Pogoplug allows printing from iPhone, iPad, Android or any other device, no matter where you are


Here’s an interesting new development from Pogoplug (a client) -  web printing. Or cloud printing if you prefer.

For the first time, Pogoplug users will be able to print from an iPhone, iPad, Android or other mobile device from anywhere in the world.

Pogoplug cloud printing will initially support all HP printer models and all Epson printers released since 2005.  Set-up is simple and straightforward; once a printer is connected to a Pogoplug, it is ready to use.

Additionally, users can email any document directly to their Pogoplug for printing.  Printers can be shared with friends, family and colleagues or used to create printer ‘hotspots’ for temporary access to a printer in a public location. The new Pogoplug “cloud printing” feature is coming automatically to existing and future Pogoplug customers later this Summer. And there are no fees for the new feature.

This follows on from another recent addition to the Pogoplug which was the ability to email any document for storage on a Pogoplug connected drive.

As the owner of a shiny new iPad, the Pogoplug is certainly helping to address complaints from some quarters about the rigamarole you have to go through to get files off your iPad to then work on a separate machine. For example, if you create a Keynote presentation,  you have to use some kind of file sharing software to export – and that means being in the vicinity of your desktop machine.

However, with a Pogoplug, you can simply e-mail your presentation (or any file) using “upload@mypogoplug” and you have access to your file from anywhere. For example,  I created a presentation on my iPad while  travelling – when I wanted someone in the office to edit it, I simply e-mailed it to a shared folder – and my colleague could work on it.

Neat.

How UK PR firms can improve their SEO capability overnight for £85


About 18 months ago*, I paid around £85 for a piece of software called Market Samurai. I can hand on heart say it is has been one of the most valuable tech investments I’ve made in that time.

To describe it as a general internet marketing tool doesn’t really do it justice. Whether it is drastically reducing the amount of time to handle keyword research or detailed analysis of SERPs, I constantly refer to it.

One of things that stands out for me is the vast amount of useful training material provided by the Market Samurai team – for free. Just watching a few of these videos would probably save PR firms many man weeks and hundreds of pounds of Mickey Mouse training from less reliable sources.

Here’s a couple to give you a flavour:

An Introduction To Keyword Research

How To Find Relevant Keywords

Before I get too fluffy bunny about Market Samurai, it isn’t going to do your SEO PR for you. But at least you can try out the product for free for a few weeks, so no risk there.

Anyway. Enough of my gushing. It is most unlike me. Why not click on the big graphic on the upper right of the page and get a free trial download. See what you think. In fact, I’d welcome feedback from people who try it out – I’m happy to share tips and tricks I’ve picked up using the product over the last 18 month with like minded PR folk who want to improve their SEO skills.

*In the interests of transparency, I’m happy to say that I’ve signed up as an affiliate for Market Samurai. So yes, if you do end up buying it, I get a modest commission. It doesn’t impact the price you pay for it. However, you will note that I have no other such affiliate arrangements with any other provider. I’ve been recommending Market Samurai (for free) to anyone who will care to listen over the last year. So the recent creation of the affiliate programme simply gives recommenders like me a small reward for pointing people to a product I highly value in any case.

Winners and losers in NMA’s search agency league table 2010 + PR implications


A curate’s egg – ie good in parts – is probably the best way to look at NMA’s latest league table of UK search marketing agencies.

As ever, I’m always grateful to NMA for providing the baseline data to look at. As I’ve done in previous years, I thought I’d dig behind the figures to see if there are any significant trends to be discovered – and to compare the search sector with the PR sector.

First up, some things worth noting regarding this year’s league table compared to 2009.

1. As per last year, NMA looked at net income (gross profit) rather than turnover in order to rank agencies.

2. The NMA table seems to suffer like PR Week’s league tables from agencies who submit figures when times are good – and then don’t submit when the data doesn’t look so rosy. There are only 19 firms in this year’s league table that were in last year’s. Hard to believe that 11 firms dropped out by recording a lower gross profit  (£36K) than number 36 ranked iVantage. So we can only assume they chose not to take part for whatever reason.

3. The financial periods being compared vary widely. For example, although in principle the table is intended to cover 2009, iCrossing achieved a number two position based on their figures to the end of Dec 2008. However, Steak returned figures based on a year end to February 2010 – as we all know, a lot can happen in 14 months. So worth bearing in mind that apples aren’t necessarily being compared with apples here.

So what can be gleaned from this year’s figures?

On one level, you might argue that Bigmouthmedia should be very pleased to have held on to their number one slot for the second year running with gross profit of £12.6m (in terms of PR sector comparisons, bear in mind that this is larger than most top 150 PR Week firms achieve in terms of top line fee income).  However, Bigmouth actually saw gross profit drop by 5.78pc on last year – or £775K.  Other firms also saw declines in net income – in fact a total of 42pc of the firms that appeared in last year’s table saw falls in net income. The biggest came from Latitude with a 52pc drop (£5.4m). As was well documented at the time, Latitude went (briefly) into administration in January, before a management buy out saw the firm back in the game.

In terms of net income per earner, Bigmouth once again are  top of the pile – £120K gross profit per employee – marginally down on last year’s figure of £123K. Last year’s top performer in terms of gross profit per employee – Net Planet Media – didn’t figure in this year’s table. Then again, it did derive 100pc of its income via paid search – so perhaps the removal of Google’s BPF had a big impact on net income (for PR comparison, the top fee per earner rate in the PR Week Top 150 is around 280K. However, even assuming stellar gross margins of 30pc ie unlikely, the best performing top 150 PR Week firms would still be well below Bigmouth’s profit per employee figure).

But who were the best search agency performers? (*)

On the basis of actual and percentage growth, then there is a clear winner – Propellernet.  The Brighton-based firm saw net income rise by 64pc to £2.268m. Propellernet was also second only to Bigmouth in terms of gross profit per employee (£113K). Congrats also to Agenda21 and Epiphany Solutions who saw net income rise 44pc and 32pc respectively.

So what does this tell us about the state of the search sector? And the implications for PR?

As NMA themselves pointed out “it was the first full year to cope without Google’s Best Practice Funding. This had often been used by agencies to lure in new business by offering any commission from Google to the client directly. In a world without this, agencies had to prove their added value.”

In other words, agencies had to move away from relying on PPC for income.  This can clearly be seen in the breakdown of individual revenue streams from agencies.

For example, back in 2008, Steak said it drew 80pc of its revenue from paid search. According to NMA, that percentage is now down to 37pc.  And this trend is being played out among other search marketing firms. But although natural search is taking a bigger slice of search agency revenue, in many cases, agencies are turning into digital generalists, offering e-mail, mobile, interactive and other services.

Of course, we ought to be careful about how these labels are defined. For example, top performer Propellernet says 70pc of its revenue comes from natural search with 30pc from paid search. However, Propellernet have been very vocal of late in promoting their SEO PR offering – indeed, they currently describe themselves as a search and social marketing agency. Perhaps some very healthy online PR related revenues are being wrapped up under the label of natural search?

Staying with PR, it was also interesting to note that the digital arm of PR group Golley Slater made an impressive debut in the NMA table with net income of £2.1m. In the PR Week top 150 table, Golley Slater generated PR fee income of £3.9m. Even if Golley Slater achieved record breaking gross PR profit margins of 30pc, then their digital income would still dwarf their profits from PR.  I strongly suspect their PR margins are much lower than 30pc. And PR fee income fell last year.

The search arm of PR group Chime Communications VCCP also saw net income rise to £1.16m – a smaller, but significant and growing contribution to the profitability of Chime overall.

In summary, this year’s NMA league table shows that even the search sector is not entirely immune to the general woes of the economy. Having said that, search firms continue to generate very respectable profits – certainly compared with the PR sector. And search firms are making no secret of continuing their land grab for PR work. The PR sector must therefore continue to up its game in terms of the quality and value of the digital services it offers.

(*) I was all set to name Summit Media as the best performer. They apparently recorded an incredible 1128pc increase (£1.364m) in net income based on the figures in last year’s NMA table which ranked them at number 29 with gross profit of £120K. However, according to this year’s table, they actually recorded net income of £1,208,160 in 2009 – so obviously a big typo remains in last year’s NMA search agency table.

How much is BP really paying for those “oil spill” PPC ads?


The piece quoted Maureen Mackey, a writer on the Fiscal Times as saying: “What it effectively does is that it bumps down other legitimate news and opinion pieces that are addressing the spill… and [BP are] paying big money for that.”
Er, not quite.
First, BP are buying PPC ads – so they are hardly bumping natural search results anywhere. Second, there is an assumption that BP must be paying “big money” for these PPC ads.
Let’s take the phrase “oil spill”. Sure enough, plug it into Google and BP’s ad is there at the top – in fact, it is the only PPC ad on the page (at least when I did it).
So how much would BP have to pay for this? Using Google’s free Traffic Estimator tool, it would seem they would pay a maximum of $1.38 per click. And
Google estimates the number of click throughs that BP would get as between 29 and 45 per day. In other words, a cost of around $70 per day – maximum.
Now BP may well be bidding on lots of other “oil spill” related terms – but I’d hazard a guess that their total PPC budget for achieving these top ad positions is not nearly as much as some people assume (ironically, The Times article has probably done more to encourage people to search for the term “oil spill” and for people to click the ad in curiosity).
If you look at historical bidding patterns on the term “oil spill” you’ll see that nobody has really bothered much about it. In fact, in March in the UK (pre-BP crisis) not a single company was bidding on the term. In April, a lot more companies started bidding on the term both in the US and UK. Curiously, everyone seemed to stop bidding on it in May. And BP are probably the only one of a handful of companies bidding on the term right now. Coupled with a relevant landing page, that probably translates into a relatively low PPC cost.
Of course, the big question many people are asking is – are BP right to be buying PPC ads around these terms?  The moral issue aside, the notion that BP are bleeding money on this exercise is probably wide of the mark.

Exclusive! Daily Mail actively using “prying” technology to influence reader behaviour


Visitors to the Daily Mail website are having personal information about themselves captured for the purpose of influencing their behaviour to purchase goods and services, we can exclusively reveal. The Mail also admits that it will use information gathered on individuals to “deal with” comments made on the site.
Extensive research carried out by a crack escherman web team can reveal that the Daily Mail deploys an array of sophisticated web analytics and tracking technologies including Omniture, Sophus3, Google Analytics and ComScore.
According to Andrew Smith at escherman: “It took us all of 15 seconds to identify the full scale of the Daily Mail’s arsenal of monitoring technology. Some of these tools can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and clearly demonstrates how seriously the Daily Mail is prepared to invest in prying into the online behaviour of its readers.”
The sales literature for Sophus3, for example, makes no attempt to obscure its true purpose:
“Sophus3 has the capability to identify visitors who come from online campaigns, how they behave on your website and whether they turn into a lead or buy after that. With our analysis tools we can determine the effect of online advertising on consumer interest.”
In addition, the Daily Mail’s so called Privacy Policy brazenly asserts that it will use visitor information to: “Deal with, and respond to you about, a comment you have submitted for or on our message boards, blogs and other such user generated content facilities.”
Concludes Smith: “The amount of information that the Mail is gathering about its online readers is immense – everything from the kind of browser they are using down to their IP address. There can be no doubt that they are openly using this information to try and personalise their readers experience – or worse – co-erce them into buying third party products and services. We can only hope that their own journalists will apply the same rigorous approach as they’ve used with other organisations to write a follow up story to expose their own colleagues questionable behaviour and flagrant disregard for privacy.”

Rolls Royce Corporate Comms Director: “Social media is a complete waste of time”


Well, that’s how I interpreted the words of Rolls Royce Director of Communications Peter Morgan in the latest issue of Corp Comms Magazine. I appreciate that I didn’t attend the event where he is supposed to have made the statements below – but I don’t doubt that Corp Comms Editor Helen Dunne has faithfully recorded what he said.
According to Morgan: “I was communications director at BT for five and a half years. I’ve been communications director at Rolls-Royce for about six months. I don’t think there is a single example where social media has impacted directly on the reputation or share price of either of these significant organisations.”
The phrase I picked up on here was “impacted directly”. What about the indirect impact of social media on a company’s reputation with its customers? Surely if BT or any other organisation continually ignores grievances voiced by customers on social networks then this is surely indicative of a deeper malaise within the company? And that sooner or later those chickens will come home to roost?
“If a subject gains traction in the social media domain, if it is important, it very quickly feeds into the mainstream press. And when the Daily Mail phones to tell you that you’ve got a problem, you know you’ve got a problem. There is a self-alerting mechanism.”
But how can the Daily Mail call Peter Morgan? Although he is listed on the Rolls Royce corporate website as a media contact, he stands out from the rest of his colleagues as being the only one who doesn’t have his phone number listed (reminded me of the Director of Customer Relations for a FTSE 250 firm, who, as a matter of policy, refused to talk to customers).
Morgan seems to view social networks as simply feeder channels for the mainstream media. In other words, a social media topic is only validated if it is picked up by a traditional big media outlet.  Dealing with the Daily Mail et al should therefore still be the top priority for a corporate comms director. Presumably Morgan isn’t one of the 54pc of senior communications directors who think that their key challenge for 2010 is executing a digital strategy.
He continues: “For decades, there have been people in pubs all around Britain saying how much they hate BT or how frustrated they are with Virgin Atlantic or whatever. The fact that they now spout their opinions on a social networking site doesn’t make them any more important or more alarming. “
If I’ve understood his comment correctly then – in Morgan’s opinion – BT and Virgin Atlantic customers (or any organisations customers for that matter) are simply annoying oiks whose opinions are worthless. They are an irritating distraction to the main goal of making sure the share price is propped up at all costs.
In which case, the irony will not be lost on Morgan by this story in today’s Mail on Sunday in which his former employer, BT, is, gasp, monitoring and responding to negative comments on social networks – big style. If customers “spouting their opinions on a social networking site” are “neither important nor alarming”, then why is his former employer patently investing heavily in social media monitoring?
And how would Peter Morgan deal with this story if he were still at BT?
What would he do about how the story has been circulated widely online using the very social networks that he appears to regard as unimportant? Or deal with the growing number of comments the story is attracting on the MoS site itself? The bizarre irony of this piece is that most of the people commenting think the MoS has taken a daft perspective on companies paying attention to customer complaints online – but in turn, they are then using the MoS story as a platform to air their grievances about BT generally – but presumably these people are the same kind of “opinion spouters” that have been dismissed as unimportant previously.
On a different subject, anyone thinking of selling a sentiment analysis tool to Peter is also probably wasting their time:
“I’m deeply suspicious of this early warning idea. In most consumer organisations, the time taken between this becoming a good social media story (My note: what’s a bad social media story?) and this becoming a good online news story and the Daily Mail being on the phone is minutes. I think that it is a waste of money to invest in online tracking systems for social media alerting you to problems. Every problem that has come across my desk has travelled too fast for that early warning system to be of help to me.”
As I’ve said already, it appears that Peter Morgan believes dealing with traditional big media is the main priority of a corporate comms department. In which case, he is probably right to argue that using a social media tracking tool as a crisis management early warning system is flawed – but only if you view dealing with traditional big media as the top priority for a corporate comms department. Surely the modern day comms director must pay attention to what customers are saying – wherever they are saying it. And respond appropriately.
Finally: “Your company website is of critical importance. When deciding how to deploy resource, you would be rash to deploy social media at the expense of a principal corporate website. The oldest communications tool of all is frequently ignored.”
Presumably one of the oldest communications tools is the telephone – which as we’ve seen above, is one that Morgan himself seems to ignore too. At least as a two way communication tool.
So, is he a PR dinosaur? Or a voice of sanity? I wonder if he’ll stop by to comment on this post? Given his apparent attitude to social media, I assume he’ll never even be aware of its existence. But I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. I’d even be happy to take a phone call (020 8334 8095).
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