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Stepping In the Social Media Squared Circle

I have always been interested in sports and entertainment. With my nephew recently discovering the live action soap opera that is professional wrestling (marketed as sports entertainment), I thought it was the perfect time to revisit what I watched as a child (World Wrestling Entertainment) and review their social media presence.

I stopped watching the then-WWF as a teenager for a time because I felt they were always slow to adapt to change. To my surprise, their social media presence is apparent right on the front page. There are links and logos for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter prominently featured on the front page. The Twitter page gives links to all of the wrestlers’ official Twitter accounts. I would be very curious to see if the performers are required tweet in character or not. I actually think it is a great opportunity for a newer performer to connect with fans. Characters live and die with fan support, so this could be a great way for a performer who may not get a lot of television exposure to stay in eye of the fans. While their website offers their own video player, I think it is also important to utilize YouTube. I think having a personalized YouTube page for WWE’s brand offers fans the opportunities to potentially embed videos to their own blogs.

I chose review the WWE’s social media presence because I feel it was always an industry slow to adapt to change. While they never really outright inform fans each broadcast, it was long been accepted that the events are staged and results are predetermined. It goes to show the importance of social media. Even a traditionally “sheltered (in terms of other working with other media)” company like the WWE realizes that there are more ways to connect with fans rather than just using their website. It provides a new way for both fans and performers to interact with fans, in ways that “real” sports does not officially adopt.

What About Design?

Web designers are always on top of the latest trends. When I do a search on social media and graphic design, I see that a lot of great work is being done in terms of designing logo, templates and favicons. However, I don’t see an abundance of interaction within social media. Blogs whose feeds I subscribe to include You The Designer, 2expertsdesign and Logo Design Love. All they really have are infrequently updated tweets on their Twitter accounts. What can I learn from this?

My Own Social Media Squared Circle

Like the WWE’s undercard of talent looking for a break or fan reaction, I think it’s important to stay on the forefront of social media, even if I’m not a publicly traded sports entertainment company. How to do this?

Twitter
I find that the more I tweet, the more followers and blog reads I receive. I recently blogged about the relevance of the OBEY Giant artwork. I personally found the topic interesting (did I mention that I watched wrestling as a child), so I posted an offbeat tweet about it. To my surprise, I received a fair amount of feedback. However, I don’t always check Twitter as religiously as others, so when I go weeks without a tweet, I notice I’ve lost a few followers. Clearly, the advantages (especially for an upstart professional) outweigh the disadvantages. I’ve learned to tweet items relevant to your blog and not post with a course agenda to them. Unless sending a direct message, I want my tweets to sound authentic. I tend to never read a tweet from a peer that posts “Assignment 5: Post 1.” We all have writing requirements, but its important to continue to attract outside followers with similar interests. Now the key, is to hold their interests.

Facebook
I do not consider Facebook (at this juncture) to be a viable means to reach my audience. As someone with a personal account, I don’t feel comfortable promoting my brand to friends and family at this stage. To gain notoriety and success is the dream of any graduate student and should (or optimistically when) this occurs, I would feel it is appropriate to create a Fan Page.

LinkedIn
I find that LinkedIn is sometimes in the shadow of the other social media giants, but is also important. While not as informal in tone as my blog posts, I think it is important to show the client where I have been in my career and also read recommendations on my work.

YouTube
YouTube is the next realm of social media that I want to take more seriously moving forward. I have already posted a link to my DesignSource project and YouTube will be a platform to not only post tutorials, but perhaps a video slideshow of my portfolio. Perhaps not necessarily YouTube, designer Dave Werner utilizes video to describe his work in an extremely effective manner.

I think most of us (even you wonderful baby boomers) have come to accept social media as the norm and not a fad. For an upstart trying to make a name for myself, it would be foolish for me not to try. Of course, I can go on about this…now to make it happen!

Module 10: DesignSource Presentation

Intro

Hi. My name is Jonathan Faccento and I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree. Currently, I’m a Marketing Associate at a non-profit organization that’s given me a couple opportunities with graphic design projects, which is my dream job. Sure, our great country is in the midst of a recession, but with experience and a little bit of patience, I’ll be on the fast track to “living the dream” in no time.

Cut to

Look, I’ll be completely honest, that was 3 years ago. Sure, I’ve had a few freelance jobs here and there, but I’m always looking for more. CareerBuilder and Monster searches aren’t enough and I just don’t think my portfolio has gotten enough exposure. Graphic design is not an easy business to break into without that competitive edge.

In 2006, there were 261,000 people employed as graphic designers. By 2018, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of graphic design jobs will increase 13 percent—as fast as the average growth for most occupations. Despite growth in the field, however, there is strong competition for graphic design jobs. The hours are often extensive, and in the start of your career, you may not get the most thrilling assignments. According to The Princeton Review, many new graphic designers become discouraged and leave the profession within the first few years.

About 25 percent of graphic designers are self-employed, and many of these designers work on a freelance or contract basis. As a graphic designer, I love nothing more than heading to my computer, turning on some music, tuning out the world and get motivated about my project. Unfortunately, jobs are not always easy to come by. It takes the right amount of networking, personal branding and experience to land your next gig.

Are you new to design? A graphic design student looking for jobs or career advice? Or an experienced professional designer trying to further your prospects? Maybe you’re just looking for inspiration?

Find it all with DesignSource.

What is DesignSource?

Are you a client looking for the right design? Are you a designer looking to showcase your talents? Let Designsource.com be your bridge to creative networking. DesignSource is a way for designers and clients to create, explore and connect. It’s taking the work or potential work you have and sharing it with a community dedicated to making the client/designer relationship as smooth as possible, all in one source.

For Designers

You’re an artist. A web designer. A graphic designer. You want to sell yourself. Now, sell your complete self with DesignSource. DesignSource is a comprehensive site dedicated to sharing your work and helping you find new work and connections. For graphic designers, there are plenty of websites dedicated to showcasing your work…and they have a catch. Many require you rebuild your portfolio from scratch using their own Content Management Service. Websites like Monster and CareerBuilder help you look for jobs, but often allow you to attached a pdf when going for jobs. Isn’t there a better way to showcase your work regardless of format? Do you have a portfolio you want to showcase be it web, pdf or Flash? Share it. No need to rebuild one that you already have. Link directly with DesignSource.

Your Identity

In the digital age that we live, many of us have spent countless hours sharpening our social media identity. Social media helps define who we are both professionally and personally. Decide what you want people see. Some of us might tweet, have a Facebook fan page, YouTube video portfolio or a LinkedIn resume they want to share with a like-minded community larger than they know. Share it. Show what you want to show. Be as transparent as you want to be. DesignSource provides the user the opportunity to link up what want to showcase from their desired social media site, be it widgets for Twitter, Facebook fan badges, Linkedin resumes or just embedding a YouTube video. You can do all of this with DesignSource’s simple in easy to navigate interface.

For Clients/Agencies

Ideas are almost never conceived perfectly. Nobody ever said brainstorming was easy. Many organizations that have a marketing team simply cannot afford a graphic design with all of today’s cutbacks in the business. Trying to find a designer with fair rates is not as easy as finding a repairman.

DesignSource takes design and outsourcing tasks to the next level. It gives designers the opportunity and platform to showcase their portfolio and website, but also serve as a way for companies and agencies to hire, recruit and discover designers. Designsource.com connects the client with the designer, all in one source.

Job postings/recruiters will be charged a nominal fee per job post. This not only helps build revenue for DesignSource, but helps us make sure are recruiters are legit.

Other Benefits?

Showing your work and finding jobs aren’t the only things DesignSource has to offer. We plan on having sponsored design contests to get your work showcased as a featured portfolio on our front page, much like a top YouTube hit of the day. We also plan on having special guest speaker videos and blogs with advice from experienced professional. In additional to this, DesignSource will provide monthly RSS feeds notifying our email list of industry trends featured employers and other site updates to stay connected with our audience.

DesignSource is convergence for the modern day designer. Unlike the competition, there are no gimmicks, templates or other product tie-ins. Just the work you already have. Think of it as your own blank canvas which you can add your work, social media presence, find inspiration, networking and potential careers.

Find creativity. Share creativity. DesignSource.

Personality Typefaces

A lot of friends I know have Psychology degrees. I can certainly appreciate the hard work they put into their major, but I always felt that as a Communication (and now Interactive Communication) major, we came from different worlds. I don’t analyze my personality, I just design. Nonetheless different personalities are abundant in design. This was broken down by Graphic Design Blog’s post, 10 Personality Types of Graphic Designers. Here are the 10 they listed:

1. The Perfectionist “Monk”
2. The Ingenious “Sherlock”
3. The Brainy “Dexter”
4. The Friendly “Casper”
5. The Experienced “Papa Smurf”
6. The Show-off “Johnny Bravo”
7. The Speedy “Flash”
8. The Lazy “Garfield”
9. The Enduring “Ironman”
10. The Hyper “Hulk”

Who Are You?

Based on the characters used, you might be able to guess the personality types. Now who do I see myself as? Not to scare off a potential client, but I most identify with the perfectionist Monk (ironically, I’ve never really watched a full episode). While I don’t have the compulsive issues that Monk has, I do want the project done with precision. When I first started, especially my first paying job, I would become slightly obsessed with a project. I felt the pressure of putting mine and the company’s reputation on the line. I wanted to prove how seriously I took the job.

It is a double edged sword. Sometimes, the job needs to be completed, regardless of how much better I think it can be. Its important to want to be proud of the work you do, at the same time its important to make the client happy and not burn yourself out. Of course, I can be the Casper (friendly) and sometimes Sherlock (problem-solving), but it all comes with becoming more like Papa Smurf, I mean, gaining experience.

I think a lot of these traits are prevalent in design as they are with several other jobs. Who do you see yourself as?

Reference:

Visual Metaphors

“Why don’t you just say what you mean instead of dressing things up in all this flowery language like the great Romantic poets–”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”? Why don’t you say, “You’re hot–let’s do it”?Stephen Colbert

Sorry, Mr. Colbert, I am guilty of dressing up my language all the time. I use metaphors and analogies to increase meaning in my writings and speech to have people understand something from the point of view of something they do know. I realize that some metaphors are a dime a dozen, but we use and see them far more than we think.

In the blog for my grad school writing course, my professor wrote about metaphors. He said of the subject, “When we share the new with the old. When we look into the unknown with the familiar.” The word look was a standout for me. In design, I try to build a connection between the project and the audience. Sometimes that connection is obvious, while others can be unexpected. Until recently, I never really thought of designs and the term metaphor together.

Mario Pricken’s book, Creating Advertising: Ideas and Technique’s From The World’s Best Campaigns, he talks about the basic principle of metaphor and analogy in advertising. He describes visual metaphors as taking two elements from different spheres (like nature or technology) and compare the similarities, be it function of physical characteristic. The book cites the Volvo ad below as an example.

Volvo

Volvo cars have that unique shape that many people are familiar with and comparing that to a paperclip shaped like it is unexpected (to me). It is simple, yet effective (although I can’t help but think what other messages they are trying to tell us, is it a lightweight car?) Another example that stood out was from Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts

With the exception of an old, decrepit location around the corner from my apartment, Dunkin Donuts has gone through a slight rebranding. From the slogan, “America Runs On Dunkin,” which has a visual metaphor right in the graphic to the actual locations, the famous franchise has been remodeled. The above ad sums that up.

Somewhat unknowingly, the metaphorical approach was something I was going for in an ad I created for the United Way of Greater New Haven.  The event was a diaper drive for their annual Days of Caring volunteer event.

United Way Days of Caring 2008

I chose three different babies in diapers, with the subhead, ensuring babies are dressed for success. While that message was clear, what I was really going for was United Way’s mission of education, income and health. The baby on the far left with the block represents education, the baby in the briefcase and tie represents income and the baby with the stethoscope represents health. My attempt was to use a metaphor for not only the event, but the bigger picture for United Way’s general mission. They appreciated that as it spoke to a general and specific audience.

Whether it’s comparing a coffee cup to a building or most of Dennis Miller’s comedy act, metaphors and analogies are used to make something relatable to our audience. They can be effective in how we speak, but also what we see. As Pricken says “They function as mental maps, making it easier to understand new and complex content in an elegant way.”

Works Cited:

  • Pricken, Mario. “Chapter 2.29.” Creative Advertising: Ideas and Techniques from the World’s Best Campaigns. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Write or Right?

“When you’re not concerned with succeeding, you can work with complete freedom.”Larry David

Long before Photoshop and the term “interactive communications” was coined, I wanted to be a writer. I knew I could not draw and was a pragmatic enough child to know that being the star quarterback for the New York Giants was not going to be a reality. I liked to write. I felt no matter how bad my penmanship was if what I had to say was strong enough, writing would be the life for me.

Enthusiasm Curbed

My grammar school teachers praised my efforts and even though I was a lazy teenager, my high school teachers told me I had flashes of potential. Then I was off to college. Some professors used intimidation tactics and seemed more focused on making sure we had the correct MLA format rather than the actual content of the paper. I was interested in writing what resonated with me. I had also been sidetracked with discovering my creativeness through other means of technology along the way.  Just like that, my dream of becoming a writer was a mere afterthought.

Not long after college, I revisited my first creative passion and started writing under a surname for a couple blogs ranging in tone to sports to just goofing around with friends. Writing became fun again. Larry David’s quote I mentioned above is a breath of fresh air for me. I just wrote what I knew and did so with creative freedom.

A Blog About Nothing?

My niche here is graphic design. I see it as being creative and will always talk about it in some form, but beating the reader over the head with it wouldn’t appeal to me. If design is subjective, why must I have a dominant, underlying theme in every blog I write?

Maybe to a fault, I watched Seinfeld at a young age and loved the show. He played on the show what he really is, a comedian. Of course, there were some extrapolations of who he really is on the show. At the same time, I talk about what inspired me as a child to where I’m at presently. Does it tie back to design? Yes or at least, eventually. I hope to convey my passion for design and make that clear to you, the reader. At best, writing will help me articulate who I am and help me establish an online presence, which is increasingly important in today’s digital world. At worst, I get to write with creative freedom and have fun. It’s a win-win.

Designing My Future

“There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.” – George Carlin

When you sum life up like that, it breaks things down easier. In an earlier post, I discussed my “recent past” with graphic design. In terms of my “immediate future,” it is not as black and white.

Sharpening My Competitive Edge

I was once happy and content with just designing print and web graphics. People have made a career of it and I love collaborating ideas, so I thought I could make a run with it. Unfortunately, the recession hit and suddenly design was not a career, it was only a part of your job (especially for a younger, not so established person). When I told people of my aspirations to be a designer, they also had the expectation that I utilized animation and coded websites. The bottomless pit that is learning Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign was suddenly multiplied by having to learn additional skill sets just to be taken seriously in the field.

Ain’t Got No Respect?

That grammatically incorrect statement was said by comic legend Rodney Dangerfield. Even he had to sell aluminum siding and change his name before he got his big break. I like to keep things exciting in life. No one likes being bored and I have always had a fear of boring others. I was a date one evening and things were going well as we were in the obligatory “getting to know you” phase. My date told a vivid and intricate story about her job (her profession is a long established and lucrative). Her story could have easily filled a one thousand word blog entry and then some. Then I talked a little about graphic design. After her story about working under intense pressure and triumph, suddenly talking about learning the Clone Stamp tool and coding html did not seem like an enticing counter. Instead, I shortchanged my career passion and came off as vague and mysterious (not in a cool Don Draper way, either). All this time, I thought I was smooth and now I was at a loss for words. Was design enough for me?

The Future…of Today

While interactive communications is a “newer” profession, I am kind of an old soul when it comes to work. In life, you usually need a tangible skill. I have always had admiration for carpenters, welders and jobs where you get your hands dirty. They are not glamorous, but the workers have tangible, concrete skills they bring to the job. For me, that tangible skill will always be graphic design. It is what I know and the “trade” I have put time into. I enjoy keeping life interesting and trying my hand at other skills, but design will always be a passion I can jump back to. The goal is to be an experience designer (if any of my classmates from ICM 501 are reading) and use graphics, animation, audio and video to create a complete piece of work.

Then why would I talk about design at all? It is a part of who I am and has been a catalyst for helping me grow professionally. I used to post silly, “photoshopped” pictures of my friends on Facebook for a quick laugh and next thing I knew I was making money using the same software. Whether it becomes a lucrative job or a hobby to keep my wits sharp, graphic design will always be a part of what I do.

The Future…or Something Like It

In one of my last posts, I mentioned my personal lack of fear in emerging technologies. Are the computers we use in our daily lives turning us into robots? Does “HAL live?” As Nicholas Carr says, “We’re beginning to process information as if we’re nodes; it’s all about the speed of locating and reading data. We’re transferring our intelligence into the machine, and the machine is transferring its way of thinking into us.”

Did we not think there was going to be any repercussions as a result of using computers to interact socially or part of our jobs in our daily lives? Carr goes on to say,

Computers are technologies of liberation, but they’re also technologies of control. It’s great that everyone is empowered to write blogs, upload videos to YouTube, and promote themselves on Facebook. But as systems become more centralized — as personal data becomes more exposed and data-mining software grows in sophistication — the interests of control will gain the upper hand. If you’re looking to monitor and manipulate people, you couldn’t design a better machine.

I agree with his points…to a cautious degree. Sure Carr presents computers dictating our futures, but if not that, then what? Radio and television dictated their initial generations. To me this is just natural progression. I am on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and I have written for (albeit infrequently at times) for a few blogs, including this one. If I were to bash my current employer after having a bad day (they DO happen to us), is it fair to have to face the consequences if they find this blog? Depending on the nature of the bashing (which can be subjective), then yes. In the public eye, if a celebrity says something stupid or ill-advised, do they pay a consequence? Yes and in an age where everyone wants their “15 minutes” and try to have their voice be just as important, we have to expect that consequences would be similar, on a personal basis.

Gordon Bell

Speaking of personal logging, you may have heard of life logging. While posting on this blog and looking through my 3 year history on Facebook (only 3?), these capture moments in time for me…but not everything. Life logging is what Gordon Bell has experimented in with MyLifeBits. Life logging is the” digital storage of a person’s lifetime, including full-text search, text/audio annotations and hyperlinks.” Bell has a great track record of predicting technology’s future (he once said in 1992, “”Twenty-five years from now…Computers will be exactly like telephones. They are probably going to be communicating all the time …”), so it is hard for me to quickly dismiss his personal life logging. I post on blogs on subjects I WANT to talk about. Do I necessarily want to track everything in my life? Do I want to revisit a past relationship with an old girlfriend? Sure, I recall some good times, some bad, but I certainly do not want to revisit the intimate details of a bad break-up. However, I can be swayed on life logging.

When reading Eagleyedon’s blog, The Future, a family member with dementia was mentioned, along with the possibilities of life logging. When listening to Bell speak of life logging on The persistence of memory, I couldn’t help but think of think of the potential of life logging in a person suffering from memory loss as well. My family has a history of Alzheimer’s disease and life logging would certainly have been a technological breakthrough to explore (especially early on in the diagnosis). While the disease robs a person of their memory, it would be good to have a backlog and possibly curb the symptoms, if only for a little while.

As Communications of the ACM says, “HAVING a surrogate memory CREATES A FREEING, UPLIFTING, AND SECURE FEELING—similar to having an assistant with a perfect memory.” In the end, while many fear living your life publicly, there are advantages and disadvantages. While life logging can be extreme for some, we will all have a virtual “paper trail” on us sooner or later; it is what future generations will know as the “norm” for living. As Jim Morrison famously once said, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” The internet gives that freedom to express ourselves in new and exciting ways, just know that it is more than just friends that will perceive who you are.

References:

  • “The persistence of memory.” link
  • Wired interview with Nick Carr. link
  • Gemmell, J., Bell, G., & Lueder, R. (2006). MyLifeBits: a personal database for everything. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 89-95.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-logging
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Bell
  • http://eagleyedon.quicm.net/blog/?p=101

Augmented Reality Bites

Well, it doesn’t quite “bite,” I just wanted a catchy title. So, after watching the TED video on Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense, it is extraordinary where the latest forms emerging technology are headed (see below).

People may be using brain machine (or computer) interfaces (BMI) devices and the ability (in the not so distant future) to interact with environments without the need of a traditional devices. This is exciting, yet intimidating. I could sit here and tell you that we are progressing too fast and we are turning into robots, but who really cares? There is nothing I could say on this blog or scream from a mountain top that is going to stop or deter the progression of technology. To be perfectly honest, I am glad; I am ready to jump in. So while Sixth Sense technology is amazing and Mistry is no doubt a creative genius, one thing the interactive age has made a constant for today’s consumer is that we want it now. I tried Second Life in a previous post, but I want something more. Enter Augmented Reality. Why Augmented Reality? It’s the closest thing I could find to Sixth Sense…

I heard about Augmented Reality (or AR) in a blog from the PR/Marketing firm, Mason, Inc. and given what I have read about Sixth Sense and BMI, I was intrigued to say the least. So what is it? Wikipedia defines Augmented Reality as a “term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.” An example that resonates best with a lot of people is the yellow first down line you would see in a televised football broadcast…or how Robert Downey Jr’s character interacts with his Iron Man suit. Even the latest project from Microsoft’s Xbox is utilizing this type of interactive technology. So where do we come in?

Armed with my trusty webcam and microphone I sought out to jump into AR or what’s also called “interactive print.” After quickly realizing that I did not have the Esquire magazine needed to use esquire.com’s version, I checked out GE’s version…to which I did not have a printer necessary to print out the paper at the time. Patience lessening…

So I was off to my third and final choice, johnmayer.com, where thousands, probably millions of teenage girls and now yours truly sought to try Mayer’s version of AR (not a big fan of his, but he did grow up in the same “hood” as me). Fortunately, when he’s not making racy remarks to Playboy magazine, John Mayer truly is at the cusp of interactive technology (if anything he is probably a serial tweeter/blogger). For his version of AR, I was able to download the pdf file on my phone and jump right in. This was the result…

As I was guiding my phone in place with the webcam in some sort of “virtual living room” in 360 degree rotations with Mayer’s latest single blaring in the background, I felt like I was at the forefront of some cool possibilities in technology…and somewhat foolish. My dad walked in on this debacle and concurred to say the least. He knows what a tech junkie I am, so like any confused, supportive parent would say, “That was…um…interesting, Jon.” I, uh, concur.

I wanted to give AR one more shot, printed out the paper GE required and give their site a try. This is what their website’s video said my experience would look like…

This is what my experience wound up looking like…

As you see my curly head peeking out, one thing was for sure, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Navigating the paper as the hologram was a lot easier than using my cell phone from John Mayer’s site. The basic premise is a solar powered demonstration, but I could not really see it because the paper needed to do this ultimately obstructs your view (although they have an extremely interactive site). It was worth a try.

In the end, Augmented Reality could be like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in terms of interactive technology (innovative idea, but is not really going to alter my life long-term). Like a lot of technology, some might take off (like text messaging), while others that had potential, may just not (like the original WebTV). What is the fate of Augmented Reality? I think it has a place in terms of print marketing staying relevant for younger audiences, but it is still too early to predict its success. This is fine; it’s just an appetizer of what’s to come in this ever-changing world of emerging technology (which can be fun if you don’t mind looking foolish from time to time).

References:

  • Pranav Mistry (2009), The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology, TED
  • http://www.mason23.com/blog/?p=246
  • http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality
  • http://www.johnmayer.com/ar/#/Home

Word of Mouth On Steroids Side Effects

I love blogs.  I see the benefits. I had better or the wheels of Blogetery in Motion will fall off. It is a wonderful business model for a company to be transparent, accessible and authentic. I admire the passion that goes into the blogosphere. Business model aside, when does everyone else’s opinions start getting old? Not to sound hypocritical, but on a blog I read recently, a quote that stuck out was “There’s a lot of passion and is all being put into repetition.”

“The Most Informed, Knowledgeable Group of Morons In History”

The previous quote was from Carlos Miceli’s post Thank You And Good Bye, Seth Godin. In this post, he explains he is unsubscribing from Seth Godin’s blog in order to form some original thoughts and questions of his own, rather than just regurgitating the the words of another. I respect that way of thinking. It is important not to get to caught up and live vicariously through another’s words and take it as absolute.

Sex God, Steroids and…Blogs?

Semper10’s Sex God, Steroids and…Blogs? was another thought-provoking post. I totally agree with the quote, “blogs are based on opinion and select fact.” This is true, anyone can voice what they think is fact. I do disagree, however, that “companies will not be overrun by blogs in the present or in the future.” To me, that is not the purpose of a blog. The purpose is not unlike the yellow page ad of old, although this version of the yellow page ad allows for direct feedback from customers. This is not natural progression for everyone and I share Semper’s sentiments in blogs not working in every workplace. General Motors and Microsoft wanted to seem like friendlier businesses, so blogs worked for them. An owner like Mark Cuban stands little to gain from having others in his basketball franchise share their feelings (the NBA already cracks down on social media).

Semper10 also says, “You would assume that the number of blogs must be at least doubled by now…if not tripled. But if that is the case, then why does it feel like blogging is on the out in 2010?” That makes me wonder if I’ll be watching VH1’s I Love The 2010s (or something) 15 years from now and watch pseudo-humorous panelists talk about how every “average Joe” had a blog back in the day. Blogging will not go away, but I think we may see more posts from traditional journalists and less opinion “from thin air.” As Schwartz is quoted in Naked Conversations, “Journalists are there because they are independent thinkers who provide fresh insights.” This is something the blogosphere needs more of.

Do not get me wrong, I support the innovation we call blogs. They certainly have their place, especially in a particular business. As Picard says in Blogs, Tweets, Social Media, and the News Business, “the content that news organizations produce (at a cost) is distributed by others, thus removing the need or desire for many people to seek out the original sources of the information.” In Naked Conversations,  Yossi Vardi tells us, “Blogging is word of mouth on steroids.” The chapter goes on to say, “Unlike major league sports, where steroids have caused a multitude of scandals, word of mouth on steroids builds credibility, enthusiasm, and customer evangelism.” I think it is a very catchy metaphor and yes blogs can “stick it to the man” in terms of calling a company out on producing a shoddy product. Just remember steroids have side effects too. Take advantage of the information you can acquire, but remember to think for yourself.

References:

  • Scoble, R. & Israel, S. (2006). Naked Conversations. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons
  • Picard, R. (2009). Blogs, Tweets, Social Media, and the News Business. Nieman Report
  • Semper10. (2010). Sex God, Steroids and…Blogs?. “Blogging” For Dummies
  • Miceli, C. (2009). Thank You And Good Bye, Seth Godin. Brazen Careerist

Less With Less

A few weeks ago, I agreed to accept a free week of the Connecticut Post newpaper. I knew I did not want it, but I did not want to hurt the saleswoman’s feelings by telling her why. Let’s face it, she knows why. Newsflash: print media, especially newspapers, are struggling. Video killed the radio star. The internet killed the print media. I am not telling you anything new, right? I, however, do not put the blame solely on technology. The collective masses, the audience are the ones that have used technology as a means to receive the news they want to read.

RSS Your Life

Now I am not necessarily saying look in the mirror and blame yourself for the potentially forthcoming “death” of the newspaper. We have been conditioned to filter our information sources for years now (just check your RSS feeds). In Democracy and Filtering, Sunstein talks of “the growing power of consumers to “filter” what they see.” He goes on to say, “many people are increasingly engaged in the process of personalization, limiting their exposure to topics and points of view of their own choosing.” I would be lying if I told you I did not “filter” my information.

Right Down To The Wire

Once “The Voice,” the almighty power of the print journalism is all but gone and this was represented masterfully in season five of the drama, The Wire. Series creator, David Simon based the season around the deteriorating role of the reporter in terms of downsizing a newspaper staff. It focused on the growing trend of the company expecting to do “more with less.” Nothing is more important to a journalist than getting that front paper news story. The show dealt with ethical issues with a reporter falsifying information to get the headlines and doing whatever he can to move up to the prominent newspapers, which is a corporate structure that is vastly disappearing today. On the other end, Alma Gutierrez, an honest reporter, had news story on a home invasion where three people are murdered and her story gets cut to 2 inches in the middle of the paper. Once the bearer of news regarding urban issues, civil rights and everyday struggles,  it seems as though these stories that effect our neighborhoods get little to no press. This is because people know it, but filter it out, which explains why the newspapers are getting thinner.

Our Own Spam Filter

There is almost a parallel connection in that statement and the success of The Wire. Thanks to technology, people can now find there niche source of information. People today do not want to see the realities of life (like the gritty world of The Wire), but would rather watch something a lot more lighthearted and an escape (like Entourage).

“Government news makes up a smaller percentage of front page articles than 20 years ago. At the same time, the number of lifestyle articles keeps climbing.” – Project for Excellence in Journalism, State of The News Media 2004

Do people even want news anymore? The answer to that is yes, but only to pick and choose and the once all-encompassing media giant has been whittled down to smaller different posts, which to its bad fortune, we can find elsewhere. That is why these complex issues do not resonate with people my age. We are talking about the Super Bowl, Tiger Woods and The Jersey Shore because the media cannot take the complex stories and make them compelling. There is no room for growth or as the fictional editor says in The Wire, “no balance in stories.”

To Pay or Not To Pay?

So what do we do? Do we charge for the online version? A couple of weeks ago I tweeted a story on Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, on a subscription basis. “The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect? So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com? The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.” Keep in mind that the Dolans do own the New York Knicks (sorry New York NBA fans), but this is not a great sign that a pay news site is profitable.

Print media had the responsibility, but wanted to sell more papers. Now less money is coming in because there is a worse product and less reason to buy. On the flip side, the future of journalism is bright. However, today’s “journalist” should be prepared to create an interactive experience that speaks to a focused audience, opposed to the broad nature of a newspaper. As Picard says in Blogs, Tweets, Social Media, and the News Business, “If they do interact consistently with readers and viewers, they develop a different type of relationship than the arms-length connection that traditional mass communication created.” Online will give us our niche news, but will the new “journalists” of the era be pushed as they were in the now dying newsroom? Will the same competition be there?

A New Revolution

David Simon, speaks on his experience at The Baltimore Sun, “The newsroom I worked in had four hundred and fifty people. Now it’s got three hundred. Management says, ‘We have to do more with less.’ That’s the bullsh*t of bean counters who care only about the bottom line. You do less with less.” Do I agree with that statement? From the standpoint of a physical business, I understand the strain of working very thin as an organization (I worked in non-profit for several years). However, as Benjamin Barber says, we become “larger as we become smaller.” I interpret this as the masses collectively focusing on their particular niche and what they want to read or see as “news.” So did technology kill the print media?

Technology AND people are just as guilty of letting the newspaper decline. The general public would rather read a story on pretty bride to be jilting someone on the alter than what is going on in their neighborhood streets. We once covered this in civil rights, but the media does not trust the audience or think it can take on large issues. Today, folks see what they want to see, DVR past what they don’t and live in a bubble where print media is by and large irrelevant. While I feel for the people losing their jobs and have a great respect for the old-style “man on the street” reporting, we are justified in using the technologies we have to our advantage. So is it true? Do we actually control the news?

References:

  • Sunstein, C. (2004). Democracy and filtering. Communications of the ACM, 47(12), 57-59
  • Picard, R. (2009). Blogs, Tweets, Social Media, and the News Business. Nieman Reports
  • Margaret Talbot (2007). “Stealing Life”. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/10/22/071022fa_fact_talbot?currentPage=1.
  • John Koblin (2010) “After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday‘s Web Site”. The New York Observer Media.
  • The Wire: The Last Word. Dir. Clark Johnson. Perf. David Simon. 2008. HBO, 2008. DVD.