Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/22/17

This is a fantastic overview of what happened to the DNAinfo and Ist site as they faced down the last days before being shut down by billionaire owner Joe Ricketts and just what the communities they operated in have lost in terms of watchdogs and local voices.

That may seem worrisome when you ponder the future of a fair and independent media, but don’t worry.

It’s not as if the FCC wants to eliminate the guidelines that keep the internet a level playing field for companies both big and small to survive and thrive based not on how much they can afford to pay internet providers but on the quality of their products while ignoring comments from the public. Or that it wants to relax other rules that will allow a single company to own multiple outlets in every market, creating a homogenous media ecosystem that is accountable not to the truth but to profits.

Or that bunch of secret companies are tracking your web usage to a degree it can tell who you are, how much you make, what illnesses you might have and more, all without you opting into any such profile building.

Or that the current administration seems to be opposing the merger of two media/tech companies based largely on how one part of one of those companies has been critical of the president.

Or that the tech companies that dominate our lives still can’t get over the mindset that their algorithms can be perfected without ever once delving even once into philosophy or remotely human perspectives but seem to be content manipulating our emotions and behaviors without thought to the consequences and continuing to allow illegally targeted ads.

Or that the problems seen last week in the media world are nothing compared to the crash expertly outlined by Josh Marshall, one that will result in a number of other failures and even more layoffs that result in a glut of talent that drives wages down even if new video distribution and monetization models do emerge.

Or that a legitimately insane tax plan going through Congress could have massive ripple effects throughout the entire economy that could exacerbate already staggering income and opportunity inequality.

So, you know, we’re totally fine.

In Other News…

The FTC has updated its disclosure guidelines around influencer marketing on social media to address various issues and close various loopholes that were being exploited (sometimes with the explicit endorsement of shady agencies) to keep the audience in the dark on the presence of a paid relationship.

Yeah, it’s kind of weird that things like coffee machines and pizza are serious rallying points for political speech but that’s where we are in 2017 it seems.

I was wondering why I was getting a whole bunch of new followers on Ello (I never deleted my profile for some reason) and it seems it’s finding new life as a portfolio community for creative types.

Apparently The Washington Post is a software company now, licensing the custom CMS it created to others. Interesting, but this isn’t exactly groundbreaking as I’m fairly sure this kind of thing has been happening elsewhere in the media world since about 2005.

Following up on the post I wrote last week about how various social networks try to cater to creators as much as possible to keep their loyalty, Facebook has introduced a whole new set of tools to help people make engaging videos.

Facebook will now let you view web-based VR experiences from directly within the News Feed.

Not only has Instagram enabled people joining live broadcasts but you can now request to join the stream of the friend you’re watching.

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: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/16/17

Hoopla, which offers movies and TV shows (as well as e-books, audiobooks and more) on behalf of local libraries, is launching apps for Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.

Both Google and LinkedIn have launched new career search tools. Google has added information on companies including salary, job application choices and more to search results and made it easy to apply to positions you find. LinkedIn is using the power of its network to encourage people share career advice with seekers and new grads, who can find people to connect with and turn into mentors.

Kickstarter has launched Drip, a new model that expands beyond the single project to let people subscribe to their favorite creators on an ongoing basis. That’a a clear move against Patreon, which has roughly the same deal.

People are cutting the cord on traditional cable TV faster than ever, with twice as many doing so in the last quarter than made the move in the same period last year. They’re being replaced by skinny bundles delivered via over-the-top services.

The Trust Indicator is a joint venture of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Bing – along with Trust Project – that assigns verification to various news media outlets that signal it is in line with the best practices the organization has outlined. That’s good because a recent study has shown those news organizations are way out of their league when it comes to fighting disinformation online.

The FTC is cracking down on a company that has made up quotes from celebrities to sell shady supplements via ads that have run all over the internet, especially in those “Recommended Stories” units. It’s also taking a look at George Takei, who failed to disclose being paid by various news outlets to share their stories.

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: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/9/17

Instagram has made its branded content tagging tools available to more creators with high levels of engagement to make sure everyone is complying with required disclosure around paid relationships. Making that disclosure easier also has the benefit of encouraging more people to use Instagram for their content.

Brand marketers are beginning to work with influential and popular account creators on Musical.ly, something the company’s management is encouraging and facilitating.

Website owners can now embed Facebook Messenger chat functionality on their sites to encourage everyone to use that platform for customer services conversations.

So cool that it seems the future of business depends on how friendly any given company is to the current administration. That’s exactly how both free-market capitalism and democracy are supposed to work, right?

Slow clap for Sen. Al Franken for calling out the closed-system monopolies being created by the big social technology companies like Google and Facebook, which are acting recklessly and irresponsibly given the influence they have over the information presented to the electorate.

Oh, and the fact that Facebook and other companies collect metric tons of data you may not even be aware of to build a profile of you and make various forms of recommendations to you.

If Instagram thought it was going to avoid conversations about how its platform is used to spread political disinformation, nah.

I love this example of The Washington Post participating in conversations on Reddit in helpful and non-promotional ways that are authentic to the platform, not ham-handed and terrible.

One of the cooler product integrations I’ve seen of late, as LinkedIn and Microsoft (which owns LinkedIn) have created Resume Assistant to quickly and easily create resumes based on your profile and keep it updated.

Millennials don’t have a ton of disposable income, even during the years when other generations have been at the peak of their spending power and most susceptible to marketing messages. Crushing student debt and a poor job market will do that. They’re more choosy with where they spend what money they have, focusing on both bargains and companies they view as responsible and ethical socially.

Revenue sharing is the hot new way social networks are buying the loyalty of top creators.

Twitter has launched Promote Mode, a simple system that costs a flat fee of $99 a month for small business and individual brands to promote their profiles without jumping through a lot of hoops.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/7/18

Interesting findings here that longer headlines on branded content have higher click-through rates. Perhaps because they’re more effective at quickly drawing the reader into the story?

Google is deprecating old RSS feeds from Google News next month, taking a convoluted approach that involves discarding the old but offering new feeds without setting up redirects or other accommodations for those subscribed.

Polls are the new big thing as Facebook follows Instagram with a feature allowing people to post polls using GIFs across desktop and mobile platforms.

Twitter has responded to the constant calls for better enforcement of its terms of service by clarifying the rules around what will get your account suspended or banned. Actual application of those guidelines continues to be spotty, though.

Hard to argue with the conclusion that the DNAinfo/Gothamist situation show that not only will local news not scale to the level needed for large companies to view it as successful (even if it is in the black financially) but it’s also too vital to leave in the hands of profit-motivated individuals or entities. Even national news is under fire from advertisers who are considered coverage of unpleasant issues hurts ratings and are threatening to pull their ads if it doesn’t change.

All brands will have access to Sponsored Messages on Facebook Messenger later this year. Yay?

More people are worried any regulations of tech companies resulting from the current focus on foreign manipulation of democracy through social media will go too far. I have to laugh at the comment about needing to expand our worldview beyond the self-selected media bubble it’s easy to create given our president almost daily reacts to one cable almost exclusively.

It’s kind of hard to fathom the implications of a potential Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Putting aside the control over IP, the consolidation of control over a bigger percentage of media production and distribution – specifically news dissemination – is frightening, especially given the recent example noted above.

Even beyond what it produces itself, such a combined entity has potential repercussions for the press. Disney reportedly shut out the Los Angeles Times from press screenings as punishment for a negative report on its theme park business, a dangerous stifling of the free press. In response four critics associations announced Disney films would not be eligible for their annual awards as long as the policy is in place, seemingly creating enough public pressure that just today Disney relented and lifted the ban.

Twitter has rolled out 280-character updates to its entire user base, meaning…well…nothing, really.

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

Pew: How People Use One or More Social Networks For News

Pew last week released the results of a new study on which social media sites Americans were getting their news from. Those numbers are not only insightful in and of themselves but also in regards to the ongoing conversation about what responsibility the companies operating those sites have to their role as news sources.

Facebook Dominates

Not only is Facebook the most widely-used social network, but half of the people who get their news on that site do so exclusively, meaning they don’t turn to any other social media site for additional information or context.

That stat needs to be used the next time Facebook is called to account for the influence it wields and who may be using it as a disinformation platform. That includes not only foreign but domestic actors. If 45% of U.S. adults use Facebook for news and half do so exclusively, that means it is the only source of news for roughly 23% of U.S. adults. The fact that the company does not seem to take that role seriously is breathtaking.

Messaging App Users Stay In That Lane

In general, the number of people who get news from messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp are small – 5 and 2% respectively – but if they do they tend to stay in that category. So WhatsApp users also turn to Snapchat for news, as well as Instagram.

Twitter and YouTube Numbers Are Surprising

It was surprising to see that only 11% of respondents said they turn to Twitter for news, especially given its role in the conversation around breaking news events. That came into stark relief a few years ago when Twitter was filled with updates of the protests and other events in Ferguson, MO while Facebook dominated by the Ice Bucket Challenge. That contrast lead some to refer to Facebook’s as the “Ice Bucket Feed.”

Just as unexpected is the appearance of YouTube as the second most used site for news, with 18% of people turning there, 21% exclusively. Just last year there was a report that YouTube had fallen out of favor with media companies who were being lured by pitches from Facebook, Snapchat and others that focused on how they reach vital demographics and encourage viral sharing. YouTube apparently wants to lean into this role as just a few months ago it introduced a “Breaking News” section on the desktop and mobile app front pages.

[pilatevoice] What Is News? [/pilatevoice]

What’s left unaddressed in the Pew report is what the definition of “news” being used is. While all these platforms certainly deal in what might be called “hard” news, they also feature more than a little “softer” news, as well as content that can only be termed news through a significant stretching of definitions. Are people using these sites to stay in tune with politics and government?

A 2013 Pew study found that “Entertainment” accounted for 73% of the news people saw on Facebook while “National government and politics” was just 55% and “International” just 39%. So when people are going to YouTube or anywhere else for news, what does that mean? It can’t be assumed it’s the kind of news that would make the lead on a local TV broadcast or the front page of The New York Times.

Not only that, but the study doesn’t address what sources are providing that news. As Facebook seeks to increasingly marginalize the role of the traditional news publisher – at least those who don’t either pay for promoted posts or adopt whichever native format is preferred that week – it can’t be assumed that the news people are seeing is going through any sort of vetting or editorial review to determine veracity.

That’s exactly what the hearings Facebook, Twitter and Google took part in last week in Washington, D.C. were all about. If you’re getting your news not from a source that, whatever its editorial bias might be at least ascribes to traditional journalistic principles but from YourRightDaily or whatever that is designed to inflame passions through the spread of “emotional” content that plays into prejudices, the “facts” you’re getting are very different.

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

What’s Driving the “Broadcast With Friends” Social Trend?

For as much press as face filters and 3D augmented reality 360-degree videos posts get in the tech press there’s one trend that seems largely undercovered but which is no less real in the social media world.

Broadcasting with friends.

This past May, Facebook added the ability to add friends to a live broadcast, essentially enabling two-person video. In August Instagram followed suit by adding a feature where you can bring a viewer of your broadcast into your video. Then just last week Anchor enabled a feature where up to seven additional people can be added to a broadcast.

What’s behind this rush to make social media a group activity? There are two major points that seem prominent in the rollout of these co-hosting features.

It’s About Market Saturation

Between 2005 and 2010, the period of social media’s infancy and ascendency, adoption rose from just 5% to 47%. But since then it’s grown to just 69% of U.S. internet users, and much of that growth is coming from older demographics. Younger social users are more interested in messaging apps which have group activity (such as the much-copied “Stories” feature that’s now pervasive) baked in.

So there’s a push to get the existing user base to do more within the apps since growth can’t necessarily be depended on. Facebook counts 80% of the U.S. population as members, so it’s hard to see where any growth is going to come from unless it starts signing up infants. 76% of U.S. teens are on Instagram, though that’s growing while Facebook’s teen hip quotient is flattening in recent years.

It’s About Influencers

Everyone who’s not already considered an influencer wants to be an influencer. They want the prestige, the stardom, the paycheck from marketing agencies, the potential book or TV deals. So they are polishing their broadcasting chops, and interacting with a cohost in a way that’s not constrained by geography is a great way to do that.

Adding the ability to bring in a cohost offers more opportunities for conversations and the product mentions those conversations often include. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that adding in additional hosts was a top-requested feature by the influencers social networks often court and turn to for guidance regarding their product roadmaps.

There are surely plenty of other reasons social media companies are adding similar features to their apps and sites. Whatever the rationale, there’s a desire to make these apps and sites stickier, even if it means blatantly copying functionality from competitors.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/2/17

While the attention has been on Facebook, Twitter and Google for their politics-related fake news problem, Pinterest has its own issues with health- and food-related material shared there that’s of questionable value.

The share of money earned by video creators on Periscope through “super hearts” is increasing as the company says it will take only a small administrative fee, the hope being to attract more influencers to the platform.

Facebook is touting the usage numbers of both Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status.

Snapchat advertisers can now more measure track cross-platform stats like site visits through the introduction of pixel tracking, something that’s common most other social networks and ad tools.

Parents can exert a bit more influence on what their youngins are watching with the introduction of YouTube Kid Profiles, which allow for viewing controls to be set and more.

Shopping this holiday season is expected to be a primarily mobile experience as people get more comfortable using those devices for purchasing in addition to awareness and research.

Sick to my stomach at the news that Joe Ricketts has unceremoniously shut down the DNAInfo and Gothamist sites, removing their archives completely. That’s a lot of talented writers whose hard work has been erased, all coming just a week after those writers voted to unionize.

I was reminded of the experience of discovering random oddities and hidden treasures in a video store while reading this story about how the cover art of VHS tapes is so much more engaging and interesting than the generic thumbnails used by Netflix in displaying its viewing options.

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

The One Thing Tech Companies Could Do To Fight News Manipulation

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech companies have been, and will continue to be, testifying before members of Congress about what the hell just happened. Specifically, lawmakers want to know how those platforms were used by foreign agents to disseminate false information both organically and through paid ads in the lead up to last year’s elections.

Given how much of the electorate gets their news through these platforms, the stakes are fairly high. Both Twitter and Facebook have continued to revise the number of people exposed to these ads and messages up as time goes on. At this point over half of all Americans saw some sort of propaganda designed to destabilize our democracy by inflaming racial, religious and other prejudices.

In response to all this, the tech companies in question have reverted to their favorite line of defense: “We’re just a dumb platform.” They claim they can only do so much because the users are responsible for the experience of what they see. They also downplay the efficacy of whatever ads were displayed, something they do have control over, seemingly unaware this position is exactly opposite to the “you need to buy ads on our network because they work” pitch made to every business in the country.

Ironically, the quagmire Facebook finds itself in hasn’t hurt advertising revenue as companies continue buying. It did, though, attempt to stave off regulation by claiming that really fighting the spread of fake news and weeding out manipulative advertising would cost so much it would hurt future profits. Essentially, it’s stating that if lawmakers really love capitalism they’ll back off. It’s the same argument the banks have made for years.

Those warnings may be true, though you could argue acting in the public good is more important to America than profit levels.

Instead of throwing money at attempting to solve the problem, there seems to be one simple solution that might hinder the impact of outside influence before it begins.

Verification

What if those additional hires (more likely low-paid contractors who don’t enjoy all the perks of full-time employees) were tasked with reviewing the authenticity of any new Page for someone claiming to be a news organization or advocacy group?

Based on the examples exposed in recent months, it seems most of these groups don’t stand up to the most cursory research, something that’s surely within the capabilities of companies like Facebook, Google and others. They have more tools than the average person and would be able to see that a group claiming to represent Native Americans just launched their website three months ago and why is it registered in Myanmar?

The companies in question would likely argue that such research and verification isn’t their responsibility. But it is. Landlords have to verify the party wishing to rent an apartment is who they say they are, and the repercussions there don’t affect the lives of all Americans in the way those using rented online land do.

Put those resources up front and stop the problem from becoming a problem. If anything comes out of the scrutiny being turned on the tech companies responsible for what we do and don’t see, I hope it’s that.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/31/17

Google’s massive advertising business is getting even more massive, showing no signs of slowing down as it outpaces all rivals.

Can’t be great for all the other media companies launching branded subscription services to see Lionsgate parting ways with Comic-Con HQ, shutting that service down and transitioning to licensing the material elsewhere.

YouTube is building up its app offerings based on data showing how usage showing streaming to TVs is widespread behavior, so why not make that even easier?

Snapchat’s Sponsored Lens for “Stranger Things” season two is a whole environment people can experience, further making AR an everyday feature.

Jeez, it takes a lot of money to not only get someone to download an app in the first place but then to make a purchase through the app that’s so critical to the “freemium” model many rely on.

Facebook now says 126 million people saw ads that were part of Russia’s plans to destabilize the 2016 elections, but is downplaying the impact of that exposure. And yes, that’s exactly the opposite of the message it sends to any businesses considering buying ads on the platform.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/27/17

The Content Marketing Institute is out with a new study that takes a look at the state of the industry. Basically people are feeling things are working better than they have in the past and it’s all going quite nicely, thank you very much.

Apple is taking a conservative, at least in terms of subject matter, approach to producing original content, focusing on all-ages material as opposed to the edgy “peak TV” material that other distributors have created.

Patreon has released a set of tools and apps that integrate with other platforms to make fundraising and ongoing support from fans even easier.

30,000 businesses have reportedly begun using Workplace, the inter-office messaging tool from Facebook that’s meant to go up against Slack and other offerings.

Not that shocking to find that premium placement in the “featured” section of Apple’s App Store leads to increased attention and installations.

GoFundMe has launched a content creation studio to produce stories based on the heartwarming and inspirational campaigns run on the site. Similarly, GroupOn has launched a campaign using retailer success stories to attract more interest.

Lots of interesting stuff in Twitter’s latest quarterly report, including revised user numbers based on an error in previous calculations and the expectation it will be turning a profit later this year.

Spotify has decided original video productions just aren’t working and has canceled them en masse while it reimagines and reinvents the whole concept.

Speaking of which, Buzzfeed management appears to have been so mad it got scooped on the Harvey Weinstein news it’s fired a handful of entertainment editors as it rejiggers processes.

Both Instagram and Facebook have introduced Halloween-themed face filters and other toys.

Medium opened up its wallet of investment money to help attract some big name publishers to its newly-open Publisher program, putting select stories behind a paywall.

The latest social app to jump on the “and friends” broadcast trend is Anchor, which now lets you easily add people to episodes you’re recording.

Facebook joins Twitter in announcing increased transparency into advertising buys, particularly those involving politics. The smell of pending federal regulation must be getting strong in Silicon Valley.

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.