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Business Critical: Amtrak, Galifianakis, Price Changes, BuzzFeed Video

Ryan Parlee

By Ryan Parlee

Amtrak Offering Free Rides — to Writers

What started out as a passing thought from a single writer has turned into a dream come true for many more wordsmiths.

Novelist Alexander Chee mentioned in an interview last year that he particularly liked writing on trains, saying he wished Amtrak offered a residency program. This idea took off by way of Twitter, with thousands of writers piling on support for the idea and eventually catching the attention of the train company.

Amtrak liked the idea and reached out to Chee and another writer to launch a pilot of the program, where they would be set up with a sleeper room on one of their trains. Since then, Amtrak has launched an official program and opened applications to thousands of other writers who find the ride a perfect place for penning new works.

This idea is such a brilliant move for Amtrak as it reinforces the artistic and romantic nature of their brand. We can also see how powerful social media can be — and how it’s a two way street with the need for direct engagement and not just broadcasting by companies.

NPR covered the new residency program.

Obama Uses Comedy (and Influencers) to Pitch Health Insurance

President Obama and Zach Galifianakis

President Obama drew both praise and criticism this week when he appeared on the satirical talk show Between Two Ferns with comedian Zach Galifianakis. His appearance on the show served mostly as a pitch for Affordable Care Act’s impending deadline to sign up for health insurance and the government health care exchange.

The move seems to be part of a larger strategy to reach primarily younger, healthier Americans by meeting them with healthcare messages in place they already go. The Funny or Die-hosted Ferns seems as plausible of media outlet as any, with a healthy following of young viewers.

Whatever your opinion of the healthcare law or the President’s appearance on the satirical show, the appearance did seem to generate a positive marketing outcome. Reports show that government’s Healthcare.gov website saw a 40% uptick in traffic resulting from the video. With this, we can see that even organizations that are often panned for their slow-moving and outdated marketing efforts (like the government) can use new media strategies to reach their audience with targeted messages in organic ways.

Read The Guardian’s coverage of the appearance’s outcome.

Storage Goes Down, Shipping Goes Up

Both Google and Amazon announced price changes this week to their popular services, Drive and Prime, respectively.

Google Drive’s price has dropped substantially — just $1.99 per month for 100 GB of online cloud storage versus the previous $4.99 — in a move that seems to mirror the lowering costs of storage and IT infrastructure as a whole.

On the flip side, Amazon’s free two-day shipping program, Prime, saw a price hike from $79 to $99 per year. This increase seems to foreshadow pending shakeups in the shipping industry as online retailers in particular grapple with ways to lower costs, reduce prices, and increase their bottom line. So far, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has yet to deliver on his much-discussed drone delivery program, but if that does come to fruition, it may turn out to play a role in this overall strategy.

BuzzFeed is Starting to Look a lot Like an Agency

It seems that the lines between publisher and agency are continuing to blur. As companies look for ways to scale content creation and distribution, they are increasingly looking to publishers like BuzzFeed.

This week, the site often cited as the home for cat memes and GIF-packed listicles unveiled plans to position a premium video content service for advertisers, which could prove to be a powerhouse in creating branded video content targeted specifically as the mainstream millennial audience.

This is, of course, just one more indication of how digital marketing and media are converging into a new model that turns away from traditional advertising in lieu of focusing on content creation.

Ad Age discusses the BuzzFeed news.


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