If Content Is King Then Buzzfeed Is Our Overlord

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The Internet. Welcome to the online jungle where every website is fighting for your attention and only the most compelling content will win. Why? Because of money. That’s why.

There are a lot of websites out there that make great content – thousands of bloggers, news sites, commentators and online personalities – but none have the devoted audience or pulling power of Buzzfeed.

If you spend any time on the internet, and are aged between 10 and 35, you’ve probably taken at least one Buzzfeed quiz or glanced at one amusingly entitled article. (Although the word ‘article’ is probably gilding the lilly somewhat.) With over 200 million readers and an impressive YouTube presence, which in the last three years has swelled to 3.3 million subscribers, Buzzfeed is the online content juggernaut that is changing the way content is developed and consumed on the web.

But is this a good thing?

As an average Netizen (Internet Citizen) I rarely consider my viewing habits or what quirky/compelling headlines draw my attention. I’m too busy consuming videos entitled ‘10 Cutest Cat Moments’ or taking quizzes about ‘Which Disney Character are you?’ to notice.

To me, and I am sure most people, these kinds of content are a great way to procrastinate when I should be working on my next column, but little do we realise that every piece of content we consume is actually created, developed and crafted as part of a clever marketing tool.

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Which brings us to Native Advertising. Never heard of it? Me either. (Actually I have, I just didn’t want you to feel left out.) Native Advertising is the latest marketing craze which basically is catch-all term for digital advertorial (when an advertisement looks like an article), search engine advertising (you know those ads on the side of Google) and promoted posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (and now Instagram – sigh).

A good example of Native Advertising is this video, ‘People Vaporize Alcohol For The First Time’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSWryl-O2N8, which seems innocuous enough but is clearly a sponsored advertisement for Vapeshot which stands in the foreground of the video looking shiny and fun. As this video has the same look and feel as numerous other Buzzfeed videos you could be forgiven for not recognising it as the sponsored piece of content it clearly is. And these pieces of content are big money for producers, while I have no concrete figures, it is easy to imagine that a website like Buzzfeed could charge upwards of $50,000 to Vapeshot for this one video.

While Native Advertising as been around for a long time, Buzzfeed is one of many sites that have managed to make it merge seamlessly with its other unsponsored content. And while no amount of standing on the sideline pointing this out is going to change anyone’s viewing habits, certainly not mine, it is interesting to be aware of the tactics that are being used to make us buy more stuff.

 

*Article originally posted on my column at www.verandahmagazine.com.au

Newsjacking: riding the coattails of the ‘now

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Newsjacking. Yes it is a real thing and you’ve probably seen it a thousand times without even realising it. Mostly found on social media platforms such as Twitter, and popularised by online marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, newsjacking refers to content specifically created to piggyback off breaking news or events to increase its normal audience.

While it might sounds like something cooked up by an evil PR spin doctor trying to leverage off someone else’s tragedy, newsjacking can actually be a positive experience. Take for example, Duracell’s positive approach after Hurricane Sandy. In the wake of the disaster, which brought down countless power lines, Duracell set up mobile charging stations for people to charge their smartphones so that they could contact family and friends. Of course once most of the recipients had their phones turned back on they were able to take photos and Tweet about the kindness of the battery brand. Not bad for a few days work.

These days brands are trawling for interesting news stories and then creating clever campaigns often using humour or shock to fashion content that is instantly consumable and shareable. Take for example this ad by Lynx, which was released after naked photos of Prince Harry in Vegas were printed.

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Essentially this means that newsjacking can give brands immediate impact on social media putting them out front of new trends or evening making them a significate instigator of one. And let’s face it who doesn’t love being a trend setter? Just ask the Joneses.

However, newbies beware, newsjacking can be a double edged sword and has its risks. Done well a clever social media user can increase followers, grow engagement, build brand awareness and generally make their brand look super cool. Unfortunately as with all things published in the public domain when newsjacking goes wrong it can be a total horror show.

A brand that recently felt the effects of bad newsjacking was DiGirorno Pizza. Usually lorded for their excellent comedic instincts and brilliant handle on real-time tweeting, unfortunately on this occasion DiGirorno failed to follow one of the most basic social media rules, check what a trending hastag is about before you use it.

Back in September in response to a viral video of American football star Ray Rice punching his then fiancée Janay Palmer, women took to twitter to discuss their own experiences of physical and emotional domestic violence by using the hashtag #whyIstayed. With an outpouring of tragic stories and shared experiences the hashtag itself went viral and DiGirorno was quick to respond with a humorous, but contextually offensive, quip “#whyIstayed You had Pizza.”

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Needless to say that the backlash was instant, overwhelming and DiGirorno’s social media team had to do a lot of scrambling to do in order to negate a titanic sized brand melt down that they had unwittingly created.

So what is the lesson here? Well, newsjacking in itself is an easy and inexpensive way to increase followers on social media by using a little creativity and humour but as with everything we post online it’s better to eat your pizza than have it thrown in your face.

Happy tweeting!

 

*Article originally published on my column at VerandahMagazine.com

Social Media 101 – a guest post for Verandah Magazine

I am very excited to let you all know that this week my first column for Verandah Magazine went live!

The lovely folk over at Verandah asked for my take on Social Media, explain what it is and how it works for people who are not necessarily in the know.

To enjoy the full article head over to their gorgeous website – Verandahmagazine.com.au

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5 things I learned from not having the internet

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So yesterday I finally had Internet connected to my new house after about six weeks of waiting. To be fair it didn’t take that long for them to actually connect my service, it was more of a cost of moving house /being-bothered-to-find-the-best-deal issue but living without internet has taught me some valuable lessons.

  1. There is nothing good on TV.  Don’t trouble yourself, keep streaming Game of Thrones or House of Cards, I checked and you’re not missing anything.
  2. I spend waaayy too much time using the internet. I had no idea I was an internet junky until they reconnected me. That first few moments of being plugged in was like eating a gigantic piece of German chocolate cake after starving myself for days, knowing all the while it was going straight to my thighs.
  3. I love my local Library. Books Yo! Gawd I read so much while I was ‘off the net’. I caught up on heaps of titles I had been meaning to read and I was so much more productive with the limited ‘online’ time I could beg, borrow and steal from the local council’s (strangely well protected) Wi-Fi.
  4. I want to try taking other things away to see how it changes the way I live. Electricity, water a toilet? I wonder if I would become a better person if I couldn’t see in the dark or wash myself?
  5. While I can live without the internet, I don’t want to. And that is not because I can catch up on my favourite show or sink hundreds of hours into useless browsing, I can, it is because I genially love being able to connect with people online, join in on discussions with peers or just chat to my mates. Yes I probably need to tone down my use a bit but by Budda, I LOVE the Internet.

Now I am off to watch Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black.