Monday, September 22, 2014

The New Bylines at the New Yorker and Washington Post

I’m a big fan of bylines. So it was energizing to see that the New Yorker and the Washington Post have recently incorporated these marketing tactics into their website templates. In a sentence or two, articles by staffers now give the reader a glimpse of who the author is, thus humanzing the publication.

To be sure, Slate has always bylined each article; Vanity Fair, in its print magazine, runs a blurb about each author; and most publications acknowledge guest contributors. To my knowledge, however, the below two outlets are blazing the bylined way in the mainstream media.

A few examples:

The New Yorker

● Lauren Collins began working at The New Yorker in 2003 and became a staff writer in 2008.

● John McPhee began contributing to The New Yorker in 1963.

● Anthony Lane has been a film critic for The New Yorker since 1993.

● Steve Coll, a staff writer, is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and reports on issues of intelligence and national security in the United States and abroad.

● Roger Angell, a senior editor and a staff writer, has contributed to The New Yorker since 1944, and became a fiction editor in 1956.

The Washington Post

● Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

● Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.

● Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cellphone.

● Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.

● Manuel Roig-Franzia is a writer in The Washington Post’s Style section. His long-form articles span a broad range of subjects, including politics, power and the culture of Washington, as well as profiling major political figures and authors.

● Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Secret to a Superb User Experience

“The point of the navigation bar is not to reflect the structure of your newsroom—it’s to ... engage with people ... [Ask yourself which you care about more:] serving readers ... [or] trying to map [y]our internal structure onto [y]our website?”

Ben Smith

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nothing in This World Can Take the Place of Persistence

More than 40 VC firms turned Thumbtack down until Javelin Venture Partners led a $4.5 million round in early 2012. “We were about to let everyone go,” recalls co-founder Jonathan Swanson.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why BuzzFeed Doesn’t Care if You Never Click on Its Ads

“Its massive traffic numbers notwithstanding, BuzzFeed is not actually in the traffic business, and describing it as a ‘web traffic sensation’ rather misses the whole point of the company. While a company like Business Insider makes money by selling inventory to advertisers, BuzzFeed doesn’t: you won’t see any ads on a BuzzFeed story page. If you feel a little bit disappointed after clicking through to a Business Insider story, at least the company has sold your visit to a client. But if you feel a little bit disappointed after clicking through to a BuzzFeed story, BuzzFeed gets no benefit at all. The people at BuzzFeed want their stories and quizzes and videos to ideally reach everybody who will love them — and no one else.

“Similarly, while BuzzFeed did feature a lot of lists early on, what it’s really good at is not making lists so much as it is placing its finger on the pulse of what people really like to consume on the Internet right now — and creating the products they’re going to love to consume on the Internet tomorrow. Once upon a time, BuzzFeed realized that if you took a slideshow and turned it into a single page with numbered pictures, that would be an improvement. But the perfection of the listicle was just a symptom of what BuzzFeed does—as was, a few years later, the perfection of the quiz format.


Related: How BuzzFeed Generates $20 Million a Year Without a Single Banner Ad

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 6 Principles of Media Training


How do we find the essential core of our ideas? A successful defense lawyer says, “If you argue 10 points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won’t remember any.” To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission—sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.


How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive. We can use surprise—an emotion whose function is to increase alertness and cause focus—to grab people’s attention. But surprise doesn’t last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. How do you keep students engaged during the 48th history class of the year? We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge—and then filling those gaps.


How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visions—they are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images, because our brains are wired to remember concrete data. In proverbs, abstract truths are often encoded in concrete language: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.


How do we make people believe our ideas? When the former surgeon general C. Everett Koop talks about a public-health issue, most people accept his ideas without skepticism. But in most day-to-day situations we don’t enjoy this authority. Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves—a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas. When we’re trying to build a case for something, most of us instinctively grasp for hard numbers. But in many cases this is exactly the wrong approach. In the sole presidential debate in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan could have cited innumerable statistics demonstrating the sluggishness of the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to test for themselves: “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.”


How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something. Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable gift to a single needy individual than to an entire impoverished region. We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions. Sometimes the hard part is finding the right emotion to harness. For instance, it’s difficult to get teenagers to quit smoking by instilling in them a fear of the consequences, but it’s easier to get them to quit by tapping into their resentment of the duplicity of Big Tobacco.


How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experience; after years of hearing stories, they have a richer, more complete mental catalog of critical situations they might confront during a fire and the appropriate responses to those situations. Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.

—Adapted from Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

BuzzFeed, Off BuzzFeed

Your dream job?

BuzzFeed “will launch a new distributed division creating ‘BuzzFeed, Off BuzzFeed’ led by Summer Anne Burton that will scale BuzzFeed’s deep understanding of the social web and why people share across other platforms. Burton will build a team of 20 staffers who will make original content solely for platforms like Tumblr, Imgur, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, and messaging apps.”

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Why Today’s Politicians Make Tomorrow’s Perfect Lobbyists

“Let’s look at Cantor’s résumé. Let’s look at all his investment-banking experience. Let’s look at his capital-markets experience. He has none. He has no experience or skills that would qualify him to be even an intern at a fifth-tier firm in the financial industry. I mean, come on! I love the spin. They’re pushing back this morning. They’re saying, 'This is really different! This isn’t like everybody else' ...

“They’re guaranteeing him $3.8 million. You don’t guarantee someone $3.8 million because you’re training him to be an investment banker.

“Wall Street is after what it’s always buying in Washington: access, influence, and unfair advantage. And Cantor is a big catch for anybody who wants access. Look, if you’re in congressional leadership for X number of years, you know plenty that’s worth a lot of money. If you’re the majority leader, who’s in charge of the agenda and vote counting? One of your jobs is to make sure you’re doling out favors to people. There are dozens and dozens of House members indebted to Eric Cantor for the things he’s done for them. You’re worth a lot.

“In addition, Eric Cantor knows why some things got done and other things didn’t get done. He knows why someone voted for or against a bill or amendment. He knows how to strategically target everybody in the House on the issues that anybody cares about in a way that’s close to unique. He’s not going to crudely do it in a way that puts the scarlet-L lobbyist on his lapel. He and the rest of the influence peddlers at the highest level of government work the shadows and do indirectly what the law prohibits them from doing directly.

Dennis Kelleher

Friday, September 5, 2014

Every Longtime Blogger Will Empathize With This Sentiment

“I can write something that took me six hours to craft and put my heart and soul into, and hardly anybody will read it. And then I can put a picture of George Clooney with a quote on it that’s kind of badass, and the thing will go through the roof.”

Chez Pazienza

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why You Shouldn’t Put All Your Eggs in Google’s Basket

“Over its entire history Google has repeatedly demonstrated that nothing it creates is sacred or immortal. The list of Google products and services that were introduced only to be unceremoniously discontinued later would fill a small phone book.

“The primary reason behind this shuffle of products is Google’s unswerving commitment to testing. Every product, and every change or innovation within each product, is constantly tested and evaluated. Anything that the data show as not meeting Google’s goals, not having sufficient user adoption, or not providing significant user value, will get the axe.

Eric Enge

How Many Clicks the First Result on Google Gets vs. the 10th Result

Fact: there's an 80% difference between the number of people who click on the first result Google returns and the 10th result. Here's a breakdown, via Social Media Today:


Monday, September 1, 2014

How Apple and the New York Times Compile Their Media Lists


The New York Times

Teach, Don’t Sell

A Corporate Executive Board survey of more than 1,000 IT leaders found that people who teach and provide insights were perceived as far more valuable than people pushing a new product or service. Stop leading with your services, and lead to your services.

Ronan Keane

RelatedIs Your Website Primarily a Sales Tool or a Marketing Tool?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where on Your Website Can People Sign-up for Your E-newsletter?

Just look at the prime screen real estate email subscription forms are given at top-tier blogs like Mashable, the Verge, and TechCrunch. Upworthy—the most social media native publication to date—goes so far as to put a huge sign-up form below the first paragraph of every story:

Upworthy e-mail sign-up form

Klint Finley

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why the Car Industry Is Ripe for Disruption

“The numbers are damning. After housing, cars are the second-most-expensive goods most Americans buy. Yet most of us buy vehicles just to park them; on average, cars are moving during just 5% of their lives. When we do drive our cars, we often do so alone. Worse, most of the energy in our gas tanks is being wasted by the inefficient internal combustion engine.

“Then there are the roads, which consume vast stretches of land to accommodate very few cars. A freeway reaches capacity at around 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour, when only about 10% of its physical space is covered in cars. Add more vehicles than that and you get traffic jams, because humans aren’t very good at coordinating into fleets at close distances.

“The final cost of our cars can be calculated in lives and injuries. Automobile accidents are the No. 9 cause of death around the world. In the United States, car accidents kill about 33,000 people every year and cost society at least $300 billion a year.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Which Headline Do You Like Best?

1. Why Every Website Needs a Wordsmith
2. There's a Nudge for That: Why Even the Most Boring Functions on Your Website Should Use Conversational Language
3. Does Your Website Suffer From a Writerly Deficit?
4. This Is What Happens When an Engineer Writes Your Website Copy
5. How to Transform Your Website's Necessary Evils Into Opportunities
6. How Semantic Nudges Can Perfect Your Website
7. Sweat the Small Stuff: How Semantic Nudges Can Enrich Your Website
8. What Do Your Website's Errors Say About Your Brand?
9. A Few Good Words: How Semantics Can Humanize Your Website
10. This Is Why Your Website's Calls to Action Demand a Writer

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Ace an Interview

Which Headline Do You Like Best?

1. Does Your Personality Matter More Than Your Proficiency?
2. Personality vs. Proficiency: Which Matters More in Winning Clients?
3. Which Matters More: Your Aptitude or Your Attitude?
4. 6 Ways to Wow and Woo a Prospective Client
5. The 6 Principles of Salesmanship That Will Win the Client Every Time
6. How to Turn Off a Prospective Client With Your Introductory Email
7. 6 Things You Need to Know Before Sending Your Pitch
8. Steve Jobs Was Right: You Should Never Lower Your Hiring Standards
9. Why You Should Never Lower Your Hiring Standards
10. How to Lose a Client Before You’ve Even Met Them

Addendum: If you guessed #8, you were right!