All posts by Andy Cowles

Fifteen hot links

20120826-Moncton_SetlistHandwritten1. This is one of Springsteen’s many back-of-an-envelope set lists, emotional, personal, and totally uneditable. So here’s my post for InPublishing on Wunderlist, the world’s best make-a-list app.

2. What do you believe in? And what are you going to do about it? Good post about how brands create trust.

3. ’Sticky content’ bullshit. And ten other content marketing buzzwords from SXSW.

4. Seventy eight places to find free, high quality marketing images.

5. Ace photojournalist Giles Duley is setting off on his biggest project ever. Here’s an interview with him at Time all about ‘Legacy of War’

6. How Marriott Hotels aim to become the world’s largest producer of travel content.

7. Look out! How programatic trading allowed these ads to run before ISIS propaganda videos.

8. Super bitchy, and super well informed. Michael Wolff on the new Guardian editor.

9. Buzzfeed really is the new king of the world. Here’s fine insight into how that happened, along with more detail on their social strategybusiness model, ethical standards and The Dress.

10. How the Economist has stayed ahead of the digital curve.

11. Here’s a blog post headline writing template!

12. Uber releases an in-house magazine.

13. Upworthy’s co-founder on clickbait.

14. Haters ahoy! Wired redesigns its website.

15. Good post on magculture about the surge in magazine podcasts.

How to produce pointless stories, devoid of meaningful value or engagement

packed-office-desksIn an extensive interview last week the legendary marketer Seth Godin lamented the ‘industrialisation of content’. He said: ‘As soon as organisations start to measure stuff and poke it into a piece of software, then we are asking people who don’t care to work their way through a bunch of checklists to make a number go up’.

He’s making the argument for editors, as opposed to brand managers. ‘A brand can’t care’ says Seth, ‘all that can care is people.

seth-godinSeth is famous for his book ‘Permission Marketing’, still regarded as the key text on how to engage consumers online. Here’s his definition: ‘Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them’

Seth’s view now is that ‘being trusted is the single most urgent way to build a business’. If you’re paying for content, then trust is acknowledged the moment money changes hands. But as I’ve written previously, when content is essentially free, trust has to be earned.

Because without it, we’re just looking at spam.

With the decline of one-way advertising as the only way to reach and influence large audiences, marketers and ad agencies are now trying to take ‘content’ and see if that will do the job for them.

However, as Saatchi’s strategy director Richard Huntingdon points out in his recent ‘Guano Marketing’ post, content is now being ‘ordered by the yard, with quality of no consequence’.

In a fabulously ranty post he declares: ‘Never in the field of human endeavour has so much crap sat on client servers to be consumed by so few’.

crap-contentEven content marketers themselves say similar, witness this slideshare from Velocity simply entitled ‘Crap’.

I quite agree. The term ‘content’ has had all the joy flattened out of it, crushed by the need for a single description to describe ideas of every kind shared across every platform.

But let’s not shoot the messenger here. The word may be totally inadequate, but that doesn’t mean the passion, authority, service and sheer fun of the exchanges behind it are redundant.

The opposite is in fact the case. Our society may have been founded on storytelling, but right now, our appetite for powerful ideas, inspiring  images, big thoughts, true feelings and passionate opinions has never been greater.

With the reluctance of people to pay directly for magazines and newspapers, the word ‘editorial’ has fallen out of favour in recent years.

You only have to visit linkedin to see how many journalists have rushed to replace it with ‘content’ in order to stress their digital credentials. I make no apology for doing the same, currently there being no better way of saying ‘I present stories to be shared digitally’.

The question is, what exactly are we sharing?

If it’s a genuine point of view, delivered in a relatable tone, with ideas that add value, either practically, or on a deeper emotional level, then readers will react.

They still need to know who’s doing the talking, as ‘editorial’ is explicitly the voice of the storyteller, not the paymaster. But if clarity around brand is maintained, then real connections will be made, real feeling will be created and real action taken.

howard-gossageAs for advertising, the words of Howard Gossage, the original Mad Man still hold true: ‘People will read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad’.

 

Gavin Reeve-Daniels

gav-reeve-danielsLast Thursday saw the Gav Aid 2015 Pop Quiz completely fill the Troxy theatre in London’s East End. Over 800 contestants turned out in honour of Gavin Reeve-Daniels, who died of pancreatic cancer in September last year.

Gav Aid 2014Gavin did however attend the first Gav Aid event in 2013, having been diagnosed just a few months earlier. Here he is, making a typically funny and moving speech on that night.

By his own account, and that of his wife Leesa, being at that packed event and seeing just how many people truly loved him and wished him well made a real difference in the last months of his life.

See more

Type size is your friend

streetsofsalem.comMost people never read more than 25% of even their favourite magazine. However, many editors are totally blind to this fact, insisting on getting every single word of their deathless prose wedged into the page. Invoking higher authority, this often produces nothing more than a sophisticated internal memo that no one will ever read.

As designers, we’re culpable in this, as it’s we who set the size of the type in the first place. Not only that, many designers seem to think that readers have 20/20 vision, and are perfectly willing to read large tracts of text across super wide columns in sizes that would strain the eyesight of fighter pilots.

Among many other reasons, this is a reason why I love The New Yorker so much.  Their text is beautifully set, 10/12, I believe, across the correct measure and with perfect kerning.

I’ve written about the print version of The New Yorker previously on this blog, and also had the pleasure of interviewing their creative director, Wyatt Mitchell, the podcast of which you can hear here.

But it’s how they treat their digital platform that’s interesting me now.

eleven postsI have very mixed feelings about this brand online. One of the great pleasures of The New Yorker is that they tell me what’s important, and what I should read. I trust the editors to edit, so when I get messages like the one above I GET REALLY STRESSED OUT!

But on the other hand, if there’s a story I want to read on the go, I’ll happily consume 10,000 words on the phone, such is their quality.

New yorker mobile typeWhich is why I’m so appreciative of the way they’ve set the type. The screen on the left (above) sets up the story with a hed and a picture. But click ‘read more’, and not only do you get the picture caption, (right) but the body copy goes up in point size.

Young-Napoleon-Hugo-D-Aviles-hugo-avilesIt’s a tiny move but it really does prove Napoleon’s point: “Execution is everything.”

This post was first published as part of my guest editorship of the American Society of Publication Designers blog.

Print that.

indy-cover-charlie-hebdoThe murder of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial team is just beyond belief.

How to respond to such an appalling tragedy is now something every editor, journalist and blogger has had to deal with. This is The Independent‘s front page, which rather than focus on the violence, demonstrates the power of a single cartoon to carry the story. But more than that, given how news constantly evolves on digital platforms, it reminds us that print is timeless.

Editor Amol Rajan talks really well in the Guardian about using Tom Brown’s illustration as the splash, but also the decision not to reproduce the Charlie Hebdo cartoons caricaturing the prophet Muhammad, describing it as “too much of a risk”.

The New York Times made the same decision, but Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast did publish, suggesting that although digital reach is infinite, the endurance of print gives controversy real weight. And that makes the decision to publish in print so much harder.

There’s no right or wrong here, either way has its merits. But some news organisations have chosen to blur out the cartoons. That’s a rotten decision, as all it does is visualise the censorship. Here’s excellent reporting on that from Buzzfeed.

Seven Must-see, Must-read Links

Was8877923How headlines change what we think. From The New Yorker, of course.

This is great, the way price affects what and how we buy. From the Atlantic.

The best stories from Wired in 2014. All in one handy link.

Jeff Jarvis thinks very deeply about the future of journalism on Medium.

Time Inc. USA makes strenuous efforts to be seen as a technology business, reports Business Insider.

Meanwhile, Colin Morrison has produced this immensely detailed account of  Time Inc’s business, culminating in the prediction that Evelyn Webster will end up running the whole she-bang  sooner rather than later.

Then again, David Carr in The New York Times, speculates Time Inc. will all be sold to Meredith next year.

Jane Bown, 1925 – 2014

the-queen-jane-bownJust read the news that the brilliant photographer Jane Bown has died at the age of 89.

She’s rightly famous for producing a level of intimacy in black and white portraiture few have matched.

Her career was long, but she kept on going, as this picture of Her Madge proves. Both were 80 when it was taken. Take a look at the Observer gallery here, or better still, buy the book. You can get it in time for Christmas.

Just.

Stolleys Law. Works every time…

people-stolleys-lawCelebrity news weekly sales have been grim for years, but the world’s biggest, People, still packs a punch on newsstand.

Here’s their best and worst sellers of 2014; Robin Williams did 1,169,800, Hillary did half that, at 503,890 copies.

Which their original editor Dick Stolley would have easily predicted when he wrote his famous ‘Stolley’s law’ back in the 70s.

1. Young is better than old.

2.  Pretty is better than ugly.

3.  Rich is better than poor.

4.  Movies are better than television.  (now no longer true)

5.  Movies and television are better than music. 

6.  Movies, TV, and music are all better than sports.

7.  Anything is better than politics.

8.  Nothing is better than the celebrity dead.

(See how all the other US celebrity weeklies fared here at AdWeek)

Possibly The Best Airline Magazine In The World

N-norwegainI’m currently consulting with Ink Global Media, the world’s largest publisher of airline magazines. My own projects for them are still in the mixer, but we’ll do well to get half way close to N, the magazine Ink produces for the smart, increasingly global carrier Norwegian Airlines.

N was narrowly robbed of the UK’s top publishing award this year, coming to second to Slimming World at the PPA Award for Customer Magazine of the Year although it did win Launch of the Year in the BSMEs in 2013. But such is the consistency of quality; I can’t see it being overlooked in 2015. See more