I once watched an episode of Blue Peter, where they buried a time capsule. I think it was about 30 years ago? I can’t remember what they put in it, but the idea of it was captivating.
In the digital space today, there are a number of current trends and developments – some of which I’m finding really interesting. I decided to collect my thoughts into this blog post.
I’m aware that what I write will no doubt date very quickly, so I’m seeing it as both a discussion starter for now and some sort of time capsule for tomorrow.
Since the first UK lockdown began in March 2020, I’ve become a regular listener to the Ahead of the Game podcast, from the Digital Marketing Institute. Many of the discoveries I’m sharing today have come from that podcast. So, thank you, Will Francis and the team behind it. I highly recommend it.
What is it? According to its own blog, Clubhouse is ‘a new type of network based on voice. It’s a place to meet with friends and with new people around the world—to tell stories, ask questions, debate, learn, and have impromptu conversations on thousands of different topics.’
Where did I first hear about it? After seeing some tweets by tech journalist Josh Constine, I got on board and dipped my ear into a couple of ‘rooms’. It was all a bit awkward and messy, like listening into a conference call with people you’ve never met and only have a few things in common with.
Verdict. I’m currently not convinced I will become a devotee. I’m struggling to see real value in it, particularly as room content is not recorded (well, not that we know of!). I see a problem with this, as any insights and learnings you hear on Clubhouse can’t easily be returned too, catalogued or referenced. Josh is smashing it on Clubhouse, and I respect his work greatly, so my position may change.
What are they? NFT is the acronym for non-fungible tokens. OK?! Well, yes, some more explanation would be helpful, I think.
The Verge describes them with this helpful analogy: ‘“Non-fungible” means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a bitcoin is fungible – trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different.’
They are an example of how blockchain technologies are advancing quickly and disrupting the status quo.
Where did I first hear about them? In a tweet from entrepreneur and digital marketing guru, Gary Vaynerchuk. He compares his excitement towards NFTs with the early days of the internet and then Web 2.0. My ears pricked up. Gary has since spoken about them regularly on podcasts, blogs and on his social channels. He’s definitely someone to follow, and he knows what he’s talking about.
Verdict. I’m not so keen on investing in crypto currencies just yet, but blockchain as a concept is hugely fascinating. My mind has been opened. And Google Docs, which I’m using to draft this blog right now, is perhaps an example of my favourite blockchain technology.
But while NFTs may be an exciting economic development, there is a downside. In short, they’re not great for the climate. According to Wired, verifying NFTs requires ‘a network of computers that use advanced cryptography to decide whether transactions are valid—and in doing so uses energy on the scale of a small country.’
What is it? It’s a way of making writing newsletters pay the bills. The web-based platform, Substack, has lured celebrated writers and journalists away from their jobs at larger, more traditional media outlets. You can write free newsletters to build your brand, raise awareness etc, but you can also monetise them, charging a subscription for each one you send out.
The Guardian says: ‘Incorporating elements of Mailchimp and Patreon, Substack has variously been hailed as the future of the media industry, a home for writers who don’t want to be edited, and a place where those who have already made a name for themselves find success.’
Where did I first hear about it? On a podcast episode of Ahead of the Game, where author Clark Boyd told Will Francis about how he’d started writing on Substack. Clark explained how it’s a popular tool being used in the emergence of the ‘passion economy’. The passion economy is where people make money – sometimes a career – out of producing content or products they’re personally passionate about.
Verdict? I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of email newsletters. I usually only scan the preview copy on my Gmail, and now and again open the email and see what’s what. It’s the modern day problem of a proliferation of content. But I’m actually quite attracted to the freedom you can have on Substack. It’s still early days for me, but I’ve signed up for one newsletter so far (a free one, but which does offer a paid level for more perks).
Substack author, Judd Legum makes an important observation, and one that is a sign of the times when it comes to content engagement: ‘It’s not about gaming the Google algorithm or the Facebook algorithm.’
This reinforces for me again the importance of writing quality, value-enticing headlines that sit above quality, value-delivering content. Which brings me nicely to my next topic to discuss…
What is it? AI copywriting is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to write copy for you. In the wrong hands it can write convincing fake reviews and fake news articles. It can also be very helpful in creating headlines and micro-copy, quickly, effectively and successfully. The most well known AI copy generator is GPT-2, developed by Elon Musk’s OpenAI project.
Where did I first hear about it? As above, I first heard about this on the Ahead of the Game podcast.
Verdict. Kerry Harrison, from the agency Tiny Giant, told the podcast that AI copywriting has both benefits and limitations, ‘It’s not great at doing narrative. It’s great at subject lines or social posts, but when it comes to storytelling it’s not so strong,’ says Kerry. ‘I think we’ve got a way to go before we get anything equivalent to a human.’
As a copywriter myself, I feel both fear and a thrill that this is not simply ‘a thing’, but is actually pretty darn good. But I’m reassured by what Kerry says and what I’ve seen that when it comes to narrative, AI still has a fair way to go to beat humans… and hopefully will never get there!
Written by Andrew Horton, Worldview Media