Dispatch’s Ted Williams video is lesson in viral marketing

Posted by Faye on January 8, 2011 in Marketing & Social Media |

What a buzz the viral video generated.

I’m not referring to the buzz about Ted Williams, the homeless guy who was brought from obscurity to the national spotlight due to a video shot by a Dispatch photographer. Practically everyone in the world has seen that video, watched his interviews on the CBS Early Show and the NBC Today Show, and the heartwarming reunion with his mother.

I’m not talking about that buzz.

I’m talking about the backlash The Columbus Dispatch received for their actions following the media storm:

Columbus Dispatch orders YouTube to take down golden voice video

Memo to newspapers: Stop thinking like a portal

So we just left this lengthy comment for the editor of The Columbus Dispatch regarding the Ted Williams/YouTube thing. Hope it gets approved.

Dispatch claims YouTube video theft

Newspaper removes ‘homeless voice’ YouTube clip

Columbus Dispatch inexplicably takes video of homeless man with radio voice down from YouTube

Dispatch pulls golden voice YouTube video

The Topix forum on Dispatch.com

Have you listened to the Web lately? There are many conversations happening online surrounding the debate about whether the newspaper should have pulled the video from YouTube.

Let’s recap:

  1. Dispatch photographer shoots video, uploads it to Dispatch.com.
  2. Someone shares the video on YouTube.
  3. Ted Williams becomes famous.
  4. Dispatch pulls video claiming copyright infringement; creates YouTube channel and uploads video to YouTube.
  5. Blogosphere lights up; online conversations include many negative comments.

Dispatch editor Ben Marrison explained his reason to the readers on his blog. (Update-It looks like he removed his post about the topic.) And he is clearly within his rights in trying to protect his copyrighted material. YouTube clearly states that you are not to upload any content without permission unless you create that content yourself. But you know, sometimes those pesky Internet geeks don’t follow the rules.

The irony here is that had that Dispatch.com reader (“ritchey”) not shared the video on YouTube, Ted Williams might still be hanging out in Columbus looking for spare change for his next meal. (To ritchey’s credit, he did state where the video came from). What’s even more interesting is that every story on the newspaper’s website has share buttons, encouraging readers to share the content.  Perhaps there was a share button alongside the video? I did not see the original video when it was uploaded to Dispatch.com.

The point here is that if you’re going to invite people to share your content via the social networks, plan ahead; get your social media act together. If your company is generating content with an invitation for readers to share it, make sure you have the right channels in place.

Here are 4 suggestions for companies who are sharing their content via the web:

  1. Like one of the previous bloggers mentioned, your company website is not a portal. The world is not going to beat a path to your site. Take advantage of the outposts that are already out there — like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook — to drive traffic back to your “home base” for readers to consume your content.
  2. Create some social media guidelines for those employees who are allowed to post your company’s content to the web. Decide “who” can post and “where” they can post.
  3. Listen and reach out to the bloggers and others in the social media world. They are sharing tips and suggestions every day. The social networks are great places to learn different ways to use social media.  For example PRTini had some great suggestions here.
  4. Keep your ear to the web and see what your audience is saying about you. If most of what you are reading is negative, step back and think through your response before posting. Defend your actions, but if you also screwed up, admit it. “I’m sorry, we should have created a YouTube channel first;” or “You know, we did mess up here.”  Remember the BP debacle. Ok, maybe that’s an extreme example; point is, being authentic can go a long way towards credibility. Your audience and fans will eventually forgive you, but only if you come across as open and authentic.

At a social media conference I attended in October, Brian Solis said, “There are no such things as social media experts. We’re all learning this together.” None of us knows everything about the social media world. It’s ok to stumble along the way; we all have at some point. But using our mistakes as lessons to be learned from makes us that much stronger. Including your company.

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  • Bob Harrison says:

    Interesting post, Faye. I knew about the original video but didn’t know the Big D had it pulled from YouTube. There are actually some newspapers who are considering building a revenue stream around *suing* people who “lift” videos and other content.

    Keep up the good work, Faye!

  • Faye says:

    Hey Bob, thanks for reading. I don’t think The Dispatch will go that far. I found a lot of those blogs and comments through Twitter, and discovered another story in the process! Thank you again for your comments.

  • Robb Landon says:

    Great post Fay. The rest of the story has a lot for some folks to think about.
    If the Dispatch had uploaded the video to a YouTube channel of their own, they might have received monentary compensation. YouTube pays for viril videos. Sence they now have a YouTube channel, maybe they learned a lesson. Keep up the good work.

  • 1. The Dispatch is lame

    2. The Dispatch is extra lame for trying to defend its stupid move

    3. The Dispatch is super lame for thinking that youtube would put up a link to their site – Ha!

    4. The Dispatch is extra super lame for only having a few thousand hits while the AP and RT have 100s of thousands of hits and there are still copies with millions

    Say Thank you to “User/Ritchey” for the best viral video of 2011 and Thanks to “The Dispatch” for killing it with these T-shirts: (link removed by blog author) – The one with the Broken video is cute.

    Shame on you Dispatch – you gained nothing and lost everything.

    Oh did I mention how lame The Dispatch is?

    PS: Could you picture the guy at Youtube who had to take down the video? I bet he cried and then said something like “Damn you Dispatch!”

  • Faye says:

    Thanks Robb, I had no idea that YouTube paid for viral videos. See I’m still learning too! Thank you for reading and commenting.
    Smile and Repeat, I approved your comment only because I want to clearly emphasize that this post was not meant to be a jab at The Dispatch. The negative comments are already out there; I wasn’t interested in adding to them. My purpose here was to use The Dispatch’s error as an example of lessons we are all still learning about social media.

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