Thursday, May 28, 2009

How are People Using the Internet? To find out new ideas or to validate closely held ideas?

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof validates a perspective I've mentioned a number of times on this blog: In his column today, "Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You’re a Liberal," Kristof writes:

"Most of us employ the Internet not to seek the best information, but rather to select information that confirms our prejudices."
Kristof recommends that we should work to "overcome that tendency" by setting "aside time for a daily mental workout with an ideological sparring partner."

What's interesting are the studies that seem to indicate that Kristof's suggestion actually will be counterproductive: "A study by Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania found that when people saw tight television shots of blowhards with whom they disagreed, they felt that the other side was even less legitimate than before."

So it seems as if we're doomed to the idea that as we find our news increasingly by search engines, we will become, as a country, to be increasingly operating in silos. Any suggestions to help bridge the gap?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One Obstacle to Online-Only Media

Online-only news sites may be better positioned than than traditional print newspapers because at least they don't have heavy production costs of the latter. Of course, online-only outlets also shed revenue streams, too.

But one major challenge to online-only media is that a lot of sites have mediocre search engines. Currently, it can be very difficult to search the websites of these print outlets to find online versions of articles that appeared in the print edition.

Twice this morning, I looked online for articles I had cut out from the print edition of two different outlets. And twice, I could not find the articles using those sites' search engine. Instead, I had to leave the site -- which they can't really want -- go to Google, and then found the article I wanted.

One of the sites I checked is a subscription-only site, and yet their search engine for subscribers (and I am one) is truly lacking. Clearly that's a problem.

If the intent of online-only -- an eventuality for which all print newspapers and magazines should be preparing themselves -- is to enable users to find all content being produced by the outlet, then finding articles should be easy, not be complicated.

There's a lot of work to be done here, with a lot of sites not doing the work to make their archives and current content available to the public.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can Newsweek's Redesign Boost Its Prospects?

Magazines love to redesign themselves -- seeing the revamp as a way to update the look-and-feel of the outlet as well as its mission.

The latest example is Newsweek, which David Carr at the New York Times calls "Fourth-and-Long Journalism at Newsweek."

Carr notes that the redesigned Newsweek "will no longer attempt to re-report and annotate the week's events -- an expensive, unsustainable approach to making a weekly news magazine." Newsweek is going to focus on reporting on inside the Beltway, serving as a non-partisan voice against a cacophony of partisan print and blog voices. Additionally, Newsweek will not cover breaking news -- as it used to do -- but that it will do so if Newsweek is "truly adding to the conversation," according to Jon Meacham, Newsweek's editor.

In an editor’s note about a redesign of the magazine, Meacham wrote, “As the number of news outlets expands, it is said, attention spans shrink; only the fast and the pithy will survive.”

Meacham's right. The question is will this redesign enable Newsweek to survive.

For PR functions, the evolving role of newsweeklies including Time & US News means that the way we reach out to them, if at all now, has to evolve as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Developing Meaningful Metrics for Social Media

One of the main challenges for social media is developing meaningful metrics for success -- an important issue for Chief Marketing Officers and the finance chiefs who pay for these initiatives.

An interesting article in the Wall St. Journal, "Modeling Tools Stretch Ad Dollars: Chrysler Uses Digital-Response Data to Adjust Commercials, Drive Web Visits," outlines the steps Chrysler took and some lessons learned by Chrysler and its interactive agency, Organic, learned.

Here are some highlights:
  • Chrysler and Organic experimented with different elements to not only drive traffic, but to boost sales.
  • Planning started six months before the launch.
  • They found that 70 to 80% of shoppers researched cars on the web before making purchases.
  • Chrysler considered its campaign as an ongoing experiment. One tweak included tripling the amount of time that the URL appeared during the TV spot from two to six seconds. Chrysler also tweaked the homepage of its Ram Challenge Web site.
  • A lot of the changes were made real-time, as metrics came in.
  • Interestingly, Organic started including broader sets of data, ranging from sales data related to advertising in traditional media like print and TV to economic factors that affect car sales, such as housing starts, fuel prices and unemployment rates.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Should Newspapers Get Bailouts?

Today's Boston Globe ran an interesting op-ed, "A perfect storm for paper: Sinking revenues and the Internet force journalists worldwide to remake their troubled industry." Makes the point that European newspapers are getting bailout support because newspapers are "considered essential to the national health."

The rest of the article looks at the "perfect storm" buffeting papers. Not much new there.

What is -- is the recognition that newspapers' role won't be replicated by online sites and bloggers. I do agree with that notion.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Will the YouTube Video Destroy Domino's Brand?

Larry Green, Corporate Web Director at Landor, wrote an interesting blog article, "You got three destroy your brand" about the recent YouTube video posted by disgruntled Domino's Pizza employees.

He identifies some good points that companies should consider.

But I think he overstates things when he says about destroying your brand in three minutes.

I agree with the concept that it takes a long time to build a reputation, but it can take a short time to destroy it.

However, I think in this incident, customers will blame the employees, not the company. But that doesn't mean that some people now will think twice before ordering from Domino's. Look, people went back to Jack in the Box after the E. coli outbreak -- some reports claim the company turned the scandal into an advantage.

Domino's has that opportunity now. But one lesson is for companies that choose to ignore social media because they don't understand it or don't like the lack of established metrics: You've got to monitor social media and participate in social media to give you the tools and context to address a potential online crisis.