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How publishers make native ads newsy

DIGIDAY

Native advertising was supposed to be marketers’ answer to banner blindness by creating ads that consumers would want to read and share. But by the time a native ad gets through all the necessary approvals and is shaped in a way that can scale, the result is often evergreen — and bland.

But a handful of publishers are trying to create native ads that play off the news cycle, betting that the more timely the post is, the better its chances of being read and shared. There are limitations: It is labor-intensive and hard to scale. “You really have to be resourced and in a philosophical place to be able to respond in a timely enough manner to play in the news cycle,” said Mark Howard, CRO of Forbes.

And as the history of real-time marketing disasters show, marketers have to know when it’s appropriate for their brand to weigh in. “The mistake a lot of content marketers make is creating content that is outside of what would be acceptable for that brand,” said Todd Sawicki, CEO of Zemanta, a native ad platform. “The problem is assuming that every event or news cycle needs a comment.” And newsy native ads may be suited to top-of-the-funnel messages, but more brands are moving to classic brand-tracking metrics to evaluate the success of their native ads.

So with the caveat that not all brands can pull it off, here’s how four publishers are marrying native and the news.

Bloomberg Media Group
The financial publisher wanted the quality of its native ads to be as good as editorial content, if not better. “It’s always a challenge to think about how we can engage people in native content, working against the sponsored content slug,” said Zazie Lucke, head of global marketing at Bloomberg Media. “It has to meet the bar of editorial, and it has to be engaging, and in some cases it has to be even more engaging to get over the hump of being sponsored content.”

So Bloomberg came up with a product called Riding the News late last year that would respond to breaking news. Dedicated content and data employees pull trending topics in the advertiser’s industry and meet frequently with the client to act quickly on the news. For an asset-management company doing business in Japan, for example, Bloomberg responded to Japan’s quantitative easing announcement with a story within a week that juxtaposed that country’s experience with that of the U.S. (Bloomberg said it wouldn’t name the client because it didn’t have approval to do so.

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Publishers love WhatsApp’s potential, but struggle with execution

DIGIDAY

Publishers have a love-hate relationship with WhatsApp. While many are seeing big numbers from the platform, they’re also wrangling with a handful of product issues that complicate how they’re approaching the platform.

For publishers such The Huffington Post U.K. and Daily Mirror, which use WhatsApp to send breaking news alerts to readers, the big challenge is the work involved in getting people signed up for the alerts. It’s an arduous process on both ends. To get the alerts, readers have to send a message to a dedicated number setup by a publisher, which is a more-lengthy process than clicking a “Like” or “Follow” button.

But that’s only the beginning of the process: To get those alerts out to readers, publishers have to add every signed up user to a Broadcast List, which is what lets WhatsApp users send messages to many people at once. That’s a long process for publishers’ small social media teams, and it’s made more complicated by WhatsApp limiting each broadcast list to 256 users.

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Chris York, social media editor at Huffington Post U.K., which launched its first WhatsApp trials in October. York said that process of adding and removing WhatsApp users from its Broadcast lists has been so laborious that The Huffington Post has stopped actively marketing the feature. “We’ve only just scratched the surface of what we could achieve with WhatsApp and we’re really excited to keep innovating with their platform,” he added.

Other publishers are seeing the same issues. The Daily Mirror, which started sending out WhatsApp politics alerts last week, has already felt the heat. “We don’t have the biggest team, and it’s a very manual process, particularly in comparison to something like Twitter,” said Heather Bowen, head of social media at The Daily Mirror.

But publisher frustrations with WhatsApp are in part due to the basic reality that WhatsApp was designed for small-scale commutation, large-scale broadcasting.

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Gen Z Influencers to Brands: Let Us Be Ourselves — and Forget Tumblr

Ad Age

He let his fans dictate his agenda, sending collages of visual messages, or snaps, at each tourist stop. “At the end of the day,” he said, “I’d give a shout-out to Marriott for hooking me up with the hotels.”

That kind of brand marketing thrives on the platform, explained the 27-year old, who was commissioned for similar work byDisney and has worked for AT&T and Samsung. To demonstrate what he won’t do on Snapchat, he adopts a salesman patois: “Ten dollars off at your next stay!”

Brands must be hands-off, giving social-media savants like him one brief: “be true to yourself.”

This was the overarching message from Mr. McBride and a trio of even younger players gathered on Wednesday by 360i, the Dentsu Aegis digital agency, for a panel on “Gen Z Influencers.” The agency roughly defines the generation as those born between 1997 and 2002, and while the influencers in question might not be in the generation, they’re definitely reaching them.

And marketers want to reach them, too, which is why they are increasingly turning to content creators with fame on mobile platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Vine. And they’re shelling hefty fees to do so — sometimes as high as five figures per snap, photo or video. The market’s potential became clearer two weeks ago, when Twitter agreed to buy Niche, a digital talent agency for social influencers.

It makes sense. The influencers, like the YouTube stars before them, understand the platforms. And they can often execute two of the most desirable, difficult tasks for advertisers targeting younger audiences: mobile and native.

With his off-kilter images, Mr. McBride, who tucks his stringy, long hair in a backwards cap and cultivates a surfer dude image, has amassed a huge following of over 350,000 Snapchat “friends” known as “Shonduras.” His most-engaged fans, he says, are often “14-year old girls.”

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6 Technology Innovation Sources for Outside-In Learning

CIO Dashboard

The speed and variety of new ideas makes technology innovation harder than ever before. For most of the last 30 years, those of us in the field of information technology only really concerned ourselves with one major new technology trend at a time – distributed computing, GUIs, OOAD or data warehousing. Now we have not one, but a flood of technologies: mobile, social media, big data and analytics, cloud, the Internet of Things and 3D printing, to name a few, rushing toward us all at once. The reassuring news is that there are as many sources of learning and opportunity to fuel innovation as there are technologies to consider integrating into your technology portfolio. But, you need to know where to look.

Most corporations have a history of learning about new technologies by tapping a few trusted vendors, attending a conference or two and and reading trade publications. Some of the more progressive companies look to universities. Even fewer today rely on the venture capital world and some have taken on their own corporate venturing. But, companies don’t have to invest millions to partner with a university or fund a venture business to innovate in today’s disruptive digital marketplace.

The barriers of entry to innovate have never been lower as easy-to-access communities with ideas and talent grow more and more plentiful. For a fraction of the cost of traditional outside-in innovation, you can open the door to intriguing worlds and be inspired to create a new product or business model, source talent or acquire a company. I guarantee that if you explore at least one of these communities your mind will start to swim with possibilities for how to push your company’s agenda forward. It’s time to fight fire with fire to stoke the flames of innovation by bringing the outside in.

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The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch

Guy Kawasaki

I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. This rule is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.

  • Ten slides. Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business.
  • Twenty minutes. You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.
  • Thirty-point font. The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a ten point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it. However, as soon as the audience figures out that you’re reading the text, it reads ahead of you because it can read faster than you can speak. The result is that you and the audience are out of synch.

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Why email marketing is still in style and thriving

VentureBeat

Email is the workhorse of digital marketing. While we as marketers like talking about the hot new platform du jour, email marketing has been around since the ’90s, is appropriate for every audience, and delivers the highest return on investment (ROI) in digital marketing.

As it turns out, consumers like email just as much as marketers. A new survey from Marketing Sherpa reveals that most consumers like getting promotional emails every week. A vast majority (91 percent) of U.S. adults say they like getting promotional emails from companies they do business with. Of those, 86 percent would like monthly emails and 61 percent would like them at least weekly.

When consumers are this actively engaged with a digital marketing channel, I’m all ears, and you should be, too.

Email might not be the flashiest digital marketing channel, but it’s definitely the most likely to succeed. So what’s the future of email, and how can marketers innovate on this tried-and-true channel?

In its next evolution, I see email marketing becoming the connective tissue of the customer journey. It’s clear that the future of all marketing is the customer journey, as the lines between sales, service, and marketing are blurring. Customers expect a seamless and personalized experience from the companies and brands they do business with, every step of the way. Our job as marketers is to understand customers on a 1:1 basis, to understand their individual journeys, and then to influence those journeys at scale, so we can achieve desired business outcomes.

Over the next year to three years, email will move from being the digital marketing workhorse to being a connecting fiber between channels that keeps customers satisfied on every front. Email is an incredible tool all on its own. But consider these “email-plus” scenarios that are truly marketing gold.

1. Email amplifies social audiences to great effect

Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are powerful ways to connect with existing audiences and earn new ones through creative and useful content. But we’ve also seen that the combination of email with social media is a new holy grail.

 

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Business Insider plans spinoff consumer tech site

DIGIDAY

Flush with new funding, Business Insider is planning to launch a new site devoted to consumer technology that will attempt to expand its audience beyond business readers, Digiday has learned.

Executives at BI declined to comment on the record, but sources close to the project confirmed the publisher’s plans for BI’s first new standalone site. The site isn’t expected to launch until the third quarter, and, as such, it doesn’t have a name or dedicated staff yet. BI expects to use a mix of internal staff and external hires.

There’s been an explosion of tech coverage lately, with older verticals like Wired and PC Magazine and general news organizations like The New York Times joined by new, digital natives like The Verge, Gizmodo and Engadget. A new entrant will have to muscle its way into a crowded category, but Business Insider seems to derive confidence from its audience growth at the mother ship and from its homegrown content-management system, which it calls Viking.

Founded in 2007 as Silicon Alley Insider, Business Insider has grown into a 35 million uniques-strong site under CEO and editor-in-chief Henry Blodget. The site has an ostensible focus on business, but like other publishers that start out with a vertical focus, BI has broadened its editorial mandate in the quest for scale, giving rise to gems like “Scientists measured 15,000 penises and determined the average size” and “You’ve been loading your dishwasher all wrong.”

But apparently, that mandate can only stretch so far. BI wants to give the new site an entirely new name and identity separate from Business Insider. That approach is meant to underscore that this is a consumer play, while BI will continue to define itself as focused on business executives. Still, BI certainly does consumer-oriented tech stories, under its mantra that business people have many interests, such as politics, sports and lifestyle issues. Right now, BI’s tech coverage includes “How to supercharge your iPhone in just five minutes” and “I made 2 tweaks to my sister’s 2009 iMac and now it runs like a brand new machine.”

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YouTube’s subscription service struggles to take off

DIGIDAY

YouTube is planning to launch a paid subscription video service later this year. But the Google-owned company is having a tough time getting some of its content partners to sign up, according to several sources at publishers and multichannel networks.

YouTube approached a number of video publishers and multichannel networks (MCNs) late last year, asking each to sign a “subscription offerings amendment” that would make all of their YouTube content available through a paid service, according to Digiday’s sources. A sleek, ad-free video subscription service could generate a pivotal revenue stream for YouTube, which has reportedly failed to turn a profit despite attracting over a billion monthly viewers. Yet several of YouTube’s current content partners have been reluctant to sign on the dotted line.

“The amendment was so general,” said an executive at one publisher with a major YouTube presence. “It’s basically saying, ‘Hey, sign up and your content will be behind a subscription wall.’ But there was no revenue share or any guarantee you wouldn’t just lose out on the ad revenue. It made us really nervous. We are reticent to sign something without knowing what it actually means for us financially.”

That publisher has yet to sign the amendment, waiting for more information and revisions from YouTube before agreeing to pipe its content into a YouTube subscription service. YouTube itself has yet to nail down the scope of its subscription plans, the executive told Digiday, even though YouTube’s content chief Robert Kyncl suggested at Recode’s “Code/Media” conference last week that YouTube is putting the “final tweaks” on the service.

One MCN executive said YouTube intended to launch the service in the first quarter of 2015, but will miss that launch window. A YouTube spokesperson declined to discuss that assertion or anything about the subscription service on the record.

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How Four Top Publishers Use Facebook For Video

The Media Briefing

Facebook video usage has skyrocketed over the past year, which makes it particularly attractive for publishers given what seems to be ever-shrinking organic reach with other types of posts.

According to figures recently released by the social network, Facebook users are seeing nearly 4 times more video in their feeds compared to one year ago. That’s a steady 1 billion video views every day for the network. Crucially, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said during a an earnings call last month that over 65 percent of videos are watched on mobile devices.

As online video continues to rise in importance for the modern media company, I spoke to a handful of top publishers to collect some best practices for using video on Facebook, and to better understand what might be at risk.

The Economist: Marketing the brand with video

“For us it’s about reach and informing people that The Economist doesn’t just write about finance and economics all the time.”

Before posting videos to Facebook, The Economist had the fairly standard practice amongst news outlets of publishing video on its own website and monetising through pre-roll advertising. Last summer however, Tom Standage, deputy editor and head of digital strategy, decided that wasn’t “a viable long-term video strategy”.

After effectively doubling the publication’s video views by posting video content to YouTube, Standage started experimenting with uploading videos via the native Facebook player, which had “a much greater impact” on the number of views. He says:

“We are using this observation that if you post videos with a native player you can get millions of views as the basis of a new video strategy which we are still developing. For us it’s about reach and informing people that The Economist doesn’t just write about finance and economics all the time.”

The Economist’s most successful video on Facebook was a 4 minute-long animated graphic with voice-over about demographics, what Standage calls a “live chart”. The publication has had over 800,000 views on Facebook alone of that video.

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The New York Times on Social Media: Not About the ‘Hyperbole’

American Journalism Review

Michael Roston has a clear vision of what makes a good social media editor — and it’s not about driving empty clicks back to a website.

It’s really about knowing how to publish true things on the Internet. To put it simply, a great social media editor needs what every journalist needs: a “strong editorial judgment,” he said.

“That’s what everyone on our team shares: we all have a sense of how not to blow things out of proportion and not to get ahead of journalists and editors,” said Roston, a senior staff editor on the New York Times’ social media desk. “It’s very important to know what we’re actually reporting and when we can’t say more or exaggerate things and get into the kind of hyperbole that you might see on other social media platforms, where they’re just trying to get people to click through to content.

“For us, it’s very important that we focus on delivering what the news actually is.”

Roston and his team are responsible for distributing the Times’ content on its Twitter account, with 15.5 million followers, and its Facebook page, with almost 9.3 million likes. He recently spoke with AJR about the team’s strategy. The following is an edited Q & A.

American Journalism Review: In a January Nieman Lab articleyou talked about the Times’ social media desk joining a new department. Explain some of the changes your desk has gone through.

Michael Roston: The social media desk of the Times, for many years, was hosted under the interactive news desk. The idea was that we were the leading technology enterprise in the newsroom, so we needed to work closely with developers and interactive news, who build a lot of the really cool things you might see on the Times website.

The changes made around the Times newsroom indicate that, rather than working hand in hand with the technology providers, it makes more sense if we’re working hand in hand with the people who generate analytics for the newsroom, so we can understand who is coming to us, and who’s reading what kind of stories and when they’re reading them. We’re also working more with the SEO team that’s been built within the newsroom. These teams of people have all been put under one group so we can work together more seamlessly.

We’ve always had a very strong relationship with the people who ran the Facebook page, but we’ve recently just formalized the relationship. So now they work in the newsroom, just like the rest of the social media team.

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