Archive for the ‘News’ Category

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the case of a journalist that had posted a copy of my friend’s news release as if it was his own article.

This got me thinking:

The smart newspaper editor (or whatever the title of the guy who is in charge of the copy on a newspaper’s website) might see this and start to look at his website traffic more closely. If he was really smart, and had the right information, he’d begin to find out whether it was the articles written by journalists or the news releases written by PR pros and simply posted by journalists that got the most traffic.

The smart editor would also have to pay attention to the types of traffic he was attracting. 1000 visitors that don’t click on ads or otherwise generate revenue are worth less than the one visitor that buy’s a print subscription to the newspaper, clicks on an ad or otherwise helps them keep the lights on and server running.

The smart PR pro might then realize that they could tilt the balance of things in their favor by writing news releases that can be easily re-purposed by journalists, and that will also result in revenue-generating traffic. It is probably easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.

And is it a slippery slope, as Todd Defren writes? Definitely.

-Parker

HMV Digital I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail discussing the hot battle for online book sales. For the last decade, Amazon has enjoyed a cushy spot on top of their competition—wait, did they even have any real competition? If I had a penny for every time I proclaimed my love for Amazon, I’d probably have enough to order at least one more book.  Over the last few years, Amazon has moved beyond paperbacks into other retail markets, including a broad offering of consumer goods. (I ordered a hair straightener from their site just last month.) Their offering is a no-brainer: a trusted site + quick delivery + great deals on goods =  happy consumers.

Other online and retail giants, namely Wal-Mart and Google, have been eyeing Amazon’s success for some time. In the Globe article, Forrester analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps, notes:

“Amazon and Wal-Mart have been competing for that consumer for a long time. The reason why this is important now is that whoever has a strong relationship with the book-buying consumer today is well-positioned to keep that customer tomorrow.”

The battleground is heating up. Amazon and Wal-Mart are now in a fully fledged price war, selling many popular books and e-books for under 10 dollars. While they may not be turning an actual profit on book sales, they are able to promote other items and sections of their site leading to increased sales overall.

In similar news, HMV, a store that up until a few years ago I visited weekly, has finally decided to enter this century and offer their content online—gasp! Since most people have already become accustomed to using iTunes or just downloading everything for free, is this move too little too late? The new site (HMV Digital) offers all MP3s free of digital rights management (DRM) and includes a “My Downloads” section which stores recently downloaded songs and allows users to access them remotely. The site also aims to make customer service a top priority with a visible help section, a comments section on their blog, and by providing contact details of the editor. Time will tell, but I feel that even with these features HMV will have to make some serious marketing and advertising efforts to gain back their market share.

No matter who comes out on top, a little healthy competition is good for the soul, and great for the consumer. Let the games begin!

I remember that when I was in high school and university, people still smoked in bars. When going to a restaurant, the hostess would ask you two questions: how many people in your party, and whether you wanted to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section.

When I speak to student groups these days, I tell them that when I was in university, I didn’t have a mobile phone. They’re shocked by this, and don’t really understand how I got in touch with my friends. (And c’mon, I’m not even that old: I graduated in 2004, which was right on the cusp of when university students started using mobile phones.)

Ten years after 9/11, and the security theatre at airports is part of our culture and threat levels of various colours are part of our vocabulary.

In all three of these cases, we almost look back at the recent past and laugh about how we used to live our lives. “I can’t believe people used to smoke in restaurants!”, “How did I ever meet up with friends without a cellphone in university?”, or “Remember when you only needed a driver’s license to cross the Canada-US border?” are all pretty common comments about “the good old days”.

Is our current state of pandemic panic going to persist as well? Will I be telling future generations that they used to send out memos to people reminding them to use hand sanitizer?

-Parker

PS: If anyone has suggestions for a brand of swine-flu preventing face masks that look good with a suit, let me know.

For the past few weeks, my employer CNW Group has been hosting a series of informal “Coffee Break” webinars aimed at educating people about our various products. (CNW is WAY more than just a newswire.)

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Laurie Smith, CNW’s VP of Culture and Communications hosted all of theses sessions, and I joined her to talk about Social Media Releases and CNW’s MediaRoom product. I kinda like to think that if we’d done more of these we could have had a chance of becoming the Regis and Kelly of the newswire circuit.

Most of them are now archived on the CNW Group website, and you can access them in the Events section.

Earlier this year, I suggested that PR students wanting to get involved in the online world should avoid starting a PR-focused blog.

Now, I’m going to suggest that we all stop even reading PR blogs. They aren’t that representative of the real world—the wilds of the internet.

Rather than focusing on how this tightly knit community (I believe David Jones referred to it as a “circle-jerk” on Inside PR) does things and communicates, why not spend that time getting more involved in understanding the way actual people use the internet?

Learn how your clients’ audiences look for things online. Learn about what they’re interested in. Become passionate about what they are passionate about, or at least try and understand their passion.

I’m willing to bet that most of you don’t spend your evenings re-reading your old PR textbooks (nor do you buy the latest version every year), but that you probably do browse your region’s daily newspapers on a regular basis.

Do you have any idea how few people care about RSS feeds? How many of your friends (outside of those involved in the communications industry) actually care about Twitter or even understand what it does?

Forget case studies. Forget best practices. When is the last time you did something truly new and interesting?

-Parker

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Starting next week, CNW Group will be hosting a series of coffee-break webinars every Wednesday at 3pm EST.

The topic of the first one will be Social Media Releases, and I’ll be stepping up to the mic (handset? speakerphone?) to tell you everything I know.

There will be plenty of time for questions, but are there any you think I should specifically address?

I promise that I’ll try and make it both informative and entertaining, so grab a coffee and log in from your desk. It’ll be like hanging out with me for a few minutes, but you can count it as doing work.

CNW Group Coffee-Break Webinar Series

-Parker

Like Christie Blatchford before him, David Olive is one newspaper reporter that really doesn’t understand blogs and the internet.

In his recent article on TheStar.com (“Bloggers hitch wagons to the traditional media“) he argues that… you know what? I’m not really sure what his argument is. He seems to be critical of bloggers and seems to be trying to defend traditional media.

The problem is that he doesn’t do a good job of either.

After dismissing bloggers as nothing more than “Internet diarists,” he applauds Newsweek, The Atlantic, Maclean’s, The Nation and even his own Toronto Star for either hiring bloggers or turning their journalists into bloggers.

Just one paragraph later, he says that the reason these bloggers are turning to newspapers is because “there is little ‘stumble upon’ factor in blogs—strangers who come across a website by accident and become fans. You won’t stumble across the website of prolific blogger Mark Steyn at the dentist’s office as you will Chatelaine.”

I find fault with this statement for a couple of reasons. The first is that if the major problem for bloggers is the lack of “stumble upon” traffic, why would writing for a newspaper website get them greater visibility than writing for their own website? Similarly, if blogs result in such little traffic, why is David Olive so happy to let us know about the prestigious print publications that now have their journalists spending time writing blogs on the publications’ websites?

I’d also argue that blogs DO get a lot of stumble upon traffic—both from the fact that they link to other blogs (something David Olive doesn’t seem capable of doing) and because of a little something called StumbleUpon. Most of the blogs I read today I read because I’ve come across them via a link from another blog. Either that, or I’ve found them via StumbleUpon—a tool that plugs into your web browser and lets you stumble around the internet.

I also question the validity of his statement that “the lifespan of the average blog is two to three months.” I don’t know where he got this information, and I’m not doubting it. I’ve got plenty of friends that have thought it was a good idea to set up a blog and given up after only a post or two. However, that’s because the barriers to entry are so much lower for starting a blog than for starting a newspaper. If you honestly want to compare failure rates, how many people have given up trying to start a nationwide print publication after coming up with an initial idea and perhaps drafting one or two articles?

David Olive might declare that the war is over and that the mainstream media have won it, but I disagree.

I don’t think there was a war in the first place. I think there was an evolution, and that the media everywhere is changing. Bloggers are thinking more like journalists, while traditional journalists and editors are thinking more like bloggers. If anything, the borders between the two are blurring.

For a guy writing an online article with a comments section (despite the lack of links), he’s doing a pretty good job of not understanding what a blog is or how it works.

-Parker

I’m not a Search Engine Optimization expert.

I enjoy thinking about it,  and I have a pretty good idea about SEO best practices but I’m not a pro.

The real SEO pros who live and breathe the stuff all day, every day.

I’m talking about guys like Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz because he writes amazing posts like a recent one about How To Build A Perfectly Optimized Landing Page.

In that post, he walks through his thoughts on how a page should be built in order for it to have the best chance of ranking well in search results. I won’t repeat it all here, but he provides well-researched data for some of the reasons he gives, and explains it all in easy-to-understand terms.

Near the end of the post, he asks the question “Why don’t we always obey the rules (when it comes to optimizing landing pages)?”

The gist of his answer is that the reasons SEO pros don’t always ignore these landing-page optimization rules is because they are focused on other strategies, such as link buidling, to achieve search engine dominance.

Although he lists both Content and User Experience as other priorities one should have when building a landing page, I don’t think he ranks them highly enough. To me, it seems like having good content and ensuring that is easy for your users to navigate should take precedence over any other work.

Its fine to rank well in search engines, but that’s not going to do anything for you if users aren’t interested in what they find on your page, or if they have trouble doing anything with it.

As always, plan and create for users first, search engines second.

-Parker

CNW Group has always been committed to getting our clients’ news in front of journalists and the media. For years, the only way to really do this was via the news wire. When fax machines became an accepted way to send and receive news and information, CNW Group embraced that technology to reach members of the media. Similarly, when email became a popular form of communication, CNW offered interested parties the ability to subscribe to our clients’ news via portfolio email. The same, too with our categorized RSS feeds.

The point is that as technology has changed, CNW Group has changed with it in order to make it as easy as possible for both members of the media and the general public to get news and information from our clients.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that we’ve officially launched hundreds of unique Twitter accountsto distribute our clients’ news over Twitter. The accounts are based on our existing news categories, and all releases posted on our website and over the wire will also go out on anywhere from one to four of these accounts (depending on how the release is categorized).

By breaking the news into these seperate categories, we’re making it easy for interested parties, be they members of the media or the general public, to find and follow the type of news they are interested in. Similarly, by offering news via the traditional wire, by fax, by email, by RSS and now by Twitter we are making it as easy as possible for people to get news from us.

Read the official news release from CNW Group about this, or check out the full list of accounts at http://newswire.ca/GetNews.

-Parker

(note: Although I am an employee of CNW Group this post, like all my posts on BlogCampaigning, reflects only my own personal views and opinions and not those of my employer)

Empty News Room

A large part of my week is spent meeting with clients to discuss their communications and media objectives. In one such meeting last week, my client announced that they would be increasing the number of Video News Releases (VNRs) they produce for distribution  to the Canadian broadcast media.  As multimedia becomes more important for online coverage, this wasn’t exactly an earth shattering announcement. What did surprise me, however, was that they had no intention of using the content to build up an online or social media presence (aside from eventually posting the VNRs to their website’s media section).

Instead, their reasoning for increased VNRs is as follows: News rooms across the country have been cutting journalist and editorial positions in an effort to save their bottom lines. This has meant an increased workload for the members still on staff and a decreased likelihood that every story will get the same attention it might have a few years ago.  My client is betting that if they increase the number of ready-to-air VNRs they distribute to these overworked and understaffed outlets, their chance of televised coverage will increase and they will benefit from more air time and exposure.

One hopes (and advises) that the stories are still strong and news worthy. Otherwise, why bother with the production efforts? This  made me wonder if any other agencies or organizations are increasing their VNR output for the same reason. Mike Masnick recently posed a similar question in his TechDirt post “Corporations Hiring Their Own Reporters“. He too notes a definite shift towards corporate journalism. Will we see more VNRs and corporately crafted stories run in the place of journalist-generated content? Does this pose an unfair advantage to companies with deeper pockets? What are your thoughts?

-Heather

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