Wednesday, September 30, 2009
First, I love getting comments, even if they don't agree with what I'm saying, so thank you Demosthenes. Second, thanks to that comment I was turned on to a great article by an author I respect tremendously, Malcolm Gladwell.
My guess is that Chris and Malcolm are friends. I don't know this for a fact, but they run in the same circles - both can be seen on TED.com giving speeches - Chris about his earlier book, "The Long Tail" and Malcolm about Spaghetti Sauce. (Trust me, watch Malcolm's speech, it is fantastic.) I could be wrong on this, but I think I'm right. So it's interesting to see one respected author critique another.
And while I appreciate being made aware of this critique, I still choose to think of my experience with Free to be a good one. It opened my mind.
I correlate this choice with my feelings on Michael Moore.
I have a hard time with Michael Moore's movies. On the one hand, I enjoy them for their entertainment value. They do what good films do, they move you. If you watch Sicko you'll be outraged. Same with Bowling for Columbine and Roger and Me. But it is one man's opinion. One man who took his cameras and painted a picture he wanted you to see. Millions agree with that picture, but I know that millions disagree. After watching Bowling for Columbine I left thinking well as good as that was, a great filmmaker could turn around and make an extremely compelling movie about why guns are good.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying Moore's films are bad. Once again, they are great entertainment, poignant, and meant to create a reaction. They make you think. I personally agree with everything he is saying. But if I were in a room and said that Moore is a genius and his films are amazing, someone could easily come up to me and cite 10 reasons why his films are harmful and bad.
Sure this is true for everything. But we get what we need out of things. I got what I needed out of Free and I get what I need out of Michael Moore films. Both entertain and both make me think, even if they aren't entirely correct.
Sidebar: I spent some time with my father recently. He really likes Michael Moore and when I told him my thoughts about how Michael Moore movies leave me thinking about someone else making a compelling film about the opposite he said, "Then why haven't they?"
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
By Larry Weintraub
Fanscape recently celebrated its 11th year in business. The fact that we've survived this long is indeed reason to celebrate; but honestly we're more excited that most, if not all, of the brands that we've been explaining social media to for all these years have finally come around to understanding that it's something they need.
I won't lie; we didn't call ourselves a social media marketing agency 11 years ago. We were an online music marketing company. Record companies hired us to market their bands on the internet. We ran online street teams that acted as conduits between fans and the musicians they worshiped. We empowered fans to help promote their favorite bands by giving them buddy icons, wallpapers, and links to stream music. They built fan sites on Geocities and Angelfire, and gossiped with others in message boards and chat rooms. It was social media via Web 1.0, pre-MySpace and Facebook.
The connection between fans and musicians had long been overlooked. A band was someone you saw on stage or on MTV, not someone who would actually respond to your letters. Fanscape closed that gap. At first it was relatively unknown bands like Simple Plan and The Calling, which gladly engaged their fans on message boards and recorded voice "thank you" email messages. But when those bands proved that engaging your fans can help you sell CDs and rise up the MTV TRL charts, then others joined in and soon megastars like Mariah Carey and Bon Jovi were filming web-based videos thanking their street teams for all their hard work.
Music campaigns led to movie and television campaigns, which led to brand and product campaigns. Nearly a thousand campaigns later, we've honed our craft and stayed ahead of the curve as the landscape continually evolves. But while the tools today are better, faster, and infinitely less expensive, the basic premise of social media remains the same: Listen. Respond. Empower. Reward.
What is social media and digital word of mouth marketing?
The number one reason people buy something or try something is because someone they trust told them to. That's word of mouth. The goal of a brand is to create a product that is so well received by its customer that they tell someone else about it, leading to increased sales. Meanwhile, the internet has evolved into a social environment where people share their thoughts openly with others who are eager to listen. Word-of-mouth companies help brands by facilitating digital conversations about their products through social networks, blogs, and online communities.
While the edict to listen, respond, empower, and reward remains consistent, each individual campaign is different. Each is tailored to the individual client and based on achieving the client's goals. Some last for a few weeks, and some are still going strong after years. Social media is a customer-centric component of a business and ideally should be thought of as a long-term strategy that warrants the same attention given to marketing, PR, customer service, and market research.
But before we start any campaign, we should step back and ask this one simple question: "If I were the customer, why would I care?" As marketers we're ultimately going to interrupt the customer, so if we do, we better be able to answer that question.
The best way I can think of to explain how this is done is to provide two brief case studies of recent Fanscape campaigns that exemplify social media marketing and how it results in conversations and action.
Case study: GameStop
Each month GameStop, the world's largest retailer of video games and entertainment software, puts a spotlight on a particular game. One recent promotion focused around the latest installment of "Guitar Hero". GameStop and its promotions agency, The Marketing Arm, created an eight-week contest where people uploaded an image of themselves to a specially created website. Each week the person receiving the most votes would win a GameStop gift card. However, the grand prize would reward one randomly chosen winner with a character modeled after him or her to be created and featured in the next iteration of "Guitar Hero."
Now stop for a minute and think about that. If you are a "Guitar Hero" fan, the idea of being immortalized in a future version of the game is the ultimate prize, right? It quickly answers the question, "Why would I care?"
As great as a promotion as that is, if no one knows about it, it doesn't matter -- the old tree in the forest analogy. Our job at Fanscape is to not only find the people who would be most interested in this contest, but to find the biggest voices, as well; the people who speak and those who listen. Once these influencers are found, our goal is to get them to participate, drive them to this website, enter the promotion, and vote.
Type "Guitar Hero" into YouTube's search box and you'll see nearly 300,000 results appear. There are countless videos of "Guitar Hero" gurus and phenoms who've posted videos of themselves showing off their expertise. This is where we started. We found the top players of the "Guitar Hero" franchise as well as competitive music game "Rock Band". Then we scoured Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, and so on. We approached hundreds of these influential gamers and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
The standout was a guy named Freddie Wong. If you are a "Guitar Hero" enthusiast, then you know who Freddie is. Two years ago Freddie uploaded a video of himself schooling the world on how to play Rush on "Guitar Hero." That video has been watched over 6 million times.
Nearly 15,000 people subscribe to Freddie's YouTube channel, and when Freddie posted a video asking his fans to vote for him for the GameStop contest, it was viewed 50,000 times. Freddie not only requested the support of his fans, he actually offered up a prize that he supplied himself -- one of his specially made "Guitar Hero" guitars.
Freddie was not paid, nor did we fly him anywhere or give him lots of free gifts. We simply sent him an email, told him about the promotion, and he did all the rest. He participated because it meant something to him. And like Freddie, many others did the same.
The results were fantastic. While Fanscape was only one small part of the overall marketing of the promotion, 25 percent of the weekly winners were influencers like Freddie, and 65 percent of all votes cast were related to our outreach. The promotion was a smashing success, and GameStop was overjoyed at the results.
Case Study: MTV
In the GameStop case study, you can see the power of the influencer. Harnessing that power is a key component of digital word-of-mouth marketing through the social media realm. This next example is dedicated to showcasing the power of syndicating digital video content across multiple social media channels. Something we did for one of MTV's most popular shows: "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew".
Currently in its fourth season, "ABDC" (as it's known amongst its fans) continues to thrive and has become a major property for MTV. In the television world, it's known as appointment TV. It's the kind of show that you have to watch live. The kind of show television networks and their advertisers love. The kind of show that creates passionate viewers eager to know what's going to happen and to relive what they just saw.
Fanscape has been developing and executing the social media marketing for "ABDC" since its debut. Our work includes uploading video clips to user generated content sites, providing influential blogs and websites with exclusive video content, partnering with the dance crews themselves to promote the show and nurturing powerful relationships with fan websites and social network pages.
The show took off early. We could see it in the views. We would upload the clips and within days the views would skyrocket. Now mind you, a typical clip for a television show might get 5,000 views, 10,000 on a good day. Some of the "ABDC" clips were getting views into the millions.
How does this happen? You don't just upload a video and expect people to watch. No, it happens when videos become syndicated and multiple parties embed them into their blogs, fan sites, social networks, and official show properties. That's what happened with ABDC.
When the show started, there wasn't an audience, so we began our marketing by executing online publicity tactics seeking content and editorial placement on blogs and websites that were geared towards reality shows, dance, hip hop music, and pop culture. Sites like TVgasm and MyYearbook embraced the show early and wrote blurbs and embedded video clips.
Fan Sites are online communities that are run by fans. In the case of "ABDC," we found fan sites dedicated to the show's judges, to the musicians whose music was highlighted on a weekly basis, and to the show itself. Champions included a fan site for judge JC Chasez and one of the show's biggest supporters -- a blog created by uber-fans of the show, BloggingDanceCrew.
The biggest and most powerful drivers of views were the social networks. Specifically the ones run by the dance crews themselves. When you combine the MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter profiles of each dance crew and their individual members, the reach is in the millions. And each week they happily pushed clips and their own personal commentary to their friends, family and fans.
Official show properties
Rounding out the quartet, we pushed out video content through MTV on the show's official website and on its MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter profiles.
Add all of that up and you have your views. You have your awareness. You have a hit show. But don't go thinking that you can do this every time, because you can't. As stressed before, each campaign is different. Each has its own path. In the case of "ABDC," it was video driven. The content was compelling; it fed the fans and gave them fodder for conversation. They wanted more and to get more they watched the show on MTV and then watched the clips again online.
The takeaway is this: if you have a product, odds are someone already loves that product and is talking about it. Listen to them. Understand what they are saying. Respond to them. Invite them to participate in what you are doing. Empower them. Give them the tools to talk about you and your product even more. Reward them. Give them something that answers the question, "Why would I care?"
Monday, September 28, 2009
But DWOM as it's commonly abbreviated hasn't always been what we call this form of marketing.
In it's earliest form it was known as "Viral Marketing." Trading on the concept that if you tell someone, they'll tell someone else thus spreading your message virally. "Grassroots Marketing" was also one of the early terms associated with this form of marketing; taking a page out of the political term associated with getting a message spread through non-conventional methods.
Over the past few years, depending on the room you're in, you've probably heard it referred to as "Interactive Marketing" or "Digital Marketing." But those terms have become extremely broad and recently expanded to include digital advertising and creative website building.
More recently it has been referred to as "Social Media Marketing" or "Conversational Marketing" or even "Engagement Marketing." We've even heard it referred to as simply "Social Networking."
Whatever you call it, whether it's:
- Viral Marketing
- Engagement Marketing
- Grassroots Marketing
- Conversational Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Social Networking
- Interactive Marketing
- Digital Marketing
- Online Marketing
- Emerging Media
- New Media
For the purposes of this book, we'll call it Digital Word of Mouth. It will probably take on a new name at some point after this book has been finished. We'll tackle that problem when we get there.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Here's a piece that I really liked. In Chapter 13 Chris discusses how he can see a shift in the preferences of the newest generation by watching how his kids consume media.
A few weekends ago it was time for my kids to choose how to spend the two hours of screen time they are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays. I suggested that it was a great day for Star Wars and gave them a choice. They could watch any of the six movies on magnificent DVD on a huge high def projection screen with surround sound audio and popcorn. Or, they could go on YouTube and watch Lego's stop motion animations of Star Wars scenes created by 9 year olds.
It was no contest. They raced for the computer.
It turns out that my kids and many like them aren't really interested in Star Wars as created by George Lucas. They are more interested in Star Wars as created by their peers. Never mind the shaky cameras and fingers in the frame.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Really good interview on Pink is the New Blog where Trent actually talks about that Woodstock performance that I mentioned.
Also good perspective in Colette's Rock Is A Girl's Best Friend blog too.
Monday, September 21, 2009
One of things we did while I was at the record company was to give the artists pre-printed 3 x 5 note cards that asked fans to give us their name and address. Fans would fill them out at the merchandise counter and either leave them in a drop box we'd created or send them back to us. Then we'd enter them into a database and eventually we'd send them information about that band.
The idea was a simple one - keep track of your fans. Ironically it was something that was not regularly done in the music industry. The music business was based primarily on putting out an artist's album, hoping it got played on the radio and if all went well, the artist would sell millions of albums. When it was time to put out the next album there was no record of who bought the last album. To find those fans we had to once again try to get a song on the radio or a video on MTV; we'd advertise in Rolling Stone magazine and snipe colorful posters on construction sites in major cities. Not surprisingly consumer research showed that the biggest problem with selling follow up albums was the fact that fans who bought the previous album had no idea there was a new album out.
I'll admit it, I stole the idea of keeping track of fans from another band. I was on tour with a band called the Gin Blossoms and they were opening for a band called Toad the Wet Sprocket. I noticed that Toad had these note cards at their merchandise counter. I asked Toad's drummer, Randy what people got when they filled out these cards. He told me they sent their fans music, stickers, and thank you notes. He said that it was one of the main reasons that Toad the Wet Sprocket was able to sell out venues across the country long before they had a hit song on the radio.
That core concept, keep track of your fans and then thank them, laid the foundation for the company I co-founded, Fanscape. The idea being that if you take care of your customer and reward them for being loyal, they will tell others and your customer-base will increase. True word of mouth.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Word of Mouth
The number one reason people buy something or try something is because someone they trust told them to do so. That's word of mouth.
It could be a family member telling you about a great book they read or a co-worker relating a great experience they had shopping at a particular store. Word of mouth is more influential than any television commercial, magazine ad, or roadside billboard.
For literally millions of years word of mouth has led the way for people to try new things. The first caveman who rubbed a few sticks together and started a fire must have shared his or her findings with another. Same would have been true for hunting tips and the corresponding cooking with said fire.
The examples of word of mouth are endless. From Paul Revere's cry that the British were coming to finding the location of the local speakeasy during the Prohibition era. If you stop and think about it, you can probably think of a dozen times that a word of mouth conversation has influenced you just in the past few weeks alone.
Moore's Law loosely states that the speed of computation doubles every eighteen months. As technology progresses at this breakneck speed, the rate at which we receive information increases as well. Remember when you used to receive "not appropriate for work" joke emails from associates and those would become water cooler fodder? Those emails soon turned into YouTube video clips which have morphed into Facebook posts and more recently Twitter updates. Information reaches us in seconds now and we share it immediately. The power of word of mouth has grown exponentially along with the expansion of technology.
The platform enabling this quick dissemination of news and advice is Social Media. Media that is, as the name states, social. Not just a one way conversation where one authority dictates what you learn, but rather a mutual communication that enables all to comment, rate, and share. As a result the information flow is not only fast but approved and endorsed. Good news and bad news travels fast.
There is a desire in us all to alert our friends of information that might make them laugh, save them some money, or manage their most valuable asset - time. Social media is not a new concept, just one that, until fairly recently, was slow and complicated. A reader's response section in a newspaper or petition intended for your local congress person was the closest you could get to participatory media. But along came Amazon and we could rate the products we bought. Blogs gave a voice to those who had an opinion about anything. YouTube channels made celebrities out of normal people.
How to communicate in the social media space and influence word of mouth is the goal of this book. The intention is to inform and not interrupt. Integrity, honesty and transparency are the core values. Listening is as important as talking. Rewarding is as important as asking.
This book aims to give you great tips on how to market your products via social media and help you create positive word of mouth with your core customer which will ultimately lead to more customers.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I knew these shows were coming. The last ones NIN would supposedly ever play. One of my top 3 favorite bands of all time (Pink Floyd, Replacements, NIN - in case you were wondering).
I have some decent, not great, excuses:
- I couldn't get tickets (B.S. if I want to see something bad enough, I can get tickets)
- I was too tired, I'd been out every night and I wake up early every morning at 6am with my son (B.S. I used to live by the "you'll sleep when you're dead" philosophy)
- I want to remember them the way I saw them back in 1990 in New York at the New Music Seminar.
The last time I saw NIN was at Coachella a few years back. They were really good. But as I told their agent Marc, they didn't play enough old stuff. He told me he told Trent and they had added a few more old songs to the set. I'm not taking any credit for that, but you can see, if I can get in the ear of the agent, I could have gotten tickets to the show.
The first time I saw NIN was at the New Music Seminar in New York. I was still in college at UC San Diego and the campus concert promoter. I'd convinced my university to send me to NMS because I wanted to bring bigger acts to UCSD. I stumbled into a club called The Academy to see this band I'd only heard about. It was a good sized room, held about 1,500 people. The band was on stage with one small lighting truss hanging from the ceiling. Trent kept grabbing it and swinging over the stage and the crowd. Then he threw his guitar at his keyboard player. There was more anger, energy, and intensity than I'd ever seen. There might have even been blood. I know there was blood at other NIN shows I would later see.
I was mesmerized. I would later make sure a lot of the bands I worked with played at The Academy just so I could tell them that I once saw Nine Inch Nails there.
I came back to school and did everything I could to get NIN to play UCSD. But I lost the show to the other school in town - San Diego State. But that was ok, I knew the promoter over there and I went to the show. And it was unbelievable. They came back again a few months later and played a club called Iguanas in Tijuana, Mexico. I was managing a local techno band and I got them the opening slot. I stood at the side of the stage and I watched Trent break things, throw bottle after bottle of water into the crowd. Then he walked off stage and shut the dressing room door and I heard furniture being smashed. It was terrifying. But exhilarating.
I think I saw NIN 5 times on the Pretty Hate Machine tour alone. (Their first album)
And that is how I will remember them.
Oh yes, there was one other extremely memorable show.
1994. I was working for A&M Records. We were putting out the Woodstock album. Along with a dozen other A&M'ers, I was in upstate New York witnessing one of the greatest events I'd ever been too. And I told everyone, you have to see Nine Inch Nails. Most of them were more interested in seeing Bob Dylan. I told them to trust me.
I raced to the back of the main stage. I wanted to get a great seat in the VIP area.
And there he was. Standing backstage. Trent was in a trance. He dropped to the ground and rolled around in the mud. He was covered. His face looked like it was covered in milk chocolate pudding.
And when people spoke of that Woodstock, they all said NIN stole the show.
So that is the way I will choose to remember NIN. They're not gone. Trent is still alive and changing the musical landscape. And I believe they'll play again. But if I never see Nine Inch Nails again, I have some of the greatest memories of some of the greatest shows ever played. In my life!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
If I had posted that list when I started writing it, I would have left Derek off that list. And that would have been a huge mistake.
Derek and I met about a decade ago when I was just starting Fanscape. I was in a weird stage in my life where I was making a transition from a record company executive to a new media entrepreneur. I wasn't yet comfortable with the fact that I was no longer a VP at a record company. Sure I was a CEO of a technology company but when you print your business cards on thick paper from your own printer it feels like anyone can call themself a CEO.
Derek started a company called CDBaby.com. Derek was a talented musician who was having trouble getting his albums into people's hands. Best Buy, Target, and Walmart basically controlled the physical CD market (and still do) and Amazon controlled the eCommerce sector. So Derek had a crazy idea. He would start a virtual store. A place for musicians like himself to sell their CDs.
I could go on forever about what Derek did with CDbaby.com. It was truly a fantastic experience for all involved. The consumer was able to find music from the act they'd seen the night before at a local club, sample music, and learn about that artist. Meanwhile the artist is who truly benefited. Not only did Derek provide a great platform for distributing their CDs, but Derek also constantly improved his service so that the musician could get a credit card machine to sell CDs at shows, get their CDs into stores like Tower Records, and get valuable marketing information to help them sell their product. To top it off, Derek created one of the easiest solutions for an artist to get their music into digital delivery stores like iTunes and Amazon.
Derek taught me some extremely valuable lessons. I can't say I've followed them all, but he is a great teacher and I'm not sure he even knows it.
Derek set CDbaby.com up in Portland, Oregon. He had a warehouse that stocked literally hundreds of thousands of CDs. He had a crew of people to pick, pack, and ship that product. He had great people run the entire operation. And what did Derek do? He moved to Santa Monica, California, got himself a little house and sat at a computer and programmed. He left the day-to-day business to others that he trusted and he programmed. He did the thing he loved most. He made the user experience at CD Baby better. And better. And better.
And his business grew.
And Derek went from being that strange guy with the interesting hair cut who spoke at music conferences to one of the most successful web music entrepreneurs. He is quoted by Chris Anderson in the new book "Free." He is mentioned by Seth Godin at the TED conference.
Derek is a leader.
And Derek sold his company. On top. And now he gets to play. And by play I mean that Derek gets to do what he wants, when he wants, all the time. He is flying around the world and having experiences one can only dream about. And he's writing. He's sharing those experiences. He's teaching others. Like he did for musicians on CD Baby, but on a grander scale.
And for that, I look up to Derek and call him a hero. An inspiration. And a friend. And for that, I'm very lucky.
Do yourself a favor and read and sign up for Derek's blog. His daily musings are continually inspirational. Like this one...
When I would speak on panels at music conferences, I'd always find it funny how all of the panelists' opinions were completely tainted by their own self-interest.
Someone would always ask us, “What's the future of the music business?”
The guy whose company sells MP3s would say, “MP3s are the future. No DRM. Unencumbered. The public has spoken and they want MP3s.”
The guy whose company sells subscriptions would say, “Subscription services are the future. Anything, anytime, anywhere. No need to keep a huge music collection.”
The guy whose company sells CDs would say, “People still want something tangible they can hold in their hand. CDs are going to be around a long time.”
I would just say, “Nobody knows the future. Anyone who pretends to is full of shit and not to be trusted.” (Which would of course get a weird look from my fellow panelists, but oh well.)
I still get asked to talk about the future of the music industry, but I just can't. My answer to everything is, “I don't know.”
For the last 11 years, I spent most waking hours thinking about how to sell and distribute music. I'm completely unobjective. I don't have fresh eyes about it anymore. I know my opinion is not to be trusted.
You'd be better off to ask a young music fan or musician, unencumbered by too much knowledge of the past.
I love musicians. I love the creative process. I love the art and craft of learning, writing and playing music.
But the “industry” around it? Eh. No interest. Sorry. I'm burnt-out on that subject. I need to spend a couple years unlearning before I can think about it again.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
So I'm going to try something here. I'm going to try and write a book via my blog. Or at least I'm going to try to type out all my thoughts and hopefully turn them into a book at some point.
During my life I've participated on countless industry panels, spoken at college campuses, and given speeches on what I do and how I believe it should be done. When I was in the music business I would fly to Austin, TX every year for the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and discuss how bands could better prepare themselves for being on a major label. I'd head to Las Vegas for the Pollstar Concert Industry Consortium (CIC) where we'd talk about how to market a band while they are on tour. Recently I've done a lot of speaking on how Social Media can forge a better connection between brands and their customers.
All stimulating stuff - if you are in my business anyway.
But I've noticed something recently. You have to write a book. Because if you write a book, then you are an authority. And you don't even have to write a successful book, you just have to write a book. It just sounds better when you are giving a keynote at a conference and they say, Larry Weintraub, author "Blah, Blah, Blah" at 11am.
Used to be that getting a book published was as difficult as getting a record deal or a film produced by a major studio. Not any more. Just like music and movies, you can do it yourself. Just write your thoughts down and go to a site like Blurb.com and voila, you too can have a published book.
So what the hek. Time to write a book. A dozen years ago I should have written a book about the music business. But I didn't have the time and blogging wasn't as easy as it is today. So here goes. I'm going to start writing a book, right here, on this blog. A book about Social Media. A "how to" if you will about how easy it is and how you can do it too.
I am going to try to put something down specifically about this book every Monday. Let's see if I schedule this into my life if it will get done. Then maybe I can write a book about that too. Ha!
Stay tuned. I think this is going to be fun. Or ridiculous!
Friday, September 4, 2009
But today I followed an article and it led to me actually watching the ad in question. Odds are if you are reading my blog you've already seen this ad. But for those of you who haven't, it is something to see.
First off, do you know what WWF is? I'll admit when i was reading the blog I didn't immediately know what it was. Put DDB next to WWF and it's just a bunch of initials. But there was mention of a panda and then I got it, World Wildlife Fund.
I want to get back to this ad. It's amazing. First, it's amazing to look at. They've re-created the 9/11 attacks in a harrowing manner and then compared it with the Tsunami of 2005. Basically showing that the Tsunami's death toll was 100 times as great as the 9/11 attacks by having dozens of jets headed towards the World Trade Center. Second, it's terrifying. Third, it's EXTREMELY controversial. In this case it is devastatingly controversial to DDB Brazil and WWF Brazil. So much so that they're boiling in hot water right now.
Now I don't condone the ad and I am a patriot thru and thru. So how can I say that this is an incredible ad without sounding like an ass? Not really sure. I am just moved by it. Not by the message. The message is that the world is a fragile place and we need to protect it and beware of it. I already know that. But this ad is memorizing. I keep watching it over and over. I won't soon forget it and I'll be telling a lot of people about it. I'll be talking about the WWF a hek of a lot more than I have in my entire life.
Isn't that the point of an ad?
You can watch it on AdWeek's AdFreak blog...
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Posted: 02 Sep 2009 04:08 PM PDT
This morning I wrote about NetBase Solutions’ healthBase, a semantic search engine that aggregates medical content from millions of authoritative health sites including WebMD, Wikipedia, and PubMed. But is it a semantic engine or an anti-semitic search engine?
Several of our readers tested out the site and found that healthBase’s semantic search engine has some major glitches (see the comments). One of the most unfortunate examples is when you type in a search for “AIDS,” one of the listed causes of the disease is “Jew.” Really.
The ridiculousness continues. When you click on Jew, you can see proper “Treatments” for Jews, “Drugs And Medications” for Jews and “Complications” for Jews. Apparently, “alcohol” and “coarse salt” are treatments to get rid of Jews, as is Dr. Pepper! Who knew? I’ve included the screenshots of the results below if you don’t believe me. Now, I don’t think that healthBase is being intentionally anti-semitic, but for a technology which is supposed to understand the nuances of human language, this is about a big a fail as you can get. It is plainly obvious that its technology needs to be fixed before it is parsed out to other companies and media corporations.
I emailed NetBase to figure out exactly how this could appear and this is the response I received:
This is an unfortunate example of homonymy, i.e. words that have different meanings.
The showcase was not configured to distinguish between the disease “AIDS” and the verb “aids” (as in aiding someone). If you click on the result “Jew” you see a sentence from a Wikipedia page about 7th Century history: “Hispano-Visigothic king Egica accuses the Jews of aiding the Muslims, and sentences all Jews to slavery. ” Although Wikipedia contains a lot of great health information it also contains non-health related information (like this one) that is hard to filter out.
Personally, I think such basic distinctions should have been ironed out before launching the site. This is just the most flagrant example of site giving non-health answers to health-related questions. If you look at the pros of AIDS (yes, it thinks here are pros to having AIDS), it comically lists the “Spanish Civil War.” One of the causes of hemorrhoids is “Bronco” (I don’t even want to know).
HealthBase is touted to be a showcase for NetBase’s semantic technology, which can supposedly understand language. Clearly, it doesn’t understand language well enough. And if the technology is going to be peddled to other companies to be used to power additional search engines, it needs to be improved immediately.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
There are two primary times in my day when I listen to spoken word via my iPhone / iPod and that is in the morning as I hike the neighborhood pushing my son in his stroller and in my car to and from work. When I'm driving I need something fun and passive. Carolla's podcast enables me to drive, laugh, not get in an accident, and not have to pay extra close attention to the content. It's very easy to mow through West Hollywood streets and listen to Adam gush over Inglorious Basterds' star Christoph Waltz or relive Stand By Me with Jerry O'Connell. Before I know it, the mundane drive is over and all of a sudden I'm at work.
I can listen to Adam on my morning walks as well, but I find myself much more attentive during those times and it's then that I choose to listen to either audiobooks or more detailed podcasts such as NPR's This American Life or The Moth Podcast. I've learned to really enjoy audiobooks. In the past few months I've plowed through Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers," Seth Godin's "Permission Marketing," and Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now."
Which brings me to what I'm listening to right now. And that is "Free - The Past and Future of a Radical Price" by Wired Magazine chief Chris Anderson. In February of 2008 I posted about Chris's Free cover story in Wired and how fascinating an article I found it to be. So, as you can imagine, I was very excited to read his expansion on that essay in his new book. I knew the book was out because I saw Chris appear on The Colbert Report but ironically my two loves of podcast and audiobook recently merged when Chris was a guest on Adam Carolla's podcast. In addition to having many comedians and celebrities on his show, Adam has done a good job of having web entrepreneurs on as well - Leo Laporte, Jason Calcanis, and even Mr. Skin. And each time one of these people are on, Adam asks them about how to properly handle his podcast which has gained tremendous traction with an audience of over 500,000 listeners daily. You can tell Adam is surprised by the magnitude of his success but also trying to figure out how to monetize the medium. And most of the guys say the same thing. Keep it FREE.
Now, when Chris Anderson was on Colbert, Stephen in his extremely sarcastic manner discussed the fact that Chris's book costs money. Yet it's called Free. But Chris has done something very interesting and reminiscent of what artists like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are doing. You can buy the hardbound version in a bookstore if that's the way you want to consume it or you can also download it online for free. And, something I accidentally discovered as I was looking for my next podcast to consume, he's made the entire audiobook available for free via iTunes - as a podcast. And starting today my morning was filled with FREE.
Chris wrote the Long Tail several years ago and he is credited with coining that phrase. When we discuss the endless availability of products to both the masses and the niche audiences due to the digital landscape, The Long Tail is the term we use. When we discuss the Google-type economy of giving digital products away for free in order to sell a small portion of premium services, I believe Chris will again be the go to source. As a result, by Chris giving away his book and becoming the most sought after source for discussing the new digital economy, Chris will undoubtedly make millions through speaking engagements and who knows, maybe he'll make some coin when someone options the movie rights. I can't wait to see how he promotes Free - the movie!
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