February 2006 Archives

Dying for some recognition

27 February 2006

Determined that the PR industry should not escape unscathed from carnage in the world of newsprint, Tom Foremski has demanded the execution of the press release, everyone's least favourite mode of communication, unless it gets a serious makeover. In the same way that PR predates an independent press - think roaming minstrels telling tales of derring-do - I suspect PR will have an easier time of post-press communication than Foremski believes. But that does not mean that I think the release is destined for much else than as search-engine fodder.

On the subject of news, Journalists often talk of the inverted pyramid. It is the only structure you need to know about when writing news - and is best avoided for any other type of article. You get the important stuff out in the first paragraph. Everything after that is just layer upon layer of progressively finer-grained detail. Press releases rarely follow this structure. Most of them are more like icebergs. The bit you can see does not give you any idea what the story really is.

The second part of Dave Sifry's State of the Blogosphere, for the start of 2006, contains an interesting but, to my mind, flawed assumption about what Technorati is able to measure. Sifry's analysis looks at "how attention has been shifting in the blogosphere". He then uses measures of link love to demonstrate that shift, but only to demonstrate that, even using blog-friendly metrics traditional media has captured much of the "attention".

The New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post are out in front still, according to his metrics. But the blog Boing Boing has overtaken BusinessWeek and Forbes among others, and is beginning to trouble the Guardian. Both Boing Boing and Engadget have apparently trumped Slashdot. The metric that Sifry is using is based purely on the number of unique links made to each site from blogs that Technorati tracks. In fact, looking at the data, it's not even clear that, by his definition, the attention is shifting away from the dreaded MSM. There are fewer blogs in the top 30 from January than from August 2005 or March 2005. January's graph is a sea of blue mainstream media sites with just four red blog bars in the list.

I just received an email from BT telling me that I can win free songs from iTunes by logging in every day to a subsite at BT.com with a name and email address. OK, it has to be a BT email address to qualify, except for Fridays when it looks to be a free-for-all and you get to play for an iPod as well as songs. The first batch of vouchers gets released at 9am tomorrow (Thursday 9th February). And it's: "first come, first served...Log in early to see if you can get your hands on them!" Oh dear.

Limiting the qualifiers to BT addresses most of the time will limit the damage but I can't be the only person who saw the email and thought, "Hmm, I wonder how long it would take to set up a cron job to do that every day until the 10th March?"

If you find a very, very slow server at 9:00:10 GMT tomorrow, don't be surprised. And Friday? I don't think it's going to be pretty.

First, an apology. This is a post about Google. I'm sorry I couldn't help it. The guff about Google doing the same thing tonight as it does every night ("Wozzat Brain?" "Why Pinky, take over the world of course.") is getting to me. I have visions of blog posts rising up like a great tide and crushing every meme in their path. And this is another one. So, I'm sorry.

Like the Brain, Google has been trapped by its own catchphrase. Wannabe corporate management take note. Don't come up with a company slogan that is impossible to live up to but easy to pick holes in. It would explain why almost all corporate mission statements are in equal measure bland and impenetrable. In coming up with "Don't be evil", Google sought to set itself apart from all the other corporations that populate the IT (and most other) sectors. As a private company, the policy might have been possible. The trouble is Larry and Sergey made a promise they can't keep. As a public company, it's the shareholders that own the company, not the management. And, I'm afraid to say, shareholders tend to like evil - not too much, but just enough to keep that share price rising.

So, what we have now is the ugly spectacle of people saying: "Look, Google is just like all the others. They're going to take over the world just like Microsoft, and IBM, and err...the other companies like that. And they're not doing it nicely either."

Giving BMW.de the heave-ho from the listings for an outrageous piece of cloaking was just one of Google's apparent crimes. People are now worried about Google's "accountability" - that it is judge, jury and executioner for its own search listings. Bloggers, in particular, fear the power of Google and so fret about it in public. Curiously, Google is not the primary carrier of traffic to blogs, even though blogs come off bizarrely well in search rankings. Maybe Google will get even more aggressive about protecting the integrity of its search results and I think that concern is uppermost in bloggers' minds when they write about abuses of power at Google.

Tell it like it is, PRWeb

4 February 2006

Sometimes, when the red haze settles on a blogger and the rant spews forth it's a bit disappointing when they apologise 24 hours later. David McInnis, CEO of PRWeb, should really have stuck to his guns after deciding that journalists are like lemmings and went public with his thoughts:

Next, let’s not kid ourselves. There is nothing sacred or holy about journalism anymore. For goodness sake, it has been the biggest product placement network going for close to three decades now. Turn on any network morning show, if you can stomach it, and you see one product placement after another. They are largely able to get away with it because it is so carefully orchestrated. Apart from being the ultimate in product placement, journalists today seem more like lemmings chasing the same dozen stories on a given day. What happened to variety?