Thiel vs. Trump Part 3 – The End of the Beginning or the Beginning of the End?

Okay, just a quick recap and then I’ll wrap this series up for now, since, due to circumstances beyond my control, parts three and four, which I’d already written, were erased and are now gone forever.

Unless they are on archive.org or in Google’s cache. Or hiding somewhere in my computer.

But anyways, to recap:

  • Thiel supports Trump.
  • Thiel made a successful power grab in the face of an ocean of opposing views – i.e., he was right & everyone else was wrong. Yet I feel like I’m the only one who sees his foresight as extremely significant. Everyone else remains hung up on the “Oh no you di’nt support Trump!” mentality.
  • Thiel believes in monopoly, or the centralization of power, as opposed to decentralization of power.
  • He believes that capitalism is good, though his definition of capitalism seems to be somewhat different from other people’s and that definition isn’t being made abundantly clear.

Here is Thiel’s speech at the National Press Club:

To reiterate, I think that, rather than lambasting Trump and lumping Thiel in with him … which is very easy to do and requires no critical thinking or foresight whatsoever … people need to pay attention to Thiel for a number of reasons.

The most poignant fact is that he is very smart and he was right when everybody else was wrong.

When you take that important fact into consideration, it seems like a good idea to pay very close attention to what he has to say…

And he has some very interesting and scary things to say about the world’s state of affairs.

Trump vs. Thiel Part 2 – Thiel and the Monopoly Mindset

chicago-1049976_1920Recently I wrote a post about why Thiel supports Trump.

That was before Trump’s numbers took a nosedive…

In that piece, I suggested that Thiel might want to bang on America’s governmental engine with a Trump-shaped hammer until it started working again. Also, I dropped hints that Thiel might want to become president or use “the little guy” Trump as a tool.

Over at Medium, Samuel Hammond wrote a much more thorough and informed article on the same topic.

Here are some highlights:

  • Hammond wrote that “Peter Thiel see’s [sic] a Trump presidency as his pathway to be become the shadow CEO of the United States of America.”
  • He quoted from Thiel’s startup lectures: “A startup is basically structured as a monarchy…the truth is that startups and founders lean toward the dictatorial side because that structure works better for startups.”
  • And from Thiel’s article, The Education of a Libertarian: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. … A better metaphor is that we are in a deadly race between politics and technology…Unlike the world of politics, in the world of technology the choices of individuals may still be paramount. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
  • Hammond interprets the above passage to mean that “monarchy is the other meaning of Zero to One.

Hammond’s insight is in-depth and informed. Very much so. And he’s probably right about Thiel.

the-white-house-103927_1920Although he had plenty more to say – much of which is beyond the scope of my interest and my lexicon – the third quote above is what bothers me about Thiel’s perspective.

There, Thiel contrasts “the world of politics” and “the world of technology.”

These vague concepts need some serious clarification…

The term “world,” as he’s using it, is hardly scientific or linguistically specific. However, as he said in his essay, he seems to think that humans can escape politics “in all its forms.”

It appears that Thiel thinks technology can free us from politics … as if technology can free us from humans’ physiologically determined psychology and behavior.

Is It Possible for Mortals to Understand Thiel’s Political Views?

In his article, the aforementioned The Education of a Libertarian, he says that in order to escape politics, we must use “some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom.”

thiel-trump-politics

Escape out to sea or out to outer space won’t change human psychology…

Personally, I don’t understand how we can try something new and undiscovered when human psychology, human behavior, and human history repeat themselves endlessly. How does he even define “new”? And how can we escape politics without changing humans’ fundamental psychology?

Perhaps we can use technology or government to force people to behave the way we want…?

I digress.

He goes on to claim that technology, outer space, and seasteading are three such means of escape.

As I was reading those paragraphs, I was thinking to myself, Great…another technological utopian.

Then, Thiel went on to conclude:

The future of technology is not pre-determined, and we must resist the temptation of technological utopianism — the notion that technology has a momentum or will of its own, that it will guarantee a more free future, and therefore that we can ignore the terrible arc of the political in our world.

Ultimately, Monopoly Cannot Defeat the “Arc of the Political”

Whatever the specific strange views of Thiel may turn out to be, he appears to think that monopoly is a good thing … as if you could end politics altogether through some other form of government, like a technocracy, or by ending politics and government completely by letting a benevolent AI run everything.

But I’m getting tired of trying to figure out Thiel’s way of thinking. I don’t even like politics. At first I thought he was just some eccentric tech visionary, like Musk, but now I’m not so sure.

chess-1145557_1920I get the feeling that, like Trump, he thinks that “he alone” can fix the world, and that he feels he’s above explaining the politics that he aggressively asserts onto the world – and if you tried to enter into a free and open discussion about politics or capitalism, he’d just try to checkmate you with logic that only he understands.

Anyways, here’s why he’s wrong:

Monopoly doesn’t encourage innovation, it discourages diversity and encourages overspecialization.

Overspecialization is a quintessential human trait that causes major, major problems.

Humans:

  • Cause the extinction of countless species
  • Reduce the variation of available foods on grocery store shelves
  • Replace “low-quality” search results with a tiny handful of corporate-owned sources
  • Build massive monopolistic businesses that suppress diversity and small business
  • Self-segregate into ethnic groups and nations

I’m sure you can figure out for yourself some of the consequences of these tendencies.

If not, I’ll leave you with this quote:

We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable…all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability…In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war.

    -Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics

Why Does Peter Thiel Support Donald Trump? Because He Wants to Save the World…

election-613132_1920So why does Peter Thiel support Donald Trump?

When I read headlines saying that Silicon Valley is baffled by his actions, I am baffled by their reactions.

It should be clear that there’s more going on here than meets the eye – though sometimes I wonder if Trump knows that…

Peter Thiel, for those of you who don’t know, is a brilliant billionaire tech tycoon who helped found PayPal and Palantir and who has his investment fingers in many other businesses.

As a tech-savvy, forward-thinking gay man – who has some unconventional ideas about technology, capitalism, economics, and the world we live in – he’s one of the last people you’d expect to see speaking in favor of a Trump presidency.

Yet that’s exactly what he did at the RNC, claiming that the economy and the government are “broken” and that he supports “people who are building new things.”

Donald Trump, he says, is a “builder…and it’s time to rebuild America.”

But…come on.

Donald Trump?

Really?

Donald Trump? That Guy?

man-845847_1280Trump openly:

After watching a BBC special pointing out that the USA’s demographics are shifting – and that white people will be a minority in a few decades – I felt that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” might actually be a subliminal message, “Make America White Again.”

The New York Times came up with a better one: “Make America Hate Again.”

But I’ll try to avoid ranting about Trump.

Critical Thinking About the System

Attacking Trump’s rhetoric is easy and everyone does it.

That is too simple.

It feeds his flames and avoids more important questions that would uncover the machinery underlying the current system, like:

  • Why has a simple-minded salesperson – who simply repeats his target audience’s desires right back to them, like any good salesperson – become so successful financially (despite 4 bankruptcies) and made it this far in the electoral process, and what is it in his rhetoric that resonates with such a large demographic of Americans?
  • Why are we being forced to choose between a salesperson and someone who’s being legally accosted by the FBI right now?
  • Why do people regard him as a “marketing genius,” when in fact he has simply mastered the basics of salesmanship that have been expounded, extrapolated, and explored by great salesmen for the past 100 years?
  • Why does a smart, forward-thinking tech billionaire like Peter Thiel support Trump?

Why Peter Thiel Supports Trump (Take Nothing at Face Value)

chess-433071_1920Peter Thiel is a businessman who thinks strategically about his aims, so there is certainly more to his endorsement than we heard in his RNC speech.

There are a few possible reasons why Thiel might support Trump:

  • Thiel plans to replace Trump with an artificially intelligent, Trump-shaped robot after the election
  • He actually does believe in and support Trump
  • He sees this as an opportunity to take the administrative office from the political families who have been running the office for decades
  • He sees a dire situation, thinks Trump will win, and wants to influence the little guy when he gets into office
  • He wants to run for president in a few years and sees Trump as his best bet for changing and getting into the political game

I could only wish that this last one were true – we would be much better off with a smart “builder” like Thiel than anyone else who has run in a very, very long time. If this were the tech tycoon’s plan, then he’s probably setting himself up now as the rescuer who will fix up the country after Hillary or Donald inevitably make things worse during the next term.

But I doubt Thiel wants to be president (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Although, come to think of it, Mark Cuban, another famous billionaire who made big bucks in the tech industry, had said he’d been open to running for president…

Either Thiel plans to run for president in a few years (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or…

Thiel Supports Trump Because He Thinks Trump Will Implode the Government, Which Will Make Room for Innovation … And a New Monopoly

gears-1236578_1920That’s pretty similar to what this guy at Business Insider said, but I can’t seem to find that article any more…

To find hints of Thiel’s real thinking, look past his RNC speech:

  • Thiel believes that innovation is driven by monopolistic companies, not by competition. According to Thiel, the ideas we use to discuss capitalism are based on models that are outdated and obsolete. Competitive businesses involve towards static equilibrium, and spend their money trying to outdo one another. They have no cash left over to innovate and create. A monopoly, however, is free to charge what it wants, then use those profits to drive innovation. Google is a perfect example of a monopoly in today’s economy. AT&T used to be one, as did IBM and Microsoft.
  • Innovation is at odds with competition and globalization…or they are at least perpendicular to one another. In one talk, Thiel used Japan as an example to demonstrate the difference between the two: since the time of the Meiji Restoration, the country has globalized but not innovated…that is, Japan copied the rest of the world. As a result, this island nation, which is smaller than California, has become a major world superpower. In the 80s, though, they ran out of stuff to copy and their previously explosive economic growth stagnated.
  • Technology and innovation are, for all intents and purposes, the same. Technology, he says, isn’t just limited to computers and software. This has been the most recent, most explosive area of innovation, in part due to the lack of regulation in this sector, which is a brand new industry. Other types of technology could also innovate and grow, but there are a variety of financial, regulatory, and other hurdles to overcome in those sectors – for instance, Elon Musk went to extreme lengths to overcome institutional, technical, regulatory, financial, and other obstacles in the preexisting aerospace industry in order to innovate with SpaceX. Not to mention Tesla.
  • Thiel runs Palantir, a secretive software company that tells the future. Well, fortune-telling may be a bit of a misnomer, but it does offer big data solutions that are used by big organizations, from governments to spy agencies to big name brands. Palantir is financially backed by the CIA and Thiel’s own venture capital company, among others. Supposedly, Palantir is valued at $20 billion and earned $1.7 billion in revenues in 2015. Some have suggested that Thiel’s support of Trump is a move to secure more government revenue for his company.

So how do all these bullet points apply to the topic at hand?

Many people look at a Trump presidency and see chaos…or worse.

Here are some quotes from a piece in the New Yorker, as quoted by a piece on Slate, written about the ghostwriter of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal:

The prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered…[Schwartz said,] “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”…asked what he would call [a new book about Trump], he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Is it really possible that Thiel supports someone like Trump?

Or is the tech tycoon playing a different game?

All Good Monopolies … And Competitions … Come to an End

chess-603624_1920As Thiel has pointed out, competition results in stasis and old monopolies are out-innovated by newer monopolies. Trump, a a simple-minded salesperson, has somehow co-opted the Republican party and the election process.

Perhaps his very presence on the electoral stage signals the obsolescence of an old monopoly?

For instance, AT&T was replaced by a diversity of wireless providers. Microsoft replaced the IBM monopoly, and Microsoft is in turn being replaced by newer, more innovative monopolies.

A businessperson, like Trump or Thiel, might feel that businesses and governments are analogous processes.

Eventually, any monopolistic governmental structure, electoral competition, or economic machinery will become outdated and obsolete.

Then it will become replaced by a newer, more evolved monopoly.

If Trump gets elected, it will result in – at the very least – more division, conflict, and controversy than we are seeing right now.

In other words, Trump could cause so much havoc that we would have to wake up and restructure the system.

This would make room for innovation and growth.

Heck, maybe there is only one way to make the broken governmental engine work again…

Start banging on it with a Trump-shaped hammer and hope the world doesn’t end in nuclear war.

Business Books You Should Be Reading in 2016

Let’s cover a few core business books you should be reading in 2016…

On the last episode of Nathan’s Bookshelf, we got a taste of my more esoteric, literary, and poetic interests, with a dash of business books.

This time around, the focus is mostly on business books.

I’m a firm ongoing learner, who believes that people should always be improving their job skills and life skills.

I look at it like this: in a college course, they will typically have you read 1-3 books on a given topic…which are, by the way, often theoretical, abstract, and not practically useful.

So if you read a book a week, what kind of education are you giving yourself?

Anyways, enough pontificating.

books-933293_1920Here’s what I’ve been reading this past year:

  • No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits – Dan Kennedy’s non-politically correct guide to managing staff in your business. He makes a lot of fascinating points, in my opinion, but beware: ruthless means ruthless.
  • Making Them Believe – Another Dan Kennedy book, written with Chip Kessler. This book covers the life and the marketing takeaways of John Brinkley, a man who surgically implanted goat testicles as a cure for impotence.
  • Scaling Up – This book, by Verne Harnish, is a must-have for any business that experiences – or wants to experience – super-fast growth.
  • Ca$hvertising – This book is an epic guide to advertising. Copywriters and advertising professionals will probably know much of the material covered herein, but it’s still a good reference book. For those who aren’t immersed in advertising and marketing and want to learn more, it’s a must-have.
  • The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together – John Carlton’s first book (I think) is a must-have for anyone – and I mean anyone – who wants to improve their business skills. Most people probably haven’t heard of him, but he’s a killer copywriter who can teach you much about sales, young padawan. When linking to the book, I discovered that he has another book out, Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About, which I immediately downloaded … even though I haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do the same … that’s how good this guy is.
  • The Boron Letters – Gary Halbert has been called the world’s greatest copywriter. This book is a series of letters written by Halbert to his son, which cover everything from copywriting to marketing to life advice. A must-have for any business bookshelf.
  • Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy… – Robert Bly is another one of the world’s most famous copywriters. He’s written dozens of books and his copywriting portfolio covers the gamut. Every businessperson should have at least a few of his books on their bookshelf.
  • The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene’s classic is another must-have for any business person – and any other person who wants to be successful in life and relationships.
  • Fanatical Prospecting – Jeb Blount knows how to sell. Like many of the authors listed here, he is an “old-school” salesperson who doesn’t spout the New Age nonsense that you see everywhere else online … which is often designed to steer you clear of prospecting, direct marketing, and sales.
  • New Sales. Simplified.  – Mike Weinberg, who did the foreward to Fanatical Prospecting, writes another great book on prospecting and new business development – that is, bringing new business in the door as opposed to harvesting the same clients and customers over and over. It’s geared towards the sales professional, but you should read it. It will clear many of the New Sales Age cobwebs out of your thinking.

There are plenty more books on my bookshelf from the past year, including many I haven’t gotten to yet.

But these are the business books that stand out.

What most of these books have in common is that the authors truly understand sales.

As I mentioned, many of today’s marketing and sales professionals subscribe to New Age beliefs: prospecting is dead, cold calling is dead, inbound marketing should replace outbound marketing, and so on.

The authors mentioned here contradict these false teachings and stand like a torch against the darkness.

In fact, when it really comes down to it, when you really think about it, and when you really dive deeply into your business, it’s clear that sales, prospecting, and new business development are the bottom line.

If You Use an Ad-Blocker, You’re a Content Thief…Or Are You?

Melissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, thinks you and I are missing out because we use ad-blockers.

According to her, it’s a “mistake” to install ad-blockers because the “experience on the web becomes a lot less rich.” When you install ad-blockers, you’re either receiving untargeted ads or no ads at all. Mayer says she tells her friends and family to remove those browser extensions because “your experience on the web will get worse.”

Digiday points out how ironic this is, given the fact that Yahoo’s own ads were exploited by hackers at one point, causing millions of Yahoo visitors’ computers to be infected.

She does make a point, however. Publishers depend on ads to earn revenue. You block ads, you’re getting something for nothing and publishers don’t make the money they need to keep offering you great information and entertainment.

So Are We Content Thieves?

lock-432450_1920To Mayer and many other businesses, native advertising may be the best bet.

Native advertising, for those who don’t know, refers to ads that are disguised as editorial content in media outlets and publications. A company will write an article that furthers its marketing objectives, then publish it on a media outlet with a tiny little grayed-out caption that says, “Sponsored Content.” The article looks real and feels real, but, as John Oliver points out, it undermines audiences’ trust and the media industry as a whole.

Sponsored Facebook posts and sponsored tweets dance a fine line between native and normal. They don’t want to push it too far, of course, because then users will get angry at the obvious deception. But users also don’t like to be blatantly advertised to, so the social networks need to dial back those obnoxious ads to make them less annoying.

So we’ve got a couple extremes when it comes to advertising.

Advertisers can either scream at you to get your attention, which people absolutely hate, which is why people install ad blockers, which supposedly make our web experience worse. Or ads can camouflage themselves and vanish into the tall grass, like a tiger stalking its prey.

Or…

They Can Go Freemium

times-square-923448You know that app you installed that offers to remove ads or add features for a few bucks?

That’s called the freemium model.

Don’t want to pay for this app, publication, or service that other humans have worked hard to create for you? You get ads.

Don’t want ads? Pay up.

Simple.

In general, people don’t want to dish out cash for anything digital, especially if they haven’t tried it yet. Hence, we have the proliferation of advertising, freemium products, free trials, and so forth.

But why don’t more companies offer us the choice?

Since only a tiny fraction of users ever opt to pay to remove ads, it wouldn’t hurt the advertisers’ income streams very much, if at all. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that people who pay to remove ads aren’t likely to click on them at all. I’m certainly not.

For most companies, however, it’s an either-or proposition. Many services are strictly ad-based and you have zero choice in the mater. Many publications force you to subscribe, then they still serve you with ads. Other publications, such as Consumer Reports, are entirely subscriber-funded.

Now that we live in a digital world, it’s actually possible to offer users the choice.

If I found a service that I really, really liked then I’d want the option to pay to remove ads.

Conclusion

Mayer’s statement was presumptuous and silly. It’s natural that a company whose revenue depends on ads would push for a digital world fueled by and funded by ads…natural but shortsighted.

In fact, she demonstrated that she wasn’t listening to her own customers. If ad blockers caused a decline in Yahoo’s revenue, then it indicated, if anything, that Yahoo wasn’t delivering a good user experience. I, for instance, never use Yahoo precisely because it’s in-your-face and obnoxious. I can only assume their ads worsen that already-poor web experience.

Instead of fighting an endless battle over how best to advertise to people who don’t like ads, why don’t companies offer ad-free versions of those same services?

What the New Kindle Unlimited Payment System Means for the Future of Humanity

I came across this the other day and found it so fascinating I just had to write about it.

First, a quick recap for those who aren’t familiar with the Kindle Unlimited situation:

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based program that allows you instant access to an ocean of digital books. All you need to do is borrow books in order to read them. You don’t have to buy books that are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, just click “Borrow.” A virtual virtual library at your fingertips!

You, as a reader, only need to pay a measly $9.99 per month to subscribe to this plethora of digital pages, and you can cozy up by the fireplace with your digital romance novels for the rest of your life without ever having to purchase a single one…

DeathtoStock_Medium4To incentivize Kindle-published authors into enrolling in this program, Amazon has set up a multimillion-dollar fund to pay authors for every book that was digitally borrowed.

After July 1st, though, Amazon is making an interesting change…

Instead of being paid per borrow, authors will be paid based on the number of pages people actually read. According to Amazon, they will divide the KDP Select Global Fund by the total number of pages read, rather than by the total number of qualified borrows.

So if one of those borrow-crazy readers only reads one page of your book, you’ll be paid for that page alone. But if an avid fan reads your entire trilogy all the way through, you’ll get paid for all those pages.

Here’s the main reason why this could be a good thing:

Authors will be compensated on the quality of their work, rather than the quality of their book cover or the impulses of borrow-crazy Kindle owners.

Amazon claims this is the reason for the change. Well, not so much the book cover part…but the fact that authors wanted to “align the payout with the length of books.” Before this change, payouts took place when users read 10% of any Kindle title, and the payouts for 2,000-word short stories would be the same as for 200,000-word mega-novels.

On the surface, it may seem that this change will reward novelists and hurt short story writers. But as one Kindle author pointed out, there are plenty of very good, very prolific short story writers out there. Obviously, there are plenty of complex factors at play, such as the size of your genre, how many titles you’ve released, how big your following is, how good your writing is, and so on and so forth.

But I think that Amazon and Google are trying to accomplish the same thing with their algorithms: reward quality because quality is what the people want.

However, there’s one very fascinating takeaway from all this:

money-256319Kindle Unlimited is the prototype of a micropayment economy.

“What the heck’s that?” you might be asking.

Well, let’s look at the so-called information economy…

The web is full of free information. This article is free. Google is free. Facebook is free. You’re giving your personal information away to those companies for free.

In fact, it’s for reasons such as these that Jaron Lanier says the idea of “free information” is actually naive. And that in order to save the middle class, we’ll need to restructure that “free information” delusion and the economy and create a system wherein micropayments were exchanged for the information that is now being bottled up by the corporate juggernaut.

It’s been a while since I read Who Owns the Future?, so I may be wrong about some of the details.

Here are some examples of what micropayment systems might look like:

  • What if WordPress was a subscription-based service that users paid .05 per hour to use? What if I were given 2.5 cents for every minute someone spent on my site? Sure, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but if I have a total of 100 hours spent on my site per day by various visitors, that’s $2.50 a day and $75 a month. All because I’m blogging. Like I’m doing now. Which I’m not getting paid for. Unless you click this link and buy something.
  • What if fans were allowed to donate money to their favorite artists based on how much art was produced? Like Patreon.
  • What if Facebook actually paid people for content? Yeah right.
  • What if there was an online information and content marketplace that allowed people to package and sell information products to others in exchange for currency? Like Amazon.
  • What if you paid a flat monthly subscription fee for unlimited access to that information and the information producers were paid based on how much of that content you consumed? Like Kindle Unlimited.

I think that this micropayment system has such great potential, because it’s performance-based. The cream rises to the top of the crop. Those who produce better quality products will be rewarded for their effort.

Normally I’d go on some cynical tangent about the potentials for abuse by the evil corporate machine, but not today. Let’s bask in the warm glow of Kindle Unlimited’s all-just and all-encompassing warmth and love…while it lasts.

Of course, if there are any Kindle nerds out there who can see an obvious downside that I’m missing, shoot me an email.

I’m sure I’ll come up with something sooner or later.

And the Only Skill You Need in Life Is…

Nothing left to chance - Business StrategyPersuasion.

The ability to sell.

As the marketing mastermind Dan Kennedy has pointed out, many of the the coolest and most successful CEOs aren’t MBAs. They come from a sales background.

These are the guys that can generate fortunes from the skin of their teeth – or, more likely, the words that come out of their mouths.

All good salespeople and marketers know that the key to selling is persuasion. Books like the popular Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion cover this concept in detail. And most of the dozens of business books on my bookshelf expand on this concept ad infinitum.

And as Michael Gerber points out in his classic book, the E-Myth Revisited, most small business people aren’t business people.

A person good at making lemonade doesn’t necessarily understand the fundamentals of hiring, firing, managing, accounting, marketing, and sales.

Writing vs. Copywriting vs. Content

Take writing.

Since I work as a writer, I’m intimately familiar with this field, the people who work in it, and the people who hire from it.

There’s a wide spectrum of talent, skills, and knowledge that may or may not be possessed by someone who labels him or herself a “writer.”

When viewed from a commercial perspective, I tend to categorize writers into 3 types:

Wordsmiths

These creative types like to write fiction, poetry, plays, and so on.

The primary drive is artistic self-expression, creativity, literature, and so on. This type of writing doesn’t pay well, so sometimes they end up writing for businesses.

I think that’s quite often a bad thing for businesses and the commercial writing industry. Wordsmiths don’t necessarily know how to sell, persuade, or communicate value. They will often work for a pittance – driving down prices and expectations for the writing industry – and they can’t necessarily copywrite.

The result is that some businesses develop misconceptions over what copywriting is and the value that it adds to their bottom lines.

But hey writers, it’s our own fault…

So stop doing it…

Instead, learn how to persuade and triple your income today

Copywriters

Copywriters are salespeople.

They aren’t necessarily poetically inspired and they don’t necessarily have the ability to create beautiful flowery passages that make you all warm and fuzzy inside…but it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point of copywriting.

Copywriters possess the one skill that everyone needs in a capitalist society: persuasion.

Well, usually…

There are problems within the copywriting world. Different camps within the copywriting world have different perspectives on what copywriting is and should be. And people charge rates that range from bottom-of-the-barrel to off-the-charts. And every copywriter brings different skills to the table.

But they all call themselves “copywriters,” so this field is also all over the map…

Content Writers

Content isn’t king – it’s “words on a page.”

This type of “writing” is new. It grew out of the trenches of the internet marketing world…out of the need to satisfy the search engines. From that, we’ve seen the rise of content marketing and the proliferation of gross phrases like “content consumption,” which spread like mind-eating viruses.

Literally, content means stuff that fills up other stuff.

I don’t like this word. It’s sterile and meaningless.

Content doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t inform. It’s passive, like data – it’s just there and does nothing but take up space.

Content writers write generic SEO content that is usually designed to get the attention of the search engines. This type of “writing” usually just requires the ability to write a complete sentence with keywords. Or write about a topic in English, as opposed to ESL.

Cheap “content” pays nothing and means nothing to your customers.

Instead, focus on information that matters and stories that mean something. Not content that takes up space and communicates that you are the same as everyone else.

And add some freaking energy and sell something.

Telling vs. Selling

A while ago I coined the phrase, “Copy sells and content tells.” It’s a short but mostly accurate description of the difference between “words on a page” and sales copy.

And this difference between telling and selling highlights a huge problem in the business world: most advertising sucks. It tells when it should sell. It’s passive instead of active.

There are reasons for this:

People don’t know how to advertise and sell properly. I had to teach myself how to sell and persuade. And it took time and effort. But once I did, my entire view of the business world changed.

Most advertising, marketing, and sales are, as mentioned, passive.

Social media marketing, for instance, is passive. You gain followers and likes and wait for stuff to happen.

Direct mail is active. You test, evaluate, test, evaluate, hold yourself accountable, and keep doing it until it explodes.

lemonade-stand-656399_1280An ad that says, “Asheville lemonade” is passive but typical.

An ad that says, “Asheville’s first – and only – totally organic, sustainable, home-made, hand-crafted, farm-to-face, fresh-squeezed lemonade stand brings you mouth-watering, tear-jerking lemon flavors found ONLY in nature.

For a limited time only, for only 25 cents, you can buy a 16 oz. ice-cold glass of Asheville’s most sought-after lemonade. Order NOW while supplies last! Satisfaction 100% guaranteed or your money back!

We only have 10 lemons left! Call _____ to quench your thirst, support your local community — and brace your taste buds folks…because your mouth will never be the same.”

Anyway. Off the cuff, but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, ads of the first type predominate. And people try stuff once and say “this type of marketing doesn’t work” and they go back to making less money.

People are scared to go balls-to-the-wall. It’s safer to avoid bad words. It’s safer to stay politically correct and comfortable. It’s safer not to make a ripple and to use passive marketing techniques that generate questionable returns based on vanity metrics than it is to make ripples by trying to influence people.

After all, if you make a splash then you might make enemies.

But you might also make some money. John Carlton’s most famous ad talked about a one-legged golfer. And his other top-grossing ads used scary three-letter words like “sex.”

Successful applauding executives sitting at the tableThe fact is, selling and persuasion means you actually have to persuade people. Actively. Assertively. Even aggressively.

It’s kind of like picking up girls or getting dates. You have to actually do something to get results.

And it’s like improving your career. Many people think that they are entitled to a raise or promotion because they’ve done the same job well for however many years. If anything, you’ve simply proven that you don’t have the initiative and drive to get noticed, grow, and add more value to a business…

While mainstream education teaches you to study hard, do what others tell you, be politically correct, and get your A, that’s actually the opposite of what it takes to succeed in life.

You can’t just wait for a promotion…you have to take it.

 

There are two types of people in the world: entrepreneurs and employees.

Which are you?

The Future of Content Marketing Part 2

Elsewhere I explained that everyone and their mom should hop on board the Google train, because they’re taking over the Earth. And that’s true.

Wil Reynolds, CEO of Seer Interactive, an internet marketing company, demonstrated as much in a presentation at Affiliate Summit. The search engine’s evolution is a good thing, he argues, because it clears away more of that spam that pollutes search results. And that’s true.

Image 5Look at the ribbon that now headlines search results: suddenly we see lists of local results with photos all lined up next to each other. How convenient is that? And how useful for local businesses?

After watching his presentation, I felt that I’d been rather harsh on Google. After all, Google currently incorporates your location into all search results, which should help business who are close to you.

But, what with the vastness of the internet — not to mention the vastness of the world we live in, from which the internet is derived — I can’t help but feel like I’m getting a rather simplified picture of the information I am seeking with my search query.

Is Google Good or Evil or What?

Wil Reynolds has a lot of positive energy and believes in building real value and promoting passionate business men and women, instead of spamming people to make a buck. While Reynolds seems to suggest that Google’s interface evolutions and search algorithm updates are beneficial for the little guy and the casual internet surfer who wants spam-free search results, I partially disagree.

To demonstrate how Google is battling the nefarious hordes of spammers, Reynolds breaks out his smartphone and talks to it. Instead of navigating into a website to find the weather or our flight times, he shows us, all we have to do is ask Google, and it will tell us.

Image 6

The Knowledge Graph

And it’s true. Ask for the meaning of a word, and Google will provide us with the answer. Ask who Miley Cyrus is, and Google tells us. Where does this data come from? Sometimes it tells us, sometimes it doesn’t. Why bother visiting Wikipedia or donating to their cause when Google just gives it to me?

Unlike a search engine, which would direct us to the services and sources of the information we are seeking, Google becomes the service provider by taking that information from said sources and giving it to us directly.

This trend will only continue.

Is this good or bad? How can we know when we don’t know what the heck is going on? Google doesn’t talk about their motivations or intentions.

Oh wait, according to them: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

How do Driverless Cars or Robots Fit In?

Image 1

Apparently you can book flights through Google. Airlines better stay on Google’s good side if they want to remain visible.

It’s really hard for me not to see the monopolistic side of things: Google is aggressively pushing into every major market they can get their paws on. They are offering overnight delivery to compete with Amazon (already a retail and publisher crusher), they are extracting and storing and publishing portions of books online,  they read your email, they are going after wireless giants, they are building robots, they are building driverless cars, and they are going to build androids.

Some tech lovers love Google, and knock the “Google is evil” mantra. I think “evil” is a word from a Disney movie and has no place in an adult discussion about real things in the real world. Google’s just monopolistic — the dream of any profit-centric business — and their data gathering behavior is creepy. Emails should be private. Privacy should be a given.

But I digress.

Image 2It doesn’t pay to wear a tin hat, but it does pay to pay attention to the writing on the wall. Google may not be evil, but don’t assume that they are an altruistic company that looks out for your business or aims to bring the world together in peace and harmony. Do you think they’re fighting the recent FCC ruling because they’ve got such big hearts?

Like any corporation, their top priority is their bottom line.

 

PS – “What does this have to do with content marketing?” some content marketers may be asking themselves. Other content marketers, however, will see exactly how this affects their field. If you are one of the former, then watch Reynolds’ presentation.

Always Count Your Money Part 3: The Wolf of Kampot

No gory details with this one, sorry.

View from my current hostel

View from my current hostel

Let’s just say I met a travel agent who had the “perfect” solution to my live-work needs. In the end I ended up with a solution that didn’t work & less money than I started with. I told him I wanted at least some of my money back and he said he’d try his hardest to get it back to me, then he tried to sell me on a guest house instead.

Though he says he’ll try & get my money back, I know it’s not going to happen, and after all this and on top of all that, he wants to be business partners with me.

I said I would happily build a website, shoot photography for his business, and write marketing copy for him. But rather than pay me for these time-consuming and skill-based services, he tried to wine and dine me with a Thai energy drink while we sat at tables outside a convenience store. He said I should move to Sihanoukville and help him run a travel agency.

More Kampot

More Kampot

I put in $800, you put in $800, he said — as if we’d been friends for years — and we split the profits 50-50.

I told him I wouldn’t invest.

My best hope was to try to get him to pay me to make his website, do some writing, and possibly some design work.

He nodded sagely with his 80’s sunglasses.

Big money, he said, if I went into business with him.

When he finished his fancy energy drink, he stood up and told me to get a local phone and that he had some business to attend to.

Let’s meet in Sihanoukville tomorrow, he said.

Sure, sure, I answered.

I felt like I was dealing with the Wolf of Wall Street, in Kampot. Being honest and occasionally naive to a fault, I could probably learn something from the guy, if I didn’t lose my pants in the process.

The next day he emailed me and said he couldn’t meet me.

The Wolves of Cambodia

1391663985429Cambodians are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever, ever met, but you’ll find wolves on Wall Street, in Bangkok, and in Cambodia. The Cambodian culture and way of thinking is completely alien to a Westerner such as myself, so it’s difficult to know who to trust. And, of course, they are very, very, very poor. A plane ticket here from the USA costs more than most Cambodians make in a year.

Imagine that a billionaire Wall Street investor takes a tour of the poorest American ghetto, wearing hippie clothes, flashy sunglasses, and a snakeskin backpack. He takes pictures, ticks off this location from his tourism checklist, and flies away in a helicopter.

The contents of my backpack are worth more than an annual tuk tuk driver’s salary.

So, yes, there will be wolves in Cambodia.

I’ve written about this stuff before, so I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

If you are considering doing business in Cambodia, and many have the personality to do work with them successfully, but not me. I am not an aggressive business person. I am honest, hard-working, ethical, and believe that quality is the highest priority. So I wouldn’t do well in Wall Street or Silicon Valley either.

I am not being racist or stereotypical. If you think so, then do you research. Start with khmer440.com, which is run and written by expats who live here and some articles make my tales look like children’s stories.

I’ve met several other travelers with their own horror stories. One German girl I met got roofied her first day in PP (Phnom Penh)and ripped off for $600, as much as six times the PP tuk tuk driver’s monthly salary, according to the Last Home Hostel owner. A guy I met in Sihanoukville ran a bar together with a local, left the country for a couple months, to find the bar and his two grand investment had vanished into the streets of Phnom Penh.

Also see my post about the bitter diver.

[Update 3/6/14: It’s a touchy subject for some, and I was a little rough in my initial draft, after being fleeced for X dollars, which is why I retracted this post shortly after publishing it. The situation here is beyond complicated. You’re dealing with a wounded national psyche, a very poor nation, friendly people, a different culture, a corrupt government, sexpatism, obnoxious hippie tourists, and a host of other factors, that make it as complex and touchy a subject as the idiocy of the Peace Corps.]

Upset over my run-in with the Wolf, I decided to

Buy a Lady Bike and Return to PP

Not a lady bike

Not a lady bike.

I decided to head back to PP for a month or so to my previous hostel, which has good internet, and, most importantly, a desk. And a friendly staff. And good food. And it’s less touristy, once you get off my street.

When I asked the nearest travel agent if she could transport my new bike to PP, she asked what kind of bike it was. Is it a mountain bike? she asked.

No, I said, it has a basket on the front. I doubted she’d understand me if I said it was the kind the Wicked Witch of the West rode.

Oh, she said, it’s a lady bike.

I kept laughing while she explained that they had to use different types of racks to transport lady bikes vs. mountain bikes.

Fine, I said, while we did the deal.

So long Kampot, I have enjoyed the bike rides and learned much from my business dealings.

PP here I come.

Again.