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 11/7/18

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.

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 10/23/17

According to the company, 80% of Snapchat users create posts at restaurants, which is one reason behind the Context Cards it recently announced that allow people to leave – and then find – tips and comments on eateries. Recode has more numbers on popular locations.

Publishers are preparing for the day (likely coming soon) when autoplay videos are blocked or otherwise out of favor with audiences.

Buzzfeed is getting serious about making moves and other long-form video.

Solid thoughts here on how with everyone focusing on original video productions, media needs to compete on the user experience even more than content.

Twitch is making it easier for original content creators to make money with their videos on the site, another move in the ongoing battle with Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.

Facebook is testing themed collections of updates – including videos, photos and more – that can be created and shared.

Payments are on everyone’s mind, with Facebook Messenger enabling PayPal integration (part of a larger PayPal effort to be more flexible in product offerings) and Google introducing a new feature that stores your payment information to facilitate easy checkout at participating online retailers.

Google says its revenue-sharing with publishers who use its recently-unveiled subscription system will be “exceedingly generous,” which I guess is better than nothing. The company also throws (deserved) shade at Facebook.

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/5/17

No one – neither the media or the public – benefits from one in five reporters living in either New York City, Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles.

Facebook will provide more context on a publisher whose news story is shared in the News Feed, an effort to educate the public, fight off fake news and avoid federal regulations.

Google is reportedly paying some publishers to help test Stamp, its upcoming mobile news reading platform meant to compete against Snapchat and others.

It’s going to get even easier for retailers to create and share stoppable Instagram photos containing links to instantly view or buy products.

A new study shows younger consumers are most interested in doing business with companies whose practices line up with their own values.

The lines between “e-commerce” and physical sales are blurring, aided by changing consumer attitudes and tracking technology that follows buyers on- and offline.

Media buying firms are seen as most responsible for ensuring “brand safety,” the display of ads on sites and platforms that aren’t offensive.

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/4/17

Conde Nast’s 23 Stories content studios is being sold as a creative agency, an odd designation coming from a media company.

Fast Company profiles Giphy as the GIF repository begins introducing advertising in an effort to monetize its cultural relevancy.

Google seems to be testing a different way to label AMP articles in mobile search results, emphasizing “Instant” over the AMP branding.

It’s incredibly creepy that Google is going to begin offering publishers complete search histories and buying behaviors of people visiting news sites.

People Prefer Ads, But Do They Know the Trade-offs?

A new study is out reporting that 67% of U.S. adults are fine with online ads because they’re unwilling to pay more for ad-free versions of the services they enjoy. This despite the fact that 75% of adults find such ads intrusive, especially online ads that follow them around from site to site.

The way the question was framed is interesting to me: How much would people be *willing* to pay?

I have to wonder what sort of results might have been found if the question “How much are you *able* to pay?” were asked.

Personally, I’d be willing to pay up to $100 a month to not only have an ad-free experience but to opt out of ad-tracking entirely. I don’t want Google, Facebook or anyone else adding either online or offline behavior to their profile on me. I want to support media and the work they do but just can’t afford to do so right now. I’m sure I’m not the only one in that position and with that same attitude.

In this way, media companies and are exploiting those at the lower end of the income spectrum, those who can’t afford to even entertain the option of paying for an ad-free experience. These people will continue to be tracked by advertisers to an ever-increasing degree because of social media, accessed to a great extent via mobile device, is how they connect to the world. As this post says, Facebook and Google are essentially surveillance companies acting on behalf of advertisers.

More affluent consumers have the luxury of opting-out of ads when they feel compelled to do so. They have the means to do so.

Those without those means don’t have a choice, even if they have a theoretical preference. People obviously know ads are increasingly intrusive, but they may not know all the ways media companies are tracking them to help facilitate that intrusiveness.

There need to be protections in place to guard those who are at the most risk of serious exploitation but least in the position to do something about it themselves. Without those safeguards, they’ll continue to be inundated by ads that are more and more finely-targeted to the point that companies running those ads know intimate personal details about the individual than anyone else does. That’s a system ripe for abuse in various ways, something we’re already seeing.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 9/15

  • Your regular reminder to be careful when it comes to working with social media influencers and popular YouTubers because they could turn out to be really really racist.
  • Bezos is panicking because Amazon’s original series aren’t big enough hits, cancelling some shows and ordering new ones that fit with a new vision.
  • A new study says 18-34 year olds spend over half the time they devote to video on time-shifted viewing to TV programs.
  • Snapchat is officially rolling out its program to enlist more college publications in Discover.
  • Engagement on Instagram videos is apparently growing significantly after traditionally lagging behind the easier-to-consumer/browse photos for years.
  • Influencers continue to abandon Snapchat due to the ability to make more money elsewhere, particularly Instagram and YouTube, and Snap’s lack of hand-holding and outreach to them.
  • Mobile is the only format that’s driving any growth in web traffic, though how that’s spread around (or not) isn’t helping apps.
  • Interesting stats from Pinterest on how women use the site to browse and shop for new styles and clothes.
  • Nope, tagging news as “fake” or “disputed” on Facebook doesn’t do much of anything and could, in fact, reinforce its appeal among certain close-minded groups.
  • Facebook Instant Articles will no longer be available via Messenger, a change that comes due to apparent lack of usage and interest.
  • Hard to argue with the points made here about how RSS is a much better news-reading system than social media.
  • Google is trying to appease publishers by ending its “first click” free trial policy, pitching the change as one that will result in rising subscriptions offsetting drops in ad revenue.
  • There’s a new purity test in place at Facebook that publishers hoping to make money on the network through ad sales have to pass in order to qualify.
  • Advertisers can now run cross-channel campaigns on Instagram Stories now that it’s been integrated into its Canvas program.
  • Changes in media consumption sometimes lead to subsequent changes in job titles.
  • It’s not that surprising – at least it shouldn’t be – that Facebook doesn’t lead to substantial revenue for publishers, who nonetheless have no plans to stop prioritizing Facebook as a primary distribution node.
  • A new study shows the sweet spot for influencer marketing ROI is somewhere just below the top celebrities, who charge too much, and the micro-influencers who are all the rage. The difficulty in finding just the right person is why both Microsoft and Google are working on software to find them accurately and efficiently.
  • Pinterest is touting crossing the 200 million member mark.
  • Snapchat’s integration with Bitmoji now allows users to include animated versions of their avatars in their Snaps.
  • Make sure you read this study concluding radio is failing at keeping up with current music because it can’t adapt at the rate artists are releasing new songs or full albums.
  • Spotify is struggling with its pivot to video, finding most success by seeding videos in popular playlists as opposed to creating a destination portal for shows.

Google Changes News Policy to Appease Publishers

According to a Wall Street Journal story last week (summarized by Business Insider for those without a WSJ subscription), Google is making some changes that it hopes will improve its relationship with news publishers. Specifically, it’s ending the “first click free” policy that let people access paywalled stories for free if they came in from search results. The change is being sold as advantageous for publishers, who will see a decline in ad revenue from fewer page views but hopefully also see an increase in paid subscriptions that offsets that decline.

The inherent problem with this approach is apparent in the paragraph above. I’ll let you go find it.

See it yet? Yeah, it’s that, lacking a Wall Street Journal subscription, I found and relied on a summary of the story on another, free, site.

This has been an ongoing argument since the advent of the internet and media companies’ first forays into online publishing. Many sites have gone back and forth with various models, from free access to total paywall lockdown to metered freemium and more. Subscription revenue is measured against advertising revenue, each one found wanting at different times.

There are different reasons people will give for the kind of news experience and content they’re willing to pay for. And I’m the first one to say I’d love to pay for online/mobile subscriptions to a dozen papers to support the work the people who produce it do. The reality is I can’t do that right now, so I have take advantage of one of the myriad free alternatives who have developed their own business models. I’ll give them the page view, which results in a small bit of ad income, in exchange for free access.

It’s unfortunate the Google “first click free” loophole is being closed, but I understand the need of the company to play nicely with publishers. They’ve often criticized Google for stealing traffic by showing a synopsis of stories on Google News that discouraged people from clicking through. Some publishers have even, over the years, sought to restrict who could link to their stories, claiming doing so violated their copyright. That was in response bloggers who would excerpt large chunks of stories, making reading the original unnecessary. Eventually they not only lost that fight but the “aggregator” industry was born as sites like The Huffington Post and others made “summarize with a small obligatory link” into their own formula for success.

So I get that publishers want to close any loophole they can. Until there are no longer adequate free alternatives who’ve been able to achieve scaled success with bare-bones operations that draft off the work of larger publications, they’re still going against the tide.

The bad news is the one thing that will kill those trailing outlets is the death, due to lack of ad/subscription revenue, of the bigger organizations they rely on. The smaller startups have diversified their business models through industry events, deep report analysis and more, but they don’t (yet) have the reporting resources that create the stories they’re quick to summarize.

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