Monthly Archives: December 2010

The sad story of Yahoo, Delicious and what to use next

I can’t help feeling that Delicious is one of the many services that Yahoo forgot that it owned and couldn’t see a way for it to integrate with its ad-supported news’n'content’n’stuff model.

But the semantically-tagged fat lady has yet to sing for the bookmarking service. Right now, we know Yahoo doesn’t want Delicious any more. It’s team have effectively been laid off (says AllThingsD) as part of a wider shutdown of Yahoo Products. A blog post from Delicious says (emphasis mine):

We are not shutting down Delicious. While we have determined that there is not a strategic fit at Yahoo!, we believe there is a ideal home for Delicious outside of the company where it can be resourced to the level where it can be competitive.

We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious and we believe there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users. We’re in the process of exploring a variety of options and talking to companies right now. And we’ll share our plans with you as soon as we can.

So, that’s a “come and get us” plea to another internet company to take on the business and make it work. What’s sad about this situation is that Delicious feels it needs to find a buyer. The outpouring of grief from digital media folk following news of its troubles, plus the amount of people (like me) who have paid for similar services elsewhere, proves there is some kind of business model in there somewhere trying to get out.

But when you scale up with the help of a multi-billion dollar plc, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to scale down again.

‘Wait, do we own that?’

I went to interview Yahoo’s top European brass at a press event in London last year for paidContent:UK (read/watch it here). The meeting revolved around YHOO’s new homepages (big yawns), renewed attempts at creating personalised content experiences for all their users, which is one thing Yahoo does well with things like sports and finance, and a possible deal with Microsoft.

What about Delicious?” asked one blogger towards the end of the meeting*. “How does that fit it?” A good question but clearly one Yahoo wasn’t expecting. Europe senior vice president Rich Riley glanced somewhat uneasily at colleagues in the room for a moment before offering: “Yahoo is a useful service and we think it’s important.”

But was there any integration with Delicious and Yahoo’s new products? No. Was this social bookmarking tool – a genuinely personalised service – part of this strategy? Nope. The question that remains unanswered is: WHY?

Tasty origins

Delicious was founded by Joshua Schacter in 2003 and bought by Yahoo in 2005, adding it to the crowded “wall of shame“. This is the bright-eyed and optimistic official Delicious announcement:

We’re excited to be working with the Yahoo! Search team – they definitely get social systems and their potential to change the web. (We’re also excited to be joining our fraternal twin Flickr!)

And this is Jeremy Zawodny on the Yahoo Search Blog confirming the deal:

…And just like we’ve done with Flickr, we plan to give Delicious the resources, support, and room it needs to continue growing the service and community. Finally, don’t be surprised if you see My Web and Delicious borrow a few ideas from each other in the future.

And what happened? You will struggle to find a mention of Delicious in Yahoo’s annual reports from 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009 or in any of the 10-K SEC filings I looked through (happy to be corrected on this if anyone can spot a mention). So I’d think it safe to assume that Delicious (for whatever reason) has never played a meaningful and significant role in its parent company, having to battle for attention with a host of other acquired start-ups.

The great shame is that Delicious should have fitted in perfectly with Yahoo’s plan to be an ad-funded content and communications player on a global scale. I feel users would have even paid (and still may be asked to) to save the service – but that doesn’t fit in with Yahoo’s free-to-air model at all.

Whatever next? Pinboard.in and other imitators

– If you’re looking for guidance, see the comments on Paul Bradshaw’s very useful post and the spreadsheet he’s collated of all the alternatives to Delicious.

I couldn’t do much journalism without the 5,400 tagged and indexed articles I’ve built up over the years. It is a fundamental part of my working processes.

So I paid $25 to join Pinboard.in, a “me-too” bookmarking tool to which you can very easily export your Delicious bookmarks.

It works fine (if not quite as smoothly as Delicious) and also imports Twitter favourites and RSS if you want to do linkblogging and so on. I paid for the top-level membership because it automatically archives everything so it can be downloaded if the service goes belly-up. As Martin Stabe has presciently warned for years (and did so recently), if you don’t keep a copy of all this stuff – no one else will.

Some minor grumbles about Pinboard, or rather, a wishlist:

– A bookmarklet that lets you add a bookmark with Apple+D or CTRL+D

–  Predictive tagging: it sounds trite but Delicious predicting that I meant to tag something with “behaviouraleconomics” so I don’t have to write it out in full, is a big time-saver.

– See my bookmarks in a left-hand sidebar at a glance by pressing CTRL+B.

I’ll report back soon with more on life without Delicious – I’m assuming I’ll have to use something else, though I’ll be pleasantly surprised if Delicious does pop up somewhere else with new owners.

*This is not a verbatim account of what was said and only from my recollection.

Merry Christmas from your local paper. Sort of…

It’s always nice to receive Christmas cards. Somewhat less nice to receive automated mailing list Christmas spam from companies you have nothing to do with.

Even worse is when the message is so generic and faceless it makes you laugh into your eggnog until you can laugh no more.

Ping, an email arrives (see right). The subject: “Season’s Greetings from your local newspaper.” “Great,” I thought. It’s a note from Malcolm Starbrook, who runs Archant’s Hackney Gazette and East London Advertiser, the two local papers I read. Or, perhaps, it’s someone from MEN Media (now under Trinity Mirror’s auspices) who publisher the Tameside Advertiser, the paper covering where I grew up and where my parents still live.

But no, it’s from “editor” (non-specific) at a unspecified Johnston Press title, who says:

The editor and staff of your local paper thank you for your custom and support in 2010 and wish you a happy 2011. Johnston Press are the publishers of your local newspaper… We apologise if you have received this email in error.

In fairness, I did live in Leeds for some years – where JP publish a whole bunch of titles – five years ago. I also joined a Yorkshire Evening Post Facebook Group (but didn’t give an email). It’s safe to say JP doesn’t run a paper within many miles of where I live.

And won’t most people receiving this – especially in an area with more than one paper – think who the hell is this from? The man on the street does not know or care who JP is.

Thanks all the same JP. But with database management and email marketing this good, just imagine the task ahead of local publishers as they move towards convincing modern consumers and advertisers to take them seriously.

Merry Christmas!

What I learned about Twitter and journalism in 2010 – tips and advice from a compulsive tweeter

I was very pleased and grateful to be included – for the second year running – in Journalism.co.uk’s top five tweeters of the year. It’s a always good to be recognised like that but the real buzz from Twitter is having and keeping more than 3,000 followers and carrying on the conversation, link-sharing and jokes that make my day worthwhile.

There are no shortage of tips on using Twitter, in fact there’s an ever-growing sub-industry of armchair experts telling the world how best to “maximise the ROI of your social media presence”, usually in 5 or 10 “easy” steps.

I realise I’m only adding to this crowded market, but in the talks I’ve done and the work I’ve carried out with different media companies in the past year – this is one of the things I get asked about the most. And this isn’t bloodsucking social media bullshit: understanding how your personal network reacts to what you publish and how it can help you market your stories and ultimately your business is something very much worth thinking about.

Also check out guides and tips from Paul Bradshaw and Richard Kendall.

What to tweet?

One thing people new to Twitter often say is: “why would anyone be interested in my tweets?” It is hard at first to see why anyone would be interested. But the thing is, if you tweet about what you’re interested in and what you’re working on there are people out there who are also interested.

So if you cover a geographic patch or an industry, if you’re following some important and interesting people in that area, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll make some meaningful and useful connections.

As for what to say, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting on things such as:

– What you’re working on and the problems you face (someone may be interested are able to help)
– Where you are (someone may be nearby, plus your location is key to putting you in a context followers can understand)
– What you think about something (e.g. news story, personal experience and so)
– How you feel (the personal touch is what elevates an account from boring to interesting)

I have one main account (@psmith), two other personal accounts (@psmithgamer and @psmithfoodie) and am responsible for one professional account (@MediaBrief) and I try to update them all as much as possible. It should go without saying that you will need to tweet every day, or at least every working day, to build up an audience and to get the most out of Twitter. I think a good guide for a journalist is 10 a day – but that depends on what’s going on. If there are live events to report on, such as a breaking story or a conference speech, then more is fine.

Broadcasters such as Channel 4 Newsdo a great job of curating their own programmes, adding a human, behind-the-scenes element to the 7pm broadcasts by live-tweeting what’s happening and what the audience is saying. ITV Sport also does this well for its marquee sporting broadcasts.

Second chance

One of the most important points here, as Danny Sullivan has pointed out, when it comes to shouting about content from your site, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting something more than once. So if it’s the talking point, the most-read and discussed blog post or news story, why not tweet it at 8am, 1pm and 5pm. Ideally it will be different each time the same users come back – even if it’s simply some interesting user comments – so flag that up and convince people to click again, as well as enticing clicks from people that are seeing it for the first time.

Don’t over-do it

Ask yourself: is each message justified? When someone recently told me they have a specific Tweetdeck column set up just for people who tweet too much, and that I was a chief offender, that was a wake-up call.

If you are at a conference, it’s polite to warn people in the morning that you’re going to be tweeting more than usual. Don’t take it personally if lots of folk unfollow you – if they see you being informative, relevant and witty via their own extended network, they’ll should come back on board.

Know where it’s @

Tweeting a standard message is visible to all your followers. But with @ replies, putting the @ sign at the start of a tweet means your message will only be visible to everyone that follows both you and the recipient. Sometimes it much better to send a direct message anyway, such as when arranging a meeting.

If you want to reply to something someone has said and you think it’s going to be of interest to all your followers, just put a full stop at the start of the tweet and then the @username (eg: “.@psmith I agree entirely with your sensible twitter advice”

Credit where it’s due

I don’t think you need to thank every single person who ever retweets you. It’s polite and nice to acknowledge the generosity of a RT – and you should do everything you can to encourage them – but “Thanks for the RT” is becoming cliche and somewhat meaningless. The inhuman nature of that robot-like phrase does look a little spammy, though the intention is good.

So think of different ways to say thanks: Why not just return the favour and RT them on something else? Perhaps come back with another point or something relevant to the RTer. Some people like to wait until they have had a few RTs and then bulk thank everyone at once, like a round robin Christmas letter, which is more efficient if still a little impersonal.

Since the launch of TheMediaBriefing, I’ve commissioned quite a few senior, C-level media executives just through DMing them after they mentioned the site and said “hey thanks for the mention, how about you write us 600 words on what your company is up to?” I never fail to be surprised by the amount of people who say “yes”.

Who are you anyway?

This is very basic, but lots of people get their Twitter biog wrong. You need a straight-forward one-line job description, including the name of your employer, your location and a link. If you’re too shy to have a picture that looks like you, don’t be. People can’t connect with a picture of your hand or a cartoon character – and you’re significantly less likely to get real-life chance meetings with followers at real life events, which is one of the real objectives of Twitter for me.

Whether you say your views are not those of your employer or not is up to you – but as I’ve said before, to do so is utterly pointless.

Hashtags keep conversations together

The evolution of hashtags is fascinating as it’s the best example of Twitter’s users adapting their language to make the most of the service, instead of Twitter inventing new functionality.

For me, these should be used to follow a specific conversation tied to a specific thing, whether it’s an event (#paywalls11), a place (#hackney), an occurrence (#uksnow), a viral conversation (#thingsIdidaged16) or something else. If you want to follow what people are saying, put these hashtags into search.twitter.com or create a tab on Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and see all the tweets at a glance. This should be standard procedure for reporters, I feel.

I’m always slightly puzzled by the use of hashtags on nouns, such as “I’m going to walk the #dog”, but hey, if it works for you…

Spam fritters

On a serious note, in 2011 serious tweeters will be beset by the increasing problem of Twitter spam, whether in their own personal feeds or polluting popular hastags. I only have to mention iPhone games as @psmithgamer to receive four or five spam replies – all potentially containing debilitating bugs and malware.

Strange-sounding tweets from people that sound like “I’m checking out my Twitter analytics from this great new site” are almost always automated messages from dodgy sites. Don’t click on the link or you too will unknowingly tweet the same bollocks message to all your followers.

So be warned: if it looks dodgy it probably is so don’t click on it.

Over to you

What are your twitter tips? What annoys you and what delights you about the people you follow? Please let us know in the comments below or (of course) by tweeting me at Twitter.com/psmith. I’ll update this with the best responses later on.

Update 05/01/2011

Something else to add to this on the subject of retweeting in the first week back to school after Christmas: Don’t feel that you have to RT anything. There is an increasing number of tweets swirling around from people either asking for charity donations, for help to find a missing person, or something far more mundane. They often have the look and feel of chain letters, so beware the “Plz RT” request and be sure you know exactly what it is you’re retweeting first.

I entirely endorse Kate Bevan’s post on this from November. She puts it very well:

I tweet a lot of links – stuff that catches my eye, things that make me laugh, stories that make me go WTF. I often RT links from people I follow. What all those links have in common is that I’ve been engaged by them and I think they’re worth passing on. I don’t want to spam the kind people who follow me with a load of links to stuff that doesn’t

Picture from daniloramosweb on Flickr, some rights reserved.

The behavioural economics of free media: how to make users choose you

The way the media economy is right now, it’s no surprise the talk is all of how publishers can rake back some of the money they used to enjoy in advertising and, for newspapers, print circulation. It’s not unreasonable to ask users to cough up to cover the cost of content creation.

However, just because companies can charge their readers or viewers directly, that doesn’t mean they necessarily should. Free is fine in some cases and publishers are showing it can make sense – but for a free model to work is dependent on the context in which content reaches the consumers…

Standard’s freebie gamble pays off

Here’s what I made of the Standard going free back in October 2009, writing for paidContent:UK:

It’s a brave and aggressive move: many people looking at advertising declines in regional papers wouldn’t go near a business model that was dependent solely on print display, classifieds and sponsorship. But the decision may have more to do with necessity than strategy…. this looks like a last throw of the dice to make the loss-making title profitable again.

The collapse of the freebie thelondonpaper and the widespread [job] cuts at Metro appeared to show that publishers have lost faith in free—there is a prevailing view, it seems, with the ad market only expected to limp back to mild growth next year, reach alone just isn’t enough.

And now? As Roy Greenslade reported last month, the paper has grown to 92 pages a day – bigger than in its DMGT-owned days. Ads are – the Standard says – on the up.

I worried whether anyone would be bothered to read a proper paper on the bus, with its leader columns and seriousness, especially with two freebies, TheLondonPaper and the London Lite, to compete with. But both titles were closed without much outpouring of grief from Londoners.

And in their place the journalism the Standard produces each day is good consistently. The Dispossessed campaign, led by features writer David Cohen truly was a great populist campaign and won him a big award this week.

But here’s why it works commercially: With a captive audience and exclusive distribution deals, there is no reason free newsprint can’t succeed, although London may be in unique in this respect. It might not have a direct competitor for readers, but it still competes in a dangerous sharkpool when it comes to advertising: 700,000 readers pick up a copy every weeknight in one of the world’s biggest cities and for ad buyers that’s enough.

Behavioural context is everything

Do I want to read a newspaper at work? No. At home relaxing (or, more likely, working)? No. Do I want a read on my 40 minute tube journey: yes.

He’s talking about advertising, but Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy and IPA is still relevant on how media might market its content to readers: “Behavioural economics shows by and large that every decision people make… is massively affected close to the moment of decision by the context in which you decide.” When you target customers and what you put next to the advert is as important as your advert.

Here’s the video of him in action at the Content 2010 conference.

So, in that context is a news-stand the best place for your newspaper to be? What are the behavioural triggers that will make some change their normal routine – perhaps even begin an entirely new kind of behaviour, namely reading newspapers?

That’s the challenge for print – but a similar one remains for untethered digital media. If the decision to click or not to click. to share or note to share, to purchase or to scan on to something else… if all this comes down to the environment and context you make the pitch, then surely it’s in our hands to generate the right conditions to make it work.

TheMediaBriefing event on paywalls

As it happens, TheMediaBriefing is running its first conference in February on this very issue – I very much think there’s more to say to the issue that subscription business models and paid content will permanently be a part of almost every big league publisher in the next decade.

Our excellent all-you-need-to-know report on the matter, written by Peter Kirwan makes the point very well that digital paid-for content is neither anything new nor something that consumer and B2B pubs need to be scared of. (The report comes free with your conference ticket, by the way, plus you get entry to our official launch party the same day – this extended plug is now over).