Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 11/14/17

A new study shows that headlines of 90 to 99 characters have the highest click-through-rate, but that runs counter to best practices for search engine optimization and other platforms, so who the hell knows, just do what’s working for you, man.

There seem to be flaws with this study on how the timing of news released on Twitter can influence conversations, but it’s an interesting premise and one that seems worthy of further exploration.

Pinterest has official launched board sections to help people better organize the material they share on that network. And it’s rolled out QR-like codes businesses can add to packages and other material that quickly create shoppable pins, the latest example of the QR code concept being a solid one, even if the initial execution didn’t take off.

There are a number of reasons outlined here as to why Musical.ly may have sold to a giant Chinese company for a reported $800 million, but the point is that this site didn’t exist three years ago and there’s arguably still a lot of potential that remains unlocked.

Mattress company Caspar becomes the latest business to launch its own unbranded print lifestyle magazine.

YouTube has heard the recent round of criticism about the inappropriate nature of many videos that appear at first glance to be aimed at kids and announced moves to try and clean up the problem.

After an unsuccessful rollout of an events-specific app, Facebook is trying again with Local, a new app that offers a single source of local recommendations and reviews from those you know. It also merged Stories with Messenger Day to make posting Stories across channels a bit easier.

Interesting stats here on the top publishing platforms, including how WordPress not only dominates in general but does so specifically in business usage.

I get what Amazon is doing with its reported plans (which it has disputed) to offer a free, ad-supported video service, but I’m failing to see how that can be described as a Netflix competitor, which is what many headlines have done. Meanwhile FullScreen is shutting down its streaming video subscription service, citing the high costs of keeping it going and the fact that the money might be better invested in other areas. And Philo announced it’s launching a subscription service that will, at least initially, only include entertainment content.

Advertisers on Snapchat can now link their Sponsored Lenses and Geofilters to their websites to increase conversion rates and extract more value from those ads.

ESPN is the latest media company to announce big Snapchat plans, launching twice-daily SportsCenter shows on the app.

Artists on YouTube can now add links to Ticketmaster events like concerts to their video descriptions to ease conversions.

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

Snap Scrambles To Keep Momentum

Snapchat has to start delivering if it wants to continue being seen as hot tech.

Yesterday was a rough day for Snap, the parent company of Snapchat. For the third quarter in a row it reported it failed to meet analyst expectations on a number of fronts. User growth was the slowest it’s been since early 2012, with just 4.5 million people joining the messaging service. And the introduction of automated, auction-based advertising is driving prices down, especially when compared to the fixed pricing that is in place when a company works through Snap’s own sales team. To add insult to injury, it admitted that Spectacles, rolled out earlier this year to much fanfare and sold exclusively through pop-up vending machines, were a dud and that it’s cost almost $40 million to store devices that were either never sold or which have had their orders canceled.

In response CEO Evan Spiegel said the company was making a number of adjustments:

First, it’s going to begin opening its wallet for creators who are using the platform to incentivize continued usage and would add more monetization options in the near future. Additional production features may also be forthcoming. That could be helpful since a recent study found influencers were cooling on the platform and going where there’s more money.

Second, it’s going to undertake a redesign effort to make the app easier to understand and use. Details on what that might entail were not offered – and may not yet be decided – but any substantive change runs the risk of being more generally acceptable while alienating the core user base.

Shades of Twitter

If this all seems vaguely reminiscent of the conversations we’ve had around Twitter in the last few years, you’re not wrong. Twitter has struggled for a while to define its unique value proposition and answer the core question of “Now what?” that’s asked by new users. It’s balanced the need to smooth out the on-ramp with not upsetting the power users of the network.

Those efforts have been hit and miss. Changes to the app navigation, the introduction of Moments, the shift to an engagement-driven Timeline, even yesterday’s roll-out of 280-character updates, have been greeted warmly by some and derided by others. Only in this most recent quarter does their story seem to be turning around as daily active user growth, ad revenue and other numbers all begin to solidly move in the right direction.

What’s At Stake

Snap reported Snapchat has 178 million total daily users at the end of last quarter. While it might not be as high as investors and others would hope for, it’s not insubstantial. Even more than the sheer numbers, it’s the app’s popularity among teens and young adults that makes it so popular. 47% of teens told Piper Jaffray it was their favorite app. Almost 60% percent of those who use it are under 25 years old. It’s used these stats to attract the attention of media companies, encouraging them to create original productions as well as buy Sponsored Lenses and other ad products.

Snapchat has also firmly positioned itself as the chief innovator in the social tech industry. The Stories format it introduced years ago has gone on to be copied or mimicked by almost all competitors, sometimes with unintended consequences. Likewise for face filters and other photo manipulation tools. It’s experimented with AR and other boundary-pushing features.

What’s Next?

Yes, Snap has to prove it not only has appeal for those over 25 – and that it’s easy to use without needing to bring in a Millennial consultant for assistance – but that it’s viable as a long-term business. Even Silicon Valley will only tolerate so much experimentation, no matter how cool it is, before a company has to produce tangible results.

That reported redesign will be a major test, not just for users’ tolerance for change but for how much investors feel they were sold a bill of goods when the company IPOd back in February, though it’s not as if the numbers were all that great at that point either.

In short, so far Snapchat has been attractive to investors, advertisers and media producers because of the promise of what it could be, not necessarily because of what it is. Eventually, we’re going to have to get to the point where it delivers on that promise.

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.

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.

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 10/17/17

Snap and NBCUniversal have partnered to create more original programming for the messaging platform, with the prolific Duplass Brothers helping to do so.

I hope I’m not the only one who had never heard of the mobile app tbh, which is focused around positivity, before, because it just got acquired by Facebook, which apparently is going to allow it to operate on its own.

Feature creep combined with lack of access to the necessary infrastructure are going to limit the growth of skinny bundles, according to a new forecast.

WhatsApp is the latest messaging/social app to add live location-sharing, which is good news to all those frustrated stalkers out there. Didn’t we have this conversation when Snapchat did this?

The new Video Website Card ad format from Twitter is meant to combine videos with direct action ads, allowing advertisers to capture leads more easily.

Screen-sharing is now a native feature in Facebook Live.

Even Facebook executives realize Twitter is a better platform for conversations and crisis management.

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/12/17

Not surprising that activewear and beauty brands are those most likely to engage in influencer marketing, but it is a bit shocking that 70% of brands across industries have done so.

Time spent in mobile shopping apps is growing, with the biggest players like Amazon and Target seeing the most benefit from that trend.

If you read one thing today, make it Farad Manjoo’s gut-check of the “Frightful Five” technology/entertainment companies and the hold they either have or could have on culture.

Twitter continues to get it wrong on every possible occasion by suspending Rose McGowan’s account in the middle of her crusade against Harvey Weinstein and other abusers, apparently because she included a phone number in one Tweet. Meanwhile, those calling McGowan and countless other women the most terrible of names (not to mention all the racism) are just fine, thanks. She was eventually reinstated.

Publishers are finding Facebook Live isn’t living up to its initial promise and so are reexamining Twitter as a place to host live video programs and broadcasts.

There’s so much good information in this story recapping a study into mobile push alert usage, the issues publishers face in providing them and more. Highly recommended.

Facebook says it deals with “fake news” in about three days after it’s published, which is about two days and 18 hours too late.

Yes, Snapchat is still doing just fine with teenage audiences, who still prefer it to Instagram. At least according to this study. Next week there may be a new one that directly contradicts those numbers. Nothing matters.

YouTube has relaunched its Creators website with more tools on how to produce quality videos and attract an audience.

To the surprise of hopefully no one, LinkedIn is slowing rolling out and experimenting with videos ads that will likely become more and more common as time goes on.

Blah blah blah Facebook 3D posts VR blah blah blah.

Facebook has introduced Stories for Pages, allowing brands and publishers to jump in on the hot new format being adopted by roughly every social and messaging platform in the hopes that someone will please use it because right now no one is.

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 10/3/17

comScore is the latest company seeking to help advertisers determine how well their ads, in this caseTV and digital, are driving physical store sales.

More shade being thrown on the cost-effectiveness of what are now called “macro-influencers,” those with huge audiences.

More ways for retailers to use Instagram’s shoppable posts are now available.

You can now add polls to Instagram Stories, getting your followers’ feedback on whatever you like.

Facebook is finally adding new tools for publishers and creators tired of having their videos freebooted, integrating third-party services into Rights Manager.

The Verge and Polygon are joining Buzzfeed in producing live video programming for Twitter.

Snap Accelerate is a new program from Snapchat to help startups who are just figuring out their advertising in general embrace that platform quickly and easily.

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News for 9/22/17

  • Hulu is committing $2.5 billion to the arms race it’s engaged in with other streaming companies who see original content as the key to success.
  • An analysis by Parse.ly shows Flipboard is second-only to Twitter in terms of sending referral traffic to publishers on mobile devices.
  • The pilot of the new supernatural comedy “Ghosted” will premiere on Twitter days before it airs on TV, part of a deal between Fox and Twitter.
  • Brands are adding social media influencers to their marketing rosters to harness and own their creativity and I will be over here never stopping hitting my head on my desk.
  • Interesting thinking here about the future of AI in the news industry, both as part of production and consumption.
  • Pinterest is finally rolling out “Sections,” allowing people to create sub-boards to more finely tune their saved and shared links.
  • No surprise that thanks in large part to the (largely) free nature of the platforms, social media is a big part of the marketing plans of small businesses.
  • Audience ad targeting on Pinterest just a lot more detailed.
  • The RIAA is out with a mid-2017 report showing just how much money it’s making from streaming services, a big change from the download model of not too long ago.
  • I’m actually quite shocked at the percentage of traffic to Nordstrom’s that’s reported to come from influencer marketing programs.
  • Medium continues to pivot, including plans to hire editors and curators as part of its next iteration, though Ev Williams still doesn’t have a clear answer to what the site/platform is.
  • Female influencers aren’t huge on Snapchat, preferring Instagram and even Pinterest.
  • Facebook is introducing a new way to target offline retail customers with ads and tie those ads to physical sales. This is super-creepy and not far off from what I predicted here.