Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Editors Matter

“Civilians, people who don’t think the toppling of a sitting American president with newspaper articles is one of humankind’s lasting achievements, will read encomiums to Ben Bradlee like this one and wonder: what’s the big deal?

“After all, he didn’t cover the Watergate story for his Washington Post, he picked the reporters. It’s not as if he wrote the articles, he edited them. But journalists are people who will go where they are pointed, and Mr. Bradlee generally pointed to important, consequential subjects. People who worked for him went through walls to bring back those stories, some of which revealed the true course of American history and some of which altered it.

David Carr

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Secret That Great Marketers Know That You Don’t

“Great marketers know a secret that most businesspeople don’t. I’m going to share it with you now: you can go from losing money to making a fortune just by changing a few words.

“What words are those? The first words… in any letter, ad or webpage. The words that make up the headline.

David Garfinkel

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do You Work in Social Media? Then Here’s the Perfect Description of Your Job

“However we can infiltrate people’s habits, or think about different ways of delivery, discovery, optimization, packaging, or just reader engagement, we want to do it and we want to try it.”

Callie Schweitzer


How the Downworthy plug-in works:

For example:

Monday, October 20, 2014

If You’re Not Geotargeting Your Ads, You’re Not Doing It Right

Check out the leftmost ad that Business Insider is running, via Outbrain, on DCist:

Because I visited DCist from the office, the headline astutely mentions my location (“In D.C.”).

Now behold what happens when I click on the ad:

The reference to “D.C.” is gone, which allows the editors room to flush out the full—and irresistible—headline (“This Hoodie Is So Insanely Popular You Have to Wait Months to Get It”).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Happens to Some Kids When They Go to Work in This Famous Industry Is Awful

“Headlines like this one are meticulously, artfully designed. Of course you want to click, because you need to know: What’s the industry? What happens to the kids? The intrigue is the reason these stories have become so insanely popular.”

Upworthy Headlines Are Spreading. What Happens Next Will Be Interesting

Friday, October 17, 2014

Which Headline Would You Click On?

1. How to Master the Timeless Art of Headline Writing
2. How to Master the Art of Headline Writing
3. The Art and Science of Writing an Irresistible Headline
4. How to Write the Perfect Headline Every Time
5. The Art of the Perfect Headline
6. Headlines and Headings: How to Write for the Web
7. How to Write for the Web
8. The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Make Your Content Go Viral
9. A Headline Is Worth a Thousand Words
10. How to Make Your Mundane Content Magnificent
11. REVEALED: Every Trick in the Book to Write a Magnetic Headline
12. 9 Secrets That Will Make Your Headline Go Viral
13. The Secret to Making Seemingly Unsexy Subjects Go Viral
14. The Closest Thing We Writers Have to a Silver Bullet
15. The Surefire Way to Make Anything Go Viral
16. 2 Tactics That You’re Neglecting That Will Turbocharge Your Web Writing

Leave your top choice in the comments section below.

Addendum (10/22/2014): The preliminary results, via Outbrain:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Political Fundraising Emails Represent What’s Wrong With Politics Today

“The idea is to make the email seem personal, which is what makes the deception so pernicious. The greasy-smocked minion who cooks up these things tries to slip them past not just your spam filters, but your internal filters. The Obama campaign’s online fundraising team spent hours crafting subject lines to make sure you clicked on them. They ruined our lives by coming up with one that simply reads ‘Hey,’ which was tremendously successful. ‘Hey’ tricks unsuspecting and dimwitted people like me into thinking the note is from a person I actually want to hear from. Email is still a private space where you sometimes get a notice from your kid’s teacher or an encouraging word from your wife. You’re susceptible to a play on that weakness in your defenses. When you discover you’ve been duped, the anger burns with no prospect of cooling ointment. . . .

“Of course it’s hard to know where to register your complaint. You can try to respond to the sender of these emails, but you’ll only get a note saying that account doesn’t take incoming messages. They’re not listening, another way in which these emails mirror our politicians.

John Dickerson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why You Should Respond to Your Emails Promptly

Perhaps the only noncliched tip from the Google guys:

“There are people who can be relied upon to respond promptly to emails, and those who can’t. Strive to be one of the former.

“Most of the best—and busiest—people we know act quickly on their emails, not just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone. Being responsive sets up a positive communications feedback loop whereby your team and colleagues will be more likely to include you in important discussions and decisions, and being responsive to everyone reinforces the flat, meritocratic culture you are trying to establish.

“These responses can be quite short—‘got it’ is a favorite of ours. And when you are confident in your ability to respond quickly, you can tell people exactly what a nonresponse means. In our case it’s usually ‘got it and proceed.’ Which is better than what a nonresponse means from most people: ‘I’m overwhelmed and don’t know when or if I’ll get to your note, so if you needed my feedback you’ll just have to wait in limbo a while longer. Plus I don’t like you.’

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How You Can Give Your App Away for Free and Still Make Money

Marco explains:

“It’s very difficult to reach most iOS users with a paid-up-front app, and the biggest podcast apps by far—Apple’s Podcasts and Stitcher—are both free. When I ask most people which podcast app they use, they overwhelmingly say one of those ‘because it was free.’

“I want to offer a better alternative for the mass market, so it must be free. I’d rather have people using my app than one of its free competitors even if they don’t pay a dime. As long as I can keep the lights on with enough paying customers, this helps everyone:

  • If they like Overcast better than they would have liked the other free ones, and they listen to more podcasts as a result, that’s a win for them and the podcasters they listen to.
  • Overcast’s social features will work better with more input, so more people find new podcasts and it’s easier for smaller shows to find audiences.
  • Overcast spreads to more people, and some of them will pay.

“I also want to prove that free doesn’t need to require creepy or manipulative ways to make money. I think, and hope, that my model will work.

Be Honest, Washingtonians: You’ve Done This Before, Right?

“You have no doubt heard of Over-the-Shoulder Orbital Reconnaissance, whereby in any public social setting the federal Washingtonian has one eye focused on the important person in whose orbit he is revolving, and the other scanning the azimuth, in case a person with higher gravitational pull has entered the room. When such a thing occurs, an entire hierarchy of maneuvers is deployed to diplomatically achieve escape velocity and jump orbit. (Ex.: Drain drink, look thirstily around.)”

D.C. Isn’t the Second-Snobbiest City in America; It’s the Snobbiest

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Should You Make Your Email Address Public?

Another data breach, another exposure of your email address. So it goes these days.

Maggie McGary’s reaction was typical:

Simon Owens offered up a different view:

Others who list their email address in their Twitter bio, as Simon does, include Dave Weigel, Melody Kramer, and the staff of the top tech blog, TechCrunch.

And now me. Good advice, Simon.

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Wikipedia Consultant

1. What is your approach to disclosure of your work on Wikipedia? If a consultant suggests that they will not disclose their connection to you on Wikipedia, or recommends that you do not declare a conflict of interest, this is a major red flag. Nondisclosure is a violation of Wikipedia’s Terms of Use, and an NDA will not be seen as a legitimate justification.

2. What kind of timeline can I expect? Fixing just one section may take a few weeks; proposing substantial changes to an article, or creating an entirely new entry, can take months. There are two reasons for this. First, your consultant should research the topic themselves so they can be confident that any proposed edits are aligned with the goals of Wikipedia. Second, your consultant should be working through Wikipedia’s community, almost all of whom are volunteers with limited time to help. Be wary of anyone who promises a quick turnaround.

3. Are you an active contributor to Wikipedia yourself? It’s a good idea to ask the specialist whether they are a member of the Wikipedia community outside of any paid consulting they may do. Chances are very good that someone who edits Wikipedia on their own time will supply you with better advice. Ask them to provide you with their username so you can review their profile.

4. Can you provide references to previous clients who have been satisfied with your work? As in any specialist field, ask to speak with previous clients to confirm that your consultant actually does what they say. Ask to see the Wikipedia article(s) they worked on, and do your own due diligence: look at the article’s talk page to see if there is evidence they discussed changes with volunteer editors. Have there been substantial changes to their work since completion? If there have been disagreements over content, how were they resolved?

5. Can you help me [do something this manual tells you is contrary to Wikipedia’s rules]? Don’t be afraid to play a little dumb, and ask a question that you know the answer to should be “no.” If the specialist advises why not to do this, and offers another solution instead, you can be more confident you are hiring someone with a solid understanding and ethical stance regarding Wikipedia.

Wikipedia and the Communications Professional: A Manual

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Your Homepage Should Be Different for Different People

Most companies have one homepage, which they show to every visitor, regardless of his purchasing power. This simplifies things, but it also leaves opportunity on the table. What’s persuasive to the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm will not resonate with your local pizzeria.

Here’s HubSpot default homepage. It displays three different case studies, from three different-size companies:

If, however, HubSpot identifies a visitor as coming from an enterprise-size company, it displays the logos and case studies of its biggest clients:

The result of this personalization: a 42% jump in clicks on HubSpot’s calls to action.

How Do You Convince the Corner Office to Embrace BuzzFeed?

Ask your boss if he has teenage kids. If so, ask him to text them and ask if they’ve heard of BuzzFeed.

As Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed’s former COO, recalls, this trick has an almost 100% success rate—there’s nothing parents want more than to seem cool to their kids.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This American Ambassador Needed 4 People to Help Him Tweet

William A. Rugh, a former United States ambassador to both Yemen and to the United Arab Emirates, recounts that one American ambassador in an Asian capital had a popular Twitter account but needed four people to help him: one to clear content (which means delays), two to prepare the English and local-language versions of Twitter posts, and another as webmaster.

Digital War Takes Shape on Websites Over ISIS

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

These 5 Star Journalists Were All Rejected for Jobs They Applied For

Jodi Kantor relays five stories from her colleagues at the New York Times, which every job-seeker can empathize with:

1. When David Kocieniewski, a business reporter, was a high school senior, he received a hat trick of thin envelopes from Harvard, Princeton and Brown. He attended SUNY Binghamton instead. Two Pulitzers later, he is teaching a college course—at Princeton.

2. Adam Nagourney was rejected from the Columbia Journalism School. He is now the Times’s Los Angeles bureau chief, after decades of political reporting.

3. When op-ed columnist Frank Bruni tried to get a start in journalism, he was interviewed or asked for writing tests by the Arizona Daily Star, the Los Angeles Daily News, and the Los Angeles Times, none of which offered him a job. Five years later, while working for the Detroit Free Press, he said, “The Chicago Tribune flew me in, put me through a veritable 12 hours of meetings and interviews and writing tests, and two decades later, I’m still waiting for any word. Maybe I should go check today’s mail. Maybe it finally came.”

4. Amy Chozick was rejected from every women’s magazine job she applied for when she moved to New York after college. “An editor at Allure said she didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t in a sorority,” she said. “A Condé Nast Traveler editor told me she wanted an editorial assistant who went to Harvard.” Chozick now covers Hillary Clinton.

5. In 1984, a Times editor told Walt Bogdanich that he lacked the “intellectual depth” or “ability to write about the subtleties of a complex issue” to work at the paper. Bogdanich has since won three Pulitzer Prizes.

If You Have a Ton of Fans, Your Videos May Perform Better on Facebook Than on YouTube

In the first four hours, Facebook users watched the above video 2.4 million times. On YouTube, the four-minute clip garnered just a few thousand views during that time.

Hmm. Isn’t YouTube the go-to social network for video? Maybe not. The Times explains:

“Many of Beyoncé’s 64 million Facebook fans spotted the video in their news feeds and shared it with their friends. People who saw it on YouTube did not have such an easy way to spread their enthusiasm.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Miserable Life of a Job-Seeking Professor

“Applying for an academic job is not just sending in a cover letter and résumé. Here’s what the single most sought-after job in my own discipline, German studies, is currently asking: ‘Letter of application, updated curriculum vitae, three letters of recommendation, teaching statement, research statement, and one writing sample (maximum of 25 pages).’ That ‘letter of application,’ by the way, is no one-paragraph me want job now email. It’s a two- to three-page essay, specifically tailored to that position and worried over for days.

“Sure, OK, that’s a lot of work, but this would be manageable—if every job required the same dossier. But they don’t. Every search committee wants something different (and often special), whether it’s made-up course syllabi, or lesson plans, or a DVD of your teaching, or an official undergraduate transcript. (Oh, and everyone’s deadline is different, too.) Going on the market, especially for the first time, can easily suck up weeks—effectively a second unpaid job your cousin is doing while teaching a full course load or finishing a dissertation.

“So after your cousin has assembled his dossiers, and submitted them, and followed up with his overtaxed recommenders, he waits until December, when interview requests start trickling in—or don’t. Because of the sheer number of candidates applying for precious tenure-track jobs, a common reaction to the receipt of one of these meticulously crafted (and expensively mailed) 40-page dossiers is a deafening silence; most candidates learn they will not be interviewed by checking crowdsourced discipline wikis, aka the corner of the Internet where dreams go to die ...

“But even this would be fine, if these angst-producing interviews (often conducted at conferences attended at the candidate’s own expense) meant you had a real shot at that job—but they’re actually the first round; your cousin’s still up against 24 other candidates. He won’t know if he’s a finalist until late winter, when he is (or, more likely, isn’t) flown out for a merciless three-day gauntlet of on-campus meetings. If he beats all the odds and gets that precious offer at Southwestern Prairie Technical College, his cycle ends, mercifully, in March. If he doesn’t, then he’s off to the ‘secondary market,’ a rolling collection of ads for one- and two-year “visiting” positions. Visiting from where? you might ask. From nowhere.

“So, even though your cousin has been actively seeking employ for almost a year, he often won’t secure something until a week or two before fall classes start—a “visiting” gig if he’s lucky (although this might mean moving away from his spouse), or adjuncting penuriously in the town where he already lives. He’s got about three weeks to be relieved he won’t starve, until the next year’s meager job list comes out.

Rebecca Schuman

Monday, September 29, 2014

So This Is What CRM Software Does

“Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur who wants to sell into General Electric. Well, a host of Andreessen Horowitz (A.H.) relationship managers can type ‘General Electric’ into the system and presto: You see dozens of contacts within the A.H. ecosystem working at G.E., including Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. The software also specifies who from A.H. is the primary relationship owner, and when the last contact was made. All interactions get tracked, even emails, so that anyone at A.H. can review the relationship history. And, the large and growing team only increases the power of the ecosystem as they contribute to it.”

How Andreessen Horowitz Is Disrupting Silicon Valley