Somewhere out in marketing land someone has been trying to sell people on the idea that installing a CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, will somehow make all your Webmaster or Web Designer needs go away. If you’ve believed this, I’m sorry to tell you, but unless your site is just text, you’re probably wrong.
While you can hire a Web Developer or Agency to build out a custom theme for your CMS, you’ll still need someone to maintain the site. Even if that person is only plugging in content they’ll need to touch HTML and CSS at some point. If you don’t believe me, try building a complex table with any WYSIWYG editor in Drupal the next time you really want to post that excel data online and you’ll either settle for a simple table or you’ll kick the project over to your web person so they can style it for you, or at the very least add in the proper Class=”blah” tags where needed.
And that’s just for general page information. If you, like most groups, ever want something built out that that requires anything from different links on the side bars to a block or widget of additional information, you’ll probably find that you need someone who actually knows how to work with modules like Views or Panels for Drupal or Widgets and Page Templates if you’re using WordPress.
Unfortunately many business managers out there hear the words Content Management System and they think that their receptionist or office manager will just be able to simply copy and paste the Word documents he sends over into the companies CMS backed website and magically it will look just the way he wants. Sorry, unless it’s text only, that won’t happen. This is why you’ll more than likely need to hire a Content Producer at the very least.
Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the actual Web Operations part of a site, which is probably the only portion of your website you could most likely outsource to a hosting company.
December 16, 2010 in Content Producer
Last month I was a speaker in a webinar on Cloud Computing, from Concept to Reality. For those that are not familiar, this opportunity presented itself when I took over web operations last year for Team San Jose where we moved the web hosting to an Amazon EC2 setup from a shared hosting platform.
The webinar was hosted by DMAI, Destination Marketing Association International, which is an organization where I sit on the Technology Committee. My work on the migration was looked at by DMAI as a potential case study for other DMO’s within the US and ultimately something they felt could be beneficial to look into.
I had initially been disappointed with the turnout; only nineteen attendees were listed, though I have been told that this is actually a substantially higher amount than most of the organization’s webinars. My initial thoughts here are that more needs to be done to promote the webinars if this is the case. That aside, both the Technology Committee and the user feedback was positive. Only one of the nineteen felt it could have been better.
While the webinar was focused around concepts, with my reality part a very short segment, I was glad to hear that DMAI is requesting we do a follow up webinar where we can go more in-depth with hands on, technical insight. Something I think is very important to understand when considering moving to or utilizing any cloud service.
October 18, 2010 in Content Producer
I was recently on a brief vacation where the subject of local content distribution came up, though primarily, how one can start putting together an online portfolio of sorts around content creation.
Now the following is simply my own advice and what I deem are worthwhile activities for those looking to go into this type of career.
While it goes without saying that you have your own site, even if it’s simply a blog to display your writing, content production is a little different than your typical creative. For example, if I were simply a graphic designer, artist or photographer I could put up a site with my artwork, photos, etc. and when asked I could send a link to people who were interested in seeing my work. They look at it and if they like the style they hire me – very simplified; but accurate.
With content production you don’t always get to write how you want. You’re hired to produce content for company XYZ that makes ABC item. Ideally this means you have to be diverse in your abilities to write for any given niche at any given time.
So while a personal blog is a good idea, it’s hard to get traction with a blog that covers various topics. My blog is a good example of this as it makes SEO very difficult. It’s worth noting here that if you’re really only interested in writing about one thing, and one thing only, you should probably focus more on being a freelance writer or journalist instead of a content producer.
In either case you’ll still need to build an online portfolio of content, but there are a couple things to consider. One, if I write for other sites and I’m not being paid, how much effort should I put into this? Two, can I get paid while doing this so that I don’t have to starve while I look for work?
If you’ve never written anything online before, or at least not something you can portfolioitize (heh that word is fun) then I’d recommend spending a fair amount of time on non-paid sites like Yelp and EzineArticles. Yelp because you don’t have to be a good writer to get your reviews on there, but users are very active here and you can gauge how good you’re doing from the interaction your reviews receive. I know EzineArticles is hated by many online writers and content producers because they don’t pay their authors, but I still recommend it as a good starting point as they actually have people who review your writing. This helps if you tend to struggle with grammar and spelling.
But what about making some passive income on the side? For that there are a lot, though the sign up is generally easy enough to do. Some places like Examiner will have you submit a piece first, then if they like it they will accept you as a writer, after which nothing is ever checked again accept by users of the site or spot checkers – this can be good and bad obviously. Other sites include: Hubpages.com, About.com, TextBroker.com, Helium.com, eHow.com, and AssociatedContent.com (Yahoo). While you could join all, I’d recommend just focusing on one or two, anymore than that and you’re either planning on making this you’re full-time job or you won’t have enough time after getting a job to maintain all of them.
Once you have your articles up you’ll then be able to take advantage of the backlinks to your site, the RSS feeds you can utilize and you’ll be well on your way to creating a diverse online portfolio of content that you have created.
I recently did some writing for Examiner.com (links coming after their site finishes migrating data over), very similar to my writings for SanJose.org, especially since my section is Nightlife-ish topics. But for those curious, here was the writing sample that got me approved by them.
San Jose plays as hard as it works!
You may be familiar with our California Casual style of dressing, and this relaxed theme carries over into our nightlife as we love to let loose and unwind. When it comes to San Jose nightlife, the Bay Area offers some of the most popular comedy clubs, pubs, ultra-lounges and evening gallery showcases. From fine dining and drinks at the Left Bank to downtown’s iconic dive the Caravan, San Jose has got you covered.
While San Jose is the perfect place for those demanding the best food and wine to take their taste buds on the town, it’s also a great place for hedonists who like to play in the dark. Whether you enjoy the dancing scene of clubs such as WET and Pearl or decide to catch some nubile entertainment at one of the local gentlemen’s clubs you never have to stop with last call thanks to the card tables at Bay101 and Garden City Casino.
If you don’t have the fortune of being a local, why not plan your trips around the first Friday of the month to take part in downtown’s First Friday Art Walks from 8pm to “late” and experience some of the best in local arts and entertainment – for free! Of course for those feeling a bit more active, why not participate in the San Jose Bike Party’s adventures on the third Friday of every month. It just goes to show, no matter when you come to San Jose, it’s a going to be a great time!
Team San Jose supports Pink Poodle “… sort of
“Have you ever been to a strip club that let you hose down a fully nude nubile in a shower tub only inches in front of you?”
Nope? Neither has IA, but that didn’t stop the folks at Team San Jose, the beleaguered nonprofit that runs the city’s convention center and several downtown theaters, from listing a visit to “the lovely ladies of the Pink Poodle gentleman’s club” as a top recommendation on the group’s website, www.sanjose.org.
IA found a disclaimer on the site: “These pages do not in any way constitute official Team San Jose content. The views and opinions expressed in the pages are strictly those of the page authors.”
But we’d bet most casual readers might not realize that.
Also, IA has to note: even though a jaunt to the Pink Poodle and other “adult’s play” activities are listed on the website under the category, “Things to do in San Jose,” the infamous strip joint actually sits in an unincorporated pocket of Santa Clara County. We’re just sayin’.
I had to laugh at the Mercury News’ Internal Affairs section mentioning this. They seem to forget that SanJose.org, and Team San Jose, exists to promote all of San Jose’s, and to an extent much of the Bay Area’s, activities, nightlife, culture, etc. and this includes the Pink Poodle. While TSJ has always been a little more conservative than sites such as SanJose.com which features the club with photos of the dancers and has a directory of adult places, it doesn’t make sense to try and ignore these legitimate businesses that many visitors and locals enjoy going to.
And as far as the Pink Poodle being in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County…really? The intersection of Bascom Avenue and San Carlos is smack in the middle of San Jose, so I really don’t see how anyone would dissociate that corner from San Jose at all, regardless of this small block’s zoning.
Maybe the writers of IA should try visiting this venue more often, my wife and I would be more than happy to pay for your first semi-private dance.
Over the last couple years the company I work for has been working on the development of a site using a CMS (Content management System) platform, a good change in my opinion and something that many companies are moving towards with their sites now as it allows for quick and efficient changes to a site without requiring a full time developer or web designer on your staff.
That said, as CMS platforms become more popular, more choices for systems begin to pop up. It was only a handful of years ago where we were limited to Drupal or WordPress, but now we have a plethora of new emerging alternatives, though in all honesty these are still by far the most popular and efficient platforms to date.
So who are these emerging platforms and why should I care?
For anyone who has to be a decision maker for choosing a CMS, it’s going to happen that at some point, someone in your office will ask you why you chose brand X over Brand Y.
So what are the alternatives to WordPress and Drupal?
The third most popular CMS is probably Joomla, though that popularity isn’t all positive. Many users seem to have a strong love and hate relationship with the platform, but based on the amount of third party modules, plugins, and themes, there are definitely enough users out there to attempt to rival the big two.
While there are others that various groups will mention such as Silverstripe, Radiant CMS, Concrete5 and Frog; I’ve recently taken a look at two I thought may be worth watching as well, Modx and Business Catalyst (BC).
My first impression of Modx was that I liked it, but I liked it for the wrongs reasons. It has a lot of control over the code handled by each page, as well as assigning individual templates to my pages; however, the interface and controls are built based on the assumptions that someone with a web design background who has a good grasp of HTML and PHP would be facilitating the changes. This in my opinion is not always the person behind the CMS. Similar to Drupal, you’d probably end up having to hire a developer to build the initial layout and functionality and then hand it off to someone to manage the content.
Business catalyst on the other hand is much more intuitive and friendly, while still allowing its users to touch the code if needed. Very similar to WordPress in the feel of it, but the thing that makes me hesitate is the price tag. Yes, “BC” as it’s referred to has a free version, but it comes with some limitations and the whole model of the organization is to make a big push for developers to buy into the partnership and then sell it to their customers. While it may work for some, I don’t think BC would be the most appropriate CMS for every customer, but if I’m financially invested in it, it’d be hard in my mind to NOT want to push it on all my customers.
I’ll continue to take a look at other CMS platforms as they pass through my inbox, and I’d welcome users to comment about their experiences with any of these platforms and tell me what they like best about each, or even what they don’t like. In my mind, I’m still a fan of Drupal and WordPress, though for two different groups and two different reasons, but feel free to tell me why others are better.
In my attempts to come up with new ways for our city to promote its businesses and ultimately bring in sources of revenue I’ve recently felt as if I’ve been hitting a wall. Not walls with my ideas mind you, but rather a wall with what the city and the organizations that surround me are willing to do.
One idea I recently had was to partner with a hotel who would be interested in reaching out to local or foreign businesses that could set up mini “shops” within the rooms of the hotel instead of in a meeting facility. Essentially businesses could set up a bar in a hotel room for people walking by or another place could be selling clothes and another novelty items.
This would on one hand create immediate revenue for the hotel given its rooms would be filling quickly, but it would also give them a lasting exposure with the foot traffic and word of mouth that would spread with such an event.
We could do an event like this once a year, once a quarter, or maybe even once a month and keep moving it from hotel to hotel, rotating through all those who would participate.
Unfortunately, I have lots of people who would like this to happen, but we don’t have anyone who can make it happen, and to top it off it’s something that falls outside of the model of the company I work for.
And to reference my previous post I still can’t get a hold of anyone at Foursquare to set up a special badge for people who have checked in at all of our venues or to talk with about working on a promotion no matter how many times either myself or my boss fill out the forms on their website or post on Foursquare’s GetSatisfaction.
With budget cuts and everyone trying to keep a buck in their hand I’ve been looking at various ways to promote businesses with little to no money involved.
Now the easiest thing is always going with the social media angle, a reTweet here for a mention or a cross post amongst Facebook pages, but I needed something that was going to draw in foot traffic to our downtown core. While social media can do this, our pages, and our partner pages, don’t have enough draw right now to really make a large movement happen yet. So what was I to do? I decided to try applying my same cross promoting social media plans to business scenarios and came up with the following two promotions.
The first promotion I had, which is still yet to be determined if it’s worked out or not, is a cross promotion I set up between Cryptic Studios, makers of the Star Trek Online game, and our Tech Museum, which has been featuring a Star Trek Exhibit. I started approaching the marketing department at Cryptic back in December, and our office heads here at Team San Jose. Through a long series of events it took until just a few weeks ago before I could get all of the decision makers together on a conference call. In the end Cryptic agreed to mention the Star Trek Exhibit to their player base in exchange for us letting them distribute STO game time flyers at the exhibit.
Hopefully we’ll see if we can’t drum up some business for the Tech, and maybe the MMO as well.
The second promotion isn’t so much a marketing promotion, but rather an opportunity for the city. We were recently approached by a company called Hear Planet, who has developed a phone application that allows users to listen to descriptions of places via their phone. Don’t know what something is, open the app and listen to the narrator tell you what the museum, club or store are all about. We’ve set it a partnership with them so that our entire database of businesses is being uploaded to them. While this doesn’t bring in a monetary value for us, it allows us to be one of the main providers of information for the city of San Jose, as well as make sure all of our venues and partners are getting listed.
I’m currently working on trying to get a city-wide event planned with Foursquare, but it’s yet to be seen if this will happen and I have a few other ideas I’d like to implement before the end of June. I’m hoping at some point during the next few months I’ll be able to follow up with this with some good news.
March 24, 2010 in Content Producer
So in preparation for the new website I’m working on for TSJ, I’ve been asked to come up with a list of the four “Hot & Happening” places for Dining, Nightlife, Arts & Culture, Shopping, etc. They’ll ideally rotate every 30 days or so.
My first thought was that I needed to come up with a system to rank places. While I could go to Yelp and pick out the four highest rated places, I needed to experience each one for myself, as well as I need to see how the owners or managers interaction with us would be.
I start with pulling a list of the ten top places in each category from Yelp and as long as they have over 50 reviews. Anything under 50 makes me leery, though if it’s a new place, like six months old I’ll consider it. I then visit each one of these places as a patron, and I don’t mention who I am or what I am doing. I then go back about a week later on a different day and mention that I am, what I am doing and if I could meet with the manager or owner. It’s relevant to note that my reception is usually different once people know that I’m more than just a typical visitor.
I find the first time it’s very beneficial to ask other patrons or even the venues staff “so what’s been really popular downtown lately, it’s been a while since I’ve visited?” this question will give a lot of useful insight the first anonymous visit, though the second visit when I introduce myself will only give me a rundown of the current places activities and events. So it’s useless to ask this any other time, but on the first visit before you introduce yourself.
I then talk to the owner/manager and discuss cross promotion opportunities with them, as a non-profit everything we do is a free service, so I’m not selling anything to them, simply just offering an exchange of promoting them on our site in exchange for a link back to us or a onetime shout out on their social media feed. This part here is a bit interesting because it wouldn’t actually matter if these companies wanted nothing to do with us as it is TSJ’s job to promote the city of San Jose and therefore, you’re a sure in, even if you don’t want to work with us, we’ll list your business on our website and repost your events on our social media pages.
Now it’s time to pick the places for Hot & Happening…If a place gets three check marks I put them in the slot. If I have more than four places then I put which one I liked more in and save the other one for next month’s list. So how do my check marks work?
Check Mark 1: You have an average of 3.5+ Stars on Yelp. I find this to be very generous.
Check Mark 2: When I visited your venue the first time anonymously patrons were telling me they come here often or like the place rather than telling me “eh, it’s ok, it’s close by” or “I just came in and I don’t know if I’d come back” or, and I have heard this, “I don’t know why I come here, I hate this place, my friends make me go” – note: this goes the same for how the staff at the venue like or dislike the place too.
Check Mark 3: Did the manager/owner blow me off, not follow up or did he call me back, meet with me and listen to what I had to offer him?
Check Mark 4: Personal and Professional Bias. Ultimately the decision is mine alone to list a place on our website, and while I consider myself fair, if we have a business owner who is good friends with our CEO, or my boss, or even myself, I’ll probably nudge them in first before anyone else, provided they pass the first two Check Marks. At the same time, if a business has been bashing our company or has had an altercation with an employee, they may get bumped down, though honestly this hasn’t happened with anyone who has passed the Yelp and Visit marks.
So what now? We’re still a few months away, so all the ones I picked for this Hot & Happening may change shortly, but it at least gives me a good list to keep an eye on as I funnel in new or additional places to check out as we get closer to launch.