Twitter for newspapers

While it’s great that so many newspapers have discovered the power of Twitter, it seems most aren’t interested in using it as anything other than another distribution hub. A random check of many of the paper’s Twitter profiles, a full list of which is being maintained here, show the vast majority might have thousands of followers, but are in turn following no one. And those that are still aren’t “@”ing at all, meaning as a whole they’re not interested, it seems, in a conversation. Just push push push that content out.

But the profiles I find the most interesting are those that have a back-and-forth. If I can reply to a paper and have them acknowledge me I’m more likely to engage with their content because I feel like I’m getting something a little different out of it. It doesn’t make the actual content any less interesting, but I likely subscribe to the RSS feed for a publication anyway, so following them on Twitter is, quite frankly, just more clutter.

Social Network News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

Nickelodeon is introducing social networking functionality to its casual gaming sites, functionality like chat and talking avatars and more. Nick is obviously trying to retain more of their players by giving them the same sort of tools on the site that they might have previously needed to go elsewhere to use. The problem for Nick is that this increases their responsibility to insure member’s privacy, since the Nick brand likely attracts a younger crowd, a younger crowd that might love chatting with friends but may not be as astute as they need to be when it comes to their online safety.

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Facebook is slowly rolling out a new design to profile pages that expands the Wall and increases the white-space on a page, which is directly related to the desire to increase ad inventory and subsequent revenue. The biggest problem Facebook is facing right now, though, is the fact that usage of third-party applications is relatively stagnant. 98 percent of the app usage involves the top 10 percent of popular apps and usage is flat. Considering its these apps that Facebook is kind of counting on to keep people coming back to the site, that could be a big issue that needs to be addressed.

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While the scope of the research is somewhat limited, Jeremiah Owyang’s analysis of the social networking efforts in support of specific product launches is nonetheless very interesting. Specifically, he looked at social network pages that were created for products (ranging from electronics to cars to movies) and measured how these presences achieved the goal of being interactive and meeting the needs of the community. Only one of 16 brands received what was dubbed a passing grade, with most failing because they were all about the marketing, with little emphasis on enabling or communicating with the community they were trying to foster.

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Social network sites continue to grow, though a good percentage of that growth is now coming from markets outside the U.S. Facebook in this report is the biggest gainer, while MySpace shows little growth outside of the U.S. That difference may be the result of different strategies, with Facebook allowing the core site to be translated into other languages while MySpace launches version ater version for each language.

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The executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers has voiced his opinion that social networking profiles have moved from being something potential employers use to evaluate candidates that are already on their radar to something that is turned to as part of the recruiting and search process. That’s a major shift in the mindset corporation have made since social network profiles were once seen as being a potential deal killer for candidates who might not have the most professional material there. More than that, as social networking becomes something new hires have used increasingly in their personal lives, more companies are adding functionality like that to their internal communications tools.

But while that all might be true, some hiring managers are still turned off by communications with potential employees that are far too casual. It’s still not a good idea to use emoticons and text message shorthand in follow-up messages to the person who interviewed you since it speaks to someone who doesn’t know when it’s appropriate to be more professional.

Search News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

Vertical search has gotten the attention of more and more people, from venture capitalists to publications in the last year or so. Because the vast amounts of available information found through a general search engine like Google can sometimes be a tad intimidating, these search engines are positioning themselves as tools people can use to cut through some of the clutter and get straight to what interests them.

There’s value in that, especially as time crunches get more and more severe. The biggest thing that’s going to bring ordinary people to these sorts of search engines is the fact that they keep getting scooped up by publishers. After all, finding the vertical search engine can sometimes be as time-consuming and difficult as finding the information itself. So facilitating the introduction of the searcher and the tool means publishers are well-positioned to add more value to the lives of their readers.

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In case anyone is ever wondering why we pay so much attention to Google Pageranks and SEO as it relates to Google, it’s largely because Google is eating everyone else’s lunch in the search market. According to ComScore, it now commands 61% of the market, three times what is enjoyed by Yahoo, the next biggest player.

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Online analytics firm Compete has introduced a new measurement tool that compares paid to organic search results. The new data break-out will allow clients to see trends over time related to how many of their referrals are coming from either form of search.

Streaming Video News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

We shouldn’t worry too much about this moderately alarmist story that shows overall awareness of Hulu.com, the streaming programming site that’s co-owned by Fox and NBC, stands at just about 15 percent. After all, that 15 percent is made up early adopters and influencers. The average age, according to the research, is 32 years old and male, the an income that is 22 percent above the U.S. average. So it’s actually quite a big number, when you take the right perspective on the numbers.

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CBS says that its’ online streaming programming brings in 46 percent of its TV audience. CBS has been among the most aggressive in syndicating its shows on other sites as a way to meet the audience where they are instead of putting so much energy into getting the people to come to their site. More importantly to some extent is that watching the shows online does not seem to be something that turns people off of watching the shows on TV.

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The CW thought that by pulling streaming episodes of “Gossip Girl” from its website the audience would be forced to go to the TV broadcasts to see it. Turns out what actually happened was that the audience just continued to disappear anyway, leading the network to concede defeat and put the episodes back online.

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Streaming video site Qik is now out of private beta and has moved into public beta testing is especially popular with people who like to produce short video because it allows you to send it to the web directly from your video-enabled mobile device. The public beta launch brings with it support for devices from a number of different carriers, meaning the number of people who could potentially use this increases dramatically. There are other players in this video-from-mobile-to-web space but . QikQik has a lot of credibility among early adopters and could be the one that breaks through into broader usage.

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Wikipedia, one of the most consistent points of discussion in the life of a social media marketing practitioner, is toying with the idea of adding an editorial layer on the top of its “anyone can edit anything” philosophy. That would drastically change the landscape and more or less completely violate one of the site’s core principles. But that sort of organization and management is likely necessary if Wikipedia intends to continue its dominance and become more respected.

The move would also make the site and its entries, if not friendly to, at least slightly less hostile to marketer’s involvement. If there were factual inaccuracies or other quantifiable and identifiable problems with a company’s entry there would at least be an authority of some sort to turn to in order to address the problem and settle any disputes.

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At the same time that’s happening, Google has officially launched Knols, their self-edited “knowledge” pages that allow people to create information hubs on a topic they have some sort of expertise in. It’s being positioned as a Wikipedia competitor but I’m not seeing that in any regard since they seem to have more in common with Squidoo or someone’s “About” page on their own blog. I’m spectacularly unimpressed.

Tools and Software: 8/28/08

SocialMedian has come out of beta testing as a site that lets you find news that’s been recommended by others, recommend news stories yourself and generally find stuff that’s going to interest you. The site has been in private beta for a while and combines the functionality of sites like Digg and FriendFeed, while learning from your profile what sorts of things you’re likely to enjoy in the future.

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Social news site Delicious has finally launched a new design and functionality, about a year after the upgrades were first announced as coming soon. There’s not a lot that’s made significantly easier, meaning adoption isn’t likely to increase that greatly but power users will probably find some things a bit easier to do.

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Research from Deutsche Bank that shows the most useful Web 2.0 applications in the eyes of consumers are those that bring ratings or reviews should not be surprising. Neither should the fact that quizzes, videos and games appear at the bottom of the list. Banking is one are where the “let’s have fun and the customer will relate to that” axiom probably applies the least simply because it’s people’s money that’s being considered.

Advertising News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

Seems that Google has begun taking over FeedBurner’s Advertiser Network, something that follows quickly on the heels of seeing that it had begun replacing Feedburner-managed feeds with a management service that’s run by Google on its own servers.

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While there are a number of reasons for such failure that run from budget problems to lack of personnel resources, 45% of search marketers still aren’t able to integrate their online efforts with other media campaigns. Of the 55% that do run integrated campaigns, 34% do so through direct mail, 29% with magazine and newspaper, 12% with television and also 12% with radio.

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A new study from MS&L says that almost 20% of marketers admit that they’ve bought ads on a news organization’s site in exchange for editorial coverage. Not sure what to make of this, but it’s both disturbing and not at all surprising, unfortunately.

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To the surprise of absolutely no one – at least no one who has been watching the online industry for more than a week and a half, Technorati has announced it will begin targeting ads in its recently launched network based on the tags bloggers themselves put on their posts. So something tagged with an automotive brand name could result in an automaker’s ads being put on that blog. The problem, of course, is that this sort of system is just waiting for abuse by bloggers who find they’re making more money with certain keyword tags and so start mis-tagging posts in order to trigger ads. It’s going to be important for Technorati to monitor for this sort of abuse in order to minimize the risk of backlash by advertisers.

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MySpace is still having trouble making money on ads and continues pushing its hypertargeting technology, though that’s not going to make much of a difference if it can’t attract advertisers to begin with, some of whom might be spooked by such targeting’s privacy concerns.

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Ads are branded websites are said to be more effective, according to a new study, than ads on general sites. That’s not that surprising since if you’re on a branded site you’re more likely to be susceptible to brand messages than someone who is more skeptical of brand presences.

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It seems the advertising industry is questioning the general consumer’s actual interest in claims they’re making about their eco-friendly qualities. I think this has less to do with people not being interested in such information so much as it has to do with companies thinking that’s all they needed to do, or them making claims that turned out to be not so much the truth. There’s also the notion, advanced in Rob Walker’s “Buying In” book, that such claims are not in and of themselves enough to spur consumer action. There still needs to be value in the eyes of the consumer, whether that be in increased usefulness or affordability, in order for the product to be worth buying.

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Sugar Inc is backing out of its deal with NBC Universal that has the larger company handling ad sales for the smaller. The decision is likely due to NBCU’s recent investment in BlogHer, despite what the Sugar CEO says.

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Despite its popularity with viewers, consumer-generated video is expected to only get about four percent of online video ad dollars. Marketers are extremely nervous about such video because it can be messy and not a 100% match with the squeaky clean image the brand is trying to convety.

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Completely unsurprisingly, marketers are pegging mobile devices as being the ultimate way to reach teens with advertising messages. That device is going to be the hub of this generation’s life, featuring music and video and everything else that’s going to connect them to their friends and to the rest of the world.

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The Sci-Fi Channel has set up a Twitter account related to one of its original programs. The problem from my point of view is that it’s a fictional persona that’s behind the profile and not, as in the case of Fox’s “Drive” Twitter account, an actual person engaging in the conversation.

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To the surprise of hopefully no one, Microsoft has signed on to provide search ads for Facebook. That should prove to be relatively worthless, at least if the precedent of Google’s search deal with MySpace is any indicator. Considering Facebook doesn’t even have the traffic of MySpace and that Facebook is more of a closed community I’m guessing this will not be the financial boon Microsoft is hoping for.

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American Express’ new campaign uses not only things like a standard Facebook and MySpace page but also badges that bloggers could put on their own sites that would promote the projects they’re working on and championing. People can upload pictures, video and other media related to their project and then engage in a discussion with other members on issues important to them.

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Ad exchanges are being used by sites as a way to unload unsold inventory and by buyers to more effectively target a broad demographic than by buying ads on a single site or even a network. Their automation is threatening to some industry insiders but their efficiency can also work pretty well.

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It’s extraordinarily not shocking that a new online ad network would set out to exclusively target the “short tail” of the online world.

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New research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Bain & Company shows that online publishers continue, despite reports to the contrary, to make larger and larger portions of their ad inventory available to third party networks. In 2007 publishers made 30 percent of their inventory available for sale through networks, up from just five percent in 2006.

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Advertisers en masse delivered 4.4 billion ads on sites geared toward women of all ages in May, 2008, according to comScore. That speaks volumes about how major brands and retailers are looking to try and reach a group that’s seen as the major influencers in a household. That ad money is why major companies like Yahoo and NBC Universal are creating sites with content specifically for this group.

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Google is on track to grow its online ad business by 27 percent by the end of 2008, bringing in a forecast $7.6 billion in ad revenue, over twice what second place Yahoo is expected to net and well over the $1.6 billion foreseen for Microsoft’s MSN. All told, spending on the top four portals is likely to be over $14 billion, a major chunk of the nearly $25 billion that eMarketer is predicting will be spent online industry wide. 

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According to new numbers from the Television Bureau of Advertising, total ad revenue for TV stations was down four percent in the second quarter of 2008, with most sectors showing a drop save for syndicated TV, which was up 9.1 percent. The news isn’t much better for newspapers, who are now even seeing their online ad revenue begin to fall. Both of these numbers come at roughly the same time the OPA released findings that ads on local media sites had higher success rates than other local sites. Media outlets also attracted an audience that’s more likely to be heavy online shoppers compared to the general population.

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Google has made live AdSense for Feeds, its taking over of the FeedBurner Advertising Network. FAN is now essentially defunct, with no new applications being acepted and publishers able to activate AdSense after they migrate their feed management over to Google. A variety of options will be avialalbe that largely mimic what FeedBurner had been offering, though with some new formats added in.

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A number of media companies are beginning to place their own ads on unauthorized clips of their content that appear on YouTube. The ads are placed there and the uploader is sent a message explaining that what their doing is wrong, but the clips will remains for now with the advertising added to them. The revenue from those ads is then split between YouTube and the copyright owner, with the uploader cut out completely.

Saysme.tv is the latest company to enter the DIY TV ad market. Advertisers can upload or create their own ads on the site and then buy time on cable TV for as little as $6 for 25-second spot, though the placement is far from guaranteed and not exactly ideal in terms of timing.

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New research suggests that not only are young men surprisingly tolerant of pre-roll advertising – assuming the content is attractive enough – but their also at least moderately inclined to actually click the ads. Other formats like overlays were less successful at generating click-throughs, but still, the overall attitude toward advertising was good news for those trying to reach that particular audience.

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While what BusinessWeek is doing in creating “Topic Pages,” pages that are meant to be information repository on a number of topics ranging from specific products to whole industries, isn’t new, how they’re going about it is unique. You have to reach into the article a bit but they’re doing something interesting in how they’re linking out to the larger web.

I know, but that’s a much bigger move than it should by any rights be.

Users can add to the Business Exchange Topic Page with not only their own bit of insight or information but with relevant links. Yes, there’s still the sort of editorial oversight that you’d expect from a mainstream publication embarking on a venture like this, but unless that proves to be draconian it shouldn’t be something that turns off users.

The site is a venture to grow page views and engagement by the readers, metrics they’re going to be working to sell to advertisers. It’s hoping the pages will attract highly involved readers, an audience that it in turn hopes will prove attractive to those advertisers.

Blogging News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb talks about how to get started lifestreaming, which she identifies as potentially being the “new blogging.” She goes beyond the low hanging fruit and identifies the tools being used by some of the online celebrities who are doing just that and shows how they can be used by others to get started sharing the details of their own lives with a broader audience.

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New research from Cision shows that the mass media acknowledgement of blogs and bloggers is on the rise. Over the last five years, the study shows, mentions of blogs in the top 20 national magazines and newspapers has risen 16X. That ties into other research showing blogs are an increasingly important source of story ideas by traditional journalists. It’s also another reason why a well-planned blog relations campaign can have secondary benefits. The problem, of course, is that MSM mentions of blogs tends to be either sensationalistic or simply focus on one of the same top 20 blogs, meaning the attention of those who know blogs simply through their coverage in national publications tends to be limited.

I’m not such a fan of the last half of this post on how bloggers can “use” public relations practitioners to increase their blog’s visibility, but do think there’s some good stuff in the first half, which talks about how small bloggers can get noticed. The advice boils down to two major ideas: Either pro-actively work to get on their radar by touting your site’s value or partner with other small to mid-size blogs and propose a program that would span those sites. The latter brings with it the all-important reach that marketers are looking for but also opens the door to future direct dealings.

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Compare the efforts of the anonymous blogger behind TellZell.com, someone who is reportedly on the editorial staff of the LA Times and who is using the blog to gripe about the damage Zell is inflicting on Tribune newspapers, to the more positive approach that comes through in this post by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. Zorn points out simply that he’s on the committee that’s working out the paper’s future and how to confront the new realities it’s faced with. I get what the TellZell writer is trying to do and why he’s doing it, but Zorn’s opinion carries so much more weight with me because he’s open and honest about it. There are other ways to get your gripes about a situation out in the open and still remain anonymous, but doing so almost always makes you look simply like a complainer who has nothing positive to add and the thoughts you put forward carry a bit less authority.

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A short but interesting case study from interactive firm Adaptive Path on how they followed the model of wiki-provider Socialtext and conducted their search for a new CEO via blogging and LinkedIn announcements. It adds credence to the idea that if you’re looking for someone new in the interactive marketing space, it can pay off big time to use the same sort of tools you’re going to need them to use in order to find them. After all, if they’re not there then they’re not going to be relevant to your needs.

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There’s the question that’s been asked of whether Friendfeed is destined to always be a niche service. I think stuff like this – the second layer that’s been added on top of social media production – is, yeah, probably going to remain the realm of the early adopters and influencers. There’s just no demand among the everyday mommy bloggers and people talking about their cars for this sort of service since they derive little value from it. Friendfeed and other services that aggregate social media content provide the biggest value to those that are constantly commenting and who have multiple points of production that need to be brought together into one place. That doesn’t mean these sorts of things don’t have some usefulness as part of broader consumer plays, but they should be utilized sparingly, with specific goals in mind that are realistic and attainable.

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Don Reisinger at Mashable has a great post up on how he loves corporate blogs. He dismisses criticism that corporate blogs are stuffy and not transparent by saying you can’t expect companies to be their own harshest critics. Instead he says their value is in making the reader feel like an insider at a company they know and like. While some are obviously better than others they can be great reads and provide good information on not only the company they’re run by but the industry those companies exist in as well.

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Weblogs Inc., founded by Jason Calacanis (and for which Tom and I both used to write) and later bought by AOL, is coming in for some problems that are part of belonging to a bigger entity. AOL has essentially asked writers on some blogs to write for free for a short period of time because those blogs are running close to going over budget for the year. The problems are that writers aren’t going to contribute for nothing forever and if they’re not contributing than the blogs slowly become less relevant to the audience, a combination that can later lead to a decline in readership.

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Jeremiah Owyang points to a trend that’s rampant throughout the media, with bloggers acting like journalists, journalists acting like analysts and all of these lines blurring. That’s why it’s so important for media plans to more or less be media agnostic, with outreach being tailored so individually to each writer, with an angle and approach that’s appropriate to them in order to do as much as possible to make it relevant to them.

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According to research from Burson-Marsteller, just 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies use corporate blogs as a means of communicating with customers directly. The majority of the 74 companies who are blogging are in the technology or related industries. The study does not include blogs that might be used for internal communications and therefore are not publicly accessible or findable to outsiders. While the number is still disappointingly small, it does represent a 270 percent over when Wired and SocialText first partnered on tracking such blogs in December of 2005. The numbers are weighted toward the top of the Fortune 500 list, with many more of the top 50 companies running blogs than those in the bottom 50.

Media News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

According to new numbers from DoubleClick Performics, new clarity has emerged on the media habits of tweens (those 10-14 years old):

  • Media habits (an hour per day
    • 83% online
    • 68% watch TV
    • 29% listen to the radio
    • 10% read magazines
    • 5% read newspapers
  • Social network habits:
    • 64% go to a social network at least once per day
    • 72% have a social network profile
      • 54% have a MySpace profile
      • 34% have a Facebook profile
  • Blog reading habits:
    • 8% frequently
    • 31% occasionally
    • 40% rarely
    • 20% never
  • Search and peer recommendations also are major factors in teens online shopping habits

Conde Nast’s Portfolio and CBS Interactive’s CNET/BNET pair have entered into a content sharing deal that will send both text articles and video between the sites, something that’s obviously designed to bring each site’s audiences the other’s content and hopefully draw new readers to each.

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Sony Pictures TV has signed a deal to distribute the popular video podcast Rocketboom. The show will be distributed through Sony’s Crackle video hub as well as through Rocketboom’s usual site, YouTube channel and other outlets, where Sony will have the right to sell ads against the content. The deal is interesting since it marks the “going legitimate” move by one of the biggest video blogs online. While RB’s creators will continue to own the content – a marked differentiation from other deals – it’s still impossible to think that this won’t impact the show’s content in some way, shape or form.

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AOL is hoping that lifestreaming becomes the next big thing and, to that end, has bought SocialThing, a FriendFeed-type site that’s actually still in private beta. There’s not much about the site that’s known since it’s still very, very young, but it certainly adds some interesting capabilities to AOL’s userbase.

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Nielsen is working with Mediamark on Mobile-MRI, a mobile measurement and research joint initiative that seeks to provide deeper and more fully-shaded data on mobile users to clients of both services. The research not only on mobile usage but on mobile advertising interaction and other behavior.

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Forrester Research has bought its major competitor JupiterResearch for $23 million. It’s impossible to comment further on this since it pretty much marks the end of just about everything.

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Interpublic is once again buying its way into digital capabilities by snapping up HUGE, an interactive marketing firm. HUGE specializes in “transactional” website generation for consumer-focused clients.

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It’s interesting that NBC will begin posting short-form videos starring future Late Night host Jimmy Fallon on the Web almost a year prior to his taking over the show. That seems to be a good idea, letting Fallon sort of work out some of the kinks with his routine there before being put in front of a full audience and the glare of critics. But producer Lorne Michaels’ plan to post the videos at 12:30 “so people get used to him at that time” shows how he’s still stuck in an old media mindset. The web isn’t reliant on schedules or time blocks. Sure, there’s value in having regular features on regular days or something like that, but people likely won’t be watching the videos at 12:30, so making a big deal of posting them then is relatively pointless.

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Gawker has an interesting discussion of whether or not its in newspaper’s best interests to allow comments on their stories. It’s a good question and they arrive at some interesting ideas before settling on “No, comments aren’t worth the trouble.” Comments on newspaper stories online are largely a reaction to blogs having them and in some instances they’ve worked well. But to a large extent I still don’t think they’re seeing the same level of added value from the comments, which tend to draw out the extremists on either side of whatever touchy issue the story is dealing with, in the same way that blogs are, where comments are part of the culture and opinions are open for trading.

Add that discussion to research from Pew that show papers are increasingly focusing on local coverage – something they should have been all along – in order to compete with the hyper-local citizen journalists that are eating their lunch the last couple years. Wire services are handling foreign news, something that papers have been cutting back on as cost-saving measures, leaving local as the one area they can cover well.

One defiite disturbing trend is the “editor as revenue finder” model that is mentioned in this article. Editors should be responsible for making sure the content being produced is up to snuff and that the paper is running as smoothly as possible from a journalistic standpoint. Ad revenue projections should be made by accountants and business managers, not people who are in a position to sway editorial coverage. Though considering paid product placement within editorial continues to be discussed – it’s actually built in actractiveness due to the current problems being faced – it’s not all that surprising that this is going on.

Research from the Publishing Group of America shows that the one magazine category that’s growing in distribution is that of titles distributed via newspapers.

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From Forrester comes this new breakdown of Gen Y’s media consumption habits:

  • 32% own an HDTV
  • 29% have a DVR
  • 69% have, in the last three months, shopped online
  • 65% have, in the last three months, banked online
  • 21% read a blog monthly (up from 15% last year)
  • 72% text message regularly
  • 42% watch online video at least monthly
  • 90% own a computer
  • 82% own a mobile phone

Social Shopping and E-Commerce News Catch-Up: 8/28/08

There’s a new review service in town. David Binkowski points to Blippr, a site that collects product reviews that are 160 characters in length or less. As David says, that limit forces the reviews to be relevant and concise and not get weighed down by too much opinion. I’m not completely sold on this sort of thing since I think social recommendation engines tend to be more effective on the product pages on sites where the products are actually for sale, but it’s certainly an interesting idea.

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For clients with consumer-leveled products, we should probably be taking a deeper look at how those products are being reviewed on e-commerce sites. After all, there are an increasingly large number of sites that aggregate such consumer reviews and recommendations and these are playing a bigger and bigger role in the decision making process of current shoppers. This is especially important considering a recent Harris Interactive study that showed high gas prices, as well as the general allure of low gas prices and convenience, played a significant role in driving demand for e-commerce shopping.

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NBC seems to be engaging in some sort of odd experiment that looks and feels like an e-commerce site but is actually meant to see what sort of lead generation opportunities there might be. The idea seems to be to list relevant products and then point shoppers in the direction of outlets where they can buy the products, with a commission being taken on each sale, but that seems sort of half-hearted to me. Combine that with an odd, non-consumer-friendly URL – DealMeRSS.com – and you have an experiment that seems more or less destined to fail.