Technorati Explore: a promising new search tool

Technorati has introduced a new tool that should prove indispensable to public relations professionals and others interested in identifying the opinion leading conversations within a specific professional community.

In State of the Blogosphere, February 2006 Part 2: Beyond Search , David Sifry introduces us to the concept of the “Magic Middle” of the attention curve. Technorati currently counts about 155,000 people among the Magic Middle, which Sifry defines as bloggers who have 20-1000 other people linking to them. Sifry says that the Magic Middle contains “some of the most interesting and influential bloggers and publishers that are often writing about topics that are topical or niche … – these are blogs that are interesting, topical, and influential, and in some cases are radically changing the economics of trade publishing.”

Technorati’s new Explore tool uses these Magic Middle bloggers to point to the leading edge of the online conversations among communities of interest.

Given that there’s a lot of interesting topical posts by influential or authoritative bloggers in those topic areas, we formulated an idea: Why not use these authoritative bloggers as a new kind of editorial board? Watch what they do, what they post about, and what they link to as input to a new kind of display – a piece of media that showed you the most interesting posts and conversations that related to a topic area, like food, or technology, or politics, or PR. The idea is to use the bloggers that know the most about an area or topic to help spot the interesting trends that may never hit the “A-list”. We call this new section Explore…

These middle tier blogs also define communities of interest in the blogosphere. Its easy to think of the blogosphere as a cacophony of voices spread out over a big long tail distribution. But Blog Finder and Explore help resolve these thousands of blogs into topical, relevant communities of interest that interlink, refer to one another and often wrestle with ideas, discuss them and move them along. People often ask, “what blogs should I read?” And often times a good answer is, “you should read the posts from the leading blogs in topics that of interest you. Blog Finder and Explore make this possible for the first time on a wide variety of topics…

My test search of the top 20 posts in the Explore: pr category yielded a list that included posts by Steve Rubel, Scott Baradell, Phil Gomes, Lee Odden, Josh Hallett and Jeff Jarvis.

Technorati Explore strikes me as a very useful tool that will enable PR professionals to focus in on the discussion in our community.

Corporate blogging growing from the inside out?

Stephen Baker suggests that corporate blogging is much more extensive than common measurements may indicate. In a Business Week article, The Inside Story on Company Blogs, Baker reports that “corporations are using [blogging] software to revamp internal communications, reach out to suppliers, and remake corporate Intranets.”

He points to McDonalds and Connondale as examples of companies that have been introducing blog software to enable employees distributed through large operations to contribute information. Now that these internal applications have proven themselves, Baker wonders whether companies will extend blogs outside the company to their customers. Before they can do this, they will have to overcome corporate caution and fear of loss of control.

Baker concludes:

Companies interested in opening up branded blogs to the broad public face plenty of risks. Opponents of the company could use them to spread criticisms or nasty rumors — and the host outfit would face the wrath of bloggers if it were seen to shut down or censor customers’ entries.

Conversely, if criticism appears on the blogs, the company can learn quickly and respond. For such giants as Wal-Mart (WMT) and McDonald’s — both subjects of blistering documentaries recently — such an early warning system might prove to be worth the gamble.

Another good reason to freelance between full-time jobs

A report in the London Telegraph by way of For Immediate Release states that

A study from the Royal Economic Society underlines the received wisdom that the longer someone is out of a job, the harder it is to get work.

…Using new evidence from the German jobs market, the researchers discovered that the wage offered to someone who has been out of work for six months was on average 14pc lower than they previously received.

After a year, the amount they can hope for is 19pc lower, and it is some 33pc lower after two years.

This erosion of potential workers’ pay prospects occurs quickly, and those who are unemployed for just three months could see their salary prospects fall by 7pc.

The research found that although unemployed people do not necessarily look for fewer jobs as time goes on, the higher paying jobs gradually become closed to them.

Public relations practitioners are in the lucky position that we never really need to be “out of work.” In fact, many résumés of PR practitioners that cross my desk show a history of interspersing freelance work with full-time jobs.

Neville Hobson speaks about the difference between people who adopt the mindset that they are out of work and looking for a job vs. those who engage in either volunteer or ad hoc project work while conducting their job search. He says that this tells you something about the person and affects how they are perceived by others, including potential employers. Shel Holtz adds that, given that better paying, more senior positions take longer to land, communicators are well-advised to position themselves as consultants and attempt to pick up freelance assignments while looking for a permanent position.

I think that Neville and Shel are absolutely bang on in their observations. And while they are talking primarily about people seeking corporate positions, their observations are even more apt for those looking for positions with consulting firms.

In fact, public relations practitioners who use the time between jobs to pursue and land freelance work can increase their value to consulting firms. When reviewing CVs, I interpret freelance time as an indicator of initiative on the part of the job applicant. Moreover, I feel that having to handle the business fundamentals – negotiating a contract, setting a fair rate of compensation, tracking time and issuing invoices and, yes, managing receivables – gives the freelancer valuable insight into the business of PR. It can also translate into better service to our corporate clients through communications practitioners who can relate to the business realities facing those clients.

So, my advice to those who have just found themselves out of a job: Hang out your shingle and pursue freelance assignments while you are looking for the right full-time job fit.

OECD conference tackles Digital Rights Management and User-Generated Content

Michael Geist comments on the discussions at the OECD’s Future of the Digital Economy conference in Rome. In Geist’s view,

…the discussion pointed to two competing approaches for the distribution of content in the Internet era, one based on DRM and the other on user generated content. I conclude that the conference ultimately sent a mixed message about the future of the digital economy. The Internet has sparked a remarkable outpouring of new creativity and provided conventional content owners with exciting new marketplace opportunities, yet legislators may be forced to intervene to ensure that consumers are protected from onerous DRM restrictions and that ISPs are precluded from using their positions as Internet gatekeepers to harm innovation.