Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Ultimate List of Media Choices for Celebrities

1. Vanity Fair cover: Still the most prestigious option, and one Jennifer Aniston has used to great effect herself in the past. The Caitlyn Jenner rollout remains the pinnacle of the form. Of course, it involves entrusting your message to a reporter, which can have disastrous results.

2. People cover: A nice get—remember Sandra Bullock’s “meet my baby” cover?—though sometimes veers dangerously into the reality-TV-o-verse.

3. New York Times op-ed: Prestigious and intellectual-seeming, a one-two punch. Angie landed one, not that we would ever compare Jen to her.

4. New Yorker humor piece: Unless it’s really, really good, will make anyone who’s ever wanted to write for the New Yorker resent you. No one else will see it.

5. Single cryptic tweet: Lets you retain plausible deniability when everyone knows exactly who you’re talking about, still kinda shady.

6. Tweet that is a screenshot of a “statement”: Even worse than the above. If you must, proofread.

7. Tweetstorm: Never really goes well, will be immediately aggregated by a bunch of news outlets.

8. Instagram post that makes a statement, not through words, but usually through a selfie of you with the person you were supposedly feuding with: Can be very effective when done correctly.

9. Lenny personal essay: Communicates that you are friends with Lena Dunham, which some people, but not everyone, will think is cool.

10. Piece for the Toast: Will earn you endless brownie points among a few librarians and grad students but won’t do much for your popularity with the general public.

11. Refinery29 essay: Will probably get you made fun of.

12. Slate personal essay: Will reveal to the world that in addition to being handsome, you are a good father and a good writer.

Heather Schwedel

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How Everyday Photos of Celebrities Are Transformed Into Clickbait

In Writing Headlines, As in Testing Them, Two Heads Are Better Than One

I love that the New York Times is now doing this!

For a short while on March 15, one reader might have seen this:

$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Trump

While another saw this:

Measuring Trump’s Media Dominance

Any guesses which won the test, and by how much?

The top one got nearly three times as many readers.

A story might be 1,000 words long, but tweaking the tiny handful of words that promoted this one on our homepage gave almost 300% more readers.

In other cases, headline tests have increased readership by an order of magnitude.

When this:

Soul-Searching in Baltimore, a Year After Freddie Gray’s Death

was paired against this:

Baltimore After Freddie Gray: The ‘Mind-Set Has Changed’

The test showed a 1,677% increase in readership for the second one.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Slate Is Still Writing 3 Headlines for Big Articles. Yes!

The One Donald Trump Position That I Half-Agree With

Article Title
Trump Isn’t Entirely Wrong on Trade

Page Title
Trump isn’t entirely wrong on trade. But there’s a better way to help American workers.

Addendum (7/10/2016): New York, too:

Is This the End of Roger Ailes?

Article Title
Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual-Harassment Lawsuit May Allow Murdoch Sons to Finally Oust Roger Ailes From Fox News

Page Title
Has the Clock Run Out on Roger Ailes?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Read This, and You’ll Remember Why Correlation Doesn’t Equal Causation

Thank you, Roy Germano and Christopher Jon Sprigman, for explaining this much-loved but little-understood axiom:

Correlation is not causation. We hear this phrase all the time, but what does it actually mean?

“A famous example of the perils of using a correlation to suggest a causal relationship is the association between ice cream sales and drowning deaths. Like clockwork every June, ice cream sales go up, and so too do the number of deaths by drowning. Without a deeper understanding of how the world works, we might be tempted to use this correlation to tell a story about how eating ice cream causes people to drown — especially if we’re a company that makes snow cones and thinks that warning people off of ice cream will boost sales of our competing product.

“Now, most people are nowhere near gullible enough to fall for the argument that ice cream causes drowning — even if it’s made in a paper full of scientific-sounding metrics and graphs that show ‘strong to very strong’ correlations. Most people would realize that the correlation between ice cream sales and drowning is spurious. The only link between the two variables is that they are both independently related to the weather. When it’s hot, people look for ways to cool off. They go out for ice cream. They also go swimming. Unfortunately when more people go swimming, drowning deaths increase.

It’s Called Mental “Health” for a Reason

Consider six-time Olympic medalist, Allison Schmitt:

“With encouragement from coaches and teammates, Schmitt has come to think of therapy sessions like any other doctor’s appointments. Working on her mental health is no more embarrassing than rehabilitating a sore knee.”

And, of course, Michael Phelps:

“Regardless of how life experiences, genetic predispositions, and random events mixed together to create the emotional pain that lead Michael Phelps to drink too much and drive too fast, we know that the result was nearly catastrophic — and most likely avoidable. And isn’t it ironic that had he suffered from a physical injury or condition that in any way threatened his ability to compete, an entire team of world-class experts would have been at his disposal to address his physical pain.”

And actress Kristen Bell:

“Mental health check-ins should be as routine as going to the doctor or the dentist. After all, I’ll see the doctor if I have the sniffles. If you tell a friend that you are sick, his first response is likely, ‘You should get that checked out by a doctor.’ Yet if you tell a friend you’re feeling depressed, he will be scared or reluctant to give you that same advice. You know what? I’m over it.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How to Ride the Stock Market

The Washington Post’s Paywall Is Smarter Than You Think

Another project analyzes reader behavior in the days leading up to when they subscribed, so that, instead of putting up a universal paywall of a certain number of free articles per month, the Post can better target potential subscribers. For instance, if a reader clicks on mostly articles on health, then he would be asked to subscribe after reading a fifth health article, when he’s most likely to want to keep reading.

The Good News at the Washington Post, Trump’s Least-Favorite Paper

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Celebrity Endorsements Matter

Nicholas Kristof
“Walmart or McDonald’s shapes the living conditions of more animals in a day than an animal shelter does in a decade.”

Caity Weaver
Keeping Up With the Kardashians has done much more to raise awareness of the Armenian genocide than Mad Men ever did, and Mad Men is an Emmy-winning drama no one was embarrassed to admit they watched.”

The Newsroom
Charlie: Today she [Lady Gaga] broke her silence and Tweeted in support of — in defense of — in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Sloan’s going to interview her manager.
Mac: You’re still able to hear yourself when you speak, right?
Charlie: Yeah.
Mac: I’m glad Lady Gaga wants to engage people —
Charlie: She has 40 million Twitter followers.
Mac: Does her manager bring expertise to the table on marriage equality?
Charlie: What kind of expertise is there on that subject?
Mac: Someone who’s familiar with state legislatures, for example.
Charlie: Hey, you know what, Mac. How about she brings 40 million people to a civil-rights debate. I don’t think gay couples who’d just like to move the fuck on with their lives are as choosy about that discussion.

Why You Should Always Put Your Link *After* Your Hashtags on Twitter

Which Tweet looks better?

Here’s the view from the stream:

And here are the individual Tweets:

Here’s another pet peeve. Put a period, or a colon or a hyphen or some sort of demarcation, between the end of your words and the start of your link.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why You Should Publish Your Important Writing on Medium: Because It’s the Op-ed Page of the Internet

This, from a job description:

“Medium is the place for tech and business leaders to make or break news, share advice and expertise, offer insight into the nuances of their crafts, tell a personal story, and converse with others in their fields. The platform has emerged as the new op-ed page, where people who have ideas of consequence publish; interact meaningfully with an impassioned, engaged, and influential audience; and drive conversation forward around issues of import in the world and that matter to them.

“It’s where Google CEO Sundar Pichai pleads for inclusive values, Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou writes about diversity in tech, and Ellen Pao launches an initiative devoted to the same topic. Where Amazon spokesman Jay Carney refutes a New York Times expose on the company, and Times executive editor Dean Baquet responds. Where Facebook’s Julie Zhou regularly shares her expertise on design, and Instagram’s Ian Spalter reveals the internal process behind the company’s new logo. It’s where Dov Charney expounds on American Apparel’s bankruptcy ruling, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield shares management advice. Where a powerhouse group of women from Twitter and Slack who have banded together as investors publish en masse. And it’s where venture capitalists like Greylock’s Sarah Tavel muse on product, and Andreessen-Horowitz’s Scott Weiss reflect on working parenting.

And this, from the Washington Post:

“Political journalists will remember the evening well.

“It was around 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 20, before President Obama gave the State of the Union address, when the White House released the full text of his speech on a three-year-old website called Medium.

“The move broke convention, and the Washington press was surprised. Many reporters were afraid to admit their ignorance about the site. Obama aides could barely contain their delight at, in the words of White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman, ‘changing a SOTU tradition forever.’

“Since then, Medium has muscled its way to the front of the line as the blog platform for Washington leaders who want to put a fresh veneer on their messaging. After heavy use by the Obama White House, the San Francisco start-up has ambitions to be a player in the 2016 political debate by becoming the venue of choice for candidates to bypass the mainstream media and air their thoughts online.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Which Headline Is Best?

1. Making Sense of — and Money From — Social Media
2. Making Sense of — and Money From — Digital Communications
3. Making Sense of — and Money From — Strategic Communications
4. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It Well, Teach.
5. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It Well, Teach.
6. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It WELL, Teach.
7. Communicating With Clarity and Vigor Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
8. Communicating With Clarity and Cogency Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
9. Communicating With Clarity and Vigor Isn’t Brain Surgery. It’s Harder.
10. Understanding How to Communicate Vividly and Vigorously
11. Communicating With Clarity and Cogency Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
12. Your Ideas Can Be Clearer and Crisper. I Can Help.

Addendum: And the winner is...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Which Headline Is Best?

1. Media Training 101
2. How to Master a Media Interview Without Really Trying
3. The 10 Top Tactics You Need to Grok Before Your Next Interview
4. The Top 10 Tactics You Need to Grok Before Your Next Big Interview
5. The Top 10 Tactics You Need to Master Before Your Next Interview
6. The 10 Most Important Tactics You Need to Know Before Speaking With a Reporter
7. The 10 Most Important Things You Need to Know Before Speaking With a Reporter
8. Media Training 101: The 10 Most Critical Ways to Spin You Need to Know Before Your Next Interview
9. 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks to Spin the Media
10. 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks to Spin the Press
11. To Ace Your Next Interview, Learn These 10 Tricks
12. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview
13. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview With a Reporter
14. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Media Interview
15. 10 Ways to Ace a Media Interview
16. Ignore Everything You Think You Know About Media Training: Here’s How to Ace Your Next Interview
17. Ignore Everything You Think You Know: Here’s How to Ace Your Next Media Interview
18. When Being Interviewed, Do the Opposite of What You’d Do in Life
19. When Being Interviewed, Do the Opposite of What You’d Normally Do
20. Do the Opposite of What You’d Do Ordinarily: 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks
21. Don’t Be Yourself: 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview With a Reporter
22. Don’t Be Yourself: 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Media Interview

Related: Which Headline Would You Click On?

Addendum: And the winner is...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why You Should Hire a Dedicated Writer for Your Website

A few talking points:

1. Anyone can throw a party. But we’ve all been to parties that are lousy, where there’s not enough food and the people are boring, and parties that are memorable, which you wish would never end. The same is true of writing: anyone can string together a sentence, but only a pro does it a way that resonates.

2. You hired professionals to design your website Why not spend a few extra dollars to hire pros to write your website — people who specialize in this stuff, who do it every day?

3. Here’s what happens when you let engineers write your website copy.

4. How to price copywriting? Do it as a package. $X for 10 pages, $Y for 20. Include two rounds of revisions per package. For higher budget campaigns, include interviews with key stakeholders.

5. Often, the principals are too close to the subject matter. This is another reason a consultant can be helpful — to bring a fresh, outside perspective.

Why CEOs Need Media Training

A cautionary tale from Dan Lyons’s must-read new book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. (“Spinner” is the nickname he gives to Hubspot’s PR person.)

In the first week of December Spinner sends around an email informing us that [Hubspot CEO, Brian] Halligan has been written up in an awesome new story in the New York Times. She wants us all to promote the article on our social feeds and drive some traffic to it. Spinner told me a few months ago that a Times journalist, Adam Bryant, had asked to interview Halligan for a feature called Corner Office. That column is usually a puff piece where a CEO gets asked some softball questions, but Spinner was nervous about it, because, as she put it, Halligan has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth and say stupid things when he gets in front of a reporter.

I offered to help Halligan prepare by conducting practice interviews with him. I’ve interviewed thousands of people, and the ones who do best are the ones who practice. Bryant wouldn’t ask any tough questions, but Halligan should have two or three points he wanted to make and not wander off them. Tech companies often to do interviews, but HubSpot already had me working in house, so why not take advantage of this?

I also offered to go to New York with Halligan and Spinner when he was doing the interview. I know Adam Bryant, and I figured it couldn’t hurt for Halligan to have a friendly connection tagging along. Spinner did not want my help. Perhaps she saw the interview as a feather in her cap and didn’t want to share the credit.

Spinner flew solo, Halligan got no media training, and now the article is out and Halligan, predictably, has blown it. The main point of the Halligan article is that Halligan loves to take naps. “Brian Halligan, Chief of HubSpot, on the Value of Naps,” is the headline. Halligan thinks naps are so important that he installed a nap room with a hammock at HubSpot. So far so good. Taking naps is the kind of oddball thing that Corner Office is looking for.

That’s the angle that got Halligan in the door. Now he has a chance to tell people—and by people, I mean investors—what HubSpot does. Most people have never heard of HubSpot. Even people who have heard of HubSpot sometimes think it is a marketing agency or a consulting firm.

Halligan should have a very simple brief: HubSpot is a cloud software company, selling marketing automation software and run by people from MIT. HubSpot is a leading player in a very hot market space, and the company is growing like crazy. That’s it. That’s all he needs to do. Talk about naps and plug the company.

But during the interview Halligan starts rambling and talking about how HubSpot likes to hire really young people. Maybe he sees the interview as a recruiting opportunity, a way to reach Millennials. If so, he’s wrong. The Times media kit says the median age of a Times subscriber is 50. According to the Pew Research Center, people under 30 make up only one-third of the paper’s audience. The college kids Halligan wants to hire get their news on Facebook and BuzzFeed. That’s where you go to talk about your fun-loving, youth-oriented culture.

Halligan tells the Times that HubSpot is trying to “build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers.” Yikes. I understand what he is trying to say, but he is getting a bit too close to saying that he would rather hire young people than old people, which is something you definitely don’t want to say in public, even if it’s true.

Still, if he leaves things there, he might be okay. I read on. Next, Halligan explains that young people make better employees, especially in the technology industry, where everything is changing so fast that older people just can’t keep up.

Then comes the money quote: “In the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated.”

Only an imbecile would say this. Halligan is essentially admitting that Hubspot discriminates on the basis of age. Age discrimination has become a huge issue in Silicon Valley. Halligan is not the only tech CEO who prefers to hire young people; he’s just the only one dumb enough to admit it. Halligan has not just put his foot in his mouth—he has taken his foot out of his mouth and stepped on a land mine.

I don’t know if Adam Bryant included these comments on purpose, knowing how incendiary they might be. Surely Halligan talked about all sorts of things in the interview, and Bryant cherry-picked which comments to publish. That’s why doing an interview is always risky. That’s also why CEOs need media training.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What if Men Could Menstruate?

In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments:

“Man, you lookin’ good!”

“Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”

Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not. Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function. In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.

The Fight to End Period Shaming Is Going Mainstream

Related: What if Men Could Get Pregnant?

Larry David Explains the Art of Apologizing

Somewhere between begrudging and sincere.”