The Fire Frazier Campaign: Well, That Escalated Quickly

I don't really believe Leslie Frazier should be fired. However, I question the hiring of anyone who participated in the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The Internet is completely wacked.

Consider: Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf fired head coach Brad Childress yesterday, and before newly promoted interim head coach Leslie Frazier held his first press conference, I’d already registered and began tweeting from @fire_frazier.

It started as a joke between a few co-workers, as we’re in the business of making things catch fire. Attempts to make things go viral often fail, but this ludicrous Twitter handle had potential. After all, it was completely bunk to call for the head of a coach who hadn’t even held an official practice, no less coached a game. I saw @fire_frazier as a poke at irrational Vikings fans who were willing to blame Childress for every last failure, not acknowledging some, if not most, of the blame should’ve fell on his underachieving team.

So, who started following @fire_frazier on Twitter?

  • DJ Tony Fly of 96.3 FM NOW
  • Rob Olson, sports reporter for KMSP-TV Fox 9
  • Jason DeRusha, reporter for WCCO-TV
  • Brandon Warne, founder of

@fire_frazier was also mentioned or retweeted by:

  • Erik Perkins, anchor for KARE 11
  • Joe “Phunn” Anderson, host on ESPN 1500AM
  • Dave Schwartz, sports reporter for KARE 11
  • Lynn University Sports Management in Boca Raton, Florida

Remember the Chicago Sun-Times story the week of the Vikings-Bears game? Bears beat writer Sean Jensen, formerly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote that Childress had long ago lost the locker room and included quotes and sentiments from six unnamed Vikings players who admitted they’d be happy to see him go. Jensen wasn’t so impressed with @fire_frazier:

@fire_frazier was even mentioned during Fox 9’s fan response story on the 5 p.m. broadcast. Go to the 2:40 mark:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Olson was right — @fire_frazier was started as a joke. I wish the new coach well. The one thing I hate about pro sports is coaches are too often made into piñatas because of their team’s shortcomings. I suppose that’s management, though. Forget the NFL — it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.

Foursquare: For What?

Why join Foursquare? Well, badges. And the rarely lucrative mayorship.

I used the past week to experiment with Foursquare, the location-based social network that’s caught fire this summer. Last fall, Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, predicted Foursquare would be this year’s Twitter. Its two million users fall short of Facebook’s 500 million, but Foursquare has taken the early lead in location-based service mixed with commerce.

Think of Foursquare as a real-life game. For those who aren’t users, one receives points by “checking in” whenever they’re at a place of business. The service also allows you to see who else is at or has been at a certain place; to share tips about a place; and, most importantly, users compete to become mayor by checking in at a place more than anyone else.

In last week’s Adweek, Brian Morrissey reported Foursquare has struggled to keep up with the influx of business opportunities:

“Adweek spoke with several agencies that report frustrating experiences with Foursquare. Some have found it both hard to contact and unwilling to come up with marketing ideas. One agency representing a major package-goods client said the company put the onus on the brand and agency to find the best way to use the service.

‘They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,’ said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. ‘It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.’ In general, he said, ‘it’s pretty much unworkable.'”

Here’s the flaw with Foursquare: Right now, it’s sort of this inconsequential game among friends to see who can accumulate the most points. So, considering the cost of going place to place, it’s a really expensive version of FarmVille. For it to remain a viable social network, their needs to be more user rewards. As Dave McClure so eloquently stated on his blog:

‘They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,’ said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. ‘It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.’ In general, he said, ‘it’s pretty much unworkable.’ HELLO, MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET!”

In summary: Few businesses offer rewards for becoming mayor and their can be only one mayor at a time. The cost to become mayor — visit after visit to one place — isn’t worth the free drink or free T-shirt. Foursquare isn’t doing enough to reward those who discover and visit new places as the site intends. A badge won’t cut it. That’s where the $20 million investment and (hopefully) additional staffing need to focus.

Pizza Diet? Wait, Isn’t That Called College?

Here we go again.

First, it was Jared and the Subway diet. Then it was Taco Bell and their batty Fresco Menu. Now, the pizza diet.

I’m both skeptical and emotional at once. If what the gentleman in the video says is true, I’m so on board. I’ve been sitting at 220-230 pounds for the past year, and I know I need to get under 200 pounds if I want to be here when the aliens land.

I’m willing to try this. Maybe blog about it for a month. (Not everyday, just weekly.) Your thoughts?

Time to Review the Online Review System

You need to ship a queen-size mattress and box spring across the country. Where do you go?

You start with the usual suspects – UPS, FedEx, USPS. They offer a rate around $800.

You look for cheaper options. You find a service that’ll cost around $580. They seem legit. To be sure, you start searching out online reviews.

That’s when you start having your doubts.

If only online product reviews were as simple as thumbs or thumbs down. If only we had a Siskel and Ebert to tell us where we should shop.

The 80-20 principle applies to online product reviews. 80% of what you read is without merit while only 20% comes from credible reviewers. The problem comes in trying to decipher which group is which.

The shipping company we’re going with has their share of horror stories described by bewildered customers who just couldn’t believe their dinner set arrived with thousands of ants or their mattress had taken on the stench of mildew. Those are just two incidents among what most be thousands of daily deliveries. Still, they’re unsettling, and these reviews have caused us to think twice about our decision.

I’ve never gone online to post a review of any sort, neither positive nor negative. I suppose I would be more likely to write a review if I had a negative experience rather than a positive one. I think that’s true of most people. We never read about how someone’s McNuggets were evenly cooked to a golden crisp, but we’ll get a 500-word rant if a human hair is found with an order of French fries. Online reviews are most often about what’s wrong, not what’s right.

Still, that’s not the problem.

The problem is, as an online consumer, how do you know if an unknown, yet seemingly well-regarded shipping company is credible?

eBay might have the best model to judge customer satisfaction. After each transaction, eBay hounds consumers and vendors to post feedback. The result? Consumers can view the feedback history of any vendor or reviewer, and should their be an outlier, a little research will reveal whether the negative reviewer has a positive or negative history. If the reviewer is legit and it’s found several reviewers have panned a vendor, you know to shop elsewhere. In other words, reviewers are held just as accountable as the vendors they’re reviewing.

This could work across the Internet. Think about it: An online consumer profile we carry across the Internet, used for purchases at Amazon, J. Crew, Barnes & Noble or wherever. Each time we posted a review, it would become a part of our feedback history. If we wished to keep purchases private, that option would be there. This idea would mean diligent shoppers like myself who have little faith in online reviews could go a step further to see if positive or negative reviews were legitimate or just ramblings from a crazy person.

The current system ain’t working. Too many bloggers are paid to write glowing reviews while it’s nearly impossible to tell who you can trust among the myriad raves and rants. This would bring some viability to a broken, but well-intentioned system. And, hopefully, a little sleep for people like me, who’s about to drop $580 on a shipping company I don’t even know if I can trust.

Shameless Blog Plug: The Kid’s Take

If I was 20 years old, I probably wouldn’t like Kyle Ratke.

He’s popular. Like, 1,700-Facebook-friends popular. He’s known in nearly every circle at his college. He’s the editor of the sports section for the school newspaper. He’s achingly charismatic, to the point you wonder if he’d make the world’s most interesting man feel shy. He’s a hustler.

I admit, I was a bit of a “player hater” (as the kids say) while in college. Luckily, I’m 25 and old enough to realize Ratke is something special. The comparison seems arbitrary, but Ratke is to the Minnesota sports scene what Bill Simmons is to Boston-area teams. He’s taken this shtick to his blog, The Kid’s Take, which also features an excellent weekly podcast, aptly titled “The Kid’s Cast.”

Kyle Ratke is a 20-year-old sportswriter with a blog, a podcast and a logo.

This week, Ratke was enterprising enough to get two-time NBA champion Mark Madsen on his podcast to talk about the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves, among other things. It’s not so much the guest, himself, that should impress you. Rather, listen to Ratke’s podcast, and before long, you notice a highly intelligent professional athlete becomes comfortable, candid, even animated while being interviewed by some 20-year-old college kid.

Am I trying to sell Kyle Ratke and his blog? Absolutely. I’m selling his future, too. This is a ringing endorsement — completely unsolicited — because I love young people who attack their dreams rather than wait and hope. Most of us would say, I’m going to college to do what I want to do. I’m even involved in extracurriculars. Ratke has gone a step further with his blog, and we should all be inspired.

Journalism finds itself in murky waters as a guy like Ratke comes along. He’s one hell of a writer, and as he’s shown in his social life and podcast interviews, he understands people. That’s still the most important trait of any journalist. Plus, this kid has ambition and personality to boot.

I hope you check out his blog and podcast.

My Blog Suffers Inferiority Complex

Blogger Neil Pasricha has received multiple awards, dozens of write-ups and even a book deal from his blog, 1000 Awesome Things. The Miller Times is incredibly jealous.

Blog envy is a very real thing and I’m experiencing it right now.

Neil Pasricha is the author of 1000 Awesome Things, where each day, Pasricha posts — you got it — something that’s clearly awesome. Said things are random, but everyday occurrences nonetheless. For instance:

  • #946 The first shower you take after not showering for a really long time
  • #824 Finding the TV remote after looking forever
  • #736 The smell of Play-Doh

The story goes Pasricha started the blog to have a more positive daily outlook on life. Since launching in June 2008, the blog has amassed nearly 16 million hits and even landed Pasrich a book deal.

Back to my blog envy: On this particular morning, I have nothing to write about. I’m waiting to hear back from Fast Horse Inc. to see if I’m a finalist for the summer intern search. If that’s the case, I’ll have some content on this bad boy.

In the meantime, I need to find that 16-million-hit idea that warps TMT into a book deal. Because let’s be honest — in its current form, that ain’t gonna happen.

Enjoy 1000 Awesome Things, and include “Discovering blogs by the praise of other jealous bloggers” to your own list of awesome things.

The Coolest Intern Hiring Process Ever

While I’m sad to report I didn’t get a chance to interview for the Star Tribune apprenticeship I’d applied for, now I’m waiting to hear back from a public relations firm in Minneapolis that just may have the coolest hiring process ever.

Fast Horse Inc., whose client list includes Coca-Cola and BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota, asked applicants for their summer internship to submit a video cover letter and resume. The video, in less than three minutes, was to demonstrate creativity, personality, initiative and je ne sais quoi. Once three finalists are selected, their profile will be posted on The Fast Horse Experience fan page on Facebook where Fast Horse fans will vote for the winner.

What does this mean? It means if I make the cut — and I should know in the next 36 hours — it’s up to me to pull votes with a wicked effective social media campaign. Truth be told, I haven’t campaigned for anything since student council my freshman year of high school. Back then, “Facebook” was two random nouns combined to form complete nonsense. Heck, blogging was still cutting edge. That was pre-9/11! (OK, you get it.)

For you skeptics out there, yes, this internship search could equate to a popularity contest. Keep in mind, though, that Fast Horse Inc. isn’t looking for a surgeon or a lawyer, but a public relations intern. What better way to exemplify your talent with social media tools and building hype than selling the product you know best?

I’ve got several ideas brewing if I make the cut, but here’s where things get interesting: Someone’s going to do something crazy. It’s bound to happen. I’m sure the other internship candidates are well aware of what goes viral and what doesn’t. For instance, the other night, sitting at Safeco Field, I briefly considered running onto the field with my Flip, where I would record why I’m qualified for the internship before field crew Tasered or tackled me. I didn’t act on this impulse, but I’m also somewhat rational. Somewhat.

In what amounts to a viral campaign, the reward being an internship and a possible long-term employment in this bear of a job market, it’s hard to say what qualifies as going “too far.” Here’s what I do know: I’ve fallen in love with Fast Horse Inc. by way of their blog. “Work Hard, Play Hard” is their gospel. They’re idea people. They’re my kind of people. (And I mean that so sincerely, I used italics.)

It’s too early to say if I’ll get a chance to campaign my arse off, but this hiring process has been a huge pick-me-up after the Star Tribune opportunity fell flat. What I wouldn’t give to work with people who inspire me in an environment where I’d not only be encouraged to write, but I’d be paid for it. Boo-yah!

Check back tomorrow. There’s a good chance I might need your vote. In the meantime, check out The Fast Horse Experience fan page. If I’m lucky enough to become a finalist, I’ll need your help!

Changes Coming Before Quit Facebook Day?

For many of Facebook's users, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has one week to convince them to stay. Quit Facebook Day takes place on Monday, May 31 in response to growing privacy concerns.

A week from now, millions will take part in a mass exodus from Facebook over growing privacy concerns. The revolt comes following a run of bad decisions by CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, which have left many users feeling indisposed.

A survey by IT security firm Saphos claims up to 60 percent of Facebook users are considering quitting. “Quit Facebook Day” is scheduled for Monday, May 31, so if the company plans to roll out changes to its insanely complex privacy settings, this would seem like the right week.

I’m not among the 60 percent who are allegedly considering quitting. As someone who lives far from most of his friends and home, someone who’s freelance journalist, a blogger, a media glutton, I can’t imagine not being a part of the world’s most popular social network. However, I can say I’m not pleased with my experience of late.

I see a mass exodus as seriously problematic on two levels:

  1. Countless companies and industries have invested their resources into social media. If Facebook turns out to be a phase, thousands of businesses will be forced to retool almost overnight and reconsider their advertising and marketing strategies. Altogether, not a bad thing, but it would slow the willingness to invest in social media in the future. And I still believe all relevant technologies are going that direction.
  2. If not Facebook, then who? If 120 million — 60 percent of the 2 million-plus Facebook users — were to leave, where would they go? MySpace is decaying somewhere in the aughts, Twitter is too limited and no one understands Google Buzz, including Google. This creates a huge market gap which would need to be filled with quickness. But by whom? (Here’s my early favorite.)

To play devil’s advocate, I think it’s time Facebook consider subscription-based service. I’m talking nothing more than a dollar or two per month, but this would reduce the need for advertising revenue, thusly creating a more user-friendly experience. Most of the company’s problems have stemmed from the perfectly understandable need to create revenue streams. Facebook has relied on venture capitalists since its inception and Zuckerberg has declined several multibillion-dollar offers for his brainchild. Instead, they’ve relied on ad revenue while growing the user base.

If I was Zuckerberg, I would put Facebook in the time machine and turn the dial back a couple years. I would argue the Facebook experience peaked in early 2008, before it was overrun with clumsy applications, myriad privacy settings and a muddled front page. Most users want nothing more than status updates, messages, photos, walls, customizable profiles and maybe — maybe — Facebook chat. Users felt as though they had control of Facebook.

Ah, the good old days.

What are you thoughts? How would you describe the current Facebook experience compared to a few years ago? Would you consider quitting Facebook?


Social Media, Newspapers Need to Play Nice

In an average day, I post to my blog, check out Facebook several dozen times, browse my Twitter feed every few hours, look up a thing or two on Wikipedia and maybe watch a few clips on YouTube. I don’t consider myself anymore engaged in social media than you. I consider my activities to be very normal.

So does Erik Qualman, who’s book Socialnomics argues social media is no fad, but rather “the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.” In Qualman’s case, the numbers don’t lie, and he’s leveraged them in a YouTube clip — fittingly — to advertise his book. (You can find the clip at the end of this post.)

  • 96% of Millennials have joined a social network.
  • Social media has overtaken pornography as the No. 1 activity on the Internet.
  • 1 out of 8 married couples in the U.S. met via social media.
  • 60 million status updates on Facebook happen daily.

Socialnomics stresses the importance of businesses investing in social media campaigns to stay relevant with the times. I’m no MBA, but I can say this: Anymore, if I see a brand or business without a Facebook page or Twitter account, I immediately question its legitimacy. It’s kind of like back in the mid-1990s when URLs started showing up in ads. Such oversight feels to me like a serious disconnect, making it harder to trust a company.

My dad is part-owner of Millers & Hass Builders, Inc., a homebuilding company in Sioux Falls, S.D. that operates in the basement of our house. It’s a small operation — literally two Millers and one Hass — but companies like theirs can really benefit from smart usage of social media. They’ve started a Facebook fan page, and while they only have 66 fans, there’s potential just one of those people could pass their name along and essentially land my dad a contract to build a $185,000 home. There is no cost to maintain a Facebook fan page. Talk about return on investment.

As a newsman, this also worries me. A decade ago, my dad’s company would’ve gone to the local newspaper to buy advertising. This would’ve been the most practical and effective way of drawing interest. Now, that’s not necessary, especially for a small business with a conservative budget. In a very real way, Facebook is stealing revenue from newspapers, leading to Qualman’s grim statistic that “24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation.”

Here I am, a gluttonous media consumer who indulges in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and several blogs everyday, while these things have the industry I hope to work in — the newspaper industry — in a stranglehold. Here’s why I don’t feel guilty, though: Smarter newspapers across the country are pumping resources into social media integration because they realize this isn’t a fad. My daily usage, along with yours, proves social media a worthy investment.

But why does it matter?

Arthur Miller once said, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” One could argue with Facebook and Twitter, who needs newspapers? Well, if you feel the civil discourse should be capped at 140 characters or a status update, that’s your problem. (Please don’t vote, by the way.)

What I mean to say is social media might be the right forum, but journalists are the right people. Once the two learn to play nice, it’s possible we can have our cake and eat it, too.

I Know Mortgage is Scary, But…

Have you seen these ads for They’re everywhere on the Internet, and they’re awesome.

I don’t know much about mortgage or APRs or even if 3.62 percent is good or bad. But I’m given the impression all of this is bad news based on the look I’m given by fella to the right.

This one deserves a CAPTION CONTEST! What was going through old dude’s mind when this photo was taken?

My entry: “Oh, that wasn’t a fart…”

Have at it, folks.