Public Relations

March 19, 2010

Why We Should Care About Retrans Part II: Battles for the TV Audience

This is the second installment in a series on TV retransmission fees. The introduction ran yesterday. In brief Disney, WABC's parent company demanded a per-subscriber retransmission fee from New York area cable provider, Cablevision. Cablevision thought the fee was too much. A messy public battle ensued and WABC disappeared from Cablevision at midnight on Sunday, March 7, night before the Oscars. If you want to learn more about retrans in general, check out this great article from Broadcasting & Cable.

WABC and Cablevision had already been engaged in a nasty fight to win the hearts and minds of Cablevision subscribers before WABC went black at midnight on March 7. ABC and Cablevision each ran a series of ads blasting the other. Check out the two ads below. Both are propaganda its best and most manipulative, but they each present a very different picture of why audiences should care about TV and the retrans battle.

Here's Cablevision's commercial:

Here's WABC's commercial:

So which is more effective?

Continue reading "Why We Should Care About Retrans Part II: Battles for the TV Audience" »

February 22, 2010

C3 White Paper: More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media

The next installment of our 2009 C3 white paper releases.

My white paper extends the work I began with If It Doesn't Spread, it's Dead in 2008. It digs deeper into how the social principles that shape the flow "free" goods and services online shape concepts of value.

Through theoretical analysis and practical case studies, the paper:

  1. Explains why "free" things aren't really free, and the social contracts that regulate these exchanges
  2. Outlines the key differences between socially-driven exchanges and market-driven ones, with an eye towards how to develop online monetization models that can bridge the two systems.
  3. Breaks down examples of best (and worst) practices
  4. Proposes general principles for understanding online communities and socially-motivated content creators, and how to build business models around their activities.

Download the executive summary or the entire paper. You can also view the executive summary online at my blog: part 1, 2, and 3

Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet @xiaochang.

February 16, 2010

Points of Converging Interest

Although I tend to avoid doing posts that consist of only links, there has been so much good writing recently that I'd like to spend today on pointing out some of those publications!

Inside the Social Media Strategy of the Winter Olympic Games, by Craig Silverman (PBS MediaShift)

The PBS MediaShift blog takes a look at the integration of online audience engagement with the Olympic brand through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Why Pete Warden Should Not Release Profile Data on 215 Million Facebook Users, by Michael Zimmer

Michael Zimmer, executive committee member of the Association of Internet Researchers, gives his opinion on the ethical implications of Pete Warden's 215-million-user data set of public Facebook profiles.

The YouTube (R)evolution Turns 5, by Rachel Sadon (PCWorld)

PCWorld examines how YouTube has shaped our interaction with online video over the past five years.

The User Experience: Not Likely to Win the Gold, by Liz Shannon Miller (NewTeeVee)

NewTeeVee provides a first-hand perspective from an attempt to watch the Winter Olympics online.

Multitaskers: More Viewers Watched Super Bowl, Surfed Net, by Wayne Friedman (MediaPost)

MediaPost analyes a set of interesting statistics from The Nielsen Company about how many people interacted with social networking sites during the Super Bowl.

Obligatory Google Buzz post, by Jean Burgess (co-author of YouTube: Online Video & Participatory Culture)

Jean Burgess produces her own review of the criticism on Google Buzz's privacy issues evolving on the Association of Internet Researchers mailing list.

And, finally, enjoy (or be surprised at) this video:

What is a Browser?

A representative from Google asks 50 strangers in Times Square if they understand what a browser is and does? Given that most of the online hype around Internet development addresses early adopters, here's a look at how the general public perceives the Internet. The results: Less than 8% of those interviewed knew what a browser was.

January 26, 2010

3 Lessons Conan, Leno, and NBC Taught Me

After lots of press coverage and a very heated (and often uncomfortable) public debate, Conan O'Brien hosted his last episode of The Tonight Show on Friday, January 22.

As the clip below shows, O'Brien bowed-out gracefully, despite earlier snarkiness directed at NBC.

Ultimately, both Conan and Leno were hurting NBC's bottom line. Conan was the lowest rated host in Tonight Show history and his tenure marked the first time the show was ever on track to lose money.

Leno's 10 pm show hurt NBC too, but at the affiliate rather than the national level. Local news is the bread and butter of affiliates and with the low-rated Leno as a lead-in many 11 pm newscasts were hemorrhaging viewers. No doubt the poor lead-in from local news also hurt Conan's ratings.

NBC made a huge mistake putting Leno at 10/9c and their huge mistake has taught us three huge lessons about the television business.

Continue reading "3 Lessons Conan, Leno, and NBC Taught Me" »

August 1, 2008

The Fireside Chat Vs. the Podcast

i wanted to give a quick link today to another couple of pieces I wrote or collaborated on recently that I thought might interest some Consortium blog readers. First, Peppercom co-founder Steve Cody and I recently ran a piece in BusinessWeek entitled "The Fireside Chat Vs. the Podcast".

The piece looks at how FDR's use of the radio for more personal communication to the citizenry revolutionized the way national government spoke to the country in the 1930s and how the Internet has introduced myriad new opportunities that the government has taken little advantage of so far. In our editorial, we look at the current economic downturn, ways in which the Internet would allow the government and corporations alike to more efficiently communicate with the public about their decisions, and the general need for more transparency in national government decision-making.

We write:

But what happens once one of these candidates is elected to office? What would be the modern equivalent of the fireside chat? How can tools like LinkedIn and YouTube be used to provide a more transparent government? [ . . . ]

The White House today continues the weekly radio addresses pioneered by FDR and offers regular press briefings, weekly e-mail updates, and occasional Presidential press conferences. However, the information conveyed here lacks in both depth and accessibility when compared to the information supporters are inundated with by Presidential campaigns.

Perhaps the most promising title on the White House's official site--"White House Interactive"--leads to a question-and-answer section, with the most "recent" question dated Mar. 26, 2007. The question: "George W. Bush is what number as President of the U.S.?" Talk about useless information.

I'd love to hear any feedback you might have about the piece, either here or over on the BusinessWeek site.

Sam Ford is a research affiliate with the Consortium and Director of Customer Insights with Peppercom. He also writes for PepperDigital.

June 6, 2008

Changes Around C3: My New Position and Consortium Summer Schedule

With the academic year winding up here at MIT and graduation upon us, I wanted to give everyone a few updates regarding what's going to be happening with the Consortium.

As we posted here on the blog, we are in the process of hiring a new research director, and we will have an announcement about who that is once the decision has been made here on the blog.

Last week was the end of my duration as the Consortium's project manager. I have now gone to work for PR firm Peppercom as Director of Customer Insights (see more at PRWeek and Bulldog Reporter, as well as Firm Voice and The Holmes Report--subscription-only, so I can't link to it. I co-authored some pieces with Peppercom founder Steve Cody in the past, including writing some thoughts pieces available from The Christian Science Monitor, PR News, and Bulldog Reporter, if you're interested in knowing more about what a Director of Customer Insights might think or do...(I'm still trying to figure that out myself.)

However, I will remain an official research affiliate with the Consortium and can still be reached at That also means that, while I won't be writing here quite as often, I still plan to post a couple of times a week here on the Consortium blog, so don't think C3 is suddenly going to run out of posts on soaps or the WWE.

Continue reading "Changes Around C3: My New Position and Consortium Summer Schedule" »

April 22, 2008

Transparency and the Public Eye: Wal-Mart's Shank Controversy

First off, since the following post is about reputation, I wanted to share with everyone the resulting white paper from the recent PR News Webinar I participated in with Peppercom. The paper is entitled "D=BC²: Are You a Digital Einstein?" See more here.

Sometimes, you can't help but wonder what companies are thinking. But here's a rule of thumb that I think might help anyone out in their decision-making process. If it's the type of move that you don't want the public to know about, then don't make it. Transparency is crucial.

Take, for instance, all the blogosphere discussion regarding Wal-Mart from earlier this month. For those who haven't heard the story, a Wal-Mart employee suffered serious brain damage after being hit by a truck in her van several years ago. She eventually won a settlement with the trucking company, but Wal-Mart decided to sue her in order to recoup medical expenses that had been paid out for her injury. As if this didn't seem suspect enough, it was complicated by the fact that the amount Wal-Mart was asking for was more than the amount the woman received, after lawyer fees. Ultimately, Wal-Mart took the funds remaining in the woman's trust, which amounted to approximately $277,000.

Continue reading "Transparency and the Public Eye: Wal-Mart's Shank Controversy" »

October 2, 2007

Lowes (tm) Sucks: Consumer Criticism and the Lowes Trademark Fiasco

We write rather frequently here at C3 on issues surrounding Intellectual Property (as well as things that suck, come to think of it), though, admittedly, home improvement falls a bit outside the usual area of focus. But, given some of the implications, both disturbing and humorous, of Lowes Home Improvement's recent trademark controversy, it seemed time to learn something about fence installation.

A couple of weeks ago, the register ran the story of Allen Harkleroad, a man who, after being frustrated by what appears to have been epically bad service from Lowes Home Improvement, went and did what we've all done on occasion: he complained.

On the Internet.

Continue reading "Lowes (tm) Sucks: Consumer Criticism and the Lowes Trademark Fiasco" »

August 8, 2007

The Problems with Measuring Reputation in the PR Industry

I've had the pleasure of being connected recently to some intelligent folks over at Peppercom, a public relations company that serves a variety of interesting clients, from The Columbia School of Journalism to Netflix to Panasonic to Tyco.

Ed Moed, who is one of the co-founders of Peppercom, wrote a piece recently about the public relations industry, focusing on the dangers of the way quantitative metrics are understood for measuring corporate reputations in the public relations industry.

Considering all that we've been writing lately about metrics in relation to the Nielsens, engagement, and both the television industry and the success of Web advertising (look here), I found his perspective on the dangerous assumptions always backing what are accepted as "hard numbers" to be illuminating.

In short, he looks at a recent study which measure company reputations on the basis of the amount of positive press that company has received. Ed's point, however, is that articles touting the release of some new product or service doesn't necessarily mean that readers, or the media itself, views those companies positively, just that they gave them some positive coverage.

Continue reading "The Problems with Measuring Reputation in the PR Industry" »

July 12, 2007

A Look at Recent Writing from Affiliated C3 Thinkers

I wanted to point the way to some interesting posts from various Consulting Researchers with the Convergence Culture Consortium. A variety of our affiliated thinkers maintain regular blogs regarding their opinion of the latest developments in the media industries, and a wide variety of other subjects.

Henry Jenkins posted a piece on his blog last week emphasizing his own interest and respect with NBC's Heroes and his reading of a recent interview with Heroes executive producer Jesse Alexander, in which he brought up reading Jenkins' book Convergence Culture. Henry links his look at fan communities with Rob Kozinets' recent writing on wiki-media.

Jason Mittell writes about the contest among the different cities of Springfield across the country to claim The Simpsons and to host the premiere for the upcoming Simpsons Movie. The state Mittell calls home, Vermont, won the contest.

Continue reading "A Look at Recent Writing from Affiliated C3 Thinkers" »

March 3, 2006

My Alma Mater Getting (Unwanted) National Attention

All right...I've stayed silent on this one long enough.

For those of you who don't know, I am a proud graduate of Western Kentucky University. The school has a highly respected journalism program, a top-notch communication department and an English and film studies faculty that includes many of the brightest and most discerning minds I have ever known. And there are scores of other talented folks at Western who have been doing everything they can to foster the growing national reputation of the university, including President Gary Ransdell, who I have personally seen in action, dedicating both day and night to preaching the good deeds of WKU and doing more good for the university than anyone could have imagined.

And, then, there's the school's Alpha Chi chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity who made national news while I was visiting Kentucky when police searched their fraternity house during a party and found a goat locked in the closet, the victim of several animal rights abuses--some obvious and some alleged. The goat is believed to have been used in hazing, although the extent of use is up for debate.

I don't feel like repeating the story again for the sake of all of us in the WKU community who are hanging our heads in shame and also those of us who are sensitive to animal rights issues. For those interested in knowing the full story, the multiple-time Hearst winner WKU College Heights Herald has given this story the most extensive and balanced coverage of anything I've seen, and those stories are available here (you may have to register with the site to view them).

As Andrew McNamara records, those at WKU feel that this is just the story that comedians are always waiting for to deride "The Bluegrass State" as being full of hillbillies who love on their sisters and their farm animals. And everyone--from late night talk show hosts to news sites around the world--have picked up on the story. Bloggers are having a field day as well. See this post from Sensible Erection, this post from Jesus' General and Bob Reno's Dumbass Daily. These are only a few of many examples of the blogs written in response to this story.

University officials have been scrambling to cover this the best that they can, and I don't post it in this venue to try to further the mockery of a great school like WKU but rather to bring the discussion to a community of branding experts. What do you do in this situation, when something happens that does nothing but reinforce the very worst stereotypes about a place you are trying hard to build up? So far, they have made it clear to distance themselves from and punish the fraternity involved and have otherwise kept their mouths shut. But this is the type of story that will stick in people's minds.

Sure, the story is already starting to die down to some degree, but it is not going to go away and will lie at the back of the public's memory because of the way it has been spun and because of the stereotypes it feeds off of. The fact that the goat was used for hazing in the first place is an example of a local group trying to play off their own stereotype--AGR was (not surprisingly, based on their initials) an agriculture fraternity.

The local AGR chapter is obviously all but done for and doesn't deserve saving. They have been suspended and denounced by the national AGR organization and suspended for three years as a fraternity by WKU. But the larger question is, from a branding perspective, where does WKU go from here?

February 20, 2006

Pop Secret Indie Commercials

Pop Secret, the General Mills popcorn brand, is sponsoring commercials for their popcorn made by independent directors, as a way to indirectly promote their sponsorship of the The Independent Feature Project Independent Spirit Awards. Pop Secret even sponsored a pullout "The Great American Indie Quiz" in last week's Entertainment Weekly, with the Web address to their site featuring the commercials.

It seems that this is the perfect fusion of commercialism and content, where independent directors are given a chance to produce content that is distributed by the company to help the director develop a name and film fans to get to see the work of unknowns, while also directly promoting the company. It's hardly an act of goodwill but is one step closer to a model of direct sponsorship. At this point, it seems to be a win-win situation.

Check out the Pop Secret page, and tell me what you think...

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