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Watching the NFL online is an exercise in futility.

18 Sep

I bought NFL Sunday Ticket for the first time ever this weekend. It’s awesome: every game, every score, Red Zone,  all that jazz.

There are two packages: $199.99, which gets you TV only, and $299.99 which gets you TV and online viewing so you can watch on your phone or tablet.  I went for the online one so I could watch it wherever I wanted, and it was absolutely great. I bounced around my apartment, watched the games on whatever device I happened to have to hand. Even went to a friend’s and pulled out the iPad to catch a bit of one of the late games.  Champion.

Then I tried to watch The Niners and The Lions on Sunday Night Football online from my friend’s house, but it’s not part of Sunday Ticket so I couldn’t watch through the Sunday Ticket app. No problem, as a Direct TV customer who can watch the game on my TV at home it must be available to me through the Direct TV regular app. Right?

Of course not: I had to watch it online at Doesn’t make any sense and I only found this out through a process of trial and error, but whatever.

Come Monday, and I settled down to watch the Broncos and the Falcons duke it out in the Atlanta Dome.  This game also isn’t part of Sunday Ticket (fair enough, it’s not even on a Sunday), but it is on ESPN, and as I get ESPN at home and I pay for online NFL access, I should be able to watch it on my iPad, right?

Of course not, here’s what I got when I tried:

The copy reads: We are unable to confirm ESPN3 access. Please verify that you are a customer of an ESPN3 affiliated partner.

I was connecting my iPad using my Verizon LTE phone as a hotspot. Verizon have a contract with the NFL, and for a monthly fee (which I pay) you can watch and listen to live NFL content on your phone. Look, here’s Drew Brees (of the 0-2 New Orleans Saints) looking all serious and brooding as he sells it to me:

Drew failed to mention that I wouldn’t be able to get this game. I felt cheated. Not as cheated as Saints fans who thought their team was going to contend this year, but cheated all the same.

Quick recap: I’m an NFL Sunday Ticket customer who pays for online access. I’m also an ESPN customer, and a Verizon customer who pays for their NFL content, who’s connecting to the internet using my Verizon phone, but I can’t watch the football.  Why? How does that make any sense?  And it’s not just confined to football either: you’ll see the same thing repeated all over the place. It is hugely and baffling complex.

Conversely, a quick google search will pull up dozens and dozens of illegal sports streams.  Those illegal streams will continue to flourish until the content providers and various rights owners sort it out: they need to make it easy and get out of the way.

Despite all the neat technology, there’s something terribly archaic and old fashioned about all of this, not unlike the whole NBC Olympics tape delay shambles. By trying to protect their revenue streams short term, I can’t help but feel like they’re setting themselves up for long term failure.  Also, it’s bloody frustrating as a football fan to be scrabbling around trying to work out where I need to go to watch the games.

Fix this please. It’s easy.


Marie Claire’s Response Sucked. Here’s Why.

5 Oct

It’s now been almost 48 hours since I first saw the Hunger Diaries piece that trashed Kath, Tina, Meghann, Caitlin and Heather , and in that time there has been near total silence from Hearst (publishers of Marie Claire) and Katie Drummond, the author of the piece.

Hearst published a really weak statement that thanked everybody for the comments, both positive and negative (I think I saw four positive over the two days, vs hundreds and hundreds of negative ones), and Katie’s tweeted a couple of snarky tweets. That’s it.  I guess they feel that there’s nothing to be gained from them saying any more than that or engaging with their detractors, who have clearly already made up their minds.

I believe they’re wrong about that.  Here’s why:

1. Damage to Marie Claire’s Reputation
There have been an astronomical number of posts created on this topic over the last couple of days: a HUGE amount of content has been created, the vast majority of which has attacked Marie Claire. Their standards are being called into question, but they’re silent. It makes them look like they’re scared to get into a conversation because they know they’ve done something wrong. Surely if they hadn’t they’d want to defend themselves, wouldn’t they?

2. Damage to Katie’s Reputation
One of the key charges leveled against Katie is that she deceived the bloggers when interviewing them. Ask yourself one question: will a source ever trust her again? The first thing I would do if I got a call from her would be to google her name. Doing so pulls up a bunch of posts accusing her of lying to sources about the story she’s working on.  Would you want to work with somebody that has been accused of that? Whether the accusations are true or not they’re out there for everyone to see. There are always two sides to every story, but her silence doesn’t do her any favors.

3. SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
This is related to #1 and #2, but important enough to call out on its own. There are thousands and thousands of tweets, blog posts and comments out there, almost all in support of the bloggers. Again, with almost nothing substantial from Hearst or Katie out there, it doesn’t look too good.  Organic search results (that is to say the ones you can’t buy from google, that appear naturally in the larger section of your results page) are dominated by posts attacking the magazine and author. One or two you could put down to a crank, but dozens and dozens…

4. Plain Old Ethics
This one’s a bit dull, but perfectly valid. If you’ve been accused of something, particularly something like this, why wouldn’t you want to defend yourself? If you’re in the right, back your position up. If you’ve made a mistake, ‘fess up to it. But just doing nothing…. I don’t get it. Well, I do (legal and/or simply don’t care), but I don’t agree with it. It’s just not the right thing to do, period.

5. Community Backlash
A few people will cancel their subscriptions, sure, but it’s just a few bucks, microscopic in the grand scheme of thigns.  Longer term what they’ve done by failing to engage is caused an entire community (a BIG community, too), to not trust them. Right now that’s not a huge deal to them, but it could come back and bite them in future.

6. Avoiding being a Case Study
Cynical, but true.  In future this incident will be cited as an example of old media just not getting it. Failing to engage, not putting their hands up and admitting to having done anything wrong or even understanding why people were upset… is a mistake, and will be cited as an example of old media being a dinosaur.

So, what do you think about how they’ve handled the situation? Were they right to essentially shut up shop and ignore what was (and still is) going on, or do you agree with me that it’s a pretty major misstep on their part?

Spam, Spam, Spam

9 Mar

Not too long ago, spam was mostly email: viagra, pr0n, get rich quick schemes.  Nowadays tho, it’s all over: blog comment spam, twitter spam, facebook spam. Irritating, annoying, but effective: the spammers only need a fraction of a percentage of people to convert (i.e. click a link, make a transaction, get duped by a phishing scam etc) to make it worth their while. So they carry on.

There’s another type of spam though, and it’s a  particular pet peeve of mine: when an otherwise decent product or application uses deceptive or shady tactics to get me to promote that product. It’s happened to me a couple of times lately, and it drives me up the wall. Most often the promotion is in the form of a tweet that gets fired out to your network (“I just did xxx, followed by link”).  The really shady ones don’t tell you they’re going to do it, but there are plenty of others that don’t  make it super obvious that a tweet is going to go out, or are not fully transparent about what the content of that tweet is going to be.

So to app developers, I say this: if you make a good app or product, give me the tools to promote it, make it easy for me to do so, and I will. But trick me into doing it, and I’ll think negatively of you and most likely won’t use your app again.

If what if have is worthwhile, you shouldn’t need to resort to black or grey hat tactics to promote it, so don’t. Of course I get that a small business needs to promote their product, but do it legitimately, don’t trick me. The burden rests with you to be fully transparent, not on the end user to work out whether something is going to happen or not.  If there is ANY doubt in your mind as to whether it’s 100% clear as to what’s going to happen when your end user takes the desired action, you should reconsider. Please don’t be that guy (or gal).

I’m Leaving Ogilvy!

8 Mar

As most of you know, I’ve been part of the 360 Digital Influence practice at Ogilvy (the Word-of-Mouth/Social Media team), here in New York. I’ve been lucky enough to work with an incredible team, on some of the highest profile and best clients you could possibly wish for, on some really amazing programs. But it’s time for me to move on.

Since my Kintera days (Kintera is a set of online tools for non-profits, subsequently acquired by Black Baud), I’ve wanted to work more with non-profits. After Kintera I had the good fortune to work with the awesome folks at Invisible Children, and that experience only reinforced my desire to do more in the non-profit space. Now I have that opportunity: as of late March I’ll be  at Autism Speaks, here in the city. It’s an incredible opportunity: we’ve really only scratched the surface in the non-profit space… the possibilities therein are endless, and I’m incredibly excited to get going.

That said, I’m also sad to be leaving one of the smartest group of folks I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. The Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence folks do word-of-mouth and social media right, and more than that they’re damn good people. I feel privileged to have worked alongside them.

If you’re their client, you’re damn lucky to have them: you won’t find better counsel, a sharper approach to word-of-mouth marketing, or smarter folks anywhere in the space, no question.

So see ya later Team Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, and thanks for everything. Hit me up if you feel like donating some money to autism at any point this year, or even if you’re in New York and you just fancy a beer. A proper one tho @iansohn, none of that American rubbish.



Jack Dorsey’s @square is going to change the world. Here’s why.

1 Mar

On saturday I went to a #tweetup in New York organized by the New York Knicks.  One of the panelists was Jack Dorsey, of Twitter fame, and after the event I got the chance to test drive his new venture: @square.  Square is a mobile payment system that allows anyone with an account and an iPhone to take credit card payments . I tried it by donating to the Red Cross, and its elegance and ease of use is absolutely mind blowing. Jack plugged the little dongle in to his iPhone, opened the app and processed my payment in seconds.  I signed with my finger to confirm my donation and it was done: email receipt in my inbox, my (rather miserly, sorry) donation winging its way to the Red Cross.

My @Square donation

My @square donation

Think about that for a second…when this thing launches anyone with an iPhone will be able to take credit card payments. Anyone. Your buddy that owes you money but claims he doesn’t have any cash can @square it to you.  Your daughter’s lemonade stand will be able to take credit card payments.  Every pop-warner football game in the country, every club, every single business that was predominantly cash or cheque based will be able to do the same.  How big do you think that market is or could be? Big? More like scary big.

And what sort of impact could it have on the non-profit world?  Well, ignoring the (not insignificant) fact that square will be donating 1c from every transaction to the non profit of your choice, suddenly every fundraiser of any kind that takes place offline will be able to take card payments.  Breast cancer walks, bake sales, the fundraiser at your kid’s school, political fundraisers… it’s huge, and the revenue it could generate for good causes and @square alike is mind boggling.

Me donating to the Red Cross using @square

Me using @jack's @square

It won’t be without issues, of course. Payment and card transactions are complicated, but if they handle those pieces (particularly the security side of things), they’ll have an absolutely amazing product on their hands.  The version I used didn’t have the picture verification system they talk about on their site (let the images on the homepage scroll to see), but I can’t imagine that they’ll launch without some sort of added security layer. In any case, many of  the transactions they’ll be processing will be less prone to credit card fraud as they’ll be taking place between people who have some sort of existing relationship. Either way, as long as the vendor takes the necessary steps to verify that their customer is legit, @square will be just as secure as a regular credit card payment in a store. The bigger danger for them will be the other way round: dodgy vendors trying to rack up fraudulent charges on stolen cards. To that end, I’m sure you’ll have to jump through hoops to get an account, just as you do with paypal, to which it has often been compared.

@kaimac ()Kai MacMahon) using @jack's (Jack Dorsey) @square system

Donating money to the red cross using @square

After seeing it in action, I’m even more convinced than I was before that @square will be bigger than Twitter. It’s super quick and so simple and elegant that my mom could use it (no disrespect intended, mom! xoxo). The potential market is enormous, and it solves a very real problem.  I love that people are doing stuff like this. Brilliant.

I think Square is genius, and that it’s going to change the world. What do you think? Will you use it?

Kevin Smith vs Southwest Airlines: Silent Bob Strikes!

14 Feb

Movie director Kevin Smith claims he got thrown off a Southwest plane yesterday for being too fat.  He’d already boarded and sat down when he claims he was told to leave as he had been deemed a safety risk by the pilot.  Understandably, he was less than pleased about this, and tweeted his displeasure at length. 32 tweets as of last night, each going to 1.6 million followers = more than 52 million impressions from the @thatkevinsmith twitter handle last night alone. Include all the other conversations and it’s gotta be in the hundreds of millions of impressions already: a google search for “southwest fat” brings up nothing but references to the incident. Oops.

Surprisingly, other than some tweets from @southwestair, there’s been no official comment from the airline. They said they tried to call him to apologize but weren’t able to get through. It’s pretty incredible to me that the higher-ups at the organization would leave so much time pass without making any sort of official statement, leaving the girl who handles @southwestair in the firing line.  By making a statement they wouldn’t make the problem go away (what happened, happened… and Smith is clearly fuming), but they would show that they were listening, and that they’d heard Smith’s complaint (tho in fairness it would be pretty hard to avoid it).  The inconsistencies alone (Smith claims he didn’t have to buy two seats on the first leg of the trip) warrant an investigation: they should have been right on that last night.

This has turned into a fully fledged PR disaster for Southwest and I fully expect the story to start doing the rounds on the TV networks today.  Smith is releasing a podcast tonight to talk about what went down, and unless he’s calmed down significantly overnight, I would expect that to be pretty scathing.

It’s fine for an airline to have a weight policy for passengers: that makes absolute sense.  It’s not fine for them to humiliate passengers by telling them to leave when they’ve already boarded. You have to wonder how often this happens to people that don’t have Smith’s megaphone.

My biggest question here is: where’s Southwest’s crisis response plan?  They’ve done almost nothing to manage the situation, which is absolutely unbelievable to me. It’s great that they’re active on Twitter, but they’re getting hammered right now, and their silence is deafening.

UPDATE @4pm: Southwest just made a statement on their blog, here:

They apologized to Smith, but basically said he was too fat, and didn’t address any of his accusations (i.e. that the plane wasn’t full), or address the fact THAT HE WAS LET ON THE PLANE IN THE FIRST PLACE, which is the heart of the issue. Instead they defended their policy (“we’ve had it for 25 years” “other airlines have the same” and “we don’t make money from it”, and completely missed the point. Smith went off because he was hauled off the plane, not because they have a weight policy…. how can Southwest not have addressed that? Beggers belief.  And what do they think is to be gained from getting defensive?  The statement does nothing other than make Southwest seem old fashioned: big mis-step guys.

Incidentally, the networks are already trying to get hold of Smith ( This one is not going to die-down.  Smith’s podcast comes out in little over an hour, should be interesting.

PS – thanks to @ellenrossano for forwarding me the @southwestair blog copy.  It’s still timing out for me.  Weak.

Update @8am Monday: Kevin’s Smodcast went live last night, and there’s a bunch of new info in there.  First of all, he was initially on a later flight (for which he had two tickets, something he says he regularly does on Southwest for comfort), but went on standby for an earlier one. There was only one seat (in the middle it turns out) available on that earlier flight.  They let him board, he’s sat down…. and the stewardess comes up and tells him the captain has told him he has to leave. He makes the point that he fits between the armrests and by Southwest’s own criteria, he’s not too fat to fly, but she wouldn’t listen. He gets his stuff and leaves the plane.

His podcast is a great example of ‘social media right to reply’.  Definitely recommend that you listen to it, here:

I’m going to post again later on with some thoughts on what Southwest did wrong here (at at 9.20am on Monday are still doing wrong).

Why the iPad will not replace the Kindle

29 Jan

Earlier this week Apple finally launched their tablet, the iPad. The launch was met with the usual crowd of fanboi adulation and ‘disappointed of new york’ put downs.  From ‘Jobs has saved the world’ to ‘it doesn’t have this, or that (camera or multi-tasking, for example), it doesn’t run OSX, blah blah blah’.

I personally am somewhat underwhelmed with it. It’s a nice, slick, polished product as you’d expect from Apple, but the whole thing left me feeling kinda ‘meh. I can’t quite see how one would fit into my life: I have a smartphone, a computer and a kindle already. Where would this fit?

There has been lots of talk of the iPad killing the kindle, but the chances of that happening are zero, in my opinion, for three very important reasons:

1. Size
The iPad is MUCH bigger than the kindle. I can slip my amazon device into the side pocket of my laptop back no problem. Size wise the iPad is basically a small laptop… am I really going to carry both with me?

2. Price
Even the cheapest version (and who wants the entry level version?) comes in at $499, and the high end ones top $800. That’s a massive step up from the $259 kindle.

3. e-Ink
Amazon’s ereader uses the non-backlit e-Ink reading surface, meaning that reading it is as close to reading a real book as possible. I have one, and I can read it for hours at a time with no issues. The iPad’s screen is backlit… hello eye-strain. Good for watching movies or a quick scan of a magazine, very bad for staring at to read words off a screen.

I’m sure they’ll get the iPad right from an e-reader perspective at some point, but this version of the iPad won’t have Amazon shaking in its boots. It’s a fancy video/games playing device, but it won’t be taking much market share from the Kindle.

So, if you want a fancy schmancy device to watch movies and play games on (and that will make your friends go ‘oooooh!), get an iPad. If you want an e-reader that will give you as close to a book reading experience as you can get, get a Kindle.