One of the biggest questions we get is “Where should I add social login to my website?” Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. In this article, we go through the top 3 places to implement social login on your website: Newsletter Sign Up, Contests, and Gated Content.
Think About YOUR Customer and YOUR website
Depending on your website, different social login options and techniques will make the most sense for you.
It is important to put on your customers’ shoes and think about what works for them. You can also see what’s being done in your industry by scoping out your competitors.
Just remember to keep your target customers in mind as you read on. This should have the biggest influence on where you decide to add social login to your website.
Use Social Login for Newsletter Sign-up
Newsletters are an effective way to grow a list of leads that you can reach out to later. They are also an easy way to direct traffic to your website, blog or promotion. In fact, a 2016 study by Campaign Monitor found that for every $1 spent, email has an average $44 return on investment (ROI).
Customers love well-crafted emails because they can count on being notified when you release fresh content, announce a sale or run a competition.
Getting your Newsletter Sign-Up Call to Action Just Right
Finding the right call to action is super important, and there is no one-size-fits-all option. It is going to take some experimentation to find the perfect incentive.
Start by asking yourself: what do your customers actually want delivered to their inbox?
Then, consider what you can actually manage to provide. It builds trust with the consumer if you only promise what you truly will deliver.
Based on this, explain exactly what they can expect from you. If appropriate you can even state how often they should expect an email.
Here is an example of AE’s sign up form…feel free to subscribe of course! 😉
And don’t worry if you aren’t 100% sure about your newsletter CTA. Test something out and if it’s not converting much of your traffic, go back and try something different.
Tip: If you are looking for some ideas on how to word your newsletter signup form, check out this awesome blog post by Hubspot. Or if you need some design ideas, Canva has a bunch of great examples on this post.
Use Social Login For Your Next Contest
Contests are a fun way to engage with your fans and create buzz. Through a contest, you can get your customers to complete multiple social actions, boosting your social channels at the same time.
With a well thought out contest and an enticing prize, you should have no trouble getting fans to join in. Here’s an example.
Thievery Corporation ran a successful points-based contest to promote their album, Culture of Fear.
When fans used social login to register for the contest, they were automatically added into AE’s dashboard. This way, the band’s marketing team could effortlessly track what fans were doing.
Fans could then earn points by:
- Following the band on Facebook and Twitter
- Tweeting about the album or posting about it using their branded hashtag
- Listening to the new album on Last.FM
- Buying the new album
How to Manage a Social Media Contest
AE makes contests like this one easy. Everything gets tracked by the engine, making ranking entrants and picking the winner easy. If you want to learn more, you can read the full Thievery Corporation case study here.
If you already run contests (or want to give one a try), then it’s a no brainer to implement social login into your entry form!
Tip: Decide on your contest’s goal before getting started. Is it to promote a new product, engage with customers, or get site visitors? Try and pick one goal per campaign.
Using Social Login to Access Gated Content
Gated content is anything on a website that requires login to access. This creates a feeling of exclusivity whether or not there is a membership fee. And often, these areas are so useful for marketing and sales teams that it makes sense for access to be free.
Forum /Community Board with Social Login
Many artists have a forum on their website where top fans can chat with each other. Fans get to feel like they are part of a larger community and they get another opportunity to engage with the artist they love.
Creating a community based on your website gives you a lot more ownership than having, say, a page on Facebook. It’s easier to create an overall experience more in line with your brand and to lead fans to other parts of your website.
Social Login for a Members Only Zone
This is a part of your website that is only accessible to members. It can include pages that only members can view, for example, a members-only blog, or access to other exclusive content like behind-the-scenes videos.
This is a great option if you want to create a VIP experience for your customers. Moreover, you can share different kinds of content when you know everyone there is interested and engaged. It’s easy to manage this using social login, and AE’s social login will give you the greatest insight into how your members are interacting with your brand.
Tip: Your customers are already active on many social channels. If you want them to spend their valuable time on your site, you need to make it worth it. Facilitating a good members-only zone can be incredibly time-consuming. Make sure there is someone on your team actively tasked with keeping the energy going.
1# Tip for Getting People to Engage
If you want to get customers signing up for your newsletter or entering your contest, you need to provide the right incentive.
This comes down to knowing your target customer and clearly communicating the value. It may take a few experiments to hone down on the most effective incentives for your customer. Play around with it and get creative!
Make sure to be clear about what your customer will get (access to gated content, the chance to win a prize pack, etc.) and what they won’t get (bombarded by emails and spam).
It’s 2019 and people know that their data is valuable. So treat them with respect and give as much as you take!
Fill Up your Dashboard with Customers
With AE’s real-time customer data, you get to segment and target your fans with great precision. But none of that is possible until you have customers using your social login- that is after all, how AE works!
You know you are going to get a ton of really valuable insights. So, it’s worth putting the time in to think things through. No matter where you decide to add social login, you can look forward to these perks:
With AE you can keep track of who is signing up for your newsletter and use that list to create lookalike audiences in Facebook or Google ads! You won’t believe how much more effective your ad campaigns are.
Using social login in your contest means creating a big spike of awareness about your brand. Using AE’s social login means being able to manage all of the social channels and entrants from one dashboard. And, when the contest is done, you have all those fans to re-market to!
With robust hosting platforms like WordPress, it’s now easy for any website to store lists of members. The problem is, your members aren’t just going to be talking about your brand on your forum. To get the full customer picture, you need a service like AE that tracks their activity across social channels. That way, when you want to reach out with a campaign, you can do highly precise segmentation that takes advantage of automation.
Go get ‘em, tiger!
The world is your social login oyster: be creative and always keep your customer in mind.
If you are still stumped and need a helping hand, don’t hesitate to reach out! You can talk to a real human on our Marketing Team simply by clicking on the blue chat bubble.
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Love, Death & Robots 📺
TL;DR: Love, Death & Robots is a new animated anthology series available on Netflix and has its roots in a concept developed by producers David Fincher and Tim Miller to reboot ‘Heavy Metal‘ for a new generation.
The series comprises 18 episodes by different creative teams from all over the world. Each has its own unique animation style and storyline. Episodes range from 10-20 minutes in length.
I collected a lot of Heavy Metal as a young adult and beyond, and really enjoy the classic animated movie (John Candy voicing Den!) so this was definitely right up my alley.
Some of the critiques I have seen so far say that the series appears to favor quantity over quality. I’m not sure I agree with that. Not that I think every episode was a masterpiece, but I like the fact that because there is so much there, you can choose yourself what to watch, when, and in what order.
In this way, it really did give me that Heavy Metal feel. You can curate your own experience, and what works for one person may not work for another. But at least there is more opportunity to appeal to a broader audience.
When I bought copies of Heavy Metal I would never read it from start to end in order. I would see what stories there were and take my own path. Sometimes I wouldn’t read one of the stories until months later. Some I re-read over and over.
My suggestion would be to check out the episode list, pick and choose what sounds interesting and take your own journey at your own pace.
In case you’re curious, here are 5 of my favorites from Season 1 (tough choice!):
– Three Robots
– Good Hunting
– Fish Night
1984 by George Orwell 📖
TL;DR: 1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel which dives deep into topics such as the treatment of humanity, freedom, thought, language, perception of reality, and history.
My pop culture pick this month is the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell. I thought I knew what I was getting into and hooo boy, I was not ready. This book is intense.
The story is set in the year 1984, following decades of war that has redefined the world. A mysterious “Big Brother” leads the nation, and everyone is watched 24/7; words, actions, and even thoughts are monitored constantly. There’s propaganda, rations, and constant reports of a war that is happening with one of the other two continents (the world is now Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia). If anyone shows even the slightest hint of rebellious thought, they are severely punished (tortured) and eradicated.
The story follows Winston Smith in London, Oceania. He is an average worker who just goes about his routine every day. This all changes when he buys an illicit journal and starts to write out his thoughts…
1984 delves deep into many philosophical and psychological topics, one being the right to freedom of thought and speech. Since no one is allowed to own any physical records of anything (I’m talking newspapers, books, audio, etc.) and Big Brother is constantly rewriting history, it is impossible to know truth or to develop personal beliefs. The English language is also rewritten to be much more basic. Because, as the book explains, if people can’t express their complex emotions, then, eventually, they become more simple. There’s a lot more to unpack here, but the erasing of history and control using language is what struck me the most.
I was truly blown away by this book and every day since I’ve read it I’ve thought about freedom, and how our world is defined by our choices, individuality, history, and language. As I sit here listening to some nice music and writing my Pop Culture Pick, I imagine the consequences I would suffer in that world, for such small actions.
Octopath Traveller (Nintendo Switch) 🎮
TLDR; Classic JRPG action with unique graphics and 8 separate characters for you to try on and explore.
The Nintendo Switch is basically the perfect machine for JRPGs – play on the go, level up your characters, plug it in on the big screen, and continue your adventures. Octopath Traveller is a Switch exclusive from the folks that put out the Bravely Default games on the 3Ds (also well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre).
The game takes its name from the 8 different characters available for you to control, each with their own separate adventure within the game world. The most striking thing about the game is its unique graphical style – 2 dimensional character sprites on a 3D background – and it looks fantastic. Gameplay is pretty standard for a classic style JRPG, with an excellent battle system. Each of the eight characters has their own unique abilities in both battles and while adventuring, which provides plenty of reasons for exploration.
If I have one criticism, it’s that the story and missions can be a bit generic. But that’s to be expected with the complexity of maintaining 8 separate character arcs. With so much going on there is plenty to keep you entertained in this lovingly crafted retro-JRPG.
RuPaul’s Drag Race 📺
Long story short: Costumes, make up, and theater make this series the best of “bad TV.”
I’m pretty careful about what I watch.
I usually wait for TV shows to be recommended to me by people who know me rather than by Netflix’s algorithms. I just have a million and one things to do (like everyone else), and I hate the idea of spending precious time in front of a screen.
But sometimes, you just want to be entertained. And, as I’m slowly learning, that’s okay! We all have our favorite “bad TV shows.”
For me, this is RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a mishmash of many things I love and it doesn’t leave you with that tugging sensation to watching more, more, more as many shows do these days.
RuPaul’s Drag Race first aired in 2009 and is currently filming its 11th season. The host of the show, RuPaul, is probably the most well-known and influential drag queen in the United States.
Each season starts with around 14 contestants. Thanks to the wildly diverse and hilarious challenges, one contestant is eliminated each episode. Two are left remaining at the end of the season to compete in the final challenge and win the $100,000 cash prize.
Here’s what I love about it (and what you might too!):
Costume challenges: As an amateur sewist and someone who spent their teen years watching Project Runway, I love seeing what the contestants come up with under pressure.
Drag makeup: It’s so cool to see how makeup transforms each of the contestants’ faces differently. I’m a big fan of challenging gender norms and authentic self-expression.
Singing & dancing: Challenges often include theatrical elements, not to mention when the bottom of the tier contestants lipsync to save themselves from being eliminated.
Big personalities: The contestants are all so unique and throughout the season, you get to learn more about their lives and what brought them to drag.
All in all, it’s very entertaining and I recommend giving in a shot if any of the above appeals to you. If it’s your first drag race, don’t worry about starting with the very first season. In fact, I don’t recommend it- the show has come a long way in 10 years!
Well, as RuPaul would say, it’s time for me to “sashay away!” Until next month. 💗
In this post, we meet Jennifer Tigner, a core member of AE’s development team. Keep reading to learn more about what brought her to AE and what keeps her around!
How long have you been working at AE?
I’ve been with AE since March 2018, when I was hired as an Intermediate Developer.
What inspired you to become a software developer?
After completing my Astronomy degree at UVic, I was on the job hunt constantly. I did a few amazing co-ops during my program (see the picture below!), but full-time jobs in Astronomy are quite scarce.
I remember sitting at home one day after another fruitless job search and realizing I was bored with where I was in life. So I decided to join a local club called Ladies Learning Code. I took an HTML workshop and found it really interesting. There were less than 10 members in Victoria’s meetup at the time and it was great to just get out and meet some new people!
This then led me to later take a coding boot camp that I found out about through the club. I, very spontaneously, quit my job, applied, and two months later I was in living Vancouver learning how to code!
What is your favorite part about working at AE?
I love the positive atmosphere when everyone is working together at the office. It is the right amount of fun that really encourages openness and professional growth. Because of this, I love coming into the office every day.
Another cool thing about AE is how much everyone loves music; we always have some great tunes going in the office! Everyone has different tastes and it’s fun and refreshing to have a mix going.
Describe a typical workday.
My typical workday is to come in a bit early, grab a coffee, and settle into my standing desk. Then I go through Monday, our online project management tool and task list. I check what I’ve scheduled for myself that day and read any new comments or questions from my co-workers. After that, I get started on coding. The rest of my day is mostly spent coding or designing my current project. Depending on the day, other tasks come up, such as meetings (just twice a week – a full team meeting and a developer meeting), code reviews, or even the occasional blog post.
What keeps you motivated at work?
Sometimes my motivation comes from the pure energy and encouragement in the office. Sometimes it comes from my excitement working on a new project: the beginning is always my favorite part! Motivation also comes from seeing a problem or question that I now know the answer to. It reminds me that I am continually learning and improving my skills. Lastly, I get motivated by seeing the product itself in action. It’s rewarding to know that our clients are using AE to create a better experience for their users.
What is the coolest project you’ve worked on?
Definitely the total revamp of the AE Connect page on our dashboard. Initially, the page was missing a lot of information, as we personally take our Enterprise clients through it. My goal was to update it so self-service customers could understand and use it without any hand-holding.
This project started with me taking the time to fully understand how AE works. I went through all the steps of setting up AE on a website and then translated that into instructions and an easy-to-follow UI for our new self-serve users. I am really proud of the result and every time I visit the page I get that sense of “wow, I created that!.” It’s a very satisfying feeling.
What is the top skill you’ve gained?
I think the best overall skill I have honed is how to properly debug code. While I’m still learning all the tricks, this skill has really leveled me up from junior to intermediate. It’s all about the problem-solving, rather than just the “how-to’s”. As a person who is a big fan of logic puzzles and sudoku, debugging code is perfect for me!
Learn more about Jenn and the rest of the AE Team here.
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton 📖
In Short: Dalton uses magic realism and humor to lift up a challenging coming of age story.
Set in the 1980s in Brisbane, Australia, this novel explores the world of Eli Bell. Eli’s stepdad is a heroin dealer, his mum is in jail for dealing drugs, his older brother is mute, his dad is an obsessive-book-reading-alcoholic, and his babysitter is a notorious criminal. Eli lives in a very complicated world.
And while there is a lot of plot in Boy Swallows Universe, the beauty of this book is the writing. Dalton plays with magic realism and post-traumatic stress. Eli and his family lurch from crisis to crisis and without this imaginary quality to the writing, I think the novel would become too heavy. It would turn into one of those terrible true crime novels in the grocery store sale rack.
It’s also a funny coming of age story: Eli’s first love, his first complicated friendship, his developing relationship with his dad, all told with warmth and details that make you smile and remember your own teenage experience.
If you’re a fan of Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami you’ll enjoy this book immensely. And if you’re already thinking a couple seasons ahead like me, this would be a great novel for your summer canoe trip….
La Traviata (Pacific Opera Victoria) 🎭
TL;DR: La Traviata was truly an astounding experience – from the set to the story to the absolutely incredible performance of Lucia Cesaroni, who plays the protagonist, Violetta.
This month I went to the opera! La Traviata is the story of Violetta, a showgirl who loves to party and just live her best life.
Alfredo is desperately in love with Violetta and through some very convincing operatic singing, he convinces her to give him a chance. Cut scene to a few months later and they are both in love and have given up their partying ways.
No good story can have such a quick happy ending though! Cue drama.
Alfredo’s overbearing father meets Violetta and convinces her that she needs to end the relationship for the good of his family…But you’ll just have to go to the opera if you want to know what happens next!
The opera was set inside a spectacular home with a grand staircase and giant windows. Lights behind the windows enabled them to shift the scene convincingly from day to night. The elaborate and beautiful costumes were tailored to the 1920’s when this adaptation to the story is set.
The performers were all excellent, but Violetta, played by Lucia Cesaroni, was absolutely standout. Both her acting and her voice were nothing short of incredible. Her performance is what I will remember most from this magical night at the opera.
I’m heading to Italy next month so this Italian opera put on by the Pacific Opera Victoria was a great head start on that experience…
Russian Doll 📺
TLDR: This funny Netflix original series features multiple universes and a great track by Harry Nilsson.
Russian Doll is a one-off, eight-part comedy drama made for Netflix and starring Natasha Lyonne (formerly of Orange is the New Black). The plot involves a Groundhog Day type scenario with Lyonne reliving her 36th birthday over and over. Time paradoxes and parallel universe aspects provide a captivating storyline, and it’s all held together with great characters dialogue and acting by the show’s main characters.
The plot is superb with the kind of story that has you thinking about the characters and events long after the show has ended. It also prominently features a great Harry Nilsson song that’ll get stuck in your head and which you’ll associate with the show forever after.
Phases by Angel Olsen
Long story short: Phases is another great album by Angel Olsen.
Shoutout to Annabel for introducing me to this amazing artist! The two of us were driving back from a marketing session in Vancouver when she put on My Woman (2016). My ears immediately perked up, despite the long day of travel…who was this amazing singer?
A few months later and Phases is the only album left that I haven’t played to the point of nausea (yet). So in this month’s pop culture pick, I’m going to return the favor and introduce you to Angel!
Phases came out in 2017 and is Angel’s first compilation album. It is a collection of demos, B-sides, and cover songs recorded over the past 5 years. While you will notice the variety, Phases is still Angel through and through.
If you’ve listened to Burn Your Fire for No Witness (2016), you’ll notice “Only With You” and “All Right Now,” which were both bonus tracks. Oh and, the album’s three covers fit right in; Angel was made to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher than the Rest.”
Understanding the difference between Brands and Members is crucial to getting the most out of AE. Keep reading to learn why!
What is a Member?
A new member is added to your dashboard every time someone signs into your website, signs up for your newsletter or enters into a contest using AE Connect.
Therefore, every person in your dashboard is a member.
Over time, AE collects relevant data about your members. This data grows as members engage in social media and connect more of their social media accounts (via social login).
The usefulness of AE depends on your members. You will be using your members as a jumping-off point for many of your business tasks, such as:
- Using segments and groups of members. For example, you can use AE to find members who watch a lot of DIY videos and target them specifically.
- Filtering members by specific types of data. One example of this is using AE to select your segment of members who have paid Spotify accounts.
- Creating micro-targeted ad campaigns. For instance, you can create a new ad audience with members who haven’t listened to your artist’s new album yet.
- Find your most engaged audience. Quickly sort your members to find those with the highest engagement score.
- Select members who opt in to your brands’ email newsletter. You can import new subscribers from AE to Mailchimp or Salesforce.
What is a Brand?
A brand can be a property that you own (like your own coffee shop) or a property that belongs to a competitor (your worst enemy’s coffee shop).
You are in charge of adding applicable brands to your dashboard. It does not happen automatically.
So if you were a record label, your brands would be the artists under your label as well as anything else you want to keep track of. This could be similar artists under other labels, potential sponsors, etc.
Here’s where it gets a bit muddy.
AE tracks key behaviors that your members exhibit against the brands you’ve put into Appreciation Engine.
For example, each time a fan uses the artist’s primary hashtag, that action is stored in AE.
Having up-to-date and complete lists of brands makes a big difference in terms of the value of the data.
Best Practices for Adding Brands
We want you to get the most out of every brand that you add. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind whenever you add a new brand:
- Create brands for properties that you do not own. Create brands for your competitors, potential sponsors, partners, or any other key brands that interest your business.
- Add as much detail as you can for each brand. The more detail we have around a brand, the deeper Appreciation Engine’s tracking can go. The deeper the tracking, the better your data will be.
- Double-check that all the information you’ve added is correct. You don’t want to be tracking the wrong brand or a meaningless typo.
Hopefully, you have a better idea now of the differences between brands and members.
The ball is in your court!
Sign into your account or get started today for free!
What is an API and, more importantly, why should you care? This article will help you to understand APIs and how AE uses them to make cool stuff happen!
How do APIs work?
API stands for Application Programming Interface.
In plain English, APIs are messengers that relay information back and forth between different applications and servers.
In fact, each time you type a URL into your web browser, you are using an API.
For example, when you visit www.spotify.com, a request goes out to Spotify’s server (a.k.a. where all the data that makes up Spotify lives).
You are basically saying in code, “Yoohoo! Show me the Spotify website please!”
Once your browser has received a response from the server, it can display the page.
In this scenario, your browser is using Spotify’s API to relay information from Spotify’s server.
So thanks to APIs, applications and platforms are able to communicate with other applications and platforms. Hello Internet!
This is huge because a lot of existing software and tools rely on API’s every day to do their jobs…including AE.
When you first signed up, you may have wondered “How is AE able to funnel such awesome and useful data into the dashboard?”
Well, let’s break it down.
Let’s say you have a website for one of your emerging artists. You learn about how AE works and decide to integrate it into your site’s newsletter sign-up form.
Now, when a fan signs up, AE starts to track their artist related activity online and across social media.
APIs actually sit behind this entire process.
In this case, the newsletter sign-up form is an API that connects your website to AE’s dashboard.
And if the fan signed-up using their Twitter login, another API is in charge of getting in touch with Twitter and requesting data about the user. APIs like this one continue to request data regularly, enabling AE to provide real-time data!
Basically, APIs allow AE to gather key customer insights and pass them safely and securely to your dashboard. (Want even more detail about this process? Nerd out here.)
When you sign up for AE, one of the first things you will do is create an application for each social sign-in option you want to offer.
But, don’t worry, it’s actually rather simple. Plus, we have tips and help docs to guide you every step of the way!
We hope APIs make a little more sense now.
Learn more about how to get AE set up.
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
In Short: Season 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee airs February 12th, 2019. Tune in for a good laugh and to learn more about the world of sewing!
If you read my Pop Culture Picks with any regularity you might pick up on a theme here: my love of British reality shows made by the BBC.
This year’s Bee has a new host, Joe Lycett, a British comedian. I’m not too familiar with him but was sent this clip (NSFW) – ha! Season 5 sees Joe in the sewing trenches with the contestants, while Patrick Grant and Esme Young circle the sewists like great white sharks, literally picking at their stitches. Patrick loves a well-made garment and Esme loves some flair – they are such a perfect pairing.
I started watching the series when I took up sewing, hoping to pick up tips. But in fact, the show has taught me much more about the history of fashion and why garments are constructed in certain ways. If you have any interest in clothing you’ll come away with an appreciation for a well-made garment and most likely look a little closer at the clothes you purchase. Better yet, try your hand at making your own!
Joe Lycett posted this Season 5 trailer on his Twitter. Give it a watch if you aren’t already convinced!
TL;DR: Season 1 is great and Season 2 is even better!
I believe I have watched every iteration of Star Trek: the original series, the animated series, TNG…the list goes on. I’ve read novels set in the Star Trek universe. I’ve even attended a sci-fi convention and asked a question to an Enterprise series actor during a panel.
So, now that my credentials have been established, I’ll provide my opinion on the latest series. I’m going to (try to) avoid major spoilers and focus on a high-level impression.
The first season introduces us to the starship Discovery and is set 10 years prior to “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The season covers the original Klingon war against the United Federation of Planets, with the Discovery being the most important weapon on the Federation’s side.
They definitely hit the ground running and I was a big fan of their nod to aspects of the original series, including the mirror universe, Harry Mudd of tribbles fame, Spock’s father Sarek, and more.
The entirety of the season covered a single story arc, with none of the self-contained episode format used in most of the other series. I did like the storyline and I really enjoy Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham. Each episode was fast-paced and fun; they are not afraid to surprise!
Some aspects bothered me a little. For one it was a bit darker than I anticipated, although I think we were introduced to the story at a dark time (The Klingon War). For another, there was very little focus on the crew other than the 4 or 5 main characters. I’m used to being introduced to the bridge crew over the initial season but the story format and pacing did not really allow that.
Lastly, it’s not really as much of a “kid’s show” as the other series, F-bombs are dropped fairly frequently. I find this a little sad because I was a kid who fell in love with Star Trek during after-school afternoons and weeknight “prime-time” TV. I imagine this series may be hard for some parents to share with their kids.
Having said all of the above, season 2 actually appears to have taken some of this on board. We have a far more positive captain as a role model, none other than Captain Pike of the Enterprise! Although there is an overarching storyline again, this one looks like it will allow a bit more of the old school “away mission” type episodes. As a side effect of that, more time is being given to other members of the crew. We will also get to meet a young, pre-Kirk Spock.
I’m liking what I’m seeing in season 2 so far, it has all the aspects I liked from season 1 while addressing some of the issues.
Overall, I’m impressed with the quality of the show, and how fast the series has gotten up to speed. Something difficult to do in the post-20-something episode season era of the past.
There are already additional Star Trek projects in the works, such as a Patrick Stewart revisit of Picard and a Section 31 series. I’m all for it.
Some version of Star Trek has been there most of my life, so let’s keep it boldly going!
Mint by Alice Merton
TL;DR: Alice Merton’s debut album shows off her strong voice and radio-friendly beats.
This month, Spotify recommended to me a new release which I ended up really enjoying. Alice Merton’s new pop album Mint brings great beats and catchy lyrics. Her voice is confident but not overpowering.
Her debut song, “No Roots,” was released in 2016 and the world loved its deep bass and emphasis on the chorus. The song made the charts all over the world before making its way to the US, where it reached Gold status.
Mint is quite radio-friendly, with each song sounding like it could be a mainstream hit. “2 Kids” is one of my favorite songs on the album, as is “Homesick”. I like how her lyrics are relatable and easy to sing along to (great for me as I sometimes I have trouble making out the words when people sing!).
The album does get a bit repetitive near the end – I can tell there’s room for growth, which will bode well for her next album!
What you need to know: The Beyond Burger is a delicious way to reduce your carbon footprint. Keep reading to learn more!
The new Canada Food Guide was quietly released last month. To the people’s surprise, there were some pretty radical changes from the 2007 version. Not only did they do away with the traditional food groups and serving sizes, the government highly emphasizes the consumption of fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins (the “dairy food group” is completely gone!).
This huge shift in the food guide is just one part of a greater movement. Companies are getting crazy innovative to bring us food that satisfies our cravings while minimizing harm. Lab-grown tuna anyone? Or how about some eggless scramble? Nah, I’ll just stick with my non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s.
My pick isn’t about any of those tantalizing treats though. It’s about the Beyond Burger- an epic, plant-based alternative to the traditional hamburger. Using ingredients like pea protein, coconut oil, and beet juice extract, the resulting burger “looks, cooks, and tastes” the same as a regular beef burger.
I tried a Beyond Burger for the first time a few months ago and was happily surprised. It was delicious and very, very convincing.
Caveat: I’ve been vegan for 5 years now, so I don’t think I’m a super trustworthy source. I actually find a lot of plant-based foods very similar to their animal alternatives. But a quick Google search will show you that I’m not the only one convinced by its meatiness!
Beyond Meat, the mad geniuses behind it all, state that it took them 7 years of prior research and testing before releasing the burger in 2013. They have now added Beyond Chicken, Beef, and Sausage to their line of meatless products.
- It is the first burger to be sold in the meat aisle at the supermarket in the US.
- Tyson Foods, the largest animal agriculture corporation in the U.S., owns a 5% stake in the company.
- When A&W Canada rolled out the Beyond Burger to chains nationwide in July 2018, it sold out completely in a matter of weeks!
The mission of Beyond Meat is to find a better way to feed the planet. They state on their website that “[b]y shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively and significantly impact 4 growing issues attributed to livestock production and consumption: human health, climate change, natural resource depletion, and animal welfare.”
Economist and Forbes both declared 2019 year of the Vegan. I, for one, can’t wait to see even more food innovation in the next 11 months!
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. In this special edition, we bring back each of our favorite picks from 2018. This is your opportunity to get caught up before we start a fresh new year!
In short: If you like interior design, British accents, and contestants under pressure, this show should be your next Netflix binge.
When you’re jet-lagged and up at 1 am you want to find some “easy” watching. With great delight I opened up Netflix, after returning from Australia, to find a new season of The Great Interior Design Challenge was available. Oh, joyous day!
The British contestants get two days to complete massive room re-designs. That is not nearly enough time and Daniel and Sophie (judges extraordinaire) have very high standards. It’s stressful for the contestants but I find it incredibly relaxing to watch the old carpet being pulled back…will it be beautiful hardwood or plywood?
The British know how to do a reality show. It’s not focussed on the rivalry between the contestants (I’m looking at you American reality TV) but instead focuses on struggles the designer has to overcome. Grab a cup of tea and settle in for high design drama.
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe 🎶
TL;DR: This album shows a true and rare talent. It’s worth taking the time to listen in full without distractions — it will enrich your day, I promise.
In this day and age, Janelle Monae is the hero we need. That’s why I chose this album as my pop culture pick of the year.
Her messages are about self-expression, freedom, and being treated well (re: equally). Her style is unique and speaks volumes. Most of all, I’ve loved listening to her for years now and the growth from her previous albums (which were also awesome) to this one is incredible.
Janelle is a true artist and I really enjoyed this album. I also saw her perform the album live in concert and it was the first time I thought to myself that I really should have splurged on seats closer to the stage!
Long story short: It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the band or just great rock ‘n’ roll biographies in general, this is a must.
I’ve been a fan of the punk rock band NOFX for a long time now — they’ve been around for over 30(!) years and I’ve been there for close to 20 of those. They’re still going strong, but given their DIY attitude and aversion to interviews, it’s been hard to piece together a history of the band until now.
Written on a chapter-by-chapter basis by current and former members of the band, this book tells their long and fascinating story in what many might consider disturbing detail: drummer Smelly’s battles with heroin addiction, singer Fat Mike’s weird sexual habits, and the band’s well-known enthusiasm for illegal substances all get written about here.
NOFX are one of my all time favorite bands so it’s great to see them finally getting some of the recognition they deserve after all these years. I’m also a sucker for music biographies and this is an excellent one!
What you need to know: Insight Timer is a mobile app that offers thousands of free guided meditations, courses and, of course, a timer for your meditations. It is a game-changer for those looking to start a meditation practice.
I know I’m not the only one wanting to get back on track after the holiday season. And for many that looks like writing down a few New Years Resolutions. So what if 90% of your resolutions never happen. I think they are still a valuable tool for self-reflection!
One that has been on my list for at least 5 years is starting a regular meditation practice. Success has varied considerably, but last year I progressed the most. And that is partly due to my discovery of Insight Timer. The other helpful element was going on a meditation retreat, which I highly recommend if you can get the time off!
In short: This game is a nuanced combination of earning points for playing card sets and controlling the map. It’s quick, lots of fun, and full of replay potential.
Ethnos was recommended to me as a bit of a dark horse for board games and I was told it was surprisingly addictive. This indeed turned out to be true, and I have had many great sessions with friends since getting it. Of those friends, a few have even bought the game themselves as they enjoyed it so much. This includes friends who have played a wide variety of challenging board games for years, and friends who have just started getting into board games. The fact that it appeals to such differing levels of gaming experience says a lot.
I fully expect to get years and years of enjoyment from Ethnos.
AE was recently featured on Music Think Tank, a leading music industry and artist advice blog. In our article, we discuss how Spotify Pre-save has hugely impacted online music marketing since its release.
Having worked in the music industry for over 10 years, Annabel has valuable information to share about music marketing. In the article, she provides helpful suggestions for music marketers wanting to succeed and speculates on where the music industry is shifting.
To read the full article visit the Music Think Tank blog. We share some of our favorite quotes below…
Streaming for Success
“There’s no doubt that streaming is taking the place of traditional music consumption modes. And, with over 191 million monthly active users, Spotify has the edge.” – Annabel Youens
The Whole Fan Journey
“Traditionally, labels have focused on release cycles: promote an album and reach as many listeners as possible. Now, labels are looking at the whole fan journey.” – Annabel Youens
Reduce Fan FOMO
“Pre-Save campaigns make life easier for fans. Fans don’t have to mark their calendars, hope they don’t forget the release, and eventually download the album on Spotify. This technology adds value for fans, which goes a long way towards building loyalty.” – Annabel Youens
Music Think Tank is a leading music industry and artist advice blog, managed by Hypebot.com. As a group blog, it brings together key thinkers in the music business, creating a rich online community.
One more thank you to Music Think Tank for featuring AE on the blog!
We hope you get a chance to read the full article.
Want to learn more about promoting your music online using social media?
Check out our 4-step guide here.
Annabel and Jeff’s Pick
Spoiler Alert: Jeff and I are going to Australia for Christmas!
Yep, we chose an entire country as our Pop Culture Pick. It’s really just an excuse to share some things that we love about Australia! This isn’t our first trip down under, and won’t be our last…Here’s what keeps us coming back:
1.Flat Whites – some of the best coffee in the world is made in Australia. It’s a bit of an obsession down there and one we can totally understand.
2.Violet Crumble – this chocolate bar is a thick slab of honeycomb (a.k.a. “sponge toffee” in Canada!) covered in chocolate. They’re only available in Australia and there is something so satisfying about this crunchy, dense combination.
3.Beaches – those long sandy beaches you see in the promotional videos are legit. Not only are there thousands of beaches, but they’re also well organized. Most have paths carved through the dunes to protect the flora and fauna that live there. And quite often there is a shower near the parking lot. After a day in the sand, sun, and surf you can rinse off before hopping in the car to pick up fish and chips for dinner!
4.Pies – in Australia and neighbor NZ, pies are not filled with fruit. These pies are thick meat pies with flaky pastry. Jeff’s favorite is steak and cheese. Mine is mince and cheese. A gas store staple, you can find a pie just about anywhere in the country. Top tip – don’t try driving and eating a meat pie from its wrapper. It’s a disaster.
5.Friends – this is my number 1 reason for loving Australia. One of my best friends from Kindergarten lives there and for 37 years we’ve kept in touch by letter, recorded tapes, emails, and visits. When I see her it’s like we were hanging out yesterday, even when it’s been years between visits. She’s the type of friend I scream with joy when I see. What is better than that!
TL:DR; Stardew Valley is a warm, leisurely, and wholesome role-playing game that fills you with a sense of accomplishment.
I started playing this game on my iPhone and I just. Can’t. Stop.
Stardew Valley is a relaxing, go-at-your-own-pace roleplaying game in the old 2D pixel style. The game is reminiscent of the beloved Harvest Moon. You play by planting a garden of crops, taking care of your barn animals and your farm property, fishing, mining, and forming relationships with the other folks in Stardew Valley.
The game starts on the first day of spring and cycles through the year, with 28 days (4 weeks) per season. Each day passes in about 20 minutes of real time, and then I have to bring my character back to my house to sleep each night. One time I forgot to do so and I ‘fell asleep’ outside around 2 am. A doctor brought me home and kindly emptied my wallet along the way! 😂
It is oddly fun and satisfying seeing my work on the farm come to life as time passes. Here’s a taste of how the game plays. I wake up, see if the ores I mined have turned to bars in my furnace, water my plants, feed my animals, and head to town for 9 am when the woodworking and blacksmith stores open. From there it’s a choice of making friends and bringing them gifts, foraging for items in the forest, or ax-picking rocks down in the mines (among other things). I particularly enjoy visiting the beach and hunting for seashells. It’s the daily routine that gives the game a real sense of purpose and leaves you feeling content.
Stardew Valley originally came out in 2016 (2018 on iOS) with rave reviews. IGN gave it an 8.8/10 and Metacritic, an 8.9/10. That’s pretty darn good. Plus, the graphics and colors are stunning on my iPhone X’s OLED screen.
If you want a game that is both fun and relaxing to play, give Stardew valley a try!
YS VIII 🎮
TL:DR; Lightweight action JRPG with a difference.
This one’s been out for a while on various systems (PS4, PS Vita, Steam) but it’s reasonably new to the Switch, my preferred console for Japanese role-playing games (JRPG). The Ys series (pronounced ‘ees’) has been around since the NES days, but admittedly this is the first of the series I’ve ever played and I’m enjoying it a lot.
In many ways Ys VIII is a pretty standard action JRPG. Heroes with big swords, magic, talking animals- you know the drill. But there are a few points of difference as well. Unlike most JRPG series that see a new world and characters with each sequel, the Ys series has followed hero Adol Christen since the very first game. The combat is also seamless and takes place in the overworld – no switching back and forth between exploration and battle mode. This works so well you wonder why it isn’t used in more games!
The scenario and game world are great, with the protagonists shipwrecked on a mysterious island, and Adol searching for any remaining survivors to return to the ever-evolving Castaway Village. It’s also refreshingly fast moving for a JRPG with just a short prelude episode before dumping you into the game proper. Highly recommended.
In short: Free Solo is a documentary about climber Alex Honnold and his journey up El Capitan without the use of any ropes. While easy to sum up in a sentence, this film captures one of the most impressive, challenging, and dangerous athletic feats ever achieved.
El Capitan is a 3,000 ft vertical face of granite in Yosemite National Park. The smooth rock offers very little handholds, making it quite a challenging climb. Naturally, it has become a longstanding favorite of rock climbers, with thousands scaling it each year.
In 2017, Alex Honnold, an American climber, made it from top to bottom in under 4 hours. This in itself is no big deal. While most do the climb over the course of a few days, the speed record at the time was around 2 hours.
What made it absolutely *insane* was that he climbed the whole thing with no ropes. I repeat. No. Ropes.
Imagine being on the side of a sheer cliff of granite over 2,000 ft in the air with nothing keeping you there except your two hands and feet?!
There were times in the film when Alex only had one hold and it was his big toe on ⅛” lump of rock. Not to mention the vertical crack near the end of the climb that he ascended by jamming in one arm above the other…I’m no climber but witnessing Alex’s strength and fearlessness was dang inspiring.
Free Solo has that classic National Geographic feel. It is full of breathtaking shots of El Capitan and the surrounding Yosemite National Park. You also get to see how the film was shot- drones and a film crew made up of professional climbers did the trick!
The film isn’t just about Alex’s climb up El Capitan. We also get to learn about his daily life, early years, and family. This provides a lot of context for why he was almost uniquely qualified to attempt the climb. My one critique is that there was just a little too much fluff about the impact of climbing on his romantic relationships…It had me thinking: let’s get back to the dizzyingly gorgeous cinematography already!
With a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you can’t really go wrong. But if you’re still not sold, check out this 360 degrees snippet from the film (click and drag the screen to rotate your view!). You can also watch the trailer here.
A few words of warning: I am not afraid of heights, but this is one heck of a nerve-wracking film. Be prepared to sweat a little, especially if you see it in IMAX like I did!