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The World Science Festival and Internet Week: Insights Galore!

PT thanks content developer and marketing consultant Rich Kelley [1] for this piece.

When Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Weiner, author of a book on immortality (Long for This World [2]), blogs [3] that he is looking forward to hearing four scientists “talk (and possibly) spar” about the current state of longevity research, you expect he knows something. And World Science Festival [4] panel “Dust to . . . The Radical New Science of Longevity” [5] did not disappoint. “If you’re over 55,” biologist Michael R. Rose announced, “you can stop aging now—in just three hours—if you follow the regimen [6]in my new book—but it’s not easy.”  His new book, Does Aging S­top? [7], comes out from Oxford in July.

And that was just one of fifty events spread over five days June 1-5 at this fourth annual celebration of science and its intersection with technology, theater, art and music. Almost every panel featured some of science’s top authors. Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of this year’s bestselling Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer [8], did double-duty, speaking on two panels, one on “Cancer’s Last Stand: The Genome Solution” [9] and another, a new “salon”-format discussion on genetics and cancer [10]. NPR’s “Math Guy” Keith Devlin, author of the forthcoming Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution [11], joined a panel on “Mysteries of the Mathematical Universe” [12] with prolific author Simon Singh, whose popular history The Code Book [13] came out on the kindle this year. Singh brought his own 70-year-old Enigma machine [14] to the panel on “Keeping Secrets: Cryptography in a Connected World,” [15] which was moderated by science writer Carl Zimmer, author of the just published A Planet of Viruses [16].

Other author sightings included Nobelists Steven Weinberg and Harold Varmus; Joseph LeDoux, Janna Levin, Timothy Ferris . . . but why shouldn’t authors be so visible? The World Science Festival is the brainchild of best-selling author (this year’s The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos [17]) physicist Brian Greene and his television producer wife Tracy Day. Greene himself did triple duty, joining panels on “Science & Story,” [18] “The Dark Side of the Universe,” [19] and “Another Earth.” [20]

One mystery remains: with so many authors and practically every event sold out, why were there no opportunities to buy books? Book buyers had to wait until Sunday when the “Author’s Alley and Book Fair” [21] opened at the Kimmel Center. Perhaps someone can research how to solve that next year.

No sooner had the World Science Festival ended than Internet Week New York [22] started. This annual marathon ran from June 6 through June 12 and featured more than 200 concurrent events in dozens of different venues around the city. Three large marketing conferences competed for attention: the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Innovations Days [23]; MediaPost’s four days of Online Media Marketing & Advertising, this year with separate days for tablets [24], mobile [25], video [26], and social media [27]; and Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference (DPAC)’s DigiDay [28]. Scattered among these events were panels on The Future of Media [29] with New York Times columnist David Carr, Conversational Marketing [30] with Rachel Ray and will.i.am, and “The New Front” [31] with Ashton Kutcher, Tyra Banks, and Isabella Rossellini, and many more.

Sessions on social media dominated the week. eMarketer [32] estimates that social media will account for 11 percent of online advertising spending—$3 billion—in 2011, a 55% increase from 2010. What was striking was how the data at different events reinforced each other. At OMMA Social, Say Media [33] reported on the influence of what they called “Passionate Voices”—“independent content creators who use blogs, Twitter or other digital means to produce content, build audience, and shape opinion around the things they love.” Followers of “passionate voices,” according to Say Media, are younger (average age of 35 vs. 41), more affluent (median HHI of $62K vs. $51K), and more connected (580 members in their network vs. 340) than average users of the Internet. 69% are more likely to try new products (vs. 45%), and 74% go out of their way to recommend products (vs. 60%).

At the IAB conference, Tim Schigel of ShareThis [34] presented findings from the analysis they did with Starcom MediaVest [35] on the behavior of 300 million online users. They found that sharing generates more than 10% of all Internet traffic (almost half the volume of search) and 31% of site-referred traffic. Facebook is the largest sharing channel at 38%, followed by email at 17% and Twitter at 11%.  Of course, how people share depends on the content: entertainment is shared on social networks; information on email or LinkedIn. ShareThis’s data suggests that “influentials” are a myth. Sharers share data on specific topics that interest them—not on a wide range of categories—so marketers are better served by trying to reach as many people as possible rather than “key influencers.”

Sharing is also part of the business model of SocialVibe [36] whose SVNetwork [37] reaches 200 million consumers online every month through “engagements,” ads that always have a component that invites sharing. SocialVibe’s ad campaign for Toy Story 3 asked the question: “What was your favorite toy as a kid?” And followed that with a big red “share” button. Users spent an average of 115 seconds with this engagement. Including the question, input box and share button improved effectiveness 30%.

Tracking ad performance continues to be an issue. Cookies don’t exist on web apps or mobile platforms. BlueCava [38] solves that by using a device-specific cookie, which can identify whether the user is a laptop, cell phone, set-top box or gaming console. These cookies can be used to target advertising and fight fraud. Sensitive to privacy concerns, they limit their targeting to zip plus four.

Michael Wolf of Activate [39] closed IAB’s conference by describing three innovations advertisers must make in the near future: 1) invent an ad that takes advantage of the unique features of touch devices; 2) ads should be able to follow you around on different devices; 3) ads must be able to resize natively to each device. There will never be solely one platform ever again.