YouTube Shorts, FPV Model Trains, BookTok, and Capt Kirk Forever

Today’s email was written to my 2021 Q1 Spotify Playlist, which closes next week as I start yet another quarterly playlist of moody tunes from scratch set to working-from-home-during-a-global-pandemic. You can listen to the 2021 Q1 vibes here and 2020’s cumulative playlist here. 🎶

Lots going on in the world and #MarketingTwitter this week, but I want to point to Delia Cai’s processing of Asian grief via linking to her favorite TikToks of Asian joy and also her piece on the promising accountability of the workplace confessional. Her newsletter is fantastic.

This week I learned how to set up a small business wired and wireless network in my home and got to play amateur IT technician, with lots of remote help from Blake Krone. There’s a whole world of infrastructure behind the high speed internet that powers our lives that I’ve always taken for granted. It took some serious work for me to get my brain around the basics, and I’m excited to learn more about it this year. And will henceforth show even more respect for those IT folks who keep the world connected. 🤯

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

YouTube Shorts Will Challenge TikTok and Instagram Reels: This week marked the introduction of the YouTube Shorts Beta to the U.S. Although Shorts appears to be a TikTok clone at-first, the social network will be adding features to use audio from videos across YouTube – which includes billions of videos worldwide – unlocking a new playground of creativity that rival networks don’t have. Update your mobile YouTube app and give it a spin.

How Friendships Thrived in Video Games During the Pandemic: Gaming has been mainstream for quite a while, but video game friendships have helped people get through a year of isolation and loneliness. Even pre-pandemic, while 80 percent of people said they played video games purely for entertainment and fun, more than half said it was a way of enjoying time with their friends. The time of lockdown only accelerated that trend. Key quote: “Combined with phone calls, texts and chat tools like Discord, video games — from battle royal “Fortnite” to the immersive world of “Roblox” — are giving people a way to share fun, escapist experiences with each other when their shared reality is darker. They also act as a conduit for discussing the harder topics, like depression. Whether it’s shooting aliens together in near silence or opening up about feelings of loss, playing games is serving a valuable purpose.”

Model Trains are Trending: Move over baking and jigsaw puzzles it turns out model trains are exploding in sales. Key quote: “For many people, the chance to create a separate, better world in the living room — with stunning mountains, tiny chugging locomotives, and communities of inch-high people where no one needs a mask — is hard to resist.” And for those of us not interested in recreating Mister Roger’s neighborhood at home, you can watch first-person-view model train videos on YouTube for hours, like Chesapeake, Wheeling, & Erie Cab Ride, and HO Scale Cab Ride on The California Southern.

“BookTok” Videos are Driving Best-Seller Lists: TikTok continues to set trends and impact sales, and the latest example features videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s who recommend books, record time-lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending using the hashtag #BookTok. Accounts worth checking out: @ALifeofLiterature@jennajustreads@moongirlreads@aymansbooks.

Captain Kirk Forever: William Shatner is celebrating his 90th birthday by creating an AI-powered version of himself that’ll live forever. It’s not a full “digital mind clone,” however. Instead, he’s working with StoryFile to tape tons of interviews that will be powered by an AI component that selects which video to play based on your question.

Some Tweets

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet! 🤠

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Meme stocks are not Bernie mittens

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A big hello to all the new subscribers this week. I can’t promise you won’t be disappointed, but the price is right…. (ahem.. free!).

It was quite the PR week. I was quoted in Forbes about virtual CES and the necessity of prioritizing your brand’s digital footprint in a post-pandemic world: “At CES And Beyond, CMOs See Potential With New Kinds Of Virtual Events.”

Then I was in the Axios newsletter and Cities97 radio about that dumb “$5 Mystery Safe” I sold via Facebook Marketplace and posted a Twitter thread about.

And our Arby’s team had a huge win jumping on the sea shanty TikTok trend with a bespoke sea shanty about Arby’s fish sandwiches that really took off and got some attention.

And all that was just Monday.

The rest of the week I continued to take Erik Davis’ advice we discussed last week – to try to keep my bubble popped when it comes to understanding people who aren’t like me –  and watched Chris Rock’s Good Hair, which was almost as good as We Are the Champions episode 3, btw).

And I’ve been streaming a lot of Porya Hatami (h/t Flow State), an Iranian composer and sound designer who creates these amazing ambient textures featuring atmospheric synths, soft piano, and field recordings. It’s great music to work to. Stream “Arrivals and Departures” here.

Here’s what I’m tracking this week…

Update your iPhone and iPad: This isn’t a ploy to get access to new emojis. Instead, you should update the iOS on your Apple devices immediately to close a security vulnerability. Do it right now. And iOS 14.4 also gives your phone the ability to recognize smaller QR codes – BONUS!

What makes an old song go viral on TikTok? From Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams to Jack Johnson’s Upside Down, we’ve seen TikTok viral videos help countless old songs regain mainstream popularity. NME interviewed psychologists, musicians and viral stars to find out the appeal of an old favorite. Key quote: “Good songs with a good sentiment don’t age, and the feeling of finding a song you love and playing it on repeat doesn’t have any time constraint.”

Social Trends from Q4: In its Q4 2020 Social Media Trends Report, Socialbakers reports an overall 56% YoY increase in digital ad spend, with 73.7% of total ad spend going to the main feeds on Facebook and Instagram in Q4 2020, plus 10.9% of spend on Instagram Stories. Compared to Q3 2020, all formats on Instagram decreased organic interactions, and on Facebook only live video increased; all the other formats remained basically the same or decreased slightly. In Q4 2020, the number of Instagram influencers who used #ad in their posts decreased by 17.6% compared to Q4 2019. While there was still an overall increase for the holidays, it didn’t reach last year’s levels. Download the full report here.

How Machine Learning Powers Facebook’s News Feed Ranking Algorithm: This week Facebook engineering team shared how the multi-layer algorithm code is built. Warning: it’s nerdy and deep. Key quote: For simplicity and tractability, we score our predictions together in a linear way, so that Vijt = wijt1Yijt1 + wijt2Yijt2 + … + wijtkYijtk. Did you get that? If not, here’s a quick video overview for those wanting a 101-level explainer.

Podcast of the Week: Before social media, there were only so many ways to unburden yourself and share your darkest secrets with strangers. That’s where The Apology Line came in – a real life phone number and answering machine in 1980s NYC that grew to infamous notoriety for its secrets, scandals, and worse. It’s now being remembered and chronicled via podcast, and the first episodes are live here.

Business Reads of the Week: Publishing is Back to the Future; Bill & Melinda Gates on The Year Health Went Global; The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship; Apple Pay Offers Germ-Free Shopping—If Only We Could Figure Out How it Works

Quick Hits:

Meme Stocks” Changing Fortunes

A massive increase in day-trading that appeared to be driven by Reddit, WeBull, and Robinhood caught the attention of Wall Street by driving shares of GameStop, Nokia and AMC by huge leaps this week. Here’s a quick explainer. It’s not the first time online communities have pushed a stock, but Reddit-fueled rallies typically last days, not weeks.

Key quote: “Reddit’s structure and the democratic nature of users picking the most popular content differs wildly from Wall Street’s research reports and market analysis. Yet both generate trade ideas that proliferate across market participants. And [Reddit’s] ability to turn free, user-produced research into hugely viral media has seemingly been underestimated.”

This is no Bernie Sanders’ mittens meme trend that’s going to disappear after a week. And many are pointing out there’s likely professional money on both sides. But the democratization and social disruption of the stock market could have massive implications in the coming weeks and months.

Disclosure: I own .007% of one stock of Facebook, and it isn’t doing so hot. And I bought some Dogecoin last night. Very money. Wow. Such success.

See you on the internet!

PS: if you dig this, forward it to someone! Or give it a like. Or share it on social! TY!