Sometimes I wonder what sort of qualification you need to be a "publicist." At the very least, you would think that it would help to be familiar with the basics of The Streisand Effect, and making sure that you don't make something worse. Apparently, that's not the case for the publicist that Beyonce hired to try to get "unflattering" images taken of her at the Super Bowl disappeared. It all started with Buzzfeed doing what Buzzfeed does -- pulling together a silly collection of images. In this case, The 33 Fiercest Moments From Beyonce's Halftime Show. That apparently resulted in a quick phone call from someone working as a publicist complaining that some of those photos were "unflattering," which was then followed up by an email... which Buzzfeed chose to post publicly as: The "Unflattering" Photos Beyonce's Publicist Doesn't Want You To See:
If you can't read that, the important part says:
Thanks for taking my call. As discussed, there are some unflattering photos on your current feed that we are respectfully asking you to change. I am certain you will be able to find some better photos.
Now, to their credit, the publicist did not demand that the photos be changed, nor make any kind of legal threat. While that may seem obvious since there would be no legal basis for Beyonce to make such a threat, we've certainly seen others make similar legal threats in the past. So it was a respectful "request." And, you can certainly make the argument that Buzzfeed's response was anything but respectful. But, come on. This is Buzzfeed we're talking about. Pageviews uber alles. So of course they're going to get more attention for it.
Some will argue, of course, that "any publicity is good publicity" and perhaps that was the strategy all along. That's a dubious argument however. Beyonce was getting a ton of great press for her Super Bowl performance. Why sully it with suddenly hunting down "unflattering" images that weren't doing any damage to her reputation in the first place? Asking for those images to be taken down hurts her image a lot more than any of the photos in question.
There's been an uproar about The Atlantic's decision yesterday to run sponsored content from Scientology, which consisted of a pretty poorly done advertorial about Scientology's "successes" in the past year. The comments on the piece included a bunch of "wow this is just awesome!" type comments that suggest both moderation and pre-planned comments from supporters. After widespread outcry about The Atlantic going in such a direction, the piece was pulled. Recently, there's also been similar (though slightly different) "sponsored" posts on Buzzfeed, in which staff plaster some company's name over a "top 10" or "top 15" list that they slap together -- often by pulling images from other sources (Reddit is a popular one), without making much effort to credit whoever came up with the content. There's even been a fair bit of controversy over the Associated Press' recent decision to allow sponsored tweets from Samsung during CES.
All of these seem like examples of doing "sponsored content" badly -- just as more and more publications are getting into sponsored content. While it's good to see publications taking some risks and trying something new, the downside is that it has the potential to completely scare off companies from doing any forms of sponsored content, even when it can be done much better. For many, many years, we've talked about how how content is advertising and advertising is content, and those who get it right are going to go far. The problem is that it's tough to get right -- often because the marketers themselves are so focused on old school "advertising" in which they have to keep pushing their message and their message alone, they miss out on the fact that this backfires in a big bad way every single time.
There's been a lot of talk lately about "native advertising" -- which is the buzzphrase around this kind of content these days. Many point out that "advertorial" is nothing new, and that's accurate, but true native content is something different. For years, when we've talked about these concepts, everyone has complained about said "advertorial", suggesting that it's annoying or misleading -- and that's been the problem with the examples above. But, when done right, it doesn't need to be either annoying or misleading. And we need to get to that point. Five years ago we put forth some basic concepts for why the world needed to move towards this model, and I still think they hold true today:
The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don't want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They'll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.
Advertising is content. You can't think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there's no such thing as "advertising" any more. It's just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.
Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some ways it is -- but it's highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It's advertising something. Techdirt content "advertises" our business even if you don't realize it. Every bit of content advertises something, whether on purpose or not.
Content needs to be useful/engaging/interesting. This simply ties all of that together. If you want anyone to pay attention to your content (which is advertising something, whether on purpose or not) it needs to be compelling and engaging.
The problem is that many marketers (and many publications) seem to really miss out on that last point. The content -- whether it's advertising, native content, advertorial or whatever -- needs to be useful/engaging/interesting. The Scientology advertorial and the AP sponsored tweets really fell down on that point. The Buzzfeed content at least got much of that aspect correct, but fell down on the kinds of things that often piss people off: poorly attributed copied content. There's no reason why Buzzfeed couldn't have done such a collection with proper attribution and most of the controversy would have been avoided.
And that's the real point here: it is possible to do "sponsored content" in a compelling way. I still like to point to the example that we did a few years back with UPS sponsoring us to do some videos about the topics we already talk about, leading to things like the following video about the economics of abundance:
When we posted that we were actually surprised (but thrilled) to find out that many in our community were happy to see projects like that move forward. That was because it was about creating useful and engaging content that wasn't misleading or just pure propaganda.
The world will get there eventually, but it's an ongoing struggle to get both publications and marketers to realize that "native advertising" isn't native if the content sucks and no one wants to see it (especially if it's pure propaganda, or otherwise enrages people). Some continue to insist that any and all such sponsored content is, by definition, problematic, but I don't think it needs to be. It's just that we need to get people in marketing firms and at publications to move past such a view of native advertising. The Atlantic should have known ahead of time how people would react. Buzzfeed should have made sure its content didn't set off a firestorm. And the companies paying for such ads should also learn that if they're just creating annoying content, it's not helping anyone, least of all themselves.
More specifically, and by way of non-limiting example, the www.buzzfeed.com website uses an embedded flash player to present a first data type of a video file of "Boris v Romney" along with the presentation of advertising data of a second type that includes a static image advertisement for "Sour Patch Kids," for example.
For purposes of Claim 64, when a web browser of a client device displays the Defendant Website, the web server that serves the Defendant Website downloads both the video file (first data type) and the static image advertisement (second data type). The web server that serves the Defendant Website then executes executable code created by Defendant’s content authors/website administrators. The executable code includes both the first and second commands for the presentation of the first and second data types, respectively. The executable code couples the presentation of the first and second data types. That is, because the first and second data types are linked together via executable code, the presentation of the first data type causes the presentation of the second data type, automatically. The web server that serves the Defendant Website presents the first data type to the web browser of the client device. Namely, video file of "Boris v Romney" is presented along with the static image advertisement for "Sour Patch Kids." Thus, the presentation of the video file causes the presentation of the static image advertisement, though not necessarily always in that order.
Assuming that Buzzfeed hasn't changed its post, the description in the lawsuit appears to be in error. It claims that the web server downloads both the video and the advertisement. But, the video is an embed from YouTube and the advertising on the page is served from DoubleClick. In other words, the "Defendant Website" downloads neither of the items in question, contrary to the lawsuit's claims.
But, more to the point, the claims in the lawsuit seem ridiculous even if both were served by Buzzfeed. Having a static ad appear next to a video is not what this patent was intended to cover. Even the patent itself describes a system of playing a video advertisement next to a music file -- a completely different situation and purpose. Besides, while embedding videos certainly came out well after this patent came along, the idea of ads running next to videos is hardly new or innovative. The problem here seems to be that the patent examiners, Eric W. Stamber and Mussie Tesfamariam, let a ridiculously broad claim through that the company is now using to file lawsuits over something crazy obvious (having both videos and ads on the same page) that it contributed nothing to.
Buzzfeed is hardly the only lawsuit that Mobile Technologies LLC has filed either. The company has been a busy little bee. The sites it's sued include Wetpaint, Publishers Clearing House, Glam Media, Evolve, BabyCenter, Hollywood.com, DailyMotion, ProjectPlaylist, Justin TV and Radar Online, among many others. Oddly, I see that one of the inventors listed on the patent is Lior Cohen, which is the name of Warner Music's CEO. I'm going to assume that this is not the same Lior Cohen, however. The patent was originally held by Adware LI Inc., and was then assigned to Everad, who later assigned it to EIP Company LLC. There isn't an official assignment to Mobile Technologies LLC in the USPTO database, but that doesn't mean anything. It could not yet be recorded or there may be shell companies involved or a licensing deal or who knows what. Either way, it's yet another example of a mysterious patent holder with a broad patent using it against something completely different than what the patent is supposed to be about, and going after a ton of companies in the process.
Rikuo: the viewer's Kinect 1.0 would pick up the voice command and respond accordingly...by pausing or stopping the stream and going to the TV mode. I find that hilarious I also find the concept of Kinect 2.0 hilarious. So if you've got a bunch of people on the couch watching a movie...don't move a muscle. Stare blankly. Don't move your arms at all or say anything, or the Kinect 2.0 will think you're giving it a command. If you move your arm back to point to the liquor cabinet to tell the wife to pour you a shot of whiskey, the Xbox One will think you're swiping silverscarcat: *Spies something interesting in the Crystal Ball* Well, that's interesting. I'm not sure what to think. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the guy, but considering what the gov't did, I support him in that endeavor, but this... Seems to go too far. dennis deems: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/22/1210687/-Obama-s-leak-freakout Best political cartoon ever? Top 10, surely Hey the green bars are back! Jay: Hmmm... Gonna have to hack my PSP... silverscarcat: I need a new battery for my PSP. :( It keeps shutting off if it's unplugged for more than 2-3 minutes, even on a full charge. Mike Masnick: green bars are back, and hopefully functioning better than before. :) silverscarcat: Oh look, AJ's having a cow and the internet tough guy is trying to be a stereotypical high school bully. *Rolls eyes* Hey, Mike, I know it's not in your nature to ban someone, but, damn, something needs to be done about this sometimes I think. Rikuo: unfortunately, nothing can be done. IP address block? Useless since either AJ is on a dynamic IP or he's on a static but using someone else's equipment. Username block? That would only add fuel to the "CENSORSHP" fire silverscarcat: Well, I think I'm going to leave for the day. That troll that plays the internet tough guy really should get laid, I think. It might help him think straight. Rikuo: holy fucking shit...I want to be this man http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/05/fios-customer-discovers-the-limits-of-unlimited-data-77-tb-in-month/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arstechnica%2Findex+%28Ars+Technica+-+All+content%29 Warning - Home Server pornz on that link BentFranklin: in that article, where it describes his rack, what does 1u, 2u, 4u etc mean? Jeff: @Bent - 1U, 2U, 4U are units of measurement for server racks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rack_unit Dark Helmet: Hell, I"m just a silly tech services sales guy and I knew that... yaga: DH you should have just stopped at silly.