How my iPhone photos were sought by news organisations

Leaving a Soho bar on Thursday night, I walked straight into the aftermath of the ceiling collapse at the Apollo Theatre in central London.  Fire brigade crews, police and ambulances were arriving on Shaftesbury Avenue and the road was cordoned off.  Well, as a good digital citizen journalist, I whipped out my iPhone, took a few shots and uploaded them to various social media channels.  Amazingly, within minutes I’d had three offers from news organisations asking for the photos – including Al Jazeera and the Telegraph.  Here were the tweets:

Marie Le Conte@youngvulgarian 13h

@tonyrossmcmahon Hi, I work at the Telegraph picture desk, would you mind us using this picture on our website (w/ credits)? Thanks, Marie
Jack Maddox@MaddoxJack 12h

@tonyrossmcmahon – can we use your picture on air for @ajam?
Jack Williams@itsjackwilliams 13h

@tonyrossmcmahon Hey Tony. I’m a journalist out in New York and just wanted to check if it’s OK to use your images for the Apollo story?

And the photos below:

The rise of Social Selling

Hoot Suite has just brought out a white paper on the rise of B2B Social Selling – which is actually very interesting.  We all know that consumers are deal hunting and researching products through social media but what’s less appreciated is the way in which business purchasers are using the very same channels.  This doesn’t spell the end of traditional selling – far from it.  More likely, it makes face-to-face encounters as well as cold calling and emails more targeted and relevant – so ultimately more likely to lead to a successful outcome.

Hard selling is still taboo through social media but sales folk can use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to identify potential customers and begin a conversation – that can then be moved on to the ker-ching stage of a sale.  They can also take a long, hard look at companies in advance and work out which individuals are likely to be the key decision makers instead of diving in and hoping they get the right person – and we all know how frustrating that can be.

When it comes to making an approach – empathy and insight will allow for small talk to be dispensed with rapidly and instead moving on to the real meat of the matter. The sales person can have a much clearer idea of what the target business wants and how their product can be tailored to meet the need.  There’s nothing worse than selling to a brick wall or launching a product that is misconceived and nobody wants.  So a much subtler process of market research and engagement can be undertaken leading to a better use of everybody’s time.

The geeks are inheriting the earth

While I’ve been aware of the rise of geek chic – that it’s now cooler to be Clark Kent than Superman, I hadn’t quite realised the extent to which geekness has gripped younger people. This weekend I got chatting to an earnest type with an architectural quiff, horn-rimmed specs (of course), regulation Hoxton beard and deliberately fogeyish taste in coiture – tweed, etc.  He chatted to me in a baritone voice full of self-assurance about his love for books, film, art and “desolate landscapes” (sic).

It then moved on to the obligatory fascination with sci-fi and a religious conviction regarding the merits of craft beers.  The latter subject used to be an obsession of CAMRA members spouting their support of real ale over mountainous beer bellies – but no more.  The apostles of the pure pint are now fairly slim (for now) and painfully trendy with the ability to drone on for months about the sustainable and environmental upsides of microbreweries.  I was just about accepting all this when he added his adherence to Morris dancing – at which point I moved off.

In truth, I quite like geeks. And snarkiness aside – I think it’s good to see hipsters embracing some very worthy causes and traditions though I draw the line at Morris dancing.  But the rise of the geek phenomenon is, suffice it to say, an overturning of the post-WWII order in modern culture where geeks were forlorn and despised figures bullied in the school playground and vilified for being hopeless at sports.  Digital changed all that of course. Now we have an entire younger generation that is computer-bound, obsessed with gadgets, inundated with comic book related content well into adulthood and happy to proclaim their dorkishness.

How long with the geek triumph last for?  Hard to imagine it can disappear in a digital world where sociopathic hackers are sought after by corporates and government and success is driven far more by brains than the brawn that meant something in an industrial, pre-digital age.  Now I’m off to buy a Geek T-shirt at Top Shop.

Does digital help boost democracy?

Since the Arab Spring collapsed into a welter of sectarian violence and civil war, it’s become fashionable to eat all those words about the Twitter revolution and the power of YouTube.  And yet, in its horrific and bloody denouement, the Arab Spring is still being fought out through social media channels.  That doesn’t mean that on the ground organisation isn’t critical – it’s what explains the Muslim Brotherhood victory (albeit brief) in Egypt and of course money talks as well (the Saudis bankrolling the Egyptian counter-revolution and Sunni extremists in Syria as two pertinent examples).  However, social media undoubtedly has its place and history shows us that it’s really nothing new.

After all, didn’t the Reformation kick off with Martin Luther nailing his grievances to the church door – where everybody was bound to see them.  Today, he’d have issued a long series of tweets linking to a blog post and an op-ed in the Huffington Post.  Followed perhaps by a flash mob in St Peter’s Square to protest the selling of indulgences and a hackathon of former monks to work out how better to run Christianity.  You get the drift – he just didn’t have the digital tools.  Or there was Thomas Paine cranking out Common Sense on a printing press and sparking off the French and American revolutions.

Indeed, the printing press was the primary tool for disseminating political arguments until the 1990s.  I recall being at youth conferences in the 1980s – National Organisation of Labour Students for example – where rival factions spat out their propaganda using crude printing presses and photocopiers – lots of inky fingers and sweaty brows as the leaflets were cranked out by hand.  Now we have conference apps, dedicated Twitter hashtags and YouTube blogging and reports from political events.

So digital has already arrived as an empowering democratic tool.  Yet our political culture and systems seem to run counter to everything digital represents.  The Westminster (or Georgetown) village is as entrenched, more so in fact, than ever.  Personalities still prevail over ideas – even though most politicians have deeply dull personas.  And the traditional journalist set remain cliquey has hell – even when operating on Twitter – even though the circulation of their newspapers is in dramatic freefall.  Politicians talk about a ‘disconnect’ with the public when the means of bridging it is staring them in the face – but they lack the cultural savvy and political will to make the leap.

Fortunately, digital won’t be held down and a more informed and engaged public – especially among the youth – is emerging regardless.  Traditional structures and organisations are by-passed but at some point, these digital networks and conversations will have to be integrated into our democracy.  Groups like Avaaz are already networking people across borders on campaign issues.  As a recent report from MIT stated, we have a chance with digital to move from an Information Age to a new Age of Reason – digital will become less an end in itself and instead a means of reviving democracy.

Why Tom Daley coming out on YouTube is important

I have nothing but admiration for 19 year old diver and celebrity Tom Daley’s decision to reveal he is in a gay relationship via YouTube.  His example is important and heroic – contrary to the poison already being spouted by vile toads on various social media channels. I realise those include young girls disappointed by his sexuality but more shamefully are fully grown adults queuing up to be just plain abusive.  And then there are those wiseacres who knew he was gay all along – well done, you’re so amazingly knowledgeable!  Not.

I shouldn’t publicise some of the abuse on Twitter but just to evidence a depressing point – here goes with one example:

cant believe people are actually shocked tom daley has came out you could tell a mile off he was bent!!

And one Tweeter has catalogued the abuse here – http://storify.com/heyjackcooper/tom-daley-homophobia

So why does Tom Daley coming out on social media matter then?  Well, it’s very easy for London cosmopolitans to say that the struggle for LGBT rights is over in the UK – tell that to a kid being bullied at school in Halifax or Nuneaton….or for that matter in Peckham or Walthamstow. I’ve been amazed by the number of journalists on Twitter stating that Tom Daley coming out has no relevance for young people today.  What a lovely liberal bubble they are living in?

Anti-gay prejudice among teens is alive and kicking – in some places worse than ever fueled by religious and cultural sentiments.  A friend of mine and campaigning head teacher Shaun Dellenty runs a school down in Rotherhithe where he has a zero tolerance approach to anti-gay bullying in the playground and the pejorative use of the word ‘gay’ by kids.  Check out his organisation Inclusion For All at www.shaundellenty.com  There is no doubt that Tom Daley’s decision to go public will be a major boost to initiatives being run by people like Shaun in our schools.  Bullying is still very real and damages lives.

The high cost of ripping photos from Twitter

If you find a nice photo on Twitter and think of using it without going through any boring details like copyright and permission – well, think again.  A federal jury has just ordered Getty Images and AFP to cough up $1.2m for using a freelance photographer’s images of the Haiti earthquake.  Daniel Morel had snapped the terrible events in Haiti back in 2010 that killed more than 250,000 people.  Some were posted to Twitter and were duly discovered by an editor at AFP – via another Twitter user’s account.  They were then provided to Getty, which sent them on to other media networks including the Washington Post.

Had Morel’s copyright been deliberately infringed?  Yes, said the jury.  And to the tune of the maximum amount that can be awarded under the Copyright Act.  The defence attempted several arguments including pointing out that the Twitter user who had posted the images originally had done so without any attribution.  It was claimed AFP and Getty had made an innocent mistake and believed the images were for public distribution.  Indeed, this whole court case began because in 2010, AFP had filed a lawsuit against Morel demanding he admit his copyright had not been infringed.  Morel countered with his own lawsuit and now…has won.

AFP had argued – and this is the point to note – that Twitter’s terms of service permitted the use of such images. But the judge ruled that while the posting and retweeting of images was allowed – the right to use them commercially was not.  This is yet another proof that social media does not exist in a separate world where copyright and libel to not apply.  Social media channels are part of the real world where legal rights exist and can be exercised.

Investor Relations and Social Media – never to marry?

Earlier this year, the Virginia based National Investor Relations Institute put out an “executive alert” to its members on the use of social media.  It’d surveyed IR professionals and found that 72% were not using social media for their work.  The most often cited claim was that investors were simply not interested in the medium.  Press releases and SEC filings were still far more important.  You can access that survey and report HERE.

Let’s start with a gut feeling.  In the same way that many in comms and marketing once resisted digital, one can’t help but feel that IR is in danger of being the last bastion of resistance.  So do we think that investors are somehow cocooned from the digital revolution?  Do they use social media less?  I’ve hunted round for various bits of research on investor behaviour and some trends are very clear:

  • Half of investors read blogs and a quarter use YouTube, more or less
  • Influential financial bloggers are using Twitter as their main news source
  • Over half of institutional investors are using social media at some point in their research
  • And….institutional investors believe that social media will become more important in their work

Yet many IR departments are still averse to basic online services like mobile sites and investor apps. I still read curmudgeonly arguments about social media lacking credibility, being open to abusive comments and not being a suitable arena for such lofty topics.  Those brave corporates that have used social media to announce their results have been accused from the sidelines of being rash and too risky.

In fairness, there is increasing use of YouTube but often to stick up dull as ditch water executive interviews with patsy questions that then – surprise, surprise – don’t get watched.  Word of advice – nobody but nobody sits through eight minute formulaic CEO interviews – not unless they died while staring at the screen.

If you are worried about using social media for IR – the Investor Relations Society has issued helpful guidance which you can view HERE.  What we at Rostra recommend is a very creative and interactive use of content to engage retail and institutional investors – departing from set-piece interviews and press release style commentary.  All adhering of course to the rules and regulations.