Michael Jackson – The King of All Traffic

On July 8th, 2009, I wrote a post connecting Michael Jackson’s death to an uptick in traditional media (read: How Michael Jackson Brought Back Traditional Media). Since then, a bunch has happened (including the release of This Is It), so I wanted to reexamine the theme. This is the resulting post, which is a story of apology, reality and thanks – maybe even some SEO advice – I’m not really sure myself, but here goes…

First, a reality check and an apology… The death of The King of Pop was a monumental media frenzy event that lent eyeballs for ALL types of media, not just the fledgling print and broadcast. So, while my original assertion was right that he helped bring back traditional media (even if for a short time), the reality is that even if a true rise in readership/viewership occurred, it would never be enough to bring back traditional media against its new, online counterparts. I will now apologize for making these exaggerated claims: I’m sorry my readers, I really am.

Second, the real reality (meaning as it impacts me)… I shudder at the thought of calling my ‘work’ with Iron Mountain in a Concrete Jungle new media, but it literally is just that, a blog, if you will. Having said that, what really made me switch gears on my original assertion was the traffic that Michael Jackson generated for this blog… for me, it’s unprecedented (sure it’s my first true blog, but that’s semantics).

Finally, the thank you… Since July 8th, I’ve received over 100 clicks on this post through search engines alone. In fact, “Michael Jackson” is THE most popular search engine term which was used to find my blog. Furthermore, my top 3 are: michael jackson, michael jackson clip art, google michael jackson… just for my lil ol non-blog-like blog…Mind blowing… which is exactly why I wanted to write this up and thank all those people for finding, visiting and reading my blog, as well as to offer them an update (and more things to search for).

Maybe now the spotlight will finally let Michael rest, I’ll try to take care of that at least in this particular media… then again, we’ll see how many clicks this will generate in 5 months. One can only guess…

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Pairing Wine with Beer

*This was originally a guest post on www.israeli-wine.org blog*

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Dalton wines, waiting for the perfect time to be uncorked…

Every time my wife and I make our bi-annual trip back home to Israel, we especially look forward to visiting our relatives in the north for the usual great conversations, delicious dinners and amazing wine in the cool Golan breeze.

Our last such dinner included several Hatzilim (eggplant) dishes, various spicy spreads, a Greek salad and fried red mullet fillets accompanied by Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc… and of course enlightening conversation about the very wine we were drinking.

“Wine making takes a lot of patience, there is a huge amount of waiting,” started Binyamin “Beni” Sorkin, the famous viticulturalist (partly of Yarden, Galil Mountain brands fame) and Israeli wine industry consultant, our host and my uncle in-law. “It takes at least a case of beer to make a bottle of good wine,” he continued swirling the newly minted Dalton Rose… A wine coincidentally made by Naama Mualem, Beni’s oldest daughter.

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Beni Sorkin in his wine cellar with the Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

I’m not sure people outside the industry have ever measured good wine in the amount of beer it takes to create it… Sure, some folks are aware of the role of water in the manufacturing of wine (if taking glass and other industrial manufacturing processes into account), but the beer insight is new and more delicious.

Figuring this would be a perfect theme to explore for this gracious guest blog post from Avi, my wife and I jumped in our rented car and headed to Dalton Winery to discuss it further with those entrenched in the process. Without question, the phrase seems to resonate with industry professionals but needs to be put in perspective. I asked Naama and Beni what exactly they are waiting for… in a world of automated harvest machinery and bottling process, hasn’t the process been sped up and not slowed down?

“As the winemaker, I wait for everybody and for everything, including myself. From the perfect time to harvest, to the actual time that harvest gets in the gates to the winery from the vineyard, mashing and filtering, the bottling process, and of course the barrel aging” Naama notes. And because the harvest times are different for each varietal, each one of them goes through the process alone and you usually can’t combine bottling of a Sauvignon Blanc while mashing of Merlot is going on. “So the beer comes into play between stages of winemaking and every time the process has started.” She summed up, confirming her father’s assertion.

Just like wine is often paired with a good cheese, a cold beer is always matched well with a game of Shesh besh (or backgammon). Naama made a point to mention that there is a lot of Shesh besh playing in between work. “In fact this year we launched a Shesh besh tournament. We are the first ever wine business in Israel to open such a league,” she boasts. While the league is currently open to Dalton employees only, Naama dreams of a country wide competition between wineries.

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Naama Mualem, Chief Wine Maker at Dalton and backgammon enthusiast

Gaining this insight, we proceeded to the tasting, which as usual I can only describe as hedonistic given our familial leverage, tasting all thirteen 2008 bottles and with regional artesian cheeses, breads and spreads. This brings me back to the Dalton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose we had on our first night in the Golan… it was very refreshing, served somewhat cool but not cold. It embraced the spices in the spreads and home made olive oil, and yet the delicacy of the red mullet; it was the right wine at the right place and definitely at the right time. I recommend it immensely.

Waiting can also be savoring, taking the time to enjoy something; it can also be looked at as anticipation… and here is where US consumers can relate. Because of Shmita rules (biblical agriculture laws mandating a break from harvest on the 7th year), Dalton will not be exporting the 2008 wines, so you may be sipping beer between now and when the 2009 vintages make it stateside. Good things come to those who wait, and the waiting time can be easily passed by drinking Goldstar or Guinness while playing a fierce game of Shesh besh.

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Negatweeting, it is our right, nay duty…

rant_smallPhoto credit to: http://redstaplerchronicles.com/
Editor’s note: forgive me reader for I have not blogged in nearly three weeks… it’s planning season, sorry folks


First, some background on why –

However snobbish or passé (perhaps even condescending) the term Foodie may seem to some, I consider myself one; I’m a foodie with my restaurants, my menu picks, my ingredients, my home cooking, my books, my TV choices… I just am, and not that there is anything wrong with that. Even though I babble about food and restaurants all the time, the one thing I refrain from doing is talk negatively about the service of a restaurant.

To me the food and the chefs are the stars, so why bias people about décor or service if the meal is great… that is until recently when my mom, brother, wife and I were at Fig and Olive (Fifth Avenue location, the ‘new’ one; bottom line: I recommend the uptown location, food is the same) and had one of the worst services. So I decided to enact the age-old marketing perspective: negative experience = 10 people told vs. good experience = 3 people… I went to town, and told all who’d listen about it in addition to those I usually babble about food with.

The next day my frustration was met with an interesting read from the Chicago Sun-Times about a Horizon Group Management LLC lawsuit against a tenant’s ‘slanderous tweets’… then as if on cue, I started catching up on the Sam Sethi/TechCrunch libel suit over published ‘slanderous articles’ (see more TC coverage: here, here and here) this week… hm, I thought “the power of words you say?”

So, a new Tword is born–

The other day I came up with (per search results) a cute term… Negatweeting, seemed to just roll off the tongue, quite self explanatory given the recent occurrences around me.

Now that I work a lot with corporate reputations and though I’m young, I can seriously say (with a straight face) that I remember when people only had to worry about reputations in print and on TV. All of us, my current clients included, aren’t so lucky… we have to counter and encounter the public head on; the virtual soapbox of social networking and social media mandates us. If we don’t engage and define ourselves, someone else will or already is. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase recently (again, planning season)…

I take the side of Amanda Bonnen (obviously) as well as that of Michael Arrington in these cases, and frankly everyone else that took a stand. It is the power of free speech, if not consumer power through preference and opinion, which is the foundation of American society… hence Michael Arrington wanting his case tried here and not in the UK, as it is now. And that perhaps is the problem with such outrage as my own at the legal system hamstringing free speech online… the internet, though democratization at it’s finest, is not a democracy.

Recent Exhibits:
a)      Google’s power to ban sites
b)      Marines banning social networking
c – e) Iran, China, Russia

And so on… internet is not a democracy, it is a powerful populous tool that is used to spread information and opinion, but there will always be those who control the switch… and yes, there is a switch. Again, do I even need to link to yesterday’s Twitter/Facebook hacker slowdown/deny of service attacks? Seems quite reasonable of an argument to me.

Thus, I decree: onward with your negatweeting my masses, go forth with your opinions and free speech consumerism. Use social networking and social media to bunch up and grow your numbers. Have your cake and eat it too, until they take away the fork.

So go on, exercise the right to express dissatisfaction with things and make yourself heard through tools available… because if we don’t engage and define ourselves, someone else will or already is.

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Did Twitter Save Brand America…?

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One of the things that I’ve been following as part of monitoring for major trends that impact corporate reputation (I do corporate PR, remember?), is the so called ‘fall of brand America,’ in lieu of the perceptual waning based in part on Bush’s years in office, as well as the economic crisis leading to a global downturn that followed. The trend is not new, but looking at America as a brand is something I haven’t done before seeing it through the lens of public relations and communications.

I will note, I always looked up to America as an image and pillar of democracy, opportunity, and freedom; after all I am a naturalized citizen, who had to survive communism to get here (born in Moscow).

It’s no secret that the Bush years wreaked havoc on the image of America, both at home and abroad, so what changed? Is it possible to reverse at all, or is the damage too long lasting (two wars going on, an endless recession, etc.)… My thinking is a resounding yes; like the old Spanish phrase about food, a little bit often (shouldn’t that just become Twitter’s motto too?!).

In my opinion, first step was electing Barack Obama… love or hate him and his policies, the 180 degree change to the Bush tenure was needed to start a process of global reconciliation on the right foot… moreover, I credit the Obama campaign for bringing twitter and social networking into the fray of politics (sorry Mr. Dean), a necessary final step in its full democratization for the masses.

As Victoria Esser recently wrote, in her fantastic byline for Politico:

“Is social media diplomatic window dressing or can the U.S. Twitter its way into the hearts and minds of other countries? While the answer is somewhere in between, the U.S. cannot afford to wait while these channels are perfected in order to direct them in service of President Barack Obama’s priority of renewing America’s global leadership. Indeed, Mr. Obama can use the themes and technologies that helped him generate huge grass-roots support in his presidential campaign to build support for America on the world stage.”

Mrs. Esser continues to source Pew Global Attitudes Survey finding broad anti-Americanism around the world, with the image of the United States declining in 26 of 33 countries since 2002; while characterizing the U.S. image as ‘abysmal’ in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia… so far down has the image fallen that not even the newly elected government could make a dent in the negativity (read: Poll: Obama Not Helping U.S. Image In Iran)

So what’s step two? For me, step two came not during the watered down ‘social media town halls’ from the Obama administration at the onset of his presidency, nor from the YouTube/CNN debates earlier in the campaigns. Rather, it was the election in Iran, and the social media/citizen journalism combo, into what I call open source protesting.

The telling sign of this was the #iranelection crowdsourced outrage over the election results (read: Staggering #IranElection Stats: 2 Million+ Total Tweets), where the world joined hands where the president could not… I’m not blaming Obama at all, diplomacy is hard and not black/white, but I will say that he could have said what he said louder and faster.

By following the conversation on Twitter, we saw American citizens showcasing US ideals in 140 characters, with RTs, links, photos and genuine care for the cause of freedom… without Twitter it would not come to be, and the Iranians would not be able to see the willingness to collaborate and unite in cause, as long as that cause is just. Because of the flat world and the access to open (somewhat, I’m looking at you China, Iran, et al) communication platforms, the ‘face’ of a nation is no longer just based on its leaders, but also the interaction of it’s citizens.

Of course, Twitter never was and never will be the tell all solution to everything, and  I’m not claiming it to be either. I just think that without it, there would be no such level of interaction… a solid building block. I agree with Mrs. Esser, when she concludes her poignantly intellectual analysis of the situation with:

“There are limits to this virtual dialogue, and so it must be continued on the ground with engagement in “retail” public diplomacy — the critical dialogue with political leaders, opposition, minority groups and others needed to demonstrate that the U.S. is willing to come to the table.”

I could not have said it better myself, so I won’t. I will agree though, a ton of work is yet to be done, mainly on the ground, because even the most solid of foundation is not enough… now it’s time to build.

To be sure, however romantic about the topic I may sound, I am NOT endorsing the notion that Twitter founders should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for rescheduling planned maintenance… regardless of that though, didn’t Twitter save Brand America?

If not yet, then it will… just watch.

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No longer exception to the rule… OR Why I finally got a blog

Today is a big day for me… I decided to finally start a blog (again) only this time I mean it; not because it’s time, but because it’s overdue… I may have jumped the shark with blogging in lieu of all the Geocities (Intellectual Confusion and Sonic Intoxication) activity I did in High School, and surely with the Looks Cool (entrapy.ismad.com) effort I mustered in college… I may have been ahead then, but now I’m behind, way behind.

The proof is in the pudding, given the fact that Geocities and Looks Cool are both long gone now, and I barely understand WordPress or HTML. Obviously, I had to act sooner or later, or risk winding up shooing kids to get off my lawn in my late 20s, and then turn into Mr. Roper by 30. NAY, I say!

In order to readjust and dive back into the fray, I needed to do extensive research; what changed, evolved, or democratized since I’ve become a mere observer and not a participant… does a world need another blogger… and exactly how many blogs are there in the world?

Over a year ago the Blog Herald estimated there was roughly 185.6 million (adding those tracked by Technorati and The China Internet Network Information Center). Indeed, staggering numbers, but a year old none the less; so let’s estimate a modest growth of 10%… that number is now 204.2 million! However, with the dawn of microblogging and social networking by way of Twitter and Facebook, those taking advantage of the virtual soapbox presented by the Web 2.0 world has to grow as exponentially (a la Moore’s Law) and linearly to the growth of those two sites alone… which as we know has been uncanny (read: Twitter.com Quadruples to 17 Million U.S. Visitors in Last Two Months).

I would be remiss if i were not to blame my profession for the hiatus, since right after college I was hired into corporate PR and top tier media relations work for Fortune 500 clients and some of the world’s top C-levels… and, as we recently learned, those folks are STILL holding out not just on social media but also blogs (read: Heads of top U.S. companies snub blogs, Facebook: study, with the key finding that not a single Fortune 100 CEO had a blog). Monkey see, monkey do, I guess, but at least there are others behind me; even if they are twice my age.

Today, I stand up and take my rightful place on the babbling mountain that is the blogosphere. Tonight, I embark on my own leg of the 400m relay that is Web 2.0. Tomorrow… well, we’ll see about tomorrow, I have a very busy day.

Here we are, (am I really going to do this? seems like I already am), so strap yourself in, don’t hold your breath, and please don’t hang on every word… after all, who am I anyway?

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