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4 posts from December 2017

Why you should pay attention to the byline on all the news articles you read

Several years ago I became aware that included a lot of content which has nothing to do with journalism, submitted by consultants, entrepreneurs and business owners. Forbes disclaims it with "Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own." When the Huffington Post launched, they made a big deal about recruiting people to write, and it was pretty well known that material would be lightly edited and unpaid. These writers are labeled Contributors, but Huffington Post doesn't point out the material may be biased. 

We don't have to think hard to realize that these Contributors are getting paid by someone, often themselves (when promoting their own business or consulting practice), but probably sometimes by a client. 

Now evidence is growing that more online publications are more susceptible to using biased articles to build traffic. (What a surprise.) 

The best remedy is to pay attention to your news sources and remember where you find the most consistently reliable information. And give your favorite journalists lots of likes and retweets. 

The Outline: How Brands Secretly Buy Their Way Into Forbes, Fast Company, And Huffpost Stories, 2017-Dec-5 by Jon Christian 

The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material. Forbes, for instance, marks articles by contributors with a small disclaimer, but the Columbia Journalism Review has pointed out that those dubiously sourced articles are often cited as though they were normal stories written by Forbes staff. In reality, the editorial process that leads to those articles being published is opaque — a Forbes spokesperson declined to answer questions about how many contributors the site has, whether they’re ever paid, or whether an editor reviews their work before publication. One former Forbes contributor, Josh Steimle, has even offered a “masterclass” on how to get published on the site, an accomplishment he described as “rewarding for both my personal brand and my digital marketing agency.”

For writers willing to accept payments in exchange for coverage, that’s an opportunity.

“They're getting tons of free content from guys like us,” said the Fast Company writer of his editors, though he declined to say whether he was paid by Fast Company for his work or if he’d ever explicitly discussed the arrangement with any of his editors. “I would be shocked to find out that this was any sort of secret.”...

But Forbes seems to be a prime target for offers like Satyam’s, perhaps because of the high volume of stories it runs by members of its “contributor network.” The site publishes dozens of stories per day, many of them by contributors who, like Chong, are themselves publicists. A program called CommunityVoice, described in an editors’ note on certain articles, invites “senior-level technology executives” to pay an annual fee in exchange for being allowed to publish to the site. 

Insecurity kills innovation

I appreciate that the researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project are sticking to the facts, but I can't help wishing they speculate a little about why children from low-income families don't become inventors. In order to risk innovation, people have to feel confident they can take risks without losing their way of life. We can find plenty of research on the stress of being poor

Vox: Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from, 2017-Dec-5 by Matthew Yglesias

Rather than cutting taxes on financially successful adults, we ought to think about how to improve what Chetty calls our “capacity to tap into currently underused potential.” He and his colleague calculate that if women, minorities, and children from low- and middle-income families invented at the same rate as white men from high-income (top 20%) families, there would 4 times as many inventors in America as there are today.

While Congress prepares to pass a tax bill that pushes the old conventional wisdom about bolstering financial incentives, empirical research suggests that starving the government of funds could be counterproductive. Ensuring that all children who show a talent for math and science are encouraged to innovate, provided with role models, and shown paths forward would cost money. But making sure that poor, female, black, and Latino kids aren’t locked out of innovation isn’t just a crucial matter of fairness; it’s quite literally the most important thing we can do for the future of humanity.


It's hard enough to figure out what role we want to play in life. We shouldn't have to fight for the right to play it.

Life in my thirties was miserable because I realized that I didn't understand what I need from life. A misguided professional therapist compounded the problem, and I wasted my best income-earning years. These days I just want to help people operate from their strengths and find what they need to sustain themselves. One of the ways to do this is to figure out where we want to invest our loyalty. We get to choose. 

An open letter to everyone who is concerned about the wage gap, 2017-Dec-2 by Penelope Trunk

It happens that women choose to spend more time parenting than men. It doesn’t mean men are lame for not spending more time with kids. Remember feminism? It’s about everyone getting to choose. It’s not about belittling people’s choices or saying it’s not really their choice but rather a result of societal pressure. In fact that line of thinking undermines feminism because it says there can be no genuine choices because all societies have societal expectations.

A fresh view of feminism for 2015, 2015-Jan-12 by Penelope Trunk

I realized there’s positively no way to keep things equal, and everyone suffers from trying to establish equality. People can only give what they are good at giving. And people can’t stop needing what they need. It’s what they need.

Too little too late: Sheryl Sandberg apologizes for Lean In, 2016-May-11 by Penelope Trunk

We don’t need a role model. We need a role. Each of us wants to feel like we found our spot, what’s right for us. And it’s not helping to have to justify our choices to anyone but ourselves.


Why we should focus on helping our customers become better people.

One of the coolest short books I've ever read about marketing is Michael Schrage's Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? A recent blog post by Seth Godin (see below) got me thinking about it again. 

People in marketing and advertising profession are often seen as venal. (Thanks, Mad Men.) What if we focused on helping our customers become better people? 

Seth's blog: Marketing about power and with power, 2017-Aug-28 by Seth Godin

Danny Meyer has built a restaurant empire around the idea that customers ought to be powerful. Instead of bullying his patrons, he trains his people to serve. No velvet rope, just a smile.

Each of us gets to choose what sort of marketing we respond to. Those that use bully tactics to gain power over us only get away with it because it works (on some people, some of the time). And often, when power is put into our hands (sometimes known as freedom... the freedom to create, to speak up, to lead, to challenge), we blink and walk away.

Some people persist in thinking that marketing is about ads or low prices. It's not. It's about human nature and promises and who we see when we look in the mirror.

When you see confusion, look for fear, and look for the dynamics of power.