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New Editorial Direction for Pirillo? Or Are We Bloggers Facing Content Hackers?

by Steve Broback on December 13, 2007

Chris is a capitalist at heart, so I’m not sure what to think of some of the posts appearing on his site today. See screen grab.

Clearly, this is not copy written by Chris. It does remind me that I need to make a run to Nordstrom’s though…

We’ve faced some content weirdness ourselves lately thanks to “outside” activities, so Chris gets my sympathy if he’s being mucked with by hackers.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you solve it?

pirillo.gif

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Want to Host Your Blog with Dreamhost? Grab a Crayon.

by Teresa Valdez Klein on November 10, 2006

Until now, I’ve been nothing but happy with Dreamhost since we migrated our blog there in January. Even when the MYSQL database for this blog crashed about a week ago, I was pleased with the speed and response time of their technical support team. Those guys in tech support are smart and helpful and they get the job done consistently.

I wish I could say the same for the people in billing.

I recently tried to set up a separate account on Dreamhost. I entered the relevant credit card information and waited for the process to go through. That’s when I got a strange e-mail from the Dreamhost team:

Hello,

Unfortunately we will specifically need fax approval on this card before
the account is activated. I realize this can be an inconvenience but our
fraud department requires it when an account gets flagged for some
reason. When you sign up for a new account your application goes through
our approval system to make sure that your request is legitimate. Usually,
this happens when some of the information you provided did not match the
credit card you gave us so the system has us check to make sure that this
is not fraud because we get a *lot* of fraudulent signups!!! Because of
this, our credit card processor *requires* that in these cases we accept
*only* a fax of this information =(

The form you need to fax us is located at: http://www.dreamhost.com/fax/

I apologize for the inconvenience!

“Umm…ok….” I thought. “This is supposed to be the 21st century. And these guys are supposed to be high-tech. Haven’t they ever heard of VeriSign?”

Confidence in the technical competency of my Web host diminished, I clicked through to the document they wanted me to fill out and sign. Everything seemed relatively normal until I read these words:

Please place your credit card under this paper and make an imprint of
the card below by rubbing a pencil or crayon along the surface of the
paper. A photocopy is not acceptable. Please ensure that the card
number and cardholder name are legible – multiple rubbings are OK!

We live in a world where I can use the embedded web cam on my computer to talk to my girlfriend halfway across the world. Terabytes of information travel over fiber optic cable each day. The world is more interconnected than ever before, and this supposedly high-tech company is asking me to verify my identity with a fax machine and a crayon?

I can’t decide if I should be amused or pissed off.

Update 11/17/06 2:52pm It looks like I’m not the only one who finds this whole thing rather annoying.

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Do Blogs Count as Advertising? For Lawyers, They May.

by Teresa Valdez Klein on November 7, 2006

All professions have unique ethical considerations, but lawyers have particularly strict mandates. And when it comes to advertising, the regulations are even more complex. A 1978 Supreme Court decision gave attorneys the right to advertise, but individual states have different definitions of advertising and different restrictions about what kinds are allowed.

But do blogs constitute advertising? Or are they more about establishing thought leadership? The Chicago Tribune asked that question in a recent article.

Our speaker, Kevin O’Keefe thinks the debate is foolish. He writes:

The article provides a nice discussion on the ethics of blogging and possible restraints quoting lawyers from around the country, including myself. But rather than jump into such a discussion, why not just recognize that this discussion itself is nuts.

Blogs are just a different medium of communication. Lawyer communications take place in person or via mediums such as the phone, mail, fax, email, websites, and now blogs. We do not need separate ethics rules governing each medium of communication. The same rules apply when talking in person as on a blog.

He goes on to compare the debate to the ridiculous idea of lawyers debating the use of telephones during the early days of their use.

I tend to agree with Kevin that the ultimate outcome of this debate will be that blogs are merely a communication mechanism, not an advertisement. But I disagree that the argument is “nuts.”

The role of blogs as part of a larger business communications initiative is still being determined. Best practices are still being established. Within this particular niche, it may be inane to debate whether blogging constitutes advertising. But I see this question as part of the larger debate about the ethical considerations that businesses face when using blogs.

Just as the Wal-Mart/Edelman ethics scandal raised questions about transparency, this debate raises questions about the ethical guidelines lawyers must adhere to when using blogs as part of their marketing strategy. That’s not a question that should be overlooked.

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How Do You Measure the Value-Add of a Media Sponsorship?

by Teresa Valdez Klein on November 6, 2006

Our attendee Chas Edwards of Federated Media posted today about running an online media business in which he concludes:

And what about sponsorships? That free money with no strings attached, no accountability and no sponsor expectation that their message will reach a pre-set number of prospective customers? It doesn’t exist. Sponsors have expectations just like advertisers. Even if the insertion order doesn’t price the deal in dollars per thousand impressions or cost per click, sponsors are doing the math just like everyone else; if the math doesn’t add up — appropriate value for their sponsorship buck — the sponsorship dollars will dry up fast.

Crunching numbers may not be the fun part of the media business, but it’s an important skill to learn. There’s no free lunch — even on the internet.

I couldn’t agree more with that assessment, but I think Chas overlooks the number of ways that sponsoring a site can add value beyond the basic pay-per-click/impression model that many sites use to drive revenue.

When we talk with our clients about sponsored blogs, we go over all the ways they add quantifiable value. Yes, conversions and click-through matter.  But our sponsors are usually more concerned with search engine optimization. They want to make sure that their site, or our blog is the first thing that pops up when their prospects are searching for something relevant to what they offer.

Chas is absolutely right. There are too many media providers out there who simply want to get their content sponsored without thinking about what the sponsor will expect in return. Successful commercial media, old and new, provides advertisers and sponsors with a clear and quantifiable value-add. They won’t stay in the game long if they don’t.

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The Blog Advantage: Why blogs are taking over

by Jason Preston on October 25, 2006

This is a collection of notes from Steve’s presentation on what a blog is and why blogging is so important and cool. I’ve jotted a few other notes on other presentation on my own site.

  • The number one search phrase with the word blog in it is: “What is a blog?” There’s a lot of mystery around what a blog is and why they’re such a big deal.
  • The success of a blog can essentially be boiled down to visibility and practicality.
  • Steve talks about how well the Blog Business Summit blog (this site) has done as not just “a blog,” but as the entire web presence for the BBS.
  • Steve asks how many people remember building web pages by hand. What a painful process. A blog engine is entirely dynamic – the user interacts with a database, and the whole site is far more efficient from a back-end perspective – you don’t have to access, edit, re-upload each page if you make changes to the design.
  • Something that gets glossed over a lot when talking about blogging advantages: it’s easy.
  • Steve uses copytalk, sounds very cool. For a monthly fee, Steve calls a phone number, talks at it, and then he gets a typed transcript in his e-mail.
  • All exotic technologies become boring commodities – many people say that blogging software is “toy” CMS (content management system) technology. Like Photoshop (created to convert file formats) vs. Quantel Paintbox (huge crazy system) – Photoshop started out as a “toy.” Now you probably can’t even buy Quantel Paintbox.
  • Google (and co.) love blogs.
  • The catch phrase “Nigritude ultramarine” – a contest among SEO geeks to see who could take a nonexistant phrase on Google and hit the top result. As you can see, it’s a blog. All he did was make a post and ask people to link in.
  • Blogs are clean coded and content oriented. All this standards-based design and formatting is done automatically. Google likes that. Blogs are focused on frequent content. Google likes that.
  • Every new post in a blog is actually a new page. This is great for Google because Google likes to have individual pages in it’s directory – and it keeps it in the same place. This is what permalinks are all about.
  • A disadvantage to a tradition CMS is that these pages will only be created upon request, and so search engines were unable to index the (nonexistent) page.
  • Permalinks make it really easy to link between blogs to specific posts instead of just a meaningless main page. Also, these regular linkings are seen favorably by gooooooogle.
  • A question: if Google loves blogs, won’t spamblogs make Google like blogs less? Well, Steve says, that’s been a concern for ages, and Tris adds: Google’s methods for cutting out the spamblogs are getting better and better. Steve thinks that Google is going to rank based on what blog engine you’re using (something that’s free and easily run by a bot will be ranked lower).
  • Comments are an advantage in many ways: it’s free content. If you don’t want to do comments, you don’t have to – but if you do, you can really get something out of it.
  • RSS: don’t check back. The content will check with you. All blogs have this ability for you to subsribe to an RSS feed, and a newsreader will allow you to visit zillions of sites a day (or at least their content).

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Amalgamated Links for 07-18-2006:

by Teresa Valdez Klein on July 18, 2006

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Management by Baseball: Lessons for Business Bloggers

by Steve Broback on May 9, 2006

Management consultant, author, and blogger Jeff Angus has a new title called Management by Baseball, and as an avid reader of management books, I was eager to dive into it.

I’m a firm believer of Aristotle’s words that to be a master of metaphor “is the mark of genius,” and feel that a properly applied analogy is perhaps the most valuable of all teaching tools. To me, war has always seemed to serve as a superior metaphor for business than sports, but recognizing both are well aligned, I wanted to see how Angus mapped baseball to management.

So far, I am not disappointed even though I am not particularly knowledgeable about baseball. I suspect that a manager well versed in the game would find the book riveting.

He hits his stride early with an example that will apply to many corporate blogging initiatives. On the subject of managing your talent, Angus cites an incident at a Seattle Mariners game where manager Maury Wills signaled slugger Jeff Burroughs to steal second base. Wills was talented at stealing bases and thanks to wishful thinking projected his inherent ability onto Burroughs, who did not share that strength. Burroughs was slightly injured as a result, and was tagged out.

We’ve seen avid corporate bloggers try to get specific co-workers to blog because they thought they’d have a lot of good content to contribute, as they project their own enthusiasm onto others. The result is often disappointing, as their posting frequency can be dismal. They may have good content, but have little enthusiasm for posting. It appears a far better approach is to find someone who is eager to post, and then help them develop high-value content.

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ABC Website Crashes Twice While Streaming Popular Shows

by Teresa Valdez Klein on May 5, 2006

ClickZ reports that ABC’s website has crashed twice while streaming two of its most popular shows, Desperate Housewives and Lost on its website.

The original idea, which we applauded here at the Blog Business Summit, was to offer the content to users for free on demand, paid for by advertising.

But ABC definitely didn’t prepare for the kind of bandwidth usage they would be experiencing while streaming the shows. What’s more, when a company spokesperson was contacted by ClickZ, she said she had no knowledge that the site had shut down.

Businesses that decide to provide content to their users this way will want to take a lesson from the ABC story. If you’re going to provide new content or a new service on your site you need to be prepared for the increased demand on your servers, and if the servers crash – for heaven’s sake, make sure your public relations department at least has a statement to make.

This vacuum of information from ABC is only going to spur the blogosphere to buzz more, and under no circumstances can that be good for ABC.

Via Digg

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Forrester: Podcasts Have Their Place, but They Won’t Catch On

by Teresa Valdez Klein on April 13, 2006

I must admit that I have become utterly addicted to podcasting, as I admitted on last week’s Blog Business Summit Report. One of my favorites is This Week in Technology (TWiT) which is also available on iTunes in which Leo Laporte and his high tech friends like Dvorak and Scoble chat about what’s going on in the world of computers and other such geeky things.

So when I heard the folks on TWiT this week cracking jokes about how they should all hang up and stop doing this because podcasting is supposedly going nowhere, I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

Apparently, Charlene Li – who once claimed a 5000% ROI on her blog for Forrester now has a report that advises businesses to limit podcasting to content that already exists – such as quarterly calls and existing radio content. Anything else, she says, won’t reach a large enough audience to be a cost-effective way to reach out to your customers.

While it’s true that podcasts have yet to take the world by storm, I would argue that this report is incredibly shortsighted, although some think that it was announced solely for the hype.

On the TWiT show, the general consensus was that the report was the sort of thing that someone would have said about the Web 10 years ago, or blogging only 4 years ago. Give it some time to reach critical mass and go mainstream.

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Ignore the Bloggers? Not if you Sell Products in Japan

by Steve Broback on April 6, 2006

As we’ve been saying for years now, ignore the bloggers at your peril. Now they’ll be advising people in stores as they contemplate purchases (at least in Japan.)

The Economist reports that Toshiba will soon offer a system that will allow shoppers to scan barcodes in stores and get a review of the scanned product from bloggers.

“The software, which will work in any handset equipped with a digital camera, will let users scan the barcodes of an item in a shop to call up assessments of the product on the internet. The phone connects to a central Toshiba server that can both identify the barcode from a database of 1.5m products and then sift through all 6m Japanese weblogs for any references to it. A more complex algorithm then decides whether the reference is broadly positive, broadly negative or neutral, and within about ten seconds the product’s reputation gets a numerical value on the handset.”

I wonder if this will finally convince corporate America that bloggers are worth engaging with. We are still experiencing timidity at surprisingly high levels…

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