Saturday, February 23, 2008

SXSW and social media. A match made in interactive-hipster heaven.

While browsing through the lineup for the 2008 SXSW Music Festival, something occurred to me. While I volunteer for the music portion, and am interested in the film portion as well, there is a very important facet of the conference I vastly overlook, the interactive festival. Sure, it doesn't offer the drawing tactics of famous musicians in a commonplace setting, or actors attending star-studded premieres. But just because the interactive fest isn't the most glamorous of venues, doesn't mean it lacks in interest and crowd pleasing offerings.

I work the music panels at the fest, and thought there might be some decent interactive panels as well. As it turns out, the interactive portion of the festival boasts significantly more for professionals. A list of panels by category shows 17 on Social Media alone. One of the keynote speakers is Mark Zuckerburg, founder of hugely popular networking site Facebook. One of the panels that I found particularly interesting, as well as incredible applicable to our class, is entitled "Harnessing the Power of Social Networking on Your Intranet". Led by Bill Cava, Chief Technology Officer for Ektron, the panel focuses on how social networking can make your company's intranet a collaborative tool, for creation and delivery of business documents. Social networking, in this capacity, can be used as a tool to provide feedback between employees and to assure consistency of message.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In the wake of the Digital Axle extravaganza...

I'm wondering... does this social media thing have the best of intentions? We're now singled out as those "kids" who fail to check their facts. Obviously, none of us in fact meet those descriptions, but the two-dimensional sphere of social media has us pegged that way. Sure, we're "kids" essentially, in that (probably) none of us own property, have children, or any sort of real responsibilities. We are, however, intelligent, coherent people, who (almost) have a college degree, and do research so to contribute relevant information to our class blogs.

A myspace profile has various blanks for personality traits, as do our blogger profiles. Age, sex, location, etc. Sometimes there's a section for favorite books, one for movies, and even a place to input a favorite song to play for visitors. Sure, you can write about your political party stance, hopes, dreams, whatever. But does this really say anything about you?

We put ourselves out there, labeled by these social media profiles, and not one of us is represented to the full extent of our potential. Is that good? Do we feel the need to veil our identities behind a mere 6 point image profile? I'm not saying that we should put all sorts of information on the internet. Of course I stand by the fact that we should keep things to the imagination. I just worry that our "digital selves" don't do us justice.

This whole Digital Axle thing has really bothered me. Mainly because I hate it when people label without justification, but really because I think it's entirely contradictory. Check our facts, huh? A classmate's bold post upsetting the CEO is just as bad as brazenly labeling an entire class as one incompetent body. I never blogged about the Digital Axle issue initially, because to be honest, I didn't find it that intriguing. The aftermath, however, has really struck a nerve. I hate to harp on this, and I'm not trying to take the activist stance, but I'm merely pointing out how social media has its downfalls. We're not bad people, we're not incompetent, but without further research, the internet can portray anyone in that light.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How does an album get better sales? By being blogworthy, of course!

A recent study done by NYU's Stern Business School shows that the amount of online "chatter" about an upcoming album release directly correlates to higher physical album sales. Researchers studied 108 albums released in 2007 to see how various outside elements affected the sales once the album had been released, and found that all had an effect in one way or another. Certain elements, however, proved to have more impact than others. Which elements, you ask? Say it with me now, BLOGGING and SOCIAL NETWORKING. I may sound like a broken record here, but article after article points to the strengths of web 2.0 as a marketing tool.

Researchers studied sales ranks (Nielsen Soundscan Ratings are too costly), as well as articles, blog posts, and Myspace presence for each album listed over a period of eight weeks. Findings showed that blogs tended to be the most strongly correlated to high album sales. According to the findings, if 40 or more legitimate blog posts- legitimate as in written by regular people, not marketers- were made prior to an album's release, sales ended up being three times the average.

This success is not limited to albums released under the umbrella of the "Big 4" labels, Independent releases reaped the same benefits. The study also discovered, as bad a rap as Myspace gets, that the number of Myspace friends a band has also correlates to album sales. Take this finding with a grain of salt, however, as the law of numbers proves that more friends generally equals more people ready to buy the album and support the band. That being said, while social networks are a new phenomenon and a good catalyst for high album sales, they simply cannot compare to a review from a notable source like Rolling Stone Magazine or one of it's counterparts.

As I've said before, I am a regular reader of music blogs like Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan, and I buy into the hype. I'm still loyal to the bands I've like all along. A negative Pitchfork review wouldn't deter me from buying, say the new Radiohead album. I'll admit though, that If a band I'm unfamiliar with gets intense praise, I will look into it, and perhaps buy the album. So yes, the hype machine (as we've collectively termed it) claims another victim. But really, is that such a bad thing?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

'Spin' goes digital

Spin Magazine, the notable rock mag, has decided to post it's February issue online. Spin has created a myspace profile wherein users can get complete free access to the magazine, as well as exclusive online content not featured in the print edition. The myspace edition allows you to browse the pages of the magazine, which features "enhanced links" to featured bands' myspace profiles, stories from past issues, and links to purchase music from iTunes. The digital version offers more than the print, and at a great price- free. The magazine is planning to post it's next 12 issues online as well, so its a good chance for music-fiends to catch up on what's happening in the scene.

I think that this is a great thing. With Radiohead offering their album for discounted (or free) digital download, and other publications like Paste offering free issues online, people are able to get access to content that perhaps financial limitations wouldn't allow previously. More than that, for people that just don't feel like paying for content, now they can browse and decide whether or not it coincides with their interests. It also provides marketers a way to reach a much broader audience, especially in the case of free digital magazines. I'll admit, I still buy cd's, and I still subscribe to music magazines. I know I'm the exception in this matter. Very few of my friends purchase cd's, and even fewer buy magazines, especially with the internet so ubiquitous. For me, its about having a copy of something in your hand. I like that I contribute to the salary of writers, and (sometimes) to the livelihood of bands. I also, however, would like more people to be able to be exposed to these mediums, and with free digital content, they are now able to "broaden their horizons", if you will.

Who needs when you're a Citizen Marketer?

During Jackie Huba's visit to class, we focused a lot on the idea the "Citizen" marketer. Obviously, as this is the name of Jackie's book, it constitutes a great deal of what her presentation includes, but the idea stuck with me. While we can often think of an average Joe blogging about Wal-Mart, or Southwest Airlines employees airing their corporate concerns, it is not as often that we recall an individual simply trying to market themselves.

Sure, a band will market itself in order to ascertain a record deal, an actress will make a youtube video posing as a young girl in order to gain exposure, and a distressed fan will create a youtube phenomenon begging us to "leave Britney aloooooooone!", parodied here. An article on New York's Gothamist Blog turned me onto a media and marketing phenomenon that I found to be fascinating. Channeling nearly every romantic comedy ever made, young Patrick Moberg took to the internet to find the girl of his dreams. No, not through the pains of internet dating. Moberg hoped to find one specific girl.

The article began like this:

"With Craigslist becoming ever-increasingly creepy, this smitten young man has gone and purchased his own URL to find the girl he ogled on the subway last night."

His purchased URL,, hosted only one image, a drawing of the subway encounter, complete with details of the mystery woman's floral hair accessories, clothing, and journal writing hobby.

Moberg's quest became a phenomenon in the New York area. A city of singles, as coined by Carrie Bradshaw, was suddenly infatuated by this seemingly dorky, American Apparel-clad kid who was too embarrassed to talk to a girl on the subway, yet not so embarrassed that he couldn't devote webspace to tracking her down. Articles began to pop up all over New York's blogosphere, detailing Moberg's quest, hoping to locate the girl, and even questioning his authenticity. Dubbed "the subway cyrano", Moberg, with the help of other blogs like Gawker and Blackbook Magazine, was able to eventually identify his Manhattan Transit love connection. Blackbook outed her as one of their very own interns, an Aussie named Camille.

Within days, the two were booked on Good Morning America, which apparently was requested, and to be reported, by Diane Sawyer herself. The segment, upping the romance factor (or ick factor?), introduced the story with a backdrop of romantic movie clips coupled with sappy music.

I highly suggest you give it a watch. It really highlights the sensationalizing power of the media. You really believe that Diane Sawyer wants this to be the next Meg Ryan classic. Since the story aired, Moberg has changed his website's front page to read "In our best interest, there will be no more updates to this site", leaving us to complete the story on our own. Finish it as you may, but a Brooklyn writer drafted his own version of how the media-fueled story played out, which, in it's doomed last line states "For now Patrick is alone in their dressing room. The whole place reeks of Camille’s flowers, her goddamn flowers." Diane Sawyer would be crushed.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Youtube"- The Starmaker

In class, we talked about the power of Youtube as both a marketing tool, and as an overall buzz-generator. Our book, "The New Influencers" , devotes a special section to the importance of Youtube, and it's counterpart, Myspace, in the emerging world of Web 2.0.

The book discusses the success of several different youtube-rs, such as the incredibly popular "lonelygirl15", and, as we watched in class, the Mentos example. These are of course really powerful examples of how a video can be distributed virally, and essentially become a sensation on the web. More than that, Youtube has the power to turn the average joe-schmo into an internet star.

For example, take William Sledd. Sledd, a 24 year old Kentucky native, worked at the Gap. He purchased a Mac, and with the help of his new computer, made a youtube profile, and started uploading videos. In time, he came to be a Youtube sensation. To this day, he has 3,534,187 channel views on his youtube profile, and that doesn't count the views of his individual videos. Due to his buzz, Sledd has been offered television deals, was asked to participate in New York fashion week, and, was offered a chance to interview Issac Mizrahi:

What I'm getting at here is that anyone can become a viral sensation these days. Like the book says, Youtube is an excellent way for marketers to reach coveted demographics. Just as importantly, it serves as a marketing tool for individuals to market themselves. In the movie Ratatouille, Chef Gusteau claims that anyone can be a chef. Thanks to youtube, if the content is worthy, anyone can be a star.

'LOST' finds Viral Marketing

'LOST', the cryptic ABC hit show, has come back for a new season. In the ever dwindling selection of television programming, it seems that there is a light at the end of the bad reality tv tunnel. In order to generate buzz for its new season, it seems that the minds behind LOST are employing some viral marketing techniques. In many cities connected to the show, interesting connections have been popping up in the last week or so.

There's the Oceanic Airlines billboard located in Sydney (the destination of doomed Oceanic flight 815) , complete with a seemingly grassroots message scrawled on it:

Travelers in the Los Angeles area noticed this van driving around LAX airport: Oceanic Airlines, mind you, does not exist.

ABC also sent out the following press release in anticipation of LOST's premiere:
"Oceanic Airlines is excited to announce your chance to get the Golden Pass. The Golden Pass truly is an adventure of a lifetime, allowing you to fly anywhere in the world, anytime you want, and as many times as you want. For more information on how to get your Golden Pass, tune-in to the premiere of Eli Stone on ABC."

The show is no stranger to unorthodox marketing techniques. In the past, commercials for the show's "Dharma Initiative" have played during breaks, adding more mystery to the already confusing programming. This new initiative (pardon the pun) adds much to the show. It seems that in the drought of new and interesting primetime television, ABC is looking to make "LOST" a more interactive experience, rather than a simple television program. By adding more facets to the "LOST" concept, viewers create a community in which they discuss the show and increase their intrigue.