Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ecommerce Gained Ground During 2005 Holiday Season

According to 2005's Holiday eSpending Report, shoppers spent 30% more online this season, bringing sales to $30.1 billion for the period between October 29th and December 23rd.

"Apparel/Clothing" was the leading category, racking up $5.3 billion, up 42% from 2004.

The second most popular category, "Computer Hardware/Peripherals and Consumer Electronics," showed the most promise, grabbing $4.8 billion for a 126% increase over last year's figures.

Impressive.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Did "Utter Arrogance" Land Google in Hot Water?

Rates Technology Inc., keepers of the patented process that enables VoIP, have officially filed suit against Google for unauthorized use of their technology, says Reuters.

When asked to procure the necessary licenses for the programs that power Google Talk, the search biggie allegedly told an RTI representative to "go to hell," claims president Jerry Weinberger, who anticipates a settlement of nearly $5 billion.

Could mean big trouble for Google who, despite the absence of an official statement, is expected to "defend against (the action) vigorously," according to the New York Post.

Man, is this gonna get good...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

AOL Presents 2005's Top Ten Spam List

Come on, admit it - how many of these did you fall for?:
  1. Donald Trump Wants You - Please Respond
  2. Double Standards New Product - Penis Patch
  3. Body Wrap: Lose 6-20 inches in one hour
  4. Get an Apple iPod Nano, PS3 or Xbox 360 for Free
  5. It's Lisa, I must have sent you to the wrong site
  6. Breaking Stock News** Small Cap Issue Poised to Triple
  7. Thank you for your business. Shipment notification [77FD87]
  8. [IMPORTANT] Your Mortgage Application is Ready
  9. Thank you: Your $199 Rolex Special Included
  10. Online Prescriptions Made Easy

Funny.

Opera Selects Google to Power Mobile Search

It's been an active news week for mobile app developer Opera who today announced that they have chosen Google to be the default search partner for their award-winning browsers.

My cellphone carrier supports Opera Mobile, but it's Opera Mini that I'd like to try. Unfortunately, it's only available in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Germany.

Opera Platform sounds pretty cool, too - loads of opportunities for us there, I think.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Wired Look at the Year That Was

"Tech execs, shuffling presidents, disgraced scientists and Wikipedia fakers..."

Relive the year's biggest gaffes as Wired presents the 2005 Foot-in-Mouth Awards.

Brilliant.

Boys Have Podcasts, Girls Have Support Groups

Understanding the subtle differences between men and women with regard to usage of the Web is the focus of a new study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Men, they say, continue to pursue tech-based activities - like podcasting - more aggressively than their female counterparts who tend to gather and share information through participation in communities and email exchanges.

Either way you look at it, it's still all about connecting.

Google and AOL Iron Out Some Details

Despite reassurances from Google, many marketers and fans of the portal are still concerned about the potential changes implied by their $1 billion partnership with AOL. At the heart of the discussion: banner ads and skewed search results.

The appearance of small graphical ads on Google's home and search pages as well as the delivery of banner ads on video and image search pages are among the "modest changes" that users can expect, says CNET.

Aside from receiving credit for ad units purchased through AdSense, Google's Marissa Mayer says AOL won't get any "preferential treatment on advertising."

Nor will they "compromise the integrity or objectivity" of search results.

"If a partner's page ranks high," says Mayer, "it's because they have a good answer to your search, not because of their business relationship with us."

In the "yet-to-be-addressed" department is the addition of Time-Warner's immense video archive to Google's search service and the proposed marriage of AIM and Google Talk.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On Web 2.0 and the Shape of Things to Come

Following a hot lead, I spent some time reading Michael Arlington's blog about all things Web 2.0. He's clearly as obsessed excited as we all are for the brave new world that lies ahead.

Inspired, I did some digging of my own and came across another great find in the form of an article that's scheduled to appear in PC World's February 2006 issue. New, Improved Web covers the current "shift from consumption to participation" by profiling of some of the most talked about sites, services and companies that will reshape the Internet as we know it.

It's all quite fascinating - but are we really ready to move on?

Opera on the Block?

The rumored acquisition of leading mobile-browser creators Opera has inspired some interesting dialogue this afternoon, even amidst cries of denial.

Popular for being ad-free, Opera "currently maintains only a very small slice of the browser market," according to company spokesman Tor Odland.

Potential suitors like Microsoft and Google are undoubtedly seeing things a bit differently...

SIRIUS Racks Up Serious Numbers

"SIRIUS Satellite Radio today announced that it recently surpassed three million subscribers and expects a strong year-end."

I wonder how many signed up because of this guy?

Open Source Music Fans in the House Say "Yeah"

IUMA co-founder Rob Lord and the boys over at Pioneers of the Inevitable have been working 'round the clock despite announcing a slight delay in the public preview of their Songbird software.

Buzz around the application has been steadily growing since November. Because it shifts the focus from hard drive-based libraries to "the growing number of music sites and services on the Web," many believe it to be the first true challenger to the iTunes throne.

And while that's certainly interesting enough for iPod-slaves like me, what's really cool about Songbird it's open-source, developer-friendly platform, the same platform that supports Firefox, Thunderbird, et al. It's an open invitation to savvy developers at digital media network services like eMusic, Last.fm and Rhapsody to create add-ins to enrich the user experience beyond UI customization.

"We love Apple and appreciate and thank them for setting the bar in terms of user experience," says Lord. "But it's inevitable that the market architecture changes as it matures."

Sweet.

Nielsen Sheds Light on Habits of Time-shifters

Yesterday marked the launch of a new Nielsen Media Research service that promises to provide some insight into the viewing habits of "time-shifters," aka DVR customers. Ratings depicting whether or not ads were skipped will be provided in three flavors, says AdAge:
  1. without time-shifting;
  2. for shows that include same-day time shifting; and
  3. for shows that include time shifting within a week of air date.

The first batch of overnight ratings - gathered from an initial segment of 60 households - will be made available tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Arab Fatwa Bars SMS Votes for Reality Show

Succumbing to pressure from religious leaders, Saudi mobile provider Mobily will no longer allow fans of the popular TV talent show "Star Academy" to vote for their favorite contestants via SMS.

Proving that you can't stop progress, some intrepid viewers of the "culturally inappropriate" program will cast their future votes online.

On the 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

"We're living in the golden age of the gadget," says PC World's Dan Tynan.

How many of these babies did do you own?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Santa Gets Phished

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Randy Glasbergen

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thanks, Sony, for a Nightmare Before Christmas

This year, Trey Anastasio's "Shine" was among the items added to my nephew's wishlist. Being the good uncle that I am, I cast my feelings for the former Phish-head aside and - amidst an MTA strike - began a week-long quest for the hard-to-find disc.

It took a bit of doing, but I finally found it, the last gift on my list. Quite pleased was I, on the eve before the eve, as I wrapped that final score. Pleased until I noticed the letters "XCP" beside some fine print indicating that my purchase was copy-protected.

Anyone see where this is going?

Foolish me for thinking that Sony BMG would have had this $6.5 million mess figured out by now. I mean, aren't they supposed to be working with their distributors and retailers on a "widely communicated withdrawal program"? They claim to have other measures in place and have even offered restitution - clearly they're aware of the mainstream backlash and active blogstorm.

So why are these CDs still out there?

It's simple: they don't care. Not enough, anyway. They didn't care enough to properly test their little bit of malicious code before releasing it into the wild, and they didn't care enough to protect unsuspecting consumers by properly cleaning up after themselves.

Theirs, says the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, is "an industry that sees Internet file-sharing as a threat to its existence, rather than a doorway to creating a new business model that would enable artists and record companies to reach more listeners than ever."

In other words, they'd rather push out another half-baked "method of protection" and cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Rock on.

So, Merry Christmas to you, Sony BMG, and thanks for sending me back out to Best Buy on Christmas Eve.

I hope the Big Guy brings you all a fat lump of coal.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yahoo! News Photo Essay: 2005 Year in Review

Cleverly sponsored by Casio - and hosted by Yahoo! News - this visual presentation nicely recaps 2005's top news stories.

For a more thorough year-end round-up, click here.

Who Didn't See This Coming?

As reported by AP, Google's AOL Investment May Lead to '08 IPO.

Well, duh.

Humbug?

Offensive content warning: stay away from magazine subscriptions if you're shopping for this guy - looks like he may already have more issues than he can handle.

"Internet Shaming" to Out Scofflaws

"At least 18 states have launched websites to post the names of people and businesses that owe back taxes," writes USA Today's Ben Jones. "Maryland calls its website "Caught in the Web." In South Carolina, it's "Debtor's Corner." Wisconsin on Jan. 3rd will launch "Website of Shame."

That's awesome!

Audio Search Added to Yahoo!'s Arsenal

At a glance, finding music on the Web seems to be the primary focus of Yahoo!'s new Audio Search. The service - quietly released in beta form this week - also promises to help seekers navigate through 50 million+ audio files to find the podcasts, sound effects, interviews, e-Books and other clips they crave.

In addition to supporting Yahoo!'s own Music Unlimited, Audio Search serves as an aggregator making it super-easy to locate files hosted by ArtistDirect, AudioLunchbox, BuyMusic.com, dMusic, eMusic, Epitonic, Garageband.com, iTunes, IT Conversations, Livedownloads, MP34U, MSN Music, Musicmatch, Napster, NPR, PassAlong, RealPlayer Music Store, Rhapsody, SoundClick and Wippit.

By clicking the Add to My Web button, favorites can be added and organized for access anytime, anywhere.

Think they'll see a spike in activity after the Holidaze?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ithaca College Behind Cellflix Festival

Inspired by growing popularity of portable video, Ithaca College's Park School of Communications has organized the first-ever CellFlix Festival, a soon-to-be-annual competition dedicated to the development of content created through and presented on the smaller screen.

Interested parties - who happen to be legal US residents enrolled as full-time students in any accredited high school or college and between the ages of 13 and 22 - have until 8AM ET on January 10, 2006 to submit their 30-second clips.

An expert panel of faculty members and professional filmmakers will award $5K to a single Grand Prize winner.

Cool.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Hats off to PRWeek's Erica Iacono for reminding us that while Steve Jobs may have helped bring the concept of portable video to the masses, his is not the only small screen jonesing for content. Cellphones, PDAs, Sony's PSP and the growing number of iPod competetitive products will all be fighting Apple for marketshare in 2006.

"With such a change in the ways consumers are viewing video," she writes, "there are opportunities for broadcast PR to be part of the revolution."

"It's a wake-up call to the continually technophobic PR industry," says Medialink's Larry Moskowitz. "There's a powerful tool here."

Something to think about when planning your next b-roll shoot, VNR or SMT.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Online Advertising Expectations Raised - Again

Wall Street's JMP Securities has upped their global online advertising forecast for 2006 to $26.4 billion says The Hollywood Reporter.

The firm predicts that the market will continue to grow, reaching $33.2 billion in 2007.

I'll bet these guys are happy.

TWU Grinches Drive NY Shoppers Online

Add retailers to the growing list of strike-impacted Gothamites. With Christmas only days away, throngs of New Yorkers are wrapping up their holiday purchases online. "There are at least a handful of merchants including jcrew.com and ice.com," says AP, "that are only too willing to help out by serving up free shipping aimed at area residents that guarantees arrival before December 25th."

Smart.

Okay, Who's Repping Santa?

A dozen or so motorists who received parking infractions in the English city of Birmingham also found gifts - in the form of greeting cards containing cold hard cash - fixed to their windscreens.

"Don't let this ticket spoil your Christmas," declared the note. "Here's £30 ($53) to pay it off. Merry Christmas - Parking Ticket Santa."

"Before I go to bed on Christmas Eve," said one driver, "I am definitely going to leave out a couple of mince pies and a nice glass of sherry."

Way to turn it around, Kringle - who's behind your merry makeover?

Interesting New Find: blinkpop

For me, anyway.

Tap into Google, Google News, Google Blog Search, Wikipedia, eBay and Buy.com in one fell swoop with this.

Today's Cool App: Yahoo!'s Open Shortcuts

Yahoo!'s Open Shortcuts is a clever little time-saver that allows you to quickly navigate to any Web page, recall common searches, explore bookmarks and launch your favorite Internet apps.

Give it try and create one of your own.

Pretty neat, huh?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Reputation Doctor Is In

Mike Paul has entered the blogosphere.

Read his debut post - "Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis" - here.

Google and AOL Seal the Deal

Sorry Mr. Icahn, but it looks like your old cronies at AOL have agreed to offer Google a little piece of the pie after all.

Following months of courtship, the agreement - worth $1 billion according to an official statement issued this evening - unites two of the Web's most dynamic properties.

"Creating a global advertising partnership" is their top priority, and to that end, Google has already hinted at some changes. Collaboration between the two companies to increase online video offerings and "make more AOL content available to Google users" was also discussed.

"One significant new twist," says AP, will enable AIMers to "communicate with the users of Google's 4-month-old service." This, no doubt, in response to MSN and Yahoo! IM's proposed plan to join forces in 2006.

What a way to cap the year!

Ford Motor Company to Give VOD a Whirl

"Banking on video on demand becoming as vital a medium for selling cars as the Web," Ford Motor Company, says Adweek, will launch their first cable-based advertising campaign on December 28th.

In tapping Cablevision and Charter Communications for distribution, Ford hopes to deliver their message to "roughly 4.5 million digital subscribers."

Clever.

Jump Drive-Maker Partners with Google

Hoping to "make it easier for users to search documents, photos, music and other stored data," portable storage solutions manufacturer Lexar Media Inc. will add Picasa, Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search to their USB flash drives.

Lexar's newly amped products will hit store shelves in January.

Cool.

This Morning's Hot Topic

Well, it looks like New Yorkers will be affected by the transit strike after all - 7,000,000 of us to be exact.

I braved the cold and walked to the office - it's quiet for a change.

I like it.

Meanwhile, the TWU's Local 100 has decided to blog...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fish Out of Water?

In business school, I had the opportunity to read a number of books written by a preeminent strategist whose name I'll not mention here. Even before he addressed my class as a guest lecturer, I admired his POV.

Of late, however, this marketing guru appears to have painted himself in a whole new light. Without giving too much away, I'd like to share with you some bits of his unique position as stated in a recent Forbes article:

"If you're like me, you're totally bewildered by the so-called digital revolution and its impact on marketing."

Okay, with you so far... not!

"The digital, non-traditional media world remains more hype than reality. Marketers still invest over 95% of their budgets in traditional media. There's lots of chatter, but show me the money."

You mean beyond what we've shown you this past year?

"Next you must realize that a lot of these new media forms aren't very good at storytelling and explaining why you are different from your competitors. Entertaining someone is nice, but selling to them is better."

Uh, yeah.

"The best you can do with many of these new forms is have your name visible while you're entertaining. Such was the case with the silly Burger King-online Subservient Chicken program."

I think someone missed the point.

And lastly:

"If you keep your eye on your story and find ways to tell it via the new tools, not only will it clear up the confusion, but it will make your brand a lot more successful."

Hmm, do you think it's possible to teach a digitally confused pro new tricks?

Billionaire AOL Investor Not a Happy Camper

Tweaked shareholder Carl Icahn warns that "a Google joint venture may be short sighted in nature and may preclude any consideration of a broader set of alternatives that would better maximize value and ensure a bright future for AOL."

"A broader set of alternatives," huh?

I wonder who what that could mean?

Meanwhile, "shares of Time Warner rose 9 cents to $18.09 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange..."

Wikipedia Competitor Primed for '06

CNET reports that "a new online information service launching in early 2006 aims to build on the model of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia by inviting acknowledged experts in a range of subjects to review material contributed by the general public."

Promising "a new era of free and open access to wide swaths of information on virtually any topic," the minds behind Digital Universe see their project as "the PBS of the Web," and not a "work-in-progress."

I'd like nothing better than to see these two go head-to-head the way Google and Yahoo! did in 2005.

USA Today Calls Google "Our Auxiliary Brain"

If the Web is a "collection of other people's knowledge and experiences," as USA Today suggests, then the gatekeeper to that immense resource is indeed search.

"In October," writes Elizabeth Weise, "Google logged 2.4 billion requests, nearly half of all searches." And those queries - 5.1 billion of them to be exact - came from 91 million consumers.

Yikes!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beyond the Goofy...

can there be an opportunity for us - and the brands we represent - here?

Thanks, AP, for the lead.

Kicking Radio Up a Notch for the Next Generation

Like the researchers behind Podcasting News and the latest Bridge Ratings study, I don't believe I've met a single 12-to-24 year old who'd pick commercial radio over his postable music player. As someone who does what he does, I'm always intrigued by reports that dissect the younger set: they are, after all, tomorrow's targets.

So what does radio have to do to win back the 85% whose go-to device for music is their MP3 player? Here are some starting thoughts:
  • Add more variety and reduce repetition;
  • Hire personalities who can connect with this audience and expose them to new music;
  • Embrace technology - soon you'll have to think beyond podcasts and blogs;
  • Stay away from pre-recorded programming;
  • Re-think commercial loads and offer client brands sponsorship blocks; and finally,
  • Provide what MP3 players cannot - content.

Top Ten Web 2.0 Moments of 2005

This time of year always lends itself nicely to reflection, a topic of several of my recent entries.

Focusing on Web 2.0, Richard MacManus takes us down a similar path with this post.

I think it sums up the year pretty nicely and can think of a few other noteworthy moments to add to his list - anyone else?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stuff Happens...

even in the blogosphere, where many are still buzzing about Six Apart's recent crisis.

And they're not the only ones chattering.

Here's one easy way to stay on top - and remember: keeping a back-up is never a bad idea.

More on the Rise of the Creative Nation

The ongoing "democratization of media," was the topic of yet another article in The Wall Street Journal as vloggers hit their radar.

Now, we've all been talking about vlogs for months - but it was points like these that finally brought my officemates into the conversation:

"A few years ago, anyone with a new concept in video content would have faced huge hurdles obtaining mass distribution. They would have had to spend millions to develop a new network and even then might not have sold it to satellite and cable operators, whose channel lineups are getting saturated. "

"The number of vlogs has mushroomed thanks to improved streaming video technology, faster Internet speeds, new Web sites that will host the video free of charge and new cellphones and other popular devices designed to play video."

"While it's impossible to calculate the overall viewership, vlogs on topics as diverse as the latest in kitchen utensils to ramblings from an American living in Japan are creating new audiences as Internet surfers stumble upon topics that interest them."

"Advertisers have yet to seize on vlogs as money-makers but that could change."

I'm just glad they're paying attention.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Brain Scanning? Behavioral Targeting? Gene Markers?

"No, it's not the future of medicine," says The Hollywood Reporter. "It's what lies ahead in marketing."

What lies ahead in marketing

An interesting read.

My Favorite Quote of the Day...

comes from George Mason University professor Steve Klein:

"This written form of communication we call the newspaper won't survive if we continue to do things the way we've always done them. "We've always done it that way" doesn't work anymore. It probably never did."

So where will print journalists find themselves on the eve of 2006?

Read on.

On the Web, You Can Run...

but you can't hide.

Jeez, who's counseling these guys?

Old McDonald Has a Blog

Hoping the create a "one-stop shop for farmers," the University of Illinois Extension has launched The Farm Gate, a blog covering a variety of agricultural topics.

"Web sites for farmers are abundant," says AP's Jim Paul. "But very few are dedicated to more than a single aspect of farming or farm policy."

Regarding UI's involvement in the project, professor Scott Irwin hopes The Farm Gate "will demonstrate an entirely new way for the extension system to meet the needs of our traditional and nontraditional clientele."

He gets it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Don't Know Why I Find These So Amusing...

"Check out the hottest people, places and events that inspired the world to search this year."

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Yahoo!'s Top Searches of 2005!

Tollgates, Express Lanes and Traffic Tie-ups

And no, I'm not talking about NY's MTA strike.

"Today," says BusinessWeek, "the Web is flourishing because anyone can click to any site or download any service they want on an open network."

The keepers of the high-speed 'net share entirely different POV for theirs is a world of finance, politics and ultimately, control.

"This new view of the world will break apart the Internet and turn it into small fiefdoms" divided between the network providers' friends and foes, says Vonage Chief Executive Jeffrey Citron.

God help us all.

HBO to Go Mobile

Through an exclusive deal with Cingular Wireless, HBO will deliver hip clips of The Sopranos, et al, to mobile phones. Chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht has expressed interest in working with Apple, too.

Cool.

Google, Microsoft and Sun Unite for R&D

According to the The New York Times, Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems will set aside their differences to collectively fund a $7.5 million computer science lab on the Berkeley campus of the University of California.

"There is something quietly happening in machine learning that is going to result in a real revolution," says Sun's Chief Technology Officer, Greg Papadopoulos.

Exciting news for geeks like me.

MTA Misses a Huge Opportunity

With all this talk of an impending transit strike and contigency plan, I think it's pretty amazing that the MTA hasn't thought to employ some of the newer channels to get the word out to the vast number of New Yorkers who will be affected.

Not very smart.

TV Content In Demand Among Mobile Americans

Technical and regulatory issues notwithstanding, eMarketer projects that 15 million US consumers will have subscribed to receive television content on their cellphones by 2009.

That's a staggering increase, considering we're only at 1.2 million today, they say.

Google Opens Homepage to Developers

As cool as this may be, is it forcing Google down an already crowded path?

"Don't Bleeping Miss This!"

"No more FCC, no more boss, no more interference..." tomorrow marks Howard Stern's last stand on commercial radio. Beginning at 9AM, Yahoo! will stream the after-party, giving the "King of All Media" a royal send-off.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Today's Cool App(s): Yahoo!'s Widget Engine 3.0

For those of you who like to tinker - and you know who you are - Yahoo!'s Widget Engine 3.0 features three new toys:
  1. a mapping app that compliments their Maps service;
  2. an improved photo-display app that can draw images from their Photos service, Flickr or one's PC; and
  3. a desktop-search app that eliminates the need for an active browser.

Thousands of third-party widgets are also available.

Hmm, anyone else see an opportunity here?

Researchers Beware: Wikipedia Okays Shadowy Posts

For the time being, Wikipedia president Jimmy Wales is content to think of his baby as a "work in progress." I give the guy credit for believing in the concept of self-policing - even in the face of controversy. But abetting potential vandals by accepting unregistered posts?

Nature doesn't seem to mind - me, I'm not so sure...

That's Hot, Maybe Not

Thank you, AOL, for this fascinating peek into the oft scary minds of our public.

Here's One List You Don't Want to Be On

"A celebrity without a center, religious fundamentalism US style, organized labor taking on the Marines and a not so beneficent employee benefits company..."

Behold, the "Ten Worst PR Blunders in 2005."

According to Fineman PR, anyway.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

MTV's Got the URGE

According to AP, MTV Networks will soon introduce URGE, a music download service whose backend will be built by Microsoft. URGE will launch with over 2 million tracks available for sale. In addition, the service will be integrated into the next version of Windows Media Player.

That's hot.

Jupiter Research says URGE will not be compatible with Macs or iPods. To glass-half-empty folks, that may seem like a definite challenge. I, on the other hand, see it as a tremendous opportunity, especially when you consider the number of competitive devices held by owners who are also clammoring for content.

Today's Cool App: FilmLoop

"Imagine - one click to instantly broadcast photos directly to the desktops of your entire social network in a live, continually updating Loop. Get everyone involved. Use Loops to inspire, tell stories, showcase what you love or communicate ideas."

I can think of a million uses for this thing already - how 'bout you?

Puh-lease, Let's Just Call It a Lesson Learned...

and move on.

For now, I think it may be helpful to revisit these seven simple rules for dating, er... engaging, a blogger:
  1. Never pitch, personalize
  2. Respect a blogger's time and intelligence
  3. "A blog is not about you, it is about me"
  4. Quality, not quantity
  5. Feed the food chain
  6. It's no longer just about the media
  7. Keep learning

And remember - nobody's prefect!

Will 2006 Be the "Year of the Vanishing Blogger"?

Gary Goldhammer, author of Below the Fold, certainly thinks so.

Here's a telling quote from his most recent post:

"As technology becomes more essential, it becomes more invisible - and when everyone is blogging, there are no more "bloggers," just people interacting in ways they never before could have imagined."

Exciting, all this talk of "The Second Age" - bring it on!

Monday, December 12, 2005

USA Today Ventures Beyond "Arms-Length Collaboration"

Having two newsrooms is so twentieth century. Just ask The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Star Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Orange County Register and scads of others, who, reacting to a growing consumer need, have taken steps to combine their online and print newsrooms.

They call it - ooh, buzzword alert! - "convergence," and this afternoon, USA Today, the nation's best-selling newspaper, joined the ranks.

"The goal in combining the two is to create a single 24-hour news organization that will inform and engage readers on multiple platforms," says editor Ken Paulson. "Starting today our goal is to begin conceiving and planning our coverage as one unit, thinking more strategically about the deployment of our newsgathering resources in a world in which news has become an on-demand commodity."

Smart.

Booking Travel Online: Ten Years Later

Reflecting on the decade that's passed since they launched the world's first online booking engine, global solutions provider SITA reports that "255.7 million people now travel each year thanks to direct online bookings with the world’s top twenty airlines."

In all, that's 400 million passengers ripe to receive messages related to their plans.

Engaging those consumers is the topic of today's brainstorm. Mobile marketing works. RSS and blogs work. Beyond the tried-and-true, what else have we got?

Movable Type Offered to Yahoo!s

Continuing their deep-dive into social media, Yahoo! will soon be adding blogging tools - more specifically, a ramped-up version of Movable Type - to their list of site management services, says Reuters.

Aimed at small business users and priced at less than $12 a month, the service will also include a custom URL and a business-grade email account complete with virus-protection and SPAM controls.

The announcement will undoubtedly find it's way into many conversations here - in the meantime, big congrats to Six Apart for getting their baby out there!

"A joke that went horribly, horribly wrong..."

Wikipedia vandal Brian Chase has issued a formal apology to John Seigenthaler after insinuating that the former publisher of the Tennessean and founding editorial director of USA Today was linked to the Kennedy assassinations.

Apparently Chase didn't know Wikipedia was used as "a serious reference tool."

In the spirit of the season, Seigenthaler has decided not to pursue legal action against Chase.

EA Goes Mobile

For a mere $680 million, entertainment software giant Electronic Arts Inc. will acquire JAMDAT Mobile Inc. The arrangement - announced last Thursday - is expected to be finalized by Q1 of '06.

EA's CEO called the deal "an important strategic acquisition," and one that will bring his company one step closer to a "leading global position in the rapidly growing business of providing games on mobile phones."

Marketers interested in sponsoring interactive content and attracting large, targeted audiences through advergaming take note: the pairing of EA's award-winning catalog with JAMDAT's distribution platform is definitely worth exploring.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

CNN.com Seeks Piece of the Content Pie

Targeting broadbanders, CNN has joined the ranks of content-on-demand portals. Launched last week, their new Pipeline service employs four video streams dedicated to as-it's-happening news.

At a monthly cost of $2.95, it's a real bargain, says David Payne, Senior Vice President CNN News Services and General Manager of CNN.com. And it would be, if it wasn't so darned buggy.

Repeated attempts at viewing clips through their proprietary player were met with mixed results - even on high-end gear. My home-based cable connection froze upon task, taking nearly ten minutes to resolve itself. Not even a reboot fixed the problem. Tapping in through my office's T3 connection didn't improve things, producing choppy streams that were just too frustrating to watch.

PC Magazine seems to have copped a better feel, calling Pipeline "the beginning of real Internet television." While that might be conceptually true, I'd have say that based on my experience, we're not quite there yet. Even if the content and quality are said to rock, there's not much to crow about if you can't see any of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

BusinessWeek's Best of 2005

In the past twelve months, we've seen "more revolutionary changes in more markets sparked by more breakthrough ideas than at any time since, well, the golden '90s," says BusinessWeek.

And what an eventful year it was!

Their year-end wrap-up labels 2005 "a vintage year for innovative leadership, creative ideas and terrific products." They've even identified some new buzzwords that we can all use to impress our clients in 2006.

Yahoo! Gets del.icio.us

For a purchase price "not large enough to have a significant impact on finances," Yahoo! acquired NY-based del.icio.us. Under the deal, the social network - used by thousands to tag and share their favorite links and Web-based content - will continue to operate independently.

Nice score for Yahoo!, I guess.

I like the idea of social networking a lot. And all the cool kids seem to be doing it. Back in June, I came across an interesting article, written by a journalist whose thoughts on the activity closely mirrored my own. While I didn't entirely agree with her position, I did agree with this simple point: "No matter how cool your idea is, it's dead on arrival without an actual business plan" - no matter how much revenue you throw against it.

Search engine execs would certainly disagree and maybe they really do see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Will the communities behind del.icio.us, MySpace, Facebook and others suffer at the hands of monetization? I guess only time will tell.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Today's Cool Mash-Up: BlockRocker

Described in today's Trendcentral Newsletter as "a mash-up between Craigslist and Google Maps," BlockRocker lets users search for a variety of goods based on specific geographic locations.

If you still can't get your mitts on an XBOX 360, tap their "Carpool/Ride Sharing" category - you just might get lucky in other ways.

More on News Corp.'s Master Plan

Apparently, News Corp.'s COO thinks search engines are leeches, too.

Speaking at the Credit Suisse First Boston Media Week Conference yesterday, Peter Chernin discussed a plan that would effectively reclaim revenue from content aggregators by employing assets owned by his "simple company."

Once his organization has figured out a way to get a lock on distributing content worth "billions," I'm sure they'll turn their full attention to finding a way to monetize the information supplied by the MySpace community and registered News Corp. members.

Kong King of Advergaming

Attracting players from 151 countries, P&G's King Kong Jump is still on top of Viral Chart's weekly global games list. Created by Inbox Digital, the game is meant to raise awareness of everyone's favorite chip-in-a-can, Pringles. After monkeying around, participants are encouraged to visit the brand site where they can enter to win a trip to New Zealand, home of director Peter Jackson.

Says Inbox Digital's creative director Oli Christie, "we know every hit, how long they played, where they clicked, where they go." Well done.

King Kong Jump

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"We All Have AIDS" Campaign Finds Home on eBay

Kenneth Cole and Polar Bear Diamond have joined forces for a charity auction that will raise funds - and hopefully, awareness - for the We All Have AIDS foundation. Up for grabs, a globe-shaped, white-and-yellow gold ornament fitted with a $30,000 diamond.

Bidding begins tomorrow, December 9th at 9AM. Add it to your watchlist and participate if you can - it's for a great cause.

Please Support the 'We All Have AIDS' Campaign

Today's Cool Feature: Gmail's Web Clips

With a little bit of customization, Gmailers are now able to add and view links to their favorite Web sites and blogs. Selected items - displayed with their source, date of publication and links to the complete story - appear across the top of the main Gmail screen.

Boy, them Googlers sure know how to keep busy!

Who Builds a Brand?

"Brand truth" is in the DNA of every mega-brand says Arnold SVP Barry Silverstein who, in an article published by MarketingProfs, defines the concept as "what the brand stands for and represents to the winning mindset."

Silverstein, co-author of The Breakaway Brand, seems to believe that the path to effective brand-building belongs to brand owners and advertising agencies alone.

It certainly is an interesting POV. What's even more interesting is that a number of my agency's clients appear in his Compendium of Breakaway Brands. And I think, scratch that, KNOW that our efforts had everything to do with their success.

New IE7 Build Delayed

Looks like we'll have to wait just a little bit longer for IE 7 for XP, says Microsoft product manager, Dean Hachamovitch. The next pre-release build - said to support many of the tools that we've been talking about - is now scheduled for Q1 of '06.

While some feel otherwise, the setback shouldn't impact the release of Windows Vista, according to Microsoft spokesman John Hipsher.

The Mother of All Partridges...

is now the Mother of All Shopping.

Dashing yet another childhood soft-spot just in time for the holidays, Shirley Jones, matron of America's once-favorite musical family, has crossed the line into commerce, lending her likeness a Flash campaign that promotes MSN's shopping portal.

Is nothing sacred?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Further Evidence That the PR Landscape Is Changing

"The Pulitzer Prize Board, which presents the most prestigious award in US journalism, said on Wednesday it was changing its rules to allow newspapers to submit material published on the Internet. "

Get an eyeful of the new guidelines if you need more proof.

"Skype-like" Functions Planned for Yahoo! IM

Though no firm launch date has been set, "Skype-like" capabilities will soon find their way to Yahoo!'s Messenger application as part of a new paid feature set. Pretty cool.

Time Warner Hearts Microsoft

According to The Wall Street Journal, a deal that will ultimately pit MSN and AOL against the likes of Yahoo! and Google has been struck. Implied in the negotiations, that "Time Warner's AOL would drop Google as its main internet search provider and switch to Microsoft's MSN service."

In 2005, that relationship accounted for approximately $300 million in ad revenue generated by searches conducted by AOL users. That's quite a hit.

Beyond describing AOL as "a valued partner," Google has yet to respond.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Are Search Engines Leeches?

Tired of parasites who "help themselves to copyright-protected material," Francisco Pinto Balsemão, head of the European Publishers Council, has aimed his ire at "the new models of Google and others who reverse the traditional permission-based copyright model."

Good on Google spokesman Steve Langdon for reminding him that "search engines don't reproduce content" - they merely "help users find content by pointing to where it exists on the Web."

Should be an interesting debate.

Avis and AskMeNow Set Sights on Biz Travelers

Avis has partnered with mobile network AskMeNow in a move to secure a "foothold with business travelers" who happen to be renting one of their vehicles. Together, the companies plan to provide text-based answers to Blackberry and cellphone owners with questions about flight schedules, stock values, weather conditions and more.

The required software is free; inquiries, however, will be billed at .49 plus carrier charges.

It's an interesting move, given the plethora of similar services - like these, for example - which are available for free. Granted, those users wouldn't be getting the personal touch promised by this pairing, but...

"Why Should I Care About MySpace?"

Last week, a client asked me about reaching college-bound teens on the cheap. Among my recommendations, tapping into social networks. I'm not sure he got it, so this morning, I sent him this and this.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mild XBOX Blogstorm Leads to Class-Action Suit

For close to three weeks now, a growing contingent of blogging gamers has been crying foul over a glitch that causes the XBOX 360 to overheat and freeze after extended play.

Today, a disgruntled consumer filed a class-action suit against Microsoft, alleging that the console-maker intentionally ignored major design flaws in favor of beating the competition to market.

While an official declined to comment on the complaint, she did say that the company has offered to replace the "small percentage" of affected systems - when they're back in stock, that is.

Oof - this could get ugly.

Podcasting for Dummies

I'm thinking about adding M-Audio's Podcast Factory to my toolkit. Anyone have thoughts to share, good or bad?

Still Partying Like It's 1999?

Beyond the obvious, did I know I was "blogging" when I created a LiveJournal account back in 1999? No, and I'd be lying if I said I did. For me, that little diary was more an exercise in shameless self-promotion, a channel through which I could talk about anything and everything, a way of enabling my circle of friends to live vicariously through my so-called life.

Fast-forward to 2005, the year I "officially" entered the blogosphere. Driven by the challenge of staying one step ahead of the new PR game, my team - The Web Relations Group - threw our collective thinking caps into the ring. Protected by our firewall, we posted often and used our new journal to start a dialogue with our Weber Shandwick colleagues. We all learned a lot in the process - and we're still learning.

Last month, armed with a handful of lessons learned, I dove right in, launching an outlet of my own. You're reading it now. Within hours, I was welcomed, reminded of etiquette and outed.

It's been great so far.

Having applied some thought to blogging as it relates to my role as a PR practitioner, 2006 will undoubtedly be an educational year for me. I'd like to thank everyone for their comments, encouragement and pointers, and share with you all these four nicked commandments:

  1. "I shall not barter my words or my silence."
  2. "I shall write and advocate openly and honestly."
  3. "I shall strive for accuracy, avoiding errors and correcting them immediately when discovered."
  4. "I shall strive for balance; even in advocacy, I shall not distort or suppress obviously relevant facts to bolster my argument."

PS - How's this for #5?: "I shall not cut n' paste."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Talkin' 'bout the MySpace Generation

The MySpace Generation
Get BusinessWeek's "The MySpace Generation" Podcast

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yahoo!'s RSS Alerts a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Okay, I confess: I like being connected, and as an admitted RSS junkie, I think the concept of recieving an SMS heads-up every time one my favorite feeds updates is actually pretty cool. The creators of Yahoo! Mail's RSS Aggregator think so too and have added this functionality to their latest build. Though free, the service comes with a implied warning.

As a user, the fees assigned by mobile carriers to SMS still apply. So if you subscribe to hundreds of feeds, expect those charges to add up and fast. Mobile Mag advises addicts that "creatively using the service and RSS feeds to connect small groups of customers, clients or associates," is where it's at.

I'll have to remember that.

Friday, December 02, 2005

IAB Offers In-Stream Ad Guidelines

To empower marketers eager to create video units for the Web, a new addition has been made to the Internet Advertising Bureau's Broadband Ad Creative Guidelines. These recommended specs are designed to ensure broad usability across a variety of platforms and "foster an environment of open dialogue."

It's a step in the right direction, sure, but the association has yet to tackle heavier issues like optimum length and ad effectiveness per content category, user vs. host-initiated content experience, broadband video commercial serving and tracking, third-party reporting, content and frequency capping.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Wise Man Once Said...

"History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa... whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flames... or not."

Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise


Sign the declaration, grab the feed and listen to the podcast featuring Bono, Nelson Mandela and more.

I'm No Spy

Metrics, metrics, metrics. We've all got metrics on the brain. If not for metrics, how would we measure the success of our campaigns? Google gets it. Or do they? For me, there's but one question to be asked: are Web analytics and spyware one and the same?

Not on your life, says ThinkMetrics' Brandt Dainow.