Monday, October 31, 2005

Forbes' Daniel Lyons calls bloggers lynch mob. Bloggers light torches.

Forbes published a controversial article by Daniel Lyons entitled Attack of the Blogs. It opens with “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.” Since it is the talk of the town today, what to make of it?

Steve Rubel thinks it is a soon-to-be maligned and unbalanced story. Look at the comments on his post and you will see that he is not alone.

Because I am a contrarian too, I preferred Dave Taylor’s post on the subject. He presents good arguments for his case. He concludes with:

“There are so, so many positive articles and books being published about blogging, some of which are just as one-sided in the other direction, entreating even the most illiterate of business owners to quickly jump into the blogging world lest their competitors get there first, that blogging itself "reinvents business" and so on, that perhaps articles like "Attack of the Blogs" are needed just to achieve some sort of balance.”

So before jumping on the Lyons' bashing bandwagon, let’s think whether that would cast us with the bloodthirsty lynch mob decried in his (cheap-shot type of) article.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Media industry 'panic' over Internet but online still not getting fair share of media budget

Speaking at the IAB Engage 2005 conference, Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP’s CEO highlighted how traditional media are loosing ground to their online rivals. He singled out News Corp recent online media “panic buying” spree and the threat to some traditional media’s business models (newspapers classifieds v. Craiglist). His question to media owners: “How can traditional media continue to charge more for less?" Sir Martin Sorrell blamed the failure from traditional media to embrace online on the age of people who run major media/ad groups and a reluctance to change.

I could not agree more. One of my friend from research company Millward Brown (she left since) shared with me some insights on a 2005 survey they conducted titled “Why online isn’t getting a fair share of media budget?”

Here is the situation, figures may vary from studies to studies but it gives a general trend: the Internet is getting only 5% of ad spend while it has a nearly 35% media consumption. TV is getting 40% of ad spend for an equivalent media consumption. Newspapers are getting nearly 35% of ad spent too but for a 10% media consumption.

Why such a gap for online? Here are the most mentioned reasons:

  • Comfort with the known. Clients are risk adverse and don’t like to make sweeping changes to their media or marketing budget allocation. They will go with what is safe and make tiny incremental changes every year. As a result, they are loosing touch with overall media usage and fragmentation (especially given the speed at which it is accelerating),
  • Lack of understanding and lack of interest. Here is the age gap again… Most marketers think that their consumers are just like them. Company CEOs like to see their ad running on TV and on their favourite newspapers because this is what they watch and read. Younger marketer find that learning new things is time consuming, especially when they are pressured to deliver short-term results. So they go with the safest option: comfort with the known,
  • Marketing services are too siloed. The whole advertising system is biased towards ATL getting the lion share of client’s budget. If you were an ad exec or a media buyer, would you like it to change? Of course no, you would lobby hard to keep it that way. Margins and budgets are too low online to incentivise traditional ad agencies to shift. And clients don’t push hard enough for integration This is a vicious cycle.
  • Interactive is hard work. Yes, you cannot do last minute changes on a program as easily as you can with an ad copy. It needs a bit more planning. The pressure has always been on interactive agencies to be as flexible as their offline counterpart. Would it be a bad thing if traditional marketers were also better planners?

Addendum: if you work in PR, just replace "ad exec" or "media buyers" with "PR professionals" and TV with "media relations". Same mistakes, same punishement.

Dilbert blogs while you should be working...

I blame Scott Adams for most of my early professional life's cynicism towards big corporations. Now he has launched a blog. The first entry sets the tone: “If you’re reading this on company time, congratulations on beating the system. If you’re reading it on your own time, you really need to find a job where they pay you to do this sort of thing.” Time to look at these motivational posters again…

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Googlebase turns bloggers on speculation overdrive

Bloggers are buzzing about Googlebase (I know, it says that you are not authorised to view the page… isn’t it exciting?). Apparently, Google could launch a new “classifieds” service that could compete with EBay, Craigslist and every other classifieds services. Or is it a Quickbase type application? Good summary of what is going on here. There is even a screenshot there.

Kiva offers charitable micro-loans to small businesses in developing world.

Seth Godin reports on Kiva, a service connecting private lenders and enterprises in need of micro-loans, mostly in Uganda (for the moment). The site is the brainchild of Matthew (entrepreneur) and Jessica Flannery (MBA student). You can loan anything from $25 onwards and you will get it repaid by instalment over a period of time. Kiva gets its revenue from donation and keeping interests from loans, if and when interests are charged. See current businesses looking for loan.

The Grameen bank had a similar initiative in the late 90s and is still considered as the largest micro-credit organisation (besides the World Bank). Loan repayment rate is very high (apparently close to 95%). Interests rate charged on micro-credit could reach 20%.

More about micro-finance from the UN.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Virtual Handshake

Over a month ago, David Teten emailed me and asked me to review a new book he co-wrote with Scott Allen: “The Virtual Handshake”. I usually get a dozen email requests per week, mostly press release about some obscure IT company announcing some technical breakthrough or the water conservation board of North Dakota launching a blog. I usually bin them (with all due respect), or if in a bad mood, I reply with an appropriate: “who cares?” But I was enticed by the offer of a free book and David’s email wasn’t the usual hard sell, anonymous stuff I learned to discard in my newfound blogging minor celebrity.

I accepted and received the book 2 weeks later. I felt obliged to read it.

To my relief,”The Virtual Handshake” is not another “Let’s talk about Kryptonite” story. In fact, it is not about blogging but about networking, both face-2-face and online (although the emphasis is on the latter).

It starts by explaining the values of networks and how they have been, and increasingly are instrumental to individual and group success. It then provides with a practical, step-by-step guide on how to build a credible virtual self, build-up a network and sustain it. I found that David and Scott Allen really worked hard to cover all means of connection, including instant messaging, social software, email, company alumni…and of course blogs.

Because the book tries to cover everything associated with networking, readers more familiar with the topic might find it sometimes pedantic. I also find that advice on how to use networks for marketing purpose (from a business pow) a bit light. Nonetheless, the book drives good points regarding sales (don’t sell but help other buy and value relations for their long term benefits instead of going for a quick shot). It is packed with practical advice, I enjoyed reading it, I learned a few things on the way and I plan to put some of its recommendations in practice. Good reference book for anyone interested in the “how to do it” side of networking. You can read more about the book here and make up your own mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Measuring Blogs ROI: Links, Comments Or Both?

Yesterday, Steve Rubel posted on the links vs. mentions debate between Doc Searls and Steve Gillmor. Steve boiled it down to how best to measure corporate blogs ROI. I will not carry-on the baseball analogy as I don’t understand baseball (it is similar to cricket except that they don’t serve Pimms during breaks I gathered). I am not sure I understand the link v. comment debate either. Surely you need both, whatever your reason for blogging is.

Using links as a measure of popularity is based on the assumptions that if readers like what you write, and have a blog, and are so inclined, they will point to your blog. On the premise that there are more blogs readers than blogs writers, that discards quite a lot of your potential audience. Having lots of links to your blog doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of readers too. I am sure that most people who kindly linked to Beyond PR sometimes over the last year and half don’t religiously turn up to my every post. They could just be reading my feed, or, heaven forbids, have forgotten about my blog. It seems to me, but I wait to be corrected that links are used as a default currency since there are no other easily available metrics to measure blogs popularity. Nonetheless, links send traffic to your blog, maximise your readership and gets you ranked higher in Technorati so others would think you are popular thus worth reading.

Mentions show that someone actually bothered to read what you wrote. It is a good way to start conversation too (isn’t it what blogs were set-up for at the first place?). However a mention without a link puts a barrier for others who would like to join the conversation as they will have to find your your post on their own. Why make their life difficult?

So how about a link + mention combo… I would go for that! But if you want to make me even happier: post a comment or send me an email.

Create your own social application with Ning

Ning is a free online service (they call it “a Playground”) for people to build and run social applications. The code is open source and there are some applications already there for others to use, clone and redevelop. In short, they allow you to create your own craiglist, your own Zagat (restaurant reviews), your own Flickr…

Via Richard MacManus

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Videoblogger? Become an ad producer and earn $100.

In my post yesterday about the video iPod I mentioned that companies will bypass TV networks and produce ready commercials and short clips for podcasts. My question was who will produce these clips? Ad agencies? Interactive agencies? The newcomers in CGM?

coBRANDiT, the “world's first open-source documentary ad agency” produce such clips. I like their approach: “The use of documentary advertising is predicated on the belief that 1) Consumers are interested in seeing their peers interact with the brand or product in real life environments and situations, 2) Consumers are interested in behind-the-scenes information relating to brands and activities they care about, and 3) Consumers want to participate in the creation and marketing of great products and brands. (…) Documentary advertising can be taken one step further by soliciting consumer generated media (CGM) content-- in effect creating what might be termed open-source documentary advertising.”

They are inviting readers to submit their own clips. And will pay $100 for each acceptable submissions. Here are the guidelines: “Make a video about a brand or product you love from one of these categories: Beer, Gear, or Cars, and make it good. We don't want ad concepts--we want a slice of life. Stylized, silly,'s up to you. Keep it real, and keep it clean (no smut).”

Monday, October 17, 2005

State of the Blogosphere: Technorati reports

  • Technorati is now tracking 19.6 million weblogs
  • The total number of weblogs tracked continues to double about every 5 months
  • The blogosphere is now over 30 times as big as it was 3 years ago, with no signs of letup in growth
  • About 70,000 new weblogs are created every day
  • About a new weblog is created each second
  • 2% - 8% of new weblogs per day are fake or spam weblogs
  • Between 700,000 and 1.3 million posts are made each day
  • About 33,000 posts are created per hour, or 9.2 posts per second
  • An additional 5.8% of posts (or about 50,000 posts/day) seen each day are from spam or fake blogs, on average

See Dave Sifry's post.

Video iPod to launch new fame era for podcasters, marketers and reality TV fans.

CNN is running an article on how Apple’s video iPod could kick start a wave of amateur videocasts. With the price of digital video cameras dropping, broadband usage and video editing software getting more user friendly, it will not be long before budding directors or reality TV celebrity wannabes start filling up the digital airwaves. The implications for marketers and brands will depend on the scale of this new CGM trend:

  • RSS feeds will include videocasts (see ANT), search engines will index clips (see Google Video) and new service will help you tag them (see blogtelevision),
  • Initially, audience will fragment further thanks to the availability of niche programs, produced by passionates for enthusiasts. Will traditional TV broadcast audience drop as a result? Yes, especially generation Y and X viewers (the former already spend more time on IM and games and the latter on the web - economist),
  • Companies will be keen to trial bypassing TV networks and produce commercials or short clips ready to podcasts. Ad agency and media buyers will compete with viral marketing specialists to produce these pilots,
  • News corporations will need to work in partnership with “the local guy with a camera who just happened to be there” in the networks’ battle for exclusive. Amateur reporters will start selling their footages via online auction sites (EBay?) and get news agencies to bid for the rights to broadcast their work,
  • Everyone will claim her/his 15 mins of fame and that would equals to 78,840 celebrities per year! (this is serious research, based into the cognitive limits of human attention and memory, number of 15-minute fame segments per year, global median life expectancy and current world population).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

AOL acquires Engadget and more

Forbes reports on AOL 's purchase of Weblogs for $25M. The transaction includes 85 blogs such as Engadget and Autoblog. AOL will integrate the blogs into its portal by linking to the best entries and create additional blogs to fit with its channels.

Interestingly, Weblogs gets more than $1 million a year through Google adwords alone.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

New Kid On The Blog

I just started a new blog on Consumer Generated Marketing on Hill & Knowlton's blogging platform. Have a look. In parallel, I will continue posting on Beyond PR (more so than less) so stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Web 2.0 v. Web 1.0

Computex and the print edition of New Media Age are running articles on P2P traffic, based on a report from Sandvine.

P2P services takes 70% of global bandwidth (BitTorrent is the main culprit). Web browsing is only 8.7% of bandwidth consumption.

I thought this was an interesting figure to add to the Web 2.0 v. Web 1.0 debate .

I read Tim O’Reilly’s seminal article and I agree: the evolution to Web 2.0, for lack of a better term is about attitude and expectation. Whether it is technology that led to a change of attitude, or that a shift in our relation to the web led to new technology is an academic debate which I will leave to the more technically endowed.

In the 90s, the web was driven by companies seeking to turn it into a giant shopping mall. Consumers are now reclaiming the web for what it was intended for: a collective space bringing people together so that they could share experience and information. Just picture this: a collection of mega websites competing to attract eyeballs v. loose networks accessible by search engines, tags and connections where you can share information, engage in conversations and co-create. I am caricaturing here but the change is quite noticeable...

This is how I understand it: Web 2.0. is a different way of looking at the web.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogs Make Yahoo News' Headlines

Yahoo announced that it will mix mainstream media news with blogs in its Yahoo News aggregator. The system will be tiered with top stories from mainstream news outlets first then blogs with an option to get more user-generated news, photos and links. Yahoo's General Manager said that the company "wants to fuse professional journalism with so-called citizen journalism to provide a fuller spectrum of content to its members". MSM and CGM will be clearly flagged to avoid confusion.

The BBC covers this story and thinks that "the decision could reignite the debate over what constitutes news reporting and whether blogs are as valuable a source of news as that from professional journalists."

Steve Rubel reckons that it will expose millions of consumers to blogs for news content. I could not agree more and I cannot wait to see on the same page the point/counterpoint of a story exposed by MSM and bloggers. One more thing to worry about for PR officers.

Monday, October 10, 2005

From WOMMA to Cillit Bang to Character Blogs

The WOMMA (Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Association) has launched a new blog. I picked-up on this quote from the WOMMA CEO, speaking at the Word of Mouth vs. Advertising conference in New York : "Ads will never again be free from real people providing real feedback -- and bringing to light the underlying claims of every campaign". See full post here.

There is a post on Cillit Bang too... I caught up late on the whole Cillit Bang blog story and I find it rather sad. As Tom Coates highlighted, it is the unfortunate product of a team's ignorance, incompetence and carelessness. Glad they apologised.

I still think character blogs can work if the ad or PR agency who put it together could stick to simple rules:

1. Your entertainment or information value must be well above average to compensate the fact that you are a "marketing gimmick",
2. Engage in REAL conversations with your readers, be human even if you are not,
3. Let the story and the character evolve with the interactions. Don’t get your copywriter to write 60 posts in advance!
3. Don’t comment on other blogs to build up your network. You start from a very low point on the credibility scale and the only reason you want your link there is to get traffic to your blog. Comments are for conversation, not for advertising. Instead, build up your network from directories, tagging, placements, ads, ect… Let them discover you. If bloggers like your blog, they will talk about it and link (they will talk about it if they don't like it too but it will be worst if you spam them). You need to take the time to do it properly. A bit like a grassroots campaign. If you want fast and loud: do an ad.

Blogger Survey 2005

Technorati and Edelman released an excellent survey of bloggers' habits and motivations. The full results (including the raw data for open-ended questions) are available here. Highlights:

- 1/3rd of respondent blog to be seen as an authority in their field. Less than 5% blog to generate revenues,
- Almost half have never been contacted by a company or their PR representatives yet about 70% would like to receive product samples to evaluate,
- When seeking information about a company or a product, bloggers prefer to interact with company employee who blog,
- When looking for product information, less than 5% of respondent will trust a press release and 6% will trust a corporate blog. As opposed to nearly 63% who will trust other bloggers.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

80% of UK Teens Use Instant Messaging (IM)

According to a Forrester report four out of five 16-17 years old in the UK use instant messaging. This is a staggering figure. MSN is the most popular IM program by far.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Blogging in Frankfurt

Last Friday, I was invited to speak at a blogging seminar in Frankfurt. Russel Buckley, a veteran blogger living in Munich was a co-presenter. He runs the mobhappy blog.

We had interesting discussions with our audience (PR Officers, marketing directors...) about the potential of using blogs for corporate communication. Interestingly, blogs were often associated with crisis, almost seen as a threat more than a tool for consumer communication. May be it’s bad memories from the Jamba v. bloggers story? I had similar conversations while doing workshops in Italy and it seems to be the first reaction once companies realise the scale and impact of the phenomenon.

According to the Blog Herald, Germany (280K blogs) still lags behind Spain (1.5M blogs), France (3M blogs) or Poland (1.4 M blogs) when it comes to blogging. The election might give German bloggers a boost. is listing some political blogs.

If I match these figures with anecdotal evidence, it seems that the German blogging scene is at an early development stage. This is an opportunity for companies to experiment and lead. As I highlighted in my talk, blogs are not going to disappear anytime soon. The sooner you join the conversation, the more you will learn and the better prepared you will be.

Excel Blog

Via Micropersuasion, the Microsoft Excel team launched a blog. Would be nice to get to know the team more though.