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Tag Archives: reading response

John Battelle’s “The Search” was a very informative and eye-opening read regarding the power of search engines and Google in particular. I appreciated the history and background of the internet and search that Battelle included in the first half of the book. It is amazing to think about how rapidly things have changed and will continue to change because of the power of the internet.

Something that was glaring to me was the need for the combination of individuals with sound business skills and others with unparalleled innovative technological talents and curiosities. An important component of this is for both sets of people to have an appreciation for the other. This is not to say that the two areas are mutually exclusive but history does not seem to indicate that they are a likely combination in one person.

A common thread among many of the search companies that emerged in the 90’s is the Stanford PhD program. Clearly the program attracts very entrepreneurial and technologically inclined individuals and fosters an atmosphere of invention and commercialization. By the way, this is wise on Stanford’s part for a number of reasons not the least of which is alumni giving!

However, it seems as though these young entrepreneurs could stand to have additional strategic guidance, coaching, and experience. At the very least, it seems as though many of these students would benefit from being taught the values of successful management, teamwork, business strategy, and marketing. This would also leave them less vulnerable to the Compaq’s of the world as they would have a base to work from in evaluating the appropriate course for their companies in the future.

On a different note, the story of Moncrief was also disturbing to me. The part about how his business went away overnight was upsetting. However, Google’s blatant disregard for their customers is inexcusable. I guess they figure that they don’t have to care because they are so powerful, but one must think that an attitude or philosophy would definitely come back to haunt you. Perhaps the need to be reminded of their mantra…”Don’t be evil.”

The triumvirate’s handling of their IPO left me with a similar taste in my mouth. Schmidt had blatantly lied about Google going public. The “geeks are in control” and “we’re different and better than others” attitude may be justified but I believe that it reeks of immaturity and inexperience. It seems as though Forbes agreed at the time in their article “Google’s Flub, Flop And Bomb.” (http://www.forbes.com/2004/09/17/cx_sr_0917ipooutlook.html)

While clearly the outcomes that Google has reaped have been unprecedented, one has to wonder if they couldn’t have experienced even better results if they were more strategic and professional in their dealings. It really wouldn’t kill them to take advice from others every once in a while. For example, any PR or communications professional could have advised them about their interview with Playboy. You would think that they would be more open to it since they received some solid advice and coaching in their early stages (while still at Stanford).

Overall, Battelle really opened by eyes about the “search economy.” I found the possibilities that are on the horizon to be tremendously exciting. The ways in which we live, work, and access information generally are changing before our eyes. “The Search” has definitely inspired me to pay attention to this sector because it is and will affect all aspects of communication.

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In starting to read the second half of Scoble and Israel’s “Naked Conversations,” I was pleased to read the introductory paragraphs which asserted that there are real issues and reasons surrounding blogging and whether or not it is prudent for an organization to do so. Furthermore, they suggested that they are not prone to Pollyanna stories and that blogging has both upsides and downsides.

However, I found that in reading the pages that followed, Scoble and Israel may have attempted to address the downsides of blogging but really just presented more support for their one-sided argument that blogging is wonderful. For example, in the section where they address reasons why companies or organizations should not blog, they list the following reasons:

n “If you are a genuine bad guy, or part of an organization of bad guys, don’t blog”

n “People who have really awful communication skills should not blog.”

n “Cultures change slowly. If yours is closed, we suggest opening it before shocking the ecosystem with a blog.”

n “If your employees feel untrusted, you may need to take steps to demonstrate your faith in them before you encourage blogging.”

n “If you don’t have genuine faith that you can evolve in to a better company by listening to what your customers, prospects, investors, vendors, and partners have to say, then blogging effort will not provide you with its full value.

n If you don’t want to listen – really listen – then blogs will be thorny for you and your culture.”

In my opinion, this is a transparent and biased presentation that feeds the egos of the authors. I found a more compelling list of “10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog” in Advertising Age. http://adage.com/digitalnext/post?article_id=131126

This list includes such reasons as:

n A blog is not a substitute for a marketing campaign. It is simply a potential part of corporate communications.

n A blog is not a substitute for advertising — if you need to fill a new hotel, or sell a product by a certain date, advertise.

n A blog is not a quick fix — the results come in the long term, the same way they do with PR.

n Blogs are not cheap. A good one requires skilled programming to set it up, a professional graphic designer to make it part of your corporate identity, a talented and dedicated writer or editor, full-time.

n You need to drive traffic to a blog. There are many ways to do that. All of them require time, effort and money.

Throughout the second half of “Naked Conversations” Scoble and Israel continue to claim that blogging can replace a PR or marketing campaign. Some of my favorite declarations include the following:

n “You have to conclude that it is a safer and wiser course to respond by blogging than to go through “official channels.” I think it depends on the situation at hand including such factors as the industry and what and who is at stake.

n “Blogging is cheaper and more effective than most marketing programs in use today.” This is a serious overstatement in my opinion, especially since they don’t offer up any proof. To me, a blog is a communication channel or tool in which to implement a marketing, PR, and communication campaign – not the plan itself.

n “Blogging is unquestionably less expensive than traditional ad and PR campaigns and keeps proving-as it did to the Firefox team-to be more effective.” Firstly, driving traffic to a blog costs money. Additionally, citing one example of a tech industry company (a web browser nonetheless) who has successfully utilized a blog as a primary marketing and communications tool as proof of blogging as the most effective ad and PR campaign is irresponsible.

Scoble and Israel go on to suggest that ROI is not necessary when working with or using blogs. To me, this is the exact reason that replacing all traditional marketing and PR with blogging is not wise. I imagine if you asked any company or organization if ROI matters to them when it comes to their marketing campaigns, they would say that it is imperative. I think the authors’ bias is especially apparent when they say “many traditional marketers are for the most part in a denial phase and refuse to acknowledge the public’s deep-seeded distaste for much of what they do in traditional channels.” Perhaps it isn’t the “denial” of the marketers but their need to address things as ROI and measurable results.

One of Scoble and Israel’s own examples illustrates this point. Joe Wikert of “Average Joe” said, “Well, I’d be hard pressed to give you any specifics here,” when asked about how blogging has helped his business (Wiley publications). That is why traditional marketing matters.

Another area that left me confused was their position on employee blogging. At one point they state, “Employees who blog need to understand clearly what they can and cannot talk about and be particularly prudent in that area.” This seems counter to the authors’ earlier arguments.

They go to suggest corporate blogging policies to check out including Sun Microsystems’s. I thought they were against this. They say employers should give employees guidelines but also freedom and incentive to become “world-class bloggers.” To me, it appears that they are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

According to Scoble and Israel, “Blogging creates a general perception of an enlightened employer, one who wants to hear constituent opinions and is willing to adjust accordingly.” Where is the proof of this?

On this same point, they say employees should be allowed to blog, not just the CEO or senior level official. “Instead of trying to speak in a single contrived voice, your company will sing with many voices, and they will sing in harmony.” Again, where is the proof of this? To make a declaration this important, some evidence is necessary as this goes against most integrated marketing and communications theory.

Finally, one small point that I thought was rather surprising. Scoble and Israel say “that risks of publishing your contact information are exaggerated.” To me, this is seems irresponsible. I don’t know if it because I am a woman that I am especially leery of this statement, but putting your email address and phone number on the internet in a public way seems to leave you very vulnerable to any number of privacy violations.

The majority of this week’s reading consistently of the first eight chapters of Scoble and Israel’s “Naked Conversations.” Scoble and Israel are blog “evangelists” who adamantly believe that blogging has and will continue to revolutionize the ways in which companies market and publicize their products and brands. Specifically, they believe that “a communications revolution is underway, moving from a controlled one-way model into a decentralized interactive one” (p.27). They also clearly state that blogs are the most efficient corporate communications medium and suggest that blogging is going to replace both PR and marketing with more organic and collaborative online communication.

Interestingly, numerous companies who have successfully harnessed the power of blogging are profiled. Their successes are analyzed and recommended for adoption by other companies. The parts of the reading I found most interesting were when the authors interviewed the CEO’s of successful companies. Their unique perspectives shed a lot of credibility to the authors’ assertions.

One area I am that I am left wondering about is the idea of corporate policy surrounding blogging. As someone who works in a highly regulated industry where privacy is paramount, I cannot imagine that this revolution is going to take place without some policy in place at most corporations or organizations for liability sake. I understand what Scoble and Israel are saying when they discuss the need for open and unedited communication, but I just don’t think it is realistic. So, I decided to do a search in the internet for examples of corporate blogging policies.

Imagine my surprise when the most helpful link was to “Groundswell,” a book that we will be reading later in the semester. Looking forward to that one! This site offers sample corporate policies and codes of ethics of companies and organizations such as Google (I guess things have changed since 2005!), Harvard, and Sun Microsystems (Apparently things aren’t as free form as they used to be!).

http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2004/11/blogging_policy.html

While I found Microsoft’s embrace of blogging to be admirable, I also wonder how appropriate or realistic it is to recommend this to other companies or organizations without the resources of a monolith like Microsoft. The statement “If blogging can do all this for Microsoft, think of what it can do for your company,” seems unfair given that Microsoft has a person whose job it is to keep the company’s employee blogs running effectively and making sure that all customer complaints and inquiries are responded to.

I agree with Scoble and Israel on the revolutionary potential of blogging. However, I believe that it is a piece of a larger communications and marketing plan or strategy for any company or organization. For companies like Sun, Microsoft, and Treo, it will play an increasingly important part of their strategies because such a substantial portion of their target markets are online and blogging. For companies whose primary audiences are not in the blogosphere (or are only partially in it), abandoning traditional communication and marketing strategy not only seems nonsensical but irresponsible.

Gillmor’s “We the Media” has been referenced numerous times so far throughout “Naked Conversations.” I imagine that if we had Gillmor, Scoble and Israel in the same room we would have quite the echo chamber. It would be interesting to inject some integrated marketing and communication expertise into the mix!

In the second half of Gillmor’s “We the Media,” he starts off by discussing specific examples of citizen journalism and the way it is changing and improving the field.He elaborates on the incredible rate of speed at which the internet medium is growing, evolving, and innovating.

After the first two chapters, Gillmor delves into the “evils” that lurk when using the internet as a communication tool. Specifically, he discusses personal and corporate misrepresentation, libel, plagiarism, doctoring of photos, and the lack of fact checking that often occurs with “citizen journalism.” Additionally, “trolling” by cyber attention-seekers and need to be wary of “spin” are focused on.

Furthermore, Gillmor discusses at length the libel, copyright, and trade marking laws and issues that surround the internet. Issues of jurisdiction and what constitutes free speech in different places are addressed. What is permissible on the internet as well as cases that have led to litigation are discussed.

Finally, Gillmor addresses at length his theories regarding the “evil regime” of Hollywood, government, and big business to limit freedom of speech, enhance their bottom lines, and ultimately seriously impede the innovation process.  Here is a link to an article on Tech Crunch that shows the timeliness of this discussion:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/09/20/is-myspace-music-an-antitrust-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen/

Strangely, Gillmor wraps up his book with a surprisingly rosy outlook on the future of the internet and citizen journalism. Having just read the previous chapter about “The Empire Strikes Back,” I found it difficult to make the leap to his suddenly positive point of view.

While Gillmor regularly talks about the need for citizen journalism to keep marketers, spin doctors, and those evil PR people honest, he only lightly touches on the trust factor of the news media. He addresses the need for Big Media to be careful as they enter this online world because they could hurt their credibility. Specifically, he says, “This act, which I consider more a certainty than a possibility, will change the news media’s trust equation, at least for a time. Will it have long-lasting impact? Only if it happens repeatedly.” (p. 189) In an effort for full disclosure, I will admit that I am not a journalist but a marketer/pr person/communicator. So, I am sensitive to his tendencies. However, here are a couple of links to blogs that articulate the media distrust that I think is already rampant in our society:

http://www.bloggernews.net/114362

http://www.dyreportents.com/2007/08/poll-us-public-distrusts-media.html

I thought the discussion about zoning was very interesting. As Gillmor points out, it is not feasible for all publications or websites to make endless versions of their output, but perhaps they could do it where possible or makes sense for liability purposes. This is an area where I wish he would have elaborated more on potential solutions and the steps or protocols that organizations should follow in the meantime. Especially for nonprofit organizations, often all you have is your good name. A lawsuit in this arena could mean the end of your mission. While he says that “unfortunately, cyberspace doesn’t have a global First Amendment written in law, even if it exits, for the most part, in practice,” I wonder how realistic an assertion like that is. There is not a global first amendment period. Why should be expect there to be one as it applies to the internet? A discussion of more tangible solutions would be great here.

Finally, while I thought Gillmor’s argument about Hollywood, government, and big business impeding innovation and creativity certainly had merit, I would have appreciated a more balanced presentation of the argument. Rather than just offering up campaign donations and bottom line greed as the impetus for the “empire’s” protectiveness, explanations of true reasons would have made the argument more valid. As I mentioned, I do not disagree with his argument but I think it just would have carried more weight if there was a more balanced presentation of both sides.

In summary, Gillmor’s book opened by eyes to many things and excited me (and scared me a little!) about the potential of the internet and citizen journalism for the future. A little more “meat” rather than what seemed to be opinion, would have strengthened his assertions even more.