September 2010


Seems like any company with a strong brand and customer base can be a hardware vendor. Hot on the heels of Amazon apparently launching its own tablet, clothing retailer Next is quietly offering a cut-price iPad wannabe.

Amazon has form with the brilliant Kindle eBook but Next has come a little out of left field. It’s all thanks to Android of course, the iPad-baiting open source OS that’s garnering millions of fans and users around the world.

Android’s modus operandi is the opposite to Apple. Android thrives on anyone and everyone playing with it whereas Apple thrives on being a closed shop,  locking users into its hardware, software, content and payment platforms.

Personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. The price point (£180) is massively undercutting the iPad as well as the sprinkling of Android tablets already announced by the bigger technology companies. Next customers get access to a global community of content as well as a (hopefully) decent device for enjoying media. Next gets the kudos of playing in the tablet market and, if it’s smart, a channel through which to pump content and hopefully generate sales. On this point, Next launched its own iPhone app back in February, and you can bet that feedback from that experience led to the development of its own tablet.

It makes you think who else could enter the tablet market. Banks, motoring organisations, football clubs, in fact any brand, company or organisation that has a decent brand, customer loyalty and a sales channel to get the product to market.

So, outside of the big tech hardware vendors, any guesses as to who will be next?

@paulwooding1973

You won’t find journalists declaring the death of the press release

The press release has again been declared dead. This time by Simon Dumenco, at Advertising Age in his column RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) — and Long Live the Tweet.

With every declaration that the press release is dead, the word “press” is the term most often missing from the conversation. Writers of all kinds, from the mainstream media to bloggers and other content creators, depend on press releases to get the basic facts of a story as well as a company’s official perspective that they can print with some degree of confidence.

Discussions around the future or relevance of press releases tend to focus on new means  of disseminating information rather than thinking about how writers are putting together their stories. PR professionals should think about how they can better meet the needs of their audience (writers) as well as their audiences’ audience (the readers). While we like to show our prowess in developing video content and reaching a wider audience with tweets, they won’t necessarily help a journalist communicate the basic facts of a story with maximum efficiency.

Most journalists are overworked and underpaid. If they are trying to fill space and add information to a story, they won’t necessarily have the time or inclination to watch a video stream or follow a company they are writing about, if that company has a twitter feed.

Dumenco says: “Of course, press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”

I don’t think any forward-looking PRs are interested in keeping the press release alive.  They are interested in reaching their target audience with the story that they are representing. An integrated approach that includes traditional press releases as well as variety of content across distribution platforms will be what best delivers a story to a market looking for a variety of things from a news source.

Edelman’s own Kelly McAlearney was quoted in a Mashable story called The Future of Public Relations and Social Media, which acknowledged how PR tools and techniques are evolving,

“Engagement with journalists and consumers has evolved considerably over the past five years, to shorter formats. Often, we find that our most effective pitches are our most succinct. And interactions have naturally become more concise as many brands are in constant, direct contact with consumer audiences and media via online channels.”

It is important to be clear about what you are presenting and to help the writer write his story. If a press release is written with clarity and purpose, it will help a writer to meet his goals and give a brand the visibility it wants.

Dumenco says,

“Legend has it that early PR man Ivy Ledbetter Lee issued the very first press release in 1906 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad, after a derailed train plunged into a creek in Atlantic City, resulting in 53 passenger deaths; The New York Times printed it verbatim.”

Dumenco really points out the power of the press release and I don’t see why this wouldn’t happen today. It does. Rather than asking what can or will replace the press release, we should look at how we can best make use of the distribution channels available to us while meeting the needs of the media and clients.

@Matthew_Whalley

 Social media is gaining a greater foothold in the lives of older Americans.

According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled from 22% to 42% over the past year. Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older use social networking sites.

Most users of social networking tools are between 18 and 29 but this growth in older users shows that different segments of the population are getting involved. As we try to reach different social segments, looking at usage profiles across age groups can help us to better target audiences.

“While email may be falling out of favour with today’s teenagers, older adults still rely on it heavily as an essential tool for their daily communications. Overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email and more than half of each group exchanges email messages on a typical day. Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults; 76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.”

While overall interest in social networking is growing amongst older users, this doesn’t necessarily translate into larger percentages using all social networking tools. According to the survey, one in 10 (11%) online adults ages 50-64 and one in 20 (5%) online adults ages 65 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

In order to reach the right people with the right message via social media, it is important to look at what segments of the population are involved in social networking and what online tools are most applicable to their social segment. As the survey tells us, the number of older internet users are getting involved with social networking is growing rapidly but their activities online are still largely dominated by other things. 

@Matthew_Whalley

Tiptoes: A stupid flick.

As the Gun Cabinet shows, the internet is providing us with an increasing array of online tools that allow us to search, monitor, create and invent in our own right. Creating your own content has never been easier and Stupeflix is another example of an online tool that does just that, in this instance helping you to create fun videos, even if you don’t own a video camera or have editing software to hand.

Not only are tools like this enabling creativity, they are also a great way to share new ideas, concepts, or just fun, visual material with friends, colleagues or clients.

For those who haven’t explored Stupeflix yet, the tool allows you to upload images – drag and drop them in place to create your own running order, and add music, effects, backgrounds and text to create a full video display. The best thing, the tool is free for a video under one minute, but content can be purchased if you are looking for longer videos or high definition quality.  We find it really useful for creating coverage videos – clients love that it’s not just another PowerPoint.

@KatieWatkin

Augmented reality is set to drive a deeper wedge in the digital divide.

According to Internet World Stats, only 28.7% of people in the world are online. In simple terms, that means if I have five kids only one gets access to the internet. As I sit in a developed economy in Western Europe, the digital divide is not always well recognized or understood. That means that four of my kids aren’t seeing any internet content and getting the benefit of the largest knowledge sharing network the world has ever seen. One child will be given the advantage of the world’s information being organized and widely accessible while the others will be have to get by with what they can access locally.

Most recession-affected countries have proposed some sort of broadband stimulus project to increase the number of people using the internet and develop their digital economy. Emerging markets are rolling out infrastructure to increase uptake and bring more people online.

Discussions around the infrastructure side of the digital divide leads to a lot of trolling through stats and not much understanding of what the gap means. In developed markets the digital divide often means that the less money you have the less likely you are to be on the internet, own a smartphone or enjoy tablet computing. This is a divide between the rich and the poor and Russell M Davies proposes in his Wired column “Imagine the worst bits of Facebook, only they’re everywhere” that augmented reality could lead to a kind of “premium reality” for those that pay for better versions of everyday life.

Augmented reality offers users the opportunity to access information or alter landscapes through digital imagery on mobile devices that interact with their surroundings. Davies notes that this has so far amounted to pizza vouchers and works of art. As the potential of augmented reality is just beginning to come into focus, it illustrates how pronounced the digital divide can become.

Today it means that if you don’t have access to a smart mobile device you are being denied access to some less than essential information but as the technology develops it could mean that you are only seeing half the picture that others are. Once the technology has seen widespread adoption this could mean aggressive advertising models shaping the world you see through your mobile device.

Davis sees this world evolving along a similar path as television broadcasting with advertising cluttering the world of poorer users while those that can pay accessing premium content. He says:

“…businesses will pay to target the rich and end up only addressing the poor because the rich have paid extra to avoid being targeted. So if you’ve got enough money, your world could look like HBO on a Sunday night — high quality and commercial free. If you don’t, it’ll look like the nether regions of your guide — softcore chat offers and lawyers who’ve paid an actor to assure you that they really are lawyers. Which would be fine, except these people won’t be on your telly;  they’ll be in your world.”

This means that the one child in five who gets to enjoy the riches of the internet still might not be getting an optimum experience and getting every advantage the web has to offer.  As augmented reality technology proliferates we will see how access to these new means of information sharing evolves.

@Matthew_Whalley

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