Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The New York Times on "Buzzwords of 2008" -- Which will Survive & Which We Can Forget?

Check 'em out: "The Buzzwords of 2008."

You're sure to find a favorite.

Here are ones I think will last:
  • Frugalista: A person who is frugal but fashionable.
  • Nuke the Fridge: To ruin a movie franchise; usually attributed to the arrogance of a successful producer or director. The term was coined based on a scene in the latest Indiana Jones movie, in which the hero survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. The term is patterned after jump the shark, coined a few years ago to refer to anything that had peaked in popularity or quality and was now on a downward slide toward ridiculousness and irrelevancy. However, I think "Jump the Shark" will be the preferred term.
  • TBTF: An initialism for “too big to fail,” used to describe very large financial institutions that many believe should be protected from financial collapse. Unfortunately, this will survive long after this recession.
  • DWT: Driving While Texting. You know you shouldn't do it, but it's difficult not to multitask. The situation will improve when we can do speech-to-texting. Look for that in 2010.
  • Staycation: A vacation from work or school that does not involve traveling. This term will survive 2008. but it still won't be as much fun.
Here are some I don't think will survive:
  • Recessionista: A person who stays fashionable during an economic downturn without spending a lot of money. Too similar, and longer way to refer to a Frugalista.
  • Terrorist fist jab: A knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump. If the Obamas continue to use that gesture, expect it to be referred to by its initials: TFJ.
  • Hockey Mom. Was 2008's Soccer Mom. But in the U.S., more children play soccer than plan hockey so expect to see Soccer Mom prevail as the term of choice in the next election cycle. (That's when pundits talk about demographic groups.)
  • Sister Wife: A woman who shares a husband with another woman. Used by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Texas and other polygamous groups. Will retreat to the shadows unless there's another raid on a polygamist home(s).
Interestingly, I had thought buzz words were two words, but the Times considers it to be a single world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

CNN Drops "The Crawl" -- Are "Crawls" Dead...Yet?

New York Times' new media/tech reporter, Brian Stelter reports that CNN has dropped its crawl -- "the unending stream of news capsules that have inched relentlessly across the bottom of cable news programs for seven years, disappeared from CNN last Monday."

Survivors include CNBC, Fox and other cable and broadcast news programs.

Now I wish CNN would stop proclaiming everything it covers as "breaking news." Turning to CNN at random times over the past week, every story seemed to be accompanied by on-screen graphics claiming this to be "breaking news," but most were not. Brian, can you get on that, please?

Meanwhile, check out the story, "The Flipper Challenges the Crawl."

Friday, December 19, 2008

TechCrunch Proclaims "Death to the Embargo"

TechCrunch has been scooped. By PRBackTalk in June. TechCrunch recently announced Death To The Embargo, but we figured embargoes don't easily exist in the Web 2.0 world. Check out my initial post: Can PR Embargoes Survive in a Web 2.0 World?

Now it's true that TechCrunch says death to the embargo from a very different perspective. But the conclusion is the same.

The TechCrunch death-to-embargoes is another example of the growing tension between journalists and publicists (hacks vs. flacks). I've been observing online the growing frustration on both sides (latest installment: PR and the fine art of not being crazy and BadPitch), and while most don't seem to care about it, I think it's fairly obvious what's causing the tension:
  • Media companies are going through the worst down cycle since 1987, and perhaps the worst time since the 1930s. The advertising-supported business model no longer works.
  • Traditional media is also in the midst of seismic changes. We're moving to an online-only model for most newspapers and magazines -- and traditional media doesn't like it. Neither do most PR agencies because clients still want national print coverage, and don't consider online media to be important/worthwhile.
  • PR agencies can't agree on metrics for online media so can't merchandise their success the way they could with circulation numbers.
  • Online media distinctly works in new ways from traditional media -- and the new rules, which are evolving and not set in stone yet -- are frustrating both hacks and flacks because neither side "gets it" right now. Both sides are operating on assumptions -- like embargoes, for example -- that don't make sense to the other party. (Embargoes, and the penalties for breaking them, used to be something both hacks and flacks understood. That's no longer true.)
As PR executives, we strive to make sense of the changing media environment, and work to educate our clients based on what we see, what we read and what we hear from reporters. But it's important for PR folks to make sure we understand the culture of each channel (like blogs, Facebook or Twitter). Social media isn't a short cut, it's just a new channel. To do it right takes time, patience and understanding.

WSJ Article Serves as Reminder: Keep Confidential Information Confidential

For all of us in PR, the headline says it all: "Husband of Partner in Financial-PR Firm Stole Information on Mergers."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Newspapers, Magazines Aren't the Only Media Facing Tough Times

Noticed I didn't ask if local broadcasting is dead -- I know it might appear that I've been fixated as of late, but it's been tough times.

In a story yesterday, "Local broadcasters scale back as advertising fades," the Boston Globe reported that local broadcast media -- TV, cable and radio -- are all expecting cutbacks in advertising revenue in 2009, and that most have made administrative and on-air cutbacks.

The article points out that 2008 was a good year due to political ads, and that post-election years are always lower -- so that this trend is not related to the mass migration of print consumers to the Internet.

But it's a reminder that the downturn is casting a wide net, and that traditional media is poised for a tough 2009. That said, until online media can adequately monetize their users, online media is going to face a tough 2009, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Are Tech Conferences Dead?

According to the Wall St. Journal, "R.I.P Tech Conferences." The evidence is circumstantial: Apple declined to attend MacWorld.

Apparently, Apple left a note, saying, it has been scaling back its involvement in conferences for years and that “like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers."

Tech conferences began going on life support when Comdex, once one of the biggest conferences in the world, died. CeBIT in Germany is still alive as is CES, but attendance at that show, held the first week in Jan., seems to be down.

I think that large tech conferences are like dinosaurs. They are being replaced by smaller, more focused conferences.

I don't know that in-person trade shows will be replaced by virtual conferences. Those don't seem to have caught on yet.

Webinars are popular, but have not allowed the networking that some people need to do business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Newspaper Cutbacks; Expect a Dozen to Be Online-Only in 2009

To the list of online-only newspapers and magazines that started with the Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News & World Report, add the Kentucky Post, and, more significantly both of Detroit's daily papers, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.

According to the New York Times' Richard Perez-Pena, "Detroit Newspapers May Sharply Cut Home Delivery; the wounds of both a troubled industry and a hard-hit region," both Detroit dailies will cutback the number of days they deliver their papers to home subscribers -- perhaps as much as three days each week, including Sunday, one of the most profitable days for a home delivery. The papers will also reduce the number of pages they publish that will be available at newsstands.

At this rate, we expect that in 2009, there will be a dozen newspapers that will have transitioned to an online-only business model.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Are Slogans Dead?

This week's articles seem to all be about what's dead or not.

No question that a whole lot of traditional media -- and PR -- is changing.

In the Dec. issue of Fast Company, best-selling authors Dan Heath & Chip Heath argue that we should "Fight the Urge to Think in Clever Taglines." (The article was re-titled from "Kill the Slogans Dead" for the online version.) "Made to Stick: The Anti-Slogan Argument: Fight the urge to think in clever taglines."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are Newspapers dead?

Check out http://www.newspaperdeadpool.com/.

Also, check out "Media Companies Cull 30,000 in Fight for Their Future." The subhead is instructive: "Execs Blame Recession as They Wield the Ax, but This Is About Reinvention, too."

While it's not relevant to newspapers, NPR to Cut Expenses, Shrink Staff, according to Wall St. Journal.

This some hope for journalism in "Beyond the Great Press Crash of 2008" by Peter Osnos, Century Foundation:
So here, in the briefest of summaries, are avenues for innovation:

1. Reestablish the principle that news has to be paid for by someone: the consumer, the advertiser, or the distributor. (See the Platform for November 3, 2008: “Make Google Pay.”)

2. Private equity investment in new brands or renewed confidence in such stalwarts as the New York Times and the Washington Post, which are hurting badly but would revive if they can make money from others (for example, search engines) through fees for their content.

3. Accept the role of news as a public service to be supported by the community through public funds, membership, and sponsorship of various kinds. This is, of course, the model that has been in place for decades at public radio and PBS.

Thomas C. Rubin, chief counsel for intellectual property strategy at Microsoft, recently gave a thoughtful speech to the U.K. Association of Online Publishers, making many of the points reflected above. As precedents for the news business to consider, he cites the challenges to Napster’s effort to make music free, which fell apart when it was found liable for copyright infringement. Music again became a saleable commodity with the advent iTunes. Next came YouTube, which was helping itself to content—until it was sued for a billion dollars by Viacom. Now Hulu is gaining traction by selling the same sort of material. Why can’t the news business challenge free use of copyrighted material? It can, and almost certainly should.

The financial model for gathering news can definitely be revived. No one disputes how bad things have gotten. So the only way forward is to focus on solutions. Innovation, please.

Is the Financial Crisis Impacting "The World's Oldest Service"?

The answer, according to today's New York Times, is yes.

Reporting that "an industry always considered recession-proof is now suffering. You can read the entire piece in "Financial Crisis Tames Demand for World's Oldest Service"

They should apply for a bailout. Considering that they probably already have friends on Capital Hill, they may get a quicker bailout package than Detroit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is Lifecasting Dead -- Mostly

ValleyWag posted an interesting article that I think makes for a good follow-up to yesterday's post about blogs. In "Why there's no money in being a Web celebrity," former Business 2.0 reporter Owen Thomas makes a very good case that Lifecasting -- basically filming your entire life and sharing it online -- is dead.

A bunch of startups including Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Kyte, Mogulus, thought there would be viewer and advertising interest in lifecasting.

For the most part, there's not much interest in watching every detail of someone else's life.

Want to know why?

What's interesting is that Fortune also ran an article that made a similar point.

Check out: "User-generated video under siege: Remember how home-grown online video was going to be the future? Well, it's not turning out that way. "

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are Blogs Dead?

The print edition of the Nov. Wired ran an article called "Kill Your Blog." The online version had a different title, "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004 ." Paul Boutin, a correspondent with ValleyWag, summarized his own article like this:

@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won't find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook? That's all you need to read from my essay at the front of Wired's new November issue. The rest is good, thanks to stellar editing, but these days a 600-word essay — and a headline like "Kill Your Blog" — only stand out in print. See? They changed it online.
I think blogs will continue, but the article makes at least one interesting point:

Scroll down Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and you'll find personal sites have been shoved aside by professional ones. Most are essentially online magazines: The Huffington Post. Engadget. TreeHugger. A stand-alone commentator can't keep up with a team of pro writers cranking out up to 30 posts a day.

I don't think blogs are dead. But I do think it's much more difficult now for bloggers to break through the clutter. That doesn't mean you should stop blogging. It just means don't expect tons of advertising revenue and a book deal.

Is the Tribune Co. dead?

According to the New York Times, "Advertising is in a free fall, and every newspaper is suffering." And the Tribune Co. is preparing to file Chapter 11.

Doesn't mean the sector is finished -- because the purchase of Tribune by Sam Zell was a bad deal from the start.

But it's not a good sign.

Monday, December 8, 2008

People Seem to Accept The Prediction That Tangible Media Will Disappear

What's the future of print media? In new business meetings, I mention that I've seen predictions that the majority of tangible media -- especially print newspapers and magazines -- will transition to online-only in the next five years. So far, no one has doubted or pushed back on that statement.

In a recent Forbes article, Where's Media's Silver Lining? The industry is in its demise, but there are opportunities to be had, Scott D. Anthony, president of Innosight LLC, an innovation-strategy consulting firm, and Clayton M. Christensen is the cofounderof Innosight, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of a half-dozen books on innovation, raise some interesting questions that they suggest media executives should ask themselves:

"What business are we really in?" The best way to answer that question is to understand what consumers and advertisers want. What job are they trying to get done? Do they want mindless entertainment? To be part of a community conversation? The answer can lead companies to focus resources on a few, well-chosen innovations.
But Anthony and Christensen don't provide a real answer.

"Media companies still have ample opportunities to create and capture value around localized information," they write, while noting that "Many small businesses spend nothing on advertising, either online or off."

The real challenge is that an online-only business model has not proven to work yet. Sure, online-only news organizations don't need printing plants or the workers who print and deliver the papers.

But paid-subscription models seem to work only for the Wall St. Journal and Consumer Reports. The New York Times' subscription plan failed, as did the Financial Times. Ads placed around editorial do not (yet) bring in enough revenue.

I think most print will transition, but many will continue to struggle because, as Anthony and Christensen write, "Big media's problem is that it was built on scarcity: one newspaper in a city, three broadcast channels, ten radio stations. Now anyone with an opinion, fact or photo can self-publish."

The real question is how do you get online consumers to value editorial content so much that they'll pay for it?

By the way, the same is true for magazines.

Although it makes money through its conferences, Forbes had better find an answer, too, to surviving in an online-only world.

The 22 Step Social Media Marketing Plan

For organizations looking for a checklist approach to social media, here's a very good list of initiatives you should consider. Keep in mind, that there may be some items on the list that are not as relevant or appropriate for your organization -- and that even those that are appropriate must be customized to your particular situation, needs and capabilities.

The 22 Step Social Media Marketing Plan

Friday, December 5, 2008

New study finds that fast-forwarding past ads still raise brand awareness

A new study published in the Journal of Marketing by two Boston College business school professors found that people actually may pay closer attention when zapping past commercials on TiVo -- if only to look out for the end of the commercial so they don't miss the continuation of the program they were watching.

What's more, the researchers found that commercials designed for brand awareness -- including a logo, and simple info/storyline -- could be quite effective.

Check out The Economist article: Watching the watchers: Television advertisements can work in fast-forward.

The challenge for advertisers is that while they need to keep fast-forwarding in mind, they can't make every ad a brand awareness ad. They've also got to sell products.

Perhaps that's good news for PR functions.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The future of PR in an online world

According to a blog post by Chris Abraham, "Chris Brogan said it best the other day on Twitter, “customer service is the new PR.” Looking at what @comcastcares has been able to do, customer service is the new PR, the new marketing, and the new advertising.

I'm looking into the future of PR as struggling traditional media transitions to online-only.

Twitter and other social networks does provide companies with new ways to monitor what's being said about them. Both Comcast and Dell have been lauded for their successful online initiatives.

It seems to me that customer service is important -- esp. during a downturn -- and that it is a function that is undervalued (and likely underfunded), and deserves a place at the table.

But to limit PR, marketing and advertising to a support role in the customer service world seems to do a disservice to each discipline. It's vital to keep current customers happy, but the population of a company's customers using Twitter may be a subsection of the total. I use Twitter (PRPresident), but I think marketers need to keep in mind two things:
  1. Not everyone uses Twitter.
  2. Twitter and a number of the other social networks either have not monetized their services or have an advertising-supported business model -- and we're in the midst of one of the longest post-WWII recession. So who knows how long these services can survive in their current form?
Marketers need to reach out to customers and potential customers in a variety of channels and approaches. PR is more than customer service -- they should work together, and I'd bet not enough companies currently are doing so.