Monday, September 28, 2009

Regarding Blogging...

...oh yeah, I remember now, I have a blog.

Pity it demands more than a daily witticism in 140 characters or a link or two. I wonder if it's writers block, apathy, or just evolution that's keeping me away? It seems like everything I'd want to post here can be summed up in a update on Facebook or a pic sent to Twitpics. I've never been a journalist at heart.

It's not like nothing interesting is going on.

Work with Conversify is still going strong, and the world of social media is throwing up fresh challenges for us daily. Meeting toy soldiers, coffee pirates and costume geeks at Steampunk convivials and Regency dances, and a plethora of real-world social events are keeping our weekends occupied as they invariably are at this time in the season.

The pets are still foolish and a money-pit of calamity. There's new apps to play with, and a fresh crop of TV to watch ranging from Dexter to Supernatural. SL ticks on, with the sim fully rented and the role-play moving forward (as time allows) and with the new copy write rules looming ever nearer (and me with a tonne of rebranding to do on over 200 textures). Aliza and I are still doing the Yank & Limey podcasts, as time and travel allows.

Somehow though, none of it seems worth blogging about. A little voice at the back of my head keeps telling me I should concentrate on doing rather than pontificating. Surely I'd just be repeating what I'm saying on other channels? Is it too trite to say "blogging feels so 2004"?

So, for want of this thing dying, I'll be using it as a hub for a bit. Posting pics, videos, and quick comments. Intermittently, obviously. Please bear with things until I can just turn this into my Friendfeed or something ;-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Have You Claimed Your FB Fan Page URL?

Just about everyone (and their dog) has claimed a vanity URL’s for their Facebook presence.

Last month, FB allowed users to grab custom URL’s for their own profile pages. For instance, you can find me on Facebook at and the good lady wife at Cool.

FB URL's used to be a right old hodge-podge and this is much better for branding, business cards, and generally professionalises your presence. Seriously, if you've been living under a stone and haven’t yet grabbed your custom URL, head to and get to it, stat!.

Now, if you’re an admin for a Fan Page, you can grab custom URL’s for those too. Head to as before and follow the "set a username for your pages" link, as per for one of our clients, etc. Here you can check no ones run off with your brand name already and grab those keyword friendly URL's. I thought this was a given, but, turns out a lot of folks don't know about the Fan Page bit. Only one small caviet, to make sure you're serious I guess, is the group MUST have over 100 members. Don't miss out on this, theres only 1 chance to grab the name your after.

Go do this, now :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Changing My Twitter Name (without losing followers)

I started on Twitter with a couple of friends the week it came out of Beta, and we had no idea just how big this would get a few years down the line. Back then I happily hid behind the nom de plume of 'Lactose the Intollerent' so that I could voice my opinion while being a part of a large news organization and with out the fear of repecussions. Times, however, have changed.

Now I work in social media and, frankly, my name is my brand. Hindesight is a marvelous thing, and it's unlikely back then we'd have gone for the names we did if we'd have know what Twitter was to become. Consequently I've decided to risk changing my username to my real name, and take close stock of the consequences.

Here is how I changed my Twitter name (hopefully) without losing any followers.

, I checked my name was available. Important one this..., all was clear.

, I made the name change. You can change your Twitter name at any time on the ’settings’ page at Piece of cake. Bob's ya uncle. Yada, yada.

Third, I create a new account with my old Twitter name. I added a pic, chanced the background, added a URL to the new @nikhewitt twitter account, and posted a single tweet telling folks my name had changed. I also had to change the graphic on my background which, luckily, I'd saved as a PSD when I did it.

, I let folks know through my old account, now @nikhewitt, that the name had changed but they needed to do nothing about it. I just did this for 'belt and braces' really, so they don't see something they don't recognise popping up in their stream.

, I ran around quickly changing the resorces I know used the old name/RSS stream, like the widget on the blog, FriendFeed, a few Ning sites, any links I could think of, PodBean etc. I'm sure there's a few stragglers, but I'll pick them up when I notice them and there's nothing important. Disco.

Including writing this post, the whole thing probably took about an hour.

Doing it this way I won’t lose any of my followers (touch wood) and they’ll all see the name change as their Twitter clients refresh. I did, however, miss a couple of @replys direcly after the switch. Most Twitter apps won’t update existing tweets with a new name until they are restarted, it seems. As a result a couple of @replys went to the old account. This was literally just for 20 minutes though, but if you're doing this yourself be sure to monitor your old account for a bit so you can catch missed replies and update your follower of the name change.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Podcast on Microblogging

Just for your info, our informal semi-weekly 'Yank & Limey' podcast is live at Podbean.

This week, a tiny bit late and in a change from the scheduled chat on Virtual Worlds, @alizasherman and I talk microblogging, applications we use to smooth the social media process, tweeting etiquette, and twitter journalism.

There's a good chance we'll be doing the Virtual Worlds cast later this week.

Yank and Limey is also available on iTunes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Online Journalism: Yesterday & Today

Found this in my inbox this morning.

Sad in a way, but probably true.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Can Local Newspapers Still win at Digital?

Originally written as a comment piece, 03/04/09, for

While writing this post, I had an encounter I'd like to share. Stopping for a cuppa in a local cafe I found most seats full and asked a chap, sat filling in the crossword over a pot of tea, if he'd mind if I join him. He didn't mind at all and moved his papers so I could put down my tray.

"Help yourself," he said, nodding towards the tabloids on the table with a shrug. "They're todays papers, but yesterday's news."

We're living in the Information Age. We all know a local blogger with his iPhone can get a news story out in seconds and to a targeted audience via the likes of Twitter, Seesmic or to their active social group on one of hundreds of social networking portals. 

They can monetise this on a blog with AdWords or Affiliate Programmes, often automatically. The audience now expects content up-to-the-minute and are growing accustomed to having it on tap when it's convenient for them to read it.

A friend of mine made a comment last week: "The midweek Man City v Aalborg match went to penalties, so the paper couldn't print the score. I didn't know who'd won. What's the point?"

Familiarity with the internet, mobile, and the likes of iPlayer and Sky+, is slowly making the evening news a thing of the past. The rise of a tech-savvy new generation, born into an age where they can engage at any time, means we have to look to new ways of delivering our content. 

Plans have recently surfaced in th UK from Sir Jim Rose, former Ofsted chief appointed by ministers to overhaul the primary school curriculum, which said children are to 'leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication'. All this, and these fresh new consumers are getting used to getting their information for free.

Can we compete with this? Yes, I really believe we can. But we're going to have to seriously step it up a gear. Sorry folks, but things are going to have to change. Today. With the credit squeeze not run its course and readership down, sacrifices need to be made.

Sure, we dropped the ball a bit to start off with, a lot of folks did, but we're going to go seriously wrong and seriously miss the digital boat if we're not careful. I hope we haven't already. As large organisations, often spread out across the country and sometimes lacking those direct channels of communication, many have a certain resistance to change and a poor ability to respond. So do small local institutions. Put simply, we can't afford this any longer. If you sit around thinking about a new idea, you're invariably passed by someone else doing it.

We need to stop trying to sell papers through the internet for starters. Offering partial content and driving users to our print product is just alienating them. The online audience is a sceptical one, and who is going to rush out and buy today's paper when they are already sat at home surfing the net or reading this on the bus on their mobile? 

Digital is where we should be driving traffic, where we can provide the excellent journalistic content we have in abundance to a targeted online audience. Engaging them in debate. Allowing free commentary and inviting opinion. Giving the visitor a sense of ownership in our established and trusted local brands. Giving them resources and information they need to take their community forward. 

Here we can sell our advertising and upsell services. Here we can offer the audience a truly local and lasting experience they’ll want to revisit.

We live in troubled times. Redundancy overshadows everything these days. I appreciate cuts have to be made and the business has to be streamlined for the future for us to survive, but, let's make sure those cuts are happening in the right places.

Much of our industry, print journalism, is lacking perspective in this new arena. Many in print media have such a fondness for their medium and its tradition they're loathed to look beyond it. Many simply don't understand the urgency or the medium. 

We can't all stay up-to-date on what's happening out there in the digital soup and see what new avenues are open to us. Trust me, unless it's a full time job, it's almost impossible. We're dipping our toes in, sure, but we need to commit. We need to dedicate resources to staying informed and to moving forward.

It's important that we have digital teams with the resources they need to respond, fast, to changes and advances in digital media. If you already have one, hold on to it like gold dust. These are not the people you want to be making redundant right now, no matter how tempting it might look on paper. 

Invest: we have to give them good, industry-savvy, leadership. We need to grant these people the ability to control our digital brands directly, to say, 'we are going to make video for the website', and give them the power and resources to make that happen. Don't leave it too late. These people are the new Gutenbergs.

Results are happening, slowly. Internationally, ex-Morning Call editor Roger Oglesby is leading the first major American newspaper to switch from print to entirely online - the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last newspaper on Tuesday, March 17. 

The print world is watching as it maximises resources and cuts print overheads. 
Johnston Press is making a foray into social media and experimenting with 'embedding its sites at the hearts of communities' through Kick Apps etc; and have a remit to 'make sense of all the information that's bombarding people' on a local level. 

Northcliffe is great at exploiting specific database content (take a look at for an outstanding delivery system for white-labelled local obituaries) and its slow addition of video and RSS to the 'thisis' network is a good beginning. 

Trinity Mirror has started using Pluck's SiteLife features on its national sites, offering commentary on all suitable articles, the ability to build site profiles and to make recommendations, breeding social connectivity and community. 

It's not fast enough. This is stuff other news brands and the independents were doing two years ago. The internet is awake and generating news and ideas 24/7. We need to look our best and be there, front and centre, now.

Editors have to embrace digital wholeheartedly and journalists have to 'write for digital'. Look to those in your paper who write for digital already and strengthen what they have by giving them the ability to try out new ideas. Be open to those ideas and be ready to respond to what's new. 

Let's deliver our stories from where the story is happening and tell people directly that the information is there to be read. We need to write for online as well as offline. Write for Twitter, and RSS, and Facebook apps. Think titles, keywords, that important search engine optimisation that will bring in the long-tail traffic your advertisers need. 

We also need to let the user in. We need to grant them a platform for their content as well. While offering our own professional opinion, well crafted and respected as it is, we need to place that content shoulder-to-shoulder with the voice of our audience and of the community. 

We need to aggregate other local news and become portals for local affairs and information. We need to engage our communities in new ways, and to make ourselves THE place people come for everything local. 

We also need to present in a clear, concise, and user-friendly way. The search engines will bring us the traffic if we do it right, and right now that's one of the only online sales metrics easily available to us. We have masses of long-tail local content, information, and history - let's get it out there quickly (and monetise it).

To the larger brands I would say that you need to give a general directive to all parts of the business that an online experience MUST happen, quickly, with as little resistance as possible. Experimentation in finding other ways for us to distribute and aggregate our journalistic and advertising content has to be a priority. Nothing is yet written in stone. 

I'm sorry, but our print editors can no longer be expected to stay up-to-date on what's good for their local digital brand. This lack of information can't stand in the way of, basically, making money. Our large organisations move slowly and, at the moment, simply can't react quickly enough. This has to stop, even if (I hate to say) it means taking away the autonomy of local editors to affect what we do with mobile, online, and with our digital information. This is the future of the business we're talking about here after all, and our business is journalism and selling advertising.

We have the best content and well-respected brands. Get your digital team in sync and make sure the people leading them are tech-savvy early adopters who know the industry. Give them the power to react, and the funds to do so. We can still do this, and we know we have to. Let's keep our minds, and resources, open to a digital future.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Plugging Wyoming

I'm doing a bit of work right now with Conversify, aka web pioneer @alizasherman, the incredibly hard working @MoniqueElwell, and their team of international bloggers, researchers, and social media specialists.

One of the projects I'm working on, is The Wyoming Film Office (yeah, I know, this is right up my street, that's how they do things at Conversify, targeting) and, though I wouldn't normally do this on this blog, I've got to draw your attention to their Short Film Competition which is in it's second year and right now accepting submissions.

When I was a student, this kind of prize money just didn't exist for a short film comp. I'm not even sure it exists now in this country. These kind folks are offering a whopping $25,000 first prize. To be eligible, all you need to do is complete the entry form and upload your film to the Wyoming Film Short Contest Channel on mDialog.  It's international, so anyone can apply. The contest "requires all entries to take place in Wyoming, feature Wyoming, or present Wyoming as a major character in the storyline", but, all formats (inc. machinima, animation, etc.!) are accepted, so "Bob's your uncle". I mean, come on. SERIOUS good deal here. I could fund 3 more shorts off those winnings, even with the crappy exchange rate. I'm tempted to nip to the Deadwood SL sims and knock out a quick machinima myself (but I'm pretty sure I'm no longer eligable cos of the work I'm doing) ;-)

Please, if you know anyone who might be eligable let them know about this. I never blog about stuff I'm working on in social and multi-media, but this is such a good oppertunity for someone out there.

Good luck ;-)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

WTF is 'Affiliate Marketing'?

It must be one of the new buzz words going around.

I was asked by a client the other day "Do you do affiliate marketing?". I said yes, it was something I could sort for them on blogs etc. to get a token gesture ROI back on their campaign, then I was asked "Er, great, what is affiliate marketing?". Despite the familiarity of the phrase, it's still true that a lot of folks are just not aware of what it is and what this 'type of marketing' is all about.

The term 'affiliate marketing' was one of these cross-linking terms used in the late 90's, it was up there with old ideas like 'link-farms', and it basically meant "flogging stuff your writing about by linking to it and banging a bit of tricksy code in there to make sure you got paid". In short, this was writing film reviews to sell DVDs, compiling vegan recipes to flog Jamie Oliver books (who probably should be flogged) or cutting a deal with some sci-fi shop to stick banners all over your site while you froth on about comics (a-hem). In short: "You big me up or link to me and I'll give you a cut of any sales". Opportunities for this, back then, were rare.

It never really dawned on me that the door swung both ways. It does. Both sides are getting something from this arrangement, and it pays to play both sides. "Endorse me and I'll give you a cut, but if I don't sell what they want then I'll do the same for you". While search engines, e-mail, and website syndication capture much of the attention of online retailers, affiliate marketing carries a much lower profile. Still, affiliates continue to play a significant role in e-retailers' marketing strategies.

For me, in my halsian SEO days, it was also a bit of grey-hat cheeky spamdexing too. A way to get your site ranked for selflessly (textually) linking out to related topics. All good stuff, but incredibly time consuming. Things, thank heavens, have changed.

A lot of people are enticed with affiliate marketing. It looks easy money and business can be run from the convenience of the laptop. There are, in fact are a number of programs and information that can help you get started should you be tempted.

Here’s a few I’ve tried at different times:

Google AdSense


The PPC everyone wants. I’ve done my time in the trenches on this one. I ran the 2nd biggest campaign in the UK for a year (shudders).



Get paid to blog reviews of products.

Text Link Ads


Links are sold ‘in an area of your site’.



Textual linking from your articles, a personal favourite I’ve included on some BIG clients sites. Not usable with Blogger, alas.



Ad banners, links, etc for your site.



Integrate ads into your pictures. Can be fiddly.



Sell items from ebay.



Sell items from Amazon. Good click-through rates in my experience.



Show ads on your site based on direct bids.

Anyone can add this kinda thing to their blog or site, and I recommend you do. If you have good content that brings in traffic, this is a perfect small revenue stream that soon accumulates. It’s not something I really do any more, but it’s certainly something you should consider to make a few pennies back. Writing good content should be rewarded, and if no one else is going to do it you may as well do it for yourself. If you have a niche topic, so mush the better for targeting.

Put it this way, this blog is about nothing. Jack, nada, bupkiss. Zero except my momentary rantings, and it's made between £15 and £65 a month on AdWords for the last 4 yrs. That's a lot of long-term Scooby Snacks for sweet FA.

Optimising this stuff to get max coverage is a hardcore dark art, and alas I’m a different kind of wizard (the 1d4 hit points kind) even though the merchant side of AdSence (AdWords) is probably still second nature. All the optimization of a big campaign isn't really your problem though, and not really needed where your just directing traffic and not paying for click-throughs (we're not The Daily Mail lets face it). The only tactic you need to consider is getting genuine visitor value in your keyword rich content and keep on trucking your SEO etc. Anyone can use affiliate marketing nowdays, and in moderation how's it gonna hurt?

So, WTF is affiliate marketing?
It's money in the bank and easyer than you think ;-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No offence, but...

Where did all the new Twitter people come from?

Seems like we've spent the last 2 years tweeting on about how useful Twitter was to everyone who'd throw us a meeting, and now the world (well, the UK) has suddenly erupted in an explosion of iPhone driven textual ecstasy.

Earlier this month, @StephenFry (Englishman, timelord, 2nd most popular person on Twitter) was chatting about the whole micro-blogging thing with fellow abuser Johnathan Ross on Beeb1, causing a weapons-grade leap in users. In the last month alone, UK usership has tripled (yeah, tripled) and the Twitter site is now the 90th 'most-visited website among British internet users'. Heaven help us. "Over the last 12 months traffic to has increased 27-fold," to quote young Robin Goad, at Hitwise.

With long-time users and cornerstone Brit celebs like JohnCleese leading the way, and coming out of the SMS closet this month we also have Radio 1 DJs Chris Moyles and Russel Brand (to name but a few). All this further pushing Twitter under the nose of the masses. Even the local print press is finally hopping on the bandwagon. Most excellent news for us UK social media types who were banging on about this being the next big thing some 18 months ago (phew).

Okay, so, to the crux of this post. Suddenly, every Web2.0 bod, local reporter, camera assistant, media student and virtual worlds pundit I've ever worked with has created a Twitter account and (from having my email address and seeing my Twitter URL on my business cards/footers) has started following me straight off the bat.

Cool folks, thanks. Now, I've been hovered around 600 followers and follow about 80 people. In my opinion, Twitter isn't really the format in which to follow much more than that, maybe up to as much as 120 tops. Anything in excess is what Friendfeed is for.

I don't actively seek followers on my personal account. Now, I'm not saying I won't follow you, but, I sporadically follow people as I find them or because they are interesting and then unfollow them once I need different opinions on different topics or if, for example, they stop posting. I'd expect you to do the same with me.

I don't want to sound like some kind of Twitter-snob, but I look for things that interest me there and then and gather the community I need to bring me the information I want. This could be local news from local friends like @Derbydaz71 and @DexterMixwith (who introduced *me* to Twitter). It could be general or UK news from @BreakingTweets, @BreakingNews or the BBC and tech news from reliable sources (who don't need the links). I follow the virtual worlds info from friends and bloggers like @slhamlet, @BevanWhitfield and @MalBurns and get links delivered by my professional social networking contacts like @publicvoice, @microgeist,
Tamar Weinberg, @MoniqueElwell, and @alizasherman. Sure I have international friends who just tell me what they are having for lunch like @TerryLightfoot, @SinTrenton, and @KiraKitty (but it's the best way to keep in-touch with folks not in my time-zone when their kids take first steps, to know how that broken foot is doing, or when the Dingo runs into the patio doors). Yeah, I even get my chuckle-worthy sci-fi geekisums via Twitter c/o @TachyonTV, @LouisTrapani and @JamesNaugton. These are just a few from the many I've stuck with. I have 'friends' on Twitter with whom I have regular contact nowhere else. Twitter for me is an interesting stream of news and data that sums up my personal wants and interests.

Please don't be offended if I unfollow you, or just don't follow you at all. It's nothing personal, it's all about the information. I'd hope you'd do the same to me. Sack me if I'm dull :-) That's how 'I' use Twitter, at least with my @lactose (edit: now @nikhewitt) account anyway. If you wanna chat, grab me on Skype, messenger, in SL, Facebook, or '@' me so I listen.

We all use Twitter in different ways. Have fun with it, enjoy, get what you want out of it, that's what it's about. And no offense :-)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Imminent Doley

So, it's official, I'm now redundant.

I am Jacks total lack of frackin' surprise.

My last day is Friday, and I've 6 years worth of desk to clear out and projects to pass over. It's been fun. I'll miss (almost all) the people, and the quality dev/tech/design/management/content teams I've worked with over the years. We achived some awesome stuff. Guess I'm off to do consultancy stuff, and potentially a PhD. Beers Friday lunchtime in The Smithfield, 12.30.

One quick point. Print IS actually dead. There, I can say it now :-)

Further cometary will be reserved until after the cheque clears.