Book Summary: Shift Into a Higher Gear by Delatorro McNeal II

Shift Into a Higher Gear (2021) uses the metaphor of a motorcycle to deliver some inspiring lessons on pursuing your dreams, achieving self-growth, and living your life to the fullest. Drawing from the author’s years of motorcycling experience, its teachings are equally applicable to your personal and professional lives.

Book Summary: Shift Into a Higher Gear by Delatorro McNeal II

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Book Summary: Renegades by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen

Renegades (2021) documents eight intimate and enlightening conversations between two living legends: the musician Bruce Springsteen and the former US president Barack Obama. These two friends delve into some of the issues that have defined both of their careers, including American identity, fatherhood, class and racial divides, wrestling with the past, and maintaining hope for the future.

Book Summary: Renegades by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen

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Book Summary: Rationality – What It Is, Why It’s Scarce, and How to Get More

Rationality (2021) explores the faculty that sets us apart from other species: reason. The ability to think rationally drives individual and social progress. It allows us to attain our goals and create a fairer world. But rationality isn’t just something we do as individuals – it also sustains our best institutions.

Book Summary: Rationality - What It Is, Why It's Scarce, and How to Get More

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5 Steps to Grow Your Email List’s Subscriber

Feel like you have a handle on everything except growing your email list? You don’t need a huge number of subscribers to start making money. But you do need a steady number of new people joining your email list so that you get fresh eyes on your offers + you don’t have a list that’s exhausted and depleted during your launches.

5 Steps to Grow Your Email List's Subscriber

There are 5 main steps when it comes to growing your list.

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MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on January 14, 2022

THE GAMIFIED CO-FOUNDER

You’re a lonely entrepreneur and you need a co-founder. What do you do? a. advertise online and wait b. ask for introductions c. make a game called Cofounder Quest, pop it on floppy disks, and surreptitiously leave them “in places where a software engineer is likely to stumble into it”. Genius.

Tools

The 2022 Twitter Planner is a marketing masterclass wrapped in unfortunately tired visual design. It’s a bit of an odd bird, but it features marketing “best practices, how to align your campaigns with your business objectives, and tips for setting campaign targets.” Corporate tweeting can be bland at best and offensive and cringey at worst, so there’s some refreshingly good advice in here around setting guidelines and guardrails around creating a brand with personality and voice. So good. Why did it have to be a PDF, though?

#EDITORSAREPRODUCTPEOPLETOO

I love this complex profile of Hanya Yanagihara, the editor-in-chief of T, the style magazine supplement of the New York Times. This Japanese-Korean-American is also an enormously successful Booker-nominated novelist on the side — with a cult following; “TikTokers post videos of themselves crying after finishing the book.” Her strength as an editor lies partly in being able to “detect emerging cultural patterns—and identify old aesthetics that are reëmerging”. She also says “…I put out T only for myself”, which contradicts almost every media product principle I stand for. But then again, the singularity of her personality emphasises how important it is for a media product, such as a style magazine, to have a point of view. It is one of the important ways in which specific audiences connect with brands.

Media Products

Adorkastock is a one-person, one-model reference image agency. It’s all Creative Commons and they use Imgur for user research and customer acquisition. Sarah Forde, the founder and main model, was an artist and illustrator, and realised the problem she wanted to solve was that artists had limited access to quality poses and references. That’s when Adorkastock was born. The models wear form-fitting clothing for anatomical clarity without nudity, which allows for artists of all ages to view and access the stock images. There is a paid Patreon tier which takes pose requests and commissions.

Trends

The latest Reuters Institute survey of global media leaders was interesting for one reason: Folks actually seemed excited. Most executives are optimistic about this year after an advertising market that performed better in 2021.

  • 59% said revenue increased last year — even in the face of stagnating audience traffic
  • Digital advertising picked up as more people are buying stuff online
  • 79% said they will press forward on subscriptions and memberships
  • Publishers also said they will pay less attention to Facebook and Twitter, and instead focus on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube as they chase younger audiences

Have you heard of Locket? It’s a new-ish app that’s now sitting on the top of the iOS App Store charts — and that’s why you should pay attention. It does one thing: it takes a photo shared by your friends and puts it into a widget on your iPhone’s home screen. Think of it as a micro-social network and you can see where this is headed (news, perhaps?). “I built it as a present for my girlfriend for her birthday last summer,” said its creator Matt Moss. “We were about to start a long-distance relationship… [so] the process of getting a little photo from her on my homescreen… seemed really appealing.”

Subscriptions

Here’s an unusual case study of how a small newsroom bundled coffee beans and other local products with its subscriptions. The coffee was a big subscription magnet. The newspaper went on to offer candy, baked goods, soap, oil and vinegar, rum, and chocolate to draw subs. What didn’t work: soap.

Entrepreneurship

Y Combinator is behind some of the smartest startups around the world. Here’s a great collection of advice from co-founder Paul Graham to entrepreneurs. One of my favourites: “The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them.” (It’s all so good, you’ll want to read it twice.)

Media Startups

Italy’s Fanpage started as a Facebook page. It’s now one of Europe’s most ferocious media startups going after politicians… and the mob. Their secret sauce — draw in young news consumers who don’t care for the stuffy mainstream newspapers. “Our main concern is never to grow old. We mustn’t make the mistake of growing old with our readers.”

STAT, a media company focused on medicine, is one of my favourite case studies. It’s a B2B and B2C business built on all sorts of revenue streams — subscriptions, events, research — and it’s incredibly niche. It’s the Politico of health. Here’s a podcast interview that’s worth your time.

NFTs

AP is setting up a marketplace to sell NFTs of its extensive photo archive. It’s promising “broad and inclusive price points”. Not a totally new concept; Quartz and NYT have been down this road.

Reporting

Wired wants to make this clear: All statements are on the record by default. “This means that what you say or write can be quoted and attributed to you by name, not just as ‘a company spokesperson.’” Wired is still open to doing conversations “on background” — but only if it’s agreed to in advance.

Deals

Is NYT’s $550 million purchase of The Athletic good or bad for local community newspapers in the U.S.? It comes down to whether you think the combined product is competitive or substitutable.

Audio

Spotify launched clickable ‘CTA’ cards — a new ad format for podcasters. A card shows up when the podcast plays. Advertisers can use that to run campaigns. But would you bother clicking on something if you’re focused on listening to the podcast?

LinkedIn is finally launching its Clubhouse competitor now that every other platform has a Clubhouse competitor. It only took them forever. Still, this probably has the best social graph of the lot.

The U.S. podcasting industry hasn’t produced a hit in years. That tells you just how difficult it is to get a podcast discovered.

What happened to Clubhouse?

Remember the hype around Clubhouse? It feels like yesterday when everyone was seeking out an invite to the social audio app. The thing about hype is it always dies down, especially when clones like Twitter Spaces and Discord Stages launched. In South Asia though, uses of the app have become very niche. In Pakistan reciting Urdu poetry is popular, while in India taboo conversations have found a wide audience. Just goes to show it’s the content not that platform that matters.

Fake business reviews

Back in the noughties Web 2.0 brought the world user generated content (UGC). For many businesses this meant online customer reviews. In Australia, there’s been a push from the small business ombudsman for tech platforms to make it easier to remove fake negative reviews. In a case last year, one reviewer was fined AUD 170,000 for a review vendetta against a podiatrist. There are calls for a more transparent review system but how do you determine a fake review? And will they target fake positive reviews too?

SO MUCH MEDIA, SO MUCH PRODUCT

Axios just launched a Pro version. As with any good paid product created to solve specific audience problems, it’s all a depth game. Signing up to Axios Pro gets you “3 core areas of coverage: Fintech Deals, Retail Deals and Health Tech Deals, with more industries to come.” You also get daily newsletters, subscriber-only access to events, and live discussions, and it all comes at a booming US$1,799 with a free two-week trial.

Last year, almost every story about Clubhouse was about whether or not it was dead yet. But in South Asia, the live audio app is still going strong—especially after they launched their Android version. The formats are exciting: it’s used for Urdu poetry in Pakistan, socio-political discussions in Bangladesh, stock market movements in Nepal, “conversations no one else was having” in India, and psychology-based topics in Sri Lanka. One user hopes “there will always be space for an audio platform because it really is such a refreshing change from the constant focus on imagery and video.” I agree. (Plus, how cool is music mode.) It’s clear that Clubhouse prevails, ever-zombie-like, undead forever. Have you been using live audio for your audiences? I’d love to know — just reply to this email.

I’m not big on best-of lists, but two apps in this list jumped out at me. They’re both very simple, and they both feel like they capture our pandemic-ridden zeitgeist well. The first is Call Your Friends, which wants you to, well, call your friends. I’ve been doing a great deal of this in the last two years with my friends around the world, because so often it feels like we tend to prioritise work communication far more than anything else. It’s been truly wonderful, and I’m so grateful for the relationships that have been strengthened by this happy little habit. The other app is Mapless, which is a map app with a difference: it encourages discovery and exploration by turning off strict turn-by-turn directions. All it has when you pick a destination is a nice big arrow to point you in the right direction.

Taco Bell, a fast-food restaurant chain in the U.S., is selling a monthly taco subscription. (Tacos are arguably one of my favourite snacks in the world, and it’s a Mexican snack made from a small corn or wheat flatbread rolled around a meat and vegetable filling.) I’m working from San Francisco this month and making sure I get plenty. Taco Bell is often parodied online as a surefire way to instantly destroy your digestive system, but I have to say this $10 monthly subscription idea sounds very cool indeed. If you’re a member of their rewards program and have their app, you get one taco a day for 30 consecutive days. It sounds like a great way to boost sampling of your product with the hope of converting fly-by customers to deeper loyalty.

What goes well with a news subscription? Coffee. Also other local products like candy (big hit), baked goods, oil and vinegar, rum, chocolate, and soap (not a big hit). Alan posted this one in our School of Splice Slack group. I love that the case study takes us through the economics of this exercise to solve the problem of digital subscriber churn. The ability to make this work for the news org, the subscribers, and the retailers involved is a real feat — so impressive!

Did a subscriber just end their subscription? There’s a non-creepy way to actually ask them to reconsider. A fave from last year.

MEASURING SUCCESS AND FAILURE

Goal-setting is a great way to set up your year in media. But how you do it is a big deal. “If you can answer the questions “how much” and “by when” when setting a goal, you’ll set yourself up for success.” Ideally, the best targets are 1. challenging (so you push yourself), 2. measurable (so you can tell how close or how far away from success you are), and 3. actionable (so that these are actually things you CAN do). Number 4 is my favourite: your target should be self-set, because that means it’s a target you want to achieve, not because someone made you do it.

GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION

I have worshipped the amazing Adrian Tomine for ages, ever since he drew his first New Yorker cover. Here he is on his Substack responding to a reader request asking him to do a “detailed “process post”” on what it’s like to draw a cover. His post lets you in to the techniques, thought processes, and references of an artist at the very top of his game.

I give you Doodle Ipsum. That’s right: lorem ipsum for illustrations, by the always-impressive Pablo Stanley. So any time you need a placeholder illustration for that website mockup or landing page, just specify your illustration style, size and dimensions, and embed. There’s even an option to embed a random image on every page load.

THE STATE OF HIRING

Here’s how Really Good Emails looked for a CEO last year. They opened up their financials, projections, performance, and goals. I love the writing and transparency in there. “The industry is moving at a rapid pace. People understand that email is a direct requested customer communication and everyone wants in on the action. When the content serves the customer, the impact is far more effective at retention and engagement than any other medium out there – thus making customers and businesses happy… and ultimately the tools that facilitate this through their SaaS platform in the process.”

Minimalist rebranding

Many established brands are embracing the less is more ethos when it comes to logos. It’s common for brands to rebrand and the exercise can further strengthen key information about your business to your audience through symbols, text, and images. While the process isn’t simple, there is a trend towards simple logos via minimalist design.

Can AI feel?

Anyone with a Gmail account would be aware of Smart Reply — an algorithm that suggests three responses to an email you’ve received. It makes things easy for a quick response but researchers are seeing wider usage for AI-mediated communication. OurFamilyWizard is a co-parenting app for divorced parents that uses AI to monitor sentiment in messages — it flags problem words. With social platforms starting to use similar technology, could AI be the key to online civility?

Programmatic ads on podcasts

For many brands, advertising on podcasts delivers authenticity. Listeners develop a deep level of trust and familiarity with their favourite podcast hosts, so when these hosts recommend a brand or product the message is more likely to stick. The podcast industry has received a lot of investment recently and to justify these costs, big players like Spotify have invested in programmatic advertising. The problem is some ads are appearing where they shouldn’t. How will podcast platforms balance scale and authenticity?

TikTok Is The Gift That Keeps Giving

TikTok had the best Christmas ever. App Annie reported that TikTok was the top downloaded app worldwide on capitalism’s favorite holiday (Christmas).

Downloads | Top Apps & Games Christmas Day 2021

Smiling’s My Favorite

TikTok ranked ahead of Instagram and Facebook, presumably due to a number of tablets, smartphones, and other tech making an appearance under the tree. TikTok’s commitment to a great user experience isn’t stopping anytime soon. TikTok is testing out a new re-post option to not only increase content distribution but create the potential for brands to reshare branded content from their creator partners in a big way.

TikTok is testing out a new re-post option

TikTok is testing out a new re-post option

In addition, the development of live-stream intros allows creators to add short text descriptions to their broadcast as a preliminary welcome to new viewers.

The development of live-stream intros allows creators to add short text descriptions to their broadcast as a preliminary welcome to new viewers.

These subtle upgrades point to TikTok’s prioritization of creator-generated content. But it doesn’t stop there, especially for creators who specialize in streamed content. TikTok’s new desktop streaming app add-on is only in its testing phase, but the possibilities are endless, especially for creators and brands active in industries like gaming.

Alexa, Where Can I Buy Kewpie Mayo?

So many viewers found themselves indulging in FoodTok’s most delicious and viral recipe videos that TikTok took it a step further and said “let there be delivery.” That’s right–TikTok-famous food may be coming to you via TikTok Kitchen’s impending launch.

TikTok Kitchen’s impending launch

This mouth-watering advancement will utilize local restaurants to make the meals you’ve come to know online, delivered by your friendly neighborhood GrubHub delivery person. That means that next time the algorithm shows you a mouth-watering clip, you might be able to order it with just a tap. Talk about OOH advertising!

Speaking of the algorithm, TikTok announced that they’re working through algorithm reformation that will reduce the number of repetitive topics that users see through their “For You” page. TikTok acknowledged the dangers posed by seeing excessive similar content, especially sensitive material. It’s not just about broadening user experience anymore; it’s about protecting those in a vulnerable state from consuming too much triggering media.

STC POV

Not to brag, but we totally called it. We already predicted that TikTok would be the biggest app on social media and this spike in downloads points to just that. Marketers shouldn’t ignore TikTok’s popularity as it’s a viable channel ripe for more sponsored content and continues to prioritize creators. This growth also suggests that an influx of dedicated creator-driven content is close behind.

Plus, we already know that TikTok is wildly popular amongst Gen Z users. As the population continues to grow and Gen Z ages up, we’re anticipating that TikTok’s user base will explode as we approach one billion content creators in five years.

TikTok’s new and growing advertising opportunities, coupled with more robust e-commerce features and experiences that merge social media with reality, mean that creator monetization is poised to make a modern middle class out of influencer marketing. After another year of TikTok crushing it with in-app shopping experiences, branded collabs, and an explosion of user-generated content, we pose the question: is there anything they can’t do?

Meta Makes Moves

TikTok may have reigned supreme worldwide on Christmas Day, but Meta’s Oculus virtual reality app was the fave in the United States.

Merry Crisis

Many Americans scored a new Oculus headset off their wish lists and have been hopping on the virtual reality train. Virtual reality is growing at a fast pace as Web 3.0 approaches, and it’s clear why. With a pandemic that has deprived many of face-to-face interaction for long stints, early adopters are finding community and camaraderie in virtual reality.

The option to collaborate during unprecedented times is quickly becoming a social movement in addition to an entertainment platform. But there already seems to be insidious cracks in Oculus’s metaphorical armor as parental controls on the system are easily manipulated. The concern is that users—particularly kids—are left open to harassment, highlighting the dark side of VR and the opportunity for abusers to access young users.

It’s Like A Reward

Meta is full of surprises, and one that raised eyebrows came at the end of 2021 in the form of a system shift toward an outcome-driven ad experiences model (ODAX). In simpler terms, Meta advertisers will be able to set up their campaigns in a more intuitive way that priorities their business outcomes.

Outcome-driven ad experiences model (ODAX)

Advertisers will see changes rolled out throughout 2022, and a visual change to the ads manager will accompany the functional updates. Two thumbs up for a more streamlined, clearer setup. And as a marketer, we’re sure you’re pumped too.

STC POV

Meta’s developments are moving toward a better user experience for advertisers and future-friendly products like virtual reality, which will set the tone for other brands to follow suit. Brands can expect more platforms to make advertisers’ experiences more streamlined and intuitive in the future as technology advances, much like how virtual reality has become prominent as of late. But with greater technology comes risk, and brands should proceed with an open mind as well as caution.

Meet Qaya

Google has launched Qaya, a new opportunity for creators to monetize their content and businesses with the launch of their new platform.

Google has launched Qaya, a new opportunity for creators to monetize their content and businesses with the launch of their new platform.

Money Honey

The intent is for creators to use Qaya as their business activity hub with options to link to or create their own storefronts and promote product offerings. This lets creators sell just about anything and manage it all from one place.

In addition to Qaya’s development and launch, Google is working through the logistics of a new subscription service and more monetization plans that reward creators for their products and services. Qaya will be linked to any property under Google’s umbrella, like YouTube. Plus, creators will have access to a reporting suite and customer management tools to enhance their businesses.

Make It Rain

Qaya knows that content creators are the new generation of entrepreneurs and they are making big money. They’re running businesses and need the same tools that other business owners in brick-and-mortar locations would need.

By providing tools and monetization opportunities, Google is making it clear that they support the creator economy and want it to succeed. And Google certainly isn’t the last to do so as more tools and financial services for creators become commonplace.

STC POV

With Google jumping on the monetization train and other platforms strengthening their offerings, the creator community has made it loud and clear that what they want is compensation and they won’t accept anything less for their work. Creators looking to monetize their content will follow the ever-important cash flow, and brands who provide it will build successful partnerships.

As marketers make moves to partner with creators who can help them drive sales and brand awareness, it’s important to be a valued collaborator in all ways possible — not just in brand deals, but in supporting the monetization of their work.

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

If you thought assembling LEGO Star Wars kits took a lot of effort, try turning the end results into a brick film.

HEAD combines in-depth information and bombastic hyperbole to tell the story of its new tennis racquet design.

MINI leverages authentic artist stories and designs to push diversity and support the American Immigration Council. #MINI #BIGLOVE #MINIRooftops

A PR activation between the new Spider-Man movie and insurance company (who do you think pays for superhero damage?) with a real-life copy of the Daily Bugle. #SpiderManNoWayHome

Snake-like animation brings alive the relief of computer cable de-cluttering.

How do you engage with an info heavy, preachy script? With dynamic backgrounds, b-roll and unique animation.