How Native Advertising is Tricking You

Native advertising is crap
Native advertising is crap

I started my career as a journalist. Warren Rogers, my editor and a well-known Washington D.C reporter, created a literal wall between the Georgetown Courier’s editorial department and the advertising team… it was wooden and about 4 feet tall. He taught me the importance of not having editorial pander to the needs of advertising. No lofty reviews of restaurants that took full-page ads out in our newspaper.

Sure the newspaper folded in about 6 months. And sure I now work in advertising. I still have a pet peeve about “native advertising,” which is basically advertisements that masquerade as content. You’ve seen them:

  • An apparent news story on a website that’s actually an ad for some diet product
  • A section of a magazine that, on closer inspection, is actually “advertorial” content (sponsored)
  • A tweet or Facebook post that’s paid content even though it’s designed to look like a post from a friend

We need to know when a commercial interest is impacting our news or entertainment. And it’s not often obvious. I don’t like search-engine results that are ads pretending to be organic. I don’t like product placement without credit/transparency. And I don’t like hitting a news website expecting to read an article, but it’s a poorly veiled attempt to pitch some crap.

Ads can do their job even when we know they’re ads. But news and entertainment cannot do their jobs when we have to worry about whether they’re ads or not.

So I took some pleasure in John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) absolutely ripping “native advertising” a second asshole. Enjoy…

Best Web Series of 2014: The Impression Guys by Soul Pancake

“The Impression Guys” is the best online-video series of 2014. Get a bowl of oatmeal, pull out your phone, and check it out. So far episode one and episode two have launched, and new episodes are each Monday.

It’s produced by Soul Pancake, which was founded by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office). It also features Angela Kinsey (who was Angela Martin in The Office), and this week’s episode (number 2) featured Matt Jones from Breaking Bad.

Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.
Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.

But the duo that carries the series so far is Jim Meskimen (playing Jim Marshall) and Ross Marquand (as Ross Marvin). Long-time readers of WVFF will know I’ve had a long-time creative crush on Meskimen, who is the voice behind the infamous JibJab cartoons. He’s a masterful impressionist who also is a really sweet guy. His mom is Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham.

Meskimen admits a lot of it is improv, but credits the success to “Impressionist Guys” writer and creator Ben Shelton, who also does The Flipside series for SoulPancake. “He runs a really happy set, has a great crew and makes the most of what has to be the smallest budget in television,” Meskimen told me.

SoulPancake also is living up to the “soul” in its name. Says Jim about SP, “their flow is positive and re-affirming… not edgy.”

Anyway, here’s the fun of the series. You’ll first dismiss it as an excuse to stitch together some very good impressions by Meskimen, Marquand and others. But if you give it time, you’ll realize there’s a depth to the characters and a compelling storyline. Some vulnerability that you don’t see coming.

Give it a watch. Let me know what you think!

Episode 1: Premier

Episode 2: The Worst Impression


My Appearance on Funny Stuff and Cheese

And here’s today’s episode of “Funny Stuff and Cheese,” the daily 12-12:30 talk show that’s on YouTube and one of the fastest growing iTunes talk/comedy shows.

It’s hosted by “Mompreneur” Renae Christine and Tom Cote, who hosts my favorite Instragram channel featuring Buddy his pug with stuff balanced on his head. You should follow him before you forget.

Renae runs and is the author of the highly rated “Home Business Startup Bible.” Her message to moms is simple: stop being frugal and start making some dough because stay-at-home moms are made of “awesome sauce.” Her Instagram features pictures of her wee ones and food.

Beauty and the Bald. Here’s the show. We eat “Easy Cheese” and banter.


10 Great Comedy & Humor Websites and Blogs


An apple a day make keep the doctor away, but good comedy websites are the best health remedy. Here are a few of my recently favorite websites, blogs and video collections. What are yours?

  1. The West Virginia Surfing Report: Jeff Kay has twice weekly posts that will have you giggling.
  2. Crap At My Parents House: terrific photos of odd nicknacks you might discover in your parents’ house.
  3. Reddit Video: a crowd-curated collection of funny new videos, as well as classics.
  4. The Onion: mandatory reading/watching. This parody of news has long been a favorite.
  5. is worth a scan – especially this collection of funny videos that “never get old”
  6. Failblog and icanhascheezburger popularizes some of the 4chan classics and guilty pleasures like Lolcats.
  7. QuickMeme has a collection of popular memes, and if you don’t understand them see KnowYourMeme.
  8. JustforlaughsTV YouTube channel has some nice, professionally produced pranks ala Candid Camera.
  9. MyLifeIsAverage invites readers to submit their humorous woes. Into Schadenfreude? It’s your site. You may also enjoy Awkward Family Photos.
  10. YouTube duo Smosh has a “Smosh Pit” with some frequently updated collections.

And here are a few sources for additional sites, if you wish to scavenge.

Let me know if you have some additional favorites to add to my morning coffee.


Best Cartoon About Viral Video

Meet Tom Fishburne. He’s a former marketer that got wise and is pursuing his passion. Much like someone we know, who eventually sold out to corporate America again. I met Tom when he spoke at J&J and he looks like the kid in Sixth Sense.

This cartoon is brilliant because it reflects the naive hope that a viral-intended video will certainly go viral… and drive sales. If you haven’t heard this blather you may not find it as funny as me.

I wish I had it to include in Beyond Viral.



“Where’s the Little Girl?” and “Dancing Sheep” (funny videos)

If you like this first “Where’s the Girl” video below (“Save Miranda” by Zoochosis), you also may like the second wonderfully cute but edgy dancing-sheep-girl video titled “Thanks Smokey.” Good luck getting that hypnotic sheep-dancing song out of your head the next time you see an adorable animal… after you watch the Smokey clip, I recommend closing your eyes and listening to it. The audio engineering really adds more to the magic than you realize… a gust of wind, a bell, a jail cell door, sirens, and the repetitive pen tap. Brilliant.

On the production of "Thanks Smokey," a Zoochosis production

Check out Patrick Scott’director’s cut voiceover to get some really cool insights into the subtle aspects that make “Save Miranda” so fantastic. Here’s the NPR storyabout “turtle bridges” that so wonderfully sets up the protagonist, and bookmarks the comedy.

I can only hope that Scott/Zoochosis and The Station will collab. They’re both in Venice Beach, right?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Funny Conference

So I’m sitting at Starbucks at 3, and I’ll be on stage in about 33 minutes. My presentation looks perhaps like a hotdog long before it takes that edible, if somewhat phallic, shape. Despite my morning’s panic attack, missing a flight and driving the 7 hours to Boston, I manage to catch YouTube Hall-of-Famer Michael Buckley as I pass his town. Sadly he has “a doctor’s appointment” that precludes a quick spanking or whatever YouTubers do when they meet.

It’s 3:03 as I reorder slides, fundamentally changing my entire presentation (shown below on Slideshare) I can’t help but get distracted by two nervous looking band members who appear to be meeting a new digital marketer consultant. “Our last guy, um, got really busy with school,” says Shaggy (his real name is being withheld because I don’t know it). The consultant begins to LAY IT ON THICK. Total bullshit, coated with a thick creamy topping of arrogance and a faux-pedantic snobbery crowning it all like an overly marinated cherry on top.

The topic of viral video comes up, and my face begins to literally contort as I hear the crap this guy’s advising. I couldn’t control my face. I could see some gal looking at me, and then over at them… making the connection. But I can’t help myself. When Shaggy says “I’m not willing to lose my integrity to get 3 million views on YouTube,” I think seriously about coming to his rescue. But something about this consultant strikes me as odd and dangerous. He’s far too assertive, simplistic, narcissistic, simplistic and repetitive (seems we loathe that in others that we resent in ourselves).

As I’ve finally shifted back to my presentation, literally changing the entire thesis at this point with minutes to spare, the consultant BARGES out the door of Starbucks leaving Shaggy and Scooby stunned. Again I decide to go to their rescue, hold their hand, and tell them that one need not compromise their virtues to go viral… I’ll even volunteer. But just like a dream ending abruptly, they vanish. Come to think of it, maybe it was a dream. No… I’m pretty sure it was real.

Then I gave this presentation below. To show that humor is hard to categorize because of its subjectivity, I did a live vlog (seen at the end of this video) where I followed the 102nd rule of “winning over an audience.” I secretly maligned them using a stage whisper. I was actually kinda bummed out they laughed, which is not what I expected after reading this Joel Warner Wired article that put this on my rader (and created an obsession for me).

Now for the preliminary findings, and a BIG thanks to Alexis, Kiddsock and Will Reese, as well as other contributors!


Meeting the New Yorker Cartoon Editor

Today I speak about YouTube at the International Society for Humor Studies.

If I don’t finish this post quickly I’m going to miss my flight from Newark to Boston. But I can’t tell you how incredibly excited I am to meet academics who study humor, and I’m perplexed this conference isn’t all over the news. Shame, reporters. Shame, media.

I’m most excited to meet some of the “great minds” of Humor Research (see website), and tickled to find out the friggin’ editor of The New Yorker’s cartoons, Robert Mankoff, will be attending. Check him out in this cool video… he explains humor as a way to understand what we know and don’t.

I hope to make a video while I’m there, and I am curious about whether the crowd will love the idea or despise it. Ideally I’d like to create a video that satires the academic exploration of humor, and shows (willing participants) finding no humor in my sophomoric fart hijinks. That’s called juxtaposition.

YouTube Comedy Analysis: Thanks Will Reese

Friday I did a “call for crowdsource help” on the YouTube/Comedy research I’m presenting at next week’s ISHS presentation. A big thanks for your comments, and especially to Will Reese. Check out this graphic…

Parodies represent the most-favorited YouTube comedy videos

Will’s categories (farce, dark, screwball, slapstick, parody, satire) were his own creation, and he found this interesting discover. Over shorter periods of time, a comedic video’s type is more likely to be diverse. Over longer periods of time, there’s more similarity.

Thanks also to Kiddsock, who is working on some analysis. Check out the sock puppet on YouTube because he’s underrated!

Now let’s observe some comments from YouTube, that are interesting even if not terribly helpful:

I’m afraid crowd humor is based on pain and fear and it freightens me. I think when its constructive pain and fear, like learning something new about yourself or others and reaching for the “good” it is really the funniest and is contagious. (carolperez)

I don’t really think people know what funny is any more. Everyone has conformed to this sick minded society and can turn something so innocent into something so wrong and laugh about it. Just the other day my roommate came upstairs laughing because he had watched a fake Steve Irwin death video. So explain to me how anyone in there right mind would find something like that funny. I know I am probably not making any since at all but what I’m trying to say is to make the people of the world laugh (Welcome2Broadway)

I do agree that some popular videos are sad statements on how our humor can be cruel or mean spirited, but I am not feeling like that’s “on the rise” permanently. I believe the anonymity of social media and online-video provides a temporary release for the darker side of humor, but that in the long run… good natured comedy will prevail.

P.S. Will Reese background: When in 1999 I saw the Internet as becoming a BFD, I joined a company called “Frontier Media Group,” which was evolving from a multi-media creator (video, kiosks, interactive CDs/DVDs) to a web-strategy firm. It was later acquired by Qwest telcom, and spun off to Cadient. That’s where I met Will, who was a lowly project lead at the time. Now he’s the company’s brain, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him in pitches at major companies. If you’re pitching against Will, walk away.

Crowdsourcing Data on Humor Via YouTube: Want to Help?

Per this video, I’m preparing for a presentation at the International Society of Humor Studies (yes there’s such a thing). I present on Tuesday (July 5) in Boston at the international meeting. If you’re near Boston University, please enroll and attend! This is a scholarly and professional organization dedicated to the advancement of humor research. Many of the Society’s members are university and college professors in the Arts and Humanities, Biological and Social Sciences and Education. Then there’s me.

Given my “prolific” experience as a YouTube “comedian” (220 million views, and about 200K per day) and my publication of “Beyond Viral,” I’m tackling humor from the perspective of comedy videos on YouTube and their “rankings.” My background as a psychology student (Georgetown) and MBA in marketing (statistics) also helps, and so does my decades of analyzing market research for my job as a marketer (now at Johnson & Johnson). But you, dear reader, offer perhaps other valuable perspectives.

Here’s the fundamental question this presentation (including a white paper) will address:

What can we learn about what this planet finds funny, based on the data available on YouTube?

Do you want to help? Here’s some information if you have time/interest…

  • YouTube, as the world’s largest video site and 2nd most-popular search engine after Google, is a good basis to explore humor. The videos can be sorted in many ways, and the large data sample is a rich source of insights. There are, of course, three “confounding” variables to extrapolating YouTube data to the planet’s humor preference: a) Selection bias: YouTube viewers are not necessarily representative, b) Popularity bias: videos by “popular” webstars generally get more views and higher ratings regardless of their humor quotient, c) Algorithm bias: YouTube videos for many years were ranked by “most viewed” or “favorite” videos, which created a “rich get rich” effect… once a video achieved critical mass, it received new views based on its ranking and effectively “locked” some weak videos in a place of perpetual viewing. That’s changed, and now videos are “spotlighted” based such criteria as percentage of comments, promoted videos, and other concealed factors that change.
  • I’ve spent countless hours reviewing the top 100 most-viewed comedy videos on YouTube (see preliminary findings by clicking “MORE” at the bottom of this post), and categorizing them by a dozen plus criteria. Your contribution, if you wish to help, need not be as exhaustive. I had to view, classify, expand classifications and review them multiple times. I found only about 12 of them funny by my subjective standards, but that’s not the goal. After viewing them each 5-10 times, I can say none are funny anymore to me.
  • You can help any way you have time, assuming a) you find this research interesting and b) you have time free between now and Monday (July 4). You could spend 1 minute providing a comment about how you might suggest analyzing YouTube. Or maybe you’re keen on spending a hours actually reviewing videos based on criteria/methodology you prefer (do it, don’t ask for my feedback). If you can find some interesting published method for classifying humor (edgy/cute or intellectual/emotional) than use it. Or create your own based on a hypothesis (are Asians more likely to be top-rated comedians? Are women?).
  • What’s in it for you? You’ll be part of something that, to my knowledge, has never been done (although if I’m wrong and you find otherwise let me know). We’re combining two disciplines (the art of comedy and the science of analysis/psychology) that rarely meet. I’ll be grateful for your comments and volunteer assignments, and I’ll credit you in the report and in a YouTube video if you provide ANY meaningful contribution (like a 2-page summary of quantifiably substantiated findings).
  • What do you do next? If you have an idea, run with it. You could sort comedy videos by date (time period) and look at objective patterns.
    • You could review most-viewed or most-subscribed comedians and observe similarities and differences in some quantifiable way. Just try to avoid your subjective opinion (what YOU like/don’t), and instead focus on quantifiable patterns based on what crowds like (as measured by rankings/ratings/comments/likes/dislikes)… as you’ll see by my “preliminary findings” this does require some subjective calls but be consistant and note criteria.
    • You’ll also have to rely on your YouTube knowledge to isolate “confounding variables” (Shaytards love Shaycarl and tend to view/rate his videos as high, which could lead to a faulty conclusion that it’s representative of the planet’s preference about humor. The goal isn’t to find out what hard-core YouTubers like (or specific “tribes” of people) but something bigger.
    • You could research other academic research on humor that provide clues. Or use an already researched classification model for comedy/humor.
    • Instead of focusing on comedy videos, you could explore the most-subscribed channels on YouTube that classify themselves as comedy. What are the patterns?
  • Do you wait for my okay to start? Nope– just have a go. Even if your efforts don’t produce anything meaningful, you’ll be credited for your effort (just describe your approach and findings in a simple summary). I doubt we’ll see two people tackle it the same way, so there’s little risk of redundancy.
  • Timing: Again this is being presented on Tuesday so I need to wrap it by Monday, July 4. I hope you’ll join the effort! I’ll be checking comments between now and Monday regularly.

To read about my approach and findings so far, click MORE…

Continue reading “Crowdsourcing Data on Humor Via YouTube: Want to Help?”