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Jake is interviewed at

I had the pleasure of being invited by Eric over at to talk about Social Media and Big in Japan and other assorted subjects. Eric is on a quest to interview 1000 marketing people, and I was number 79.

Check it out and if you’re interested in helping Eric drive to 1000, drop him an email and introduce yourself. He’s a great guy, and it’s a great project!

Jake McKee | 8:54 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , podcast , biginjapan , jakemckee , interview , marketing | Bookmark on | Digg It

One year later: weblogs work, but . . .

Weblogs Work is now part of Big in Japan! It took us a year to determined that weblogs do in fact work, but they are simply one social media tool a business or agency should consider. As a result we have decided to consolidate the Big in Japan and Weblogs Work brand into one with a renewed focus on helping businesses and agencies build turnkey social media programs by providing a broad spectrum of social tools including weblogs, wikis, podcasts, forums and feeds. Don’t worry, the Weblogs Work weblog won’t go away, it will continue to provide a place for the Big in Japan team to blog about social media. Can you believe it has been a year?

On April 12, 2022 I wrote the first Weblogs Work post titled, “Business Blogs the next big thing (that is already here)!” In July we began offering ‘blog consulting’ services to small companies. We also started having our programmers build various tools for our consultancy to effectively host shared and dedicated, single and multi-user blogs. Soon our clients got larger and our projects more complicated. Our programmers started building even more customized tools like elfURL, PodServe, FrankenFeed, InstantFeed and SocialMail. We even created a brand for our social tool effort called Big in Japan.

Almost ninety days ago it became obvious we had a choice to make. We could build an agency and expand our social media consulting practice or we could change our focus to exploit what we were already uniquely positioned to provide. Weblogs Work and Big in Japan are both brands owned by Spur (the holding company I manage). Spur also owns an IT support brand called Architel. Weblogs Work and Big in Japan had been stealing resources (data center space, servers, programmers and engineers) from the very start and it became clear we were very good at building, customizing, managing and supporting various social tools. Very few companies had the experience and resources to do what we were doing on a daily basis.

Just before the 4th of July we bit the bullet and decided to refocus our offering to provide agencies and brand managers enterprise class social tools complete with hosting, management and day-to-day support. Here is an example of our most popular offerings:

  • Social Media 101 – A two-day fire starting event for your company. Our trainers will show you how social media tools will change your business through a hands-on training event for up-to 20 employees per event. Includes 12 months of hosted/managed/supported weblog, wiki and podcast services.
  • Managed WordPress – Offering a multi-server WordPress implementation allowing for separation of presentation and database functionality. Supporting up-to 512 unique weblogs on two servers. Nightly backups and statistics included.
  • Managed PmWiki – Offering a highly secure wiki implementation allowing for up-to 256 unique wikis on a single server. Nightly backups and statistics included.
  • White Label PodServe – Offering a unique integrated podcast and telephony tool for your business.

Want to learn more? You can reach me directly at 1+214.550.2003 or just send me an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

Alexander Muse | 8:31 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , podcast , biginjapan , weblogswork , blog , socialtools | Bookmark on | Digg It

Social Media Chat Room?

Want to chat about social media? Weblogs Work’s parent, Spur, has a new channel on Freenode for anyone interested in discussing our various projects (Big in Japan, SimpleTicket, Weblogs Work, hResume or Architel). We know it is a little old school, but it works for us. Feel free to pop on if you have a question, concern or suggestion. Someone will usually be on.Our goal is to make the IRC channel our main forum for real-time communication. You will need an IRC client to get on. For OSX users try Colloquy.

Pick a nickname, select IRC as the server protocol and select as the chat server (no proxy, port 6667). Now you are ready to join the Spur chatroom just type: #spur and you are in.

Alexander Muse | 7:26 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , chat , irc , spur , weblogswork | Bookmark on | Digg It

Amateurs & Experts

No time to fully wade into this just now, but I recommend the to & fro going on at BubbleGeneration in this post and this post.  Umair & Nick Carr are hashing out an interesting dynamic:  what is the relationship of amateurs to experts when it comes to peer production?

This is a really interesting entry point for me into discussions of community, marketing, etc.  More later, but it’s a good starting point.

Brian Oberkirch | 9:57 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , nickcarr , umairhaque , peerproduction | Bookmark on | Digg It

Why Your Big Agency Won’t Get Social Media

Allow me to play Umair Haque for a moment and extend some of the thoughts jumpstarted by Mike Manuel’s excellent discussion of what he termed the ‘social media services gap‘ and the ‘social media services billing gap‘. I am in complete agreement with Mike, John Wagner, Jeremy Pepper and David Parmet when they note that it’s not about technology displacing solid approaches to PR.

I have decided this morning that I’m not going along with the idea that this is simply an evolutionary movement. I think there is a radical shift coming in outsourced communications services brought on by

  • new tools and dispersed, on-the-fly team building processes
  • new consumer expectations about attention and how companies should talk with them
  • decreasing influence and strategy decay of the mass media that power the traditional agency model
  • disappearance of the ‘gatekeeper’ value traditionally merchandised by PR shops
  • the incongruence of the agency model with the need to meld strategy with tactics in the form of nimble teams that quickly work across a host of edges
  • the inertia that must be overcome to retool large organizations to meet these new environmental challenges, and finally
  • the increasing ease-of-use of media creation tools for video, audio, playlist creation, tagging, etc.

Umair, Jeff Jarvis, Scott Karp, Chris Anderson, Om Malik, Rafat Ali and many others are charting the strategy decay and subsequent contortions of tradtional media. What has not been as effectively mapped is the impact that decay has on other industries that are attached, remora-like, to newspapers, broadcast tv, publishing, and so on. Whenever we see a ‘new’ media approach from an advertising, media buying or PR shop, it typically involves shoe-horning some sort of branded message into a novel, tech-enabled channel.

“Let’s repurpose our ads for mobile phones.”

“Why don’t we make extreme ads to play inside video games?”

“Let’s make it easy to tag our press releases with delicious.”

“Let’s put out our releases via RSS.”

“How can we get our stuff into wikipedia?”
“Let’s do that wild posting thing with these mass produced flyers and our ’street teams’.”

“Let’s get all the bloggers to talk about our new product launch.”

“Let’s do a blog for our [consumer product] using [some brand mascot].”

Not all bad ideas, but all misdirected and a bit ham-fisted because these organizations are built to be in the content business. They exist to develop and distribute messages. In the world of social media, content isn’t king. Connection is king. We are all bringing our own share of content to the party now, and companies have to play a much different role in the coming conversations about their products and services.

Note specifically that I’m mentioning the outsourcing of the services as undergoing this sea change. PR will be more important than ever. How you interact with the multiple conversational edges that impact your business will be huge. I think PR has the odd mix of analysis, synthesis and quick response skills to thrive in this new environment. But not agencies as they are currently constructed.

Here are my observations from being around all sizes of ad & PR shops for the past nine years:

  • Agencies are economically rewarding for those who own them; most use their agency experience for training until they can’t ignore the opportunity cost to go client side or start their own consulting practice.
  • However large the agency, there is almost always a small bomb-squad of talent that creates value across the agency accounts. Yes, you need resources for large production, etc, but when it comes to the core, creative things agencies do, it’s pretty much my ten against your ten.
  • The profitibility of PR shops is built on charging you three times the amount they pay staffers; If I run an agency, I’m incented to sell off-the-shelf media relations programs that I can largely staff with junior workers, paying them roughly $30/hour and billing you from $100/hr and up. I also make money on the senior staffers I charge you a crazy amount for ($175 to $300/hour for), but it’s harder for me to keep those folks around, given their opportunity cost. Plus, the margins aren’t as great for me.
  • Lots of shops also make money on upcharging you for services they sub out that you can much more easily source and manage yourself now.
  • Agencies have always been self-conscious about how to demonstrate value for their outsized fees, which will only get more difficult as the business becomes less about creating content. They have less of a black box from which to pull ‘proprietary’ stuff.
  • The beasts need feeding. This could be a whole post, but at some point, the boutique firm you loved as nimble and innovative gets a certain mass and has to start acting just like all the other large shops — taking on shlocky work, underpaying staffers, mailing it in on certain accounts, etc. It’s not the people, it’s the model. (No, I don’t ultimately think Crispin will be different. God love em.)

“No, way,” you are saying. “Edelman has a blog. They hired Phil Gomes and Steve Rubel. Weber hired Jeremy. MMW has Tom Biro. Constantin Basturea went to a big shop, too.”

Great. I think the world of all these folks and their chops, but they are still isolated specialists within much larger organizations. People don’t scale, and, as I’ve said, the economic model of these agencies precludes them from searching out and hiring 20 Phil Gomes. Much more likely that a Phil Gomes will go off and find five folks like himself and trade on his big brand knowledge to help a smaller client roster find its footing when it comes to social media. (I’m just speaking hypothetically here. As far I know, Phil loves his new digs.) He can also do that faster and more effectively outside the firm, even than if he operated as a startup within the agency structure. As Edelman left Syndicate the other day, he noted that he was on his way to a meeting to stir things up. Only about 15% of his staffers were into social media, he said, and that was just too few. I liked what he had to say. I just think he has an uphill battle to remake his company.
It will become increasingly difficult to sell ‘access’ services. Access to media buyers & publishers, access to journalists and analysts, access to company spokespeople. (You know how agencies tremble when the clients ask for their media lists?) In our new world, people are increasingly accessible. Already, savvy startups are doing DIY PR via blogs and direct communications that is effective for their early stage needs. There is a whole other post to do on community marketing, and I’m not trying to touch that here.

Instead, communication people will come to be valued by how they improve conversations. Not start or manage them. Improve them. Plus them up. That will take a more seasoned practitioner working in closer concert with internal folks. Thus, I think the tendency will be towards smarter communication directors and managers rolling their own teams to form ad hoc social media bomb squads, and outsourcing very specific ad creation skills (and not strategy & messaging) to ad shops. (This is the Sergio Zyman approach.) Already the market for making elaborate :30 films and holding on to the expensive talent this archaic activity requires must be seeing strains. If not, it will.

In a YouTube world, speed, savvy and responsiveness of our communications (video included) will trump high-production values and the fantasy of a tightly integrated campaign.

Even scarier, imagine trying to salvage a business based on delivering content and allocating attention through a proprietary channel:

  • Bacon’s
  • PR Newswire
  • BusinessWire
  • Satellite Media Tour Companies

These guys are doomed in a hyperconnected, niched world, the same way that trade media are unless they remake themselves. That world isn’t here today, but it will be. What are you doing to get ready?

Brian Oberkirch | 12:55 pm | [14] Comments Tags: Corporate Blogging , Blogs , pr2.0 , socialmedia , cluetrain , publicrelations , agencies , advertising , umairhaque , edelman , philgomes , steverubel , jeremypepper , davidparmet , mikemanuel | Bookmark on | Digg It

Clickstream from Ketchum Talks

I did a WebEx and a lunch seminar at Ketchum the other day, which was great. Lots of good questions and good dialogue that I think will continue. Here are links to some of the what we discussed:
Blogging Buzz/Confusion

The New Wisdom of the Web — Newsweek
BusinessWeek story — “Blogs Will Change Your Business”
Forbes paranoia — “Attack of the Blogs”
Blogging Delivered

Blogging Not Exactly Delivered

The Situation: Attention Scarcity

Long Tail blog on Mainstream Media Meltdown
Brand Hijack manifesto
Most recent Sifry alert on the state of the blogosphere

Pay Attention to:

About RSS

iTunes podcast support

Business Blogging

Design Public
Robert Scoble

Jonathan Schwartz
English Cut
Stormhoek blog sampling

Essential Reading

Cluetrain Manifesto
Naked Conversations (check out the blog, too)
Small Pieces, Loosely Joined

Useful Marketing Stuff

What’s Your Brand Mantra?
Church of the Customer
Media Orchard
New PR Wiki
Marketing Begins at Home
Like It Matters

Download the slides. (~6 MB pdf)
My flickr set from the talks.

Brian Oberkirch | 12:45 pm | No Comments Tags: Corporate Blogging , Weblogs Work , Blogs , socialmedia , ketchum , speaking | Bookmark on | Digg It

Old Wine, New Vessels

Unlike a number of my colleagues, I can’t get that excited about Shift’s attempt to remake the press release format. Are press releases lame? Sure. Do PR pros need to change their way of thinking? Sure. (That’s one of the things we’ve been preaching @ Ketchum and lots of other places lately.)

That said, this template is a distinction without a difference. Social media is about connection, not content. If you take the same-old corpspeak and put it into a sexier format (”The kids are using the Digg, make sure our ‘news’ is Diggable.”), you haven’t done much. In no way are you availing yourself of the real power of social media. Didn’t one of the newswires bake in delicious support for their material recently? Again, glad that you are aware of the aggregators that are going to render your distribution channel inefficient & therefore null, but you still haven’t done much in trying to hijack delicious.

Instead of making clients feel like they are doing social media by tarting up their message points and pushing it out via other channels, how about:

  • Having them actually read & track blogs.
  • Actually participate in the communities that matter to their business.
  • Banish the media relations mindset from their approach (along with the odious ‘blogger relations’) and instead start genuine conversations with media, developers, customers, etc.
  • Take a truly niched approach and actually use the range of tools available to work the edges.
  • Teaching clients the value and potential of syndication (which Shift could demonstrate by offering RSS feeds of its own press material).

We are stoked that the discussion is headed in this direction. We think that media outlets and PR shops alike have to do much more than merely add cosmetic changes to stay relevant.

Follow more of the conversation here & here.

Brian Oberkirch | 7:39 am | [2] Comments Tags: Web 2.0 , Blogs , pr2.0 , shiftcommunications , socialmedia , pressrelease | Bookmark on | Digg It