July 16, 2009
Who Shot the Paperboy?
Two of my childhood boyfriends were paperboys and their routes were something we ‘shared.’
I even covered for them on occasion and as I went past someone’s house on my bike and threw the paper onto their front porch, my mind would conjure up a picture of the family living behind the doors and windows in front of me, some I knew and some I didn’t.
Sometimes they’d come out before I’d dart off, pick up the paper, give me a smile and a wave and yell thanks.
I dreamt about newspapers last night and again early this morning during a half-awake moment before the alarm went off. Perhaps it was a left over from the Guardian podcast this week in London, where we once again discussed the transition from print to all things digital.
It was my favorite paper when I lived here 20 years ago. Even though I wasn’t the typical Guardian demographic, I was a hell of a lot closer to it than any other paper at the time, and there were tons to choose from: the FT, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, The Independent, the London Times, the Daily Mail. I read them all…..every day.
It was essential to understand the London media scene, as my thesis, my degree and my entry into advertising all depended on it. That’s how it started anyway. Over time, I began to think of my newspapers in the same way smokers thought of their pack of cigarettes. It was daily routine and without them, the day wouldn’t flow with ease.
I became addicted to those papers. They became a part of my identity, they shaped who I evolved into, as well as my political views. They set a standard for the quality of writing, the art of reason and thinking, and everything that goes into a well-crafted story.
I used to sit in coffee bars and watch people waltz past me with newspapers under their arms. If someone didn’t have one, I found myself guessing which one they would read by the way they dressed, the way they walked and the accent they carried.
It wasn’t hard to do you see, because London’s class system was much more defined than anywhere else I had set foot on the planet at that stage of my life, with the exception of perhaps India.
When I lived in the Surrey burbs and commuted to London by train, I’d play mind games with people.
Sometimes I’d be in cropped jeans and a loose faded jean jacket and sometimes I’d be in a mini-skirt, leather jacket and boots, nearly always black.
I always wore a side pony tail every day and carried a rustic shoulder bag, not unlike the kind we all carried in my Johannesburg high school.
Once we left the platform and settled down into our commuter train seats, the papers came out. It’s almost as if you could count the seconds on your watch before you’d hear the crinkling sound of the papers unfold and everyone would sync up as if in A Chorus Line.
I always used to think it was British conservatism -- Brits using their morning paper as an easy way to avoid conversation. The pinstripe suits read the FT, the less expensive suits read the Daily Mail, the ‘real’ suburbia guys read the Daily Telegraph and so on. Women in their twenties either had the Guardian or the London Times and as always, I had them all.
I’d often start with the FT, particularly when I wore scruffy jeans. It was as if the more conservative British men on my carriage could ‘feel’ that I was reading their paper even though they were hiding behind it and couldn’t see me. On more than one occasion, I’d see their paper slowly move down and their eyes would peer above it, glasses tilted, and they’d quietly glare as if in disbelief.
“How could she be reading the FT and not the X?” Whatever label they had for me back then, it most definitely was not a FT reader. It was something you just knew and felt – and behavior patterns always followed and because they did, you could easily decipher who read what and quite often, also where they grew up and went to school.
Forward wind the clock. Paris, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg again, Nairobi and Amsterdam all followed London and yet, my obsession with newspapers didn’t. Sure, I’d pick one up for a summary of world news, but it was no longer part of my daily ritual, my personality or my path to knowledge and enlightenment in the way it was in London. And, because it wasn’t, I forgot about newspapers, at least for awhile.
It wasn’t until I returned to the states – Boston, New York, San Francisco and even my old home town, where I felt the ‘void.’ I used to love leafing through the Sunday New York Times, but it wasn’t the same as my morning ritual of discovery in London, which after ploughing through each newspaper every day, I had a sense of what was going on in everyone’s head I might encounter that day.
I read all the papers everyone read - the blue collar worker, the housewife in the burbs, the stock market analyst, the advertising exec, the man who made my chicken curry lunch and the woman who cut my hair. It brought me closer to understanding them and connecting to them in a way that was richer and deeper.
The void was more than a cultural shift – it was the fact that I missed the quality of the writing, the global perspective and the art of it all. We didn’t relish it the same way the Brits did. We didn’t bathe in the words. We didn’t have the hunger for it, for if we did, our biggest cities would have had as many papers as London had if not more.
Forward wind the clock again. I grieved the loss of my newspaper culture years before the digital age really hit. Whatever newspapers came my way never quite filled the void, and they never had enough depth to hold my interest regularly.
Then the digital age hit. RSS came along. Blogging came along. Comment threads came along. MySpace, Facebook and YouTube came along. Then we had a few years of blog posts, panel discussions and debates about the death of newspapers and it hasn’t ended. Layoffs continue, revenue models change and old school publishers are wondering what they’ll do next.
FriendFeed and Twitter edged their way in and suddenly the whole world is writing and thinking in 140 characters, about the size of a newspaper headline.
I love stream of consciousness writing and so many of my pieces are long….they keep flowing until the stream ends. Blogging is perfect for this; newspapers are not. It was and still is a perfect medium for me. But Twitter? For someone who loves to write and write and write, how could I possibly move my world into 140 characters?
It was the descriptions people used to describe themselves that drew me in; why one chose to list golf and another guy who looked just like him from the same town chose to only list professional adjectives for his keywords and description.
Why did the housewife from Toledo, Ohio use the background she did and tweet about politics and not religion? Why did Joe call himself a renegade and Susie a delicious artist? I was drawn and sucked into the vortex and there was no return.
I think about things in 140 characters now, how it could be a great headline rather than simply what I’m writing at any given time. It’s not easy to create something witty, interesting, compelling and intelligent in a blink-of-an-eye sentence, so the brain must be cranked up which is one of the things I love about Twitter.
Forward wind the clock again. It is 2009, I’m in London and the death of newspapers and the saga about the future of news continues. It continues because we’re so emotional about newspapers – they’re historical and they’re a part of our own personal stories. They are the result of our evolvement from countries that ran themselves behind closed doors to the era of ‘freedom of the press.’
It’s also all the things we associate with newspapers, not unlike the kinds of things we associate with religion if you dig deep enough.
Said American jurist Felix Frankfurter who was born in 1882 – “freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of (achieving) a free society.”
And Thomas Jefferson, who was born in 1801, said, “the press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral and social being.”
Newspapers became our first source for everything that these statements stood for. We looked to them for guidance and learned to trust some of them and not others.
When I read every London newspaper on my morning commute every day, I’d lean back and relax behind the fold just like every one else around me – I behind my personal, comfortable fold, they behind theirs. My friend. My habit. My news source. My expression.
It’s one of the reasons I like NetVibes so much. I can customize and personalize it using my own colors, my own categories and sections. Instead of reading content through a geeky-looking aggregator, I can view my news on a ‘newspaper-looking’ screen, separated by boxes just like sections on a printed page. It comes to me rather than me having to go to it and I can flip through tabs like flipping through pages.
Viewing news this way is not quite the same however, although it has become my friend, my habit, my ‘screen’ for my news sources and one expression of many. That’s the difference – it’s the one expression of many.
After I leave NetVibes, I’m on Facebook, email, FriendFeed, Twitter itself for search, EasyTweets to tweet, YouTube to browse, Google for research, StumbleUpon to discover….and it doesn’t end. I can’t imagine my ‘working life’ without any of them, however I can imagine my personal life without this much complexity. I yearn for it. Simplicity leads to productivity does it not? I’m a subscriber to that philosophy - sign me up.
Austrian journalist, critic and playwright Karl Kraus, who was born in 1874, said, “the mission of the press is to spread culture while destroying the attention span.” I’d love to hear what Karl would have to say about attention span and the impact that hundreds of thousands of news sources are having not just on our brain but to our personalities 135 years later.
This past week, I saw a play in London’s West End that is roughly six years old. A small English village’s quirky idea went global, not through the web, but through newspapers, radio and television. The play could have been set in the 60s and yet, it was the way their ‘story’ spread less than a decade ago.
I walked out of the theatre and as if on auto pilot, on the same path I took to the Leicester Square tube station twenty years ago, I headed towards the entrance. Déjà vu. I hear it as if it’s the familiar humming motor I woke up to every morning on the upstate New York lake where I grew up.
Evening Standard, Evening Standard, Evening Standard, a man shouts. I had walked past the same corner a few nights earlier and the night before that. He was dishing the evening paper out then too and I took notice then too, but tonight was different.
The podcast. The play. The déjà vu from yesterday, the cultural impasse, the digital inclusion conversation at Intel earlier in the week, seeing The Reader on the flight over, the flashbacks to all the British commuters so many moons ago hiding behind their familiar comfortable newspapers that shaped if not defined who they were.
All of it came pouring through me like an emotional, surreal sandstorm that slowly dissolved and then transformed to flowing water.
It was as if the water was cleansing the memories of yesterday, as if to say, “your newspapers were like a collection of beautiful poetry read to you by an articulate and romantic ex-lover, something to be cherished, adored and never forgotten.
Like all cherished gold medallions from your past, relish them and let them go as well as all the emotional connections that go along with them.”
It’s no wonder we’re fleeing to social communities. It’s no wonder Facebook and Twitter have exploded. Papers were our communities – we read from the same source, a common mother’s womb that we as a community trusted, loved and understood.
Our local newspaper was something we ‘shared’ and now, we’re scrambling to find out what our peers find interesting, what they read and are thinking about. We’re finding that not only is one peer reading and viewing 20-30 sources, but another peer is tapping into 20-30 different ones.
We want the overlap in the middle, the places we can hang out together online with the majority of our friends and feel connected again, like my grandfather did at his barber shop, my mother did on the front porch with her friends and I did on my train.
The memories, thoughts and emotional connections to those thoughts came upon me like an avalanche, a flood of consciousness that I hoped would settle so I could make sense of it all.
And then I suddenly stopped before I walked down the stairs to the underground and looked back at the man, who couldn’t have been more than 25, with his pile of Evening Standards in his arms.
He caught my eye and came walking toward me while continuing to shout Evening Standard, Evening Standard, Evening …..” No thanks, I said under my breadth before he finished his third recital. “It’s free,” he said even louder.
Of course it’s free I thought and now we can’t even give our newspapers away. We have come to expect ‘free.’
I took one and shoved it under my arm and before I made my way through the ticket stall, I unfolded it and saw the 50p price tag on the top. And then, “a woman’s quest for the perfect bottom – pages 25 & 26” to my right and smack in the center, Bright City Star in Death Plunge (32 characters) followed by its subhead: “Days before 25th birthday, broker fearing for his job steps off rooftop restaurant holding champagne class.” (160 characters)
We’ve not only all become authors, but we’ve all become photographers, videographers, headline and copywriters. It was the colorful photo that drew me in and I wanted the full news story and whatever in-length article that was inside, including the feature on a woman’s quest for the perfect bottom.
And yet our attention spans are decreasing all the time. Perhaps as our brain’s chemistry and personalities change as a result of our new world where we live in headlines and newspaper captions only, we’ll start to emotionally be okay with letting old news go, including newspapers and everything that was connected to them.
While we’re already creating our own content, and the world has changed because of it, it’s clear that not everyone has accepted at an emotional level the historical transition into the world of always on and always digital.
We’ll become more open to the evolving digital book that may never have an end, the blog post with 130,000 comments or reading a thread of hashtags around a particular person or topic, rather than an article or Hollywood movie on them.
Everyone will have a floodgate open however at some point or several. Once emotional ‘acceptance’ and ‘approval’ catches up with trends and behavior on the web, then we’ll not just be producing content but as a global society, we’ll actually be congruent with creating our own online newspapers, our own movies, our own photo galleries, our own podcasts and ultimately our own individualized histories.
And yes, we will have lived through a magical revolution and it won’t just be a media one.
June 01, 2009
Weymouth & Huffington Talk Journalism: On & Offline
Katharine Weymouth of the Washington Post and Arianna Huffington talked about news and political coverage on and offline at last week's D.
Weymouth says for their audience, its about learning how people digest news on the web. “We’ve blown up our news room and restructured. For years, the newspaper was centered around sections,” she says.
Arianna says, "people consume information online differently. It’s not as if you make a choice to buy Time or Newsweek. You never just visit one site online. The more interesting stuff that you see online, the more habitual your online behavior becomes.”
Talk about a dialogue where old media meets new. Arianna has just over 60 people working for her now whereas the Washington Post has 800 people, some who have been in the business for decades.
Kara asks them how they deal with cost structures. Says Katharine, “the mistake is to think of them as substitutes. Our biggest readership is not surprisingly during the day. People may read the paper in the morning then check the rest of it online during the day or for searching for something specifically. We need to do this on different platforms.”
Regarding the topic of 'saving newspapers,' which was bound to come up, Arianna, who still loves reading a newspaper says, “its not about saving newspapers, its about saving journalism." She adds a humorous saying by a Greek philosopher from 2,000 years ago - ' you cannot enter into the same river twice.'
She adds, "the conversation on whether its going to be online or in newspapers is done. Let’s stop talking about old media and new media, its about the media of yesterday and the media of tomorrow."
Kara asks Katharine what the Washington Post will look like tomorrow. She believes in the newspaper and print but online is part of that. “I still do believe in print and I see it as a compliment. We’re looking at the DX, Plastic Logic and the Kindle. Nothing yet has been invented that replaces what is really good about a newspaper.”
For the Huffington Post, it's all online and that isn't going to change. That's where they started and where they're going, in addition to other platforms, such as the iPhone and the Kindle.
Someone from the audience asks Arianna what her vision is for the Huffington Post four years from now. She never leaves an interview on the table without infusing a bit of humor.
“I don’t like to make plans that far in advance, partly because I’m a superstitious Greek girl," she says. "I don’t like to count my clams before they’ve hatched.”
It's clear that Huffington Post's digital online world will stay that way and remain interactive. "Consuming news online is like galloping on a horse," she says. "You get involved in what you’re reading and you pass it on. It’s a great era for journalism because in the end, we’re creating a new generation of 'news' consumers. We can become really engaged citizens.”
May 20, 2009
Mediabistro Circus 2009......
Mediabistro Circus 2009 is coming up in NYC June 2-3, 2009: Where media meets technology and where the two are heading. Some of my favorite people in the industry are speaking and attending.
My favorite advice from the speakers last year was from Wired's Chris Anderson who emphasized the importance of being laser focused and having a Raison D'etre. You need to be about something. He said: "Social networking is a feature, not a destination......jts not someplace you go to......we need to take social networking out of Facebook and bring it into our sites in our own way....."
Hear hear. We need to be about something and have a clear sense of purpose. That means create a vision and own it baby, own it. And, that means living it and being it. Ethically, authentically and passionately every step of the way.
April 10, 2009
Journalism School Not Dead but What is Inside Student's Heads?
She writes, "journalism schools are like foot-binding. They force you into a style that a bunch of dinosaurs all agreed was acceptable a zillion years ago. So in an age of blogging, you have no voice. In fact, if I were in J-school now, I’d have my knuckles rapped for using the rhetorical “you” in those last two sentences."
Forbes writes that journalism school enrollment is on the rise.....but perhaps the logic isn't targeting that $30K-50K a year job in a declining industry where newspapers may well be dead by the time they hit 30.
Perhaps some are simply thinking: "professor, train me well, give me standards, improve my writing and then hell, I'm going to start my own blog and blow everyone out of the water simply because I have standards and few other new blogs do."
Who knows, but students can't really think dying newspapers are a passing fad, particularly when this generation doesn't even read ink on a page anymore. For those who know print is dead, have they thought about their editorial role in an ever-changing online world and how they plan to make money along the way?
Or, perhaps many are simply thinking "it's not about the money." I want a Global Voices Online-like position where I can make a difference in the world.
Not everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit, so not every great writer will want to start their own blog or online news network. Perhaps journalism school is the only way they know how to get trained for a mysterious and unknown editorial future that is being shaped and reshaped as we speak, as we watch....and more than ever, as we participate.
What will evolve over time is education and training for writers. What will emerge is a new way of training, one which adopts some of the old best practices that still make sense (i.e., ethics, fact checking, what makes a good story, what makes readers get drawn in, eager to read more, standards) and adds new best practices that understand that blog writing is different than New Yorker feature pieces and that the writer has to do more than just 'report' because they now wear ten hats rather than two.
March 21, 2009
Newssift Search Engine Gives More Meaning
The Financial Times new Newssift Search Engine says they "streamline the process of search and search refinement to help users become more informed. Moving beyond simple keyword search, Newssift offers search based on meaning, relationships and business themes. Content is aggregated and annotated by editors to ensure relevant and deep analysis of global business news.”
Obviously making that streamlined content easy to find from Google will be key although far too many newspapers and magazines are still thinking about the business from within their own 'branded' wall.
March 18, 2009
New York's Media Summit: March 19th
Media Summit Keynote Speakers:
Jeff Zucker, President and Chief Executive, NBC Universal
Philippe Dauman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Viacom Inc.
Steven A. Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation
Great line up Victor.
No surprise there's a session on the changing face of media and news: Michael Wolff, Columnist, Vanity Fair Michael Oreskes, Senior Managing Editor, The Associated Press Kevin Yen, Director of Strategic Partnerships of YouTube Ellen Weiss, Vice President for News, NPR Jon Fine, Columnist, BusinessWeek who will moderate
Then there's an contextual media and advertising session, largely focused on the big boys:transforming and redefining the relationship between the consumer, advertising and media platforms.
Widgets as a Platform focuses on content, commerce and communications, the televison ecosystem and much much more to be addressed.
March 10, 2009
How Will We Honor Great Editorial Heros in Fifty Years?
His story was told in the film, "The Last Editor," which a friend of mine produced. Bellows built a career resuscitating underdog newspapers in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Along the way, he helped turn Tom Wolfe and Jimmy Breslin into stars.
He was known for transforming papers into showcases of "sophisticated writing and spunky reporting that often shamed their more formidable rivals."
While I'm thrilled about the "anyone can be a writer and creator on-the-web" revolution, I wonder what the mentality of the next generation online media empire will look like - after the current transitional eyeball 'reads' merge into something new.
Some will transition into a format and style we'll need and want a decade from now, others will die in the fray because of chaotic format and style or worse, sloppy content, or what Bellows couldn't stand: dullness and complacency.
A new model will need to pay for writers' travel to war zones, insurance and their protection on the ground. And, old fashioned photojournalism is changing. We have so much more to choose from now which is a godsend for people like me who love to shoot. That said, remember that famous war photo taken in Times Square? Or the most Princess of Princess shots of Lady Di?
Incredible breathtaking photos will emerge but differently - they'll be found through communities all over the web, voted upon and submitted to high traffic sites so the masses who didn't find them in the world of the Long Tail will see them too. Those who don't spend hours surfing Flickr, Google Photos or Smugmug will see them elsewhere, later on.
Jeff Jarvis writes in his latest book What Would Google Do that Flickr "measures the interactions-- commenting, emailing, tagging and linking that occur around a photo" to bring it to the top of the pile. Secondly, "they map all these actions to see which users turn out to be hubs of activity." While that may be true and I have found some gorgeous photos on Flickr, its a different experience than looking at one-shot "war photo" wonder. Which one is better?
They're entirely different experiences, so its hard to say. Was life better when we only had chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream or is it better today when we have 40+ choices in our local ice cream shop? Too much choice is dizzying for me, a marvel for others. Sometimes I just want it simple baby. And sometimes, I really want more choice, when fewer options spell mediocrity and bland.
Driving from Boston to upstate New York which I used to do often, I used to have independent restaurant options to choose from and then it moved to Burger King or McDonalds - progress doesn't always mean more choices with better quality. Sometimes people choose based on convenience and speed rather than quality, particularly in the states. It's what we value as a "culture" that rises to the top, and its not always quality.
Bellows belief about media in the old guard: the main job of newspapers was to "print the news and raise hell." Who will be the Bellows of the blogosphere in fifty or sixty years?
There are countless other Bellows we'll honor by the time the old-school newspaper editors pass on, but for top-tier kudos, its necessary to earn that respect over and over again. Just like a good CEO. No one wants a one night stand, a one-off great party you can't repeat a year later or ever again.
He was given sloppy editorial because it was dull and mediocre, had no meat or inaccurate and had to turn it into something compelling again and again.
Everything is emerging and merging so quickly and we don't have sixty years of earned respect from the new guard which may be your next door neighbor in two years time.
I wonder what future legacy stories will read like, where we'll read them and how they'll share them in fifty years given the pace we're moving on the web? Those who have played with Apture will see one such way viewing information is changing, simplifying and merging in an elegantly organized way.
There's so much more content and more of it being added everyday, we'll need 100x or is it 1000x or more Bellows in the world to give us the best of the best. Communities will vote so we'll get local and interesting Long Tail or interest specific content in a way we never thought possible thirty years ago. Invaluable. And some of the garbage will fall to the bottom like it always does.
Great will rise to the top yet some of it will get buried and hopefully the new media generation Bellows of the world will dig them out and feed them to us everywhere we are no matter where we are in the world. Even Jarvis who's a fan of more choice and keeping everything open agrees that Google can't and shouldn't do it all. He says, "we will still need curators, editors, teachers -- and ad salespeople -- to find and nurture the best."
New media isn't just about social communities and search engines. Twitter will not be Twitter as we know it in fifty years nor will Facebook, our blogs or YouTube. But we'll be fed the best of the best by someone or a set of someones in whatever way and wherever we want it. Customized, filtered and highly personalized will be king. It will have to be.
November 20, 2008
PC Magazine Goes All Digital
PC Magazine announces that it goes all digital. No more print!! It was bound to come as the publishing world goes online, but for loyal subscribers who have been tuning into this Ziff Davis flagship publication for more than two decades, it will be a sad day.
The January 2009 issue (Volume 28, Issue 1) of PC Magazine will be the last printed edition. Editor Lance Ulanoff writes this morning: "In addition to our popular network of Websites, which includes our centerpiece, PCMag.com, as well as ExtremeTech, blogs like Gearlog and AppScout, and audio and video content that includes PCMag Radio, Cranky Geeks and DL.TV, we'll offer PC Magazine Digital Edition to all of our print subscribers."
November 03, 2008
Mainstream Media on this Election
Related to this election and all things as grandiose, Alan Mutter writes about this year and what it means for Americans and for the media now and down the road.
"The 2008 presidential election likely will go down in history as the last hurrah for the mainstream media when it comes to its influence over national politics." Read more.
September 25, 2008
PR & Bloggers: Remembering the Basics
The Bloggers & PR session at BlogWorldExpo talked about "unlearning" everything we ever knew about PR. I don't think the industry needs to unlearn everything if they learned PR the right way the first time around. In other words, the R in PR is about relations........relationships.
This has always been what PR has been about. It's never been about press releases and blasting press and bloggers. The problem is that over the years, we are dealing with more and more audiences and its hard to keep up.
The underlying theme was "take a step back." Think about what you need to achieve over the long haul. Lee Odden who joined the panel at the last minute, asks the audience, why increase SEO just to increase SEO? Bring clients back to something concrete - what do they need to accomplish? When you figure that out, use other mediums that are available to you today you didn't have ten years ago, i.e,. audio, video, etc."
And as for blog traffic and who to reach, try to get your clients not just to think about blog traffic. Sure, maybe your client doesn't advertise on a blog with low traffic but if you don't think of them as a media outlet, but more of an influencer 'channel,' then the pieces fall into place and start to make sense -- over time. There's also social media optimization. What about how you'll show up in social search?
Liz Strauss stands up and makes the funniest comment of the day. "I want a relationship not a one-link stand." People were tweeting it in real-time; they had the Twitter screen behind the panel so we could simultaneously tweet, email, take notes, look at everyone else's comments and listen. And we wonder why we have attention overload.
We also talked about how blogs are moving to media platforms, Technorati being the easiest to point to. Chris Brogan says, "if a blog is trying to become a platform," and used Om's acquisitions as an example, "you can't treat them as just a blogger anymore."
Then there's Second Life. I didn't think this would continue to get into the conversation but it still does. I had lunch with a former client's partner a few weeks ago and now, she's becoming a Second Life marketing tiger large companies can hire out. At the end of the day, at least with my existing customers, I can't see how they'll get more customers from Second Life, but there are certain industries where it may pay off.
As I've always said to clients, pay attention to the industry and how it operates. Experiment. Understand your customer. Be focused and targeted.
What about how bloggers are part of the problem during this transition? Says Brogan, "a lot of bloggers don't understand the business problems." Journalists often didn't either, but over time, they learned that PR folks, the ones who understand the R in PR, actually added value to their job.
Creative and smart PR pros never just pitched a story, they offered advice, tips for other stories they might be working on, relevant and useful stats even if they didn't relate to their client and generally kept a dialogue going. The smart ones realized that they might just be working with them for a decade, or longer, and the smart journalists realized the same thing.
Not that many bloggers make their sole livelihood on churning out stories on tight deadlines the way journalists of old did. No wonder they complain about PR pitches. It's just not the way its done in the new world and most just see a new blog as yet another news outlet that needs ideas, including things pertaining to their client's product or service.
It's no different than the lessons from PR 101 - understand what the blogger cares about, make sure its relevant and keep it short baby. Brogan says, "give me a three liner." Jason Falls agrees and adds, "brevity is paramount." It's the twitt pitch in 140 characters or less, one of the reasons Twitter is growing in popularity. We're simply on information overload.
Other key takeaways from the panelists:
--treat pitches as pre-pitches, i.e., a few lines only
--don't send releases and offer a CEO interview around a news announcement
--it should be about the relationship not the pitch
--if you use the bcc field, you're an idiot
--think micro-PR (use brevity and clarity)
--think about the takeaway before you open your mouth and create your pitch
--use comments as a way to pitch elsewhere on the web
--look at the content, even if its topically in the right category, it still may not be relevant (news vs product reviews vs issues oriented only)
--use social media tools but only when relevant, i.e., in other words, don't use facebook or twitter just because you think you should use a new social media tool
--observe what bloggers are talking about in categories you and your clients care about
--blog or comment about the blogger and a post you have an interest in (many bloggers have egos and google their names often, so they'll likely hear what you have to say if you include them in your own online conversations)
--be an expert in the market where you're playing
Chris Brogan talks about the human factor. "Be human and think global," he says. Think collectively as an industry - we're all working together. As my grandfather used to constantly remind me, "what goes around comes around." It applies to pretty much everything.
On releases in general: while we all still do them, even those of us who know the format needs to change, we can't always humanize them in the way we want to. Sometimes, clients simply won't let us. Releases need to be more conversational and informal and yet sometimes we're simply stuck between a rock and a hard place when corporate gets involved, or worse, the lawyers.
Message to bloggers: Jason says, "tell PR people what they're doing wrong. I realize it takes time, but it will help the whole industry." Hear hear Jason.
Sure, its frustrating. I've had to train people at agencies and some don't pick it up, even after years of working with, let's call them content influencers. It doesn't mean they're idiots, it means that its likely not their strength and they're better off at events, strategy or writing. Some of the best journalists I've worked with over the years took the time in the early days to give me feedback and tell me what worked and what didn't. Feedback serves them in the long run too - the same applies to bloggers.
On the future of PR: I'd say its a re-emphasis on the R in PR (as it was always meant to be - the role of a great PR pro isn't going to go away anytime soon). Additionally, PR will wear the hat of marketing more and more, including viral social media programs, events, CRM/customer relations, web marketing, branding and SEO.
Always remember that you're in it for the long-term even if you're not. Think and behave that way. It helps the industry as a whole and serves the entire communications process between PR and marketing pros, executives, journalists, bloggers and vendors.