Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Bloggers face UK copyright problems in 2016

There’s an odd challenge that bloggers will have to navigate next year. It's all due to weird UK laws and the most likely to be effected are those who blog about art, design and certain household objects like furniture.

The core of the problem is copyright. A change made in 2013 to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act reinstated the full term of copyright protect of 3D artist to 70 years and included 2D representations of that.

Let me try and put that into plain English with a blogging example.

If a fashion blogger reviews a necklace, includes their own photograph of that necklace and that necklace design was protected by copyright then that blogger could be in trouble. The blogger may think because they took and used their own photograph (a 2D representation of the 3D necklace) they would be okay but actually the copyright for the photograph belongs to whoever has the copyright of the necklace.

I’m not a lawyer. Don’t take this blog post as legal advice. I’m sharing my understanding of what this means in order to foster debate and learn from people smarter than me.

It was a post on The Digital Reader that alerted me to the ticking clock. The law was changed in 2013 but because lots of books are sold containing photographs of art, design and other copyright protected items retailers were given until October 2016 to clear their stock.

That means there’s less than a year to comply. Bloggers may have monetised sites that make heavy use of photography, often their own, that will be in breach before the year’s out.

The Design Council in the UK had championed the change of the law. In this statement, published on Dezeen, it was noted;

The Design Council has welcomed today’s announcement by the Government that copyright in designs which qualify for copyright protection is to be enforceable beyond the current 25 years to a term of ‘life of the creator plus 70 years’. Under the new measures, certain ‘artistic’ designs of manufactured goods (for example certain furniture, lamps and jewellery) created before 1987 may now be protected from unauthorised copying under copyright law.

Sir Terence Conran said: “By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that in turn will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – let’s use it.”

It’s not clear whether bloggers will even notice the law passing into its enforcement period in October and it’s certainly not clear whether designers will start to take action against sites publishing photographs. I suspect some might.

Originally, it was furniture manufacturers, companies like Knoll, Cassina and Vitra, who pushed for the judicial review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hopefully the new Google+ isn’t finished yet

I like Google+. Okay, I don’t have the +1 button here on this blog but that’s just me being lazy. I like G+ for two important reasons.

  1. Communities – gaming, digital marketing without the RSS or automated spam, Ingress, comic books, geeky stuff
  2. Content – not just content from people I know, but content surfaced by the platform based on my interests
This compares to Facebook where I see content from people I know and Twitter which is similar but struggling.

Google now bangs this drum. They call out Communities and Collections as two great features in Google+.

I’m now on the new Google+. It’s supposed to be faster and better. I worry it’s incomplete.

One of the main reasons some of the communities I exist in on G+ are on that platform is because of G+’s Event organisational system. You can shepherd people to the pub for Ingress, organise an online conference or virtual tabletop RPG.

The new G+ does not (yet) have Events.

Was usage that low? Maybe, but I’m not sure it matters. Events contributed to Community and if Google+ is to embrace community then it needs to reconsider its position on Events.

On a similar note, many Communities use Hangouts to talk to one another directly. The new Google+ doesn’t have integrated access to Hangout chat in the way the old, web version, of Google+ did. It doesn’t even seem possible to add Hangouts to Google’s App Launcher in the menu bar.

Polls? There are huge communities that make Polls their bread and butter. I can see Polls in the new mobile G+ but if they’re present on the web version then they’re hiding from me.

Google’s been criticised for not getting social. It’s easy to see where that sort of criticism has come from when you review the new Google+. The team wants to promote communities but doesn’t seem to understand what builds and enables communities.

As a final example of just how bad the lack of understanding is – the new Community pages no longer have sticky posts/community description panel on show. This area was used not only to describe what the community was actually about but to share important rules for what sort of post was considered on-topic and welcome versus what wasn’t wanted and would be deleted. These details exist but are hidden away under an (i) icon and there’s no way to link to them.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Google offering unpacked shopping results

This is a visually striking search result for Amazon. They are in the PPC results for the search term [nespresso compatible capsules] but they're one of many.

Without a doubt it's the "Unpacked Shopping Results" that dominate the page. Google's gone into an Amazon listing and has pulled out the product details. It's a chance to see whether or not that particular item is a good match for your query. If you click on the Feedback request link on the insert (is it a card?) you're asked about accuracy.

There's no other organic search result in this page. You'd be kind to call the unpacked shopping result organic but it's not labelled as an ad.

Hat tip to @JohnHutson for the spot. It was new to me too.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quick review of Pinterest schedule and analytics app: Tailwind

Tailwind was brought to my attention by Hootsuite who have cleverly integrated it into their dashboard. One assumes that Hootsuite won’t – not yet – be offering a Pinterest scheduling system of their own as this is what Tailwind offers.

Tailwind’s free account lets you schedule up to 100 pins for Pinterest each month. You can do that in a batch or as you go. The key thing is to get their browser button installed so you can press it on the right page, open up their large pop-up window and select the images you want to share.

I thought I’d give it a go.

The first thing that I saw and liked was their attempt at a weekly pinning schedule. Each day as some recommended times to pin – in light green dots (in contrast to the green shade of slots you’re using). The times are based on when people are engaging with your Pins. As it happens; this compares very well to Hootsuite who seem to struggle with the notion your audience might be international and you’ll want your updates spread out across the full 24 hours as a result.

The next feature that caught my eye was their ability to schedule a lot of pins and do it quickly. One of my geeky blogs likes to share galleries of art. I have to pin each one by hand (and hope it doesn’t flood my audience).

With Tailwind you press that magic browser button of theirs, open the pop-up and just click on the images you want to share. Hit “Go Schedule” and you’ve a quick way to assign them all, at once, to a board (or one at a time) and then drop them all, at once, into your post schedule.

Given that the post schedule on Tailwind is impressive this easy to schedule a whole bunch at once is especially nice.

I very quickly decided to go pro. It’s $9.99 a month for bloggers and small businesses if you pay for a year at a time, or $15 if you don’t, and that compares well to something like Rafflecopter.

The benefit of going pro is better analytics and unlimited pins. I’ve seen some awful dashboards in my time but Tailwind gets it right. At a glance I see whether my repins are better or worse than last month, how my pin total is doing compared to last month and the same for my followers.

With 14,981 total followers your account is looking great! You've been gaining about 414 new followers per week recently, so this past week was below average.

A profile performance dashboard helps me see whether or not my pins are engaging followers at the same level. I had thought there was a Pinterest purge going on – as my follower count was dropping – and Tailwind has helped confirm this. I can see my pins are engaging, I can see that the new followers are coming in too but that the account is losing even more. I hope that’s an account purge rather than loads of Pinterest followers dumping my boards.

I’ve found it rather useful being able to search through the 7,000 or so pins I’ve already uploaded to see what’s popular. In this case; Star Wars is. I should do more Star Wars content.

There’s a loyalty program too; a system which lets me grant a free month to a contact for them to test. The goal, they say, is to help Tailwind grow and I suspect that won’t be a problem.

What I miss out on for not being an Enterprise client is trends and big data analysis. I can’t see what other geeky Pinterest users are getting to work for them. That said; as a solo-user I’m pretty sure I can deduce it. If I had my agency hat on I might need some supporting evidence but as a blogger I can go with my gut feeling.

My biggest success with Pinterest came when I just happened to spot some fresh, quality, original content appear on my homepage as an artist shared it. I was able to blog it, compiling the pieces into a single post and share it first. It would be nice if Tailwind helped identify “never seen before” content and had an alert system for me.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How did you not see this coming? The end to link building.

I’ve been down on link building for many years now and I have not been the voice in the wilderness on the fringes of the SEO community. I’ve found plenty of SEOs who agree with me.

We’re talking about this again because Google’s John Mueller recommends not to focus on link building. My Twitter feed is now abuzz with chatter. When the SEO chat drowns out the general geeky chat then that’s a sure fire signal it is a big topic.

There are two levels to study.

Level One: The Semantics

The word “building” is sometimes significant. It implies a degree of process and emphasis. The emphasis is that the links were put there, built, by the SEO. I’d suggest that for a long time it would be fair to say that Google wants to discount any such link. If you built it, Google will discount it.

Even on Level One, since you can discount good links, you’re only left with harmful links.

Level Two: The Approach

Old school link building or even some form of “link earning” is a bottom up approach – and has limited chance of getting very far from the bottom.

I’ll use an article link as an example. If you write an old school article, plop a link in it, and get it published then nothing else will happen. The article will not generate any other quality signals and nor will it influence the editorial agenda in anyway. I’d argue the same is true if you persuade or hoodwink a magic middle blogger to write a generic blog post.

Once again, if the only link of significance you can expect from the approach is one that’s so negative that the search engines react accordingly – why would you do it?

So, what can the SEO community do about it?

A Wild Red Widget
Two years ago I wrote about The Link Singularity. That was the point where “achieving” a link cost more resources than the link was worth. What happens after that point is an unknown.

We need to avoid the Link Singularity.

I advocate a “top down” approach to SEO quality signals. To naturally earn the quality signals, like links, the search engines need to see, you need to influence the editorial agenda.

This is a big step change for some SEO and I’ll be the first to admit that not all client-side decision makers are ready for it. Hopefully that will change in time.

There are lots of examples of “top down” approaches, they’re not new, they’re just more familiar with other disciplines like social or PR. None of them involve asking for a link.

Rather than get a blogger to write about your red widgets consider one of the following. Build a statue out of red widgets and put it in the middle of a busy train station. Calculate the carbon footprint benefits of red widgets compared to blue widgets and pitch the story to green bloggers who would not normally write about widgets. Provide a nursing home with a month supply of red widgets and invite local press along to see the delivery. Pay film students to make a series of red widget prank videos. Newsjack a story about the Red Devils, a lorry spilling red paint, a company sliding into the red, the Red or Dead sequel, a controversial red card or a celebrity falling out of a red dress.

I don’t need to go on with the examples. SEOs are familiar with them all. That’s rather my point – how can anyone be surprised that Google officials are spelling out that a focus on the bottom up approach is likely to do more harm than good.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Google creates "Your YouTube subscriptions" Circle for you

This is new to me. I noticed that my Google+ Circles collection had been extended. This is significant because until today all my Circles had been created by me.

The new Circle is called "Your YouTube subscriptions". It does what it says on the tin; it's a collection of all my YouTube subscriptions.

I rather like Google+ and as it happens this Circle turns out to be pretty useful. Just select it from "More" across the top menu, just next to "Mentions", and you have a clutter free way to scroll through the latest videos from the channels you're watching. Fewer ads, even.

In theory I could even put on alerts for when there's a new video in the Circle. That might be an effective to notice new content before other bloggers and curators do.

Oddity: A Bing result with no "normal" results

This is an odd SERP from Bing. The chances are high that this is a glitch and not the result the engineers would want to show.

We see that there are results for the [Attack on Titan] search. None of the results are found on webpages, though. At least that's the interpretation of the categories applied here by the search. Matches are restricted to either images or videos.

We can safely conclude this is a glitch because the rich media results are good for the search. That's what I'd expect to see. Furthermore, Bing clearly knows a lot about the search as it provides related search terms which are pretty much appropriate too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Missguided show how affiliate and native advertising can merge together

UK retailer Missguided have launched the “Missguided Active” sports range. To kick off the campaign they’ve emailed affiliates. This is a good start. When you’ve a new range; tell your affiliates.

What’s caught my eye is that Missguided have taken it a step further and are looking to marshal affiliates into the realm of content. This starts to become native advertising or perhaps even a form of Outreach & Engagement more commonly associated with SEO.

This is what the affiliate newsletter said;

We´re super excited to announce the launch of Missguided Active, and to celebrate we´re looking to team up with our top content partners to create amazing editorial to showcase the collection. We´d love to discuss any opportunities you may have available to promote Missguided Active to your readers.
With commission increases available, we´d be happy to discuss options to make this a successful collaboration.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!
The Missguided Affiliate Team

I like the approach but there are some pit traps the Missguided team will have to watch out for.

They’ve used the word “editorial”. That’s what brands want as editorial pieces have the credibility and coverage that advertorials don’t have. Advertorials are regulated as ads whereas editorials are not.

Right now the implicit default is that an editorial piece from a site that earns money from affiliate activities is still an editorial piece. In fact, it’s generally the case that a blog post can link through an affiliate tracker, straight to the brand or product in question, and still be considered editorial. I won’t be surprised when this starts to be challenged.

In contrast, when a blogger is paid a flat rate to review or write about a product or brand this needs to be disclosed

In this case Missguided are stepping deeper into the grey. They’re tempting affiliates with the possibility of affiliate increases.

So does this count as incentivising coverage?

I suppose it might but I’m still not sure whether regulators will get their heads around this space any time soon and, if they do, what their decisions as to whether these posts would become ads will be.

For now, I think projects like this need to be carefully managed but could work very well.

Disclaimer: This very post uses Skimlinks. This program turns some brand and product mentions into affiliate links.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dubsmash boom reminds me we're all publishers

I thought it was interesting that a two-month old video-messenger hybrid app called Dubsmash did amazingly well over Christmas. As highlighted by App Annie the app made it into the top 10 on iOS downloads for December and saw Google Play success as well.

Dubsmash lets users record a video selfie and mash it up with a popular song or quote from celebrities.

Otherwise the top 10 on iOS was dominated by the huge players; Apple, Facebook, Google, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Microsoft, etc.

It reminds me that we're all publishers now. Not only is it easy to create content with apps like Dubsmash - it is more personal to do so. Christmas, I'm sure, played a roll in boosting Dubsmash over December as people had reason to message each other with something a little different.

Dubsmash allows sharing from the app to popular messaging apps like Facebook or WhatsApp. It had reach built in. All that it needed was publishers.