Crisis hits Paris and technology companies swing into action, the relationship between Facebook and publishers gets complicated, IBM's global C-suite study, we notify you about Notify, video piracy on Facebook, Twitter gets less white and male, what happens when someone dies at an Airbnb rental, reliable channels to connect with customers, the first honest video about your cable company, Rolling Stone gets sued for $25M, the future of data sharing, Edward Snowden endorses ad blocking, plus our weekly trivia challenge, the podcast pick of the week and more in The Week in Digital, a roundup of relevant links affecting the industry.
Below is a series of links, analysis and commentary about current events and trends in the worlds of technology, business, digital communications and marketing, written to help leaders keep up to speed with changes, newsworthy items and content that might be useful in your job. A new issue is available every Monday morning. Please subscribe and get your own copy delivered to your inbox every week.
News items are in regular text; additional commentary has been added in italics.
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- The Internet united on Friday evening, as news of the Paris attacks spread quickly over social media. Most notable was Facebook's activation of a Safety Check tool to determine whether friends were marked safe. This was the first non-natural disaster use of the application (it had previously been used for the Nepal earthquake in April of 2015, the Chile earthquake in September and Hurricane Patricia last month).
- After receiving some criticism for the service not being used during recent Beruit terrorism acts, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook will activate the service for more human disasters.
- In addition, Facebook activated the the ability to create a temporary profile picture with its Causes function, allowing users to superimpose the French flag over a photo for a specified period of time.
- Other technology companies joined Facebook in providing value during the crisis:
- Uber suspended surge pricing.
- Airbnb urged Paris users to open their homes and activated a disaster response tool.
- Twitter used the #PorteOuverte hashtag to signal help was needed or offered, used its Moments feature to curate the news, and became the definitive go-to source for up to date information on the crisis.
- Google let users make free calls on Hangouts.
- Reddit had a constantly updating thread of live updates.
- If Facebook were to update the status of its relationship with publishers, they'd chose "It's Complicated." The landlord-tenant relationship (as in "rented media") has resulted in far less traffic being driven to publisher's websites — up to a 30% loss of traffic in some cases — which in turn is causing Facebook to reassess Instant Articles.
- Facebook isn't alone, as publishers are also pushing back against Apple News after seeing less than acceptable results.
- We're at a critical time for the media, as Facebook is pushing to make its site and apps the only destinations that users consider, keeping the reading, watching and playing experience entirely within Facebook. This will understandably frustrate publishers and could hamper how we think about, receive and pay for news. See more below in the Further Reading section for a longer thought piece on this issue.
- Meanwhile, Apple is working on person-to-person payment systems in conjunction with the banking industry. This is great for iPhone users, and it's likely that Android will follow suit at some point. Does this signal the end of cash? We still think cash will be needed, particularly in the service industry (for tips).
- Hulu counts Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal among its investors. Time Warner might be a fourth investor.
- T-Mobile followed in its #Uncarrier pattern (one that has previously included streaming music that doesn't count against subscribers' data plans) by announcing Binge On — free access to Netflix, HBO Go and other streaming providers — just not YouTube or Facebook. But some question whether the deal violates net neutrality rules.
- Who should run corporate social media? We've heard the back-and-forth arguments for marketing versus communications. But this time, marketers and communicators agree.
- Chief marketing officers are just as preoccupied with technology as CIOs. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Internet of Things and mobile are at the top of their list of concerns, according to a recent IBM Global C-suite Study. They're also wary of competition from other industries.
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- Referral traffic for the top 30 advertisers on Facebook has fallen 32% from January through October of 2015. Again, a reminder why it pays to have a smart strategy that combines paid, earned, owned and rented media. Need help with this? Give me a shout.
- Facebook is testing messages that self-destruct within an hour, similar to Snapchat.
- Facebook search continues to improve. The company is experimenting with searches that will allow you to find posts within a Page.
- Notify launched this week. The app pushes news updates from a variety of publications, from business to breaking news to lifestyle, entertainment, sports and more. Consider yourself on notification. We tried it, but it was redundant to our other news apps (exactly what Facebook wants, so you'll switch loyalties) and it used our battery power a little too freely.
- Facebook has a freebooting / piracy problem when it comes to video. We covered it in our August 10 issue ("Theft, Lies and Facebook Video"), and it's not yet clear what, if anything, they've done to address it. The video below brings that story to life.
- Snapchat secretly added celebrity verification to its features, along with a Lens Store to allow you to gussie up your selfies.
- The lens store is largely seen as a monetization strategy through in-app purchases. This is similar to how some of the Asian chat apps have traditionally made money.
- Animated GIFs on Twitter will now be interactive, thanks to ScratchReel. Users can move the frames back and forth with Twitter's technology.
- Twitter is making major changes to its board, with a focus on diversity. It will be adding more women and minorities, moving away from its "bro" culture. Welp, so much for this middle-aged white guy getting a board seat!
- Continuing the push into artificial intelligence, Google is making its machine learning software TensorFlow open source to allow outside developers to use modify it for free.
- Periscope has introduced a revamped global map and now allows viewers to skip ahead on replays.
Trivia question: T-Mobile CEO John Legere is legendary for speaking like a real customer. What did he have to say about Apple's #bendgate issue last year? *
- A tragic story about a death at an Airbnb rental, with some thoughts on the need for safety at its millions of units.
- Looking to build on its loyalty, Airbnb is experimenting with an "experience card" from MasterCard, loaded with $1,000 of credit for international travelers using Airbnb in the US. It's a combination of a loyalty card and prepaid credit card.
- Uber's rival in India, Ola, is introducing a payment system as a standalone app. It's an interesting diversification strategy that gives the company additional revenue and potentially attracts new users.
- Everyone from Amazon to Uber wants to own the last mile. See why DoorDash thinks it is ready for the challenge.
- Don't forget to check out the New Collaborative Economy Report to see what's driving results in the various sectors.
- The YouTube Music app debuted this week. It's basically a music-focused YouTube. And it comes with a free YouTube Red subscription for 14 days. One of the features that's bundled with Music and Red is the ability to keep playing videos and music in the background, after you've opened other apps — something that would seem to be the price of entry for music apps these days. Just don't get too used to it; you'll need a paid subscription to keep that feature functioning.
- Podcast Recommendation of the Week. This week, check out The Moth. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. Do you have a podcast recommendation for us? Add yours to our Google Sheet: smonty.co/yourpodcasts
Content / Customer Experience
[Note: this section has expanded to include customer experience-related material, as it reasonably represents the offline version of content marketing.]
- Content calendars don't have to be difficult to build and manage, especially with these four tools.
- There are winners and losers in the retail environment. But it might surprise you to see the thinking of those that outperform their competitors.
- We don't need more content; we need more quality content.
- While creating content is important, it's equally as important to know that you're reaching the right people. Here are some of the most reliable channels to connect with customers.
- Stop and try to think of more than just a handful of (the usual) brands that do storytelling well. You know why you're having trouble coming up with many? Because brands nearly always forget this fundamental storytelling imperative.
- You'll probably be familiar with the following customer experience when it comes to cable service. Interesting to note that things haven't changed much in the nearly three years since this video was created.
Metrics / Measurement / Data
- What is the Future of Data Sharing? A report from Columbia Business School that breaks down consumer mindsets and the power of brands.
- We you you watch TV. But did you know that TV may be watching you? If you have a Vizio Smart TV, it's so smart that it knows your behaviors and is sharing your habits with advertisers.
Privacy / Security / Legal
- Rolling Stone magazine ran a piece last November about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia which have since been proven to be false, and Rolling Stone's editor and the author of the piece were accused of shoddy journalism. Now, the fraternity implicated in that story is suing Rolling Stone for $25 million. Speed and sensationalism are no match for accuracy in reporting, despite the public's need for lurid stories.
- The government wants to know about you. Where do they go to get your data? Increasingly to Facebook, which has seen its highest level of requests for data from the government this year. With 1.5 billion people on the system, it's not a surprise. What is a surprise is that people are actually surprised that they can be tracked.
- Edward Snowden doesn't like how you can be tracked by ads. So naturally, he advocates using ad blocking technology.
- People are okay with giving up their personal data to companies they trust, but only if the benefits and the brands are right.
* Answer to the trivia question above:
- The T-Mobile CEO, in a live video at GeekWire Summit in 2014, said this of the iPhone and #bendgate: "This is an amazing supercomputer in your hand. What the f@*k are you doing putting it in your pants and sitting on it for?"
When You Have the Time: Essential Watching / Listening / Reading
- With the tech industry absorbing so much of the publishing and news industry, what does the future between technology and media look like? From the editor of The Awl.
- Media changes everything, drives our expectations, conversations, and our culture. And ads drive media. Seth Godin posits that pushing toward direct marketing could result in a less-than-desirable outcome.
- As we ponder the terror attacks in Paris, it's a good time to revisit Theodore Roosevelt's "Citizenship in a Republic" speech given in Paris in 1910.
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I advise brands and agencies to help them improve their communications and digital acumen. Please get in touch if you'd like to put my experience and digital smarts to work on a project, to consult with your group, or to address an audience at your next corporate or industry event.