Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SHOCKING REVELATION: Time Spent Online Flattens; Time Spent on TV Increases.


Ad Age reported today the results of a Forrester survey revealing that time spent online has leveled off at an average of 12 hours per week.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Nielsen Media Research reported last November the average American watches 142 hours of TV in a month. Last season the typical home had a television on for eight hours and 18 minutes each day. That's up an hour per day from just 10 years ago.

And the older you are, the more TV you watch. Nielsen said Americans aged 65 and up watch more than 196 hours per month.

Back at Ad Age...

Forrester contends that as consumers become more accustomed to the Internet, they also become more efficient.

I guess that makes sense, but then how do you explain the seemingly endless increases in TV viewing? Certainly we have all become accustomed to the TV enough to become more efficient with our utilization. Right?

Wrong. Americans love their TV. All-in-all, Internet use has flattened out, newspaper and magazine reading has flattened out, even Major League Baseball attendance has flattened out (actually it has dropped).

Meanwhile, somewhere in my head...

I am reminded of a Terrence Mann monologue from the popular movie Screen of Dreams:

People will watch Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been television. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But television has marked the time. This set, this screen: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will watch Ray. People will most definitely watch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TV Remains King of All Media

The Nielson Co. reported this week that the average U.S. home now has more TVs than people - 2.86/household to be precise. That's a lot of TVs. According to the same reports, more than 114 million homes in the U.S. have at least one TV; if my math is right, that's 90% (the Census Bureau reports there are now 128 million "housing units" in the U.S.).

I don't know - maybe it's because I've always loved TV so much - but 10% of households have no TV? I am amazed.

But then again, did you know...

• Less than 90% of Americans have a mobile phone.
• Only 80% of U.S. households have Internet access.
• There are fewer than 10 million U.S. Twitter users (some reports say only 1 million).
• Facebook claims to now have 250 million global members; that's just 3% of the global population and only a sliver of the U.S.
• About 1,400 daily U.S. newspapers are currently circulated to 48 million readers.
• More than 200 million iPods have been sold worldwide.

And of course there is the radio - in your home and in your car and in your office and on your mobile device. And there are books and movies.

But TV remains the king of all media. At least for today.

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.” - David Frost

Thursday, July 16, 2009

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It.

Once upon a time, while a Mass Communications major at Cleveland State University, I conducted a research project to prove a three-part theory:

Part 1: Most newspaper readers mostly read headlines and not full stories
Part 2: Most headlines are sensationalized and do not reflect the true content of the article
Part 3: Lots of people assume the content of the story based on the headline and share it via word-of-mouth

My research supported my theory and I was all fired up about this, but then I graduated and I became an agency professional and time went by and then newspapers started dying. But I had a dream last night about a rather strange and globally read newspaper - Alternative International News Times. Here are just a few of the headlines I remember:

White House Gives Trillions to Business, Then Takes It Right Back With Health Care Plan
• • •
Best Buy Offers Preferred Parking Status to Big Screen TV Owners.

• • •
Indians Finally Win World Series; Forced By Congress To Change Team Name To Cleveland Caucasians

• • •
Michael Jackson Still Dead; Larry King Still Alive

• • •
US Department of Labor Blog Says Twitter Negatively Impacts Productivity

• • •
Study Says Coffee Cures Cancer, Causes Heart Failure

• • •
Tiger Woods Finally Wins 15th Major; Apologizes To Fans For Long Wait
Jimmy Kimmel To Replace Conan; Conan To Replace Jimmy Fallon; Jimmy Fallon Not That Funny
Legalized Pot Rescues California Economy; Legalized Pot Rescues California Economy

All the news that fits, we print.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In a Deep Recession, Which Green is Really More Important?

Sometimes I feel sorry for the color green. It is much maligned and often misunderstood.

A green light is a good thing. It is a sign of approval, as in: "You are good to go."

A green thumb is a good thing. It indicates that one has the ability to make things grow.

A green person is a bad thing. It is a sign of inexperience and/or jealousy.

And a person who is green around the gills is not a good thing. It implies you are not looking too well.

But the most popular meanings of "green" today – at least in the United States – are money and the environment. To have some green is a good thing. Likewise, keeping the planet green is a good thing. So, green is good.

But wait just a minute. Aren't we all in agreement that the endless quest for "money" in the U.S. is what is primarily responsible for the destruction of the "environment?" The factories pumping toxins into the air and into the water, the coal miners stripping away at the land, the lumberjack's destroying the forests, the cars and SUVs sucking up gas and spewing out pollution.

And isn't the new green the enemy of the old green? Doesn't Al Gore want smaller, more efficient cars and more land with trees and less coal mining and fewer factories?

So doesn't that make green good and bad at the same time? I am so confused.

Fortunately, WalMart has it all figured out. They know it is just a matter of time before Al Gore and his goon squad of dogood treehuggers create some kind of ridiculous legislation that requires manufacturers and retailers to be greener, which in turn will cost them truckloads of green in order to be in compliance. So WalMart is being proactive and creating its own environmental regulations.

Sure, it will cost suppliers some extra green, which in turn will cost consumers some extra green, but in the end, WalMart will make a lot of green and eventually become the universal symbol for green... and of course, for green.

This planet has -- or rather had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Douglas Adams

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Now, Could You Explain Your Process in English?

My son is a brilliant chemist with a Master's Degree in Food Science Technology. Despite his advanced education and superior knowledge he is able to communicate with great clarity all the processes and procedures involved in his highly technical food and beverage research. So why is it so very difficult - if not impossible - to get "professionals" in the marketing and communications industry to speak plain English?

Between the contrived language, artificial terms and unnecessary acronyms (UAs) you need a secret decoder ring just to know what they are talking about.

Think I am kidding, or worse, exaggerating? Fine. Following is a series of actual, unedited communications from industry professionals that I have either received in my inbox or read in industry articles and white papers over the past week. Do you know what they are talking about?

This first one is an actual e-mail to me from a vendor.

Right now we are in the process of performing QA in our virtual development environment. Once that is complete, and browsers have been verified we will be ready to schedule a code push. The team can then proceed with regression testing to ensure no other impacts.

If you are under the impression you have just read a transcript from a NASA pre-launch sequence, you would be wrong.

How about this copy from an article in an advertising trade magazine:

But even if reviews offer structured data, it's not easy to make them an integral part of a company's internal process and the ones who do have well-defined methods... We use tools to track buzz, track mentions of products and brands and there's a method to the madness but I can't say anyone's discovered it.

Or that anyone understands what you are talking about.

And then there is this:

This data will be used to contextualize the value of integrated business intelligence functionalities and their ability to drive additional cost savings for enterprise IT and telecom departments. Recommended actions: Develop or acquire a full telecom lifecycle management solution to manage the enterprise telecom and network deployment... Choose a solution with a pre-integrated BI solution in place... Implement role-based assignments for telecom and IT-related spend reports.

Yeah, that's what I would do.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I am not as smart as I think I am. But just consider this: If I am in the industry and don't understand what these people are saying, what chance to those outside our industry have? Unless of course you are simply trying to fool them with your idiomatic doubletalk and gelatinous jabberwocky.

Regardless, just stop it.

Social Media Battle Royale

Is it just me or are we living in incredibly divisive times?

Upon reading this week's Advertising Age story – "Forget Twitter" – I was reminded of the old Ken-L Ration commercials:

My dog's faster than your dog,
My dog's bigger than yours.

My dog's better 'cause he gets Ken-L Ration,

My dog's better than yours.

Does Ad Age and/or Abbey Klaassen really believe that we should just forget about Twitter and Facebook now that a couple of corporate executives have figured out that online product reviews are nifty channels of communication? Apparently they do.

According to the story, "for all the ink spilled on the importance of Twitter and Facebook as feedback and customer-service channels, there's another social-media tool marketers are increasingly finding useful, not just as an online-shopping tool but as an internal, culturally changing consumer-criticism channel: the humble product review."

Sheesh, that's high praise for a tool that has been around for more than a century. Ad Age does know that product reviews are not a new idea, right? Well, maybe not.

Regardless, was it necessary for Ad Age and/or Abbey Klaassen to throw the formidable tag team of Twitter and Facebook under the bus just to shower praise on Product Reviews? According to the story, the problem is that Twitter "conversation" and Facebook "chatter" are interesting and important, but not structured.

So, if I tweet my network that Key Bank sucks because they place a 24-hour hold on my deposits, but process my debits in real time, that is not something you can wrap your arms around? Or how about this: If I tweet a link to a product review on Amazon, allowing even more people to see it, does it not have tangible value? Or if I update my Facebook wall about the great time I had at The Melting Pot in Raleigh, NC, will it not resonate?

In point of fact, isn't any channel of communication that allows organizations to learn more about their constituents (internal and external) important? What about the incoming phone call to customer service? What about the quiet e-mail or the fax or the letter or the business reply card? Aren't they all important?

As the Ad Age article clearly explains, product reviews are easy to find, easy to read and easy to interpret (they are "structured" and "transparent"). In short, they are the low lying fruit. But I think it is naive and foolish to so readily dismiss other channels of social media simply because they present a challenge. And let's not ignore the traditional channels; they remain robust and vital sources of insider information.