comScore shares valuable time, place and device data

comScore shares valuable time, place and device data

I’ve long been a fan of comScore‘s research and reports (see here and here), particularly since they include Canada. A new report has apparently come out. While I can’t find where to download a copy, a number of Canadian journalists have written about it. However, they wrote from a mere findings perspective. They focused on increases in time spent online, smartphone usage and our love of streaming video. Hum ho.

Don’t give up too fast, though. There appears to be an important dataset in the report that should be of interest to all communicators in Canada. Specifically, desktop computers (and laptops, I assume) are the dominant tools of our daytime Internet usage, and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) dominate our evening usage.

Put the data to work for you

It’s important to understand why this might be the case. I suspect mobile devices dominate our evenings for two reasons. First, a tablet or smartphone is a more comfortable second screen than a laptop; and, the smaller device doesn’t obstruct the television in the same way. Second we tend to carry our mobile devices with us when we go out in the evening to social and sporting events, do errands and shuttle the kids around for extra-curricular activities.

So, why does all this matter? The usage patterns? The context under which the patterns are established?

If you have a message to communicate, a campaign to promote, or people with whom you wish to connect online, understanding where they are, what they’re doing and what device they’re using is critical to communicating with them more effectively. Is a sponsored FB post going to reach the hockey parent? Is a promoted tweet going to reach the binge-watching Game of Thrones fan? Should follow the online discussion already underway going to identify a good opportunity to join in?

What about format? The same short essay read on a laptop to better understand an issue is likely to be skimmed or ignored on a small screen. A video may be a welcome interruption during the day but will probably wait until the next commercial break in the evening (and may be forgotten by then). An emotionally energizing photo might be perfect during the evening yet fail miserably during the day. Which is the right time, context and format to promote the bottle of wine and which to promote the taxi ride home?

Remember that mainstream media report to the public, not the practitioner. Dig deeper for the real story when you see great data in the news.

Ignore the Ford Nation YouTube channel at your own peril

Ignore the Ford Nation YouTube channel at your own peril

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been his own worst enemy over the last twelve months. At least. And, a healthy case can be made that his brother Doug is as much Rob’s enabler as his greatest champion. Say what you will about the mayor, his actions, decisions, leadership and his innate talent of saying the most inappropriate things in public, the man has unflappable confidence and resilience.

That’s about as much as we need to consider in background information for the extended communication and leadership train wreck we’ve all been witness to.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Ford Nation on YouTube

140218-FordNation-YouTubeIf you haven’t yet watched the Ford Nation YouTube channel, what are you waiting for?

All judgements which can be passed about the depth and sincerity of their remarks aside, the premise behind the channel is smart. Rob and Doug have the right idea for building a community in the lead up to the fall election. They come across as unscripted, even if a bit formal, and generally accessible and relatable people. The Ford brothers are making sure their ideas and actions are part of the considered opinion. And, launching the channel scored them some more earned and social media attention.

Basically, if you can suspend your disbelief in what has shaken out over the last year, this channel should serve as a reference for any politician and political candidate who wishes to communicate with constituents and work towards a multi-term career.

Be the media

What the Ford brothers are doing is not remarkable, nor unique. Naheed Nenshi published an audio podcast series in the run up to his 2009 election victory. He talked extemporaneously about the campaign and reflected on the outcomes of debates in conversation with a member of his campaign leadership team. Audio is a powerful media and popular among a particular audience. Don’t discount it.

Let’s face it, though. Video is much more popular (and growing in popularity), easier to understand and simpler to share than audio. Particularly when it’s short (five minutes or less) and meets the audience on its terms rather than pandering to viewers while doling out talking points. Mayor Nenshi also uses video effectively to build a rapport with his city. It’s not all about politics. And, by the way, you can rip the audio stream from a video and publish it as a podcast.

Politicians should use this form to keep their constituents and issue stakeholders up to date. Some do. NDP MP Françoise Boivin publishes occasional update videos to her YouTube channel.

Basically, if you’re not taking initiative to communicate and build community online as an augment to your in-person efforts, you’re probably working against people who are. This may not matter too much right now. However, it’s not going to get any easier or any less relevant.

So, start now. Study the Ford Nation YouTube Channel for its productive and unproductive lessons. And start taking risks now. It might make a difference in your next campaign.

Summary of some of the things I believe the Ford brothers are doing well:

  • The videos are short and issue-specific
  • The channel is updated regularly (new videos added today)
  • The channel is well branded, and video intro branding is short
  • They invite and respond to [emailed] questions
  • They include discussions about their non-political interests
  • They seem unscripted and inflect their personal story
  • They speak the language their base eats up
  • They’re getting their message out to the public, unfiltered

Summary of some of the things I believe the Ford brothers are doing poorly:

  • The set and setting is too formal
  • They both face the camera and only side-glance each other
  • Some of the camera cutaways are awkward
  • They respond a bit too curtly to tough questions, “talking at” rather than “responding to”
  • Rob was sweaty in the most recent wave of videos (never let them see you sweat)
  • The description for each video is identical and doesn’t address the subject of the video
  • They’re a bit too partisan (which of course is part of their brand)
Understand the strengths and challenges of your social media toolkit

Understand the strengths and challenges of your social media toolkit

I wrote last week about the Canadian Journalism Federation’s How Social Media is Changing Politics and Reporting political panel. In an effort to keep my post brief, I shared only some high-level, pithy points made by each of the three panelists.

You may have noticed the laser focus on Twitter and Facebook as platforms of choice for each of the panelists: NDP MP Megan Leslie, Liberal MP Marc Garneau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. And, at the same time, each lamented the challenges of the platforms. Specifically, each pointed out tweets often lack context and the character limit makes it ineffective for nuanced conversation. They noted that Facebook accomodates more substance yet is less public and demands more time doing housekeeping.

With the exception of Mayor Watson’s monthly online chat and his recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything real-time chat), the main social media of choice by the panelists are the platforms which are arguably the most popular — not the most effective.

This is an issue affecting many (most?) communicators — public relations, public affairs, marketing — not just politicians.

Just as you wouldn’t saw a two-by-four with a screw driver, you wouldn’t communicate substance over Twitter or try to spread an urgent message exclusively on Facebook. To communicate (and engage) effectively with constituents, stakeholder groups, observers, analysts and enthusiasts, you need to consider a variety of tools by their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t punish yourself and your goals by limiting the number of tools you are willing to use — and use effectively.

The following table identifies just a small number of popular tools and some key strengths and challenges of each. Feel free to offer your thoughts/suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Tool/outpost Strengths Challenges
Blog No hard restrictions on length
Helps SEO
Can be time consuming
Requires commitment
Demands effective writing skills
Language/tone must be relatable
Podcast Extremely portable
Adds expression to content
No defined limitations
Easier to consume than reading
Requires some technical skill
Requires commitment
Engaging content and delivery
Not as popular
Photos (Flickr) Shows rather than tells
Very “share-able”/embeddable
Allows control over licensing
Lesser-known photo service
Demands some degree of talent
Photos should be properly curated
Photos (Instagram) Extremely popular
Easy to publish/share
Picture quality
Noisy channel
Photos (Pinterest) Increasingly popular
More focused demographic
More focused demographic
Video (YouTube) Most popular video service
Easy to use
2nd largest search engine
Transcription service
Requires some technical skill
Quality image/sound
Engaging content and delivery
“Viral mindset”
Video (Vimeo) Higher quality video service
Easy to use
Requires some technical skill
Quality image/sound
Engaging content and delivery
Facebook Most poplar social network
Popular for photo-sharing
Generally easy to use
Can be time consuming
Publishing regular content
LinkedIn Higher quality content
More focused demographic
More focused demographic
Twitter Very easy to use
Not a walled-garden
Fastest amplifier
Extremely noisy channel
Spam and trolls
Culture rewards zingers
Reddit Increasingly popular
Very focused demographic
Highly interactive community
Very focused demographic
Crappy interface
Cult of political personality

Cult of political personality

A lot of ink and air time is being allocated to the online activities of the government and our elected officials lately. In fact, this year has been a bit of a banner year for Canadian political enthusiasts who divvy up their attention between their television, computer, tablet and smartphone.

In addition to the growing number of MPs who are managing their social media and digital content properties on their own (and those who delegate the responsibility), the Conservative caucus appears to be trying to overcome a reputation of being a tightly controlled message-machine which has little appetite for showing a human side.

It began in earnest with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s #dayinthelife. On January 28 the PMO staffers (I feel that’s a safe statement) posted a trail of glimpses into the PM’s day. Videos, photos and musings about meetings, phone calls, meals and family pets continued a trend of breaking form.

You might recall the PM’s last attempt to present a lighter side over Twitter was a stiff and crafted ‘personal’ tweet congratulating his son and his hockey teammates for their win against “the big guys.” The PM’s more recent efforts are far more productive even if they offer opportunities for existing critics.

Other MPs are more natural at apparently being themselves online. It’s not uncommon to see MPs lament long hours of travel away from family. There have been announcements participating in cancer walks for friends and family, and a few online memorial posts. Some post the occassional tweet about a personal passion. Some tweet a play-by-play of hockey games and awards shows. Tony Clement’s I like chicks too tweet from Saturday features an undeniably human-relatable moment which can’t be faked. I still hold former Liberal MP Glen Pearson’s blog post The Swing is Gone as a high-water mark for closing the gap between the public and elected officials.

Today Tomorrow brings about another unconventional #dayinthelife. Canadians will be presented with a version of what it’s like to be Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for the day. Minister Flaherty has a Twitter account, @jimflaherty, which is home to four tweets issued between March 28 and April 5, 2011, and his Facebook Fan Page is a platform for broadcasting official announcements. That’s my way of noting the Minister is not known as an active member of the digital culture. In fact, don’t expect his day to unfold on his own account. Rather, @financecanada will be home to the Minister’s one-off diary. At the time of this post, 8:30amET, I’m still waiting for the ‘good morning’ post.

Tomorrow is also budget day and the online festival will continue with what I understand will be socially-shareable content about the budget rather than dry textual updates of fiscal clauses. They will be using the hashtag #eap13. Expect that as the volume of tweets increases, so too will the Twitter number of participating spambots.

MPs are warming up to the idea they have a powerful ability to connect with people on a human level, in their own way, whenever they feel the need. It’s an approach that peels away the layers of mediated experience and, if done believably, can be remarkably effective at closing the gap between themselves and the constituents and issue stakeholders they serve. Any effort to build a sense of community before you need will mean having a community to call on when you do.

‘I have invited criticism and condemnation': a model apology

‘I have invited criticism and condemnation': a model apology

Mistakes are big news. Often the apologies are as well.

Apologies are especially interesting since they come in a variety of forms. There are deflecting-apologies (“I’m sorry but if X didn’t do Y then I wouldn’t have done Z.”), anti-apologies (“I’m sorry if you were offended.”) and woe-is-me apologies where the alleged-apologist turns things around to make themselves look like the victim. Some apparent-apologies are hard to put a finger on. Among those, count the one issued by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford for having an affair and lying about it.

It’s fair to say people make mistakes. One particularly big snafu that’s receiving some media attention this week was the work of Toronto District School Board Director Chris Spence. An op-ed he penned for the Toronto Star contained five instances of plagiarism.

Oopsie daisy!

It goes without saying this is terrible; particularly given the position Dr. Spence holds in the education ecosystem. I’ll leave the criticizing to others who I’m sure are having a field day. Instead, I want to exploit the educational value of Dr. Spence’s apology. It’s a model apology. It should be studied and understood for its speed, clarity and commitments by anyone who thinks they may have to apologize at some point.

Unlike public figures who have reason to be embarrassed by their actions (or at least humiliated for being caught), Dr. Spence has taken ownership of his mistake.

In his published apology, Dr. Spence….

  • explains what he did: “I wrote that op-ed and – in no less than five different instances – I did not give proper credit for the work of others. I did not attribute their work.
  • illustrates how easy it is to fail to attribute work when you mix your assignments mixed with other activities: “I did research and wrote down notes and came back at it the next day, and wrote down the notes.
  • highlights the reasons he should hold himself to a higher standard: “There is no excuse for what I did. In the position I am honoured to occupy, in the wonderful job I do every single day, I of all people should have known that.
  • owns his mistake: “I am ashamed and embarrassed by what I did. I have invited criticism and condemnation, and I richly deserve both.

Then he does something particularly important. Dr. Spence notes the consquences assigned to him should be more substantial than those doled out as per the school board’s own policy for students. He details a plan to better himself. The plan includes taking the ‘Ethics and Law in Journalism’ class at Ryerson University.

Dr. Spence has assured something significant. By being quick to acknowledge his mistake, direct and clear in his apology and declaring he will better himself, Dr. Spence is setting himself up for a new and even higher level of credibility. He’s also helping to make sure the issue becomes yesterday’s news today.

The real news will be if he delivers on his commitment.

And then what kind of book deal he gets.

Photo: Rose uploaded to flickr by Aamer Javed.

Silver fish handcatch: A Detroit TV anchor’s story

Silver fish handcatch: A Detroit TV anchor’s story

It’s a bit on the long side. Still, this ‘short’ video tells a very interesting story about how a TV news anchor for Detroit’s WXYZ discovered the power of social media, reinvented the station’s relationship with the news and its audience — and built a community in the process.

It started with a tweet. And became the #backchannel.

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