Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Live Experience As A Premium

Last week I attended a panel discussion on The Future of Media. It was one of those great conversations that if it wasn't for the fact the temperature of the room resembled a meat locker, I could have listened for another hour.

Moderated by Patrick Phillips of I Want Media, it included Roy Sekoff, President and Co-Creator of HuffPost Live, Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, Mark Thompson, CEO, NewYork Times Company, Cindy Jeffers, CEO and CTO of Salon Media Group, and Henry Blodget, Editor and CEO of Business Insider.

A pretty impressive group, the talk ranged from:  is it more important to be right or first when it comes to reporting the news, are legacy organizations more worried about what's next than what made them great to begin with, the intersection of big data and storytelling and the increased use of the visual in telling the story.

One of my favorite take-a-ways was this from Roy Sekoff.

And then there was this nugget from Mark Thompson.

Mark Thompson has an uncanny resemblance to Kelsey Grammer's Frasier character. So the seriousness in which he said that almost made me want to laugh. 

Except it was so true.  

It's the strange paradox of living in an increasingly digital world. Everyday there are more and more ways to interact - virtually. Yet in the end what we all crave is that in-person, live experience. It is part of our basic human nature to want to be physically seated next to another living, breathing person as opposed to a piece of technology. It's how we're designed. 

And now it has become a premium.

It's why there was standing room only for last Thursday's panel discussion. Why the Times Talk series are so popular. Why in person seminars still sell out.

The point of digital is to connect - more often, more seamlessly and more far reaching than ever before. But none of it means much if there isn't humanity involved - the living, breathing kind. It's the premium I'm willing to pay for.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What We Don't Know

What we don't know scares us. That fear leaves us with two options. We can let it make us stand still - digging our heels in deeper than ever to where we have been. We can pretend that whatever we don't know doesn't matter. That it's not important. We can deny that whatever it is has any real impact on us - much less our customers.

The other choice we have is to embrace that unknown. To look at it as a new adventure. One we know might make us look a little silly at first or appear a bit vulnerable. But we're willing to take the risk. After all - who wins anything worth talking about by standing still?

We can be like one of those executives Bonnie Fuller talks about in her recent article in AdAge - ignoring the change - therefore misreading their markets -admittedly overwhelmed with all this digital marketing stuff and not doing much about it.

Or we can embrace the change. We can start by demystifying the fear and educating ourselves. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When The Best Way To Connect Is To Disconnect

This was going to be a blog sharing this really great novel I just finished. It was so good, simply writing an Amazon and/or Goodreads review just did not seem sufficient. So I started to write this post.

I was going to tell you about how on Friday after an exhausting week of work I needed a break. From everything. People. Places. Computers. Things. I was going to tell you how I retweeted this tweet that originated from Lee Woodruff.

I had heard about this book. How could I not? While I don't know Caroline Leavitt personally we are Facebook friends. In fact apparently we have 118 friends in common. I checked ( yes - bloggers do research what they are writing about) and discovered  there are actually more than a dozen of those mutuals that I consider friends in the non-virtual world.

Anyway - Caroline has been sharing posts about this new novel for a while. She is one of those authors who understands the value of social sharing in a way that allows her true writer voice to be heard - authentically.

I made a note to add it to my Amazon wish list - for when I had time to luxuriate in a novel. Which was definitely not Friday. Not when I have a new NYU class starting on May 29,  two proposals for clients and all that marketing and prep work for the Digital Marketing w.001: Shedding Light On The Basics workshop on June 4.

But as I said, I was exhausted. I did not want to do any of the above, so I downloaded Is This Tomorrow to my iPad. Around 4 in the afternoon, I lay down on the couch and started reading. And I couldn't stop.

For the record, that doesn't happen often. I read a lot. I love to read. But it is a rare novel that I cannot put down - no matter how much else I "have" to do. It is a rare novel that reads effortlessly. That doesn't make me want to do anything but  read the next line. That each character pulls me in more than the next. That allows me that luxury of escape into someone else's world. That reminds me of how when I was a kid, one of my favorite places in the world was the second floor young adult section of the Glen Oaks Library where I could open the cover of a new book, lose myself in someone else's world and mysteriously connect more with myself. A book that reminds me I haven't been writing fiction enough of late.

I read until I was too tired to read one more word. All day Saturday, filled with real world responsibilities I kept thinking of this story set in suburban Waltham, Massachusetts in 1957 and 1963, of the complexity of the characters and of how real this fictional world had become for me. I couldn't wait until I got home to find out how it ended.

That's what great writing does. You can't wait to get back to it and then it makes you almost sad when you read the last page because even though you wanted to find out what happens, you don't really want it to end.

I wanted to write this blog to share this really great book and tell you that I think you should read it.

But as I was writing I realized there was more to this post than that.

This was a post about connection and how we find things in 2013. 

I had not read any of the reviews when I downloaded it. I hadn't seen it featured in a bookstore, because truth be told the last time I set foot in a real life bookstore was in January at the Barnes and Noble on Broadway to hear Ann Leary speak. (for the record I found out about that reading on Facebook)

I only knew that it was a May Indie pick and got featured in People Magazine because Caroline had shared that with her Facebook tribe. I read her posts because she shares good, useful info and often makes me laugh at her take on things. 

It was a tweet by Lee Woodruff, author, contributor to CBS This Morning and savvy social sharer that hooked me in on Friday. 

That's how discoverability happens today. Yes - there is a place for all that coveted traditional press - but what makes ideas and products and yes - great books spread - is good ol' word of mouth recommendations - a Tweet, a Facebook share, a Pin or a + Google.

This is also a post about disconnection. When I stopped all my busyness on Friday to treat myself to a novel the idea was sparked - without them having any idea - by the tweet of two people I really only know through Facebook and Twitter. 

And by that virtual nudge I was reminded that sometimes the only way to connect back with ourselves is to shut it all off. And do something drastically old world. Read fiction. 

So I'm sharing. Generously. Not because I'm being paid to. I'm not. Not because I was sent the book for free.  I wasn't.  Not because I will get something for this. I won't. 

I'm sharing because I can. And that's how people can say thank-you in the digital world.

This novel gave me a much needed respite from a crazy and exhausting week. The story and the characters replenished me, made me think and inspired me to go back to my own art - my unique combination of consulting, teaching and writing.

I'm sharing to say thank you to the author for creating such great art.

I'm sharing because that is the way of the world - and the digital world allows me to share more and do it more quickly.

I'm sharing because it makes me feel good. As did Is This Tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The 140 Character Universe

Sometimes there are just too many words. 

Yes, that was me who wrote that. A writer at her core. A person who needs words. Lots of them to express herself in the way in which she wants.

But sometimes less is more. Scratch that. When it comes to words, less is always more. 

Writers are taught to clean it up and to show me, don't tell me. It's ingrained in the head of a writer. The little bird sitting on your shoulder - asking - is that word REALLY necessary? 

Of course, today everyone is writing. If not the great American novel, chances are somewhere in the course of an average day a line or two is posted on Facebook, a Tweet is sent to your tribe, a shout out on Google+ or perhaps a cute little hook on Instagram. At the minimum you've sent at least one email or text message.

If someone has not told you about the less is more concept, you might not make your point.

-You might try a blog post that runs the length of one of those articles in Vanity Fair, which is great for a juicy magazine article, but considered a ramble for a blog that should run between 350-750 words.

-You might respond to someone else's blog post in 410 words with no beginning, middle or end that leaves the reader wondering what your point was and longing for the excess time that you seem to have.

-You might never get a retweet because the original tweet was just too long and there was nowhere to cut it down.

-That email you wrote to pitch a new client never got read because the reason for the note was buried somewhere in the fourth paragraph.

-The text you sent was so long it came in three sections which explains why your boyfriend still doesn't understand why you're mad. He never read it.

If your intention is being heard - or in this case read - get to your point. Keep it concise. Don't make us wonder what your point really is. In a world where our attention span has shriveled to that of a goldfish, there just isn't time to go wasting a lot of words.

Twitter forces the practice. For better or for worse. On the one hand it is a challenge to get to the point in just 140 characters (120 if you'd like your message retweeted). On the other hand, it forces us to get clear on what we want to say. 

But even if you're not tweeting, the point of all this technology is to connect. The 140 character message won't always work, but it's a good barometer - especially if you want to make your point. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It Will Never Be Enough

When I was deciding what to write in this post for Mother's Day, I almost opted not to. Over the year's I've written a lot of posts that include and honor my mother. What more could there be to say - not to mention what does the subject really have to do with living and working in the digital age?

I've expressed my gratitude for her laughter, warmth, generosity, sense of style and  the way we can laugh and be silly together. 

I've told the story of how her arthritis now gets in the way of her baking and so I was forced  a few years ago to learn how to bake her special Greek sweet bread and discovered I actually like to bake! 

I've told the tale of my desire to dye the perfect red Easter eggs and her voice telling me, "Honey, don't worry. They'll come out perfect. Everything you do always does."

I wrote about how she was always receptive to trying something new and being trendy and so one year bought a silver aluminum Christmas tree, despite my begging her not to.

I've told the story of  how I grew up listening to her sing along with Doris Day, "Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see, que sera, sera." 

I've shared her obsession with worrying and belief she was born with two worry birds, one sitting on each shoulder and her wise advice that one should always think before you speak.

Most recently I celebrated her in honor of her 90th birthday in October.

That seems enough. But it's not.

There will always be something more for me to say about my mother, about her fierceness and strength, her humor -  when she remembers to laugh at herself - and the courage in which she faces the physical limitations of growing old. 

Now that she needs us to watch out for her, she is constantly telling my brother and I how lucky she is to have us. That she doesn't know what she did to deserve two children who are so there for her. 

But I know what she did. She gave us the gift of love. Unconditional love. If there was ever anything we doubted, it was never that we were loved.

And for that, there will never be enough words said. 

As for what this post has to do with living and working in the digital age - at the end of the day all the technology in the world will not connect us as much as holding the hand of someone we love and who loves us. Which is what I will be doing this Mother's Day.

Mom's newest adventure - learning how to use the go-kart
in the grocery store.