#SXSW2016 Sessions

A roundup of what I learned in Austin.


  1. The cast of Dwarfenaut at #sxsw2016. The film premiered here today.
    The cast of Dwarfenaut at #sxsw2016. The film premiered here today.
  2. My #SXSW2016 crew was cool, but not as cool as WMF comms.
  3. #Movements: When a Hashtag Breaks The News

  4. In this session, Shadi Rahimi, senior producer from AJPlus, Al-Jazeera's social channel, said her team only produces content for social, not for a website. She said short video with subtitles was very popular, spurred by "bored people sitting in meetings."
  5. Rahimi lives in Oakland. I invited her to our offices.

  6. When I introduced myself as someone who left the Wall Street Journal to do social media for Wikipedia the audience cheered and the panelists half-jokingly asked me to join them.

  7. Another broad theme was discussed – how different the social media platforms are, and that they deserve unique messaging. I shared how we use hashtags in breaking news situations – posting that Wikipedians are updating a story or article about someone who has died – and that we saw good engagement. The panelists said they thought our approach was on brand and effective – we were contributing what was unique about us.
  8. Panelist Jean Ellen Cowgill of The Atlantic and I chatted afterward about BuzzFeed, and the oft-cited statistic that the meme-driven site gets 21% of its traffic from SnapChat. That is 0 clickthroughs (you can't click links within SnapChat). It's what we used to call impressions. In my next session I would talk to BuzzFeed's main social executive himself.
  9. The Future of Media Companies

  10. Frank Cooper, chief marketing officer of BuzzFeed, spoke to the biggest crowd I saw for a keynote – more than 5,000 people in a massive ballroom. Two key takeaways:
  11. 1. BuzzFeed is opening up beta for its Swarm product, which "pulls all the levers at once" on one topic, sending messages tailored for each social platform out, but not linking back to a website. "We go to where the people are."
  12. 2. BuzzFeed's success is not just from trendy memes but also from achieving "empathy at scale" by hitting niches people care deeply about.
  13. And this surprised me: Despite BuzzFeed being viewed as a smash success, Cooper said ComScore only gives the site credit for one-fifth the traffic it claims, because it includes social impressions. "It's the toughest thing we're facing," he said.
  14. Cooper will be in San Francisco next week and said he would like to visit the WMF.

  15. Creating The Modern Media Company

  16. Jim Bankoff, founder of Vox Media, was up next to discuss SB Nation, The Verge, and his other outlets. Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter are "just as important as what happnes on the websites," he said. Interviewer Julia Boorstin of CNBC asked "How do you monetize that?" Social keeps his properties relevant and reaches millions, Bankoff said. When Boorstin pushed him he infromed her that the average age of her viewers is 67, and TV is not the future.
  17. Analytics For Social Marketing

  18. Speaker Amber Armstrong of IBM was surprisingly cynical, saying "Organic is pretty much dead, at least on Facebook." I asked about that and she said IBM sees little engagement that isn't paid. Several of us huddled afterward and agreed we still have decent and at time excellent engagement. No one I spoke with had hit the 2 million reach we got on the birthday status update. "We're not Taylor Swift," Armstrong said. Takeaway: Some participants said they never send out any tweet without somekind of hashtag.
  19. Wikipedia: Beyond the Encyclopedia

  20. For more on our panel, see The Wikimedia Blog post.