Peace, Groove and Tears: Part II

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Marty in the Middle – Jazz Man Until the End

WarningOnce again, I am asking you for a donation. I am asking (no, begging) you join the so far 133 amazing, wonderful and caring people who have given, many anonymously, what they can afford to assuage a small portion of the pain and worries of Marty Knepp’s widow, children, parents and sister.

If you by some unfortunate circumstance unexpectedly left this earth leaving behind a grieving family in need of financial resources, what would you want others to do?  How would you want them to treat your family?  Don’t guess: pay it forward.

I cannot begin this post with anything less than a heartfelt and choked up “thank you” to everyone who not only shared this post on their own social media networks, but also for those who were kind enough to donate.

The stubborn Irishman in me, however, tells me that we are not close to being done yet.   The music will fade, so to speak, after Marty is laid to rest.  The days will pass.  Marty’s wife and children will have bills to face in a time of unimaginable grief, anger and confusion.  YOU can help lessen this simply by clicking this magical button:

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For those of you who knew and loved this amazing man, friend and father, think of the gift that you can give his family.  His internment is a scant four days away.

And since many have asked, here are the details:


Thursday May 7, 2015
6:00pm-9:00pm at Beall Funeral Home
Click for Map and Directions

Funeral Mass

Friday May 8, 2015, 11:00am
Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church, Millersville, Maryland
Click for Map and Directions

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This will probably be the most painful day that his wife, children parents, and sister will ever face in their lives.  But just imagine that even the smallest donations add up.  Imagine if Marty’s family could see that 200 people cared enough to care for his family?  Imagine the feeling inside of you for what YOU can do.

And once again, I truly understand that there are many people who are in tight financial situations themselves.  You can still help.  At the bottom of this post, like all others, are social media sharing buttons.  Use them to:

  • Share this or the donation page on Facebook and tag other friends – use the amplifying power of social media
  • Tweet it out
  • Like it on Facebook
  • Email it to others

And rise.

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Peace, Groove, Tears – and Paying It Forward

WarningI am asking you for a donation.  If you want to know why, read on.  If you want to help assuage strangers’ grief, read on.  If you want to pay it forward, read on.

As I sit at my keyboard and type these words, one of more than 500 posts I’ve written, I do so with a very heavy yet hopeful heart.  I hope that this becomes my most viewed post of all time.   And with your help, it will.

My heart is heavy because my friend, Marty Knepp, died of a sudden illness on Thursday, April 30th, leaving behind his wife, Sandy, their three children, Ellin, Daniel, and Aubry, as well as two shell-shocked parents whom I know well.  Marty also left behind a group of devastated friends, a river of tears yet an untold number of lives that he made better, just by being Marty.

The picture below has been making the rounds on social media because it encapsulates Marty’s essence:  he had a joy for life, music in his heart and a smile just for you, if he had seen you ten years ago or ten minutes ago.  That was Marty.

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What I am asking you to do is to donate whatever you can (to date, the largest amount has been $1,000 and the smallest, $5) to a fund so that Marty’s grieving family can put him to rest without additional financial worries to add to their mountain of grief.

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It’s popular now to talk about “paying it forward,” but in real life, I see less and less every day.  I am guilty of going through the day mindlessly like a robot myself, but what could be more meaningful than helping people whom you will never meet, yet are aware of their agony – and assuage at least one percent of their worries?  What could make you feel better – in this instant – than just by donating, showing the power of love, of mindfulness and of generosity?  Five dollars is not too little.

I also get that there are many people who are in tight financial situations themselves.  You can still help.  At the bottom of this post, like all others, are social media sharing buttons:  you Like this page, tweet it or otherwise use your social media networks to increase our reach for a heartbreakingly wonderful cause.

It’s not hard.  Just do it.

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Dear Mass Media and Social Media: Help Stop Terrorism

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There are way too many mornings when I awake to read another front-page article about an innocent person who is killed (now, often beheaded) by implacable, bloodthirsty terrorists.  These stories appear often in the online equivalent of above the fold (or for people who still buy papers, really above the fold).  This morning was no exception when I read about the beheading of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist.

From my own memories of September 11 to the “Je Suis Charlie” movement to these latest horrific videos, a thought occurred to me that stirred up memories from when I was a kid.   Growing up a baseball fan, the only games I got to watch were those broadcast on network television on Saturdays – the Game of the Week.  In the 1970s, it became in vogue to either streak across the field or run around like an idiot until you got tackled, hauled off and likely released a couple of hours later – so everyone could see you on network TV.  It still happens (see below), but the impact is largely confined to social media (this video has more than three million views):


In the 70s, the TV cameras used to follow these idiots, tracking them while they tried to elude either the police or stadium security and the announcers would often provide commentary.  Then, someone came up with a great idea:  STOP SHOWING THE IDIOTS.  By denying them what they wanted most – “exposure” on television, the craze eventually went away.

I have been around the media for a LONG time and know that in about every news room in America, the mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads” holds true.  The more gruesome the killing, violence, hostage situation, you name it, the more the editors salivate at the increase circulation numbers, eyeballs or TV ratings.  it’s true: newsrooms love this stuff.  If you don’t believe me, ask a reporter.  It gains eyeballs, clicks and readers.

Bloodthirsty animals like ISIS are now exploiting traditional and social media to boast and show off their latest atrocities, and at least the media that I read are more than happy to write prominent articles about it with pictures of some poor soul kneeling before someone in the last, humiliating moments of their lives. And yes, I showed  the image above, but to make a point.

There is an all-too-familiar pattern to what is happening today in the poorly named “war against terror.”  It goes like this:

  1. Sadistic, media-crazed barbarians kidnap an innocent civilian
  2. Said barbarians issue a picture or video, demand ransom and publicize their latest prize
  3. Media carries the story, along with quotes from said barbaric group
  4. Demands are not met or ransom is not paid
  5. Innocent person gets killed, often in bloodthirsty, dramatic fashion, such as a beheading
  6. Sadistic animals release a video and a statement that is carried VERBATIM by media outlets all over the world, becoming a megaphone for said barbarians
  7. Impotent world leaders express outrage.  Today’s statement from the Japanese government was “Japan strongly condemned the killing, saying an “atrocious act of terrorism” had been committed and that the country was “outraged by the horrific act.
  8. Fueled by world attention in mainstream and social media, sadistic, media-crazed barbarians prepare to re-feed the media beast that lives off of “if it bleeds, it leads.”
  9. Repeat.  Again, and again.

Don’t believe me?  How about Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University?  He says:

“Terrorism is basically a media phenomenon,  You can look at it as a species of psychological warfare waged through the media. Which means that while we know terrorists influence the media, media coverage also influences terrorists.

Well, I don’t own guns.  I can’t drop bombs.  But I am pretty smart and have worked in communications since the late 1990s, and here’s my piece of unsolicited advice for the print, television, radio and social media decision makers:


YouTube and Twitter have done their best to deny social media as a venue for these animals, but it’s difficult and this stuff goes viral – fast.  According to a September 2014 article, Forbes reports “With 100 hours of new footage uploaded every minute, YouTube says it doesn’t, and couldn’t, prescreen content, relying on users to flag violations.”  I get it.  These two platforms have the best of intentions, but are overloaded.

But I’m not done.

ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News and others:  stop reporting on beheadings.  Major newspapers like my hometown Washington Post (on which I learned of the latest atrocity), deny the terrorists a cheap propaganda victory.  Online news outlets like the Huffington Post: think about what you can do to help win the poorly named “war on terror,” ignore the spike that you’ll see in web traffic and stop being their publicists.  

Does this apply to every act of terror?  Certainly not.  Events like what happened at Charlie Hebdo can and must be reported.  BUT – for those editors who make the “write or don’t write,” “report or don’t report” decisions on individual acts of terror accompanied by insane rants, ask yourselves an important question:

By reporting on acts of bloodthirsty violence, are you interested in helping terrorists get out their propaganda, or are you interested in making money?

It might seem complex, but it’s actually pretty damn simple.

Stop showing the idiot on the baseball field.  Go to commercial.  Deny the idiot/animal their platform.

And take away their power.


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The Cost of Doing Business Online: Trolls

Internet Trolls

There have been way too many instances of late in which online detractors or idiots (read: trolls) have shown up on my social media radar screen.  I envision many of them looking like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, but I continue to be amazed at how people can take legitimate social media activities and turn them into their own personal platforms for extraordinarily insensitive commentary.  Free speech?  Sure.  But exercising free speech still doesn’t excuse you from being a complete moron.

Example #1:  Season Affective Disorder Twitter Chat

An agency of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), has conducted several Twitter chats, covering a wide variety of topics related to mental health.  I don’t have any scientific data to back it up, but I imagine that it’s hard for people to go on a highly public and visible platform like a Twitter chat, discuss their own mental illness or feelings of depression – and have their comments linked back to the personal profile.  It must be really hard.

On November 13, 2014, NIMH conducted a Twitter chat about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – good timing as the amount of light available in daytime hours in going down many places and SAD affects a lot of people, especially at this time of year.

As I’m working, I’m watching the chat out of the corner of my eye, when one particular tweet showed up – and told me that the trolls have arrived:

What?  Racist?  And what the hell are those pictures? I suppose that one could argue that the troll on the other end of the tweet may well have suffered from some form of mental illness, but then I saw another tweet:

As people were discussing how certain light boxes how shown to be very effective at helping those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the troll posted this:

Not cool.  It then occurred to me that whomever was doing this was trolling a Twitter chat on mental illness – a tough topic for people to talk about, let alone in a highly public way.  To their credit, no one, especially those at NIMH engaged with this troll and he/she eventually went away.  I believe, however, that making light of mental illness during a social media event pretty much makes you a complete asshole.

Example #2:  New England Patriots and Twitter

November 13 must have been International Troll Day.  Ask the New England Patriots.

With a brand new Twitter account and in an attempt to quickly reach one million followers, their social media team created a clever way to attract people to their Twitter account and have people follow them – they created a Twitter bomb.  The Patriots’ social media team enabled people to enter certain text and said text would appear verbatim on the back of a Patriots’ jersey in the form of a tweet.   They were expecting people to enter their last names, a neat way to show your Patriots fever.  A very cool idea for whomever came up with it:

And that’s when it went wrong.  Very wrong.  As the Boston Globe wrote,

99.99 percent of their fandom who just wanted to share in their social media celebration. But it’s always that 0.01 percent that causes 100 percent of the problems.”

And that 0.01 percent did exactly that, creating a jersey using the “n word” made up of letters and numbers.  And unfortunately, it went viral.  A troll had gotten through the keyword filters that the Patriots set up (I am not going to post the tweet as not to give the person further exposure) and before the Patriots’ social media team could react, the post went viral (it was up for more than an hour, which is the only thing for which I would criticize the effort – you have GOT to have a warning system in place if you automate an effort like this).  After said hour, the tweet was taken down, but as I’ve said in the past, the Internet is forever and screen shots rule the day.

Trolls 1, New England Patriots, 0.

Much has been written about this mistake, so I won’t provide a lot of additional commentary.  My only point would be that if the Patriots were looking to go from zero to one million followers using an automated method (and they were going to sleep at some point), there is no way possible that humans could have prevented this.  Moreover, most of the social media accounts I manage have keyword filters as well, but the 0.01 percent of the trolls will always find a way to do 100 percent of the damage.  Thankfully, no one got fired. And the Patriots social media team quickly apologized:

Like the Globe writer, Bill Speros commented this was a mistake fed by clever trolls:

“If every person in America was fired after they made a mistake at work, our nation’s unemployment rate would be 99 percent by the end of next week.”


Where there is the Internet, there will always be trolls.  No matter how serious the subject, nor how insensitive the message, there will always be someone about .01 percent more clever and devious than a good social media team.

Does it mean we should stop?  No way.  I’ll keep doing Twitter chats, Google Hangouts and maintaining many social media properties – but I do so with the knowledge that on one particular day at one particular time, I’ll get trolled.

It’s the new normal, and the unfortunate cost of doing business online.

Image credit: Dr. Platypus, Flickr Commons

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Why You Might be Measuring the Wrong Web Analytics


Having done some incarnation of online work for the last 17 years, I would bet that the number is into the hundreds of the times in which I have had to justify/sell/validate/excuse/explain the use of online tools and tactics (to many a dumb-ass boss).  Now, with the advent rise and domination of some social media platforms, this has become a little easier.

While I no longer have to explain what a “page view” is (well, actually sometimes I do), most social media tools give me a sense of what we now ultimately call “engagement.”  Page views, click throughs, Likes, Shares, Comments, and re-tweets.  These are pretty numbers and even more impressive when you do things like add up the number of hashtag uses for a Twitter chat and the “impressions” number comes into the millions.

Are we measuring the right things?

Ultimately, when we talk about the social media/web person’s nirvana, it’s a page views, in whichever form it exists.  This means that through advertising, social media, some other web site, email or direct link, some web surfer came to your page! Well, this is something that we’ve been trying to do since I started in the business.  And the bigger the number, the easier it became to “sell in” your online projects as having had an impact.

Courtesy of my friend Eric Berto, I read a piece in yesterday’s Gigagom about a new service/product called “Chartbeat,” which has me questioning the metrics that we’ve been using for years. Here’s why:

  • While page views is still the mother lode, unless you have a very sophisticated system, most analytics packages will give you total page views and average time on the page.  It’s up to you to determine if this is “success.”  Do 1,000 page views and an average time on your page constitute success?  Maybe.
  • Do a lot of page views mean that you have attained success?  Well, maybe.  It depends upon what you are comparing it to – it has to be apples to apples.  I don’t compare this blog to the online version of the New York Times for obvious reasons, those being daily humiliation and feelings of inferiority.
  • Finally, and something that I have talked about repeatedly (and in a September 15 post on this blog as well), your first step in ensuring that you online efforts are, at a minimum, measurable, and at a maximum, a success, is determining what success is.

Completely utter and random sidebar:  my only problem with Chartbeat is the fact that, sadly and irritatingly, it reminds me of Don Johnson’s then horrendous and tortuous attempts at becoming a singer in his 1986 song “Heartbeat.”  Now try and get it out of your head.  We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post.

So what is “success” and how is it measured?

The Gigaom piece I mentioned above talks about an intriguing.  Rather than measuring the traditional factors like page views, here’s what Gigaom has to say about Chartbeat:

For some time now, media companies and content producers of various kinds have been trying to convince the rest of the industry — and especially advertisers — to move away from flawed measurements like pageviews and unique visitors and focus on measuring attention (emphasis mine). The Financial Times, the Economist and even viral sites like Upworthy have been at the forefront of this movement, and so has web analytics firm Chartbeat — and now Chartbeat says it has become the first analytics company that is certified to measure reader attention.”

Reader attention?  I like the sound of that.

It’s great if you can get thousands of people to come to your web site, but you need to get their attention in order for them to read, digest, understand and perhaps even share your piece of content.  There is a big difference between a click and someone actually digesting and internalizing what it is you want them to read:  and having them take the action that you want them to take.

Here’s more about what Chartbeat says they offer, in an “Attention Economy“:

Chartbeat looks at a variety of factors…including what portion of the page is within the viewing window (so it can tell you how far down someone got in the article or piece of content). But the crucial one is to sense whether someone is actually looking at the page, and it does this by tracking movement or interaction — based on the fact the average user touches the mouse or keyboard at least once every 4.8 seconds.”

What would we all love?  Well, for one, I would love to have heat maps of readers’ eye Charting reader eye movementmovements for everyone who hits your pages (I wrote about this and how recruiters read resumes for Shelly Kramer’s V3 Integrated Marketing Blog), but unless you have volunteers and labs, are NSA or North Korea, you are never going to have the ability to measure precisely how every single visitor reacts to every single piece of content on every single page of your web site.

I have not used Chartbeat, but am intrigued by the concept that a company has worked on ( for some time, apparently), figuring out what “engagement” actually means.  Well, I believe that it means what we want it to mean – which is how much of an impact our content has on readers.  Many different social media platforms use this term in their analytics dashboards, but their definitions vary.  Engagement, as defined by Chartbeat, sounds like one of the better ways to measure something that has become an accepted, albeit highly subjective, industry standard.

So who’s right?

The answer is that I don’t know, and am passing along this information having read an article on third party site about a platform I have never used.  BUT – and it’s a big “but,” if Chartbeat can actually accomplish what they claim to (and with some high profile initial clients like the Economist on board, there has to be something of value there) they are simply giving social media and online professionals the opportunity to further quantify and measure what we should have been doing all along:  judging how much attention people paid to our content, vs. how many times they hit our pages.

Good luck, Chartbeat.  Sounds like you are looking at the right things.

P.S. – If you are interested in PR measurement and analytics and don’t already know of their work, I strongly encourage you to get to know Katie Paine and Shonali Burke.  I’m hopeful to hear from them in the comments as they know a LOT more about this topic than I.


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