Best of 2020: The ten most-read articles of the year

Hacks, buzzwords, livestreams and Star Trek: Our 2020 top-10 shows that you wanted more than corona

At long last, 2020 is in the books. A challenge in every respect, we could fill many a digital page with loads of gobs and scads of Eff Yous to 2020. We could, but we won’t. Instead, we’re looking back on the year that was, highlighting our 10 top-performing articles of 2020. Lo and behold, corona was only a bit player. A minor character that GoT would have killed off midway through season 1! In fact, in 2020 we went deep on China’s live stream sector, demystified a couple of the most popular buzzwords in the biz and even paid a visit to Captain Kirk. Truth be told, wherever there is a mild outbreak of covid, it quickly fades into the antidote of eCommerce, sports and TikTokkers tiktokking. So if you’re looking to trade in The Rona for the Rock or the pandemic for porn, our top 10 articles for 2020 are just what the doctor ordered.

Number 10: The Instagram Rich List

Humans are curious beings. If something’s unknown, there’s bound to be someone, or many someones, seeking to illuminate the matter—and throngs of people ready at the wait to click, comment and complain when it finally does come to light. Nowhere is this more true than with lists and finances (looking at you Forbe’s rich list). One of the most visible places still shrouded in secret is Instagram. Specifically when it comes to how much money brands are paying the platform’s top influencers. With the majority of brands and influencers mum on finances, transparency is in short supply. Speculation is not. Our annual “Instagram Rich List” article looks at HopperHQ’s yearly list and breaks down the ranking to provide you with an inferiority complex inspiration.

Number 9: The World’s Most Influential Napkin

The first of TWO buzzword-driven articles! If you’ve ever spent time in marketing circles, you know what to expect. A cacophony of “pivots,” “disruptions,” “minimum viable products” and other terms bandied about to show (off) their fluency and expertise on whatever they’re on about. They USED to ramble on ad nauseum about funnels. It was the key piece in any successful business operation. Without it, you were doomed to fail—or so said marketers pre-2020. 2020 saw the marketing funnel put out to pasture and ushered in the dawn of the newest term du jour among marketing heads: The Flywheel. The concept is nothing new. Originating in physics, it basically describes the application of force to an object so that it generates sufficient momentum and inertia to propel itself forward. Where does the Flywheel get its business relevance from? The abridged version is Jeff Bezos and a napkin. The unabridged version is right here, where got to the bottom of the biggest marketing term of the past year.

Number 8: China’s massive live-stream industry

Two articles in and we’re finally in China—but not for anything COVID related. Achievement unlocked! What are we doing in China? Trying to figure out what NBA legend Magic Johnson has in common with Chinese farmers. The answer: They are both protagonists in China’s livestream shopping sector! While Magic’s cameo in his role as CEO of a CBD oil company is sound business practice, explaining the appearance of far east farmers on camera might require a masters’ degree in mental gymnastics—or in social influencing from the Village Livestreaming College. Setup by Alibaba, the university is dedicated to bringing livestreaming to the masses in the countryside (and the masses to Alibaba’s ubiquitous platform). As our 8th-most-popular article uncovered, the Chinese have a deep and genuine fondness for teleshopping and livestreamers. In fact, many Chinese like to unwind with their favorite KOL (key opinion leaders, the Chinese version of influencers) after work. Official estimates list 50,000 livestreams and a total of 260 million views each and every day. If you need another reason to read more, we have approximately 134 billion of them—and they go a long way to explaining Magic and the Farmers.

Number 7: TikTok Engagement hacks

Let’s get political! Lame-duck US President Trump spent a hefty chunk of his time in 2020 engaging in a geopolitical pissing contest with Beijing over TikTok. Beloved by teenies and demonized by the White House, 2020 saw TikTok became a household name in the West. Small wonder, too, with absolutely staggering figures generated by the short-form video app: 1.65 billion downloads worldwide and 800 million monthly active users—300 million of which are located beyond China’s borders. In fact, what’s currently going down on TT has all the hallmarks of a mini goldrush: with the number of users skyrocketing, more and more influencers, creators and marketing makers are doing all they can to hit the motherlode by tapping into the platform’s reach. With the goldrush come the clever johnny come latelys resorting to tricks to outsmart TikTok’s algorithm and get preferential treatment. Three such growth hacks on TikTok caught our attention—and judging by the clicks they caught yours too.

Number 6: The King of Porn

We’ve hit the halfway point—and we’ve successfully socially distanced ourselves from the Vid. Speaking of vids… PORN! It’s ironic that founder and (former) CEO of Youporn and Pornhub Fabian Thylmann is notoriously private, since he erected an empire through videos featuring other people’s privates. He rarely gives interviews and despite being the most influential figure in the online adult entertainment industry, he is largely unknown outside of porn. Or at least he was until he was indicted (and convicted) on tax evasion charges in the early 2010s. His legacy is one of controversy, both inside and outside the industry. However, there is also no denying the impact he has had on the internet—inside and outside The Biz. So when we had a chance to sit down with the former “King of Porn,” we kept our cool but sealed the deal immediately. What came about was an in-depth discussion on his former business, how sheer carelessness brought about his fall and how a money-hungry hedge fund (and not the mafia) fueled his rise to the top.

Number 5: Spinning through the pandemic

And here we are. Our 5th-most-read article of 2020, which wasn’t actually an article at all, would not have been if it weren’t for corona. At least not this year. From a business perspective, what the pandemic did was accelerate change. And there is hardly a better place to see that change than in the digitization of our workouts. Of the many business corona forced to close, fitness studios would seem most unlikely to relocate to the digital sphere. While the neighborhood gyms have indeed been hit hard, the industry underwent a forced acceleration into digital and has produced one clear winner: Peloton. We caught up with John Foley, founder and CEO of the connected fitness provider in the OMR Podcast a couple months back. We discussed the starts and stops he had getting the business moving and he shared some insights into how the company succeeded in relocating a seemingly analogue industry to the digital realm. Of the many interesting tidbits Foley dropped: He told OMR CEO Philipp Westermeyer that Apple is not on Peloton’s level and the company’s biggest role model is your favorite subscription service.

Number 4: Facebook takes over Giphy

Are hate clicks a thing? Judging by article clicks and comments on our Facebook page, yes they are. Especially when it comes to Zuck and his cronies. After Facebook bought Giphy speculation ran rampant about the true motive behind the acquisition as the newly acquired GIF-platform was already heavily embedded in the Facebook family of apps. As per usual, Facebook emphasized improving user experience as the move’s catalyst. Upon closer inspection, however, there would seem to be two much more plausible explanations for the deal: data and eyeballs—both of which involve the world’s most valuable brand.

Number 3: Live long and prosper

Let’s get nerdy! Non-Fungible Tokens, aka NFT. Behind the cumbersome term lies a blockchain technology that transforms digital objects into unique and 100% counterfeit-proof collector’s items. So people are now free to spend ridiculous amounts of money for a scrap of code. And spent they have. There has been a bidding war among venture capitalists to acquire rights to a virtual racing track in an as yet unreleased Forumla 1 game, William “Captain Kirk” Shattner dusted off and digitized his old Star Trek photo album for an exclusive series of never-before-published images–which sold out in less than ten minutes—and someone shelled out nearly 60K for a digital soccer card. Although the goods are virtual, the sums are real and absurd. But questions abound. Why people are now, amidst a global pandemic, willing to pay a premium for virtual goods? How did housewives prove the sector’s viability? And why are some of the world’s biggest, most storied and richest soccer clubs partnering up with a two-year-old start-up on a licensing deal? We set off to find those answers, and on the way we met a high-stakes poker pro and an anonymous big boss named Mr. Karrupu.

Number 2: The biggest name in toys will make you LOL

In 2019, Lego generated annual revenue of USD 5.2b, Hasbro made USD 4.7b and Mattel USD 4.5b. A name not included on that list is MGA Entertainment. With an annual revenue eclipsing USD 5b, it has become the biggest revenue generator in the industry. In many ways, MGA and its founder Isaac Larian embody the American Dream. Emigrated to the US from Iran, started an import-export business with his brother and just as they tasted success, they were drug into that most American of undertakings: a lengthy court battle against a hated rival. But it’s also a story of resiliency, unboxing and… YouTube. OMR unboxed the story of the hidden toy champion, profiling its quick ascension of the ranks from inconsequential licensee to proprietor of one of the most valuable toy assets on the planet. It’s a story that’s full of (LOL) surprises and a story good enough for second place in 2020.

Number 1: Buzzwords, part 2: Metaverse

Although it’s the second buzzword article, it’s the top of the tops for 2020. The winner? It’s big. Like super, meta big. Whenever the world’s tech elite starts talking about their vision of how or what the internet of tomorrow will be, there’s one term they’re apt to drop like it’s hot: “Metaverse.” The term first appeared in the 1992 science fiction novel titled “Snowcrash,” which has had a profound impact on the founders of Google, Amazon and Facebook. The novel is a dystopian tale of the future where the world is run by mega conglomerates and the story’s protagonist searches for a truth serum called “Snow Crash.” What appears to be extremely clairvoyant was just author Neil Stephenson “making shit up.” His words. Regardless, his imaginings influenced many of the elites in Silicon Valley and served as inspiration for one of the most ubiquitous digital products we enjoy today, Google Earth. It also first coined the term metaverse, a kind of parallel digital world, in which people flee from the bleak reality of the present. In what came to be (and we obviously anticipated) our most-read article in 2020, we detailed the history and rise of the metaverse, its impact on the US tech elite, why companies are striving to create their own metaverse and who’s come the closest so far.

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