/ digital-digest

Digital Digest 1

With the new year approaching, many publishers are taking the opportunity to produce 'reviews', here are a few of the best:

  • Facebook's 'Year in Review' for 2015 follows the same format for their 2014, version. Again it focuses on the strengths of the product, and where last year's video noted strongly the then-new 'emotive statuses' (feeling connected.) and went through 10 of the top events, this year's is much less new feature focused, instead taking footage from the various news outlets now working with Facebook to produce an augmented reality of status updates.
  • YouTube's Rewind shows the new culture of celebrity: the YouTuber, in full swing. Good luck recognising these cultural references, let alone the hundreds of personalities, each with hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans, producing video content for a living. Brighton's Zoella makes an appearance with PewDiePie as they retell YouTube's past and present.
  • The Washington Post are doing one of the most emotionally thought-provoking journalistic experiments I've seen in a while. Their This Year I Learned in partnership with Tumblr is a voyage through the learnings of their readers, expressed emotionally in a voicemail. If you only listen to one, this is short and amusing.
  • Spotify's Year in Music if you're a subscriber, gives you the option of traversing your own year in music, and if you're not, you can still hear the biggest hits of the last 12 months. Interestingly, it reveals that news of the departure of One Direction's Zayn boosted streaming of the band by 330% in the hour following (British streams jumped 1900%!).
  • Lastly, Google Ventures rebranded to GV in the last week, and their video recap of what they invested in over the last year is just awesome. This is a vision of the future of everything.


The new micropayments

Blendle, the Dutch journalism startup that last year the New York Times and Axel Springer invested $3.8 million in, valuing it at around $12 million, will launch in the US next year. Blendle's argument is that their platform will catch those that are not interested in full subscriptions and making a commitment to a publisher, and overcomes the 'mental hurdle' of paying for a single article by offering refunds if the reader is disappointed, eliminating the risk of being clickbaited.

Working already with the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic's Qz, and The Financial Times, amongst others, _Blendle_provides a singular platform like Apple News where they help recreate the publisher's experience using their own fonts and styling. Some are still skeptical, as partners at venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz discuss on this podcast _Advertising vs Micropayments _(we are mentioned at 17:50!).

Blendle, however, already have 500,000 users in the Netherlands alone, they launched in Germany a few months ago and have all national publishers on board, and are now off to conquer the land of the free.

“If I didn’t work for the Guardian, I would block ads”

That's a quote from the Guardian's US CEO Eamonn Store who is sick of programmatic advertising on the Guardian's website. Programmatic ads have been common throughout the internet for the last decade or so, becoming supposedly smarter over time to directly target users with ads that they will be interested in from a wide inventory. But it doesn't always work like that.

Store is frustrated at the 'low quality ads' that get injected, usually dieting pills or dodgy loans, and coming from a TV background where everything is approved, does not understand how the same control cannot be exhibited online. Specifically, he is frustrated at The Guardian having advertised the NRA alongside its content due to their programmatic ads slipping through.

This is a key example of how the digital advertising industry needs to change its ways in order to survive the ad blocking complex, as Store puts it bluntly himself. BuzzFeed, in comparison, with their native ad strategy, do not have this problem, with each hand-crafted by a team of specialists rather than chosen by a machine.

"If programmatic is not something we can control in a way that will respect our audience,” he said, “we have to think about how to manage that world.”, Store said.

Are we all out of a job?

This incredibly detailed (and very long) piece from The Awl debates the usefulness of the media industry in the age of digital publishing; what use will we be when our access is revoked? In a world where a celebrity has more followers on Instagram than a magazine gets circulation, what's the benefit to the celebrity in providing that magazine with anything? They have all the publicity they need, and they can control it down to the pixel. What leverage does the magazine have anymore?

In the world of esports (video games played for sport, of which the market last year was worth $748 million) that star players are almost universally covered by journalists who work for the game's publishers, with access for freelancers and other outlets severely diminished.

The new Star Wars will have no press preview, despite being most likely to garner the top ratings from critics, perhaps because it just doesn't need one. Lucasfilm and Disney's sponsorship of everything from Google to Sphero robots and content created for the platforms of Facebook and Twitter have been easily sufficient to create an unstoppable buzz.

Closer to home, when cable/satellite TV dies to Netflix, what use are sports rights when the Premier League have no need for Sky? When their own broadcast platform, complete with advertising, is just a click away, what access do they need to grant?

This will, most likely, lead to a better press; one that is not hamstrung by what access they can gain, what compromises they have to make; but the process for getting there will be a painful one. It's a great read and I encourage you to have a stab at it over the weekend.

And finally

Happy Christmas, podcast Serial has released the first episode of their second season following US soldier Sergeant Bergdahl's much criticised departure from his platoon. In comparison to season one, which picked a story from almost 15 years ago, this case is very much in the moment and could have great influence on the public's opinion as it's heard.