Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ITunes and Podcasting.

The new version of ITunes is worth downloading. The biggest change is the podcasting feature. Now instead of messing around with a separate podcasting application, you can subscribe to and manage podcast feeds from within ITunes.

There's also a podcast directory in The Music Store. It seems to be a little buggy right now or perhaps it was simply repelled by the thought of The Curling Show. (Actually, I believe a strategic and creative thinker like Steve Jobs would really love curling.) It's interesting to see the top podcasts in The Music Store — it's a mix of tech, independents and big media.

Nice to see Apple supporting podcasting and making it easier for users.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cannes Ad Festival. The dumbassedness continues.

Are these the people who are going to connect your brand with real people in honest, genuine ways?

Oh, no, wait, it's these people.

Sorry. My mistake. Here's your man.

Sometimes this business just makes it so damn easy. Should image makers not be a bit more concerned with, ah, image?

The next newspaper isn't really a newspaper.

There's a great article in Sunday's New York Times that covers the transformation of a college town newspaper —  the Lawrence World Journal.

Papers who struggle should make this outfit their benchmark. In Lawrence, they've decided that a newspaper reporter should also be able to do a video report online. And a lot more, for that matter. The key thing is they realize that trying to stay within the old silos puts you on a fast track to irrelevance.

Interestingly, the paper is run by a 75-year-old who still works on a typewriter.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Curling Show. Yes, The Curling Show.

One of our goals at Black Lab Five was to create content that we own. Our first media venture will strike many people as just plain odd, but we believe that niche sports are perfect for podcasting. And, as regular readers of this blog know, I'm passionate about a sport that's big in Canada but definitely niche in the United States — curling.

I hope you'll listen to our first edition of The Curling Show.

It's an interview-style show that offers conversations with the top athletes in the sport. It's a bit like curling itself — it seems weird at first. In the first show, I interview Wayne Middaugh, a guy who has been one of the elite players in the sport for about the last 15 years. For people who don't know anything about the game, you'll have to trust me when I tell you that landing this interview was a big deal.

At the very least, doing this show will give us a better understanding of how to use podcasts effectively on behalf of our clients.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Business versus Marketing.

Recently, I was in a meeting with clients who had invited a few of their important business allies. It was one of those sessions meant to get feedback and share thoughts about advertising and marketing. Generally, I like these meetings, despite the fact that larger groups tend to shoot down promising ideas as quickly as clay pigeons. I do find that I usually learn something even if I have to absorb a considerable amount shrapnel to do it.

A fair amount of jousting went on. I felt it was in the spirit of arriving at good solutions and I think most of the group felt the same way. Most people will be shocked to learn that I'm not reluctant to share my opinions in these forums.

But there was one comment that really struck me. I'm fairly thick-skinned, but this remark registered a, "Damn, that really hurt."

The comment was:

"So we've got the business guys over here and the marketing guys over there..."


I think his "marketing" reference was specific to "ad guys." (The scary thing for client-side marketers is that you're starting to get lumped in with the oily ad types.) My first reaction was, "Hey, we're running a business ourselves." Then I turned all defensive and insecure and wanted to tell everyone in the room about our slow march towards selling our own products. (We're inching closer.)

Finally, I started to wonder why marketing people are considered such business lightweights. Has it been all the bad movie portrayals? The fact that we don't have dress codes? The foosball tables?

Seth Godin thinks marketers have done a poor job of marketing themselves. He's probably right. Our industry is full of image makers who have served up a bit too much Donny Deutsch and not enough Pat Fallon.

Are we a bunch of charlatans? Do we create, or at least add, value?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It's Advertising Week in New York City!!! Are you as excited as I am?!!

You know how things that are really old have that smell?

Musty. Funky.

Old houses. Old shoes. Sometimes old people. The ad business.

Today, the Times has news of Advertising Week in New York City.

Man, does the ad biz ever look old. And tired.

One thing it seems ad people have? No capacity for embarassment. After last year's event was basically a turd, the powers that be have decided to bring it back.

I think I'll start Advertising Week in Kalamazoo. At least it would be considered quirky and odd. Which would be a lot better than old and smelly.

Here's Where Things Get a Little Fuzzy.

There's news from Mediapost that Adweek and Agency Finder are teaming up to create an agency search service. I can understand why Adweek is doing it — they need to find new revenue sources.

But it sure does raise some questions. When Adweek chooses to run agency profiles, will they make selections based on whether the shop works with their agency search service? Will they write good things about work done by agencies they helped clients select? Will they write bad reviews of work done by agencies selected during reviews that didn't involve them?

Hmm. This is just a small example of the most vexing question raised by new media. If an independent voice isn't a viable business model, will we be able to rely on the emerging mix of editorial and commerce? Who will we trust?

I think old media has to find new media products, not entirely new disciplines.

Monday, June 13, 2005

If I had a nickel for every time I said, "Damn, we really need a better way to store this honey."

Actually, I think it's great. As someone prone to rather unsettling outbursts during the untangling of garden hoses, I'm thrilled that people are working on the issues that vex us all.

Podcast Comments.

One of my loyal readers commented on my podcast entry. He correctly stated that podcasts will serve a variety of purposes — some of it will be populist radio, some will be produced by big media companies.

I agree with Dave completely. At Black Lab Five, we're currently developing podcasts for niche sports — we're aiming for well-produced specialized content. But I still don't understand big radio creating "podcast" formats — content created by listeners that is then broadcast over the airwaves. I think it's the ability to time-shift and produce content for very little money that's appealing about podcasting — not the fact that nearly anyone can do it. The best podcasts will do what all good media does — entertain, engage or inform. The economics, however, mean that it will be financially viable to do that for much smaller, more narrowly targeted audiences.

Thanks for the comments, Dave. Much appreciated.

The Unchanging Local News.

I flipped over from watching The Daily Show tonight to our local newscast for a moment. To News 3, Where News Comes First. (Except, apparently, they also have Weather First. Maybe it's News First unless the weather is the news. Whatever the case, I'm confused.)

Actually, there are local newscasts far worse than ours here in Kalamazoo. But what struck me tonight was how little the local news format has changed over the years. Growing up in Niagara Falls in the seventies and eighties, I often watched local news from Buffalo. Today, my news in Kalamazoo follows virtually the same format.

Sure, the ties have become wider and narrower and slightly wider again, they've added a few more women and they've dressed up the sets a bit. The essentials, however, remain the same. Anchors, field reporters, lead with the fire or the shooting, move to the feel-good community piece, tell people if it's going to rain, go to sports.

How many other products have remained unchanged for so long? And how many have endured?

How inane is this resistance to change? Imagine if all web sites from 1997 were still the same. Fact is, there's nothing in my local newscast that I could not have found earlier in another medium.

Now, as local news struggles, it reminds me again that failure to change is a path to extinction. Ten years from now, the audience for an 11 PM local newscast will be gone.

Change is hard. And necessary.

Friday, June 10, 2005

ITunes. Podcasts. Closer to one-click.

Steve Jobs is saying the next version of ITunes will have a podcast feed feature. They may also start to offer paid podcasts. Leave it to Apple to figure out how to move podcasting closer to one-click technology.

Commercial radio quietly weeps.

I also think Jobs is right about "populist" podcasting. Right now, 99% of all podcasts are crap. I don't think people want populist radio. I think they want great radio they can listen to according to their own schedule.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ah, the sweet scent of the upfront season.

Well, the upfront network media buying season is coming to a close. What a racket.

The broadcast networks all pitching their wares. The senior media buyers gobbling down meals at Per Se. The junior media planners scarfing down crudite at yet another hot party.

So what was the big news this year? Well, ABC, the also-ran of recent years, sold out. Sold it all and closed the books, my friends! So desperate are media people for anything that people might actually pay attention to that they're willing to bet on a show that has Geena Davis as the next president. Yes, that Geena Davis, the one who rivals Jason Alexander in her inability to carry a show.

Maybe ABC will deliver a ton of impressions next year. But how much of an impression will all those impressions make?

I realize that right now, there's still nothing that delivers an audience quite like TV. Some brands just have to be there. But the prices and the gambles don't reflect reality.

One day in the not-too-distant future, I think some people will look back at what they spent on 30 seconds of ad time, remember how little it delivered and feel like, I don't know, puking.