Monday, July 28, 2008

A Great Collection of Blogs

You've been to a car show, right? Beautiful vehicles detailed to the nines and lined up for your inspection. Imagine something like that for blogs. Liz Strauss did and then made it happen. Check out this impressive list of blogs at her 2008 Blog-to Show.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why business podcasting isn't hot...yet

I saw an interesting post today over at Podcasting News that brought to light Ian Lamont's insight into the demise of PodTech (well, it's not dead, just sold for a tiny fraction of the money the investors had sunk into it). Lamont is managing editor for The Industry Standard. His comments to the post are also interesting.

I must admit that Lamont knows much more about the PodTech situation than I do, but my experience during the Internet boom and bust of the 1999-2001 tells me that it might be far too early to write off podcasting as a business tool. He writes, and is quoted by Podcasting News:

"This was a hyped business built on one of the most hyped technologies of 2005. Once that faded, reality set in."

No, reality is still some ways ahead of us.

In early 2000 I was hired away from SourceMedia in New York (then Thomson Media) to serve as engineering vertical producer for an internet startup owned by a telecom company and one of the top three television networks. I was one of about 17 trade journalists hired to run online publications presumably to serve professionals working in over 100 industries. I covered ten engineering disciplines from Aerospace to Civil to Systems.

We had a fairly healthy budget and began hiring freelancers and traveling to conferences in order to provide the most up-to-date business coverage for our verticals. Meanwhile, the biz dev folks were cutting deals with all manner of whiz-bang new Internet start up folks in order to secure advertising to support the site. Reality set in when the company learned (a few months after realizing a cash burn rate of about $5 million monthly) that the professionals working in the fields we were covering didn't have a need for the newest whiz bang Internet offering. Worse yet, most of the folks we were writing to weren't sitting in their offices all day reading online articles. They were out in the field, building airplanes and new highways.

Here we are a few years later and people are finally figuring out how to deliver information to business readers online. Checking digg or techmeme or using an RSS reader was much easier for business customers to fit into their lives. Mobile technologies have made it easier and business users just understand these things a little bit better.

And that's the real lesson here. It doesn't matter how cool you think your new tool is, you will not succeed if it does not serve a real business need (if you're targeting a business audience) at the time you launch your offering. If your market doesn't know they need it (i.e. you're ahead of the curve), or it just doesn't fit into the way they operate now, you'll have a tough row to hoe.

I didn't listen to the programs on PodTech and I probably won't now that it's under new ownership. I just don't have an hour in my day that I can sit back and enjoy an Internet radio program. I do know that a shorter (sub-10 minute) program will attract a business audience. That's how we won a podcasting merit award in 2006 from the Foundation for New Communication Research for our Executive Insights podcast series.

As soon as more people figure out how to make podcasting (a wicked powerful tool for business marketing) serve the needs of the business market, reality will set in and it will be a very profitable business.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Principles of social computing

Here's a really nice post that succinctly captures four principles of social computing. Not sure I buy into this completely, but I think it may be a good start. Found this on the Communities Dominate Brands blog (another concept I like in theory, but I'm not sure I buy yet).

Read it and leave your comments. I may post again on this in the future as it seems worthwhile to lay down some ground rules when you're working in a new area. I like that these rules make it easier to win the game.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The right way to do podcast show notes

While online video will continue to get more affordable and more people will develop the skills required to quickly get quality productions online, there will always be a need for well produced podcasts.

One essential element of a good podcast is a blog post for the show notes. These can include biographical information about the speakers, credit for music or production services and links to additional information. One thing they should include is a minute-by-minute description of the information delivered in the podcast. To see what I mean, check out the show notes for a recent podcast from the folks at Anecdote.

People are pressed for time. They want to go right to the information they are seeking. If they find sufficient value there, they'll often listen to the rest of the production. If you don't make it easy for them to find what they are seeking, they may not listen to any of it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hunkering down does not mean being quiet

According to a recent survey performed by Management Action Programs Inc. (MAP), Sherman Oaks, Calif., the nation's top CEOs are adjusting to the tough economy by changing their tactics.

"Given the volatile economy of late, a fresh trend in CEO behavior has emerged, which is shedding light on a new kind of leadership," the company said in a release today. "Many CEOs are refraining from making bold, sudden business moves right now. Instead, they're opting to shift the management gears into a 'hunkering down and building up the business' position."

What that means, according to MAP, is that CEOs are "fine-tuning internal operations by bolstering the quality of company culture, internal communications and customer service."

What a great time to be a corporate communicator! CEOs finally get the importance of communication and there are great new Web 2.0 tools to make it easier and more effective than ever before.

Now is the time to be innovative, to step forward and be heard. No where is this more true than in my own industry, the US home finance business. Hard hit from a number of directions, executives in mortgage finance are not making any big moves right now and they're not talking about innovation. Instead, they are being quiet, releasing only what news they feel is absolutely essential.

I think that's a mistake. This is an opportunity for forward-thinking executives to get famous for leading the industry out of this quagmire. Now is the time for leaders to make certain that they are being heard.

MAP seems to agree. According to Lee Froschheiser, president and CEO of MAP, "the survey results highlight the major significance of strengthening business fundamentals and, especially, communication. Bottom line, clear communication is the most important key to a business leader's success."

Will brilliant financial services leaders step forward? I doubt it, but it might make for a great case study when all the dust settles. There are certainly brilliant people out there, but I anticipate that many of the industry's current leaders will be shuffled off quietly to enjoy their severance packages in retirement. The younger executives they trained will move up and the cycle will continue.

Other industries may have a better chance of capitalizing on this opportunity, combining the leadership and vision of a great CEO with the great new communication tools available today. Leveraged properly, it could allow us all to come out of this downturn stronger than we've ever been before.

Put your head in the sand, and you'll miss out. As Froschheiser puts it, "To properly manage and grow a business through tough times, you must be an effective, compelling communicator."