Social Media

The Rise and Fall of the Blog

4 January 2018

From JSTOR Daily:

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof was one of the first to start blogging for one of the most well-known media companies in the world. Yet on December 8th, he declared his blog was being shut down, writing, “we’ve decided that the world has moved on from blogs—so this is the last post here.”

The death knell of blogs might seem surprising to anyone who was around during their heyday. Back in 2008, Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell wrote in Public Choice, “Blogs appear to be a staple of political commentary, legal analysis, celebrity gossip, and high school angst.” A Mother Jones writer who “flat out declared, ‘I hate blogs’…also admitted, ‘I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy.’”

Blogs exploded in popularity fast. According to Drezner and Farrell, in 1999, there were an estimated 50 blogs dotted around the internet. By 2007, a blog tracker theorized there were around seventy million. Yet, a popular question today is whether blogs still have any relevance. A quick Google search will yield suggested results, “are blogs still relevant 2016,” “are blogs still relevant 2017,” and “is blogging dead.”

. . . .

Today, writers lament the irrelevance of blogs not just because there’s too many of them; but because not enough people are engaging with even the more popular ones. Blogs are still important to those invested in their specific subjects, but not to a more general audience, who are more likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook for a quick news fix or take on current events.

Explains author Gina Bianchini as she advises not starting a blog, “2017 is a very different world than 2007. Today is noisier and people’s attention spans shorter than any other time in history…and things are only getting worse. Facebook counts a ‘view’ as 1.7 seconds and we have 84,600 of those in a day. Your new blog isn’t equipped to compete in this new attention-deficit-disorder Thunderdome.”

Link to the rest at JSTOR Daily

How to Tell A Story on Social Media

16 December 2017

From Medium:

I spend an enormous amount of my time trying to figure out how to storytell in micro moments because it’s apparent that we’re living in an ADD culture — where everybody is short on the only commodity that matters in this life — our TIME.

. . . .

The notion of storytelling hasn’t changed but the mediums through which we tell the stories have. With the advent of social and ever-evolving consumer attention, you now have to tell a story in new and interesting ways, be it 6 seconds or 60.

I’m obsessed with the idea of finding ways to tell a story that grab your attention the moment you take out your phone and scroll through various social platforms. That’s the game we’re playing. That’s what you have to focus your energy on.

We don’t sit on the couch with a remote in our hands, bound by the TV Guide schedule, with only a few channels to choose from. Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where there’s obnoxious amounts of information getting thrown at us and unlimited amounts of outlets to consume that information which is entirely accessible on our own time. We live in a completely on-demand culture and as consumers and marketers, we need to recognize that.

. . . .

How many people reading this article are upset when somebody calls them?

The mediums have changed. We would much rather have you send a text or a tweet or a Snap to communicate because we can get to it on our own time. It’s the new model of storytelling and whether we like it or not, it’s not going anywhere.

. . . .

In a world where there’s a an enormous amount of social content, if you don’t make someone stop what they are doing and create a response, you are going to lose. Whether that’s an action or an emotion, the true test of storytelling is how you feel or what you do after you consume it.

A few months ago I bought flowers for the entire NYC VaynerMedia office. It wasn’t a holiday and therefore it was entirely unexpected so it evoked a feeling of surprise and delight. People were pleased and the reaction was a mix of happiness, positivity and a boosted morale. If that day was Valentine’s Day it might have been a little bit more expected and the story would have been more cliche and therefore wouldn’t evoke as much of a response. It’s all about the setup, the punchline and hacking people’s expectations.

In a sea of a million stories, a great one is going to make you react.

Link to the rest at Medium

The End of the Social Era Can’t Come Soon Enough

29 November 2017

From Vanity Fair:

Many people imagine 19th-century antebellum America as a frontier fantasia: men with handlebar mustaches sitting in dusty saloons, kicking back moonshine whiskey, as a piano player picks out tunes in the background. In reality, though, life was a little more sordid: Americans spent their time after work in fully legal heroin dens; in 1885, opium and cocaine were even given to children to help with teething. “Cocaine Toothache Drops,” which were marketed as presenting an “instantaneous cure” were sold for 15 cents a box. Today, in the midst of our opioid crisis, we hear about this past and wonder unequivocally, what the hell were they thinking?

I often wonder the same thing when I think about social media and its current domination of our society. Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart—being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections—despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide? Indeed, some of the people who gave us these platforms are already beginning to wonder if this is the case. Last month, I wrote a piece detailing how some early Facebook employees now feel about the monster they have created. As one early Facebook employee told me, “I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way.”

After the piece published, I expected to receive angry e-mails and text messages from current or former Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram employees. Instead, my inbox was flooded with former (and even current!) employees of these social networks, who confided that they felt the same way. Some even mentioned they had abandoned the platforms themselves. The people who reached out ranged in pay grade from engineers to C-suite executives. Some venture capitalists who once funded the companies, or their competitors, have told me that they no longer use them—or do so sparingly.

. . . .

[T]he social-media boom, powered by the growth of mobile computing, is over. “Whether the tech industry can move beyond mining our social anxieties to sell ads, or feeding our anger to increase engagement, may require renegotiating a new relationship between the Bay Area and the rest of the country.”

. . . .

I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and Snap from my phone. I now log onto Facebook once a month, if that (and it’s more for a drive-by look to make sure no one has messaged me on there, rather than to like a post or comment on a picture). I haven’t logged into Snap in a year or more. I went from sharing a picture on Instagram three times a day, to now doing so three times a year. While I still use Twitter sparingly for professional purposes, I delete the app from my phone on weekends because looking at it either makes me sad, angry, or anxious.

Link to the rest at Vanity Fair

The Epic 4,000-Word Guide to Differentiating Yourself as a Writer

11 November 2017

From Medium:

It started when one of my friends made a surprising change.

“I’m going to focus on my YouTube presence more,” he said. “I feel I’m going to be able to differentiate myself there.”

Then he said:

“It’s hard to differentiate yourself as a writer.”

Truthfully, I’m a little jealous. He will spend the next year romping around Pittsburgh with a camera and a cute toddler. I assume his popularity will skyrocket.

. . . .

Maybe you want to be a Writer with a capital W. You scrawl random words on post it notes and wake up in the middle of the night to jot something down in your notebook. You want to see your name on a cover.

If so, I have awful news for you:

My friend is right.

It’s difficult to separate yourself as a writer. Your Instagram friends will cross the world and shoot infinite exotic and beautiful locations. You will lock yourself in a room, pushing buttons to try and express how you feel. The latter is not a natural thing.

. . . .

In order to chunk this monster post up a little, I’ve divided the key components into three sections:

  • Why You Should Even Bother Writing
  • 10 Ways to Outstrip Your Writing Competition
  • Practical Steps to a Viral Post

Link to the rest at Medium

Here’s the Social Media Content Your Audience Does NOT Want to See You Post

6 November 2017
Comments Off on Here’s the Social Media Content Your Audience Does NOT Want to See You Post

From Medium:

Let’s be honest for a second here. When it comes to quality, a large amount of social media content posted by brands isn’t good. In fact, in terms of subject matter, copy, photo quality, and more, much of the content is downright cringeworthy.

. . . .

1. Inauthentic, forced content

You see this mistake all the time. Companies and individuals force trending topics into their posts in hopes of gaining more followers and engagement. Examples could be anything from an athletic event to the latest dance craze to a natural disaster.

Just because LeBron James is trending on Twitter doesn’t mean your company has to post about him.

. . . .

6. Way too many hashtags

. . . .

According to research by Buffer, on Instagram 11 hashtags is the ideal number, and on Twitter the amount is one or two.

Link to the rest at Medium

It’s Time to Bust the Online Trusts

1 November 2017

From The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page:

This week some of America’s most beloved internet companies will follow the footsteps of Big Tobacco and Wall Street in a dreaded rite of passage: the Capitol Hill perp walk. The top lawyers for Google, Facebook and Twitter will try their best to explain to the Senate Intelligence Committee how misinformation spread through their platforms in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

They are also likely to argue that the best response to their platforms’ negligence is not government regulation. If Google and Facebook are lucky, the result will be the passage of the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would merely require buyers of online political advertisements to reveal their identities. This is a necessary move to increase transparency, but it is not sufficient to protect the electorate from manipulation.

Focusing on the narrow question of online advertising will only distract lawmakers from the true problem: In the absence of rigorous antitrust enforcement, the consumer internet has become too concentrated in a few dominant companies, creating easy targets for bad actors.

There is a reason Congress did not have to investigate foreign meddling after the 2008 or 2012 elections. Back then the internet was still a diverse, decentralized network. Anyone could create a website or blog to satisfy the demand for popular or niche content. This older form of online community building has largely been supplanted by tools provided by the dominant players. Facebook Groups allows people to create communities without requiring much technical skill. It does, however, require a Facebook account, meaning participants have no choice but to share their identity and their data. Today, many internet services are inaccessible unless you have joined Facebook’s “community” of two billion users.

Google used to be the engine that drove the open web. In a 2004 interview, co-founder Larry Page denounced powerful intermediaries on the internet, saying that “we want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point. The portal strategy tries to own all of the information.”

Over time, Google’s philosophy shifted in the opposite direction, making the internet less open and pluralistic than even a few years ago. Now people are nudged to stay on The company has committed to presenting a single “answer” to every inquiry, even ones that are subjective opinions based on sparse Google-owned content, like “best pediatrician NYC.” The result has been a decline of traffic to swaths of the web.

. . . .

Of every new dollar spent in online advertising last year, Google and Facebook captured 99 cents. Yet neither company has ever faced serious antitrust scrutiny in the U.S.

. . . .

The economics have also changed for internet startups hoping to reinvent the web. Early-stage capital has dried up, dropping more than 40% since 2015, as investors have become pessimistic that any new Googles and Facebooks will ever be capable of disrupting the deeply entrenched incumbents.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG will remind all that he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts on TPV.

The author of the OP is vice president of public policy at Yelp, which undoubtedly views Facebook and Google as competitors.

PG thinks monopolies are a bad idea. He has also observed that government actions to resolve business problems have done more harm than good on many occasions.

Particularly when dealing with “misinformation” spreading, either through Facebook/Google or through the internet generally or through major television networks or major newspapers, PG is particularly wary of government action.

Misinformation has also been known to spread through statements and advertisements originating with politicians and major political parties.

While he’s not an expert on antitrust law, PG notes that five of the six largest publishers in the US have recently violated US antitrust laws. In concert with Apple, major publishers broke those laws by conspiring to fix prices in a manner which has been illegal in the US for over 100 years.

Big Publishing continues behavior that is similar to the behavior of other shared monopolies. For example, 99% of the publishing contracts authors sign with large publishers include exactly the same royalty rates for sales of books and licensing of ebooks. A tacit agreement exists that no major will offer to pay an author royalties of more than 25% of net income generated from the publisher’s ebook licenses through Amazon, Kobo, etc.

In this case, the violation of antitrust laws was far clearer than anything Facebook and Google have been accused of (to the best of PG’s knowledge).

However, the most significant financial punishment imposed on the Price-fix Six has been from the ebook market. Lower priced ebooks from indie authors and small publishers have taken over the ebook markets at the expense of those from major publishers.

In this case, Amazon has been a neutral market-maker, opening its digital doors to one and all, large and small, on an equal basis.

As a group, readers are voting in favor of ebooks not published by major publishers. To the best of PG’s knowledge, no government action is responsible for this consumer behavior. In fact, a very large corporation, Amazon, provided an ebook marketplace in competition with another very large corporation, Apple.

While Amazon has been very helpful in accelerating the adoption of ebooks, if Amazon hadn’t existed, PG believes one or more other market-makers would have done the same thing.

The technology for creating, selling and consuming ebooks is inherently superior to the established structure for doing the same thing with printed books. It’s an open platform that supports a far wider range of authors and satisfies a much larger population of readers at a much lower price than the paper alternatives. Bits are inherently more efficient than atoms for the distribution of information.

End of rant. PG will restrain himself for the rest of the day.

The attention economy

21 October 2017

From Aeon:

How many other things are you doing right now while you’re reading this piece? Are you also checking your email, glancing at your Twitter feed, and updating your Facebook page? What five years ago David Foster Wallace labelled ‘Total Noise’ — ‘the seething static of every particular thing and experience, and one’s total freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to’ — is today just part of the texture of living on a planet that will, by next year, boast one mobile phone for each of its seven billion inhabitants. We are all amateur attention economists, hoarding and bartering our moments — or watching them slip away down the cracks of a thousand YouTube clips.

If you’re using a free online service, the adage goes, you are the product. It’s an arresting line, but one that deserves putting more precisely: it’s not you, but your behavioural data and the quantifiable facts of your engagement that are constantly blended for sale, with the aggregate of every single interaction (yours included) becoming a mechanism for ever-more-finely tuning the business of attracting and retaining users.

Consider the confessional slide show released in December 2012 by Upworthy, the ‘website for viral content’, which detailed the mechanics of its online attention-seeking. To be truly viral, they note, content needs to make people want to click on it and share it with others who will also click and share. This means selecting stuff with instant appeal — and then precisely calibrating the summary text, headline, excerpt, image and tweet that will spread it. This in turn means producing at least 25 different versions of your material, testing the best ones, and being prepared to constantly tweak every aspect of your site. To play the odds, you also need to publish content constantly, in quantity, to maximise the likelihood of a hit — while keeping one eye glued to Facebook. That’s how Upworthy got its most viral hit ever, under the headline ‘Bully Calls News Anchor Fat, News Anchor Destroys Him On Live TV’, with more than 800,000 Facebook likes and 11 million views on YouTube.

. . . .

Attention, thus conceived, is an inert and finite resource, like oil or gold: a tradable asset that the wise manipulator auctions off to the highest bidder, or speculates upon to lucrative effect. There has even been talk of the world reaching ‘peak attention’, by analogy to peak oil production, meaning the moment at which there is no more spare attention left to spend.

Link to the rest at Aeon

How to Save $39,000 When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Author Website

10 October 2017

From The Digital Reader

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a book must be in want of a website. They need a home on the web to call their own, one safe from the fickle whims of Facebook’s algorithms.

That home will need a name – but what to call it?

. . . .

Some authors choose to go with the perfunctory choice, but others choose a domain of a more personal nature, or a whimsical one.

. . . .

Well, you could go for the obvious and staid choice such as the author’s name, book series, character name, or book title. Those options usually work well – the author name is a great default that brings all (most) of an author’s work together on a single site (but it might exclude pen names), while naming the site after the book series or main character might add a small boost to SEO.

I named my blog The Digital Reader because it referenced the topic I wanted to cover :digital reading, in its many forms. It is a decent choice, but it is not without its problems. For a number of years people kept confusing me with a competitor who hs a similar first name and blog name. (If I had realized that would be an issue, I’d have chosen a different name.) Also, I never did get the domain I wanted – I had to go with because domain squatters were demanding exorbitant fees for the domains and

One of the domains would have cost me eight grand, and the other is listed at $39,000.

. . . .

Another way to come up with a topical title is to use the “And Method”. This is a trick for coming up with unique names where you combine two otherwise unrelated words, and in this situation an author might choose two words that hint at their work.

Swords & Sorcery, to name one obvious example, suggests a D&D-style fantasy, while Coffee and Corpses hints at police procedural, or detective stories. And then there is Death and Texas, which is both clever word play and possibly a topical reference to for author whose mystery novels are set in Texas.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG has found a site called Nameboy helpful for locating good domain names. This site has been in operation approximately forever.

On Nameboy, you type in a primary word and, optionally, a secondary word. Thereafter Nameboy generates all sorts of possible domain names based on those words. It lists them in a table that shows you which of its generated site titles are available as domain names and which are not.

For example, entering the words dragons and sorcerer reveal the following names are available:, .net, .org and .info, .net, .org and .info is gone, as is, but .org and .info are available.

teamdragon, team-dragon and magic-dragon are gone in all four basic domain extensions is for sale for $1595, but .net, .org and .info are available

Perhaps the best name (in PG’s non-dragonish mind), thedragonsorcerer is available in all four basic domain extensions.

And for those who seek a more dynamic feel for your website branding – is available.

Disabling autoplaying videos in Chrome goes viral

5 October 2017

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

As many newspapers have discovered to their chagrin, the Internet is one of the best ways to read the news these days—but there are still certain hazards inherent to the experience. In particular, there’s the matter of autoplaying video, which every TV station local news department seems to believe is the best way to enhance its stories when it posts them to the web. Who hasn’t had the experience of browsing the web while in class or at work and suddenly fumbling frantically for the mute button as some reporter’s voice blares out through the speakers?

It puzzles me that so many sites seem to think that annoying people is the best way to endear themselves to their audience, but even I hadn’t realized just how annoying people find it. When a friend mentioned that version 61 of the Chrome web browser offered a way to disable autoplaying videos, I thought it seemed like the sort of thing people might want to know about, so I posted it to my Twitter feed:

What I hadn’t expected was that simple tweet was going to go viral like nothing I’ve ever posted before in my entire life. 200 replies, over 6,000 retweets, nearly 13,000 likes, over 740,000 impressions so far—and who knows how many it will have by the time you’re reading this article?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG just made the switch and is looking forward to a less aggravating internet experience in the future.

Text-only news sites are slowly making a comeback. Here’s why.

4 October 2017

From Poynter:

A few days before Hurricane Irma hit South Florida, I received a query on Twitter from a graphic designer named Eric Bailey.

“Has anyone researched news sites capability to provide low-bandwidth communication of critical info during crisis situations?” he asked.

The question was timely — two days later, CNN announced that they created a text-only version of their site with no ads or videos.

. . . .

The same week, NPR began promoting its text-only site, on social media as a way for people with limited Internet connectivity during Hurricane Irma to receive updated information.

. . . .

These text-only sites — which used to be more popular in the early days of the Internet, when networks were slower and bandwidth was at a premium – are incredibly useful, and not just during natural disasters. They load much faster, don’t contain any pop-ups or ads or autoplay videos, and help people with low bandwidth or limited Internet access. They’re also beneficial for people with visual impairments who use screen readers to navigate the Internet.

. . . .

NPR’s is likely the oldest example of a working text-only news site that’s still in existence. It originally launched as back in June 2005, in response to the September 11th attacks — when many news sites struggled to stay online amidst record traffic numbers — and also to help people who were navigating to back in 2005 on handheld mobile devices like Blackberries.

Earlier this month, a number of improvements were made to the site (which redirects to aimed specifically at low-bandwidth users.

“More recently, our full site [] has made major accessibility gains,” write Patrick Cooper, NPR’s director of web and engagement, and Sara Goo, the managing editor of digital news. “But as accessible or as fast as you can make your full site —and speed is critical for us — low-bandwidth situations are a different challenge. [Our] improvements focused on those users in particular.”’s improvements included  “adding a caching layer to greatly improve speed and adding code to make the site display well on phones,” write Cooper and Goo. “We also increase[d] the number of stories on the [] homepage, made the homepage use the story ordering from our full site, updated the navigation links, removed an interim page in each story that showed only the first paragraph (something that was more valuable before we improved the page speed), and created an easier to remember “” redirect for the site.”

In recent months, TwitterFacebook, and Google News have also published their own versions of stripped-down sites that use less bandwidth, mainly aimed at users in emerging markets who might not have access to faster network connections. Earlier this week, Twitter announced that it was now experimenting with an Android app designed to use less data for people with limited connectivity.

. . . .

Kramer: I’m curious. What kinds of things can be stripped from sites for low-bandwidth users and people with visual impairments?

Bowden: Those are two very distinct user groups but some of the approaches bleed over and can be applied together.

For low-bandwidth users: Cut the fluff. No pictures, no video, no ads or tracking. Text files are good enough here. Anything else is just fluff.

Link to the rest at Poynter

PG is happy to have high-speed internet access, but he likes the stripped-down sites because he can scan them for interesting items more quickly.

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