Blog usage declines among Fortune 500 companies

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research has release its annual report on social media usage among the Fortune 500 companies.

For the first time in seven years, since 2008, the number of companies in this group with a public facing corporate blog has dropped, down to 31% from 2013’s peak level of 34%. That could be the beginning of a trend, it could just signal a momentary dip…it’s unclear based on the data in the story. But it does hint that fewer companies (3% translates to 15 brands) are adopting a hub and spoke content marketing strategy since, if they don’t have a blog then the odds of them having the necessary hub is much lower.


Of the most-used social networks, LinkedIn has the highest adoption rate, with 97% of the companies in this group operating pages there. The fact that it’s higher than Facebook (80%) or Twitter (83%), which may be slightly surprising until you consider that other studies consistently show the B2B industry is much more likely to find value on LinkedIn than they would on other networks that are more attuned to a general consumer audience.

Growth on Pinterest in the last year has been significant, jumping from 9% last year to 36% in 2014 as brands gravitate toward that network. While the report doesn’t spell it out exactly like this, it’s easy to assume that’s largely because Pinterest does not require connection to a larger publishing. By that I mean a retailer can actively post to and participate on Pinterest without having a blog or other outpost, they can just populate their boards with products from their online shop and so on. Even Instagram, for all its hype, didn’t see that kind of growth. And neither did Foursquare, which in 2014 has five times the corporate usage it did last year.

Meanwhile Google+ stands out for, as the study says, having a large number of open but inactive accounts, likely the result of Google+ being (until recently) a requirement when creating other Google accounts. This may also be brands claiming names/URLs without a clear strategy or reason to be on Google+, something that’s been a reality for quite a while.

Do people care about where content comes from or just how they get it?

05064-large-funnelTime, as this Digiday story points out, has been aggregating articles from some of its corporate brethren under its own banner. The goal, as the story says, is to provide a broader range of content than what Time would normally cover and hopefully not just raise awareness of those other titles but also build loyalty for its own brand, all while using cheap content.

But the question has to be asked: Does anyone care about the Time brand? More broadly, do fewer and fewer people care about media brands as a whole? Consider the following:

What network broadcasts Modern Family? Hulu. When do you watch Parks & Recreation? Whenever there’s time because it’s saved on TiVo. What’s your number one news source? Feedly. How do you find out about breaking news? Twitter. Where do you turn to for more information? Google. What label is Radiohead signed to? Spotify.

Yes, some of that is a bit generalized and it certainly betrays the thinking of someone who’s a power user in many regards, but I’m willing to speculate that there’s more than a bit of overall truth in there. Consider three recent stories:

First, the Pew study (which I’ve mentioned before) that goes into how people are relying on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (in that order) for news, though you can argue about the definition of “news” when discussing the results of that story. Despite that, this is the channel where people are expecting to have the news come to them as opposed to them having to go find the news.

Second, a recent study that showed across all categories that organic search drove 51% of site traffic, something that has to be seen in the context of a number of studies and surveys that show search-generated visitors have much lower loyalty rates and time-on-site averages than those who visit the site directly, using through either a browser bookmark or just typing the URL into their browser.

Third, the news that TV networks will be projecting for anticipated seven-day viewing when they release their overnight ratings numbers, an admittance that the number of people watching TV in “real time” is getting smaller and smaller, to the point where ad revenue could theoretically not support the broadcast model if it were based solely on that overnight number.

Put that all together and you can see a shift away from the First Publisher model in favor of one that is more loyal to the delivery aggregation model. People want their TV to come in this way, regardless of when it’s broadcast or what network it originates on. People want their news in a manner of their choosing and not based on old media print models, something that’s covered by PBS Mediashift as they discuss how advertising requirements are holding back innovation in magazines on tablet devices.

It’s not, I don’t think, that people are wanting vastly different kinds of content, be it news stories or video or anything else. It’s that they are far less picky about who it is that can provide them with the kind of content they want. That means less brand loyalty for those First Publishers and more loyalty to the aggregators, the funnels through which the content comes from the sources and into their lives.

This is a reality that everyone needs to start adapting to. In a lot of ways it makes more sense for the publisher of Time, Sports Illustrated and other magazine brands to not just offer these individual imprints but also offer an app that is inclusive of all their content and which breaks down content based on type and which allows for people to build their own experience. That’s exactly how the updated Circa app as well as the Inside news digest app work and it makes a lot of sense. I want a mix of politics, entertainment news and a few other things, all in a single app. They’ve allowed me to get the news I want when I want it, a setup that, as that Mediashift story points out, the traditional publishers are unable to adopt because their advertising model actively discourages it.

So here are some media consumption realities that need to be kept in mind:

People have shown a willingness to pay, either directly or through attention (meaning exposure to ads) for all-you can eat subscriptions. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Pandora and others show this clearly.

People have shown a willingness to pay for or at least actively choose aggregators that cut out the content originator. See TiVo, Circa and other funnel-type tools that show this.

People have shown a willingness to pay directly for content that cuts out the broadcast model completely. See Apple TV, Amazon Instant Video and other on-demand services for evidence of this.

All that adds up to one thing: The need for drastically different models to be put into place. And if the last few years are any indication if the content originators won’t do this then someone will innovate on their behalf and cut them completely out of the equation based on consumer desires.

The only way to beat blog burnout is to keep doing it…

1024px-Feed-icon.svg“Blog burnout” (or its cousin “podcast burnout”) has been a thing since about two months after blogs first came on the scene. People start a blog about a topic they feel passionate about and then find that either it wasn’t as rich a subject area as they initially thought it was going to be or they simply lose the enthusiasm for the project that they once had. Either of those might take months or it might be years.

Anyway, the fact that blogging can sometimes turn into more of a job than the hobby it once was definitely exists and The New York Times is on it.

The article focuses on a couple of home renovation bloggers but the fact is this is a story that could have been written on just about any sector. Heck, I could have written it about my own personal experience with Movie Marketing Madness, from which I would need to take the occasional break and which I ultimately wound up scrapping over a year ago because it just got to be too much work and not enough pay off.

See that’s the thing. At some point the chase for page views, ad revenue and recognition just becomes too much. It can also become overwhelming, especially when it’s not your primary (or even secondary) job, to do it because you feel like you can’t let your audience down. Or it just no longer fits into your life the way it once did. Or you feel like you’ve said everything you have to say on a topic. There are, in other words, myriad reasons why a blog might be at best neglected for a period of time until batteries are recharged or at worst completely abandoned.

What’s most interesting is that this story appeared on the same day as this post from Anil Dash about what he’s learned after blogging for 15 years. They’re all good – REALLY good – but this one in particular stands out:

The scroll is your friend. If you write a bad post or something you don’t like, just post again. If you write something great that you’re really proud of and nobody notices, just post again. One foot in front of the other, one word after another, is the only path I’ve found to an overall body of work that I’m proud of. Push posts down the page, and the good and the bad will just scroll away.

Blogging is like baseball: Tomorrow you have to get up and do it all again, with more opportunities to either hit it out of the park and be recognized by everyone or to go 0-for-4 and feel terrible. But you get up the next day and to it again. And again. And again. And hopefully the hits outnumber the misses and you have a body of work you’re proud of.

People are finding – and making – the news on social networks

Pew is out with a new study that looks at how news is consumed on social networks.

Among the findings are that Facebook is the top network for people to find news, with YouTube in second and Twitter coming in third.


But wait…Didn’t Facebook just announce an update to its algorithm that was designed to bring more timely stories to people’s News Feed partly because it wasn’t a great outlet for breaking news?

Yes, yes it did. And the study addresses that later, when it says the most common type of news found on Facebook is entertainment-oriented and not the breaking news that is more easily found on Twitter. So the definition of “news” is super-important to understanding the actual behaviors on display here.

The rest of the study has some interesting findings on the discussions that result from news stories on social media and what percentage of the audience is actively collecting and publishing news in the way of videos, photos and more of events happening near them.

Owned channels are a good thing

Over at LinkedIn I wrote this piece about how publishers are going back to favoring micro sites for their campaigns as opposed to social networks:

Building a campaign on social media has never been a good idea. That’s not to say that social networks can’t be useful tools when executing a campaign, but relying on them for campaign longevity has always been a sucker’s bet to some extent. That’s why I’ve never understood why there’s so much advertising of hashtags and such. Why are brands spending money on promoting something that people may not completely understand and which exist on a platform that they don’t control? Isn’t there more gain to be had by driving people to an on-domain interaction of some sort?


An algorithmic Twitter is a very different tool

Twitter_512x512I think it’s hard to estimate just how greatly the Twitter experience would change if, as reported, the social network shifts to an algorithm-driven Timeline.

While everyone has reacted very strongly to this, particularly in the PR and media worlds, I’m trying to take a more cautious approach for the time being, at least until we know more. After all, this may be something we can turn off if we opt to, in which case it impacts my personal experience not a whit.

Despite the lack of insights as to how this might work (though we can take some guesses based on how Twitter has started showing random Favorited tweets in people’s feeds) there are some areas I’ve been thinking about and which I’ve seen others begin to speculate on:

For brand publishers the impact could be huge, either positively or negatively. On the upside, brand tweets usually see higher engagement levels than those from individuals. So this could be a good thing, surfacing those updates in more people’s feeds and increasing their exposure. But, as we’ve all seen from Facebook in the last year or so, algorithms can be manipulated by the networks that put them in place to their own ends and based on their priorities as a company, not based on the best interests of the audience.

Misinformation would take much longer to disapprove. Think about the last time there was a major news event and how things went down on Twitter. There was the initial blast of sketchy facts followed by a period where details became more and more clear until the real story was clear. But how much longer did those initial inaccurate tweets still appear in your timeline as people just catching up on things shared the news? It’s been my experience that the initial, inaccurate stuff sees much higher engagement than the later corrections. So if items are being ranked on engagement there’s the possibility the garbage will be given priority over the later updates. That’s a real problem that Facebook faces now and it would be a shame to see Twitter go down this same route.

Time-shifting would denigrate the value of the real-time feed. Again, think about what the current Facebook experience is: Your Newsfeed is probably a mix of posts ranging anywhere from the previous hour to five days ago. So instead of getting the real-time experience of what’s happening *now* Twitter would become another platform that’s a random mix of what *has* happened. And that degrades one of the core components of Twitter.

The begging for Favs or RTs would get out of hand quickly, likely leading to some sort of crackdown on the practice, which would mean the value of those points in the algorithm would have to be thrown into question, making said algorithm just that much more mysterious. And the use of media – photos and videos – that usually create higher levels of engagement might have to be curtailed by the algorithm since it could be seen as gaming the system by publishers.

The biggest part of Twitter that would benefit from this is the “lean back experience.” So the people who would get the most out of this are those who follow mostly celebrities and stars of some sort. Celebrity tweets are off-the-charts in terms of engagement and are usually not very timely, making them perfect for an algorithm-based format. So the extreme casual user is the biggest beneficiary of this, which is entirely the point.

In short this is a can of worms that I don’t really think Twitter wants to open. I understand it’s doing this out of a desire to make the experience more friendly for new or light users. Which is why this needs to be either an opt-in or opt-out experience, likely the latter since a new user isn’t going to know they need to opt-out of an impure feed.

Twitter is messy. While it’s a corporately-owned, centrally-managed tool the “how” of Twitter has almost always been in the hands of the users. I use Lists, other people don’t. Someone else is really into hashtag tracking, that’s not my thing. I use Tweetdeck, other people only use Twitter on their mobile devices. Innovations that are core to the experience like hashtags, @mentions and so on have all bubbled up from the user base, not from the company itself until they co-opted them and made them into feature sets. I get that it’s exactly that messiness that keeps some people at arms’ length, sticking with following Britney Spears and Zac Efron and that’s it. But it’s also exactly that messiness that makes it such a wonderful place. Yeah, you miss a lot if you’re not paying attention, but that has to be OK. Corporate decision-making cannot be held captive to some people’s fear of missing out.

As I said on Twitter (of course) the other day, it’s never been a place where I was concerned about finding news I *needed.* I have RSS for that and have actually just gone and added subscriptions to some sites I felt I was missing out on. It’s been a place where I found news that other people thought was interesting enough. If I missed something, well, them’s the breaks. But I like weird, messy Twitter a lot more than I like Facebook, where a group of engineers in California are making judgements about what should or shouldn’t be important to me without my input at all. That’s a level of control I’m not ready to give up, which is why I like RSS feeds so much. And for those who complain that they can’t manage everyone they’re following on Twitter, the solution isn’t this. It’s the Unfollow button, which is the best mechanism at hand right now to help you define your own signal-to-noise comfort level.

QOTD: 9/5/14


A thousand times this:

So, yeah, I’m down with this retro movement. Bring back personal blogs. Bring back RSS. Bring back the fun. Screw Big Internet.

via Big Internet | ROUGH TYPE.

There’s no accountability in deciding decency on social networks

Here’s the key graf in this story about how much control companies like Twitter and Facebook have over, beyond things like a News Feed or other algorithm, what we see when we use their social networks:

So why am I so uncomfortable with this? Because it’s not clear what’s too vile to host. And, even more, because Twitter and YouTube are among a tiny group of giant companies with greater and greater power—and less and less accountability—over what we read, hear, and watch online.

That’s a role that used to be played by an editor within a news organization. And that editor was not only challenged by their staff but also held accountable by an ombudsman, publisher or other figure. And the public could register their outrage or support through various channels about the decisions being made.

Twitter and Facebook though have continued to straddle the line between being a media company, where roles like those would make sense, and dumb networks where anyone can do anything without interference. So we’re left with the question of who is making these decisions? The Twitter CEO? A Facebook publishing manager? Who? There’s little to no transparency in the process, leaving the public in the dark about what will or won’t cross some unknown line at any given time.

These and other social networks need something that goes beyond a standard Terms of Service that, realistically, seems to be selectively applied. There needs to be some sort of public editor in charge of decency who can address each individual instance where a story is too indecent to be hosted on its servers and speak to *why* it crosses that threshold. Someone needs to answer the questions being asked and be accountable not just to management but critics, the audience and others.

On a separate but related topic, this is the second best graf in the story:

The first way we users of Internet services can re-decentralize is to create—and make use of—our own home base online. In practical terms, this means getting your own domain name and creating, at a minimum, a blog where you establish your own identity. The page you think is yours at LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram (Facebook), or any of the other centralized services is emphatically not truly your own; it’s theirs.

In other words: Keep the web weird.