NMDL: Back in the Driver’s Seat

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Michigan State University is now offering, to both undergraduate and graduate students, a new course on social media entitled “New Media Drivers License.”

The New Media Drivers License course, or NMDL for short, provides students with a comprehensive overview of new media and digital marketing, and the relevance and importance of each for today’s businesses.  The course is taught by Ingenex Digital Marketing CEO and MSU alum, Derek Mehraban, as well as professor and Chair of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing at MSU, Dr. Richard Cole.

NMDL shows students how to take social media, like Facebook and Twitter, normally used to communicate with friends, and turn it into a valuable commodity for companies and clients.  In addition to social networks, the course covers the use of blogging, podcasting, search engine optimization, and a number of other digital marketing areas, including the never-ending uses of Google.

Paul Kanan (me), an MSU alum and a passenger on the maiden voyage of the NMDL ship during the 2009 Spring semester, says of the course, “This class rocks!  I recommend it to anyone going into public relations, advertising, or simply wants to have their finger on the pulse of the future.”

This summer marks the second offering of NMDL at MSU with three full sections.  The class meets at the beginning and end of the semester at Walsh College in Novi, MI, with everything in between taking place online.  For more information on the class, the course site can be found at http://newmediadl.com or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

So that’s the official Eco-Friendly word, but like I said, this class rocks!  And another thing, it’s long overdue, so check it out!

The Internship: New, Improved, and No Longer Just for (College) Kids

It’s that time of year again – the annual rite of passage when new graduates begin to lose their minds because they’ve entered into one of life’s no-man’s lands – the time between the end of college and the beginning of a career.

This time in one’s life can best be described as being somewhat like purgatory. You know you’re not quite in Hell because you’re relieved from the stresses of finals, proud of yourself for getting that degree, and happy to return back to Ma and Pa’s for a bit once the lease is over to hang with all your leftover high school friends while you search for gainful employment (true story).

But about one month in you realize something isn’t right, you can’t shake this gnawing feeling, and you finally realize what it is – you don’t get to go back to school in the fall.  “There are no more excuses.”  “This is your life.”  “A new chapter is about to begin.” A dozen other clichés. You have no answer for everyone when they ask that unbelievably annoying and patronizing question, “So what’s next?”  It’s even worse when you realize that employers aren’t just going to knock on your door because of your fantastic college resumé and that the job market is way down due to the recession. To be honest, it sorta feels like this:

So what’s a college grad to do, short of searching for Mrs. Robinson?  Well the answer for some may be right in front of them.  Just as graduates are beginning to look for jobs, current college matriculators (is that a word?) are also beginning another rite of passage – the summer internship (or their third or fourth such position for the ambitious).  The internship used to be seen as a way for college students to get experience and credit while employers scout the talent and take advantage of inexpensive labor.

Not anymore, my friends.  The internship is now for everyone.  With the current job market as tight as it is, an internship can be the cure for the occupational blues.  For current students, it’s still the tried and true way to get a leg up on your peers while putting to use what you’re learning in the classroom.  For the newly graduated, it provides a plethora of positives.  For starters, it’s a morale boost for those who haven’t yet found the career their looking for.  It’s also another notch on the resumé belt and an opportunity to show your stuff to an employer for when they eventually (and hopefully) resume the hiring process.  And, perhaps most importantly, it can serve as a bridge over troubled water stirred up by the recession.

An especially beneficial opportunity is that of the digital internship. The digital internship (especially the Eco-Friendly Internship – no hyperlink necessary.  You’re already here!) combines the best of traditional internships past and the necessary skills of the future (which is really now).  With the digital internship, you still head down to the office once in awhile, so your office social skills remain primed, but a lot of what you do can be virtually accomplished (and you save gas, which is Eco-Friendly).

In a digital internship (yes, I realize I’ve said “digital internship” quite a bit, but it’s important) (and I’ve used an abundance of parentheses, but I like them) you learn the crafts of blogging, social media as a business tool, podcasting, Google, and the innumerable other spheres of the Internet that are being introduced to the lexicon of businesses on a daily basis.  Becoming versed in these techniques will give you a leg up on the competition for jobs over those who don’t possess the requisite technical abilities of the future.  Not to mention you can deepen your writing and communications skills, which has been a growing complaint of employers regarding the lack thereof amongst college students and recent graduates.  Oh and so as not to end this paragraph on a boring note like writing skills, digital internships are super cool and fun.

The bottom line? Digital internships are where it’s at!  Fun times, job skills, way of the future, resume placeholder, occupational peace of mind…whatever you’re looking for, they fit the bill.  So quit sitting on the couch, playing PS3 and Wii (guilty) or acting like mowing the lawn is grounds for a successful day (again, guilty), and start scouring the Internet for one.  Oh yeah, and as this blog entry began, a regular internship is cool too…just not as cool.

Kindle: Way of the Future or Death of the Past?

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Or Both.  For those of you unfamiliar with the latest foray into digital reading devices, Amazon has provided us with the Kindle DX.  The major difference being the larger screen it offers from its predecessors.  The finer details, however, being, according to Amazon (because who can say it better, right?):

“At Amazon, we’ve always been obsessed with having every book ever printed, and we know that even the best reading device would be useless without a massive selection of books you want to read. Today, the Kindle Store has more than 275,000 books available, plus top newspapers, magazines, and blogs. This is just the beginning. Our vision is every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds. We won’t stop until we get there.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available, including 107 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list. New York Times Best Sellers and most new releases are $9.99, and you’ll find many books for less.”

Now, on the surface of things, you may ask yourself, what in that description warrants such a doomsday title to this blog entry?  Well, hold on a sec, first let’s look at the good that it brings.  For starters, everything previously mentioned – books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs on-demand and at your fingertips.  You can carry an entire library in your bag, purse, or briefcase.  Not to mention, it has 3G Wireless, text-to-speech (in other words, it reads to you), and supports PDF.  Beneath the surface, there’s the Eco-Friendly benefits, as well.  The first thing that comes to mind, while simple, is it saves trees.  No more paper, no more chopping down trees, right?  Environment – 1, End of the World – 0 in that regard.  It also decreases pollution caused by the production of books, magazines, and newspapers, and eliminates the damage done to the environment throughout the distribution channels, mainly the carbon footprint left by shipping.  All in all it sounds like a pretty great product…but wait…

There has to be something wrong with it.  Well, let’s start with the hefty price tag.  The original Kindle 2.0 can be had for $359, with the Kindle DX being available for pre-order at $489.  But in the end, the price is only a barrier to entry for those that can’t afford it…like interns or college students.  So say you can afford it, is that the only drawback? No, for starters, when a date comes over, you can’t leave random copies of classic novels and famous treatises lying around to impress them if they’re all on your Kindle.  You could also lose it and there goes your library in one fell swoop.  However, most importantly, what about the demise of the publishing industry as we know it? If everything becomes digital, then what’s the point of actual newspapers, books, or magazines?  If more and more people are simply downloading their reading material, then the printed word will cease to exist because 1) advertisers don’t want to advertise in a medium that doesn’t reach anyone, 2) there’s no point in printing them if no one is buying them.

For some of us, that’s just not something we want to see.  What about curling up with nice, big hardcover novel on a cold winter’s night?  Or bending the hell out of a paperback on the train home from work?  What about spreading the Sunday newspaper out in front of you at the kitchen table while sipping a cup of hot coffee?  Or rolling up last week’s edition of Entertainment Weekly or the Economist to kill a pesky fly (or shoo it out the window for you bug activists)?  Heck, some people will even miss the ink stains that begin on your fingers and somehow end up on your face, furniture, and clothes when reading the New York Times.  The point being, that innovation often spells the demise of something in favor of another.  Horse-n-buggy? Automobile.  VCR? DVD.  Knowing stuff? Google.

In the end, though, it’s all up to the Invisible Hand…of the Almighty?  No, of Adam Smith.  In other words, it’s up to all of you.  If enough consumers want it, then the Kindle will thrive.  If everyone wants it, then the Kindle and other products like it will replace our ink and paper past.  However, hopefully the Kindle becomes what it should be, a way to get people to read again and read more.  Not a replacement for books or newspapers, but a bridge between nothing and something…a complement to one’s library and subscriptions as a convenient way to read while traveling or commuting or a way get a book right away rather than having to drive to the bookstore or wait days for your Amazon order to arrive.

For someone who considers themselves a traditionalist, your humble blogger here sees the Kindle as a hopeful good-natured cousin to the printed word that will peacefully coexist and grow the world of literature rather than destroy it.  Always a fan of new gadgets, as long I can have my cake (the traditional book, magazine, and newspaper) and eat it too (the Kindle), I won’t complain.  And finally, a note to Amazon: If you would like to send the Eco-Friendly Interns a Kindle or two to test for ourselves, this blog entry can easily be edited to remove any and all elements deemed to cast the Kindle in a negative light.  Thank you.