Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Emphasis on ‘New’ in The New York Times

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

UnknownNo one will be shocked by the front page headline of the latest issue of Wired magazine titled: “The News in Crisis.” Equally ‘yawn-able’ infographics in the accompanying article inside show (a) the decline in news jobs for all media (10% in the past 10 years) and a generation gap where only 5% of 18-29 years olds get their news from print newspapers.  Tell us something we don’t know, right?  Yet, a sister article by writer Gabriel Snyder shines a light on how the venerable The New York Times is humping like never before to remain relevant.

Working in favor of the Times and other legitimate news outlets are the very times we are living in.  As, while ‘fake news’ is a ridiculous term coined by the current administration to describe anything it does not agree with, social platforms all too often cater to scribes and sources who put forth opinions and conjecture that is not fact checked and certainly not news. Most rationale individuals want real journalism from credible news sources..  In the wake of the recent presidential election, in fact, the Times reported that subscriptions had surged to 10 times its usual numbers.

To remain viable, however, the Times knows it has to continue to build upon its digital platforms. In 2000, print advertising accounted for 70% of revenues, with digital just 1%.  There was no digital news content at that time. In 2015, both digital and digital news encompassed 12% of revenues (24% total), with print advertising down to 28%.  Since that time, the “paper” has continued to build upon its digital platforms to offer a wide range of multi-media programming.  The centerpiece, or, starting point, is the print subscription. Readers are offered a small bit of ‘free’ content each month but then incentivized to pay for more news, information and fun. This includes a suite of apps, blogs and verticals on a range of topics with original content, akin to a Netflix or Hulu. There is Cooking and Crossword and, soon, Real Estate. Live streaming and text messaging are also utilized regularly for news and sports, and, the Times is also running virtual reality films. Regarding the latter, one early example has Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ben Solomon ‘embedding’ viewers with Iraqi soldiers battling Isis.

Is it working? Early returns are promising as more than 1.5 million people now pay more than $200 million for yearly subscriptions. Overall digital revenue is nearly $500 million.  Perhaps as impressive as the Times on-going informational experimentation to raise readership and revenue, reports Snyder, is management’s willingness to ruffle the feathers of tradition and ‘prim and proper.’ The time-worn mantra: ‘The Times wouldn’t do that’ is headed the way of the Dodo Bird.  And it has to.  The new rallying cry? Evolve or die.  It is a call that should be watched closely and imitated widely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Will Radio Survive The Cars of The Future?

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

14485135_10155219735769908_8228594928117918541_nJust when we thought there might be a small stretch of relative stability in the media business, a new wave of change is already in the fast lane.

This past week, I had the privilege of working in media relations at the World Mobility Leadership Forum, a two-day conference that convened experts from around the world near Detroit to talk about the short-to-medium term future of personal transportation. The program featured the Chairman of Ford Motor Company, the CEOs of General Motors and Volvo and executives from Tesla and Lyft, along with government officials from the U.S., Finland and other countries.

The consensus among the participants was that autonomous (self-driving) vehicles are coming, as quickly as within the next 5 years. The technology is beyond most Americans’ wildest expectations. The other trend exploding and showing no signs of reversing is ride sharing. The experts predict that it will continue to grow fast – far beyond Millennials taking Uber to the bars in big cities.

All of this threatens the medium of terrestrial radio. While radio has withstood threat after threat, ever since the proliferation of television after World War II, radio has survived because of its primacy inside the American automobile. But what will happen when cars drive themselves and the driver is free to consume entertainment or information without hands on the wheel and eyes on the road? Or when a ride-sharing driver is increasingly in control of the dashboard while the passenger does work, goes online or even sleeps during the car trip?

The challenge for radio now is to make itself invaluable, especially for information formats that truly could be distinguished from music streaming services. Satellite radio has increased its level of portability, with a place on the phone/earbud combo beyond the car. But local terrestrial radio must create value to go with its audience into the next chapter of transportation. How will that happen? The largest owner of radio stations, IHeartMedia, is carrying more than $20 billion in debt. The largest owner of all-news stations, CBS, is spinning off its radio division into a new company. Could either afford to put new resources into the product to make it indispensable?

Throughout so much change, radio has proven to be powerful, personal and resilient. Now, it’s going to take what the auto and technology companies are making priorities to secure their futures – ingenuity and investment

Special Delivery: PR Advice After A Miserable Failure

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

UnknownAs a business-owner, you don’t put yourself in too many opportunities to use the #sundayfunday tag on social media. We’re not the type to spend Sundays amid mimosas and half-day meals. Sunday is often a day to be with the laptop, catching up from the previous week and trying to eek ahead of the next one.

While, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to buy food for my family each week, the practical reality is that a weekly grocery shopping is a time-sucking exercise. Let’s face it – the system that was setup for “Mad Men” era housewives who theoretically had all day to shop for their families endures today. You walk a big store, picking what you want, put it in a cart and then wait in line to pay for it.

The closest grocery store to my house is a Meijer, a regional chain of 24-hour “superstores.” While the private, Michigan-based charity has proven to be a good corporate citizen, it’s frustrating that it usually takes 60+ minutes to shop for a family of four. On Sundays, the deli counter alone, buying school lunch ingredients average about 20 minutes and checkout averages about a half-hour. Shopping there is the enemy of productivity.

So imagine my glee when on September 1st, Meijer announced a partnership with a tech company called Shipt for online grocery home delivery. The company staged an enviable PR blitz with a release embargoed for that morning, followed by a large advertising campaign. They captured the Detroit market’s attention, built “buzz” and motivated use of the new service starting September 15th. There was just one problem: Meijer over promised and under delivered. They, along with Shipt, now can’t meet the demand that they created. I know because I tried to order delivery this morning, to save myself an hour or more, and was told, online, no delivery windows were available.

I went to Shipt’s online customer service chat and was told this by “Jasmine”:
“Unfortunately, there are no delivery windows in your area at this time, I sincerely apologize for that. We are experiencing a much higher demand these first couples of days after the launch and we are actively hiring shoppers to keep up with this demand. I know it is frustrating and we really want to make things right for you. I do apologize for the inconvenience, but we ask if you could please bear with us these first couples of days as we hire and add more shoppers as quickly as we can. Again, I’m so sorry about this.”

That is an admission of guilt.

So when do I try again? Next week? Next month? Never (and ask for a refund of the annual fee)?

At Tanner Friedman, we have extensive experience in communicating new product launches. One of the pieces of advice we always give clients is not to communicate widely until a concept becomes a product for real. If you’re going to create demand for a product, it had better be available to meet expectations. If not, roll it out gradually with “soft launches” to ensure 100% that it’s “Ready For Prime Time.”

When it comes to timing PR right on the concept/product continuum, Meijer failed. That’s the takeaway for any business: it is better to wait to do something right than rush to wear the “first to market” tag and alienate customers by not meeting expectations.

So what did I do? I went out of my way to Meijer’s arch rival Kroger, where I dropped three figures as well as lost, with drive-time included, nearly 90 minutes of my day. But at least I now have groceries at home.

Facebook Live: Don’t Get Too Annoyed, Or Attached

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

UnknownWhat did the self-proclaimed “social media guru” tell you last week, along with patting himself on the back for being a “thought leader?” Whatever it was, it could be outdated today.

Just yesterday, Facebook announced that you’ll be getting more in your news feed from your friends and family and less from “publishers,” such as traditional news organizations. That’s just what we all want in an election year, don’t we?

So before you fall completely in love with the results from Facebook Live, keep in mind that it’s going to change sooner or later. It’s tempting though. Facebook Live is creating some big audience results. While some are annoyed by the alerts, there’s no doubt it has created curiosity on the platform that some had viewed as stale.

Sometimes, it’s a neighbor bird watching on the deck. But other times, it has provided an opportunity to experience a live event or one-of-a-kind access. One TV journalist told me that a recent Facebook Live “broadcast” attracted more viewers than one of that station’s newscasts on TV that day. We have seen it too at Tanner Friedman, where our Facebook Live posts of press conferences have attracted views and shares like nothing else we have posted lately.

But remember not too long ago when “business” posts with photos were like that? Any post with a photo got seen more widely and seemingly instantly drew likes, shares and comments. Then what happened? Facebook started throttling that content and even some of your most fervent fans couldn’t see your posts unless you paid Facebook a few bucks to “boost” them. It’s safe to assume that’s going to happen with Facebook Live.

Right now, Facebook wants to get you hooked on Facebook Live. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook throttles Live content and hides it from major portions of your audience unless you pay otherwise. That’s no conspiracy theory. It’s just business.

So our advice on Facebook Live now is to sample with it. Get to know it. Give it a chance to see how you can use it to communicate. But don’t get hooked on it because, like everything else, it’s going to have to be a moneymaker for the global public corporation that owns the platform but can give you a false sense that it is yours.

Apple: The Devil’s in the Updates

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

apple-devilAs Apple and the FBI tussle over access to information vs. right to privacy on behalf of the tech giant’s customers, I am struck due to recent circumstance by Apple’s often disregard for customer service and preferences. I’m all about: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Apple on the other hand, seems to adhere to the axiom: if it ain’t broke, change it.  Allow me to provide an example.

I love music. I also love to workout. And, the former is, for me, the perfect complement to the latter.  I download songs to my MacBook Air computer and, from there, to my iPhone.  In the past, I have always been able to manage my music much like a radio station.  When I was a music director back in the day, I chose what songs the radio station played and didn’t play, including when to add a song and when to take one or more out of rotation (resting them). Similarly, I have always been able to go to “My Music” on the laptop and check the boxes of the songs I want to synch and then shuffle through on my iPhone (and automatically past those I want to “rest”).

As of this writing, I cannot do this.  I don’t know what the technical problem is exactly – and I am not alone.  My crack IT man can’t figure it out.  Hours spent on the phone with Apple tech advisors and their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors have similarly been unable to bear fruit.  And so I scroll and scroll through my entire playlist, half of which are comprised of songs I currently don’t want to hear right now.

What I do know is that Apple has become, proverbially, “too hip for the room.” New  operating programs and upgrades are often necessary to ensure entire systems run most smoothly, I get that.  But continually changing browsers and tools that many of us would prefer to preserve can be nothing but greed (and perhaps Apple programmer boredom).  A nudge to purchase that new phone or software package.  In my case, I’m convinced this about luring me to Apple Music. I’m not biting.

All in all, it is very disappointing and, I feel unnecessary. Apple prides itself on being tech intuitive but has strayed (why do you think there is such a proliferation of ‘do it yourself’ YouTube help videos posted by other tech savvy laypeople)?  Cool gadgetry may keep your programmers and technophiles frothing at the mouth, Apple, but don’t forget the majority of your customers – and true customer service.

Trump Campaign: Leading By (Bad) Example?

Monday, August 31st, 2015

5739225015_56614ec63e_mLove him or loathe him, Barack Obama is widely considered by many to be the first presidential candidate in history to truly and strategically utilize social media to his political advantage. And he did it with aplomb – putting forth carefully crafted messaging targeted to key constituents, designed to motivate and build voter base.  Enter: Donald Trump, who is turning the “politically correct” communications approach on its ear.

Again, a disclaimer: I am not endorsing nor slapping – just opining.  But when is the last time you can recall a presidential wannabe appear to not give a “rat’s ass” what he says or who he offends? To be sure, as reporter Matt Taibbi reports in the latest issue of Rolling Stone: “Donald Trumps’ antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home.” That’s right.  In order to keep up with “The Donald” many of the candidates appear in a desperate race to also give sometimes outright outrageous soundbites they know will be tweeted, retweeted and debated on Twitter and other social media. Staying relevant? How about staying out of Trump’s shadow?

It’s a bit akin to the old PR myth: “Any PR is good PR.” In this case, however, several candidates seem to be subscribing to a revised version: “Any PR is better than no PR (good or bad).  As such, as Trump vows to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, Mike Huckabee, reports Taibbi, says he will invoke the 14th and 15th amendments to end abortion (the 14th amendment, by the way, was originally written to protect the right of ex-slaves).  South Carolina Lindsay Graham, meanwhile, creates a video evoking a combination of SNL’s classic Samurai and “Bass-o-Matic” sketches, complete with a cell-phone being ginzu-knifed before blended – crazy-perfect for YouTube.

Trump’s “devil may care” approach may well wear thin as the campaign proceeds yet for now the polls clearly show him out in front. Perhaps his words resonate with an audience tired of the political status quo; a perceived man of action in a partisan world of inaction.  A candidate not beholden to special interest groups nor donors. To be sure, his politically-uncorrectness is, for some refreshing while, for others, downright offensive and scary.  After all, brash can work in business but on the world stage, one also needs to be able to exhibit diplomacy and finesse.  Only time will tell how far Trump’s unorthodox campaign will take him and how many will ultimately follow.

 

 

“8 Track” Tale of Past Technology, Modern Application

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 4.59.56 PMIf you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love music, radio and pop culture. You may also know that I wrote a book on all of those things called, ”No Static at All – a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music.” As such, I have tremendous respect for authors and also count among my great passions writing and reading.

That’s why R.J. King’s new book, “8 Track – The First Mobile App” holds such great appeal for me.  Released in recent days by the longtime, award-winning journalist and dbusiness magazine founder and editor, “8 Track” takes readers through a multi-year journey of invention, innovation and consumer applications, much of which I had never heard of before.

In the mid-to-late 70s, I recall the 8-track player as being as much a temporary media fad as anything else.  Growing up with vinyl – first 45s and then 33 1/3s – the 8-track was an oddity that clicked between cuts and, at one point on each 8 Track cassette, faded out in the middle of a song only to fade back in for its completion, post-click.  My purchases of this medium were few with the Steve Miller Band’s “Book of Dreams” and Kiss’ “Kiss Alive II” being the only ones I can recall.  The smaller, more portable cassette tape (on which we taped music off the radio or record album) would soon catch on to a greater degree with my generation, in particular for mix tapes and car radios.

Ahh, cars.  King’s book recounts with detail how, in the 1960s, the 8-track player was originally perfected and utilized by and for the auto industry in conjunction with competing inventors Earl Muntz and Bill Lear; the latter of Lear jet fame. Lear, in fact, had originally dabbled in the technology for potential use in his corporate jets where radio signals were unusable. Muntz pushed a 4 Track option (again, I had never heard of), Lear the 8.  The technology would soon “wow” everyone from radio stations and record companies to manufacturers, distributors and, of course, the public.  First in automobiles where it outperformed air conditioning as an option then on to the consumer market where it caught on like hot cakes.

The book is obviously a labor of love for King whose dad, John P. King, was hired by Ford Motor Company in 1965 as the project engineer who would see the 8 Track project to fruition, including through collaborations with Motorola’s radio production facility and RCA’s record factory.  The story of the 8 Track is tumultuous and ingenuous, cut throat and cutting edge.  It was a technology whose time had come and would eventually pass but not before leaving an indelible mark on the history of music and engineering. King captures it well, like sound on magnetic tape, to be consumed and enjoyed.

PR Plans Must Reflect Blurred Media Lines

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

mobile_news_02Not too long ago, media relations components of PR plans typically had sections that read “print,” “trade,” “radio” and “TV.” They really shouldn’t anymore.

The always-fascinating 2014 State of the News Media report from the Pew Research Center is out and this year’s takeaways for the PR side of the media business demonstrate the continuation of trends we have talked about for the last several years. If they haven’t already, they need to start impacting the way every PR professional and every client thinks about “placements” and how its audiences consume news.

The study shows 82 percent of news consumers get news, at one time or another, on a desktop or laptop computer. 54 percent of them get news on their mobile devices. That’s more than half of news consumers, up from zero not too many years ago. 53 percent of smart phone users watch news video on their phones, while only 36 percent have shot video. That means that market for news video consumption, whether from a “newspaper” or “TV station” or even “radio station” is larger than the market for using the video function on phones.

The bottom line is that consumers want news when they want it on whatever type of device they’re using at that time. PR pros have to stop thinking in terms of the old “print” and “broadcast” and start considering if they have the right relationships and knowledge to get news into the hands of clients’ target audiences, through whatever news platforms are necessary. Clients also need to continue evolving their thinking. The “print clip” is no longer the brass ring. It’s about simply about reaching the audience (never mind that online coverage is easy to share via email, web and social media, extending its reach and life span).

Here’s a nugget that provides a reality check to those in PR and in news, who are obsessed with who breaks and announces what on Twitter. Only 8 percent of news consumers say they get news on Twitter. Think about that the next time it seems “everyone” is on any one branded platform.

Personal Loss Sheds Light On A Media Loss

Monday, September 9th, 2013

obit_avA week ago, one of my favorite people and great characters and mentors in my life passed away. Rob was my second cousin, although, to make things easier I just referred to him as “my cousin in D.C.” and he referred to me as “my nephew.” Not even his larger-than-life persona could outdo leukemia. While I already miss him terribly, I can go online and look at this – an obituary written by his friend, the legendary writer John Feinstein, in The Washington Post. It is a perfect encapsulation of the man and allowed his story to be widely known in death, even though he never sought publicity in life.

But the only reason why my family can savor and share that public tribute is because my cousin’s story features prominence. I have realized in recent days that while death is a part of life and death is most certainly a part of news, very few individuals have their life stories told via the reach and relative permanence of traditional media anymore.

Across the country, papers and their websites still publish the funeral listings (which represent a revenue stream), but resource cuts at newspapers and the disappearance of many community news outlets mean many fewer obituaries that detail a person’s life and impact. While celebrity deaths gets more trending topics than just about anything on social media, the lives and deaths of people known only in our communities get less attention than ever.

What’s the way to fill this void? One example comes from a funeral home near us, The Ira Kaufman Chapel (full disclosure: the Chapel is a client of ours), installed a fixed camera to capture services and now offers families the opportunity to live stream and post videos of services, to help share their stories to those unable to attend funerals. They expect the idea to catch on for funerals of many faiths in the coming years.

Another opportunity to embrace new media in new ways to, as we often advise clients in the face of traditional media cutbacks, is tell your own stories. One way to honor a loved one’s life and share stories and memories with family, friends and the public, much as a newspaper obituary would have, is to post online video with photos and stories.

But you don’t have to wait until death to tell the stories of those important to you. Just ask many of my colleagues and friends over the years, who have heard of the the wisdom and wit of “my cousin in D.C.” while I shared anecdotes. For them as well as for me, the memories will continue.

TV News Needs Innovation, Will This Deliver?

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

home_heroIt’s no secret in the media business that younger viewers really don’t like TV news as we know it. The news is on TV in time slots that are relics from a network schedule developed when their grandparents were their age. They simply don’t regularly depend on the presentation of anchors presenting stories riddled with cliches that are lampooned on Comedy Central and The Onion – two platforms younger audiences consume more than broadcast news itself. They see “Prime Time” (which is not necessarily the case in their lives) filled with talking heads, usually their parents’ age, spouting political opinion often inconsistent with their own.

Traditional media companies are not exactly busting their budgets with product development projects that could be designed to address this looming crisis. But this week, a start-up emerged promising a video news product that will work on mobile devices, computers and eventually maybe even on TV, to give young news consumers more of what they want, whenever they want it over the platform they choose.

It’s called TouchVision. One of the visionaries behind it is Lee Abrams, whose innovations we have written about before. This article in Adweek explains the premise and how it plans to work once it launches.

I was given a chance to preview TouchVision this week and it’s certainly intriguing. News stories are presented with high-end graphics, music and voice-over narration. It’s all available on-demand and you only watch the stories you select from the system’s menu. Most of the stories seemed to run about two minutes, so they can easily be watched in one sitting or on the go.

One thing I liked about what I saw with TouchVision is that the stories don’t talk down to the audience. One thing Abrams has long professed is that news can be “intelligent without being intellectual” and that appears to be the case here. Personally, the music behind the stories didn’t do anything for me. But I’m not the target audience here. For some, it could help make getting the news they want more interesting and fit better into their lives.

Is this the answer? Chances are there won’t be just one answer. There will need to be many, to meet increasingly customized consumer demands. When TV news first proliferated, it was done with a formula (anchors, desk, news, sports, weather, chit chat). Now, it’s going to take a lot more than that to satisfy a more diverse and complex marketplace.

It seems we are entering the next chapter of increased media experimentation. At this point, it’s virtually impossible to pick winners. But one thing that seems certain, the status quo, should anyone maintain it, shapes up to be a loser.