Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | December 17, 2010

Social gifting: Elfster changes Secret Santa

With Christmas just more than a week away, I am probably too late to help you figure out your work, friends or family Secret Santa this year. But, for next year, I have the solution: Elfster!

According to its website, Elfster is a free online Secret Santa organizer and social networking platform for gift giving. Simply put by the creators: “Elfster Social Gifting=one part wishing+one part shopping+one part social networking+one part gaming=tons of fun!”

I learned about this great social utility through a friend. Every year, my group of friends from high school gets together for an annual Christmas dinner at a restaurant near where we all grew up in Virginia. The tradition started by chance, but it has since become an event we all look forward to year-round. Here, we are in 2009.

This year, we decided to add a Secret Santa into the mix. Of course, pulling names out of a hat is not really an option for us. Though, currently, a majority of the group lives in Virginia, at one point we were as spread out as Virginia, Alabama, Kansas and California. Elfster is the perfect solution. By creating a group, we are able to connect and communicate over the holidays to create a gift exchange.

Here’s how it works: A event organizer creates a group and its subsequent Secret Santa. They enter a date by which everyone must sign up. After that date, Elfster draws names and notifies each member of their draw. Here’s the best part: Elfster puts an end to the Secret Santa stress of figuring out the perfect gift for your friend. Individuals can create wish lists; individuals can anonymously ask questions and receive answers from their “draw” on their likes of dislikes; others in the group can make personal recommendations for individuals and more.

As if that information wasn’t useful enough, the site also includes updates – think Facebook news feed – on activities such as who has joined the group or who has updated their wish list. Users can “like” posts or comment on posts, allowing for discussion among the group.

Since, I’ve seen other similar sites – Secret Santa, for example, which also can create Yankee Swaps and White Elephant exchanges. But I’ve found Elfster more user-friendly and to have more options in terms of gift-giving ideas. This is the first time I’ve used the site, but I already love it! I am sure I will use it next year for a few other groups I am involved in who could benefit from this useful, creative website.

Once again, social media – and new ideas – has changed the way I conduct aspects of my life. Gone are the days of drawing names from a hat and stressing about what gift I should purchase!

Happy holidays!

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | December 4, 2010

Here’s the skinny…

I can’t decide if I’m really late, or just a little early with the tride-and-true New Year’s resolution of getting fit. But about October of this year, I decided it was time. I’d hidden behind the excuse that I work full time and go to school full time long enough. I had recovered from the wrist surgery I had this summer, and, well, let’s face it, my metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

I’ve done it before with success – counted calories, tracked my workouts. But now, I have even more tools at my disposal. I have an iPhone – and with that many mobile applications to help me stay on track.

My favorite so far is Lose It. Lose It allows me to create a personalized plan for my weight loss and fitness goals. In my initial setup, I input my current height, weight and activity level. I set a weight loss goal and a time frame in which I’d like to achieve that goal. From that, Lose It creates my plan – noting how many pounds I need to lose per week and how many calories I can consume/must burn per day to reach my goal. Then, daily, I input my calories consumed and calories burned through exercise. For example, here’s a screenshot from Lose It’s website.

I know it’s not rocket science; and I know I could accomplish the same by keeping a food journal. But the mobile application makes it so easy and convenient. And it provides me with some benefits a self-kept food journal could not. It shows me the nutrition information for the food I consume and graphs of my progress, and weekly it provides me with a detailed progress report.

Though, I haven’t used this function yet, Lose It also allows you to share your results with friends – you can share how much weight you’ve lost, your calorie budget, your exercise data and more. Not exactly, something I want to broadcast to the world yet, but I think, for some, it could have the potential to be a great motivator. This adds a social aspect to weight loss and makes it so you can connect with others who have similar goals.

I’ve also enjoyed mobile applications from some of my favorite restaurants. Starbucks, for example, has a great app. The most useful part of it in my weight loss journey is its “Drink Builder.” It allows you to customize a drink, as you would in the store, and then shows you the nutrition information. This has been useful as I track calories. Because of it, I’ve learned what a big difference adding “nonfat” to the front of my order can make!

And my last favorite…

If you read my blog about Cyber Week, you might remember that I said I didn’t spend money on Cyber Monday, but I did spend money over the weekend. And one of the things I purchased is a fun, new-to-me piece of technology, a Nike+.

Nike+ is a device that measures and records the distance and pace of a walk or run using an accelerometer embedded within your shoe. The device communicates directly with my iPhone (for others with an iPod), transmitting data from my run or walk. With it I am able to track my run or walk history, set goals, perform challenges, create workouts for myself and upload content to the Nike Running website.

Nike has created seamless online integration with its device, a mobile device and a user’s personal profile on Nike Running. The website serves as a social network, connecting runners and walkers who use Nike+. You are able to share workout history, see each other’s progress and challenge each other – all while communicating online and meeting new people. Much like I mentioned with Lose It, I think this has the potential to serve as a great source of motivation. But unlike, Lose It’s social network, I’m already signed up on Nike running!

Besides the positive impact these technologies have had on my waistline, as a communicator, what is most exciting is that it is all made possible because of new media and technology. The ability to do everything I’ve mentioned above on my mobile device is convenient and productive. And the fact that I can share that with my current and new social networks is motivating and, frankly, a great use of new media.

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | December 2, 2010

A billion-dollar day: Could it be a billion-dollar week?

So I did it – I avoided spending hundreds of dollars over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, to include Cyber Monday. In fact, I didn’t spend a single dollar Monday. And up until a few minutes ago, I was content with the fact that I had not written about the Internet sensation and one of the biggest shopping days of the year – that is until I read it was THE biggest online shopping day of the year. No wait, scratch that…EVER!

According to a CNN Money article, “Americans spent more than $1 billion on Cyber Monday, making it the biggest online shopping day in history, digital marketplace research firm comScore said Wednesday.”

And I wasn’t a part of this? I love to shop, but I’m not crazy about crowds or lines – and that is exactly why Cyber Monday is perfect. But wait! No need to worry if you missed some of the sales like me. What once was Black Friday and extended to Cyber Monday has now become Cyber Week.

Many of the same retailers who are well-known for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have extended their promotions throughout the week – Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-mart and Target are among the leaders in this new phenomena.

On each of their home pages, you can see Cyber Week specials advertised.

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So with a few days left in the week, can I hold out the temptation to spend money? Can I resist the marketing messages and sales promotion? If I do, will I be missing out on some really great deals? For now, I’ll wait. But if I keep getting those persistent e-mails and text reminders, I might just have to see what all the hype is about.
Happy shopping!
Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 23, 2010

Confessions of a newbie blogger

You’ve been freshly pressed!

I read this today in my e-mail at work after a colleague sent me a message saying they had seen this blog post on WordPress. The colleague congratulated me on being “freshly pressed.” I later checked my personal e-mail account to find a message from a WordPress staff member telling me the same.

“What the heck,” I thought.

Alright, so up until that very moment, I thought I had this blogging thing all figured out. Turns out, I’m clueless. Pretty embarassing to admit, but I had to Google “freshly pressed.”

For the people in the blog world who may not know, I later learned that being freshly pressed meant being “promoted” to the WordPress homepage.

I have to admit, I was pretty excited. Does this mean I’ve made it in the blogging world? Hardly? Do I hope I get freshly pressed again? Yes!

But here’s what I really found so great about it:

  1. I was able to connect to someone I already knew, but in a new way, using a new form of communication.
  2. I was able to connect with hundreds of bloggers who share my interest in new media.
  3. I’m not just writing for myself?!

Joking aside, being freshly pressed has allowed me to do exactly what I hoped when I started my blog about new media – make new connections using the very medium I choose to write about. I’ve met new bloggers; my blog has been reposted, retweeted and shared with others. And with the use of WordPress Site Stats’, I can track all of these interactions.

In all my research on blogs before starting one, I have no idea how I never came across the term “freshly pressed.” Turns out, it’s not a secret. So let me share what else I learned today, in case you don’t already know. According to WordPress, there are five things you can do to increase your chances of getting freshly pressed:

  1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
  2. Include images of other visuals.
  3. Add tags.
  4. Aim for typo-free content
  5. Cap off your post with a compelling headline.

As a journalist, I’m going to assume my typo-free content is to thank. Well, I can hope…

For any of my new blog friends, thank you for the read and the comments. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on my journey from newspaper to new media. I’ve already really enjoyed the interactions we’ve been able to have. Oh, and thank you WordPress!

One final thought: a question from the newbie blogger to the veteran bloggers – is it cliche to write about being freshly pressed?? I sure hope not.

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 22, 2010

Anti-social media?

Could you communicate only through Twitter, Facebook and video chatting with your friends and loved ones for 30 days? One Portland, Ore., woman is in the process of finding out.

Cristin Norine has embarked on a 30-day Public Isolation Project to learn how technology walls people off even while connecting them. Norine, who is living in a small storefront, in complete public view, will only communicate via technological-based forms of communication until Dec. 1. Norine said she has seen how technology has affected the way she communicates or does not communicate with the people in her life, and she is out to prove a point.

To read more, visit the CNN article on the Public Isolation Project.

While I certainly do not think I could survive for 30 days without actual human interaction, I appreciate the point Norine is trying to make by doing so. I get frustrated when one of my close friends from high school simply puts “what’s up” on my Facebook page, yet does not answer my phone call. I get frustrated when I can’t reach a colleague by phone or in his or her office, but I can get an e-mail back in five minutes. But I also know I overuse technology. I sometimes have to make a conscious effort to call my little brother who lives states away, because otherwise we’d only talk through text or Facebook. I can remember when I used to make plans with friends over a phone call, but now they are made through text most often.

We’re all guilty of letting technology take over a little bit of our lives. I suppose, as with most things in life, the secret is finding a balance – the balance between the connivence of technology and the personal nature of human contact; the balance between new media and old.

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 12, 2010

Happy virtual Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day…a day late! I’ll blame it on the fact I was spending a relaxing day with my favorite veteran, my husband!

Yesterday, across the nation, parades were held, flags were placed at veterans’ graves, children learned about veterans in class and all over the Internet, messages of thanks reached our honorable veterans around the world.

This is certainly not the first Veterans Day since the rise of the Internet or the popularity of social media, but, for some reason, I saw more online communication about or targeted to veterans than before. For me, it started on Facebook. I along with many others changed my profile picture. You see, a message had been circulating all week to change your profile picture to one of or with a veteran. It was very interesting to see the pictures and learn the stories of my friends’ family members who have served our country. Seeing the pictures sparked online conversations about these veterans. Someone asked me when my picture was taken, and I was able to share that it was taken at the airport the day my husband came home for his two week mid-tour leave from his 15-month Iraq deployment. I asked others about their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers – many of whom I had no idea had served.

People also “flew a flag” virtually on their Facebook pages. Similarly, my Twitter feed was filled with celebrities thanking veterans and news organizations sharing their coverage of the day’s events. People blogged about the day and what it meant to them. They shared pictures from parades or from the free meals they enjoyed at establishments like Applebees, Famous Dave’s and many more places that offered free meals to veterans.

Perhaps my favorite coverage was this list, kept by the Washington Post, of all the online Veterans Day coverage. Veterans Day has officially gone viral.

Oh, in case you were wondering, here’s the profile picture I posted on Facebook yesterday:

Happy Veterans Day!

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 9, 2010

KC Star Part 2: Toddlers surfing the net?

Here’s what I didn’t mention in my last post: KIDS!

Believe it or not, even children are a growing market segment in emerging media. The same article in the Kansas City Star I discussed earlier also cited a Kaiser Family Foundation Report that found an increase in the amount of time children spend on a computer. The report revealed that kids (8-18 years old) are spending 28 percent of their time each day using the computer, mainly for social interaction and communication. Also, kids and teens are spending 63 percent more time online, and the growth of kids online outpaced the entire Internet population. Most surprising – an 18 percent growth for the 2- to 11-year-old sector compared with only 10 percent growth for the entire Internet population. A 2-year-old online??

I found this all to be very timely, as we just discussed the ethical validity of using new and emerging media to market products to children and adolescents this week in one of my classes. I discovered while doing research for an assignment that branded websites targeted toward children are growing in number. I found one very interesting: Being Girl.


Being Girl is a branded website operated by Proctor & Gamble‘s Tampax and Always brands. It is an online community for adolescent girls that focuses on growing up, personal care, dating and more. The site is filled with interactive and engaging content set up much like the teen magazines I remember reading when I was younger. The difference? Though subtlety, branded messages about Tampax and Always are on the site, and free product offers and trials exist as well. I found this site to be operating ethically. After all, it is a product that young girls need – it will not cause them harm.

Others, that market unhealthy food items or unnecessary products are a little harder to rationalize. But I enjoyed studying those that seemed to provide some benefit to the consumer: ING Direct’s Planet Orange or Dole’s Five a Day sites, for example.

Have you seen any other examples? Do you think this is ethical to intentionally target marketing messages to children?

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 9, 2010

KC Star Part 1: Is social networking the new e-mail?

Though I don’t get a chance to read it as often as I’d like, I recently read a very interesting article in the Kansas City Star. It cited a 2009 Nielsen Online report, Global Faces and Networked Places, to explain the changing landscape of online communication.

Some things in the report were no surprise – Facebook has replaced MySpace as the largest social networking site; social networking is now multi-generational with 35-49 year olds using services at the same rate as 18-34 year olds; and social networking and blogging are the fastest growing areas on the Internet.

What was surprising, according to the report, social networking sites are used more than e-mail as a primary means of communication.

Does this surprise you? I think about my own habits in my personal life because, professionally, e-mail still reigns. If I am trying to organize a dinner for a small group of friends, I’ll usually send a mass text message. If I am trying to organize a larger event that involves more details – like a party of some sort, for example, I would use a Facebook invite. Nowhere have I mentioned e-mail yet. I still use e-mail to communicate on an individual basis and on occasion to a group, but, for the most part, I think the research cited above holds true. If given the choice, I will use social networking (or mobile, not discussed) over e-mail.
Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 1, 2010

#ivoted

Ok, so I haven’t voted yet. But I will tomorrow. And after I do, I, like thousands of others, will likely let my social network know via Facebook or Twitter. Over the past few weeks, I have received numerous suggestions to “like” politicians, to “attend” events supporting politicians. I’ve also watched as news organizations have tweeted about the upcoming election. Ten years ago, this was not the case.

Yet I was surprised to learn that Advertising Age reported in an article today that online advertising and media have not played as significant a role in the 2010 election as predicted.

In 2010, nearly $4 billion was spent on advertising, and two-thirds of that was used for television. Online media, however, has doubled since the last election at $45 billion in expenditures.

When it comes to use, in surveys among voters, more than 75 percent of respondents say they receive information about elections from TV; online was less than 10 percent. I think these figures will shift as online media continues to grow in scope and influence and as generational gaps in usage also shrink. And as Ad Age reports, Internet is not dead. It is the easiest way to quickly mobilize voters, the easiest way for a voter to learn about a candidate and the easiest way to secure campaign contributions. That combined with e-mail, texting, blogs and social networks is a powerful force.

Ask Elise Hall. Watch this CNN video of the 21-year-old college student in Oklahoma who attributes social media for helping her win a seat in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. Hall said she used other methods – direct mail, door-to-door visits – to reach her potential constituents, but social media allowed her to “quickly and effectively get the message out.”

Regardless, social media has changed election coverage. Tomorrow, there are more ways than ever to keep track of election news and results. Lost Remote, a blog about journalism and social media, is keeping a running list of social media efforts by news organizations. Among them are:

ABC News will be streaming its coverage live on Facebook and will have a separate ABC Web-only newscast streamed on Hulu, mobile platforms and Yahoo!

CBS News will work with Google to showcase election search trends, as well as data from YouTube about popular political videos.

CNN will be analyzing social media conversations on Twitter with help from Crimson Hexagon. CNN will display it on its interactive “CNN Election Matrix,” a much larger version of its data wall.

NBC News and msnbc.com will be streaming in live embedded players in the right pane of Twitter as well as a live, shareable player embedded on users’ Facebook walls.

New York Times has created a Twitter visualization that highlights the number of posts related to candidates running for governor or the Senate.

PBS NewsHour will feature an integrated social media stream highlighting election comments on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and AIM, as well live streaming on U-Stream.

Facebook will send everyone in the U.S. over the age of 18 a link to its polling place locator. When you vote, you can click the “I voted” button, which Facebook will tally up.

Foursquare will handout “I Voted” badges to users who check in at polling places.

Twitter is asking that users add the hashtag #votereport to a Tweet about your experience at your polling place, and they’ll surface onTwitterVoteReport.com. Twitter is asking folks to use #ivoted in tweets, as well.

Washington Post will become the first news organization to buy a Twitter promoted trend, #election. That means users who click the trend — which appears at the top of the trending list — will see a @washingtonpost tweet pinned to the top of the results.

So who will you be watching tomorrow night? Who will you be following on Twitter? What will you post on Facebook?

Posted by: newspapertonewmedia | November 1, 2010

Why bother with old-fashioned media?

When I came across this cartoon, it, of course, made me laugh. It reminded me that just the other day, I saw a pile of my newspapers in my husband’s truck, and when I asked him what he was using all of them for, he said to pack a box he was mailing. Ouch!

So, if this were a different type of blog, I might try to convince you that “old-fashioned media” – or more appropriately, traditional media – is still viable, that newspapers are reliable source of information and a record of history. But it’s not that type of blog. The fact of the matter is that traditional media use is on the decline and use of new media is on the rise.

Wall Street Journal article reported Oct. 14 that according to Moody’s Investors Servive, a national ratings agency, newspaper revenue is expected to decline 5 to 6 percent in 2010 and drop about the same amount in 2011. The decline is attributed to lower readership, unfavorable advertising revenues and circulation trends.

Another study, by Harris Interactive, found that 55 percent of Americans think that traditional media will no longer exist in 10 years, in its current form. Americans are still consuming as much news as they have in the past, but they are migrating online for it. The study also identified age as a key factor in media preferences.

So where are people getting their news? This may surprise some, but according to the Pew Research Center, television still tops the charts. Followed by “any Web or mobile news service,” which was recorded for the first time in the 2010 survey refrerenced below. Radio and online news were next; and newspapers were last.

What I find most important to note is that the only medium on the rise is online news. When I think about my news-gathering habits, I find that I certainly follow suit with the above, especially when it comes to national news. I am much more apt to search Google News for national news coverage on any given topic or search my CNN application on my iPhone than I am to go to the convinience store and pick up a copy of USA Today. Once, again, emerging media has changed the way I seek out news. Emerging media has trumped traditional media.

Now, before I get too far along in my blogging, I think it’s smart to define the two terms, as I understand them, that I will use throughout this blog:  traditional media and emerging media.

Traditional media: Any mass media outlet that, in general, existed before the rise of the Internet, to include television, radio, newspaper, magazine, cinema and books.

Emerging media: Any media that, in general, uses electronic communication, computer technology or the Internet, to include websites, e-mail, streaming audio/video content, social networking, mobile applications, computer games and more. New media is often characterized by the ability to manipulate, create and share content, interactivity and connectivity.

Before I sign off, I’m curious. How do you get your news? Is it through traditional or emerging media forms?

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