Friday, October 30, 2009

NewsNow provides more detail about its threats

Struan Bartlett has given us further insight into the threats made by the major (National and Regional) UK newspapers.

In his new open Q&A session ( he states that the newspaper groups are demanding control & money on the grounds of Copyright Law. As Struan is clear to point out, there is no specific UK law that allows news aggregators and intermediaries to do what they do, just as there a no laws to allow you to do a lot of things in business an (most laws say what you CANNOT do).

Perhaps it may be the right time to go to court to resolve this... I just wonder if Google will get dragged into the fight, as there is every indication that the newspaper groups don't want them involved (maybe because they will have a bigger and better legal team?)

in reference to:

"They claim copyright law as a legal justification."
- NewsNow: Free Linking Q&A (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing for the web

Journalists should already be familiar with George Orwell’s 6 rules of writing (if not, then I suggest you take a look now) however Mr Orwell had [unluckily] never heard of the Internet nor had ever tried to read stuff off a back-lit electronic screen rather than the printed page he was used to.

I've been lucky enough to work with some great online copywriters, digital editors and web information architects. They have made my life so much easier and made the client (and me in the process) look very professional. And so, whilst I don't regard myself as having a fraction of their skills (or patience), I have learnt a thing or two from them. I'm therefore going to extend George Orwell's rules by 2 more, to make them '8 rules for writing for the web'.

  1. Structure your content the way people want to read it, not the way you think you need to show it - kind of like a user-centred copy approach, if you will. So.... out goes huge lengthy paragraphs and in come bulleted lists and other such devices to make you content more scan-able and consumable.
    To put it another way, think of your end-user as an eater of words rather than a reader of them.
    Arrange your content into small manageable bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest!
    (Can you tell I once worked for an international food company?)
  2. Make sure you have copy standard and stick to them! I have lost count at the amount of times I have seen a company refer to themselves differently across their own corporate website for no reason.
    For example:
    - us
    - we
    - Mega Corp
    - Mega Corp inc.
    - MegaCorp
    - MC
    - the company
    and the list goes on!

    It really doesn't take much to keep a central dictionary of common terms & titles, and its now even less effort to stick this document up on your company Intranet as a permanent reference.

I hope George Orwell approves of my additions.....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sidewiki site owners get top billing

I’ve recently used and blogged about Google’s Sidewiki and the risks/benefits it creates for brands and their websites. Its both an opportunity and concern to allow visitors to write whatever they like (within reason – or the comment gets deleted) on your homepage and beyond.

However, if you are the site owner looking to post about your own site, but worried that your own introduction and information will not get the prominence you want, Google has thoughtfully allowed you write a special entry that will stay as the top entry for this page in SideWiki.

In fact, this article is such an entry for this website. So… welcome one & all and please feel free to comment on both this blog and in the sidewiki.


in reference to: Press 2.0 - Communications in a digital world (view on Google Sidewiki)

Are you a Brand Bashing Badvocate?

A what?

Well, according to an article last week in Forbes magazine, if you're one of the legion of bloggers who pulls up companies & brands for their deeds then you're not an advocate... you're a badvocate.

Now, bloggers having a go at companies for bad, mad or stupid actions isn't a particularly new thing, but the time of ignoring badvocates has surely passed? Its not longer a case of sweeping the issue under the carpet & hoping the message goes away (or doesn't get any worse). Social Media is now pervasive and won't go just away overnight, so neither will your badvocates.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Global vs local search habits

There's a difference of opinion out on the Internet as to whether George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “If you want to see how a society thinks, look at what it searches for.”

However, even if he didn't say it, its worth crediting it to him anyway.... particularly in the online world where the zeitgeist, hopes & fears and social drivers of society can be quickly gauged by seeing what their people look for in seach engines.

However, when putting some work together for a potential client, we have been discussing if search habits are different across the Internet and for me the answer has to be "Yes", for example...
  • Different countries / regions have different languages. Even translated, these lose a little something along the way
  • Trends, thoughts and influences differ from place to place over time and although there may be global memes, these are no-doubt subtley different at a local level.
  • Different search engines are used across the world (e.g. is popular in Korea and is bigger than, these have different indexing algorythms and therefore differing search results.

But accepting that there are these differences, the next question should be "are the ways that people use search engines different from place to place?". By this, I mean:

  1. Do users in different counties go to search engines for different reasons at a different points in their consideration/buying cycle?
  2. Do search engine visitors from different markets/locale's trust the results in varying ways?
  3. Do a different numbers of pages of results get looked at depending on the language of the user?
  4. etc.

All food for thought and possibly a much bigger topic than just one blog post.......

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hashtag hijacking

Using hashtags on Twitter (using # before a keyword to show your subject, allowing others to follow) is extremely useful.
For example following the stream of collective opinion on last night's BBC Question Time was both amusing and insightful. (#bbcqt)
However today when searching subsequent views on the programme, there are now a whole host of unrelated sales messages using the same hash tag. Obviously realising that those following this important subject on Twitter may be influential decision makers, spam accounts have decided to invade this subject for gain.

Take out:

  • Organisers- create a topical hashtag for your important event, but expect to use another for your next one
  • Followers - follow a hashtag, but don't expect the same quality of tweets in the morning
  • Twitter - please find some way of stopping this or see the decline in the usefulness of hashtags

Bing's Twitter search is US only

"Sorry! Bing Twitter Search is not available in this locale." is about as useful as a chocolate teapot to anyone outside of the United States who wishes to take adantage of Microsoft's Twitter search facility that they launched recently.

But why?

Has Bing just indexed US-based Twitter accounts or does it only want US-based people to see the results?
(Maybe its the latter, if its only sold advertising inventory to US clients)

in reference to:

Bing Twitter Search is not available in this locale."
- Bing Twitter (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Twitter updates now indexed by the search engines

Today sees Google (who have closely followed Bing) announce that they are going to index Twitter feeds and add them to their search results.

Now ignoring the huge compexities of storage and spidering this creates for the search giants, lets just consider what it means ....

Yes, your tweets are now likely able to be found when someone searches for your name. So... depending upon the speed of the indexing, this means that searches for content also bring up conversations and the life-streaming activity of the entire Twitterati.

Have Google and Bing just made Twitter more important to a person's (and company's) online presence? Quite possibly.....

in reference to: (view on Google Sidewiki)

Debenhams: The first UK department store to sell on Amazon and eBay

At first, ot seems like a daft decision... To sell your original & new clothing on eBay or Amazon, when you already have a decent and fully featured eCommerce website.

Well that's what UK department store Debehams
( have done and on both sites at the same time!
However, taking a closer look at the detail, this might not be as silly a decision as it first looks.
Firstly Debenhams is not selling its entire product catalogue on either site. On Amazon it has only 1000 selected products available now (increasing to about 2000 by next week), including its more up-market 'Designers at Debenhams' range. On auction site eBay however it is replicating the products from its outlet web store.

The competiton will be keeping a close eye on whether this initiative works for the now-profitable department store....

in reference to: (view on Google Sidewiki)

Newspapers now blame links for their woes

Links are the very essence of the Internet (and it would not be the World Wide Web without them). So its with some amazement that I read Struan Bartlett's open letter to a bunch of newspaper groups.
Why? Well it would seem the Managing Director of NewsNow has been threatened with legal action if his company (amongst others) doesn't stop linking to newspaper sites or accept 'controls'.

So, let me get this right.... the newspaper industry is in a complete tail-spin, aggregators drive traffic to these newspaper sites and the newspapers now want to stop this acivity?

Wouldn't they be better-off finding out how to retain whatever custom they could rather than going after those who are actually providing them with readers and search engine optimisation assistance?

Being a huge aggregator of newspaper content, did Google get one of these threats? I bet not!

in reference to: NewsNow: An Open Letter to the UK's national, regional and local newspapers (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Social Media definition

Its a busy time at Ideal Interface and we're currently working on several new business proposals.

Consequently I have been asked to write the 'opinion' piece for Social Media within the document and here is what I wrote.....

Social Media are online functionality that support the human need for social interaction. The Internet has transformed from a series of one-to-one monologues into numerous dialogues amongst crowds of individuals, that consequently enable greater and more concentrated communication and opinion.
The lesson for all brands is to appreciate is that they are already being talked about and that opinions are already circulating about their offers and service. The challenge is therefore to understand those conversations, be part of them and to influence them over time.

Opinions welcome.......

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

UK Crime map having its own issues

An initiative by the National Policing Improvement Agency has placed maps online that show UK crime statistics.
As well as being able to compare overall crime rates, visitors to the site can view figures for: burglary, robbery, violence, vehicle crime and anti-social behaviour.

However,the voice of the Police Federation (the police 'union') that said this could help criminals, by letting them find specific crime hotspots, looks to be unlikely as the service is repeatedly unavailable today.

The reason "Due to very high popularity users may experience temporary intermittent issues accessing this site".

Either the Home Office never anticipated this level of traffic in its first week of launch (strange, given the curiousity around such a subject) or gangs of 'ner-do-wells' are using the service to plan their next set of heists, muggings and anti-social behaviour online.....

in reference to: Crime mapping for English and Welsh police forces (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amazon ups the eCommerce stakes

In yet another aggressive move on its competition in the "sell everything we possibly can online" market (BTW: who actually is in this market right now?) Amazon has announced it now has no minimum spend to qualify for its Super Saver Delivery option.
This basic delivery choice on (usually advertised on the site as '3 - 5 working days') is incredibly popular and in my experience nearly-always gets to me in only a couple of days.
Obviously someone at Amazon has done their maths and worked out that they will gain additional revenue without adding too much to their costs. This benefit should come either from incremental basket value or up-selling shoppers to premium rate delivery options.
This could be a blatant move to steal market share at a loss, but this activity could harm Amazon in the longer term if it subsequently raised the minimum spend back to £5 or higher.

Here's hoping the people with the spreadsheets have their assumptions correct and visitors won't make more frequent but lower value purchases...

in reference to: offers free delivery on all items — Internet Retailing (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wake up and smell the coffee journalists

Michael Skoler from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard (who collectively know a thing or two about this subject) has recently written a very interesting article on "Why the News Media Became Irrelevant and How Social Media Can Help"

I'll not go into too much detail, but this paper starts in a tone that many old hacks will be concerned about:

Journalists are truth-tellers. But I think most of us have been lying to ourselves.
He covers the inconvenient fact that journalism has no business model if it cannot provide something that people value or enriched their lives.. and perhaps the discussion should stop there?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The impact of Google Sidewiki on brands

I’ve been using Google’s Sidewiki in the last week or so and have even used it to post to my blog, suffice to say I’ve found it useful for tracking my own comments about a site, as well as found it very interesting to read the comments of others.

Most notable of these is the outcry about Seth Godin’s ‘Brands in Public’.
A service created for brands to see what is being said about them online in one place by aggregating content from the usual social media suspects across the web, such as: Twitter, blogs, feeds, Twitter, etc. However others have openly criticised this service as Brandjacking and where have these comments and criticism been posted? Well… on the Google Side Wiki attached to the site of course.

Now let’s get one thing clear… I view transparency and openness as key brand attributes, and there can be nothing more open than allowing criticism against your brand on your own website. That is of course until your CEO understands that now anyone can say what they like and others can read it (with the Google SideWiki Toolbar feature enabled)

Yes, there are ways to complain about certain content and Google has (surprisingly) been very clear about the process… although I have yet to hear personally of an appeal being successful.

You can try and explain to your CEO that you’ve never really had control of what people say about your brand. You can highlight that thanks to social media customers and potential customers are able to discuss, share and complain about your products & services (or just your company as a whole). You can point them to examples where companies have made the situation worse by either ignoring the comments or by trying to get them removed.

However you may find it’s a case of NIMBY (not in my back yard) or my accurately “Not on my homepage”

in reference to: What Google's Sidewiki Means to Marketers - ClickZ (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The launch of AABPLC

We're really proud at Ideal interface to have developed and launched the new website for All About Brands ( This site uses the Kentico Content Management System (CMS) and is built with some great features including: blog, Twitter feeds and is optimised for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
We think it shows AAB to be a professional branding company that leverages the digital medium.

in reference to: AAB Plc - Creating, developing and supporting brands to build business value (view on Google Sidewiki)

Intel's Social Media Guidelines

As well as creating their guidelines for social media use, Intel have also published these on their main website.
This transparent act serves not just employees of the company, but anyone participating on any form of social media on the Intel site (e.g. their blogs, forums, etc.)

in reference to: Intel Social Media Guidelines (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google looking to make AJAX crawlable

The problem a lot of sites have had over the last few years is that search engines are not able to crawl content delivered via AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). This means that web crawlers doen't see what the visitor sees and a lot of Web2.0 content cannot be indexed - in effect discouraging those who want a site optimised for SEO purposes using rich interfaces.

But yesterday Google announced their proposal for a new standard for making AJAX crawlable.

These particularly technical recommendations hope to free up the content within AJAX-based sites, but need agrement from web server developers and search engines... a tall order indeed!

in reference to: Official Google Webmaster Central Blog (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Amazon Kindle available to UK from today

Good news. From today people in the UK (and a 100+ other country residents that have been asking for it) who want to ligitimately obtain an Amazon Kindle, can buy one.

Today a letter from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been posted up to visitors of its UK site informing them that its now available and you can download 250,000 books as well as Uk & International newspapers.

The catch?
You have to buy the 'USA & International version' from Luckily the $279 price of the basic (Kindle2) version has been slashed by $60 since July. Therefore at the current exchange rate, this makes it an attractive £175.60!
Note: They do seem to be out of stock right now....

Oh, there's no word yet on when a similar international version of the flashier Kindle DX will be available.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Newspapers and their pay walls

Is news really worth paying for?

Well, unsuprisingly one newspaper bosses think it is, but unfortunately readers and other journalists think otherwise.

Now, as many people know, hiding news content to readers (unless they are charged for it), is known as using a paywall and Mr Rupert Murdoch (who is some chap who owns a company called NewCorp - a company that took a $3.4 billion net loss in 2008, down from net income of $5.4 billion in 2007) thinks that this will make him some money. Well... he's correct.

So... how will they actually charge for this service? Well one way would be to have a subscription service such as the economist website and the other one is to use Micro-payments (e.g via a service such as

Putting up a pay wall for the New York Times or The (London) Times WILL make some money. But will it kill off his online readership (and therefore his small but constant advertising revenue) in the process? Quite possibly!

There are a lot of industry observers such as myself who think this will fail, most notable including Steve Outing, who shows statistical evidence from the USA that newspaper execs "remain delusional about how charging for online content"

But its not just observers who think this is a bad idea [bad joke: its also Observers]

Emily Bell from the Guardian, back in August said

No – we are not contemplating a pay wall, nor as far as I’m concerned would we ever….they are a stupid idea in that they restrict audiences for largely replicable content. Murdoch no doubt will find this out – even rudimentary maths suggests he will struggle with a completely free model to meet advertising revenue levels across the NI offerings.

And even Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that is is unlikely that a paywall model will work because news content is now so ubiquitous across the web.

Time will tell.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Brandjacking is the act of someone hijacking a brand, when a person (or body of people) are able to pass off to others that they are your brand by use of your name and trademark. But it also happens online:

Also know as domain squatting, when a URL is obtained with the aim of pretending to be a brand:

PPC abuse
Although Google is doing nothing illegal by letting people purchase existing brand trade marks (see my previous post on the ongoing LV vs. Google battle) some people are passing off fakes as reputable products in their pay-per-click adverts.

Domain kiting
This is the rather complex process where someone registers a domain name the instant its current ownership expires. As it is now possible to use an 'Add Grace Period' for domain registrations (where within a period of 5 days the domain can be dropped and a full refund recieved), registrars don't even need to purchase domains to use them now.
Now, this wouldn't be too much of a problem, but:
1. Google takes a few days to recognise that the page has changed and re-index it correctly
2. The fraudulent registrar instantly put up a new site with lots of adverts (e.g. Google Ad Sense)
3. This now happens on a grand scale

Brandjacking now happens in a lot of different market sectors including the ones my company has been working in:

Only last week Nucelus released a study which has found that in the last year 80% of the surveyed travel businesses suffered brand hijacking. These incidents have increased from 67% in 2008.

Financial Services:
MarkMonitor in its Spring 2009 report found that:

Brand abuse is increasing, but more important than the sheer volume is the increased sophistication and the opportunistic nature of brandjackers

And its not just domains and marketing efforts that are subject to brandjacking. Earlier this year on Twitter, an account called @exxonmobilcorp was set up and someone named Janet who claimed to work for Exxon answered questions about ExxonMobil.
This turned out not to be any employee of the company.

So, what are you doing to avoid being brandjacked?