If you search for ZIRX online you will find messages like 'Parking Sucks' and 'Never Park Again.' Shmulik Fishman is the co-founder of ZIRX, a startup that is trying to solve the problem of parking by rethinking the whole experience. In this podcast Q&A, we discuss scalability, marketing, entrepreneurship, and more.
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Pop17's Sarah Austin speaks about Brands on Social Media, Facebook Places, Foursquare, and Lifecasting
Sarah Austin was one of the first live streaming, life-casters popularized on Justin.TV and she is the founder of Pop17, "a collaborative blogging platform and web show that covers and tracks emerging web trends and tells the stories behind what's going in social media."
Sarah and I have a SXSWi 2011 Panel Proposal with Brandon Prebynski, Joel Cheesman, Christopher Kahle and Ryan Paugh. We'd really appreciate your votes and comments at http://bit.ly/howtogetajob by August 27th, 2010.
Listen to this entire 38th episode of “The Social Nerdia Show!” with Sarah Austin on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream from your phone on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio. Some show highlights and quotes are below. Enjoy!
Brands on Social Media
"When brands become a part of the community, it really feels like the brand is like your friend. You really love them, like you would a real person. In social media, they take on attributes of people because there are personalitieis behind the brand making tweets, answering questions, customer service, and establishing relationships with people, connecting with people on their interests, and offering something back to the community."
"Ford's really great. I had such a time doing the Ford Fiesta Movement. I got to drive a car around and go on all these adventures. It was also a competition. I got to do interviews with Ford designers. It's interesting to see them being really progressive. Ford used to not appeal to the Millenial demographic. Ford's really changed and become hip."
"Companies like Virgin America are doing a really good job. They appeal to a tech demographic and people in social media really like flying on Virgin America. I was able to meet with them and interview Richard Branson. They are really involved in social media and they value people in tech. They syndicate shows like "Wine Library TV" by Gary Vaynerchuck."
Facebook and "The Social Network" Movie
"Facebook has taken over the world. They own everything but China and they have all the conversations and connections all over the world."
"To some people, things aren't official until it's on Facebook."
"Movies are starting to document a real movement, a social media revolution, and it's really hitting the mainstream."
"I use Foursquare and have been using it for a while. I have a lot of friends there. If I want to know where my friends are right now, I'll get on Foursquare. Facebook Places hasn't quite reached that with me yet. I'm still on Foursquare and plug that in to Facebook.
" It will be interesting to see how developers use Facebook Places and do something cool with it. I don't think this means Foursquare is over. I think they have to create more relationships with businesses, maybe small local business, so they can provide value on Facebook and stay on there."
Live Streaming Platforms and Privacy
"Each of the platform has its advantages. There's just a lot going on. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out when YouTube starts to get into the picture."
"These sites are going in different directions so what will make them stand out for the long-run will be withstanding all the legal issues that they'll have to go through, and making the sites safe and guarding by age, demographics, and region. The content and making these sites as secure as possible will be some of their most valuable developments."
"I use Justin.TV and I have a lot of information on there. I've had 10 million video views and 27,000 followers there. These are people that have a lot access and have know me about 5 years. I dont really know the informationa bout the people watching me. Having more peripherals set up and have security on my broadcasts. Privacy is a big issue and whichever of these companies can tackle that will have a huge advantage over the competition."
Word of Mouth
"Word of mouth is one of the most powerful communication tools because people believe that more than anything else. That is the most convincing element."
Sarah the Geek
"I'm a geeky filmmaker. That's what I've been doing for 13 years. Anything about film making I love to geek out on."
"I think the secret to a good interview depends on whether you're trying to get a person's story or trying to get a story out of them. There's a web of six degrees of separation... everyone is very accessible and the more people that become accessible it opens a lot of doors. What I really wanted to do is capture a positive angle of growth and success, not only contributing to one personal success but also to what they are doing for their communities."
"I feel like everybody in social media has something to give back to the community and my way of giving back is providing media, documenting and doing interviews."
"I took a theater class once. I did act in an indie film that was about a video blogger, it was a horror film. I dabbled in it a little bit, but nothing serious."
"If I had to do something else, it would be something sporty. I'd like to do something where I'm physically active. This might sound silly, but the career before I was thinking about before before was being a park ranger. I hike a lot. It's beautiful here."
Brandon Prebynski is an Emerging / Social Media Strategist at FKQ Advertising and Marketing and the host of a live USTREAM show called Web Trends. Brandon is one of the first people I "met" on Twitter; you can follow him @Prebynski.
Brandon and I have a panel proposal with Sarah Austin, Joel Cheesman, Christopher Kahle and Ryan Paugh for SXSW 2011 so please vote for us at http://bit.ly/howtogetajob before August 27th, 2010!
Listen to this entire episode of “The Social Nerdia Show!” with Brandon Prebynski on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream from your phone on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.
Brandon recently joined FKQ so I asked him about his new role as a strategist. "It's been great because within a set of guidelines I've been able to shape what the position is," Brandon told me. He is helping clients create long-term strategies around marketing, customer service and product development.
He's also been working on tracking, analysis and metrics. "We have this big myth out there that it's really difficult to measure social media and there are many who say you can't measure the results especially when it comes back to revenue, and that you can only look at trends over time, but frankly with the correct tools implemented correctly, you can sometimes measure it directly."
Brandon and I agree that the best place to start is with the business' goals and objectives in mind. If you're already measuring simple things like the number of followers and Facebook 'likes' and comments, "you need to see how it helps you meet your objectives."
While measuring the size of your community and the level of engagement within it is good, "if you don't determine what your objectives and make your roadmap according to it, you're going to be measuring engagement without knowing what engagement means."
"Companies right now have to define what engagement is. Avinash (Kaushik) has said this many times: 'the word engagement is an excuse.' So what is engagement? It has to come back to your objectives as well. If you have lead generations as your objective and you have 500 leads generated over 3 weeks as your goal, then you could say that a user submitting their email address is engagement. If you produce an online video and all you want is brand awareness, then a view can be engagement.
The word engagement overlaps a lot of times with conversion. We had x amount of conversions and that can be revenue, but isn't always creating revenue; it could be someone submitting their email, loading a page, or making a purchase."
Engagement is important when building community. iI you're starting to build an audience that didn't exist, then you can consider engagement the number of times that people communicate with you and each other within the community."
The size of a community and the engagement within it build on each other, and they often demand a deep understanding of the context in which such connections and conversations occur in order to really understand what is happening and where people are coming from. The fact is that a lot of the tools available today can get expensive despite the fact that they often provide vague information like 90% neutral sentiment on a sentiment analysis and they often can't even provide information (such as Twitter ReTweets). So we talked about context.
Brandon told me "thinking of context... if I'm driving down the road and I see a billboard that has a political message and I repeat that or if I even think about it in my head, i could compare it to a ReTweet. Does that mean that I agree with that message? Do we even have the tools to crack that anywhere outside of social media right now? It's a huge issue that requires a lot of work."
Brandon and I talked about several other topics including the end of Google Wave, the rumors about Google Me, and his live show Web Trends (which is coming back to USTREAM soon!) so listen to The Social Nerdia Show! for much more.
Glenn Griffin & Deb Morrisson on the Creative Process and Brilliant Advertising Ideas like Old Spice Man
Glenn Griffin and Deb Morrison are the authors of "The Creative Process: Illustrated," a fantastic book about how advertising's big ideas are born. They are also university professors and scholars who have built great ad programs; Glenn at SMU, and Deb at UT and the University of Oregon. On the most recent "The Social Nerdia Show!" we talked about creativity, education, the brilliance of Old Spice Man, award shows, BP's advertisements, and of course, the release of their book, which includes insights from some of the ad industry's greatest (ie. David Kennedy himself).
Listen to this entire episode of "The Social Nerdia Show!" with Glenn and Deb on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream from your phone on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.
While there has been some debate about whether education has an impact on creativity, Glenn's research as a PHD student showed that there is "largely a positive and significant influence." It was as a PHD student that Deborah became Glenn's mentor and their conversations about the source of creativity, particularly in advertising, is where the idea for the book became implanted in their minds.
The Creative Process: Illustrated
Deb told me that "process matters" and "process is beautiful" so their book is an exploration of "how people think about thinking."
She told me that one of the most amazing things about working on the book was seeing "writers using no words to visualize their process and art directors describing theirs."
Metacognition is a concept that human being leverage their own understanding of how their own brains work and advertisers are "metacognitive powerhouses," Glenn explained to me. There is a lot of "personalization and pride in peoples' creative process," he added.
Glenn: "This is a whole area that is largely missing in the scholarship in our discipline. It's not observable. Developing this technique of visualization and drawing meaning is a really cool way of capturing process in a way that hasn't been done before."
Artistry, Brilliance, and Old Spice Man
I asked them if creatives in advertising were similar to artists like dancers. While there are similarities because creatives are using their minds as their tool, they explained some big difference. Deb expressed that those in advertising are "artists who always have to be cognisant of whether it will help the brand and solve a particular problem."
Glenn said the biggest difference was "anonimity. The people in advertising are anonymous." He gave the example of Isaiah Mustafa from the Old Spice commercials because "they've made him a superstar overnight.. a lot of people know that guy's name, but nobody knows Eric Kallman and Craig Allen, the guys who write every word he says. They are artists that don't get to sign the canvas."
We continue talking about Old Spice's campaign and Deb said "I love that Old Spice is such a story. My 16 year old loves it, my husband gets it, we can all watch and say 'yes.' Humor can be a great tool. The Old Spice campaign is a grand slam"
Part of what made the story so big was that they decided to "talk to guys but let's also talk to women. I know Craig and Eric, and I know, I know that they were writing and concepting that to make themselves laugh. It was just brilliant insight, and from a brilliant insight of 'the man your man could be.' I'm sure Craig, the art director, came up with 'look at me, look at him,' and Eric is thinking of 'I am on a horse."
The idea of the Old Spice Man commercials and the YouTube videos addressed to specific people but meant to be watched by millions is one that anyone can appreciate. But what is its long-term impact?
Deb: "This will be long-lasting and the interesting is we don't know how long these memes will last. They've created something that will be a very high benchmark for that team. For the culture they've re-established Old Spice as one of those brand that will have to out-do itself."
"Also, Wieden has an amazing media group. Weiden is one of those agencies where the creative has to be brilliant. Brilliant media, brilliant writing. Brilliant creative."
Everyone Works in a Creative Field
In the book, Deb and Glenn go into how everyone has the potential to be creative and the importance in passion so I asked why not everyone worked in a creative field.
Glenn: "I think everyone does work in a creative field. We have a wrong sense about what creativity is. Every human being is creative. The problem is that the term has been wrapped up in the performing arts and that warm and fuzzy place that's for poets and musicians. Creativity is fundamentally problem-solving and everyone of us engages in problem solving."
"I tell my students, I don't care what you're passionate about, but be passionate about something because life is too short. That part of being a human being is essential."
While, as Deb pointed out, "our educational system forces us into looking for linear and very logical answers.. instead of a multitude of answers," educators are starting to re-think education to enhance collaboration and creative thinking. Both Deb and Glenn agree that the art director plus copywriter team is a great example of something that is taught well in their programs and prepares them for real world collaboration and ideation.
Deb: "Collaboration is a must. A good advertising program makes sure people are working together, not just the art director and the writer, but the planner comes in, the account person comes in; doing big work trying not to segregate anyone, but let everyone be creative and strategic. The best agencies are doing exactly that."
Building a Great Advertising University Program
So what else do you need to create a great ad program? Deb said it starts with "good people" and a "mission statement that is blissfully optimistic."
Glenn: "You also need students that buy into it. The key is to give them tools, frameworks, and advice, and let them do the amazing things that they're capable of doing. When they see the fruits of their own hard work, that's the seed that germinates. It mushrooms from there."
Deb: "Let's face it, advertising gets a deserving very bad rap at times. I tell students that what we're here to do is to change that. There are ways to be bright, brave, heroic and help people with what we do, and do work of meaning."
Glenn: "We spend so much time with our students that we get to know them probably better than most professors get to know their students. A lot of times you sit and talk, and you do more listening, than speaking back."
Since "The Social Nerdia Show!" is a live podcast on BlogTalkRadio, someone in the chat asked about students who might simply don't have it to be successful in the the creative side of advertising. Glenn shared that he often helps students find out what else they could do. He also provided insights on preparing students for the difficult aspects of the industry, Glenn said:
"There is no way to prepare someone to get fired. I tell students not to work in advertising if they could imagine themselves enjoying something else more. The people that are the biggest successes are the ones that can't imagine doing anything else. That passion is what can take you through anything."
Deb: "I talk a lot about agency culture. It might take some time, but it's important to find a place that fits your values."
Awards and Award Shows
Deb sits on the board of the One Club and she believes in awards as "benchmarking. I don't like the greed that comes along with awards. If that's all you're doing it for then priorities get mixed up. But when you see good work.. it's a lovely thing."
Glenn: "Sometimes stuff that I don't want to hold up to students will win awards; from a students' perspective awards equal success so you have to train them to see awards with some perspectives. I love it when my students win awards, but I also want that to be tempered with the ideas that it's not about that."
Overblown green claims and BP's failures
I asked Deb about some of the things she dislikes int he industry and she said "there's so much hyperbole and overblown claims towards what is green. I don't like that. I want adv to be honest and authentic. Telling the truth and using our powerful tools in the best way."
"Many of the oil companies grab on to this sense of hyperbole. They look at 10% good that they do and claim that. BP is in a special place, they are in one of the rings of hell right now.. they have not done authentic work, they've claimed a lot of things they shouldn't, and now of course they can't claim anything. They can't save face at this point."
Despite BP's huge fail, Deb agreed with me that the company is going to be fine due to the nature of their business. "They are in the 'too big to fail' category. My head spins about that. That's awful for the culture, and awful for our sense of selves," she said.
Living in an Anything is Possible World
Despite failures and problems in the industry, it is an exciting time. Technology has truly converged with marketing and advertising in a way that has brought much excitement to creative thinkers. And the opportunities don't exist just in technology and the social web, but in all kinds of places.
Deb: "Right now we are living in an 'Anything is possible world.' It's such a wonderful place to begin a career.. immense possibilities to do film, books, art exhibits, events, and beautiful brand thinking at a 360 degree level. A few years ago it was just print, television and maybe a billboard. Now we have incredible opportunities to do work of meaning at so many different levels."
Listen to the entire conversation with Siok Siok on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream from mobile phones on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming LIVE shows on blogtalkradio.
Siok Siok explained that traditional filmmaking is "very secretive" because it is important to keep the idea away from anyone who could steal it. "What's unusual about this project is that we crowdsourced it," she told me. From ideas like a "meetup road trip" to mobilizing people to "generating leades for the shoot," the Twitter community has made it possible for many to get personally involved. One such example happened in Denver, CO, where Siok Siok's team was stranded at a bus station at midnight. Someone read her tweets and soonafter picked them up and let them stay with him for the night. "The film shows that Twitter works."
Most people have not been immersed in Twitter enough to see its value and many are still skeptics. Siok Siok herself found it a bit pointless at the beginning. "I thought it was the weirdest application in the planet," she explained. "There's a bunch of people talking out loud, to no one in particular.. it's a very weird idea, really bizzarre." But with some time, "day after day, you really do become friends with others... it opens up an entire world just by talking to someone from a different nation, group, niche or language."
Siok Siok is originally from Singapore and she spends about half of the year in China so we talked about how people adopt and use social media differently around the world. While Singapore "comes very close to the West in their use of social media," it is not as easy to get on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in China "because you have to use a VPN." What may be surprising to many is that "even without the blockage the Chinese have a preference for local sites." While many of us are used to the big three social networks, Siok Siok shared that there are "a dozen clones of Twitter focused on different niches" in China.
"The people who use Twitter in China are the globalized tech elite at the top of the pyramid and they tend to be bilingual," said Siok Siok. That doesn't mean that Twitter isn't known though because "the rest of the population have heard about it.. it's like a legend for those who don't have any friends who have actually used it."
Those relatively few Chinese who are on Twitter have a chance to express a bit more fully than we do. "Chinese is a very economical language," she told me. "You can say much more in 140 characters than in English.. much more complete thoughts."
If you'd like to get involved in Twittamentary, reach out to @SiokSiok on Twitter or visit the web site so you can submit your story and nominate others.
Listen to the entire conversation with Robbie on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes, stream from mobiles on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.
giffgaff officially launched on Nov 23rd. "The project as a whole started to take form 9 months ago," Robbie told me. "It's gone from nothing to full launch in that period of time, which is very quick for a mobile company." At first glance one might assume that giffgaff is just a regular MVNO, but giffgaff is truly changing the way a mobile company interacts with its customers.
I asked Robbie to explain what makes giffgaff so unique. "We see a need and a gap in the market for a new model. We're what we call people-powered," he said. "In essence, we're trying to really leverage all the great new trends and technologies around crowds; we want to engage our members more than any other mobile network in the UK." Unlike other companies that try to control everything related to their brand, giffgaff lets its 'members' interact with the company and with each other online, and allowing them to be part of the company's "marketing, R&D, and customer service; recruiting members and especially helping answer questions."
Crowdsourcing Customer Service
Thanks to Wikipedia and companies like Doritos and Starbucks, we've all come to know about various forms of crowdsourcing, especially when it comes to marketing and R&D. But crowdsourcing customer service? Now that's a new idea.
"Crowdsourcing customer service is almost like a misnomer. You don't need a huge crowd, just a small group that's absolutely motivated by helping other people; they are the super users," Robbie told me. "We don't have a call center," he added. "You go online, you type in whatever question you have, and the integrated search identifies an answer based on information giffgaff has submitted as well as information provided by users on the forum."
That sounds like what many of us have done in web forums and message boards, but the fascinating thing about giffgaff is that its model of rewarding engaged members allows for quick resolutions to all kinds of problems. "What we want your experience to be like is to be quickly answered by another member, and interact with that person." So far, according to Robbie, every question has been answered in the forum; not one has been escalated (questions get escalated after 20 hours without a response), and the top 'super user' is getting close to reaching 1000 minutes on the web site (if he hasn't already).
I asked Robbie if we could call this 'Social Customer Service,' but he did not like the idea very much. "To me, I just think that sticking social at the start of everything has made it lose its meaning a little bit." He then compared adding the word "social" to customer service to adding an "i" (as in iPod) to a product.
There are times in which the crowds won't be able to help giffgaff customers. "If you really need to, you can actually contact a giffgaff agent that will reply to your query," Robbied explained. "I don't believe you can rely 100% on crowdsourcing for every customer service problem because there are always things like billing or credit card information that are not suitable for public forums."
The giffgaff Culture
As you might imagine, giffgaff's culture is pretty unique too. Robbie described the people there as "very passionate about what they're doing." He said that going to work is fun for the team and they all "believe in the idea behind the project." Sure, they've all worked really long hours, but Robbie assured me that it has been "very rewarding.. it's not often that you get a chance to make things happen the way you want them to happen."
In order for the low-cost giffgaff model to work, the company is running the way a start-up should. In addition to not having to invest in infrastructure (they are MVNO after all), "there are only 14 permanent employees.. we outsource everything possible, we use second-hand desks, and keep costs down wherever we can." Low prices and member rewards, and of course profitability, depends on the company keeping costs down so I asked Robbie if he worried about users eventually not helping each other out. "The model is already working. I'm not too worried about the costs running out of control," he responded.
Brilliant Marketing and The Cuddle Monster
"We really want to give people a chance to get involved. We have a tiny budget by wireless company standards. We're not going to do TV, etc. We're trying to use creativity and letting others create videos for us," Robbie said. The "tool hire" campaign encourages people to make videos with "tools" that giffgaff actually ships to them and the community gets to vote for a winner. The cuddle monster, one such "tool," is a 5-person monster outfit. As Robbie put it, "it's cold, everybody is in recession, who wouldn't want a cuddle from a 5-person monster?"
Leading Member Experiences
Robbie first saw the power of having a strong community when he worked at Be Broadband, which he described as having an "open and transparent model, with a really engaged community." Robbie got to know Be Broadband's customers quite well, often running weekly calls with some of the most engaged customers, including gamers, to talk about their views about the service and the company.
After Be Broadband was acquired by O2/Telefonica, Robbie was asked to join giffgaff as their Chief of Member Experience. "I've tried to explain to my mom what that means and even my friends don't always understand what I do," he joked about his role with the company. There are two main areas that Robbie leads, member service and CRM. Everything that happens to a member, everything they experience and feel as a customer, is under his jurisdiction. He is responsible for setting up the community aspect of the site and all the messaging that goes out customers from the time they sign up.
I asked Robbie about any international expansion plans. "I'm a big fan of keeping things focused and making sure they work first. But, we do see potential or this working in othe countries and other industries. We would love it if giffaff went global."
Regarding where he would like to see giffgaff in a year, Robbie said he would want to see a thriving community with very engaged super users. "I would also love to see innovations based on ideas generated by the community. With great ideas like a "people-powered call centers," the giffgaff community is already coming up with great stuff.
"People love to communicate, we're just facilitating something that people really want to do and trying to not get in the way as it has happened in traditional wireless companies."
Listen to the entire conversation with Becca on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes, stream from mobiles on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.
HP is a very large company with over 150,000 employees. "The larger the company gets, often, the more difficult it is to really get authentic social media engagement running," Becca explained. She added that the benefits of social media in business-to-consumer offerings is much more clear than it is in the B2B realm, but her team is helping change that within HP by identifying the value to the company and its customers.
Her team is called "The Social Media Enablement Team" and consists of 6 people with different roles and in different locations. "Our goal is to work with different teams within the division to get them up to speed on the tools, and most of all, understand from a business perspective that they need to approach social media marketing as they would approach any marketing program, with deliberation, responsibility, and objectves," Becca said.
Becca has been with HP for 10 years. She actually started at Compaq (which was acquired by HP) doing web documentation. She then transitioned into marketing where she "focused on customer advocacy, on how to best use the internet and various tools to enhance the customer experience."
About a year ago the Enterprise Business division created a team that focused on social media, and Becca was one of the few who joined the team. "I'm thrilled I did," she told me, "because I love my job. It's the best job I've ever had."
A big aspect of Becca's role is to develop blogger relationship programs. HP deals with all kinds of companies, both large and small, and she knows that "there's always a person and a personality behind each sale," so she tries to make sure that HP "can provide better information to our customers online."
"After we determine that a blogger is relevant to the types of products we sell, we invite them to the HP campus, give them a tour, let them into our labs, give them direct access to the people behind the products so they can ask questions," Becca explained.
"It's been a great experience for our HP folks because often you have people in a company who never talk to a customer." The other benefit is, of course, that the bloggers will talk about their experience. She mentioned that while they hope for positive reviews, they want them to be completely honest. "Bloggers are not shy, they will call you out."
Becca's team is not pursuing programs that focus on direct revenue with social media. Instead, their primary goal is to "build relationships." More specifically, Becca wants everyone to know that "there's also a person behind the HP curtain when they're dealing with us. We want them to know that we are authentic, responsible, business-like and professional."
The people at HP are getting involved. Just look at how many of them are on Twitter. Becca told me that it was an "organic growth" and that those on Twitter "do it because it's something they're passionate about." She added that the word authenticity is very important to her and she thinks everyone should be authentic online.
And HP employees are not just engaging in conversations online. They're talking and collaborating with each other through internal blogs, wikis, chats, and what Becca refers to as a grassroots effort that became a "blend of Facebook and LinkedIn."
Becca looks forward to what will happen with the internet. "Social media touches on absolutely every aspect of our product, purchase and support cycles. It's going to be an interesting evolution over the next 3 years to see how any company starts to prepare employees to be participants in that motion."
It is easy to see that Becca is serious about social media and she's truly passionate about communities and the amazing thing that is putting yourself out there online. As for what she recommends companies and people just starting in social media, she said "don't be scared, it's not as daunting as you think it is... get involved, once you put yourself out there, you will see value from it."
Listen to the interview for much more from Becca, including the "blessing and curse" of telecommuting, HP's approach to social media monitoring, Becca's 10th year as a blogger, and her podcasting experience with a non-profit called Story Circle Network.
Listen to the entire conversation with Cathy on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes, stream from mobiles on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.
Cathy's tagline for her podcast is 'it's not about the tools, it's about what you do with them,' and it very well reflects her views on technology. She has much appreciation and enthusiasm for "the way that technology is used or not, successfully or not, and the impact that has on the way we buy things, share information, communicate with each other, and just evolve as carbon based life forms."
The Two Medias
The fact that Cathy has much experience in traditional media led me to ask her about the now very widely use 'social media' term. She responded that there are two kinds of media, "media with a capital M and media with a lower case m." The first one is 'the media,' and it includes outlets from large organizations like News Corporation and The New York Times Company, as well as blogs like The Huffington Post and Tech Crunch. "Lower case m (media) are the platforms, the technology, the things we use, the social networks, the real-time stream things like Twitter, Blogtalkradio, Facebook, YouTube, and the list goes on and on," she explained.
While some would argue that the concept of media is not much more than a channel or a means to deliver some form of content, Cathy think that media has always been social. "Social media to me is a rather redundant term as opposed to an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Media is by its nature a social thing and it has become more so in its interactivity, crowdsourced nature, and user generated contributions," she told me.
The Case for Journalism
There has been much talk about the death of the newspaper and the traditional media organization in the last few years, but Cathy thinks this has been "greatly exaggerated." She continued to say that while "some of these types of media outlets, some of the mediums, may either die or change greatly, the need for journalism has never been more important."
Even though journalists these days can easily become bloggers, "a blogger is not necessarily a journalist." Cathy further expressed that she wants "reporters to be human, but at the same time if i want to know their opinion I'll look for them to have an opinion somewhere else." The web has allowed journalism to thrive in ways that were not possible before, but it is essential to not forget that journalists still have a responsibility to work with "integrity, fact-checking, looking for multiple stories to ensure accuracy, providing clear perspectives, etc."
Of course, expectations can't be unrealistic. We're all humans so bias is impossible to avoid. As Cathy said, "if you have a human creating content that has a heart and an opinion, it's going to bleed through somewhere.. the trick is, how do you keep that reasonable and how do you make sure you keep that clean?"
The McPaper and Ruper Murdoch
Cathy mentioned that one big problem with the news is the mentality of the "mcpaper, the watering down and sensationalizing of content," which she attributes in part to Mr. Ruper Murdoch. "For the record, I loathe Rupert Murdoch, I think he's one of the worst things that have happened to journalism, not to media... that aside, i think he's a genius businessman, absolutely brilliant businessman."
Brilliant businessman or not, Murdoch has made some headlines recently. Here are Cathy's thoughts on charging for content:
"The people who say that people won't pay for things online, i believe, are wrong.. I'm not suggesting that eveyrthing should be a pay-model, but in the real world, in a capitalist society, which guess what? that's what we live in, we dont get by with good looks and good cheer. We pay for things. Really good content is expensive to make."
While Cathy sees a future where more people are ok with charging for great online content, she does not agree with Murdoch's move of pulling content out of Google. Listen to the interview for Cathy's recommendations for Rupert and his media empire.
The Survival of Newspapers Starts with Stolen Newspapers
All the talk about what's happening with journalism and media made me think of EPIC 2014, a video about the potential future of the web and news, that went viral a few years ago. I told Cathy about how the EPIC 2014 video by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson imagined The New York Times of the future as an offline newsletter for the elderly. Cathy told me that she actually gets the NYT delivered every day and that for her, the newspaper is "a physical experience."
She also expressed that people that grow up with newspapers have a "very emotional attachment to it." She went on to describe how her newspapers started to get stolen at some point and she narrowed her thief search to eight people in her building. She fully made her point by asking "if newspapers are dying, then why is some schmuck stealing my newspaper every morning?"
Newspapers have the competitive advantage of compiling the news of the day and presenting them in one single package. "You can't say to your (RSS) reader to show you things you don't know about.. the newspaper provides you with information from around the world and all you have to do is browse through it."
With the large quantities of information being published online throughout the day, we can rejoice in the fact that there are technologies that are helping "curate the firehose, curate the feedbag." One such service is www.my6sense.com, which Cathy recommends because it "prioritizes and selects (news) based on your behavior on your reader."
Cathy the Geek
It is not hard to see that Cathy enjoys two things: talking and technology. "I'm a total geek. I admit it." She wasn't always a geek though. After working in radio for many years, she found herself doing PR for tech companies. She found it fascinating, not for the tech itself, at least not at first, but because of the people.
She remembers thinking that the people she was meeting "were insanely smart, truly interested in changing the world and doing so in a very substantive way, changing processes, and enabling people to do things they couldn't do before, connecting people, and automating things." She was drawn to the "deep passion and incredible joy that so many of them bring to what they do."
Having to understand complex ideas to explain it in simple terms to the media and the average person has allowed Cathy to become not just a geek, but also provided her with deep insight about the value behind the bits and bytes.
These days, Cathy has her own consulting firm Other Than That, and she has been helping clients navigate the social media world. She's even helping large companies like Nokia. Regarding her relationship with Nokia, she explained that she always discloses the fact that she's working with them, and that there are things she simply won't do if she doesn't feel comfortable about it. "As long as it's relevant and they don't expect that it's going to be all sunshine, roses and unicorns, then it's fine," she said. Cathy's also always very honest about what she really thinks about their products.
We talked about how honesty and disclosure need to be integrated into blogs. Cathy has no problem with the FTC putting guidelines because "if someone is paying to say what you say and you don't disclose that, it's disingenuous."
Listen to the interview for much more from Cathy, including her upcoming 2010 workshops about storytelling in business (be sure to look for her at SXSW!) and being a responsible steward with technology and social media.