If you haven’t heard of them you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. BuzzFeed has been around for a while, but has really come into its own in the past few years, with a growing number of top journalists calling it home. BuzzFeed is a media/news company that’s actually built for the social age—their audience is growing in large numbers of unique visitors daily, they’re physically expanding globally, starting to create original video content with a POV, and working with brands and their agencies to create great social content/advertising for their platform that really spreads all over the ‘social web’. It makes the rest of the media industry look like a bunch of dinosaurs.
I visited BuzzFeed this morning as part of OpenCo NY and learnt from Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s Founder and CEO, that their business is built on understanding human psychology and that people are literally crazy. BuzzFeed knows we don’t have unified interests, we behave very differently on Google vs Facebook for example, search is a private guilty pleasure, but what we share on Facebook is about identity and telling the world who we are. They know that we often contradict ourselves, everyone has a bit of OCD, histrionics, narcissism (especially Kim Kashadarian & Kanye), ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder. And according to them, EQ (emotional) content is more important than just IQ (intelligent) content… hence the immense popularity of stories like ‘25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions’ that was so popular and shared all over the internet.
So, this is a message to all the other media agencies out there, many of you need to wake up! It’s time to get off your high IQ horses to deliver content that is powerful and emotional, but also caters across content categories to our ununified selves—BuzzFeed’s main demographic is 18-34 year olds and if you don’t provide content that’s relevant to what these audiences want and share you won’t stand a chance in this ever growing mobile social world.
Lisa Smith is Design Director at Wolff Olins New York.
Yahoo has just bought Summly, the mobile news reader app founded by 17-year-old British entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio. D’Aloisio is a programming whiz who wasn’t even born when Yahoo was founded in 1994.
His free app launched last year, designed to summarized top headlines for quick, mobile reading, allowing its users to browse headlines along with concise summaries of the stories. He raised more than $1 million for the app from supporters including Rupert Murdoch and Stephen Fry.
While D’Aloisio isn’t among them, it’s been interesting to see that the creators behind many of the mobile companies Yahoo’s recently snatched up are former employees – if only Yahoo had been able to foster a culture of innovation from the start, they could have saved major bucks to find other ways to deliver on Mayer’s ambition.
With Summly’s technologies, Yahoo has an opportunity to improve and simplify their audience’s experience of content in a format that is perfect for a highly mobile world, let’s hope they find a way to monetize Summly without disrupting our experience.
Sam Wilson is managing director of Wolff Olins New York.
This week AOL celebrated the premier of Makers, an unprecedented digital video and broadcast initiative made in partnership with PBS and filmmaker Dyllan McGee. The program and full-length documentary aim to capture the stories, achievements and breakthroughs of America’s most iconic and prolific women over the last half century — collectively impacting virtually every aspect of today’s culture.
“AOL wants to be known for groundbreaking firsts in the digital media industry, and we are thrilled to be partnering with PBS as they stand alone in their unparalleled ability to educate the world on the most important movements of our time,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman & CEO of AOL. “Partnering together to bring MAKERS to life is exactly the type of future-forward programming we believe in.”
The series features high-profile icons ranging from Gloria Steinem and Hillary Rodham Clinton, technology trailblazers Marissa Mayer and Meg Whitman to unsung heroes such as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer and up-and-coming inspiration. The collection of over 100 stories is just the start, “We are committed to using storytelling to help the next generation of women,” says McGee. “There is still a lot more work to be done.”
Makers.com, the dynamic media and community platform AOL launched prior to the documentary, features a deep catalog of engaging highlights from the series and works to uncover the women who are continuing to lead the charge today. Maureen Sullivan, SVP & General Manager of Women’s Content and Lifestyle Brands at AOL told the press “MAKERS.com was built to utilize the latest innovation in video and mobile technology.” The site lets users individually curate and discover the stories of all these amazing women.
We’ll be watching on February 26 at 8pm as the full-length documentary series launches on PBS.
We learned on Wednesday that Al Jazeera has acquired Current TV, the progressive network co-founded by Al Gore, which Wolff Olins created the identity for in 2010. Al Jazeera plans to use Current’s established distribution deals and audience as the platform for a new English-language channel, which will be available in more than 40 million homes, with newscasts from both New York and Doha, Qatar.
It’s certainly an interesting marriage of brands. The two media companies have fundamental principles in common – an independent and uncompromising point-of-view, a sharp focus on quality journalism and an unshakable mission to tell stories that matter.
NYT quoted Al Gore’s Co-Founder Joel Hyatt praising Al Jazeera for “bringing large-scale resources to journalism — something which we have not been able to do.” Still, Al Jazeera will have its work cut out in providing an alternative viewpoint to U.S. domestic news, at scale. To cultivate their U.S. audience now, the network will have to first persuade many Americans to get over the stigma of watching Arab-owned TV.
We see two paths to overcoming that barrier: either build on the established Current TV brand and the awareness and loyal following it comes with, or uncover a way to re-imagine Al Jazeera as a new global lens for American viewers.
Sam Wilson is managing director of Wolff Olins New York.
Last Thursday we were excited to have Chris Smith and Matt Lewkowicz from Huma-Huma come in for our weekly share in the New York office.
A few of us were lucky enough to work with them on the compositions for the recent USA TODAY broadcast spots. Huma-Huma certainly have more than one string to their bow: They are at once a band, company, collective, and sound house. They make music for films, television shows, commercials, video games, websites, toys, hotels, installations, interactive work, and anywhere else you could possibly imagine music or sound.
They endeared us with their creative and intuitive processes and showed us a sampling of their work. Below is my favorite piece, commissioned by Showtime as part of a short film series, that I feel really sums them up…
It’s been a choppy few weeks in publishing. As Newsweek on this side of the Atlantic announced it will become an online-only edition called ‘Newsweek Global’ from 2013, The Guardian Newspaper in the UK was forced to deny rumours that it was “seriously discussing” ending its print edition after the claim was made by rival paper The Telegraph.
Causing the most noise however is the news (pending regulatory approval) of the merger of two of the world’s most famous publishing houses – Penguin and Random House. No doubt the staff and authors represented by both organisations are feeling a little unsure of the future right now, since in so many situations ‘merger’ is a corporate euphemism for ‘rationalisation’. And it’s no secret that publishing has been feeling the unsettling effects of the recession and digitalization more than most industries.
For anyone who has a large place in their heart for the enduring brilliance of the Penguin Books brand – the classic literature, the elegant graphic covers, the cheeky and distinctive logo, even the worrying diaspora of merchandise – this could be a troublesome development. Apparently, the new joint company will be called Penguin Random House. I can’t help thinking that ‘Random Penguin’ would have done a better job of maintaining some of the British eccentricity we know and love.
But let’s not dwell on naming (always a sticky topic, and always easy to criticize from afar). What about the opportunities this presents for the companies as they come together?
The merger gives them 3 key strategic advantages:
-Scale: together they will be the largest consumer book publisher in the world with 25% market share
-Content: a combination of current mega hits (like Random House’s Fifty Shades of Grey) and a stellar back catalogue (including George Orwell, Dickens and Virginia Woolf from Penguin)
-Efficiency: sharing resources and cutting costs in areas such as supply chain distribution
Combined, this means negotiating power - which they need if they are to have a voice at the table with Amazon and its ilk. Not only will the new company have the potential to drive down the cost-per-copy of physical books, but also push up e-book prices (which many believe are currently so low they’re drastically under-valuing author’s achievements). According to Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson (owners of Penguin), they see this as a chance to “invest in books and new ways of deploying them” – a future-thinking focus that is long overdue in the industry.
One of the biggest brand challenges they face is also one of their strengths. Both companies are a made up of several well-loved consumer facing brands: their imprints – like Jonathan Cape, William Heinemann or Vintage at Random House, and Penguin Classics or Viking at Penguin. Each imprint has its own individual brand equity built on editorial leadership, talented authors, committed readers and recognised visual identities. That’s a lot of cultures and agendas to align, and they’ll need a clear vision to guide them through the changes ahead.
However unsettling, it is encouraging to see the literary establishment mobilize themselves to face the future. If Penguin Random House can harness the passion of the imprints behind a unified vision to deliver efficient innovation in publishing, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Amy Lee is a senior strategist at Wolff Olins New York.
I was planning a trip home to NYC and the first question I asked my sister is: “Where should we eat?”
Ten years ago, my first question would have been: “Are there any good shows happening?” Like many Seattlites who grew up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, I spent my youth seeing Death Cab at local venues before they got big, scouring indie record stores for hidden gems, and creating mixed tapes for my friends
Fast forward to 2012. The closest thing I have to a mixed tape is my Spotify playlist.
Thanks to technology, music is more personalised, democratic and accessible than ever. It began with the iPod, which revolutionised the way people listened to music. We went from buying CDs and listening to whole albums to downloading MP3s and listening to individual songs. The “Top 25 Most Played” song list became one of the most telling and intimate parts of our cultural identity.
More recently, we’re shifting from downloading to streaming. Through Spotify, I have millions of artists and songs just click away. Through Pandora, I can go on autopilot at work and listen to Phoenix and bands that sound like them. I couldn’t live without Spotify and/or Pandora, but they take away the magic of discovering a new band or musician. Sure, concerts and shows bring back some of the magic, but it’s just not the same.
Hipsters and non-hipsters alike now ask: “Have you tried this new restaurant?” Chefs are the new rock stars. People follow David Chang in NYC, Heston Blumenthal in London, or Tom Douglas in Seattle as if they were the lead singer of the band.
Unlike music, technology has not yet erased the magic of discovering a new restaurant or chef. While Yelp and Zagat have made it more challenging to keep favourite spots hidden, going to a restaurant or eating your way through a food market is such a visceral, multi-sensory part of culture that it has to be experienced in person.
Melissa Andrada is a strategist at Wolff Olins London. She’s passionate about the intersection between technology, social good and brand. Lee Fields is currently at the top of her Spotify starred list. @themelissard
We talk all the time to clients about influencing and changing people’s behaviour, this is one of the most engaging ways I have seen it done. Interactive billboards have been around for a while but this has to be the best example of the media’s potential to place the consumer/viewer at the heart of the proposition and make them reevaluate their attitude.
The billboard concept was created by N=5 in the Netherlands.
Fran Bell is an implementation director at Wolff Olins London.
Now, look at USA TODAY’s cheeky response in today’s LIFE section:
Already, it’s exciting to see the identity system we created for USA TODAY act and react to news in real time. Sparking a conversation across the media, exactly as intended, and beyond. Both for serious and lighter news, like this.
Putting Everyday Americans at the Center of the News
One year ago, USA TODAY began work on the reinvigoration of their brand. And starting Friday morning, as the newspaper enters its 30th year, its millions of readers will be welcomed by a contemporary and refreshed redesign.
The new USA TODAY remains true to the original, but with a more current approach; smart and succinct, relevant and useful, trusted, unbiased and as always, straight to the point. Wolff Olins is thrilled to have been a part of this work, which includes a refresh of their masterbrand logo, full redesign of the newspaper, creation of a flexible brand system, content strategy and launch advertising, and a new brand story developed with Co:Collective.
Incepted in 1982 and built on its founder Al Neuharth’s goal to be a ‘forum for better understanding,’ USA TODAY quickly cemented its position as one of the nation’s largest and most respected news organizations. They achieved all this through visual story telling, concise copy and a dedication to telling the news in a way that made it relevant to the lives of everyday Americans.
But 30 years in the game, USA TODAY’s pioneering vision had become lost in a sea of imitators and parody-makers. The brand was looking dated. And internally, the pressures of navigating the changing media landscape had led to a fractured brand and a lack of consistent vision for the future.
It very quickly became apparent that bringing this new brand identity to life would require a wholesale redesign of their flagship product, the newspaper. While USA TODAY has a highly successful suite of digital products, their printed product still remains the most prominent footprint for the brand. Together with the marketing and editorial teams, USA TODAY and its partners established a number of task forces to focus on every part of the paper and develop a new approach to content and how they present it.
With today’s unveiling, the next generation of USA TODAY evolves the brand, with a bold new look that takes their iconic visual storytelling to the next level. The redesign includes increased color, photos and infographics. Several of the fan-favorite sections have been enhanced including the States and Weather pages. And the Tech and Travel sections have been expanded to include increased coverage.
“The decision to remake an iconic brand should not be taken lightly,” Gannett CMO Maryam Banikarim said at an employee presentation earlier today. “The re-imagination of the USA Today logo is a great signal to the marketplace. It’s a signal of all the changes that are happening here - of our new digital products, our new re-designed paper and a re-imagination of our content across all platforms.”
Larry Kramer, president and publisher of USA TODAY told press “We are America’s newspaper and we take that responsibility seriously.”