Facebook’s new look
With the conclusion of F8, Facebook users have a virtual world full of new enhancements at their fingertips. As exciting as that is, some would be perfectly content with a little more information about what’s currently happening—or not.
Over the course of the last three months, Facebook reach among established publishers has been declining at alarming levels, and no one understands quite why. Guessing the anomalies behind the news feed algorithm changes has been grist for speculation for many years, with industry insiders occasionally able to make the right predictions.
What’s goin’ on?
But over the course of this spring? No one has the answers. Kurt Gessler, deputy director for digital news at the Chicago Tribune, tweeted that since the beginning of the year, they’ve grown their followers, yet seen a precipitous drop in post reach. His tweet prompted multitudes of other publishers to note the same thing, in publishers as diverse as The Boston Globe to Religion News Service.
Matt Karolian, the director of audience engagement at The Boston Globe, speaking to Digiday, noted that “last month was probably the worst we’ve had in reach in about a year. The fact everyone else is seeing it is a little bit troubling.”
In the absence of facts, speculation runs rampant.
Some thought originally that the collapse was limited to Chicago, until response came in from other publishers across the nation. Others have posited that Facebook is expressing a desire for more embedded video over text postings, with sites that utilize video posts seeing a boost in post reach. Joe Speiser, the co-founder of LittleThings, said to Digiday that, “Facebook’s made very clear video is a priority. You can go through the feed yourself. Video is everywhere.” The investment has paid off for Speiser, with LittleThings seeing its second highest traffic in March of this year, after they moved to primarily video posts.
Others have speculated that organic reach is dying in an effort for Facebook to drive more spending from publishers.
Wallaroo Media CEO Brandon Doyle told Digiday that for the nearly 20 publishers he follows that organic reach has declined for each.
Access is still paramount
Whichever of these is the real reason for the decline—if any of them are—it’s important to think about the increasingly larger segment of the world populace that gets its news primarily from Facebook. With the recent emphasis on “fake news,” or perhaps, more gently, opinions in the guide of facts, it’s vital that quality news sources have access to inform the populace.
Communication plans should include social media to be sure, but for publishers, who have seen the traditional promotion and publication of their work change drastically over the past 15 years, social media is a source of lifeblood, connecting them and their audiences. To shy away from a social media approach—especially one as penetrating as Facebook–for them puts them not only at a competitive disadvantage with their competitors, but also runs the risk of regulating them to the bin of inattention.
“In my mind, we’re kind of at the mercy of the algorithm,” Aysha Khan, the social media editor at Religion News Service said to Digiday.
“But there’s a lot of stories that are getting underwhelming responses that readers can’t even see. It is this constant thing, trying to figure out how to incorporate it into your workflow. At one point they were pushing images, and then they were pushing video, and live video. I don’t think it’ll ever stop.”
Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales
(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?
Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”
The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.
The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.
A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.
Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.
This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.
When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.
The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.
It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.
In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.
Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions
(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.
Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.
This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.
To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.
Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.
Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.
In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.
Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.
For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.
Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls
(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.
I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.
The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.
As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.
So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?
The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”
While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.
Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.
Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?
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