communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.


End 2009 - personal

because they asked me to...


Social media REALLY breaks into mainstream

I wonder if there is anyone out there who still argues that social networks are not mainstream. If there is, tonight's news report on national broadcaster TVR 1 should make up their minds that they are.
Tonight, the Romanian PBS, the local equivalent of BBC, has, for the first time to my knowledge, showed actual images/screen captures of Facebook. This was not in some niche, middle of the night teenie show, but in the main news show at 8 pm, as part of an ongoing investigation in the dealings of some local crook.
So, if TVR 1 thinks that research on FB is something that is relevant to be shown to 22 million people and also make assertions using the photos and status updates of a FB account, do we still think that social networks are not relevant? Do we also still think that what we post there is of no consequence?
Serious food for thought...


The joke that good food becomes in times of crisis

I live next to a McD restaurant and sometimes at night when I cannot sleep, I drop by to grab some fries which are my overt food sin. Lately I have been unable to get my fries in less than 15 minutes because the queues at the drive in are humongous. In the restaurant too. That's because after hitting the neighborhood with 2 for 10 lei offer (that's approx 2.5 euros for 2 burgers) McD has literally stolen the market with full Menus for just 10 lei.

As you know, Romania is in deep financial crisis. So deep the government is scrambling to raise taxes from anywhere they can to keep up the country. This affects McD in two ways, firstly because you'd expect people to not go to McD's which, a while back was a neat place to take your family for a celebratory Sunday. And second, because the government also decided to tax fast foods under the hypocritical excuse that Romanians are getting fat. Yeah, it's a crisis dumbasses: we're definitely NOT getting fat.

At any rate, McD's has once more proven its marketing acumen by turning the situation around with the two hit offers. They are positioned as "a full meal for only 10 lei" so basically what they are doing is saying that you can replace one of your daily meals with a McD Menu for a meanial price. And it worked. First, people assumed that they will beat the crisis if they eat this cheap cheap fast food. Second, people will get offended if the government taxes this cheap cheap means and makes it less available. Good job McD!

What is exceptionally striking about this also is how fast McD dropped the Health card which they played on all through 2008 before September. Gone are the huge OOH posters with fresh salad. McDs does TV now with "eat all you need for 10 lei" messages. Nobody's asking nutritionists anymore: because if we did they would tell us to eat healthy fresh food, which costs more than 10 lei to make. The age of the probiotic is dead. When the choice is something to eat versus nothing to eat, you go for something. It really does not matter if it's actual ...well, food.

image from here. Thank you.

Are we all trolls?

Two striking comments in one day and maybe I see a pattern: first a client of mine admits that most of the newsletters he sends get opened and read ONLY because the recipients want to see if they can find something wrong to bitch about. Second, Tolo says in a post "it's a miracle to get praised online". And finally, the nagging feeling that most of my clients refuse blog exposure not because blogger are not controllable but because bloggers seldom bother to say anything remotely nice even when the case is for niceness.
Truth of the matter is in Romania bashing everything equals ratings. And you see it with reviews people post: we must be a singular nation because when we review something, anything, we never ever have something good to say. It's always crap and bad and under expectations.
The most celebrated commentators in Romania have made their fame on being bastards to one and all. Even when there is nothing bad to be said, we spin it so that something bad comes out of it. We are always out to get someone, the government, the MAN, the competition.
Online it works mostly the same: you trash everyone and everyone comments and trashes you back and you're famous. The louder and dirtier your mouth is the more likely you are to get noticed. Tweets saying something nasty are 80% more likely to get responded to. We like to get into arguments. Compare this to the fact that most tweets that get retweeted are positive facts. We are unable to sustain a positive POV, we simply post it on and forget about it. It's the trash we like to interact with.
There are TV stations in this country which have built a show grid on trashing everything. And we all watch and we all interact. Trolling as a national denominator. Ironic in a country which was said to be full of welcoming people.


Why print should/will be niche...but also decent digital content

There is this huge debate about the death of print and how the reasons are a combo of financial crisis and Internet, which is faster and cheaper and more accessible to everyone and more eco-friendly. Most of these arguments are true: newspapers are dying because there is a financial crisis and reading news is not a commodity, it's a luxury. Plus most newspapers are crap anyway, so in a time of crisis you refuse to buy crap luxury (please note that in times of affluence you will spend a bucketload of money on expensive shit, and by shit I mean actual bad products not "stuff"). In addition to this Internet is cheaper, meaning free and more readily accessible now that a lot of people are connecting. Of course there is the eco-crap, where print destroys the rain forest and therefore Internet is better because it only eats up electricity :D.

What we fail to realize is that there is a glitch in human nature which newspapers have not caught on, or are ignoring because it does not say flattering things about who we are as beings. And this may be their salvation or final blow.

First, let us agree that if newspapers are shit so is most of the stuff you read on the Internet. Frankly, I find no qualitative incentive to search info online, other than it's faster and more. But these have nothing to do with quality of content.
And now the knock-out realization: people enjoy reading shit. Most people, when given the choice will go for crap content, easily palatable and requiring next to no involvement other than monkey laugh. Think about it: what is the number one viral this month? - probably a cute kitty falling out of bed or some baby gurgling. Which newspapers are doing the best: tabloids. We do not search for quality content. Online or offline.
And this is where things get interesting: there is only a handful of people interested in decent content. They are the only ones willing to pay for what they get, good content. They are the ones who will continue to buy newspapers IF newspapers provide EXCEPTIONAL content [which cannot be found online]. I don't think the print edition of The Economist will die. Nor should the NYT. I think that print tabloids will eventually die, not because they are shit but because they are less shit than what can be found online and they cost money.
So, truth of the matter is print needs to buck up and get exceptional if it plans to survive. But it will NEVER preserve the volume it had 2 years ago. And yet, print should not worry. Exceptional content online will also be niche. So there's a sort of divine retribution in that :D

[specific to Romania, Cotidianul - one of the, say, progressive quality dailies succumbed for two simple reasons: it invested like it was going to be mass when it should have stayed niche and also, by the final months, it had gotten so downright bad and self sufficient that no one bother to buy anymore. Meanwhile, The Economist and Forbes are not doing so bad here :D]

Thanks here for this wonderful image


Abusing CRMs

A while back I was excitedly posting about how easy it was to order ebooks from and how I was looking forward to the nook. I also ordered one. True, I had misled the company because I am not physically located in the US, and gave a random US address for ...well, some purpose I am unaware of, because I am only getting ebooks and e-invoices. But, naturally, I thought procedures are dumb, and they are implemented because some asshole from accounting wants them so, and, of course, if they see I can pay, they will not bother to ask questions.
And sure enough, did not. For the first 6 books I ordered, payment and download went smoothly, so much so that I was eagerly awaiting the delivery of my nook.
Now, this post is not about how for some stupid reason, after allowing me to purchase more than 6 e-books, they now have stopped all purchases from my account but rather about the stupidity on which's CRM system works. Because, lo and behold, although I am forbidden from buying from them, I keep getting, with insane regularity, the advertising newsletters informing me of the latest discounts on e-books and, now, the nook.
Why? Seriously, why bother to make up a system that keeps in touch with your customers and NOT connect it with the system that keeps track of who you choose to oust from your lists. My account has been discontinued, and yet I keep getting prodded to buy. I am at the same time enticed to and shunned from the things I want. They want to advertise to me but they will not sell to me. In the words of the immortal someone "WTF?!"
I understand that e-CRM is a brave new world. That it's easier to make up some stupid newsletter that goes out automatically and fills itself up from rss or product updates. But if you pretend you care, then you should have the decency to make sure that the people who you've slapped across the wrist, do not get your sugared-up advertising messages later on. It's like the bank clerk being rude and then asking you if you'd like to add some product to your portfolio.
CRM is a holistic process. It connects all parts of your operation together. ALL OF THEM.
So, on a personal note: you are officially spam for me, since you refuse my business but want to feed me your ad messages nonetheless.
[very annoyed me]


reading, e-readers and books

I like books. I like owning them, buying them, signing them with my initials, smelling them when they are brand new, arranging them by size, straightening their pages. On the other hand I HATE having to borrow my books, not getting them back in time when I do, seeing them messed up by other people, seeing them misunderstood by other people. I love the idea of books and the objects as such.
So, I am writing this as a way to rationalize my unexplained desire to get an e-reader and the ever larger number of books I read in digital format. While thinking about it, some of the reasons that come to mind are intrinsically related to the digital space:
1. Speed of procurement: ebooks you can get at the wink of an eye and this means that necessary information is made available immediately
2. Convenient format: ebooks can be read an any computer or handheld device and if you place them somewhere handy online you can access them from anywhere plus if you have limited storage space (physical I mean) like I do, this makes it easier to store.
3. Easy to share: by no means trying to suggest infringement on copyrights, I think that ebooks are an easier form of disseminating content you like even if it is simply by print screening some passages
4. The fun reading utensil which is the e-reader: this I have found to be exceptionally girlie for a reason but I find the object - the e-reader as such - particularly fun to carry and hold and also somewhat of a status marker, like saying I am a child of the digital age
5. Immediacy of gratification: this is connected with my post a while back on feeling deprived of access to things that interest me NOW. With ebooks, the wait between the moment book comes out and the moment you get it is smaller. Plus I think that in the near future ebooks will come out simultaneously to paperbacks.
6. Convergence of media: whether we like it or not, the digital space and technology have changed the way we physically interact with our environment. I have all but lost the habit of writing by hand (just as a while back I realized that using a fountain pen seemed tedious because I had been using a ball pen all my life) since I type most everything and similarly I am finding reading on non-electronic media somewhat awkward. I cannot explain this and I understand it makes little sense physiologically speaking but it is not far from the truth.

Now, as for e-readers: The Economist has a brilliant piece on what technology they use - (unfortunately I could not find this online, it was part of a technology supplement published in December 2009; I did find a small opinion on this here ) and to make matters even more exciting it seems Apple's tablet has been sped up to design due to the particular rise in ebook consumption as it is, aside from other uses, best suited to function as an ereader also. To me the key issue is not, as discussed previously here, how to include non-content related stuff within the text, but rather how to make a reader that requires little energy to operate, is compatible with other devices such as phones or laptops and MOST IMPORTANTLY where to draw the line at what an e-reader should do. Because if it plays videos, searches the web and displays content, it's a laptop :D

This is, most assuredly, to be continued.
image via