Category Archives: commentary

Recent columns

Recently, I’ve written about the storm of bad PR that’s been hitting Craigslist, the pressure that children in Silicon Valley feel to appear ‘perfect,’ and the way in which suppliers tend to beat out prospectors when it comes to reaping long term gains from short term (gold) rushes.

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A Growth Market for Writers: Celebrity GhostTweeter

Well, the NY Times beat me to it.  Sort of.

I’ve been meaning to write something on the consequences of celebrity tweeting for writers for weeks now.   I think there’s a whole new career path here.

It’s clear that while Tweeting adds considerable value to a celebrity’s profile, it’s also something he or she can get seriously wrong.

Intoxicated by the chance to share every moment of an unquestionably fascinating life (they’re a celebrity after all) said famous person can pretty swiftly reveal him or herself to be whiny, egotistical, entitled,crazy or — worst of all — utterly ordinary.

It’s what you could call rule one of celebrity tweeting: done wrong, celebrity tweeting destroys your brand.

Of course, a few rare folks can pull it off.  There’s Stephen Fry and The Real Shaq, whom Noam Coen mentions in the Times, both of who seem to have personalities perfectly suited to the form.  But for most famous people, being interesting many times a day is just plain hard.

Subscribe to a few celebrity feeds and it’s obvious that a lot of people are needing help.  And of those who have it, many clearly aren’t getting the help they need.  Have the wrong people write your tweets  and you quickly betray your twittering as phony PR.  What good is that?

The situation, it’s seemed to me for a while, calls for a new profession — the GhostTweeter.   And here’s the Times recognizing the same thing.

Coen is interested mostly in the fact of GhostTweeting.  I’m as curious about the mechanics.  What exactly is the job description for a celebrity GhostTweeter?

Here’s a try:

Writer needed to work with internationally known personality.  You’ll be:

  • psychologically acute, able to understand what motivates both the famous individual and his/her many tens of thousands of diehard fans.
  • a natural storyteller, able to take the facts of your employer’s day — whatever they are — and spin them into narrative gold, but always in the believable ‘voice’ of your employer.
  • a high-performance, high-producing copywriter, able to translate that understanding into 10 or more engaging, entertaining and above all punchy 140 character tweets per day.  (You will also be expected to reply to at least 20 tweets sent to you be fans per day, to be written in the same engaging ‘voice’).
  • available all hours, ready to be tweet for your celebrity wherever he/she is in the world (no, you will not be traveling with the celebrity.  You can do this from home).

Experience in brand management and creative writing is very much a plus.  Ability to work in a high pressure environment with emotional, ambitious people used to ‘high-touch’ assistance is essential.

How does sound?

My guess is this will be a rare growth industry for writers in the next few years.

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This week’s column

I’m thinking I should post my weekly Evening Standard column here, just in case anyone is interested.

So here is last week’s, about Twitter.

And here is the one from the week before, about the Crunchie awards.

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The Anderson Valley Advertiser and the Future of Journalism

I’ve been following with time-sucking intensity the debate on the future of journalism now playing in locales as disparate as the New York Times, the Columbia Journalism Review, various technology blogs and back-and-forth ripostes between individuals with skin in the game on twitter.

The bare bones of the issue is that traditional advertising-based models of media financing are collapsing.  People still want high-quality news content, only they would rather just grab it online — and they’re not fussy about who serves it to them, be they the content’s owners or not.

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Why should social networks want to make money?

In a guest column today over at VentureBeat, Amuso co-founder Barak Rabinowitz writes about the failure of social networking websites to turn their phenomenal popularity into phenomenal profits.

“There’s an elephant in the room of online advertising,” he suggests.  “An elephant in the shape of 400 million social networkers creating and consuming content, clustering around shared interests and activities — all who have yet to be tapped in any major way by web marketers.”

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On booms and busts

It looks like we’re heading into a recession, and that has me thinking about the good times we enjoyed in Silicon Valley not so very long ago — which in turn has me offering a new “Perspectives” on KQED radio this week.

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