Like Mr Waddington at Rainier, I’m heading off for 2 weeks holiday – though France rather than Corfu. Will be disconnected from the t’Interweb for this time – so look forward to catching up with the world on Sept 8th.

Have fun in the meantime – I know you will


Is the end nigh for Pandora and Internet radio?

Depressing news via Alan Patrick at the Broadstuff blog that pioneer Internet music discovery service Pandora may be on the verge of folding.

As Alan says, “it’s a real pity if this happens.”

Sadly, the odds for Pandora’s survival don’t look good. And judging by the comments of founder Tim Westergren in the Washington Post, he sounds (understandably) like a man who really hasn’t got the energy to continue the fight. The double whammy of being forced to retrench the service back to the US and Canada only and trying to reach an acceptable compromise on royalties has taken its toll.

In fact, the future of the entire US web radio industry looks pretty dire. The hiking of web radio royalty rates stretches back over a year – and the wrangling continues. Unfortunately for Pandora and their peers, the RIAA backed Soundexchange can afford to drag this out as long as they want – with the apparent end goal of driving Web radio into the grave.

Then again, I find it hard to believe that Pandora will be allowed to die completely. Perhaps one of the established record companies will now step in and offer to take Pandora off its VCs hands for a knock down price? Perhaps CBS may buy it and corner the market in music discovery. (As I wrote last year for One magazine,’s decision to work more closely with the majors seems to have paid off).

Pandora (and LastFM) have been two of the most genuinely ground breaking Internet services of the last 5 years. To see one of them go to the wall – and lose the value of the Music Genome Project – seems to be a staggeringly stupid waste of time, effort and intellectual capital. Even if Pandora in its current incarnation goes under, I can’t believe someone somewhere won’t attempt to resurrect it – even if it is under the wing of one of the traditional record businesses that (in)directly appear to be contributing to its demise.

Management Today Editor Matthew Gwyther on “desperate PRs”

Management Today Editor Matthew Gwyther has just come back from holiday to find 1,024 e-mails in his in-box.

As he points out, 95% of those emails are “dross”. Sadly, the blame can’t be laid at the door of spammers offering him “four gross of Cialis for $129.99.”

No, unfortunately, the culprits are “desperate PRs” who have sent him “no-hope press releases”.

Assuming he want away for 2 weeks that suggests he was sent around 900 useless press releases – or 450 a week or around 90 a day – assuming a five day working week. Or assuming an 8 hour day that’s just over 11 press releases per hour – or one press release every 5 mins (if we was only away for a week, it looks even more dire).

I know it starts to get boring raising the issue of carpet bombing journalists with irrelevant press releases – but it doesn’t exactly help the PR cause when the editor of one of Britain’s top business mags is subjected to such amateurism.

“80pc of SEO consultants are scammers”: Peter Kent, author, SEO for Dummies

SEO for Dummies author Peter Kent has been making some pretty scathing comments about the SEO industry in a new interview:

“Over the last few years as I speak to more clients and hear their stories, it has led me to believe that 80% of the business is scam.” Kent qualifies this remarkable statement by adding: “By that I mean that 80% of people in the business doing SEO consultancy are either running an outright scam, or they thought it was good to get into SEO because it’s a hot area – but they don’t really know what they’re doing.”

Web designers also get it in the neck:

“I have never met a web design company or web design consultant who understands SEO,” he says bluntly. “Don’t trust web designers as far as search engine optimization goes – even if they tell you they understand it, they don’t. I used to say that a few understand it but I’m still waiting for them.”

I suspect he may be exaggerating for effect but you can tell that a number of UK PR consultancies have been seduced into building entirely Flash based sites – which effectively renders most of the content invisible to Google (I know that Google is supposed to be able to index Flash now, but I’ve yet to see the evidence).

However, Just to ensure the article isn’t 100pc tirade, Kent ends with a few tips:

1. Understand your keywords. Do keyword analysis, don’t assume. I always tell people to spend a few bucks and get Wordtracker, spend a few hours, dig around, and do it properly.

2. It’s interesting to hear that people are obsessed with abbreviations. They think it’s important but when they do proper keyword research they often find that the same abbreviation means something different to a different group of people.

Certainly agree on point 1 – never make assumptions about keywords (or anything for that matter. Point 2 has particular relevance to the tech sector which has always been riddled with acronyms and abbreviations.

Most PR people believe print coverage is more valuable than online: an exercise in cognitive dissonance?

Gordon Macmillan at Brand Republic reports on a new survey which claims that “most PR professionals still favour offline media coverage over digital despite recent consumer research identifying online as the more influential medium.”

He continues: “More than half, or 53%, see it as more valuable, but the real story is that it’s their clients who are still deeply attached to print. Apparently nearly two-thirds or 64% of PRs believe their stakeholders prefer print coverage more than online, television or radio and more than half or 53% believe their stakeholders are more influenced by print coverage than television, online or radio.”

He rightly picks up on the word “believe” and asks: “I mean, don’t they ask? Apparently not according to the Parker, Wayne & Kent survey. It seems to be all about the permanence of print. The fact you can hold it in your hand and turn the page (maybe they never heard to the printer?).” If you examine PWK’s own press release on it, the whole thing is predicated on the “belief” of PRs.

I continue to be fascinated by what appears to a widespread cognitive dissonance in the PR industry (an uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. Or to keep with the Orwellian sub theme of this blog, doublethink).

In this case, the two contradictory attitudes are: the belief that print media continues to be the dominant media influence and the fact that most of the real data on the subject seems to suggest the opposite.

Why is this happening? Here’s my theory.

In spite of claims to the contrary, the main reason clients still hire PR firms is for “media relations” (although as PR Week has previously reported, clients are spending most of their budget on account management, admin and reporting). And media relations still tends to be geared around getting print based coverage – because that is the skill set (inventory) that most PR firms still have to sell.

So you can see the temptation to try and justify what you have to sell by implying there is still a need for it. And I don’t deny that there is still a large education job to be done client side regarding what are the most effective techniques today. Some cynics might argue that if clients want print coverage lets sell what they ask for – even though we know it isn’t best solution. However, you get the sense from the PWK survey that no one is really asking the questions clients really want answering – namely, how can you help me understand how my target audiences behave, what really does influence them and what is the most effective means of delivering a measurable impact on those audiences?

Over the last 18 months I’ve tried not to miss the opportunity to quiz people about their media consumption habits. On a number of occasions, I’ve asked people to try a little test – basically, to write down what they think their average media consumption is over a week – and then to actually write down what they really do. Most of the time, people are very surprised about the divergence between their belief and reality. The most common is to over-estimate the time they spend reading newspapers and magazines and to underestimate the amount of time they spend online – as well as how online influences their decision making process.

However, before I get accused of being some kind of online obsessive, let’s be clear – I’m not saying print media is completely irrelevant. That’s patent nonsense – and my own recent experience bears out the role it can play in a purchase decision. However, to automatically assume that print is the most influential medium is more an act of faith than rational judgment. And don’t forget the shelf life of print coverage is a few hours.

The starting point has to be the data and evidence that justify an approach. When you actually start to gather real information about how people really do consume media – both on and offline – you build a picture of a very different world to the one that PRs in PWK’s survey seem to inhabit (the emphasis placed on buyer personas by search marketing agencies is an example of how PR could and should be helping their clients).

It’s a bit like when a relationship is going down the tube. Although logically he may know its over, he still clings to the belief that “she still loves him really.” Surely better to face reality and move on – the heartbreak will be more painful the longer you refuse to face facts.

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