Why Superlative Headlines Are Absolutely Horrifying and Writers Should Stop Using Them

I know I can’t be the only person in America (or the world) who is absolutely exhausted with the superlative headlines. You know the one. Some site will claim that their video or article will wholesale change your life for the better, make you more considerate, sort and organize your whites and colors (and fold them and put them away) and call your mom more than one time a week. This sort of over-promising irks me to no end, and I’m calling for an end.

Not surprisingly, hyping expectations in headlines has a basis in social science – one of my favorite topics – and the rise of Upworthy and its ilk has caused an explosion of these tactics. More often than not, the post title promises more than the actual article delivers, leaving users feeling a bit let down. I mean, is a “viral” video really going to change my mind about climate change, gun control or reproductive rights when I’m likely a staunch believer on one side of an issue. And those partisan folks, they don’t change their minds easily. The sites that are promising to change your life on social issues are preaching to the choir, and it’s likely that anyone who shares the video is preaching to the choir as well, since Facebook’s algorithm means the content you see first is that of the folks you interact with the most. And those people are likely to be sharing content that you want to read. And on and on. If we want to expose ourselves to opinions that will truly challenge us, it’s not going to be through those viral shares.

Long rant short: Upworthy and those other feel-good, pay-it-forward will not get my clicks because I don’t like being fooled. We already know the Internet is lazy, so why feed into it? Do you enjoy those headlines? Why or why not?

P.S. Anti-Upworthy? You’re welcome.

Marketers, Don’t Let Your Videos Sell You Short

Recently I’ve noticed that some of my entrepreneur friends are moving into video elements as part of their marketing. Videos as part of a robust content marketing strategy can elevate a small business above competitors, especially when the person behind the brand can shine and bring personality to the forefront. But when visual marketing is bad, it can go really left. I’m talking shaky handling, no focus (both in lens and in purpose), poor audio quality and leaving viewers with a sense of “What did I just watch? And why?” I can’t possibly let this stand because my friends are nothing if not smart. So I’m offering a helping hand and some simple tips to ensure that the next video sent out via social media, email or embedded on a website is the game-changer that brings clients running.

1. If your videos are shot primarily on a mobile phone, please turn your phone.

Seriously. It’s that simple. Shooting horizontally rather than vertically opens up the frame and gets rid of those black stripes on each side. Need a snazzy song to help you remember? Chescaleigh has you covered! Seriously, she explains it very well, while singing. What more do you need?

2. Script your videos.

While I am sure everyone believes they are hilarious and always on-cue (inside their head), there is something about a being in front of a recording device that strikes even the most clever of us dumb. To combat any kind of stage fright or forgetfulness, make a script. This could be as simple as “First scene: in front of store, second scene: at the counter with customer, third scene: in back office.” Knowing ahead of time what you should be doing on screen means no hemming and hawing plus fewer minutes spent on the editing process.

3. Know what you want to achieve with your video.

Call to action, call to action, call to action. I can’t stress enough that you must have a call to action. This applies to all aspects of marketing: email marketing, landing pages, social messages, etc. And it can apply to your video marketing as well. YouTube allows users to include links to external content; Instagram gives you space to include a long-form description and drive people to your site. Videos are fun, sure, but they should also have a secondary action after viewership.

4. Where you can, invest in professional videography.

Depending upon on how much video you plan on doing, consider investing in a good videographer for special events and occasions. Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. Get a short video detailing how you work with clients to set up the perfect day of shots, how you edit for narrative story and how you present to your clients. Consider having a satisfied customer couple do a short testimonial on-camera about how you captured their day perfectly and were so easy to work with. Now, not only are your photos your content and selling tool, your process and customers are too.

Quick and dirty tips: Buy a tripod (for those shaky hand videos); find a cheap editing tool for transitions and creativity; grab your photogenic clients and friends, and have fun!

Inspiration: Fit Men Cook, Hippie Heathen, Naptural85

Mashable has more tips for video production. If you work regularly with video, what tips would you give to those who are just starting out?


Are You Seeing This: Shifting Makeup of Media Production

In keeping up with the latest news on entertainment, I’ve noticed some trends that are exciting for more non-traditional media ownership.

I’ll kick it off with the latest news, the upfront season for television networks. I usually skim the news about what shows got the can, what shows are returning and what mid-summer drivel the networks will serve us. This year, as the Times outlined, there is a new crop of entertainment that made me sit up and take notice. Media companies that have not traditionally delved into video content are making waves – Microsoft, Yahoo, the Weather Channel (I know, right?) and the Wall Street Journal. The bottom line, as the article rightfully notes, is that media agency buyers are buying nearly as much in digital advertising as they are in traditional ads, and these networks have to show they have the content that will draw eyeballs. So if you are interested in a WSJ-produced reality show where “entrepreneurs will work with more than two dozen mentors like Richard Branson, Tory Burch and MC Hammer,” your time is now.

Next big thing is the amount of content coming from Netflix. Previously, when I thought of the company, I thought of airport layover entertainment and their pricing debacle with Qwikster. These days, Netflix has hit a nice stride with original content like House of Cards and the debut of a long-anticipated return season of Arrested Development (scheduled for May 26, do not miss it!). It’s a series of brilliant moves on the part of Netflix leadership, who were beaten down in the press and by customers after a mislaunch of a new pricing structure. By recognizing and, most importantly, providing on their own the content their customers were craving, Netflix diversified their value and output and likely at a low cost.

How can you not be excited about this? *starts singing “The Final Countdown”*


Finally, one of my favorite writers/producers/directors/generally hilarious people, Issa Rae, is one of five hosts of a new talkshow in the vein of “The View.” The show, which will be on the Magic Johnson-owned Aspire Network, is guaranteed to be awesome and much more relatable to women “like me.” There are a two things that excite me about this news: Issa Rae’s online origin and Aspire Network. If you’re not familiar with The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, seriously, crawl out from under a rock and watch seasons 1 and 2. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel some emotions and you’ll thank me, I just know it. ABG, as I will call it from here, began as a short episode, produced by Rae and posted to YouTube. Niche websites like Clutch Magazine promoted a Kickstarter account for the show, prompting people who were tired of not seeing themselves presented in such a positive and comedic light to donate enough for Rae to produce a full season. Enter Pharrell Williams and his production company, i am OTHER. With his backing, season 2 was even better and Issa’s name became more regularly known. Then came a television show with Shonda Rhimes and ABC. And we all know the power of Shonda when it comes to good drama, so imagine what she can do with Issa and comedy? Basically, started from the Internets, now she’s here, to borrow from Drake. Oh, and she has her own production company that is putting out new content regularly. Can I just say, my she-ro!

I want that bubble gun!

Lastly, the Aspire Network excites me because I can’t stand the majority of the programming that is supposed to be targeted to my “demographic.” Aspire is a partnership between Magic Johnson, Comcast and NBC Universal, and I’m quite upset I don’t get it with my AT&T Uverse. While it’s nice to see that some media companies recognize the influence of the Aspire target audience; just wish it wasn’t limited to one provider.

What are your thoughts about the explosion of original content? Does this pose a threat to traditional television channels?