The familiar buzz and hum of the famed brand activations of SXSW kicked off today, and with it, so does News & Trends by HubSpot's coverage of the multi-day series of conferences & festival around the interactive, film, and music industries.

We'll be here through the end of next week to bring you the highlights, best lessons learned, and recaps of the most interesting things we saw each day. So, stick around -- and to see all of our event coverage, check out our SXSW 2019 Central hub here.

1. BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti on the State of Online Media and Content

BuzzFeed CEO and co-founder Jonah Peretti spoke this morning on where we've arrived with regard to online media -- along with how we got here, and what role is played in that journey by the platform (e.g., Facebook and Twitter). 

Despite recent controversy faced by platforms over the past year or more -- e.g., Facebook's many run-ins with disinformation -- Peretti seemed to speak largely in defense of them, largely pointing to the argument of the humans who run them merely trying their best. But where Peretti says the platforms could do better is looking less at an investment in combatting harmful content, and more at ways of letting quality content receive more visibility and engagement.

Peretti also illustrated just how much value BuzzFeed's business derives from content platforms, while noting that the company is looking at alternative revenue channels. 

Taking that balanced is probably a good call, as one recent study found that traffic from Facebook to news sites dropped 33% between 2017-2018 -- while another found that 43% of U.S. adults still cite Facebook as their primary source of news online.

2. CNN's Brian Stelter on the State of the Newsroom in Today's Era

In a conversation with Recode's Peter Kafka, CNN correspondent Brian Stelter spoke to the modern nature of the newsroom, and how stories are prioritized and covered in an era where, he says, "There are a lot of fires."

Those fires, of course, largely pertain to what some believe has become a constant news cycle of alarm based on what, for example, political leaders say on Twitter: a platform that surfaced many times throughout Stelter and Kafka's conversation.

Twitter, Stelter argues, often distorts what correspondents prioritize in terms of how much coverage to give a certain story, causing some audience members to ask why seemingly trivial news items seem to receive more coverage than those that have more of an impact on the current landscape. 

In reality -- and in the newsroom, Stelter says -- that's not the case, and these impactful stories receive the most attention, but that might not be the case for the information consumer.

"The question becomes," Stelter asks, "how do we direct people to that quality coverage?"

Another key takeaway from Stelter: We haven't reached peak TV ("people are still watching it," noted Kafka), and that while platforms might be making a significant foray into the news landscape, it still "can't replace" televised coverage. 

IMG_6345-1CNN's Brian Stelter in conversation with Recode's Peter Kafka at SXSW 2019 | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot

3. What Is Quibi, and What Makes It Different?

This afternoon, film industry executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and tech industry veteran Meg Whitman sat with MSNBC's Dylan Byers to discuss Quibi: a yet-to-be-launched streaming video service that will specialize in mobile, short-form content. (Quibi, for context, is short for "quick bites.")

The idea might sound promising in theory: short-form content is arguably more digestible, and being able to view it on mobile is convenient. But many of the talking points during the conversation with Katzenberg and Whitman was met with skepticism, as it seems to replicate other short-form video content services that have largely fallen flat.

For instance, many of the differentiation points highlighted by Katzenberg -- capturing the audience that wants to watch 20-minute videos during the average 70 minutes a day spent on their phones -- seem to emulate strategies that have already been attempted by Snapchat and IGTV.

5c411502c8e76f1a4e1fd0d9_LOGO-FOR-MICHAEL-COMPRESSEDSource: Quibi

Snapchat, for instance, joined forces with TV networks to develop original, scripted programming that, if successful, would draw users into viewing them on the mobile app -- while the latter developed 20-minute-or-longer series and programming with influencers for a new streaming platform that could be viewed natively within Instagram.

Which begs the question: What makes Quibi different, and what's going to convince the audiences that Snapchat and IGTV -- which use native platforms for a similar purpose -- couldn't grow, to view original mobile video content on a new, separate service?

It seems that while many audience members were asking something similar, there weren't too many answers provided by the guests -- though they were quite adamant that the service would be successful. And one of its first projects, ironically enough, will be "Frat Boy Genius": the story of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel. (No, we're not joking.)

 

In the future, said Katzenberg, Quibi will be to short-form video "what 'Kleenex' is to 'tissues,' what 'Google' is to 'search'."

4. Amazon Prime Video’s GOOD OMENS: Garden of Earthly Delights

Finally, we arrive at the brand activation of the day: a "garden of earthly delights" curated to celebrate "Good Omens": Amazon Prime's upcoming original series about how a fictional angel and demon join forces to stop the end of the world.

Naturally, the garden was populated with decor and actors dressed to replicate the set, characters, and overall theme of the series -- with dueling jazz pianos, spa services, and a tent where visitors could play with puppies thrown in, just for fun.

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IMG_6358IMG_6367A few moments captured at Amazon's Garden of Earthly Delights brand activation at SXSW 2019 | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot

We'll be back with more SXSW coverage from tomorrow. In the meantime, and signing off from Austin, TX -- have a great night.

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