Fighting the tension between privacy and freedom of speech

Having just spent a week at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin Texas, I heard a number of recurrent themes throughout many of the panels and sessions I attended. Two of the themes struck me as most paradoxical:

  • the right to privacy
  • defense of the freedom of speech (First Amendment)

Managing both ends of the spectrum

Somehow, we must fight for both, knowing that the freedom of speech may invade somebody’s privacy. The stories of Kim Dotcom (the founder of MegaUpload) and Gawker (the news media that revealed the Hulk Hogan sex tapes) are two cases in point. Both were the subject of premieres at SXSW (see below).

freedom of speech sxsw

In the case of Kim Dotcom, he set up a site (Mega Upload) to facilitate online piracy. He was first charged with copyright infringement (and a number of other charges); but in the quest to undo his empire, the NZ authorities (implicitly backed by the US) illegally tapped into his private life. And then wanted to quash him.

Kim Dotcom, Caught in a Web

The absurdities of this “fight” include the flip flop one makes about Kim Dotcom the Pirate, to Kim Dotcom the Crusader (for rights to privacy and freedom of speech…). He goes from villain to victim after the NZ government authorises a military-style operation to arrest him.

The film, Kim Dotcom, will be coming out on Amazon Film as of April 26.

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press

In this film, the parallel with the Kim Dotcom film were evident: the use of excessive means to close down an “unwanted” element. The nominal topic in this documentary is the privacy of a public figure (Hulk Hogan). The real topic: the use of money by moguls to close down media and the freedom of speech. The funniest moment in the film, however, was the notion that an individual can — in a court of law — seamlessly speak about himself as a character (Hulk Hogan) when he is being interviewed, in order to deflect from his real-life identity (Terry Bollea). And what if Hulk (the character) were to commit a crime (in real life)? I’m sure his response would be: “Whoops, it was just my character Hulk Hogan doing that, not me Bollea!”

The film Nobody Speak will be coming out on Netflix soon enough! Watch this space.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs… as expressed by this photographer in Syria

I listened yesterday to a Western photographer, whose name has been kept secret out of concern for his safety and who has been working in the government-controlled part of Deir ez-Zor, Syria, give an interview on the BBC. In the ten-minute interview, the photographer talked about living in this city, with a population of some 200,000 people, that has been under siege by ISIS. He is obviously a brave man. The conditions seem appalling and the assignment perilous. Tough as it was, however, he stressed he was living in a privileged position. He then proceeded to list what he meant by privileged. He started off by citing food, water, +2 hours of electricity per day. In addition, he said that he had access to the sole Internet connection in the city. He finally added that he was also privileged because he had bodyguard protection. 

Maslow's Pyramid of Needs in Syria

I thought the order in which he talked about his privilege to be quite revealing, no? Despite living in the heartland of the most barbaric of terrorist groups, this cameraman puts internet connection above having bodyguards! A revisiting of Maslow’s pyramid of needs may be in order?

You can hear this BBC podcast here until 13 July 2015!

BBC Oops – the irritating rise of websites that… cc @BBCNews

I was intrigued by the BBC OOOPS this morning!

Words and images that catch the eye

The BBC’s front page this morning has an intriguing side story (in the far right column): “OOPS, the irritating rise of websites talking to you like a friend.”  Find it?  Well, when you click on it, you get… (see below).

BBC front page oops, The Myndset Digital Marketing

Ooops, I missed again

Here is a a close up of the H3 title

BBC oops, The Myndset Digital Marketing

404

And the link goes to a 404 (“page not found”)!  And I sincerely thought it was a joke. Ooops, is right!

BBC 404, The Myndset Digital Marketing and Brand Strategy

Fortunately, the tone and timbre of this 404 didn’t sound like they were trying to be my friend.  But, seriously, don’t you find it irritating when a link goes to a 404 page?  If the BBC can get such things wrong, just imagine the amateurs.  Of course, in this case, I consider it a rather funny error, so I chose to blog it.

UPDATE AT 9:03AM (28 Jan 2013)

The 404 has been now fixed.  You can now visit the real Ooops article if you are interested!    The section I liked best about this peice on the rise of unwanted and OTT familiarity (which I agree can be rather ‘grating’ at times):

“Computers were like bouncers. You were the three-sheets-to-the-wind punter swaying glassy-eyed in front of them pleading to continue. They remained impassive saying, “I don’t have to give you a reason. You’re not going into that file and that’s that.”

That’s the funny thing.  The internet is becoming deeply personal.  It is difficult to remain impassive in front of your computer these days!  And for marketers (and digital marketing in particular), brands need to know how to interface with each one of us according to our whims and mores if they want to “connect” with us.  Alternatively, you pick a style that suits your community and those that don’t like it, shove it.  Now, there’s a familiar term!

The Death Of The Music Industry

Music Industry

The demise of the music industry

A graphic display of the state of the music industry created by Bain…. What it speaks to is the head-in-the-sand approach that the industry had as a whole as the internet wave took over, reaching its peak in 1998. Technical chart readers will notice the perfect head & shoulders shape of the decline. Classic stuff.  Clearly, digital sales are not to suffice.  The industry will need to find a new way to entertain and render the value added of its artists.

ADDENDUM:  The revised (new & improved) chart (thanks to Mike in the comments below) from Business Insider:

Music Industry Sales ... a mountainous journey

Music Industry Sales ... a mountainous journey

Funny Video: Have Glass, Will Squash. Remi Gaillard the prankster

Mario Kart a la Remi Gaillard

Not heard of Rémi Gaillard? If so, the chances are that is because you still only believe in mainstream media (MSM), i.e. you watch television, read newspapers and surf only the established sources on line.

Rémi happens to be the most watched humorist in the world — and that is ONLY on line. A comedian-hooligan-prankster from Montpellier, France, Rémi is a rampantly anti-mainstream media comedian.   But, he definitely has the internet working for him. Continue reading

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – 2 examples, one good, one bad.

We received, this week, two digital messages that grabbed my attention in the way of customer relationship management (CRM).
The first example came from our children’s dentist, based in Neuilly (outskirts of Paris).  Partly because their telephone answering service is so poor, we suspect, this dentist has invested in a service to send SMS reminders to us about our upcoming rendez-vous.  The text message states the patient (my son in this case), the time of the rendez-vous along with a reminder of the address.  Easy to copy and paste into your agenda.  Great idea.  A value-added service as far as the customer is concerned and a way to limit the number of late or no-shows.  It’s truly a wonder that all restaurants do not do the same.  If a dentist office is able to do this, I suspect that all businesses with a reservation system (hairdressers included) should also be doing so… slowly moving into the 21st century.  It simply takes capturing your client’s mobile numbers systematically and paying for a service which automatically sends out the messages.  The investment is absolutely worth it as far as I am concerned.
A second message I received (jpg below) was a “personal invitation” from Lancôme.  The email was quite surprising in that the personal invitation didn’t even include my name.  The invitation was as impersonal as could be.

Lancome Personal Invitation

I don’t mean to pick on Lancôme as I have received other similar “blanket” messages from other companies; but, I have to believe that mass companies are going to need to get better at interfacing with — and attracting — their customers.  If a dentist is able to send me a personalised message, the larger ‘impersonal’ companies should take stock and hone in on a proper CRM strategy, especially since the message can so easily be personalised with a little bit of client database management.

In the interim, I vote by unsubscribing.

The MSM Media Challenge — Some more ideas of improvement

Here are some more ideas for the mainstream media (MSM) to kick into high gear with their online community.

With media titles dying or falling fallow on a daily basis, the MSM crisis seems just now to be hitting full stride. The number of recent closures has been drastic. In August, Condé Nast closed Portfolio, followed in October by the announced closure of Gourmet, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, as well as a parenting magazine called Cookie. As reported by WSJ, “Ad pages at 14 of Conde Nast’s 23 print publications fell by more than the industry average of 29.5% in the second quarter, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.” Of course, the more startling statistic is the -29.5% for the industry…

But Condé Nast is only amplifying a trend that started with Hearst and Time Warner. And as Strategy and Business suggested in their recent article, “McGraw-Hill is said to be close to a sale — or closure — of Business Week.

So, as mainstream media continue to tackle the issue of the right internet model, below are three thoughts that complement and/or update my other posts on the topic (see here: Mainstream Media: Recommendation from a reader’s perspective and The Future of MSM).

Hyperlink Finger Icon1/ Cross-referencing with links. How is that online media (newspapers, magazines. etc.) rarely, if ever, link out to help readers understand the references in their articles? Not even a site like Wired!

Take this BBC’s article randomly taken from today’s news about how Russia’s economy will decline by 7.5% in 2009. As is their custom, they wrote the entire article on line without any links whatsoever.

“Russia’s economy will shrink by 7.5% in 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev has said – but claimed Kremlin intervention had prevented a worse decline.

Russia, which is heavily reliant on oil exports, has been hit by the sharp fall in energy prices. Mr Medvedev said the decline was “very serious” and admitted the government had been surprised at how severely Russia had been hit by the crisis.

However the predicted slide in GDP was less than earlier predictions. “The real damage to our economy was far greater than anything predicted by ourselves, the World Bank and other expert organisations,” Mr Medvedev told Russian television.”

I have re-contextualized these first three paragraphs for how they might have done it differently:

“Russia‘s economy will shrink by 7.5% in 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev has said – but claimed Kremlin intervention had prevented a worse decline.

Russia, which is heavily reliant on oil exports, has been hit by the sharp fall in energy prices. Mr Medvedev said the decline was “very serious” and admitted the government had been surprised at how severely Russia had been hit by the crisis.

However the predicted slide in GDP was less than earlier predictions. “The real damage to our economy was far greater than anything predicted by ourselves, the World Bank and other expert organisations,” Mr Medvedev told Russian television.”

The links I have chosen for these few paragraphs are sourced from a variety of sites, including Wikipedia and Google Maps, of course. By choosing certain words to hyperlink and the source of the new link, there is a new form of editor to invent. Naturally, such hyperlinking takes more time, but in this research for links, two things are going to happen. First, the very act of researching the links to make sure the content is viable is a form of value-added research for the reader/consumer. Secondly, the outgoing links will create synergies and link-love, bringing in more readers over time.

2/ Get more knowledge of your reader, gaining trust and, therefore, more opportunities for engagement. Too often, when you read and/or sign up for a news site, there is no effort to exchange in a give-and-get (i.e. a win/win) approach. News organisations need to find ways to have readers impart their personal information which can be used to enhance the reader’s experience. For example, they should view their readers as word-of-bloggers… begat from the word-of-mouth era. This is being done by the New York Times rather well with the “which articles are being blogged about” section.

Just as Amazon has a section of “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”, so readers of an article could have “Customers who read this article also read …” Better yet, as the newspapers ramp up their database management system and get to learn who their clients are (intelligent CRM), they can refine the recommendation and suggest even more aligned follow-on articles to read. I would like to see some adaptation of the iTunes Genius or the brand new Genius Mix, for example, which could provide an intelligent ‘playlist’ of articles to read.

Text to Speech

3/ Add the text-to-speech function… Every morning, I read the news online as I am surfing. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts or videocasts which allows me simul
taneously to continue doing my online morning activities. As per the Readspeaker service I have included in this blog, there are several — and fast improving — read out loud services which can help, not just the visually impaired, but also the ordinary iJoe… to provide an easier experience for reading on the computer screen for us all. A few examples of available services: ReadSpeaker (the one I use), Natural Reader, Ultra Hal and Talkr.

What do you think? What should online media be doing to improve the readers’ experience?

And does Murdoch have a chance with his pay-for news scheme (read this great November 2009 article in Vanity Fair by Michael Wolff)?

What does the future hold for Twitter? Announcing the Survey Results

Over the course of the last month, 39 people replied to this poll question (posted on the blog via polldaddy):
What does the future hold for Twitter?
Ok, so the results are not statistically relevant with just 39 results, but I thought I would publish the results of my Twitter survey all the same as I am not going to wait until 60 people ante up.
15/39, or 38%, said that “Twitter will fizzle out and die an ugly death” which was actually a surprise for me considering the mid-survey news that an investment was being made in Twitter, valuing the company at $1 billion. The second most popular answer was that Twitter would be bought out by another bigger social media site… which, of course, obviously left out the idea that Twitter might be bought by a ‘nervy’ private equity company. The ‘investment’ in this case is, naturally, just a means to getting fully bought out.
A minority (11/39) believed that Twitter might thrive on its own and/or provide some value-added independently.
The story continues. If and when Twitter finds its economic model, we may get to the bottom of the end of ‘HOW DOES FREE = MONEY?’ question. We’ll be sure to watch this Twitterspace! And, while I’m on the subject, here are my two favourite Twitter resources:
  1. Tweetdeck: Sets up a dashboard to follow what’s going in your Twittersphere
  2. Friend or Folllow: Who are you following that’s not following you back? Who’s following you that you’re not following back
For a comprehensive list of all Twitter resources, go to the incomparable Oneforty.com.

Mainstream Media Strategy – Recommendation from a reader’s perspective

As mainstream media (MSM) companies continue to scramble to find a winning model, I am inspired to write a post based on the interactive (read: moderation) strategy that the BBC has put in place on its news forums. Having taken a look around at a number of other significant news media sites around the world (NPR, ABC, CBC, MSNBC, WSJ, NY Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, TF1, France 2, The Australian…), the BBC would seem to closest to having a ‘good online model.’ 

The BBC will take an article and, for a limited time, convert the selected article into an online debate where readers have to register to participate (write and/or recommend). In essence, I assume they make the divide along the lines of articles strictly reporting versus opinion pieces. For the sake of this post, I am going to refer to a debate which is already ‘closed’ entitled: “Is US right to block Google digital library?” (Link no longer working). This is basically how the BBC’s Online Debate works. During the period of debate, the BBC allows registered readers to comment, and very explicitly identifies its full moderation policy. In the policy box (see below), they identify the number of comments sent in, the number published and the number rejected. There is also the number of comments in the moderation queue.

Fully Moderated BBC Blog
When the debate is closed, they issue the final status. For this particular debate, as marked below, there were a total of 892 comments submitted, of which 539 were published and 35 were rejected. There were some 353 comments (a little more than 1/3) that did not get published. At 539, as we can all recognize, that’s just too many comments to want to sift through. Most of them are terribly repetitive and completely without interest.
BBC Debate Closed
The final element of note from the BBC’s Debate section is the “Recommended” option where registered readers can, at the tick of a RECOMMEND box, give their positive vote. [See the BBC rules here.]

BBC Debate Article Recommend Button

Beyond the article of news you are reading, oftentimes, you can find equally pulsating thoughts and analysis in the internet community’s commentary. Too often, however, when reading most MSM sites, popular blogs and the like, there are just too many comments to wade through, amounting to a completely unreadable mass of jumbled thoughts, written in differing styles, without an attractive layout, in no particular order, and with very little interaction amongst them (for this, I tend to like the “reply to this comment” option). However, in the BBC’s case, the 539 published comments have a democratically voted triage that takes place via the number of positive recommendations. This makes great sense.

For this particular debate, there were 12 pages of comments which received at least one vote (presumably many of which were self voted). The top “recommendation” received 118 votes, the second one 59 votes and so on. 

Overall, I believe that the BBC is pioneering a new best practice… However, as you might imagine, I have a few thoughts regarding BBC’s initiative that might improve further their efforts, and could serve as a best practice recommendation for other MSM companies, perhaps as part of a greater solution for the freemium debate.

My Recommendations to media companies: My point of view below is entirely based on being a reader of the article/debate as opposed to the POV of the MSM executive. 

1./ More edge to the voting. As a reader, I am much more interested in the comments which have more rhyme and reason. The reader recommendations are certainly worthy, but are not very discriminatory. On a first level, I might prefer a 5-star rating system to add a little more ‘value’ to the reader’s feedback, or an ability to agree/disagree as, for example, the CBC do (which is sorted first to last, and most agreed). 

CBC Agree or Disagree vote

I think that there is room to add a few more dimensions to this democratic (if moderated) style of vote, taking the TED.com system that includes a host of different adjectives that describe the post. Examples of voter categories could be: Well Written, Thought Provoking, Not My POV, Funny, Informative…

2./ Optimal social bookmarking. Another easy add-on would be the social media bookmarking and tagging services. I do not understand why the BBC has not systematically ad
ded a more comprehensive list of available services (e.g. what about Twitter?). Social bookmarking can only help spread the word. And, when they do put the tags, the tags come below the comment box… Readers are more likely to tag and bookmark than add a comment I believe, so ‘go with the flow’ and put the tagging zone front and centre. Here’s a good example from mashable (who make the difference between a comment, i.e. thoughtful article, and a reaction, i.e. a 140-character twit). 

Share This Post Social Bookmarking Buttons

3./ Most Popular Follow-ons. Another functionality I would highly recommend to the BBC (and other media companies, of course) is the NY Times’ Most Popular Page. This page gives the top 10 of the most emailed, most blogged, most searched and most popular movies. The one that caught my attention most was the ‘most blogged’ list which is a very engaging way to follow the discussion. Of course, I was just missing the ‘most commented’ list.

4./ Stronger Editorial Direction on Commentary. But, more importantly, to the extent that the BBC is spending so much time and resources on the moderation (only culling 1/3 of the comments), I would be inclined to have a third box, possibly reserved for paying subscribers for those media companies looking to make money [Mr Murdoch], which would involve the choice. with editorial license, of best comments. These comments would be sorted in some way to provide readers with guided orientations and some overall statistics on the vast array of comments. As far as editorial voice is concerned, one interesting option would be to collaborate with value-sharing external organisations (e.g. an NGO, some reputed think tank, an academic institution, etc.). Statistics could include, for example, the number of comments strongly in favour, strongly against… There could be Featured Authors whose comments are judged by the editor to be worth more than others — comments that may not be commonly judged as popular, for example, because they were written late (ie not enough time to accumulate recommendations) or were too erudite to warrant internet reading. I would even go so far as to recognize the value of most appreciated commenters (providing some heralded recognition, if not in-kind remuneration?). 

5./ Interest Groups & Chat Rooms. Another idea would be enable interest groups to be formed on the site which, like Amazon, would allow “readers like you also read this” type of functionality.

There is real value embedded in the comments section, even more so when/if the subject is about a company or a brand (i.e. for the marketers). The trick of course is to keep on encouraging commenting, all the while not publishing everything or, as the BBC would defend, keeping a neutrality in the filtration system. As MSM continue to scramble to find the right economic model, my belief is that there needs to be a closer fit with the experience of the reader. By getting closer to what the reader really wants (time savings, consistent content, aligned values, advice & education, and even entertainment ), the MSM players will find ways to give value to the reader who, in turn, will be more willing to pay for the service. How that payment is provided is as yet WIP — providing a personal address, opting in for advertisement, etc. — and a subject for another post.

I cannot practice exactly what I preach on this site (limited functionality of blogger), but I certainly would be happy to have your comments and thoughts (as usual, moderated only per the Minter Dialogue blog policy as stated at the bottom of the page).