Archive for December, 2008
Apple’s decision to pull out of Macworld is a little like Simon Cowell taking a pass on “American Idol.” Sure, the show will go on, but in what form?
“Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week …”
This man knows how to sit around the campfire and tell a story. By the time the curtain came down at Macworld, Steve Jobs had rekindled the audience’s care for all things Apple for another year and pushed their bad thoughts about premium pricing to the background.
Cloaked with a veneer of secrecy that leaves readers to wonder “Who the hell wrote that article?” The Economist takes pride in baffling the garden-variety PR person.
Its editorial decisions can at times seem quirky for the sake of being quirky. I mean, do we really need 499 words devoted to ornithology and a bio-acoustic monitor that can distinguish the chirps from 110,000 species of birds from the hiss of a snake?
Yet, contrary to popular belief, this is not some niche publication only serving the British intellectualazzi. Its readership tips 1.3 million with about half of those copies ending up on American doorsteps.
For this very reason, when we supported the announcement of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a few years ago, we zeroed in on The Economist to tell the in-depth story. It didn’t hurt that our homework revealed that Economist technology editor Tom Standage had penned a book that also took liberties with the same topic, “The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine.”
But more than serendipity, our continued success with The Economist comes down to building the right content that aligns with the book’s approach to storytelling. I touched on the importance of anecdotes using one example from The Economist back in July.
Taking this a step further, we analyzed the tech-related articles (list of articles included at the end of this post) in The Economist, covering the April through November 2008 issues.
Seventeen percent of the content fell under the anecdotal umbrella.
It just goes to show that even high-brow business journalism depends on the amusing, provocative or downright weird to keep the reader’s interest.
Economist Articles Analyzed:
November 14, 2008
November 5, 2008
October 29, 2008
October 22, 2008
October 15, 2008
October 8, 2008
October 1, 2008
September 24, 2008
September 17, 2008
September 10, 2008
September 2, 2008
August 27, 2008
August 20, 2008
August 12, 2008
August 5, 2008
July 30, 2008
July 23, 2008
July 16, 2008
July 9, 2008
July 2, 2008
June 18, 2008
June 11, 2008
June 4, 2008
May 28, 2008
May 21, 2008
May 14, 2008
May 7, 2008
April 30, 2008
Everyone recognizes the benefit of steering clear of major media events when making an announcement.
It’s safe to say that January 20 is not the time to roll out a new line of laptop computers.
But there are scenarios when news relevant to your story hitting in roughly the same timeframe works to your advantage.
Take the well-crafted story by BusinessWeek‘s Steve Hamm, titled “Making Computers Based on the Human Brain.” The story kicks off with the classic BW anecdote:
When Lloyd Watts was growing up in Kingston, Ont., in the 1970s he had a knack for listening to songs by Billy Joel and Elton John and plunking out the melodies on the family piano. But he wondered, wouldn’t it be great to have a machine that could “listen” to songs and immediately transcribe them into musical notation? Watts never built the gizmo, but his decades-long quest to engineer such a machine has finally resulted in one of the first commercial technologies based on the biology of the brain.
Hamm goes on to explain that a startup venture called Audience has created a chip that’s somewhat sensory.
Here’s the rub: The story also features the Pentagon’s DARPA passing $4.9 mil IBM’s way to fund research on building intelligence into computers and Jeff Hawkins of Palm Pilot fame striving for software that takes on the characteristics of the cerebral cortex.
I’m sure Audience wasn’t thrilled at sharing the stage.
Yet, the serendipity that landed all three vignettes on Hamm’s desk at roughly the same time provided the collective heft that enabled the piece to run in the print edition.
Otherwise, the piece maybe makes the online version.
The brainiacs behind electronic paper, the $99 computer and making money at blackjack have decided to take on new terrain: Storytelling.
The MIT Media Laboratory recently created what they’re calling the Center for Future Storytelling.
Demonstrating the science behind the power of storytelling can only advance the cause, even if it’s from a technical bent:
By applying leading-edge technologies to make stories more interactive, improvisational and social, researchers will seek to transform audiences into active participants in the storytelling process, bridging the real and virtual worlds, and allowing everyone to make their own unique stories with user-generated content on the Web. Center research will also focus on ways to revolutionize imaging and display technologies, including developing next-generation cameras and programmable studios, making movie production more versatile and economic.
While I’m dubious of the concept of transforming user-generated content into stories, one can’t argue with the meshing of storytelling and the Web 2.0 world.
Frank Moss, the Media Lab director who will spearhead the effort, states in the official MIT announcement that “storytelling is at the very root of what makes us uniquely human.”
Good stuff, but Frank goes on pontificating:
But how we tell our stories depends on another uniquely human characteristic — our ability to invent and harness technology. From the printing press to the Internet, technology has given people new ways to tell their stories, allowing them to reach new levels of creativity and personal fulfillment.
Technology provides terrific vehicles to package and deliver stories. But calling the ability to invent and harness technology as “another uniquely human characteristic” is like saying the dialog on Captain Kangaroo paid homage to Shakespeare.
I suppose you can’t blame MIT for plugging its sponsor, Plymouth Rock Studios, which threw $25 mil into the kitty.
Still, it’s tough to be optimistic about an undertaking that believes technology will reinvent the movies (their words not mine).