Some thoughts on Rising Wealth Inequality and what that means for marketers!

Wealth Inequality

Last year homelessness in Los Angeles County rose by an astounding 23% last year. 

Why?

The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in LA county, not the just the nice parts is around $1800/month.

My best friend is an engineer for Universal makes around $100k a year and is perpetually broke because he spends 50% of his income on housing.

And it’s not like he’s living in a mansion. He lives in a 1 bedroom in a downtown mid-rise.

Back east in NYC all of my friends have been forced out of the city to Weehawken or Hoboken because they simply could not afford the rising rents in the city.

Contrast this with an anecdote my ex fiancee recently shared with me about how the 6th floor of her luxury building in midtown has been rented out by “some sort of Saudi prince” who uses it to store around 100 motorcycles.

Stories like these highlight how bad the asymmetry is between the haves and the have nots as well if not better than any sort of statistics but I prepared some anyway:

Some quick wealth inequality stats:

The Richest 1% hold 40% of all wealth in the USA

Over the past 25 years only America’s most affluent families have added to their networth.

The richest 1% own 50% of all stocks and mutual funds held in the USA

The billionaire’s on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than all black households and 1/3rd of Latino households combined.

As Drew Magary once wrote “If you’re not rich in America, you are fucked.”

I am VERY passionate about wealth inequality in America because it directly affects our freedom.

In 2014 This study   done by Cornell revealed that America is not a democracy but rather an oligarchy where only the richest among us voices are heard.

The incredible book Dark Money by Jane Mayer goes over the myriad of ways that rich families like the Kochs and The Mercers have subverted our political system for their own ends.

Suffice to say I was not surprised when Donald Trump became president.

At some point I would love to write a detailed passionate plea for wealth re-distribution similar to The Case For Reparations by The GAWD Ta-nehisi Coates. But for now I want to be a little more self centered (shocking I know) and talk about what this rising tide of wealth inequality means for marketers like me.

And possibly you.

What does that mean for those of us who make a living creating content designed to sell stuff?

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the subject: 

  1. Sell either expensive or cheap stuff nothing in the middle. When the big financial crisis of 2008 hit I was unexpectedly in a good place because I was selling expensive $5000 year long dating coaching services. In a recession counterintuitively luxury goods sales rise because the rich still have their money even if they have less. If you had $20 million and lost half of it in a crash you still have $10 million which makes you a luxury consumer. The flip side of this is that if you have a cheap product like one of my clients who also launched his $11.99 male hygiene product in 2008 you can see the same success as well. As less people have money , products need to be able to justify a luxury price tag or be around $10. 
  2. A crash is coming, prepare accordingly. We are in a big bull market and inevitably when prices of assets climb for this long we are due for a crash. Whether it will be as big as the crash of 2008 remains to be seen, but only idiots think that the market can continue to go up forever. Anyone marketing should be preparing for the next financial crisis and how it will affect your business.
  3. Luxury purchases are about to come back in a big way. Luxury items tend to boom when a financial crisis hits. Expect coaching especially for businesses that guarantee more income to explode again. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a variety of expensive crypto scams as those who have a base understanding of blockchain will find a ravenous audience in those trying to move their money out of a bottoming stock market. In any event I would imagine that the market for luxury purchases and the marketers who sell them will be booming soon.
  4. Price is everything for poor people and nothing for rich people. This is something I have already noticed from consulting. While smaller companies with lower budgets have to stress and agonize over every penny, companies and individuals that have money might not even check the price. Price is everything for those who don’t have money and nothing for those who have all the money. Keep that in mind and watch this video of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy thinking Potatoes are $100 a bag.      

5. SMBs are going to be in TROUBLE! Small and medium businesses or SMBs are the lifeblood of the economy. They also are the businesses hit hardest by economic declines and most affected by wealth inequality. Not to go all Nassim Taleb here on you but SMBs tend to be affected most by the fat tails of probabolistic outcomes. If they don’t get that lucky black swan to become a larger 10M+ business they often end up going the other way. If you are a marketer who sells mostly to SMBs you may need to start setting your sights higher or lower. 

That was basically just a coffee fueled braindump on wealth inequality and how it affects marketers feel free to leave other thoughts concerns or comments in the comment section below.

AI is Coming For Content Creation Jobs, Faster Than You Think!

“The Robots are Coming To Take Our Jobs!”

Fear of having jobs taken by robots (or immigrants, or people of color if we’re being honest) is a fear as old as jobs themselves.

A quick search for the root of this fear leads to results like this wikipedia entry for Technophobia which can trace it’s roots all the way back to a group of weavers destroying machines in 1675.

The fear of robots specifically goes at least “The Brazen Android” a story published in The Atlantic all the way back in 1891.

Whether it’s weavers, or Ford assembly line workers or now sportswriters the fear of robots taking our jobs is nothing new.

For the most part the fear of robots was limited to more manual tasks like assembling Ford F150s.

Companies like Braincorp have created automatic floor sweepers, while the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner has been cleaning homes with questionable effectiveness for over a decade.

Robotic Process Automation or RPA use machine learning to complete tedious paperwork tasks such as compiling documents for signatures or checking for compliance or legal privilege.

But for the most part those who created things (like content) believed that we would be safe from the robot job apocalypse.

Only it appears we were wrong.

First the content creating robots started by writing ads. If you’ve worked in online marketing over the last few years you’ve no doubt discovered programmatic Pay per click (PPC).

Programmatic PPC is an artificially intelligent system that allows you to automatically buy, place and optimize display advertising.

Or in other words the robot buys, places and optimizes the ad for you.

There goes a whole industry of PPC consultants.

Programmatic PPC
The Mist Comes For PPC consultants

In fact it’s been estimated that in 5 years all PPC ads will run, and optimize automatically after the initial setup without any human interface necessary at all.

Which is why Google is actively calling everyone who advertises with them to offer them help with their programmatic system.

I know, I’ve been on 3 of those calls and grilled them for information about their robots which I’ll share in an upcoming article.

Now content creators, bloggers, and video makers have another type of AI to content with as content creating algorithms have begun to slowly trickle onto the market.

The technology being used is

  • Natural language generation (NLG) similar to Natural language processing (NLP) this is the task of generating natural language from machine representation systems.
  • Intelligent narratives sometimes also called “data driven narratives” which are stories created from the collected data personalized for the audience.
  • Automated storytelling technology which is responsible for the first AI created screenplay Sunspring

And this technology is ALREADY being used.

3 companies already using A.I to create content:

  1. Quill. The most well known NLG software is Quill which was created by the Narrative Science company. Quill started as an experiment at Northwestern and currently produces over 1 million words a day as it creates reports, news stories and headlines for companies such as Groupon, and T.Row Price. 
  2. The Washington Post. It’s no surprise that a paper owned by the World’s Richest Man Jeff Bezos would be on the frontlines of AI created content. The Washington Post has an in house AI content creation system called “Heligraf” which wrote over 850 stories in 2017 alone. Heliograf also composes social media posts, news updates and alerts. Notable events covered by Heliograf include the Rio olympics and local political races in the DMV area.
  3. The Associated Press. While many people associate the AP with the old world journalism of newsrooms, black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes, they are actually one of the most advanced companies when it comes to content creating AI. The AP uses Automated Insights to take care of it’s oft neglected by humans corporate earnings reports beat. But what really separates the AP from the rest of the pack when it comes to intelligent content creation is with Wordsmith “The World’s First Public Natural Language Generation Platform. Let’s explain because that is a mouthful. Wordsmith works with you to create a story. First you set up rules, a template and and the required datapoints. From there Wordsmith does the rest creating the story. Wordsmith generates over 1.5 Billion Pieces of Content A Year or about half as much as I do. Companies that use Wordsmith include Microsoft and Allstate.

If you like me make your living creating content those last few paragraphs sent a cold shiver down your spine.

But there’s still reason for optimism if you are a content creator!

Why Content Creators shouldn’t panic: 

  1. Emotional Depth. If you look at the reviews for Sunspring the AI created screenplay you’ll see a lot of words like quirky and interesting. That’s because it’s still very difficult for AI to recognize the role that emotions play in making content interesting! Think of a show like “Parenthood” which is basically emotional porn. They crank the 70s music, a mother and son have a universally emotional moment and we all cry. AI has a LONG way to go until it is capable of writing shows like “Parenthood” or it’s evolutionary successor “This is us.”
  2. Context. In this Post I talk about how the biggest challenge for AI when it comes to language is context. Identifying things like sarcasm, and irony are still difficult for machines to do and are a BIG part of creating content that connects with your audience. Until computer programs can understand something as complicated as the “Aristocrats” joke comedians and other content creators will still be safe

3. Creativity. Last but certainly not least is creativity. Movies like Memento, or Pulp Fiction which bent the way narratives are used can’t be created by AI. AT least not yet. There will always be something to be said for the genius of human creativity that cannot be replicated.

I think about AI with regards to content creation like the famous quote about 500 monkeys at typewriters writing the best novel of all time. Or more accurately like this simpsons clips

While content creation robots are coming, all they are going to do is take the menial content creation jobs. They won’t be writing the World’s best novel or even the most popular blog posts.

If you’re a content creator who just churns out crap, then yes your time is probably coming to an end because the robots can churn out crap faster and cheaper.

But there has always been a market for good writing, entertaining videos and engaging speeches and I think there always will be.

 

7 Signs Your Content Sucks!

Every month over 59 million blogs are published on WordPress alone.

That means every day 1.97 MILLION blogs are written and published.

Nearly 2 million a day!

30 hours of video is published to Youtube every minute.

But if we can keep it all the way 100, while there is no lack of content, the VAST majority of content SUCKS!

It’s true.

It can be hard to face the reality that your content isn’t up to par.

But base rates are base rates and with so much content out there, the majority is not going to be good.

Here’s 7 ways to tell if your content sucks!

  1. It doesn’t get shared. This is one of the easiest metrics to measure. Quality content gets shared. I personally share 3-5 articles a day on my Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook accounts. If something resonates with people or they think it’s useful they will share it. If your content is being distributed properly and people aren’t sharing it, that’s a huge red flag that your content is the problem.
  2. It’s generic. Almost every search term out there has some EXTREMELY generic content on the first page of the search results. If when you google the subject of your blog post you find 5 other results on the exact same subject that’s a sign that your content sucks.
  3. It’s formulaic. I have to admit I can be guilty of this. Especially when I am writing introduction or beginner level posts. But if you write every post around the same formula whether it’s a personal revelation, list post, quotes post or whatever. You want to have different types of posts so that your audience doesn’t get bored.
  4. It doesn’t trigger the 3Bs. In his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying” Ryan Holiday talks about how content that goes viral threatens the 3Bs. Behavior, beliefs and belongings. When you’re creating content you want to be aware of how it affects and triggers those 3 Bs. In this post I’m trying to trigger your belief that your content is good enough. If you’re an online marketer that might also directly affect your belongings because bad content will negatively affect your business and income.

Check out my video on Ryan’s latest book here

5. It’s too short. I always say this and people always disagree but the numbers back me up. Don’t trust me, trust Neil Patel who did a deep dive into the data and proved that longform blog posts over 1500 words perform WAY better than these stupid short 500 word blurbs that have infected the content creation business because they are cheap and don’t require actual writers. If you do short form content not just me but Neil Patel guarantees your content is not performing as well as it could have.

6. You don’t get comments. Comments are a bit hit or miss in the era of the captcha but they are a brute force metric for seeing whether or not people are feeling what you write. If people are not commenting on your posts and asking questions in addition to just saying “Great Post” chances are that your content could be better.

7. It doesn’t drive sales. Last but not least good content leads to sales. So many marketing managers and professionals I talk to say they can’t quantify their content’s impact on the bottom line. That tells me that their content simply isn’t good enough. Great content is the best salesman there is. When people read or watch quality content they are going to contact you and ask about your products or services. Bad content, mediocre content and even good enough content don’t drive sales, great content does.

Ok that’s going to wrap it up for me on this beautiful Friday as I am hoping to get out of the office and actually enjoy my day.

To re-cap the 7 signs that your content sucks are:

  1. It doesn’t get shared.
  2. It’s generic.
  3. It’s formulaic.
  4. It doesn’t trigger the 3Bs.
  5. It’s too short.
  6. You don’t get comments. .
  7. It doesn’t drive sales.

Now get out there and make content that doesn’t suck!

 

 

An Insight From My Insufferable Diet That Might Help Your Content Marketing

I really hate dieting.

A lot.

I once estimated that being on a diet drops my overall life happiness by 50% and I stand by that assertion.

The problem is that I also don’t want to be fat.

And I was getting fat.

I tipped the scale at 225lbs about 5 weeks ago which is the heaviest I have ever been.

So I decided to jump back on the Slow Carb Diet popularized by Tim Ferris which is basically the Atkins diet

You can eat as much as you want as long as you avoid all carbs and sugars not coming from veggies.

No fruit, no rice, no bread, nothing fun.

Which brings me to the first thing that always stumps me about the fact that the weight loss industry is a 64 Billion dollar a year industry.

Dieting and losing weight is simple but not easy.

No matter what diet you go on whether it’s low carb, low fat, keto, paleo or low carb to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume.

Calories in, calories out is math and math doesn’t lie.

Workout more and eat less you lose weight.

But that’s super unsexy so there is a whole industry out there to help you look for cheats and tricks and flim-flams to make losing weight easier.

One of the best “tricks” of marketing I’ve ever seen is what I like to call the fallacy of net carbs.

The Fallacy of Net carbs

Net carbs are not a thing.

They are an invention of marketing based on some VERY shaky science that says that if you eat carbs but also eat fiber and certain alcohols like glycerin you can avoid a spike in blood sugar so the carbs don’t count.

Take this Atkins bar for example. It contains 23 grams of carbs but also has 12 grams of fiber and 2 grams of glycerin so they market the bar as having 3 grams of net carbs.

But that’s not how carbs work!

Just because your blood sugar doesn’t spike doesn’t mean that your body is not absorbing the carbs.

If you’re using a low carb or keto diet where you are trying to get your body to run on fat instead of carbs one of these bars wrecks your entire day by supplying your body with carbs to burn instead of fat.

Plus these bars have 230 calories!

You have to eat less to lose weight no matter what diet you’re on.

There’s no way around it and the composition of the food only helps so much.

Earlier I linked to a Tim Ferris article about how you can “Lose 20 lbs of fat in 30 days without exercise.”

While that’s technically true, you can only do that if you have a lot of fat to lose in the first place.

At 225 lbs while exercising 3-4 days a week, even if I followed that diet exactly I probably wouldn’t be able to shed 10% of my body weight in 30 days without going to some extreme measures. But if another person who weighed 270 lbs started the same diet it’s not out of the question they could lose that much that fast but they would not be able to lose 20 lbs each and every month.

Calories in, calories out is the basic formula for losing weight but you still have to make adjustments in order to actually get the best results.

For me, I started off really badly on this diet because I was trying to cook healthy foods at home which lead to me doing a lot of snacking and overeating of “healthy food.”

One of the adjustments I have to make if I am serious about losing weight is not keeping any extra food I could snack on in the house because 3,000 calories of meat and cheese while technically on the diet is still not going to help me lose weight.

I also had to start counting calories. People hate calorie counting because it is annoying and also math. But for me I know I lose more weight when I try to eat between 1500-1800 calories a day and no more.

These two tweaks got me back on track and I am not only 10lbs or so from my goal weight of 200lbs losing about 3 lbs a week.

So how does this relate to content marketing?

Content Marketing has a bunch of formulas that can work from funnels to webinars, the problem most people run into is that you can’t just do things the exact same way someone else teaches it.

You’ll always need to make little tweaks, adjustments and course corrections EVEN if you have a winning formula.

And not making those tweaks and corrections is what dooms a lot of dieters and a lot of content marketing campaigns.

 

Is Email Marketing Still King in 2018? These 5 Statistics say YES!

One of the most pressing questions as a content marketer is how you should be distributing your content.

If you don’t distribute your content right, you get the horns!

Should you be writing blogs, making videos, sending out a weekly newsletter, posting on social media multiple times a day etc…

The short answer is yes.

To all of it.

But one thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to return on marketing investment in real dollars, email marketing is still the king.

And as they said on the Wire, “The King Stay The King.”

Here’s 5 Stats that back up email marketing’s dominance:

  1. Welcome emails generate over 320% more revenue on a per purchase basis than any other email!
  2. 80% of retail companies surveyed said email drives retention and acquisition of customers. Social media comes in second at just 44% or about half.
  3. Email has the best ROI for marketing your marketing dollars. In the US it is $44 per $1 invested.
  4. 73% of millennials prefer email over other channels. Which means that more and more business is going to be done over email.

Email subscribers are almost 4 X more likely to share your content. People who join your email list are more likely to be fans of your work or company and are thus more likely to share. As Dan Kennedy once said if you can assemble a group of 1,000 rabid fans, they will support you and your business for life.

As you can see email should be a focal part of your content marketing strategy, no matter what business you are in.