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    Online observations of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media; the occasional frivolity; and The Rundown show notes. Jump in, the water's fine.

    Please Note: Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its constituents.

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Important Facebook Changes And Why You Should Care

In an effort to become the center of the social hub and violate your privacy (which, incidentally, Facebook doesn’t believe in anyway), Facebook made some interesting changes recently to…well, nearly everything. As a marketer and, more importantly, your friend, I just want to point a few things out that may be of interest to you.

Privacy
Facebook changed its privacy policy AGAIN. You may want to check to see how much of your information is shared on Facebook to people who aren’t your friends. And I mean friends in the Facebookian sense, not, you know, real friends. Visit your profile while you are NOT logged in and see how much of your information you can see. My guess is, you’ll see a whole lot more than you thought. You can change this in the privacy settings. You should all do this. Facebook makes it a point not to widely announce these changes to the average user, so people who want to protect their info should regularly check to see what the privacy settings are. When the Internet nerd herd raises alarm bells about this, I’ll try to keep you in the loop.

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Friday Frivolity – Google Roommate

With all of the exciting things being released from Google recently, including the convoluted, yet promising Google Wave, the experimental organized search-relevancy tool that is Google Squared, and the promise of Chrome on Mac and Linux, Google is certainly making strides to bury the release of Microsoft’s search engine Bing continue to be the a powerhouse in search and Internet-based collaboration.

So, what else will Google continue to provide to us – and at what cost? Check out ROOMMATES – Episode 1 from the boys at The Big Honkin, a hilarious adventure when Google becomes their roommate.

I’m looking forward to more, because as Google continues to roll out new services, Google Roommate may not be far behind. Hat tip agian to my colleauge and Internet bloodhound (in the nicest way) JayVee for pointing this out to me.

Friday Frivolity – Twitter Frenzy

I tweet. You tweet. Who doesn’t tweet?

Well, a lot of people, that’s who. While cool tools like Twitter are great instruments (hat tip, Shannon Paul) with a lot of fantastic uses, it’s good to remember that, despite the fact that your Tweetdeck is giving you a constant window into the Twitterverse – and all your friends are on it – and you can’t imagine knowing anyone worth knowing is not on Twitter – because Dave Matthews is on it and Starbucks is and Riann Wilson and The New York Times and The Home Depot and, well, guess what?

Still not everyone is using it. Case in point: One of the baddest, smartest comic news guys around, Jon Stewart, says: “I have no idea how it works or what it is.” Watch on. [feed readers click through]

more about “The Daily Show – Twitter Frenzy “, posted with vodpod

Communicators need to know the latest flashy widgets as well as the old standbyes. Both are in constant change. So know your audience, know your channels of communicating and know your message. Sounds like old, familiar advice.

Update: I forgot to include this hilarious and thought-provoking post by fellow Ohioan Kevin Dugan related to this topic. From One Thing Syndrome to Everything Syndrome, he’s got your two syndromes covered. Check it out.

Hat tip to BL Ochman for reminding me what a great sharable video this is. Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Blog Scrapers Imagine a Magical Concern

RSS Scraping

Original Photo by Bret Arnett

Since there have been blogs, there have been people who steal your content. I’m not taking about borrowing your thoughts or words under a Creative Commons license, I’m talking about directly stealing your content to house on blogs loaded with Google Adwords or other advertising. Actually, for some of these blogs I’m not even sure what the point is. I’m not sure I understand a lot of the scraping and comment spam I’ve seen. If anyone has a good post on it, let me know in the comments.

Shel Holtz briefly introduced CopyGator during episode #416 of The Hobson and Holtz Report last week. CopyGator is:

…a free service designed to monitor your RSS feed and find where your content has been republished in the blogosphere. We automatically notify you when a new post of yours is copied to another feed, we also build an overview page you can view to see how/when/where your content is being duplicated, quoted or plagiarized.

It’s a great idea, but one I haven’t been able to test it out yet.  I’m looking forward to it, as in the past I’ve found a surprising amount of my content posted to other sites, which, while flattering, is annoying.

So while monitoring the blogosphere for some client mentions today, imagine my surprise when I found this bizarre review of a product with the strangest non-native-English-speaking tone to it, i.e.

  • “Imagine a magical concern where you read text scribbled by a kinsfolk member in their poorest cowardly scratch” or
  • “Make trusty to yield a interpret here to intend this terminal entry.”

And while absolutely hysterical to read in the Engrish Funny kind of way, it just shows that for every tool created hackers, scrapers and spammers will figure out a way around it.

Upon further review, I did discover the original blog post written about my client’s product. So apparently scrapers are now taking your content and running it through some sort of thesaurus program or other word-altering script so you can’t easily locate them, except that the product name was still in there along with the images. Not cool. CopyGator appears to work on the feed, not the content, so I look forward to delving further into that and seeing how it works.

So if you find your content being scraped you might want to look into CopyGator. Has anyone tried it? Thoughts? Comments?

For kicks, I just wish I had whatever program they were running this content through. It would be fun to push some classic poems or literature through it, i.e.

  • “To have being or to not exist, that is the interrogatory statement”
  • “Times being the most plentiful, also worst of all were the times.”
  • “More than one pathway did fork in timberland, and myself taken to me the unihabited choice, and that has made all the expression of the form f(x + h) − f(x).”

The Blessing and Curse of RSS

New PictureI’ve been a huge fan of RSS for many, many years. I love it. I think the technology behind it has done more to revolutionize the web than most applications or file formats. For communicator, it has done wonders to allow us to monitor conversations. For people who know how to use it, it has brought the web directly to them – on their terms and at their pace. It’s given rise to podcasts, for one.

But, like many, I think I may have overdone it. I currently subscribe to 225 feeds, many of which update several times a day. Maybe that’s not a lot for you, but with my current work/life/commute balance, it’s a strain on my resources.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I just zeroed out my RSS reader. I always feel terrible about doing that so I rarely do it. Consequently, I typically have thousands of unread messages lurking in there, eying me up, guilt ridding me. And I hate that.

MarkAllAsRead And I’m not alone:

Response

But I found that when I went in there at lunch today to read my feeds, I found it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Sort of how I used to feel about it, when there were only a handful of bloggers worth following and the top most news sites worth keeping track of.

But before long my reader will probably say All Items (1000+) again and I’ll feel bad about myself again.

So what can one do about it?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Have you recently zeroed out your RSS reader? What have you done to get over the guilt?

How do you manage your feeds? How do you maintain a limit that doesn’t overwhelm you. Years later I’m still struggling with keeping track of everything I’ve collected. Is it time to get out the RSS scissors or do I just have to learn how to read faster and more often?

Thoughts?

Missing McDonald’s Mobile Mars Michigan Motorway

I recently took a vacation in western Michigan in what should have been a seven-hour drive away from my house. I made this trip with my family, which included a then 15-month old, so the trip seemed more like a 12-month trek across the arctic.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Since my colleague (and boss), Techno//Marketer Matt Dickman, recently posted his thoughts on the single most important element of the new 3G iPhone, I’ve been kicking mobile around in my head alot.

I only recently got into the mobile game. I don’t have an iPhone, but I did get a Blackberry several months ago and I love it. It comes in handy even though I live in an area where, when I click on “My Location,” it gives me a rough estimate of my location within 1700 meters. Handy.

But that’s not my central point. My point is that I, during my arduous drive back to NE Ohio,  was shocked to find that McDonald’s doesn’t have a mobile site. Sure, fine, that’s okay, all I was looking for was a list of McDonalds where I could find a Playplace so my daughter could run around. But – even with the incredibly mobile-unfriendly site – I thought for certain I could bash my way through the navigation to find what I was looking for. No dice.

Maybe it was me. Maybe it’s my phone. Maybe it was the frustrated toddler emphatically pulling on her carseat straps saying, “out. out. out. OUT. OUT. OUT. OUT.” But I couldn’t find any way of a) locating a store nearby or b) finding a list of restaurants with Playplaces.

On the real web, the MickeyD’s site does have a restaurant locator and – gasp – even a handy McDonald’s Trip Planner to help you plan your trip. Only I, like most parents, hadn’t thought of that while I was packing the car to go home – nor did I have a computer handy. Maybe McDonald’s will assume with the roughly 31,377 company-owned and franchised restaurants handy, I could have found one on my own. Which I did. A Wendy’s.

So even though people are reportedly still waiting for iPhones, remember there are a lot of phones out there that use a mobile web – and a lot of your target market out there who might need to get more from your online offering while they are out. out. OUT. OUT. OUT. and about.

Anyone have any similar experiences or more enlightment on the subject?

Inside Pandora’s Box: A Twitter Story

Sure, I twitter. I am also a huge fan of Pandora.

If you don’t know what Twitter is, it’s a service people use to constantly complain about Twitter. It’s also this. Pandora is an online music site that helps you fine other music you’ll love:

With Pandora you can explore this vast trove of music to your heart’s content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings – new and old, well known and completely obscure – to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.

I’ve found – and purchased – a lot of new music because of Pandora. I’m a fan.

And I’m happy to report that some businesses have also figured out that with so many people on Twitter, they (the businesses) might as well see if they (the people) need anything else.

Enter customer service at the place where the customers are already talking about the brand. Some outstanding examples of excellent Twitter engagement have been detailed on many other outstanding blogs. It works.

Here’s my story. I follow the Pandora_Radio twitter feed ’cause they engage and occasionally provide interesting tidbits about what’s going on at Pandora HQ. It’s voiced by Lucia, Pandora’s Community Manager. Some select examples:

I saw a tweet go by my stream the other day and I responded with an unsolicited suggestion that Pandora not automatically play the last station you were listening to when you visit the site. I merely suggested a “which station would you like to play?” query during the load. Minutes later I got a direct message from Lucia saying she would present that suggestion to the team.

Now whether they do or not is only half the issue (well, maybe 65%). The main point is that they heard me and took the time to respond and acknowledge my suggestion. That makes a big impact on a user who – without question – has a lot of on and offline music options. Pandora’s advertisers should be pleased. And you should be looking into ways to engage with your customers. What ways are you providing for them to touch base with you?

Also, they should totally implement my suggestion.

(post updated to remove some annoying spelling errors)

Second Life: It doesn’t matter if you like it

I’ve been trying to avoid Second Life as much as possible, both in writing about it and getting involved in it. Mostly because of the contention between some of the folks in the PR blogosphere. I have my own thoughts on Second Life and they’re not much to write home about. I haven’t tried it, I’m not planning to for a while, and I’m not sure what the draw is. However, one thing I am doing is paying attention to it. And I’m doubly glad there are communicators out there who are paying attention to it and reporting it so I don’t have to. The fellas at For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report are doing just that.

And they’re getting bashed for it by some folks who I believe have little right to criticize. Students and young PR professionals, still wet behind the ears, are giving these two highly seasoned verterans a hard time? Ridiculous. I see where they’re coming from, but to voice one’s opinion with such arrogance to people who were practicing communication professionals before some of them were born is distasteful. What really kicks me in the pants is FIR is Shel and Neville‘s podcast, they could talk exclusively about edible underwear if they wanted to, it’s their show. Don’t like it, don’t listen. They welcome comments, so make your point and leave it. Don’t harangue them, am I right here?

But like I said, I’m not a huge fan of Second Life, because I personally think it’s pretty stupid. That really doesn’t matter, does it? I think eating fruits and vegetables is stupid, too, but the truth is you can’t avoid it. If you don’t like SL and think it’s a waste of time, that’s okay, so do I. But to blindly ignore or refuse to talk about anything that affects the communication field – that’s a mistake.

I think Second Life is an odd time drain, but there are many, many people who don’t. And that’s what matters. How many people thought the owning a car was stupid? How many people thought reading was stupid? How many people thought the Internet was stupid? FIR Show 170, Shel Holtz says it very well.

For more information, read about Kami’s PR meetup in SL and Lee Hopkins’ rather humorous take on it. Also, Shel points to Text 100′s YouTube Video explaining the connection between SL and PR. The video is a must watch for beginners. It doesn’t make me want to sign up, yet, but at least I have a few answers if a client asks me about it…

Newspapers – nothing new here

This post originally appeared on the Forward blog

Newspapers. We’ve been hearing about their demise for years now. But, seriously, is that ever going to happen? Let’s see, the only medium I can think of that really went offline was the telegraph. And that was a rare case.

As Shel Holtz is fond of saying: “new media don’t kill old media, they just force them to adapt” and I believe it. Radio changed the world, and forced newspapers to change. Television changed the world again, but radio and newspapers adapted. Now we have the Web, which is forcing everything to evolve again. The demise of newspapers? I don’t think so.

Readership may be declining, but enrollment in journalism schools is on the rise. This article from Seelye in The New York Times is outstanding. Witness:

“Students are also driven by the very changes that are upending the old media. For one thing, many do not read the print version of newspapers. As Dustin Hodges, 22, who is graduating from Missouri in August, put it, ‘I don’t pick up a newspaper unless it’s in front of me and it’s free.’ For the latest news, he hops online, where he spends three or four hours a day anyway.

Today’s students have grown up immersed in the Internet and with the ability to adapt rapidly to new technologies, giving them a comfort level with things that newspapers are just discovering, like blogs, podcasts and video clips.”

You bet they are. And they’ll be blowing in on the winds of change when they come. The Boston area is working on a new program. And Philadelphia is working on something as well, figuring out how to tap into the online readership revenue. If this article from the USAToday is right, Philadelphia might be on to something. I think they are.

And it’s when old media don’t adapt that they run into problems. When certain news organizations figure out that when they are reporting is no longer news they will be fine. News is called news ‘cause it’s new. Today’s newspapers are reporting yesterday’s news. That’s not news, it’s…a story, a fact, a bit of trivia, human interest, local information, or in-depth coverage; but not news.

Of course, I’m reminded that there is a growing divide in our culture. We have folks without Internet access being left behind in the digital divide. We have people who choose to use the Internet for e-mail – and that’s it. We have people who could have Internet access and choose not to.

So as PR professionals we have the added challenge that the newspaper industry is facing: how do we get our messages to our target audiences? Newspapers are using the Web to do this in conjunction with hard copy. PR people are using media relations to secure hits in trade magazines, word-of-mouth campaigns, conversational blogs, and advertorials. When you need to reach a target audience, you need to use the channel in which they are accustomed to getting messages. For teens it could be MySpace or TXT. For college grads, blogs, podcasts, and the web.

And I’ll stop there because in my mind it’s not about age. I know grandmothers using Flickr and I know teens who are unable to recognize anything Web 2.0. It has nothing to do with which generation; it just happens to fall that way many times. PR has to adapt and evolve as well. Many Forward readers are aware of this, but there are many, many more PR pros out there that choose to ignore the reality of the changing landscape. If only just to offer clients a new channel to reach target audiences, it’s important. At the lowest level, monitoring the ‘net for mention of your clients’ brands is a must. But some remain blissfully ignorant.

So how do you keep abreast? Pardon the pun, but you have to stay relevant and current. And if that doesn’t work, you could always do this to get some press.

The Gap, A Digital One

Yes, the elusive and sometimes controversial topic of digital divide. It’s a hot issue especially, since Web 2.0 is bursting-at-its seams. Yvonne DiVita’s interview with AT&T’s Spokesperson Claudia Jones over at the Lip-stiking blog strikes a match to the conversation. They discuss AT&T’s Project Lightspeed, which connects rural communities to the Internet at a faster pace. Diva Marketing‘s post “Bridging the Gap” furthers the conversation on digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have a lot of access to the Internet and those who have little to no access. Typically, the discussion revolves around the ‘haves and have nots’ or ‘wealthy vs. poor.’ Toby’s post on Diva Marketing points to relevant articles and projects working to eliminate the digital divide. I suggest parousing through them, they are very enlightening. I was intrigued with Washington State University’s Digital Divide Project, which works with and provides resources for teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

A similar project is The George Lucas Educational Foundation (edutopia) whose mission is to “celebrate and encourage innovation in schools.” They support several programs that are working to close the divide. Community technology centers provide access to multimedia tools, like video cameras, editing equipment, computers, and the Internet to students in inner-city neighborhoods. In my past life I was an inner-city public school teacher and part of me is still really passionate about urban education. My students had access to computers and the Internet at school, but may not of had access at home. My class spent time doing assignments on the Internet and I believe it enriched their experience while learning about the infamous Shakespeare. I think that projects like Street-Level Youth Soar, a Chicago nonprofit, make a tremendous and positive impact on student’s lives. What is imporant is that through education and projects focused on inner-city youth the digital divide can be bridged.

I really like what David Warlick of the blog 2 Cents Worth has to say. It is totally on point.

“There are lots of digital divides, each with its own seeds for danger. What I was thinking about was the digital divide between tech-savvy students and students with little or no access to networked digital information outside the classroom — and to some extent, the digital divide between tech-savvy students and less-savvy teachers. …

Today, the divide has multiplied, because people with contemporary (digital/21st century) literacy skills not only consume content, but they are the content. Being literate means being part of the network. The difference is not merely the individual who can read and individual who can not. It’s the difference between networked communities of power, and individuals who are cut off. This is a distinction too broad to ignore or postpone.”

A new form of literacy has emerged, as David points out and how we go about breaking this alternate form of illiteracy will change all of our lives.

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