One More Lesson: Commitment

Yesterday, my good friend Steve Borsch wrote, as he always does, a very insightful piece on Connecting the Dots. Lessons From Our First “Social Media” President highlighted many aspects of the Barack Obama campaign for President and it’s obvious social media strategy.

One lesson learned that went without much notice was that of the need to commit to social media fully. Make no mistake, the Obama campaign was a well oiled machine in it’s use of social media. However, I noted a few lapses in the execution of that well thought out plan.

The biggest lapse, that of inviting people to sign up to receive a text message when Obama chose his running mate, implying being “the first to know”. I still feel a sense of betrayal when that text was received…around three in the morning. We may have been some of the first to know, but 3am? Sounds like executing an obligation rather than telling a friend.

Steve also shared the email that ‘Barack’ sent just prior to his Grant Park acceptance speech. It was a wonderful note that should be shared by all involved…yet it hasn’t been posted on the Facebook page. In fact, as of this writing, the last note on Facebook says, “There are still a few hours to make a big difference in this election.” while the MySpace page is current. As Steve pointed out, “you can’t let a friendship wane and then call on that friend in your time of need and expect them to be there for you.”

Admittedly, these are some incredibly minor issues. Ones easily overlooked and overcome. What I’m trying to point out is that any kind of organized social media involvement requires a huge committment. To do it right, and I think the Obama campaign did it pretty damn right (they could have shortened their list of target applications), a committment of time, money and human resources must be made.

The social web never sleeps. People are always coming and going. The conversation continues and that means you have to participate…often.

Steve also notes, “Don’t stop the conversation.” The battle may be won but the war continues. Is this truly the beginings of an ongoing conversation or the end of a marketing campaign? The coming days, weeks, months, and years will determine if Barack Obama truly is the first “social media” President or just the first “social media” Presidential candidate.

One last thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud Steve for noting how much the election of the best candidate to the highest post in our country was not about race. Like Steve, I paid little attention to the color of now President-elect Obama’s skin, thankfully, much as the rest of the country did the same. We continue to make incredible strides against racism in this country. It’s ultimate conquering will be signalled by our ability to talk about accomplishments by anyone without making a reference to their skin tone.

My, hasn’t the FCC been busy…

Wow, the FCC turned up in the news allot over the past 10 days. This could lead to displacing the latest news from Brangelina…nah! The impact will be felt across all media. Well, maybe not print…but they have enough to worry about.

Satellite Radio.
Big surprise, they approved the merger of XM and Sirius with very few stipulations attached. Much to the chagrin of the NAB, MPR, NPR, PRI, and many other letters of the alphabet except MEL. Mel Karmazin has successfully gotten his wish and, once he fights off the inevitable appeals, will oversee one unprofitable satellite radio service instead of two. So far the only way this business has made any money at all is from investors who keep hoping that the promises made to them that “it will be profitable” actually come true.

To be fair, this was inevitable. To deploy that many birds, maintain studios and staff, keep up with operating expenses, pay content fees and royalties, as well as create new content while patiently waiting for enough subscribers to make it all profitable is no simple task for one company, let alone two.

In it’s July 20th Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the FCC is looking to mandate filters “That filters or blocks images and text that constitute obscenity or pornography…” on free broadband. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, especially when you come across the infamous “as measured by contemporary community standards” line. This has to do with the new spectrum that the FCC is auctioning off known as the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) Spectrum. Does this start us down the road of censorship of internet content? Take note: this talks about filtering services that make internet content available to the public for free, not the removal of content from the internet. Like I said a slippery slope. Info here and here.

I remember distinctly the day Janet Jackson’s nipple became half-time entertainment because of that “wardrobe malfunction”. I’m still trying to figure out if the way I explained it to my kids was even close to effective. I also remember the half million dollar fine the FCC threw at CBS for airing it. Keep in mind a 30 second ad costs 2.7 million clams so really, the fine was chump change. No matter, it all got overturned on July 21. Look for more nipples coming soon to half-time shows near you. Now if we can get somebody to tell the N(nipple)FL to lighten up on the use of the words Super Bowl. C’mon guys, don’t make everyone in media say “the big game.” For the love of Pete…why would you want to limit someone from using your brand by name. Find something else for your lawyers to do. But I digress…

Radio. All of the above.

The Point Is…Concerns of a Music Loving Radio Fan

 One of the most highly anticipated sessions at the Conclave Learning Conference this past week was the Friday Royalties and Performance Fees for terrestrial radio discussion. This one had all the signs of being highly combustible, and for the most part it did produce some great sound bites.

A quick bit of history. One of our players, incorporated in 2003, Sound Exchange is designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to collect and distribute digital performance royalties for featured recording artists and sound recording copyright owners (usually a record label) when their sound recordings are performed on digital cable and satellite television music, internet and satellite radio. SoundExchange currently represents over 3,500 record labels and over 31,000 featured artists and whose members include both signed and unsigned recording artists; small, medium and large independent record companies; and major label groups and artist-owned labels.

The other of our players is the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade association that advocates on behalf of more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and also broadcast networks before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Courts

The current debate and the reason for the session at the Conclave Learning Conference centers on pending legislation that would require terrestrial radio broadcasters pay a performance fee. This performance fee is designed to pay performers of the music on a per play basis and is already paid by online, satellite and cable stations. In short, this is a new fee, or “tax” as the NAB’s David Rehr likes to say, to broadcasters. (Radio, like digital media, currently pays royalties to writers via BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.) Broadcasters and the NAB feel that due to the promotional nature of the medium, they should be exempt from the fee. Sound Exchange disagrees and, that like other entities including online and satellite, radio should pony up. Those are the facts in a very small nutshell. (More can be found here and here.)

The session produced some brief volleys between the two sides inspiring
quotes like David Rehr’s “I’d rather cut my own throat than negotiate”
for a performance royalty. In actuality, there was very little actual
discussion or debate between the opposing sides. Both sides, with a few
exceptions chose to make statements to the audience instead.

[Read more…]

Revisiting RemainComm

I want to take an opportunity to follow-up on some of the
posts you’ve seen here…

ADM-About Da Money-Things are rolling along with the
formation of the Association for Downloadable Media, most importantly the announcement of its
first open meeting. If you’re into the whole new media thing and your headed
for the Podcast and New Media Expo coming up September 28-30 in Ontario, CA,
the meeting will happen at 7:30am on the 28th. Learn more by
clicking here. I also want to encourage you to join, especially if you’re about
making money with podcasting or any downloadable media.

A Note For the Teacher-I heard back from my son’s
communications teacher and she is anxious to dedicate a unit to communicating
in the world of new media. I love that! She has also asked for my help. So I’d love
to hear from you. If you have ideas on what to include in teaching middle school kids about
text, e-mail, blogging and more. Feel free to e-mail me here.

Google gives a
little “push” to make more “pull”
-Some activity in the FCC auction of the 700mHz band. Though the FCC didn’t completely go along with Google’s requests
for a completely open platform, they did set aside some of the best real estate
in the spectrum to be used by a carrier “as a network that is open to any
devices and services.” Google still hasn’t committed to be part of the
bidding but Steve Jobs and Apple have started to express some interest. Apple
vs. Google, Apple vs. AT&T, “dogs sleeping with cats”…This auction, set for
January 16th, 2008, could be fun to watch, to say the least.

Timing + Technology + Marketing = Milestones

I think we’d all agree the YouTube/CNN debate was a milestone.
While having little impact on the answers the candidates gave, the introduction
of video questions via YouTube brought a much more personal and emotional
intensity to the process, more so even than the “town hall” versions. It also
showed us “real” Americans…warts and all in the privacy and security of their
own homes. I think there were even more milestones.

Of course we could have done it years ago. Heck, Bob Saget
made a great career out of showing us personal video…warts (not to mention
skating parrots) and all. We could record video on our VHS cameras and send it
in a box to a TV show. Why didn’t this happen until now? It’s simple…timing,
technology and, frankly, marketing.

Back in the tape days, video was all about special events
and entertainment. The only time we busted out the camera was to save that
wedding, that first bike ride, or that shot of Grandma taking a header into her
birthday cake. Now, video is with us everywhere. Take a look at your cell phone.
Years ago, the technical pieces weren’t in place. (A concept not wasted on the
founders of YouTube themselves.) Now anyone can capture a moment and, through
the magic of inexpensive or free video editing software, can inject all the
emotion and artistry they care to. Then just upload it on the computer for the
entire world to see. It just doesn’t take much of our time to be part of the
video universe.

Also, through outlets like CNN, that new technology is all
the buzz. Video is not just about entertaining ourselves anymore. It’s about communicating.
Hey, this is serious stuff. (Sorry Bob.) That’s the marketing piece.

Look, not everyone is producing videos. Just note the fact
that there were only 1500-3000 videos submitted (depending on the source you
use), kind of a small number in the great scheme of the World Wide Web, let
alone YouTube. These forays into the Web world won’t change the way we elect
our public officials, at least not yet. But if the marketing of video debates,
all the talk and all the hype will get more people to participate in the process
that’s truly a milestone to be grateful for.

Google gives a little “push” to make more “pull”.

If you noticed the bit of activity late in the week around
the FCC 700 MHz auction, you noticed Google being big, strong, and, it appears,
not “evil”. In a nutshell, the FCC has some spare bandwidth to sell off now
that TV broadcasters are going digital. Google said it would participate in the
FCC’s auction of the frequencies in the 700 MHz “wireless spectrum” (with its
4.6 billion dollar buy-in) if the Fed made it mandatory that the band remain
open once sold. Fcclogowords_3That means the consumer could use any type of equipment to
access the band. According to Google Chief Exec, and guy with the really fat
wallet, Eric Schmidt, “When Americans can use the software and handsets of
their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win.” He also
stated Google’s desire to see another provision which would require other
companies to be allowed to interconnect “at any technically feasible
point” with the winning bidder’s network.

Hey, anytime somebody speaks out in the best interest of the
public (read, “Me.”) I say great! Let the big guys put some pressure on to make
sure that I get more control over what I want. You go Google! It also really
gets the big wireless companies’ undies in a bunch. That’s just a little bonus.

It’s perfectly logical for Google to get into the wireless
space. They already offer many services in that world. In addition, odds would
be that now is the time to take a shot at it. In fact, consensus by many is
that this auction of such prime “radio” real estate could be the last chance
for a new company to get into wireless against the established players
(AT&T, etc). It also makes sense
that they would want to keep the source open. It’s what they do and they’ve
made some decent scratch doing it.

So let’s say the FCC goes along with the suggestions and
Google goes after the available bandwidth, is this really all bad? Perhaps it’s
time for a new way of doing things. I spent many years dealing with and
watching the aftermath of the auctioning of “move in” frequencies to small
operators. It didn’t turn out well. In fact, it led to a bunch of operators
losing a lot of money trying to compete and ultimately resulted in the Telecom
act of 1996 and the consolidation of radio. And didn’t that turn out well?

Plus, even if Google isn’t the winning bidder maybe a more
open platform would drive the wireless companies to improve they way they do
business. (Hey, maybe I could actually modify my plan without waiting on hold
for 50 minutes listening to that insipid drum progression…Naaaah…that would be
too good to be true.) One thing for sure is, open source and open platforms
have always led to increased innovation in shorter time. C’mon, how long do you
have to get your wireless butt kicked by Luxembourg
before you realize that
some other parts of the world might be on to something?


Look, I’m like you. Anytime one of the big guys steps up and
throws down the glove to the Fed I immediately think, “Hey, what are these guys
up to?” Even when it’s a company that has the phrase “don’t be evil” chiseled
into their foundation. But I also don’t think it will result in anything worse
than what’s happened in the past…and the upside is soooo much better.

Update:Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois hops on the open source train as he looks for input on the nation’s broadband policy. Check out his post and the Legislation 2.0: National Broadband Project. More open source in action.