Coincidence or Purposeful Juxtaposition?

Sometimes, you do have to wonder if IT is on purpose.  I opened the Herald Tribune yesterday (Sept 15, 2010) and, as is my wont, turned to the world news section (page 4).  Below is the spread of the top of the page.

Take a look and see if you see what I saw!

International Herabld Tribune - International News

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Transparency in Media – Importance for Democracy

I received an email from a very “in” person (i.e. a good source). The mail writes:

On MAY 10th, 2010, this open letter will appear in the Canadian magazine “The Walrus” (June and July/August issues). If you don’t know it, it’s like the New Yorker of Canada! The letter is also visible on JPS Film’s Facebook page (they who have sponsored this advertisement).

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Dear Citizens of Democracy,

One of the fundamental signs of a healthy democracy is the transparency of and access to information. Among documentary filmmakers there is growing concern that this is being undermined and restricted.

Documentary filmmaking is about sharing stories that are either being ignored, suppressed or forgotten, to entice public dialogue and interest. We feel that part of our role as documentary filmmakers is to uphold these tenants of democratic dialogue. In a healthy democracy social, economic and political criticism and analysis is vital.

Unfortunately, even in democratic countries such as ours, a collusion of power entities are degrading these democratic values and inhibiting the release of films. Our profession, like democracy itself, is being obstructed.

We are writing this open letter to alert the public of the following problems:

• Intimidation, pressure and harassment of filmmakers and those they interview, especially when corporate financial interests are at stake;
• Conflicts of interest that hinder films from securing Errors and Omissions insurance (insurance companies avoid insuring films who investigate their biggest clients. Without
• E&O insurance, it is very difficult to release films in North America);
• Lawsuits that block the release of films denouncing corporate crimes;
• Consolidation of media outlets, unchecked by government;
• Broadcasters who place advertising dollars and lowest common denominator thinking before freedom of speech and information;
• Government agencies delaying and avoiding the transmission of public information or not making government officials available for questioning;

Emmanuelle Schick Garcia (Canada/France)—The Idiot Cycle
Peter Wintonick (Canada)—Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
Fredrik Gertten (Sweden)—BANANAS!*
Hubert Sauper (France)—Darwin’s Nightmare
Matthew Groff (U.S.A.)—U.N. Me
JoAnne Fishburn (Canada/UK)—All-Living-Things.org
Erik Gandini (Sweden/Italy)—Videocracy
Violeta Ayala ” Dan Fallshaw (Australia)—Stolen
Mat Whitecross (U.K.)—The Road to Guantanmo
Tracy Worcester (U.K.)—Pig Business
Neasa Ni Chianain (Ireland)—Fairytale of Kathmandu

PAID FOR BY JPS FILMS (Japanese Pop Songs is based out of Paris)

Given my recent posts on TheMyndset about the role of transparency in society and on Wikileaks, this above letter certainly follows in the same vein. What are your thoughts about this letter?

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)?

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).

The future of Mainstream Media in today’s world of citizen journalism…

Why the decline of traditional Main Stream Media?

Down Arrow - The Downward Spiral of Mainstream MediaWhy the decline of Mainstream Media? This question has been argued and tossed around in many a media organization’s board room over the course of the last five years. Clearly, for news organizations in particular, time is running out to find a solution that will allow the economics to work.

From a supply perspective, the proliferation of choice and the democratization of media Masses of Dots -- the proliferation of media outletsplatforms have rendered the “space” extremely congested. There is a niche for everything and, unfortunately, one could argue that the objectivity of “serious” and researched news is becoming a niche as well. The ability for serious news organizations such as NPR, the BBC or CNN to maintain worldwide coverage, much less afford overseas news bureaus, is virtually a luxury of the past. Consequently, the number of in-depth investigations has been declining in quantity and in quality.

From the perspective of the consumer, over the course of the last 20-30 years, the sources of information have been corrupted either by overt financial concerns and objectives, or by the lowest common denominator style salesmanship (epitomized by the ‘entertainment’ of News of the World and other such rags). This 2001 article from LA Times offers a good recap [proof enough that the subject has been around].

So what are the main issues?

Certainly, the internet has played a role in unfurling the problem. The democratization of journalism is, to my mind, just a reaction to the lack of the right offer. Consumers, pressured for time, have largely rejected standard hour programming. In virtually Don't Trust Corporate Mediaevery household, the television is competing against the computer, much less the IPOD — although the radio seems to be holding its own. In the realm of news, consumers today are looking for customized information, in byte sizes. For many, the relationship of a consumer with his or her local news team is visceral. The consumer is looking for some form of connection – because the news is feeding the psyche, helping to rationalize events around him or herself. There is, in this relationship, an inherent wish to believe it is truthful — i.e. that the news is authentic. And I would argue that the problem of news organizations can be quickly related to the problem of established brands: how to stay authentic, flexible, customized and in touch with its [mass] consumer? As Noam Chomsky says in his article “What makes Mainstream Mainstream?“, media organizations have typically relegated the consumer to be passive. He writes, the consumers’ “…job is to be ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants.'” So, too, say many brands.

For news organizations, it strikes me that the main question is: What is news for?

Local Culture. Today, it seems that news has reduced itself in large part to a form of entertainment, completely hamstrung by viewer ratings. By extension, news is feeding water cooler talk: sports results, weather forecasts (hardly news) and local sensational events. News organizations are intrinsically local and their bias on news reports is strongly linked to the local point of view such that, with a worldwide satellite dish in your home, you can find two widely different sides to many of the international stories [when/if they are covered, that is].

Learning. If encouraging reading (and writing) were part of the objective of news and printed media, then why has the standard of Reading & Writingwriting plummeted (you can find English mistakes on the front page of any major reputable newspaper, including the Financial Times virtually daily).

Advancement. If, more nobly, the goal of news is the advancement of society, then it would seem that the mass majority of people are tuning out. The case is still made that, by having the coverage of certain genocidal regimes, enough international outcry will mobilize an international intervention. In this regard, from a western standpoint, “serious” news is more or less a portal of democracy.

Ted Turner said, in one of his typically brazen interviews, that such information and news is important. Unfortunately, he used weather as the perfect example (and not only is weather not news, it is highly speculative) since, with this information you can know whether to wear a raincoat, etc. Not exactly newsworthy news or 100% accurate.

Turner also cited in this video (which I will endeavour to post when I find it on YouTube), that news coverage helped to uncover Hitler. However, news neither uncovered Hitler, nor helped to sway or stop him. And, news coverage has not helped the continuing carnage and tyranny in many African countries. Propaganda, on the other hand, plays a whole other role in this type of context.

No doubt that Turner is a great philanthropist and was a business titan. Where Turner’s vision has taken on a whole new meaning today, he said back in this late 1970s interview, that “we all can learn from each other.” This notion of collaboration is highly interesting in today’s context of citizen journalism and web 2.0. Maybe we just have to learn from each other.

If, as some say, news is the first day of writing history… sports and weather have no place in that frame. The important notion for news organizations to grasp is that they need to provide meaning. News should be able to connect and interact with its audience. Of course, news needs to be pertinent and researched. But, above all, news should have sense. Sense to help progress our society. Sense, such that its viewers learn and grow. The BBC (and NPR) have this component in their genes — but typical
ly have been too stand-off to interface with its audience. So, the big news agencies are going to have to learn to lose some control, engage with their audience (i.e. work with citizen journalists) and in the meantime focus on providing a meaningful message. Over time, what will matter is not the quantity of people watching the BBC (although that is a critical part of the economic equation today), but on the quality of the people watching: the opinion leaders, the community heads, the bloggers and godfathers of viral messages… Clearly, the new media department at the BBC is making headway and, once the dust settles, hopefully, they and enough of the “serious” stations can find their place in providing meaningful, sensible and objective news for what is, now, a worldwide audience.

Review: Join the Conversation by Joseph Jaffe

Join the Conversation JaffejuiceI am officially Joining the Conversation, starting with this review of Joseph Jaffe’s latest book, Join the Conversation (JTC). In full disclosure mode, I am writing this review as part of Joe’s experiment UNM2PNM (how to use new media to prove new marketing).

Written in a very conversational style with a slew of real world corporate examples (typically of how NOT to proceed), JTC features Joe’s characteristic verve and bold statements that are bound to entice a few reactions from the world without. For the most part, I could only agree with Joe’s assessments and recommendations. Here are some of the points that I believe deserve highlighting:

  • Chapter 10: Why are you so afraid of Conversation? This wiki-chapter is a walk-the-talk (literally) example of new age collaborative writing. Via a wiki, people were invited to contribute and cross-edit freely, ending up with articles from sixteen marketeers giving their spin as to why people (and companies) don’t liberally join in the conversation. I was pleased to gain the autograph of Mitch Joel for his section, The New Power of the Individual (p 115).
  • In Chapter 15, Conversation through Community, I cite the Cluetrain Manifesto that defines community as “a group of people who care about each other more than they should.” That’s a valhalla concept for a brand to achieve. But, getting that to happen means figuring out how to get to the bottom of CARE. As Joe says later, “[b]rands have to know their role and place in conversation. Truthfully, it an extremely loose, amorphous, and situational role that not only changes from case to case but indeed may evolve and shift within a single conversation.” (p 187). Not a piece of cake, but that’s what it will take to do successful marketing in the new age.
  • The Dell Case, where John Cass (Research Fellow) describes the rules of engagement: “You have to be transparent. You have to be fact-based. You must be conversational. And you have to be rapid with your response…” (p 286). As Joe says, the art of conversation (and humour for that matter) is in the timing. But, I was curious how that holds true when, on the following page, Joe says that “it is never too late to join the conversation.”
  • The RFiD grid (page 203, 205) felt a little forced. It’s a catchy moniker; but, specifically, I found recency a little confusing (if not contrived) when used to describe time elapsed between visits. Recency is all about the last time someone visited, which relates to the “newness.” That said, the notion of the shortness of gaps between visits is a novel, if unproven measurement of satisfaction.
  • In characteristic Jaffe-ness, in chapter 18, bouncing off author Seth Godin’s post, Joe elaborates a Manifesto for Experimentation. Here is the key: “To be successful, marketing organizations will need to foster and adopt an aggressive and intensive culture of experimentation, risk-taking, change management (for communications), and creativity.”
  • Wasn’t totally enamoured with the expression “transformational change” (page 262), but I subscribe to the notion of the “spiraling” line in terms of the process of innovation in a company. And, yes, failure is a vital ingredient… just like falling is an important part of learning how to ski. Besides which, if you don’t fall, typically, you are not skiing hard enough.
  • We know that prosumer is quickly becoming mainstream when it is wikipedia; but give credit where it is due…the term was coined by Alvin Toffler back in 1980 (in his book, The Third Wave).

Meanwhile, how ironic that the 2K bloggers — the face of the blogosphere, the blog of bloggers blogging — that were part of the creation of the JTC book are in the throes of converting their own website from a blog to a forum… 2k forumers doesn’t sound quite as good.

I have not read yet the JTC alter-ego, The Age of Conversation which just did a rather similar campaign of an Amazon bumrush (was the week of March 29)… I get the feeling that bumrushing is part of the age of new marketing, too. This book, edited by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan, is a compilation of 400-word essays by 100 bloggers on the topic of conversation. Taking Joe’s Chapter 10 concept all the way, it is obviously a 100% collaborative effort. Anyway, you can order The Age of Conversation here or at Amazon.

In any event, Join the Conversation is a must read for any new media marketiers (marketing + frontier mashup) out there — and hopefully for the old-world marketers as well.

It’s not exactly like me to promote anything to do with cigarettes, but this 1960’s ad by Newport seemed to strike a chord (if not a match, made in heaven). The conversation per se is only symbolic, but this ad does speak to the limitation of television’s one-way communication.

Very enterprising and forward thinking work, no? What do you think? (Joe, u2!) No doubt there are other examples that I’d love to hear about from you. And let me know your feedback on JTC or just this post on JTC.

Norway quota for women on corporate boards

A bold decision

I read with interest about Norway’s legislated quota for women’s presence on publicly traded private limited liability (“ASA”) corporate boards. The improvements in equality on boards in Norway were not coming fast enough*, so, in 2005, the government put in place a minimum quota of 40% of women on every ASA corporate board by the end of 2007, with consequences if not met. In the last six months of 2007, it is estimated that 400 additional women were voted onto corporate boards, making Norway by far and away the country with the highest representation of women on boards. Quoting from GlobeWomen.org, “In its 2007 study, Women Directors in the Fortune Global 200 Companies’ released in Berlin at the June Global Summit of Women, Corporate Women Directors International reported that only 11.2% of corporate board seats are held by women in the 200 largest companies in the world.” The successful implementation of the Norwegian law has been observed by many other countries (including Canada, Spain) seeking similar diversity. I note that Sweden apparently balked on a similar quota initiative five years ago.

A 40% target

Having been set the objective of 40% female representation on boards, the targeted Norwegian companies are now on average at 37%, at parity with the 37% of their women parliamentarians, although below the true parity achieved in PM Jens Stoltenberg’s current cabinet (8/16)**. The very least one can say is that the Norwegians are putting their money with their mouthes are…and with great courage. I was able to find, for example, many sites with stats on gender equality (including this one at Statistics Norway).

I was intrigued by a blogger’s following explanation for the strong presence of women in Norwegian society:

usini wrote (find in the comments section): “I think that one has to be very careful not to generalise from the particular. Women in Norway always had quite a strong position politically, because, so I believe, of the economy being based on fishing and sea-faring which meant that a lot of men were absent when decisions had to be made. Thus a solution which is suitable for them may not necessarily apply to other cultures.”

One of the items to watch closely in the near future will be how the Government deals with non-compliant companies. This Guardian article identifies the scope of the problem with 111 yet to comply and 5 companies that still have zero women on their boards. Clearly, closing down those companies will be an explosive solution. The second evolution to watch carefully is how the board members are re-elected… When/if a woman leaves a board, will she systematically have to be replaced by another woman?

Sensitive topic

This quota law was naturally a topic of great sensitivity. Quotas are a generally reviled policy. And most of the commentary I have read on this particular policy are predictably unfavorable. Certainly the ambition of going from 6% to 40% was enormous, if also artificial, over such a short period of time. As much as some Norwegian unions might have been delighted by the quota, most of the private sector was up in arms and there is probably continuing concern that foreign companies will look less favorably at installing in Norway. As reported by the Centre for Corporate Diversity, there was also concern that some of the 500 concerned companies would change their ASA status to avoid this law. That particular concern has proved unwarranted. Meanwhile, even the Norwegian Gender blog, authored by Ragnhild Sohlberg, has put up reservations as to the success and/or desirability of a quota system. Susan Gunelius at Women on Business also issued reservations against quotas. In any event, finding qualified talent in those numbers over such a short time frame does not appear healthy–and one has to imagine some negative fallout in the first few years. Nonetheless, I applaud the courage of their convictions.

In many ways, the trick for the Norwegians will now be to validate the new status to show that corporate performance is at least as good as in the past (if not better) in order to encourage other companies (such as Luxottica, which has committed to 30% of women in management positions) if not other governments, to follow suit. Proving that the performance has otherwise been altered by a higher presence of women will ultimately fall to the numbers and bottom line. The question is whether the benchmarks and interpretation of those numbers will be clear.

Looking at the global playing field, it is interesting to note how a smaller country can become, in a certain fashion, the experimental laboratory for other bigger countries. Not that the context in any country can perfectly translate for other countries, but this policy and its successful implementation could surely give rise to new initiatives in other countries. Its failure would only reinforce the “I told you so” against quotas. In the same vein of looking at “small” country initiatives, I am tracking Norway’s actions on the ecological front (including this Green Prison initiative in a prior post) where they are pioneers as well. The least one can say is that they are attempting to bring about change. And since the end is desirable…to what extent does that justify the means? Any thoughts?

Other blogs on this topic:

Yvonne Roberts speaks out in favor on Guardian Unlimited. The comments are quite heated.
Ibibo Blogs – One blog supporting the notion that Quota works…
Fresh Inc. — 40% of business school students in Norway are women.
NYT Article from Jan 2006 — Women more reasonably represented in politics & media…
Mises Blog – The Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics. Even this post inspired a lot of debased, inflammatory comments (from 2005)…
Reinvention Inc... where I picked up the story about Spain following Norway’s example (not on the imposition of a quota, but an incentive to have higher female representation. In 2006, Spain had under 4% female representation on corporate boards.
CareerDiva – with a balanced comment section to date (just 5 comments).

————–

* The initial request from the Norwegian government was made in 2002, with a non-binding law established in 2003. In the following three years, the percent of women present on boards rose from a poor 6% to an ‘average’ 11%. I read a 2003 article from Time magazine on the topic… makes for good recent retrospective information.

** I found a blog posting on Writes Like She Talks, referring to a Huffington Post posting from 2006 that discusses the representation of women in politics across the world, where the USA ranked 67th. Write Like She Talks has an updated blog site now, here.

Firebrand – Sharing the news (or just the ad)

Enjoying Firebrand TV yet? I know I am. I see why they should cause such a stir. Here’s an ad from Population Services International (PSI) that I found on Firebrand thanks to its easy functionality and browsing…. This ad’s for the Thai market, with a one-liner in a garbled English “Carry your core ID” (or is it “caller ID”?) that is hopefully more understandable to the local public… but I do love the hypnotic (if somewhat ironically viral) production. Of course, it would help if the message were a tad clearer.

In any event, a good cause.

Firebrand TV – The MTV of Ads?

Firebrand TV - MTV of Ads
Courtesy of Greg Verdino and Joe Jaffe, have learned about the creation of FIREBRAND TV, “a new, opt-in entertainment and marketing destination that gives consumers interactive access to their favorite brands, products and promotions.” The idea is to create a space (TV, web & mobile platforms) to view the best film commercials just as MTV is/was the place to view the best music videos. Kind of an interesting concept. Going to have be super rich in content to work… to go beyond just attracting marketing geeks like myself. The site promises that consumers can simultaneously “Watch, shop, win & share.” The launch is slated for October 22. Sign up here on their home page for updates. Or join the Firebrand Facebook Group.

Check out the YouTube 4 1/2 minute commercial if you want to see their positioning:

Writeup at New York Business Crain’s

For couple of blogs on Firebrand:
Influential Marketing Blog – Rohit gives it a big thumbs up
A quick post at Marketing Vox

News media being remodeled…as we speak

The two-second news spot?

As if the 24-second spot weren’t condensed enough (thanks CNN), we now seem to be moving into nano-news era. On top of that, via services such as blogs, Twitter, wikipedia and others, the proliferation of news services and sources seems to be accelerating. And, the reliability is being hurt in equal parts by non-professionals and a desperate rush to be the first one out. For example, if you receive BREAKINGNEWSON from Twitter, you can find yourself bombarded at times in the day (evidently according to when Breakingnewson is awake AND, as Breakingnewson warns, when there are BIG stories) with micro bulletins that, at worst, are free flowing “unconfirmed” reports. But, to be fair, breakingnewson does seem to be quite on the ball and attempts to be clear in the headlines. For now, I will keep on following.

If you take the time to read the entire The Onion article, passed on to me by my father and the reason I decided on this post, you may be as perplexed as I am over the this quote at the end of the article:

“While the changes have brought higher ratings and ad revenues to televised news, print newspapers have suffered greatly, due to the high cost of printing and distributing a new edition every 24 seconds.” 

How many newspapers are being reprinted every 24 seconds? Perhaps, this is merely a point in case of a journalist that had to crush out this report without really double checking the thoughts? Last I checked, Internet stories didn’t need to be printed out and “distributed” either.