Everything AOL Is New Again

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

♫… When trumpets… were mellow
And every gal only had one fellow
No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

I have a soft spot in my heart for AOL. Shortly after getting my first PC in 1994, I joined all of the Internet portals of the day on a trial basis: Prodigy; CompuServe; Genie; Imagination but ended each subscription at the end of the free period except for one: AOL, because of what I later came to know as Community. I quickly got hooked on building relationships with like-minded people without regard to geographic or societal boundaries. In other words, social networking.

In fact, I loved it so much I became a beta tester for AOL 1.5 (when it had 500K members) onward, then a volunteer, then a contractor and finally in 1997, a paid  employee. During the next 10 years I rode the crest of AOL’s rise to the largest portal in the world (with 35 million paid members) as well as its accelerated denouement.

Blame management; blame the ill-conceived and worse executed merger with “old media” Time-Warner; blame whomever or whatever you wish for AOL’s fall from grace. But the fact is, AOL was a trailblazer in many ways. So, it’s both satisfying and frustrating to see current digital companies (including the “new” AOL) turning back to its concepts and features.

♫… Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails …♫

Back then, AOL based programming on a TV network model comprised of major content categories called channels, with user engagement provided by supporting community teams. About 20 or so major channels, provided both content and community. And so, it was good to see TechCrunch (itself an AOL “channel”) report today, “AOL Consolidates 53 Brands Down To 20 “Power Brands” in an effort to consolidate both content and advertising inventory. See the resemblance?

But it wouldn’t be a trend if only New AOL were doing this. The NY Times reported on Monday about a growing trend in many large organizations, “Companies Are Erecting In-House Social Networks“. Organizations are employing private networks, or intranets, utilizing social networking to improve communications and increase associate engagement. Great idea! Of course, AOL  provided parallel AOL private networks for a fee to companies and organizations way back in 1997 – fourteen years ago.

Yes, AOL fell behind on many fronts, especially the migration to broadband access and the open Internet as well as products such as blogs and user-generated video. And, ultimately, it has no one to blame for its current situation other than itself.

 But its important to give AOL credit where due.

♫… Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again …♫

(Lyrics: ‘Everything old Is New Again”  – Peter Allen)

The Names of American Cities (According to Twitter)

How do Twitter users refer to major U,S, cities?

Of course, there can be only one ‘Gotham’ city, but I imagine those claiming ‘Titletown’ may get an argument from residents of Green Bay

Click Image to View Full Size

Happy 100th IBM – and a One Word Lesson for Social Media

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Light the candles (and notify the Fire Marshall) on the cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to IBM as it celebrates its 100th birthday. Despite its many technological accomplishments including the revolutionary punch cards; electric typewriters, mainframes and personal computers, its most significant contribution to social media use may be its iconic company slogan — “THINK”.

On June 16, 1911 four companies merged into the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation in Endicott, NY creating one of the great American corporations, renamed in 1924 as International Business Machines, IBM. Three years later its iconic leader, Thomas J. Watson, instituted the one-word slogan that both encourages and cautions – THINK.

And that’s the social media lesson for brands and individuals today. Before you send that photo… before you post that angry rebuttal… before you denigrate others (no matter how well deserving)… before you tweet that knee-jerk reaction that , at the time, you are sure is justified… THINK.

Think about how what you send may be received. Think about how what you say can be interpreted. Think about whether what you are about to do maintains accuracy, integrity or transparency — or — just lowers you to the same level as the muckrakers and mudslingers.

Too often, brands have been tarnished, careers ended or major revenue lost, due to the failure to employ a “digital count-to-ten” before publishing on the Web.

It’s not enough being right. It’s not enoughbeing technically correct. In social media, as in all marketing and indeed much of life itself, it’s all about how what you do is perceived. So before you post, tweet, like or digg…

My New York: Live Tweeting The 2011 Tony Awards

 I love Broadway, so for me the best entertainment awards show is the Tony Awards for excellence in American theater. The 65th annual awards were held June 12 at New York’s Beacon Theater with the ultra-talented Neil Patrick Harris as host — and he killed (as they say). From an opening number that spoofed Broadway’s reputation as being less than manly to a closing rap that  recapped the highlights of the  night, NPH showed why he is today’s best awards show host (highlight video –>).

And, of course, Broadway fans nationwide were tweeting their comments as the awards were announced. Here are mine plus additional comments.

  • roncasalotti: Nice @ActuallyNPH killed the Tony Award opening. FTW 8:05 pm
    Neil Patrick Harris can do it all. I saw him on Broadway as the MC in ‘Cabaret’ and Lee Harvey Oswald in ‘Assassins’. But my first “Aha!” moment of his post Doogie Howser career, when he sang on a Broadway TV special from ‘Rent’ (he was in the L.A. production) Who knew?!?!
  • roncasalotti: Ellen Barkin wins Featured Actress in a Play for ‘The Normal Heart’ Well deserved, she rocked that role. 8:09 pm
  • roncasalotti: The Normal Heart is a great play; very moving; great performances; and I think more impactful than likely when it first ran in 1985…. 8:13 pm
  • roncasalotti: General consensus holds than Daniel Radcliffe was greatly deserving of a Tony nom (but overlooked) 8:14 pm
  • roncasalotti: Nice ‘Equus’ reference by @ActuallyNPH re: Daniel Radcliffe poking out ‘War Horse’s” eyes. 8:23 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Performance by Featured Actor in a Play goes to John Benjamin Hickey of ‘The Normal Heart’ 8:28 pm
  • roncasalotti: John Benjamin Hickey’s performance in ‘The Normal Heart’ brings both cheers and tears. Well deserved award. 8:29 pm
  • roncasalotti: Performance by the cast of ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ mainly for the road tour (as it closed in December after a short run) 8:53 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Actress in Featured Role in a Musical goes to Nikki M. James for ‘The Book of Mormon’ She rocked that role 9:00 pm
  • roncasalotti: The song ‘I Believe” from ‘The Book of Mormon’ is great, but I think its opening number ‘Hello’ should’ve opened the show 9:04 pm
  • roncasalotti: Hah,, funny “Host-Off” between @RealHughJackman and @ActuallyNPH 9:16 pm
    Clever bit, and it shows that both Hugh and Neil are consummate entertainers. Loved Hugh in ‘The Boy From Oz’
  • roncasalotti: Best Featured Actor in a Musical to John Laroquette for ‘How to Succeed…’ He’s hilarious in it – much better than expected.9:20 pm
  • roncasalotti: Jennifer Damiano (‘Spider-Man’) is the 2nd ex-cast member of ‘Next to Normal’ on tonight with Aaron Tveit (‘Catch Me If You Can)  9:27 pm
  • roncasalotti: Whoopi Goldberg, who starred in the movie ‘The Sister Act’ is the producer of the B’way musical of the same name  9:41 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Revival of a Play goes to the touching, moving, disturbing, powerful and simply great ‘The Normal Heart’ 9:51 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Play goes to ‘War Horse’ (the safe, expected choice)  10:04 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Revival of a Musical goes to ‘Anything Goes’. A nod to old-time Broadway. 10:27 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play to Frances McDormand for ‘Good People’ 10:37 pm
    Who apparently stayed in Southie character when she decided to wear a denim jacket to the show.
  • roncasalotti: Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical goes to Sutton Foster ‘Anything Goes.’ Saw her in a cabaret last year – big talent; nice person 10:41 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Actor in a Play goes to Mark Rylance for ‘Jerusalem’. Loved in him ‘Boeing Boeing’ & ‘La Bete’. He’s certainly, umm quirky 10:53 pm
  • roncasalotti: Best Actor in a Musical goes to Norbert Leo Butz for ‘Catch Me If You Can’ loved him in ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 10:55 pm
  • roncasalotti: Quelle surprise, ‘The Book of Mormon’ takes Best Musical. My review: Often offensive; frequently obscene; always hilarious. 11:03 pm
 Finally, here's NPH's great ending rap of a Tony Awards presentation that was well hosted, and well done.                                                                                                                                                    See you at the theater!

The Five “A”s of PR Crisis Management — Plus a Sixth

ap_anthony_weiner_presser_ll_110606_wgI came across a great article written by Jessica Klieman titled, “5 Tips for Handling a PR Crisis Like Weinergate” (in case you heaven’t heard, it’s the law that all political scandals must have a ‘-gate’ suffix ever since Nixonian times) that gives five tactics for what to do when bad private behavior goes public. I’d like to add a sixth.

Briefly (as Jessica does a great job describing each) the steps are:

  1. Assess – Objectively examine the situation to determine its “legs” and maximum potential impact.
  2. Admit – As I wrote previously, the truth will out. Once a secret is no longer a secret, own the message and ‘fess up.
  3. Address – A full ‘mes culpa’ is required. Make it complete of face the death of a thousand cuts.
  4. Atone – Make things as right as you can especially to those directly affected by your actions.
  5. Adapt – Have a game plan for what happens next. Note: the basis for any game plan should have already been designed as part of your crisis management contingency plan. Waiting until after the fur starts to fly is too late.

I’d add a sixth “A” – Abridge – state the facts; state your case; cover the five “A”s’ and retreat.

While thought noble to stand up and take the slings and arrows thrown your way (perhaps in an attempt to “get it all over with”), just as in most of life when it comes to crisis management, “less is more.” Find that sweet spot of enough time to cover your “A”s (so to speak) then leave. Cut things off too short you run the risk of coming across as abrupt, insincere and unrepentant. Stay too long, you maybe viewed as pathetic or pitiful (“Methinks the politico doth repent too much”). At his presser Weiner went on and on, repeating his message to repetitive questions that morphed from inquiry into condemnation. Is that the lasting image you want associated with an attempt to come clean?

Messed up? ‘Fess up; Retreat; Rebuild.

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