Only Socratics plan conversations

palmit.commentary: Blogosphere Smackdown or Calculated Marketing Effort:

Cale Bruckner sort of corrects his assertions that I am a “blogger-for-hire” or PR flack, and asks whether we should come up with a name other than “viral marketing” for what transpired on this blog and others earlier this week. I agree, but we should just call it conversation. Anyhow, Cale’s off to Japan, but I think it’s a worthwhile discussion to have, because what we’ve seen is that there is a pretty classic example of defensive group-think in blogging, just like any other human society.

Here’s Cale’s amended posting:

Blogosphere Smackdown or Calculated Marketing Effort

Set the stage by announcing a product or a service that bloggers might have an interest in.
Audible – WordCast Announcement

Hire Allow somebody with zero PR skills to represent you in the
Blogosphere – somebody more interested in promoting their technorati profile than your product or service: Mitch Ratcliffe

Blogebrity (top bloggers) blog and podcast about the announcement:

• Jeff Jarvis responds 11/11:
Measuring Podcasts

• Dave Winer responds 11/12:
If it’s not MP3, is it still podcasting?

• Om Malik 11/13:
Audible’s unPodcast effort?

• Doc Searl 11/14:
The Past of Podcasting

Blogger-for-hire posts the post that really heats things up (roasting Blogebrity) and the Blogosphere Smackdown begins 11/13: See
More on the future of podcasting – the good stuff is in the comments.

Or, was this a calculated marketing effort that unfolded exactly the way Mitch and Audible wanted it to. Mitch’s inflammatory posts and comments created a ton of free buzz around the Audible announcement. Did Dave, Om, Doc Searl, and others play right into a calculated marketing effort? I guess it would be a form of viral marketing – or, does it deserve a new name.

And here is my response:

Thanks for the corrections, though you’ve chosen to be clever rather than completely accurate. It would be good, however, to discuss the meaning of what happened, because you’re correct that it deserves a name other than “viral marketing,” if for no other reason than I am clearly not a marketer.

You still seem set on the idea I am a “blogger-for-hire,” which I am not. I engaged Dave as one person working on a technology to another, he tried to bite me and I bit back. You say this the result of my “inflammatory” postings, but if you go look at the record (clearly visible on my blog home page, not just the link you provided, which is, admittedly, a pretty nasty flame of Dave, though one aiming at his claim to be able to judge a business opportunity and not a personal attack)—you will find:

<

p style=”text-indent:20pt”>
1.) I was pointing to posters, even critical ones, and just answering questions.

2.) Dave started with the first of his postings, calling Audible “shitty” and suggesting things as fact which were not correct.

3.) When I responded to him, he flamed me, I responded to him, pointing out he was really pissed off about my criticizing him for his Microsoft “leak” exclusive.

4.) Dave fired back that “if it isn’t MP3 it isn’t podcasting,” made a second posting about how poorly Audible’s business is doing (inaccurate).

5.) Dave also posted a defense of his Microsoft exclusive, amazingly repeating other people’s criticisms (including mine) as the explanation for the “leak” to justify his promoting the documents as a leaked exclusive.

6.) Then I posted the response you point to. So, is this a case of my being inflammatory or standing up to someone who could have used their position in the blogosphere to dismiss something I worked to create by burying it under false information and abusive language?

7.) Of course, fireworks followed and followed and followed.

By contrast to Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis, another critic, and I engaged in a very constructive dialogue across both our blogs.

This has nothing to do with PR, and if you’d look at my background you will find that what I do is write honestly, granted not always politely, because I don’t tolerate rudeness, especially from folks in a position to be generous. In the meantime, you attribute to “blogebrity” a status that is out of proportion to their role in the market, as they may have traffic, but they are not invariably correct. The fact we all can talk back is what makes this a completely interesting medium, sometimes.

The outcome of the discussion—the flame war, too—is that many folks commenting on blogs are saying “Hey, wait, Dave’s wrong.” And they go on to actually start thinking and talking about the potential of MP3, Audible’s service and other approaches to allowing those who choose to dedicate themselves to audio production to make some or all of a living from it.

Finally, was it a calculated marketing plan? Absolutely not. However, I did know with whom to talk to get the greatest coverage across the blogosphere, which is what anyone who wants to succeed in society has to do in order to maximize the returns on their efforts, whether at a cocktail party or in a network conversation. That’s the art of living in conversational markets.

I would genuinely appreciate your thoughts on this….everyone. I’m thinking of writing it up as a case study on social influence networks, because it verifies a number of things we’ve been learning from data collected by the Persuadio social analytics system.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis says I’m throwing more wood on the fire. Well, it’s getting cold at night, so gather round for some chatter…..

Been thinking more about this, the question Cale raised was: “Was what happened the product of a ‘strategy’?” The answer is no, because it was not a chore, but honest, friction-filled human communication that was not a chore one decides to undertake as part of a product launch (see Robert Scoble and Shel Israel on how blogging does not integrate, which is another way of saying, conversations can’t be planned). I was just talking about the product and standing up to a bully—the groupthink I referred to in this posting is the tendency of people to avoid criticizing A-listers and to agree with or defend A-Listers to gain linkage.

Finally, “PR” is traditionally thought about as happy talk, getting people talking about all the good things about a product. This whole kerfuffle (great word, don’t get it use it enough), as Jeff calls it, is unPR, people actually talking. I wonder if it could be made a “strategy” (read “chore“) or whether it is essential that such conversations take place among the principals of project/product teams, which leaves dedicated PR out in the cold to a large degree.

UPDATE2: Micro Persuasion: Audible’s Black Friday: A Case Study in PR vs. BR:

Via Jeff Jarvis. Steve Rubel has an analysis of the Wordcast metalogue of last week. Please go read Steve’s piece, as I respond here.

Interesting analysis, but what is Steve’s take on the discussion as compared to his conclusion about Audible’s format? If by “recovering” he means Audible could change the offering, then the company is listening and gathered a lot of feedback in the last week that it is acting on. If by “recovering” he mean they could change their PR effort, that would be another thing, because my role was not to be the PR interface. Like Dave Winer, I just blog about stuff I help build.

There was no agency involved and my role was as a designer of the service, not to handle PR. It’s virtually impossible to brief Dave, as he has announced his dislike for Audible. What is the benefit of treating reactionary critics like the WSJ, exactly?

That said, I chose to blog about it and got exactly what I expected, which was a reactionary response rather than a constructive one from Dave.

Jeff, Doc and others engaged in a discussion about it, though, and the takeaway from comments on my blog and various other blogs is that, on the whole, Audible did the right thing to push the market toward measurement.

Of course, when we were designing Wordcast we knew the format would be an issue, but the problem it solves is one that is not solvable with the MP3 format. If the market chooses to work with Audible, then Audible “wins,” but if only part of the market does it also wins and others will come along with alternative approaches. This is the essence of competition/ What won’t happen is continued format stagnation and ad rates can start to find the appropriate price based on their auditability or the inability to audit listenership.

As a nine-year-old format, .aa’s not new, but Audible is working to make it available to everyone for the first time. How is that a mistake?

I read every posting Steve points to and many more. No one was “outraged” that the Wordcast service would require the .aa format, because everyone understands that it’s a service hosted by Audible to provide hosting and measurement, not a competitor in the MP3 market. People don’t particularly care about the same conditions when you make a call to Google, Amazon.com or EBay’s APIs—you get data in their formats and are limited as to what you can do with it—people really dont’ seem to be outraged about that. iTunes isn’t hurting, either, for that matter and by working with Audible a podcaster is in a position to penetrate the metrics black hole that is iTunes.

What people do seem to be outraged by is the fact someone stood up to Dave and others to correct a number of inaccurate statements about the product that were meant to dismiss it (such as Om Malik’s comparison to Fruitcast, which is a very different service that includes no hosting or auditing, only ad insertion).

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

2 thoughts on “Only Socratics plan conversations”

  1. There does need to be corollaries to the Long Tail, one of which is that in any flat new market, there is a tendency for a Short Rump to appear which is based not necessarily on quality but on first mover advantage. Those A-listers you mention were the first movers in this graph.

    I agree that what happened was not definably PR. After all, the A-list bloggers do not represent the general public, they instead represent a tiny cabal of like-minded thinkers who dominate their part of the blogosphere. It was like a round-table discussion printed in a trade rag that is only read by industry types. J. Sixpack could care less.

  2. People have always talked .. it’s what they do. I continue to find it astonishing that there is such resistance (although I know a reasonable amount of the *why*) to acknowledging and using this most human of activities in more natural and productive ways, instead of trying to structure and manage it out of existence. And, yes, I know that I am naive.

    It’s even what people do in business, except that the lines between jargon, buzzwords, spin, lying and articulate coercion seem to keep blurring (at least in front of my eyes).

Comments are closed.