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TODD SMITH — Big media companies market publishing platforms

Leading global media giants – in search of new revenue streams – including Vox Media and The Washington Post are hoping to interest other companies in the content management systems they’ve built in-house.

At the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff provided a four-point plan for growing the company, including strengthening its brands beyond their own websites and helping marketers do the same. Vox brands include The Verge and Eater.

Vox Media, Bankoff said, wants to “not only improve the products that we’re creating with our brand names on them, but how we think we can leverage those capabilities to other entities, particularly in the advertising realm.”

Earlier, Washington Post Chief Information Officer Shailesh Prakash gave a progress report on the company’s Arc platform, “a powerful suite of publishing tools custom built for the modern newsroom by engineers at The Washington Post.”

Arc has already been leased to eight college newspapers nationwide for testing. But the college program has now been paused, Prakash said, as the company focuses its attention on landing paying customers.

The Post has announced five such clients so far and says it has signed about that many more that it hasn’t announced. In October, the Post said Willamette Week had become the company’s first licensing client for Arc.

There is no upfront cost to license Arc, with licensees paying based on their traffic, storage, and professional service needs.

Profit is not the Post’s short-term objective for Arc, though Prakash said that’s the ultimate goal. “We are not in it, at this time, to make money,” he said.

Vox first jumped into the platform-licensing waters last year when it introduced Chorus for Advertisers, a system for creating, distributing and measuring branded content, at an event during the digital media industry’s NewFronts.

DigitasLBi signed on to offer Chorus to its marketer clients, and used it in in a campaign for Lenovo, Fantasy Online College, that ran through the NFL season.

Nicole Estebanell, senior VP and group media director for DigitasLBi, praised Chorus for Advertisers in a recent interview with Ad Age. “I think it’s always interesting when a new platform launches, and or an agency partnership is announced, because sometimes the hope of what it can deliver doesn’t always manifest itself in the way you’d like,” she said. That hasn’t been the case here, she said.

Media Global Head of Brand Strategy Lindsay Nelson told the publication in February, when asked for an update on Chorus for Advertisers aiad, “the way that we’ve been working with brands is in more of a hybrid approach. They want great content that reaches the right audience at the right time. I think that most of our partners have found that we’re much better suited to do that on their behalf.”

Vox Media, she said, doesn’t “just send an Excel spreadsheet,” but rather provides brands with actionable, analytics-based insights.

While both Vox and the Post are bullish on their chances of making money off their technology, some companies, like Gawker Media, have pulled back.

In a November 2015 memo, founder Nick Denton said the company would suspend efforts to develop and license its proprietary Kinja platform, “given the competition that exists from technology companies devoted entirely to that challenge.”

Worst social media fails so far in 2016

We’re not even a quarter into the year, but there have been a boatload of social media blunders already!

From Coca-Cola to MTV and online fashion publications we’d otherwise never know about, these are some of the top “online oops” so far in 2016 according to Entrepreneur:

1. Coca-Cola

It’s never a good thing to tick off the Russians. But it seems Coca-Cola has done  so right out of the gate after it sent out a tweet featuring a cartoon with a snow-covered map of the country. Seems innocent enough, right?

Taking a closer look, the map’s actually outdated, omitting Kaliningrad, which was annexed following World War II. Needless to say, Russian patriots were not happy with the company, as they posted pics pouring the soft drink into toilets with the hashtag #BanCocaCola.

2. MTV Australia

Sometimes you almost wish for the company’s sake that its account was hacked. Such was the case when MTV Australia sent out an astonishing offensive tweet, asking “Where are the English subtitles?” while America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were on stage at the Golden Globes.

MTV didn’t need a translator to figure out an apology was in order. Still, the crowd wasn’t satisfied and another apology was issued.

3. DC Comics

Face-palm online after DC Comics posted a photo of the comic saying it was translated from Pakistan as if it were a language. Too bad the official language is Urdu.

Obviously, users were quick to point out DC’s ignorance. It’s a good reminder to do your research – always!

4. Seoul Secret

In some cases you just have to stop and wonder what the heck the company’s PR team was thinking.

Seoul Secret, a beauty brand, thought the campaign “White makes you win” promoting skin-lightening cosmetics was a good idea.

The company sent out a tweet referring to the campaign along with a video of actress and singer Chris Horwang talking about her career and how her white skin helped her to be so successful.

Not really a shocker that the ad wasn’t well received.

5. Total Beauty

If you fail at the Oscars, folks are going to know. Just ask Jennifer Lawrence after her fall on the Oscars stage.

However, online platforms can be just as damaging, if not more so, especially since users don’t have the chance to get back on their feet with the help of Bradley Cooper.

Total Beauty, an online publication, learned that the hard way after it somehow confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in a tweet. Both are high on the list of people you should not upset.

Sorry, Total Beauty: America’s not going to fall in love with you for that one.

Golden Mic | MTSU pranced in cinderella slippers in The Big Dance

Middle Tennessee State pranced into the Big Dance in Cinderella slippers and spiked a glass stiletto into No. 2 seed Michigan State, beating them 90-81 in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.

The Blue Raiders, seeded No. 15, jumped to a 15-2 lead and never trailed.

It was only the eighth time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2.

Michigan State came into the game favored by 16.5 points, according to ESPN, and it was the fourth-biggest upset in 20 years.

The 50-44 win over Kentucky in 1982 also came in the first round of the NCAA tournament, when the field included 48 teams.

The next-biggest upset for MTSU came in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament when the Blue Raiders, seeded No. 13, defeated No. 4 seed Florida State 97-83 also at Vanderbilt. The Blue Raiders are now 3-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

More recently MTSU was a No. 4 seed in the National Invitation Tournament in 2012 and defeated No. 1 seed Tennessee 71-64 at the Vols Thompson-Boling Arena.

A total of just 2.2 percent of the brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge had MTSU picked to beat Michigan State. At the same time, 22.3 percent of the brackets had Michigan State picked to win the national championship. Although they lost in the next round to a strong Syracuse Orange team, quickly turning the Blue Raider’s magic carriage ride into a pumpkin, they made a huge impact for underdog brands everywhere – and bounce home with the Golden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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