Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Blogging Internships

The Terpin Group - an LA / SF based public relations firm is looking for ... blogging interns!

For a company that spawned InternetWire - wrap your mind around that conflict of interest - it's funny that they would need to bring in someone with HTML experience.

But the part that really worries me is what are they going to have an intern blog about? Is he/she going to blog about his/her internship at Terpin, or about Terpin in general? Or, are they going to break the cardinal rule in public relations blogging, and blog for clients? All the PR blogs of late have taken a stance that this is going to happen in our industry - PR firms jump on the latest technology bandwagon, and that blogging is going to become a vast wasteland of bad pitches, self promotion, etc.

Now, in the past, there have been bloggers that have invited guest bloggers to participate. One such blog was PR Machine, and I commend Robb for doing that. It is a great idea, he's getting different opinions on the state of public relations on his blog, although I need to find out if others took him up on the offer. His idea is not too different than the recent Global PR Blog Week, with probably a bit less self promotion.

But, to have a firm actively looking for an intern to blog, you have to wonder what the ulterior motives are, if any.

The Publicists' / Assistants' Revenge

Da Ali G Show is a comedy interview show on HBO. Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedian/actor, plays these different parts and then interviews people in a combination of British English, rap slang, and his own slang. The show has been on HBO for a couple of years, and there was some buzz about Ali G last year that has built up moreso this year.

Then, how do explain assistants and publicists still booking their clients and bosses on the show?

My only answer - revenge. Publicists and assistants are supposed to be plugged into modern culture, into what's new and hip. They know Ali G. They know his show. They know what goes on.

So, maybe it's a karmic revenge for how celebrities treat the assistants and publicists.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Hello, my name is Jeremy P, and I'm pro-Blogversations

Yes, you read that right. I'm probably the only PR blogger that is pro-Blogversations. Well, maybe pro is not the correct term, but I do not think Blogversations is the end-all be-all to public relations, marketing, advertising and the blogosphere, but rather the maturing nature of the blogosphere, and a natural growth of what public relations can do with technology.

Yes, it's a natural extension of what public relations can, and will, do. And, it's nothing different than what has been done in the past by public relations professionals and by journalists.

How many PR people have done a Satellite Media Tour (SMT) with a host? SMTs are delivered to morning news shows without nary a word that all those products paid to be included. Last year, Dan Gillmor had a snit about a toy specialist that had a holiday gift SMT, and I blogged that the whole issues was overblown.

How many PR people have done a Video News Release (VNR)? Does our industry have such a short memory that we don't remember the brouhaha over the Karen Ryan VNR, and how the industry more or less abandoned her? VNRs are a part of television media relations. We send them out to television stations, the producers run the spots if they need to fill the time. We have all used VNRs, and will continue to use VNRs.

How many PR people have used NAPS? I love NAPS and use them for appropriate clients all the time. It's a great way to get your client's message to small and mid-sized newspapers across the country - papers that would be near impossible to find and pitch to - and your client gets a wonderful article and placement. The PR firm writes the full article, the NAPS editors edits and make it more newsworthy, and then the story is available for a year. And, since the downturn in journalism and the smaller staffs, larger and larger newspapers are using NAPS to fill space in the lifestyles sections.

Take a step back - how much different is Blogversations than NAPS, or VNRs or SMTs? The PR industry can take a three blind mice approach to Blogversations, but I would rather keep an eye on the company, see what goes on, and see how it's done. And, more importantly, what competition is using Blogversations.

Many different public relations, marcom and publishing blogs have written on Blogversations, and have mostly taken the position that its a bad, bad thing. And, Wired has an okay article on Blogversations as a service that mixes ads in blog chatter

Granted, I have many, many doubts about the company itself. I don't trust a company that registers all their domains with Domains by Proxy, an anonymous registration service from Go Daddy. Interestingly enough, Domains by Proxy tends to be used by porn sites, so draw your own fun conclusion there.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Joys of Custom Publishing

Catching up on my reading, I caught a story on H&M putting out a custom-published magazine that will be distributed to 20 countries in five languages.

Great idea, although I am looking for the original press release. The article in Fashion Weekly Daily notes that the publication will be bi-yearly. Um, that means every-other-year, which would be a dumb custom magazine strategy. My guess is that the reporter fell into the bi-mistake, not realizing it means every other, not twice.

I'm a very, very big fan of custom publishing, but it amazes me how few companies grasp the idea. I currently work with a marketing firm, and during a brainstorm session I noted that a client would be better served by taking some of its advertising budget to create a custom published magazine. Recently P&G did the exact same thing in the UK - cut advertising, and put the money into a new magazine called Mustard, which is all P&G product oriented.

It's just something that PR people need to keep in mind. With Jack O'Dwyer's recent piece on marketing communications growth at the expense of PR, we need to think like marketing people (yes, like the old Dilbert joke, just get drunk), and be able to provide expanded services to clients. Like, custom publishing - if you are thinking about custom-publishing, I suggest McMurry in Phoenix. They have a total turnkey solution - articles and ad-sales - and the editor-in-chief of their magazine division is an editor that I used to work with, whom I respect quite a bit.

PR Commentary: PR Shifts Toward Marketing

I loved the old EF Hutton commercials - when EF Hutton talks, people listen. When I was 9 years old, I played on the Stompers soccer team, sponsored by EF Hutton. The sweatshirts said: when the Stompers play, EF Hutton watches. It was cute, and a nice play on their brand. Okay, the Stompers part of the story has no bearing, but it's nice.

Just like EF Hutton, when Jack O'Dwyer speaks, the PR industry should listen. And, do more than listen - they should take note, and take heed of what he has to say.

In a recent piece on the O'Dwyer site, Jack wrote about the emergence of marketing communications, and that PR needs to adjust(the title of this post is his title from the Website). Since his site is a pay site - and I strongly suggest that if you are in PR, you subscribe to his Website or the newsletter (let them know I sent you) - I am pasting the whole article.

Marketing communications is what clients want and what PR firms should also offer. We're starting a marcom area of this website that will list marcom firms and discuss marcom topics. Firms that position themselves as exclusively or mostly marcom will draw more clients than those that don't.

A goal of PR for many years was to take command of all communications functions, including advertising and marketing.

It didn't happen.

It's far more common these days for PR to report to marketing than vice versa.

In fact, marketing and sales people are flooding into PR, taking many of the top spots and enforcing their agendas.

The term "PR" is almost unheard of in corporate circles.

The shift from PR began at least 30 years ago and has gotten to the point where only seven of the 197 members of PR Seminar use that term in their titles.

This blue-chip corporate group favors "corporate communications" or "communications." These titles are used by 102 of the 197.

"Marketing" is the second most popular term, used in a dozen instances, usually with another term such as communications. Corporate affairs is a poor third with only eight execs using it.

It's about time "PR" firms got on the same page as their clients.

Clients Have a Crisis-Not Enough Sales
Marketing means sales and that's what's on the minds of CEOs these days.

They don't have time for long-range programs that may or may not produce "good will" for the company or win third party endorsements.

They don't have the time or money for "crisis" PR plans for some crisis that may or may not happen.

They're already in a crisis–not enough sales.

The typical promise of PR firms some years ago was that, "You'll hate us for the first six months but love us for the next six months."

PR pros knew it took that long to build the right press relationships and work with the long lead-times of publications. TV/radio PR could be quicker but was also very difficult.

CEOs and their sales departments don't have that six months to play around with anymore.

Marcom Is More Immediate, Practical
PR is identified with longterm, image-molding activities. Marketing communications is identified with sales and activities that can have an immediate impact on sales.

There are numerous things that a marcom firm can do immediately that can help a company in all its communications.

It can assess the quality of all written and electronic communications. It can create or improve the company's website, putting fresh editorial material on the site to win continuing readership.

It can work closely with the marketing and sales departments in finding new markets.

It can create events, affiliations, contests, and other vehicles to draw attention to the company. It can suggest sponsorships.

The emphasis is on the immediate and the practical. Marcom pros speak the language of sales and marketing including such terms as "branding," "brand-centric cultures," "niche markets," "changing channels," "affinity markets," "touchpoints," etc.

Marcom people are quick studies. They come in, make suggestions, and leave to make more plans. They're task-oriented rather than hourly billing-oriented. They talk about things they're going to do, not how many hours it takes.

PR pros who want to switch to marcom should join the local chapter of the American Marketing Assn. or at least take part in its activities. They should read the literature of marketing in order to be able to relate to marketing and sales people. Joining the local Chamber of Commerce is a good bet.

There's no such thing as the Marketing Communications Society of America
but there should be.

We believe an O'Dwyer's Directory of Marketing Communications Firms will attract more clients to the listed firms than the current O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms that we have published for 35 years.

Ad Agencies Moving into Marcom
Ad agencies, many of which have only the barest, if any, PR capabilities, are moving into marcom, urged in that direction by the ad trade publication Advertising Age.

Ad Age editorialized Aug. 9 that "Agencies Cannot Live on Ads Alone," telling them to combat the image that they are just "ad factories."

It told the agencies to stop focusing on ads and to embrace the range of communications tools that are now available.

In other words, Ad Age wants ad agencies to move into some of the areas that PR has claimed as its own including detailed exposition of subject matter. PR must move first.

PR excels at editorial-level materials while ad agencies excel at grabbing the momentary attention of target audiences by using a range of creative devices.

PR firms must do more than just say, "We do marketing communications, too." They should identify themselves as marcom agencies right off the bat, eliminating ambiguity. They can't sit around while ad agencies move into their territory.

"PR" mostly means press relations. It's identified with spin and manipulation of images. The term has acquired a lot of negative baggage over the years. It's time for PR to be a subset of what a marcom agency does.

Recently, on a Yahoo! Group that I belong to, someone posted a question: how do you define marketing communications? From what Jack wrote, I simply answered: Marketing Communications is the merging of public relations, advertising and marketing to create salient messaging points that can be used in all materials, ranging from sales brochures to media outreach to ad campaigns, that help meet and beat the sales goals of the company.

It's something that we should think about. In the meantime, though, I'll keep the name POP! Public Relations. It's just too cool not to. Come on, POP! Marketing Communications doesn't have the same whiz bang zoom quality.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Vaporware ... the word you never want to read

In the widely read, highly influential Paid Content, Rafat Ali takes a swipe at Netflix with his take on the recent WSJ story on "downloading films" with a succinct comment: Netflix Touts Vaporware Service, Again.

Vaporware. It's a term you never want to read about your own company, or a product from your company or client. Or, it's that nagging feeling you have in the back of your head while your client is on an analyst call, and they talk about a future product that you are not sure is even feasible, but they keep talking about it.

What can a public relations person do in a situation like this? Sometimes, nothing. Sometimes, if the client will not heed your counsel, you need to let out a little bit of rope and let them choke somewhat, because many companies do not realize that announcing vaporware is more dangerous than having a product slip. At least with a slipping product, you have a product that is in development. With vaporware ... you have nothing. Well, actually, you have less than nothing because you have shown your hand to your competitors, so they know what is coming next. And, I've been part of a team that has smelled blood from a vaporware announcement, and used the information to make the product a non-issue.

If this is really vaporware from Netflix, it appears that they are announcing the downloading movies option to take the wind out of the sails of Walmart and Blockbuster, two powerhouses that have entered the DVD by mail rental business. Does this mean that Netflix is running scared, despite some bravado? Possibly, but it also is likely that it is part of a strategy to show that the company is not dependent on just DVD by mail rentals.

Is it a good idea? Well, the bigger question is if there is a market for downloading movies (legally, natch), and if Netflix can position the company as the leader in that space. While it is a good idea to have the product on the timeline, I wonder if it was a good idea to announce it. Why not announce game rentals, like Gamefly, another natural extension of the Netflix business. Or, why not expand into adult films, as has been suggested in other articles on Netflix? Blockbuster and Walmart are family-friendly institutions, where you cannot even rent NC-17 films - there's a niche that isn't being filled right now by the market, and Netflix could easily slide into the market.

So, beware of vaporware. Counsel, advise, but know that your client or company is going to want to go out with the information anyway, and that PR will be blamed when it backfires.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Shop Etc Launches its WebSite

Okay, all in all that shouldn't be a surprise. Hearst launches a magazine, Shop Etc., and launches a Web site that coincides with the magazine.

But, it is a big deal if you check out the Website, and think about Shop Etc's market - a fashion, home and beauty shopping title that competes with Lucky and is targeting women aged 25 to 35.

The site has XML feeds throughout, a blog from the editors on shopping-related issues, that also has an XML feed (as well as a feed to email).

To me, this is more of an RSS push into the mainstream than a lot of other things touted in the blogosphere. With a very, very mainstream publication like Shop, Etc using XML feeds throughout its site to keep its readers up-to-date on all that's new on the Website, this will help push readers into a more mainstream position (and, probably, start the whole RSS name debate again).

A big thumbs up from POP! for Hearst on this one.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Scoop - a new News tracking service

From PaidContent today comes news of Scoop.

News clipping has to be one of the more time intensive aspects of public relations, but since my intern days, it has become a lot easier.

There are already a ton of great services out there - for the free services, I use Google News, MSN's Newsbot, and Topix, and then I use Factiva for the deeper searches that I know I won't find on the Web searches. And, yes, there's eWatch and Newsprompt from PR Newswire and Lexis-Nexis out there as well, as well as other services that I haven't come across yet (feel free to add such services to the comments).

So, to me, another new News aggregator that is specifically designed for sales, marketing, and communications is a great addition to go along with the other services POP! PR uses in an every day clippings.

One big problem that I have with Scoop, though, was the credit card requirement for a guest pass. It's not much of a guest pass if you have to hand over credit card information, which is automatically billed after the trial period - what, is Scoop a dating site?

Now, I was going to try out the system for POP! Public Relations and some of its clients, but now I will stick with my old fallbacks.

Lizzie's PoweR Girls

From today's MediaDaily News, Lizzie Grumbman becomes MTV's Latest Reality Catch.

As with all MTV "reality" shows, the content will likely be heavily edited to show the worst side of public relations and publicity, and make the industry seem vapid and only about parties / star gazing.

Hopefully, Ms. Grubman will have some pull with the show, and it won't be another Bunim-Murray gorefest.

All in all, though, this is not a great thing for the industry. But, it will be a fun show to watch, or at least a good freakshow to watch.

Gawker's new gossip mistress, Jessica Coen, has her own take on the Lizzie MTV show here, and the always fun NY Post covers the story as Liz Biz.

Others blogging on Lizzie include PR Machine.

And, for anyone that wants to see all my Lizzie love, here you go

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Coursey Gets It

David Coursey has always been a technical pundit. He's been around the block for years, is a "veteran industry-watcher" and has always had his finger on the pulse of the tech industry.

His latest blog posting is: Bozo-ism at Google.

'Nuff said.

Brand Extensions - 7Up

From Popgadget: Personal Tech for Women comes a nifty little piece on 7Up and its brand extension with 7Up Plus, a healthier alternative to original 7Up in mixed berry.

It's also pink, as you can see in the article.

On the brand extension scale, this to me is in the middle, like maybe a 7/10, partly because I have my doubts about the taste of the new 7Up Plus, plus the desire for a fruit juice carbonated drink. Plus, if you look at the overall soft drink industry, pop brand extensions seem to have some spectacular hit or miss ratios. Some are great like Vanilla Coke, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew Red Zone (or whatever it was called), while others are monumental freak-zone failures, like Pepsi Clear and New Coke.

More Fun with Brand Extensions!!

In what is going to become an ongoing series of interesting, fun or cool brand extensions, Hooters hotel coming to Las Vegas!!

So many thoughts, but my first was that this is a brilliant idea for Hooters and that the casino/hotel will become a defacto choice for bachelor parties with a Vegas destination. The only problem that I foresee is that the San Remo is off the strip.

My second thought ... how would you like to be that executive that puts down "Hooters Hotel" for his expense report for the next trade show?

Kudos to Hooters. Good idea, although I admit that the one time I was in a Hooters restaurant, I felt dirty and embarassed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

IPG Rumor Mill

From various industry sources - and then scouring the message boards - it looks like IPG is about to hit that very special number in its stock price of $10 / share.

Well, the rumor is that when IPG hits that target, the company will look more attractive split up than kept as one company. You know - the pieces are worth more than the whole type situation.

Woohoo! I still have some IPG stock somewhere, from my Shandwick days.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Signs of the Apocalypse

Red Herring relaunches as a weekly.

Or, should I say weakly. Fits very well into the whole Return of Hype, and the dot-com mentality that seems to be returning to the Valley.

The FH Emperor Has No Clothes

In a bit of fun irony, or at least fun irony to me, Fleishman Hillard opens a boutique shop in Dallas.

The BC Team Posted by Hello

Why is this funny? To me, it's FH turning its back on being one of the largest conglomerate, not independent firms in the country. Plus, they already have a boutique firm that has an office in Austin, and could have just as easily opened a Dallas office (that would have nicely complemented the FH Dallas office already there - Lois Paul and Partners - unless the powers that be at FH didn't feel like the LPP name had enough street credentials to do what was needed in Dallas. Or, I guess they could have resurrected the UpStart Communications name, but that would have opened some bad wounds regarding age discrimination lawsuits in SF (oops, did I type that?)

The only reason that I can figure out that FH is starting BlueCurrent is because they are reading my blog, and saw the wonderful benefits of opening a boutique. Or, to be serious for a second, they have a conflicting potential client in Dallas, and to be able to service both ... they started a boutique. Or, I have to read between the lines a little bit and see that the two principals of the agency are former FH partners, and FH is giving them their own firm to keep them quiet, or at the least happy.

I am going to bet that BlueCurrent doesn't stick around longer than a year. Just a hunch.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Google Frightens Me

And, if you are in public relations, it should frighten you as well.

Why? Because it's the rebirth of the dot-com era, which hurt public relations in such a way that we are still recovering from it (okay, it's been brought to my attention that still recovering might be wrong - it might be that we we are still trying to crawl out from underneath the mess). The Google IPO will set back the industry a year, at the least.

Here are just 4 reasons that the Google IPO frightens me, and should worry the industry.

  1. Google's IPO will bring their market valuation on-par with Sony, higher than Yahoo!. Stop and think about that for one second - a company with one revenue stream (paid advertisements) going for $100+ a share, when it should really be a $20 a share stock - and that will be worth more than Sony, a company with products.
  2. The company does not value public relations. From sources, I am told that the person in charge of PR was a former blogger / online journalist. Stop and think about that. How many journalists do you know that could do the jump to PR, let alone a blogger?
  3. Jonestown. Google is another Jonestown, but the people will not die, just go down in flames. When a company consistently pushes against hiring an IR firm or a PR firm, they'll most likely drown on their own Kool Aid. Unless there is a voice of reason within the company - something that I doubt - Google is going to believe it's own press. Actually, that's too late, because it already does.
  4. The Google internal PR team mishandles issues, or has relatively arbitrary reasons on how they handle issues. Two more prominent examples include the Jew / Google incident and Mailer-esque about this (overblowing issues, as my old boss said I liked to do at times).

However, I do think that the hype that is being built up over this IPO will hurt technology PR for the long-term. As I noted above, our industry is just overcoming the damage it did to itself during the dot-com era; blame should be passed all around - VCs, dot-com PR boutiques, dot-com journalists - but PR took the brunt of the downfall.

If, as an industry, we don't try to bring some balance to hyped stories, we are as responsible for the downfall of our industry as anyone else.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Thinking of XMas ... at 110°F

It's August. It's 106°F outside right now, and this weekend it will probably get up to 110°F.

And yet, I'm thinking about Christmas and the Holiday Gift guide season. I'm thinking XMas in July, although I am actually a month too late and am starting in August (although that's okay, really, it is).

If you pitch consumer goods, consumer electronics or fashion, you know what I am talking about . We're already pulling together the XMas press release, getting it approved, and then starting to email and fax pitches with the de rigueur phone follow-up.

And, I haven't even started about the "let's make life for the interns hell" part of the process. That's going through Bacon's or Media Map, finding target publications for the gifts, and then calling the editorial assistant and then asking who the right contact is for holiday gift guides, then writing it down and putting it together in a nice Excel document. Yes, that was my job as an intern, and now I get to make someone else's life hell.

Or not. Figuring out the hours it takes to put together an Xmas gift list, it really makes more sense for a boutique like mine to outsource this type of stuff.

No, not to India, but to The Gift List.

Posted by Hello

It’s a great program that I used last year, and POP! Public Relations will be getting it again this year for a couple clients.

If you call Amy, let her know I sent you ;-)

Penguin Publishing, Lawyers and Fun

I read this story earlier this week in The Register, and have been mulling it over how to blog about it. There are many sides of the story, and it's a story that needs to be handled in a sensitive manner. So, here it goes.

The story is as follows: Penguin publishes a book titled Katie.com which is about a 13-year old girl that was preyed upon by an older man she met online. It's a very serious topic, parents need to pay more attention to what is going on with their children when they are online, and yes, there are predators out there.

Problem is that Katie.com is owned by someone else, and has been before the book was published. The young woman who wrote the book has her own Website at KatieT.com.

Katie T has expanded from beyond the book, and will be launching school courses (all a very good thing). But, the business is expanding by using the Katie.com name (not a very good thing).

The story has been getting big publicity in Slashdot here and here, with various reports that an attorney had misrepresented herself, then more or less threatened Katie to hand over her domain name, as noted in this interview.

Penguin, coming to its senses, today announced that they are changing the name of the book in a press release (warning, it's a PDF).

What turned into a public relations disaster could have been a non-issue, if the original publisher had gone with a different title, or at least with KatieT.com as the title of the book. Instead, the Register grabbed onto the story, then the blogosphere jumped on it, then the Slashdot folks went nuts, and then ... well, then the attorney acted like an attorney and really messed things up.

There are lessons here: The little person can take on a corporation. Information spreads faster nowadays with the Internet and blogs. Public Relations is more than just media relations - it's community relations, and if you offend the community's senses, things can quickly go downhill.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Creamer leaves PR Week ... here's the ad to replace him

According to O'Dwyer PR:

Matthew Creamer, an associate editor at PR Week in New York, where he covers the media beat and writes a column called "Media Brands," is joining Advertising Age.

Want to replace him? On a guess, this is the anonymous job posting to go work at PRW!

The problem in offshoring

In today's InfoWorld is a very interesting article on offshoring, and specifically the problems with offshoring to India. Those pesky lack of laws can get in the way sometimes.

According to the report obtained from the Indian branch, Sudha Iyer, a recently hired 25-year-old female software engineer and resident of Jogeshwari, Mumbai, carried out the theft. Iyer used her Yahoo email account, which now allows 100 MB of free storage space, to upload and ship the copied files out of the research facility. Fortunately, Jolly Technologies detected the theft and is trying to prevent Sudha Iyer from further distributing it.

Bad PR for Yahoo!, although in a roundabout way. No real reason for Jolly Technologies to note in the press release that Iyer was using Yahoo! to steal code, though.

Bad PR for India, but something that I posted about in the past. India, like other offshoring countries, has lackluster laws that do not really protect individuals, intellectual property, or identity theft.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Om and the Return of Hype 3.0

Last night, Om Balik posted a few links, and one was titled Return of Hype 3.0. I like Om's blog, and it's one of the tech blogs that is in my "Favorites" channel in FeedDemon.

I posted a comment to his blog already.

re: Return of Hype 3.0 / PR firms are hiring like crazy (nice double title, though).

The dot-com hype cannot be blamed fully on the public relations industry. It took two to tango, and journalists need to take some of the blame for not vetting stories. If some background research had been done, most likely half the stories would have been spiked.

But there is really a lot more to say on the subject than really fit on his blog. Journalism and public relations is like a dance. A dance where both parties know the rules.

To blame the dot-com hype and boom on PR is to ignore the greater story. How hard is it for journalists to dig a little? Maybe I'm a different type of PR person - I don't drink the Kool Aid, and I try to have POP! PR follow the same route - but the dot-bomb magazines seemed to be serving it in barrels.

It seems to me - and has been confirmed by reporter friends - that technology reporters do not care about the business story but about the technology only. Here's a perfect example of that: I was at a meeting at Wired Magazine, and I was up-front with the reporter, whom I respected tons and worked with a lot before. I thanked him for taking the meeting, but let him know that the product was currently vapor. He said "that's okay - we don't care if the product works or ever comes to market, as long as it's cool."

One of the worst dot-bomb perps was The Industry Standard. Staffed by what seemed to be a bunch of first-year journalists, the magazine bought everything lock, stock and barrel, and then perpetrated the dot-scam image with it's monthly roof parties. After one meeting with a reporter at the magazine - whom was the most unprofessional woman I ever dealt with - I realized that I did not need to pitch them anymore, it just didn't matter if a company was in the Standard. People might have subscribed to them, but did they actually read the magazine? I know that when they folded, I was one of many PR people that was not surprised (and somewhat glad), and thought that they embodied a lot of what was bad in dot-com journalism. Okay, fine, I cheered when I heard the news that they shut down.

You think, though, that since so many reporters got burnt during the dot-scam age, that reporters and editors would research more, do a little digging. Well, I guess not.

This month's Fortune has a huge VoIP article, and Vonage is the company in the first few grafs. How hard would it have been to Google "Jeffrey Citron," the company's CEO, and then found out that he has one of the largest SEC fines ever levied against an individual? That plays an important part, to me, in a business story. Here he has struck gold with Vonage, but there are skeletons in the closet that would lead you to wonder if Vonage is a good, long-term option for my VoIP services...

So, don't lay all the blame on the dot-com hype at the feet of PR. Journalists should take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if they should have been more cynical and drank less of the Kool Aid themselves.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Friends 4Ever - Laurel and Jeremy

We make a cute couple, don't we?!Posted by Hello

In a follow-up to my Mediabistro.com Is Gonna Buy a PR Blogger!! story, I decided to try to track down Laurel Touby and do a quick, little interview with her about the CBS Marketwatch story, and where she's going with the Mediabistro site and with blogs in particular.

Oh, and to half-ass pitch the POP! Public Relations blog to her ;-)

So, without further ado ... here's the interview:

Laurel has had a few people call her, post-CBS Marketwatch, to pitch her their blogs for acquisition by Mediabistro (she thought I was one of them), but MB is not necessarily going to be going out and buying blogs. As she noted, "it isn’t necessarily the way that we are going to go, but it all depends on pricing. It can be really expensive to buy blogs."

The MB site is more of a site for the "ambitious, hungry, smart media and writers," and the blog aspect does make sense for the Website. Originally, Mediabistro was just for magazines, but expanded to writers, freelancers, TV, marketing, advertising, book publishing.

And, instead of hiring for people for each beat, and competing with the trades, it makes "more sense to create blogs on these beats, such as insider stuff that would be of interest to marketing people, book publishing people, advertising people. The goal is to have blogs that reach out to each group of people that come to Mediabistro."

Why did she buy Cablenewser? "Cablenewser had a powerful brand already – Brian had developed a strong brand, he had an audience, and Mediabistro wanted to get into that space beyond the classes and job listings we have on the site. So we went out and discussed an acquisition, and now Brian has expanded beyond cable news, to all TV news."

"The site has been been a great draw, and we are estimating that it will have boosted the traffic by 200,000 page views for the month."

The acquistion of Cablenewser made sense for Mediabistro (as well as Cablenewser), as Brian is now getting paid for doing what he was already doing, and he loves it, and it helps Mediabistro expand beyond the products and services, beyond the parties and products, to news content that is of interest to the Mediabistro community.

Laurel has not totally ruled-out acquiring more blogs, but it "it depends on prices – if it’s someone that’s starting out that would be fine, but if the blog is too expensive, Mediabistro will just build their own blogs for that community. It's the build versus buy mentality."

Plus, blogging fits into the whole reason that Laurel started Mediabistro. "It’s a community effort, a community site. A place for people for support, products and services – and blogging is a natural extension of the community itself."

"It's the direction the company (Mediabistro) is going, blogging, plus becoming more of a community network, which will include a social networking aspect."

But, most important for Laurel is that everything benefit the bottom line. As she noted, "Building a community supports the community – as long as there is a revenue stream there. Every thing we do is to support the bottom line."

Laurel was an interesting interview. As a former journalist, it might have been a little off-kilter to have the tables turned on her by a PR person - the flack interviewing the hack type situation.

So, would I sell the POP! PR blog to her? Well, that was an interesting part of the conversation that I didn't include. She did ask me who I thought she should be looking at for acquisition. I was pretty vague, but told her to take a look at the sites that I have listed on the blog. Maybe she'll make an offer to PR Week's Keith O'Brien, or O'Dwyer's Greg Hazley, or maybe Paul Holmes.

For me, she's gotta name a price ...

Daum buys Lycos

As those of you that follow the Dot arena might know already, Daum Communications, a South Korea-based company, acquired Lycos from Spain's Terra - and who says that we can't all get along? An American company sold to a Spanish conglomerate sold to a South Korean conglomerate. Sorta makes me feel warm and toasty.

The PR story here is that the current AOR for Terra Lycos is Weber Shandwick Worldwide - okay, the other PR story here is that Terra sold a property that they bought for $12.5 billion for $95 million. That's a nice difference in monies.

According to the Reuters article,

Lycos remains a force on the Internet with Tripod, which allows people to build their own Web pages, and the Wired News site.

So, there is some value, and some good stories to be told from the PR front.

But, how much longer will WSW have the account? Most likely, the account will run out the year, and then it is anyone's guess. Part of the reason WSW did have the account originally was because of the agency's global network of firms, the ability to do PR for all of Terra Lycos, not just the US division.

It's not a groundbreaking story, but it should be interesting to see what happens down the line. It seems that WSW has pulled back on technology - compared to other agencies - and I wonder if Lycos fits into their overall plans.

Movie / Actor Blogging

From Nick Denton's Defamer, comes notice that

Zach Braff has a blog for Garden State. Here's to hoping he doesn't become the first blogger to get laid, but we're probably too late. Everyone's saying he's broken the blogging celibacy streak with Natalie Portman.

Beyond the usual snide Defamer comment, the Zach Braff blog is an interesting read. Here's an actor on a hit television show, Scrubs, with a somewhat critically acclaimed movie - but who is also taking the time to blog.

Now, I am not naive - there's a good chance that a lot (if not all) of what's being written is by his publicists, but I'm holding out hope that Braff is writing it himself (he seem's so nice on TV).