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Is news more interesting if your friends are reading it?

The Wall Street Journal thinks so. It just added SeenThis? to its online articles, which allows Facebook users to share WSJ articles they find interesting and see what articles their Facebook friends like.

This isn’t groundbreaking; it’s just a personalized version of the article-ranking systems many online newspapers already have. But it’s more public than the super personalized “email this” feature that allows you to send an article to an individual email account.

Will it boost WSJ online readership? Possibly. I like to scan the “Most Popular” articles listed on some of my favorite newspapers. I’m always curious about what other readers are engaging with, and sometimes I spot headlines I find interesting. (The selections tend to be more fun than useful, but so what?) I think it’s fair to say that this increases the amount of time I spend on the site—and that I can be influenced by the reading habits of others.

The user-review method of boosting sales has certainly worked for Amazon. The ultimate test for WSJ will be whether or not the new article-sharing feature will translate into more paid online subscriptions. People might be persuaded to sign up if they see that highly respected or influential “friends” are reading the WSJ.

What about you? Do the preferences of your peers influence your reading habits? Enough to cough up some cash for a special subscription? Selena Welz, associate managing editor

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January 31, 2008 Posted by | Content Syndication, In the News, Selena Welz | 1 Comment

Keys to viral marketing success

Brian Morrissey has a good piece in ADWEEK’s January 7 issue called “The Rules of Viral Web Success, at Least for Now.”

He says it’s all about the three S’s: simple, self-expression, sharable.

Recent successful viral Web campaigns, such as Burger King’s “Simpsonize Me” and OfficeMax’s “Elf Yourself” took these guideline to heart.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or even use the latest technology. If it’s fun and you can customize it and share it, you’ve got a winner.

Don’t be afraid of the simple idea. Think of all the things you received in YOUR inbox over the last year. What did you spend more than a minute with? Did you pass anything on? If so, why? John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

A whopper about the Whopper

You’ve probably seen the ads: Burger King employees tell customers that the Whopper is no more. What?? The home of the Whopper has discontinued the Whopper?? Customers freak out, and Burger King eats up—and films—every minute of it.

One blogger says the ads are “breaking all the rules.” I’m not so sure. I thought the ad was clever when I first saw it, but then I gave it more thought. Burger King has been the home of the Whopper for 50 years, so of course customers would be shocked to hear that the company discontinued it. You’d get the same reaction if McDonald’s pulled the plug on the Big Mac, or if Starbucks stopped selling Frappuccinos.

According to a recent marketing newsletter, the ads are “using a negative situation to highlight the popularity of the Whopper.” True? It seems like a given that someone standing at the Burger King counter would be bummed to learn of the Whopper’s demise. But if you went into a McDonald’s and filmed reactions to the same statement, you might not think the Whopper was very popular (and for the record, I’ll take the Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr. over a Big Mac or the Whopper any day).

So back to the point: Is the ad “breaking all the rules” by lying to customers and then recording their reactions? Is Burger King clever for jumping on the YouTube/viral marketing bandwagon? Maybe. But I’m wondering if the ad campaign is just preaching to the converted.

What do you think? Julie Jares, managing editor

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Brand Marketing, Julie Jares, Web Content | 4 Comments

Leave the writing to the pros

It’s true: when you take something away, its value becomes more apparent. I once smashed my thumb in a car door, which debilitated my right hand for several weeks but left me with a much stronger appreciation for my opposable digits.

I’m hoping a similar effect will result from the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, and a higher value is placed on professional writing skills. The latest effect of writers ditching Hollywood is the canceling of the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, producing some kvetching from those involved with the awards. The Daily Show returned to the air sans writers this week and has managed to pull off two decent episodes, but one wonders how long Stewart and Co. can rely on navel-gazing jokes about the absence of writers on the show. It’s clear that the entertainment industry depends on good writing for its success.

Developing successful content for a website is no different, yet many organizations cheap out when it comes to the writing. The prevalence of bad writing on the Web attests to this. Sure, it might seem to make sense for Jerry the Marketing Guy to develop your Web content, and Jerry might even be great at his marketing job, but that doesn’t mean he’s a writer. (No offense, Jerry.) Relevant professional experience is just as important in writing as it is in any other job category. A car salesman may know a lot about cars, but that doesn’t mean he can fix your transmission.

Quality Web content does translate into monetary value for your organization, so it’s worthwhile to invest in developing your content the right way. If you want a website that will produce results and help advance your organization’s goals, let the professional writers and editors do their jobs. —Selena Welz, associate managing editor

January 9, 2008 Posted by | Selena Welz, Web Content | 3 Comments