Sunday espresso: New media, FM3, wine and theater social networking strategy

    espresso_vivaceAs much as I enjoy the weekend, after putting away our to-do lists, Sunday mornings are my relaxing time to sit with an espresso and read. I usually catch up with news, some sports (NFL and NHL mostly) and take time to revisit my email inbox to make sure I didn’t miss anything—a sure bet—during the week. You could say it’s a great time to let my hair down.

    I used to write “week in reviews” here on Sundays. Bullet heavy, they recapped the posts on SSC for the past week. But, you know what, that’s redundant. It’s easy to get the headlines, just scroll down the main page and you’ll see everything. So I figured I was boring you to death. And I know it’s not the first time. But I have so many other things I prefer to talk about, especially over a cup of espresso or two. I won’t be fact checking anything I write here in these weekly columns. Just stream of consciousness, random thoughts. A humble, caffeinated opinion.

    Go ahead and sit here with me as the sun streams in over the San Jose foothills, with your favorite coffee or espresso and listen—feel free to agree, disagree, or just ignore me altogether. I apologize for the 80s background music. It takes me back to snowy memories in Ottawa. Good times.

    New media

    A lot has been written about the demise of traditional media (newspaper, TV, radio, magazines). But while a lot of it is true including reports of shrinking budgets, staff and advertising, much of it is over-hyped, and propagated, in fact, by the traditional media itself and eager puppies of the Blogosphere. Often, the two are pitted: new media vs. traditional media.

    No doubt there is a transformational shift. However, the majority of the structural changes are already mostly behind us. What did I do this morning, first thing? Pull up the Internet to get latest headlines from CNN, my RSS reader, and several local news sites. I’ve been doing that for years, as I imagine many are doing the same. And I don’t need to pay; advertising-driven.

    But what’s interesting is that Blogs are not replacing new incarnations of traditional media. When CNN moved to the Web (and, by the way, check out their new site re-design) it did not preclude the success of something like the Huffington Post. They co-exist. And for different reasons, with I’d suspect largely overlapping liberal readership.

    Professional writers, editors and journalists are not magically disappearing into the ether. My guess is that they will continue to do what they’re doing, but not for small, regional outlets. Instead, they will migrate to larger, national new media organizations, or spin-out successful, niche publications based on their skill-sets.

    Wine blogs have been exploding. And nowhere can you find a more obfuscated view of reality. Then again, wine can do that. It’s helped me on many occasions see things differently. But, you know, for some reason joe schmoe bloggers think they will displace “traditional” publications such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. At the same time, they rail continuously against the patriarch of wine critics, Robert Parker. It’s like watching a bunch of dogs jump up and down the legs of vines. It can be fun to watch. It can also be painful. Why is it that a Blog tool, such as the exceptional WordPress, can make an amateur (like me), all of a sudden feel like an industry changing, trident bearing, William Wallace hollering lunatic?

    Of course, not all bloggers fall into this category. Most are entertainingly humble, respect their place in the grand scheme and provide the personable, often silly, anecdotes, stories, and opinions that help define the new media category.

    Ironically, the business model that drives most larger Blogs is advertising. Sound familiar? That was traditional media. But newspapers used to benefit from classified revenue. Big time. That’s all gone, mostly, thanks to Craigslist, eBay and others. Blogs, unlike traditional media, have not been able to successfully implement pay models. So, what’s left then? Ads. Is a new business model needed? Or are we just more of the same, with Internet flash sprinkled over the proceedings?

    FM3

    Loni put together another large checklist of FM3 renewal items this morning. For those that aren’t familiar with it, the FM3 is a type of long-term visitor passport for Mexico. A few years back I remember getting it in Loreto. I ran back in forth in the rain from a small family run photo boutique to get black and white headshots, while Loni sat in line at the tiny immigration office. The renewal process at times feels more complicated and confusing then anything I’ve encountered in the US or Canada. Largely because, although the steps are documented, there is the Mexican factor which means relationships are important, and never to be underestimated. It’s one more reason we always enjoy are adventures in the little Baja fishing village of Loreto.

    Wine and theater social networking strategy

    Based on some preliminary data I’ve been accumulating, over espresso and wine, it seems that the wine industry is about 2-3 years ahead of theater and arts when it comes to social networking strategy. For example, most winery Facebook fan pages are in the thousands. Theater houses by comparison, even larger ones, seldom break a thousand.

    But why?

    There is one obvious reason: interest in theater and arts is regional, wine is national. So wineries has a target audience of hundreds of millions, whereas theaters are looking at potentials typically in the millions, at least in major markets such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco.

    The other major reason is demographics. By all accounts, the wine industry has done an exceptional job so far in modernizing the perception of wine, and bringing it to the younger masses. Compared to theater and arts, we’re talking about a web-savvy, social networking ready crowd.

    Tweeting about wine, including live wine tastings, has gathered momentum, and you can find lots of interesting things being said about wine. Try checking on the latest shows in the Bay Area on Twitter, and you’ll see very little “conversation.” Too bad. But I think that’s changing. One of our goals with SSC is to bring the Web 2.0 and social networking to the theater and arts crowd. It will take time, but it’s precisely why we can hopefully co-exist, in our small way, next to the giants (and pros) such as the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Variety. Just like what we’re doing with Wine Tube TV in the wine world.

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