MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on July 29, 2021

Why case studies work

When it comes to marketing, real-life testimonials about your product will always be more effective than a snappy slogan or clever animation. Consumers trust other consumer experiences over brand promises, especially when there’s a human angle.

Asking the right questions

The key to producing a successful case study or testimonial is asking satisfied customers the right questions. Start with the problems they were facing in their business before talking about your product. You want to be able to prove results.

Don’t forget structure

Case studies need to tell a story and engage. They need to be believable and relatable with a story arc. A case study in three acts is: problem, solution and result. Remember to be specific with the details; anything vague won’t stick. Also, don’t be afraid to get emotional, because feelings of relief resonate more than promises and figures.

Olympic marketing during a pandemic

It may be a year late and held in front of zero crowds, but from a marketing perspective, the Olympics is still big business. In the US, sponsorship deals are estimated to be worth USD3 billion. While the money is still there, the messaging is different.

A marketing pivot

For many brands, especially athletic ones, a pivot was required once COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 event. Instead of campaigns with year-long builds ups, brands are now focussing on the stories of individual athletes — overcoming obstacles and building a community.

Indirect marketing

Many Korean brands are opting for ‘low key’ marketing campaigns. Some retail and fashion brands are running campaigns focused on athletes. Fans can predict swimming times or send messages to athletes to win prizes. It’s not about the big message this year, but something more focussed and personal.

Going evergreen

Staying relevant in the content marketing game is difficult. Not every business has the resources to produce content regularly. This is where evergreen content comes in handy. Essentially, this is content that stays fresh, has no expiration date, and will always be searched.

Why evergreen matters

Organic search is an important marketing channel for all businesses. A recent study found B2B generates twice as much revenue from organic search than any other channel. Produced correctly, evergreen content builds long term SEO strength and organic traffic, which for many businesses leads to increased sales.

Content groundwork

Evergreen content lays the foundation for more ambitious content marketing projects. Just look at HubSpot. The marketing platform is synonymous with its long-lasting evergreen blog content. It’s now a software company with a thriving media business expanding its reach to newsletters, podcasts and video.

Mastering medium

Medium is an open platform where anyone can publish their own content, including brands. It’s an effective tool for content syndication as it has a native import functionality, meaning Google won’t penalise content for duplication. This doesn’t mean you should post every blog on Medium — just the good ones.

How do you stand out?

So how do you get Medium right? Well, a Medium publisher offered some tips in a Medium post. They range from the simple — use a real name and updated bio — to the obvious proofreading and sub-editing. Unique to Medium though is submitting to publications within the platform and getting your ‘read’ times correct.

Still finding its way

Medium isn’t primarily a marketing tool — it’s for anyone to share a story. Despite this clear purpose, the platform has pivoted several times. They’ve moved away from in-house publications to freelance journalists, and will now focus on individual writers in an almost a full circle pivot. This opens up corporate blogging opportunities, but just remember to keep them “skim-worthy”.

EMOJINOMICS

July 17 was World Emoji Day. Google redesigned 992 of its emoji to be more “universal, accessible, and authentic”. So bacon has more shine, rice has more texture, the bikini looks more wearable, and the scissors look…sharper. Why is all this even important? Because it’s a language that so many of us speak across cultures. I like to stay fairly light on the emoji front personally, but one cannot overstate the importance of universal non-verbal communication. It’s use has never been higher — apparently one in five tweets contains emoji. 🤯

Also coming to an emoji keyboard near you: A pregnant man, a multiracial handshake, and a face that cannot bear to watch. Perhaps emoji really is the barometer of society — they’re literally signs of the times. But if it means we have more ways to express inclusion, empathy, and respect, I’m all for it.

Sadly, Loudly Crying Face edged past Face with Tears of Joy in the Lifetime Achievement category of the World Emoji Awards 2021. 😭 It’s also Twitter’s top emoji. Makes sense, all things considered. For more categories like Most Popular New Emoji (❤️‍🔥 Heart on Fire) and Most Anticipated Emoji (Melting Face—for climate change, maybe?), go here.

DESIGN CULTURE

How do design cultures evolve? And how do they travel? Here’s how to think about it. This interview with a design researcher is fascinating because of the sheer breadth — and application — of her experience: she began in advertising in England, organised large design events in China, wrote a blog about contemporary Chinese design, documented contemporary graphic design in South Korea, and made her way to researching South China Sea maritime trade networks and narratives about how design culture travels. So she is fascinated by how you “trace how a “thing”—objects, ideas, patterns, people—moves across time and space, and can impact different contexts in varying ways.” Between the much-documented provenance and present, there is always the not-so-documented journey.

This guy decided it would be a great idea to do a YouTube series on email newsletter design. Turns out it all went horribly right. This one includes Rob Hope of One Page Love fame. They both sit there dissecting this one email (advertising a webinar, no less) to within an inch of its life — visual design, typography, imagery, testimonials, the colour scheme, and how much less is way more. If you work with email in ANY way, you need to take the seventeen-and-a-half minutes to watch this. #wildist #emaildesign #newsletter

BUILDING THE FUNNEL

When this shoe retailer started emailing receipts to its customers, it discovered the true power of service design. The magic of first-party data is that you own the relationship with your users and audiences, and they can choose to participate in conversations involving more data for stuff like marketing, sales, segmentation, and reward and loyalty programs. But, as with everything online (and especially with email), transparency and respect are central to the equation. “There should be a check box, not preselected, that folks are signing up for emails. That way you don’t annoy consumers who didn’t want to hear from you, and while the list may be smaller, at least it’s stronger.” Snipes, the shoe company, has started to build customer profiles based on people shopping online and in-store. How are you working with your newsroom customers?

DESIGNING FOR SAFETY

Assignment of the day: design an internet that’s safe for children. Things have changed since you watched cartoons on linear tv. Today’s cool kids are on Twitch, YouTube, Roblox, TikTok — video games, online video, and online chat is where they live. The UK government is launching a new design code to counter the multiple threats of bullying, porn, self-harm and related imagery, predatory grooming, and gratuitous violence. Then again, “there is no parental control that a smart 14-year-old can’t get around.” Is a completely child-safe web possible? Is it even desirable if it comes at the cost of the online freedoms we all take so much for granted? Good things to think about — especially when we design the content we design. How much friction are we taking out in order for that experience to be seamless — and how much are we building in so that we make it safer for kids?

EMAIL DESIGN CRIT

This guy decided it would be a great idea to do a YouTube series on email newsletter design. Turns out it all went horribly right. This one includes Rob Hope of One Page Love fame — he’s one of my favourite internet design people. They both sit there dissecting this one email (advertising a webinar, no less) to within an inch of its life — visual design, typography, imagery, testimonials, the colour scheme, and how much less is way more. If you work with email in ANY way, you need to take the seventeen and a half minutes to watch this. #wildist #emaildesign #newsletter

TYPOGRAPHY DESIGN CRIT

Hey, remember the movie American Psycho? Then you’ll remember the scene with the business cards. This YouTuber did a design critique of the typography and layout of the four business cards, and it’s funny, nerdy, authoritative, and filled with just the right amount of snark — exactly what a good design crit should be. It also made me chuckle, and we all need that on a Wednesday. #AmericanPsycho #Design #BusinessCards

GAMING COMMUNITY DESIGN

“TIL In 2007, Rockstar Games allowed fans to call a number and rant about what they thought was wrong about America. The best calls were featured on a radio station in “Grand Theft Auto IV” Read more at Grand Theft Auto IV Factsheet

What is thought leadership?

For content marketers, thought leadership pieces are a long-term commitment. The concept is pretty simple — use your industry expertise to create content that establishes authority and offers unique perspectives to keep your brand top of mind.

What is effective thought leadership?

Personality matters when if you want to achieve engagement and reach but it doesn’t happen overnight. Many of the great thought leaders of our time — Branson, Jobs, Oprah — have influence well beyond their niche but it took time to establish.

Facts are important too

Remember to do your research. While thought leadership often centres around an expert or spokesperson when presenting the information, it’s not all about personality. According to a SurveyMonkey report, data is more trusted and persuasive than opinion.

K-pop meals

McDonald’s Famous Orders campaigns were always US-based until they signed on global k-pop juggernaut, BTS. While we can’t all collaborate with the big names, the concept of celebrities picking their favourite meal hits the sweet spot for all content campaigns — authenticity, tailored content and localisation.

McDonald’s Famous Orders campaigns were always US-based until they signed on global k-pop juggernaut, BTS.

How did they do it?

The key is to be flexible. McDonald’s rolled out the meal in 50 countries but staggered the release and offered slightly different meals depending on the region. They also spoke the language of k-pop, utilising BTS’ massive social following and avoiding the usual McDonald’s tone.

Insane results

Apart from meal sales and social engagement metrics, the campaign encouraged some more bizarre reactions. In Singapore, BTS meals were seen listed for SGD100,000 on Carousell while one fan created sneakers from the packaging. All publicity is good publicity, right?

MONEY

The art of the paywall, like a good sales pitch, is a delicate one. You need to know when to push — and you need to know when to walk away. Canada’s Globe and Mail have figured out how to vary their subscription pushes based on a user’s habits and likelihood of paying. An in-house learning tool called Sophi does this for them from behind the dynamic paywall. “It knows when not to bug someone because they’re not going to get money from them anyway.” And us audiences do like a paywall with manners.

CREATORS, INFLUENCERS

The arms race by platforms to capture more creators is on. Facebook set up a $1 billion fund to pay creators to build their brands on its platforms. You’ll be able to earn money by using specific features, hitting milestones, and if you livestream regularly, you’ll earn cash. This is invite-only for now. If you qualify, you’ll see an alert on the platform.

Substack is launching a six-session Zoom course to help writers build a following, and reach their first $1,000 in revenue. Not sure if that figure refers to monthly recurring. One interesting bit in the article: Top 10 publishers on Substack make more than $20 million annually in subs.

There’s plenty of eye-rolling whenever we say that we need to learn from and engage with influencers. Now here’s some proof that they’re doing a better job than many of us journalists. “While journalists and media companies often lead conversation around news subjects when it comes to Twitter and Facebook, they struggle for attention in Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Here, it tends to be celebrities or other social influencers that attract the most attention when it comes to news — as well as ordinary people.”

Norway has new rules to force influencers and advertisers to disclose if images have been retouched or filtered. Part of a plan to combat “kroppspress” — literally, “body pressure”. Enlarged lips, pronounced muscles, and narrowed waists all need to be declared.

I’m not sure how to make this segue about influencers, but when in doubt, learn from porn. (Don’t worry, this link to a Guardian piece is SFW.)

Some YouTubers are making a living on videos about Microsoft software. “Microsoft content drives a lot more viewership than non-Microsoft content. I’ve done Gmail and a few others, but they haven’t done quite as well.”

PLATFORMS

Substack is taking its first step into podcasts. It’s funding the creation of a new podcast network called Booksmart Studios, according to Axios. The founders have been given a six-figure advance to pay their salaries and five part-time producers and hosts. The shows will be free, but there’s a paid subscription tier that offers extra content like full-length interviews. Substack will take a 10% cut of revenues after the first year.

Bill Bishop is literally the first Substacker. Given the niche — China politics — Bishop was making over $100,000 in revenue on his first day as the first writer on Substack. “I think people who are very good in their niche can do extremely well.”

Automattic bought my favorite podcast app Pocket Casts. It’s been a long journey for the app, which launched in 2010 and was later sold to an odd bunch which included NPR and other public media orgs. NPR apparently lost $800K on that investment.

Clubhouse is finally out of beta. No more waitlists and invites. Everyone can now get in… but does anyone care any longer since live audio is now just a feature on all major platforms?

Twitter gave a hint of what the new Tweetdeck will look like. Hardcore fans hate it.

Think about all the big, deeply researched stories you’ve read about mis/dis-info in the past couple of years. Many of them stemmed from data provided by Facebook’s CrowdTangle. The tool has been great at informing journalists, civil society folks, and researchers about how social media manipulation works — and what Facebook needs to do about it. But according to this NYT report, FB execs started worrying that CrowdTangle data was showing the dominance of right-wingers and Trump… and they didn’t like it. “People were enthusiastic about the transparency CrowdTangle provided until it became a problem and created press cycles Facebook didn’t like. Then, the tone at the executive level changed.”

Only 25% of iOS 14 users are allowing apps like Facebook to track them, according to estimates by mobile measurements company Branch. Advertisers on Facebook say they’re feeling the impact — it’s harder to understand which ads are working, let alone conversion rates, or retargeting.

Goodbye Fleets. Twitter is killing its Stories clone after just eight months. What a shame! I really liked it. Fleets, which occupies the prime spot at the top of the app, will be replaced by Spaces, Twitter’s Clubhouse clone. Lesson: copying a feature doesn’t mean it’ll work for your audience. Still holding out for Stories in my Excel sheets.

Google will start rolling out verified logos in Gmail soon. Think of it as a verified badge, but for trademarked brands on email. This is going to be helpful in curbing phishing attacks and all sorts of disinfo. A Verizon Media test also showed that brands using verified logos got a 10% lift in email engagement. Right now, this is available only to folks with a registered trademark in several countries.

Keep an eye on this one. Netflix poached a top exec from Apple to build its podcasting business. The company has been thinking about cross-format IPs — eg. taking podcast shows and turning them into a video series… and vice versa.

Netflix also grabbed a Facebook exec to lead its push into video games. Mike Verdu was responsible for getting game developers onto the Oculus VR platform.

Reddit opened an office in Sydney. It’ll be home to their engineering, sales, and community teams. Trivia: Most popular subs after r/australia include r/ausfinance and r/asx_bets.

Facebook launched Bulletin, its copy of Substack. It all looks like Substack for now, including that boring, uniform theme. Malcolm Gladwell, Mitch Albom, and Tan France are all part of the superstar lineup of writers. FB says it’s not going to take a cut of subscription sales for about two years. How’s that for competitive advantage? Another selling point: You can take your mailing list with you if you decide to leave the platform. Not bad. Somewhere within Facebook’s audience of almost 3 billion people is the next big newsletter writer. And if you think about it, within every single Facebook Group is a newsletter waiting to be published. Niche media at scale.

A U.S. federal judge handed Facebook a massive win by rebuking an antitrust case by the FTC. The judge said that the regulator’s lawyers failed to prove that Facebook was indeed a monopoly, calling the complaint “legally insufficient”. He did however tell the FTC that they could file a new complaint by the end of the month. This goes to show how hard it is to prove that a big tech firm is operating as a monopoly. How do you explain that a free product is so dominant that consumers end up paying for it? Perhaps more significantly, the same judge threw out a lawsuit by multiple U.S. states, saying they took too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook’s stock jumped 4% on the news (no imminent breakup of the company is coming), pushing its market cap above $1 trillion.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and TikTok signed up to a pledge to protect women on their platforms. Much needed. Almost one out of two young women say they’ve experienced abuse online.

Zoom acquired Kites, a little known AI company that does real-time translation and transcription. Zoom already does transcriptions but only in English, so you see where this is going.

Slack launched Huddles, a quick, lightweight audio call feature. The company wants to recreate the low-friction experience of people walking by your desk for (random) chats, with no need for invites or links. Anyone in a channel or a DM group can get this going quickly.

Transformation

One of the more interesting transformation stories this year. New Zealand’s Stuff is cutting a new path for itself — getting off Facebook, giving shares to employees, and even apologising for its history of racist reporting. Now, it’s finding out if public trust is indeed monetisable.

NETFLIX

Netflix gets a section this week because there’s a bit to unpack from its Q2 earnings report. Plenty of nuggets in the earnings call transcript.

  • Netflix missed its earnings forecast because people are coming out of lockdowns. A year ago, the company added 10 million subscribers in Q2. This time, it was just 1.5 million new subs. It gives you a sense of how quickly things are unwinding.
  • It actually lost subs in the key U.S./Canada region — 430K paid subscribers cancelled as Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery Plus, and Paramount Plus all make their way into people’s credit cards.
  • Netflix is in “early stages” of expanding into mobile games — taking its IP around Black Mirror and Stranger Things onto phones. “Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices.”
  • These games will be included in the cost of a Netflix subscription.
  • They’re also pushing into merch, live events, and potentially VR. But none of these will be significant revenue streams. “None of them — they’re not designed to be.”
  • We love how broadly Netflix defines its rivals (important lessons around attention competition); it previously counted Fortnite and sleep in that category. This time they’ve listed YouTube, Epic Games, and TikTok.
  • Don’t expect any major acquisitions — the focus is on its key product.
  • I especially liked how they explained why sports isn’t a thing for them. This is product focus: “Our fundamental product is on-demand and advertising-free. Sports tends to be live and packed with advertising. So there’s not a lot of natural synergies in that way, except [that] it happens in television.”

STREAMING

Worst kept secret. CNN is also entering the paid streaming video space with CNN+. CNN will hire 450 people to get this service out next year. No mention of the price. Or why you’d want this anyway. How much news do you want on demand that you’d pay for? This is unlike cable, where a monthly subscription gives you all sorts of channels. In this case, it’s more Anderson Cooper, but on demand. So for CNN+, it’ll have to be a bigger investment in originals rather than just news.

MEDIA STARTUPS

India’s news aggregator Inshorts raised $60 million in a new round led by Vy Capital. The latest round reportedly values the company at $550 million. The valuation also reflects the growing popularity of the company’s Public app, which connects people in specific geographical locations.

New Naratif crossed the halfway mark in its current fundraising round. US$10,469.84 is in. To get more people to send money, they’re running a spicy noodle challenge on Facebook Live — the more money you donate, the spicier the noodles they’ll eat.

CB Insights has always been a huge inspiration. It’s an important case study on how to re-package stuffy B2B data into a compelling newsletter that drives the wider business. CB has one million subs — and is on track to make $100 million in annual recurring revenue.

The Information is launching a standalone product that’s all about batteries and electric cars. A niche within a niche. And a fast growing one too. Interestingly, this new product would be sold separately from the regular subscription. Unbundling for more value.

New Naratif closed their latest funding round. They raised $117,821.75 via new memberships, donations, and three grants. This means they’ll be able to hold on to all their staff into the next year. Their editorial team will also get to work full-time for the next six months.

We, The Citizens announced their line up of writers for Kirsten Han’s coaching program. She received 30 applications and selected six to join the first batch of her “Kaya Toast” writers. Some impressive ideas here.

Chambal Media launched a three-month program to train women in rural regions to report the news. Some 270 women will be involved in the training. Kudos to Internews and the Human Capability Foundation for making this happen.

REVENUE

Freelancers and consultants will appreciate this thread about pricing your time. Corinne Podger has done a fantastic job explaining how to think about trading off your knowledge and time for money. I wish we had had these in the early days of Splice. Four smart bits for those of us who are often too shy to ask for money:

  1. You’re not doing the client a favour. You’re helping them solve a problem. Your charge is partly based on what the client expects to pay for solving that problem.
  2. Clients often want meetings before and after the actual work. Half-day and shorter sessions may involve as much admin as full day/multi-day bookings.
  3. Create an itemised written quote so it’s clear why it costs what it does.
  4. Constantly improve not just what you do as a business, but how you run your business.

Some great tips here on ways to monetise your audio format. Eight ideas from ads to events.

Strange but true. Major media companies like NYT, Washington Post, and Reuters have started running ads by Philip Morris. These sponsored content ads tout the company’s research into smoke-free tobacco products.

ETHICS

Is it ever ok to use AI to re-create a dead person’s voice? A bit of tech was used to simulate Anthony Bourdain’s voice in a new documentary, and it’s caused a bit of a stir.

LISTEN

Want a podcast to check out? The Vietnam Weekly Podcast is an extension of the newsletter of Ho Chi Minh City-based journalist Michael Tatarski. Interviews so far have covered efforts to rescue Vietnamese women from sex trafficking, and what charities are doing to help the poor during lockdown.

RESEARCH

Public Media Alliance is running a questionnaire to find out more about challenges facing Southeast Asian media in this pandemic. The survey covers media freedom, media business viability, and journalists safety. Respond here.

What’s your Facebook click-through rate? New research seems to indicate that CTR for publishers is around 2.5%. Dutch publishers scored the highest (4.5%) among the 500 newsrooms in the survey, while the Italians were the lowest (1.6%).

OBITS

Veteran Filipino journalist Nonoy Espina died from liver cancer. He was 59. Espina was the co-founder of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, an organisation that fought for press freedom and the rights of journalists. Espina is missed by the many journalists that he groomed in media.

MEMBERSHIPS

Remember Outside magazine? Well, it’s still around — and a great case study on how to transform a legacy printed magazine into a modern membership newsroom. “When you combine the services like Gaia GPS, and the discounts to events, and you add in video-on-demand courses and all of the premium content, I felt like this was an offering for consumers that truly could be a foundation for their active lifestyle world.”

The Membership Puzzle Project comes to an end next month after a four-year stint documenting and teaching membership strategies around the world. They’re putting together an event from August 2-6 to celebrate the growth of membership models everywhere.

TRANSFORMATIONS

This is crazy: The Financial Times attracted 250,000 attendees across 200 virtual events last year. Who said events don’t scale?

SCMP circulated proposed metadata specifications for an NFT that could be used to record historical content. “By tokenising key moments from SCMP’s 118-year-old collection of media assets, [the standard] aims to take the first steps towards creating greater value from the news organisation’s ‘first drafts of history.’”

DEEP THOUGHTS

Ad-based social media. Four words that explain how we got to this point of internet society where we’re trading attention for outrage and ads. “This rent is too damn high,” as one commentator wrote.

Our concept of work is changing fast. Here’s a very smart Twitter thread with excellent predictions about what all of this could mean for society. If you’re building a media company, there are really great ideas in here that may shape the way you think about workflows, talent, and audiences.

OPPORTUNITIES

Reuters is looking for a breaking news editor in Beijing. You’ll be driving event coverage, planning, and monitoring. Stressful AF, but so exciting.

Asia Society Australia is putting together a discussion on “innovative philanthropy” in support of media in the region. It features Mark Ryan of the Judith Neilson Institute in conversation with our friend Ross Settles of University of Hong Kong on Wednesday next week. Register here.

The Singapore-based Asia Journalism Fellowship is back with 17 new members for this year. Sadly, this will all be online this year. It’s still an impressive lineup of Fellows. Kudos to the organisers for having five freelancers in the cohort.

Two weeks out to INMA’s Asia Pacific News Media Summit. They feature case studies from SPH, Sin Chew, and Asahi Shimbun. Register here.

Malaysiakini is looking for a journalist based out of their KL office. One of the best things about this job description: “A journalism degree is not a requirement. While we do recruit people with journalism degrees, we have also recruited journalists from other backgrounds before, including those with no formal tertiary education.”

The Global Investigative Journalism Conference will run virtually from November 1-5. Admission is $100. But they’re offering free access to a limited number of journalists through fellowships.

Samsa wants to get journalists from Small Island Developing States to apply to cover COP26 in Glasgow. The program will train 30 media companies to report on “the issues and local consequences of the debates and decisions of COP26.”

NOTABLES

Trump is suing Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for booting him from their platforms. Yawn.

You can apply for jobs through TikTok. You’ll have to create a video resume, post it to TT, and then send that video to recruiters through the app. Choice places to work at include Chipotle, Target, and Shopify. You can also apply to be a WWE superstar.

WORKING WITH VISUAL DESIGN

What’s a good way to critique design? We all have an opinion on it. “Meh” or “Amazing!” may be your go-to responses, but we need more to make it meaningful. In the newsroom, regardless of whether you’re a client, a designer, or a collaborator, you need clear guidelines for what will work and what won’t. Here are the principles behind those guidelines that this ex-Facebook product designer works with.

  • Who is the user of this product and why would they use this?
  • What do we want them to achieve by using this product?
  • How important is this product?
  • What’s the scope and the available resources, like time and team?
  • Only make those changes to the product that make it better
  • Don’t only solve by adding — solve by removing. “What can we remove from this experience and have it work just as well?”
  • If you could throw all your constraints away, would you still design it the same way?

It’s 2021. You need to know how to draw a wireframe. Sorry — even if you’re a non-design person, like, say, an editor, a funder, a founder, a podcaster, a reporter, or a producer, there is no escape — you’re going to have to learn to communicate your ideas visually so you can get buy-in (or a better idea). A quick low-fidelity wireframe is the perfect way of doing that, because it’s about the strategy of a page or a screen, not about the colours and the typeface. And here’s the good news — you don’t need to know how to draw. (The beauty is that about 90% of design is about how it works; the rest of it just serves to make that user experience look and feel amazing.) So here’s a great wireframing guide for those of us who don’t draw:

  • Draw the device frame (the browser window or the phone)
  • Draw the navigation bar (just for context)
  • Now draw the large elements on the screen — just scribbles for headlines and body text, and boxes for images
  • Now put the rest of the bits in — lists, links, and most important, the buttons, because these are the calls to the action that you want your audience or user to take

TOOLS

The art of the paywall, like a good sales pitch, is a delicate one. You need to know when to push — and you need to know when to walk away. Canada’s Globe and Mail have figured out how to vary their subscription pushes based on a user’s habits and likelihood of paying. An in-house learning tool called Sophi does this for them from behind the dynamic paywall. “It knows when not to bug someone because they’re not going to get money from them anyway.” And us audiences do like a paywall with manners.

Here’s a one-click sign up button for newsletters. If you run a newsletter, you know that a frictionless sign-up process is central to your ability to grow that subscriber list. Magic Links claims their one-click sign-up button works inside any newsletter.

“26% of your new users will never confirm their email.” The problem statement for this email technique, rather fetchingly called Sniper Link, is compelling. They say this is because of friction while onboarding, confirmation emails going to your users’ spam, and distractions. The solution? A Sniper Link promises that the user will see ONLY your confirmation link in their inbox…even if it lands in their Spam. Sorcery? Nope. All you’re doing is sending your user to a search result because you’ve given them an inbox search link that searches for all email from your company name. It’s actually a great idea. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you do, please write to me and let me know if it changed your signup rates?

PRODUCT

We, the Citizens has just kicked off its brand-new product: mentorships. Kirsten Han launched her Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative last month, and she’s just announced her 6 writers. We’re watching this one, because it is going to be HUGE.

WISDOM

I’m glad I stumbled on this little nugget: 99 bits of unsolicited advice for life. I’m not sure who wrote it, but thank you. Let me know what jumped out at you. Here are three thoughtful ones for me.

  • Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.
  • Ignore what others may be thinking of you, because they aren’t.
  • If your goal does not have a schedule, it is a dream.

AUDIENCE

To understand audience, first let’s understand what it is not. It’s not nationality, or age, or gender, or even profession. That’s a target audience. An audience has a shared journey. “Rather than focusing on who gathers and where, focus on why people gather.” There’s such great wisdom in this thread.

How do you find your audience? You embark on your own journey with these five steps:

  • Examine your actions
  • Figure out what your actions tell you about your goals
  • Then figure out what’s getting in the way of you achieving those goals
  • Find people with the same problem
  • Then figure out how to reach them

It’s all about your first thousand fans. And so I love this gutsy little website that’s all about how founders got their first 1000 users. The case studies of companies like Uber, Stripe, OnlyFans, Udemy, and Instagram, among others, read like somebody’s enthusiastic stream of consciousness ramblings into a voice-to-text transcriber with no brakes — or edit function, but you can’t deny the value of these growth stories, how dedicated these founders were about what their users wanted, and how profoundly they affected their lives. Worth studying.

What’s the first place to start growing your newsletter subscriber numbers? A great landing page. This article is one of those content marketing bloggy type things plugging Ghost, but it’s actually really solid advice by a really great landing page expert, like:

  • Don’t waste time. Put the signup form above the scroll
  • Don’t be meh. Make the call to action button non-meh
  • Do other people like this? Include endorsements and social proof
  • Add logos. So impress, much wow
  • Sample the wares — link to previous editions
  • Make your voice heard. Put some personality in that landing page headline and body copy
  • Be niche. Use language your specific community would get

A NAME IS A BRAND IS A NAME

How do you explain what a name is to a machine? In other words, what are some of the assumptions and rules (usually if-this-then-that) you’d have to make about a human name? One programmer made a list of forty assumptions — and all of them are wrong.

PHOTOSHOP PHAKERY

Norway has new rules to force influencers and advertisers to disclose if images have been retouched or filtered. Part of a plan to combat “kroppspress” — literally, “body pressure”. Enlarged lips, pronounced muscles, and narrowed waists all need to be declared. I’m all for it — nobody needs body-shaming of any kind, either fake or real.

ALGOS ARE PRODUCT TOO

TikTok really only needs only one single data point from you: how long you pause on — or revisit — a video. It gets loads of your other data points as well, of course, but this is the one that really counts. This WSJ investigation into the TikTok algorithm involved unleashing a number of bot accounts on the platform, one of which was named kentucky96. “kentucky96 lingers over this video containing the hashtag #depression… and these videos about suffering from anxiety. After 224 videos into the bot’s overall journey — or about 36 minutes of total watch time — TikTok’s understanding of kentucky96 takes shape. Videos about mental health and depression outnumber those about real kinships and breakups. From here on, kentucky96’s feed is a deluge of depressive content.”(Also fascinating about this WSJ story is how they mapped and visualised a niche interest — dogs — and then followed the niche all the way to the for-some-reason wildly trending #frenchbulldogs.)

BRANDING

I really like the Clubhouse app icon design. It changes every month to feature different celebrities — and it’s really good photography and art direction. “Brazilian digital communication and afro content creator Dandara Pagu who became the icon for the Clubhouse app last month, is passing the torch to Justin “Meezy” Williams, entrepreneur, manager of hip-hop artist 21 Savage.” Great branding design that’s right for a community + conversation app.

REBRANDING

Calendly got a brand redesign by Pentagram, one of the heavyweights in the brand business. A lot of us have encountered Calendly in one way or another, either to manage our own calendar or to schedule ourselves into someone else’s. But I can hear you asking me, Alex: why should I look at this branding case study when I work in news media? Because it’s a great lesson in how thoughtful, strategic branding can bump a relatively boring scheduling tool from sheer drudge to its repositioning as a powerful connector of people and opportunities. The messaging is important, but look at how powerful that visual language is: it’s inclusive, respectful, and so much fun. “Layers of colours and shapes convey the idea of coming together and create a distinct visual for each meeting and working session.” The new visual elements are a recognition of how we all connect, and that we do so in unique ways. It’s also an acknowledgement of the importance of our connector tools, especially in our pandemic-burdened lives.

GAMES THAT SHOULD BE NEWS MEDIA PRODUCTS

Spend Elon’s fortune. The catch is that you have only 30 seconds to do it in. I wasn’t able to spend more than $6.8 billion (even though I bought 136 of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches at a pitiful $50 mil each), leaving me with a surplus of over $159 billion bucks. Now this is how a story on the economics of inequity could be done.

EMOREJI

“On emoji: Emoji Studies is a growing field of research in academia and personally, I think it’s a great way to understand how different genders, cultures and age groups think / communicate. For example, it seems that Gen Z tend to use 💀 instead of 😂 (the skeleton means something along the lines of “dying from laughter”); it’s interesting that they’re often referred to as “Doomers”.

Fred Benenson made an emoji translation of Moby Dick. It’s called Emoji Dick. He managed to raise more than his goal of $3,500 to make it. I can’t believe the hardcover is selling for $200 but I totally want a copy.”

Also, just for fun, here’s a research paper from a couple of years ago on A Systematic Review of Emoji: Current Research and Future Perspectives. There are some great bits in there about the cultural diversity in emoji and user inefficiency. And then there’s a section on its history: “The first set of emoji was released in 1999 and was created by their Japanese originator Shigetaka Kurita (yes). “Emoji” is a transliteration of the Japanese word yes (e=picture) 文 (mo=write) 字 (ji=character)[8].” Delicious.

When you want a drone emoji and you don’t get it, things can get pretty heated. You can direct your outrage at the Emoji Subcommittee, part of the Unicode Consortium, which is an organisation made up of “mostly older, mostly white, mostly male” people from some of the world’s biggest tech firms: Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and Huawei are all in there. Why do other more outdated emoji make the cut, like, say a floppy disk? “Who are you Unicode, and who do you think you are?” Emoji is serious business. 💀

Interesting Marketing Video to Watch

As part of Singapore’s plan to produce 30% of its food locally by 2030, FairPrice takes a look at sustainable fish farming. #FromSGtoSG #SGfoodsecurity #30by30

Smooth 3D animation, complete with a jazzy, cat-burglar soundtrack, compares Facebook security to locking up your real-life home.

Logistics organisations like FedEx can tell any story — so long as the product can be shipped. Check out the kid’s cruiser wagon.

A long-form video by Ericsson explains how mobile tech usage extends beyond smartphones to healthier mangroves.

Stock footage platform Artgrid creates a zen-like viewing experience with some abstract image loops.

With the world slowly opening up, Google is focussing on the post-pandemic world where new jobs and holidays are a serious option.

Just in time for the Emmys, Netflix creates content about their own content with a long-form webinar discussion between the cast and crew of The Queen’s Gambit.

You know a business is serious about content when they produce a three-part documentary. Huawei visits 10 countries to understand innovation. #documentary #innovation #Huawei

Record Store Day is a global celebration of all things vinyl. LA’s Amoeba Records shows how this Saturday will run smoothly at their store.

Microsoft merges copy, video and photography to tell the story of South Korean cellist and making music during the pandemic.

It’s a shame Tokyo is in quasi-lockdown as this POV video shows the unique vibe of the city away from the Olympic hype.

Singtel captures the uncertainty felt by an Olympic fencer in the lead up to the COVID affected event.

In an attempt to attract a younger audience, the Olympics added skateboarding and Alibaba jumped on the kickflip bandwagon. #StrongerTogether #Tokyo2020 #LetHopeShine

In a gritty video, ASICS showcases the training that goes on behind the scenes of the Olympics.