Metrics matter

The decline of the view-based-metric model has not been exaggerated. The quest to find an alternative is difficult. An overview.

The ad-budget crunch is felt across the media / publishing industry. While there are differences between markets, the overall trend is the same: publishers struggle generating enough revenue from the classic ad-based business models.

AdBlock and robots

One aspect of the overall situation is the growing number of AdBlock users. Now the company behind AdBlock Plus is even providing administrators with a solution to install their product across a whole network.

On the other side of the aisle, advertisers have to deal with the fact that a significant number of views on their display advertising is generated by robots and not potential customers. The Financial Times reported about a Mercedes-Benz campaign that had up to 57% of fraudulent impressions.

In a sample of 365,000 ad impressions brokered by Rocket Fuel over three weeks, Telemetry found that 57 per cent were “viewed” by automated computer programs rather than real people.

Current state of affairs

What is required is an industry wide acceptance and adoption of a new metric. Without a clear alternative in place, the view-based metric is creating the following problems:

  • For a few years already, there is a significant inflation in the value of display ads.
  • Ad space becoming cheaper forces publishers without alternative business models / revenue streams to accept ever worsening deals from advertisers and placing more ads on their digital properties.
  • This leads to even more devaluation of display ads.
  • On top of that, this trend aggravates the user experiences and frustrates the editorial side of the business. It destroys both the brand loyalty of the readers and the trustworthiness of the publication.
  • Furthermore, the waining cash reserves slash the chance of those businesses adopting new business models, because that would require substantial investments.

For some, native advertising seems like a natural way to alleviate those pains, but only a few publishers have adopted those into their core product yet. Compared with overall ad budgets, Native is nothing more than a niche in the business and doesn’t provide conclusive data and insights for the industry to adopt at scale. Additionally, most native-ad products are, as of now, far to expensive for most advertisers.

Engagement to the rescue

A new, industry-wide metric is required to stop the devaluation of advertising as a viable (main) business model.

Some publishers are lobbying for an engagement based metric model. Most prominently: the Financial Times, The Economist, Medium and Upworthy (which is radically transforming its business).

upworhty1-700x419 (Source: Upworthy)

Medium has been outspoken about their commitment to engagement-based models. Some authors are no longer being paid on the basis of how many times their articles have been seen, but how long people spent reading them.

For example, some people are now paid not by clicks, but by the total time spent reading in their collection—another experiment that could change as we learn what effects it has on the types of stories it helps produce, and how people find and read them. – Evan Hansen, Editorial Director at Medium

The engagement based metric would also reduces the strong dependency of most publishers on various social platforms and most of all on Facebook as sources for traffic. While receiving referrals will remain important, publishers will have the ability to optimize not only for click-bait, but for quality. Editorial teams will be able to focus again on the actual story.

If you let it, Facebook will take it all

As things are today, news publishing, especially in the US, is very much dependent on services controlled by technology companies. When Google closed down Google News in Spain, the traffic of the publishers who lobbied against the tech giant collapsed. This is a symbolic way of how the publishing industry is trying to cope with their current state. Instead of developing alternatives that would decrease their dependency, the strategic focus is far too often on blaming the tech industry.

Facebook has an unprecedented control over the digital distribution and spread of news, but the social network is far from satisfied being in control of how people discover news. In its everlasting quest to become the internet itself, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has started switching to a model that will reduce publishers to sheer content producers. This can be seen with their push into video. Videos hosted on Facebook perform far better than the ones who are only linked to / embedded.

“What the Shift to Video Means,” theoretically, is that much of the benefit publishers have derived from Facebook over the last three years, which required only occasional and modest adherence to Facebook’s explicit and implicit guidance, will disappear for organizations that are not interested in ceasing to be publishers to become “creators,” or in replicating their operations on another company’s platform just because it’s the momentarily dominant channel on hundreds of millions of new machines with poorly understood potential.

It makes a huge difference, especially on mobile, where Facebook dominance is now even stronger than on the web. On mobile videos hosted on Facebook will start playing (muted) automatically. What sounds like a small difference will create a distorted outcome for businesses that are operating with a view-based metric. Facebook is planing to adopt the same approach to non-video-based content as well. Publishers will be facing the decision of hosting their articles on Facebook itself, thus making it more likely for the content to be seen, but less likely that it will create any lasting value for themselves. A classic case of the middleman becoming rich and powerful enough to take over the whole stack.

Diversified business models are becoming non-optional for the publishing industry. There are alternatives to switching to different metrics or native advertising, but it is now clear that a continuation of the current state can only be considered wishful thinking.

In the end, it all comes down to Campbell’s law.

The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

Who is being shallow? How you should be thinking about Buzzfeed

The discussions around the latest financing round for Buzzfeed revealed, once again, that the company is still being misjudged. Here is why they’re the future of publishing.

In his latest column, David Carr writes about the uncertain future of spun-out print newspapers. At the same time, Andressen Horrowitz announces that they have invested 50 Million into Buzzfeed through a post that Chris Dixon, a partner in the firm, published on his private blog. They value the new-media firm at 850 Million dollars. If you have read any news about this, you’ve probably encountered the comparison to the price that Jeff Bezos paid for The Washington Post and how Buzzfeed’s value exceeds it by 600 Million.

The media landscape has been unraveling since the early 90s. No news here. News is, though, that so few journalist are able to report the fact that after all those years there is now a new breed of media companies that provide a plausible alternative to how media and news publishing companies have operated so far.

Technology is the backbone

For a venture capitalist, there is nominally little difference between Buzzfeed and Facebook or Twitter. They are investing into the technology capabilities of those companies, not into their editorial staff.

BuzzFeed has technology at its core. Its 100+ person tech team has created world-class systems for analytics, advertising, and content management. Engineers are 1st class citizens

There is a clear distinction here between Buzzfeed (or a Vox Media) and its predecessors. While traditional news organizations only involve themselves as much with technology as they feel necessary to accomplish their main objective (journalism), new media companies like Buzzfeed build technology that provides an abundance in scaling opportunities. That in turn makes them both profitable and susceptible to the interest of VCs and allows them, for now, to maintain an editorial stuff of 200, invest significant resources into investigative journalism and long-form reporting.

But there is more

As a media outlet, Buzzfeed is competing for the same advertising dollars as other media outlets, but they aren’t doing so with the same products. In his talk at the Guardian Media Summit a year ago, Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed’s CEO, said that he considers display ads to be a historic mistake that soon will be corrected. While so many of us certainly can relate to the statement, I’m sure someone at Google and Yahoo will refer to how much money this “mistake” is making them. Fact is, Buzzfeed would never attempt to compromise the experience for the user by adding ads to its site. In fact, you don’t see any display advertising on the website whatsoever. Instead of charging advertisers money for displaying ads that nobody wants to see, Buzzfeed is charging advertisers for helping them to create content that both solve the communication need of the advertiser as well as ensuring that it creates value for the recipient. For Buzzfeed this means a better user experience and the luxury not to compete in a plummeting display ad market. Advertisers get a significantly better engagement on their marketing message. This way, Buzzfeed is both a media outlet as well as the advertising agency.

To round this up:

  • Buzzfeed created a technology that allows them to build the product that users want
  • Buzzfeed offers advertisers native advertising products by allowing them to use the same tech that their editorial stuff is using to create stories thus making the advertiser happy and themselves very profitable
  • This in turn allows them to produce the kind of content that is being asked for right now

buzzfeed explained

After years in which we have seen the validity of traditional media-business models erode, companies like Buzzfeed and Vox Media at least provide a viable alternative. One doesn’t have to agree fully with any of those approaches. Looking closely, one can find sufficient reason to be doubtful about the path those new companies are taking.

The core learning, on which so many in the traditional media landscape are focusing when debating Buzzfeed, is certainly not that one has to adopt listicals with funny cat photos or a subversively viral approach to formulating headlines. Those cursory observations are preventing an old industry from learning exactly what it needs to learn from those newcomers.

This is an exciting time to be involved in publishing, journalism and media. Here at Third Wave, we strongly disagree with the notion there is a lack of good content. In fact, the opposite is the case. The difference is that great content is out there, it’s just hard to find and even harder to finance. That too is not due to lack of financial resources. In the Netherlands, De Correspondent have raised 1.7 Million in a crowdfunding campaign to launch a new media entity, in Germany a less exciting project managed to raise over a Million. There are also smaller success stories such as Deca. Those projects prove that there is both money and willingness to pay for good content. Crowdfunding it itself isn’t a business model, nor should it ever be considered one. It might work for certain projects, but it won’t be enough to provide a scalable business model that will ensure the continued existence of the fourth estate.

There is a wonderful, long interview – published on Medium, of course – between Felix Salmon and Jonah Peretti (CEO of Buzzfeed). It’s personal. It provides context to understand why Peretti is able, so far, to navigate first The Huffington Post and now Buzzfeed to being such huge success in the media world.

Be of the net, not just on it.

–Emily Bell, Director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia J School

Buzzfeed certainly is.

Work Note – Back in the writing business

A big update after a long pause.

Clever strategy to first announce a massive change in how we want to approach publishing and than just stop writing all together.

Please don’t do this at home. Or at work, for that matter.

There are both professional as well as personal reasons that led to this particular (non-)execution of a strategy that we still want to test in the field.

Professionally, we have experienced a peak in work load. Not utterly unexpected, but mixed with the fact that I became a dad (it’s a girl!) a tiny bit earlier than estimated, it led to an unprecedented reshuffling of priorities, in which family and direct client work have top priority.

Practically speaking, while I was enjoying and easing into a family routine, Johannes successfully managed to juggle all project at once. The understanding and flexibility that all of our partners and clients showed to a sudden change of pace reminded us how privileged we are to be able to work with those people.

Now that I’m back, we returning to an old routine and this post is an attempt to get back to writing. In that sense, here is a run down of things that we have been up to.

Publishing, publishing … and publishing

In various capacities, we maintain our focus on the publishing industry and keep a very close eye on industry news and developments. In that context, we couldn’t avoid the leaked New York Times report and Amazon’s very public confrontation both with Hachette as well as Warner Bros.

NYT Report

It’s a rare gift to get access to an internal strategy document from one of the leading brands in the publishing industry. There are a couple of findings that sprang to mind, but overall I’d have to agree with BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti that they are very hard on themselves and especially on their digital team and not hard enough on the print people. Considering especially the scope of things in Germany, where the pinnacle of news innovation seems to be a crowd funding project by journalists, the NYT performs beyond what most other media organizations can offer.

On a side note: it was reinforcing to see some of the findings and business model adjustment suggestions that we made for a client in Moscow last year in a similar form in the NYT report.

Amazon vs Hachette vs Bornier vs Warner

In a remarkably public way, Amazon and Hachette (they apply similar mechanics with Bornier and Warner) decided to show the world how much both sides don’t care for each other. The mechanics that Amazon applies have been document fairly publicly and – probably not to a big surprise – not quite in the market places favor.

Despite the assumed premise that Amazon does everything with the consumer in mind, they do not seem to back off in highlight of all the negative PR. In this context, the only thing that we can now hope for is for a leaked report on how much business they lose. If any.

Be it for the consumer or not, the consumer is the one that made it possible for Amazon to pull this off. The “everything store” has created a cross-industries pull effect of unprecedented proportions. They fell comfortable enough to not provide the customer with the exact thing that they want, because they know that the same customer will come back to buy something else from them anyway. A book or two more not sold isn’t going to make a behemoth of that size flinch. At this point, it would need a cross-industries collaboration to back Amazon into the corner they so deserve to be in.

Mobile Payments

As for years now, we are still constantly involved in various projects about mobile payment.

There is an unravelling happening in the industry. Starting with Square. A company that went quickly from being the darling example of all innovators to a disputed, cash-burning entity that apparently can neither find a buyer because of its overblown valuation nor does have the balance sheet that would make an IPO possible.

Despite all that, Square’s solution was regarded as the benchmark of the industry. It has to say something that this very solution is shelved now.

Mobile Wallets don’t catch on, because they are build in a way that mostly benefits the maker of the wallet, not the user. Many, if not most, mobile wallets are made by companies outside of the finance business. The play is to take away some of the power from the companies who are making a profit on cash and credit. Banks, credit card issuers, etc.

Problem is: for now, mobile wallets can’t be designed in a way that assumes that they are the only way to pay out there. Which they aren’t. Cash and plastic aren’t going to go extinct any time soon. I see a bright future for companies who succeed in building a mobile wallet as part of a larger ecosystem of payment methods. There is plenty of money in that too.

That’s basically what we have been exploring in the field. What might this look like? Where is the market for such a venture? Making feature lists, discussing business plans. This is an ongoing project, expect us to talk more about some of the insights.

With that, I’m signing off after a long update.

What we read this month (February 2014)

Our second installment of the monthly reads. This time we have a theme: the publishing industry. Enjoy!

For this year, we decided to focus on three main topics.

  • The future of work, as mentioned in the last week note
  • The future of cities, as it has always been the case
  • The future of publishing, which is not a big surprise for frequent readers of this blog

We’ve read quite a bit this month, but this time we decided to give our monthly reads a theme: future of publishing. You will find below six links to extraordinary reads both on the literature side of the industry as well as more news focused articles.

Reading those articles was both enlightening as well as reassuring for us. It’s always good to read an expert opinion that proves to us that the work we have been doing in this industry has been on the right track so far. If you enjoy those reads and want to have a more elaborate conversation, please drop us a line or come by our office.

  1. How much my novel cost me — Editor’s Picks — Medium
    The difficulty of becoming a payed novelist. All displayed in a brutally honest tale of a young writer.

  2. George Packer: Is Amazon Bad for Books? : The New Yorker
    George Packer set out to write one of those epic New Yorker articles. About Amazon, Bezos and what their cold, alogirthmic logic does to the publishing industry. While being balanced, it might make you want to cancel those Prime accounts. And if that articles doesn’t this piece on Amazon Mechanical Turk and how workers there being treated will sure do that.

  3. FEATURE-Beyond cute cats: How BuzzFeed is reinventing itself
    From Listicles and cat photos, to long-form journalism. We’ve been avid fans of Buzzfeed. Both of the content as well as the business. Jonah Peretti is playing the long game.

  4. The future of news – The Week
    It has been a while since we linked to something from Alain de Botton, but his analysis of the news industry is a must read. We especially liked his attentive observation about the relationship between the news outlet and the reader.

  5. The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Twitter Stream All in One Place | Andreessen Horowitz
    On this day 19 years ago, Netscape 1.0 was released. Marc Andreessen has been on the fore-front of everything that is web. That’s why we still link to his analysis, despite his openly libertarian, techno-solunist world view. While the title is misleading, his points are well received and we’ve been making them in a similar fashion for a while now too.

Week 174

A report on a new, long-term client relationship and a few comments about this years Transmediale.

While we are not specialized on a specific industry, we do have preferred ones, in which we apply our services. Beside the finance and the automotive industries, it is the publishing business that is both plentiful in new commissions and close to our heart.

Over the years, we have worked for various players in the field. Newspapers, Magazines, huge B2B publishing conglomerates, both nationally and internationally. Both from conversations with the clients, at conferences and with peers, we know that we have gathered significant experience in this field over time.

It still came somewhat as a surprise to us when our friend Caroline pinged us about an intro that she wanted to make between somebody she knows who is looking for some high-level consulting to start a new venture.

Little did we know what we where getting into when we said “sure, lets do it”.

Unfortunately, yet again, I can’t name the client just yet. The setup is fresh, preparations and companies are being formalized. It would be premature to go into detail, but I can lay out a comprehensive outline of our scope of operations.

What is exactly that we do?

The client – who is a known, public figure in the German publishing world – wanted high-level, strategic consulting to setup various businesses. One, the core business, is up and running and has a traditional, well prevailed business model that doesn’t need much of our attention. The second business is still in the formalization phase and one where we help shape it from the ground up.

It is both fascinating and feels pertinent to be charged with shaping the business model, working together to find an aesthetic language and the people who might be able to execute it, consulting on potential business partners and deliberate whether or not this should be rolled out nationally or internationally first.

We are fortunate in that regard and we are looking forward to being in a position to contribute something of consequence and impact onto the German publishing business.

A few notes about Transmediale

Last Wednesday, this years Transmediale started. So far, both Johannes and I only attended single events at previous ones. This time, we decided early on that we wanted to dive in deeper and bought early-bird tickets for the whole conference. The theme of the conference – afterglow – and the exceptional curation of speakers hit close to home.

At times, the conference program didn’t seem too connected to the rest of the event and to be honest, I didn’t care for much of the media-art installations that I have seen. They seem outdated, too unequipped to significantly deal with a world in which nothing anymore is absurd. We know that we passed the Rubicon without knowing where to now. In that sense, maybe the installations indeed managed to express just that.

That being said, we mostly focused on the conference program and been rewarded for it, too. The Benjamin Bratton / Metahaven Black Stack keynote has been a cognitive fireworks, one which gave us a lot to chew on for the months to come. I’d have liked to say that I understood more of it than I did, but at least now I know which way to look further. Also, there Bratton’s book that is coming out soon and that will be on top of our digital book shelves.

Than there was the Art as Evidence keynote. It was a privilege and an honor to see Trevor Paglen and Laura Poitras speak about their work. Both in what they do and how they express themselves, they differed strongly from Jacob Appelbaum who’s contribution to the panel seemed out of place and a bit self-involved.1

On the last day, William Binney, Alexa O’Brien and Annie Machon spoke about their extraordinary work and contribution to society. While I was mesmerized by their contribution, I left the panel with a feeling that I only can contribute something to resolving an unmeasurable conflict by following Assange’s and Applebaum’s plea to join the government with one goal in mind: become a whistleblower. Not because this is actually an option, but because everything else pales in comparison with the sacrifice that whistleblowers bring.

At first glance, it felt amazingly out of place to have Sputniko! be the closing speaker of this year’s event, but it might have been deliberately and a strike of genius. To be sure, her presentation felt in many regards as exactly the kind of thing that Ben Bratton critisized in his TED talk on what was wrong with TED, but after many days of charged, emotional and heavy-weight thinking, we were exposed to a character – I’m not sure where the character ends and her true self begins – that strives to understand the complex world with all the tools at her disposal in a naive, truly playful way while being fully aware that reaching out is the key to affect and change people. In that sense, Bratton and Sputniko! are as far away on one spectrum as they can be, but something tells me that they do what they do to achieve similar outcomes for us all.

  1. I like to describe what he does this days as Assange-ing it. Make of it what you will, this is my personal opinion. That is not to intended to marginalize the tremendous work that he does in various positions and occasions. It’s the public speaking that is slowly evolving into something unfavorable… 

What we read this week (17 January)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

What we read this week (22 November)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

  • What Screens Want
    Brilliant web essay by Frank Chimero, and not only because he features James Burke and The West Wing. I bet that this one will come up in a lot of conversations in the next months.
  • Prada Revolutionaries
    “Bright Green has become the left's version of right-wing transhumanism: an excuse to not solve today's problems, because tomorrow's technology will fix them for us.”
  • Tom Armitage » Driftwood
    “Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play.”
  • Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes
    “Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations.”
  • Ross Andersen – Humanity’s deep future
    "When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?"
  • Bitcoin As Protocol | Union Square Ventures
    “There is no other widely used protocol in the world today that accomplishes this: with bitcoin anyone can make a statement (a transaction) and have this be recorded in a globally visible and fixed ledger.”
  • Content economics, part 4: scale | Felix Salmon
    "It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the CMS when it comes to the question of who’s going to win the online-publishing wars."
  • InMoov » Project
    "Here is “InMoov”, the first life size humanoid robot you can 3D print and animate. You have a 3D printer, some building skills, This project is for you!!"
  • Apple and Google Maps, and Defaults | Matt Mullenweg
    “If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. Apple has the best phone, best tablet, and in many ways the best operating system — we should not give them a pass for this blatantly self-interested and user-hostile stance.”
  • Instagram and Youtube — Benedict Evans
    "WhatsApp and Instagram are not in different categories – they're direct competitors for time and attention." – This spot on.

Week 137

Igor discusses Yahoo’s acquisition of tumblr and teases a new publishing project.

It’s Yahoo! week.

The internet has been buzzing about the Tumblr acquisition for a couple of days now. Being bought by Yahoo used to be a great thing. Flickr, Yahoo Brickhouse. All those names were associated with highly competent teams and extraordinary technology. These days, the not-so-newly appointed CEO Marissa Mayer needs to openly promise that they won’t mess it up. If anything, it speaks to the fluidity of the technology business.

It will be interesting to watch what happens next. Yahoo has been clawing its way up to be considered as an equal contender among the other tech giants. Grabbing up Tumblr will help in that regard. It shows a financial commitment that will at least make the others pay closer attention. My take on this is that wether or not this take-over will be a successful one will not only be decided if Yahoo can make Tumblr profitable or not. For Yahoo this deal was not only about the potential revenue from Tumblr, it was about being perceived as a potential serious employer and partner in the near future. It’s about building a company that can change the brand perception of today’s Yahoo.

So far, the last 12 months have been successful. Appointing Mayer was a big scoop and one that gave the company credibility, but also one that has built up expectations. Mayer’s eagerness to buy Tumblr is likely to also be based on the fact that analysts and the industry in general have been waiting for a big gesture.

Her juggling those expectations seems to be working out fine so far. Launching a big update of Flickr on the next day is also a keen tactical move by the PR professional that Mayer is.

There is one mistake that Yahoo could make that would ruin Tumblr instantly: take away the anonymity/pseudonymity of the platform by requiring a Yahoo login. Lets hope they won’t walk into this trap.

In other news

We’ve been working on a small project with our dear friends from MoreSleep and Freunde von Freunden. It’s a little publication experiment that aims to give executives and key decision makers inside companies a faster and more comprehensive introduction into trends that we are seeing. No, it is not yet another trend report.

It’s too early to publish it online, but if you want to take a glance at what we are up to, drop us a line.

Jonah Peretti at Changing Media Summit 2013

Notes, insights and learning from Jonah Peretti’s keynote at Guardian’s Changing Media Summit 2013.

peretti Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti on how ideas travel on the social web – video

Well, that came in handy. While Johannes and I are spending this weekend on researching as much as possible about the publishing industry, we stumbled upon this fantastic keynote by Jonah Peretti at Guardian’s Changing Media Summit. If you are not familiar with the name, Jonah is the CEO of Buzzfeed and is hailed – quite possibly rightly so – as the wunderkind of the publishing industry. Buzzfeed is not his first success. He was instrumental to the rise of the famous Huffington Post before that.

We took some notes and thought that some of you might find them useful as well. So here it is, the video and our rather unfiltered notes (mostly just sentences he said).

A little side anecdote as to the creation of this blog post: I created the initial notes by writing them down in iA Writer, transferring them into Draft and sharing them with Johannes. There, Johannes added his notes and I had the chance to approve them. Draft is an amazing tool for collaborative writing. It’s a bit like github for writing.

Notes, Insights & Learnings

  • Over 40+ Mio unique visitors per month
  • Primarily from social
  • Mostly 18-34
  • Over 40% from mobile
  • Shift from Portals -> Search -> Social
  • HuffPo was grown rapidly through search, BuzzFeed through social.
  • “Bored-At-Work”-Network = Collectively larger than the audience BBC or CNN reaches
  • Literally hundreds of millions of people
  • Weren’t initially aware that they are part of a network
  • If your mobile doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t spread
  • Mobile and Social have converged.
  • Make something that ordinary people want to share
  • “Biggest misconception is that you need to focus on quality for things to go viral.”
  • Quality helps, but it’s not necessary
  • Idea matters, but as important is the mechanism for spreading the idea
  • You should spend an equal amount of time on how to spread an idea as you spend time on the idea itself.
  • BuzzFeed combines Art & Science, which is the creativity/the idea and the data-driven approach to spreading it.
  • R = ßz (the equation for epidemiology = how effective diseases spread)
  • Viral Rank = measures the “social production rate” of media and is measurement metric that exists in real-time
  • Maximization of Content Spread = we starve content that isn’t getting traction, and fuel the content that is taking off
  • BuzzFeed also uses machine learning to predict social hits so they know
  • Twitter has a half-life of about an hour
  • Facebook has a half-life of about a day
  • Pinterest has a half-life of about a week
  • “Our technology is made for social.” Measuring the social lift.
  • BuzzFeed uses dashboards to help editors train their intuition of what might work.
  • We behave very differently depending on the context. Content spreads differently on different platforms.
  • Google is very informational (about the information), Facebook is about connecting people (through information?), Facebook is much more emotional
  • “Humor is inherently social.” When you meet people and somebody jokes, nobody remembers the joke the next day, only that they laughed hard
  • BuzzFeed has buttons for emotions. *I think it actually helps them to channel their emotion and become more aware, thus more willing to share. “If I LOLed so hard, I should send it to my friends.”
  • Once people are reacting, they are much more likely to share -> make simple to react
  • Good news for journalism: “Aggregation worked for search, but Scoops & Quality Reporting work for Social” -> Google can’t tell the difference between the rewrite and the original scoop, but on Twitter people can tell which one is the original. They will retweet the original scoop.
  • Publishing is now a Paris Café (!!!) – You can read the Le Mond, you can pet a dog, because its cute and you can flirt with somebody. Buzzfeed tries to serve all our emotional needs.
  • Lets embrace ALL the things that make us human.
  • “Edit was first, but now the big shift to social is coming to advertising”
  • At Buzzfeed, 100% of revenue is social content marketing
  • No banner ads on BuzzFeed.
  • Brands are held to a higher bar where they must have content that people actually want to click on and read
  • It all works through the same CMS
  • Editors never touch brand content, but brands have to learn how to work as publishers / editors
  • Brands get a dashboard that shows how much earned media they are getting
  • Social can make ads great again. In the Mad Men era advertising didn’t need to cram ads into a banner, they had a whole page
  • Social can hold advertising to a new bar
  • It’s better to think long-term
  • Have a heart, having emotional is important
  • Identity: People share stuff because it’s about them
  • Something that everybody like a little gets shared less than something that only a small percentage like a lot.
  • If you can publish into the zeitgeist, you can publish into what people are talking about and you can capture the moment …
  • Nostalgia is also very social
  • Porn only works for search, not for social.
  • “The banner ad was a historical accident and we are moving past it.”
  • EQ is as important as IQ.

What we read this week (15 Mar)

A web-based “brain” for robots, a disturbing culture revolving around hijacked webcams, the trickiness of making digital publishing sustainable for its workers, misgivings about Google Glass and a former Pixar employee’s storytelling tips.

Quote of the week

No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Emma Coats

Articles of the week

  • The Atlantic: A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, 2013
    A long piece by Alexis Madrigal on the tricky state of digital publishing, in response to a similarly-titled post by Nate Thayer. Madrigal’s assessment: “So far, there isn’t a single model for our kind of magazine that appears to work.”
  • BBC News: Web-based ‘brain’ for robots goes live
    Rapyuta is a project that seeks to make robots smarter by freeing up some of their internal memory and giving them a central, online “brain,” or reference resource, to draw upon when they come across something new. There are many parallels here to the way we deal with unfamiliar situations these days – consulting YouTube, Wikipedia and Quora, for example.
  • Ars Technica: Meet the men who spy on women through their webcams
    A disturbing report on “ratters,” people who use RATs (Remote Administration Tools) to spy on their victims (“slaves”) by hijacking their webcams.
  • The Guardian: Google Glass: is it a threat to our privacy?
    Google Glass brings an element of uncertainty and distraction into human interactions, and raises even more questions than we already have about the boundaries of personal privacy. This article raises some interesting points as to how we could get around some of these problems, and in what situations society might object to this type of technology altogether.
  • Story Shots: 22 #storybasics I’ve picked up in my time at Pixar
    A list of tips that apply to much more than movie-making. (Many of them are in fact quite relevant for business consulting, among other things.)