Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Make Sure Ark is in the Comm Plan

The rains over the past four days can only be described as biblical in Northwest Arkansas. All ark building jokes aside, the University of Arkansas actually sent everyone home yesterday at 3:30 p.m. due to county-wide severe street flooding. I know I had do make driving pattern changes to get home like it was a snow day.

I can't claim credit for this one, my colleague Steve Dittmore in sports management posted his Facebook the coincidences: since Dec 31 we've had a 4.7 earthquake, a deadly tornado, a day of 20-plus inches of snow and now 15-plus inches of rain over a weekend. My contribution was to say don't forget the mysterious bird kill.

What does it have to do with communications? Well, if nothing else, our weather misfortune should be a reminder for you to check your emergency communications plan, and update it with some new tools.

Is social media a part of your official plan - both for monitoring and dissemination of key life safety information?

And, is NOAA weather radio part of your tool kit?

This is a lesson in old school and new school. More on the social media part in upcoming blogs as I prepare for a paper at the stadium safety conference in New Orleans later this year. In the meantime on that, don't miss that Homeand Security's new threat guidelines includes social media guidelines.

No the old school is more on my mind, the formerly promoted as weather radios. Our county declared an emergency with the flooding, and was urging people to go home and stay off the roads. Our neighboring county of Adair used the tool first - good thinking for Charlie Winn - and one of the guys in my spotter group - Scott Fendley - pointed it out to our county emergency director.

It's NOAA "All Hazards" radio now, and along with doing Amber alerts and other Homeland-type messages, counties can request a "Civil Emergency" message. Since you have the SAME coding, it will only set off weather radios in the county that you are sending the message to.

So yesterday, every weather radio tuned to Washington County, Ark., and it's SAME code got a civil emergency message - just like a tornado warning - from the county judge telling everyone to stay off the streets unless absolutely necessary.

There are guidelines and thresholds of course to the use of the NOAA system, but I would encourage you to add that to your comm plan so it is ere to remind you of it's usage in the future.

Stay dry

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mobile Might Be Important

Gee folks, I dunno. Maybe I've been off base with all this get a good, quality app; something that reflects the needs if your fans and makes your brand stand out. Yesterday's newspaper, however, page one: Verizon triples earnings with iPhone.

As in 906,000 new subscribers in the first quarter. As in 2.2 million iPhone 4.0 sold.

Quality mobile is the future of strategic communications. Period. Get started, or get left behind. Perhaps I should say, further left behind.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How Ham Radio Debunks Exclusive Rights

When you become a ham, one of the key tenants of FCC rules is to use only the amount of power necessary to get the message through.  In emergency communications, you choose whatever mode you need for the same reason.  Voice communications over HF takes up the most bandwidth and power, and sometimes can't reach everyone it needs to. CW (morse code for the non-hams) requires the least power or gear, but you need a specialist and special gear to use it.  Same for digital modes.

What does this have to do with college sports?

The audience will never choose the lower mode of communication just because it's free, and other ways of getting coverage out about events do not take away from the TV audience.  The NCAA figured this out.  The Olympics (sort of) figured this out. Turner and other content producers backing TV Everywhere understand it.

Works like this. You want to be at the stadium. If not, watch at home on your TV. If not, watch on a computer stream. If not, listen on the radio. Or watch a live blog. Or catch Twitter updates.

In the video world, that would be called adaptive streaming.

Unfortunately, too many of our providers continue to block access in large geographic areas based on the outdated theory that by stopping a computer based stream this is pushing the end user to get to the television.

No, it's only pissing off the fans that are not at home, don't have the channel where they are, or have some other reasonable impediment to using the TV network's traditional production.

Only a small minority are working really hard to "get around" paying for a cable network produced show just to save money.

We need as a collective to recognize this, and do more to free the information to flow to the fans.  We will reap the benefits through larger audiences and increased connection to our teams.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Ham Radio Explains Social Media

Repeaters. Your hand held radio may not get out, but if you send that signal up to a repeater, all the other hand helds will hear it.

If Scott Bourne's theory of multiplied value (if a blog is 1x, then using a Twitter account to spread that word isn't 2x, it's 3x; add Facebook it's 7x, etc), consider the very real multiplier effect of getting your various individual Twitter/Facebook accounts to operate in unison. Let's call it the Bourne Effect.

Not only do you the voices in working together in the harmony of the company hymnal, you get the multiplier impact of a repeater.

Does everything go out on the repeater? No, ham radio theory again. Some traffic or information is local, and that is just shared among the smaller group. But the net controller will pick up and decide what needs to be shared. In turn, that may be passed along in other local groups.

Hey, you've lost all the non-emergency communicator types.

OK, going back to our original concept that the main voice of the department breaks news - the play-by-play person - and other feeds (coaches, administrators, SIDs, players, other specialty feeds) provide the supporting commentary - the color analysts.

In our world, @ArkRazorbacks handles the top line news. Starting soon, we will bring in sport specific feeds to add more granular detail. The main feed promotes all home events, but not all road ones.  There is a place for that with the sport level. But what if we have something big happen on the road with a sport? Pick it up from the sport feed and retweet.

The announcement of a big award won by an athlete - lets use DJ Williams and the Mackey Award. That's obviously main feed and football news, but why not the volleyball coach sending along his congrats? Hiring of Mike Anderson for men's basketball - chance for lots of welcomes to drive back the news to fans following other sports only.

That kind of "repeater" work can BR managed by the person running the lead feed - in the ham world, the net controller. Sort of the same on a live blog, they steer, they direct the chorus.

Thus a different and equally important Bourne Effect as big news gets retweeted around the department's social media.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thanks for the Messages

Little unexpected detour yesterday, and I'll be on the mend for a few weeks. Can't say I didn't take one for the team this past weekend. Fortunately I had preloaded some things from NAB to keep this moving, and I'll be back live in a day of two.

O'Brien, Farrell Social Media Genius

Little hazy when I saw it last night, but once again, Conan O'Brien struck social media gold. The concept of encouraging viewers to send in videos when errors are found with the show encourages fantastic buy-in and fan conversion. Having Will Farrell send one in saying the latest mistake was Conan's beard, and that he was showing up May 2 to shave it off on the show sparks a whole new campaign. The Team CoCo twitter feed gets it started today with competing hash tags - #shavethebeard or #savethebeard.

O'Brien's foray into social media may have been a legal accident - NBC's lawyers didn't plug the social media loophole in ins settlement agreement - but Conan is a savvy entertainer and he has figured out the way to go direct it the fans and make a television show into an interactive event. NBC might own some of his classic pre-social media characters and routines - and to be honest, some of the attempts to recreate the characters have been lame - but his continuing run into things like stump the chump video emails, the use of Slash's mugshot for the literal "/" in website addresses,and the week-long world's largest Angry Birds game set to name a few have been perfect.

The takeaway for athletes: look around your department and find the similar character type events. Interaction with mascots, setting up similar video submission contests (Tennessee did a great one here surrounding former men's hoops coach Bruce Pearl), going with games like SCVNGR. The key here is to transcend the screen and interact beyond the old school. We have had great success in this way with CoverItLive blogs, and it has resulted in considerable increase in overall website traffic for the athletic department - measurable ROI over last year and continuing to grow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Economics of Time

Few weeks back, I talked about the attention economy, and how we are all screaming to get Marcel's attention (genius cable ad, BTW). The old adage is time is money, and as more and more things compete for our attention, Scott Bourne provides this pearl of wisdom.

Speaking about social media, and making sure you are providing good content that isn't wasting the time of the end user, he makes this point.

What will people spend their time on? Money doesn't matter, his time does. Spending 15 minutes on something worthless irritates him, the $50 spent on something, you can get the money back.

That thought brings me to this one: You can refund money, you can't refund people's time.

If we want to build more loyalty, we should be much more forgiving with refunds and other money related things when we have streaming or other problems with our paying customers. Won't that hurt the bottom line? In the long run, no; especially if we are clear that when we give it back we are also apologizing for wasting their time.

Think about an example on your campus where a stream failed, or more radically, where an event just flat went sour. Why not willingly give back to fans that didn't think the experience lived up to what they paid?  If the alternative is they won't come back.

Sales people tell you that it is so much easier to keep a customer than to win one.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Increase The Frequency

It didn't ring true when I read it, and after a week sitting at the feet of gurus I return from the mountain top re-convinced. One Facebook message a day is not enough, sending out multiple messages a day - including the same message - is important, and I think I have the answer to how that idea even got started.

I freely admit to having picked up from Rod Harlan three years ago at this same conference the "drive time" clock and the East Coast-West Coast. I felt like I even proved the point in our #ThanksArk Twitter campaign over the holiday and then with VoteMallett.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there it was in PRSA Tactics - an august NFL team proclaiming the iron rule of one Facebook per day.  I have heard feedback from people in and around our athletic department too - I was cluttering up the messaging.

Perhaps I was missing some research here.  I was more than willing to listen. After all, I know I have friends that overshare, and I eventually block them or drop them.

Still, in the back of my head was this voice of one of our former athletes, now - sorry no insult intended here - middle age mom. The target demo. And her words, as she held up her iPhone, pointing at the open Facebook ap; "if it doesn't show up in here, it doesn't get into my life."

Or, as Alexandra Gebhard quipped off-handed at the end of her presentation Wednesday, "how many of you are convinced that the new browser is Facebook?"

I won't drag these experts by name into this fray, but I made an effort to ask one after the other - what about frequency. Is there too much each day? A pretty standard answer was no, but that depended on what you we saying.

That's when the light turned on.  The friends that we block are the ones that are creaming us with game invites, horoscopes, what they ate today, cute cat videos - info spam. I think this is why people - especially those close in to a program - want to limit the number of messages each day or limit it to only certain things. They see everything we do, every time we post it and assume that it is annoying.

Fans of college teams WANT that info, and if we take the time to interact with them, they will want to consume even more.

Plus, many of the fans are not in Fayetteville, or are busy in the morning or the evening.  Again, don't look at the social stream on the home page in Twitter or Facebook - it's all there in a row - and it gives a false impression that too much is going.

The way you have to view it is within the context of a social stream. Spacing is what makes the difference. Not posting within an hour or so, and not repeating key information until the next window is essential.

To put this in another context, I hate ESPN Radio. Why? Because it literally repeats every 20 minutes. The host getting ginned up about the exact same point, in almost the exact same way, every few minutes. It's not an accident, research shows that most people don't stay with the show more than 15-20 minutes - get in the car, listen, get out of the car.

Look, I love long-form radio shows, and this format drives me crazy. But I'm not who they are programing for. Same for your social media stream - don't manage it based upon yourself - who looks at the whole stream and sees it as a single block. Same applies for your small percentage of fans that take their tweets as text alerts - they will get it a lot with text messages, but you can't design strategy for this small minority. Plus, the jaded pros forget that some fans LIKE that kind of interaction and can't get enough if the info is quality.

The radio analogy is important. Scott Bourne cut his media teeth as a youngster in college working the clock at a local radio station DJ'ing. Back in the land before time, that meant managing messages that were read methodically and on a regular schedule - the clock - to stay in the format. He stresses that you need to catch people in their real-time stream. Few people are going to scroll back more than one or two screens to "catch up" when they have been away from their twitter.

Here is where Rod Harlan lays down his scheme, all based on east coast time (where he lives): just before 9 a.m., just before noon, just before 5 p.m.; with repeat window at 8 p.m. Why 8 p.m.? Cause that's 5 p.m. PST. Notice also, "just before" as in maybe 10 minutes til the hour. What's the first thing someone may do before they walk into work, head out to lunch, leave for the day? Check Twitter to see if there is something happening.

They Don't Work!!!!

I saw this recently on a major social networking site:

For every ! or :) the email response rates drop 10 percent - no kidding, and a double exclamation point (!!) usually precipitates a 25 percent decline

That sounds familiar. Oh, wait, that's because we've discussed that before.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sorry to be Away

I have several posts ready coming out of NAB, but I'm down for the count right now. Back with more when feeling better.

Social Media Customer Intel

Each of the instructors at NAB's 2011 Post | Production Conference made this same point in different ways: monitor your social media sources for the best possible customer feedback. In particular, Rod Harlan and Scott Bourne drove this home. And if that wasn't enough, so did the inflight magazine from American.

The piece by Chris Warren titled "Damage Control" in the April American Way (look for Michael Stipe of REM on the cover if your flying) focused on one reputation management company (Revinate) in one particular industry (hotels). It's an interesting read, particularly in how something as evil empire as monitoring vast amounts of social media can be made warm and fuzzy.

If knowing what your fans are saying about you isn't sufficient reason to get into this game, even if you couldn't give two flips about what semi-anonymous commenters are saying about your school or teams, Warren has this little passage with the head of Revinate, Marc Heyneker.

Heyneker is being a little too chuffed with his service, calling out that a particular hotel Vegas should be paying more attention (hmm, shameless ploy for business?) . Warren asks why he would be monitoring someone who wasn't his client.

To know where the competitors are screwing up, and use that intel to improve themselves.

How's that for some counter intuitive thinking?

The heart of the story is about the detail to which some are using the service to tune up their own operations before complaints and to go after people who complain and with hyper-customer service repair the problem and turn them into evangelists for the hotel.

The concept remains a three part process. You have to take it seriously (one of the hotel managers makes a point to say she treats all the comments as if they were "real letters"). You have to wrap your hands around a vast amount of data (thus the services and tool sets). And, you need to work in near real-time.

Here another rub: it's a team sport. Alexandra Gebhard hit this hard in her presentation.  Gebhard gets the money slide here, after saying that social media can't stand alone she drives it home with it should be part of the marketing, sales and customer service.  She and others made the same point - too often it's just given to the intern because they are young and they "get" new technology. 

I think it was Amy DeLouise that amplified that by saying that yes, great chance for a young professional but they need to be paired with upper management on this - the people with the experience in the industry and who you want out there as primary voices.

Needless to say, the in-flight magazine went home with me tonight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On the Road Again

Headed home from NAB so not much more for today in travels. I will be trying to cobble together some more quick hits from the sessions attended, especially about ways you can start to rethink goals and measuring tools for social media campaigns.

Not all blogfest. Important developments in streaming and how to produce for webcasts, VERY important for my friends in the Division II and lower ranks. GoPro is about to change things again with some new products (3D hello).

The new Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 includes new dynamic publishing tools from within InDesign, creates specifically to assist magazines to create the iOS compliant versions that are lighting up the subscriptions on iTunes Store. WIRED magazine, for example - can you say welcome back media guides?

Time to run - leavin' on a jet plane . . .

Getting Attention for Your Blog

You had to be there to get this joke, but my attempt at the ultimate SEO attention whoring tweet or blog headline is:

Scott Bourne sucks about Top 10 reasons HDR is the anti-Christ of iPads

In homage, the goal here would be to A) pick a fight with someone who has a huge Twitter following (Bourne at about 100k), B) make refence to something that is a controversial topic whether you know much about it or not (HDR, with is some kind of hot button to the photography world and I have no clue what it means, C) use the new SEO love getter of a numbered list, and finally D) a gratuitous religious reference - to which both anti-Christ AND iPad would qualify (think not? Ever try to get between a full-on Apple-ite and their tablet? You'll end up with a religious experience.

Yep, that is likely to get attention, but not traction. It is SEO heavy, but not truthful or genuine. Too many folks play this game, and more details on the way to be more effective but also creative.

Hmm, kinda like writing a whole little blog post about the faux nature of SEO driven blog posts by using a teasing fake line as the heart of the post.

M.C. Esher-like, no?

Quick News on Hashtags

Learned an important detail about how Google views hashtags used on Twitter today from Scott Bourne during his extended boot camp session. Scott will definitely be part of the follow Friday for several things learned here - this one being more immediate: consider NOT using the traditional hashtag if you want to push up on Google search and DEFINITELY do not use more than one. Why? According to Bourne, Google's more concerned with the over the top usage of hashtag by the spammer and porn industry than any legit users. Also, hashtags that use "nonsense" or made up acronyms again look spamish to the Googleplex.

Bourne based his advice on two things. The most important was discussion with Google execs; legit as he would rank as one of the top photographers by follower or reputation in the field - thus carrying enough say to get in the room and hear what's up. Second, as he illustrated today, you're not necessarily hurting yourself by using @ references rather than # references in Twitter search. Even if you are wed to a hashtag, Bourne strongly recommends not using multiple ones in the same tweet. That fires off marks against you toward blacklisting - again the spammers.

I know that I am guilty of the double tag, especially unintended double tagging: #10 LSU at #15 Arkansas for hoops tonight at Walton #WPS. That is a triple hashtag of doom. Remember, the Internet doesn't care that we all use the number sign for, well, the abbreviation number.

But those ranking refences all become hashtags to Twitter, and that got driven home during Rod Harlan's presentation on measurements for socia media. One of his tools - much more on that later - revealed that the hashtag cloud for ArkRazorbacks was just covered with rankings rather than hashtags.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Broadcast Minds Brilliance

The guys at NewTek hosted a panel discussion called Broadcast Minds to promote their TriCaster line here at NAB. Among the panelists were TWiT founder Leo Leporte and Adam Carolla, and while talking about TriCaster's impact on changing media from broadcast to streaming, they each had some golden moments.

The idea that people from the "three letter networks" as one crowd member put it had a lot of sway over the creative process, Corolla scored the first gem when he riffed off that to say:

"The death of creativity is 15 people weighing in."

Leporte stressed that the key to good shows and programing - like his TWiT network of about 40 hours a week - is "speaking the idiom of your audience.". His point is that the audiences may be smaller, but they are extremely accurately counted, more engaged and in turn more receptive to advertising messages, The problem becomes getting old school Mad Men to do more than "experimental buys", in part, because they don't necessarily like making those placements. First, they don't necessarily understand the media; second, since their pay is percentage of the placement - and social media buys are cheap - they are not going to net as much off the percentage.

For all the quick one-liners - including some shots at the expense of St, John's University's mascot and fencing program - Carolla had some of fhe most serious thoughts. In discussing late night TV, he pointed out the sped up, over polished, rapid fire delivery. "You don't get to know anyone," in that time Carolla said, and he was praising the fact that the "vanguard of technology is helping slow it down." Shows like his (and I think immediately of Kevin Pollack Chat Show), allow for longer form interviews.

"New technology to get back to the oldest form of communication - telling a sorry," Carolla said. "The tech is new, the theorem is old - how many people can you gather around to hear you."

In the question and answer, one audience member from Australia spoke of how chat was an impotent part of the equation and the VP for tech with the NBA chimed in on how important they thought it was. Twitter traffic and good old CoverItLive came up in this, and it set the stage for Leporte's closer:

"We are no longer willing to be just viewers of the performance, we want to be part of the play."

Tweet and Post to Your Fans' Content

Couple of weeks ago I noted the piece in PRSA Strategies in which the Minnesota Vikings social media folks discussed their near-iron clad rule of only one Facebook post per day, but go crazy on Twitter. What initially confused me about that was my personal experience A) with our own Arkansas Razorback fan base, and B) my two favorite teams I follow on Facebook, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Columbus Crew. Both the Steelers and Crew hit me more than once a day, and give a lot of blow by blow on game days.

So I put the question to the amassed experts here at the NAB Post|Production Conference. I'll detail responses more later, but the consensus was no - multiple posting on Facebook is not a problem. The general caveat: if your fans tell you otherwise or if you are manufacturing info. When given the pro sports and college sports examples, again near unanimity - we have content that loyal fan bases cannot get enough of, and as one said, they can always unfollow or de-friend.

My favorite response: keep the administrators who don't know what social media is away from it as much as possible.

Actually, that was my second favorite. My fave was when the speaker said, well, what do you think? Is it too much? You'd know your audience best.

Let that be your guide too: listen to your audience, your fans and follow their lead. It is the most important reason to do social media and the best piece of value it provides - feedback.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coaching Hire at UNLV

Being at NAB, I've had a front row seat for a medal consumer to the process. With it all wrapped up today, the one thing that seemed odd is the local paper devoting almost a full page to the "social media" reaction to the decision to hire David Rice over Reggie Theus. Then, on the page, put only 13 comments/tweets. In these days of precious costs, that's a lot of expensive newsprint - almost 4/5ths of the page with no ads on it. If I can get the image of the page ink you'll understand better. I'm left curious as to why so much space was devoted - there are a couple of big photos to soak up much of the space. Maybe it was an afterthought to take care of a page that was held but then not needed. It was promoed from the front page of the sports section as a big look at how the coaching hire "lights up" the Internet. Instead, it comes off as a big ad for the Register-Journal's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Civil Disobedience

As I enjoy another flaky Starbucks croissant, I have for you a practical lesson in listening to your social graph.  It is a tale of reaction - good and bad - and I can speak to it from both sides of the equation.

When Auburn offered a free trial of it's new HD streaming for baseball, we got shelled by our fans. Why isn't RazorVision doing HD baseball! Why isn't RazorVision free! Especially since it isn't . . . yeah, you guessed it, not in HD.

The reasons are about $100,000 to do the HD right for baseball - new cameras, new cabling and a new switching system to handle HD.  Over the course of the past couple of weeks, we've explained this.  It's not that we don't want HD, we have to manage our money.

It has gone as far as our AD taking time to answer the question on his web show.

We do have HD. Most of our press conferences are shot in HD for the web, and our gymnastics was in HD this year - in the venue on the projector in 16x9 and shot and streamed in HD for the Internet.  Now I know the same fans who we're all over us for being "behind" to Auburn didn't ask if their gymnastics was in HD.

But that is exactly the point.  Our fans wanted baseball this year. We gave them gymnastics. The plan is for us to have baseball very soon - probably 2012 - and it's not like we didn't make significant upgrades to our baseball.

Graphics, more replays, all to get ready for HD fully next year.

So we listened and we responded. I realize that it doesn't stop all the "you suck" comments on the message boards. But we can say with straight up why we aren't, how we want too to, and that we have a plan to get it done in the future.

Meanwhile, my own guerrilla campaign against our local Starbucks continues. Let me explain for my followers and Facebook friends who I'm sure are tired of my obsession.

About two years ago, my local Starbucks started having shortages, then stopped carrying, croissants. When I inquired, I got a string of answers that centered around: Gee, I guess they dropped them from the menu.

OK, but I still found them other places. Now the question not just to baristas but to managers was: why not here? They sold out almost every morning, so it's not like this was a non-seller. The story changed to well, here in NWA we've made a determination that it wasn't one of the 10 top sellers.

Huh? Did I mention you had to show up kinda early to guarantee getting a croissant because they would sell out.

That was countered with: this is part of a national shift.

Oh, you shouldn't have said that. Thus began the great croissant hunt.

Every place in America that I can find a croissant and a cup of Starbucks coffee, it is my mission.

Do I really expect to get my croissants back? No, but what I do expect is a better set of answers from customer service than what I received over time. They were nothing but getting me to go away.  And go away doesn't really work anymore.

To my RazorVision friends - unless something else gets in the way, you'll get your HD baseball next year.  And if something does, I promise I will tell you why.

Meanwhile, I'm headed back to the LVCC for NAB tomorrow. They've got croissants.

New Streaming Tools

Much more than last year, a wave of technical presentations on solid techniques on streaming. Alex Lindsay talked at length about software solutions to switch sources and produce multi-source video for the web. I can see these as very solid ways to get more than the single camera shot for sports that lack either infrastructure or support. When I get back, I'll be taking a little time to sort out two - those of you needing more immediate solutions might jump on this now.

The first was Wirecast - made by telestream. It can edit as many sources as you can figure out how to connect to the computer; also presenter pro - any computer on the network; also streams and does so in multiple streams based on strength of chip.

Lindsay talked about a pair of hardware switchers, and paring them with separate computers creating the streams. It was Alex that spoke of two boxes and three streams as you send upstream to your content delivery system. He also mentioned Wowza server as a new means to solve our most persistent problem - how to get to different devices, notably iPhone/iPad.

The Rebel Alliance

No, not a veiled reference to the saga for the UNLV men's basketball coach hiring that has played out over the weekend here in the media.

None other than Leo Laporte and his This Week in Tech network - TWiT.tv - has arrived at NAB. I don't recall them being at Vegas for NAB - CES, several times. It's a unique thing since of course Leo started his career on Tech TV with the ScreenSavers and now essentially has gone full circle back to episodic news coverage that goes out live as well as on podcast delivery.

What's funny is where they have Leo's TWiT set - it is directly across from and somewhat looming over the monstrous Grass Valley "booth". That's kinda like Luke and Yoda decamping right next to the Death Star. GV is the living embodiment of the great days of television. No Emmy award worthy production of any kind, no self respecting mobile unit operated without a GV switcher.

Now Leo uses his TriCaster to switch to an audience that is rapidly growing. With the new TWiT studio under construction, my guess is that they will be going all new wave software based production.

NAB Day One

Apologies for a late post off the opening "day" at NAB, which was really the PostProduction Conference. Most of the early sessions focused on TV as we know it production (in other words, your live streaming). More detailed notes later, but the thing I was most taken by was the fact that industry folks would never stream the way all of us do - one stream at one bit rate up to the distribution network. That has bothered me for some time, and my tech guys as well. Redundancy is important and one of the most interesting things I figured out was that we should be considering three streams (low-medium-high) for the best adaptive work (I know, all our providers regardless of vendor say they handle the adaptive off the high only), and then two boxes.

A lot of talk about mobile again, and the number one thing these presenters are asked by their clients about their video:

"Will it play on an iPad?"

No offense to my Droid friends, but no one is asking about how to get the video into those devices. A) All those Honeycomb based pads still aren't here. I think more important is B) Any Droid with 2.2 can already get your website Flash content. Granted, it's not elegant, but it works.

Promise much more later tonight and into tomorrow - I have news that will move you and shake you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What You Can Learn on the Road

Saturday morning, I took a walk up the street to the Atomic Testing Museum. Why? Because the NAB schedule didn't start until 1 p.m. And when else would I have the chance, particularly when I discovered it was a short one mile walk straight down the street of my hotel.

The neighborhood looked familiar because it's was - turns out the museum is located right behind the UNLV softball stadium, on the corner of the campus. Yet another reason why you as the traveling SID has no excuse to miss an place like this.

You might say, but my politics, beliefs, lack of caring about history - I don't want to go to "fill-in-the-blank" museum. OK, I get that, but let's walk through this example, arguably the most extreme of all.  After all, short of being Edward Teller's grandkids or a devotee of Curtis LeMay, why would any average person want to see a presentation of how one of the most horrific weapons developed in the history of man is tested.  Think about it - I'm not in Alamorgordo, N.M., where the National Atomic Museum looks at the creation of the bomb. This is about TESTING it.

The way the museum got creative with a dry subject was important.  Again, even if you are only mildly interested in a subject, study how they present the subject.  What fonts on signs? How consistent is the color scheme? How good was the branding? Can you tell, I've spent a little too much time in museum construction in the past - can't walk into one any more without trying to figure out mounting systems they used for AV.  

Counter argument: But I can see that by looking at the museums and displays of the teams we play in the lobbies of their facilities without taking time to go off the itinerary  of the team on my own.

Where do you think those looks come from? The design companies that build recruiting presentations, er, um, ah, athletic museums are the same ones making these high level museums. And if they aren't, they are the companies that the ones you are using are stealing their ideas.

Again, why? Because you never know what your are going to learn until you learn it.

This is going to be a long set-up, stay with me, it's worth it. In my history class at NWACC, one of the things I spend a little extra time on is the end of the Second World War, the start of the Cold War and how the collective "we" didn't always understand the long-range impacts of decisions. Obviously, one of those was dropping the atomic bombs. I help frame it with a personal story, and the experiences of Japanese civilians who have suffered the tremendous fire-bombings that preceded the atomic weapons.

Some of the things that we did with early nuclear in the opening of the Cold War today is purely barbaric. We made FiestaWare - extraordinarily colorful kitchen crockery painted with uranium paint - or create home chemistry kits with radioactive elements - out of ignorance.  Does fracking for natural gas bother you today? How about nuclear devices to shake loose the gas - as Robert Wuhl would say, I shhhhh out not. Learned it in the museum.

The testing of these unusual devices - atomic jets, atomic rocket motors, nuclear demolition for road projects and tunnels - gave me a series of new things to illustrate the point that until you learn about how dangerous this new technology was you can't understand the full nature of the impact.

That's all well and good. Then I stumble upon it. One of the two retired engineers of the Nevada Test Site that has been in several of the videos drops his own bomb.  In talking about the future of the test site, he makes this little plea. One day in the not so distant future, there may not be anyone left alive that has actually experienced a real test - above or below ground.

Here is this genuine cold warrior, and you can see it in his face, almost sense it in his voice. The fear.  The awe-inspired respect, but the fear of the power of the devices. It changed him, and no amount of explaining it, showing the gruesome images of Hiroshima or Nagasaki is going to convey what he knew in his soul.

This is what I'll use, both as a motivation in class and an example. Relating it back to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, which became oh so eager to spoil for a "good fight" and a year later found itself in the meat grinder and epic generation changing First World War.  The same young men who wanted to prove themselves became the broken older politicians who after seeing the horror of the trench did anything in their power to avoid another war, including appeasing a madman.

Why? Because they had experienced it.  It remained a living memory. When the living memory fades, the unreasonable becomes plausible.

And now I have the other half of my lecture for next week, reminding the class that sometimes we do things we have to do but we must never forget the awesome burdens that come with, as Harry S Truman said, an Awesome Power.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Thank You for the Honor

About five weeks ago, I got a call that CoSIDA was presenting me with the Bob Kenworthy Award. I haven't taken the chance to say thank you to those responsible, and to express both my deepest, sincere appreciation.

Last year in SFO, I got my 25-year award and that was the same lunch they gave the Kenworthy. I am humbled to be considered anywhere near last year's recipient, Tim Kennedy, or the many others that are on the list -- starting with Mr. Kenworthy.

I know CoSIDA has made it's announcement, and the folks at the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) -- which is the national organization for amateur radio; the National Weather Service and Washington County Department of Emergency Management have also had some very nice things to say.

It's a blessing and an honor. Again, thank you to those who have sent notes or emails over the past few weeks. Look forward to seeing some of you when I touch down here in Vegas for NAB, the rest in Marco at CoSIDA in June.

On The Road Again

Traveling today to NAB and looking forward to another great Post Production confereence. Some of the great info here came straight from those meetings. Anticipate having several blog posts soon - but off to the airport for now.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Tim Wu's The Master Switch

From last week's Chronicle, there was a great story about Tim Wu's The Master Switch. The inventor of the phrase net neutrality, Wu now worked for the FTC trying to prevent the very thing he writes about in his book. Distilling, Wu looks across human history to discover a pattern in technology - every informational system eventually is taken over by a monopolistic cartel.

Why is this important in college sports? Think about the history of national contracts, first with the old ABC arrangement with "Division I" to today's BCS; the new digital rights agreements, for another example.

Wu defines "The Cycle" of technology, starting with a disruptive innovation - say the graphic internet - in which it must survive the Kronos Effect - dominant companies try to control or destroy innovations out of fear that the new technology might take over.

How does that gatekeeper impact college athletics? Well, who owns your digital rights now? They are your gatekeeper, and when they seek to flip your switch -- there you are. Apple is seeking similar positioning vis-a-vis the newspaper and magazine subscription industry. Read more on that here. Yes, much easier to subscribe in an iTunes format, but what happens if -- as Wu's dystopian vision says -- Apple deems you unsuitable.

Steve Jobs is not the government, and you joined up for his distribution system. He does not have to respect your First Amendment rights. YouTube can drop your content in a heartbeat. They can make any policy they want to infringe upon you -- because you clicked "OK" on the EULA.

Once they get past the initial challenge and enter the market, the disruptive technology is in a place of competition. Wu likens today's amateur blogger to the 1920s radio amateurs.

In the early pre-golden age of radio (that is, the early network phase in the 1930s), Wu made an interesting observation about that wide open time: "the craze spawned grand notions about virtual communities alleviating society's ills."

When the oligargy rises, the golden age gives way to something uglier - a controlled and orderly Internet with gatekeepers who decide and control who gets on. Or who has access.

For example here, shutting off other modes of communication to protect the old way. I wonder how Wu views the concept of TV Anywhere, as that seems like something that certain networks still can't wrap their heads around in some mix of Kronos Effect or desire to be the controlling gatekeepers.

Someone Save My Life Tonight

No, not the Elton John song (although, wasn't he pretty surprisingly good on SNL last week), but whoever picked this as one of the pieces of CoSIDA swag in San Francisco really did. To be honest, that has kinda deteriorated over the years -- I do still have the ESPN360 glass -- but this simple water bottle proved special.

I don't really know why it didn't get tossed along with some of the other stuff -- bags carry only so much -- but it made it home to Fayetteville somehow.

These have not been the best of times. In fact, they have been crappy. To find an outlet, I looked into the garage at my old Trek. Back before Arkansas, I rode. A lot. Organized races. Was a Cat 1 official. Organized and ran a race team. Even dared a little myself (I was too damn big even when I was lighter to be competitive, but I've got one second place trophy to show for a citizen's race). At one point, I even had a coveted "golden ticket" to ride the RAGBRI.

Maybe this would be what I needed to put everything on hold. Get back on the saddle. Here's some old gear -- where are those old water bottles? Gone.

Ah, now you're seeing, the rest of the story. Since it was literally the only one in the house, that San Fran bottle has ridden almost 700 miles since last August. You can tell from the abuse that it's been used. It hasn't made things any less shittier. It has hydrated me to about a 25, maybe 30 pound weight loss. I don't know, never was one to worry about a number, so I don't know how hefty I was when I started. Do know I dropped two pant, one shirt, two jacket sizes -- and that seems more important than how much.

After clocking 30 miles today before heading to Vegas for NAB, I'd like to just say kudos to whoever decided to use the water bottle rather than the paper weight or mousepad. Pretty sure I'd have been indicted for throwing the paper weight by now.

Seriously, thanks.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Twitter's Intrusion

Found this quote in last month's PRSA Tactics interesting. The story was about the way pro teams were using social media. Eric Swartz of the Minnesota Vikings makes the point that his team goes no more than once a day on Facebook, but multiple times a day on Twitter.

Twitter is meant to be intrusive

Swartz notes Vikings post as many as a dozen times a day but only with Twitter.

What wasn't discussed is non-text media. Personal opinion here, but end users have time of day in all social media forms - a time line, and it requires that you repeat east coast - west coast, for example. And with Warner Brothers allowing Facebook to begin streaming videos like Batman Returns shows that video and other multimedia via Facebook is acceptable - so are we going to forgo a text based update when we have a video, maybe an article link, to send out on Facebook?

All food for thought.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Reputation Management

There's your new buzz word. What does the internet know about you, and more importantly, what can you do about it? TIME and the New York Times both had recent stories about the depth of digital information. Reading through Joel Stein, the Epsilon hack of email addresses should give everyone pause. Are we certain they only got email address, not those behavior profiles? Is there such a thing as just slightly radioactive water?

What TIME covers is what they know and a touch on how to fix it. The NYT is all about digital white out. Or as we said back in the day, Soviet Revisionist History.

That's not entirely fair, as the Reputation.com folks will be quick to point out. A large amount of what is out there on you is probably wrong by accident or maliciously erroneous by design.

I might add, this is not exactly like the old CoSIDA sponsor LifeLock. Similar in that the reputation managers are out there to help you secure your digital identity from theft, but this is more about correcting the record and helping solve damage caused.

So who in the athletic department will be assigned this new task? One would hope the same people who should be in charge of the overall messaging of the department -- the sports public relations folks (ie, the SIDs) -- but knowing the sensitive nature of this work, I wonder out loud about who will really get the job.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Part Three: Why is it Even Happening

Not to be overlooked in this are the people formerly known as the media. Increasingly bitter over the loss of resources and position as the sole conduits of information - come on guys, be honest with us here - they join in to nitpick.

Here is the lack of transparency on the part of the journalists. Quick to rip into GW and retweet with increasing clucking, they overlook the essential reason why the GW media relations folks have become so widely read and important.

Sunday's Denver Post provides a little perspective.  Should we be equally indignant that Lindsay H. Jones of the Post buried the lead in her story about yesterday's NCAA North Central Regional Championships?  After all, the top two teams advance to nationals, along with individuals.  But Ms. Jones focuses on the hometown Pioneer athlete -- Jorie Hall -- that was going to advance to nationals as an individual.  We don't learn until the 14th paragraph that Arkansas won the meet.  In the 15th that Arkansas and Florida advanced.  And this in a story that was 17 paragraphs long.

We never learn that #12 Arkansas upset the #1 team in the country in Florida. As one of the two media relations types at the event, should I have been upset? Is this a breech of journalistic news gathering at the level of that  accused of GW?

No. Of course not. The Post reporter was writing a feature angle on the event, trying to make something locally relevant for the paper's readers. You can see the thinking behind it - small niche competition. The day before, no advance story about the meet, just a small info box along with a photo feature.

Earlier on the day of the meet, I visited REI downtown. Wearing a Razorback polo, I was asked by one of the local residents if I was in town for the meet.  He said that he was a season ticket holder. How many would be at the meet? Oh, a couple thousand.  Having seen the arena and the lack of pre-meet publicity, let's say I was a bit skeptical.

So why the long way around this? Because there were maybe 2,500, perhaps close to 3,000 at the meet - a pretty big crowd for a NCAA hard-ticket event and a fixed cost. My point being this: the paid journalists dismissed the event with featured coverage. Maybe they should have approached it with more news seriousness; perhaps with a story about the meet - the paragraph 14 & 15 buried leads and then the feature story on Denver.

I have little doubt that 10 years ago, certainly 15, that is exactly what would have happened.  Either the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News would have targeted the event for a little extra coverage in their continuing circulation battles back then.

Today, the surviving Post is going to cover only the highest traffic events to maintain it's circulation. Thus, gymnastics equals niche; niche equals feature and the 5W&1H details are superfluous.

We wrote the story with that lead - Arkansas wins and upsets #1, and pushed it hard in our website. Would we have downplayed a loss? No. We've detailed our falls, our negatives. In fact, it was less than a month ago that a fantastic level of floor score - proved later to be one of the top single rounds in the entire nation - was a critical part of our story about losing at Denver. The combination of what was a record floor score and our own early trouble on bars was the story.

For argument sake, I haven't looked yet at Florida's website story on the meet, but I suspect it was straight down the middle and spent time talking about the things the Gators did well in advancing to nationals.  Do I anticipate UF making the same point we did - that for the second time this year we beat #1? No, and I shouldn't.

In the end, everyone is sensitive on this event.  The media because they are in flux.  The SIDs who increasingly find themselves in a bind both on time/resources and administrations/coaches who want the best view of their world.  Fans who just want the story, and can't get it from media - who arent covering things like they once did - and because of events like GW baseball (or to be honest, several times we ourselves have had to release a statement or deal with "bad news").

Monday, April 04, 2011

Part Two: Burying the Lead?

Continuing the GW baseball game story - was it conscious or not?

As I mentioned in the first part, GW didn't want to extend comment - I see their point but I also don't have that crucial answer.  My educated guess is the intern may have written the story and forgot it (or left it out) and it got added in after the first posting.  The story kind of read like it was stuck in to account for the detail of the perfect game.

But let's suppose it was deliberate.

This is the blessing and curse of branded journalism, and there is a fine line walked by those who report on behalf of the athletic department.  There is a very pervasive line of thought among upper athletic management that not unlike politicians, it is not only OK to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and run out mister in-between - it is the absolute job of media relations to do so.

Or, as it is increasingly becoming known, marketing communications.

The problem with this 1984 style department of information approach is that it died in 2004 with the rise of social networks. The people formerly known as the audience are not participating, and they call bullshit when they see it.  You are far better off playing the story straight.

That is, unless your are working from a talking points perspective; pushing out those oh so important branding words (it's not a war, it's a kinetic military action). If the only folks reading your stuff are coaches or administrators who are firm believers in the no negative news mantra, well, you're just gonna have to take your beating from the public and catcalls from pundants as you avoid any mentions that reflect "negatively" on the institution.

On the flip side, if we are going to become writers, get ready to take the hits media relations people. It's a bizarre role reversal. Old school SIDs use to call up the sports editor to complain about bias or mistakes made by a beat reporter. Now the beat reporters and Deadspin call out the SIDs for not being journalists.  Sort of as I tell students with their Twitter feeds and social media - you're the editor now, you can't claim you misquoted yourself.

It's because the media wasn't there. No one to cover the event, except the representatives of each side. Let me repeat: we didn't ask to be the media, but nature and sports fans abhor a vacuum. So instead of jumping Rob the GW intern's case, how about showing up and reporting themselves? I get it - jobs loss, resources loss, staff cutbacks.

Burying the Lead?

Been a good deal of hand wringing over last weekend's George Washington versus Virginia baseball game.  I joined in on the opening round, noting that this isn't exactly the way you want to gain notoriety for your SID office or your program.

For those at may have missed it, Deadspin took issue with the fact that the Cavaliers' pitch threw a perfect game and it was down low in the story on the GW website.  Many SID types have commented about how this would not pass at their school.

I did reach out to GW, and they respectfully declined to comment. Ready to see it die down and go away they said, and one day later it had subsided as the media machine had moved on. In some ways, it is exactly what the good folks at GW said it was - no big deal.  Plenty of similar examples and why jump on this one.  That is the random nature of the Internet - you don't really know what is going to go viral.

With a road trip to NCAA gym, I took a little time to reflect - and allow GW to get back to me - and while some of the things I initially thought haven't changed, I do think this is worthy of a long post (yes, I know - too long).

My initial reaction was that story would not have been graded well in my PR for college sports class from back in 2008.

But as a writer, how different is what the SID did from being the play by play voice of the team.  The fans of GW expect their folks to be positive, but not ignore reality.

Is it the job of the GW media relations personnel to promote the success of the Virginia pitcher? No, that is the Cavlier SID, and the expectation of the GW website is to present their high points, which the story did.

This is the heart of the issue - is putting the detail of the perfect game low in the story ignoring it or simply burying the lead?  Was it a conscious decision or a last minute add once the details were available?

More in the next installment

Friday, April 01, 2011

You Did What in Wyoming?

Laugh, but I got up this morning and after an early breakfast and before I had to be at practice, I went to Wyoming. Why? Because it would be a waste to not touch my 48th state being only 87 miles away.

That little side jaunt is exactly why I started this blog in the first place. I learned this lesson years (OK, decades) ago: it's your own damn fault if you're bored on a road trip.

Let grandpa tell you youngsters a story about when we use to get on these big machines called buses and drive across the countryside to small little towns you've never heard of to play games. Hours sitting, followed by hours sitting in a hotel room, usually with no more than 11 channels on the TV and if it was a high class establishment you MIGHT get free HBO.

There's nothing to do in Natchitoches. Or Nacogdoches. Or San Marcos. Or Hammond. At least, that's what the old hands would say, as they sat around and waited for the bus to drive to the cafeteria for the next meal.

My father, God rest his soul, would have a fit in such circumstances. He told me more than once -- you'd learn more driving across the country in a year than all the time you'd spend in four years of college. This from a man who proudly had an 8th grade education but was undoubtedly one of the most shrewd businessmen I've seen -- a high-six (who knows, maybe seven -- a lot of that was kept under wraps) figure night club owner.

Now he was only half serious, he was quite desirous of his young son going to university to learn how to both spell and use words like "desirous". But the travel part, like so many of his pieces of wisdom, was spot on.

So stuck in so many one-horse towns, I began to avail myself of the local history, the kitschy culture and on those rare "special" trips to other regions never miss a chance to either go on my own or prod the coaches under the guise of "educating" the team to see the sites. I became the tour guide: the Road Scholar.

Along the way, I rooted out every local quality book store, every used book seller that didn't just specialize in turned in romance and sci-fi paperbacks, master the location of the area attractions and museums and along the way, got to soak in a huge part of the country. I used every road university library, found more out of the way little bits of special collections (no way I'd have found the Dahl papers for my dissertation except for the fortunate timing of a trip to University of Illinois; the coincidence of three road trips in two years to get into the Chennault papers at Stanford's Hoover Institute), visited more Presidential libraries -- thank you NCAA tournaments.

You might as well. The alternative back then was sleeping or watching those 11 channels of really bad local TV. Now it's sleeping, surfing the net or watching 57 channels of equally bad satellite TV.

So what did I learn today? That Curt Gowdy was well enough loved for Wyoming to name a state park for him. That the home base of the Budweiser Clydesdales happens to be next door to the largest brewery in north America -- and that's not in Golden, but near Fort Collins. That northern Colorado and Wyoming look just like Dances with Wolves, and more important, I can understand the beautiful desolation that the pioneers must have been in both fear and awe of.

While I headed north on I-25, I saw both the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and casks of nuclear waste material heading south. (You may fill in this space with your own joke). I've seen the Weinermobile at Walmart Shareholders, but never actually on the road and to have that light-hearted smile-inducing vehicle followed about 15 minutes later by the totally ominous nuke trucks -- two of them with three big cylinder casks each -- well you can't say it was a boring day). That you can tell when you cross the state line into Wyoming because the billboards that were missing in Colorado appear -- and they are trying to make up for lost space in a hurry. That when the wind blows across High Plains Road, and the sign says "Warning: High Winds Next Five Miles" believe it. Not only were both sides of the road lined with huge wind mills that were turning like a child's pinwheel (and they were those monstrous 150-foot jobs), a semi was turned over in the median, likely blown over. The little cattle ponds had white caps on them.

We use to joke back at Northeast -- there it is, Americana.

And that's where I went today. Got the picture to prove it.

It Was Just 16 Years Ago

Rounding the corner off Denver Tech Center Drive, there it was, the Denver Marriott where the CoSIDA Convention was held in 1995. I have fond memories of that convention -- and of a particular book store near Cherry Creek. It was that year that one of the speakers talked about this new thing -- the world wide web -- and how if we were going to reach out to our fans, we -- SIDs -- better get on board. I went out after the session and bought my first book on how to write HTML, and went back to Fayetteville to start the first of several websites for the University of Arkansas and others. That's coming full circle this year, and more on that later.

I keep that book on the corner of my desk, serving as a reminder that you have to stay on the front edge. A couple of years later, another vivid memory from the SEC SID meeting. After a back and forth about email versus fax, I pissed off one SID in particular in the room (who knows, maybe others) when I said off-handed that we were the last generation of analog SID; that the future was digital.

Now, we look back on those Mosaic pages and chuckle. Heck, I look at the Web 2.0 and think, that's pretty static now with the coming wave of 3.0 and beyond -- the mobile and potentially semantic web.

Born analog in this business in the 1980s; reborn digital in the 1990s; streaming mobile in the 21st century.

Well, at least we can say, it's never boring.