Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/22/18

More on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal:

  • At a time when the EPA and other governmental agencies are following conservative directions to strip power from regulatory agencies (if not dismantle them outright) it seems unlikely calls for a digital protection agency or updates to copyright law will be heeded. If politicians don’t believe their needed for banks, why would they see a need regarding tech?
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg was neither seen nor heard for almost a week before his first statement , accompanied by another official Facebook post, that reads as remarkably tone-deaf, basically saying “we’ve already covered this.” That may be true, but the outrage is happening *now* about what was even possible then. The failure to address that is astounding.
  • Following that he did the media rounds, apologizing, sounding contrite and even saying he’s open to testify before regulators “if it makes sense,” but nowhere in what I saw did he address that there was very little out of the ordinary from Facebook’s point of view that happened here. While CA did keep more data than they should have, it was collected within the bounds of what FB allowed. *That* is what needs to be addressed.

Media

It’s a fair point that Hollywood is embracing the 50+ crowd with a string of reboots on TV and older-skewing films in theaters. But while some of these feature more ethnically-inclusive casts, we’re drawing from a cultural period that was still dominated by white people and that’s just not reality – or even what’s proven to be popular on either media – recently.

Media companies would be just as ill-advised to put their fates in the hands of Google with that company’s new “Subscribe With Google” feature as they were to line up for Facebook Instant Articles. If not now, these tech companies will want to shut down the kind of reporting being done on them (see efforts by Facebook to kill the Cambridge Analytica story at The Guardian and The New York Times), at which point they will adjust the spigot under their control accordingly.

Meredith is laying off 1,000 former Time, Inc staffers across a number of publications in addition to the 200 it let go last week, in part to make those publications more attractive to potential buyers.

The future of radio is…not great. Between corporate bankruptcies, falling ad revenue and declining listenership, radio stations don’t seem to have a whole lot of track in front of them. That’s also because those companies and stations have failed to evolve to meet consumer preferences and it might be too late to start.

This is an essential reminder of the vital role the press plays in the informing of the public. If you don’t have someone who starts from a place of skepticism, you can’t be sure the information you’re consuming is accurate or truthful. This is why independent outlets are important in an age when a few big companies are gobbling up more and more of the media landscape and subsequently stifling critical reporting. It’s also just as important for members of the press to start from a place of skepticism and not buy in to the hype handed to them by publicists.

Marketing / Advertising

If you’re not going to pay for YouTube’s music streaming service it’s going to increase the number of ads to the point where you finally submit. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is similar to the “play heavy metal outside Saddam’s compound until he surrenders” approach taken during the first Iraq War.

Artificial intelligence may be able to surface a lot of numbers and metrics important to marketers but it can’t tell you what’s important about those numbers, which is problematic.

Social Media

Two new features from YouTube in the last couple days. “Director” is geared toward small businesses who may be hesitant to create video ads by pairing them (after they’ve committed to spending at least $350 in advertising) with someone to film and edit the ad for them at no additional cost. I’m super-curious about the behind-the-scenes arrangements here, since I would imagine YouTube maintains a directory of freelancers or contractors to do this work and then pays them itself. At the same time it’s rolled out a webcam feature that allows you to go live with a video directly from your desktop browser, which is is a clear shot at other platforms that have emphasized live video recently.

While everyone has been focused on the problem of fake followers on Twitter and Russians on Facebook, fake views on YouTube continue to be a serious problem as it games the recommendation system, usually for profit but sometimes for even less moral reasons.

You can now add filters and text to your LinkedIn videos. I’d question whether or not this is a smart move for the network given its more professional connotations but I suspect younger members for whom this kind of feature is standard on other platforms simply expect it and would turn away were it not offered.

If you buy movie tickets on Facebook via Fandango or Atom Tickets you get $2 off. The deal is available through either a unique page or on the pages of select movies. My hunch (based on scads of precedent) is that the $2 discount won’t last long but is a subsidy being paid by Facebook to entice behavior to the point where it doesn’t need to.

Hashtags and @ usernames are now live links in Instagram bios. Oh, and the photo-sharing app is partially reverting back to something kinda sorta close maybe to a chronological feed to quell user dispeasure.

Technology

If you ever wanted to draw white lines in the air around you, that’s exactly what Google’s new “Just a Line” AR app will let you do.

It’s good that we’re scrutinizing the tech behind self-driving cars in the wake of a pedestrian death. I just wish the same standards would be applied to the whole infrastructure model that puts massive cars of all types just inches away from people on foot or on bikes. Oh, and guns.

Trying to solve for the bias and favoritism that are rampant in human judgement by replacing them with an algorithm that’s cold and merciless, failing to make any sort of full-featured evaluation of individual needs is not an improvement. Particularly when it comes to something like law enforcement or healthcare. Expect these stories to become more frequent as companies seek to maximize profits and reduce expenses, including staff. Assuming, of course, that the media brands owned or controlled by those same companies allow the stories to be told.

I get why they’re doing it, but woof, this may not be the best time for Slack to roll out a feature that allows channel owners to download all public *and private* messages without notifying members.

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Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/20/18

It’s hard to top a story like that involving Cambridge Analytics and Facebook. There are all sorts of things going on here, but these seem to be the key points:

Cambridge had a contract with a Russian oil company (many of which are controlled to some extent by government officials) that seemed oddly interested in how to target U.S. voters. Those conversations were happening at the same time CA was working to cultivate largely Republican candidates in the lead up to the 2016 election cycle.

The response by Facebook over the weekend as this was developing was all over the place and almost universally terrible from a crisis comms point of view and was at least in part to blame for how the company’s stock price plummeted Monday morning. Even up to the time of this writing, the company has pointed the finger everywhere – including threatening media outlets – but at itself while Zuckerberg and other leadership have been kept out of public view, which is exactly the wrong move to make.

  • While it was quick to suspend CA, it also understated the problem by just focusing on those who had downloaded the firm’s app, not the 10s of millions of people who had their data mined as a result of that usage. The onus is also put on the user, not the company, which continues a long streak of avoiding anything approaching accountability.
  • Facebook suspended the account of a former employee that revealed some of the information CA collected, which kind of seems like they’re blaming the messenger for their bad actions.
  • It initially positioned this as a “leak” of information to Cambridge Analytica but that’s not strictly accurate. It’s at best (from FB’s point of view) an inappropriate use of data that was collected and at worst a totally appropriate use of data that was collected since audience demographic targeting is 100% what it (Facebook) does.
  • There’s also evidence it either knew CA still had the data it had claimed to delete or simply didn’t follow up or ask for proof it had done so. So either it’s complicit or irresponsible and I’m not sure which is more trouble. It will be auditing Cambridge to see if there’s any data still lying around, but at this point that seems unlikely.
  • Cambridge, meanwhile, is squirming, at one point Tweeting that “advertising is not coercive” which is rich coming from a firm that claims to be able to create targeted messaging to change behavior/attitudes. Also, that’s the entire premise of advertising, so…yeah, you’re not being honest there. If that’s their position they owe a lot of clients their money back.
  • The various “this just happened the one time” excuses don’t really mesh with new evidence it was testing messaging that wound up being suspiciously similar to Trump campaign themes two years before he announced his candidacy. Or with the fact that Facebok and CA were sharing Trump campaign office space a year after the “breach” occurred.
  • All this has lead to actual and threatened investigations by governments on both sides of the Atlantic as Facebook will testify before a House committee, the FTC wants to take a look and more.

Media

Jesus, where to start with the bloodbath last week. Just as the dust was settling on iHeartMedia’s bankruptcy, the Chicago Tribune laid off even more reporters and editors as it continues talking about pivoting into curated something and I don’t even know what because I’m not convinced the whole tronc thing isn’t a ponzi scheme of some sort. And as completely expected, Meredith has begun cutting hundreds of sales and editorial positions now that the ink on its acquisition of Time, Inc. is dry. And it’s looking to sell a bunch of high-profile titles as well, though I’m not clear who the market might be.

Don’t worry about the tronc team, though. They’re just fine, having received massive raises and bonuses *after* the layoffs mentioned above. And chairman Michael Ferro has left the building, a move that suspiciously came just hours before a report on his sexual misconduct involving multiple women was published.

On the brighter side of Chicago media, The Tribe reached its fundraising goal to provide more local journalism.

Oh but hey, Google Ventures has $12m to throw at TheSkimm.

Decent piece here on the logical and rhetorical knots you have to twist yourself into just to do something as seemingly simple as cover the President of the United States.

The AT&T/Time Warner merger is about to enter the court system and things are about to get interesting. I’m not sure measuring it against other conglomerates and making sure the parties can compete is a factor to consider. Right now we’re in the corporate consolidation phase of the media industry but I’m really looking forward to when we start breaking up these massive companies because they’re bad for everyone and everything. While I agree marketplace realities need to be part of the thinking,

Publishers find people are willing to part with some personal data in exchange for access and so are putting registration walls in place because they’re more attractive than paywalls.

Business streaming news service Cheddar has a new round of funding and may have some expansion plans it will put that money toward.

Marketing / Advertising

The death of advertising, now in its 15th year.

[extreme WOPR voice] Would you like to play an advertisement?

Twitter has suspended another batch of Tweet-stealing accounts, this time going after bigger game, including some Verified users, albeit in some cases only after they were asked by the press why they were still around.

Ads for cryptocurrencies could also be banned by Twitter if reports of plans that company has prove to be true.

More data on how consumers are increasingly expecting brands to share their societal values and are willing to spend more to have that connection. Young consumers – who are driven more by ideology than pragmatic needs that come later in life – are more willing to abandon a brand after a scandal or because of a rift in belief systems.

Both Facebook and Pinterest have debuted new ad products aimed at retailers.

It’s good news that Google and Facebook will capture less of the online ad market next year, diminishing the power of the duopoly they’ve created, but the fall isn’t that great and I’m not sure Amazon taking some of the difference is a step in the right direction.

Macy’s is planning to weaponize its workforce, turning them all into social media fashion influencers via an internal program.

Social Media

Anchor has expanded the tools it offers to create shareable videos based on the podcasts published to the app/site.

You’ll excuse me if I don’t agree that anyone but industry pundits and professional hand-wringers think anyone is dealing with the “reckoning” of social media not living up to its utopian promise. Most daily users are, I think, doing just fine, Clark and aren’t bothered by all this to any great extent.

One of the (many) things that’s become clear in the last year or so is that Facebook Groups have been used by extremist groups and organizations to spread their hate and radicalize new members. Keeping that kind of activity out is a full time job for even the best well-intentioned admins and not everyone is well-intentioned. They quickly become the worst kind of forum as new members and those belonging to any kind of minority are harassed into leaving. So it’s worth remembering that in the wake of various News Feed changes Facebook was emphasizing Groups as an alternative for publishers looking for engagement as recently as January.

So let’s all have a good laugh at how amidst all this Facebook is still trying to attract influential creators with a subscription support model that’s akin to what Patreon offers. It’s hard to imagine, though, who’s going to sign up for this given what a toxic and inhospitable place the site has suddenly become.

Technology

Reading about the expansion of Google Lens I can’t help but think the reason something like Jelly failed is because we were all waiting for tech like this to emerge. The idea is the same, in that it wants to help people figure out what an object they’re looking at is. But the approach is very different, with actual people powering Jelly.

There are about three dozen states across the country which are working on some form of net neutrality law at the state level. My biggest concern is that Republican lawmakers and regulators – usually strict Federalists who hold states’ rights up as the highest ideal – will move to squash these efforts as they’re enacted, likely citing interstate commerce as the rationalization.

A new shopping product from Google would have partner retailers place products directly within search results and allow Google to share a cut of the revenue. This seems wrongheaded in all kinds of ways. Why, given all the concern over how Google is partly responsible for damaging the media industry, would you want to replicate that model for the retail industry? As usual, Google is positioning this as making search results more useful for people but the inherent conflict of interest in this – it makes money from some purchases and not others – brings any search results returned suspect. Who is it artificially promoting and who is it artificially suppressing? Very problematic.

Important to note how male-centric WeWork’s environment and mindset is and that there are other groups that need coworking spaces as well.

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Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/15/18

Media

Two things: 1) It’s interesting that FaceWE’RENOTAMEDIACOMPANYbook now wants to create a single destination for video news that can be used to get people’s attention, and 2) It’s unbelievable that any publisher would sign up for this given the 78 other times Facebook has clearly shown it’s only interested in using partnerships as a means of gaining user behavior insights, at which point it casts partners aside.

Nothing but respect for the editor of National Geographic who has published a remarkable letter admitting that the magazine has, since its inception, traded in harmful and terrible racial and ethnic stereotypes in its coverage. That can’t have been an easy thing to do, but note that it comes from someone who’s both the first Jewish and female editor at the august magazine. If there’s a single example of how inclusion can change perspectives, it’s this.

Toxic masculinity is apparently so bad at Rotten Tomatoes that a site specifically and exclusively for female critics, CherryPicks, needed to be brought into existence.

PopSugar becomes the latest media brand to decide the key to financial stability is selling its own line of physical lifestyle-based consumer goods.

Reports are that Netflix is planning a weekly news magazine type show akin to “60 Minutes.” That could be…something.

If you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine that’s part of Google News, results from those outlets will appear higher in search results and be more clearly branded. That’s a great idea and would have been even more useful years ago before Facebook and Google killed all the newspapers and magazines.

If you visit the Fox News website you’ll find the biggest problem facing America is (squints) female teachers having sex with their male students. Well I guess that’s easier than addressing your own history of sexual harassment and assault and fits in nicely with the overall editorial mission statement of the network that things were better when everyone who wasn’t a white man knew their place.

I can’t argue with the logic of media companies embracing YouTube more than Facebook, it’s just the story not only reads like one I’ve read 15 times over the last five years but also like an angle specifically pitched by someone with a vested interest in YouTube being seen as an attractive media outlet.

iHeartMedia becomes the latest company, along with Toys ‘R’ Us, to declare bankruptcy not so much because of market forces but because the massive debt their owners have saddled them with has made it impossible to weather or adjust to those market forces while also servicing the debt.

[gets popcorn] Leaked Amazon Prime Video user and revenue numbers.

Marketing / Advertising

Google has joined Facebook in banning ads for cryptocurrencies because the rule, not the exception, is that these are scams and not legitimate opportunities. And look, I’m not even going to point out that this is just the kind of editorial judgement a media company would make despite Google *totally* not being a media company, alright?

Let’s see how the reddit community reacts to the introduction of native ads on the site’s mobile app. That should be fun to watch.

The time spent consuming ad-supported media is going up but people are consuming more overall so the percentage allocated to ad-supported media is going down.

Social Media

A few recent exposes in the media on the problem of fake followers and bots plaguing social media has apparently created a cottage industry of companies who have positioned themselves as ersatz detectives to root out those accounts.

Silicon Valley: “We need tens of millions of dollars in financing and will sell your data to anyone who asks.” / Also Silicon Valley: “That seems hard and we don’t want to so it’s literally not my problem and we’re going to put the onus on a non-profit we’re not contributing to.” Case in point, YouTube farming out any responsibility for the prevalence of conspiracy theory videos on its site to Wikipedia, of all places. But…uhh…the Wikimedia Foundation says it wasn’t aware of such an arrangement and isn’t part of a formal partnership. Jesus, these people.

Literally Everyone For The Last Year: “Engagement-based news algorithms on social media platforms are part of what’s causing many of the problems we now face in terms of news literacy.” / Twitter: “We’re testing an engagement-based news algorithm.”

After picking up the rights to stream a couple dozen Major League Soccer games, Twitter has renewed its deal with NASCAR to stream video from races.

Technology

Compelling thoughts here that it’s not the platforms that need to be regulated – they’re operating exactly as they should – it’s the entire capitalist model that positions revenue and profits over any sort of social responsibility.

The net neutrality bill introduced by a California lawmaker for that state would include zero-rating tactics by wireless carriers, which is something that’s been used by those carriers to promote partnerships and get around other restrictions.

Aaaaaand just as I expected, Netflix has cancelled the rest of its test rollout for a “patch” incentivized viewing program geared at kids for totally predictable reasons like parents feeling it turned their little ones into even bigger zombies than they were before.

It’s not a question of when artificial intelligence-driven machines will learn to discriminate, it’s that they already are in countless ways that the public – and regulators – have zero insights or access to. Eventually there’s going to be a falling out period where we realize these systems are doing as much, if not more, damage based on discriminatory processes than their human predecessors.

Lots of good stats here on mobile video usage in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/13/18

Media

That the sizzle reel of violent video game sequences put together by the White House has become such a big hit on YouTube isn’t at all surprising given that violent sequences are a big reason vast swaths of people play the games. I’m not sure anyone understands either the First Amendment issues in play here or that banning some video games because they encourage gun violence while not addressing *actual* gun violence seems makes it clear you have no interest in an actual solution to anything.

Now that Reddit is trying to make money it’s reaching out to publishers to help them find ways to engage more with the community on the site, something that has been strictly frowned upon by everyone for, roughly, ever. There’s still a ways to go to get past the reputation reddit and its polarizing community – which includes hefty doses of blatant racism, sexism, xenophobia and more – have, but it’s working on it.

All that recent bad press is apparently catching up with Newsweek, which sounds like it’s circling the the drain after the defection of a number of advertisers.

This list of the “top reporters” on Facebook based on engagement is being widely – and rightly mocked for how it includes a mix of blatant satire and wingnuttery and is Example 9,437 why Facebook doesn’t actually care about journalism…or accuracy. Getting less attention is all the other data on that list, which shows the kinds of news and information that gets shared and therefore attention.

I continue to be fascinated by how skeezy so many of the executives, publishers and owners who were involved with The Tribune Company in the early 2000s and who are now continuing their skeezy ways at tronc actually are.

While I continue to be a big Farhad Manjoo fan, this analysis from CJR showing his “I unplugged from Twitter for two months” claim doesn’t really hold water is fascinating. Yes, it’s a bit of inside-baseball, but still there’s nothing inaccurate and it’s right to call BS on something if it doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny.

ABC spikes scheduled episode of “black-ish” over creative issues apparently with how a discussion of the rights of athletes to protest during games is handled. [chin-scratching emoji]

The true-crime genre that has run like a virus through other media in the last couple years comes to Snapchat in an original series produced in partnership with Conde Nast.

As Peter Kafka pointed out on Twitter last night, Apple’s purchase of magazine subscription service Texture is kind of funny because it was created by a group of publishing companies to achieve a scale meant to counter the dominance of…wait for it…Apple.

Marketing / Advertising

This is just the latest piece to examine how the rise of Instagram fashion has changed how lifestyle brands market themselves and their goods but is informative nonetheless.

These are the reasons why your site visitor abandoned their shopping carts without converting on the purchase.

Snapchat is hoping to wring just a little more revenue from the days it has left on this earth by introducing the ability for publishers to post branded content to the Discover news section.

Sponsored GIFs are now officially a thing on Tenor and here’s how they work.

Social Media

I’m torn on the news that Twitter wants to open up the verification process to anyone. On the one hand it’s a smart way to get out of the business of appearing to validate the opinions of terrible people and just lets the company enforce its policies. On the other hand, it cheapens the label and if Twitter can’t enforce the policies now why would it be more likely to do so in the future? Remains to be seen if this becomes official or is just speculation.

A deal with Warner Music means Facebook has now licensed music from all the big labels, allowing creators to use those clips in the videos they create with Facebook paying the fee to the labels. It’s hard to believe this won’t become a premium feature or in some way change to alter the economics since I think Facebook is about to get a harsh lesson in how much royalties cost. Also, literally no one wants more sound as part of their social network experience.

Speaking of rights management sports is the hot topic with social networks as Twitter signs a deal with Major League Soccer to stream select games and Facebook signs a deal to stream 25 Major League Baseball games. I think Twitter made the better call.

Just a couple weeks after a major reporting on “tweetdecking” – the coordinated theft of someone’s Tweet and then its republishing on scores of connected accounts – Twitter has shut down a number of known perpetrators.

The availability of a racist GIF has lead to both Snapchat and Instagram to remove, at least temporarily, their integrations with Giphy and all I can think of in response is to look at both companies and say, “Oh, sweetie…”

WhatsApp messages can now be deleted after up to an hour, but you then have to hope whoever you sent the embarrassing message to actually hasn’t checked their phone for a whole hour, which seems…unlikely.

It does seem super weird that Musical.ly would allow people to search for terms related to self-harm and it’s good that they’ve now been blocked, but this seems like another example of programmers ignorant of teen culture and concerns just blithely going on about their business with zero regard to the consequences.

Technology

I’m intrigued by the “audio augmented platform” Bose is reportedly working on both because it opens up some much more interesting avenues than visual AR has to date and because audio is notoriously more portable and easy to consume on the go than video content. I still don’t think glasses – or any other additional hardware – is the answer here, but if this technology were to become part of existing mobile devices it could be very cool.

It’s going to be incredibly hard for Google to apply its AMP technology to the broader web. The danger is that it’s going to do what people have feared telecom companies want to do with the repeal of net neutrality, which is create fast lanes on the internet that give preferential treatment to some while excluding others. If it can actually offer it as a standard and work with the parties that creates and applies those standards, great.

I thought we were past the “gamify everything” stage, but Netflix testing collectible badges on select kids shows makes me wonder. Also, while the increased viewing it’s likely to spur as kids compete with their friends will certainly help the company’s retention I’m not sure it puts Netflix on the right side of the culture when it’s inevitably sued by someone for contributing to childhood obesity or some such.

There are at least four industries – mostly owned by or employing immigrants, women or other similar groups – named in this story about the potential disruption caused by autonomous vehicles.

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Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/8/18

Media

Publishers continue to grapple with the various scenarios that would allow for news to continue to be reported and distributed that serves the public good in a financial environment that’s been almost completely abdicated by advertisers.

Turns out slow news – relying on print, in this case, as opposed to staying glued to digital media – offers much more accuracy and much less anxiety. Even better, the news that makes it to you is the result of a deliberate process, not based solely on the whims of a black box machine.

Being able to draw on additional resources to fight the advertising duopoly of Facebook and Google will be good for publishers, but I’m wary of any effort that exempts media companies from antitrust provisions. That’s mainly because once suspended for any reason, it becomes hard to enforce them once again.

Just like everyone else, CBS sees original content as the key differentiator to bring in audiences.

No big deal, just Newsweek – which is already under fire for various issues regarding its journalistic ethics and standards – inserting ad fraud code onto the machines of website visitors.

Look, it’s great that NPR One will be available on Xfinity’s on-demand service, but I take issue with tying distribution of publicly funded content on privately owned channels.

Penske Media continues to build out its entertainment and lifestyle portfolio, acquiring SheKnows Media, the brand behind the popular BlogHer events and more.

Say what you will, but unlike Yahoo at least Google sells off the companies it buys and only then figures out it doesn’t know what to do with. The latest example is it divesting itself of Zagat, which was always a weird fit.

On-air talent at Sinclair Media stations are being ordered to read media-bashing on-air promos that are meant to position everyone else as a liar trading in fake news, because that’s what you do when you are angling for a monopoly and have the chairman of the FCC at your beck and call.

MLB Network is now available on YouTube TV.

Marketing / Advertising

Coworking juggernaut WeWork has acquired a content marketing agency – Conductor – largely as a way to gain access to the agency’s roster of clients, who WeWork then hopes to turn into customers of its own. It’s just the latest sign of the company’s increasingly large ambitions, but you have to wonder what will happen when the venture capital runs out and they have to fund these operations with actual revenue.

Shouldn’t be at all surprising that ads on Facebook are more expensive given that less ads are being shown and less pages being viewed. That’s how advertising works.

Cookies are no longer the end-all-be-all of online advertising tracking. The bad news is things have only become more invasive.

As corporate social responsibility continues to evolve and gain importance in the mind of young consumers, a number of companies are beginning to pledge to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic in their businesses.

Social Media

Hearst continues to expand its media footprint on Musical.ly, adding Cosmopolitan to the existing Seventeen profile on the popular app.

Enhanced metrics are coming to YouTube as it takes its Creator Studio out of beta and into wide usage.

Audio publishers using Soundcloud who are part of the site’s “Premier” tier of creators have access to new features, functionality and marketing opportunities. Matt Maldre has some solid thoughts on why Soundcloud is better for podcast creators and listeners who want to engage in a social conversation.

You can now @ mention people on Snapchat, in case that’s something you were anxious to do.

Falsehoods spread fast – really fast – on Twitter and it’s not because of an algorithm or anything, it’s because people don’t read what they RT and just kind of are…what’s the word…dumb.

Technology

There really won’t be any improvement in the diversity of the needs addressed by technology of the viewpoints represented in its development until there’s change in the percent of VCs that are white males.

I’m not the only one who thinks Google search results shouldn’t be littered with self-promotional, Twitter-like posts from musicians or anyone else, right? Like…wasn’t the whole point of search to be that it surfaced the *best* material, not just a bunch of crap?

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes: Marketing and Media News for 3/6/18

Media

Thank God for The Onion, which writes the “state of the media industry” piece the rest of the industry is afraid to.

Publishers are having a hell of a time trying to figure out why their Snapchat traffic, engagement and other metrics are all over the place as a result of the app’s redesign and a new way news and other media updates are displayed.

I haven’t had to do anything quite as extensive as what’s outlined here by the Columbia Journalism Review, but I can tell you that the “edit tests” I’ve been part of have been borderline ridiculous in a number of cases. There have been a few instances where the tests assigned to me have taken several hours to complete – without any form of compensation – and zero follow-up. For all I know those publications have used my ideas or work on their own.

Wow, Sinclair, way to not even try to hide how you’ll be flouting media ownership rules.

Hip, young news brand ATTN is the latest to get a cable show, this one coming soon to Showtime.

Facebook continues to try and lure more media from Twitter by expanding the number of publishers with access to its “Breaking News” tag, something that’s supposed to help the platform be seen as more timely, which it isn’t. No word on how “use Facebook for breaking news” and “see less news on Facebook” will be reconciled as contradictory goals.

Rotten Tomatoes will use SXSW to roll out a new brand identity while Funny or Die is moving over to the Vox Media site platform.

Great question here on how Rolling Stone, under new management, can reinvent itself for a new generation that has zero emotional ties to the culture – particularly the identity that’s tied to the rock scene of the 1970s – the magazine used to represent.

Marketing / Advertising

Oh look, gender-based double standards in what ads Facebook approves or rejects.

NBC is hoping a commitment to reducing advertising volume across the board will not only make the ads it does run more valuable but appeal to an audience that is increasingly choosing ad-free environments like Netflix. Fox is making a similar declaration.

Two things: 1) SXSW events and sponsorships have always been iffy propositions for brands because no one really cares where they get their free beer, BBQ or Wi-fi from, they just want it and 2) Just because you’re talking about SXSW events and sponsorships doesn’t mean you have to use the word “activations.”

The “Brand Safety Officer” could be the next marketing title to become all the rage as agencies, companies and others look for solutions to the various problems that lead to ads and other content being placed alongside undesirable material. Maybe those BSOs will be anxious to take advantage of the premium price (of course) being affixed to Facebook’s offering verified safe placement of ads on its site and app.

Everything old is new again as brands embrace live stunt ads on TV to break through the clutter and create a talkable moment for the audience.

Twitter is reportedly testing a system that would open up its ad-buying system to programmatic networks to make the process as seamless as possible.

The number of companies who are buying Snapchat Discover ads is ridiculously low, which does not bode well for the company’s continued monetization plans.

Techmeme has launched a podcast, which makes so much sense.

Social Media

Based on what some people have dug up in its code, Instagram may be planning to add voice and video calling to its app because sure, why not.

If you’re a social media manager at an international corporation there’s a new cautionary tale out there: A Marriott employee was fired for liking, as the brand, a post regarding Tibet that angered the Chinese government.

Yep, Reddit and Tumblr were both part of Russia’s social media-based manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A survey that was interpreted by many as slightly condoning pedophelia has gotten Facebook in a whole new batch of hot water.

There’s some new data showing people are actually more comfortable leaving their ideological social media bubble than may be expected, though I wonder how much of this is inaccurate self-reporting as people want to look better than they actually are.

Technology

Snap may try again to enter the hardware market as a report claims the company has two new versions of its failed Spectacles in the works.

Congratulations to Uber, which has managed to invent paratransit, a service that’s existed for a long while, but without the “medically qualified individual” behind the wheel. In fact, according to a recent study, many of those drivers will likely be making less than minimum wage. I will recommend you visit this Twitter thread for many of the reasons that this is a bad idea that will only get worse the longer it goes on.

30 percent of the web is now powered by WordPress and that can only be good news.

Not surprising that liquor companies would be among those most excited for the rise in adoption of autonomous vehicles since it would free people up to drink more.

I’m just saying that in a moment where we’re starting to realize the potential of technology to create realistic, believable fake videos it may not be the best time for YouTube to introduce a pseudo-greenscreen tool allowing you to change your background.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 3/1/18

Media

The New York Times is hoping to leverage its success in podcasting into a weekly news program based on several job listings and other chatter.

There’s a new initiative from Facebook that’s meant to support local media, in particular newspapers and I 100% can’t stop laughing because who’s going to fall for this? Especially in light of the news that the social network has claimed yet another victim, with LittleThings shutting down because the changes to Facebook’s algorithm have resulted in dramatically diminished traffic to the site.

Big media companies are sorely lacking in the kind of racial and gender newsroom diversity that would allow them to speak more authoritatively about those underserved communities, a shortcoming that makes members of those communities reluctant to talk to the press. This goes along the same lines as the story from a few weeks ago about how tech companies could avoid a lot of their self-inflicted wounds by hiring more people who aren’t young, white misanthropes. In both cases, a wide array of voices helps identify issues and shortcomings a monoculture would miss.

Epix is the latest media company to throw its hat in the streaming OTT service ring. And Viacom is firming up plans for its offering.

Spending big on original content is obviously working for Netflix, which reportedly will have 700+ original shows and movies available in 2018. That’s total, not new material.

TechCrunch, that old bastion of the days when blogs could scale by sheer force of will, has a new design (at least to some readers) and a new mission statement.

Hard to read the news that PBS is launching a conservative-minded talk show as anything other than someone’s desperate attempt to placate lawmakers who always identify the organization as the bastion of liberal elitism. Funny how government funding was meant to keep it free from the influence of advertisers but now the threat of pulling that funding is a powerful influence in and of itself.

Buzzfeed is looking to supplement some of the revenue it’s lost to various Facebook algorithm changes with the introduction of a line of branded housewares available at Walmart.

A planned collaboration between Vogue and Vice has been squashed for a number of reasons, none of them good.

Marketing / Advertising

Forrester has some insights on and recommendations around how marketers can up their mobile game, including how to make adjustments for voice assistants and more.

Social Media

You should go turn “facial recognition” off on Facebook for many, many reasons. And I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of data it will collect as it expands its job listing service, which is clearly meant to kill LinkedIn, Monster and every other job site.

I think i’d have a more positive appraisal of Vero (which I have not yet tried) as the savior for all that ails social networks if I hadn’t heard the same speech about 10 other apps over the years that all faded quickly from view, often in less time than it would take binge-watch “Bloodline.”

Not surprising at all that it’s only the top 5% who can actually make a living off YouTube while everyone else makes less in ad revenue than it takes to crack the U.S. poverty line.

Twitter is officially introducing a save-for-later feature that isn’t based on Liking.

Everyone on LinkedIn is using the same generic, meaningless and self-inflating descriptions for themselves.

Facebook is ending the experiment it was running in other countries that shunted news into a separate section of the site/app, saying the feedback it received was clear in its disapproval of the change.

Technology

The key to helping rural communities grow jobs and meet the needs of tomorrow’s industry could be as simple as making sure they’re connected to the internet.

Amazon continues to expand the front on which its fighting for ownership of your doorstep with the acquisition of Ring, which follows its “drop it inside your door for you” service and experiments to launch its own delivery service.

Just because it might take older workers a little longer to get their heads around specific technology doesn’t mean companies looking to hire should discount them entirely.

People may still believe technology as a whole can be a force for good and positive change in the world, but they increasingly believe the companies should come under more government scrutiny for the actions – or lack thereof – being taken to protect the public interest.

Interesting AR features are being included in an upcoming Samsung smartphone that could substantially lower the barrier to entry for the technology and make it a more regular part of people’s lives.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 2/27/18

Media

This is a great read on the problem we keep running into with tech companies completely dropping the ball when tragedy strikes, consistently caught with their algorithms pushing conspiracy theories, fake news and other hoaxes. In each case, the companies in question talk about how hard it is to police the trillions of data points their systems are meant to process and promise to do better and each time they drop the ball. While yes, the problem would likely be solved in large part by shifting resources from algorithms to human editors, that would entail them dropping the useful fiction that they’re not media companies, a fig leaf that protects them (for now) from more serious government scrutiny.

A Danish television intentionally took a two-week hiatus from posting stories to Facebook to see exactly how much of an impact it could have and the results will shock you!

At least some of the Ist/DNAInfo news sites are coming back to life under a new deal with the public radio stations in a few markets. Too bad Chicago isn’t on that list.

Speaking of site takedowns, new details have emerged on how Peter Thiel wound up being able to take on Gawker and erase it from existence. It boils down to the reality that powerful people don’t like organizations and people that don’t play by “polite” rules (see also: every the entire conservative media’s reaction to the Parkland, FL teens) and will use their money to punish them. Also on the “behind the scenes” front is this examination of the problems that have plagued Newsweek for the last few years.

Publishers cut the number of native videos they were producing for Facebook in half, on average, after the network, stopped subsidizing them. But that’s alright because Facebook got what it wanted, causing the entire rest of the industry to “pivot to video” and make other changes that have come back to bite it in the backside, leaving Facebook to keep dominating on other fronts with lots more data at its disposal.

Warner Archive always seemed odd in the idea but awesome in execution. Now its substantial catalog of classic films is part of FilmStruck, which makes so much more sense.

Meanwhile CBS Sports is launching a free OTT service that’s pretty much meant to take the wind out of ESPN’s sails before that service debuts.

Marketing / Advertising

It’s good that Facebook is working to make ad metrics more streamlined and understandable, eliminating quite a few redundant or confusing numbers and offering more education on what remains. It would be even better if it opened up their ad business to auditing and verification by a third party service, but we’ll take baby steps for a (checks notes) decade-old company, I guess.

A super-interesting read on the various forces at work that have resulted in the logos for many tech and other companies looking remarkably similar.

Overlooked, I think, in the ongoing discussion of which companies have or haven’t cut official ties with the NRA is that while these companies may benefit from conservative policies, more and more studies are showing that younger people want to work for or do business with those that align themselves with progressive causes and viewpoints. *That’s* what I believe is driving a lot of that movement.

Social Media

There are a dozen things that are disturbing or mind-blowing in this piece at Wired about how Facebook’s ad marketplace seems to have been custom-built to benefit someone as outrageous and shock-inducing as Donald Trump, a situation that allowed his campaign ads in 2016 to achieve a reach that significantly outstripped ads bought FOR THE SAME AMOUNT by the Clinton campaign.

Automatic captions, location-tagging, enhanced chat and more are all part of the update package coming to YouTube.

Technology

As expected, Google made a big announcement about its augmented reality platform at Mobile World Congress, including the news it would have an exclusive Pokemon Go-like AR game called “Ghostbusters World.”

Mobile devices will, according to Forrester, play role in one-third of all retail purchases in 2018, though that could fall anywhere along the customer journey, from awareness or research to final purchase. Activity is still split between native apps and the mobile web, meaning retailers can’t ignore either format.

Yes, Google is a monopoly that uses its dominance to snuff out smaller – or even bigger – competitors.

No big deal, just data-mining companies analyzing not just your actual health information but your interaction patterns with your mobile device for clues as to your physical and emotional well-being.

At first I was going to be snarky about this story and how tech jobs that don’t require a college degree or the same amount of experience are popping up in the Midwest, but then I realized that’s a good thing as it means people don’t have to incur the expense of moving to an often-unaffordable area like San Francisco just to work in their desired field.

More airlines are considering creating customer profiles based on IP addresses and more that could be used to create a variable pricing model that will almost certainly wind up having issues of racial bias because that’s what’s happened with literally every other instance of something like this being implemented.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 2/22/18

Media

As many people have pointed out already, this Newsweek story about the news brand’s parent company is enough of a media story in and of itself, but the editor’s note that appears at the top is a whole issue in and of itself.

SHOT: Vox Media is the latest company to engage in a round of significant layoffs, with many of the cuts coming from its video production team, with the news specifically citing how those efforts aren’t resulting in substantial audience or revenue growths. Another example of how all that “pivot to video” garbage over the last two years was exactly that since Facebook, which pushed media companies in that direction, never had any intention of sharing the wealth.

CHASER: Snapchat wants more publishers to make original video shows and you just know there are going to be plenty who didn’t learn a single lesson from what *just* happened with Facebook.

A ton of interesting updates about Tronc and its various business dealings in this Nieman Lab report, including how it viewed dealing with a unionized L.A. Times newsroom as a potential roadblock to its distribution strategies, a perspective that lead to its decision to sell the paper.

FiveThirtyEight has a good overview of how basically all media outlets pushed the same “conventional wisdom” narrative about John Kelly when he was named Chief of Staff at the White House. That initial framing has continued throughout all the instances over the last few months where it was proven inaccurate, which media acting like they were shocked their initial assessment turned out to be wrong.

Marketing / Advertising

Dear National Rifle Association,

I understand this is a rough time for you. I do. I don’t care, because you absolutely deserve it, but I understand. In the spirit of constructive criticism, let me offer you some advice regarding crisis communications:

  1. Pushing the falsehood that kids who just watched 17 of their classmates be killed by an assault rifle are all paid “crisis actors” was never a good idea since those claims are easily debunked, especially by the kids themselves, who have grown up with the tools and culture to call out the very kind of BS you’re peddling.
  2. Sending out the same woman who’s starred in a number of organization-produced videos that come within a hair’s breadth of calling for armed rebellion against the media and a not-so-thinly-veiled “other” population to act as your spokesperson in a nationally-televised town hall was not a great call.
  3. Certainly – CERTAINLY – don’t, having done just that, congratulate her on Twitter with a GIF of a TV show character who 1) repeatedly made it clear she was not a fan of gun culture and 2) was ALL about love and understanding and harmony. And CERTAINLY CERTAINLY don’t do so when the very vocal cast and crew of that show is active on Twitter and is ready to drag you for doing so.
  4. Don’t make your first two public statements – outside of that talking head at the town hall – declarations that anyone calling for gun control laws “hates individual freedom” or that the “mainstream media loves mass shootings” and is therefore the *real* cause of people dying.

These were all unforced errors that were easy to avoid. You chose not to, which tells me everything I need to know.

Best,

–Chris

Social Media

Facebook has made it easier to add people to in-progress Messenger calls.

Anchor has upgraded and updated its app to basically be a professional podcast creation tool.

Technology

More warning against the rise of technology that can easily create videos that are completely fake and which are indistinguishable from the real thing, raising all sorts of potential issues, though some of the people working on it of course see nothing but fun, innovative potential.

Uber Express Pool brings the company just one small step away from successfully recreating the mass-transit bus system. On that topic, this is a good analysis of where we are in regards to ride-hailing companies, mass-transit, municipal governments and more.

The latest example of the Trump Administration being filled with terrible people is how FCC chairman Ajit Pai wants to change the “Lifeline” program that has helped connect low-income populations to high-speed internet in such a way that it does everything *but* that. While it’s not technology-based, there’s also the proposed changes to rent subsidy programs that would essentially kick hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes by drastically and cruelly cutting the program’s budget.

Speaking of the FCC, you can read all the inconsistent logic and poor reasoning behind its repeal of net neutrality, which is now set to expire on April 23rd, for yourself.

Another round of cleaning out of bots has resulted, predictably, in another round of white supremacists and other jackweeds complaining about how their follower count was being damaged in a liberal plot to diminish their influence. The lack of self-awareness in that crowd is only slightly less concerning than literally everything else about them.

I was wrong the other day about Spotify’s plans. It’s not that it wants to sell you things through the app, it’s that it wants to create its own native smart speaker. That sounds cool, but it’s another sign that the open web is increasingly being relegated to the past.

Google is expected to make a significant augmented reality announcement at Mobile World Congress that will likely involve upgrades to the mobile AR experience on its Pixel devices.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Quick Takes: Marketing and Media News for 2/20/18

Media

A number of editors and others have been let go from Vanity Fair and other Conde Nast publications. CNN also fired about 50 staffers from its digital operations as it seeks to “restructure” that department.

One can only imagine the number of “Hillary Did 9/11” and “Obama’s Deep State Redistricted You” documentaries that will be available on the new OTT streaming service Fox News is planning.

I have some very strong opinions about the news that MAD Magazine is getting a reboot including a new image and more after a move to Los Angeles that wasn’t made by John Ficarra and other longtime staffers. *Very* strong opinions.

Marketing / Advertising

Considering how bit “unboxing” videos are it makes a lot of sense that consumer goods companies are introducing more experiential products that are well-suited for creating fun videos.

More and more companies are starting their own in-house creative shops, eschewing traditional agencies in the process. Those owned operations are better positioned to pivot with corporate changes and are more responsive to feedback. It also saves money (now that more people know how to effectively manage things like programmatic advertising) and builds an internal knowledge base. I have to wonder, though, how many of the people in these shops are actual employees and how many are contractors.

I get and totally understand what the author is saying here regarding brands building “belonging,” but it also seems like it’s being narrowly defined in that piece. The same concept applies to bumper stickers, jacket patches and other signals by which we use the things we like as a shorthand for who we are and what we enjoy.

Oh hey, this is why you have social media policies that apply to everyone up and down the organization, so random executives don’t go on misguided tweetstorms about company issues that later have to be walked back and contraindicated in later official statements.

Little Debbie wants to challenge MoonPie’s status as everyone’s favorite Twitter account by doling out relationship advice.

And Spotify may follow Snapchat’s example with hints it’s planning to expand into physical products.

Social Media

Regular reminder that the price of international growth of the platforms managed by tech companies is they’re occasionally all-too willing to comply with governmental requests to take down “offensive” material that’s questionably both legal and ethical. Now extrapolate that out and ask yourself what happens (if it hasn’t already) if the U.S. government asks these companies to take down posts that complicate international relations.

Last week’s news that a judge had ruled linking to content did not constitute copyright infringement is countered by this week’s less-than-great news that a different judge says embedding Tweets *is* copyright infringement. While I do have concerns, I think what this means for media companies is that they need to not use photos or other media they either haven’t licensed themselves or at least can prove the provenance of. That should be common sense and would mostly, based on my reading of the case, infringe on their rights to publish low-quality “Everyone is talking about this photo of…” content. Nieman Lab has some more informed commentary.

It’s not surprising at all that Facebook’s methodology for determining that “just 5%” of what people see in their News Feed is actual news is somewhat sketchy and rife with eyebrow-raising oversights.

Speaking of gaping holes, there are plenty in Facebook’s plan to use mailed postcards to “verify” a U.S. address for anyone looking to buy political ads that mention or endorse a specific candidate. One of the most glaring is that this won’t be applied to buying issues-based ads, where were shown to be one of the most common used by Russian agents in the last couple years. It also overlooks how one of the frequent tactics used were contracting with U.S. citizens to act as sock puppets, something easily replicable here.

There is a tangible decline in referral traffic from Facebook after the most recent changes were put into effect. Not surprising for a number of reasons, including a new report showing people are spending less time on the platform.

Snapchat has added Giphy integration along with changes to how Stories are organized.

Technology

Interesting profile of WeWork, but I’m having a hard time not going full-on cynical about the company. Not only does it seem to be filled with the same cult-of-the-genius-founder thinking I thought was played out, but its vision seems to be one of Company Town 3.0, where you never need to leave the confines of a single area for any purpose. Finally, you lose me anytime you start talking about for-profit education, bro.

AT&T has made streaming through its owned VOD services part of its “sponsored data” plan where usage doesn’t count against data usage by prepaid customers. This is exactly why net neutrality is such a big idea, though mobile companies have been doing this for a while. They want you to use their owned services instead of, say, Netflix, because you won’t burn data while doing so. That’s called “unfair advantage.”

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.