“Customers” or “members”?

To: John Fahey, CEO of NGS
Re: Becoming a Society again

If you’re serious about this…

… then you need to talk about “members,” not “customers”:

Hoping that some new technology will provide you with useful insights on what “customers” truly want will not help you reach your stated goal for 2015.


John’s techno reverie
is almost like a retail version
of Philip K. Dick’s pre-cognition technology:

It’s a world where John will know
that you want to buy a cheetah picture
before even you know it. 

  • Thruthinessisus

    they have an entire membership team now alan and they are working on rolling out all sorts of membership benefits. because national geographic has a powerful brand and it inspires emotion in groups surveyed, while other brands don’t. it going to address your concern because to know the world is to change it. 

  • Thruthinessisus

    you know alan, based on what i heard from the channel’s presentation this week, and learning today that one of the most innovative people in the entire organization and mission programs was reorganized out, i have lost all hope. i have been here long enough to see some things but until today i was not hopeless. i don’t share your rosy picture of a society be it the global society, or the national geographic society. we are not our own ‘society’ much less anyone else’s. every day i come to work and wonder when i am going to lose my job. finding out that the only person to bring anything that has been ground breaking was ‘restructured’ out tells me that they have no interest in my generation unless we spend money. the vp’s whisper amongst themselves, rumor is king here. i love my job but i hate how this place is run. i don’t want to be a member of ‘this’ society anymore. 

    • T: I hear similar reports from others, but don’t despair. I still think NGS can turn itself around, although John does seem to be doubling down on the Channel. Then again, that should come as no surprise when no other business unit can throw off cash the way tabloid TV does. 

      Re: “society” — I still say that’s NG’s only hope. I keep waiting to hear John articulate what exactly will provide the communal glue. 

      Hang tough… and keep in touch.

  • Guest

    Thruthinessisus—I feel your frustration and pain. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who feel this way. The morale is not that great and JF’s touchy-feely tactics don’t work.I found the NG Channel presentation to be one of justification for bad programming. As well, it seemed to be  a defensive strategy as soon as JF opened the meeting with the fact that the Channel is the “economic engine” of NGS. It was condescending to those who helped make/keep the good NGS name. There was arrogance in the air as well. I found it sad that we were told, more than once, that the rest of the Society would not be here without the Channel. To that I say, “The Channel would not be here without the good NGS name and the NGS start-up money.” As with you, I love my job but hate how the place is run. The management, at all levels and throughout the three buildings, is terrible. And the business philosophy of $$$ is very sad. Just because everyone else does something doesn’t make it right. (Although the “old days” were not perfect, management cared more about quality and the NGS name than now.)

    • Well, the money has to come from somewhere — that’s something on which we can all agree. I think Monday’s meeting was John’s attempt to continue his transformation of NG’s corporate culture. He wants to normalize the tabloid stuff, or at least make it clear that he endorses it — not because he necessarily likes it, but because it pays the bills. 

      I still think Tom Shales said it best: “This argument of, “I’m giving the people what they want” — I mean, I think that’s probably what Nero said when he fed Christians to the lions. As far as I know, the ratings on that were very high. It was a big crowd pleaser. You know, a terrible accident on the highway causes everyone to slow down and stare at it. That doesn’t mean you necessarily would want to put it on prime time.”

  • Truthinessisus

    perhaps we can version of ‘biggest loser’ for animals. put portly zoo animals on diets. film how they design the calories out of their diets and force them into exercise. of course animals do experience shame so they will have to come up with some way to work that in, so that there is a measure of exploitation and ridicule. ah wait, i know… they can do a show about portly animals and their fat owners and this way they can publicly shame the owners. or zoo keepers. THERE IS THE GEOGRAPHIC CONNECTION. 

    • T: You have a gift for primetime programming. Don’t let it go to waste.  🙂

  • Truthinessisus

    let’s see, they got rid of music programming because it has no place in the strategic mission, but polls on obama and romney alien invasions do.


    • And some folks say that National Geographic isn’t a political organization. 

  • And some folks say that National Geographic isn’t a political organization. 

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