Tag Archives: media

Grandpa, what is “content marketing”?

this is how deep the rabbit hole goes

The first and most important thing you need to understand about content marketing is that it is currently keeping the print medium alive. I don’t just mean news, I mean everything. This is the most important aspect even without knowing exactly what content marketing is, because it paints us a picture of how it all came to this.

“Disruptive innovation” is the industry buzzword for new cheap gadgets being pushed out of South Asian work camps that replace last year’s gadget everyone paid $500 for.  There is a broader, more longer view to be had though – for sure, print wasn’t in so much trouble until tablets and blogs came along. Now, consumers of Vogue or The Atlantic can quickly block all the ads ruining their experience. I once asked my mother to buy me a ladies’s magazine. She bought one, sat me down at the kitchen table, and proceeded to rip all the ads out of them. By the time she was done, only about 20 or so odd pages were left in the 200 page magazine. I’ve never bought a ladies’s magazine myself. And nowadays, others can push away the ads in favor of Adblock Plus or a quick click on their Kindle as well. What’s more, most magazines and newspapers sell their digital subscriptions at a discount – as if the paper is what you’re buying for the money, not what’s written on it. Meanwhile, people from my generation are more likely to visit their daily blogs for free rather than shell out $7 for the latest issue of the Economist.

This kind of shift in medium coupled with the new hyperdrive crisis circuit of capitalism has resulted in a fatal blow for print journalism. What is the result? Step into any office and the desperation is thick in the air. I watched the publisher stand with his head in his hands: “Where are we going to find a million dollars?”

The answer is content marketing. Gone are the days of full page ads next to content, gone are the days of “sponsored messages” that run next to content, gone even are the days of embedding our journalists with the troops. Now the money that print makes is no where near the content, it’s as far away from the masthead as possible – GM can go to *INSERT POPULAR PAPER* and pay them to start a blog on behalf of GM, using house journalists and house researchers, not to mention house support resources. They will promote this blog using all sorts of sinister search engines – you might not even know this blog is sponsored by GM. The paper can write white papers for government officials, all with house PhDs and former lawmakers, they can shmooze with the fat cats on K street and no one will ever know that it amounts to financial propaganda.

Of course, the print sector is quick to cover their ass and claim this is about integrity. They keep it from the masthead to reserve their integrity. Fair enough. But what about the resources, the writers? Lois Lane can’t contribute to the Monsanto blog and then very well publish a story in the masthead blasting Monsanto, can she? It’s backdoor blackmail – you want your integrity so bad? Well just make sure you don’t look like a hypocrite when you publish your 4000 word expose on how Monsanto is poisoning our lakes and streams worldwide. Instead of avoiding Monsanto’s new scandal because of a simple and clearly visible sponsor conflict, which might cause eyebrows to raise, Lois Lane’s day employer avoids honest reporting and it seems spontaneous, even legitimate.

What’s really shocking is the number of bloggers caught up in this game. While print journalism seems at the very least slightly uncomfortable using their good names and resources passed around as marketing contacts, bloggers are clambering to finally get paid for what they’ve been doing for free for years. With no fancy j-school credentials, they don’t even have the slightest twinge of regret. Thousands of easily reachable social influencers, I Mean Bloggers, lie in wait behind expensive marketing paywalls, ready to shill for whoever will pass them a hundred bucks. This is not to impugne on blogging, or bloggers for that matter. I take issue with a market where millions upon millions of us are generating content that is eventually capitalized and we never see a cent for. I take issue with the death of journalism and with the death of print. As wages continue their freefall, the only journalists left to be hired at major papers will be from rich families and probably married into these scandals anyway.

the white convert to Islam

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.

The Prophet Muhammad, 632 ACE

Despite these famous and remarkable words, in today’s world there is an interest and fetishization of white converts to Islam, especially females. Whether plastered on tabloids such as Lauren Booth or Yvonne Ridley or admired among progressives such as Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) or Shks. Hamza Yusuf and Suhaib Webb, there seems a particular fascination with Muslim converts from white, western backgrounds. This interest is particularly white nationalist in nature, whether positive or negative. White female converts are often exposed to soft accusations of “race traitor” or painted as unstable, recovering from trauma, while male white converts are propped up as “ideal” Muslims for conducting East-West and interfaith dialogue.

Amazingly, the clip above is translated into Arabic and presumably used for dawa (outreach) purposes. Yet the language is laden with prejudices, asking “why” she would convert when she “had it all” – assuming they mean she is white and from a middle-upper class family, beautiful, etc and so why would she choose to convert from this background.

Female converts such as Lauren Booth and Yvonne Ridley are often mentioned as being former alcoholics, Muslim sympathizers, and women without successful love lives. A common assumption within the white community is that these women have met Muslim men and converted only half-willingly, recalling the dizzying spectre of miscegenation which is still an issue both in the Muslim world and in the West – but only when power positions between “races” are assumed to be unfavorable.

On the other hand, male convert figures such as Yusuf Islam, Hamza Yusuf, and Suhaib Webb are singled out to act as bridges between their “new” identities and their former communities. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf acted as advisor to former USA President Bush’s administration and co-founded the “first American madrassa” in California (Zaytuna Institute) while  Sheikh Suhaib Webb is involved with dawa initiatives throughout the United States and runs a wildly popular blog with hundreds of thousands of readers. Besides a hiccup involving the Salman Rushdie scandal in the 1980’s, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) has been considered an icon of moderate and peaceful Islam, quick to speak out against “Islamic” violence. These men, as white converts, are presented in their work and through the Western media as voices of reason in otherwise “unreasonable” Islamic scholarship.

These presentations of white converts to Islam implies a continued obsession with white nationalism and male patriarchy in the Western countries, but also belies a racial or cultural complex within the Muslim world as well. While white converts from the West certainly have contributions to make to the multicultural-linguistic-racial fabric that is a global community of Muslims, we must take care that they are not being valued for the wrong reasons, as tokens or warnings as such. This is not to say that white western converts have not contributed mightily to the Muslim world. Indeed, Shkhs. Yusuf and Webb are accredited and intelligent scholars of Islam and have helped countless Muslims in the West navigate between worlds. Yet when a white convert – no matter their fame or activism – is asked to discuss matters of Islamic jurisprudence or culture simply because of their skin color or cultural/national background, we must be wary that we are not appropriating or emulating white nationalist motivations. Perhaps a scholar would better answer questions or deliver talks rather than someone who can “speak the language” of the West.

There is no doubt that cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue should take place, but we should choose those who are most qualified rather than who looks the best in front of a camera. Likewise, there should be a serious scholarly examination of the hysteria surrounding the media portrayal of female white converts to Islam.

A Muslim is first and foremost a Muslim, and generally Muslim converts will understand this fact well. I would be interested to see if there are any scholarly papers or serious articles addressing this cross-cultural phenomenon of “the white convert to Islam”.

snail on the edge of a straight-razor

It seems a world ago when American conservatives were up in arms about a mosque being built near “Ground Zero”, the site of the former World Trade Centers in lower Manhattan. Yet as money begins to be disclosed in time for taxes, we can clearly see the media circus was done for the benefit of another lower Manhattan landmark – Wall Street.

Robert Mercer, the co-CEO of the giant hedge fund manager Renaissance Technologies, appears to have financed the ad campaign entirely himself, through a $1 million contribution on July 26 to the New York State Conservative Party, according to a filing today by the party’s housekeeping account. Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long confirmed to Haberman that Mercer was the source of the ad money.

This kind of contribution is not the only cause of the “Ground Zero Mosque” hysteria. The media was complicit as well, as were the politicians who fanned the flames in hopes of being re-elected. Yet who started this mess? A hedge fund manager, cynically exploiting hatred against Muslims to distract from policies that might harm his class interests during election season.

These cynical circus games have caused untold damage to America. How many times have I read news stories abroad only to discover that in the United States, my fellow citizens are closely following the newest disappearance of a young woman or celebrity scandal? Senator Bernie Sanders stood on the floor of the senate for nine hours and clearly outlined what was going wrong with America while the news outlets decided that other, less materially important stories might get more ratings.

So assuming these sorts of media shenanigans won’t be letting up in the near future, what happens when the media distractions start to craft reality? Mosques were firebombed this summer, Muslims were attacked in the streets, and legislation was drawn up around the country as a response to this influx of “Islamophobia”.  The fake competition between the “right” and “left” in the United States, the false dichotomy of “democrat” and “republican” has resulted in the murder of many, spurred on by angry talk show hosts, leading news stories, and suggestive slogans and rhetoric from politicians. It only takes a slight nudge to push some individuals over the edge, and when the result is as extreme as shooting up a Unitarian Universalist church by a Viet Nam vet or the recent shooting of sixteen in Tuscon by a 22 year old young man. Both perpetrators were victims of a poor economy and a government that had failed them in ways of social service – but when searching for the reason for their predicament, the perpetrators sidestepped at the last moment and others ended up bearing the brunt of class rage in their stead.