Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sony Ericsson and Google to Enable On-the-Go Blogger Blogging

Happy day if you happen to be a Sony Ericsson customer: they've just struck a deal that will bring Google's search features and Blogger platform to their K610 UMTS, K800 and K790 mobile phones.

Sweet.

Yahoo! Tests New Homepage, Part Deux

Yahoo!'s swanky new homepage is back, and again, I'm among the chosen few lucky enough to get a sneak peek:

Yahoo! Tests New Homepage, Part Deux

Doesn't look like a whole lot has changed since last go around, huh?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Give the People What They Want: Free TiVo Boxes

Competition and pressure from the investment community may result in free TiVo boxes for new customers who sign up for extended service plans, says Reuters.

Speaking at today's Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit, CEO Tom Rogers hinted at "the prospects of zero upfront and all upfront" pricing as a way to increase marketshare.

At present, the TiVo community is over four million strong.

Blog Herald Acquired by BlogMedia, Inc.

BlogMedia, Inc. has acquired Duncan Riley's Blog Herald, adding it to a growing network of properties that includes Blog Network Watch, BloggerJobs, Blogger Idol, Celebricious, Funny Blogger, Gamerzblog, Jack of all Blogs, Loss Prevention Blog, Mideast Beat, Problogging, Poker Moments, SEO Memo, Snarky Blog, Sporty Blog and TV bloggin'.

According to BlogMedia SVP Matt Craven, the purchase brings his company one step closer to becoming "the news destination of choice for readers seeking technology news and information about blogs, blog networks and professional blogging.”

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Via PRWeb.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

SONR Gearing Up to Go Live

After months in beta, SONR appears to be closing in on the public launch of their media player/podcast tracking tool.

Designed to give publishers a detailed look at how audiences are using their content, SONR's backend records actions like pausing, rewinding and forwarding while streaming an audio file. The collected data is then dumped to a database where creators can log in and view their stats in real time.

The system also lets listeners build personal playlists and allows podcasters to flag areas within their files so users can quickly advance the areas that interest them most.

On SONR's radar, plans to support video, customizable/themed players and improved metrics tools.

Cool.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Tools Work for Nonprofits Too

With all the buzz about blogs, podcasts, RSS and tagging as the new must-have business tools, it's always nice to be reminded that other sectors have found uses for them too.

For nearly a year, Interplast, a nonprofit organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to patients in developing countries, has been using their blog to state their mission, raise funds, attract volunteers and build a solid community around their latest accomplishments.

Now that's public relations.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Top Ten Time Already?

Aside from being some of the coolest apps out there, what do Flickr, Vimeo, Del.icio.us, Digg, Bloglines, Netvibes, Writeboard, Google Maps, Google Local and Meebo all have in common?

Well, according to Designtechnica, they represent the absolute best that Web 2.0 has to offer for 2006.

I guess they're predicting a slow year...

Google Adds Rare Archival Clips to Growing Video Library

A pilot program pairing The National Archives with Google has brought 103 historic movies, documentaries and other audiovisual goodies to Web audiences for free.

According to US Archivist Allen Weinstein, "becoming an archive without walls," is part of a "new strategic plan that emphasizes the importance of providing access to records anytime, anywhere."

Highlights, says Google product manager Jon Steinback, include "truly momentous events like the moon landing, as well as rare historical footage like government documentaries from the 1930s and battlefield stories from World War II."

Cool!

Ever Wonder What the Other Half Reads?

Media veteran Howard Mortman is blogging.

Check out his Blogs The Famous Media Reads for look at who's reading who.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

The seven-step strategy outlined in Leslie Grossman's newly published SELLsation! How Companies Can Capture Today's Hottest Market: Women Business Owners and Executives can easily be applied to any audience where an opportunity exists.

Practitioners who rely on cookie-cutter campaigns can learn a thing or two from her "C.R.E.A.T.E.S." approach which I've respectfully generalized below:
  • C is for "community" - engage your target in the communities they trust.
  • R is for "relationships" - form long-lasting bonds with your prospects and patrons.
  • E is for "education" - build credibility by empowering your customers with knowledge.
  • A is for "anticipate" - know what the market needs/wants before it does.
  • T is for "trust" - gain consumer confidence by acting with integrity, commitment and honesty.
  • E is for "entertain"- keep interactions with your company pleasant and productive.
  • S is for "service" - back up your promises with immediate and friendly support.

Thx to Bulldog for the tip.

To Thrive, Search Engines Need to Look Beyond Marketshare

According to a recent study conducted by Boston's Compete Inc., the top five players in the search game - Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL and Ask Jeeves - collectively account for 98% of all Web searches.

For most, over 70% of the searches conducted by their power users are made on competitor sites.

So much for loyalty, eh?

Recreated from data presented in their report, here's a look at the share of search activity across the top nine engines in December of 2005:

Share of search activity across engines (December 2005)
Source: Compete Inc., February 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Upstate NY Duo Captures Lake Monster

ABC News is hosting a citizen-generated video clip that allegedly depicts a large serpentine creature - dubbed "Champ" by locals back in the mid-1800's - swimming about in Lake Champlain.

Don't call me crazy!

The fishermen who shot the digital footage - which was authenticated by two former FBI agents, incidentally - swear they're not crazy.

Apparently, they're not alone...

(Man, I needed that!)

What a Week Google's Having

It must be "Pick on Google Week."

Yesterday, the search firm caught some heat when IT researchers Gartner issued an advisory to businesses who currently use Google Desktop 3. Their statement echoed concerns recently raised by privacy advocates who believe that the product's Search Across Computers function "could enable unauthorized access to corporate files."

Today, China completed their investigation into licensing allegations related to Google's new Chinese search engine. While their findings have yet to be revealed, a government spokesman said that the Ministry of Information Industry was "taking a circumspect attitude in dealing with the case."

Meanwhile, back in the States, a federal court judge has concluded that by displaying thumbnails as part of their image search results, Google has infringed on a copyright held by Perfect 10 Inc., a Beverly Hills publisher/vendor of - ahem - "adult" galleries.

In lighter news, the company also launched - albeit quietly - Google Scholar, a beta tool designed for broadly searching scholarly documents.

Who Cares If Corporate America's Not Blogging?

So what if the Fortune 500's not sold - there are many businesses benefitting from blogs. They've seen their search engine rankings and traffic improve, gained streed-cred with colleagues, clients and consumers and increased sales through open conversations.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with a CEO-client who's intrigued by the blogosphere. His company lives in an active new media space, and given his desire to share his POV as a leader in the industry, we all agreed that blogging seemed like something he ought to consider.

In drafting my follow-up this morning, I was reminded by the Blog Squad's Patsi Krakoff that merely deciding to blog is not enough. As an "effective and powerful marketing tool for businesses of all sizes and types," she says, "you need to know how to use them correctly to maximize your results."

She also seems to believe that "blogs are for everyone," and while I respectfully disagree, here are seven tips I gleaned from her list of all-too-common pitfalls:

  1. Chose the right blogging software and use it's features to increase your visibility.
  2. Aim for a central theme and stay focused.
  3. Research blogs in your industry and participate in their conversations.
  4. Syndicate your content.
  5. Give your blog a personality that reflects your company's image or brand.
  6. Know your audience.
  7. Commit to a posting schedule.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Are You a Good Pitch or a Bad Pitch?

Back in January, Richard Laermer and Kevin Dugan unveiled The Bad Pitch Blog, a resource dedicated to serving PR practitioners who are "tired of the industry taking the blame for a minority of its members that pollute communication channels with bad pitches, poorly written news releases and useless phone calls asking 'did you get the release?'"

Yesterday, I came across a new find, one that reminded that why our mistakes get more attention - "because they're made in front of an audience with the tools and influence to call them out in a very public way."

Launched as an homage to the Laermer-Dugan project, The Good Pitch Blog hopes to evolve into a repository for PR that works. "I want to be in the cheerleading section," says founder Todd Defren.

Woo hoo!

Both blogs accept submissions, so if you're feeling particularly proud (or embarrassed) by a recent experience, share it with the appropriate lead and be part of the solution.

UPDATE from Kevin Dugan: "while the name might fool folks, the Bad Pitch blog accepts good pitches and bad pitches."

They even have awards for each - rock!

Hiring an A-lister Isn't Enough

As Julia Hood of PR Week reminded us last week, the "new-media approach should focus on all facets of the firm." Here's her article, presented in full for those without a subscription:

"As this column went to press, we were reporting on the story about Edelman's hire of blogger Steve Rubel, formerly of CooperKatz.

This will be the second high-profile PR blogger to score a job at a top agency in the past few weeks, following Jeremy Pepper's move from self-employment to Weber Shandwick.

There's nothing surprising in the fact that major agencies would be keen to hire experienced names in the new-media scene, particularly those of note within the PR community. It's smart, consistent with the strategy of cultivating sophisticated pockets of specialization. In the turf battle for post-advertising marketing strategy, PR needs to assert its dominance every way it can.

However, it would not do to get too distracted by the personalities that have popped up in the new-media sphere. Even as innovative minds are needed to move organizations forward, institutions need to embrace the changing environment organically to deliver programs that are unilaterally effective.

Certainly, Edelman and WS are doing more than employing big names. But I was struck recently by the tone of an internal memo from Mark Penn, new CEO of Burson-Marsteller, to the staff, regarding what he has observed about the firm to date and what he has planned.

Not unlike other firms, Penn is launching a digital-media task force to assess the firm's capabilities along the new-media spectrum and to create new products.

But a big part of his plan also includes the wiring of employees, particularly in the area of technology. To that end, Penn's memo includes a commitment to "enhance the mobility of our employees and with clients to enhance their reach."

"Technology is not a cost center, but a profit center," he continues. "We should aim for sophisticated technology that empowers our people." He affirms that the agency is already moving toward distributing communications devices more widely among staffers.

Hopefully this means more than just issuing everyone a Treo and a selection of free ringtone downloads. Agencies need to instill not only awareness of technology, but also provide the kind of access to it that fosters real understanding.

On paper, Penn's plan signals an understanding that the kind of expertise required to initiate truly cutting-edge campaigns will come from all facets of the agency, not just from the so-called geeks in the corner. Familiarity and friendliness with how technologies actually work, how they change the way people retrieve and disseminate information, is key.

Sure, it's not rocket science. But what is sometimes missing from the big plans of agencies to conquer the new-media world is a clear perspective of how the agencies, too, must fundamentally change over time. Hiring is one important way of bringing new thinking into an organization. But the most sustainable approach will be to help communities within PR firms, and also within corporations, change along with the times."

Amen to that.

AOL Prepping MySpace Competitor

Taking advantage of their 56% share in the Instant Messaging market, AOL will soon unveil an AIM-centric social networking service that will rival MySpace, says CEO Jonathan Miller.

Leveraging AOL Music/Time Warner's "substantial" library of audio and video assets will be critical to the product's success, according to one analyst.

Because "the barrier to getting people to use it would be very low," Miller expects the 43 million active AIM users to take the service rather quickly after it debuts in about eight weeks.

Mark those calendars!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Death of Blogs Reported

Recent coverage in New York, Slate, The Financial Times and The New York Times might lead one to believe that blogs are here to stay, and while I certainly hope that that's true, it's hard not to recognize the POV of those who feel otherwise.

One such critic - Daniel Drezner - says blogs are "economically unviable, culturally spent, politically unequal, and in the end amount to nothing more than the lame afterbirth of the dot-com boom and bust."

That smarts, but does he mean the blogosphere or the platform itself?

We've all seen our fair share of blogs that thrive as bridges to two-way communications. We've also seen others, mired by false intent and crises of identity, fail. Some have emerged as true thought-leadership forums while others have hit the mainstream in a big way.

Markos (as quoted in Drezner's post) reminds us that blogs are merely publishing tools, and like any other tactic, can be used in any number of ways.

Now that's smart.

So let's look past the vast population of bloggers and the profound changes they've impacted for a moment. If we all agree that alterations in how we currently blog are inevitable, then drafting a eulogy for a revolution that's still evolving seems a bit premature, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Teen Craze, Parental Crisis, Media Field Day

Please, can we go just one day without some over-reactive piece on teens and MySpace?

Jeez folks, we get it: the Web's a scary, wondrous place, especially if you're not savvy enough to differentiate between what you should and shouldn't be sharing.

If you're a teen, follow these tips if you're ever in doubt:
  1. go ask your parents (gasp!), and
  2. log off, go outside and practice some real social skills instead.

If you're a parent, be accountable. Pay close attention and know what's going on under your roof. Take an active role, even beyond the Internet, in ensuring your child's safety.

That is your job, isn't it?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Web 2.0 and Press Release Marketing

Did anyone else catch Lee Odden's recap of his recent conversation with PRWeb's David McInnis?

Looks like someone's latching onto social media services in a BIG way!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Want Some Candy?

Former AOLer Bob Pittman is looking to sell off Daily Candy, according to The Wall Street Journal. Back in 2003, he bought a $3.5 million controlling stake in the e-newsletter (and it's Web site).

A sale today could fetch more $100 million, experts say.

YouTube (Warning: Time Killer Inside!)

No universal format. Massive file sizes. Tweaky upload methods. If you're one of those geeks who enjoys watching, sharing or creating Web-based video content, you know that dealing with issues like these can be frustrating as hell.

The guys over at YouTube feel your pain, and have launched a site that will allow you to:

  • easily upload, tag and share video clips across the Internet and through email
  • browse through thousands of original videos uploaded by our member community
  • get video codes to embed videos on any Web site
  • securely and privately show your videos to friends and family
  • find, join and create video groups to connect with people who have similar interests
  • organize your favorite videos into Playlists
  • subscribe to videos from your favorite users and tags
  • integrate YouTube with your application or Web site with a full suite of developer APIs
The YouTube community is already thousands strong and serves over 6 million videos each day - they've even got a blog to keep fans up to speed on all of their latest developments.

Cool.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How Not to Handle a Minor Crisis

Was last weekend's mishap an attempt by the Vice President to deflect media attention away from allegations of misconduct by FEMA's former head? Did his poor "friend" take a bullet just so old Dick wouldn't have to answer to another barrage of war-related questions? I'll let you conspiracy theorists chew on that while I marvel over his flaks' failure to diffuse what should have been a rather small incident.

Speaking to AP, Lanny Davis - a former White House troubleshooter who specializes in crisis management - called this latest in a line of debacles "a self-created nightmare" that quicky turned into a "huge negative story because of (Cheney's) stubbornness and arrogance."

"This is not about the hunting incident, it's not about a day's delay in getting out news of the shooting, it's about Dick Cheney," he said. "It's dangerous to our system of government when you have a Vice President with so much power and so little accountability."

To his credit, the VP did finally admit to "fowling up," somewhat glibbly, and three days after the fact. In responding to the accident, he bit the bullet while his staffers bit the big one.

Way to work that crack PR team, Dick - y'all oughta be ashamed of yourselves.

Web Analytics for Dummies

Big ups to Conversion Rater's Pat McCarthy for his detailed evaluation of Web analytics services - nice job!

Citizens and Camera Phones... Where Do We Draw the Line?

Right around here, I think.

Hanging Out Online Is Cool

"On any given day," reports the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "about 40 million Internet users go online just for fun."

According to the survey, more and more US surfers are beginning to think of the Web as "a place to hang out."

Percentage of internet users who go online just to pass the time.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Nov. - Dec. 2005 Survey.

PR Newswire and Del.icio.us Sitting in a Tree...

Exciting news for tag fiends who also happen to practice PR: on Tuesday, PR Newswire announced their newly formed - and incredibly smart - partnership with Del.icio.us. In so doing, they become the first commercial newswire to not only leverage the power of Web 2.0, but apply it to extending the shelf-life of the content they help to distribute.

Sweet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Slap on Those Patented Stuponitron Helmets, You Eedeeots!

Hello, boys and girls! This is your old pal Stinky Wizzleteats!

This is a song about John Kricfalusi, the brilliant Canadian cartoonist... he's blogging!

I don't think you're happy enough...

This totally made my day - thx Mark!

The Scoop on Company Blogs

Of the Fortune 500, only 4.4% operate public blogs, writes BusinessWeek.

Fear of critical comments has led some corporate leaders to realize that blogs are not for everyone, while others are tapping the technology behind blogging to improve internal communications, connect with suppliers and give their corporate Intranets a cost-effective facelift.

The trick, it seems, is in the application.

Microsoft Announces Office Live Beta Program

Today marks the launch of Microsoft's Office Live beta program.

Open to all US businesses, the trial offers access to a full range of Web-based products and content creation tools designed to ease the development process.

Available in three varietals - Office Live Basics, Office Live Collaboration and Office Live Essentials - Microsoft expects to release the final product in late 2006.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Curry's PodShow PDN Keeps It Real

Adam Curry's PodShow has partnered with Limelight Networks to launch the PodShow Podcast Delivery Network, a service that levels the playing field for indie and mainstream podcasters alike.

Along with programs for managing, delivering and tracking, the companies will offer tools for creating, publishing and uploading content.

From their release:

"The PodShowPDN combines a single-click approach to creating, producing, uploading and monetizing content with expertise in developing customized Content Delivery Network (CDN) solutions for major digital media and entertainment companies. The Network is built to support high-bandwidth distributed delivery of rich media directly to end users and will support virtually unlimited growth by leveraging Limelight’s globally distributed network of servers and interconnects to the world’s largest broadband networks and Tier-1 Internet services providers."

To date, they've successfully delivered millions of downloads.

Valentine's Day Now a Major Holiday?

According to Brand Keys, lovestruck consumers are expected to spend more than $1.7 billion on sweets, nearly $2.3 billion on greeting cards and account for close to 33% of all holiday flower sales today.

The average cost of showing your love this Valentine's Day? $113.

[By way of MarketingProfs]

New York Times Introduces Comments Engine

The New York Times has launched a new feedback mechanism that will allow its readers to comment on approximately 300 bylined articles.

Unveiled this morning, the new feature promises to provide instant access to its writers.

According to Online Media Daily, the service follows last Wednesday's introduction of a similar feature over at The Washington Post.

You'll recall they had some issues back in January...

Monday, February 13, 2006

AOL Sets Beta Site on 2 Million Chinese-Americans

Proving once again that they're all about niches, AOL has launched a beta version of their free portal in Chinese.

The newly-launched site - intended to better serve one of the fastest-growing populations in the US - includes all the features we've come to expect from AOL, including news, access to AIM and free e-mail.

Full-length movies and episodes of popular Chinese television shows are also part of the mix.

AOL Sets Beta Site on 2 Million Chinese-Americans

New York Magazine Pays Its Respects to the Blog Establishment

The emerging hierachy of the new new media, "the haves and have-nots of the blogging boom," lead a series of related articles in the February 20th issue of New York magazine.

"The first massively popular blogs were the kind of success stories everyone loves," states scribe Clive Thompson. "But these days, a lot of aspiring Internet barons are discovering that the online aristocracy is about as tough to crack as any other."

True that, but "aristocracy"? Hmmm...

In Linkology: How the 50 Most Popular Blogs Are Related, Thompson dissects the "global popularity poll," and maps the connection between the the best of the blogosphere. In The Early Years: A Timeline of Blogging he charts the long, strange trip that started way back in January of 1994. CuteOverload, SCOTUSblog, videos.antville.org, design*sponge and Fluxblog make the author's list of Five Cool Blogs to Check Out Now while Meet the Bloggers brings us face-to-face with the likes of Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, Glenn Reynolds, Jen Chung and Jake Dobkin, Peter Rojas, Jessica Coen and Jesse Oxfeld, Lockhart Steele, Robert Lanham and Mark Lisanti.

Oh, and don't sweat it if you're not one of the "beautiful people" - according to Thompson, even b-list bloggers have a shot.

Isn't that special?

SI's Annual Swimsuit Issue Goes Multi-Channel

When it hits the racks tomorrow, Sports Illustrated's annual gallery of bikini-clad babes will engage readers in more ways than one. "In addition to the magazine," reports The New York Times, fans will be treated to a gaggle of goodies on the journal's Web site and beyond. American Greetings Interactive will offer content hot enough to melt your mobile while iTunes plans to make eight exclusive video downloads available for slightly more than the cost of a song.

Cool.

Podcast User Magazine Debuts

The first issue of Podcast User - a free online publication dedicated to downloadable audio and video content - is now available for download.

Podcast User

Congrats, Adrian - well done!

Adland Announces Battle of the Ad Blog Winners

The results of adland's Battle of the Ad Blogs are in!

Congratulations to all you winners - booyah!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

You Gotta Fight... for Your Right.. to Participate

The principles that defined Web 2.0 are quickly moving beyond the Web, trickling into other forms of mainstream media like print, television, radio and film.

In October of 2004, the clown-princes of hip-hop, New York's own Beastie Boys armed fifty concert-goers with video cameras and asked them to document their sold-out performance at Madison Square Garden. The resulting footage was cobbled into a movie that got some attention at Sundance - look for it in theaters March 31st.

Welcome to the world of integrated user experience: the post-TiVo generation of consumers and viewers who are watching, listening and creating new forms of content on new platforms everyday.

Web 2.0 services were among the topics covered at last week's Media Summit. In one panel discussion, SCI-FI/NBC Universal's Craig Engler shared his POV on next-gen media movement and how tools like search, podcasting, blogging and tagging are changing the landscape. In his world, user contributed content is a "vital" - just take a look at all that his channel has done to support Battlestar Galactica.

Yahoo! gets it too, says analyst Scott Kessler. He firmly believes that the Internet giant is one of the companies poised to reap the greatest reward from all that Web 2.0 promises. Why? Because they understand and embrace the three E's: "entice, engage and engender (loyalty)."

So what's the Web 2.0 hype really all about?

Isn't it obvious?

It's all about the fans.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tagged... D'oh!

"Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in..."

Four Jobs I've Had
* Stockboy
* Record Store Buyer
* Goth Drummer
* Tae Kwon Do Instructor

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
* Barton Fink
* Star Wars (any and all, except maybe The Phantom Menace)
* The Godfather II
* The Wizard of Oz

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch
* CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
* The Family Guy
* The Simpsons
* 24

Four Places I've Been on Vacation
* London
* Riviera Maya
* Salem
* Warsaw

Four Favorite Dishes
* Clams Oreganata
* Lobster
* My Mom's Lasagna
* Penang Curry

I had to rethink my original response to the above - Adriana Lima, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Ziyi Zhang - after my fiancé walked in on me :-)

Four Websites I Visit Daily
* MySpace
* Gizmodo
* Google
* Yahoo!

Four Places I'd Rather Be
* California
* Hawaii
* Italy
* Tokyo

Four Bloggers I'm Tagging
* Chris Perry
* David Binkowski
* Scott Baradell
* Steve Hall

New Video iPod, Part Deux

MobileMag has posted an image of what they say is Apple's new video iPod - think it's for real?:

Is This Apple's New Video iPod?

Thx for the tip, JP - here's another look.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Few Employers Have Rules for Blogging Employees

A survey conducted by the Employment Law Alliance has found that 85% of our nation's employers have yet to define clear policies when it comes to employee blogs. According to the report, 5% of the US workforce - approximately ten million workers - are actively blogging.

In the absence of rules, corporation have dealt - and are continuing to deal - with impropriety the only way they know how: by firing the offenders. As harsh as that sounds, I was surprised to learn that only 55% of those polled said they'd support an executive decision to discipline a colleague who posted damaging, embarrassing or negative information about their employer on or off the clock.

23%, by comparison, sided with their peers.

Thx for the tip, AlwaysOn.

What Has Starbuck's Recent Flop Taught Us?

There's a PR lesson to be learned in Starbucks' decision to stop serving their Chantico Drinking Chocolate: give the people what they want, or be prepared to yank your product from the shelves.

Given their customers' known proclivity to customize, one has to wonder why they'd introduce such an inflexible item to begin with.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Guess the Launch Date Contest?

Microsoft has come up with an interesting way to lock down a streetdate for their new Windows Vista operating system - a contest. If you're a Beta Experience member who happens to live in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, you can enter your guess for a chance to win a plus-zero invite to the exclusive launch event in the US.

Nine runners up will score XBOX 360s.

Sweet.

New Video iPod on the Way

According to Think Secret, Apple sold nearly 4 million iPods during their most recent quarter, exceeding expectations and confirming that there's still room for increased capacity and functionality. During the same period, they say, 8 million iPod nanos were also sold.

Now comes word of a next-gen video iPod, one that will replace the iconic click wheel with a touch-sensitive screen and a 3.5-inch diagonal display.

While additional details have yet to be confirmed, many are already predicting an April 1st streetdate in celebration of Apple's 30th birthday, reports Think Secret. As is the case with the current models, "sources insist that this video iPod will lack any sort of wireless connectivity."

Still, wow!

Blogs and Mainstream Media Can Coexist

Richard Sambrook, head of the BBC's World Service and Global News Division, wishes his colleagues were more proactive when it comes to dealing with bloggers.

An impersonal institution like his, he says, "needs to come out from under its rock" in order to survive. Rather than compete with blogs, mainstream media should concentrate on what they do best: explaining, analyzing and verifying.

Sounds like good advice to me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Should I Be Using a Blog for Marketing Purposes?

That's one of the questions asked of Kelsey Group media analyst Greg Sterling. He's among the experts contributing to BusinessWeek's new Online Business Resource Center.

Powered by AllBusiness, visitors to the portal can expect to find a full range of tools, tips, tactics and practical advice amidst a vast archive of directories and downloadable forms, agreements and guides.

"Depending on your business, states Sterling, "starting a blog could be a low-cost method of boosting your profile with potential customers and the media and even helping your Web site's ranking in "organic" search results." However, he continues "blogs that are merely transparent marketing vehicles and carry only ad copy or promotional messages are probably destined to fail."

"Probably destined"?

How about "definitely doomed"?

Don't Ignore the College Set!

Whether we call them the "Net Generation," "Generation@" or "Digital Natives," I think we all agree that snubbing consumers between the ages of 18 and 25 in our efforts on- or offline is just plain dumb. Like many of you, I've written about this target before and am surprised whenever I come across a plan that discounts their worth.

A new study published by the National Center for Educational Statistics has found this group of multi-taking social networkers to be more than 15 million strong. According to Alloy Media + Marketing and Harris Interactive, they accounted for over $231.4 billion in sales last year. They're perpertually connected, love to collaborate and move between multiple channels with the greatest of ease, says eMarketer. They mature quickly and so do their tastes. They're all about freedom and have clearly expressed their desire to actively participate in the media they consume.

Could we ask for a better audience?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Interactive Mobile Campaign a First for Industry, Host and Client

The Weather Channel's interactive group has launched the first ever clickable cellphone advertising campaign according to iMedia Connection.

Sponsored by Aruba Tourism, the program's banner-style creative redirects users to a landing page where access to an AT booking agent is just one click away.

Given TWCI's role in the development of the Mobile Marketing Association’s advertising standards, we can expect absolute compliance.

Cool.

Yahoo! Tests New Homepage

Lucky visitors to Yahoo! were treated to a sneak-preview of the portal's redesign this morning. The re-worked homepage promises to deliver an improved search experience while simplifying access to a world of content and user favorites.

Whaddaya think?:

Yahoo! Tests New Homepage

Wisely, they're looking for feedback - so if you're among the 15% privy to their unveil, show 'em some love.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Product Placement: Is It Advertising or Is It PR?

Lots of talk this morning, as pundits debate the best and worst of yesterday's Super Bowl spots. Trade analysts, buzz agents and bloggers are gathering their thoughts and before long will tell us just how successful those premium ad buys really were. Will the award go to Ameriquest's "Friendly Skies" or FedEx's "Caveman"? One early indicator suggests that my pick - Bud Light's "Hidden Fridge" - will top them all.

"The hype surrounding ads in the game is always a big part of the annual rite," says MediaPost editor Joe Mandese. "But it's also a clear example of something the ad industry is moving closer to: advertising that is engaging, generates watercooler talk, and, of course, is measurable."

Which brings me back to the topic I originally set out to discuss: appraising product placement.

For weeks now, I've been struggling to grasp the metrics surrounding this tactic. In my view, it's a not-too-distant cousin of product seeding, the practice of placing the right product into the right hands at the right time. We've seen a bit of it online, but for now, product placement seems to dwell in the heart of TVland. Just last week, Rocketboom entered CSI: Miami's lab; Red Bull starred in an episode of Courting Alex; the Beauty and the Geek 2 dorks were treated to $1,500 Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping spree; Toyota drove their Yaris onto the set of MADtv; Purina donated a cool $50,000 to a lucky Extreme Makeover: Home Edition clan; and Family Guy/former New England Patriot Peter Griffin sold out to Hyundai and Subaru.

So are these efforts quantifiable? Clever product placement experts say yes, and I'm inclined to agree. Whether or not their art is a by-product of advertising or part of the new PR toolkit is what continues to stump me.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Game Not So Over for Sony Blogger

Josh Robinson, the 3D artist who was fired by Sony for expressing his views on the company's new gaming console, explains in great detail the blog post and circumstances that led to his termination in an excellent interview with PS3week.

I'm an admitted games-addict and recall reading Robinson's entry back in January. It was harsh, and while it did make some valid points, he wasn't particularly transparent in his delivery.

In his defense, the author alleges that he did ask "at least two Sony employees" to give his rant the once-over before it was published. It passed, reaching the loud community of gamers before capturing the attention of the corporate higher-ups who demanded - to the author's surprise - the removal of both scribe and story.

Since his dismissal, Robinson has received a number of job offers and looking back, insists that he never came close to violating his NDA: "I would never do that and I would never want to hurt Sony Online." However, when asked about "dancing in the grey area," he does admit that it's what got him fired.

His new rule? "Don’t ever say anything at all about anything. Ever... ever."

I hope I get a chance to buy him a beer at E3.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Balance Between Branding and Response

When seeking counsel, my clients and colleagues often ask that I leverage an existing offline plan. Granted, it isn't always the best way to put a progam together, but hey - sometimes you gotta take what you can get.

Yesterday, I added some color to an editorial round-up that covered ten of the Web's top properties, the real 800 lbs. gorillas of the space. Many of my accounts have advertised on these sites with - as you'd expect - mixed results.

Though not specific to my universe, I came across an interesting quote in an AdWeek article on the financial industry and how its biggest companies are using the Web to build their brands: "with the influx of dollars coming online... agencies must remain focused on the efficient returns that made the Web attractive (to them) in the first place."

Supporting a brand campaign on the Web can be challenging, especially if you rely on advertising alone. Generating buzz and increasing awareness through the effective use of content seems more a function of PR where interacting and connecting with consumers on an emotional level precedes a measureable call to action.

As a PR practitioner who dwells in the virtual world, I know that there are lots of ways to do that - the trick is in knowing what you're after.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ten Sites You Should Be Working With

In their February issue, OMMA's editors take a closer look at the world of online publishing. One stand-out article [registration required] features their ten picks for best of the Web: destinations that they say consistantly "offer readers a mother lode of rich and diverse content."

Their selections represent some of the largest properties out there. I've personally worked with many of them, and trust me - these are all the places you want to be:
  1. MSNBC.com: in the "News and Information" category, this super-portal draws its content from the likes of Newsweek, The Washington Post, Forbes, NBC News, best-in-show j-blogs, etc. 23 million unique visitors per month get their news fix here.
  2. NYTimes.com: the old "Gray Lady" sure took a beating in 2005. Still, this top pick for "Newspaper" continues to pack their highly visual site with features like video, slideshows and more. These guys get it.
  3. BusinessWeek Online: as a "Business and Financial" leader, this site continues to pavethe way by providing "progressive" and sometimes "uncharacteristic" features to its dedicated - and savvy - audience. Their insightful May 2005 cover story on the impact of blogs still gives me chills.
  4. Gizmodo.com: this personal favorite leads the "Commentary/Blogs" category with all the up-front latest on the newest tech gadgets and gear.
  5. TVGuide.com: adding video podcasts, improving search and undergoing a major site redesign spelled success for this popular "Entertainment" digest.
  6. ESPN.com: go ahead, find me one hardcore "Sports" fan in the whole wired world who hasn't bookmarked this Web site - I dare you.
  7. iTunes.com: topping the "Music" category, Steve Jobs' legal download service continues to thrive in spite of the competition. We all know it's not all about the songs.
  8. iVillage: establishing an emotional connection with the "Women and Family/Health" audience online can be tricky business. Powered by blogs and what is arguably one of the Web's most active communities, this portal reaches approximately 15.6 million women across the US. In case you were wondering, that's 9% of the entire Web population.
  9. CNET: geeks like me love CNET, and luckily, they love us, too. Even with bloggers muscling in on their territory (see number 4), this network - which includes download.com, gamespot.com, techrepublic.com et al - lures more than 110 million unique visitors each month.
  10. Pogo.com: at first glance, OMMA's pick in the "Gaming" category might seem a bit odd. But like the folks over at Pogo, marketers are beginning to recognize that a large percentage of gaming occurs online, especially among casual players. Adding community elements, offering branding opportunities and leveraging their parent company's assets undoubtedly led to their top score.

Think of the possibilities - even beyond advertising.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Maybe Blogging Really Is for the Birds...

On August 5th, a legion of twenty pigeons will venture into the wild join the blogosphere.

The flock will take flight at the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts' annual symposium. Their mission: to capture data on air quality, measure levels of pollutants and post their birds-eye-views on their very own blog.

You just can't make this stuff up.

The project - intended to inspire new ways of monitoring the environment - is the brainchild of UC Irvine Assistant Professor Beatriz da Costa and two of her star pupils. According to New Scientist, the team has already built a "prototype of the pigeons' kit containing a cellphone circuit board with SIM card and communication chips, a GPS receiver and carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide sensors."

Oh, and they'll have digital cameras looped around their tiny feathered necks for - what else? - aerial photos as well.

Assuming the experiment works - and I'm all for it, by the way - I'd love to see Hollywood use the technology to re-make one Hitchcock classic in particular... now that would be cool.

Send in the Clowns?

I tend to ignore buzzwords and admit that I'd never heard of a blog carnival before stumbling across the mention of one in an article that touted participation as a way to increase traffic.

They're not new and they're apparently pretty popular - but what exactly are they?

In their list of blogging terms, Wikipedia defines a "blog carnival" as "a blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Most blog carnivals are hosted by a rotating list of frequent contributors to the carnival, and serve to both generate new posts by contributors and highlight new bloggers posting matter in that subject area."

While that all sounds clear enough, the PR guy in me got to wondering if anyone had successfully pulled one of these off for a client, product or service. Is it even possible or are blog carnivals a complete waste of time in that respect?

Any thoughts? Warnings? Advice?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New MSN Blogging Codes to Address Censorship

Speaking in Lisbon today, Bill Gates told a government panel that his company would comply with legal requirements in the countries where it operates.

He also warned leaders that "the ability to really withhold information no longer exists," adding that "if there's a desire by the population to know something... it's going to get out very broadly."

Meanwhile, back in the States, defending "tools that do good," continues to keep Bill's attorneys busy, as they work to revamp MSN Spaces' blogging policies in the wake of China's much-discussed blackout.

According to Gates' top lawyer Brad Smith, the new codes of conduct will protect the archives of a blogger who's been caught in violation of local laws.

Translation: even after shutdown, the "dissident blog" would continue to exist, just not in country that ordered its closure.

"We think that blogging and similar tools are powerful vehicles for economic development and for creativity and free expression," says Smith who adds that responding to requests from foreign governments and building support for policies on censorship is high on Microsoft's list. "We believe that it's better to make these tools available than not, but that isn't the end of the discussion, either."

Sure, it's an important "first step," but what happens when a government demands to know the identity of a seditious blogger? "Does Microsoft fold," asks John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, "or (do they) stand pat?"

Good question.