Search: Digital Future

Thursday 19 March 2009

The Online Lives You Leave Behind After Death

With my recent health scare, I got to thinking - what happens to all of your Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, Blogs and other social media profiles after you've died? Do you leave a painful lasting memory or eternally happy smiling face for all your loved ones on the Internet? That's when I saw this interesting (but somewhat morbid) article about the impact of death on your online lives.

Death leaves online lives stuck in limbo

By PETER SVENSSON, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) W hen Jerald Spangenberg collapsed and died in the middle of a quest in an online game, his daughter embarked on a quest of her own: to let her father's gaming friends know that he hadn't just decided to desert them.

It wasn't easy, because she didn't have her father's "World of Warcraft" password, and the game's publisher couldn't help her. Eventually, Melissa Allen Spangenberg reached her father's friends by asking around online for the "guild" he belonged to.

One of them, Chuck Pagoria in Morgantown, Kentucky, heard about Spangenberg's death three weeks later. Pagoria had put his absence down to an argument among the gamers that night.

"I figured he probably just needed some time to cool off," Pagoria said. "I was blown away when I heard the reason that he hadn't been back. Nobody had any way of finding this out."

With online social networks becoming ever more important in our lives, they're also becoming an important element in our deaths. Spangenberg, who died suddenly from an abdominal aneurysm at 57, was unprepared, but others are leaving detailed instructions. There's even a tiny industry that has emerged to help people wrap up their online contacts after their deaths.

When Robert Bryant's father died last year, he left his son a USB flash drive in a drawer in his home office in Lawton, Oklahoma. The drive contained a list of contacts for his son to notify, including the administrator of an online group he had been in.

"It was creepy because I was telling all these people that my dad was dead," Bryant said. "It did help me out quite a bit, though, because it allowed me to clear up a lot of that stuff and I had time to help my mom with whatever she needed."

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has had plenty of time to think about the issue.

"I work in the world's largest medical center, and what you see here every day is people showing up in ambulances who didn't expect that just five minutes earlier," he said. "If you suddenly die or go into a coma, there can be a lot of things that are only in your head in terms of where things are stored, where your passwords are."

He set up a site called Deathswitch, where people can leave e-mails that will be sent out automatically if they don't check in at intervals they specify. For $20 per year, members can create up to 30 e-mails with attachments like video files.

It's not really a profit-making venture, and Eagleman isn't sure about how many members it has — "probably close to a thousand." Nor does he know what's in the e-mails that have been created. Until they're sent out, they're encrypted.

If Deathswitch sounds morbid, there's an alternative site: Slightly Morbid. It also sends e-mails when a member dies, but doesn't rely on them logging in periodically while they're alive. Instead, members have to give trusted friends or family the information needed to log in to the site and start the notification process if something should happen.

The site was created by Mike and Pamela Potter in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They also run a business that makes software for online games. Pamela said they realized the need for a service like this when one of their online friends, who had volunteered a lot of time helping their customers on a Web message board, suddenly disappeared.

He wasn't dead: Three months later, he came back from his summer vacation, which he'd spent without Internet access. By then, the Potters had already started

A third site with a similar concept plans to launch in April. Legacy Locker will charge $30 per year. It will require a copy of a death certificate before releasing information.

Peter Vogel, in Tampa, Florida, was never able to reach all of his stepson Nathan's online friends after the boy died at age 13 during an epileptic seizure.

A few years earlier, someone had hacked into one of the boy's accounts, so Vogel, a computer administrator, taught Nathan to choose passwords that couldn't be easily guessed. He also taught the boy not to write passwords down, so Nathan left no trail to follow.

Vogel has a trusted friend who knows all his important login information. As he points out, having access to a person's e-mail account is the most important thing, because many Web-site passwords can be retrieved through e-mail.

Vogel joked that he hoped the only reason his friend would be called on to use his access within "the next hundred years or so" would be if Vogel forgets his own passwords.

But, he said, "as Nathan has proven, anything can happen any time, even if you're only 13."

Monday 16 March 2009

Coke Building Fans Through Facebook

There are few marketing successes brands can point to in the social media space. But Coke seem to always get it right - even if they're don't fully understand it themselves. The second most popular fan page on Facebook is a Coca-Cola page (the most popular is Barack Obama) created by a couple of devoted Coke fans. This article from Advertising Age details how both the fans and the Coca-Cola Company were taken by surprise by their success.

How Two Coke Fans Brought the Brand to Facebook Fame
Soda Has Most Popular Page After President, in Collaboration Between Creators and Marketer

by Abbey Klaassen,, Published: March 16, 2009

NEW YORK ( -- Pop quiz: Who has the most popular page on Facebook? Barack Obama. Who's second? Coca-Cola. Yes, sugared water runs second only to the leader of the free world. Who was it again that said people don't want to be friends with brands?

Coca-Cola still remains perplexed over why, of the 253 pages on Facebook devoted to the beverage, Messrs. Sorg and Jedrzejewski's page is the only one that has amassed millions of 'fans.'
Coca-Cola still remains perplexed over why, of the 253 pages on Facebook devoted to the beverage, Messrs. Sorg and Jedrzejewski's page is the only one that has amassed millions of 'fans.'

The Coke page, which totals 3.3 million "fans," wasn't even created by Coca-Cola, but by a pair of Los Angelenos who just love Coke.

In late August 2008, aspiring actor Dusty Sorg was hunting for a Coca-Cola fan page he could join on Facebook. He didn't find one that seemed legitimate so he hunted down a high-resolution digital image of a Coke can, uploaded it to Facebook and made a page.

Popularity a mystery
And the page grew. And grew. There are 253 pages on Facebook devoted to Coca-Cola, but for some reason, Mr. Sorg's page -- which he runs with his friend Michael Jedrzejewski, a writer -- took off. The guys weren't sure why theirs ended up with millions of fans -- Facebook fan pages, at least last year, were relatively static, and the guys said they had been pretty inactive on it as they got busy during the winter holidays.

And most people can't actually do that much with branded page -- unless a brand is putting dollars behind it. Which Coke didn't.

Coca-Cola still remains perplexed over why Messrs. Sorg and Jedrzejewski's page took off.

"We've discussed a dozen hypotheses about why it took off," said Michael Donnelly, director of worldwide interactive marketing at Coca-Cola Co. One theory the company keeps coming back to, he said, was the quality of the photo -- a crisp, high-resolution image of a Coke can covered with a thin layer of condensation. "For us as marketers, luckily it was exactly right -- the can we had in the marketplace. ... It grabs you." He said another theory is that Messrs. Sorg and Jedrzejewski had very active, expressive "social graphs," i.e., their network of Facebook friends. But "we can't measure that," he said.

Facebook Page Statistics -- Top Pages
Name # of Fans Daily Growth Weekly Growth
1 Barack Obama 5,881,499 0.10% 1.45%
2 Coca-Cola 3,287,101 0.19% 2.93%
3 Nutells 3,052,502 0.18% 2.98%
4 Pizza 3,005,922 0.20% 3.52%
5 Cristiano Ronaldo 2,730,570 0.23% 3.93%
6 kinder surprise 2,581,651 0.18% 3.13%
7 Facebook 2,492,881 0.27% 4.22%
8 Windows Live Messenger 2,469,402 0.13% 2.75%
9 Sid 2,409,639 0.17% 3.25%
10 Boo 2,343,221 0.20% 3.95%

Problems with the page
As the page picked up fans, it also racked up spam and obscene comments -- issues that can plague many large pages on the social network. In November, Facebook decided to start enforcing a policy that says anyone creating a branded Facebook "page" must be authorized by or associated with the brand. Independent Facebook users could still create homages to brands, but they must live as a "group" or fan club.

"The problem was they had created a page, not a group," said Mr. Donnelly. Facebook made the decision to either close the page or let Coca-Cola take it over. Coca-Cola instead proposed an alternative: Let the creators keep the page but share it with a few of Coca-Cola's senior interactive folks.

"We threw a variable to Facebook and said we're interested, but we'd rather walk away from it than have it be perceived that we caused this action," Mr. Donnelly said.

Over the December holidays, he got in touch with Messrs. Sorg and Jedrzejewski to explain to them that this was a Facebook-driven change, and asked if they'd want to join him in administering it.

A friendly approach
Now normally when a giant multinational company calls a consumer about something the consumer has created in that company's brand name or image, it's not a good sign. And initially Mr. Jedrzejewski said he was worried about it.

"Everyone has this vision that if something like this happens, the big company will send you off to Guantanamo," he said. "This was exactly the opposite."

Coke instead flew the guys down to Atlanta for a few days of meetings, a tour of the World of Coke museum and a visit to the company's legendary archives. It was a friendly, not heavy-handed approach, Mr. Jedrzejewski said.

"We talked openly about ideas, the future of the fan page," he said.

Coke's actions in sharing the page are indicative of not only the lessons the beverage giant has learned in the social-media space but also proof that big brands can tread gracefully in social media.

Coke's progress
The company has come a long way. Its initial reaction to a Diet Coke-Mentos viral video sensation in 2006 was that the stunt didn't fit the brand's personality -- after all, people are meant to drink Diet Coke, not use it to make geysers. Now the company appears to be more at ease with its consumers creating content on its behalf -- and it's largely eschewed a destination-centric philosophy as it has recognized that its expressive fans are everywhere.

Mr. Donnelly recounts how in the early days of the web, big marketers would define success by how much traffic came to their websites -- and they've only recently become comfortable with the fact they can deliver a message through gaming, rich video and other places across the web. The same thing happened in Second Life, when marketers busily built islands, or destinations, within the virtual world. And it's a natural tendency in social networking.

"This page is a fan page and happens to be the biggest one, but we recognize that when you do a search you see 253," he said. And when it comes to communities, they recognize they need to ask advice, counsel and permission before engaging. "We don't want to be a big brand there doing big-brand advertising."

Wednesday 11 March 2009

10 Ways Social Media Can Help The Newspaper Industry

Here's a great article by Woody Lewis on that details how social media is being used to try and save the newspaper industry.

10 Ways Newspapers are Using Social Media to Save the IndustryMarch 11th, 2009 | by Woody Lewis,

Woody Lewis is a Social Media Strategist and Web Architect. He authors a blog at about social media strategy for newspapers.

These days, everyone knows that one of the hottest stories any newspaper can cover is that of its own demise. The collapse of print advertising and the downturn in sales, at the news stand and through subscriptions, has led to a frantic search for new ways to monetize content that’s often available online for free.

Social media gives any business an interactive channel to communicate with its current and future customers. For newspapers, that channel can increase the chances of survival in a market where commoditized information has diminished the value of individual brands. Here are ten ways newspapers are using social media to save the industry.


1. Twitter headline feeds


With more than 280,000 followers, the New York Times’ main Twitter feed dwarfs the Wall Street Journal (19,000+), the Washington Post (4,800+), and the Chicago Tribune (5,200+). Many metropolitan and small-town dailies have followed suit, creating a TwitterTwitter reviews handle as an extension of their brand, but the Times, like other large dailies, has gone one step further, establishing channels for Books, Arts and Entertainment, and other sections. These are sub-channels that support personalized interaction, a point of interest for advertisers.


2. Acquiring providers of social media services


In November, 2008, Gannett Co., publisher of 85 daily newspapers, acquired Ripple6, Inc., maker of a social networking platform that links marketers to end users. By investing in a company that has already helped Procter & Gamble with its social media initiatives, Gannett will be better able to collaborate with its advertisers. Look for more acquisitions, or partnerships, as legacy publishers broaden their online portfolios.


3. Creating more online events to attract readers


The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) introduced a thematic website last month to promote the translation of The Kindly Ones, a controversial novel that has generated much publicity in Europe, and more recently the U.S. By posting streaming video and a downloadable mp3 of a popular actor reading chapters from the book, and then creating daily discussion forums around related topics, FAZ generated a significant increase in traffic to its Web site, which had seriously lagged those of its competitors.


4. Promoting and monetizing user-generated content


In 2007, the Cincinnati Enquirer created, a photo-sharing site where over a thousand local photographers uploaded nearly 12,000 images. The best shots were featured in Capture Cincinnati, a coffee table photo book that included a DVD, selling at a retail price of $39.95. Last year, the numbers continued to improve, and the Enquirer expects strong sales of the 2008 edition as well. Marketers might call this bundling products, but whatever you call it, the Enquirer probably won’t argue.


5. Story-based communities


The Toronto Globe and Mail uses Cover It Live, a live-blogging/discussion tool that provides interactive coverage of breaking news and live events such as conferences and hearings. Real-time comments, audio and video postings, and polls are among the types of content that can be recorded and then embedded in the story, like this piece on a subway shooting in January.


6. Collaborative outsourced news services


While British startup Yoosk bills itself as an “interactive news magazine,” it represents the type of outsourced service many newspapers may wind up using as their own resources dwindle. Yoosk allows its users to put a question to politicians and celebrities, to comment on the publicly viewable answers, and to submit their own ideas for interview features. Its founders hope to collaborate with established news sites, including newspapers willing to outsource parts of their magazine sections.


7. Customized delivery


Denver-based MediaNews Group, publisher of such major dailies as the Denver Post and Oakland Tribune, has announced plans to test a “customized news delivery service called ‘I-News’ or ‘Individuated News” this summer with the LA Daily News. This service would allow subscribers to choose from different categories, including news from other parts of the country. Blending the offerings of regional newspapers into a separate platform may help more of them survive.


8. Branded communities


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has launched MySTLtoday, a branded community featuring areas such as user-created groups, user-posted content, and special interest sections like St. Louis’ BestBridal. Excerpts from shared stories are printed each week in the legacy paper. This might seem old-school, but it strengthens a traditional middle American brand, and it promotes more interaction, which helps advertisers pinpoint their targets.


9. Publishing APIs for third-party developers


The New York Times has taken the lead in an area sure to attract other organizations. By publishing application programming interfaces, or APIs, for third-party software developers, the Times Developer Network has encouraged the creation of a new class of social media applications. Developers have already produced mashups that combine Times content with other resources. Advertisers should see new opportunities to embed messages tailored to the end user, and the Times may partner with those developers it deems worthy, avoiding the incremental cost of creating new applications internally.

UK’s The Guardian has announced similar plans to open up its content with Open Platform.


10. Burning the boat that brought you


Unfortunately, this isn’t the most agreeable method for many, but social media applied to a smaller, virtual organization might be the way of the future. As reported here last week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may move to an online-only version of its daily newspaper. This is the ultimate way to save a paper through social media: make the Web its only channel of distribution, and leverage the history of the brand. Loyalty won’t be hard to track, and the test of that loyalty will be the price point established by subscriptions, for individual sections or the entire publication. The argument “would you save this paper for the price of a latte?” becomes very cogent, especially in Seattle.


Social journalism


The word “newspaper” will take on a different meaning, like “record album,” or “TV show.” It won’t go away, and it will continue to describe some of the most hallowed brand names in the world. Social media will play a big part in that transformation. As the dynamics of our society change, as institutions go public or private, or disappear entirely, the need to report these events in a responsible manner will be even more critical. Social journalism is more than a buzzword, it’s the way social media will save the industry.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Social Networks Overtaking Email?

I'm not sure if the data is really accurate, but there's no denying there's a huge trend towards people using social media more often. Social media is becoming an integrated part of many's people's lives but whether it can overtake email as the most popular activity in the digital world? I'm not so sure. It's a great thought provoking piece of research from Nielsen though. Check out this article by Brian Morrissey at AdWeek.

Nielsen: Social Nets Overtake E-mail
As online paradigm shifts, advertisers must find a way to add value, rather than follow the 'push' model

March 9, 2009, By Brian Morrissey,

NEW YORK Social networking has overtaken e-mail as the most popular Internet activity, according to a new study released by Nielsen.

Active reach in what Nielsen defines as "member communities" now exceeds e-mail participation by 67 percent to 65 percent. What's more, the reach of social networking and blogging venues is growing at twice the rate of other large drivers of Internet use such as portals, e-mail and search.

Nielsen, which is the parent company of Adweek, concluded that the shift to social activity online would have profound effects on marketers and publishers. For publishers, social networks are eating into time spent with other online activities, according to Nielsen. For advertisers, the phenomenon at this stage represents mostly unfulfilled promise for a deeper connection with consumers who are more difficult to reach in social environments.

The rise of social media coincides with the decline of portals. Social networking appears to be snatching away users' online time formerly spent with e-mail, traditionally a large draw to portals. Such fragmentation is decreasing portals' importance to advertisers. In a separate report, top digital shop Razorfish said its spending at portals declined from 24 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2008.

Nielsen found that two-thirds of the world's Internet users visited a social networking site in 2008. All told, social media now accounts for almost 10 percent of Internet time. Facebook is leading the pack worldwide, with monthly visits by three out of 10 Internet users in nine global markets, per Nielsen.

The growth in social media is not confined to the U.S. Nielsen charted comparable or higher growth for Australia, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Yet for now, user growth at social sites is outpacing advertising increases, per Nielsen. This will likely change, Nielsen said, as models shift to value engagement over exposure.

"As the online industry matures and the value of online real estate is increasingly measured by time spent, rather than pages viewed, a significant shift in advertising revenue from 'traditional' online media towards social media could be realized -- if the successful ad model can be found," the report stated.

The search for a workable ad model is even more urgent now that social media has broken out of the youth demographic, Nielsen found. For example, Facebook's greatest growth has come from 35-49-year-olds, and it has added twice as many 50-64-year-olds as those under 18.

Yet advertising and social media to date have mixed like oil and water. Part of that is a function of social media's communications role -- advertising has typically performed poorly in chat and e-mail. The larger challenge for advertising is to move from an interruptive role to joining conversations. That means advertisers need to find ways to add value to users' experiences, Nielsen found.

"Whatever the successful ad model turns out to be, the messaging will have to be authentic and humble, and built on the principle of two-way conversation -- not a push model -- that adds value to the consumer," the report said.