TODD SMITH — The Spin Cycle: O.J.’s wild ride 20 years ago ushered in new era of journalism

OJIt’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since our world was transfixed by an astonishing, slow-motion car chase – O.J. Simpson in that white Bronco, pal Al Cowlings at the wheel, more than a dozen police cars in pursuit, TV helicopters looming overhead.

Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, had been murdered, and the former football star had been named a suspect. Simpson had a gun in the iconic Bronco, and authorities feared he might commit suicide. After 90 minutes, the chase along the freeways of L.A. ended uneventfully in Simpson’s driveway — with a staggering 95 million Americans watching on television. Face it, all of us can remember where we were and how we were entranced!

Thus began an extraordinary 15½-month obsession with O.J., culminating in the “not guilty” verdict at his murder trial that bitterly divided the nation. But The Chase wasn’t just the beginning of Simpsonmania. The national preoccupation with O.J. Simpson ushered in an entirely new media world.

So many of the trends that now engulf us had their roots in The Chase and the Trial of the Century: saturation coverage of a single story; celebrity journalism; reality TV; the fascination with criminal trials, the more lurid the better.

CNN took a lot of heat earlier this year for its single-minded focus on the saga of the missing plane. That phenomenon started with O.J., when the cable news pioneer devoted 900 hours of airtime to the subject. During one week, the networks turned over a total of 84 minutes of their nightly newscasts to the Simpson saga.

Reality TV has been a staple for quite awhile. But the notion that an actual story with real people rather than a produced drama could rivet the nation became abundantly clear with Simpson – and continues to shape the news today.

Instagram Followers Give Mississippi Mom A Job

The insatiable desire of advertisers to follow potential customers wherever they’re headed means that for some people, doing what they love — if they do it well — can result in a pretty awesome career.

Melissa Vincent, 37, a stay-at-home mom from Hernando, Miss., never in her wildest dreams thought that snapping a photo of a bug in her tent on the Okavango Delta in Botswana would launch her Instagram career.

Vincent started out just exchanging photos with her sister back in 2011. But Instagram allowed her to tap into a creative side that she hadn’t been able to give voice to before. She fell in love with the possibilities and honed her craft until she had 390,000 followers who loved the photos she posted as “misvincent.”

That in turn caused companies like National Geographic and Dos Equis to come calling, asking her to tag along on trips and post photos of what she saw.

An entire ecosystem has come into being around people like Vincent, who have mega-followings on social media. Companies realize that hiring social-networking stars on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter is a crucial way to reach customers.

With a plugged-in younger generation turning away from traditional ad spaces such as newspapers, broadcast television and magazines in droves, ads need to go where the eyeballs are.

Agencies are springing up to bring the two together. One example is the Mobile Media Lab, created by friends who started posting on Instagram soon after it launched. These social platforms are launching the careers of moms – and dads – across the world.

5 Emerging SEO trends

In our rapidly changing Search Engine Optimized world, it’s imperative that businesses keep up with the latest SEO best practices to continue to build their brand online and in the digital domain.

Search-engine optimization tactics change over time — some would say every time a Google exec sneezes. Midway through 2014, it’s a perfect opportunity to review how SEO has changed this year and to evaluate whether your business is staying current. Some aspects of SEO have changed dramatically, while other guiding principles have remained tried and true. With that in mind, here is a list of five new SEO trends from Digiday that will keep your SEO strategies top of mind:

1. Go mobile first – Having a website optimized for mobile devices will provide more SEO value than ever. Google gives added value to websites that are mobile-friendly. This means companies that aren’t optimized for mobile put themselves at a great disadvantage – not only in terms of their website’s user experience but also in terms of SEO. By making a business’s online presence more powerful and increasing their website’s SEO value, good “responsive design” can help it stay ahead of its competitors.

2. Content is still king — Good content will always provide decent SEO value for a business. Although many people hear content and automatically think of blog posts or whitepapers, there are other components such as videos and infographics that can be used effectively to share information while earning high levels of engagement and adding SEO value.

3. Don’t forget to be a good neighbor – Although obtaining quality inbound links has always been a focus point for SEO professionals, the practice has sometimes hurt the company’s branding efforts. Remember that both link building and effective branding need to complement one another in order to maximize their respective benefits. Reaching out – using tried and tested forms of PR to raise awareness of your website – is an important part of strengthening a business’ SEO presence, while letting it maintain control of brand image.

4. Social media is more important than ever – While the popularity of your business’s content on social media will not directly affect overall rankings, having positive social signals does help SEO. This is particularly true on Google Plus, where your content is more likely to be higher in an individual’s search result if they are in your circle on Google Plus. In order to fully leverage this, it is important that a website include social sharing modules so that content can be quickly and easily shared by the most users possible.

5. That’s right, Google Plus — Google Plus offers more value than just helping your content rank higher in search-engine results for the people who have you in their circles. This is particularly true if your business puts out a lot of interesting content on a regular basis. Correct implementation of Google Authorship adds a nice author visual that Google pulls from Google Plus — dramatically increasing click-through rate for content that features the image.

Frappe Mic | Starbucks Adds Luster To Brand With Scholarship Program

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement recently launched with Arizona State University.

The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid.

In a low-wage service industry, Starbucks has for decades been unusual, doing things such as providing health insurance, even for part-timers, and giving its employees stock options. These innovative programs continue to make Starbucks one of the most valuable brands – and workplaces – in the land. For this new scholarship program, Starbucks takes a frappe-influenced Golden Mic.

Todd Smith, MBJ columnist

Todd Smith, MBJ columnist

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.

 

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