Masters of Media

What makes certain online content so immensely shareable?
What do we know about the motivations behind social-sharing?
How can answers to these questions change the materials we produce?
Ask yourself: Why do I share what I share?

Enter Ze Frank, an extraordinary creative force and president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. He claims that three primary motivations drive social sharing:
— Identity
— Emotion
— Information

In the first 60 seconds of this video, Mr. Frank explores the whats and whys. Stay for the full five minutes as this Master of Media riffs on social sharing and the creative process at BuzzFeed.



Google Serves Desktop Tweets

Untitled design

Last year, Google added real-time Twitter content to its desktop search results. This development follows Google’s addition of tweets to searches on mobile devices.

This is good news for marketers who will gain visibility and traffic for their brand by actively tweeting. Certainly, a fuller picture of a brand emerges when searches integrate social media with other web content. But, be mindful that Google search queries could potentially return negative tweets as explored here.

A search query for the “Smithsonian” demonstrates the carousel-style presentation,  enabling users to scroll through the organization’s tweets.


The Social Reboot of Slideshows


SlideShare is a terrific outlet for sharing information with customers and propects. By creating new content, sharing existing materials, or repackaging subject matter to prolong its lifespan, a brand’s exposure can be amplified. Slide decks run the gamut: traditional presentations, how-to guides, listicles, analyses, reports, stories, Q&As, training support, industry insights, etc.

The medium makes it easy for visitors to search topics by keyword or category. The visual nature of SlideShare enables users to quickly click through slide decks and absorb information in digestible amounts.

SlideShares can be embedded into a company’s website or blog and shared via LinkedIn (which acquired SlideShare in 2012), Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.

Examples of top brands using SlideShare include IBM, CNN Money, Cisco, and Samsung.

Recently, a blog post about SlideShare was, well, shared with me. Below are five of my favorite slide decks from the article, The 25 Best Social Media SlideShares, by blogger Kevan Lee at buffersocial.

#2. The 10 Best Copywriting Formulas for Social Media Updates

#3. The Science of Twitter

#14. How to Choose the Perfect Stock Photo

#16. 5 Critical Rules for Writing Compelling Copy

#24. 19 Simple Twitter Retweet Tips

Does SlideShare figure into your organization’s integrated marketing efforts?

Suffering from Blogger’s Block? Take Advantage of It.


Blogger’s block…it strikes without warning. Alas, researchers have yet to develop a cure. Tips to reduce symptoms abound, including:

Catherine Tan, Hootsuite: 9 Ways to Beat Blogger’s Block

Debbie Hemley, Social Media Examiner: 26 Tips for Overcoming Bloggers Block. It was via this post that I discovered the Mari Popova’s delightful Brain Pickings.

William Comcowich, CyberAlert: 14 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

The problem with lists of tips is that after clicking from one to the next, they all seem to run together and repeat, creating a giant echo chamber.

What works for me? To overcome blogger’s block, I seek out subject matter that is unrelated to my blog. Shifting the focus helps disrupt my unnerving obsession with the problem. As if by magic, the block fades.

Below are some of my favorite shift-the-focus sites for inspiration.

Brain Pickings blog

Videos on Vimeo, especially the animations

One in 8 Million, stories of NYC characters in sound and images, masterful editing

The whimsical illustrations of Sarah Goodreau

The Favorites Lists of Heidi Swanson, author/photographer, are feasts of ideas.

World Science Festival – articles, videos, infographics

A Google image search for: Maira Kalman

The lovely drawings (1886-1900) and notes of Rufus Grider

The Library of Congress digital collections

Question: If you have been the victim of blogger’s block, how did you strike back?

Will Your Next Website Design Itself?

If The Grid lives up to the hype, website design and maintenance is about to get a whole lot easier.

The Grid is a website builder powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is set to debut later this month.

Picture telling The Grid what you want a set of content to achieve, loading some raw files, then letting algorithms automatically generate your website. In theory, design is optimized and the user experience is elevated. Responsive design is a natural element in The Grid landscape. The system crunches data to manage fluidity across all screens, from mobile to wearable to TV to __________ (you fill in the blank).

Forbes contributor Anthony Wing Kosner took a look at this innovation in his article, The Grid Website Platform Automatically Adapts Design to Make Your Content ShineTo quote Mr. Kosner,

quotationmarksSmall This is code in the service of design…The Grid figures the hard stuff out for you.”

Some of that “hard stuff” includes measuring the color data in files and fine-tuning images and text panels so they are aesthetically pleasing. Visual content can be automatically cropped and The Grid recognizes and preserves faces and other key photo elements. Content can also be gleaned from the internet and incorporated (no mention of possible legal issues involving this ‘borrowed’ material). The system offers flexibility, so the brand can maintain some control, too. For example, a company’s designers can manage a website’s filters. The Grid learns and applies these rules.

The Grid is a San Francisco startup bankrolled by former executives of Facebook, Disney Interactive, and Elegant Themes. The company is offering a $96 annual membership, sight unseen. There is considerable interest. As of this writing, 44,395 people had subscribed (more than $4 million raised).

Will The Grid deliver on this tantalizing concept or has it over-promised subscribers?

What do you think?

Mobile-First: A Digital Trend Fact


To paraphrase Marshal McLuhan, is today’s medium becoming the message? So far, technology cannot be mistaken for actual communication—but the two are clearly inseparable. Mobile devices, especially, are having their moment, gluing eyeballs to screens and holding fingertips hostage everywhere.

Mobile Internet is growing at three times the rate of Internet on other devices. And, mobile video accounts for more than half of mobile data. Acknowledging users’ appetite for video, marketers are scrambling to adapt advertising to today’s mobile-first world. The mobile ad industry grew 34% last year and video ads are multiplying.

Not only do video ads perform better, social video can tap and target mobile audiences on the major networks. A couple mobile ad trends are worth noting.

Short Animations. A natural evolution from Vine and other animated gifs apps, short videos are attention-grabbing and fun. Case in point: Pinterest’s Cinematic Pin ads.


Vertical Content. Vertical content caters to mobile phone users, so they do not have to turn their screen to watch a video. Case in point: Snapchat is advising their advertisers to shoot vertical ad video noting that 9X more users watch vertical ads to the end (vs. horizontal). Meerkat and Periscope already stream video vertically. One company, Vervid, wants to be the “YouTube of vertical video.”


Adweek provides this roundup of 24 digital and mobile trends. See the full report, Internet Trends 2015, by digital investment analyst, Mary Meeker.

Verizon Wants AOL – Why?

LetsMobilize On May 12, AOL employees received a memo from CEO Tim Armstrong stating that the company would be acquired by Verizon. He wrote:

quotationmarksSmall The deal will give our content businesses more distribution and it will give our advertisers more distribution and mobile-first features…it will add a mobile lens to everything we do inside of our content, video, and ads strategy.”

He closed the memo with two words: Let’s mobilize. What does Verizon see in AOL? What does each company bring to the table in this deal? Will the whole be greater than the sum of its parts? After a quick look at the facts, a Verizon strategy begins to emerge.

Start with Data (Verizon)

  • As of the fourth quarter of 2014, Verizon served 132 million wireless subscribers, making it the largest mobile provider in the U.S.
  • Verizon collects tons of data about its customers. For example, it actively tracks customers’ mobile web traffic (unless they opt out), a practice that has been criticized by consumer and privacy advocates. This data can be used to target consumers for advertising, or can be sold to data brokers.

+ Delivery (Verizon)

  • Verizon has been known as a ‘dumb pipe,’ delivering content and ads from which others profited. The acquisition of AOL moves Verizon beyond data and delivery.

+ Content (AOL)

  • AOL owns several online properties that deliver content and advertisements. Its content portfolio includes The Huffington Post, which draws approximately 110 million monthly visitors, TechCrunch, Engadget and others.
  • AOL’s original video programming will consist of 3,600 episodes in 2015, up from 80 in 2014. Videos, viewable on mobile devices, are diverse in genre and length, ranging from “highly sharable, snack-able short form content, to mid-form content and long-form programming.”
  • AOL’s videos, (the most popular online behind Google’s and Facebook’s), are distributed via its online assets: Huffington Post and others.

+ Mobile Advertising (AOL)


  • AOL’s most profitable business unit is third-party advertising facilitated by its innovative, one-stop, programmable advertising platform, ONE by AOL. ONE centralizes ad planning, bidding/buying, real-time ad management and analytics – catering to marketers and publishers across all screens. Its revenue has doubled in just two years.
  • In March, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said the company planned to offer a mobile video service supported mainly by advertising.

= The Strategy (maybe)

  • One can infer a possible Verizon strategy, given this smattering of facts. Okay, we’ll take a stab. How does this sound?

Verizon Strategy. Data-driven targeting and delivery of mobile-first content and ads, supported by the functionality and revenues of ONE.

“Mobilize” or Die

Whether a Let’s Mobilize strategy effectively smartens Verizon’s dumb pipes remains to be seen. As of this writing, there are certainly plenty of naysayers. And remember, the acquisition of AOL by Verizon is not a done deal yet – it still needs the approval of regulators.