The saying goes that you can win the war but not the peace. You only have to look at Iraq to see the truth in that. I have been wondering if Apple may also face a similar fate after it decided to take legal action against the bloggers that revealed some of its recent product news a bit earlier than planned. Apple duly won the first round of the legal battle but of course the case has been appealed. While victorious they have outraged many Apple loyalists, which let’s face it isn’t a good thing for a brand known for its cult like following. I’m sure Apple’s view is that it has to fight for what it believes to be right but the cost of this suit could be a lot greater than the legal fees.
Blogging has emerged as either the biggest change to the way the media works or just web sites with a bit more personality depending on who you talk to. For the PR profession the challenge is how to deal with this channel. Should agencies and in-house groups have people focused on blogs like HP and Cisco I believe now have? Or should blogging become something embedded into the way everyone does PR? This is of course reminiscent of the challenge the dot com revolution posed. Back in the 90s lots of PR firms set up dot com divisions, or even separate businesses in a bid to win lots of dot com clients. Of course these divisions and businesses were no more than a facade. The people in them knew little more about eCommerce than any other tech PR folk but at the time it was what the market wanted so they did it. The question right now is should the profession do the same thing for blogs? Looking back at the dot com PR era there are some interesting lessons to learn:
1. Most dot com agencies didn’t develop specific dot com products. Instead of using the Internet to create new types of PR products most simply adapted traditional products. Ask yourself, can you think of five new ways to do PR because of blogs?
2. The skills of most dot com agencies didn’t really change. Instead of hiring a new type of consultant with a new skill set, most agencies simply transferred people to the new agency. This is of course why most of the dot com divisions never really stood out. Again, ask the question, should you hire a different kind of person to focus on blogs?
3. The business models of most dot com agencies didn’t change. Sure some agencies took stock instead of cash (most of course now regret that) but that wasn’t a new model. A new model would have been a totally new pricing and staffing model. I think you can guess the question that comes here.
What does all this say? It says that unless as agencies we really plan on offering a totally new kind of service for those companies tackling the blogsphere then we shouldn’t even consider the option of creating a new division or agency. Instead we should simply add the blogsphere to our audiences. If, however, we are prepared to offer something truly different then I can see every argument for the creation of a new vehicle to offer a new way of communicating.
I’ve had a few compaints that I don’t update my blog enough. Well I do update it at least weekly but for some reason it seems my blog has become stuck in some time warp and to the outside world it has become mired somewhere back in February. I’m told this is probably just engines like Google and Yahoo that fail to crawl through blogs frequently enough. I was also told it could simply be that people have realized my blog isn’t worth updating. I was also advised to use pingomatic which I’ve now done. Whatever the problem is, I’d like people to know that my blog is still alive. I do, of course, promise to make sure nothing interesting appears here.
Silicon Valley is an odd place. There are places like Portola Valley where there are more patents filed per capita than anywhere else on the planet. There are places like Atherton where house prices are such that even lotto winners can’t buy in to their dream house. There’s Sand Hill road where Venture Capitalists and Investment banks pay a premium not to have any noticeable amenities other than good access to I280. It is home to industry icons including John Chambers, Craig Barrett, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs. Yet for all the brains and the money that are crammed in to the thin strip of land that goes south from San Francisco to San Jose, the ingredient that appears to be most valuable is (drum role please) optimism.
I first moved to the Valley just as the bubble burst (no I am not to blame). Yet even as house prices dropped and the layoffs mounted talk was of the turn around, the next wave, the new thing. Everyone I spoke to said it was a correction but don’t worry things will sort themselves out. It seems that optimism was often misplaced as the turn around has taken far longer than those conversations suggested. However, that optimism never seemed to wane. Instead it seemed to grow, even though the tech industry every one either worked in or worked around seemed to be struggling.
This wonderful optimism is evident in the series the San Jose Mercury News is writing on life after the bubble burst. While I know some in the Valley hate these pieces (in part because they don’t want reminding of the dark days), I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to get a handle on the Valley. They may of course be a touch self serving and optimistic but hey this is Silicon Valley, what do you expect?
When I started working in the tech sector in the early 80’s the dinosaurs (as they were known) still roamed the land. These were old style giants of computing such as Unisys, NCR and the old style IBM. These companies did everything. They made their own chips, designed their own hardware and networks; and wrote their own software operating systems and applications. Within five years the old order was being replaced by what the Economist described as the ‘New Computer Industry.’ This industry was made up of specialists. These were smaller more focused businesses like Intel, Microsoft and at the time Novell and Lotus. They each did one thing really well and brought about a revolution in the industry that brought the dinosaurs to their knees. Of course years later the so-called ‘new companies’ are becoming the giants.
I can’t help but see a parallel in the entertainment/media industry. For years we’ve had the giants of the media world. Companies like Disney and AOL Time Warner. In recent years, however, we’ve seen that thanks to technology just about anyone can set up a media business. It’s now common for a low budget movie to at least get nominated for an Oscar and we only have to look at the troubles the TV networks gave faced in recent years to see that this world is a changing. So who are the Microsoft’s and Intel’s of the media world? I don’t know and I wish I did as I’d surely buy their stock!