February 04, 2009

Internship -- The New Not-Job

Have you SEEN the number of internships available now that so many companies have laid off employees and are looking for warm bodies with some kind - any kind? - of ability to fill their place, fo' cheap? Wooo! Now is TEH time to be an intern.

There isn't a hotter career on the job boards or in the breakroom, and not a better way to worm your way into an organization ensuring that you maybe, one day, if you're lucky, after you do a lot of grunt work, actually get paid a few bucks.

As jobs disappear, the competition for highly visible internships is likely to heat up. Many are holding out, hoping for a CEO internship. When CEO interns head the boardroom the truth will be exposed: MBAs really aren't a prereq to running things.

If you lack the money to go back to school to learn a brand new skill set, and since Obama's jobs building bridges and electric cars haven't materialized quite yet, now is the time to check out internships in your area. Might be the only gigs out there.

Hey it could be worse.... uh... ?

February 03, 2009

disintermediating the paparazzi

So Demi Moore (@mrskutcher) and Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) are on Twitter, and they are being real people, which I guess is what you are if you're used to doing all the cool things that celebrities do.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I have to say, it's interesting to see someone as high profile as Demi Moore (I think she's even more famous than Mike Arrington!) post a photo she took of the paparazzi outside her house on twitpic.

Hey paparazzi say hello to your mother for me! on TwitPic

Now THAT's a paradigm shift.

Demi took some other pix of their trip to the Superbowl and tweeted the game as well.

who needs TMZ when celebrities tweet?

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February 02, 2009

Next Up on the Chopping Block: Your School Nurse

In the ever growing wave of budget cuts, some school districts are considering cutting the school nurse job from all public schools.

What a stupid idea.

Of course, Georgia is right up there classing it up -- let's give the kids salmonella-tainted peanut butter and then take away the nurse who cleans up their puke.

Go Sonny Go. (No, really, go.)

the PTA says No Way--Nurses should stay.

Atlanta moms are up in arms too:

Eighty-five percent of students who see a school nurse return to class. One Georgia nurse I know was the first ever in her district. When she visited one school, the secretary pulled open her desk drawer and said, “Here is our medical cabinet.” My friend left with a two-quart pitcher full of medication, much of which was expired and the rest mismatched pills in the wrong bottles. School nurses around the state can share similar stories.

Asthma, juvenile diabetes, food allergies, seizure disorder and a host of other illnesses were virtually unheard of in children when Perdue was a child, but now affect a large percentage of children. The reasons are complex. These students need regular monitoring and, oftentimes, medical intervention to stay in the classroom. Our state test scores are already disgraceful. They will only be worse with tons of kids being sent home from school midday.
Is it even LEGAL for schools to cut school nurses? Will it take a well publicized asthma death to make sure schools can fit a nurse into their budgets?

I mean there MUST be another place to cut. One nurse, hundreds of kids. Seems like an easy math problem to me. But then, I'm not Sonny Perdue.

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Just when i think it's all bad...

...the net picks me up and makes me lol -- and I mean LthefuckOL!


Reading David Armano from Marcus Brown on Vimeo.

bad landing page tip 9943320

Please don't welcome me to your site with noise. You ought to know better by now.


Landing page music went out in the 90s. And fake talking people are annoying. 

Case in point: The Tori spelling chick on fax.com - the one who never shuts up - she's GOT to go.

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The Little (Ad) Engine That Could

This past week, blogads reminded me why Henry and the gang remain the coolest and most reputable ad engine in town for web publishers. Reward my sponsors; reward Blogads. Because the blogads folks have been treating bloggers fairly since blogtime began.

Today Henry discusses the falloff of online ad sales, and its effect on his industry. Like everything else, it's not a rosy picture:

Back in November, I suggested that online ad sales might fall 40% in 2010 as a deep recession carved into online ad budgets. Looks like the market is headed that… or worse, at least according to this Ad Age article:
Cost-per-thousand ad impressions for online publishers are generally off about 20%, according to several people on both the buying and selling side, and sell-through rates are dropping. And where publishers used to unload 60% of their inventory, some are now able to sell only 30%.

But perhaps indicating more trouble ahead is just how cheap the low end of the market has gotten. An August study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Bain & Co.* found the average CPMs on ad networks ranged from 60 cents to $1.10, only 6% to 11% of the prices publishers could command when they sold inventory directly. And the pricing for networks appears to be getting worse not better. CPMs for ad-network-sold ads are dropping, some by 50% year-over-year, according to a recent study of pricing by Pubmatic, which tracks pricing among many Long Tail ad networks.

Put those percentages together and you’ll discover that some publishers have seen revenues collapse 60% or more.

Compounding the recession-driven collapse in revenues is the fact that the volume of online content is still doubling yearly, thanks to all the blog posts, comments, photos, videos, ratings, interactions and e-phemera that we all create singly and socially.

With supply doubling and demand stagnant or down, advertising prices are headed to zero for any property that doesn’t deliver VERY compelling value to advertisers.

What a lot of publishers don’t get is that “selling” is only a tiny portion of the formula for survival in the short run, and success longer term. The real keys are innovating, keeping overheads low, improving processes and talking relentlessly to your customers about what they want.

Note what Henry says and compare it to my observations about the value of content in my previous post:

Compounding the recession-driven collapse in revenues is the fact that the volume of online content is still doubling yearly, thanks to all the blog posts, comments, photos, videos, ratings, interactions and e-phemera that we all create singly and socially.

With supply doubling and demand stagnant or down, advertising prices are headed to zero for any property that doesn’t deliver VERY compelling value to advertisers.

It's the same thing I said below. And Henry, I'm not sure WHAT the criteria is for "compelling" anymore. It used to be gripping, good quality content. Naked pictures? A good social media boxing match?

Seriously: The value of Value itself is in question today.

wtf. where do we go from here.

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The Value of Words

I have made my living using words for a quarter of a century. It hasn't been a bad living. At times it's been a very lucrative living. And it's not like I ever had any other choice. I was published at 11, and after that my trajectory was set.

I remember not quite believing the first time I hit a six-figure salary at a big agency willing to pay me that much money to write. They paid it to me because I was a special kind of writer -- the kind of writer that can jump from client to client, project to project, technology to technology, instantly, and be up to speed within hours, honing in on the key key key KEEEEYY pieces of a client's story that my ear tells me will resonate with the market.

Being able to write well is something you learn because you spend all day, every day, for years and years, doing it, not because you were born with some special gift. Sure, some people are gifted, but most writers work hard to become good. They read; they write. Every day.

That's where new media comes in. Suddenly, everyone is a writer. No, really. Everyone IS a writer. People are writing all the time. All day. Every day. Posting and thinking and posting.

Because I started writing websites in 1996 and blogging in 2001, this plethora of great online writing thrills me. It's incredible to read so many people with so much to say saying it so well. Who's been a louder cheerleader for blogging than me?

But, like the indie recording revolution before us, this swarm of great amateur writers, combined with a new means of distribution (the Internet), leaves us pros in a lurch.

Now, mix this evolution of great writers into our current dismal economy, and those of us who once made a living 'writing' are hurting the same way we would have if we had been building carburetors for GM for the last 30 years.

This is not a story you'll hear on twitter. The tweets of the social media elite get faster and more furious -- a kind of machine-gun denial stream of who's meeting where attending which conference lunching with whom waiting for what meeting to start with which big name company or influencer.

Please.

These. People. Are. Lying. To. You. And. Themselves.

Let's talk numbers for a minute.

Of course, writing isn't a product that you can always package in a precise word-for-dollar way--especially when strategic thinking is involved. But, I've played around with the numbers during my career to see if there is a formula of effort expended to pay, and there usually is.

The old OLD pay for writers when I started out 25 years ago was $1 a word. During the dot-com era, I was averaging $3 a word. At other times, the average compensation has fallen in the middle. For web content, I've made anywhere from $250 a page to $2,000 a page.

These last two weeks I've been checking out a few sources for writing work, and what I found was more depressing than I even imagined.

Responding to a dozen craigslist postings and 5 elance.com postings yielded four relevant replies.

The first, a woman who uses elance to outsource writing work to folks in India. I was, she explained, overqualified for the kind of work (and pay) she was offering. I did the math. It was pennies a word. She said I was overqualified. I have to think she's right.

The next was a social media blogging gig, two posts per day minimum, with pay of $200/month, preceded by a testing period where hundreds of interested applicants would compete to get this primo gig. To the company's credit, they offered $100 for the testing period.

Next I tried another online micro-job site that posts small jobs requiring a tiny bit (and nothing more) of human intelligence. Sample writing work there? 1000+ word product guides. Pay: $5.00. In 1986 I would have made about $1,000 for that job. In 1999 I would have made $3,000 for that job. Today, some one will do it -- maybe not well, but they'll do it and search optimize it -- for five bucks.

The third was a company owned by a major social media player looking for people to post articles using certain tags. A phone call revealed some interesting things: 1) Hundreds of people applied. 2.) many of them were high level pros 3.) the gig doesn't pay, at least at first. My contact for the job was surprised that so many name folks and pros responded to the job posting. Now, some people would have used that opportunity to say, YES, but I'm the BEST. I said: "That's because NOBODY'S WORKING--ok?"

Eight years ago I started my own business. I've had slow patches here and there. This is not a slow patch. This is a collision of the worst economy of our lifetime and the de-professionalization of my craft.

And it's heartbreaking.

The rise of the commons isn't always easy on the common man. How to balance the beauty and benefits of an open, free culture with food on the table? It's not an unfamiliar dilemma in our family - my husband spent 40 years in the music business.

Of course, those of us who have been around the block and bring MORE than writing to the content table have an advantage. And quality (maybe) still counts. I've branded and messaged and helped build some of the largest and strongest brands in the world. I also have a decade in PR under my belt, and am a pretty well known marketer.

But at the core of it all, I have always made my living with words. And today words are a commodity that can be outsourced and automated. As a commodity, I'm not sure how low the value of words will go.

But if the old adage a penny for your thoughts still holds true, and a thought is probably at least 10 words, then I think we've pretty much hit bottom.

(cross-posted to jeneane.net)