Categoryweb strategy

Some personal updates: Arte, TEDxKreuzberg, Ignite Berlin


Just a few updates of what’s going on in my life these days, and a few brief shout-outs.

1) For the major parts of December 2009 and January 2010 I’ll be working at the HQ of in Strasbourg, France, where I’ll be helping out with a bit of behind the scenes concept work. This is a project I’m very interested in personally – I love working with media organizations and working out the best way for them to engage in the web. Arte is already doing a great job there, so this should be really good.

2) TEDxKreuzberg (10 Dec 2009) is coming along pretty well. All speakers are confirmed, and while we haven’t put up all the speaker profiles, a few are up already. It’s going to be an interesting and inspiring night, and thanks to my co-organizer Christoph Fahle of Betahaus, it’s also great fun to put it all together. Demand has outstripped the available space by far, but between the confirmed guest list, some invited guests and the waiting list we hope to share this night with as many as possible. For updates please keep an eye on the website and our twitter (@tedxkreuzberg).

3) It looks very much as if Matt Biddulph and I will be hosting an Ignite Berlin. We’re still working out the details, but both Matt and I as well as O’Reilly’s Brady Forrest are very motivated to do that, so I’m optimistic it’ll all work out well. Ignite is a great format in which speakers present their projects or startups in 5 minutes – with 20 slides, automatically changing after 15 seconds. It’s very dynamic, and thus never boring. More details on that as soon as we have them. Until then, I’m curious to hear what your favorite Berlin locations are. We’re looking in the 100-200 person range. Please share them in the comments or email me at peter (at) … Thanks!

What the F— is social media?


A nice little presentation about the power of social media. It’s trying to me a bit more provocative than it really is, but the fun pictures make up for it. Some good stuff in there. (via). (Also, just after posting I noticed that this presentation slightly overlaps with the identically named presentation I blogged here.)

Obama for Germany, or How To Run An Online Campaign for the German Federal Elections


Obama Latte

Since I started working on the online campaign for the German federal elections, I haven’t blogged about it here. (Although I was interviewed twice, by American PoliticsMagazine and by German newspaper Also, see my disclosure at the end of this post.) We’re way into the campaigning season by now. Between that and my time in the US, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the online campaigns in Germany and the differences to the American presidential elections. It’s time, I think, to share a few thoughts – mostly on how useful the Obama campaign’s lessons are for German political campaigns.

We’ve all watched the US campaigns closely, and have ever since. I remember in 2004, working for the SPD’s online agency as a student, we watched the Dean campaign for their organizing online and micro donations. This time, all eyes were on Obama, for their organizing online and social media activities. Both times, the US elections came relatively briefly before their German counterparts, which makes them good material for analysis.

So can’t we just clone the Obama campaign and all is well? Now there’s a handful of problems with that. Besides the fact that it would be pretty boring to do that, of course.

There is no Obama in Germany. Obama is a very strong, charismatic character who symbolizes a time of change, who totally hits the zeitgeist. There is no German equivalent. (Although some might disagree on this one.)

Obama was good on the web, but also offline. The Obama team had an excellent online strategy. They also had massive resources: Money, staff, volunteers. But we shouldn’t forget that the Obama campaign also featured the biggest ever budget for traditional media. (Those TV spots are still pretty costly, remember?) Also, the campaign was good about mobilizing offline by coordinating online. In Germany, we need to find the balance between online and offline, which traditionally is a tricky one.

A different political system. Germany has a profoundly different political system from the US. Example: We vote primarily for parties, not candidates – at least not on the federal level: The chancellor is elected by the parliament, not directly by the citizens. This makes it harder to focus a campaign on just one candidate. Also, privacy regulations in the EU make the kind of contact databases that the US campaigns maintained widely impossible. (Which isn’t bad, if you ask me.)

A different political culture. Germany is not America, and the political culture is a very different one. Volunteering, donations, even discussing politics works differently here. Cold-calling your friends to vote for one party? Forget it. Donations are nowhere as important as in the US. Politics are considered a very personal matter that’s discussed only with close friends. Just to name a few key differences, all of which have to be reflected in a successful campaign.

Smaller budgets. (Waaaay smaller.) Not the least important: budgets for election campaigns are way smaller than in the US. Consequently, the teams involved in the campaigns are smaller, too. This gives you a somewhat different framework to operate in.

Germany has a weak political blogosphere. This is a fascinating one, particularly since nobody seems to quite know the reasons: The German political blogosphere is strangely underdeveloped. (Speculations range from Germans being to focused on hierarchies to value non-expert bloggers’ opinions to a lack of need for alternative media because there is a strong and highly diverse media system in Germany.) For my M.A. thesis I interviewed journalists about the relevance of political blogs for political journalists in Germany, and the results were pretty clear: Although the journalists stated that they would love to have more political blogs around, the blogs were mostly irrelevant to their work. That was in 2007, so it has changed a bit. The upcoming elections also lead to an increased activity in the political blogosphere. Again, a different framework for a campaign.

So where does that leave us? We have to look at the Obama campaign, and others. But we cannot, should not, and will not try to clone it. Quite the contrary: A critical look at what was done online in the US will help us more than just using the same tools.

So a mix of a bit of cherry picking plus some genuinely freshly adapted or developed ideas is what we’re going for. And as I said to the editor of PoliticsMagazine: The youth campaign is “all about getting the basics right”. Website and blog need to be state of the art; a solid contact database; Social Media presence where needed; and of course a focus on giving the community the tools they need to organize themselves. So are we on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr? Of course, wherever it makes sense. But that can’t be all. After all, this isn’t about tools, it’s about a strategy, about issues, about the people who make up the community.

Full disclosure: I’m an adviser to the Online Youth Campaign for Jusos, the youth organization of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). All thoughts here, as always, are my personal points of view only, and they don’t necessarily represent my clients’ point of view.

Image: Obamalatte by Jason Permenter (some rights reserved)

How video is changing young people


…and turning them into reporters, commentators, producers. This video is quite impressive in its being so simple, yet compelling.

While tapping into some very interesting points in itself, the clip was produced by Demos, a “think tank for ‘everyday democracy'”, as a teaser for their report on Network Citizens (PDF). From a first glance, the report looks like it digs into some interesting points. From the executive summary:

Social networks are providing tremendous opportunities for people to collaborate. But until now, thinking has focused only on how organisations can respond to and capitalise on networks. This report argues that we have to look equally at how networks use organisations for their own ends. That is where the new contours of inequality and power lie that will shape the network world. We have to face networks’ dark side, as well as their very real potential.

Interestingly, the report concludes that in economically tough times, networks are even more important than at other times:

The kind of networks considered in Network Citizens–relationship ties between workers in different types of organisation – are likely to be more important in difficult economic times. Our analysis suggests that the ‘ties that bind’ within organisations are important incubators of innovation and productivity. Networks contribute to organisational resilience, a vital attribute in an economic downturn.

This is something I have thought about quite a bit recently and hope to get around to posting some thoughts on this blog soon.


How to pitch your service to TechCrunch? Mike Butcher knows.


Over on, Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK explains how to successfully pitch your service to TechCrunch. It’s that simple, eh?

Klartext: Wie pitcht man bei TechCrunch? from Blogpiloten on Vimeo.

Full disclosure: We had this video (and a whole lot more) produced for, which I’m project lead of, and who are clients of mine. The video was produced by Bas Bergervoet and Volker Agüeras. It’s produced by and released under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-sa).

Vaynerchuk on Social Media ROI


Gary Vaynerchuk strikes with another awesome rant: “You Down With ROI?… Yeah You Know Me“. Are social media in trouble because of the U.S. financial crisis? Nope, it’s magazines, radio and TV who are in trouble, say Vaynerchuk. And guess who agrees: Yours truly.

Because social media have a number of clear advantages over traditional media when it comes to advertising. Says Vaynerchuk: “ROI. I am talking about Return on the Investment of your advertising dollar. Traditional media advertising is incredibly expensive and doesn’t provide nearly the rate of return you can derive from intelligent web-based marketing campaigns in 2008 and beyond.”

Not only are social media much cheaper both to produce and to advertise on, they also have more value – in their respective niches.

Next-generation content management for newspapers (is in the making)


Image: Howard Beatty by Flickr User Ann Althouse, CC licensed (by-nc)Steve Yelvington helps newspapers get the web. Newspapers have a hard time adapting the new ways of the web, what with all this user-generated content, changing consumer habits and dropping sales. It’s a huge cultural problem – traditional vs new vs social media – too. (And it’s not that newspapers, their editors or their management are stupid. Of course they aren’t. Still, they struggling.)

Working with Morris DigitalWorks, Steve is working on a next-generation news site management system. Quite a claim to fame, but both his track record and the few details he already shares back it up. So what’s different here?

We’re integrating a lot more social-networking functionality, which we think is an important tool for addressing the “low frequency” problem that most news sites face. We’re going to be aggressive aggregators, pulling in RSS feeds from every community resource we can find, and giving our users the ability to vote the results up/down. We’ll link heavily to all the sources, including “competitors.” Ranking/rating, commenting, and RSS feeds will be ubiquitous. Users of Twitter, Pownce and Friendfeed will be able to follow topics of interest. We’re also experimenting with collaborative filtering, something I’ve been interested in since I met the developers of GroupLens in the mid-1990s. It’s how Amazon offers you books and products that interest you: People whose behavior is the most like yours have looked at/bought/recommended this other thing.

That’s music in my ears. The whole thing is based on Drupal, which has always been strong on community features. Here, it seems, the whole platform will be aimed at creating mashups, drawing in RSS feeds, pushing them around and spitting them out. In the end, you should end up with a pretty lively site full of both professionally produced and user-generated content and commentary. Of course, by providing both input and output channels for RSS feeds, the data isn’t restricted to just the website, it lives on beyond, way in the cloud.

And the best thing: Usability-wise it’ll be aimed not at techies, but at editors. No major coding necessary:

Open tools and open platforms are great for developers, but what we really want to do is place this kind of power directly in the hands of content producers. They won’t have to know a programming language, or how databases work, or even HTML to create special presentations based on database queries. Need a new XML feed? Point and click.

That’s great news, and certainly a project to watch closely. Can’t wait to see the launch. October it is.

(via Strange Attractor)

Note: So far, the CMS code hasn’t been released under a GPL, but they’ve pledged to do so. All in good time.

Image: Howard Beatty by Flickr User Ann Althouse, released under Creative Commons (by-nc)