February 23, 2018

Politics and Political Blogs

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Whatever your political persuasion — right, left, or center — the blogosphere is a great place for bloggers to share their political views and make plenty of friends and enemies. We try to follow the conservative, liberal, and everything in between of politics and political blogs/blogging — but only when it intersects with business blogging.

Have a read below of our latest entries on politics and political blogging…

BBC contributor is keynote speaker at the Blog Business Summit

Conferences and workshops tend to blur together when you travel and speak as frequently as I do, so I appreciate getting involved in an event that’s focused more on education and discourse than on selling stuff, either from the podium or the exhibit hall. Don’t get me wrong, those sort of conferences can be valuable and I’ve definitely learned quite a bit attending those sort of events, but as a former research scientist, there’s much I prefer about getting together with a few hundred of the best people in the industry and exploring best practices together.

That’s why I am delighted to share with the Business Blog Consulting audience that I am not only going to be enthusiastically attending the upcoming Blog Business Summit in Seattle, but that I’m also going to be speaking a number of times, including a keynote talk on what I call “findability” and why blogs are such an important part of that equation.

The line up of speakers for the Summit reads like a who’s who of thought and influence leaders in the blogging world, including fellow BBC contributor Tris Hussey. It’s the last week of October on the waterfront in Seattle, and if you’re interested in business blogging or blog consulting, you’ll definitely want to learn more about the Blog Business Summit.

(If you’re interested in my comments and thoughts on the speaker lineup, and what I’m planning on talking about when I stand at the podium no less than four different times, please pop over to my thoughts on the Blog Business Summit)

A Bird? A Plane? A New Kind of Corporate Blog?

Posted by: of BlogWrite for CEOs on 09/29/06

Bento_box_bzzagentDave Balter, author of Grapevine and founder of BzzAgent, is up to something intriguing. He launched a new company blog today called The Bento Box (my favorite thing to have for lunch at a Japanese restaurant).

Take a look. It’s kind of a blog as performance art. (Be sure to click on the image above to listen to the audio segments.) BzzAgent has hired two high profile contributors to create the blog: John Butman, a professional writer and author; and artist Seth Minkin.

What really goes on inside BzzAgent?

For the next 168 days (24 weeks), the writer/artist tag team will “reveal” what really goes on inside Balter’s word-of-mouth-marketing agency. The point, presumably, is to counter criticism that the firm hasn’t been totally transparent about its method of recruiting volunteer BzzAgents to spread the word about a new product or service.

As the blog explains:

“Part Blog, part art show, part essay, part media experience, The Bento Box will allow you to nibble on what’s happening inside an operating company in real time, with the goal of thinking differently about your own business, non-profit or community.”

And the Transparency Guidelines as stated on the blog:

  • Employees must approve any usage of their names or likenesses
  • Clients must approve usage of their names for all information that is not already public
  • We will not disclose
    • the personal information of any BzzAgents
    • BzzAgent financial information
    • Confidential employee information
  • We are learning as we go. These rules may change as people get more comfortable with how this turns out, with the ultimate goal of limiting as many rules as possible.

Thanks to a writer for Entrepreneur Magazine for alerting me to The Bento Box.

New RSS Ad Program Feedvertising

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 09/29/06
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A new blog/RSS advertising option has launched this week from the folks at Text Link Ads called Feedvertising, which is a service that allows you to monetize your RSS feeds with ads. Text Link Ads will sell the ads for you, or as is the case with my blog, I combine links to my an affiliate program with Marketing Sherpa along with a few ads sold by Text Link Ads.

Not only is Feedvertising a potential source of revenue for blogs, but it’s also a clever way to cross promote other areas of your blog, company web site or other web sites that you publish.

Here is a tutorial on Feedvertising over at Tubetorial that explains how it works or you can check out the Feedvertising web site.

Co-founder of Text Link ads Andy Hagans took a few minutes to answer a few questions about Feedvertising for me. Basically Andy says Feedvertising is a way to give RSS feed publishers a lot more control over ads and the market is still very new.

What prompted you to develop this tool?

Advertising via RSS is a small but emerging market. We took a look at existing products and didn’t see anything that was very impressive, from a blogger or advertiser standpoint: pricing was often confusing and inefficient; the ads were often graphical or JavaScript-based, resulting in banner-blindness; and finally, most systems left bloggers without any control over what ads ended up in their feed.

We developed Feedvertising with the idea that bloggers should be able to monetize their RSS feeds while maintaining complete control; i.e., they can manually add their own ads or promotions, or sell space through the TLA system, or do a combination of both.

What kind of earning potential is there for advertisers and what’s the business model for Text Link Ads with this tool?

The business model for TLA is to help monetize those feeds where the blogger chooses to do so through the TLA system. We think the earning potential is great, as reaching the influencers who use RSS is a very important marketing objective for companies who are trying to gain mindshare among early adopters or bloggers. Right now we are testing the price points, so the exact numbers will probably change over time.

What do you think of the RSS advertising market? What are some innovative uses of RSS where advertising might be most productive? ie, advertising on a blog feed is one thing, advertising on a new product RSS feed is another.

Again, this market is pretty immature, but so are all marketing channels in the beginning. Our goal is to stay innovative as this channel evolves and expands. As long as we stay commited to delivering value to both bloggers and advertisers, the feature set should move naturally with that.

What kinds of blogs are best suited for this kind of advertising? What kind of traffic should a blog/RSS feed be getting in terms of hits or subscribers before it makes sense to advertise?

Without getting into numbers, it really comes down to advertiser demand. If your blog has a smaller number of RSS subscribers, but those subscribers are mostly business executives (or any other valuable audience segment), there is still going to be demand from the advertising side.

That said, we think Feedvertising is a great product for ANY blog, even a new one or one with small readership; at the very least, you can use Feedvertising to cross-promote your own feature pages, or other sites.

There are other great reviews of Feedvertising at TechCrunch and Problogger.

The Right Way to Put Keywords in Your URLs

The format of your URLs can impact your rankings either positively or negatively. For example, having some good keywords in the URL of a permalink where each keyword is separated by a hyphen (which is what WordPress does when you turn on URL rewriting in the WordPress Admin), can give you a boost in your rankings. It may not be a big boost, but Google engineer Matt Cutts has stated that: “having keywords from the post title in the URL also can help search engines judge the quality of a page.” He goes on to clarify this statement in the Comments of that post saying: “including the keyword in the URL just gives another chance for that keyword to match the user’s query in another way”.

I take that to mean that Google considers keyword-rich URLs in a blog to be a useful factor to consider in determining where to rank your page in the search results. In other words, it’s a good thing, so do it!

But the different blog platforms do URLs differently. Some blog platforms do not use hyphens to separate the keywords. Movable Type and TypePad separate keywords with underscores. Matt Cutts has stated that underscores are not treated as word separators by Google. As such, in a URL like www.myblog.com/several_relevant_keywords.html, Google sees 1 word “several_relevant_keywords” rather than 3 words “several relevant keywords.” In addition, these “post slugs” are arbitrarily truncated at 15 characters in both TypePad and Movable Type regardless of whether it is in the middle of a word or not, so it’d be more like “several_relevan.html” instead. Instead it really should extend the length and drop off the last word entirely rather than have a word fragment.

Hopefully the folks at Six Apart will read this post and decide to change their errant ways in regards to the way they formulate URLs. 🙂

If you are one for making long titles to your posts and you are using WordPress with URL rewriting turned on, then you are probably used to having permalink URLs that are quite long with numerous hyphens in them. i would suggest avoiding too many hyphens in the URL; that can look a bit spammy. Rather than letting WordPress create the file name for you, specify your own, taking the most important keywords from the title and stringing them together — each word separated of course by hyphens. Try to keep it to three or fewer hyphens. The place to specify the file name is in the “Post Slug” field in the “Write Post” page in the Admin. Alternatively you can trim down your file names automatically using the Slug Trimmer plugin for WordPress.

And for those of you who have post ID numbers in your URLs instead of keywords, I would suggest switching to keywords in your URLs. I think this is particularly worth doing if your URLs have a question mark in them — as that signals to the search engines that your page is dynamic. Search engine spiders are wary of dynamic pages because they can get caught in a “spider trap.” So best to adopt a URL structure that makes your pages appear static and spider-friendly.

Verizon Wakes Up To Blogs and Social Media

Posted by: of Expansion Plus on 09/26/06

Verizon Communication has seen the blogging light.

Speaking on a panel on engaging the in-control consumer at the MIXX Conference in New York, Jerri DeVard, senior vice president of marketing and brand management for Verizon said they had been ‘asleep at the wheel a bit’ and that they’ll be playing catch-up in the fields of online and social networking. They plan to launch a blog that will be a no-holds barred “all issues on the table” dialogue with consumers–and support it with a round-the-clock response team.

Sounds like they have the right idea, and one other corporations could implement.

“We would rather do business with a company that openly communicates and that provides the service or product that we are paying for. And we would rather not do business with companies that don’t; and companies that don’t do either one, eventually will not have customers, profits and finally a business at all,” writes Marianne Richmond in her Resonance Partnership blog post called Sprint, can you hear me now?

She goes on to say, “A few weeks ago Josh Hallet at Hyku wrote a post with the title Corporations Visiting Blogs, But Not Commenting=Prank Calling? Allan Jenkins, David Parmet and I left comments agreeing with his premise that corporations were obviously monitoring blogs for information but not taking the extra few minutes it would take to leave a comment…not even a “form” comment that could say, “We heard you, please call 1-800-IDO-CARE to discuss.” And then have that as a “working” number.”

Monitoring blogs is a vital PR activity, but unless you respond and enter the conversation, you’ve missed the point of social media and the in-control customer landscape we’re operating in.

How Do You Say “Page Rank” in Arabic?

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 09/23/06

For any company doing business in Arabic-speaking countries or communities a good feed to have is for the Maktoob Business Blog.

Online since December 2005, the blog covers aspects of business in the Middle East, with a stated aim of focusing on marketing, advertising and media. There are several contributors.

The blog is a product of Maktoob Business – whose website banner claims that the group has the world’s largest Arabic community.

araby.com logo

A recent blog post reports on Maktoob’s newly-launched (beta) Arabic search engine, Araby.com, which Maktoob claims has a number of competitive advantages over the Arabic version of the engines developed first for English:

  • optimized to deliver Arabic-language results from Arabic sources
  • specialized search channels including Arabic news sites, photos, blogs and forums
  • a dedicated channel for searching Islamic topics

The press release here provides more detail and some pr elaboration.

Not being able to read Arabic, for me the Araby.com site is a closed book. But could Araby.com be a serious Arabic competitor to Google and Yahoo! A contender in its rather large niche? This blog post by one of the developers, Isam Bayazidi, sounds a cautionary note – it’s beta, he’s saying:

One thing for sure, Araby.com, and the verticals in it have a long way to go with development. We only released early to give users a peak into what is cooking, and get feedback on it.

Business Blogging Seminars from SixApart

SixApart is hosting a series of Business Blogging Seminars in cities across the US. According to their informational page, participants will:

  • Learn how to create effective blogging strategies and policies
  • Hear dynamic use cases from specific industries
  • See the latest blogging technologies demonstrated, including RSS and podcasting
  • Have your specific business blogging questions addressed in our Q&A sessions

Now, of course this will undoubtably feature how to use a TypePad or Movable Type blogging platform to create a presence in the blogosphere. However, there will probably be good information even if your a dyed-in-the-wool WordPresser.

Current cities include:

  • Washington, DC (9/28) (10/19)
  • Detroit, MI (10/30)
  • Boston, MA (11/2)
  • San Francisco, CA (11/13)
  • Chicago, IL (11/16)
  • NYC, NY (12/11)
  • Miami, FL (12/14)

Hey, Six Apart! How about Portland, ME? I’ll even put you up.

If you’d like to get more information or register, go for it. (BTW, in the interest of transparency, that’s an affiliate link.)

Lessons learned by a business blogger

Jessica Duquette, founder of In Perfect Order and blogger at It’s Not About Your Stuff, graciously allowed me to interview her via email. I asked Jessica for an interview because I was so impressed with her blog.

Jessica learned plenty of lessons about business blogging that she was happy to share, particularly about defining her niche and building relationships with other bloggers.

One “a-ha” Jessica shared was how valuable Sitemeter can be if you just know where to look; she regularly checks referral stats, who is linking to her, and the most commonly used search terms. This has proved to be a “goldmine” because it has enabled her to tailor posts to the topics people were most interested in, as well as establish contacts and collaborate with other bloggers in her field. For example, Jessica wrote about a post about how to do a cubicle makeover and as result got a flood of traffic from searchers querying for “cubicle makeover”; so now she is in the process of contacting a woman in Seattle who wrote a book on cubicle makeovers so that she can do a podcast with this author to post on the blog.

One crucial piece of advice for business bloggers that Jessica offered is to spend as much time connecting with other bloggers as you do on your own posts by visiting their site, commenting on specific postings that can then link back to your site, participating in blog carnivals, quoting excerpts from their posts and linking to their sites, and allowing others to do the same from your posts. “It only takes one lucky link from someone to turn you from 120 people a day to 12,000 visitors a day!” she says.

What about the benefits of blogging for her business? She’s already been featured in the Wall Street Journal’s Blog Watch column. And she’s slated to become a contributing blogger to Arianna Huffington’s new portal in the next few weeks.

She’s not only building her brand as an organizing expert with a twist, but is now collaborating with others on future new information products. As for those Google AdSense ads on her blog, they’re brand new so the jury’s still out on the revenue impact.

Of course there’s stuff she wished she knew before she got stung — like not quoting too much from other people’s blog postings instead of just summarizing with a link. Ouch! And how to be nicer to people who upset you! “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” she says. “Perhaps the blogosphere needs more clearly defined laws or set cultural norms about quoting others. But for now, it’s better to err on the side of caution.” 

That said, Jessica has found the blogosphere to be a warm, friendly and extremely supportive space and has been impressed by the willingness of A-list bloggers to share information, tips, and and correct her without asking.

“For that, I feel so grateful and humbled,” says Jessica. “My life and business have been immeasurably enriched by having a blog.”

You can read the full interview here.

VideoBlogging: A Great Option for Corporate Bloggers

Posted by: of andrewbourland on 09/18/06

There was quite a bit of controversy over at TechMeme this past weekend over the question of whether bloggers should videoblog or just stick to text.

I’d like to weigh in on this issue, given my credentials as a brand spankin new videoblogger that just launched a new business oriented videoblog (we interview entrepreneurs from early stage companies).

For the most part, sticking to text is best. It’s easier, cheaper and far less work and maintenance than having to put up a videocast of whatever you would normally blog about. People can scan text quicker and it’s easier to reprint a particularly informative blog entry to pass around the office.

But there are times where video could come in real handy…

An interview with a key player at your company or within your industry.

A quick demo of a new product or service you are launching.

Some quick interviews with partners and clients you run into at a conference or trade show.

A Channel 9 type “mini-documentary” of projects you have underway and the people in charge.

Video helps you capture that human essence that words cannot always do… An expression on a person’s face, the tone of their voice, a hesitation in saying something… Impossible to capture in text. Easy on video.

You don’t necessarily need a production grade videocamera, special lighting or even a studio to add video to your blog. The resources you need are surprisingly affordable and easy to use.

Bottom line, it’s not an either/or question… really more of a “which is more appropriate for what I’m trying to communicate here?” type of a question.

Video is growing in leaps and bounds on the net, and it behooves you to learn how best you can benefit from it.

Is It OK to Ghostwrite a CEO Blog?

Posted by: of BlogWrite for CEOs on 09/18/06

I’m moderating a discussion this week about CEO Blogging over on the IAOC blog. I’d love to hear your two cents on the numerous questions surrounding this topic du jour.

First question: Is it OK to ghostwrite a CEO blog? Waddya think? Click here to jump into the discussion.

Fortune 500 CEO blogger Jonathan Schwartz was quoted over the weekend in an AP story by Rachel Konrad titled Sun CEO Among the Few Chiefs Who Blog:

“The blog has become for me the single most effective vehicle to communicate to all of our constituencies – developers, media, analysts and shareholders,” Schwartz said in an interview in his Silicon Valley office. “When I go out and have dinner with a key analyst on Wall Street or a key investor from Europe and ask them if they’ve read my blog, they almost universally say yes.”

Check out my backstory on Rachel’s article, which ran in dozens of newspapers, as well as links to a list of CEO bloggers, etc. Dave Taylor and I were both quoted in the AP story.

Guidelines Needed for Government Employee Blogging

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 09/18/06
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Virginia Department of Business Assistance employee and dedicated blogger, Will Vehrs got a good result last month from the Commonwealth’s Department of Employment Dispute Resolution. The severity of disciplinary action against him for some blogging activity was reduced and the ten days’ pay that had been docked was ordered to be restored.

The story in summary form is at Virginia’s Daily Press site in the article State worker suspended over blog comments wins grievance. That’s not a blog post so I’m not sure about the archiving, but the story is told also on Townhall.com.

The bigger story here is that as an outcome of these events we have a landmark decision by a government agency, about public sector employee blogging, in the published findings of the Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR).

I am not a lawyer, but I have been a government executive and more recently a government sector consultant. I believe this document will prove very helpful to public service managers who take the time to read and ponder it, and to anyone who consults on blogging to government departments or agencies.

Not before time. Until now I have not been able to discover any really useful information, directly about government employee blogging, as distinct from coverage of general issues about employee blogging.

There are several well-cited codes or sets of guidelines on blogging by employees in the corporate sector, e.g. those from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Thomas Nelson. But to the best of my knowledge no one has yet produced a set of blogging guidelines for the public sector, or at least not so as to be readily accessible from an online search.

And my sense is that any public sector manager or blogging consultant asked right now to advise a government agency on, for example, blogging guidelines for employees, would have to cobble something together from the various corporate sector guidelines and codes of blogging conduct.

That would be better than nothing, but might not be enough to provide guidelines adequate to the challenge. Or at least might not be enough to satisfy the client that every area of risk or uncertainty has been covered adequately and in language that speaks to the government employment context.

There is also the issue of workable guidelines being developed for individual agencies, which, it could be inferred from the EDR decision, may be acting less than prudently in relying on blanket guidelines established on a ‘whole of government’ basis.

A related issue is that if a government agency permits (or encourages) employees to blog, there could be a need for some quantification of what constitutes acceptable use of ‘on the job’ time. As the EDR decision makes clear, one of the limitations on Virginia Department of Business Assistance (VDBA) managers’ ability to discipline employees over blogging was that the applicable policy, i.e. the Commonwealth’s policy on Internet usage, allowed for ‘incidental and occasional personal use’ of the Commonwealth’s internet access, but did not attempt to quantify that.

Nor, it seems, is a ‘common sense’ approach going to be necessarily adequate in itself. In Will Vehr’s case, the supervisor counseled him about use of the weblog, warning that he would have to be careful not to ‘cross the line’, to be careful about the frequency and content of his commentary, to use good judgment and make sure his commenting did not become a distraction. Those principles are pretty much in line with the various corporate guidelines, such as those mentioned above. But once a media storm blew up and politicians and community members got involved, the principles were not enough in themselves to enable the supervisor to discipline Vehrs in such a way that the action would hold up under the scrutiny of a grievance procedure.

An interesting side issue is that although Vehrs had a disclaimer posted on the blog stating that the views he expressed were his own, EDR found that the posting of the disclaimer was “not sufficient to insulate him from violation of the policy (that he was required to state that his communications were personal and not a ‘communication of the agency or the Commonwealth’)”. Which raises the question of what would constitute a disclaimer adequate for the purpose.

According to reports, such as that on the Townhall.com site, the VDBA’s solution to these interesting challenges to public administration has been fairly basic – ban blogging. Presumably that means blogging on the taxpayer’s time. Nothing is said in the reports I’ve seen about guidance on private blogging by a state employee, where similar guidelines surely need to be established as are included in corporate sector guidelines cited above.

A ban is not a policy. And while understandable in the circumstances, that outcome is not helpful for those of us who might be interested in seeing how a government agency would go about adopting a more nuanced policy approach.

So in the absence of such an approach and drawing on the EDR findings, here are some key points I would be looking to include in any set of guidelines for government sector blogging, in addition to principles already established for the corporate sector:

  • quantify what would constitute an acceptable – not necessarily recommended – upper limit of time over a given week for personal use of the employer’s internet access, on the employer’s time, for blogging
  • with due consideration to privacy issues, establish logging and archiving arrangements adequate to provide objective evidence of time spent in blogging, to assist in resolving any future dispute
  • advise employees fully, in writing, of any applicable law, overall service guidelines and any specific governmental, departmental, agency or unit guidelines
  • advise employees of the need to provide disclaimers in a prominent way, so that readers of their blog posts or comments understand that ‘their views are their own’
  • provide managers with appropriate guidance and training in their supervisory role regarding employee blogging and specifically on the need to be able to provide objective evidence of any alleged breach of guidelines, before proceeding to disciplinary action

I’m sure there are more principles and refinements to be included in any comprehensive set of blogging guidelines for government employees. On the other hand, I expect that some bloggers will regard even what I’m proposing here as unduly restrictive or onerous.

But whatever guidelines eventually emerge, public sector managers, and consultants advising the public sector, have reason to be grateful to Mr Vehrs for having taken his grievance to EDR, and grateful to that Department for publishing its decision online.

Blogging For CIOs A Cautionary Tale

Posted by: of One By One Media on 09/13/06

Niall Cook yesterday posted about CIOs and their thoughts about corporate blogs in an article by Andy McCue at Silicon.com.  He and I both agree that perhaps CIOs are a little paranoid when referring to blogs, but in their defense, it is scary for companies to try something new.  Many businesses don’t want to be the leader in new and different ways of corporate communication.  They like to be copycat for the things that work.  Until companies begin to embrace blogs as an online marketing tool and a way to communicate with clients and customers, they will tread lightly, making sure that the water is warm before jumping in the pool.  The best example of the fear is exemplified in the comment by Rob Wharton, CIO of Colt Telecoms:

“Blogs are popular because they tend to represent personal opinions and personality rather than corporate messages. Therefore we need to take a great deal of care to ensure appropriate use so we don’t devalue the blog concept, whilst avoiding mayhem in what essentially needs to be a controlled message.”

The first part of the comment is spot on, that blogging is a personality of your company and what it represents, and that can be a frightful thought.  What Mr. Wharton needs to realize is consumers and customers want to see that personality and they don’t want the corporate speak of the controlled message.  The “mayhem” he discusses can be controlled if the personality is proper.  Until they see it in action blogs are still the boogey man of corporate communication.

A Blog Conversation

Posted by: of One By One Media on 09/12/06

An interesting development transpired here at BBC, a blog conversation broke out.  BBC contributor Stephan Spencer’s post PR Firms Comment Spamming? began a small conversation with the VP of Connors Communications.  Stephan had assumed a comment left on his blog about the long tail was a PR firm touting the latest client’s software program.  Although Stephan was mistaken in his assumption, through the use of blog mining or RSS (now I’m assuming), Mike Levin the person that left the comment, was able to correct his mistake.  In fact Mike was touting the application he had developed for Connors Communications. 

An open conversation was the result, and although Stephan and Mike may disagree on the use of comments on a blog, it is clear that their exchange was civil, and exactly what companies can use a blog to develop, an open commuincation with their customer or clients. 

Sorry Mike, now it’s my turn to provide some feedback.  After going to the Connors website, I wanted to rush to read your blog since you had indicated you were a passionate blogger in your comment.  I looked far and wide and could not seem to locate that blog.  On a whim I decided to check out the hard to find navigational site map link and searched a long time again before I found the link to your company blog.  You are correct by stating in the comments here:

I read many blogs, and sometimes I am compelled to leave comments, just as comments on our blog are welcome. I think if you read a few of my blog posts, you will find me to be sincere and on the level.

I read a few of your blog posts and you are definitely on the level and sincere.  The problem or at least what made it difficult was the navigation to your blog.  If you don’t make it easy to access those blog posts people may never get to find your wisdom.  A simple “Read Our Weblog” button or link in the top left with the rest of the navigation would prove to be beneficial to you and Connors Communications.

Great job gentleman and lets keep up the blogging conversation.

Blogs, Podcasts, RSS and B2B: New Research Study Available

KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann have begun to release an emerging media series study into how blogs, podcasts and other RSS technologies affect technology purchasing decisions.

So far only the podcasting study has been released (free with registration), but they’ve released some teaser factoids:

  • 53% of respondants get business and technology information from blogs
  • 59% of business and IT professionals are somewhat or very familiar with RSS
  • 70% pass along content from blogs

Of course, they don’t go into detail (at least yet) on whether these people are making a buying decision on what they read at Engadget, or whether an RSS feed is helping them choose the right server or keeping them up with last night’s episode of Lost.

You can read the abstract and register for the free report here.

Thanks to Media Buyer Planner for the link.

UnConferences: Not a Bad Thing to Attend After All

Posted by: of andrewbourland on 09/11/06

I have to eat my words and offer a public apology to Josh Hallet, whose BlogOrlando UnConfererence I questioned the validity of in this forum.

In that piece, I charged that UnConferences were essentially anti-capitalistic over-reactions to the sins of the current approach to conferences. I questioned their value, recalling an UnConference I attended at the ripe young age of 16 which degenerated in to chaos.

I got some feedback from people telling me that I shouldn’t be so harsh in my judgement of UnConferences, that I should attend one before I make such rash statements in the future.

Such an opportunity arose this weekend when I attended PodCamp Boston, a gathering of podcasters and videocasters designed to teach each other what they’ve learned about the art, craft and business of podcasting.

An agenda that looked informative and useful emerged as the days for the conference approached. An impressive list of experts and well known figures within podcasting steadily grew as well, making the conference that much more valuable for me to attend.

It was a free conference, but it was looking early on like something of great value to me, so I signed on as a $250 sponsor — which I would have been glad to pay anyway just to rub elbows with the quality of people who would be attending.

The sessions moved along quickly and were quite lively with enthusiastic participation from the attendees — much more so than other conferences I’ve attended where people tend to fall into catatonic states unless the speaker was particularly charismatic.

Anti-capitalistic? Hardly. The organizers did all they could to facilitate good networking and introducing those who would benefit greatly from meeting each other.

I learned a great deal in the time I was there, and hope I was useful to others as well. Not only that, despite being a dyed in the wool introvert, I ended up joining three local organizations which will help continue the learning path I’m on. It will also help me in my networking about, learning more of the right people that I should be talking to.

So Josh, you were right, I was wrong. The UnConference can in fact be a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the topics you are interested in.

I would recommend corporate bloggers seek out these venues as well to increase their knowledge on their blogging skills. They only cost you the time, energy and knowledge you put into them — which will serve to increase their value substantially.

Facebook News Feeds. Oh,You Were Expecting PRIVACY…

Posted by: of Made for Marketing on 09/8/06
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The web works quickly, as so noted by Wendy Davis in her column today “Just An Online Minute… Facebook’s About-Face“. No sooner did Facebook put up their “News Feed” and “Mini-Feed” to keep users alerted about changes in their friends’ profiles through the magic of RSS than they were feeling the wrath of over 500,000 social netizens breathing down their neck to stop the privacy invasion. All this great publicity (and a 6%+ response rate – 500K of 9M, not bad numbers! Enough to make any direct marketer blush) thanks, in part, to the folks at Students Against Facebook News Feed.

The group has, however, issued a statement basically telling people to ‘back off’, as Facebook has impelmented satisfactory changes to it’s privacy policy.

The group’s initial impression is that Facebook has implimented most of the privacy changes that we asked for. We never believed Mark Zuckerberg was out to hurt people and that his corporation had nothing but good intentions when they launched news feed and mini-feed.

My take on this whole thing, which is obviously one-sided, is that this whole situation was a bit overblown and really shows the power of the social media zeitgeist when it’s way, way out of control.

Think about this. Plaxo has been doing this for years. I get emails all the time from them telling me that someone’s updated their content (though, it usually comes from my computer with the Plaxo toolbar installed). I also see this every time I log in to LinkedIn. In fact, just today, I can tell you who, of my connections, added friend and connections (and who they were!), updated their profiled, added their blog URL and other various administrative tasks. Tell me, what seperates these from the Facebook ordeal?

I say, there’s not much difference here, just a difference of perception. For some reason, that I’ve not the time to dive deep into here, the current generation of Facebook users (cursory view – there’s only one other person from my graduating university class on facebook..most everyone else is ’05 – ’10) have a warped perception that there’s privacy online. Really, since when? Google has your life in a box (and a well organized one at that). So what if your friends see that you added a new picture, seriously, with the volume of stuff (my experience with LinkedIn and Plaxo) coming though, it’s not like anyone will care anyway.

In the wise words of one Sun MicroSystems CEO, Scott McNealy “Privacy is dead, deal with it.â€? While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “dead”, there is a movement going on in the “identity” space, privacy certainly is not something you expect in an online social network (at least, not in this day and age, and not from Gen X)
The lesson that I take away, and the reason that we’re so in love with RSS (or News Feeds, Mini-Feeds, whatever…) is that it’s all about CONSUMER CONTROL and OPT-IN. Think about that the next time you lauch a great feature. (especially to a rabid community of 9 million). It’s that simple. Facebook made a quick about face, and was able to save face (sorry, couldn’t resist) here by implementing some very swift policy changes. Kudos to them for listening and reacting!

RSS is a great tool, just like every other great tool on the Internet, but it’s the best kind of tool when the user has the controls. If Facebook gives the controls to the users (and they know how to use them), we’ll see News Feeds come back in style on Facebook.

More info: WSJ (free article) New Facebook Features
Have Members in an Uproar

“Blogger and Podcaster” magazine? Huh?

Okay, so I’m more than a bit puzzled to learn about a new print magazine being launched in January, Blogger and Podcaster. But not because of the fact that it’s a magazine because I get a number of magazines about Internet-related topics, including webmaster publications and, heck, I’m a contributor to the affiliate marketing magazine Revenue.

What baffles me is that it’s an online only magazine, what they’re calling a “digital form only” publication.

Now think about this. The publisher, Larstan Publishing, is focused on blogging, but instead of creating a blog with advertising to address this market, they’re doing a “digital form only” trade magazine that I’m sure will be just a monster PDF emailed to subscribers monthly.

From the world of traditional publishing, this probably makes some modicum of sense. After all, you can hire sales managers from other magazines, people experienced in the world of print. I’ve been involved with print publications for decades now, and have spent many an hour [drinking beer] with ad sales people, so I know this perspective well.

From the perspective of us already mired in the world of blogging, however, a once-monthly PDF email is about the most brain-dead solution a company could use when addressing this market. Successfully tapping into the blogging zeitgeist, if you will, is all about timeliness, fluidity and being assimilated by the blogosphere. Or, heck, putting it all in print and having a print magazine that we can touch, a la WIRED.

Is there anyone out there who can explain to me the logic behind Larstan’s plan with its “digital form” magazine for the blogosphere and world of podcasters and how it makes any sense at all?

My prediction: this project will die a painful death and “Blogger and Podcaster” will be gone within four issues.

What do you think?

And blogs don’t just reach the young

Posted by: of Expansion Plus on 09/4/06

The young and politically aware may well be a prime audience for bloggers, but you can reach all kinds of folk online.

“I thought blogging was for young people with political interests, but now I see it’s for anyone who wishes to interact with people all over the planet. And they can be good for business,� says Kate Loving Shenk, Nurse Entrepreneur and founder of Nursing Career Transformation, about her new blog,

Even Baby Boomers are online in growing numbers. Earlier this year ClickZ reported that three out of five adults 55 years and older, known to be the heaviest consumers of offline media such as newspapers and TV network news, say they use the Internet more today than they did a year ago.

The number of online adults aged 55 and older grew by 20 percent to reach over 27 million in 2005.

Of course they have to find the blog.  So your choice of subject matter and the  keywords and phrases you use will be vital to your success.


Church and State Agree: Blogs Reach A Net Savvy Younger Audience

Posted by: of Expansion Plus on 09/4/06

“As a pastor, I shouldn’t be just leading a church but connecting with people using the same formats they use every day,â€? says Pastor Ben Arment of the HIstory Church in Oak HIll, Va. “Blogging is a forum that’s successful because it corresponds with how younger generations think.â€?

Mark Batterson, the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washingaton, D.C. Batterson estimates he spends 20 percent of his workday updating his blog, “Evotional.�

“I used to think that the blog supplemented my weekend message,� said Batterson, who draws upwards of 25,000 visitors a month to www.evotional.com. “Now I wonder if it isn’t the other way around. It’s hard for me to imagine why a church that has younger members wouldn’t have a blog component

NPR’s On The Media spoke at length yesterday about the power of consumer generated media, blogs, video and podcasts. Politicians need to take heed of the power of the Net, was the overarching message. Smart politician’s know that they need to take their message directly to the audiences relying on the Internet for news and information.

Senator Lieberman’s loss in the Connecticut Democatric primary to Net-savvy newcomer Ned Lamont was a case in point. Indiana Senator, Evan Bayh, is posting messages aimed at the younger generation on sites like YouTube and Facebook in preparation for his anticipated 2008 presidential bid.

And there’s a lesson to be learned here by business bloggers: that old PR adage that you should use the channel most familiar and acceptable to your audience still applies.

Will bloggers write about stuff you send us?

As bloggers and blogging has raised its visibility in the media landscape, and as us bloggers have become thought and opinion leaders, to a greater or lesser extent, it should be no surprise that we’re smack-dab in the middle of the radar screen for Public Relations firms and individual companies seeking to gain “buzz” or visibility for their products or services.

What clearly isn’t quite so obvious, however, is how to approach bloggers when you want to send them something to check out. Do you explicitly say “do you want to review this” or, even more blatantly, “will you say nice things about it if we send you one?” or is there a more subtle road you can travel, one that’s more akin to “thought you’d find this cool. Want one?” without any expressed desire to have one of us actually write about it?

I would suggest that it’s an unsolved puzzle and that when I was approached by a company that sells high-tech bean bag chairs to see if I’d like to review one, this all came to the fore because, well, because I’m a business writer, not a furniture reviewer or home decorating maven. (trust me, you don’t want me decorating your home! 🙂 )

The key revolves around disclosure, and instead of actually reviewing the chair, I decided that I’d write somewhat of a meta-review, talking about how the chair ended up in my office and its implications for both bloggers and PR professionals seeking to have us examine their wares.

Oh, and my review? Here’s an excerpt: “As it turns out, I don’t particularly like the chair because while the fabric cover is clearly tough and durable, the rip-proof nylon isn’t very comfortable and I really wish it had a cloth, cotton or even corduroy cover. But I’m in the minority. My wife…”

You can read more about this topic, including the email back and forth with Omni, the bean bag company, on my business blog: How to get bloggers to write about your product.


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