Lucky 13: my top 13 for 2013

The last year has been a year of memories and milestones for me, from my engagement at the start of the year to the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing at the end.  In between I watched, listened, and learned from countless media during 2013, influencing my daily life and providing inspiration for ideas of my own.  Because I love building lists (and what blogger doesn’t), I wanted to share some of my top moments for 2013, at least from my own media usage and perspective:

My Top Instagram Photos in 2013

My Top Tweets of 2013


My Top 13 Albums of 2013

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In Memory of My Father, Roger Hurst

Today marks the 25th anniversary of my Dad’s death.  He is remembered for many things in his life: as a husband to my mother, a father to me and my sister, a brother and son to the Hurst family, and a friend to many.  But his life is most remembered for how it ended: alongside the 270 other people killed on Pan Am Flight 103 and in Lockerbie, Scotland as the airplane was bombed in an act of terrorism on December 21, 1988.
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I was only 3 years old when my father died, so I don’t have many memories about him or from that day.  I do remember sitting in our home by the Christmas tree seeing my mom crying by the phone, an unusual sight for a young boy.  In a few short days we’d be flying home to St. Louis to mourn with our family, relocating to Missouri where my mom would raise me and my sister.  It all happened so fast that it took years to fully understand my family’s life had changed forever. Continue Reading…

Late Majority: How Smartphones Matured the Mobile Market

In 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile handsets in the U.S. for the first time, keeping hundreds of millions of Americans constantly connected to the mobile web and increasingly using apps. This was a change many had anticipated, including yours truly who wrote about best practices for the mobile web way back in the first month of this blog circa 2009, naive to the changes smartphone apps would have on consumer’s daily activities. As far as predictions go I missed the mark a bit, though hardly as far off as Steve Balmer. It’s another example of how it’s hard predict how consumers will embrace and use technology until it’s in their hands.

Back in 2009 I was just another early adopter hoping on the iPhone’s bandwagon, and like many early adopters in Roger’s diffusion of innovation model I found new ways to make my smartphone fit my internet enabled lifestyle; none of which would pursued my parents to buy smartphones of their own. But it was clear which way the wind was blowing in digital: the future would be increasingly high-speed on mobile, and smartphones would reshape how we use the internet.

We can use this same approach – measuring the trends in mobile – to anticipate what’s next in the market. Today smartphones make up nearly two-thirds of mobile phone owners (65%) in the U.S., putting these devices in the “late majority” phase of adoption. That means the exponential growth we’ve seen in mobile is likely to begin tappering for smartphone makers, though providing more opportunities for publishers and marketers alike in the years to come.

To help tell the story of how the smartphone market has reshaped mobile and visualize the current state-of-mobile, I built an infographic (see below). First a disclosure: I created the infographic using publicly posted data published an industry-expert source (Nielsen) who are also my employer, though the ideas shared on this blog are my own (see my policy page for full disclosure): Continue Reading…

What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age

It’s been said that Public Relations has a “PR problem”; while the majority of people aren’t sure exactly what a PR does, almost all of them seem to have a negative impression of my profession. So when people ask about my career and I tell them I work in communications and marketing, their natural follow-up is usually “what does that mean?” Contrary to one popular misconception working in PR is not synonymous with the “Press Release”, which is just one tactic in the arsenal of a Public Relations professional. In fact working in PR has so many connotations that the PRSA led a rebranding effort in attempt to help redefine our work, or at least clarify what we do in the most transparent way.

Working at my desk with my tabletop robot

Most would call my work in Public Relations, although depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer; in grad school we called it Public Communications, which helps distinguish our responsibilities are not limited to working with the press. If only my colleagues knew that calling myself a PR rep was the best shorthand for all the work our profession does: everything from researching public opinion, to crafting marketing strategy and crisis communications plans, to writing press releases and blog posts, to media relations and publicity which our profession is best known for. Continue Reading…

Hitchhiker’s Guide: Mapping the Consumer Media Universe

Mapping the Media Universe as a solar system of devices

(click to enlarge the Media Universe infographic)

The media universe is constantly expanding, so as consumers adopt more devices and gadgets their usage of how they watch, shop, and connect continues to evolve; today the media universe revolves around the consumer.  As the media landscape changes, PRs, Advertisers, and Marketers must navigate this new media universe, understanding not just all the gadgets consumers own, but also how they use media across devices to form their own behaviors.

Working with Nielsen’s data to provide insights into cross-platform media usage, I helped design the 2012 Consumer Usage Report from concept through completion, including the above inforgraphic meant to help navigate the media universe just in time for CES in January 2013.  Using the common marketing metaphor of the “universe”, meaning all people in the target audience, this visualization provides a snapshot overview of the US media market.  Visualizing the media universe as a solar system of planets (devices) which revolve around the sun (consumers), this infographic maps consumer ownership of digital devices (computers, mobile, tablets, etc) and devices connected to the TV (cable/satellite, game consoles, etc).  Pulling these devices together is gravity, illustrated by how are consumers spending their media time, and some may be surprised that the overwhelming majority of time spent (150+ hours per month) is watching traditional and time-shifted TV.

At the same time consumers’ media habits are rapidly changing, and the media universe continues to expand to incorporare new devices akin to a technological big bang.  During 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile users in the US for the first time, and nearly 1 in 5 households now owns a tablet computer.  Social media usage continues to grow, and while many more consumers are using it on the go most still connect to social networks using their home computers.  And for cord-cutters like me who get much of their viewing through online stream sites, it may be surprising to learn only 4% of households own IPTV sets, but with 56% of homes using video game consoles it seems likely at least a few are watching video on Netflix and Hulu on their TVs as well.


To learn more about the how consumers use tech and media in their daily lives, please download the full report from Nielsen’s website.  And to see more examples of infographics and data visualizations I’ve worked on, check out my portfolio on this site.

Good news: I’m engaged to be married!

Matt Hurst and Lauren Reid engaged in Grand Central station

Last week I asked the love of my life, Miss Lauren Reid, to marry me and she said “Yes!” Normally I wouldn’t share much from my personal life on my professional blog, but this is too big a part of my life not to mention the good news. We’ve both been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and well-wishes from friends and family, and we share their excitement as we start to plan our wedding and to begin married life together. After sharing the big news with family over the phone and with friends through social media, we started to set up a wedding website which is already up and running (like our wedding plans, it’s a work in progress).

Since you’re visiting my website, there’s a good chance you already know a little about me. So I wanted to take a moment to introduce my fiancée Lauren Reid, whom I’ve been dating for more than 6 years. For anyone who hasn’t met Lauren in person: she’s super smart and has a witty sense of humor (but is never afraid to laugh at herself). I think she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met (and have over 1000 photos on Flickr tagged with her name), but she’s also sweet, loyal, and caring; all great qualities for my best friend and now fiancée.

Lauren is also quite active online and in social media, which helped us stay close even when we were far apart; although we grew up only a few miles from each other in St. Louis we met each other later in life, and for the first 3 years we were dating long-distance. On our fifth anniversary in 2011, I compiled some of my favorite moments we shared over social media as a timeline story of our courtship, which I’d like to share as an introduction to us as a couple: Continue Reading…

Blogger’s Dozen: My Top 12s of 2012

As another year comes to a close, I wanted to take a look back at the media that shaped my life during 2012, or at least a few of my favorites.  Like most bloggers I love makings lists, and since my career is in communications and marketing I spend a lot of time watching, listening, reading, and playing with the latest media across devices; I’d like to think I’ve developed some critical experience (if not expertise), enough to make a few recommendations   While this blog has written more about measuring my own media usage and the quantified-self, these lists take on more qualitative measure to rank what ideas were most interesting and useful over the last year.

Top 12 Memes of 2012


Top 12 iPhone Apps of 2012

  • Best New App: Timehop. While most of social media emphasizes the daily pulse of online buzz, Timehop makes your past posts useful again by bringing you daily doses of nostalgia.  I’ve been using Timehop for the past 2 years over email, and now it’s even more useful as an app by giving the ability to share old updates with friends.
  • Most Improved: Facebook.  Recently upgrades to Facebook’s iPhone app, which made it into a native app rather than universal, have improved the app’s functions and increased the rate of upgrades to the app.
  • Notable Mention: Aereo.  It may not replace a cable subscription, but it will help you watch TV on whatever device you want, including on the iPhone.  It’s not strictly an app, but the mobile screen first approach for this great technology merits a mention in the
  • Other apps considered: FitBit, Pris, Sonar, Untappd, ScoreCenter, various Subway apps, CinemaGram, Movember, and GetGlue.

Top 12 Mobile Games of 2012

  • Best New Game: Turf.  This Kickstarted project turned Location-sharing iPhone app turned my daily routine into a real-life game of Monopoly.  Picking up where Foursquare’s gamification left off, Turf is an addictive game with creative pixel-art graphics that won me over in 2012.
  • Most Improved: Pocket Planes.  This pixel-art inspired spin-off of the Tiny Tower franchise makes simulator games fun again, by making players into owners of their own airline empire.  I started playing the game over the summer, and many tweaks and improvements (including one update doubling the maximum amount of cities you could own) kept me playing through the beginning of 2013.
  • Notable Mention: Draw Something.  The first few months of 2012 belonged to a game called DrawSomething, which put a Facebook-connected game of Pictionary into the hands of millions of smartphone owners.  Like many others, I’ve found myself playing this game less as the year went on, but it was fun to play with my friends.
  • Other games considered: Game Dev Story, Tiny Wings, “Zombies, Run!”, Ghostbusters, Sonic Jump, Tetris, Epic Win, Sonic 4, and Tiny Tower.

Top 12 Social TV Apps of 2012

  • Best App: GetGlue.  This isn’t a new app, but GetGlue continued to be the best to discuss TV, Movies, and more with like-minded friends.  Upgrades to their app this year made GetGlue into a program guide, using your own checkins to recommend new shows, and creating new tools for shows to interact with some of their most engaged fans.
  • Most Improved: IntoNow.  Another popular app for Social Tv already made checkins a breeze with its audio fingerprinting, but the app added several new social tools.  My favorite new addition allows you to use stills from the episode to write your own LOL captions.
  • Notable Mention: Olympics Apps.  If 2012 was a breakout year for Social TV, then the Olympics was it’s coming out party.  When NBC released a series of apps which allowed for viewing and engagement during the games, it encounted some backlash from experienced digital natives, but it also brought new casual sports fans to the social TV party
  • Other Social TV apps considered: Miso, Viggle, SocialGuide, Yap.TV, Tunerfish, Zeebox, Clicker, Hulu (kind of), and Boxee.

Top 12 Music Albums of 2012

How I listen to music changed significantly during 2012, as streaming music services like Spotify and Rdio made a bigger portion of my time spent listening to music. As a result I had the chance to listen to more new releases, but also to explore older albums of favorite artists and making new discoveries of my own. Still this post is about what was new and great in 2012, so here are tracks from my own top 12* albums in 2012:

Top 12 Gadgets of 2012

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Marketing Movember: Promoting Men’s Health Through Social Marketing

Before and after for Matthew Hurst's Movember mustache in November 2010

Movember is about much more than growing a mustache, it’s also about putting a new face on men’s health issues.  When I first heard about No-shave November I didn’t know about the connection to men’s health, so I had no reservations about shaving my mustache for a job interview. But a year later when my new employer sponsored Movember participants I learned all about their fundraising for cancer research and raising awareness for health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.  For a third year I’m participating in Movember, but the history of Movember actually goes back much further and serves as a great case study of using social marketing to promote men’s health.

When Movember started in 2003 it was just a fun idea between two friends in Australia, but it quickly grew into a global phenomenon. Within a couple years their small group of friends expanded to reach thousands in Austalia raising millions of dollars for prostate cancer research, incorporating into the Movember Foundation by 2006.  Gaining charity status in the US in 2009 helped the organization grow abroad, but also to attract partners to their cause alongside individual participants. Today Movember has nearly 1 million participants in 14 countries who raised over $100 million last year.

Key to Movember’s success is not just the great cause it supports, but also the global marketing campaign that promotes it.  Anyone who visits their website will be impressed by the creative media ; everything from videos starring famous mustachioed celebrities to personals flyers and smartphones apps, used by participants and for supporters of Movember.  But perhaps the most important promotional tactic is much more personal- their mustache growing participants:

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.

Another popular part of Movember is their own social network, MoSpace, which gives each participant their own page to raise funds and interact with supporters.  Mo Bros and Mo Sisters use the social network to make updates on their progress and also allows them to share their Movember campaigns on other social networks.  The site also serves means to personalize their Movember efforts within their social group, a proven tactic whether to raise funds or awareness within a social marketing campaign.

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Agenda Setting: How social media empowers opinion leaders and influences voters

The 44th President via Jumbotron

Comparing how the Presidential candidates are using new media this year, the 2008 race looks like the social media stone age. Back then Myspace was still the largest social network, Facebook was considered a mainstay for mostly students, and the most followed account on Twitter was then candidate Barack Obama. That campaign was noted for it’s pioneering use of new media, at a time when few politicians had social media profiles, but the benefits were immediately understood and adopted by nearly every campaign since 2008.

I was lucky to have a front row seat to the communications changes taking place that year, both as one of the early adopters of Twitter (when the site had only a million users) and as a graduate student in DC studying public communications.  That fall I was enrolled in Matthew Nisbet‘s course in Communication Theory, learning all about agenda setting by the newsmedia and the role of opinion leaders in swaying public opinion.  The 2008 elections proved a great working example to apply the theories I was learning. Continue Reading…

An Eye For An iPhone: How Gadget Theft is Becoming A Growing Problem

I never thought it could happen to me, but last year I had an iPhone stolen out of my own hands while riding the subway late one summer night.  Even though I had read news stories and blog posts before about how the theft of smartphones and iPads was becoming more common while riding public transportation, I thought I was safe until I became another victim.

using

My first instinct was to share my experience through social media, where I learned that a few more of my friends had also had their phones stolen riding the subway.  A little further research led me to see the problem was growing across the US, and that many more shared my frustration being unable to recover my handset, even using the Find My iPhone feature. Most recently, in acknowledgment of the growing theft problem the FCC proposed changes to how the carriers manage reported thefts, hoping to help consumers avoid the hefty costs often associated when their stolen phones.

After I learned that the problem had become so widespread, I made a collection of clips on Storify sharing how the problem has grown, which I’ve updated over the last year. Here’s my ongoing story about the growing problem of iPhone theft: Continue Reading…

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