If I Have A Dollar More Than You…

If I have a dollar more in my pocket than you do in your pocket at this moment, by all modern monetary conceptions of wealth, I’m richer than you.

If I have a dollar less in my pocket than you do in your pocket at his moment, by all modern monetary conceptions of wealth, I’m poorer than you.

If I add a dollar more of value to the economy through the writing of this blog post, and you gain more than a dollars’ worth of value from reading this post, then who is richer and who is poorer?

Value is hard to quantify (it always has been) but if the market doesn’t figure out a way for more people to add more value in ways that dovetail with their innate talents and skills (that may never have been valued before) then we’re all in a lot of trouble.

The Model Doesn’t Work Without Content

The model doesn’t work without a base of content.

And since quality is subjective (it always has been) and quantity is overwhelming (it has been ever since Google pushed the argument of search to its logical conclusion), the only considerations in online learning that matter are the ones based on the efficacy of the content you’re offering.

But, when building a model for online learning, too many educational institutions are trapped in the Industrial Revolution conception of content, consisting of lectures, tests as performance measurements, grades as a “stick,” accreditation as the “carrot” and conformity as the ultimate goal.

The Industrial Revolution education model works well with accreditation (“Will this get me my degree?”) and supports the creation of graduates with minds that aren’t focused on the skills that matter for the future (“soft” skills) and instead are focused on reinforcing doing things that no longer have much value to organizations:

Like hiding from responsibility and accountability.

Like placing blame when a project or initiative fails.

Like competing in a race to the bottom on price.

Like sacrificing personal ethics for a public paycheck.

Like working for organizations and in industries where professional decline is considered the “norm.”

If the model for your educational organization’s online learning experience doesn’t feature robust, peer-to-peer learning opportunities (projects), “speed to market” dashes (short time frames), high quality student participation (we don’t take everybody because we are neither “massive,” nor all that “open”), and technology as an assistive tool rather than a crutch (email as a messaging service rather than a time waster) then your model of online education and learning will resemble every other model of online learning currently available.

And then you’ll attract exactly the kind of students that you have attending your brick and mortar institution.

But maybe that’s the audience and consumer your educational organization wants to attract, recruit, retain, and ultimately graduate.

But if it is, please be clear on that focus in your organizational head when building the content model for your online learning experience.

[Advice] Conspiracy Theories

The standing rule is that people tend to most easily believe in conspiracy theories that they create; and tend to reject the conspiratorial thinking of others.

The trouble with our concerns about fake news, is that they come from a place where critical thinking has been reduced in favor of playing to (and supporting) audience attention spans that rival those of hummingbirds.

The long read, the long form content, the long movie; the challenging idea, the scientific journal, the complicated path to learning a new language; these are all in competition against TL;DR (too long; didn’t read), the 30 second cat video on YouTube, the 6 second looping Vine video, or the easily shareable click-bait article.

Audiences have been convinced by both marketers, and journalists (just marketers in another way) that their thinking and content consumption choices are sophisticated. That they are able to sift through biases consciously (without relying on assumptions and inferences from facts not in evidence), come to rational conclusions, and then act on those conclusions to co-create an orderly world.

Oh, but were that so.

When audiences can pick their own personalized access to “knowledge” and can choose their own “facts” then news that comes from sophisticated marketers (some former journalists) and content creators, becomes the coin of access to the conspiratorial realm. And social cueing, confirmation bias, and attribution activates individuals in the audience to create their own, publicly viewable, and socially shareable conspiracy theories.

Not about aliens landing at Roswell.

Not about the Illuminati running the world.

Not about a rising one-world government.

Not about a coming cashless society.

But conspiracies about stolen votes, illegal voting (and voters), racialism, economic injustice, Big Pharmaceutical companies poisoning vaccines, Big Agricultural companies poisoning seeds, Big Banks ceasing to be allowed to failed, Big Governments seeking to curb natural rights, Big Faith seeking to curb libertine tendencies, and on, and on, and on.

This type of conspiracy theory mongering is particularly subtle and insidious, because it plays on the mistrust and biases audiences already have built in to their world-view and thinking, but it does the play at scale, and one-to-one. This creates a feeling of community (we’re in the know) while also creating a feeling of persecution (we’re on the outside of everyone else).

And people should have expected it. As more knowledge, has become more accessible to the common individual (if you have a smartphone in your pocket with Internet access, you have a supercomputer) we have been encouraged to embrace the conspiracies we like, share them with our friend circle, and then sit back and wait passively for reality to match our frames and worldviews. And when that doesn’t happen, we go back, double-down, and start the conflict cycle.

Mass media (led by the collapsing and panicking journalism field) is complicit in this as well, seeking to drive audience attention to ideas and concepts that are spurious, but that also generate clicks. This is because mass media content production can’t figure out (at scale) how to get audiences to pay for something they can get anywhere for free, but it’s also driven by the ego-based desire to be seen, be acknowledged as an expert, and to grow the network and personal brand of the content creator at the expense of the market, and the audience, gaining new knowledge, or being challenged in any meaningful way.

Fake news—and the environment that allows conspiracy theories to metastasize—is not going to go away. The echo chambers of social platforms are too powerful, with too many voices, too many passive audience members, and too many exclusively self-interested actors.

What is going to have to change is, as always, the hardest piece: Individuals are going to have to decide what they will absorb, what ideas they will believe, and they critically reject other ideas, based on objective evidence and proof.

But if individuals (and audiences) could do that effectively, the placebo effect long-ago would have ceased to be effective.

[Advice] The Impresario’s Dilemma

Quality and quantity.

These are two ideas that have long combated each other at scale in a variety of contexts and containers.

From mediation processes and practices to industrialized object making, quantity very often takes a back seat to quality in both the consideration of the creator and the consumer.

When there is so much ephemeral stuff (such as content, ideas, and art), considerations around quality become the watchword for monitoring and disengaging with ideas that we find to be reprehensible.

And, of course, quality is perceived as suffering by both the creator and the consumer, because the quantity of ephemeral stuff has increased; and, and because our brains can only absorb so many different ideas at once.

But keep in mind that, once you increase quantity, quality only suffers when caring about each outcome takes a second place to actually getting the outcome to happen.

Impresarios care about quality.

They also care about quantity, but realize that interactions around ephemeral content become a matter of time, rather than scale.

[Advice] On Influencers

Influential personalities and brands online are about to become even more influential as the years go by.

And mediators, lawyers, and negotiators should take note.

Influencer advertising is tricky to navigate, whether you are trying to partner with the peacebuilding neighborhood association with a vibrant Facebook community or the pop singer Rhianna.

Influencer marketing is only going to grow larger in the coming year for the very same reasons that social media is influential now: Individuals trust other individuals more than they trust brands. In the field of mediation and peacebuilding, where trust is a huge deal, influencers and thought leaders such as Bernard Mayer and Kenneth Cloke bring their substantial influence to academic programs, academic writing, advocacy and other areas.

However, as the influence of those individuals begins to fade, a new generation of influencers is rising in the ranks of mediation and peacebuilding professionals, such as Patricia Porter, Brad Heckman, Cinnie Noble, and others who have begun to leverage social tools and the wide reach of the Internet to make a dent in the peace building universe.

For the ADR professional with limited resources to be able to connect with larger names in the peacebuilding world, there are a few things to remember when considering using influencers to advertise your content, your services, your philosophy, or your processes:

Does the influencer’s brand link well with my brand promise?

Carefully considering how an influencer’s brand (which may range from Bernard Mayer all the way to Kim Kardashian) complements the strengths and reduces the weaknesses of the peacebuilder’s brand promise is key to developing a long term relationship with the influencer. Influencers are people first and foremost, and peacebuilding professionals should be about building that relational knowledge ahead of jumping into a branded relationship.

Is the influencer’s audience an audience that I want to be addressing as a peace builder?

Depending upon who the influencer’s audience is (and audiences range in taste and structure from the 1,000 followers the neighborhood peace builder has on her Facebook page, all the way to the millions of fans and followers Jon Stewart has) the peace builder has to decide carefully if that is an audience worth talking to. The fact of the matter is, every audience that a brand influencer has is not appropriate for a peace builder to talk to, nor is every audience open to hearing a message about peace.

Does the influencer’s message help or harm my message?

Every influencer talks to their audience in their own way, using words, images, symbols, and other forms of social cuing that inexorably tie that audience to them.

Some influencers are less savvy than others, but that does not mean that they aren’t sophisticated communications professionals in their own right.


[Advice] Building a Subscription Model for Content

Being the last person standing is an underrated tactic in the world of online content creation.

But for the peace builder looking to create a subscription model for content, this may be the best strategy possible.

Three things are working in the peace builder’s favor:

  • the speed of the Internet and the ways in which content consumers access content is increasing, even as the cost of acquiring the tools is decreasing;
  • the rise of ad blocking is causing many organizations to either double down on advertising, or to simply eliminate it altogether as a driver for content;
  • the cost in time, emotional energy, and personal effort (number of “touches”) to acquire a paying customer online is about the same as it is to acquire a paying customer offline.

More content—written, audio, and particularly video—is being consumed by audiences via mobile applications, nested on mobile devices, and accessed via the cloud. This is being seen most visibly in the overlap between subscription based product services (i.e. Harry’s Razor, Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox (for men and women) Trunk Club, Casper Mattresses, etc., etc.), and the ways in which applications, URLs, and even QR Codes are being integrated into the content consumption experience around advertising those services. Peace builders must be aware of these trends to keep their content delivery systems current and updated to get in front of as many audience members in their long-tail as possible.

The rise of ad blocking as a driver for developing a subscription based business model for content development is a key point for peace builders to take in to consideration. Yes, putting content behind a paywall and encouraging people to either give an email address (or pay a fee) to access that content may knock the peace builder in a Google ranking. But if there is an abundance of previously “free” content (audio, written, or video) that can be nested behind a paywall, advertising and ad blocking become less worrisome, in spite of whatever changes Google attempts to make to its search algorithm.

The offline content acquisition experience and the online content acquisition experience are beginning to hew closer and closer together. In the past, both on and off line, there was tremendous friction between the consumer of content and the creator of content. Now, both online and increasingly offline, all of that friction is either being automated, “app”-ed, or otherwise disappearing from interactions. Content consumers in the peace builders’ long tail are still eating, sleeping, buying clothes, and purchasing content from a variety of both on and offline resources. Peace builders must be aware of this friction reduction and move to a world where the frivolous parts of the experience (i.e. signing up, giving an email, taking a payment, etc.), are becoming more friction less so that the actual engagement with the peace builder can happen.

The peace builders that understand these three trends and incorporate the reality of them into their content business model will be the last peace builders standing (and getting paid) even as others drift away.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] Will You Read This?

There are a lot of tips, tricks, “how-to’s” and hack based articles, blog posts, and columns, everywhere. And there always have been.

Partially, this is because the people reading the articles want the easy out. This is evidenced in corporate training where attendees will say “I don’t want the theory, just give me the practical tips.” Or, ask “Is there a silver bullet for this?”

The silver bullet.

The easy answer.

Cheat codes in video games.

Will this be on the test?

What’s the shortcut?

I don’t want to hear your story.

I don’t care about the theory.

I want to work smarter, not harder.

More 10 second videos.

This was too long, and I didn’t read it.

Could you make the letter/blog post/email shorter?

Do I have to study?

Are we there yet?

This is taking too long.

It’ll be there in thirty minutes or the next one is free.

You’re using ten long words to say something you could say in four short words.

Yes, there are more and more ways to get around doing the hard work of engaging, relationship building, thinking about theory and how it applies to your life, and the challenges of actually addressing situations rather than outcomes. But there are fewer and fewer ways to get long form analysis, well thought out arguments, structured content, and opportunities to take in a philosophy, struggle with it, and learn from it.

We don’t need more tips and tricks. We’ve got enough of that.

We do need more deliberation, theory, thinking, and testing. And from that comes the ability to take calculated risks in conflicts—and perhaps to build that world that we all so desperately claim to want.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] 3 Thoughts That May (Or May Not) Intersect…

Three thoughts that may (or may not) intersect with each other:

Thought #1: There’s a lot of high profile, persistent, whining going on in the space of web publishing, content creation, and even in the scrappy world of podcasting. This phenomenon of whining is also extending into commentary around entrepreneurship as the venture capital money that has been floating big bets for years begins to dry up. The thing is though, if you are a web publisher, or a podcaster, or a content creator, or a struggling entrepreneur, the whining has got to stop. The landscape of the Internet is infinite, no matter what the big digital brands are telling you through their marketing.

Thought #2: Attention and awareness are the coin of the realm right now in any digital space, and all you need to be successful (whatever that means) is 1,000 people willing to bet on your reputation, have a relationship with you, then give you revenue, and make a referral for your service or product. The idea that the digital system can be gamified through creating fake followers, fake awareness, and false hype is dying as fast as the money dries up.

Thought #3: In the digital space, and in our off line, real life interactions lately, the substance of truth is seen to not be as marketable as the illusion of symbolism. But this is a false paradigm. Substance based in truth has always grow more followers, attracted more awareness, and generated more revenues (in trust first and money last) for more people that anything else tried ever.

The problem comes when many people—from celebrities to the average man on the street—buy into the frothy hype of the short-term gain at the expense of the long-term relationship. As the bubbles pop all over the place and as web publishers, content creators, entrepreneurs, and others have to get back to the substance of building products, let’s hope they focus on communicating the truth—no matter how scary it is.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Advice] On Distributing a Podcast

The issue with creating podcast content is the same issue that is apparent with all content creation: distribution is at the core of getting listener attention.

Just creating content is not enough—as is endlessly pointed out in blogs, essays and articles—there has to be a system created to make sure that the content gets from where it is, to the audience who needs to consume it.

Podcast content—or any other type of audio content—must have a distribution ecosystem arranged beforehand in order to be successful. In the case of The Earbud_U Podcast, our distribution system is as follows:

ITunes, Stitcher, The Blubrry Store, Player.FM and Google Play Music Store: These platforms are not places we built, but they act as locations for the audience to listen to the podcast, or subscribe.

The Earbud_U Podcast Page, RSS Feed, email list: These are platforms that are owned, rather than rented from other owners as the platforms above are, and as they are owned, they are the platforms that require the most attention from both the creator and the audience to grow.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Instagram: These platforms are really for the marketing of the audio content, rather than acting as the location where content is located (similar to ITunes or Stitcher), or acting as the location where further “upselling” can happen (similar to The Earbud_U Podcast page). The content has to be marketed and driving the audience toward the content is the purpose of these social media networks.

Throughout any distribution system, is the possibility of feedback from the audience to the creator. Many podcast creators and producers have lamented the fact that there is little feedback available from the audience in regards to their content creation efforts (other than through downloads); though audience ratings on ITunes, and tracking page visits through Google Analytics, is a good start.

There are many issues with distributing podcast content. And with 250,000 podcasts, the distribution game is the one to be focused on after the content creation process is over.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] Google for Podcasting

The rumblings have started through the podcast world, and the big players haven’t said (or written) anything about anything yet, but I’m sure there’s been all kinds of back end, off line chatter for months now. And, two days ago, Google announced that content creators of podcasts can get their shows listed in the Google Play Store.

There are several significant issues with podcasting, which have been addressed by writers here, here and here. The Google announcement (you can check out the link to the announcement page here and the interview they did with Libsyn (a podcast distribution company) here) while great in the light of Google discontinuing Google Listen in 2012, doesn’t answer how this new venture is going to significantly impact podcast content creators positively in two areas where they struggle:

Getting accurate audience analytics


Developing a strong marketing and branding process.

Let’s all be clear for those of you who consume, but don’t create, audio content:

Itunes and Apple doesn’t care about audio content (i.e. podcasters don’t get accurate download information and analytics on listeners (i.e. who’s listening when and through what device)) because Itunes and Apple don’t make any money off of downloads of podcasts.

Yet, Itunes is where most podcasts (even The Earbud_U Podcast) are located. Apple has ruled the roost for 10 years during this era of podcast creators struggling with inaccurate distribution metrics and having podcasters beg listeners to give review of podcasts in Itunes to demonstrate they are listening. And all this was happening while Google was busy developing life sciences projects and tanking Google+. This phenomenon of inaccurate analytic data also haunts how podcasters monetize what is still an expensive process for many content creators to start, while showing little traction (even less than starting a blog in some cases) early on in the production process. This combination of inaccurate analytics, the struggle to get traction and the lack of support from the larget distribution platform on the planet, leads many podcasts to be abandoned by frustrated creators.

Thus, the question: Is having a podcast in the Google Play Store going to improve the tracking and analysis of downloads and listeners for the benefit of podcast creators, in a way that Apple has caved on providing or developing?

In other words, by submitting to Google Play Store and Google Play Music, are podcast producers going to have access to the entire suite of Google products to track and monetize their downloads, i.e. have access to Analytics, Search, Google Ads (which Google promises not to put on top of creator owned content, or insert into content mid-show) and even Google My Business?

This leads to the second concern that wasn’t addressed in the interview that Google did with Libsyn: Branding for podcasting is all about getting the right audio content, at the right moment in front of the right listeners. This leads directly into the vagaries and complications of getting discovered through Google search, which to Apple’s credit, they have largely left up to the content creator to manage and struggle with. Most branding and marketing for podcast content is a shot in the dark, leaving many podcasters thinking that the best way to market is as an “always on, always downloadable” piece of content; and then, to go off and make content in other areas, bringing those audiences over to the podcast from platforms that have nothing to do with podcasting. A lot of these decisions are based on how Google manipulates its search algorithm in relation to podcast content in particular and audio content in general. There’s no “You Tube” for audio content.

The question then is: If a large podcast creator whose content already generates 10 million downloads a month (i.e. Serial, This American Life, The Adam Carolla Podcast, The Jay Mohr Podcast, The Marc Maron Podcast and on and on) is going to be ranked at the top of a Google search in Google Play Music (where they dominate without being listed in Google Play Music currently) how does that impact who gets listed highly in the Google Play Music library for listeners?

And then, what is going to happen to the searchability of the content of the mid-range folks (people like Arel Moody and The Art of the Charm Podcast–among others) who already are struggling to market themselves and rank as highly as the big players?

And then, where do smaller podcasters (like The Earbud_U Podcast, The Launch to Greatness podcast, Grammar Girls, and others) whose content doesn’t rank highly in their own niches (or who are having to partner with other podcasters to form networks (like The Rainmaker Platform, Relay.FM and others), because audio content consumption hasn’t happened yet at mass in their niches?

Google moving into the space of promoting podcasts in their store is interesting to me as a podcast creator, in the same way that IHeart Radio partnering with podcasters and Spotify also partnering is interesting to me. None of these moves take away the core responsibilities of the content creators, which is to create an engaging, interesting and motivating platform and then to create audio content on top of it.

In the future, as more and more marketers, organizations and brands discover the power of the spoken word, I predict a time when all of the branded, walled garden, distribution players (don’t be surprised if in three years Facebook announces it will launch a search service for podcasts) will seek to bend the arc of engaging content creation (and content creators) in their direction. This might be good for the field of podcasting (which is still niche at around 200,000 podcasts compared to 1.5 million blogs) but the audiences are growing, slowly, niche by niche.

And don’t worry. I already got Earbud_U approved to be in the Google Play Store, and I’ll let you know when it goes live.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/