Publish Less: Quality Beats Quantity

People want better content – stop publishing crap for the sake of it.

Digiday yesterday published a post based on comments from the team behind the Economist’s social media presence. In the post, the Economist’s team talk about how they realised that ‘We were wasting time churning out tweets’.

We’ve certainly seen the switch from quantity to quality content over the past two years as people become more fatigued by the (sorry) ‘always on’ nature of social media.

Back in the day we’d advise clients to publish five tweets and one to two Facebook posts every day. The intention was to stay top of mind and appear omnipresent in the newsfeeds.

Looking back now it was the right approach – everyone was getting to grips with the novelty of being able to overshare so it was important to try and rise above the noise.

Now, as the industry has matured, and people reading content have become more discerning in what they expect to see from brands, the requirement to focus on quality over quantity has prevailed.

We’re now advising clients that it’s more impactful to create a few pieces of amazing content, rather than diluting the newsfeed with content that sinks quicker than the time it takes to type it.

Publishing 25 tweets a week is insane. It is drain on your team’s creativity; it’s a drain on your budget; you can never ever win – no matter how much content you publish, someone will always be able to out-publish you.

If it’s good enough for the Economist, it’s good enough for me.

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Re-entering 1970

The 1960’s were wildly heralded as a golden age for freedom, free thinking and approaching life with heart rather than head. This is especially true when considering the hippie movement and swinging London.

What followed was a realisation in the 1970’s that the idealism and hope of that halcyon period essentially came to nothing, and a scaling back of opportunity and an era of austerity beckoned.

With the increasing discussion and controversy over Facebook privacy settings, availability of data and control over content and conversations on the Internet, I believe we are following a similar path in the evolution of the Internet.

1969 is the equivalent of the great opening up of data and elimination of boundaries, with 1970 echoing the increasing concern over Facebook’s use and sharing of user data and increasing control from large companies over what content can and cannot be published, shared and consumed.

We are entering a crucial time for the Internet.

Will increased regulation put an end to the free-for-all that we’ve seen to date, or will we see a backlash against the control and a second digital revolution?

Let me know what you think.

Who Is Responsible For Internet Content?

Mashable is reporting today that three Google Executives have been found guilty of privacy violations, giving them a 6 month suspended sentence.

The Google employees were sued after a video was posted (and subsequently removed) to Google’s video sharing site showing a boy with Down syndrome being bullied.

Google responded to the decision with a blog post:

“We are deeply troubled by this conviction for another equally important reason. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming. European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.”

I think this is deeply troubling. Why should three people, with no direct involvement in the recording or posting of the video, find themselves the subject of criminal activity?

I agree with Stan Shroeder’s assessment of this when he says:

[it] at the very least bizarre and shows a blatant misunderstanding of how the Internet and various social content sharing services work.

The way we consume and share content has changed irreversibly, for better or worse, and content ownership rights have to be updated as a result.

Three individuals, with no direct involvement with the video, should not be faced with prosecution, letalone prison. It is up to the police to find the people in the actual video and to bring them to justice.

What do you think?

Tumblr And Collaborative Content

Tumblr announced earlier this week that it was adding a new collaborative feature – the ability for anybody to upload content to a Tumblog they don’t own.

This means you, as a Tumblog owner, can ask people to submit their own content to your Tumblog and become a part of the content creation process.

This is exciting for me, and also for brands who now have an opportunity to encourage their community to interact with each other as well as the brand.

There is a delay in submission-posting time so you can essentially schedule how often your feed will update – perfect for those who are followed by other Tumblr members in different countries.

What I really like about this is the way that bloggers now have a chance to ask their community to be a part of the action.

That’s exactly what I’d like you to do :-)

If you see a cool piece of content, a video or an image perhaps, that you’d like to share, please feel free to submit to the Seldom Seen Kid Tumblog.

You can do this by going here to submit.

I’d love for you to get involved, so go ahead, submit something, and let’s see what we can create :-)

*UPDATE* 10am

There’s been a little interest in this idea, so it’d be great to setup a generic collaborative tumblog – i’m happy to take that on if you want to throw some names around for it!

File Sharing helps music, film and book production says new study

A new study from economists Koleman Strumpf (University of Kansas) and Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard) says that file sharing does not negatively impact on the production of music, film and book, reports Read Write Web.

The study claims that creativity has not been affected by the growth of file sharing and illegally downloaded content. The resear5ch stays away from the tricky-to-prove question of how much money the music industry ‘loses’ through illegal downloads, but rather, questions if the level of content created subdues or increases.

The report says:

The publication of new books rose by 66% over the 2002-2007 period. Since 2000, the annual release of new music albums has more than doubled, and worldwide feature film production is up by more than 30% since 2003

And goes on to say, in relation to music specifically:

The decline in music sales – they fell by 15% from 1997 to 2007 – is the focus of much discussion. However, adding in concerts alone shows the industry has grown by 5% over this period.

The fact that music is freely available does more to encourage new artists, in whichever medium, to create because it removes the barrier of communication between them and their audience, or even community. Would you buy a car without driving it, or buy a toaster wihtout seeing how many pieces of bread it’ll hold?

No. So why should you pay for a song you’ve never heard, a film you’ve never seen or a book you’ve never read?

This is what prevents consumers from purchasing works – they don’t necessarily know what they are buying. For an artists this can be very inhibiting – ‘what if i write this song and nobody listens to it because it costs 99p to download’.

To be able to share content freely is a lifting of the burden of making money from content creation.

This study goes somewhat close to demonstrating exactly this point, and I urge you to read it closely.

How to pitch to bloggers

Pitching, or selling in, a story to bloggers as a PR can be quite daunting. Just how to do it, if it’s your first tentative steps in to engaging with the blogosphere, can be difficult to fathom. Now, many bloggers will get ‘bad’ pitches from PRs who just haven’t done their homework, and this is inexcusable. But just what is a ‘bad’ pitch?

To me, there are two types of bad pitch:

1) Unresearched
2) Badly written

And it is the former of the two which usually gets most bloggers’ backs up, and rightly so. If, as a PR, you do not take the time to look at the blog you’re going to be sending your e-mail to, why should the blogger be at all bothered by your contact? Indeed, unresearched could also be identified as spam, depending on the tone of the e-mail.

So, let’s help out the PRs here – it might not necessarily be their (my/our) fault. The best way to correct a problem is to address it, work out where the errors are, change them, and try again. So let’s work through a practical example shall we?

I received an e-mail pitch a few weeks ago and it (and the subsequent pushy follow up e-mail) riled and amused me a little. I have for the sake of identification, removed all of the distinguishing features of the pitch. I do not intend to name and shame (this time), this is an exercise that I hope will stimulate a debate. I will not publish the PRs name, agency or contact details because I do not intend on harming the PR or the PR agency’s reputation. I want to help them and others like them to develop and become better. This is not saying that I have all the answers, this is putting forward how I would go about sending the same press release.

* * *

Hello,

Please find attached the xxx official press release which describes the results of research undertaken in xxx by xxx, a xxx at the xxx and the xxx in xxx.

The study concludes that adding xxx xxx or xxx (xxx xxx xxx) training to a xxx (weight loss) diet can help achieve a sustained long-term weight loss of xxx in adults. In that contention it appears that xxx et al have drawn the conclusion that xxx training on a xxx machine incorporating a range of exercises including squats , lunges, calf raises, push ups and abdominal crunches is as good as conventional exercise ( group cycling, swimming, running step aerobics and general muscle strengthening exercises) in helping initiate and maintain weight loss.

Importantly xxx exercise on a xxx machine appears to be better than conventional exercise in reducing xxx more than conventional exercise in xxx and in this regard could prove a viable alternative to weight lifting. Visceral adipose tissue is the fat tissue between the xxx. It is this fat that is a major health concern as there is a strong correlation between xxx and the xxx as heart disease, hypertension as well as diabetes.

xxx however does not want people to think that the xxx can do it all on its own. xxx is clear that a healthy diet together with appropriate aerobic exercise… (see the xxx regime used in the study ) is vital and that there are no short cuts available. “xxx generic quote xxx” xxx says.

This data is formal confirmation of anecdotes which surround the use of this xxx and adds another weapon to the armoury of those professionals and individuals seeking to manage obesity and so improve health outcomes.

Please do let me know if you need any further information or would like to see the full study.

Kind Regards,

xxx

* * *

So, first things first: ‘Hello’ just will not do. What is the blogger’s name? There is nothing lazier than not finding out the blogger’s name if it is available, especially if there’s a big fat about page at the top of the blog, or a description box near the top of the blog.

Secondly, do not start your first paragraph with ‘Please find attached’; a) I don’t want an attachment unless I ask for one b) what story are you trying to get me to engage with OR introduce yourself before trying to sell me something.

And thirdly, don’t copy and paste or even paraphrase the study (which you’ve already attached) into 5 paragraphs. You’re putting something in front of me and telling me to read it, not asking if it’s of interest and if i’d like to know more.

So, with this example I would have structured the initial e-mail something like this:

Hi Matt,

My name is Matt Churchill, I work for Suchandsuch PR on behalf of Suchandsuch Client.

{Include a link to both your agency and the client so that if the blogger wants to know more, they can find out. This eliminates the need for a full explanation in to what you and your client are about}

After reading your blog, I thought that a new piece of research from Suchandsuch would be of interest.
{Include why you think it’s relevant; ask yourself how it’s relevant and what the blogger’s readers will get from it}

The key themes from the study say that…
{Pick three key findings, and fit them into no more than two sentences}

If you’d like to know more, we can send you the study in full, or you can find out a bit more on xxx website.
{DO NOT ATTACH THE STUDY. Clear? Cracking. If you can point the blogger in a direction where there’s more info or the study in full, complete with pictures, audio or video, ace}

Best wishes / kind regards,

Matt

This keeps the content of the e-mail down to a minimum so it is as unobtrusive as possible. Hopefully the tone that you take will make the blogger want to know a little bit more and pick up their interest.

This can be a hell of a culture shock for PRs who are used to the full bodied press release, but, as with any PR approach, it needs to be tailored specifically. You wouldn’t target a top tech journalist without at least including their name would you?

Approaching a blogger is in a way, the ‘perfect’ form of communication. Perfect as in perfect anarchy, not perfect as in Watford’s defence. It is communication at the most basic level, but the hardest to do well. If we work together, instead of picking fights, Journalists, bloggers and PRs might be able to break down the current barriers which stand in the way of providing quality news and features for our respective audiences.