Sunday, February 27, 2011

Proud of My BlogHogs

CoverItLive is a staple of our interaction with fans, and today was the peak example. Five blogs running at the same time -- women's tennis, baseball, women's basketball and SEC Indoor Track from home and gymnastics from the road in Chicago. At one point, a combination of more than 500 active readers.

On the blogs, including tennis, road softball, road men's basketball and others, the weekend saw 16 interactive blog events, with a total of 6,928 readers (that's an average of 433 per event and a average duration of 3h 38 min). We kept eyeballs on through this tool for a total reader duration of 92d 13h 19min. Of the almost 7,000 readers, 79% stayed on the site more than a minute. The average reader's duration was 44 minutes. Compare that stat with any other content, short of streaming video, and even then, good luck with getting 44 minute latency.

Baseball led the way in fan numbers -- for the second straight weekend we averaged over 1,000 readers. That's for non-conference games -- numbers very much like last spring's SEC weekends. It's pretty rewarding when you've faced the kind of internet hardships -- heck, just the grind of a four to five hour live blog -- and know that you've interacted with thousands of fans.

My baseball blogs this weekend had a peak of 1,368 (Saturday's Utah second game) and an average of 1,111. What's remarkable is right now before there's been really a lot of time for the Sunday game to generate a lot of replay (usually don't check that for at least 48 hours after), the average number of replays is 264.

Track wasn't far behind in fans and by far the winner on duration. Zack Swartz and Nate Keys, my interns, were alternating on those long days at the Randal Tyson Track Center, and they were entertaining SEC track fans with a duration average of 57 minutes. I haven't even generated that with football games. They had 2.086 readers and an average of 695 readers -- multi-day track highs for us.

These are our immediate number via CiL. The Google Analytics come in the next day or so.

And, oh yes, we had a few other things to do.

For this past weekend, our New Media division produced five live video events -- four of those as concurrent events (gymnastics overlapping with baseball Friday; women's basketball and baseball Sunday) -- and managed stream coming from our student crew of video folks at track all three days. We also had our iHog app running baseball audio Friday and Sunday, men's basketball on Saturday, plus managing the audio streams generally for the overall website.

To all my guys in New Media -- Blair Cartwright, Matt Wolfe, the aforementioned Nate and Zack, my student interns Bryan Rowland, Steven McGowan and Andrew Reynolds, our tech support from Scott Fendley and Don Faulkner -- thank you for all your work. And thanks to our media relations contact bloggers Robby Edwards (road gym), John Thomas (tennis), LaToya Gulley (tennis), Phil Pierce (road men's hoops), Stephanie Taylor (road softball) and Jeri Thorpe (women's hoops) who give us their blog time especially on the road events.

And to all the fans who get on and participate -- they named themselves BlogHogs -- thanks to all of you as well. You make it fun and I hope we're keeping you informed.

Hmm. SEC hoop tournaments start next week. Guess we get to try to do it all over again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fun and Games, Not

128 emails - all arriving at once at 6:12 ct. Fortunately, we'd actually spent time during the day answering these complaints and requests to "fix RazorVision NOW.". Believe me, no one wanted to fix if more than me, but really, seriously, out of everyone's hands.

Call it a bit of a miracle that we got part of the day out live considering where we started.

Lot of people did some hard work to make it happen - and I thank every one of them.

A lot of fans were frustrated, and I appreciate them.

What? That some sort of turn the other cheek from Matthew move?

No, I'm glad we had people mad. Glad that we had people saying shut down the baseball video so we can see the track video. To forget fixing track and get up the baseball. Never, ever take passionate fans for granted. There are sports and times where the sound of crickets are deafening.

Plus, they taught me another important social media/public information officer/emergency communications lesson. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Keep it simple, keep it friendly and no matter how annoying the questions, they are the genuine concerned questions of passionate followers.

So by the 9th or 10th time I got the alert that "RazorVision is down" I just smiled, copied and pasted and resisted all temptation to say - have you not been reading the past 10 minutes of the live blog you idiot - because that is not helping them or me.

Patience. Follow your check downs. Have your crisis plans in place. And guess what, someday you will really, really use them.

And it may not be Armageddon, or a tornado, or an ice storm, or an earthquake. It just might be some mysterious mechanical error.

Did I mention you need plans? And the leadership to follow them?

Go find yours today. You just might need them tomorrow

Spotter Stories

While I head out to today's baseball game, here's another blog filler. In my "spare" time, I volunteer to help Washington County's Department of Emergency Management to help with their public information work and as a coordinator for the local storm spotter group. One of our TV stations, KFSM, did a nice long feature piece on our annual storm spotter training. This is the 10th year that I've been a part of arranging and hosting the folks from Tulsa National Weather Service on the UA campus. We also do our local storm spotting group on the University's amateur radio repeater. Here's their feature:


Flexible Home Page

The great failure of current college website design is the inability to address major events without completely interrupting the overall site. When a team wins a major event, or the institution is hosting something (or more than one something, especially), the default way to deal with it is a splash page or a pop-up

The Gallagher's Mallet of website design, a splash page shows you have no real finesse. A pop-up shows you have no respect for your readers. Both methods have been proven by research to not increase click through. If your bypass is hard to find or buggy code, it will drive users away to other information sources until the splash ends.

But what to do when you have something that is extremely important? Working with NeuLion, I created for a variable home page override that takes one, two or three major events and uses them to replace our rotator at the top of the page. If you click there before 9 a.m. this morning, you'll see what I did for our gymnastics team's win over Florida -- not only upsetting #1 but also gaining the program a first-time ever share of the regular season SEC title.\

This all started from a combination of trying to provide editorial direction to the content on the college website. What's the point of generating a lot of content if you can't fix it to certain points to enhance your message? Corporations can because they have dedicated custom sites with full-time programmers. News organizations don't because, well, they know the same research that says splash is bad web business.

But back in the day, we could have a furniture type headline across six columns proclaiming VICTORY IN EUROPE. Extra, extra, read all about it. Then I remembered back when we did our own coding, we did that. I'd just drop in a COLSPAN table row on top of our current index and voila -- banner headline. Combined with an existing piece of dead coding left over from a previous corporate project at NeuLion, variable front page was born.

When we are full wide with one story, it looks a lot like a splash page. However, our masthead remains in tact -- with all the navigation to allow you to go where you want to go, say if you are a baseball fan. It is timed to go off (that's the 9 a.m. reference) or on (did this a lot with football games pre and post). And, all the stories that would have been in the five-story rotator now live right below the photo.

Obviously, a key in this is good images, and we're blessed with that at Arkansas via Wesley Hitt.

This was designed to work with our promotions for home events -- a two-wide for the two basketball games of a weekend, or basketball and gymnastics and a three-wide specifically for the fall (home soccer, home volleyball, preview tomorrow's football).

With some changes in our structure, this isn't being used as much as I envisioned it, but yesterday gave me a great opportunity to put the full-wide to work again. For example, we did the same with a special bowl wallpaper when we were selected for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

If you didn't get to our homepage in time, I put a small screen cap of the whole page here. If you want to know more about how to get this set up (especially for you NeuLion folks), I'd be happy to help.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Apparently, You CAN Break the Internet

Nice day, little overcast and chilly, but no weather in sight -- no freezing rain to break power lines, no heavy rains to flood places, no snow, no tornadoes.

Imagine our surprise when the first text comes in: the power is out at the ADSB building.

Huh? No, seriously, why is the wireless down. Wait, the wired connections are down. Text from the track and Barnhill -- no internet.

Right in the start of the 8th inning for baseball, the close of the multis for SEC Indoor Track and the warm-ups for gymnastics hosting #1 Florida.

What to do? Well, grab your trusty iPhone and keep the CoverItLive blog going at least, and start making Tweets by phone to alert fans that yes, you have lost your RazorVision streams, but no, this one is beyond our ability to reset or fix.

My top priorities were to keep the fans out there informed, and to do our best to keep results moving. Especially the baseball game, that had just seen Arkansas rally to a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth.

This is one of those times your drills and plans come in handy. We weren't able to stream gymnastics most of the night while the repairs were being made, and we never got official word on what happened. Fortunately, we've got folks who keep us connected, and that was critical. Why? Because if we aren't out front to let folks know, it's just another "fail" by RazorVision. That's exactly why we jumped immediately on the connection crippled blog, our own Twitter and one of the major gymnastics boards to alert them -- hey, this is act of God stuff.

It helped some when the wave of FIX RAZORVISION (yes, lots of all caps yelling) started. We were upfront and told the viewers -- hey, this is likely a replay night. Unfortunate as we upset #1 Florida, but some folks got to see the final rotation live, and the replay is going up now as I type.

Next step was to reach out to our message board community with this message under my name:

This applies to track, baseball and gymnastics -- the internet literally broke on campus. A power outage around 5 p.m. at one of the main hubs for the campus (and the main server room) tripped the backups and then something went horribly wrong. I don't have anything official, just know we lost internet at Baum, Tyson, Barnhill for most of the late afternoon and early evening while it got solved. We kept the blogs going off cell phone cards, but the live video streams died for lack of hardwire connection.

I've made provisions to make sure we can keep the blogs up for tomorrow, and all the events were captured and we're loading them up now that we've got some connectivity back.

Sorry about that -- I know we had a lot of folks talking about it on the boards and blogs -- but this was a freak catastrophic failure that was out of all of our hands.

When I made my first Tweet about connection trouble, I know I may have been breaking the news for the whole campus, but in real-time I had to make a quick decision. It's FEMA Public Information Officer 101: get information out to people in a crisis that will allow them to make good decisions, but make sure your information is accurate and give no more than what you can confirm. It's the old line the taught us in the ICS PIO courses: Trust in God, verify everyone else. And in this case, we had confirmation from ADSB direct of what was happening. Notice I didn't speculate about repair time, or give the unconfirmed other details about what did or didn't happen with the power backup -- that seems still a bit up in the air.

All from desktop to iPhone back to desktop then on to cell phone card -- our Sprint Overdrive cell access point that has now saved our bacon more than once this year (if you don't have at least one, go get one tomorrow; I with I had two or three).

Very, very proud of our team -- new media kept rolling while the rest of this was kind of chaos and then rippling through other stuff. We didn't lose the replay, we kept the blogs flowing with low bandwidth solutions and -- hey -- we beat #1.

Not a bad night's work.

Let's go do it again tomorrow!

Except without the breaking the internet thing. That wasn't cool.

Coco Is the Future

Full disclosure, I'm a huge Conan fan, but because I can see his obvious homage to Johnny Carson and thus to our shared youth growing up in front of the television in the land before internet.

The brilliance of O'Brien, however, is he gets the future. And the future, as laid out by Fortune magazine in this article, is Conan.

He owns his brand. He uses social media to promote and connect. The roadmap is right there people.

Who has the nerve to follow?

Thanks to Charles Bloom at the SEC office @SECPRGuy for noticing the story and sending it around to CoSIDA and league folks.

Now, off to blog baseball and call gymnastics tonight.

Forgive Me For Being Scarce

Starting today, we'll have triple and quadruple scheduled live events until Monday -- overlapping video streaming, audio streaming and beau coup concurrent live blogs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ann Wylie is My New Hero

Reading through this month's PRSA Tactics, Ann Wylie has her column on writing with this "by the numbers" note:

0 percent: This is the optimum percentage of passive voice in your copy.

That lead only to be surpassed by the next statement:

The passive voice drones.

Amen Ann. Preach on.

FYI: Ann Wylie on Twitter

On Egypt On the Media

The cold open from the Feb. 11 edition of On The Media had this little soliloquy. Brooke Gladstone talked of the Egyptian government proclamations to not listen to satellite television "who's main purpose is to . . tarnish the image of people" and to pay attention "to your own conscience" -- direct quote there from the Mubarak government -- which led Brooke to this:

Ignore the evidence of your own eyes and ears; your Tweets, and YouTube videos, your Facebook posts. Pay no attention to the coverage of Al Jazeera and the rest of the world's media.

Gladstone brings out a couple of other gems -- how the government contended the protesters had been "infected" by foreign notions. "It's not their idea," one Egyptian official was quoted.

Ah, fond memories of Baghdad Bob.

Or as I like to say, the Adam Savage School of Public Relations:

I reject your reality, and substitute my own.

Always works.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lovin the Numbers

One of the main things I have done for the past 15 years at Arkansas is manage athletic department websites, including the first two versions of the combined athletic department sites. At the top of the list of things that had to be done was creating a new on-line brand -- something that was neither (the former men's site -- trivia: who came up with the name and the original website?) or (the women's). That was no small battle, as the internet experts claimed there would be a tremendous loss in search engine presence if we didn't simply merge the women's pages into Hogwired.

Setting on (mainly due to a squatter who somehow managed to fend off ICANN action over, my first response was: why would you need a lot of SEO. If you're looking for us, you pretty much type in "Arkansas" and "Razorbacks" -- aside from typos, how much simpler could it be?

Over the past two years, we've seen some big number increases. I'm very pleased with the Google Analytics that show over the last year, 8.6 million uniques with traffic up 57%. Our streaming traffic is measured separately, and that's up 293% over last year -- not bad considering we can't by SEC rules do any regular football video or men's league hoops. Page views clocking at 23.7 million.

How'd we do it? In the calendar year 2010, media relations and new media combined to post 3,351 articles, 5,390 images and 1,483 videos.

Content, baby; and lots of it.

Pooh, pooh -- it's just your BCS appearance driving the increase. Maybe, but we were up 347% in "Bowl Central" traffic from Liberty to Sugar. If you look over the past three signing days (2009-2010-2011) we are up 158% -- and we've done exactly the same presentation.

Built it, engineer it right and fill it with quality content across the board: They will come.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

About Opinion

Wilfred M. McClay wrote about Rush Limbaugh in Commentary magazine, and his essay was reprinted in our local state paper today. Put your politics aside when you see Rush. Stay with me, this is worth it.

After devoting several thousand words to how no one is giving Limbaugh a fair assessment, McClay turns to the talk radio genre at large. In his close:

The critics may be correct that the flourishing of talk radio is a sign of something wrong in our culture. But they mistake the effect for the cause. Talk radio is not the cause, but the corrective.

Not unlike I've said before about television/computer, I give this Postman-esque clarity on digital media if you only substitute "message board" for "talk radio". McClay continued in the same paragraph:

A problem of long-standing in our culture has reached a critical stage: the growing loss of confidence in our elite cultural institutions, including the media, universities and the agencies of government.

In other words, the vitriol isn't causing the problem. Like a fever, it's the product of a problem. Randy Pausch said this little parable of his short-lived time playing football in high school. He didn't like that the coach was on him every day in practice. He finally vented to an assistant coach, who told him this life lesson:

When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

In other words, as long as the opinions are there -- pro or con -- there's always room for improvement or changing the opinion of fans. The time to worry is when there are no longer harsh comments. That signals the fans have simply given up, and moved on to other interests. Much easier to win back an angry fan than to re-recruit one that has quit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Political Story; College Sports Impact

Another polarizing political figure looks to impact our world. This time, it's the showdown in the courts between Shirley Sherrod and Andrew Breitbart. You may recall that Breitbart was among those who were spreading an edited version of remarks made by Sherrod. Sherrod was dismissed by the Obama administration, who within 24-48 hours was reversing course once the whole story was revealed.

Now Sherrod is taking Breitbart to court for defamation.

Why so serious today?

Search and replace time. Read through the entirety of Ben Conery's story from The Washington Times and a similar story from The Washington Post (Isn't PressReader awesome)

There are several key hurdles to the suit actually making it to court. Is Sherrod a public figure or not? What is the limit of liability of the website owner when hyperbolic information is posted? Did Breitbart's own desire to cross promote reveal his bias -- a key factor if the higher standards of libel are applied should Sherrod be seen as a public figure? What protections under the First Amendment -- that is, is Breitbart a journalist -- exist for the website,, in regard to protecting the source of the original cutdown video?

To those points, quoting from Conery's story:

The lawsuit has more wrinkles than traditional defamation cases because it mentions the video and blog postings — including one that stated that Mrs. Sherrod "discriminates against people due to their race" — and cites messages Mr. Breitbart posted on the social networking site Twitter.

The suit is scheduled for trial on May 13.

So, why does it matter?

Search and replace time, my blog fans. Take the beleaguered coach/athlete/administrator of choice to replace "Sherrod" and the name of your local message board or born-digital sports news outlet to replace "Breitbart."

This case may rank right up with the EA Sports suits as the impact legal events of the year.

The Daily: National Magazine

When I first reviewed The Daily, there was something about it's layout that kind of stuck in my craw. Listening to the On The Media and This Week In Tech podcasts this weekend -- playing catch-up after a hell week of events -- it hit me square in the face.

Rupert Murdoch should have a winner, if he sticks with it, because he's not going to end up like The National. Remember? The failed attempt at a nationwide sports newspaper? It never made traction because at the start of the digital age, it could never provide enough scores or stats quickly to beat on-line or local papers. And it lacked depth, so it was just an all-sports USA TODAY.

Murdoch isn't doing a daily paper -- he's doing a daily magazine. With the photo spreads, the 360 views, the long-form analysis bits -- the very value-added content I've said for years is the key to success in a pay-content future. Free news will always beat pay news, and with social media upping the ante with friends able to tweet out the final score or original reportage, forget beating the net with news.

But the interpretation, that's a different deal.

So if Murdoch can mate the automatic content of database journalism -- weather, sudoku, crosswords, horoscopes, rote agate -- that doesn't require a lot of human effort, he might just have a winner.

What's the impact for athletics? Think this way. Your iPhone/Android phone apps bring the news to the individual where they are via quick updates, CoverItLive blogging or streaming content. Your future iPad/Android pad presentation is the chance to make messaging in long form. Return of the alumni magazine or the booster newsletter -- as long as the content is compelling and unique (doesn't do a lot of good if its just repurposed press releases from the website).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Just Because You Can . . .

. . . doesn't mean you should. Watch that new "feature" on Twitter tools that allow you to effortlessly post more than 140 characters. You end up with truncated thoughts and you are driving traffic away from your feed as people click to see the rest -- usually not worth the effort.

Again, anything worth saying in more than 140 characters now, can probably be said in 120.

Sorry for Being Away

Long stories, most of which may never see the light of day. With any luck, back to regularly scheduled programing, already in progress.

PressReader: Must App

I've commented before now much I enjoyed the local state paper's app, Arkansas On-Line, for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Thanks to Will Prewitt, the new commissioner of the Great American Conference, for this tip last week. He's using PressReader to subscribe to the key papers he needs to keep up with, and doing so for less overall than buying the papers individually.

The interface is the same ActivePaper that the ADG and others use for their pay websites. Here's where PressReader excels -- you get a whole region plus nationals. For example, in our corner of the country, getting the Tulsa World along with ADG is great. Reconnecting with the Dallas Morning News -- a paper that we took when Gary Blair was still here and that I subscribed to for home mail delivery as far back as my sports editor days at the Ouachita Citizen -- and being able to get other major nationals like WaPost and WaTimes.

And did I mention, it's iSpace and Android?

You get seven free downloads with the app, then it's 99 cents per paper. Or, you can do like Will and get the $29 a month unlimited. That's access to 1700-plus papers around the world. Thanks to his political science background, Prewitt has a link to Canadian politics, so he can read The Globe out of Toronto and keep up with all the ridings.

Now, how long they can keep up the pricing remains to be seen. Think about it in a newsstand price -- at $29 that's only a paper a day. If you're like me, you'd buy two or three going along on a trip. Now you can have them without the travel or the ink stains.

ADDENDUM: After getting it loaded on the iPad, it's obvious -- the ADG's iPad app is a crib off the mothership. And the coverage is much better in our region than originally thought. In fact, if you live in Oklahoma, there isn't hardly a single significant daily not on the system. A ton of Missouri papers also. Yet, not a single Louisiana or Mississippi paper. Hmm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Facebook 911

If you noticed that suddenly you aren't seeing things in your news feed from certain friends or pages, it's because our good friends at Facebook changed the game recently.

Once again, frequency becomes the key -- if you've been moving a lot of content through your athletic department (or other) Facebook pages, you likely are among your end-users "Friends and pages you interact with most."

If you aren't, this is why you have suddenly disappeared. In theory, not a bad idea for filtering, but for brands and teams, a huge problem. You may want to reach out to your users -- just as one of my Facebook friends (thanks Clare!) -- did for me this morning.

To fix this, click on the Most Recent tab (not in your privacy or account setting), then right click for the properties to edit your news feed settings. The image shows a capture of both the drop down and menu box.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today is a Landmark Legal Day

In Pasadena, Calif., the future of the Granddaddy of all bowls will be on the line. No, nothing is happening at the historic Rose Bowl. The action is downtown at the court house as EA Sports goes to trial over the use of college football player likeness in video games.

Sam Keller's lawsuit cleared its first legal hurdle on Feb. 10 when the judge refused EA's motion to throw out the case. Today, the trial begins.

What I find as intriguing as the creation of a trust fund from revenues made by EA and the NCAA for athletes is the friends of the court in the case. The Motion Picture Association of America, for example, siding with EA; the estate of Bob Marley with Keller.

For background, here's an Associated Press story that sets the details.

As the story indicates, there are nine different suits with basically the same claim. You may have also heard of former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's suit. Oscar Robinson just joined in as a co-plaintiff in that suit, which is in the San Francisco federal court.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Golden Olde

I know that I can be an annoying blogger with all those back links that scream egomaniac told-you-so.

To this I plead both guilty and innocent. In part, those back links are for the new followers to reference back that something we are discussing today isn't new -- it likely has been around for a while or has a very important precedent.

To that, I'll answer to the ego part in trying to jam the idea of knowing the history of your field (my old homage to Neil Postman and his history is the only meta subject because everything -- a job, a career, a field of endeavor -- has a history that must be known to operate intelligently).

So, long intro to say, while digging through things for some other posts, I came across this one from November 2008 entitled One to One is One to Many. I bring it up because it talks in detail about what we've been going over here from PR sources about the importance of working the fringes and respecting the opinion of user groups.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revolution Tech

Devin Coldeway writes today on Tech Crunch about the social media revolution myth, and the piece is a solid look at the overstated power of the new tools. Jay Rosen and Liz Strauss gave it a bump, and that's how I found it today.

Codeway's nut quote:

Twitter and Facebook are indeed useful tools, but they are not tools of revolution — at least, no more than Paul Revere’s horse was. People are the tools of revolution, whether their dissent is spread by whisper, by letter, by Facebook, or by some means we haven’t yet imagined.

He is quick to point out that Outlier maven Malcom Gladwell drew the ire of the on-line world by challenging the new conventional wisdom of the power of Twitter, et al. Quoting Gladwell:

“People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”

To this end, both Gladwell and Coldewey are correct.

And horribly, horribly wrong.

Let me tell you the story of a group of revolutionaries. They knew that there were problems with the ruling class in their communities, but for the most part, they were isolated from each other. They did not know that they shared a common enemy, and that tactics used against them were being employed against their fellow travelers.

Once they came together for the first time, they were able to swap intelligence. And they vowed to used the state of the art communications tools to keep each other informed. To inspire one and other. To spread the word among the population. Over time, they were able to deepen the bonds -- as Gladwell and Coldeway point out as missing in many on-line communities.

You may have heard of them before: the Sons of Liberty.

Perhaps their comm tool of choice: the Committees of Correspondence via the colonial post.

And the result of their work: the United States of America.

Real-time reporting tools are just that -- tools. But what made the difference in Katrina? The live cable TV images, that became righteous indignation. What lacked in the Green Revolution in Iran? More people willing to back the techno-revolution.

You need networks -- but they must have people willing to fight (and often die) for the cause.

What happens in Egypt? The convergence of technology and revolution.

So yes, the revolution will not only be televised in the future, so will the failed revolutions.

Tweeted, Facebooked and broadcast.

Friday, February 11, 2011

PRSA Joins in on Social Media

Following up to earlier posts this month regarding social media policies, PRSA has issued its own policy. The article covering the guidelines also has links to lots of resources for those working on their organization policies. We've been talking about it for a while, and harken back to the Sears and AP social media policy issuance back in November 2010.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things That Make You Go Hmm

I am constantly amazed at organizations that approach their daily tasks in a relativistic sense. There are no hard and fast rules, and this is purported to be a virtue. Flexibility. Dealing with things on a case by case basis. Sounds more like a lack of core beliefs and an inability to express those as functioning guidelines.

Working the Fringe for the Middle

The research is starting to flow in to validate the idea of engaging user/fan bases. Sunil Gupta at Harvard Business School is quoted in a New York Times article on the impact of Twitter and using the trending ability of the website to steer marketing.

“In the traditional world, marketing used to focus on the middle part of the bell curve and reaching out to them,” Professor Gupta says. “Now, the way to reach out to the middle part is through the extreme ends of the curve.” Those extremes, he says, include vocal detractors as well as ardent fans.

Would this mean that it's OK after all to touch the third rail of college sports -- message boards? Hmm, we talked about that back in 2007 to the SEC SID group in Destin. In fact, it dates to 2006 when Robert Gates as Texas A&M president was posting on message boards.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

All About the Voice

Can you tell it's another snow day in FYV? A reinforcing blast (not of cold artic air) of info on why writing in social media is different. This lifted shamelessly but with attribution from Dermot McCormack at Mashable.

4. Speak in an Authentic Voice

Social media is not a business press release and companies need to be constantly cognizant of having an authentic voice and not sounding like a corporate bot that’s devoid of any real emotion. In order to do this, companies must develop a voice that resonates with your audience. Tell stories, crack jokes, laugh at other people’s jokes, give words of encouragement, tweet at celebs you don’t really know, and most importantly, recognize and cheer on your followers. Aim to be human in the social space.

Read more at the original, but I couldn't have said it better. Bold within quote is my emphasis.

Sort of Like the Stages of Grief

Advertising Age gives us the Seven Stages of Committing Media Sin looking at the Kenneth Cole Twitter debacle. You can see your own moments of social media err in their ways.

The takeaway kicker: the sixth step of indifference. More to the point, what that fade from the wave of bad PR left behind:

It also turns out you can score from a social-media sin -- Kenneth Cole ended the day with a spike in followers. As of about noon, @kennethcole had 8,935 followers; three hours later, 9,262; and by 7 p.m., 9,779. That's counting those who during stage two began asking people to #unfollow the brand.

In other words, just spell my (on-line Twitter) name right school of PR wins again.

Interesting side note: the entire cycle lasted by Ad Age estimate nine hours. So unless you freak out and do something to make your situation worse, it's gone in a day. Remembered forever by the searchable internet, yes. But lasting impact? Only if you shoot off your own foot trying to "contain" the unstoppable.

Technology Reminder

From the archives as I watch the snow fall, this photo taken from the U.S. Army's official WW II history (the Green Books) on the Signal Corps. It was in the section talking about the state-of-the-art training required for the technology being deployed into the theater of war.

Remember, that was only 60 years ago. Outside of an IBM Selectric 251, not much call for these techs today.

So what tech skills are you learning -- or over focusing on -- that will be the subject of history books in 10 years?

Or are you focusing on strategies and concepts of communication and seeing the various modes of communication as simply tools to be mastered?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Twitter Perspective

A mention of one of our media people, Chris Bahn, writing about the social media policy here at Arkansas. Bahn contrasts Arkansas' point guard, Rotnei Clarke, and he decision to dump his Twitter account with previous players and other schools in the league who've had some Twitter issues. Men's basketball coach John Pelphrey is quoted by Bahn:

"It’s constant education. Social media is not going anywhere. ... The first thing they need to understand is it is media, first and foremost."

Let's give some kudos here. Pel's comment recognizes the real world. Many know last year Coach Pelphrey was dealing with a player and tweets. If you didn't, Bahn gives a recap.

And full disclosure, I wrote the policy Bahn is talking about.

The Daily = USATODAY?

Who knows if Rupert Murdoch has come up with this generation's USATODAY? The buzz is huge in the on-line community, but I don't hear a lot from anyone who wasn't already a geek getting excited -- pro or con.

I lived the McPaper revolution. I was in the print news business, battling against a Gannett local. We were ultra-local before that was the cool way to deal with the eeeeeevil Al Neuharth papers.

In the end, we all read it and it became a de facto national paper. But, as I pointed out in January, USATODAY is also running fast to the tablet.

Tablets are not going away. In fact, rumor is today Apple may have some very interesting news about the next gen of iPad.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Days Gadget are Over

The launch problems of The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's iPad media enterprise, are a lesson to all getting ready to get into the iPad business for delivery of news from your athletic departments.

The public is no longer tolerant of the "new" media. It's just media, and it by God better work as close to flawless out of the box as possible.

When we rolled out iHog two years ago, we worked through issues, but our fans were so happy to have it, we got very little push back. When we went to add audio, same thing. But recently, when our programing provider and our internet provider had an issue over how a RSS feed was resolving, it was holy hell in emails -- two and three a day until it was fixed.

This is now established technology, just like pay per view TV as a good example. When you do it the first few times, the fans are happy. When a mistake happens two or three years in, oh my word.

All of that to get to this article on Paid Content pointing out the bugs in The Daily launch.

The payoff quote (and it's taken literally from Paid Content):

Just before the launch I suggested that The Daily had better s**t diamonds or come with a Swarovski iPad case to live up to the hype. At this point, it simply has to work.

Staci Kramer wrote the piece for PC, and she makes another extremely important point. She is a power user, and fought through the four big problems. The average user will just walk away.

Your Next Buzz Word: TV Anywhere

"TV Anywhere" -- a perfect expression of freeing content from the 1980s broadcast network exclusivity mentality is going to dominate the conversation for college athletics over the next few years.

Let's be honest: fans choose the highest amount of bandwidth available. If you can watch the game on TV, you will. The laptop or mobile device is only an option when you can't get the flat screen. Same for live blog, live audio/radio and live stats. They are not cannibalizing significant audience from each other if one is free and the others aren't. CBS figured it out with the Final Four in 2008, NBC with the Beijing Olympics. We've talked about this problem since 2008.

The cable providers and the high-value added cable channels are aware, and they are the big power behind TV Anywhere. If you pay for the programing, you should be freed of the cable box. It supports paid content and services the demand of portability.

ESPN3 is the best sports example of this.

Why do I bring it up today? To point out to you this very important technology update. At the end of last week, Cisco bought Inlet Technologies. So? Inlet is the king of adaptive streaming devices. Cisco might have the cool "telepresence suites", but only Jack Bauer and President Palmer can afford them. This means Cisco has wrapped up the next level down ability.

It follows some other interesting equipment changes. Anyone else notice that Canopus -- the little magic translation box used by hundreds of universities and colleges and smaller video productions to convert analog video/audio to FireWire digital and streaming -- is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Grass Valley, the huge legacy broadcast production equipment provider. That's a direct recognition of the growing power of this "low end" gear.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Those Darn Internets, NBC Style

By now, you have certainly seen the viral video of Katie Couric and the Today crew musing over what is this Internet from 1994. Obviously, it's embarrassing and funny today, and skewers some celebri-journalists.

Let's be honest. How many of you that were in adult jobs in 1994 got the internet? They're reaction was not dissimilar to others. I remember wondering why in the world one of our former assistant coaches who had gone to work for Rice was checking this email thing in 1993. I know I bought my first HTML manual after the 1994 CoSIDA convention in Denver. I figured it might be the new thing, but no one really understood it would be THE thing.

What is more significant is the reactions, notably that NBC sacked the people responsible for posting the video. Why? Violation of rights agreements and all sorts of official sounding excuses.

The reaction reveals more. A lack of willingness to mock and be made fun of -- in other words, a little more out of touch with what the two-way exchange that the social internet has become.

No one likes when something viral starts on them, but is it worth the effort to squash or do you need to roll with it. Fans do this to each other -- to their friends -- on line. If we want them to be our friends of the program, the collective we needs to be more willing to accept and laugh at ourselves, too.

Or, as both Pink or the late Heath Ledger would say: Why So Serious?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

WX Talk

I don't know how many of you are involved in decisions regarding your home events, but these are the times that try men's souls. Seriously. There is nothing more difficult for an administrator than school closures. Full disclosure -- I'm not in that loop anymore here, but I've been at that small table and want to share a little insight.

First, you are never right. It didn't snow enough -- why did we leave early/close school/delay opening -- or worse it snowed/rained/iced/natural disastered more than forecast -- why did you make us show up at work/class/etc. You are always working with the best estimates of your professionals, and making calls in the interest of the greatest number of people. It's a tough job.

A moment about snow. As a professional meteorologist what is the forecast he dreads the most. It's not tornadic storms. It's not hurricane landfall. It's not even long range climate. It's snow. Or, more precisely, winter precipitation. How much, what kind, what duration -- because the forecaster is not just working in three dimensions. He's really in four or five. Huh?

Consider these factors. The forecaster has to know where the moisture is. That's hard on a spring day with flooding by itself. He has to know where the winds are and how that pressure change will bring in the moisture. Factor in the movement of the cold air to cause that moisture to first fall from the atmosphere. Again, tough enough in summer. Now, you need to know the freezing line at the surface -- above 32 for a long period of time, it won't stick to roads and elevated surface. Below 32 -- how long? Day or night? Got that? Now, what's the temp aloft. How "deep" is the cold air. Is there a slice of warmer air near the ground? Your snow melts into rain. If it's higher, it might refreeze into sleet. If it's near the ground, the rain can't form to snow, but freezes on contact.

Again, much respect to the guys that have to figure that out. But then you hand off that best estimate to a public servant who must act on the forecast. Again, tough and thankless.

I give this advice to all of you -- close in and distant. Do you have the decision support pages of your regional National Weather Service office bookmarked? Not to make this a rant or endorsement, but almost all the data that goes into anyone else's forecast starts with your local NWS office. Just like I'd tell my history students, get as close to the original documents as you can and your interpretation of the past is best -- same here.

We are blessed to have at Tulsa NWS some of the leading edge guys on severe weather products, including a new tool called an Ice Damage Index. Pretty cool for decision makers because it is a graphic mashup of the data involved in icing events -- precip, temp, wind -- and turns it into factors. A "2" means limited power outages and damage anticipated; a "4" means longer term outages due to lines down, roads blocked, significant tree damage. And yes, in 2009, this product accurately predicted the 4 and 5 impacts we took with our ice event.

So, for my regional followers bookmark this Tulsa NWS decision page. Pretty graphical, nice little "Chiclets" of color to give warnings. Click on the threat and you get additional graphics and text. For our region, this runs year around, so when we get to tornado season we obviously don't see ice -- it becomes hail threat, etc.
Back to that small group -- safety comes first, and as much of a pain as it may be for extra days in the summer (especially when you're talking public schools) sitting in class in June beats full-body traction or worse in January because you slid off the road.

If you aren't here in Tulsa NWS region -- or you don't know what office you belong to -- go to the National Weather Service main site and search into region and district, then find that "warning decision" page or similar title to bookmark.

Once you get that info, it comes to the public servants to make decisions with that intel. Especially when you're public schools (or universities), safety is going to go first. Sure, no one wants to be sitting in class in June making up days, but it beats the heck out of full traction or worse in January.

So be safe out there.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Social Media Stats

No one loves a good anecdote or stat more than your humble correspondent. Check out these 16 from Arik Hanson.

My fave?

The change in social media use among Baby Boomers 55-64 rose from 9% in Dec. 2008 to 43% in Dec. 2010

Proving again that while 35 and under is a rapidly growing market, we overlook the impact of the internet across the entire spectrum of a fan base at our own peril.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Read Later via Instapaper

A preloaded note while we're running around prepping national signing day. This is a killer app -- Instapaper. It takes any website page, converts it to iSpace friendly text and web, then sets it to download for reading later. I use it for long articles and for stuff to catch up on during flights, etc. It is not just Apple based, works with Kindle and straight browser on-line. Don't forget to add the plug in to your browsers -- then just hit the bookmark and it saves out to your account for use later.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why Media Relations Should Own the Social Media Strategy

A title that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been following along, and today's entry is a cribbing of the excellent PR-based view of the same by Chris Lake. Lake's blog entry -- Why your social media strategy shouldn't be owned by a PR agency -- walks though many of the concepts that have been discussed here the past two or three months -- that the PR agency (in our world read: anyone outside athletics) isn't going to reflect the tone and culture of the corporation better than the people in the corporation.

I'm a big fan of the second and third points Lake makes up front: that you cannot fake it (social media) and you have to share the load. The team approach is best, and when that team is enabled across the groups which impact customer service -- in athletics that would be media relations, marketing, foundation/booster and ticketing -- you have a great chance to begin moving from playing around in social media to mobilizing it to your greater benefit.

Team approach means building that interoperable group, and being willing to let them speak for the organization. We've seen study after study that the fans are wanting more interaction with more voices. That's tough to accept in some ways.

Back to the outside/agency approach. I agree with Lake -- the people that know you, are well, you. When too much "branding" is applied, it can appear formula driven, and nothing turns those in the social realm off quicker than faux social. As Lake points out:

social media is a cultural and organizational challenge for most businesses of any scale

Or, as he his much more blunt in the next sentence:

Only by embracing engagement and by becoming more open - both internally and externally - can a business transform how it is perceived in public

But why is media relations the best place to start the team approach? My opinion -- these are the people with the deepest knowledge of the organization because they have to write about the department from all angles. They write game stories and advances, they do the marketing type stories often (free tickets, season packages on sale, etc.), they work with the media and as a result get a pulse on what they are interested in, they have to know the overall department structure (and often are the ones who may have written policies, procedures or other manuals -- so they know them forward and backward). Most of all, they are skilled in looking over the horizon, considering the impact of a statement beyond tonight's event and they are trained to deal with real-time reporting and crisis management.

Speaking of the crisis, Lake had a particularly apt passage about the PR world and outside agencies:

Nowadays a crisis will erupt on social media platforms, and there’s no way that a PR firm can ‘manage’ it. Twitter, as a broadcast medium, is in the hands of the people who use it, and it cannot be manipulated by PRs in the same way that a newspaper can be. The PR agency can provide guidance on how a brand should react in difficult circumstances, but the response needs to come from the brand itself. Twitter is a personal medium, a publishing platform for consumers, and they will use it to ask questions and complain in public. And questions and complaints are normally best answered by customer services reps, not PRs

Answering those questions, in other words as CoSIDA is fond of saying these days, is best served by a college athletic department's the strategic communicators. Chris Syme has something just this week on these same lines of creating your strategy on Facebook to begin your journey to an overall social media policy.

In the team, you need written standards of how to communicate, as surely as you'd have a style guide for a traditional media release or department logo sheet. Again, the leaders in this area should be the folks who have trained via PR or journalism degrees to be efficient communicators.

This is contrary to most athletic departments across the country. Social media usually belongs to marketing, or is shared with marketing and perhaps a dedicated social media person or media relations. And it often is simply abandoned by media relations.

Perhaps it is time to rethink those relationships.

First Apple TV Placements

I told everyone that Apple TV was a point of emphasis for us here at Arkansas, and now that I've got the bowl game finally behind us and before the rush starts with signing day Wednesday, I'm thrilled that we got our first two offerings on-line.

Neither were purpose-made for Apple TV -- pure repurposing of what we're already doing for the website, and had been reposting at the YouTube channel (ArkRazorbacks).

That said, we are shooting in High Def for the Courtside with Tom Collen women's hoops show, and shot as much of the Sugar Bowl video podcasts as we could. Interestingly, we had to take a feed from the press conferences, and they were not feed in HD -- otherwise, our whole packages would be HD. And, no laughing at the guy who was doing the stand-ups for the first five days.

I think they look really crisp and clean on the Apple TV device, and they are as easy to pull down and watch as anything else you might dig through a DVR/Cable/Sat box to find. This is why I'm seeing Apple TV and the follow on units (most notably, Google TV when they get their price and act together better) become another one of those "death of the internet" concepts.

The best part? How hard is it now for our women's basketball staff to let a potential recruit know that hey, we've got this podcast out there on iTunes? Super easy.