Monday, 12 May 2008

Site down - this may take a while...

It's bloody hard this digital marketing malarkey. Just found myself smirking when someone mentioned it's really easier to change stuff online. That's always been the "benefit" of online, the dynamism, the ability to change and react to your consumer - but it's balls. In fact, websites are actually a whole lot more permanent than any magazine - and harder to change.

If you want to launch a new magazine - buy some paper, print on it - flog it for £4 (give most of that to Tesco) and you're laughing. Next month, you start all over again and while, in theory, it's a permanent item you've sold - that's only to those who actually bought it and kept it. 90% of them have chucked it (sorry, recycled it) by the time you've thought of your next pithy headline

Meanwhile - your website's just there. Every second of every minute of every hour...there's never any let up. OK, so you could change a typo you made when you put the latest story up but want to change the layout? the colour scheme? the name? Site down this could take a while (am aware of the freudian typo - never worry).

Did I mention it's fragile too? - it'll fall over, go slow, drop out of existence and it can take hours and hours to figure out what the hell has gone wrong. People stop buying your magaizne - it's either (1) a rubbish product, (2) too expensive, (3) out of touch with the consumer (see "rubbish"), (4) not being marketed right so no-one's heard of it or (5) not getting to the shops (Tesco's of course). 5 reasons to look into - possibly there are others but in the 6 years of publishing experience I haven't heard one that was true. (Apart from when the warehouse burnt down that was selling them but that' s really number 5 anyway).

Websites?? WEBSITES??? millions, seriously - MILLIONS of reasons. You might get the product right - the price is free by the way unless you really are stuck in 1994 - have the best PPC strategy known to mankind - be loved by your consumers, perfectly optimised and then... you fall off a cliff. Thanks to a "glitch", or a "bug", or issuse with where your site is hosted...or the fact that Google altered one tiny weeny bit of an algorithm becuase they were bored...and the whole thing falls down.

The quote "once you have elimated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"... Thanks. Unfortunately, elimating the aforementioned impossible, is - in itself - impossible. Just what you need at 8.30am Monday morning - a bloody digital paradox! Sometimes after 14 hours of pain staking analysis and theory - it may just fix itself and you're left with an empty feeling of being utterly superflouous to events. Sometimes some other sod gets there before you and you wonder at their mastery of all this technology (they're just lucky and we all know it).

There isn't an answer and in truth, the slighly masochistic side of me enjoys digging around in the endless KPIs and statistics that we are drowing in but when you just can't find the answer. Because soemtimes, rarely in my case, you get it. You figure it out - before the other geeks and developers and it's like reading a clever novel and guessing whodunnit...or even better, guessing correctly the price of the antique toby jug on a Sunday afternoon while watching Antiques Roadshow.

Friday, 9 May 2008

No, no - that's not me...

Found myself flicking through my photos on Facebook today and cringing at the fact there are some there with me smoking. Not through any sense of it being a ridiculous habit (fully aware - 'tis simply neither the time nor the place for that debate) but because it's public.

Which is also ridiculous. Obviously, in fact - evidently, I smoke in public but why should it make me cringe that it's in the virtual public world. Add to that looking drunk, generally not doing sport or in reality, any none green/PC activity...

I'd put on any CV that I'm a highly socialable person who loves the pub and hanging out with mates but when presented with teh evidence of that in the virtual world - it makes me balk. Bizarre... I suspect it goes back to what the essential reason is for any profile page - it's a brand, it's the best of you, it's everything you wish you were - not the real you...but it should be.

Ewan Semple has talked about htis before - trust the people with the flaws publicly aired on Facebook. couldn't agree more - but bloody hell it's just hard. It's all very well me voicing the opinion and waving the flag of honesty but when I do it myself it's rather cringeworthy. It's like carrying your kiddy photo album around with you on a great big virtual sandwich board.

BUT - in order to be a truly trustworthy online type person I shall have to bite the bullet...but I shall be leaving pithy comments to assert the fact that it's always a bad shot...and never the real me...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The buck's gotta stop somewhere...

Trying to get my head around this issue - buck passing. Why does it seem more relevant than ever before in my career? Why do I hear phrases like:
  • It's not your/my remit
  • That's up to A, B, C to decide, not you
  • We'll have to get a workshop/meeting in to discuss that
  • I can't do that without buy in from the entire human population of Papua New Guinea

It's two things - a depressing "silo" mentality that any professional should, frankly, be ashamed of these days (and one i won't go into) but it's also so far away from the real-virtual world the "consumer" lives in, that the negative effect on business is unavoidable.

Defining possession and ownership of anything in the digital world, is a waste of time. By the time you've organised the brainstorm to sort out the meeting to agree the plan of who should run the project for your latest brand extension - some bloke in Derby's already done it and got it bought by A. N. Other rich b*stard in the States. Too late - back to that drawing board.

Problem is that big old school companies just aren't set up to work as quickly as we'd like - and getting them to that place is going to take some time. But that's not to say we shouldn't try - those big old school companies are just as full of passion, innovation and talent as the small .com millionaire start-ups. I genuinely don't think the problem lies solely within the organisation - although, I fear, a lot of current thinking is that if you fix that, you'll fix everything. Just getting rid of the red tape is not going to make it better.

The issue is the mindset...the fear that lies within us mere mortals who don't really understand the 1s and the 0s behind all this and therefore don't like to shout too loud. Making the big, gutsy, hairy, balls-out changes to an online business that will catapault you into true success is harder because there is a fear of "getting it wrong" by people who are used to being experts. In short - it's a fear of failure. So the buck passes more and more senior people who are further and further away from the consumer and much too busy trying to sort out the goddamn infrastructure to get involved with the guts of the business. The outcome? Without a maverick on your side who's prepared to get some backs up, cock up a bit and put thier neck on the're stuck.

My advice, no - my order - go and grow some. Excuse the phrase but I do really believe in this, and not least because I've wasted time myself worrying and wibbling around. Don't wait for someone else to tell you that you're right, you might not be, and if you are - who's going to be able to tell you? Anyone worth their weight is WAY to busy making their own mistakes and loving it. And so what, if you really mess up - least you can blog about it...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Google never lies...

A quote..."Google never lies"...purloined from a colleague, purloined from someone else...however, an interesting concept. The quote came up in a conversation about a picture of said colleague that had come back to haunt him - nothing sordid, just silly I might add. So, however much you change or try to eliminate your past, it's now simply not possible.

What I can't quite figure out if its that a good thing or a bad thing. To be totally purist about it, surely it's a good thing. It's a way round the paradox that history, by it's very nature, is utterly subjective and unreliable. Any story or information that is still in circulation is there because somewhere, somehow, someone won...wrote the story...and so the "truth" is born. But what if every story told, never went away? What if the losers and the winners had exactly the same chance of getting their version of the truth in black and white? What if...oh, yeah, it's not "if"'s utterly real.

Fantastic - a truly inspired way of telling and presenting history. Because "Google" sorts by relevance and not by power, persuasion or threats, we're closer to the truth of the matter. Must be a good thing, surely.

However, what if the story, really is better left forgotten? What if relevance simply isn't a human enough way to sort through information? I suppose the clearest example I can think of is the way in which news was basically propaganda throughout the world wars within Britain. Yes, it wasn't right, and it depicted the opposing forces as monsters but in a world where people were losing sons, husbands, brothers and fathers...isn't it just easier to see the bad guys as exactly that? Isn't the truth just that bit harder to swallow? Isn't it sometimes just kinder to filter some of it out?

Maybe not - and it's not an opinion I'd ever push hard but I just wonder if the fact that as "Google never lies" becomes a truth, as consumers being producers of information becomes the norm, maybe it's not such a good thing...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Not that I'm getting obsessed with Facebook but...

Time was that a woman (I say woman merely because they are more likely to bother to investigate not less likely to stray) with suspicions would have to resort to some kind of under cover, eyeholes in the newspaper mission to know whether or not they were no longer the one and only. If the object of your affection is taking three buses, doubling back and changing trains while they are moving on the way to's probably not a good sign. It's the stuff that old movies are made of and that makes any sane woman laugh now - what an awful lot of effort to have to go through.

So, "The Scorned" moved on. Check receipts, check credit card bills, check the phone bill...check every bit of a paper you can find and you'll get to the truth. The paper trail was the key. Not so much the old movies but defintely the odd story line in almost forgotten episodes of EastEnders or Corrie. Either way, if your other half was binning his litter out on the street, you'd be worried.

Then came the mobile phone. Get hold of it, check the sent items and the inbox and the last calls made... They might not think of it all and it would be evidence enough to either put your mind at rest or call the lawyer. I remember once being warned by a particularly faithless man "if your other half ever starts to take his phone into the shower, toilet or're f*cked". Nice to know.

Then the personal email accounts came under fire. Scary stories of people hacking into email accounts of other halves to see what was going on. Not one of these stories ended well I'll point out. I suspect if you're looking there, it's pretty definite already. This happened to male and female friends of mine and although the one that makes my blood run coldest is the one that seems to happen most often.

And now Facebook has touched this long running story of deception... It's the worst thing in the world for a cheat. Facebook - the devil in technology. You can't keep your profile secret from you other half to hide what you're up to (how suspicious is that?!) and even have no control over what other people write on your wall. Disaster is sure to ensue. Images of "great night last night, big boy" on the wall of some lothario - funny for us, not so the lothario. So, you have to get out all together if you want to get up to know good. Remove yourself from Facebook under some pretention that you don't want to be on there anymore. Problem is - what pretension? There isn't one I can think of, seriously, i've tried but isn't it just so much easier to stop going to the site than to close it down? It's suspicious and that's that.

So maybe next time a friend of yours tells you their worried, maybe the first thing you should do is check Facebook...

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Beginning, middle or the end...?

every story that holds interest follows a simple equation. Never more eloquently put than in Family Guy... (insert funny clip for once...check me)

Anyway, my somewhat tenous point is that this is only any good with hindsight. Relating this to the issues (still) facing marketeers today is impossible because i'm not convinced we know who the protagonists are, the antagonists, the twists in the tail. Jesus, we could still be at the foreward for all I know.

The point is that thinking you've finished the journey becuase you've finally stopped the mass media shotgun approach with every communication you do, just won't cut it. Figuring out there's a conversation going on that you need to be a part of is better but i'm still not convinced that's it either. Half of the job of a digital marketer is to be a subplot anyway - until the digital future is fully mapped out...which could be another few years at least yet - we're all in the dark.

Brian's book is further ahead than the one we're trying to get through in reality. So, I suppose the moral of this story is just keep the ego in check and remember there's a long bloody way to go yet. Even if you have been on a course and everything.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Working 9 to...

24/7 working is more rife than ever before. Having completed a survey in the Sunday Times the other day, I scored pretty highly. I wasn't overly suprised but was more shocked at the negative attitude towards that way of living - I just can't see the problem.

OK, so the odd out of hours phone call, the fact I check website figures at a weekend, my personal phone and work phone are one and so on...could be a negative. But is it really? No-one complains when it's the other way round. All the personal worries that used to have to wait until the end of the day can now get sorted at the same time as you make that golden deal. For me, the fact I've got access to my friends at work via Facebook, makes my job easier too - I can use them to get things tested, become advocates or just to bounce ideas off. And lets not forget, half of them I met at work anyway.

SO, do I live to work...well, yes to some extent. But I'd certainly rather that than work to live...the thought of dreading every Monday, every 9am is just not the lifestyle I'd sign up to. The very nature of new technology means that the opportunites that are opend to us are huge so why not live to work if your work is something you love. It's tough for me to look at things without a slant to how that could work in my worklife because for me there's not a definte line between that life and real life.

So, 24/7 worklife - yes, 24/7 social life - yes, 24/7 home life -yes...fact is everyone lives a 24/7 life and chunking it up into sections of time just doesn't work anymore. And yes, I exist to make sure I get the most out of all of it, at the same time and if you're not doing the same, then just think what it could be like if you did...