Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Social Media is like 1973 again, minus the bellbottoms

Most people in marketing and PR can think back to a time when the family living room was a place families gathered as a group to watch television and listen to music.

Back then, just about anyone in America regardless of age could sing the lyrics to any number of Jackson 5 tunes. In the same way, just about anyone could sing the theme song to Gilligan's Island. These were touch stones, the foundations of the American experience like baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. Since the 1970s, none of those institutions is the same.

Beginning in 1973, baseball's apple was tarnished with free agency, strikes and steroids; the apples we eat are either organic, genetically modified or driven here from South America; and despite a brief though unsustainable respite fueled by the sale of SUVs, the U.S. auto industry has never recovered from the 1970s oil crisis.

Following a general loosening of restrictions on cable television, HBO (then known as Home Box Office) launched in 1972, delivering uncut movies into homes across America and television has never been the same.

In 1972, All in the Family delivered a 34.0 rating, meaning one third of all the people in America watched the show and 54 percent of the television sets that were on tuned into that show. If you didn't watch it, you couldn't TiVo it and watch the show later, but you heard about it in school, by the water cooler or on the bus to work.

By comparison, the most highly rated show in 2009, American Idol, captured only ten percent of the U.S. population.

Simply put, network television doesn't deliver audiences like it used to. And now that more people DVR or TiVo their favorite shows, watching those shows without commercial interruption, the audiences are falling faster.

It's been mentioned before, but it bears repeating here, while newspapers have grimly reported their own demise, television taken a more "if we don't talk about the pink elephant in the room, maybe nobody will notice" approach.

But all is not lost for advertisers. Even though audiences have shrunk, niche cable programming has delivered more targeted audience. Advertisers can feel comfortable knowing the eyeballs they are buying on Lifetime's movie channel will certainly be interested in perfume or hair products. Every cable channel delivers its own audience. Social media is a lot like that.

Each medium brings its own audience, but more importantly, it is a self-selecting audience that wants to be there. People join fan pages on Facebook and MySpace because they want to be part of something and find out more about the company. They follow companies on Twitter because they want to be in touch at all times.

It's important to remember that social media is new, just like the Internet was before the Netscape browser that made it easy for the masses to navigate through the wild World Wide Web. It seems some companies were with us from the outset, Amazon and eBay come to mind. Others came on strong later, knocking off more established competitors--hello Google, where have you gone AltaVista?

When I hear people talk about effective social media it's always in terms of case studies, things that have worked in the past. That's because the landscape is changing and we are still writing the rules for social media.

A year ago, it would have been impossible to predict the rise of Twitter. Two months ago, everyone had to have a presence in the Twittersphere. Today, its growth has stopped. Tomorrow remains a mystery. Will everyone ride the Google Wave?

The point is that for communications professionals, we have hit a bend in the river. What is will happen in three or four years is largely an unknown. As we try to negotiate what is a fast moving river, where everything changes at Internet speed, some of the stuff that worked when we through it against a wall yesterday will not work today. An example of this can be seen in how the rules of email marketing evolved due to the rise in spam. How will Twitter react to its own spam slam?

A better question for communications folks is, what is the new Twitter and how will we use it?

If you like to learn on the run and rewrite all the rules, it's never been more fun to be in this game.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smartphones help life work balance

In a previous post, I noted that smartphones sales have defied current market forces and sales have climbed, despite the ongoing recession. There are some obvious reasons for this, not the least of which is that cell phone contracts expire after two years, and conveniently for the carriers and and cell phone makers, is about the life expectancy of the average phone. Throw in a little bit of smartphone envy created by good marketing and you have the solid recipe for upgrading cell phones every two years.

You also have to look at how human beings are hard wired genetically. We have an inbred need to communicate, to be linked to our friends and family almost all the time.

A recent article in the Times noted that smartphone marketers have taken advantage of this impulse and smartphones have moved from a "nice to have" to "must have" for everyone from corporate corner office types to pre-teens wanting to be cool.

One of the byproducts of having a smartphone is anywhere, everywhere accessibility, and that's 24/7. In the same way that email, WiFi and the laptop made it possible to take your office almost anywhere, smartphones bring an even greater level of accesibility because you don't have to lug around a big laptop case or wait for the machine to power up. While some complain that accessiblity comes at a price because workers are expected to respond to email in more places and more often, I argue the opposite.

Smartphones give their users unlimited mobility. You don't have to lug around a laptop to review a critical email that means you can go to a kid's recital or soccer game without guilt. And downtime in doctors' offices or on commuter trains can be used productively.

If you watch current entertainment, there's a fallacy that Americans aren't supposed to be hard workers, the most successful people almost always are the hardest workers. That's one manifestation of the American dream that does hold. We live in a meritocrary, and smartphones aid workaholics in their quest to achieve some sembalance of a work life balance.

Now, if you want to talk about smartphones and their contribution to the digital divide, well that's the subject of another post.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Smartphones giveth and taketh away revenue from carriers

Apple's killler iPhone sales have forced other smartphone makers to step up their game. But if you read any review of a competing product in the consumer cell phone market, that is the non-enterprise user, the iPhone is the gold standard by which all others can't compare. No question.

The trouble is that most people agree it's a horrible phone on a lousy network, so it's not really a cell phone. The inappropriately named iPhone is really a mini-computer and gaming device. If you get two iPhone users in the same room, inevitably their talk turns to the cool apps they have on their phones. And then they talk about the dropped calls and how quickly they will leave AT&T once it loses its exclusive carrier privilege.

If the AT&T's iPhone customers do as predicted, leave for better networks once AT&T's exclusive partnership with Apple runs out, the carrier's revenues, already suffering through decreased landline use, will fall off the cliff. To prevent this dramatic lose of income, AT&T must demonstrate physically that its network has improved service because marketing alone won't get the job done. AT&T may claim more bars in more places, but no one who has AT&T for carrier believes that tag line.

Of course, AT&T may have another surprise up its sleeve, like their first exclusive arrangement with Apple, but I doubt it.

In a perverse way, while the introduction of smartphones like the iPhone has given the carriers more high paying data using customers, it has limited their opportunity to drive greater revenue from the customers.

Once upon a time, Verizon pushed its own music service, overcharging for music with bad sound quality--music that you probably owned already and did not want to pay for again. The iPhone effectively put an end to that potential revenue stream and the Apple app store killed any notion that carriers might have had about delivering games across their networks.

What is interesting in all of this is that consumer technology's true giant, Microsoft, hasn't found a toe hold in this market. By any objective standard, both versions of the Zune player have been a a bust, if not an outright diaster. Besides, Microsoft attempts to corner and closed the market on PDA operating devices are in the trash bin next to the Apple Newton.

This is important because as smartphones become more and more sophsiticated, more and more people will stop buying laptops, especially people who can only afford one or the other. You don't think that's going to happen? Tell that to the desktop computer makers.

I have heard the argument that people can't write a term paper or a press release on a smartphone, but I'll bet LG 2009 texting champion Katie Moore can. The hardest thing for anyone more 30 years old to accept is that the technology kids use will be standard technology 30 years from now. Experience isn't always the best teacher, sometimes it's a stumbling block.

The question for the day: if the world moves to a smartphone platform for computing, where does that leave Microsoft?

Increased smartphones sales makes us better writers

While the rest of the economy stumbles along, smartphone sales are humming right along. Best Buy and AT&T have sold out of their pre-order allotment of the iPhone 3G S and in some stores the Palm Pre was sold out within hours. Though some claim the tight supply was little more than a marketing gimmick, the point remains: smartphone sales are defining the dark force in the global economy.

The effects of the increase in smartphone sales have big implications for public relations and society. For PR, because smartphones have smaller screen real estate, writers must deliver tight subject lines, attention getting headlines and strong lead sentences. If you think readers skim through email quickly, the small font sizes on most smartphones make reading a chore and writers have to make the reader feel like the extra work is worth it.

The payoff for a good writer is that you can get your message read in more places and at more times. Smartphone users instintively reach for their devices whenever they are bored, have downtime or are stuck watching a dance recital featuring the pre-schoolers of others.

While marketers have more opportunity to reach more eyeballs, turning readers into buyers is still a challenging task. Good writers and strong writing have never been more in demand and fortunately for PR firms with all of the cuts in media, there are more good writers looking for work than ever. Yet, good writers don't always make good PR people.

Many media still think that working for PR is like taking a walk over to the dark side and they don't understand that in PR you not only have to inform, but you must convince someone to take action. And of course, some media people hate pitching or begging their former colleagues to take a meeting.

In England, crossing from working media to PR and back again is much more common and accepted. Of course, British writers also expect the agencies to pick up the tab at dinner or the bar, something their American counterparts think lessens objectivity. Across the pond, pay for play is A-okay.

So my question is: when will the changing media landscape usher in a new wave of pay per play? Perhaps a better question is, given how few technology companies buy ads in key publications, do their ad dollars already influence the tenor of coverage?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Truth, accuracy and the new media way

Like almost everyone who follows the media, I have been fascinated by the recent dust up from the NY Times attack on bloggers and their propensity to report on rumor as fact. And like most others, I find the proposition of reporters disparaging their competition a little dicey. It smacks of self interest. Even people with the best of intentions have trouble remaining impartial when their livelihood is on the line.

But the NY Times wouldn't print it if it were not true, right?

Not according to TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, who uses his microphone to slam the NY Times for shoddy reporting on this story. Arrington makes some great points, especially when he points out where the NY Times was flat out wrong.

Here's the problem for the NY Times, if they hope to make it in whatever the future holds for major American newspapers, all they have to stand on is their credibility. In light of the Jayson Blair scandal and a relentless conservative movement to paint the publication as a dishonest messenger, the paper's image has been badly tarnished.

And yet according to Editor and Publisher Magazine, the publication's online readership has grown. As of March 2009, the paper saw a seven percent year-over-year increase to about 20.1 million unique visitors. If newspapers are the first draft of history, over 20 million people think the Times does pretty good on the first take.

Despite Arrington's accurate objections to the NY Times piece about him, where there is smoke there is fire and bloggers have been taking liberties with the truth. Truth and accuracy, it seems, are the causalities of the rise of new media.

So what's next? I think Marc Hausman has it right in his blog post on the changing of the journalistic guard, new media and old line journalism will come closer together. The Arrington vs. NY Times dust up proves how much influence both outlets have.

But I also think if bloggers don't try to get it right most of the time, they will turn into unread side shows. I think Jeff Jarvis's commentary about this tiff is spot on:

To quote Gawker founder Nick Denton, when we put up “half-baked posts” we are saying to our public: Here’s what we know, here’s what we don’t know, what do you know. I believe it is critical to clearly label that, giving caveats and context. The same is true of 24-hour cable news, where the viewer must become the editor, understanding the difference between what is known now and what what can be confirmed later (see: the West Virgina mining disaster). In short: We who publish must learn how to say what we don’t know at least as well as we say what we know.

Look, even the National Enquirer tells the truth now, but with their history they have trouble conquering the sniff test. So when they get a big story right, like the John Edwards affair, no one believes them or really cares.

Bloggers don't want to end up in that camp.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tools of the trade

When I started in tech PR 10 years ago, you did most of your real pitching to reporters on the phone. There were magazines that mattered like the Industry Standard, Red Herring, Business 2.0 and Fast Company and it was all about getting in the print edition because the online world didn't matter.

Today, when PR people talk about bloggers or social media they say, "It's about creating relationships."

That's tripe. It's always been about creating relationships. What's different is that the tools of the trade have changed and technology has changed how the people receiving the message get the message.

The first part of how delivering the message has changed is obvious. Ten years ago, if you had a good story, you called a reporter on the phone and delivered a pitch tailored to their ears. But they published once a week. It would take an enterprising PR flack an hour to two to skim the reporter's last 10 stories and have an good idea about what that reporter covered over the last three months. Today, bloggers can knock out that many stories in a couple of weeks.
Becasue publishing is easier, we have more people with smaller microphones. As a result, today's media is delivering a smaller and more fragmented audience, like the transition from network television to 800 niche cable channels.

With more people writing more stories, developing relationships is statiscally more difficult and professionally more important. Because reporters and bloggers are under tighter deadlines, they rely on PR folks they trust to provide a comment right away.

The second change and the one that has changed how PR works is the rise of the consumer Internet. Corporate Web sites and search engines have greatly changed how end users gather information. Many businesses no longer need a middle man to deliver the message, they can do it themselves, forcing a fundamental shift in PR and marketing.

While newspapers and magazines deliver a targeted and known audience, really interested buyers will have searched the Web for info on purchases. They come into the buying mode with some idea of the products on the market, but look to media, new and old, to help in the reviews processes. It's a paradigm change from waiting for media to push stories to end users and having that drive sales.

What does this mean for PR people? Answer: we are all going to become marketers. Phone skills will fade, writing will rise and SEO will be ever more important. The kids coming out of school today will become multi-talented. They will be able to write, take still pictures and edit video. There will be, and there are specialists for all of these tasks, but those who use to specialize in PR will find ourselves more tightly aligned with the marketing department.

Bet on it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Consolidation, bad customer service, disaster

As consolidation sweeps across an industry, customers suffer. Oligarchies stifle competition, setting prices and releasing products that meet their needs, not the consumers. For a classic example of this, see OPEC during the 1970's, Ma Bell before the 1980's break up, the music industry or, for a more recent example, the U.S. auto industry. The other lesson here is that oligarchies hurt themselves. The lack of competition leads to complacency, a failure to innovation and focus on the bottom line not the end user.

No where is this clearer than in the customer service department of large corporations. Every call to a customer service department starts with a machine and menu of options that generally starts off letting the customer know how to pay the bill. From the outset, the company sets the image that its chief role is to collect payments, not provide service.

Customer service departments in large corporations are similar to human resources. They work for the people providing the service, not the people receiving it. As a result, they stick to corporate policies rather than resolving customer issues.

A case in point: I recently cancelled my FiOS service with Verizon because I moved out of their coverage area. While I liked the FiOS service and the channels, especially now that I am living with a more limited and more expense lineup from Comcast because I am no longer in a competitive market, for the first six months of my relationship with Verizon, I was over billed. Problems that I thought were resolved, snuck back into subsequent bills.

Cable bills are paid in advance. That means, you pay for June service before you actually receive it. They also don't prorate your last bill, but ask you to send in the full amount and promise to send you a refund check 6-8 weeks later, if they remember. During all that time, they collect interest on your money. During a call to Verizon I point out that there was no need for me to pay the full amount of the June bill, they had cut off service and I returned the equipment so I could not siphon off services. Verizon said they hadn't determined the final bill. But why not, I asked I had been without service for a little over a week, why couldn't they simply prorate the bill on the spot? Because that's not the way it's done came the answer.

Verizon is by no means alone in this, when I switched over to ATT to buy the iPhone, each of my first four bills contained $40 of extra services that I never ordered. It took four separate 30 minute phone calls to finally resolve the problem.

I mention this not because I think everyone should check their bills carefully--you should--but these companies can get away with this lack of customer service and over billing for two reasons:
1) They think people will not notice that they are being over billed and they are right.
2) There is no penalty for over billing. In fact, because most of us sign one or two year contracts to get favorable rates, there is a penalty on us if we fight back by taking our business away.

Bad customer service is one symptom of a larger malaise, a lack of focus on the customer. This disregard for the end user is fine as long as the consumer cannot find other choices, but it kills the corporation when sea changes occur. Most often this sea change comes with a shift in technology, such as the oil crisis and the resulting demand for cars with better gas mileage or Napster and music industry reluctance to embrace the Internet.

In both cases, the reigning colossus lost because it tried to dictate end user behavior and failed as outside forces proved to be too strong. To be fair, both the auto and music industry had products that inspired loyalty, but as giants who focused on their bottom lines rather that what was good for the customer, they didn't innovate and are on life support.

Who is next?

Why there are too many people on Twitter

Starting in mid-May, I stepped out of the Twitter stream. Instead of tweeting four times a day, I stopped cold turkey, no nicotine patch, no nothing. And you know what, even this convicted gadget guy, didn't miss it. Not one bit.

While I was gone, Twitter lived on, much the same way that it always has and like a good conversation or a good book, I was able to pick where I left off. Of course, Twitter hadn't changed much because despite the relentless media hype, its growth flattened.

Let's face it. Twitter is a limited application. If you follow the right techniques, you can amass a million followers, though it helps if you are a celebrity or Aston Kutcher. But how many conversations do you really want to join. In this universe, time is finite and while you can have many followers, we are limited to a few hundred friends.

Twitter works best for those who are connected all the time and can follow the stream as part of their daily course of business. For all of us techies out there, and I hate to say this, but that's a small percentage of the population.

From what I understand about psychology, once more than seven people join a face-to-face conversation, it fragments. I haven't seen psychology studies on how many people you can follow on Twitter and I'll bet you haven't either, but in your heart of hearts you know how many that number is and it doesn't run into the thousands.

What I am saying is that Twitter is not Facebook. It will appeal to limited number of people and that's okay. I peg that number at number at 11 million, when all is said and done. A gut feeling, nothing more. Look, about 60 percent of all users abandon their accounts within a month, finding that the hype doesn't match the experience. People will come and go. Hopefully, a core group remains.

Twitter rose because it took the best of Facebook--the status report--and gave you a way to broadcast to your friends without the apps and causes that cluttered Facebook's status report. (No thank you, I don't want good Karma nor do I want to sponsor a pet, and also I am not a bad person because I have repeatedly ignored your requests to do so.) Facebook realized this and changed it's user interface to head off the challenge from Twitter.

Before the Twitter hype hit its zenith, many of my PR friends said that Twitter would not make a difference in how their companies marketed products. I agreed, but I also pointed out that people were on on Twitter so business had to pay attention.

In the end, PR and marketers agreed did notice. The notorious and no longer infamous bank robber Willie Sutton once said you rob banks because that's where the money is. Marketers flocked to the Internet because that's were the cool kids hang, especially the coveted demographic of affluent people who make big decisions with big money.

If anything has ruined Twitter, it's the rush to monetize it. Left alone, Twitter could have grown organically, free from the media's diminishing but destructive gaze. That's not possible now. Once the shiny new toy that beckoned, Twitter will do a quiet fade away. The cool kids will find another playground. The only question remains, does Google buy Twitter or does Facebook dance on the remains?

p.s. by the way, I stand by this post even in light of the importance of Twitter in keeping people informed about the stunted revolution in Iran. Once the old regime is back in power, all those Twitter accounts will die like the aborted attempt at democracy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cable is good business ... for now

According to Saul Hansell's recent blog in the NY Times, the cable companies are doing better than ever.

Revenue at both Time Warner and Comcast rose 5 percent, a growth rate that many companies would kill for in these lean times. Their various measures of operating income and cash flow rose a bit faster than revenue because they’ve been able to keep a handle on costs.
But there's trouble on the horizon. ESPN demands $3 per subscriber and Comcast has to pay NFL Networks 40-45 cents per subscriber--all year long. As more niche cable sports networks come online, expect sports packages to cut into those cables profits.

Comcast has fought back by offering sports tiers, for an additional fee, of course, but in general cable companies are loath to offer a la carte services. Most consumers only watch a handful of the channels available in their bundled packages, and to let consumers pick and choose their favorites would cut into revenues.

The other thing that is going to cut into cable company revenue, amusingly enough, is one of their products, the Internet. Already, tech savvy people are letting go of their expensive cable packages in favor of services like Hulu or just watching series episodes on network Web sites.

The trouble is that right now, getting the technology to work seemlessly requires networking skils that are far beyond the powers of ordinary man or woman, as this NPR All Tech blogger found out.

What will drive people to learn how to harness the technology is costs. The average cable bill has doubled in the past 10 years and we haven't gotten a whole lot more for our money beyond HDTV, though I will admit many living rooms are brighter with HDTV.

What may make cable companies increase their offerings is increased competition. As TechCrunch's Michael Arrington notes, search engine competition has forced better products out of Google.

Having moved twice in the past 10 months, I've dealt with three separate companies. Two of the towns I have lived in had competing cable companies and, not surprisingly, in those towns each of the competitors offered more channels for less money than the town without competition. In short, the residents of those towns were better served by competition.

For everyone else, especially in densely populated areas, help may be on the way.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The journalist class of 2015

I have a friend who teaches journalism at a local university. Over dinner one night, she complained about how little her students read the newspaper. She rightly pointed out that it would be hard for them to understand how to write for a newspaper without reading one. I agreed with her on that point, but flipped the tables and asked her, if they they were taking a journalism course but not planning to write for a newspaper, where were they planning to look for jobs.

There are two points in play here.

One is kids just are not reading the newspaper. Nobody is. The decline in readership has been well documented by the Pew Research Center and others, so there is no need to belabor the point here, except to note that young people read newspapers less than old people.

If you are older, you have a habit of reading the newspaper, but kids today grew up in the 24/7 world of the Internet and MTV. They have shorter attentions spans and it's not all about ADHD. The world comes at them faster and it's edited faster. If you need empirical proof of this, take a look at how a movie from the 1960's is cut and edited. The scenes play out much longer than today's movie, and it's not just the thrillers.

Here's the problem, the people who labor for newspapers, those who own them and the paper's reader have a mistaken belief that the world needs their services. Tell that to the telegraph industry. Not too long ago, reporters filed stories by telegraph and I remember learning Morse Code as a kid when I had a two-way walkie-talkie.

The other day, while driving my 11 year-old daughter we started talking about the Air France disaster and how the pilots might have put out an SOS. As I started to talk about how the international distress signal came about (the three long, three short bursts are for even non-experts to understand in the telegraph language of Morse Code) she asked me, "What's a telegraph?"

In her 11 years on this planet, she has not read a book or seen a movie that featured a telegraph, and let me tell you she has read plenty of books and seen lots of movies.

In 30 years time, her kids will ask her, "Mommy, what's a newspaper?"

So back to my original question and my second point, if the kids today don't plan to write for newspapers, who will write them a paycheck? I could be wrong, but I don't think there is an answer for that, which has huge implications how we get our information about the world around us and how we hold politicians accountable for the actions.

My question to you: in the new media, what are the new reporters going to do?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Letting go of the Globe


I cut the cord on Friday and like millions of others I cancelled my subscription to the Boston Globe. It hurt. In part because I knew that I was a another dagger to the heart to a publication that is in critical care after being poorly managed by the Old Grey Lady.

But also, I've read the daily newspaper since I was in high school. That's a long time back, long enough ago to remember when a newspaper influenced our daily lives. Long enough ago to remember that investigative reports ferretted out coruption rather than the best bar for a Cosmo.

In college, I read three newspapers a day, the Globe, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal because I wanted to know learn about the local scene and read opposing view points in national media.

Letting go was hard.

But towards the end of my life long addiction to reading the daily newspaper, I found that I read less and less of the print edition of the paper everyday. In the end, all I had left was the habit of picking up the newspaper off the stoop. But one phone call took care of that, no 12 steps needed.

I am in communications because I like it. I like the news and I like being able to shape it and to be able to talk about it. This blog will be about my love for the news and what I think is going to happen to the communications industry in the next five years.

As I try to re-imagine a world without the daily paper, I am going to use this blog to look at how technology is reshaping the communications industry and how that ripple effect is changing society. I will not focus solely on the print media and its successor the Internet, Social Media, Web 2.0, New Media or what every you want to call it because with all of the print media's navel gazing the shift that television has undergone has been largely underreported.

According to blogger Simon Day review of a University of Pennsylvania Study:

The study analysed reports from 26 major newspapers, the evening news from ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, and the prime-time slots of CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC, dating from 2000 until 2009. Statistically the two media disciplines saw very similarly significant reductions in audience base. Evening television news has an audience of 23 million people every night, this is down from 32 million in 2000. Newspaper sales have fallen from 56 million per day in 2000 to 47 million, The Times reported.

However, the media coverage of the decline was particularly partisan. The study found 900 articles on the decline in newspaper circulation in the 26 newspapers, compared with 95 about the drop in broadcast news audience. Television news shows reported on the newspaper readership decline 38 times, but only covered the audience decline of their own audience six times, according to The Times.

Reporting on the media industry's woes was dominated by major figures of the industry. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post were sources of about half the articles on newspaper and television usage, while cable networks CNBC and Fox were responsible for almost half the reports on usage declines for both mediums.

To say nothing of our reading habits in general. One of the most literate nations in the world has embraced a world without books.

I want to look at our sources of information, how they are presented to us and how we choose them.

It's a tall order and we are just getting started, but we have all the time in the world. Let the adventure begin.
Follow me on Twitter @anthonyloftis