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.)

Fixing a polling system that’s out of sync

Latest Voting Intention

Reading the various reports, narratives and commentaries this weekend about the results of the UK general election that took place on May 7, the overall perspective I’ve formed on all of that is how could the expert commentators, opinion-formers and outcome-predictors have got it all so wrong?

The election result produced a clear win for the Conservatives with a slender majority in the House of Commons (12 seats), and the virtual annihilation of the primary opposition political parties – the leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip have all quit – that confounded every single opinion poll in the months, weeks and days leading up to May 7, which had all predicted a hung Parliament as the best outcome anyone could expect.

So another coalition government looked a likely election outcome according to those polls – followed perhaps by another election in six months or so – and many column inches and pixels have been spent in offering what-if? scenarios of who might be able to form a government with whom, etc (the BBC’s interactive tool was especially good), much of it based on those opinion poll results.

About the only thing the pollsters did get right was the surging Scottish Nationalist Party which triumphed in Scotland in almost a clean sweep, winning 56 of 59 Scottish seats at Westminster.

Having been in America since May 3 with hardly a moment spare to look at the TV never mind online news, I had been shielded from any mainstream reporting and commentary back home in the run-up to election day last Thursday (our election was unquestionably not a big news item in the US mainstream media). What I did see, though, was plenty of comment and opinion on social media channels, notably Twitter, that presented a view of Labour being well ahead as the likely voting preference of a majority, and reinforced much of the mainstream feeling about a close-run election and a hung Parliament.

Socialist Media - Economist.com

And so I flew back to the UK on Thursday night US time arriving here on Friday morning UK time to the news that took me by surprise as much as it apparently did all those experts I mentioned – not a close-run thing at all but a pretty decisive Conservative victory, nothing like a hung Parliament, and a political landscape that no longer looked familiar with the downfall of the traditional political opposition.

With the nationalists rampant in Scotland and the Conservatives resurgent just about everywhere else outside the large urban centres in England, the former looks alarmingly like a one-party state with the latter arguably close to that territory. Indeed, it doesn’t look like a very United Kingdom at the moment.

But analysis on comment like that is for more knowledgeable subject-matter experts to ponder over.

What interests me mostly now is those opinion polls I mentioned earlier – how could they have got it so wrong?

You can choose from a great deal of opinion on that question, to which I add my two-pence-worth to suggest a combination of factors such as:

1. Reliance on an opinion-polling system that, largely, behaves the same as 50 years ago when few-to-many was the only communication model: the few controlled the news and methods of communication (the mainstream media companies); the many (the great British public) formed opinion based on what they read in the newspapers or heard on the radio (TV was still in its infancy) – their only reliable sources of news and information; and the pollsters formed their predictions based on what the public told them in answer to narrow questions where you read what the newspapers said to help you form opinions.

That’s totally not the picture today where the mainstream media is but one element in an immersive crowded information and communication landscape that enables anyone with an opinion and an internet connection to become a content-creator, news broadcaster and opinion-former.

Anyone with an opinion...

2. Lack of trust in, and engagement by, the political process and politicians themselves: let’s start with the Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 published in January that shows a continuing trend line for lack of trust in governments and politicians on a worldwide level, not only in the UK.

3. Public tiredness and disenchantment with politics in general and this election process in particular: so much partisan opinion and commentary – yes, I do call it propaganda – where it has been tough to filter signal from relentless noise and focus on what you think is credible and trustworthy to warrant your attention and your willingness to believe.

A case in point for me was the Leaders’ Debate on BBC’s Question Time programme on April 30. Debate? Hardly. Prepared sound-bite responses by each leader individually to questions from a carefully-controlled audience. The inauthenticity of it was breath-taking.

(Of course, I should point out that some analysts are saying that this TV event was instrumental in helping many voters decide who to vote for. If that’s true, then I’ll stick to my day job.)

4. The remoteness of much of it: so much stuff by people you don’t know, with hashtags on social media like #GE2015 that are tsunamis of opinions you don’t trust because much of it is so clearly partisan; and politicians who sound so patronising with their so-sincere-sounding and constant over-use of phrases like “hard-working families” and “working people” that you eventually tune it all out.

Some or all of this probably contributed to the huge number of “Don’t know” responses when people were asked by pollsters for their voting intentions – 25 percent of voters said they didn’t know who they’d vote for on the day, according to one report I saw.

That meant that the polling organizations, pundits and others were left to predict outcomes based on incomplete data from which to glean credible insights, along with that imperfect methodology for a contemporary society – are those the major factors that let it all be so wrong?

I read of one poll where the organizers predicted the actual election outcome with some clarity (and accuracy as it turned out) but who said they didn’t publish it for fear of being ridiculed: their poll was so totally different to all the others that were predicting a neck-and-neck close race, hung Parliament, etc.

And what was their methodology? Actually talking to voters: ringing them up on the phone and directly asking them relevant questions that they would want to answer.

YouGov’s Antony Wells summarized what he thought of the polling debacle:

[…] there is something genuinely wrong here. For several months before the election the polls were consistently showing Labour and Conservative roughly neck-and-neck. Individual polls exist that showed larger Conservative or Labour leads and some companies tended to show a small Labour lead or small Conservative lead, but no company consistently showed anything even approaching a seven point Conservative lead. The difference between the polls and the result was not just random sample error, something was wrong.

It’s worth taking a look at the 700+ comments to Well’s blog post.

So the current polling system used in this kind of significant national event has suffered a severe setback in how it is regarded from accuracy, trust and credibility perspectives. This has clearly rung a loud alarm bell as the British Polling Council, the trade body for the polling industry, has announced with some understatement that it’s setting up a public enquiry into what went wrong:

The final opinion polls before the election were clearly not as accurate as we would like, and the fact that all the pollsters underestimated the Conservative lead over Labour suggests that the methods that were used should be subject to careful, independent investigation.

The British Polling Council, supported by the Market Research Society, is therefore setting up an independent enquiry to look into the possible causes of this apparent bias, and to make recommendations for future polling.

The focus of the enquiry will be on polling methodology, according to the announcement.

Looking forward to learning what those recommendations are.

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.”

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]

The richness of WordCamp London 2015

This past weekend, as many as 600 people got together in North London to talk about things WordPress, the content management system that is the platform of choice for more than 75 million websites worldwide, and is in a market-leading position with blogs.

It was WordCamp London 2015, a three-day event comprising a contributor day on Friday, and the two-day conference over the weekend that I attended, with speakers from across the WordPress community, with talks for designers, developers, writers, business-owners, freelancers, anyone who is at all interested in WordPress.

As a blogger whose blogs run on WordPress – and who first experimented with WordPress in 2004 and launched this blog on the platform in 2006 – I took part in the event to listen, learn, meet some interesting folk and generally increase my knowledge of what you can do with WordPress.

It was actually the third WordCamp I’ve attended in the UK, the last time being some while ago in Cardiff in 2009. That one was especially memorable as it included WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg giving a talk.

In any case, I am very pleased with the time I spent at WordCamp London 2015. The event itself was an excellent example of terrific organization, very professional with no obvious gaps in anything that I saw. It illustrates how things have moved on in just a few years where a seamless experience is what you expect even from a community-focused event like this – and that’s precisely what you got.

It included a delight or two, over and above an expectation. The official swag, for instance – not just a t-shirt but also a very nice woollen scarf. That was unexpected and wholly delightful.

I was impressed with the sheer number of people taking part. Men and women, young and old, coding geeks, developers, designers and “regular folk,” WordCamp London 2015 included everyone who represents today’s WordPress community. It’s quite clear to me that WordPress is now part of the mainstream of what makes up the internet, not just the social web. And everyone knows it.

In the early days (pre-2010), it was just a few who really understood how WordPress works, how to make the most of its capability with themes and plugins, and how to create those themes and plugins. Now, such knowledge is widespread. What’s more, as more people learn about, use and become familiar with WordPress, so overall knowledge increases and spreads and becomes widely accessible as the WordPress ecosystem grows. That means getting help for your questions, or sharing your own knowledge and experiences, is so much easier today as the pool of knowledge continues to expand.

A few highlight impressions from some of the sessions I attended on Saturday and Sunday plus other experiences:

I had an opportunity to get some questions answered about a new feature in the Jetpack uber-plugin for WordPress when I encountered the guys from Brute Protect, a company that makes a security plugin that was acquired last year by Automattic, the people behind WordPress.com.

There was a really good presentation by Luke Wheatle and Sophie Plimbley, two of the key individuals behind a huge WordPress presence at News UK, who talked about building a scalable WordPress. Best phrase I heard: “WordPress is great for news, it’s so easy to use.”

SEO expert Jessica Rose led a great talk about search engine optimization in a packed session that ranged from how to optimize a WordPress site for search to the fundamentals of how search engines rank content. Most useful. Best phrase I heard: “Wow, this is the only time anyone has asked me for help with Bing!”

Tibdit, a service to make and receive micropayments or donations on your blog using Bitcoin, was one of the companies presenting their wares in a small exhibition area in one of the venue buildings. It could be an interesting tool for bloggers looking for small-scale monetization. I plan to try it out to see how it works, etc.

Dave Walker had a good perspective on things:

Two standout messages from Jon Buchan in his most refreshing session on content marketing – “How much money is wasted by experts creating crap?” and “It’s not what is given, it’s how it’s given that matters.”

I learned quite a lot in Bruce Lawson‘s session on responsive images, starting with that very phrase, “responsive images.” He is a good story-teller and his entertaining session was highly popular and pretty full in the largest presentation room. Best phrase I heard: “Safari, the North Korea of browsers.”

A thought-provoking session on user experience in WordPress was led by UX expert Sara Cannon who also shared her knowledge and experience of some really terrific-looking plugins, all of which I will check out:

And she shared her presentation deck.

It’s also worth highlighting a feature of just about any event these days where everyone and everything is so connected. Good friend Christopher Carfi in California noticed that I was at WordCamp London and tweeted to me and his colleague, Mendel Kurland, suggesting we ought to connect.

And so we did…

That’s what I call serendipity!

Check the hashtag #wcldn for all the Twitter chat and for news on other posts, picture uploads, etc, that undoubtedly will come from others in the coming days.

Brian Solis and Chris Saad launch Context Matters podcast

Context Matters

A new voice joined the ranks of business podcasts this week in the form of Context Matters, a new audio podcast from Brian Solis and Chris Saad.

The podcast’s focus is clear:

Context Matters is a podcast featuring discussions at the intersection of business, technology & culture.

The first episode was posted on February 4 in which the two hosts discussed Uber, Microsoft HoloLens and “why ‘Women Shouldn’t Code’ according to some people.”

It’s just over 35 minutes. Give it a try:

It’s terrific to see voices of Brian’s and Chris’s calibre start a podcast. Their collective knowledge, insights and ability to convey their opinions with credibility and subject-matter authority auger very well for Context Matters to become a must-listen resource if you are interested in that intersection of business, technology and culture.

I especially like their approach to topic development:

One of the novel things we’re going to try with this Podcast is to involve the audience in choosing topics and providing perspectives. In this section of the site we will post the topics we’re thinking about ahead of time and invite you to provide feedback.

So, speaking as a fellow podcaster, I bid welcome to Brian and Chris!

You can easily subscribe to Context Matters via iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow the show on Twitter: @ContextFM.