Sun gets green light for web-first corporate news

As of next Monday, 30 July, Sun Microsystems will start releasing key corporate news over the Internet, via the company's website and RSS-feeds. It's thought to be the first time a US company has been allowed to use the web as it's main channel for price-sensitive information and follows protracted negotiations between Sun's CEO, Jonathan Schwartz and Christopher Cox, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman – made public on Schwartz's blog.

Financial Times has the background story. Here's Schwartz on the implications:

Referencing a dialog we've established with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, and its Chairman Cox, this will place, for the first time, the general investing public - those with a web browser or a cell phone - on the same footing as those with access to private subscription services. In effect, driving an open dialog directly with investors, rather than routing information through proprietary sources. Open is as open does.

I believe this change will increase the transparency of our business, fulfill our desire to disseminate information on a fair and equitable basis, and allow the network to be used for what it's intended - connecting people and information... I wonder how far off we are from ceasing to issue traditional press releases altogether... after all, no news agency could possibly suggest they reach a greater portion of the planet than the internet.

Watch out for a brave new future where you get your press releases via RSS-feeds you subscribe to, rather than as a nuisance clogging up your email box. Okay, lots of companies are already using RSS to distribute press releases, but being able to distribute price-sensitive information this way: now that's a milestone.

Spam season and the (il)logic of spam

I guess I'm lucky, or have been, to receive very little spam on this blog, just the odd trackback, but this month spam's been a daily nuisance - mostly in the form of trackbacks, but also comments. What's struck me though, is that most of it links to real products, like Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses or book reports. So, is this a new, absurd product advertisment strategy, or just pranksters with a bizarre kind of humour? Where's the business model in spam?

Now, blog spam, at least the kind I get, comes in three differents forms: 1) when someone writes gibberish and links to a product website: seems like an obvious prank, I mean, who would click on a link like that? 2) says "I've found the ultimate solution to xx" and links to a product website, why would I care? 3) says something intelligent that relates to the topic of my blog and links to a product website. If it's intelligent enough I might let that pass as it could be the beginning of an interesting conversation.

But the whole business of spam really is beyond me: you spam 10,000 blogs, get 5,000 or less hits - how big a percentage is actually stupid enough to buy your product? Try to advertise sunglasses via a trackback on my media blog, huh? That is almost as widely off the mark as the spam emails I get about available Russian chicks and European casinos. Talk about untargeted marketing...

Here's an interesting blog post (in Swedish, via Henrik Torstensson) about sites spamming Swedish blogs with links to 'link farm like' catalogues. Again, the business model escapes me....


Sophisticated Bullshit: why advertising is dead

... this is rather sophisticated BS, which the author could have got away with before the internet. Now people just share how crap a product is and no amount of advertising projection is going to have psychological impact. And that is why advertising is dead - it doesn't have the same function it used to but it's still sucking out money out of companies. What the author is missing is that the 'informational' role of advertising is now fulfilled by other customers, i.e. markets. The demand side supplying itself...

Quintessentially Adriana (commenting on a Financial Times opinion piece about the benefits of advertising), from her Furl feed.

Monetising Blogmonitoring

A recent 'seminar' on blogging by media intelligence company Cision left me somewhat baffled. The talks, by Richard Gatarski and Alexander Mason, were inspiring enough, but Cision used the seminar to launch its plans to offer new, and no doubt expensive, blogmonitoring for its clients.

This didn't make much sense to me: why would I spend a lot of money on something I can do in a few minutes for free with the help of technorati, google, newsreaders etc? As a journalist for instance, I subscribe to technorati searches for all the companies I follow via my newsreader. It takes me very little time keep up with, and could, for one, tell me that there was a lot of Dutch blog buzz around Schibsted's recent launch of its E24 concept in Holland.

So Cision's move puzzled and annoyed me as it seemed to be a blatant attempt to make money on people's ignorance. I was heartened therefore, when I discovered this vibrant conversation around another new blogmonitoring service, this time from PR Newswire and Umbria (via Adriana):

Media monitoring services still play an important role in supporting PR, but this old school model comes from a day before the Internet where national media monitoring via a third party was essential, simply because there wasn’t an alternative, and in many cases, for print, radio and TV there isn’t an all inclusive alternative today. And yet blogs and consumer generated media are the children of a new age, an online age where information is accessible online anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

Many PR Professionals contact and read TechCrunch so perhaps we can get some answers: is it that some PR Professionals cant type “Insert Clients Name here” into Technorati or Google Blog Search?

How difficult is it to set up feeds from services such as Google News, Yahoo News and Topix which deliver results based on corporate brand names? Isn’t the whole point of engaging with and participating in a Web 2.0 world one to one communications, removing the middle tier of information dissemination?

"Occasionally I come across proposals from such agencies to my clients," writes Adriana: "I always show them how to do it themselves. That's the whole point - disintermediation can work for companies too, not just individuals. Go figure. "

Many of comments on this TechCrunch post are superb (go check it out in full), and gave me many useful perspectives on why we see these new blogmonitoring services popping up. A valid point is of course that blog monitoring can be time-consuming for big companies with products that generate a lot of buzz, but here's a few of my favourite comments which supported my gut reaction to the news:

Comment from Unjournalism
I do the Technorati/Google/Topix/Etc.-to-RSS free monitoring and then — wait for it…THINK about what the results mean. Then spend the savings on gadgets and whiskey

Comment from Kevin Bourke
There are a few reasons why I’m not surprised at the launch of a service like this:
- PR agencies (and even internal PR departments) are often put in the “justify your existence” position; develop a weekly, monthly, quarterly report that demonstrates your value and reminds the executive team why we spend so much on PR. PR people, unfortunately, tend to justify their existence by generating gobs of reports — the more ‘hits’ the better you must be. And in today’s Web 2.0 world, the pressure for more comprehensive results is that much greater. In my view, it’s unfortunate, because this defensive mentality actually devalues PR, and makes PR people forget where their true value lies.

For one, let's see if Cision's wonderful blog search engine picks up on this post....

Politicians Not Welcome

It's tough being a politician in Second Life. Despite the allure of a fabulous new and PR-friendly marketing platform, it's not quite the controlled environment they are used to, where policemen and security guards swiftly can be called in to deal with 'undesired elements'. Hell, it's unlike any other environment most politicians are used to, and many have found that 'interacting with digitial users' didn't take on quite the form they had bargained for:

At the start of this week, The Guardian reported how 'Italians seeking respite in cyberspace from the surreal world of Italian politics were fighting plans by a minister to build a campaign headquarters in there.' A more unpleasant surprise awaited US Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards at the start of last week, when his Second Life HQ was vandalized by Republican Second Lifers and haunted by a feces spewing obscenity. Then of course there's was Le Pen's brand new HQ in the virtual world that was bombarded with flying pigs a while back (still, it must have compared quite favourably to Le Pen's frequent experiences of being bombarded with rotten eggs in real life).

John Edwards' Second Life HQ vandalized

"This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares. You see countless news stories about this, over and over again: the gray humourless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do, only to find themselves staring directly into the collective of the Internet's soul," wrote John Brownlee in Wired's Table of Malcontents, but one of his readers put it more bluntly in the comments:

"The way I look at it is that political idiots entered a realm that they do not and care not to understand. This would be like jumping in to World of Warcraft and expecting people to care about your political agenda... we just don't care."

Of course, politicians are neither the only ones, nor the first, who have met with 'violet' protests in this virtual world. CNET takes a closer look at Second Life 'grassroot activism' here.

The message is dead, long live the messenger

"Repeat after me: 'the message' is dead, gone and not coming back. Blogs are conversations, conversations are social interaction and social interaction is about your relationship to a person, not a statement. Cornelius Puschmann in a comment on Suw Charman's post Edelman: must try harder" (via Adriana). Here's two of my favourite quotes from Charman's post on her disappointment over Edelman's dabbling in fake blogs, or flogs, on behalf of Wal Mart, but do check out the full post:

For a long time I've felt that Richard [Edelman] is indulging in the zooification of bloggers - collecting and displaying them the way that rich people used to do with exotic animals. I worry that this makes him feel that he's got a better understanding of the phenomenon than he actually has.

Kevin [Anderson] frequently talks about how he sees big media trying to adapt blogs to their business model instead of adapting their business to blogs, and Edelman are making exactly the same mistake - trying to use blogs for PR, instead of trying to adapt PR to blogs. Having a blog isn't a magic bullet, it doesn't fix anything. The magic comes from transparency, openness, honesty and engagement. As Kevin says, that's the cluetrain, this is just clue-fucked.

More people positive to Denmark after the Mohammed crisis

At the end of October last year the Danish government set aside 110m DK to improve the country's image in the wake of the Mohammed crisis, but it seems by then people's perception of the place was already recovering, if not improving. A survey from the third quarter of 2006, shows people in Muslim countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and Malaysia actually are more positive to working and living in Denmark now than before the Mohammed crisis. "It's to be expected that things return to normal after a crisis, but that people are more positive than before is surprising," Simon Anholt of Anholt Nation Brands Index, a survey of 36 countries' image, told Berlingske (in Danish).

PR Newswire links up press releases to Technorati

PR Newswire will start linking individual press releases to Technorati so people can find out which blogs are linking to them (via Bloggers Blog). "Press releases have the power to initiate and inform important conversations in the blogosphere, while many bloggers are great accelerators and influencers of public conversation and opinion," Dave Armon, chief operating officer of PR Newswire, said in the press release announcing the deal.

Hmm... welcome to the brave new media world. It's great to see the blogosphere recognised as an important source of public perception and debate, but PR and marketing departments might want to consider retraining their staff to get rid of the corporate jargon and marketing speech that surely will only backfire in the realm of human conversation.

A bleak future in store for 2007

Over at Media Culpa, Hans Kullin has gazed into the crystal ball and come up with a few irreverent predictions for the media year ahead, both for Scandinavia and the world at large, including this thought-provoking vision: Mainstream media are pushing the citizen journalism trend so far that reporters are quitting their jobs in order to be just 'ordinary people'. "This is the only way that I will be able to get anything printed nowadays", says one columnist at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, who prefers to be anonymous.

While we're on the issue of trust...

Reuters reports that an Ipsos MORI study has found that Europeans trust blogs (24 per cent) more than television ads (17 per cent) or email marketing (14 per cent). Newspapers were still more trusted than blogs (30 per cent). 52 per cent also said they were persuaded to make a purchase after reading a positive blog review (via Bloggers Blog).

Now that says a lot about how effective blogs can be as a marketing tool, though I have a suspicion that a commercial blog still will get much less credibility than a personal one. The findings certainly support that old thesis of The Cluetrain Manifesto that markets are conversations, and that the internet enables global conversations which lead to a more tranparent society. A society where spin will only get you so far as there's too many people out there posting their honest reviews of your product online, and scores more reading those reviews.

However, that blogs are more trusted than TV ads and what I would call spam does not leave blogs a lot of credit as information sources. Nor does the the finding that only 30 per cent of Europeans trust what they read in the newspapers leave the news industry much to cheer for. Mind you, while we ARE on the issue of trust, I must say that personally I don't trust the methodology of polling companies too much, though MORI tend to be one of the more serious players in the field.


The weird and wonderful world of marketing: do check out "Top 10 ad-tricks in Tokyo's train stations", an interesting article "about how advertisers in the Japanese capital have thought up new ways to saturate train stations with their messages. Not content with traditional billboards and gift tissue packs, advertisers have covered the floor with stickers, clad pillars in mock tea bottles, filled every free space on the ticket gates, and covered the escalator handrail with hundreds of tiny QR-coded ads which, when scanned, pop information about local attractions onto your cell phone" (via Wired News)

The customer is always wrong

Here I was, travelling back to Oslo after a weekend on the coast and suddenly my internet connection started to work again, after a frustrating weekend of constantly abrupted or no connection. The lousy connection in that particular area contradicted my previous experiences, so while stuck in that area and unable to get online, I gave my mobile broadband provider, Netcom, a call to check: no, no, no problem on their side, it had to be my broadband card that had gone haywire, so I had to take the card to service.

Funny that, how it's always the hardware that's to blame, never Netcom, whenever my internet connection doesn't work. Of course it could be my mobile broadband card that is inclined to get regular breakdowns every day around 9am, in certain parts of Norway, and at some weekends, often those with bad weather. But then, after telling me some six months ago that my broadband card was one of the newest on the market, back when the company didn't have any direct technical support for their mobile broadband, the story now that they do have technical support, at least during office hours (hey, who in their right mind would work outside of those anyway), is that my mobile broadband is too old, but they can cut me a great deal on a new one – which incidentally will bind me to another 12month contract (and here I was wondering how to get out of my current 12month fix). Of course, this being weekend, I didn't even get through to technical support when I called Netcom today, just general 'customer service'. As the only possible solution that was offered on their end was the possibility that the problems were caused by my hardware I asked how come it was that whenever I call them the answer is always that problems are never their fault, but implicitly the customer's? The answer? Well, it's only me having these sort of problems, none of their other customers complain, which must be why it's so hard to get through to their techies...

On flogging a dead sheep

Yes, I'm talking about Bloggulf the lamb preparing for his 'responsibility' to become lamb-and-cabbage-stew again, and no, I'm not paid to aid the viral marketing campaign for the Government office trying this unusual approach to get people to eat more meat (and here I was thinking that it was more vegetables the Government wanted us to eat but that's maybe the cabbage part of the traditional meal). However, I was fascinated to read that the commercial bloggers behind the campaign attracted 35 000 friends for Bloggulf in the blog's first week online, aided by placing advertisement and banners liberally on different sites and in online papers

We're all peasants

... despite what other things Norwegians may pretend to be. This new viral marketing campaign further proves my point: it's the first viral marketing campaign in Norway that I'm aware of, and, big surprise, it's about the value of agricultural products. More specifically it's a blog about a sheep who is looking forward to meeting his preordained faith as sheep-and cabbage-stew (my best translation of 'fårikål', but open for other suggestions), authored by some Government office devoted to teaching Norwegians the value of eating meat. Link via Vampus.

Blue chips and PRs joining the blogosphere

Even in Europe, big corporations and marketing departments are starting to understand the imperative of getting on board the blog bandwagon, and some have even picked up a few things about how it works. Only seven years after The Cluetrain Manifesto, this article from The Financial Times awards us with a quote which could have been taken straight out of the book:

...John Petter, BT’s chief operating officer, will start blogging in the next few weeks. He believes keeping an online journal offers a way to reach customers who are increasingly disillusioned with traditional public relations methods. “They are suspicious of ‘corporate speak’ and they want it straight from the horse’s mouth,” he says. “Especially in a big company they want to know that someone is taking responsibility.”...

The article explains that BT's decision to make its debut in the blogosphere is partly inspired by its smaller competitor Carphone Warehouse. I sincerely hope that Mr Petter will be a better blogger than Mr Dunstone from Carphone Warehouse: I must admit I found Dunstone’s blog rather dull, still too influenced by corporate speak and too much of a sales pitch. But perhaps we need to allow corporate bloggers some time to find their personal voice if that is not a contradiction in terms (though I fear it might be). I've been a customer with both BT and Carphone Warehouse, and have not been impressed with the customer service at either, so it will be interesting to see how their corporate blogs develop.

However, a blog mentioned by the FT article that I really liked was that of Richard Charkin, CEO of MacMillan, the publisher: I will definitely check it out more often, but then it's got a 'personal blog' disclaimer on it, which points to the difficulties that any corporate blog will face: how personal and open can you be when you speak for a big corporation riddled with politics and fears?

As for how blogs can be adopted in the PR-world, there’s a hilarious story over at Buzzmachine of
how someone invented a pretty PR girl named Amanda and set up a blog for her, a blog that has five people writing in her name, apparently just to check out the new ‘bloghype’ and how it might be used as a PR tool…

Dell - rebuilding corporate reputation with grassroots effort

Puh! Long title, but that's what GCI group, a division of Grey Worldwide, says it's doing for Dell. Read Jeff Jarvis hilarious account of exactly how. Dell, or their marketing consultants, are obviously starting to wake up to how markets are not only conversations, but, facilitated by the internet and the blogosphere, they are increasingly global conversations. However, Dell hasn't quite figured out how to converse with their markets yet, as this snippet from the comment Jarvis received shows:

"I’ve been working with Dell the past three weeks researching trashy blogs that worms like you leave all over that frigen blogosphere... But honestly I don't think you have a problem Dell can fix. Your problem is you have no life. "

More on the conversation between Jarvis and Dell, and the implications for PR and customer service, here. Now my only personal experience with Dell is hearing my then boyfriend scream and swear at his Dell laptop with regular intervals while we lived together.

However, the story of how Dell is struggling to reconnect with its customers bears a lot of resemblance to how AOL is struggling to do the same – and I have too many experiences with them. So much so that even when the company now has announced it will deliver its email service for free along the lines of services provided by e.g. Yahoo, I wouldn't take them up on it. In fact, I'm even less tempted to go back to a free version of AOL – at least when I pay for a service I have a snippet of reasonable expectation that I will get what I pay for and can complain if I don't: if it's free, well who am I to complain?

How to ruin MySpace

Simon Dumenco offers some good advice to Murdoch about what NOT to do with his newest acquisition: "Attempt pseudo-subliminal advertising. A recent New York Times piece described plans by Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, to turn "advertisers into members of the MySpace community, with their own profiles, like the teenagers' -- so that the young people ... can become 'friends' with movies, cellphones and even deodorants." Yeah, great idea! My name is Bobby Thompson, and my best friend is deodorant!" Read more here. Link via Mediabistro.


How difficult can it be to terminate an internet account? Good thing this guy had the sense to TAPE the phone conversation. I found this almost too painful to listen to as it brought some very unwelcome flashbacks from my AOL nightmare – which ended with my then new laptop becoming terminally ill ( I can't prove the connection of course, but all my trouble started when I installed AOL on it...), and me being forced to pay AOL for the remaining six months of the contract despite not having a PC anymore. Link via Brand Autopsy (posted in Meaningless Marketing).

Internet conversations: Sunday Prayer

I don't know how this reader found his way to my blog, but I'm thankful for getting a chance to check out his blog, and particularly loved this gem:

"Hey God... gotta sec? ...Can I just tell you how confusing it is down here many religions, so many mixed messages? You really need to talk to someone about brand management. I mean, seriously, you've got more people using your name and likeness than Ed McMahon and I'm pretty sure you're not getting a dime from most of them. A word of advice...try to get those Disney attorneys to handle your trademark/copyright stuff...they'll have 95% of those crosses, medallions, and stained glass windows down within 24 hours, guaranteed, and will make sure you get a license fee for the ones allowed to stay up. We're talking big money...way more than the tithes that some of your franchisees encourage their members to pay. What's that? You do very well thank you? Okay, it's none of my business...I'm just saying.

What? Oh right, time, tight schedule, pressing business, no time to chit-chat? Got it. No I don't want to go talk to one of your franchise managers...right, sorry...I mean priest, pastor, rabbi, whatever...can I just talk to you about the brand management thing for one second?" Read the rest here