TIME’s “Pittsburgh: The Comeback,” a good example of sponsored content, though lacking in diversity

In an era where Buzzfeed’s clickbait listicles fund investigatory journalism, it can take being a little creative to find revenue sources for good content.

While sponsored and paid-for content are nothing new, finding well-crafted, actually interesting pieces can leave slim pickings.

I wanted to share a recent discovery from TIME magazine—a visually captivating video, produced by TIME, funded by Siemens.

Pittsburgh: The Comeback

Pittsburgh: The Comeback

Op-ed writer C. Matthew Hawkins describes the video well, “Time Magazine’s ‘Pittsburgh’s Comeback’ video is a striking piece of work that romanticizes Pittsburgh’s potential niche in the so-called ‘New Economy.’” (He later dissects it, however, which I discuss below.) This video and additional content surrounding Pittsburgh as a comeback city, are featured on a unique URL: http://time.com/pittsburgh/.

What’s in it for Siemens?
Pittsburgh’s resurgence and strength in “eds and meds” lines up perfectly with Siemens’ principle activities, including Industry, Energy, Healthcare, and Infrastructure & Cities. Siemens wins because Pittsburgh’s growing energy and excitement line up with Siemens’ own corporate positioning.

The video is advertised in the top header, linking to TIME‘s Pittsburgh url.

Pittsburgh: The Comeback

Pittsburgh: The Comeback

Quick Look: TIME’s “Pittsburgh” Sponsored Content by Siemens

  • Unique URL: http://time.com/pittsburgh/
  • 10 min video, sponsor video (Pittsburgh-centric)
  • More TIME video content, “Snake robot” video, also created at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Melon University (Pittsburgh-centric)
  • Photo gallery of Pittsburgh at bottom (Pittsburgh-centric)

A tale of caution—Online feedback:

While the video got a lot of celebratory feedback from local outlets, including those organizations that featured interviewees, users on Twitter pushed back, highlighting the video’s lack of diversity—the video only interviews white men over the age of 40.

TIME video on Pittsburgh’s Comeback getting strong reaction for its lack of diversity

Why Blacks are not part of the vision of a Pittsburgh “comeback”

While this piece is a great example of sponsored content, TIME’s “Red Border Insights”—the internal group that produces TIME’s videos—have been well-informed by the community that they wish to see more diversity reflected in future pieces.

As quoted in Next Pittsburgh, Stephan Bontrager writes,

However there is not a single woman or person of color or person under the age of 40 interviewed in this video. I have tremendous respect for many of the interviewees but every. Single. One. is an older white man. I realize this was probably the fault of the videographers and who they selected to interview/show, but dudes on camera, couldn’t you have recommended that they talk to some of your minority peers for this piece? Or rising leaders from a different generation who will appeal to those younger folks looking to move here?

If we are serious about the future of this city and making it livable for everyone, inclusion and representation and diverse voices MATTER. If your list of people to interview only includes a certain sub-segment of this town, you need to make your list longer.”

C. Matthew Hawkins writes in the New Pittsburgh Courier that the problem is actually rooted in the city of Pittsburgh itself,

“Although Blacks are well represented in sports and entertainment, when it comes to diversity within the leadership of financial, medical and technological activity the City of Pittsburgh is stunningly deficient….

To me the problem is not so much the lack of diversity reflected in the videos, but it is in the blasé attitude with which many Pittsburgher’s approach this lack of diversity. The problem is that Pittsburgher’s don’t even see their own lack of diversity and inclusion, even though it is plainly evident to any outsider.

If one doesn’t see the problem then one should forget about the prospects for finding solutions. Changes in Pittsburgh’s key institutions, to develop untapped human potential, will not be forthcoming.”

Overall, I think this is an outstanding piece that dovetails well with Siemens messaging; however, the community’s feedback rings true—old, white men are not the future of the city. I’m looking forward to seeing what else TIME does with their sponsored video content—and how the city of Pittsburgh will continue to develop—along with a more accurate reflection of community diversity.


What sponsored/paid for content have you seen and actually enjoyed?


(Full disclosure, this story originally caught my attention because I’m from western Pennsylvania—just 2 hours north of Pittsburgh ^_^)

How does a shampoo commercial do badass and touching? At. the. Same. Time?

Boss v. Bossy.

Persuasive v. Pushy.

Dedicated v. Selfish.

A recent Pantene Philippines commercial matches common descriptors for men with common-held perceptions about women — showing that what’s seen as leadership for men becomes detrimental when it’s a woman.

Set against a cover of Tears for Fears “Mad World,” the ad is thoughtful and inspiring quite opposite to the way most commercials ironically belittle their most powerful consumers.

Not only did Pantene win with this empowering video, they are championing the push to end outdated stereotypes about women with their new campaign #WhipIt.

Their twitter feed is peppered with great shareable messages like this.

Cheers to Pantene Philippines for creating a campaign that’s creative and empowering. Makes us want to whip our hair back and forth. Sorry. Had to.

“Don’t let labels hold you back. Be strong and shine,” declares the video’s pre-fadeout take-home message.

See the original above or on the Pantene Philippines YouTube page.


How to Raise AWESOME Money on Kickstarter

When I worked at GoErie.com, I worked on content generation, including expanding our online video offerings.

Using my iPhone4 and a ragtag kit of mobile equipment, I was a one-woman band, and shot, interviewed, edited, voiced, and produced videos.

The Kickstarter success of the Glif

The Kickstarter success of the Glif

I sucked at first, but in the process of learning and making lots of videos, produced some content I could be really proud of.

The secret to our success? The brilliant little piece of plastic that allowed me to connect my iPhone4 to the tripod stand. Thanks to my boss, who found and ordered it online. Its name?

The glif.

(Not to be confused with gilf.)

Here is their studio page.

A quick type into the Google search bar, and you find “glif…” and Kickstarter becomes one of the options. Apparently, they had an awesome run, and there’s a few blogs, including Kickstarter and their own, that tell how they did it.

They offer lots of great advice, including on making a great Kickstarter video.


My best advice: do lots of takes. And take a couple whiskey shots.


Worth a look, especially if you’re wondering how to get your own products/projects off the ground.


The purpose of this piece is two-fold: to give an inside look at our creative process, and to offer guidance and inspiration for those who have their own ideas they’d like to see brought to reality.


They initially asked for $10,000, and came away with $137,417 in funding after their campaign.

What would you create if you had that much funding? Ever try a Kickstarter campaign? Tell me about it @GinnyTonkin.

Why 30 is not the new 20: #TedTalks worth watching

In our 20s we often hear, “You’re in your 20s, you’ve got plenty of time.”

I’m not saying I disagree with this statement (What do you think?). But also saw a TED Talk that objected common sentiment.

“30 is NOT the new 20.”

Meg Jay, Clinical faculty at University of Virginia and Clinical Psychologist, discusses 20-somethings in her TED Talk, “Why 30 is not the new 20.” 

I took notes, in case you don’t have time to watch her video below.

The big 3:

  1. Claim your identity capital.
  2. Use your weak links.
  3. Choose your family.

1) Identity Capital: Forget about having an identity crisis, and do something that adds value to who you are.

My two cents: I personally think everyone should grab (or make!) an opportunity to travel, and if you can, abroad. It can help shape who you are, add value to your resume, and like Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

2) Use your week links: The “Urban Tribe” is overrated. If you just hang out with like-minded friends, you won’t grow, you won’t find opportunity. That’s where opportunity comes from–those weak links.

My two cents: Exactly. Many of my jobs (including my current one!) came through friends-of-friends or those “weak ties.”

3) Choose your family: “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends,” said one of her early clients who had a poor family life growing up. She countered, well, now is the time you can choose your family. Don’t choose that boyfriend that seemed like the best thing at the time when everyone on Facebook was getting engaged.

My two cents: Have been thinking a lot about the power of a true partner, like Sheryl Sandberg describes in her book, Lean In. You will need someone who will help you think through your decisions intelligently, who will share all the house/child duties equally.

Extra notes:

  • The brain goes through its final growth spurt during your 20s. If you want to change something about yourself, do it now.
  • “She may not marry this knucklehead, but she may marry the next one.” In a story about her first client Alex, her supervisor stood up to Meg about not being tougher about figuring out Alex’s relationship issues. Your 20s are prime time for picking your family, and your future.
  • We (society) have trivialized what is the defining decade of adulthood.
  • Client told her that in her 20s, dating felt like musical chairs. In her 30s, it felt like everyone was sitting down. And that she married her husband just because he was the closest “chair.”
  • In your 30s, your “mid-life” crisis won’t be about buying a red ferrari, but about you thinking, “I can’t have the career I want.” “I can’t have the child I want.”

Check out the video below, and let me know what you think (@GinnyTonkin)!

Looking for more on making the most out of your 20s? Check out the damn good blog Art of Manliness, and the series Don’t Waste Your 20s.

Huawei Announces “World’s Biggest Smartphone” at CES2013

This post also appears on MobiSights.

Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei announces the “World’s Biggest Smartphone” at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 (#CES2013) with its Ascend Mate, sporting a 6.1″ screen, and its smaller sister the Ascend D2. The Ascend Mate is a clear challenge to Samsung and its recent success with the Galaxy NoteII, which measures 5.5″.

Huawei Ascendmate 6.1″ smartphone // photo Mashable

Samsung has powered ahead in global smartphone popularity, its Galaxy S3 becoming the world’s most popular smartphone in November. In a growing market where everyone wants a piece of the profit, wonder if we’ll see a rivalry sprout between Huawei and Samsung. Like Samsung and Apple. Or Apple and Google. Cause tech just loves a good rivalry.

Huawei has been battling to place a foothold in the US, where the government holds it in suspicion and the public just has a hard time accepting Chinese brands. It’s gotten traction as a low-cost competitor to Apple and Samsung, but still lacks connections with key carriers. Maybe it just needs to ramp up on decent marketing, like HTC failed to do and which Samsung continues to pour an enormous amount into.

Personally, I’d be excited to see how the Ascend models hold up to other smartphones, with a longer battery life and water resistent features. You can also use it more easily while holding gloves. Smart. We’ll see if Huawei will be able to rebrand itself in the States this year, and grow on its home turf in China.

Here’s to watching mobile’s battle of the brands in 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @GinnyTonkin.

Watch my progress: 3 Months in Beijing

Been living in Beijing now for three months. Checking in with my Mandarin progression with a little YouTube vid. Yes, I say “um” about a thousand times, but I’m chatting in Mandarin. Tell me what you think (and if you can understand anything I say!).

Shout out to Benny at Fluent in Three Months. I’ve been enjoying his recent adventures in China, where he attempts to overturn popular assumption that Mandarin is too hard to learn.

Just a little bit about myself, where I am, and where I’m from. Ní hǎo, Wǒ jiào Jīnní! (妮好,我叫金妮)