Facebook as news. Where will it stop?

Do we now view Facebook as news? Is it a news source?

After a live, 10-minute video of a police officer shooting a black man (Philando Castile) in Minnesota was posted on Facebook, there is a great deal of chatter about Facebook’s role in news and its responsibility because it seemed it was a media outlet posting NEWS. Facebook as NEWS has become a topic of discussion.

Philander Castille and Facebook as newsI want to say right from the start that this blog post will not touch on the footage or the event. Neither will it speak to the shooting of police officers in Dallas. This blog is about Facebook as a news organization.

Should Facebook post live videos of events? Does it have any responsibility of content? To my thinking, Facebook is schizophrenic on this subject. It censors copyrighted material. You can’t post a video on Facebook of your children at a playground if you have placed a sound bed in the background of a popular song.

Facebook wont publish it. I can’t post a photograph on my Facebook feed with text in it (like a sign that says STOP for example) because Facebook has a policy of not boosting a post with an image that contains a certain percentage of words in it. Nudity is not allowed.

Where is this going?

Facebook as news
Nick Berg

But you can post a live video of a young man bleeding to death. The images are abhorrent. No one argues with that. But where does it stop?

If Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a live video of his beheading Nick Berg, do you think Facebook would allow it? Not on your life.

If it did, the uproar from society would unfathomable. It seems to me that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Think abut this. Would nudity be OK on Facebook as long as it was a live video of a rape? Where does our voyeurism end?

Facebook is a part of our lives to be sure. But Facebook as news should not be.

Are we to blame for Facebook as NEWS?

Why has this happened? Why is it that for many, social media has become their news source?

Facebook as news and Fox NewsI know a good deal about branding. I know that a need in a target market creates demand. I know that meeting that need is a predictor of success. I know that we get what we deserve as often as we get what we need.

The real issue here is a turning away from real news and substituting it with pop-culture drivel. Broadcast news is just entertainment masquerading as news. The public gets affinity news broadcasting (broadcast news that sells an agenda and bias) because it does not want news.

It wants agreement with our own ignorance (from the root of IGNORE). In our hearts we know that what we see on Fox and CNN is not news. Its bent entertainment. Facebook as News. Cronkite never dreamed of it

When CBS decided that its news bureau needed to be a profit center rather than a public service, more than just personality died when Walter Cronkite passed away. We lost NEWS.

Think about the demise of the newspaper. Subscriptions are in decline. Reporters are being let go and readership is running for cover.

There is responsibility in live postings

Facebook as news and Marshall McLuen
Marshall McLuen

To my thinking, I am upset that Facebook posts crap like this. There is no editorial ownership, as there once was with CBS. Facebook thinks it is doing a public service by showing our lives in its raw experiential form. I think we have enough reality TV, thank you very much. I don’t need to see everything in its raw form.

I need that as much as I need the bizarre talking heads on Fox News spinning everything they report. I’m hungry for knowledge, not to witness the wost of humanity. Will Facebook spend time and money making sure that similar videos are edited for agendas? When will we be finished as a modern society of Peeping Tom’s?

I think the killing in Minneapolis would have been real news without the Facebook post. The news was not the shooting. The news was that it was “captured live on Facebook. Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium IS the message. Too bad. Too bad.

The legacy of Harper Lee

Last week, America lost a literary icon. Harper Lee, the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, died at the age of 89 in Monroeville, Alabama.

Harper Lee
Harper Lee became a legend with only one book.

Her first novel, published in 1960, has left an indelible imprint on our culture — it did for me — as it magnified both the disparities and injustices with race and class, and highlighted gender roles prevalent at the time.

In a perfect world, Lee’s legacy would have ended there, perhaps punctuated with the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom award. That’s not a bad send-off. But instead, among rumors of declining health and pushy publishers, the author agreed to the release of the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, entitled Go Set a Watchman.

There’s been a lot of speculation about Lee’s second release. Some said her health created a level of incompetence that prompted a willingness to sign-off on Watchman. I can see that.

The book, which centers on a 26-year-old Scout encountering bigotry in her hometown, was generally panned by critics. Most of that is due to Scout’s father, the immortalized Atticus Finch. In the second installment, he was portrayed as a racist. Many felt that the book was incomplete, and that it wasn’t ready for the masses and more of a first draft. I wish it wasn’t ever published.

Has Watchman tarnished the brand of Harper Lee?

The release of the Go Set a Watchman brought this question to mind, and sadly, I feel it rings true.

Lee was 87 at the time of the book’s release. You just can’t pay me to believe she was pining for another big-time release, especially with 54 years having passed since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It surely seems like she was pressured into a release that could (and did) bring a lot of other people a bunch of money.

Whether or not my speculation is true, what is true is that the release of Watchman tarnished the perfection of what was an flawless first statement. The mystique surrounding Lee was derailed.

Look at it another way. Brand anthropology means finding “what the target audience believes.”

Prior to the release of Watchman, the connotative beliefs about Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird were bountifully positive. She was a legend, who had one perfect book in her. That’s all she needed as there were a lifetime of lessons in it.

Lee’s publishers should have been cognizant of this (because everyone else was) and never, ever, ever, ever pushed a legend into a decision that wasn’t right. Because anything else was against the grain of that perfection.

I am doing my best to forget the mistake of Watchman, but I don’t know if I ever will.

Tom Clancy: The mark of a personal brand

As you may know, Tom Clancy died yesterday. While I was not a fan of his literary catalog, I applaud the vision of his personal brand.

Clancy’s breakthrough moment came in 1984 when he published The Hunt for Red October, which laid the seeds for his 100 million or so books now in print with 17 of them being on the NY Times Best Seller list. He had success in movies as well with nearly $800 million in gross for four movies and had an estimated 76 million copies of video games using his name out as well. (OK, I exaggerate.) There was even a line of board games that bore his name.

tom-clancyFew authors have had this kind of success in such a variety of different mediums. (Stephen King is the other one who comes to mind.) While there have been authors who have been successful in books and in movies, few have moved into gaming, which had something to do with Clancy’s desire to remain consistent and stick to what he knew – technology, military and how to tell a story. Books, movies and games were all related to his core competency. Each allowed him to express himself in unique yet similar ways.

It is this that brands should understand and try to emulate.

One of the primary keys to branding is to remain consistent (along with being meaningful). So is remaining true to who/what you are. In this modern age of viral videos and guerrilla marketing, marketers often forget that slow and steady can still win the race. Preference is not built on the latest YouTube video. It is built on a relationship with customers that must be developed over time.

What Clancy understood was that, if he remained true and consistent, people would know what they were getting no matter the medium. Furthermore, it enabled him to gain greater preference for the brand of Tom Clancy as his customers could approach his brand from a variety of different touch points. No matter how you were exposed to his brand, your next interaction with it, regardless of medium, would be consistent with the last.

Good content and the stringent consistency and drive to stay true to himself were the keys to his success. If businesses could do the same, they too might be so lucky.

No question, Barnes & Noble is in trouble

What is wrong with Barnes & Noble? If you ask investors, they would tell you the bookseller has lost its importance because the market B&N served has changed. The way it buys and uses books has changed. They would say that Barnes & Noble is a dinosaur.

IMG_1444Look at the recent earnings report and you would have to agree. The company reported a net loss of $87 million, or $1.56 per share, for the fiscal first quarter ending July 27. Compare that with a loss of $39.8 million, or 76 cents per share, a year earlier. If you were an options trader, last week was the time to sell Puts.

I think Barnes & Noble still has a whisper of a chance to both survive and prosper but the brand and the brand promise needs a complete overhaul. It needs to be less about what you buy (books) and more about why. When Barnes & Noble closes its doors, many of us will mourn the loss of the bookstore experience.

Sadly, we will only miss it when it is gone because Barnes & Noble ‘s brand has no such brand promise and elicits none of that fear. The brand currently is only that of “booksellers.”

Does the Barnes & Noble brand flood you with the distinct and expansive scent of books? Does it fill you with the wonder of discovery that is so pleasant on a rainy Saturday afternoon when, with no particular book in mind, you leisurely discover a gem you did not know you needed?

Barnes & Noble can’t compete on price or selection. The Internet will always have lower prices and a greater selection. But the experience is an emotional difference — not a rational one. Understanding that difference and executing it is how you grow market share. Know what you are good at and become legend.

Amazon wants to play the price game – will it work?

Amazon has just made things interesting.

Today, in my daily quest to find new electronic gadgets, I stumbled across the news that Amazon has boldly announced their new line of Kindle devices — four devices to be exact.

Posted on Amazon are the upcoming $79 Kindle, the Kindle Touch Wi-Fi and 3G, as well as its most interesting product of all, the Kindle Fire. The Fire is Kindle’s response (albeit a rather late one) to both the iPad and, more directly, the Nook Color.

This all made me wonder, wouldn’t these devices really have been something two years ago? You know, before they were essentially created by Apple and Barnes & Noble?

Instead, Amazon is now trying to make waves by promoting products that can be, at best, second place in their respective categories. And I believe Amazon realizes this too.


Posted on the lead page of Amazon’s website is a letter scribed by its billionaire CEO, Jeff Bezos. The opening of Bezos’ letter reads:

There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.

Interestingly, in order to gain market share in this already dominated market, Bezos wants to play the game of price and essentially own the position of having the most affordable and well built e-reader and tablet on the market. That’s something no one really is doing right now. This is also, in my estimation, the only shot Amazon has to gain market share.

BGR-Amazon-Kindle-FireJust think about it: Amazon’s Fire will always be a second-class citizen to the iPad. Take a look at the specifics — it is built to be a multi-purpose touchpad (which certainly is far from unique these days) and its screen shots show similar layouts to that of iBooks and iTunes apps. You can watch movies, listen to music, read PDF’s and check your e-mail on it too. Basically, Amazon has created the iPad for those people who can’t afford an iPad. And they’ve acknowledged this by letting customers know that their product is affordable.

Also, should you visit the purchase link for the Fire, Amazon has written: “Pre-order now to reserve your place in line.” Suggesting to customers that the Fire will be a big-time seller in the market place.

A microcosm of this scenario can also be seen with Amazon’s release of the $79 Kindle. Here, Amazon, through price alone, is now contending for the second place position behind the Nook’s second generation E-Ink reader. Its hope is to increase market-share by selling more of a product that is very similar to the Nook, and for just a little cheaper price.

Truthfully, what else should Amazon do? In this overrun of an e-reader and tablet marketplace, it has no alternative but to play the price game. What helps is that these new e-readers and tablets are being made by Amazon — one of the most powerful and most recognizable brands today.

It will be interesting to see how much demand these will be upon their release. And, for a gadget geek like me, a whole lot of fun too.