App-licable for you: Evernote

EvernoteWhether I am using it to jot down my parking garage level on my Android phone or take more serious notes on my iPad, this free app allows me to easily keep track of all of my notes in one place that I can access anywhere. Since each note taken with the app is synced with the Evernote website, you can access all of your notes from any of your tablets, smart phones or computers (download the Evernote app for your Mac from Apple’s app store).

In addition to plain text notes, you can also save web pages (complete with text, images and links) to your Evernote account with a browser extension, as well as files and photos. You can even share your notes with friends and colleagues. So if you haven’t downloaded it yet, check it out and let me know what you think…hey it beats all of those sticky notes in your pockets…okay I still use those too.


Yes, your company is a media company


You don't need a newsroom to create compelling content

A couple of weeks back, I attended a panel called “Democratizing The Conversation: The Future Of Brand Journalism In Social Media” at the Art & Culture Content Hub at Hearst Magazines during Social Media Week. After hearing a brief introduction on the topic and the differences between brand journalism and content marketing (brand journalism is more useful tips and information vs. content marketing, which is more promotional like Burberry’s Instagram stream), I did more reading on the topic.

As this Fast Company blog post explains, at its most basic level, brand journalism involves honest brand storytelling that invites the audience to participate.

In fact, corporations like Microsoft, have created their own not-so-mini news organizations to share their content with employees and customers. Instead of featuring content created by marketers and executives, brand journalism features content created by topic experts (i.e., engineers, product managers and even independent journalists). Some companies have even created “editorial” departments that don’t even fall under Marketing and their facilities often rival those of traditional news organizations. For instance, a Social Media Week panelist said a major shipping company had a better TV studio than some local news networks.

Over at Cisco, they are creating compelling content on specific topical areas the company’s employees care about. In many cases, this content could have appeared on any other technology or business news site, however, Cisco is creating in the hope that its employees share it and become more educated on the topics that are important to the company and its customers. Apparently it’s working, after Microsoft’s first year of brand journalism, its top five bloggers averaged more than 19,000 views per post.

While some companies may fear consumers will not trust their content, studies have shown that is not the case, as long as companies are transparent about where the content comes and their reasons for providing it. A recent Nielsen study found that branded website content is more trusted than paid search advertising. The survey found that 52 percent of consumers trust companies’ official websites when they find them through organic search rankings or other methods, whereas just 36 percent of respondents said they respond this way to pay-per-click ads.

Bottom line: If your company is looking to get into brand journalism because you feel you know the industry better than anyone, you probably should, just be transparent about it.

Three business podcasts you need to hear

Whether it’s because I’ve always had long commutes, I quickly grow tired of my music downloads or I just like hate listening to commercials, I love podcasts. Since I work in social media, I often look for podcasts about my chosen field. At first I thought podcasts and social media would make a natural marriage, but I have found the variety of results to be less than plentiful. With that said, here are three social media podcasts that are worth your time.
For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz report
Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson record their podcast thousands of miles apart in England and California, respectively, but you would never know it. While these two are obviously communications experts, I often find them to be a bit “old school” in their thinking and the podcast has a more corporate feel than my favorite podcasts, which sound like they were recorded in a someone’s basement. However, this is still one of the premier podcasts on social media and their guests are relevant and informative. Check out their recent interview with Sharon McIntosh, Sr. Director, Employee Communications at PepsiCo.

HBR IdeadCast
If you are remotely interested in communications, this podcast is worth a listen. It’s relatively short and it’s not updated more than once every few weeks but where else can you listen to interviews with Harvard professors, CEOs (e.g., the former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company) and other business leaders.
The Social Hour
This one is not a podcast per se even though you can download a podcast version from iTunes. Rather, it’s a netcast, which is like a podcast only you can watch it live every Monday at 2 p.m. EST or you can watch or listen to it later on

Co-hosted by Sarah Lane, from Petaluma, CA and Amber MacArthur, a new media journalist and web strategist from Toronto, this has become one of my favorite podcasts on new media. In between interviewing new media experts like Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa and CEO Steve Years, the pod(net)cast features interesting web tools, such as Boomerang for organizing Gmail messages and using to create infographic resumes.

SOPA and PIPA in 600 words

Google's "censored" homepage on Tuesday

Why did Wikipedia and WordPress black out on Wednesday? Why did thousands of users boycott GoDaddy (a web hosting service) and what is this I am hearing about soap?

  • There are 2 bills intended to prevent the illegal downloading and streaming of TV shows and movies online (mostly from web sites operating overseas). Stop Online Piracy Act in the House was introduced on October 26, 2011 and its primary sponsor is Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas. The senate’s version is the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which was introduced on May 12, 2011 and is authored by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.
  • Under SOPA, private companies would be allowed to sue ISPs (Internet service providers) for hosting content that they say infringes on copyright. This represents a departure from current law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which grants immunity to web sites as long as they act in good faith to take down infringing content upon notification.
  • Under the terms of each proposed bill, the federal Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, could seek a court order against a web site that illegally hosts copyrighted content and then wall off the site permanently.
  • The white house said it opposes parts of the two bills and anyone who has taken civics knows, if either bill passes the senate, the president can veto it but the senate could override his veto with a 2/3 majority.
  • Who’s concerned? Mainly the tech industry, as they had little influence on the language of the legislation, which is still in flux. Big Internet companies say the bills could prevent entire web sites from appearing in search results — even if the sites operate legally and most content creators want their videos or music to appear there
    • The fear is that on blog communities like Tumblr, any user who uploads an unauthorized clip from a movie or an unreleased track from an album is putting the whole company in the line of fire.
    • In November, Tumblr “censored” the page its users see when they log into the site, explained the legislation and routed them to contact information for their representatives in Congress.
    • Reddit declared Dec. 29 “Dump GoDaddy Day” after the domain hosting service declared they supported the legislation. Although GoDaddy reversed its position, it lost more than 20,000 accounts because of the boycott.
  • There may be a potential compromise called the OPEN Act, which would provide for the International Trade Commission to judge cases of copyright or trademark infringement. If the commission found that a foreign site was largely devoted to piracy, it could compel payment processors and online advertising companies to stop doing business with it.
  • Rep. Smith recently announced he would remove the controversial section of the bill that would give copyright holders and the federal government the right to remove infringing web sites from the DNS (Domain Name System). DNS works as a sort of “phone book” for the Internet. When a user types a URL into a browser, DNS helps the users’ computer find and speak with the correct server hosting the content the user wants to access. If a web site is taken off the DNS system, it becomes more difficult for the average Internet user to arrive at that site, but savvy Internet users might still be able to access blocked sites.
  • Rep. Smith, scheduled a markup session (where the bill will be open to members of the House Judicial Committee for debate, amendments and other changes) for February in which the bill might be altered. The House will not be taking a final vote on SOPA then.

Business lessons from an unlikely source

By the time my family got cable in the mid-’90s, MTV was already a cable network staple for kids across the country and I never questioned why the network was created, why videos were played or what programs were aired. While reading I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, I realized that some network decisions were carefully thought out and others were unplanned. Nevertheless a few key business lessons can be gleaned from the book:

  • Expertise helps, but it’s not always necessary. A successful start-up requires dedication and imagination but not necessarily expertise. The book quotes Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, who said in the early days of Apple, when he didn’t know how to design a floppy disk or printer interface, he’d make something up without knowing how other people do it. He said “all the best things I did while at Apple came from (a) not having money and (b) not having done it before, ever.” The same proved true for MTV executives.
  • Free content is king. Music videos existed long before the founding of MTV but they were undervalued. American record companies some but they didn’t know what to do with them. In England they were considered filler programing. When MTV started, they acquired their content from record companies for a great price, FREE.
  • Whoever gets there first can win. When MTV launched as a 24-hour cable TV network, they needed content. As the authors said, “If there had been videos for Bad Company and Deep Purple, MTV probably would have played them” but there weren’t. As a result, British New Wave bands like Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls quickly produced videos and sold more records as a result.
  • The content has to meet the medium. Any web designer knows you can’t use the same design for an email template, a landing page and a Facebook page, it won’t work, they all designed for a different purpose. Bands performing in the early 1990s had to learn the same thing with music videos. Bruce Springsteen and U2 may have been great artists but they didn’t understand the medium at first. Billy Squire’s career may have even ended due to music videos (let’s just say his message didn’t meet his audience).
  • Different mediums require different formats. MTV was run by Bob Pittman and Les Garland, who adopted a radio-style format called AOR (album-oriented rock), where you play rock and only rock. Only that didn’t work on TV. Since they were the only mainstream music video channel around and many different music groups and labels wanted exposure on MTV, they had to expand to include R&B and rap with Michael Jackson first and then Run DMC later.
  • Advertising rules, especially on TV. MTV’s coverage of spring break was created for one reason—they needed beer companies to advertise on the network. If Budweiser wouldn’t go to them, they went to Budweiser.
  • Did I mention advertising rules on TV? Videos are seldom played now due to one reason—advertising. MTV executives quickly learned that video viewers are too fickle for videos. While channel surfing, viewers would land on MTV, watch the video they liked and if they didn’t like the next video, they would move on. Although MTV had experimented with non-music video shows since the late 1980s (see Remote Control and Club MTV), the point was confirmed with the introduction of The Real World in 1992 to triple the ratings. According to Jonathan Murray, “When the first episode aired, we came out of a 0.3 (0.3% of the total number of households with TVs in the U.S.) rating for the videos, and The Real World popped to a 0.9 (almost 1% of the total number of households with TVs in the U.S.).”

This isn’t a business lesson per se, but I thought it was interesting. MTV may have been created to sell financial services to consumers. American Express wanted to sell financial services into the home so they bought half of Warner Cable in 1979. The two companies later founded Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, which launched MTV in 1981.

Read a short interview and listen to a podcast interview with the authors here.