The more ‘things’ stay the same

Some compelling thoughts from global consulting giant Deloitte in their annual list of telecommunications, technology and media (TMT) predictions:

http://deloi.tt/1DF7BcD

The key (and perhaps most encouraging) takeaways from our perspective — first, that a lot of the hype about how the ‘Internet of Things,’ or connected ‘smart’ devices, is going to to revolutionise the way the average consumer goes about their business may be just that. As long as it’s associated with $99 lightbulbs (http://bit.ly/1BXXPhv), the IoT will remain more aspiration than reality. As Deloitte points out however, it may be a different story for enterprises, which have bigger pocketbooks and are already well-established users of smart gadgets. And the data some of those devices generate will open new marketing and content possibilities.

Also nice to hear that e-readers are a long way from displacing physical books completely, even among the younger crowd. Many are reportedly still attached to print books because they appreciate their smell and the sight of full bookshelves. We couldn’t agree more — is there anything quite like a leisurely browse in a crammed bookshop on a rainy day? Which is why we were disheartened by the news of the demise of yet another bookstore chain in our hometown (http://bit.ly/1C5CmDm). Show the love by splashing out on some real page-turners today, folks!

Finally, Deloitte’s less than sold on the financial prospects for short-form (under 20 minutes) video, hailed by many as the future of television. It seems it’s easy enough for short-form video to get eyeballs, but not repeat viewings or commitment — which should be far more important for content creators. For all the talk about shorter attention spans, audiences will still make time for a longer story — as long as it’s engaging, and well-told.

 

 

 

Data, dressed up

Happy New Year, everyone. In line with our prediction that data (compellingly delivered) will be used to build audiences and tell more stories this year, here’s a gem of an outfit that gets data visualisation right – Information is Beautiful (http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/). It’s created some arresting presentations on everything from air safety to diversity in the technology industry, but us being who we are, these two on must-read books are probably our favourites:

http://bit.ly/12E1CEy

http://bit.ly/1vTUBu4

IIB’s also produced a very handy cocktail recipe guide for those who aren’t inclined to let the holiday celebrations end just yet. Enjoy (ahem, responsibly): http://bit.ly/1Jw2Q6G

A holiday wish

2014 was a big year, for New Narrative and our hometown of Hong Kong. We’re looking forward to a brief holiday break before we plunge in to a new year that’s likely to be no less eventful. Our thanks and warmest holiday wishes to our clients, friends and industry peers. May your 2015 be crammed with great content, and new beginnings.

 

What the future of content looks like

Another year coming to a close means the year-end lists are multiplying thick and fast. Buried in the onslaught of holiday-fuelled, feel-good indulgence and clickbait (Exhibit A: http://bzfd.it/1yq0D6t) are a number of compelling predictions about where the media industry, content marketing and social networks are going in 2015. We found some of those from Contently (http://bit.ly/130GLfS) and Say Daily (http://bit.ly/1ENZZCK) particularly insightful.

Definitive statements on the future are always dangerous, but the n/n team agrees some clear trends are emerging that are only likely to gain momentum in the year ahead. In no particular order:

Media/content marketing convergence: As more brands look to publish their own material rather than relying on news outlets to do it for them, more news outlets will create teams and outlets to attract, produce and distribute sponsored content. While this could raise ethical questions, the borders between advertising and news have always been more porous than they appear. Provided sponsored content is clearly differentiated from the non-sponsored variety, this will be on balance a positive development for traditional media and its audience, as it will relieve some of the industry’s financial pressures and ensure more journalists are paid something above subsistence wages.

The (continued) mobile takeover: While we’re not convinced 2015 will see wearable technology take off on a big way, more people than ever will be accessing content on mobile devices. Rather than devising a separate mobile strategy, companies will have to ensure their content is built from the ground up with mobile displays and interactivity in mind — which means a focus on accessibility, ease of use and the ruthless pruning of unnecessary clutter.

Even bigger, and better-looking, data: Analytics, and particularly social media analytics, are growing even more sophisticated, so expect more media and other companies to use data to predict what their audiences want – and produce accordingly. Rich data visualisation will also become an increasingly important way of telling a story in its own right, as seen in some of the excellent infographics produced by the likes of Quartz (http://qz.com/). Quartz recently made one of its in-house graphics tools, Chart Builder, open source, which should encourage even more to pick up the visual journalism mantle. Take a look at how it works, or try your hand at chart creation, here: http://quartz.github.io/Chartbuilder/

 

Outsourcing the message

We really enjoyed this article from the talented folks at the Guardian on a profession that probably didn’t exist even a few years ago — social media management: http://bit.ly/1B33SFn 

Keeping Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages updated with fresh content is now a complex and time-consuming enough job that people are prepared to outsource it. And despite the author’s discomfort with being ‘ventriloquised,’ it sounds like these particular hash-tag happy ghostwriters did an admirable job, taking the time to get to know their client and her goals and crafting their — her? — messages to match.

So are social media managers really necessary? As we advise some companies on social media strategies ourselves, we may be biased. But we’d say — if your Facebook/Twitter output goes mainly to friends and/or consists principally of food or cat pictures, probably not.

If you’ve got a reputation to maintain or are keen to build a following, a little professional input might not hurt. But just like @CocozzaPaula, be wary of any attempts to ‘refresh’ or replace your voice. A good social media manager isn’t there to tell you what to say, but to help refine the ideas and expertise you’ve already developed for a brave new medium.

 

The Other Movember

Moustaches be damned – here at n/n, November can only mean National Novel Writing Month. “International” may be more appropriate, since 400,000 writers from 200 countries are expected to participate. Those signing up tackle the Herculean challenge of drafting a 50,000-word novel before midnight on November 30, for (pretty much) nothing but the sense of achievement. More details at nanowrimo.org.

By way of encouragement to all taking part, here’s some sage advice from W. Somerset Maugham:

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

If you’ll permit us to interpret, we believe the British great means that when it comes to writing, there are no universal formulas – and no shortcuts. Novels are born of determination, elbow grease and sheer love of the written word. We like to think we bring these things to our writing projects, and to all those putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, whether for the first or the thousandth time — we salute you.

 

 

Quality Control

Looks like the news world may have a new editor-in-chief — Facebook. The social media giant now drives up to 20 percent of the traffic to news sites globally via its News Feed feature, which uses complex algorithms to recommend stories that may appeal to a user. All this from an insightful (and sometimes harrowing) article by the New York Times

At New Narrative we have the utmost respect for Facebook’s technical prowess, but think this does raise some troubling questions. At its best, the news, like all good stories, should not only inform, but broaden one’s outlook, encourage dialogue and, yes, provoke debate. It’s less likely to do that if it’s expertly curated to appeal to consumers’ already entrenched preferences.

 

After a (new) beginning

If you’re a frequent visitor, you may have noticed a few changes around here. We’ve given our website an overhaul that we think reflects some of the recent growth of this young enterprise, and hope that you enjoy the new look as much as we do. Expect a return to more regular posting on this blog, which will weigh in regularly on the joys (and sorrows) of writing, creation, communication and other worthwhile causes. We of course welcome comments and contributions — hey, even crushing rebuttals.

You’re likely to see the ‘brand journalism’ term thrown around now and then. Ordinarily at n/n we’re no fans of jargon, but here’s a brief primer on why we’re willing to make an exception in this case: http://new-narrative.com/about/whats-brand-journalism. Our friends at the Financial Times have also produced an interesting take on the phenomenon — it’s a tad on the cynical side, but as former hacks ourselves, we found ourselves frequently nodding in agreement: http://on.ft.com/ZPBR3T

Before the Beginning

Here’s a bit of sage advice from a literary giant on the importance of knowing what you want to write before you try to write it:Read more

Style: a definition

“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”

—Jules Renard