Exploring Emerging Media

Examining New Media and its Role in IMC

Facebook Gives Users Control Over News Feed — July 14, 2015

Facebook Gives Users Control Over News Feed

Facebook’s algorithm has long been a pain in the ass for brands and end-users alike. For years, Facebook has decided who sees what content and when. A while back, they implemented controls for users to voice whether or not they wanted to see “more of this type of post” or “less of this type of post,” and of course, they’ve been able to “hide all posts” from specific Facebook friends.

Now, users can prioritize people, Pages and Groups in their news feed, therefore controlling the type of content that surfaces to the top of the feed. Facebook will also make it easier for users to find new Pages and Groups to follow so they can connect with entities they are interested in. Facebook will use Pages that the user has liked in the past in order to suggest additional pages.

But we’d be fools if we assumed that Facebook was doing this with the goal of giving users more autonomy, simply to improve and personalize the Facebook experience. While that is indeed a by-product of this new roll out, that’s probably not Facebook’s main impetus behind the change. Facebook will now know even better what stories users want to interact with and when. They will know what Groups and Pages users crave, and probably charge those Groups and Pages accordingly.  This gives them even more fuel to market to users.

Even if it isn’t implemented with the best of intentions, these new features are still revolutionary to Facebook users. However, for now, they’re only available on iOS, although eventually they  are set to be rolled out on all devices.

Looking Backward to Move Forward — June 29, 2015

Looking Backward to Move Forward

With an ever expanding supply of content to sift through, social networks are beefing up their efforts to curate that content in order to sift the gold from the sand. What is surprising, however, is the method they’re employing to complete this task: manpower.

While Facebook’s infamous algorithm has been used to get top content to users’ newsfeeds, the new wave of curators are hiring human editors to get things just right.

Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Youtube are all using curation features that rely on humans. But not just any old human will do. No, former professional journalists and editors are lending their expertise on news judgement to determine which content the social network  users should see when they’re following a particular story.

Snapchat has hired more than 40 people to curate “Live Stories”and sends editors out to political events in person.

Instagram (owned by Facebook)  is relying on the algorithm to start with, and then leaving final curation to a team of real humans.

YouTube’s efforts include “The First Draft Coalition,” which brings together a group of thought leaders in social media journalism to create educational resources on verifying eyewitness media.

Twitter’s “Project Lightning” is an effort to provide a better way of aggregating tweets for users in one place so that they can follow live events. Their mobile app will feature a button in the center of the home row that takes users to a screen with the various events taking place that they can follow.

The reason taking a step back from algorithms to manpower is proving beneficial is the fact that there are so many social media platforms vying for users’ attention during major news events like awards shows, professional sporting events, and events like the Arab Spring and Ferguson protests. Every company assumes that users will head to the platform that offers the best way to experience events like these. And if they were all to rely on similar algorithms, they’d all be pumping out the same stuff. Instead, they  need humans that can create a specific brand voice to differentiate their platform from the others. After all, computers can’t (yet) detect things like sentiment or context when compiling data (and sometimes it leads to embarrassing outcomes)  – only humans who actually exist within that culture can do that.

However, there is an obvious question here: Is this ethical? Will the people employed actually be able to quash out hoaxes, propaganda, and misinformation in a neutral way? Will individual human biases affect what we see and don’t see in the news? Are individual human biases any better or worse than the biases that come about from using algorithms?

It’s only a matter of time until “real-time” isn’t so relevant — June 24, 2015

It’s only a matter of time until “real-time” isn’t so relevant

Emerging media is often thought of as being in “real time.” And in a time of social media and Google Trends, that’s a valid thought.

However, new marketing analytics trends are changing the “latest and greatest” from real-time offerings to predictive/anticipatory offerings. That’s because customers are turning increasingly to technology to help them make decisions. New marketing analytics technologies bob and weave in reaction to the customer’s actual choices and alternatives. This makes it a lot easier to know where and when to invest advertising dollars or offer specific specials or deals.

In the not so distant future, the Internet of Things will become increasingly prevalent, meaning that a variety of physical items will be able to generate smart data on consumer preferences. Technology will accurately anticipate what you want or need before you even know it – and not based on your past actions, but instead it will be based on the availability of alternatives in front of you that could alter your choices.

Although it’s rather creepy and big-brother-esque, customers for the most part are happy to have technology help them with these choices, so long as they are good choices.

On the one hand, it seems that this will be a huge help to both customers (who get what they want when or before they want it) and to brands (who want to deliver the right amount of product at the right time at the right price.) However, the marketer seems to be in between. Yes, someone will need to make sense of the data that is collected… at first. But what happens when much of this is automated? Will marketers’ jobs be at risk as technology does the work of figuring out things that people have had to figure out in the past?

Gimmick or trendsetter? Chevy issues press release entirely in emoji — June 23, 2015

Gimmick or trendsetter? Chevy issues press release entirely in emoji

I think this has to be a one and done kind of thing. A buzz creating tactic. A way to get people talking. An effort to seem cool among a new generation of 16 year old drivers.  I’m talking about the fact that Chevy published a press release entirely in emojis, or picture/hieroglyphic looking icons that are used primarily on mobile devices.

It’s so strange to think that pictorial languages are some of the oldest forms of media, far predating the written word, and yet they’re also a form of emerging media.

It is true that people tend to remember information more readily when it’s in pictorial form, and 64% of millennials regularly communicate using emojis. However, it stands to reason that written language replaced the pictorial system because a lack of specificity breeds ambiguity. It’s not a clear way to communicate to more than one person, and it communicates different things to different recipients.

Wired seems certain this was just a gimmick. And I hope they’re right. Chevy is supposed to release the written presser tomorrow at 2pm, but you can check out an attempt at translation here.

“Real Time” Gets Realer: Google Trends — June 19, 2015

“Real Time” Gets Realer: Google Trends

Google has updated its Google Trends service, according to an article by Nieman Lab (no relation. And for what it’s worth, they say “Nee-man,” I say “Nye-man.”)

Basically, users will be able to use Google as a more advanced Twitter feed during live events such as the Oscars or the Super Bowl, or major news stories like Sandy Hook or the Santa Barbara shooting.

For the past several years, I have been glued to my Twitter feed when such an event unfolds, because it’s in real time. Decent news on Google wasn’t ever available as quickly as it was on Twitter, even though there are often credibility issues with what people say in their tweets. If users are able to surf Google Trends the same way we’ve surfed tweets, there will be the added benefit of Google’s search power. I bet that Google will be able to pull a lot more information than Twitter has.

I think this goes hand in hand with other recent media consumption habits that have been tracked – for example, the fact that people don’t use news apps.

How do you think Google Trends will affect the news-seeking folks who run to Twitter or other real-time social media platforms to get the very latest scoop on unfolding stories?

Native Advertising Hurts Consumer Perception — June 17, 2015

Native Advertising Hurts Consumer Perception

A couple weeks ago, I shared a blog post discussing how marketers can overcome ad blockers. One of the solutions I proposed was native advertising. But perhaps that wasn’t such a good suggestion after all.

A recent report revealed insights about digital news consumption. They polled more than 20,000 online news consumers worldwide. It turns out that one-third of readers feel either disappointed or deceived by sponsored content. Half of the respondents said they grudgingly accept sponsored content because it helps provide them with free news. But, more than a quarter of them think less highly of the news outlet that publishes sponsored content/native advertising. When looking only at the respondents from the US, the percentage of those disappointed or deceived raises to 43%, or nearly one half of users.

A bright spot for advertisers is the fact that the deceit is felt more strongly among older respondents. Younger people were less likely to feel that they were having the wool pulled over them. I’m not sure if I think this is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it because younger people are more likely to understand up front that native advertising is supposed to be promotional in nature? Or is it because they are not observant enough to realize that it’s promotional content? I hope it’s the former.

A study from earlier this year found that consumers were ambivalent toward sponsored content – that only 48% of adults were “very concerned” with preserving objective journalism. However, 61% felt that sponsored content hurts the credibility of media outlets.

CivicScience

What’s your opinion? How can we as marketers use native advertising in a way that ensures our access to the audience without losing credibility? It may  be as simple as a clear declaration that “this is an ad” …. or maybe it’s not. Either way, in a world where your credibility can be ripped to shreds in an instant, we need to figure out a solution.

Oculus Rift: Facebook’s Forthcoming Virtual Reality Device — June 15, 2015

Oculus Rift: Facebook’s Forthcoming Virtual Reality Device

Last week, Facebook announced more details about Oculus Rift, a virtual reality platform they are introducing early next year.

I have discussed the topic of virtual reality with one of my coworkers who teaches in our hospitality and tourism management program. His area of research lies in the use of technology to improve the efficiency of business processes, as well as improve guest satisfaction.

When social media gained prominence, there were major impacts on the industry, including real-time customer feedback, increased traffic due to search and mobile, and a new opportunity to market to customers. However, when virtual reality becomes a more common reality, this will be a game changer of a completely different magnitude.

Let’s stick with the area of hospitality and tourism. With virtual reality technology, tourist destinations will have access to a much larger audience. Individuals who are unable to experience certain tourist destinations due to physical handicap or lack of travel funds could be able to experience the destination using virtual reality. A particular idea I like is the idea of elderly veterans who can’t get around very well being able to visit monuments and war memorials. Anybody can look at a picture, but looking at the same view with a pair of virtual reality goggles will add an incredible layer of depth to the experience.

Tourism is an easy concept for me to wrap my head around when it comes to using virtual reality to improve an experience. What other industries will be able to leverage this new form of communications device to offer improved experiences? My guess is: most industries. The question is: How?

What the What? News Giant to Produce Advertorials — June 9, 2015

What the What? News Giant to Produce Advertorials

Call me old fashioned in the world of new and emerging media, but this just seems wrong.

News giant CNN plans to create an in-house studio to produce “news-like” content on behalf of advertisers. As a student of integrated marketing communications, I am familiar with this concept, typically called “content marketing” or “branded content” or “storytelling.” And typically, I love this kind of stuff. I think it’s a genius way for a company or organization to be their own voice in the media. However, I support it when it comes from the actual company telling the story. It’s a way to gain attention to get earned media (get covered in the news) but it’s not news. It’s advertising. It’s smart and savvy advertising that typically resonates much better with an audience than a typical advertisement, but it’s still advertising.

And that’s why I think CNN’s move is a huge overreach. However, I was alarmed to learn that this isn’t all that new of a concept. the New York Times, BuzzFeed and The Wall Street Journal all have units that create advertiser content.

Dan Riess, the executive vice present of integrated marketing and branded content who’s overseeing this whole ordeal at CNN said, “This isn’t about confusing editorial with advertising. This is about telling advertisers’ stories – telling similar stories but clearly labeling that and differentiating that.”

But I’m skeptical. However, I bet this is all just part of the cycle of change. People probably thought the same thing back when TV commercials came out. I find it interesting that while the forms of media evolve, many of the ethical issues play out time and time again. Personally, I just don’t see how a news organization that pumps out branded content for Pepsi will fairly report a piece of actual news on Coke.

Choosing to run advertorial content is questionable enough. But our culture has fully accepted it. But actually creating it in a studio that’s in close physical proximity to the actual news studio? That just feels downright slimy to me.

What do you think? Am I totally overreacting? Or do you agree that we’ve found ourselves in a sticky situation here?

Instagram’s Ad Business is About to Explode — June 4, 2015

Instagram’s Ad Business is About to Explode

On Tuesday, Instagram welcomed advertisers to use its platform to reach their audiences. While you may have noticed a promoted post every once in a great while on your Instagram feed, it sounds like that’s about to change.

Now, promoted posts will have the option to link outside of the Instagram app with a “Shop Now” button that will integrate buying with the social media experience. This is new. Before, the handful of brands who were selected to advertise on Twitter were restricted to photos and videos just like individual users.

While Instagram isn’t brand spanking new, I still think this falls  under the umbrella of “emerging media” because it’s using existing media in a new way. How do you think this will affect the concept of mobile commerce? While part of me will undoubtedly be annoyed with having ads pop up among pictures of family, friends and cats, I do know that if a brand I am particularly fond of – such as Lush, Black Bear Burritos, or pretty much any of the pubs in downtown Morgantown – posted a special sale to its Instagram, I would definitely, DEFINITELY use it.

I am but one person with one opinion. What about you? Would you welcome ads from brands you like, or will these advertisements disrupt and hurt your Instagram experience?

Beware: Facebook’s Changing the Nature of News — June 3, 2015

Beware: Facebook’s Changing the Nature of News

More than 60% of millennials get their political news from Facebook.

Maybe this surprises some people. But it shouldn’t. I’m a millennial, and I live it every day. When it comes to breaking news, I wouldn’t dream of turning on my TV in lieu of a quick Twitter search. I feel confident that major stories are going to make it onto my news feed either the day of or the next day when it comes to things like Caitlyn Jenner or the release of a new iPhone.

Most importantly, this poses a dilemma for sociologists, who are justifiably concerned that Facebook can influence news consumption with its algorithm. For example, I’m left of center when it comes to politics. Facebook obviously knows this, and shows me news stories from liberal media. However, just because I generally lean liberal doesn’t mean I’m 100% liberal. But Facebook’s algorithm isn’t crafty enough (yet) to know that I’m fiscally conservative. So sometimes I get stories in my news feed that are so ridiculously one-sided that they barely scrape by as actual news. I’m sure that my conservative leaning friends do too (I wish The Blaze would go up in a blaze never to be seen again, by the way.)  But regardless of political leanings, the fact of the matter is that Facebook shows us what it thinks we want to see… Which just gives us more media fuel to confirm our own pre-existing biases. Personally, I follow a number of news sites that I deem more credible (NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fortune) so I can gauge the mid-way point between The Blaze and Think Progress. As the old saying goes, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

While this certainly has sociologists’ hands full and minds worried, it poses unique challenges for marketers and media members, too. Should companies hand over their content to Facebook and therefore put it at the mercy of its algorithm? On the one hand, it may be the best way to get the news out there. On the other hand, Facebook could squash the story if it wanted, much like it deleted posts about the civil war in Syria. Those posts were some of the only sources of information about that war.

Organic reach is dead. So, marketers/media MUST pay to play on Facebook. While Facebook is effective as a paid channel, should important news be overlooked just so an advertiser can get their fluff piece out? I think not. The very nature of news – it’s impartiality, it’s timeliness, it’s gravity – is at stake.

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