4 posts categorized "Twitter"

December 05, 2012

Tweet Wars – A Twitter Concept for Engaging Sports Fans, Brands, and Social Causes

  TwitterBirdSportsBallsSepia550

There are legendary fan rivalries in the world of sports and on the field – UCLA vs. USC (college), Dodgers vs. Giants (baseball), Leeds vs. Manchester United or Argentina vs. Brazil (soccer), Ford vs. Holden (auto racing), India vs. Pakistan (cricket).  But today, with networks like Twitter, fan rivalries can create competition online that can rival the intensity and passion of that on the field or on the court.  So why not harness that energy to create better content for all, in a way where social causes can benefit, that provides brands with new genuine ways to engage with fans in both the real-time digital and physical worlds?

So what is the content competition that we can create online around the fans and “nations” that already gather? How do we value “Twitter actions” and track the score in cyberspace while the game is on the field?  What’s the opportunity to link fan action and the online “win” with social cause support in alignment with athletic competition beyond what we see today?

Background 

Fans and athletes already create and share content on Twitter during games – from simple team support and virtual cheers to trash talking; from tweets that stand alone to those with media attached such as photos and video from the event and behind-the-scenes, or deeper online article links shared form those at home. 

The 2012 London Olympics saw the creation of an aggregation page from Twitter – a one-stop shop for tweets and media from athletes, mainstream media, and fans. Many media sites have found great (and often unexpected levels of) success via deep fan engagement, commenting and content creation (Bleacher Report).

Notable consumer and media brands (ESPN, Nike, Gatorade, P&G) have a long creative history with sport leagues and major events, as well as more recently with innovative social causes (Pepsi).

Twitter has continually proven its value in the world of live TV – from entertainment to sports – as a voting and media creation/engagement mechanism.  Nielsen has taken note of this value in strategy and acquisitions to rethink ratings. Twitter is also experimenting in the world of direct customer (fan) surveys.

Tweet Wars: The Idea and Its Elements

The Idea: Engage fans of competing teams in real-time during the game in valuable content creation that has distribution in both digital and physical worlds, provides a new relevant brand platform for sponsorship, and results in the distribution of dollars to social causes or scholarships in a way that has meaning and value to fans.

 

TweetWarInfographicFramed2

The concept of “Tweet Wars” in sports is about building on the trends that we already see (from above), and evolving and integrating those experiences by:

  • coalescing fans and rivalries in online competition around the creation of high-value content during games;
  • setting the stage for a “winner” in the digital world that may be different from the winner on the field, by creating a “Tweet War Counter” that  tracks a running tally of tweet volume (adjusted by new tweet value rules) between the two teams and their fans;
  • offering new brand-sponsored opportunities on Twitter for “Tweet Wars" and the “Counter” that integrate with, but go beyond today’s offerings of promoted tweets, trends and accounts
  • attaching the award of dollars at the end of the game, in a “Tweet War” winner-take-all mode, to a social cause (or in the case of college sports – alternatively to a scholarship fund) selected by the team, the school, the conference, or the league – with which fans will have an  affinity. (Those dollars to come from a part of the brand sponsorship/ad sale package with Twitter).

 

The Elements

(1) Content Creation: For Tweet Wars to have value to brands and fans, both the level and volume of Twitter content have to grow beyond current levels, with a focus on unique content that brings additional information, insider perspectives and enjoyment to the game. Hashtags would exist for each team to enable automating the identification, filtering, curation and counting of Twitter delivered content for each team (eg #Go49ers vs. #GoRams, or #GoStanford vs. #GoUCLA).

(2) Content Value and Scoring: Not all tweets would be equal in Tweet Wars.  More points would be assigned to tweets with higher value content, and perhaps even the source (decisions here vs egalitarian nature of Twitter and people wanting to “hear” from celebs and athletes). No points would be awarded to spammy tweets or tweets with nothing but the #hashtag. Minimizing the opportunity to jerry–rig the system would be critical.

Tweets might have different point values depending on the content they carry, such as:

  • With photo from the event or relevant archive shot
  • With link to historic background information or profile
  • With link to a card with data visualization
  • With live insider information from the sidelines
  • From an athlete or verified account or account with a sizable number of followers
  • For tweets that are favorited and retweeted

(3) Content Output and Distribution: Twitter content spurred by Tweet Wars would find distribution in both digital and physical spaces. Digital distribution might evolve from the work at the 2012 Olympics with both human editorially curated and data-driven (MassRelevance applied here) rollup of content on Twitter via a single page that would show side-by-side competing team content, as well as the Tweet War Counter. Scoreboards and Jumbotrons at games provide the screen for periodic display of the “Tweet War Counter Tally” and encourage game attendees to get more involved in the digital outcome. 

(4) Sponsorship/Ad Sale Opportunity for Twitter to Brands: The Counter, side by side team/fan tweet page, as well as surveys and insider content in the tweet stream is a natural brand sponsorship/ad sale opportunity online – that can be packaged with the display in the physical world on the scoreboard of the intermittent Tweet Counter. Sale can be to a consumer brand, media brand, or even to league or conference.

(5) Social Causes: Tweet Wars, like the game on the field, is a winner take all proposition, with the social cause of the team/fans that wins in digital space having the biggest number on the Counter – as the recipient of a set sum of money that is a part of the brand sponsorship package. (Remember that the winner on the field and the winner in digital/Twitter may not be the same – Those results are completely separate. One is about athletes.  The other is about fans.)  This can be thought of as an evolution of or adjunct to some of the “fund your cause” voting campaigns we have seen from brands such as Pepsi (Refresh campaign) and Chase (Community Giving campaign) in recent years.

Time to Experiment?

So is it time for a Tweet Wars experiment in sports that links fan enthusiasm and content; tweet value assignment, curation and a scoreboard; brand sponsorship; and social causes?  Pick a single major event such as SuperBowl,  a series such as the NBA Playoffs, or even a whole season with MLB to see how it might work. 

“Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park. Sport is a theater where sinner can turn saint and a common man become an uncommon hero, where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.”  - George A. Sheehan

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November 09, 2012

Technology and Live Events: Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

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The Question

What might one of the iconic music and cultural events of the past century – Woodstock – look like today with the integration of digital and social technologies, especially with Twitter as the network?  And how might this compare almost 20 years later to the first experimental integration of digital consumer technology into the 25th anniversary of that live event?  (If your reading time is limited, go to the sections in this post labeled "Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013" and "Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements.")

The Background

In 1969, Joni Mitchell said, "Woodstock was a spark of beauty" where half-a-million kids "saw that they were part of a greater organism." Without any real outside media coverage during the event, that experience was initially limited to those camped out for 4 days at the 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  The true size of that “greater organism” and the full impact of the cultural experience that transformed and energized a group into the “Woodstock generation”  - came later, delayed by limitations in distributing and sharing the experience.

Cut away to the present time, and we see widely adopted consumer media creation technologies and platforms like Twitter that when creatively deployed (with smart production values and rock solid engineering) in areas such as politics, entertainment, and sports  - create real-time living breathing “organisms” (we might now say audience or community) that are “Woodstock worthy” in terms of the potential for impact - and that powerfully bridge the physical and digital worlds for both those at the event and others geographically separated from the event and each other by even thousands of miles.

So it’s not surprising that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently told the Wall Street Journal that the company is evolving to "more closely tie the shared experience on Twitter to the actual event that is happening."  And the proof of that is certainly found in the company’s track record of just the past 6 months as Twitter has made some bold and successful partnership and production moves into the live event integration arena with examples such as:

  • NASCAR – Launching a relationship with the first sports organization to create an enhanced live event experience on the platform.  (May 2012)
  • The London Olympics – Partnering with a major main stream media company, NBCUniversal, along with major brands such as GE, to create an infrastructure and experience that aggregated and parsed millions of tweets from athletes, fans, and commentators. (July-August 2012)
  • The US Presidential Debates and Election Night Coverage – Redefining the relationship between first and second screen in terms of information, conversation, and delivery of candidate announcements.  (October – November 2012) 

The Experiment

So what if we now take Woodstock - one of the most surprising and culturally redefining live music events of the past 50 years - and use the lens of technology powered media and engagement – to see how the spirit and experience of the 1969 original was translated with early digital technology in its first “reissue” at the 25th Anniversary in 1994, and what a “reimagined Woodstock” might be in 2013/2014 with the kinds of technologies and experiences we have today, with twitter as the empowering network.

A quick comparison table here with frameworks, specifics, and flowcharts following.   Download Woodstock Comp Grid

The 25th Anniversary of Woodstock 

In August 1994, the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock was held over a three-day period at the 800-acre upstate New York farm that had been initially intended for the first event.  This was the first time that the iconic brand had ever been revisited as an event, and the producers who had also set the stage for the original phenomena, wanted to remain true to that initial vision while also adding relevance for what they described as “a generation who was reading William Gibson and getting up on the Internet.”

(NOTE: This was quite a statement to be made at that time. In 1994, there were only 1500 Web servers online, the Mosaic browser had just come out one year earlier, Earthlink was launching, and Yahoo was about a browser and content index. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. There were no smart phones, and consumer digital still and video cameras were expensive and limited in resolution.  Platforms to distribute media were limited to videotape and CDROM, with containers and authoring systems being jerry-rigged around software such as Macromedia Director.)

But what was the same then versus now?  The drive to create and share information and experiences.

An 8-acre area of the festival field was carved out and named “The Surreal Field” with interactive experiences from artists like Todd Rundgren and Peter Gabriel.  This was also where a 4000 square foot tented production facility (plus an adjoining semi truck with mobile video editing bays) was built in which Woodstock concert goers could observe the behind-the-scenes creation of the twice-daily Woodstock News “video magazine” by a team of two dozen videographers, editors, animators, blue screen operators, composers, programmers, onscreen talent, field reporters, producers and directors working nearly round the clock.  Story types included Woodstock history and event pre-production, behind the scenes interviews, artist interviews, concert audience “ambush style” interviews, “question of the day” blue screen interviews, creative and gaming tech stories, and the concert schedule for the day.

Additionally, limited amounts of text-based reporting were sent out each day via an Apple Web Server.  Yes, limited Internet access was pulled into this portion of the 800 acre cow pasture for this purpose.

A simple flow chart (click image below for larger size image) of the creation of the Woodstock News in terms of people, equipment, and infrastructure. Almost two dozen people, more than 12 Macintosh computers and 24 monitors just to handle acquisition, digitizing, and output to a distribution format from “professional” sources.  No opportunity for “audience” contribution or feedback other than the limited offering in field interviews and blue screen “question of the day” segments.

Framed WoodstockProdFlow

 

  • Woodstocknewsroom
  • Woodstock_jumbo_Blog
  • Woodstock News Storyboard
  • *band schedule image
  • WoodQuestionDay 2
  • Woodpress
  • Woodstockk Logo
Woodstockk Logo

 

My observation at the time on the people and the technology, and live events as platforms for testing creative and technical boundaries. I think it’s very relevant no matter the year – then or now.

"Sometimes it’s almost more about how well your team will coalesce and how they will deal with the elements and difficult situations - mud, crowds, thunderstorms, close-quarter housing - than if the technology will work.  Rock and roll festivals are great places to test the boundaries of multimedia, both from a technical as well as a creative sense.  From a creative perspective, you have to create something that will really grab and maintain people’s attention - from the front row to the guy standing half a mile from the stage watching the Jumbotrons.  And technically, you never know what you might face in terms of the elements causing problems with your equipment - dust in the video deck heads, thunderstorms during which you have to power down, rain coming in through AC vents - and there is no local Apple dealer around when you are out in the middle of what is essentially an 840-acre cow pasture."

Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

There are innumerable ways that one could reimagine and engineer a Woodstock  with the wealth of broadly distributed digital and social technologies available to both professionals and the “consumer” audience today, the user experience, design and technical skills that have developed from experiments on many platforms, and the mobile element – which did not exist for anyone at any price before.


Framed WoodstockTwitter2013Infographic

This is a simple flow chart (click for full size image) showing the sourcing of various forms (created by both pro and user) of media content and conversation directly and indirectly into Twitter, and then the moderation, curation, and filtration of that along with the tweet wrapper content itself -  based on both human editorial and rule sets – to create output, visualizations, and control streams back out to various distribution types, displays, and devices.

The description and schematic above in this post represent just one possible “reimagining” (with Twitter as the primary network).  It is meant more as a sketchpad for thinking more deeply from creative, technical and business perspectives of what we can do now in bridging the physical and digital worlds (in both real-time and asynchronously) in ways that were never before possible.  And those new kinds of experiences may well create the “sparks of beauty” and connection to a “greater organism” that Joni Mitchell talked about in the opening of this post. 

  • It  - and that which it surfaces and displays by separating the signal from the noise - can become part of the event/show itself;
  • It can take a deeper show experience to other people outside of the event space (geographic independence synchronously) and time (asynchronous);
  • It can change the “planned” nature of the event itself, by content and conversation created by the audience locally and in other areas;
  • It can spark unexpected cultural shifts.

Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements

(1) Content Input Sources into Twitter

How might media of all forms come into Twitter at a major live event such as a reimagined Woodstock?  Significantly different from the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock, media comes from both the pros and the audience.  And depending on the synchronous nature of the event, that audience may not be geographically determined or bounded.

From the event producers, pros, and the artists themselves, we might see:

  • Video elements such as live streaming, edited packages included historical and behind the scenes stories, video bits from location-based monitoring cameras (like DropCams), and timelapse;
  • Audio delivery via live streaming, asynchronous stream or download, edited and packaged interviews and commentary;
  • Individual iconic photos and high quality photo packages;
  • Engagement activities constructed around live tweet chats, polling, alerts, and announcements;
  • Information and data generating devices automatically generating data to a “Tweet card” output based on some behavior by attendees.

For the “audience” both geographically near and far, the ability to create media and commentary is unprecedented.

  • Visual media creation from smart phones, DSLRs, and GoPro cameras, loaded directly to Twitter or attached via intermediary site (e.g. video to YouTube or photo to Instagram).  Short video bursts via perhaps Vine or Viddy.  Longer form via YouTube, Vimeo, and other newly emerging video distribution platforms.
  • Comments and text posts

(2) Separating the Relevant Signal from the Noise

As software advances (including Mass Relevance and other custom software) and real-time human curation skills develop, the effective (from both production and engineering perspectives) moderation, curation and filtration of the vast sea of tweets and associated media from such an event can be parsed and routed to the right people and devices (both private and public) that not only enhance, but change the very nature of a live experience such as a Woodstock

(3) Experience Outputs and Destinations

Twitter content may then be filtered and edited into dynamic media packages, or the underlying data translated into infographics, guides, and maps.  For example:
  • Event page curation as was seen at the 2012 Olympics, with in the not too distant future, the option to add another layer of personal filtering based on geography, demographics, or interests;
  • Tweet streams, editorially selected tweets, and tweet visualizations sent to venue-based displays, as well as out to various broadcast and Web partners;
  • Tweet activity informing real time maps and “programming guides” to optimize the experience of both on-site attendees as well as those at a distance; (See Twitter's Director of TV Fred Graver’s talk including comments about Twitter creating real-time programming guides – a live event is not that different;
  • Tweet activity and conversation turning into data that controls onsite or remote devices, offering up new forms of activities and entertainments that the “Twitter audience” creates intentionally or unintentionally through it’s actions.

More than a moment in time. It’s a way of being in the world.

This is true not only for a major live event with deep cultural influence, but also for Twitter itself.

Beyond the ideas sketched in this post, fully conceiving a reimagined Woodstock size live event would also require looking deeply into engineering issues, brand engagement opportunities, and revenue models including and beyond creative advertising and sponsorship. This party is just getting started, so to speak.  

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January 29, 2010

Presentation: Twitter in 20

TitleSlide_LizGebhardt_WIPP_Jan282010
Today I had the opportunity to co-present a session on "Building Your Business with Twitter and Facebook"  along with Facebook's Director of Corporate Communicatons Brandee Barker at the annual leadership conference for Women in Periodic Publishing.  A PDF version of my Keynote slides is available here: Download LizGebhardt_Twitter_WIPP_Jan282010.

This 25 minute talk is a very shortened version of a more robust 2-4 hour seminar I have been giving at media companies - print, TV and digital. The Twitter portion focuses on 5 main topics:

  • Twitter Myths, Misconceptions and Reality
  • The Value of the Shared Link
  • Life On and Off the Twitter Network
  • Guidelines and Tactics for the Brand and Individual
  • Tweet Anatomy: A Real World Example

There are also related posts at this BLOG, including:

More information on the ShareThis study referred to in the presentation is available at their BLOG. And the book "Groundswell" is available here.

I'm interested in hearing how different media companies will use this information. 

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August 26, 2009

Twitter = LEGOs?

TwitterBirdLegoBricks

Twitter bird made of LEGO bricks that I commissioned from New York artist Nathan Sawaya

Some History

On January 28, 1958, Godtfried Kirk Christiansen (a carpenter who built a humble toy factory during the Great Depression) submitted a patent for the LEGO brick building system in Copenhagen, Denmark. Fifty years later, the core building block of the brick is virtually unchanged, as is the fundamental philosophy of the company – that there should be unlimited opportunities in play with the ability to build virtually anything from LEGO bricks (elements).

Almost 50 years later, in March 2006, Twitter emerged out of the company Odeo as a side project (when the first tweet came from Jack Dorsey).  In the three years since the first tweet and then its explosive growth in 2009, Twitter’s small fundamental building block – “the 140 character tweet” has remained unchanged, and an ecosystem of other “elements” (called applications) is growing around it.  Now that may not enable the building of “virtually anything” as in the claim of LEGOs, but what is evolving is much more than just 140 characters of random text.

A large part of the enduring appeal of LEGO bricks is that they are so simple and satisfying to use, and there is no age or geographic boundary to the appeal.  Anyone anywhere can take a bunch of bricks and build something with only their imagination and two hands.  In digital space, one might say something similar about Twitter.

So does Twitter = LEGOs?

Seven Similarities

1. Size doesn’t matter.
Both a LEGO brick and a Twitter “tweet” are simple and small, and yet have become iconic in their own rights. A LEGO brick is a small rectangular piece of plastic with 8 studs on the top (4 each in 2 rows) and a pattern of 3 tubes underneath.  A tweet is up to 140 characters in length, period. The simple and logical nature of both may be part of their power.  In the case of Twitter, the length limitation may actually spur use and the creative process, being less daunting than writing a blog post or creating a video.

2. The value of the sum of the parts is more than that of the individual pieces.
On a per unit basis, a brick and a tweet are both simple, but they are part of a bigger, more complex ecosystem. Some people might look at a box of LEGO bricks as a pile of plastic rubble, while others see the house, palace, ancient pyramid, or spaceship they dream of, and can finally build.  Looking at the scrolling screen of a Twitter client, the same conclusion might be drawn about a tumultuous narcissistic din, or about serendipitous discoveries and linked conversational threads. According to a 1972 LEGO catalog, LEGO was/is “as simple or as complicated as children wish.”  This is a very Web/”Blogish” philosophy that is in alignment with Twitter, and certainly isn’t limited to the kids.

3. It’s more than child’s play. Everyone’s invited.
There is not one psychodemographic group that “owns” LEGOs or Twitter. What starts in one place moves to another.  Bricks began with children and spread to the “other” adult population, including scientists and artists.  Twitter started with the geeks and professional tech insiders, moved to SXSW attendees and the enthusiastic amateurs, and now into the broader population.  Both products could be defined as having “it’s what you make it” and “who you are” kinds of experiences that differ between user groups.

4. If you build it, they will come (and make it more).
The didactic nature of the LEGO brick is similar to that of Twitter.  Each has an individualistic approach to problem solving and communicating. There is no one right way.  With Twitter, you can write a novel 140 characters at a time, tell a joke, share a photo or an important article, or organize an impromptu TweetUp. As a 1992 LEGO catalog said: “We’ve got the bricks, you’ve got the ideas.”

Similarly, neither is a fixed model, despite their simplicity. A LEGO construction set does not consist of one outcome, but of many possible combinations, even though each comes from the same basic element – the brick.  There are innumerable ways that Twitter “outcomes” have been expanded – 2500 and counting to be more specific using the Twitter API.  New applications and their outcomes enable people to directly donate money to charity, take real-time opinion polls, play games, share breaking news photos, and spread the truth despite the efforts of a repressive regime … in addition to talking about lunch and sharing puppy photo links.

5. Nothing that lasts forever stands still.
LEGO started as wooden toys and then moved to the plastic shape we know today, and that still remains as the brand and product foundation. New additions to the core brick throughout the years have included tires for vehicles (1961), human figures (1974), software (1997), robots with MIT Media Lab (1998) and a Spielberg endorsed movie-making set (2000).  Similarly Twitter remains the 140 character communication, and yet is changing from its origins both from the ideas and imaginations of its users, and also through technology improvements and new business practices and models in the near future (e.g. paid professional accounts).

6. “I am the only guinea pig I have.”
So said architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller in talking about personal experimentation and creativity. The brick is a creative material, an enabling catalyst for kids or adults to influence the world around them in some small, but powerfully personal way by making things once only imagined - real (and with their own hands).  Twitter, like blogging or video production, serves a similar purpose, although with the possibility of far greater influence, collaboration and  conversation.

7. Turn up the volume.
In terms of pure raw numbers, both LEGO and Twitter have some impressive ones to offer.

For LEGO:

  • 5 billion hours a year are spent by adults and kids playing with LEGO bricks (elements).
  • 36,000 bricks (elements) are produced every minute.
  • 19 billion bricks (elements) are produced every year.
  • There are 62 bricks (elements) for every person in the world today.
  • More than 915 million different possible combinations are possible from 6 bricks of the same color with 8 studs each.

For Twitter:

  • More than 23 million unique visitors and 153 million visits to Twitter.com in July 2009 (Compete.com).
  • 1,400% growth in Twitter users February 2008 to February 2009.
  • Estimated 1.5 million Twitter accounts added in “3 days of Oprah” (April 17-19 2009).
  • More than 3.5 billion total tweets sent to date.
  • About 20 million tweets/day by the end of August 2009. (That means in less than 178 days there will be double the number of tweets sent in the first 3+ years).

The LEGO List

Can an attributes list for a “kid’s toy” from 1963 provide inspiration for a Silicon Valley company and a technology entering the second decade of the 21st Century? The following is a list of the 10 characteristics of LEGO written by the inventor more than 45 years ago. What might this list look like for Twitter, now and in the near future?

  1. Unlimited play possibilities
  2. For girls, for boys
  3. Enthusiasm to all ages
  4. Play all year round
  5. Healthy and quiet play
  6. Endless hours of play
  7. Imagination, creativity, development
  8. More LEGO multiplied play value
  9. Always topical
  10. Safety and quality

Trans-Generational Longevity

Only a few products outlive generations, and the LEGO brand is one of them. Maybe in the digital age the definition for “generation” needs to change and be more like Moore’s Law (generation = 18 months)? In any case, can Twitter or any digital technology have the chronological longevity of LEGOs?  Or does the analogy, no matter how fun for fans of both, end there? Egv_tiny_blogicon


(Note: Sometimes posts are inspired by the oddest random and personal desires.  In the case of this one, I wanted to have the Twitter bird “logo” made out of LEGO bricks, in 3D.  So to justify that, I felt that I needed to come up with an idea in which to use that piece of art.  That’s the genesis of “Twitter = LEGOs?” which led to deeper thinking about the particular analogies shared above. If you love LEGOs or just design in general, there is an excellent book that was published in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the esteemed brick, “50 Years of the LEGO Brick” by Christian Humberg.  The book itself is quite a piece of art with LEGO bricks and copies of the patent and early promotional materials - helpful research for this post - from 1963 to present included.)

   

    Or

Liz Gebhardt


  • © Amanda Jones
    Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

    Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.