an established audience, Reserve would be starting with no one. Additionally, what credibility did they have? Their social network presence was small, I mean really small. One afternoon I gave them a #FF and much to my delight, it was retweeted. Despite the victory on Twitter, I knew to build their audience and credibility it would take a massive grassroots approach and they couldn’t be done through some Parrothead who follows Jimmy Buffett on Twitter.
By the time autumn was in full swing, they introduced three new shows that would pick up where the summer lineup left off. It would appear they knew something I didn’t. While YouTube can’t match the revenue stream or the ratings TV can, there are a few stats that point to a bright future. YouTube receives over 800 million unique users each month with 4 billion hours of video being watched monthly. In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views which are about 140 views for every person on Earth and with advances in sharing both on social and mobile networks those numbers are bound to grow.
Time will only tell whether or not various YouTube original’s like Reserve Channel will survive but scrolling through their different segments and shows I am seeing significant growth in views. I’m not willing to make any predictions on the success or growth of the channel because I don’t want to jinx anything – I’m superstitious like that – so for the time being, this old geezer will keep tuning in to satisfy an appetite.
November 2nd, 2012
By Guest Author
This is a guest post by Nate Towne. Follow him on Twitter at @Fancy_Lad.
You may be seeing a lot of buzz regarding Pheed, the new “Twitter Killer” that launched on October 1st – it looks and acts a lot like Twitter, but gives users (a.k.a. Pheeders) the option to share content for free or at a premium, either by applying a monthly subscription fee to their channel or setting up a pay-per-view live broadcast event. Users can charge anywhere from $1.99 to $34.99 per view, or $1.99 to $34.99 per month. The platform offers standard sharing features such as text, photos and videos, but also incorporates “stuff” (its word, not mine) like voice-notes, audio clips and live-broadcasting.
Not only is Pheed is going for that premium-content-gotta-have-it feel, it’s also positioning itself as the edgy new social startup, featuring the backside of what looks like Adam Levine’s head from Maroon 5 on its homepage. (But sadly, it is not.) This in itself should scare many older, more conservative users away right off the bat, leaving us fresh young things with that MySpace experience we’ve been missing since that platform bombed many moons ago. (Though Justin Timberlake is doing his darnedest to revive it. Maybe. The jury’s still out on that one.)
So who cares about Pheed? Well, if you’re a celebrity trying to cash in on premium content, you just might – the site seems to be a magnet for hip hop moguls and mogulettes. Same if you’re an Instant YouTube Star like these guys – you might want to start up your own pheed feed to try to monetize your videos. Some brands, like record labels and other content-and-taste makers could also benefit. Case in point it looks like everyone’s trying to figure out the value; the “big names” of celebrity content producers like Slash and Chris Brown are on Pheed, but have activity levels just south of minimal. BUT, and here’s the big but, they’ll only stay on Pheed if YOU go there and start buying.
Otherwise you might as well just Pheed your time into the ol’ toilet because you just wasted precious resources on the next big social thing that never happened. Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last.
But you’re probably here for deeper insights, so here goes:
- You can make money – if Pheed attracts users who will open their wallets to digital content.
- Pheed has more bells and whistles than Twitter.
- You can position yourself as cooler-than-cool by eschewing Twitter for this new social channel, being the first on your block to start a Pheed.
- You can easily share Pheed content on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
- Like any social network, you can gain insights into things.
- The content is entertaining, though dubious.
- Pheeds are rated for content and measured for level of activity, meaning users know what they’re getting into before they sign up for a pheed.
- It’s an unknown and could become a big time suck if nobody is there to help you monetize your content.
- Pheed is a ghost town compared to Twitter. Only 1 million users on Pheed vs. more than 500 million on Twitter.
- There’s no ability to easily share content with Instagram or Tumblr – for now.
- The content is dubious, though entertaining.
- Not primetime ready for main stream brands.
- Like any social network, you can gain insight into things. Mostly Paris Hilton’s things. *shudder*
Only time will tell if Pheed will get off the ground. With quality content producers including Big Sean, who has produced nothing, Spammers (that didn’t take long), and paparazzi’s putting up premium channels so they can get paid more for stalking your favorite celebs, you can count me out for now. When the Muppets start a Pheed, then I’ll consider joining. (I’d best not hold my breath.)
October 31st, 2012
By Guest Author
This is a post by Grainne Carlin. You can follow her on Twitter at @grainnehc.
Social media is a huge part of my day-to-day routine at work and public relations as a whole. I understand the value of social media platforms but sometimes underestimate how many people a message can actually reach. With that being said, when I found out a Twitter campaign managed to exile the rapper, Pitbull to Alaska I was terrified but also intrigued.
You may be confused, so let me explain the situation. A little over a month ago, Walmart partnered with Sheets Energy Strips for a contest; whichever local Walmart Facebook page received the most likes by July 15th would win an exclusive visit from the famous Miami music star, Pitbull. This contest received a lot of coverage and not because of its stellar prize.
The promotion kicked off on June 20th with a press release and an announcement on Walmart’s Facebook page:
Calling all Pitbull fans! “Like” your local Walmart store page here: http://local.walmart.com/. The store with the most new likes between now and July 15th gets a visit from Mr. Worldwide.
David Thorpe of The Boston Phoenix came across the press release issued by Sheets’ PR agency. After reading over the release, Thorpe called the PR agency to validate the accuracy of Pitbull’s quote that stated, “I’m excited to find out which local Walmart store has the most new likes so I can share the experience of using Energy Sheetswith my fans.” The PR agency confirmed that the quote came directly from Pitbull’s mouth. This quote did not strike the reporter as authentic. Thorpe decided to test Pitbull’s willingness to actually go to any Walmart location in the country and discover if Pitbull is in fact, Mr. Worldwide.
On June 29th, announcing his plan on Twitter, Thorpe (@arr) began a campaign to send Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska with a population less than 6,300 people and home to the most remote Walmart in all of America.
Pitbull is having a contest where he’ll visit the local Walmart that gets the most FB Likes. @fart and I are sending him to Kodiak, Alaska.
In less than a week AP turned the Twitter campaign into national news and eventually Billboard, Gawker, CNN, NPR, Good Morning America, Yahoo, and other national outlets covered #ExilePitbull. By July 6th Kodiak, Alaska’s Walmart page had over 60,000 “likes”.
Kodiak, Alaska ended up winning the contest as Walmart announced last week. Luckily, Mr. Worldwide accepted the trip (in a YouTube video) and even invited David Thorpe with him!
This entire situation is a prime example of how powerful social media really is. Somehow, a reporter with less than 7,200 followers managed to generate more coverage than a release sent over a national wire by simply creating a trending hastag.
Thorpe explains his reasoning for spearheading the #ExilePitbull campaign in a Phoenix blog post, “As the summer buying-s**t season heats up, the cross-promotional spokespersoning frenzy is reaching a boiling point. The newswires are humming with fresh pop partnerships — many of them complicated three-way affairs.” Thorpe could not understand what Pitbull, Walmart, and Sheets Energy Strips had to do with one another and he also did not find the press release to be genuine. Thorpe seems to share the same sentiments as many other reporters who are pitched daily with irrelevant news or promotions that simply do not make sense.
In the end, I wonder what Sheets Energy Strips PR Agency would have done differently. Overall, this press release most likely reached (or exceeded) the agency’s goals for several top tier national outlets covered the story and the likes on Facebook for just one Walmart location reached 70,000; but they were made a fool and their promotion was turned into a complete joke. In hindsight do they still think this was a good promotion? Do they still think the press release seemed authentic?
As PR professionals, there is a lot we can learn from the #ExilePitbull campaign. Make your promotions and news relevant, write solid and genuine pitches and releases, know your reporters, and leverage social media the right way—doing this may help you avoid a lot of embarrassment.
July 26th, 2012
By Guest Author
This past weekend I went camping just north of Conway, NH. As a self-proclaimed city girl, I had never been camping. Sleeping on the ground? An endless supply of bugs and wild animals? No cell phone service? I think I’ll stay in my air conditioned house and watch some Netflix, thanks.
But, I somehow found myself packing a sleeping bag, industrial bug spray and beef jerky for four days in the New Hampshire wilderness. Honestly, I had come to terms with the whole tent and fire part, but found myself in a sort of denial about having to digitally disengage for four days (four whole days!)
The spot where I was camping had no allusions of cell phone coverage. Not a speck of 3G was to be found, never mind a WiFi hotspot. My iPhone cheerily announced to me that it had “No Service” interspersed with brief periods of “E” (also known as the Edge network or, as I refer to it, “what is this Internet of which you speak?”)
Like most of my colleagues in public relations, my constant connection to the digital world has crossed from a professional necessity in to a personal reality. I find myself falling asleep to Pinterest and waking up to check my email. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites on my mobile phone throughout the day and I’ve stopped carrying notebooks and cameras in favor of my compact iPhone.
So, how did I, a self-proclaimed Internet junkie, fare with four days of no digital connection to the outside world?
- Pre-Day One: Unsure of what my Internet situation would be, I emailed my work colleagues and media contacts to let them know I might be out of pocket for the weekend. I apologized for any inconvenience and made jokes about my fears of bear attacks (who would know if I was attacked if I couldn’t updated my Facebook status?!).
- Day One: As we drove up the White Mountain Highway, I saw my 4G bars slowly slip, turn to to 3G and then disappear for good. I fought the process, telling myself that “E” wouldn’t be so bad, of course I would still be able to tweet and check email! In my personal life, I’ve taken to using my mobile phone to track my meals daily, so after a BBQ lunch I found myself lost as to how many calories were in the chicken I just ate. Throughout the day, as we set up our tent, cooked dinner and swam by the lake, I stubbornly kept my phone with me, convinced that I’d be able to get any urgent calls or messages. Later, when I tried to send a text message to my family to let them know I was safe, it took a stunning three hours to go through.
- Day Two: I carried my phone with me, but began using it less and less, relying on it as a camera more than as a phone. I stopped trying to access Facebook, and took three minutes to input my food for the day when I got a precious spot of signal in a nearby town.
- Day Three: My phone magically stayed in my tent for the entire day. Instead of seeing everything through the lens of my camera phone, I took it in first hand. I stopped caring about how many calories I ate (what’s an extra s’more when you’re on vacation anyway?) and didn’t even think about Twitter or Facebook updates.
- Day Four: On my way home, I hit the point where my signal returned and I was suddenly inundated with text messages, emails, calendar reminders and social media updates. I managed to put my phone down and not worry about any of it for the rest of the drive. It wasn’t until late that night that I sorted through to figure out what needed my immediate attention, everything else I left.
The verdict? Although tough at first, I think my digital diet was good for me. It reminded me that not everything begins and ends with my iPhone. Truth be told, not having it around left me surprisingly less stressed than I would have been otherwise.
Taking some time off, forced or not, made me realize how important it is to put the phone down every now and then. Yesterday was my first day back and I almost miss my digital intermission. But, so far I’ve found that I’ve been more cognizant of my phone usage. On my train ride home yesterday I opted to read a book (a real one!) instead of scanning through Tumblr.
Have you ever taken a break from being digitally connected? If so, what was your experience?
Taken with my iPhone in Glen, NH before abandoning it in my tent.
July 24th, 2012