2014 Content Marketing Predictions

Content marketing has been part of the online landscape for years, but until recently, it wasn’t exactly a hot topic. This started to shift in 2013, though, with content marketing becoming increasingly essential to the survival of brands in the online space. Now that 2014 is underway, the content marketing experts are making their predictions. Here are a few worth paying attention to:

Content Quality over Quantity

Content marketers should embrace higher-quality content as opposed to larger quantities of it in 2014, according to Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships. It’s time to take a more strategic approach to the marketing efforts designed to drive sales and lead acquisitions. “We’ll see brand marketers create content brands designed to build subscription-based relationships with a loyal audience,” says Davis. “Subscriptions that demand higher-quality content, delivered consistently and shared widely.”

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Freaky Friday – What it Takes to Censor the Chinese Twitter

It’s no secret that the Chinese government is not a fan of free and unencumbered access to the Web. But unlike North Korea, which restricts Internet access to all but a privileged handful of citizens, China recognizes that you can’t maintain your status as a rising power without you know, email.

So you can actually get on a computer and surf the Web in China, albeit one that is heavily censored. In fact, unlike repressive regimes in say, Syria or Egypt, China has done a fairly good job keeping the conversation under control – i.e. no criticism of the government – even using the Web to boost its legitimacy.

But while it’s well known that the Chinese Internet is heavily policed, we actually don’t know much about how it’s done. Rice University professor Dan Wallach and several colleagues recently set out to measure how censors keep non-approved content from appearing on Weibo – essentially the Chinese version of Twitter.

You can and should check out the entire story here at MIT’s Technology Review. The results are equally fascinating and freaky. Wallach and his team measured the volume of messages as well as the time and frequency of deletions to make conclusions about how Weibo is censored.

To keep tabs on Weibo’s 300 million users, who send 100 million messages per day and 70,000 per minute, Wallach figured that it takes 1,400 censors at any given moment and likely 4,200 each day to scan and delete messages. And roughly 12 percent of all messages are deleted.

I try not to get too political on this copywriting blog. But at least to me, this is very important work if for no other reason than it highlights the fact that a free and open Internet isn’t a given.

And it can’t be taken for granted.

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Google Doesn’t ‘Get’ the Flu

Looks like Dr. Google misdiagnosed this year’s flu season. A widely circulated article posted by Nature this week describes how Google’s flu tracking application ended up overestimating this year’s epidemic.

If you’re not familiar with Google’s flu tracker, it’s one of a number of projects falling under Google.org, which seeks to leverage Google products for social good. Check out their site – not only are the projects really cool, but they show how the data generated by search goes far beyond marketing. The flu tracker attempts to measure the spread and severity of outbreaks based in part on Web searches – that is, people searching for flu symptoms and other related topics.large water slides for sale

Neat, right? And, actually, the project has historically been fairly accurate, at least enough so that medical researchers planned to take a serious dive into Google’s numbers this flu season.

The flu was bad this year; just not as bad as Google predicted. The search giant’s numbers doubled what the Centers for Disease Control actually observed, according to Nature.

It doesn’t take Nate Silver to figure out some of what went wrong. Among other things, Google didn’t account for the – excuse the pun – viral nature of this year’s flu season. Media coverage about the predicted severity of this year’s flu – including stories about Google’s incredible flu tracker – boosted the number of Web searches for flu-related topics, throwing off Google’s algorithms.

Nature posits that this is a temporary setback for a promising approach, but GigaOM and others point out that the whole issue raises important questions about the reliability of Web data.

My takeaway – and the takeaway for search marketers – is that search data, click-thru-rates and all the other numbers we pull out of the Web are incredible, powerful tools, but they still need real-world context to be used effectively.

The freaky thing is, numbers don’t always mean what we think they do. And neither can they be divorced from facts on the ground. For a blunt example, Carnival Cruise Lines is probably seeing a spike in Web searches this week coinciding with its well-publicized fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. And anybody who is familiar with cyberchondria knows that not everybody who searches for disease symptoms on the Web is actually sick.

Digging into the numbers still requires human expertise. Google alone can’t cure what ails you – or your business.

Monday Must-Reads

It’s Monday, iCopyInsiders. And not the awesome, federal holiday kind. As you shake off the cobwebs and welcome an actual five-day workweek, here are some good reads to get your brain going.

  1. Freaked out by changes to Google’s search algorithms? MediaPost says, “Don’t be.” Check out this rundown on what recent changes mean for marketers in terms of search engine optimization.
  2. Because we’re all about search, here’s a smart post from SmartBlog that breaks down how social media affects search rankings. There’s a lot of debate about social media ROI, but don’t forget that it ties into your broader Web presence in surprising ways. Don’t neglect it.
  3. For our freelance and indie workforce friends looking to improve their business, here is a neat list of must-read books from FreelanceSwitch, including several Web marketing resources.
  4. For Google geeks, here’s an interesting profile of Jeff Dean, one of the company’s tech wunderkinds, on Slate. It’s part of Slate’s new series called Doers: People who accomplish great things, and how they do it.
  5. You Only Live Once, or at least that’s what Instagram and Twitter tell me. If you’re not familiar with the #yolo meme – and even if you are – check out this awesome primer from Know Your Meme and then watch the latest SNL Digital Short.