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.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Social Media Best Practices

This morning, after returning from a BusinessWire event, I spent some time catching up on the news and reading my favorite blogs. A lot of the conversation in the PR world these days has to do with the mainstreaming of social networks and the impact they are having on traditional forms of communications. More and more companies are implementing programs that incorporate a social media component. And, increasingly, agencies are documenting their best practices and promoting their success stories.

One of the most succinct primers on the granular steps needed to develop social media content is the subject of my buddy Geoff Livingston's Now is Gone blog today. The main takeaway I have is that the basics of PR haven't changed at all- you must still learn about your audience before you open your mouth. It's ready, aim, fire- not the other way around...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Media Down, Marketing Up

Today, I started off by reading the Wall Street Journal and found a link to this story in AdAge, "Media Work Force Sinks to 15-Year Low." It begins:
U.S. media employment in December fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing-services -- agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers -- broke a record in November (769,000). Marketing consulting powered that growth.

Here's the reason behind the disparity: Marketers still invest in marketing, but they have options far beyond paid media: digital initiatives, direct marketing, promotions and events, just to name a few. That creates more opportunities for consultants to help define strategies.

Agencies also have adapted, expanding beyond simply creating and placing ads. Indeed, Ad Age DataCenter research has shown that U.S. marketing-communications agencies collectively in 2005 for the first time generated less than half of their revenue from traditional media and media planning/buying.
We've all been hearing about the struggles of traditional media, especially media, but I didn't have any idea that the agency world was a growth industry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ten Years Since Harray Carey

Just a quick post on this President's Day to point out that today is the ten year anniversary of the passing of Harry Caray. I was raised in a suburb of Chicago where Harry was a near deity. People mostly think of Harry as the famous announcer for the Cubs, but he was first an announcer for the White Sox, which was my childhood team.

Here is some video of Harry singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at the old Comiskey Park.

Marketers are talking a lot now about authenticity and brands. Harry Carey was a real as you can get and his trademark glasses were an almost perfect brand for him. So much so, that when I see those odd shaped glasses, I immediately think of him, Chicago, and a fun, happy-go-lucky attitude that he personified.

Can you see a man like this becoming an announcer for a mass media outlet these days? Ummm, no. But he had a special, uncommon quality that drew Chicagoans to him. Rest in peace, Harry, rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where are the Cool Mobile Apps?

A lot of action in the mobility space this week, most likely prompted by the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. I've written before about mobile phones, pda's and applications on this blog before, mostly from the perspective of a enthusiastic consumer of mobile technology. However, a couple of data points today make me but on my business thinking cap.

1. This blog post by Tom Yager at InfoWorld ("The mobile app god rush"). Tom writes about the opportunities and roadblocks to developing mobile applications with slick GUI's, super fast response times and integration with the mainstream developer community. I love my PocketPC, but I have to put up with a fairly serious step down in prettiness when I view a web site, play a game, or view a spreadsheet. I can voice activate my phone using Microsoft Voice, but the feature isn't integrated into each and every application.

2. My colleague, Chris Parente, posted today about a new report on trends in mobile TV users. He says,

Here’s that survey I hinted at in the post last week and released today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. M:Metrics and Tellabs surveyed 34,000 mobile TV users in Europe and the U.S. last year. Here’s the verdict:

The Good: The market grew 36%, and is estimated to be a $270M opportunity

The Bad: Former users grew 68%, faster than the market growth. Too many people don’t like the experience and are dropping.

I think this backs up Tom's point that the user experience on broadband mobile devices isn't quite good enough and needs improvement. The question, as always, is when are the carriers going to open up their platforms to small, innovative application developers. As Tom mentions, Adobe Flash is ubiquitous on PC's but is tied down in agreements with carriers. He writes (my emphasis added),

Adobe had a shot at defining an even more appealing common ground with Flash, but it made a strategic decision that brings up the second roadblock to rich mobile apps. Adobe could have made a business of making sure that either the full Flash Player, or the embeddable content player called Flash Lite, runs on everything that moves, just as the desktop Flash Player does now. Flash Player drives sales of Adobe dev tools and back-end servers. Imagine extending that model to millions of devices, and allowing every Flash developer -- and there are so many -- to target phones. Instead of taking Flash to mobile developers and users, Adobe brought the best of Flash to wireless operators who will keep it under lock and key. Must-have features such as widgets and customizable home screens done up in Flash will exist on phones but only as created by wireless operators, who are likely to bill you for your maps and weather just as they charge for ring tones now. Even Apple saw the folly of putting developers at the bottom of the mobile food chain.
I see a slow process as the carriers slowly evolve and respond to the changing market. It's going to be frustrating for me and other consumers, however. You would think that they would make mobile apps not only easy to use but make them cool to look at too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I just read a great blog post by Kyle Flaherty at Engage In PR. He isn't the only one talking about it, but his post struck a cord with me. There is vast amounts of information being generated from social media (blogs, twitters, events, wikis). It's overly time consuming to read and interact with it all.

We here are Strategic place a lot of emphasis on work-live balance for our staff. We feel strongly that we best serve our clients by not burning out the employees with 90 workweeks and back breaking scope creep. We are not a "smile and dial" agency that spams reporters with context-less emails. We focus hiring staff with long experience and a deep understanding of technology markets and putting them into a position whereby they can leverage their knowledge to provide the highest level counsel and most efficient execution for our clients.

However, the growth of social media implies that, not only is there more information outlets to monitor, but you have to interact with them in a meaningful, value added way. must generated your own information and communicate it clearly.

Oh, and do your job too. Oh and maintain relationships with family and friends.

All this implies to me, at least, that there has to be a diminishing return to social media, as people's attention is limited after a certain level of interaction is achieved. Where that point is located is different for each person...but it's definitely there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

All About Analysts

Brian Muys, a Managing Director here at Strategic, brought to my attention a new website that provides a Google-like search interface for analyst reports and publications. Called All The Analysts (, the site:
"is the place to look for the latest reports, thoughts and trends in the world of industry analyst research. We search everything from the biggest firms, including Gartner, down to specialist independent analysts to find the most relevant reports for your needs. Currently in beta, the ATA team are developing key services for three roles: Technology Professionals, Technology vendors, Industry Analysts."
My initial impression is it's about time. Tracking analysts can be a pain, not so much for the big well known firms, but for the smaller more niche specific outfits. A full list of the companies ATA follow can be found here.

Mostly, I like the fact that the designers of the website focused on usability and didn't overload the site with videos, banner ads and whatnot. Clear, clean web design. Ah...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lovely Link-y Goodness

Some links of note:

A popular, successful social community for IT professionals: debuts as stand-alone Web site :

Forrester Research is out with a report that addresses the possible impact of a recession on budgets for social media initiatives:

The Arketi Group has compiled a survey that provides data on how B-to-B media use Web 2.0, including how journalists get story ideas and how they use the Internet. Read the PDF here:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Super Bowl!

So...the exciting part of the my little vacation was that my Dad and I scored two tickets to the Super Bowl this past Sunday. Obviously, this was a can't miss game!

I'm not a Patriots or a Giants fan, but this Super Bowl was going to be historic one way or another. Either the Pats were going to go undefeated or the Giants were going to overcome a 12 point underdog spread and have one of the bigger upsets in Super Bowl history.

To those of you who watched the game on TV, let me say that it was even more exciting in person. The Crowd was half Pats, half Giant fans and each group was cheering pretty much the whole game. Everyone stood for the last 15 minutes of the game. I can't believe how lucky I am to have witnessed such a great game in person. Life is truly good!!

The FBR Open

I was on a little vacation last week to visit my parents in Arizona (which is why I haven't been posting). I had high expectations of wearing shorts and getting a nice tan while playing lots of golf. Sadly, the weather was cool- mostly in the lower 60's. Not too bad, compared to some other places, but not what I was hoping for.

We spent a couple of days at the FBR Open, a PGA Tour event, held at the TPC Scottsdale each year. It was packed with people- the crowds set an all time record, over 170,000 people were there on Saturday. Known as a party with a bit of golf thrown in, I had heard stories about the rowdy crowds at the famous par 3 16th hole. Surrounded by hills, grandstands and skyboxes, 20,000 fans cheer good shots and boo bad ones. Not normal behavior for the PGA Tour- so bad in fact, some golfers refuse to play the FBR!

All I can say is that the stories are true. I spent Saturday afternoon in the crowd at the 16th and we all cheered, and yes, booed the golfers depending on how close the hole they got. It was all good-natured and a lot of fun. From what I could see, the golfers seemed to be enjoying it too.