Friday Wrap #156: Twitter goes algorithmic, Myspace lives, brands cope with online outrage, and more

Posted on February 12, 2016 11:00 am by | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Advertising | Audio | Augmented Reality | Brands | Business | Channels | Crisis Communication | Facebook | Marketing | Measurement | Mobile | PR | Social Media | Twitter

Friday Wrap #156The Friday Wrap is my weekly collection of news stories, posts, studies, and reports designed to help organizational communicators stay current on the trends and technology that affect their jobs. These may be items that flew under the radar while other stories grabbed big headlines. As always, I collect material from which I select Wrap stories (as well as stories to report on the For Immediate Release podcast, along with stuff I just want to remember to read) on my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. If you want to make sure you never miss an edition of the Wrap, subscribe to my weekly email newsletter.


Twitter’s algorithmic timeline finally launches—Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey insisted it wasn’t imminent, but on Wednesday, Twitter introduced its “improved” timeline. You have to opt in to see the new timeline, which collects tweets the company thinks are important to you at the top of your feed, out of the traditional reverse chronological order that has characterized the timeline since it was first introduced in 2007. Consider it a sort of “while you were gone” feature. The chronological listing kicks in again after you’ve seen the “important” tweets that you might otherwise have missed. Those tweets will include promoted tweets and ads. The takeaway: It’s not exactly turning Twitter into Facebook, but the application of an algorithm to the timeline is upsetting a lot of longtime users. The key here, though, is that you have to turn the feature on to see it. Read more

Wired’s anti-ad-blocker scheme inspires adblocker-blocker—Wired has implemented a scheme to address people visiting its sites but using ad blockers: They’ll have to pay a small monthly fee for ad-free access or the entire site will be blocked. In response, the adblocker-blocker was developed to trick sites like Wired that detect an ad blocker into thin king the user isn’t actually using one. The takeaway: It’s not an original concept, but the publishing industry and advertisers are going to have to come up with advertising concepts that don’t make people want to block ads. Until then, the arms race will continue. Read more

Farewell, Flash—Another nail was hammered into Flash’s coffin when google announced it will stop running display ads in the Adobe Flash format in July for AdWords and DoubleClick Digital Marketing and by January 2017 for the Google Display Network. The takeaway: Haven’t yet updated your site or your ads to HTML5? The time for procrastination is over. Read more

Forbes guarantees native ad performance—Forbes is touting a money-back guarantee for BrandVoice, its native advertising product. The guarantee is for advertisers who spend $250,000 in native ads and display ads over 60 days, for which Forbes promises a list in at least one of four metrics: awareness, favorabilty, recall, or purchase intent. The advertisers is able to select the vendor that will provide the metrics. The takeaway: Despite qualms about native advertising, the market is heating up with most publishers offering some form of sponsored content. To compete, publishers will need to demonstrate performance. Read more

Time Inc. buys MySpace—MySpace? That’s still around? Yes, and in fact enough people are registered users of the legendary but failed social network—over 1 billion registered—to make their data worthwhile. Advertising company Viant was called Specific Media bought MySpace in 2011 for $35 million in a deal with Justin Timberlake designed to transform the property into a music-and-entertainment site. Viant co-founder and CEO Chris Vanderhook says the firm has been able to “leverage registered users of MySpace to deliver personalized advertising to consumers.” Time will contribute high-quality content to increase engagement. The takeaway: There is no overestimating the importance of data. Read more

Time Inc. pushes one-company culture—The folks at Viant had better get used to being part of Time Inc. Time CEO Joe Ripp told an audience the company has distributed “culture cards” as part of a broader effort to transform the culture. The size of a business card, the handout features the company’s mission, vision, strategy, heritage, and expected behaviors (Teamwork, Innovate, Motivate, Execute.) Time got the idea from Ford Motor Company, where similar cards were passed out. The takeaway: Handout out cards is fine, but leadership behaviors and actions must align with the sentiments printed on the cards or they’ll just become a source of cynicism. Read more

Facebook to add captions to video ads—Autoplay video ads on Facebook have audio turned off by default. A few advertisers have figured out that it makes sense to produce ads that accommodate the fact that most people won’t hear them, but most still require sound to understand what they’re saying. Facebook aims to rectify that by adding captions in video ads that run in the News Feed. The takeaway: The mainstream media has figured out that short videos with text overlays make sense as people thumb through their feeds. Marketers, advertisers, and PR practitioners so far haven’t adopted the practice. See my blog post in the “From My Blog” section below for more on this issue. Read more

Twitter enlists help tackling online harassment—Twitter is forming the Twitter Trust & Safety Council, made up of more than 40 organizations include GLAAD, Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation, and NetSafe. There are few details about how the Council will work, but rampant trolling, bullying, and shaming on Twitter is one of many thorns in the cmopany’s side. The takeaway: It’s no easy task for a social network to walk the fine line between freedom of expression and providing a safe place for engagement. Getting outside help makes sense. Read more

Twitter launches First View video ad unit—A new advertising offering from Twitter lets advertisers opt to have their video appear at the top of the queue, ensuring it has the top ad spot. The video ad will hold that spot for 24 hours, appearing when a user opens Twitter. The takeaway: As Twitter’s stock plummets on flat user growth, pushing video ads at the top of the feed doesn’t seem like the best way to attract new users. Read more


The ever-outraged online mob is a dilemma for brands—Dealing with outrage over every little thing has become a 24/7 task for brands, which are having a harder and harder time figuring out which outrage matters and which is just so much noise. The takeaway: People jumping on an outrage bandwagon is a trend that isn’t going away soon, so it will be important to figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to complaints about “epic fails” and other consumer pushback. There could even be a product in here somewhere that rates outrage on its likelihood of either having an impact or fizzling quickly. Read more

Audio continues to rise as network launches mobile-first news service—In markets where mobile data connections are constrained, audio is easier to consume than video. That’s why Al Jazeera has introduced a new audio-focused app for people in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The app delivers a live feed of the network’s English and Arabic TV broadcasts. The takeaway: Brands with operations in these regions would do well to consider audio as a means of engagement. Overall, the importance of audio continues to build momentum. Read more

Keeping staff up to speed on social media—What’s new and what’s working on social media changes at a moment’s notice. Keeping communicators who have to work with social media up to speed can be a daunting task. Approaches to meeting that challenge vary by agency. Some distribute newsletters, daily “culture briefings” and “daily scrums,” and workshops. The takeaway: Whatever works. The key is recognizing that busy staffers can’t keep up by themselves. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an agency or a company, those who have to use social media as part of their jobs need a means of staying current. It’s incumbent on the company to provide those resources. Read more

What’s the ROI of emojis?—Emojis appear in all kinds of marketing these days, spawning the birth of companies whose missions are to figure out just what companies are getting out of them. Snaps, Emogi, and Swyft are just three of the firms working to assess the performance of emojis in brands’ messaging efforts. Currently, impressions are at the heart of measurement, with brands spending from $1.50 to more than $5 for 1,000 impressions. The takeaway: Traditional advertising metrics don’t work on emojis (or even mobile messaging efforts), but the technology is bound to get better. Read more

Public radio staffers set guidelines for podcast measurement—Podcasting is heating up, but podcasts remain notoriously difficult to measure. Public radio employees have spent months developing guidelines for measurement, publishing them this week. The document is designed to establish oveall principles and technical guidelines for measuring podcast usage. The document defines podcasts and proposes the best way to count downloads. The takeaway: Public radio staffers aren’t the only ones working on solving the podcast measurement problem. Once standards are in place, expect podcasting to explode as sponsors and advertisers are able to assess the return on their investment. Read more


Outcomes matter more than clicks and views—Outcomes matter to marketers more than the metrics that have dominated in the past, such as clicks, views, posts, shares, and visits. Among the outcomes on which marketers will focus their measurements: acquisition, retention, and revenue growth. Research from the CMO Council and Microsoft found marketers will concentrate on business measures rather than digital metrics in order to prove the value of investing in customer experience efforts. 37% of respondents said the success of personalization will depend on being able to deliver experiences with only a single customer view. The takeaway: Evaluating campaigns based on outcomes should also lead to the development of better campaigns. After all, how many people become customers based on the single view of a clever tweet about whatever cultural event is taking place at the moment? Read more

Which brands do you trust?—BrandSpark International is out with its annual list of America’s most trusted brands. The research found trust is more important for some categories—like beauty products—than it is for others—like food companies, with people more accepting of cheaper generic versions of products. Overall, 43% of respondents said they are less loyal to brand-name products than they have been. The list names the top company in narrow categories. For example, in the Household Products category, Febreze is the most trusted air freshener brand while Duracell is the most trusted battery maker. The takeaway: I would love to see a reconciliation of this research with Edelman’s Trust Barometer. It seems people may not trust business in general, but trust in brands is something different altogether. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Utilities test Augmented Reality—Business is the logical flashpoint for Augmented Reality (AR), and the Electric Power Research Institute aims to put utilities at the vanguard of the effort with its experiment on how AR could be adapted to the work of utility employees. Duke Energy and Coned are among the participants who will help determine if AR can improve efficiency and lower error rates. Among the uses: “AR could assist utility workers out in the field working on…equipment without havint to pull out paper manuals or laptops. If a worker could have a pair of AR glasses, all that information for repairing could be laid out right in front of their eyes.” The takeaway: Something like this was used in the development of Boeing’s 777 many years ago. Electrical workers donned glasses that displayed the right wiring hookups. Workers needed only match the real wires to the virtual ones. This kind of application should spur the development of enterprise AR tools. Read more

Google building a better Cardboard—Google is reportedly at work on the next generation of Cardboard, its Virtual Reality (VR) viewing device. Expect to see a plastic version with better sensors and lenses sometime later this year. The takeaway: Google is committing itself to VR, setting up a dedicated VR unit. The improved Cardboard could be tied into to earlier reports that Google is developing a VR Android edition. Read more

VR is theme (and format) for new NBC series—Halcyon is the name of a series in development by NBC that focuses on a VR-centric future. The 15-episode series will include five designed specifically for the Oculus Rift. The takeaway: This could be just the first salvo in producing VR entertainment that goes beyond games and 360-degree videos. Imagine being immersed in the middle of your favorite TV drama rather than detached from it. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Brands tap Snapchat for Super Bowl campaigns—Twitter is still the king of branded Super Bowl social media content, but some brands added Snapchat to the list this year. Among them: Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch, which ran ads on the NFL’s Live Story on Snapchat, but Amazon, Gatorade, GE, Taco Bell, and Twentieth Century Fox are among those that have taken their messaging directly to Snapchat users. The takeaway: Snapchat is mainstream. I have seen a number of stories about people turning to younger siblings or children to figure it out. They must think figuring it out is important, right? Read more

Influencer marketing steps into mobile—AT&T has launched a one-year project that will provide 10 influential content creators with resources to create content using their mobile devices for their viewers to consume. The Hello Lab ambassadors will create live experiences, albums, giveaways, and podcasts, among other content. AT&T and Verizon are locked in combat for supremacy as mobile entertainment platforms. The takeaway: Can Sprint and T-Mobile be far behind as mobile companies seek to transform into integrated providers of both mobile service and content? Read more

This week’s Wrap image is courtesy of HebiFot‘s Pixabay collection.

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