PR Disaster: Candidates that lie

This one is amazing, after everyone repeating over and over "no fake blogs" we still get fake blogs.  And for bonus points, innacurate fake blogs for a politician.  Great.

On the Candidates’ Blogs, Writing Right and Wrong
Published: September 28, 2005

Mr. Ferrer, the Democratic candidate for mayor, nevertheless found himself stumbling yesterday after his political opponents pointed out something amiss on his campaign Web site: a personal log entry "posted by Fernando Ferrer," in which he recalled attending "public schools for most of my education."  Mr. Ferrer actually attended Catholic schools for most of his education
They maintained that Mr. Ferrer did not write the blog entry attributed to him.

"An item submitted by Freddy Ferrer was inaccurately edited regarding Freddy’s education," Nick Baldick, the campaign manager, said in a statement. "We apologize for the mistake and have corrected the entry."

Yet even that explanation was not quite right. Jen Bluestein, a spokeswoman for the Ferrer campaign, said the candidate did not submit a written item but rather "passed on some ideas" to an aide, who then wrote three paragraphs and posted them in his name.

"This happens in political campaigns all the time," she said. "In this case he called in some ideas, and someone got a little loose with the editing."

Oh, well if everyone does it then I guess it is OK.  Uuuuugh.

cognitive analysis of tagging

Tagging is easier than categorization because you don’t have to make as many decisions.

A cognitive analysis of tagging   (
(or how the lower cognitive cost of tagging makes it popular)
With tagging … you can note as many of those associations as you want. This is how tagging works, cognitively speaking. Yes, it’s that simple.

What I suspect the author is saying is that we don’t like to make decisions.  I don’t.  I get home from work and sometimes I can’t figure out what t-shirt to change into.  As I post this on typepad there is a keywords box shown below that does cause me a bit of stress at the end of a post.  Basically keywords are tags, or relevant topics at a minimum.  I suppose keywords have a sort-of-unwritten rule that they are supposed to be nouns while tags can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

Other challenges of tags, or really any ontology:

1) You can’t guarantee other humans will categorize like you do, so even if you can remember your own categories your methods may be in no way helpful to others.  For your mp3 collection this is fine, but for social software you are breaking the social contract and not providing value to others.  We will find a way to derive value, but you get my point.

2) Time changes how you categorize stuff.  As a young man you might put owning a yacht into the "success" category while a former boat owner would categorize this as "classified listing".

2) A sense of fairness can screw up categories.  This is just a brain game we all play.  If I categorize 50 items and they get divided as 25, 10, 10, 4 and 1 – I will really look at the category with one (1) item to see if I can’t refile it in one of the larger categories.  It is the odd-man-out so surely it must fit in another category or nobody will ever find it in the future, right?  I can’t explain this reflex.

4) Cultural relevance, although I believe tagging and categories both suffer from this limitation.  Rashmi, the author of the above article, discusses cultural relevance in her article but this probably warrants a complete novel unto itself.  We need a cultural-tag-encyclopedia in the future.  "Cadiallac means AAAAAAA in Detroit and Cadillac means BBBBBBB in Tokyo… or similar.

I will defer to Rashmi’s analysis on the cognitive aspects of tagging.  Definitely worth further thought.

MSN profile data mixed with adwords

From AdAge, this is the next logical step in pay per click.  Although it is hard to tell from the article if this actually is PPC or if it is more targeted marketing based on demographics.  So here is the quote and commentary below.

New Feature Enables Marketers to Target Search Engine Ads at Specific Groups
September 26, 2005
By Kris Oser

NEW YORK ( — In a effort to technologically outflank Yahoo and Google, Microsoft Corp. will launch a new U.S. keyword paid-search program that enables marketers to target their keyword buys at specific consumer segments.  The new feature links keyword search techniques to’s demographic database of 400 million registered users.

AdCenter allows advertisers to draw from MSN’s 400 million users worldwide who have registered for MSN’s Passport, Hotmail or Messenger services.

AdCenter allows advertisers to draw from MSN’s 400 million users worldwide who have registered for MSN’s Passport, Hotmail or Messenger services. Based on the demographic information those users provided, the advertiser can then target commercial messages based on geographic location, gender, age range, time of day and day of week. MSN can then also overlay additional data rented from database marketing companies, such as wealth index and psychographic information, to target more specifically.

(full article)

I added the emphasis and underlining.  Here is the deal, the web responds like direct marketing in PPC and SEO *because* the user *at that moment* typed in a specific term.  They have told you two things; first what they are interested in (dishes, BMW, etc) and second WHEN they are interested in it (RIGHT NOW!). 

The challenge with classic direct marketing is that repetition is key because there is only so much you can do to predict the timing but you can characterize that this group is likely to buy this object or service.  With direct mail you just keep hitting them with letters or cards or whatever trying to reach them WHEN they become interested buyers.  Let them buy when they are predisposed buyers.  The genius of search marketing is both questions are answered.  You know what the buyer is interested in and when they are interested.  So the program above from MSM is cool but classic DM.  It won’t be the surprise hit that search engine marketing has been with targeted buyers and a pay as you go pricing model that small business can afford.  It will be added value in the marketing mix.

B2B Marketing Trends running my article on SEO and qualified marketing leads

*self plug warning* – B2B Marketing Trends is running an article from our team:

How Much Is a Qualified, Interested Lead Worth to You?
Ed Schipul

Many organizations grow frustrated that their Web site never seems to be included among the top listings on Google or Yahoo. To help organizations move up the search engine listings, an entire industry has emerged, full of specialists who stay on top of changes made to the arcane inner workings of search engine algorithms. However, this takes time, and they may be tempted to use some of the trickery that is tainting the search engine marketing field.

    One alternative that can immediately show results is search engine advertising. (more)

Tivo DRM flag issue precurser to independents exceeding major label music

I am a geek at times.  OK, quite a few times. I read enough PR and spend enough time on PR strategy that I can almost sound like a PR guy, but it is the interaction of technology and PR for social ends that most interests me.

I won’t buy a piece of hardware that restricts my access to files. I change iTunes to record mp3 instead of ACC right after I install it.  Instictively.  Why?  I really don’t know, I hardely ever transfer files and record from CDs that I buy at the store onto mp3s.  Perhaps it is because I go through computers a lot and don’t want to have to rerecord everything if I upgrade.  I still buy CDs over paying for songs on iTunes for some reason – not sure why.

What I do know is that the feeling in my gut of "this is icky so others probably feel the same way" is usually dead on.  So I now won’t buy a tivo because it won’t record in the true sense of the word.  Tivo is limited in that I must choose to record something before I can time-shift view it.  With podcasting I can go backwards or forwards in time without restrictions.  And now Tivo thinks a downgrade is in order? They want to limit it more?  Sure that is their legal right, I am just saying as a marketing guy that it ain’t going to fly.  Duh.

End game; major labels are becoming secondary to independents.  Not because of independent lables, but because of which has hit songs like Emo Elmo by Andrew Mcshan.  Emo Elmo is genius and I don’t have to worry if it will sync with my iPod.

Major bands are going to have to come up with pseudonyms so they can post great music to indie sites free while major labels kill themselves with denial.  Then they will still have some popularity to drive attendance at their concerts which is where they make money anyway.  Walmart cut out wholesalers because they could do the job for 3% less.  Think about it.  If you do not add value to a transaction, be afraid.

Inhouse SEO versus outsourced – but data can be deceiving

From toprank quoting Marketing Sherpa SEO report

For SEO, overall site traffic lift six months after optimization was:
Agency optimized 110% increase
In-house optimized 38% increase

OK, so for those of us who sell SEO as a service this is great news.  But let me flip that statistic for you.  It means that the content matter experts, the client themselves, is incapable of correctly articulating their point from a search engine perspective.  This indicates a huge failure on the part of both the authors (what IS your point?) and the search engines (trying to read the minds of the authors).  This is NOT good news for distributed authoring and putting SEO in the hands of the everyday user.

Our position remains that distributed authoring is vital to society.  It is vital to creating the mass that becomes the wisdom of crowds.  That voice can’t be heard if tools like search engines and SEO that is content focused doesn’t come naturally to the authors even if helped with tools (think wall studfinders when hanging a painting, that is what a keyword density calculator should be like to authors.)

Bloggers pay rates probably seem reasonable to companies

There is a lot of commentary on blogger pay rates (Can Bloggers Strike It Rich?) these days.  Working in marketing and being familiar with clients’ advertising budgets, they strike me as a bargain.  To have a strong online advocate posting and defending your product, perhaps working in conjunction with a creative online PR strategy, for $500 to $2500 a month is a bargain. 

Of course any online effort first needs to be ethical. So I do deeply hate fake blogs.  Where I see this going is bloggers are "sponsored" by news organizations as well as other companies.  Like NASCAR drivers have Quaker State on their car, a blogger should have an affiliated logo for CNN *and* MSNBC as sponsors. The consumer is smart enough to realize that a sponsorship does not mean the sponsored individual is the brand, or even fully represent the brand at all times.  The obstacle here is the media which currently asks their own reporters to not write for other organizations except for freelance writers.  So sponsored bloggers, with multiple sponsorships, is somewhere between the current world of reporters and freelancers.

Having contributed to numerous magazines for freelance articles over the last several years, the biggest problem for me is the time delay. It is hard to get excited about an SEO piece for public relations professionals that will run four to six months down the road when I am afraid the content won’t be fully relevant.  Publishing in the MSM compared to blogging and writing seo articles on our site in real time; there is just no comparison on which one is more gratifying.

Preference engines – will ROCK if they better integrate social software

In between hurricane Rita head counts, Slashdot has a post on an LA times story about preference engines.  From the article:

Their spread worries some who fear that preference engines can extract a social price. As consumers are exposed only to the types of things they’re interested in, there’s a danger that their tastes can narrow and that society may balkanize into groups with obscure interests.

"As these things get better and better, nobody has to encounter ideas they don’t already agree with," said Barry Schwartz, professor of sociology at Swarthmore College and author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less." "We lose that sense of community we had when there were shared cultural experiences, even though we may not have liked them. Now we can create our own cocoon and keep all that unpleasant stuff out."

The doom and gloom predictions are not warranted, because almost all preference engines have a social element to them.  Google considers links, created by humans, so even their infamous algorithms are a combination of social and machine factors.  Preference engines do add value.

I on the other hand would prefer if Rita would go away.  I am betting 100% agreement in the echo chamber of Houston opinion today.

Rita is one hell of a brand

Today was/is/will be all about Hurricane Rita.  On a marketing and PR note, this "brand" was invented last week when the tropical storm was named.  Now we all refer to it like Nike.  So much for my belief in the Ries philosophy of "it takes 10 years to form a brand".  There is no doubt that Katrina is a brand, not a good one, but a brand nonetheless.

On a software note, we recently added first responder capabilities, volunteer coordination to supplement stuff already in place like newsletters (prioritized for first responders of course).  That is all great technology that actually helps people in a time of need.  Based on the number of newsletters relating to Katrina and Rita that I have seen go by in the last few weeks, the sum of the parts is very cool.

Tagging, SEO and Articles

On Information Retrieval and Tagging – Sometimes the counter point is great.  Such is the case with Gene Smith’s post on Why Tagging Is Expensive which asks the question of if the sum of the cost of tagging and wading through bad tags is greater than the benefit.  Actually Gene’s piece is a follow up on another article by Ian

If you have ever used a document management system that required meta data entry on save, then you feel my pain.  Being prompted for required meta data is ridiculous and I will freely admit that if I have a simple idea before lunch just knowing the stupid-human-tricks I will have to perform to create the document will prevent me from creating it.  Additionally adding keywords such as tags requires something of a knowledge matter expert to properly categorize things.  No, I am not siding with the librarians and their outdated hierarchies, but neither can I accurately categorize a picture of a whale (are they warm blooded?  hmmmm…..) as well as a George on Seinfeld.

Ease of use changes behavior.  So forcing tagging on all content authors is not the answer. And from a guy obsessed with distributed authoring, anything you do that slows down the creation of distributed content reduces the intelligence of the group.  The crowd is less wise – which is bad.

As for our Tendenci software, we are trying to divide the tagging into a prompt after content add.  So the user should see a keyword cloud, but then select from that on what they feel is the most relevant as the tags.  And be able to add other tags free form.  Having worked with SEO for years I can honestly say that people are *usually* surprised at the density of terms in their text until they are trained to think about it.  This is not surprising – you must learn to be a communicator and good communication skills do not come easily.  Why should you not also need tools to help you with accurate tagging?  The problem might be the tags, but then again it might be, it probably IS, a problem with the content!

IABC SEO workshop in Houston this Friday at HTC

This Friday September 23rd our team will be conducting a *hands on* Search Engine Marketing workshop at the Houston Technology Center (HTC) hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Houston.  The official name of the event is:

Demystifying Search Engine Optimization: What it Takes to Rank Your Web Site Well and Be Found on the Internet   More information on the event is available on the IABC Houston site here:

And of course the Houston Technology Center is in downtown Houston at:

410 Pierce St.
Houston TX  77002
Google Maps

Start  23-Sep-05   7:30 AM   CST
End  23-Sep-05   10:30 AM   CST

Because IABC is hosting this event at the HTC the price is much lower than the typical luncheons.  I’d love to have you attend.  And at $15 to $25 you can’t beat the price!

New Tech Stuff worth mentioning

New Tech Stuff that I like, that relates to expression of ideas even if technical in nature:

  1. TagCloud – add a flickr like tag presentation to your site.  yes I am very late noticing this one.
  2. Meebo – browser based IM clients.  Great for kids with paranoid parents that block IM (cough)
  3. Audacity – audio editor for all of your podcast editing
  4. Blogpulse – this just keeps getting better and be sure to check out the blog profiles section
  5. Blink Bits – from the site – "pick a topic, we continously go out and get info on this topic for you and then provide the tools for you to control the topic content, discuss it and share it."

Of those I particularly like tag cloud and if we can help people understand the context of their content through tags in real time.  Post your content.  Review your cloud.  Verify topic sentence.  Edit.  Repeat.  Remix as needed.  Exactness of speech is hard work and any tool available to content providers will help.