Time’s 2006 Person of the Year: You?

According to this tidbit on wwd.com, yes, you, or better stated, the collective “we” might be Time’s 2006 Person of the Year.  That sounds about right.  Think about the combined influence of blogs, YouTube, wiki’s, etc., and how they’re not just changing the media landscape but rapidly becoming everyday tools and solutions.

These technologies weren’t invented in 2006, but it’s hard to argue their importance and how it has surged throughout the year.  Thanks to each of these tools, anyone can easily create their own platform, communicate their message and share it all with the rest of the community.  Just ask anyone who owns stock in one of the publicly traded newspapers and see what they think of the citizen media model.  It’s changing the world and it’s here to stay.

The Indianapolis Star on Congressional Races

Here’s an example of local opinion and commentary done right. This article in today’s Indianapolis Star summarizes the candidates and makes recommendations for the upcoming House races. The paper’s Editorial Board interviewed the candidates for this piece, noted strengths and weaknesses and even talked about one incumbent who “frequently rambled and was disjointed in her responses to questions.”

This is exactly the sort of local coverage that newspapers are uniquely qualified for. Further, although the article is freely available on the Star’s website, the print version fits nicely on one page and features a map of the state with each district clearly identified; I’m not sure why the map is left off the online version. While it’s possible to post reader comments about the story on the Star’s site, I don’t think the paper goes far enough to encourage this level of community involvement.

Why not use the paper itself to stimulate more community input and debate on these candidates?  They should have put a sidebar or some other element in the paper saying something like “Give us your feedback and help other voters learn more about the issues and the candidates at www.indystar.com/2006races.” Instead, the article in print provides no information about the ability to provide feedback and comments online. I generally don’t believe URLs in print cause many people to go online, but an invitation like this is more meaningful than most. Another nice touch would have been to videotape the Editorial Board interviews and post them alongside each district summary online; again, this could have been played up in print, driving more people to the Star’s website.

The New York Times on Airline Security

I've been on the road a lot lately and continue to be amazed by the odd airport security solutions used by the TSA.  I got off a plane last Thursday, the first day of "no liquids, gels, etc.", finally feeling safe from the threat of bottled water and cosmetics.

John Tierney of The New York Times sums it up quite well in this article (subscription required, but free trial available).  I agree with him that we're going about this all wrong and need to look at the Israeli airports for a model that provides better security.  Am I prepared to wait in long lines to be individually screened?  You bet.

“Blue Ocean Strategy” and “Hot Property”: getAbstract Summaries

As part of my ongoing use of the getAbstract book summaries program I was able to “read” two books on a recent flight home: Blue Ocean Strategy and Hot Property.

Blue Ocean Strategy is all about “hitting ‘em where they ain’t”, in old baseball lingo. In other words, rather than competing in an overcrowded space where all participants suffer from reduced market share and profits, why not move into the “blue ocean” and build a new business where none currently exist? It sounds much simpler than it is, of course, but it still caused me to stop and think. I love this quote:

To fundamentally shift the strategy canvas of an industry, you must begin by reorienting your strategic focus from competitors to alternatives, and from customers to non-customers.

Read that again. In just about any business out there it’s accurate to say the number of non-customers far exceeds the number of customers. What can you do to convert those non-customers? What sort of new product would lure them in? Most of your non-customers don’t even know you exist, so you not only have to create a completely new, exciting product, but you’ve got to figure out how to raise awareness. If you think about great new product developments of the past I’ll bet most of them weren’t created so much to beat a competitor as they were to establish a new industry.

One final (great) quote from this one:

Non-customers tend to offer far more insight into how to unlock and grow a blue ocean than do relatively content existing customers.

Hot Property’s subtitle is The Stealing of Ideas in an Age of Globalization. It talks not only about the IP theft that’s so widespread today and how the U.S. is “the world’s most zealous intellectual property cop”, but also how the U.S. “owes its Industrial Revolution to some astonishing instances of industrial espionage.” One of the excerpts notes that “Hamilton and Congress wanted to rapidly industrialize the United States…by whatever means necessary…America thus became the world’s premier legal sanctuary for industrial pirates.” Very interesting.

A Million Little P.R. Boosts

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Given all the press James Frey and his book A Million Little Pieces are getting these days, I’d have to agree with that statement. Despite all the criticism Frey is enduring, the book remains in the top 5 on Amazon. I also get a kick out of the fact that the Amazon title still includes “Oprah’s Book Club” in it – I wonder how hard she’s fighting to get that phrase removed!

Earlier today The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the topic with an article titled Publishers Say Fact-Checking Is Too Costly. They make a compelling case and state how the fact-checking burden should really fall on the author’s shoulders. One agent, Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management said “publishers could add a clause to the author’s warranty section in their contracts, stating that to the best of the writer’s knowledge the facts in the book are true.” He then points out that if the author is found to egregiously misrepresent the facts, the author could be sued for breach of contract.

Makes sense…until you bring the lawyers into the equation. I’m sure I’m reading this wrong, but the article goes on to talk about an attorney who is representing a reader who is suing Random House because they “failed to conduct a reasonable investigation or inquiry regarding the truthfulness or accuracy of the material.” This lawyer says “he will seek more than $50 million in damages for the plaintiffs.” Note that “plaintiffs” is plural, so I hope that means he’s representing more than the one reader cited in the article.

My favorite quote in the article: This lawyer says, “Nobody can get away with profiting with a product that you represented as something that it is not.”  Well, nobody can profit…except for the lawyers apparently!  $50 million?!