Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Engaging the media in a digital world

Last week Business Wire and the Twin Cities chapter of National Investor Relations Institute hosted a media panel called "Engaging the Media in a Digital World: Social Media." Moderated by Bob Kleiber, the panel featured Kaeti Hinck of MinnPost, Dirk DeYoung of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, David Fondler of St. Paul Pioneer Press and Todd Stone of Star Tribune.

Here's my recap of the event.

star tribune news
Todd Stone, Star Tribune Business News Editor
1. Describe to what extent the journalist's job has become technology-driven.

Todd Stone (TS): "Social media has changed everything in a lot of ways." Stone added that the Star Tribune can reach more people through social media, and that "readers can engage us in so many more ways than before."

Kaeti Hinck (KH): "Social media gives reporters access to a wider array of contacts and tips." Hinck pointed out that MinnPost staff members check social media throughout the day.

Dirk DeYoung (DD): He starts his day at home editing the  "Morning Roundup" e-mail. "We don't save things for the print edition any more. The print edition is now for a deeper perspective." The Business Journal staffers use Twitter to get news tips; DeYoung highlighted how his reporters used LinkedIn recently to confirm that archivists were laid off at Target Corporation.

David Fondler (DF): "The Internet has made our jobs more challenging -- the challenge is figuring out what is news." Fondler pointed out that Twitter is an excellent tool to help with reporting.

2. How do you like to be pitched by public relations professionals?

DF: "It's become much more of a fire hose -- everyone thinks that their executive should be
Kaeti Hinck, MinnPost Director of News Technology
interviewed. We have to make fast-paced judgment calls to determine if we want to dedicate resources to follow a story."

DD: DeYoung said that he looks at least at the subject line of each e-mail, and that social media doesn't always get to him -- so e-mail and phone can work better.

KH: "Social media provides the opportunity to learn about reporters and target pitches." She added, "If a company is doing good work, we're going to notice."

TS: He said that he likes to be contacted by e-mail or by phone call. "Use social media to get information out there, but contact reporters in the traditional ways."

3. What types of pressure are you getting to drive traffic to websites?

TS: "We want to engage more and more people."
minneapolis local news
Dirk DeYoung, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

KH: "Traffic remains important to us, although we're going after the right audience -- not just any audience." Hinck added that she considers page views a dying metric.

DD: DeYoung said that The Business Journal constantly has goals to meet regarding growing page views and e-mail subscribers. He said that the publication's afternoon e-mail update has 16,000 subscribers. DeYoung said that the demand for videos is very strong, and that The Business Journal either shoots its own videos or uses videos from other sources.

DF: Fondler hasn't really felt pressure to drive traffic or get more page views. His team is constantly trying to keep headlines updated on the St. Paul Pioneer Press website. "Our mission is to get news to as many people as possible."

4. Do you see opportunities for media alliances?

DF: "I think it's a great idea."

DD: DeYoung mentioned that some other markets within The Business Journals chain have partnered with TV stations; the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal has partnered with KMSP-TV and WCCO Radio. In addition, The Business Journals chain has a national partnership with Bloomberg.

KH: She said that MinnPost has a lot of partnerships.

TS: "Part of our mission and business model is to create unique content." He added, "Digital isn't pressuring us to partner with other organizations."

st paul pioneer press
David Fondler, St. Paul Pioneer Press Business News Editor
5. What are some social media must dos and never dos?

TS: Stone said to keep Twitter feeds more professional than personal. "Be specific. Be precise." He added, "We use Twitter a lot as a reporting tool. Facebook provides us an opportunity to engage in the conversation."

KH: "Be smart -- don't feed the trolls." Hinck also said to acknowledge any mistakes quickly, and to think before you retweet. "Choose one or two networks to focus on. Define your goals and measure those goals."

DD: "Don't be boring." DeYoung highlighted General Mills and Target as two brands that have excellent social media promoting blog content. DeYoung also recommended monitoring all streams of social media mentioning your company. He encouraged companies to make the Twitter handle easy to find on the website home page and in press releases.

DF: "Recognize that companies can't control the messages in social media." In regard to negative stories, he said, "Don't lie. Provide us with access. We'll make every opportunity to be fair." Some aspects of news criteria that Fondler mentioned were: Is it new? Is it unique? Does it touch a lot of people's lives? Is it local?

The panelists also mentioned that they still use wire services, such as Business Wire or PR Newswire.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to opt out of Google shared endorsements

On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that includes something called "shared
google shared endorsements
An example of Google shared endorsements.
endorsements." Scheduled to roll out Nov. 11, shared endorsements essentially allow Google to include adult users' names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web. The shared endorsements will be based on ratings, reviews and posts that users have made on Google Plus and other Google services.

Does this sound a bit like Facebook's "Sponsored Stories"? Indeed. Hopefully learning from the recently settled $20 million class action lawsuit against Facebook regarding Sponsored Stories, Google is providing a way for users to opt out of shared endorsements.

Here is a quick way to exclude yourself from Google's shared endorsements (Note: If you are under 18, you may see shared endorsements from others but your own name and profile will not be paired with shared endorsements in ads and certain other contexts.):
google terms of service
If you own or manage a Google Plus page (such as one for an organization), there's a slightly different approach to opting out of shared endorsements:
  • On the left-hand "Home" menu, drop down to choose "Dashboard."
  • Click on "Settings" on the right.
  • Scroll down to where it says "Shared Endorsements."
  • Click "Edit."
  • Scroll down and uncheck the box next to "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."
  • Click Save. 
One note from Google:  "Changing this setting does not impact how your Page's name and photo might look in a shared endorsement that is not in an ad — for example, when your Page shares a music recommendation that is displayed in the Play Store. You can limit the visibility of activity outside of ads by deleting the activity or changing its visibility settings."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why didn't Big Star or Anvil become...big stars?

Big Star and Anvil. Two bands from two very different genres. One thing in common: they heavily influenced superstar groups that came after them, but lacked commercial success themselves.

big star movie
Big Star
Have you heard of Big Star and Anvil? If not, you definitely have heard of the groups that they influenced. For power-pop group Big Star, that list includes Cheap Trick, R.E.M., Wilco, The Posies, The Replacements and more. Bands that consider Anvil an inspiration include a who's who of heavy metal: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Guns N' Roses.

The answer to why Big Star and Anvil didn't have commercial success is not easily answered. Each band has a documentary that I would highly recommend: "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" and "Anvil: The Story of Anvil."

From 1971 to 1974, Big Star released three influential records: "#1 Record," "Radio City" and "Third/Sister Lovers." While the records earned critical acclaim, commercial success was elusive. According to "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me," poor distribution was a key factor in the dismal sales. Hard to buy a record when it wasn't in stores.

In Anvil's case, no one in "Anvil: The Story of Anvil" knows why the band wasn't successful.
anvil band
However, the documentary is intriguing from a personality standpoint. Anvil's two main members, Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner, encounter several situations similar to "This Is Spinal Tap" in the film, although fortunately no drummer spontaneously combusts.

Obviously the odds are stacked against bands making it big in rock 'n' roll...there's no farm system to develop talent, like in baseball.

In 1994, I met Matt Wilson (of Trip Shakespeare) at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. I asked him what it was like to make it big. His response, "I don't feel like I've made it big yet."

Maybe not, but his brother Dan Wilson (also of Trip Shakespeare) sure has. Have you heard of Trip Shakespeare? Just another group influenced by -- you guessed it -- Big Star.
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