Monthly Archives June 2012

Pinterest Analytics Tools Comparison – PinReach vs Pinerly

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands.

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands. So you can know  if your content is reaching an audience and also gather the stats you need to report back about your Pinterest campaign to your client.


Pinerly is a complete Pinterest account management platform. In our opinion, this is the best Pinterest analytics tool for marketers. It offers lots of great stats (or Pinalytics) on your Pinterest account including number of repins and likes on individual pins.

On the downside, in order for pins to be tracked by Pinerly each pin must each be created through Pinerly. This means that pins show the URL of origin as,  instead of your brand’s URL. The good news is that any clicks of your pins are still directed to the URL of your choice.

Perhaps once Pinerly is out of beta, there will be a white label option as part of a premium package for brands (not anything we saw on Pinerly just guessing they are going to have a monetization strategy unlike Pinterest). It would also be great if brands could promote pins by paying to be featured in Pinerly’s suggested pins. However, there are currently no opportunities for brands to pay to promote content to other Pinerly users.

What we like:

  • Scheduling coming soon- a huge bonus for marketers since Pinterest activity peeks during off hours.
  • Analytics good enough to report back to a client with
  • Looking for feedback from users

What we don’t like:

  • shown as pin URL
  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • No comment tracker
  • Still in beta- though you can request an invite here


Billed as a tool for understanding and measuring the impact of your Pinterest account, PinReach is a lot like Klout for Pinterest.  Users are assigned PinReach scores  based upon the amount of engagement (repins, likes and comments) their Pinterest content receives.

Scores range from 0-90+. According to PinReach, most accounts fall into the 30-39 score range, and there are no PinReach users who have scored above an 89 (Etsy must not have checked their score yet). Certain types of interactions have more influence on a  PinReach score. While you get points for filling your boards with pins, you get more when others repin, like or comment on your content.

One stat that PinReach provides that Pinerly does not is the amount of comments received. While the metrics available through PinReach are mostly identical to those available through Pinerly, that’s ok because PinReach has a different goal- it was designed to be less of a dashboard and more of a high level look at the influencers and top images on Pinterest.

What we like:

  • PinReach is very straight forward and user friendly.
  • Looking at trending pins can be great inspiration for creating your own.
  • Much like a Klout score, a PinReach score is a fun way to gamify Pinterest. If you are aiming to brag at BlogHer, having a high PinReach score is just the ticket.

What we don’t like:

  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • From a social media marketer’s point of view, the PinReach score, is not necessary. (You know what we mean if you have ever watched a client’s eyes glaze over while explaining a Klout score).
  • Not the in-depth analytics you need for reporting purposes.

What Pinterest analytics tools are you using? Leave a comment and let us know.

5 Awesome Internet Fan Films


One of the great benefits of the combined emergence of YouTube and DIY digital special effects is the popularization of the fan film: a short movie or fake trailer starring some of pop culture’s biggest IPs. Here are some of our favorites.

One of the great benefits of the combined emergence of YouTube and DIY digital special effects is the popularization of the fan film: a short movie or fake trailer starring some of pop culture’s biggest IPs, lovingly made (with zero permission from the rights holders) and produced. They often have startlingly good results, nailing the characterizations, beats and feel of the comics, games, books, movies or whatever else it is they’re adapting. Here are some of our favorites.

Batman: Dead End (aka Batman Vs. Predator)

Batman: Dead End is matched only by the Rocksteady Batman videogames and Batman: The Animated Series in its ability to truly capture the look and feel of the best Batman comics and bring them to life. Directed by Sandy Collora in 2003, it’s an amazing feat of storytelling, action and makeup, as Batman squares off against the Joker, Predator, and another special guest. One of the most popular fan films ever, and for good reason.


Similar in feel to Batman: Dead End, Superman/Batman is a love letter to both heroes. The authenticity here is astonishing; several shots are taken straight from Alex Ross’ artwork, and the titular heroes themselves seem as if they stepped right out from one of the comic book artist’s paintings. The plot is a loose adaptation of the “Public Enemies” storyline, but works in a lot more (the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle, the interplay and differences between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent). Great stunts, choreography and building tension. Maybe an actual Superman/Batman movie could work?

PAC-MAN The Movie (The Fan Film) (aka Project Yellow Sphere)

Pac-Man will always be one of the best videogames of all time, but it has never really had any appeal beyond its core gameplay. Which is why this short film, written and directed by James Farr, is all the more incredible. PAC-MAN The Movie is a marvel of special effects and compelling story, presenting Pac-Man as a kind of friendly lab creation (think the Iron Giant in the shape of a small yellow circle that eats pellets and cherries), and his ghost-eating romps are actually training sessions. Somehow, you come out of this dazzled and loving Pac-Man the character, which has never really happened in any medium before, including the games.

The Legend of Zelda

This maybe stretches the definition of “fan film,” as it was made by IGN Entertainment as an April Fool’s prank, but it would be unfair to leave out. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is one of the most beloved games of all time, and the idea of a big-budget film adaptation is actually feasible; the Zelda series is the closest games have come to something like Lord of the Rings. This fake trailer pays loving tribute to the franchise and fans’ ideal adaptation, with the costumes and characters all looking and sounding just like they do in the game, in addition to some impressive looking “bosses.” Too bad it was all a gag, but maybe Hollywood will wise up one day.


No list of internet fan films would be complete without a Star Wars entry. Saber, written and directed by Adam Green, is the story of two women who end up in a lightsaber duel after trying to pick up the same guy. It’s a little risque, but very, very funny, with great editing, reaction shots, and effects – in a way, it captures everything great about Star Wars. Saber deservedly won the 2009 Fan Movie Challenge by Lucasfilm, and a sequel has been announced.

Interview: John McElroy, Audiobook Producer

John McElroy Audiobook Producer

With June being Audiobook Month, Flightpath took the opportunity to speak with audiobook producer John McElroy about the impact digital distribution has had on the business and much more.

While the publishing industry – and pretty much every other traditional media business – has had its struggles in adapting to digital, one facet of the book world quietly, and successfully, embraced the non-physical platform early on: audiobooks. The audiobook business has been slowly growing over the last decade, with digital distribution playing a large role in increased production, sales and visibility. In 2011, downloads accounted for 52% of unit sales and 36% of dollar volume, and look no further than Amazon’s purchase of Audible as evidence of the upward swing that digital “books on tape” – a term that really no longer applies – have taken.

John McElroy is the four-time Grammy winning producer, director and abridger of audiobooks such as America by Jon Stewart, Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock and I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert, and for years has been one of the industry’s most in-demand creators. With June being Audiobook Month, Flightpath took the opportunity to speak with McElroy about his start in audio, the impact digital distribution has had on the business, and the (inordinate) amount of time it took to download an audiobook in the days of dial-up.

Flightpath: I want to start off with your personal story. How did you get into publishing and audio?

John McElroy: Publishing was really kind of by default. I’d just finished my Masters degree in English Literature, and I decided I didn’t want to go on for my PhD, and you know, what the hell else had I been trained for? I decided I’d go into publishing. I liked books, I knew about books. Of course, I didn’t know anything about publishing books. But I went into publishing, became the executive assistant to the Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing [at Penguin Putnam], who later became the President of Penguin (USA).

And I met a friend there, who was kind of a special assistant to the president. When I subsequently went back to graduate school, I got a phone call from him one day, saying, “Hey, I’ve just become the head of Penguin Audiobooks.” I said, “Audiobooks? You mean like, spoken word?” Because I had just never heard that term, “audiobooks.” When I was a kid I used to listen to LPs of Boris Karloff reading X, or Basil Rathbone reading Y. But I never heard the term, audiobooks.

So I started doing abridgments. This would be like, 1993 or 1994. In those days, the trade publishers were not putting anything but abridgments out there. The standard abridgment was about three hours, so you could imagine taking novels and cutting them down to a three-hour format. It was A) a challenge and B) there wasn’t much left. But I did probably 60 abridgments in my first year, and I realized that I didn’t like working with other producers. I decided to go out on my own. I started as an independent producer. I picked up gigs, not only abridging, but producing the project as well.

Flightpath: Was it hard when you started out, to go from abridging, which is one thing, to then having to direct people in the studio – their inflections, accents, and voices? It seems like a totally different skill.

John McElroy: That’s true. First of all, it helps to be A) well-read and B) socially at-ease. But you certainly do build skill as you go along. I think when I started out, I was very, very afraid to ask for more than two takes of something. I would back off a bit. You just realize, you know, people are there to get it done right, you need it done right. And if one take doesn’t work, you need two. And if two takes don’t work, you need three.

As a kid, I played a lot of music. You also develop a kind of musical ear. You have a sense of, “Well, that doesn’t really work. The inflection there doesn’t make any sense. The interpretation of the line doesn’t make any sense.” Occasionally, and you have to watch this with highly trained talent, you have to give them line readings. Some people appreciate it, some people don’t. [Laughs] But I don’t think there’s any way of preparing for this short of experience. You have to get involved, throw yourself in, and sink or swim.

Flightpath: Was there a specific big break for you?

John McElroy: My biggest break, I suppose, was in 1997. I was assigned to do the recordings for Charles Kuralt reading Winnie-the-Pooh. For people who don’t know who Charles Kuralt was, he was a big television journalist, who traveled all over the U.S., and had a [spoken in Walter Cronkite-esque voice] very famous rumbling way of speaking. He was a big Winnie-the-Pooh fan and it seemed to make sense.

About a month after Kuralt finished doing this, he died. And it was because of this, the Grammy people decided to nominate him for Best Spoken Word for Children. I was actually named in the award. It was, “Produced by John McElroy and read by Charles Kuralt.” I said, “Oh, jeez. How am I going to win a Grammy Award? It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” As we got closer and closer to Grammy time, the publisher began to think it’s a real possibility – we can win this thing. And we did. I’ve been lucky to win three others afterward.

Flightpath: What’s your favorite out of all the audiobooks you’ve made?

John McElroy: Well, I loved John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. It was the first time it was ever recorded in its entirety. Dylan Baker [read it and] did a fabulous job. I hired a harmonica player to give me a series of kind of dustbowl pieces that I could use to mix into the project, and I think that really enriched it.

I loved working on both Jon Stewart [audiobooks]. They’re very different approaches [than regular audiobooks]. Very heavily mixed, lots of sound effects and sound gags. Relatively complex for an audiobook.

Flightpath: They’re almost like a new form of comedy album to me. They’re a little different from the actual book, they have sound effects, and they’re made to be funny. But they’re not like anything else.

John McElroy: You know, that’s probably right, which is probably the reason the Grammy people kicked audiobooks out of the Comedy Album category. They think of the comedy album in terms of, “Eddie Murphy Live” and “Richard Pryor Live,” that kind of classic stand-up recorded live routine, and there’s something to that. One of the things about comedy and acting is, you work dialectically with the audience. The audience reacts to you, other people on the stage react to you, and that’s what creates the chemistry that makes the thing work. When you’re recording audiobooks, you’re alone in a booth. And in putting together those [audiobooks] with the cast of The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, they’re just incredibly funny people. Those little sound bites really work wonderfully, but you do need to weave them together and you do need to create a base of sound effects and ambiance that stitches it all together to make it funny, or to sustain the comedy. Those are what,  four-hour programs? Four hours of comedy is hard to sustain. And I think it often does sustain itself in those albums, so I think they’re fairly successful.

Flightpath: You’ve seen the publishing industry go through a lot of changes, both print-wise and on the audiobook end. With digital, all the old forms of media have taken their lumps. How do you think publishing, with audiobooks, is handling the transition to digital?

John McElroy: The funny thing about the audiobook side of things is, we were involved in the digital side of things long before the print side was. We were actually creating these programs on Digital Audio Tapes – DATs – in the 90s, and we were recording to Pro Tools digital audio workstations. When the tapes went out and we started to record to CDs and hard disks, we no longer had to work in real time. We could process things far faster than we could ever process them in the past. In the past, if you needed to roll out an eight hour audiobook, you needed to do that in real time. But all of a sudden we could process things hundreds of times more quickly.

The cost of production dropped significantly. When cost dropped, you could produce not just three-hour audiobooks, but six-hour audiobooks and nine-hour audiobooks. Now we’re in an environment where almost no abridgment occurs. And the orders of magnitude in productivity, from the early 90s to now, is just phenomenal.

Flightpath: Do you think that as things go more towards digital downloads, something is lost in not having the physical artifact?

John McElroy: I’m skeptical of that. I think that there are some people who do love to have the physical artifact, to hold it. I can see that much more in the world of print, because that object is large enough, it’s visually attractive enough. That’s less the case in audiobooks, I think. It’s a miniaturized package of the book, so the art is blown down, you’ve got shrink wrap on top of it. You know, I guess there are people who really enjoy owning them.

I’m a big consumer of audiobooks myself. I’m very happy with the downloaded version. There are digital rights management issues that make me a little uncomfortable; I bought this thing, why shouldn’t I be able to lend it to someone without any difficulty? But it’s a challenging environment in which to protect intellectual property, and I guess you need to make some allowances for that. Look, I can go away with an iPod or my iPad, and I’ve got 15 audiobooks on it. I’m a big enthusiast of the digital distribution of audiobooks.

Flightpath: And how has digital distribution impacted you both as a creator and as someone in business for yourself in the industry? Has it changed anything on either end of the spectrum?

John McElroy: Yeah. Let’s put it this way: My profit margins have gotten much narrower, but the volume of production that I do has grown enormously. Five years ago, I would do – and you could make a fair income off of this – maybe 45 productions in a year. I’ve done about 55 productions in the first half of this year. So, the tidal wave of content out there is huge. And I’m not sure what to make of that. I’m not a publisher, so I don’t really have full insight into that, but my guess is that publishers are struggling to get as much out there as possible so that they can cash in on any opportunity that may arise. They’re willing to take as many risks as possible, and because the cost of production has come down so much, it makes it a far less risky proposition to do the number of audiobooks that are now being done.

Flightpath: Do you think digital distribution will have a negative impact in terms of fewer special features produced, such as author interviews, or less of an investment being made for high-quality sound and sound effects?

John McElroy: Even when audiobooks attain some level of complexity – let’s say the Jon Stewart pieces or the Star Wars audiobooks – they’re not so complex that you can’t go to a distributor and say, “Can’t we sell this with a higher definition codec that’s not mono and acknowledges the full range of material that’s in the program?” And my guess is that most distributors will realize that, yeah, we can’t turn a heavily mixed stereo product into a successful mono product. To that extent, it’s very much in the interests of the distributors to accommodate, and my feeling is that they’re not going to have to do that awfully much. As bandwidth grows, as the speed of computers goes up up up up, and the sophistication of codecs develop, you just have to be able to retain a certain level of quality in the downloads. Are they same quality that you would get out of a CD right now? Probably not. But it’s good enough to really sit and listen and enjoy the tales being told on audiobooks.

And I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The digital distribution of audiobooks has grown many times over the past five or six years, and it shows no signs of stopping. You have extremely successful young adult books, you have people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s listening avidly, and everything in between. It really doesn’t show any sign of going away.

Flightpath: I remember when Audible launched. I don’t know if people were sure what was going to happen with it, but now it’s a household name.

John McElroy: Audible was around in the mid-90s. If you saw what they used to download things onto – I think it was called the Rio – I’d be shocked if those players held anything more than a hundred megabytes.

Flightpath: It could hold like, three paragraphs from a book.

John McElroy: [Laughs] Well, it was a heavily compressed format, so it was not full fidelity by any means. And because almost everybody by that point was using dial-up, you’d download these things overnight. I guess a 10-hour book would probably take around that long to download.

Flightpath: You could read the book in that time!

John McElroy: Exactly right! I thought they were kind of looney. But you know, things change. And they really saw around the corner. When broadband internet took off, so did Audible. I think I downloaded War and Peace in 15 minutes or something. This company [became] a public company, and then a company purchased by Amazon. And Amazon certainly knows something about distribution over the internet.

Flightpath: Do you think audiobooks is the one form that has really benefited from digital distribution?

John McElroy: I don’t really know enough to say that. [Laughs] But if my business is representative of anything, it’s the huge increase in volume of audiobook production in the United States. Just go to a site like and see the number of audiobooks available. It’s pretty staggering.

Google+ Hangouts: +1 For Google

Google+ Hangouts

I’d never partaken in a Google+ Hangout before. But, I accepted a friend’s invite.

Ready for the shocker? Google+ Hangouts is kinda awesome.

While checking my email one last time before bed a couple of weeks back – my respite from a disappointing night of New York sports starring the Rangers and Yankees – an invite to join a Google+ Hangout popped up from my friend Frank.

I’d never partaken in a Google+ Hangout before. Video chat has existed for a long time, and it has never really appealed to me. So I guess I just never considered checking Google+ Hangouts…out. That, plus I still haven’t really warmed up to Google+. But, I accepted the invite.

Ready for the shocker? Google+ Hangouts is kinda awesome.

Yes, it’s been around for awhile now. But with new ad campaigns, it seems like Google is really giving its video chat service a push. And I get it.

There were only a couple of other friends in my chat (though you can have more), and the audio was very clear and the video feeds were of good quality. There’s one big screen in the center that focuses on who’s talking, with smaller screens below showing everyone’s feed. It works surprisingly well. But it was the options within Hangouts that made it something special.

I noticed that everyone in the chat had these animated hats, mustaches and eye-wear on, and they followed their head movements perfectly. Frank went for a pirate look; Tyler put on a creepy dog face. I went for a classy, fancy Mr. Peanut-themed look. While this might sound ridiculous, it made the experience unique. And really fun.

Then there are the in-chat apps. Someone opened up Scoot & Doodle, the live doodling app. After figuring out how to open it myself, we all started drawing and writing. Here’s one of our masterpieces:

It may seem basic, but often times, real change or innovation comes from taking basic things and presenting them in new ways – showing you that you need something you didn’t know you needed before. Maybe, as more apps are developed for Hangouts and more animation and options are integrated, it will really change the way we think about video chat and social media.

Kudos to Google for getting out there and pushing Hangouts. It deserves it.

How to Deliver Customer Service via Social Media – Blog World Expo Session Recap

Rackspace gets over 4,000 mentions during a typical week, but Twitter isn’t the only place consumers are asking questions. The team also responds to questions frequently on Quora, Facebook, blog posts and of course, by phone.

Social media has been used as a customer service channel for the last several years. Companies such as Zappos, Rackspace, and Jet Blue have been lauded for using social as an effective customer service tool. Many companies remain wary of using social media to address customer service issues. We were fortunate to hear insights from the Rackspace customer service team including Jeremy Wasner, Robert Collazo and Matt Wilbanks during a panel discussion at Blog World Expo last week.

So, what makes Rackspace customer service special?

The customer service team reported that their department is empowered to point out lapses in service delivery to the rest of the company.

They have the support of leadership to be the thorn in the side of the company. Culturally, everyone in the company talks. Customer service is encouraged to talk to the team that needs to change, bringing consumer posts straight to internal departments. “Since we know the teams are knee deep in the work and isolated from customers,” Matt Wilbanks said during the panel, “we know it’s our responsibility to inform the teams of problems that need to be fixed.”

Also, they do not use an external call center. Instead, all customer service is handled in house by engineers who can understand and address customer issues.

Monitoring tools are used to find any mention of the company, and a customer service team member responds rapidly. Most of the company’s social media customer service interactions take place on Twitter; Rackspace gets over 4,000 mentions during a typical week, but Twitter isn’t the only place consumers are asking questions.

The team also responds to questions frequently on Quora, Facebook, blog posts and of course, by phone. Rackspace customer service staff post their cell phone numbers publicly so consumers can call them directly. People just seem to want to know that they are heard and that their issue is going to be acted upon, according to Rackspace.

While turn-around time is important when dealing with customer service via social media, the team sees a clear difference in dealing with customer complaints delivered in the form of a blog post. A blog post is often the result of a long-term unresolved customer service issue. So usually, the customer service team involves senior management to respond personally to the post. Subsequent comments are typically positive, with Rackspace getting kudos for responding to the issue.

So what mistakes do they see other companies make when using social media to interact with customers? Many companies use social media as a place to see how great they are instead of listening and responding to customers.  The job of a customer service employee is to relieve stress and pain. Being consistently helpful and genuine helps create a brand image that reinforces the company’s mission of support.

Supporting competitors instead of disparaging them is a better approach. Often, Rackspace sees other companies trolling for Rackspace customers who may have a service issue, then trying to pounce and convert the customers to their hosting service.

Rackspace takes a different approach, never chasing ambulances on Twitter. When a rival hosting company was struggling with a big issue, Rackspace sent $7,000 in pizzas to their corporate office as a show of empathy.

They advised to never pray on customers struggling with their providers or complaining about a rival product. That would be like a car salesperson approaching someone who just had an accident and saying creepily, “Looks like you are having an issue with your car…” By having a strong customer service practice, the number one source of new customers is referrals from existing ones. Rackspace doesn’t do a lot of marketing.

When rivals start talking to customers on social, attempting to disrupt the customer service process, a best practice is to reach out to them publicly and ask if they need anything. If a competitor continues to push, a call to the company and to the social customer service team’s supervisor usually resolves the issue.

In summary: Always be nice. Always be a step above expectations.

Facebook: Passion Speaks Louder Than Clicks

While Facebook has been dominating the news the past two weeks,one side of the social network story that has gone under-reported is the undeniable passion Facebook has created.

While Facebook has been dominating the news the past two weeks – GM saying no mas to $10 million in paid media, the market/investors saying IPNO (no!) to $38 a share and many interesting stories of the personal and financial lives of Facebook insiders past and present – the one side of the social network story that has gone under-reported is the undeniable passion Facebook has created.

Facebook, to the 13-year-old creating his or her account and getting a profile up, is huge: A rite of passage so dynamic, so intense, that if you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew, you wonder if they are even breathing the first few days. In fact, it makes getting the driving permit so yesterday. For jaded investors and longtime social media enthusiasts, Facebook may be easy to discount (crazy hype can do that!) or connect to the beginning of the end – like a replay of the ‘90s dotcom collapse – but given the scale of people who connect through, engage on, and live loud because of Facebook, that couldn’t be more ridiculous.

Simply, Facebook is the passion engine of our time. I am going to keep this simple and single-minded. Take Facebook’s photo uploading and sharing. Billions are uploaded monthly, so that alone emotionally and socially has had a tremendous ripple effect given the old idiom, “a picture says a 1000 words,” in terms of humans connecting. Family and friends smiling happiness or sharing sadness all is second nature because of and through Facebook. The bottom line is, whenever a new technology platform or even a re-defining idea (think: “The 99 Percent!”) enables human passion to flourish in any area of life, there is no looking back.

The way I see it is, scale doesn’t make passion – passion makes scale. Facebook has scaled up so big so fast because of its relentless pursuit of passion. The way they have screwed up – like in the privacy area – seems perfectly normal, given how fast they have moved. Their corrective steps reinforce an ability to listen and learn is why their dynamic growth continues.  Clearly, Facebook understands and practices, maybe better than any company in history, the idea of “Fact Based Passion.”  Introduced at Nabisco in 1994, CEO John Greeniaus espoused Fact Based Passion as connecting data and information to empower human energy and commitment to make remarkable things happen.

So, while I imagine people at Facebook are working hard day and night (especially at their Hackathons) to get people to click more on ads, I believe brands will figure a way to work with them to drive effectiveness and success. People are too passionate about Facebook and about Skittles or Coca-cola or GM to not find a new way to thrive symbiotically. Fan pages prove that today.

I’ll end by reminding us that the DVR didn’t kill television – it just made some brands re-imagine how to message. As Facebook continues to explore new pathways for commercial engagement, the opportunities for brands to leverage all the emotional currency they have garnered will be incredibly exciting and powerful.