I’m a storyteller who has spent my life focused on the things people do for fun, from games and hobbies to comic books and podcasts. I love building and managing teams of incredible people and empowering them to do the best, most fun and fulfilling work of their careers. I am also a senior level marketing executive with a unique blend of over 34 years of podcast marketing, social media community building, promotional partnerships, advertising, interactive, branding, marketing, paid and organic search, direct response, analytics, and game design. Along the way, I've built a leading podcast brand and a million-plus-subscriber YouTube channel, created multinational promotions for global brands, and co-desiged critically acclaimed collectible card and role-playing games.
Oh yeah, and I write science fiction.
Specialties: Podcast marketing, social media community building, promotional partnerships, integrated marketing, social media, strategic marketing, alternate channels, direct response, corporate marketing, copywriting, advergaming, game design and development, financial advertising
It’s an amazing example of crowdsourcing, billed as “A unique communal work, a living portrait of The Man in Black.” Basically, artists get to draw an image of Johnny Cash to be integrated into an animated music video of Cash’s song, “Ain’t No Grave.” For me, one of the coolest aspects is that because people are constantly adding new content, the video is always changing. And you can choose to view the video by watching Highest Rated Frames, Director Curated Frames, Abstract Frames, Realistic Frames, and more.
I highly recommend checking it out. And thanks to my friend, surfer, homeopathic physician, and killer folk music artist Acoustic Apothecary, for sharing this with me. (Check out Acoustic Apothecary’s You Tube videos here.)
But of course, I’m not here simply to bring you the new and interesting (at which I’ve failed miserably given that this has been around awhile). I think there’s a much more important issue at stake here: who owns a creator’s work, and what rights does the creator have as to it’s reproduction and use.
Because it was created with the support of the Cash Estate, I’m sure all the legal bases have been covered. But what about the moral ones? (Including whether his estate is the right authority to make that decision, when its interest in continuing to make money on his creativity may be in conflict with its responsibility to protect the integrity of his legacy? For more on this, see my post, “I See Dead People…”.)
Specifically, would Mr. Cash approve of his fans collaborating with him on his last song? Is he the kind of artist who would have micro-managed every aspect of creative interpretation, as many do, or is he the kind that would willingly allow fans to play in his creative playground, as a growing number of transmedia creators are doing?
Companies and brands face this dilemma whenever they decide to allow their customers to create user-generated content. There have been disasters, like the Chevy Tahoe crowdsourced commercials, and successes, like the Doritos Super Bowl ads.
But what about artists? How do artists feel about covers? Some, like Prince, are against them, and even take their battles to court. Others, like Lady Gaga, who clearly understands the power of social media, are thrilled to death, and tweet about fan videos she finds and likes.
In other words, different creators make different choices about who can use their work, and how. And I believe it is their right to do so.
So, as much as I love The Johnny Cash Project, and as much as I am personally in favor of letting fans play in my own playground (which I am currently developing as part of my “Spirit In Realtime” science fiction series I’m writing), can someone please explain to me whether you think it’s okay to steal and use a dead man’s song for any purpose, even that of celebrating his life?
Question: When is a 50% off sale not really a bargain?
Answer: When a company has jacked up their prices first.
In the days before the internet and smartphones that let you scan a bar code and get competitive prices instantly, it was common practice to jack up prices before putting them on sale. Customers who didn’t do their homework (and this kind of homework was much harder back then) would think they were getting a deal, when they really weren’t.
Even today, this practice is widespread enough that Bob’s Discount Furniture has cut a swath through the discount retail furniture business by offering everyday low prices and comparing themselves to the trumped up sale prices at their competitors.
But this latest scam by FTD combines 21st century tech with 20th century chicanery.
If you haven’t heard, FTD offered Groupon users a $20 Off Coupon for Valentines’s Day flowers. According to CNN Money, nearly 3,300 users signed up for the deal. Sounds good, right? Sure, except that it turns out that FTD sent these Groupon users to a separate landing page with prices that were higher than their regular prices. The high service and shipping charges depleted the savings further, so the claimed 50% off was virtually negated. And to add insult to injury, the flowers wouldn’t even be delivered until after Valentines Day.
Groupon cancelled the offer and FTD has already taken down the offending landing page.
Now I’m not a big fan of Groupon to begin with, at least from the marketing side of the equation. I’m sure there are bargains to be had for shoppers, but the jury is still out as to whether companies that use Groupon are making any money. There have been many successful Groupon campaigns, but the abrupt and often unmanageable influx of business, frequently by Groupon members who rarely if ever convert into loyal customers for the retailer, combined with the cost of the promotion and rev share with Groupon, often leads to failure. Some Groupon retailers are getting burned, like Posies Bakery & Cafe who blogged about their negative Groupon experience back in September. Or Gregg Gibbs, whose Chicago Bagel Authority netted $15,000 for $80,000 worth of food, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune.
But regardless of whether you like Groupon or not, FTD is the real culprit here. According to TechCrunch, the coupon only worked if you went through the Groupon link. Going to the regular FTD site landed you on a page where the $50 Groupon flowers were sold for $40. So FTD knew what they were doing. They deliberately increased the price shown to Groupon members. And they charged a service fee.
Can you imagine the marketing meeting where FTD discussed this plan? What were they thinking? Didn’t anybody at the meeting point out that if at any point anybody went to FTD via any path other than the Groupon link, they’d see a different, cheaper offer?
Can someone please explain to me why FTD thinks their customers are cyber-savvy enough to use Groupon, but too stupid to spend a couple of seconds clicking around to check out the actual value of the deal?
A financial crisis brought about by foreign wars and financial mismanagement and malfeasance. An administration, desperate to meet the demands of the people and stay solvent, forces through legislation that is opposed by many in the government and by the people. The first lady, when told that the people had no bread, replies, “Then let them eat cake.” (Well, technically Brioche, though it turns out the quote itself was probably just made up by a tabloid journalist, in this case, some hack named Rousseau.)
I’ll bet you thought I was talking about the current United States, until the bit about the cake, right?
How many of you have read the article, “In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers” in The New York Times? You’d remember it if you had: it’s the one about the high school students in North Miami Beach who walk into their first day of precalculus class in their senior year to find that their teachers had been replaced by… computers.
No, this is not a scene from my cyberpunk science fiction novel Spirit in Realtime. (Shameless plug — I’m still looking for a publisher! Tweet me: @jlsimons) It’s the sad reality for over 7,000 students in the Miami-Dade County Public School system.
You see, in 2002 Florida passed the Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, which limits the number of high school students to 25 students per classroom for core classes like math and English. It also limits 4th-8th grade classes to 22 students and pre-K-3rd grade to 18.
In order to meet these legally mandated limits, Florida has instituted what it calls e-learning labs, which are not legally restricted. In these virtual classrooms, students have no teachers, merely a “facilitator” who takes care of any technical issues that may arise. Supposedly, the facilitator is also present to make sure students “progress,” but I’m betting their primary raison d’etre is to keep the kids from going Office Space on the computers… and each other.
Now I’m not against virtual classrooms. Quite the opposite. I think they satisfy a growing need and, when approached properly, can outperform the real ones.
For instance, Mashable cites a US Department of Education report from 2009 based on 50 independent studies: “the agency found that students who studied in online learning environments performed modestly better than peers who were receiving face-to-face instruction.”
The world of online and virtual education is blossoming. I can watch a free lecture on the Special Theory of Relativity by Yale Professor Ramamurti Shankar on Academicearth.org along with dozens of other lectures and full courses in philosophy, biology, chemistry, literature, physics and more filmed right in the classrooms at MIT, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, NYU, Columbia, and other leading colleges and universities.
I can learn anything from basic math to differential calculus, with the French Revolution and “The Role of Phagocytes in Innate or Nonspecific Immunity” thrown in for fun, from Salman Khan of The Khan Academy, a non-profit dedicated to their “mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” They’ve delivered 37,295,405 lessons (according to their website) and count Bill Gates as one of their most vociferous supporters. You can watch Salman and Bill talking about The Khan Academy below, and I promise, I didn’t tell Bill what to say at all. (Thanks for the support, Bill. The check is in the mail.)
The point I’m making here is that I can choose to watch those lectures and lessons, not that I am forced to watch them. (Which is good news, because I can’t tell a phagocyte from a Lymphocyte, and, in all honesty, the entire subject makes my brain hurt.) When students have the liberty to choose online education, and the motivation, there are no limits to what they can learn.
The students in Miami had no choice. Their parents had no choice. Some of them didn’t even know about the virtual classrooms until the day they walked in and saw the computers.
To quote the Times article,
Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.
“None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.”
At 15, Alix already knows something that school administrators do not. Or worse, they know, but they don’t care. Or even worse, they know, they care, but they have no choice based on the new law.
Bingo! Again, quoting the Times article:
School administrators said that they had to find a way to meet class-size limits. Jodi Robins, the assistant principal of curriculum at Miami Beach High, said that even if students struggled in certain subjects, the virtual labs were necessary because “there’s no way to beat the class-size mandate without it.”
So, to sum up, an overwhelmed bureaucracy struggling to do its job comes up with a solution that seems to solve the problem, at the expense of the very people they were supposed to be helping. And the students are forced to eat virtual cake.
And not all of them, just some of them. Where is the equality in that? The fraternity? Will a college looking at these students give special consideration to the differing quality in instruction they received compared to students, some in the same school, who had an actual teacher to explain a difficult concept to them? Will their grades be asterisked? And what will the long term impact be on a student who repeatedly ends up in virtual classes in, lets say, English, starting in 7th Grade in one of the six middle schools using e-learning labs in Miami and continuing through senior year? Will the “facilitator” be able to awaken within that student a love for the rhythm and rhyme of good writing, the heart and soul of a poem, the nuances of meaning in serious prose? Or will we leave it to HAL9000, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey:
“I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”
Then again, maybe not.
Can someone please explain to me why an education system that can exile students to virtual classrooms during the time they are most in need of nurturing, guidance and, for want of a better word, teaching, shouldn’t be overthrown? To the barricades, citizens. (More to come…)
Full Disclosure: My client, StraighterLine, is one of the disruptive and revolutionary forces actively engaged in changing education by offering self-paced, online college courses at ridiculously low costs. My relationship with StraighterLine is the reason I have been following developments in the field of education. While I am otherwise compensated for my marketing efforts on behalf of StraighterLine, this series of posts is not one of those efforts. The post is mine and I am in no way being compensated for writing it.
What does the start of a revolution look like from the inside?
Revolutions don’t have a precise starting point. It is easy to say that the American Revolution officially began on July 4, 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But was that really the start of the revolution, or merely the official notification of a movement that had been brewing for years? We know now that the Boston Tea Party was a clear step on the road to revolution, perhaps even one of the opening shots, but at the time, for the participants, as there was not yet a revolution to lead up to, it was “merely” a principled protest in defense of their rights (or, I guess, just a rowdy Thursday night in Boston.)
But I think we can agree on a few of the basic characteristics of the period leading up to a revolution:
The pervasive, powerful and dominating institution about to be revolted against has become unresponsive to the needs of the people whom it supposedly exists to serve.
Forces within the institution who recognize its failure and wish to change find themselves in conflict with forces against that change.
Voices, both inside and outside of the institution, begin to address shortcomings and suggest solutions to the institution itself and to the public at large.
The people most at the mercy of the institution begin to cry out for their needs to be addressed by the institution.
The institutional bureaucrats and apologists fight back against their accusers, both internal and external, and frequently crack down on dissent, especially by their constituents.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. If we’re talking about governments or religions, then historically, what happens next is invariably violent, bloody, and disruptive (with one or two notable exceptions that prove the rule, such as Gandhi’s India).
But if we’re talking about economics, what happens next may be disruptive, but it’s not necessarily bloody or violent. Certainly, people will be displaced, livelihoods will be lost and fortunes will vanish. There may be riots. But any bloodshed connected to the Industrial Revolution pales in comparison to the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, etc. etc. etc.
We live in an era of change and disruption across multiple industries: publishing, journalism, marketing and advertising, media and entertainment, manufacturing, health, finance… well, you get the point, right? Any of these sectors may be on the verge of revolution (and nearly all are impacted by even bigger global revolution of virtually simultaneous, planet-wide shared awareness, perception and discussion about which I blogged in October.)
But if we want to find a flawed, failing institution that meets the five aforementioned characteristics, there’s one that really stands out: education.
Here’s a nice juicy statistic to get us started:
45% of the 2300 undergraduates at 24 institutions analyzed for “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses,” (University of Chicago Press) demonstrated “no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college.” Even worse, 36% didn’t “demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college!
According to the publisher, “As troubling as their findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that for many faculty and administrators they will come as no surprise—instead, they are the expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list…Higher education faces crises on a number of fronts, but Arum and Roksa’s report that colleges are failing at their most basic mission will demand the attention of us all.”
Reporting yesterday on the book for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik wrote, “the book acknowledges that many college educators and students don’t yet see a crisis… The culture of college needs to evolve, particularly with regard to “perverse institutional incentives” that reward colleges for enrolling and retaining students rather than for educating them. “It’s a problem when higher education is driven by a student client model and institutions are chasing after bodies,” he (Arun) said.”
Now in case you haven’t noticed, dear reader, my posts tend to run long to begin with, and even I can see that this isn’t a bone I can finish gnawing in a single meal. I’m going to continue to address this issue in upcoming posts.
So for now, I’m going to leave you with a simple question, to which I humbly ask for your answers and opinions: can someone please explain to me how we can, in good conscience, counsel our children to mortgage their futures under a mountain of student loan debt when 45% of them won’t get much out of their first two years, and 36% won’t get much out of their entire four years of college?
Full Disclosure: My client, StraighterLine, is one of the disruptive and revolutionary forces actively engaged in changing education by offering self-paced, online college courses at ridiculously low costs. My relationship with StraighterLine is the reason I have been following developments in the field of education. While I am otherwise compensated for my marketing efforts on behalf of StraighterLine, this post is not one of those efforts. The post is mine and I am in no way being compensated for writing it.
I was writing some inner monologue for Max for ” Life In The Whirlwind,” the third book of my teen cyberpunk trilogy, and she was wondering what she’d be like when she got older. Which got me thinking about how we all turn out, compared to what we dreamed we would be. (And my 6-year old daughter’s plans for her own future had nothing to do with that. Really.)
For me, it’s pretty clear. I’m happy to own my choices, even the ones that didn’t turn out the way I like. Every once in a while I read an old poem of mine and think, “That guy wouldn’t recognize this guy” but mostly because that guy didn’t understand all the issues yet. He wouldn’t disown me, he’d just figure I took a different road than I thought I would. (Can you guess which choice I picked in the poll?)
How about you? Can you please explain to me, via this poll, which allows you to enter your own responses too, what the 17-year old you would think of the you you are now?
Like so many of you out there, I am outraged at the sanitizing of Huckleberry Finn by replacing the “N” word with “slave.” At first, I assumed Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books must be doing it to sell books to schools and libraries that banned the original, riding the wave of political correctness and sensationalism to the best seller list.
“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.
The article ends with a quote from NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa:
But the heart of the matter is opening up the novels to a much broader, younger, and less experienced reading audience: “Dr. Gribben recognizes that he’s putting his reputation at stake as a Twain scholar,” said La Rosa. “But he’s so compassionate, and so believes in the value of teaching Twain, that he’s committed to this major departure. I almost don’t want to acknowledge this, but it feels like he’s saving the books. His willingness to take this chance—I was very touched.”
Sounds reasonable, right? Even noble: Making Huckleberry Finn accessible to everyone, at the cost of one’s reputation. I mean, after all, the book is considered one of the great American novels, perhaps the greatest. It’s the ultimate indictment of those who judge people by how they look, or the title or position in society they hold, or even their familial relationship, rather than judging them by their actions and their hearts.
And wouldn’t that message be just as strong without the “N” word or “Injun” scattered over 200 times across its pages?
Who cares? That’s not the issue here.
The question is: Who owns Huckleberry Finn? And I don’t mean who owns the right to publish it. I mean, whose book is it?
It’s not Gribben’s book. It’s not our book. Librarians and school teachers and school boards and offended readers don’t own it.
It’s Mark Twain’s book. He wrote it. He could have used the word slave, but he didn’t.
Good intentions don’t justify censorship or the mutilation of art, whether you’re a teacher or the Pope. (Sorry, Pius IX.) And I don’t think anyone who has ever read Mark Twain would suggest he would approve of Gribben’s actions. This is exactly the kind of misguided sophistry Twain would skewer with his rapier wit. Rather than openly fight the injustice of censorship, our brave hero slinks in shrouded in a cloak of acceptability.
But mostly, it’s just wrong. Twain is powerless to defend his words against Gribben’s literary rape.
Isn’t there a word for depriving someone of their right to self-determination, when you treat them like an object to serve your needs rather than as a human being deserving of respect?
Can someone please tell me who gave Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books the right to treat Mark Twain like a… “slave?”
10 years ago today, probably right around the same time I’m sitting down to write this post, my good friend Bill Railey died alone in his apartment on 8th Avenue above the Molly Wee Pub in NYC.
He lived a hard drinking, hard smoking, hard partying life, and when he found out he had late stage, inevitably terminal lung cancer, he never whined about it, never cried foul.
I have a bottle of single malt Irish whiskey that I bought for Bill on his last birthday, but he couldn’t drink at that point, so I saved it. Every year, on New Year’s Eve, I have a shot for Bill and repeat the toast I heard him make in his gravelly voice, more times than I care to remember: “To happiness, whatever it takes.”
He was as unsentimental as they come, never suffered fools, and wasn’t afraid to fight for what he believed in. He was an anarchist, a Randian, a biker, a philosopher, an animator and above all else, an artist.
And he had more faith than almost anyone I’ve ever known.
Not the kind of faith people vest in unseen creators, powerful institutions, the legal system or governments. No, Bill Railey’s faith was in himself, in the abilities of individuals, in the things we do rather than the things we say.
His faith was sorely tested. He took part in more than his share of battles, in courtrooms against better funded enemies, ex-wives, and even the mighty Disney machine.
But he never gave up. Even while he was losing his last, toughest battle, he never gave up and he never lost faith in himself.
At the time of his death, Bill and I were collaborating on two projects. One was an animated series about a female vigilante serial killer that was in its infancy. The other was called Thinking Meat, which he described as “the world’s only animated program recorded before a live studio audience” and had originally conceived with Sally Franz.
We actually posted two episodes, “Cosby on Def Jam” and “The Zoo” to iFilm. They were a little raunchy, a little offensive, and very funny. In other words, they would have killed on YouTube today. Unfortunately, this was 5 years before YouTube… and just a few months before Bill died.
At a time when many people turn to religion, even people who never believed before, Bill never resorted to mysticism or superstition. He faced his end rationally, with his eyes open wide and no regret for the choices he made.
I was fortunate to know Bill, and perhaps, weird as it sounds, lucky that his inevitable end came on New Year’s Eve. Because each year during that time when the whole world makes resolutions, as I take that shot of whiskey from the dwindling remains of that last bottle, I remember my friend, and repeat his toast, “To happiness, whatever it takes.”
I become inspired to live my next year the way Bill lived his life: rationally, with faith in myself. To do whatever it takes (within my own code of morality, of course), to live my life so that when it ends, I can own my choices, and recognize my steps as my own.
Can someone please explain to me why anyone would want to live life any other way?
Don’t you hate it when people rant about the good old days? I know I do.
“You young whippersnappers may not remember this, but in the good old days, Ma Bell ran the phones and you could hear a pin drop on the other end of the line. At least, that’s what the teleeevision commercials said.”
Well, I was talking with a friend yesterday and he pulled out his Droid and fumbled with the touch screen, trying to find the phone, and the vitriol that dripped from his voice as he said how much he hated that phone was the kind usually reserved for villains who stole your bible and shot your dog.
It got me thinking about cell phones. I use a Voyager, an aging pre-smart phone that browses the internet and gets emails, but not all that well. Its best feature is the real keypad, which for me is critical. But the fact is, the sound quality sucks.
It’s not the network. I’m on Verizon, and after using MCI, Sprint and AT&T, I can tell you that at least in my experience, Verizon delivers the best quality in the tri-state area.
No, the fact is that the sound quality on most mobile phones sucks these days. 5 years ago, on a basic LG flip phone, the sound quality was fine.
Think about how many calls you get from people on cell phones where you can barely make out what they’re saying, even if they’re not on the streets of NY but in their own home.
And what if you’re receiving the call on your own cell phone? The problems are magnified beyond measure.
We all make excuses for our phones. We overlook the problems: the abysmal quality, the crashes, the dropped calls, the lost contacts, the notepad messages that can’t be transferred, the calendars and text inboxes that seem to have smaller capacities for storing data than a 5 1/2″ floppy and the battery life that runs out quicker than you can say “Honey, where’d I leave my charger?”
We move from phone relationship to phone relationship, hoping upon hope that the next one will be “the one.”
In other words, we are serial enablers.
I’m in the process of looking for my own “Mr. Right.” (Yes, my phone is a he. It’s not a ship, or a car, or an airplane. It’s a phone, and to me it’s a he. Lucky for me. If it were a she, she would have dumped my sorry, abusive self years ago.)
I’m probably going to get a Droid 2, because I need the keypad, and it’s better than the Droid’s, and I want a bigger screen and I want a tricked-out phone that runs Flash and has apps and synchs with my Google Calendar. Plus, I want to stay with Verizon, which means the Samsung Epic 4G is out.
So I’ll suffer through unfathomable interfaces and lousy call quality because I want all the technological bells and whistles. I want to be able to run Tweetdeck on my phone and connect to Facebook with a click and visit sites that use Flash and type with real keys instead of pounding my non-conductive fingertips against the touch screen until I’m red in the face and ready to stroke out.
But can someone please explain to me when it not only became acceptable to tolerate lower quality in return for “better” technology, but required?
Did you see the bit on HLN about bedbugs infesting firehouses in Albuquerque, New Mexico the other day?
What caught my attention wasn’t the bugs, which are popping up all over the place like Tea Party candidates.
Nor was it the fact that the Firefighter Wives Auxillary Association went to a national high end mattress company and asked them donate 170 mattresses to the firestations, which they did. (You can read the whole story here.)
What hooked me was that the mattress company has requested to remain anonymous.
The entire book is about the positive bottom line benefits of cause-related marketing, an absolute win-win when done right, and while I wrote it over a decade ago, I’m pretty sure I didn’t put in anything about the benefits of anonymous donations.
BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE! At least not to marketing or sales. There are the tax benefits, of course, which must be monumental for 170 mattresses. And as my wife suggested, there may be a religious angle, which I guess would be good for your soul and future accommodations in whichever afterlife you may believe in.
But you have to agree that it’s an unusual move, in this day and age when organizations from NASA to Oakley were falling all over themselves to milk the publicity from helping out the Chilean miners. (Can you say $450 sunglasses, or $41 Million in media exposure?)
I’m still dumbfounded by it. Companies are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to, well, make money while making a difference. Opportunities like this one.
Which leads me to wonder, can someone please explain whether I’m right, or whether I’ve become so jaded that I can’t see an act of charity as anything other than a missed marketing opportunity?
Magazines come and magazines go. In the first 9 months of 2011, 110 new magazines began publishing while 127 closed up shop, according to this Oct. 11 press release from MediaFinder.com. (Both numbers are down from the same period last year, when 259 launched and 383 folded.)
But of all the new launches this year, the breakout title for me is Inspire, the magazine of al-Qaeda. It’s published in English out of Yemen and edited by a 24-year old Pakistani American from North Carolina, Samir Kahn.
With catchy articles like “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” and instructions for turning your pickup truck into a steel-bladed “mowing machine” for mowing down enemies, the magazine is sure to deliver a unique audience.
Good for Inspire. One of the only ways a magazine can succeed in the post-print era is by delivering eyeballs nobody else can reach. Find an under-served niche and exploit it. (Speaking of which, please don’t confuse Inspire with InSpire Magazine, the woman’s magazine published by, I kid you not, Niche Publications LLC)
Does anybody know if Inspire sells ad space?
After all, there are plenty of companies that would want to reach terrorists and zealots. Fertilizer manufacturers, truck rental companies, used car dealers, explosive shoes, box cutter suppliers and backpack makers come to mind, but I’m sure there are others. (Quite a few of the magazine ad sales people I’ve known would sell their own mothers for the commission, so I can’t imagine they’d have a problem with this.)
I wonder what kind of added-value the magazine offers to its advertisers? Laminated copies of the ads with the words, “As seen in Inspire” slugged into the upper right corner? Free advertorials? Survey cards?
Maybe they let advertisers rent the subscriber list at a discount?
If that’s the case, can someone please explain to me how I can get my hands on that list? I can think of a Navy S.E.A.L. team that would love to hand deliver a special promotion to the readers.