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Media Matters: Podcasting, Vidcasting and other Online Media Tools, Tips and Trends

Twitter is from Mars, Facebook is from Venus

June 5th, 2009

There’s a lot of confusion out there about the usefulness of these two social media tools. Facebook has gotten a lot of play as a place for brands and organizations to attract attention and interact with their audience or customers. Twitter has attracted a mix of attention because members of Congress are using it to promote their agendas and update their constituents. We here at HNP have our own ideas about what differentiates these two tools, and what you should be doing with them.

First, you should be on Facebook and Twitter. There’s no question that both sites attract huge audiences. They’re free, and the presence can’t hurt you if you check in on a semi-regular basis to update. That said, we think Twitter is the best use of your time and energy, even though the funny video above could lead you to a different conclusion.

As we implied in the headline, we think Twitter is a more professional, logical means of communication, while Facebook is more social in a high school sort of way. On Facebook, people are getting constant updates from their friends on what they ate for lunch, the pictures from their recent skiing trip, and other updates that only a close friend would be interested in. And the longer the user is on Facebook, the more friends they collect, and the more their page gets clogged with the minutae of their friends’ lives. Friends poke each other, turn each other into zombies, and share their 5 Favorite Beers.

Twitter, on the other hand, shuns the pokes and prods to provide a forum that is easy to use and attracts a more professional crowd. Sure, there are still the people letting you in on their personal lives, but Twitter’s “microblogging” is a great way to collect updates from knowledgeable experts on topics that interest you. Users are much more likely to use search terms on Twitter to seek out organizations and experts to get updates from. The result is a useful feed with quick updates of relevance to your audience.

And if you need another reason to focus on Twitter, Facebook is buggier than a beehive. Updating a site recently for a client, we went to link their Fan page with their Causes page. This sent Facebook into an infinite loop that we couldn’t escape from. For all its popularity, Facebook is seriously in need of debugging. That shouldn’t stop you from being there, but don’t put all your eggs into this basket, and remember that your message can get lost here wedged between our college roommate trading Star Wars figures and my Scrabble game with my mother.

Turning Lemons into Bitter, Bitter Lemonade

May 27th, 2009

Delfina Tee

7X7 Magazine has an amusing story about how Pizzeria Delfina (always a local favorite among the foodies) responded to a string of 1-star tirades on Yelp! Restaurant management took the worst posts and printed them on T-shirts, which their servers wear with pride. What makes it particularly punk is the inclusion of the poster’s username, calling out the hypocrisy of the anonymous person who demands that their opinion be valued. It takes a lot of confidence to do something this bold, and I might stand by my earlier post and say its better not to give the Yelpers a voice at all.

Copyright law for online videos: it’s better than you think

May 23rd, 2009

Negotiating the world of copyright is tricky business. But too often people assume copyright is black-and-white, that one can’t use ANYTHING in an online video, podcast or blog without getting permission. The fact is, copyright is a palette of greys. Often, its a matter of assigning the item in question with a risk factor- how likely is this person/organization to sue me? Are they likely to be looking, or does the original record label/film company/etc. even exist anymore? And is my use covered as an educational or not-for-profit use?

Which is why it was refreshing to find a new Code of Practices in Fair Use for Online Video from the Center for Social Media at the School of Communication at American University. The report takes into account “current acceptable practices” rather than the letter of the law, ranging from remixes and mashups to social commentary and parody. This document is an excellent resource for anyone working with video in this new age of social media.

New Media drives 78% rise in NPR listenership

May 12th, 2009

NPR logo

Interesting report from Marketing Vox that NPR reports a 78% increase in site traffic this year since adding new media to the site, including podcasting and social networking. Their podcast listenership has tripled over the past two years. See the full report.

New Media and Crisis Communication

May 7th, 2009

The current mess on Wall Street really has major web news sites on their toes. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what in terms of their new media strategy.

Audio features:

First of all, I noticed something new on the New York Times website today. They are running click-to-play audio features on the front page, under related stories. Under the headline “Senate Leaders Pledge Action”, they include a speaker symbol with a streaming 8-minute audio feature “Back Story with David Herszenhorn.” It comes from “Take Away” - a public radio program produced in conjunction with NYT.

The audio feature is simple radio-style production: a host intro with a little music, a few clips from yesterday’s broadcast coverage, and an extended interview with Herszenhorn that was clearly recorded by phone and only lightly edited.

Posting an audio feature to accompany a print piece on a website, blog or e-newsletter works for a few reasons:

- Some people absorb information better by listening rather than reading, so you’re allowing for different learning styles.

- Many web readers are browsing for information while doing other things (like work) and an audio feature lets them multitask.

- Voice adds a personal dimension – you can hear some emotion in the voice that gives another layer to the interpretation of the facts. For example, in this NYT piece, you can hear that the reporter is weary and concerned. We take in information on many levels – intellectual, emotional, sensory – so providing that extra dimension makes a story more memorable and more meaningful.

What didn’t work so well? This particular audio piece felt a little at odds with the NYT brand in terms of its style. The NYT has a strong polished style in terms of the writing and the visual branding – but the same isn’t true of these audio features, which are clearly produced by an outside radio station. It wouldn’t be hard to develop a NYT “signature” for these things and spruce things up a bit. Too often, mainstream sources tack on “new media” features without the same attention to polish and quality that characterize their primary content. (For example, the WSJ has its reporters filing web video stories lately, and the quality is all over the map.)

The NYT is also doing a good job with their blog discussion, talking directly with readers about their personal finances. The way they are using the blog forum is a model of new media crisis communications.

Compare the NYT approach to the way CNN lets readers comment in their “Sound Off” section at the end of major stories. (Scroll to the bottom of the story.) The comments are mostly a way for irate readers to indulge the anonymity of the web to spout off in tirades that don’t add much to the discussion. NYT by comparison sets up a separate forum for readers to voice their anxieties and hear back from the experts.

The moral of the story is to moderate and segregate.

Moderate: Especially during a crisis, public discussions need to be led and directed. Otherwise, the comments section becomes nothing more than angry graffiti scribbled all over your lead story. Knowing that someone knowledgeable is going to “talk back” is often enough to keep the discussion focused and articulate.

Segregate: Keep discussion comments separate from news. Don’t just tag on “comments” to the end of an important official story or announcement. Create a separate forum for discussion. Put a link near a provocative leading to a discussion blog. A news story and a discussion with readers each have their own distinct tone and purpose – don’t mix them up.

One final note: what we like about all of the above is the focus on authenticity. It’s exciting to watch mainstream news sources embrace new media as way of introducing less scripted, more subjective, more authentic comments from reporters and readers alike.

The Yelp! Conundrum

April 29th, 2009

Yelp logo

A San Francisco restauranteur thought he was pretty web-savvy, inviting 50 of the most prominent Yelp! reviewers to eat at his new digs — for free — before they opened. The crowd came, with friends, and ate well on the house. The next day, the reviews were pretty good. But the restauranteur was surprised to find that the reviews had absolutely no effect on his business. Inversely, one hears all the time about restaurants that get slammed on Yelp but do just fine.

The moral is that consumers online are more discerning than we give them credit for. Sure, some people will look at the most recent review and get immediately turned off by someone’s complaint that the waiter was rude, or the food was cold. But most people know that other people have their own weird obsessions, and habits, and failings, and you really can’t trust just one person’s review. The average person who uses a Yelp or Citysearch quickly assesses the aggregate of the reviews and makes their decision based on the balance.

The worst thing you can do is have your friends go online (or heaven forbid, do it yourself under a fake name) and write fake positive reviews. People can smell a fake review a mile away. But contrary to the commonly-held belief, we don’t think it’s wrong to respond to your critics in the comments — as long as you respond formally and professionally, fully own up to being the business representative, and only correct inaccurate information.

Authenticity: The Authoritative Source

April 22nd, 2009

Authenticity book image

When you’re talking about authenticity, you really have to namecheck Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore. Their latest book is called, of course, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want. It’s a great read, and they’ve got a nicely-designed website and blog to go along with it.

Today’s cry for authenticity is really about staking a claim against the advertising, PR and marketing models of the past, oh, century. The reason being, they’ve stopped working. We’ve heard something advertised as FREE! for so long, the word has lost its meaning. We know now that FREE! really means, “we’ve found a way to stick you with the price, and more, somewhere along the line.” I remember the first time I got roped into one of those record club deals, when I was 15, and got stuck buying a bunch of cassettes by Taco and 38 Special that I didn’t want. I learned my lesson, and since then I’m wary of things marked FREE!, same as we all are.

The same thing goes for much subtler branding strategies. We’ve become highly-attuned sensors of graphic design, and we’re able to sense when a Yelp review is written by the person who owns the restaurant. The only way to really reach people today is to be yourself, to let your company/non-profit/etc. tell its own story. Pine and Gilmore delve deeper into the meaning of authenticity- check out their site and the book.

Our Kindle Prediction, Revisited

April 6th, 2009

The e-book market is growing fast, according to the New York Times. The news comes on the heels of an announcement whereby Google gains (well, buys) permission from the world to scan and sell out-of-print titles online. While physical book sales continue to fall, e-books for the Kindle and Sony Reader grew 55% in 2008. And a new app for the iPhone that allows users to read e-books on that device was downloaded almost half a million times so far.

What does that mean for the publishing industry? Much the same as it does for the fading newspaper industry- it’s time to innovate, and quick. Combining media into new, exciting packages is the way to keep readers interested and engaged. Kindles can download and play mp3s- why not include an interview with the author with our e-novel? Or how about a cookbook author talking you through their favorite recipe? Your audience is consuming media in a variety of formats, and it is time to create your content in a variety of interesting ways to meet them.

Audio and Videocasting Audience “Way Up”

April 3rd, 2009

Podcasting News reports on a new Arbitron study that shows a significant rise in the podcasting audience for both audio and video. According to the study:

* The audience for audio podcasts grew 38% in the last year;
* The audience for video podcasts grew 45% in the last year;
* About 30% of regular Internet users have downloaded a podcast;and
* People listen to or watch podcasts primarily on their computers (about 75%).

That last fact is particularly fascinating. We make the assumption that the podcasting listener is on the go, listening on their iPods or Zunes, when in fact fully three-quarters of people are listening directly off of their home computers. Meanwhile, the sales of portable players continues to gain ground, with a full 37% of consumers owning one. Thanks to Podcasting News for pulling together this info! LINK

Want to get blogged? Avoid these faux pas.

March 31st, 2009

Boing Boing logo

Cory Doctorow, one of the team at (the exceptionally popular blog site) recently published his top tips for getting noticed by bloggers. Boing Boing uses the power of six different bloggers with a variety of unusual but shared interests to update their site several times a day with fresh, interesting - and often odd - content that keeps visitors coming back. And their perception pays off with more than 3 million unique visitors every month. Many a site has seen traffic soar after being featured on Boing Boing.

Cory’s 17 Tips for Getting Bloggers to Write About You lays out a variety of misdeeds that will deter bloggers from talking about you and linking to your site. The potency of this article lies in the fact that it focuses on the technical in a way that is easy for non-techies to understand. Too often, those seeking online publicity carefully consider the angle or the message they want to transmit, but overlook the technical sins that doom them to obscurity. Cory says, “[O]ften I can’t write about the tips people send me, because the people who posted the material did something crazy to make life tough for bloggers.” For example, here’s tip #6:

Flash sites stink. Designers, architects and artists, this means you: putting your whole site into a giant Flash blob with no internal links, no way to copy a representative bit of text into a post or e-mail, and no way to point to a specific page means that a large number of bloggers and other word-of-mouthers will just pass on it. Also, sites like this are invisible to search engines. Your whole graduating class may be making Flash portfolios, but if you break with them, you’ll get work from your site while they languish in search- and blogger-invisibility.”

If you’re interested in cracking the mysteries of how to get noticed by bloggers, Cory’s advice may help you better communicate with your designer or webmaster and avoid blogger roadblocks.