Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Building on a story on Portfolio.com, the following story from the NY Daily News helps explains why I am not, have never been, and will never be a Yankee fan.

That said, it also is why I think Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook is the successor to ABC’s Note (during the Mark Halprin days) is the best daily read on politics and other issues out there for people who aren’t full time political wonks.

A number of people have blogged regarding the use of Twitter as a reporting tool during the yesterday’s earthquake in China, including BusinessWeek.com, The San Jose Mercury News’ “Good Morning Silicon Valley,” the BBC and our Ogilvy Chinese colleagues who write the “Digital China” blog.

At the same time, slightly off-the-topic, News.com’s “Geek Gestalt” added the following item on Twitter.

Here is the Merc’s set-up and take on the issue…

The fans of microblogging service Twitter, led by head cheerleader Robert Scoble, are all aflutter today with the sense that in speedily passing along word of this morning’s earthquake in China, they have participated in a news reporting revolution. Seems Scoble started getting and forwarding tweets from China even as the ground was still shaking, an entire minute or two before the USGS posted preliminary data on location and strength, and more minutes before the bulletins started moving on the news wires. Wrote Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC, “Let’s see, as this story unfolds, whether this is the moment when Twitter comes of age as a platform which can bring faster coverage of a major news event than traditional media, while allowing participants and onlookers to share their experiences.”

An important tipping point in news dissemination during a disaster? In timeliness, maybe by increments over phones, blogs, text messages, e-mail, forum posts and the news wires (assuming that you’re an active Twitter user and happen to follow the right people). In reliability, certainly not. By any of the aforementioned means, initial information is going to be scattered, anecdotal and often flat-out wrong. And in usefulness, well, what exactly do you gain with those extra few minutes of awareness that a tragedy is unfolding? A heads up to start keeping an eye on more authoritative sources and some more time to yak about how terrible it all is. It always takes about the same amount of time for a full picture to emerge from these situations, and knowing about it minutes earlier doesn’t change that.

Not that all the tweeting is without value. For one, it’s many-to-many communication, so the information (or misinformation) on that channel may hit a wider audience than a post or e-mail and allow for quick pooling of resources. And if your interest in disasters lies primarily in first-person accounts (or if you’re a journalist gathering same for inclusion in a more complete report), the Twitter talk fills the bill (if you can sort through the babble). Charitably, you can think of it as additional copy for history’s first draft. But let’s not get so excited that we confuse news fodder with news.

I will readily admit that I’m not sold on Twitter.  Yes, there are times (which you can count on one hand) when reporters have used Twitter to post breaking political news — I’m thinking John Dickerson and Slate.com earlier this year — so it may have some limited benefit as the latest iteration of the urgent bulletin that Associated Press and other wire services send out.  Apparently, Scoble and others are impressed that people learned about the Chinese earthquake before anything was posted on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site or the wire services.  In all honesty, big whoop.  I’m guessing those posts didn’t provide a lot of context — and even Scoble had to go to the USGS to figure out if this was a big quake or a little one like the earthquake that hit Virginia last week. Or, to quote Ogilvy China…

Sure, in the immediate moments after the users in China — mostly in Beijing and Shanghai — felt their buildings sway, we were able to get it out that there had been an earthquake. We didn’t know where, though, until we went to more informed sources like the USGS. I for one thought that it had been somewhere much closer by — in Hebei Province, or perhaps in Inner Mongolia.

I think the Merc and Ogilvy China get it about right that Twitter and microblogging can be useful in some cases, but I still can’t get past posts about “I just ordered a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch” or “I just got to the office.”  Only time will tell whether this was an important event in the history of journalism or whether Twitter will end up being like Pointcast, Second Life and other balleyhooed technologies that ended up being little more than hot air.  Right now, my money is on the latter.


In anticipation of the launch of the new ogilvypr.com, we’ve updated the blog roll. We will be also be adding some new features and contributors in the near future as we “officially” launch this puppy.

The NFL Network takes Comcast to the FCC. TV Week has the details.

The folks at the Progress & Freedom Foundation weigh in with this paper.

Update: TV Week on ratings for the NFL Draft.

There are two things I hate about vacations. The first is my ability to go from pasty white to overcooked lobster red in about 15 minutes. The other is culling through all of the e-mail that I missed (750+ in this case).

That said, in Bruce Einhorn’s “Eye on Asia” column in the Business Week Asia Insider newsletter from earlier this week, I found a link to the following interesting entry from John Pomfret, The Washington Post‘s former Beijing bureau chief and current editor of the “Outlook” section, titled “The Ugly Chinese.” It’s about global reaction to recent events in China and is worth a look.

Two new polls — one from Pew and one from Gallup — are out and confirm what we’ve noted from earlier polls about climate change. While Americans think global warming is an important issue when you as them about the issue in a vaccum, they also think there are many more important issues for politicians to deal with right now. Here’s an excerpt from a story in ClimateWire.

Americans have spoken about global warming, and their current message seems to be: “It’s serious, but we have other problems to worry about.”

Politicians beware.

The issue tied for last on a list of domestic priorities for President Bush and Congress in a 2008 survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, lagging behind the “influence of lobbyists” and “moral breakdown.” The results mirrored an April New York University poll finding that global warming had less immediacy in American minds than Medicare and Social Security.

Last week, Gallup reported that only a third of Americans worry about global warming “a great deal,” a percentage that has budged little since 1989. Less than half of the respondents in the poll indicated that climate change would pose a serious threat to them in their lifetimes, prompting Gallup’s Frank Newport to write that “there has been no consistent upward trend on worry about global warming going back for decades.”

While Americans frequently express concern about climate change when asked about it separately by pollsters, they often list the economy, crime, illegal immigration and health care higher on their anxiety lists. The lack of intensity behind global warming threatens to stifle lawmakers who hope to ride a public opinion wave to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, many analysts say.

Given these poll numbers and a strong chance that Lieberman-Warner will go nowhere this, it looks like Al Gore and his allies have a lot of work to do. Moreover, given all of the commentary last week about “What Killed Earth Day?,” it is going to take new thinking to move the needle.

And, who is this king about whom we are talking?  Well, in our modern era of communications, it must surely be the sound bite!  And, I think the king will live on forever (or at least until mainstream TV news dies) even though Jonathan Alter, in his column in Newsweek, makes a couple of points that could lead the reader to consider the possibility that the sound bite era may be coming to an end.  However, I agree with Alter’s perception that the online arena provides space for fuller context.  And, that is a good thing.

Indeed, campaigns in today’s environment cannot survive on 7 second sound bites.  After all, the sound bite is hardly nourishing but it does have its role in a communications program.  Nevertheless, people demand more enriching information and that is where the web, in particular, comes in.

Alter correctly points out what some communications strategists, especially those who are digitally savvy, have known for a while – the Internet provides an abundance of rich information for people who want to “search for their own context” and go well beyond the morsel of a sound bite.  While the presidential campaigns help some people focus on “new” ways of communicating, using the Internet to feed the hungry people at the buffet table actually has been taking place in the public affairs and marketing communications spaces for quite some time.

The Democratic foreign policy elites, such as Sen. John Kerry, and their blogging allies used to like to point to the Bush Administration’s policies on [fill in the blank -- Iraq, global warming, Israel vs. Palestine, the United Nations' Millennium Goals, Cuba, the death penalty, and/or the Dixie Chicks (okay, the last one was sarcasm)] and use them to explain why the masses around the world had a low opinion of the United States. Unfortunately for them, the Europeans have a new bad boy — China.

The latest Harris survey done for the Financial Times (free link to a summary of the survey on the English language site of Der Spiegel) shows that the PRC has replaced the United States as the greatest threat to global stability in four of the five European countries surveyed (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom).

There are two ways of looking at this.

One is that the survey was conducted shortly after the unrest in Tibet and during all of the problems regarding the Olympic torch relay (Paris, London, San Francisco).

The other is that Europe is softening on the Bush Administration in its last year (an opinion offered by FT writers).

In either case, the Beijing government looks bad….
Here is the country-by-country breakdown.

Italy: China hits 47%, compared top 26% last year.

France: China hits 36%, compared to 22% last year.

Germany: China hits 35%; compared to 18% last year.

United Kingdom: China hits 27%; compared to 16% last year.

Ironically, the FT doesn’t supply comparable statistics for Spain, other than to say that 41% say that the United States is the greatest threat, compared to 28% for China. No comment, of course, about Spain being the only country with an openly anti-U.S. government.

Yesterday, I commented on two politically themed blogs that seemed to have found a business plan that works. Today comes word that one of the oldest, Salon, is back in a place it knows well — financial trouble. PaidContent has the details.

After a busy couple of weeks, I’ve finally hit a bit of a lull — time to catch up on a couple of things I’ve been meaning to write about…

The following news item broke late Friday — no, not Obama’s “bitter” comment that promises to make the Pennsylvania Democratic primary interesting again (more on that below). Here it is, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter (with a hat tip to TV Barn).

Okay, not earth shattering…but at least it made me smile for reasons expressed earlier. The NFL Network has overplayed its hand in a number of ways and having to admit that it made yet another mistake can’t make Jerry Jones and other owners happy.

While many may think this is an irrelevant battle, it goes to the larger issue of how sports fans will view coverage in the future. NFL Network has had the most aggressive stance in regard to the cable and broadcast networks by deciding to ignore big bucks and shift actual game coverage to its own network. Other sports have used their nets to supplement what goes out on traditional sports outlets. Given the relative paucity of games compared to other leagues (yesterday, NFL Network reaired its entire coverage of the first day of the 2007 NFL Draft — pure filler), this was a high risk strategy — one that I don’t think is succeeding…

I don’t have a lot to say about Sen. Obama’s “bitter” quote that wasn’t said on the Sunday talking head shows, except to add one small item — the source of the story being the Huffington Post. The Post has gotten a lot of good news recently based on its increased page views and its desire to turn more into a newspaper on the Web. Although I rarely agree with much that I read on the site, I do find myself reading more and more often as we get closer to the election. I do, however, find myself asking two questions — what is the future of the HuffPo (as they call it in conservative circles) if the Democratic candidate wins in November and what happens to it if this story (with audio) turns out to be Obama’s “Macaca” moment?….

Update…Just saw this on Politico. I agree with almost every word.

Speaking of liberal blogs, a very belated congrats to Josh Marshall and the staff of Talking Points Memo for winning a George Polk Award back in February for its coverage of the Gonzales attorney general scandal. I’ve met Josh several times through a mutual friend and actually was interviewed by him once for a story when he was a dead tree journalist. With little more than that to go on, I have to say I admire him, not just because I’ve always heard he is a decent human being, but because, like Huffington, he seems to have found a business model to produce original reporting on the Internet that works….

There are two new advocacy groups out there with big bucks that want to make a big splash in the political arena. The first is Al Gore’s $30 million “We Can Solve It,” an initiative sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection. It seeks to convince politicians that Americans want action on global warming. The other is a new four-month, $40 million campaign headed by David Brock and Paul Begala to go after John McCain

These two interest me for different reasons. Gore, through “An Inconvenient Truth” did a fine job of raising the issue in the minds of many Americans, but as recent polling shows, it has begun to slip as an issue as Americans are more concerned with the economy, health care and other pocket book related issues. Moreover, there is both a partisan and gender split on the issue. The folks at the new energy and environment blog at The New Republic have some interesting focus group research done by the Rasmussen Group regarding the Gore campaign’s first ad that is worth a look. There is no doubt that the next president will have a different view on global warming that the current Administration, but will it be at the top of his/her list?

The other group, which is named Progressive Media USA, interests me for different reasons. First, will his role in the campaign mean that we will see less of Begala on CNN? Next, given the fact this could be a watershed moment for Democrats, why did existing groups fail to raise the money that said they would to do the same thing? (Of course, this is apparently not unique to Democrats.) What does this mean to MoveOn.org and its strategy of raising money from small contributors? If Clinton and Obama keep up with their march to Denver and keep getting hurt by self-inflicted wounds, how many people will pay attention to an anti-McCain ad campaign? Finally, who will have the inevitable hit cover story on the group first (including references to how George Soros is trying buy another election) — The National Review or The Weekly Standard?

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide