QOTD: @ReutersHulk Speaks on All Caps and Other Important Things

Margarita Noriega posted a great recap of the day of playing @ReutersHulk. Go and read it, but look closely at this quote:

Quite a few reporters have urged me to fight Twitter, but I think the account survives as a testament to the limits of using any social network. No one should be under the impression they own their social accounts. 

Emphasis mine. And remember it.


Online Media’s Number Problem

Last night, the Awl passed around the internal memo from Nick Denton announcing that Gawker Media’s sites (Gawker, Deadspin, Kotaku, the obvious Fleshbot, etc.) had officially passed all but one newspaper in terms of eyeballs to its content. Being bigger than just about everyone online except for the New York Times and the Huffington Post is absolutely nothing to sneeze at, and you have give Denton credit for everything he’s done in the growth of one gossip/media/culture blog into a network of news sites.  As Denton wrote in his announcement:

The network as a whole drew 17.8m domestic visitors for the month. Let’s put that in context. How do we stack up, against the established names in online news. Last time we measured ourselves against the traditional newspapers’ online operations, we were fourth. But we’ve overtaken both the Washington Post and USA Today, according to Comscore. And, in this category, we’re behind only the New York Times.

Denton’s measurement is perceived to be the most important online, and for the sales side of media, impressions and the base number of people who view the content are crucial. It determines reach in absolute terms (as opposed to the imbalance inherent in the page-view measurement), and represents audience size. By this, Denton is right, he ultimately has a bigger visitor number to his network’s different sites. You have to imagine that a site or network’s visitors broadly depict the right volume of eyeballs and not just clicks, and according to Nick’s numbers, they are doing better than really just about everyone.

Well, kind of, and Lucas Graves explained at CJR the overarching number problem:

By comparison, computer networks are a paradise of audience surveillance. Why expect media outlets, agencies, and advertisers to abide by the gospel of one ratings firm, to only talk about one number, with so much lovely data pouring in from so many sources? “People use whatever numbers look good that month. It gives publishers some flexibility,” says Kate Downey, director of “audience analytics” at The Wall Street Journal, which subscribes to Nielsen, comScore, Omniture, and HitWise. “I think if everybody had the same numbers, we would hate that even more.”

What, you thought I was going to make the “Gawker’s network counts people twice because it splits the audiences across verticals and interest can overlap between, say, low-brow sports and high-brow adult content” argument? That’d be easy.

I can give you a decent guess at the number of people who come through my site, but even at the low volume I get (trust me, I’m a farm system blogger), the two tracking tools I use differ anywhere between three and five percent. Scale that to a real-sized media organization or blog, and the error of margin is getting grand. The moral of the story is that bloggers and media will always use the number that helps them the most, makes the best point. That’s right, this is the “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” argument.

Let’s take a lap over to another of my favorite examples in terms of fuzzy math: Mashable. At #3 on the Technorati Top 100 (and the irony of citing statistics is ripe here), it obviously has significant amounts of incoming links to accompany the other components that Technorati takes into its algorithm for comparison. They’re doing well, no denying, and the success comes from prolific content that is broad to the social media sect.

Alright, now the fun. If you ever get bored when looking at measurements, my favorite comparison are the number of tweets a certain Mashable article gets in relation to both the number of clicks and number of comments. There is some sort of social desirability in the vacuum of online media that pushes Pete Cashmore’s face out there through the retweet button as humanly often as possible, yet for the often 4-digit times these stories are tweeted…you’d have to expect greater discussions or clicks than a handful of comments. Thanks to BackTweets (h/t @AppleGirl), here’s some data for a recent Mashable piece (that, yes, I happened to be quoted in, so call it a diva moment if you will):

There are more tweets than clicks, and minimal comments across all these networks. But I know that if I’m Mashable, I’m talking about the Twitter reach, and that big impressions number that Backtype offers. Who cares that the conversation doesn’t really get going? You have something to say the audience was massive, and someone will absolutely be impressed.

Online Media’s Number Problem? It’s convenient. Whether you’re Nick Denton, Mashable, a part time blogger or the New York Times, the number you want is out there, and as long as volume means something to advertisers, that’s where it will be. This isn’t about editorial reach, it’s about eyeballs for sales. And there’s nothing wrong with trying to make money as an online media entity – but the challenge of determining who’s first will only get harder.

(CC) Photo via Flickr user Rogiro

Advertisers, Japan, Refuse To Give In To This Engagement Thing

Follow along if you can:

1) You walk up to a vending machine in a busy metro station.

2) A camera built into it scans your face to determine age and gender.

3) It makes a recommendation on what product you should purchase.


(5. Profit!)

So, in the era of immense opportunities to listen to consumers via online media and their social networks, the opportunity to over innovate and go against that was just too much to pass up for Japanese marketers keen on measuring the number of eyeballs – literally – that hit their advertisements.

What won’t our friends over in the Pacific Rim over-tech next? Only they could turn buying sodas into a video game.

The other way to find out what consumers want? Listen.

Old Media Will Love the iPad [Tradition]

I just got back from an excellent panel here in D.C. hosted by Slate and the New American Foundation on the state of the mobile technology industry in the U.S.. Trust me, it was geeky, and I won’t bore you. However, there happened to be some relevance to my favorite issue – traditional media producers trying to hold on to the send-receive transactional messages of old. One of the panel members, Tim Wu from Columbia Law School and Slate, took a quick detour into the media world by way of Apple’s iPad.

Wu pointed out that the iPad has a significant amount more in common with television than the personal computer, and most of that is from a medium/delivery standpoint. Content gets created by someone and whoever is using the device gets served it. It’s broadcast to a passive media – it’s anti-social media.

As Wu put it perfectly, “With the iPad, you do nothing yourself.” And that’s why old media will love it.

It puts traditional broadcast back into the position of streaming shows they create, on a delivery they can serve ads on. They have to be ecstatic. The iPad is not a creation, tool – probably exactly why there isn’t a camera – it’s just an accepting tool. And it will be popular because of it’s simplicity and portability of this content, and as Sascha Meinrath, another panelist noted, the simplicity is what will make it likable.

I’m no Apple fan boy, I’ve never been shy about my mild disdain for over-simplified products. But that does put me in the minority and outside of Apple’s profitable demo. Producers are probably glad I’m with my Android and not in the way, but there are many many people who want the iPad for exactly the purpose described above. Old Media has to be happy about the audience it is about to gain back.

Mobile Communication in Developing Countries

In many developing countries, mass communication doesn’t exist in the way we’ve come to embrace in both a historical and democratic sense; however, personal, peer-to-peer communication via mobile thrives in many of these regions. There are definite reasons to consider this given the landscape in Haiti and its recent disaster. Cell phones are a backbone of the island’s communication. In times of crisis, getting the word out about where attention is needed is often an important step to efficiently addressing relief efforts, and mobile could certainly be a factor.

There are many different ways mobile might play into increasing health care in developing countries, and the topic was the subject of a weekly write-up called the Health Digital Check-Up that I sent to members of Edelman’s health practice. Considering the circumstances, I thought it’d be worth posting here, as well:

Last February, Vodafone’s strategy director in the U.K., Terry Kramer, noted a pretty telling statistic about communication and health in the developing world: “There are 2.2 billion mobile phones…305 million computers but only 11 million hospital beds.”

Given the events in Haiti, it is a perfect time to examine what role mobile could play in similar countries moving forward. Haiti is a nearly perfect communication example: 2005 statistics indicate that there were about 115,000 landlines in the island country, while a 2008 report shows that there are as many as 3.2 million mobile phones. This reality of infrastructure has made restoring damaged cellular facilities among the top priorities.

Kramer shared the above statistic with a group of organizations that included the United Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation’s mHealth Alliance, and their goal is to advance the use of mobile as a means of health and crisis communication in the developing world. This week’s Digital Health Check-Up summarizes five ways mobile could be used to improve health conditions in these countries (as documented by the group in this 2009 report):

Education and Awareness

Given the permeation of mobile in developing countries and minimal presence of other communication infrastructure, the channel isn’t only the main way individuals get information, it may also be the only way. Text programs make sense for delivering public health messages both because of the relative low cost and the fact that it is the manner in which the majority of the population can be reached.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Limits to the availability of hospital beds create a challenge for healthcare professionals who are faced with patients who may not need full-time care, but still require regular attention or scheduled drug regimens. Mobile phones create an avenue that HCPs can use to provide and manage distance care or medicine reminders while their patients are away from the hospital.

Connecting Healthcare Workers

Since many facilities throughout the developing world may not have the luxury of connectivity, mobile can play a large part in helping one clinic talk to another. For the healthcare workers at these units, cell phones build a channel to centers that are often a significant distance apart, and they can make a large difference in providing efficient care. Workers can check bed or treatment availability before sending patients on the journey to a regional center.

Outbreak Tracking

Public health officials may cite the value of mobile for the data it can provide during times of health emergencies or crisis. Before mobile networks existed, these groups had to rely on expensive and unreliable communication forms to try and track outbreak via satellites or radio. With mobile, officials can connect quicker across greater distances, helping to determine better dispersion of vaccinations or staff to quell potential epidemics.

Crisis Communication

Just as with tracking the outbreak of disease, mobile can play a role in assisting relief workers handle crises after they occur. Whether caused by a natural disaster or a health emergency, mobile provides an avenue for citizens to reach out to each other or workers – even through a mobile social network like Twitter – to report conditions or needs.

While tangentially related, please remember that you can still use your own mobile phone to donate to the Red Cross. Simply text HAITI to 90999. So far, over $22m has been raised, and many mobile companies are doing the classy thing by waiving normal delays before releasing donated funds to organizations.