A Bricks and Mortar Model for Human Business on the Web

Posted on March 29, 2011. Filed under: Human Business, Jazz, Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today’s musical post is Scrapple from the Apple, a 1950-60’s classic throwback featuring Gene Ammons on tenor sax, Eddie Buster on Hammond B-3 organ, and Gerald Donovan on drums. Read on for the relevance.

Every time I work with a client to establish a human approach to online marketing, my thoughts turn to Sneddon’s in Lambertville, N.J., across the Delaware River from New Hope, Penna. Sneddon's Sign Courtesy of Yelp

This wonderful, family-owned business is in its third generation of Sneddon ownership. Earlier it was known as Mutzie’s – a childhood hang of chef Gabrielle Hamilton whose book Blood, Bones and Butter at this moment tops the NY Times and Amazon best-seller’s list.

Walk into Sneddon’s and you’ve time travelled back to a 1950’s luncheonette with booths along one perimeter, formica-topped tables down the middle and a long counter on the other side with swivel stools facing the griddles and food prep surfaces. Inside Sneddon's with favorite waitress Terry
This picture of the interior of Sneddon’s courtesy of UrbanSpoon.com includes our favorite waitress Terry standing at the counter.

Sneddon’s is a community of locals, sophisticated, part-time/weekend residents from New York and day tripper tourists – all of whom are attracted by the friendly, unpretentious atmosphere of the place.

It delivers what its community values – simple, high quality food prepared with pride, reasonable prices, and a staff – from dishwashers, to cooks, to waitresses, to owners — that embraces the customers, remembers them by name, stops by their tables to chat and exchange updates on family, news, the weather and how their experience at Sneddon’s is going that day. I’m always confident that my eggs over easy and well-done Philly scrapple – a local breakfast meat – will come out prepared as ordered.

My mother has been lunching there almost daily for years, first with my stepfather and mentor John Walsh who died several years ago. The Sneddon’s folk have lived through my mother’s joys, health problems, community involvement, death of John with care and concern. I know that if she didn’t show up for lunch for more than a day or two they’d call her and if they felt it necessary dispatch someone to her home to be sure she was ok or help her in any way possible.

Since the Sneddon’s have owned it, the business has passed through three generations. Some days, all three generations are there — the current owners working, the previous ones stopping by to say hello or to bring fresh produce that they grow and contribute to the kitchen.

The staff – local and culturally diverse – also has family stopping in for an after-school snack or some other touchpoint with the loved one employed there. The whole environment is relaxed, friendly, no tension – a real pick-me-up regardless of what’s going on in life.

I try really hard to replicate something of the Sneddon’s experience on the websites, Facebook pages and other online communities of every client, regardless of what business they’re in. Sneddon’s is a successful, busy beehive full of hard-working and happy people. Its human spirit is something for other businesses to aspire to.

Please share your human business role models!

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How the Worm is Turning for Newspapers

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Content, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

This post is about the continuing – and increasing pace of – the evolution of print newspapers into online entities. The musical post is not directly related. It’s a tribute to Joe Morello, the iconic drummer of the 1950s and ‘60s Dave Brubeck Quartet whose solo on Take Five is a jazz classic. We lost Joe this past week.

Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck Quartet

If there’s a thematic connection, it’s in the idea of evolution. Joe Morello helped evolve the way we think about rhythm. Listen to his killer technique on Far More Drums (in 5/4 time) from the album Time Further Out. Other personnel are Brubeck, piano, Paul Desmond, sax, Eugene Wright, bass.

Three things came to my attention this week that magnify the rapid move of newspapers away from a print platform. Two of them were widely reported.
• The L.A. times reported results of a study that show for the first time that online readership surpassed print readership by 46% to 40%.
• The New York Times announced it will erect its online subscription paywall on March 28.

I learned of the third thing as I worked with a client launching a new kind of medical practice who wanted to do some local print advertising here in the Fairfield County, Connecticut market. Over the past few years, Hearst Media has acquired all but one of the major dailies in the county, as well as a well-read chain of weekly community papers. I asked our sales rep for her help in putting together a three-month advertising plan in three of their community weeklies.

She proceeded to explain that for every dollar my client spent advertising online – which would include visibility on three major dailies and geo-targeting to the weeklies – and in a health and fitness-related magazine title, Hearst would match the spend 100% – dollar for dollar — in newspaper print advertising. That meant that a $10,000 budget, for example, would have a $20,000 equivalency.

It was a no-brainer for the client to cover both traditional and online bases for its original budget. And it made an enormous statement about the value being placed on print newspapers by the publisher. Even though the online advertising might be a bit pricey, we’ll know if it’s worth it when we get the traffic, page view and click-thru reports. There was no contract required so opting out is no problem.

A newspaper publisher giving away print to build online ad spends. Time was – til recently – that it was the other way around. The worm is most definitely turning!!

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My NY Times Electronic Edition: Ending a Moral Dilemma

Posted on December 31, 2010. Filed under: Content, Jazz, Media, Newspapers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? While you read my last post of the year, enjoy saxophonist Houston Person and friends asking that question in their swingin’, jazzy way.

In addition to writing one last post, I decided to end 2010 by finally changing my New York Times paper subscription to the Electronic Edition – a day ahead of the Times’ new pay policy for online-only readers. I’ve been working my way to this moment gradually.Paper Boy by leslieblissphoto CC

A while back I downsized from daily to the ‘Weekender’ subscription. Most of my papers were going into the recycling bin unopened. I had lost the luxury of time to sit and read the paper leisurely over coffee and instead began grabbing the Times news headlines and my favorite features online.

Even with the weekend-only change, I still ended up tossing out most of my papers unread and decided to go to the online only subscription. Now it’s interesting to know that the Times will allow us to change our home delivery subscriptions online. But if you want to ditch paper in favor of bytes, it’s not so easy. It requires a phone call. And voice mail hell offers every option but switching to an online-only subscription.

When I finally got a ‘customer service’ rep on the line, she practically begged me not to go all-electronic but to just try a Sunday-only home delivery subscription and she would give me a special promotional price to keep receiving the print paper. I would continue to get full online access as a print subscriber for free. The promotional price and the almost desperate appeal got me to relent and, until now, I’ve been receiving the Sunday paper. Same thing. It still often goes unopened, while I read the Times daily on my computer or smart phone.

I am happy to pay for the New York Times’ content in whatever format. It’s worth it. It costs a lot of money to hire the best reporters, editors and columnists, build an online future and whatever else is required to keep high quality news coverage coming. We shouldn’t expect it for free.

As I struggled with the waste of paper that my subscription continued to represent, I also thought about the guy who delivers it daily and the fact that I’m contributing to his having a job. Same with the paper mill workers and the printing plant employees. We have to reckon with the fact that the gains of evolving technologically into the future usually mean losses for older platforms.

That said, I decided to make a statement about the importance to me of my ‘newspaper of record’ by standing up and saying, “Of course I’ll pay for this; even before I have to.” So I braved the Times’ subscription phone lines once again to switch to the Electronic Edition. Once again the rep tried to sell me on another Sunday-only promotional price to keep me getting the paper.

“Why?” I asked. “My current subscription costs me $4.90 a week and the online subscription will be $20 a month. So you’re not losing any revenue on my switch – and, in fact, The Times is gaining margin. And, while we’re talking, why can’t I make this switch to online – online?”

The answer to the latter question is that it’s to be sure that it’s really me requesting the change. Given the process I had to go through to switch – it also appears that there are two separate subscription systems for print and online readers. Not very tech-forward.

“But,” I asked further, “If the reason I have to do this on the phone is security, and you’re not losing me as a customer, nor are you losing revenue, why the big push to keep me as a print customer.”

Her answer was bemusing: “Lots of people are switching to the Electronic Edition, and we’re trying to keep the paper in circulation.”

As far as I can tell, whether its content is in digital or print format, the Times remains in circulation. In fact, digital has the potential to circulate the stories far beyond a print run. Maybe the paper needs to make a further conceptual shift that what it has of value to sell is content, regardless of the delivery system.

The evolution of media is a fascinating topic to me. It would be great to hear more from someone at The Times about what its online transition strategy involves. In my effort to go paperless, I felt somewhat manipulated and I’d really like to know why the Times thinks that’s necessary.

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How Social Media (probably) Got a Small Hotel into the NY Times

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

No other tune could accompany this post as well as Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of There’s a Small Hotel from the album The Rodgers and Hart Songbook Volume 2. Check out the rarely-heard verse! Hit the play button below, or if you’re getting this by email, visit the blog to listen.

Today my RSS feed coughed up a New York Times article by Susan Dominus about the joys of www.foursquare.com. Read the article or go on the website to learn about Foursquare. That’s not the point of this post.

Susan Dominus met one of her sources for the article at the Roger Smith Hotel on Lexington Ave between 47th and 48th. From my experience, the choice of venue might be no coincidence. And it represents the power of social media.

First let me say that, in my opinion, the Roger Smith is one of the coolest unsung spots in NY City. Its president is talented Connecticut sculptor James Knowles. The property is maybe the last remaining property of his wife’s family’s hotel holdings. The couple has lovingly embraced the Roger Smith, renovated it and given it one of the most delightful personalities in all NY hotel-dom.

I first met Jim Knowles in the early 1990s through a client Joe Scott, founder of upscale Connecticut landscape design firm Glen Gate, who engaged Jim to create an award for his most creative designers. At the time, Jim hosted Monday evening starving artist dinners in the penthouse of the Roger Smith. They were unspeakably charming and so supportive of the New York arts community.

Over time, I’d stop in there to view the artwork on display and noticed that the hotel was succeeding in attracting international visitors. But I will go out on a limb and say that it has become uber-popular with home town folk since social media guru Chris Brogan has made it his official NY stopover.

Chris tweets about the Roger Smith to his almost 125,000 Twitter followers – including me — and frequently mentions the hotel in blog and newsletter posts. So when a New York Times reporter doing a story on the website Foursquare.com hooks up with interviewee “Damien Basile, a 29-year-old social media consultant, and several of his Foursquare-happy friends” at the Roger Smith, it stands to reason that this person likely learned about the place from a Chris Brogan post and might well be wanting to establish Foursquare mayor-dom and badges at Chris’ NY hotel of choice. (Again check out Foursquare or the Times article to interpret the aforegoing.)

Makes sense to me. But more important, and what I’d share with clients, is that recognition in the social media realm has real dollars and cents value. The fact that Chris has established authority and endorses the Roger Smith likely makes it a destination for social media types and probably led to the NY Times recognition. Chris…you’ve proved it before, and if I’m not all wet here, this proves it again.

Obviously, I’m connecting the dots, but if somehow Damien Basile sees this post, please let me know if I’m right or paddling in the wrong pond. Or if Chris Brogan learned about the Roger Smith from Damien or other NY social media folk I’ll reverse, of course. But it was one of those tasty moments that seemed more than coincidence. And Chris’ endorsement of the Roger Smith certainly can’t hurt – regardless of who learned about it from whom.

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dLife: A How-To For Information & Social Media Monetization

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Internet Traffic, Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today I was in the midst of my usual early morning multi-tasking, reading email, a few favorite blogs and the New York Times online, drinking coffee and eating breakfast while listening to local news and weather on the tube in the background.

 Eating in earshot of the TV has become a real crapshoot in terms of whether you’ll be able to finish without a pharma commercial ruining the meal with a nauseating list of potential side effects of some miracle drug. This morning I didn’t get lucky.

 As I got into a NY Times story that caught my attention, Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites by Richard Perez-Pena and Tim Arango, a drug commercial came on, sending me running to preserve enjoyment of my yogurt and fruit. As I exiled myself from the room with the offending commercial, I couldn’t help but think for the umpteenth time that this couldn’t possibly be the result that pharma marketers are looking for.

 Particularly in light of the Times article, which focuses on how news media companies are trying to monetize their content, I thought – also for the umpteenth time – about the visionary ideas behind dLife – a multi-media effort focused on helping people living with diabetes to better manage their chronic condition. I had the good fortune to work on the launch of that venture back in 2004. And it can provide a road map for both media companies and advertisers trying to find new ways to succeed.

The genius behind the dLife concept is its founder, veteran marketer Howard Steinberg, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. Recognizing that successfully managing diabetes represents a lifestyle – a very different view of disease management – he created a multi-media diabetes network that would provide the diabetes community with a new approach to living well with a life-threatening chronic illness — while building a hugely targeted audience for pharmas and other providers of products and services for diabetes.

dLife has a web portal at its hub plus spokes that include the first lifestyle cable TV show about a chronic illness, a radio ‘tip’ segment and a newsletter. dLife.com is now one of the top diabetes/healthcare sites on the web. Its TV content is consistently award winning. You can follow the company on Twitter — @dLife. dLife members (sign-up is free) get unlimited access to its content, as well as product discounts and online purchase opportunities.

 Who pays for all of this? Advertisers do! Gladly! dLife delivers a large community that is almost 100% guaranteed to be interested in advertiser offerings. And, instead of buying expensive national advertising to reach a relatively small fraction of the US population, they can reach dLifers via much less expensive cable, online and radio advertising.

Media companies and advertisers can take a lesson from dLife. Maybe the New York Times, for example, should begin to break down its reader base into affinity groups and build segmented communities that are interested in certain areas of its coverage and would be interested in particular ad categories. The Times seems to be moving in that direction with its Weekender subscriptions and ad campaign that explores what sections people are ‘fluent in’ – read ‘interested in’. It could then offer targeted packages to advertisers – particularly multi-media offerings with built in cross marketing. Like 24/7/365 special advertising sections.

The technology exists online to provide personally segmented advertising. That’s how to get ads to where they’ll actually be appreciated – and effective. In fact, the process could be interactive. I know I would consider self-selecting for relevant ads to keep desirable news content coming – particularly if I could get irrelevant and disgusting pharma commercials out of my life!

I’d love to hear some of your creative ideas for new content/pay models for traditional media.

In honor of Howard Steinberg’s vision, today’s music is the tune Miles Ahead by the visionary jazz man Miles Davis with the Gil Evans Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones, live at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. Ironically, Davis is listed as a musician who lived with diabetes on the dLife website.

Enjoy! See you soon!

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Tiger Woods: A Social Media Perspective

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Crisis Response, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

https://newprwordsandmusic.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/03-ill-wind1.mp3

It’s been pretty widely trumpeted that Tiger Woods’ handling of his accident over the weekend has been lame in terms of accepted PR/crisis response best practices. Page one of the Sunday New York Times sports section proclaimed it — and so did many other media and blogs. But how can we think about his relative silence – except for yesterday’s statement on his website – in social media terms?

 Tiger Woods is known as a very private personality who seeks out media attention rarely and on his own terms as much as possible. So in a sense, his reaction to the current situation is consistent with his public persona. In other words, he’s being authentic Tiger Woods as we’ve known him.

Putting out a statement on his website is consistent with other important statements he’s made about his personal life – including his engagement to his wife. It implies that he cares most about his fans. If you read the language of the statement carefully, it appears that he sat and wrote it out himself without excessive input from handlers or minute wordsmithing by pros. Very personal.

The wisdom of this move is evident when sampling some of the thousands of comments from fans and other site visitors. The comments for the most part are hugely supportive. A commenter who gives credence to the tabloid reports fueling controversy in this incident gets slapped down by fans in subsequent posts. In their opinions, it’s the media and the police who are out of line. Tiger’s entitled to privacy and, ‘leave their man alone’!! Tiger’s core community is coming to his rescue.

However, when you get into the Twittersphere and other social venues not monopolized by fans, support is overcome by other sentiment. Negative speculation about Woods’ marital fidelity from individuals and blogs abounds. For example, one much-re-tweeted link celebrates his ‘downfall’ with schadenfreude and raises the idea that Woods’ private approach and concern for his brand are only about protecting endorsement deals.

This afternoon legal commentators on cable news have opined that there is little legal fallout that could come out of this, however the media fire storm rages on. It will likely grow for awhile, fueled further by Tiger’s doubling down on privacy and pulling out of his charity golf tournament later this week.

So what else could he do to remain true to his chosen course of public action – or inaction – that would dampen down the flames?

Hopefully Woods and his team are measuring sentiment pro and con – throughout the traditional and social media worlds. And I imagine they are working behind the scenes on his business relationships with sponsors and the brands he endorses. Should unfavorable opinion grow to a level that might shake those relationships, it seems to me that he could further acknowledge the trust he has in his fans by asking them to share with these companies what’s really important to them about Tiger. I’ll bet that the people who cared enough to post on his official website would be happy to post on a brand or product’s fan page on his behalf.

What do you think? It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out from a social media point of view.

I chose Harold Arlen’s Ill Wind (You’re blowin’ me no good) sung by the incomparable Billie Holiday as the musical companion to this post. Think it’s an appropriate theme. It runs 6:14 and I know you’ll read the post faster than that. So maybe you’ll use the extra time to post your comment – or just relax and listen for a couple of minutes. Billie is amazing and the other musicians are so superb…Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, Ben Webster on tenor sax, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Barney Kessel on guitar, Joe Mondragon on bass and Alvin Stoller on drums.

Enjoy and see you soon!

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Philly vs New York! Future of Newspapers — Part 2

Posted on October 20, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not offering wishful thinking about the World Series pairing  – although I’m partial to a back-to-back Series win for my hometown team. What I’m amazed to tell you is that my native Philadelphia Inquirer is up there with my adopted New York Times in the race for major dailies to figure out how to leverage print content – and monetize it – online.

In fact, this is shaping up as a week of focus on forward-thinking print media strategies. Yesterday’s post was about the new weekly paper concept of the Westchester Eye. Today I get an email from the Inquirer, subject line: Think Green – Get the eInquirer Online.

Aside from my first sarcastic thought that online would be the obvious place to get an e-paper, I was immediately curious as to how the eInquirer might differ from the online content currently available on Philly.com, the existing Inquirer/Daily News website. So I clicked.

Well here it is folks. For those who can’t bear to give up the look of the print paper — including me to a degree, the eInquirer delivers an identical on-screen facsimile — complete with ads. As my impatient mind raced forward I asked myself, “Looks good, nice try. But people don’t access content online the same way they do in print.”

Nonetheless, I decided to click on the free two-week no obligation trial. A demo popped up and it didn’t take long til I began to think, “Maybe they’re onto something here!” What you can do is flip through the ‘paper’ as though you were perusing the print version. But as you cursor over stories additional info, including story rank, pops up. If you wish, you can click on a story to opt for a couple of different online-friendly reading formats.

You can also clip, organize and save articles. From the tool bar you can access drop-down menus, email and share stories via social media networks, subscribe to condensed RSS feeds, view all photos in the paper in a gallery, access breaking news, go back to prior issues and archives and take advantage of a variety of search and other nifty options – including downloads and a mobile version.

The price? $2.25 per week delivered to your inbox. I checked to see how this compares to the print subscription price and was offered eight weeks for $48.64 — creative pricing 😉 – or $6.08 per week. In my estimation, I think that a tad more than a third of the cost of print for an online version that gives convenience, flexibility and far more functionality is an attractive deal. Plus you get to save some trees. But I’m interested to know what you all think.

The question I have is, will people gravitate to the $2.25-per-week replica – even with bells and whistles — when they can still go to the robust Philly.com and get news, commentary, entertainment calendars and more for free. I’ll let you know how I like my trial e-subscription and will get more info about how or whether the Inquirer plans to migrate to an all-paid model and ditch its free content.

The New York Times also offers an electronic edition for $9.99 per month for Monday through Friday delivery ($87.95 for a one-year sign-up) and $14.99 per month for seven days ($174.95 for a one-year sign-up). As far as recall the Times has never marketed this option to me, though I’m a subscriber.

Recently I reduced my seven-day print subscription to the Times’ ‘Weekender’ delivery option — Friday through Sunday. It runs about $26 per month vs $48, and the rest of the time I get my news online. That might explain why the electronic version is buried in a link low on the left-hand sidebar of NYTimes.com.  But if, as its copy says, “The future of the digital newspaper has arrived!,” maybe the Times ought to give it a bigger shout out and see what happens. As I think of throwing out the weekend papers I didn’t read because I was away, from here I’m going to sign up for my NYTimes seven-day free trial of a full week of the electronic version. 

Anyhow – Go Philly! Go Phils!! My hometown – which, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog sometimes has a bit of an inferiority complex vs NYC —  can be proud of its championship baseball team and of its paper as it innovates to survive in a digital world.

In honor of Philadelphia, you’re listening to native son Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 organ (an instrument that drives me wild!) as well as trumpet. He’s playing Naima, a rare gentle tune by legendary jazz tenor sax player John Coltrane, another Philly native. It’s from Joey’s album Reboppin’.

 Enjoy! See you soon!

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