Sep 29, 2009

Rest in Peace, Blockbuster Inc.

North America - Former video chain giant Blockbuster Inc., a leader in the field of video and video disk rental, has ceased growth operations. Blockbuster was 27.

Blockbuster, the former video retail giant, has been forced to close up to 960 stores in North America. The company said the cause might have been competing stores and online streaming sites. Unable to compete, Blockbuster has closed 276 stores so far this year.

Founded in the mid-1980s as an alternative to small, local operations with limited video rental selection, Blockbuster quickly grew into a nationwide chain. Blockbuster was able to promote movies in ways that no local chains could. The company was instrumental in getting movie-watchers to stay in instead of going out. By bringing Hollywood home, Blockbuster became a Hollywood icon itself.

In the late 1990s, Blockbuster faced challenges brought about by increased competition and a relatively soft market for videos. Remaining one step behind competing video stores like Netflix and, Blockbuster was unable to keep up with the competition. The advent of streaming sites with social media components did not help either.

Aiding in Blockbuster's demise is the internet. Online streaming sites with social media components are making video stores obsolete. Users are allowed to upload movies and television shows to share with networks worldwide. Sites like Ninja Video, Great Stuff TV, and OV Guide have given television and movie addicts a cheaper, more convienient alternative to Blockbuster.

Blockbuster leaves behind a loyal staff of over 60,000.

WORLDWIDE - The worldwideweb is pleased to announce the recent appointment of online steaming sites as the key provider of television and movies. These sites, which stream videos online, are successfully succeeding Blockbuster Inc.

"We're very pleased to welcome online streaming to the video family. Its availability, user involvement and competitive pricing makes it the perfect successor to Blockbuster," said Ari, a self-proclaimed computer know-it-all.

Generally updated following its release, the television shows and movies found online are of high quality. Users have the option to upload and share a video or watch a previously posted program. Some sites, like Ninja Video, have forums for users to connect. These chat rooms provide an environment for video enthusiasts to share thoughts and ideas on recently watched videos. Sites like Great Stuff TV have useful links to inform users of the upcoming TV schedule. OV Guide, a popular streaming site, allows users to interact while sharing videos. Comments and ratings are requested by users.

"No longer will users be tired down to due dates and limited availabilities The internet is our oyster and streaming sites are our pearls," proclaims Jennifer, an avid streamer. "My videos are now available to me on demand. No longer is there a need to drive to Blockbuster; I can do it all from my home."

Online streaming has taken over the traditional video stores. As the fastest, cheapest method for obtaining the videos you want, online streaming will soon make video stores obsolete. As the use of home computers continues to grow, the need for traditional video stores shrinks. People are able to connect their computers to their televisions and watch programs on a high definition big screen TV. The added bonus of communicating with a like-minded community has only enhanced the interest in online streaming.

The success of online streaming cannot be ignored. Videos are now available on demand, from my computer to yours.

Sep 26, 2009

Weekend Relief

Beyonce Effect: Reaching the old, the crazy, and the football team.

Social Media, Poor Etiquette

Don't talk to strangers. Don't interrupt. Consider those around you.

These rules of etiquette have been drilled into our heads time and time again. We have repeatedly refrained from speaking to strangers. We have patiently waited our turn before speaking or announcing news. And we have always respected our peers. Until now.

The culprit? SOCIAL MEDIA.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have broken down the rules of etiquette. Our ability to instantly share news with the masses has caused us to interact with strangers, interrupt message strings and disrespect others. Consider these examples:

After the proposal was accepted, Stephanie wanted to enjoy her engagement. Refraining from calling extended family and acquantainces, Stephanie and her fiance had a small party with close friends and family. Stephanie's attempts to keep her moment private and control her news was interrupted by her friends. Pictures of the ring and the happy couple instantly popped up on Facebook and Twitter courtesy of the friends who could hardly wait to pass on someone else's good news.

While driving with his pregnant wife to find out the gender of their baby, Brian began typing a status update to his loyal followers. His wife's reaction? Anger. Why? Not because her husband was broadcasting a private moment, but because she wanted to be the first to digitally announce the news. Besides, she was much more creative in her attempt to share. Rather than type an update, she drew the female symbol on her belly and TwitPic'd it to the world.

Tracy was not Facebook-savvy. Tracy did not realize just how fast information is shared with her network. Tracy made a big mistake. Thanking Michael for a "great night", she filled a status update with lots of inappropriate remarks about her wild night. As one of her friends commented, "Oh Tracy, seriously! You didn't think FB was private did you?" (click here for a full account of Tracy's wild night and wild mistake; it is not work appropriate)

Why is it that we are so obsessed with broadcasting our news to the world? The intimacy of telephone calls and face-to-face interviews have been replaced by a single message or image. The social media craze has allowed people to cross geographic boundaries, to connect instantly and keep their networks up-to-date. Social media isn't all good though.

Social networking sites have not been around long enough to develop hard and fast etiquette rules. Users are too focused on spreading the message and forget to consider who the message is reaching. Thankfully, general guidance is emerging. Just as people learned that yelling on a cell phone in public is annoying, they are realizing that hitting "reply all" when responding to just one person in a mass e-mail is poor etiquette. Just as people learned to show pictures to their friends before including them in a photo album, the social media-savvy folks are now realizing it is poor etiquette to post unflattering images of friends and family without their consent.

According to Facebook, the average user has 120 "friends". Are these "real life" friends? Probably not. The average North American has a handful of good friends and another 20 or 30 acquaintances (source: Barbara Ortutay). This differentiation causes people to let their guards down as they do not consider how many people are reading their wall posts, their status updates, and viewing their pictures.

So, please, be aware. Remember that what you put in cyberspace stays in cyberspace. When you post, it gets read. And when you post an unflattering picture? Well, I'll leave that one up to you.

Sep 25, 2009

Rebuttal, done right

In the wake of anti-Semitic comments being spewed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the Jews, minorities and humanity a favor.

In his systematic effort to destroy Israel and the Jewish people, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech filled with hate and lies. The adamant Holocaust denier is a disgrace to his country and to his people. Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a mashiach (see: angel). In his refusal to let the world forget the atrocities of the Holocaust, Netanyahu delivered a passionate, fact-laden speech directed at the G-20 council and YouTubers everywhere. Using original Nazi documents depicting their plan to exterminate the Jewish people, Netanyahu's words resonated with country leaders and the informed public.

It is time's like this when we must truly appreciate the value of social media. On September 23, 2009, the world experienced a malicious leader try to reengage the message that led to the death of 6 million Jews in Europe. On September 24, 2009 those same people were given the other option: the truth, the facts. The world is now forced to choose. To choose between Ahmadinejad's fundamentalist regime or Netanyahu's plea to remember world history.

To me, the answer is simple. To others, I can only hope that you are educated enough to understand the severity of Ahmadinejad's message and the implications it will hold. As Netanyahu illustrated, the Jews are not the only targets - never were, never will be. It is the systematic destruction of all culture groups whose mandates differ from those Ahmadinejad preach that are in danger.

The past 60 years bear witness to the uprising of mankind. Following the horror and fear the world lived in during the Second World War, humanity began to rebuild itself. How is it that only 60 years later we are back to where we started?

Please view the videos posted below. This is the beauty of social media: the truth. No longer does one have to hear a misconstrued account of what was said; the facts, the exact speeches, are now available to us. With one click of the mouse, you can determine who you wish to support: those who seek to destroy or those who seek peace. Those who build their regime on lies or those who strive on hope for the future. Those who seek to rebuild the past or those who seek to rebuild for their future.

The facts are in; the rest is up to you. We are the future, our voices count. Choose wisely.

Ahmadinejad's (Iran) Speech

Netanyahu's (Israel) Speech

Sep 22, 2009

Ashton Kutcher: "King" of Social Media?

Ashton Kutcher has developed a new social media venture, Katalyst Media.

Better known for his May-December romance with wife Demi Moore than any of his acting roles, Mr. Moore (ha) has decided to step out from his wife's (enhanced) shadow. Could it be that Mr. Twitter (i.e. the first person on Twitter to reach 1 million followers) has finally grown tired of restricting himself to 140-characters?

Kutcher showcased two of Katalyst's recent projects at the Mixx conference. First up was a user-contributed video for Kellogg that focuses on the cereal giant's philanthropic work (and "coincidentally" directed by his December, Demi). The second venture introduced was an episode of his in-house series advertising Nestle's Hot Pockets, KatalystHQ.

In his Mixx address, Kutcher announced that Katalyst is a studio and will not be replacing ad agencies (thank god). He stressed that the company is a social media studio.

For those interested in finding the next new Twitter, look no farther than Katalyst. As Kutcher remarked when asked the question, he responded, "...Hire Katalyst, and I'll let you know."

Will Kutcher's new venture prove successful? Only time will tell.

Sep 20, 2009

Shana Tova שנה טובה

Well said, Mr. President.

Sep 19, 2009

Get Your SKYPE On

Skype is the technology du jour. As a social media application focused on video conferencing, Skype has revolutionized the way we communicate. It is a tool for global collaboration which allows people worldwide to connect on a more personal level.

Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. And yes, ladies and gentleman, this service is (basically) free. The company's founders, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, launched Skype as the telecommunication company of the future in 2003. As Friis announced at the Skype launch, “We hope that one day, instead of saying ‘I’ll call you’, people will say ‘I’ll Skype you’.” After only one month, one million people had downloaded the software. Fast forward six months, Skype had grown to a staggering six million users. Currently, there are 196,000,000 registered users.
Skype remains the world’s fastest-growing Internet communication offering, allowing people everywhere to make unlimited voice and video calls for free between the users of Skype software. The program is available free of charge on Skype’s website and can be downloaded in the span of minutes. Building on their theme of inclusion through worldwide communication, Skype is available in 27 languages and is used in almost every country around the world. Anyone can Skype - it is user friendly for every age.

In 2005, Skype was sold to eBay for approximately $2.6 billion. Today, the social media site is only worth $2.75 billion, after eBay sold 65% of Skype for under market value.
The basic functions Skype provides, making and receiving video calls from the Internet and instant messaging, are free. After easily adding people to your contact list, you have the option to chat in a traditional message box, or hit the call button to initiate a video call. For those of you without a webcam, don’t fret as Skype allows you to make one-way video chats and/or voice calls. This free service is truly amazing, as it allows you to keep in touch with friends around the globe.

Like all companies, Skype must generate revenue. To do this, Skype offers customers premium service, SkypeOut, for a fee. Some of these premium features include making and receiving calls to and from landlines and mobile phones, voicemail, call forwarding and personalization including ringtones and avatars. With “SkypeOut”, users dial a regular phone for a low per-minute charge. “SkypeIn” lets people worldwide call a Skype subscriber from a regular telephone by dialing a local Skype phone number. In the past month, Skype was introduced as a new iPhone app, furthering the ability for people to connect.

Skype has revolutionized the business world. Practitioners who are separated by geographical distance are able to video conference and complete their objectives. This is especially valuable for us public relations practitioners as we are all focused on communication. Skype allows PR professionals to connect with a variety of sources, including media, colleagues and contacts on a more personal level.
Helping Skype develop an even stronger following is the Big O herself, Oprah Winfrey. In March 2008, Oprah began using Skype to connect with celebrities and us regular folk. But it was on the May 21, 2009 show entitled “Where the Skype Are You” that the talk show host pushed the limits of the Skype. She showed how Skype can connect people in remote places such as the Arctic and Antarctic, on board USS Louisville six stories below the Pacific of Hawaii and on board a Virgin America plane 37,000 feet above San Francisco. “I just love Skype. Love it. Love Skype,” Miss Winfrey said. And like all things Oprah mentions, Skype turned to gold.
Skype you later?
To see videos from Oprah's "Where the Skype Are You" show, click here.

Sep 17, 2009

In the Know: Hot Topics

Welcome, one and all, to my first official blog post. As I enter into the exciting world of public relations, I have decided to bare all for for my dedicated readers. At only 22 years young, I am still able to openly admit my love affair with gossip. The weeklies are my guilty pleasure, and I am not ashamed to admit it. With my new heavy workload (courtesy of Humber College's Public Relations Postgraduate Certificate program - Hello!), I have had to put down the tabloids and focus on the Globe and Mail. At this time I would like to thank the wonderful world of celebrity bloggers for taking over my RSS feed and letting me escape into the wonderful world of celebrity gossip. So Perez, People, this one's for you.

Fasten your seat-belts, the celebrity world is one bumpy ride! This has been quite the week in Hollywood, with major events such as the MTV VMA's and Patrick Swayze's untimely death grabbing headlines. Here is your weekly roundup... (PS keep an eye out for how Twitter was used in nearly all the stories)

Welcome to the World, Sparrow!
The newest member of the Richie-Madden clan, Sparrow James Midnight, was born on September 9, 2009. Joining his big sis, cutie Harlow Winter Kate, Sparrow surely developed parent's Nicole and Joel's good looks. With @JoelMadden tweeting a link for his little songbird, Sparrow's unusual moniker may have developed from Simon and Garfunkel's song of the same name. My only question now is what type of "Sparrow" line will Nicole develop for her little prince? House of Harlow 1960 could always be complemented by a cool handbag line.... Just saying!

Jessica Simpson - Missing Daisy (not Duke!)
Everyone's favorite divorcee, unlucky-in-love, and ex-newlywed has lost her beloved pooch, Daisy. A gift from ex-husband Nick Lachey (of 98 degrees fame, for all you oldies), Daisy has remained Simpson's bff through all the hookups, breakups, and hair extension. Daisy was snatched by a coyote right in front of Jess's eyes ("HORROR" - her words, not mine) and the desperate mommy has been putting up "missing" posters and asking Twitterville to pray for Daisy's return.

Patrick Swayze - RIP
On Monday, September 14, Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. The actor, 57, famously known for his roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, has been battling cancer for the past 20 months. Swayze refused to let his illness get the best of him and continued to receive cancer treatments while filming his new A&E series The Beast. Rest in Peace.

West v. Taylor Swift - Saving the Best for Last
It was a Love Story gone wrong for Taylor Swift on September 13, 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards in NYC. Country sweetheart Taylor had just won the award for best female video, but had the rug pulled from under her seconds into her acceptance speech. The always controversial and vivacious Kanye West jumped on stage to proclaim his support for nominee (i.e. loser) Beyonce Knowles. Proclaiming, "Beyonce had the best video of all time", an intoxicated West embarrassed Ms. Knowles and left poor Taylor stunned. Did I neglect to mention that this was the first award of the night?! Kanye is definitely not one to shy away from the spotlight, and seems intent on stealing it if it was not his to begin with. Flashback to the BET awards of 2007, Kanye announced that he was giving his Best Video of the Year award to Outkast. In return, Outkast's Big Boi returned the award to West. Stop the shenanigans Kanye. I'm over it, and I bet everyone else is too!

Interesting side notes:
- Taylor Swift and Kanye West are both represented by WME co-CEO Dave Wirtschafter. Coincidence? I think not.
- Twitterverse exploded with #taylorswift and #kanyewest tweets following the rude interruption. The friendly fail-whale popped up many times as the Twittersphere was overloaded with 300,000 Kanye vs. Taylor related tweets. How's that for Twitter popularity folks?

Now grab that Globe and Mail and get back to business, the tabloid section has come to a close. Keeping you in the know with the hottest Scoop, catch you on the next post!

The A List Hits