the frequency a kenny chung blog

Now, this isn’t an entertainment blog, but I must comment on Dia Frampton on the reality television singing competition The Voice on NBC.

I’ve been a fan of Dia for about five years, ever since I randomly caught her band Meg & Dia on a random local TV show one night. I’ve seen them in concert four times, and met and spoken to Dia twice (yes, she is as marvelously awkward in person as she appears on the show).

But that’s neither here nor there. The tagline of this blog entry posits that Dia is a social media success. To fully understand why, let’s consider an abbreviated history of Dia Frampton’s music career.

Dia Frampton’s Musical Career
Raised in Draper, Utah, Dia and her sister Meg Frampton formed the eponymous band Meg & Dia. The arguable tipping point of their rise to fame came after they performed at Warped Tour 2006. The band entered a contest on MySpace to be selected to perform at the MySpace sponsored tent. After a stroke of bad luck, their account was disabled due to some user-submitted malware. But then Tom Anderson (yes, that “Tom”) reached out to the band himself to offer them the gig (to be honest, I gleaned a lot of this information from the Meg & Dia Wikipedia page, but then again to be fair, I wrote and edited a lot of that article).

From then and beyond, Meg & Dia grew their cult following, primarily through Internet promotion. Their on-site forum had thousands of members, who affectionately referred to themselves as “Boardies” and all this fandom eventually led to a record deal with Sire Records and Meg & Dia’s first major label release. The band was eventually dropped from the label, which is the reason why Dia was eligible for The Voice.

Dia Frampton performing with Meg & Dia at Webster HallDia Frampton performing with Meg & Dia at Webster Hall

Social Media and Reality Television
A little over a year ago, American Idol decided that its contestants would no longer be able to Tweet from their personal Twitter accounts. Many speculated it was because there was a very strong correlation between a contestant’s number of followers/mentions and the likelihood of him or her being voted through to the next round by fans. This was obviously a big deal for a television show that prided itself on nail-biting suspense.

Fast forward to The Voice (which is more often than not referred to on-screen as #TheVoice, another response to the social media age). Much like the current trend with cable news networks, The Voice relied on the social media timeline for user-generated content, going so far as to have a dedicated backstage “social media room.”

I personally have never seen any other television show embrace social media as much as The Voice has. Anyone who’s watched even a single episode can tell you that it seemed as if every commercial break was preceded by a Twitter update; Trending Topics were the holy grail, with no instance of a contestant/performance trending going unnoticed.

At the time of the finale aired, these were the contestant’s Twitter follower counts:
-Beverly McClellan: 31,400
-Vicci Martinez: 43,566
-Javier Colon: 68,344

And lastly was Dia Frampton, who blew all the other contestants out of the water with her 85,905 followers (a significant percentage were from before it was even announced that she would be on the show, another example of Meg & Dia’s loyal following).

So what happened on tonight’s episode? Unfortunately, Dia was the first runner-up. She may not have won, but the trend that American Idol feared a year ago returned to The Voice. The two members with the highest number of Twitter followers were the top 2 vote-getters. I can’t say it was unexpected, but it was still surprising how much a single show could embrace Twitter.

Does it take the surprise out of reality television shows? Probably. But does it even matter? Not necessarily. Social media is all about community building, and you can’t ignore or censor someone’s popularity in this digital age.

Did The Voice do it right? The answer to that one is probably “no” as well, but it’s a good start and perhaps other programs will follow suit. Engaging your audience and making them invested in your programming is almost never a bad thing.

Meeting Dia Frampton at Webster Hall (Nov 2010)
Meeting Dia Frampton at Webster Hall (Nov 2010)

Update: Oops! I didn’t realize that The Voice only aired “Live” on the East Coast and inadvertently ruined it for a friend by Tweeting about it (and this article). But that definitely brings to mind another great point about the power of Trending Topics and communities. The show was able to generate so many Trending Topics from just a fraction of the US population! But again, sorry if I spoiled anything!

March 1st, 2011
according to

This past week, NPR’s On The Media dedicated the latter half of their show talking about Search Engine Optimization. There’s some good basic stuff in there, putting all of the recent bombshells and ramifications into lay terms. Available in audio form and transcripts.

The segments:

How to Cheat Google
David Segal, the author of the NYT article outing JCPenney, explains some of the problems with the algorithm and how Google punished JCP and other sites.

Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Web Spam Team
Interview with Matt Cutts about how Google engineers operate and how they respond to user questions, etc. Pretty standard stuff from Cutts.

How Search Engines are Changing Journalism
How online news outlets are using SEO to their advantage, including the HuffPo model.

Steven Rosenbaum and the Curation Nation
Interview with the CEO of who says that user recommendations may become more important than search engines when it comes to sharing content.

The Formula for a Most-Emailed Story
Professors looked at months’ worth of NYT articles and came up with some factors that correlate to high levels of sharing (including the quantification of “awe”).

Link to stream/download the full 02.25.11 Episode of On The Media.

“The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie

I have this longstanding tradition with my childhood friends, James Riso and his brother Chris. Almost every New Years Eve since 2001, I’ve gone to a family party at their house in Brooklyn. We’d eat food, play old school video games, pop champagne, play some cards, and engage in other stereotypical festivities.

However, we do have one (somewhat unique) tradition. Sometime after midnight, we’d listen to the song “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie (off the 2003 album “Transatlanticism”). I remember the first year, we listened to a burned CD. The next was when MP3 players became more commonplace, and I had the song on a tiny flash-drive type music device. Some other years, it was on a new laptop, or on a personal media player with video. Then came the rise of smartphones, and here we are.

I suppose the purpose of this post is to highlight that tradition and technology are not always at odds, which is an archaic sentiment I see a lot, working in Internet marketing. In fact, technology can make traditions more efficient (kitchen appliances with computer chips in them), more memorable (increasingly affordable point-and-shoot digital cameras), more spreadable (smartphones and social media platforms), and generally easier to carry on over time or through iterations of the digital age.

Technology is an ally, and not a foe. Just a reminder for the new year, that we should embrace technology, as it augments our lives, and will only replace our traditions if we allow it to.

It may be a bromide at this point, but “Don’t be evil” has become a suggestion rather than a mantra for the Mountain View giant Google. At the root of it, the tech titan has been outpaced by companies in other online spaces in which Google wished to also lead. In some cases, Google has returned fire in spades and succeeded. But for every Gmail, there are a few Buzz’s and Wave’s. In the past few months and years, it seems that Google has also become increasingly comfortable with implementing opt-out models for its services, despite the consequences.

Let’s start with the big one- Google Buzz. Back in February, Google launched this poor attempt at a (US-based) social network. But what’s even worse was the way users were brought into the system:

Axiom #1: Google wanted all of their users to join Buzz.
Axiom #2: Google had already built up a ton of Gmail users.
Conclusion: Everyone who uses Gmail should automatically be opted into using Buzz.

The way this was done was a huge privacy oversight and a case study on how to alienate everyone. Not only did users see that they were opted in after Buzz launched, but they also soon found that the default settings made all of their mail contacts publicly accessible. You can imagine how this would be a problem for doctors corresponding with patients, men keeping in touch with ex-girlfriends, and people networking with recruiters to change jobs. In short, it was a privacy policy and a public relations nightmare.

Gmail Compose buttonNow, not every Google product launch arrives with such fanfare or contempt. But Google does have a long history of rolling out services, redesigns, algorithms, etc. in extremes and then inevitably scaling back after some much deserved negative feedback.

While this isn’t inherently evil, it can lead to bad User Experience. Just this past month, Google relaunched its Image search and redesigned the Gmail sidebar. I won’t delve into the plethora of reasons why I dislike the new Image search (it all comes back to Google Page Load time and bad UX), but it was a drastic change and people had no choice when it was initially rolled out. And now, almost all Google users have to deal with it. More recently, Gmail was redesigned with social/user connections at the forefront. Contacts and other Google services were emphasized over actual mail options and filters. The only update remotely mail-related was changing the “Compose mail” button into a clunky Web 1.0 grey box. While I understand the importance of maintaining a consistent brand experience, a lot of these changes don’t help most users. But does Google care?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about companies being “too big to fail.” With entire industries contingent upon its search engine, Google definitely falls under this umbrella. Barring regulatory review, I don’t foresee any changes in Google’s opt out model practices unless the changes affect litigable issues like Terms of Service or Privacy violations. In general, with Google as powerful as it is in its specialized sectors, there’s little anybody can do about it besides send angry e-mails or blog about it.

Link: Microsoft Blasts Google’s Ad Policies

Here’s a synopsis of the article: Microsoft denounces Google AdWords policy for hindering online advertising competition. Specifically, Microsoft execs feel that Google intentionally makes it unnecessarily difficult to transfer account/ad information from Adwords to other search engine advertisers, such as Microsoft AdCenter (for bing) or even Yahoo Marketing Solutions.

I’m going to cry foul on this one: Microsoft doesn’t have a leg to stand on in its accusations. From personal experience, I know for a fact that users can export Google bulksheets and upload them to both Yahoo Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter to be converted. I’ve also found it easier to do through Yahoo than Microsoft. So what is this difficulty that Microsoft execs are citing? Is it within their own ad platform? If their argument is that AdCenter doesn’t make converting Google PPC account data as easy as Yahoo does for the end user, then I agree. Microsoft would also be shooting themselves in the foot with this argument though. Consider it Microsoft cutting off their own nose to spite Google.

From my talks with vendors in the past, I know that Google has forbade third party SEM/PPC management platforms (such as Clickable, SearchIgnite, etc.) from including a native feature to automatically port Google AdWords campaigns to other advertisers. It’s still easy enough to do with step-by-step instructions though. Here are Yahoo’s instructions for importing Google AdWords data, and here are Microsoft’s instructions for uploading AdWords accounts. Not exactly a secret.

Considering the anti-trust suits against Microsoft (here’s one from last year that led to EU users being given the option of not installing Internet Explorer with Windows 7), this is essentially the pot calling the kettle black. What is Microsoft’s strategy here? The people who are familiar with PPC Advertiser platforms will know that Microsoft is over-exaggerating their claims. Perhaps Microsoft is counting on other people to use their statement as a talking point against Google? It does seem like it’s all the rage to criticize Google’s policies these days…

Microsoft is just being incredibly petty.

Creative Commons License
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.