Friday Wrap #138: FCC warns hotels, Snapchat delivers news, the Uber model proliferates, and more

Friday Wrap #138
Flickr photo courtesy of
It was another big week for news, reports, posts, and updates of interest to communicators. There’s even more in my link blog, where I collect everything I might consider using for the Wrap—as well as my podcast. You’re welcome to follow it.


FCC warns hotels never to try blocking guest WiFi—After Marriott withdrew its petition for permission to block guest WiFi, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission issued a stern warning to Marriott and other hotels that blocking WiFi is contrary to the basic principle that nobody can interfere with authorized radio communications, including WiFi. Read more

Super Bowl Sunday means real-time Facebook ads—In addition to the thousands of marketers who will try to be heard above the din with oh-so-clever tweets and images, Facebook will track updates and comments that could lead to related ads showing up in the News Feeds of users who uttered or saw those keywords.  Read more

Snapchat “Discovery” could alter mobile news delivery—The app initially designed to let teens send pictures that would disappear a few seconds after they were viewed is emerging into a potent new tool for news delivery. Working with 10 media partners, including CNN, ESPN, and National Geographic, Snapchat has introduced a daily dose of news called “Discovery,” which were crafted for the mobile experience, “framed vertically to fit your phone, constructed as a single view, intermixing audiovisual elements, swipes to move between them.” Much is still unproven, and the platform has some issues, but most agree that mixing the news in among your friends’ snaps could have a big impact on how people get news. The tool was first used to cover Winter Storm Juno. Read more

Amazon introduces office e-mail product—Amazon, best know for delivering products to your door and video to your screen, is now planning to deliver email to your job. WorkMail is an email and electronic calendar service designed to compete with the corporate email market currently dominated by Microsoft and, to some degree, Google. Read more

Tumblr’s ad agency connects content creators with brands—First it was Gary Vaynerchuk’s Grape Story, an agency that connects Vine video creators with brands. Now Tumblr has introduced the Creatrs network, designed to connect Tumblr’s huge community of artists, photographers, and other creatives with brands. “So, if a brand like Olea or AT&T is looking for fresh talent that no one’s tapped yet, well, they’ve found their place.” Read more

Cops want Waze to stop tracking them—When Waze users see reports from other users that a motorcycle cop is stationed up ahead, they make sure they’re driving at the speed limit to avoid a ticket. That’s a good thing; if the feature makes people more conscious of obeying traffic laws, there are fewer chances of accidents. But despite the fact that not a single instance of it has been cited, police are worried that the feature will be used by people who want to target police officers for violence, what one spokesperson called “police stalking.” Read more

Microsoft sells $1 billion worth of Surface tablets—Sales of Microsoft’s Surface tablet is up 24% year-over-year, driven by sales of the Surface Pro 3 and related accessories. While that doesn’t necessarily mean Microsoft is profiting wildly from the Surface, and it’s light years from competing with Apple’s iPad, reaching the $1 billion mark can still be seen as a success, as its potential for both businesses and consumers becomes more commonly accepted. Read more

Yahoo may launch messaging app—Seeking “fewer tourists and more fanatics,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer hinted during a quarterly earnings call that the company may be developing a mobile messaging app to compete with the likes of SnapChat, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Nothing official has been announced, but the company has made acquisitions that bolster speculation, including Message Me and Cooliris. Read more

AT&T introduces scripted series on Snapchat—“Snapperhero” is a scripted entertainment series that will depend on social media influencers and their followers “to shape and steer its narrative.” YouTube stars will be among those who will determine the show’s superhero identities, enemies customers, origin stories, and plotlines. A dozen episodes will be shared over four weeks later this year. Read more

First-ever VR broadcast brings the beach to Michigan—For the first time, virtual reality was streamed from one place to another—from Laguna Beach, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan, through a Samsung Gear VR headset. The recipient of the beach stream wrote, “I could see and hear everything in 3D as though I was actually there, looking around in a virtual reality environment.” Read more

VR comes to news—A partnership between motion picture directors Chris Milk and Spike Jones, along with Vice News, is resulting in virtual-reality journalism broadcasts, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last week. Initial experiments put viewers in the middle of a protest march and inside the life of a 12-year-old Syrian in a Jordanian refugee camp. While the impact on how people view the news could be profound, it’s also easy to see how the same technologies could be applied to everything from marketing to customer service. Read more


Burger King gets snarky about McDonald’s CEO retirement—When CEO Don Thompson announced his retirement in the face of McDonald’s continuing slump, Burger King wasted no time. Through its Twitter account, the McD competitor distributed a graphic of a Whopper and the words, “DEAR DON, YOU CAN HAVE IT FLAME-GRILLED.” The tweet itself read, “We always welcome everyone.” Sure, it’s clever, but does snark translate into burger sales, improved reputation, or better relationships with customers? Inspiring customers to say, “Oh, snap,” generally isn’t a proven tactic for achieving those objectives. Read more

New partnership signals podcasting’s ascent—The Center for Investigative Reporting has stories to tell. Public Radio Exchange (PRX) has a platform that allows anyone to upload audio that can be made available for broadcast by public radio stations. Together, the two organizations are producing a new podcast, Reveal, whose hour-long episodes will cover “untold stories of public importance.” While the producers admit they are riding the coattails of the phenomenally popular Serial podcast, Serial “was only the boiling of a pot that had been heating up for a while.” Read more

Facebook’s mobile share grows—Some 500 million of Facebook’s users accessed the social network exclusively using mobile devices, a 26% increase over the previous year. That means nearly 40% of Facebook’s user base never logs in via desktop or laptop. Read more

Uber’s impact is reaching into the enterprise—One of the features of Uber’s operation, surge pricing, has found its way into the workplace via online retailer Zappos. Using surge pricing as a model, the company has introduced Open Market, an online scheduling platform that lets workers “set discretionary hours and compensates them based on an Uber-esque surge-pricing payment model: hourly shifts with greater caller demand pay higher wages.” Read more

Adapting Uber’s model could bring more changes to work—Call it “just in time” work, the idea that traditional jobs could be sliced and diced into specific tasks that can be assigned to people just as they’re needed, with pay set by an algorithm that assesses supply and demand, with the performance of every contributor rated and tracked. Companies are already applying these models to tasks ranging from daily chores (like laundry or grocery shopping) to legal services and medicine. Read more

Clicks don’t count, says Facebook—So not many people are clicking your ads on Facebook. Is that a sign the ad failed? Not at all, says Facebook, which plans to inform advertisers when someone saw their ad (without necessarily clicking on it), then went on to purchase something from the brand. Dubbed “conversion lift measurement,” the analytic will be available to any U.S. advertiser with a Facebook sales rep and the ability to track its own sales. The goal is to give Facebook credit for sales that happened regardless of whether the customer clicked on an ad. Read more


Sharing is still Facebook’s province—Facebook reigns supreme when it comes to sharing content, according to a new study from ShareThis. Facebook’s “share of shares” rose 8.2% in the final quarter of 2014, the only platform (other than email) to register positive growth. Twitter experienced the worst decline, falling 3%; it’s now accountable for less sharing than Pinterest. As for Facebook, it controls 85% of the mobile and 74% of the desktop social share space. (And you keep reading the Facebook is dead…) Read more

How does social media affect protest movements? It’s complicated—A study published in the Journal of International Affairs finds that social media platforms can help dissidents and protest movements organize and communicate, but they can also have negative consequences, such as making it difficult for these groups to solidify into a full-fledged movement. Read more

Keep calm on Twitter—Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania uncovered a strong correlation between the use of negative language on Twitter and heart disease mortality. Communities where four-letter words and hate speech were common had higher rates of heart disease deaths among those who read them as part of the community. Read more

Play along with consumers trying to game you—Research from Mindshare demonstrates that people enjoy trying to game the system in an effort to get better deals even when companies are not offering sale prices. For example, they’ll visit an airline site on the days when ticket prices are lower, then leave items in the cart hoping to get a discount via email. One marketer’s advice: “If someone is so committed to your brand that they will take the time to wait for your response, you have their attention and their trust. These are people who will not only continue to come back, but share their positive story with others.” In other words, playing along could result in sales growth. Read more

Social media is now part of the B2B purchase process—An infographic from Leadspace find that 84% of B2B executives use social media to help them make purchase decisions, while 92% of B2B buyers use it to engage with sales industry thought leaders. Among B2B buyers, 72% use social media to conduct research that leads to decisions. Read more

Updates and Changes

Twitter launches native video—We knew it was coming; now it’s here. Twitter has launched its native video product, with actor Neil Patrick Harris promoting the Oscars in the first clip to air on the platform. Mobile users will be able to record and share videos directly on Twitter. The release will roll out over the new couple weeks. Read more

Group messaging enabled on Twitter—I have already tried out Twitter’s group Direct Messaging—and I like it. Twitter describes the new feature as a way to continue a group discussion privately with a smaller group, “or start one based on a Tweet you saw.” Using group Direct Messaging, you can engage privately with up to 20 followers, even if they don’t all follow each other. Read more

Create animated GIFs on Imgur—Imgur, one of the most popular image-sharing services among the Reddit crowd (and others), often features animated GIFs. Now, you can create those short animated clips directly on Imgur, which has introduced a GIF creator called Video to GIF. Read more

Microsoft adds content embeds to Sway—I have created two articles using Microsoft’s nifty content creation tool, Sway. I’m excited about an update to the product that now lets you embed content from the Web—including videos, audio clips, and maps—into the articles you create. You can paste HTML embed code (the kind offered by the likes of YouTube, for example) into your Sway document, as well as import PDF, Word and PowerPoint documents from your OneDrive storage (Microsoft’s cloud storage solution). Read more

Facebook goes head-to-head with Yelp, Foursquare—“Place Tips” are coming to Facebook, popup recommendations about a business you are visiting. When Facebook sees you’ve walked into a store, a restaurant, or some other business, it’ll send a notification you can open to view information cards, including updates and photos from your network, along with information on popular menu items and upcoming events. The new Foursquare has been doing an admirable job at that kind of notification, but could face trouble if the far more popular Facebook elbows into that space. Read more