Confessions of an Instagram Influencer

On Bloomberg, Max Chafkin (with a little help from a couple of agencies) turns himself into one of those horrible Instagram lifestyle/fashion brand-human-hybrids:

A week later, after a haircut the price and duration of which I refuse to share, I met Marcel Floruss and Nathan McCallum, two of Socialyte’s professional clients, at Lord & Taylor to borrow some outfits. The two men are opposites in almost every way. McCallum is compact and favors ripped jeans and piercings, and Floruss is lanky and clean-cut. Both are cartoonishly handsome, and both (I noticed this later when I checked out their Instagram work) have amazing abdominal muscles. “Constantly,” Floruss said, when I asked him how often he takes pictures of himself. “You sell part of your soul. Because no matter what beautiful moment you enjoy in your life, you’re going to want to take a photo and share it. Distinguishing between when is it my life and when am I creating content is a really big burden.”

[…]

By dinnertime, I’d posted a second picture and had acquired a few dozen likes and roughly three followers. That’s actually not bad for somebody with an almost nonexistent presence on Instagram, but it was discouraging to me, because I would need at least 5,000 followers to have any hope of making money. That night, I signed up for a service recommended to me by Socialyte called Instagress. It’s one of several bots that, for a fee, will take the hard work out of attracting followers on Instagram. For $10 every 30 days, Instagress would zip around the service on my behalf, liking and commenting on any post that contained hashtags I specified. (I also provided the bot a list of hashtags to avoid, to minimize the chances I would like pornography or spam.) I also wrote several dozen canned comments—including “Wow!” “Pretty awesome,” “This is everything,” and, naturally, “[Clapping Hands emoji]”—which the bot deployed more or less at random. In a typical day, I (or “I”) would leave 900 likes and 240 comments. By the end of the month, I liked 28,503 posts and commented 7,171 times.

Publishers stop using chumboxes

Sapna Maheshwari and John Hermann’s article for the NYT, Publishers Are Rethinking Those ‘Around the Web’ Ads:

Usually grouped together under a label like “Promoted Stories” or “Around the Web,” these links are often advertisements dressed up to look like stories people might want to read. They have long provided much-needed revenue for publishers and given a wide range of advertisers a relatively affordable way to reach large and often premium audiences.

But now, some publishers are wondering about the effect these so-called content ads may be having on their brands and readers. This month, these ads stopped appearing on Slate. And The New Yorker, which restricted placement of such ads to its humor articles, recently removed them from its website altogether.

Among the reasons: The links can lead to questionable websites, run by unknown entities.

Sounds pretty terrible for readers. Just listen to Matt Crenshaw, VP of product marketing at Outbrain, one of the companies selling these terrible ads:

“As this space has grown up, this is becoming a very significant percentage-wise revenue source for publishers. We have been told from major, major publishers that we have become their No. 1 revenue provider,” he said, declining to name specific companies.

Herrman’s erstwhile colleague at the Awl, John Mahoney, previously produced an excellent and complete taxonomy of internet chum, the term given to these awful pieces of shit.

Why you shouldn’t move your company blog to Medium

Active Collab, who make project management software, have moved their blog (back) from Medium to their own domain. They list the reasons, with conflicts of interest affecting calls to action an important factor, along with SEO:

A blog should build company’s brand and authority, not Medium’s. As such, it should be a part of [the] activecollab.com [website]. We actively write good content and we should be the ones to get the SEO benefits.

The more quality content we have as part of our domain, the greater our domain authority is and the better we’ll rank in search results. We should be the ones to reap the benefits from our work, not someone else.

Facebook to remove share count API

Last year Twitter stopped sites from displaying the number of times an article had been Tweeted. This sent marketers into meltdown. Now Facebook is doing the same thing.

James Parsons, for Inc.:

This is an interesting change. Facebook clearly still shows share counts on their own buttons. It’s only the availability of data for third party buttons that has been removed. In other words, Facebook is trying to shut down third party share counters, in favor of making marketers either use no-count buttons like Twitter, or making them use the official Facebook buttons.

Site owners everywhere will need to update or remove their sharing buttons. It’s questionable how useful having the count next to the button is to the audience anyway:

My question is actually how long Facebook’s buttons will continue showing share counts. I may be erring on the apocalyptic side here, but this hints to me at a larger change in the works. Facebook share counts are a good metric to monitor for tracking engagement rates, but the display of the counts wasn’t necessarily helpful or valuable.

Here’s what I think is the key takeaway:

[Marketers] didn’t work towards better goals, and treated share counts as the goal in and of themselves […] I’m not saying seeking engagement is a bad thing, but it’s just another example of fixation on a number that isn’t as meaningful as people thought it was.

Nominally about Seville orange marmalade

How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. This is really great and I won’t spoil it for you. Ensure you get to step 3.

Why did everybody do the Harlem Shake?. “Experts said the ‘Harlem Shake’ phenomenon was emergent behavior from the hive mind of the internet—accidental, ad hoc, uncoordinated: a ‘meme’ that ‘went viral’. But this is untrue. The real story of the ‘Harlem Shake’ shows how much popular culture has changed and how much it has stayed the same.”

Some Genius named Rick Rubin is annotating Kanye West, Beastie Boys, and others. Yes, that Rick Rubin is nonchalantly tossing out facts about music that he helped make, and comments on music that he didn’t.

Facebook is bigger than anyone knew, even Facebook. “We all know Facebook is huge, and drives incredible amounts of traffic. But thanks to its recent efforts to uncloak the sources of content with no known referrer, we now know that the numbers are bigger than anyone believed.”

GDS Digital Services 2 – An Opportunity Missed. Amid the (rightful) celebration of the great work the UK’s Government Digital Services project has done, Clearleft’s Andy Budd describes his dissatisfaction at the process used to select designers and developers.

One man’s quest to rid Wikipedia of exactly one grammatical mistake. Wikipedia user ‘Giraffedata’ has made over 47,000 edits since 2007. Almost all were to fix incorrect use of ‘comprised of’. Be sure to read his explanation.

A bittersweet and brillig tale. I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of Rachel Roddy’s posts here—they are uniformly excellent; a combination of tremendous travel writing, beautiful insights into childhood (in England) and adult (in Rome) life, and invariably brilliant recipes. This one is nominally about Seville orange marmalade, but really much more than that.

Are you ready for your sunny day? I approach this with no small amount of personal bias. The speaker in this TEDx talk is Jay DeMerit, a professional footballer who played in the late ‘00s for the team I support, Watford, and who was part of one of the most unlikely teams to have reached England’s Premier League, the top division of professional soccer. His career—and there are many hugely unlikely events that he glosses over here, self-deprecatingly—is strange enough to have been made into a film, but in this talk he outlines his particular approach to life, which amounts to focusing on positives rather than negatives. This includes a particularly nasty sounding injury, which to my knowledge was never revealed until now. Suspend your snark and irony: this is an upbeat talk—by a intelligent professional footballer, no less!—about being positive and preparing for the best, not the worst. There are many terrible TED talks out there, but this is a good ‘un.