Archive for March, 2011

Spring-cleaning

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Its not yet the end of March, the daffodils and the spring colds are out in force, and few of us have read the entire Moriarty Report. Both nationally and internationally it seems a lifetime has been packed into the last three months.In a sense, the media winner has been news & current affairs, as people try to keep up with a radically changing world. The fluidity of information has grew user/audiences for online aggregators like Storyful. But the dominant swing has been to traditional news providers like the BBC and in Ireland RTE where audiences for news programmes have grown.
In Athena Media we spent the month of February working with The Irish Times on its digital media content during the Irish election. It was fascinating to be back in the heart of a national print newsroom; a place where I started my own journalism career in the mid 1980s. We worked with the online and politics teams to create daily audio podcasts and to try and mentor print journalists on thinking audio and video when covering their story. Print is at the coalface of the impact of online on both audiences and revenue and the global newspaper sector is still struggling to shift both its content and business model online. The growth of Kindle readers and iPads is creating a platform for online content with a revenue model and bundled content with added value is finding a market. (Its equally finding lots of solutions to rip the content for free!).
Here at Athena Media we’ve been balancing as always between the traditional broadcasters and the digital sphere. In early February our TV documentary series Pat Falvey: My Private Everest went out on Setanta Ireland and the three part series will be repeated soon. The story of Kerry based adventurer, Falvey, generated a lot of publicity around the broadcast coinciding with his second attempt to trek to the North Pole. Sadly bad weather dogged the scheduled and once again Falvey had to abort the North Pole.
With Lyric fm we’ve continued our project ‘An Opera for Carlow’ - the community based music project where conductor Fergus Sheil and composer Brian Irvine are working with the Carlow people to write and stage a new opera at the Visual Centre’s theatre, the GB Shaw, in early May. Every month we release a new episode on the story behind the collaboration via the In Tempo programme on Lyric. You can hear all nine episodes on Audioboo and we’ll produce a full hour documentary around the final performance which will go out later in the Summer.
‘An Opera for Carlow’ is being funded and supported by the BAI Sound & Vision Scheme and we;ve already started on a second project, again with Lyric fm, and supported by Soun & Vision. This time’s its the story of Roddy Doyle’s creative writing centre for children and young people, Fighting Words. The one hour documentary called Word of Mouth will broadcast in last Autumn and we will be recording in New York in late May with Fighting Words at readings there under the Imagine Ireland umbrella.
What’s fascinating about the Fighting Words project is the way creative writing brings the teenagers we are working with alive. It reminds us of ‘Tower Songs’ the music documentary we did in Ballymun with teenagers and children who created a song cycle on the regeneration of the area. Over the years these projects have shown us that its the arts which transform and open minds; particularly for young people who often struggle to find their way and identity.
Music and the power of song is the driving force behind our latest radio project called High Fidelity; the history of recorded song presented by Jack L and Julie Feeney. Its a madly ambitious project tracing the history of sound recording and its impact on the world of music, song and singers. We’re incredibly lucky to work with two such outstanding singers and the series starts in mid May - again on Lyric fm but under the auspices of the Independent Radio Production round. We’ve started a facebook page for the series called High Fidelity so join us there if you are using facebook. Part of what is fascinating here is the power of songs to connect us with our memories, our families and how the ability to record and mass distribute songs allows the development of both celebrity stardom and a global sharing of music and song.
We’re keen to connect with people in Ireland who have private collections of early song recordings on gramophone discs, 78s etc and get their stories. So spread the word!
Finally one of our social media discoveries in the last week is the new Irish crowd-sourcing funding site Funditwhich allows people to help the funding of creative arts projects including digital media, documentaries, film and music for as little as five euro. Its a fantastic development which makes our involvement with the arts more personal and dynamic and may allow new things to happen, not just within arts institutions but also give creative teams who find the rejection letters from places like the Film Board and Arts Council depressing. Try it out - risk a fiver - and support a project. We did. And we hope to use it as a method to try and get our observational documentary film Belmayne: Gorgeous Living completed. We’ll let you know and hopefully you can help us finish this amazing project.
Athena Media Training continues to offer its Social Media & Online Content workshops and the next one is April 7th, here at the Digital Depot, Thomas St. Incredibly the facebook users in Ireland now reach 1.9 million while twitter played a significant role in the February national elections. Some of the online content tools we’re using include dropbox, audioboo, broadcastr, vimeo and qik. Our last blog was a top ten tips for social media and its a great starting place for anyone trying to put together a digital media, social media and online content strategy for their business or project.

Top ten social media tips

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

We’re celebrating two years of Athena Media Training and our ever popular Social Media & Online Content for Business workshop (next one is April 7th, Thursday) and we’ve decided to share some of the things which have come up in the workshop.

1. Start where you are.
Don’t postpone because you’re waiting for resources, equipment or time. Start where you are now, use the equipment you have from your laptop to your smart phone, begin small and do something small well.
2. Plan (and then plan some more).
Spend some time exploring social networks and tools. Plan your business strategy. Aim to create a short document defining what you want to achieve. What’s your message? what are your goals? who are your communicating with? where are they currently and what types of media and content do they consume/use? How can you and your message be in that place and get closer to them?
3. Map out a pilot project with a defined aim, time period and methodology.
Make sure your social media communications and content strategies are sustainable. Its better to do something small well rather than over-commit and have neglected accounts/pages/blogs. Plan your activities with a defined goal so you can measure its success and impact over a defined time period of months.
4. See everything as a conversation.
Social media and online content needs to shape a conversation. Web communications is not about press releases or spam. Its about building and maintaining a relationship of trust and mutual benefit with ‘the people formerly known as audiences and customers’. See everything as a conversation. If in doubt - ask a question, that’s how most conversations start in the offline world!
5. Hype won’t wash.
If its all about relationships, conversations that build relationships and trust, then hype, distortions, white or even downright untruths will not wash. Not only will they not wash they will ensure you will fail. Only promise what you can deliver. Soft sell is better than hard sell in an online relationship. Look for mutual benefit.
6. After conversation, think collaboration, community and sharing.
The world of social media is one with lots of C words. You communicate, shape a conversation using content but fundamentally you need to think about collaborating and building/sustaining a community. The essence of that community is about sharing cotent. Sharing information, views, advice, audio, video, photos or even good old fashioned words in the shape of text status updates.
7. Less is always more.
In online communications think about the way content feeds a conversation. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Less is more, in that short form content in text, audio or video works best. If people share 2 billion videos from YouTube everyday the average duration is just ovber 4 minutes. So if you are making online video think of durations between 1 to 4 minutes. Two minutes is fine. In audio think about five minutes. Audioboo (www.audioboo.fm) sets a limit of five minutes on its free user audio podcasts - and that’s a good discipline! Shorter form content moves quicker, is seen by more people and used by more people. Online is not TV and radio and while we use a lot of Tv and radio programmes online if we are making content for online think shorter form. Make your content match a social media rather than a broadcast environment.
8. Content is good but search is better.
Content is a powerful communications tool. It binds and shapes communities online. But its all useless if you can’t find it. Remember to use your tags in platforms like Audioboo, Vimeo and YouTube. #Hashtags in twitter allow you to find things. Tags and hashtags are just forms of metadata which is how we find anything online so make sure your content is findable and use all the tagging methods offered to you to ensure your business, company, brand, products and news is all visable online and in social media networks. (The Google guys got it very very right when they said ‘the future is search’. It still is).
9. You are the publisher (celebrate, create but beware!)
So it’s great, you are the publisher of your own content, channels and audio/video. Digital tools and a high speed (or even semi-speed) broadband network allows you as a business to cut out the middleman and create content and release it direct to online. You can record and publish your own events, conferences, interviews and get them out into the online conversation without big agencies or media groups involved. But remember you are now the publisher. You carry the same responsibilities as the traditional publisher and middleman so set up processes which protect your company and brand in an online environment. Libel, defamation and legal action on content will follow you. Issues over rights in terms of music, literature and consent can raise problems. So ensure you plan, set up processes, including getting consent and rights for any content you use online, and protect your own reputation and business online. If in doubt check it out. Being forewarned may save you lots of headaches, legal action and wasted time and expenses.
10. Tell stories.<
The Greeks knew it. We communicate and build relationships telling stories. We invest those stories with personalities, emotional power and create empathy. Music, comedy and drama all use storytelling in different ways. The most powerful forms of communications, those with the most impact, are shaped around incredible narratives which inspire and move us. When you think about communications, when you think about what it is you are doing online, remember in the end its all about telling powerful stories which connect people and communities. Its not about technology. The technology just lets you do it.

(Join us in April for our next one day workshop on how to get the most out of online communications - Call Lisa 01 4885851 for details)