Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twitter's Sharknado Frenzy and the Future of Advertising

Everything you need to know about Twitter's promise and pitfalls can be summed up by Sharknado. Here's an excerpt from a piece I wrote for MoneyBeat last week, a discussion of the campy SyFy movie "Sharknado," Twitter, and advertising, with Mark O'Brien, the head of DDB Worldwide's North American business.

I loved "Sharknado," by the way, and I really did think it illustrated something key to Twitter's future. Was waiting for a few months to find a good way to get it into a story.
Nothing illustrates the value TwitterTWTR +2.41% offers to advertisers, and the problems with Twitter for advertisers, quite like “Sharknado.” 
The SyFy channel airs scores of low-budget, cornball movies. Most of them, with names like “Dinocroc vs. Supergator” and  ”Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” come and go quietly, even if they happen to star the occasional B- or C-list actor (the latter, in fact, featured both Debbie Gibson and Tiffany). But the network scored an unlikely hit this past summer with “Sharknado.” The Twitterati turned this low-budget piece of camp it into a brief, viral pop-culture feeding frenzy (yes, we were enthusiastically tweeting during it, too), and a ratings hit for SyFy. 
“It was a hilarious phenomenon,” said Mark O’Brien, president of the big ad agency DDB North America, and an early proponent of interactive platforms at the firm. “Think of the viewership, for what was one of the worst produced shows ever.” 
That viewership came almost wholly from the buzz on Twitter, and that little frenzy is exactly what advertisers are looking for, Mr. O’Brien said, which is simply the ability to capture the viewer’s attention. Any company advertising during Sharknado hit on a mini-windfall. 
But that kind of buzz so far hasn’t translated into profits for Twitter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Best Writing Lesson

The best lesson I ever learned about writing I got from running.

When I was in my early 30s, I realized that drinking five or six days a week was not a particularly promising health regimen, so I joined a gym. There was one in the building where I was working at the time, in Jersey City, N.J., and it offered a corporate discount. It was a fine, modern gym,with all the fine, modern features. But I realized pretty quickly that I had no interest in weights, or spinning classes, or personal trainers, or much of anything there. The only I really like was the treadmill. I enjoyed running on the treadmill.

That realization led to another one: What did I need with a gym if all I was going to do was run? I could do outside for free. I quit the gym, and started running on the streets of Jersey City.

What's this have to do with writing? I'll get there.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Twitter: Cheap to Use, Expensive to Buy

Twitter is a great service. It might not be such a great investment, though.