Thought and Bothered: Links of May 8, 2016

Up this week: Trumpology, the singular approach to urban planning, an evolution in musical leadership, glorious new food trends, good content, and pigeons.

1. Who's out and who's in? This marks the first full week of a presidential campaign where Donald Trump is the only remaining candidate for the GOP. If you, like me and a lot of other people, would like to start trying to understand how this happened, let the research begin/continue. We have before us a case of tribal politics (to that end, this theory of the outgroup is so fascinating), obvious racism, unbridled PR churn, and a lack of accountability. I'm not just talking about the GOP candidates here: A free press is designed to bring fact to oration, no matter how sensational. As Nate Silver so nicely put it: "Any time a demagogic candidate wins a nomination, it suggests a potential failure of political institutions, including (but not limited to) the media." Finding the free press lacking,  Trump's win was based on exploiting republican social grievances. It's feeding into and off of public pain And, to an alarming extent, his twisting of facts has gone largely uncontested by ratings-chasing networks, but that pattern is starting to change. Let's hope that sticks.

2. And since we're talking about racism and the impacts of policy on society, no matter how well intended, I came across this article on the negative impacts of the urban planning work of Jane Jacobs. For anyone who has studied or worked in urban planning (I did), you know Jacobs as a pioneer in rebuilding communities. In school we were taught her theories and methods, we praised her results and modeled ourselves after her example in our mission to rebuild Main Street, USA and bring economic redevelopment back to urban and suburban communities. Turns out the best laid plans won't accomplish the intended results without the correct policies and laws behind them, nor without community inclusion: that's policy. Design doesn't solve all. It's half the partnership, and - as with the most fulfilling arrangements - opposites attract. She got half the equation right. It's our job to do the rest.

3. On to content. In any story, I'm always more interested in getting to the why than I am in focusing on the what. I also love stories about the creative process, and about the intention of the artist, so it should come as no surprise that I love a podcast based on musicology. If you haven't been listening to Switched On Pop, I highly recommend that you join me in this obsession. This week they are talking about Beyonce's Lemonade, and about Prince... which is also just about all I've been listening to during my vacation week, and these artists have been heavily on everyone's mind (and heavy in conversational rotation). Fun fact: after their Grammy's performance, Prince was inquiring into Beyonce's true music knowledge and was impressed that she wasn't "merely" a pop star. But he did suggest that she learn piano. And on the weekend of his death, she released Lemonade, which includes a track where she is singing and playing the piano.

4. Speaking of music... Radiohead. Last week, Twitter and Reddit collectively lost their mind when all the band's social posts from the past were deleted. Tumbleweeds rolled through Radiohead's Twitter, Facebook, and even their website (gasp!). But WHY?! Speculation ensued. They effectively built content by removing all content, priming audiences to pay attention and creating a "clean slate" for their new album, which was released last week. Radiohead is not just a band. They are a business with a surprisingly complex corporate structure, complete with a sophisticated marketing strategy that consistently gets people to pay attention. So now the Radiohead Reddit can get back to analyzing the album. I need more time.

5. Google launched a report on the latest food trends based on search, and this is infinitely interesting. This will be great for anyone experimenting with food, or working to make relevant culinary content. Fun facts:

  • Jackfruit (#3 trending useful food) is a vegan pork substitute that we will all be eating soon.
  • Manuka honest (#4) is all you need for a hydrating, antibacterial face mask, according to my favorite facialist, Britta. 

6. Here's some bad news: your headlines suck. But they don't have to. Here's a whole list on every tip you can imagine to write better headlines, but I'll say that I think this post applies to social media captions, as well. The second-to-last infographic wins it for me. Now I'm going to tell my team to write 25 headlines for each article. They are going to love that!

7. Point #6 matters more because Facebook is changing their algorithm again, and this time it's going to prioritize quality content. Yep, that's right. So now, not only do your headlines have to improve, but your content has to get better, too. That means a few things, which Tim Cigelske beautifully capture in the link above. In summary:

  • Don't make unnecessary content. Say what you want to say, and say no more.
  • Don't make each paragraph increasingly boring. Pepper the good stuff throughout.
  • Get rid of your slideshows because they take effort to navigate, and that's annoying.
  • Preview the good stuff upfront.
  • Leave a treat at the end.

If you prefer the podcast, here it is:

8. Events! Have you ever wanted to see a pigeon ballet? Neither have I. Until now. Artist Duke Riley is conducting a performance over the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through June 12 and his performers are 2,000 pigeons outfitted with LED lights. According to the New York Times, "Despite clouds and chilly temperatures, the birds’ performance was a revelation, a touching unity of human and animal behavior, with sky, water and the city." On that note, et tickets through the Creative Time website. Your snapchat will thank you. Wear a hat.

9. And finally, The McKittrick Hotel is doing a new interactive party series called Supercinema. The first one is a Great Gatsby theme. You come as a character inspired by the film (book), and get a night of dancing, performances, and an open bar. It's on May 21, but space is limited. Gatsby Supercinema tickets are here.

Have a great week!

Thought Tips: Week of May 1, 2016

It seems to be a good moment to kick off something I've been meaning to do for quite a while, which is to create a weekly list of things I'm reading or seeing, talking or thinking about. It might be about content marketing, social media, urban planning or redevelopment, the food industry, women's issues, or a something else entirely, but I'm going to start listing some of these things because points of interest for me might be points of interest for you, too. I'll do this every week, so the format might change over time. Please give me feedback! Here goes.

  1. New York magazine is launching Select All, reporting on how real people are impacted by technology shifts (in their words, exploring "the weird and wonderful ways people express themselves on the internet and social media.") there's already some great content on there from Max Read and team, who kicked off the editorial experiment in November under the name "Following." This will be a good one to subscribe to if you want to consider user-impact to brainstorm creative or strategic implications of new technologies instead of slogging through technical details to try to artificially direct user behavior.
  2. The Serial team hired a community editor, Kristen Taylor, for season two and added content across social channels. “As we binge/stream asynchronously, it’s even more important to find ways to make clear that you aren’t listening/watching alone,” she wrote. Her last day on the job was sat week. Here's Taylor's Medium post on how she scaled the fan base - which was less viral but much larger in the second season - across social channels. Smart woman. 
  3. President Obama gave his final Correspondents' Dinner speech this weekend. The man knows his timing. (Please, someone, give him a show next year!) Check it out here. And to dig a little deeper into how unique Obama's comedic style is vs. presidents past, look no further than this little gem
  4. The Tribeca Film Festival ended last Sunday, and it was full of VR experiences this year (some mind-blowing, others profound, and one definitely showcasing the art of PR more than film, but I digress.) The films ranged from animations (you must see Allumette, on that note), to scripted narrative and documentary. The possibilities of VR are still being explored, and we continue to bang up against technical limitations while pushing the limits of audiences' capacity for navigating a new experience and not getting vertigo or throwing up. Yet VR's power to tell a, well, immersive story is undeniable, and nowhere is that more valuable than when you're trying to push a doc message. Here's a great piece on the challenges and opportunities of VR becoming an actual reality for documentarians
  5. Did you know that there are now nearly 5 PR people for every reporter in the US? Neither did I. According to Mike Rosenburg, that's double the rate from a decade ago. Most industry categories that are hiring journalists today are overwhelmingly PR, but also marketing and advertising. On that note, while it's not a requirement, I tend to look for writers with a journalism degree for my own team. So this is partially due to where the demand for their skills is coming from, but Mark makes excellent points about the economics of the whole business.
  6. And an event, for those of you in NYC. There's a zine exchange at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, NYC on Friday the 13th. Bring your own or just show up to see what's out there and get inspired by the latest in independent zone publishing. It's free to attend and $7 to play the exchange game if you don't bring one to the party. RSVP here.
  7. PHOTOGRAPHERS! May 2 is the last day to submit your work for the Emerging Photographer Fund via Fuji. The entry is on Burn Magazine's site. Non-photographers, the magazine's Instagram is pretty great.
  8. Don't hate me for this, but I saw Hamilton last week. It blew my mind and got me reading or re-reading all things about the production. So far, the New Yorker is offering up the highlights. For a look into how Miranda created it, read All About the Hamiltons. And for a look at the women in the story - both the actresses and the real women of the Revolution, so often overlooked by history - read The Women of "Hamilton". For a deeper look at the modern story of the women in the cast, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls also published a cool piece on Making Herstory on Broadway.
  9. I happen to be in Puerto Rico on vacation at the moment. It's interesting time to be here because it's during a great milestone in their financial crisis (today is their initial payday deadline) and there is much debate over their political circumstances and potential statehood. Even Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an op-ed about the situation, channeling his inner Hamilton. 
  10. Okay, now the last thing! Brian McConnachie is relaunching the curated comedy magazine American Bystander. It. Is. Good. You can buy American Bystander #1 on Amazon, and even if you weren't a backer of issue 2 on Kickstarter, you can still pre-order there (or you'll be able to get that one on Amazon, too). It's an interesting way to use new technology to revive a print magazine that failed in the early 80s after one issue, but at least they'll have a good sense of their subscribers before they go to print. Aspiring zine makers, take note! This comic is from Issue 1. I can relate.
I would join that riot. 

I would join that riot.