Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Want to Know What a Content Strategy is? First, Think Communications and the Glue That Holds All the Pieces of a holistic Marketing and Communications Strategy.

Last Tuesday night, I attended my first SF Content Strategy Meetup. It was titled "A Day in the Life of a Content Strategist: Panel Discussion." Speakers were Kris Corzine, Content Strategist, eBay
John Alderman, Creative Director, Razorfish and CC Holland, Content Strategist, Cisco. The moderator was Frank Marquardt of Barbarian Group, who hosted.

So what is a content strategy and how does it fit into other categories thrown around the Online Mar/Com world? What's the intersection between content strategy, social media, mobile, interactive gaming, brand creation, brand strategy, user interface, design? Content provides the underpinning to all of these departments and so the content strategist asks the questions that help determine how all these content pieces and divisions work together to realize a company or organization's goals.

Content is not just about writing, not about stuff. It is about asking the questions of what stuff should be created and then asking again, why? It is about drilling down to the basic, almost simplistic questions: how does this relate to larger goals, how will users understand how to consume content, how does a brand communicate its message?

How do content strategist provide deliverables? The panel and audience came up with multiple options: Content Inventory, A Content Audit, (yes) Editorial Style Guides with SEO chapters, Social Reward Maxtrixes.

The Content Strategists works across departments to enable conversations and most importantly, ground those conversations around concrete goals. Most often, the content strategists role is found in AVOIDING and SOLVING marketing/communication obstacles simply by saying, "NO."

NO to the flashy new campaign idea that confuses the consumer.
NO to the creative concept that sounds good in a conference room, but tries to change user behavior before the user is ready.
NO to user interface content that overwhelms.

Content Strategy makes a difference when an organization, company or client has that "Ahha Moment." Razorfish's John Alderman gave the best example. He shared Yahoo's dilemna is creating a new celebrity site/component to Yahoo. After hours of rigorous brainstorming, thousands of questions -- who are we talking to, what are we trying to stay, what do we want to the user to think -- John's content group came up with the recommendation to create a new microsite, OMG. It fit. An Ahha Moment ensued.

Content Strategists need to document these successful case studies. This will be the subject of future MeetUps. Check them out. In four years of regularly attending these events, last Tuesdays ranked as one of the most valuable I have attended.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Three Marketing Lessons found in Wired Chris Anderson's Declaration: "The Web is Dead" article

Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired, recently co-write an article declaring the "Web is Dead".

Anderson's basic premise is that as the World Wide Web has grown astronomically, the explosion of content has planted the seeds for the rise of a semi-closed Internet experience based on convenience and manageability. Anderson captures this dynamic,
Blame human nature. As much as we intellectually appreciate openness, at the end of the day we favor the easiest path. We’ll pay for convenience and reliability, which is why iTunes can sell songs for 99 cents despite the fact that they are out there, somewhere, in some form, for free. When you are young, you have more time than money, and LimeWire is worth the hassle. As you get older, you have more money than time. The iTunes toll is a small price to pay for the simplicity of just getting what you want. The more Facebook becomes part of your life, the more locked in you become. Artificial scarcity is the natural goal of the profit-seeking.
Anderson's article emphasizes media consumption. Through this lens, his article captures larger digital trends, which de-value the wild openness seen in the World Wide Web. In contrast, the rise of Apple and Google's Apps-markets and Facebook's emergence as the Web's dominant social entry-point signal a marked move away from open-ness to convenience and what some have called "walled silos".

However, the accompanying discussion amongst Federated Media's John Battelle, O'Reilly Media's Tim O’Reilly and Anderson highlights the gaps and omissions in Anderson's piece. For example, O'Reilly moves the conversation beyond a consumer's media consumption and focuses on how the changing digital landscape impacts the business enterprise,
But the evidence is strong that instead, we’re going to have a multi-player platform, one in which openness and interoperability are required for all the pieces to work together....

It seems to me that one of the alternative futures we can choose is a future of cooperating internet subsystems that aren’t owned by any one provider, a system in which an application might use Facebook Connect and Open Graph Protocol for user authentication, user photos, and status updates, but Google or Bing maps for location services, Google or Nuance for speech recognition, Paypal or Amazon for payment services, Amazon or Google or Microsoft or VMware or Rackspace for server hosting and computation, and any one of a thousand other developers for features not yet conceived.

This is a future of horizontal integration, not vertical integration….The Internet Operating System may end up looking more like a Linux distribution than a Microsoft or Apple PC or phone operating system. VMware might perhaps provide a cloud computing “kernel” while Facebook provides a social UI layer, Google or Bing provide alternate search subsystems, Android and iPhone and Nokia and the next generation of Windows Mobile provide mobile phone front-ends, and so on.
Later, John Battelle joins the conversation utters the most simple, yet important re-joinder to Anderson's unilateral declaration, "Engagement is what matters. Inventory is irrelevant."

So the key question becomes where, how and through what tools will companies engage consumers online? And this raises a larger, inverse question: what will motivate users to go online and engage content?

Anderson captures the powerful, visible trend behind the rise of smart phones, the accompanying Apps-markets and the rise of Walled Gardens like Facebook, all of which provide more elegant and compelling tools through which users engage content online. But again, his view-point is media-centric.

For marketeers, what lessons can be learned? While Anderson highlights some obvious digital trends, behind the curtain, some important lessons can be drawn.


ONE: THE PRESENT LANDSCAPE IS MESSY so choose professionals
.
As Anderson highlights a changed online experience, O'Reilly captures the complicated, rotating, fast-changing pieces that any entrepenuer must choose from. By extension, for marketeers, the pieces and tools have NEVER BEEN MORE NUMEROUS from which to craft an online marketing plan. So resist the urge to save money on that low-cost freelancer, and instead, seriously consider paying more for professionals whose experience will pay dividends in deciphering this fast-changing environment.


TWO: DEFINE YOUR GOALS CLEARLY AND THEN GO OVER IT

Before considering your spends, define your goals. In such a fast-changing landscape, do DUE DILIGENCE. One of the best resources in my opinion is found on Jeremiah Owyang's blog and in particular, check out his research slides to help define your own goals.

THREE: DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE, THE PRESENT IS COMPLICATED ENOUGH
The present is complicated. There have never been more technologies and marketing decisions from which to choose. Don't worry about the future. New trends will always emerge, but wait for them to come in from the margins. That's where your business should always be.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

[Kol Nidre, My Grandpa Abe and The Fires Burning in Iran, Paki/Afgan, The Palisade's Air & Hollywood's Magical Spirit]

Lewis Haidt remembers his grandpa,
Abe Haidt

This High Holiday season, I find myself reflecting on the life of Abraham Haidt, my paternal grandfather. Abe was born in 1917 and grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

He was the second child to my great-grandfather, Samuel Haidt, a man who had three wives and four children. Abe’s mother, Rose, (Samuel’s second wife) died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Samuel soon married Rose’s sister, Rebecca Davidson. Samuel’s last two kids - my great-aunt Frances and great-uncle Harold (the baby) Haidt - were born.

It was the height of the Depression.

After Samuel’s death in 1936, Abe helped the family, dropped out of school and found a job. His siblings were able to finish high school and go on to college. My grandfather joined the Army. When World War II began, he re-enlisted and served in Europe. He received the Bronze Star (Ed. Note: 5313 stars awarded to division for WWII service) and France’s Croix de Guerre medal.

In my 20s, as an aspiring independent producer, my focus was on my Great Aunt’s glamour, her Chelsea penthouse and larger-than-life personality. I wish that my focus had expanded; that my grandpa and I had time to share stories, just to listen more to each other. I was too young, too seduced by my own magical thinking, too myopic to give him the psychic due credit, far too imbalanced in my attention and focus.

This quiet gentleman in front of me was ignored.

But now he has received some long over-due recognition and my gratitude, respect and love.

(re-published from Ikar 5770 Yizkor Book (Memorial testimony for deceased family and friends - 250 word limit. Title added.)

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Since I'm a Navy Baby
I'm down w/ these bad-ass Navy Sailors. This is fandom at its best. That's what you get born @ Bethesda Naval Hospital. Go NAVY!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Between Kate Puzey and ACTA: The Middle Road for You and I

Two recent posts on BoingBoing are worthy of publicizing and demonstrate the need for more sophisticated and nuanced analysis about so-called "social media" and "social change". They also demonstrate a sad, yet in no way surprising, set of contrasts: two examples of American power, one with a graceful open spirit and the other with a closed, myopic one. Xeni Jardin memorializes the incredible life of Kate Puzey, a murdered Peace Corp activist in Benin, who also kept a blog and photo gallery of her experiences (link). The other by Cory Doctorow documents the ludicrous The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the corporate supporters behind this super-secret copyright treaty, which the Obama administration has claimed is a matter of "national security."

In the middle are the rest of us, who must decide how we want to impact the world, both using social media tools, but also recognizing the hype, the herd mentality, the obvious idea that social changes requires more than becoming a "fan" or some forms of online action.

As we move forward in this conversation, we should be careful not to set up simplistic us/them divisions or fall back on the tired cliches of corporations=corruption. The massive gap between these poles --- let's not simplify the challenge as an noble individual versus evil corporation, as there's a whole network of institutions behind Puzey's Peace Corp mission and there are so people within the corporate world who support innovation and change --- represents the awesome, complex challenge facing all of us. Each of us must negotiate this middle space.

We need more subtle forms of conversation and listening, ones with substance worthy of examining complex issues of networks, communication, individuals, institutions and power. We need new tools and institutions, social media and not, that truly empower global citizens.

But now it's time to get back to the job search.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Los Angeles Interactive Media Spotlight: Praise the Lord, Tracy, Dean and Jesus (TDJ) Have Come To Save Los Angeles

Tuesday night at the Comedy Central stage, Tracy, Dean and Jesus rolled into town, praise the lord, blessed be he. "Hailing from the Waldorph Christian Parish in Goshen, Ohio, [these warriors] are currently on a mission trip to turn blue states red, starting in the belly of the beast, Los Angeles. Join us for an evening of revival, preaching, the Lord's music, the destruction of Power-couples, and the devil."

Any sane individual who's has studied the powerful ways of the Hollywood movie/myth-making machine will give thanks that Tracy has arrived on our far, Western shores. Composed of Andre Hyland playing the youth minister and rock savior with Mike Mayfield and Paul Erling Oyen as supporting church members, the show opened with an inspiring travel video. Tracy journeyed to Monroe, OH, home of the largest Jesus statue in this Great Land at Solid Rock Mission and gave thanks.

The show then proceeded with Tracy leading the revival, calling up a blasphemous, female sinner - a self-declared PERVERT. But he saved her, forcing the devil out of her belly. Tracy brought the word of the lord to Hollywood and is on a mission. Hollywood has spread its images of glamour, celebrity, sex, hip-hop and more sex and violence around the world. The Hollywood power is immense; the seductive flame of Hollywood dreams still holds great power and Tracy is ready to challenge Hollywood's corruption, head-on

Storming around the room, Tracy railed against the devil, the Hollywood corruption that permeated the Comedy Central space. For a back-drop, this mission -- this desire to bring the Lord to Hollywood -- faces many obstacles. Hollywood is stubborn, determined to protect its own foundation in the face of disruption, whether that be preachers from Ohio or technologies from the World Wide Web. There examples of Hollywood's determination, of the "biz's" awesome power are:
• One, the studio's lobby, the MPAA, wants to break into the home of God-fearing, American Christians and take control of your home movie/television theater.
• Second, they're are attempting to limit Christian-loving European's ability to harness technology in the Lord's full majesty
• Three, their ideological myopia prevents studios from unleashing the glory of technology in its greatest splendor, ultimately enriching themselves and us. Oh, how did our lord love Napster and the musical bounty it unleashed!).
The climax is always the destruction of the card-board devil. This time, Tracy destroyed the devil in its Hollyweird incarnation: the evil-seed of Hollywood power-couples Bradgelina and TomKat.

Andre Hyland is creating true interactive media, exploiting "social media" in all its glory. TDJ has their own website; Hyland has created another persona, "his alter ego Tim Hutchins, a ponytailed douche with yogic aspirations in perpetual confab with his cell-phone headset. Cameras hidden, Hyland yammers improvised quips to no one, shushing passersby or asking for their help with one of Hutchins' ridiculous quests (a blind date, for instance). He invariably loses his New Age cool, screams and dunks his phone into the concrete. (link). Hyland and friends have their GooTube channel, BlondChili (in honor of Cincinnati, OH's Skyline Chili). Hyland exhibits a true anarchic, trickster-tricky spirit, exploiting the web in its most creative, remix-able ways. He challenges our sense of decorum in public, and theatrical, spaces.

God bless him.

PS: Their next show is September 15th at El Cid

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Los Angeles Interactive Media News: Video Jungle TV Launches

When Tim Berners-Lee created the HTML coding necessary to power the World Wide Web fifteen years ago, he made a critical decision that is disrupting the film and television business as we know it. He chose to share his knowledge for free.

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at Lakay Studios in Burbank, Video Jungle TV launched a demonstration of live and on-demand interactive programming. Whether or not Berners-Lee imagined rich media being distributed over the web, a decade later, the flood of content represented by YouTube during the Web 2.0 period has proven to be only a precursor. More innovative, sophisticated, independent programming is just beginning.

Mic Espinoza came up with the idea for Video Jungle TV about five months ago. As a spin-off of IC News Television, a User-Generated Video site for news television stations and newspapers to upload live or recorded video, he wanted a place for affordable live, online digital broadcasting. “I wanted a programming space not limited to the small digital cameras, one with the same abilities as any other corporate television station.” The one missing piece was a production studio. "The rates were just too high everywhere," Espinoza said in a phone interview.

Creceda Lemaire, the owner of Layak Studios, created a space for Los Angeles' independent artists, a space to broadcast content for commercial and non-commercial use. “Three years ago, I started creating a TV show called, Great People Doing Great Things,” said Lemaire. Lemaire was looking to increase business and like many Angelenos, turns to Craigslist.

Adam Lightplay, the owner of LightPlay Production, saw the advertisement looking for an assistant studio manager. “I saw the ad and came and talked to her and it was a nice match cause I was looking for an office where I can edit, but here I could both edit and have a studio to shoot in.” Lightplay had been working with Espinoza for years, introduced the parties and the package was complete.

On Sunday, all the pieces came together and premiered a demo show with , stand-up comedian/host Sean Hennigan the Master of all Wackiness. The band, Ren Street, performed and showed that the technology pieces worked. Consisting of Ren Hemstreet Lead Vocalist/Guitar, and Rocc Thomas--Bass, Steve Price--Drums, the band was aware of Video Jungle TV for months. “Mic manages me and I got friends all over the world,” Ren said. "But I [now] can say, check me out here, see, listen, watch, learn. It’s a good way to keep people updated on the project.”

Live, online television is going back in time. Where once the national corporate broadcasting companies such as NBC, CBS and ABC promoted live, dynamic content, now it is web producers such as Espinoza, Lemaire and Lightplay who are changing the ball game. At the same time, as the digital broadcast flag and net neutrality struggles demonstrate, corporate television and motion picture actors are working to enclose these new channels. The key questions are: how many will watch and listen and how open will our telecommunication lines stay?

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