pro-bono Marketing

I’ve thought about the idea of “pro-bono marketing” recently. Basically, just like pro-bono legal services, it involves providing one’s advocational skills to clients on the basis of “the public good”, and just like pro-bono medical services, they provide means of maintaining the health and integrity of some specific aspect of a legal person’s vitality (in this case, the brand reputation is at stake) to those who are not able to afford the same services at higher prices.

Brittany Eaton, M.S., of the Columbus, Ohio AMA suggests providing pro-bono marketing work for non-profit organizations as a means for improving your resume, keeping yourself busy in a struggling economy and improving one’s own local community’s prospects, while Steve Sammartino posits the reciprocal and chance-driven benefit(s) of pro-bono marketing.

Personally, I think it’s something that should be standardized for marketing students. Perhaps we can have university-maintained “marketing clinics” (akin to legal clinics) in the future?

New Media, Personalities and Permanent Campaigns

Much has been made about perpetual or permanent campaigns since Patrick Caddell first proposed the idea for the Carter administration in 1976; Sidney Blumenthal would coin the term and flesh out the concept in his 1980 book “The Permanent Campaign”, and the term would gradually come to be used against future incumbent Presidents, including current President Barack Obama.

The idea of the perpetual/permanent campaign is that, once a candidate is elected to office, the new president must continually maintain the confidence and attention of the public in his or her administration, must observe the popularity of the administration in the eyes of participants in political polls, and must continually canvas the public in order to build enough confidence to withstand a backlash by oppositional figures through media outlets.

This reliance upon media in order to build public confidence has been criticized as being reflective of desires by sitting incumbents for short-term gains rather than a long-term dedication to adopted policy.

However, can the idea of the permanent campaign also apply to the growing efforts of previously-failed candidates for the presidency?

Since 2008, the presidential campaign of Ron Paul and the vice-presidential campaign of Sarah Palin have both re-organized themselves in order to maintain active fan groupings and political action committees well into the 2012 presidential election season, and serve as critical examples of this .

Campaign for Liberty was the official name given by Paul to his former presidential campaign, turning it into a non-profit that would promote his libertarian principles, promote endorsed candidates and organize events for fans of the 12-term Texas congressman. In addition, a youth wing (Young Americans for Liberty) and multiple independently-maintained fan websites dedicated to Ron Paul have continued to publish during both on- and off-years. Multiple calls for Paul to run for office again in 2012 emanate mostly from this camp, a fact that is critiqued in some circles from an ethical perspective.

Likewise, Even after having lost the Republican presidential campaign alongside Sen. John McCain, Palin has refused to withdraw into obscurity as do many other former candidates for the office or party nominations. Instead, she maintained an active media presence by issuing periodic speeches both before audiences and directly to her viewers on YouTube, beginning the consolidation of her political base through the establishment of SarahPAC (ostensibly-described as an energy independence advocacy group) and endorsing candidates for other offices throughout the United States.

Both politicians have made direct-to-camera addresses which win regular plaudits from their fanbases and their endorsed candidates are heavily promoted in banner advertisements on fan websites such as Conservatives4Palin.com and DailyPaul.com. Such occurs even during election off-years.

Compare this to the continuous campaigns of individuals such as Lyndon LaRouche and Ralph Nader. Both aspirants continue to maintain (admittedly minimal or fringe) presences on the Web, with LaRouche’s presence being the more controversial and longer-existing of the two, and both have repeatedly ran for the same office. Even as their respective candidacies barely made a dent in the popular vote at every election, LaRouche and Nader may have pioneered the idea of a New Media-driven permanent campaign, with a growing number of candidates realizing in the 2000’s that such campaigns do not have to end on an election year and do not have to specifically exist for the aspirations of one candidate, either. In fact, they could come, as the participants in these campaigns often vocally accept, to circumvent the nominatory power of political parties.

So when conference appearances and fireside chats are syndicated to these fan websites, and such sites serve as the core of the reserve support base from whence these candidates hope to derive for themselves and others, what sort of electoral cycle – or perhaps government – are we formulating?

Comparable to this growth of fan websites as the emerging core of personality-driven political movements, political parties in party-list proportional-representational democracies such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Israel are both noteworthy and notorious for small political parties being formed by – and for – personalities rather than policies. The end result of such systems are often election cycles which see no single party gain a majority and ministerial cabinets which must be formed around coalitions of multiple, personality- or niche-driven political parties.

Even in presidential republics with plurality-based elections, personality-driven political movements have often had long-running effects upon the body politic; an outstanding, recent example is that of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who ran for the presidency of Mexico in 2006 but created a political coalition which disputed the results and created a “legitimate presidency” in opposition to the current incumbent. The movement continues to this day with various public events and López Obrador, who started his own television talk show in 2007, intends to run for office again in 2012.

Walter Dean Burnham, in his own analysis of Blumenthal’s work, cited the capability of these movements to exist against or outside the confines of political parties:

“Instead of being channeled through–and thus revitalizing–the political parties, this realignment involved the conclusive marginal displacement of these parties by the permanent campaign…. The older linkages between rulers and ruled become ever hazier, ever more problematic.”

This description of the permanent campaign by incumbent officials may also describe the linkages between candidates and their supporters, as such long-term presumptive candidates wield power through their media connections to their fans, with regular dissemination of commentary being useful to regularly rally the fans against incumbent politicians or existing laws.

The personality-driven permanent campaign through New and Old Media is a style that may very well make a mockery of existing political parties in presidential, plurality-based republics like our own and Mexico. But the accommodation of these increasingly-powerful and established aspirations – aspirations which are, at one, personality-driven, and at the same time, very ideologically-tinged – are likely to force us to rethink our ideas about politics and democracy.

Specialty fragmentation of microblogging: Possible?

From the beginning of blogging in the late 1990s with LiveJournal, Blogger and other services, the trend toward fragmentation by niche specialization began to slowly progress, with many bloggers coming to form communities of bloggers around specific causes or identities.

From the beginning of YouTube in 2005, we have seen the gradual fragmentation of video hosting community websites into a multitude of niche hosting services, a number of which also double as blogging communities.

Since the rise in prominence and attention of microblogs, many of which have become integrated into social networking websites, a number of server software packages, such as StatusNet and Diaspora, have been developed in order to support the development of microblogging communities outside of Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

However, one question comes to mind: is it as possible for niche microblogging services to be developed for high-ideological-threshold communities in the same way that blog hosts and video hosts have been fragmented?

The growth in traffic to blog and video hosts can be attributed in part to the function of search engines such as Google; for example, Google’s Video service largely gave way to Google Video Search, which gradually increased in the number of video hosts included in its aggregation of video (helping in the diversification of the video hosting market in the process), while Technorati played a large, early role in the aggregation and popularization of blogs, blogrolls and other features of the “blogosphere”. Currently, Google’s “Realtime Search” is playing a large role in the indexing of microblog posts on a limited number of social networking websites, including Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Google Buzz.

What may dictate how microblogging will fragment into competing, niche-specific microblogging services may not necessarily be the usefulness of the services to their users, but rather the ability to communicate to users from competing services (i.e., between Twitter and Tumblr).

How specialized microblogging services may benefit CNN or some other major news outlet – that is, where such organizations can establish their own hosted microblogs – beyond their own employees has yet to be seen; blogs and microblogs are already extensively used by the same organizations to great effect, although the microblogs of employees are usually hosted on Twitter rather than being self-hosted.

Distinct trends may emerge out of the fragmentation of microblogs in order to increase the relevance and efficacy of stories and information which is broadcast through such means.

The “dislike” button: further ruminations

ReadWriteWeb posted an editorial piece on why the “dislike” button is not coming to Facebook. I can see the author’s point about how the button could have adverse effects upon brands (I’m assuming the “Ripoff Report” sort of effect, in the worst case).

However, from my own perspective and outside of the business perspective, I haven’t exactly found any specific function for the “dislike” or “mod down” button idea, other than to visually show how many people didn’t like an item. Unlike the controversial function of the button on Digg and Reddit (in which a sufficient number of mods-down results in a demotion of the item from the all-important front page), the likes of Facebook and Twitter do not have such all-important front pages which would allow for the easy disappearance of a promoted item due to sufficient amounts of “dislikes” or “downtweets”.

At present, YouTube’s “dislike” button also lacks a specific function other than denoting the number of people who simply did not like a particular video. Instead, an alternate link for the “reporting” of the video to YouTube censors appears when one clicks the “dislike” button.

That’s it. No other function. No impact beyond an aesthetically-skin-deep perception of “democracy”.

Perhaps this neutered version of the “user moderation” feature is useful to those who simply wish to promote their brands or content (and not accept critique of the same), but it bodes ill for future experiments in online user engagement, especially those which may take a functional cue from the likes of Digg and Reddit.

Can drama be “video-clippable”?

From the beginning of the cinematic industry in the late 19th century, the general length of a complete cinematic storyline has changed. Progressing from the longer-form theatre films which, after the landmark films of D.W. Griffith, became the norm for Hollywood features, the cinematic industry eventually incorporated the episodic format which was encouraged by television (and had been initially promoted through radio).

With the rise of the World Wide Web in the 1990s and 2000s and the popularization of video hosting sites such as YouTube after 2005, the cinematic industry has been at pains to incorporate the “video clip” format, in which 5-8-maximum-length videos are published for posted commentary.

The irony about today’s clip culture is that similar-length clips, viewed through peepholes, were what had initially popularized motion pictures before film directors began to lengthen their works to what is now known as “feature-length”. Similar-length music videos (musical shorts), news segments (film reels) and comedy skits were initially popularized through theatre films before the more efficient medium of television.

However, while compilatory, non-plot-driven television series have easily made a transition to the Web as clips, plot-driven dramatic works have not been given a similar, refitting experience from the feature-length theatre and episodic television formats to the Web video clip format.

Situation-driven dramas have constituted a core part of the cinematic arts since the 19th century, but, perhaps due to their adherence to linearity, they may have had the worst time in adaptation to the Web clip format. Radio and, later, television allowed for formulaic dramatic works to adapt to an episodic storyline which could be shown on a daily or nightly basis, a different experience than the feature-lengths which were put out by Hollywood and other industrial centers in the 20th century.

Unlike the episodic series format, which carries a set of central characters into multiple situations which last around 30 minutes to an hour between the beginning of the dilemma to its resolution (or a cliffhanger which links to the next episode in order to see if the dilemma is resolved), the web clip format is of lesser length (each clip being 2-8 minutes at best) and is far more often used to tell unconnected, unserialized short narratives.

A web clip, from the looks of it, may be a poor format in which to tell a long-form dramatic story depicting recurring characters participating in the resolution of some current situation.

However, because of the hyperlinked nature of the Web, it may be possible to allow more than one possible follow-up clip in order to successfully continue the story in the eyes of the user. Any video on YouTube, for example, will link at the end to at least 4 other clips from both within and outside the list of uploads made by the author of the video. Webcomics, while providing for sequential links to the next panel, also link to the first and most recent panels.

So there are a number of possibilities for hyperlink-friendly dramatic situation narrative, such which could be realized through YouTube-sized web clips. After all, pages and chapters don’t really exist on the Web, so why should “episodes”, “seasons” and “series”?

Thoughts on video editing

When I started my Journalism class this Spring semester, I did not anticipate the complexities, or the range of emotions which one can feel when creating and perfecting a video project.

It was not easy, as I had to learn the operation of a video camera for the first time. I also learned (the hard way) that I should be prepared with at least 120 minutes of tape.

When I had to edit the video in iMovie, I initially had to read Apple’s tutorials and ask questions from other colleagues in order to get a grasp of the software (and work around its limitations, which became more apparent as time moved forward).

All of this was done by myself, as my partner had to withdraw from the class due to scheduling conflicts (a necessary thing for any student to do).

However, through the course of the semester and a number of mistakes, I gradually became acclimated towards the process. I took inspiration from years of viewing the cutaway and editing styles of cable/satellite news television programs, but I also managed to work around flaws in my raw footage in order to make sure that the footage tells a story to the viewer, or puts the viewer into the recorded event for however long a duration I can manage.

It’s an exercise which I would encourage a lot of people to at least try once in their lifetimes. Multimedia narratology is a trying but worthwhile process which tests one’s capacity to portray a story for other people to view and forward to others.

You can see my videos for MSC-TV in my portfolio section.