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MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on March 31, 2022

The complete mobile UX

Smartphone usage is ubiquitous. But how do marketers create smartphone content that moves beyond just how it looks (UI), towards the entire user experience (UX)? It’s possible to create immersive and intuitive mobile experiences, but only if you consider things like navigation, vertical formats, simplicity and accessibility.

Smartphone traffic

Getting your mobile content right is getting more important. This year, the average monthly smartphone traffic across the globe is estimated to be 83 exabytes, a rise from 49 exabytes in 2020. By 2027 it’s estimated that figure will be 281. How much is an exabyte? About one billion gigabytes aka a huge amount of data.

Average monthly smartphone traffic worldwide from 2015 to 2027 (in exabytes)

Reading your thoughts

It will be a while, but smartphones could be replaced by Brain-Computer Interfaces. In a world-first, a completely locked-in person — someone conscious and cognitively able but completely paralysed — was able to communicate entire sentences using an implanted BCI that records brain activity. And what did he ask for? A massage, soup and beer.

AI wins another round

Artificial Intelligence has already mastered chess and now it has beaten eight world champions at bridge. This is actually a bigger deal than it sounds. Chess is one-on-one, where both players have the same information. Bridge involves players using incomplete information and reacting to the behaviour of other players. AI is now winning games where human decision making is key. It will be making purchasing decisions next.

UGC and authenticity

User-generated content (UGC) has been with us since 2004 when Web 2.0 introduced social networks, blogs and wikis to the world. Anyone who has a thought can share it with a potentially global audience. UGC now extends well beyond reviews. Many marketers are using consumers’ compulsive need to share as a way to build brand authenticity as part of “the creator economy”. Create a fun challenge, game or prize, and customers will inundate you with content.

Can LinkedIn be cool?

Amidst the scandals that occur on other social platforms, LinkedIn is usually forgotten. Staying quiet in the background is working for the social employment site. Recent company stats claim the platform is attracting 200 new users a minute to share overly earnest and optimistic thoughts about work life. With Gen Z making a majority amongst these new users, the platform has introduced video profiles, Clubhouse style chats and the ability to block political content to keep the younger demographic engaged. The pandemic has changed work and LinkedIn is trying to keep up.

LinkedIn by generation

When we look at the demographics of LinkedIn users it’s clear why they added these functions. Almost 60% are millennials (aged 26-41) and another 20% are Gen Z (aged 10-25 — let’s assume only those over 18 are working). Both these demographics are video focussed so we can probably expect more development in this area.

Distribution of LinkedIn users worldwide as of January 2022, by age group

Deepfakes: a new weapon?

Amidst the chaos and suffering occurring in Ukraine at the moment, a surprising new war tactic emerged. A video depicting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling his soldiers to surrender was shared widely across multiple social platforms. Fortunately, the deepfake video was obviously false and easily dismissed. It does raise the question of how this technology will be used in future conflicts to spread disinformation amongst both sides?

AI content creation

Once a pipe dream, AI is now offering some real solutions for content creators. Whether it’s writing, creating visuals, or videos and content marketing, there’s an AI solution available today. The question is — are they any good? We road-tested some of the more popular options to see if content creators will be sidelined anytime soon. Short answer: not yet, although they do make some of the more mundane content tasks a lot quicker.

What can AI create?

Recently, Click2View’s Head of Editorial David Austin wanted to see for himself what AI writing tool, Hypotenuse, could come up with. He went something simple: his life story. After inputting a link to his LinkedIn page, a few keywords and some context, the software spewed out this. After adding a human touch — but no fact checking — David was immortalised.

Who owns AI content?

So who actually owns the intellectual property of an AI written story? How much needs to be written by a human for it to be attributed to a person? More importantly, if AI is creating content from already existing material, is it actually writing anything original? Laws in the US and Singapore state that original work needs to be authored or created by a human. So, even if you use AI as a starting point, editing and rounding out the computer-generated edges would give you ownership.

The growth of AI

AI is definitely transforming many sectors and industries. Back in 2016, the focus was on intelligent process automation — removing repetitive tasks. In 2023, it’s forecast the AI and automation market will be worth close to USD35 billion. Just over USD10 billion will be focussed on AI and business operations — including content creation.

Robotic/intelligent process automation (RPA/IPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) automation spending worldwide from 2016 to 2023, by segment (in billion U.S. dollars)

How do you take your content?

As with coffee — black, with milk, sugar — everyone has preferences and likes their content to be served in different ways. Some people will tune out if it’s not in a format they relate to. Last year, the creators of the Taiwan Defence Report wanted the content to be consumed globally. As well as a standard whitepaper, infographic and video (in both English and Mandarin) they released a musical ebook and comic book. One message, done various ways, connecting with vastly different audiences. Not unlike coffee at all.

Instagram crediting creators

Instagram has just released an enhanced tags function specifically for professional and influencer accounts. These accounts can now tag the creators responsible for the content being shared. The feature was introduced after content strikes by Black creators who weren’t receiving credit for their creative work. It will be interesting to see how many influencers actually create their own content.

Instagram influencing is big business

Instagram’s influencer market has been growing rapidly. In 2020 it was valued at USD 2.3 billion (up from USD 800 million in 2017). You can only influence with engaging content and a big audience to feed it to. Hopefully, this feature sheds a light on who is really creating this viral content.

Global Instagram influencer market size from 2017 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)

Ancestor AI

Online genealogy businesses were already creepy enough — we have enough privacy issues without adding DNA to the mix — but MyHeritage has upped the ante. After using AI to animate old family photos, they’re now adding an audio element to create mini biopics with your long-forgotten relatives telling their life stories.

WORLD WAR WEB

There’s been so much happening, so here are some quick updates on tech and the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine is the first TikTok war. The fight — quick and dirty — is exactly the way TikTok works, and it’s changing perceptions of how the conflict is playing out.

The invasion was first seen on Google Maps. “I think we were the first people to see the invasion. And we saw it in a traffic app.”

Russia snuffed out the last remaining bits of independent media in the country. Not surprisingly, these were the ones speaking out against the conflict.

How many people actually watch or read Russia Today? I do, but only when I want to get a bit of fiction in my news diet. The Reuters Institute found some surprising numbers. In Germany, RT reaches almost the same number of people as Der Spiegel. In the UK, RT is almost at the same level as The Guardian.

NPR launched State of Ukraine, a pop-up podcast on all things Ukraine. It drops several new episodes a day, which is quite a feat.

Support

A group of media folks led by Jakub Parusinski is raising funds to help Ukrainian media companies relocate to neighbouring countries and continue their operations from there. They’ve hit their first goal of £450,000, and are closing in on the next milestone of £600,000. Join the 6,400+ people who’ve donated. In fact, Parusinski’s effort has been so successful that he’s now looking for UK-based accountants — and crypto experts (they’ve received a “substantial amount of crypto”) — to handle the incoming funds.

The Kyiv Independent raised $1 million because of the invasion. They’re only four months old. “We are not backed by a rich owner or an oligarch. We want to be closer with our readers and champions than we were at the Kyiv Post” (that’s where most of their journalists came from; they were fired suddenly by the paper’s billionaire real estate owner in November). Read more about how Kyiv Independent came about.

Tools + Workflows

You can now run live streams on Telegram. They’ve added OBS and XSplit integration, which is pretty amazing to see.

Why is it so hard to get newsrooms to collaborate on stories? It comes down to the tech stacks — everyone is using a different format, a different workflow. “The process can — and frequently does — take an outsized amount of staff time to organise and orchestrate.”

Transformations

It’s 2022, and BuzzFeed is still trying to make its news operations profitable. In fact, because it’s 2022, you still can’t depend on Facebook’s algo to drive traffic to you. The big difference now for BuzzFeed is that it’s a public company, and it issued its Q4 earnings report — its first earnings as a public company — this week. It was shocking. This is the cost of running a mass market media company that (still) depends on Facebook:

  • Annual revenue was 31% lower than its own forecasts to investors
  • This current quarter’s revenue is expected to drop and it’ll run a loss
  • There are about 100 employees in News, and that’s losing about $10 million a year, according to CNBC
  • Shareholders are putting pressure on CEO Jonah Peretti to shut the entire newsroom, which could add up to $300 million of market cap to the lagging stock (recall that the shares dropped 40% on its first week of trading in December)
  • Voluntary buyouts have been made to some 30 employees — folks who work on investigations, inequality, politics, or science, and have been at the company for more than a year
  • Ahead of the cuts, editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs told staff he’s leaving
  • The deputy editor is also leaving…
  • …as well as the executive editor of investigations
  • Peretti had much to say about FB on the earnings call — “the shift in audience time away from Facebook has disproportionately impacted our commerce revenues to other businesses”
  • “We continue to see audiences spending less time on Facebook”

Indonesia’s Lippo-owned Berita Satu TV reportedly cut about 70% of its total workforce. Some 250 staff, including executive producers, producers, and reporters have been called in one-by-one by HR and told to go.

BuzzFeed is killing its standalone News app. It launched in 2015 to be the “smart friend in your pocket” — but not many people even knew it existed.

Trends

Japan’s LINE is set to launch an NFT marketplace. Launch partners include entertainment franchise Yoshimoto Kogyo, video game dev Square Enix, and manga publisher Patlabor.

Netflix has been slowly adding to its collection of mobile games. All part of a strategy to be at the center of your attention. Three new games have been added, including Netflix’s first first-person shooter.

SCMP is spinning off its NFT business into a new company. It’s been selling NFTs of its front pages, and in the last auction, raised $127,000. Clearly NFTs are a new business for SCMP. There’s another surprise to this story. Buried lede: SCMP CEO Gary Liu is leaving his post to go run this new NFT unit; SCMP is looking for a new CEO.

Deep Thoughts

This might just be the most enlightened view on the purpose of community in modern media. “When distribution is basically free and frictionless, the two most important things, beyond raw talent and format innovation, are the power of the community around the brand and the stake everyone has in it, both of which are primitives of the Web3 world. Community is distribution.” Another way to think about this: Investing in community is an investment in distribution.

Platforms

Facebook had vowed to improve its service in Myanmar in 2018 after being criticised for enabling the genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslims. The company said it would work on its detection of hate speech in local languages and establish a team dedicated to the country. Global Witness investigated the company’s ability to block hate speech and found out that it’s still “abysmally poor”. It attempted to run eight ads carrying hate speech — and all eight were approved.

Google Play app store will soon allow a “dual billing option” in U.S. apps. This gives consumers a choice about the payment system they want to use for in-app purchases. Spotify will be the first app under this plan — a landmark decision seeing the commissions app stores (typically 15-30%) make through payments. Eyes on Apple.

Twitter may start charging for Tweetdeck. According to Jane Manchun Wong, who’s been digging around the innards of source codes, Tweetdeck will likely come under the Twitter Blue paid tier.

Have you tried the Substack app? It’s not too bad — a sensible way of catching up on your newsletters. But is Substack meant to be a destination, or is it a mere tool? It’s puzzling.

TikTok rolled out longer videos of up to 10 minutes as it goes after YouTube. Misinfo goes longform.

You can now put up warning labels on your content on Twitter. Stuff like nudity, violence, and “sensitive” content. Oddly, no “spoiler”.

Some publishers, including Vox and Bustle, are walking away from Google’s AMP format. Execs say that leaving AMP would give them more control over page layouts and ad formats — and thus higher ad rates.

LinkedIn finally has anti-life-shaming features that allow you to label resume gaps. Which means there’s an option to add a career break, with a dropdown menu that includes real options for real-life people, like ‘Parenting’, Bereavement’, and ‘Caregiving’. Normalising and literally codifying career breaks like this is huge, and it’s very, very responsible user experience design to help hiring managers and recruiters not see people as workbots with no life other than work. It also ups your chances for employment: “Recruiters recommend that people find ways to explain breaks to improve their odds of being hired.” Good move, LinkedIn.

Substack launched a reading app — all your newsletter subscriptions in one place. Sadly for green bubble folks like me, this is iOS only.

YouTube is trying to get podcasters to also create videos. It’s offering grants of up to $300,000. That crossover in formats is going to be a big thing this year.

ITV believes there’s still space in the UK streaming market. It’s launching an ad-funded subscription service to take on Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+.

Twitter has a tool for creators to manage their earnings on the platform. It shows how much they’re making off the monetisation features such as Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces. It’s only available to iOS creators in the U.S. for now.

About a year late to the party, Amazon launched a Clubhouse competitor. Amp allows users to create live, shared radio shows with their favourite music. So it’s not just conversations — you get to DJ your own live chat party.

Media Startups

The two Smiths — Justin (ex-Bloomberg) and Ben (ex-NYT) — are reportedly trying to raise $20-$30 million to launch their news startup by the fall. They’ve approached Bob Iger, Michael Bloomberg, and the Emerson Collective for the money. The Smiths expect to burn $50 million in cash before they break even.

Axel Springer invested in a new podcast company called Spooler. The service will produce a series with Insider (owned by Axel) using some black magic tech that allows podcasters to update their content after it’s been published.

This Egyptian media startup founder was tired of the way the Western media covered her country. It portrayed Egypt as being “on the brink of collapsing at all levels.” So she decided to change this with a genius solution: to help journalism students write and pitch stories to global news platforms like the Guardian and Al Jazeera. Her startup’s take of the payment: a 30% service fee.

Founder Wisdom

Prem Chandran, the Malaysiakini co-founder, has moved on to other things. His no-nonsense wisdom and advice is still vital to the way we should think about starting, growing, and scaling media companies. “Many operations that have been successful have founders who are non-journalists and non-editors. And I think that’s a core part. Technology, advertising and sales can’t be secondary to the organisation. They have to be a very primary element.”

Audience

As a builder of media products and businesses, you probably do a lot of audience research. That was a really leading question that completely messed with your confirmation bias, wasn’t it? It turns out that confirmation bias is a huge obstacle in getting quality feedback from your audiences. Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Research rather than validate. Test assumptions instead of validating them. “The goal of research is to uncover things we did not know beforehand, not to confirm our expectations.”
  • Get early data. The idea is to spend more time earlier on doing research rather than designing your product in the void. (The later you test your prototype, the more expensive it gets because of all the resources and time you’ve put into it). “The sooner you get empirical data from the target audience, the more likely you are to be relatively unbiased when analyzing the data and acting on the findings.”
  • Ask nonbiasing questions. Leading questions are a big no-no. They also tend to make the test participants “sensitive to those issues that the researchers may be interested in.”
  • Use triangulation. This really just means having multiple sources of data. “It can be easy to twist and turn one research finding to match your hypothesis, but it’s a lot more difficult to do so with data coming from several different sources such as user testing, analytics, quantitative studies, or customer-service logs.”
  • Involve fresh eyes in research planning and analysis. Test your survey with a colleague who has nothing to do with it. Or, even better — your mum. “Often, someone who has no background knowledge about prior assumptions can bring a new, neutral perspective and more easily help you identify the effects of confirmation bias.”

This might be the best guide out there to grow your newsletter audience. 25 Effective Methods to Grow Your Newsletter Subscriber, apply it to your own newsletters, and trust me, everybody wins (especially your audiences, which is the best win of all).

Tools

Ausum = audio summaries. This app helps you listen to the top stories of the day while you’re doing something else. It’s found a place on my main home screen.

Descript, our favourite audio + transcription + podcast + production app, now has transcription support for Malay and Hindi (currently Beta only). Other languages offered are Catalan, English, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Croatian, Finnish, Latvian, Portuguese, Swedish, Czech, French, Lithuanian, Romanian, Turkish, Danish, German, Slovak, Dutch, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Slovenian.

Principles

Good principles are good design. The job section in the Everything in Moderation newsletter has both. “I won’t include any roles here that aren’t transparent about pay. Applications take time and companies should respect that. Sorry to folks expecting to find a cool role here.” Nice one, Ben.

Opportunities

Applications are now open for reporters to join the Oxford Climate Journalism Network. This is meant for journalists “interested in improving their coverage of climate change”. Members will join a 6-month program that brings together experts and journalists.

East-West Center’s International Media Conference takes place on June 27-30 in Honolulu. Early registration is now open for $275 a ticket.

AFP is looking for a digital verification journalist to report on misinfo in India. Spoken and written Hindi is required.

Malay Mail is seeking fresh grads to join the team as reporters. “You can WFH, the hierarchy is flat so you can pitch ideas directly to the bosses, and we try our best to do progressive stories”.

Singapore-based Kontinentalist wants an Editorial Lead to manage its data storytelling publication. The job requires a “demonstrated editorial rigor and sensitivity in editorial judgment”.

China Dialogue is looking for an English-speaking radio journalist, audio documentary maker, or podcast producer in Indonesia to contribute one episode to a four-part series of podcasts about palm oil to be released in June this year. The episode would look at land or labour rights. Send examples of your work to their multimedia editor here.

Safety

The International Center for Journalists is offering training on digital security for reporters. They want to help you protect your information, data, devices, and communications against digital security risks.

Branding

The Marvel comics logos are so bad they’re good. They “break all the design rules but that’s part of their charm”, according to this writer. But what are these rules he talks about?

  • “Logos should be simple and rely on intimation, not imitation.”
  • Black outlines around a logo were taboo”
  • Drop shadows = bad
  • A logo can only “survive”, according to design guru Paul Rand, if it is “designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint”

Here’s the thing, though: there is no such thing as A Logo without context, and that context is dictated largely by its environment, medium, and audience. And when it comes to comics, especially when these first ones were designed, those three things were a stacked spinner rack in a newsstand for kids and young adults. A rack where the masthead was all you had to make a quick decision about everything meant it had to rapidly convey way more than just the title. In fact, you’re literally drawing the trailer of the story right up there in the logo. “Artists liberally used skewed letterforms, thick outlines, and illustrative ideas like cracks and speed lines in their designs. Loud custom lettering allows a logo to thrive above a high-energy multi-character fight scene. On a comic book rack, elegance and simplicity was a handicap.”

War is terrible for branding, and Stolichnaya vodka isn’t feeling very Russian right now. Thanks to “its founder’s “vehement position” against the Putin regime and the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, it’s time for a rebrand. TLDR: the founder is Russian but exiled in 2000 because he opposed Putin. The branding says Russian vodka, but it’s actually made in Latvia. The country is obviously not a great association for brands to have right now, so the scramble to redesign their distance from anything Russia related has begun. And it’s probably going to take a long time to repair, given how soft power works.

Media Resume Design

Here’s what you should do if you’ve been identifying as a ‘storyteller’: Don’t. A study was done. Participants were asked what they thought when they saw the term ‘storyteller’ to describe a journalist. It wasn’t pretty. “Of 1,733 responses, 67% were negative or extremely negative, while less than 13% were positive or extremely positive. The responses yielded some consistent themes; variations on “made up” appeared in 264 responses and “liar” appeared in 239 responses.” Yikes.

Price Psyche

For someone who isn’t good at money, I’m fascinated by pricing. I love this list of psychological principles and techniques around pricing. It breaks it down in many delicious ways: the sensory origin of pricing, and a bunch of techniques around price fluency, reference pricing, pain of paying, and discounts. The most intriguing — and somewhat insane — set of techniques is price size perception, which includes the psychology of prices with

  • Smaller fonts
  • Different positioning
  • Fewer syllables
  • Without commas
  • Fewer digits
  • Smaller units

If you’re pricing a subscription, membership, sponsorship, or paywall for your newsroom, this is worth studying.

Sound Design

Sound design is an infinitely complex art and science. The sound design for the movie Dune sounds like artistic madness. “Of the 3,200 bespoke sounds created for it, only four were made solely with electronic equipment and synthesisers.” One of the many analog things the sound designers did to add that extra magic to the sound of sand, for example, was to add Rice Krispies cereal to it.

Media Products

I thought these were some fine insights from Brian Morrissey’s newsletter about how Skift survived Covid. There were some simple but solid lessons:

  • “Apply a consumer lens to B2B.” “Travel was historically broken into sectors – flights, hotels, cruises, meetings – but that’s not how consumers approached the category, so Skift took the POV of people, not vendors.” I mean, you’re still targeting people, even if they work in businesses.
  • “Media and data make sense together… on paper.” “Skift originally cast itself as a “travel intelligence company,” but ended up being a media company.”
  • “Covid expanded the talent pool.” Being a permanently distributed company has “led to a great expansion of its talent pool, not to mention a lower cost base”.
  • “Covid changed the client base.” “Much of B2B media business models are driven by vendors, but the big tech platforms are where properties want to get for their stability and massive marketing budgets”
  • “Balancing the revenue portfolio.” Skift makes revenue on events, ads, and subscriptions. But the pandemic was hardly great for events. “Now, with advertising on a hot streak and subscriptions coming back, Skift has seen subscriptions rise to 20% of revenue.”

The Ken introduced The Stack, a bundled newsletter subscription. The marketing copy says “paid newsletters are broken” because it’s too expensive to “subscribe and pay for them individually”, and that they’ve fixed this with The Stack which is a single sub for nine business newsletters. Hmmm. That’s a bit like telling me I shouldn’t bother with figuring out what to cook and eat for my different meals every day and that I should just eat a McDonald’s Happy Meal every day because it’s a cheaper bundled meal. But hey, I love that The Ken is making a push into a whole bunch of business niche audiences.

In an interesting move, Chrome moved your reading list and bookmarks to a sidebar on the browser. It’s not horrible, and it’s a much better user experience than its previous version as a button on the bookmarks bar.

This charming International Committee of the Red Cross email signature caught my eye. “Please note: If anything about this email is unclear or confusing, please let me know and I am happy to provide inclusive communication in different ways (ie. using clearer language, via phone, voice note, plain text).” It’s inclusive, respectful, and cognisant of the fact that different people process communication, language, and tone differently, and it says a great deal about the values and principles of the organisation. What’s your email signature like, Alex?

Zaha Hadid Architects are designing a virtual “cyber-urban city” for the metaverse. It’s called Liberland Metaverse. The idea is that people can use the virtual space to collaborate, but also buy land and digital buildings. “The ambition is for it to become the go-to-site for networking and collaboration within the burgeoning web 3.0 industry, i.e. the metaverse for metaverse developers and the crypto ecosystem at large.” Okay — that’s…meta.

“I sort of love the recent trend of design portfolios created in Notion.

  • Easy to scan
  • Writing is readable
  • Don’t need to learn a new UI on every portfolio
  • Creativity loves constraints” So true.

Are you using Notion for your newsroom projects yet?

I’m not one for self-help, but this set of ‘mood booster visuals’ is really doing it for me. There’s everything in here for the startup/creator life: perspectives on getting started with that seemingly gigantic task, the learning curve, procrastination, distraction, focus, scale, complexity, and failure. So truly good.

Amy Webb’s Tech Trends Future report is out. It’s now several reports divided into 14 volumes, “each covering a different cluster of tech trends.” Here’s a skimmable version with a key insight from each one (one of them is a Global Journalism Futures Survey, which I’ve left out):

  1. Artificial Intelligence: “Our future wars will be fought in code, using data and algorithms as powerful weapons.”
  2. Data, Recognition & Privacy: “Consumers are frequently turning to apps to get help with mental health, monitor chronic disease, and track health details, but few realise this personal health information is being shared with others.”
  3. Work, Culture & Play: “With approximately 2 million people creating content full-time, online creators are redefining entrepreneurship,” but sadly, also “Much of our technology-enabled world leaves behind people with disabilities.”
  4. News & Information: “Natural language search interfaces—whether deployed in AI assistants or as a feature in browser-based search engines—threaten the audience strategy for many media organisations.”
  5. Health & Medicine: “Membership-based services and health tech startups are creating new models that better fit the needs and lifestyles of younger, digitally savvy generations.”
  6. Connected Home: “Smart homes contribute to climate change in the form of digital emissions.”
  7. Policy, Government & Security: “Digital IDs will start outpacing physical ID use in 2022.”
  8. Logistics, Robotics, Supply Chain & Transportation: “From groceries to vaccines and gene therapies, the cold chain is becoming a larger part of our everyday supply chain. Investment is growing to meet rising demand for temperature-stable transit that delivers products without spoilage.”
  9. Blockchain, DeFi, Cryptos & NFTs: “Crypto tokens and blockchain networks are being developed so that fans can own portions of their favourite brands.”
  10. Telecommunications & Computing: “Spectrum for private use will be available in 2022, enabling owners to build private 5G networks for organisations.”
  11. Synthetic Biology, AgTech & Biotech: “You can now sequence your complete genome for $99—which is about half the price of Apple’s AirPods,” but also “Biological materials from Indigenous peoples are still missing from genetic databases, basic research, and clinical studies.”
  12. Climate, Energy & Space: “Alternative power technologies, including electric wind and clean hydrogen, are gaining acceptance.”
  13. And the Metaverse gets its own flavour: “Diminished reality (DR) will soon allow consumers to visually and audibly cancel whatever—and whomever—they wish, in real time.” We could all do with some diminished reality, yespleasethankyou.

Time magazine just released their first NFT issue. “To date, TIME’s web3 evolution has generated more than 10 million in revenue, curated a passionate community of over 25,000 artists, collectors and enthusiasts – of which, over 5,000 TIMEPiece holders have connected their digital wallets to https://TIME.com for frictionless access to the site.”

Unfold is Squarespace’s introverted app that enables you to make stories for Insta, FB, and Snap. They just came out from under the bed to mutter that they have updates that include Stripe-enabled tipping (which is now just a basic feature that any platform should have) on creator bio pages. They also have a marketplace integration with Epidemic Sound so creators can use royalty-free sounds in their posts.

We need to talk about the user experience of Southeast Asian names. A name has so many implications in how you’re represented — on official documents, in the public sphere, in the way you’re introduced. This informative, nuanced, and gently-miffed thread about how difficult it can be to write a Vietnamese name in the Anglosphere is so compassionate. It’s also a profound lesson in how diversity and inclusion could work.

Telegram is banned in Brazil because they didn’t check their email. Ideally if “tens of millions of Brazilians rely on Telegram to communicate”, you should probably not miss any emails from the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Kirsten Han of the We, the Citizens newsletter is bringing back her amazing Kaya Toast mini-mentorship initiative. ‘Back by popular demand’ is literally the best audience research + product mindset you could possibly build, and Kirsten has a LOT of popular demand. “I’ve decided to re-open [the mentorship program] on a rolling basis. There will be no deadline for applications; I’ll assess them as they come in.”

Kirsten Han of the We, the Citizens newsletter is bringing back her amazing Kaya Toast mini-mentorship initiative.

WFH created a giant market for background music. On YouTube. Consuming all this audio are audiences that want sounds to meditate to, sleep to, be, er, psychedelic to, and just be less lonely to. Here’s how Lofi Girl does it: a YouTube channel with a GIF screensaver and round-the-clock calming music playing in the background. “Lofi Girl now has a record company, branded apparel, and just about every type of merch you can imagine.” She also has 10 million subscribers and makes an estimated $100,000 a month.

This musician used to make $300 a month, even though she had 4 million listens across platforms. Then she switched to web3, and made $60,000. “I had one person buy my song for the amount it would have taken a million streams to get.” Makes me wonder if Spotify is going to get into NFT mode.

About a year late to the party, Amazon launched a Clubhouse competitor. Amp allows users to create live, shared radio shows with their favourite music. So it’s not just conversations — you get to DJ your own live chat party.

Facebook finally got itself a TikTok account. It currently has over 14,300 followers and has posted zero videos so far. It has a link in its profile to download the Facebook app, though — cute. (Twitter has been posting videos since October last year.)

Substack now has an app. It’s a pretty cool place to read through your stack of Substacks. It’s iOS only for now (but you can sign up for an Android waitlist). But the killer feature is this bit: “[Y]ou can add any RSS feed to the app via reader.substack.com.” One Substack founder said that the ideal Substack app would be “like Google Reader and your email inbox had a baby that’s more attractive than either of its parents.” You can even manage your preferences to ‘pause email notifications’ so that you don’t get notified twice every time a subscription newsletter drops. Here’s one feature the app couldn’t solve, though: the Reply button. When I read a newsletter by one of my favourite writers, I had to switch to my email app to look for the email again, because I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed it. You can’t hit reply in the app.

No more Instagram for Russia. The media blackout continues, and as of Sunday, 80 million Russian users don’t have Insta, which aligns with “two intersecting patterns: On one hand, more Western companies are exiting Russia as Vladimir Putin wages war. On the other, Russians are becoming ever more isolated, bereft of information, and subject to the messaging of a single regime.”

Google added air raid alerts to Android phones in Ukraine. Pretty amazing. To activate:

  • Android 12: Settings > Safety & emergency > Ukraine air raid alerts
  • Android 5-12: Location > Location Services > Ukraine air raid alert

This story on spotting scams in Singapore is superbly structured. All the bells and whistles of what journos like to call ‘scrollytelling’ are there, and it zips along at a jaunty clip. The writing weighs it down a bit: high CPM (cliche per minute) — things like “avoid falling prey to…”. But there are little tests and quizzes that keep you interested, and best of all, it actually solves a real problem for real people: nobody wants to be scammed.

The next TikTok craze might be… podcasting. This job listing for ‘Content Podcast Operation’ in Sydney wants applicants to have “[e]xperience working in content related to Podcast or audio format”. What would a TikTokified podcast even be like? (To begin with, could they please call it a TikPod? Thanks.) There is a LOT of room for discoverability, and if there’s one thing TikTok knows how to do, it’s building user acquisition from both publisher-to-user and user-to-user. And if they take the same frictionless hyper-additive user experience that redefined the way the world does short video and use it to reengineer the podcast format, things are going to get crazy. I found this in the very cool Podnews newsletter.

What does Google’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button mean in 2022? I liked it. In the old days of the internet when Google was still a serif logo, hitting it felt like a partnership — “Google understands exactly what I’m searching for.” Things have changed since, and search has come to mean so many different things: sometimes we use it for intent (“I want to find that one specific thing.”) and sometimes we use it for discovery or options (“I want to compare different things” or “I want to find a credible source or purveyor of this thing.”). This is a cool dissertation on why the button is still around — and what it has come to mean over time. “The internet, and even its corporate culture, was about converting spectators to participants, outsiders to insiders. That sensibility has long since congealed into something resembling its opposite. Your search is not your own; it’s Google’s.”

Tabletop game companies are buying up Hollywood movies. We’re talking big money for a board game (are we still allowed to call them board games? 😬) here: Magpie Games raised $10 million for an Avatar: The Last Airbender TTRPG. From the Playlogue newsletter

The Red Hot Chili Peppers music video for their song Californication features the band members in an imaginary video game. So a game developer built the game — 23 years later. “”I wanted to play that game so bad!” says developer Miquel Camps Orteza. “It’s 2022 and I haven’t seen anyone made the game so I challenged myself to create it. I have selected some epic moments from the video and turned into 7 levels each one with different game mechanics, I hope you like this game.””

Telum just published their first state of the industry report on media and journalism in Asia Pacific. Over a thousand journos across “Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong & Macau, Mainland China and Taiwan” were largely optimistic about the outlook for the media industry in 2022. and that the pandemic had had an “overall positive impact on public perceptions of journalism.” More insights here.

Laura Gao is a comics artist and writer from Wuhan and San Francisco. When the coronavirus scapegoating in the U.S. escalated into anti-Asian violence, Laura published a webcomic with ten panels, called The Wuhan I Know, which went viral. It was featured on NPR, then literary agents started calling, and now she has a two-book contract with HarperCollins. She quit her product job at Twitter, and spent the next 18 months writing and illustrating her debut book, Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American, which went on sale yesterday. From this interview with Kirkus Review: “There were so many ways I could have written it. It could have been purely just about how awesome Wuhan was, or it could have focused on anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. But after “The Wuhan I Know” went viral, an Asian American mother wrote to me to tell me that this was the first book she could share with her two young daughters where they could be proud of their identity.” From this feature in Input: “Now I get to fit work around life instead of the other way around, which is such a game-changer.” I can’t wait to read this thing.

Spotify has had a year in Pakistan, the home of some of the greatest music ever known to the world. The platform and its algorithms have been effective in doing what it does best: matching audiences with artists. “From a user perspective, it’s done a lot because someone who would otherwise be pirating music or downloading an illegal version off the web can legally listen on Spotify, either as a paying subscriber or through Spotify’s unpaid subscription.” This might just be the first step towards the monetisation that creators have been dreaming of.

News like Russia invading Ukraine is scary. It’s even scarier for kids. Here’s how editors around the world are helping. “To make a war thousands of miles away relevant for children in Singapore, Serene Luo, schools editor at the Straits Times, believes it is important to tell her audience that it’s a story of a large country invading a smaller one. “The message is that if big countries can lord it over small countries, or ‘big eats small,’ then 700-square kilometre Singapore also is in a very precarious situation.””

The Associated Press decided, like everybody else and their grandma, to get into the NFT game. It didn’t go well.

The Information has always been an exciting media biz to watch because of the way they productise. A paid membership can get you into their Slack channels, or conference calls with their journos, or the right to comment on their website — even tech company org charts. Their latest product is the Crypto Power List, made up of “the most powerful investors and operators in the crypto industry”.

What used to be software file functionality has now come to the web. Starting a new document by typing ‘doc.new’ into your browser, for example. “Google recently started selling .new domains to other companies like Airbnb, eBay, Canva, GitHub, and Medium, so you can expect to start seeing them pop up elsewhere too. For example, playlist.new launches a new playlist in Spotify.” By the way, you can try that ‘*.new’ thing with any Google app: Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, Keep, and Calendar.

Mighty Frames subscriber Jeannette Goon wrote to me about food-tours-as-media-product. She was responding to the bit I ran last week about Atlas Obscura’s food tours. “​​Re: Food tours. I think Year of the Durian is a creator / media business that’s successfully making revenue from tours. Though, they think of themselves as a travel company that produces media, and I think they have other sources of income too. Incidentally, I’m going on a foraging + hike tour with some people from the local indigenous community next weekend. I guess the people doing these tours don’t think of it as media, though it may be more immersive than reading a feature story. Would be interesting to see more media companies doing this!”

Inclusive UX

LinkedIn finally has anti-life-shaming features that allow you to label resume gaps. Which means there’s an option to add a career break, with a dropdown menu that includes options for real-life people, like ‘Parenting’, Bereavement’, and ‘Caregiving’. Normalising and literally codifying career breaks like this is huge, and it’s very, very responsible user experience design to help hiring managers and recruiters not see people as workbots with no life other than work. It also ups your chances for employment: “Recruiters recommend that people find ways to explain breaks to improve their odds of being hired.” Good move, LinkedIn.

Instagram now has a new feature called ‘Enhanced Tags’, which means you can credit other people on your posts. Dear newsroom social posters, it’s time for you to give public credit to your editors, photographers, researchers, reporters, translators, fixers, developers, illustrators, and data visualisers! “As creators collaborate, inspire each other and drive culture forward on Instagram, proper crediting has never been more important. This is especially crucial for marginalized and underrepresented creators and collaborators whose contributions are often behind the scenes.”

Virtual Reality Innovations Push The Metaverse Forward

The Story

Metaverse moves are happening by the day, including new innovations being made in the virtual reality (VR) world.

VR-y Interesting

When it comes to metaverse advancements, it’s no surprise that Meta is at the forefront of innovation, especially when it comes to one fascinating metaverse component: virtual reality. Meta recently demoed Builder Bot, a VR-driven feature that uses voice commands to dictate design. It’s another win inside an arena that’s growing quickly, as Meta has reported that their VR worlds are climbing in usage, with over 300,000 monthly active users (MAU).

Into The Unknown

Meta’s forays into the unknown (for now, at least) come on the heels of their newly published trends forecast, which lists cryptocurrency, the metaverse, social commerce, augmented reality, and more among standout trends to watch. More brands have taken heed and are investing in their own metaverse strategies, including Disney, who recently appointed Mike White to lead their metaverse strategy development. Mouse knows best, right?

STC POV

Oh, it’s happening. Virtual and augmented reality developments, which are key to the metaverse’s emergence, are happening everywhere — and not just with Meta. Snapchat pioneered the usage of AR in-app, while Pinterest and Instagram successfully experimented with VR experiences. And now, brands are getting in on the action. PacSun, for example, has a whole gamified shopping experience that touts itself as a “metaverse experience.” This isn’t going to go away any time soon — and we’re eager to see how brands and platforms alike are going to run with the possibilities of a metaverse-driven world.

Sneaky Link(edIn)

The Story

LinkedIn looks very different today compared to what it looked like even a year ago, with more creators taking to the networking giant to create custom, professional content.

That’s The Question, Jimmy

LinkedIn’s growth strategies are putting it higher on content creators’ radar. This has meant an influx of partnerships, deals, and monetization upgrades that are attracting influencers like YouTuber and philanthropist, MrBeast (real name: Jimmy Donaldson), to its ranks. Plus, functional upgrades, like the political content filter, aim to reduce discourse to get LinkedIn back to its core mission: building professional connections. With strategic moves that are positioning the platform as even more collaborative and open-minded than ever, LinkedIn is poised to dominate and attract more new (read: Gen Z) users.

Call It A Glow-Up

LinkedIn has launched a new podcast network with programming on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. “LinkedIn Presents” focuses on career and business topics, with shows like “The Anxious Achiever” hosted by Morra Aarons-Mele, “Sparked” with Jonathan Fields, and “Brown Table Talk” with Dee C. Marshall and Mita Mallick. “LinkedIn News” puts a current-events spin on similar topics, with shows like “Get Hired” with Andrew Seaman and “In the Arena” with Leah Smart.

STC POV

LinkedIn is making moves to hold its own amongst entertainment-based platforms. While it may already be the most popular professional social network today, LinkedIn is constantly challenging itself to be more accessible and useful to the up-and-coming workforce — and they know that content creators are making up a substantial segment of that. This is why their innovations are pointing to an influx of your favorite creators making appearances in your professional feed. After all, what is an influencer if not a successful business case?

Let’s Get Functional

The Story

With user experience always a top priority, social platforms are constantly changing things up.

#GoodBots

Private Story Likes on Instagram? Love it. Twitter’s bot detection labels? Yes, please. Reddit’s upgraded discover tab? Give us more. But wait: TikTok keeps adding new resources to TikTok Tactics and announced a new brand safety center? You’ve got that right. Whew — these social networks have been busy.

Thank You For Your Support

It’s a long climb to the top, and social networks are constantly competing to show us who’s the best. In addition to functional upgrades, creator monetization opportunities are always in development. One platform of note? Snapchat, which announced a new monetization opportunity for creators. Currently in beta mode, Snap is testing mid-roll advertisements in Stories made by Snap Stars. (BTW: Snap Stars are top-performing creators verified by Snapchat’s founder and have a star emoji in their profile to note their status.) Creators will receive a share of the revenue generated from these mid-roll ads.

STC POV

We love an upgrade — and we love creator monetization. The two often go hand-in-hand. Why? Because as platforms improve their tools, it’s so much easier for creators to pivot between content creation, business management, and brand collaboration. Simplified experiences not only attract more brands and creators, but experts already on the platform have a much more streamlined process. And an easier experience leads to our favorite thing — more creator content.

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

Sometimes the best video explainer needs one object to showcase a diverse range of services.

Apparently you can make a flippant three-minute video about prescription glasses and people will watch it.

Ever wondered what Stormtroopers discuss behind battle lines?

Netflix reimagines the flash mob with zombies.

If you don’t understand why your internet connection is slow or drops out, imagine the connection as pizza delivery.

Flip the climate change and sustainability narrative with a clever script backed by motion graphics.

Every Apple start-up sound turned into a rave anthem. #AppleEvent #AGCook

How do you get kids excited about the national electrical grid? Animated explainers starring robots of course.

If you want a celebrity endorsement, you have to incorporate their character — even if they’re Larry David.

If you’ve ever wondered how online scammers work, this animated reenactment shows how even the most vigilant can be duped.

Ostriches can’t fly (or ski as far as we know), so they’re the perfect animal for an airline-ski-holiday marketing campaign.

The unveiling of the latest Samsung smartphone is basically a sci-fi epic.

An unlikely cross-promotion between Kraft and Netflix featuring a foul mouth kid. #TheAdamProject

We don’t really live in smart cities yet so crisp futuristic animation is the most effective way to tell those stories.

Diverse styles of animation reflect the diverse range of films screened at the SXSW Film Festival this year.

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