Media and Marketing News Headlines Update on February 19, 2021

Why did it take Clubhouse this long to arrive? As Ben Thompson writes, the arrival of a voice-based social networking platform was inevitable.

As interest in voice picks up, Twitter is now testing voice DMs. The experimental feature is now running in India, Brazil, and Japan.

If you’re looking for a no-fuss, low-cost newsletter platform, check out Underline. A worthy spiritual successor to Tinyletter.

Podcasts and content marketing

Every content marketing trend prediction of the last couple of years has mentioned podcasting. While the podcast has been widely adopted for entertainment, how do you leverage this audio format for content marketing?

Ever heard of 3D audio?

It’s not always about finding the right host and story though. New advancements in audio technology mean the recording of a podcast could be its selling point. Digital broadcasters iHeart Media recently announced a big investment in binaural, or 3D audio. Essentially, 3D audio sounds like you’re in the middle of the action, you hear it like you do in real life. From a storytelling point of view, you can create something immediately immersive and engaging.

Can you say anything?

As podcasts become more popular and immersive, do brands need to worry about reputation damage? Whether advertising on a popular podcast or creating your own, how do you moderate? The short answer is you can’t, not in the way Facebook or YouTube can. Most rely on user reports for inappropriate material. Podcasting is an open ecosystem which can be very liberating for brands, but they do need to be aware of what they’re broadcasting.

When actions don’t match branding

Businesses spend years cultivating brand image, value and purpose. Building a brand takes a long time, but it can be destroyed overnight. Beyond the complicated battle between Redditors and Wall Street over GameStop stock, the overlooked loser is Robinhood. The stock trading app had positioned itself as the stock market equaliser, giving everyone trading access. This brand was destroyed the minute they appeared to side with Wall Street and block GameStop trades.

Guiding a brand through cultural changes

To be fair, Robinhood was in uncharted territory. They probably never envisaged novice traders beating Wall Street at its own game. Changes come quickly though, and brands need to adapt in ways that adhere to its cultivated image. Nike does this regularly, especially when it comes to racial issues in the US. Its famous Colin Kaepernick and recent “Don’t Do It” campaigns diverge from the usual sporting script but remain credible and align with its stated values.

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A brand’s history

Sometimes, a brand needs to look back at its history to realign with its values. What made it appeal to consumers in the first place? In its first rebrand in 20 years, fast-food chain Burger King took a look at its past. The new logo pays homage to the original, which was launched in 1969. Far from dated, the new logo is designed to work across multiple digital platforms, merging the traditional brand with today’s modern landscape.

When veteran Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, also known as a16z, doubles down on content adding to its already impressive blog and podcast, you know things are looking good for content marketing in general.

Squarespace uses illustration and animation to trace basketballer Walter “Clyde” Frazier’s journey from slick New York playboy to tropical island farmer.

The majority of us are lazy when it comes to passwords, especially at work, so Dashline created a simple animated explainer to bring its password manager solution to life.

Payment processing solution Stripe produced a documentary about Stewart Brand and his journey from Merry Prankster to a revered technology and environmental figure.

Bob, like the rest of us, gets bogged down with all the work platforms he uses. MetaSpark’s video explainer shows how platform consolidation works.

Adobe is late to its own party, but it turned up eventually — and it’s bringing your friends. The grandmommies of design software, Photoshop and Illustrator, finally have collaborative editing. This means you can work on the same file with a bunch of collaborators — but not in real-time, so essentially you’re still having to tag-team with someone opening up your file, making changes, saving, and then syncing, which is so 2018. Of course, Figma and Sketch have been doing Google Docs-esque real-time collab for a while now, which is amazing. (Think multicoloured cursors flying around the file with collaborators’ names on them.) At least Photoshop “also supports version history, so you’ll be able to reverse course if a collaborator messes something up.”

Email used to be so simple. In this Newsletter Age, not so much. Underline is bringing simple back. It promises plain text emails, super-low pricing, and “basically just a text box and a send button.”

Netflix is building an entire animator economy in Japan. There’s the old demand and supply problem to solve: Japanese anime is a powerful engine to keep new users coming back to the Netflix machine — but there’s a shortage of animators. The solution: for Netflix to partner up with anime studios to produce new content, to support young animators financially, to partner with an animation academy to train new talent, and to feed the growing Netflix market in Japan (they added 2 million Japanese subscribers in 2020). Also, Axios just reported that Americans are consuming more foreign content than ever, “thanks in large part to streaming, the pandemic and the creator economy.” We’re all stuck at home, and we need stuff to watch, which is why Netflix just hiked your bill. Think of it as content production tax — you want it? You pay for it. Fair enough.

Have you recently embarked on freelance life? Here are a few finely-wrought tips to think about on the ride.

  1. What do you want from it? “Find out what you want and optimise for it.”
  2. Are you freelancing because you’re building something, or just because you’re escaping something? “The “pull” needs to be more important than the push.”
  3. Plan for it.
  4. Get your biz dev and finances in order. Do it.
  5. Hustle hustle hustle. This is “an important part of freelance life. Nothing will come on a platter.”
  6. Pitch for work, and make your pitch specific.
  7. Google Calendarise the heck out of your life.
  8. Pricing is complex. “Optimise for control.”
  9. Your ‘office’ is important. “Build a workspace that works for you.”
  10. Figure out your system for what projects to do, test drive it, and then stick with it.
  11. There’s no single formula. Find what works for you.

If you’re a journalist, you’re already part of the creator economy. (You’re also welcome to call it the passion economy. You do you.) This really is the golden age of media. You currently have a device on your pocket that enables you to identify audiences, research a story, fact-check and corroborate it, collaborate with people to create it, pay them for their work, write or shoot or draw or film or record or edit or illustrate or code or animate the story, publish it, distribute it, amplify it, track it, test it, iterate it, and repurpose it into any number of different formats for different audiences that want it on different platforms, formats, or devices, raise funding for it, and get paid for it. And you can do all of this mostly for free (although you should ideally pay your co-creators and yourself). And you (arguably) don’t need anybody’s permission. But there’s one more opportunity here: “Becoming a full-time creator isn’t suitable for every journalist, but an entrepreneurial mindset is necessary for all. Legacy journalism institutions are beginning to offer training to journalists pursuing the creator route, but we’re missing the greater opportunity to engage creators who are interested in producing journalistic content.” Such a solid piece.

Is journalism a service? Why isn’t it designed like one? In a service design practice, there’s a great deal of contextual fact-finding to discover how people use a product within the context of their own lives. Editors would do better to ask their audiences and users about what sources of information and entertainment they rely on, why (or whether) they rely on their newsroom product, and where the overlaps (or redundancies or opportunities) lie. “A service delivers something of value that people cannot provide for themselves.” Opportunities abound in:

  • featuring more voices that audiences already trust
  • distribution of content to audiences who need it in formats that they need it in
  • creating information products for specific institutional or B2B audiences that would find it valuable enough to pay for (like “governments, universities, philanthropies, nonprofits, and businesses”)
  • unbundling variants of the same news product in different ways for paid and free subscribers

Clubhouse might just have been inevitable. It “doesn’t simply further democratize audio publishing, but also transforms it.” The major difference between podcasts and Clubhouse is how much less friction there is in terms of discovering, creating, and listening to conversations. Similar evolutions have happened: blogging to Twitter; web publishing to Instagram; YouTube to TikTok. “This capability is enabled by the “only on the Internet” feature that makes Clubhouse transformational: the fact that it is live.”

If you haven’t noticed, a Cambrian explosion is happening in the space of voice audio catalyzed by Clubhouse. Mark Cuban is launching Fireside, a podcast app that allows hosts to talk to their fans live and monetize those conversations.

Mark Cuban is launching Fireside
Mark Cuban is launching Fireside

Facebook is working on a Clubhouse copycat.

Why is audio so hot? Everyone is sick of Zoom calls and we’re going back to what we need more of: listening. Here’s a thoughtful look at how Clubhouse is the anti-Twitter.

China, unsurprisingly, banned Clubhouse. A badge of honor for any media platform.

James Murdoch is reportedly considering starting a SPAC to acquire media companies in Asia. The ex-chief of 21st Century Fox is working with Uday Shankar, the former president of Walt Disney Asia Pacific, to raise funds.

Bloomberg Media is on track to bring in at least $100 million in consumer subscriptions this year. Much of this was driven by the launch of niche verticals around healthcare, autos, and cities.

Twitter is reportedly considering a subscription product that will hopefully reduce its dependence on advertising (and hate-fuelled engagement). One option is to turn Tweetdeck into a paid product. Hey Twitter, how’s this for value add: I’ll pay for the option to edit my tweets.

Twitter told investors that it expects a “modest impact” on ad revenue due to the privacy changes in iOS 14. Compare this to Facebook, which seemed to be painting a doomsday scenario for its earnings. Twitter’s targeting is pretty rubbish, to begin with, so what’s there to break?

Google News Showcase is rolling out to more countries, including the UK and Argentina. The service carries both free and paywalled articles, which Google says will give publishers a boost in helping more people discover their valued content.

Finding brand stories

Every successful content marketing campaign is underpinned by a strong story. These campaigns stick because humans like to tell and hear stories. How does a large organization find stories that resonate? That’s the question a client recently put to us. To find out, we undertook interviews with 50 of its execs.

Asking the right questions

Successful story mining is based on successful interviewing. What should you be asking and how do you keep the interviewee comfortable? According to Columbia University, the four principles of interviewing are preparation, establishing a rapport, asking relevant questions, and listening to the responses. Famed US journalist Larry King (RIP) kept it even simpler, he never asked questions more than two sentences long.

Creating a storytelling environment

You don’t always have to bring in outsiders to discover stories. Every employee has a story about the business they work for, but running them all through the marketing department creates a bottleneck. Social platforms, especially TikTok, give employees the opportunity to talk about what they do. The trick is to find employees who stand out and love what they do. It also requires trust from management — the best stories can’t be micromanaged.

Clubhouse — What’s it all about?

The latest social media hype is only available in beta on iOS but has already been valued at US$1 billion and downloaded 4.7 million times. The Clubhouse is a voice-only social platform that allows users to join chat rooms — based on users they follow or topics — where all discussion is in audio format and controlled by the host. Basically, it’s talking not typing.

Big names are aboard

Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Drake, Oprah Winfrey, and Ashton Kutcher are among some of the big names to have joined Clubhouse. What’s in it for regular marketers though? To a degree, it battles screen fatigue and offers users a more engaging podcast-type experience. Brands can build an engaged community — one for customers and one for business partners in different rooms — where announcements can be made and feedback received.

Is the future audio-first?

Clubhouse joins a swathe of voice-controlled smart devices replacing the cumbersome process of typing and staring at a screen. Twitter jumped on the bandwagon with the launch of Spaces, its audio-only chat room. Meanwhile, American billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, launched Fireside, a podcast app that allows live conversation. With the rise of hands-free devices, audio and social were bound to come together. But, with social platforms having trouble fact-checking what people type, how will they handle the immediacy of speech?

Is there anything a new iPhone model can’t shoot? Apple goes behind the scenes for the Chinese New Year film shot on the iPhone 12 Max Pro.

Love is love according to Singaporean business, Michael Trio Jewellery, as it shares the emotional journey of a same-sex couple. #MTastoryoflove #AStoryOfLove #LoveIsAllWeNeed

GE has utilised the talents of journalist Mikey Kay to create long-form and video content documenting the global healthcare response to COVID-19.

In an attempt to remind the world its brand still exists, Nokia asked users to record 48 hours of change in their part of the world.

Finally, just one Super Bowl ad — Amazon reimagines Alexa with actor Michael B. Jordan’s body.