Pope Says, “Go Forth and Blog.”

You know the old marketing adage: Go where your customers are.
Pope Benedict XVI has apparently taken this to heart. In anticipation of the church’s 44th World Communications Day on May 16th, he has issued a statement, The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word. In it, he urges priests to use social media for outreach in conjunction with their traditional means of communication.

The Pope feels that it’s urgent and necessary to be online, where so many people spend their time — especially young people, a key target demographic for the Church.

Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: As new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace.”

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”
The Pope obviously knows his social media.

His comments dovetail with the Vatican’s effort in recent years to establish a larger online presence. The Holy See created a YouTube channel last year, offering video and audio clips of Pope Benedict’s addresses, along with news about the pontiff. The recently launched Pope2you portal offers an iPhone app, a Facebook app, Papal videos, and a link to the YouTube channel.

The Vatican was on the bleeding edge when it created its own website 14 years ago, with access to the Vatican Museums and Vatican Secret Archives; there’s even a section in Latinfor classical language buffs.

The Catholic News Service, which is affiliated with the Vatican, is no technical slouch either — it has its own Facebook page, featuring news stories, notes, and blogs, with over 3,000 fans.

As CEO of the Catholic Church, the Pope knows the importance of guidelines. He’s clear to his followers about how he wants them to use social media and the message he wants them to communicate:

“The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility… Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord… In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”.

Regardless of your religious convictions, it’s hard to deny how impressive it is that the 82-year-old leader ‘gets’ social media. It will interesting to see how many priests follow his lead.
Pope Benedict’s call to action is valuable advice for businesses, too. If he thinks that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogging are good ways to spread his message, maybe these tools can help your company. If your firm’s leaders don’t see the value in developing a social media strategy, you can point to His Holiness’s commitment to the social Web as a branding and communication tool.

JCPenney Launches 2D Barcode Coupons

J. C. Penney Co. Inc. is letting shoppers ring up savings at the register using their mobile phones with a 2D-bar-code coupon program.
JCPenney customers can download and carry coupons on their mobile phones that can be scanned directly from the phone’s display screen at the point of sale. The retail giant tapped Cellfire for the initiative, which claims it is a first-of-its-kind program for a U.S. retailer.

“We recognize that this is where the customer is ultimately going, and we want to make sure we’re there and ready when the adoption curve ramps up,” said Dave Owen, development director for emerging digital media at JCPenney, Plano, TX. “Mobile is a convenient way for consumers to shop JCPenney and redeem coupons and we want to support that need.

“The biggest thing is immediacy, because it puts the consumer in control,” he said. “Its a competitive advantage to have a coupon right on her phone, which provides true immediacy and a discount offer she didn’t have to plan for.”

New imaging scanners from Motorola capable of reading these 2D bar-code coupons have been deployed at point-of-sale registers in 16 JCPenney stores in the Houston metro area.
JCPenney makes coupons available in multiple venues, including newspaper circulars, postcard mailers if consumers are in its database, email communication as part of its regular cadence and now mobile.

“Mobile is a good touchpoint with consumers, because instead of having to cut out a coupon or download it and print it, if they’re out and about and ready to make that decision about where to purchase, it provides an incentive to drop into a JCPenney,” Mr. Owen said.

JCPenney is in the process of integrating 2D bar codes into its JCP Rewards loyalty program.

“We hope this will provide an opportunity to exploit 2D bar codes to give JCP Rewards members added convenience,” Mr. Owen said. “We want to make it easy for members to redeem the monthly rewards they’ve earned.”

Apple Unveils iPad

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, a tablet-style computer that resembles the iPhone, but with a larger screen and other features for work and play.

“It’s so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone,” Jobs said. I would love to get one of these.

I had heard speculation that this would be available at Verizon but it was announced that AT&T will offer an unlimited data plan for $30 a month, and will not require the usual longer-term service contract, he added.

Jobs demonstrated how the iPad is used for surfing the Web with Apple’s Safari browser. He typed an e-mail using an on-screen keyboard and flipped through photo albums by flicking his finger across the screen, using gestures common to the iPhone.

The iPad also has a custom version of iWorks, productivity software that includes applications for documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

As part of today’s announcement, Apple came out with an online bookstore called the iBookstore, along with Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette as partners. It will compete head-on with the Amazon Kindle device and bookstore. The Kindle lacks the color screen and rich-media capabilities of the iPad and its mobile operating system.

The iPad will also run all iPhone apps, and Apple is making a software development kit for the new device available to developers this week.

PuR, Water Purification in a Packet

Safe drinking water is one of the world’s greatest needs, according to the World Health Organization. More than 1 billion people lack safe water, and an estimated 2 million children die each year because of diarrheal diseases, many of which could be prevented by safe drinking water.

Procter & Gamble, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and governments, is working in developing countries to provide safe drinking water directly to people in their homes: this model has the advantages of cost, immediate availability and ease of distribution to reach rural areas.
The Procter & Gamble Health Sciences Institute, in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the product named PuR. It is meant to create safe drinking water through the removal of pathogens and the use of disinfectants in turbid waters.

The PuR product uses the same ingredients as those in municipal water systems, acting as a mini-water treatment plant in a sachet. Among other things, a small sachet of powdered product visibly separates the cleaned water from the murky masses and remains stable, providing the potential for long-term consumer use as well as for providing emergency water.
The product is packaged in small sachets that are convenient to transport and store. One small sachet, costing about US $0.10 in the commercial model, will treat 10 litres of water (enough drinking water for an average family for two days). PuR can also be bought in bulk quantities for use in disasters and emergencies or miniature treatment plants, The latest crisis in Haiti for example.

P&G believes that if it can provide affordable products that meet a real consumer need, then there will be demand for these products in the developing world. Initial efforts are underway to develop a sustainable market-based approach for delivery and to learn how to best make these products available. Three separate complementary models are being explored: a social model led by non-profit organizations; a commercial model led by the private sector; an emergency relief model led by relief organization.

Survey On The Spot

Abbi Tatton from the CNN Situation Room reviewed the newly released TSA survey available through SURVEY ON THE SPOT, a new iPhone app.

In the wake of new security concerns at airports, can this free app provide useful and timely information to the TSA and the traveling public. The survey, which is available for smartphone and web users via browser ( http://www.surveyonthespot.com/go/tsa ) as well as on the iPhone enables travelers to complete the survey immediately upon passing through TSA security.

I worked on the creation of this app with Ken Kimmel and Geofrey Palmer from SOTS. It was also featured in USA Today last week.

Mobile at the Center of ESPN’s World Cup Coverage

ESPN is featuring mobile as a central channel in its efforts to connect with soccer fans leading up to and during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
As part of the ramp up in soccer coverage, ESPN Mobile has launched a free ESPN World Cup application for the iPhone and iPod touch available in the App Store. The application features live draw results updated in real-time and includes breaking news and analysis of the World Cup, which will take place in June.

“This app is the start of a much bigger campaign we’re going to have on mobile related to the World Cup,” said Oke Okaro, New York-based vice president of mobile at ESPN. “The app itself was launched to coincide with the draw, which represented the start of the World Cup campaign for us.

“The World Cup is a very big priority for ESPN, and we see mobile as being a very big component of that coverage,” he said. “Generally speaking, games will be played during hours when people are not sitting in front of a TV, so mobile is a way for people to connect to the teams they care about most wherever they may be.”

Burst of Mobile Giving Adds Millions in Relief Funds

Old-fashioned television telethons can stretch on for hours. But the latest charity appeal is short enough for Twitter: “Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to @RedCross relief.”


In the aftermath of the earthquake many Americans are reaching for their cellphones to make a donation via text message. And plenty of them are then spreading the word to others on sites like Twitter.

The American Red Cross which is working with a mobile donations firm called mGive, said Thursday that it had raised more than $5 million this way.

“There is an enormous outpouring for this effort,” said Wendy Harman, social media manager at the Red Cross. “It’s such an easy way to give and pass around through social sites on the Web.”

The mobile donations are part of a larger surge of money flowing to the relief effort. The Red Cross said it had collected nearly $35 million as of Thursday night, surpassing the amounts it received in the same time period after Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami.

“When something like this happens, it’s incredibly frustrating because there isn’t much that we can do,” said Laura Fitton, a media consultant who has raised money for charity on Twitter. “It helps to be able to at least make a gesture, and that is what is catching on.”

The Red Cross expects that donations made through more established channels — writing a check or on the Web — will still far outweigh text-message giving. But the cellphone campaign may be reaching people who might not otherwise have made the effort to get involved.

Convenience is one factor in the campaign’s success. People simply send a designated word to a five- or six-digit number and then confirm that they want to give, and the donation is charged to their wireless bill. At the end of the month, the carriers transfer the contributions to a service provider like mGive, which passes them on to the charity.

Google Versus China’s Stand on Free Speech

Google’s announcement that China should either stop censoring Internet searches or risk a pullout by the search-engine giant rocked the online world Wednesday, leaving observers to break down the meaning of the provocative move.

By standing up to the communist regime, Google fashioned itself a champion of free speech — a mantle the California-based company has wrapped itself in, even as its decision to allow only limited results in China drew criticism.

But while many applauded Google’s bold stance, others questioned whether finances may have had as much to do with its move as freedoms.
Google said Tuesday that the company and at least 20 others were victims of a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” originating in China in mid-December, evidently to gain access to the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

A Google spokesman said intellectual property was stolen in the attack, while declining specifically to say what kind. But the company said the attacker or attackers gained access to the header — or subject-line information — from the e-mails of two human rights activists through the Google network.

The contents of the e-mails were not accessed, the spokesman said. As a result, the company said, it is no longer willing to abide by the filters that the Chinese government demanded on certain searches before allowing Google to operate in the country.

“We’d like to talk to the government about the ability to operate an unfiltered search engine in China, and that would be our preferred outcome,” Google chief legal officer David Drummond said. “However if that’s not possible, then we’ll have to consider other alternatives which could include shutting down the local site or even closing down our offices entirely.”