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Sam Whitmore on the Packaged Goods Media: Fresh Ground #14

As a former journalist and editor with a tough reputation, Sam Whitmore now uses his power to help agencies break through the noise and connect with the media and influencers that matter in this rapidly changing world. At Sam Whitmore Media Survey, he has been serving up insights, tips, tricks and pitch angles -- not to mention journalists themselves in his weekly interviews -- to PR agencies for twelve years now.

Sam has watched mainstream media drop the ball and really struggle with becoming more social, and when Fresh Ground Principal Todd Van Hoosear caught up with him at the NewComm Forum last week, he asked him what brought him from Boston to Silicon Valley, and what he sees on the horizon for the media world.

Some highlights of the conversation:

"In an era of social media, I really wonder how influential some of these smokestack media journalists are."

"You're seeing the dynamic content show up anywhere but the 'packaged goods' media -- the media that the clients demand to get in, but hardly anybody reads anymore."

"[PR agencies] are turning to us saying 'what language ... tools ... and data can you give us to ... wake up [our clients] to the fact that they really should be excited about that blog post and maybe not so much about the [mainstream hit].'"

"Most of the packaged goods media people have the static mentality: 'I'm filing the story and I'm done with it; now I'm going to do a new story.'"

"[Use] bloggers as lightning rods for discussions."

"There [are] all these reasons that these big titles aren't participating the way that they should, and somebody's going to pick up the winnings on that."

"The influencers ... in the near future are going to be not just the authors but frequent commenters."

"The people have the power now. I don't know how many clients are even comfortable with that. I think the clients [still] feel good with the imprimatur of the expert."

"All of us are liberal arts refugees in some way, shape or form in this business.... You really have to have facility for [the ones and zeros]."

Listen Now:

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Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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iPhone, Gizmodo and Jason Chen: Yes, Bloggers are Journalists, but is that the issue?

Jason Chen (pictured right) over at Gizmodo had an amazing scoop. For $5000 (paid by Gizmodo) he landed the next-generation iPhone, a gadget left behind at a bar by a poor Apple employee (who is no longer such) and seemingly picked up by a passerby.

But now the story has taken a darker turn. Today it came out that police raided Chen's home on Friday night and seized quite a bit of equipment like digital cameras, hard drives, etc. Why? According to the search warrant, because the items may have been used in a felony.* Gawker Media is now arguing that Chen is protected under the Shield Law, drawing a direct argument that bloggers are journalists. According to TechCrunch, the San Mateo District Attorney is investigating whether a crime took place and collecting evidence, but Gawker argues that because of the shield law, they cannot take the materials from Chen, as he is a journalist and therefore protected. As TechCruch defines the law "California’s shield laws protect journalists from having to turn over their sources and unpublished information they’ve collected as part of their reporting. However, Gizmodo could be found to have committed a crime when they paid the phone’s finder for the device."

Frankly, I don't dispute that bloggers are journalists. (Full disclosure: I have pitched Chen several times in the past) and as of when I am writing this article, the investigation has come to a "pause" because the shield law may apply.

My problem is, and always has been, with the idea of a Shield Law. It's not that I think journalists shouldn't protect their sources. Of course they should. But I also believe that journalists are citizens and citizens, in this day and age, are journalists. The First Amendment applies to everyone, so how can you create a class of citizens for whom it is more important? How can you decided that one class of citizens can maintain protection for information they have that could be relevant in a criminal case, but another class cannot be protected? No journalist would argue that we should have a "journalist registry," so how can you define who is a journalist and who isn't?

As Justice White wrote in Branzburg v. Hayes: "Sooner or later, it would be necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods."

That was 1972. Drop in "blogger" for "pamphleteer" and you see where this is headed. In other words: it's not up to the courts, nor the legislators, to decide who is and isn't a journalist.

I don't have a real answer here to the obvious problem. How can you ensure the free flow of information without turning journalists, bloggers and other publishers of information into arms of law enforcement?

* A lot of people see Apple's invisible hand behind this police investigation. It's possible. But keep in mind, Apple is not shy about suing to protect itself. Remember the site Thinksecret.com? Apple sued them into an oblivion a few years back. How many companies can sue their most ardent fans and get away with it? I ask this question even as I type on a MacBook Pro while my iPhone charges behind me. Would we bloggers and tech folks be as forgiving if Apple didn't produce great products?

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“It’s not about the whiz-bang things!”

Had the pleasure of seeing Scott Monty in action again today, just before my panel with Andrew Sinkov of Evernote and Manish Mehta of Dell. One of the many good points he made during his NewComm Forum keynote is that, ultimately, "social media is not about the tools, technology and whiz-bang things. It’s about culture and culture change.”

That is the point of my panel discussion. I'll try to share video, but in the meantime, here is my slide deck:

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You Can’t Buy Serendipity…

... but you can capitalize on it. Dave Carroll, of "United Breaks Guitars" fame, told his story -- and sang a great song at the end, so you will be rewarded for watching it all the way through -- to the attendees of NewComm Forum 2010 today.

Some of the most interesting success stories online -- I'm also thinking about David After Dentist, which got 56 million views compared to Dave's paltry 8.5 million -- came from serendipity.

The question you, as a business owner or marketer, should be asking is not how do you make your viral video, but rather how do you create an organization that is more likely to generate -- and ultimately capitalize on -- creative and engaging content. To a point raised by the opening keynote presenter Jackie Huba, you don't have to be a 1%er to be hugely successful, you just have to empower the 1%ers (the 1% of your community that create content).

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Hanson Hosein on Storytelling: Fresh Ground #13

Hanson Hosein, president of HRH Media Group, is also the Director of the Master of Communication in Digital Media at the University of Washington in Seattle. He specializes in storytelling, social media strategies and new models of communication. Through his company, HRH Media, he employs this expertise to direct award-winning documentary films, including “Rising from Ruins” and “Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop,” which have been broadcast around the world and prominently featured online. Hanson is a former NBC News war correspondent and investigative producer — and recipient of Overseas Press Club and Emmy Awards.

Fresh Ground Principal — and former classmate of Hanson — Chuck Tanowitz discusses storytelling, journalism vs. “journalistic”, trust, and several other subjects with Hanson.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Even before I took this position at the University of Washington I actually stopped calling myself a journalist…. I just felt like journalism, at least the way we define it in the United States, has become too constricting.”

“I don’t believe in objectivity. I think it’s a canard.”

“I … don’t think [journalism] works anymore even as a business model…. Because of … social technologies … we can actually bring transparency and authenticity to communications. Maybe you don’t need to have that journalism thing as high up in the food chain as we used to.”

“The stories come from the people who actually are living those stories. That’s what’s changed [thanks to digital and social technology]. Everyone is a storyteller.”

“Stop thinking about ‘journalists’ and the journalism industry… and start thinking about being ‘journalistic.’”

“There is huge demand for somebody with the skills and mindset of a journalist outside of journalism.”

“There’s so much noise out there because all of us can communicate. This is the great democratization of communication…. If you want to remain a professional communicator, what matters most is your ability to actually influence people within a community.”

“Anybody who goes to journalism school to be a journalist is wasting his money.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

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Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Christina Warren on Geek Chic: Fresh Ground #12

Christina Warren has never had to interview for a job, yet serves as a full-time writer for Mashable, one of the largest blogs on the web, as well as a contributor to AMC Entertainment’s Script-to-Screen blog, where she cover the latest movie news.

Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz caught up with Christina at DEMO Spring 2010, where they talked about how she got to where she is today at the age of 27, and what’s next for her and for journalism and blogging in general.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“I wanted to write for as long as I can remember … but it’s funny how I got into [blogging]. I was a frequent contributor on USA TODAY’s music blog, and the music editor … liked my comments and reached out to me….”

“I want to make sure that … when people are Google stalking me … that I’m worthy of stalkage….”

“I’m geek chic…. I’m into technology, I’m into film, I’m into fashion. I can talk the talk, genuinely, but I can also go and be excited about pretty shoes.”

“The place that I’m working … is less important than [my] doing valuable work….”

“[The] old style journalism that existed even 10 years ago doesn’t exist anymore.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Photo credit: Grant_Robertson

Listen Now:

icon for podbean  Standard Podcasts: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Reagan Gray on the Advertising Shift: Fresh Ground #11

For over 20 years Reagan Gray has worked in the advertising industry, helping businesses of all types find and talk to the right target audiences. Prior to moving to Boston a few years ago, Reagan owned an ad agency in southern California that is still thriving. Now, she’s bringing her creative thinking and integrated viewpoint to the region.

Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz had a chance to speak with Reagan about her current projects and perspective on the shift going on in the advertising industry today.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Clients are seeing … social media as this great way to get into the marketplace, but they’re doing it … haphazardly and we think they’re really missing an opportunity to extend their brand….”

“[Social] media [is] advertising…. You can control [it], to a certain extent, and you can make it work for you … just as hard as your offline or paid media.”

“Your … creative people [need to ensure that your social media] brand matches and complements … the website.”

“The reason why SuperBowl ads are still expensive is because they work.”

“[Broadcast] ads have to work a little harder. Ads don’t just create top-of-mind awareness…. They’re becoming much more interactive….”

“You shouldn’t buy anything unless you’ve got a great creative direction.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

icon for podbean  Standard Podcasts: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Join Me at NewComm Forum April 20-23

Speaking of events, I'll be heading out to the San Francisco area in a few weeks to speak at the NewComm Forum, which takes place in San Mateo, CA from April 20-23. I want to take a quick opportunity to invite you to join me there! So please join me at the premier conference for unlocking the power of social media for business.

Take advantage of some special discounts!

Come for the entire conference or just for a day for as little as $395!

NewComm Forum will feature a who’s who of social media experts and practitioners from leading companies presenting 40 sessions in five comprehensive tracks including:

  • Online Communications & Communities
  • Social CRM
  • Markets are Conversations: From Theory to Practice
  • Understanding the New Media Landscape
  • NewComm Essentials

Keynoters include:

  • Jackie Huba, online marketing expert and author
  • Dave Carroll, singer/songwriter, "United Breaks Guitars"
  • Scott Monty, Ford
  • Jack Holt, US Dept. of Defense
  • Tim Westergren, Pandora
  • Neville Hobson, WeissComm

Choose from a variety of intensive ½-day and full-day workshops on Tuesday, April 20th. See details at: http://www.newcommforum.com/Social-Media-Workshops. Use discount code NCFW100 to save $100 on a pre-conference workshop. Get a 1/2-day of education for just $195!

And, wrap up your Forum experience on Friday, April 23rd in our special one-on-one workshop with conference faculty and SNCR Fellows - included in your conference fee. It's like getting a half-day of expert consulting FREE! See more details at: http://www.newcommforum.com/Social-Media-Strategy

Or, just join us for one day on Wednesday, April 21st:

The NewComm Forum 2010 One-day Pass Includes:

  • Full Access Pass for Wednesday, April 21st
  • 3 Keynote Sessions: Jackie Huba, online marketing expert and author; Dave Carroll, singer/songwriter, “United Breaks Guitars” and Tim Westergren, founder, chief strategist, Pandora
  • Access to all conference sessions – choose from 16 breakout sessions in five tracks. Featured presenters include: Shel Holtz, Jen McClure, Paul Chaney, Eric Schwartzman, Francois Gossieaux, Brian Solis, Katie Paine, Dharmesh Shah, Beth Kanter, Kami Huyse and more!
  • Networking Activities and Food & Beverage Events: Breakfast, Luncheon featuring Dave Carroll of “United Breaks Guitars” & Cocktail Reception

Register now and use code NCF1D to attend for one day for just $395.

Register for the full conference with discount code NCF300 and save $300 off your registration fee.

I hope you’ll join me for NewComm Forum, the premier conference for unlocking the power of social media!

Finally, I have a few special Speaker Discount Codes left that I can offer that will get you $500 off your registration fee! just DM or @ me at @vanhoosear or email me at


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