Archive for September, 2009
Embargoes suck, we know. But they also “work” when companies are trying to raise awareness about some new product, service, etc. There are cases where no PR is needed, because the news is so big it’ll get written about by the mere fact it happens. But these incidents are extremely rare. The specific purpose of the embargo is to maximize the potential coverage, both by quantity and quality of outlet. Why? It’s a simple equation – more coverage equals more awareness equals more potential customers equals more actual customers equals more healthy business.
Also, in order to put one topic to bed, there is unquestionably a need for a quantity of outlets. There is no single blog or news organization whose content reaches the entire potential audience a company would like to get in front of. Further, as the “business of news” has become ridiculously competitive, many news outlets will simply not cover a topic if they are not one of the absolute first to do so (which isn’t exactly great for their readers, but that’s a different story).
So let’s envision what the world of news and content distribution might look like without any embargoes whatsoever. In this world, there are NO pre-briefings done, ever. A company has news, it can choose how to disseminate it (blog, press release, twitter, video, etc). Journalists pick up on stories through the medium(s) of their choosing, and write stories as they see fit. Please note there are quite a few generalizations here, and as such there are always exceptions.
Scenario 1: HUGE BREAKING IMPORTANT STORY (e.g. Steve Jobs sick, Microsoft buys Yahoo, Twitter is down, etc)
In this case, it’s fairly likely that the news will propagate to a lot of outlets. When the content is “too big to ignore” it will get lots and lots of coverage. Note that these types of events rarely have embargoes today anyway, since it’s hard to contain/control something that’s quite so widespread.
This is a win for journalists, the company with the news, and readers all of whom get what they want out of the picture.
Scenario 2: Medium-sized news (e.g. new startup launches something interesting/innovative, new features added to existing popular site/service, Twitter is down, etc) – released by blog post (or press release). A list of selected media/journalists are also emailed about the news at the moment it is released.
Here we have a classic race situation. Those who can post fastest will do so (let’s assume 1-3 “newsbreakers” cover it), and likely with the least amount of added thought/perspective. As a result of the initial coverage, no other “newsbreaker” sites write it up (“it’s already on XXX, so we’re going to skip”). Later in the day a few more pieces are added, with some additional perspective or insight on the topic. Also, some of the initial sites’ stories are updated to include additional commentary. On rare occasion, the topic is interesting enough to get additional coverage, but for the most part it’s hit-and-run, and fades out of memory rapidly.
This is a loss for journalists (more on this in a second), the company with the news, and readers (who will be less likely to find out about new things because their news outlets of choice become less likely to cover it).
Incidentally, this is probably the primary area where embargoes are used today, as they effectively help get wider coverage for the same content, not to mention deeper thought/investigation into the topic. Due to the desire to be “first”, however, journalists simply don’t have the incentive to write more in-depth pieces (much to their chagrin, for the most part). I’d also assume that this world would create even MORE unwanted email flooding journalists’ inboxes, as the mass of PR people have virtually no other mechanism of bringing stories to their attention.
Scenario 3: Same as above, but nobody is emailed about the news, it’s only released via blog/PR/twitter/etc, and anyone who “wants to find it” can do so.
This is the ultimate “free for all” that many new media people seem to be in love with, at least in theory. Here the burden is now on the journalists to track companies they are interested in. The fundamental issue here is the natural bias (people write about content/companies they like) which develops. Further, startups who aren’t “connected” in some way have even more trouble of getting awareness about their new venture.
This is a major loss for everyone involved, other than those who are “in” and benefit even more from having connections. Overall, less people write about less varied things, and less readers find out about less stuff.
Ultimately I keep hearing anecdotally how bloggers and other media would like to have things simply be open and freeform in this manner (get some sleep MG!!!), but in practice it seems utterly contradictory. It seems understated when I say there’s already a tremendous amount of noise out there, and I fundamentally believe that it’s the relationships built between media and quality PR folks that helps create signal out of noise.
Scenario 4: Minor news (e.g. unimportant hiring, minor technology improvement, Twitter is down, etc)
I see this playing out per #2/3 above, except with almost no coverage happening whatsoever. This is the area where I think getting rid of embargoes is probably beneficial, as it will help naturally weed out this kind of fluff and nonsense. Companies and their PR teams will have to stop with the old-school mentality of issuing press releases for the sake of issuing press releases.
This is a win mostly for readers, as journalists will still get spammed (in the short term), and companies will actually need to dig deeper into the strategy bucket than they have in the past (which is, of course, a long term good thing).
Other thought on the topic: The In Crowd gets In-ner
Let’s face it, there’s most certainly a “who do you know?” effect present in the high-tech industry, be it for deal-making, venture capital, press coverage, or all of the above. While it is very possible to insert new companies and people into these circles, it’s harder than ever to build something without some degree of connectivity. And as much as most of the people would very much like to meet new folks (I sincerely believe it is a set of extremely welcoming communities), the fact of the matter is people are just plain busy. If you aren’t lucky enough to bump into someone at a meetup or event or other random activity, it can be a big uphill battle to get any attention. By removing the ability for “new players” to work with connectors at PR firms efficiently,they will inherently have more trouble gaining any attention (and the “meh” startups from “connected” people will unfortunately gain far more attention than they truly merit). One of my greatest concerns over any concept of removing embargoes, PR teams, etc, is that I think it will ultimately hurt “the little guys” much more than anyone else.
I’m sure I’m missing a few scenarios and possibilities out there, but as far as I can see it, the relationship between companies (big and small), PR teams (internal or external), journalists, and readers is supposed to be a healthy one (we shouldn’t need Robert’s list of tricks!). Any time one of those groups makes moves to hurt the others, it ultimately hurts the system itself. And the system as we have it today could definitely use some improvement, but I’d rather see the energy spent on improving the checks & balances and accountability structure. It’s not specifically the embargo process that needs work, it’s a broader approach to how we think about the ethics and responsibility people throughout the industry should employ. Whether it’s little blogs or huge outlets, PR firms or internal teams, everyone has a responsibility of playing by some system of rules.
Today 12seconds.tv launched an exciting new iPhone app, the 12mail Video Messenger. This app lets you send short video messages to friends from your iPhone, and it uses push notifications to alert friends that they’ve received a new video. There’s a couple things about this app that we think makes it special:
- 12mail video messaging is a new type of communication – basically you can send short video messages back and forth to your friends. It’s sort of in-between voicemail, email, Twitter, Youtube, MMS and Facebook, amalgamating a bunch of different types of communication into a new medium
- It runs on the iPhone, a device which has become a class unto itself in terms of mobile computing
- 12mail leverages your personal networks on Facebook and Twitter for your contact list – you can send private video messages to Twitter contacts (they show up as DM’s) and public video messages to specific friends (which show up as wall posts)
This app launch was what inspired last months post about promoting iPhone app launches, and the idea of using a “floating embargo.” At 4AM this morning I received word that the app was live in the app store, and sent a message to all the press and bloggers who were interested in the news to give them the “all clear.” Not my optimal sleep schedule, but if the press are willing to work with us then we need to be willing to update them accurately and tell them in real time when the embargo lifts.
In the course of outreach, nearly everyone I spoke with was very understanding about the floating deadline, and very willing to work with us. Maybe the frustrating and arbitrary policies Apple has instituted have an unexpected bonding effect, bringing people together in the face of this particular adversity.
In any case, coverage has been relatively strong this morning. The normal fixed embargo generally results in a big rush of coverage all coming at once. I think today will be different, and we will see coverage occur on a more random schedule, as people are able to fit it into their day. We will update the list as we see things come in.
Twones, one of the coolest music services on the web, launched their private Beta today, capping off a year of hard work by their founders Tim Heineke and Diederik Martens and the Twones Amersdam-based team.
What started as a simple concept, allowing music lovers to track the music they play around the web or on their computers and tie it all back to one spot, has grown into a site that we think will become the go-to spot for music lovers to connect to all of the hottest music on the web.
The idea of media “ownership” is a thing of the past. Music is all over the web, spinning and being shared constantly by people just like you. Whether you spin Last.fm, imeem, HypeM, MySpace, or any of the many music services out there to discover new artists and tracks, you are consuming more music in a day than you can possibly remember. Twones solves that problem with a simple browser add-on that tracks your music and stores it in your Twones library.
Once you hit “play”, Twones gives you all of the information you could hope to find about an artist: Wikipedia bios, similar artists, Flickr pictures, YouTube videos, Twitter buzz – even upcoming concert dates!
Below are some of the blog posts and coverage from the launch. We’ll update the list throughout the day.
We’ve talked about it for a while, but here’s the first official Webinar with yours truly at the helm, along with my colleague Ari Newman of Filtrbox.
When everyone’s a twitter about social media, how do companies adjust to the changing role of marketing in an era of social media vs. traditional marketing, interactive vs. traditional media, and real time consumer feedback? Does your company need to have a presence on Facebook? Should you be hiring someone to Twitter instead of using direct mail – or should you use both? Although some companies have embraced social media marketing very successfully many are still wondering where to even start, and how to integrate into existing programs.
Join us on September 18th at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT for a complimentary webinar— as they discuss how social media marketing and traditional marketing integrate, how your company can leverage social media, along with best practices, how to listen, monitor, engage and interact, with highlights of specific case studies.
During our 60 minute seminar you will learn how to build a basic framework for social media activities within your organization, as well as:
· The evolution of marketing
· Traditional marketing vs. Social media marketing
· Looking ahead – blending social and traditional marketing
· How do we get there?
· Listening, monitoring, engaging
· Everyone doesn’t need a Facebook page
· Opt in via Twitter: is Twitter the new Direct Mail?
· Micro Blogs
· Best practices
· The case studies
Since their launch on the noisy showfloor of CES this year, Cloud Engines is known for being a different kind of company. Despite being one of the few hardware start-ups out there, Pogoplug has always looked for ways to shake things up in the way they do business. True to form, today the firm announced a partnership with Seagate that uses Pogoplug’s award-winning service to power their new network adapter, the FreeAgent DockStar. This product brings Seagate DockStar owners the cloud-like functionality and simple sharing that has gained Pogoplug widespread acclaim from industry press and analysts alike. With plans to continue marketing itself as both a device and a service, we want to say Congratulations to Cloud Engines for breaking the mold once again.
Pogoplug also introduced several impressive new social features today that make sharing on social networks easier and more fun. Pogoplug now publishes shares to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, letting friends and followers see shared folders without long download times or size limitations. With RSS and email sharing as existing option for sharing, these additional sharing options give users a customizable experience for sharing their memories with friends and family. Below are some of the blog posts and coverage from these announcements:
Well, VUDU has done it again. I know we’re biased (being that they’re our client and all) but we’re very excited about what they’re doing. Last week we had a couple of announcements for VUDU (all with accompanying press releases) regarding the launch of VUDU on broadband HDTVs from both LG and Mitsubishi. Today they’re announcing the launch of VUDU on the LG Network Blu-ray player, the BD390. This player is pretty awesome, and has an amazingly positive review over at CNET. VUDU clearly saddled up with a winning a horse.
This is a big deal for VUDU because it’s a clear demonstration of their intent to spread VUDU all over the living room. VUDU provides brand new Hollywood titles in 1080p picture quality, and with 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, with no monthly subscription required. This quality of service should be available on as many devices as possible, to provide everybody access to the best HD movie streaming service in the world. If there’s a device in the living that connects to the Internet and is capable of streaming HD movies, it should have VUDU on it.
In terms of timing for press announcements, 3PM EST on a Wednesday after a 3 day weekend is not generally ideal. Add to that the fact that media darling Apple Inc. has a huge event today, and this looks like a definitely sub-optimal time for an awesome announcement. However, CEDIA also starts today (or at least media briefings do) and so we are making the best of some challenging timing. The media response has been pretty darn good, all things considered, and coverage looks pretty decent. Below are some of the posts coming out re. VUDU on the BD390.
VUDU has had a busy week. On Tuesday their partnership with LG (announced last month in New York) became a full-fledged reality as LG broadband HDTV owners got a software update on their televisions. This update loaded the VUDU streaming movie service onto their sets (inside the Netcast Entertainment Center). Now the owners of LG HDTV plasmas and LCDs can rent or buy HD movies in full 1080p with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound in a direct stream through their television. No box, no wires, no disc – just a television, a remote control, and a comfy couch. Well done VUDU and well done LG.
To add even more glory to a terrific week, VUDU also announced a new deal with Mitsubishi. Diamond Unisen televisions (the cool ones with an integrated sound bar) will ship with VUDU integrated in the television. This marks deals with 2 different consumer electronics manufacturers in as many months – 2 of the largest CE companies in the world too. Again, VUDU… well done.
Today’s announcement with Mitsubishi has enjoyed some traction in the press. The release went out via PR Newswire, and you can read some of the coverage below.
By now we have all heard the horror stories of developers waiting for the iPhone App store to give approval for their apps. Apple’s basic philosophy in approving apps seems to be “we’ll get to it when we get to it.” The same applies to app updates, leaving many a developer and their users stranded like a cat on a raft for weeks.
So, then, how do you promote an iPhone app release when you can’t know when an app will go live in the store? There are a few strategies:
1.) Make a firm embargo. You will get an email from Apple when your app is ready, and you have the option to take it down, out of the app store. As soon as your app is approved, yank it down, and then start your outreach with a firm embargo specified for the press. This makes for a level playing field, since everyone knows when the story is a go. However, Apple still doesn’t give you a specific time when your app will reappear. This means that even though you specify “Tuesday at 9AM PST” for the embargo, the app might not reappear precisely at 9AM Tuesday. This will result in fewer people being able to download the app spontaneously, right after reading about the cool new thing.
And there’s a worse possibility too. The app could appear at 7AM instead of 9AM. This means that any press watching the app store have no reason to hold the embargo any longer, since it’s now in the public domain. And once someone breaks embargo, it’s anyone’s guess who will still cover. Strategies on how best to communicate and manage a broken embargo are best left for another post.
Option #1 will probably secure more press coverage, but you risk most of the readers not having the opportunity to download the app. You get buzz, but a lower buzz to download ratio.
2.) Give a “floating” embargo. Pitch your story while awaiting approval, but ask the bloggers not to go live with a story until they get the signal from you that the app is up. This strategy avoids missing downloads from eager readers, but selling the concept might be difficult. Even if you get an agreement, there is the risk of a blogger breaking the embargo causing other blogs to forego the story. Also, some writers require editor approval; editors who may frown on a floating embargo. Not to mention a blogger could forget about your story in the swell of other stories between your pitch and the app going live. They are busy people, after all.
The floating embargo is tricky, especially if you’re pitching writers with whom you don’t have a trust relationship. So far, we have gotten a positive response from a few bloggers to a floating embargo, but these are writers we know well and who rely on us to dish them good news and maintain fair embargoes (in so far as we can control them).
If buzz is your biggest goal, a firm embargo is your best shot, as you are likely to get more publications on board. If you are going for more downloads, you need to make sure your app is ready to go, in which case a floating embargo might be worth the chance. Your strategy will be determined by the type of app you are promoting, how much buzz you’ve already gotten and who your contacts are.