The Edge.Email — 2nd Edition

Welcome to the weekly newsletter from The Edge Group. For each edition, we pull together our favorite content on all things media, marketing, innovation, analytics and of course, email.

If you’d like to learn more about the work we do, or discuss anything related to newsletters, content and data, please get in touch here.


1. TRENDS

The rise of the Instagrammable pop song

Form fits function: It was the capacity of a 45rpm disc, the prevailing musical distribution tech of the 1940s, that led to the 3 minute pop song, a length which still prevails 60 years later.

But it’s 2018, and thanks to Instagram’s 60 second video limit, we’re the beneficiaries of a new wave of attention-deficit-optimized music, including an entire “album” of 15 one-minute songs from the artist Tierra Whack.

We loved this Dazed Digital piece that hits on a number of favorite Edge themes: a historical dataset of the Billboard 100, psychological research on attention spans, and the monetization structure of a Spotify stream. If this is a topic of interest, we’d also recommend this 2014 classic from Derek Thompson at the Atlantic, The Shazam Effect.


2. AI

A perfect, AI-powered internet rabbit hole

Content applications of artificial intelligence don’t have to be complicated to be great. This is a lesson we continue to shout from the rooftops.

Our favorite Twitter discovery this week was @NYT-first-said, a bot created by Max Bittker. It cross-references the entire archive of NY Times articles throughout history, and tweets when a word appears for the very first time. This is the perfect combination of finding a task that would be impossible for a human to execute, is easily comprehensible in the scope of its automation, and outputs something that’s both insightful and fun.

Today we learned about “ingressus”, which is related to smartphone waterproof levels:

When a smartphone is advertised as waterproof, how do they verify that claim?
A. When hawking the water worthiness of their products, most smartphone manufacturers cite the results of IP, or ingress protection, testing. Not to be confused with the popular augmented-reality game, the “ingress” here comes from the Latin “ingressus” from the verb “ingredior” — which means “go into or enter.”


3. DATA

Flash your table data

In late September 2016, Google quietly released experimental structured markup to get dataset info more search-engine friendly. SEO blogs quickly picked up on the available details, which were pretty scant — this was an experimental feature that had no effect on search results.

Recently, Google released news of structured data you can add to your existing page’s tables — linking to the same documentation they did two years ago.

What began life as an experiment to make scientific datasets more accessible via search, morphed into an initiative to support data journalism: “in a polarized world, facts and data can provide valuable context for the debates swirling around us.” Oh have the times changed.

You can see the feature in the screenshot below, though we haven’t seen it live on our end.

Learn more: structured data; the documentation on dataset discovery.


4. STORYTELLING

Feel the (data-driven) rhythm

Music is a bridge to our emotions at a particular point in time, and perhaps nobody understands this better than Spotify. The personal stories that our playlists generate can be used for more than just creators’ Spotify End-of-Year summaries.

Danielle Lee, global head of partner solutions at Spotify, describes the brave new world that combines APIs, storytelling, consulting, marketing and emotional connection. You can see Lee’s example of Spotify’s recent Snickers campaign (about 50 seconds in). Given this is the 2nd straight week with a piece that discusses creative usage of Spotify’s API, we admit this is one of the more fascinating areas of marketing for us.


5. CREATIVITY

A trillion dollar data visualization

This data visualization from the NY Times is simply one of the best we’ve ever seen. As we’re sticklers for how things look on mobile, it’s even more impressive how well this complex design translates on your phone.


6. A NEWSLETTER

We spend hundreds of collective hours reading, studying and creating newsletters. To see a gallery of our favorites, and what makes them so good, go to GreatB2Bemails.com. Each week we’ll recommend one of our favorites.

Newsletters can be incredibly short, even relaying just one insight or stat.

While this seems obvious, not many put this into practice.

“Think With Google” does a great job with their Weekly Thought Starter email. It tells you one marketing statistic and links out to a longer blog post on the subject. This format both lends itself well to their portfolio newsletter approach, as well as their “micro-moments” ethos. They save their longer marketing newsletters for the end of the week, but on your busy Monday morning send you an incredibly quick tidbit.


7. B2B FUNNIES

2 things this week. First, a bot that could make any MBA snicker (or at least us):

Second, in terminological solidarity with the above satirical account, but in the realm of the very real, we recommend this piece from the BBC, 12 new tech terms you need to understand the future. A few of our favorites were “Brainjacking” and “Plane Li-Fi”.


8. YOUR WEEKLY EDGE PARABLE

Like the conclusion we reached by the end of our analysis of 1,300 Axios emails, the “secret” of great newsletters isn’t a secret at all — it’s good journalistic practices.

The facade might be different (ooo newsletters!), but you’re sill delivering concise information to a busy audience that’s hungry for facts and short of time. We’ll borrow a quote from British data journalist Simon Rogers, where he describes teaching his new undergrads. This is someone who lives and breathes data, but understands how to communicate and write as well. Apply this directly to newsletter writing:

I’ve deliberately decided to focus less on tools and apps than on how to be a data journalist. How do you generate story ideas? How do you sell them to a news editor? I figure 10 weeks of generating story ideas and thinking about how to turn them into a great data journalism project is the best way I can help…

Weekly Edge Parable: Channel Mr. (Simon) Rogers, stop using apps, analytics, and anything other than excellent writing/journalistic practices as a crutch for great information newsletters. They assist, they do not create.