Coverage for TheWayoftheWeb

I’ve often published constructive criticism on the media industry, but I also have a lot of respect for the people working in it, and Im always proud when journalists I respect choose to quote anything I’ve written.

So it’s an honour that the Peterborough Telegraph asked to re-publish my last post ‘Why your business must own its content‘ on the Peterborough Today website.

Add that to being quoted in an article on Search Engine Watch, and it’s been a rather nice week!

What is ‘The Way of the Web’

When I started blogging years ago, I had no idea that one day it would become the main public face of my business and career. It started because I’d made a few attempts to launch websites before becoming employed as a journalist, but had never made the effort to learn how to code and develop a decent site, so when technology offered me a way that I could publish whatever I wanted with no Editor, it seemed like a wonderful freedom.

If you’ve ever tried to name a website, business, book or band, you’ll identify with the problem of coming up with a name for something – until it’s established and familiar, most names just sound odd. Considering I was once guitarist with a band named ‘Inflatable Hostess’, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise!

But as the site has grown from friends and family to thousands of people every month, I’ve been increasingly asked about the name (Although not as much as my Twitter username ). So with a lovely new logo now in place, it seems like a good time to explain what on earth I was thinking…

What does ‘TheWayoftheWeb’ mean?

The name of the site was inspired by a number of things, but is mainly inspired by my interest in Japanese culture, particularly around martial arts. I’d read the ‘Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai‘ not long before launching the site, having seen it referenced in the film ‘Ghost Dog‘. It’s an interesting book of notes provided by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunemoto, around the time the samurai class switched from being mainly warriors to administrators.

But the main inspiration comes from the philosophy behind Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. If you only ever considered Bruce Lee a film star, then the insight into his approach to martial arts and fighting styles might be a little bit of a surprise, but the key element that inspired me is that Jeet Kune Do isn’t a fixed style like Karate. It’s fluid and changing, hence why it’s often called a ‘style without a style’, and that a good martial artists should be like water, and moving fluidly without hesitation.

And that’s the personal hidden joke within the name.

There is no one set ‘Way’ of the Web – the important thing is to set out on the journey and find the way which works for you and your business.

 

So what does ‘TheWayoftheWeb’ do?

The succinct business philosophy is simple – it’s much easier to find what works for you with experienced help. The longer version is providing:

  • Content creation - Content is a foundation of success in digital, whether you’re a publisher, retailer, manufacturer or service provider. Sometimes it’s hard to see how you can produce amazing writing from inside your business, which is why hiring someone with experience in journalism and writing online can really transform what you’re doing by asking the right questions.
  • Marketing – You need people to see what you’re doing. But how do you achieve that with the ever-changing state of search engine optimisation, or the constant launches of new social networks? What you need is someone who can advise on where to start, and give you a solid foundation to work from.
  • Training – Whether or not you want someone to provide content and marketing services for you indefinitely, at the very least you probably want to know exactly how to measure whether it’s successful or not, and the world of analytics and social media monitoring can be daunting with so much potential data to turn into insight. And if you do plan on transferring content and marketing to an internal resource, then you can shortcut a lot of time, money and experimentation.
  • And lastly there’s this site – which aims to provide insight and guidance into journalism, writing, and marketing in a digital world, with the occasional more personal post to avoid becoming an endless stream of tutorials, and to provide an insight into the actual person you’re hiring – the most qualified person in the world won’t be effective for your business if you decide within 10 seconds that you hate them, so by taking a look around you hopefully get an idea whether there’s a fit with your business.

And that’s it in a fairly large nutshell. Of course, it also provides you with a way to Contact Me, and who I am.

 

Your turn: I’d love to know how you came up with the name of your own blog/site/business and how it came about… And what you think of mine!

A digital Sunday evening…

It’s Sunday night and for various reasons I’ve been offline for about 48 hours and I’m pretty tired. So what am I doing?

  • The Xbox is currently playing Forza Motorsport 3 for itself as the AI goes through the tedium of endless races to get the final game achievement and clear the way for Forza Motorsport 4 – important considering the amount of coverage I’ll be doing on OnlineRaceDriver.
  • My phone is currently uploading 100+ images from today to Flickr after our trip to Woburn Safari Park, which I’ll then need to group edit and tag.
  • And I’m on the laptop, having cleared out any notification emails, scanned and marked as read any RSS items, and started sorting out what I need to finish this week for both client sites and my own. Assuming that’s ever finished, hopefully I’ll catch up with the F1 race from earlier with iPlayer.

What struck me is that I don’t think the fact I have 3 internet devices all chuntering away on a ‘relaxing’ Sunday night is at all strange. And while I might be slightly unusual in running my own online-based businesses and spending most of my leisure time online, I suspect we’re still nowhere near the peak demand in bandwith for uploading and curating personal content online. What was once the preserve of the geeks and over-sharers is not only increasingly normal for everyone, but faster internet access, mobile connectivity and general access throughout less-developed countries means we’re still figuring out what we can do, and crucially, how to do it more easily.

Checking out my stats on Flickr, it’s blindingly obvious that most of my uploads have all come since I started using a smartphone, which allows quick uploading to Flickr. Without that, everything would still be on my memory card or hard drive.

And it was only recently that I finally got around to using the group edit functions, and could suddenly make a lot more photos public and accessible with at least some attempt at titles and tags (My default upload is always private for various reasons).
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And that’s adding up to 10′s of thousands of views on Flickr alone.

It made me think that so much of the web is still so difficult, and that we’re still miles away from the potential in universal easy access. And that will also enable us to more easily spend time offline or better utilise mobile connectivity. It’s time to make things easier for everyone…

The evolution of TheWayoftheWeb

If you’re reading this on the blog rather than as an RSS feed, you may well have already spotted the design of the site has changed somewhat.

There’s a few reasons for the evolution, but the main one is that I’m currently supporting myself (and my family) through freelancing for a number of clients, and therefore it made sense to link up my main presence on the internet to the freelance services I offer.

Plus I was never really happy with the Cutline theme I’d been using – the theme itself is fairly old and isn’t really being developed any more. Plus the design itself seemed to encourage me to overload both sidebars with far too much junk.

It’s part of a conscious effort to re-evaluate everything I’ve been doing and working on to ensure I’m devoting my efforts to the right things and in the right order, which at the moment is:

  • Ensuring my freelance clients get the best possible service.
  • Everything else, including my personal business projects….

It’s very much a work in progress, so expect things to keep changing as time goes by – particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Some sites will be mothballed, some projects will either be finished or ditched, and I’m slimming down some of my other commitments, or looking at ways to evolve them fairly quickly.

With that in mind, it’s probably a good time to get in touch if you need work in the near future, have any interesting opportunities that you feel I might be interested in, or might be interested in buying the 140Char domain…

Technology is rarely the answer

I’m obviously a huge fan of technology, but when I’ve been explaining what interests me most, the key aspect of it is how technology has an effect on the people and business that use it. And that effect is always about the interaction with other humans as much as with the technology itself.

Image by 'Andrea in Amsterdam' on Flickr (CC Licence)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as I’ve found myself running a freelance business, and three+ websites all on a six-year-old computer running the free open-source Ubuntu operating system (and an older version at that), and a smartphone which isn’t the latest or coolest on the market (although it’s one I really like).

And while I wouldn’t turn down the latest technology if anyone wants to send me some to test or keep, and I certainly wouldn’t mind more people hiring me so I can pay to upgrade – none of it is an excuse for not getting on with things, particularly now that my output is directly related to the amount of money I earn.

There’s plenty of other examples around me. The gamers I regularly meet on Xbox Live are planning to get together in-person, despite chatting online every night (and that’s something which happened with the last two groups of gamers which I’ve hung out with).

I still regularly use a handful of forums – they’re some of the best places for the interaction and information I need, regardless of the fact I’ve been using forums for the last decade.

And my experience of applications and mobiles/tablets suggest that if people weren’t happy paying a fixed amount every month for your content in print (for example), or online on the fixed internet, that the current rush to replicate the print experience pretty closely on a new device isn’t going to be sustainable for long.

The things that really matter are connecting, creating, sharing, and all the other things which technology allows us to do more easily, but which we were all able to do before it existed.

Need an example? In 1911, The Times sent a telegram around the world, with the message travelling 28,000 miles and being relayed by 16 operators. Total time: 16.5 minutes. So what’s the excuse as we’re about to start 2011?

Two Facebook milestones reached…

When I started creating my own blogs and websites, I always set up Facebook pages and links as an element of good practice, but that’s been about it. Despite preaching about delivering valuable content, engaging in conversation etc, they’ve been left while I concentrated on building effective social media practices for the various companies (and now clients) which I’ve worked for…

So it was a nice and somewhat surprising boost to see first TheWayoftheWeb on Facebook, and then OnlineRaceDriver on Facebook both top the 50 Likes mark. And a fair proportion of those people liking what I (and the rest of the OnlineRaceDriver team) do are not existing friends of mine.

Now I know that there has been a lot of debate over the value of someone liking on Facebook, following on Twitter, or signing in via Google, but here’s the value to me. Every time someone makes that bit of effort to show a bit of support, it gives me five times the motivation to keep striving to improve what I do, offer more value, and keep going with projects which can sometimes be frustrating, are always time-consuming, but equally give me back massive amounts in terms of social media support, comments, incoming links and connecting with new people.

Hello, I must be going…

For me, it’s no longer just the title of a 1980s Phil Collins album, due to the fact I’m no longer with Absolute Radio.

It was a mutual decision, at a rare time when there’s a healthy break between projects. And going into a company of incredibly talented and digitally-aware people from senior management down to reception, I was well aware that the key objectives of knowledge transfer and integrating digital marketing throughout the business contained an element of self-redundancy at some point.

It’s a testament to the team at One Golden Square that in the 14 months I’ve been there, we:

  • Launched over 20 mobile applications which have had downloads in the millions, and driven sustained growth in mobile listening and engagement.
  • Connected with tens of thousands of new and existing listeners via social media, with each account now run by a key stakeholder in the business. Those connections have increased by a multiple of about x1000 in 14 months, with a corresponding effect on engagement with the Absolute Radio websites and specific content items.
  • Launched a number of new brands, including Absolute 80s, Absolute Radio 90s, Absolute Radio Extra (with Rock ‘n’ Roll Football), and the re-launch of Absolute Classic Rock.
  • Redeveloped key content areas of the Absolute Radio website for natural search optimisation, usability and user engagement with fantastic results.
  • Developed internal digital and social media policies which encourage engagement, and utilised an internal planning and collaboration tool.
  • And increased and improved the utilisation of paid search.

And that’s just some of the things which spring to mind…

It’s honestly been a privilege and honour to work with a group of people who are not only skilled, but also extremely passionate about building a new brand which is clear and transparent to both employees, and most importantly to consumers.

In addition I’ve also met and worked with great people from external companies, and if you’re one of them and I haven’t already thanked you, then I hope this counts.

And as for the future?

It’s quite an exciting time – I’m working on a some projects with various people, I’m looking over what I’ve achieved with my own digital projects in the past, and I’m taking the chance to speak to a whole host of new people about various opportunities, whether on a short or long term basis. So if you’d like to chat, please do drop me an email (thewayoftheweb at googlemail.com).

This is my brain on Audioboo

I’ve chatted with the team at Audioboo for a while now. But it wasn’t until the pre-event party for Media140 that they finally captured me in audio format.

Hmmm – the embed code doesn’t seem to like my theme – so follow this link to hear me chatting to Audioboo/Best Before boss Mark Rock.

It’s fairly short and very quickly covers some of the things I’ve been busy working on at Absolute Radio.

Media people on Twitter – an interview with me from April

I don’t think I’ve posted the interview that I did with George Hopkin back in April as part of his ‘Media People on Twitter’ series, but as he’s kindly agreed to share the whole series, I thought I’d start with myself!

‘More Twitter hints, tips, etc. from power Twitterers from the world of UK media. This time it’s Dan Thornton, Community Marketing Manager at Bauer Media (Heat, Empire and many others). (NB: I’ve since left, and joined Absolute Radio as Digital Marketing Manager)

* What did you think about the concept when you first heard about Twitter?

The idea made sense for quick communications with friends, but like the founders, I couldn’t imagine how it would grow in terms of size – and especially the ways to use it. The uses of hashtags are staggering in terms of potential.

* Do you recall your first tweet?

Thankfully no. Probably ‘Hello’ or something similar.

* How did you use Twitter to begin with?

Like most people, I signed up, posted a couple of messages, and then ignored it for a bit because I didn’t see the value.

That changed with my first @ messages, and suddenly I became addicted to being able to communicate so easily with so many people

* How has your use of Twitter changed?

It hasn’t really. It probably should, as I’ve gone from a small group of friends to having over 2,000 following and followers. But I find it hard to only talk about marketing or the internet. And at least this way, people won’t be surprised or disappointed in the long term when I talk about motorcycles or Xbox instead!

* What do you want from Twitter?

From a personal point of view I just want to be able to interact with more great people, and be able to build better relationships with them.

From a business/tech point of view, I’d like to see more disclosure from businesses of their direct results to be able to build up a bigger body of proven evidence, and I hope the use of Twitter will speed up the changes needed in almost every business strategy to become more relevant and useful to consumers.

And a way to delete multiple DMs at once!

* Have you attended a tweetup?

Yep. Some small gatherings, and the Twinterval organised by the founders of Twestival – really annoys me I’ve missed both Twestivals so far due to work/family commitments.

* Have you evangelised Twitter? If so, any success?

I’ve promoted it to friends and colleagues, and seen a reasonable number join – although the mainstream media coverage has done more if I’m honest!

I’ve also introduced several titles to using it, and the early indications are that it’s becoming a valuable communication tool for marketing, PR, customer service and engagement.

Oh, and I do run a blog dedicated to microblogging (Including Tumblr, Seesmic etc alongside Twitter) at http://www.140char.com.

* Do you have any self-imposed policies regarding your use of Twitter?

Not really – just apply a bit of common sense before I mention anything regarding work or personal items about my family. I’m pretty open about myself, but I have to respect my employers, colleagues and family.

* How do you see your use of Twitter developing this year?

I think the only change for my personal account is that I’m following less people – I’m reaching the limit of how many people I could hope to have meaningful interactions with.

For business use, I can’t really say until the Twitter monetisation plans are in place, but I’d expect it to be a core part of almost every digital marketing plan.

Daniel blogs at http://www.thewayoftheweb.net and http://www.140char.com. And you can follow him on Twitter here.

Interview originally posted at georgehopkin.com.

You can now subscribe to 140Char on your Kindle

If you’re the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle, you can now subscribe to 140Char.com.

Of course, you can also read it all here for free, subscribe via RSS, or receive the latest posts via email.

But I thought I might as well make it available should anyone be happy to pay for the convenience of Kindle usage, so if that’s you, good news!