Thursday, February 05, 2015

Coca-Cola proves the real money really is in PR

Here's a Pew report from last year about the tilt in the media business away from journalism and toward PR.
The salary gap between public relations specialists and news reporters has widened over the past decade – to almost $20,000 a year, according to 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. At the same time, the public relations field has expanded to a degree that these specialists now outnumber reporters by nearly 5 to 1 (BLS data include part-time and full-time employees, but not self-employed.)

In 2013, according to BLS data, public relations specialists earned a median annual income of $54,940 compared with $35,600 for reporters. In other words, journalists on average earn just 65% of what those in public relations earn. That is a greater income gap than in 2004 when journalists were paid 71 cents of every dollar earned by those in public relations ($43,830 versus $31,320).

Most of that widening has come from salary growth in the public relations industry during a time when salary increases in the journalism field did not even keep up with inflation.
Only chumps go into news.  The real money is in telling pretty lies.  Of course some of these numbers may be a statistical anomaly.  For example, the low-wage writers who produce NOLA.com content still aren't technically counted as PR professionals for some reason. 

It doesn't help, also, that more and more journalism jobs are going to robots who work for free.
You wouldn't necessarily know it at first blush. Sure, maybe reading it in the context of this story it's apparent, but otherwise it feels like a pretty standard, if a tad dry, AP news item. The obvious tell doesn't come until the end of an article: "This story was generated by Automated Insights." According to AI's public relations manager James Kotecki, the Wordsmith platform generates millions of articles per week; other partners include Allstate, Comcast, and Yahoo, whose fantasy football reports are automated. Kotecki estimates the company's system can produce 2,000 articles per second if need be.
But there are some things even those robots can't do.  For instance, they still can't quite replicate the phony smarm necessary to run a corporate social media ad campaign
For the campaign, which was called “Make it Happy” and introduced in an ad spot during the Super Bowl, Coke invited people to reply to negative tweets with the hashtag “#MakeItHappy”.

The idea was that an automatic algorithm would then convert the tweets, using an encoding system called ASCII, into pictures of happy things – such as an adorable mouse, a palm tree wearing sunglasses or a chicken drumstick wearing a cowboy hat.

In a press release, Coca-Cola said its aim was to “tackle the pervasive negativity polluting social media feeds and comment threads across the internet”.

But Gawker, noticing that one response had the “14 words” white nationalist slogan re-published in the shape of a dog, had other ideas.

The media company’s editorial labs director, Adam Pash, created a Twitter bot, @MeinCoke, and set it up to tweet lines from Mein Kampf and then link to them with the #MakeItHappy tag – triggering Coca-Cola’s own Twitter bot to turn them into cutesy pictures.
Whoops! Don't you just hate when your smarmbot accidentally goes #MakeitHitler all over your shitty commercial. But then if you're gonna "tackle the pervasive negativity polluting social media"  maybe a cynical, disingenuous ad campaign set up to run on autopilot isn't the best way to go about that. 

For that kind of work you still need to shell out the big bucks. Which is why the real money for humans is in PR.... although probably not ideal for the humans with souls or consciences or whatever. They're less good at saying this with a straight face. 
By Wednesday, the campaign had been suspended entirely. In a statement to AdWeek, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: “The #MakeItHappy message is simple: the internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t.”

The statement concluded: “Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”
All they wanted to do was teach the world to sing... or something like that.  When will you humans learn it's not polite to point out that phony smarmbots are, in fact, phony smarmbots? How "negative!"

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