SXSW – Al Gore and Sean Parker

13 03 2012

A session with the founding President of Facebook and the former Vice President of the USA is the sort of one off experience that on its own can justify the trip to Austin. The excitement in the vast auditorium was palpable.

This was a tour of the history and future of democracy and how it might be shaped by the social web. The Athenian ideal and the importance of the Gutenberg press were the scene setters. Gore remains the master of the sound bite. He illustrated the impact of print on the spread of democratic ideas with the line “Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was the Harry Potter of the18th Century”.

There was agreement between the two that democracy in the US in its current form is deeply flawed. The ability of people to promote and publish on-line may have an even more significant impact than the arrival of the printing press. Whilst the people in power don’t really understand the power of the social web says Sean Parker “we may have an opportunity to take back the system.”

Gore is a great orator but at times he seemed unaware that for this audience Parker was the person that many of the SXSW audience came to hear. That said when the the “Nerd Spring” arrives and the history of democracy and the web is written both of these men will be cited in dispatches.

10 other reasons for ‘The News of the World’ closure

12 07 2011

Although the hacking scandal was the catalyst for the closure of the News of the World, it was far from the only reason.  Here are 10 other factors that probably played a part in the News Corporation decision to the stop the presses.

1. They had been planning a 7 day a week tabloid anyway and The Sun is a more powerful brand than The News of The World.  A managing editor for the 7 day combined paper was already in place before the scandal broke.

2. To reduce claims about competition and help the BSkyB bid.  Even just a week ago the most likely barrier to the bid for full control of BSkyB was one of media plurality.  By ditching a huge circulation title they provided a counter to the claim that they controlled too much of the UK news media.

3. Money The title paid half a million in compensation and costs in the Max Moseley case.  There have also been a series of out of court payments over hacking and other matters in recent months and there’s little doubt these were escalating.  Perhaps there was a fear that the paper despite its circulation would make ever-increasing losses.

4. News Corporation is a global concern and its global reputation is more important than the fortunes of one British newspaper.

5. To deflect attention from the embattled Chief Executive on News International, Rebekah Brooks. It may have been a motive but it didn’t work.

6. Showing muscle. Murdoch is ruthless and wanted to seize the agenda and demonstrate that he was in control.  It showed they were capable of changing the game.

7. It was no longer the UK’s biggest selling newspaper. It’s circulation had fallen below 3 million and for the first time in decades The Sun was on average outselling the NOTW.

8. To protect friends in high places Andy Coulson’s associations with convicted criminals was already on record.  Further discussion would be uncomfortable for the prime minister and the Murdochs.

9. It’s over for newspapers.  An exaggeration maybe but consolidation of UK newspapers was long overdue.  Media experts have been predicting that titles will go for years.  News Corporation is a bigger company.

10. They know there were far worse transgressions and the brand was toxic. Now we know that too.

Cameron I Forbid You to Like The Smiths

2 12 2010

Since the then newly crowned PM Tony Blair invited Noel Gallagher to Downing Street,  politicians have been trying to borrow cred from the music business.  Who can forget (if you are old enough to remember) Neil Kinnock singing and swinging to the beat of D:Ream’s  “Things Can Only Get Better” after the ’97 Labour election victory?

Gordon Brown’s was famously said to have a soft spot for the Arctic Monkeys but when challenged by a men’s magazine, he was unable to name a single track from their debut album.  To be fair to Gordon he apparently was asked to choose whom he preferred The Monkeys or James Blunt.  Fair call Gordon.

Today a new political threat emerged from the social web.  Apparently the Prime Minister has been professing his love for Manchester icons ‘The Smiths’.  It’s not impossible that he does quite like them, he was just seventeen when they released their first album.  However the band’s guitarist isn’t having any of it.  He tweeted today “David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t. I forbid you to like it.”

Not much chance of gaining any reflected cool when the band so publicly disowns you.

Cameron and Zuckerberg Face to Face

9 07 2010

Two weeks ago this blog reported that Mark Zuckerberg and David Cameron had met at Number 10.  In this video conference between the two of them, Cameron confirms that the meeting happened. 

In an extraordinary, albeit somewhat staged discussion, David Cameron demonstrates that he hasn’t forgotten the PR skills that he forged in his early career.  In short, this is a quick chat about crowd sourcing ideas for debt reduction using Facebook.  The British public will be invited to communicate their ideas through a dedicated forum on the number one social network.    This is partly a PR exercise to show just how down with the new channels the new PM is.  He even speaks the lingo “thank you for engaging” he says to Zuckerberg and “it’s all been, up to now, very top down”.

It also shows just how powerful the social networks are becoming.  Not only does Zuckerberg get ‘face time’ with the British Prime Minister for the second time in less than a month he is also given an open invitation to drop by whenever he likes; “next time you are in town come and look us up”.

Vince Cable, PR and the Smokefree Rooms

9 05 2010

I’ve posted before about the #invincecable campaign to highlight the superior qualifications to be Chancellor of the Exchequer held by one Vincent Cable Esquire.  The campaign has had various elements including a crowdflutter that almost halved the odds on Vince being the next Chancellor before William Hill suspended betting altogether.  There has been a twitter brainstorm and today is “Blog Vince Day”. Now that there is hung parliament and in a week when the PR on most people’s lips is Proportional Representation, it is vital to remind people that the current economic conditions require the best man for the job, and not the best man to suit other political ambitions and agreements hatched in Smokefree rooms.

Make your voice heard blog, post comments tweet or email your new MPs to demand that Vince Cable be made chancellor.  It is his birthday after all.

Will the Last Newspaper Proprietor to Back a Party in the General Election Please Turn Out the Lights

23 04 2010

I posted a few months ago saying that The Sun can’t win elections any more or even influence them in the same way they once did.

This election is proving that to be the case.  Yesterday after the press rounded on Nick Clegg after his success in the first TV debate and on the cusp of the second TV hustings, the twittering classes hit back.  The hashtag #nickcleggsfault was essentially a crowd sourced piss-take that said we don’t have to take whatever politically motivated guff you throw at us and the choice is ours not yours.

The Murdoch media are however hanging on to the old ideas of influence and boy have they had a concerted go in the last 24 hours pushing a YouGov poll on Sky News that was out of step with all others and that the pollsters have admitted today that they used a flawed process. The Sun has even been accused of suppressing polls that are out of step with their support for the Tories.

However we are now facing the absolute racing certainty of  hung/balanced parliament, so the only party guaranteed to be part of the next administration is the Liberal Democrat party.  When media owners realise that they can’t be certain of backing the winner they will back off from nailing their colours to the mast.   The backlash begins.

Politics, PR and Social Gambling

28 03 2010

You might have noticed the InVinceCable badge top right.  It’s a campaign to promote Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman as the best candidate to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I became involved following an e-mail discussion with Philip Sheldrake, someone who I’ve still never met, but knew of by reputation.  In fact he is mentioned in my book (right) as one of the experts in social web analytics.  Philip along with Mark Pinsent, an ex Edelman Director and communications expert who lives in Bordeaux, was corralling a collection of media, PR and digital people to launch and participate in the campaign.  It launches officially tomorrow although it has been ‘live’ for about three weeks.

It’s one of the most extraordinary things that I have ever been involved in.  Pretty much everything happens on-line even the meeting are held using the Skype conference facility.  Many of the people involved don’t know each other.  We have no funding yet we managed last week to attract the attention of the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones.

Then on Friday after an e-mail exchange a bunch of us decided to have a little bet on Vince Cable giving the next budget speech as Chancellor in the new parliament. We decided to give the social gamble a hashtag #crowdflutter and we invited others to join in.    Within a few hours the odds on Vince had fallen from 12-1 down to 8-1.  By early afternoon #invincecable caused William Hill to do the unthinkable they suspended betting. Later in the evening the following appeared on their press room “William Hill have slashed their odds about Vince Cable delivering the next Budget from 12/1 to 7/1 after a stream of internet bets for him to do so.  For reasons not immediately apparent to us we suddenly took a slew of internet bets for Mr Cable to be Chancellor when the next Budget is delivered.”

Next stop tomorrow night’s Ask the Chancellors debate on Channel Four at 8pm.

Social Web Traps Be Careful Out There

22 03 2010

The social web has started to feel like a bloody dangerous place.  In the last few days there have been not one but two major PR disasters befalling household names.  The first was Nestle’s appallingly handled response to the Greenpeace Palm Oil campaign, and today the CashGordon debacle has left both Labour and the Tories with pre-election bruising.

The Nestle debacle was covered in detail by my colleague Jon Clements on PR Media Blog but to summarise; a naive confrontation on the company’s Facebook Fan Page led to a full-scale debate on-line about deforestation in Indonesia and whether the brand’s use of palm oil was endangering the Orang Utan.  It was a text-book case of  ill preparedness and it seemed to outsiders as if the office junior in the marketing department had been entrusted with the global brand image.  Whoever was looking after the Facebook page was unable to deal appropriately with criticism of the company and rather than defuse the situation the flames were fanned.   For many people it was the first time they had linked KitKats with deforestation and it remains to be seen how many people will take a break from Nestle products.

Today’s pratfall was the collapse of the Tory attack site Cash Gordon.  The site allowed web users to post unmoderated tweets with the #cashgordon hashtag.   Having the words “Cameron is a paedophile” on a Conservative web site was just one of the unimagined consequences. Things got worse when a security flaw allowed the site to be hacked redirecting visitors in turn to the Labour website, a rickroll and a variety of shock sites.   Twitter users were circulating the code online required for the hack before Tory HQ regained control and directed users back to the main party site.

Solutions are to be found in a mixture of digital know how good old-fashioned PR practise; plan and test assiduously in advance, rehearse Q&As, monitor and respond, escalate responsibility during a crisis and just becasue they are digital natives don’t let inexperienced people manage the fall out.

Harriet Harman Twitter Spam Victim

25 02 2010

The twitter ‘phishing’ scam has claimed the Leader of the House of Commons as one of its latest victims.  Harriet Harman’s twitter account @HarrietHarman has been sending out spam direct messages to her network including Tory grandee and twitter newbie Alan Duncan MP.

Harman and her colleagues deemed the twitter scam scandal of sufficient importance to be raised in parliament.  On discovering that her account had been hacked Harman tweeted at lunchtime today;  “last tweet genuinely from me was about Commons reform. Now changed password. Janet Anderson MP protested twitter misuse in Commons today”. 

Alan Duncan who has only been using twitter for a couple of days on receiving the scam DM sent a text message to Ms Harman which alerted her to the hack.  He commented on-line that the Times and the BBC had both contacted him about the story.

Now that twitter is deemed sufficiently important to be discussed in the house will the election campaign begin to move on-line?

Guido Builds Kids Sledge Shock

10 01 2010

I’m often intrigued by the humanizing aspect of twitter.  Guido Fawkes, he of the Order Order blog is often portrayed by as part of some lunatic fringe but today he used twitter to talk about building a sledge for his kids:

Immensely satisfying afternoon, building wooden sledge, painting sledge, pulling kids on sledge. Tip : use carpet rails for runners.

In the past Guido hasn’t used twitter for much other than pointing people in the direction of his blog (much as SocialWebPR does).  However his occasional musing give a better sense of who he is.  It never fail to be amaze me,  just how much of a person’s character can be unmasked in just 140 characters.

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