TopGear’s MyFirstCar contest

You may know by now that I’ve been a huge Top Gear UK fan for about 7 years now. I discovered the show when I was on a quest for Eddie Izzard comedy performances and saw that he was a guest on the show. This slightly crazy show really caught my interest. I almost immediately found the Top Gear episode where they take 3 supercars through France and get them stuck in a parking garage and I was hooked because it reminded me exactly of the stuff that my brother and I were into back in High School and college.

When I heard about the #MyFirstCar contest from BBC America I thought, we had a good story to tell. And although it is a cost saving move to ask your fans to do your advertising for you, I was still hooked.

For the contest I set out to figure out how one makes a video with the very limited tools I had available. I did not want to talk in front of a webcam, it felt too awkward, and I’m not exactly a glamour model at this point in time. Plus I’m never going to be as interesting on camera as Jeremy Clarkson without some training.

I was looking for the “ken burns” slow zoom effect on some photos because that is mostly what I had to work with, 1990’s advantix camera photos. I thought I might be able to do a voice over narration and possibly talk Scott into it too, but it ended up just as me in the end. 

We did find that Scott had one vhs tape with some stuff a guy Paul had taped and given copies to the guys. It was fun to watch and see some of the racing stuff I had not seen them do but most wasn’t fit for broadcasting due to my flip camera video of the TV and the nature of the comedy on screen.

I ended taking a few shots with the Flip camera I got from work for Christmas and used them at the end with the car in the garage and we pooled photos from my house, his and my parents. Scanning them in and finding the software wasn’t that hard. (I found Muvee and it wasn’t hard to learn to use, although some people may find it too automated)

Writing the story was the most difficult part. I wrote out a few versions, Scott edited them and then we realized the photos and content were nowhere near as long as the written piece. And I could not read it and watch the pictures to keep up at the same time. So I was winging it, and I say “Um, So, Yea” a lot as I’m thinking of what to say next. We also found we didn’t have photos of crucial parts of the story that were funny so they were cut. We also tend to be funniest when we play off eachother and make fun of eachother and he wouldn’t take part because he’s shy or something.

The end result isn’t a funny video like I had hoped, but like I said most of the funny content wasn’t suitable for publishing. We ended up with a more sentimental documentary piece. It doesn’t have the views to really be a contender in the competition. It was fun though to do something new and try and think about the story in a video creation like what they do on TG all the time. I have even more respect for what they do and the high level of quality in their work.

UPDATE: it is now 2/8/2011, a week into this contest and my video has received a whole 62 views. This is in comparison to the other people’s videos who had really old falling apart cars as their first car and weird stories as to how horrible they were are all 1,000 views and such.

I guess my video isn’t the intended story they wanted to tell. And I admit my storytelling wasn’t great considering my editing ability is limited and the story had to fit what the software and photos provided. And I can’t exactly get on camera and talk about this right now. And I’m just more low key than the guys jumping around on their cars in the videos.

I suppose that I should have expected this. I haven’t been to an improv class in far too long. Best of luck to the rest of the crowd, I applaud your ability to get the BBC people to put your videos on TV.

UPDATE: 2/8/2011 As I was lamenting that the video has not performed very well with views, I got an email from BBCA. Plot twist…

Update: 2.28.2011 – So, they did email us a release form to use the video in their promotional process for TG UK (America). We did see that they did post our video to the Top Gear My First Car Tumblr feed, of which drove about 400 views to the video. I’m guessing that is where our story ends. We haven’t heard anything since and although I asked if our video would be included in snippets used to advertise the contest on TV, and they said yes, we never saw it there. Granted, it has been a pretty busy few weeks so I could have missed it. .

This was fun and all, but considering that Rutledge Wood posted on FB today that he was flying to the UK to meet Hammond for the first time today, and he’s the host of the USA show, I’m not going to hold out thinking that the general public will have any way of enjoying Top Gear in person anytime soon.

I kind of wish I did re-record the voice over since I think I sound like a dork in it, but I’m not going to have time at the moment. Maybe at a later time I will be able to spend more time on car related videos.

Update 3.1.2011 – I finally had time to go through the episodes on BBC America tonight and look for the 1 commercial spot they use the #myfirstcar clips in, which is usually somewhere in the 2nd half. I saw a one second glimpse of a  photo from my video used, so they did indeed use something after sending me all kinds of forms to sign. It wasn’t actually a picture of the car we had as our first car though. (possibly the assignment had a bit of scope creep adding the history like that) So the Electra – Park Avenue gets its brief moment to shine instead of the IROC camaro. I think they had to use this picture because it had people in it and they seem to want someone’s face involved in the video. I’m not wild about my appearance these days so I thought I’d spare people the pain, and keep the focus on the cars but I guess that wasn’t outlined in the guidelines, but it was still important.  I kind of want to reshoot it and start over, but time is fleeting and the contest is almost over.

Update: March 2011. I ended up with about 400 views on the video and have taken it down now since the contest is over and things have moved on.

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Five reasons to Tweet

how to grow your twitter presence graph chart table ideas marketing advertisingThere are millions of useless tweets out there on Twitter.com. Here are some suggestions for things I’d like to see tweeted more:

1. Tweet to say thanks. Not enough people do this in real life, business or online.

2. Tweet something you found useful or helpful.

3. Tweet your reactions to something surprising. Good or bad reactions to products are actually very helpful to the product dev process for companies.

4. Tweet ideas you think may help others. Especially ones not related to your core business. I believe that ideas from outside companies can revolutionize how they think by bringing in fresh info.

5. Tweet back comments to questions. This informal way to survey has developed into a valuable real time tool for people to find answers to real questions.

Things I’d like to see less of:

1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner photos.

2. Celeb following and retweeting

3. Drunk Tweeting

4. Flame tweet wars

5. Lame product pitches disguised as articles, white papers and special product sales deals without full disclosure.

Got any ideas to add?

Why I dislike Large Blogs

I love blogs. I have been blogging since 2002 when my friend Mugsy emailed me and told me to sign up for LiveJournal. A lot has changed about blogging since then, but the revolutionary idea that if you can type, you can publish easily in a word-processing-like interface on the internet has not. The method of blogging to share knowledge by and for non-programming type people is still spreading to the corners of the globe and helping people’s voices be heard in ways we never thought possible.

At the same time I am growing more frustrated with the technorati and the overload of emails, posts, rss feeds and spam arriving on my accounts daily. I am trying my best to stay on top of the active topics in  the  user generated content world as it has forked into many roads that include blogging, social networking, social ads, microblogging and a whole host of a million little startups with other concepts they want to share with the world. (more than can be kept up with or can survive even if they do all innovate)

I have had to scale back my online content consumption several times over the years when it was in danger of taking over my life and all my time. But lately this getting married thing has taken a large chunk of time out of my life too, (even after the wedding) and as a result I am trying to glean all my updates and news knowledge into smaller and smaller bits of time. (apparently being married means I have to do work around the house and spend a lot of time trying to motivate my husband to stop watching hours of TV and do things around the house. Life just got more complicated and we have to learn how to cook, fix things, do laundry and empty the cat-poop-box with much larger quantities now). My work is also very busy (analytics and metrics seem to go nuts in recessions) and no spare time is to be had anywhere in the schedule.

Therefore, I have gone through many iterations of un-subscribe weeks in my email boxes and cut back drastically on email newsletters, of which once I found very enlightening. Most marketing/advertising/analytics/metrics/SEO/SEM email newsletters  these days aren’t as willing to share any real actionable info without you spending a lot of $ so out they go.

I tried to update myself by trying an RSS reader again (3rd try) and I think its been a few months but I am overwhelmed by that too. Its way to easy to get more than 1,000 unread items in the reader and when it doesn’t tell me the exact number anymore I am less motivated to tackle it because it seems impossible.

I have found Google Reader to be good for sunday afternoon fun feed reading and more personal fun  topics/blogs though. Home design is a great topic in the reader since you really have to see it all to learn.

On the other hand I am re-subscribing to some email newsletters and just un-subscribing altogether to others who insist on posting 30-50 items per day! (assholes!) How is one person supposed to read that many posts per blog per day? It’s impossible and on some level, rude.

I know why they do this. It is partially a play to keep new items being published every few hours to keep the Internet addicts coming back for more traffic and it is also a play for search engine dominance by having more content in the engine for every possible term than anyone else. These teams of writers churn out mostly regurgitated posts about content repurposed from other blogs without much new insight. Some do deliver genuine news and content you can use but scanning through 50 posts is way slower than scanning 5 emails. The content and pics seem to load soooo sloooowly and an email you read, scan and go to what you want quickly. Big offenders of this are ReadWriteWeb (on volume and not separating feeds), Silicon Valley Insider (regurgitating and trying to predict the future even though they’re usually wrong), SEO Roundtable, Apartment Therapy (OMG, holy re-post everyone elses content and fill up with summary posts daily to waste everyones time, generate page views and sell ads), Jalopnik (jebus stop showing us every detail of the 24 hours of Lemons in every city across the country and asking us what our favorite imaginary dream car in a movie with Bruce Willis: waste of space, use summary feeds please! On a cable bandwidth line it takes forever to load all these damn images!) and Media Post (phhbbtt). ALL THESE BLOGS have been banned from my RSS Reader. Some have been demoted to email updates but others are just gone.

Also, I’m not programmed to think to go see my rss feeds yet either so I often forget about them for several days after a good several hour scanning session finally getting the numbers down to below 200 new items. then I return the next time to see 1,000+ again and feel defeated. In contrast I have OCD about keeping a clean email box, and completely forget about facebook until I am completely bored. I guess that is a sign of my age bracket. (34)

I wish that this spammy fluf put out there to fill space could be eliminated. I also wish that these blogs would split their feeds into sections so you would be able to just get the posts you were interested in. Like if new original content and re-purposed other people’s content were separated in 2 feeds, it would be a big help.

I would also recommend that they stop doing summary posts. They piss me off. I wait a minute or 2 for something to load in the darn reader only to see its the same posts from the local editions of the same blog.  Poo, if that happens 15 times in a day I could have spent that time sleeping and then I’m annoyed. 

These blogs also do this because they are in some get-rich-quick rush to make money as a profitable business before Google figures it out and bans them or something. Yes, blogs have an elitism to them that says, duh, if I can make a slice of the money publishing from what the Tribune used to, I am going to do this as fast and as hard as I can. And it over saturates the web with watered down content that is just filler mostly, even if it does increase ad impressions and some adsense revenue if you’re into web-welfare payments.

I also would like to recommend that if you want to start a blog you keep the posts to no more than 2-3 a day and resist the urge to just regurgitate other people’s posts and link to them saying how great they are. Research things you are really interested in and share your own unique experiences. Any web-bot can be an aggregator, what we need more of is real people sharing experiences and knowledge to make social media stick and not die out because of spam/splogs and info-overload. It is these people who become trusted advisors and get the visitors who come back again and again.

And this is also better for the rest of us who have to go clean the cat-poop-box and have a life offline now that they are married.

Update 10/29/09

http://scobleizer.posterous.com/why-i-dont-use-google-reader-anymore

I guess Robert Scoble agrees with me to a point, though he blames Google Reader for a bad format and experience and not the blog owners for copious amounts of useless content hiding the good stuff. I guess there is always room for improvement and certain people discover it before others depending on how they use the info/product.

Update 11/5/09

How much content is too much content? Read Write Web chronicles these mega content sites and their race to populate the web all by themselves by posting 200+ posts per day. We should call it the Answers.com business model.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_age_of_mega_content_sites.php

TopGear is Pissing me off! (BBC America Edits a Lot Out)

topgear, BBC AmericaOk TopGear and company, I thought you had finally come to your senses and finally decided to broadcast TopGear to the United States via BBC America. I was glad the US Pilot was scrapped (because there was no open audition for it) and people would stop uploading your videos to YouTube because they would be able to tune in and see it on TV like 350 million other people around the world do every week. But NO, I saw it for the first time this weekend and I am sorry to report that it’s screwed up again. Here’s why:

1. The season is off for broadcasting to America. They show season 9 on BBC America and Season 10 is airing now. Why do they make the US wait 6 months behind everyone else? See reason 2.

2. They cut out 1/3 of the program!! WTF!!!@!>? I know the BBC America’s monetization format is from subscriber fees AND commercials but jesus, why can’t you just leave all 60 minutes of the show intact for just this one show? Or extend it to be an hour and a half? Putting 20 minutes of commercials in and taking out 20 minutes of content ruins it. It is no where near as good if you chop it up and put commercials for razors and beer every 5 minutes.

3. WTF is up with the promos showing the big funny moments before each commercial break?? You’re spoiling it. It’s not supposed to work like US TV where you bait someone along for 3 hours for a payoff after you have monetized them to death. Just let it run for 60 minutes and then play commercials for a 1/2 hr before or after.

Seriously. This is awful. And it’s not really TopGear. You can’t ‘get” TopGear in bite size pieces. You don’t get the relationships or the references that are particularly UK or European unless you sit and watch the whole thing and then think about it for a while and watch it again. And duh, that is why we LIKE it. We want to learn about how things are over there, and see what they have to say. It’s entertaining because it’s worldly and different.

Please, I beg you to just sell the full format shows in a DVD box set that is in it’s complete 60 minute format.  Start releasing season 1 now and roll out the rest over the next 2 years. Seriously it is the only way you will ever really win over the Americans, by showing us the same program the same way you show it to the rest of the world. Jipping us by selling a 1/2 assed version just sucks.

At this point I recommend only watching the full versions on YouTube and not watching it on BBC America at all.

Google offers new exclude features in adwords

Google has been innovating how yor ads get displayed and un in adwords for about 4 years now. They have given you control over the matching, the timing, the budgeting, the creative serving, the site targeting, excluding sites and now apparently excluding certain pages on sites.

What I want to know is how detailed are these adwords campaigns? How detailed of knowedge do you have to have about every media property these ads run on in the content network? Seriously, if you have a company or client that runs over 500K worth of these ads, there isn’t enough time in the day to spend targeting each keyword. It would take months to build.

I fret about the lackluster results of the campaigns I see here and worry that our lack of detail and optimization will come back to bite us at some point, (even though I don’t work on them myself) but I also know with this many clients and that many words to manage, we can’t possibly spend the detailed time that someone could if that were their job in house.

So, I guess the lesson here is that you keep the ad campaigns small and mainstream termed if you use and agency and if you want to chase the long tail and control your ad serving like a hawk, hire someone internally to manage it and give them all the tools they need to build out a detailed campaign and monitor and optimize it daily.

Google Video Ads

I got an email this morning about the new Google Video Ads. I am not sure exactly how they work yet but they do say they you earn revenue for playing them on your site. I wonder if that means they auto play when someone loads the page or if someone has to click on them? I am curious about this because Google continues to innovate advertising in new ways and come up with groundbreaking ideas. Will this be as big as adsense and adwords? Will the content that is shown be shows and TV clips we would actually watch? or will it be ads? How will it be matched to your content on your page? I will see what I can find out but right now it’s all questions for me.

Update: I found out some things about these new ads from the Google blog. They are already enabled if you allow image ads to rotate with your text ads ina ll your ad slots. They also don’t activate unless they are clicked, so I am not sure how people would know its video content and not a video ad, so it may not be any better than a banner or text ad as far as CTR goes.