TeleSUR English: Elitism, Non-Engagement and Fake Followers

Pablo Vivanco, Director of TeleSUR English

On first glace it’s clear that Pablo Vivanco has all the proper political bona fides to run TeleSur English.

Pablo was involved with student and Latino organizing activities in Canada. He volunteered for the Center for Spanish Speaking; and founded the Central American Students Association.

Pablo Vivanco has worked as the Public Relations officer for the Chilean Canadian Cultural Association – Salvador Allende, and chaired organizations such as Chile CAN Rise. In addition to his political work he has written many articles for BASICS Community News Service, the North American Congress on Latin America and LINKS – The International Journal of Socialist Renewal before becoming Director of TeleSUR English.

However as I’ll now demonstrate, these political and academic roles did not provide him the knowledge of the modern digital media ecology that’s necessary for one to be a successful Director of such an operation as TeleSUR English and he has not since grasped how to do this in his 4 years at TeleSUR English.

Starving The Target Audience

Pablo Vivanco has signed off on the production of thousands of articles that the vast majority of Americans typically avoid reading. Not because of the subject matter or perspective, but because of their reading level.

While TeleSUR English’s departing from industry standard by attempting to provide more context to the news event is laudable, their decision to ignore industry standards by publishing way above most American’s reading level is not. Simply put, it alienates potential readers.

Here’s a PDF with the Readability score of this Opinion article (Graded as a C-) entitled Why Bolivia Fights US Imperialism but Chile does Not.

Here’s a PDF with the Readability score of this Analysis article (graded as an E, lower than an F!) entitled Despite Win, Ecuador’s President in a Tough Spot After Referendum.

I combined the articles Venezuela: Maduro Invites All International Observers ‘Willing to Come’ to Oversee April Election and Venezuela to Seek ‘Other Markets’ if US Goes Ahead With Oil Embargo: Maduro  into one to obtain their Readability Scores,  and received similar scores indicating that they far above the average American’s preferred reading level.

Attention to this is incredibly important as it affects the likelihood of content being shared.

Search Engine Sabotage

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As mentioned in my previous article, TeleSUR English: 4 Years of Corruption, Wasted Money and Lost Opportunities, poor UX and back end coding has a negative impact on SEO. This issue is so pervasive on the website, that it’s worth touching upon again in more detail.

These errors not only drive people away, but negatively effects search ranking, thus making it more difficult for those searching for context to come across the information on their website.

Whereas other major digital media operations like New York Times and the Washington Post have transitioned to more interactive storytelling approaches that uses R, Tableau, Excel and similar programs TeleSUR English stagnates by using the same broken javascript frames to merely link traditional photo with traditional text. Information is beautiful, but the way TeleSUR English presents it’s stories is often not.

The Importance of Knowing and Applying the New Media Paradigm

The biggest problems TeleSUR English struggles with is, it seems, a lack of knowledge of or adherence to new media best practices.

In the new media environment the essential driver for growth is building relationships. 

In a highly congested digital media landscape, forming a lasting relationship means you can reach more people and influence more people for less money. It takes the form of onsite engagement, large email subscriber numbers, people positively referencing your work on other websites.

A cursory review of TeleSUR English’s Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as their on-site comments sections shows the barest of engagement, even in the places where one might expect it.

Onsite Example of a Failed Controversy Meant to Drive Engagement

In the article Why This Sanders Supporter is Boarding the Trump Train by Cassandra Fairbanks, for instance, there is none of the controversy in the form of comments that the article was likely projected to achieve. 

Comparing the 6 comments here to the 2,685 found on this Breitbart article, on a roughly similar topic at around the same time, it’s clear that it didn’t achieve the desired effect of generating comments at all. What it shows is that TeleSUR English has a small audience that doesn’t care to engage even when content that should offend the target audience is posted.

Twitter Example of Failed Engagement

None of these stats should convince you that TeleSUR English is investing in what matters.

As it relates to information on Twitter’s engagement for this article, I decided against using an API to scrape, review, process and interpret the information about this due to the cost as it’s immediately evident that there’s a lack-of-meaningful engagement here as well.

Instead of what works, both accounts simply drown their readers in posts.

The motto of TeleSUR English seems to be quantity over quality.

Pablo Vivanco’s Fake Social Media Stats

At the 2016 Left Forum, Pablo Vivanco spoke about his experiences as the Director of TeleSUR English.

While the entirety of his presentation has not been made available (and if anyone happens to have it I would hope that the email it to me), I was able to discover an interesting quote from his presentation:

“Social media platforms are controlled by corporate media,” he [Pablo] said, “But these are the ways people consume information and news. To not participate is to cede space we shouldn’t cede.”

“When we launched there was a fair amount of resources put into buying views and likes on social media platforms,” Vivanco said ruefully. “But social media functions on algorithms. You need organic engagement and reach- using networks and working with others, building engagement.”

In a few public words Pablo Vivanco gave evidence as to why TeleSUR English should be penalized by algorithms designed to halt “fake news”.

Whether or not Facebook, Google and other such algorithms are designed to find and factor in such comments is honestly beyond me, but I do know that an event occurred which provides insight into just how many followers Pablo Vivanco purchased and how many of TeleSUR English’s followers are actually real. It was shocking to me as it was MUCH lower than what I’d projected initially.

How a Fake News Story that Fooled Newsweek Provides Insight into TeleSUR English’s Readership Numbers

After TeleSUR English’s page went down for 21 hours on January 21stCarlos Ballesteros, a contributing author to Newsweek, wrote an article entitled Latin American News Outlet’s Facebook Page Mysteriously Disappears for 24 Hours.

At a time where Facebook censorship is a hot-button issue, no other media outlets picked up the story. If this sounds surprising, it’s less so after the story becomes clearer.

For one, shortly after publication, a correction was made to correct the prior claim that Facebook censored them. The reality being that this was just speculation on the part of Pablo Vivanco.

Secondarily, a little bit of research shows that Carlos Ballesteros and Pablo Vivanco are long-standing political colleagues –  evidenced by their co-existent signatures on a resolution defending the SNTE teacher union, in a La Jornada declaration from March 2013 on page 12-13. Most outlets doing background, like myself were likely to have picked this up and seen the article as a favor to a friend.

There are other issues with this article as well, such as Carlos Ballesteros informing the reader that “TeleSUR boasts a viewership of nearly half a billion people in 110 countries,” which defies all projections that I’ve seen. However the real interesting thing, is the organic response after the profile was taken down, presumably, for political censorship.

TeleSUR English’s Actual Audience Numbers

After the false report that TeleSUR English was censored began circulation, a page called TeleSUR News Aggregate came into existence and posted notifications to follow it in a number of Leftist-oriented groups on Facebook and alternative news sites.

What’s notable about this is that the number of people which rallied in “defense” of TeleSUR English was a far cry from the ~410,000 currently “liking” it – only 3,538 people.

Also notable is how that now a single person in any of the 40+ “Friends of TeleSUR English” Facebook groups said a peep about it’s being temporarily unpublished.

Does this mean that there’s 406,000 fake likes for TeleSUR English on Facebook?

It’s possible. The only was we would know for sure was if this company engaged in some radical transparency.

Crunching The Numbers Sans Fake Followers

The budget for the first year of TeleSUR English was  $17,600,000.

If we presume that operating costs dropped from $17.6 million in the first year to 10 to 15 million in the following four years, this would then mean that the average amount of money that the governments supporting TeleSUR English was spending per genuine follower – taken to be the number of people that followed TeleSUR News Aggregate – is $16,053.

True, this don’t include the numbers of followers from TeleSUR English’s other properties, however it’s quite likely that those numbers are equally false and I think it fair to state that the primary outlet is likely to be the most authoritative source for actual numbers.

I would LOVE for TeleSUR English to release their live streaming numbers as over a week long period wherein I randomly checked their feed I never saw viewership reach over seven people at a time.

As a socialist and digital strategist/marketer – I personally find the money being wasted by the Directorship of Pablo Vivanco to be scandalous.

His direction is clearly not that which TeleSUR English operations should be following. These facts, combined with this in my other article, clearly show that a Directorial change is needed.

 

TeleSUR English: 4 Years of Corruption, Wasted Money and Lost Opportunities

TeleSUR English is unique in today’s media environment.

Unlike other media news companies wholly or partially funded by foreign governments – such as BBC and Britain; RT and Russia, 24 and France – TeleSUR English is avowedly socialist in its political orientation. There are no red flags or five pointed stars in its masthead to indicate this, thankfully, but it is evident in other ways.

He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune

TeleSUR’s three main financial supporters are Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia –  three countries that over the past two decades have each elected political parties to power in order to enact radically new policies. These policies caused major upset for the traditional economic elite in each country, and in America, as they switched to a governance model intended to benefit all citizens rather than the one which previously only benefitted those best able to financially contribute to politicians.

Additionally, the non-current event content shared on their social media pages includes quotes and photos from socialists such as Rosa Luxembourg, the Black Panther Party, Patrice Lumumba; people that were sympathetic to socialists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; and a variety of other socialist related content.

In their About Me section, TeleSUR English claims that they want to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice.

Why I Decided to Review TeleSUR English’s Digital Footprint

Long a researcher into radical political history and thought; a student of Venezuelan media and politics since the failed 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez Frias; TeleSUR English was born in 2014, just as I was starting to change my career from an academic to Creative Director and Digital Media Strategist.

In December of 2017, a few months after I left a job as a Creative  Strategist at a Major Marketing Firm, I decided to see how I could best contribute to TeleSUR English.

To accomplish this I looked underneath the proverbial hood of this modern iteration of a radical newspaper to see what was doing well and what needed to be changed.

My intent in looking at various key performance indicators I’d previously used in the digital media strategy and marketing realm was to be able to highlight some of their pain points and then present a pitch which showcased my strategy and services which attracting viewers and build audience in a digital ecology.

On first look, what I discovered was disconcerting – bad key performance indicators. As I began to engage, something more nefarious emerged.

Why What I Discovered on Reviewing TeleSUR English Required A Public Report

I reached out to TeleSUR English director Pablo Vivanco about contributing to their efforts and was warmly received. After a one on one interview and passing a competency test I was scheduled to speak with Orlando Perez, the Assistant Director of TeleSUR, on January 8th. However after sending a sample section of my data-based findings to Pablo Vivanco, all previously accessible channels of communication ceased.

Why? I’m not sure but I imagine that it has to do with fact that I uncovered at TeleSUR English what looks to be corruption and gross incompetence, if not sabotage.

How do I know this?

Some of the bad stats were intentionally produced to be misleading as to the level of success of TeleSUR English’s operations.

Some of the bad stats were intentionally produced as the person directing operations was either incompetent or is trying to purposely sabotage TeleSUR English’s operations.

Why Future Historians Will Refer to The First 5 Years of TeleSUR English’s Wasted Money and Opportunities as it’s Lost Half Decade

If someone should write about the history of TeleSUR English they will refer to it as The Lost Half Decade. Why? Because of how badly TeleSUR English has been  directed since its inception in the digital realm. How bad is it? Below is an explanation as to why it happened as well as several examples of the criminal-level incompetency that I’ve discovered.

Worthless Metrics Promoted as Meaningful

In the description on his LinkedIn account, Pablo Vivanco writes the following:

“With a reduced staff and budget, improved metric outreach by over 2000% in under 12 months”

As impressive a number as 2000% is, anyone that’s done any sort of digital marketing, growth hacking or any kind of content marketing strategy will tell you – outreach by itself is an entirely meaningless metric.

Nobody cares about the numbers of emails sent that are never opened; the number of dofollow links placed on low Domain Authority user-generated webpages; or the links posted on websites that are never read, etc. Google, especially, doesn’t care about these.

While this number can be useful in comparison to something else over time – for instance outreach numbers in relationship to A/B testing email headers, only someone that doesn’t have a professional understanding of digital media ecology would self-publicize about such a metric, let alone authorize the spending of tens of thousands of dollars to achieve such a metric.

Key performance indicators that ought to be monitored to track and map improvement include the following:

  1. Number of email subscriptions.
  2. Genuine number of followers of social media accounts.
  3. Genuine engagement level on social media accounts.
  4. Domain authority.
  5. Brand/website awareness.
  6. Number of readers.
  7. Reader engagement (i.e. Time Spent on Pages, Number of Pages Traversed, Comments/Shares).

Any person wishing to genuinely understand and track the health of TeleSUR English, or any website for that matter, should be looking at these key performance indicators.

Looking at TeleSUR English’s social media footprint, we can see the shape of such mismanagement.

False Followers on All Social Media

On TeleSUR English’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Accounts there is ample evidence that many of the people which are “Following” these accounts are not real.

Pablo Vivanco admitted this was true while on the phone with me.

Lacking internal access to their social media accounts and to their internal purchases (to check for “Pay for Followers” services) I cannot say for certain what proportion that this is actually is, but I can estimate and what I can say authoritatively is that they have zero value.

False Followers on Twitter

TwitterAudit suggests that about 80% of TeleSUR English’s followers are real, however based on engagement numbers demographics and the number of people following them that follow over 500 people, I’d say actual people following are about one-half to two thirds of what is actually shown for Twitter. A full report from Twitnomy could easily show me wrong. 

False Followers on YouTube

For the number of YouTube views and subscriptions, I would say the percent of people that are fake to real is much higher.

Given the ratios of ratings of videos, to engagement via comments, to view numbers I’d say that it is likely half of the views and subscriptions aren’t real.

False Followers on Facebook

There’s fewer means for determining false engagement levels on Facebook outside the app itself, so I decided to try an experiment.

After reviewing a number of posts people, I noticed a number of recurring names.

Given many of these people’s profiles were almost entirely not in English, I was surprised. I understand that it’s normal in many places for English to be a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th language – but there was just zero indication other than a TeleSUR English link that it was within there repertoire. As such I decided to send friend requests and message ten people to see how many responded. Out of the ten, only one did.

Now does this mean only one in ten of their followers are real? Certainly not.

What it does mean that someone at TeleSUR English has been paying for follower services, which ought to be categorized as an improper allocation of tax resources.

Interesting to note: What happened shortly after I tried this experiment? Facebook took down the TeleSUR English Facebook page.

***Update 2/11/18***

Because of the above section I’ve since been accused that I want to “destroy” TeleSUR English. This is simply not true, I simply do not believe that paying for fake followers is a defensible strategy.

Furthermore, I’ve since learned from an internal source that the unpublishing of the TeleSUR English Facebook page was an accident on their part. That they’ve not commented on this, to me, is totally irresponsible and a further example of their willingness to distort the truth for their own narrative gain.

What TeleSUR Should Have Done

TeleSUR English would be much better served using social media to connect directly with creaders by exchanging tweets, direct messages and responding to Facebook comments by readers. This has real value — not only helping win them over, but also showing prospective readers that the news enterprise genuinely wants to engage. This is another example of the poor strategy of TeleSUR English. If you review their comments section on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you will see almost no replies to comments left by people, even when they are being asked a question.

Other Wasted Opportunities

TeleSUR English has now been in existence for over four years and as a result of their choosing a director primarily for ideological rather than professional reasons, TeleSUR English pursued a number of content ideation, production and digital media strategies that are not considered best practices by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Examples of Best Practices Not Being Followed

One example of TeleSUR English not following best practices is with its abundance of high production videos that are simply too long.

YouTube and Facebook videos which are most often shared are five minutes and under. While longer format content certainly fulfills a need, TeleSUR English ignores all data-based advice by not repurposing what they’ve already produced into short and succinct segments that are more readily sharable and digestible.

That the above video has only 38 views is both a testament to its length and the bizarre name “Birds of the Apocalypse” that means a person looking for information on “Vulture Funds” will have great difficulty finding it.

Additionally there are the technical mistakes which sometimes require viewers to tell the TeleSUR English staff that the video they are live-streaming is sideways.

Such mistakes happen naturally, it’s only human. However it seems that TeleSUR English has such an abundance of them as the person directing the enterprise simply doesn’t know how to optimize their digital media presence.

Wrong Backlinking Strategy


A well-executed back-linking strategy is an incredibly powerful means for establishing a higher Domain Authority and drawing in readers. However from the above view from Ahrefs we can see that this was not the case.

The strategy which TeleSUR English followed was to take a route that allowed for the wrong kind of data to be presented in fair light rather quickly – “outreach”. Outreach in this instance means putting over a million links on low domain authority websites that has their content generated by users.

Not only does this not constitute an effective strategy, but changes on the content platform could remove all of that effort with a terms of service change or a coterie of committed, computer literature people could remove all of those links.

It’s understandable WHY someone would want to do this – currently some of the top referring pages to TeleSUR English are from Wikipedia, however this doesn’t justify this as a strategy but instead as a reason why to change strategy.

Any government funded institution that spends money on a back-linking strategy that involves people placing hundreds of thousands of links on Wikipedia, Pinterest and GooglePlus is guilty of gross incompetence and misuse of public funds.  

Terrible User Experience Encourages Visitors to Bounce

The above screen shot capture is one of numerous examples that illustrate the website was not properly designed.

Difficulty browsing frequently causes viewers to leave the page and I imagine that their bounce rate is exceptionally high.

After all, what sort of credibility can you grant to an enterprise that doesn’t know how to properly put the pieces together that allows for the dissemination of content?

Wrong Content Management Strategy
Many articles simply don’t have a title.

Many of the pages on TeleSUR English lack titles or anchor text. This is a basic and important component of websites. That it’s not there means that there is no Quality Assurance or Editorial staff that knows to include these before publication. That so much of their web content has been posted without this indicated a lack of competency on the work the Director oversees.

No One Is The Reporter
You’re the Reporter Section January 8th, 2018
You’re the Reporter Section January 19th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

The brief report I sent to Pablo Vivanco mentioned how in the You’re the Reporter subheading of TeleSUR English there were only five articles and that the last one published was over a year old.

This must have struck a nerve, as a few days later the content therein was deleted while the header remained.

What a telling symbol of the Director of TeleSUR English’s technical incompetence: he can’t even properly delegate the deletion of the entire section – only the content within the section!

Beyond just a symbol of incompetence, what else does this say about Pablo Vivanco’s directorship of TeleSUR English that after multiple years he still hasn’t been able to come up with a means for attracting, retaining and developing talent that want to write from the perspective TeleSUR English wishes to promote. Huffington Post, and other publications like Thought Catalog and Elephant Journal have been able to turn reader submitted content into their primary source of content – yet TeleSUR English over a four year period can get only five people to freely submit!

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that there would be guidelines readily available for writers interested in contributing.

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that they would have reached out to every public university in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador with a Journalism program to determine if it was possible to collaborate via a “real world” reporting component with TeleSUR English.

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that there would be attempts at consultation or collaboration with established leftist news, media and publishing outlets.

Given the frequency with which they publish content on the Global South and that such a collaborative working relationships with radical presses presents an easy means for attracting readers, such an absence in light of all of the above indicates  gross incompetence.

Are Orlando Perez and Pablo Vivanco the Barriers to TeleSUR English Flourishing?
Orlando Perez

One of the Austrian School’s criticisms of the socialist mode of workplace administration and management is what they see as the tendency for innovation to be lost in production. Why? Those which meekly follow “the Party Line” would take up such a position rather than those that are most meritorious.

While I think that most of this school of thought to be ahistorical and metaphysical – no surprise as I identify as a socialist – this could explain the reason why TeleSUR, let alone TeleSUR English, doesn’t make it into the top 100 Latin American Newspapers Web Rankings.

Certain personality types, after all, prefer to keep power to themselves and act as a barrier for those that might be better equipped to direct. These are the kind of people that insulate themselves with a coterie of sycophants rather than surround themselves with the type of talent that is continuously striving for excellence.

Now admittedly I do not know much of the history of the people involved in TeleSUR English other than what I’ve been able to piece together from forums and blogs on the internet, but the story which emerged seems to confirm that the Hayek’s concerns have been actualized at TeleSUR English.

There are numerous (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) accounts of TeleSUR English’s difficult working environment and the person who oversees it’s Director, Oscar Perez, has had his fare share of controversy as well.

In 2017 Orlando Perez was fired from El Telegrafo as part of a political change up.  Shortly thereafter he fled Quito, Ecuador for Miami, Florida following his assault on his former girlfriend. After he decided to stop evading arrest and returned to Quito, he held a press conference to explain everything and has since maintained his innocence, but in a highly politicized context wherein working for a leftist state-media publication is seen a mar on one’s resume, this doesn’t really matter.

In an environment where attracting and retaining talent is already hard, appearance matters and it’s no logical leap to say that talented women may be shy of wanting to work in an environment they are concerned about male aggression.

Besides this consideration, there Orlando Perez’s proclaimed political purity and orthodoxy that takes on a sinister tone when it comes to how he views his opponents. After translating several of his articles and interviews (1, 2), I noticed an overlap in our political views. However where he uses abelist language to refer to the “the autistic left” I refer to this group as politically aloof hedonism as I see no reason to insult and alienate potential allies as well as those with mental impairments.

En toto, considering that TeleSUR English states that they want to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice – it makes me wonder why they would have someone directing the decision making process considering that clearly alienates so many potential allies and talent.

 

Pablo Vivanco

Not being a reporter with numerous articles by and about him, learning about Pablo Vivanco has been more difficult. From what I can tell his experience in digital media starts with him at TeleSUR English and besides the above, which shows that he has directed operations as if it were still the early 1990s and without a thought to the important nuances which make up effective digital strategy, there is little else worth noting.

I admit this is total conjecture, but it certainly seems to me likely that Orlando Perez would want to cover up the extent of Pablo Vivanco’s ability to formulate and enact a digital media strategy based upon the current best practices shared by the social media outlets that TeleSUR English uses.

In the wake of his domestic assault case, this would likely become another reason those in power would want to distance themselves from him and thus he needs it swept under the rug.

***Update 2/11/18***

I’ve received confirmation from a source inside TeleSUR English that confirms my above speculations about Orlando’s insulting, overbearing demeanor. I’ll quote this in an second article in the event I get more feedback.

Why Speaking Up and Out is More Important Than “Keeping it Professional” in This Instance

The reason that I’ve decided to write and publish this assessment is simple: It’s what an honest citizen with professional abilities and integrity would do in the situation – call out incompetence and corruption to help ensure the optimum function of a government institution.

TeleSUR encourages greater transparency in all governmental affairs, no surprise as it was in part founded to counter the lies of corporate media that had a major role in the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez Frias.

Ecuador has given asylum to Julian Assange and the governments of all TeleSUR contributors initially a defended Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. While U.S. politicians called these people traitors, seditionists and said that they should be killed without trial – the voices representing The South defended their actions as a service to the world. People have a right, they said, to know the extent of surveillance and espionage that everyday people and various businesses were subject to.

TeleSUR English, however, does not themselves abide by such values as transparency that the governments paying it’s bill claims to promote. Instead it replicates an elitest strand of authoritarian socialism. As a self-identified socialist, I have a major issue with this. Not only is TeleSUR English thus operating sub-optimally, but they are missing opportunities to educate, agitate, organize and grow their audience such that they become a meaningful, tangible impact in debates in the countries where they have a large audience.

Given the changing generational views that many youth have towards the possibility of another world not directed solely by capitalists and private property right but by the constitutive will of the people, the institutions which inform must also reflect such values and be model for the change they promote in the world.

This is why I had to share this information – the duty is beyond merely a citizen pointing out government waste, but as a fellow socialist pointing out how certain actions aren’t in accordance with socialist ideals. TeleSUR English’s loss of integrity reflects badly on all socialists, thus it needs to be critiqued so that it can be corrected.

What Democratizing TeleSUR ENGLISH Would Look Like

Corruption isn’t just about obtaining bribes for looking elsewhere or not reporting, but also comes in the form of continuing to keep operations going in a certain manner as it gives one personal power in the face of better options. Given all of the evidence above which clearly shows Pablo Vivanco has either purposefully sabotaged TeleSUR English or was just plain incompetent, it appears that Orlando Perez has sought to cover this up.

Once construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice.

Their mismanagement, however, isn’t permanent and there are a number of immediate steps that TeleSUR could take to ameliorate their misdirection and work towards creating a genuine voice for the construction of a new communications order focused on social, political and economic justice.

12 Steps Towards Democratizing TeleSUR English

These won’t solve all of the above problems, but it will be a step in the right direction to actually creating the sort of network that TeleSUR English states that they actually want to make:

  • General survey of current TeleSUR English readers to better understand audience.
  • Increase ability for readers/consumers to choose the type of content to be produced.
  • Increase transparency in its approach to determining what is produced.
  • Publicize editorial process (i.e. “We do not speak of billionaires in articles unless also using the words oligarchs” to spark conversation).
  • Properly reformulate the user experience of the website so that it’s more intuitive and suited towards readers.
  • Apply Content Marketing Institute model to repurpose content.
  • Survey leaders in Leftist New Media Outlets to determine potential co-branded projects.
  • Create database for Leftist parties and organizations to determine similar areas where collaboration can happen.
  • Survey union/related organizations about such topics (i.e. a long form article about what life is like in a town where factories left and what life is like in the place where it went).
  • Create database of influencers and new media outlets with appropriate cross-over
  • Create database of Latin American Graduate journalism teachers that could be surveyed as to what sort of content they would want for their students to contribute to the “You’re the Reporter” sections in English language.
  • Begin talks on syndicating content with other countries media operations so that TeleSUR English don’t need to devote money to foreign reporters.

 

Review of Steal Like an Artist

I picked up Steal Like an Artist at the Delray Beach Library for a buck and read it over a few hours.

Written prior to Show Your Work,  but like his other book, Austin Kleon work is filled with practical insights for approaching the creative process, examples of the advice in action and techniques for getting a better understanding of one’s own position in relation to one’s chosen family of creators and other issues of practical concern to a creative.

One such instructional section that I like particularly related to homage and inspiration in relation to one’s creative work and process.

Creation as Curation

All great artists are voracious consumers of cultural products.

I’ve spent more money on my personal reading library than is really sensible given my financial conditions – but the sense of joy that they haven give me, of being able to look back at notes that I left for myself or seeing which passages thought were important at the time and so underlined them amuses me to no end so I feel that it is worth it.

Then there’s the smell of books…

Anyway, Kleon’s advice is to make an assessment of where it is that you’re taking from, to ask yourself why, to really determine how the pieces of what you read gets more or less mixed within your self and how it makes it’s way into your art.

You know who really killed it on this mission before Kleon ever wrote about it? Henry Miller. His works The Books in My Life, The Time of the Assassins, not to mention sections throughout his oeuvre, all do this and help world build him as someone equally worthy in status to those he names.

Theft and Art

Emerging from historic, symbolic culture – all art is theft.

Technology certainly changes society and the realm of the possibility, but at a fundamental level, nothing is new under the sun.

For instance my favorite novel by Milan Kundera is  The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is literally an updated, inverted Anna Karenina. Star Wars is based on numbers myths from antiquity. I’m living my life largely based on Henry Miller’s and the goal of my creative work is to turn Dostoyevsky on his head. The list goes on, the take away being that the quest for excessive novelty can lead to bad art and that transformation rather than mere imitation of work – as in the above – is new and ought be viewed as such.

The “Rules” for Creativity

In my preparations to move out of the country I went through a number of old boxes that contained documents of works that I’d written when in my late teens. Reading them 15 years later was amusing, not just because of the vast divide in perspective that has developed since then but also as I realized that I was not waiting for something external to validate my creative journey but that I just did it.

I also came across the 1930’s type writer I’d purchased for myself and a number of notebooks that I collected my various art compositions in. Seeing these made me recall my college days and how much I loved working with a small group of friends to make collages, drawings, paintings, and performance poetry.

It’s these sorts of experience, Kleon says and from experience I concur with, that help build up a more holistic approach to art.

The book is a quick read and cheap so I highly recommend it to all.

And if you have the time watch this Tedx Talk by Austin, it’s worth it.

Real News on Fake Amazon Reviews

A Case Study of Commodity Fetishism in the Age of Communicative Capitalism

Amazon has a serious problem with fake reviews populating their website. So much so that Forbes, NYMag, NYPostC|Net, and Fortune are all writing about it.

After reviewing findings from data-based research by Ming Ooi, one of the co-founders of Fakespot, he offers this blunt assessment of Amazon’s reviews ecosystem: “About 40 percent of reviews we see on Amazon are unreliable.”

This video also goes details the issue:

In this blog post I’m going to examine to distinct types of fake reviews, examine it’s commercial and political effects and then outline how it is that Amazon should be handling them.

Why go through the work of explaining this?

For one, as someone that has almost 150 book reviews on their website as a means of monetization, I find sending referral traffic to a website with a consumer rating function that has been hijacked by marketers to be highly unethical.

Secondly, I find the unresponsiveness of Amazon to taking simple steps to prevent this to be reflective of a corporate environment that

Let me give you two case study examples of products that I’ve recently come across that illustrate what I mean.

Freewrite: The Juicero of Word Processing

I use the same computer for word processing as I do for my marketing business, I know how susceptible to distraction the various alerts I have set up and immediate access to the internet can be. Thus when I first saw the Kickstarter ad for the Freewrite I was interested. I clicked the sponsored post in my Facebook feed, and began to read their promotional literature. As I did, my initial excitement on a new tool faded on learning of it’s features and price.

Unlike others that have written negative reviews of the product after using it, I could tell without even investing $550 into it that it was, quoting Mashable, pretentious hipster nonsense.

Identifying Fake Amazon Reviews

Leading up to Christmas, I started to see ads announcing that the second generation of the product had been released. Hopeful at first that maybe they’d changed their product to address what I and others saw as flaws in it’s features, I was disappointed to learn that they hadn’t. And I was also confused. Fully aware that my preferences aren’t universal, I still surprised at the high number of gushing customer review ratings on Amazon.

When I started to dig deeper I noticed a number of abnormalities in those people that were reviewing it. For one, you’ll notice that a large number of the 5 star reviews are all written by people that have only ever reviewed one product: The FreeWrite.

I didn’t take screenshots of them all, but if you look at some of the other reviews you’ll notice that a lot of them also have only one or two reviews for items that were written years ago.

31 of the 42 reviews, or 74% of the 5 star reviews for FreeWrite all occur within a nine day period – between November 21st and November 30th 2016. Here’s the data from Amazon that I collected should you want to review the numbers yourself. Many of them have a length and style that is directly mirrors FreeWrite’s own marketing material and at least two reviews come from those that were incentivized to write it based upon being given the product for free. Why else, after all, would someone write a 2,300 word review of it?

Marketing Authenticity Whilst Acting Suspiciously

Despite what their video would have you believe, Stephen King DOES NOT endorse FreeWrite

Above I said that FreeWrite is like the Juicero. How so? Well, they both created much hyped, over-priced products that poorly deliver on their promises. Like Douglas Evans, founder of Juicero, they then moved on to another project that is at it’s core, well, ridiculous.

Evans is now marketing the unproven benefits of the dubiously named raw water he sells while AstroHaus tried to bring to market ClapBoss – a device that mandates you spend money and time programming a device that you can just as easily do without. It wasn’t just schadenfreude that made me happy to see that this project didn’t get funded, but a deep and genuine disdain for marketing language that mobilizes concepts such as “Freedom” and “Control Over Your Life” to encourages people to buy products such as these. I’d go so far as to venture that any person that would prefer a $550 FreeWrite to $510 dollars worth of books and some notebooks and pen or word processing software like Scrivener aren’t real writers. That said, let me add I’ve never used Scrivener, I wasn’t paid to point this out and that if you ascribe to a historical materialist view of the world you’ll notice a troubling paradox in the reviews of products that could actually lead to freedom and control over your life.

Financial Incentive Not Sole Factor For Fake Reviews

As a subject area expert, George Ciccariello-Maher frequently writes, lectures and speaks on the subject of Venezuela and American political economy. One of my favorite history books of the past several years, in fact, was We Created Chavez by GCM. In my review of the book I favorably compared it’s prose to that found in C. L. R. James’ work on the Haitian Revolution The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, a historian that’s quoted several times in the book.

Full disclosure, thought we’ve never met – we did both present research at the 2013 Rethinking Marxism: Surplus, Solidarity and Sufficiency 2013 Conference at UMASS Amherst – me critically defending the democratically elected government of Venezuela and Bolivarianism, he on decolonizing dialectics.

For those familiar with American history and political economy and that aren’t white nationalists, the tweets for which he received negative press was funny, neigh, hilarious. Those that didn’t like it – which was much of the commentariat – didn’t get it and thus misrepresented views. In an interview GCM gave with The Inquirer, he explains as follows (Link to BET’s coverage of the State Farm Insurance tweet added by me):

“On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, ‘white genocide,'” For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, ‘white genocide’ is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.”

Historical Ignorance and Revisionism in Amazon Reviews

Following this the White Nationalist press got upset and mobilized their base, which also happens to have intersectional affinities with Venezuelans in Miami. The above screen shot shows how Google searches for “White Genocide” and “George Ciccariello-Maher” both peaked following his tweet going viral.

The ramifications of the Tweet wasn’t just Google searches, however, but a campaign of harassment and death threats that lead to GCM being placed on leave and an attempt at delegitimizing his academic work via the means that most used online means of commerce in America – Amazon.

Amazon Reviews and The World Turned Inside Out

The above Amazon user yentl’s sole contributions to Amazon are typical of others like it in level of insight and engagement following the uproar over two tweets by GCM. In fact, the seven reviews by yentl shown above are all for books written, translated or co-edited by George Ciccariello-Maher and are all the same – “It makes me want to Vomit!”. Similar depth of insight and engagement with the text abounds in other reviews.

I didn’t take the time to go through all of his books on Amazon, but it’s worth noting that 42 of the 63 review for We Created Chavez occur within a one week period in March of 2017 and a 3 day period in December of 2016. For those that want to check my methods, feel free to review this data sheet I made.

Amazon and Authentic Reviews

With these two cases in mind, it’s easy to see that the majority of positive reviews are done from financial motivation and those that are negative are ideological in origin. It’s also easy to see how Amazon can help prevent these sorts of false distortions of reality from being considered real.

For one monitoring negative or positive spikes in reviews and flagging them for review prior to publication.

Secondly Amazon needs to take Abuse Reports seriously. I’ve reported a number of reviews that are clearly either spam or ideologically motivated only to see that several days, weeks, months later that they remain online as a genuine “experience” of the product.

Since Amazon claims they want to be the brand of Customer Experience, they need to address this. Now. While the tenor of political discourse is no where near as bad as it is elsewhere, there needs to be a greater degree of vigilance to ensure honest communication about the merits of products and worldview. What’s at stake here isn’t just about whether or not someone chooses to buy something – but the need to be vigilant towards a platform with “democratic aspirations” from inadvertently  promoting the widening and deepening of false consciousness.

Review of Rework

I read Rework by Jason Fried and David Hannson of 37Signals and BaseCamp fame and think that if you are tired of working for other people and are interested in starting your own business, or you have one and you’re looking to make it more effective, than this is the book for you.

Rework has a number of choice endorsements from major names in the business world such as Mark Cuban, who says “If given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework and someone who has an MBA, I’m investing in Rework every time…. A must-read for every entrepreneur.” and Jeff Bezos, who says “Jason and David start fresh and rewrite the rules of business. Their approach turns out to be as successful as it is counter-intuitive.”

This doesn’t meant that information in this book is limited in application just to CEOs and Entrepreneurs with billions of dollars in the bank and those that want to provide them business service. This is equally applicable to artists who want to achieve real professional success.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on the actual content as the book itself is such a quick read and

Instead, here’s five of the titles of their mini essays and how they relate to my own experience.

Decommoditize your Product

Since competitors can never copy the “you” in their product, make you a part of your product or service. This makes it someone that no one else can honestly offer. I realized that this was something that I was doing with this website, merely by posting all of my book reviews, thought experiments, media analysis and other articles on niche topics.

Chances are those end products have zero relation to my client’s needs, but through them they see that my thought processes are informed by years of research into the humanities and best practices for digital marketing.

Sound Like You

“What is with businesspeople trying to sound big? The stiff language, the formal announcements, the artificial friendliness, the legalese, etc. You read this stuff and it sounds like a robot wrote it… This mask of professionalism is a joke. We all know this. Yet small companies still try to emulate it. They think sounding big makes them appear bigger and more “professional”.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be professional, just that the masque of professionalism can be incredibly disingenuous and farcical.

Another aspect related to sounds like you that I sometimes struggle with is avoiding formal terms and acronyms. They can be very effective when working with an internal team or writing for a specific group of people, but when client or sales-prospect facing, it’s important to avoid this.

 Out-Teach Your Competition

“Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing.”

This point is succinct and goes into much greater detail in Joe Pulizzi’s book.

When starting out a business – or even an artistic enterprise –  your competition is bound to have more money for marketing themselves, more connections than you, etc. It can be hard to demonstrate credibility when just starting out but you can always start thinking about out-teaching your competition. Most businesses are focused on getting new clients, improving processes, hiring, etc. However, not many are worried about this. In Joe Pulizzi’s book Content Inc., in fact, he gives a story of one company doing this so well that they developed their business to the point where they no longer just installed pools, but started manufacturing them as well.

This new work ethos is in part why I’ve created this online repository of my research and a portfolio of my work.

There’s No Such Thing As An Overnight Sensation

“Those overnight-success stores you’ve heard about? It’s not the whole story.”

If you’re going to do anything and be successful – it’s going to take some time. Have patience, understanding and prepare for the inevitable delays, set backs and failures along the way.

Stop Working at 5pm

“You don’t need more hours; you need better hours.”

I’ve been in a number of working environments where my co-workers complain about having to work late into the night at home in order to complete certain tasks that they’d not completed as if they were proud of it. I’ve never understood why they would want to do this much less take pride for it.

A productive work ethic is a good thing, but the amount of hours you work aren’t nearly as important as what you get done in those hours.

Let me give you an example.

When I was still working as a private teacher, one of my responsibilities was to input individualized comments into a reporting box on an web-based grading application.

However the manner in which the reporting software was designed was poorly thought out and because of this there was a process in place that required three whole days of work for two people to ensure that they were written according to the guidelines.

The results of my thinking creatively? What had taken my colleagues eight hours to complete took me one hour that semester. In total I saved myself a full 24 hours of work simply by working smart instead of hard.

Now that I make my own schedule and work for myself there are some days where I work past five pm, or over the weekend or have a 12 hour day. But this is rare and stems at based because I choose to do so.

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Still not ready to buy the book after all this? Give their Rework Podcast a listen and maybe that’ll help convince you some more

Click for full image to zoom in and see all the designs.

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Review of Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses

Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses is the book for explaining the power of content marketing and explaining how to develop it in such a way as to build your audience.

Joe Pulizzi describes his own work in case study format along with many others in how it is that they grew an audience up around the marketing material that they produced and disseminated. Summing up the entirety of the book into a sentence – Content Inc. shows how to educate consumers to effectively buy in to an organizations products or services.

Understanding The Social Media Ecosystem

Given the rapid explosion of niche channels for content, differentiation of content and establishing an engaging brand voice that will build a base of engaged readers/consumers is the key to gaining audience and thus monetizing the content marketing efforts made. While diversification is a key component of attracting more people once there is an established base, Pulizzi warns against starting this too soon lest the core audience start to feel declining affinity/interest in the material presented. Another words make something that really works first and then start to noodle with other demographics, buyers personas, etc. as otherwise this could lead to a sub-optimal ROI on what is, basically, A/B testing of content.

Varieties of Content Marketing Outlets

Earned media which has links to owned properties that has it’s reach further amplified via social platforms is the primary goal of content marketing. A PPC campaign has a start and end date limited by the budget, whilst effective content marketing continues to draw in leads by merit of it’s placement on appropriate websites.

Let me give an example. Several months ago I attended a presentation given by Alex Furmansky about his company Budsies. For those that watch Shark Tank, this may be a familiar name/company as he turned down the offers for investment presented in order to continue his own path sans their direction. In his presentation he presented internal data that dramatically showed that while there was a spike in visitors and business following his appearance on the Shark Tank, that this was a near blip in comparison to basic content marketing driving business traffic following placements of articles about his businesses on Huffington Post.

Content Marketing Funnels, Conversions and Engagement

Implementing a successful content marketing program requires longer term, big-picture thinking and an advocate with enough authority in the enterprise that their directives will be followed. An effective content marketing project requires a paradigmatic shift from PPC and paid media marketing strategies.

It’s vital to set realistic KPIs and a timeframe for achieving them. Small wins early on are good, but unless there is the recognition as to the entirety of the content marketing process quitting before taking final steps leads to a wasted investment of resources.

It’s only happened twice that I’ve had clients jump into content marketing with enthusiasm, only to fall back to traditional push marketing tactics a month later. Their rationale is understandable – they want speedy ROI  and PPC promotions, advertised discounts and similar campaigns deliver the immediate spikes in sales that most businesses budgets are accustomed to. The problem with this is by not continuing to develop and promote makes a brand look stagnant or find the right niches from where it’s customers are naturally viewing content.

Optimizing Content Marketing Efforts via Differentiation

Using content marketing most effectively means being able to edit and remix content according to a variety of format types. Content on videos can be placed into text formats for those, like me, that prefer to read. White papers, which are one of of the most complex forms of content marketing, can be simplified into a variety of smaller formats to garnish readers attention to specific information found within.

One best practice for content marketing that has allowed me to reduce the time and costs associated with market research has been to review traditional marketing content. Using this as a based for ideation and production is one of the reasons that I ask all my clients to provide me as many examples of their marketing as possible and to provide examples of what they believe is the type of style and format that they aspire to have.

From Content to Marketing: Promotion

Creating unique content that engages the interest of targeted demographics is the first step, SEO optimization the second one and placement the third.

This requires knowing the outlets where such information is housed as well as their editorial and community guidelines.

This requires knowing how to do effective outreach with journalists, writers, editors, bloggers, etc. as well as being able to demonstrate trustworthiness.

One of the many reasons why I decided to create this online repository of my research, in fact, was to do exactly this. By having an online portfolio of research in various subject area not only am I able to have social proof of affinity when reaching out but it allows them to confirm that the material I’ve produced and am asking them to place is methodologically sound.

Content Inc. presents an impressive detailing of all the above and more and is definitely something that I will re-read and encourage all those in the field to pick up as well.

What Computers May Soon Uncover About The Creative Process of Writers

I began my survey of the business potential of  text mining applications after  undertaking market research for a several part series of onsite content blogs. My focus began in the APIs have vast applications in the biomedical field achieved through text mining. Text mining is two words with limits in a way really only limited by language itself. For a creative like myself, I was fascinated with it’s potential and dug as deep as a week of reading got me into the literature. Ranging from the identification of novel drug targets; the identification of the names of drug gang targets in novels; the target names of novel drug use reporting techniques; the potential novel drug functions; parsing specific types of standardized and tested data points in order to determine better models of interactions between the millions of bodily interactions to understand… well things that were never ever possible before. Simply put: the increasing availability of digital medical literature and patient databases means in a way that while the machines can’t “learn” medicine, they can at least report on findings that may have the highest medical value. Yay a type of mining that doesn’t ravage the environment and the lives of the people found around the the ore, oil or other hallowed resource deposit!

Text mining has also been broadly applied to interdisciplinary fields such as government, marketing, social media, history, etc. This is where text mining kept my attention.

General Process for Text Mining and Analysis

What’s broadly referred to as the digital humanities can be described as a set of conceptual and practical approaches to engagement with cultural materials that are aided/mediated by computer applications. Some of these can be quite simple, such as Google Ngram, which can track word usage and changes in meaning over time. While those within academia are careful with their methodological approaches as they expect a high level of scrutiny from the peer-reviewed journals that they hope to get publication in, most outlets for news and cultural content are often less discerning – hence leaving me to the belief that the article from websites lauding it’s  useful in marketing is over rated.

For business applications and tracking – yes absolutely. In that way it’s been invaluable to me. And that’s the point, that’s all it’s ought to be – there’s other things out there. So you content marketers emailing me asking if they should invest time in it – I’d say not. But also clarify that it’s not also important to at least be familiar with. I’ve produced several works using R as a component that I’m pleased with – however – these were short and sweet little works designed just for a short smirk and a share. It could be used for a work with greater complexity to the content, but so few threaded Tableau’s really arrest one’s attention.

Visualizing Numbers

For example: Articles like this analysis of marijuana talk on Reddit. It is, at least to me, insightfulless. Can I have the time I just spent reading this back please? The same goes for this this analysis of Donald Trump’s Twitter. Doubly so when compared to something like this New York Times analysis and categorization of Trump’s tweets by people! It’s not just the lack of a genuinely noteworthy findings that I take issue with, but also how many have no mooring to acceptable social science principles. It’s literally spreading stupid.

The methodology of this article’s “psychological analysis” on the personality of CEOs is incredibly flawed due to it’s arbitrariness and the nature of public speech. Articles like this one, which uses a sentiment analysis of geo-tagged Twitter posts, declare that  “Florida is the 5th happiest state,” despite the fact that a study with actual social scientific rigor, like this one by Gallup, show that this is false. To me, this is all a testament as to how low publishing standards have dropped – when time saving relationships in the form of marketing brand and brain fodder takes the place of . Lest I seem like some partisan crusader, note I’m really just using this as a means of marketing to potential clients as to the standards I take in a non-legalese manner so as to get a better vibe on me. Irony! Anyways, my discerning reader, I will continue…

Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis: Examining Author’s Notebooks

Page from the notebook of Honoré de Balzac

If th are as bad as I say, why would they get published? Well for one, the producers like it as 99% of the time it is cheaper than taking a different approach. Because of the pseudo-scientific trappings, it allow publishers to justify posting whatever B.S. conclusions are given.

This is not to say that *all* text analysis done by API’s are valueless or mystifying instead of insightful – I find this project on screenplays to be fascinating and insightful –  just to state that at least most of the ones that I’ve seen promoted via new media outlets are.

This article on Large-Scale Computerized Text Analysis in Political Science: Opportunities and Challenges is focused on a particular sub-branch of Political Science that I read in graduate school masterfully delves into my reservations in greater detail than I will here.

What Machine Learning May Be Able To Tell Us About Creativity

 

A Page from Dostoyevsky’s Notebook

What I do see as valid from a social science perspective and genuinely excites me is the future prospect of being able to use textual analysis to examine the process of creative writers. One of the most rewarding projects that I took as an undergraduate was an extensive study of  Dostoyevsky’s writings, which gave me an deep insight to how he worked. It’s one of the reasons why I think it would be cool to be able to cross reference news stories with changes made – however this has some issues as well as there’s no way of ascertaining sans interview with the author on whether or not they were apprised of a particular issue.

A less epistemologically precarious form of analysis on the creative process would require that word processors keep constant documentation of a number of data points. Not only would it be cool to know at what scenes, George R. R. Martin had difficulty continuing a certain story or how and if characters in J. K. Rowling Harry Potter series – it would also be scientifically rigorous. Combining human and computer categorizations would allow for honest findings on a number of other issues as well.

People could quantify if there is a connection between the time it takes to complete writing a scene and the type of scene that it is, the characters that are in it, etc. We could map how a characters personality changes during the revision process and chart the variances in time taken on each character. Presuming the word processing application was granted geolocation data – perhaps it could be determined that there are certain locations where authors are more productive (coffee shops, library, home, etc.) as well as times of the day. These are just some of the many ideas for what computer applications may be able to tell about the creative process.

Using OCR, APIs, text mining and machine learning to be able to examine authors that used physical journals would be more difficult, but would also being productive towards make conclusions about the creative process of writers. I say this as speaking from my own experience, I occasionally write long passages in my physical daily journal when I feel stuck on a certain piece of writing.

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Lastly, I just want to throw out how I would love if someone bought me a copy of Henry Miller’s The Nightmare Notebook. I read it while an undergraduate, but would love to have my own.

Review of “The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era”

The Idea Writers – Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era by Teresa Iezzi with an afterword by Lee Clow and Jeff Goodby is an in-depth look at the state of today’s copywriting and brand creativity in today’s advertising. With insight on creative process and campaign development from the industry’s leading creatives, Iezzi provides solid advice for copywriters at all stages of their career – from those trying to break into it to those trying to become more involved with branding. A useful guide for industry professional understand brand creativity today, the book actually starts with a detailed examination of the changes in the digital realm that have completely remade the advertising industry before jumping into a number of case studies.

The rise of smart phones, social media and other internet phenomenon’s have fundamentally changed that manner in which advertising and copy-writing relates to consumers of media. Iezzi quotes New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program professor Clay Shirky in the book Here Comes Everybody, to make her point on the depth of this change: “We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.” Because of this the general rulebook that governed advertising affairs for over a hundred years is no longer applicable and for that reason, it’s a more exciting and potentially creatively rewarding time for those in the “since Bill Bernbach put art directors and copywriters together and proved that effective advertising could be witty, quotable and uplifting rather than a dreary recitation of “unique selling points.”

Though this is the case, Iezzi doesn’t dismiss the importance of the ad work created and books written by the Fathers of Modern Advertising such as Rosser Reeves – a pioneer in writing for the emerging media of television, the man responsible for the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and the person who was the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men. What does Iezzi see as the thread that connecting those such as Reeves, Bill Burnbach, and David Ogilvy? Simple. Effective story-telling.

Quoting the book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink, Iezzi points out how it is the ability to detect patterns and create narratives, to understand human interaction, to seek and convey meaning that are the new marketable skill sets rather than the ability to write a perfectly crafted headline according to a pseudo-scientific formula. These skill are important not only as many marketing agencies in the present are just likely to be producing an app or a web experiment as a form of commercial communication but also in the age of greater corporate scrutiny it’s important for corporations to at least appear that they are doing the right thing.

Another challenge of today’s copywriter is being able to telling a story across multiple platforms while involving the consumer in that story – something also gone into detail in Storyscaping. Here the views of Gaston Legoburu and Darren McColl matches that of Iezzi on the future of advertising. They both state that design and story are key for informing the interaction that plays out between brands and consumers. With this in mind, creatives can achieve the goal of having their customers message proactively talked about and shared by people that will at best transition into brand ambassadors and at least increase sales during the increase in brand awareness.

Building on this Iezzi adds the following:

“The copywriter (is) responsible for putting things into the world, and those things should be useful, entertaining or beautiful, or all of those things. They should make people feel better, not worse, about them- selves, the brand involved and living in the world in general.”

Advertising has to offer an entertaining reason for people to even acknowledge its existence. I’ve heard a variety of numbers but I’ve yet to see a source for the number, but I’ve heard that it’s something like 85 percent of ads go unnoticed by people. Not surprise given the large amount of messages that are being sent past them every day. As Gossage himself words it: “The fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

In addition to the analysis of the history of marketing and how the qualities of the new digital age impacts modern marketing, Teresa Iezzi provides a lot of valuable case studies for effective campaign processes and final products as well as giving instructions for those that are establishing themselves as a brand.

The book closes with a number of considerations for career development one someone is already in the field that could be distilled into the words “influencer marketing”. If there are events where what you do will be discussed, put yourself forward as a speaker or panel member. If there’s a story written about the kind of work you do, contact the writer and send her some of your work to keep in mind for next time. Apply the same self-promotion guidelines to your personal projects and you’ll always be wanted by people in the marketing industry.

 

Open Letter to the Owners of Doña Lechona

Dearest owners of Doña Lechona,

I’m writing this email to you that after a long night of dancing salsa, I ordered some food from you the next day and hot damn was I impressed.

I ordered thinking that it would be similar to much of the comida typico of the many “authentic” restaurants with populate the periphery of the main dining corridors

I ordered so much food planning on making it two meals.

I ordered without a clue as to the gustatory experience I was about to have.

Lechon Tolimnese

The sabor? Far beyond that of the others in the area with similar offerings.

The portions size? Well, I stopped myself from finishing it all in one sitting by shaming myself. But I couldn’t hold back the desire to take in all the flavors so ate the rest anyway.

Simply amazing tamales I could eat all day

This is all just to say that really, should you ever plan on opening up a second locations within 50 miles of where I’m currently living – please contact me.

I will give you a highly discounted rate for my marketing services, simply for being in the area so I can have you again. You are so delicious and I love you.

Image result for dona lechona medellin

Anyone that finds themselves in Medellin should definitely give this place a visit.

40 e-Commerce Key Performance Metrics to Track

Retail is undergoing a massive shift due to mobile devices and shopping from personal computers such that an ever increasing number of retail  stores are either teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or have already gone under. Why? Consumers spend more and more time on mobile devices discovering, researching and purchasing products. Here are some numbers to consider:

From 2014-2015 online sales grew by 23%.
From 2015-2016 online sales grew by 15.6%.
From 2016-2017 online sales grew by 14%

According to Forrester Research, which tracks various metrics to predict customer engagement trends, by 2022, online shopping will account for 17% of all retail sales.

No surprises there as even at a brick and mortars stores customers will use their mobile devices to discover, compare and ever purchase competitors products.

To develop their online business presence in order to  increase sales, marketers in the e-commerce field need to ensure they are tracking web conversions and measuring the right KPIs. Here are 44 essential metrics every business engaging in e-commerce should be measuring.

Business Sustainability Metrics

 

Sales Revenue

 

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

 

Amount of revenue gained from inbound marketing.

 

Cost to acquire a customer.

 

Average order value

 

Average revenue per business transaction.

 

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

 

Predicted sales amount over the entire future relationship with your business.

 

Percentage of returning customers

 

Percentage of people who come back and buy more after making the initial purchase.

 

Sales conversion rate

 

Percentage of visitors who convert into customers.

 

Revenue generated from marketing campaigns (marketing ROI)

 

Calculate how much revenue is generated for all marketing activity

 

Website Engagement Metrics

 

Site availability

 

Determine if you can access a website by going to its URL and view the site’s content as expected

 

YoY traffic changes

 

Compare the number of visitors for one period to the same period the previous year

 

Time on site

 

Measure how much time visitors spend on your website

 

Number of pages visited

 

Measure how many pages a visitor views per session

 

Sales conversion rate

 

Calculate the percentage of website visitors who become your customers

 

Average order value

 

Calculate how much revenue each order brings to your business

 

Orders by session

 

Measure how many orders each session (visit) brings to your business

 

Shopping cart abandonment rate

 

Calculate the ratio of the number of abandoned shopping carts to the number of initiated transactions

 

Customer/User Experience Metrics

 

Pageviews per user

 

Measurement of how easy/engaging is the website.

 

Page abandonment

 

Measurement of how many visitors leave a page before completing the desired action.

 

New users/repeat users by pages

 

Measure how many new visitors your website pages get versus the number of repeat visitors.

 

Bounce rate

 

Calculate the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing just one page.

 

Loyalty Metrics

 

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

 

Predict how much profit a customer will bring over the entire relationship with your business

 Repeat purchase rate  Percentage of current customers that come back to shop again
 

 

Paid Search Advertising Metrics

 

 

Spend

 

Amount of money spent on advertising for a given date range.

 

Clicks

 

Measurement of times users click on your ad.

 

Impressions

 

Quantity of users saw your ad.

 

Click-through rate (CTR)

 

Number of clicks divided by the number of impressions.

 

Cost per click (CPC)

 

Average cost for a single click (calculated by dividing the total cost of your clicks by the total number of clicks).

Conversions Measure how many times a click turned into a business result – be it sign-up, a sale, orother action taken by the user).
 

Conversion rate

 

Number of conversions divided by the number of clicks.

 

Cost per conversion

 

Measurement of the price for this form of marketing per conversion.

 

Social Media Advertising Metrics

 

Network referrals

 

Measurement depicting the contribution of discrete social networks to traffic.

 

Social media conversions

 

Measure conversion by social networks to understand which ones bring the most valuable shoppers.

 

Clicks

 

Quantity of users clicking on your ad and being referred to your landing page or sales funnel.

 

Frequency

 

Means for determining posting schedule to prevent annoying your audience.

 

Relevance score

 

Calculation of how successfully your current ads are performing.

 

Email Metrics

 

Open rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who open a given email.

 

Click-through rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who clicked on links in a given email.

 

Conversion rate

 

Calculation of how many people that clicked-through completed a business transaction.

 

Bounce rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of emails were attempt at delivery failed.

 

List growth rate

 

Calculation of the rate your email list is growing.

 

Email forwarding rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of people who forwarded email.

Ready to see the above key performance indicators for your e-commerce business grow and start doing more business transactions? Ariel Sheen will help develop your Facebook and Google ad and content marketing campaigns to help brands engaging in e-commerce increase their ad and search ranking performances. Scale your business faster with his marketing services by contacting me now.