A bit less power to the people

“Wikipedia to Limit Changes to Articles on People” by Noam Cohen (New York Times, 24 August 2009). A subtle but noteworthy tweak in approach. It’s as if to say the people are always right except when they’re not. Interesting, eh? What do you think?

Moving the moutain

“NPR Moves to Rewire Its Approach to the Web” by Elizabeth Jensen (New York Times, 26 July 2009). As one of the few true news outlets left, NPR’s decision to revamp has the potential to be significant in terms of widening their reach. As Vivian Schiller, NPR’s president and chief executive, notes:

We are a news content organization, not just a radio organization.

The other significant point mentioned is that shows will be available in both audio and text. In other words, the guest gets to choose the format that fits their moment. We’re looking forward to a new and improved NPR. We hope you are as well.

Btw, the music industry publication Billboard (www.Billboard.com) has also just lauched a new web site. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Still looking for a good summer read?

“What You Pay For (a review of Wired’s Chris Anderson’s new book ‘Free’)” by Virginia Postrel (New York Times, 10 July 2009). Mr. Anderson is often a voice worth listening to and thus his latest book is worth investigating. The question seems to be, is the biz model he champions where things are or where they are going? If you believe it’s where we are then the next question is, “What’s next?”

Big Brother is Googling

Google watch:

“Google Plans a PC Operating System” By Miguel Helft and Ashlee Vance (New York Times, 8 July 2009). What so many have been saying for so long. Time will tell if this will be good news for the rest of us.

“Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out” by Fred Vogelstein (Wired Magazine, July 2009). The classic battle between good and evil. But who’s good and who’s evil?

“Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability” by Steven Levy (Wired Magazine, 22 May 2009) Who would have thought that a tweak or two on an auction would becomes a billion dollar money machine?

Two glues are better than none

“Corner Office: On Will Wright’s Team, Would You Be a Solvent, or the Glue?” Video game designer Will Wright is interviewed by Adam Bryant (New York Times, Sunday 14 June 2009). Quite a few nice pearls in this exchange. Here are two that should get you to want to inhale the rest of the article to get the full effect.

When I’m managing creative people, the way they relate to failure is very important. Because there are certain types of failure that you really want to celebrate. I personally learned a lot more from my failures than from my successes. And if you look at it that way, then all my failures, you know, in some sense brought me to my larger successes, because I recognized why I failed, and I learned from it. And so, at that point, you can even argue that it’s not a failure. It’s part of your learning process.

I would first of all talk about the value of failure, because I think everybody’s leaving school kind of with a mind-set that, “Oh, I’m going out and I have to succeed. You have to succeed.” And if they hit a failure it has the potential to, you know, de-motivate them, and push them in a bad direction. But, if they can embrace and celebrate their failure, it kind of gives them a totally different outlook on what they are doing.

I think also the way the world is changing today, particularly when somebody leaves with a degree and they then go look for a work spot where they can really, you know, fit in: “This situation fits me very well.” And I think I would encourage them — rather than try to fit in somewhere — to find someplace where they can craft the environment, the job and the situation — basically, make it fit you.

Googlezilla verses the Twitter Monster

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon so let’s just keep it simple.

“The Tweet Smell of Success” by Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter (New York Times, Sunday 14 June 2009)

One has to assume that Twitter is looking not just at followers but also the followers of the followers, as well as the click rate of the links in the actual tweets. In other words, it’s not just about quantity but also trying to assess quality.

“Hey, Just a Minute (or Why Google Isn’t Twitter)” by Randall Stross (New York Times, Sunday 14 June 2009)

With that said, one has to wonder if Google isn’t missing the point. Immediate is important in ER but it’s rarely life or death in day to day business. McDonalds can serve faster but it’s still McDonalds. The latest answer doesn’t matter as much as the best answer.

Google says, “Surf’s up”

“Google Showcases New Communication and Collaboration Tool” by By Miguel Helft (New York Times, 28 May 2009). Yes, let’s all pray that this – and the other similar apps that are sure to follow – puts an end to email as a collaboration tool. Nine times out of ten even a wiki is a more helpful project organization tool than email. With a wiki everyone is forced to stay on the same page, literally.

Lipstick isn’t enough

“Put Ad on Web. Count Clicks. Revise.” By Stephanie Cliford (New York Times, Sunday 31 May 2009). Let’s jump right to the AU caveats:

  • Yes, this approach is helpful but what the quants and the bean counters are not considering is that the ad with the most clicks does not necessarily make it the most effective. An ad can draw more clicks but ultimately lead to less satisfied guests. In other words, it totally discounts The Guest Experience and simplifies that relationship into one that based on the perspective of the companyand a single click and not the guest and their value over the long run. As we all agree by now, that’s a no-no.
  • Yes, if you’re a “little guy / gal” it’s smart to watch the big dogs and see how they’re running. However, in many cases resources might be better spend getting the house in order first. In other words, take a hard objective look at the design of your site (or better yet engage someone else to do so); strongly consider what the UX (i.e., user experience) is like and how that will lead guests to draw conclusions about your brand; also check the responsiveness and thoroughness of your guests services. Unfortunately, one of the current trends is “I just need SEO…” Well, you can SEO/SEM – yes, we just made it a verb – ’til the end of time but you can’t put lipstick on a (less than ideal web site) pig and expect stellar results. In fact,  driving traffic into a sub-par experience can do more harm than good.
  • For example, twice in the last two weeks we have used the contact form on the site of the MLS’ Philadelphia Union (www.PhildephiaUnion.com) and have not gotten so much as a auto-reply. It should be noted that this is an expansion team that has yet to play a match. It’s not a good sign when your number one focus is to energize supporters and there’s no response to the Contact Us form.

The never ending story of the new evil empire

“Companies Object to Google Policy on Trademarks” By Miguel Helft (New York Times, 15 May 2009) Simply put, all hype and blind envy aside, Google is a publicly traded company and is oblicated to act in the best interest of ther shareholders. If Google can make a profit on a service in spite of a couple random lawsuit then they will continue to do that regardless of how evil it is. Ignore the slogans and the tag lines – once again, actions speak louder than words.

Three up is just a penny a pop

“New Inks Cut Costs of Office Color Printing” By Ashlee Vance (New York Times, 6 May 2009). Color at three cents a page could be a bigger game changer than music at 99 cents a song. That said, inexpensive output can’t make up for poor design and lack of a proper marketing message. It’s always amazing, in a disappointing sort of way, how many organizations spend significant resources to establish their business, cut corners to market / sell it, and then wonder why revenue isn’t what they projected.

Why a bigger we matters

“Think ‘We’ for Best Results” by Adam Bryant (New York Times, 18 April 2009) is an interview with Ms. Nell Minow. The topic is management and here are some of the highlights:

“…if you can get everyone to agree what the goal is, and to identify themselves with the successful achievement of that goal, then you’re pretty much there.”

“…generally that the more expansive the assumptions were within somebody’s idea of who is “we” — the larger the group that you had included in that “we” — the better off everybody was. I started to really do my best to make sure that my notion of “we” was very expansive and to promote that idea among other people.”

“I really look for a kind of a passionate curiosity. I think that is indispensable, no matter what the job is. You want somebody who is just alert and very awake and engaged with the world and wanting to know more.”

“I also delegate as much as I can and I jettison as much as I can. I try to ask myself, do I need to do this? Is this something that is really going to help?”

Time for a tune-up

“New Leader Overhauls Ford Foundation” by Stephanie Strom (New York Times, 13 April 2009).  The Ford Foundation is $11 billion strong and actually the second-largest foundation in the country after the Gates Foundation. On one hand this is pseudo feel-good story. On the other it’s another lesson in the need for ongoing analysis, evolution, and marketing. Stand still and the guy / gal / company / foundation behind you will run you down. Ford would know.

Print it and they will still come

“Do-It-Yourself Magazines, Cheaply Slick” by Ashlee Vance (New York Times, Monday 30 March 2009).

If you’re still doing print, or have aspiration to start your own “magazine”, then HP has a new service for you: MagCloud (www.MagCLoud.com). Certainly there are other similar offerings but knowing that master of printing over at Hewlett-Packard (www.HP.com) are behind this one probably makes it more appealing. Plus, 20 cents a page for an on- demand “run” (of a brochure) is pretty darn amazing.

Nice guys finish last. Smart guys never finish.

“Curious at Amazon, but Not Idle” by Saul Hansell (New York Times, 27 March 2009). This will get you thinking a little bit. What’s odd is that the article overlooks the real benefit – at least in this case – of Mr Bezos’ curiosity. It puts him closer to his guests, both internal (aka employees) and external (aka customers). Yes, he’s learning but he could just as easily grab a Kindle and read up on cat litter. He is naturally curious because he has vision. Because he is passionate about his company.

In contrast the Detroit car executives don’t even drive their own cars. They’re too disconnected. And the growth of their companies is reflected in their ignorance. Conclusion: Sell the stock of a company next time you read about an executive who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty. Hopefully you won’t be selling you.

Lead how you would want to led

“How to Lead in Tough Times” By Paul B. Brown (New York Times, 17 March 17, 2009). It’s hard to lead even in the best of times. These days? Some might say it’s damn near impossible. This quick read probably isn’t going to save your world from worry but a little pick me up never hurt either.

Once is enough?

Study Shows First-Time Online Donors Often Do Not Return By Stephanie Storm (New York Times, Wed 18 March 2009)

Whether you’re an NPO or not this is must-read. The article is just a few paragraphs but if you’re extremely pressed for time the best insights come closer to the end:

“Direct mail may not be a Maserati, but it’s very effective because it is very highly evolved,” said Lori Held, membership marketing director at Trout Unlimited. “We know how to ask for money using the mail, but most organizations are still trying to figure out how to do that online.”

Nonprofit groups face a number of challenges in trying to reach donors electronically, Ms. Held and others said.

For one thing, they must have a team dedicated to fine-tuning and improving their Web site and another team for e-mail marketing, both of which are added expenses. Nonprofit solicitation materials often get caught in systems that trap spam and other unwanted e-mail. Other systems eliminate the compelling images that are so effective in direct mail.

Still, the demographics of online donors are enticing for charities. The study found that of the donors who made at least one online gift in 2008, roughly a third had incomes greater than $100,000, while about one-quarter of those giving in other ways fell into that category.

“I think what we’re learning is that we need to be less worried about what channels these donors use and offer them a variety of channels through which they can give,” said Mr. Smith of CARE.”

Four things:

1) Conclusion: Most people are pragmatic in their charitable giving. This study is strictly from the NPO’s perspective. However, the real gems would be to understand the donors’ decision making process.  It might just be that your average Joe / Jane likes to “distribute the wealth”. Like it or not, if these are the rules then NPOs need to learn to play by them.

2) It would be helpful to know what unique identifier(s) were used to track each donor. Obviously there might be a big difference in the results between using individuals (e.g., Mr & Mrs Smith) or the Smith household. Also, did the study include or exclude anonymous donations? That could in turn effect the percentages calculated.

3) Evidently the Obama campaign actually did quite well in inspiring donors to give smaller amounts repeated times. What was their secret? Maybe that is their secret?

4) It’s nice to know that an AU state of mind just got a bit less lonely.

You don’t need to be a CEO to act like a CEO

At the risk of overdoing it with NY Times posts today. If this debut is any indication, they’ve started what looks to be a must-read section:

Corner Office, a new Sunday Business feature, offers highlights from conversations about leadership and management. This interview with Greg Brenneman, chairman of CCMP Capital, was conducted, condensed and edited by Adam Bryant.”

Take a moment a read this article. If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration  Corner Office: Can You Pass a C.E.O. Test? is time well spent.  Kudos to Mr. Bryant for asking the right questions.

Passion trumps experience 9 out of 10 times

“The Secrets of the Talent Scouts” by George Anders (New York Times, 14 March 2009)

We said it before and we’ll probably end up saying it again… The economy might be slowing down but it’s certainly not coming to a complete halt. The smart money is pressing forward and looking for opportunities. The real danger is fear and in being one of those who insists on standing still.

Btw, we’d also like to point out how frequent the ideal of passion is mention by those interviewed for this article. Experience is what one has done. But passion is where one is going. The past can not be changed. However, the future – especially in the hands of the passionate – is an endless adventure. History proves that passion trumps experience 9 out of 10 times.

It’s easy to be evil

Verizon Customers – Just Say No! by Lidija Davis (New York Times)

One would like to think that this is shocking but sadly it has gotten to be the status quo. It’s outrageous what some companies will do to their guests that they wouldn’t want done to themselves. When it comes to making the wrong moves, do we really need another Facebook? What’s also difficult to understand is why don’t Verizon’s competitors use these snafus against them?

Trading your privacy for Google freebies

Goggle this… Goggle that… Google. Google. Google. There is no doubt the new evil empire has a lot to offer. Here are two thorough articles to help you slash your way through the Goggle jungle. But be warned, you could end up traversing down a link to link to link blackhole.

“Learning about Google via Google” by Steve Arnold (KMWorld Magazine, February 2009, KMWorld.com)

“State of the Art: Geniuses at Play, on the Job” by David Pogue (New York Times, Thursday 26 February 2009)