“Brand Safe” Has Never Been a Thing

Last week AT&T made headlines when it was revealed it would once more be advertising on YouTube, something it hadn’t done in two years after discovering to its great dismay and shock that those ads might be appearing alongside offensive – or at least questionable – material. The company had decided that YouTube had addressed those concerns and assured it those ads would receive more favorable placement.

At the same time, those same concerns about content on Instagram aren’t dire enough to result in advertisers leaving that platform anytime soon as they still want to reach the audience there.

These conversations are the same ones that have been around since the early days of social publishing, as brands at one point were concerned about their Google Adwords ads showing up on offensive blog posts. There’s always been a fair amount of hand-wringing about online advertising and consumer-generated media. The fear is that if your ad shows up alongside some piece of neo-Nazi propaganda it might harm your band reputation.

It’s worth considering, though, just which platforms or media outlets may by any stretch of the imagination be called “brand safe.”

In the last few years we’ve seen a number of instances where advertisers have been pressured through boycotts to stop advertising on various Fox News shows featuring Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingarahm and others. Those shows regularly feature all sorts of white supremacist talking points, nationalist rhetoric and lots more of what could generally be considered hate speech. Many of those stoppages have been short-lived, though, with either the original advertiser returning or new ones coming in to fill the void.

While those are extreme examples there’s plenty on TV or radio that could be considered controversial or too edgy for brands to want to be any part of. Yet you rarely hear about that sort of concern being expressed. The reach and influence of those media platforms, just like Instagram is now, too great to spur companies to take actual action.

There’s always a fair amount of risk involved in any marketing. Sometimes that means your ad or other message is going to be seen during or along with content you may not wholly approve of. Two main differences are in place now, though.

First, it’s no longer just large companies producing the ad-supported media, even if they are still the ones providing the publishing platform. Advertisers aren’t placing their ads alongside YouTube’s video, for instance, they’re placing it against PepeICE4Evah’s video that’s hosted on YouTube, which is very different.

Second, the ability to pick and choose where and when ads are displayed is much more granular. YouTube and other platforms have introduced tools along advertisers to whitelist or exclude certain content or producers because of what they’ve put out in the past. So the advertiser has more control over the situation than they did when mass media was the only game in town.

Put together that means the amount of risk that brands even have to consider being comfortable has diminished to some extent. When it does become an issue, then, they are extremely sensitive to even the slightest threat, pulling ads from Fox, YouTube or whomever else as long as the math of “whose loyalty or trust will we gain” and “whose loyalty or trust will we lose” works out in their favor.

And there’s the key to this. No platform or outlet contains material that’s 100 percent safe to advertise against. This is all extremely situational, depending to a large extent on whether there are dollars to be gained or lost by taking one or another action in any given situation. When a platform is considered “brand safe” it means they have decided their corporate reputation will incur minimal damage, not that they necessarily approve of the content the ads appear within. It’s simply a pragmatic calculous being used, not an indication of brand values.

Use Every Platform (That Makes Sense)

The first teaser trailer for the updated, photo-realistically animated version of The Lion King isn’t great. It’s a shot-for-shot remake of a scene from the 1994 original and does nothing other than promise the audience exactly the same experience they had 25 years ago. Despite that, it’s been immensely popular, wracking up 224 million views online across platforms in the first 24 hours, though how many of those were bots and other problematic views remains unclear.

What struck me as interesting was this Tweet from Alex Josephson, head of brand strategy at Twitter.


Every once in a while a debate will flair up about what platform makes the most sense for marketers or media companies to publish their videos on. The opinions offered usually driven to one extent or another by the self-interest of each individual offering it. But the answer more often than not isn’t one or another, but many of them for different reasons.

In general, Tweets have a lifespan of about 18 minutes. If they don’t take off or are otherwise seen in that time they’re pretty much done for. It’s a bit longer for Facebook posts, where 75 percent of engagement happens inside of the first five hours.

On YouTube, at least as of 2010, half of views occurred within six days, a much wider window.

While putting videos on any and all relevant platforms makes sense in terms of reaching as broad and diverse an audience as possible, it also needs to make sense from a business perspective.

In other words, if putting the video on Facebook can potentially increase views by 15 percent but you’re going to see a click-through rate on the accompanying link that’s less than a quarter what you’ll get elsewhere, don’t do it. Or if the audience there is one that’s not important to achieving the goals of a specific program, don’t do it.

What Josephson’s stats show, at least on a superficial level, is that Twitter is much more popular among the potential audience for The Lion King than Facebook is by a factor of about six.

So go run your own stats. Compare not only the numbers for a single video but for several. Break them down by content type, target audience, length, timeliness of the content and more. See what works and do your best to intuit why that is.

That’s the same process you should be going through with all your marketing content stats, including testing platform performance.

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.


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.


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.

Truth As Someone Else’s Problem

Over the last few weeks YouTube has become the new favorite target of media and technology industry commentators and watchdogs due to its tendency to prioritize conspiracy videos in its recommendations. More broadly, because YouTube, like other social networks, is geared around reinforcing known behaviors, one action down this path is likely to result in a steady stream of prompts that lead you to more and more just like it. If you watch one clip from “Parks & Recreation” it’s going to immediately assume you want more and more. Same goes for watching one video about how the Parkland, FL school shooting was a Deep State false flag funded by George Soros and the Clinton Foundation.

In fact that’s exactly what happened. Even as the tragedy was just barely winding down it was coming under fire because a video accusing one Parkland student of being a paid actor became the top video related to the incident. This is far from the first time this has happened, as the story points out, and in each case the company in question – whether YouTube, Facebook, Google or someone else – pledges to look into how this could have happened but nothing ever seems to come of it. It’s a virtual lock that the next time there’s something terrible that happens we’ll be having the same conversation.

YouTube must have felt additional pressure, likely for the same reasons lawmakers have been publicly making statements regarding changes to gun law, because the company did announce one new feature: It would add links to Wikipedia entries to the videos of disputed conspiracy theories, hoping people will click those links and find out the truth instead of being easily swayed or having their hunches reinforced by the videos themselves. That move was essentially in line with what Facebook has done within the last year, when it worked with sites like Politifact and Snopes to add fact-checking to stories readers had marked as “disputed.”

Both, though, are examples of a company completely abdicating its responsibility to a community it purports to serve.

The announcement was, it was quickly revealed, made without any coordination with the Wikimedia Foundation. Nor did it come with any sort of commitment to support that group or contribute resources.

No, YouTube – which is part of Alphabet, which also owns Google – wanted to outsource the heavy lifting to the volunteer editors and contributors who keep Wikipedia running.

For various reasons (none of them convincing) Alphabet does not break out reporting on YouTube’s advertising revenue. But Alphabet has a whole recorded revenue of $25.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Yet with all that money, it is unwilling or unable to either A) Do anything more substantive about fighting the spread of false information itself or B) Contribute anything to the organization it suddenly and unexpectedly assumes will do its content policing for it. The same can be said about Facebook and it’s consistent with trending stories and news.

It’s great that YouTube is limiting the hours its human moderators are allowed to spend viewing and removing disturbing content, often involving child pornography, abject violence and more. No one should have to deal with that, especially not for hours on end. But you can’t simultaneously ask people to be a final check when you also keep insisting that technology can solve all these problems. That’s obviously not the case.

Silicon Valley’s inability to learn from its own mistakes or admit any responsibility for what appears on its platforms is as inexplicable as it is predictable. The same problems keep coming up. Facebook just yesterday had to deal with a problem where searches were autocompleting with suggestions for child porn. If that sounds familiar it’s because YouTube had exactly the same issue just five months ago.

There are systemic problems baked into the technology that’s being produced and which we all have hailed as innovative and world-changing for the last decade. Unfortunately the companies producing that tech seem completely uninterested in solving those problems, instead counting on low-paid or volunteer fact-checkers to do the heavy lifting, sometimes without their knowledge or consent. All this while the sources of misinformation rush in to fill the vacuum left by legitimate professional news organizations that have been decimated in part because those same tech companies are eating up all the ad spending.

4/5/18 Update: As it faces increased scrutiny over both data usage and the spread of disinformation on its site, Facebook has announced a slew of new initiatives to “give context” to news. One of those includes linking to the Wikipedia entries for news organizations, though like YouTube there’s been no additional comment around how the company might support the largely volunteer Wikipedia organization and mission.

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

Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 2/13/18

I don’t have much to add to it but if you haven’t read this piece at Buzzfeed about the very real dangers we face from technology that allows reality to be manipulated in scary ways, you need to do so right damn now.

Similarly, Wired has a report on the upheaval within Facebook in the last two years as the site as it’s struggled with an identity now that “help people connect” isn’t enough of a goal and those in charge are actually being asked what good or bad purpose it solves and what it plans to do about the latter.


Disney’s streaming OTT plans have begun to come into focus and it’s more or less exactly what you would expect. There’s an emphasis on Star Wars as well as updates or new twists on established Disney properties like Lady & The Tramp and more. The question of what this means for the studio’s stake in Hulu is also answered as it will become the outlet for any R-rated or adult fare while the branded service remains all-ages friendly.

Along those same lines, Viacom will be launching its own branded streaming service with its own titles. In the same earnings call the company made it clear it has plans to turn around the ailing fortunes of Paramount, which has struggled as it sold off a number of films, had others flop and more. Also, the reactions to Viacom purchasing the VidCon conference are…yeah, just what I thought.

Digital media jobs in a number of sectors are growing in the Los Angeles area. That’s great for them, but not so great for anyone not there.

Given the anger directed at the media – anger that’s been fueled by powerful people who are unaccustomed to being held to account – it’s hard to argue that some sort of journalist protection law is necessary, thought its necessity doesn’t make the reality any less disappointing.

M.G. Siegler has some outstanding thoughts on why the movie theater-going experience is terrible. Notably, he hits a point I’ve made a couple times: The theater chains and the studios basically only want us to go to the theater for blockbusters, but when those blockbusters are terrible or simply fail to catch on, there’s literally no other model they’re willing and able to fall back on.

Content Marketing

Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed has said his company will pull back advertising from sites like Facebook and YouTube if they don’t do more to protect children and make other safety changes. I’d like to believe this but don’t see a hard line being drawn here as shareholders won’t long stand for the company not reaching that kind of audience. My cynical side says this is a lot of rhetoric that’s meant to get headlines but won’t amount to very much. That being said, the biggest – the only – thing that will affect real change is if the social network companies start feeling a pinch in their wallets.

Of course that may not matter at all because Facebook is more reliant on small advertisers than big ones.

David Cohn at Adweek has a really interesting piece on how Tumblr has fallen out of the spotlight when it comes to the attention received by advertisers and brand publishers, something that he ties to the platform’s mishandling by Yahoo after that purchase. The one caveat I would add is that while user growth isn’t expected to be massive and the marketing industry isn’t counting on it any longer there still *is* a vibrant community there that actually may get stronger without the interference of advertisers, one that’s much more about support than a toxic environment like reddit and others.

Social Media

Medium has tweaked its homepage, but it’s still not the RSS-like “here’s everything that’s new from the people/topics you follow” experience I really want, just more of the “recommended for you” approach.

Someone needs to start a single-serve site displaying whether or not Logan Paul is or isn’t suspended from YouTube’s monetization program. As of last Friday the status would have been “Suspended.” Along those lines, the video-sharing site has outlined the new rules for creators and the access they have to preferred partner status.

Facebook is testing a downvote button but just for comment moderation because “make the rest of the internet just like Digg 1.0 or reddit” was apparently someone’s idea of how things should go. It’s also changing the way it calculates post reach to only include when a post has been loaded on someone’s screen, not just when someone *could* have seen it. And there’s a new section coming specifically devoted to breaking news videos along with a new “Lists” post type which should make those “…your first eight concerts” memes that much more irritating.

The redesign of Snapchat – much-anticipated and heralded as the key to the platform finally catching on with older people – is so far doing a fantastic job of honking off the younger users who have made it so popular to date.

New numbers from eMarketer report that Facebook is losing young – under 25 – users faster than expected and the problem is only going to accelerate. As the story says, these numbers may not be 100% accurate but even if reality isn’t quite that bad, the *perception* that the site is quickly shedding hip, young users could mean advertisers start to abandon it.


Urrmmm…The live news app being added to Apple TVs isn’t really that, it’s just a portal to the apps for various media brands and it still requires you to have a cable subscription to access.

One element I haven’t seen completely explored in the news Amazon is testing its own delivery service is that it essentially used USPS, UPS and other services as a testing ground for over a decade, learning what worked and what didn’t before going out on its own.

Gen X and Millennial investors are tech-savvy themselves and are looking for financial advisors who use social media, apps and more as well.

A good op-ed in Variety about how those who rely on copyright protections for their livelihood and career desperately need the rules regarding infringement – specifically how it relates to the tech companies that serve as pathways to content – to be rewritten as part of a renegotiated NAFTA.

Virtual reality devices are still too expensive for people – particularly kids – to own themselves and so are flocking to VR arcades to get the immersive experience they expect. In case you’re not old like me, this is exactly the same reason kids went to video game arcades in the 70s and 80s, because the Atari 2600 we had at home wasn’t nearly as cool as the big games available elsewhere. Once PlayStation and Xbox brought higher game quality home, you didn’t need arcades. So as VR technology gets cheaper, expect the same pattern to unfold.

AMP Stories is a new format that’s been introduced by Google, allowing publishers to put together nifty little packages around a single topic, monetizing those stories with interstitial or other ads, though there still seem to be other issues needing to be worked or figured out. “AMP for Email” will let you do more all without leaving the Gmail environment because it’s now a universal belief among tech companies that letting people leave at all is a bad thing.

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

Quick Takes – Content Marketing and Media News for 1/23/18


Amazon Studios seems to be in the midst of a bit of upheaval in terms of direction, canceling a number of beloved shows (many of them by female creators, which is coming off as a bit tone deaf) and with reports it’s shifting its film acquisitions away from indie fare to bigger blockbusters. That’s being positioned as an evolution in its approach but it’s hard to figure how this is going to endear it to anyone. Basically what the studio is saying is that those smaller filmmakers were great to use to build prestige and get its foot in the door but now it would like some of the buzz Netflix got for Bright, thank you and good day. That makes this report from a Sundance panel where streaming platforms were praised for their support of underrepresented filmmakers and quirky stories a bit awkward.

At the same time, Moviepass announced it formed a division that will seek opportunities to acquire films in partnership with distributors, which is 100% a move designed to set the stage for it to launch its own streaming subscription service because theaters don’t want to do business with it any longer than they have to.

The writers at the L.A. Times voted to unionize and, I imagine, Joe Ricketts spent four hours vainly trying to shut down the paper before someone was finally able to remind him he didn’t own it.

It’s hard to adequately measure how nonsensical and poorly thought-out Facebook’s move to let readers rank the authority of news outlets is. This isn’t a Maytag clothes dryer here, people. It’s the news. Plus, isn’t “rank the authority of the news” kind of the point of how the News Feed worked before, with engagement and interaction with content signaling the opinion that you trusted that outlet? This is going to fix nothing and, by encouraging small, devoted groups of indoctrinated followers to game the system, could make things even more problematic than they were before.

Rupert Murdoch thinks the key is for Facebook and Google to start paying publishers carriage fees similar to what cable companies pay to networks and I can’t ever stop laughing.

Content Marketing

Marketers don’t think pre-roll (or any other form of “roll”) ads are going to be much good long-term and so are increasing their plans to invest in the branded content publishers are offering to produce and distribute.

Speaking of which, look for Facebook to address branded content in some manner in the near future because it wants to emphasize just the kinds of pre- and other-roll ads in videos that marketers are no longer interested in.

Social Media

Facebook is hoping adding the ability to create and add to Stories from the desktop web will help spur use of a feature that is seen as a major ad revenue engine but which hasn’t been widely-adopted to date.

Snap last week laid off about two dozen staffers, many from its content team, which isn’t exactly the “everything’s fine here” message the company wants to be sending amidst multiple reports of falling revenue and internal chaos.

About 40% of Facebook users have viewed a Watch video since that feature launched. Cool, but I’m curious as to what that number will be after the recent News Feed change and after the curiosity factor wears off and people realize it’s just Facebook creating a less-interesting version of YouTube.

Not really surprising that the biggest YouTube creators – the ones with existing massive audiences – don’t get why smaller creators who fell just below the line the site recently imposed to participate in the Preferred Partner Program are upset. Remember, these are the same “big” stars who cry foul every time YouTube changes anything that *does* impact them even slightly.


Lots of headlines around the opening of Amazon’s first official Amazon Go quick convenience/grocery store that doesn’t take cash or feature checkout clerks but charges people based on what various scanners around the store determine you walk out with. Great news for anyone who isn’t at all concerned with the erosion of privacy, the collection of biometric data by private companies and how automation is killing the kinds of jobs often filled by young workers, those trying to cobble together a variety of part-time work or immigrants who can’t get other work for various reasons. So…yay?

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

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.

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

Quick Takes: Content Marketing and Media News For 1/11/18

People aren’t thrilled with Instagram’s insertion of posts from people and accounts they don’t follow into their feeds. The company is positioning this as being discovery-oriented, showing people posts from accounts their friends might follow or which align with their interests.

The thing is, they’re doing this instead of just showing an unfiltered feed of posts from the accounts people *do* follow, which is a pretty strong indicator of interest. Also, the addition of a native “share” feature would allow people to do exactly this themselves, curate posts from other accounts under their own name. With those reasonable alternatives having been seemingly rejected, the explanation that this move is designed to increase ad inventory is the only one left.


If you haven’t read this piece by the creator of the “Shitty Men in Media” list, you need to take a few minutes and correct that oversight right damn now.

The streaming business news network Cheddar will be broadcast on Twitch, hopefully attracting the young game-playing audience on that platform.

Hulu announced it has 17 million subscribers and and audience that oh, hey, just happens to be super-attractive to advertisers. It didn’t break out how many live-TV subscribers it has.

Even as big companies dominate podcasting and billionaire owners shut down alt-weeklies, low-power radio stations are still providing a vital local voice to communities.

Speaking of which, podcast network Gimlet Media wants to be known as a “multimedia storytelling brand,” not a podcast network. Sure. OK. Got it. Now we know what VC firms are and aren’t responding well to.

Publishers feeling burnt by Facebook’s ever-changing set of rules that never seem to benefit them are SURE that emphasizing a Groups strategy will have a different result.

Facebook is also testing a new section devoted to local news and events, raising the question of how many sections and tabs will be added before the News Feed becomes all but useless. Or, conversely, how long it will take publishers and brands to notice people are only using the News Feed, so overwhelmed by the number of breakout sections that they wind up using none of them.

Social Media

To the surprise of absolutely no one, publishers who aren’t being financially compensated by Facebook to create original material are using Watch as just another video distribution platform, counting on mid-roll ads to monetize the work.

YouTube has responded to the wholly inappropriate videos posted by “star” Logan Paul, yet another sign that platforms which were a bit loose with guidelines enforcement in the past are going to have to start being responsible and accountable for the content people post.

A fascinating look into the shady e-commerce practices that are common on YouTube and elsewhere, all of them designed to sell you crap from largely fictional retailers and enrich the “shop owners” who aren’t quite scammers and yet who totally are.


Consumer interest in owning or renting physical copies of movies continues to fall, as both purchase and rental numbers dropped last year. Combine that with a year that saw the lowest number of theatrical tickets sold since 1992 and you have a great opportunity for some real innovation to be killed by theater owners who still hold too much power in the industry.

Seems there isn’t going to be another round of copyright extensions, which are usually pushed by entertainment companies. That’s apparently because enough companies think their long-lived characters have evolved into trademarks, which can’t be reproduced.

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 12/21/17


TicToc is the new breaking news channel from Bloomberg and Twitter, showing the latter is serious about being a media distribution platform. I have to think between this, Cheddar and a few other video shows Twitter will eventually break out some sort of separate channel akin to Snapchat’s Discover to get more attention.

Penske Media, which already owns Variety and other entertainment publications and websites, has acquired a controlling interest in Rolling Stone, which the company says it will revamp.

Content Marketing

The sponsored filters on Snapchat can now feature animated messages and images, a change the platform hopes will make the feature more engaging and therefore more widely used.

Enhanced direct message functionality on Twitter is being rolled out more widely, allowing brands to add more buttons to replies and better manage conversations, enhancing its usefulness as a customer support platforms.

Social Media

Facebook is removing the “Disputed Flags” from stories deemed to be questionable or outright false, citing research showing such labels actually reinforce its veracity among people whose preconceived notions or beliefs are validated by such stories. Instead it will show related stories from trusted sources and fact checks, shown to be more effective. I’ve long posited that Facebook simply validating news sources would help this problem since it’s little different from what any media editor would do. But oh, that’s right, it claims it’s not a media company. Sorry.


More music labels are signing on to YouTube’s upcoming new or revamped subscription music service. Facebook has also signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group that will allow music from that label’s artists to be included in videos uploaded by users and be used for a variety of other vaguely-defined purposes.

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 12/5/17


Paywalls are once again the tactic du jour in the media world, with The New York Times cutting the number of “free” articles readers can consume from 10 to five and Wired and Business Insider both adding limited free access before encountering a paywall.

The bad news continues to come for various media outlets, as Buzzfeed is reportedly losing significant chunks of website traffic, TheStreet cuts staff as it deals with a failed pivot to video, Cracked lays off a number of staffers and more.

Oh, and LA Weekly abruptly fired almost all its writers and editors after it was sold to a mysterious group of new owners who later identified themselves. That introduction was meant to disarm critics with charm, but which were later found to be a collection OC bros, many of whom had ties to the Republican Party. Questions were subsequently raised as to this seemed to be part of the trend (Gothamist, etc) of wealthy right-wing ideologues shutting down left-leaning media. Those new owners also announced future stories would come from unpaid “contributors,” not paid staffers.

A new report looks at how publishers are approaching mobile push alerts in terms of timing, use of aggregators like Apple News, the language and format of the alerts and more.

The purchase of Mashable by Ziff Davis has closed, driven largely by what the buyer identifies as the excellent journalism the site has produced. So it makes a ton of sense that 50 of its staffers have been laid off.


instagram_logoInstagram is touting the presence of 25 million businesses on the network, a growth of 10 million just since July of this year. You have to think that’s at least in part because it’s being positioned more and more as not just a visual marketing platform but also one for sales conversions, though that’s mostly through advertising. The fact that it calls out how many views of a business’ updates come from those who don’t follow the account can be read directly as “Because a paid ad inserted it into someone’s feed.”

Facebook is shutting down the API that’s used by third-party social CMS and reporting companies to present marketers with overviews of audience demographics. Those vendors will still get some data, but much of it will now come from Facebook directly, which has many concerned as the company doesn’t have a great track record with providing accurate numbers and the lack of third-party verification doesn’t inspire much trust.

It’s possible, based on a few recent signs and activities, that Facebook could be getting ready to open its wallet to acquire select sports streaming rights.

youtube app iconYouTube is taking steps to address the problems that have recently garnered headlines, announcing it will add more human reviewers to analyze reports of “problematic” content much like it did for violent extremist videos, hopefully working toward a more scalable, automated solution in the new future. In the meantime, it will also be charging advertisers more for some kind of “premium” placement that assures them ads will only appear on suitable and safe videos.

Plaxo is a word that can cause shudders and traumatic flashbacks among those of us who have been online for a long while. The early social network, which used to inundate users with unwanted and irritating updates multiple times a day, is finally being shut down by Comcast, a testament to how long a bad idea can survive in a big company.


Video’s share of mobile traffic is only going to get bigger, with a new report predicting it will account for 75% of that traffic in five years. That’s why net neutrality is so important, by the way, because if that’s what consumers are expecting and it’s what companies are providing, then the ISPs that control bandwidth/access will otherwise be free to throttle and charge more for that video.


I’m not sure why we need a specific podcast network that’s geared toward audiences outside of New York and Los Angeles, but apparently that’s a problem that needed to be solved. It’s part of what seems to be renewed interest in “flyover country” that includes new tech and business investment, though as usual those efforts seem focused on the wealthy and not marginalized groups, either on the founder or audience end.


CMO budgets are falling from recent years, leading many to try and do more with fewer dollars and work harder to retain customers than to gain new ones since the former costs less and has a greater ROI.

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