Friday Wrap #190: Vine is dead, new privacy rules, chatbot search engine, Giphy’s 100 million users

Friday Wrap #190The Friday Wrap is back after missing a week last week. I was on the road and ran out of time to put it together. To make up for it, this is an extra-crunchy edition. I extract items for the Friday Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing.


Vine is dead—All those Vine creators making a decent (or even terrific) livings are now twisting in the wind as beleaguered Twitter will kill the app in the months ahead. Vines already created will continue to exist, small comfort to those brands have paid to craft their inventive six-second videos. Twitter also laid off 9% of its workforce. The takeaway: Some people are in denial, but Twitter is in deep, deep trouble. I suspect it will continue to exist in some form, but its days as a major player are numbered if they can’t figure out (a) what they want to be, (b) how to attract new users and (c) how to deal with its troll problem. You should continue to post there as it is a key source of news for a lot of people, but it’s definitely not a basket for all your eggs. Note: Pornhub has extended an offer to Twitter to buy Vine and return it to its pre-Twitter NSFW glory. Read more

FCC passes sweeping online privacy rules—Based on the idea that consumers have a right to control their personal information, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has passed rules that will let consumers bar Internet providers from sharing data they collect including app and browsing histories, mobile location data, health data, financial information, email contents, and more. Companies that use this data could mount a legal challenge. The takeaway: Yet another example of an unsurprising development in an industry that seemed unwilling to implement its own policies that would prevent regulation. The ability to target relevant information to customers will be at risk. Read more

Microsoft plans a bot search engine—Search has ruled for the Web for a long time (in Web years), but that could change as we begin interacting with the web through chatbots—asking natural questions or requests and getting instant answers from AI in the cloud. (“Alexa, how many Oscars did Clark Gable win?”) Getting connected to the right bot still takes some effort, but Microsoft aims to simplify that process with a directory that includes bots from all platforms, not just its own. The takeaway: Forget Bing. Finding bots could be the new search. Google is developing a mobile-only search index, but whether anyone will need it in a few years when bots become our primary interface is an open question. Read more

Mattel goes all in with crowdsourcing—I confess I had never heard of Tongal, but Mattel has entered into a two-year agreement with the company that manages a 120,000-person-strong crowdsourcing community. That community will develop content for Mattel’s brands, including American Girl, Barbie, and Hot Wheels. The takeaway: User-generated content’s stock continues to rise. Authentic fan content trumps slick, glossy marketing. Read more

Do you want your brand represented in GM’s new in-car ad system?—General Motors and IBM (and its Watson AI technology) are introducing a new in-dash system designed to deliver personalized brand messages while you’re driving. The system will use location and vehicle data to determine the messages you’ll get. “GM is targeting brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, media and entertainment, restaurants, and travel,” according to one article. Early participants are ExxonMobil, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Mastercard, and Parkopedia. These are icons that will appear on the screen, not radio-like ads; you’ll need to tap them to get information, though voice interaction could be added later. The takeaway: If consumers accept these devices, it could be useful for a brand if what you’re communicating is relevant, such as a restaurant nearby. To me, it sounds a lot like sitting through commercials after you’ve paid for a ticket to a movie. With what cars cost, do we really need to be blasted with ads in a car for which we paid tens of thousands of dollars? Read more

Instant Articles will support 360 videos and photos—The addition of 360 videos and photos will make Facebook’s Instant Articles more interactive. Instant Articles deliver publisher content at light-speed over Facebook’s mobile app; 360 photos and videos allow users to drag their fingers across the image to explore it in 360 degrees. As a result, news outlets and other publishers will most likely start producing more of these. The takeaway: 360 videos and photos should become a routine part of communicators’ and marketers’ toolkits. Read more

Twitter tests removing usernames (in replies) from character limit—Slowly, Twitter is finding ways that let users take more advantage of the 140 characters available to them. In a test group among some iOS users, the characters in a username no longer counts against the limit when replying to a tweet. The filenames for photos and videos were earlier removed from the character count. The takeaway: Anything that makes it easier to convey a message is good, but it’s a band-aid on stage-four cancer. Little tweaks won’t save Twitter. Read more

Advocacy groups tackle influencer marketing targeting children—A coalition of advocacy groups is asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to establish regulations restricting influencer marketing campaigns designed to sell to children. Google, Disney’s Maker Studios, and three other companies are the focus of the complaint filed by Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Public Citizen, among others. The takeaway: This is what happens when industries don’t self-regulate. You could see this one coming a mile away. Read more

Prepare to see more branded celebrity posts on Facebook—There are rules governing how celebrities with verified Facebook accounts can monetize their presence, but Facebook will relax those rules, opening the floodgates of celebrities hawking brands for a buck. They will have to abide by rules, though. It’s all designed to make sure celebrities don’t run afoul of regulations on disclosure, keeping Facebook out of regulators’ cross-hairs. The takeaway: This is actually good news on a couple levels. First, brands will be able to get more exposure through influencer marketing on Facebook. And if you don’t follow celebrities, you won’t have to see any of it Read more

Publishers also leverage celebrities to get into your newsfeed—It’s not just brands that turn to celebrities to pitch products. Some publishers are working hard to get celebrities (like George Takei) to share their content. You may not want to see Slate articles in your newsfeed, but Takei could be another story. Second-tier online publishers have been using the tactic for a while, but now A-list publishers like Rolling Stone and Slate are paying celebrities per click to share their content. The takeaway: The tactic ignores Facebook’s rules for verified accounts and flaunts the FTC’s rules for disclosure of paid promotion. The tactic may work—some publishers have built their entire brand this way—but nothing good will come of it, een as the practice goes mainstream. Read more

Facebook donates server processing muscle to AI researchers—Facebook wants to better understand “deep learning,” which employs neural networks to help machines learn, and to acquire that knowledge it is donating 22 GPU-accelerated servers to researchers in nine European countries. The takeaway: In the “Research” section below, you’ll find that a majority of CMOs believe AI will be a bigger deal to communicators and marketers than social media. Facebook’s desire to be on top of it makes perfect sense. Read more


United hires a chief storyteller—One goal of United Airlines’ new chief storyteller is to reimagine the company’s hub as a storytelling platform instead of a marketing platform. Dana Brooks Reinglass—a former Oprah Winfrey Show staffer—will also serve as managing director of digital engagement. Reporting to the SVP of corporate communications with a dotted line to the managing director of marketing and product development, Reinglass will oversee “internal and external social media properties in terms of how the airline engages employees and customers through storytelling.” The takeaway: Chief storytellers aren’t new; some companies have had them for decades. But with solid storytelling skills becoming an important communication competency for social and digital communication, expect to see more companies put an emphasis on it. A search for “chief storyteller” on LinkedIn produced more than 500 results. Read more

100 million daily users, 1 billion GIFs per day for Giphy—Still think GIFs are beneath you? Consider Giphy’s milestone: 100 million active daily users grab a GIF every day; the platform is serving up a billion each day. That’s on par with Snapchat. Users connect across a number of sites and apps; Facebook, Slack, and Twitter all connect directly to the Giphy library, which is searchable without having to visit the Giphy site itself. A lot of GIFs are created immediately after news breaks or events conclude; there are already hundreds available from the first games of the World Series, along with some from the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live. The takeaway: People love them. They’re not beneath you or your company’s (or client’s) communication efforts. Read more

Employee ambassador programs pick up steam—They’ve been around for a while (I helped PepsiCo launch its employee ambassador program several years ago), but more and more big brands are getting in on the action. MasterCard has started one; so has IBM. A report from the Altimeter Group finds 90% of brands have one or plan to. Even the usually skittish healthcare industry is getting into the act; Humana has nearly 3,000 employees involved in its advocacy program. The takeaway: Is your company in the 10% that has no ambassador program or no plans to create one? You may want to rethink that. It’s cheap, authentic marketing when the message comes from a friend, peer, or family member. Read more


Artificial Intelligence will be bigger than social media—AI will transform marketing and communications more than social media has. That’s the view of 55% of the CMOs Weber Shandwick surveyed. Sixty percent believe companies will need to compete in the AI space in order to succeed within the next five years. A key challenge: bringing consumers up to speed on AI and conveying the value of their AI-infused products and services. Consumers in China are most knowledgeable about AI; those in the UK understand it the least, according to the survey. American consumers are second-to-the-last in their understanding. The takeaway: How well do you grasp AI and its implications for marketing and comms? I actually think the five-year projection may underestimate the speed with which this train is barreling down the track. Read more

CSR results in financial gains for brands—Long-term business performance correlates to a brand’s social responsibility efforts, according to a study from CECP and The Conference Board. According to the report, companies that increased their social giving by at least 10% between 2013 and 2015 experienced increases in median giving as a percentage of revenue and pre-tax profit; other companies had decreases in both categories. Employee volunteer participation rates also grew and companies that increased their CSR efforts saw greater trust with consumers and other stakeholders. The takeaway: Leaders focused purely on profit would do well to pay attention. Profit and CSR increasingly go hand in hand, hardly surprising given the data from numerous studies, including the Edelman Trust Barometer. PR and communication departments should focus some energy on CSR, and marketers need to make the connection, too. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Snapchat views plummet—Snap’s decision to remove autoplay from video has led to a dramatic decline in views of Snapchat Stories, as much as 35-40%. Marketers are not adjusting their strategies in response to the fact that videos no longer play automatically (as they do on Facebook). Some marketers assert that while video views have dropped, engagement hasn’t. Still, the move highlights Snap’s desire to move marketers to paid advertising. The takeaway: While communicators must contend with paid media these days, the idea of ponying up $100,000 and more for some advertising options is out of reach. It’s time to expand your thinking about how Snapchat can support your earned-media goals. I love Cisco’s account featuring employee takeovers to support employer branding. No need for autoplay video there when people fall in love with the content and connect to the account. And don’t forget, Instagram’s Stories is getting great reviews, so you can always shift that tactic to the app that still autoplays videos. Read more

Cause-related emoji—Food delivery service Hungry Harvest has released a set of emoji featuring misshapen food in the hopes people will use them to start conversations about making sure this kind of food doesn’t go to waste. It’s for iOS 10.0 and later. The takeaway: I love this. As the HuffPo article notes, 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste while children in one out of five households don’t have enough to eat. If emoji can start to turn that shameful statistic around, more power to them. Consumers want companies to devote resources to addressing societal and sustainability issues (according to the Edelman Trust Barometer), and Walmart and Whole Foods are among other organizations to take some action. It wouldn’t hurt to look to initiatives like this in your own organization. I will now step off my soapbox. Read more

How big will Progressive Web Apps be?—The biggest thing to happen to the mobile web since the iPhone, according to one developer. Doubtful. I think that title will go to chatbots. Still, it’s worth paying attention to the trend. One Google developer describes them as “websites that took the right vitamins. “They keep the web’s ask-when-you-need-it permission model and add in new capabilities like being top-level in your task switcher, on your home screen, and in your notification tray. Users don’t have to make a heavyweight choice up-front and don’t implicitly sign up for something dangerous just by clicking on a link. Sites that want to send you notifications or be on your home screen have to earn that right over time as you use them more and more. They progressively become ‘apps.’” And developers don’t need to maintain iOS and Android versions. The takeaway: I agree that native apps won’t be the king of mobile for much longer and that PWAs will find their level. Mobile users download an average of zero apps in any given month. Set your sights on messaging apps, chatbots, and PWAs. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Google files patent for Mixed Reality headset—A patent filing revealed that Google could be at work on a headset that mixes Virtual and Augmented Reality. Mixed Reality would, for example, allow a gamer to immerse herself in a virtual environment yet still see her own hands, feet, and other objects in the real world. Google’s patent isn’t for games, though; in fact, the device wouldn’t be for the public, but rather for Google professionals, contractors, and trusted independent developers. Intel has also introduced a Mixed Reality device code-named “Project Alloy.” The takeaway: Augmented Reality—where Apple is making its bet—holds more promise than Virtual Reality, but Mixed Reality could be the real game-changer. Read more

Sexual assault reported within VR game—A woman playing a Virtual Reality game experienced a sexual assault within the game by another player. In reality, Jordan Belamier was in her brother-in-law’s living room with her husband. In the game, she was shooting zombies with a bow and arrow when another lay began fondling her virtual breasts. Her demand that the player stop led to more aggressive rubbing. It wasn’t real, but Belamier still felt violated and quit the game. On Twitter, her outrage was dismissed because it wasn’t real. The game developer is taking it seriously, though, saying they need to make sure it never happens again. One solution: creating a “power gesture” that would make nearby players vanish, creating a virtual safe space. The takeaway: As with any new technology issues will arise that developers hadn’t thought of. In situations like this, building and deploying solutions quickly will be a requirement. Read more

This week’s Wrap image courtesy of Chris Favero’s Flickr account.