June 02, 2010

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5 Ways Social Media Impacts Journalism Are bloggers, tweeters and friends journalists, commentators or just regular folks reacting to media? Social media seems to have broken traditional media and news organization’s exclusive lock on the news. In fact, an interesting interplay is developing between informal and formal news gatherers who seem to feed off each other, vie to set the news agenda, compete for scoops and regularly borrow, refer to or use the same data, images, videos or graphics. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at 29 weeks worth of news stories across all channels and concluded “the stories and issues that gain traction in social media differ substantially from those in the mainstream press … and they also greatly differ from each other.” Here’s a top line summary of what they found: Story Overlap is Modest. Blogs, Twitter and YouTube only shared the same top story once – during the week of rioting following the Iranian elections. Most of the top stories in social media “differ dramatically from what is receiving attention in the traditional press. Only a quarter of the leading stories in any given week were the same as in the mainstream media. Evidently the choices made in daily editorial sessions is more predictable and expected than the choices made by bloggers and tweeters even though leading global news organizations are big players on Twitter and YouTube. News Topics Differ Dramatically. While there is shared coverage of national politics, economics and foreign affairs, social media has a much greater range. Stories about science, technology, education, green issues, consumerism, religion and off-beat stories get much more play than in traditional news channels. Ironically 99 percent of the stories linked to by bloggers came from traditional media outlets, led by BBC News and CNN. Social media is used to riff on and supplement traditional news. Social media activists see their role as expanding the news agenda and bringing to light topics not regularly or completely covered by the mainstream press. Story Cycles are Shorter. Stories that gain traction in social media often emerge out of nowhere within hours of an initial report or event and disappear almost as quickly. Just 5 percent of top stories on Twitter, 9 percent on YouTube and 13% of top stories across blogs were still top stories a week later. Compare that to 50 percent of top stories that were still in the mix a week alter in traditional media. This may reflect professional discipline, emphasis on further exploring stories and/or social media’s fleeting attention span where the act of posting is as important as the content. Social Media are Columnists. Bloggers and tweeters tend to “gravitate toward events that effect personal rights and cultural norms – issues like same-sex marriage, the rationing of health care or privacy settings on Facebook.” “A strong sense of purpose often accompanies the links in blogs,” which in many cases, voice strongly held and divisive opinions. The facts and the breaking news are launching pads for social media activists who seem to see their role as illuminating facets of the story or advocating interpretations or positions within on-going news subjects. Social media content is much more pointed and personal. Each Social Media has a Personality & Purpose. There is no common agenda or emphasis among social media channels. Twitter is heavily technology focused – 43 percent of the stories tracked during the 29 weeks covered tech topics. Similarly Twitter heavily addresses itself and its users. Users tweet as a way to pass along breaking information – Hamburger Helper for the mainstream media outlets active on the site and critical as source material for tweeters. YouTube has less overt commentary though users make editorial selections in the choice of which videos to post. The intention seems to be sharing unusual, eye-popping or unexpected content. “The most watched videos have a strong sense of serendipity. They pique interest and curiosity with a strong visual appeal.” Videos also span national and linguistic boundaries in ways that written commentary can’t. Blogs are like news bulletins or daily Op-Eds. Lead stories in a given week tend to last no more than 3 days. Content focuses less on additional reporting than in dissecting content, motivations or personalities in the news. Most of the lead stories differ from traditional press and overlap with Twitter at about the same ratio as with traditional media. “Bloggers also demonstrated over the year a tendency to weigh in heavily on stories involving changes in society ranging from the trivial to the...
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Targeting Ads to Individual Brains Advertising is about awareness and resonance leading to engagement, desire and purchase. Savvy ad guys are constantly trying to improve our ability to understand, target and get inside the heads of target customers to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the memes and means of communication. Traditionally the tools for calibrating images, messages concepts and media choices were multiple forms of qualitative and quantitative market research and media usage ratings filtered through creative gut instinct. Behavioral data and neuroscience are new tools for hedging our bets and for cueing creatives. But old habits are hard to break. New approaches and new research raise the prospect of identifying the ways we think, process, understand and choose content, which should inform how ads are made and where ads are placed. This is the Holy Grail that art directors, copywriters, strategic planners and user interface designers are perennially chasing. Underlying these approaches are an array of assumptions worth articulating: Different people think and process in different ways Thinking styles are hard-wired from birth Much of our thinking process is subconscious How we think determines our behavioral choices There are identifiable brain processing styles We are overwhelmed with inputs and stimuli A lot of our thinking is dedicated to sorting and filtering The Internet has changed the way we read and process; maybe how we think If you know how we think, you can figure out better ways to communicate If you can tag people by how they think, you can persuade them better or faster The obvious conclusion is to create a segmentation scheme that accurately reflects differences among target audiences then craft messages that appeal directly to each segment delivered according to stated or inferred customer preferences. Sounds like a piece of cake doesn’t it? There are countless personality survey instruments that type and segment people along some variation of the Myers-Briggs axes. They range from sophisticated tools to simple magazine-like quizzes. Each purports to help understand what kind of person you are and by understanding personality types and/or matching it with demographic data, marketers can infer likes, dislikes and media preferences. In the direct and database world marketers have become extremely sophisticated at using behavioral data and purchase history to model segments and predict likely behaviors. Yet having mastered serial regressions techniques these guys can tell you who is likely to buy with very good accuracy. But they don’t know why. How and why researchers slice and dice the audience seems to make all the difference. The battle to determine the best, the most accurate research methodology has been going on since the first ad was written. Among the classic arguments used to promote or to discredit various technical approaches are The people who make the ads; aren’t the same as those who receive them The sample isn’t statistically significant, representative or project able The data doesn’t control for environmental or cultural factors The data only shows what they do; not why they do it The segments are fancifully named; but you can’t actually find these customers The segments align with sellers’ desires; not buyers’ needs Into this on-going debate comes Xyte Technologies, a start-up behavioral research firm in Madison, WI, led by Linda McIsaac, a psychologist. Xyte starts with a personality profile and layers on different data in seven steps to create a funnel-like filtration process that supposedly can predict who will like and respond to specific creative stimuli. In working with clients like CBS TV Networks and Pepsi they conduct additional product/service-centric surveys that probe for buying habits, leisure activities and media usage. The filtration process begins with a 16 cell segmentation scheme, called “Xying Insights” which promises in 28 questions to “identify different ways people absorb, process and delineate information” as well as “understand how the mind functions.” The cells are pretty discrete. The biggest cell “Organize” is just 16% of the population and the smallest “Operate” is just 3%, five times smaller. These segments have been tested and validated by overlaying them on panels representative of the US population operated by Knowledge Networks and StartSampling These serious claims, tested in military, corrections, youth development and HR markets, seem to border on the efficacy of the Vulcan mind-meld. But don’t take my word for it. Take the personality test and make your own assessment. Ping [email protected] for a personal password to the survey. Layered on top of the 16 behavioral profiles are four sets of “dichotomies” that separate consumers by how their minds work, where they get their...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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