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We’ll fix it with video!

Thursday, 28 April, 2016 0 Comments

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was…” So begins A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and while it would be bordering on the sacrilegious to compare the fates of Facebook and Twitter to the epochal events that took place in “the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five,” the rise and fall of the great (social media) powers is the stuff of which history will be made. The fact that the tumbrels are virtual these days, makes the digital revolution less gruesome, for which we should be grateful.

Yesterday, Facebook exceeded Wall Street forecasts on almost every critical metric. The social network made $5.38 billion during the first three months of this year and grew its base to 1.65 billion monthly users. Profit was 77 cents a share, which blew away the 63 cents analysts had been expecting, and the the stock jumped nine percent in after-hours trading. During his conference call with investors, CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted: “Today, people around the world spend more than 50 minutes a day using Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. That doesn’t even include WhatsApp yet.”

COO Sheryl Sandberg put her finger on Facebook’s success secret when she said the company is on a mission to help marketers adapt their ads for a mobile world — where messages must be shorter and often without sound. The auto-captioning feature, she added, has led people to spend 12 percent more time with an ad.

mobile video Contrast all this with Twitter, which has disappointed investors yet again with first-quarter results that showed stagnant revenue growth. Twitter, simply, doesn’t have the scale to compete with Facebook. It’s 320 million monthly users are no match for the 1.65 billion Facebook bring to the game. So, what’s the strategy? Twitter’s answer is the same that everyone else on the web has: We’ll fix it with video. That’s what Peter Kafka says in Twitter is going to have a hard time fixing its ad problem. Snippet:

“The company says it wants to convince its advertisers to upgrade their old text+photo Twitter ads with video ads, which sell at higher prices. This sounds like a good idea, but then again, it’s the same idea everyone else has — and Twitter’s already having trouble competing with everyone else.”

In Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved, Joshua Topolsky, co-founding editor of The Verge and recently head of digital at Bloomberg, pours a big bucket of water on the notion that video will fix it. “Video will not save your media business. Nor will bots, newsletters, a ‘morning briefing’ app, a ‘lean back’ iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter.”

To paraphrase Dickens, all these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year two thousand and sixteen.


Twitter @ 10: life with hashtags

Monday, 21 March, 2016 0 Comments

It’s Twitter’s 10th birthday today. The first tweet, sent on 21 March 2006 by CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey, then an NYU student, read: “just setting up my twttr.” Three years later, Twitter became the news when Janis Krums beat the pro snappers to the punch by tweeting a photo of US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River.

Twitter on the Hudson

If there’s a negative, it’s the amping up of public shaming, which has been well documented by Jon Ronson. PR manager Justine Sacco joked on Twitter: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The ensuing cyber tsunami of vilification was such that Sacco lost her job and became an object of hate. Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who shot Cecil the Lion, faced similar Twitter shaming.

The upside, however, is that everyone can share an opinion on Twitter, which has expanded and democratized global debate. Just look at the current US presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton has 5.7 million followers, Bernie Sanders has 1.75 million and people retweet the utterances of Donald Trump thousands of times:

With its platform, Twitter has become a go-to source for breaking news; with its minimalism, it’s a minor art form and with its reach, it has morphed into a powerful marketing tool. But there’s competition from visual formats like Instagram & Snapchat and the result is that Twitter is now worth $11.6 billion, down from $40 billion in 2013. Still, @twitter is 10 today and that’s cause for celebration. Happy Birthday! #LoveTwitter

Twitter @ 10


The fail whale is back

Tuesday, 19 January, 2016 0 Comments

Well, this is embarrassing. Twitter changed its technical-issue page optics from the infamous “fail whale” to a cute robot mechanic. But it’s not working, the robot. Generally, it’s a bad day for robots and humans.

Twitter down

Status: Twitter is up here, but it’s down here. In fact, it has lost almost $14 billion or more than 50 percent of its value in the last six months. Meanwhile, our robot future is looking rather grim.


Twitter’s third column

Friday, 9 May, 2014 0 Comments

As Twitter rolls out a new look that adds a third column for users accessing the service with a web browser the message is clear: your tweets are front and centre. The new, full-sized layout centralizes tweets and moves secondary information to the sides. The “Who to follow” widget has been moved from beneath the profile bio on the left to the right, where it sits above the Trends block.

Twitter

Language note: Ernest Hemingway included the word “column” in the title of his only play, which he wrote in Madrid while the city was being bombarded during the Spanish Civil War. It was published in 1938 as The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. It is said that Emilio Mola, a Nationalist General, told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a “fifth column” of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within. The term spread then beyond the borders of Spain and came to define any group of people who destabilize a larger group, such as a movement or nation from the inside.

Political note: In an address to Parliament on 18 March this year, Vladimir Putin “raised the spectre of ‘a fifth column’ — a ‘disparate bunch of national traitors’ — sowing discord inside Russia.”


The romance of social storytelling

Wednesday, 7 May, 2014 0 Comments

“When the Sheikh comes to town Determined to confront the father who abandoned her, Liyah accepts the position of chambermaid at his exclusive Chatsfield…” So begins the poorly-written and badly-edited blurb for Sheikh’s Scandal, one of eight “passionate, glamorous novels” in a fiction series set in The Chatsfield, “London’s most stylish — and scandalous — hotel!”

With its Chatsfield project, Mills & Boon, purveyor of escapist fiction for women since the 1930s, is moving from its traditional storytelling style using books to a social storytelling mode involving more than 800 pieces of digital content in different formats. As the series develops, the storylines will be advanced via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and readers will be able to follow the characters’ real-time social media postings, watch their video blogs, and check their emails.

Clearly, Rupert Murdoch has been watching Game of Thrones and now that his News Corp has acquired Harlequin, the parent of Mills & Boon, a new era of story and character development, in which reader interaction is critical for success, is at hand. For that is the essence of social storytelling — interaction.


This is ready to be tweeted

Tuesday, 6 May, 2014 0 Comments

The key to leading Europe into an era of growth is the digital economy, says Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP candidate for President of the European Commission. He’s right, of course, and his sense of humour, which mocks his analog activity, might even win him some extra votes. The charming pronunciation of “techie” as “tacky” is good, too.


#AmazonCart

Tuesday, 6 May, 2014 0 Comments

“No more switching apps, typing passwords, or trying to remember items you saw on Twitter,” says @amazon. Is this the long-heralded fusion of social media and ecommerce? From now on, if you see a tweet with an Amazon product link, you’ll be able to purchase it by retweeting it with the hashtag #amazoncart in the US and #amazonbasket in the UK. For many users, Twitter is a news and information stream, not a commerce stream, so this move might not get a rapturous welcome.


#nota notandi

Tuesday, 15 April, 2014 0 Comments

The Latin Letters Office in the Vatican Curia is said to be the only modern workplace where the language of Cicero is still the lingua franca. Part of the day job is tweeting. Since Pope Benedict XVI started the Pontifex Latin Twitter account in January last year, it has gained 235,000 followers and Chicago native Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, who’s tasked with keeping pontifical reflections within the 140-character limit, told USA Today of the challenges facing him when he has to turn this…

… into this …

Gallagher’s approach: “The word ‘taboo’ comes from a Tongan/Fijian word that means ‘forbidden, prohibited.’ The Romans had a similar, even stronger, concept in Latin with nefandae, which comes from nefas, which comes from ne-fari, which means ‘not to be mentioned.'”


The power of Twitter

Friday, 21 March, 2014 0 Comments

Background: France has a $1.7 billion deal to build a compact aircraft carrier for the Kremlin.

Foreground: Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, admits that while Paris cannot imagine delivering arms to Russia, there is the harsh reality of employment. With his tweet, he reassures Putin that he can humiliate Western Europe as much as he likes.

Background: Hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “wipe out Twitter” following a stream of tweets alleging corruption in his inner circle, Turkey blocked access to the social news site.

Foreground: Claire Berlinski is an American novelist, travel writer and freelance journalist. She read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford, and she lives in Istanbul amid a menagerie of adopted stray animals.


Kasparov checkmates Putin

Monday, 10 March, 2014 0 Comments

Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion and considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, is not just a passionate opponent of Vladimir Putin, he’s a multimedia opponent of Vladimir Putin. Along with using Twitter to rebuke the Russian leader on an hourly basis, he’s on TV, the radio and in the traditional press. “Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They’ll Dump Putin” is what he wrote on Friday in the Wall Street Journal. “Use banks, not tanks,” is his advice. Snippet:

Thanks to their unfettered access to Western markets, Mr. Putin and his gang have exploited Western engagement with Russia in a way that the Soviet Union’s leaders never dreamed of. But this also means that they are vulnerable in a way the Soviets were not. If the West punishes Russia with sanctions and a trade war, that might be effective eventually, but it would also be cruel to the 140 million Russians who live under Mr. Putin’s rule. And it would be unnecessary. Instead, sanction the 140 oligarchs who would dump Mr. Putin in the trash tomorrow if he cannot protect their assets abroad. Target their visas, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts and Swiss bank accounts. Use banks, not tanks.


Erdogan channels Assange and Morozov

Tuesday, 4 June, 2013 0 Comments

“Now we have a menace that is called Twitter. The best example of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” As protests engulf Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is blaming social media for the unrest. His targeting of Twitter, which has become a hub for activists and a major news source as Turkey’s mainstream media have downplayed the crisis, will be watched with interest by Evgeny Morozov, who has made a profession out of his cynicism for the popular notion that the internet can be an agent of regime change. In the internet-inimical Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which hosts a regular Morozov column, the Belarus-born author argues that the net is, in fact, a tool for mass surveillance and political repression.

Echoing Morozov’s fears, the alleged-rapist, Julian Assange, took to the New York Times at the weekend and declared, “The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism.” The notorious fugitive from justice was reviewing Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s book, The New Digital Age. He continued: “But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in ‘repressive autocracies’ in ‘targeting their citizens,’ they also say governments in ‘open’ democracies will see it as ‘a gift’ enabling them to ‘better respond to citizen and customer concerns.’ In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the ‘good’ societies closer to the ‘bad’ ones.”

When the dictatorial Erdoğan, the seedy Assange and the skeptical Morozov are on the same page, it’s time to count our digital spoons.

Twitter Istanbul