Friday Wrap #157: Instant Articles for all, workers want bad news, government PR spending, and more

Posted on February 19, 2016 10:22 am by | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Pinterest | Advertising | Brands | Business | Crisis Communication | Facebook | Instant Messaging | Legal | Marketing | Media | Mobile | PR | Publishing | Research | Social Media | Transparency | Twitter

Friday Wrap #157The 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.


Facebook to open Instant Articles to all publishers—Instant Articles—the Facebook tool that opens articles from within the Facebook platform rather than directing you to a news outlet’s own site, massively speeding up how quickly those articles load—will be available to all publishers effective April 12. All you need is a website and a Facebook page to take advantage of Instant Articles, which has been available to only a handful of publishers (including the Washington Post and the New York Times) during its beta. Publishers can include ads in Instant Articles and keep 100% of the revenue. The takeaway: I have been publishing my blog posts on Facebook using Notes, but will definitely give the Instant Article format a try. You should too. I am, however, even more interested in Google’s AMP format, which loads articles instantly anywhere on the Web, not just in one closed-garden network. Read more

Twitter introduces GIF button—That tweet you just crafted would be so much more awesome with the perfect GIF attached. Twitter has made it easier with a new button that lets you find GIFs via a search interface that will appear on the web and in apps over the new few weeks. The feature is powered by Gify and Riffsy. The takeaway: Expect to see more GIFs in tweets whether you want to or not. In all seriousness, the ability of a GIF to convey emotions could make it easier to express yourself more fully within Twitter’s 140-character constraint. Read more

Now you can record and share videos in a Twitter DM—Twitter is adding video support to its Direct Messages feature. The capability is rolling out to Android and iOS worldwide. The takeaway: Given the video functionality in most messaging apps, this is a smart move on Twitter’s part. I can easily see adding video to the DMs I send, especially given Twitter eliminated the 140-character limit from Direct Messages. Read more

Reddit hires a head of journalism and media—Mark S. Luckie—Twitter’s former news manager—has moved to Reddit as the site’s first head of journalism and media. Given that Reddit is a prime source of content for journalists, the organization needed someone to work with media (and other) organizations to figure out how they use Reddit in order to incorporate their needs into the product. The takeaway: Without violating the community rules at Reddit (like blatant pitching and self-promotion), it’s increasingly valuable to have your content shared there. It’s getting more likely reporters and influencers will find it there than on a press release service. Read more

IBM goes all in with blockchain—Blockchain—the distributed ledger technology that powers Bitcoin but is also poised to massively disrupt the business landscape in general—has become a mission for IBM, which will test its own bespoke version of the transactional software in an effort to simplify things for its customers who lease its hardware. IBM hopes its efforts result in a new standard that will be contributed to the open-source project, Hyperledger. The takeaway: I know, I know. Blockchain is technical, geeky, and has little to do with communications. Trust me, though. You will be affected by it, so you should have a least a rudimentary understanding of what it is and how it works. (Incidentally, last week I registered my first document on the blockchain, a book proposal. It’s as good as copyright for proving I wrote the document and the ideas it contains.) Read more


Bad news is better than no news—Transparency matters to employees, according to research from Geckoboard, a London-based software maker. That means sharing bad news along with good (though sharing good news is fine, too). Over 90% of employees from the US and UK responding to the survey said they would rather hear bad news than no news, and 75% said they don’t trust managers who don’t share information about the business. Fully 25% said they have quit a job (or know someone who has) because a boss has kept company data from them. Only 10% of employees said they are “aware of company progress in real time,” while 80% said they want more information on how the company is doing. What’s more, 60% of IT workers and 53% of those employed in financial services “resort to their own detective work” to learn how the company is doing. Not surprisingly, 60% of those employees said they are more productive when they’re informed, and 50% said more information “motivates me to perform better.” The takeaway: Workers are grownups and they can take bad news, especially when it’s delivered consistently and professionally. It’s up to communicators to convince leaders that sharing bad news is not just okay; it’s essential. Read more

Lawsuits are up, the ability to communicate about them is awful—While the n umber of high-profile lawsuits is rising, most organizations have no crisis team or plan in place to handle communications in the wake of such litigation. That’s the finding in a report issued by PR agency Greentarget, which found only 37% of communicators have responsibility for litigation communications in a high-profile case even though 86% said the quality of that communication is somewhat or very important to the organization. Without the authority to communicate, the bad press that follows could affect the outcome of the case, yet without a communications team or plan in place, nearly 60% of organizations tend to act conservatively more than they need to. The takeaway: With litigation on the uptick, having a team and plan in place to handle communications is now a requirement. Don’t be one of the majority of companies that waits until disaster strikes to figure out what to do about it. Read more

Social media for B2B is getting tougher—Social engagement with B2B content has hit a saturation point, according to a study from TrackMaven, making it more difficult for B2B marketers to use social media tools. That doesn’t mean strategies need to be revised or abandoned yet. Content per brand on twitter rose 60% and on Facebook it’s up over 31%, though engagement has dropped across all social networks, falling farthest on Pinterest. The takeaway: What this means is that marketers need to come up with innovative strategies that will attract attention and do their homework to figure out what will engage their marketplace. Dumping a press release onto Facebook won’t cut it. Read more

PR should be doing native advertising—Native advertising is becoming an important PR activity that could get clients to increase their budgets. 88% of PR agencies in the UK say native ads represent an opportunity for public relations; 77% believe PR is best suited to create and distribute it, according to a survey of UK agencies. 87% think the PR industry needs to intensify its efforts to get the native advertising budgets, currently being funneled to marketing and advertising. Half of PR agencies offer native advertising solutions to their clients, while nearly 20% say they plan to. The takeaway: PR is, in fact, best-suited to handle native advertising, especially the creative end, since PR practitioners know how to tell the kinds of stories people want to read in mainstream media. After all, we’ve been pitching the for years. Read more


Is the US government spending enough on PR?—Paul Holmes doesn’t think so. Reacting to a report from a government transparency organization that determined the US has spent $4.37 billion on PR since 2007, Holmes—publisher of the Holmes Report—argues that the amount (if correct) is less than 0.0016% of its total budget, which doesn’t seem high to him. Consider what the public gets for that investment in communications, such as the Centers for Disease Control’s ability to inform the public about its health education initiatives, or the military spending on recruitment. The takeaway: PR is an easy target for critics of government, but government needs to communicate to its constituents. We need to be proactive as an industry in resisting calls to end PR spending, such as one piece of legislation calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to end all spending on PR and advertising. Read more

Pepsi plans campaign with emoji cans and bottles—If you are among those waiting for the emoji fad to end, it’s time to give up. Pepsi plans to market emoji-designed cans and bottles in more than 100 global markets. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said in a presentation, “Emojis are the language of today but no one has put them in the world like Pepsi willin 2016.” The takeaway: I responded to a text from my daughter with an emoji last night. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. Read more

Training for new technologies gains ground in communication agencies—In an earlier edition, I noted that agencies are employing a number of approaches to keep staff up to date on changes and trends in digital and social media. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that Publicis Groupe wants its employees to get up to speed on programmatic advertising, and programmatic school is the path they’re taking to make it happen. The company-wide training program, called Vivaki IQ Academy, will train more than 800 employees who have registered for online courses that ultimately will give them a certification in programmatic advertising. The takeaway: If you work in an agency, pay attention to this trend. Staff who don’t know these technologies could be the reason clients take their work elsewhere. If you work in a company, you should find other ways to get the education you need for your skills to remain relevant. (I’m looking for an online course in programmatic advertising myself. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

News app emulates messaging apps—For its first app, news site Quartz has ignored the traditional approach of headlines and stories to scroll through, sending new content in a text bubble that you respond to by using a pre-selected emoji or message, some of which include “what does it mean?”, “yeah, let’s do this”, or “Uhhh.” Messaging apps are taking over the world and people are growing accustomed to using them quickly to engage. Why not use the same approach for news delivery? Aimed at a young audience, the app will probably do quite well, and could even expand the audience for Quartz’s content. I can easily see this concept finding its way into company news delivery strategies. Read more

If people consume content on mobile, maybe you should create it there—Swipe is a new mobile tool that lets you build documents that include animations, video, vector graphics, and audio using only a mobile device. Created by Satoshi Nakajima—the lead architect of Windows 95 and 98—is an open-source project that will get its official debut at the Silicon Valley Comic-Con in March. Nakajima created Swipe as an alternative to branded apps and the often daunting coding requirements required to build interactive documents. A free demo app is available now for the iPhone and the source code is accessible on Github. The takeaway: As a growing number of people eschew computers, getting everything they need from their phones and tablets, tools for assembling media-rich documents that work on mobile devices are inevitable. With our need to distribute such documents, communicators should be early adopters in order to figure out and take advantage of Swipe. Read more

Email is moving to mobile devices—Only 32% of email was opened on a computer last year; 68% was opened on mobile devices. Those were mostly smartphones, with tablets accounting for only 16% of email opens. The iPhone dominated phone-based email usage, accounting for 42%; only 10% of email was opened on Android phones, even less than the 14% that was opened on iPads. Android tablets were used for only 1% of email opens. Conversions are another story, with 53% taking place on computers (except in the fourth quarter, when mobile conversions skyrocketed). The takeaway: The go-to email device is now the smartphone, and conversions will increasingly happen on the phone as well. This should factor into the approach marketers take to crafting their emails. Read more

Is ZCast the Periscope of podcasting?—ZCast is a new iOS app that enables users to do with audio what Periscope has done for video: broadcast live using just a smartphone. Listeners will browse live and upcoming “casts” from within the app, invite others to join in, and post likes. An Android version is in development, and users will also be able to listen on the Web. No word on whether broadcasts will be archived for later listening. The takeaway: This could be a big hit, given one of audio’s big advantages over video: You can listen while doing something else. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Samsung could expand VR beyond smartphones—Samsung’s Gear VR headset only works with a smartphone snapped in, much the same as Google’s Cardboard, but that could change if the opportunity arises. An executive said VR would be ideal for showing potential investors what a factory under construction will look when finished, by teachers to show landmarks, and even to treat acrophobia through simulations that take sufferers gradually from lower to higher elevations. Details of Samsung’s VR strategy will be announced at the Galaxy Unpacked event taking place next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The takeaway: It’s encouraging to see the discussions about VR beyond gaming and entertainment. While gaming and entertainment will account for a lot of VR content, more practical uses will be developed almost immediately. Read more

Mattel to take its View-Master VR headset to a new level—When Mattel reintroduced its classic View-Master product as an under-$30 VR headset, I immediately bought one. Now, the company (my former employer) plans to introduce an upgraded version at American International toy Fair in New York. Sources say the new ViewMaster Viewer DLX will include a focus wheel, a headphone connector, and an improved latch for holding your smartphone in the device. The takeaway: While the more expensive headsets will do well for those seeking the best VR experience (gamers in particular), the availability of good-enough headsets at low price points will help propel the popularity of VR. Read more

Google at work on a standalone VR headset—Google’s Cardboard product works only when a smartphone is inserted, but Google’s new VR business unit plans to release a an all-in-one VR headset that doesn’t rely on a smartphone, computer, or game console. The company is also at work on a more advanced version of its phone-dependent Cardboard viewer. The availability of lightweight, standalone VR headsets will further accelerate the adoption of VR by the public, which will intensify business efforts to create content. Read more

This week’s Wrap image is courtesy of Arjan Richter’s Flickr Account. Richter says that in Kats (in The Netherlands) “Yarn bombing is an annual community art project” in which people wrap trees with brightly colored hand knitted panels.

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