You have to feel for journalists and publishers, since everybody else insists on (a) swiping content from newspapers and magazines, (b) “aggregating” all that content on the Series of Tubes before (c) having your hot startup get bought out by Silicon Valley for $300 million while (d) the journalists who created all that content get pink slips.
So yeah, any form of advertising that’s bringing money to print is a godsend.
HOWEVER: John Oliver is right when he goes off about “native advertising,” a new twist on an old concept. Instead of having news, then ads, why not knock down those walls and make the ads look just like news?
I still believe that real ads in real newspapers and magazine are far more effective than banner ads on the web. Also, this trend can’t last forever. John Oliver is right about somebody having to create all this content, and get paid for it. The trouble is how easy newspapers and magazines made it to either read the stories for free — most paywalls are a joke — or “aggregate” the stories online with no consequences.
Either way, John the Oliver is proving that you can go on deep, 11-minute comedy rants that actually educate people, about serious topics, while making them laugh. Lectures are boring. Mockery is the greatest weapon.
Here it is, the latest mind-blowing invention from Apple via a leaked video from sources in Silicon Valley that I can’t reveal.
Sorry. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.
Now, that’s funny, mostly because there’s a ton of truth packed in with the sarcasm.
And the trend in the other direction, toward massive phones that don’t fit in your pocket, monstrous phone-tablets offspring called phablets by People Who Are Terrible At Naming Things — well, that’s just as bad as the iWatch.
Gadgets should be simple. Do one thing and do it well, or do lots of things well but make it convenient.
I own a few watches and stopped wearing them years ago, not because they broke, or the batteries ran out, but because there’s a phone on my Samsung Galaxy, a clock on my PC at work, another clock in my car, clocks on the wall. How many clocks do I need?
And I don’t need a tiny screen on my wrist when there’s a big screen on my desk, a good-sized screen on my phone, a Nook in my messenger bag (call it a murse, I don’t care, I can take it) and an iPad sitting around home somewhere that nobody uses. After a certain point, you can only use so many screens, sync so many devices and update the stupid things so many times. Honestly, why does iTunes need to download another update every two weeks? The last time it updated, iTunes conveniently forget all my song ratings and such. Call it an undocumented feature.
What part of modern technology (a) makes you all happy, like GPS meaning we don’t get lost anymore, or (b) annoys you to no end? Tell me. Just don’t leave me a voice mail about it. Hate ’em. Won’t listen.
ublicity and marketing, including social media, is like the Wild West.
Just about anybody can call themselves a Social Media Ninja (although they shouldn’t) and get away with it, especially if they used the right jargon. Crazy ideas don’t sound crazy when nobody really knows anything in this new frontier.
Social media is still related to publicity and marketing, and even in that old business, the saying was, “Half of all advertising gets wasted. But nobody knows what half.”
Although there’s certainly good practice and bad ideas, there’s always been more art than science to the field. You can’t predict what will work or say, “We’re going to make this viral” and have it happen. Doesn’t work that way.
PETA does it best: they assume most things will fail, which is true. They swing for the fences and try all sorts of wild ideas and PR stunts, because 99 of them can flop if only one of them goes viral. PETA knows you can’t plan viral.
Now, I like the art AND the science, the theory and the practice. You can’t run everything by the numbers, because good numbers are hard to find, and it’s expensive, and you surely can’t run a bunch of numbers and say, “See? This thing will blow up because, you know, science.” Doesn’t work. But you can, and should, grab data where possible and use that to point in the right direction.
So it gave me great joy to see Neil the Patel come through with another great infographic about which words get shared on social media — the Book of Face, the Twitter, Goople+ and even that thing called LinkedIn — and which words get buried. Useful stuff.
I do this blog for fun, not for monies. HOWEVER: even casual bloggers probably want to make their bloggity blog more popular, and get more viewers.
Want to make your blog better and more popular? Neil Patel of Quicksprout is your man.
He’s brilliant. And he made this handy infographic on improving your website’s stickiness.
Check him out if you’re serious about page views and such. I make the same (zero!) whether this silly blog gets 5,932,023,727,099,131,827 hits a day or the only guy reading it is some bored dude in a research station in Antarctica, so bounce rates aren’t my thing. But I know many writers work crazy hard on their blogs and blog-like substances, and what Neil does for free, and for his clients, is packed full of Smart.
Most graduation or commencement speeches put the B in Boring and fall into three categories: (1) standard “go change the world!” blah-blah you’ve heard 20 times before, (2) people trying to be very Deep, and Meaningful, but are mostly Confusing as they push their personal pet thing and (3) speakers trying to be funny when they have no experience or business being funny, ever, if their life depended upon it.
This man avoids all of those pitfalls.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s actually funny, and that he used to write speeches for some woman named Hillary and some dude named Barack.
A nice little video about the evolution of the Twitter, which is 6.942 bazillion times better than the Book of Face, which will one day go the way of MySpace — and not even powers of Justin the Timberlake will be able to save Zuckerberg’s baby.
I’d throw another “which” in there, but it’d just be piling on.
Also: What is the ONE THING you would delete about the Twitter, aside from nuking direct messages from orbit?
Also-also: What is the ONE THING you would add to the Twitter?
It is official: social media now dominates the Series of Tubes.
Every year, these smart people produce a slick video about the interwebs, and this year’s video is especially good and interesting.
Now, having filled your brain with facts and numbers and industrial euro-pop dance music, WHAT DO WE DO?
Simple. We change the world.
Change # 1: One Contact Thing to rule them all
So you’ve got contacts in your gmail at home and Outlook at work, Twitter lists of followers and all kinds of Facebook friends, Tumblr buddies and Pinterest pals and a dozen other things.
It is an unholy mess.
Blessed be the app that gives us One Contact Thing, a single shebang with the magical powers to organize all your contacts, from all those stupid platforms, in one tidy place. The power will be unthinkable.
This means ending the nonsense about Instagram not talking to Twitter because she saw him flirting with Google or whatever. And yes, we need it to be easy and quick and on our phones. Because I’m not firing up the PC every time I need to look up a phone number or Twitter handle.
Whoever does this first — Apple, Google, Microsoft, some dude in his basement coding the app in his pajamas — will rule the interwebs forever and ever.
Change # 2: Obliterate voice mail and switch to texting
Am I saying we should take voice mail behind the barn and shoot it? No. I’m saying take it behind the barn, hang it, set it on fire, THEN shoot it.
Nobody likes voice mail. Nobody.
Don’t call my cell phone and make me dial up voice mail, punch in a password I keep forgetting, then listen for two minutes. Especially when 99.99 percent of all voice mail messages are things you can sum up in a short text like, “Phone tag, you’re it” or “Pick up some milk, yo” or “I’m a reclusive billionaire with $400 million sitting around, and instead of handing it to Karl Rove, who I wouldn’t trust at this point to run a successful race for student body president at Willapa Valley Junior High, I’d like some return on my investment.”
Send a text, people. College kids these days don’t even use email anymore. They think email is so 1994.
If it’s too complicated for a text, send an email.
If you really hate me, send a voice mail. Make it long. Don’t leave your number or email — assume that I’ve memorized it. And then when I call back, make sure you don’t answer your phone so I can start the whole thing rolling with a voice mail of my own.
Therefore, we will nuke voice mail from orbit, and the world will rejoice.
Change # 3: Real photos, good bios and no anonymous trolls
Twitter, Facebook and every other social media shebang is full of photos and bios of people that may be human, and might be young or old, male or female, con artist or genius.
You can’t tell, though, because (a) their profile photo is a shot of a cat, Yoda holding a lightsaber or a pile of leaves, (b) their Twittter handle is @jkringer392 and (c) their bio is a train wreck of obscure references to Star Trek fan fiction and such. I have seen all of these things and more. Who will pay for my therapy?
There are plenty of places for anonymous folks to say whatever they like. Sites like reddit will always be around. Have at it.
HOWEVER: papers of news, TV stations and serious blogs need to stop feeding the trolls by letting TrailerParkNinja and TexasMustSecede2016! dominate the comment sections with anonymous spam and hateful, nonsense. So let’s cut back on that by requiring commenters to use real photos and bios. Want to spew? Go spew in Anonymous Land.
If you’re going to be on the Series of Tubes, and want to be taken Seriously, you need a Serious photo — of you, not your cat — and a real bio. Period.
Long ago, only famous people needed public relations folks, who made sure actors, authors and other celebrities had good mug shots and nice bios. Today, everybody is online. Your photo, bio and name are what people see first. But average people don’t have a publicist. They’re flying in the dark with a blindfold, and yeah, it shows.
Wonder why you aren’t getting many followers on Twitter or hits to your blog? Take a look at your photo and bio.
Trying to get a job / book deal / punk rock music contract? Take a hard look at what people see, in the first five seconds, when they check you out on Twitter and the Book of Face and such.
People don’t make a decision about you after reading your short stories or listening to three mp3s of sample songs on your blog. They glance at your photo and decide, in half a second, whether to interact with you or never give you a second thought. They do this all the time, in a hurry. Ten people just followed you on Twitter, and you follow back or not, clicking away with your mousity mouse, no-no-yes-no-yes-yes-no. You don’t ponder these decisions, right? Bam. So make it easy on people by taking it seriously. I’m talking to you, Miss Duckface, who shot your profile photo in the bathroom mirror using an iPhone.
People need a place –a Profile Doctor–to get easy and quick help with this sort of thing, without putting a public relations firm on retainer.
There is no guaranteed method, no secret way, to make a blog post that causes the Series of Tubes to explode.
Anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar full of lying liaosity.
Because this is an art, not a science.
HOWEVER: There are things that are smart, and give you a chance.
5) Swing for the fences
If all your blog posts are kinda the same — the same topic, the same length, the same tone — it’s a good bet none of them will ever magically shock the world.
Learn from PETA, which gets gobs and gobs of free ink and airtime by trying bold, crazy PR stunts.
Most of them fail. Sometimes, they get a little bad press for a stunt gone wrong.
But they keep swinging for the fences, because there is no real penalty for swinging and missing.
People only really pay attention when you hit that towering home run.
So PETA does the opposite of most non-profits, companies, politicians, authors, actors and would-be Famous Peoples: they don’t (a) craft a strategy full of bunts and singles, (b) assume all those bunts and singles will work 100 percent of the time, then (c) freak out when things don’t work out exactly according to the plan and (d) yell at their publicist for all those failures.
PETA knows most swings of the bat will miss. They’re smart about it. They don’t whine or cry in their IPA’s after hours, asking God why nobody prints their press releases. They swing hard. They know missing is part of the game. And they keep on swinging, knowing that all it takes is one solid smack of the bat to get their message through in newspapers, radio and TV around the world.
I did a bunch of posts examining how PETA and other folks do publicity right. Read them. It’ll make you rethink playing small ball.
4) Start with a killer photo
Words are great. I adore words, and I bet you do, too.
Treating photos as an afterthought, though, is crazy.
Because images are more powerful than words. They tap directly into a primal part of our brain and work all kinds of magic, bam, faster than you know it, all while your brain is still processing the first few words of the headline and such.
Every post should have one killer image.
Snag a shot from flickr or morguefile. Snap away with your iPhone or Droid — or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a Nikon of Infinite Beauty.
Use one of the online meme generators (they are legion) to add words to a fresh meme.
Better yet, find a photo and start an entirely new meme.
3) Embrace viral networks
Everybody basically has a blog, a Facebook page and uses Twitter — that’s pretty standard.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: that won’t help you go viral.
Blogs just sit there, really. Nobody except your subscribers will realize you’ve got a new post.
The Book of Face is social networking, not social media. Same with Twitter.
They aren’t designed, really, for things to go viral. Are they better than a kick in the head? Yeah.
For a blog post to really go viral, you need it to make noise on Pinterest or Reddit, Digg or Stumbleupon — those sorts of sites.
Because lumping all these sites under the term “social media” is stupid.
There’s social networking, where you make new friends and talk smack with those friends.
There’s social media, which sort of works as an alternative to mass media (papers of news, radio, TV) — but not really.
And then there are viral networks.
To make a blog post go viral, people who use viral networks must (a) see your post and (b) share it.
That means putting the right sharing buttons on each post.
It means joining a few of those viral networks to see how they work.
And it means using those networks to push sharing buttons on stuff your friends post, not just your own stuff.
This is where a killer photo comes in handy. Pinterest and other viral networks are incredibly visual. If your post doesn’t have an image, it’s basically impossible to post on many viral networks. Even if they let you post, I don’t suggest doing it. Because a photo is key.
2) Use the video, Luke
Moving pictures are even BETTER than regular old pictures, which are better than words.
Here. I’ll make it all simple with logic and such:
Video > Photos > Words
Find short clips on YouTube that illustrate your point.
Snag animated gifs that are related, and funny, and not gross or pervy.
There is no shortage of video clips and gifs. I am constantly amazed by the creativity of peoples on the Series of Tubes, and I tip my hat to them. You make me laugh, and learn things, because video is the most primal way of reaching people.
1) Wrap it all up with a head-turning headline
The Greatest Blog Post in the History of the Blogosphere won’t matter if your headline is something like “What I wrote this morning, after I had some Cocoa Puffs”
Give your post a great headline. How?
Bottom line, you want the headline to create interest by (a) raising interesting questions about (b) stuff people already care about, and I have to say (c) if your blog is a thinly disguised diary, and eliminating the words “I” and “me” would cause the word counts of all your posts to drop by 20 percent, then yeah, that stuff isn’t really interesting or what people care about. Don’t do it.
Interesting questions include anything primal: life and death, love affairs and disasters, monsters and myths.
Stuff people already care about include books and movies, music and plays, stupid reality TV shows, politics, news, art, photography, stupid reality TV shows about celebrities and anything funny.
So what’s a good killer headline? Here are a few:
Top 10 things to do before Comet 1948A destroys Earth
Why JAWS and FATAL ATTRACTION are the same flipping story
If the Bachelor and Bachelorette are 0 for 40-whatever on engagements and marriages, is all hope for love lost — or is reality TV just an empty wasteland of vacuous, fame-chasing idiots?
Now, I’m kidding with that last headline. Bit too long.
On the other hand, it is unusual and would stand out. Bet you if I wrote a post with exactly that headline, it might make a splash. That last hed (journalism slang alert!) happily swings for the fences.
So don’t worry about missing, and don’t place all your bets on some golden post.
Because every time you shoot for something bold and spectacular, even if you fail, you’ll get better at it. And you won’t learn how to hit home runs if all you do is aim for bunts and singles.
So, I love the Twitter, which is fun and useful, and have fallen out of love with the Book of Face, because it’s not very useful and has become rather Annoying.
HOWEVER: There are things in Twitter that should be fixed, and features we desperately need to have.
Here they are.
Thing Number 4: Kill direct messages
Kill it with fire. Nuke it from orbit. Go send Keanu Reeve through the Matrix to wipe DM’s from the face of the Twitterverse.
Because nobody sends them anymore, not unless they get hacked and spit out endless “U didn’t see them tapping u? http://spam.a.licious” messages.
Thing Number 3: Give unto us some LIVE CHAT already
One of the great things about Gmail is you can see your contacts on the left side of the screen, with little green dots for folks who are online, and with a single click, bam, you can live-chat your buddies.
Twitter needs this. You’re already on the Twitter, and so is your buddy, but after the third round of back-and-forth of Tweets and replies, it’s beyond clunky and you just want to do a live chat instead of waiting for Twitter to reload and such.
Live chat isn’t some kind of advanced alien technology. Make your people happy. After you put a dagger in the heart of spammy direct messages, give us live chat, which is spam proof.
Right now, Twitter gives us a single stream of tweets, and they fly by at the speed of light.
Even if you’ve got all your people categorized into separate lists and groups, and would like to check on folks that way, Twitter won’t let you.
Basically, they’ve crossed the streams. And crossing the streams is an achy breaky bad mistakey.
Sure, you can fire up Hootesuite and other apps that will let you see different streams of Tweets, as they are meant to be seen. Yet if you need Hootesuite to check different streams, then Social Bro to manage your lists, Buffer to schedule tweets and some other app to get a handle on all your contacts, that’s a flashing neon light that says Twitter needs fixing.
Thing Number 1: Give us easy ways to manage our peoples
Learn from email, please. It’s been around for a little while now, and we all know how to use it.
Don’t let us organize people into lists like “Thriller authors” and “Serious fans of Care Bear cartoons” without giving us an easy way of sending a tweet about Lee Child‘s latest novel only to those thriller authors, and not your Care Bear maniacs.
Don’t make it insanely difficult to sort through the list of people you follow, or who follow you, without wading through screen after screen. SocialBro has some really smart features, like sorting through people who haven’t tweeted in six months. Learn from that. Sock it to us.
It shouldn’t be insanely difficult to keep track of your favorite people. Gmail has a nice touch where it’ll list your 20-some most frequently emailed folks. Those are your people, right? Make it easy for users. Show everybody who tweets them the most, or retweets what they say. Don’t make us try to remember whether you spell it @batmanFANinLondon or @BATMANfanInLONDON when you’re trying to talk to the guy about what DC will do with the Justice League movie.
Also, distribution lists are smart and useful. Let us have them.
Make it easy and we will love you even more, Twitter.
Make it hard and we’ll keep on kludging together workarounds, using four other apps, as we wonder whether you’ll keep making smart decisions or follow Facebook down the path of the Dark Side, where stock options only head south after the IPO.
Most interviews of authors, actors and artists put the B in Boring.
Hunter S. Thompson did it right with Conan O’Brien, because he didn’t sit on Conan’s couch and blab about his latest book / movie / art project. No. That is standard and typical and such. You can’t get atypical results by doing typical things.