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February 26, 2009

Crisis of Confidence: Web 2.0 Remix

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President Carter photo by Sicutat
via Creative Commons

In 1979, America was facing a recession, an energy crisis and a number of crippling conflicts around the world.

Sound familiar?

President Carter, in the middle of his first (and only) term, made a speech in July of that year now known as the Crisis of Confidence Speech. It was his desperate attempt to turn around the increasingly dismal outlook of the American people.

Sounds fun, right? Here’s a little excerpt:

It is a crisis of confidence.

It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

Carter was not reelected for a second term. At the time of this speech, Carter’s approval ratings were at an all-time low. While his gloomy rhetoric may have accurately assessed a problem, the negative sentiment was no help in turning around American attitudes or scoring Carter any brownie points.


Top Chef contestant Carla Hall
Screen grab compliments shoesonwrong

Last night was the finale of Top Chef Season 5. (Spoiler alert to my fellow foodies!) After my hometown favorite Fabio got cut last week I jumped over to Team Carla to support the wild-eyed chef whose specialty is homemade love. Carla did not take home the title, the money and the brand new kitchen. Carla’s failure was that she let her sous chef dictate part of the menu — the parts that failed hardest. In the end, it all came down to her own self-doubt.

Carla cooked best when she followed her gut. She was strongest when she went with her instincts. And her dishes were always delicious when mixed with a generous helping of assurance and affection. Like the American people under Carter’s leadership and like Carla in the competition, the final outcome rises and falls in tandem with the level of confidence.

I think I recognize a similar problem playing out online. I don’t want to fall into the same trap as Carter, touting grim predictions that paralyze rather than empower, but there’s a possibility that these simple thoughts might resonate with a few people out there.

The Corporate Culture Fears Social Media


Path to the unknown. Photo credit
Ahmed Rabea via Creative Commons

Over at Search Engine People yesterday, James Duthie wrote about how fear has prohibited corporate involvement in important social media channels. The fear of the unknown. A paranoia over attacks. The vulnerability you feel when you expose your inner self. Fear has kept companies out of the realm of social media and its endless marketing potential.

To help dispel the myth that creates this fear, James shows that even a seriously unpopular brand, GM, has an online disapproval rating that tops out at 22.6 percent. It’s hard to imagine a company faring worse in popular opinion than GM today. He estimates that the average company will see a negative comment ratio around five to ten percent. Isn’t that a small price to pay for better brand relations and the invaluable effect of customer trust?

The Media Community Questions Search Engine Optimization


Don’t water down content. Photo credit
MobileStreetLife via Creative Commons

My dear newspapers are in tough straits. Analysts continue to trumpet that the end is near. Now it seems to be understood that the newspapers’ only chance of survival lies with the Internet. Traditional media staffs and journalists are trying to learn the keys to writing successful online. However, many are lamenting an SEO methodology which they interpret to require tacky, keyword-stuffed writing.

On Wordtracker earlier this week, Rachelle Money outlined the good, bad and ugly SEO advice given to journalists. In a rare glimmer of hope, Rachelle assures the media community that poor writing is not required online. There are a number of sensible ways to include keywords without diluting the substance of an article. Writers must understand the true goal of SEO. It’s not about overused words and watered down content. It’s about making your content available to the masses.

It’s a New World. Join the Party.


There’s a party over here!
Photo credit Amy_B via Creative Commons

Avoid Carla’s fate and work on your self-confidence. I know it’s not easy. I’m struggling with it myself. But picture this. It’s the first weekend of your freshman year of college. You still don’t know anyone, but word is a big party will be going down off campus. If you go thinking that you’ll make no friends and no one will like you, you’ve sealed your fate. You have to psych yourself up, remind yourself of your best qualities, and remember that you have lots to offer! But more important than anything, don’t let fear prohibit your success. That party is real life. The Web is real life. Don’t be your own roadblock and don’t let a lack of self-confidence keep you from achieving your goals.





7 responses to “Crisis of Confidence: Web 2.0 Remix”

  1. Jay writes:

    There’s a reason newspapers are tanking. News is old news by the time it makes the newspaper. Online sources are faster and typically more accurate than what one reads in a newspaper. Bloggers don’t have to follow the slant of the paper or the instructions of his editors, or the dictates of their major advertisers, the way newspaper reporters do.

    The way newspapers have reported doom and gloom has helped cause it. The way they have not reported relevant good news (such as the recent Iraqi elections) and trashed the reputations of good people and ignored the corruption behind others, I believe it’s only fair that they should be allowed to crash and burn into bankruptcy.

    Dinosaurs went extinct for a reason – they couldn’t adapt to a changed environment. The basic model of newspapers is flawed in this increasingly online culture.

    If journalists from newspapers can get jobs online writing, more power to them.

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Jay, I agree that the format of newspapers has made them inherently unfit for the new information environment. But, I’m confident that old school journalists have the capability to adapt their craft online. The hope I have is that they realize the differences between what they’ve done in the past and what is expected online. However, they’ll first have to embrace the fact that SEO is not their enemy but merely a tool at their disposal. Once they realize that — and evidence suggests traditional media folks are getting there — the public will be able to get the in-depth, investigative news once again.

  3. Heather Steele writes:

    Yay! I love that you love Top Chef just as much as I do! I was really sad to see Fabio leave and that Carla didn’t win, but I am so happy Stefan didn’t get the Top Chef title. Oh, and that is the greatest picture of spunky Carla!

    As an SEOer who’s not too involved in the Journalism world, I have to say it really surprises me that SEO is such a difficult concept for media types to grasp. I think this goes back to your post a few weeks ago about the SMBs who were surveyed and admitted to using some black hat SEO tactics…they just aren’t getting enough good, effective education on the topic.

    I have to wonder, are the Journalism programs in universities starting to incorporate SEO, blogging, and Web-related courses into their curriculum?

  4. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Yay Heather! Top Chef lovers unite!! Let’s start a club for SEOs that are Top Chef fans. I’d so go to those meet ups!
    Okay, back to online media. So true! It’s all about the education. I graduated from J school a little less than 2 years ago and at the time online media was finally moving into the picture. Unfortunately, there was no mention of blogging or how to get stories actually *seen* through SEO, etc. Online media lessons basically came down to: people reading on the Web want stories to be shorter. They also want to see pictures. The end. Oh my.

  5. Heather Steele writes:

    That would be the best club ever!

    I suppose its difficult to teach SEO or any social media/Web related topics at the university level since they are constantly changing and evolving. Hopefully we’ll see the journalists and media folks start to pop in the SEO conversations soon.

    Btw, I wanted to mention that I loved the transparency and honesty of your “Boring Blogger” post. You’re not boring, you’re a great writer and I really enjoy reading the Bruce Clay blog. It’s awesome that Pat’s tips are already surfacing here.

  6. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks Heather! Hey, Pat’s right! Real time interaction rocks :D

  7. Leanne writes:

    I think you’re right that at least some of the journalists are trying to catch up and understand but it’s probably going to take time for them to learn and opportunities (which are getting harder to come by).

    In our local market (Akron, OH), a good chunk of our newspaper staff have been laid off over the last couple of years. One group of former staffers has formed a small company offering copywriting services/etc. to local businesses).

    We have our own folks on staff so we’ve not had any reason to use their services but it does seem they understand that web writing is where they need to be. It’ll be one of the largest opportunities for them over the next while.

    I’m pleased to see that these fine people are branching out and seeking new opportunities but it does make me sad that they need to. Even though I get most of my news online, there’s nothing like flipping through the newsprint and getting smudged up fingers. :)



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