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MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on April 24, 2021

Facebook unleashed a bunch of audio products

This might just be the most exciting FB announcement in a very long time — they’ve just kitchen-sinked the audio space with:

  • Live Audio Rooms inside Facebook Groups and Messenger — the Clubhouse copycat/competitor that everyone saw coming
  • Short-form audio clips called Soundbites. Stuff for quick jokes, poetry, random recordings. Think TikTok but for audio.
  • Podcasts within the Facebook app. It’ll play in the background, or while you’re using the app (why did it take so long to do this?).
  • Audio creation and editing tools, including AI-based noise cancelling and voice effects, directly in the Facebook app
  • Captions across all audio products for accessibility

But perhaps most importantly, FB will have monetisation for creators built in at launch so that people can charge for access to Live Audio Rooms. There’s also an Audio Creator Fund to support new folks in the space.

For me, the most interesting part was that the announcement was made by Zuckerberg in Discord, in a live audio room, run by a group of independent newsletter writers, all making a living through the platforms they’re on.

Let that sink in. The enablement of independent creators is the biggest media trend of 2020/2021.

Zuck didn’t say how much of a cut FB will take, but if the industry proxy is Substack’s 10%, I’d expect him to drastically undercut the competition — or make it all free.

Substack’s margin is Zuck’s opportunity. It’s 2021; there’s a land-grab of creators and this is FB’s moment to redraw the lines around video, images, text, and now audio. And it’s something that Google can’t do.

One more point: Every media company needs a creator strategy (call it relational journalism if it makes it more palatable). That long tail of niche interests is just getting longer. And as the big platforms lean in, it’s getting deeper as well.

Apple now has a subscription service for podcasts

Creators can now charge listeners for exclusive content. Apple will take its usual 30% (!!) cut during the first year of a subscription, and 15% for subsequent billings. Another nail in the coffin of the open podcast ecosystem.

Ben Thompson has a solid take on what this means for podcasters

  • Topnotch customer service on Apple from purchase to tracking to cancellations = higher customer satisfaction and trust = better conversions = possibly better retention.
  • But you’re giving up a connection to your customer by having Apple in the middle. As stated in the terms: “You represent and warrant that You and Your personnel, agents, and contractors will not access or otherwise process any information that can be used to uniquely identify or contact an individual”. Make no mistake — everyone who signs up is Apple’s customer, not yours.

Reddit previewed its own live audio feature called Reddit Talk

It looks like everything else out there. Talk will sit within the individual subreddits themselves.

Scoreboard. All of these platforms are now working on live audio functionality (or already have it): Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Twitter, Slack, Discord, LinkedIn, and Spotify. Who am I missing?

So this was bound to happen

Clubhouse’s monthly downloads are down 72% as rivals add audio functionality to their own platforms… and Clubhouse still isn’t on Android.

Substack set aside $1 million to support independent writers covering “local” news

Much like the Substack Pro program, the company will offer cash advances of up to $100,000 and subsidies on health insurance and design work. In exchange, Substack will take 85% of subscription revenue for the first year.

Netflix’s subscriber growth numbers slowed in the first quarter, missing its own estimates

Shares plunged by 10% immediately after the news. Netflix added “just” 4 million new subs — a quarter of the growth it had last year. Growth is starting to plateau in the face of new competitors, and the fact that most people who want Netflix already have their hands on it. But hey, it’s still an amazing business: Netflix created $700 million in cash in Q1. (Odd: Rishad’s Netflix account was hacked. Someone’s been enjoying his love of Scandinavian flicks.)

Twitter finally fixed the quality of photos uploaded on its mobile apps

You can now post 4K images.

Discord turned down a $12 billion dollar bid by Microsoft

They will focus instead on going public.

Outbrain is also planning an IPO after its failed attempt to merge with Taboola

The company is seeking a $2 billion valuation on revenues of $1 billion.

Remember Google’s plan to create a replacement for third-party cookies?

Federated Learning of Cohorts — FLOC — is meant to create anonymous profiles of your behaviour and bury it in a cohort of other profiles of people who have the same interests. Sounds good on paper, until every major browser says they won’t support it. Brave, Vivaldi, Edge, and Mozilla are all out… and that could drastically change the future of digital marketing.

Even WordPress says it’s going to turn off FLOC by default

It says such behavioural tracking will only lead to racism, discrimination, and sexism.

Google Meet is getting some new features

Low light adjustment, window pinning. But perhaps most importantly, Google is moving the end-call button away from the camera and microphone buttons. No more accidentally hanging up when you want to mute.

Reuters, one of my go-to sites for global news, is going behind a paywall

It’s $35 a month!

As many of you already know, not everyone buys physical newspapers for the news

It’s great in helping you start up the grill, of course.

Boredom and the talking head

If the era of Zoom has taught us anything it is the limitations of watching someone talk on a screen. Turn dull but worthy into something worth your audience’s time – value their time and they’ll value your product or service much more.

Lesson one: It’s not advertising or PR

The key to successful branded video is to not look at it as another form of advertising or public relations. Brands need to look at themselves as publishers of content. Advertising’s goal is to sell, PR to promote. Branded content is part of a wider customer engagement and communication strategy. It’s not about your business but about making your business relevant in the customer’s daily life.

Brands as publishers

Many big brands understand the publisher concept. Recently, Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena skincare line has established an internal content studio. It produced a mini-documentary about skin cancer and it’s being submitted to a few film festivals. It’s not about skincare products but there is a connection and most importantly it builds trust without the hard sell.

Brand trust

Ever wondered what the world’s most reputable brand is? According to the Global RepTrack 100, it’s LEGO, followed closely by Rolex. Other notable entries include Microsoft at 10, Netflix at 12 and Google at 15. By way of comparison, Amazon is at 92. The rankings are based on online surveys that gauge a customer’s willingness to buy from, recommend or trust a company.

What is trust based on?

Well, it’s not just about the reliability of your product or customer service. While you have to deliver what you promise, younger consumers are interested in fairness. Not only must the price be fair but does your business treat employees and the environment in the right way? Brands need to earn trust not just in the market but also in a social context too.

Who should you trust?

In China, social commerce guides brand trust. While Google is the starting point for many consumers in the US, the Chinese equivalent, Baidu, doesn’t inspire the same levels of trust. Basically, information isn’t aggregated or as easily searchable, meaning users are sceptical of the results. To fill this trust hole, Chinese businesses rely on influencers and user product reviews. Trust isn’t just about what your business does but also what others say it does.

Facebook audio products are all up in Clubhouse’s bidniz

The company announced a whole squadron of products and features — more validation that Clubhouse is a feature, not a product. (See also Reddit’s new Clubhouse feature aka Reddit Talk.) Here’s what Facebook is bringing to the audio party:

  • Live audio rooms
  • Short-form audio clips called ‘Soundbites’
  • Podcasts
  • A Spotify integration for music

FB will test the live audio rooms feature in Facebook Groups, which has 1.8 billion monthly users. Zuckerberg’s statement about why he was excited about this is a pretty good description of why the modern media startup exists in the first place: “I think that you already have these communities that are organised around interests, and allowing people to come together and have rooms where they can talk is — I think it’d be a very useful thing.”

This fan took things one step further — she started learning Korean

From listening to K-pop. What do you do if you’re Nabila, 20 years old, Indonesian, and stan Korean pop and Korean tv shows? You teach yourself the language. “I also changed my phone language settings and started typing keywords of videos I want to watch on YouTube in Korean.” By the way, Girlhood is a really exciting new digital media organisation by and for girls. They’re giving girls the tools to tell their own stories, and you should really sign up for their newsletter.

Like most print publications, the Village Voice died a few years ago. Now it’s back in an unusual form — print.

The weekly newspaper shut down in 2017, but now it’s back, it’s still free, it still shames landlords, and it’s still printed on paper. The only difference? It’s quarterly; the objective is to get to a monthly cadence. The new owner is the publisher of the LA Weekly, and a fan of the paper. “He wants The Village Voice in all of its old, spunky, lefty history.” Now all they need is their readers to agree.

And here’s a chat with Miko, a digital avatar who is a wildly popular Twitch streamer

Confusingly, the real human being that keeps her ticking over is also called Miko but additionally plays a character called The Technician in the Miko stream. It’s a full-time job, and a pretty wild ride.

Have you stolen a referral program yet? You should. They work

Uber uses one. Deliveroo uses one. Even Clubhouse uses one — it’s by invitation only. You should use a referral program for your media biz. Let us commit gratuitous referral + reward thievery from the following companies:

  • PayPal, who used to give you $20 just to sign up.
  • Tesla, who gave away $1000 to car owners who referred a friend that bought a Tesla. The friend also got $1000.
  • Dropbox, who gave you extra free storage for every friend you signed up.
  • Airbnb, who gave their users money to refer a friend — and then gave the friend money too.
  • Amazon Prime gave you $5 if you referred a friend. (The friend got nothing.)
  • Google, who wanted their users to drive their friends to Google Apps, so you’d get 20 bucks to sign people up.

I’m curious. If Splice could give you something for getting your media friends to sign up to our newsletters, what would that be? A book? A Splice t-shirt? A gift membership? Startup advice? Money? Reply to this email with your finest ideas.

Currently blowing my mind on the creepy-cool scale is Jarvis, an AI tool that generates marketing copy

Here’s a thing we already know: the copywriting on your website — ANY website — plays a starring role in your conversions. Regardless of whether you’re looking for more stories read, more recommendations, better sales, more business leads, or more signups for your event or newsletter, it’s the way you write it that will sell it. So Jarvis, a bot on the website, lets you choose from templates for all the regular stuff like ‘Facebook Ad Headline’ and ‘Product description’, where you pop in simple titles for business name and tone (‘professional’ and ‘friendly’ are a couple of options) and it spits out content. It does blog posts. Email subject lines which get you more opens which means more conversions. Company bios! It even has something called ‘Content Improver’, which sounds like a good thing to have in life in general, amirite?! Where it gets really freaky is with stuff like ‘Review Responder’ for, say, that business owner who just got slammed on Google Maps or Yelp: the form field options include the star rating you got, and the tone of voice you want to use. Crazy. All this algo-assisted content creation is the result of acquiring their biggest competitor Headlime. There are reviews all over the website about how this was going to kill writer’s block, but I wonder if that was really the problem to solve here — I would think it had more to do with the fact that not enough writers were blocked, and that there seems to be so much homogenised, standard-issue SEO-tweaked internet copy everywhere that is just terribly written. Why? Because it wasn’t written for specific people. I love this quote by a product developer I follow on the Twitters: “The best writing advice I ever received was “always write for a specific, real-life person”. Don’t write a blog post for junior developers, write it for your buddy Mark who started his first dev job last summer. Your writing will be clearer, more authentic, and easier too.” If a machine can automate that, I am so here for it. Did you know that this newsletter was written by not a bot. (Kidding.) (Or am I?)

Your web pages are too damn fat. Put them on a diet

Rich Harris, a graphics editor at the New York Times, created Svelte, a JavaScript framework to whittle web pages down so that they loaded faster. The average web page is 2 megabytes, which is pretty bloated, thanks to ads, tracking scripts, and multiple APIs and plug-ins. “Frameworks add heft to websites because they traditionally serve as a middle layer between an app’s code and the user’s browser.” Svelte does something entirely different. It does all that middle-layer work before a dev uploads the code, and before a user downloads it, and this makes it possible to remove stuff you don’t need. Svelte apps are therefore…svelte. On the other hand, larger apps still use React, Facebook’s popular open-source library for building interfaces. “Although Harris uses Svelte to make graphics and animations for The New York Times, the publisher’s site is still based on React.”

The problem with design tools is that you inevitably end up using Adobe, and Adobe is too expensive

The solution? These Adobe alternatives are either free, open-source, or require only a single payment. There are tools like Affinity Photo and GIMP to replace Photoshop; Affinity Designer and Inkscape instead of Illustrator; PDFelement and Affinity Publisher for InDesign — and for everything else, there’s always Canva. (I’ve been a rather poor design guy in another life, so I get it. I can now finally afford to pay US$600 a year for an Adobe Creative Suite subscription after over two decades of using janky versions from occult sources, but these alternatives are legit and maybe I should switch and spend the money on a year’s worth of coffee instead.)

Typography and your audience

Typography is more than making words visually appealing, the typeface can actually affect the message you’re presenting to your audience. Typography is the art of the shape, size and form of letters and the spaces in between. It’s relevant to video, website and traditional graphic design.

Why typography matters in video

There are plenty of stats out there that say the same thing — most consumers watch mobile videos with the sound off. In this instance, captions or subtitles are vital in getting the message across. Many brands are embracing kinetic typography animation — essentially moving words — to ensure the message sticks. And so an understanding of typography is vital to bring your message alive.

Even font size matters

While many designers can get bogged down in deciding on the typeface, there are simpler aspects at play when it comes to typography and the user experience. Size of the font and line spacing make a huge difference when it comes to readability. Poorly designed pages, where it’s difficult to even read the content, will have a negative impact on the audience. You need to get the basics right and level up from there.

What makes a message stick?

While the message is important, sometimes words aren’t enough, they can get lost in the haze of marketing consumers live in. A study by 3M found that we process visual 60,000 times faster than text. This explains why video, infographics and engaging typography are becoming as important as crafting the perfect message — we’re simply more likely to remember content containing these aspects.

Repetition and repetition

Thomas Smith’s book Successful Advertising, printed way back in 1885, claimed the first time a consumer looks at an ad they don’t see it, but by the 20th time they not only see the ad but believe it. The idea is that repeated statements become believable. Not only does the message need to come alive, it needs to be repeated to sink in.

What about the words?

Words still matter. You can’t go crazy with video, animation and typography if you have nothing to say. The trick is to keep messaging simple, descriptive, and about something real. To cut through, don’t overload the copy with information; try metaphors and use visual language. Essentially, the right words to bring the message alive.

Su Min is a road-tripper who has had enough. She also has an internet following of over 1.35 million that has made her an accidental feminist icon.

She has “been a wife, a mother, and a grandmother” and decided she was done. Six months ago she packed a mini-fridge and rice cooker, got in her car, and has been documenting her drive across China with a blend of scenic vistas and blunt revelations about her “abusive marriage, dissatisfaction with domestic life and newfound freedom”.

A great way to learn how to start a business — yes, even a media business — is to learn from other people’s failures.

This thread is one of the best ways I’ve heard that story told: with immaculate self-awareness, humility, and an urgency to help others not to make the same mistakes. “This is a story about how I lost $10,000,000 by doing something stupid.” is just the opening line. It’s quite the ride.

Zapier recently acquired Makerpad, a no-code education platform.

No-code is having its moment: the industry has gone from being worth $3.5bn in 2017 to a projected $21bn by next year. The granddaddy of no-code is good old Excel — spreadsheets for dummies! (Mainly me.) — but look at how far we’ve come. There are no-code web design tools, like Carrd, Figma, and Squarespace. Tines is a no-code platform for security automation. There’s no-code for daisy-chaining different apps — sometimes even different no-code apps, which is meta — like Zapier, which is now worth $5bn. Learning to build things without knowing how to code is a powerful step forward in the evolution of the creator as we know her now. And we all know that the best possible creator economy is when “the people who know most about a problem are the ones devising its solution.”

If you’re a journalist, I have news for you. You’re now also a creator.

The good news is that you’re like every other TikToker, YouTuber, Clubhouser, Snapchatter, and blogger out there. The bad news is that you’re like every other TikToker, YouTuber, Clubhouser, Snapchatter, and blogger out there. The playing field has evened out. The tools and networks and access you have may differ slightly, but everything else is more or less the same. So remove the phrase “user-generated content” from your vocab, and rejoice — you have nothing to lose but your gatekeepers. “As our media ecosystem rapidly evolves, it would be a mistake for the news industry to double down on traditional standards of “quality journalism” when people on platforms have already redefined what quality news and information means to them.”

IMDb has a new website refresh.

I like it because it looks crisp, as though you just upgraded your old tv or went to that new 4k multiplex. But I like it even more because it isn’t a website about movies any longer; it feels like it’s been redesigned to be a website for people who love the movies. Do you know what I mean? For one, it’s still in permanent dark mode, like the ideal movie theatre. I can smell the popcorn. The images are hi-res, the Watchlist functionality is simpler, and the vertical spacing of the whole thing is perfect. I’m mildly disappointed in their choice of Roboto as the go-to typeface for everything – they had an opportunity to work with something with a touch more flair and personality, especially for the editorial headlines. There seem to be some bits that are still the IMDb of yore, like the old Web 1.0 walls of blue text links in the release calendar and the movie news pages (I see you, Verdana!), but I suspect they’ll get to those dusty corners in a bit. This is an old, old website — I mean, it literally has the word ‘internet’ in its name. Give them time. (Btw, did you know Amazon owned IMDb? Am I literally the last person to know this?)

This dude built a podcast tool that…this is crazy… automagically generates a podcast for any topic.

All it needs to get going is for you to type in a single sentence description. But the one about “how the pyramids were *really* built” has me lol’ing mao. Have you ever heard a text-to-speech computer mansplainer? “I’m not finished yet.” The internet is weird and the internet is also magic. Hit play and turn up the volume.

Want to know what colour palettes your favourite movies are using?

So do 1.6 million other people. This thing is delicious. “Color can affect us psychologically, often without us being aware, and can be used as a strong device in a story.” Damn right.

For those of you who cringe at the label influencer, perhaps creator is a more palatable term.

As I mentioned previously, the creator space is at an inflection point. As platforms build in micro-payments, they’re making it more feasible for community-focused journalists to build micro-media startups on them. Relational journalism is a thing, as Yvonne Leow writes. “Fans aren’t looking to collect newsroom branded tote bags, they’re looking to feel recognised and affirmed by the storytellers they follow.”

Substack superstar Casey Newton co-launched Sidechannel.

It’s a Discord server that brings together members from seven other paid subscription publications. So if you’re a sub of Newton’s Platformer or one of his partners, you’ll be able to join in. Other publishers on this network include Nick Quah and Eric Newcomer. This is a brilliant way to create a community around independent publishers — it’s a low barrier to entry and adds additional value to the subscriber base.

Three digital media veterans in the U.S. are reportedly launching a subscription-based startup focused on business and culture.

This is where it gets interesting: The company will bring together journalists, and give them the resources they need to create content across multiple formats like live audio, newsletters, and events. This could be an interesting hybrid between traditional bylined journalism and relational, creator-style journalism.

Reuters named the first woman to lead its 170-year-old global news business.

Alessandra Galloni, one of the top editors at Reuters, is a native of Rome, and speaks four languages.

BuzzFeed reporter Pranav Dixit thought he got his dream job covering technology trends in India.

Instead, he found himself in a front-row seat documenting how the Modi government is using tech to take apart democracy in the country.

A Guardian investigation found that Facebook has been turning a blind eye to governments in small countries that deceive the public or abuse opponents.

“There is a lot of harm being done on Facebook that is not being responded to because it is not considered enough of a PR risk to Facebook.”

Spotify is reportedly quietly removing some episodes of Joe Rogan’s show.

The platform didn’t say why some 40 episodes are missing, but it seems it’s trying to spike shows where guests are spouting misinfo. Spotify will soon discover that it too is in the content moderation business and needs not just governance, but transparent policies on takedowns.

Instagram is testing an option for people to hide their Like counts.

In 2019, it ran a similar test by disabling the Likes by default — but that didn’t go down well with the creator crowd. So let’s see if people care enough to turn this off. In the end, if you’re not getting that endorphin hit, what’s the point of social media?

This is always a hot topic in this community: How to ask for money.

Some really smart ideas in here from a small media org on how to do it right.

GIJN is running two webinars this month on how to effectively distribute investigative stories.

Four experts in the field will share practical tools and tips for engagement. Sign up here.

JournalismAI’s Collab Challenges are a series of collaborative experiments where media organisations worldwide come together to improve journalism via the use of AI.

Their Asia program is now open with India’s Times School of Media.

AAJA is rolling out its Executive Leadership Program Asia.

Fifteen spots are open to journalists in the Asia Pacific to help them grow “as news leaders, managers and executives who can thrive in uncertain times and build a sustainable future for journalism”.

The deadline for JNI’s Opportunity Fellowships is coming up.

The program is meant to help early-career journalists from diverse backgrounds enter the industry in Australia. The Fellowships will take place in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

It sucks when you’re de-platformed because of your name.

You can imagine what happened when Facebook’s algo stumbled on the little French town called Bitche.

CNN has a great series called Colorscope that explores how colour is used across cultures

I watched the one about pink, which cheekily suggested that pink wasn’t a colour — just a tint. “It’s simply light red with a better name.” Apparently, the colour pink makes you less violent “which is why a number of prisons are painted in it.” Isn’t that too little pink too late? Preemptively paint the planet pink, I say, and avoid the whole prison business in the first place. They get different animators and directors from around the world to do each film, all roughly 90 seconds long. Also featuring blue, red, white, green, yellow, purple, black, gold, and orange. Thanks for the link, Simon.

Image dissolve transitions are cool

They’re even cooler when you do them with CSS. What would you even do with this?

  • “Transition between site/section backgrounds
  • Transition between backgrounds in an image carousel
  • Change background in reaction to either a click or hover
  • Remove a custom poster image from a video when it starts playing”

This guy wrote a user manual for a tool that 192 million people use every day: Twitter

“Twitter does a horrible job of showing you its advanced features. Here are 10 of them you probably know nothing about:” I mean, advanced search is a whole world unto itself. Then this genius antidote to doomscrolling: create lists of your multiple interests, then pin them to the top of your timeline and swipe between them. There is also a tip on tweet styling: make lists using bullets instead of lists using dashes. Huh.

Dark is everywhere

Dark patterns are UX-design-speak for web or app design that manipulates you into making certain choices around your attention or money or data. If the new U.S. government has its way, the growing movement to ban dark patterns will lead to policy.

  • Instagram uses dark patterns with the language it employs by asking if they can “use your app and website activity” to “Provide a better ads experience.”
  • The Deliveroo app will use modals and popups to advertise deals that will hide the ‘close popup’ X button by making it the same colour as the background.
  • Check that trial you signed up for in 2012 . Is it still automatically charging your credit card every month without telling you?
  • Cheers to that NYT subscription I once tried to cancel for ages which finally involved having to actually speak to a real person to explain my outrageous behaviour. See under friction-as-a-service. (Has this changed yet?)
  • Or that newsletter ‘Unsubscribe’ link you just cannot find (as opposed to the Adobe Illustrator beta feature newsletter I put myself on ages ago that did away with the ‘Unsubscribe’ button altogether.
  • Or that popup ‘Subscribe’ button that tries to shame you for not subscribing by saying lame passive aggressive crap like “No I don’t want to be the smartest person in the world.”

Laws and policies around privacy, consent, and data are hard to create and implement without it being a blunt instrument, but good regulation can work. “It can really turn the internet into somewhere that’s nice to be instead of like a complete Wild West environment. And we need it.”

Every now and then you see a thing that reminds you that you’re already living in the future

Digital fashion is one such thing. The Fabricant is a digital fashion house — and they mean digital as in digital clothes made with not-cloth. The website is filled with faceless (and often hand-less and foot-less) models wearing digital couture. They use the word ‘phygital’, and the writing is a bit hokey (“we’re not fashionistas, we’re fashionauts.”), but The Fabricant is the real deal. “We create digital-only fashion that can be used and traded in virtual realities.” What is digital-only clothing? The Fabricant assures us that they are “showing the world that clothing does not need to be physical to exist”. Scarily enough, that makes sense. I think the idea is that as we move ourselves seamlessly between the digital and physical, it isn’t always going to matter whether that dress you’re wearing is made of an acrylic-cotton blend or a looping animation blend. Especially if you build a business plan around digital fashion, hire great animation talent, and put them in a room with incredible fashion design talent. If that’s you, you can download a FFROP (a ‘free file drop’) like, say, a file of Marques Almeida’s digitally inflated puffer jacket, add your own styling to it, and upload. (The submissions are gorgeous, diverse, and incredibly accessible.) It helps that they do business with Vogue and Puma. Is it realistic to expect the fashion industry to “reimagine seasonal runway shows as an entirely non-physical 3D experience?” Are you, fashion maven that you are, ready to give “‘thought couture’ a place alongside haute couture?” And is The Fabricant “uploading humans to the next level of existence?” I don’t know, but I think this is a truly great idea, it makes perfect business sense, and to a guy who understands absolutely nothing about fashion, it looks amazing.

Getting sound right

Music and sound effects have the power to make content stick in our memory. 45-years on and the iconic Jaws theme still has the power to terrorise beachgoers. When it comes to content marketing, music and sound is just as important as it is in Hollywood blockbusters. The right music attaches itself to your brand, triggering memories and emotions.

Music and emotions

Music and sound definitely matter if you want to evoke an emotional attachment to your content. Scientists have been able to map 13 key emotions that are roused by music. They range from amusement and triumph to fear and annoyance. We’ve all had an annoying jingle or song stuck in our head before, so understanding how music works is the difference between engaging content or an irritating earworm.

Is music more memorable?

Audio branding agency PHMG conducted a study of 1,000 consumers and found that 66% believe music is more memorable than visuals in marketing. A study by YouTube found consumers had a stronger brand experience when ads were audible and viewable. It’s clear music shouldn’t be an afterthought — both the audio and video need to complement each other.

Singapore and Chinese big tech

Singapore is becoming an attractive destination for Chinese tech companies looking to escape regulations designed to decrease the platforms’ growing power. TikTok owner ByteDance has set up a regional HQ while Alibaba is embarking on a property and hiring spree. Geopolitical disputes with the USA and India have seen a renewed focus on Southeast Asia by Chinese tech giants.

Singapore and US big tech

While China’s tech platforms are looking to operate out of Singapore, the USA’s tech platforms are using the island nation to protect itself from China-based hackers. Google and Facebook are funding two new transpacific fibre optic cables connecting the US with Singapore. These cables usually run through the South China Sea but America has claimed this is too risky as it provides an avenue for China to “acquire Americans’ personal data”. It’s hoped the new route will protect data while also further opening up the Southeast Asian market to Facebook and Google.

Continued hacks

Protecting data from hacks is a serious concern for big tech firms. Microsoft recently revealed four zero-day vulnerabilities in its Exchange Server. These were being exploited by cyber attackers using techniques developed in China. A zero-day vulnerability is a software security flaw that software vendors don’t have the means to patch, which can then be exploited by cybercriminals. Such vulnerabilities occur regularly. Considering the personal data big tech stores, keeping it safe is vital to commercial and reputational interests.

Clubhouse’s Trend

Twitter reportedly tried to buy Clubhouse for $4 billion but nothing came out of it. Bloomberg says it’s not clear why the talks stalled. It’s crazy to think how quickly Clubhouse went from being a product to a feature — every single platform is building one. This is also a company that has zero revenue and is major privacy breach waiting to happen. All that for $4 billion?

Facebook is beta testing some kind mashup of Clubhouse and IG Live. Hotline looks like Clubhouse, but it’ll also let you turn on your camera.

Even Spotify is planning a Clubhouse competitor. But this one could be useful for creators: Organise your live audio room, hit record, and it automatically goes out as a podcast on Spotify via Anchor. LinkedIn is also building a Clubhouse clone. Actually, of all the clones out there, this is the only one that makes sense.

Clubhouse is becoming a big deal in South Korean politics. Jaewon Byun, a disability rights activist in Seoul, lobbied six mayoral candidates about their plans to combat the coronavirus-induced social exclusion and isolation of people with disabilities. Nobody replied. Then he got on Clubhouse for one candidate’s AMA session, and jumped in with a question and a request to meet. He got his answer — and a meeting. No wonder the app is called inssa in Koren slang, “which is derived from the term ‘insider’”. Traditional campaigning is pivoting towards the world’s favourite gatekeeper-free audio chat app. “Clubhouse entered South Korea at precisely the right time to ride this trend. As high-profile politicians started announcing their bids for mayor, the app [is] the nation’s most downloaded iOS application.”

Clubhouse users can now send money to their favourite creators and speakers on the platform. This is an important path to monetisation for creators, but here’s the best part: 100% of the money will go directly to the creator. Take a moment to think about where all this is going: Micropayments are the biggest trend in media — just look at the new opportunities that came out of Substack, IG, YouTube, and now fresh audio formats. This is the gateway to more independent, single-operator micro-media startups.

Using Instagram Stories

We all know how new functions are added to social media platforms. Someone finds success and the rest copy. Instagram copied Stories directly from Snapchat but reached a much wider audience. About 15 seconds long and only viewable for 24 hours, they’ve proved hugely popular amongst users.

Why Stories matter

Instagram is a great discovery tool for brands, with 83% of users claiming they find new products or services on the platform. Because of Stories’ limited life span, they create a sense of urgency amongst your audience. More importantly, customers don’t feel like they’re being bombarded with marketing messages. New products and promotions or influencer posts are gone in 24 hours.

How to stand out

While video Stories generally outperform image-based ones, there are some other tricks to getting noticed. Animation is one option, and it’s pretty easy to do. There’s a range of animation apps any novice can use to create eye-catching videos. There’s also the Instagram Live feature which gives you the opportunity to engage with your customers or potentials in real-time. Essentially, Stories let you experiment with your brand personality.

Social media safety

Social media is often considered the wild west of the online world. Fake news and conspiracy theories spread rapidly while online trolling and abuse is rife. Slowly, social platforms are realising this is an issue they have to tackle. In an attempt to protect younger users, Instagram has introduced new features to prevent predatory behaviour. Meanwhile, Twitter is considering a Safety Centre to make users more aware of the rules.

Why platforms should care

When high profile figures start leaving social media, the platforms should probably take notice. French professional football coach and former player Thierry Henry has quit all social media “until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright”. He’s far from the first celebrity to quit because of toxic racism, bullying and abuse.

Protecting users from themselves

While there is plenty more social platforms could do to curb abusive behaviour, users also need to take responsibility. A recent trend of posting COVID-19 vaccine cards on social media is opening users up to identity theft and scams. In the end, social media safety has to come down to platform regulation and user education.

Interesting Marketing Video to Watch

Oracle travels to Rwanda to show how the digitisation of the HPV vaccination process saves lives and offers more data to measure the effects of immunisation.

PayPal shares the story of a seafood distributor using QR technology so customers can trace the source of the catch and shop sustainably.

Microsoft uses a striking but simple form of animation to showcase the suite of software available with its 365 product.

Mebo produces traditional medicine to apply to skin burns and has used digital and cel animation to show how its products treat everyday accidents.

Despite a global pandemic and widespread lockdown, Grab is keeping Singapore’s hawker experience alive and well.

Japanese sports equipment manufacturer, Yonex, offers a quirky and inspirational look at the daily work that goes into building a tennis racket. #FarBeyondOrdinary #Yonex75th

Boutique breweries are no longer niche operations. But individual creativity is still celebrated, according to Canada’s Hamilton Brewery.

B2C Europe uses toy car-inspired animation to make its cross border logistics solutions easier to understand.

German typography expert Erik Spiekermann’s explanation of the creativity behind fonts is brought to life via typeface animation.

Comedians Taika Waititi and Ricky Gervais lend their voices to a stop animation video to ban animal testing for cosmetics. The powerful piece follows the rabbit Ralph and his day-to-day existence as a test subject. #SaveRalph

Cloud identity solution company Okta reflects on 2020 with a long-form documentary detailing its experience during a global pandemic.

Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez compares making a film to running a business while talking about IBM’s hybrid cloud on a busy movie set.

Pharmaceutical group Novartis uses a distinct animation style to illustrate symptoms — dark, blurry or tunnel vision — associated with retinal dystrophy.

Hotels have mainly been used for quarantine over the last year so Rosewood has decided to remind customers about the luxury experience it offers.

Ever wondered what two AI chatbots would discuss on a date? Tequila brand Jose Cuervo found out.

Wix offers a unique look at hackers attacking your website while also giving WordPress a hard time.

Jono & Johno release a chainsaw brand video that pretty much sums up weekend yard work in Australia.

Toyota uses quick and engaging animation to push its Logistics Design Competition and sell a few of its forklifts.