Category Archives: Misc

Tools You Can Use: Current

Current: A News Project is a data visualization tool launched last month to give editors and writers a new way to determine which stories have the best chance of being read online. Seeing the potential for communicators to leverage this program to better understand the news cycle, I interviewed Current’s creator and my classmate from ITP, Zoe Fraade-Blanar about her project:

Q: What does the Current stream represent in non-technical terms?
A: This particular tool is pulling the top news stories from Google, which does us the favor of condensing them for us into general topics.  And to find out how the human population is responding it’s using the Google Hot Topics tool, surveying the fastest rising searches in the US every hour.  But there’s no reason any Trending Topics data wouldn’t work here – Twitter would be a favorite.

Q: Explain a bit about how using Current helps a journalist determine “news that matters.”

A: Ah, not even the smartest computer algorithm can replace an editor when it comes to placing value on a story.  What it can do is help one balance their soft and hard coverage.  In a world where a struggling editor might choose to raise their traffic by covering every celebrity scandal, Current lets them identify, say, the two that are most likely to give them the same amount of traffic.  Of course, Current is morally neutral – if you wanted to use a tool like this to generate the most sensational newspaper ever, that’s certainly a completely legitimate use as well!

Q: Although you built Current with news editors in mind, what features might be of interest to PR?

A: One of the interesting observations here is that there are two ways for a news item to make it into the interest stream: they can cause a big enough stir that they spawn their own meme, but they can also piggyback off of an existing meme.  For someone with PR in mind, hitching your topic behind a growing meme is a completely legitimate way to get noticed for companies without the resources to spawn their own.  When PR is pinpointed to what people actually want to know, it’s no longer advertising.  That PR turns into real honest-to-goodness relevant information.  Which is a beautiful thing.

Q: How does Current address a gap in the way we currently perceive news?

A: If Current, and projects like it, are successful, they should actually change the way the News sees news.  Right now it seems like there are two extremes – News media that wants to protect the perfect news coverage on some kind of idealistic pedestal, and News media that wants to use News to drive advertising dollars no matter what the content.  There’s a bit of a grey area in the middle as the pedestal people are forced by the economy to prune coverage areas they don’t excel in, and at the same time there exists an inevitable backlash against the more mercenary model, but the idea here is to give them another alternative.  The survival of News as an industry lies somewhere in the middle.

Q: You spent some time working with the New York Times analytic group before you built this project. What changes are you seeing in the way we value news at a technical level?

A: Of course, the real value for a story is how it changes what people think about a topic, but that’s a tough one to quantify (and of course, impossible to monetize).  A more Machiavellian metric would be the amount of conversions it results in for advertisers, one less so would be general clickthroughs, or clickthroughs from the story to another in-site story.

But I think all these miss the point, which is that some of the most important news is the most boring.  The most successful metric will take into account that some of the most necessary stories will be complete flops when measured by the numbers.  Those stories are what keeps the reader’s trust, even if they don’t keep the reader’s interest.  Like the blank whitespace in a drawing, replace too much of it and the whole becomes unreadable.  So perhaps it might be better to judge the traffic of a section as a whole, than on a story-by-story basis.

Thanks so much to Zoe for her time. You can download Current and try it out for yourself.

If you have any ideas on how Current could be a useful communications tool, please leave a comment.

Pardon the Disruption

Those of you who follow my blog closely (mom? dad? bro?) may note that I haven’t posted in several months.

No, I haven’t given up blogging. No, I haven’t decided that Twitter is a better medium for my thoughts. And no, I haven’t been so busy with client work that I had to put Disruptology on the back burner.

In fact, I had a medical issue that required surgery and a considerable amount of rehab.

I don’t typically post about my personal life here, but my eight days in the hospital proved to be a pretty transformative experience. Here are some of my revelations:

I didn’t miss social media

I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to update my Facebook status, check in with Foursquare or see what blog posts I had missed in Google Reader for weeks after my return home. This might not sound like a revelation to some readers, but as someone immersed in social media for the last eight years, a month without email/iPhone/Twitter is akin to solitary confinement.

When I returned to social media, not much changed

About four weeks after I returned home, I started to slowly reemerge from my self-imposed exile. Here’s what I found:

  • The same marketers posting too frequent Twitter updates continued to pollute the stream.
  • The conversations about social media ROI, the iPhone vs. the Droid and the exaggerated death of news media continued unabated and with little in the way of new information.
  • Google Wave came and went, and now everyone is back to talking about Twitter.

I missed writing…

I always thought that I wrote to share my knowledge with you, but I realized that I also write this blog for my own gratification, which is good because…

…but my voice wasn’t necessarily missed

Don’t worry, I don’t take it personally and I’m not at all bitter. When I stopped posting in September, readers simply moved on to the next blog. I would do the same. But this realization helped crystallize for me why I write and what my objectives are. As a result, I expect the content and the tone of this blog will change. We’ll see.

I’m going to try blogging more. I invite your feedback on my posts and I thank you for taking the time to read and comment, as always. If I’m slow in replying to comments, it’s because I’m still limited in how much time I spend online by my pesky surgery.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Twitter Meme Monday: Favorite Holiday Gift Site

twittermememonday.jpg As part of my ongoing goal to help Twitter friends get to know a little more about one another, I am continuing the Twitter meme Monday posts.

A ‘meme’ is a type of internet conversation that is passed from one user to another. Here’s the Wikipedia definition .

Here in the US, this Friday is called ‘Black Friday,’ which kicks off the holiday shopping season. Most retailers will begin offering their best prices and deals to entice consumers to purchase often and early. In that spirt, this week’s topic is: "what is your favorite gift blog and why?"

To participate, share the link to your favorite gift blog and explain why you picked it in 140 characters in your Twitter stream (also called a tweet). If you prefer, you can share it in the comment section below as well.

I have more than 1,000 people following my updates on Twitter, but I don’t know a lot about their jobs, their passions and their lives outside of the Twitter community. These weekly topics not only help me learn more about the people in my community, but they help the larger Twitter community learn about its participants as well.

Make sure to include ‘#TMM’ at the end of your tweet to designate it as part of the Twitter meme!

Here’s mine.

You can follow everyone’s answers here .

Twitter Meme Monday: Your Job in 140 Characters

twittermememonday.jpg As part of my ongoing goal to help Twitter friends get to know a little more about one another, I am continuing the Twitter meme Monday posts.

This week the topic is: "tell us what you do in 140 (persuasive) characters"

To participate, simply explain what it is you do for your job in 140 characters and update your Twitter stream (also called a tweet). If you prefer, you can share it in the comment section below as well.

I have more than 1,000 people following my updates on Twitter, but I don’t know a lot about their jobs, their passions and their life outside of the Twitter community. These weekly topics not only help me learn more about the people in my community, but they help the larger Twitter community learn about its participants as well.

Make sure to include ‘#TMM’ at the end of your tweet to designate it as part of the Twitter meme!

Here’s mine .

You can follow everyone’s answers here .

TMM.jpg

Twitter Meme Monday: First Job

twittermememonday.jpg As part of my ongoing goal to help Twitter friends get to know a little more about each other, I am continuing the Twitter meme Monday posts. This week, the topic is, "tell us something fun about your first job."

To participate, simply share some memories from your first job as an update to your Twitter stream (also called a tweet). Make sure to include ‘#TMM’ at the end to designate it as part of the Twitter meme.

Here’s mine.

You can follow all of the replies here .

UPDATE:
#TMM.jpg

3 Up and Coming PR Bloggers You Should Read

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My buddy Josh Dilworth, who works for Porter-Novelli on all things social media, added me to a list of new bloggers worth reading. I really appreciate the consideration, and I figured I’d spread the love by adding a couple of bloggers I’m paying attention to these days that you might be interested in following as well (in addition to Josh, who always shares links to stories days before others are talking about them).

Since my interest lies at the intersection between communications and social media, I thought I’d focus on blogs in that space as well:

  • Adam Metz over at MetzMash is a young PR specialist who produces exciting content about social media and public relations topics, as this recent post illustrates. What I like about his writing is that it’s direct, it’s challenging and it’s passionate.  This is a new blog that I only stumbled upon recently, but I’ve enjoyed it, including Adam’s willingness to take a contrarian view on popular topics and help us to think about them differently.
  • My former colleague and dear friend, Georg Kolb, recently launched a blog titled Corporate Communications Compass. However, this is a blog in appearance only. Georg is one of the smartest PR practitioners that I’ve ever encountered and his posts address overarching changes and challenges facing our industry. The content is extremely rich and well researched, making this essential reading for anyone interested in the future of communications. Georg recently relocated to Europe, so it will be interesting to see if and how this affects his writing.
  • Ed Lee’s blog is called Blogging Me Blogging You. I’ve always been impressed with the caliber of his writing as well as his ability to summarize and produce content at an analytical level beyond his years in the industry. Although we started in PR around the same time, Ed’s blog is a source of inspiration as to the type of thinking we need to support from young PR people to prepare our companies for the next phase of social media communications.

So what about you? Are there any up and coming young bloggers (young in terms of time blogging, not age) that you recommend reading?

If so, please share them in the comments or on your own blog and link back to this post.

Photo credit: john_a_ward on Flickr