Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 29, 2015 8:09 AM

What Communications Should Do

Episode #490 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

It's hard not be impressed with the work and thinking of Josh Bernoff. For over twenty years, Josh was a key player at Forrester Research, where he wrote about, edited papers and studied companies involved in the future of technology. His work there was a key destination to better understand the players, what they were doing, and how this would affect business. His work for hugely important... and continues to be. At Forrester, Josh co-authored the famed business bestseller, Groundswell, with Charlene Li (as well as co-authoring the books, The Mobile Mindshift and Empowered). Now, he's blogging with a frenetic and awesome pace over at Without Bullshit (and working on the book, Writing Without Bullshit, which will be in stores next year. His main idea? Communicate smarter and better... without the BS. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast #490.

By Mitch Joel


November 28, 2015 7:35 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #284

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another: 

  • The Four Horsemen of Gentrification - Timothy McSweeney's. "Read this one while you're sipping single-tree coffee in your uncomfortable corduroys. So tight, it pinches a bit... maybe that's just my snark talking." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Who Knows What About Me? A Survey of Behind the Scenes Personal Data Sharing to Third Parties by Mobile Apps - Jots. "Tinfoil hat time. In this test of 110 popular apps, 73% shared personal data, many without OS approval. Plenty of good data to keep you up at night; but we already knew you didn't sleep enough." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • What Can A Technologist Do About Climate Change? - Worry Dream. "With the Paris Climate talks imminent, Obama's end-of-term enthusiasm for getting controversial stuff done that he couldn't get done for the past 7 years; with Canada's new climate-friendly Prime Minister; with Australia's new (at least formerly) climate friendly PM, we may now be closer to real action than we have been in long while. Still, it's hard not to despair a little at the scale of the problem. Here is Bret Victor (the designer of the prototypes for the iPad, and collaborator with Al Gore on his climate book, Our Choice), outlining what we - in the tech community - can start doing to deal about climate change, what he calls (and I would agree) 'the problem of our time'." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Finland's depression is the final indictment of Europe's monetary union - The Telegraph. "This is fascinating stuff, which shows pretty clearly some major problems at the heart of the European project, and particularly the European Monetary Union. The narrative in the media, politicians and 'policy experts' about Greece was something like this: Greeks are lazy, they don't pay taxes, they are fiscally irresponsible and spend too much on social programs, etc. And the solution, prescribed on pain of death by their creditors was: raise taxes, cut government spending and sell off state assets. The results were a catastrophe (25% drop in GDP), but no matter... the good doctors prescribed more. But, there was always the sense that the 'Greeks brought this on themselves.' Well, if you wanted to find a model of a good modern economy, then Finland would be it: they have the highest education scores in the world, the most productive economy, low debt levels, and their government is a model of fiscal prudence. And yet, since 2008 their GDP has collapsed, losing 6.5%. Now, the two things that happened to Finland during this time: oil prices crashed, and Nokia (a major economic powerhouse), also has gone into a nosedive. But their GDP has just been blasted. There is a usual solution for these kinds of problems, you let your currency slide down. This makes your products relatively cheaper on international markets, and makes international sales more valuable when other currencies come in. Note, Finland's case is eerily like Canada's: oil price tanks coupled with the destruction of Blackberry as a major force. Canada's currency has dropped 30% compared to the USD, which makes our economy more competitive. Our economy hasn't been lighting the world on fire for growth, but we've seen nothing like the contraction Finland has seen. Finland, tied to the Euro, don't have a currency whose exchange rate can drop to their advantage. So, they are in trouble. And so, it would seem, is the Euro." (Hugh for Mitch).    
  • How Pressbooks Public Will Help Self-Pub Authors Get E-Books into Libraries - Mediashift. "Our fellow link exchange buddy, Hugh McGuire, gets the spotlight in this article about his company, Pressbooks. In this article, Hugh is described as a 'change leader.' And, it's all true. He's doing some amazing work that deserves more attention and recognition. How do you get indie and self-published authors' ebooks into libraries? Well, read on. Oh, and it's not just about libraries, but the future of publishing..." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • The Secret Power of 'Read It Later' Apps - Forte Labs. "Reading is everything. The problem is, of course, the quality of what we read, and our ability to retain and implement that information. This is where my concern lies. This is why, I do my very best to spend time with words. Lots of words. Not the Twitter tweets, but books... and long form content. So, where does all of this digital reading happen? For me, it happens with Pocket. Without a doubt, the one app that I can't live without. So, just what is the secret power of these 'read it later' apps? For me, they are the secret to success. Not joking." (Mitch for Hugh).

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


November 27, 201511:17 PM

Apps Are Media

This might take some time for brands to wrap their heads around.

"Content is media." This may feel like a turn of phrase, at this point. We have seen such a proliferation of content that the vast majority of brand created (and brand sponsored) content isn't much more that an ad vaguely disguised as content (a wolf in sheep's clothing, as it were). But, when I started writing about this idea that content is media (around 2004), it was taken with a massive dose of skepticism. Many industry luminaries thought it was way off. Advertising was paid placement, while content was the stuff that had to be earned. Their reasoning was quite simple: blogging is a powerful publishing platform, but most brands won't take to it, and the value may not be there in a world of GRPs and massive paid advertising channels. Social media changed a lot of things. The early days (and success) of Facebook - as it broke free from the college crowd - was a massive indicator of what was to come for brands, building direct relationships with consumers, and the power of creating something more than a call-to-action in a space where real people were building real connections. While Facebook's revenue from brands proved staggeringly impressive, it came at a cost. Facebook would no longer allow brands to connect with everyone who liked a brand page, they would now make brands pay to reach them. The logic (simplified) was two-fold:

  1. Facebook could turn a much more impressive profit (good for Facebook). 
  2. Brands may spend more time thinking about what they're creating, instead of flooding the feeds with nonsense that might turn of people from the platform (good for users). 

As a business, Facebook made a shrewd move, and a profitable one. It also further validated that content is media.

Now, this is commonplace. Native advertising, brands building their own YouTube channels, and more. Content is media. With that, advertising still thrives. There is a new duality to marketing that brands are still adjusting to. It's amazing to see brands create a compelling piece of video content, post it to YouTube and then allocate advertising dollars to that video, in the hopes that consumers will see it, and then shop the brand. If you think about that for a second, it's staggering. Brands have - literally - added in a very complex and costly media component to an otherwise simple advertising structure. They're doing so much more than "watch this ad, remember us, and buy our stuff." 

Why apps are the new media.

There is no denying that mobile devices have become the consumer's primary screen (as the PC has been relegated to an accessory device). We have all seen the stats on mobile traffic, mobile advertising, and where consumer's time is now spent. The hottest platforms now (Snapchat, Instagram, etc...) are all mobile-first (meaning, the experience is fundamentally better on a mobile device than on the Web browser). Plus, these hottest platforms of the day were developed for mobile first (another huge, fascinating and powerful change). Marketing is a game of real estate (a topic I dug deep into while writing my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, which was published in 2013). So, where is the real estate now? The home screen of our smartphones and tablets. For consumers, it's becoming less about search and social media and much more about their apps. Especially the messaging apps (more on that here: The Many Ways Of WeChat: How Messaging Is Eating The World). Messaging apps are going to shift the attention away from social media, as apps within these apps will thrive (think about being able to grab an Uber or buy on Amazon in your messaging app). With that, brands are going to have to get better at creating engaging and utilitarian programs that thrive in a world where apps dominate over the Web browser, a search box and social media.

Brands are (not yet) up for this challenge.

Consumers have shifted. The "buy button" continues to be uncoupled from e-commerce sites, and is becoming embedded into everything from social media to messaging apps. Brands are still fumbling through responsive design initiatives, instead of building that mobile-first infrastructure, while everyone grapples to understand what advertising should really be on these smartphone and tablet screens (hint: display advertising is not the answer). So... and once again... here we are. Brands are faced with this challenge. One, where content is not just media, but the app is media as well. A huge opportunity has unfolded for brands.

Now, I am left wondering if you have any examples of brands who are getting this... and pushing things forward?

By Mitch Joel


November 26, 201511:00 PM

Why The Newspaper Business?

There was some news in the media about my future yesterday.

Let me start off with this: I am not leaving Mirum (formerly Twist Image). I will not be putting less time into Mirum (in fact, I've been working harder and harder at it). I will not stop blogging, podcasting, speaking, writing books, and publishing articles. I won't even slow down the sarcasm on Twitter or Facebook. I will (hopefully) be adding in another - very important - responsibility to my professional portfolio (pending shareholder approval). It's a big one. It's a big change for me. It's something that requires attention. I have been nominated to become a board member for Postmedia.

What is Postmedia?

It's a large media and publishing company that owns The National Post and many local newspapers (Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and others), they also recently acquired Sun Media, and have their hands in many others businesses in the media, publishing and technology space (200 brands). It's a big and powerful media company, here in Canada. And - as you can see by a simple Google search - has a fair amount of challenges (and opportunities). if you've been following my work for any semblance of time, you know why this is so important to me. I started off in journalism, I published magazines, I have written and contributed to many publications over the past two decades and - ultimately - I believe in the importance of these news institutions, and how they serve the public, while still being pragmatic that they are a business and responsible for both returning revenues and innovating, as the customer has so many more media outlets to choose from.

Change is hard. Change is possible.

This won't be an easy task. My main role (should I get nominated) is to provide guidance and leadership in the space of how they can best transform their business, as customer's primary news gathering preferences have shifted. How can digital marketing best serve the businesses needs (and how well they're doing this through analytics, their advertising offering, etc...)? Where can they improve on their marketing innovation? How can they improve on the myriad of transactions they have with their customers? And - of course - the quality of the products and services. My desire to take this on comes from a very simple and honest place: quality journalism is still key to a modern society, and an important (though often overlooked) component of how information gets distributed. Yes, you can get information a lot faster in a world where everyone can lifestream our world in text, images, audio and video in social media, but that doesn't mean that we're able to understand the real issues. Who will help us look at the data and opinions beneath these stories, and help to provide a broader perspective on the issues that are shaping our lives? Companies like Postmedia provide this service. It's an important service, and one that I think I can add my particular skill set towards.

An insider from the outside.

I have not been shy about newspapers and traditional media spaces in the past. That won't change. I have been critical of the business model, what comes as we move from paper to screens to whatever comes next... and much more. I love reading the paper (yes, the physical one... anyone who has met me on a plane knows this). I love the new business models that many of these traditional institutions are evolving towards. More than anything, I am curious. Curious about what Postmedia can (and should) look like going forward, and how disruption (from within and from new comers) is going to change the face of news, journalism, publishing and media.

New adventures.... it's always exciting.

By Mitch Joel


November 24, 201511:38 PM

Facebook Is A Reflection Of You

Feel free to discuss politics, sex, religion and more on Facebook.

Free will. It's a powerful thing. Just don't be mad at Facebook for all of this negative commentary and imagery that is in your feed. The content that you see (and that you are creating, sharing and "liking")... That is your own doing. Facebook is not a traditional media outlet, where content is produced, edited and marketed from a certain standpoint down to you. Facebook - and everything that you see on it - is your own doing. If you don't like all of the hate that you are seeing in your feed, you are following the wrong people. Or, worse, the friends of their friends. 

Embrace the unfollow button. 

Years ago, I wrote about the grand flaw of social media: the more connected we become, the more inclined we will be to follow those who are "like us." We have shifted from the Web portal model (think of how Yahoo and AOL curated, edited and created stories like traditional media), to a place where our homepage (or, now, our main tabs or destination apps) is our Facebook or Twitter feed. It's easy to think that a world in which everyone we know is sharing and creating content exposes us to many more voices. In reality, as we add more voices, these tend to be voices that are aligned with our own, existing, belief systems. With that, our world becomes that much smaller. I'm often reminded of this when I hear people say how surprised they are that a specific political party is winning the popular vote, when - in their feed - they see nothing about them. Perspective is everything. 

What we see on Facebook is not the commonly held beliefs of the world. 

What we actually see on Facebook is a microcosm of how our friends and family think. The stuff that they believe is important. Good, bad or indifferent. If you don't like what you're seeing on Facebook, you can't blame the platform (which millions of people do). You only have yourself to blame. Sad? Yes. True? Yes. Here's the real question you need to ask: what kind of Facebook experience do you want? Lately - and for very good reason - people are angry and frustrated. At their local government. At other governments. At policies, both local and abroad. Facebook (Twitter and others) have become a fertile ground for us to relieve the pressure in our emotional valves. And, what always comes out, is emotional. As a collective, we're at a loss because the vast majority of the population has no media knowledge. They don't know how to source for truth, or even how to better understand that the messages that we share can often come from unverified sources. If we don't understand media, and if we don't understand how to vet news for credibility, all we can do is consume and blindly share (thus propegating opinion - and lies - over substance and fact-checked realities). Facebook is neither good or bad. It's a platform that allows us to share what we're doing and how we feel. When news gets trapped in between these fleeting emotions and reactions, it's easy to see how things can quickly turn into a boiling pot of hot mess. Still, this is not the problem with Facebook. This is our problem... and the people that we're connected to.

We have a lot of learning to do. 

By Mitch Joel


November 23, 2015 8:17 AM

Are Hackers Our New Heroes?

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 22, 2015 8:53 AM

Extraordinary Brand Experiences

Episode #489 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. How many brands truly deliver extraordinary experiences? Not the kind of rare stories you read about on Mashable, but... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 21, 2015 7:15 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #283

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 20, 201511:52 PM

The Culture Of Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is an anomaly. I know this first hand. Not because I know him personally (although, we have met many times). Not because I know anything behind the scenes (although we do share the same book publisher). I know... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 18, 201511:52 PM

What Do You Want Your Content To Do?

What do you want your content to do? Have you asked this question? Do you ask it before you begin creating it? Do you even know how important it is to be asking this question? I don't charge anybody for... Read more

By Mitch Joel