Featured

Welcome to Orobora!

Orobora provides Online Marketing Services.
We specialize in Authors, Experts and Celebrities.
For a Free Consultation call 540-324-7023.

Hi! I’m Steve O’Keefe, Director of Content at Orobora. I wrote the book on Internet publicity — literally — for WILEY in 1996. It’s still available as The Complete Guide to Internet Publicity, but it’s a little out of date. You’ll find much more current articles, resources and contacts on this website. Below is an index.

Orobora provides online marketing services for reputation-minded businesses. We specialize in helping authors, experts and celebrities. Whether you’re launching a new release, a new website or a new business, we have services to match your budget and needs. For a Free Consultation call 540-324-7023.

SERVICES:
News Releases
Press Kits
Media Contacts
Pitching
List Management
Articles and Blog Posts
Whitepapers and eBooks
Newsletters
Newswire
Newsblogs
Book Launch Campaigns
Amazon Makeovers
Pitching Amazon Reviewers
Online Events

ABOUT US:
About Orobora
About Steve O’Keefe
About the Art
Clients & References
Contact Us

RESOURCES:
Back Issues of Continuous Improvement, The Newsletter of Orobora
Orobora Newsblog with Book Reviews and Articles on List Building
Articles about Online Marketing
Handouts from Speaking Engagements
Templates for Online Public Relations
Video Profiles of Authors and Publishing Professionals
Non-Video Profiles of Authors, Artists, Etc.
Profiles and Interviews with Publishing Professionals
Back Issues of The Beautiful Plan: Online Marketing Strategies for Book Publishers
Internet Publicity Class: Syllabus, Assignments, Handouts, Videos

Featured

Four Great Examples of List Building

Your list is a significant part of the value of your enterprise.
It pays to grow and groom your list.

If an entrepreneur launches a new business, and no one hears about it, did it happen?

It hurts to put that much effort into nurturing an idea into an enterprise, then lack the budget or tools to show people what you do and how it benefits them. Maybe you don’t have the time for PR or a background in list building? You don’t need those things. You can buy an entire marketing department as a package you use one hour a day. You can get the services you need without hiring.

The value of your list grows with interest.

The sooner you start, the faster you’ll find the techniques that work for your audience. Marketing and PR are about relationship building. Professional relationships grow like 401Ks — put a little effort in each month — and watch your list get big. Not LinkedIn’s list. Not Facebook’s list. Your list of everyone your organization has brushed up against and their communication preferences. Your list is a significant part of the value of your enterprise. It pays to grow and groom your list.

Four Great Examples of List Building

Orobora started in 1994 with a “golden list” of 300 influencer email addresses. That list has grown to a database of more than 30,000 media contacts with dozens of facts about each one. Our list is especially strong online: discussion moderators, talk show hosts, blog tour venues, top reviewers, ezine editors, and top bloggers. Orobora can help you produce quality content, capture contact information and build your own “golden list.” Contact Steve O’Keefe, Content Director, Orobora, or call us at 540-324-7023. Here are four more examples of great list building campaigns produced by the team at Orobora.

1. The Digital Home of Dr. Seuss

When Dr. Seuss took his fanciful world online, his publisher contacted Steve O’Keefe, Content Director of Orobora, to handle the website launch. O’Keefe built the Read Across America Children’s Author Chat Series and secured the partnership of the National Education Association (NEA) in bringing the world’s greatest children’s authors into classrooms around the globe.

The series ran for years, and Random House walked away with contact information for thousands of teachers who registered to participate in the chats. Orobora is clever at crafting campaigns that leverage online technology to connect with your target audience.

2. The Age of Spiritual Machines

Ray Kurzweil is the lead engineer at Google. He is without doubt one of America’s greatest inventors and entrepreneurs. Ray is the guy who taught machines how to see (flatbed scanner), how to read (OCR), how to listen (voice recognition), how to speak (machine-generated language), and how to sing (the Kurzweil keyboard).

In each case, Ray developed the technology, sold the business and advanced to the next challenge. Today, he’s teaching computers how to think (artificial intelligence).

Ray is also the author of several books including The Age of Spiritual Machines. The team at Orobora produced the online marketing campaign for Ray’s book, pitching hundreds of media outlets, sending review copies and press kits, and following up. We’re not afraid of grunt work. It might be the only work left soon…

3. Believe It or Not!

When Ripley’s Believe It or Not! launched a new edition of their bestselling book tied to theme park installations and a global multimedia branding extravaganza, they asked the team at Orobora to create an online campaign that would appeal to teens. We convinced them it would be a bad idea to target teens, but we could create a campaign for middle-school science teachers.

That was the birth of Ripley’s Freaky Fridays, a live online science class piped into participating classrooms and taught by two award-winning science librarians. Hundreds of classrooms signed up. It was science the way it should be: gross, funny, memorable!

 4. List Building for Dummies

The …For Dummies phenomenon is the story of entrepreneurs at IDC who created first books, then a brand, then sold the brand to Wiley, then Wiley did something that almost never happens: They made a great brand greater: Bigger. Smarter. Global.

The team at Orobora was part of that story. Hired first by IDC, then by Wiley, we did online PR for the brand for over a decade. We distributed excerpts from new releases and produced dozens of well-attended online events for books like:

  • Alternative Medicine for Dummies
  • Magic for Dummies with David Pogue
  • Pregnancy for Dummies

The happy result for IDC and Wiley — in addition to record sales — was a database of online forum hosts and moderators, partnerships with major online venues, thousands of opt-in subscribers, tons of web traffic, and tremendous brand penetration.

Get prices. Check references. Make a decision.

Use this checklist to mark the services you like, then price the package with three vendors.

Tools

  • Blog
  • Newsletter
  • Slideshow
  • Audio Podcast
  • Viral Video
  • News Releases
  • Media Kits

Start Up Services & Support

  • Business Plan and Grant Writing
  • New Product or New Service Launch
  • Annual Marketing Plan and Budget
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Part-Time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

Outlets

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Amazon
  • Print
  • Radio
  • Television

Orobora can help you produce quality content, capture contact information and build your own “golden list.” Contact Steve O’Keefe, Content Director, Orobora, or call us at 540-324-7023.

Images (first two from the top): rawpixel/123RF Stock Photo, cunaplus/123RF Stock Photo

 

Featured

Getting Alice: How to Get Anything You Want

You can get anything you want…
… even Alice!
Fresh Ideas on How to Pitch

[This is the online version of Continuous Improvement: The Newsletter of Orobora, a printed publication. You are welcome to subscribe to the print edition and we will mail it at no cost. You can listen to editor Steve O’Keefe read this issue with our new Continuous Improvement Podcast.]

You can get anything you want
at Alice’s Restaurant.

So goes the tune by Arlo Guthrie. Anything, that is, “‘ceptin’ Alice.” This newsletter is about one technique you can use to get anything you want. Including Alice. Especially Alice.

If you could spend five minutes talking with anyone alive today, who would it be?
I would spend my five minutes with you.

You are among a very small group of people whose opinions I value so highly that I pour myself into this newsletter just so I have an excuse to communicate with you. I don’t charge for it and I work hard to not waste your time.

I firmly believe I’ll be able to accomplish my goals in life much more quickly if I could just get five minutes with you. I also believe you will be able to make progress on your life goals more quickly if you spend five minutes reading this newsletter.

That’s because no matter how fantastic a person is, there’s only so much one can do alone. Most likely, none of us will be able to accomplish our most important life goals without assistance from others. So it pays to learn how to ask for help.

If you look at my LinkedIn profile, folks think I’m better at pitching than anything else. There was a five-year stretch in my life when my team launched campaigns for 200 new products a year! That’s a new pitch every Monday, every Tuesday, every Wednesday and every Thursday, every week of the year, for five consecutive years!

What follows is the Four-Part Pitch that resulted from this crucible. It can be used as an email pitch for just about anything: clients, customers, collaborators, donors — even dates. Today, I often cook it down to one or two sentences or a tweet.

Swimmer showing her stroke.
Copyright: frinz/123RF Stock Photo

Stroke

The Stroke is the opening of the Four-Part Pitch. The Stroke is not about me; it’s about you. Almost all pitches make the mistake of starting with the pitch. Mine almost always start with something I know about you that took some effort to acquire.

If you’re pitching a prospective customer, start your pitch by talking about or asking about him or her. If you don’t know the name of the person you’re pitching, don’t pitch. Companies don’t read pitches; people do. If you don’t know who you’re talk-ing to, shut up until you do.

For example, if you’re pitching a publisher, that means you’re pitching an editor or an agent. How does your proposal make sense for his or her career? I’m forever grateful to coach Jim Fannin for teaching me to assess another person’s state of mind before launching into my own concerns.

Looking for work? Instead of telling a potential employer all about your qualifications, take a moment to mention their accomplishments. Here’s the stroke from a job hunting pitch that worked for me: “You are the manager of 150 people responsible for marketing, sales and customer service. I bet you could use some help with that.”

A good stroke shows that you know who you’re talking to, you did your homework, you know something about what they do, possibly their most important successes and challenges. You can then show how your proposal makes sense given their background.

Pitch

pitch baseball photo
Photo by Eric Kilby

After you have stroked, state your request as briefly as possible. People read pitches with one finger on the Delete button, ready to move along at the slightest whiff of bunk.

This lesson came to me from Mike Hoy, proprietor of a publishing house where I read dozens of pitch letters from wannabe authors every week. He said the objective of all writing is to keep people reading. If they stop, it doesn’t matter how well you wrote the rest.

The stroke works because sincere flattery is irresistible and insincere flattery is not bad. The stroke gets the reader to the pitch and the pitch had better be tight or the reader’s not going any further.

If you want someone to review your product or service, for example, it’s easier on them if you just come out and say that upfront rather than at the end of a long list of benefits.

I’ve graded over a decade’s worth of student pitches and they simply have a hard time coming out and saying what they want. The pitch is often buried and sometimes missing. Don’t waste people’s time.

Trophy cup
Copyright: choneschones/123RF Stock Photo

Credentials

After the pitch, the next logical question is “Why?” You’ve got about 10 seconds to nail the answer.

The best answer is that you’ve done this before and there’s a track record. Another good indicator is you’ve won an award. If your own credentials are thin, lean on an endorsement.

One insight I’ve gained from being rejected ten thousand times is to not oversell the goods. Lots of pitches engage in hype that’s hard to live up to. But the people being pitched have a greater fear of failure than lust for success. They’re already successful. They don’t want to lose it.

Your great idea for a book is less important to a publisher than your experience hitting deadlines. A midlist book from a large publisher represents a six-figure investment. They are more concerned with getting their six figures back than making seven figures.

Another way of looking at that came from an interview I did with publisher Peter Workman. He said it takes dozens of people many years to create a successful publishing company but only one bad book to destroy it.

Rather than selling the upside in your proposal, try eliminating the downside. You always get to “yes” if there is no good reason to say “no.” Isn’t that right, Mom?

Action Alternatives

You don’t want to force a “yes” or “no” answer. You want to provide as many reasonable alternatives as you can think of.

Most importantly, if the reader is not the right person for the pitch, you want them to suggest whom to send it to. If they give you a name, you now have the stroke for your next pitch: “I was referred to you by Big Shot.”

If you are sincere in your request, you did your homework and kept it short, a lot of readers will point you to someone. Very often, that is the someone who opens the magic door.

That’s why I’d rather spend five minutes with you than anyone else. You’re likely to mention a name that’s important to me. For some reason neither of us may understand, that person is often the key to my mission. Please take a moment to send me that name!

Action alternatives keep the door open and the request alive and moving forward. Things you might ask for include a phone call, a meeting, an interview, a referral, an endorsement — even Alice.

That’s the Four-Part Pitch: Stroke, Pitch, Credentials, Action Alternatives. SPCAA. Think of it as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty when Asking for Anything!

Leaving Room

When I was a teenager, I petitioned for the Libertarian Party on the University of Michigan Quad in Ann Arbor. I received 25 cents for every signature on my clipboard. I was so good they sent me to Rome, Georgia, where I stood on blacktop in 100-degree heat for 12 hours/day begging people to sign.

You get good at pitching under those conditions. My magic word was “please.” If I got that word out, people would give me six seconds before bolting for the store or the car. A petitioner from Chicago had great success with the opener, “Hey, slim.” A two-word stroke. Beautiful!

I later did some fundraising for the Libertarians because no one wants to ask for money. I got over it when I realized it was a lot easier to get money for an idea than something tangible. An idea can be anything the receiver sees in it. So don’t oversell your pitch. Leave room for the receiver to tell you how they see your idea unfolding. Try to bend your proposal to fit their vision.

Getting Alice

Alice Acheson
Famed publicist Alice Acheson at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington
(Image courtesy Village Books)

I soon quit the Libertarians and joined up with an outlaw publisher. I couldn’t get our books into stores because How to Steal Food from the Supermarket was just one of similar titles we published. We had a PR problem.

I had heard this publicist, Alice Acheson, at an industry event and I set my mind to get her to help us. When she won an award, I took the opportunity to send a note.

“Dear Alice,” my pitch began, “Congratulations on your recent award as Publicist of the Year! You might remember me from your class at Book Expo. I need help getting our books into stores.”

And that’s how I got Alice, my mentor! She taught me all the rest of this stuff. If you get anything out of this newsletter, please Go Tell Alice <aliceba7@gmail.com>, because she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met — next to you!

oro-logo-sm

Orobora provides online marketing services for reputation-minded businesses, including newsblogging, newsletters, news releases, direct mail and contact management systems. Contact us today about launching a new product, service, or business, or ongoing content marketing programs. Phone 540-324-7023 or Email news@orobora.com.

 

Featured

Billion Dollar Database

A bankruptcy court recently valued a single CRM database at $1 billion.
Find out who owns this billion-dollar database and how you can
build a customer database worth $10 to $25 per contact.

On March 20, 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that a single customer rewards database was valued at over $1 billion by creditors in a bankruptcy case.

Continue reading “Billion Dollar Database”

In Memory of Judith Appelbaum, Editor at Large

A remembrance of Judith Appelbaum, author of How to Get Happily Published, former managing editor at Publishers Weekly, and Editor at Large for the IBPA Independent.

I first made contact with Judith Appelbaum in 1998 when she added my book, Publicity on the Internet, to the Recommended Resources section of the website for her book, How to Get Happily Published. She liked my writing, and she asked me to write a profile of publishing management consultant, John Huenefeld, for the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) newsletter.

That began a very happy period in my life when I was writing publisher profiles and having them edited by none other than “Editor at Large” Judith Appelbaum, former managing editor of Publishers Weekly and a columnist for The New York Times Book Review! Under her careful watch, I interviewed PMA Executive Director, Jan Nathan; Workman Publishing founder Peter Workman; Sourcebooks founder Dominique Raccah; and the head of Small Press Relations at Barnes & Noble, Marcella Smith. You’ll find all these in the re-named Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) archives.

I first met Judith in 2004 on the terrace at Tropica in midtown Manhattan. She was impeccably dressed, remarkably well-poised as if she’d had training, elegant in word and gesture, quiet, thoughtful, with a hint of mischief in her eye perfectly captured in her titanium publicity photo. She was American royalty, in my mind, in a league with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who had worked as a book editor at Doubleday just down the street.

We discussed plans for a publishing supersite involving contacts from How to Get Happily Published, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, The Huenefeld Guide to Book Publishing and my Complete Guide to Internet Publicity. We could never get all the parties on the same page at the same time and the dream was deferred.

In 2004, she provided detailed comments on the manuscript for Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, which Jeff Herman was shopping around for me. I was living in New Orleans at the time and the manuscript evacuated with me during Hurricane Katrina. It stayed in the same waterproof box for 14 years while I travelled around the U.S. and Canada filming interviews with authors. Jeff Herman finally sold the manuscript to New World Library in 2018, within days of Judith’s passing in July. I learned about her death when I wrote to tell her my good news.

In 2003, when my father passed away, Judith was right there with a kind word: “Even when a death is expected, it can be wrenching, I know,” she wrote, “I’ll be thinking of you and your family.” Today, I am thinking of her family: her husband, Alan Appelbaum, her writing partner Nancy Evans, her business partner Florence Janovic, her colleagues and the thousands of writers whose lives she touched through her writing and her life’s work. Thank you, Judith Appelbaum, Editor at Large, wherever you are!

With Sincere Appreciation,
STEVE O’KEEFE

Book Review: Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me

I went from not liking Greg Koorhan’s new book,
“Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me,” to being a big fan.
If you’re trying to write your story this book helps.

I did not want to like this book.

In marketing, honesty is the best policy. In Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me, author Greg Koorhan explains why this approach works. An honest story always includes blemishes. When you tell an honest story in your marketing, people feel it, they empathize and they trust you. Telling an honest story helps you stand out from the competition since every honest story is unique.

I don’t like the title of this book and I hate the subtitle, How to use storytelling to connect with the hearts and wallets of a hungry audience. It’s a jumbled mess of anatomy and cliche. Under the covers, the book is thin — maybe 10,000 words — fattened with big type and white space. The tone is conversational, repetitive and full of cliches. I was prepared to slam this thing in my Amazon review. Then I read it.

It turns out the book is good — no, excellent!

The author is a scholar of storytelling and, after a slow start, explains the ways memorable stories are created. There is a science to storytelling and Greg Koorhan lays it out simply and convincingly. Effective stories are honest and always contain flaws which build empathy and trust. How these stories make the prospect feel is remembered long after the brochure is forgotten.

Koorhan provides a methodology for extracting our best stories and grooming them for use as sales pitches. The hardest part is being honest with yourself: “Telling the truth to ourselves requires awareness and practice,” he says. Other memorable sound bites include: “Stories do what data does not” and “Audiences identify with broken heroes.”

Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me is a great book about how to tell stories disguised as a marketing primer. If you are looking to tell a company story, a brand story, or your personal life story, this is the fastest, most accurate guide I have seen. The exercises will help you bring out your story and deliver it in a way that delights readers and listeners.

Photo of Author Greg Koorhan
Author Greg Koorhan (source: gregkourhan.com)

It’s no surprise that Greg Koorhan is a filmmaker. In video trailers and short films, you must to cut down hours of raw material to a few seconds with emotional impact. That kind of editing gives you a strong sense of the elements a story must have when everything extra is stripped away.

I went from not liking this book to being a big fan.

I thought it was too thin, but who wants a ponderous tome these days? You get through it quickly and the supporting workbook helps you apply the advice immediately. I didn’t like the breezy tone, but it pulls you in. It feels like the author is just talking to you when, in fact, there’s an enormous amount of research underneath his words into what makes a memorable story.

I highly recommend this book, and not just for marketers or sales people. If you want to write the story of your life, or your business, or another person’s story, Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me gives you tools for extracting interesting stories and shaping them into books, movies and, yes, even marketing pitches.

©2017 by Steve O’Keefe
Executive Director, Staunton Media Lab
Book Reviewed:
Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me
by Greg Koorhan
Published by Crossbow Studio
146 pages, paperback, ISBN 978-0692748275

Book Review: Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling

Decades of wisdom are cooked down in
“Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling”
a great guide for couples or families in business together.

Decades of Wisdom Cooked Down into Easy Routines

Don & Lois Crawford, authors of Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling
Don & Lois Crawford, authors of Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling

Don and Lois Crawford embody the title of their book, the softer side of selling. They are delightful people who are helpful, honest and nice. That’s how they sold me on this book. Their charming presentation will win you over, too, while providing you with better practices for more successful selling.

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, 2nd Edition, is a friendly, helpful, honest guide to selling. The writing is easy and breezy, with links to a well-chosen list of resources for those who seek greater depth. Most chapters end with a quiz to help you apply the principles to your own situation.

There were two key takeaways for me. First, “all sales are made emotionally” (page 69). Richard Thayer just received the Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, which shows that all decision-making is emotional and data is trumped by feelings at the moment of truth. See my review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on how we make decisions.

“All Sales are Made Emotionally”

The Crawfords know quite a bit about the psychology of sales and cook it down to some very useful techniques. For example, they explain how to tell what kind of arguments will be most persuasive with a prospect by observing how their eyes move when deep in thought: Visual people look up, verbal people look left or right, touchy-feely people look down.

The second takeaway is that there is an answer worse than “No” in the sales profession. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it is, but I will say the Crawfords have created an effective plan for qualifying prospects and steadily moving toward “Yes.” The book contains well-thought-out forms, checklists and scripts for organizing the sales process along with sample selling dialogues.

I have a couple of issues with the book. It starts very awkwardly with a discussion of gender and selling that is not very helpful, along with chapters such as “Choosing What to Sell” that are unnecessary for most readers. I suggest you skip the qualifying chapters and move quickly to the Six Step Sales Process where you’ll find terrific advice for generating fresh sales leads.

A Book for Couples & Partners

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, by Don & Lois Crawford
Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, by Don & Lois Crawford

While the gender discussion misses the mark, this book is a great guide to selling for couples who are in business together. Like Lois and Don, all couples or partners have strengths that balance each other. Lois is the writer, online connector, home office person. Don is telephoner, visit in person, gregarious road warrior. When you align sales activities around the personalities of the partners, it will be more successful.

Whether you are in business by yourself, in a family enterprise, or in sales for a small or large firm, you’ll benefit from the decades of wisdom cooked down into “Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling.”

Review ©2017 by Steve O’Keefe
Executive Director of the Staunton Media Lab

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, 2nd Edition
by Donald S. Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford
Published by Marketing Idea Shop, LLC
6″ x 9″ Paperback, 200 pages, ISBN 978-0-9742511-4-1
Illustrated with Forms; Bibliography; Glossary

Staunton Media Lab Unveils ARMi Assistive Technology Arm

The Staunton Media Lab reveals a breakthrough in assistive technology:
— The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm —
putting advanced technology within reach of the disabled.

Staunton Media Lab Unveils ARMi Assistive Technology Arm        

ARMi Brings Tech Tools Within Reach of Disabled

Putting 1,000 helping hands into homes this holiday season.

(Staunton, VA — September 1, 2017) On Friday, September 1, the Staunton Media Lab will debut a breakthrough in assistive technology — the ARMi Assistive Technology Arm — putting advanced technology within reach of the disabled.

The ARMi (short for “Advanced Recreational Media Interface”) is a portable, mechanical arm that allows for “hands-free” use of smartphones, tablet computers, remote controls, and other useful devices. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm also holds many devices useful for disabled or mobility-challenged persons, including a mirror, a magnifying glass and a magnetic plate.

The ARMi was developed as an inexpensive document reader for the blind. Document readers for the blind can cost several thousand dollars — too expensive for many who need them. However, smartphones that cost less than $100 can read documents to the blind — if the person has help holding the phone. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm provides those helping hands. With the ARMi and a smart phone, blind persons can easily position the phone and have books and documents read out loud by the phone.

The ARMi begins selling on Amazon in January, 2018, for only $99. However, during the month of September, the ARMi is available for only $69 through Kickstarter. Supplies are limited to 1,000 units.

Staunton Media Lab Audio Director, Coley Evans, co-developer of the ARMi, has been blind since birth. He relies on his ARMi for audio production. Coley’s ARMi holds his microphone in the center, a digital recorder in one arm and a smartphone in the other. The ARMi comes with three flexible gooseneck arms that mount in any direction. It’s a video or audio streamer’s dream come true!

With the ARMi, your tech is in touch and your tools stay put! No more hunting for the remote control — it’s on the ARMi. So are the phone, the calculator, the car keys, the headphones. The ARMi makes your tech toys easier to find and harder to steal. Merchants love ringing up sales with the ARMi — just swipe, swivel and sign!

The ARMi improves posture by allowing people to look up or stand up when using phones or tablets. It ergonomically adjusts to the level you want. It can attach to hospital beds, wheel chairs, bedroom furniture and even bathroom furniture. The ARMi provides assistance wherever it is needed. It needs no batteries and has no power cord. The ARMi is rugged, durable and well suited to a wide variety of locations.

The ARMi was developed at the Staunton Media Lab (SML), a program for blind, deaf and “uniquely-able.” SML is a for-profit venture producing audio and video content for a wide variety of customers including the American Shakespeare Center, voiceovers for radio and TV commercials, and video trailers for authors and musicians.

In 2016, Staunton Media Lab was recognized as Business of the Year by Virginia’s Department of Blind and Vision Impaired. Steve O’Keefe, the Lab’s Executive Director, has worked with blind, deaf, and cognitively-impaired persons for 35 years. O’Keefe taught at Tulane University for over a decade before hurricanes caused him to move to Staunton in 2010.

The Staunton Media Lab began as an afternoon workshop in audio and video editing for the blind and the deaf. In 2016, the project incorporated and moved onto the campus of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton. The Lab is housed in an old television production studio that had not been operated in over a decade.

Details of Kickstarter Campaign for the ARMi

The ARMi is available exclusively on Kickstarter during the month of September. The campaign ends on October 1. The ARMi retails for $99 but is available during the Kickstarter campaign for only $69 plus shipping. Supplies are limited to 1,000 units and they are expected to sell out quickly.

“We are practically giving them away,” says O’Keefe. “The Kickstarter campaign will help us fund design work to streamline the ARMi and bring the cost down enough to sell them on Amazon for $99 and make a profit.” Kickstarter ARMies will arrive by Thanksgiving. O’Keefe’s goal is to get “1,000 helping hands into homes this holiday season.”

The Kickstarter page has videos and pictures of the ARMi being used in many different ways. Workshop ARMi shows the device with a magnifying glass, smart phone, tablet and cup holder attached. Bathroom ARMi shows it being used as a toilet paper holder, with a magnifying glass, mirror and smartphone holder. “Some people have no choice but to spend a lot of time in bed or in the bath,” O’Keefe said.

How to Connect With the Staunton Media Lab

For more information about the Staunton Media Lab, email info@stauntonmedialab.com, connect with us on Twitter, or visit the Staunton Media Lab on the Web, YouTube, SoundCloud, or Amazon.

 

Steve O’Keefe, Executive Director, and Coley Evans, Audio Director, at the SML designing the ARMi.

 

Self-Publishing: New Formats, Old Challenges (but Amazon Still Rules)

Self-publishing is on the rise, but the authors are not alone though they can be as independent in their decision-making as they choose.

Alex Daniel, in a recent article for Publishers Weekly, outlined this year’s trends for self-publishing. The field is growing, presenting new opportunities for indie authors and publishers, he says, but one has to “expand the definition of ‘self-published author’ to encompass new roles and new formats.”

Self-publishing is on the rise

The ISBN-issuing agency and publisher Bowker released a few numbers in its report, “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2010-2015: Print vs. Ebook,” that support that claim. Based on the number of the ISBNs registered in the U.S. during the specified time period:

  • ISBNs for self-published titles increased 375% since 2010
  • Self-publishing grew 21% between 2014-2015
  • 153,000 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2010, compared to 727,100 in 2015

The identified trends included:

  • More writers taking advantage of traditional publishing houses and self-publishing
  • Libraries and booksellers seeking opportunities to offer more self-published content
  • The number of self-published authors reaching prominent bestseller lists is on the rise

Jennifer Alsever, writing for Fortune, calls the global self-publishing phenomenon “The Kindle Effect” as Kindle Direct Publishing allows anyone to upload and sell a book for free. Citing the numbers from data site Author Earnings, she writes:

“This year Jeff Bezos’s company released 4 million e-titles, and 40% were self-published. Those volumes accounted for 25% of Amazon’s $2.3 billion in ebook revenues…

Independent authors enjoy more creative control and far better royalties: They keep 50% to 70% of book sales, vs. 15% to 25% royalties for traditionally published books. So-called independent books increasingly land at the top of bestseller lists, are optioned to be Hollywood movies, and generate real money for their authors.”

For a thorough review of how to publish successfully on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, see Self-Publishing on Amazon’s KDP: Everything Nonfiction Authors Need to Know, by Bennett R. Coles.

It’s harder for authors to stand out

The expansion doesn’t come without challenges, of course. Daniel writes:

“New services have made it easier than ever to launch self-publishing projects, and as the landscape gets more crowded, it becomes more difficult for authors to stand out and make a profit.”

Daniel quotes Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, an e-book-distribution platform for independent authors and publishers, who says the sheer volume of e-books flooding the market is making it difficult for authors to get their books discovered. Amazon’s shift from compensating authors based on the number of pages read vs. the number of books sold isn’t helping, in Coker’s opinion.

According to Coker:

“Amazon has not made anything easier for indie authors’ bottom lines with KDP Select, which requires participating authors to publish e-books exclusively with Amazon and allows titles to be eligible for Kindle Unlimited — a program that provides unlimited books for readers who pay a monthly subscription fee.”

Becoming your own publisher

As a result, more self-publishing authors are partnering with brands to deliver content in different formats, like audio, plus focus on getting the print version into the libraries and the brick-and-mortar stores. This means that authors have to become their own publicists, media consultants and marketers, and figure out ways to publish their book across different platforms. On top of all that, savvy authors also feel like that they have to learn the best way to track performance by using analytical data and existing tools and services, to tweak their global marketing efforts.

In her September article for The New York Times Alexandra Alter points out that while e-book sales keep tumbling the sales of print books and downloadable audio books are up, and the bookstores, including the indie ones, are doing better overall.

Alter writes:

“While publishers once fretted that digital book sales were eroding more profitable categories like hardcover, they now are finding that e-books — which cost next to nothing to produce and zero to ship and which can’t be returned as unsold merchandise by retailers — are critical profit engines. But e-book sales have fallen precipitously for months, in part because many publishers have raised their prices after negotiating with Amazon and gaining the ability to set their own prices.”

A success story from an Amazon author

OK, so self-publishing authors should help move their product by becoming their own publicists, but can they do it? And do they want to?

Why, yes. Some authors are more than thriving doing just that. One great example is the rise of A.G. Riddle (of The Origin Mystery trilogy), with his books sales surpassing millions on Amazon, Audible, and many foreign markets.

Observer‘s Brady Dale interviewed him last February for the publication’s ongoing Titans of Kindle series, asking, among other things, what was his biggest sales driver. (At the time of this post being written A.G. Riddle was ranked #52 Top 100 authors overall.)

While admitting that some of his success may be attributed by the mere fact that people just want to read his books, A.G. Riddle said it was also the “curb appeal in the Amazon store” and that Amazon “reviews are huge.” Another is pricing, Riddle said. Price too low, and hurt the sales. Price too high, same thing.

He noted:

“I agree with the idea that people assign value to the idea of price… But I think when you’re breaking into the market […] when I first came out in March 2013, people would see a 99-cent book and they weren’t as put off or scared, but I think that the psychology might have changed… I think it’s important, if you’re pricing low, that you do it as an introductory price.”

Digital Book World 2017: E-book sales are NOT dwindling

In an article dated January 18 this year, the same writer, Brady Dale, disputed the accuracy of the numbers showing that e-book sales are declining, attributing it to the fact that those reported numbers only cover part of the market, such as, for instance, large publishers only. “In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown,” Dale commented.

He cites two separate presentations at Digital Book World held in NYC on January 17-19 — by the previously mentioned Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive. “It became clear that ‘unit sales’ may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market,” Dale writes. “In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.”

Dale also pointed out that e-book sales reports tend to overlook the numbers pulled from Kindle Unlimited. Some consider those not real sales in a strict sense, because Amazon splits the revenue with the authors based on the number of pages read by members.

Amazon sales as of October 2016

The Digital Book World presentation by Author Earnings was largely based on the company’s October 2016 report. All estimates, according to the company, are of all the sales on Amazon only, with 20,000 unique publishers.

Also, the following note was included with the company’s October 2016 report. It may help better understand how the numbers are compiled:

“Due to their relatively small number of titles, Amazon Publishing’s sales are generally the most volatile from report to report. And this data snapshot was collected early in the month, when Amazon’s six KindleFirst titles held all 5 of the top 5 overall best-seller slots, and 6 of the top 7. But still, the KF titles made up only 2% of overall Amazon Kindle sales, or half of the increase we see in Amazon Imprint market share.”

Here are some other key takeaways from the presentation:

  • Author Earnings estimates that approximately 486,000 e-book units were sold in 2016
  • Amazon’s 2016 e-book sales grew 4%, compared to 2015. “For the last three years in a rising ebook market, traditional publishers have been rapidly losing market share to self-published authors and Amazon imprints…”
  • In 2016, Amazon imprints published approximately 7,770,000 audiobooks, 60,000,000 e-books, and 960,000 print books
  • No ISBN? No problem. On Amazon, 43% e-books purchased don’t have ISBN

Dale mentions that it took years for data companies like Author Earnings to come up with more or less accurate numbers for Amazon sales. He writes:

“No one will ever be able to get a God-view on the entire book market, but some sources incorporate as much information as they can while others appear intent on pretending like growing segments of the market just aren’t there. Which sounds more reliable?”

Still, a few things are clear: Self-publishing is on the rise and evolving to allow authors not only set the price of their work but also pick and choose from a number of different formats — print and digital — as well as hybrid services and tools, across various platforms.

Support for self-publishers on Amazon

As a result of Amazon.com’s market dominance in vending independently publishes books and ebooks, the first thing authors and publishers should do to promote their books is improve their presence on Amazon. Orobora has been helping authors promote their books on Amazon for two decades. We have some incredibly successful campaigns and resources to help you.

Amazon Makeovers. Our marketing specialists access Amazon through a back door and take control of your author page and product pages, then load them up with compelling content. Take a look at our Amazon Top Reviewer Campaign page for examples.

Getting Customer Reviews on Amazon. We locate the Amazon reviewers who are most respected in your market area and approach them to review your product(s). These are not fake reviews or paid reviews but honest reviews by reviewers Amazon customers trust the most. The results are incredible!

Amazon Self-Promotion Resources. Please see a series of videos we have produced showing exactly how to fix up your Amazon pages and attract top reviewers on Amazon. You can do the work yourself or hire Orobora to do it, but you are wasting your best marketing vehicle if you don’t actively promote your products right at the world’s cash register: Amazon.com.

Images by rawpixel/123RF Stock Photo (top) and akz/123RF Stock Photo.

What Kills a Honey Badger?

The honey badger is considered to be the fiercest fighting animal on Earth. So what kills a honey badger? The answer will surprise you.

The Honey Badger, photo courtesy Richard Toller used under Creative Commons license

The honey badger is considered to be pound-for-pound one of the fiercest animals in the world. It trots along the African Savannah with a hairpin trigger, spoiling for a fight. Named for a mop of golden hair on top, honey badgers have been known to take on lions and tigers and leopards, oh my!

The honey badger is not afraid of anything, so the legend goes. They fight to death rather than giving up. One of this feared animal’s unique fighting techniques is to try to sever the testicles of its opponents, neutralizing them in more ways than one.

“Honey badger don’t give a shit!”

That’s a line from a Nat Geo Wild documentary about the honey badger that was appropriated some years ago as the moto of Breitbart, the alternative media network that was run by Steve Bannon before he was appointed strategic advisor to United States President Donald J. Trump.

Breitbart don’t give a shit!

You might have heard that Breitbart played a role in helping elect Donald Trump. Here’s some of the ways this honey badger went to battle for Mr. Trump:

  • Breitbart and their benefactor, Roger Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, built a giant database of U.S. voters, sifting through the so-called “dark web” to fill out the database will all kinds of info about you.
  • The dark web consists of information for sale that is not indexed in Google or other search engines. Very often this data was stolen at some point by hackers who stripped out valuable information like credit card numbers before selling the junk — your grocery store history, for example — on the dark web.
  • Breitbart produced slick little viral videos to carry their nasty messages to voters.
  • When Donald Trump sealed the Republican Party nomination, Reince Priebus handed over the keys to the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) $200 million database of U.S. voters.
  • Trump merged the RNC database with the Cambridge Analytica database to create one of the world’s largest and most valuable databases ever.
  • Trump used this muscled-up database to send nasty little messages directly to registered voters who had not voted for many election cycles. The targeting of registered non-voters with messages built around their demographics was brilliant and effective.

What, exactly, is in this Uber Database? Few people know for sure. Short of a subpoena, honey badger’s not tellin’! It’s very likely that Breitbart knows more about you than you know about yourself. How is that possible?

Mercernaries for Hire

The suspected owners of Breitbart are Robert and Rebekah Mercer — a billionaire father-daughter team that were early backers of the Trump presidential campaign. They own Cambridge Analytica, which owns the big database which likely now contains the RNC voter database.

The Mercers’ astonishing wealth-creating abilities come from being able to manipulate giant databases, navigate the dark web, and trade on stock market information before it becomes widely available. Using this vast data-mining machine, they are able to spot arbitrage opportunities to hold securities for a matter of minutes or even seconds before reselling at a profit. This machine-generated profit accumulates over time into a personal fortune of billions of dollars.

The Mercers are as protective as honey badgers about anyone messing with their arbitrage operation. When Hillary Clinton proposed taxing such hedge fund transactions, the Mercers became her fiercest opponents. When John McCain proposed such a tax, the Mercers poured money into his opponent’s campaign. Honey badger don’t give a shit if you’re left or right! Don’t mess with his millions!

The Mercers originally backed the Ted Cruz campaign, but when that imploded they bought the Trump campaign, according to The Young Turks. Traditional Republican billionaire donors were still holding their noses over Trump. The honey badger is known for a reversible anal sack that spreads foul odors all over the place. The Mercers got in early and made a deal The Donald couldn’t refuse.

Cambridge Assholitica

A recent news release by Cambridge Analytica says the company is “the market leader in the provision of data analytics and behavioral communications for political campaigns, issue groups and commercial enterprises.” Their website boasts of a database with 5,000 data points. This is even better than George H. W. Bush’s “thousand points of light.” It’s five times better, with 5,000 points of light about you.

You might not be aware you have a kidney condition, but an analysis of your shopping patterns over the past 20 years may let Breitbart know that those kidneys will be failing soon. That is the kind of knowledge they can pull out of this database by using big data analysis software on those 5,000 points of personal information.

Here are some things the Trump campaign knows about you. They know how close you live to a stated Trump supporter. They know which of your co-workers are stated Trump supporters. They know who you are connected to in your community and how you are connected to them. They create a message targeted to your 5000 points and they recruit a friend of yours to deliver it so it gets past your filters.

It does not matter if that message is true or not. Honey badger don’t give a shit! It doesn’t matter whether it’s legal to collect or store this data. Honey badger don’t give a shit! Your friend might not even be aware that they are being used this way. Honey badger don’t give a shit!

Did you know that Breitbart was instrumental in helping to pass the Brexit referendum in the U.K. long before helping Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency? Did you know that Nigel Farage was on Breitbart’s payroll before the Brexit vote? Did you know it was the Mercers who brought Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to the Trump campaign? Did you know that the Mercers financed Citizens United, the Super PAC whose Supreme Court case opened the floodgates for billionaire-funded presidential campaigns?

Remind you of anyone? Image courtesy of wallace used under Creative Commons license

Honey badger don’t give a shit!

Breitbart wants to see the European Union break apart into its constituent states. It wants to see the United Kingdom break into its tribal territories. It wants to see the United States government cede most of its power back to constituent States. Why?

Because the honey badger hates everybody! Breitbart wants to see the fall of the global order for the same thrill that comes from watching a building implode over and over. And now honey badger is on the move!

Breitbart is backing Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. Wherever there’s a racist who wants to build walls instead of bridges, Breitbart is there!

Marvel the honey badger! He trades in fear, is a bully at heart, and hates everybody.

So what kills a honey badger?

What is the honey badger’s greatest natural enemy? It’s not lions or tigers, majestic animals that kill plenty of honey badgers. It’s not courts or even cops that kill honey badgers. No, the honey badger’s greatest enemy is the honey badger!

What kills a honey badger is its own aggressive, stupid behavior! When the honey badger attacks a tiger or a lion or a dragon, the honey badger is doomed. It never gives up and so it always loses to a superior foe. You dead, stupid honey badger!

Honey badgers are so gluttonous that they eat themselves sick trying to make sure they don’t leave any food for anyone else. They are so voracious that they sometimes eat themselves to death! The honey badger has no self-control. It can’t stop itself. What kills a honey badger? It’s own greed and gluttony. You dead, stupid honey badger!

It turns out that the honey badger is nothing but a squirrel with a bad attitude and a bad toupe. It turns out more honey badgers are killed by dogs than any other animal. You hear that, Precious? You’re badder than a honey badger!

Honey badger is all swagger and no brains. It is not something to be feared; it is something to be put down — a crazy, rabid weasel that thinks it can take over the world. In the end, honey badger’s stupidity, arrogance and greed will be its own undoing.

We have nothing to fear from the honey badger but it has plenty to fear, because there is no way for the honey badger to escape its mortal foe: itself!

Fecalnomics: Why Good People Make Shitty Decisions

Steve O’Keefe discusses the nature of poor decision-making, based on his Amazon review of Thinking Fast & Slow by the Nobel economist Daniel Kahneman.

[This is the online version of Continuous Improvement: The Newsletter of Orobora, a printed publication. You are welcome to subscribe to the print edition and we will mail it at no cost.]

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Fecalnomics:
Why Good People Make Shitty Decisions

Fecalnomics is the study of poor decision-making. The concept of “fecalnomics” originated with an Amazon review I wrote of the book, Thinking Fast & Slow, in which Nobel economist Daniel Kahneman shows how monkeys throwing feces are more accurate than human stock pickers over the long toss.

Considering recent electoral results in the United States and the United Kingdom, this is an opportune time to reflect on how and why humans make terrible decisions and what we can do to improve both our good-decision rate and our happiness with our decisions. Here, then, are 10 basic principles of fecalnomics.

1. Humans Make Quick Emotional Decisions

When forced to make a choice, human beings make quick emotional decisions, then look for supporting evidence if they have to defend their position. Kahneman calls these thought patterns “System One” (for fast emotional thinking) and “System Two” (for slower, logical thinking). Kahneman and his late colleague, Amos Tversky, came at economics from psychology and basically said the “Rational Man” of classical economics isn’t wearing any clothes! Real men and real women are driven by primal passions which we dress up in “rational” arguments after the fact, if ever at all.

Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman

2. “Research” Means Bolstering Quick Emotional Decisions

What we call “research” or “science” is very often an effort to prove an emotional hunch rather than an attempt to understand reality or discover truth. This problem plagues all scientific experimentation. It leads to a lot of research going unpublished because it does not correlate well with emotional beliefs. Research that “has a good story arc,” on the other hand, gets elevated.

Humans do not form their beliefs based on analysis of data; they measure the veracity of data by its affinity with their beliefs. In the case of political candidates, voters make emotional decisions early on, then consult the media that supports their views for evidence to defend their decision. When we do research, we are almost always looking to confirm an entrenched belief.

3. We Ignore Averages and Believe We’re Exceptional

If half the marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, what’s the chance your marriage will? If you’re married, you likely rate your chance of divorce at far less than 50%. Maybe 10%. You know the odds, but you don’t believe they apply to you.

The problem is, no one believes the odds apply to them in any given situation. We’re often surprised by an outcome that could easily be predicted. We refuse to consult the science available and, when we do, we ignore the guidance in favor of our own instincts. If we did not, people would not get married, would not have kids, would not start businesses, and certainly would not become scientists. The failure rate for real science is so high that Kahneman suggests a person must be “delusional” to be successful as a scientist.

4. We Underestimate How Long Things Will Take

The best story in Thinking Fast & Slow, in my opinion, is one where a group of experts in the burgeoning field of Behavioral Economics gather for the purpose of producing a college textbook and curriculum. Kahneman polls the room privately on how long they expect this effort to take. The average of their guesses is two years. The people in the room have themselves done research that shows this effort takes on average seven to 10 years with a 40% incompletion rate.

The dramatic difference between their predictions and their own research is discussed and each obstacle is explained away in turn. It took eight years to complete the project. None of them likely would have started the project if they thought it would take eight years. They may not have known exactly what would happen to slow them down, but they should have known that something was likely to happen to drag their schedule closer to the mean.

5. We Underestimate How Much Things Will Cost

One of the ways humans believe we are making progress on our life goals is by ignoring any evidence we are not. Almost all marketing enables this illusion by stressing benefits and hiding costs. If you hold title to an asset, you feel as if you own that wealth.

Many assets, however, are purchased with debt, are taxed, and require maintenance, storage and insurance. Our wealth turns out to be indentured servitude — a promise to generate revenue streams for other people. If we do not pay, our assets go away and possibly our liberties, too.

Human beings build great structures at enormous expense and fail to fund simple maintenance to preserve them. We inject toxic sludge deep underground when we know treatment is a better solution. No reserves are set aside for dealing with problems in the future. We enjoy benefits today while pushing costs away, so we naturally underestimate and underfund the cost of nearly everything.

Amos Tversky
Amos Tversky

6. We Believe Tomorrow Will Be Like Today

Two hundred years ago, 99% of Americans worked in agriculture. Today, less than 2% do. A hundred years ago, half of Americans worked industrial jobs. Today, less than 5% do.

Manufacturing currently employs less than 15% of U.S. workers. Most Americans today work in services. Many of these service jobs are quickly being automated away. We see an arc of progress from our own perspective that looks gradual and consistent and we project it into the future.

The real arc is much more dramatic. We’re no longer the smartest thing on Earth. Your kids ask Google or Siri or Watson; they don’t ask you; they never will again. If machines are now demonstrably “smarter” than humans — making better decisions, faster, based on more data, with confidence-graded outcomes — then it’s Game Over for humans. We’re now the amusing pets of a superior species. We can expect to be treated as such in the future.

7. We Hold Onto Mistakes As If They Were Children

Humans can’t stand to lose or go backwards. Our fear of losing something we have is so severe that we will do almost anything to avoid a loss. This loss-avoidance-ratio can be calculated with some accuracy. In terms of income, it takes a $10K increase in pay to make you as happy as a $5K de-crease makes you sad.

The result of this weird loss avoidance ratio is that we think everything we possess somehow gains a magical quality that makes it much more valuable than the same thing on the open market. It’s like your Samuelson Economics textbook should be worth more because it has your margin notes. The problem is that human beings (and corporations and governments) are loath to cut their losses and move on. We hang onto worthless things much longer than we should, with painful consequences.

 

Protecting Yourself From Fecalnomics

 

8. Calm the F! Down

Things are neither as bad nor as good as they appear. We tend to confuse the exception with the rule and overreact emotionally to almost everything we learn. Take the U.S. elections. Congressional incumbents historically have a 95% reelection rate — that’s why it seems like nothing in Washington, D.C., ever changes.

In 2016 — surprise! — incumbents had a 95% reelection rate. It’s not rational to expect change. Kahneman points out that all extremes erode to the mean over time. That’s why I think Google is doomed because they hire geniuses and ride them to mediocrity. I have decided to work more with college dropouts because their exceptional days are ahead of them.

Consult the averages. Data does matter. No person or thing outperforms the average for very long.

9. Visualize Being a Loser

If you want to make better decisions, stop getting all caught up in the euphoria of how awesome it’s going to be and think, for a moment, of what happens if it all goes horribly wrong? Americans have the highest confidence-to-skillset ratio in the world. Over 90% of us think we’re better-than-average drivers.

Kahneman points out how difficult it is for people to see downside accurately. We don’t believe average results apply to our situation. Because of our belief that the future will be a smooth extension from the present, we are unable to imagine the obstacles that will arise. Conduct what Kahneman calls a pre-mortem and analyze what went wrong before you begin, so that you’re more aware there are risks, even though you’re not sure how they’ll manifest.

10. Get Over It

The lessons on happiness that spring from Kahneman’s research are quite startling. He spurred the global movement toward accurately measuring satisfaction and happiness. What drives dissatisfaction is the gulf between accomplishments and expectations. Lower your expectations, says Kahneman, and you will be happier more often.

Write off your losses quickly and move on. You are by nature excessively risk-averse so dwelling on past losses leads to a spiral of fear and paralysis. Kahneman says experiences that are painful at the time are often fondly remembered and deeply satisfying.

See Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath for a book-length discussion of that phenomenon. Kahneman labors to explain this without simply citing childbirth — an extremely unpleasant experience that usually leads to deep life satisfaction.

So get over it, cut your losses and make life changes. Things are never going to be the same again. You may come to see this loss as the best thing that ever happened to you. The secret to happiness, it turns out, is to decide to be happy — no matter what fecal material is flung your way.

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Monkeys Throwing Feces Are Smarter Than You!

A critical review of “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, one of the founders of Behavioral Economics.

thinking-fast-and-slow-cover

Review of “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
©2011, first paperback edition @2013

Reviewed by Steve O’Keefe

This is a difficult book, requiring much System 2 cognitive effort; if you want to substitute a simpler read, try the Introduction and Part V: Two Selves, and skip all the hypothetical gambles between.

The Introduction has been labored over and nicely hits all the high notes — it’s worthy of the Nobel Prize, which the author was awarded in 2002. Daniel Kahneman and his partner Amos Tversky came at economics from psychology and basically said the Rational Man has no clothes. People often act against their own interests and are easily duped. This may seem self-evident after the U.S. Treasury covered Wall Street’s losing real estate bets in 2008.

Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman

Human beings tell themselves a story about what is happening in the world and often ignore information that cannot be easily worked into the plot. For example, peak marital happiness is in the first year of marriage, then it steadily declines. Married couples prefer not to let this fact inside their story lines. Here’s another interesting Kahnefact: Mothers prefer spending time doing housework to spending time with their children. Ouch.

A rational “Econ” weighs the facts and makes the best choice. A “Human,” says Kahneman, makes a quick, emotional choice then shapes the facts to support the decision. The rational mind resists this assault, but in chapter after chapter, Kahneman shows that decisions we think are based on “science” are mythology.

He goes after stock pickers — you can thank Kahneman and his proof that managed funds cannot outperform the market by enough to cover their fees for the rise of giant index funds. He goes after surgeons, and rightly so: The majority of them will change their recommended treatment for cancer from surgery to radiation depending on how you ask the question.

Kahneman disturbingly points out that a good algorithm is often better at decision-making than a trained human, yet we almost always prefer the human to the formula. That’s not “rational.”

Kahneman goes after CEOs, who he criticizes for their overconfidence, their appetite for risk, their reluctance to cut their losses, and their tendency to “swing for the fences” rather than admit defeat and reposition their assets. Kahneman is a psychologist; he never once mentions the limited liability all U.S. corporations enjoy absolutely encourages risky, swing for the fences behavior because there is only upside. If it all goes badly, the taxpayers will eat the loss.

Amos Tversky
Amos Tversky

Kahneman’s weakness in economics is ironically the only weakness in the book. How can you have a discussion of utility theory and not mention John Stuart Mill and barely acknowledge Jeremy Bentham? Part IV — Choices — should be called Painful Choices, because it is painful to watch Kahneman build up to prospect theory when he could have used just two words: marginal utility.

At one point, he seems to not understand risk, as when he accuses fellow Nobel laureate Gary Becker of believing there are no such things as mistakes. A mistake, in economics, is the downside of risk. It’s supposed to happen all the time in a free economy.

As for the title of this review, it’s become an old saw that monkeys throwing darts at a stock chart are as likely to come out ahead as human stock pickers. “Monkeys throwing darts” is a pseudonym for randomness. But expertise is something that comes through experience, according to Kahneman, and monkeys are experienced at throwing feces.

Therefore, their accuracy with feces should be superior to their accuracy with darts and, thus, superior to you. Work that into your story line.

Improving Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce is held up as something that cannot be improved upon. Steve O’Keefe reveals a secret recipe for making your mom’s spaghetti sauce even better. Will it survive his Sicilian mother’s scrutiny?

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My mother just celebrated her 87th birthday. She is Italian-American, but not just any Italian-American. My mother is full-on Sicilian, she raised nine children, and she arguably makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world. This newsletter is about making that sauce better.

Before I proceed, I should mention that the Sicilian people as a rule are not very big and have survived the centuries by making this face that deters others from messing with them. I can feel my mother making this face right now. She has a meathook for an eyebrow, which she used to suspend small children in a distant corner of her kitchen as though they were curing hams. It is said the Sicilian Stare can take 25 minutes off your lifespan. I’d better get on with the story.

Should You Try To Improve on Perfection?

Annoying readers of this newsletter have pointed out that some things do not need “continuous improvement.” Sometimes it’s wise to leave well enough alone. Sometimes the goal is sustainability, rather than growth. These hecklers cite “Mom’s spaghetti sauce” as an example of something so perfect that it is blasphemy to try to improve it. They are wrong.

It’s a good test, however, of the theory of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is not about growth or profit; it’s about making things better. That’s a subjective term, and it should be. Each of us defines our own better. We know it when it happens. And I can show you how to make Mom’s spaghetti sauce better—by your own subjective standards.

Mom’s spaghetti sauce is the pinnacle of perfection because it illustrates the roll that expectations play in satisfaction and delight. Your mom’s spaghetti sauce will always taste better to you than any other mom’s spaghetti sauce because it’s familiar to you. Your mother’s sauce probably tastes better to you, even, than my mother’s sauce. I’m about to show you how to make your mother’s sauce even better than he or she does.

Childhood Memories Make an Impression

Smell and taste result in much stronger mental imprints that most of us credit. We are designed by nature to remember when and where we found good things to eat. We also remember horrible tastes and their origins all too well. In fact, according to Dr. Robert Pretlow, a client and pediatrician who has developed a smartphone app for clinically obese children, one of the most effective appetite suppressants is a little vial of rancid smells opened at the moment willpower fails.

Conversely, the smell of onions, garlic, and bell pepper sautéing in a pan brings a tear to the eye of all Sicilians (the salt of tears being a major ingredient in Italian women’s sauces for centuries). The taste of your mother’s sauce is intertwined with some of your best childhood memories: those involving eating.

As a result of your childhood programming, there is no way for my spaghetti sauce to break through the tapestry of your memories and displace your mother’s sauce as the zenith of culinary achievement. But I can show you how to make your mother’s sauce even better.

My Recipe for Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

Here are the ingredients for my spaghetti sauce. It doesn’t look like anything special.

1 lb. ground beef
4 16-oz cans of tomato sauce
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup tap water
1/4 cup red wine
1 onion
2 cloves garlic

Spices:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp sweet basil
  • sugar
  • salt
  • pepper

The reason these ingredients can go from supermarket to sublime in just a few hours is centuries of continuous improvement. At one time the tomato was considered by Europeans to be poisonous. Enough brains remembered enough unpleasant experiences with tomatoes that Europeans did not cultivate them until the late 1700s, when someone in Naples, just up the boot from Sicily, first figured out that if you cook the tomato, it loses its acidity and transforms into a food of the gods.

Today, I’ll show you how to make your mother’s spaghetti sauce better than ever. It is a recipe you will want to share with your children and hand down, improving future generations.

Continuously Improving Your Sauce

The first thing I do is brown the ground beef on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the hamburger breaks down into very small, granular pieces. For chili, you want big chunks of browned burger, but for this sauce, you want it very dry and very fine. Drain all the fat off and add the salt and pepper and brown a few seconds longer. I like to add the salt and pepper here, to infuse the meat with flavor, rather than later. Turn the heat down to medium. Starting with the tomato sauce, add all the other ingredients, stirring all the time, then turn the heat to low for an hour. That’s my sauce.

My wife, collage artist Deborah O’Keeffe, would immediately improve my recipe by specifying 93% fat-free ground beef. My mother would one-up her. She would say, “Find the best looking piece of beef on sale and hand it to the butcher to grind. But watch them. Never let your beef leave your line of sight until it hits the dinner table.” So the first way to improve your sauce is to upgrade the ingredients.

When I make my Mom’s sauce, I prefer the Great Value tomato sauce and paste from Wal-Mart. It is noticeably thicker than even the premium grocery store brands. It has a better flavor, better texture, and goes further than other tomato sauces. Wal-Mart’s suppliers have definitely applied continuous improvement techniques to get a better product at a lower price. That’s how continuous improvement is supposed to work.

How to Make My Mom’s Sauce Better

My mother’s sauce is different than most because she does not sauté the garlic or the onion, but peels them and puts them in whole, then removes them before serving. You get the flavor of the onion and garlic, but not any tasty bits. Supposedly she did this because my Dad didn’t like garlic or onions. But my Dad didn’t like spaghetti sauce, so it would have made no difference to him.

Isn’t it amazing that an Italian woman who makes the world’s best spaghetti sauce would marry an Irish man who hates spaghetti sauce? The only food they had in common was the host.

Here’s a suggestion for my Mom: if you use a sweet onion instead of a yellow onion, you can cut down on the amount of refined sugar or honey you use to sweeten the sauce. There, I said it! It won’t make your sauce better, Mom, but it will make it different, and you might like it.

So how do you make your mother’s spaghetti sauce even better? Here’s the secret.

How to Make Your Mom’s Sauce Better

You can make your mom’s spaghetti sauce better by trying something different. It doesn’t matter what you try. Anything works. I’ve tried sautéed mushrooms: eh. Green pepper adds some zing. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of Allegro marinade. It really makes no difference because, no matter what you try, there really is no way of making spaghetti sauce better than your mom. She’s got history on her side and you cannot unprogram childhood memories attached to that sauce.

You cannot make spaghetti sauce better than your mom. But you made your mom’s sauce better by trying something new.

You see, after a while, mom’s sauce starts losing its power due to familiarity. After a while, mom’s sauce becomes routine—nothing special, ordinary to the palate, taken for granted. When we try to improve something and fail, we return to the original with renewed respect. Dare I call it awe? This renewed appreciation makes the same sauce suddenly taste better.

The way you improve your mom’s spaghetti sauce is to try to make it better. Even if you fail, the same sauce will now taste better. It’s a psychological trick of expectations.

The Benefits of Continuous Improvement

The only thing our brains enjoy more than a deviation from expectations is a satisfying return to the fold. This is what gives music its drama and food its flavor: the emotional punch from the deviation from—and return to—expectations.

That’s why we pursue continuous improvement even when it’s impossible: because even if you fail, you make the best better.

Can you make your mother’s spaghetti sauce better? Yes you can! And you can do it without supplanting her sauce as the best in the world. How’s that, Mom? Can I get down now?

Photo by jeffreyw

Book Review: Life in Half a Second

A successful entrepreneur, bodybuilder, business coach, and psychologist, Matthew Michalewicz, suggests five doors you must walk through if you’re serious about achieving success.

life-in-half-a-secondLife in Half a Second:
How to Achieve Success
Before It’s Too Late
by Matthew Michalewicz
Published by Hybrid Publishers
ISBN 978-1925000207

Reviewed in half a sentence: A successful entrepreneur, bodybuilder, business coach, and psychologist, Matthew Michalewicz, suggests five doors you must walk through if you’re serious about achieving success.

Here’s the other half of the sentence: as long as you define success as financial success.

Knowing what to do allows you to see the path; knowing how to do it allows you to follow the path.

The book begins by noting that if the age of the universe was a year long, your expected lifespan would be about one half of a second. Bang! Ya burnt! You shouldn’t waste a single morsel of the time you have because—bang!—it’s over.

It’s a pretty clever construction. Matthew Michalewicz wants to get you moving toward your goal. As a scholar of psychology, he knows that there’s something keeping you from achieving your deepest-felt goals. He wants to get you over that something. Fast.

The book presents a series of steps (he calls them “doors”) to take for success. It’s a comfortable blend of common sense and commonly-accepted principles of self-help with just enough insight to keep it from sounding cliché. Here’s a summary of Michalewicz’s five doors:

 

  1. Clarity
    Establish clear goals, write them down, and share them. This section includes some difficult to swallow statistics, such as “people with goals earn nine times as much over their lifetime as people without goals.” Just the definition of the word “goals” would be enough to keep the debate about the truth of this statement going longer than your half second.
  2. Desire
    “No burn, no earn,” might be a half-second way of summarizing this chapter. For Michalewicz, Persistence = sustained desire; I like that! The section includes a nice riff on the joys of stream-of-consciousness writing (the author throws down in the closing chapter of the book).
  3. Belief
    The cliché of every self-help book shows up here: your belief helps make it real. The only nuance of originality here is the suggestion to surround yourself with people who have been super-successful in your areas of interest.
  4. Knowledge
    This chapter is worth the time it takes to get here, and includes numerous insights, like the use of goal pyramids and the gut realization that ownership of assets is the path to financial success. Michalewicz is not 100% on-board with the “go to college” advice. He parrots it, but deep-down he thinks it’s a fallback in case your passion doesn’t pay.
  5. Action
    There’s little action in the action chapter, which trots out the cliché that “failing is not trying.” Probably sensing a weak ending, the author added a coda: a futuristic sequence chock full of footnotes about interesting discoveries in the “spacetime carpet.”

Is Life in Half a Second worth spending a portion of your precious time on? Yes! It delivers enough clever ideas combined with a coach’s encouragement to get you off your keester and working on those life goals. Michalewicz came up through bodybuilding, and he has a Schwarzneggian philosophy that is infectious.

The only way you will ever become wealthy is by being an owner, not a worker.

The one major blindspot in this bright, quick guide is the equation of financial success with success itself. The author cops to this, basically saying that financial success makes so many other kinds of success possible that pursuing it until you can achieve those other goals is a sound strategy.

It reminds me of yoga. Matthew Michalewicz is a physical guy (though for some reason no photo of his handsome physique appears on the cover) so I’m sure he’d appreciate the analogy to an exercise that takes little time and produces major benefits. But yoga is more than exercise.

Yoga literally means “yoke,” or to attach yourself to something—in particular, a path. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many yogas, including hatha yoga (the body), raja yoga (the mind), bhakti yoga (service to others).

Marriage is considered a yoga. When you marry, when you have a child, you attach your success to another’s. You get in a harness and your goals are not yours to decide. The author mentions his partner only slightly, his family slightly more. If you’re married, if you have kids, you don’t have purely personal goals. The advice in the book becomes harder to apply.

There are paths to success that do not involve financial success. In fact, in the end, almost no one wants money—only the goods and services it can be traded for. If you pursue financial success, you are pursuing nothing, and you’ll realize that as soon as you get it. Better to yoke Michalewicz’s advice to the real goal, the ultimate goal, whether that be fame, happiness, a family, adventure, or whatever works for you. Then pursue it, whether the money follows or not.

I did what’s in this book—nothing more, nothing less. I set my goals from my dreambox, changed my environment to match my goals, mapped the path to success, invested in myself, burned the midnight oil acquiring knowledge, and always, always took action. Even when I feared it the most. My life turned out the way it did because I designed it that way—it wasn’t accidental and it didn’t happen by chance… and you can do the same. What I’ve done, you can do.

The Future of Books

What is a “book,” anyway? And how did we arrive at that definition?

Actor and author B.J. Novak addresses this in his children’s book, appropriately titled, “The Book With No Pictures”. His performance in this video demonstrates something all book lovers know: a “book” is simply the delivery device. What is actually a “book” is the brew between whatever material shared and the reader’s mind…

“Books” then, provide an experience that is entirely unique to the person experiencing it. (Certainly, there must exist one or more theory books on this very topic.) The book/mind interaction occurs regardless of the book’s purpose. Is the purpose of the book to educate? Entertain? Yep, yep. The very unique synthesis between you and a book is what makes books powerful. Even, sometimes, magical.

We are not in the magic business here, but we are impressed by the technical wizardry that keeps expanding the notion of what a “book” is and what it can do.

Book Industry Expanding and Shifting

It’s no secret that the book business is radically shifting; we see it every time we work with major publishers and independent authors alike. It is an exciting time. We are constantly asking ourselves, “what is a book becoming?”

Matt MacInnis of Inkling shared some excellent insights in a recent interview with Om Malik. Among the first was this:

I think about the book as a hardware device, just like I think about the iPad as a hardware device. It’s a much more mature technology than what we’re working with in the digital era. It’s a hardware device that by itself is useless unless you put some software into it. And the software you put into a book is the content.

When we map this transition, we don’t think about the book as mapping to e-books. We think about the book as coming unbound and being put into all these different use cases.

Later, he talks about how digital “books” can be automatically updated with revisions…while still retaining the potential for long-term permanence we associate with paper books. MacInnis calls this a new, emerging art medium.

Examples of “Books” as Emerging Medium

A first example would be the services offered by MacInnis’s company Inkling. Using HTML 5 and the cloud, Inkling provides publishing options that “push updates, corrections, and enhancements” to all reader devices automatically. These “books” are training manuals deployed in the field and self-publishing options, too. The “Habitat” product, for example, allows for collaborative development in real time.

Think about that: a book shape-shifting in real time based on the needs and interactions of the readers.

Similarly, what about the growth of audio books? At first blush this seems not to be so innovative, until you combine an audio book with creative commons licensing, allowing for fresh remix and response from readers.

We’re witnessing first hand how “books” are enjoyed by people with differing “capability arrays.” That’s the term we like to use to describe natural talents bestowed to people with differing capabilities. For example, someone born blind has a greater sensitivity toward audio. The blind enjoy books by touch and by ear, and they are embracing technologies to consume and create books like never before.

That’s the untapped potential we’re working to unleash in the Staunton Media Lab. Each week we produce a video show and podcast thanks to the talents of our lab’s first audio editor, Coley. You can tune into our live broadcast every Wednesday via our Twitter feed (@orobora) or our YouNow channel.

 

bootstrapping brand building

bootstrap photo
Photo by mira66

Last week The Wall Street Journal ran a piece about building a brand with a small budget. The recommendations from two entrepreneurs were right on the mark. The first bit of advice was to focus on investing time, not money. The second was to have the company establish a trusted “Figurehead.” Both are so important to branding.

Investing Time

David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices.com, Ontario, is the entrepreneur who recommended time spent with   content creation. Maintaining a blog or a podcast requires significant time investment. However, the potential rewards (immediate and ongoing) are worth the effort. This orobora case study shows how content development resulted in 33% growth in one year and brought a host of other additional benefits. Some of these benefits include enhanced search visibility and an emerging thought leadership role.

Almost anyone can get started with a blog, and, with a bit more technical knowledge, a podcast. The key is managing an editorial calendar to ensure that production is regular.

Once your blog or podcast is built—and you’re at a point to ramp up—ongoing media development is still significantly less expensive than the traditional marketing, advertising, and PR campaigns of the past.

Creating a Figurehead

Few things are worse than a company with no discernible personality or point of view! This is especially true of small, independent businesses. By default the founder(s) need to be very visible. Writes Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, Seattle, “The more places your company figurehead turns up, and the greater his or her reputation becomes, the more likely it is that potential customers will be naturally directed to your business.”

This, too, circles back to content development and distribution. Whether your company head is authoring guest posts on other sites, appearing on other podcasts, or writing books, there are numerous ways to get in front of other audiences at a fraction of yesterday’s cost. That’s assuming, of course, you have a personality that suits.

We can’t help you find your personality, but Sally Hogshead can. Her focus is “fostering fascination” and uncovering how you (and by extension, perhaps) your business is viewed by others. Every business owner should think about how to maximize their “fascination potential” in every bit of content produced.

Fascinating content—regardless of format—comes down to a few things:

  • is it a genuine expression?
  • does it offer value to others?
  • does it convey a specific point-of-view?

Strategically, we may add: how does one piece of content support overall branding material? How will it be distributed?

Betsy Scuteri recently revealed how Business.com, one of the best-known business websites, distributes their content. What is interesting about her post is how applicable content syndication is whether you are a solopreneur or small business owner on a tight budget. One valuable idea is curating content and repackaging it into a custom Flipboard magazine. (Flipboard is possibly the “next big thing in PR,” according to Allen Mireles.)

Bootstrapping your brand can be done, and done very inexpensively, if you’re willing to think strategically and invest the time.

continuous improvement

Orobora is dedicated to the science of continuous improvement. This post explains how to boost your business by 15% this year using simple practices for distributing content and harvesting followers.

 

Strad - a collage by Deborah O'Keeffe - all rights reserved.
Detail from “Strad” a collage on a guitar body, by Deborah O’Keeffe. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

 

Would you like to im­prove your business by 15% this year? Who wouldn’t? I’m about to explain how to do that.

Continue reading “continuous improvement”

case study: 33% growth in one year

Average monthly visitors increased 33% in 2014 at the blog, Childhood Obesity News. If that doesn’t grab your attention, maybe this will: Most of the traffic went to posts written *before* 2014. What’s up with that?

content driving sales

case study: 33% growth in one year

Blog content—especially newsblogging (covering news developments in your field)—is an important tool for building audiences from which customers, collaborators, and media contacts can be developed.

Here, a look at one of orobora’s best clients.

Childhood Obesity News

Dr. Robert Pretlow is a respected medical doctor, engineer, and researcher focused on childhood obesity. His “W8Loss2Go” app, designed to help obese children lose weight, has been in development for several years. His paper, “Treatment of child/adolescent obesity using the addiction model: A smartphone app pilot study,” was recently accepted for publication in the prestigious scientific journal, Childhood Obesity, under the editorial leadership of Dr. David L. Katz of Yale University and other leading investigators.

Dr. Pretlow connected with us in 2010. He had a successful website for overweight kids, Weigh2Rock, but nothing geared toward sharing his research with doctors, nurses, medical service providers, homecare providers, researchers, scientists, application developers, parents, and other adults interested in the science of weight loss.

Dr. Robert Pretlow is frequently contacted by the media as a result of his newblog.
Dr. Robert Pretlow, shown here in an interview for public television, is frequently interviewed by the media as result of his newsblog. Image Source: KCTS – Fair Use

Newsblogging Anchors a Content Campaign

Our first and highest recommendation was to create a daily newsblog covering any breaking news in his field. This would help us to cultivate an audience and build a forum where we could add news about Dr. Pretlow’s work from time to time. Childhood Obesity News, Dr. Pretlow’s newsblog, has generated these results:

  • original, copyrighted news coverage on topics his target audience is keenly interested in;
  • images or multimedia in every post that add visual appeal and are copyright-compliant;
  • keyword-rich blog posts that improve search engine rank and visibility;
  • name recognition that grows with leading journalists and thought leaders; and
  • results that grow as content builds, with posts pulling prospects years after they’re published.

Our lead journalist for the blog, Pat Hartman, the former editor of SALON and a former nurse, has been diligent in covering every aspect of childhood obesity for over five years. Her posts, and the posts of other writers for the blog—including Dr. Pretlow—go through content editing, proofreading, fact-checking, link-checking, and search optimization before they hit the blog.

This team approach to content creation—a client who is a thought leader generating news, a lead journalist covering the news, and editors suggesting stories, shaping content, formatting content for visual appeal, and delivering content across a network of outlets—has at times outperformed First Lady Michelle Obama’s well-funded, well-staffed “Let’s Move” team!

Results of a Sustained Content Campaign

Five years in, we’re seeing continual upward growth in terms of:

  • unique visitors to the site;
  • social shares across social media; and
  • media invitations and scholarly connection.

Here are some highlights from Dr. Pretlow’s latest tracking report:

  • Average monthly visitors to Childhood Obesity News increased 33% in 2014—just the latest in a string of years with over 15% growth in traffic
  • The site’s best-performing posts (those with the most unique visitors) were also some of the oldest. In fact, 80% of traffic to the overall site was thanks to content developed prior to 2014. Some of these posts draw more traffic today than when they were originally published. Newsblogging is an investment that gains value over time, not an expense.
  • One post, shared by a reader on Reddit, resulted in 4x the normal traffic over a one-week period. Newsblogging feeds social networking by providing “newsy tweets.”

Timely, original news coverage leads to increased traffic, followers, and search rank—now and in the future.

Dr. Pretlow realizes four major benefits from his newsblogging efforts:

  • increase in the number of inquiries about participation in app studies;
  • increase in the sales of his book Overweight: What Kids Say;
  • increase in the number of media solicitations requesting he share his expertise, including the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Austria; and
  • improved search engine rank for terms such as “childhood obesity news” (#2 at Google) and “obesity news” (#15 at Google).

Investment in Quality Content = Increasing Rewards

The majority of “top 10” posts on Dr. Pretlow’s site last year were published prior to 2014. This demonstrates how an investment in content now continues to pay dividends for years to come.

Ready-made social media material
Dr. Pretlow enjoys sharing obesity-related news on his social media accounts, especially @ObesityBlog on Twitter. As a time-constrained doctor and researcher he appreciates that his blog provides daily social media material, too.

Ownership of blog posts
Dr. Pretlow retains all ownership of blog posts. He can incorporate any of the material into other informational products or reuse it however he wishes. He can assemble posts on similar topics into whitepapers, slideshows, and even ebooks.

Construction of lasting reputation
Dr. Pretlow’s posts perform well in part because there is such a library of referenced material. Each post includes at least two external references. These connect his blog with other news-makers in the field. The result is that media outlets are very familiar with Dr. Pretlow’s blog and frequently invite him to comment when childhood obesity bursts into the news.

Timely conversations and connections
Last year’s blog series on Coca-Cola—the corporation’s influence, questionable obesity research funding, and arguably addictive product are just highlights —put Dr. Pretlow on the radar of pro-Coke and anti-Coke news media. This provided extra access to important media outlets and a conduit for research shared by others.

Added media exposure
Dr. Pretlow’s high-ranking blog has spurred invitations to numerous media opportunities without additional effort on his part. This includes but is not limited to television interviews, an appearance in a documentary film, and invitations to present at major conferences worldwide.

If your content marketing could use a little orobora, contact us today with an idea of what you want to accomplish. We’ll contact you tomorrow with a plan to make it happen.

twitter lessons from the Muppet’s Swedish Chef

Børk! Børk! Børk!

Swedes are so-so on him but the Swedish Chef, the classic Muppets character, remains a cultural favorite. Add one part pop culture featuring tweeting chefs (see: the premise of last year’s Chef), and two parts nation of self-proclaimed foodies and “social media experts,” you get a soupy mix, of, well:

Continue reading “twitter lessons from the Muppet’s Swedish Chef”

what is orobora?

Orobora is the science of continuous improvement. Orobora, Inc. is a new business dedicated to continuous improvement of our clients’ communications and the professional lives of those who work with us.

Orobora is the science of continuous improvement…

Orobora is a new business dedicated to continuous improvement of our clients’ communications and the professional lives of those who work with us.

The word, orobora, is a variation of the word “ouroborus” — a  snake chasing its own tail — often used as a symbol of infinity. Carl Jung interpreted the ouroboros as having archetypal significance to the human psyche.

We interpret orobora as a symbol of continuous improvement, more like the rings of a tree than a restless serpent. We use the artwork of collage artist Deborah O’Keeffe to visually illustrate the concept.

Orobora is the fifth incarnation of Internet Publicity Services, Inc.

Founded by Steve O’Keefe in 1994, Internet Publicity Services was among the first Internet PR firms in the world. IPS syndicated content in the form of book excerpts and news releases, and produced online programing for customers including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, Random House’s Seussville, The New York Review of Books, and the AdTech Conference.

Reborn as Patron Saint Productions in 2001,

dedicated to teaching individuals and businesses how to produce ethical, effective online PR campaigns. For 11 years, O’Keefe taught Internet PR at Tulane University, while also teaching at Stanford University, UCLA Extension, Rowan University, Loyola and for the PRSA, PMA, and other trade groups. O’Keefe was co-founder of the International Association of Online Communicators (IAOCblog.com), an early effort to establish professional standards for online communicators.

Then came SixEstate and the science of Newsblogging

In 2010, pushed out of New Orleans by one too many hurricanes, O’Keefe moved to the relative safety of the Shenandoah Valley, an area where the clean living matches the wholesome name, a small village of 25,000 or so people cradled between two mountain ranges.

Staunton, Virginia, is the sort of place where cell signals are hard to find but a homemade meal and and a microbrewed beer are available anywhere. Staunton’s protected position makes it an ideal incubator for experiments in continuous improvement.

Orobora was born…

After five years perfecting Newsblogging with David Reich at SixEstate, O’Keefe started something new with his colleague, Katie McCaskey. Together, they are taking newsblogging to a new level, offering a newswire service, interviewing services, lead generation, CRM management, database maintenance, social networking management, new product launches, ongoing PR — even temporary staffing, if you need it, for as long as you need it, wherever you are!

Orobora offers everything for marketing and customer acquisition, from contacts to content, from CMO to DIY. Send us your idea and we’ll send you back a plan and a cost estimate. If you know someone whose marketing could use a little continuous improvement — a little orobora — we would appreciate the referral.

Orobora — we all win when things get better!