Monthly Archives: October 2009

Lord of the flies

A German book publisher, Eichborn-Verlag, used wax to attach banners to common flies at a recent  tradeshow. This unique marketing approach was successful not only due to its novelty, but also because the weight of the banners slightly affected the flies’ mobility, keeping them flying close to eye level and forcing them to rest more often.


What the hell is social publishing?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts over at Soapbox Included lately. The site’s author, a guy by the name of Brandon Mendelson is attempting to carve out a cyber niche for himself as a social publisher.  And of course, being the pyschic fellow that I am, I can read your mind right now. You’re thinking: What the hell is social publishing?

According to Mendelson:

“Social publishing is defined as any form, new or emerging, of online content creation. A social publisher is not a blogger. A Social Publisher is someone interested in using social publishing to create a successful, financially healthy, and honest career for themselves.”

This is a good start, but it’s still a bit vague. It sort of reminds me of the old Taoist koan in which the master set a pitcher of water on the floor and asked his disciples, “What is this?” One of the smug, self-impressed students immediately answered “It is not a shoe”,  at which point the teacher began thrashing him. A shy student then walked up to the pitcher and knocked it over, which was the answer the master was seeking.

Mendelson’s definition reminds me of the first student, he is primarily defining what social publishing is by telling us what  it is not.

Jeff Whatcott of At First Light offers an expanded definition.

“Social publishing is a blend of three categories:
1) web content management
2) social software (blogs, wikis, social networking platforms, forums, etc.)
3) web app frameworks”

This is better, but still doesn’t really give us the full picture.

The best definition, from Loudpoet’s interview with Soft Skull Press publisher Richard Nash:

“‘Social (publishing)’ is taking the book and making it much easier to have a conversation with the book and its writer, and have conversations around the book and its writer.”

Social publishing  is about making publishing a two-way street. It means providing the reader with a direct channel to the writer to offer feedback, ask questions, and have conversations.  We’re already seeing a lot of this on the Web, via comment sections, polls and email the author links.

What’s interesting to consider is how this form of publishing will affect media forms that have remained unchanged for decades, even centuries. While I have a hard time imaging the Kindle taking the place of actual books, it will be interesting to see how authors adapt to a growing call for accessibility and feedback.

Of course, with some authors (JD Salinger comes to mind), feedback and critical reception matter not at all. For others, however, Chuck Palahniuk for example, encourage and even foster conversations on their work. Palahniuk’s fan site, The Cult, which grew from an unofficial fan site to an official writer’s site, promotes discussion on themes and topics of his work, no doubt stroking his ego at the same time 🙂

In summation, social publishing is the logical progression of the social networking generation. We’ve become accustomed to sharing our opinions and feelings with the world, and it’s only natural that publishers would get in line with this. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, but in the meantime, I suggest you keep up with Mendelson’s site, it’s got a ton of interesting and useful information.

Writer’s Ruminations #3

Content is king, queen, high priest, minster of state, CEO and head waiter. Everything else comes after.

Increasing your Web exposure

It seems like companies are finally starting to pay attention to how they appear on the Web. At long last, many companies are realizing the importance of page rankings and search engine optimization (SEO), and as a result, are hiring specialists or advertising companies to help them out.

While optimizing search engine results is an excellent idea and can provide great returns for your business,  not everyone can afford to hire such a someone to perform this work.  And in all honesty, there is no reason to. Anyone can manipulate their site to increase its ranking. Here are a list of a few tips and tricks I have picked up over the years to get you started in SEO.

1. Understand how the process works – Search engines send out Web crawlers called spiders to archive and explore sites. The information these spiders gather is then used in page ranking. Almost everything following is geared towards these spiders.

2. Use keyword-rich text in quality copy – This is the single most important thing you can do to increase your page ranking. Spiders look for common search terms. Make sure copy on your Web site, especially on your homepage contains these words in relevant text. There are varying reports on what is ideal keyword density, but a good average seems to be around 8%. Remember the old adage, “Content is King”

3. Design your site for visitors, not spiders – I know what you’re thinking, doesn’t this fly in the face of #1? Surprisingly, no. Spiders will search through several levels of your site, however, most human visitors will not. Readabilty and usability are key. To make your site appear more attractive in search engine results, title your pages in a way that will attract visitors. For example, “Tony’s Pizza – Hot and fresh, delivered in 30 minutes” will attract more clickthroughs than “Tony’s Pizza – Home” or “Pizza, Italian, Delivery, St. Paul, Food, Pepperoni, Sausage, Onion…”.

4. Use HTML tags and descriptions – This includes Meta tags, image alt tags and page title tags, as well as Meta descriptions. These help steer searchers towards your site.

5. Use a site map – This helps crawlers, as well as providing an easy navigation for your visitors.

6. Use links wisely – Links to related sites are a great way to both increase traffic to your site and improve your overall page ranking. However, don’t blindly link with anyone offering reciprocity. Develop relationships with other sites in your industry and exchange links with them. This will prove highly beneficial.

7. Use an analytics program – Google analytics is a great program for keeping an eye on visitors. It lets you determine how visitors are reaching your site, as well as what keyword searches are landing them there. Use this info to make strategic adjustments accordingly.

8. Do your research – Piggybacking on #7, do your homework. Find out what terms decision-makers in your industry are searching for and adjust your site as needed.

9. Don’t use “black hat” techniques to fool search engines – This means don’t use shady, underhanded tricks to fool search engines, such as using invisible text, keyword stuffing or  “doorway” pages. While these techniques may work in the short term, they’ll eventually get your site banned from the major search engines. It just isn’t worth it.

10. Consider paid advertisements – Search engines offer paid ad placement on a per-click basis. If you have the budget for this, consider using it to your advantage. If you bid high enough, you’ll always appear when a specific term is searched for.

A few other things to keep in mind:

1. Not all search engines work in the same way. However, instead of concentrating on every engine out there, concentrate on the major ones, including Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask, which drive the majority of the traffic anyway.

2. This is an ongoing process. You’ll have to keep an eye on your status and make tweaks as needed. The Web is not a static environment.

3. Keep looking for new and better ways to improve your ranking. Read sites that specialize in SEO, for example:

There is a ton of really good SEO information out there. If you’re serious about improving your Web exposure, this is a great place to start.

Some of my favorite advertisements

I love creative advertisements, particularly those that reach their audience in new and/or unusual ways. Here are a collection of some of my favorites:

Folger’s Coffee – ran a few years back in New York. I love the idea of taking advantage of the steam that rises from manhole covers in the winter. And what better to warm you up on a chilly day? A cup of Folger’s.


Cars decorated as Nikes, from Mexico City.

A mirror that lets customers “try on” clothes, from a shopping mall in Tokyo.


A play on the building concept behind Legos, from Santiago, Chile.


A similar idea to the Lego campaign, this is for Ravensburger Puzzles, from Germany.


IWC watches on straps from buses in Berlin.

Collective local exploration

Are you familiar with Foursquare? If you’re following the social media explosion you should be.  A sort of local Twitter, Foursquare is a locally-based social network that allows people in the same city to connect and share experiences both online, and through mobile devices.


Utilizing a real-time stream of tweets (for lack of a better word), users roam the city, racking up points for checking in from new locations, offering tips to other users and exploring different parts of the city. These points, in turn, change your ranking on the site’s leaderboard for that city. And to give noobs a chance, all stats reset at midnight on Sunday night. Thus, users are playing a weekly game against not just their social circle, but also against every user in the city.

Additionally, the app allows you to save a “to-do” list, earn badges, become the “mayor” of a favorite haunt and share your location, when desired. While its not available everywhere (currently 17 US  and 3 international cities), it’s growing popularity no doubt capitalizes on the Twitter generation’s love of sharing their experiences with as broad an audience as possible.

Even cooler, in certain cities, Foursquare has partnered up with 8coupons to promote specials at local eateries, bars, etc. According to a Mashable article, Foursquare users within a three-block radius are sent automatic notifications of deals. This allows users to discover new places, finding the best that their city has to offer, while allowing merchants a new channel to market their products and services.

By cross utilizing social networking with location-based marketing, the partnership between Foursquare and 8coupons offer a glimpse of the seemingly limitless future of new media and social marketing.

Viral marketing, this is what I’m talking about

Volkswagen has a viral video on Youtube with over 1.5 million hits. How? Primarily by creating fun, spontaneous interactive content.

Check out a few more examples at