Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 17, 2017 2:51 PM

Words Matter. Definitions Matter More... Or The Problem With Fake News

Everything is not fake news.

Before we get started, let's all agree that this is not a political post. This is a post about branding, definitions, public perception and the power of the words that we - as businesses - use in marketing.

Here's something to think about: CNN is not fake news. Fox News is not fake news. What is fake news? Fake news is someone (or a bot) that builds a website or social media page that either looks like a legitimate news source or spoofs a legitimate news website by stealing its branding. Fake news is also the creation of completely fabricated information that is then published on this fake news website/social media page with the sole intent of making it seem legitimate. Fake news is also the purchasing of advertising that is directly targeted at the audience that is more than likely (based on data) to push this fake content to be shared, published and exchanged in real pages (this way, the fake news becomes legitimate content on real pages). Fake news is also everything above, but done using dark posts, so that the content is only seen by those who it is targeting. Then those consumers will share and re-publish this content, to make it appear more legitimate.

That is (in a very simplistic way) what fake news is.

Partisan news outlets are not fake news. They are, simply, slanted to cover a particular side in a particular way. When news outlets get the news wrong or promote salacious content, they are not "fake news." They are being partisan, they are being salacious and they are making mistakes. When news outlets post op-ed or editorial pieces, they are not fake news... they are publishing the opinion of an individual (whether we like them or not). 

Think about it this way...

If you don't agree with this thinking, you can easily point to this article and call it "fake news." It is not fake news. It is content that you don't agree with... or it is content that I may have gotten wrong... or it's my own opinion about a topic and you, simply, do not agree with it. That doesn't meet the definition of fake news... not by a long shot. Still, if someone has a voice, audience and media attention, and trains everybody to believe that fake news is everything stated above - all of it - it can take hold.

And, it has. And, that's very scary.

People (not just those in power) have become habituated to think that news that is slanted with opinion or that has a mistake in it is the same as fake news, as defined above. You don't have to like the state of the news media business, but we can't just paint a brush and say, "that's fake news!" It's not only unfair, but it's untrue. It also has substantive problems moving forward for all of us, as a society. You can distrust the media. You can be skeptical of the media. You can fall anywhere on the spectrum of media literacy, from believing everything blindly (on one side) to being a total conspiracy theorist (on the other side). This doesn't make the news fake. It makes your level of belief and/or disbelief sway. Labeling major news media outlets as "fake" and allowing this to trickle down and permeate society puts everyone in a very precarious situation. The news was a place that allowed information to flow. It wasn't always perfect. It wasn't always mistake free. It was (and still is) the institution between the power brokers and the general public (who are always the most affected by this power).  

Don't mistake facts for opinions.

With that, it's fine to question the facts or layer onto the facts an opinion, political stance, religious perspective, etc... but if we fall into the trap of believing that there are no more facts, we are doomed. If we believe that everything we're exposed to in the news is an opinion (and can be called "fake news"), there is a root problem here. Facts that add colour do give us a perspective. Fabricated stories that read like news or appear to be facts are not a perspective. There is an important distinction here. Most of what is being called "fake news" is not. If we allow it to be labelled as such, the implications are terrifying.

Think about your brand.

Think about your consumer. Think about how you sell to them. Think about your content. Think about your branding. Think about your products and services. If we are in a world where anyone (senior leaders included) can say things like, "the news is fake," how will this trickle down to brands? How does this affect positioning, our ability to communicate and connect and, ultimately, customer service? For me, I believe that the news media is not perfect, but being labelled and accepted in the same vein as "fake news" is shameful. It is with ease that this notion has taken hold. I worry for the future of brands and their ability to be more transparent and open, when our society has become so accepting of this type of labelling.

Words matter. Definitions matter more.

By Mitch Joel


January 16, 2017 8:33 AM

Apple Had Over 40% Of The Wireless Headphone Market, Facebook Tests Mid-Roll Ads And More On This Week's CTRL ALT Delete Segment On CHOM 97.7 FM

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly on iHeart Radio, if you're interested in hearing more of me blathering away about what's going on in the digital world. I'm really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed: 

  • Over the holidays, Apple finally started shipping their highly-anticipated AirPods - wireless/Bluetooth headphones. Lots of positive reviews, plus this stunning piece of data: Apple has over 40% of the wireless headphone market. How did that happen so fast? Well, it turns of that AirPods are a runaway success, and the fact that Apple owns Beats... and there you go. Since the AirPods were released, Apple has 26% of the market and Beats has 15.4%. To compare, Bose is at 16.1%... and this is just the beginning for wireless headphones.        
  • How quick are you to skip an ad on YouTube? YouTube is a huge advertising money-maker for brands. Well, are you skipping more of less than millennials? It turns out that 59% of millennials skip ads on YouTube. Some argue that this is a good thing?         
  • It's possible that Facebook either did or did not see the data about YouTube above. Apparently, Facebook is testing mid-roll ads. Facebook will require videos with mid-roll ads to be "at least 90 seconds in total, and a user has to watch a minimum of 20 seconds to be shown an ad. The company is capping ad length at 15 seconds, (compared with 30 seconds for YouTube ads). Publishers will receive 55% of the revenue generated by these ads, which is the same revenue-split that YouTube offers their video creators." Why is Facebook doing this? They're running out of ad inventory. Good news for their accounting department. Bad news for users? 
  • App of the week: Lose It! 

Take a listen right here.

By Mitch Joel


January 15, 2017 7:16 AM

The Intersection Of Marketing And Analytics With Avinash Kaushik - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #549 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Let's start this new year off right, shall we? He's back! Google's Digital Marketing Evangelist, bestselling author (Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0), powerful blogger (Occam's Razor), friend and marketing big brain, Avinash Kaushik. His monthly posts may as well be business books, and his insights into what should really count today for marketing is refreshing. He's got an attitude, he is full of passion, and he has some ideas about what we all need to be thinking about in this day and age. More recently, Avinash also lauched his own, personal, e-newsletter titled, The Marketing-Analytics Intersect (you best sign up for it), and we're back to look at what happened in 2016, what we see coming in 2017 and, what's exciting (but isn't going to happen any time soon) in the world of analytics and marketing. 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 #549.

By Mitch Joel


January 14, 2017 5:35 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #343

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: 

  • Dronestagram. "I learned about this social network for drone photos via The Washington Post. As cheap footage from anywhere becomes ubiquitous, we'll see the world in new ways (and have fewer secrets to hide)." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Whirlwind POV Tokyo tour with BMXer Nigel Sylvester - BoingBoing. "I want to have this guy's balance and travel schedule for a few days. Talk about a frenetic way to see a city. I'm also encountering this first-person popup view in the wild more and more, possibly an outgrowth of Twitch and VR. Watch it in full-screen with the sound up." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Quantifying the Cost of Sprawl - The Atlantic's CityLab. "I'm a little bit skeptical of some of the units used to compare things here (is tax revenue/acre a useful number?). Still, the more data we can get, the better our decisions ought to be... and sprawl vs. compact development seems like a critical urban planning/policy issue for the coming years." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Republicans want to fight climate change, but fossil-fuel bullies won't let them - The Washington Post"OK, so this isn't about Trump, exactly, so I'm not sending a link about Trump, OK? But, climate change is probably humanity's greatest threat (or nukes are, I'm not sure). But anyway, turns out all those policymakers who don't believe in the science of climate change, actually do believe in the science of climate change, they just can't say anything about it." (Hugh for Mitch).  
  • CES 2017: The Dawn Of The Third Connected Era - MediaPost. "One of the most underrated thinkers when it comes to advertising, marketing and technology is Rishad Tobaccowala. If you're in the advertising agency business, you should know who he is. If you're in business, you should pay attention to him. He's one of the senior leaders at Publicis. More importantly, he knows (better than most) how to take disruption, technology and business and codify it so that we can all think and grow with more clarity. Here's his take on CES." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Moby Lets You Download 4 Hours of Ambient Music to Help You Sleep, Meditate, Do Yoga & Not Panic - Open Culture. "Hugh, please. For the sake of everyone. It's enough with the politics. Deep breaths. Deeper sleeps. Calm. Control. And, yes, I may be projecting here. This has been downloaded." (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


January 13, 2017 2:50 PM

Why Personal Branding Is Like A Viral Video... And Why It Shouldn't Be

"Personal Brand"... talk about a saying that has become so polarizing.

The year was 1997. Business thinker Tom Peters grabs the attention of the world with his Fast Company article, The Brand Called You. It truly does usher in a new era. 

"It's time for me -- and you -- to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that's true for anyone who's interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work."

This new idea that all of us are now the CEO of our own company. This new idea that all of us can truly control and work on how we stand out in a crowd. Control and and define what we're known for, and leverage these assets to build more personal value, wealth and success. While these were not new-ish concepts, there was with new focus on the relationship between Nike's ability to captivate millions of consumers, and the thinking that  we - as individuals - should do the same. 

The timing could not have been more perfect.

Just after Peters' brought this idea forward, the nascent world of social media would begin to take hold (blogging or online personal journals would start gaining traction with the platform Blogger). It's interesting to look back and see just how prescient Tom Peters was, in a world where email was the most advanced form of technological communication the world was still trying to wrap its collective head around.

"The same holds true for that other killer app of the Net -- email. When everybody has email and anybody can send you email, how do you decide whose messages you're going to read and respond to first -- and whose you're going to send to the trash unread? The answer: personal branding. The name of the email sender is every bit as important a brand -- is a brand -- as the name of the Web site you visit. It's a promise of the value you'll receive for the time you spend reading the message."

Imagine how different Tom's thinking would have been if blogging, online social networks, podcasting, YouTube, and the smartphone were around back then. And, that's the real point here: I'm not sure if Tom (or you... or me) haven't muddled this valuable concept of the "personal brand" into something more like "personal advertising" (aka "inflating one's own tires").

A personal brand is not about how loud you shout or how many followers you have.

Social media changed us. It changed who we are. It changed how we connect to another. It changed how we define fame. We live in a very strange world where individuals chase this idea of building a "personal brand" while sacrificing what their real personal brand is all about. Our lives should be about how we build relationships and add value to one another.

This isn't about being anti-personal branding.

There is no doubt that the world of social media has brought forward many new, fascinating and interesting voices that we may have never heard from if we were still stuck in the traditional media complex. Even old-school media professionals can have their own platforms and content amplified  to expand on ideas or stories that the bigger media channels don't cover. Big thumb's up to social media for facilitating so many voices to be heard. Still, many people chase a personal brand as if it's something that must be fabricated and promoted. They're focusing more on the antiquated definition of a "brand" and forgetting all about the "personal" part of it. Again, hunting likes, followers and shares over building anything of substance. 

Personal branding is not a bad word.

So, here's the thing: Personal branding is not bad, but personal branding should never be the reason why you are publishing. A strong personal brand is the outcome. Personal branding is like having a viral video. Many people will tell you that they know the secrets, strategies and how to build one, but the truth is that it can't simply be manufactured. If you create a strong video, it resonates, it gains distribution, and the timing works (dash a whole lot of luck on top of that)... you *might* have a viral video on your hands. You can't really plan for viral video success. You can't really plan for personal branding success. Viral success or having a strong personal brand is the outcome of efforts well-received.

Ultimately, Tom Peters is right (he usually is)...

"No matter what you're doing today, there are four things you've got to measure yourself against. First, you've got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. Second, you've got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value. Third, you've got to be a broad-gauged visionary -- a leader, a teacher, a farsighted 'Imagineer.' Fourth, you've got to be a businessperson -- you've got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes. It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else."

With all of the evolution for us to connect and publish since 1997... this is where we are. Stop chasing likes. Start chasing a true voice.

By Mitch Joel


January 12, 201711:35 AM

7 Steps To Define Your Content Center Of Excellence

"You're that social media guy, right?" I get that. The branding guy. The marketing guy. The tech guy. The media guy. The writer guy. The business book guy. The speaking guy. Depending on how people interface with me (and my... Read more

By Mitch Joel


January 11, 2017 3:50 PM

Quality And Speed Don't Have To Collide

"Those are all great ideas, but we need something in market fast." It's the toughest part of the conversation, when you're in the marketing agency business. It's not a question of quality ideas over time, it's the erosion of the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


January 10, 2017 8:31 AM

The Interoperability Of Things (And Brands)

What makes a product or service really work? For years, you could only text message someone who was on the same carrier. For years, there were MP3 players that required a whole bunch of hardware and multiple software solutions to... Read more

By Mitch Joel


January 9, 2017 5:36 PM

A More Elegant Question About The Future Of Retail

2017 is starting out with some ugly news on the retail front. Admittedly, it was a strange moment for me. On the one hand, there were many disturbing pieces of news on the retail front, about department store giants Sears... Read more

By Mitch Joel


January 8, 2017 8:10 AM

Beyond Advertising With Catharine Hays - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #548 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. What comes after advertising? Is there anything after advertising? How will a $500-plus billion dollar a year industry evolve?... Read more

By Mitch Joel