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Snapchat Launches Discover

snapchat discovery

Another social media powerhouse had decided to jump into the news business. Disappearing content provider Snapchat has finally released its much-anticipated news app, Discover. Discover allows media outlets to post small content snippets via the massively popular social media messaging app.

So, is this a case of delivering what the public wants, or is it another social media company trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up? Before answering that questions, let’s look at how it works:

Users tap to open a new story, swipe left to view different stories and swipe up to read more. And, ten major news sources have already bought in, including powerhouses such as CNN, ESPN and NatGeo. According to the media agreement, the ten media companies will generate new content for the app at least every 24 hours. This content will include both videos and text articles.

By connecting with Snapchat, media companies are hoping to woo younger audiences who are moving from traditional print and TV media in droves.

The question this move begs, though, is not will younger people connect. Instead, the real question is two-fold: First, what sort of content would grab the attention of Snapchat users. And, second, do Snapchat users want news from their favorite selfie app?

Sure, Snapchat’s motivation for pretending they do is clear. The company has to justify its multi-billion-dollar valuation. Tough to do when your chief “product” is middle schoolers swapping disappearing pics with their crushes. But the company has a big hurdle to overcome if they want to engender buy-in. They have to explain how their product isn’t Twitter. Sure, more young people are gravitating toward Snapchat and Instagram, but that doesn’t mean they want to get their news from these forums…or even that they want “news” at all.

But that apparent lack of a market has not stopped social media sites and apps from attempting to lure an “underserved” demographic into their ranks. And, if you look at their marketing push, Snapchat does make a good case for this move. Here’s a quote from their blog announcing Discover:

“Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important…”

That sounds terrific, but what if those “editors and artists” are out of step with what Snapchat users want? Will Discover morph into yet another Buzzfeed clone?

Sports Illustrated fires all Photographers

Ronn Torossian Photographer SI
It’s a headline you have likely read umpteen times in recent years. Some periodical or news publication just laid off tons of staff. They “cut back” or “cleared departments” or “downsized.” Bottom line, in an industry that is hemorrhaging working capital, someone has to pay the price. Ronn Torossian reports that the latest victims of this market reality are the staff photographers of Sports Illustrated. Yes, the team that has brought you countless iconic shots of America’s favorite games, contests and pastimes are all looking for work.

Brad Smith, director of photography for Sports Illustrated, made the announcement recently through the National Press Photographers Association. “There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately, economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers.”

The company says it plans to “rely more on freelancers.” That loaded statement could mean many things. It could mean that it will rehire some or all of the same shooters for similar money – but without the employee benefits. It could also mean that it will hire a platoon of less celebrated but equally capable camera commandos to work various beats during different seasons. That might make more sense. Instead of incurring the costs of sending its team of single-location employees all across the globe, the company will save money by employing locally-based shooters to work events in their areas.

This is not a new strategy for the nation’s premier weekly sports publication. Consider, with only six staff photogs, and innumerable print and online pics needed on a daily basis, SI has been relying on freelancers for some time now already. But this approach is not without potential pitfalls. Dynamic photos are the undisputed lifeblood of Sports Illustrated, both in print and online. From its weekly cover shots to the celebrated Swimsuit Issue, SI is, its award-winning writing aside, still primarily a visual medium. If the freelancers don’t deliver across the board, SI could immediately lose relevance in the international sports media marketplace.

Leveraging Facebook Effectively for Your Brand

ronn torossian facebook

Growing a modern business and brand requires more than traditional methods of marketing and advertising. Understanding how to implement and utilize social media including Facebook is essential for growth today. Using a few tips and tricks can help to ensure you are on the right track for any campaign you have in mind for your brand with the use of Facebook.

Create a Branded Page

Registering a Facebook page for your brand is a quick way to help others contact and locate more information about your business. Maintaining the same URL, name and look for all social media pages along with your official website is essential to gain trust and a positive reputation from followers and potential customers.

Use Updated Imagery

Using well-designed logos and other images to capture your products, services and brand as a whole is also essential when looking to leverage followers and the number of users on Facebook. The more visually appealing a brand is, the easier it becomes to attract new sales and generate leads from those who are genuinely interested in your business and what it has to offer.

Posting Consistency

Consistent updates are key when looking to use Facebook effectively while building a brand whether you are launching a start up company or looking to take an existing business to the next level of growth and success. Create a posting schedule to ensure your visitors do not go without updates and new content. Sharing relevant, unique and interesting content published by your brand is also beneficial as it provides potential customers with additional reasons to trust and stay loyal to your company.

Utilize Facebook’s Ad Platform

Getting familiar with the ad platform offered by Facebook is also necessary when you want to reach an extended target market or demographic. Facebook’s ad platform gives individuals the opportunity to choose the market you want to reach while also adding specifics of age, gender and location to guarantee you are hitting the mark once you choose to run the campaign and launch your ads live.

Taking the time to learn more about Facebook and its advertising methods is a way to not only gain insight into your brand, but also into the audience and demographic you want to reach. The more you understand your target consumers the easier it is to begin building the solid reputation and credibility you need to reach higher levels of success in any industry.

Jeff Ramson Notes Companies Must Share Financial Plans and Successes

jeff ramson investor relations

We live in an information age and companies should learn how to use that to keep their markets up to speed regarding financial plans and successes experienced by their company.

Each company should address issues specific to their industry as they report to customers, investors and the market in general. Doing this while conveying the unique nature of your company’s vision and mission is a way to make your company leap ahead of the rest of the pack.

Just remember to include your employees in the process. Some of the best press is the positive things your employees have to say. Keeping the working environment upbeat and aware is a great start to building a strong and reliable face with your consumers and in social media.

As your company introduces a public scorecard with financial plans for investing, as well as providing the story of successes you have had recently, will provide a panoramic view of your strategic goals. Showing where you are directing your efforts to accomplish the company’s vision will allow others to feel your success is part of their success as well.

Providing information in real time instead of waiting for quarterly or annual reports keeps your products and services before the eyes of your market. This allows your business to catch the heart and imagination of those looking for the same future you believe in and are advancing with your company’s efforts.

Taking this opportunity allows you to check and double check where you stand in regard to goals set by your company. Reporting new relationships with businesses or charities that foster the same goals or supporting events related to your company’s vision will help to accomplish those ideals. They may also be of interest to a wider section of the public than you might otherwise attract to your services and products. Participation becomes easily reportable on social media sites with both quick blurbs and longer articles. Pictures or catchy but appropriate captions can move public awareness of your business quickly if done well.

Current statistics show that various social media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and others are changing the world’s way of purchasing – whether products, information or otherwise into an internet-dominant experience. Do not hold back on reporting successes and plans. Keep your name in the public eye in a positive and professional way and bask in the glow of your success and savvy understanding. Keeping your company in front of those who are most interested in your causes will strengthen your organization’s capabilities for growth and interests unique to your brand. This creates competitive advantages that maximize your company’s value.

Jeff Ramson is an Investor Relations Professional from New York.

This is What the Workplace will look like in 2015

workplace in 2015 ronn torossian

Read just about any business journal, and you are bound to find articles extolling the virtues of the workplace of tomorrow. What it will look like, how it will work and what skills will be needed to make your mark in that environment. Well, that’s all well and good, but last time I checked, it’s 2015. We’re not “there” yet, and if we don’t do better today than yesterday, we may not be around for “then.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at three current business trends and what they could mean for you in 2015.

Big Data will Continue to Transform HR

Human Resources need not be what it once was. Big data analytics are leading to some incredible breakthroughs in hiring decisions, employee retention, enhanced workflow and efficient internal infrastructure. Decisions that were once “gut calls” are now being made by complex and accurate analytics – and to great result. Ignoring this trend and its potential benefits will assure that you are far from the head of the class at year’s end.

Tech Changing What is Done and How We Do It

For decades, the main focus of technology was on what work machines could do and what work humans should do. As more machines and technology moved into work environments, humans began doing different jobs. Today, technology is allowing those same people to do the same jobs in better ways. Business is becoming more efficient and more profitable across a wide spectrum of market segments. Of course, there are still those who refuse to adapt. And, like anything that cannot adapt, eventually, it will be replaced by something that can and will.

The Line Between Work and Home is Blurring

Forget everything you are thinking right now about telecommuting and working from home. That’s last decade’s “new thing.” We’re talking here about the fading line between work and home. With smartphones and other web-connected and app-enhanced wearables, nearly all of us have productivity at the touch of a button. We can check work emails in the line at the grocery store. We can answer messages and do research waiting in line or at traffic lights. We can read memos and check reports while watching TV at home. With no firm barriers between work and play, the way we do what we do is forever changing. As are the expectations. Remember when people had “office hours” and never responded outside them? Those days are over for good. A trend that will soon become an expectation.

While not all of these will apply to you, and, certainly, none of them can guarantee your success, ignoring these trends will definitely handicap your ability to succeed in 2015. Regardless of what tomorrow holds.

Difference Between Raising Money for Private & Public Companies

jeff ramson raising money

All companies need capital to survive. However, there are differences between raising capital for a private business versus raising funds for a public company. While all methods or raising money may have potential pitfalls, some methods are better than others depending on the type of company raising the funds. Let’s examine how a company can raise funds and what the pros and cons of each method may entail.

The Difference Between Raising Funds for a Private Company and a Public Company

Typically, a private company is going to ask for funds in return for an equity stake in the company. In other words, private investors are going to buy a stake in the company in return for the funds the company needs to operate and expand. In a public company, funds may be raised through the sale of stock, which gives each shareholder partial ownership in the company. Owners of private companies may also fund operations through personal loans, personal savings accounts or loans from family members and friends.

Pros and Cons of Raising Money for a Public or Private Company

When a public company sells shares of stock, ownership shifts from the business owner to the shareholder. However, going public may be advantageous as it adds prestigious and credibility to your company. It also shows that your company will be around for the long-term.

When a private company asks friends, family members or outside investors for a loan, it could create tension if the company doesn’t become profitable. This is why it may be a good idea to use personal funds to get the company to a point where there are sustained revenues and a proven concept that can grow into a profitable business.

What are the Best Methods for Raising Funds for a Company?

There is no single right answer to this question. For startup companies, it may be impossible to fund operations without a personal loan or a loan from friends or family members. In some cases, it may be impossible to grow a business in some industries without the right connections. In that case, having a well-connected investor is all buy a necessity even if it dilutes the owner’s equity in the business.

All companies need funds to survive, and those who have the money have the right to ask for that money back or for something in exchange. Therefore, you have to look at your business model and come up with a plan that funds the company without giving up too equity or other opportunities to make money in the future.

What Is A Reddit AMA?

reddit ama ronn torossian

The popular social networking website Reddit allows users to write messages in response to a submission by another user, known as a post. Reddit is divided into several categories called subreddits. One of the more popular subreddits, /r/IAMA, has over 7 million subscribers and averages nearly 12,000 concurrent readers.

An Ask Me Anything (AMA) prompt is a way for an organization to interact directly with its user base. An organization registers a username and creates an AMA, which prompts users to ask questions about the organization. Questions can include what the organization does, how it handles its day-to-day finances, how it deals with competition, or approach mundane topics such as what brand of butter the organization stocks in its kitchen. An AMA is an open invitation to the community to ask whatever it wants, however it wants.

Some of /r/IAMA’s most popular submissions include prompts from Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry King, Bill Nye, Stan Lee, and Al Gore. In the case of Barack Obama’s AMA, there were a total of 23,907 comments and 5.28 million page views. Businesses make up almost 6% of the top 500 AMAs, with actors/entertainers leading at almost 16%.

AMAs can provide a way for businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors. Rather than having to identify and target marketing points, a business can use the AMA format to learn what customers care about directly from the customers themselves. Not all AMA questions have to be answered; the Reddit platform allows users to sort comments by popularity, making it easy to separate serious questions from some of the sillier or more abstract questions. This is accomplished through a rating system where users vote on a comment or prompt, either approving it (upvoting) or criticizing it (downvoting) based on the nature of the submission.

Marketing through an AMA requires some initial exposure to the culture and atmosphere of Reddit. As of July 2013, Reddit’s largest demographic consists of young white males aged 18-29. Reddit users are somewhat less susceptible to traditional advertising approaches, instead preferring a more casual approach with genuine responses instead of generic pre-planned (or “canned”) responses. The benefit of Reddit’s comment system is that it doesn’t require immediate responses, allowing businesses to identify trends in user comments and formulate responses that will best answer a user’s question.

Creating an AMA is a fantastic way for businesses to gain direct user feedback without a significant time or monetary investment.

What Makes these Companies Magnetic?

top companies

As a business professional, whether you want to advance in your career or become a job creator, there are many things you can learn from companies that are already doing it right. Recently Glassdoor created a list of the top 50 places to work. In this article we will look not only at who made the top spots on the list but, more importantly, why they scored so high…and how your business can benefit from these lessons.

Once again, Google finds itself among the top places to work in 2015. How does this massive corporate giant continue to score so high with employees? Great question. After all, it has all the hallmarks of a company that might be excused some negative employee reviews. It’s huge. It’s growing and it’s massively profitable. Right, and it has no shortage of people wanting to work there. But why? What is it about Google that makes it so magnetic?

First, Google has high standards. It wants the best and brightest, so it offers them enviable perks…and fewer limits on personal creativity. Yes, the environment is famously inviting, but the real draw here is Google’s penchant for combining high expectations with real responsibility. This is a combination all entrepreneurs would do well to foster.

Now let’s take a look at the Mayo Clinic. While far removed from the brash, fun-loving and creative Google experience, employees at the Mayo Clinic also love it there. They experience being a part of something, not just bigger, but also spectacularly professional, innovative and advanced. In addition to being able to be part of something definitively special, Mayo Clinic employees also appreciate the “ample” time for family and personal pursuits. That ideal ratio is different in every industry, but it is something far too many employers forget to consider.

The Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B gets top marks for leveraging tremendous benefits, good pay and solid advancement opportunities to create what employees describe as a “warm work environment.” The lesson here is two-fold. Pay people what they are worth and you will get the most worth out of people. Second, offer obvious opportunity to do bigger, better and more. The best people love the opportunity to get better…and to earn more as a result. Do not neglect this in building your team and you will reap the benefits.

Jonah Engler Asks if Airlines should balk at fare “cheats”

jonah engler aviation

Innovation can be awesome. It makes something worse into something better. Unfortunately, innovation also costs whoever was doing it the “old way.” So, when it comes to changes in the marketplace, there is no win-win scenario. Someone is always left holding the bag. They are also left with a choice. Do they innovate along with the market…or do they try to stop history in the making?

The past provides countless examples of both approaches, as well as the PR cost of trying to stem the tide of progress, but some companies refuse to learn from it. A recent federal lawsuit has shined the spotlight onto the practice of “hidden city” ticketing. This involves buying an airline ticket between two cities with a connecting flight, but ditching the rest of the trip. Harmless? Not so, say the airlines.

Travel gurus beg to differ. They are calling the practice “smart” and “cost conscious.” Airlines counter that they are losing revenue they could have earned by filling empty seats on those flights. Given the standard esteem with which consumers view airlines, guess which side is getting the most support?

It’s no secret that nonstop flights command a premium price. Airlines know that time and convenience conscious consumers are willing to pay more to avoid the frustration of layovers, lost luggage, and the innumerable delays that seem to arise from the otherwise simple practice of getting off one plane and getting on another.

Because of both what some consumers view as price gouging and the temptation to save a few bucks, many see nothing wrong with hidden city booking techniques. Then again, the airlines are legitimately losing money, so they do have a grievance. But regardless of how that grievance plays out in court, the airlines have already ceded ground in the PR battle.

Other airlines have chosen to take the, pardon the pun, high road. Instead of suing, they are enacting penalties on those who skip out on the last leg of flights. Consumers caught using hidden cities risk losing frequent flyer miles and, in some cases, repeat offenders risk having their accounts closed altogether. While this penalty may not mean much to the occasional flier, it could certainly give the business traveler pause. This is a solution most consumers would view as fair and viable. Try to skirt the system and pay a penalty. However, by pursuing this lawsuit, the airline in question has not only made millions more people aware of the issue, they have painted themselves as the enemy of cost-conscious customers.

Jonah Engler is an entrepreneur, financier and an avid coffee drinker.

Fallout from the Hack on Sony Pictures

ronn torossian update

The furor over Sony Pictures being hacked may die down during the next few weeks, but the ramifications of this incident are huge. Aside from having a long term impact on movie companies, the Sony hack should be seen as a cautionary tale for any major company. If anonymous hackers can infiltrate a company as prominent as Sony, there is no reason why other major companies cannot be future targets.

Protecting Data

The most important lesson to learn from the Sony hack is data protection. Whatever data protection and encryption tools Sony used were not sufficient. Not only was their data breached initially, but it is believed that the hackers had access to this data for many days.

Even if major companies cannot completely protect their data from hacking, there needs to be better safeguards in the event of an infiltration. If Sony had better defenses in place, they would have been aware of the hack almost immediately. Instead of stealing gigabytes worth of valuable data from the company, the hackers may only have gotten access to a few important documents.

Handling the Fall Out

Both the international media and Sony as a company have a lot to learn from the fall out following this hack. Instead of condemning the hack and protecting the values of privacy, the mainstream Western media took full advantage of this hack. Every bit of information released by the hackers was analyzed by the media, with news stories filtering through every day that damaged Sony as a company.

Instead of doing the hackers work for them, the media should place a future ban on making news stories out of company data that is acquired illegally. Since none of the information released posed even the slightest threat to national or world security, there is no moral justification for the media running those stories.

Sony’s Role in the Fall Out

By refusing to release “The Interview”, Sony played right into the hands of the hackers who attacked them. Multi-national corporations should never bow down to the demands of hackers and terrorists, even if the matters at hand seem trivial. Refusing to release a blockbuster movie may seem irrelevant to some people, but the outcome means that the hackers got what they wanted.

The moment Sony confirmed they were not releasing “The Interview”, hackers around the world discovered that they could blackmail companies and intimidate people.