For the early part of this week, I’m at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit accompanying a group of bloggers we’ve invited to attend as guests of one of our clients, Ford.

We did the same last year, but this time around we had more time to plan and a better sense of the opportunities available. We also had a bigger budget to invite more online content producers – most of whom have been spending their days at demos, walking the show floor and posting content in the special blogger lounge Ford had set up (free wifi!). Their nights have been largely spent sitting at dinner tables with access to very high-ranking executives (Bill Ford Jr., Mark Fields, Jim Farley, etc.) alongside traditional media. It’s a great program, and it clearly demonstrates the Ford commitment to evolving their communications model to align with the new reality of distributed influence.



(I’d also like to brag about another innovation we brought to the table this year. At NAIAS in 2008 we launched SMPRs across a wide range of product lines. This year we upped the ante with what we’re calling the “Dynamic Press Kit” – an application loaded onto a USB key that requires only an Internet connection to bring the latest Ford news right to your desktop, along with image and video assets that are licensed under Creative Commons. Die, press kit, die!)

But I digress. The point I’m trying to get around to making is that I have found it fascinating to have a front-row seat to the future of digital publishing for most mainstream outlets. The place they need to get to if they’re going to be able to continue to compete. It looks like this:

1. Tape/shoot pictures at live event
2. Connect to Internet
3. Upload files
4. Write brief explanation/edit content as required
5. Repeat


All of the above often taking place within five minutes, and rather than one big story, in many cases it’s multiple installments. One of our bloggers recounted a brief exchange with a reporter from a well-known mainstream media website. The reporter watched her tape a brief segment on a flipcamera, load it onto her laptop, edit it and upload it to YouTube. Elapsed time: about four minutes. Slack-jawed, the reporter, fully kitted out with all kinds of digital gear, expressed amazement at the speed of it all.

Welcome to the new world order, friends. Publish first or perish. The opportunity for organizations is to make it as easy as possible to publish the right content and the right information (something your influencers will take you up on if you do your homework and get to know them, what they need and how they need it). Content is not a product to be hoarded; you will do well to set it as free as possible in order to keep up with the new pace of publication (Ford’s head of social media, Scott Monty and I will speak about this paradigm shift at length in our session at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this spring).

I’ll leave you with one final example: our friends at Jalopnik uploaded this story about Ford’s electrification efforts (complete with correct, detailed graphics) within minutes of the announcement being made, thanks in no small part to the digital assets made freely available on the Ford SMPRs and the new Dynamic Press Kit. Would you rather they had to scramble for their own assets, or do you think the better business model is to provide everything anyone would need digitally, without restrictions so they can tell the richest, best-informed story possible?

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4 Comments

  1. Having done this for a few years and as one of the first bloggers ever to cover NAIAS I’d have to say it has changed radically.

    1. Less reporting more snippets. More photos. More video.

    2. That means: more cameras and video cameras/crews. Journalists have a tough time sitting in a car sometimes.

    3. But the big problem is the interesting tidbits about products people will buy rarely get out. The auto industry culture is now broadcast scattershot and I would think it’s even more confusing to people, especially with dozens of folks publishing content that isn’t always accurate or at least in-depth.

    4. We tried video streaming using a cool new 2.0 startup Qik…it was so glitchy I couldn’t even use it on the site.

    Interesting. And there should be non-dinner events/access as well, since they’re usually at 5-star restaurants etc. (Don’t know about Ford’s).

  2. Maggie Fox Author

    Hey Dave – yes, there are all kinds of opportunities for bloggers to connect one-on-one with executives, designers and others responsible for the creation of Ford vehicles and programs. Our efforts are firmly aligned with traditional communications efforts and we give our guests the same access that any major media outlet would get.

  3. Same level access is important for sure. Makes us all feel important. One other new thing: No Embargoes Broken!!! I think that’s a first I’ve seen.

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