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Archive for July, 2011

News of the World closure – the right decision, or a convenient announcement?

July 8th, 2011

At around 5pm on Thursday, Twitter was alive with seemingly unbelievable statements: ‘News of the World to close – News International statement to follow’, swiftly followed by online media and the news channels.

This story has been brewing for many years in the wake of the News of the World hacking scandal, which has gathered pace this year with further revelations. Most recently, news that not only had MPs and celebrities had their voicemail hacked, (which is unlikely to bring much sympathy from the public) but so had a number of high profile murder and abduction cases, as well as families of soldiers killed in action and victims of the 7/7 bombings.

This rightly brought a massive response from the public and on Monday afternoon, a huge social campaign targeted advertisers of the News of the World, which ultimately meant Ford pulled out and a number of other high profile advertisers felt the need to confirm they were reviewing their position.

I think many people watching this issue unfold were quite happy with the beginnings of a boycott and hoped to keep up the pressure via social, traditional and broadcast media. However, on Thursday evening the majority were taken by surprise by what was quite a stunning move by News International.

The full facts behind this move, which has resulted in the redundancy of many of the team on the News of the World (who were not linked to the hacking allegations) most likely has a number of reasons. I agree that morally this was the right decision, but I suspect there is much more to it than that.

Yes, the amount of negative public opinion certainly played its part, but the News of the World has never been afraid of upsetting people in the past. The reaction from advertisers no doubt made News International consider its position, as a paper is nothing without its advertisers. Although as the most popular Sunday paper in the UK, it could have probably weathered the storm.

However, news of imminent arrests of senior News of the World employees and ex-employees in relation to the hacking issue and Police payments were more likely to play a part. As well as the 4,000 potential victims of phone hacking by the paper. We are also likely to find out further problems over the coming weeks and months as part of the Government inquiry which will be public and messy. Furthermore the much discussed deal to acquire BSkyB, which is going through a high-profile Government review, now put back to September, was probably the biggest reason. Sacrifice old media for new (or at least media with more potential in the digital age) – it makes sense.

In reality, although Sunday’s edition of the News of the World will be the last, is this really the end of the country’s biggest tabloid Sunday paper? Or will we simply see it re-born, potentially under the name of its equally questionable sister weekly paper, The Sun, which is the most popular daily.

News quickly got out last night that The Sun on Sunday and .com were registered two days ago, which seems to be a large coincidence, further proof that the News of the World will live on in spirit if not name, or a smart person grabbing a valuable domain on a hunch.

Furthermore, Roy Greenslade at The Guardian wrote a piece on News International’s move ‘towards a form of integration of daily and Sunday’ so was this always the plan and the backlash just offered a neat package to deliver it with more than a hint of crisis communications behind it?

So what does this episode teach us? Does it mean public opinion triumphed over the disgusting tactics of a media monster? Well, considering the hacking has been ongoing for at least 10 years, and public knowledge for 4-5 years, that seems unlikely. Does it mean that the social campaign started on Monday killed the News of the World? Again, this was a factor rather than a reason.

Does it mean that the extremely high pressure working style of tabloid national newspapers will change and journalists will no longer be forced to make a decision between their ethics and their job? Again, it seems not.

The likely reality is that those responsible for this problem, or at least most responsible in terms of their title and dealing with the issue throughout its history, are likely to be untouched (unless the legal process and Government review uncovers any hard evidence). It’s likely that the BSkyB deal will go through, and it’s likely that News International will launch a new title to replace the News of the World and regain market share.

So if this battle killed the News of the World, who and what escaped to fight another day will become apparent over the coming months.

For further information, The BBC has a good overview

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Google+ circles on Facebook

July 6th, 2011

Want to check out Google + but don’t have an invite? Well here is the next best thing. It’s called Circle Hack and has been designed to copy the circles feature on Google +. It is simply a way to organise friends into lists that can then be interacted with directly. Once a circle is organised via drag and drop the user clicks on the “Create list” link in the centre of the new circle to name it, and it is created.

Circle Hack is defined as “a one-night experiment with Javascript”, and is not affiliated with Facebook.

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Tiny URL for your Google+ profile

July 5th, 2011

As one of the lucky few to get an invite to Google + so far, I’m always on the look out for the next wave of associated tools.  I’ve not yet had a proper play with Google +, but first impressions are positive. To find out more I can recommend this post: Chris Brogan’s The Google Plus 50

One of the first tools you probably want to look at is which is essentially a link shortening tool, which is useful for adding a Google + account in your email signature or similar. I imagine Google will create some sort of official app soon, but in the meantime this is very simple to use, so why not give it a go!

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Context is simple and the online world is not that complex

July 1st, 2011

Marketing is the art of making people believe that they need goods and services, which, if they reflected, would not be strictly necessary to their lives. Marketing is essential to the current economic model we have.

I was reminded of this when I read “Embracing Context in a World of Complexity” by Gunther Sonnenfeld online today.

I’m a writer by trade and vocation so I often miss the granular details of marketing but Gunther’s post gave me pause for thought, from the point of view of a marketing outsider.

I read and re-read his post, trying to establish how we embrace context in a world of complexity. I wish I could report that I found the solution or tangents to that. But I could not.

Apart from the tyranny of type (we believe what we read), Gunther’s style is seductive as he moves towards the main point of his article, which is to promote a software application. On the way to this point, Gunther lays out his table, in some detail.

How do we embrace context in a world of complexity? Gunther opens his position thus:

“It seems that, finally, a collective realization has been made: that content – whether in the form of stories, news articles, messages, ad units or otherwise – is meaningless without a definitive reference to situation, use and/or need. Better yet, these things are meaningless without definitive relationships to one another.”

That’s an extraordinary statement. The word “collective” should be used with respect and extreme caution. We’d need to see the data on this point.

Gunther presses on: “Well, simply put, interactions in any environment are defined by relationships. The way we consume, the way we talk and the way we connect are, of course, relationship based. But this also means that the things we share or leave behind – imprints or expressions, if you will – have their own relatedness.

Well, we could argue with him on the first point about consumption and I’m no also wiser after several readings and discussions with colleagues on his secondary point on “relatedness”.

Gunther then hits us with a key thought: “,,,a much larger construct, which is how to build (and measure) personal relationships without losing their collective intent.”

I wish I knew what that meant, particularly the ‘collective’ element. If you have a ghost (the collective) at the heart of your proposition then you will have problems in defining, developing and coding the metrics.

Then we come to the heart of the article, and the problem I have with Gunther’s thinking:

“It goes without saying that trust is the most prized commodity in our consumptive world. What isn’t so obvious is why trust is so easily violated or mistreated. More important, when we build trust, objects, opportunities and stories, emerge.”

Since when has trust been a commodity? Last time I looked at the markets, I could buy wheat, orange juice, even corn – but I can’t see the current market price for trust. Trust is, and never will be, an object of exchange on global markets. It will never be a commodity.

I could go on but I’m too tired of this. At base, if we want to communicate with people we want to sell things and services to then we say the truth, be honest, do the right thing. When we talk with them, we are open to criticism and new ideas. Together we might make something better, or even great. It’s not complex – it’s really simple and the context is something we already know in our hearts.

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