Why I’ll never use Delicious again

I want to like Delicious, I really do. I’ve been using it to trap links of interest for a while now, and as someone who’s probably used 10 different computers regularly in the last few years, it seemed a handy way to store content I want to access again later, from anywhere. I installed the Delicious extension in Chrome recently and that made it easier and more likely that I’d share and tag links.

But my days with Delicious are over.

The social networks that have stood the test of time so far (“time” in Internet world meaning more than a year or two) have constantly added functionality, features and new design. Facebook does it every few months, it seems. Delicious, for whatever reason, never seemed to graduate into a really robust, useful platform for people to share and save content. It was hard (nearly impossible) to import and find friends, the interface was ugly and clumsy, and search was frustrating. It earned the moniker “Where links go to die” and that’s not too far from the truth, in my case.

It’s too late for Delicious. Google Reader has completely lapped it.

Google Reader started as a way to keep track of blog feeds, and I didn’t use it much beyond that. But then they began rolling out more useful features. You can tag and star items and organize feeds into folders. Then Google rolled out the “Share” function, which, with one click, allows you to post to your own public feed any item from your reader you wished. Google added the ability to find and follow friends via Google Reader and see, right from within your reader, what they are sharing. You can add notes and comments on items or send an item to someone via eMail. And let’s not forget the nifty ‘Trends’ stats feature (this is Google, after all) that shows you which feeds you’re most engaged with. (The official Google Reader blog is a great resource on all these features.)

For a long time, the only thing that kept me saving items to Delicious was the concept of “discovery.” Anything I wanted to save, share or tag in Google Reader was limited to feeds I was already subscribed to. If I happened across something on the Web or clicked to a link from Twitter, I didn’t have a good way to get it into my reader. Plus, I often found a single post interesting and bookmark-worthy, but had no desire to subscribe to the entire blog.

So, it was a two-party system for me: Google Reader to share and save the most interesting posts from among the feeds I already subscribed to, and Delicious for tagging and saving sites I randomly “found” out on the Web.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Google Reader has a “Note in Reader” bookmarklet! It does! And it has for two years! Drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s toolbar, and wave goodbye to Delicious. The bookmarklet lets you save and/or share anything you find on the Web into your Google Reader. You can add notes and comments, just like you would on a blog post. I don’t know how I missed this feature, but to me, it pretty much means the end of Delicious.

The “Note in Reader” feature completes the content consumption round trip for me. Using Google Reader I can:

  • Subscribe to a blog or Web site’s feed to receive all its content
  • Arrange and sort feeds into folders and bundles
  • Star, tag, like, annotate and share specific items from those feeds to my own public “shared items” feed
  • Find and follow friends via my GMail contacts or other social networks, or even search for people via keyword or location, and then see and subscribe to items they are sharing
  • View recommendations for new feeds that Google generates by comparing my interests with feeds of users similar to me
  • Share and save content into my Google Reader from anywhere on the Web I happen to find it

I haven’t tinkered with Google Buzz much, but obviously Reader and Buzz are easily integrated so you can share items across that platform, too.

(I’m not even going to get started on Google Reader Play, which is possibly the biggest time suck I’ve ever seen – it curates and presents fun and interesting information from the Web it thinks I may like into a visual slideshow type of format and lets you share, like and save right from the screen. I’m talking hours lost here discovering fun stuff.)

So I’m sorry Delicious. I can’t even say that it was fun while it lasted, because it was always a bit cumbersome. It’s too bad we have to part ways, but with “Note in Reader” and all the other amazing options Google Reader offers, can you blame me?

Check out what I’m reading, saving and sharing via Google Reader here.

Media2010: Print, Web, blogs, ads, and The Wall

On Wednesday I attended the “Media 2010 Summit” presented by the Albany Times Union. It featured a panel discussion with three of the TU bloggers and Greg Dahlmann, co-founder of popular local blog All Over Albany.

It took a while to get to some meat in the discussion, and it felt like time ran out just as we arrived there. The Times Union runs about 155 blogs on its site. A handful of those are written by TU staffers; the rest by unpaid volunteers from the community. Topics range from food to politics to dogs to parenting to religion.

I was most interested in hearing about how the TU is (or plans to) turning their stable of blogs into a revenue source for the paper — and what its plans are for more tightly integrating the news content on their site with blogs and being able to package and sell ads against all of their content.

We didn’t quite get there.

Panelist Kristi Gustafson, who writes the fashion/lifestyle blog for the TU, talked about “feeding the print product” and how they’re constantly trying to use blog content to drive people to the print newspaper. She repackages some of her most popular blog posts and features from the week for the Sunday print edition of the Times Union. To me, this seems backwards, as people continue to consume more content online and less in print.

The topic of “The Wall” (the traditional partition between editorial and advertising) came up, and Steve Barnes, a senior writer at the TU and author of its popular food/restaurant blog, made one of the more interesting statements of the night:

The revenue aspect completely not my concern. I build a brand because I know it brings more readers to the TU. I have no idea what they charge for ads. I don’t want to know. We have a department for that. We have people who go out and sell ads.

Steve is an “old-school journalist” with a great respect for editorial and journalistic integrity (and I respect him for that). But his statement is a bit contradictory. He wants to use his blog to bring readers to the TU, but doesn’t want to take the full step to equate those readers with dollars and that what he writes impacts that. In the Web world, readers = traffic. Traffic = ad revenue. I don’t believe it’s as decoupled as Steve thinks.

Journalists in the future, like it or not, are going to need to understand media business models better. While I’m certainly not suggesting that advertisers should directly impact content (be it “traditional” news content or blogs), driving traffic is what drives revenue (and let’s not get into that other Wall, the pay wall).

Journalists and editors need to figure out how to make the content/traffic/revenue marriage work. It may mean that journalists DO need to think about the revenue side of the house when writing. The Huffington Post does real-time A/B testing of headlines in the first few minutes a story is live and then makes a decision on the most effective one.

I certainly don’t want to see all news content devolve into keyword-optimized nonsense, but we can’t pretend that media companies can exist without revenue to support them. Consumers have so far shown that they’re unwilling to pay for news online. Advertising is, and always have been, what funds the editorial side of the house. I don’t think that one side of the house can afford to ignore the other.

I’ve been noodling on this since the event on Wednesday. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Why I’ve quit reading “social media blogs”

I’ve spent the last year and a half reading and learning as much about social media as possible, going from a complete n00b with barely a Facebook profile to a recovering social media addict. I ravenously consumed blog posts about PR, communications and social media. But after awhile, a lot of the information begins to feel repetitive (and derivative). I get it at this point – it’s “about the conversation” and “engaging with people” and “being transparent.”

My reading habits have changed over the last month or so. I’m no longer looking for basic social media information or more social media Kool-Aid and so I’ve purged my Google Reader of feeds I haven’t been getting much value from. I’m reading fewer and fewer personal or individual PR bloggers and instead gleaning more insight from collaborative blogs or blogs at major media outlets. My goal is less about the nuts-and-bolts or “how to” of social media and PR 2.0 and more about understanding the big picture — trends and successes in media, social networking, and the Web, and looking at how all of it impacts the way we will continue to consume news and information.

Some blogs will always have a revered spot in my reader, because I’m always finding value and new ideas from them. However, a lot of what I’m reading now isn’t even necessarily PR-focused. I’m always open to discovering a post on someone’s blog that showcases great thinking or a new idea, and I still stumble across some of those via Twitter. But I’m being more discerning about which feeds make it into my RSS reader.

Here’s what’s been recently added to my reader or what I’ve refocused on lately:

Media Industry and Trends

Hyperlocal News

Social Media and PR 2.0 in Practice

Business and Technology Insight

It’s a lot of content, which wreaks havoc on my previous system of organizing Google Reader. I’m much better now about scanning headlines, using the “sort by magic” feature to see the best posts, and not agonizing anymore about trying to get to everything.

What sites are you finding value in these days? Share in the comments.

While I was skiing: The 10-day media lowdown

I was on vacation last week and then had a quick family trip home, so I missed out on a whirlwind week of media news. Perhaps that’s why it’s been hard for me to get back into the swing of blogging this week: I feel as though everything has been discussed to death. I’ve also barely made a dent in my Google Reader (the “mark all as read” button is looking more tempting each day).

Here’s what the rest of the media-obsessed world was focused on while I was on the slopes, and what those conversations looked like to a relatively disengaged observer:

Super Bowl

More specifically, Super Bowl commercials. I still have only seen a handful of them. It seemed there was more news before the Super Bowl about who wasn’t advertising (Pepsi) and whether that was “risky” or not. From passively scanning my Twitter stream, the Google ad seemed to be a hit. The Tim Tebow ad generated controversy primarily for not being as controversial as many thought it would. I saw a lot of chatter about the lack of pants in a few ads (hmm…). Overall, it didn’t seem that people were too jazzed about the commercials this year, which this Huffington Post article seems to concur with.

Google Buzz

Goodness were people ever up in arms about Google Buzz! From a few brief checks of Twitter you’d think the Interwebs were under siege from Palo Alto. The main issues I saw people frustrated with were privacy issues, the lack of filtering/overabundance of information, and the muddling of GMail with other social outposts. So many people rained on the Google Buzz parade so heartily that by the time I got back home and had the option to check it out or “turn it on”, I didn’t even bother. I may revisit in a few weeks to see if I have any use for it (thought based on my comatose use of Google Wave so far, I’m not sure it’s the ticket for me).

The Olympics

Consensus: NBC totally sucks at covering them. NBC is refusing to broadcast events live in hopes of forcing people to watch taped segments during primetime to please advertisers. That leaves Twitter, blogs, and countless other Web sites to act as spoilers during the afternoon. Not only is the coverage bad, it’s late and it’s old news when it airs. ComputerWorld had one of the better pieces on why NBC is “against the Internet” in terms of Olympic coverage.  I’ve missed almost all the coverage so far.

I did see a lot of disgust and surprise from those I follow on Twitter that networks would (repeatedly) show graphic footage of the Georgian luge athlete’s fatal crash. I share the disgust, but not the surprise. Sensationalism rules TV news these days, and just as we saw graphic and tragic images from the Haiti earthquake, it was inevitable that news channels would broadcast this video. I don’t think they needed to do it as frequently or callously (apparently CBS showed the crash in slow motion), however. Other Olympic story lines I passively observed: Whales (but not fail whales?) were the highlight of the Opening Ceremonies. The weather in Vancouver is abysmal. Shaun White needs a haircut.

Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines

I watched the initial Twitter outrage against Southwest Airlines for how they grievously wronged director/actor Kevin Smith, and then saw the negative sentiment gradually shift toward Smith himself as he continued to berate the airline after they had pretty openly addressed the issue and made apologies via their blog and other channels. Some, like Sonny Gill, even seemed to think that Smith was bullying or antagonizing Southwest.

It would have been very interesting to see how this would have played out differently had it been Delta (the airline that lost my luggage twice on my vacation and caused me to spend a less-than-glamorous evening in a Romulus, Mich. Best Western instead of a Utah ski house) or American or United. Those airlines certainly don’t have the customer loyalty or goodwill that Southwest has built up. I think much of the reason SWA will be able to weather this is that they’ve taken the time to build a positive reputation among customers who are perhaps going to be a little more forgiving of this incident. I liked Adam Kmiec’s dissection of the situation and Southwest’s response.

So, that’s what the Web world looked like to me over the last 10 days as I scanned Twitter and Facebook and blogs here and there to try and remain somewhat connected. What else did I miss?

How I use Google Reader without going insane

It’s a never-ending refrain in the social media world: “There’s just so much content out there!” So many good blogs to read and think about. For a while my Google Reader was getting out of control as I continued to add RSS feeds.

I’ve tried various ways to get a handle on the many blogs I read, but my latest incarnation is to group all my social media/marketing blogs into folders, labeled by the frequency with which I want to read them:

Google Reader Organization

Blogs in my “Check Daily” folder are my top priority. These bloggers typically post regularly and it’s content that I continue to find valuable or thought-provoking. Currently blogs from folks like Amber Naslund, Olivier Blanchard, Dave Fleet and Todd Defren are in this folder.

Next is my “Check Weekly” folder. It consists of interesting blogs that either don’t post as frequently or that I’m not as religious about following. Their posts might not usually be as time-sensitive and I can wait until later in the week to catch up. Or they may tend to be bloggers who write longer posts that take me more than just a few-minute scan in the morning to digest. I try to rotate different bloggers into this folder every so often. Right now people like Tom Martin, Brian Solis, Jason Baer and Mack Collier live here.

My “Twitter Friends and Tweeted Posts” folder is where I put a lot of bloggers I’m friends with whose content I’m likely to see on Twitter long before I get around to checking my reader. Arik Hanson, Lauren Fernandez, David Mullen and Scott Hepburn are all in this folder. Usually I see tweets and retweets to their new posts throughout the day and so I really just use this folder to scan headlines and peek at any posts that I might have missed. For the most part, though, the posts that end up in this folder are ones that I’ve already seen.

The folder I call “Popular and Prolific” features blogs like Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, Copyblogger and HubSpot. These are “big name” blogs that post a lot of content. I don’t necessarily have time to read them every day, but I can count on their content being good and useful and I want it all in one place to go back and access later.

My last folder is the “Check Infrequently” folder. These are blogs that don’t update frequently or that I haven’t found a real connection with yet – but I still want to be alerted when new content is available. I find that I enjoy blogs that are less frequent but more thoughtful. Every once in a while I’ll check this folder to see if Lisa Hoffmann or Shonali Burke have anything new.

To see what posts I like and am sharing, you can check out my Google Reader public share page.

The result of this folder system: It’s still way too much content, but at least now I feel like I can take it in chunks and read a little at a time based on how I’ve prioritized the blogs I’ve subscribed to. Every few weeks I’ll look at the trends and analytics that Google Reader provides and see if there are blogs that I’m consistently reading or not reading and move them to a different folder (or unsubscribe) as a result.

What works for you in organizing your RSS feeds? Do you use a plug-in like Postrank to help you sort through content? Do you find yourself relying less on your feed reader to discover new content? I certainly see plenty of posts shared on Twitter, but I’m in no way ready to give up RSS because I feel like I’d miss too much.

Share your strategy for managing the beast that is your feed reader in the comments.