Friday Wrap #88: Brand journalism, crowdsourcing causes, branded stickers, apology watch, and more

Posted on February 14, 2014 8:53 am by | Content | Instagram | Advertising | Brands | Business | Facebook | Google+ | Marketing | Media | Publishing | Social Media

Friday Wrap #88
Happy Valentine’s Day!
(c) Can Stock Photo
The Friday Wrap is a weekly compendium of articles of interest to communicators that may h ave flown by under your radar. I collect stories from which I cull the items that will appear in the Wrap on my link blog,; I also draw on this curated collection for items I report on my podcast, The Hobson and Holtz Report. Feel free to follow the link blog to stay on top of all kinds of interesting news, reports and analysis.

Above the fold

Journalists are tapping brand journalism as a source

Companies are increasingly adopting the concept of brand journalism—employing journalistic principles in covering their own brand—and according to a new study, reporters working for online news outlets are using those stories as sources in their own coverage. According to DS Simon’s 2014 Web Influencer Survey (reported in the Bulldog Reporter Daily ‘Dog, “92% of online reporters are relying on social media for story ideas and 61% have run stories after they were pitched via social media. Furthermore, 81% use third-party video in their stories.” What’s more, 42% of journalists refer PR people to their advertising departments in an effort to get them to spend money on the outlet’s sponsored content program. According to president and CEO Doug Simon, “We are seeing a significant increase in brand integration as part of online journalism.”

Brand journalism attracts old-guard companies

The fact that brand journalism is finding its way into third-party media reporting may be one reason traditional companies are embracing it. Both American Express and Forbes “employ a hybrid of paid and unpaid contributors” to fuel their brand journalism efforts, according to Six Estate. American Express’s brand journalism efforts are focused on Open Forum, “a blog built for an audience of business owners” that includes content from journalists paid for their efforts. The company’s Small Business Saturday movement emerged from the Forum. As for Forbes, its use of non-paid writers (who can generate income based on the clicks their articles generate) has increased its popularity, enabling the publisher to attract premium advertisers for its BrandVoice native advertising product.

Social media has found a home in small and medium-sized businesses

More than 80% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have adopted social media, and nearly all of them are applying it to marketing. According to a LinkedIn study (reported by Mashable), social media is particularly important to “hyper growth” companies, those with “significant” year-over-year growth. More than 90% of these companies attributed increased awareness of their brand to their social media efforts; 82% generated new leads. That’s good news for Facebook, where only one out of every 25 companies with business pages are advertising.

Below the fold

Tumblr is Yahoo’s platform for native ads

Yahoo’s Americas chief Ned Brody is adapting Tumblr nine months ago as the vehicle for a new kind of native ad; examples are visible in Yahoo’s Tech and Food “digital magazines,” according to AdAge. Unlike most native ads, which are articles labeled as sponsored content, advertisers can create evergreen microsites—“Tumblr sites with their own domain name.” Yahoo will work with advertisers to “create a package, which will drive traffic to a page for you.”

Facebook expands gender options

The political wrangling over gender issues may take a back seat to commercial interests. Facebook announced this week that it is adding 50 terms people can use to identify their gender. These include androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid, and transsexual. In addition, you can choose from three pronouns: him, her or them. “It means the world” to the small segment of users to whom this matters, according to Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, quoted in an Associated Press story. “For the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is.”

Citi lets users decide where to spend its philanthropic dollars

As an Olympics sponsor, Citigroup is donating $500,000 to nine organizations via its Every Step of the Way website, where visitors to the site can direct money to the causes by clicking on them. Each click is worth $10 in donations, The New York Times reports. Some might dismiss the effort as “slacktivism,” but there’s something to be said about letting your customers decide where your charitable donations are best spent.

Would you add a branded sticker to an instant message?

While they haven’t swept North America like they have in other parts of the world, virtual stickers you add to an instant message—sort of emoticons on steroids—have generated $25 million in revenue in last year’s fourth quarter for one mobile messaging app alone (Line). AdAge reports that startup TextPride attracted a $1.2 million venture capital investment for branded stickers after signing movie studios, recording artists, video game companies and sports teams. Could stickers of your company’s or client’s brand be next?

New fodder for the Google+ debate: Only 35% of users are active

Google+ adherents will tell you the network cannot be ignored and will praise its virtues, particularly when compared to the contemptible Facebook. However, new figures released by We Are Social find that, while there are 1.15 billion registered Google+ users, only 35%—about 359 million—log in to the network at least once a month. The ration is similar in the UK, says eConsultancy, where only 3.9 million of the 12.6 million registered users are monthly active users. Compare that to a Reuters poll that reveals only 7% of Facebook users are not active monthly users.

Was your apology insincere? The New York Times will call you on it

A report from last week found that companies apologize online far more than individuals, celebrities or other entities. The problem is, most of those apologies are hollow, meaningless or even cynical. Disingenuous apologizers won’t get it away with it for long, though, now that The New York Times is launching “Apology Watch,” according to MediaBistro’s PR Newser. It’ll appear as part of business writer Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Dealbook blog. He’ll “chronicle both the best and the worst of the bunch,” applying the apologywatch hashtag. Suggestions are already appearing on twitter, such as a tweet deeming an apology from rapper Drake for his rant after Philip Seymour Hoffman replaced him on the cover of Rolling Stone a failure.

From the print’s-not-dead files: Instagram publishes a hard copy handbook for brands

Instagram, the Facebook-owned image sharing tool, is ramping up its advertising program with an eye toward instilling standards to keep the service from losing users as ads begin showing up. To that end, the company has published a physical, print book for select brands. Most brands won’t get a copy—they’ll have to read blog posts instead, reports VentureBeat.

The new hub for social media and millennials is…HLN?

I loved the idea of HLN (originally Headline News), a CNN property that gave you a half-hour news update every 30 minutes. That concept fizzled years ago, and the network has become a confusing mix of news reports, Nancy Grace and documentaries. That’s changing, as the network said it will try to reach millennials by “adding a TV component to the content they consume all day elsewhere,” according to AdAge. The network will focus on curating news from the spectrum of social media sites “with headlines based on what’s trending, being shared, and going viral across platforms.”

We’re not done quite yet…

There was a lot of travel-related news this week

KLM passengers can pay for flights via social media

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced that passengers will soon be able to use Facebook and Twitter to book flights, reserve seats, make extra-baggage arrangements, and then pay for it all. If that’s your preferred method of arranging travel, FastCompany reports, KLM will send a private message on Facebook or Twitter to designate a payment method, after which one of the airline’s 130 social media agents will confirm the transaction and notify you with a follow-up message.

Virgin America offers first in-flight social network

On a Virgin America flight, you have been able to engage in chat with other passengers using the seat-back monitor, but the airline (reportedly headed for an IPO) is expanding the service into a “fully-fledged in-flight social network,” according to ZD|Net. Using LinkedIn as a foundation, the Here On Biz app locates any other LinkedIn connections on the flight. “The idea is to facilitate connections, either between people who might not have realized they would be on the same flight or completely new contacts.” There’s no name yet for the service, but you can prepare by downloading the Here on Biz app now, assuming you’re an iOS user.

Virgin Atlantic staff to don Google Glass for upper class passengers

In an effort to bring the glamour back to air travel, Virgin Atlantic staff will be wear either Google Glass or a Sony Smartwatch connected to a concierge dispatch app and Virgin’s passenger service system. “The apps will send passenger information directly to the concierge’s smart glasses or watch as the passenger arrives, and staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination,” according to ZD|Net. Down the road, a staffer could also get information on the passenger’s dietary and refreshment preferences. It’s a six-week pilot project, focusing on passengers flying Upper Class Wing from London Heathrow’s Terminal 3.



  • 1.That Facebook gender story has me scratching my head. I thought there are only two, maybe three genders. Who knew?

    Sherrilynne | February 2014 | Ottawa

  • 2.Depends on how you approach it. Scientifically there's masculine and feminine. Once you delve into gender roles, though, it gets complicated.

    Shel Holtz | February 2014

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