The Edge.Email — 8th 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, please get in touch here.


1. TRENDS

MasterClass is mastering scale as a media business

Pixar’s business strategy is often taught as a lesson in the blockbuster theory of content marketing; take your time creating a few huge, on-brand and “extensible” hits.

MasterClass, the platform that produces high-quality video lessons featuring celebrities (examples: Gordon Ramsey teaches cooking, Armin Van Buuren teaches dance music) has taken on this model. In an age of information overload, and with increasing distrust of algorithms to sort out our information, the importance of a trusted name becomes significantly more important. Influencer marketing begins to fill in this space, but the strategy is amplified when the entire content product features the celebrity. It’s the ultimate signal of quality.

Also worth considering, they point out established publishers like the Financial Times are very well set up to execute on a product like this.

Reader Poll: Have you used MasterClass?

Yes

No

(Techcrunch)


2. AI

Predicting the “future of everything”

Please add us to the beta-tester list:

J.P. Morgan isn’t commenting on RoarData, but publicly available material suggests it’s wildly ambitious in scope. In advertisements for Roar jobs, the bank says it intends to develop a product capable of predicting, “the future of everything,” by harnessing “collective intelligence” and the “wisdom of crowds.” It says the intention is to tap into the “burgeoning community of machine learning enthusiasts” and to create a “richly interwoven mesh of searchable realtime forecasts that collectively map the future”, and a, “prediction web”, that will be accessible to everyone.

(eFinancialCareers)


3. DATA

The best time of day to post to social media, according to biology

Leveraging human circadian rhythms to optimize your content platform promotion spend strikes that balance of perfectly logical and borderline creepy. This HBR summary of an academic paper promises us the marketing holy grail:

Example insights:

  • Assuming the majority of the audience start their day in the morning, it is ideal to post content conveying high-arousal emotion (i.e., angry or worried) in the morning and “deep think” content in the afternoon.
  • As the working memory becomes resource deprived in the afternoon, it activates a natural mechanism that inhibits any information that creates emotional responses which hinder the function of working memory. This minimizes distraction toward focal tasks and in turn increases attention toward focal cognitive tasks, which results in higher engagement toward posts involving superior cognitive processing.

(Harvard Business Review)


4. STORYTELLING

The Economist’s new China column: Chaguan

“Stoke the stove, then. To work.”

Leave it to The Economist to transform something as mundane as the naming of a new column into a beautifully told history of China’s teahouse subculture.

The Edge.Lesson: It’s our common refrain to pay attention to every possible content touchpoint (transactional emails, confirmation pages, etc). This is a masterclass (😎) in turning what could be a generic press release into a thing of beauty.

(The Economist)


5. CREATIVITY

Notes from the 2008 Financial Crisis: Reuters Graphics

This week, we’ve gone deep into the rabbit hole of global financial crisis retrospectives. This effort from Reuters was the most visually stunning, accessible and informative one we’ve seen.

(Reuters)


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 TheEdge.Email. Each week we’ll recommend one of our favorites.

The Quartz Obsession email was built to offer “a little bit of breathing space away from the news cycle.” It is the perfect inspiring Friday afternoon complement to a portfolio of heavy news email products from the organization, and the team share their learnings after one year of delivery.

Sign up here

Go deeper: Last year the Quartz email team published a newsletter strategy tour de force, covering lessons learned across their entire email portfolio.


7. B2B FUNNIES

This is funny, but we take this extremely seriously. Please never refer to your newsletter products as an “e-mail” or “e-alerts”. Additional request, never say “it’s nice to e-meet you”.


8. YOUR WEEKLY EDGE PARABLE

If we could have it our way, there would be no more PDFs. Research reports, whitepapers and academic papers would all be built on web technologies. Magazine-style column layouts would disappear from the digital realm, and we’d have easily scrollable text and images (your emails should certainly reflect this!). Imagine it…you could read the content properly on mobile.

We’re constantly scouring the net for beautiful new examples of what longform, deeply-researched content can look like. This week we came across Anatomy of AI. It’s an intense look at the entire AI ecosystem of “digital labor” which underlies as a simple voice engagement with an Amazon Echo. The piece manages to weave together rich historical allusions, abundant modern examples, a unique episodic delivery, and a giant accompanying infographic that together map out the exploitation and narrow wealth accumulation which this digital labor entails.

What impressed us most was the presentation. The content felt like an academic research paper, yet it flowed like a blog post. The design never felt superfluous, yet it certainly felt expensive :) We could Instapaper it to read later, yet still wanted to spend time scrolling through the page itself. And it certainly looked good on mobile.

This is the future of what we think longform research content can look like. We’re not quite there yet, however, as prompt you to download their accompany infographic….as a PDF.

Further reading: For a history of the PDF format, Tedium (a wonderful newsletter) did a great piece on it.