Throw Away Your Slides! (Maybe.)
DECEMBER 3, 2010
Whenever I attend a webinar, I find myself getting frustrated with the format’s limitations, occasionally to the point where I complain about it in this blog. Someone, somewhere has probably put together the perfect webinar, but I haven’t seen it. Until yesterday, however, the most radically effective solution of all had never occurred to me: Don’t use slides at all. Your audience will be riveted.
Improve Your Blog Posts with Nut Graphs
DECEMBER 2, 2010
In a typical day, I read all or part of 25 to 30 blog posts on B2B communications and journalism. Often, one or two of those stories will share something special—a new way of looking at a problem, a brilliant insight, or an argument that I find compelling. When that happens, I turn to Delicious to bookmark it for future reference. So far so good. But all too often at that point, I’m stumped.
The Lure of a Dying Profession
OCTOBER 13, 2010
I saw pale kings and princes too / Pale warriors, death-pale were they all. On his Guardian blog today, Roy Greenslade noted a curious phenomenon involving current journalism students. Though they don’t actually read newspapers or use other traditional media, nearly all want to work for these declining mainstream outlets rather than pursue new-media and entrepreneurial opportunities. I should know.
Is a Blog Just a Container?
OCTOBER 12, 2010
Photo courtesy Haags Uitburo. Today I came across a comment from Adam Tinworth on the reignited debate, in certain UK circles at least, over whether bloggers can be legitimate journalists. This debate—fairly one-sided in favor of blogs—was set off by the probably unscripted speechifying of British journalist - historian Andrew Marr. A blog, Tinworth said, is a container, not an activity.
Should We Worry About Gobbledygook?
JULY 29, 2010
Are the myriad gobbledygook terms that so many B2B writers warn against really just “imaginary bogeyman punching bags”? Is compiling a list of words that are overused and vague akin to burning books? Do the people who make those lists simply want to look smarter than everyone else? In an article that is long on indignation and short on specifics, Steven Parker this week made just those claims.
Saving Your Content from Web Clutter
JULY 6, 2010
Until very recently, Safari, Apple’s Web browser, has for me always come in a distant second to Firefox. But with the latest update to Safari, that may change. A new feature in Safari 5.0, Reader , is a compelling tool for reducing an article on the Web to its essence: the words. That such a tool is necessary underscores just how unfriendly to readers most Web sites have become.
Content’s Evil Twin: Advertorial
JULY 1, 2010
This morning, the Los Angeles Times passed yet another milestone on the road to ruin of what was once a great newspaper. When I opened it to section two (the awkwardly named “LATEXTRA”), I experienced the following sequence of thoughts: Wow, Universal Studios burned down yesterday. Hold on, it says “ADVERTISEMENT” above the photo. Unseemly expletive. In other words, an advertorial.
Wine, Roses, and Oil: PR and the Truth
JUNE 30, 2010
Last night I happened to watch Days of Wine and Roses , a Jack Lemon-Lee Remick movie from 1962 that, perhaps because of the overexposed theme song, I had resisted for years. My mistake. It is a powerful, compelling story of alcoholic couple whose refusal to acknowledge their alcoholism destroys their relationship. It’s no coincidence that Jack Lemon’s character works in public relations.
Advice to the Re-Employed: Think Freelance
JUNE 24, 2010
Imagine for a moment (and this may not be a stretch for many readers) that you’ve been self-employed for a year or so after a layoff put you out on the streets. You’ve put a decent freelance or consulting career together, gotten hip to the value of personal branding, and learned or relearned the enormous value of autonomy in your work life.
Monetize Your Typos
MAY 26, 2010
Doctorow: Make money with typos. A while back, I lamented how social media seem to lead inevitably to the decline of editing and proofreading. I was given new hope this weekend, though, while listening to Leo Laporte’s podcast “ This Week in Tech.” Doctorow’s project, which he’s been documenting in his Publishers Weekly column , is a self-published short story collection called With a Little Help.
5 Keys to Effective B2B Content
APRIL 14, 2010
Photo by Brenda Starr. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a project that involves reading a bunch of feature articles from a wide range of B2B publishers. It’s been, surprisingly, an inspiring experience. Why the surprise? I guess because there’s so much gloom and doom surrounding the future of B2B publishing. Prefer expert writers over experts who write.
Signals of Quality vs. Good SEO
MARCH 22, 2010
Last month, I wrote about a discussion on an episode of This Week in Google (TWiG) featuring Google’s Matt Cutts. I noted that Cutts seemed to say that Google was aware of the rise of so-called content farms like Demand Media and that it would adjust its search algorithm so that low-quality commodity content didn’t overwhelm better material. and have signals of quality..
The Shift to New Media Cannot Be Gradual
MARCH 8, 2010
CJR: Huge culture gap between print and online. In the B2B publisher’s dream world, the transition to online media would come as a natural evolution from print. The vocabulary, the ethos, the culture, the methods would all be organic extensions of print. Reality, of course, is brutally different. The shift to online media is not an extrapolation of the past but a sharp break with it.
Journalists, Content Marketing, and Tough Questions
DECEMBER 16, 2010
If not yet a B2B meme , recommending the use of journalists for content marketing is at the very least a growing trend. Well-known influencers like David Meerman Scott , Valeria Maltoni , and Joe Pulizzi have all made the case that journalistic skills like telling stories, doing research, and understanding audiences are critical to effective content creation. But one journalistic skill rarely mentioned is the ability both to ask and to answer tough questions. Not all journalists can claim that talent, but the best can, and it’s what makes journalism shine. As I’ve worried before , maybe not.
Do You Need a Personal Ethics Statement?
DECEMBER 10, 2010
In an age when transparency is becoming the accepted norm for ethical reporting, is it enough to disclose your potential conflicts of interest only when you think the need arises? Or should writers, whether journalists, bloggers, or content marketers, go on the record with a preemptive announcement of their ethical beliefs and possible biases? In an article published earlier this week on the Knight Digital Media Center, Amy Gahran looks at how the writers and editors for Dow Jones’s All Things Digital Web site answered this question. Gahran recommends this approach to others.
Publishers and the iPad: No Future in Control
DECEMBER 8, 2010
Control. Magazine publishers love it. Especially B2B publishers (why do you think they call it “controlled circulation ?). Or at least they love it until someone else has it. Then it’s evil. To a cynical eye like mine, this seems to be the back story to the ongoing tussle between periodical publishers and Apple over the management of magazine app subscriptions. The publishers want to control the subscription process and have full access to subscriber data; Apple wants to keep that control to itself, skim off 30% of the subscription price, and give publishers limited access to the data.
Your Content May Be a Commodity, But You’re Not
DECEMBER 1, 2010
Of all the reasons not to update your blog, post a Tweet, or take part in an online conversation, the most powerful may be the fear that you have nothing new or unique to offer. In a world where everyone’s a publisher, content is a commodity. Any information you have to share has most likely been published elsewhere, and more than once. But so what? It doesn’t matter if your content is a commodity, as long as you’re not. To see how content—by which I mean the basic facts and ideas of discourse—has become a commodity, you don’t have to look far. If this sounds formulaic and bloodless, it is.
Managing Your Career in the Social Media Era: Sources
SEPTEMBER 22, 2010
As part of a webinar for B2B editors on September 23, 2010, I’m speaking on “Managing Your Career in the Social Media Era.” (The The webinar, “ Enhancing Your Career in the B2B Press ,” is sponsored by the American Society of Business Press Editors.). Since the webinar format isn’t particularly conducive to embedded links, I’ve listed here the main sources cited in my talk. I’ve included key quotes from most of the sources below in the hopes that even if you haven’t heard my presentation, you’ll be interested in exploring the originals on your own. What Would Google Do? , by Jeff Jarvis.
Content Marketers: Think “Editorial”
NOVEMBER 12, 2010
One of the most exciting areas today in the realm of what we used to call publishing is content marketing. As befits a rapidly evolving discipline, there is no single, satisfactory definition for this new activity. A few days ago, Joe Pulizzi itemized some of the different ways to describe content marketing , then added, “there are another 30 names for this including branded content, customer media, custom publishing and the list goes on.” But one word that rarely shows up in such lists is editorial. That’s a pity. Not that I object to content. But as a word, content has its downside.
The Cooks Source Copyright Outrage: Not the Norm
NOVEMBER 8, 2010
One of the hottest Internet memes last week was the story of how blogger Monica Gaudio complained to a print magazine, Cooks Source , that it had used her work without permission and got told that, really, she should be grateful to have it stolen. The incident was covered well by TechDirt , Wired , and many others.). Sadly, the only thing that made this story go viral was the editor’s response: “But honestly Monica, the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! institution. If only.
Will Mobile Formats Change Web Design Habits?
OCTOBER 29, 2010
Back in July, I wrote in this blog about how Reader, a new feature in Apple’s Safari browser, called attention to the proliferation of clutter in most Web page layouts. My hope was that tools like Reader and its peers, Readability and Instapaper , would encourage cleaner Web design. It was, admittedly, a faint hope. But I was heartened this week to read an article on The Media Briefing that suggests a much stronger corrective is on the horizon. This forces a concentration on what the user is most likely to want to do next after consuming a story.
New Editorial Rules Nod to Content Marketing
OCTOBER 22, 2010
In revised guidelines issued yesterday, the American Society of Magazine Editors, or ASME, addressed types of potential conflict between editorial and advertising content that have grown like weeds in recent years. Other observers, including Gawker and Media Week , have covered the more prominent changes, such as advertising on magazine covers and “invasive or interruptive advertising. But of greatest interest to B2B Memes is the addition of a sentence to section 9 of the guidelines, “Editorial Participation in Advertising.
Editorial Wall, or Prison Wall?
OCTOBER 19, 2010
There’s been some fervent debate in recent days about the risks of an entrepreneurial role for editors. Note: By the term editor I mean any journalist, whether writer, reporter, or editor.) Does being involved in the business side of a media enterprise mean being involved in sales? And does breaking down the sacred wall between editorial and sales mean that editorial must be tainted? What set off this latest skirmish was an article in the Guardian by Roy Greenslade (lately a fecund source of inspiration for B2B Memes ) concerning UK editor and blogger Marc Reeves. I’m a big fan.
Nine Keys to a Robust Editorial Career in Social Media
OCTOBER 8, 2010
For B2B journalists and editors, the transition to the social-media era can be daunting, especially if they rely on their employers to lead the way. As an ASBPE-Medill survey of B2B editors showed last April, traditional publishing companies have offered little new-media training or guidance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Social media is in part about the empowerment of individuals, and if publishers are letting their employees go it alone, so much the better. Be media neutral. Unless your goal is to become a museum piece, you will need to be open to all types of media. Be a brand.
Brand Journalism Trend Heats Up in UK
OCTOBER 4, 2010
In a blog post today, Ian Burrell, the media editor for The Independent offered fresh evidence that, at least in the UK, the growth of brand journalism (i.e., journalists moving into content marketing ) is more than theoretical. Though Burrell uses never names it as such (a “web version” of “customer publishing” is the closest he comes to labeling the trend), it’s clear from his opening that he’s talking about content marketing: “Get used to it. Companies that have a story to tell and the money to get it told.. Melissa Dick, digital editorial director of Elle UK to Asos.
Do Personal Passions Make You a Better B2B Blogger?
AUGUST 31, 2010
It’s a popular tactic among B2B bloggers to look at dry B2B topics through the prism of seemingly unrelated personal enthusiasms. Viewed from a distance, a favorite pop band or children’s book might not seem relevant to B2B marketing and communications. But for lots of B2B bloggers, the logical connection is less important than the personal one. It can be an effective approach, but it’s not without landmines. You don’t have to look very far to find plenty of examples. Savvy B2B Marketing and nursery rhymes: “ Little Bunny Foo-Foo and the Art of Being Specific.”. But Little Bunny Foo-Foo?
We’ve Got Algorithms. Who Needs Editors?
JULY 14, 2010
In an article published last weekend on Mashable, Sarah Kessler asked the question, “ Can Robots Run the News? ” It’s an important question not just for journalists, but for anyone who creates or curates content on the Web. The examples Kessler cites span the range of content creation, from automatically generated sports news to the use of algorithms to identify news topics. There’s obvious value to automated content creation, and as Jeff Jarvis has declared, “ Data is (are) journalism.” But we should be careful not to confuse computed content with communication. That’s a rhetorical question.
Journalists as Buzzword Killers
JULY 13, 2010
A post today from Josh Gordon on words to avoid in content marketing gets to the heart of what content marketers must do: think like journalists. In his post, he reports on an effort by PR strategist Adam Sherk to enumerate the frequency of 98 marketing buzzwords in current press releases. As Sherk acknowledges, he is building upon a list David Meerman Scott compiled last year of “ top gobbledygook phrases used in 2008.”. Here are the top 12 offenders: leader. leading. unique. great. solution. largest. innovative. innovator. award winning. exclusive. But one way or another, it must be done.
Ethics: Transparency Is Not All
JUNE 28, 2010
In a comment today on a recent B2B Memes blog post, “ Content Marketing’s PR Problem ,” a reader by the dubious name of Ant Miles raises an interesting point about content marketing and journalism. As Miles notes, journalism is often biased in hidden ways by PR and marketing. In content marketing, that bias tends to be more transparent. So in the latter case, “cynical audiences will see overly biased content for what it is—PR by another name—and treat it as such.”. In this view, transparency is not in itself a guarantee of ethical content. That distinction isn’t always clear.
The Great Ghost-Blogging Debate
JUNE 22, 2010
As he does so often and so well, Mark Schaeffer has sparked yet another fascinating debate on his blog today. Reviving a topic addressed last March by Jon Buscall and Mitch Joel , he argues against their position that CEOs should not use ghost writers for their blogs. While Schaeffer agrees with them in theory, in practice, he says, “ghost blogging” is routine. It’s a waste of energy, he concludes, to argue against it. Instead, the focus should be on improving ghost blogging, not deprecating it. A lot depends, of course, on the extent and nature of the ghost writing. Write something.”.
The Coming Content Marketing-Publishing Continuum
JUNE 21, 2010
Writing on Foliomag.com earlier this month, blogger Josh Gordon spun a comment heard at the Folio: show into a bullish prediction for print magazines. Although the grounds for his optimism might be questioned, I’ll leave that to prophet of print doom Private Frazer and others. What interested me most in Gordon’s premise was a point he didn’t follow up—the potential convergence, whether in print or online, of traditional publishing and content marketing. The comment that keyed Gordon’s column came from Kerry Smith, CEO of Red 7 Media (publisher of Folio: , by the way).
Should Journalists Learn to Code?
JUNE 2, 2010
A thoughtful article on MediaShift today by Roland Legrand makes a compelling case for journalists learning programming. Though he starts by reciting a long list of reasons not to code, he ends up fairly adamantly arguing the case for making it mandatory. The only exception he admits is any journalist who plans to quit the business before 2020. Personally, I don’t need convincing. I’ve shared this view since the late 1990s, and have a shelf of Perl, PHP, and MySQL books to prove it. That’s not to say I ever developed much expertise in these languages, but that’s not the point.
This Might Be Big: IDG Enters Content Marketing
MAY 13, 2010
As one of the few acknowledged leaders and innovators in B2B publishing, IDG seems always to know when to act on industry trends. The publisher of titles like Computerworld and CIO was a pioneer in China and Web-first publishing. Now the company’s IDG Enterprise unit has announced it will dive into content marketing. The significance of this development will depend on its implementation, but it has the potential to set off a huge shift in the way B2B publishers operate. But it appears that they will be offering a wide range of content strategy consulting, content creation, and software tools.
Content Marketing’s PR Problem
MAY 11, 2010
With publishing luminaries like Paul Conley , Joe Pulizzi , and David Meerman Scott urging journalists to turn to content marketing for rewarding career options, you might think there would be a stampede of ink-stained wretches leaping into the field. But though you can find examples of such career shifters , the numbers are small. In part, this may be because the field is still nascent. But it’s also due to a public relations problem. I mean this literally: to many journalists, content marketing is just another term for PR. That journalist, at least, understood those ambitions.
Is B2B Ready for Corporate Journalism?
APRIL 20, 2010
Over the weekend, one of my blog posts from several months ago provoked a comment that was simply too good to let pass unnoticed. It spelled out the feelings of many journalists when faced with the prospect of going over to the dark side , as David Meerman Scott has put it, by writing directly for a sponsor. The commenter’s position was that by doing so, you are inevitably compromising the journalistic goal of telling the truth. What adds heft to this view is its basis in experience. The commenter, Marylyn Donahue, is a former journalist who now makes a living writing for businesses. ’”.
What B2B Publishers Don’t Get: You Can’t Own the Conversation
APRIL 2, 2010
Although there may be a few exceptions, Stephen Saunders got it right this week when he wrote on Folio: ’s web site that most B2B publishers are miserable failures at social networking. He argues that you can’t build and maintain an online business community unless you produce lots of your own content to support it. There’s some truth to that, as I’ll suggest. But he omits the bigger point. B2B networks usually fail because publishers expect to control them. Publishers have a product focus, and to them, a social network is just another product. It’s quite simple.
Is Your Content Putting You at Risk?
APRIL 1, 2010
For B2B companies embracing their new role as publishers, the content marketing community has produced a huge archive of valuable advice. There is at least one topic, however, that is rarely discussed: the legal risks and responsibilities of publishing. The silence is understandable. Most of the time, the kind of publishing that content marketers do isn’t very risky. But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk, and the more publishing you do, the more likely you are to encounter that one-in-a-hundred legal issue. So you may want to think about this sooner rather than later.