Kiwi stunt promotes breaking news on the web

Click to watch video

From the breaking news battleground in New Zealand…

One of the country’s leading news websites, stuff.co.nz, drew a crowd in downtown Auckland last Thursday, causing pedestrians to look up, grab their mobile phone cameras and start clicking.

The publicity stunt (click the video above to watch) touts the site’s commitment to being first with breaking news, while looking very much like a breaking news story itself. And of course, it’s all captured on video, which stuff.co.nz is no doubt hoping becomes a viral hit. (That would be much more likely if the stuff people offered a video embed code.)

It reminds me of the days when radio stations battled for breaking news honours. Remember 20-20 News, 60-second updates and news hotlines with weekly payouts for the best tips? This stunt brings that sort of competitive tub-thumping to online news. All good fun, but will it change reader behaviour?

Stuff.co.nz is owned by Fairfax, which publishes several New Zealand newspapers and owns the trademe.co.nz auction website.

No such thing as bad publicity

The comments have been snarky, but it’s been a great couple of weeks for raising awareness of Twitter.

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show lampooned US lawmakers who thought twittering was more important than paying attention to President Obama’s State of the Union speech (above).

And Doonesbury’s ace reporter Roland Hedley faced the Twitter equivalent of writer’s block, trying – not too successfully – to think of something worth tweeting.

Automatic editor runs amok

Craig Silverman of Regret the Error has released his 2008 list of bizarre, alarming and downright funny corrections from newspapers and websites.

The entire list is worth a read, but this one caught my eye, pointing out the dangers of too much automation in web publishing:

The American Family Association’s OneNewsNow site has a standard practice of using the word “homosexual” instead of “gay.” They even set up a filter to automatically make the change. This didn’t serve ONN well when a sprinter named Tyson Gay made news at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. He suddenly became Tyson Homosexual when the site’s filter got a hold of an AP story:

tysonhomosexual.jpg

Apart from the obvious question of why anyone want to change “gay” to “homosexual”, it’s fun to think of how many other names could be similarly mangled.

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Facebook as a marketing platform

If you thought Facebook was just about staying in touch with friends, or finding long-lost schoolmates, then you’ll be blown away by Facebook Fanatic, a book whose authors say they will reveal:

  • 75 Ways to Buzz Your Band
  • Popularity Tips and Tricks to Make You Facebook Royalty
  • Coolest Profile Names and URLs
  • Get Celebrities and Famous Bands as Your Friend
  • Poking and Prodding, Oh My
  • Rock the Facebook Vote
  • Be a Blog Hog
  • Climbing the Wall
  • Go Underground on Facebook with Little Used Privacy Settings
  • Make Money Off Your Videos
  • 55 Ways for Authors to Buzz Their Book
  • 70 Ways to Get Films Recognized
  • 40 Ways to Zoom a Political Campaign

As the promo on amazon.com says: “Read today and rule Facebook tomorrow!”

I haven’t read the book, but maybe I’m not dreaming big enough. 😉

Interface design can drive you crazy

Puzzled by the cryptic little symbols and labels on some modern electronics?

Then you’ll probably appreciate Darren Barefoot’s posting Laundry, chicken, iTunes and levels of abstraction in user interface design.

It’s an amusing and non-technical assessment of how much information we need to successfully operate various devices — and of how interface designers can get it very wrong sometimes.

US journalist offers outsourced news of Indian politics

😉 Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten isn’t standly idly by while low-paid journalists cover Pasadena, California from computers in India.

He’s decided to try outsourcing himself, starting with coverage of the Tamil Nadu state legislature in southern India, which he has been following via webcast. Well, he followed one meeting at least. Enough to get the gist of things.

This first report is now being offered to Indian publishers for only US$2, a bargain rate that should offer better value than using journalists closer to the scene, what with their demands for as much as 10 or 12 thousand dollars in annual salary.

While his grasp of Indian politics may not be perfect, Weingarten has all the tools of the modern outsourced reporter at his disposal, namely a computer and an internet connection. So Gene, over to you:

CHENNAI, INDIA — A man whose name is, I swear, “Somnath Chatterjee,” addressed the state legislature here today. Mr. Chatterjee was introduced as the leader of the “Lok Sabha,” which is evidently some sort of important national lawmaking body about which few details are available at this time.

Mr. Chatterjee is apparently in ill health, as he arrived surrounded by attendants in white hospital garb. However, he proved hale enough to mount the podium, where he delivered a lengthy speech in praise of an elderly, revered local government official whose name sounds something like “Dr. K. Haminahamina,” a name that, unfortunately, didn’t get any Google hits. But it’s got to be pretty close…

I know you’re going to want to read the rest of Weingarten’s debut coverage of Indian local government. It’s funny stuff, but also ironic, in that the Indian journalists recruited for the Pasadena site probably have a much better grasp of Amercian culture than the typical American (or Canadian!) has of theirs. One of them studied journalism in California.

I’m curious to see how the outsourced news on Pasadena Now works out. I skim the site occasionally, but have yet to see anything labelled as having been written by one of the Indians. Anyone else spotted their work yet?

Optimizing baby’s name

Selecting a baby’s name was seldom easy. You had to please the parents, and the grandparents, and make sure it wasn’t going to be an invitation to playground taunts.

But nowadays savvy parents also have to be sure their child’s name is search-engine optimized.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the occurrence [I’m not sure we can call it a trend yet] of parents-to-be selecting a name for their child that will appear high in search engine rankings.

It’s essential for these parents to find a name that is uncommon, otherwise their child may be on page 89 of results for “Britney Jones” or “Jason Smith”. That’s virtually unsearchable, which is only a step away from non-existent.

According to the WSJ:

US internet users conduct hundreds of millions of search queries daily. About 7% of all searches are for a person’s name, estimates search engine Ask.com. More than 80% of executive recruiters said they routinely use search engines to learn more about candidates, according to a recent survey by executive networking firm ExecuNet. Nearly 40% of individuals have used search engines to look up friends or acquaintances with whom they’d lost touch, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Microsoft Corp.’s MSN unit.

But what if the parents cannot find, or agree on, a search-friendly name? That’s when it’s time for Search Engine Marketing. Just make sure you bid high on the keywords for your child’s name. It’s a small price to pay for the kind of visibility that could help your kid succeed.

David Berkowitz at Search Insider goes even further, with some excellent marketing ideas. Here are just a few:

Write a press release the day your baby’s born with the baby’s name in the headline, and optimize the entire release. As soon as the little one takes its first breath, he or she can even appear in the body of Google’s natural search results thanks to universal search.

Buy all potential domain name misspellings of your baby’s name. If you’re blessed with ample foresight or come from an ages-old tradition of arranged marriages, buy versions of the last name of any potential suitor you have in mind. Redirect the names to your baby’s main dot-com domain.

Googlebomb your baby’s domain around the phrase “world’s cutest baby,” “future Nobel laureate,” or “Harvard class of 2025.”

While Berkowitz claims his advice is tongue-in-cheek, he also says some of his ideas would work just as well for, say, your business, as for your baby.