Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scott Kirsner on Embargoes and the PR/Media Landscape

Meg posted a piece on the embargo debate on June 14 and today, Scott Kirsner has posted his view on this evolving issue in the PR and media world. An important issue for all PR people today.

Fred Wilson on Being Present

Thanks to Robert Scoble, I just came across Fred Wilson's Father's Day post on the importance of being present and thought I'd pass it along. A worthwhile read for all of us who are glued to our email, social networks and mobile devices 24x7.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Does privacy still exist?

Although the recent Facebook privacy issues generated quite a buzz, the growth of social media and popularity of GPS gadgets are pushing the boundaries of our privacy. I was initially very skeptical about Foursquare, but it apparently has 1.6 million members now, who voluntarily post their whereabouts. Given that so many of us now have cell phones with built-in GPS, it is difficult for marketers and advertisers to ignore these new opportunities.

Obviously, there is a fine line between leveraging location-based data and invading privacy - even though marketers insist they still need your permission to access personal information. The growing popularity of social media and smartphone applications that ask for your location does not seem to have raised much concern for the average user of social media. In fact, despite recent privacy issues, Facebook has only lost around 30,000 users

According to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, companies do not always disclose what they do with consumers' personal data once they have access to it, and the majority of location-based applications lack privacy policies. As more consumers are willing to share their personal information down to their whereabouts, it creates serious issues and questions. As consumers become transparent in today's "privacy-less" world, marketers also need to become transparent when it comes to collecting and using such information. Thankfully, the VC investment in privacy-related start-ups has increased, which makes me optimistic about confidentiality boundaries in the future. In the meantime, I am seriously considering joining Foresquare.

Gourmet is back!

I was among many who mourned the shuttering of Gourmet magazine, both as an amateur cook and a PR professional. As we have said before here on InkLings, we value great content, and would be more than happy to pay a premium for it. There is certainly a place for mass-produced content when it comes to things that matter little or don't require thoughtful analysis. However, when it comes to cooking, I want an expert to weigh in on the best way to roast a Thanksgiving turkey, or the best possible recipe for pancakes on a Sunday morning -- thank you Ruth Reichle for showing me the way.

I am thrilled to see Gourmet in its new incarnation. At first glance at their video it looks like it will combine some social tools to make it very accessible. I am in your corner Gourmet and can't wait to see what it brings!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Death of Journalism?

The debate about the future of journalism is heating up again. Much has been written about DemandMedia and AOL's Seed initiative, which farm out content creation to a stable of writers who are willing to create articles for small amounts on money. Today, there is more discussion about the future of Forbes.com. See this post from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/14/vox-populi-vox-forbes/

TechCrunch has noted that Forbes will be soliciting articles from "1000s of unpaid contributors" in a move similar to those I mentioned above. This would make the Forbes editors "curators of talent."

While content creation has become commoditized to a large extent, there is still a place for great journalism. The media are pressured more so than ever to get news stories out as quickly as possible, 24x7. Yet, we still find reporters who are fair and honest, even when they are writing stories that we, as PR people, might rather not see. I will take a negative story as long as it is true and fair.

I believe that there is a place for mass-produced content to coexist with good reporting. Consumers more than ever are scouring the Web for information about things ranging from the news about the BP oil spill, to how to grow the perfect rose garden. We don't need the same standards for both of these articles.

However, we do need the accountability and dedication to seeking the truth that we find in serious reporting, which still accounts for a huge chunk of the information consumers find online. We need to be able to trust our news sources. I join Meg in her recent post about her willingness to pay for the NY Times content. Sign me up!

Tricked by Ad.ly

It's commonly known that Twitter has started posting ads "in-stream" and there is a long list of content publishers lined up to serve up these ads. I am usually fairly wise to any kind of new ad, but I almost missed one today! See below for an ad from the New York Times stream that I was about to click on:

I'm not saying anything new here, but this is a great example of a compelling way to reach targeted, and engaged audiences through new approaches to advertising and marketing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Embargo Debate

Ten minutes ago a reporter from a major news outlet "accidentally" broke an embargo on a major piece of news for our client. I won't share the name of the outlet or the client, but needless to say this is an incredible frustration -- not only for me and the client, but most importantly for all the other news reporters that agreed to honor the embargo. Not surprisingly we were barraged with emails from these reporters whom we had given the release asking, "WTF"?! They get frustrated with us for "allowing" this to happen. Of course our relationship with those reporters (and the relationship of our client) is now harmed. It's a bad situation for everyone -- except for the reporter who broke the embargo who now gets the opportunity to be the first to break the major news.

Many reporters have gone on the record as saying they won't honor an embargo. And I get it. I understand how frustrating it can be for a reporter to "lose" a story to another outlet that breaks that embargo before them. But the embargo is an incredibly important tool -- and not just for PR people to control the news cycle. Offering reporters news under embargo gives them an opportunity to properly research the story and interview the key people behind the story. It gives them time to validate the story and form their own perspective. Embargoes make journalism better. News breaks and spreads so quickly these days that often stories are published without any due diligence at all. It is a competition to see who can "publish" first instead of who does it best.

So what can we do? Most importantly I think we need to show utmost respect for the reporters who keep their word and hold to embargoes and continue to offer them news in advance. However, reporters who break embargoes should be held accountable and not be given news under embargo and forced to be a late comer the next time a major piece of news comes out from that same company. It is not so much about "punishing" that reporter, but rather showing respect for the journalists who stand by their word. And perhaps most importantly, it's about helping to preserve the embargo in order to enable thoughtful, well-conceived journalism.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Does Google have Bing envy?

So today when I went to go do my usual Google search, I was greeted with an ugly background (ugly, IMHO anyway) on the Google homepage. Google gave me the option of changing the background but all I could think is "I want my old Google page back." Apparently I was not alone. Twitter and Google were trending with queries as to why Google would do this and how do you change it back. Like me, many people were thinking "WHY is Google copying Bing"? Is it possible that Google has such deep Bing envy that they would actually copy the search engine latecomer?

Anyway, Google listened and the old white, minimalist Google homepage to which we have all grown accustom is back. But the PR lesson remains: Copying your would-be competitors makes you look nervous and desperate -- and, worst of all, foolish.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NY Times: please charge me!

Last night I was with some friends who were bemoaning the fact the NY Times is going to start charging for content. It starts with the NY Times and then before we know it all kinds of media outlets will be asking us to pay to read their stories, they argued. My friends complained that this move is taking us back in time. This is the age of the Internet after all... information should be free!

I could not disagree more.

Personally I will pay for my NYTimes.com subscription with pleasure. I believe the move by the NYT to charge readers is critical step in the right direction for journalism. Good journalism comes at a price. Quality stories by thoughtful, experienced reporters cannot be generated for free. As someone who spends much of her day talking to the media, I see first hand how reporters are spread far too thin. They are covering so many beats, so many different subjects, it is simply not possible for the coverage they generate to include the rich research and expertise required for consistent, high quality reporting. What’s worse, we are seeing some of the best journalists out there being laid off because of the high salaries they have earned after years of dedication and success in their field. Sadly, many of those reporters are leaving journalism to pursue new fields.

The question is: Do we want the field of journalism to be dominated by reporters who are spread too thin? Do we want even our nation’s highest regarded publications written almost entirely by entry-level writers who fit the budget but will seek to move to a more lucrative field as they mature in their career?

The flow of information is the lifeblood of our society. I, for one, would like that information to be thoughtful, well researched and delivered by a journalist who is well paid for her experience and expertise. So the NYT can count on me to be their first full paid subscriber.