iPad fans and content creators, rejoice! At least a little, once Adobe at last releases a desktop-like app for Photoshop later this year, and is reportedly set to announce the same for Illustrator. Upon its initial release, the Photoshop app will be lacking some notable features of the desktop version, so the same may have to be expected for Illustrator. Still, this could finally be a major step toward the iPad becoming a widely adopted tool for content creation.

Another new iPad development could also aid content creators: mouse compatibility – albeit enabled through accessibility settings (and the unusual use of a dot as a cursor, instead of the customary pointer icon).

Do you trust your AI?

Companies are increasingly relying on AI and machine learning-driven products to help in their business operations. This includes marketing. But before diving into an AI-centric product, you should be able to answer the following with good clarity:

  • What are you trying to achieve in your marketing operations with AI? What specific pain points does it address?
  • Can you declare with certainty that the vendor’s AI or ML product really satisfies your business needs?
  • Have you tested the product against curated data to determine whether it can properly reproduce real-world results?
  • Are you expecting the AI to generate new business insights, or help streamline your marketing operations? (The latter may not be a good use case.)
  • Do you harbor any doubts about the performance of the product, or whether in fact it really is operating with AI?

The last question is fundamentally important. Increasingly, there are reports out there that tech companies are touting their offerings as AI-based, when in fact they’re not. If the AI is questionably valid, then it may have unfavorable impacts on your business, especially if you’re reliant on it for your decision making. If it turns out that the product isn’t really AI but based on data analytics or human curators, then you’re being misled.

Legal liabilities against fraudulent, or dubiously AI tech companies could be in our future.

Uber just made a new round of layoffs, some affecting its performance marketing team. This is the team involved with online marketing and advertising, including (presumably) targeted ad campaigns all over the web and social media. These layoffs mark the second time Uber has restructured some of its marketing operations.

For young, growth-oriented tech startups, I continue to believe this is only the beginning of many, many marketing-related job cuts to come over the next several years. The marketing spend at these companies has been extraordinary to help fuel high velocity growth, but it simply can’t be sustained forever.

The trouble with content marketing

Here is an article I originally wrote four years ago in 2015. I’m republishing it here as I feel the essence of this piece is still very much relevant today as it was back then. The article is presented in its entirety, with no edit whatsoever.

Here’s a reality check with marketing, and especially, digital marketing. It’s not great. In fact, it often downright sucks.

This includes content marketing, the catch-all term associated with strategizing, creating, refining, disseminating, and tracking content for marketing purposes. Content marketing is both a reality today and an overused, exhaustively overhyped buzzword, particularly among the SaaS vendors, investors, consultants, and anyone out there peddling their purported skills and expertise.

Many like to think of content marketing as the “new” age of marketing, replacing the longstanding practice of pushing product promotions into traditional broadcast and print media to try and increase mindshare. Today, while the new digitally-based media makes it possible to track marketing success a lot more definitively, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to create quality, highly relevant content that aligns closely to the core missions of the company.

The unfortunate reality today with digital marketing and content marketing, at least as I see it, is that we’re way too much focused on distributing and tracking our messaging, and not nearly focused enough on crafting the messaging itself.

It’s really a damn shame, because the whole point of marketing to is communicate your company’s products and services in the most clear, direct, and compelling manner to your customers. Both prospective and existing customers are equally important and must be treated distinctly.

The honest truth is that crafting really good content is not easy. You need professionals dedicated and skilled in all manners of copywriting and design. You also must have managers and subject matter experts working hand-in-hand with the content creators. And above all, any stakeholder should have at least an elementary mental correlation with the what the company seeks to endeavor as a result of the marketing.

The years of obsession over SEO, marketing automation software and methodology, and metrics seem to be taking their toll on trivializing what matters the most – a well-defined strategy for customer communication, and the ability to carry that through to creating the necessary collateral that meets the essential requirements.

Also problematic is this widespread belief that we need to constantly flood our channels with our content, no matter how relevant or worthy it may truly be. Some of this is part of the trend today of trying to hyperscale, manufacture virality, and ultimately project an image to VCs that yes, your company is on this wildly incredible growth spurt and is worthy of a substantial investment at an astronomical valuation.

And before you come out swinging with defensive commentary, take note that Buffer has admitted that the way they (and many others) have been approaching social marketing isn’t working. Social media is widely considered one of the main pillars of content marketing.

Here’s what it comes down to, in my opinion. Marketing is a profession, a line of business, a distinct corporate discipline. We need to do more to garner the respect it deserves, and not limit ourselves to short-term gratitude from hastily produced content that isn’t really genuine. We have to be more conscientious that we’re doing in content marketing and digital marketing today is denigrating ourselves, the companies we work for, our customers, and yes, marketing itself as a profession.

Let’s just try and do something better for ourselves: pay more attention to our content.

Putting focus on web accessibility

As a general principle, the web is freely accessible to everyone.

But while the web is open to anyone, it’s largely been a barrier to those less fortunate. Those with accessibility challenges through a wide range of visual, hearing, physical, and other impairments.

Accessibility for the disabled is generally associated with physical environments such as airports, schools, and restaurants. But you may not be aware that it applies to the digital world as well. Specifically, the websites we interact with every day of our lives.

There’s a very serious problem with poor accessibility over the web. For US public institutions, websites are required to follow accessibility guidelines for those with disabilities, under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

But the unfortunate reality is that beyond public entities, websites generally fail in providing adequate accessibility for those with impairments.

I’ve been hearing more and more about the need to address this problem within the WordPress community, at local meetups and WordCamps (local WordPress conferences).

But it’s not just a problem for WordPress. It’s incumbent on all web developers, and also businesses owners to practice good and proper website access for all. It’s also something UX professionals should be eagerly addressing.

So, what exactly are the issues with website accessibility? Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Poor readability emanating from low contrast between the text and its background
  • Inability to navigate throughout a webpage through just the keyboard (no mouse or trackpad)
  • Incompatibility with screen readers – a prominent example being images lacking “alt=” text descriptions
  • Use of colors in imagery and graphics without proper consideration for those with color blindness

Despite debate over whether ADA regulations apply to websites, the US Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that ADA accessibility laws do apply to publicly accessible websites, in a prominent case against Domino’s Pizza brought forth by a blind person.

California and other states have been actively enforcing web accessibility requirements vis-à-vis the ADA. In recent years, there’s been an incredible surge of lawsuits filed against businesses for having problematic websites.

Monetary penalties for accessibility violations are substantial, and can be issued to both the website owner and the contracted web developer. (I’m not a lawyer so respectfully, I won’t comment further.)

It’s time to start taking this seriously, everyone. My recommended starting point to learn more? Ethan Marcotte’s discussion on his blog. Marcotte is among the most well-respected web developers in the world, so his sentiments should speak volumes.

Need another recommendation? Hop onto the WordPress channel on YouTube, and look for relevant WordCamp presentations by searching under “web accessibility.”

Google is amping up video search

Google continually endeavors to better surface useful content for us, based on what we’re searching. Along these lines, they’ve now added something rather interesting to search results: user-defined timestamps / bookmarks in videos. It’s up the content creator to add these to a video.

Source: Google

This new deep searching capability in videos is pretty darn cool. You now can mark up your videos with bookmarks that others can potentially find in their search results. And when your video does surface in a search result, the user will be able to select a bookmark and jump right to that specific point in your video.

To allow this capability, you’ll need to register yourself and your video.

This feature works with YouTube, naturally, but Google says it’s working to make this available across the web from other publishers.

Conquering video as a marketing medium has been rather challenging for many digital marketers. Many have managed to “fake their way” to success by scraping together content – via hiring cheap copywriters, stuffing text with SEO keywords, and sourcing questionably relevant artwork from no-cost image repositories like Unsplash.

But video is vastly different is that you really can’t fake your way around it. The only way video will work for marketing is to make it real.

The primacy of email marketing

One thing I’m hearing and reading with steady frequency is that the practical value of social media marketing is questionable.

Many marketing “experts” and thought leaders believe email is superior to social media as an effective communications channel for promotion. Email marketing seems a more natural fit to actively communicating with customers and prospects (especially in the B2B context), while social media may be more appropriately suited as a medium for building awareness and buzz.

The important exception, however, is whenever social media serves as a vital customer communication and acquisition channel (more likely with very young, consumer-oriented businesses).

Social media marketing has been viewed as the modern successor to email marketing. It’s been heavily touted as more sophisticated, shinier, and sexier than email. But all too often, also hyped to point of delusion.

Now, many marketing professionals are observing, from their metrics and intangible factors, that email delivers far better ROI over social media for their campaigns and promotional goals.

Email marketing isn’t merely making a comeback. It’s the enduring customer engagement channel that’s never gone away.

Google Search is here for us, not SEO gurus

For whatever reason, I always feel the need to remind SEO-obsessed marketers about Google, and search engines in general. They’re here to help us – both the content consumers and publishers, better find each other.

If we’re able to successfully discover or share the stuff we covet, then theoretically at least, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone. Google Search wins by serving us the appropriate ads, while we win by finding what we need, or attracting the visitors we desire.

Google and other search engine providers exist for our benefit and theirs as well. They don’t exist for the benefit of SEO specialists and marketers – but rather, in spite of them. Digital marketing, especially with regards to SEO, is often viewed as a self-serving profession that exists mainly for its own prosperity (rather than the businesses they serve).

As part of their mission to improve the discoverability of relevant search contexts, Google continually tweaks their systems. Recently, they published an article stating their intention to better surface original news reporting in search results.

The article goes into a cursory explanation of their algorithmic approaches. This is balanced against human “raters,” as a check on the accuracy in assigning priority ranking to news stories deemed to be authoritatively original around a specific event or situation.

While certainly noteworthy, it’s the mission statement at the beginning of the article that carries the most significance to me.

Google Search was built to provide everyone access to information on the web—and with tens of thousands of web pages, hundreds of hours of video, thousands of tweets and news stories published every minute of the day, our job is to sift through that content and find the most helpful results possible.

The sheer power Instagram wields over its users

Instagram is currently in the midst of an experiment: hiding the number of likes on users’ shared posts. In seven countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand), you’re only able to see the number of likes on your own posts. No one else can see them.

Thus far, the effects of Instagram’s tinkering appear to be dramatic and impactful.

  • Influencers are complaining that not being able to see the number of likes has led to a substantial decline in attracting likes and comments on their content.
  • On the other hand, influencer marketers seem more favorable in that they can now better assess organic engagement and click-through activity – as opposed to likes as a vanity metric that doesn’t truly indicate product / brand appeal.

Instagram’s stated intention with hiding likes is to reduce the addictive behaviors and psychological pressures that have negatively stained social media’s reputation.

It’s not known whether Instagram will roll this out worldwide, but this trial only further exemplifies the absolute power it possesses over all its users.

It’s important to remember that social media platforms aren’t public entities, but privately owned. And those who run them have the absolute discretion to make any modification as they see fit.

Web scraping may be perfectly legal

LinkedIn has been at the forefront of fighting the practice of entities collecting public user profile data from its platform. They’ve been at odds with a startup scraping such info from LinkedIn’s website, and have just lost an appeal against a preliminary junction protecting the right to web scraping publicly accessible data.

All this means that despite all the controversy and criticisms of collecting and possibly exploiting public website info, web scraping may in fact turn out to be OK from a legal standpoint.

I’ve been among the critics of web scraping, primarily because the data collected seems primarily for self-serving intentions, at the expense of user privacy. The company in the legal case against LinkedIn is a startup called hiQ, said to be using LinkedIn’s public user profile data to provide info to employers about the possible behaviors of their employees (whether or not they’re job searching).

If the right to web scraping ultimately does prevail, we may all have to re-evaluate how much of ourselves we want to make public on social media and other platforms. And that could include our very own web presences.