Here’s what good web production looks like

Video section on the homepage
Video section on the homepage

This is a screenshot of the video block that sits half-way down the homepage.

Notice each video has a specific and properly formatted headline. No clunky ellipses. Every word carefully chosen. Even the spacing matters.

These are the subtle cues that separate excellence from mediocrity. Taken individually, these efforts don’t matter much. But put them together — all the thoughtful edits, all the care that goes into media selection, all the language — and they create the sense of professionalism that’s a hallmark of top-tier organizations.

“The beauty of science”

In a wonderful piece on the limits of science, Robert Krulwich concludes with this bit of excellence:

… that’s the beauty of science: to know that you will never know everything, but you never stop wanting to, that when you learn something, for a second you feel crazy smart, and then stupid all over again as new questions come tumbling in. It’s an urge that never dies, a game that never ends.

I’d extend that line of thought to anything that’s tough, tricky, confounding, ambiguous and important: You may never get there, but you always have to try.

I’m so glad this marketing consultant got in touch with me

I got this in my inbox today from a “marketing consultant.” Team,

I thought you might like to know some reasons why you are not getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic for

Wait, wait! I know this one!

I’m not getting enough “Social Media” (capital “S,” capital “M”) and “Organic search” (capital “O,” not sure why it’s a lowercase “s”) because it’s been years since those sites were updated.

That little fact is what makes the postscript on the original message so confusing:

PS I: I am not spamming. I have studied your website and believe I can help with your business promotion …

Two things:

1. When you say you’re not spamming you most definitely are spamming.

2. If you clicked through to any of the sites listed on you’d see they ceased publishing quite a long time ago. Your extensive study of my web properties must have missed that. Odd.

And while I’ve got you here, esteemed marketing consultant, here’s a tip: Your tone needs work. You can think I’m an idiot, but don’t let me know that.

Kevin Spacey knows what’s up: The audience won, so knock off the nonsense

“Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”

   — Kevin Spacey, James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

That’s a single quote from this fantastic compilation of Spacey’s recent speech:

The full text from Spacey’s speech is here.

Via Gawker

IBM: Relevant in 2000 and relevant in 2013

This market value graphic is floating around the Internet:

People are focusing on the Microsoft orbs, and for good reason: Gawking is warranted when you “lose” $313 billion.

But let’s put that aside and focus on a different part of the image.

Take a look at IBM:

  • 2000: $209 billion
  • 2013: $203 billion

I find IBM’s staying power far more impressive than the blobby expansion and contraction of other firms. It’s hard to build something that adapts, reinvents and perseveres across long stretches of time.

The clockwork behind the Quartz Daily Brief

I read the Quartz Daily Brief almost every day. This is notable because I’m not all that interested in international business or politics. Yet there I am, each morning, scanning through the latest Quartz has to offer.

I appreciate the elegance of the thing. It’s a simple, well-written lineup that starts with the important stuff and concludes with a handful of weird/interesting/notable links that I often have yet to encounter. The tone of the email is smart, but not off-putting, funny, but not snarky. And it has never — not once — been twee.

After reading this case study, I appreciate the Daily Brief even more. Turns out Quartz produces three editions every day, each timed to serve a particular part of the globe at precisely 6 am.

Quartz senior editor Zach Seward explains how it all comes together:

“Typically, one of our reporters in the United States—it’s a different writer each week—pulls together the first draft of the email in the afternoon on, say, Tuesday. That’s edited in the U.S. as well, and sent to our readers in Asia, where it’s already Wednesday morning. (We aim to hit inboxes by 6 am in Hong Kong, London, and New York, respectively.) About six hours later, reporters and editors in Asia update the email to reflect any new information and send out the Europe edition. Finally, the Americas edition is sent from Asia or Europe about 12 hours after the whole process began in the U.S. It’s a lot of work, but our readers seem to think it’s worth the effort, which is all that matters.”

The socialbot arms race

From the New York Times:

Christian Rudder, a co-founder and general manager of OkCupid, said that when his dating site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15 percent drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred, he maintains, because the flirtatious messages and automated “likes” that bots had been posting to members’ pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. “Love was in the air,” Mr. Rudder said. “Robot love.” Mr. Rudder added that his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, “a purgatory of sorts,” to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans.

[Emphasis added.]

Jeff Bezos gives The Washington Post something better than hope — now it’s got potential

Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post has inspired lots of “Why would he buy that“? analysis — some of it is quite good and some of it is really funny.

But this single tweet from Adrian Holovaty explains why Post staffers, subscribers and anyone else who cares about the institution should feel good about the move:

Bezos’ involvement gives the Post potential. Now there’s a chance that something interesting is going to happen there; something that’s not just a repackaging of content or yet another paywall or some other half measure driven by desperation.

Why BuzzFeed is winning

The New Republic’s Marc Tracy explains why BuzzFeed’s version of the Reza Aslan / Fox News interview captured so much attention:

As I reported in a New Republic story about the site [BuzzFeed] a year ago, its presence on social media, its clean layout, and its editorial philosophy of shearing most context from tidbits of news and giving readers just the thing itself—all make the site immaculately positioned to capitalize on the new news economy, in which readers increasingly find things like this video not by subscribing to or regularly visiting specific blogs or websites, but by happening upon independent articles shared via social media like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. Indeed, more than half of BuzzFeed’s pageviews have come from people clicking on links to the post that their friends shared on Facebook. (And don’t sleep on [BuzzFeed writer Andrew] Kaczynski’s headline—headlines being something that I would bet BuzzFeed spends a substantial amount of time thinking about. Kaczynski’s headline was, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” Don’t you want to click and find out?) [Emphasis added.]