A new platform for a new network: the FIR Podcast Network is live

FIR Podcast Network

When we introduced For Immediate Release on January 3, 2005, we had no idea we’d still be podcasting more than a decade later. We didn’t know what the state of podcasting would be, that the scope of FIR would expand, or that podcast networks would be a thing.

When we started, we just needed a website for show notes and a home for our audio files.

Ten years later, we’re still here, with exactly the same website we started with. While our website hasn’t changed, though, everything else has. FIR is evolving into a podcast network, already home to The Hobson & Holtz Report along with the five podcasts we have spun off: Interviews, Book Reviews, FIR Live, FIR Cuts, and Speakers & Speeches.

We are also already the home to 13 other communications-focused podcasts. We have shows that report on communication disciplines (such as FIR B2B and All Things IC), skills (like TV, FIR On Strategy and FIR On Technology), channels (like Linked Conversations and TV@Work) and verticals (like Higher Education).

All this made it clear to us that the website we launched 10 years ago to host one podcast was woefully inadequate. For well over a year now, we’ve been working to develop a new site. Our goals were simple enough: Offer a site that reflects the current state of podcasting and that makes it easy for people to find, subscribe to, and engage with any of FIR’s shows, on whatever device they use; and provide our podcasters with a powerful platform that’s easy for them to use and publish their shows.

Thanks to the hard work of some highly valued and talented volunteers, we have a new site that delivers on those goals. (We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that these volunteers are also part of the FIR listener community.) Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with “sketch”) – a knowledgeable and skilled WordPress developer through her WP FanGirl business – performed the lion’s share of the work required to create the site, while the good folks at Effective Edge Communications handled the design of the artwork for the FIR Podcast Network’s identity, along with all the great cover art associated with each show.

The new site at our new domain, www.firpodcastnetwork.com, should make it easier for you to find, follow, and interact with the podcasts that interest you. You’ll also have an easier time learning about show hosts as well as our sponsors. (If you’re in search of older episodes, you can still access the old FIR site at its new URL, www.firpodcastarchives.com.)

We’re launching the new site on the WordPress platform, recognizing the compelling advantages of a content management system that powers more than 60 million websites worldwide.

The new site is just the first step in a series of evolutionary changes to FIR. We’ll announce each of these when we’re ready; but we can anticipate at least one of your questions, and yes, we will have more new podcasts joining the network.

In the meantime, please enjoy all the great content the FIR Podcast Network has to offer you. Your participation as a member of the FIR community means the world to us, and we plan to do everything we can to deliver consistently high-quality content that entertains you, excites you, inspires you, and helps you stay on top of the ever-shifting sands of the communication environment.

We welcome your feedback and comments.

(Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network blog.)

How ready are you for #Mobilegeddon ?

Tuesday April 21, 2015 – that’s tomorrow – is a date that will mark a milestone of sorts for any business with a website on the public world wide web.

It’s the day when a company like Legal and General Group will start to see its ranking in Google search results begin to be influenced by how friendly its website is when viewed on a mobile device rather than on a desktop or laptop computer.

Unfortunately for Legal and General, their website is not very friendly at all. Here’s what it looks like on my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone running the Android operating system:

Legal & General website as seen on a smartphone

It’s the regular desktop website formatted for how it would appear when you visit on a desktop computer and interact with a mouse, but squeezed into the small screen of a smartphone where taps and swipes with fingers rule the roost, not clicks with a mouse. And note you’re seeing a screenshot that shows the website considerably larger than actual size on the smartphone screen.

It’s not a good experience on my phone or on an iPhone or iPad; indeed, on any contemporary mobile device, all of which are increasing in use and have already overtaken the use of PCs.

Legal and General is the first company in the FTSE 100 that I picked at random to look at its website on my mobile device. Others, too, that are not yet mobile-friendly – Intercontinental Hotels Group and BHP Billiton, to name just two more.

What will start to happen now to companies like these is that when someone searches for them on a mobile device, the search results will decrease if your website is not mobile friendly.

Google search results have already begun indicating if a particular site is mobile friendly or not, as this screenshot shows for my website:

nevillehobsonmobilefriendly

Google recognises my site as mobile friendly – note the phrase “mobile-friendly” that I’ve highlighted in the screenshot. It has been mobile friendly for well over four years.

Google flagged this deadline in February:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

The bold is my emphasis.

It really is extraordinary that any business with a website hasn’t paid attention to a huge trend that’s been gathering momentum for some years now – the growth of the mobile internet and the eclipse of the desktop.

Some – many – of the FTSE 100 are ready for mobile. The first company I found that is, is Antofagasta, a Chile-based copper mining company which also has the “mobile-friendly” label against its name in a Google mobile search.

Antofagasta mobile-friendly website

It’s not too late to get your website seen as mobile-friendly by Google when anyone searches for you on a mobile device. Google has free tools you can use, starting with its Mobile-Friendly Test Tool that will analyse your site and tell you in some detail whether it’s mobile-friendly or not. If not, it will give you useful insights and guidance on what to do about it.

If your website runs any recent version of the WordPress content management system, you have the opportunity to get your site mobile friendly very quickly via responsive design themes readily available for the platform, many available at no cost.

While the deadline is tomorrow, it doesn’t mean the sky will suddenly and immediately fall in when someone finds your mobile-unfriendly website in a Google mobile search. But it looks quite clear that Google will penalize you over time, so making your website mobile-friendly just seems like good sense.

You can avoid #Mobilegeddon!

Useful reading:

Sprinklr gets satisfaction

Get Satisfaction

It looks like the $46 million that Sprinklr raised from investors earlier this month is powering the enterprise social media firm’s expansion drive with its announcement last week that it has acquired Get Satisfaction, an online customer engagement community platform connecting companies with their customers to foster valuable relationships.

This is Sprinklr’s fifth acquisition in just over a year.

In its press release, Sprinklr said the addition of Get Satisfaction adds industry-leading, community-based customer support to its Experience Cloud and will enable enterprise brands to create, manage, and deliver relevant experiences across almost 25 social channels and brand websites.

Sprinklr said it will integrate Get Satisfaction into its Experience Cloud, the new platform announced in tandem with the $46 million investment-raising – what I described as an “omnichannel offering” – that gives enterprise companies a complete, integrated, and collaborative set of social capabilities for managing social media, brand websites, content, paid advertising, and listening.

Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas noted in an email:

The addition of Get Satisfaction to the Sprinklr Experience Cloud enables our clients to deliver world class community-based customer support, while leveraging the same  practices and processes they use for social customer care with Sprinklr today.

When all is said and done, our clients can create, manage, and deliver experiences that customers will love across 20+ social networks and brands’ websites.

One aspect of this deal that strikes me as especially significant is what it provides to Sprinklr in terms of access to and control of customer data and metrics for social media monitoring and analysis.

Access to data from a social network is typically via an API controlled by the network. If it’s shut down, or access otherwise is no longer allowed, the data flow stops which could be damaging to a business that relies on it for its service. A current case in point is Datasift and Twitter (and see the discussion in Robert Scoble’s Facebook post).

As TechCrunch reported:

[…] This is where Get Satisfaction becomes an interesting acquisition for Sprinklr. What it will give the company is the ability to collect data from customers, about businesses and brands, on its own platform, which it can then use to power its wider analytics services.

“We have to honor third party terms and conditions, and we do,” [Carlos Dominguez, Sprinklr’s president] said, but the data that Sprinklr will have greater control over will give it much more flexibility in how that data is used and also presented, he added. “You can provide a richer experience to people. This tech has benefits for the brand and their customers. It enhances the experience.”

(And remember, Get Satisfaction has been around since 2007, giving it eight years of data collected already that could be used for analytics.)

Sprinklr didn’t disclose the terms of its acquisition of Get Satisfaction nor the value of the deal. Sprinklr says Get Satisfaction’s technology will be integrated into the Sprinklr platform “in the coming months.”

Social business, your intranet, and you: Collaborate/London

Collaborate/London

If you’d like to know how leading UK retailer The John Lewis Partnership planned, developed and implemented an intranet that employees actually like, and hear insights from those who made it happen, then mark Thursday April 16, 2015, in your calendar and register to be at Collaborate/London.

This morning event is from Igloo Software, the company behind the intranet that enhances internal collaboration, improves employee communication, and provides a central repository for assets and project deliverables. And that’s just the overview (here’s more).

I’ve partnered with Igloo to host this workshop, where my job will be to set the scene for what you’ll hear about John Lewis with an introductory session that explains why “Social business is here to stay”:

Humans have always been social, but businesses aren’t always ready for this level of interaction. Neville Hobson will be leading a workshop to shed light on what it means to have a true IT/business partnership, and how to build and reinforce your company culture.

The key part of the day’s event is what you’ll learn from and about the John Lewis experience:

Kimberly Thomson, of the John Lewis Partnership, will discuss the key drivers for seeking a new solution, and their milestones and measures of success. Karen Hobart of Contexxt, the consultancy engaged by John Lewis, will share her methodology, ideas for establishing a project plan, and tips for vendor evaluation.

In sum, you’ll have the chance to hear lessons learned by Igloo customers and thought leaders as well as best practices for planning, implementing, and maintaining a social intranet.

There’s no cost to attend Collaborate/London, but places are limited – sign up now to secure your place.

I hope you can join us for a morning of listening, learning and sharing. Igloo’s philosophy is encouraging:

Our events will be different.
We know how that sounds, but it’s the only way to put it.
Real people talking, information you can use, goals you can set.
Right now.

It will be a few hours of our time well spent. Note your diary:

  • Thursday April 16, 2015, 9:30am – 1:30pm.
  • St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London NW1 (Google map).
  • Free to attend but places are limited – sign up now.

Collaborate/London is the second event in Igloo’s Collaborate series, the first of which took place in Los Angeles last month. Upcoming Collaborate events are planned for New York on May 14 and Chicago on June 9.

(Igloo Software is a sponsor of For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, the business podcast I co-present each week with Shel Holtz. I am very pleased to be working on Collaborate/London with Igloo that builds out our existing relationship. Good people! You can try Igloo’s intranet for yourself – and it’s free for up to 10 people. Find out more.)

Sprinklr raises $46m to build out an omnichannel offering: Experience Cloud

Empowered Customers

“Omnichannel” is a word to get used to as I expect we’ll hear this buzzword more and more as the technical marketing term to describe something relatively simple: the seamless customer experience. More on that in a minute.

It’s a word used in much of the media reporting on two announcements from enterprise social media firm Sprinklr yesterday, the first being that it had raised $46 million in new investment funding to value the company at $1.17 billion.

As Fortune magazine notes in its report, it’s a significant valuation increase in a short amount of time as Sprinklr’s last round of investor funding in 2014 valued the company at $520 million.

It’s Sprinklr’s second announcement yesterday that caught my attention most – the launch of the Experience Cloud, what Sprinklr describes as “a complete, integrated, and collaborative technology infrastructure that connects all of a brand’s social touch points.” It’s what they raised the $46 million for – to launch the Experience Cloud.

You’ll probably need a bit more than that to fully understand what Sprinklr is introducing, so here’s a 73-second video from Sprinklr explaining the Experience Cloud.

Let’s go back to the word “omnichannel.”

If we are in a world that’s about experiences, as many say we are – and as many of our own experiences as customers illustrate we are – then understanding the landscape and the behaviours of those in or on it become ever more important, whether you’re a marketer or a customer.

As good a definition of omnichannel as any I’ve seen comes from Omer Minkara, Research Director leading Aberdeen Group’s Contact Center and Customer Experience Management research:

Omni-channel: While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers they distinguish themselves through two additional factors: consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. These businesses are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel as well as the messages they receive across each touch-point are seamless.

It’s a bit wordy, but I’d say it describes what Sprinklr’s new offering is about. The above-all keyword is “seamless” as one differentiator from “multi-channel.”

Add to that this piece from Stan Phelps in Forbes magazine:

The Experience Cloud promises a unified view of the customer. It allows brand to manage a multitude of touchpoints. The key question is speed. The problem for most organizations is that response times differ whether its social, phone, chat, e-mail, or snail mail. Sprinklr’s offering allows all of these channels to managed from one central hub. It allows brands to take a channel agnostic view with the ability to deploy resources and a workflow for each interaction. The biggest benefit is that response time can be greatly improved.

And in a marketing email coinciding with yesterday’s announcements, Sprinklr Founder and CEO Ragy Thomas says:

We believe every business must focus on delivering relevant experiences at every social touchpoint.

If you agree, then Experience Cloud may be for you.

Worth a look.

Check out Sprinklr’s infographic:

Disconnected Experiences and Connected Customers [Infographic]

Apple Watch: How desirable and disruptive will it be?

Samsung Gear 2 Neo

For the past six months, I’ve been wearing a smartwatch, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo you see pictured here.

As I have a number of Samsung mobile devices, this smartwatch is ideal for me as it’s geared, so to speak, to work with a wide range of Samsung smartphones including all the ones I have. Currently it’s paired with my Galaxy S4.

The Gear 2 Neo does everything I expect a device like this to do as I mentioned in my initial review of its features and functionality last November. Things like:

  • Shows me the current time.
  • Gives me content on things I’m interested in, such as meeting reminders, updates from social networks (I’ve set it to show me updates from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ at the moment), instant message texts, WhatsApp messages, emails from various email accounts. Note that social network updates, etc, are the actual messages not just notifications of them.
  • Incoming phone calls which I can answer on the Gear 2 Neo if I wish (a surreal experience when at the supermarket checkout), and notification  of missed calls.
  • Contacts list and a dialler to make outgoing phone calls from the watch via Bluetooth connection to my phone.

It also offers health-related apps – pedometer, heart rate measurement, how many hours I sleep – plus others like a voice-recording app for notes, S Voice (an “Ok Google”-like app to ask questions), a music player for music I can store on the watch or stream from the phone (or from the net via the phone), stopwatch, weather reports, and more.

Plus there are myriad ways you can customize the device, from its look and feel to adding features and functions with apps via the Gear Manager app on your phone.

The bulleted list above describes the features and functions I currently value most. So health-related apps aren’t of much interest to me as they are pretty rudimentary: I’m sure that devices like Fitbit or Jawbone that focus specifically on such features are much better as that’s precisely what they do.

I’m also experimenting with apps on the phone that deliver breaking news topics to the watch that alert me of that breaking news, and which I can read on the watch. My current app for that is News Republic; it’s not bad.

And yet.

I want more than all this in a smartwatch. I want to see the word smart mean a great deal more.

I don’t care what shape the device is – square, round, whatever – as long as it looks good (a highly-subjective way of regarding it) and delivers the features and functionality that I want that helps make my life better organized, easier, more productive, fun, etc.

In reality, I’m not really sure exactly what more I want until you, Mr Device Manufacturer, show me what there is that I may want. It could be cool apps. Or maybe – and perhaps more likelier – it could be a really cool device that runs cool apps that do things in really cool or new and interesting ways, far more than just showing me the time, how many steps I’ve walked today and notifications from my smartphone.

Perhaps my current watch, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo, represents the peak of expectations from this type and generation of device and its capabilities at the moment. Maybe the coolness of it right now is as much as I’ll ever expect.

But I see nothing else out there at the moment, from any manufacturer on any platform, that lets me believe there’s a better mousetrap to consider.

Then, of course, there’s Apple Watch that’s due in April and about which Apple will be talking at an event in San Francisco at 10am Pacific time (5pm GMT) today, Monday March 9.

If I were looking at what I read about Apple Watch at the moment and consider where all that reporting and narrative would fit on any Gartner Hype Cycle, it would unquestionably be approaching the peak of inflated expectations.

"Gartner Hype Cycle" by Jeremykemp at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

And yet.

I think today’s event – with expectations that are undoubtedly huge and possibly inflated – will include some eye-openers for anyone who a) has any current brand of smartwatch, b) has a menu of things they’d like to see in a smartwatch that they currently don’t see, and c) is wondering how a smartwatch is going to play a role in business communication and in the workplace.

Much of what I see people saying about Apple Watch in recent weeks has focused on features and functionality of the device itself. In the absence of any word from Apple on such topics – and there isn’t any – it’s all so much speculation and opinion until that event at 5pm GMT today.

Some of it, though, is informed opinion, worth paying attention to and setting some worthwhile expectations.

For instance:

Ars Technica, March 5: What to expect when we “spring forward” with Apple on March 9:

[…] What we’re likely to get on Monday is an actual launch date, more specific pricing information for all three versions of the product and their bands, and some kind of showcase of third-party apps. At iPhone and iPad launches, Apple usually has at least one or two devs come on stage to walk the audience through a demo that shows what the new hardware is capable of. iOS still enjoys the widest and deepest third-party support of any mobile platform, so we’d expect third-party support to be a major selling point for the Apple Watch as well.

WIRED, March 6 – What to Expect from the Apple Watch Event Monday:

[…] We should hear about clever functionality, like how the the Apple Watch can unlock your hotel room and your car. Apple execs will likely show off myriad health-tracking features, as well as the “Power Reserve” mode that strips the device’s functionality down to being just a watch—and might save you from having to charge it twice a day. Tim Cook will probably show eagerness about using it to buy food at Panera, because Tim Cook apparently loves using Apple Pay to buy food at Panera.

9to5 Mac, March 6: Sources offer hands-on Apple Watch details: battery life, unannounced features, and more:

[…] The Apple Watch’s battery life has concerned many prospective customers, as Apple said only that the Watch will need to be charged nightly. Earlier this year, we reported that Apple’s development targets for Apple Watch battery life were 2.5-4 hours for heavy app usage, versus 19 hours per day of combined usage between light app access, notifications, and Glances. Sources who have handled the Apple Watch tell us that Apple has improved the device’s battery life, noting that the final Apple Watch should be able to handle 5 hours of fairly heavy application usage, and it and won’t run out of battery during a typical day of mixed active and passive use. However, the source says that the device will still need to be charged nightly, as it will definitely not last through a second full day.

And so forth.

And yet.

I want to hear about something really interesting that let’s me do something equally interesting or new. For instance:

TechCrunch, March 6: The Apple Watch Is Time, Saved:

[…] People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck. One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period. That’s insane when you think about how much the blue glow of smartphone screens has dominated our social interactions over the past decade.

Nieman Journalism Lab, March 5: The next stage in the battle for our attention: Our wrists:

[…] While checking your phone is still not acceptable in all settings, it still beats the palpable sense of impatience associated with raising your wrist. Checking your smartwatch in company is going to require a new set of social norms to become natural and commonplace. Confusing what’s essentially a miniaturised smartphone with a conventional timepiece is an awkward behavior partially caused by these early smartwatches’ skeuomorphism, the design tendency to create technologies that mimic analog or real-world products in order to make themselves easier for users to understand. Eventually though, one imagines that, as Apple has done before, the idea of a watch as a reference point for these devices will grow less and less relevant.

Distinct behaviour shifts.

And this:

Financial Times, March 6: Apple tests luxury appeal with gold watch:

[…] Apple Watch is the first new product category to emerge from the company since Jobs’ death in 2011. Its ambitious pricing and luxury styling shows how Mr Cook and his design chief, Sir Jonathan Ive, hope Apple can transcend Silicon Valley to enter the more prestigious and lucrative worlds of fashion and jewellery. “I do see that the Watch is a move away from what is traditionally understood as consumer electronics,” Sir Jonathan said at a conference last year. “Apple has always been about ‘affordable luxury': at the higher end of the price range and with a premium feel, but it’s always been within reach of the ordinary consumer,” says Jan Dawson, technology analyst at Jackdaw Research. “This is the first time that Apple has moved into straightforward luxury.”

Bloomberg, March 6: Apple’s Secret Lab Lets Facebook [plus BMW, Starwood Hotels and others] Fine-Tune Apps Before the Watch’s Debut:

[…] As Apple’s first new device since the iPad in 2010, the stakes are high for Apple Watch, and the sophistication of the apps available is critical in wooing buyers. Just as the App Store has been a key reason for the iPhone’s success, tools for Apple Watch will help determine how customers use the gadget and whether it will be a sales hit. The watch must be paired with an iPhone to fully work, and anything less than seamless integration may alienate potential customers. […] Optimism over Apple’s new products, including the watch, has helped send the company’s shares to record highs in recent weeks. Sales of the new device in the first fiscal year may reach almost 14 million, according to the average estimates of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Researcher Strategy Analytics projects Apple will take 55 percent of global smartwatch sales this year, when total shipments may reach 28.1 million units, up from 4.6 million in 2014.

Re/code, March 6: Apple Watch: What to Look For at Monday’s Event:

[…] Apple’s greatest challenge may not be outselling competitors in the wearable space – the first generation of Android smartwatches have gotten off to a sluggish start – but rather, convincing consumers to buy. […] Industry analysts and Wall Street investors are bullish on the watch, and Apple’s ability to energize a nascent consumer category. The company has done it before with the 2010 introduction of the iPad, which ignited the sleepy tablet business.

The Guardian/Observer, March 8: Crunch time: how the Apple Watch could create a $1tn company:

[…] Despite the pundits, on Wall Street and in the industry it is hard to find anyone to agree that the watch could flop. James McQuivey of Forrester Research said last week that “20 million people in the US alone are inclined to buy something new from Apple, giving Apple an easy shot at converting 10 million people to buy one between the US and international markets. We stand by our initial assessment that 10m units sold by year-end is likely.” McQuivey sounds like a pessimist compared to Huberty, who forecasts 30m, and Robert Leitao of Braeburn Group, who suggests 40m by the end of the year. The most pessimistic is Gene Munster, a stock analyst at Piper Jaffray, who reckons 8m.  The lowest of those numbers would dwarf the existing smartwatch market, where the biggest player, Pebble, has shipped just over 1m units in two years, and devices using Google’s “Android Wear” from companies including Samsung, Motorola and LG shipped just 720,000 in 2014. In all, 6.8m smartwatches shipped last year, according to research company Smartwatch Group, at an average price of $189, creating a market worth $1.3bn.

With so much opinion floating around, you’ll be hard-pressed to decide what to really pay attention to and what to largely ignore.

Whatever we hear from Apple today, I think it will be news that will mark the beginning of the second stage in the development of the smartwatches segment of the wearable technology industry.

Apple Watch

It could also be as disruptive to the watch industry – all watches not only luxury brands – as the launch of the iPod was to the music industry just after the turn of the century, as the launch of the iPhone was to the mobile phone business barely half a decade later, and – as some media reports point out – the launch of the iPad was to the tablet market just five years ago.

And finally, if you compare the Apple Watch image above with the photo of the Gear 2 Neo at the top of this post, you might notice how similar the watch faces look on both devices. That’s because the one on the Gear 2 Neo is actually the Apple Watch Watchface created by Jehezkiel Eugene S and available to buy in Samsung’s Gear Apps Store. It’s the best-looking watch face I’ve seen to customize my Gear 2 Neo.

Apple Watch – already making a visual impact.

  • If you want to watch the Apple event online as it happens, you can as Apple will be live-streaming the event. However, you will need Apple devices running Apple OSes to do that (ie, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV) and a lot of patience as you compete with thousands of other for the bandwidth. Alternatives will be mirror videostreams that others may set up, Apple’s live blog and many other live blogs, eg, TechCrunch (one of the best at events like these).