Pause for Life, Memories and Perspective

RIP Judy MartinSometimes it’s a bit cliché, but who ever they are say 50 is the new 30.  As I close in on 50, one of the things that still gets to me is when my contemporaries pass.  I got that news (again) today when I found out Judy Martin passed away.  Judy was a friend for more than 20 years and this is a moment that gives pause for life, memories and perspective.

The funny thing about my relationship with Judy over the years (and I think this applies to many who knew Judy), there were moments where our paths crossed and moments where we didn’t see each other – but then when we reconnected it was as if it was just a day ago.

Judy and I first crossed paths at News 12 Long Island – as she was leaving to begin a new chapter in her life and I was just getting there to start a new chapter in mine.  It was four or five  years later before life brought us together again, this time I was at CBS Radio and she was at NPR.  With a hug and a kiss we caught up and went about our work that day.

And that was kind of how Judy was.  Focused on her job, caring about the people she met.  For anyone who was in New  York for 9/11, you know the sense of change your life took.  That moment changed Judy (for the better) and those that she touched.  Judy’s brand was born.

By that time, I was back at News 12 Long Island helping to launch digital platforms and evangelize the conversion of a linear television network to embrace on-demand content.  Judy and I spent hours talking about what the future of news would look like and the future of the business we were in.

Beyond that, Judy was a great friend.  She was a great sounding board as I considered an offer to leave News 12 and begin a new challenge at CBS News.  She was also there in the weeks and months after Risa passed.  Listening and helping me re-focus my life and sharing lessons she had learned in building her brand so I could build my own.

I think anyone who ever met Judy would admit when she came into a room, her smile was infectious.  If you spent any time talking with her, you would understand how her spiritual outlook meshed with her passion of balancing work and life.

In the end, Judy is gone too young, but in the end I can say I am better today for having her as a friend.  So in this moment all of Judy’s friends can  take a pause for life, memories and perspective – and while we lost a good friend we share some great memories.

Related Posts:

Reviews, Promotion and Shameless Behavior

So admittedly, I am somewhat shameless in my self promotion and I am good with that.  Very early on in my career I learned the value of self promotion from former NYS Assemblyman Sam Colman.  Mr. Colman’s office would put out press releases nearly every day-and almost any subject.  The why when I asked Mr. Colman one day, “If I’m not out promoting myself, no one is.”

As I think it’s the case with most bloggers, I get a couple of email contacts per week from people looking for promotion-the ask is for me to do a product review.  Usually it’s a mobile app or website, sometimes it’s a physical product and randomly (based on time, level of effort and personal interest) I will agree.

Lately though, I’ve been asked to do reviews for a couple of dating/hook up type websites.  I have some history working with dating sites (I consulted for one when I left CBS last year) but that’s not very well-known.

Generally, this blog gets good traffic and is well targeted so it is appealing for certain brands.

While I am not sure I want to spend a lot of time reviewing dating websites (a subject for, I  another blog post) I guarantee I am not spending money to review your site or your product.  The inner journalist in me will not accept money for writing a review.  But the pragmatist in me will not expend money (and time) to review your product either.

And this is the shameless behavior.

I ask people to download my book-but I don’t offer a coupon.  I ask my friends (people I know directly) to write me up a review as well.  I hope everyone writes a review for my book.

But I’ve never even considered sending out blind emails to a blog owner and giving them a link to my book, asking them for money and then saying please give me a nice review. That’s can’t be the business model for some of these sites, can it?  It certainly does not seem sustainable and seems like it would be a waste of human bandwidth to send out those emails.

Related Posts:

And a New Beginning Begins

My hopes for a quiet July and early August turn a turn for the busy (in a very positive way) when I decided to get back into the corporate world-and took a job with Verizon.  This is the decision I alluded to a month ago in my post about not having a sounding board to talk things through with.  Decision done, background screening aced, and back into the corporate world I go.

As I look at my first day on the job-a success by any measure (I can find coffee and the men’s room) I kind of sit back and look at change and the management of change that has transpired really over the course of the last year or so.

It was at about this time last year I knew my time at CBS was winding down-and given all I was dealing with (wife in hospice, managing the house, juggling sitters, getting ready for the next school year, deaths of two close relatives) it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  In fact, the time since last October when I left CBS to now has been for the most part relaxing and I think a needed respite give all that was going on outside of the workforce.

As I look back (and ahead) I can see a lot of the change that has gone on – some of it by choice some of it by happenstance and some of it by life itself.  The self change is the way I try to look at things, relate with people and deal with events as they come up.  It’s a work in progress, but generally going OK.

Change by happenstance-much like change by life itself doesn’t really give you a lot of choice, it’s really the curves that you get to roll with in life.  In a couple of weeks it will be a year since my uncle died.  Last month it was a year since my aunt died, in a few months it will be a year since my wife died-while none of those events were surprises-its never an easy moment and they each bring a piece of change and a new beginning.

While I am not trying to relate starting a new job to the death of a loved one-there is in a very different way that same kind of process of finding a new footing, taking a deep breath and moving on.  In my case, pulling back from what was a successful-if accidental-consulting business, knowing that some of the scheduling flexibility I enjoyed is gone.  But ahead there are great new opportunities in an emerging field with a world-class company-so once again, as I have done throughout the last 12 months I set out on a new beginning-this time its the start of the beginning of a new chapter that needs to be filled in with context and structure-because every story needs a beginning a middle and an end-and this one is just now starting.

Related Posts:

Identity as the Holy Grail

Despite my early tempestous relationship with Quora, I have found some great insights and moments to think and contribute.

One of them occurred last night as Quora’s designer posed an interesting thread (I am not sure it was in the form of a question but I supposed that’s OK for an insider) about identity-and specifically mobile identity.  You can read Rebekah’s thoughts here or follow her on Twitter here.

Rebekah poses that identity is more than just your email, or your pictures or your Twitter stream for that matter.  Your digital identity is how you manage access to your attention.  Will you read your Twitter or your Facebook wall?  Will you update your Tumblr or your blog?  How you manage external access to that attention is your identity.  The other pieces (email, SMS, Facebook etc) are all components.

Rebekah believes (and I largely concur) the battleground is your mobile device.  This is the access point to your attention, thus the access point to your identity.

Rebekah and I diverge on one point-which is neither huge or insignificant in that I include tablets as part of that access point.

When talking about the consumer experience in digital media and roadmapping over the next five years, the central figures are your cell phone (the assumption being the curve of feature phone to smart phone conversion holds) and I believe the tablet.  The two devices as Apple has shows work together in a lot of ways, and we’ll see that in 2011 from the likes of Samsung and others who merge the Android OS on phone and tablet.

The reality is, chances are if you read this blog you never leave your house without at least one cell phone (the assumption being that readers of this blog probably carry more than one) and more than 90% of the time the tablet it with you as well.  The laptop is easily forgettable, and the desktop is a distant memory.

When thinking about capturing and holding attention-designers need to think about utility and IA.  Content folks need to think about real estate and connection.

I am convinced the way I got my job at CBS Mobile more than 5 years ago was my understanding of the personal nature of the mobile experience–which means that as a product person I need to be able to clearly make the experience sustainable across devices and across OS experiences.

Understanding the way consumers take in data and control their data intake is at the heart of understanding identity.  In context, a news organization can have this generations equivalent of the Pentagon papers.  Unfortunately just having them is less than half the battle–presenting it to a highly connected audience that demands personalization is the key.

Watch as Faebook, Twitter and products that we don’t know yet introduce new ways to access information-that access point will become the key.  It’s a way to sync your self to your data and your phone (and tablet) are at the hub.

Related Posts:

The Right Network for the Right Message

My recent brush with semi-unemployment taught me an interesting lesson about social networks (which I admittedly belong to far more than any one per should).  Each one has a unique place and when leveraged in a meaningful can drive results.

So among other places, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and right here on WordPress (which for the sake of this argument I will position as a social network).

Before I left my office at CBS News for the last time (this was late in October) I updated my Facebook status and put out a tweet.  Both were intentionally misleading, as people who knew my situation at work knew what was up–and those who didn’t had questions–but I really did not want to deal with it.

By the time I made my way to Penn Station (admittedly I stopped at a couple of bars) I had job interviews lined up one via a friend (who to this day I have never met in person) through Twitter and one through a good friend (who I actually know) via Facebook.

As the days rolled on, I came to realize that I could make connections to people or reconnect to people across the expanse of my social networks.

  • On LinkedIn I found some folks whose contact information I did not save to my file as I left my CBS office.
  • On Twitter I was getting @ messages and DM’s with links to posted jobs.
  • On Facebook came support and a few laughs.
  • On WordPress I found some tips for better presenting my skills and background.

I have always been a believer in karma when it comes to things professional–I help people (including employees) jobs.  Former employees always have a reference from me. Part of me wants to believe the great support I got was Karma coming back to me–because I will keep on doing what I do.

Beyond the notion of karma though is the reality that we can all be connected–and be there to support one another.  Knowing where to go and how to tap into that resource is part of the emerging field.

My quick takeaways–as I am not sure I have all of the answers on this–and the reality is the place I landed was born more from hard work than working the systems is something like this:

  1. Don’t try to solve all of your problems in an hour or a day.  It’s a process, treat finding a job as a job and make it part of your day-to-day.
  2. Accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask.  None of us have all the answer-but together we are a pretty good knowledge base.
  3. Make sure all of your networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) are presentable to anyone who does a Google search.
  4. Be an active contributor to the communities you want to work in.
  5. Be proactive.  This blog was born out of uncertainty about my job at CBS more than 2 years ago.  I wanted to have a place to send people to see my expertise.  Become and expert and have a place to share that expertise.

Let me know if you have any additions to my list–I am happy to add them on–and I always give credit.

Related Posts:

From Film at 11 to We are Here Right Now

I don’t consider myself to be old, however, my daughters (the older one especially) likes to remind me that I am creeping up there in years.  So it’s with that backdrop perhaps that I got a little nostalgic as I was watching the live video of the miners being pulled safely from their underground home of more than two months.

I am old enough to remember the tag line “Film at 11.”  Now I don’t remember it in my professional experience–but growing up I can remember Chuck Scarborough on WNBC (Channel 4 in NYC) or the late Bill Beutel on WABC (channel 7 in NYC) saying that line during what I later learned was the :57:30 cut-in.  You know it as a tease for the late news that comes during primetime viewing.

For those without the reference–here is a one time ABC News colleague of mine Christina Lund with the familiar tagline (this one delivered on KABC-Los Angeles in 1976)

And that’s what happened.  If you wanted to see the story you waited for the news to come on.  In talking to some of the long-timers at places I work or have worked, by 1976 the conversion to videotape was well underway-but the myth of film at 11 lived on for years beyond that.

Fast forward to Tuesday night into Wednesday and the miners.  Gone was the quaint notion of video.  Obsolete the idea of waiting 10 minutes, much less until 11.  This (like so many events) played out in real-time in bits and bites transferred in real-time around the world–with instant commentary from Twitter, blogs and news organizations like CBS (where I work) CNN, NBC etc.

And as all of this was going on — generally in that lull when the rescue capsule was being sent back down to the miners and being reloaded and resurfacing — I was able to think about the change I have seen in the news model both as a consumer and a professional.

I did wait for film (or video) at 11.  I can remember when a reporter going live was a big deal.  I’ve sprinted across snow-covered fields in New Hampshire to a feed point to make slot.

I’ve also pulled out an air-card or MiFi and upload a video file, used QIK to send breaking news video back and updated a story via Twitter using my smart phone camera.

I am not sure I know the “tipping” point in all of this-when the idea of waiting became quaint, but its a good thing.  News  is a commodity as is information.

While I truly do not think “back in the day” that information was being hoarded and doled out–there was a certain eloquence to it.  I also would not have been subjected to Ali Velshi on CNN cramming himself into a model of the rescue capsule.

And that’s not to pick on Mr. Velshi (whom I do not know). It’s the rest of the story.  Because we demand to see these things unfold in real-time and unedited, the ability to package and present may be a victim.

Flashback to January of 2010 and the Miracle on the Hudson.  Gripping pictures, a story with a happy ending–and miles of instant analysis.

Even when the news is bleakest–9/11 is the moment that leaps to mind the need to “fill the void” was evident.  I can even think back to the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island–and the long night I spent on a boat listening to coverage that did not equate with what I was seeing (my Nextel died so I was on my own until the boat came in)–but it’s not all bad, it really is not.

Because all of those sources, all of that information–gives us the power to be the packager.  Yes, news organizations need to be the gatekeeper.  But I can be my own editor and decide what makes sense.

So turn to Twitter, see what your social network is sharing via Facebook–check the blogs watch the video–its part of the human experience and its the job of my colleagues and me to make sure its there for you with context.

Related Posts:

Would You Believe?

It was one of those days when through varied implied and implicit connections I managed to have conversations I had a seven in the morning ring true by four in the afternoon–without having any knowledge that one would lead to the other.  It’s a true Maxwell Smart, “Would you believe?” moment.

In the morning I was talking to a commuting buddy of mine about how blogs and social network can drive the news cycle.  The example we were discussing was the issue reported in the iPhone 4 device.  Here’s a good write through on that if you need the background.

The upshot of the discussion though was how a few bloggers can grab hold of something–and drive via Twitter, Facebook and comments a story until the “main stream” media picks up on it.

So today–what would happen if the BP capping of the well spewing oil in the Gulf was staged.

Step away for a moment.  How easy would it be for them to design a set similar to the one we’ve seen for more than 80 days from the bottom of the Gulf of oil spewing.  But this time–with no oil and this cap in place?  Switch the video source–and what do you know, it’s a capped well, right?

A few conspiracy theorists blog about this.  Spread it via Twitter.  A few Facebook shares–and you have a rumor ready to rumble along.

The final connection to all of this was an email today that CBS News was going to support the News Literacy Project.  One of the goals of this project is to help primarily students differentiate fact and fiction in this connected world.

Play it out–in Dallas in November of 1963.  Imagine a wired world, with instant mobile images and video.  Twitter to share the news far and wide and the second gunman theory? What would that look like today?

Would you believe we have the power to make things happen–to make people listen.  I guess it’s equally important to have something to say.

Related Posts:

Out and About, But in All the Wrong Places

It’s no secret that each day we are deluged with data and information-all vying for at least 5 seconds of our attention.  Email tumbles in day and night.  Twitter clicks away.  Things are posted and commented on via Facebook.  Blogs are updated.  RSS readers gather information.  And to top it all off–we are so connected to it all from computers to smartphones to connected TV.  There is no off switch.

That is not the issue though.

The issue from a content guy is that with all those ways of putting my brand in front of you I take best guesses in how to reach the masses–and its very likely there is a good number of people I will miss.

Take this very blog for instance: people subscribe to its RSS; I auto share links via Twitter and Facebook; usually I will manually add a link to Twitter and Facebook as well; I share it to Posterous and MySpace.

You know what I don’t do though? I don’t email.  I don’t SMS. I don’t Yawa it.  Because my Twitter goes to Google Buzz, it gets Buzzed, but not directly.

In the case of this blog-since its more of a hobby and less of a vocation that’s OK with me.  But what would happen if disseminating my musings was my full-time gig?

Case Study 1:  Over the weekend, my beloved New York Islanders held its annual prospect scrimmage game Blue v. Orange at the Nassau Coliseum.  I knew because I follow the Islanders on Twitter the game would be available via streaming on the New York Islanders website.  I stopped by the game for a bit and then watched the skills competition at home on-line.

While reading a recap of the game on a blog not affiliated with the Islanders Islanders Point Blank I found out not all fans knew that the game was available on-line.  Perhaps these folks don’t follow Twitter?  Perhaps there was no email from the Isles announcing the game stream?  I really don’t know.  But clearly there was some swath of Isles Nation missed by publicity for the game.  To these people the term “fail” became part of the post-game lexicon.

Case Study 2: This one seems kind of quaint frankly, but its real.  As long time readers know, I work for CBS Mobile and part of my job is to bring apps for smart-phones to market.  The beauty of smart phones is that its like carrying a small computer in your pocket–and its capabilities are overwhelming.  Social media apps, sharing, SMS and even old-school (for new media) email.  Know what the one sharing mechanism that when it’s not there people want? Email.

It’s now standard in all the apps that my group brings to market-the ability to share the app and share content via email but this was not always the case.  Lesson learned.

Yesterday I spent some time reading some post-release notes from a highly successful app launch by a company called “tap, tap, tap.”  In it, the CEO of the company referred to email sharing as “of course.”  He too has learned an important lesson.

Be where your audience is.

Here are some non-scientific guidelines:

  1. Be accessible.  Don’t make a social strategy the beginning, middle and end of product–but make it ingrained and make it easy to scale so you can quickly react to the Flickr or Yawa audience you may be surprised by.
  2. Remember is social media–make sure its sociable from the product out.
  3. Beat the bushes and engage.

Related Posts:

Your Social Media Influence

Something I spend time thinking about is how to gauge influence on social networks and how to gauge the impact social networks have in propagating ideas, content and ultimately in the commercial sense–clicks.

In full disclosure, I think about this from two perspectives-1) as a professional working at CBS News and charged with helping to grow audience in no small part by leveraging social networks and 2) as a straight up user of social media who would love for people to be active on this blog, view my You Tube channel (maybe not that so much) etc.

So, I can go into my Twitter and be pleasantly surprised that I have 1200+ followers. I can go onto Facebook and see that I have 700+ friends.  I can go onto Plurk and realize I have 150+ fans and friends.  I can hit up Friend Feed and see 350+ friends.  But what does it all mean, outside of the fact that I am not the only one with too much free time? (As an aside, one day I would love to figure out how much overlap there is).

So, the question then is I am able to reach 2500+ people on any one of several social networks, but what do they think of my message?  and how do I measure the value of my contributions? And then how does the way I influence my network mimic the way CBS News Twitter influences the 1.5 million followers it has, or the 73,000+ that Katie Couric has on her follower list (after all this is my bread and butter, right?)

For that answer, fortunately the smart folks at the Harvard Business Review have some thoughts, and its more than just a straight up numbers game.  HBR did a follow-up on some great thoughts and research by Adi Avint from August 2009.  His “Million Followers Fallacy” post opines that just the number of followers a user has is not a true indication of their reach.  Yes, a million people may read your thoughts 140 characters at a time–but given the nature of Twitter, probably not.

Instead, HBR suggests looking more at @ mentions and re-tweets as a better gauge of influence.  Meeyoung Cha opines that follower count as a stand-alone metric is a popularity contest, and not a true measure of influence.

follower count is not sufficient to capture the influence of a user (i.e., the ability of an user to sway the opinions of her followers). It only shows how popular the user is (i.e., the size of her audience). But, as we showed in our paper, retweets and mentions, which measure the audience responsiveness to a user’s tweets, do not correlate strongly with number of followers.

I have long argued that Twitter is more about conversation-and being responsive to what the people I follow post and more importantly be able to control the information flow that I consumer and tap into a stream of personal interest.  That can be Mets updates from a variety of sources, or the latest on the Islanders–the value of Twitter to me is the connection to information I am searching for, in real-time and in a passive state (all I have to do is open up a Twitter client on my laptop or mobile device).

Now I work for a major mass media news organization–and there is little doubt of the influence that CBS News will have on today’s news and ongoing stories throughout the news cycle.  But for me, Twitter (and the others listed) are more about niche topics and that is where the true value of Twitter comes from.

Cha says early research shows smaller publishers and smaller business-not just collecting followers have a competitive advantage:

But when it comes to non-popular or even niche topics, small businesses and opinion leaders were far more effective in engaging audience than mass media.

But the true measure of influence is still a work in progress.  Twitter is an easy study because of the open nature of the platform–but is simply counting RT’s and @’s enough to say “A” is more influential than “C”?  Because it’s a matter of what the interaction is.

The interesting Twitter data though comes from a different (June 2009) HBR study–the 10% most prolific Twitter users are responsible for 90% of the Tweets.

Which can lead to an easy conclusion that Twitter is a great content filter, able to sort through a cacophony of data.  Yes, some of it is gossipy, and yes there are still those who want (or need) the validation of the million follower club…

But the goal has to be engagement–both personally and professionally.  Imagine the folks at NASCAR if they read my Tweet taking a swipe at NASCAR:

Kind of a NASCAR in suburbia feel, no? http://mypict.me/6E8p73:11 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

Knowing their social media strategy is to fan me up–and follow me?

It’s not the follower count, but the message.  As Mel Karmazin once said (in my presence at a meeting), “Content is King,” it’s up to us to maximize its value–and engage our audience.

Related Posts:

Tone Down the Chatter

There’s a guy on Twitter (at least I think he’s a guy) who goes by Cheap Suits who is pretty insightful, shares good information and is always open to real conversation.  One day, and we went back and forth some on it, Cheap Suits likened FourSquare location tweets to white noise–and I don’t disagree with Cheap Suits about that.

We disagree on the utility of sites like FourSquare and Gowalla, we don’t disagree on the utility of sharing my location with all on Twitter.  I’ve blogged on this subject as well.

But to me, the bigger problem with Twitter is all of the “tricky” ways companies are trying to use Twitter, and somehow they think its like its not even noticeable.

Now, I have a friend who I introduced to Twitter more than two years ago who now has a thriving consulting business based on telling people who to fill in 140 characters and hit Tweet–and that’s fine.

This morning, I was in a deli near the LIRR train station where I get the train in the morning picking up a cup of coffee and two people were having a pretty heated discussion over the companies that manufacture tow trucks.  I have to admit, I have never even given this a second thought, but here these two people were deep into it–hemi vs. tranny, payload vs. horsepower.

I was taken with the passion of the conversation (and honestly had a few minutes to kill) so I pulled out my BlackBerry and Tweeted this.

Now I am being followed by the likes of TruckYellow, OpenRoadTruckers, Route66 and UglyMudGuards.

Clearly based on that one Tweet I am the right target for these companies and organizations, right?

No, instead, in a very sly way these guys use search terms and I supposed my tweeting the word truck, or Chevy got me noticed.

Well guys, I have a ton of respect for truckers-I really do.  But I am not following back–because honestly, I don’t need the extra chatter in my Twit stream.

Maybe I am a throwback, but as Twitter founder Biz Stone told CBS News’ Katie Couric this week, Twitter is still about conversation.  And since I am shameless about self promotion, if you like Katie Couric, and have an iPhone please get the @KatieCouric iPhone app.  But please stop listening to Twitter (ie searching) without context.  It’s just plain annoying.

Related Posts: