Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rap Genius Caught Gaming Google

Rap Genius is a lyrics website that annotates lyrics, usually line for line. The site stands out amongst the myriads of lyrics site and is a site I’ve often browse whenever curiosity got to me about a particular lyric line. Despite it’s uniqueness, Rap Genius felt they needed a bit more help to maintain their position in Google rankings. According to “Rap Genius plummets in Google results, apologizes for spammy practices” by Russell Brandom of, Rap Genius was caught gaming Google for a high rank – for which Google responded by dropping the site a few pages from rank 1. The article quickly summarizes the site’s SEO scheme:

“The program asked bloggers to add tagged links to Rap Genius’s Justin Bieber pages to the bottom of a given post. In exchange, the founders promised to use their Twitter and Facebook presence to promote the post, in turn boosting their own Google SEO traffic”

The exposure of this program received enough attention to catch the eye of Matt Cutts, “a Google engineer in charge of webspam”. From there, Rap Genius dropped in rank.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

McDonalds Tells Employees Not to Eat Their Food

McDonald’s and other fast food chains have been in the news lately due to fast food workers fighting for a higher minimum wage. McDonald's has been receiving more of the spotlight because of “advice” they’ve been giving their workers. First, it was the “budget plan” – which admitted that workers couldn’t survive on McDonald’s wage alone. Then, they apparently advised workers via their hotline to go on food stamps. While these issues open up the door to arguments about economics and minimum wage, it also points out that McDonald's has created the media scrutiny they’ve received. Now, McDonald's has proven they are not only out of touch with their employees but also with the material carrying their name.  According to “McDonald’s on employee resources site: Not lovin’ it” by Kevin Conlon of, McDonald’s shut down their employee resource website because of “a tip on the site to employees to avoid McDonald’s fare”.

The article describes a graphic showing a fast food meal typical of a McDonald’s value meal “under the caption ‘Unhealthy choice’. Next to it is a picture of a sub, a salad and water under the caption ‘Healthier choice’” To reiterate, this is on an official McDonald’s site telling their own employees that the food they serve is an unhealthy choice while a meal similar to Subways is a better choice.

McDonald’s shut down the site and in their official statement stated the reason as “Between links to irrelevant or outdated information, along with outside groups taking elements out of context, this created unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary.” To paraphrase: “oh crap, we didn’t realize we were promoting against ourselves and now that this has come out we look stupid”.

It’s clear that McDonald’s isn’t familiar with the image they present to their people via a site under their own name. Your name is your name, your image, and your brand. The lesson from this is that a vendor, contractor, or any other partner does not account for the clear stupidity of allowing information to come out that negatively markets your company and tells its own people to not support the product.  Hopefully, McDonald’s will learn to browse any and all sites they create for their employees

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beyonce Releases Surprise Album and Breaks Record

Music star Beyoncé released her self-titled album this past Friday at Midnight. The 14 song, 18 video album (17 if the credit video doesn’t count) was released without any promotion, warning, ad, release single, social media tease… nothing. She just posted an Instagram video with the caption “surprise”. Then the news spread throughout social media. By Friday afternoon, the online world was ablaze with amateur reviews, wonderful hilarious GIFs, and tweeted lyrics. By today, Keith Caulfield of wrote “Beyoncé’ Fastest-Selling Album Ever In iTunes Store: 828,773 In Three Days”. The article also reports the album “also set a record for the largest week ever for an album” in the iTunes store. The album is exclusive to iTunes for now and will be released elsewhere by Dec 20.

This is not a review of the album (it’s great) but a reflection of the way an un-promoted album is able to sell extremely well. It would be easy to say that Beyoncé is just that good of an artist to pull such numbers but I see that other factors contributed to her album's success. The three factors I found in its success are social media presence, the art of suspense, and packaging.

Social media

Slowly, Beyoncé built up her social media accounts - she created an immersive site tied to her Tumblr account, a twitter account (she barely uses) and an Instagram account. Instagram is her most active social media account; she posts mostly pictures from tours, vacations, and fashion moment. Her fanbase, coined affectionately as the Beyhive, is also very active online. Also take into account that, at times, news can travel faster via social media than through traditional online news media. Put this all together… when Beyoncé drops her album on iTunes and announces via her Instagram, the news travels via her Beyhive, then gets retweeted/blogged to other non-Beyhive accounts just like any other news, and thus social media does a better job of promoting an album then traditional album promoting. But this is because Beyoncé is very active and has a very interactive broad fanbase. I’m sure someone on her team did research to find the depth of her social media reach, which is what all marketing research teams should be doing for their clients/companies.

The art of suspense

Beyoncé’s been touring since April 2013. Her tour was heavily promoted and still is as she continues to tour worldwide. It’s typical for artists to release new albums before or during a tour. I consider this tour her 8-month promotion and 8 months of crazy suspense for her fans. It was obvious that at some point she would release an album – many were waiting. A surprise album was all they needed but an album plus music videos is pure sugary icing. The elation many felt at the release of her album was expressed throughout social media.


Beyoncé released 14 never-before-heard songs with the videos to match and a bonus video (2 songs were each broken down into 2 videos). For some, the music video (if done right) is just as important to the music experience as the music itself. For her fans and curious listeners, the package was enticing. It was priced perfectly – high enough that it wasn’t cheap for the label but low enough to make sense for all that one got from the album. I can’t recall a recent artist that has released an album with music videos to match every song (if I’m wrong, let me know) or even did videos after the album release for every song on their album. Makes me wonder if Beyoncé is further helping to kill the music channel. With video streaming sites allowing signed and unsigned artist to release music videos and now an artist releasing all their music videos with their album, what is the purpose of a music channel? Digressing…

The right combination of factors is helping ‘Beyoncé’ become a monumental success and break records. I don’t think she will be the only artist that can achieve this but she will be one of the few. For other artists, they will also have to come up with the right factors to attempt a surprise album.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Beats by Dr. Dre will be introducing Beats Music

Beats Music should be arriving next month - a music streaming service debuting on the massive brand that is Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. According to “Beats Music Streaming Service Says It Will Begin in January" by Ben Sisario of, the streaming service has been in the works for more than a year. The article reports, Ian Rogers, “Beats Music’s chief executive, posted an announcement…saying ‘We are locked and loaded, ready to launch here in the U.S. in January 2014’”

So far, the anticipation for Beats Music hasn’t yielded any features that will set the service apart from its competition.  The model seems to be similar to other services – a monthly fee to stream millions of songs. Sisario expects Beats Music will come with “a blitz of television ads”. A media blitz would make sense considering the well-executed ad campaign for Beats by Dr. Dre. Beats by Dr. Dre has become a product, brand, and statement seen on many celebs in the music industry. The product’s success is solidified until another high-quality, high-priced, well-branded headphone could potentially take its place. But can the same be done for Beats Music?

A great ad campaign will get people to try the service and could push competitors to push themselves out more. For users, it could simply come down to price, usability and song catalog. If it’s easy to access, with a fluid app, wide song catalog, and a good price, the service has a chance.