The Tricky Art of Marketing Women’s Empowerment, and 6 Other Stories We Loved in March
Here’s what you missed in marketing, media, and tech while you watched your March Madness bracket go up in flames…
Selected by Brian Maehl, talent development manager
If Uber CEO Travis Kalanick made a deal with the devil to create an invincible tech company, 2017 is the year the devil reminded Kalanick just who he’s dealing with. In this story, The Ringer’s Victor Luckerson dives into Uber’s scandal-plagued first quarter—from its broken HR department, to sexual harassment allegations. In the words of Luckerson, “Uber is not doomed, but it’s certainly more vulnerable than it was a couple of months ago.”
Uber may be a mess, but I struggle with the word “vulnerability” when it refers to troubled tech companies. Facebook’s failure to get ahead of fake news raised ethical concerns last year. Amazon’s culture was torn apart (or, you know, revealed) by some fantastic New York Times reporting in 2015. Snapchat was scrutinized after letters from CEO Evan Spiegel’s fraternity surfaced online in 2014. Yet they’re all doing just fine. While these missteps may not be as big of a deal as Uber’s chaos, they still have a serious impact on customer perception.
The monopolistic tendencies of Silicon Valley companies mean customers have few alternatives if they want to opt for a competitor. There’s such a long leash that ethical allegations become footnotes in their histories, rather than causes for their descent.
Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief
Some key takeaways from this piece:
- Groove, a SaaS company, built a content marketing course that generated $120K in revenue.
- By all accounts, this took months, not five days. Not sure where that came from, but it makes for a great headline. Game respect game.
- Still, I feel like an idiot for not doing this first.
- The blueprint they lay out here is really strong and easily replicable, especially if you’re, say, the editor-in-chief of a blog that’s published thousands of free content marketing resources over the past year.
- I’m an even bigger idiot if I don’t do this now.
- I’m really excited for their next installment when they reveal how they sold and marketed this course.
- After reading this post, I feel like Groove and this bird have a lot in common:
Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor
The revelation that Thinx CEO Miki Agrawal was allegedly harassing her employees led to headlines like this one from the Huffington Post: “Thinx Controversy Proves You Can’t Sell Feminism.” But in this Mashable article, Rebecca Ruiz asks whether feminist messaging can actually boost business. (Full disclosure: A “Wild Feminist” bomber jacket is hanging on the back of my chair.)
Companies like Dove, which has a history of campaigns that emphasize women embracing non-patriarchal beauty standards, have pulled it off. Others, like Audi, which released a commercial about equal pay during the 2017 Super Bowl, have received flack for lacking diversity on their own boards. Ruiz finds that feminist ads from soap bars to automobiles run the risk of backlash if they patronize women with stereotypical messaging—or perpetuate an openly sexist environment. But sometimes, she argues, campaigns that show women overcoming diversity, like Motrin’s #WomenInProgress, can operate as “a vivid reminder that we can and should insist on gender equality.”
The New York Times Magazine: CNN Had a Problem. Donald Trump Solved It
Selected by Adrienne Todd, communications specialist
To say that Donald Trump has a contentious relationship with TV networks is an understatement. His first few months as president have provided plenty of fodder for late-night talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, and in turn, their critical yet funny takes on the Trump White House have helped shape their personas.
News programs, on the other hand, have struggled to find their footing. Jonathan Mahler’s article for The New York Times Magazine asserts that while Trump excels at using the media to his advantage, CNN—with Jeff Zucker leading the charge—is flipping the proverbial script, leveraging the Trump team’s penchant for chaos to hone its message and solidify its brand.
The Wall Street Journal: The Morning Download: Exxon Mobil’s Supercomputing Feat Speeds Up Reservoir Simulation Times
Selected by Dillon Baker, tech editor
Thanks to the constant hyperbole of tech marketing, I can’t help but reflexively roll my eyes when I hear words like “AI” and “big data.” But then I read articles like this one on Exxon’s use of a record-breaking super computer to run reservoir simulations, and I’m reminded that this technology is a big, big, big deal (and that may not even be enough “bigs”). Operational optimization has already revolutionized the economy (See: Amazon). Add machine learning, the IoT, and real-time optimization to that list, and things are going to get crazy.
The New Yorker: “Paging Dr. Fraud”: The Fake Publishers That Are Ruining Science
Selected by Jordan Teicher, managing editor
A year ago, nobody used the term “fake news.” That’s weird to think about now since we hear it all the time. But propaganda, spin, misinformation, and so on have existed for a long time; the internet just helped them scale. Without any barriers to entry, people can publish whatever they want. The worst part is the garbage gets to compete against information that’s considerate, creative, and trustworthy.
Perhaps we could’ve seen this coming: the same thing has been happening to science. Over the past few decades, the number of “predatory journals” that solicit academic papers without legitimate peer-review standards has “jumped into the thousands.” Sometimes, these pubs even spam writers for pitches. Not surprisingly, the motive here is money. Shady journals accept all papers sent their way, as long as you send them a check too. The cumulative effect of this nonsense has tarnished the authority of all publishers. Instead of thinking about the content, readers and contributors have to waste time trying to verify if the sources are legitimate. Sound familiar?
If science academia wasn’t safe, then the rest of us in media never stood a chance.
The Atlantic: Who Owns Your Face?
Selected by Craig Davis, editorial intern
Privacy doesn’t seem to exist in 2017. Last week, we received another reminder, in the form of a House resolution that will allow internet service providers to sell your personal browsing history. (Side note: Go clear those cookies.) And now, data collectors are going after something even more personal: your face.
Facial-recognition systems are nothing new; the tech has been a part of Facebook’s tagging feature for years. But the F.B.I. has started using its latest algorithm to collect an image database of millions of Americans, 80 percent of whom are law-abiding citizens. As Adrienne LaFrance writes in The Atlantic, the increased surveillance blurs the lines of what is and isn’t acceptable to monitor.
“Your face is yours,” she writes. “It is a defining feature of your identity… It’s entirely reasonable to wonder how companies are collecting and using images of you.” Given the ubiquity of security cameras, those wishing to stay off of the facial grid may not have the option.Image by Pexels / CC Zero