Category Archives: Business & Technology

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Twitter vs. Tape Delay: How the 2012 Summer Olympics Reinforced That Timing Is Everything

Mobile devices and social media provide up-to-the-minute alerts on the 2012 Summer Games.

Social media meets tape delay may change how we watch future Olympic Games. For now, we’ve got carefully worded spoiler alerts, streaming video or tuning out until prime time.

The 2012 Summer Olympics are dominating the air waves, but despite the theoretical ratings-boosting move to show the most anticipated events in tape delay in prime time, social media is breaking all suspense by providing up-to-the-minute spoilers.

But this isn’t just unique to networks and daily news outlets. Some magazines are getting in on the action too.

Notably, one of the leading sports magazines—well, one of its social media extensions—drew the ire of some fans for spoiling the outcome of the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay well ahead of its prime-time tape-delayed airing.

Sports Illustrated’s Facebook page heard the fallout after posting a photo of France’s 4×100 freestyle relay win over the U.S., who settled for silver on the podium. Many fans expressed—rather vehemently and colorfully—their displeasure over the magazine’s page essentially ruining the much-anticipated event that had yet to be broadcast.

The not-so-subtle update read: “SPOILER: Payback for France, as they outlast the U.S. in the 4×100 freestyle relay.” A photo of the victorious French team celebrating was shown below.

After more than 80 comments from fans, the second spoiler alert posted was more cryptic—much to fans’ approval. It read: “*SPOILER ALERT* Did Aurora, Colorado swimmer Missy Franklin medal in today’s 100-meter backstroke?”

Even the photo of Franklin posted along with it didn’t tell the whole story. For that, one would have to click on the accompanying link. That approach seemed to placate fans that the social extension of the weekly sports magazine was taking their concerns to heart.

Call it the pitfalls of the “new” modern Olympic Games. The proliferation of social media—not to mention smartphones and their portability—has viewers more plugged in than ever before.

And while watching streaming programming online or on handheld devices may be growing, who doesn’t want to cheer on the world’s best athletes in HD? There’s just no contest between an iPad vs. a 55” LED or plasma for Olympic competition.

The availability of online viewing is one of the mainstay reasons NBC is using to defend itself against its many critics who’ve taken to Twitter and denote themselves with the hashtag #nbcfail.

Fundamentally, it’s the time difference that makes the live social media updates with appropriately worded spoiler alerts vs. tape-delayed programming more treacherous territory to navigate.

Maybe, just maybe, in two years for the 2014 Winter Olympics or four years when the Summer Games roll around again, we’ll have mastered a greater reliance on or even developed a preference for streaming video, and tape delay or not, we’ll know the results even before they hit the Twitter feed.

After all, these Olympic Games have reinforced that timing is everything.

You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader Cover

Book Review: You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader by Mark Sanborn

Each quarter, Magazines.com has an employee book club where we discuss an assigned reading as a big group. This quarter we beat the heat while diving head first into what we thought makes a leader with help from author Mark Sanborn.

We’ve all been there. We see something that needs to be done but think that it can wait or someone else will take care of it. Maybe we feel lost on our career path or we aren’t gaining any traction. Perhaps we just had a bad day. But Mark Sanborn wants us to forget about all that and realize that we are in charge of our own outlook and happiness.

In the follow up to the widely successful The Fred Factor, this book covers how positivity and purpose can lead to a happier you. Not a totally earth-shattering idea, but what really compelled his message were the different examples of what describes a leader. He starts with a variety of different definitions and stories from the administrative assistant whose tasks reach far beyond her job description that she happily takes on to the selfless act of Russell Conwell that would lead to the foundation of Temple University.

Within 102 pages, You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader is divided up into six different principles which serve as a menu to divide up the courses. Although the six principles cohesively work together, I really pulled small bits out of bigger ideas that resonated with me. For the Power With People principle, Sanborn shows how word choices can really resonate with a simple chart for Leaders vs. Managers.

For example, while managers communicate, leaders persuade.  Rather than just communicate a message, persuade co-workers or teammates to be part of your idea or effort. Persuading gives each person a sense of responsibility and in turn a feeling of self-worth. Would you rather have a new fancy title but feel like you’re moving in circles, or leave work every day with a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment?

As a member of a generation where we all got medals on field day (another blog post in its own right), it was refreshing to read a book that points out how life isn’t about recognition and awards. I found this quick read to be a great reminder of how resonating a positive attitude can really be for any person at any level. We all don’t have to change the world, but our collective small steps might be more impressive than we think.

For more books that inspire us at Magazines.com, check out our Pinterest board!

How and Editor Chooses Your Pitches

What Are We Looking for, Anyway? How an Editor Chooses Your Pitch

How and Editor Chooses Your PitchEver tried to pitch a story idea to an editor? Nashville Lifestyles Managing Editor Stephanie Stewart-Howard gives the scoop on five tips for writing great pitches.

If you’re a writer, you know there’s nothing more frustrating than sending out what you believe are solid pitches, only to receive the reply that your ideas are “not what we’re looking for at this time.” We’ve all been through it, and no matter how many other pieces we’ve had published, the “no” response still gets to all of us.

With that in mind, there are ways to better your chances of getting published in the media of your choice. Whether you want to write for newspapers, magazines or online publications, if you present a pitch that’s well tailored to that particular outlet’s concerns, as well as well put-together and composed, your chances of getting a freelance job grow dramatically.

As an editor, I look for very specific material when I get a pitch, especially from an unsolicited writer who hopes to become a contributor over the long-term. If I don’t see certain things, I’m going to pass on a piece, even if it sounds like it has potential.

So what do I, the editor, need from you, the writer?

1. Good Form. When you submit a pitch, it goes without saying that you need to check for spelling and grammar. Sentence construction is also paramount. That sounds like a no-brainer, right? But you’d be shocked to see the number of emails I get on an almost daily basis that desperately need proofreading. If an editor is groaning over basic errors when she reads the first sentence of your email, you’ve already lost the chance to publish with her.

2. Professionalism. If you’re writing a proposal for an article, you don’t need to be overly formal, but you do need to get the basics down, and address your potential editor in a polite and business-like manner. I once got a solicitation from a writer that actually said: “Hey, Stephanie, I know you’d like love this store I want to write about, it’s so presh and cool.” Needless to say, I didn’t give her the chance to write it. Not only did someone I’ve never met address me like I was her best friend, she did a lousy job of telling me what might actually appeal to my readers in her attempt to be cute and conversational.

3. Familiarity With Your Publication and Audience. If you’re pitching to me, I expect you to know what was in my most recent issue: If you pitch me three stories, and two of them are on topics that were in our last issue (still on the newsstands), then I’m going to be skeptical that you know the publication well enough to write for it. Likewise, if you pitch me three stories, and at least two are on topics we don’t cover or that don’t work with my timeline (I’m working six to eight weeks out) then I am not likely to go with what you’ve pitched.

For example, we can’t really cover daily news topics, since I edit a monthly, and we go to press two weeks before the magazine hits the stands. We also don’t cover religion or politics, and I expect writers to know the magazine well enough not to pitch those things to me.

4. Timeliness. If the magazine editorial pitch deadline says it’s May 5, then have your pitch in by that date. If you don’t know what the deadlines are, drop the editor an introductory email and ask. If you hold out until two days later than the deadline, it’s entirely possible that no matter how good your pitch, the editor has already committed to writers who got things in on time.

5. Clarity. Going right back to the example in number 2, one of the things that underlined the “no” decision was the writer’s failure to tell me what it was that made the story worth publishing. You must let the editor know what makes your topic special, regardless of what you want to write about for her magazine. Do that clearly and cleanly: “This is the first store of its kind in the area to bring together so many promising local designers in one place, and the owners, Mary and Bob Stevens, have years of experience in branding original creations.” Note the contrast between that and “it’s so presh and cool.”

When it comes down to it, editors’ choices often have to do with having the right story at the right time, but you can definitely make your pitches stand out, just by following a few basic rules of thumb.

TechVille 2012 masthead

Magazines.com Sponsors Nashville Technology Council’s Flagship Event, TechVille

Techville 2012Magazines.com is excited to announce that we’re sponsoring the upcoming Nashville Technology Council event, TechVille, which will take place May 15 in Nashville.

Each year for the past 11 years, the Nashville Technology Council has hosted an event to address the state of technology in Middle Tennessee. This year, Magazines.com is partnering with the NTC to sponsor the annual gathering, called TechVille, which will take place in Nashville next Tuesday, May 15. With the goal of encouraging tech and marketing professionals, TechVille offers thought-provoking sessions on innovation, talent and entrepreneurship.

The conference, which used to be known simply as Technology Nashville, draws an impressive crowd of some 300 technology professionals and community leaders from within and beyond Nashville to talk about trends like mobility, analytics, social and digital media, innovations and tech talent.

The theme for this year’s event is Tech Doers, Dreamers and Drivers, a broad theme that has already been attracting professionals on all levels in the industry, from top executives to the newest members of the field. The keynote speaker taking the stage this year will be Ken Gay, a widely celebrated entertainment industry visual artist who was actually one of the people behind this year’s Super Bowl XLVI Half Time Show featuring Madonna. Whether you’re a member of the NTC or not, you can still register to take part in TechVille and learn more about the technological pulse of Middle Tennessee.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about partnering with TechVille as a sponsor this year,” Magazines.com CIO and NTC board member Jeff Fields said. “It’s truly going to be an insightful event.”

If you’re not familiar with the NTC, it’s a council devoted to helping Middle Tennessee become known as a leading technology community worldwide. Everything they do works to carry out that vision and help the tech community of Middle Tennessee succeed. This event is just one of the many ways they reach out and support professionals in that field.

Blissdom Conference 2012

Blissdom Conference 2012 Calls Bloggers to ‘Hang Up and Arrive’

Attending a blogging conference, Kara Gause hardly expected a call to unplug and reconnect with her family. But it turned out to be a much-appreciated wake up call. 

“Pay attention, Daddy?”

This misspelled message was sweetly scrawled by the daughter of writer, blogger and social media expert Jon Acuff across a napkin in a moment of desperation. Now, it flashed above us on three enormous screens. In one fell swoop, Acuff had thrown all his cards out on the table. In an act of transparent leadership, he showed hundreds a concrete snapshot of a day-to-day struggle: the never-ending battle for balance in a world inundated with social media.

I was taking in Acuff’s opening keynote address at the Blissdom Conference 2012, a conference for bloggers that takes place in Nashville. In truth, I’d gone on behalf of Magazines.com, hoping to network and meet some great writers, which I undoubtedly did. But what I really walked away with was my own need to unplug.

From Twitter, from (gasp!) Facebook, from Pinterest. Gulp. And even from blogging. Maybe it was time to just walk away. After all, Acuff himself just asked an audience of hundreds to consider what we’re doing to our children by always being online, always having a smart phone in hand, checking our status, looking for comments, retweets, mentions … It all seems so futile, especially when you consider that, as Acuff puts it, you’ll never “finish Twitter.”

Unfortunately, our kiddos get to be the first generation raised by people with an overwhelming desire to check in with our handheld devices before checking in with our families. We regularly give our offspring the shaft so we can look after our “friends.” I have to admit, I long for simpler times without the electronic devices. Is there really a substitute for turning the pages of a good book or a magazine? I haven’t found one.

But what’s today’s world without an online profile? How do you network or even maintain relationships with people who are also logged in all the time? Acuff says it starts by drawing a line in the sand. “Hang up and arrive” for your flesh and blood relationships, he advises. Create, and–more importantly–maintain boundaries.

Ironic that I would find this preached so heavily in the sessions and conversations at a blogging conference. Blissdom’s challenge to take a hard look at my own online habits only made me respect the conference that much more. These questions are far more important than examining platform growth.

I suppose that we, the social media guinea pigs, are arriving at a place of plugged-in overload faster than the average bear. I know I’ve arrived at a pace that needs to be slowed down. It means I’ll be drawing some lines in the sand for my personal accounts. On the other hand, I won’t be a Twitter quitter or a Facebook frenemy. Today’s world warrants a social media presence, and I want to be engaged in the discussion.

Still, I’m grateful for the wake up call, so thank you Blissdom.

Do you find yourself overly “connected?”

 

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236 Years and Counting? U.S. Postal Service Faced With Pondering Place in Digital Age

usps071306.jpg“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” has been popularly associated with the U.S. Postal Service to describe its commitment to delivering the mail. (One route in Magnolia Springs, Ala., near my hometown, boasts the only remaining postal delivery river route in the country.)

In truth, the unofficial motto is an inscription on New York City’s James Farley Post Office, but has expanded to refer to the job the currently more than 40,000 post offices and 700,000 civilian workers and their predecessors have done since what would become the U.S. Postal Service was founded on this date in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress.

Much of the fundamental organization of the system was designed by the nation’s first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin. It’s thought that the postal service was established as a means of communicating with folks back home in Britain, since it’s unlikely colonists were sending mail amongst themselves. And in those early times, since there were no post offices in Colonial America, letters were often delivered to popular local gathering spots like inns and taverns.

We’ve come a long way from those days. But not only have our methods of communication become more sophisticated and innovative, we’ve also become so reliant upon them that it’s hard to imagine our world without the likes of email, Facebook, Twitter and the portable gadgets that make them (and much more) so accessible on the go.

Most of us are probably still receiving our magazines by mail, save for the relatively few who are downloading the digital versions on their iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. And more and more publications have released apps of themselves or have them in the works.

It’s hard to imagine a totally “paperless” magazine world or the absence of a system like the U.S. Postal Service that would deliver your publications–not to mention the billions of pieces of letters, cards and packages they sort and bring to your door. Then again, email and near-instant methods of communication (no stamp needed) were absurdly far-fetched 236 years ago.

Even as the U.S. Postal Service contemplates major changes like rate increases or cutting out Saturday delivery, the more underlying general question about its modern significance could be how much more may technology alter our world and how far-reaching might those changes be.

Photo credit: AdAge.com