The FTC Guides Explained…By the FTC

Recently I was invited to join IP Attorney Ernest Grumbles for an edition of his BP/G Radio Intellectual Property Podcast. Along with his co-host Joe Bennett-Paris we had the chance to talk with Mary K. Engle, Associate Director, FTC Division of Advertising Practices about the infamous Guides for the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

As I pointed out in a prior post, these guides are nothing new in the broadcast world, but seem to have a few bloggers and online marketers a bit twitchy.

I was happy to have the chance to talk with Ms. Engle and get a very clear explanation of the guides. Thanks to Ernest for allowing me to join in.

Be sure and keep Ernest’s blog and podcast on your radar. He offers plenty of great info on IP law on a regular basis.

FTC Guidelines or Not…Check Your Ethics.

Whether you know it or not, much is being made of the updated FTC Guidelines governing endorsements and testimonial in the world of blogging and may other areas of social media. These FTC Guidelines as well as FCC rules and regulations stipulating the disclosure of “material consideration” involved have long been a part of everyday business in radio and TV. So it’s nothing new to me.

As you might expect, many that use the openness of the internet to freely express themselves fear any type of regulation. I would never fault anyone who seeks to be vigilant when it comes to any kind of control of one’s freedoms. However, I do scratch my head when some bloggers and social media types complain that something needs to be done about the many abuses of that openness, like pop-up advertising and spam, yet scream when they are asked to clearly disclose any compensation they may get for their opinions.

No matter where you fall on these guidelines, it’s really quite simple…be honest and be open. Then you won’t need worry about any of it.

With that in mind I thought I’d share this little excerpt from the BlogWell event I attended at General Mills not that long ago. Presented by the folks at GasPedal, the day long event showcased some interesting social media endeavors. It also gave Andy Sernovitz a chance to talk about ethics in the on line and interactive space.

My apologies for the audio quality. You’ll need to listen carefully, but I think it’s worth it.

Incommunicado vs Communicado(?)

My week is offering me two extremes in communication. Monday I spent the day with my family at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine here in the Twin Cities. Today I’m at Blogwell, a social media gathering at General Mills, on behalf of Minnov8. The difference? I was “kicking it old school” on Monday with no electronics (except my camera) allowed on the course. Today, I’m live blogging, uploading video and taking photos for the entire event….Laptop, phone, Flip camera all in tow.

Monday would have been a great opportunity to go nuts with photos, video, and tweets galore (Yes, I’m one of those guys.) But sorry, “no cellphones please”. I’m sure this is to cut down on the talking and cellphone alerts that would inevitably interrupt play. Remember, this is a place where you don’t even clap out loud. 

I have to tell you it was a bit refreshing to not worry about ‘sharing’ my experiences with my followers and friends. I felt absolutely zero ‘social media’ guilt. That is until I saw some guy in the bathroom (a rather elegant outhouse I must admit) texting on his contraband phone. For a brief moment I thought I was letting my peeps down by not smuggling in my phone. Then I thought, “Hey wait a second. Get with the program guy.” Follow the rules! Golf is all about rules. Imagine if Davis Love stepped in Tiger’s line because he didn’t feel like following the rules. Anarchy!

Today on the other hand, is another story. The folks at GasPedal have invited Minnov8 to cover the Blogwell event at General Mills this afternoon. As I mentioned above, we’ll be bringing all of our social media geekery to bear…and we’ll be doing it live via a rather cool service called ScribbleLive. It’s a great service where we can set up an event via our Twitter login info. Not only can we enter comments in real time, we can format the look and feel, upload video (though I found embedding via YouTube was faster and more reliable at this point), add photos, post to Twitter, and more. We can also embed the whole shootin’ match on a page at Minnov8. Check it out.

What a week of exploring both ends of the always on, always connected world. You still can choose not to be. BTW, I did choose to upload some photos from the PGA to my photostream on Flickr. (Yeah, I know, I’m what people outside of the social media biz…the real world…call “one of those.”)


The Cluetrain…Express

The Cluetrain Manifesto serves as a must read for anyone who wants to best understand the connected world. It really serves as one of social media’s guide posts, emphasizing the human and conversation factors above the technology. It also has been key to the best practices of social media.

That said, there are still many who have not read it. Maybe you have used the excuse that you haven’t had time to read the book. (I know I have a shelf of books waiting for that mythical “What can I do now?” time period.) Maybe you have made other books a priority. Maybe you are waiting for the Cliff Notes version. You can’t say you don’t have the money…the text is free online.

Thanks to a heads up from
Paul Fabretti, you can view a slide presentation put together by tecorporation and SODB. I still recommend you read the whole Manifesto, but if you can’t do that right now, I’ll settle for the Cluetrain Theses if it helps anyone better understand the social media concept. Take a few minutes to scroll through this slide presentation via Slideshare and hop on the Cluetrain…express.



Social Media Reality Check

I’ve become more and more enamored with the concept of “social” media and the natural extension of it…social marketing. As I speak to groups, approach the subject with potential clients, or discuss it with colleagues in the social media world, I have to keep reminding myself to be aware of who actually uses this relatively new medium. Please note that the “media” of social media is the new part. The “social” has been around a whole lot longer!

To give myself a social media reality check, and to give me some fuel for a presentation and discussion at a recent UnSummit, I decided to ask my community about their use, or even awareness of social media. In this case, “my community” is made up of the people in my neighborhood, my social circles, and those I see regularly through my kid’s activities; the soccer and baseball parents I see…often.

Being the research geek that I can be at times I decided to put together an online survey of 10 questions, which I then sent out to about 50 people. I received some 30 odd responses to serve as the basis for my reality check. Okay, this is far from scientific. It’s a brief overview with very little screening involved. Anybody who got the e-mail could respond regardless of age, social standing, or tech savvy. You can download a one sheet of the results here if you’d like but remember, these tables are a basis for discussion. Let’s take a look…

First and foremost, the group is predominantly 35 years old and over…ahhh, my peeps, but also a good representation of your average Joe Six-pack.

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There’s Room For You On the Bandwagon

It started with a post from Doc Searls and..well..many of the folks I follow in the blogosphere started posting it. Excuse me while I hop on the bandwagon and post it for your consideration (if you haven’t already seen it).

The folks at MoFuse have a cool little application to help you take your blog mobile. Check it out here.

Couple of quick tips…

  1. Try to avoid the temptation to use all of the options. For mobile, the simpler the better. Not everyone has a the iPhone 3G.
  2. Don’t forget to post the link on your blog somewhere to alert your constituency that you have a mobile version. MoFuse offers PHP script for automatic forwarding, but not all blog services offer the ability to implemnt it. Like my Typepad account.
  3. Remember, the content is still the most important thing…no matter how cool the technology.

I’m gonna hop down off the bandwagon now.

Keeping Up…”I Haven’t Died Yet.”

The quote, from Michael Arrington, is a bit sobering. Part of An interesting article from The New York Times…In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop…it really drove the point home to me about what to avoid in the “new media” world.

As much as I struggle to keep up with the vast amounts of information available at the click of a mouse, those generating it can struggle even more. The article points out the same thing that I recall Bill Gates mentioning in an interview, you worry every minute that someone will beat you to introducing something new.

I often worry about what is the next post going to be about? What can we create that will push our business to the next level? How many people have the same idea? This question alone is usually answered by a quick Google…roughly a bazillion. As I’ve mentioned here before, I invented Pandora…a mere 2 years after it was introduced. Who knew?

How do you keep up? The answer is…for most of us…you don’t. Look there will always be someone, many someones, who really get a rush out of the first to invent, the first to introduce, the first report. They think it’s fun! These people love doing it and there is no reason you should not love letting them. Especially when you can be the one that can help explain what that “first” means to the other 99.5% of the world. The fact is that if you’re reading this blog…any blog…you are already ahead of many in the world. Once you get into “the internet thing” it’s very easy to forget that for those over 25 or 30 (and that’s a lot of people) are not scratching the surface of it.

Can’t keep up with it all? Don’t try so hard. Find what you love and follow that. Use the technology open to you to do it efficiently if you’d like, but love it. Hang with others who have some similar interests, but more that are different. Count on them to expose you to new things. Maybe take a day or two a week to “search” for the latest…but don’t just sit in front of the computer or TV working on that special blue tint to your skin. Get out there and tell the world what you know. You might be surprised that you are the first…and maybe the best.

ohwha tagee kiam

…OhWha TAGee KIAm…Oh What A Geek I Am. Who knew?  I joined the ranks of “Those that can not wait” today. Not content to sit and wait (what, a whole hour) for the video of the Steve Jobs keynote, affectionately known as Stevenote, at MacWorld today I fired up the computer to try and follow along.

Since the presentation isn’t aired live I depended on the kindness of about a zillion sources of hurriedly written text by those inside the Moscone Center. You’ll note just two of the screens that cluttered my desktop for the hour. I haven’t included the other blog windows, my Twitter and e-mail. You’ll also note that one of the screens is my AIM screen. Yep, to really peg the geek-meter, I was IM-ing with my friend Mark Swift as he joined a bunch of his IT pals for lunch and blog watch during the event…the next thing you know I’ll be bidding for a “tricorder” on eBay.

I realized the last time I had this many screens open was when the I35 bridge collapsed. Interesting how I now gravitate to my computer desktop when I really want to follow something closely. I’m using this form of media so much…maybe it’s not “new” anymore.

New Media, New Year Resolutions

This year, I will…

everything I can to make the adoption of “new media” as easy for everyone as
possible. We “early adopters” can’t forget that most folks are still digesting
the internet as a whole, much less all it has to offer. There is so much more
going on than Google, iTunes, and text messaging.


there is a difference between sending a message and conversing. Spend more time
talking face to face or on the phone with people. Text, e-mail, etc. are great
for quick thoughts but can never replace the emotion of a great conversation.

 …work to
improve the quality and the content in my writing. I write more now than I have
in years and I want my blog posts to be more than articles. I want them to inform,
inspire, and entertain all at the same time. (Okay, this one is going to take a
lot of work.)

 …work to
improve the quality of the audio online. I was listening to my son’s iPod the other
day and realized that we’ve taught people to settle for audio quality that is,
to put it politely, not so great. When we adopted the CD we sacrificed some depth
to our audio, just as we did when we started using audio tape. Now that we are
using the internet as our main source of music we have sacrificed even more or
that sound quality. I heard a record the other day and I was blown away by the
sound I had been missing. If you have some vinyl around you should do the same.
(If you have no idea what a record is, please seek one out…maybe your attic?) I
had become use to the sound of an mp3, probably downloaded a terrible bit rate.
I will do whatever I can to hear more of what the musicians and performers
worked so hard to put into their recordings.

 …work to
improve the quality of video online. The same challenge faces us with what we
see online. With the advent of HDTV the bar has been raised even higher. What I
see on my Smartphone should look just as good as what I see on cable.

advertisers that the “new media” audience is of incredibly high quality and is
worth more than a traditional media user. There are already scores of studies  highlighting the incredibly high recall rates for online
advertising (even higher with a mix of media), we need to get the advertisers to respect that and think beyond “cost per

…enjoy more
time outside the ether so that I can bring more reality into it. Pull myself
out of the screen, away from the keyboard, and off the cell phone. I need to go
outside and take a walk whenever I can. In fact, there’s a new layer of snow
and a crisp morning waiting for me right now…

Happy New Year!

This post can also be found on the Association of Downloadable Media site.

Belated Blogging Birthday…

I guess I was so obsessed with writing my blog post yesterday, I missed the 10th birthday celebration of ‘blogging”. I didn’t even remember to get a card…or go to the party. (Was there cake?)

No worries, there are plenty of posts about the big day like this one from Ars Technica and this one from one of those credited with giving birth to blogging, Dave Winer.

Now what to get blogging for its birthday…

More participants? (Hard to top, according to Technorati, 112 million.)
More readers? That’s a gift that could keep on giving (See the next gift idea.)
More ways to make money on blogging? (See the previous gift idea.)
Fewer blogs about just tech? (My geek meter is pegging.)
More blogs about how tech can impact Joe Six-pack? (Oh, oh, I have an idea…*)

Wow what do you get the blog that has everything?

*Shameless tease.

Sunday Morning Conversation

I woke to my family’s usual Sunday Morning routine. Being
the first to rise, I watch as the family staggers from their bedrooms with
sleep in their eyes. My son heads downstairs to work on his Guitar Hero chops,
my daughter climbs into our bed to watch the latest on the all important Disney
Channel, and my wife and I grab our coffee and settle in to watch CBS News
Sunday Morning

While not as good as it was when Charles Kuralt hosted, and
despite too many reruns from the archives, as well as Charles Osgood’s annoying
obsession with rhyming and insistence on referring to the year as
“twenty-oh-seven,” CBS still manages to present some great “articles” during
it’s Sunday morning magazine show.

This morning’s piece, ”Less Talk And A Little More Conversation, was right up the
RemainComm alley. As the use of other forms of communication proliferates, the
ability for people to converse is becoming more of a problem. Though the piece
quickly became too film oriented, the underlying importance of the give and
take of conversation, as well as the importance of listening remained front and

An aside; the topic of blogging came up briefly in comments
from writer Delia Ephron. She noted, “So, if you are blogging…you’re
e-mailing – you aren’t listening, right? You don’t have to listen. It’s really
just what’s in your own head.” Hold up there Ms. Ephron, blogging is more akin to writing than it is to conversation. Are we
comparing apples to apples here? If you’re blogging you are not e-mailing. Ephron
goes on to say, “I mean, conversation is about feelings and emotion,
that’s what it should really be about. If we’re not seeing it, that’s the
loss.” With this, I agree, though make no mistake blogging is also about sharing feelings
and emotion, conversation goes farther and includes seeing and hearing those feelings and emotions.

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Is what you’re saying getting “the look?”

You know the look I’m talking about…the one similar to a dog
looking at a ceiling fan (so ably demonstrated by our family pet, Belle). “The look”
has also been referred to as the “deer in the headlights look” (Sorry, I
have a pet deer…so please refer to said dog.) It’s that look you may get after
you’ve just explained your theory, concept, or next million-dollar idea. It
made complete sense to you. It had everything…explanation, application, reward.
Why on earth is your audience (one person or a hundred) looking at you like you
just spoke in gibberish? Perhaps, to their ears, you have.

It is seen or heard so often, especially in the internet and new media
world. There are ideas, applications, websites, widgets and entire companies
that may offer something to a potential consumer or their business that could
change their lives…or, at least make them easier. But the explanation was so
bogged down in industry speak that they tilted their head nodded and said
something like…”Cool, let me get back to you.” Never to be heard from again.

Let me give you an example with this line from a blog (that
shall remain nameless) regarding the recent Open Social platform from Google.

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