Sam Harrelson

All these problems may just be inevitable teething…

“We haven’t had this kind of transformation since television came in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s,” says Marc Pritchard, the marketing boss at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser. Grappling with these challenges, however, may spur a shift in the industry’s structure. There will always be startups, particularly because technology changes so quickly. But on the whole, power is likely to move to fewer, larger companies.”

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21695388-worries-about-fraud-and-fragmentation-may-prompt-shake-out-crowded-online-ad?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/invisibleadsphantomreaders




Reverse Engineering Humanity

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“We believe that a computer that can read and understand stories, can, if given enough example stories from a given culture, ‘reverse engineer’ the values tacitly held by the culture that produced them,” they write. “These values can be complete enough that they can align the values of an intelligent entity with humanity. In short, we hypothesise that an intelligent entity can learn what it means to be human by immersing itself in the stories it produces.

Source: Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests | Books | The Guardian

Our stories are important. Our ability to have, interpret, and produce intuition is seemingly something very human. However, we’re finding out that’s not necessarily the case.




Blogging

“I keep remembering that, between Google Reader and its limits (items must have titles), and Twitter with its limits (only 140 chars, no titles, one link, no styling), same with Facebook (no links or styling) that my online writing has diminished dramatically, conforming to the contradictory limits of each of these systems.

I keep working on this, still am. Every day.”

Source: Blogging like it’s 1999 | Dave Winer




The Loss of Solitary Exploration

“This experimental feature helps voters make more informed choices, and levels the playing field for candidates to share ideas and positions on issues they may not have had a chance to address during the debate. By publishing long-form text, photos and videos throughout the debate, campaigns can now give extended responses, answer questions they didn’t get a chance to on stage, and rebut their opponents. As soon as the first debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, search “Fox News debate” to find campaign responses.”

Source: Official Google Blog: New ways to stay informed about presidential politics

Wait, you mean the debates are scripted?

But seriously, this is interesting… as I’ve been watching the X Files revival this week (also on Fox™), I’ve been thinking more intentionally about the how’s and why’s we consume media in 2016 compared to, say, twenty years ago in 1996 when I was a nerdy teenager madly in love with the show. The X Files were something that I watched, recorded, and watched again most every week in order to parse out a new piece of the show’s ongoing mythology. It was a solitary, but incredibly beneficial, experience. I did the same with Beatles lyrics and Herman Hesse novels around the same time.

However, with this new iteration of the X Files, I’ve noticed that I’m watching my iPad as much as I’m watching the show. The #xfiles stream on Twitter has been an integral part of my viewing of the show. I only realized how much last night as I was watching the stream and realized that I had missed a key plot point that was subtle (I probably would’ve missed it if I had been watching the show intently rather than partitioning my attention, but still…) but was important. A tweet clued me in and I immediately “got it.” Would I have had that experience had I not been following the conversation on Twitter? Maybe. Hopefully in a second or third viewing I would. But I find myself not watching or reading things a second or third time these days because OMG JESSICA JONES is on Netflix and I have to catch up before diving into Making a Murderer before the next season of House of Cards!

Following the X Files last night was the last Democratic Presidential Debate before the Iowa Caucus next week. Again, I spent as much (if not more) time arguing with my friend Thomas Whitley about the merits of Bernie Sanders on Twitter as I did actually watching the debate. I’ve been watching presidential debates since … well, about 1996 when Clinton was at his high point and masterfully debated against a credible threat from Bob Dole. Throughout college and graduate school, I loved watching debates and can remember highlights from ’00 and ’04 as if they were fresh memories. Will I remember the ’16 debates (as remarkable as they are given the current political climate) as fondly or well? I’m not sure. I certainly don’t remember much about the ’12 debates when I was also using Twitter as a side show to further my “engagement with the conversation,” but there are also the variables of age and my diminished attention span to consider.

Perhaps that’s the fulcrum of whatever point I’m trying to make… as we grow older (I’m 37 now), do we intentionally seek out these side reels in order to persuade our minds that things like the X Files or a sporting event or a presidential debate are *really* important? Or do we seek these out as ways to validate our own confirmation bias about a particular football team or candidate (or mythology)?

I’ve noticed that when I read books on my Kindle, I frequently come across highlights that other Kindle users have made. It’s a neat feature for readers, as you get clued into what other readers have considered important or highlight-worthy in the same book you’re reading. It’s a feature that can be turned off, but I haven’t done that yet. I wonder what 17 year old Sam in 1996 would have said or thought of that feature when I was pouring through Siddhartha for the 3rd time? Would I have even made it through that many readings, since I would have had the highlights from other readers?

When I was a middle school teacher (I use that past tense slightly as I’m not sure one can ever divorce oneself from such an absurd calling / profession), I was always an enthusiastic promoter of the “back channel” in the classroom. The back channel, to me, was a space for students to openly raise questions and explore avenues during the course of a class experience. I experimented with various ways to bring about a healthy back channel, but I’m not sure if I ever did (I saw good benefits, but there was no way to quantifiably measure those outside of summative assessments which I also didn’t particularly enjoy). I wonder if I would encourage that back channel presence now, being a little older and with the benefit of hindsight? Did it detract from the class experience in the same way that my watching both the X Files on TV and #xfiles on a screen detracts from my solitary exploration of thoughts and ideas? Or were there tangible benefits in the same way that I realized a plot point I would have probably missed last night?

I miss the days of having to watch a well worn VHS tape recording of a Star Trek TNG episode or The Empire Strikes Back or a Presidential Debate in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything, rather than just googling “last night’s X Files” to find the right subreddit to lose a few hours in. That’s unfair nostalgia (I’m getting old, remember). These tools, these social spaces, we’ve created are doing amazing things for our culture and society. I appreciate how Twitter and Reddit enrich my life.

But sometimes, I want to read Siddhartha again because as a pernicious 17 year old I hated the very idea and existence of Cliff Notes. Now, I can’t seem to experience anything without a cliff note version via 140 characters or a Virgil in the form of a polished Redditor.




The Future is Messaging and Google Seems Oblivious

 

“Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more,” Facebook’s VP of messaging products David Marcus said in a Facebook post.

Source: Facebook’s M Is Here, and Google Should Be Worried

Messaging is big in Asia. Services like WeChat in China and Line in Japan / Thailand / Indonesia are how people communicate, buy things, book things, and operate. Sort of like how we (the enlightened) are amazed that people live inside of Facebook and think of it as the internet. There are even WeChat Stars like our YouTube stars. It is strange for us in the US to wrap our heads around (or at least me).

However, it won’t be for long. I remember sitting in a presentation by a Rakuten VP (they are a large Asian marketing firm that acquired messaging app Viber last year) at a conference in 2004… they were demonstrating data associated with the rising use of mobile phones to purchase items in stores or do cross comparisons via SMS in SE Asia while using brick-and-mortar stores as showrooms. I was blown away and thought “there’s no way anyone in the US would ever buy something on a mobile phone…certainly not furniture or computers.”

I was wrong. Best Buy is the best showroom Amazon could ever hope for (at least in my personal experience).

Five years from now, everyone in America will live inside the major messaging app that we settle on. Whether that’s FB’s Messenger, WeChat, Line, Snapchat (doubtful), Viber, Hangouts, WhatsApp or something we haven’t heard of yet, we will decry this newfangled “messaging media” and “messaging marketing” and look fondly on the days when we all just had Facebook newsfeeds or Twitter timelines.

Remember ICQ and AIM? We’re going back.

Messaging apps are what comes after “social media.” Facebook gets it. Even Apple (iMessage) and Blackberry (Messenger) get it. Google seems to be dragging its feet, which is scary to me.




Oddly, Microsoft and Dropbox Just Made It Easier to Use My Chromebook

My team primarily uses Dropbox for our file storage and sharing. It was a back-and-forth battle for a while between Google Drive (since we use Google Apps for email, calendars etc) and Dropbox, and we still do use Drive for some project management. Even a few of our clients prefer it as they are already using Drive and Google Apps themselves.

However, our official party line is on the Dropbox side now because of its integration with other apps that we also rely on to get things done like Podio, Slack, and Freshbooks.

The biggest downside of going with Dropbox over Drive for me (#firstworldproblem) has been when I’m traveling or doing some quick catch up work at home outside of the office. That’s because I typically take my Chromebook (currently a Toshiba Chromebook 2 but that new Pixel is wearing on my will power) during those times. Editing a Word document or Excel sheet from a client or team member is definitely not as smooth on a Chromebook as working on a shared Google Doc or Sheet. So, I would resort to downloading the document from Dropbox and opening it as a Google Doc then redownloading when I was finished and reuploading it to the appropriate Dropbox folder. I also kept a zombie copy of many working docs in my Google Drive just so I could access them on the road, but they weren’t always up-to-date and current. It was a subtle pain that always annoyed me.

Until this announcement this week. I’ve tried it a few times now and it’s seamless and works great.

Thanks, Dropbox and Microsoft, you solved my workflow issue! Looks like I’ll be using Office Online a great deal more in the coming months…

What does that mean for you? For starters, you don’t need the desktop versions of Microsoft Office — or even your own computer — to update any Office files stored in your Dropbox. Just click the ‘Open’ button when you’re previewing a Dropbox file on the web, and you can edit the file right from your browser via Office Online. Any changes will automatically be saved back to your Dropbox.

You’ll also be able to access your Dropbox directly from Office Online, so you can open any of your Dropbox files — and save new files to Dropbox — without leaving Office Online.

via Dropbox launches integration with Microsoft Office Online | Dropbox Blog.




WSJ: You Can Ditch Your PC Now

Completely agree with the main idea of this article… Chromebooks (and tablets to some extent) are mature platforms and great devices for both creating and consuming content for personal and business use:

In short, I’m done with PCs—at least as they are conventionally defined. And I think the majority of long-suffering PC users would be too if they weren’t so accustomed to thinking of computers in the same way they have for decades. Building new technology is easy compared with changing the habits of those who use it.

via You Can Ditch Your PC Now – WSJ – WSJ.




Handy Chromebook Solutions Guide for edu folks from CDW

Hadn’t seen this before but lots of good information for those educational institutions pondering Chromebooks and accessories…

CDW Chromebook Solutions Guide.




Google’s Surprising Chromebook Surge

I’ve been using a desktop and a phone as my main “computers” for the last several months and haven’t looked back.

When I’m on the road for client work, I’ll take along a Chromebook and have no issues getting “real” work done. Evidently I’m not alone…

And, globally, in a reversal of fortune, low-end PCs are eating into tablet sales.

“One encouraging factor was a good intake of lower-end systems, including Chromebooks, which coincides with the recent slowing in tablet growth,” said IDC analyst Jay Chou.

via PCs see surprising gain in US as global decline slows, but Apple slips – CNET.

I’ve had every model of iPad and use a Nexus 7 now when I need a tablet. But I mostly find myself using this desktop and my phone (Nexus 5) more than anything else. Looks like I’m not alone and Google was wise to plug the low-end price point with its Chromebook lineup.

When Chromebooks first started getting traction, there was an incessant meme of their nature of “just being a browser.” Turns out, people like having a simple (even web based) OS with a keyboard over a tablet with limited apps and no keyboard. iPad sales continue to slow from their high point last year.

Wonder how this impacts iPad’s marketing for the coming holiday season?




Looks Like Nexus Is Sticking Around (Thankfully)

I’m a huge fan of the Nexus line of Android phones and tablets that Google keeps producing with partners such as LG, Asus, HP, and Samsung.

These are devices that aren’t for the hoi polloi that wander into Best Buy and pick up a new iPhone because they think that’s the only smart phone on the market, but they are fantastic reference devices.

So, I’m glad to see this program sticking around…

You can’t build a platform in the abstract, you have to build a device (or devices). So, I don’t think can can or will ever go away. And then, I think Nexus is also interesting in that it is a way of us explaining how we think Android should run. It is a statement, almost a statement of purity in some respects. I don’t see why we would ever turn away from that, it wouldn’t make sense.

via No, Google Isn't Going To Kill Its Nexus Devices – ReadWrite.




Is Google+ “Dead”?

Bring back Reader while you’re at it, Google!

What we’re hearing from multiple sources is that Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform — essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

via TechCrunch




Please Enable 2FA For Your Own Good and Ours

No one likes to take the time to make passwords online. When you’re setting up your CBSSports account to fill in your March Madness brackets, you just want to get to work. No one’s going to hack you, so you just use the same password there as you do for your Bank of America account and GMail. Who cares, right? You’ve got nothing to hide.

And then you get “hacked” and it’s no fun.

Being a “techy” person, I get lots of questions about how to avoid being “hacked” (it’s fascinating to me how that word has changed its usage as geek and tech culture has become mainstream).

My response is normally:

1) Never use the same password twice. Ever. Use a service such as LastPass if you’re into that (I am).

2) For each of the online services you use, make unique and long passwords that include random characters and even nonsense strings that only you know (I know, I know… this isn’t completely foolproof but it helps prevent the script kiddie hacks). Try to avoid common terms such as “password,” “changeme,” or “123456.”

3) Never use the same password twice. Ever.

4) If you can, enable 2 Factor Authentication.

5) Never use the same password twice. Ever.

Step 1 is usually when the person loses interest in my advice. But you should really enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA) as soon as possible if you’re at all concerned about your online accounts or just want to have a good lock on your doors to keep honest people honest.

TwoFactorAuthor.org has a nice list of major services that we all use, with links to relevant instructions, such as Google Accounts, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, even Steam or Etsy etc.

There’s no reason for you not to do this today.

Two-factor authentication! In this age of endless massive hacks we seem to be in the middle of, it’s one of the easiest ways you can dramatically boost security on your online accounts.

But which sites actually support it? It can be a pain to keep track. Fortunately, a new, community-driven list keeps a running list of all the big sites that have some form of 2FA enabled (and encourages you to nag at those that don’t).

via Here Are All The Sites You Should Enable Two Factor Authentication On (And The Ones You Should Yell At) | TechCrunch.




Google’s Hummingbird and the Importance of Social Signals

Google’s new Hummingbird engine for search is finally starting to give us some clues as to what Google is prioritizing in its algorithms now (mainly mobile and contextual).

Here are a couple of good sources and videos for you to ponder while you plan out your site’s marketing strategy.

Both links and social signals are forms of social proof, but they have different aspects to how they work and what is involved. For that reason, I expect there will be differences in how they are applied by Google. Regardless, building your reputation across many platforms and getting lots of different types of social proof signals is the heart of online marketing these days.

via What Everybody Missed About Hummingbird: Social Signals.

We can focus on the root of the matter: the major reason that Google has rolled out Hummingbird is because it wants to offer relevant and helpful results to conversational, voice searches. By creating content that is suitable for mobile users, you can optimize it for the Hummingbird algorithm.

via Six Vital Google Hummingbird Questions Answered.

While the Panda and Penguin updates were more punitive in nature, Google is giving out prescriptions for webmasters now. Namely, make sure your content is relevant to mobile users and more easily found in a “conversational” context.




What Does Google’s New Personalized Search Mean for Marketers?

When working with our clients on search campaigns, one of the most common conversations I have is about the nature of Google searches and how, if you’re signed in to your Google account, things aren’t universal (despite the “universal search” term).

To drive this home more, Google is now blending its (awesome) Google Now type features with the search engine:

Google today announced a number of search features that make it easier for you to find your own personal information through Google Search. The search engine can now find information about your upcoming flights “Is my flight on time?”, hotel or OpenTable reservations, package delivery information “When will my package arrive?”, your purchases and what’s on your calendar. Just like on Google+, you can also now use the regular Google search to find your own photos through queries like “Show me my photos of beaches.”

via Google Search Gets More Personal, Now Lets You Find Your Flight Info, Reservations, Photos And More | TechCrunch.

Google is quickly living up to its promise to index all of the world’s info (or at least yours). Translating and understanding what that means for SEO and paid search is becoming increasingly more detailed.

However, advertising and marketing always improve as the variable of relativity is increased. While the Panda and Penguin updates Google brought to its search algorithms over the past year have made it seemingly more difficult for some marketers to keep their search traffic flowing, there is great benefit for the agencies and companies willing to go to the whiteboard and figure out how best to use Google as a tool instead of relying on decade-old understandings.

Google has also performed a number of upgrades and changes to its AdWords tool (including the keyword tool) and Analytics package (adding a real-time API for one). It’s increasingly pushing publishers and companies to make sure they are using Google Webmaster Tools. In other words, Google understands these changes can be seen as damaging to their base of advertisers (their main monetary stream, of course).

This trend towards personalization is ushering in a new age of search marketing that is still shaking out and will take years to fully comprehend. In the meantime, keep an eye on Google’s updates to AdWords, Analytics and Webmaster Tools and do your due diligence on how search marketing is changing (for the better).




Creepy GMail Ads In Your Inbox

Well, this is really creepy (but an easy fix):

New Gmail Inbox Features Ads That Look Like Emails, Above Promotional Email Subscriptions | MarketingLand: “If you’ve converted to the new Gmail inbox, you may have noticed in-line ads that resemble regular emails at the top of  your Promotions tab. These new native-style ads function as paid-for-placement email messages, and essentially circumvent standard email marketing practices. The ads do have a shaded background and ad symbol to differentiate them from the other promotional emails and newsletters users have to actually opt-in to (theoretically, at least).”

I hadn’t noticed these new ads since I don’t have the “new inbox” enabled, but it’s super creepy. GMail is just a business and I know they have to make money somehow, but there’s better ways to do it than placing CPC ads directly in your users’ inboxes. It’s basically spam.

Good for advertisers though… Wonder what kind of click-through rate they’re getting though (I presume a lot of people overlook the “Ad” sticker on them a few times)?

Strange days indeed.




Affiliate Sites and Mobile Traffic

Mobify has a great post with a few informative links and stats about mobile traffic and its implications for marketing on the web in 2013…

13 Stats to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Mobile in 2013 | Mobify: “To help you pitch your boss and frame the situation from their perspective, we’ve prepared a collection of the most exciting numbers around the mobile web. It will help you get the attention of any skeptic, be it your manager, your client, or your mom.”

Mobile has been a massive traffic source since Android, iPhone, etc came along and that trend only continues to grow. However, a lot of our industry has been slow to adapt to that change and is still catching up. If you’re not analyzing where your traffic comes from on your sites (things like Google Analytics are great for this) and optimizing accordingly, you’re missing out on important traffic that can ultimately lead to conversions. In other words, if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, you’re losing money.

Affiliates need to stay on top of their game and be optimizing their sites and apps for mobile. Responsive design (we love Squarespace for this) is a great way to optimize your sites. iPads, Android tablets, and smartphones (think iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) are accounting for an increasing number of pageviews across the web. Especially if you rely on referred traffic from social media, you need to be thinking about and making changes as needed to make sure your site works well on mobile.

In 2013, there’s no excuse for horrible mobile themes or having to pinch-and-zoom a million times. Also, you’re probably losing some search traffic to sites with optimized designs.

Mobify’s slide deck also has some good pointers and excellent statistics that elaborate on what mobile means and why you should be optimizing your sites accordingly:

50 Must-Know Mobile Commerce Facts and Statistics from Mobify



Google’s Matt Cutts on Link Building and Memorable Websites

Matt is right… create an experience and work towards the big picture rather than just make something for the moment…

Link Building Is Not Illegal (or Inherently Bad) with Matt Cutts: “Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.”

Go read the whole interview and pull your own conclusions from it. It’s not a short read, but it’s worth it.

Be unique and do your best work in all that you do.




Google Embraces Content Marketing on YouTube

Using content that you create inside of your businesses marketing efforts is becoming so important for real success and reach on the social web. Whether it’s graphs on Facebook, pictures on Instagram, snippets on Vine or (especially crucial) videos on YouTube, your business should be creating engaging and creative content.

Google understands this and is throwing its weight behind a developing program aimed at helping advertisers make better YouTube videos that embrace content marketing:

Google Wants to Help Advertisers Make YouTube Videos | Digital – Advertising Age: “The move comes as more brands look to become custom publishers themselves and create content that consumers care about. As a result, agencies across disciplines have set up devoted content groups to advise clients and create, produce and distribute content featuring their clients’ brands.”

While this program is initially open to just a few select brands, it doesn’t mean your brand should wait things out. Now’s the time to start making the kinds of videos that shows off your company/services and what makes you different in a world of cookie cutters.




“How Can I Get Free Advertising on Google?”

It’s a question we hear all the time, and a very good one for small businesses looking to make the most of their budget. Fortunately, Google has done a lot of the heavy lifting for you already and offers a ton of resources on its “Think Insights” portal.

For instance, here’s a link to their “Marketing Objectives” sub-category, which contains thousands of helpful articles, videos and case studies on various marketing topics related to small (and large) businesses:

Marketing Objectives – Think Insights – Google

If and when you’re ready to spend a money on AdWords, let us know. We’re a Google Engage partner and would love to help you out.




Todd Crawford the Podcast

Todd Crawford joins Sam for 45 minutes of fascinating talk about domains, online marketing, mustard bbq and knives (and what exactly Impact Radius is doing today and in the next few years).

There’s a different performance marketing landscape in 2013 and Todd has a great vision of what might lie ahead for networks, advertisers, agencies and publishers.

Fascinating.

(Cross published with our Thinking.FM network and about 45 mins and change)