December 4, 2017
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The Wrap was delayed again this week as I settle into my full-time job. Thanks for your patience. You're welcome to follow my link blog, which is where I collect the stories from which I choose the contents of the HC+T Briefing.
The Wrap was delayed again this week as I settle into my full-time job. Thanks for your patience.
It's YouTube's turn to introduce Stories -- Whether Snapchat stands or falls, it should be remembered for launching the Stories trend. YouTube is the latest to adopt the wildly popular feature with "Reels," currently undergoing a test, is "YouTube’s spin on the popular 'stories' format, but designed specifically for YouTube creators," according to a senior product manager. Creators will be able to pick which of their videos to make available for 24-hours through Reels. Takeaway: Is your company producing Stories anywhere yet? Given their popularity, coming up with a Stories plan isn't a bad idea. Read more
End of net neutrality rules will hit marketing -- One expert says the impact of the FCC ending the definition of internet providers as common carriers will be "profound." One example: freemium marketing has been built on the idea of uniform availability. Everyone who found your company could sign up as part of their modest monthly internet fee. Without net neutrality, however, some companies may find themselves blocked because they compete with a similar offering from the blocking ISP. Or they may have to pay an access fee to reach potential customers, thus boosting the price of freemium’s formerly low-cost strategy. Or some customers may have to pay a lot more to use the free product, especially if it involves video." Takeaway: And that's just one likely effect. Others affect inbound marketing and content marketing. There is still time to voice your support for net neutrality. Read more
Bots invade FCC's comment system -- Just as bots were employed in efforts to influence voters in the 2016 elections in the U.S., the comment system used for public feedback on FCC proposals has been infiltrated. More than 1 million comments in favor of repealing net neutrality rules originated from spambots. Takeaway: Elections were just the beginning. Any organization soliciting public input needs to be vigilant for automated attempts to game the system. Read more
YouTube ads appear near pedophile comments -- Brand safety was front and center in the news again as advertisers suspended their YouTube advertising after learning their ads had been placed alongside videos that seemed to attract pedophile viewers. Mars, Adidas, and Diageo were among those who stopped advertising on YouTube. Takeaway: It's another example of introducing a technology and dealing with its shortcomings later. It's also an opportunity for other media -- from traditional channels to companies selling sponsored content, to tout their advantages. Read more
Facebook suspends ad targeting used to discriminate -- It has been possible to use Facebook's audience targeting to exclude people based on race. The company said it will investigate how the feature could be used to discriminate and how it can prevent the practice. Takeaway: In the tech world, the pace of innovation has led to an implement-first mentality. Once issues like this are identified, tech companies need to fix them quickly before more damage is done. Read more
Snapchat rolls out major redesign -- Snapchat's new design simplifies the platform with three main windows (camera, friends page, and Discover page) that separate social interactions from content produced by media organizations and verified celebrities. "the new Snapchat separates all interactions with friends in a section of the app to the left of the camera. That includes messaging threads and so-called Stories — photos and videos someone shares, shown in chronological order, that disappear in 24 hours." Takeaway: I have heard from many people that they favor Instagram because it's easier to figure out. Finally giving in to the feed idea could bring some new users to Snapchat (and bring some defectors back). The question is whether Snapchat is now too much like competitors to offer anything compelling enough for people to abandon their existing networks. If the move pays off, it will be in large part because of the content play rather than the social media features. Read more
Viral grassroots protest plays out on Reddit -- When big news breaks, it's not unusual for Reddit's home page to be swamped with posts about it emerging from bit subreddits. But the swarm of posts calling out U.S. Senators who took donations from big telecom companies and remained silent on the FCC's net neutrality plans emerged from smaller communities. Most began with words to the effect of "This is my representative, and they sold out this nation to the telecom lobby for _____ dollars." Takeaway: Pay attention to this aside from the net neutrality debate. Aggregation of protests from smaller venues could add a powerful voice to public issues. Either Reddit will need to become more mainstream or the Facebooks and Twitters of the world will provide the aggregation before "aggregate protest" becomes a thing. Read more
Snickers "Hungerithm" comes to America -- After a successful run in Australia, Snickers' "Hungerithm" is being introduced to Americans. "The algorithm checks social media posts in real time against a list of 3,000 commonly used words and phrases, including slang, to determine sentiment and capture a snapshot of how people are feeling. It also generates prices for Snickers bars that vary according to the internet's mood." Takeaway: I don't usually post items about ad campaigns, but Snickers' use of data to produce a real-time dashboard of sorts is a demonstration of what we can do with data. It requires a new way of thinking as well as new skills. Read more
- Facebook is testing a Messenger tool that will "that businesses would be able to use to send message blasts to people who had conversed with their accounts." Read more
- Amazon has introduced a new suite of five video processing tools, part of AWS Media Services, designed to help any organization with or considering video services build, service and monetize video streams. Read more
- Vine could be making a comeback. Its founder says he's working on a follow-up to Vine, which will probably include many of the features developers and viewers loved about the original, including the six-second limit. Read more
- Facebook has published an ad policy manifesto designed to ensure that (as COO Sheryl Sandberg put it) "our platforms (are) a place where people connect with the businesses they care about in safe and meaningful ways." Read more
- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is concerned about a growing number of reports of deleted negative reviewed on TripAdvisor. Read more
- Responding to a request from Congress, Facebook will introduce a tool to its online support center that will show people which Russian propaganda pages and accounts they have followed and liked. Read more
What's the future of media? -- Henry Blodget, Business Insider CEO and former head of Merrill Lynch's internet research team, unveiled "14 things you'll want to know about the future of media." Among them: there's not much more time people can spend with media (daily media and tech consumption will only grow 18 minutes over the next five years), ad spending on podcasts is accelerating, the idea that a "pivot to video" will save traditional publishers "is nuts," smart speakers and autonomous vehicles won't account for a lot more media consumption, Augmented Reality will be bigger than Virtual Reality, and "social stories" represent an area for significant growth. Takeaway: Good insights with a lot of detail in a 49-page deck on the big changes happening in media. The potential for growth of "social stories" suggests communicators who have figured out the "paid" part of the PESO model could get some serious support that used to go to traditional advertising. Read more
Companies are renewing the podcasts they sponsor -- Content renewal overall is about 40%, but companies are renewing the podcasts they pay for at a much higher rate. Branded shows produced by podcast production companies like Gimlet Creative and Pacific Content are being green-lit for new seasons by companies like Tinder, McAfee, Prudential, and Slack. Companies are spending as much as $1 million for a season of shows designed to reach niche audiences that often have a reach only in the high five figures. Takeaway: Podcasting has always been about reaching niches, just as micro-influencers -- a current favorite marketing channel -- wield greater influence over smaller groups of followers. Read more
Companies embrace Instagram business profiles -- A business profile is to Instagram what a Page is to Facebook, and 10 million of them have been established since July, bringing the total to about 25 million. "Eighty percent of Instagram’s 800 million monthly users follow a business, and roughly 40 percent of the 500 million people who check Instagram daily view at least one business’s profile." Takeaway: Instagram is also the platform of choice for influencers. Given the struggles to attain reach on Facebook, maybe some of those resources would be better invested in Instagram. Read more
Amazon's influencer network is struggling -- Amazon Spark seemed like such a good idea, a social network that paired influencers with retailers. Launched in July, the network hasn't attracted people recognized as influencers, with 74% responding to a query reporting that they were unsure whether they'd have a presence on Spark during the 2017 holiday season. Only 22% plan to be on the network. Takeaway: I'm not sure this isn't just a slow-growth channel. It's too soon to write off Amazon's Spark, but Instagram remains the clear choice and Spark has to offer a reason for influencers to change or spend extra time on one more network. Read more
Celebrities don't impress Millennials -- A survey of millennial internet users found that they were either indifferent to celebrity endorsements or saw them negatively. An earlier survey found that only 22.1% of adult internet users could be influenced to buy from an unknown brand from a celebrity. Takeaway: If your organization is thinking of spending money on a celebrity endorser, you may want to reconsider. Celebrity endorsements will never vanish but may be in decline. Read more
- Facebook owns four of the top five downloaded apps in the third quarter. Only Snapchat wasn't a Facebook property. The others: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Read more
Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots
Alexa goes to work -- Amazon has introduced Alexa for Business, which will let companies build their own skills and integrations. The conference room is the first target for Alexa for Business, which is working with big-name audio conferencing providers like Polycom. "There are also more practical uses for Alexa in a work setting, such as changing the temperature in a particular conference room or turning the lights on and off. Plus, Alexa for Business has all the same capabilities as a regular old Echo, letting users get information about news, weather, set timers and alarms, and ask questions." Takeaway: Not to mention that the "drop-in" feature would let anybody call anybody else in the company simply by saying, "Drop in on Bob." With the addition of a few more features (like the ability to leave a voice mail), smart speakers could make the office phone obsolete. Read more
Voice is the key disruption -- With the announcement of Alexa for Business, Amazon has planted a flag on the future of voice. The company's CTO "described a future that isn't as distant as it once was, where surgeons can talk to equipment while performing surgery, or parents can 'scream' at their devices while dealing with a busy schedule." Takeaway: Start planning for voice technology. Ignoring smart audio now is like ignoring the web in 1998. It will be the interface to much of the AI and other technologies that are becoming central to communications. Read more
- Starting in early 2018, developers will be able to build Alexa skills that recognize unique human voices. Echo devices will be able to deliver tailored information based on knowing whose voice in the household (and eventually the office) it's hearing. Read more
- "The CMO's Guide to AI's marketing impact for 2018" offers steps to help get ready for the proliferation of AI tools in the marketing space. Read more
Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality
1 million VR headsets ship in one quarter -- It's a milestone: a million VR headsets were shipped in 2017's third quarter, a first for the product category. Sony was at the top of the heap, shipping 490,000 of its Playstation VR product. Oculus shipped 210,000 headsets and HTC's Vive accounted for 160,000. Takeaway: VR is gaining a strong foothold in Japan, which is often a harbinger of tech trends in the west. I still think it's appeal will largely be in niches (especially gaming and training), but that doesn't mean it won't become a staple of those niches. More VR now also means greater receptivity to Mixed Reality when headsets become available to consumers. Read more
Amazon launches browser tool for building AR, VR experiences -- Sumerian is an in-browser tool developers can use "to put 3D models together in scenes for use in VR and AR applications. It includes an object library full of models that people can put to use." Takeaway: The easier it gets to create AR and VR experiences, the more (and more variety) we'll see, giving people more reasons to use it. Communicators would be wise to identify developers who know how to use these tools, especially since access to tools like this should drive down the cost of development. Read more
Blockchain pets -- Cryptokitties lets you buy, breed, and sell a virtual cat whose lineage is maintained on a blockchain. Takeaway: The fact that somebody may be set to make money from a frivolous use of blockchain technology suggests it's getting more mainstream. At some point, the product will matter more than the fact that it's using blockchain, which will just become infrastructure. Read more
Report introduces "asset chains" -- A report from the Blockchain Research Institute has identified a huge opportunity for the technology to overhaul the way supply chains work, removing "non-value adding" intermediaries that exist to establish trust between organizations that trade with each other. "These new supply chains are autonomous, distributed, and cognitive," the report predicts, based on a foundation of "'asset chains,' which provide a framework for machines to participate autonomously in supply chains and the markets they serve." Takeaway: These intermediaries include some big companies. Communicators need to be ready to explain the threat and what the company is doing to address it. Read more
- A cryptocurrency startup has partnered with more than 20 companies, including Microsoft and Fujitsu, "to launch the first publicly accessible data marketplace for the Internet of Things." The marketplace will be powered by a blockchain. Read more
- Blockchain can have an impact on newsrooms, "making sure that rights are obeyed, authors get fair payment, and that content is distributed as widely as possible, should be taken off their hands," and leaving media organizations free to focus on "recognising and commissioning talent, being an editorial brain through directing coverage, and aggregating different types of content into a package." Read more
The latest from the FIR Podcast Network
- Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips and Lynette Young joined me for last week’'s FIR podcast to talk about when to send your Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotional emails if you want customers to actually open them; whether Google and Twitter (or media outlets) could introduce provenance to facts in order to help readers know when what they are reading is true; the growing importance of “brand safety” to chief marketing officers; how Honda is using Facebook ad targeting for something other than selling cars; and the success of some new digital ad formats — including VR, AR, 360-degree video, and interactive content. Dan York’s tech report covers new data breaches, the latest update to the Gutenberg editor (which will be part of Wordpress 5.0), another Facebook appropriation of a SnapChat feature (this time it’s streaks), and the FCC’s plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. Listen
- On the latest Digital India, Suresh talks about how they come up with content for the Web Marketing Academy, discussing the WMA's failures, what worked and didn’t work, and why they choose not to have PowerPoint decks their classes or have an online course, along with why they don't do webinars. Listen
- Sherrilynne Starkie, host of The Voice, chats with Annie Marsolais, BDC's marcoms vice president, following her recent presentation to IABC Ottawa. In this episode, we learn how BDC -- Canada's only bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs -- is transforming perceptions about its brand. Listen
- In the latest episode of Thought Leader Life, Mitchell Levy exchanges insights with Robert Clancy (@GuideToSoul), the co-founder and managing partner of Spiral Design and bestselling author of "Soul Cyphers." Listen
On the Calendar
- I'm in Boston as I type this. I'll deliver a pre-conference session tomorrow and a conference session on Tuesday at Ragan's intranet conference at IBM Watson's Boston offices.
- I'm delivering the closing keynote talk at Ragan's 2018 Internal Communications and Culture Conference in Chicago on March 8.
- On March 14, I'll speak at Ragan's annual social media conference in Orlando.