January 2010


I’ve heard before that “you gotta have a gimmick”, and although I’m not a gimmicky sort of gal (with perhaps the exception of my love for alliteration!) if there are two things in life that I’m borderline obsessed with, I’d have to say those things are technology and porn food. And frankly, I’ve always wanted to blog about food, but my palette has never had the patience to let a perfectly good meal go cold what with writing and detecting nuances and taking pictures. No, eff that. I just like the way it looks. And I want to eat and enjoy the heck out of it. Nom nom nom. (Or something like that.)

So without further ado, may I present the less techy but just as tasty, “Food Porn Friday.” (And yes, I did Google that term and I realize that it is quite unoriginal as several other blogs use it regularly, but seeing as how I cannot figure out who started it, I’m just going to pretend it’s a web ring and I’m adding content. WHOAH-HO!!! Angelfire old school shout out to the web rings everywhere! Original painstakingly HTML encoded blogs say WHHHAAAT? Oh yeah. I went there. And yeah. I’m a dork.)

any who… ON WITH THE SHOW!

This week’s hot and sexy sandwich comes from the one and only Langer’s Deli in MacArthur Park. You can check out the review here, but don’t not go based on one review alone- I still think the pastrami is worth getting, minus the sauerkraut, and extra lean. (Although, really the best thing there is their cake. And pickles. Mmmm…)

Oh and P.S. I have not forgotten the iPad post this week, I just spent a little too much time between the dentist and job interviews and haven’t had time to proofread or edit. Hopefully tomorrow!!!

I watch a lot of TV. Maybe not the 150+ hours a month that Nielsen reported on average last year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I came close to that. And you know what? I don’t even own a TV set. (Thanks Hulu!)

But the other night I wanted to watch NBC’s Thursday night lineup live when it came on instead of waiting until the next day online, so I ended up at a friend’s house camping out on their couch, watching the first non-sporting event in months, in real-time. Could I do it? Would I survive the regular commercial breaks? Would I go insane without the 30 second countdown ticking away in the corner of my screen? Should we just pause the night for a few moments and then let the DVR take the ads (that so graciously paid for our programming so that we could watch it for “free”) and plow straight through them?

The latter won out of course, giving us a few minutes to stretch, chat, throw away takeout containers, and figure out why it was so cold in the apartment. But then, somewhere during one of the earlier commercial breaks of Community, something happened. As soon as my friend began forwarding through the commercial break, they stopped. And then they rewound. I thought for a moment that maybe NBC forgot the commercial break, because there in front of us were two of the show’s characters, chatting at a coffee shop. We both stared at the screen for a moment, and then my friend said, “Well played sponsors, I’ll watch your advertisement.” (Yes, in so many words, and out loud.)

I quickly found out it was, in fact, a commercial break. A commercial break that we were watching, nay- enjoying. (I’ve inserted the video above so you can check it out if you don’t watch Community… which you should. Just saying.) So anyway, somehow on the evening of January 21st, 2010 I ended up watching my first longer than 30 second commercial in a long time without wanting to my gouge eyeballs out. (I may have even laughed during it!) Turbo Tax didn’t waste their money on a minute-long spot. (I remembered the sponsor even!) And NBC managed to continue along their branding warpath during their paid sponsors. I’m pretty sure everyone ended up winning here, and I can’t say I would hate seeing this happen more often.

So why doesn’t it happen more often? Well it just might. As my friend Danielle pointed out in one of her blog posts (which you can here), networks are changing the way they look at demographics. I’d like to further add to this claim that they are not only doing a rework on their grasp of a now multi-dimensional viewing audience, but also the way they perceive synergy, especially with an evolving audience that has a short attention span and needs the message spelled out across multiple platforms quickly and effectively.

Earlier this week, Start With Why author Simon Sinek stated, “There are no such things as new ideas. There is only the recombining of old ideas to make them do something new.” In a sense, the TV industry is adopting this adage, creating new formats from old models. Although I don’t think we’ll see the likes of singularly sponsored multi-hour blocks like Kraft Television Theater again anytime soon (thanks to whatever remains of our joint objective conscience that demands programming which explores socially and politically controversial elements) I do think that in the coming months we will begin seeing a greater trend toward television powerhouses courting major sponsors and incentivizing their ad campaigns with cross-promotional branding and prepackaged multi-platform deals. Within this we will see the creation of promotional spots that are not only valuable to the networks in terms of synergy, but also make the network’s brand (in their own right) more valuable to the advertisers paying top-dollar for these particular placements.

Integrating a show’s talent is just one way to go about doing this; even though a studio or network may sweeten the deal with synergy, it’s also up to the advertisers to uphold their end of the new media bargain and further exploit the cross-promotion they’re paying for to their advantage. One of the simplest way of doing so starts with the show’s fans, seamlessly targeting them across the internet by using their favorite TV characters that they already relate with to introduce them to a product that they potentially aren’t aware of. In a sense, it’s going back to the “old Hollywood model”, utilizing the available voices (we already know, love, listen attentively to, and trust) to tell us about products that they endorse and love and why we should too (minus the advertisers having any major say over the creative voice of the content we watch.) Not only will this translate into the DVRs of homes around the globe (that will now give these advertisements a second look without realizing it,) but it will also have the potential to carry over into the online world, creating communication between the show, its advertisers, and its audience like never before. In short, what we’re looking at here is something that even ratings can’t provide, and that’s a sense of community (no pun intended!)

So Nielsen, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

They’ve done it again- Twitter, my favorite SNS (Social Networking Site) to troll for randomness, has rolled out another feature that is quickly making its content a little, well, less random (and consequently might lead to a little more posting and a little less prowling from this bitty blogess.)

Cut the alliteration- what on earth am I talking about? And how the heck does it relate to the billion dollar question? Three words: Targeted. Trending. Topics. (Okay, I lied about cutting the alliteration bit there.)

Over the last few days, Twitter has announced the release of Local Trends, giving the average Tweeter the option of hash-tagging globally as well as in their own backyard. Now for some reason, Mr. Jack Dorsey’s minions don’t think I qualify to be part of that 1% that has access to this particular feature just yet- but if you’re dying to know what it looks like, Mashable has screenshots here of what we can expect in the next few weeks. (On a sidenote, apparently Mashable’s own Ben Parr has yet to receive access to this feature as well, so I honestly feel a little less rejected.)

Yeah yeah… so why do I care? Because unlike Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, or the ever-floundering Friendster (yes it still exists!), Twitter is fairly devoid of the capacity for intense personal connections on a first name basis. (Case in point, I have a group of friends that are food bloggers and hardcore Twitterazzi. I randomly followed them on Twitter one day, won a beer in a contest they were having, met them at a bar, and was introduced as my screenname- thank goodness I didn’t pick something more embarrassing, because what you are online is what they refer to each other as in person. For real.)

Not that these sorts of connections are a bad thing- on the contrary, it’s great for Tweeters looking to monetize their feeds and doubly great for advertisers looking to push their product on a select group of people with minimal effort and maximum impact. Twitter is simply icing the cake at this point, selectively aggregating content for a desired region, and adding more bang to a demographic-specific ad’s buck in the process. Don’t believe me? Check out this example:

Image Courtesy of TechCrunch

Image Courtesy of TechCrunch

Since I have gone to Coachella several times over the last few years, I can attest to this example both hypothetically and literally. So say you’re consulting for a company like Coleman, or Coppertone Sunscreen, or American Apparel. All three of these companies make products that festival-goers will undoubtedly purchase before they make their yearly trek into the desert for several days of scorching heat and amazing music. (At the time of this article, Coachella had just over 24,000 followers on Twitter, with that number growing daily and not including other Coachella-related Twitter feeds. They claim close to 50,000 fans on their official Facebook, and almost 61,000 on Myspace.) But are a potential 100,000 combined eyes and ears really worth it in this day and age?

Most advertisers look for eyeballs numbering in the millions, but I really feel that many of them are missing a huge opportunity here. What’s the point of flooding a space with ads that a million people will see but only 20,000 of which will buy your product in the long run, when you essentially have all of the tools to address your specifically targeted demographic of 100,000 willing consumers? We are basically knee-deep in Wild West 2.0, and advertisers will either continue loudly tramping along with business as usual (and face extinction,) or adapt and learn to breathe underwater before the big meteoroid hits. (Or something like that- I’m pretty sure I combined a few stories there.)

Yeah okay, maybe that example was a little extreme, but for advertiser’s losing more and more money every day, this is no laughing matter (otherwise, they’d be sitting at the Jonathan Club drinking 18 year scotch and playing Yahtzee, not scrambling to hire “social media experts” as many of the job postings are lately.)

The demographic with the purchasing power is constantly shifting and evolving, much of this being dependant on how their social networks shift and evolve. From people talking and sharing ideas in person to print and video to online, our everyday information overload capacity has expanded, and our intake and output of concepts has sped up dramatically. Entire generations are now growing up in a virtual reality; thanks to social media and aggregated content, people’s interests are changing faster than ever- and in order for these advertisers to maintain interest, they have to engage with the consumer and have a constant conversation on a regular basis. They have to see what the consumer is talking about, and talk about it with them. They have to respond to thoughts and ideas and articles and not just talk about themselves all day long. In short, advertisers need to learn how to talk WITH us instead of yelling AT us.

Going back to the Local Trends query example on Twitter, say Coleman noticed that Coachella was trending in California (although personally I’d recommend they do a search that includes the entire US since people come from all over for this festival, but this is a moot point since it is not particularly conducive to the example.) Prior to social networking, Coleman’s main advertising option would have been to go to the content producers (in this case, Goldenvoice) and strike up a promotional deal that would hit Goldenvoice consumers (and soon-to-be-campers in need of tents and gear.) They also had the option of grass-roots and guerilla marketing, but these methods are generally only able to target small groups on the street, on college campuses, or at the festivals as attendees enter or leave the gates (not really grabbing them during the prime equipment buying hours weeks before, wouldn’t you say?)

But what if Coleman decided to adapt, create their own Twitter profile, and become a part of this conversation instead? (which as of this post I couldn’t find one, although it looks like there may be a few squatters on similar user names.)  Interactive social marketing is easily the most underrated and inexpensive form of advertising online, and yet I am still regularly surprised how often major service and item providers use it incorrectly, overcomplicate it, or worse, turn to more expensive and outdated alternatives instead of getting their feet wet for their own futures. Why am I surprised? Because there is a formula that works, and it’s just about as easy as it sounds. (Warning: Alliteration Ahead.)

Seven Simple Steps to Social Sphere Survival

1. Create Twitter profile

2. Say HI WORLD! I’M HERE! I’M NOT A SPAMMER! I CARE ABOUT MY CUSTOMERS AND WANT THEIR FEEDBACK! (Maybe not in all caps though. That was only to convey excitement.)

3. Brace for feedback storm. You will get good and bad. AND you need to respond to as much as possible, with retweets (RT), @ tweets, link backs, etc.

4. Run contests. If I was going to Coachella and saw that Coleman was giving coupons to their Twitter followers or a tent away to whoever sent in the funniest camping picture, you can bet your last buck I’m going to follow them, send ridiculous pictures, RT whatever they ask me to, and I’ll do it, other people will too. This causes your “community” to grow quickly, exponentially, inexpensively, and gives you a direct line to your targeted audience. (Funny enough, these exact reasons are also why I follow Southwest and Jet Blue, two airlines who have the best Twitter deals and feeds. They have both created an online community solely based on their Twitter feeds, often saving me money when I fly and saving them even more money when they advertise. And yes, I do actually click their #topics to see other people’s funny picture contest entries and replies, bringing us to number 5…)

5. HASH TAG EVERYTHING. Getting your name out there? Don’t know what you want to talk about? The great thing about Twitter is you don’t have to start the conversation- thanks to trending topics, you can just as easily join in on one. (Ex. Coleman post: Are you guys ready for an amazing show? Tell us what camping gear you’re looking for! #Coachella.) Easy peasy. Especially since hash tags are now being run through more narrow search parameters than ever before. BUT!!!

6. Don’t tell people what they want- ask them what they want. Are your consumers looking for coupons? Free shipping? Special weekly deals? More cowbell? Once the conversation ball has started rolling, don’t be a butterfingers and drop it, and don’t fall back into your old ad-habits. Just talk with your audience. Give em’ a good Q&A session after the show. Really, we don’t (always) bite.

7. Lather rinse repeat.

And that’s enough on this topic for now. (Coming soon: what the social media sites are going to have to do to counter social marketing to still pay their rent without stepping on any toes…)

“I think I’m going to start a new blog.”

“About what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe my theoretic postulations on how to answer the billion dollar question of the best way to monetize the internet.”

(At this moment, there was a pause. An intense stare from the person I had just told this to. A whirring of gears and wheels inside their head. The air was momentarily tinged with the faintest scent of “how do I tactfully explain…”, and I could swear I saw wisps of smoke coming out of their ears. And then…)

“You know that a lot of people out there are working really hard to answer this exact question as we speak.”

“So?”

“So… if you’re writing about something, maybe something you don’t know a lot about, and coming up with answers they’ve already decided don’t work, or saying things that seem complex to you but may be simple, even banal to them, they may end up laughing at you or worse… actually saying something.”

“So?”

“I’m just saying. You may very well get eaten alive.”

I’ve had several conversations like this lately. And I’ve always been told by everyone I know to write what I know. But what if you write what you don’t know? I’m not saying I don’t know anything about the subject at hand; I’m just saying that I’m not exactly entwined in the ongoing conversation (yet.) But like I told a good friend earlier this evening, sometimes a lack of experience is a perfect foundation.

And yes, the technorazzi may even end up eating my brains as an amuse bouche alongside their happy hour martinis if they actually ever find my small wonder over here on Word Press. But you know what I say to that?

Bring. It. On.

I wanted to share this several days ago, but womp womp- this blog was not up yet. I can only say so much about how I feel on the topic in this post’s header (and apparently I can only state it using LOLcat speak), but this article (via Mashable) has all the deets:

The New York Times Website To Charge for Access [REPORT]

Personally, I’m going to throw this out there as Exhibit A of “What a company should probably not do in their quest for financial stability without first making sure that they absolutely dominate their corner of the interwebs.”

At the end of 2009, TechCrunch ran an article with graphs indicating several other “news organizations” had surpassed the NY Times as a provider of online content. The comment board immediately blew up (and was still receiving new posts as late as last week!) Although Google News wasn’t on top as I initially expected, it still received much of the heat from the peanut gallery nonetheless for even making it on the list. Why? Because it’s a news aggregate, not a source, and “therefore shouldn’t be counted.” (Now a lot of this may seem like old news, but it’s oh-so-relevant for the NYT’s most recent decision.)

The fact is, aggregates like Google, Twitter to some extent, and (yes, wait for it) an eventual Facebook-wide News Feed mega-search (they opened the site to everyone and minimized privacy to the umpteenth degree for a reason, right?) may not so much shape the news, but they still objectively display it as they would with any other search.

So where does this leave the somewhat subjective news content providers that are CNN, Yahoo, MSNBC, FOX, and even The NY Times? If nothing else, it leaves them in the perfect position; as long as they’re breaking stories before anyone else and reporting the angles that people are looking for, they’re going to get the hits that they’re seeking. I know firsthand that as a producer, you strive to develop news stories that are both timely and create a connection with your audience on a deeper level. And often times, if the user feels that connection, they will keep on coming back for more, aggregates or no.

But is a pay to play model for connectivity a deal-breaker? I’d say maybe not if everyone else was immediately following suit. As a self-declared news junkie I can even see eventually paying for a subscription of my daily dose, especially if it came in a pick-and-choose Netflix form. (Say, oh, a set number of newspapers online for $9.99 a month?) But until then, a word to the wise-papers: you better have some phenomenally mind blowingly earth-shatteringly good content if you’re expecting people to pony-up their hard earned crackers when they can just as easily get their earful elsewhere for free.

Back to the drawing board NY Times, before your battleship gets sunk.

(Mashable link posted using ShareThis)

The big yellow post-its the cover the wall above my bed. The torn out, crumpled up sheets of notepad paper that litter my car’s floorboard. The mindless circular instant messaging conversations that happen at 2am on a regular basis. These things are products of my need to answer the question that looms above us, that we’re all asking, wanting to ask, afraid to ask, or all of the above: where exactly is this going?

I am not a programmer, or a 2.0 genius by any means. I am simply a thinker, a self-proclaimed problem solver. A lover of rhetoric and slave to theorizing. I’ve been MacGuyvering my way through life since I could walk. I’m pretty sure that somewhere between self teaching, enrolling in the school of hard knocks, and rediscovering my insatiable appetite for reading I decided to do this. I read maybe 3 dozen different blogs a day, plus embedded links, with easily a third of them being technology related. Yes. Daily. (But lucky you- if you’re postulating on modern life’s greatest question as well, then all you need to read is this… )