Sunday, 26 October 2008

Links and the marketing of Darren Farley

This video of Scouser Darren Farley running through his LFC impressions, filmed by a mate on a mobile phone, went up on YouTube on 10 October 2008...

And within just 10 days this has happened...

Today, searching Google, the man is all over the web; from fan sites and bloggers, to the Post & Echo websites, Sky Sports and Radio 5 (where an upcoming interview with him is one of the homepage promos)... Frankly, Darren Farley is inescapable.

The interesting thing is, his star was rising to ascendancy before the media really picked up on him. The Post & Echo sites posted a video interview with him last Friday but it had taken all week to track him down and then find an opportunity where he was free. It shows just how much our online users can influence the content newspapers serve up for their readers.
Thousands of people have already watched him on YouTube, commented on his performance and even sent VT responses to him; they didn't need the media to point them at it.

I guess the Football Factor shouldn't be ignored in the rise and rise of Darren Farley - LFC is, after all, one of the biggest clubs in the world with an international army of fans - but the Magic of Linking would seem to be the real key to his success.
His YouTube video has been linked to from fan blogs, fan forums, fan websites, by YouTubers who favourited it, sent it on via Facebook et al...
The majority of those linking to it credit where they found the clip too.

How often do you hear the phrase 'the media built X up just to knock them down'? Now people can build their own icons (or individuals can build their own brands) without going near a corporate news outlet, whether newspaper, TV, radio or online. It's free and it's extremely easy.

People marketed the Darren Farley brand without him even having to ask them. He's clear that he wants his impressions to become a career, and by posting his video he got the greatest recruitment agency in the world acting on his behalf; the Web 2.0 collective.
It would have cost a fortune to market himself; if he'd rang Radio 5 and offered his services I'm betting the phone would have gone down within 30 seconds, now he's one of their 'must listen' interviews - thanks to the Internet community using links.

So, what does it mean for newspapers? For me, it underlines how imperative it is for journalists to use social media sites to spot trends and stories. Dipping into forums, using Twitter as a matter of course (not just when you're covering an event) and following blogs should be viewed as essential. I think reporters need to view it in the same light as they do the on-the-hour phone calls to the emergency services.
There are a wealth of stories on the web, we just need to know how to find them. And how to let other people find them for us.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Our own worst enemy?

Here are some cheery words for journalists, courtesy of Michael Wolff, founder of Newser: "The advice [to journalists] is probably not to get up for work today, sleep in and, you know, hope your retirement account will take care of you."

If I wasn't already downcast by that little spot of advice, these two overheard comments would have certainly done the trick:
1. "I don't get paid any more money for doing it" [ie: Why would I pass on information about a news-relevant YouTube video].
2. "Personally I think it's a bit much that we're having to learn to do this" [ie: Why must I learn how to upload a breaking news story to the web rather than have someone do it for me.]

This, to me, says more about how far we are from achieving that fabled goal of a multimedia newsroom than doomy articles on the 'Collapse of the Newspaper Industry'. It says that very people surrounded by industry changes are unable or unwilling to know which way the wind is blowing. They are like monks in a Scriptorium, painstakingly labouring away at their copying, all the while knowing that the abbot has bought one of those new-fangled printing presses.

I don't know if some in the industry are genuinely hostile to the prospect of change, or whether their fear of what it might mean manifests itself as hostility. I suspect for most it would be the latter explaination - but why would you compromise your career by baulking at opportunities to adapt?
As journalists we have been using tools for years. I had to learn shorthand for my job; on my first paper I took and developed my own photos. I have to say, acquiring those skills has never made me feel I was exploited by some Gradgrind-esque employer.

The ability to break stories online, create visuals and record interviews as podcasts is surely just an extension of said tools.
That's not to say I don't believe increasing skills should go unrewarded in terms of promotion or renumeration, I do. But I also think that, just as you would expect a paramedic to be trained the latest skills and familiar with the equipment he uses, a journalist should be familiar with the tools of story-telling, whether that's a Flip videocamera or knowledge of how to upload content.

If you want to be first, beat the competition, and simply work for the best, most successful news outlet (and why wouldn't you want your company to be successful; if not for the pride then at least for the job security?) you'd surely see the sense in grasping the nettle.

Perhaps the true litmus test of a multimedia newsroom would be for a reporter to feel the same pride in seeing their story ranked first by online reader hits as they would in getting the print splash. When someone congratulates a colleague for having a top show in the web stats, then maybe we can measure how the mindset is changing.

A final thought: The features team on a former paper of mine retired to the library with a couple of bottles of wine once a week, for a gentle afternoon of forward planning. The arrival of a new editor, filled with ideas for platforms, soon saw their workload upped to preclude the possibility of a booze-fuelled afternoon.
Today, the library where they once glugged their way through the latest fashion shoot ideas no longer exists; it's all automatically archived online. The features team, however, is still intact.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Blog comments can be the new 'Letters to the Editor'

The letters page of a daily newspaper is the most mixed of mixed bags.
Various papers I've worked for had different approaches to it; some banned 'round robin' type endorsement letters ostensibly written by celebs ('hello, I'm Gloria Hunniford and I'd like everyone from Southampton to get behind National Gut Week), others stuck them on the page with a murmur of relief that some of the gaping space had been filled.
Some resorted to getting staff to write letters when there weren't enough to fill a page and one (the South Wales Argus - take a bow for honesty, folks) only ran a letters page if there were enough local letters to fill one.

If a news story attracts maybe six letters we tend to see it as a major talking point; it merits follow ups and, sometimes, a letters page special. Then we're all very pleased about how we've engaged readers in debate.
So, if six letters mean a news story has engaged readers, what do we make of this blog post about Steve Coogan's 'woeful' show at the Echo Arena in Liverpool?

To say it's provoked debate is a serious understatement: 37 comments and counting on the blog; the online statistics show it's the most viewed news story on our site at the moment.
The post itself was run in the paper as a review, uploaded to the LDP website as a review and also placed on the Comedy Blog (with a cross-ref from the online review). It's a fascinating debate being held between readers, some of whom are responding to Vicky Anderson, some to each other. It's wonderful to see an article take on such a life and identity of its own.

And more than that, it's generating content for the newspaper too. After all, a great debate doesn't just have to exist online - we're taking it into print tomorrow, by reverse publishing the blog comments. We'll also be asking Mr Coogan for a response. Be interesting to see what, if anything, comes back from 'his people'...

The Coogan review is, as far as I'm concerned, important for a number of reasons:
1. It effectively puts paid to any argument that only people from outside the circulation area read newspaper's online sites. The comments here have been posted by local people who attended the show. Whether they enjoyed it or not, they are from our circulation area.

2. People want to interact through blogs. Would these posters have written a letter to the editor? I'm willing to bet not one of them would have put pen to paper (also, we received just two emailed responses). All the comments were posted directly onto the blog. Search analysis showed that people were actively looking for somewhere to comment - typical search terms were 'Coogan + review', which would indicate the blog post was being discussed and people were then going online to find it. I find that very interesting.

3. A blog post is potentially more valuable to users than stories that are seeded by newspapers on their forums in the hope of sparking debate. These posters could have gone to our online forum, but then they would have had to join, if they weren't already members, fill in the form and accept the verification email, start a topic and write an opinion. Here, they simply entered a conversation already initiated by the blog post.

4. Blogs can create content. We aren't reverse publishing these comments to fill space, we're sharing a conversation created by a review on a blog, and we are looking to move that debate on - not only have the comments themselves become a story, they also demonstrate the need for the subject (in this case Steve Coogan) to respond. Forums can work in the same way but the posts here, in the main, lend themselves to publication more readily.

It's got me wondering if we should try running a 'news' blog, with reporters posting versions of stories, along with their own observations. It would be interesting to see what sort of reaction we got from readers. Of course, such an action would also reopen the 'enabling comments under stories' debate, and all the associated legal discussions that surrounds that.
But newspapers are there to provoke debate; if readers demonstrate that they want to discuss stories and events on blogs, when surely our websites have to reflect that?

UPDATE: The Independent picked up on the Coogan blog row today; it's the p3 lead and the Editor's Choice online. The Daily Mail also reported it. While both saw fit to mention the debate was kicked off by a blog post, neither saw the need to link to it. How poor...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Web 2.0 and brands

Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library, gave a talk on Building Personal Brand Within the Social Media Landscape at the recent Web 2.0 Expo NY. He's a bit shrill at times but it's worth presevering I think.

Here are some of his points:

Becoming a brand

"The place where we play is very real and it is a massive opportunity. We are going through a gold rush of branding; in the old days to become a brand you needed a lot of mainstream media attention. But now, if you get talked about enough, on all these social webs and blogs, you can get there. You can build your company's brand."

Social media and brand equity
"When you have brand equity anything can happen. What is imperitive to me right now is using the tools. Lots of people say to me 'which tools should I use: Should I use Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku?'
"Which tools should I use? ALL of them. Your user-base, and the people that connect to you - you need to connect to them any way you can, everywhere you can, as often as you can. That is essential"

"Get out there and network. The only way to succeed now is to be completely transparent - completely. Everything is exposed, everything you do, so your legacy is your ultimate life. It’s all you got and you can build so much on that."

Anyway, the full talk is here. Newspaper people - journalists, advertising staff, marketing (particuarly marketing!) should pay attention to Garybecause the fundamental message that comes across is just how self-sufficient Web 2.0 allows everyone to be.
Scary stuff? Maybe I should have saved this post for Hallowe'en...

Saturday, 4 October 2008

New Dipity - me likee

While I was in New York my invite to preview the upcoming incarnation of Dipity dropped in the inbox. Which sorta killed me, as I wanted to start playing with it immediately - but I had Manhattan's shops all around me.
In the end Manhattan (and my marriage) won but now I'm back home I've had a chance to look around the new Dipity and I like it a lot - especially the extra embed options, the fact that it can display full screen, and the added services that can be fed into a timeline.
I also can't wait for the new Twitter feed to go live - that will be a great way to display a breaking news story.
So, while I start playing around with things (and I have big plans for Liverpool and Everton timelines this week) I've skivved off a proper blog update for a couple of days. Instead, here's a Dipity timeline (anonymous but not created by me) of the the Wall Street Crash. Take it from me, I didn't see a single stockbroker who appeared to be even considering tightening his or her (Gucci) belt.