Friday, May 20, 2005

BlogPulse enhances trend tool

Intelliseek/BlogPulse has added a neat feature to its trend tool I wrote about a few weeks back. You may remember that the tool graphically presents the prevalence in the blogosphere of any search term over time. Now you can click anywhere on the graph it generates and it will show you the relevant blog search results for that point in time.

For example, looking at the search term ["video search" AND "Yahoo"/"Google"/"MSN"]:

With the new enhancements, you can click on the peaks - in this case, May 5, when Yahoo announced it had taken its video search tool out of beta and people like me blogged on it. When you click that peak, you get results for that day:

Thanks go out to Pete Blackshaw at Intelliseek for the personal heads-up on the enhancement.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Life in the Blog Age

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Top 5 Reasons Summer Can Be a Great Time to Concentrate on Communications

5. You can sit down and plan. Because you’re not scrambling to get out six partner releases, four new-hire announcements and attend a conference all at the same time, you have a bit more time to take a deep breath and look at your goals more strategically. Summer can be a great time to get out of “reactive” mode and do the careful planning that will assure your success when the faxes start flying again. You can do some competitor tracking, analyze past results of your own campaigns, and create more intelligent metrics for that next initiative.

4. Experts are harder for journalists to find. Because so many executives take vacations during summer months, and because so many of the big corporations do ramp down their communications in the summertime, reporters have to look harder to find good experts for commentary in their articles. Being proactive in putting your own leaders forward during the summer can not only provide an immediate boost to your executives’ visibility, but makes it more likely they will be called upon again for their expertise later in the year.

3. All that writing can finally get done. You’ve probably been meaning to deploy about a dozen writing assignments since the beginning of the year, but because you’ve been in that reactive mode, you simply haven’t had a chance. Summer is a great time to get that accomplished – whether bylined articles, case studies or even a messaging refresh, it’s much easier to create good copy when you’re not tapping it furiously on your Blackberry from a breakout room at N+I!

2. Journalists and analysts have more time for briefings. Generally, fewer companies are seeking briefing appointments during the summer, and because there are fewer trade shows, even with summer vacations, journalists and analysts may often actually be in their offices more. Plus, since they’re not trying to fit in five briefings per week, you may get more time with each individual. And Boston and New York are really much nicer to visit in June than in February anyway!

1. Publications lack fresh content and need your news. Slow news periods mean that your story has a greater chance of being noticed, since you aren’t competing as much for message attention as you might be, say, in September, when everyone else ramps their communications back up. With journalists taking summer vacation and companies waiting to spring their biggest news until autumn, media sources have more of an appetite for third-party content – so you may be able to sell in your bylined articles and case studies more easily than during any other time of year.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Why good video search will change media forever

Today, Yahoo announced it has shifted its video search tool out of the test phase and made it available online. Right now, you can search movie previews, excerpts from previously broadcast television shows as well as original content. This is almost just in time, as I spent about 20 minutes a few weeks ago trying to find a working link to the Star Wars kid video, which I found in seconds with the new tool.

But video search, I think, has more implications than enabling people to find goofy clips circulating on the Internet. Good video search could actually wipe out the current paradigm in broadcasting- it could end the idea of TV schedules and lineups.

Right now, video content is primarily accessed through television - cable and otherwise. This content is currently restricted by the number of channels and the number of hours in a day. TV executives make their decisions on whether to buy a show based on filling the hours of the day, with special attention to primetime, etc.

But when television becomes entirely on-demand, it won't matter what time the viewer is watching - simply that they are watching. Sure, shows will still be made available for the first time at a certain hour, but people will not be constricted by the TV timetable in terms of their viewership - much like the Internet journalist or blogger is not currently constrained by column inches.

Thus, TV producers will choose NOT to pass on a marginal program that will only attract a cult viewership - because they'll be able to squeeze dollars out of even the smallest interest group. Plus, with the ability to easily collect demographic info when delivering content on demand, they'll even be able to tout more highly targeted advertising and get more dollars per viewer.

Other than the storage and bandwidth necessary to deliver on-demand content, the only true obstacle to this explosion of content is the ability to navigate it. We can barely navigate the video content that's out there right now - so on-demand will not truly catch on as the preferred delivery method just yet.

This is where good video search comes in. I don't think the Yahoo Search tool, still keyword-based, is necessarily the answer, but at least they're showing it's a priority by launching a tool. Better functionality will come as a result of competition.

But when video is searchable in a truly relational way - based on preferences, habits and peer recommendations (think , the amount of available video programming will undoubtedly explode.

TiVo has done the best job so far, searching video content in this direction to a certain degree, enabling viewers to more effectively capture their favorite shows for viewing at their leisure. The beauty of the product is not just its recording capabilities (VCRs have been around for a long time) but in its ability to help the viewer navigate the sea of video content available to them to find the programs they'll like most, even identifying new programming based on viewer's viewing habits and preferences.

I think what is particularly interesting are the implications for PR professionals when video content does explode. More and more, the technical quality of video that amateurs will be able to create will match the quality arising from professional sources. And delivery mechanisms like RSS and the complementary search technology supporting it are already foreshadowing the possibility of open access to a video distribution mechanism.

So, much as we have seen in the blogging world, the individual will have a louder, more far-reaching voice than ever before. We've seen the truly excellent blogs get more Internet traffic than major media sites - there's no reason to believe truly excellent amateur video programming couldn't build audiences bigger than traditional broadcast viewerships. And further, because people generally seem more compelled by video than any other form of communication (the belief that if it's on TV it must be important), amateur video programming producers could validate themselves even faster.

So what does this mean for PR folk? First of all, all of the same things we've already learned about bloggers - they don't have to follow any specific ethics code, they don't answer to editors, they have as much space as they want to write to fill - will all be important lessons to apply once amateur video programming is as ubiquitous as the blog post.

When a disgruntled fast-food customer can in a few hours produce and widely distribute a professional-quality video that shows a fast-food worker using unsanitary methods, PR professionals will have to monitor a still larger world for threats to reputation.

Secondly, if the playing field is leveled as far as technical dimensions are concerned, success will be determined more by the quality of the message being conveyed than the quality of the vehicle used to convey it. When the under-funded challenger in a Congressional election can reach his or her entire consituency for a few hundred bucks with a campaign video that looks just as polished as a multi-term Representative's on the networks, the game will have shifted.

It won't be about the resolution on the video or the slick effects - it will be about the meat to the message - and that's a task on which public relations professionals already spend much of their time. We just need to be sure we stay attuned to the changes in technology to be sure we maintain our role as content advisers.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Podcasting Getting Sirius (or vice versa)

For those of you wondering whether podcasting is catching on, add Sirius to the list of media network and content providers riding the wave - and to the shorter list of those who may be able to cash in - remember, Sirius talk shows are ad-supported. The company has created a round-up show intended to highlight the best of webcast programming around the web.

The show will begin broadcasting weekdays on May 13 and will be hosted by Adam Curry, the former MTV personality who helped create the technological tools that allow podcasting to work. The show will be broadcast on Sirius channel 148, a talk-radio station that does carry commercials, unlike Sirius' all-music channels.

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