Well, What Now? 9/29/2014

3 min read

Facebook, Ello, Podcasts, and Bikes.

Media news this past week continued to be full of stories hinting at big changes in digital media. Recent months have seen spikes of concern over privacy and security, from the hoopla over Facebook’s Messenger app and its data-usage and access policies (which are largely those that Facebook has been using for some time) to the celebrity photo leaks on 4chan.

498px-2004-GayPrideBrazil-1Particularly well-placed to take advantage of the latest skittishness is Ello, a new, ad-free social-media hub that also promises not to mine your data for marketing purposes. Instead, it plans to support itself by selling features directly to users. Jessi Hempel, writing for Wired, thinks that strategy won’t raise enough money to maintain the site, should it attain the popularity of a major social network.

For The New Yorker, Vauhini Vara reports on what drag performers have to do with the site’s sudden wave of popularity: Ello (unlike Facebook) allows them to create profiles without using their real names. Some of those featured, like Lil Miss Hot Mess (not her real name), have already raised concerns about the lack of privacy controls on the site. Paul Budnitz, Ello’s founder, has promised to address those worries, but given the start-up nature of the enterprise, he was uncertain about how long it would take to implement them.

Increasingly, advertisers have to pay to reach their audience on social media, which means more businesses are relying on their own websites or microsites for consumer engagement. If you’re spending the money to attract customers, you may as well be able to control the experience, as well as own all the data. Social media still has a role to play in driving traffic, but is no longer an end in itself.

320px-IPod_second_generation-2007-07-29Backlash and deprecation aside, it’s hard to argue with results. Take the success that Facebook offers when it comes to retargeting, in which advertisers identify consumer interest and follow them, via display ads, as they visit other sites. Though Bruce Kasanoff, in Forbes, calls it “the advertising strategy for idiots,” it’s a strategy that seems to be working, especially on mobile platforms.

But if social media still seems a bit too toxic right now, you might consider the old-fashioned (so 2009!) podcast. They’re undergoing a resurgence at the moment, thanks to improvements in technology and the increasing appeal of the on-demand experience. They’re also making money this time around and can be an effective way for advertisers to reach a captive listening audience.

6189399550_15df0a6c5d_zSometimes the challenge is not so much how to reach an audience, but how to expand the one you’ve already got. We recently wrote about the new bike share program, and we truly are huge fans not only of the concept, but also of its implementation, which has resulted in widespread usage over its first six months. At the same time, we’re mindful of the challenges ahead. A recent article in The Atlantic, on expanding bike share usage beyond middle-class white communities, is a timely reminder of the need to pair innovation with outreach.

Gay pride Brazil photo by Rose Brasil (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

File%3A2004-GayPrideBrazil-1.jpeg) via Wikimedia Commons.

iPod photo by http://flickr.com/people/fhke/
wiki/File%3AIPod_second_generation-2007-07-29.jpg) via Wikimedia Commons.

Bikeshare photo by NYCDOT (https://flic.kr/p/aqWhRm) vika Flickr Creative Commons.