TV is killing us with convergence and self-promotion

At one point during Game 3 of the World Series last night, there was a trivia interlude, asking viewers which of four Rockies held the franchise record for home runs. To participate, viewers were told to text their choice to Fox, or log onto FoxSports.com to vote.

Now, at the time, I thought that was pretty silly. Vote for something you could first find the answer to with a couple of clicks on the Web?

While the specific question might have been silly, the aim was not: Leverage the strengths of other mediums to further engage the audience, and expose them to other Fox products.

(Oddly, though, I could not unearth historical stats on FoxSports.com. Had to learn elsewhere that the answer is Todd Helton.)

I have been struck lately by how well TV sports broadcasters do, through spoken words, tickers, on-screen bugs and more, to tout their online and mobile products. The Red Sox pregame show on the local Fox affiliate last night included viewer comments scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Watch any Sunday morning football preview show, and they are answering viewers' fantasy football questions via the ticker, and actively seek such questions through lead-ins or close-outs of segments. A local Patriots weekly magazine show included promotional spots for online-only programming during the week and on game days.

Contrast that with my experience with reading the November/December issue of Yankee Magazine this morning. There was a good story about the transformation of Pittsfield, MA, into a can't-miss city on any visit to Western Massachusetts. Once I reached the end of the story, I made myself backtrack through the pages, because I was sure I must have missed a tease to go online to see more photos or share my Pittsfield travel stories. No such luck.

That would have been the elementary step. An interactive map might have been an intermediate step, showing all the different locales discussed in the article (there was quite an extensive list at the end of the print story). Pulling in ratings and reviews from Yelp and other sites might have been the more advanced step. Bonus points could have been achieved if they had their own ratings and reviews system and they solicited users to participate.

So I went online, to see if the Yankee staff did anything to enhance the online version of the story, and maybe just missed the opportunity to tease from print. Nay. The story is not even online yet.

I throw up my hands in disgust. How can we expect our audiences to engage with us and our products if we won't engage ourselves in stretching our thinking and leveraging the strengths of our platforms?


Your Guide to Virtual Worlds

I think this would have to be considered a 201 course: Your Guide to Virtual Worlds

Twelve types of effective blog posts

Rich Gordon offers up a Blogging 101 in his Readership Institute post: Twelve types of effective blog posts

Please share with anyone blogging -- or thinking about blogging -- in your newsroom. We're all never too old to go back to school.


Not Your Father's Press Release

So it appears that the business world is starting to realize that a press releases doesn't have to simply be a piece of paper or e-mail and a few posed photos.

Ford Motor Company recently announced the 2008 Ford Focus with what might just be the very first Social Media press release. In addition to the traditional text release:

their site (yes a website!) also included an rss feed:

a Flickr photo gallery:A YouTube gallery with an embeddable player:

Suggested Tags:
And much, much more.

I think it is worth noting that this is FORD, not the most forward-thinking company out there and one that has been struggling financially. To me this effort indicates their recognition that there is now more then one way to get your message out; that you need to maximize your distribution; that what worked before won't work now. Is it selling more cars? I don't know. But it does have people talking.

So what do you think?


A smile for Unicef

A nice UGC idea, that could be loosely tied to Halloween:

Adverblog: A smile for Unicef


Brand Your YouTube Page

As more of you use YouTube for video distribution and promotion, I wanted to suggest that you switch your accounts from the default YouTuber to Director. This FREE change in what YouTube refers to as Channel Type will allow you to add custom items and logos on your Profile page. Basically it allows you to make your YouTube homepage consistent with your overall branding.

To make this switch, simply sign into YouTube and then go to the "Channel Info" section (http://www.youtube.com/my_profile) of your account and click on the "change channel type" link.

Don’t forget to press the Update Channel button before navigating away from the page otherwise your change won’t be registered.

Make sure that you have given your channel a title and description. This information is entered in the Channel Info page. Your description can be something as simple as RCA Record’s:

The latest videos from RCA Records!

If you want to promote all your products you can provide a description similar to that of the Universal Music Group:

Universal Music Group (UMG) Music Video Channel.

Universal Music Group consists of record labels Decca Music Group, Deutsche Grammophon, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Geffen Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Philips, Polydor Records, Universal Music Latino, Universal Motown Records Group, Universal South Records and Verve Music Group as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world.

This is also where you can include a link to your homepage or other portions of your site or even contest or event. For example if you visit the NBA’s YouTube page, you’ll see that they are currently looking for people to vote for the Fan Plays of the Year.

Channel Design allows you to customize the look and feel of your homepage in addition to delete or add the types of content visitors will see. At the very least, I would encourage all of you to upload your logos, make the color scheme visually consistent with your own sites and remove content options that might just clutter your page.

To get some ideas of how other sites are customizing their pages, check out some of these links.

You could even do something like what Al Jazeera English did on their page, and get the most out of your background image.

Once you’re done designing your YouTube page, don’t forget to upload your videos and for that I encourage you all to use HeySpread since it will post to YouTube and 15 other video sharing sites. For more on that, see my previous posts here and here.

If you have any question or comments please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and once you’ve completed your page, please share it with everyone.


Another Thought on YouTube

With all the talk last week about YouTube, copyright, credibility and impact I thought it was interesting to look at how UC Berkeley was treating the site.

For those of you familiar with the University, you likely already know that it has long embraced the web, since last year it has offered podcasts of its lectures on iTunes and earlier this month it went a step further and started publishing lectures on YouTube.

At http://youtube.com/ucberkeley, you’ll find a heavily customized page that takes advantage of the functionality that comes with a “Directors Account” -- including custom items and logos. Videos on their page include tours of campus, full lectures and interviews with staff. Currently the topics of study featured include chemistry, physics and biology.

The university explained its decision to post to YouTube this way.

"UC Berkeley on YouTube will provide a public window into university life, academics, events and athletics, which will build on our rich tradition of open educational content for the larger community," said Christina Maslach, UC Berkeley's vice provost for undergraduate education in a statement.

I don’t know how they are gauging success, but these are their posted YouTube stats:

Subscribers: 4,580
Channel Views: 340,889 (the channel seems to have gone live in May)

Now obviously we’re not running colleges or universities, but I think some of that “public window” that Maslach spoke of above rings true for what we do as well.

More then anything else, I hope seeing the way UC Berkeley, the various Presidential candidates or CBS.com are turning to YouTube and using it will help you all work through some of your concerns about incorporating the site into your overall strategy.


Kapler's corner -- Gabe Kapler offers his thoughts on the Red Sox in the playoffs - Boston.com

Nice idea, Boston.com: Kapler's corner -- Gabe Kapler offers his thoughts on the Red Sox in the playoffs - Boston.com. There's some nice inside-baseball (pardon the pun) stuff in there that only someone like Kapler could provide. Love that!

One nitpicky critique: Where's the RSS feed? How can I subscribe to the blog in my RSS reader, where I consume most of my blog-like interests, if you don't allow my Firefox to automatically detect the feed in the page, nor offer me an RSS link somewhere in the sidelines of the blog? Or how can I add it to Facebook? Or my iGoogle? You know... the platforms where I spend a significant portion of my online time these days?

For what it's worth, the feed is not available on their sports RSS page either.

Maybe my standards are too high, and I'm too much of a stickler for these details. I suppose it's nice to know we're not alone in trying to corral the basics. Boston.com has some basics to tackle, too.


Varsity 845 in-print Facebook promo

Hey, Facebook users and explorers,

Check out the in-print promo Matt Pepin, the Times Herald-Record's sports editor, crafted for the burgeoning Facebook application that Patrick Mullen has been building as an extension of Varsity 845. It's at the bottom of the PDF.

Patrick has been improving his development of the application daily for about the last week or so. His assessment is that developing for Facebook is easy once you get the hang of it, and what you build essentially is Facebook's equivalent of an iframe, something we're all practiced at using on our Web sites.

Patrick and I both agree we've not yet achieved the secret sauce with building social networking applications and widgets, but this is a great initial foray into the space for us. I'm looking forward to collaborating on future development.

Please share any ideas you or your kids might have. After all, much of the target audience is much younger than us. Who better to ask than them?

YouTube invitation

I believe I received a YouTube invitation from fitnessfactor overnight because I already subscribe to another fitness video channel (if only I was better at making time to stay fit!). I am betting that they scoured related channels, and invited subscribers of those other channels to check out fitnessfactor.

A bit spammish in practice, but it did entice me to click through and check out the videos.

One weakness of the fitnessfactor invite was it was not personal. They just used the default YouTube text:

Hi Sean,

I've been using YouTube to share personal videos with my friends and family. I'm inviting you to become my friend on YouTube so I can easily share videos with you in the future.

To accept my invitation, please follow this link and login. If you're not already a YouTube member, you can sign up first.


I've got social networking profiles all over the Internet. It's not that hard to learn a little bit about me, and a personal touch would go a lot further when it comes to recruiting me to subscribe or otherwise participate in what you're trying to accomplish.

An alternative approach:
Hi Sean,

We noticed that you subscribe to cbtrainer's videos, and as a busy executive and father of three, I am sure you are looking for any tips you can get to stay healthy and fit efficiently, while resisting the urge to indulge in fast food and unhealthy snacks, especially when you are on the road.

Check out our videos by following this link, and if we can fit into your video and fitness life, we'd love to have you as a subscriber.

Now, not every potential user is as visible as I am on the Internet. But take out the executive and father details, and it would still be a lot more personal than the default text.

Don't forget what you're up against. I received another YouTube invitation last week that was much more like a typical MySpace invite. "Hi, you looked interesting to me, and you should come over to this other Web site to check me out." They've become so numerous, it's become just noise. The fitnessfactor invite was a lot closer to that noise than it needed to be.

It's all about the signal-to-noise ratio. You need to amplify your signal to rise above all the noise. A little extra effort and a personal touch can go a long way to achieving that.

For related thoughts, check Lee Odden's "Blogger Realtions 101." While it refers to bloggers specifically -- and bloggers will be a specific focus of a chapter in the Audience Development Playbook -- Odden offers some pretty good tips on outreach in general that will be helpful regardless of platform. Also see his more recent post, "How NOT to Pitch a Blog."