Month: June 2009

The First Nerd President of the Modern Era

As those of you who follow my blog regularly – and I know there are at least five of you… well, at least two… gee, it could be as many as eight-five… but I digress.

Those of you who follow my blog know that one of my favorite means of consuming information and news is the podcast – a medium I enjoy as I travel around the city via subway, bus, and foot – saving me from doing no fewer than two things at a time.

I partake of all kinds of podcasts: AdAge 3 minute casts, Cynthia Turner In Your Ear Cynopses, NYT Front Page, etc. It’s like the Cliff Notes of news, except that I don’t have to know how to read.

Well, one of the podcasts on my top-ten lineup is “Green 960 – Rachel Maddow,” and this afternoon, I had the good fortune of having a business meeting on the east side of Central Park, which compelled me to walk home through the Park. And, hence, I had the opportunity to hear Maddow’s rebroadcast of John Hodgman’s talk at the Radio and TV Correspondent’s Dinner last week.

Barack Obama, with a photo of himself in front of a Superman statue, and a deep knowledge of Star Trek salutes and facts, seems to be the first nerd president. A nerd president being to a jock president what a blogger is to a radio talk show host, gravitating toward “complexity and bookish rumination” rather than “gut instinct, intense confidence and surety.” But yet, he plays sports. And not just bowling, but basketball – making Mr. Hodgman’s assessment of the president somewhat more complicated. After spending four days in deeply red country as a supremely ill-qualified defender of liberal politics, this was a refreshing return to the familiar territory of satirical blue humor – not to mention a quite comfortable temperature in the 80s rather than the high 90s.

But let’s get back to safer territory – for example, Hodgman’s direct allusion to social media. Within his overview of the nerd culture, he notes that it has come to pass that “the state of Iran is somehow deeply entwined with the sleep schedule of the programmers of Twitter and Youtube.” Phew.

And with that, I hereby share with you Hodgman’s quite smart, quite witty, dare I say thought provoking talk at the TV and Radio Correspondent’s Dinner. Live long, live hands-free, and prosper:


Making the Big Time at OMMA Social

It seems that one of my early morning questions at the OMMA Social conference yesterday prompted advice that merited a mention by MediaPost. As a business and marketing strategy consultant, I work with clients that range in size from $1MM in revenue to multi-billions. From “Not for Tourists,” Campfire and ning to Time Inc., Pillsbury and Scripps Networks. And I work with organizations that are completely immersed in the newest, most bleeding edge innovations to those who are thinking about developing their first digital strategy or figuring out how to translate their print assets to an online environment.

When I attend conferences such as those sponsored by OMMA, CEA and iBreakfast, I am in a world where Twitter, Facebook, iPhone, hash marks, retweeting, and hyper-localization are part of every day discussion. Then I meet with a client in the financial services industry who reminds me that employees of large financial institutions can not access any of these tools while at work due to compliance regulations and Blackberry servers. And I work with another client who feels strongly that the people using these tools and websites are not her core Baby Boomer consumers.

So, how do you bridge that gap? To what extent should we recommend that marketers and publishers who are new to the Internet, let alone social media, focus on these high-impact but low-penetration tools. Twitter has 18MM monthly uniques – with 10% of users creating 90% of content, and there are 17-18MM iPhones worldwide (each is about 6% of the U.S. population) with relatively low median ages – though not as low as you might think.

Well, I’ve had success with some of my own approaches, but I was interested to ask panelists at the OMMA Social conference this question. And my early morning question to the participants of the panel “Creating an Authentic Brand Dialogue Using Social Media” warranted coverage by MediaPost’s Joe Mandese (which I discovered via my daily Google Alert):

“How To Convince Clients To Embrace Social Media: Try Search.

That was the advice Ro Choy, Chief Revenue Officer, RockYou , gave Karen Levine of Triple Play Consulting, when she asked the OMMA authentic panel how she could convince some traditional clients to embrace social media.

Another way to drive that is to do a search for Twitter on your product, Choy said, noting that those clients would see plenty of conversations about their brand taking place on Twitter, and then they could decide for themselves whether they need to be proactive about it or not.

Choy said he recently conducted exercises like that for the Snickers brand, and for the term cat food, and found plenty of discussions taking place that were ripe for social media marketing and sponsorships.”

Well, after I heard this very powerful response, I proceeded to Twitter and ran a search on “Harvard Club,” which I then forwarded to the head of the Program Committee of the club. Why? Because I wanted him to know that Twitter is not only relevant to Iranian politics but to the members (especially the young members) of the club.

This evening I will have more than 100 members coming to hear Shelly Palmer speak about social media. Some of those members needed to call the Program office to learn how to log onto the new website to make a reservation. Others were born squarely into the digital generation. In fact, this particular program is prompting members to bring their 20-something children to the event, which will lower the median age significantly. I am very curious to see how Shelly addresses this broad set of skills, understanding and objectives, but have little doubt that he will do so successfully.

Can You Summate in 140? Top OMMA Social Takeaways

I’ve just emerged – well 3 hours ago – from 9 hours of live immersion in social media at OMMA Social – the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising social media conference. Ah, the bliss and the exhaustion. I feel compelled to share my joy with those of you I met today – physically and virtually – and others in the blogosphere. So, I have set myself to creating a list of key takeaways. It will not be easy, I know. But nothing worth doing ever is – or so they say.

I am going to post this blog as a work in progress. And I invite those who were there with me in the Crowne Plaza ballroom – or have watched the video stream – to chime in. You can also relive the live conversation at #OMMASocial on Twitter.


1) The big next thing is hyper-local targeting – particularly via mobile.


2) You have to “have your brand out there” because conversations are going to happen, and if you’re not a part of them, “you’re going to get left out.”

3) Authenticity is crucial. If you don’t have it, they will know it.

4) Need to define your personality as a brand in the social media ecosystem – especially important for Twitter.

5) Executive (C-Level) buy-in is essential – need resources to have an effective social media presence.

6) Enroll your entire organization in your social media initiative – strength in numbers.


7) Run a search of your brand or category on Twitter to demonstrate to management that your brand is already part of the conversation.

8) Use Twitter to track comments about your brand and then reach out directly and personally to those who have tweeted, particularly those with problems and complaints.

9) Twitter is a better tool for brands than is Facebook – you can’t search “Updates” on Facebook.


10) Use Facebook Connect to get information in not out.

Twitter is a better tool for brands than is Facebook:

You can’t search personal updates on Facebook.

Twitter more dynamic – what’s happening NOW, and it’s less of a build it, and they will come. Once consumers have signed up to be your friend or fan, it is hard to keep them engaged.

While Twitter has 18MM unique users to Facebook’s 70MM, it is growing fast. While 10% of Twitter users create 90% of Twitter content, they are influential and passionate.

Facebook users are coming to Facebook to socialize…

“You have to have your brand out there because conversations are going to happen, and if you’re not a part of them, you’re going to get left out.”

In so doing, know that you have to be comfortable being part of the tone of the conversation, “snarkiness rules the day, so you have to be comfortable being part of a snark.” (Andy Mitchell, CNN)

This reminds me of an recent cover story interview by BusinessWeek – “The Risk Takers: Hunting for Growth.” The author being interviewed compared navigating the economic crisis to driving on ice. The worst thing you can do is slam on your brakes. You have to be willing to give up some control and go with the flow, as it were – hmmm… perhaps I should not attempt to be articulate after 11pm. In any case, I wrote about a related topic in a previous blog about the value of advertising during an economic downturn – based on work I did in 2001.

Authenticity is crucial

Walmart’s claim to be green was immediately questioned by the “Mom” blogging community. Just didn’t resonate.

Now, this may not be new to you. In fact, Robert Scobel and Shel Israel spoke about this in their 2006 book “Naked Conversations.” However, it is crucial.

A powerful way to utilize Twitter is to track your brand and then reach out directly and personally to those who comment, particularly those with problems and complaints.

Craig Engler (Sci Fi Channel – soon to be ScyFy) told a story of Craig Newmark contacting him directly when he posted a tweet about a craigslist problem.

Comcast is the poster child for this practice with their Comcast Cares program – a far cry from the YouTube video of the serviceman sleeping on a customer’s sofa. Later in the day, we got to hear from Frank Eliason, Director of Digital Care at Comcast, directly.

It kind of makes you feel that every brand should do this – as a consumer.

Run a search of your brand or category on Twitter to demonstrate that your brand is already part of the conversation.

As Steve Wax of Campfire said on a different occasion – understand what is being said about your brand and then insert yourself into the conversation.

All that said, we need to always keep in mind the self selectivity of Twitter. These are opinion leaders and influencers, yes. But they are also a younger, tech savvy slice of the population, and 10% of those who tweet create 90% of content. For example, when I search for “Harvard Club,” I find tweets from recent grads complaining about the dress code. Definitely good insight for those planning for the future of the club, but a biased sample.

Use Facebook Connect to get information in not out.

One of the most powerful uses of social media is research. The listening post application. This reminds me of the days when, as a brand manager, I would periodically listen in on calls to consumer service. You don’t want to know the kinds of usage questions that consumers asked about Vaseline skin care products!

…more later

I Want My Allman B – And I’m Willing To Pay!

How unreasonable is the idea of getting paid for your digital content or services? Let’s see who’s doing it:

Moogis: Video streaming of Allman Brothers concerts – $125 annual subscription, $15 for individual concerts. Moogis offers subscribers streaming video access to entire live concerts, both in real time and on-demand from its archives. provides a gathering place for subscribers, a social website where fans can create their own profiles, join discussion groups, hang out with like-minded folks and “share the communal experience that music inspires.” Quote from one subscriber: “I was able to get an early bird discount of $100 when it first came out. It was the best $100 I’ve spent.” Clearly, people will pay for value and for things about which they are passionate. (June 2009)

Flat World Knowledge: Offers free online college text books and charges for premium options and services. Students can review the books for free or pay as little as $20 to print out a tome or $30 to download an iPod-ready audio file. Other paid services include open source student-generated study aids fueled by creative-commons licensing. Teachers can also customize text books for a fee. As of October, the company had signed contracts with 29 authors to write some 20 books. It recently raised $8MM in venture capital funding. Keep your eye on this. It’s extremely exciting and disruptive. (June 2009)

ESPN Magazine: Put everything behind a paid wall as explained here – “ and ESPN Insider Merge: has hooked up with the folks at Insider to create a sports content supergroup, where Insider’s traditional next-level analysis is paired with ESPN The Magazine’s unique storytelling and insight. As of Friday June 5, ceased to exist as we know it, but the site’s signature pieces and voice continue to live on the Insider page.” Existing Magazine subscribers can upgrade to ESPN Insider at no extra charge. Non-Magazine subscribers are invited to, “See what you’re missing at ESPN Insider.” (June 2009)

Guide to Trekking Locations in the U.S. (Gorp?): $50 per year – I am told that a printed guide book turned out to be more helpful (e.g., finding hiking trails that are dog-friendly). Only benefit to online subscription is being able to print out a few pages rather than carrying or photocopying book. Also, info about other regions of the country, but that was not relevant because the hiker I spoke to only hikes locally. Net, net, it wasn’t worth it for her. It’s all about execution. (June 2009)

20 Minute Yoga Download Podcasts: Voluntary micro-payments via paypal go to charity (May 2009)

Weight Watchers: Weight Watchers Online is a customized online weight loss plan that you follow step-by-stop completely online. You manage your results at your own pace, on your own time. It (a) includes a set of interactive tools to help its members stay on track, (b) manages weight loss daily and (c) provides customized sites for men & women to meet individual needs. There is a sign up fee of $29.95 and a monthly fee of $16.95. (June 2009)

Teri’s List and Grocery Game: Teri’s list provides “rock bottom” prices on a range of grocery products each week and matches them with the manufacturer coupons to help the user get the best savings at the user’s local supermarket. The Grocery Game utilizes databases that track manufacturers’ coupons along with weekly sales and specials, both advertised and unadvertised. It then presents this analysis in a quick reference format on the Internet each week. Members log in to access and print the info and offers. Here’s an explanatory video. (June 2009)

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

My high school Latin teacher, Mr. Fiorella, used to say that a day in which you don’t learn something new is a day wasted. Thanks to the my continued addiction to audio podcasts, I am continuously learning. These are a few of my favorite pods:


Advertising Age’s Daily “Three Minute Ad Age” and other audio reports
– I fall in love with these a little more each day.
– Recommend “Inside the Mommy Blogger Business,” which includes a discussion of the Walmart Eleven Moms blogging hub.

Cynopsis Digital:
Alas, this was discontinued making it “Can’t Have.”

20 min. Yoga Sessions from
LOVE it. Can actually find 20 minutes for a yoga session – as opposed to the 2 hours required to take a 90 minute class at the gym.

New York Times Front Page:
GREAT way to stay on top of top news stories in the five minutes it takes to go from the doors of my elevator to the doors of the 1-2-3 subway line.


MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer – New Media News – Audio:
Be sure to adjust your volume level for this enthusiastic daily report


Cynopsis In Your Ear:
Crucial daily update if you’re in the cable TV space. If I had not listened today, I might have canceled my HBO subscription, not realizing the Bill Maher is coming back on air this week.

Satellite Guys.US – Satellite Guys Podcast:
Long and rambling. Essential when I was working on a pricing strategy for a cable TV network. Not highly relevant at the moment.


Apple Quick Tips:
Very helpful – video – short & sweet


BusinessWeek — Cover Stories:
LOVED “What’s a Friend Worth?” story that puts a dollar value on an individual’s social network (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
“The Risk-Takers” is worth a listen
“Could Google Fix Detroit” is a very interesting interview with “What Would Google Do?” author Jeff Jarvis

Today’s Business:

On the Media:
Many of these are about journalism rather than the business side of media; however, there was a very interesting piece about Twitter last summer. Bob Garfield is always entertaining and interesting – and super nice in person.

Weekend Business:
Long, in depth.


The Economist:
Always good to get a non-American perspective

Green 960 – Rachel Maddow:
Long but interesting

The Kelly Morris Yoga Podcast

President Obama’s Weekly Radio Address:
Often captures key addresses

Real Time with Bill Maher:
Loses something without the video

The Tudors:
Good to have when you’re waiting to be served at the Time Warner Cable office – video version. iTouch has incredible video quality. Not as visually explicit at the TV version, however. (Tudors is a little like soft porn.)

60 Minutes Podcast – The Full Broadcast:
A little difficult without the video.