Wondering Out Loud

Terry Moran called for illegal Tweeting

President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. I saw it on Twitter so it must be true. And Politico reported on it here. Considering what he did to Taylor Swift on Sunday night, I agree with the president: Kanye West is a jackass.  But that’s not why we’re here today.

What Terry Moran of ABC News did is inexcusable. He, or one of his staff with access to his Twitter account, sent an off the record comment across the web at light speed as casually as one might lean in to the person next to them and whisper “Psst. The president just called Kanye West a jackass.”  To call this an ethical lapse is an understatement.

This is not the same as the many “open mic” incidents that have occurred over the years with politicians, celebrities and pundits unknowingly giving us a glimpse into their true feelings. Off the record comments are commonplace and credibility is the lifeblood of any journalist. Moran broke a trust with the president and his credibility deserves to suffer for it.

There are still too many people who fail to understand the power of the internet. Who can’t grasp the simple concept that once you’ve sent a message it is A) no longer yours and B) cannot be retrieved. You can usually tell these people by the photos of last weekend’s party posted they posted on Facebook.

If we are going to be trusted to use the tools Web 2.0 has placed at our fingertips, our mindsets and how we think about ourselves in the grand scheme must evolve. With so many people having access to vast amounts of information, it’s human nature to take the occasional “scoop” and run with it before thinking about the consequences. Recent history is replete with examples of news organizations that ran with stories that were ultimately proven to be false. Granted, Moran’s tweet is not false, but it was off the record and it’s not like he revealed it to his mother during a friendly chat. No, he was talking to his 1,066,522 followers. Talk about the power of distribution.

You’ve heard of the Chaos Theory – aka Butterfly Effect? The Internet takes the theory and multiplies the effect by a factor of infinity. There’s a lot of power in those characters, all 140 of them, and Moran, or one of his colleagues, misused it.


September 15, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Twitter a danger to democracy

An interesting sidebar story is brewing in Germany following last week’s regional elections. Apparently exit poll data from three states was leaked via Twitter – 90 minutes early – causing some officials to question how such technology might impact future elections. BreitBart reports on the story here

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s team took it on the chin in the elections and the one of the people quoted in the story has the bruises to prove it:

  • The deputy parliamentary head of Merkel’s Christian Union party, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the leaking of the results “damaged        democracy.”
  • “There is a danger that an election could be falsified,” Bosbach told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger local daily.

The other quote comes from Roderich Egeler, the federal election commissioner:

  • “It would be a worst-case scenario if the exit poll results were to become known before polling stations closed,”

BreitBart’s story also points out:

  • A similar leak also occurred during the parliamentary vote to re-elect Germany’s President Horst Koehler on May 23. On that occasion, a handful of lawmakers announced Koehler’s re-election before the results were officially published.

That’s the set up. Now I’m going to weigh in.

A leak…in politics…whoda thunk it?

I realize people involved in politics, are genetically coded to speak in hyperbole, but claiming the leaks  – and by association Twitter- are capable of damaging democracy is ridiculous on its face.

Information, as they say, is power. But information has only the power that we assign to it. Those who shrugged off the early exit poll data and continued to the polls gave the reports no power at all. Others heard the same information and gave it the power to inform their decisions. My bottom line, anyone who did not vote Germany based on exit polls reported too early have only themselves to blame.

We went through a similar incident in 2000 when the networks called Florida for Gore, then took it back, then gave it to Bush, and took it back again. Republicans cried “foul” because the original call was made before the polls in the Florida Panhandle closed. They claimed Bush lost thousands of votes because disheartened supporters didn’t bother casting their vote on the belief it was irrelevant.

At home the networks were rightly embarrassed and changed their processes. In Germany the leakers could face criminal prosecution.

With all the information swirling around the web, and the ability for anybody with a computer and internet connection to add to the chaos, we need to be more vigilant than ever when assessing what we hear, see and read. We need to be mindful of the source and what, if any, agenda they have.

Information is power, but if we are educated and responsible consumers of information, we decide what power has.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t fear social media technology, embrace it

Thanks to Adam Ostrow for exposing the folly of the SEC’s (Southeastern Conference) new media policy. But the SEC is just another in a long line of media that has feared new technology rather than embracing it for their benefit.

When radio was in its infancy, record publishers would forbid stations from playing their music out of fear that people would opt for the free access and their sales would plummet – history would repeat several years later when digital downloads became possible. What they ultimately figured out, purely by accident, is that sales actually increased. You see, when the audience is exposed to and likes part of the whole, they have an increased interest in owning the whole.

A similar scenario was played out when television came along. Movie studios were so worried that people would stop attending the weekly matinee, they refused to release movies that had completed their theater run to TV networks for airing.  Never mind the addtional revenue they could realize or the added exposure of their biggest starts, the common wisdom among motion picture executives, like the music industry before them, was that the new technology was a rival to be feared and beaten.

To the SEC, CBS and anyone else who is considering banning social media out of fear of losing control of their product: take a deep breath, close your eyes and let it go. You will find an existing audience that loves you for doing it and a new audience – you didn’t know existed – will be driven to try what you have to offer.

As with music downloads, people will find a way to get the content they want. I hope the SEC, CBS, et al, learn from the mistakes of the past.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Nice bones, now here’s the meat

Wednesday morning was a great morning at the St. Paul Pool & Yacht club.

A small group convened to hear Provident Partners’ Albert Maruggi and me speak on the ways of integrating social media tactics to one’s traditional marcomm efforts. Keeping the group small allowed us to drill down into the attendees specific issues and objectives and they walked away, not with a laundry list of what tools are available, but with concrete ideas of how to develop a social media strategy that will help them achieve those objectives.

Our goal was to give people a different type of seminar. We wanted them to forget about the shiny new objects – all the tools and toys that are used and developed everyday – and ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What are our marcomm objectives.
  2. How can we leverage social media to help us me.et those objectives.
  3. How do we determine which tool is appropriate for the given job.

Content, credible content, being king, we also asked them to look inside their company and consider resources – the human kind – they could tap to play the role of subject matter expert and how they could best be leveraged; audio, video and/or text.

We packed a lot of information into a two hour semianr, and in the end everyone left with a solid foundation on which to begin building the strategies they came in search of. I’m going to enjoy watching as the companies represented build out their plans and begin executing on them.

It was a very satisfying and gratifying to help fellow professionals who are in the same position I was just a few short years ago.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the MSM MIA in reporting of healthcare town hall meetings

Unless you’ve been in a coma lately, you’ve seen, read, or heard at least one of the thousands of reports about the heath care town hall meetings being held across the country. More specifically, the ones at which protesters have made their presence known. I have no doubt you’ve also been exposed to the reaction of politicians and activists on both sides of the issue. The MSM has done a good job of reporting the goings on. That said, however, I believe there is one area in which the MSM has gone MIA, and in doing so has added more dents to its already damaged reputation.

While the raucous behavior and responses are well established, the MSM is missing an opportunity to provide a compare and contrast between the heathcare town hall uprisings and those that followed W for much of his time in office.

Before people get up in arms about posters portraying President Obama as Adolf Hitler – a ridiculous comparison for him or any POTUS, repeat any, POTUS – this is not the first time this tactic has been rolled out. Here is page one of a Google image search of Bushitler.

In a USA Today commentary, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D California) told us that “drowning out opposing views is simplu un-American”. But we all know is a well-worn tactic of the Left to shout down conservative lecturers on the nation’s college campuses. In many cases lectures have been cut short due to violence perpetrated by some of Speaker Pelosi’s ideological soul-mates. 

What I see unfolding is right-of-center people have an issue that is driving them to take up the tactics of those who stand in polar opposition, those who’ve made a science of organizing and protesting, and they are not happy to have their playbook co-opted. One of the great ironies is the protesters are targeting the policies of a president who has on his resume the title of “Community Organizer”.

There is a very interesting story to be told here, I hope someone in the media will figure it out and take it up.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Journalism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rupert Murdoch says “Pay up”

I tweeted about this earlier today and I think it deserves a blog post.

Rupert Murdoch – media mogul to the extreme – announced a plan to charge for all on line content. I asked in my tweet is he gutsy or nutsy. The pay for play train of web-based news has long left the station and Murdoch plans to hit the breaks and throw it in reverse. The man hasn’t gotten where he is by not taking risks, but this is going way out on a limb.

Imagine how different things would be if traditional media had embraced the Internet from the outset. They could have charged for content from the start, but their late entry – out of arrogance, ignorance, or some combination of the two – rendered paid subscriptions all but impossible. The Wall Street Journal is an obvious exception, but it is also a dramatically different publication. And so here we are with News Corppreparing to remake the model by adding a field for your credit card at the entry gate to the rest of its on line publications.

How this will play out is not known, but here are a few possibilities:

1. Ka-Boom.Murdoch’s plan blows up in his face with nobody – but family and friends – paying the bucks to see his content. It probably won’t take long for a complete failure to become apparent. When the gates go up and registrations don’t materialize he will see the folly in his plan and abandon it.

2.Cha-Ching. Murdoch becomes a multi-multi-billionaire when paying customers appear in huge numbers and, because of this success, he is able to raise the ad rates.

3. So-So. There is money coming in, but some sites are performing better than others so Murdoch offers bundles, twofers and other promotions to keep his plan alive.

4. Bandwagon. Like an airline raising and lowering rates, it doesn’t take long for the competition to follow suit. I just might happen that other news outlets join Murdoch and begin charging for their content. It would take a coordinated effort to make it fly, but think about the pressure it would put on consumers when their access to free news and information goes away.

At this early stage – without knowing what Murdoch’s model looks like – my money is on So-So. If he really wants to build a paid subscription base, Murdoch will have to go beyond the news and offer value added content that people are willing to pay for. Weekly live chats with news makers and anchors might be one that people are willing to pay for.

Whatever the outcome, Murdoch is forcing the hand of both the industry and the market and the result will likely set the model for web-based delivery of news and information for the foreseeable future.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Journalism | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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