Is Twitter killing blogs?

I used to blog quite frequently but lately my blogging has tailed off while my tweeting has risen. This got me thinking about the impact of Twitter on blogs. Objectively Twitter is a great way to promote a blog. It’s also a great way to get across the key points that may otherwise have been in a blog in less than a 140 characters. This has two types of impact:

1. People seem to be abandoning their blogs in favor of tweeting or posting a comment of Facebook.

2. People are using Twitter to get their news and perspective rather than blogs. Twitter gives you a readers digest version of the blog. It cuts to the chase marvelously and makes savage editors out of all of its contributors. In other words people are often simply reading lots of small prices of insight instead of a few longer blog posts.

I’ve heard some people describe Twitter as a micro blogging site. If you agree with that I guess blogging is being replaced by micro blogging.

I have yet to find hard stats on how Twitter has affected the number of blogs out there. I suspect commercial blogs are still on the rise. Whereas personal blogs are disappearing as their writers become tweeters and their readers become Twitter followers. If anyone has robust data on this I’d love to see it. Until then, I’ll just Tweet this blog post.


Should PR agencies hire experience or raw talent?

The race is on for agencies to build their digital assets.  Get it right and PR firms will grow faster than they have in decades.  Get it wrong and they’ll have a struggle on their hands.  So as agency heads look at their talent base and their potential new hires, they have a tough question to answer.  Do they hire experienced marketing professionals who have some digital skills or the typically younger, more digitally literate who have only limited experience?  Sadly for the more experienced group, the answer appears to be that agencies are trending towards hiring younger digerati, rather than grey hairs.  This in turn is reshaping agency structures, product offerings, and pricing.  To twist an old saying, we are who we hire.  With agencies moving from a classic pyramid model towards something that looks more like a coat hanger, the opportunities for today’s experienced professionals are becoming fewer by the day.  Is this fair?  Probably not but this drive to hire younger, cheaper talent is in part the result of another force, not just digital.  Client procurement departments have acted like sand paper on PR budgets for years and have increasingly made it more desirable to hire doers over strategists.

Most agencies are racing to build a ‘new’agency on top of their existing one.  While they do need some experience to prevent the thing from collapsing in heap, what they need most is staff that can get on and ‘do’ at a price point that makes the investments the agencies are making viable.  This effectively forces agencies to hire lower cost staff.  These of course tend to be kids from college who have no real experience but can tell you anything you want to know about Facebook and Twitter.  For this generation, SEO is a form of grammer and html was a choice alongside Spanish and French at school.  Given a brand is now defined by the size and strength of its social network, it’s hardly surprising that many agencies will value these skills over someone who has known the editors at a business publication for a decade.

So is it all doom and gloom for us oldies?  Far from it.  We can start and build these new agencies, they do after all need some adult supervision.  We can also explore the boundaries of owned, earned and paid media.  These are the places where real value lies and where experience can really come to the fore.  But we cannot assume that because we have decades of experience that our futures are secure.  We have to bring something of value to the transition to digital.  Identifying what this is is crucial and could yet save the careers of many.  We are in an era of marketing where the value of experience is trending downward.  In years to come that will of course change as digital becomes the norm but for now the digital natives are set to become the new leaders.  That may not be what people want to hear but our industry is, like many, Darwinian.  In our case the fittest are the digerati.


Is Digital PR different for B2B than B2C?

The short answer is: yes and no.  Very helpful I know.  Before I explain, let me first say I am an unashamed fan of digital.  I think the way that it has transformed all forms of marketing is exciting.  After all, it offers brands a whole new way to create markets and sell products.  But I fear that little attention has been paid to differentiating the use of digital for reaching consumers versus business decision makers (BDMs).  Indeed it’s as if digital makes everyone a consumer and therefore regardless of whether you marketing shampoo or web servers, you should offer customers the same broad strategies and the same types of tactics.  I take issue with this.  Consumers have different reasons for buying your products and or services than BDMs.  When you market to consumers you are trying to get them to buy your products and feel good about your brand.  When you market to BDMs you are, more often than not, trying to convince them that your products will help them sell more products.  Perhaps the best way to help people think about this divide is to imagine a consumer campaign and then a B2B campaign.  If you were doing digital comms for a consumer brand such as a car you might:

1.  Monitor the conversations taking place around that type of car and decide if you wanted to join these conversations or start your own.

2.  You would create content (blogs, podcasts, videos etc) that created an emotional and or intellectual connection between your brand and consumers

3.  You would build car enthusiast communities that connected your consumers to each other and to your brand (you would also join existing communities).  This is where Facebook and Twitter etc come in.

4.  You would optimize all the content you’d already produced and were producing so that it was easy for consumers to find and so that it helped you drive people towards a place where they can purchase the car that was after all at the center of the campaign.

In a B2B world all of the above apply.  However, if you now imagine that the product you were trying market was headlights that go into that car, then you create very different content, join radically different conversations, build different communities and so on.  This is partly because the communities you are dealing with are a lot smaller but also because, quite clearly, the people you are trying to reach are interested in very different things.  Of course good B2B campaigns also try and reach the end consumer to create some pull for their products through the channel.  This is called ingredient branding and is an approach Intel has used for years, with its Intel inside campaign.  Companies that run these kids of campaigns can easily utilize digital as a channel and people like Intel do just that.  I guess the difference that digital makes is that it’s actually possible for people to run ingredient branding campaigns using digital at far lower costs than they would have in the old world.  Intel has spent many millions (many, many in fact) on this campaign over the years.  This helped them lock out competitors and build market share.  But they were/are a rich company with a lot of cash to throw at this challenge.  Small companies can’t afford Intel-like ad budgets but they can afford to create their own podcasts, content for the web, YouTube video and host a Facebook community aimed at the end-consumers.  Put another way, they are less budget constrained and more ‘make it interesting’ constrained.  After all, if you are  a maker of car headlights, you may need to get pretty creative to make consumers love your brand or your products.  But if creativity is the only challenge, I know plenty of PR agencies who’d say:  “bring it on.”


The Media Still Matter

The popular view is that traditional media is dying as we all stop reading the newspapers and instead pass our time on Twitter and Facebook.  For the generation that grew up with the Internet, the idea of reading traditional print media and watching the 6 o’clock news is an anathema.  They get their news and perspective from a raft of sources: friends, Internet friends (bloggers, communities etc), people they follow on Twitter and of course online media.  But it would be wrong to say that the media’s role has been relegated to a bit part.  The media still fuels the vast majority of twitter feeds for the adult world for example.  Indeed without traditional media, Twitter and Facebook would be very dull places.  Sadly the direct consumption of that media has dropped as people opt for the 140 character summary.  This is unlikely to change very soon.  Society now expects us to cram more and more and more in to our day.  In turn we are evolving as entertainment, news and perspective consumers into a population that expects to have its content delivered in a concentrated form.  We expect the middle east crisis, Iraq, Afghanistan and the latest jobless report to be summarized into a sentence or two.  We may be willing to look beyond the headline but a 5000 word article is just not going to be read, unless it is an amazing read, regardless of its import.  For journalists this is a nightmare come true.  These people were/are trained to dissect the news and give us the important perspectives.  They don’t even try to do that in 140 characters, or even 140 words in most cases.  But the future of journalism relies on their ability to adapt to this evolution in consumer behavior.  Some journalists get this and are embracing the opportunities online brings.  Many are simply ignoring the winds of change and are hoping that consumers will simply go back to the good ol’ days, or at least their publishers are.  This isn’t going to happen just like we haven’t all ditched our cars and gone back to riding horses. So, the media must adapt and adapt fast.  Here are some of my thoughts on how it could adapt:

1.  Fragment even faster.  The media has become fragmented but instead of fighting it it could champion it.  Instead of subscribing Forbes we can subscribe to Quentin Hardy.  Instead of making the magazine the icon, make the reporter the rock star.

2.  Create a new content model.  We currently have news, news analysis, features etc.  This model hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years.  Why not have news analysis pieces and features that are 200 words long but link to ten separate features that are also 200 words in length?  In other words make a 2000 word feature a collection of 200 words articles that fit together.

3.  Charge by the article not by the magazine.  We have all got used to iTunes and paying 99c or $1.29 for a track.  Why not offer news related content on the same basis from rock star reporters?

4.  Personalize it.  For over a decade the media has talked about making news more personal.  It hasn’t really happened.  My homepage gathers a bunch of news from traditional sources.  It doesn’t to appear to have learned anything about what I like or don’t like.  At least half the content gets ignored and much of the rest gets only a cursory view.  It’s time for the media to REALLY act in this area.

My view is simple.  The media has all the assets to succeed.  It has talent and content.  It simply needs to rethink its channel strategy.  We all care about the media and we all want the media to succeed but that doesn’t mean we always will.  A diminishing role for the media is a realistic prospect but it isn’t inevitable.

PS – I just realized that most people stopped reading (even if they started) some 3000 characters ago.


Can PR firms survive without traditional media?

In the last year news about traditional media has been all bad.  Circulations of newspapers and magazines are dropping like stones and TV networks are struggling to attract viewers. Much of this decline has been blamed on the emergence of the Internet as an alternative way for people to spend their time.  So with traditional media getting ever smaller, competition for space increases (given the number of companies who want to be on the cover of a magazine doesn’t decline), yet the value of that space also declines as it is seen by fewer people.  This all suggests that agencies who rely on traditional media are going to really struggle.  But in truth I don’t know an agency that does rely on traditional media anymore.  When you think about that it’s amazing that our industry has undergone such change in such a shot time.

Given this situation you may come to the conclusion that traditional media no longer matters and that any smart PR business will plan for it being a tiny fraction of its revenue in the coming years.  This is where I take issue.  I think traditional media is like many other businesses that for a long time had no apparent rival and then all of a sudden they wake up and realize that they are in danger of going out of business because of some rival that simply crept up on them.  But like most of those businesses they start to re-invent themselves AND a new natural equilibrium emerges.  I think we are still searching for that equilibrium right now but I’m convinced it will come.  Traditional media isn’t going to disappear it is going to evolve.  Plus there will become a point when a hard core audience will emerge that is much harder to erode.  I think we are still some way form that point but within the next few years I believe we’ll get there.

I predict we’ll get to a place where we have a smaller traditional media but one that is no longer traditional.  The essence of traditional is largely the way the media is delivered.  Newspapers are delivered daily, news shows air at certain times etc.  Thanks to DVRs and the Internet the delivery mechanism has been challenged and largely destroyed.  That leaves the other mainstay of the traditional media world: content.  Traditional media is guided by largely unwritten rules about the way its content is generated.  In the case of news there is an expectation that that news will be accurate.  We don’t always have the same expectations of news that appears on social media sites though.  Equally, traditional news has always been a one way dialog.  Now that’s changing, with many online news sites encouraging feedback and comment.  In other words traditional media is embracing social media tools to stem the tide of readers departing.  But you guys all know this.  So why am I writing this?  Well I guess I want to make the point that we are in a content and distribution war in which the best content with the best distribution will win.  In that world there is no reason why traditional media has to lose, it simply has to adapt AND accept that people have a lot more choice than they did ten years ago.  That means they’ll never have the circulations, viewerships or listeners they once did.  Instead they’ll have to take a share of people’s attention.  But as we all know, one ‘share’ can be a lot more valuable than another.

These are horrible days for traditional media and its likely that it will go through a LOT more pain and change before it hits bottom.  But I’m convinced it will hit bottom and when it does find its role, PR will find it still has a very important partner.  So don’t abandon traditional media just yet!


Why social media is a measure of media consumption

Yesterday I wrote about how social media is increasing the value of traditional media.  It occurred to me today that social media also offers a great way to determine the level to which news from traditional media is ‘consumed.’  For example a news story that gets tweeted by 50 people has been ‘consumed’ by those 50, not just noticed.  If you follow this logic you could create an interesting set of metrics that look at the degree to which certain news items are blogged, tweeted etc.  You could then look to see if certain publications, or certain editors, or certain topics score better than others.  I appreciate that like all metrics there would be ways to influence the results but I suspect it would create a very useful way of assessing the power of media sources over time.


Notable PR blogger seeks job

Seems a notable PR blogger that writes under a nom de plume in the US is looking for a job in Europe. They’re presumably hoping to cash in on their social media prowess by helping beef up the skills of the firms over there. There is a challenge with this though. Good PR blogs, like many good industry blogs, are irreverent and tend to poke agencies in the eye when they do or say something stupid. In truth they poke at agencies most of the time, whether or not they’ve been stupid because that’s what make them an interesting read. In other words, the very skill that makes them good at their job as a blogger makes them harder to hire in the industry they watch. After all, if you are agency X and have been roasted by a blog for the way you handled something, are you likely to want to hire the blogger? The answer is going to be no in most cases as quite simply most agencies would struggle to admit that the blogger was 100% correct. That’s because they weren’t 100% right… 85% maybe but not 100%. This is of course a shame but it’s human nature even for thick skinned PR folk. Of course I’m not suggesting that bloggers soften their style so they can get agency jobs. It would be a shame to lose the edge that these blogs have developed just so the poeple writing them find it easier to get a job in PR. Instead it probably calls for these blogs to be prepared to be a little more willing to listen and for the agencies to accept they’re not perfect.


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