Advertising, Fake News and ‘Attention Harvesting’

I just listened to the most fascinating interview on KQED-FM’s  radio show Forum, “Tim Wu On Advertising, Fake News and ‘Attention Harvesting’.” Here’s their promo copy:

Columbia Law professor Tim Wu is best known for coining the term “net neutrality” and for his research on the Internet, media and communications. His latest book, “The Attention Merchants,” looks at how advertisers have monetized public attention throughout history, from penny press newspapers to Facebook ads. We’ll talk to Wu about the book, get his take on the proliferation of fake news and explore what technology policy might look like in the Trump administration.

Wu explains that the attention merchants’ business model, targeting anyone who goes on Facebook or searches on Google  for example, takes us as its resource to harvest. It’s takes our minds, our attention, and wants us to be constantly distracted, looking at ads, losing control over ourselves. They don’t want you reading books or talking with friends or family, because that’s all wasted revenue to them.  This business model has become so pervasive in our lives, it’s starting to have profound effects on who we are and also on the underlying media. For instance, so much of the web’s content has become clickbait because that’s the only thing that can survive. It’s become a race to the bottom in terms of competing for people’s attention.

attentionmerchantsThe Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get  Inside Our Heads is receiving rave reviews:

“A startling and sweeping examination of the increasingly ubiquitous commercial effort to capture and commodify our attention…We’ve become the consumers, the producers, and the content. We are selling ourselves to ourselves.”—Tom Vanderbilt, The New Republic

“An erudite, energizing, outraging, funny and thorough history…A devastating critique of ad tech as it stands today, transforming “don’t be evil” into the surveillance business model in just a few short years. It connects the dots between the sale of advertising inventory in schools to the bizarre ecosystem of trackers, analyzers and machine-learning models that allow the things you look at on the web to look back at you…This stuff is my daily beat, and I learned a lot from Attention Merchants.”—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing 

“Tim Wu has written a profoundly important book on a problem that doesn’t get enough— well, attention. Attention itself has become the currency of the information age, and, as Wu meticulously and eloquently demonstrates, we allow it to be bought and sold at our peril.”–James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History 
 

The Attention Merchants should be required reading for anyone working in public relations, publicity, marketing or advertising, as well as the general public.

Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2016 Finalists

The 52nd annual ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ (WPY) competition has recently released a preview of this year’s finalists. A killer whale feeding on herring beneath a fishing boat, a hungry hornbill eating a termite, mayflies swarming around under a starry night sky, are among the spectacular images that stood out for judges as the very best wildlife photograhy.

It all started in 1965. There were about 500 entries back then, but now, more than fifty years later, it attracted almost 50,000 of them from professionals and amateurs from 95 countries. The WPY52 exhibition will be on display from the 21st of October at Natural History Museum, London. Here are a few of my favorites:

NatureBookPublicity
Splitting the catch © Audun Rikardsen, taken in Norway

Sometimes it’s the fishing boats that look for killer whales and humpbacks, hoping to locate the shoals of herring that migrate to these Arctic Norwegian waters. But the whales have also recently started to follow these boats. This image by Auden Rikardsen shows a large male killer whale feeding on herring that have been squeezed out of the boat’s closing fishing net.

Thistle-plucker: By Isaac Aylward, of the UK.
Thistle-plucker: By Isaac Aylward, of the UK.

Try keeping a flying linnet in sight while scrambling down rocky embankments holding a telephoto lens. Isaac did, for 20 minutes. He was determined to keep pace with the linnet, which he spotted while hiking in Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains, finally catching up with the tiny bird when it settled to feed on a thistle flowerhead.

Swarming under the stars: By Imre Potyó, of Hungary.

After a few decades, the Danube mayfly (Ephoron virgo) have returned to the river Danube, probably due to the increasing water quality. The photographer said: ‘The fantastic mass swarming of these mayflies is one of the most exciting phenomenon for me. My image was taken in a dark, near-natural bank on a tributary of the Danube with long exposure, flash and flashlight. Unfortunately, the lamp-lit bridges have negative influence to them, because they are attracted to the lamps, become exhausted, lay their eggs to the asphalt roads of the bridge and perish immediately. The team of the Danube Research Institute in cooperation with the Environmental Optics Laboratory plan to solve this biooptical and environmental problem. This image is very precious to me as I can draw the attention to these spectacular water insects and their complex ecological light trap.’

Termite tossing: By Willem Kruger, from South Africa.
Termite tossing: By Willem Kruger, from South Africa.

Termite after termite after termite – using the tip of its massive beak-like forceps to pick them up, the hornbill flicks them in the air and then swallows them. Foraging beside a track in South Africa’s semi-arid Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the southern yellow-billed hornbill was deeply absorbed in snacking.

To see the entire list of 2016 finalists, please visit the Daily Mail.

At Carney & Associates, we specialize in providing publicity services for nature and wildlife books, experts and nonprofit organizations. To find out how we can help spread the word of your book, product or organization, please contact Kathlene Carney.

The Good Crisis: How Population Stabilization Can Foster a Healthy U.S. Economy

“Birth Dearthers” argue that low birth rates spell economic and social disaster for the United States. However, The Good Crisis: How Population Stabilization Can Foster a Healthy U.S. Economy, edited by John Seager and Lee S. Polansky, effectively debunks this myth.

The Good Crisis argues that we have no shortage of people in our country. The problem is we’re not preparing them to become the highly skilled workers necessary for the jobs of tomorrow, to contribute to innovation and growth in our economy, and to the social security system critics keep warning about.

For example, it’s estimated that two million US manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade due to a “skills gap.” In addition, there will be great opportunities in the knowledge economy, ranging from health care to information systems to education. Yet we currently have more than 15 million U.S. children trapped in poverty with limited access to quality education. Seager and Polansky suggest we think of them as future doctors, engineers, teachers and entrepreneurs and take steps accordingly.

Backed by extensive research and real-world examples, The Good Crisis presents a path to a more productive, sustainable world including:

• Retraining older people, teaching job skills for today’s economy.

• Ensuring that children have access to better education and healthcare. There are proven links between a quality education, increased productivity, and shared upward mobility.

• Preventing teen pregnancy through peer counseling, comprehensive sex education, and access to birth control. • Welcoming marginal groups into the workforce.

The Good Crisis dispel anxieties about the impact of slowing population growth, and discuss innovative and practical solutions.

John Seager is currently available for media interviews. Please call Kathlene Carney, Carney & Associates publicity services for scheduling and review copies.

John Oliver on the Decline of Journalism

John Oliver has some bad news about the state of the industry that gives us our news. He really nailed it in this clip from Last Week Tonight.

Forbes posted: “On Sunday, John Oliver used his platform on HBO’s Last Week Tonight to lament the current state of journalism. He discussed the decline of local- and state-based newspapers and mocked news organizations for replacing in-depth journalism with fluffy click-bait. But Oliver placed the blame squarely on readers like you and me, unaccustomed and reluctant to pay for our news.”

Are you trying to get news coverage for your book, product or organization? To find out how our publicity services can help spread the word through the remaining newspapers as well as the explosion of online media outlets, radio, podcasts, social media and more, please contact Kathlene Carney at Carney & Associates.

2016 Oscar Swag Bags, a PR Bonanza

SwagAs a publicist, I receive a lot of offers to include my clients’ products in celebrity swag bags at various awards shows–for a fee of course.

One year we decided to try it, and we participated in a “swag suite” at the Oscars. It was set up in a luxury hotel suite showcasing green products and services for environmentally conscious celebrities, and I was there representing my beloved client, E-The Environmental Magazine.  I watched the A-list famous, B-list famous, the “is she famous?” and countless personal assistants stroll through, graciously accepting cruelty-free cosmetics, acai berry juice, eco-friendly clothing, and even “eco” jewelry (never figured that one out). The event was tastefully executed and overall I felt it was worthwhile exposure for the magazine.

So my ears perked up when I heard about this year’s Oscar Gift Bag brouhaha. Turns out, the participants are getting more publicity than they ever imagined because the organizers are being sued and everyone’s talking about it. Here’s an excerpt from The Atlantic:

“Was it the Vampire Breast Lift? Or maybe the Haze Dual Vaporizer? Or maybe the Nuelle Fiera vibrator? Whatever it was (it was probably the vibrator), 2016 has proved to be the year that a longstanding Oscar tradition—the absurdly expensive and also just absurd gift bags handed out to losing nominees—seems, officially, to have Gone Too Far: Last week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued Distinctive Assets, the marketing firm that has long provided the sassy swag, for trademark infringement.

“The lawsuit contended, essentially, that the party favors to end all party favors—and, more specifically, their vampy/vapey/vibey contents, this year said to be worth $232,000 in all—were giving the awards show a bad name.

“So it’s both ironic and fitting that the Academy’s complaint has had the effect of bringing even more attention than usual to the existence and the excesses of the gift bags. ‘The Oscar Gift Bags Are So Lavish That Even the Academy Is Embarrassed,’ New York magazine declared. ‘Oscar sues over unauthorized (and unsavory) swag bags,’ USA Today had it. Those came on top of the many, many articles that had simply catalogued the contents of the bags. Yahoo made a video ‘Dissecting the Outrageously Valuable, Not to Mention Ridiculous, Oscars Gift Bags.’  Blasting News took things to their logically Marxist conclusion: “THE RICH AND OSCAR-FAMOUS ARE SPOILED WHILE THOUSANDS GO WITHOUT.”

 Last year the Academy warned the company to stop using its name and trademarked “Oscars” title in their name without a disclaimed. An Academy spokesperson said they “had no choice but to file a lawsuit” this year. The Academy itself used to give out its own gift bags but stopped in 2006 after the IRS began to focus on the tax obligations of the give away.

TheDailyBeast said, “Notably, the bags are only given to nominees in the main acting and directing categories, assuring that the sponsored items will only be given to the most famous people at the ceremony. Don’t think for a second that anyone who spent their life savings on a nominated Best Documentary Short is going home with a $5,000 home spa system.

“In this year of #OscarsSoWhite and #FeelTheBern, there is something even more unsavory than usual about this shameless attempt to shower excessive wealth on the excessively wealthy.”

Here’s the list of the 2016 Oscars “unofficial” swag bag contents:

Haze Dual Vaporizer ($250)
Personalized M&Ms ($300)
A 10,000-meal donation made in the nominee’s name to an animal shelter or rescue of their choice ($6,300)
A lifetime supply of Pu-erh Tea Nourishing Cream and Pu-erh Tea Cleansing Bar ($31,200)
A year’s worth of Audi car rentals from Silvercar ($45,000)
10-day all-expenses-paid trip to Israel ($55,000)
Tribute video services ($125)
Caolion Ultimate Pore Care gift set ($134)
Healing Saint Luminosity skin serum and hair follicle stimulant ($193)
Private 15-day walking tour of Japan ($54,000)
10 personal training sessions with Alexis Seletzky ($900)
Belldini gift certificate ($300)
Chapstick ($6)
Chocolatines Drunken Fig Cake Bites ($35)
Dandi Patch anti-perspirant solution ($21)
Delovery gift basket ($2,000)
Druzy earrings ($25)
Fit Club TV “Ultimate Fitness Package” ($6,250)
Gleener on the Go ($12)
3-day stay at the Golden Door Resort & Spa in San Marcos, California ($4,800)
3-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, Italy ($5,000)
3-night stay at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy ($5,000)
Greenhill Blanc de Blancs wine ($39)
Hydroxycut Gummies ($20)
3 fitness training sessions with Jay Cardiello ($1,400)
Joseph’s Toiletries toilet paper ($275)
Sterling silver necklace ($150)
Memobottles ($47)
El Silencio Mezcal ($75)
Mission1 protein bar ($6)
Nuelle Fiera arouser for her ($250)
Phantom Glass screen protector ($50-$60)
Purely Inspired Organic Protein ($20)
Rouge Maple culinary products ($99)
Sedone Lace makeup brush set ($110)
Signature Vodka ($70)
Slimware plates ($30)
Steamist spa system ($5,060)
Sundial powder coating ($500)
Blow dryers and flat irons ($250)
Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900)
Wallet ($125)
740 Park plastic surgery ($5,530)

Looking for publicity beyond swag placements? Please contact Carney & Associates for a free consultation to discuss how our public relations services can help with your PR needs.

KPFA’s Letters and Politics on Transgender Women in Prisons

CARNEYPR.COMMitch Jeserich, host of the popular Letters and Politics radio show on KPFA-FM in Berkeley, recently interviewed my incredibly talented friend and client  Kris Schreier Lyseggen.

Kristin, a distinguished international journalist and photographer, was there as part of our publicity campaign to discuss her latest book, The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons. Kris has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the struggles transgender women endure, and the abuse and trauma they suffer in male prisons.

Ashley Diamond, one of the women Kris features in the book, joined her for the radio interview. Ashley is a transgender woman and nonviolent offender who had sued Georgia corrections officials for failing to provide her medical treatment and safekeeping.

Here’s an excerpt from KPFA’s post: “True stories about nine transgender women in the male US prison system who grew up never feeling safe, who were surrounded by others telling them that they should be ‘ normal ’ , and that their deepest sense of who they were was an error.

“As the number of transgender people ‘coming out’ reaches levels we never before dreamed of, author Kristin Lyseggen hopes this book will shed some light on the needs of people locked up twice in their lives.

“She started writing this book as soon as she moved to California from Norway, just before we learned that Private Bradley Manning was Chelsea Manning and before we knew about the popular Netflix TV show Orange Is the New Black. In real life, most women with gender identity issues, when jailed, are put in male prisons with notorious predators. The only options for many of them in order to survive is to live isolated in cages, or become sex slaves for other inmates.

For Kristin Lyseggen to understand the reality of their lives, she had to gain trust from people she had never met and never expected to meet. This book project led Kristin from the ‘ war zone ’ in East Oakland, California, to the run-down, chaotic intensity of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco; she traveled from a boundary breaking Transgender Health Conference in Bangkok to a clandestine LGBTQI advocacy conference in Nairobi, Kenya; from an event to raise funds for incarcerated transgender women in Oakland where one speaker was ( former FBI ’ s ‘ Most Wanted ’ ) Angela Davis, a professor at University of California; to conservative Rome, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama; to a maximum security prison in the Central Valley of California. Without exception the stories she encountered during this project were diverse and different from one another in ways that were surprising and often disturbing.

“Kristin was introduced to an almost inconceivable struggle heaped upon the usual stories of people incarcerated in US prisons. In spite of the conditions of their lives, they taught her that what landed them behind bars, and the contradictory feelings one has about their crimes, there could be the possibility of redemption.”

I was honored to conduct a national publicity campaign for Kris, and the Letters and Politics radio show was one of many PR interviews we arranged for her. You can listen to it here.

Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss how our public relations services can help with your publicity needs.

 

 

PR Gaining Well-Deserved Respect in 2016

In an age where traditional advertising has become skippable, blockable, and opt-out-able, businesses are increasingly recognizing the power and importance of publicity and public relations.

As a publicist specializing in media relations for more than 20 years, I had to smile at a recent article in Advertising Age, How Public Relations Is Earning Its Place in 2016.

Traditionally, advertising agencies don’t really understand PR and now they’re scrambling to get up to speed. They’re learning the difference between “buying eyeballs” and “earning them.” When you’re earning eyeballs, your job is to create content that’s newsworthy.

Here are some excerpts from the piece:

“Edelman, the largest independent PR agency, is ‘getting not just a seat at the table, we’re getting half the table,’ said Jackie Cooper, global chair-creative strategy at the firm.

“Where PR used to be tacked onto a campaign after the creative was finished, Edelman is now working with brands and advertising agencies from the very beginning. The agency has been working hand-in-hand with Adobe’s creative teams, for example, from the start of the creative process to build digital activations for the software company’s creative products. Edelman won the Gold PR Lion in 2015 at Cannes for its work on the Adobe Photoshop ‘Murder Mystery’ campaign.

“Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, who worked in communications earlier in her career, said PR agencies are waking up to the power they can yield beyond media relations. “Marketers really look at how they get the biggest bang for their buck and making their work talkable certainly extends the reach,” she said.

“While 360i is a digital marketing agency at its core, Ms. Hofstetter added that she frequently puts on her PR hat to come up with ideas for clients that consumers will care about and want to share.”

But Harris Diamond, McCann Worldgroup chairman-CEO, cautions “Even though many agencies are adding new capabilities to try to create one-stop shops, the smart firms will primarily focus on what they know best.”

So on that note, contact me for a free consultation to discuss how our public relations services can help with your publicity needs. 🙂

Population Media Center in The Guardian

The Guardian recently published an essay by Joe Bish, Director of Issue Advocacy at Population Media Center (PMC), entitled “Population growth in Africa: grasping the scale of the challenge.” Here’s the intro:

“The last 100 years have seen an incredible increase in the planet’s population. Some parts of the world are now seeing smaller increments of growth, and some, such as Japan, Germany, and Spain, are actually experiencing population decreases.

“The continent of Africa, however, is not following this pattern. Now home to 1.2 billion (up from just 477 million in 1980), Africa is projected by the United Nations Population Division to see a slight acceleration of annual population growth in the immediate future.”

I’m proud to have been providing publicity and media relations services for PMC over the past four years and am especially thrilled with Joe’s piece.

The essay also included a link to our wildly popular photo essay that ran in The Guardian last year on our book Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, as part of our international book publicity campaign. Since April 2015, this webpage has been viewed over 3 million times and has been shared over 700,000 times on social media.

Contact Kathlene Carney at Carney & Associates for a free consultation to discuss how our media relations services can help your nonprofit organization or book’s publicity needs.

Amazon wins self-publishing market

Self-publishing is a booming multibillion-dollar market. In 2015, author-published books accounted for 18% of the entire book market in the U.S., and Amazon published 85% of them.

So I wasn’t surprised when Quartz reported, “Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the world, is chopping off its self-publishing arm. The company said Jan. 5 that it has sold Author Solutions—the self-publishing author-tools platform that it bought in 2012—to an unnamed affiliate of US private equity firm Najafi Companies for an undisclosed sum.”

From The Financial Times: “Self-publishing has been growing rapidly, with more authors designing and selling their books without the backing of a traditional publishing house. Author Solutions has sought to capitalise by offering a variety of services to independent authors, including ‘web-optimised’ press releases for $1,299 each.”

In other words, they were accused of trying to make money off of their authors rather than for their authors, and the company was subject to frequent complaints as well as a couple of lawsuits.

Whether due to tanking market share or negative publicity, Quartz notes “Penguin Random House’s exit from self-publishing is also an admission of defeat: The giant self-publishing market essentially now falls largely to Amazon.”

Contact Kathlene Carney at Carney & Associates for a free consultation to discuss how our media relations services can help with your self-published book’s publicity needs.