Friday, December 12, 2008

CQ Alumni Are Awesome

Always a good day when you hear about a CQ alumnus doing well. Today's news is that David Rapp is starting at 1105 Government Media as the Editor-in-Chief.

Read the story at The Dorobeck Insider: "FCW Gets a New Editor: David Rapp...and the new marketing person is official"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Random Linkage

Bill Bishop has been writing a great series of posts at, analyzing the polling and results of the election. He theory has been that there is a "big sort" going on as people move to areas populated with people of similar beliefs. Liberals to the coasts, conservatives moving south, etc. His last post reviews the election results: No, We Didn’t: America Hasn't Changed as Much as Tuesday’s Results Would Indicate. Here is a quote:

Political campaigns these days aren't designed to change minds. Candidates target voters who are already likely to support them-and then the campaigns feed these voters more of what they want to hear. That's a strategy that is all about polarization, and it works.
Switching gears, Axl Rose released the latest Guns-n-Roses album this week. I was going into my senior year in high school when Appetite for Destruction came out- it's literally the theme music for the year I lived in London. Every time I hear those riffs, I feel like kicking something just go the sheer aggressive fun of kicking something. I haven't bought the new album yet, but the reviews have been rather slashing (lol). Here is a quote from SPIN:

Guns N' Roses, 'Chinese Democracy'

An outrageously overblown pop-metal extravaganza, Chinese Democracy feels like a perfect epitaph for all the absurdity and nonsense of the George W. Bush era -- one final blowout before Principal Obama takes our idiocy away.

The music toggles between two primary modes: grinding industrial rock and keys-and-strings balladry. (Imagine Rammstein covering Wings, basically.)
And in the, closing the barn door after the horse has run away, GM is getting rid of its jets, after getting skewered in the press. Truly, the management of the car companies must be some of the stupidest people on earth.

Lastly, has a great post, A Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis. Lol.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My take on the Motrin debacle

No news to anyone interested in PR these days, but Motrin screwed the pooch over the past week. How can any company be taken by surprise by a negative reaction to a new campaign nowadays? Consumers are active, vocal and organized. You might want to run your messages by them before rolling out a campaign. Get their feedback- you know, find out what their pain points are (he he).

Here is an excellent list of things to do, from

Of the many blog posts published by communicators and pundits with opinions, one of the best I’ve seen comes from Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang and lessons learned:

  • Always test your campaign with a small segment first
  • Always have staff on hand to be prepared to respond during the weekend
  • Don’t launch a campaign right before the weekend unless you’re prepared to respond
  • The participants have the power, so participate
  • For better or for worse, more influencers are talking about Motrin than ever before

I’d add one in the middle:

  • Ask yourself: what is our plan of action if a viral effect develops around our brand/product/service, especially out of our normal business hours?

But it’s the last two of Jeremiah’s bullet points that are especially important.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

LinkedIn's Applications

Hi all, it's been a while since I last posted. With the market gyrating and Sequoia's famous powerpoint presentation scaring the bejesus out of everyone (btw, you should read this is you haven't already), I've been busy focusing on new business development activities and developing a new marketing initiative. I believe in the theory that companies that can invest in marketing to maintain positive cash flow and compete effectively in a downturn can take market share and drive some competitors out of business.

One company that seems to have the same approach is LinkedIn. They announced the launch of their applications platform today. I've been very impressed with the groups feature they added earlier this year. In terms of traffic to my website, and generating conversations, it's the best, most immediate return on my investment of time, I find.

I'm eager to explore the apps they currently offer and I'm excited to see what apps are developed down the road. My concern however is that LinkedIn will have to gradually loosen the restrictions on contacting people you don't know. Now, any email you receive is going to be legitimate and, most likely, worthwhile to read. It would be a shame if they killed the golden goose by letting LinkedIn turn into a spam machine.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oscar Fuster! ePok! Straight to the Point podcast!!

Yes, it's very exciting! Last week, I was lucky enough to sit down with Oscar Fuster, the VP of Marketing and Strategic Alliances at ePok, an access management software company based in Bethesda, MD. Oscar is an experienced marketer having lead marketing teams at iGov, International data Products, SMS Data Products Group. He shares his experiences working in growth environments and the impact of social media. Oscar's been with ePok for less than a year- would you market ePok differently?

(In the interests of transparency, ePok and Strategic (my firm) are working together. We were picked to develop and run the social media/PR aspect of Oscar's marketing strategy.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Creativity and BMW GINA

At work, we talk a lot about creativity and creating content that has a "wow" factor. A PR agency, at heart, is about creating content that is entertaining a well as engaging and educational and then distributing it to the right audience at the right time. Being creative and/or innovative, however, is hard.

I think it's hard because it's so rarely seen. Our imaginations seem to have a difficult time re-imagining common things or creating entirely new things.

So, when I saw the following YouTube video from the folks at BMW, I thought, "this is a true example of re-imagining a known thing, playing around with the idea and seeing what it does." Usually, I think, you end up with something that has a "wow" factor.

Check it out for yourself!

Links, Links, Links

I'm not sure the technology world is going to be hurt as much as the housing, finance and industrial markets are. Dealflow seems to be strong. However, given the impending collapse of western civilization, here are some interesting datapoints for the world to enjoy:

Blogging for Dollars: Slate's Michael Agger gives a overview (for dummies) of the blogosphere and how bloggers make $$ for all the people who are going to be laid off this year.

FDA Takes End Run to Award Contract to PR Firm A local PR agency continues its epic quest to be the scuzziest PR agency in America.

No Credit Crunch in the Channel According to eWeek, there is plenty of cash in the tech world and no signs of scarce credit, unlike our friends in finance, homebuilding or industry. Of course, this could change at any moment I guess

Pirates reveal new side with spokesperson Somali pirates contact NY Times to tell their side of the story, according to PR Week.

I'll be posting my notes from Interact08 later on, but check out Rohit Bhargava's Top 5 Takeaways here in the meantime.

Silicon Valley Goes Dry Lastly, Red Herring's Ken Schachter reports on the shutting of the IPO and M&A windows. Tech companies are going to have to grow organically a little longer than they thought before cashing out.

And the NASDAQ is only down 3.5% today!! Yay!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Top Trends in the Software Industry

It's after Labor Day, so we're in full swing now. Aside from hitting the phones and banging out emails, blog posts and podcasts, the event and trade show fall season is filling up my calendar. Good networking isn't hard to find, that's for sure. I posted earlier about the AMA's Mobile Marketing event. Now I'd like to share my notes from last Friday morning's Potomac Tech Wire's event on The Future of Software held at the Ritz in Tysons.

There were two panels- one, software company executives and the other, venture capitalists. I'll list the panelists for each and bullet the main talking points.

Panel One-

Andre Boivert, Chairman, Zenoss and Infobright

Todd Bramblett, CEO, LeverPoint

Greg Gershman, VP Search and Engineering, Odeo

Barg Upender, President, Intridea

Panel Two-

Carter Griffin, Partner, Updata Partners

Harry Gruner, General Partner, JMI Equity

Don Rainey, General Partner, Grotech Ventures

Janet Yang, principal, Novak Biddle Venture Partners

Paul Sherman was the charming moderator, as usual for PTW sponsored events, for both panels.

The panels had a lot to say about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the SaaS versus the traditional enterprise software package, the open source model versus the proprietary model, the ad-supported versus paid license model, and how each kind fits into the needs of different customers. The software market is fracturing and how that affects how companies buy and how VC's make investments. Today's software market is different than in the past because:
  • Users are sophisticated now. They know about the downside of the traditional software and want better interfaces, slicker graphics, better speed, easier implementation, etc.
  • Users are buying software. They are not being sold. Buyers across the enterprise are educated on quality and functionality.
The old big fat Fortune 500 software sale is dying. Spending is fractured as departments, offices buy their own CRM packages without say so from the corporate IT department

Coding used to be difficult. As software development packages get easier to use (Ruby on Rails as an example) there is a lower barrier to entry for new software companies. The time to value for the customer becomes more of a differentiator. That requires domain expertise. And a focus on execution.

New software has a hard time differentiating itself- it has to focus on vertical, or niche, markets and show a deep understanding of that market. Don't bother trying to differentiate. Focus on intangible assets. For example:
  • the old sales model for software was extremely labor intensive
  • the new open source model keeps the sales cost low
  • users try it for free, then pay for additional levels of sophistication
  • aim to convert 1% of downloads
  • users only contact company when they've reached the point of conviction and are ready to pay
Execution is key- can you ramp up users quickly and do you have the ability to scale

What models are working, given the commoditization of software?
  • buyers are out of the control of the IT departments
  • cloud computing/SaaS allow software companies to sell directly to operational units at a low price point ($25-50k) without IT department involvement
  • the SaaS model is a small (1-2%) of the whole market but is growing fast
  • especially fast penetration of the SMB market
How are open source software and SaaS interacting?
  • open source is allowing sophisticated developers to execute custom projects quickly and cheaper
  • SaaS is bringing turnkey, easy to use and implement applications to organizations that have had the resources in the past- "the local church group using Google Calendar"
  • startups can have huge scale from day one- from a investing perspective cloud computing plus SaaS equals low initial capital expenditures to get alpha and beta versions built
  • the middle area is getting squeezed
Were these guys (and gals) full of crap? Are you a software marketer or salesperson- are you seeing these trends?

Bears Fight Song

Oh, and the Bears beat the Colts Sunday night. For those of you who need to brush up on the Bear's fight sung by a opera tenor.

Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory;
Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly.
We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown.
You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Notes from AMA Mobile Marketing Event

I attended an interesting and informative event at NPR's office last Thursday night on mobile marketing put together by the DC chapter of the American Marketing Association. I've talked a lot about mobile marketing on this blog over the years.

Just my two cents: it's been a long time coming, but I think the promise of (at least non-Location Based Services (LBS)) mobile marketing is at hand.

The event had a strong, experienced panel who confirmed a lot of what I already knew about marketing on mobile devices but had a lot of new compelling information. Here are the panelists:

DP Venkatesh, CEO, mPortal

Mary Gramaglia, Director of Sales, Sybase 365

Michael Lieberman, Mobile Integration Director, Hyperfactory

Demian Perry, Product Manager Content Development and Mobile Operations, NPR

Chris Parandian, Founder, Tin Can Communications

(Thanks to the ever-charming Old Town Alexandria resident, Limor Shafman, for moderating the panel!!)

The topics of discussion ranged from extremely tactical to very high level. Here are some of the takeaways...

  1. Mobile marketing is a unique medium due to the intimate and individual nature of the interaction. People don't share phones so their handheld is an extension of the person and his/her personality. When marketing through mobile, that relationship must be respected.
  2. Ask for help. Mobile marketing is complex and cannot be planned in a silo without reference to your other branding, marketing and PR efforts. Like all media, mobile marketing has strengths and weaknesses- plan for both. Mobile is digital and can be tracked like any digital campaign. But be sure mobile targets your audience and make sure your message is relevant for that audience.
  3. Don't distract, annoy, bore, confuse or attempt to hold your audience hostage.
  4. Mobile marketing is about engagement rather than reach. Always include a call to action to further interact with you. Mobile marketing is, at its core, a social medium, akin to social networking. Give people a chance to participate and express themselves. Don't blast a brand message to 100,000 people.
  5. Go to the Mobile Marketing Association and read their marketing guidelines.

Do you think the panel left anything out? Should marketers think about mobile marketing in a different way? Or ignore it?

Backlash Against Green Hype Machine?

I don't have any idea when or if a backlash against the current green orthodoxy will start but two articles on caught my eye. Neither article dismisses or denies the problems that the green movement addresses, but they both poke holes in the fear mongering and simplistic solutions offered to the public. As an agency serving clients with a green message, this is something to keep on the radar screen.

It's Time To Turn Down the Heat
By Gregg Easterbrook
Artificial climate change is real; even skeptics now call the danger scientifically proven. But Friedman, Al Gore, James Hansen of NASA, and others present climate change as some kind of super-ultra emergency. Global warming is a problem, one that must be managed via greenhouse-gas restrictions and a weaning away from fossil fuels. But in a world of poverty, disease, dictatorships, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, lack of girls' education, and more than 1 billion people without cleaning drinking water or electricity—climate change barely makes the Problem Top 10. Besides, the solution can't be a panicked pullback from the present economic system, though perhaps that system can be amended over the long term. Economic growth is needed to allow the world to afford environmental protection. At least for the next few decades, headlong resource consumption will be necessary to generate the capital that will pay for a clean-energy infrastructure.

Rusted Roots
By James E. McWilliams
...One issue frequently overlooked in the rush to embrace organic agriculture is the prevalence of excess arsenic, lead, cadmium, nickel, mercury, copper, and zinc in organic soil. Soil ecologists and environmentalists—and, to some extent, the concerned public—have known for more than a century that the synthetic pesticides of conventional farming leave heavy metals in the ground. But the fact that you'll find the same toxins in organic soil has been something of a dirty little secret.

Nothing ever continues in a straight line forever, so I'm sure that an eventual rise in measured criticism will cause the Greens, as a political and cultural group, to lose the current hollowed status they currently hold. These two articles might be a couple of the early data points that support that view.

What do you think? Am I completely off my rocker?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Podcast with Jean Foster, VP Marketing at BT Americas

Hi all, I want to share with everyone a podcast I did this morning with Jean Foster. Jean is the VP Marketing for BT Americas, a division of global telecom powerhouse British Telecom. She shares best practices on marketing strategy, competing against bigger rivals (Verizon! AT&T!), merging marketing departments from acquired companies, integrating social media into a large enterprise B2B marketing and sales strategy and how to sell social media to internal audiences.

Full disclosure: Jean selected my employer, Strategic Communications Group, to develop and execute targeted campaigns to support her marketing and sales initiatives. Check out BT America's sustainability blog and their managed security services Twitter feed.

How do you think BT is doing?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Marvin Gaye Commercial

I've was watching the Olympics last night and saw a commercial from Nike featuring Marvin Gaye singing the National Anthem. It's a spectacular version and I blogged about it earlier in the year after seeing it referenced on a Twitter feed.

Here is the link to my earlier post that has the full length version:

Check out the the video and tell me that's not the best version of the national anthem ever.

Here is the Nike Version:

Anyway, it occurred to me that the advertising agency and/or Nike must have come across this video in the same way I did, via social media and only then decided to make a commercial around it. It would be very interesting to learn how the creative ad types sourced their idea- an interesting case study on the impact of social media and the long tail.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

So, am I a prosumer?

Lately, I've been struggling with the conflicting demands on my time. Participating in social networks is a key part of my job and how I present myself professionally, and even socially. However, since the key to effective participation is the creation of interesting valuable content, how do I participate when I prefer to voraciously consume content, rather than spit new stuff out.

For example, today I read:
three slide shows on
(and yes, I read a story about Brett Farve too)
Chris Parente's blog post about Black Hat
(usually I'm perusing my twitter, facebook and friendfeed accounts too)

I've read ten or so emails that required a reply, skimmed another 50 or so (ignoring at least another 100).

I was in a two hour plus meeting as well.

I worry about all the marketing and technology people toiling away at corporations that are being forced by over eager consultants to blog, blog, blog, twit, twit, twit and comment, comment, comment. Is it a reasonable expectation that these folks, who haven't been required to write large amounts of compelling content, will be able to do it? Is there anyone developing remedial classes on how to be creative or how to communicate? Are some folks going to be permanently at a charisma disadvantage in the Darwinian social media world? Is part of the value of PR consultant recommending who should blog and who shouldn't?

I don't lack for personality, and I still have moments when I stare at the empty white box and wonder what to write about. Maybe my problem is that it's August. What do you think?

Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm a spam blogger! No, wait...

I woke up this morning to find an email from Blogger that this blog had been flagged as spam. Nervous that the email was a phishing attack, I logged into my Blogger account separately and found this post on the Blogger blog:

You knew that already, and now we do too. We have now restored all accounts that were mistakenly marked as spam yesterday. (See: Spam Fridays)

We want to offer our sincerest apologies to affected bloggers and their readers. We’ve tracked down the problem to a bug in our data processing code that locked blogs even when our algorithms concluded they were not spam. We are adding additional monitoring and process checks to ensure that bugs of this magnitude are caught before they can affect your data.

At Blogger, we strongly believe that you own and should control your posts and other data. We understand that you trust us to store and serve your blog, and incidents like this one are a betrayal of that trust. In the spirit of ensuring that you always have access to your data, we have been working on importing and exporting tools to make it easier to back up your posts. If you'd like a sneak peek at the Import / Export tool, you can try it out on Blogger in Draft.

Our restoration today was of all blogs that were mistakenly marked as spam due to Friday's bug. Because spam fighting inherently runs the risk of false positives, your blog may have been mis-classified as spam for other reasons. If you are still unable to post to your blog today you can request a review by clicking Request Unlock Review on your Dashboard.
First, this is kind of a rookie mistake, eh? Second, this is a pretty well written, effective message that takes responsibility. Third, an email to accompany and negate the first one would have been nice and saved me some freak out time.

What do you think?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Great List of Podcasting Resources

I'm not sure how many of you subscribe to Chris Brogan's RSS feed or his "traditional" email newsletter. I've always found Chris to be a common-sensical, well thought out source of information on social media trends, tools and tips. His latest newsletter was a valuable source of info, as always. Feel free to sign up for it here.

In his latest issue, he listed a bunch of podcasting tools, some of which I've used and some I have not. With Chris's permission, here is his list:

Again, sticking with my goal of making all podcasting content for this newsletter, let's give you five podcasting tools to check out.

  1. Odeo. Want a simple way to record a podcast on your computer? This is about as simple as it gets.
  2. Audacity. This is the opposite of easy, but it's very flexible, and a podcaster's best free multi-platform audio editing tool.
  3. TubeMogul. You've recorded a video and you want to put it in more places than just YouTube? This is your tool.
  4. Flip Video Camera. For cheap money, this is the tool of choice for SIMPLE video recording. Nearly indestructible, easy to use, and I would buy these for every field employee or remote sales person, if that was a need.
  5. Blog Talk Radio. Want a simple way to record a live audio podcast with multiple guests, callers, etc? BlogTalkRadio is the reigning champion at present, followed closely by TalkShoe. Both are great.

There you have it. Five for the podcasters. (Sure, if you're already podcasting, you probably know about all these. What would an ADVANCED 5 tools be? You tell me!)

As some of you know, I started a quasi-podcasting series of interviews and events with marketers last year and conducted interviews into this year. You can search YouTube, GoogleVideo and BlogTalkRadio, or find them on my company's website. I'm starting up a new list of people to interview over the next few months, as I'm intrigued by the impact of social media on marketing budgets. Social media, as I'm sure most of you know, has shifted from a plaything of nerds to a seriously powerful tool for business communications.

Two questions:

1) are there other tools besides the ones Chris listed that you find valuable?

2) after listening/viewing my interviews, it occurred to me that a year ago all of them admitted to reviewing social media tools but none had funded any programs. What new questions do you think I should ask senior marketing executives? How many social media programs do you think have been funded...and at what budget level? Should PR and social media be integrated or kept separate? How about social media efforts and the sales team?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Official Twittter Summize Post

Here is the now famous post on Twitter's blog: Twitter Blog: Finding A Perfect Match.

A few quick thoughts: I think this is a good move and I think there will be a lot more matching, merging and acquiring in the months to come. There are a lot of really interesting social media tools out there but none are perfect and/or as fully featured as we'd like. Rather than spend money to develop these features, its becomes smarter to buy them.

Google Political Video Search

Google is rolling out a new service that should be interesting. It's a video search tool that parses the text of political speeches and makes it searchable. Here is the link to the announcement on Google's blog:

Here is a snippet of what they say:
Our teams have been working to develop tools to make it easier for people to track election-related information. A few months back, YouTube encouraged everyone to participate in the discussion process through the CNN/YouTube debates, Google Checkout offered an easy and fast way for individuals to make contributions to political candidates, and the Geo team created maps and layers to inform voters during elections.

Today, the Google speech team (part of Google Research) is launching the Google Elections Video Search gadget, our modest contribution to the electoral process. With the help of our speech recognition technologies, videos from YouTube's Politicians channels are automatically transcribed from speech to text and indexed. Using the gadget you can search not only the titles and descriptions of the videos, but also their spoken content. Additionally, since speech recognition tells us exactly when words are spoken in the video, you can jump right to the most relevant parts of the videos you find. Here's a look:

Kind of cool, eh? I mean, if you are really big political nerd, that is...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Air Farce

Looks like our Air Force is being run by idiots. It's probably not their fault that the current war has no need for strategic bombing or air supremacy fighters. But you'd think that they'd at least take the free time this generates to improve themselves. You know, streamline procurement regulations, develop new strategies and technologies that are actually useful in defeating our enemies, stuff like that.

Most of you are probably unaware that the Air Force has a very old fleet of refueling tankers. Most of these planes were built back in the 1950's and 1960's. Most of them are going to fall out of the sky soon, and the ones that don't are extremely fuel inefficient. There is a strong argument for making the capital investment ($100B over 20 years) in replacing the fleet with new planes.

Now, there are only two companies that make big planes these days. This fact you may have heard before. The two are Boeing and Airbus. Boeing is an American company and Airbus is a British, French, German conglomerate. Airbus is also partnering with Northrop Grumman (an American company) to help build and service their planes.

The Air Force held a competition to select one company to build the new fleet. They picked Boeing. Airbus/Northop complained and the Air Force overruled them. Then Boeing got caught bribing the chief procurement officer at the Air Force. The Air Force decided on a do over. This time, Airbus/Northop won and Boeing complained. Then the Air Force secretary and his chief of staff got fired. The Government Accounting Office issued a report complaining about irregularities in the selection process. Today, the Secretary of Defense said there was going to be another do over, but this time his office, not the Air Force, would run the process.

Most people I meet around the country think DC is full of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists. I say, "no, no, we have a bad rap- we're selfless patriots doing the people's business." They complain about the revolving door between government and industry, and I say, "no, no, you don't understand. It's not like that" Then they point to the tanker deal and I don't have anything to say. It's embarrassing. What a debacle.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I'm an info-addict

I've noticed for a long time now that it takes me longer to get certain things done nowadays than it used to. Writing and reading online are frequently interrupted by emails, cell phone calls, Twits, etc. I've spent the better part of the last two weeks writing, and re-writing proposals for work. In order to get this process completed, I've had to shut down Twitter, turn off my cell, avoid my blog, and log out of Google Reader. I think I'm an info-addict.

I read Wikipedia voluntarily and with no real purpose. A simple Google search for research on e34 BMW's will send me on a half hour mindless trip through the blogosphere clicking here and clicking there and ending up on a graduate student paper on political intrigues between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines in the Twelfth century Holy Roman Empire. Clearly, I have a problem.

We all do, really. Technology has been designed to get us all the information all the time. We don't need it, but it's there now. It's inescapable.

Gordon Gravitz of the Wall Street Journal has an article about information overload and some of the steps being taken to deal with it. Here is a quote:

Warning: On average, knowledge workers change activities every three minutes, usually because they're distracted by email or a phone call. It then takes almost half an hour to get back to the task once attention is lost. So if you're trying to read this column at the office or within range of your mobile device, what should be a few minutes can take much longer. Consider the rest of this article an 800-word test of your ability to maintain attention.

A decline in our ability to focus is a side effect of the otherwise powerful tools we use to gather and analyze information. A new organization has just been launched, the Information Overload Research Group, whose founders include executives from companies such as Microsoft, Google, IBM and Intel. These are the very companies that have done the most to create the information tools that undermine our ability to focus; indeed, an initiative from them to address too much information could be compared to video-game programmers launching a line of Zen meditation centers. Still, it's encouraging that the most information-intense companies are trying to overcome their own overload.

I know now that there is no way I can absorb all the information provided for me. Even bookmarking and crowd sourcing websites are of limited value- I see too much "majority rules" bias in them. I have to be very disciplined about what I read, and why. I don't think that a software filter will be able to do this very human task. Many human beings aren't going to be able to discipline themselves, and will still have a need for trusted authorities.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Even Crotchedy Old Media Critics Get Social Media Now

Check out the mea culpa from Media reporter Jon Friedman at MarketWatch here.
Time magazine was spot-on, dead-bang correct when it named "You" as its Person of the Year for 2006. I knocked the inspired choice, and I was way off base. Read that column.

Time Warner's Time magazine was clearly ahead of its time.

There's no doubt by now that these 21st century user-driven innovations -- Facebook, Friendster, Google's YouTube, News Corp.'s MySpace, LinkedIn, Yelp (oh, yes) and others -- are taking over the way people communicate with one another. (News Corp. is the parent company of MarketWatch, publisher of this column.)

Back then, I viewed the "You" cover -- designed to connect the dots between YouTube and the other social-networking Internet sites -- as a mere publicity stunt on Time's part. What was I thinking? A major magazine engaging in a publicity stunt? Perish the thought.
Clearly, we're at the point where even the late adopters are on board. I've had multiple meetings over the last few months with some of the largest companies on earth about how to socially network internal and external communications, sales support, lead nurturing, and other marketing type activities. Even a year ago, the subject of social media would have come up and been immediately dismissed. Now, it's an integral part of any PR/marketing plan.

You and your audience remain the same. The old channels of communications have disappeared. Now they are replaced with new disaggregated media. You have to grow and strengthen your own communications networks using all the new tools to distribute the best engaging, educating and entertaining content you can develop.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Straight to the Point- Now with Three Columns!

As you may have noticed, I now have three columns on this blog. I bet you are wondering, wow, that's exciting, why did he do that?

Well, let me tell you.

I have been of the opinion that the content of blog determine, in part, its value. Content, in my case, is the words that communicate an idea. The main idea of my blog is to highlight the fundamental changes going on the public relations industry as it is transformed by the impact of so-called web 2.0 technology (social media, blogs, twitter, etc) from the slightly critical perspective of a early mainstream adopter. As you can tell, I'll post about technology and business news as well, but this is the main thrust of the blog.

So why, three columns? When I started up this blog over a year ago, I wanted to make sure the focus was on the words, so I avoided any templates that were too graphics heavy. I picked a plain vanilla Minima Lefty template from Blogger. It's simple and clean. Now, I've added a bunch of widgets and other crap to the site over time that have pushed that content waaay down the page, which kind of bothered me.

The other day, one of our client teams was asking if anyone know anything about converting a two column Blogger template into a three column one. I volunteered to be the guinea pig. Voila!

Just for your edification, a step by step is located here:

It's actually a fairly simple process, but since I'm almost completely ignorant of coding above a very simple level, it took me about two hours. If you have any skill at all, block out about five minutes.

So, tell me what you think? Better? Worse? Should I add color? Should I stop blogging? ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Steve Jobs Wants to Know Where You Are, Right Now.

A couple of data points today that strike me as interesting.

1. Apple is looking at launching a mobile iTunes. Read the story on the NY Times.

2. Juniper released a report on Location Based Services (LBS), or mobile web 2.0, and stated that the market is expected to grow to $22.4 billion by 2013 from $5.5 billion this year.

"Combining the power of the social network map - namely: 'who I know, how I know and where I know' - with that of mobility, presents the greatest opportunity for revenue generation," Juniper Research analyst Ian Chard.
LBS raises some ickey privacy issues amongst a lot of people. Apple was the first company to popularize a paid, closed, DRM protected music service, which used to be a hot button issue. If anyone can sell people on 100% spatial transparency and make them pay for it, it's Steve Jobs and company.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Networx's First Big Deal- Qwest Down for the Count?

It looks like we have the first really big task order out of the Networx contract- $679m from DHS for Verizon. Here is the write up from FierceTelecom:
The federal government's Networx Universal project is finally yielding some revenue for telcos. The Department of Homeland Security awarded about $679 million worth of work from a $1 billion, 10-year contract to Verizon Communications, with potentially another $292 million from the contract going to AT&T as a back-up service provider. The DHS deal involves more than 5,000 employees and 22 different agencies. Verizon will consolidate multiple wide area network architectures on a secure IP infrastructure.

Perhaps the contract will be an ice-breaker between government agencies and the carriers authorized to bid on Networx Universal deals. Since carriers received authorization more than a year ago, very few Networx contracts have been drawn up. The telecom industry has been expecting that would change as this year plays out. The DHS deal is the largest Networx contract awarded thus far.

And here is some more indepth analysis from NetworkWorld:
Verizon Business has captured one of the largest federal network deals of 2008: a 10-year contract to provide managed network and security services to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is valued at $678.5 million. AT&T Government Solutions is the secondary provider for the project, dubbed OneNet, winning a 10-year contract worth an estimated $292 million.

Losing out on this much-anticipated deal was Qwest Communications.
If the government is going to split the deals between Verizon and AT&T that doesn't leave much business left over for Qwest, does it? Qwest is going to have to be more creative, more aggressive and bang the drum very, very loudly in order to get any kind of traction.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Links: Al Gore and Digg

A couple of interesting links, thanks to my crack research staff ;)

Holly Sanders writes in the NY Post (always a great read) that Online Ad Spending Estimates Drop for Social Nets.
Web ad tracker eMarketer cut its ad spending estimates for Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking sites amid growing questions over whether such sites will attract major ad dollars.
Hmmm. You can just hear the valuations for Facebook, Digg, etc sliding down the garbage disposal, right?

On a related note, Michael Arrington brings our attention to the hilarious revelation in Sarah Lacey's new book that Al Gore tried to buy Digg for $100 million. My thoughts are this: if an idiot wants to buy your web 2.0 company for a large amount of money based on inflated guesstimates of your future ad revenue, let him... before the estimates are revised down.

A bird in hand is better than...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How Do I Find Time to Blog?

You know, one the main challenges I face with this blog is making the time to post new, valuable content to it. My employer pays me to develop new business opportunities and manage the ongoing marketing efforts for the agency. This is a full time job.

The rise of blogging and social media over the past four years or so have been interesting in that they didn't really replace any of the day to day activities that I'm responsible for. I still need to network, call people, email contacts, research companies, monitor competitors, update and clean databases, maintain the website, prepare newsletters, schedule events, contribute to the agency's internal daily email, manage my relationships with my colleagues and keep abreast of the latest trends and developments in business as a whole, the technology community specifically and the PR industry too.

Now, add in time for blogging, twittering, etc. Yes, that's adding in time. You see, blogging and participating in social networking doesn't really replace any of the above items, it enhances and supports them. Being a credible participant in the social networks I chose to join requires that I create valuable content for others to consume. That takes time and effort...and most importantly, thought. As I've said before, content is king.

But there is a limit to how much content I can create, given all my other responsibilities. I've been posting roughly 7-ish posts a months for over a year now. That's less than twice a week. I've tried to boost my output lately and have gotten good results in terms of traffic. But I've found that blogging more is coming at the expense of other things I have to do. So I've tried to increase my productivity and blog more efficiently: ie, write drafts for several posts, so I have backups ready to go if I can't think of anything interesting to day. But I know I can get better.

Do you have any tips/suggestions for how to blog/comment/twitter more efficiently without it becoming a time suck?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

World Leaders as Kids, Teenagers

Too funny and fascinating not to post to the old blog. Pictures of world leaders as little kids and young people!! (Found this while on Mixx)

Oh, W, buddy, what are you thinking?

MySpace Annoucing Open Data Portability?

Hat tip to Nick O'Neill at Social Times for breaking the story, it looks as if MySpace is announcing that they have partnered with Yahoo, Twitter and others to have open portable profiles. TechCruch has more information here and shows a mock up of what it would look like while on Twitter.

This new found openness along with the developing Open Social standard will go a long way to creating a social networking environment that doesn't require me to keep 57 usernames and passwords and create a new friggin profile every time a new app or website pops up.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What Does A Community Manager Do?

Happy Monday Morning! There is a great post by Chris Brogan about the characteristics, requirements and expectations of a community manger. Please read it immediately to get a sense of what a successful social community manager both does and how it define and measure success.

Here is a flavor:


I’d measure my community manager on the following:

  • Responsiveness to communications (blog comments, emails, twitter messages and forum threads) less than 24 hours max.
  • Number of QUALITY blog posts read and shared via Google Reader.
  • Number of meaningful comments (more than a few words, on topic, pertinent to the space) on appropriate blogs, videos, and other media per month.
  • Overall quality of her Twitter stream ( maybe a 60/30/10 mix of industry-related / personal @ comments / and off-topic).
  • Engagement on our blog/community/network. (Number of subscribers, number of comments, number of links out to other blogs from our community site).
  • Number of quality blog posts and linking posts (probably a 40/60 split between original and linked, though some would argue for 30/70).
  • Eventually, number of links from other sites to our blogs and media.

Success of the Project

I’d feel our community manager was a success if she accomplished the following through her efforts:

  • Empower the listening ability of our organization to our community’s needs and desires.
  • Build an awareness of our organization through non-marketing efforts, measured by favorable or at least non-negative mentions on other blogs, forums, and in Twitter.
  • Deliver a blog and/or media platform that’s useful to the community at large, and that grows in number of subscribers as well as engaged commenters.

Overall, I believe these efforts would be measured by an increase in attendance at our face-to-face and virtual events, an increase in subscriptions to our newsletter, and a larger blog commenting community. This would be a win to our organization, and would thus be worth the expense of another salaried employee.

Chris has outlined a strong, ROI focused definition of what a company should look for in an internal employee. Read the comments section to learn about how people are objecting- mostly about the issue of measurement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Marvin Gaye Sings the National Anthem

OK, now for something completely different. I just found this video by clicking on Todd Mintz's Twitter page (thanks for the follow Todd) then clicking on a link to his blog.

This is the most spectacular version of the National Anthem I've ever heard. If you are a traditionalist you might not like this, but give it a shot. My brain kept trying to make Marvin sign the regular version, but he is so awesome I gave up, like the audience, and totally bought into it.

Got Schwerpunkt?

This morning as I was dozing between snooze buttons, the thought came to me that marketing executives looking at social media for the first, or thirtieth, time ought keep the principle of schwerpunkt foremost in their minds. What is schwerpunkt you ask?

Schwerpunkt is a term of art from the military meaning "focal point" or "main effort" or "center of gravity." Clausewitz wrote about schwerpunkt in his 1832 best-seller On War. In the military sense, it means maximum effort and force at the enemy's weakest spot. It also means a focus on the important task, rather than any subordinate tasks. See this example from William Wakes' blog:

From Chris Crawford on Game Design:

"But there's one word, a German word, that we haven't yet stolen that should be high on our list of targets: schwerpunkt. It means 'focal point' or 'concentration of effort point' or 'central point of attack.' It's a beautiful word because it expresses an idea that we just don't have in English: the notion that, in any effort, you may have many necessary tasks, but there is one central task that must take first place in your considerations."

Crawford gives an example of the army: the cook is important, but the soldier (and fighting) is the shwerpunkt. In games, he says, interactivity is the schwerpunkt. It leads me to ask, what is the schwerpunkt for what I'm doing?

In public relations, understanding is the schwerpunkt. Tasks like press releases, Twitters, media tours, websites, blogs, pitches, case studies, webinars and speeches are all potentially part of a successful PR campaign, but the main focus is communicating ideas is such a way so that they are understood. In order to do so, you must first carefully study your audiences, your own company, your marketplace in order to determine where, in fact, the schwerpunkt, or main focus, ought to be. Listening, as well as talking.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yahoo Profits Up or Not?

Based on the stories I'm reading there is a little confusion about whether Yahoo's profits were up or not.

The Wall Street Journal says yes: "Yahoo Profit Lifted By Alibaba Gain"

MarketWatch say no, they were artificially grown by IPO and takes the China angle: "Yahoo's earnings boosted by China holdings"

TheStreet says hell, yes: "Yahoo!: How Do You Like Us Now?"

All in all it's a bit confusing- a result, I'd guess, of armies of Microsoft and Yahoo flacks arguing opposite points as Yahoo tries to maneuver itself into a higher valuation.

Content Remains The King

People like relearning old lessons again and again, it seems. The phrase "content is king" has been bandied about for many years now, but some people still get confused when a new medium of communication comes along.

What you say is the most important thing in communications. Exciting and powerful media like social networks only work when the content is exciting and powerful. No one will follow your Twitter posts if you aren't interesting, compelling and engaging. Marc Hausman talks about the "entertaining of PR" and he's right. Public relations professionals will only be successful if they develop and distribute valuable and, yes, entertaining content.

The point of this post is remind anyone thinking about integrating a social media component into their communications strategy that what you say is the critical ingredient to a successful campaign. The fundamentals of good PR remain in place. When building and engaging social networks, it is very important to invest in those relationships by bringing valuable content to the discussion. Merely "being present" is not enough.

Nick O'Neil has a good post about Twitter etiquette which, I think, backs this up. Following people on Twitter just so you can notify them when your press release went out is missing the point. Spending the time to engage with people in an interesting, compelling and entertaining way will grow the credibility you are seeking and will build a valuable communications channel.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Some Weekend Links

My birthday is on Monday so I have a fun filled weekend ahead of me. Drinks tonight with friends at Cantina Marina (stop by and say hi if you are in the area), dinner tomorrow at my favorite steak restaurant, Ray's the Steaks, and then a wee road trip up to Baltimore for brunch with old friends and the Yankees-Orioles game.

However, before I head out and drink a cold beer in the gorgeous hot sun, let me share some links I found interesting today...

Google isn't dead yet! Profits way up!

Dennis McDonald continues to be a sane voice of reason in the world of social media. His analysis of Dennis Howlett's post on the 'Poverty of Enterprise 2.0' is excellent.

ReadWriteWeb sums up the etiquette and best practices around "Twitpitching"

And MediaBistro has an interesting look at the spin and PR strategy around the Papal visit.

Finally, if you're a depressed Nats fan like me, please visit DC Optimist's blog and get a healthy dose of 'Timism. Today he breaks down how the Wizards will destroy the Cavs this week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Fear Industry?

I haven't spent as much time reviewing the blogs over at FCW or the other 1105 government IT publications. Between all the other verticals I try to keep an eye on (software, wireless, satellite, security, networking, telecom) and well as keeping up to speed on the fast moving changes in my own industry (PR), the goings on the government IT and contracting market sometimes slip off my radar.

But an issue that was gurgling to the surface a couple of months ago seems to be gaining speed, how the regulations and red tape around the contracting process are going to choke off the government's ability to contract beneficially with the private sector. Check out this blog post from Steve Kelman at Federal Computer Week to get a flavor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tipping Point is Gone

There has been a lot of talk about how social media has reached the tipping point and has been accepted as a valid method to market by the so called "early majority." Certainly, I've noticed in my business development discussions that senior marketers have gone from at best ignoring and at worst denigrating social media as a valuable arrow in the marketing quiver to almost demanding that it be included in any PR strategy developed. All in a few months and sometimes the same people!

It's roughly the same pattern I experienced back in the 1990's around the adoption by business of the web itself. First, ignoring, then mockery, then a mad scramble to "get something up!" There were a lot of crap websites developed and a lot of scam "online agencies" that took advantage. Then, as now, early majority type marketers needed to stop, take a breath and think through the purpose of this new medium, how best to use it and when.

Joining the conversation of an active, ongoing community of interest is sometimes a delicate operation, especially for a corporate brand. The potential for mistakes and blowback is there. It's key to work with someone or some PR agency that knows the pitfalls and can be an experienced guide. The fundamentals of PR haven't changed at all: know your audience, figure out the best (respectful and credible) way to communicate and give them compelling, valuable content. Just because your new social media expert follows 20,000 twitters doesn't mean they might not destroy your corporate brand by trampling over the sensibilities of your employee, partner, customer and prospect stakeholders.

EDIT: based on feedback from Mr. Now is Gone (who's a good friend from our college days at AU), let me clarify-- a social media expert with 20,000 Twitter followers is real, undoubted expert. Followers are the key. Someone who is following 20,000 but has few following him is probably a newbie blowhard. If you like newbie blowhards and think they will do wonderful things for your business, have at it. Look at roughly 50-50 mix on Geoff's twitter profile- a nice, large mix of people he follows and people that follow him.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trade Shows, Part 1 (CTIA)

Well, I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. I traveled to Las Vegas for the CTIA Wireless trade show then to San Fransisco for the RSA security show. Both shows demonstrated the power and innovation that still drives the larger technology world today. I'd like to recap both shows in two posts.

First, the CTIA show in Las Vegas last week was compelling. There is a building transformation in the wireless from the current 3G level of broadband, features and applications to a newer "4G" model. There is still some uncertainty about which technology platform will power this new generation of wireless businesses: WiMax or cellular or some un-invented technology.

Needless to say, there will be much fighting and scrambling over the next five or more years between the big carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint) as well as other technology players (Microsoft, Google, etc). All these shifting parts made for very interesting conversations...

...and it also made for an enormous trade show. The CTIA filled up two whole halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I'll post some pictures when I get back home...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WiMax Redux?

According to a story in the Washington Post, the Sprint-Clearwire partnership are in talks with several large cable operators (Comcast and Time/Warner) about a joint partnership to finally build a national WiMax network, and presumably market it to cable subscribers.

Google and Intel are also sniffing around the partnership. I wonder how this affects Google's efforts to claim the old UHF bandwidth for a free, ad driven wireless network. (is that the hedging of bets I hear?)

More importantly, it will be compelling entertainment to watch these big elephants dance around and jockey for advantage, while the wireless behemoths, AT&T and Verizon consolidate their positions and throw up barriers to entry to the marketplace...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yahoo Joins OpenSocial

Breaking news from the WSJ- Yahoo has joined the OpenSocial initiative. It looks like Facebook is on the outside looking in now. I wonder how long it will take them to cave in.

From the article:

Yahoo's announcement Tuesday could also put pressure on Facebook, the closely held social network that so far has not signed on to the effort.

Yahoo called itself a "founding member" of the foundation, which is planned to be an independent non-profit entity with a formal intellectual property and governance framework. Related assets will be assigned to the new organization by July 1.

The foundation will focus on issues including technology, documentation and intellectual property.

Social applications -- which let users do things such as see the music friends are listening to and share photo slideshows - have emerged as a popular activity for users of social networking sites, and a potentially powerful vehicle for delivering advertisements. Prior to OpenSocial, if a developer built a "favorite photos" application to work on one social network, it would have to be built all over again to work on another site.

Google introduced the initiative to put pressure on Facebook and MySpace, which is owned by News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Facebook offers its own specifications for software developers and the over 7,000 such add-on applications for its site have contributed to Facebook's popularity and usage.

Steve Pearman, MySpace's senior vice president of product strategy, said, "Yahoo is an important addition to the OpenSocial movement, and through this foundation we will work together to provide developers with the tools to make the Internet move faster and to foster more innovation and creativity."

The OpenSocial foundation also launched a website:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Grab Bag of Miscellania

The technology business is rolling along, March Madness starts, the Dow is down 5% then up 5%, Bear Stearns goes bye-bye (maybe!) and old school, hard nosed marketers are funding wild-eyed social media projects- it is a wild, wild month. In like a lion, out like a lion.

The outstanding team here at Strategic has been working with our client Tellabs for almost two years now. Broadband access is a huge issue in the telecommunications industry and Tellabs has been leader in promoting broadband. Today, we and Tellabs put out a survey of telecom professionals that captures their opinions on the penetration and regulation of broadband. You can read the release here:

Take a moment and read Chris Parente's take on the survey and it's larger meaning.

In other news, the Wall Street Journal gave it's implied endorsement to social media resources. Watch out boys and girls- the days when social media was a romantic, cutting edge advancement in the progress of the human race is coming to an end. If the Wall Street Journal is endorsing it, then it's mainstream, normal and soon to be a regular boring part of sending out a press release over telegraph wires...


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Thanks to a post on Louis Gray's blog, I've discovered FriendFeed. As many of you probably realize, keeping track of all of the conversations happening simultaneously on dozens of social networking sites is a challenge to say the least. FriendFeed aims to solve (umm, maybe just help deal with) this problem by providing a place to pull all the feeds from all your social media networks in to one large feed. I've signed up for it and it makes things a bit easier to deal with.

Check out my feed here:

AOL Buys Bebo?

A very interesting development today...AOL has announced that they will be buying Bebo, an online social network with 40 million members, mostly in Europe, according to the Social Times. As Nick points out, there is a bit of a disconnect as AOL is based mostly here in the States. Perhaps AOL is positioning for international expansion, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


I haven't posted in a while. Sorry to all my regular readers...I've been rather busy at work and, of course, following the minute by minute disaster that is the end of Eliot Spitzer's career.

But you can count on me from now on! Posts galore on the continuing mainstreaming of social media and networks, the start of the Nats baseball season, tech marketing in a recession, St. Patrick's Day, the CTIA Wireless show and RSA Security show- all over the next three or four weeks!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Social Networks- Good PR?

The question of PR versus advertising has been around for a long time. Al Ries wrote a book entitled, "The Fall of Advertising and The Rise of PR", that describes how PR is better suited to marketing today's products and services. Nowadays, the growth of cheap (land line and mobile) broadband combined with free, easy to use simple CMS software like weblogs, wikis and social networks has empowered users, customers, prospects, and critics to organize themselves on their own terms.

Nothing new about that.

So I chuckled when I read in BizReport about WPP's results from social networking for their customers (emphasis mine).

WPP found that more of their clients were interested in keeping consumers updated on company changes, events and specials and that social networking sites were a good way to do this. However, advertising on social networks was not as popular, leading the company to deduce that social networks are helping businesses but in a different way than originally thought.

From the beginning, many businesses have been interested in creating branded micro-sites within social networks. What this trend report indicates is that this is a good way to connect with a user-base, to introduce new products or to keep consumers updated on sales or company events.

To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To ad agency, everything looks like a opportunity to sell ads.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Do Not Copy Other People's Stuff

It's been said before. Everyone should have picked this up in school. Maybe in the past, before the Internet, you might be tempted to copy a paragraph or a sentence here and there. No more. The Internet is forever, and everything you write is there forever. And it's almost instantly search able.
Don't believe me? Read "How my blog started the avalanche that buried presidential aide Tim Goeglein" by Nancy Nall Derringer in Slate today. Here is the link:

I wonder how many people are going to fired ten, twenty years from now for plagiarizing other people's content (...and all the snotty, mean, vicious things they write on their own blogs or while commenting on other people's...). Seriously people, do not copy other people's stuff.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whew...what a busy week

I've been down at the Washington Convention Center for the past few days checking out what's new in the satellite technology world. I've been a regular at the Satellite trade show for four years now. What a change!

Back in 2004, the show was basically empty. I made jokes ab0ut tumbleweeds in the aisles. There were maybe 60 companies exhibiting. Morale there was poor, mainly due to the aftereffects of the tech crash and associated satellite industry tumble 2001-2002. The industry was surviving on the first bursts of demand from the military after 9/11. It was the runup to the invasion of Iraq that pulled the satellite industry out of the dulldrums. The government was demanding huge amounts of bandwidth from the satellite industry as its own satellites did not have enough capacity.

The past few years however, the Satellite show has grown tremendously and the industry is vigorous and strong. There are well over 250 exhibitors at the show this year. Demand is being driven by military spending, the rise of digital signage and digital cinema, broadband satellite applications, mobile satellite services (MSS) especially what the military likes to call comms-on-the-move, that is the ability to have broadband IP voice and data access at all times in a moving car, truck, Humvee or tank. Lastly, there is lots of talk about merging the satellite access with terrestrial cellular and Wimax networks into what called a hybrid network.

All in all its a very exciting time in the satellite industry.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Digg Authentic?

As a late early adopter, I tend to get into technologies after the hardcore geeks but before the mainstream crowd. I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of this blog, which I'm pretty excited about. Over the three years or so, as I've followed the rise of social media and the PR industry's struggle to understand and leverage it for our clients, I've tried to remain somewhat realistic about the sometimes messianic claims made about blogs, wiki's, etc.

As a PR person, I can sometimes see beyond a company's messaging and notice when the reality of its situation differs from its public face. All the talk about the Wisdom of Crowds and the revolution of participatory, democratic communities is an age old dream from the Levellers, to the Sans-Culottes to the hippies. The social media sites Wikipedia and Digg have positioned themselves as the virtuous online version of this vision of truth, justice and equality.

But we know that the Levellers failed and was followed by Cromwell's invasion of and genocide in Ireland, the Sans-Culottes begat the Terror and the guillotine, and the dream of Woodstock died at Altamont. Human societies are naturally hierarchal. These hierarchies can be a little unequal or a lot unequal. All attempts at developing complete equality have not lasted, as those communities eventually developed hierarchies, with all the consequences that come with that.

This story in Slate today started me thinking about all this ("The Wisdom of the Chaperones"). Here is some of what Chris Wilson wrote:

Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits. The site also deploys bots—supervised by a special caste of devoted users—that help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones.

The same undemocratic underpinnings of Web 2.0 are on display at Digg is a social-bookmarking hub where people submit stories and rate others' submissions; the most popular links gravitate to the site's front page. The site's founders have never hidden that they use a "secret sauce"—a confidential algorithm that's tweaked regularly—to determine which submissions make it to the front page. Historically, this algorithm appears to have favored the site's most active participants. Last year, the top 100 Diggers submitted 44 percent of the site's top stories. In 2006, they were responsible for 56 percent.

It's clear that the "wisdom of crowds"messaging that Digg and Wikipedia have developed and communicated to the market isn't quite accurate, given the unequal levels of participation. This messaging has served them well and helped Wikipedia especially position itself as the virtuous alternative to paid websites like Encyclopedia Britannica. But as they mature as organizations, they are either going to have to change their positioning or alter the structure of their communities to bring them more in line with the ideal.