August, 2013






A Year Ago…

we published our inaugural issue of the PNConnect Trends Report, a 16-page PDF loaded with news and ideas. Thirteen issues in, our format and publishing processes have evolved considerably, but we’ve held fast to our core mission: helping you track the shifting digital landscape and come away with actionable insights. This month, we share key lessons learned from a year of publishing a monthly report, as well as Connectors’ tips on managing information overload. Our feature article explains the fundamentals of responsive design, and our new case study showcases an innovative way of enlisting customers to tell a brand’s story. All this, plus noteworthy August headlines and stats, a new Spotlight, and much more.

Cover photo: San Francisco, by Isaak Dury.

Social Stats
Social Networking Stats

  What’s Trending

Facebook Loosens Promotion Restrictions
“We’ve updated our Pages Terms in order to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions on Facebook. Here’s what Page administrators need to know: We’ve removed the requirement that promotions on Facebook only be administered through apps. Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps.”
Source: Facebook For Business

This is a positive development, because the changes make it easier for brands to run smaller-scale contests. But brands shouldn’t give away an iPad each week via their Facebook page just because they can. Contests and paid promotions should be another tool in the toolbox to build brand awareness, enhance brand affinity, foster engagement with target communities, and drive conversions and business value. It’s imperative that digital marketers carefully consider how they use this new opportunity.

Global Trend

Smartphones Are UK Young Adults’ Prime Place for Social
“More than half of UK social users between 18 and 34 years old reported doing the bulk of their social networking on their smartphone, according to a July 2013 survey from media buying firm Kinetic.”
Source: eMarketer

This aligns with a general trend across much of the world. However, the differences in usage patterns from one demographic to the next may continue to shift. While phones are most popular among young people in many nations right now, that behavior may not continue as they age and lifestyles change.

Active Users: 1,115,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 128,000,000

Users: 554,700,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 93,700,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 200,000,000

Users: 238,000,000
Monthly U.S. Members: 84,000,000

Users: 130,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 25,450,000

Blogs: 132,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 69,000,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 199,100,000

Users: 70,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 60,600,000

Users: 50,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 4,120,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 51,600,000

Users: 218,000,000
Monthly Visitors: 46,800,000

Users: 65,300,000
Monthly Unique Users: 36,200,000

Users: 25,000,000
Monthly Visitors: 1,200,000

Users: 184,000,000
Monthly Visitors: 57,000,000

Users: 503,000,000
Daily Active Users: 46,300,000

Users: 611,000,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 101,500,000

Users: 27,100,000
Monthly Visitors: 15,000,000

Advertising Trends


Gawker Tries Novel Native Ads, with Bill Nye

“Mr. Nye will be operating within the comments section of Gizmodo, a Gawker Media website on a page sponsored by State Farm. The entire interaction, from start to finish, will be an ad… Mr. Nye’s Q&A is part of a new ‘native’ ad format that Gawker has been trying this year. The company is working with advertisers to host sponsored discussion sessions on its Kinja commenting platform, hoping to turn its community into an engaged audience its advertisers can tap into.”
Source: AdAge

Native advertising is definitely the buzzword of the day, and we’re seeing it extend deeper into social media elements like the commenting campaign here. The art of effective native advertising is achieving that balance between brand and user-demanded content. In this case State Farm seems to get it right by driving home their core brand message through a platform of interest to Gawker’s target audience. Well done.


Mozilla Plans to Block Most Cookies

“In late June, Mozilla – maker of the popular Firefox Web browser – announced that it would block the vast majority of third-party cookies for all of its users worldwide. It is a move that carries very little upside for consumers and threatens to destabilize the economic ecosystem on which the modern Internet, and the ad-supported content that is its hallmark, is built.”
Source: Adweek

Destabilizes the economic ecosystem? We don’t think so. This debate – centered on privacy – has been brewing for a long time and now Firefox, which holds roughly 18 percent of the browser market, is adamant about blocking cookies by default. There will certainly be downsides for ad targeting, but that’s not going to halt the online ad industry, nor will it drive up costs for consumers. What we may see is an opt-in system, which is exactly what Europe has mandated. If we move toward an opt-in system, then the ad industry must educate consumers on the value of cookies to user experience.

Gap Buys Up All of Tumblr’s Mobile Ads

“Gap issued a call on Tumblr for creators to share, through an original piece of content, what ‘blue’ means to them — blue being, of course, the color of Gap’s logo and of its signature product, the blue jean. The four winning submissions, as determined by Gap, will be distributed through a mobile ad takeover on Tumblr on Aug. 29. On that day, Gap will purchase every single mobile ad Tumblr runs, the first brand to do so.”
Source: Mashable

Gap’s head of digital and social media tells Mashable that the company is trying to start a pop culture movement, and that pop culture doesn’t start with television anymore. Spot on. Gap has relied on the Internet year over year to drive sales with great success. Now, by selecting Tumblr, Gap is targeting a huge swath of its customers in one fell swoop.

Google Launches HTML5 Ad Tool

“Google today announced the launch of DoubleClick Studio Layouts, a new production tool for building and publishing rich media and HTML5 ads… In short, this is part of the company’s broader plan to ensure it can continue to generate revenue even on mobile. By offering multiple tools for advertisers, the hope is to prevent a startup from swooping in and stealing customers with a new intriguing ad format.”
Source: The Next Web

Rich media ads, which include video and interactive elements, are typically more engaging and better performing than traditional static or Flash ads. Bringing rich media creation capabilities to the masses will likely yield mixed results: While some clients with lower budgets might create amazing interactive ads, we may see a flood of low-quality rich media ads saturating the web. Even with an easy publishing tool like this, there’s no substitute for great, engaging content and storylines. Start there.

Noteworthy News



Ikea App Delivers Virtual Furniture

“Using augmented reality, the app allows customers to visualize 3-D versions of Ikea’s furniture in their homes. So the sofas, tables, desks, and chairs that you’d otherwise have to eyeball (or if you’re the planning type, pre-measure), can now be virtually placed into a room, ultimately making the planning process much more accurate and the chance of you schlepping a 50-pound box back to Ikea much less likely.”
Source: Wired

This is another example of resurgence in augmented reality apps, following recent innovations from Museum of London and Audi. These apps, which are quickly moving from gimmicks to useful consumer tools, may serve as marketing content platforms for brands as well. The ability to share content, as in the Ikea app, opens the door to high-impact social campaigns.

Facebook Goes Embeddable

“We introduced Embedded Posts in July to make it easy for publishers to add any public post from Facebook to their blog or website. Today, we’re excited to make Embedded Posts available to everyone. We’ve also added several enhancements based on feedback from our launch partners.”
Source: Facebook Developers Blog

Historically, Facebook has been an aggregation point for what happens on the rest of the web. Embeds will help it become a potential content source for the rest of the web. It’s unclear if the feature is part of a larger pivot away from the walled garden – a move to forge stronger connections to the outer web in order to grow and thrive. In any case, it’s another tool that helps brands build an ecosystem where stories can move freely from platform to platform.

New York Times Tries Tweetable Highlights

“Dave Itzkoff’s oral history of ‘Saturday Night Live’ auditions has a new feature for a New York Times article page: highlighted sentences that you can click to tweet. You’re not required to tweet the same sentences the Times chose, but a tweet using that link will drop you onto that exact point on the page.”
Source: Poynter

Most notable is the quote from the New York Times exec who says that he’s more interested in Tweets that contain quotes from a story than ones that use the headline. This kind of functionality plays off that idea, creating multiple shareable sub-moments within a story, which has usually been seen as one large shareable moment.


“I’m a genetic optimist. I’ve been told, ‘Jeff, you’re fooling yourself; the problem is unsolvable.’ But I don’t think so. It just takes a lot of time, patience and experimentation.”

Silicon Valley’s 1st reaction: WTF is Bezos thinking? Silicon Valley’s 2nd reaction: What’s our startup’s newspaper strategy?

– BOX CEO Aaron Levie, via Twitter



Responsive Design Fundamentals

Even today, browsing the Web on a smartphone can feel like a second-class experience. Visiting a site designed only for desktop, you have to double-tap just to make the text legible, or pinch and zoom to figure out the context of the page. Finally, in frustration, you email the link to yourself to check out when you’re on your laptop – if you actually remember. Or worse yet, you visit a site that reroutes you to m.sitename or, an odd white void with blue links – a far cry from the complete, robust site. It’s a disjointed “mobile-only” experience with scaled-back content, delivered by a third-party vendor. It simply doesn’t feel or work like you’d expect.

Fortunately, these frustrations have ushered in an approach most web and digital product builders know as “responsive design.” On a responsive site, each page is a fluid grid that can adapt intelligently to a range of devices. Based on the detected screen dimensions, the page rearranges and resizes images, text, and other elements to present a tailored design. Responsive sites aren’t a panacea for bad design – far from it. They require a deeper understanding of what your users are looking to do on their devices and ensuring that designers and developers work together to make that experience the best it can possibly be. Keeping a few key principles in mind will set you up for success:

1. Design Early

Responsive design is an equal mix of development and experience design, optimizing the way the pieces of a website are delivered to the browser while also giving the user an optimized experience that makes sense to mobile users. While it’s certainly possible to retrofit an existing desktop experience to be responsive, it’s typically easier and more effective to approach the site with a responsive mindset from the start. In other words, a responsive-oriented redesign is often the best course. But first, examine whether your site has enough mobile users to justify a redesign. A quick look through Google Analytics or Omniture data will show you how users are browsing your sites, and looking back over the last 12-18 months will give you a sense of the trend. Chances are, you’ll see significant mobile growth. The PNConnect team routinely sees 30-40 percent growth in mobile use on client sites.

2. Focus on Tasks

Simply chopping your desktop site into smaller pieces and making headlines larger isn’t the answer to mobile design. Desktops, tablets, and smartphones will share the same HTML, but that doesn’t mean the changes in experience can only be superficial. Look to site metrics and user testing to understand what tasks your users perform on the phone as opposed to sitting at their desk or on their couch with their tablets. Put yourself in their shoes and make sure the design caters to the right tasks for each device.

3. Let Go

Optimizing the experience for mobile users can bring the added benefit of streamlining the desktop experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to evaluate your desktop site design and optimize everywhere you can. You’ll likely find there are elements from past redesigns that just don’t work properly in this new approach or simply don’t serve users’ needs. Let them go.

Helen Nowicka

Each issue, we hear from a digital or social media program leader. This month we talk to Helen Nowicka, EVP, Digital at Porter Novelli.

What role do you play at Porter Novelli?
I am an EVP in the Washington, D.C. office, where I head up the very talented digital team, having transferred from Porter Novelli’s London office in August 2012. I’m also part of the PNConnect global leadership.

What developments on the Web are you most excited about right now?
I’m fascinated by the way the social web is infinitely nuanced and there is no “one size fits all.” What you do and where you spend your time is precisely tailored by who you are. While Facebook was the broad entry point to the social web for many people, we are now seeing more niched social networks with unique selling propositions that exert a gravitational pull on different demographics. Look at how Pinterest has taken off among millennial women, for instance, or Tumblr among teens. Diving in to the ever-changing “Who does what and where?” helps me think about how to map audience behavior and preferences to client needs.

What one thing would you change about the digital landscape today?
I’d love to stamp out cyber-bullying. Twitter’s move to add an in-tweet “report” button is a welcome step in dealing with the bullies and trolls.

What are the toughest challenges you and your clients are facing?
There is so much clutter now in digital marketing, and clients want to know how they can stand out. At PNConnect, we address this by helping our clients act like publishers, by producing compelling content that is distributed both through their own site, and then via the social networks their audience inhabit. This brand publishing approach means all that rich information remains accessible to search engines for months and years to come and avoids the inevitable content decay that social network updates experience within hours or even minutes.

What’s one thing you’re seeing differently now compared to a year ago?
The sky – it’s blue a lot more often in D.C. than in London. Also the rise of video sharing. Vine was just emerging when Twitter bought it in October, then it grew to 13 million registered users in June, and by August, that was up to 40 million. Instagram introduced video in June for its 130 million users, and its owner, Facebook, has been integrating the two services ever more closely. Video is playing a bigger role in many other networks, too, and with the push factor of people loving to share videos and the pull factor of the big players making it easier to do so, this is one trend that will continue into 2014.

Case Study

PN Case Study
Consumer Challenge

For HP’s supplies business (ink and paper), the biggest competition isn’t Kodak or Canon; it’s retailers who refill empty ink cartridges with generic ink. So when HP asked for help changing the perception that refilled cartridges and generic ink were “just as good,” the Porter Novelli team had to tread carefully. How could HP take the offensive against smaller competitors without playing into the stereotype of a huge corporation squashing alternatives and acting against consumer interests?

The team looked to the consumers themselves. The “HP Inkology at Home Challenge” asked 100 average consumers to compare the quality and user experience of using HP ink versus refilled ink over the course of five weeks. Through weekly printing tests, the participants saw the quality, durability, and reliability of HP inks firsthand. The team encouraged participants to shout their findings on their blogs, Twitter profiles, and Facebook pages, and then republished and repackaged that content across HP sites and social media channels. The team also pitched the challenge and its results to target tech media read by the “refill” customer, securing positive coverage that questioned the perceived value of refilled ink.

  • A customer’s home ink testing setup

  • Refill ink results

  • HP ink results

The campaign produced an overwhelming flood of positive sentiment towards HP and negative sentiment toward refill ink. Through comparative printing, the Home Challenge successfully fostered discussions on considerations other than cartridge price and illustrated the overall superiority of Original HP ink. Prior to the campaign, 72 percent of participants purchased Original HP ink. After the campaign, 96 percent of participants said they will be likely to purchase Original HP ink again.

By putting customers in the spotlight, the team shifted the focus from HP’s own testing results to relatable human stories, overcoming consumer skepticism. The team successfully amplified and marketed the message by leading participants to share their experience, then adapting the stories to appropriate channels, and finally facilitating media coverage. Following the campaign’s success, HP is applying the same approach to an upcoming “Toner Challenge.”

Crowley Quote

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had to build a lot of stuff just to fight for survival, so we don’t get crushed by a Facebook or Google. It’s been like working our way through Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.”

– Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley discussing his company’s struggles and future in an interview with Fast Company

Burning Question

Burning Question

Q. What’s one pro tip for keeping up with the constant glut of industry information and news?

“Sweep a variety of headlines for interesting stories, but choose 2-3 sources you really trust to read in depth on a regular basis. The broad headline sweep ensures that you see a wide set of ideas and don’t get too narrow in your scope or perspective, but the 2-3 sources ensures that you don’t end up overwhelmed trying to read everything that’s out there. Usually, a good resource will include links to other sources in their posts/wrap-ups, so you will have options for further reading if you want them.”
– Christopher Barger, Detroit
“Don’t just follow feeds – follow people. Not only is following specific people in your industry good for networking, it can also yield vetted content and news, with better focus than a huge list of RSS feeds.”
– Doug Haslam, Boston

“Find the pattern that works for you. For me, it’s RSS (Feedly is my reader of choice now that Google Reader is dead) during my commutes to and from work, and then a bit more before bed. This is my everyday pattern, and it serves me well.”
– Will Tucker, Seattle

Each month we select a client’s “Burning Question” and solicit answers from other clients and our senior staff. Something on your mind? Drop us a line at and tell us about it. 



Publishing a Monthly Report

Producing a monthly report is an excellent way to keep customers informed, demonstrate industry leadership, and start important conversations. But the prospect of actually maintaining it – essentially pulling a magazine together every 30 days on top of day-to-day work – is understandably intimidating. Fortunately, with a well-organized, strategic approach, it’s not nearly as taxing as it seems. On the occasion of the Trends Report’s one-year anniversary, here are seven tips for taking on the challenge.

1. Share the Load

Distribute the work among contributors across your company so that you don’t overwhelm any one person. With a large enough resource pool, you can even switch up the roster month to month, calling on individual contributors just a few times a year. Steadily growing the team not only keeps burnout at bay, it also brings new perspectives and ideas to your report, keeping it fresh and energetic. To fill your bench, be sure to tell employees how they can help out, both in mass announcements and in one-on-one conversations. Many potential contributors are hesitant to respond to a general call for help, but will gladly pitch in if you contact them directly.

Esteemed Trends Report contributors.
An ad hoc team of 10-15 works on each issue.

2. But Put Someone in Charge

While many hands make light work, potluck contributions won’t add up to a polished report on their own. When everybody is focused on their individual pieces and nobody is looking at the big picture, the result is an inconsistent, often redundant mishmash. Assign an Editor-in-Chief to decide what to include in each report, then bring the component pieces together, and then mold everything into a cohesive whole. In contrast to the contributor team, the Editor-in-Chief should work on every report, maintaining consistency and streamlining production.

3. Develop Recurring Features

After the first couple reports, you’ll have a clearer picture of what content works well and what forms are feasible to produce every month. You’ll be able to develop a set of core content types that might appear in every report. Honing the recipes for these forms – developing a standard approach for conducting and presenting interviews, for example – speeds up the process of creating new reports. It also gives new contributors solid models to emulate, making it easier to dive in.

4. Think Small

Monthly reports don’t have to be packed with laboriously crafted long-form articles. In fact, a stack of text-heavy pages is likely to scare most readers off. In developing recurring features, look for short and sweet hits. When presented in an attractive layout, a compelling quote, stat, or photo can be just as valuable and memorable as a 1000-word essay. A mix of lengths and forms can give your report a lively variety that keeps things interesting.

5. Work Ahead

With a set of well-established recurring features, you can start doling out assignments for multiple issues at once. For example, spend a day brainstorming ideas for 12 how-to articles that would be interesting to your readers. Then assign them to 12 contributors. When the assignments come back, you’ll have a decent chunk of an entire year of reports ready to go. This approach won’t work for news-based content, of course, but if you include more evergreen features in your reports as well, you can bank much of your work ahead of time.

6. Get Organized

With multiple contributors on the team and content for multiple editions in progress, it’s critical to have an easy way to track the moving pieces. A simple shared Google Spreadsheet works nicely. Start with a tab for content ideas, another for assignments and deadlines organized by issue, and another listing the content from past editions for easy reference. Put your Editor-in-Chief in charge of keeping it all up to date.

The “Past Issues” tab in the Trends Report planning hub.

7. Plan Like a Reporter

Company and client activities, industry conferences, and other events can yield excellent content for a monthly report. However, it can be very difficult to cover them effectively after the fact without some preparation. As a team, make it a habit to approach events and activities like a reporter, with the ultimate publishing needs in mind.

Before an event, consider what content the activities might yield and note what you’ll need to bring it together. During the event, keep an eye out for other possible angles. Take plenty of high-resolution, quality photos, so you’ll have the imagery you need. Record important presentations (ideally on video), so you’ll be able to include exact quotes in your article. When it’s time to craft your next report, you’ll be well on your way.


PNConnect is the global digital services offering from Porter Novelli. Our global team spans 60 countries and brings the combined digital resources of our social media marketing, creative production, paid promotions and web development capabilities together for one purpose — to help our clients share their story with the world.

For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.


Thank You


Big thanks to our August contributors.

Jeremy Harrington in Des Moines contributed our feature story on the fundamentals of responsive design. From Seattle, Will Tucker brought us the case study on HP’s Home Challenge, and Tom Harris in Raleigh shared insights on publishing a monthly report. Chad Hyett in New York and Chris Thilk in Chicago contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats, Advertising Trends, and Noteworthy News sections, and Amanda Wu provided the latest stats. Helen Nowicka took the Spotlight hot seat, and Christopher Barger, Doug Haslam, and Will Tucker answered this month’s Burning Question.

Thanks to Jennifer Laker, John Ciacia, Peter Schiebel, Jeremy Harrington, and Sean O’Shaughnessy from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Beca Mueller, Lauren Sandelin, Josh Hallett, Dave Coustan, and Tom Harris for editorial oversight and proofing.

Drop Us a Line

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on this edition and your suggestions for future issues.



Top iOS Apps

iPhone Top Paid

Minecraft Pocket Edition – Games
Heads Up! – Games
Pixlgun 3D – Games
Pimp Your Screen – Lifestyle
AfterLight – Photo & Video
Flipagram – Photo & Video
Smart Alarm – Health & Fitness
NFL Fantasy Football – Games
Plants vs. Zombies – Games
Free Music Download Pro – Games
iPhone Top Free

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – Games
Dots – Games
Doodle Fit 2 – Games
Candy Crush Saga – Games
Instagram – Photo & Video
Despicable Me: Minion Rush – Games
Gold Diggers – Games
Vine – Social Networking
YouTube – Photo & Video
YouTube – Snapchat

iPad Top Paid

Notability – Productivity
Minecraft Pocket Edition – Games
Pixlgun 3D – Games
NFL Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet 2013 – Sports
Plants vs. Zombies HD – Games
Pimp Your Screen – Lifestyle
Pages – Productivity
RotoWire Fantasy Football Draft Kit 2013 – Sports
Survivalcraft – Games
iMovie – Photo & Video
iPad Top Free

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – Games
Disney Infinity: Action! – Entertainment
Doodle Fit 2 – Games
Talking Larry the Bird – Entertainment
Candy Crush Saga – Games
Blocksworld HD – Games
Despicable Me: Minion Rush – Games
YouTube – Photo & Video
Doctor X & the Urban Heroes – Games
Skype – Social Networking

Top Android & Windows Mobile Apps

Android Top Paid

SwiftKey Keyboard – Productivity
Minecraft – Games
Titanium Backup Pro Key Root – Tools
Nova Launcher Prime – Personalization
Community Reader by Tapatalk 4 – Social Networking
Plants vs. Zombies – Games
Beautiful Widgets Pro – Personalization
Root Explorer – Speed Software
Poweramp Full Version Unlocker – Music & Audio
ROM Manager (Premium) – Tools
Android Top Free

Facebook – Social
Pandora – Music & Vido
Candy Crush Saga – Games
Instagram – Social
Brightest LED Flashlight – Productivity
Facebook Messenger – Communication
Despicable Me – Games
Skype – Communication
Netflix – Entertainment
Kik Messenger – Communication
Windows Top Paid

Avirall – Tools & Productivity
YouTube Pro – Music & Video
Instagraph – Entertainment
YouTube Downloader Pro – Music & Video
OneShot – Photo
Note Plus – Tools & Productivity
Phototastic – Photo
Metrotube – Music & Video
WPGram – Social
Flash Videos – Music & Video
Windows Top Free

YouTube – Entertainment
Facebook – Social
Unit Converter – Entertainment
Skype – Communications
Kik Messenger – Social
Pandora – Music & Video
Adobe Reader – Tools & Productivity
Flashlight-X – Tools & Productivity
Netflix – Entertainment
WhatsApp – Social