Banner ads are outdated. Content marketing is king. Ad blockers are the wave of the future. Digital marketing is dead. You've probably heard all of this before and are not really sure what to make of it. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of digital marketing have been greatly exaggerated.
Do you have an ad blocker installed on your web browser? According to the 2015 report, "The Cost of Ad Blocking," from Adobe and PageFair, there are "198 million active adblock users around the world." In the U.S., ad blocking grew by 48% last year. At this point, though, only 16% of ad block traffic is mobile. That may sound as if it's good news, but it could also mean that there is a lot of room for mobile ad blocking growth.
In 2015, I did something, well, a little weird. I bought a Barnes & Noble membership. There is a store just minutes from my house, and I realized that I'd been spending a lot of time and money there during the past year-whether on tea in the cafe or on books-and if I had a $25 membership, it would have more than paid for itself. (Members get discounts on pretty much everything.) I finally caved when I found a new John Irving hardcover on the shelves. Usually, I wait for paperbacks, but as a longtime Irving fan (who had been struggling through some books that weren't exactly page-turners), I just couldn't wait.
I am the first to admit that, in the digital age, it is easy to play fast and loose with attribution. We are all guilty of it sometimes. For instance, when most of your writing is for the web, you get so used to linking to an article-rather than meticulously naming it and its author-that when you are writing for print, you might forget how to let your readers know exactly where a quote or statistic came from without the help of a hyperlink. This isn't a scholarly journal--no one wants to read footnotes, least of all me--but it's still important to give credit where credit it is due. It's one of those gray areas in which some people expect precise attribution for every fact and figure, and the rest of us are happy with a good faith effort that says, "This came from somewhere else." But lately, I've seen some plagiaristic antics that make my head spin--all in the name of content curation.
The last quarter of 2015 saw a flurry of notable media acquisitions. Time, Inc. shelled out a reported $20 million for Zooey Deschanel's HelloGiggles in October-and was also rumored to be circling Jane Pratt's xoJane, ready to make another purchase. A week or so before those announcements hit the street, Condé Nast bought Pitchfork. If you don't already see the trend, I'll spell it out for you: Old-media companies with big money are buying upstart digital media properties.
I wondered: When did we get too lazy to navigate websites-that generally serve up plenty of content suggestions in the sidebar-using simple links and arrows? As soon as the previous thought entered my mind, I had to ask myself if I was just being a cranky ol' fuddy-duddy. But I'm not the only one who finds the infinitely scrolling page to be a plague among us. Jack Schofield wrote on ZDNet, "Sometimes, ‘infinite scrolling' means you can never get the information you want." Truth!
Are you a journalist? Does a chill run up your spine when people start talking about "content"? Are you confused by the idea that working in a newsroom makes you a "content creator" and not just a reporter? Join the club. I talk to a lot of content experts, many of whom seem to think that creating a magazine/newspaper/news site is the same as creating "content."
So much of the internet is about celebrating cats that I thought it was high time I finally gave mine the shout-out they deserve. For the past year or so, I've been schlepping to the pet store every week to stock up on cat food. I have two mature cats who are now (much to my vet's delight) on a wet food diet. Keeping up with this is expensive and time-consuming. It's also a bit confusing, trying to figure out how much to feed them--mostly because one is lazy and has a slow metabolism, and the other has always been more active. Apparently, I was getting it wrong, because the vet told me I needed to up their calorie intake.
One panelist quoted a popular statistic that says 90 seconds is the sweet spot for videos aimed at Millennials. Not everyone was buying that, though. It's not that Millennials don't have an attention span-it's that they won't put up with your terrible content. If you don't capture their attention within 90 seconds, Millennials are going to bounce. Another panelist told an anecdote about the CEO of a large cable company saying something to the effect of, "I'm so sick of Millennials!"
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Jul 28, 2015
In the publishing world, you want as many sets of eyes on your content as possible. Whether you're selling books or trying to get hits on your blog, you need eyeballs. Traditionally, you would prefer to "own" those eyeballs. This has been at the heart of tensions between content creators and companies such as Google for years. Publishers complain that Google is making money off of content it didn't create. Meanwhile, Google argues that without its search engine, no one would ever find the content that publishers are putting online. With the addition of social media to the mix, things have become even more complicated.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Jun 23, 2015
There are many lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of Gigaom. The thing that struck me, though, was that this seemed to be an argument for ad-supported media. You don't hear many of those these days. We're used to hearing about newspapers and websites shutting down after dwindling ad revenue is not enough to keep them afloat. We see The New York Times and its ilk instating paywalls to help pad the bottom line. Rarely, however, do we hear cautionary tales of companies that dared to experiment with different monetization strategies and lost.
I admit to being a skeptic about connected cars. But as Business Insider's John Greenough points out, "The connected car is equipped with internet connections and software that allow people to stream music, look up movie times, be alerted of traffic and weather conditions, and even power driving-assistance services such as self-parking." BI Intelligence estimates that by 2020, 75% of new cars will be capable of connecting to the internet. According to Greenough's article, BI Intelligence also says that "of the 220 million total connected cars on the road globally in 2020, we estimate consumers will activate connected services in only 88 million of these vehicles." I would be among the other 132 million people.
For a while now, I've been asking people the same question over and over: "Why does anyone still pay for a DVR?" At first, the answer probably seems obvious. "A DVR allows me to save my favorite shows to watch later, at my convenience," you say. And that's true. But when you take a closer look, the actual value proposition is not so clear cut.
All hell broke loose at The New Republic (TNR) in December 2014. It was almost comical-as long as you don't actually work there. There was a mass (and very public) exodus of editorial staff, complete with an open letter published on Robert Reich's Facebook page. Here is the gist of the letter: "The magazine's present owner and managers claim they are giving it new relevance while remaining true to its century-old mission. ... The New Republic cannot be merely a ‘brand.' It has never been and cannot be a ‘media company' that markets ‘content.'... It is not, or not primarily, a business. It is a voice, even a cause. It has lasted through numerous transformations of the ‘media landscape'-transformations that, far from rendering its work obsolete, have made that work ever more valuable."
I've been thinking a lot about attention span lately. Since the advent of Twitter, we've been told that our audience is no longer capable of maintaining interest in what we have to say if it's more than 140 characters long. Then Vine appeared on the scene with 6-second videos, and panic nearly ensued. Meanwhile, though, millions of Americans sat down on their couches to binge watch entire seasons of Orange Is the New Black. Clearly, the public at large is perfectly capable of paying attention when it wants to. So what are we to conclude from this information? The problem isn't your audience's attention span--it's your content.
I get a lot of emails from public relations professionals hoping to get my attention. More often than not, I cannot use the pitches I receive. And, increasingly, I am baffled by the emails I get. It's clear that many of these people either have no idea who I am and what EContent covers, or they're just "spraying and praying." Either way, there is pretty much no excuse for this. The truth is, though, that this is the way many content professionals are still doing their jobs. Despite all the analytics capabilities available to us, we're still just going with our gut, relying on the pitches that come into our inboxes, and generally winging it.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Nov 25, 2014
Are cable companies laboring under the illusion that they can keep customers by simply refusing to provide them with an easy, decent way to watch web content on their internet-connected televisions? This may be the last chance cable providers have to prove their value, and they are tossing it away.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Nov 20, 2014
It's easy to forget what an important role social media plays in the media at large. When you're busy taking BuzzFeed quizzes on Facebook or sharing pictures of your cat on Instagram, it's hard to see these tools as anything but hives of narcissism. But as I write this column at the end of a long week filled with bad news, I can't help but think of social media as not only the best source for breaking news, but as the only truly free press left.
Technically, I'm still in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old marketing demographic. I've got another couple of years before all you marketers stop fighting so hard for my attention (and my dollars). From a purely practical point of view, I've never understood the clamor for youth dollars-mostly because they don't have any money. Sure, they're wanton spenders, but they don't have much money to begin with. And I'm not the only one who calls into question the time-honored tradition of chasing 18 to 34 year olds. According to a post on Villing & Company's blog, "By 2010, 50 percent of all consumer spending in America will be by people over the age of 50." In fact, that 50-plus age demographic already outspends the 18-34 group by more than $1 trillion per year. That's a lot of money.
As I sit down to write this column, there is so much going on in the news-I barely know where to start. Suffice it to say: The courts are messing up the internet. Let's start with the most high-profile decision that may be affecting you and your content before you know it. It started earlier this year when a U.S. District Court struck down the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Open Internet rules from 2010.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Jul 22, 2014
I spent a couple of years working in book publishing during my 20s. I learned a lot while I was there, but one of the things that surprised me most was that the book industry operates solely on the gut feelings of its editors and publishers. That was fine when book publishing was more a gentleman's hobby than a legitimate business, but these days, book publishers are integral parts of the money-making media empires of people such as Rupert Murdoch.
All of a sudden, I was seeing subscription services everywhere. I started paying attention to the advertisements on my podcasts for Dollar Shave Club. I decided to take Groupon up on an offer for a subscription to the Sunday edition of The Hartford Courant. And because of my new interest in this particular business model, Google and Facebook started serving me ads for more subscriptions that I didn't know existed. As I thought about what seems to be a subscription renaissance, I found myself wondering why so many newspapers seem to be having difficulty with that old subscription model while other companies seem to be blossoming under it.
On the average weekday, I spend hours sorting through my social media feeds-mostly Facebook and Twitter. I fire up HootSuite to make this task a little easier and dutifully retweet, share, and schedule posts. For many of us, managing social media has gone from a way to kill time to an integral part of our jobs. But by Friday night, I'm ready to hang up my social media hat (except for Pinterest because I need it to make new, exciting meals). On Saturday and Sunday, I need a break from the endless streams of news, opinions, and baby pictures-but giving up social networks all together seems unfeasible.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Apr 22, 2014
I got to wondering what purpose Glass was serving for this man as he squeezed ripe fruit and inspected heads of lettuce. Was Whole Foods feeding coupons directly to his field of vision? Is that why he headed over to check out the soap? Was there a sale I didn't know was going on because I'm a schmuck who stills relies on the tiny computer in my pocket (aka my iPhone) to get my information?
Last December, I was at the Gilbane Conference in Boston, and, toward the end of my 2 days there, I headed into a session about the Internet of Things. It had been a while since I'd thought about the idea of my refrigerator and stove talking to each other, so I thought it was time to get an update from the experts. I'd always thought the idea was a little creepy, but, after the session, I left wondering if it wasn't both incredibly useful and a bit impractical. And, of course, I was thinking about what this all means for content creators.
As I sat down to write this column, Anonymous was in the news again--this time for its vow to help bring about justice in yet another depressingly mishandled sexual assault case. This time the news was coming out of Maryville, Mo. Anonymous, known for its internet vigilantism, called for further investigation into the Daisy Coleman case. It wrote: "Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us." And it wasn't long before Anonymous got exactly what it wanted. The case was reopened.
I recently spent an afternoon going down a podcast rabbit hole. It started with the DoubleX podcast from Slate, which led me to an episode of Dan Savage's Savage Love podcast, which pointed me to--of all things--the OkCupid blog. I was more surprised than anybody when I discovered we could all learn something from OkCupid about analytics and all the very scary things websites know about us.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Nov 19, 2013
Over the past few months, regular listeners of Marc Maron's WTF podcast have heard the comedian rail about a patent troll that is threatening the livelihood of many podcasters. For those of you who don't listen, Maron has also written about it on his blog. In a recent episode of WTF Maron interviewed Moon Zappa, and we all found out that Frank Zappa may just be the savior that podcasters needed.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Oct 31, 2013
A while back, I had a dream that I won the lottery. In the dream, I didn't quit my job and buy a private island. No, I used my lottery winnings to buy the local newspaper where I started my journalism career. It's a small weekly with a long history of serving my hometown, and it has a negligible web presence.
The other night, I crawled into bed and cracked open a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini that I bought last summer at a used bookshop. A photograph fell out into my lap. At first, I wondered when I'd tucked a picture into the pages, but then I realized I didn't have any idea who the people in the image were. It's a couple of young people-probably college age-smiling in a posed shot for the camera. I imagined it was probably a graduation shot of some sort-maybe a wedding. I tucked it back into the pages with the idea of using the smiling pair as a bookmark. But it reminded me that the paperback I had just started reading was, in fact, used goods.
It's the time of year when my life nearly has been taken over by my garden. Between the watering, the weeding, and the picking, I'm thinking about hiring a small staff. Frankly, it's a wonder that I still have a job because come May, my mind is always wandering out into the yard. When the sun goes down or the weather turns bad and I'm stuck inside, I'm combing Pinterest for ideas-most of which I'll never be able to implement. This spring, though, many of my thoughts were consumed by compost ... or the lack thereof.
Why the heck was this magazine for car lovers (or, at least, Subaru lovers) doing stories about restaurants and local food? Were the chefs featured in the story picking the food up from farmers and hauling it back to their kitchens in their Outbacks? I just didn't get it.Then I realized that Subaru was just practicing good content marketing.
By the time you read this column, Facebook's redesigned Timeline and News Feed will be old news. But as I was casting around for column ideas, I instant messaged my friend Mike--otherwise known as @tech_envy--and asked him what he thought I should write about. I was stuck for ideas. He wanted to talk integration. Specifically, he wanted to talk about the changes to Facebook's look, which would put new emphasis on your activity.
I'm finally getting around to reading Anna Karenina, thanks to modern technology. Seems odd that a book lover like myself didn't download the year's best-sellers as soon as my iPad showed up, right? Well, here's something even stranger. I used my Amazon app to order the hardcover version of Dennis Lehane's new book, Live by Night, and the paperback version of John Irving's latest, In One Person. It seems a bit sacrilegious, huh?
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Marc Maron's WTF. It makes for fascinating conversations, but it's also interesting from an econtent perspective. Maron has used this podcast to reach a whole new generation of fans; he has parlayed this connection into new opportunities in TV and beyond. More importantly, he's not the only comedian taking his act straight to fans.
Social media often gets a bad rap as the place where self-involved people go to bore their friends-and sometimes complete strangers--with the mundane details of their day, but recently it helped me save my dog's life.
So many people fear the nefarious use of the data that follows us across the internet, but I was starting to fear that it would just be used incompetently and offer me little to no value. If I'm going to leave a trail of puchase and geolocation information in my wake, I like to know that it's being used to benefit me. And this week, marketing gurus seem to being doing well.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Jan 24, 2013
I am a notoriously light packer. This is, in part, because airlines charge an arm and a leg to check bags, but it's also just a personality quirk. I don't like clutter in my home, and I don't like packing a huge suitcase for an overnight business trip. I especially dislike dragging a suitcase into a conference with me, so I've become quite adept at fitting everything I need into one -- admittedly large -- purse. But on my last few trips, my laptop has been posing challenges. It works fine, but it's heavy and by the time I board the train home I have an aching back and sore shoulder.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Jan 08, 2013
Big Data. Pinterest. Ebooks. Mobile. HTML 5. Open source. The Facebook IPO. Content marketing. I could go on and on, but these are just a few of the terms that started floating through my head when I began thinking about writing my end-of-the-year column.It's hard trying to sum up what's been a big-no- huge year in the digital content world. Depending on your job title, you might think 2012 was the year of Big Data, or the year ebooks finally went mainstream, or the year social media went from being a fun way to kill some time to an essential business tool (but a risky addition to your stock portfolio). And any of those conclusions would be right.
As I write this column, many of my friends are rushing to preorder the iPhone 5 (and by the time this issue publishes, they will no doubt be enjoying a bigger screen and a better Siri--at least for the first week or so). While they were all salivating over the latest and greatest from Apple, I went down to my local wireless store in the middle of the afternoon, walked up to a sales associate, and promptly asked for the 99 cent iPhone 4. Yes, you read that correctly. I did not even bother to fork over the $99 for the 4S.
So, have you seen Facebook Stories yet? I know you've probably heard about it, but have you actually bothered to look at it? No? Let me tell you all about it.It's a fascinating display of the power of social media on people's lives and, to some extent, on journalism. But it's also sort of a genius marketing tool.
A while back I entered my dog in GNC's Healthy Pet, Happy Pet Photo Contest on Facebook. I had not previously "liked" GNC, but I did so for the purposes of entering the contest and possibly winning $5,000. I uploaded her picture and filled out a bunch of information. Once I was done, I started sharing the contest with my Facebook friends and family, urging them to vote for Maybelle. This is where the contest went terribly awry. At first, we couldn't actually find my dog. It took about 24 hours before her picture appeared at all. When it finally did show up, I tried sharing the direct link to her profile. But no matter what I did (i.e., grab the link, use the Share button), anyone who clicked on it ended up somewhere other than Maybelle's voting page.
Long before I was in the business of writing about digital content, I was a big fan of digital content. More specifically, I was a fan of Slate. Founded in 1996, the "daily magazine on the web" is practically the grandfather of digital publishing. Backed by The Washington Post Co., Slate has long incorporated the best of traditional journalism with more bloglike sensibilities. From long-form, investigative journalism to quick, breaking news blurbs to Dear Prudie—Slate's answer to Dear Abby—the site seamlessly blends the more familiar aspects of your local newspaper with new media.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Aug 28, 2012
Earlier this year, Hulu held its Best in Show competition. During the first week of voting, the online video site paired up shows and pitted them against one another. Like Weimaraners and border collies in their breed categories at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, TV shows such as Misfits and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia went head to head, with viewers voting for their favorite. Predictably, Always Sunny won that one, but Misfits—a British show that exclusively airs on Hulu in America—is one of my favorite shows. Much like the American Staffordshire terrier, Misfits seems to be misunderstood.
I started making a lot of hiking plans earlier this spring. I'd adopted a dog in January and had been wandering in the woods almost every weekend since. Then a friend of mine emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in section-hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail-specifically the parts that run through Connecticut and Massachusetts. I'd visited a couple of the Connecticut sections last summer, so I was excited to hit some new spots, this time with the dog in tow.
I too was once a Pinterest skeptic. I kept getting emails telling me that friends had invited me to the virtual pinboard site, and I kept ignoring them. Eventually, my friends started trying to sway me in person, and I kept saying, "I just don't want to deal with another social media site."Then, one dark and dreary night, I decided to try it out. At first I used it to organize craft ideas for Christmas. Then I started gathering recipes for an onslaught of holiday and birthday parties I had to throw. One thing is for sure: Recipes and crafts are the gateway pins!
Have you ever had the pleasure of walking into a production editor's office in a major publishing house? No? Well, you're missing out. It usually resembles an episode of Hoarders. Picture this: Stacks of paper teeter perilously around a desk while a stressed-out individual sits behind an ancient desk, washed out by fluorescent light bulbs. Hundreds if not thousands of books line the shelves, and if you're really lucky, you'll spot the ancient artifact referred to as a Fuji ... yes, like the film. A Fuji is a plastic sleeve filled with (hopefully) the final version of a cover sent by the printer for approval.
From People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" to Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive," readers sure do love them some lists! It's a well-documented fact. If you throw a numbered list into your publication or onto your website, it's like catnip for your audience. (It doesn't hurt if you also throw a shirtless Bradley Cooper on the cover either.) As a result, editors like myself have to produce these things.
A few days before the wedding, I found myself sitting with my laptop searching YouTube for makeup tips. In a matter of seconds, I'd found exactly what I was looking for. I discovered a channel called The MakeUpChair With Sineady Cady (she has a really lovely accent, and the videos are worth watching just to hear her). Sineady is a young makeup artist living in Ireland, who uses a blog and her YouTube channel to promote her brand and find new clients. Her email address is posted right there on the channel, so if you're looking for someone to do your makeup for a special day, you can shoot her a message.
My family has a long history with the border town of Laredo, Texas. As a child my mother moved around a lot along with her six older siblings, as part of an Air Force family. Laredo just happened to be one of the towns that stuck. Two of my aunts and one of my uncles still call it home, along with their families. As a born and bred New Englander, it's pretty much another planet to me.
By Theresa Cramer
Posted Nov 19, 2011