This may be an ex-blog

In case noone’s noticed, I haven’t posted for nigh on three weeks now. I’m not sure why this is – I just seem to have stopped.

I started the blog around last Christmas as part of a ‘Things I Must Learn About’ list, which also included stuff like RSS, aggregators, wikis and the like. Since then I have indeed found out a lot about them, and much more such as Yahoo Pipes and Google Docs, although I haven’t really been able to put much of this knowledge to practice in my professional life. I’ve also been very lax with updating the Social Media Resource, which never really took off anyway, and especially the PowerPR index which was fun at first but is now quite a bind.

So I’m wondering whether I’ve learned enough now, and whether this blog has come to its natural end. Since stopping posting my readership has plummeted, although curiously my subscriptions have climbed! As with so much in the blogosphere, this makes no sense. I’ll let it continue in its current form because at least the feeds churn out content, which some people have found useful, and the Social Media Resource might find a home some time.

So, this is just by way of explanation. I might get the bug again soon, but in the meantime this is Friendly Ghost signing off for a while. I might concentrate on the music again, or turn my attention to something completely different.

Oh, and I may as well come clean – my real name is Brendan Cooper, not Friendly Ghost. I really am a copywriter (for the time being) and I really do work in PR (ditto), but I can’t tell you who I work for because my company’s policy on personal blogs forbids association. How uncool is that?

Regards
Brendan aka Friendly Ghost

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And if you thought the ‘Exploding Colour’ Sony Bravia ad was cool…

… check this out (first seen over the weekend):

Here’s some background to it:

“A team of 40 animators spent three weeks choreographing the models to create the 100,000 still images required to produce the 60-second ad.”

Yes, that really is clay-mation. It’s by Fallon, they of the other Sony Bravia ads, Cake Skoda and Cadbury’s Gorilla. The Sony ads are particularly interesting from a PR point of view because they are totally open to the public during filming and in fact that is integral to this advert. People take photos, show interest, and blog about the ad’s creation before it even hits the screens (which means I’m probably dreadfully late to this). Then the video that comes out of this process is perfect for viral YouTube-type treatments.

So is this PR, or advertising, or both? 

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Not going to the Flackenhacks

It’s been a while since I last posted – the longest hiatus bar holidays in fact. This is quite simply because I haven’t been able to think of anything interesting to say. Or it could be a worrying sign that I’ve learned all I needed to learn from blogging. My blogging is flagging. My posting is lagging. My blog-fu is sagging.

Which brings us in a pararhyme-about way to the Flackenhacks. I won’t be able to make it because I stupidly double-booked myself to see Russell Howard tomorrow (he of the cheeky schoolboy humour from Mock the Week). So, if anyone’s reading this, say hello to TWL from Friendly Ghost for me.

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A double-decker bus is this big

A perennial problem in copywriting is trying to convey sizes, lengths or weights. So something is 348 metres long. Great. Try making it real in the reader’s mind. How about we say it’s the equivalent of nearly 42 double decker buses?

The marvellous chrico Double Decker Bus Calculator is your key to unlocking this particular problem. Simply type in your amount, your ‘convert from’ units and your ‘convert into’ units, and you’re off.

So, suddenly, I know that it takes 178.954903 double decker buses to make a km; that the distance from Lands End to John O’Groats is 0.00252 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon; and that you would have to line up nearly 170 Friendly Ghosts end-to-end to make a blue whale.

It also has the fantastic footnote on the ‘about‘ page:

If at any time you get a message similar to the following: 1 square inch is equivalent to 0 Australias (to six decimal places).; an error has not occured – this has happened because the amount of Australias in a square inch is sooooooo small that it won’t register with only six decimal places.

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Sieving through the mud to find gold

It’s easy to overlook the search terms people use to find your blog. But instead of discarding the ‘weird’ entries, take another look: you might pick up on an emerging trend. 

Often, when looking through the search engine terms that have been used to find this blog, I’m confused. Why are so many people looking for information on ears? What is it with Eric Sykes? And crack babies?

Today however, two entries made sense, and one of them in particular revealed an interesting use for these terms.

Firstly, and unsurprisingly, Marion Jones. I posted about her yesterday. I would have expected some people to be looking for her.

But the other stood out, not least because it was the second highest term both today and yesterday: Doc Martens. I wrote about the beleagured boot brand some time ago, reacting to its tasteless advertising campaign and media backlash, so there is one post on this blog about it. Why should people be searching for it though?

Google News reveals all: looks like Doc Martens is making a comeback. This tells me two things:

  • Tasteless though the campaign may have been, it worked. Goes to show that perhaps any publicity really is good publicity.
  • You can discover trends by examining the search terms people use to find your blog. If, by definition, people are looking for it, then there must be some buzz about it. In this case Google Trends doesn’t back up the Doc Martens finding (there’s a slight upturn but nothing major). It could still be too early to plot and in any case is just a sanity check. Don’t discount it: you never know, you might get in on a developing trend at the beginning.

I predict a surge in Doc Martens sales. But then again, I was wrong about the ad campaign…

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Marion Jones: Prophylactic PR

So Marion Jones is using the same platform she achieved by cheating, to admit to cheating. In so doing, is she just making it harder for the rest of us to apologise? Or is there just not enough money in it for ordinary folk?

On watching the widely publicised video of her ‘confession’ I must admit I found it convincing, as did Web Ink Now, where I got the link. She does show sincere contrition, and touches all the bases: no one to blame but myself; I hurt the people around me; I’ve let you down; you have every right to me annoyed with me.

But on mentioning this to my partner the reaction was “Pah. It’s a PR stunt. Give her a few months and she’ll be onto a lucrative deal.”

There is some truth in there, plus an element of the automatic eye-rolling cynicism towards PR generally. If there’s a smell, it’s generally attributed to PR. What I find interesting is the automatic dismissal of a public apology.

There has been a spate of these of late. JetBlue in the US is a high-profile example, albeit a while back, in which the CEO apologised for people effectively being held captive on its planes (you can still see it online – now that’s a very long-lived apology!). In the UK, the cricketer Freddie Flintoff was very apologetic for being caught either clambering onto, or falling off, a pedalo in a state of inebriation, and slightly backward Big Brother cartoon character Jade Goody was profuse in her apologies after bullying Bollywood star Shilpa Shett on-screen. Only four days ago Pandora apologised for being unable to pursue a coherent business plan.

Are we becoming apology-resistant? Is there really a statute of limitation on apologies? Is the erosion of public faith extending from corporate regret to heartfelt public self-disapprobation?

If so, what room is PR allowing itself for manoeuvre? Perhaps a dignified silence would be more powerful. Oh, but then, of course… it might harm future book sales.

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How long can Pandora continue to get it wrong?

On Pandora.com’s blog as at 4 October 2007:

Dear Global Pandorans -

It’s been a few (painful) months since we had to begin blocking listeners outside the US. Many of you have been writing in for updates, so we thought it would be useful to post the latest news. Sorry for not having done so sooner. Sadly, our posting that “we are working hard on international licensing” remains the same.

We have been working intensively on bringing Pandora to the UK first and we were hopeful of doing so. The situation with regards to licensing took a bad turn a couple months ago with the issuance of a publishing rate in the UK which leaves total sound recording royalties and publishing royalties substantially out of whack with the realities of ad-supported webcasting/internet radio economics. So we’re back in the trenches trying to find an answer, working with the recording and publishing industries, that works for everyone. This has been an intense period of education and negotiation and it continues unabated.

As it stands now, there is still no affordable license for a webcaster to stream legally (ie. abiding by all standing copyright law and properly compensating performers and composers) anywhere outside the US, (actually, make that within the US too as we’re trying to work through a whole other mess here as well!) Paul (our Managing Director of Pandora Int’l) is working full time on the international business out of London.

We continue to be cautiously optimistic that a reasonable answer will be reached – largely because it would be so counter-productive for everyone not to do so. But we remain unable to make any solid predictions about timing – history has taught us that’s a fool’s errand.

You can trust that this remains at least as frustrating for us as it is for you.

Keep the faith…

Tim (Founder)

Can it really be true? Can they really have launched an entire service without really figuring out their contractual obligations? First by having problems with global users, and now with their existing setup? If this were a publicly quoted company there are so many phrases in this innocent blog posting that would give me cause for concern: a few painful months; situation took a bad turn; no affordable license; whole other mess; unable to make any solid predictions. It doesn’t sound good.

My take on it is that, in ‘blocking’ non-US residents, they screwed up bigtime and will never be able to recover (and I’ve said this before). How do you block non-US residents from an online service? In a similar act of naivety their answer is, only accept US zipcodes. So just find any US zipcode and use that. How can they prove you don’t live at the White House? Along with the (presumably) thousands of other people who cohabit with you at the seat of US democracy, or indeed at the Pentagon, or Beverley Hills 90210 for that matter.

It seems they cannot figure out a way to make online streaming radio pay. If so, how can Last.FM manage this? My hunch is that Last.FM didn’t totally screw up their marketing information so they’re sitting on a gold mine of information they can sell on, allowing them to overcome prohibitive licensing fees.

I hope Pandora make it, I really do. I prefer it to Last.FM. But I fear Last.FM may have done the right thing, and Pandora have not.

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Infamy! Infamy! Hobson and Holtz…

… have got it in for me!

Check out the latest FIR podcast. Yup, that’s me at the end. Your very own FG with its very own music.

Many thanks to Neville and Shel for mentioning me in their podcast, and I’m glad Neville appreciated the email I sent him. Actually, I just realised, Neville didn’t read it out in full. The title of the email was “Hi guys – free beer! Not really - a song.”

So there you go. All you need to pitch Hobson and Holtz successfully is to offer them free beer and music. I must try it more often.

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