Today's observation and rant is inspired by the Columbus Dispatch, a newspaper that quite literally changed a man's life and whose management then couldn't figure out how to leverage that accomplishment to its own advantage without looking petty. Have you heard about the homeless guy with the golden voice? Well, sure you have. Most everyone has by now: young people, old people, people without Internet connectivity, people who couldn't name the current Vice-President. It was an incredible feel-good story that saw a guy go from homelessness to appearing on most of the national news shows and signing lucrative voice-over recording contracts. I am one of many hoping that he makes best use of this opportunity.
And this all happened because a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch posted a short video of the man, Ted Williams, on YouTube that went viral. Millions of people watched it and the national media pounced. So after, this huge rush of attention, how did the Columbus Dispatch make use of its position in this hot media story? The Columbus Dispatch has issued a takedown order demanding YouTube remove the video, which it has apparently done.
I am not claiming to be an expert on social media. In fact I am generally wary of the term "social media expert." Too many times this applies to someone who lost a job and had lots of time to play around on Facebook and Twitter while collecting unemployment or someone who is convinced that old media rules can simply be applied to social media. Here's your tip for the day. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the rest didn't get where they are today because they were complicated and challenging to use. Give them a try. Sure there are nuances and right/wrong ways to use them. But if you have a question, before you write some expert a check for ten grand, call your aunt who posts to Facebook ten times a week and see what she has to say. (She's been dying to hear from her nephew, anyway.)
And here's my non-expert advice to the Columbus Dispatch. I wouldn't know of your paper's name and Ted Williams would still be panhandling if not for YouTube. Dance with the one that "brung ya." Instead of making the paper look like an old media company that just doesn't get it, leverage your fifteen minutes of fame. Reach out to advertisers with "we made a homeless guy world famous, what can we do for your business?" See if Ted Williams will take your phone calls and keep doing follow up stories about how your reporter has changed this guy's life. Link to the YouTube video. Don't try to monitize it or move it exclusively to your site or whatever silly plan you have in mind.
It's a good lesson to lawyers and their clients. Sometimes the legal remedy is not the best plan. There may be a back story, but so far today the Columbus Dispatch went from having a warm place in many hearts to looking a bit sillly.