Ghosts of blogging future

On Inside PR #2.17, Gini Dietrich and I talked about ghost blogging, a subject that has been haunting the blogosphere for a long time.  Much has been written about the ethics surrounding it. It’s a debate about authorship and authority. If your name appears on a blog, you should be the person who writes it.  Of course there are exceptions, like clearly identified guest posts, but other than that, the ‘rules’ are pretty rigid.

At the risk of unleashing the ire of ghost busters, I wonder if this approach has become too simplistic.

Blogs have moved beyond digital journals to become an effective publishing format. Seth Godin’s recent views on shifting from traditional to electronic publishing tie into this. Social media newsrooms are essentially blog platforms designed to distribute and share content and news without a single author’s point of view. With the confluence of portable digital devices, all-access Wi-Fi and the need to conserve scarce resources (i.e. trees), it’s easy to see how ‘blogger’ could become synonymous with ‘publisher’. A blog house could be the 21st century version of publishing house, home to commercial and non-commercial fiction, non-fiction, humour, travel, cooking, business, text books, anything really – even nameless instruction manuals. Now imagine we add video and real-time conversation to the mix…

I’m not saying we should abandon personal voices and ideas. Far from it. That’s where innovation begins before heading on its circuitous path from indie to establishment.

We should all strive for transparency and authenticity, yet maybe the blog-of-old has outgrown its initial framework and ghost blogging is no longer the issue it once was. Like the printing press, blogs could evolve into the catalyst that reshapes and redefines publishing. Now that’s a bestseller I wouldn’t want to miss!

What do you think?

In praise of the iPad

I’ve never been a big fan of Apple products. I tried a Mac a year ago and discovered that maybe I’m not that intuitive. I use an iPod at the gym, but haven’t attempted the sophistication of playlists. I’m a shuffle kind of guy.

I guess that’s my way of saying I never had iPad envy. Sure the device looks good, but I’d struggled with the iPhone’s keyboard and thought iPad would be more of the same. Besides I hate lining up for anything; it’s too much like those old images of Soviets waiting for hours for a roll of toilet paper.

But…all that aside, I saw people I know and respect using iPads, heard them extolling its virtues, exclaiming what a breakthrough device it was. So I succumbed. I put my name on a list and waited. And after I got the email telling me it had arrived, I went to the Eaton Centre bought it, took it out of the box and was immediately struck by buyer’s remorse.

And then, I loaded my first apps (is that also short for Apple?) – Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, WordPress, Kindle – and each effortlessly appeared. At first, I felt like Neil Armstrong on the moon. I was moving in a direction I wanted to go though it sure felt cumbersome.

Once I stopped looking for the start button and mastered some Apple idiosynchracies, things got a lot better.  Though I’m still not great at selecting and moving text – I opt to retype.

But when @thornley told me about Reeder, the RSS heavens parted. All of a sudden I could catch up and manage my blog feeds in a way I hadn’t been able to for a long time. The interface is fun and functional and the portability of the iPad means I can read them wherever I have a few minutes and don’t have to feel laptop-bound.

Do I need an iPad? Do I need a latte in the morning? Not really. Both are guilty pleasures, I suppose.

I do have to hand it to Apple for taking Internet portability to a new level and coming up with a visual-verbal-content-device. It reminds me a bit of the Moleskin notebook in its utility and minimalist-cool design.

I remember the first time I bought a Moleskin, took it to a cafe and started writing. I felt like a real expat author, even though I was still in Canada and wasn’t wearing a beret.

I get a similar feeling with the iPad. I’m just glad it didn’t come with a hat.

Note: this was written and most of the links added on the iPad WordPress app and then cleaned up with additional links added on a laptop. If anyone can tell me an easy way to add links on the WordPress app, I’d really appreciate it.

Are you a social media addict?

I have a confession to make: I think I am.

And I wonder if you may be one too.  Worried? Not sure where to turn? Do you want to know the signs?

If so, please check out the guest post I did on the Spin Sucks blog.  Anonymity is guaranteed; no one will know you read it…

And by the way, I hate to admit it, but  even though it’s a holiday in Ontario, I’m still online writing about it.

Special thanks to @ginidietrich and @danielhindin for asking me.

Let me know if you have any more symptoms to add – and if we should start a virtual 12-Tweet meetup.

Recent thoughts on social media

I’ve done a couple of interviews on social media in recent months: Barbara Nixon’s Public Relations Matters (skype video interview); and Andy Donovan’s Tweep in Profile (‘old-fashioned-new-fashioned’ print).

And I want to say a big thank you to both of you for thinking of me!  It’s much appreciated.

And… if you want to hear more (watch out for the plug), I hope you’ll check out Inside PR, the weekly podcast where Gini Dietrich, Joe Thornley and I talk about what’s happening in PR and social media.

I’m always interested to hear what you think.

The other side of the coin

I feel privileged to be of the Toronto folks selected to spread the word about Virgin America’s new TO/LA or SF flights. Actually, when I first got the email offerng a ticket, I thought it was a scam.  It wasn’t!

So here I am, in-flight, and posting from 30,000 feet (or so). OK, I know this is no moon walk, but it’s feels pretty amazing being connected up on high.

What do I think of Virgin America?

Well, they’re friendly and helpful – from check-in to the gate to the plane – and they have a more casual and humourous attitude than some of the other airlines I fly. You see it in the FAA-required info video, produced as a quirky animation (‘if you’re one of the .00001% of the population that doesn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, here’s how you do it…’).  From a design perspective, the interior reminded me of an old house renovated and modernized with stylish colours and accents. I liked having the option of chatting with people in other seats via the AV system – not that I did.  And of course, there’s the wi-fi… Would I fly it again? I guess I should really wait till we land before answering, but I so far absolutely. Would I recommend it to people? Yes.

As I was sitting in the airport waiting to board and thinking about my post, it occurred to me that it would be the result of being pitched and, like a media person PR firms invite to an event, there was a reciprocal, if implicit, expectation in place.  I would receive the free trip and, in exchange, hopefully be motivated to share my experience.

I first heard about this concept of reciprocity from author and psychologist Robert Cialdini. The essence is simple: if I give you something, you will feel an obligation to give me something in return.

And really that’s the core of media/blogger relations.  We provide a story/information/news and hope that we get editorial coverage.  I also wondered whether the reciprocity might make me (or anyone) a little kinder in my review (they gave me something after all).  Probably.

Because so many PR people are blogging, we often find ourselves on the other side of the request.  (We talked about this on Inside PR 2.13.)  And this gives us an opportunity to experience what a pitch feels like.  I always suggest that young practitioners try their hand at being published (and yes blogs count!) so they can gain an understanding of a journalist’s perspective more clearly. And hopefully, by empathizing and learning we will improve our approach.

But back to the matter at hand.   I’m ready for more pitches and I sure do like cars :).

Air Canada…I give up

I fly fairly regularly – not enough for the perks of super-elite status, but enough to be bumped around through the maze of disappointing service that is Air Canada.

Sometimes I’m surprised by a staff member who is helpful or friendly. Mostly it’s a mildly irritating experience at best.

However, I’m tired of complaining about the airline as they don’t listen or seem to care. So, this will be my final gripe. After that, I’m resigned to accept that lacklustre service is part of the brand.

But…on a recent visit to California, a couple of small things stood out as further examples of AC’s failure to communicate.

The first happened at the Toronto airport when the airline ‘changed equipment’, we discovered we’d lost our seats and, like many others, were no longer guaranteed a place on the flight.  I pleaded for clemency as I was part of a wedding party and would have missed the ceremony if they didn’t let us on.  In the end, a kind young man stepped forward and offered his seat. But much of the angst might have been avoided with a quick email informing passengers of the situation, the potential SNAFU and our options – we know they have our email address.

On the way home we were on-board and ordered snacks. The menu advertised a 10 per cent discount on purchases over $10 in June and July. However, when I got my receipt, it was for the full amount. Now, we’re not talking a lot of money here, but when I mentioned this to the flight attendant, he said  the machines must have been reprogrammed and wouldn’t allow the discount or a refund, but he could make up the difference in snacks.

This seems like a case where the AC bean-counters turned a  promise into something as worthless as a ‘hill of beans’ (that you could probably buy from them for $3).

A little later, the FA said AC almost never informs staff when equipment is changed and they only find out when passengers grumble. Here’s a thought: how about spending a little more effort communicating with flight attendants and front-line reps; empowering them with information that they, in turn, could share with the passengers.  Pretty basic stuff.

I’m just glad to hear Virgin Airlines is now flying out of Toronto. Thanks to Klout, I get a chance to sample the service later in the month. From what I’ve heard, this will be a welcome change. I can’t wait.