How Merriam-Webster Is Rocking Peach, the New Hotness for Content


My first friend on Peach, the new hybrid messaging/content-sharing app, was Merriam-Webster — a brand, mind you, not a person. Peach, launched January 8 by Vine cofounder Dom Hofmann, has created a firestorm on Twitter and attracted a blitz of coverage from media such as Engadget and Mashable. Peach combines the messaging functionality of Slack, the real-time reporting capability of Twitter, and the fun personality of Snapchat to give you an easy-to-use mobile platform for sharing content ranging from GIFs to songs. Merriam-Webster’s presence on Peach shows how quickly brands adopt new apps to share content — and reveals a playful side to the 185-year-old reference publisher.

It doesn’t take long to discover Peach’s potential for injecting a sense of play into content creation. On your own Peach account, you can post everything from images to straight-text messages, which is not terribly novel. The real fun begins when you type one of Peach’s magic words, which call up a host of options for sharing content. Type GIF, and Peach then gives you the option of searching for GIFs on any subject. For instance, when I typed GIF and then The Hateful Eight, Peach instantly served up several righteously awesome GIFs from Quentin Tarantino’s new movie. Within seconds, I added a GIF of Samuel L. Jackson’s intimidating gaze.

Other magic words reveal a ton of other options. They include:

  • Draw: which calls up a whiteboard screen for you to draw something and post the doodle on your account.
  • Shout: use a variety of screen colors and fonts to create your own little billboard, as I did here to celebrate David Bowie’s birthday and the release of his new album, Blackstar, January 8:


  • Song: identify a song with your phone’s microphone (a la Shazam) and post on your account).

A complete list of magic words is here.

Merriam-Webster is already making good use of Peach to engage its audience. For instance, @MerriamWebster on Peach previews its word of the day as it did the evening of January 8 by doodling the word “fealty.”


On its first day on Peach, Merriam-Webster also created a shout that taps into a current debate concerning popular language usage:


For good measure, Merriam-Webster even sent me a cake emoji.

Meantime, on Twitter, Merriam-Webster has been having some fun discussing how we might describe the act of creating content on Peach:


The brand’s use of Peach sends a message: Merriam-Webster might be 185 years old, but the venerable reference resource is the authority on changing language use and adapts with the times. And I have to admit I’ve never been caked by anyone before.

Marketing expert David Berkowitz already asked (via his Peach account) the question you might be asking:


Peach’s enduring power will depend on how quickly it can scale across mobile phones and how well brands adopt it. A mobile-first approach embeds Peach into our everyday mobile lifestyles, crucial for building a user base. Brands bring money and more users from platforms where the brands are followed already. Ello, the social media site launched in 2014, created problems for itself right out of the gate by being hostile to brands and by launching first as a desktop experience in a mobile world.

On the other hand, Peach has made a smart move by launching on Apple iOS to build an adoption base on mobile devices. Penetrating the world of Android is a sensible next move. As for getting brands (both companies and, inevitably, celebrities) onboard, Peach will need to quickly police the creation of fake accounts and develop a monetization model that convinces brands to add yet another mobile app to their arsenal of content sharing platforms.

The entertainment industry is an obvious play for Peach, but as Merriam-Webster shows, there is no shortage of companies adapting to the more emotional, visual, short-form style of content creation that connects with millennials and digital natives. Peach should be courting the mainstays that always seem to know how to embrace new content creation platforms: usual suspects such as Dunkin’ Donuts, GE, Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, and the major automotive brands. Oh, and Merriam-Webster can teach them all a thing or two.

PS: if you’re on Peach, my user name is @davidjdeal.


Is There Room for Brands on Ello? You Bet


Meet Ello, the anti-advertising social network and gated community for the cool kids. Ello has already exploded in popularity by offering an ad-free network and by allowing members to use made-up names instead of their real names (unlike Facebook, which requires the use of your real name to have a personal account). Based on my own experience with Ello thus far, the site has already attracted a community of artists and designers, which is fitting because Ello was founded by artists and designers. (As has been reported widely, Ello also gained a surge of invitation requests and phenomenal buzz in recent days when members of the LGBT community joined Ello to protest Facebook’s identity policies). But being ad-free is not the same as being brand-free. Ello is already attracting brands such as Sonos and Adweek and may become a haven for content marketers as Tumblr already is. Moreoever, Ello will need relationships with brands to survive.

Essentially, Ello functions as a more private version of Tumblr. The site’s clean layout and uploading functionality make it especially easy to post visual content such as GIFs. The site is buggy, but it’s also in beta, and its coolness factor covers up a multitude of sins while users stand in line to be invited by Ello members or Ello itself (you can apply for an invite by visiting the site unless a friend invites you). But Ello is making headlines because of its attitude toward advertising, not its user-friendliness. As Ello states in its manifesto,

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life

You are not a product.

You get the picture: “we’re not Facebook.” But if you join Ello looking to stay away from the gaze of corporate brands, you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, Ello provides another platform for companies (and individuals) to extend audience relationships via content marketing, which is not the same as paid advertising.

Content marketing — or building your brand by providing useful information and entertainment — has been a brand-building mainstay for decades, with John Deere producing a customer magazine, The Furrow, in 1895. According to Mass Relevance, 95 percent of CMOs believe content marketing is important to their business, and content marketing is a strong area of investment for customer acquisition, according to a report I wrote for Gigaom earlier in June 2014.

In other words, smart companies long ago complemented paid advertising by acting as publishers of branded content. And you can be sure smart brands are sizing up Ello right now, if for any other reason than to claim their own Ello identities in order to protect themselves from squatters. Lifestyle brands with strong design sensibilities may find homes on Ello. For instance, Ello is a potential platform for a company like Shinola, which creates and sells gorgeous watches and other products from its popular Detroit headquarters. (Ello co-founder Paul Budnitz has a brand page for his bike shop on Ello, by the way.) If Ello’s popularity with the LGBT community holds up, the site could also be a popular destination for LGBT-friendly brands. I also see Ello becoming something like another Etsty for artists. And forward-thinking celebrities could land here. (Lady Gaga could use Ello to drive traffic to her own Little Monsters community).

A note to parents: Ello will most certainly become a home for the adult entertainment industry based on its porn-friendly attitude (Ello will says it will enable NSFW flagging in order to help users screen NSFW content, as Tumblr does.)

I am careful to use “could” and “possibly” when I speculate about Ello’s future because Ello has a very long way to go in order to become a sustainable community. Joining a network is one thing; staying on one and being engaged is another, as Path demonstrates. Ello plans to support itself by charging users to add specific features to their accounts, but as Steven Tweedie of Business Insider points out, Ello’s ad-free model has already failed with Diaspera and

Ello enjoys a $435,000 seed investment from FreshTracks Capital. But if Ello is to have a future, I believe the network will need to find a way to create revenue-generating partnerships with brands and relax its “no-ad” stance (for instance, by permitting native advertising). If content marketers act like the publishers of engaging and useful information they are supposed to be, no one on Ello will mind.

Find me on Ello at