Archive for August, 2007

Across The Sound iPhone Sponsorship – A Useful But Extreme Experiment

Joseph Jaffe has created some waves recently with his offer of sponsorship of his podcast in exchange for an iPhone.

This novel approach to monetizing a podcast is pretty controversial. Basically, on episode #83 of Across The Sound, Jaffe offered sponsorship of an episode of the podcast to the first user that sent him an iPhone. He followed that up two episodes later, offering one month of sponsorship in return for a Sony Vaio or MacBook laptop.

I have three thoughts on this.

  1. Kudos to Jaffe for coming up with another way to monetize his podcast. He’s been doing this for a while and he deserves the returns he’s generating from it. I also appreciate the novel approach – why not get a phone? Would there be the same controversy if it was money instead of the iPhone (Jaffe said the much same thing on ATS #84)? For Immediate Release (which I also enjoy) has sponsored segments, but there’s much less controversy . Why aren’t people upset with that? I have no problem with either concept.
  2. Equal kudos to Tim Coyne for pursuing this opportunity (Tim provided the first of the two iPhones that Jaffe received). Yes he’s promoting himself, but I applaud his creativity and dedication to developing his career. Some people are happy to sit back and take the hand that life deals them. He’s putting himself out there, and I fully support him in that. In fact, after finishing this post, I’m off to his site to offer up the little value I can.
  3. I do have one problem with this initiative. Episode #86 of Across the Sound, the first cast sponsored through this approach, was largely co-presented with Tim Coyne. The content wasn’t at all related to the usual content – the stuff that people subscribe to listen to. Most of the episode centred around Coyne’s efforts to get an audition for a TV show role. If Jo Jaffe does receive a laptop (in fact, he did), does that mean a whole month of his show will be filled with content unrelated to the usual value he offers? If it does, he may lose a whole lot of subscribers.

I have no problem with Jaffe getting some monetary benefit through his podcast. The same goes for all of the other PR/marketing-related podcasts I listen to (thanks to all you guys and others).

My concern is that Jaffe has taken the sponsorship idea too far. People don’t download podcasts to listen to ads; they tune in despite the ads, to listen to the valuable content. Without that, they’ll stop downloading. Without listeners, potential sponsors will lose interest. There needs to be a middle ground.

This approach seems like an experiment to me. As with all new things, mistakes will be made (as I pointed out in my last post). While I applaud the it, I hope that Jo will swing back slightly from the extreme sponsorship he has used here and toward an approach that will allow sponsorship of his podcast without permitting its takeover.

Are Companies Missing The Point Of Social Media, Or Is Facebook Missing An Opportunity?

The web is full of story after story right now about companies cancelling their advertising on Facebook because of their potential association with dubious content. In the latest move, Reuters reports:

The British government has halted its advertising on the social networking Web site Facebook over concerns about how its ads are displayed

I listened with interest to Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson discuss several UK companies pulling their ads off Facebook in episode 264 of For Immediate Release. I must say, I had quite a visceral reaction to their views on this (to the alarm of people near me on the bus).

Shel and Neville suggest that companies are missing out on an opportunity with these social networks. They argue that companies should realize that advertising is changing and that they should get on board with it.

I have a somewhat different perspective, which I’ll split into two parts here.

First, rather than the companies missing out on the opportunity here, I argue that it is in fact companies like Facebook who are missing out.

We shouldn’t put “Web 2.0″ companies on a pedestal. They’re young companies and they aren’t immune to making mistakes. Facebook is a fantastic website and I’m a big fan, but I think they’re on the wrong side of this one. They run the risk of losing out on huge potential revenue by not delivering an advertising model that accommodates advertisers’ concerns.

Rather than a negative, confrontational response, the company could generate a lot more goodwill by working on a way to deliver ads that provides a measure of control for advertisers. Let’s face it, Facebook (right now, anyway) generates its revenue through ads. The advertisers are its customers. Smart companies don’t alienate their customers.

My second point is that, like it or not, a lot of companies will continue to pull their ads until issues like this are fixed. Businesses spend millions developing their brands; it’s no surprise that they will act quickly to protect them. Not understanding this is to not understand a vital part of marketing.

Facebook is wrong here. They should embrace their customers’ concerns and work with them to fix the problem.

CBC’s Blogging Guidelines – A Step Too Far

As reported on the Inside the CBC blog, the CBC seems to be cracking down on the online activities of its employees (thanks to Joseph Thornley at Pro PR for flagging it on his blog):

Any CBC employee who wants to start a personal blog which “clearly associates them with CBC/Radio-Canada” now requires their supervisor’s permission, according to a new “guideline document.”

I see this as a step too far. From my perspective, your supervisor is responsible for your activities at work. If your activities are outside work, they are also outside your supervisor’s control.

There’s a bit of a grey area, though. This policy refers to blogs that clearly associate the blogger with CBC/Radio-Canada. In those cases, the line between work and home is blurred. Is it really outside work if the employee talks about their employer? What about if the organization is only mentioned in the ‘about me’ blurb?

Grey areas aside, it’s common sense to be careful. In fact, I agree in principle with the CBC’s new Facebook policy – it’s common sense. Given frequent cases of corporate employees being fired for their online activities (see here, here and here), perhaps it’s helpful for corporations to set the boundaries rather than leave them vague.

However, why does the organization need to get involved so closely with blogging? Why introduce general guidelines for Facebook and stringent controls on blogging?

I’m firmly in the camp that says working somewhere doesn’t give that organization blanket control of your life. Bottom line: the CBC has gone too far in this case. Hopefully clear thinking will prevail soon, and the CBC will move from policing to guiding its employees.

Shel Holtz says it way better than I could:

The solution is simple: Establish and communicate policies governing what employees can and cannot do online. The policies should recognize that business value can accrue from these activities and that some personal activities are acceptable, assuming it’s not interfering with the ability to get work done. Supervisors should be trained to identify abuse so that policies are enforced by exception. (emphasis mine)

YearlyKos Convention: Senator Dodd Confronts Bill O’Reilly

Just a quick thought.

Check out this video of Senator Chris Dodd calling Bill O’Reilly out on his real agenda for criticizing the YearlyKos Convention and the US presidential candidates that are attending.

This reminds me a little of Jon Stewart’s infamous interview on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ (transcript here) that resulted in CNN cancelling Crossfire.

Is it too much to hope that the same will happen with the O’Reilly Factor?