Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Newspaper blogs are booming… But what does that really mean?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, and as reported by the CBC here, visits to newspapers’ online blogs are booming and growing faster than overall hits to the newspapers’ websites. 

Here’s the horse’s mouth: “Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210 percent year over year in December (see Table 1). The overall unique audience growth to these online newspapers was 9 percent year over year. Unique visitors to blog pages accounted for 13 percent of their December 2006 Web traffic, up 9 percentage points from 4 percent in December 2005.”

But what does this really mean – particularly as it would appear that (according to the CBC), “blog visits are only a fraction of total visits. There were 29.9 million total visits to online papers in December, and 3.8 million visits to blogs.”?

Is it truly indicative of any meaningful trend, or does it simply imply that more and more columnists have editorially-endorsed blogs and that Canadians appear to enjoy reading opinion even if resides within the MSM? Clearly, it reflects the increasing attention being paid to social media by the MSM. But from a PR perspective, I’m not sure if it really changes anything… in fact, it resolves in my view a rather niggly issue of how one approaches a journalist who also hosts a popular “personal” blog? Do you approach that journalist as a blogger (with his or her own opinions and agenda) or as a representative of the media outlet that employs them - or both? In this instance, that issue is fundamentally resolved. Or is it?

Mainstream Media: Takes a licking, but keeps on ticking (online, at least)

posted by Brendan Hodgson

An article in today’s Globe & Mail re-affirmed that while North American readers/viewers of traditional media may be jumping ship, they’re not travelling very far afield:

…the websites established by the 100 biggest papers increased their total audience by about 8 per cent over the same period, according to research from the Newspaper Association of America released Monday. Some papers managed Web-audience gains of more than 20 per cent among 25 to 34-year-olds — the demographic group that analysts say are most deserting printed newspaper products.

So does this mean the much-ballyhooed demise of the mainstream media is simply a fantasy concocted by punchdrunk bloggers? Or is it more a realization that even as we spend more time online and expand our choices for where we get information, we still recognize the importance of professional journalists and the merits of a fair and balanced (note that I do not say “unbiased”) media. 

Granted, as business models change, so too might the more traditionally-styled newsroom go the way of the dinosaur – so, it’s likely we’ll still see major liposuction happening across the media sector. NBC’s recently announced re-structuring is probably the most visible sign of what’s to come. And from a traditionalist point of view – given that I enjoy reading the Saturday paper with coffee – it’s encouraging to see the circulation of some Canadian papers actually on the rise - but I can’t imagine this being anything other than an anomaly.

But will it die altogether… I don’t think so… because, other than politicians, who else is there to pick on?

Media is the tip of the iceberg… Everything else is about relationships

posted by Brendan Hodgson

It’s always nice when a colleague of ours receives props for providing strong counsel – in this case in the form of a presentation to the recent IABC conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Jo-Anne Polak, Our Senior VP of Crisis Communications, presented at the conference on the changing face of Media and its impact on Crisis Communications, and received kudos on a number of fronts, including from Katie Paine, one of North America’s leading PR measurement experts, who succinctly captured the theme of Jo-Anne’s talk – in times of crisis, it’s direct communications with your stakeholders that matters the most.

Clients & Journalists Agree… Social Media is Important

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Yeah, yeah… you know it. I know it. And a lot of people in our business are starting to know it. But it’s always nice to hear it direct from the mouths of the people we rely on to pay our bills.

Last week, H&K Canada held its national marketing communications practice meeting in Toronto to discuss trends in our business, identify new opportunities, improve our processes, enhance our creativity and explore new tools and techniques – including social media: the good, bad, and ugly, as presented by yours truly.

Kudos to the conference organizers – Kadi, you know who you are (and all your team) - for including both a client and media panel to discuss – in a frank and open manner - what exactly clients and media expect from us, how we can improve our service to them, and trends that are changing the traditional PR-Media and PR-client relationships. I think everyone in the room – including the panelists themselves – found the exchanges extremely insightful.

And from the perspective of a PR professional with responsibility for helping our clients build relationships with consumers or other audiences via the online channel, I was glad for the opportunity to hear what they had to say about PR and the Internet/social media.

Each of the client panelists — representing the mobile telecoms, beverage and not-for-profit space — emphasized the growing importance of the Web and social media in particular, both as a tool for outreach as well for ‘listening’.

Equally interesting was their acknowledgement that, as the lines of distinction between traditional PR, advertising, and interactive agencies blur in terms of roles and responsibilities, no one department or vendor has a lock on good ideas. Our clients want good, creative, and strategically sound ideas. And they don’t care where they come from. That’s something that we in PR need to consider more so now than ever, as we often find ourselves either cut out from everything but media relations, and rarely at the table when the brainstorming actually happens.

Of the media who attended the next day’s panel and who represented both the national daily print, local daily print, and network television, and when the question of blogging was asked, each of the panelists acknowledged that blogs were, without question, changing the landscape and nature of traditional journalism – both as an outreach vehicle for themselves and as a tool for listening for stories.

These are the kinds of exchanges that we need to do more often.


Canada’s new Remedy for Bad Reporting… Lock ‘em up!

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Oh dear…

So it would appear one of Canada’s esteemed parliamentarians has come up with a novel remedy (novel to Canada, at least) for bad reporting… send ‘em off to jail.

Mr. Mayes (Conservative MP in British Columbia) is quoted in today’s Globe & Mail as saying: “Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens.

Ouch… perhaps he’s not aware that misinformation in the media is only the thin edge of the wedge when compared to the rampant goings-on in the blogosphere… I fear a rude awakening is in store…


Sports Journalism & Social Media – A parable for our times?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So, in the March 27th issue of Sports Illustrated, Chris Ballard writes a 5000+ word tome – on the impact of the Internet (and blogging) on media coverage of sport.  

(Unfortunately, only subscribers or purchasers of the hard copy will be able to access it.)

Read it. It is an entertaining and insightful peek into the business of sports journalism, and professional sport itself, and how the Internet is empowering fans, and “changing the relationships between athletes, fans and journalists.” Moreover, it clearly articulates all the reasons why the Internet is changing the media landscape, and thus the business of communications.

Best of all, it places the Web (and Social media, to some extent) into a context to which many of my own colleagues (and clients) – being sports fans – can relate. In fact, one colleage - being a huge NFL fan – recently cited this article as a wake-up call to the whole social media movement, and who will be using many of the insights within this article in future presentations on the changing nature of media and crisis.

“Reporters are becoming bloggers, teams are ‘filtering’ information, fans are getting exclusive interviews with G.M’s, and anyone with a camera phone can document a rookie’s philandering or a gridiron hero’s binge drinking.”

That’s it. In a nutshell. The world in which we now live and work. Give it a business context, and the analogy is complete.

The article recounts how in 2005 the Washington Redskins “pulled an end run on print reporters, saying that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was unavailable for interviews about his contract extension; then they gave one to the team’s official website.”  Would that have happened even 5 years ago?

Today, ahletes, such as Barry Bonds and Tiger Woods, regularly break news on their personal websites, says Ballard.

The article goes on to describe how the Oakland A’s are cultivating relationships with fan bloggers such as Tyler Bleszinski, author of Athletics Nation, an unapologetically pro-Oakland A’s blog, even providing exclusive interviews with A’s GM Billy Beane, “the best of all possible worlds for a G.M looking to spread his gospel.”

“The link between the player and the sport and the fan has changed forever,” says former SI editor Sandy Padwe. And not always for the better.

Some examples:

Chicago Bears rookie QB Kyle Orton is photographed drunk in a bar. Photos appear the next day in, and within a week, Orton is answering questions about it in the media.

Sites such as “On the DL“ promise unsourced scandal and dirt on professional baseball players — including transcripts of IM exchanges, photos and unconfirmed accusations of impropriety.

“This is the power – and the danger – of the Internet,” says Ballard. “Any girl or guy at a bar can bring down an athlete, and a rumor can be fanned into a full-fledged conflagration.”

An accompanying article – “Anatomy of a Rumour” – by Albert Chen, recounted how false rumours about two of MLB’s biggest stars testing positive for steroids, fanned online, spread into the mainstream media within 48 hours — picked up by the Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times.  

The old adage still stands. If  it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. The threats posed by the Internet are no longer restricted to new economy companies, their employees and their customers. We’re all at risk. Play Ball!!!

Media-manufactured Trends… "Blogging about Business Travel"

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So… I read an article yesterday that reminded me of an old ‘Bloom County’ cartoon – you remember Bloom County, no? Opus the Penguin, Bill the Cat (Ack!), Tales too ticklish to tell? Pear Pimples for Hairy Fishnuts? (fourth from the top)

Anyway, Opus is the trends reporter at the International Bloom Picayune. The clock is ticking, and he’s struggling to find a new trend to write about but realizes all the good trends have already been covered — yuppies, single parents, cabbage patch things, republicanism, ice cream (note – this dates back to the mid-80’s). His journalist colleague, Milo Bloom, then offers up the fact that “maybe the country is growing suspicious of media-manufactured trends” … which, of course, becomes the trend…

This is a fine example.

Fighting Fire with Fire… Turning the tables on Media

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So… has the posting of media interview transcripts by interviewees — even before the article is published — become the latest trend in communications? Dan Gillmor at the Center for Citizen Media appears to believe this is the case. The evidence seems to support him.

Most recently, Dan, along with Mathew Ingram of the Globe & Mail, have written about the travails of CEO Patrick Byrne in his dealings with Tim Mullaney, a reporter for BusinessWeek.

In response to receiving a long list of questions from Mr. Mullaney, Mr. Byrne elected to post Mr. Mullaney’s questions, and his responses, online. You can read the questions here, and Mr. Byrne’s responses here.

This story raises a number of important issues… not least, it expands upon the comments made by my colleague Niall Cook in his blog on the ethics of posting private emails. As Mr. Byrne states in his response to Mullaney, “Since you did nothing to indicate the interview was off-the-record I am treating it as on-the-record (that is the journalistic convention, I believe), and so have reprinted your letter below. I trust also that you do not mind me responding in this public forum, as you also failed to stipulate otherwise (as some reporters have when they interview me by email).” When it comes to privacy, should media be treated any differently? (a partially loaded question, no doubt)

Certainly, this activity would appear to level the playing field with respect to the traditional journalist – interviewee relationship, and offer further safeguards against the potential for lazy or shoddy journalism that can occur even at the most respected of publications. It provides a clear window into the motivations of the reporter and the style of questioning being employed. Moreover, and where reporters tend to publish only small snippets of interviews, the ability to view full transcripts can provide critical context behind the selected quotes. Then again, does this activity not contradict the role of the journalist in presenting the “whole” story… not simply one side, as such a transcript would present. Might one also look at the possibility that what was posted is in fact not what was said… who to believe?

What do you think about this trend, faithful reader?

"The first faults are theirs that commit them…

posted by Brendan Hodgson

…the second theirs that permit them.” Ancient English Proverb

I, for one, shall sleep easier in 2006 knowing that our media brethren are fallible also … a very bad year, indeed.

Biting the hand that feeds

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So it appears – according to the New York Times – that News Corp has incurred the wrath of MySpace-ers by allegedly blocking access to a competitors video sharing site. What with Sony getting caught earlier in the year for quietly installing copy protection software on PCs behind our backs – and getting fleeced for it – you’d think a powerful lesson would’ve been learned in what not to do when it comes to tinkering with technology behind the backs of users (if in fact, this is what News Corp. techies tried to do – the competitor is calling it all a misunderstanding)

The author of the article, Julie Bosman, highlights a key challenge facing large companies – media or otherwise – in 2006:

“The incident underlines the peril corporations face as they buy blogs and networking sites like MySpace, which depend on the good will of their users. Mr. Murdoch paid $580 million for MySpace, a significant investment for a two-year-old Web site primarily populated by fickle teenagers and users in their 20’s. Like other members of free community Web sites, MySpace users often react with indignation if they believe their content has been tampered with.”

It will be interesting to see how many other companies make similar mistakes in 2006 – is anybody keeping count?