Friday, June 29, 2007

A Sad Week in Journalism

This week has been particularly disturbing to the purveyors of news. If you weren’t scared you should check for a pulse or, as I’m guessing is the case, pay more attention.

In response to the continued Rupert-Murdoch-takes-over-the-mediated-world-one-outlet-a-time summer tour, on Thursday morning, members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff went on strike. Odds are you didn’t notice. The Thursday and Friday editions were brimming over with the day’s news. The half-day strike was meant to show the disappointment the authors of the independent paper had with the prospect of being sold into the fair and balanced family of News Corp.

I applaud their idea but regret their execution. If the members of the editorial staff wanted to make any kind of difference they needed to leave pages blank; angering readers and advertisers, and instilling fear in the current generation of the Bancroft family that the paper their parents and grandparents built would turn into nothing more than a politically-charged trash rag.

If that’s not enough we had two stories take up way too much of people’s time this week.

Paris Hilton is the bane of my existence. And Larry King should be ashamed. This man has interviewed thousands of people. Some of the most important figures of the 20th and 21st century spoke with Mr. King about the good, the bad and the meaningful issues that face our society. You can make the argument that Miss Hilton is a major figure in our current society, but please, Larry, leave those interviews to the wannabe journalists at Mtv, E! and Fox News.

Lastly, the amount of coverage the story of Chris Benoit – the professional wrestler that apparently killed his wife, child and self – is a little much for me. Don’t misinterpret this, three people died and that is both sad and terrible, but that ran this story as the headline over Congressional subpoenas of the White House is absurd! I’m sorry that the lives of the Benoit family came to an early, tragic end. I’m sorry that an idol to young boys across this country is gone. I’m sorry the allegations of steroid use play perfectly into the Barry Bonds saga that will culminate with him hitting his 756th home run later this year. But with all that is going on in the world it also does not warrant Top Story status.

With each day the mediated “news” continues to trouble me as the line between hard and soft news grows increasingly blurry and terrifyingly hard to find.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Learning from Political Communications

Recently I started reading On Bended Knee: The press and the Reagan presidency by Mark Hertsgaard. After having this book for more than 8 years I decided it was time to crack it open last week while taking some R&R.

Although not finished yet, I wanted to share some interesting ideas that I think B2B marketers should consider…

Larry Speaks had a small sign on his desk throughout his tenure as White House deputy press secretary that read: "You don’t tell us how to stage the news, we won’t tell you how to cover it."

Hertsgaard describes how the men who managed President Ronald Reagan’s public presentation understood that the media were like lions.

"Like lions in a circus show, the press could be tamed rather more easily than outsiders might think, for there was part of them inclined toward obedience from the start. On the other hand, they only had to pounce once in the space of four years to leave their master bloodied if not buried. So the lion tamer had to approach his task with a delicate blend of wariness and self-confidence, exhibiting not only a willingness to crack the whip but also a polite respect for an adversary who was quite capable of tearing his head off."

Unlike previous administrations, the Reagan White House came to the conclusion that the media will take what they feed them providing they were being feed often. This approach is called “manipulation by inundation” by Hertsgaard. Leslie Janka, who worked as deputy press secretary for foreign affairs under President Reagan said,

"You give them the line of the day, you give them press briefings, you give them facts, access to people who will speak on the record….And you do that long enough, they’re going to stop bringing their own stories, and stop being investigative reporters of any kind, even modestly so."

One final nugget is the approach that Reagan’s team took to setting the terms of the national debate. It was by applying the basic news management principals:

  • Plan ahead
  • Stay on the offensive
  • Control the flow of information
  • Limit reporters’ access to the President
  • Talk about the issues you want to talk about
  • Speak in one voice
  • Repeat the same message many times

I just felt all this was good “food for thought”…and thoughts that B2B marketers could consider when working with the media. I am not saying these are the right approaches to take with the media, but they are valid and could help when seeking to construct a media attack plan.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Podcasting...A "second life" for radio?

According to podcast listeners still like radio and in fact can drive an increase in radio listening among talk and news stations.

Reporting on finding from Bridge Ratings' "Podcast Panel" the article reports that nearly 20 million US consumers will download and listen to podcasts at least once a week by 2010.

"eMarketer's own projections put the US podcasting audience at 18 million regular subscribers in 2011, with a total potential audience of 55 million. In that year, US advertisers will spend $400 million on podcast advertising."

What we found most interesting was that "the Bridge study also found news and talk podcast listening enhanced radio listening. A statistically significant number of podcast listeners said they had started listening more to radio broadcasts as a result of listening to the podcasts produced by that station. Just over half of respondents said that listening to podcasts affected their radio listening."

Why is this interesting to us?

Well, news and talk radio has always been a good media channel for BtoB marketers to use...if this reseach holds water that means adding podcasting to the BtoB marketing mix will only strengthen this traditional media channel.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Goodbye, Mustard Yellow Wall

It’s true . I have bid farewell to my mustard yellow wall. With a new employee starting on Monday a change of office has supplanted me from my yellow-facing seat to one that is much less colorful. You guessed it; I now stare at a vanilla-white wall. How boring is that?

But I can find solace in the blank slate at which I invariably stare. Much like the blank screen one encounters when beginning to write, the white wall presents opportunity to create something from nothing.

When one sits down to write there is often a jumbled mess of words scattered throughout one’s head. If you are lucky, there is the semblance of a structure to the forthcoming rattle of the keyboard. With time, what was once an intimidating blank screen is filled with strategically positioned pixels that – sometimes shockingly – form riveting words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even pages.

The white screen is a beginning for all writers, be they authors, journalists, bloggers or marketers. It is an opportunity to create something original, something meaningful or something absolutely earth-shattering. That’s the beauty of writing – even writing as it relates to your work – it is something you can truly call your own.

So back to my new, banal wall. My artistic ability – or rather disability – has been well documented in my office, so do not expect my wall to transform into beautiful mural. If anyone has a particular suggestion for what I should do with my wall please leave me a comment below. Personally, I’d like to cut a hole in the wall and insert a giant shark tank, but for some reason I don’t think my bosses will go for it.

Who knows, maybe I can find some more yellow paint in our storage closet…stay tuned!

Monday, June 04, 2007


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 18 years you surely know the origin of the word “d’oh.” It’s the comically melancholy utterance coined by The Simpsons’ Homer. As reported by PRWeek, Fox has created a contest for cities named Springfield across the country. Cities are charged with submitting videos claiming why their city should earn the illustrious honor of being dubbed Homer’s hometown. The winning city will also host The Simpsons Movie premiere on July 26.

So why does this merit a blog entry, you ask? Well first of all, The Simpsons is always worth talking about, and two, Simpsons writers already bestowed the honor upon a city. Season 11, episode 22 clearly identifies the home of the Simpson family.

The episode Behind the Laughter is a parody of the VH1 series Behind the Music. The episode chronicle’s the Simpson family. At the episode’s conclusion the location of Springfield is revealed when the Simpson bunch are referred to as “This Western Kentucky family.” What’s more, when you Google map Springfield, KY you will find that Shelbyville – the nearly rival city of Springfield on the show – is 46 short miles away. Moreover, Capital City Airport – yes, another nearby city in the show is the anonymously-named “Capital City” – is 48.6 miles away. I’m sure if one searches the Internet they will find much more elaborate research than I have presented here.

So why do you care, you ask? Other than being impressed by my wealth of Simpsons-related knowledge, the bigger picture is that FOX is stripping Springfield, KY of its rightful ownership of The Simpsons. And they are setting themselves up for a media meltdown. Think I’m crazy? You remember the Mooninites in Boston, don’t you???

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the fine residents of Springfield, KY to raise arms against the FOX marketing team that is hoping to gain a little visibility for one of the longest running shows EVER – The Simpsons' 400th episode ran May 20, 2007. But by hosting the premiere of a long-awaited film will undoubtedly be an economic boon to a city, especially one like Springfield, KY which in 2005 reported 2,777 residents. Perhaps FOX wanted a larger city, maybe Springfield, KY wanted nothing to do with the contest, but again referencing the incident in Boston, the head of Cartoon Network resigned following the gaffe.

Two things to keep in mind, if another Springfield beats out Kentucky’s, one may see some sparks fly on televised news, though maybe not on FOX News. But, if Kentucky does in fact win you may hear stories of a fixed contest. In that case, if there’s no room for Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame for cheating, how will history judge The Simpsons following an elaborate ruse?

Keep your eyes on the blogospere for even more conspiracy theories once the announcement is made.