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Internet Week recap: Catching up with digital leaders from Mashable, Tumblr, Reddit, Buzzfeed and more


June 4, 2012

From May 14-21, more than 200 events took place as part of 2012 Internet Week New York, including panels focusing on startups, digital culture, media and entertainment. Here are several highlights from the weeklong conference. 

Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s discusses data

“We use data because it gives us the right answers and is objective, and you use it for insight,” said Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane — and subject of the recent box office hit “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt.

Beane gave the opening keynote address about the explosion of data and fragmentation of technology.

He described how the baseball club used data analysis and  Wall Street-type thinking in a non-traditional way that helped it win games and rebuild a failing franchise.

“One of the biggest challenges in our culture is when you do something nontraditional — it’s very uncomfortable,” he said, adding that you need to find a rational way to put numbers together and make decisions based on numbers — predictability has made baseball what it is today.

“Making objective decisions is easier said than done, especially in an emotional field like baseball. We’re measuring every single moment [and] mining information to see how we invest in player performance,” he said. Measurement is key on and off the baseball field.“Find undervalued skills for players and those that you can afford. [Building a business] now is a lot like making a baseball team. It’s a meritocracy,” he said. “If you get your guy on base, you’re going to score runs.”
 

Tumblr and Reddit on what works on the Web

Those who are going to excel in the business world are the people who are innovating on the Internet, according to two entrepreneurs who did just that.

David Karp, 25, CEO of  Tumblr, and Alexis Ohanian, 29, CEO/founder of Reddit, spoke with Shira Lazar as part of her weekly talk show, “What’s Trending with Shira Lazar.”

With more than 2 billion page views and 35 million unique users, Reddit is a fast-growing place to share links and have discussions.
“If people stop acting like humans and start acting like marketers, then they will probably fail,” said Ohanian. “The payoffs are huge for real humans.”

He talked about how refreshing it is to find people with a voice who aren’t just pushing and pitching at you.

And to be engaging on Tumblr, Karp said,  “The one with the most innovative strategy wins — people that show up with new creative ideas to media. It’s a meritocracy.”

Tumblr has become mainstream in the United States as more users have adopted the tool, and it has taken off on a global scale this year, he said.  The platform works with brands and publishers to see how they can use the site to grow their businesses, and recently reached 20 billion posts and 50 million hosted blogs.

As for the future, Ohanian said that optimizing the mobile Web will continue to increase, along with more visual-driven sites like Pinterest.

Karp thinks that a new trend will be creative digital brand advertising. He finds the state of digital ads “uninspiring” and said that few online advertisers can tell a creative and compelling story, adding, “the best stories build intent rather than harvest intent.”
 

Mashable’s Pete Cashmore talks trends

“If you want to change the world in a real way, [then] you’ve got to be into the Web or even biology,” said Pete Cashmore, stressing the significance of technology, creation and engineering. “The world moves fast and then you have to make sense of everything — understand the trend and understand why.”

Cashmore, who founded the site in 2005 at age 19, points out the importance of trying to maintain a specific voice with so many people on the Web. “If you have a more limited scope, you can be more creative,” he said.  “We need to put creative limitations on ourselves.

“The quality of the content is what’s important,” he added, saying that people want a filter for their news and want you to bring them to a source. “A brand is incredibly important — people see it as a [destiny].”

There isn’t a line between consuming and creating anymore, he said. “It’s all about optimizing and if you’ve served your reader.”  This culture of communications and reaching people is the main focus.  Track links and optimize, he said. “It’s about being prescriptive and descriptive.”

Cashmore said that Mashable and others on the Web are in a listening role and need to figure out what users want, and then try to cater to multiple devices. Figure out where people are going and how you can make sure it’s the best experience, whether it’s mobile or an app.

“The future of social is about explicit sharing and about creating filters that make the world more relevant to you,” he said. “People need control.”


Buzzfeed on social content

As social content site Buzzfeed has learned, tracking the latest real-time obsessions on the Web goes beyond a cute cat photo or the latest celebrity gaffe.

Buzzfeed President Jon Steinberg said that the site strongly believes in the concept of sharable content, but is shifting gears to add original work and move people’s thinking toward branded content and online advertising.

Co-founder Jonah Peretti and Steinberg discussed Buzzfeed’s place on the Web as a content producer and vehicle for branded content.

“It’s now possible to make content for humans instead of Google algorithms,” Peretti said of social networks, adding that Buzzfeed looks for provocative ideas with social commentary built in.

“We’ve seen a movement from portals to search to social,” said Steinberg. “There is a massive movement toward social advertising. In the portal world, it’s about the push; in the social world, it’s about the share.”

He also said that digital revenues are down, but that social content is at the top of the funnel of drivers for brands, which is at the core of the Buzzfeed model.

Peretti noted the importance of shareable content and said that while slideshows generate a lot of page views, people don’t really like them and or pass them along as much as lists.  “Having a voice is very important — and being culturally relevant,” he said. “You want to create an emotional experience,” and have value in the long-term.

“Social is about the emotional connection between humans,” he said. “Brands will no longer be able to tolerate products just because they have scale.”

 

Amy Jacques Amy Jacques is the managing editor of Tactics. She holds a master’s in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Email: amy.jacques at prsa.org



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