Social Media Press-Releases – part 2

Earlier I’d written on the social media press release – essentially a site designed as a repository for sharable clips, images and story components that can be used by journalists and bloggers.

A few days ago Maggie Fox released her company’s version, providing details of the internal lay out and the elements that should be included. That engendered quite a bit of insightful discussion (here, and here).

As a template Digital Snippets hit all the right core content notes – it includes extensive RRS feeds for easy dissemination of updated information, and interestingly includes embeddable widgets for the true fans to add to their sites. Each page includes contact information to corporate communication people giving story writers the contacts if they want to expand a story through a specific line of questions.

All this is good – but at I can’t help thinking that while this makes corporate PR more effective – it still treats PR as a separate part of communication strategy – at the very time that consumers are integrating messages where ever they find them – sometimes across brands. Just look at what is happening with Unilever over its AXE and Dove brands. (here and here)

It also doesn’t appear to leverage the knowledge of social media firms to design creative that builds on their understanding of viral transmission and social sharing. While it’s fine to centralize creative developed elsewhere for social media use I believe that the true value will emerge when social media releases can create their own creative to both tell the story and encourage viral spread.

While not developed as PR its hard not to think that creative like the Travelers IQ Challenge developed by Ottawa’s TravelPod (and seen on hundreds of blogs, papers and social network sites) hasn’t been contributed to stories about the company (it has) or driven traffic to both their brands.

It also would be nice to see these sites more fully integrated into the sponsor’s web properties – rather than echoing them as they do now.  Social media sites should also being promoted with conventional promotion techniques.

Finally having real time components such as live conference or video calls included would add to the immediacy of a release and creating urgency around spreading the news.

All of this is to say that by dealing with media releases as system – which the social media release and Digital Snippets does is an important step. The real value though is going to come from building the specific skills of social media experts into corporate communications – and empowering them with the tools and creative to tell the story in new ways and across more platforms.

A Local Radio Conversation

Last week I was talking to the sales manager of an Ottawa radio station about developing an online ad strategy and improving their online experience for listeners. It was an interesting discussion with someone I learned was the devils advocate.

First – and lets be frank – the stations current web site is horrible. Something the station (or at least the manager) freely admits. It’s not even at the level of the atrocious bunch that Mel Taylor links to in his post on bad radio sites.

I agree the stations demographic, 45+ isn’t the easiest target for web strategy, and Ottawa is a pretty conservative town. Still there are solutions that don’t cost a lot and can increase the stations connection with both advertisers and listeners.

First though you’ve got to have some targets for your stations web site – otherwise why even pay the hosting fee. Then you’re got to develop plans to reach those goals and choose metrics that reflect progress and monitor them – regularly.

For this station I suggested choosing one of the following for the ad side:

 increased revenue/client
 increased wins in competitive bids
 more requests for information from new advertisers

On the listener side you’ve got to build page views before you can hope for any dialogue or user generated content. Given the demographic of the audience and Ottawa as a tourist destination I’d focus on episodic events and festivals around which to build web presence and connection.

The advantage is that from a development perspective an episodic approach is easier to manage initially than the continuous release methodology used by seasoned web properties. The other reason is episodic events tie nicely to the site goals. They are major advertising events for merchants so the station benefits from this increased spending with a new property targeted to the event. On the listener side they tend to be time of high socialization providing numerous opportunities for information transfer, contest tie-ins and user comment. The key is to ensure that this web material becomes part of the on-air dialogue both to promote the site and to transfer the personal link between announcer and audience to the web.

The final advantage of this approach is that it builds evergreen material that can be used year after year – freeing the development team to concentrate on the inter-episodic period the following year – as the web property moves to a continues release model.

Of course the devils in the details. And to understand that stations need to become familiar with the trends and approaches that all media are using to integrate the web into their core property and the issues associated with them  – and that will be the subject of a upcoming posts.

(Web) Video killed the TV Star

With apologies to Buggles – whose 1979 hit remembers the golden era of radio while celebrating the unrelenting force of technology to re-shape media.

It’s TV’s turn now.  Web & Social video are set to reshape both media. 

Locally stealth start-ups Overlay.tv and FaveQuest are playing in this area, as are local content producers like RaceDV. What’s happening locally is echoed elsewhere with video producers and aggregators/sharing sites opening daily it seems.  Each of them focused at different areas of the video sharing stack.

Video Application Stack

As everyone who’s looked at this area knows, viewer ship is exploding and with it ad revenue, and influnce.

Ad Revenue

In fact some commentators believe that the web will overtake TV as the major source of ad spend. For that to happen the web has to attract brand and product positioning advertising – not just transactional advertising.

Video presents some particular problems though – even for transactional ads. For ads to be effective they need to be embedded with the video – not on the same page as it. That’s why Viddler’s ad tagging technology is so promising – it puts the ads right in the video stream. Its potential impact on TV is nicely reviewed on Philadelphian Mel Taylor’s site (Philadelphia is home to Viddler and a city that is turning it’s self into an interactive media hub)

[Vodpod id=ExternalVideo.441477&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Viddler’s original  technology – in video commenting is incredibly powerful because it allows community to develop even as the video spreads from site to site through viral embedding. The ad technology is a logical extension of that.

What also isn’t clear to me is the business model – because I believe they are focusing at the wrong point in the stack. As I see it they believe these features will drive people to their site both to publish and consume video. I’m not so sure. I believe that web video will, like blogging before it, will move from individual user generated content to pro-am and organizations dominating niches.

These sites will be in direct competition for advertisers and viewers – not just with other web based services but with TV as well.

As Viddler demonstrates for ad delivery, and RaceDV does for niche user generated content, the advantage the web services have is that they innovate on numerous levels that TV doesn’t stand chance – because, as the Buggle’s sang “we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far”.

A Beacon for Media IT

Yesterday FaceBook announced Beacon – an ad widget for eCommerce sites that asks the purchaser if they want the purchase in their FaceBook feed. One click and you’ve promoted the site and product while linking it to the reputation of the purchaser.

What’s slick about this is it removes the last shred of doubt that content is needed to deliver advertising. As Google has shown with search and FaceBook hopes work for Beacon – Context works just fine.

Of course that’s obvious – except to media companies that systematically under invest in IT and technology innovation. It’s not as if they have to develop the services themselves – they can do what most of them do for content – which is typically buy and distribute – not make.

Even the internal processes are similar – match audience interests with content/service, and program distribution to keep audience within the network if possible – or provide hooks so they return frequently.

What’s missing is the deep understanding of IT infrastructure and evolution – and a belief that investing in it can produce revenue every bit as good as investing in, and protecting content.

Until that happens media companies will remain protective about content and worried about declining ad revenue as it shifts to companies that understand a new model is here.

Axe the Evolution

Unilever is a huge company with many impressive brands under its control. 

It’s got a firm grasp of alternative and interactive marketing techniques – in fact its Dove brand is currently basking in the limelight for its Evolution and Onslaught campaigns for Real Beauty.

What’s interesting is those same techniques are being applied to another Unilever brand – Axe – whose brand message couldn’t be more opposed to the Dove message as the attached video shows.

Don’t get me wrong Unilever is a superb marketer. Its products have such strong brand identity, and that their marketing efforts so in tune with the intended market that they can create new categories as they did with Axe, or redefine them as they did with Dove.

What is going to be interesting to see how consumers react to the cognitive dissonance between the brand messages!

My guess is that Dove will lose some of its luster – and that Unilever will learn that interactive marketing cuts across brands, and therefore has to me managed with that in mind. 

Ch-Ch-Changes

Susan Mernit has an interesting post on the changes in the blogoshere over the past two years. What she notes is:

– the rise of the multi-writer commercial blog,
– and a shift to breaking news instead of commentary and observation
– the declining status and links to single (previously influential) bloggers

In one sense it is part of a trend that saw new media entities arise out of vacuum created by traditional media’s failure to grasp the opportunity of blogging – but at another it signals a shift back to a few outlets of authority driving more of the discussion. It also suggests that fewer people are exposed to the depth and diversity of analysis that was so prominent two years ago.

Of course there are a lot of (good) voices out there but as the number of blogs rises, as happened tremendously in the past two years, and media style blogs dominate the top searches it becomes harder to insightful voices or posts to attract and grow the audience they deserve.

This is a pity – because the democratization of analytical discussion broadened peoples thinking and contributed to the belief that a unique web culture was emerging – that was international in scope, intellectual in orientation and ideologically libertarian in persuasion. Opportunity was everywhere. 

The other trend that she hints at is the rise of advertising as fuel for the explosion of commercial blogs and as decoration, and a modicum of income, on many more. This transition, along with observations on ones changing rank, is teaching us all the tools and vocabulary of media – and in so doing is redefining our relationship with what we increasingly think of as our audience.

What is striking is that beneath the surface the changes in blogging over the past two years have taught us that we are our own media – and that will have profound effects for not just for those that actively blog – but for media and society.

Online Advertising Consolidation

Jeff Jarvis notes that Google controls 40% of online advertising, and that their share of online advertising is growing faster than online advertising as a whole. In a world where online services are increasingly monetized by ad revenue – this concentrates incredible power in Google’s ad serving algorithms.

It’s not hard to understand why they are growing at such a clip – first the search market is tightly tied to the transactional ad spending – and that’s still growing rapidly as merchants discover the power of on-line ad to drive people to their site/store. Google is also one of the few companies that make buying ads or listing inventory easy – allowing both sides to scale in relation to each other. Finally contextual placement means assures the clicks that reinforce every party involved.

Some authors see the transactional ad market as a tiny sliver of the potential online ad market – noting that traditional media especially TV still collects the lion’s share of ad revenue and it is mostly brand (value / awareness) advertising. In fact it was only this summer that internet advertising surpassed radio – the media that came closest to transactional advertising for an age where in-store activity drove transactions. And radio in the smallest of the ad media – a third smaller than local TV and less than half the size of newspaper’s ad share.

ad-share-by-media-type.JPG

Magazines – another media form that offers advertisers content that can be relevant to their ads – is more than 2 times as large as internet advertising – while national TV is more than 4 times as large – and national + local TV is almost 6 times bigger. Taken together the entire internet has just 7.8% of all advertising spend – and Google ‘just’ 3.1% of the overall market.

ad share

 (Note both Tables from http://www.tns-mi.com/news/09112007.htm)

 Jarvis is right, “We need new networks that identify and create new marketplaces for new value — greater value than the coincidence of words on a page, which Google sells. “ This should be the domain of ad networks – but if my recent experience is an example they are not stepping up to the plate.

Ad Networks and traditional media have an opportunity to act as an interface between Agencies, who develop and place brand advertising for national customers, and small web or multi-platform publishers. This will be increasingly important as consumers shift their media attention from traditional media to web driven media. As Google learned the value is in the relationship between the advertiser and the content publisher – and that’s more difficult to automate for brand advertising because the content of the entire site becomes important.

The problem is that Ad Networks and traditional media have not automated enough of the qualification process for web publishers – so site traffic has to be substantial before they can afford to describe a sites market to advertisers or target ads specifically enough to that the revenue from them is better that is available from Google.

That has to change if Google’s online dominance is to be challanged.