This is a guest post by Anne Potts, Senior Vice President, Racepoint Group.
The mid-term elections give us a chance to take a hard look at the health of our democracy and the direction of public discourse. The consolidation of the journalistic voice brought about by media mergers and failures under the weight of an unsustainable economic model is unacceptable. It inexorably weakens our democracy.
Leave it to Google to see the chance to make change with a $5M gift to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on “advancing journalism in the digital age.” In partnership with the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge, Google’s $5M will fund projects that meet the “challenge” by addressing the critical success factors of a new approach, like expanding access to news and generating community involvement, use of mobile technologies, helping people understand the source for the news they read, and creating new economic models to sustain a journalistic enterprise.
Bringing this much Google juice to their work will be a true accelerator and will hopefully blaze a trail for a new and powerful Fourth Estate. Focusing American innovation on our media and its critical role in our Democracy – thanks, Google and Knight. We’ll be watching for the outcomes of your efforts.
Early this week Universal Pictures invited RaceTalk to attend a private screening of the documentary “Catfish.” Given our extensive coverage of social media, and particularly Facebook, the studio felt we were the perfect viewers.
The film follows a young, New York City based photographer, Yaniv “Nev” Shulman as he forms relationships with a family in Michigan. After seeing one of Nev’s photographs in the New York Sun, this Michigan family sends him a painting of his photograph, done by their eight year old daughter Abby.
Nev winds up “friending” Abby’s mother, father, sister, brother and more via Facebook and communicates with them regularly. Over the coming months they share countless emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, photos, videos, song recordings, and of course, more paintings. Eventually, Nev begins to form a romantic bond with Abby’s older sister Megan. He talks to her every day on the phone, via text, email and she sends photos and recordings of her singing songs she wrote for him.
One evening Nev discovers via the power of Google and YouTube, that Megan has been sending music recordings that are in fact stolen from an artist named Amy Karney. When he confronts her about it, she becomes frazzled and overly emotional. From this conversation on, things with Megan and the entire family begin to unravel. In an attempt to get some closure on what now feels like a mountain of lies, Nev and the two film makers (his older brother Ariel and their friend Henry) decide to drive to Ipsheming, Michigan to meet the family in person and uncover the truth.
Without spoiling the ending, because if you are an active user of Facebook you must see this movie, I will say that “Catfish” caused me to rethink my personal approach to Facebook. As a PR professional, we counsel our clients on the use of social media and the real-time web, and encourage them to share, share often, and share with complete transparency. We position social media as an easy, low cost way to reach your target audience on the websites and applications they are already using. Personally, we do the same. We use our Facebook profiles to share photos, videos, articles we enjoy, blog posts we write and more. Facebook has become so ubiquitous; we behave this way without question.
In David Kirkpatrick’s book “The Facebook Effect” he chronicles the early days of Facebook when a user was required to have a college, .edu email address to join. Mark Zuckerberg felt the university email address provided a level of authenticity that you are who you say you are. Once Facebook was opened broadly, and that requirement disappeared, you could use any email address to sign up, even a fake one.
“Catfish” demonstrates that the internet and in this case Facebook, allows users to not only share content, but to also steal content; to poach photos, videos, music and more and re-purpose it for their own use. The current explosion of content on the internet and social networks provides users with the ability to pluck content off the web and create an entire identity with stolen information.
Nev is still an active user of Facebook. His experiences have not diminished his use of the network. However, “Catfish” will force you to re-think the way you use Facebook and exactly how open you want to be with your personal information and the people you allow into your network. This film is a haunting, brutally real look at the power of social media.
Yesterday Google announced that the company would end development for Google Wave, basically putting an end to the product that we were told would change communication as we know it. It was positioned as email 2.0, a combination of Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and everything else that we love about the world of communication. Only – it would be magical. We could move conversations, bring people in and out – and if you ever had a chocolate craving, it would send you a Snickers bar right through your computer screen.
When Google Wave was launched, it lacked some very important details. Most importantly, it didn’t offer anything useful. There was not a specific use people could latch onto, and the the way it was rolled out did not allow people to have large groups of users they could easily communicate with. It also appeared so different that it came across as complex and unnatural to use.
Hopefully Google will learn from this mistake, especially as it continues to develop social products such as Google Buzz and GoogleMe, in their attempts to overtake Facebook.
In a recent blog post, Socialnomics author Erik Qualman shared updated figures on Twitter’s presence in the online search game. Twitter has officially edged out Yahoo! and Bing in number of monthly searches. See graphic below:
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Twitter founder Biz Stone shared that Twitter now has over 800 million search queries per day, which is a 33% increase from the last time he shared search figures in April (2010).
On his blog, Qualman writes, “We have indicated all along that Twitter & Facebook would be bigger search competition for Google than Yahoo and Bing. The fact that this is coming to fruition so soon is astounding. Social search and social commerce are becoming reality and it’s a great thing to see. Keep in mind we haven’t even mention YouTube and its social search activity.”
To the people who say social media is a fad, or that these sites are unimportant for business I say, think again. Consumers are searching for your products and services on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and if you are not there, they will find another provider.
Infographics are quickly becoming a media and public relations industry buzz word / topic. Why you ask? Two major reasons. As corporations continue to shift into their role as media companies and content curators, they’re realizing the opportunity to package interesting data to the media and consumers in new ways. More importantly, media organizations and editors are now focusing on finding new ways to engage their readership. Infographics happen to solve both of these problems by packaging data in a way that makes it both engaging and easy to read.
A few weeks ago I sat down with Sam Whitmore of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey for Racepoint Group’s video newsletter to discuss how brands and agencies can leverage infographics and why they’re becoming the “new slide shows” for media outlets desperate for engaging content. While Sam cautioned that infographics aren’t B-roll (most media outlets like to play a role in building them), he did pass along some interesting insight into how PR practitioners and marketers can leverage the media’s interest in this new category of content.
For more insight on infographics, along with the latest news and trends in marketing, PR and communications in the technology space subscribe to Racepoint’s “The Point: Tech Edition.
As the de facto aggregator and home of what is news in the digital age, Google News plays an integral role in publicly determining the biggest news of the day, hour and minute. For publicists, marketers and brands, it’s also a public viewing area for observing and measuring brand mentions, message penetration, etc. For most stories, a Google News’ alert is the first sign that a piece has gone live.
Those alerts and the homepage layout got a little more personal today, with Google launching “News for You.” News for You allows you to filter and dictate the stream of news headlines you see, based on your interests. Think of it as your Facebook stream and the ability Facebook gives you to tailor the “status updates” and posts you receive from friends. To improve the personalization of the news stream Google is providing an “Edit personalization” box, which allows you to specify your interest in different news categories — Business, Health, Entertainment, Sci-Tech, etc.
In addition to those personalization features, Google is also adding functionality today to share story clusters with other people via email, Buzz, Google Reader, Facebook and Twitter. These news clusters are common around big news and of course product launches, and gives you the ability to quickly see different headlines and views on the same story (like techmeme). After a few years of copying and pasting these news clusters in sharing with colleagues and clients, the addition is music to my ears. To do so today, you can simply select the drop-down menu marked by an arrow on the top-right of each story cluster.
Today Google has added a new homepage feature – allowing users to chose or upload their own background images for the home page. Users were already able to pick their own themes for Gmail, iGoogle and other Google platforms, but now the main page will be customized as well.
Here is a look at how users will be greeted:
Here is one of Google’s background options:
And my customized home page with a background image of Bryce Canyon in Utah.
For years now, start-ups and technology disruptors have been trying to change the television viewing experience. Mark Cuban was hypothesizing about the death of channels, with the introduction of Internet TV in the United States in 2005. However, other than a lot of visions and aspirations the market hasn’t really caught on. Change you see, doesn’t really apply to the television industry. After the “Golden Days” of television that saw a man walk on the moon the industry has been set in decades of stodginess with little or no change — innovation shifting to bigger and better things, with all eyes eventually falling on the Internet.
However, with the introduction of Google TV today, which joins the likes of Apple, AT&T and Microsoft in trying to champion Internet Protocol Television(IPTV), there may finally be enough momentum to trigger the Internet to TV avalanche. An avalanche that some analysts believe will lead to million global IPTV subscribers by 2013.
The innovation desperately needed in the television industry is replication of the Internet innovation in search and discovery that has occurred over the last decade. And, there’s probably no better company to replicate that than Google. With more video content and channels available than ever before before, watching and searching for video content between siloed channels, cable and satellite operators just doesn’t make sense. It’s a closed structure that would be like searching and enjoying the Internet without, well, Google.
Of course the introduction of this type of technology on pre-boxed televisions from Sony and others could also mean the holy grail of television advertising, which Google is really interested in. Advertisers have been seeking and gaining access to millions of consumers shifting to the Web to enjoy video content and technologies including personalization and speech-to-text solutions have enabled them to target these consumers with targeted advertorial better than they ever could through televisions. If “Googling” goes to the tube, these technologies and Google’s own AdWords’ system will be right behind it.
Of all the companies looking for a fearless leader to head their social media operations, I have to say this company is an unlikely choice. Not only do they dominate their primary industry, but they’ve branched out into several new frontiers on what seems like a weekly basis. Who is this hyper successful innovator?
None other than web giant Google. No, you didn’t misread that. Google, the number one search engine (sorry Bing, no matter how many products placements you do on Gossip Girl or the Rachel Zoe Project we still can’t be swayed), the creator of the increasingly popular Gmail, the blogging site Blogger and the photo sharing site Picasa is seeking to ramp up their social media presence in two major ways with the help of a new hire.
First, Google wants to build a social media offering uniquely their own. The launch of Google Buzz was met with extreme consumer discontent, and Google doesn’t want to continue playing second fiddle to Facebook and Twitter in the social media space.
Secondly, Google wants to improve the way it incorporates social media into its existing services. Seth Waintraub of Fortune’s BrainstormTech blog wrote, “Google has tried to play ball. They penned a deal with Twitter to embed a feed of related Tweets in its search results, among other moves.” While Google has this one collaboration with Twitter underway, there are a multitude of other options for strengthening their social media capabilities even within their existing services.
Sounds like a serious undertaking for Google’s newest employee. In her piece for GigaOm, Liz Gannes shares the job description being used by Google’s recruiter to find this diamond in the rough:
“This is a new and very strategic position, as Google knows it is late on this front and is appropriately humble about it. In Google’s view, conceptually, there are two ways to tackle social, each impacting who may be successful in this senior post: 1) building an innovative offering specifically in this area; or 2) developing the capability and integrating social into Google’s existing portfolio.”
While Google is on the hunt for this head of social media, there is also the possibility that Google could acquire an influential company in the social space and have that former CEO or president morph into this new set of responsibilities.
What do you think? Can Google find the right candidate to steer them towards social media domination?
Yesterday in San Francisco Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled out some big plans for his baby at the company’s 8th developer conference, f8. After combing through all the tech round ups, here are the major take aways:
Facebook global domination, one thumbs up at a time: The most notable announcement at f8 was that Facebook’s “Like” feature will now be available on any website that wishes to add the cheery sign of approval to its site. You can indicate your favor for anything on the web – a song, a recipe, a celebrity gossip post – all with one click.
While many support this web-wide expansion, others have strong concerns. John Sutter of CNN writes, “A consequence of these “like” buttons will be that your friends’ Facebook profile photos will start showing up all over the web. If you see your friends’ smiling faces online, it’s an indication that they have clicked a “like” button on the website you’re visiting. In a way, they’re recommending it to you.”
While those concerned with privacy issues are shrieking and scrambling in horror, marketers are smiling and planning ways utilize this public display of brand loyalty to move the sales needle.
Log in, plug in: In addition to the “Like” feature on websites outside of Facebook itself, the company is also going to allow sites to show Facebook user preferences without needing to log into that specific site. For example, if you frequent the music site Pandora, you will be able to see your friends’ music preferences based on their Facebook music preferences. Miguel Helft at the New York Times dives deeper with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad:
“It makes it really, really easy to ring your friends into Pandora and discover the music they’re experiencing,” Mr. Conrad said. Mr. Conrad started listening to a band and a picture of one of his Facebook friends who likes the same band showed up. With a click on that picture, we were able to see all the other bands that his friend also liked.
The features also allow Pandora to know which bands users have included in their Facebook profiles and begin playing music from those bands. That makes it easy for Pandora to begin playing music for new users without requiring them to type in their music preferences.
“Pandora is finally social,” Mr. Conrad said. And he said that Mr. Zuckerberg deserved all the credit for the changes. “You get a personalization with no clicks, and that was Mark’s idea.”
My friends and I already share Pandora station and Grooveshark playlist recommendations and this takes out the need for a third party mode of sharing. Tech and social media guru Robert Scoble tweeted this morning to his 121, 500 plus followers:
@scobleizer: OK, I’m sold on the new Facebook stuff. The new Pandora is FREAKING AWESOME.
So what does it all mean? In his keynote address at f8 Mark Zuckerberg explained, “The Web is at a really important turning point now. Most things aren’t social, and they don’t use your real identity. This is really starting to change.” This new expansion of Facebook preferences into the broader web begins that transition from stagnant to social on the broadest of scales.
These moves are not altruistic, of course. Facebook is opening the door to a whole new set of tactics from marketers and promoters, as well as increasing new opportunities for their own revenue stream.
Jon Swartz of USA Today wrote, “If successful, these functions could help Facebook gain valuable insights about millions of consumers and help it sell more advertising in its escalating rivalry with online ad leader Google.”
You hear that Google? Mark’s coming for you.
Former Fortune writer and author of the soon to be released book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick, summed it up best in a tweet today:
@DavidKirkpatric: Facebook’s f8 yesterday represents a sea change for the company–now the world clearly sees the scope of its ambition.