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Strategic Communications for a Changing World

Archive for May, 2011

What Happens in Vegas…Affects Everyone In Vegas

Posted by John Kreuzer under Clients, Events, Public Relations

May 18th, 2011

Interop, the IT industry’s largest networking event, completed its 25th annual event last Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas. While attendance and the number of participating vendors continue to be smaller than in years past, there was unquestionably a great deal of buzz around this year’s show.

From the typical product announcements, to a variety of business deals and executive changes (see The Empire Strikes Back: Cisco Brings On Board Fabric Father, David Yen, there was plenty of news to go around this year.

While Interop once again brought all the key industry players together, and buzzwords were thrown out left and right, there was one word that seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue: OpenFlow. In fact, judging by the noise on the show floor, Interop 2011 could have very easily changed its name to OpenFlow 2011 this year.

According to their website, The OpenFlow Switching specification was created back in 2008 to “evangelize and support OpenFlow.” Their goal is for OpenFlow to be owned by the community for the betterment of research and innovation in the networking industry.

OpenFlow allows the path of network packets through the network of switches to be determined by software running on a separate server. Mike Fratto at InformationWeek explains:

OpenFlow is a protocol which allows a centralized controller to configure and update OpenFlow edge switch forwarding tables. With OpenFlow, the controller can determine the optimal path through the network based on shortest distance, access controls, bandwidth, or other constraints.

OpenFlow is being promoted by the Open Networking Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a new approach to networking called software-defined networking. The software-defined network is a departure from the traditional networking paradigm with a goal of making small and large networks programmable in much the same way that individual computers are.

Our own client, IP Infusion, announced at the show that they had joined the ONF as part of its initiative to further innovation in software-defined networking.

In discussing IP Infusion’s joining of the ONF, CEO Koichi Narasaki stated:

“The goals outlined by the ONF align perfectly with our vision for transforming tomorrow’s communications networks today. Without innovation, new approaches such as cloud computing will never reach their full potential. The foundation supports our goal to create solutions that accelerate innovative solutions for data center networks. We clearly see the value that the ONF will bring to our OEM customers as the organization drives a new generation of standards-based and intelligent networking solutions for service providers and enterprises. Participating in an organization that includes so many other industry leaders will allow us to drive technological advances that will enhance our offerings.”

In my time walking the show flow, it was obvious that there was a lot of noise about both the ONF and OpenFlow. Representatives of member companies didn’t hesitate to talk about their role in the organization and a number of companies were demonstrating OpenFlow switches and controllers. There was even a lab demonstration located on the show floor which had attendees coming and going throughout the event. Sean Michael Kerner of InternetNews.com has a great demo which he shot at the OpenFlow lab.

So why is OpenFlow so important? Here is what Jim Duffy at Network World had to say:

Vendors offer varying degrees of user programmability on their routers and switches. This can lead to limited functionality for traffic engineering and management, or inconsistent traffic management between equipment from multiple vendors. OpenFlow is designed to provide consistency in traffic management and engineering by making this control function independent of the hardware it’s intended to control.

Will OpenFlow work? According to Jon Oltsik of Network World:

“The geeky theoretical side of me really likes OpenFlow. Seems like a great way to virtualize networks, centralize security control enforcement, and customize network flows based upon application requirements.”

While many have said in the past few years that Interop is getting old and tiresome, I still feel that the show is very important for the industry as evidenced by the buzz at this year’s show around the ONF and OpenFlow.

Interop still serves an important purpose as the show continues to bring the entire industry together for 1:1 discussions with everyone from small startups to the 500 pound gorillas such as Cisco and Juniper Networks. The show is imperative because when companies and attendees get together and have authentic conversations, real innovation takes place.

I could probably go on-and-on about this year’s show, but I am going to take some time to let things settle in. For now, I say farewell to Interop Las Vegas and look forward to the Fall show in New York.

Will I see you there?

–John Kreuzer

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Quit Playing Games With My Heart—Keep Playing Them Online

Posted by Cynthia Horiguchi under Clients, Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

May 12th, 2011

Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about gamification, mostly because our client iLoop Mobile has been having conversations with media and analysts about its new mobile retail app SlingShop. “Gamification” has been one of this year’s hottest buzzwords, evidenced by rumors of an IPO for FarmVille creator Zynga, the recent rush to join social media stock exchange Empire Avenue, and major brands’ willingness to jump into social gaming. In fact, M2 Research estimates that industry revenues will total $1.6 billion by 2015, up from less than $100 million last year.  And according to Gartner, over half of companies that want to drive innovation will be gamified by 2015.

With so much focus recently on social gaming, it’s only a matter of time before the market becomes saturated. After all, there is a finite amount of free time that people have to spend. Social games aren’t just competing with each other; they’re also competing with other forms of entertainment, such as television, video console games, surfing the internet, reading, etc, etc.

In my opinion, social games can go one of two routes: they can compete with games such as FarmVille and SecondLife for users’ spare time spent in front of a computer, or they can “create” more downtime by developing games that people can play in situations such as standing in line or waiting to meet a friend.
 
Games that take the first route are already being used for promotions by big brands such as McDonald’s. But brands haven’t really started to take advantage of the second type — the “free time” games such as “Words with Friends” and “Angry Birds.”

By integrating promotional campaigns into “free time” games, companies can reach a broader audience of people who may not have the time or inclination to play CityVille, but might take out their smartphone while in line at the grocery store for a round of “Angry Birds.”

Or, companies can take it one step further, like iLoop Mobile is doing with SlingShop, and integrate simple gaming elements into everyday transactions such as coupons and loyalty cards. This adds an element of fun without requiring much time investment from consumers.
 
What do you think? Have you spent time playing social games? Do you think they will continue to catch on?

–Cynthia Horiguchi

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Live TV Beyond the Box

Posted by Katie Peterson under Employee Musings, Media, Public Relations, Tools, Trends

May 10th, 2011

I have a new addiction. It’s a television show, a singing competition and features some of the biggest names in music. And it is not American Idol.

My new must watch is The Voice on NBC. While I hate to admit that I have gotten sucked into a reality series (in my defense there have only been two episodes) this one is doing something a bit different; social media interaction. Engaging in social media isn’t a novel thing for a television series or network, but NBC has created a social media program that drives viewers to action, and is doing well at it. During the show’s April 26 premier episode, #TheVoice was a top trending topic on Twitter.
 
All four superstar singing coaches, @BlakeShelton, @AdamLevine.  @CeeLoGreen,  and @TheRealXtina, have active Twitter accounts that top 100,000 followers each. Host @carsonjdaly also has an account. The coach’s tweets display the friendly and humorous rivalry that they, as well as messages of support to contestants and appreciation to those who didn’t make it past the first round. Some of the tweets are repurposed and appear on air, scattered throughout the broadcasts as pop-up messages. With the coaches as active participants in social media, the show builds perceived one-on-one relationships with fans, which will ultimately drive television ratings.
 
The Voice has official Twitter and Facebook accounts that are driving users to engage in the conversation as well. #TheVoice hashtag is prominently displayed throughout the episodes, and viewers are encouraged to “tweet along” with the host and coaches using the hashtag. Including Twitter hashtags as a watermarked image in the lower portion of the screen has actually been going mainstream on primetime shows. Comedy Central jump-started the hashtag trend last month during the Roast of Donald Trump, by running a #trumproast hashtag watermark. Fox also recently displayed a small #Bones hashtag watermark during an episode of Bones, and is running the same marketing initiatives on episodes of Glee, Fringe and Breaking In. By displaying the hashtag watermarks just above the network bug, viewers are reminded that there’s a conversation happening about what they are watching, and are stimulated to engage in that conversation. When I watched this week’s episode of The Voice, I saw the messages and hashtag, logged on to Twitter, followed the conversations and engaged by posting my own tweet.

The Voice social media activity extends into NBC’s launch of its own social network, NBC Live. The new interactive application is still in beta mode, but includes trivia, polls, insider commentary and other behind-the-scenes information to give viewers insight into what’s happening in real time. The site will also include a social stream so fans can comment about what’s on and converse with other viewers. The tool is a good way for NBC to enhance its slumping network ratings by giving fans access to exclusive content and the ability to communicate with each other. The one negative that I can see is that it needs to be downloaded to a desktop or iPad, as the extra step may detract users.

I like that television networks are taking on active roles in the always-on and ever-engaged world of social media. It certainly brings a new definition to the phrase live TV. Do you like that shows are displaying hashtags and actively engaging in social media initiatives? Do you think that NBC Live will succeed and/or will other networks mimic the action by creating their own social networks?

–Katie Peterson

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The Good/Bad News Of AOL’s Huffington Post Acquisition

Posted by Katie Peterson under Media, Trends

May 5th, 2011

The ink on the papers of AOL’s February acquisition of the Huffington Post is still fairly fresh, and the many changes that AOL has made to the internet media group are even fresher. Through a series of restructuring, streamlining, and re-branding, AOL is working to create a next-generation media source that combines editorial content and social experiences. But that doesn’t come without controversy. The restructuring of the media group has created quite the stir-up of emotions. One main discussion is the hiring of full-time employees and reduction of use in freelance writers.

AOL intends to hire as many as 800 full-time employees at a local level for news operations across the country for Patch, the post’s news site that focuses on local content. The good in this situation: it creates many new jobs, stimulates local economic growth, and shows movement toward a new form of and engaging news medium. Currently, Patch serves 19 states and 800 communities, and formerly ran off of freelance writers. As AOL works to expand the medium, they may hire up to one full-time journalist per Patch site, which is great growth for local communities as it is creating jobs that may not have otherwise been available.  The changes that the Patch news site will continue to see drive dinner table conversation and welcome connectedness, as well as heighten the social component by incorporating even more blogging and commentary elements.
 
However, this also means bad news for current AOL and Huffington Post freelancers, many of which the new hires will and have already eliminated. The impact has already been seen by 200 of AOL’s full-time employees that were laid off in the United States, plus additional support that historically has come from India.  Under the new structure, all of the freelance writers and editors who have worked at the various blogs under the Huffington Post, including MapQuest, Moviefone, Engadget, and TechCrunch, will no longer be needed. With the full-time staffers producing content, the work can be done in-house, and the post will not have to pay independent contractors by the pieces they write.

The Huffington Post is now being sued by a former contributor on behalf of all bloggers, as he believes that the content they contributed to the publication accounts for a third of the value of what AOL bought the medium for. This lawsuit could get ugly, but it will be interesting to see the outcome. I agree that the writers should be rewarded for their work, and am aware that the Huffington Post is well-known for not paying writers who contribute work for free because it gives them a platform from which to make their voices heard. However, it is important to realize that there is a distinction in unpaid bloggers and paid writers. Here is an informative piece on the economics of it all.

All said and done, the acquisition has its good, but with good comes bad and ugly. What are your thoughts on the new jobs and lost jobs? When it comes to unpaid contributed posts, who do you think is benefitted, the person whose work is published and seen or to the publication itself?

–Katie Peterson

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I Tawt I Taw a Twitter Page! I di-Nope, Not Quite Yet

Posted by Rory Mohon under Public Relations, Strategy, Tools

May 3rd, 2011

For me, November 6 is a date to remember. On November 6, 1935, Parker Brothers acquired the forerunner patents for Monopoly. I do so love a good game of Monopoly. On November 6, 1947, “Meet the Press” made its first television debut. You’ve got to respect the longest-running television series in American broadcasting history. And on November 6, 2007, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Pages. This changed the world of social media as we knew it. Facebook was “open for businesses” in the form of Pages.

And now Twitter might be trying to follow suit..

Earlier this month, news spread quickly about the launch of Twitter branded pages.  Currently, Twitter is making money from businesses through promoted tweets, trends and accounts. As a way to increase long-term revenue, Twitter is considering offering brands the ability to create profile pages. We’re happy for Twitter, but what’s in it for companies? If a company already has a page on Facebook, how can they gain value in a Twitter page as well? What’s the motivation to create, launch and monitor a “yet another” social networking page? I can think of a few good answers to those questions.

If You See $20 on the Ground, You Better Pick It Up Before Someone Else Does
Facebook Pages are free. Facebook Ads are not. Both are used by thousands of companies to increase revenue and build a relationship with customers. While we know Twitter ads such as sponsored hashtags and trending topics are not free, we don’t know if there will be a cost associated with Twitter branded pages. If Twitter pages are free though, why not take advantage of the service? In more than 140 characters, Twitter branded pages would offer your company a way to listen to and engage with your customers in real time, promote your brand and stay connected to the industry. Whether or not you choose to start a page on Twitter, your competition probably will, allowing them to continue the conversation with your customers on their page. Take the freebies when you can and use them to your advantage.

They’re Still Going to Talk about You Behind Your Back
If you’re one of the few businesses that has yet to join Team Twitter, now is the time to do it. We hate to say it, but a conversation about your business, products and services is happening in real time on Twitter, whether you want it to or not. If Twitter is going to offer brands a new way to communicate with their audience via pages, then jump on the bandwagon because this is one social network you can’t ignore.

Make it Your Own, but Make it Fresh
At McGrath/Power, we realize that every company is different, as are most social networks. Because of this, we don’t pigeonhole companies into specific social networks. We recommend the most suitable online channels to connect with your audience and get your message across. Twitter, however, is one of the few channels that we recommend for most of our clients as it’s the second-largest social network. While Twitter hasn’t provided any information about their branded pages yet, there is a possibility that they will have a similar look and feel to Facebook Pages. If so, it’s up to you to make it unique from your Facebook page. While it may be difficult for companies to repurpose information for each of their online channels, it is also a necessity. If you post the same content on one channel as you do on another, there is no reason for your customer to follow you on both channels. From posting entirely different content to simply rewording your messages for each channel, companies can engage their audiences without bombarding them with the same information.

As we wait with baited breath for Twitter to officially announce branded pages, we ask that you keep the aforementioned items in mind. Don’t write off Twitter pages before they’re even introduced. We understand that there are a number of social networks to choose from, and each has its own place, purpose and user base. All of which you can use to your advantage and should if the service is free and easy to maintain. There’s a conversation out there and your brand should be a part of it. Just think of Twitter branded pages as the host of a party, introducing you to its guests. 

– Rory Mohon

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