U.S. Bloggers Need Social for Traffic, At Least For Now

198818Some interesting stats in this new study of the habits of U.S. blog publishers.

It’s almost exactly a 50/50 split in terms of those who post anywhere from weekly to several times a day and those who post less frequently, including “at irregular intervals,” which translates to “whenever the mood strikes them.”

When it comes to media, most include an image while only 12% include a video and even fewer include audio.

Most interesting to me, almost all – 93.2% – of bloggers rely on social media links to drive traffic back to the posts they write. Other percentages use SEO and email marketing while only a few use paid promotions in any way.

That last point is really poking around in my mind, particularly in terms of new options for content distribution like Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles and more that host content themselves as opposed to driving traffic elsewhere. While the entire media industry has been focused on how that’s going to impact the economics of large publishers like The New York Times and others, the paradigm change is going to have an even greater effect on individual bloggers.

Traffic to individual blogs used to come via links on other blogs, RSS click-throughs and search, either through a general search engine like Google or Yahoo or blog-specific search tools like Technorati. But now professional blogging has become such a race for ad dollars that sending traffic elsewhere doesn’t make sense, so most links just go to previous posts or tag pages. Then as social networks like Facebook and Twitter came on the scene those supplanted what had come before and became the new source of lots of traffic.

But that meant traffic was subject to the whims of the stream (Twitter) or the Newsfeed (Facebook), the latter of which was constantly changing, often not to the benefit of independent publishers. And now with Instant Articles and other native content apps we’re entering a world where traffic is no longer even a possibility and in fact is something the social networks are actively working against. Facebook doesn’t *want* to send you traffic.

That means these individual voices – the ones who were so important a decade or more ago when blogging first took off as they provided valuable opinions and knowledge outside the mainstream – may be silenced. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but if there’s nothing in it for people to keep putting out their personal blogs on any of a variety of topics because they don’t see any traffic and therefore can’t use the blogs as either an income stream or a tool to help them in their professional lives, then those people may decide to just stop doing it. And that’s a huge net loss for everyone.

The alternative and more positive scenario is that while the mainstream media plays Facebook’s game on its turf and by its rules (right up until the moment Facebook swallows the entire industry as publication after publication goes bankrupt), the world of bloggers returns to its original state. There’s a very real possibility that in two years this has reverted back to a world of links, networks of friends making on-domain comments and more.

Movie Marketing Madness: Our Brand Is Crisis

our_brand_is_crisisWe’re hip deep in the Presidential race right now and there’s still over a year before the actual election. Which means that what’s going on right now isn’t so much “politics” as it is “political messaging.” We’re being spun, advertised to and so on. It’s a battle of sound bites and attacks, with little substantive being said by people are mostly unqualified to speak on the issues in front of them and the rest of the country.

Our Brand Is Crisis is about how the sausage is made. Sandra Bullock plays Jane, a campaign consultant who’s called to help a candidate in a South American country in his election. She reluctantly accepts the job because she basically has no other options. But when she gets down there she finds the opposing candidate is being coached by her long-time rival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). So not only does she want to win on a personal level but she gets caught up in the plight of the people in the country and finds she’s genuinely drawn into wanting to do what’s right for them.

The Posters

There’s a distinct purple hue on the movie’s one poster, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It shows Bullock as if she’s walking through a press scrum and pushing them back or shielding her eyes from the flash of cameras. Thornton is behind her and glaring, making it clear their rivals of some sort in the movie. The top of the poster touts the film as being “From the producers of Argo,” an attempt to align it with a highly-regarded and high-minded thriller that people enjoyed and which got decent critical buzz. Below that is the kind of half-hearted tagline “May the best campaign win.”

It’s not a great poster since I don’t get the design goals, don’t care for the tagline and don’t think it really conveys anything about the movie. It just kind of puts a lot of information out there and hopes the audience falls for it.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out like it’s setting up a boxing movie, introducing Jane through soundbites referring (presumably) to her being the greatest campaign strategist in history and so on. Then we see she’s fallen a bit but is being offered this gig in South America in a country that’s in trouble and where the candidate she’s being asked to consult on is way behind in the polls. We see her encounter Candy and learn she’s got a history with him that includes a losing one-on-one track record. Then we get into the meat of the story as she begins working and finds that she’s becoming invested in not just the campaign but the outcome and what it means for the country.

It’s an interesting trailer that keeps bouncing back and forth between comedy and earnest drama, which can sometimes be a bit jarring. Bullock is pretty good at that and seems to straddle both parts of the movie well, but that kind of problem can easily sink a movie so it’s a bit disturbing to see that dichotomy so clearly on display here. Making it even more odd is the declaration that this is based on a true story, so the comedic bits come off as increasingly incongruous with the seriousness of the situation we’re supposed to believe the country is in.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website – built on Tumblr – starts playing CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” which is also featured in the trailer, immediately. I love the song, but if like me you don’t need to hear the same 30 second segment over and over again, the “stop” button is down by the ratings label. Fair warning that if you move away from the site to another browser tab the song will restart when you go back, which is super-annoying.

The first section of content is “Cast and Crew,” which has long write-ups about the major players in front of and behind the camera. The presentation is nice, though. “About” has a synopsis of the story that, honestly, is nothing like what’s presented in the trailer. Finally (outside of the prompts to watch the trailer and buy tickets) there’s a section called “Tumblr” that actually should have been called “Video” since it has the trailer and a featurette.

ourbrandiscrisis pic 1

Over on the right of the site there are links to Tumblr tags for Bullock, director David Gordon Green, the movie’s title and more, which is an interesting embracing of the outside conversation for an official marketing effort like this.

The Facebook page for the film has mostly official media in the forms of promotional countdown and other image, videos and more with occasional links off-site. There were no stand-alone Twitter or Instagram profiles for the movie so it hitched a ride on the WB Twitter and Instagram profiles, which shared official marketing materials along with, on Twitter at least, some of the press stories that were run.  

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’ve seen a few online ads run for the movie but TV was a big component of the advertising push, with at least four different spots being run. Most of those spots used footage we’ve already seen in the trailer but each one that I saw did have at least a bit of new stuff as well, which is a bit surprising but which gives at least a small additional glimpse into the movie’s style.

The TV spots have the same problem the trailer does in that they try to be funny and play up the comedic aspects of the movie while at the same time showing more serious elements.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival provided a good bounce for the publicity machine. Director Green went on record as saying the movie wasn’t a huge political statement and more about his career and other topics.

George Clooney, who was a producer on the film, also revealed that Bullock’s role was originally written for a man but was changed when she expressed interest. That was a huge media moment in and of itself as people asked why that kind of gender-switching isn’t done more often as a way to create more and better roles for actresses of all ages.


Bullock, Thornton and Anthony Mackie in particular made the press rounds for the movie, talking politics, how the movie was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and so on.

As stated above, the movie is at least “inspired” by true events. So because Salon is, you know, Salon, it took the opportunity to explain how those true events are another example of botched U.S. involvement in foreign politics. But hey, at least it touches on the events that inspired the story as opposed to the rest of the campaign, which completely ignores it.  


As I stated, I think the campaign as a whole is a bit inconsistent and kind of confusing. The movie may in fact be a finely-tuned mix of comedy and drama, which wouldn’t be surprising considering the director is David Gordon-Green, who has some experience in walking that line. But in and of itself, the marketing just comes off as dipping toes in both waters without committing to either and therefore may create a sense of trepidation in the audience who will either be turned off at the prospect of being preached to about politics or who can’t decide if it looks like a serious think-piece or a quirky, funny satire.

Because of that I just don’t feel the campaign really lands any meaningful punches. Even aside from the fact that title is vague and kind of weak, the individual elements don’t really present any compelling cases. If you’re seeing all this and thinking it looks good then odds are good you’re either a shoe-in for political films or are a fan of one or more of the major players and will automatically see anything they’re in.

New UMass Corporate Social Media Usage Stats

New from me on PNConnect:

The University of Massachusetts’ Center for Marketing Research is out with its annual look at social media usage among Fortune 500 companies.

There are some surprising – and some not-so-surprising – findings in the results.First, corporate blog usage continues to decline. This tactic peaked in 2013 at 34% but has fallen this year to 21%. That shows a continued swing in thinking from the hub-and-spoke model that has been in place for years to one that’s focused on off-domain efforts. Those off-domain efforts are increasingly involving networks and apps that aren’t necessarily dependent on links back to more content/context such as Twitter and Facebook. Blog usage is not only dropping, it’s even below where it was in 2009 when it was 22%.

Source: UMass Updates Fortune 500 Social Media Stats « PNConnect | Digital Marketing Services from Porter Novelli

The List App Offers Opportunities for Off-Domain Marketing

Have you heard about The List App? It’s a new venture from actor/writer/producer B.J. Novak that is pretty basic in its premise: It’s an app for lists. Some publications have already jumped on board and you can read about those examples here.


I can’t help but think of this in the same way I’m thinking of Facebook’s Instant Articles, Snapchat or other networks that don’t have any direct ties back to a publisher website. It’s very much in the “create branded outposts elsewhere” model of those, Medium and other sites and apps.

That makes it a boon for content marketers who now get to think about how to build a network on this new app, how to create new workflows – or modify existing ones – to stock it and so on. Innovation means job insurance. But for the actual companies and clients the value proposition, much like it is on Medium, Snapchat and elsewhere, is a bit dicier.

Abandoning the hub-and-spoke model means giving up everything that comes with it, mostly site-traffic, the collection of visitor information and the ability to move that visitor down the conversion funnel. The benefits are that you’re going where the people are. And List App’s singular focus means that as long as you’re playing within those guidelines then you’re delivering on the promise to the audience.

So it just comes down to creating good content, for lack of a better phrase. If you can crack that nut and are comfortable with the trade-offs involved in creating content that lives entirely off-domain, there are lots of opportunities here.

The News Has Forever Been a Part of My Life

What the “News” page of my phone looks like

Poynter Institute’s Melody Kramer posed a question to the internet earlier today, asking people what their first memory of being aware of the news was. Since I missed my opportunity to be part of her recap story I thought I’d share my own experiences and thoughts here. There are three major things I think of when I think of my earliest awareness of “the news” being a thing.

First is the Sunday Chicago Tribune. This was bought by my father first at a small independent (I forget the name) convenience store in Berkeley, IL on our way home from church and then, when we changed churches, at a White Hen in Elmhurst, IL. In the first case, we would park along Taft Ave. and cross the street to go into the store, where my brother and I picked up a paper – making sure to select a copy that had the Comics section since sometimes they didn’t – and usually asked if we could also get Hostess Cupcakes or SnoBalls or some other after-church treat. But we had the sense that it was important to read the paper to get all the local news.

Second is along those same lines. My maternal grandfather read both the Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times each day. Since my brother and I would spend most of our summer days over at his house and since he for some reason didn’t just subscribe to the papers, we would either drive with him or just walk on our own to one of two nearby convenience stores where, again, we would get the paper and either buy on our own or ask for a comic book from the rack, a package of Garbage Pail Kids cards or something like that. But it was fascinating to see my granddad return home, lean back in his recliner and spend the rest of the day going through every column inch of both papers. If there was an example for me in how to consume the print news, this was it.

Third, as with most people, there were the big events that shaped the world around me. For me those two are 1) Reagan being shot and 2) the explosion of the Challenger. I was in kindergarten for the first event and remember clearly some of the media coverage that my parents would watch on the evening news, the discussions about that coverage in my classroom and more. And then with the Challenger, I can remember being in class watching what happened on TV and then discussing for days afterward the news that was coming out.

News is important. The consumption may have changed over the last 30 or 35 years from the experiences of my childhood, but the purpose remains the same: To be an informed person. I wish I had the time to read more of the mobile news apps I have on my phone or to read more of the stories that come in through my RSS feeds. But while I may not always have time to get into the nuance of what’s happening, that doesn’t mean it’s alright to shirk my responsibility – one we all have – to be informed and aware of the news both around us locally and impacting us from around the world.

Twitter’s New Brand Hub

New from me on VoceNation:

But it seems to me that content marketers – even if there is no paid component – have even more to gain from these numbers. Share of voice and such are going to be of interest to advertisers, sure, but for those engaging in the daily content grind that’s going to be invaluable as the program tries to make inroads against competitors.

Source: Twitter Introduces Brand Hub For Actionable Insights « Voce Communications

Movie Marketing Madness: Burnt

burnt posterDo you have a passion? I’m not talking about something that you just like doing or which interests you. I’m talking about something that burns inside you. A passion isn’t a hobby. It’s the voices in your head that pester you until you give in and do what they’re driving you to do. It’s what pushes you to stay up late, to make sacrifices, to burn bridges all in the name of doing what you need to. Those voices though are never really silenced. Give them an inch and they’ll take you a mile, pushing you to accomplish the next thing, then the next. They’re insatiable.

(It occurs to me that I’m writing a pretty good description of both someone who’s very passionate about what they do as well as straight-up murderers. Hmmm.)

Burnt is about someone who’s just that driven. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a celebrity chef who has fallen on some hard times after a previous restaurant went under and he honked off the wrong people through both his behavior and his drug use. Now he’s sober and looking to reclaim his reputation by striving to open a London restaurant that can achieve three Michelin stars, the ultimate grade in the industry. But he finds that not everyone has forgiven him for his past even as he tries to enlist new assistants and others to help him achieve his goal.

The Posters

There’s just one poster for the movie. It’s not super-involved but it gets the point across, simply showing Cooper with his arms folded as he stands in front of a kitchen. The copy across his chest says “Never underestimate a man with nothing to lose.”

So it manages to convey that Cooper is in the movie (an important messaging component, I think) as well as the setting of the action and the attitude of the character. Again, there’s not a whole lot going on here from a visual design point of view but it works from a messaging perspective, even if it looks like the cover to a novelization more than a one-sheet.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with a kitchen being brought to life as we hear Jones explaining his background as a young chef who had and then lost it all. Then he lays out his manifesto for his new restaurant to be the best in the world as we hear what he’s been up to before trying to mount a comeback and get a hint of the bridges he’s burned.

The trailer is pretty good at offering a synopsis of the story – troubled bad-boy chef trying to mount his comeback – and maintains a focus on Cooper’s performance, which seems here to be based on moving around fast enough to not get caught in anything. He’s all frenetic motion, which is meant here, I think, to heighten the drama and tension.

The second trailer opens with more of a focus on Jones and just who he’s pissed off. So we get the woman saying “one hoped you were dead” and him running away from some bad guys with an obvious axe to grind. Then Jones meets up with an old friend who has forgiven if not forgotten the past. That starts his recruitment for his new place, which includes a street chef and a young woman who, as we see, will obviously become a love interest.

This one works maybe just a little bit better. It feels tighter and more focused and the fact that more characters besides Jones get highlighted works in its favor. The way Jones’ backstory is presented also works much better here, making this the better of the two spots.

Online and Social

The official website opens by playing, unfortunately, the first trailer, or at least the beginning of it. Once that stops it automatically scrolls down to the “About” section which has the second trailer embedded alongside a short one-paragraph synopsis of the film’s story. That section also has tabs along the bottom of the screen, one for Credits, which opens the credit block, and one for Partners, which has a list of companies that partnered with the movie on promotions.

There’s more to be found in the “People” section that’s next. That has descriptions of each of the main characters as well as the actors who play them. I really like this presentation as it draws a clear line between the two but puts an emphasis on the character, providing some background for people who may be interested.


In a nice touch, the “Cuisine” section is just that, a list of recipes, presumably for some of the dishes featured in the movie. Finally, the “Gallery” has a collection of images, GIFs and short videos that feature either characters from the movie or some of the food or cooking terms used in the film.

The last section is “Reservations,” which lets you find out where the movie is playing in your area.

On Facebook the studio shared the usual mix of images, videos, links to stories (mostly with clips, not anything more substantive) and more. Twitter was lots more active as they shared not just those official marketing materials but also Retweeted various food-based and other accounts that shared stats from the movie, provided background on the recipes and cooking details and more. There’s actually a lot of fun stuff there if you’re looking for more detail on not just the movie but the world the movie inhabits. Instagram is just photos and short videos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV spots that were run used much the same approach as the trailers. Because of the shorter runtime they didn’t include so much of the backstory, instead opting to focus on how incredibly passionate Jones is about food and showing him using graphic, sometimes sexual terms to describe his approach to cooking and what he wants people to experience.

Some of those TV spots featured some very awkward narration. The less said about those the better.

Among the movie’s promotional partners are:

  • HelloFresh: The recipe delivery company offered co-branded blog posts like this as well as a sweepstakes.  
  • Joss & Main: The cookware retailer offered a variety of products inspired by or featured in the movie as well as tips from the film’s production designer.
  • Le Creuset: Offered a chance to win a Dutch Oven signed by the film’s cast.
  • Sur la Table: Offered a cooking class on French recipes inspired by and featured in the movie.
  • Samsung: Not sure what this one was about, unless there are lots of Samsung products featured in the movie.
  • BakeSpace: Again, not sure what’s going on here since there aren’t details on either website.
  • Castello Cheese: Offered recipes inspired by the movie and showed off the cheese that’s featured in the film. The company also curated a nice media board of film pictures.
  • ZWILLING J.A. Henckels USA: Promoted the movie on its social media channels since its knives are featured in the movie.
  • Postmates: Once more, not sure what this is about since details aren’t readily available.

Media and Publicity

Of course this wasn’t the first time Cooper has played a difficult, demanding chef, having starred in the short-lived TV show “Kitchen Confidential” where he was a thinly-veiled version of Anthony Bourdain or someone very much like him.

Cooper would make the talk-show rounds, of course, including an appearance on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” where he would show off some of the kitchen skills he acquired.


Most of the press came, as I hinted at before, in the form of clips shared with various press outlets. Just a week or so before release it was announced that The Weinstein Company would be foregoing a limited initial release of the movie in favor of a wide release, something that got industry tongues wagging a bit.


I feel like the campaign is…I don’t know, “pushing” I guess is the right word. Bradley Cooper is a charming guy and a talented actor and I feel like the marketing is amping up that and trying to really convince the audience of that by repeating that idea over and over again. But we know that and don’t need to be hammered over the head with reminders of that. Just show it and let it happen.

The emphasis here is on presenting Cooper’s Adam Jones as a “bad boy” and on showing how that behavior creates drama and tension in his life and among those around him. But I’m struggling with who the target audience for that kind of campaign is. It might be women who are fans of Cooper and want to see him in a role like this. But if that’s the case I would have expected more focus on the potential romance between him and the up-and-coming chef played by Sienna Miller. It might be men, but this doesn’t present a case for the movie that’s more compelling than some of the other films playing right now. So I’m wondering if this will somehow fall in between the cracks, not completely appealing to any one core audience and so not compelling many people to come out.

Before The Show: Steve Jobs, 10/25/15


The Big Short

Secret In Their Eyes



Our Brand Is Crisis

By The Sea

Hail, Caesar

Root Content Feeds Fruit Content

In my backyard we have a few tomato plants. Every week I go out there, usually before I cut the grass and do other yard work, and collect the couple dozen new tomatoes that have ripened since the last time I did so. The roots remain the same but every week there is new…wait for it…content.


As part of one of the sessions at Spredfast Summit 2015, a speaker was talking about how they review video from TV broadcast tapings and other sessions and find ways to repurpose it. So they view a moment that’s been filmed and think X moment can go on Instagram, Y moment can be GIFd and shared on Tumblr and so on.

That got me thinking about this idea of “root content.” That’s the material that spins off into other formats, acting as the root through which all sorts of other fruit is born from. It’s the big thing – a TV show, a movie, a blog post, a photo shoot – that creates opportunistic ancillary sharable moments.

I think we can all agree that this is a good idea. You can see it already in how some TV networks are creating GIFs for their shows as they air. But it’s a good idea that requires resources, which may not be easy to come by.

It’s not enough for someone to just look at a TV episode or movie trailer and say “Oh yeah, that’s a GIF/Vine/meme.” It takes someone to do that then hand it off to a production team that can turn them around and deliver them to the distribution team then adds them to the content marketing program’s ed cal and ultimately publishes them for public consumption.

That first person, though, is so important. “Hey, that would be fun on Instagram” isn’t just the statement of someone who is “good at Instagram.” It should be the considered opinion of a program manager who knows who the audience on Instagram – or whatever network we’re talking about – is and has a data-based eye for what will or won’t work there. Because not only are they going to be responsible for pointing out what will work but also for defending their rationale as to why someone else’s ideas may not work.

This isn’t just for videos that can turned into GIFs, either. Think about this the next time you’re writing your next blog post. What are your Tweetable lines? Where are your pull quotes? What do you want to have overlayed on a graphic that can be shared via Twitter or Facebook?

Next time you’re doing something big, think about the small things that can be pulled from it and be used to promote it.

After the Campaign: Steve Jobs


In my campaign review for Steve Jobs I wrote:

There’s an emphasis in the campaign on the drama, particularly on Jobs’ denial of having a daughter. The marketing team is obviously hoping this connects with the kind of crowd that makes TV shows like “Scandal” and others a hit since it sets up the “is he or isn’t he” question in a way much like, as I mentioned above, a soap opera type show. The feeling seems to be that this plot point will be an entry point for the general audience who may not be interested in the story of a mogul with limited social skills and a penchant for pissing off his employees and friends.

Well, apparently it wasn’t enough. The movie tanked pretty badly, bringing in just $7.3 million despite great reviews and strong word of mouth. Having seen the movie, it’s hard to believe anyone thought it was going to make $19 million its opening weekend, which is what industry forecasts had predicted.

The campaign, as I said, played up the soap-opera elements of the movie. “She’s NOT my daughter” and such were elements in most facets of the marketing. The studio wanted people to come in and see whether or not she *was* his daughter and go on a journey with the characters.

But literally nothing happens in the film. Nothing. There are lots of conversations about things happening, but no action actually takes place within the confines of the core story. This isn’t a traditional biopic structure like 2013’s Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher, where we follow the Apple founder from youth to adulthood and share in his travails in a more standard way. It’s a three act play that discusses things over and over again but there’s no character arc anyone goes on. The main players may be slightly different in demeanor in Act III than they were in Act I, but how they got there isn’t shown and it’s a matter of degrees, not any seismic shifts.

It’s not surprising to hear the movie is doing well in urban areas. This is an arthouse film that was gussied up for the mass market in a way it probably shouldn’t have been. It’s two hours of pure dialogue. PURE dialogue. If you’re like me and that’s exactly the kind of movie you want to see – it would make a great palate cleanser after any super-hero movie – you’ll love it. Especially if, like me, you’re a huge fan of Sorkin’s particular brand of dialogue. But the campaign sold this as a tense drama with stark revelations around each corner that it really wasn’t.