Conferences Offering A Glimpse Into Digital’s Future


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




As a New Yorker, I have the good fortune of easily attending any number of high profile industry conferences that take place here and attract a who’s who of those mapping our digital futures. Furthermore, events hosted by established or burgeoning media properties — many based in NYC — tend to feature more industry luminaries than their event management-only or trade association counterparts…with exceptions.

In the tech & media space, media brands like Fortune, AllThingsD, TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, Forbes, TheNextWeb, and others have bolstered their bottom lines (and news holes) by mounting their own branded events. PandoDaily's Sarah Lacey penned this when announcing her site's first big conference, Southland 2014, in Nashville(!):
"We all know the tech world needs another three-day conference like it needs another photo-sharing app. And yet I’ve always known that designing the next great three-day tech conference
Continue reading "Conferences Offering A Glimpse Into Digital’s Future"

Conferences Offering A Glimpse Into Digital’s Future


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




As a New Yorker, I have the good fortune of easily attending any number of high profile industry conferences that take place here and attract a who’s who of those mapping our digital futures. Furthermore, events hosted by established or burgeoning media properties — many based in NYC — tend to feature more industry luminaries than their event management-only or trade association counterparts…with exceptions.

In the tech & media space, media brands like Fortune, AllThingsD, TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, Forbes, TheNextWeb, and others have bolstered their bottom lines (and news holes) by mounting their own branded events. PandoDaily's Sarah Lacey penned this when announcing her site's first big conference, Southland 2014, in Nashville(!):
"We all know the tech world needs another three-day conference like it needs another photo-sharing app. And yet I’ve always known that designing the next great three-day tech conference would inevitably be a big part of our business."
Here's tech media industry vet (Wired, Industry Standard) and Federated Media founder John Battelle recently chatting up Bloomberg TV's intrepid Cory Johnson about the role conferences have played in the evolving tech ecosystem. It was pegged to his distinctive "conference" model OpenCo that lets attendees actually visit companies of their own choosing - some 135 of them.


Several years back, I attempted to persuade The New York Times to leverage its esteemed brand and get into the conference game, but the wisdom of my argument fell on deaf ears. Finally last year, The Times, under the imprimatur of Andrew Ross Sorkin's DealBook, woke up. This week it held its second DealBook Conference, which gathered many of the biggest movers & shakers in business and finance. Think Dalio, Diller, Fink, Loeb, Griffin, Musk, and Ross. (Links to presentations here.) 

BI's Alyson Shontell (@ajs) as #Ignition2013 Host
One of my perennial faves has been BusinessInsider's Ignition conference, which also took place this week at the Time-Warner Center. This is the third year I've attended, and again, it didn't disappoint. A company called Eventifier rounded up some of the attendee-supplied images here.

One of the first panels I attended had BI's Jim Edwards talking B-to-B social marketing with SAP and GE's social/content/digital leads, with the B-to-C Canyon Ranch along for the ride. Paul Marcum, GE's Director, Global Digital Marketing & Programming, cited LinkedIn for "its ability to grow our enterprise graph," while Michael Brenner, SAP's VP of Marketing and Content Strategy, named Twitter as his company's "best social channel," admitting that "it's a challenge to manage the number of accounts we have." Surprisingly, he also cited SlideShare as "one of the biggest opportunities for B-to-B marketers."
l. to r. Brenner (SAP),  Marcum (GE), Martin (CR) and Edwards (BI)
Marjorie Martin, chief content officer for luxury spa Canyon Ranch, called TripAdvisor an "extraordinary resource for us," and stressed the importance of visual images a la Pinterest for driving brand awareness. Edwards astutely asked the panel what hasn't worked, and GE's Marcum mentioned FourSquare "I love the platform, but it hasn't worked for us." Marcum also has his eye on the integration of YouTube and Google+, which he believes "will change things."

l. to r. Levine (Bessemer), Hippeau (Lerer), Fisher, Ante 
Next up: some big time NYC VC's including Lerer Ventures' Eric Hippeau, Bessemer Venture Partners Jeremy Levine and early stage investor Shana Fisher who just had a gushing profile in BusinessInsider. The Wall Street Journal's Spencer Ante moderated. (Huh. No Stalwart?) Here are some notable quotables from that session titled "Yes, I'm Still Investing In Social And Mobile!"
Hippeau: Following Twitter's successful IPO, Alibaba's impending public offering should be another "watershed moment."
Levine: The large number of seed investing right now is "a boon for us."
Hippeau: On the impact of Twitter's IPO: "Twitter is one of 10 or 12 fundamental platforms."
Levine: On Twitter's IPO: "...only company that didn't burn its investors (like Groupon, Facebook)"
Hippeau: "We [Lerer Ventures] invested in 50 companies in each of the last few years. We're bullish on consumer technology."
Fisher: "Young people create new things because they're not burdened by knowledge."
Levine: "Success is not about a unique idea. It's about killing it. Doing better than competitors."
Levine: I'm "excited about those companies that pick apart vertical marketplaces (a la CraigsList and Uber). We will see more of this." 
Showtime CEO Matt Blank 
I then had to bail to attend the annual Center for Communication luncheon at The Pierre honoring Showtime CEO Matt Blank. If you know of a student aspiring to ascend in the communications industries, the NYC-based Center for Communication is just the ticket. Their top notch seminars and annual lunch are well worth the time and effort.

I made it back in time to catch Digiday's Brian Morrissey talking ad tech, the demise of cookies, and personal data capture in a sesson titled "Mobile Targeting: Life After Cookies" with Criteo's Greg Coleman, The Weather Company's Curt Hecht, and Drawbridge's Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan. Here are some noteworthy Twitter bites I picked up:
Coleman: "For targeting, desktop to desktop remains a big business...followed by device to device, then in-app."
Hecht: On why mobile ads suck. "They don't have to. We offer brands native experience (vs banners)"
Coleman: "Print publishers should be last people to be allowed to tinker with their digital product."
Morrissey: "Facebook, Google and maybe Twitter seem to be the only ones making money on mobile advertising"
Coleman: "Some of my favorite websites still have some really crappy apps. I won't name names."
Coleman: "Two years from now we'll not be using the word 'mobile.' We'll be using the word 'reach.' 
Morrissey then played agame of word association. Here are the three I remember and the panelists' replies:
Standard mobile banner: "sucks"
At fatigue: "search"
Fate of mobile ad network: "doomed"
BI Founder & Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget
Onto the next morning when BusinessInsider's founder and editor-in-chief Henry Blodget took the stage to run through "the numbers," with the help of BI's "Intelligence" team. Rather than take this space to share the litany of trends shaping our digital futures, here's a link to the presentation and some notable quotables from Mr. Blodget:
  • Digital is now 25 years old. There are 3 billion people online worldwide. New media dwarfs old media in market cap.
  •  The most important digital trend: multiple device fragmentation; tablets, phablets, wearables... 
  • 60% of world's screens are mobile. People spend an average of one hour a day on smartphones; 30 minutes a day on tablets. 
  • There are 11 billion WhatsApp messages/day; 350M Snapchat messages/day; ALL of Facebook's revenue growth now coming from mobile
  • Tablets replacing TV. Smartphone penetration has just overtaken feature phone. In U.S. smartphone sales slowing. 
  • Platform "winner:" Android globally, except in U.S. where Apple has 50% share.
  • Google ad rev is now bigger than all newspapers and magazines combined. YouTube ad rev is bigger than AMC TV. 
  • Google is absurdly dominant in ad revenue and on mobile (w/ 90% of market). Google has won.

I did manage to catch the social TV session moderated by AllThingsD's Peter Kafka during which execs from Facebook, Shazam and Nielsen-owned SocialGuide discussed the presumed and increasingly evident "causal" relationship between social media activity and TV ratings. Gee. I thought this particular cause and effect was established long ago. I guess not. There's always next year's VMAs, huh Miley?

I was able to grab some video with Shazam CEO Rich Riley following his stage appearance RT: 3:38).

 

Next up: "The New News, Is this the Golden Age of Journalism?" featuring Rich Caccappolo, COO, MailOnline, Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes, Chris Peacock, Executive Editor, CNN Money, Jacob Weisberg, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Slate Group, and moderated by Gordon Crovitz, Co-Founder, Press+.

Weisberg & D'Vorkin
Here are some tweet-worthy sound bites:
Weisberg: "There's never been a better time to be a journalist. There's never been a worse time to be a newspaper"
Peacock: "Some of the best [media] innovation is coming from pure technology plays. (eg, mint.com)
Caccappolo: It's a golden age for breaking news. Readers "addicted to [The Daily Mail's] massive homepage"
Peacock: "Journalism sustainability will come in hybrid models," e.g., ProPublica
D'Vorkin on display advertising: "It's clear that downward pressure on CPMs will continue."
D'Vorkin: "Over last two years, more than half of our traffic goes to content that is 30 days or older."
D'Vorkin: "The beauty of our contributor network [1300 strong] enables our 40 on-staff reporters to do more investigative work."
Weisberg: "Display advertising [still] growing 30% per year, but other marketing revenue bigger."
I caught up with Lew D'Vorkin following his session. He told me he recently visited Ogilvy PR and I heard he plans to keynote the upcoming PR News Media Relations conference. (RT: 4:18)

 

Roth and Lazerow
I then enjoyed watching the tete-a-tete on social marketing between BuddyMedia founder Michael Lazerow, now part of SalesForce, and LinkedIn's editorial director Dan Roth. (Who knew they were college buddies?) Best line (from Michael): "When we started Buddy, Facebook has 20 million users. We got very lucky." Later he added: "in digital marketing, identity is everything. the whole world of cookies is falling apart."

IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg, an old friend, took the stage to chat with the global chairman of WPP's GroupM Irwin Gottlieb who had some noteworthy quotes.

IAB's Randall Rothenberg
Here are a few I picked up:
  • "We don't call it media buying at WPP. It's investment management." (With clients spending $100 million+) 
  • "It shocks me that it took so long to reach the level of programmatic [buying] today." 
  • "GroupM's planning function is moving to strategy, leaving tactical issues to specialists." 
  • "GroupM spends more money with $GOOG ("frenemy") than any other media vendor in the world." 
  •  On competing with Google: "There's a lot of profile data that Google doesn't see. We [GroupM] can go toe-to-toe with anyone."
  • "Using profile data to improve targeting, message optimization should be viewed as a good thing."
GroupM's Irwin Gottlieb
Finally, I had a chance to catch the sit-down between Henry Blodget and Lerer Ventures' Ken Lerer. Interesting that the conversation opened with a discussion of PR and press, and why Lerer doesn't do mopre intyerviews. (I should feel lucky that he agreed to talk with me on camera at last spring's GigaOm paidContent conference in NYC.)





Blodget & Lerer
Here is some of what he told Henry:
  • "In my old company [Robinson Lerer Montgomery], we did corporate communications, not PR. It was not about getting press. It was about not getting press." 
  • "Most companies should shut up (not get press) until they reach a point that they have something to say." 
  • "It certainly helps to tell the story when you have a good believable story tell. Buzz is only good with a strategy" (not for its own sake). 
  • "When Buzzfeed [a Lerer Ventures portfolio company] pivoted to doing our own news [vs aggregated content only], we took off like a hockey stick." 
  • "We're launching the Dodo in about four weeks." 
  • On another portfolio company NowThisNews: "Old news brands are not serving young consumers. We're all-video, all-mobile, all-social."
Gene Munster
What Ignition conference would be complete without Piper Jaffray's $AAPL analyst Gene Munster running through his predictions for the world's most famous consumer brand. A little more contrite this year, given his misguidance on the launch of Apple TV...each of the last three years. Still, he went ahead and predicted Apple TV (finally), an Apple smartwatch, and a larger screen iPhone all for 2014. Will Apple connect the home? We'll see.

I didn't stick around to see Elon Musk speak, though I really wanted to given that he's been the subject of a couple posts of mine this last month. I had some client work to finish up. I did, however, get a hands-on Elon experience. It turns out that Tesla organized some test drives of its celebrated Model S.

Yours Truly in Tesla Model S on West 60th Street
I convinced the Tesla Chelsea showroom rep to let me take it through Central Park, closer to my east side office. Way cool. What a car! I dumbly asked whether I could park it on the city streets overnight. She said no. I would need the ability to re-charge the battery.

Net net: at $70,000 without any options, and $130,000 fully loaded, I think I'll pass...this year.

A Musky PR Pitch


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




I recently wrote about Tesla's PR travails (think burning car), and how company founder Elon Musk took it upon himself to directly and earnestly respond to the fallout. This was the second time that Mr. Musk (does anyone call him Mr. Musk?) penned a point-by-point refutation to quell criticism.

What did I gain for my timely attention to Elon Musk?  Here's what.

This ill-formatted and conceived PR pitch just landed in my Google+ affiliated email inbox from someone named Johnny Testa who I think was aided by a couple of publicists from NYC's fabled Rubenstein Public Relations firm:
    

The sender apparently was under the impression that I'm on the "Elon Musk beat" at Forbes, and offered his help to do "anything" to see Forbes publish the "news" that the man behind Tesla/SpaceX/Hyperloop, et. al., sits atop AskMen's Top 49 Most Influential Men. Why 49? I guess
Continue reading "A Musky PR Pitch"

A Musky PR Pitch


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




I recently wrote about Tesla's PR travails (think burning car), and how company founder Elon Musk took it upon himself to directly and earnestly respond to the fallout. This was the second time that Mr. Musk (does anyone call him Mr. Musk?) penned a point-by-point refutation to quell criticism.

What did I gain for my timely attention to Elon Musk?  Here's what.

This ill-formatted and conceived PR pitch just landed in my Google+ affiliated email inbox from someone named Johnny Testa who I think was aided by a couple of publicists from NYC's fabled Rubenstein Public Relations firm:
    

The sender apparently was under the impression that I'm on the "Elon Musk beat" at Forbes, and offered his help to do "anything" to see Forbes publish the "news" that the man behind Tesla/SpaceX/Hyperloop, et. al., sits atop AskMen's Top 49 Most Influential Men. Why 49? I guess only Buzzfeed would know.  Here's Johnny: 
"Hey Peter, how are you doing? I noticed you've written about Elon Musk recently so I thought I'd share the great news with you that Elon Musk has been voted #1 on our list of The Most Influential Men of 2013: http://www.askmen.com/specials/2013_top_49/1-elon-musk.html It would be great to see this covered on Forbes, and if there is anything I can do from my end to see that happen please don't hesitate to let me know."
Your wish is granted, but probably not in the manner you envisioned. Also, I wonder if this piece counts toward Rubenstein's scorecard of media hits?

Finally, who knew that Google allowed marketers & PR types to gain access to my email via Google+?

Apple Censors A Wi-Fi Critic


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




iPad Air
Apple may not have to constantly contend with a corporate mission statement like "Don't Be Evil," but the world's most esteemed brand certainly recognizes and understands the value of cultivating consumer confidence. It does so by building great products, including tomorrow's public release of the iPad Air, which, if the (company-managed) reviews are any indication, will be a BOFFO seller.

The innovation and ergonomics of Apple's product line have nearly always served as drivers of the company's reputation, and a catalyst for the cult of Apple. From my first Mac LC to my iPhone, Macbook Pro, iPad2 and soon, an iPad Air today, I would definitely fall into the Apple fan boy category. Still, given the value of its devoted fan base, it never ceases to amaze me how heavy-handed, if not prickly, Apple can be sometimes act when bona fide criticism rears its head.

Wasn't it Steve Jobs who personally poison-penned a post railing against Adobe Flash after Apple decided to drop it from its mobile operating system? And how over-the-top secretive and controlling was the development of the game-changing iPhone? Then there was the issue with the iPhone's antenna for which the company took way too long to admit a mea culpa.

In fact, some may argue that Apple's closely managed veil of secrecy, especially leading up to its fabled new product announcements, has actually contributed to the anticipatory hyperbole surrounding such announcements, thus producing record sales. Command and control of the message is clearly alive and well in Cupertino...for better or worse.

Prof. Lawrence Lessig
Today we learn that my old friend and former client Prof. Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School used Apple's open forum to publicly gripe about a Wi-Fi issue he was having with his Apple's latest mobile operating system iOS 7.  Now it's one thing to ignore a public complaint from a tech-savvy influencer, as Dell did with Jeff Jarvis back in the day, but Apple completely ignored a growing tide of wi-fi complainants on a forum the company itself set up (and monitors) for this every reason.
"According to Violet Blue at ZDNet, some Apple users who upgraded to iOS 7 have been plagued with malfunctioning Wi-Fi, and since September have had their questions consistently ignored on Apple's official forums. Lessig was one of those bitten by this bug."
As for Prof. Lessig who discovered and posted a way to possibly address the problem, e.g., return the device under its warranty, Apple's reaction was much more draconian. They expunged his advice altogether. He re-posted to the forum. It too was removed, followed by this explanation from Apple:
"Dear Lessig Lawrence (Lawrence Lessig),
Recently you posted a poll or petition in Apple Support Communities. We are including a copy of your message at the end of this email for your reference. We understand the desire to share experiences in your topic, “Re: wifi greyed out after update to ios7 ,” but because these posts are not allowed on our forums, we have removed it." 
Huh?

Professor Lessig, a founder of Creative Commons and not one to back away from a principled fight, took to his Tumblr blog to share the incident and his observations about the world's most esteemed brand:
"What’s striking about the comments on the Apple community site is the frustration — frustration because of Apple’s apparent policy not to respond to comments. Unlike really helpful companies which try to reward people who spend time making community boards the best source for technical support by engaging with posts, and at least acknowledging the problems, Apple’s policy seems to be a “never comment” policy. Which leads its users — and again, people who are volunteering their time to help lower Apple’s customer support cost — to express increasing exasperation at the unanswered problems."
The media attention that Prof. Lessig has drawn to the issue will no doubt pose bigger problems for Apple than it had bargained for. Again, why doesn't the company actively monitor and engage with the users of its product forums? Isn't this standard operating CRM nowadays? Scratching my head here.

Apple Censors A Wi-Fi Critic


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




iPad Air
Apple may not have to constantly contend with a corporate mission statement like "Don't Be Evil," but the world's most esteemed brand certainly recognizes and understands the value of cultivating consumer confidence. It does so by building great products, including tomorrow's public release of the iPad Air, which, if the (company-managed) reviews are any indication, will be a BOFFO seller.

The innovation and ergonomics of Apple's product line have nearly always served as drivers of the company's reputation, and a catalyst for the cult of Apple. From my first Mac LC to my iPhone, Macbook Pro, iPad2 and soon, an iPad Air today, I would definitely fall into the Apple fan boy category. Still, given the value of its devoted fan base, it never ceases to amaze me how heavy-handed, if not prickly, Apple can be sometimes act when bona fide criticism rears its head.

Wasn't it Steve
Continue reading "Apple Censors A Wi-Fi Critic"

Reputations: The AP & The Boy Scouts


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Two venerable institutions were in the news this past week for ethical transgressions from individuals within their respective organizations.  At first blush, the incidents didn't appear to be all that serious, yet both resulted in the organizations taking swift and decisive action. The transgressors were summarily fired.

I'm talking of course about the Boys Scouts of America and The Associated Press - two iconic and esteemed brands in their respective realms. If you missed it, a volunteer scout leader hiking in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park decided to topple an ancient rock formation, and then gloat about it. Not only that, the misguided guide posted a video clip of the incident on Facebook.

 

 That dopey decision alone was likely sufficient for termination.

The dim-witted culprits concocted some cockamamie excuse that the precarious positioned boulder posed peril to the boys scouts passing beneath it. What they neglected to remember was the Scouts' long-standing credo on the environment: "Leave No Trace"
"As cities grow and populations encroach upon wildlands and recreation areas, we must do more than just pick up the litter and extinguish campfires. We must learn how to maintain the integrity and character of the outdoors for all living things. Leave No Trace is not simply a program for visiting the backcountry, it is an attitude and a way of life. Learning about Leave No Trace begins with your unit."
Having represented The AP for its 150th anniversary and a photo book it published of World War II photographs (tied to the opening of the World War II Memorial), I for one understand and appreciate this news organization's steadfast adherence to the principles that govern its approach to maintaining journalistic integrity. It is the foundation on which the news organization was built for which there is no higher calling.

It's also a mission that former president Lou Boccardi and others who've since followed him have continually struggled to uphold, especially as the entire media ecosystem undergoes a seismic shift in how it collects and reports news. (Did The AP just agree to accept "sponsored content?")

In the midst of a very close and contentious Gubernatorial race in Virginia, a long-time and revered AP political correspondent filed a story alleging financial malfeasance by one of the candidates. The story was false, and the AP had to retract it some 98 minutes after it first moved.  The issue of whether this was a case of sloppy or politically motivated reporting was irrelevant.  The AP not only fired the reporter, but his editor and a third member of the news staff.

Whatever the specific circumstances, The AP demonstrated zero tolerance for its (perceived) violation of the organization's News Values and Principles:
"For more than a century and a half, men and women of The Associated Press have had the privilege of bringing truth to the world. They have gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles – and, too often, made great and horrific sacrifices – to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and honestly.
Our efforts have been rewarded with trust: More people in more places get their news from the AP than from any other source. In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.
That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions."
The News Media Guild, the union representing AP's news staff, intends to "vigorously" fight the firings. What the Guild (and others) don't recognize is that The AP, and The Boy Scouts for that matter, have much more profound and consequential reasons for taking the decisive actions they did.

These unfortunate incidents strike at the heart of their institutions. To not have taken such actions, the org's respective managements would be committing their own acts of malfeasance.
"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it."-- Benjamin Franklin
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." -- Warren Buffett

Fresh Tech: Made In NYC


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




NYC Digital Chief Rachel Haot at NYTM
I can't remember how many New York Tech Meetups I've attended over the last seven or eight years. I keep coming back drawn by the youthful exuberance and ingenuity of these tech-driven entrepreneurs proudly showcasing their creations.

I even had a chance to present from the daunting stage in NYU's Skirball Auditorium before 850 very discerning New Yorkers. It was for a search engine I helped develop that sought to make PR professionals less spammy in their dealings with journalists. (Lots of good that did.)

The October NYTM opened with a few obligatory announcements. Wilson Sonsini, anyone? It included news of the first city-sponsored "Media Center" opening this month in DUMBO.  It was unveiled October 1st by Mayor Mike, the New York tech scene's biggest booster (who'll be sorely missed), at a Brooklyn presser. Here's the description:
"The Made in NY Media Center by IFP is an incubator space for storytellers, creative professionals and entrepreneurs across multiple disciplines to collaborate and create new business opportunities through education, entrepreneurship and content creation."
http://www1.nyc.gov/311 
The city's Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot (pronounced hote) then walked the crowd through a major re-design of New York City's website. New websites typically don't rise to news-making levels, but NYC.gov's enhanced functionality and cleaner user interface takes extra pains to empower the city residents to quickly identify and kabash any annoying worms in the Big Apple.

I especially liked the drop-down menu for 311, which gives users the ability to register their complaints about common annoyances peculiar to the city -- from potholes to noisy sanitation trucks.

The animated Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian
Next up was Alexis Ohanian, 29, co-founder of Reddit, who AlleyWatch described as follows:
"...outspoken opponent of SOPA and PIPA and just generally a guy making the world suck less, was the first presenter. 'I spent two years in San Francisco.' he said. 'Yes, the burritos were great, but I didn’t see them protesting SOPA and PIPA the way you all did.' He was there hawking his new book, Without Their Permission.
The New York crowd very much appreciated the favorable comparison to the Bay Area's tech set - at least with regard to the dimension of social activism, which, not coincidentally, is the subject of Ohanian's book: "harnessing the power of the web for good."

Zady co-founder Soraya Darabi
Following Alex was another familiar face from the New York City ech scene; Soraya Darabi whom I first met when she was socializing my then client The New York Times. This was Ms. Darabi's third appearance in front of this crowd, and it appeared to be her most auspicious.

Zady is a shopping platform that takes the meaning of the word transparency in The Emperor's New Clothes to an entirely new level. Zady sources its goods from high quality makers, craftsmen and manufacturers and provides its socially conscious buyers everything they would want to know about how their wares came to fruition. While not a discount e-commerce site, Zady began with a grand vision:
"...to combat the fast-fashion craze by providing a platform for only those companies that care about timeless style and solid construction."
Regular denizens of the NYTM are accustomed to seeing breathless new apps that claim to help the locals navigate the myriad activities in their city. The makers of YPlan were no different, or were they? The app launched in London just 10 months ago and already resides on "15% of all iPhones" in that city.  It distinguishes itself as a "spontaneous, going out app" that only curates events taking place in the next 48 hours. It then makes them simple to book.  It launched in NYC last week.

Here's a clip of YPlan co-founder Rytas Vitkauskas talking the NYC launch with TechCrunch's Jordan Crook:

Of course London is a happening town, but New York is a really happening town.  I asked the founders how they expect to reasonably capture a representative and wide-appealing slice of all NYC has to offer. Mr. Vitkauskas admitted that:
"New York is overwhelming," but "we have a team of curators" that do nothing but this everyday.  "They're on Twitter. They're on Instagram. They're figuring out what's trending, what's hot, what's cool."
I'll check it out. We also heard from Skedge, which call s itself an Open Table "for everything else," and from Cover, which lets users pay their restaurant checks and leave without waiting on a waiter.

I especially enjoyed hearing (and learning) from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Julie Samuels, a lawyer with the organization who is fighting patent trolls through an EFF initiative called Trolling Effects.

Finally, at the intersection of thermometers and big data lies a startup called Kinsa, which aspires to create the world's first real-time map of health to track and stop the spread of disease. It has developed and has begun selling an inexpensive and ergonomically appealing smartphone-connected thermometer that allows users (or their caregivers or parents) to capture and share patients' real-time health data.

KINSA's Smart Thermometers
The beauty of this idea will manifest as more of these smart thermometers go into service. The full video of the October 2013 New York Tech Meetup can be accessed here (courtesy of MLBAM).

Fresh Tech: Made In NYC


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




NYC Digital Chief Rachel Haot at NYTM
I can't remember how many New York Tech Meetups I've attended over the last seven or eight years. I keep coming back drawn by the youthful exuberance and ingenuity of these tech-driven entrepreneurs proudly showcasing their creations.

I even had a chance to present from the daunting stage in NYU's Skirball Auditorium before 850 very discerning New Yorkers. It was for a search engine I helped develop that sought to make PR professionals less spammy in their dealings with journalists. (Lots of good that did.)

The October NYTM opened with a few obligatory announcements. Wilson Sonsini, anyone? It included news of the first city-sponsored "Media Center" opening this month in DUMBO.  It was unveiled October 1st by Mayor Mike, the New York tech scene's biggest booster (who'll be sorely missed), at a Brooklyn presser. Here's the description:
"The Made in NY Media
Continue reading "Fresh Tech: Made In NYC"

Elon Musk Takes The Wheel


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Tesla Model S
Several years ago I agreed to have breakfast with a soon-to-be former senior executive of the nascent Tesla Motors Inc.. The employee chose to leave the then-struggling company whose chairman, he insisted, was not publicly forthright in divulging the company's shortcomings. He told me that the sales projections weren't all they were promoted to be, and there were other ethical lapses.

Flash forward to more recent times, and the electric automaker's prospects couldn't be rosier, until, of course, last week when a viral video of a Tesla Model S in flames literally caught fire online. Some insisted that the flames were fanned by the oil-driven automakers, but I found no evidence to support this allegation.

Elon Musk
Leading up to what may be a short-lived hiccup for the high-flying company and its brilliant and enigmatic founder Elon Musk, few automakers have garnered the kind of praise that
Continue reading "Elon Musk Takes The Wheel"

Elon Musk Takes The Wheel


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Tesla Model S
Several years ago I agreed to have breakfast with a soon-to-be former senior executive of the nascent Tesla Motors Inc.. The employee chose to leave the then-struggling company whose chairman, he insisted, was not publicly forthright in divulging the company's shortcomings. He told me that the sales projections weren't all they were promoted to be, and there were other ethical lapses.

Flash forward to more recent times, and the electric automaker's prospects couldn't be rosier, until, of course, last week when a viral video of a Tesla Model S in flames literally caught fire online. Some insisted that the flames were fanned by the oil-driven automakers, but I found no evidence to support this allegation.

Elon Musk
Leading up to what may be a short-lived hiccup for the high-flying company and its brilliant and enigmatic founder Elon Musk, few automakers have garnered the kind of praise that
Continue reading "Elon Musk Takes The Wheel"

Elon Musk Takes The Wheel


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Tesla Model S
Several years ago I agreed to have breakfast with a soon-to-be former senior executive of the nascent Tesla Motors Inc.. The employee chose to leave the then-struggling company whose chairman, he insisted, was not publicly forthright in divulging the company's shortcomings. He told me that the sales projections weren't all they were promoted to be, and there were other ethical lapses.

Flash forward to more recent times, and the electric automaker's prospects couldn't be rosier, until, of course, last week when a viral video of a Tesla Model S in flames literally caught fire online. Some insisted that the flames were fanned by the oil-driven automakers, but I found no evidence to support this allegation.

Elon Musk
Leading up to what may be a short-lived hiccup for the high-flying company and its brilliant and enigmatic founder Elon Musk, few automakers have garnered the kind of praise that Tesla has. Consumer Reports, the bane of consumer product marketers everywhere, gave the automaker its highest rating in the organization's history. It wrote in July:
"Slipping behind the wheel of the Tesla Model S is like crossing into a promising zero-emissions future. This electric luxury sports car, built by a small automaker based in Palo Alto, Calif., is brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance, and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail. It’s what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in  “Back to the Future.” The sum total of that effort has earned the Model S the highest score in our Ratings: 99 out of  100."
A month later, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), gave the Tesla Model S its highest safety rating...ever.  Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, an independent advocacy organization, noted:
"Tesla has thrown down the challenge to the industry as a whole. We are a new company and we beat everybody," Ditlow said. "All the other automakers need to accept Tesla’s challenge and do as well or better as Tesla in NHTSA’s crash test ratings."
Between Consumer Reports and NHTSA, what more could an automaker want? How about these headlines?
Then, without warning, the "Tesla on fire" meme hit...big time. Here's a clip of the 30-second video, which just passed 3 million views:



  • ABC News asked: "Will YouTube Video of Seattle Car Fire Halt Tesla's (TSLA) Meteoric Rise?"
To his credit, Mr. Musk took to the Tesla corporate blog to transparently lay out the specific technical reasons that his team believes caused this fire. On Friday, he wrote:
"Earlier this week, a Model S traveling at highway speed struck a large metal object, causing significant damage to the vehicle. A curved section that fell off a semi-trailer was recovered from the roadway near where the accident occurred and, according to the road crew that was on the scene, appears to be the culprit. The geometry of the object caused a powerful lever action as it went under the car, punching upward and impaling the Model S with a peak force on the order of 25 tons. Only a force of this magnitude would be strong enough to punch a 3 inch diameter hole through the quarter inch armor plate protecting the base of the vehicle."
The reaction to his forthrightness was unanimously positive.
  • TechCrunch wrote: "Elon Musk Details Cause Of Tesla Model S Fire, Says It Would Have Been Worse With Gas" 
  • CNBC touted: "Elon Musk's blog post on Tesla Model S fire" 
  • And even Reddit weighed in with its consumer-driven dialogue titled "This is how you handle a potential PR disaster. With complete transparency and boatloads of hard work to back it up," which also lit up Tesla's Redditt page.
It's not the first time that Mr. Musk has used his corporate pulpit to silence the naysayers. Remember, that nasty review from The New York Times, which the Tesda founder subsequently called "a low grade ethics violation.?" He again turned to the company's blog to dispute point-by-point the negative review. He supplemented that with some mainstream interviews to drive the message home, including one on Bloomberg West with Emily Chang.

As I think about the early days of Tesla, at least how it was portrayed to me from a recently resigned executive, I would have to say that the company has come a long way in its dealing with thorny issues. What's more, it's refreshing to see this CEO-founder so passionately and so openly take the lead, which bodes well for the company's road ahead.

Dressed to Kill the Pipeline


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




John Boehner (Image: Getty Images via @daylife)
In their zeal that led up to the shuttering of the U.S. government, House Republicans believed they had this President right where they wanted him. So much so, they expanded their list of demands to include an array of partisan issues, some of which they reasoned might actually fall in their favor.

The public uproar was so loud that the GOP quickly withdrew its ransom demands and stuck to a few core items, e.g., a year delay of ACA and the elimination of a tariff on medical device companies. One of the many GOP demands that fell by the wayside was the KeystoneXL Pipeline. Republicans insisted that it be approved and construction begin immediately, or else.

I can't get my arms around this pipeline. I understand that the Canadian government is lobbying furiously to get it built. On the other hand, I've heard credible people insist that the number of permanent jobs it will create is minuscule, while the environmental impact of transporting tar sands oil through America's heartland is anything but.

Be that as it may, the company hoping to build the pipeline, without much promise, TransCanada Corp. has a sister project in the works called the Energy East pipeline, which would bring over a million barrels of Tar Sands oil to the East Coast for export, primarily to Europe and Asia.

To prevail in the court of public opinion, the company organized a series of town meetings across Canada. What it didn't expect were the aggressive, if not duplicitous tactics of those opposed to the initiative.  I received a news release from a quasi activist/PR organization called the Yes Lab, which describes itself as:
"...a series of brainstorms and trainings to help activist groups carry out media-getting creative actions, focused on their own campaign goals. It's a way for social justice organizations to take advantage of all that we Yes Men have learned-not only about our own ways of doing things, but those we've come in contact with over the decade and a half we've been doing this sort of thing. The Yes Lab has offices and workshopping space at NYU's Hemispheric Institute in New York."
Now I love a good brainstorm as much as any self-respecting PR professional. I also recognize that today's diluted media ecosystem, along with markedly changed media consumption habits, demand that risks be taken to make one's mark. (Clearly someone told this to Miley Cyrus before she took the stage at this year's VMA's.)

Just as Miley literally refashioned herself as a twerky slut, the activists from SaveCanada are fighting TransCanada's grassroots constituency-building "consultation" campaign by refashioning themselves as...friendly TransCanada employees. Here's how the YesLab described SaveCanada's clever effort:
"To outwit this latest ploy by TransCanada, local activists all along the pipeline route have been swarming these events dressed just like TransCanada reps, but with lookalike "SaveCanada" name tags and brochures. Instead of promoting the pipeline, the SaveCanada reps communicate risks.
'Since TransCanada has come up with a new way to lie to the public, we had to come up with a new way to tell the truth,' said North Bay farmer Yan Roberts, who helped to launch the unusual protest. 'We're friendly folks, so our solution is to dress like them, outnumber them, and 'out-friendly' them in every community they're trying to scam.'"
Again, I acknowledge that boundaries need to be pushed in order to prevail in today's real-time and ephemeral news environment. Still I wonder whether doing so under false pretenses crosses an ethical line. Hey, didn't Wal-Mart dispatch a PR rep to a union meeting posing as a reporter? I suppose it works both ways.

Barilla Warfare


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




When my #2 son was running for class president as a 5th grader, I had a brilliant idea for a campaign slogan, or so I thought.  The flyer looked like this:


If You Like
Vote For Teddy

After all, who didn't like spaghetti? It had universal appeal -- especially to the grade school electorate.  -My son didn't think so, and flatly rejected my flair for the creative. (Teddy always had a more grounded outlook on life than his Dad.)

Guido Barilla (Photo: Getty Images)
Today, we learn that the chairman of the world's leading pasta maker -- Barilla -- wishes he was more in touch with the universal appeal of his signature product.

Company namesake Guido Barilla, during a radio interview, proclaimed that his company's advertising would never feature a family with two Moms or two Dads. Specifically he said:
"Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role," he said, adding that if gay people "like our pasta and our advertising, they'll eat our pasta. If they don't like it, then they will not eat it, and they will eat another brand."
2012 J.C. Penney Ad 
Needless to say, this faux pas has not unexpectedly caused an uproar, let alone a consumer boycott in Italy, which if the media echo chamber takes hold, will likely spread elsewhere.

Ironically, in 2012 JC Penney also precipitated a consumer boycott of its stores when it ran a Father's Day ad featuring two Dads. To its credit, the retailer took offense to the offended, and stood its ground.

Separately, but perhaps not unrelated, Cheerios was the object of scorn from another (the same?) group of less-than-tolerant Americans when it aired a TV spot featuring a mixed race couple. The company stood up to the haters, and eventually was rewarded with enhanced brand awareness and reputation (maybe even product sales).

Barilla has a full-blown crisis on its hands - one that will require a considerable amount of contrition, i.e., no al dente here. In English also, please.

As for Teddy, I think he won that election even without his Dad's creative copywriting.

UPDATE 9/27: Sure enough, Mr. Barilla's unfortunate position of intolerance in Italy captured global imaginations. MoveOn.org has now joined the fray by urging its myriad members to boycott the pasta maker.

Meanwhile, the heretofore silent Barilla U.S. Twitterfeed finally piped in late yesterday with this contrite tweet: I believe them.

Jeff Bezos Opens Up


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Lots doing from the world(s) of Jeff Bezos this week. First, we learn that Amazon is making a big play to "lure" us away from our eternal dependency on iTunes in favor of the company's integrated Cloud Player MP3 Store. As The Verge led in its coverage:
"Amazon's Cloud Player for PC is moving closer than ever to a full-fledged iTunes competitor today; the app now features an integrated Amazon MP3 storefront where users can buy songs and albums directly without visiting Amazon.com."
PC huh?  I get it. That piece, bolstered by a sit-down between Verge editor Joshua Topolsky and Amazon's CEO, was titled "Jeff Bezos Wants to Delight You: A Chat with Amazon's CEO". 

We then were treated to a news release, cleverly (or caustically) written as a series of tweets and posted to BusinessWire, that touted the company's latest tablet -- the Kindle Fire.

To its credit, Amazon's PR team did get some decent traction from the tech cognoscenti in my Twitterstream, many of whom lauded the new device's potent pixel power.
To its discredit, one editor, a perennial detractor of all things PR, had this to say about the manner in which Amazon's message was delivered:
Finally, as if he wasn't busy enough, Mr. Bezos made his first televised comments on his recent purchase of the Washington Post. On CNN, he said:
"For me, I thought the Washington Post is an important institution, and I'm optimistic about its future," Bezos said. "It's a personal investment. I'm hopeful that I can help from a distance in part by providing runway for them to do a series of experiments, in part through bringing some of the philosophy that we have used at Amazon to the Post."
He also talked for 40 minutes with USA Today's Ed Baig, and others. A veritable whirlwind (and mainstream) media tour, if you ask me.  Oh. Did I mention that Mr. Bezos told NBC News that he wanted to travel to space?

Free iPhones In China?


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Apple & Burberry teamed to promote iPhone 5S (Photo: Burberry) 
Do you know anyone who absolutely must get their hands on a plastic cell phone? Here we are a week after another breathless Apple new product press conference, and the question remains unanswered.

Not unexpectedly, the news event consumed myriad column inches and airtime minutes in the tech media, and made a significant dent in the news holes of mainstream outlets as well.

Less breathless is the fact that the debut of two new iPhones "precipitated a 51-point drop in $AAPL stock, and set pundits' tongues-a-waggin about why we haven't seen much from Cupertino on pre-orders for the hotly anticipated, but decidedly downscale version of the company's iconic mobile device -- the iPhone 5C.
Truth be told, this was a starkly different kind of announcement for Apple. The iPhone 5S made new strides with its 64-bit processor and fingerprint recognition technology. But building demand for the iPhone 5C would require a novel (for Apple) marketing strategy and message set, especially since the tech-savvy Apple fan boys & girls on whom the company typically relies to drive the conversation would not likely drive this one.

Today, Apple released the first TV spot for the iPhone 5C, which hits stores this Friday. The spot focuses on the product's more ephemeral attributes, e.g., plastic body and multiple colors, and ignores more substantive enhancements like battery life and VALUE. In fact, the new commercial made no mention of the device's lower price point.


Since I was not privy to the strategic thinking that led to the creative positioning of the iPhone 5C, it's hard for me to weigh in on Apple's plastic fantastic approach. I'm sure greater marketing minds offered Phil Schiller & his team sufficient focus group data that showed these attributes to be sales motivators.

Still, I wonder whether this splashy, superficial spot is aimed elsewhere -- like young, female Chinese consumers, a market of paramount importance to the company. Though the relatively high price for the Chinese market may not be conducive for a Sino-windfall. Marketwatch reports:
"Analysts and investors alike were disappointed that the iPhone 5C, the so-called cheaper phone, will not actually be a budget-friendly option for many in emerging markets like China, where the average monthly income is below $1,000. The 5C is listed on Apple’s China website for about $733 without a contract."
Today, VentureBeat tell us that Apple has struck deal with two Chinese telecom companies to make the iPhone 5S and 5C available virtually for free:
"What’s now obvious is that Apple has worked with top Chinese mobile carriers to offer the phones for very compelling prices. China Telecom has three plans that present the 5S for free, and China Unicom has eight plans in which the 5C is free. Typically, though, Chinese customers pay up front for the phone and then get their money “back” in the form of pro-rated discounts on their mobile contracts."
As for the U.S., the jury remains out on whether the iPhone 5C is deemed a success. I suspect it will be a slow build over time before we learn the answer to that question.

Advertising Gone Awry


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




When the media cognoscenti think about church & state, their focus typically revolves around the wall separating editorial decision-making and advertising sales. Journalistic purists at nearly every established news organization resist any influence an advertiser may try to exert over the news/feature hole.

In fact, the church-state model is more than a metaphor at many media orgs. It's physical, with these two distinct operations literally walled off or residing on separate floors. In recent years, however, the precipitous decline and diffusion of (mostly) print and online ad revenue has spawned new rev-gen schemes that blur the lines separating church and state. I've covered the subject of so-called "native advertising and "sponsored content" here and here.

And just last week, Buzzfeed's Jonah Peretti set Twitter tongues-a-waggin' by touting the growth of these quasi-editorial content plays at his new-age (and profitable) journalistic enterprise.

"Peretti also announced for the first time that the company — which has grown to more than 300 employees — is profitable, thanks in large part to the site’s use of sponsored content. Last year, the BuzzFeed founder said the site ran 265 such ad programs, which involve BuzzFeed staff creating posts that mimic the viral content it usually runs, but based around a topic related to the sponsor. Peretti said the site will do more than three times as many this year."
So while it's clear that the lines continue to blur -- even the venerable New Yorker is getting into the native ad game -- there are some very good ethical reasons for their separation. This week, however, we learned of two instances where such a separation may not have been such a good idea.

Smack in the middle of Fashion Week, The New York Times (the paradigm for church-state separation)  ran a profile of a former Barney's executive who was dismissed from the tony New York retailer (and huge Times advertiser). Adjacent to the editorial profile was a large Barney's ad, which rightfully caused the retailer to go apoplectic. Here's the recount from the New York Daily News:
"Barneys went bananas. As Fashion Week kicked off, the luxury department store threatened to pull advertising from The New York Times after the paper ran a profile of an ex-employee alongside a Barneys ad, Confidenti@l can exclusively reveal.
The Gray Lady’s Styles section on Thursday profiled Julie Gilhart, former director of Barneys New York, who is now a fashion consultant and works in the digital sphere. The 1,384-word piece was complimentary toward the tenacious Gilhart, who got the ax from Barneys’ chief executive, Mark Lee, in 2010.
'We were pissed because we thought it was insulting and embarrassing,' said a source. 'How dare The Times write an article about someone we fired and then place a massive, full page ad for us right next to the profile?' Asked our source."
Could this have been a case of Google AdSense gone awry? Doubtful.

Separately, but not unrelated, we learned of another gaffe in which the ad and edit arms of Esquire Magazine experienced a communications breakdown. The publication beckoned readers in a "Style" ad to "look good on your way to work," adjacent to my pal Dick Drew's AP news photo of a man falling from one of the burning towers on 9/11.

To its credit, the magazine took to Twitter to assuage its offended readers.

The New York Times made no such apology -- at least not publicly.

The Optics of Marissa Mayer


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




I recently wrote about Yahoo! and specifically its CEO's efforts to revitalize the laggard Internet brand, a brand that started life alongside Altavista, another once-dominant Web brand whose fate Yahoo! hopes not to share (in spite of acquiring it).

The take-away of the earlier post was to draw attention to all the media attention Marissa Mayer was drawing to the company - both good and indifferent. It seemed to matter little how inconsequential the news, as along as the company generated headlines (and, in theory, increased relevance).

Some months have passed and the company continues to roll with the technology elite in staying on the media's radar, including the meme that Yahoo! had surpassed Google in unique visits per month. Some questioned the methodology or even importance of this metric, but the trumpeted milestone did its job nonetheless.

No matter how much Yahoo! appears in the news, the company still struggles to shore up its path and place in the techonomy. Its purchase of Tumblr went a long way to reaffirm its tech cred, but three other more recent news items emanating from Sunnyvale (and New York) may make less of a contribution to Ms. Mayer's grand makeover scheme.

Ms. Mayer photographed by Mikael Jansson for Vogue
First, Yahoo! watchers were treated to a sultry Ms. Mayer posing for the iconic September issue of Vogue magazine. I suppose there is value in this Internet brand appearing in Conde Nast's flagship glossy, given the back-of-the-book women-oriented content Yahoo! generates each day. Still, there were those whose eyebrows were raised by the reclining CEO. CNN's round-up was titled "CEOs Gone Wild."

As a follow-up to this CEO fashion makeover, we soon learned of the makeover of Yahoo! graphic identity. Many hoped the logo's exclamation point would fall by the wayside, but that punctuation mark survived the graphic redesign. USA Today's lede:
"CEO Marissa Mayer has given Yahoo's [sic] logo a fashion makeover and her personal stamp reflecting the Internet pioneer's new image under her leadership."
Not everyone was enamored with the svelte new logo. In fact, someone set up a parody Tumblr page titled "The New New Yahoo Logo." Softpedia wrote:
"Yahoo [sic] unveiled its brand new logo today and, well, the reactions haven't been great. No matter what Yahoo had revealed, it would have gotten some criticism. But it looks like, knowing that, Yahoo didn't even try to come up with something good."
We can all argue about the optics surrounding the new logo. As for me, the changes are so subtle I'm surprised it generated as much attention as it did. (Then again, this seems to be par for the course with Yahoo!) Forbes' Rob Hof reached the same conclusion "Yahoo's New Logo Fails To Impress - But People Are Talking About It!"

While we're talking optics, one cannot argue about the negative optics in this last bit of [entity display="Yahoo" type="organization" subtype="company" active="false" key="yahoo" ticker="YHOO" exchange="NASDAQ" natural_id="fred/company/4786"]Yahoo[/entity]! news. Huffington Post's headline hit the nail on the head with its header:
"Marissa Mayer And Zach Bogue Buy Most Expensive House In San Francisco History"
With this personal purchase, what kind of message is Ms. Mayer sending to her rank & file employees, let alone company investors? The Atlantic recently asked "What's Behind the Huge (and Growing) CEO-Worker Pay Gap? And could it possibly be justified?"  Isn't it premature for her to claim victory?
Apparently, HUFFINGTON POST ERRED in its report that Ms. Mayer purchased "the most expensive home in San Francisco history" Whew! My faith is restored.  Here's Ms Mayer's tweet refuting it:
Still, CNN Money recently raised some valid questions in its piece "Yahoo Struggles to Find Its Place Online." The writer wondered:

"Today it's not clear what "Yahoo [sic]" means or what the company is about. In the year since Marissa Mayer became the company's fifth CEO in nearly five years, Yahoo has bought up 19 mobile-app and social media companies. Was this to transform from a dial-up era portal to a mobile hub? Was it a talent grab? Or was it to boost Yahoo's cool quotient? For the moment, Wall Street doesn't really care, as the stock is up. Eventually, investors will demand real results -- and a clear plan."
Don't get me wrong. I think Ms. Mayer has done an admirable job shaking things up to reinvigorate the brand. I just wonder about the message she's sending to her most vital constituencies (e.g., employees, investors, advertisers...) with her over-the-top Vogue layout, sleek new logo
and new home purchase. Clearly, an optics-minded Mayer must recognize that these optics don't necessarily accrue to the core brand positioning or bottom line - or do they?  Yahoo!'s brand identity remains very much a work-in-progress...Ms. Mayer less so.

Will AllThingsD Secede From News Corp?


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




ATD's Mossberg & Swisher: (Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage; PRNewsFoto/Digitas/AP Images)

Yesterday, Wall Street Journal business editor Dennis Berman took to Twitter to trumpet the acquisition of respected Slate tech scribe Farhad Manjoo by the Wall Street Journal's technology reporting team.
For those in the tech media bubble, this was "big tech news," but for everyone else, it paled in comparison to let's say Microsoft's $7.2B acquisition of Nokia's phone/tablet biz or the Apple's much-anticipated new iPhones skedded to bow September 10. What's more, Mr. Berman is not prone to hyperbole, nor he is particularly active on Twitter...averaging less than a tweet a day. So why the unusually warm embrace?

Separately, The Journal's technology beat's éminence grise Walt Mossberg, a prolific Twitter user with a half million+ followers, welcomed his new young, goatee-less protege to the fold:
Some of the back story comes into focus from a JP Mangalindan-Dan Primack item in Fortune magazine, which resurfaced something Reuters broke last February: "AllThingsD nears split with Dow Jones." The new of Manjoo's hiring prompted the intrepid and occasionally irascible Felix Salmon to ratchet up the meme:
This set off a flurry of activity in the Twitterstreams of tech cognoscentis everywhere:

Francine Hardaway weighed in:
To which Ms. Swisher, with here 900K+ followers, replied:
The idea that Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher could successfully extricate their esteemed tech media brand from Dow Jones and News Corp is tantalizing indeed. There is little precedent of which I'm aware in the mediasphere for such a secession. The only analogy I can think of is if Andrew Ross Sorkin's "DealBook" broke away from The New York Times.

I do not have first-hand knowledge of the economics of either AllThingsD or DealBook, but I do know that ATD's conferences are huge moneymakers for the franchise, and they alone could sustain it - with or without the heft of the Wall Street Journal behind it. I'd therefore find it hard to believe that The Journal, its parent Dow Jones, or its parent News Corp. would easily part with the AllThingsD franchise.  As Ms. Swisher noted during this latest Twitter flurry:
And if Mossberg-Swisher did prevail, they'd find themselves competing on the same plane with the likes of TechCrunch, PandoDaily, Mashable, BusinessInsider, GigaOm, The Verge, and too many others to mention. But then again, these are their competitors today.

Miley Cyrus’ Twerky PR Ploy


This post is by from The Flack


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Cyrus at VMAs (Photo: jeFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC)
In a cross between Elaine Benes dancing and Sydney Leathers doing whatever she does, Miley Cyrus suddenly resurrected her celebrity status at Thursday night's VMA Awards -- for better or worse. Ms. Cyrus's r̶a̶u̶n̶c̶h̶y̶ twerky performance shocked and awed her way back onto America's lips and fingertips, usurping Lady Gaga as the entertainer who'll do just about anything to gin up a little buzz.

Make no mistake about it. Ms. Cyrus's performance had nothing to do with elevating her artistry. Rather, it had everything to do with elevating her name in the headlines. It was choreographed solely for PR purposes in an effort to light up the Twitter and GIF-a-verse, not unlike the Real Housewives of New Jersey or Honey Boo Boo.

And what better narrative than the counterintuitive contrast between the wholesome Hannah Montana and the awkwardly gyrating Cyrus feigning getting butt-f***ed on stage as millions watched?

More than a few eyebrows were raised. Canada's National Post summed up the reactions pretty neatly in this round-up wherein, btw, they pointed out that Will Smith and family were actually reacting to Ms. Gaga's performance, not Ms. Cyrus's as the Twitterverse wrongfully streamcasted.

The biggest challenge we face today as marketing and brand communicators is how to break through the cacophony of mainstream and social media clutter.  Too much information from too many sources demands serious risk-taking.  The context and positioning of the brand has taken a back seat to nefarious schemes that win the affections of an all too complicit media.

How far does a public figure need to go to ensure media relevancy? Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber and many others behaving badly for the sake of their celebrity. Ironically, Brooke Shields, whose provocative nude photo shoot as a 13-year-old, cemented her celebrity status, called Ms. Cyrus's VMA performance "desperate." Hmmm.

The requirement to raise eyebrows is not relegated to the world of celebrity. Video producers of branded content know all too well what boundaries must be crossed to draw eyeballs and create buzz. A quick look at any of the Axe body spray ads on YouTube will give you a good idea. On the other hand, a brand like Oreo generated 4.8 million+ YouTube views for its cleverly executed video featuring a Rube Goldberg-like cookie separation machine.  And to think...no raunch needed.