A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Eight Things I'm Supposed to Love But Don't

I didn't like Lost in Translation.  I was supposed to.  Other people I know did and it got great reviews and had fantastic buzz.  I wanted to like it.  But when I finally got around to seeing it I was just sort of bored. I just didn't get it.  So, inspired by Lost in Translation, here's a list of eight pieces of technology that I'm supposed to love but just don't:

(1) Second LifeThe whole alternative online world concept is brilliant in theory.  But I've tried to get into Second Life three times now and just can't. I don't have the patience required to learn my way around the place and ultimately am not that interested in living an alternative version of my life online.

(2) Memeorandum and TechmemeThe technology here is cool, but whenever I visit the site(s) I'm underwhelmed by the content. To me Memeorandum and Techmeme feel dominated by old school publications (New York Times) and A-list bloggers (Techcrunch).  It is filled with content I've already seen elsewhere or am purposefully avoiding.  Also, Memeorandum would be much more interesting if they added some discussion/community features. I prefer Digg.

(3) Boing Boing.  This "Directory of Wonderful Things" is currently the third most popular blog in the world according to Technorati.  I've tried to like it, but only around 1/5 of the stories interest me so I packed it in.

(4) Yahoo Answers.  This service is wildly successful, having answered 40 million questions and gotten a lot of buzz from its Ask the Planet campaign featuring celebrities like Bono.  For whatever reason I don't know a single person who uses it regularly.  I'm also bitter because none of the questions I've tried asking as a test got a response.

(5) Rocketboom.  The world's most hyped video blog.  Watching Amanda Congdon was fingernails on a chalkboard for me.  Maybe I'll loop back now that they have a new host, although Ze Frank has my video blogging needs taken care of at this point.

(6) 37Signals Family of Products.  These time/project management tools are really slick and I know a lot of people that swear by them.  I've tried pretty much all their products and they just didn't click for me.  I'm probably a dinosaur, but I prefer to do this kind of stuff in Outlook for personal management and have other tools I use to collaborate with others. 

(7) Online Office Replacements.  I've tried Writely, Google Spreadsheets, Zoho, etc.  They are all very good web services whose concept I love.  The problem is that I can't make myself actually start using them.  After that initial burst of activity I always go back to using more full featured software running locally on my machine.  Same story for Meebo and web-based IM solutions.

(8) Google Analytics.  I've got this installed on a few of the sites we run and pretty much never look at it.  It's got great features, but I find the user interface really frustrating. I'm perpetually confused when I use Google Analytics and that is not a good place to be.

Please feel free to set me straight in the comments.  Or add to the list.

PR Firms that Blog: An Update

Update: We have added a page to our Wiki that serves as a running list of PR firms that blog.  If you aren't listed, please feel free to edit the Wiki and add yourself.  Original post follows.

Around six months ago I wrote two posts (1, 2) about whether the world's largest PR firms had official, company sanctioned blogs.  I decided to loop back on this research to see if any companies had started blogging in the interim.  This time I also looked at the Technorati rank of each the blogs.   For the uninitiated, Technorati calculates the popularity of a blog by analyzing the number of incoming links a blog attracts. Although not perfect, this is a pretty good way to access the popularity of a blog.  Lower ranks are better.

In doing the research this time I was looking specifically for blogs that were linked to from the main website of the PR firm.  I know that individuals within all these companies are blogging.  The point was to find blogs that are supported and sanctioned by the PR firms.

Enough throat clearing, here is a chart showing the results, sorted by Technorati rank. If the company has a blog that I could find I have linked to it.

Company Blog Link on Website Last Update Technorati Rank
Edelman* Yes 8/21 3,473
Hill & Knowlton Yes 8/21 12,593
Burson-Marstellar Yes 8/15 65,419
Horn Group Yes 7/25 85,342
Waggener Edstrom Yes 8/20 130,255
MWW Group Yes 8/3 290,967
Ketchum Yes 3/30 598,722
Schwartz Communications Yes 8/17 1,153,086
Ogilvy PR Yes 8/21 1,415,963
Manning Selvage & Lee No 8/16 63,678
APCO No N/A N/A
Brodeur No N/A N/A
Cohn & Wolfe No N/A N/A
Fleishman-Hillard No N/A N/A
Golin Harris No N/A N/A
Huntsworth No N/A N/A
Porter Novelli No N/A N/A
Ruder Finn No N/A N/A

*Edelman links to a variety of blogs from their site. The rank listed here is for Richard Edelman's blog, which is listed first and the most represenative.  Obviously I know Micropersuasion is a Top 100 blog.

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Which Senate Candidate Has the Best Blog?

In my last post I took a look at which Senate campaign blogs were linked to the most often by bloggers.  Following are the top 5 in terms of links:

Pete Ashdown (D-UT)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Jack Carter (D-NV)
Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

After you've given them a look, vote in the poll below. Leave any thoughts you may have on the blogs in the comments area.

[poll=4]

Newspaper Study on MediaShift

Mark Glaser of the PBS blog MediaShift gave our newspaper study a nice shoutout today.  Here's an excerpt from the article he wrote about us:

"Though newspaper websites have been around for a decade, they’ve often been slow to innovate, and have been mainly used for “shovelware” — repurposing the same print stories online. But now, times are changing, and newspapers are perking up and realizing they’re going to have to do more online if they want to compete with the TV network and cable news sites, international newspaper sites, and aggregators such as Yahoo and Google."

I really like Mark's "shovelware" terminology.  Despite newspapers' use of Web 2.0 and their innovations, much of the online content is similar to that of the print content.  Thereis even one newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, whose website is based on an electronic copy of the print newspaper. 

So thanks again to Mark for the great article!

The Use of the Internet by America's Newspapers: Highlights

After finishing our study of America's top 100 newspapers and their use of the Web, I took a closer at the top 20 most circulated papers and tried to pick a few favorites. To be honest, this was a difficult task. Most newspaper websites are adequate and have similar formats. The differences lie in content, ease of navigation, and Web offerings.

For example, the website template used by the Philadelphia Enquirer was also used by the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star, The San Jose Mercury News, and several others. There were a handful of other templates that several newspapers used, including that used by the NJ Star Ledger and the Michigan Grand Rapids Press. This template was quite common among the top 100 US papers.

To find the overall best Web experience, go to the New York Times website (#3 on our list of most-circulated papers). It's easy to navigate, and interactive features such as blogs and podcasts are extremely easy to find. They also have a wide selection of podcasts to choose from. However, that experience does not come without a price. Users have to register to read New York Times articles online. While basic registration is free, it does not let readers to view all the site's content. In order to gain access to everything the site has to offer, users have to sign up for Times Select for $50/year. Because of this, I couldn't pick the NYT website as my winner.

Maybe I'm biased because I live in Washington DC, but my vote for the best newspaper website goes to the Washington Post. They have informative content, a network of washpost.gifblogs, several podcasts, and another feature that I didn't notice on many other newspaper site. Next to every article there is a box labeled "Who's Blogging?", with Technorati links to the most popular bloggers who blogged about that particular Washington Post article. After the Post's debacle with comments earlier this year, this seems like a good way to encourage interactivity on the site without leaving the site open to comments that need to be moderated.

For the best blog network, check out the Boston Globe. They have the largest selection of blogs out of the top 100 newspapers hands down. They have a series of 28 reporter blogs, including several different news blogs, an individual blog for every area sports team, arts and entertainment, job openings, and others. In addition to Globe reporter blogs, they also offer a long list of other popular Boston-area blogs. Definitely worth a peek.

If forums/message boards is more your speed, you definitely need to visit the NJ Star Ledger's website. Kind of a dark horse at #17 on our list of 100 papers, this paper's overall website is nothing out of the ordinary. But, it has a massive series of forums that covers everything from high school sports to local news to, believe it or not, pets. I read some recent posts on a few of the forums, all of which seem popular, and the discussions got pretty heated…especially for high school sports.

For podcasts, check out the Arizona Republic. They have 21 podcasts listed on their site, which was the most that I noticed next to the New York Times.

I also found it noteworthy that the otherwise popular New York Daily News and New York Post (#6 and #7 on our list of 100 papers, respectively) seemed to be sub-par in their Web offerings. Neither site has any Web features to speak of, and their vertical, oversized picture strategy doesn't translate well to the Web. It was interesting to see how the same features that make these papers so popular in print are the same features that made them seem tabloid-y and cheesy on the Web.