Friday, October 30, 2009

A New Website Outs Ghost Tweeters

Has Halloween got you in a ghost busting mood? Forget traipsing through haunted houses and check out It's the only online site that polls the Twitter community on who's using ghost tweeters. In the spirit of Halloween, you can cast your vote for the most ghostly celebrity tweeters at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who's Reading?

Everyone reads, says Seed Magazine. Are we truly entering an age when pretty much everyone can read? God, I want to believe that.

I love books like some people love God. The rising generation does seem far more literate. Other Americans seem to agree.

The reality is more gritty:
Consider that 80% of the prison population in the U.S. is functionally illiterate. American business spends $60 billion training employees, much of it on remedial reading.

But having worked with an education labratory, I learned one simple truth: if everyone could read by 8 years old (2nd grade) it could change the world. Fewer people would be in prison. More people might earn a decent wage.

We have a ways to go to reach that goal.

The digital culture is breeding a confidence about life. Who doesn't dig that? But is it blinding us to old-school social ills that will cost us dearly later on?

Hat tip Howard Rheingold

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creative Leadership: Where the Wild Things Are

I was struck by Adam Thurman’s recent post offering career advice to job seekers in the arts. He sees no difference between an accountant and an arts manager, when it comes to choosing the right place to work. It all boils down to the same things: the opportunity to do quality work, a place to learn, and the chance make your mark. These features distinguish good places to work and live. Makes sense to me. And I’d speculate that Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk would agree.

I wonder if work places and cities will actively cultivate creative leaders and encourage people to make their mark? Does a creative, expressive culture foster competitive advantage, as Jared Diamond has speculated? I'd argue it does. If for no other reason than it draws a cadre of do-ers to a place. I'm talking about people willing to leave the comfort of their world, travel to a place lesser known, and build something from scratch--that's where the Wild Things Are.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Houston Teeming with Creativity

I just returned from a week of field research in Houston and I’m stoked. By any measure, Houston’s a growing, thriving city. But on the surface, it’s not a hip city. I had to scratch the surface. Which was part of my job. I found it teeming with young, fired up entrepreneurs in emerging categories, such as rapid prototyping and eco-landscape art.

Take for instance Dave Morris, who is a programmer by day and a festival organizer by night. He’s cooking up a 3D Festival that launches next month.

Then there’s the Caroline Collective co-working spaces that was featured in Tara Hunt’s fascinating new book, Whuffie Factor. It mashes together people in the arts, technology and sciences to share offices and rub brains. The energy that sparks off Caroline’s is palpable, not just in the hallways of the reconverted prosthesis plant it inhabits, but in and around Houston. It was on the lips of many people I spoke with, even from traditional oil and gas businesses. It’s Houston’s hub for new business boot-strappers pushing the boundaries where art and technology meet.

Caroline Collective's cofounder Matt Wettergreen is placid and self-assured, a leader with an ability to size up a risk and take the right action. Matt is not creating a co-working space. He’s leading a movement. Modest and soft-spoken as he is, he probably wouldn’t cop to that. It’s part of his charisma. And it’s part of Houston’s recipe for success: lead boldly to open doors for the other guy and good things will happen. It’s a collaborative model. And it’s the future.

Flickr photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progressive Cultural Consumers Far from Socialists

October 28, 1938 was the first mass gathering of American Marxists in New York City. Glenn Beck seems set on marking the occasion. I'm referring to his over use of the word "socialism" to describe the Obama administration's policies.

Whether it's the federal bail-out or health care reform, conservatives like Beck seem determined to have Americans believe that the micro-brew drinking, Nobel Peace Prize winning, J. Crew-wearing Obamas are moving Americans toward a socialist ideology. New data proves that's just not the case.

Our recent study of cultural consumers found these politically progressive people still adhere to a capitalist mindset...complete story at
Huffington Post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cultural Consumers Cling to Creative Pursuits Despite Weak Economy

What's the meaning of life? Cultural consumers tell us it has something to do with creativity.

The 2009 American Life and Culture Report is ready. Our latest survey finds that cultural consumers—those who actively consume cultural goods (books, film, music, theatre) — are still spending on creative comforts even in the face of a frigid economy.

• 78 percent continue to buy books
• 73 percent are paying for cable
• 67 percent are attending live theater
• 63 percent are renting and attending movies

Despite a weak economy, cultural consumers are making room in their budgets for ticketed entertainment by increasingly attending free events. They're not living a diminished lifestyle. Instead, they're carefully curating experiences that further their personal growth and help them live a meaningful life.

Our research found that free concerts and live entertainment are available to 90% of consumers and 69% use them. Ninety percent have access to open green spaces and 73% take advantage of them.

We reached into 2,300 households in 26 markets to discover whether the economy was changing people's core values and leisure patterns. To round out the picture, we interviewed 10 brand managers who are having success with cultural consumers, especially young creatives. Marketers from Red Bull, Ford Motor, MySpace and Google generously shared their insights about what it takes to reach young RenGen.

Our findings are available for FREE download.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A High Credit Score for the Arts

We’ve all heard the distressing news of theaters and other arts venues struggling, or even closing their doors, because of the recession. Turns out it may not be as bad as we think. According to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies calls the [arts] sector stable and resilient.” The article states good management, an increase in regional tourism, and government stimulus as possible reasons behind this rating.

But why are people still seeking these creative experiences? We asked this question as we studied cultural consumers and the economy in the past year. Our report launches early next week. One reason we found is that people value the arts (and are still willing to spend money on it) because they strongly believe it stimulates the economy. What’s more, across the board they believe it will add meaning to their life. Not something people will sacrifice anytime soon. They’ll adjust their life accordingly to continue to enjoy creative experiences. And help keep the arts sector stable and resilient.

Read full Chronicle of Philanthropy article here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creative Leadership in Houston

I'm in Houston today. I'll be kicking off a rare collaboration between an arts council, business association and a major university. We'll be assessing a number of aspects of the creative activity in Houston to measure their economic impact. That's nothing new. But the approach is.

The collaborative process between business, the arts and education itself is unusual. I'm witnessing what it's like when creatives take the lead.

John Maeda, president of the RISD, is thinking out loud these days about Creative Leadership. Maeda's theories on the differences between the way creatives lead versus other styles is stunningly apt.

Sponsors Shop Their Closets, Add Social Media Baubles

It's no surprise that the economy is changing the way sponsors consider opportunities. Recently, my team interviewed 10 brand managers who are experimenting with Social Media to find out, among other things, how they are viewing sponsorship decisions. A few themes emerged:

1. Sponsors are shopping their closets. Rather than looking to acquire shiny new objects, sponsors are looking at deals they already have to see how well those investments might be enhanced with Social Media.

Tip: If a sponsee has a strong Social Media overlay, put that front and center--especially when seeking renewals.

2. Own a piece of the rock. Sponsors still want quality, excitement, media-genic deals. But those often come with high price tags and benefits the sponsor can take or leave. The brand managers we spoke with were being very careful to cherry pick the benefits they need and pay only for those.

Tip: Re-think how you are bundling your assets. Know your deal breakers going in. And know the sponsor's, as well. How? Get to the "essentials" by having strategic conversations to sort the "nice to have" from the "must-haves." See point 3.

3. Be the sponsor's agent. Good partners are at the table doing planning and helping the sponsor solve problems. Sponsees who see themselves as part of the sponsor's team are agents working to mutually build both brands. Can't picture yourself getting invited to be a part of the sponsor's strategy discussion? Then one or two things may be wrong. Either you don't have a true relationship, which takes time and effort to cultivate. Or, you haven't made yourself desirable as a thought partner.

Tip: The fix either way is the same. Stay in touch with your sponsors. Send them updates. Extend personal invitations to events and experiences. Share insights, good news, media hits. Better yet, promote their good news to your peeps using Twitter, blog posts, and Facebook.

It's not complicated. It's time consuming. But not nearly as time consuming as finding a new sponsor.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Boom: The Undeniable Next Wave of Young Creatives

"Young people play a special role in changing times." So says the Knight Foundation Commission this week in the launch of their report on "Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age." And they're right.

We just completed a year-long study on the influence of expressive media on the broader culture. Our report launches next week. The findings align with Knight's--but even more dramatically. There's a boom in creative expression, especially among young people. Technology facilitates it.

As I approved the final copy changes of our report this morning, I wondered. Are young people way out ahead of the institutions that often study them? I lump myself in that query.

The rising swath of young people are cool, creative and connected. It's a juicy generation. So much so, that unlike their Boomer forerunners, who sought to overthrow the establishment--they'll wield power by ignoring it. The dis will turn the tables of power.

Helpful summary of the
Knight Commission's report here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Power of Now vs Predictions 2010

As the leaves turn scarlet and I unpack woolens, I'm thinking 2009 is nearly over. Soon, it'll be time for the annual cavalcade of 2010 predictions.

If I was reconsidering doing predictions at all, Steven Heller's hilarious website "The Nose" sealed my decision. He lets the helium out of the practice with clever art by Seymour Chwast.

I confess it. I've succumbed to the ego-driven practice myself. As have other bloggers, some of them bang on or at least amusing. In 2009, Kreskin got specific, John Batelle proved insightful regarding the arc of social media and Faith Popcorn phoned it in.

I'm researching my next book. I've discovered the long lost pleasures of a personal life. And I have exciting client projects. Here's to the present.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cancer Cause Cracks the Social Media Code

American Cancer Society has declared itself the Official Sponsor of Birthdays. And women bloggers will lead the way to a “more birthdays” movement with the formation of the American Cancer Society Blogger Advisory Council. The campaign goes beyond cause-marketing to build a sponsor-worthy movement: build online momentum, gain an audience, seek sponsors to an established base.

The Council members will work with the Society to determine how best to use social media to encourage women to take an active role in fighting cancer. The American Cancer Society Blogger Advisory Council members include:
Catherine Morgan of
Darryle Pollack of
Julie Pippert of
Karyn Watkins of
Karen Zgoda of
Nordette Adams
Renee Ross of
Susan Niebur of and

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that blogging is a powerful source of information sharing for women. Nearly twice as likely to use blogs and social networking sites as a source of information (64 percent), advice and recommendations (43 percent) and opinion-sharing (55 percent). There are 42 million U.S. women online weekly doing some form of social media activity.

Also, women who blog are significantly more active across all forms of social media, and are thus ideal conduits of information and knowledge sharing. In addition to the Blogger Advisory Council, the American Cancer Society has an online presence for the "more birthdays" movement at,, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Artists Tipping the Business Culture

Cory Doctorow's forecast about the future of the novel caught my eye. A technocrat, he still reads bound books. No Kindle for Cory.

It's worth noting that Cory is collaborating with his publisher, Tor, to tinker with the traditional business model for the release of his latest, Overclocked, a collection of short stories. The economic model is a mash-up of some free stuff, advertising, custom printing and sales. In this video Cory pitches the concept to a live audience. It's like an artsy B-school pitch. It's intriguing that the innovations seem to be driven more by the artist himself than the publisher. I argue that we'll continue to see this kind of artist-driven innovation as those who create the culture come into their own.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is Digital Culture Killing Print? Or Just Readers?

I just finished reading a stack of business books. I’m brain dead. Don't get me wrong. The content was strong. Some very powerful minds out there are helping people solve serious business problems.

-Pam Slim blew me away with her treasure trove of advice for upstarts.

-Bill Wasik waxes eloquently about digital culture, as does Clay Shirky.

-Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's Groundswell captures the key business advantages of tapping into social technologies with clarity and force.

-Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check is a desk reference for entrepreneurs that is beyond handy. It's a life raft.

So what's my beef? Cracking open even the most compelling business book is like stepping into a coffin. Formatted with all the visual appeal of Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, they are densely packed and relentlessly boring to the eye. How many people read like that any more? My grandmother, maybe.

More and more I'm using my Kindle. Devices like it will trigger new reading habits. Kindle or not, if Tom Peters could wrest his ideas from the tyranny of blandness by partnering with the picture-book publisher Dorling Kindersley, why haven't others followed suit? Because most publishers haven’t caught up with the culture, that’s why.

I'd argue that the Web isn't just changing the business model of publishing, as Chris Anderson discusses in Free, it's changing the user experience. Expectations of print are changing. A digital reading aesthetic is born. Business publishing just missed the christening.

Having marched through seven business books, I applied eye drops and emailed my friend the literature professor. I shared my rant about publishing. What do you think? I asked. His new book on 18th century satirists will be out soon. He wants to offer a free powdered wig with every book purchase to drive sales. His publisher probably loves the idea. What do you think? He asked.