Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 1/16/18


Crackle will rebrand itself as “Sony Crackle” because, according to the story, the company wants to leverage the power of the Sony name. That’s code for “the person who kept insisting it didn’t need to be corporately branded is no longer with the company and so someone finally got their way.”

CBS and Viacom are the Liz and Dick of media companies, reportedly considering merging after splitting up a decade ago when the previous merger didn’t really turn out well for anyone. The industry landscape has changed, though, and it’s now necessary to scale up to fight Disney/Fox as well as the creeping hands of Facebook and Google.

I’m all for this concept of citizen journalists and have been for the 17 years or more the idea has been around. The problem isn’t the model, the problem is that it’s hard to monetize and attempts at scale inevitably screw things up.

People around the world want their media to be unbiased, but once you get beyond that you see no one really agrees on whether their preferred media choices *are* unbiased or not or even what that means.

Wait, Disney’s OTT service will launch with a remake of “High School Musical?” How old *am* I?

Content Marketing

Forget influencer marketing, “Tweetdecking” is apparently the hot new content marketing trend, with advertisers reaching out to groups of coordinated Twitter users who promise to make anything go viral instantly. As shady and terrible as that is, it’s worth noting you never hear about that kind of initiative on Facebook, just on Twitter. That’s because Twitter is for trends and “now” content while Facebook is about “what’s good for Facebook this week,” usually involving showing old posts that aren’t trending anymore.

Probably a good idea if you include some political advocacy and issues-based opinions in your content marketing mix since that’s what young consumers reportedly want to see more of.

“Sonic branding” is about to become a thing thanks to the rise of home assistants and other voice-based technology, with companies seeking distinct audio cues that translate to those devices. I’m honestly not sure how this wasn’t already a thing because of radio and podcasts, but here we are.

Interesting story here about how 20th Century Fox used Twitter to research fan conversation and sentiment around some of the studio’s biggest films, largely because if you’re Fox you get to go to Twitter directly for such research and don’t have to use a third-party service or vendor.

Social Media

Yes, Facebook’s new cruelty means all those “pivot to video” companies are now screwed without writers, with expensive video production equipment they can’t pay for and with the reality that Facebook has zero interest in their continued survival.

The extent to which Snapchat entering “last guy left alive in Alien” paranoia is a cathartic, hilarious development is astounding. This has never been a real company, as I can attest to, and now they’re hoping putting a bunch of “Loose lips sink ships” posters around the office will keep the scam going for a while longer until it can sell its assets to Google. But don’t worry, I’m sure an emphasis on scripted programming, not the core messaging feature that’s the only thing people are apparently using, will help turn everything around.

OMG, Instagram ads are *totally” the new late-night infomercial, a venue for products you don’t need but which you’ll at least momentarily consider buying on more than one occasion.


Alphabet has been making a hard sell to advertisers to try and assure them that really, it’s safe to place their ads on YouTube in the wake of the latest in a series of high-profile embarrassing incidents involving a high-profile creator that was part of the site’s partner program.

Google’s share of the search market has dropped for the first time in a while, falling victim to the fact more people are discovering and searching within specific apps – Amazon in particular is called out – and not on the general web. We’ve seen this before and in the past it’s been a short-term trend as people go back to more generic search behavior. Let’s see if that precedent holds once more.

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.

Video is Everywhere, But Time and Money are Finite

Last week the news outlet Mic became the latest player to join the trend of laying off staff as part of a (clears throat) pivot to video. [genuflects] As Peter Kafka notes at Recode, there are a few common factors publishers cite when doing so, the biggest being the desire to tap into the pool of ad dollars everyone things is shifting from TV to the web but which hasn’t yet.

It’s not just publishers, though. Reddit last week announced a native video feature and LinkedIn has introduced video creation with select users as we speak. Facebook recently launched Watch, a portal for original entertainment programming meant to lure creators away from YouTube, which has its own original content things in Red. Snapchat has just announced it has plans to do likewise in the near future. In short, as eMarketer sums up, there’s a massive movement on all fronts to get more and more of the video marketplace, capturing more of the audience’s attention and the advertising dollars that hopefully follow.

Apple has put aside $1 billion it plans to spend on original entertainment content, reportedly interested in making as many as 10 prestige shows a year. Netflix plans to spend $7 billion on original content in 2018 to continue seeding its streaming service with attractive programming that lures people away from HBO. Amazon and Hulu are doing likewise, as is Crackle and a number of other services.

And all that doesn’t even get into the shift by media companies to create their own OTT subscription streaming services. Disney has one in the works which is why they announced they will be pulling much of their library from Netflix, with recent surveys saying 19% of Netflix subscribers would cancel their accounts as a result and about a third of Millennials saying they’d sign up for Disney’s service. CBS has their own service coming and is stocking it with original content like a new “Star Trek” series.

It’s About Attention

Put aside for a second the idea that more than a small fraction of people are going to subscribe to more than one or two of these streaming services. That’s a whole other question that has been discussed by others who have pointed out that once you subscribe to three of the available options you’ve undone whatever savings seen by cutting the cord on cable. Suffice it to say I doubt those surveys mentioned above, particularly the one saying 19% of Netflix customers will ditch the service because they can’t watch Disney movies.

No, the dollars issue doesn’t interest me as much as the question of attention. To my mind, people will make the decision on which services they want to subscribe to based on the amount of attention they have to give more than the dollars they have to spend. So the choice to not subscribe to YouTube Red has less to do with the cost than it does the fact that all of someone’s time is already taken up by Netflix and Hulu. They’ll bypass the videos they see on LinkedIn because they spend so much time watching what’s posted to Facebook, where Watch shows are already seeing some success due likely to the preferential treatment they’re given in the News Feed. They’ll forego Snapchat’s productions because they’ve prioritized Apple’s original shows.

Video Is About Right Now

The main problem with video is that it’s immediate. Text stories and blog posts can be easily saved for later without much impact. But video demands your attention right now, lest you miss out on something important. Not only that but unlike audio, including podcasts, it’s not something you can catch up on effortlessly while in the car or otherwise occupied. If you’re not watching it, you’re missing out.

There are already too many options for people to pay attention to, and the list is only going to grow from here. Eventually, there will be a shakeout and some players will fall by the wayside as winners emerge, chosen by the priorities people give to what deserves their attention just as much as what deserves their cash.

For the time being, though, all these companies and others will be chasing those online advertising budgets, hoping to wind up at the top of the pile. Meanwhile, the audience will be choosing where to place their monetary and attention-based bets, influenced by costs, the influence of their own network of friends and more.

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

Picking Up the Spare: Truth

truth pic 2

  • CBS made news when it was revealed they were rejecting ads promoting Truth. Given the subject matter of the movie that shouldn’t have been that surprising, especially considering how much fuel CBS has burnt up in the last few weeks calling out the movie’s inaccuracies.

The New Orleans reporting power outage

super-bowlI have to say I agree with this analysis of CBS’ handling of the outage during Sunday’s Super Bowl. While I completely get that, you know, the power was out it still seems like there were a load of missed opportunities.

Watching the broadcast during the 30-40 minutes while the lights were out and coming back on I was struck at how badly, to use an situationally-appropriate metaphor, CBS was fumbling the journalistic football. Maybe this says something about the deferential nature of sports reporting but I kept wondering why the guys on the sidelines who had power and were presumably just feet from the head coaches never went to ask them what they were thinking. How come we weren’t getting spur-of-the-moment interviews with the field refs about what the situation was going to be once the lights did come back on?

Instead of any of that we were shown the same five highlights over and over again while the panel of commentators talked about them in exactly the same way they had 10 minutes ago as they tried to talk some more about how the unexpected interruption may – or may not – help the 49ers regain some momentum and how these were professional athletes who are used to stopping and starting so they’ll just stay limber while things were sorted out.

But why weren’t we getting more information? While I know direct communication between certain parts of the stadium were down surely these reporters could send and receive text messages from the producers. Seemed like a sports news organization should have been able to transition into reporting on the news pretty quickly given the circumstances. This was a major missed opportunity for a solid journalistic moment.