QOTD: 11/6/12

“If properly dried and trimmed, New York-style pizza could be used to make a box for Chicago-style pizza. I love a slice when I’m in NYC, but it’s like eating a Slim Jim compared with a filet mignon. One slice of Gino’s East stuffed sausage pizza is a bigger meal than an entire New York pie.”

via Nick Offerman Says What We’re All Thinking About New York Pizza: Chicagoist.

Quick Takes: 11/04/12 (Part 2)

  • The decision by the NYT and WSJ to drop their paywalls for Hurricane Sandy coverage gets back to the issue of what role the press currently plays in serving the public interest and where that role becomes incompatible with a business model. If what’s being produced is so important it is made free for everyone during this period then where does that line exist in the future? And if what they’re producing now is in the public interest then what about the rest of the time? At the same time there’s new data showing digital paywalls are helping circulation numbers at some papers.
  • I do agree that there was kind of a sea-change in how Instagram was being used – by photographers, by mainstream media and everyone else – as Hurricane Sandy swept across New York and New Jersey. An Instagram photo was even used as the cover to an issue of Time about the ravages Sandy had wrought.
  • Did Lance Armstrong get away with lying about doping for so long because the press that covered him was afraid to ask too many questions? Not sure I 100% agree but it is an interesting thought starter on the state of the citizen press.
  • With so much quality material on TV, movies are looking to maintain their relevancy. It’s interesting how these two things are moving in completely different directions, with movies getting dumber and TV getting smarter. But “be smarter” doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the film industry.
  • More on “native advertising” and how it’s changing some parts of the media landscape.
  • Don’t feed the trolls.

Quick Takes: 11/04/12 (Part 1)

  • Twitter is embracing lightweight engagement, as evidenced by the news it’s ditching “Favorite” as an option on Tweets and moving toward something closer to “Like.”
  • Interesting to see how some of the top newspapers in the country are – or aren’t – using Pinterest and how they are engaging on that platform.
  • With Facebook growing ever bigger and Twitter usage patterns changing dramatically of late, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Internet populations splinters off into niche social networks that are more relevant and where the communities may be more responsive.
  • This is such a patently ridiculous idea it’s hard to believe it’s actually happening. But it could have a significant impact on the French media world as Google is threatening to stop linking to news sites, which would then have to evaluate whether the moral victory is worth the likely significant decrease in traffic.
  • Quora has continued to do some interesting things in terms of innovation, the latest of which is to add a slight twist on gamification to its program. It’s not quite what other sites do but is actually more formal and, seemingly, more rewarding in how it acknowledges what are essentially power users.
  • Many retailer and retail brand sites are indeed beginning to mimic the look and feel of Pinterest and other sites. Not because they want to be mistaken for them but because the simple, visually-based layout has proven to be attractive and sticky to visitors and they’re hoping the same behaviors will hold on their own sites.

Quick Takes: 11/03/12 (Part 3)

  • PBS Mediashift has a must-read analysis of keywords used by news magazines on Twitter as they look to distribute political news as the election campaign winds down and engage with/play to their core ideological audiences.
  • If you base many of your decisions based on your own habits or those around you you’re bound to be making bad choices. Always go to the data, despite what some critics of Nate Silver’s political analysis might espouse.
  • News.me was shut down as the parent company decided to focus efforts on the newly revitalized Digg as well as for reasons relating to Twitter’s new API rules. Obviously that was a tough call for those behind the scenes and Neiman Journalism Lab interviews Jake Levine about that decision.
  • One of the truisms about social media is that nothing is “off the record.
  • I’ve called out Buzzfeed as having done quite a bit in the last year to rethink journalism practices on a number of fronts. But it’s issues like this that have brought down other companies and is something Buzzfeed – and its advertisers – are going to have to confront soon. Particularly if the advertisers start to feel the heat and begin drying up the site’s revenue stream.
  • Zite is a great example of how a social tech firm has continued to do its thing and build an audience while being part of a larger corporate parent. The acquisition has benefited both parties, as well as readers, which is increasingly rare.

Quick Takes: 11/03/12 (Part 2)

  • NASA creates compelling content by opening the intake flow to all departments, yes. They also went to Mars, which is a great news hook. But I digress.
  • I’m fascinated by the notion that the number of self-published books has risen 287% since 2006.
  • Note to NHL (and every other company): When there are vast swaths of people out there who are tremendously honked off at you and want you to stop whatever it is you’re doing that’s making them angry, don’t tell them to keep calm, no matter how tongue-in-cheek you meant it.
  • Yeah, Eventbrite may be building its own social network based around people’s activities but it’s still a big leap to getting those people to do more on that platform that would make it a viable stand-alone community.
  • Shorter version of this post: Have lots of evergreen content in the queue that you can use for when it’s a slow news day and there isn’t much in the way of breaking news to talk about. Always been good advice (that’s why I’ve been giving it for 6+ years to clients) and that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a whole newsroom culture/structure.
  • Pinterest is launching verified profiles, something that could be of major interest to businesses who are beginning to dip their toes in the Pinterest waters.

Quick Takes: 11/03/12 (Part 1)

  • Facebook is building out the Collections feature it’s been testing, meaning it’s getting ready to launch it as a fully operational offering in the very near future. I’m interested to see how these progress and get rolled out since they could turn a feature of Facebook that’s more or less geared around sharing/spread (see a photo, like/share a photo) and make it more around direct actions to be taken, ie visiting a product page.
  • Tweetbot’s recent decision to charge $20 for its Twitter client is interesting not because it is saying their product is so good it’s worth shelling out cash for but because it’s the company trying to limit the number of people who are using it.
  • The potential in a fiction-writing festival happening in real-time on Twitter is all sorts of intriguing.
  • We were probably all surprised to read Pew’s findings that young people, those between 16 and 29 specifically, are still going to the library in decent numbers. I’m not, though.
  • If you ask me – and I know you did – the significant churn on the list of brands people feel the most loyalty toward says less about the constant rush of technology and more about how more and more people aren’t emotionally connected to the brands they use, something that comes at the same time they’re asked to “connect” and “engage” with them on so many platforms.
  • This post at AllThingsD about why a “Want” button for social media likely won’t be a big boon to the retail industry is definitely worth reading.

Create Shareable Content, Regardless of the Sharing Tools

Any marketer worth his or her salt spends a good amount of time looking at their web analytics and trying to figure out where their visitors are coming from, where they’re entering the site, how they’re navigating around once they get there and how long they’re sticking around.

Most of the people who do so are also likely frustrated every time they bump up against the “Other” category when looking at site referrals. Social networks are clear, as are direct links from other sites and other sources. But that “Other” section always frustrates since it can encompass so many things.

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic has confronted this issue head-on and dubbed it “dark social” since those sorts of referrals are hidden from view. He argues, convincingly, that almost 70% of social referrals are coming from sources that don’t fit with the current definition of “social.” Instead they’re coming from IM conversations, email threads and other communications that aren’t Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. Here’s what that looks like for The Atlantic in his story.

The main thesis of Madrigal’s piece, that the effort being put into optimizing content for sharing on Facebook and Twitter is only impacting a small percentage of web traffic, I think is a good one. And it’s interesting to think about this in light of the recent Buzzfeed study on what publishers have had the most engagement success on Facebook since when you look at the winners there they have the kind of content you “Like” or comment on right on Facebook as opposed to send in an email to a friend as something you really want them to read.

As Mathew Ingram at GigaOm points out in his own take on Madrigal’s article, the key to success comes back down to creating content that someone wants to not only read but also pass along. The mechanism they do so is almost irrelevant. It’s the responsibility of the publisher to create the impetus and provide the tools for someone to easily take action on that impulse. It’s then in the hands of the reader what tool they use to do so.

You Can’t Lead All Horses To Your Water

Should brands build their own social communities? Adam at ReadWrite says “yes” but I’m going to respectfully disagree.The main reason I’ll do so is this: You have to convince people to engage in completely different behavior in order for this stand-alone community to thrive. You have to convince them that the time they invest there – a place where the majority of their existing friends and connections on other networks likely aren’t – is worth it and will have some sort of benefit, social or otherwise, to them. If that value proposition can’t be made and more accurately fulfilled then you’re going to be better off going where they are as opposed to trying to get them to come to your doorstep.

Don’t misunderstand me: It’s almost always preferable from a business point of view to have those stand-alone, owned communities. That you the business gets to collect data, have more of a guiding voice in the conversations and be more responsive to to the questions and issues raised there. Those are all good things.

But every time this is pitched in a brainstorm the question has to be asked “What will X type of person get out of an hour here and why would they choose to spend that time here rather than on Facebook.” In other words, don’t look at the creation of an owned, on-domain community from what you as part of a business will get out of it, though the upsides should absolutely be considered. Look at it instead from the perspective of the prospective members of that community and figure out whether or not they are going to have any interest in being there.

If you can satisfactorily answer those questions and address those issues then by all means give it a shot. But build in back doors. Re-evaluate every six months. Make sure people can export their data and activities in a way that makes them feel comfortable committing some effort because they know they’re not losing everything if the place shuts down.

I get – and agree with – the desire to build these sorts of owned communities. But launching one really needs to be about what’s best for that community and be viewed with open eyes about the very real risks and rewards of doing so.

They Make the Rules, We Just Need to Abide By Them

I’ve been wondering what to think about the idea that decisions by Twitter, Google or other companies somehow infringe on the freedom of speechwe enjoy. But then I realized that, from my perspective, there wasn’t much to say.We can wring our hands about the decisions they make about suspending this, that or the other accounts or any other move that’s made. But when it comes down to it these and other companies that provide publishing platforms that they themselves host – meaning they’re not installed and owned by the publisher themselves – they are free to hold people to the terms of service that, whether they’ve been read or not, are imposed on that platform’s users.

NuDigg May Be Better For Readers Than Publishers

What’s behind what’s popular on Digg? It might not be what you think.

“The top stories section is powered by a mix of social and behavioral data sources,” Levine told me. “It’s up to the Digg moderators to sit on top of this data, organize it, and then present the most talked about stories on the web.”

Sources, said Levine, include Facebook, Bit.ly, News.me, Twitter, Chartbeat (a tool online publishers use to track hot stories), and last but not least, diggs. The exact formula isn’t for public consumption, he said.

In other words, the new Digg is trying to find a variety of reasons something might be interesting and promote those that meet a mix of criteria. That means, though, that it may never be quite the referral engine that it once was, despite what some publishers and others might hope for.

Let me explain: In the olden days (circa 2008) digg success was based on who submitted an article, what connections they had among the site’s power users, how many upvotes a story had and more. I’ll never accuse a publisher or writer of “gaming” the Digg system since most all of them operated within the site’s rules, but there were some that were particularly adept at getting the most value out of the network.

Now, though, by factoring in a few more digital signals while still allowing for some human editorial input, the site is likely to be better at surfacing what’s truly interesting and may actually do a more truthful job of fulfilling its original mandate, to be a people-powered news engine.

This may be bad news for publishers who are looking for as much referral traffic as possible. And if people are really going to (once again) begin their news-reading time at Digg then it’s up to the publishers of any stripe to work extra hard to convert on whatever new readers may come their way. Will this benefit free, non-pay-walled sources? Yeah, most likely since they won’t be the ones putting up impediments to that new reader. But if they can work a way to welcome this occasional visitor and prove the value of what they’re producing there’s a lot of long-term value to be had.