Friday Wrap #198: Marriott’s reality series, a fake news search engine, an autoplay assassination

Shel Holtz's picture

Friday Wrap #198

I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing.


Twitter testing notifications for breaking news—Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey insists that Twitter is a news platform, a channel for sharing what’s happening right now. Reflecting its desire to be a news app, the company has started testing notifications of breaking news. When a truck crashed into a Berlin Christmas market, Twitter pushed a news alert of the event to some users via the Twitter Moments tab; it had done the same when Fidel Castro died. The takeaway: While I don’t often check Twitter Moments, I do first see a lot of news in my Twitter feed. Pushing news notifications is a great idea, as long as users have the ability to turn them off (which they do). Read more

Live audio comes to Facebook—Live Audio is Facebook’s latest feature for brands, enabling them to broadcast audio-only to audiences that can comment and react. It’s also an opportunity for fans to listen while doing something else, one of audio’s biggest benefits. Android users can keep listening even if they leave the app or lock their phones; iOS listeners have to remain on Facebook.  Facebook will test Live Audio with the BBC World Service and others in the next few weeks. The takeaway: Don’t expect Facebook to become the new king of podcasting with Live Audio because, well, it’s live and podcasts are on-demand. Still, it could be interesting to broadcast the recording of a podcast live over Facebook to see if it attracts more listeners to the recorded show. Read more

Google launches podcasts for agencies—Speaking of audio, google will publish a podcast series early in 2017 that will feature agencies sharing their digital marketing expertise. The podcast will be hosted by Alex Langshur, co-founder and senior partner at digital data analytics company Cardinal path. Listeners will be able to submit questions and request topics to cover. The first episode will focus on turning leads and prospects into sales, will be available on January 9. The takeaway: Podcasting’s star continues to rise, leading me to ask yet again why so many companies aren’t jumping on board. Read more

Twitter search now based on relevance—Without much fanfare, Twitter has changed the way it displays search results. Until now, results were chronological with the most recent tweets showing first, but now they’re based on relevance. The change mirrors what users see on their timelines; Twitter switched to relevance ranking for timelines nearly a year ago. The takeaway: I’m still not crazy about not seeing the most recent tweets on my timeline, but for search it makes sense. If I search for something, I definitely want to see the most relevant tweets, not just the most recent that happen to contain the word or phrase I’m searching. Read more

Error in metrics leads Twitter to overcharge for ads—Facebook must be thrilled to see headlines about ad measurement errors involving a competitor. This time it’s Twitter whose measurement of video ads running on Android was inaccurate, leading to overcharging. Advertisers have been issued refunds. The takeaway: One more reason the industry should consider third-party audits and measurement services like Nielsen does for TV. And one more reason for marketers to approach social media ad metrics with a grain of salt. Read more

Reddit gets a mobile competitor—Amino is a mobile community news site that mirrors Reddit but just for mobile. With nearly $20 million in funding, the service is expanding internationally, hiring regional staff, and curating communities unique to different countries. The takeaway: The fact that a community news site is building a base of users so quickly and so broadly on a mobile-only platform is one more sign that we’re fast become a mobile-only society. That doesn’t mean anyone should abandon the web, but it is important to understand your audience’s behaviors when selecting platforms on which to engage them. Read more

TSA takes traveler questions via social media—The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) gets a lot of criticism—much of it well-deserved—but its use of social media has been consistently brilliant. For the holidays, if you have a question about what you can carry on a flight, you can send a picture of the item through social media and get an answer in 20 minutes or less.  The takeaway: If you haven’t followed the TSA’s Instagram account, you’re missing some amazing photos. The TSA is an example of an organization using social media strategically and building a sizable following that not only makes it easier for the agency to do its job, but also to offset the negative perception the agency has built over the years. Read more

JWT, Black Lives Matter create map of black-owned businesses—JWT New York and the activist group Black Lives Matter have connected a database of black-owned businesses with Google maps to create a map-based directory of black-owned businesses. The beta launched with 300 businesses, most in major metropolitan areas. The takeaway: Regardless of your opinion of Black Lives Matter, this mashup should spark some creative thinking. Finding all the Best Buy stores or CitiBank locations on a Google map is nothing new, but what else can you do with the Google Maps API and a database? How about mapping all the no-kill animal shelters? (That’s just off the top of my head.) What other locations that don’t all belong to one organization can you map as a public service? Read more

Personalize your Facebook updates with color—When my wife and I were dating, she had only ever seen “The Wizard of Oz” on a black-and-white TV. Watching it at my place one Easter (when one of the three TV networks aired it annually), she was stunned when Dorothy stepped out of the house into a full-color Oz. (Yes, we’re that old.) Since then, color has been ubiquitous on TV and everywhere else. So it’s kinda hard to get worked up over Facebook’s new feature is the ability to select a color to appear behind your text status. The feature is rolling out globally for Android users, though everybody will be able to see Android-created colored updates in their news feeds. The takeaway: One good thing: Brands will be able to tint their updates with their brand colors, I guess. The goal is to encourage more people to share personal posts. Read more


Brands publish with Instant Articles—Facebook’s Instant Articles was created to make publisher content open quickly on mobile devices, but brands are starting to get in on the action, too. Turner Broadcast System is publishing on Facebook using Instant Articles to promote its sitcom, “People of Earth.” The series has just 44,000 Facebook fans, so consider the use of Instant Articles an experiment, with the network publishing fictional diary entries from the show’s characters. Few brands have taken Facebook up on its offer to use Instant Articles; they “lack the infrastructure and expertise to publish on a regular basis.” Intel, however, distributed its branded content magazine, iQ, via Instant Articles. The takeaway: There are plenty of brands that publish magazine-like content, such as Whole Foods, which could easily repurpose magazine content through Instant Articles. There’s no cost to do so, which will make it interesting to see if there’s any uptake by brands, which also should be converting content to the web-wide Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) version of HTML. Read more

Operations, supply chain could lead to Millennials dumping your brand—A YouGov survey found nearly 70% of Millennials have switched a favorite brand in the past year, motivated by product quality, availability issues, working conditions, and sustainability. The factors usually assumed for Millennial disloyalty—a social media presence, user-friendly apps, and great websites—actually have little impact on brand loyalty. It’s the “behind-the-scenes” issues associated with operations, logistics, and supply chain management that make a difference. The takeaway: This surprises me not at all given the ever-growing body of evidence that a company’s behavior in society matters more and more to people (and not just Millennials). Your organization not only has to be a good corporate citizen; you have to engage audiences so they’ll know about it. That’s not only how you keep the customers you have. It’s how you attract those defecting from your competitors. Read more

Print newspapers still serve a sizable audience—Nearly 170 million Americans read a newspaper at least once a month, according to a Nielsen Scarborough study, including the print edition. Eighty-one percent of monthly newspaper readers consume a print edition and 51% read print exclusively while 30% read both digital and print. Lest you think it’s just older readers favoring print, the data shows the ages of print readers mirror the general population. For instance, 13% of the population is 70 or older; they represent 15% of the newspaper audience. Millennials, on the other hand, represent 25% of the population and 24% of newspaper readership. The newspaper-reading audience is also affluent and educated. The takeaway: Some media analysts are wondering if the industry was hasty in shrugging off print. Just because everything can be done digitally doesn’t necessarily means it’s the best platform. Read more

Do Millennials read email?—It’s hit and miss, according to a recent study, with 18% of American Millennials saying they always open marketing emails (compared to 9% of people 30 and over). But 24% are more likely to never open marketing emails (compared to 19% of those 30 and over). Fifty-five percent of Millennials say they open marketing emails sometimes; 49% of those over 30 said the same. Another study found that even if marketing emails are opened, it doesn’t mean the message got across. The takeaway: I would have liked to see data on opt-in email newsletters vs. plain old marketing emails. I have seen other data that confirms people do read well-constructed newsletters to which they have subscribed. Read more

Marriott launches reality series—Joining a number of other companies that have taken to full-scale TV-like program production as a means of brand marketing, Marriott has introduced a half-hour reality series called “Hotel Countdown” that gives viewers an inside look at hotel openings. The series is, of course, available on YouTube. The takeaway: While I question how many people care about “the architectural design, interior decorating, staff hiring and the planning of (a) grand opening event,” the trend of producing programming—rather than just the ads that interrupt it—is gaining steam. From documentaries like this to fiction series (like “Carmella,” a youth-oriented vampire series from a feminine hygiene products company), brands are building fan bases with original programming content. Read more

Fake News

Search engine tracks fake news—Hoaxy is a search engine from Indiana University’s network Science Institute and its Center for Complex Networks and System Research that tracks fake news. The search engine, currently in beta, indexes stories from more than 130 sites that produce fake news so you can see how the links spread across social media. Hoaxy lists all fake news stories related to any search term, then lets you view how any one of the stories has spread. The takeaway: Hoaxy has two challenges (though I have to admit that I love it). One is capturing all fake news rather than just some. The other is to get the people most inclined to believe fake news to determine its veracity. The latter is the bigger challenge, given the next item. Read more

The public is concerned about fake news—The Pew Research Center has found that most Americans believe fake news is having an impact, with 64% saying it creates confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This belief is consistent across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations, and other demographic categories. The public is also confident that it can tell fake news from real news. Nearly a quarter of Americans say they have shared fake news; 14% said they knew it was fake when they shared it while 16% said they realized after sharing that it was fake. The takeaway: Compare this data to the next item.

Most Americans are confident that their news sites are reliable—Fifty-eight percent of Americans are confident that the sites they use to find and read news are reliable, even though many say Facebook is their only news site. As a result, it’s safe to assume a lot of people believe everything they read on Facebook. An Ipsos study found that American adults are fooled by fake news 75% of the time. The takeaway: Companies will have to work hard to make sure they get correct information out to stakeholders once they have been targeted by fake news. One key tool is owned media. In other words, if you don’t have your own company blog, now’s the time to build one up. Read more

Video and Livestreaming

Assassination demonstrates the risk of autoplay—You’re scrolling through Twitter with videos automatically playing as they fill your screen and suddenly you see the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. That happened to untold numbers of Twitter users, leading some to suggest Twitter turn off autoplay of videos showing people being killed. The same issue materialized for people scrolling through Buzzfeed, where a warning of graphic content didn’t display long enough to keep some people from seeing unwanted violent footage. The takeaway: This issue reflects the challenge facing companies introducing technologies before figuring out what the social issues could be. As one Twitter use put it, “I can’t accept an auto launch video where we can see the facial expression of the victim at the moment of bullet’s impact within two seconds. There is no choice whether to view this or not. It’s a snuff film forced on Twitter users without warning. Hard to believe this is where we are.” Yes. Yes it is. And to make matters worse, it’s where your ad may appear. Read more

Consumers watch six hours of video on social networks every week—Research from Brightcove found that 67% of respondents are watching more video on social networks than they did a year ago, and 60% plan to watch even more in 2017. On a daily basis, consumers in the US watch 60 minutes of social network-based video daily, followed by 51 minutes in Australia, 46 minutes in the UK, and 44 minutes in Germany. Music videos top the genres watched, followed by user-generated videos and movie trailers. Half of social video views happen on YouTube, 36% on Facebook and the other 14% spread among several other networks. Forty-five percent say they watch brand videos on social media. The takeaway: What, you’re still not producing videos for social media? How much evidence of its growing influence do you need? Read more

Facebook upgrades livestreaming for brands, social media teams—Public figures engage Facebook audiences through the Facebook Mentions app. A series of Mentions updates includes Team Prompts, which let social media managers draft posts a public figure can review before it’s published. Facebook has also added scheduling tools to set reminders to go live. You can also add tags to live posts to make it easier for fans to find them through Facebook Search. Other new features: comment moderation and improved live broadcast quality. The takeaway: Facebook clearly is paying no attention to the livestreaming naysayers, investing heavily in features designed to make it the platform of choice for celebrities, brands, and individuals to broadcast. Read more

Twitter to livestream Golden Globes red carpet show—Twitter is also betting the farm on livestreaming, inking deals with the NFL, Wimbledon, news organizations, and others as fast as its senior executives are bolting for the door. (Two left in the last week.) The latest deal will have the Red Carpet event from the Golden Globes broadcast over twitter, featuring exclusive interviews, celebrity content from Twitter itself, and the red carpet event realtime video feed. “Twitter is where the conversation about the Golden Globes happens,” according to Twitter’s COO, expaining why the broadcast makes sense. The takeaway: Turning a two-screen experience into a single-screen experience might be appealing to some, but I suspect many will still want to watch the red carpet event on a big screen and confine their use of a mobile device to engaging with others watching at the same time. What would be better? “Casting” the Twitter broadcast onto a big screen. Of course, those not near a TV or computer monitor will be thrilled to have access to the stream—at least, those who give a damn about the Golden Globes red carpet event, among whom I don’t count myself. Read more

Vine’s not completely dead, just mostly dead—Twitter announced the death of Vine in October, but it’s more of a transition. Next month, the Vine app will be renamed Vine Camera, a tool you can still use to create 6.5-second looping videos for sharing to Twitter or saving to your phone. The Vine team insists there will be a way to migrate your followers from Vine to your Twitter account. The takeaway: You have to wonder how many Vine creators will just move on to Snapchat or Instagram, even with the continued ability to create Vines. It has been a while since I have seen a brand partner with a Vine creator, which used to be a big deal. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Linden Labs brings Second Life to VR—Sansar is the name Second Life creator Linden labs has given a tool it hopes will be “a WordPress for social VR.” As was the case in Second Life, anybody can make their own world by buying or importing their own assets to the environment, where they will be able to interact via avatar with others. The takeaway: I have already participated in a VR social space that reminded me for all the world of Second Life. Linden Labs’ vision is far more sophisticated. If creating a virtual space really is as easy as creating WordPress site, expect to see a flurry of social spaces emerge. The question is whether people will want to visit them. That’ll require a compelling value proposition, though I suspect most efforts will created based on a “build it and they will come” mentality—and they won’t come. Read more

Oculus joins the social VR party—As Linden Labs prepares its Sansar project, Oculus is also jumping into social VR with a system due for release in 2017. Rooms and parties are two oculus offerings that enable social interaction inside a virtual environment. Parties are voice-only calls that accommodate three people at a time within a VR environment. When connected in a Party, participants can join a room to participate in group activities like watching videos and playing games. The takeaway: Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of Facebook’s future entails people gathering together in virtual environments, though the need to be engaged in real time seems limiting to me. I do see utility in virtual gatherings; the ability to engage a focus group, for example, without anyone needing to leave their home or office is intriguing. But if millions didn’t want to gather in virtual environments in Second Life, I don’t see a a significantly bigger demand for it just because the environment is immersive. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots


GE blends a science kit with an Amazon Echo skill—Labracadabra is a series of six $30 science kits, each of which demonstrates a scientific concept like sound waves. You (or your offspring) are guided through each experiment with a skill created for the Amazon Echo, a kind of science teacher in your living room. The takeaway: I’m definitely wowed by this integration of the real world with an Echo skill. More of this is definitely inevitable. One thought I’m giving away free to Blue Apron, the service that delivers fresh ingredients for a meal: Deliver the instructions over the Echo—including the ability for the cook to ask questions—and play music in between instructions. It’s a no-brainer! Read more

Have you chatted with a holiday gift bot?—Buzzfeed and Time Inc. are both offering holiday gift finders via chatbots that ask whom you’re shopping for, how much you want to spend, and other criteria. Buzfeed’s Ultimate Gift Finder on Messenger will offer 100 suggestions, while Time’s Real Simple is more focused on last-minute shopping. The takeaway: Both of these bots, despite having some kinks to work out, address genuine consumer needs. As people get more accustomed to using bots, making useful bots available will promote more one-to-one interactions with customers. Read more

Marketers like AI a lot more than they use it—Seventy-seven percent of marketers responding to a Demandbase survey believe Artificial Intelligence will be “the next big thing;” only 23% see it as hype. Further, 79% say AI will revolutionize marketing within five years and 78% are confident they know how to use it for marketing purposes. That’s just aspirational, though, since 90% say they’re not using it, 60% are having trouble integrating it with their current tools, and 54% say they’d have a problem training employees to use it. The takeaway: These survey respondents are right about the role AI will play in marketing. You can beat 90% of them to the punch by figuring out how to take advantage of it now. Read more

Alexa, how did my marketing campaign do?—Users of Datorama’s cross-channel marketing analytics offering can now ask the Amazon Echo for information about a campaign. Supplementing information available to clients via a web dashboard, the Amazon Echo “skill” could be useful during board meetings when someone asks for information. Rather than scroll through a web screen looking for answers while everyone else waits, the CMO could just ask. The takeaway: It’s this kind of interaction that convinces me that voice and chat tech will be the biggest transformation of the next five years. Read more

What do users want from chatbots?—A report based on qualitative research and usability studies found that people using chatbots want the chats to be more focused and relevant and cluttered with less fluff so they deliver more helpful information as quickly as possible. They also want a single search bar that unifies all sources for user questions, one chatbot represent all departments or groups in a company, a face or icon to represent the chatbot, and for the chatbot to figure out what the user is likely to ask next. The takeaway: Too many companies are building chatbots quickly because of the growing trend without considering the user experience. Gathering information like this—as well as figuring out what frustrations your customers have that can be eased by a chatbot—is critical. Read more

Microsoft’s Cortana coming to an Echo-like home speaker—That’s the speculation, anyway, since Microsoft released a software developer kit (SDK) for Cortana that will let companies build hardware that use the Artificial Intelligence tool that people will be able to use to set reminders, get weather updates, and even (perhaps) dictate Word documents. One company, Knowmail, is integrating its email automation engine with Cortana so it will be able to flag important messages as urgent and read them to you. Given Microsoft’s AI-driven translation tool (which enables real-time Skype translation), it’s not hard to see Cortana handling real-time translated audio conferencing. The takeaway: More fodder for my argument that voice and bots, not AR glasses, is the next significant step in digital evolution. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Citi uses Spectacles for recruiting—Last week I reported on a surgeon’s use of Snap’s Spectacles wearable camera to livestream a surgery. This week comes news that Citi has embraced Spectacles to show candidates what working at Citi is like. The first series of first-person POV videos using the sunglasses is a day in the life of a junior employee. Citi has acquired 14 pairs of Spectacles to spread the POV videos to various locations. Citi hopes to attract younger talent, something Wall Street has had a difficult time doing in recent years. The takeaway: Cisco Systems uses a Snapchat account—We Are Cisco—for similar purposes. These tools are a great way to show instead of tell people about your employer brand. Read more

Facebook adds video group chat to Messenger—Up to 50 people can join a group vide chat via Facebook’s Messenger app. If six or fewer people are participating, you can view all the videos at once or use a carousel that highlights the active speaker. The carousel is the default with more than six participants. The takeaway: This is a feature Messenger users have been asking for; it’s also an expansion of Facebook’s focus on livestreaming and a natural evolution of chat app-based video. Brands looking to tap into Messenger now have another option, since engaging groups of people in a video chat can lead to all kinds of brand-to-customer interactions. Just one thought: You know all those user groups that used to get together in the early days of computing? I can easily see user groups re-emerging (well beyond computing) as long as all you have to do is join a video call. Read more

Consumers willing to engage with brands on messaging apps—Most companies haven’t yet figured out how to make the transition from web pages and social networks to messaging apps despite clear evidence that consumers are way ahead of them. One study finds 53% of people in the UK and France who use messaging apps (like Messenger and WhatsApp, both Facebook properties) have interacted with a company on a messaging app or are open to doing so as long as they can block companies with which they don’t want to interact. The takeaway: You have to make the transition, but you have to do so carefully, ensuring your interactions are personalized and responsive. There are also opportunities to innovate. For instance, 15% of respondents liked the idea of group interactions with brands. Creating a group to discuss specific issues or products could appeal to some consumers. Read more

Snapchat avoids influencer marketing—Instagram is littered with celebrities boasting high follower counts who take money to share pics and videos they’ve been paid to share in order to shill products. You won’t find much of that on Snapchat, though, which won’t let celebrities (or anyone else) see how many followers they have, opting to treat celebrities like every other user. Its terms of service prohibit anyone from sharing snaps they’ve been paid for, so paid influencer marketing is absent from the platform. The takeaway: The authentic experience on Snapchat is how its parent company, Snap, can charge as much as $700,000 for some kinds of ads. Whether the inability of celebrities and influencers to build large followings will ultimately help or hurt Snapchat is a gamble on the company’s part, though. Read more

Marketers can take advantage of Instagram “Saved Posts”—Users can now bookmark Instagram images and videos. It only took a few hours following the introduction of “Saved Posts” for Audi to turn the feature into a game. The company shared nine random pieces of a picture of one of its cars and invited users to bookmark them in the correct order to display the full photo. More than 3,200 people had solved the puzzle by the time Digiday published a story about it. Beyond these clever kinds of hacks, the bookmarking feature has implications when combined with other Instagram features, like links in Instagram stories and shoppable photo tags, both of which customers can save to interact with later. The takeaway: It’s not mentioned anywhere in the article, but bookmarks make Instagram more competitive with Pinterest. My daughter planned her wedding on Pinterest and, as the article notes, it’s now easy to do the same on Instagram. Read more


In the spirit of the season, this week’s Wrap shows light used to project gift-wrap on a building. The photo is courtesy of Alasdair’s Flickr account.



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