Archives de Catégorie: i&o in English

ROI or RONI (Risk Of Non-Investment)?

Great thanks to Michelle who took the time to translate the following article in English!

ROI has been a legitimate problem for communications specialists for some time now. Anyone that’s willing to fork over their money has the right to know what he/she is going to get for it. It’s a transaction. The ROI is a product of this transaction, which is what I’m buying. Even if the transaction (an investment) has some risks that go with it.

There is no reason for social media not to be treated the same way. Investing in the social web shouldn’t be something that brands, businesses, and organizations do just for kicks, i.e. “maybe I’ll put little money into it and get lucky, but chances are I probably won’t see a return anytime soon”.

Of course we can define certain KPIs for measuring a social web strategy. The pertinence of the criteria will always leave room for an infinite number of disagreements, but the data is nonetheless substantial : traffic, click-throughs, conversions, number of subscribers, number of fans, SEO of your content, the number of times shared, etc.

An “indicator”/KPI doesn’t necessarily mean that it “measures ROI”, but it’s a start.

But that’s not the problem with ROI. The problem is that it is an element of an economic system all things being equal.

If I want to measure the return on my investment (be it manpower, advertising, R&D, external development, etc), it’s usually because I’m going to decide to invest, OR NOT. The very idea of ROI presumes that I can choose not to invest and allow my business to run as it were.

But the world doesn’t stay the same; it changes. Right now it’s changing in such a fundamental manner all its own with the development of certain new technologies, in general, and with the social web, in particular. And it’s changing whether you want it to or not.

We are not in a situation where all things are equal. Change brought about by the digital age is profound: it is the very structure of business that is being impacted (distribution of products, purchasing decisions, information flow, etc).

On a much larger scale this change is cultural, because it’s social. It is a cultural change that is characterized by a mix of emerging values (transparency, openness, sharing, etc), new types of practices (in journalism, for example, LOLjournalism), new codes (more informal types of conversation, for example), by a demand economy (à la Google), and by a return to consumerism.

It has therefore had an impact on the entire organization. Business practices are bound to evolveon a more or less short-term basis in all major traditional businesses : marketing and communications of course, but also HR, customer service, sales, etc. and even in the “traditional” Internet domain (too often reduced to the management of the company’s official website).

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to say that that means everyone’s job has totally changed, rather that there are new methods for everyone to learn (when hiring, for example, you can find out more information about the person that’s applying, her qualifications, past work experience, etc).

Of course not all brands or companies are going to have the same experience with the social web : the differences are tied as well to :

  • the business (the more likely the chance of a deal, the more the web is going to play a crucial role)
  • media exposure / brand notoriety
  • the size of the company (the social web doesn’t always mean the same thing for asmall or large company)
  • the nature of the company’s customers (it isn’t exactly the same thing if a company’s customers are the 15-24 age group or a B2B niche group).

But in these conditions the question of the social web is less a question of ROI (Return on Investment) than of RONI (Risk of Non-Investment).

In other words, the first question you ask yourself shouldn’t be : what will happen if I invest ? But : what will happen if I don’t invest ?

Some possible answers at random to start things off :

  • a misunderstanding of your business’s consumers, of his/her opinions, priorities, desires…
  • an inability to respond to your customers’ and stakeholders’ pertinent questions and expectations
  • lost opportunities for gathering feedback
  • a deterioration of customer relationships
  • a loss of impact from traditional campaigns
  • a lack of positive word-of-mouth
  • a weakening of the company’s network of friends
  • an ignorance of and vulnerability to the risks of online opinions
  • the circulation of negative or false opinions or even strategic information, in the case of leaks
  • a weak knowledge of the brand’s and company’s main rhetoric
  • outdated content on company executives
  • wasteful customer service costs (call centers, for example)
  • a lack of information needed for making decisions
  • obsolete internal processes
  • a gap between management and employees
  • a weakening of the company’s image in the eyes of Generation Y
  • a delay in terms of sales

….

We can have fun casting fear into the souls of people almost indefinitely. But for companies that aren’t convined or don’t necessarily have a predeliction for investing, it’s good to start by questioning the Risk of Non-Investment. The question of ROI will only naturally follow.

In other words, thinking about ROI as a basis for decision for your investment strategy in the social web is a mistake. We shouldn’t wait to see an ROI in order to advance. If we don’t choose the social web, we’re sure to have problems.

The pyramid of online media consumption

This is the English translation of an earlier work we did to show the different levels of engagement of an audience towards an online media. Enjoy!

How top decision-makers use the web

On a client’s behalf, we looked into the patterns of web use by companies’ top executives. The top decision-makers, not middle management.

It’s not a simple issue, as we’re generally asked to “think broad” (how to reach as many people as possible) or “think targeted” (how to convince opinion leaders in a given area). But as far as I know top decision-makers’ use of the web is still a largely unexplored field of investigation. And one may even question the importance of the web for these busy and hyper-selective people.

But let me share some of the insights – intuitive and/or analytical – that we picked up on the way. Hopefully we’ll have a little debate and learn more.

1. Decision-makers are major consumers of information. That’s the good news. But they mostly consume offline. They digest kilometres of press reviews, summaries, newspapers… Both because information is a strategic asset and because they are constantly on the move and have time to read printed matter. They clearly prefer hard copies (in France they swear by Le Monde, Le Figaro, Les Echos, La Tribune, newsmags, Challenges, etc.). They don’t surf much spontaneously (it’s a generational thing).

2. However, they do use the web. Mostly they use it indirectly: corporate press reviews (even when they are printed) include more and more web-based articles, even from expert blogs. This is both an intuition and something verified by the content of major groups’ press reviews and the catalogue offered by press review providers. This blog’s readers will recall the statistics of clippings agencies’ own clicks 😉 . The saying could go: “I’m clipped, therefore I’m influential”.

And in the decision-maker’s team, the people writing the summaries, etc. are definitely online.

3. Top executives’ many business trips could be so many opportunities for mobile web browsing, but this is probably still in its infancy. It only took off with the iPhone – and again chief executives tend to be from a different generation. The top boys who don’t surf on their desktop PCs are unlikely to take the plunge into the mobile web (not everybody is as cool as Obama). And yet mobile browsing is poised for take-off (away on business, jet-lagged, without their favourite newspaper, the smartphone will save their day).

4. Regarding the generational effect we’ve talked about, how are things going to change? Quickly, according to these data from a McKinsey survey for a French printed press trade event.

egp-mckinsey

They show that:
– the renewal of generations weakens the daily printed press: 66% of readers among people 65 and older and 30% among under 18s
– habits are gradually eroding: the generational effect (which stipulates that we keep our habits as we grow older) is relative, since for instance in 1999, 42% of those aged between 18 and 24 read a daily once a week; in 2007, in that same group (now aged between 26 and 32), only 34% did.

In other words, things are changing fast and the top executives of tomorrow are on the web today.

5. Which are decision-makers’ favourite online spots? It’s not easy to say, as the web’s favourite source of information is Google, which accounts for 50% to 80% of traffic on media sites and encourages them to be reactive and attract readers by the busload, with little regard for quality. The hegemony of the free access model makes the information websites’ media planning somewhat vague (“Who are my readers? Well, er, those who type in key words”), while web users search for content rather than trust a particular media brand – and the brand they trust is called Google.

Broadly defined, the equation is: ad-funded model + free access = race for audience = volume and reactivity effect = Google produces my traffic = my identified and loyal readership is the minority = borders are blurred between each media’s reader profiles.

Except that our top executives, on the other hand, are much more faithful than the average web user to strong media brands. As a rule, subscriber-only websites seem to provide much better answer to the question at hand (Which are decision-makers’ favourite online spots?), but the subscriber or even hybrid model (Le Monde, Les Echos, Le Figaro, La Tribune again) is such a small fraction of the whole that it’s difficult to answer the question. There’s maybe a niche for very high quality, subscriber-only business information sites for this audience of top decision-makers. Wait and see.

The online media and their blogs

I just finished something I’d been meaning to do for months: investigating the blogging policies of France’s “big papers”.

What do I mean by blogging policy, you ask? Just whether and how they offer blogs to their readers. There are many kinds: journalists’ blogs on their own newspaper’s website (e.g. Corinne Lesnes’ on lemonde.fr), a blog platform offered to Internet users under the paper’s brand (monblog.lemonde.fr), etc.

Though things have been changing in recent months, French journalists are not big on blogs, whether as a source of information or a means of publication. And the general impression in the blogosphere is that journalists are rarely bloggers and that the few who are take a top-down approach, not answering comments, etc.

The other reason I’m interested in the issue is that the online media is a major host of blogs, some of which are excellent, receive a very large number of comments and – one imagines – are very widely read. Yet their style of promotion is quite different from the most visible blogs, those at the top of the Wikio ranking.

Indeed, the blogs hosted by the online media’s websites and platforms often belong to authors who are not very involved in the blogosphere, who understand the notion of incoming and outgoing links and who use it to gain visibility. On the other hand, when they are linked on the homepage of their host media, they can operate as true meeting places for readers.

Perhaps influence – that much-sought grail – is not where we thought (in the Wikio ranking) but also in these less communitarian tools with a major potential for attracting an audience: blogs published by the media?

So I examined the blogging policy of a good twenty general-interest online media: the web versions of traditional media and a few pure players. This produced the following typology and quantitative analysis:

0. The non-policies

Among the media I looked at, five didn’t offer any blogs:

– Marianne2
– L’Humanité
– France Info
– RFI
– Le Point

1. The “closed” policies

These media offer blogs for reading, but not for writing. Internet users are not invited to create their own. Here the purpose is to promote one’s image, not to provide a service.

There are two sub-categories in this “closed” policy:

1.a. Closed policy – only journalists’ blogs:

–    Le Figaro
–    Valeur Actuelles
–    La Croix
–    La Parisien
–    RTL
–    France Inter
–    Europe 1
–    RMC

See the table for their quantitative data

1.b. Closed policy – journalists’ AND invited guests’ blog.

•    Libération
•    L’Express
•    Rue89
•    Métro
•    Backchich

2. The “semi-open” model

These media invite their subscribers – but not other internet users – to create a blog. One could say they are offering a “limited service”. Their platforms present the blogs of journalists, guests and subscribers.

Only Le Monde and Mediapart are in this category.

Note that Le Monde doesn’t offer any “staff blogs”: journalist bloggers are to be found in the same section as the guests. This allows lemonde.fr to list 20 quality blogs, only four of which to my knowledge are written by Le Monde journalists (such as courtroom blogger Pascale Robert-Diard).

While Le Monde has one of the most interesting and complete blogging platforms, its journalists’ participation is scant.

3. The “open” model

These online media invite any passing Internet user to create his or her blog under the media’s brand (eg monblog.20minutes.fr). Naturally they have to sign up first, but it’s free.

Here the purpose is to provide a service and attract an audience. It works fine for some (20 minutes, LePost et le NouvelObs) and not nearly as well for others: Journal du Dimanche, where the blogging activity is almost nil.

All the quantitative data I collected by looking at these platforms is summarised in the table below:
online-media-and-their-blogs
(click to zoom)

Conclusions.

The dominant model is therefore 1.a.: only journalists’ blog.

Regarding journalists’ blogging practice, I found about a hundred “staff” and “journalist” blogs in the media I looked at. Not bad, though I suspect the figures would look quite disappointing if one examined how many journalists post comments on these 100 “official” blogs.

The Figaro, with 15 journalist blogs updated throughout the week, is where blogging journalists are to be found most easily.

Only a few manage to maintain “guest” blogs: Le Monde, Libération, L’Express, Rue89, to a lesser extent Mediapart and – in its own way – LePost. But do they make good use of this asset?

Bear in mind also that the real difficulty is ensuring that blogs’ editorial production keeps up at a good pace. It seems crucial for the media’s image that the blogs showcased are not inactive or – worse – a cemetery like the Journal du Dimanche’s.

From the media’s perspective, a blogging policy requires a true strategic consideration and real availability. Blogging is a demanding activity and as I often say: a blog’s not a tool, it’s a strategy.

On the influence of blogs: a Jupiter Research survey

Another entry based on a source found in Marie-Catherine Beuth’s blog. It’s a US survey on the influence of blogs vs. social networks, carried out by Juniper Research. I couldn’t find the detailed results – other than this press release – so no in-depth analysis here, just a point that caught my attention:

“One half (50 percent) of blog readers say they find blogs useful for purchase information. Blogs sway more purchases among readers than social networks: more frequent blog readers say they trust relevant blog content for purchase decisions than content from social networking sites.” (1)

This is interesting, as other surveys tended to find that Internet users did not overly trust “blogs”. For instance:

– in North America, this Forrester survey reported that blogs rate the worst as trusted sources: 30%

– in France, this TNS survey gave blogs the lowest rating for trustworthiness: 4.5/10

So what’s the difference between this new survey and the two previous ones?

Jupiter Research looked at a narrower group: “blog readers” (who read a blog more than once a month). The two other surveys I mentioned investigated a broader population: “Internet users”.

In other words, regular blog readers tend to trust what they read in blogs – or half of them do at least. They know blogs: they read theirs.

This does not seem to contradict the two other surveys, which look at all Internet users – not just blog readers. Isn’t it normal not to trust “blogs” (a notion that can mean many things) when one doesn’t read them?

That’s all common sense; but the two surveys I mentioned bothered me because they tended to discredit “blogs” – that broad and poorly defined constellation.

At this point:

Question: Should we conclude that blogs influence their regular readers but not so much their “accidental” readers (who chanced on them for instance through a search engine)? This is an important point in my view, as blogs are often considered influential for their SEO power (e.g. precisely in search results). And the survey seems to make a distinction between the regular reader, who trusts the blog, and the “tourist”, who may be a bit more suspicious or critical.

Note: Taking an interest in the influence of blogs is good, but taking an interest in all sources of influence is better. So it’s worthwhile pointing out that surveys show that the most trusted source is the Other, the acquaintance (word-of-mouth). Then comes a variety of sources with similar ratings: professional media (despite all the bad press they get), brand sites (really) and consumers opinions (e.g. reviews on shopping websites).

Conclusion: What the Jupiter survey is actually telling us is that a blog is a medium, i.e. a publication tool that has a trusting audience. You read a blog because you trust it – and therefore it may influence you. As simple as that.

(1) To which one may add sector-specific findings:
“Outside of technology-related purchases, for which 31 percent of readers say blogs are useful, other key categories include media and entertainment (15 percent); games/toys and/or sporting goods (14 percent); travel (12 percent); automotive (11 percent); and health (10 percent).”

Putting UGC in perspective

The piece by Marie-Catherine Beuth in Le Figaro last Friday, “Renault, champion of blog conversations”, naturally attracted my attention.

It is based on survey by Oto Research published a little more than a month ago. Tubby Dev gives a quite detailed summary.

So what’s it about? A white paper (commissioned from Oto Research) seeking to put figures on a number of questions brands ask themselves about the Internet, and particularly about the scale of the user-generated content (UGC) phenomenon.

I’m not going into the results – see Tubby Dev for that. The point I’m really interested in is the same one Marie-Catherine Beuth discusses in Le Figaro: brands’ “share of voice” compared to other sources of information on the web: UGC, retailers, the media. Is communication on brands dominated by the brands themselves (the brand websites), UGC (web users), retailers (e-commerce) or the media?

To measure this, Oto Research studied Google’s 100 top results for inquiries on 110 consumer brands. The results are summarised in this pie chart:

Brands apparently produce barely more than a quarter of the communication regarding themselves and UGC is the primary source of communication. Such are the findings of Le Figaro and the Oto Research white paper.

A very attractive notion, don’t you think? Music to the ears of all web 2.0 gurus in consultancies and on the Internet, right?

Except that the methodology and the findings are… rather debatable.

The survey is based on the Google hits produced by enquiries about 110 brands. The 100 top hits.

Do you often go to the tenth page of results, yourself? Remember that little study showing that 62% of Internet users stop at the first page of results? And even though habits might have changed, one thing is for certain: what matters is the first 10 Google hits, not the first 100.

By looking at the first 100 hits, we’re surfing down the long tail. Nothing surprising about finding a lot of UGC there. In fact, I could look at the first 1,000 Google hits on the 110 brands surveyed and find that 90% of the content is user-generated! (And the terrified advertisers would rush over to buy web advice from me.)

To get a better idea, I took the principle of the survey and shortened it to the first page of hits for the 10 companies which, according to Oto Research, draw the most comments (from bloggers, according to the survey’s methodology).

The 10 brands most discussed on the web in France are: Renault, Nokia, Canon, Orange, Samsung, Peugeot, Panasonic, SNCF, France Telecom and Philips.

And when you look at the sources of the first page of Google hits on these brands, it breaks down like this:

From this perspective, which is much closer to real Internet usage, these 10 brands control more than 50% of the Google content relating to them. That’s a lot more than Oto Research’s 27%. And UGC, on the first page of results, dwindles to a much less impressive 10% – nowhere near the 30% in the Oto Research survey.
Four fifths of these 10% are Wikipedia and none are blogs.

This doesn’t mean that UGC is irrelevant. But we’re back to one of the basic points we make in this blog: it’s not because the UGC phenomenon is important that we should exaggerate its influence. The web 2.0 hasn’t changed everything; we shouldn’t confuse long tail and web uses, quantity of content and visibility of sources, visibility and influence.

Opinion systems evolve. But not as much as some would have you believe (not coincidentally they are usually web consultants, which I am too but not exclusively).

At least this type of survey keeps things in focus: blogs are essentially a niche media; Wikipedia is a reputation tool (a few of us keep insisting on this point and we’re not done arguing); the influence of UGC is usually through consumer feedback on e-commerce websites; forums are hyperactive places.
Have a look at the survey anyway, particularly at what it reveals about « sector noise ». “The sectors that generate the most word-of-mouth and messages on blogs are the car industry (27%), equipment (25%) and travel (6%)”, Le Figaro points out.

Print press not dead

This is an English translation of a post written in French. Original post with links here.

The news got plenty of coverage in the press yesterday but not much commentary online so far. Maybe it’s not to every blogger’s liking: the Audipresse 2007 survey, which measures the audience of the printed press, shows that it fared better in 2007. Regardless of what people have been saying – including here.

The audience of every French daily has increased, save La Croix (catholic) and L’Equipe (sports). Libération grew most: 10%. Free paper 20 Minutes now has France’s highest readership: 2.5 million. L’Equipe, Le Monde, Le Parisien – Aujourd’hui, Métro and 20 Minutes all have audiences in excess of 2 million people.

Most magazines also achieved an increase in audience. Some of the best performances were by Challenges (up 10%), Marianne (16%), Public (11%), Cosmopolitan (15%), Management (20%) and Studio (16%). Both news and business magazines did well, increasing their readership by 6.5% and 5.6% respectively.

This improvement, averaging 1.9% for dailies and 1.2% for magazines, follows a long decline since 2000, the best year for the printed press. No such figures have been recorded in the past ten years, the Audipresse survey shows. The chart below shows the change in total paid consumer press circulation between 1996 and 2006, measured by the OJD.


Change over 10 years
Paid circulation in France
1996 = 100

Note: The Audipresse survey measures the audience (number of readers), while OJD measures circulation (sales and free distribution).

But how is this possible when we keep hearing about the revolution in the media landscape, the switch to online media consumption, etc.?

The comments published since yesterday do not offer much in the way of an explanation. There is of course the increased interest due to the presidential elections, which made 2007 an exceptional year. But that would not explain the improvement in some press categories that do not deal with political news. Nor can it fully explain the increased audience in the second half of the year, after the elections.

Some read into it the result of smart editorial policies that use the online versions of newspapers and magazines not so much to steal readers from the printed counterpart as to draw attention to it. Le Figaro wrote: “Contrary to the preconceived notion, the Internet does not hurt the printed press. Web addicts are the most avid readers of magazines. Those who are connected every day read 16% more than average.

A new debate is open: is this a conjecture or a trend? Just a step on the printed press’ ladder down to oblivion? Or the beginning of the rebound? Does the Internet ring the death toll of other media or does it stimulate a broader appetite for information?

We sure won’t answer that one today. On the one hand, I’m sure the readership of printed media will not drop below a given threshold – and we have “predicted” here the return of journalism.

But I’m a bit doubtful about the theory that the Internet strengthens interest in information in general and therefore in the printed press. It may be so. But my intuition is that the sum of time spent on the Internet and reading periodicals is not extensible. The part of conjecture in the Audipresse figures deserves to be properly assessed.

We look forward to the publication of the OJD report for 2007 and the exact circulation figures for each periodical. A preview on the OJD website seems to confirm overall the trend announced by Audipresse: many circulation figures for 2007 are up. But we still need the full report to understand the change for each category of press.

A few observations, in no particular order:
• This survey also reveals a generally stable level of trust in the media.
• According to TNS Media Intelligence, advertising is matching the trend in audience (up 2.3%)
• The printed media remains the mass media, unsurprisingly. The daily papers have a penetration rate of 46% and magazines 59%.

• We discussed media on the move during the debate at Six35 on the future of the media. The table below, also from the Audipresse EPIQ survey, shows that the free papers are a favourite during travel time. Could that explain its good performance (audience up 6.6%)?


« Places for reading
The daily press is mostly read at home, but also at work. Free papers are mostly read during transportation, but also at home and work. »

Out of 100 readers monitored

• Periodicals’ financial difficulties remain acute.
• Finally, among the survey’s takeaways, comparing the audience and the circulation shows how many people read the same copy. A quick check in an Excel spreadsheet reveals that the rate is 3 to 3.5 for free papers, 4.5 for Les Echos and La Tribune. While each copy of Le Monde attracts 5.7 readers, Le Figaro only gets passed around among 3.5 people. So even though Le Figaro’s circulation beats Le Monde’s, the latter’s audience is almost twice as high (2 million vs. 1.2 million).

Will swap ten online marketers for one Duncan Watts

An article in Fast Company, “Is the Tipping Point Toast?”, looks at the work of Duncan Watts, author of Six Degrees and without a doubt one of the top experts on the matters of web networks and influence.

Aside from presenting and discussing his university research and his work at Yahoo!, Duncan Watts has a go at online marketers, the preachers who chant the gospel of the new prophets, the “e-fluentials”.

Investing in viral communication and making it a priority is a big mistake, Watts insists throughout his article. For two key reasons:

1.    “e-fluentials” do not always influence. Undoubtedly some are opinion leaders, it would be foolish to deny it. But it would be even more foolish to believe they influence everything and everywhere. Opinion leadership does not necessarily imply influence. Moreover, solutions such as panels of influentials have been proven ineffective by 50 years of marketing studies: not easy to be a leader in more than five types of products or lines of business. So is it reasonable to invest in a viral campaign that one does not fully control?

2.    the world is too complex. Duncan Watts points to the anarchy of social networks. There can be no model for viral communication and information dissemination. So is it reasonable to invest in a campaign that one is sure one cannot control at all?

So goes my poor summary of his views. I recommend taking a look at the original article and the – quite conventional – marketing mix recommended by Duncan Watts. And here are a few extra thoughts from yours truly.

•    even when one influences online, the influence does not necessarily spread offline. The on/offline articulation has not been explored by research on the issue.
•    France’s marketing professionals seem to have their eyes glued on the US. The examples I hear and read about are all American. And yet there are great cultural subtleties in these kinds of matters – take a look at food as a vehicle for socialisation, for instance. The results of transpositions from the US should be taken with a pinch of salt. French marketeers and strategists are rather short-sighted about the characteristics of their own audience: the French.

Finally, I recommend reading Fred Cavazza’s post and comments, which are very insightful. Readers might hear echoes of a tune hummed regularly in these pages by our own soloist, François Guillot.

2007 retrospective: a year on the Internet

This is an English translation of a post written in French. The original article – and the external links it contains – are here.

Ceci est une traduction d’un billet rédigé en français. Le billet original et les liens qu’il contient sont ici.

Here’s my personal diary of last year’s top web-related events in France and abroad.

January
Thierry Crouzet publishes Le Cinquième Pouvoir (≈ The Fifth Estate). It’s one of just a handful of essays on the new forms of participation powered by the Internet.

Coca-Cola spends more than a quarter of its marketing budget for Coca-Cola Zero’s launch online: the record for major launches in early 2007.

February
David Neeleman, founder and CEO of jetBlue, uses YouTube to speak directly to his customers following the airline’s worst crisis ever. This video, “Our Promise to You”, will remain a landmark in the history of online crisis communication.

DailyMotion, YouTube and skyblogs help a new dance craze take over France’s clubs and streets: Tecktonik.

March
After seeing sales decline, sensationalist news magazine Choc enjoys a huge buzz on the web when viral marketing agency Buzzman designed a campaign based on a fake video showing a look-alike of star TV show presenter Jean-Luc Delarue losing it during a plane trip.

Summize, a new model of online “trending” marketing, goes live. No sign of a French equivalent yet.

Online campaigning is going full blast, with politicians experimenting with the many opportunities offered by the Internet. Some even invest in Second Life. Online versions of conventional media keep adding more interactivity to their websites.

April
Iconic US magazine Life stops printing. It will only be available online.

Consolidation in online advertising: Google acquires DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. A month later, Microsoft buys aQuantive for 6 billion dollars.

May
Steve Jobs announces a measure to make Apple greener: it’s the outcome of nine months of online lobbying by Greenpeace through the GreenMyApple website.

Unlike with the referendum on the European Constitution, the results of the presidential elections only moderately reflect the online debate.

Launch on May 6 of Rue89.com, the first experiment in France with “hybrid journalism”. Former Libération journos manage contributions from non-professionals. Six months later, Rue89 is already famous for several scoops and has almost a million visitors per month. Other projects like Lepost.fr (part of Le Monde group) and MediaPart follow the same model.

Facebook lets its members freely develop online applications and collect all the income from them. This kicks off a surge that makes Facebook the Internet phenomenon of 2007, establishing a new form of relationship between individuals and besting MySpace, Second Life, Twitter and so forth.

June
15 million viewers in ten days checked whether President Sarkozy was really drunk at the G8 summit. A surprising buzz for a video that was actually quite uneventful.

After twelve years, the famous show Arrêt sur Images, which analysed TV coverage of events, is taken off the air. After some controversy peppered with petitions, presenter Daniel Schneidermann and his team moves out and prepares a comeback on the web.

The German media group Springer takes a 40% stake in Aufeminin.com, France’s leading online women’s magazine, bringing its stock value to €284 million. That’s €44 million more than what LVMH’s CEO Bernard Arnault will pay in November for France’s number one business daily, Les Echos.

July
Agoravox launches its first participative survey, a new experience in coordinated collective intelligence. This first is dedicated to vaccination.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau reports a 40% increase e-advertising spend. France’s train operator SNCF remains the biggest online advertiser. Almost 11% of advertising spend in France goes online: it’s the only advertising channel enjoying real growth.

August
Rather discretely, Google becomes a publisher, announcing the possibility for stakeholders to comment on Google News items that refer to them. A solution used at Google News US – and only moderately.

An American student, Virgil Griffith, puts a new tool online: Wikiscanner. It lets any Internet user track back to their source the anonymous changes to Wikipedia articles. Many political parties, companies and public figures are caught red-handed.

British students change HSBC policy by networking online: their Facebook petition gathered thousands of signatures and made the bank reverse its decision to increase overdraft penalties.

September
Chanel rolls out an impressive blogger campaign.

The New York Times.com, the world’s most visited website, drops its subscription model and allows everyone to access all its content for free – betting on an increase in advertising income.

It’s the year of the widget. UPS spends most of its 2007 online and offline advertising budget on promoting its desktop companion: probably one of the most ambitious and daring campaigns for a web service (designed by McCann Erickson).

October
After the considerable buzz of its Evolution campaign, with denounced the manipulation of images, Dove comes back with an attack on the beauty industry in its new video Onslaught. A bit rich, some say, considering that Dove is owned by Unilever… which also owns brands practicing the kind of communication attacked by Onslaught.

No more label, no more outlets: Radiohead uses the Internet as the only sales channel for their latest album, In Rainbows. The band asks web users to pay the price that seems right to them. But how many artists can afford to do this?

Géo magazine introduces its webdocumentaries: a success that illustrates the increasing integration of online images and the phenomenon of web TVs.

More than just a buzz on the web, it’s a real phenomenon: the Martine Cover Generator attracts thousands of jolly users who created parodies of the popular children’s books series Martine, just by changing the title on the cover. Until Martine’s publisher Casterman asks for the website to shut down a month later.

Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo joins a bloggers’ meeting during the consultation process on the environment.

Microsoft takes a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million and announces profiled advertising.

November
A spam email from BETC Euro RSCG to Laurent Gloaguen, part of an eBay PR campaign targeting bloggers, sparks a huge outcry on the web and triggers another debate on the relationship between brands and blogs.

Pointblog, the blogging magazine, shuts down. The audience and the rhythm of publication were too low to attract enough advertising. Gilles Klein continues with Le Monde du Blog.

IPSOS’ annual survey in Australia reports a strong aversion of Internet users to advertising.

Denis Olivennes, the CEO of music, books & electronics retailer FNAC, gets both the arts industry and Internet access providers to agree to his suggestion for thwarting music and video piracy: cut off the offenders’ Internet access.

The iPhone marks the true beginning of mobile Internet.

December
Publisher Robert Laffont announces the end of the paper version of the Quid encyclopaedia. The annual publication is made redundant by the massive online availability of information (and probably by Wikipedia in particular).

Things seem a bit slow at Web3, the international congress for bloggers and all kinds of entrepreneurs in Paris. Nothing much new in terms of content, but still a place to be for networking.

Facebook reaches the million member mark in France.

Skyblog was popular, now it’s also profitable. Skyrock announces that it earns more online than with its radio station.

The publication of swimmer Laure Manaudou’s pictures naked set the web on fire (with a record number of searches for Laure + Manaudou + Naked). But swift action by the athlete’s lawyers gets the pictures offline and demonstrates that the Internet may no longer be the legal no-man’s-land people believe.

10 reasons why PR provides the best online communication

(This is an English translation of a French post. Original -with links- here)

(Ceci est une traduction d’un post en français. Original -avec les liens- ici)
For some time I’ve been meaning to write a little note outlining the benefits of online PR. So here we go, with this catchy title: ten reasons why we PR professionals provide the smartest online service 🙂
Based on the customer’s objectives (generating traffic or sales, enhancing public image, etc.), the ten reasons are:
1. “Eyeballs” dodge online advertising. They go straight to the content. Eye-tracking surveys are astonishing in this respect. Moreover, refer to the Ipsos Australia study of November 15: “Internet users becoming adverse to advertising”.
2. Content cannot be purchased. Not without taking a serious risk.
3. Free advertising from “the buzz” is more of a myth than anything else.
4. It turns out, the Internet is not a mass media. It is made up of a set of affinity networks know as – exaggeratedly – “communities”. The Web is a highly decentralised realm, in which one needs to identify opinion leaders and know how to address them. According to Arthur Kannas, founder of the Heaven agency:

“Our vision takes the decentralised nature of the Web as its starting point. We believe it is better to teach brands to take into account all the places where their consumers are, rather than make them spend a lot of money to take them to a single place, for instance a brand website.”

5. User-generated content is credible. The brand is not alone in expressing itself, audiences gain a share of voice.

6. To address audiences effectively, one needs non-intrusive, interactive, personalised and sincere relations. Bad practices create bad noise.

7. Search engines have become reputation management systems. They only offer up “official” information as one of many sources, so it’s better to generate coverage than be subjected to it.

8. Take a look at the tips for website referencing suggested by online experts: their leitmotiv is always the quality of the content.

9. Even a purely technical reading of referencing criteria take us back to good PR practices. In particular, incoming links are an important factor – and what’s the best way of generating incoming links if not… a PR campaign?

10. Web-writing is not so specific. What’s important is… writing well.

It is quite clear that “PR lives”. Of course, everything I say refers to good PR. The kind that respects its audiences and follows Seth Godin’s brilliant rule:

“So, the smart PR folks (the successful ones) struggle to make their lists smaller and smaller. The lazy ones just try to make them bigger.”