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A quite note: this week is a little different. You see, as I was finalizing the newsletter (usually takes me about six hours), something went wrong and I lost the draft. Pfft. Gone. I posted about it on Facebook and within hours, I found that Christopher Penn had crowdsourced the edition, with the help of Shel Holtz, Christopher Carfi and Cathleen Rittereiser. It made me think of how the town of Bedford Falls came together to help George Bailey in his hour of need in It's A Wonderful Life, and how Clarence wrote "Remember: no man is a failure who has friends," and how his brother Harry toasted him at the conclusion, "To my brother George. The richest man in town."
And today, I feel like the richest man in town. Thank you to Chris & friends.
P.S. Stay tuned, as I'll be making some changes as a result of this little hiccup.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
- Social Media Marketing World 2017 in San Diego, March 22-24, 2017
- Amazon pokes the 800 pound gorilla with Amazon Go, a cashier-free experience aimed at the digital generation. The real question is, who’s the intended target? Techcrunch names Instacart, but it sounds more like a rhyming competitor named Walmart.
- Not to be outdone, Walmart debuts Pickup and Fuel, a way to easily pick up online purchases away from the hustle and bustle of the store.
- Has the MarTech bubble burst? Not yet, but Walker Sands says it’s looking ‘plump’, with plenty of consolidation and VC capital not as plentiful. Perhaps this time next year, we’ll be looking at more of a cooked goose?
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- Google and Slack join forces for tighter integration with G Suite, according to Techcrunch and the rest of the Valley press. How long this marriage lasts will depend on what happened to Slack’s internal document collaboration efforts.
TWITTER / PERISCOPE / VINE
- BusinessInsider advocates for Facebook to buy Twitter, citing the former’s News Feed as ill-suited for real-time news and “live”, while the latter struggles to find its way and a functional strategy.
- As if to prove a point, Twitter hired ex-Googler Keith Coleman as VP of Product to patch a hole in the executive suite.
FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM / WHATSAPP
- Facebook announced the logical mashup of its live videos and its 360-degree videos with Facebook Live 360. Viewers will be able to watch live in 360-degree format for producers with the appropriate hardware. Broad availability is expected in 2017.
- Brands now get a working alternative to cheesy hacks on Instagram with links in Stories, for verified accounts. Early reports suggest 15-25% swipethrough rates. About the only action in town that’s better is on Tinder.
- Publishers reel from a 33% drop in viewership following platform tweaks to Snapchat Discover, according to Digiday. Who would have guessed that not only does content disappear, but so do users?
- Disappearing or not, the New York Times lavishes praise on Snapchat for revolutionizing the social networking and messaging space by making social media and advertising function more like… TV.
- Reddit’s conspiracy subreddit hasn’t always been a home to serious conspiracy nuts; it used to be just harmless banter. But that has changed as part of the troubling rise of fake news and unsubstantiated memes (like the PizzaGate tale that led to an arrest after a man motivated by reading fake news opened fire in a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant). To address the problem, Reddit has added the conspiracy subreddit to its “no ads” list.
Collaborative/ Autonomous Economy
- According to Mashable and the Australian Consumer Commission, AirBnB scams have tripled this year. Fake listings, fake sites, and fraudulent payment schemes plague the brand and consumers alike.
- Perhaps it’s karma: AirBnB is no longer the nice guy in the collaborative space. The company has unleashed lawsuits, held rallies, and spent millions on lobbying campaigns. The clashes lay bare an ugly truth: Under fire, Airbnb is a corporation like any other.
- Mashable spots a Tinder-esque dating app called AirDates, allowing users to find matches on the same flight. If you swipe left, do you get to change seats?
- Meanwhile, Uber asks its users not to use Uber Pool as a dating service. Perhaps those users should take a flight instead.
- In the Completely Unsurprising column, Michigan becomes the first state to legalize and formalize regulations about self-driving cars. With many manufacturers pursuing the autonomous dream, Michigan gets ahead of the curve to help its key industries sell more cars.
- Uber also ups its game with the purchase of Geometric Intelligence. The AI acquisition paves the way for autonomous vehicles to interact more fully with customers, predict driving paths, and understand language. Perhaps it’ll even recognize when passengers are trying to hook up in the back seat?
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE / BOTS / BLOCKCHAIN
- It's evident that bots will be involved in buying and selling in real-time. They'll become prospects as well. When they do, you'll need multiple marketing funnels -- one funnel for humans and a different one for bots.
- Everyone needs a workout, especially artificial intelligence. Google DeepMind has released its robot training grounds to the public for other AIs to train in. WALL-E size irony: as the humans sit down to fatten up for the holidays, the AIs are hitting the gym.
- Perhaps all that AI fitness is to help the bots help us shop. The Drum looks at how chatbots will change commerce, from ordering to shipping to service. Skynet’s looking a lot more like Skymall.
- Starbucks calls it an “innovative conversational ordering system.” Its name: My Starbucks Barista. It allows customers to place orders by voice command or by text. A demonstration video showed a customer making a complex order (including “double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup”) which the bot understood correctly. No idea whether the bot will proceed to mis-spell your name on the side of cup for nostalgia’s sake.
- The campaign invites fans to use messaging app Kik (which embraced bots early with its Bot Shop) to interact with a chatbot that emulates Kalani Hilliker, a 16-year-old entertainer. To date, results include 14 times more conversations with the chatbot than with an average post by the real celebrity, 91% positive sentiment, and an average of 17 messages per conversation, nearly half of which lead to a coupon deliver. The coupons themselves are driving more than 50% click-throughs.
- A 10-person team is developing experiences for voice-controlled technology like Google Home and Amazon Echo. For instance, the team introduced an Amazon Echo Skill for Good Housekeeping that lets users get a guide to removing stains (which also plays music in the background while you follow the instructions). Another skill was created for Elle (which answers horoscope questions) and another for two of the publisher’s daily newspapers (adding their news to the Echo’s Flash Briefings feature).
Virtual Reality / Audio
- With Oculus, Vive, Daydream, and many others beating the drum, 2016 was supposed to be the year of VR, but AR got the headlines, according to Mashable. Pokemon Go, HoloLens, and Snapchat’s glasses saw much wider adoption.
- Dutch police are planning to use AR to fight crime. An AR-fueled rig can be used to mark evidence and leave short notes about a crime scene. It could also be used to create reconstructions of crimes in courtrooms, among other applications.
- The Global Virtual Reality Association is a non-profit collaboration of Google, Oculus (from Facebook), Vive (from HTC), Acer, Samsung, and Sony. The association’s website says its goal is to promote responsible development and adoption. It promises members will develop and share best practices, conduct research, and bring the international VR community together. It will also be a resource for consumers, policymakers and industry.
- Spotify leaves Soundcloud at the altar again, walking away from purchase talks twice as it prepares for its own IPO.
- YouTube announced it paid musicians a billion dollars in 2016, while the RIAA complained that YouTube was taking unfair advantage of artists. I suppose the RIAA would know best.
- Dating app Tinder is the latest company to introduce a podcast. DTR (Define the Relationship) is a six-part series that covers dating-related issues in the digital age (e.g., how to build an online profile). Tinder is relying on data to help frame the episodes. For example, the first episode looks at the tendency for people to start an online dating encounter with the message, “hey.” The episode points out that you’re more likely to get a response if you use a GIF than just say, “hey.” Tinder knows because the GIF search engine baked into the Tinder app reveals that people use GIFs on the app are 30% more likely to get a response and have conversations that last twice as long. The company will promote the podcast within the app.
Content / Customer Experience / Influencer Marketing
- Call it the most unexpected crisis communications and influencer management program ever: what to do if the President of the United States attacks your brand. Fortune digs into the most unusual marketing quandary since Teapot Dome.
- There is a method to how content marketing results in leads. Andy Crestodina goes deep over 163 slides and a one hour webinar and breaks it all down.
- Don’t count analog out. AdWeek reports that in the UK, vinyl records are now outselling digital downloads in terms of revenues. Now we just have to wait and see if Super-8 outsells YouTube.
- Social influencer campaigns are hot. They’re also mostly short-term. L’Oreal Paris thinks that’s a mistake. The company’s “Beauty Squad” initiative is designed to “craft a different type of relationship” with influencers. The squad includes five of the UK’s most influential beauty bloggers with a combined reach of more than 5 million YouTube viewers (and equally impressive numbers through other social media channels). The squad will be L’Oreal brand ambassadors, creating content to promote product awareness and drive engagement. Assembling a team with a cumulative 5 million YouTube subscribers rather than going after one with far more was an attempt to be more authentic; the squad members are already known for their knowledge and expertise in their fields (one is known for skincare, another for hair, for example).
Privacy / Security / Legal
- The rise of fake news gives brands a shiver - and well it should. Where brands’ ads appear can have significant, unintended impact. Marketers pay heed: build rules into your ad platforms to ensure they’re appearing where you want them to.
- Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook have partnered to share data about terrorist content being shared online. On the one hand, flagging and collaborating on egregious, obvious terrorist content is a good thing, but where does one draw the line, especially with a new political administration on the way?
- On Quartz, Edward Snowden reveals that government spies are tracking and monitoring everything we do on airplane wifi. No word whether that includes our AirDates or not.
Measurement / Metrics / Data
- As Facebook continues to revise down its metrics, Fortune questions the fundamental value and trustworthiness of all the company’s metrics. What else is Facebook misreporting?
- McKinsey reports that Big Data’s potential continues to grow, creating a higher and higher barrier to entry for laggards. The key factor among most laggards? Lack of analytical talent.
Essential Watching / Listening / Reading
- The Wall Street Journal asks: are we out of big ideas? Perhaps that’s what’s really driving the economic woes - risk aversion and lack of innovation.
- OpenDoor is a startup worth emulating. Their business model: taking advantage of a theoretical arbitrage opportunity (earning fees on houses sold at a slight mark-up) by leveraging technology in pursuit of previously impossible scale that should, in theory, ameliorate risk.
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