What’s that stomach-churning odor?

Read the whole thing here.

John Fahey National Geographic

Dear John,
Do you have any major revenue-generating ideas 
other than turning over our Society’s future
to Rupert Murdoch?

We do.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch
if you’d like to hear the details.

  • gjessie

    Alan, really?

    All we ever see on this blog is you bashing anything and anyone Geographic. Would love for you to highlight the good being done, but we’re still waiting for that and your business ideas.

    Or are you still pushing the Society to become GroupOn?

    I believe the idea was group buying of cameras. So that idea makes me have to ask: have you ever run a business? what is the largest budget you’ve ever been responsible for? do you fire our writers to hire sales people? basically, what’s the plan to generate $80+ million a year in revenues?

    Just trying to understand if we don’t trust you as a “journalist,” why would anyone trust your business advice?

    • Hi Jessie,

      I wasn’t the person who said the print industry was facing a “shit sandwich”; those were the words of a publishing expert in Australia.

      Re: the good being done at NGS — great idea. Why don’t you start a blog and do that? I’ll link to it regularly. … My interest since I launched Society Matters was to discover an ethical, sustainable way to make money for NGS, not spend it. Spending money is the easy part.

      When you write “we don’t trust you” — who is “we,” Jessie?

      Re: my business acumen & handling budgets — that’s the wonderful thing about the world of journalism & publishing right now, Jessie: the people who run these businesses have no idea what to do to patch the holes in the hulls of their ships. The bar I have to clear to demonstrate business acumen is a very low one, and I think my ideas are at least as good — no, actually they’re better — then turning the operation over to Murdoch & Co. … To dismiss my ideas — and they extend far beyond a Groupon model — is like the captain of the Titanic dismissing advice from the crew as the ship is sinking: “What’s the biggest ship you’ve ever steered? How big a crew? etc etc….”

      The funniest part of all this, Jessie: You still insist on remaining anonymous. You can dismiss me, my ideas, my site, my intentions, my reporting (or lack thereof) — but at least I’m out here, trying. That’s my picture in the sidebar. Those are my tweets. On the left side are the names of 25+ people who vetted me & my ideas for this site, and agreed to serve as advisers. On the right sidebar, under Dear John: Let’s Talk, I’ve assembled a virtual crowd of more than 600 people who would like to hear John Fahey answer some questions about issues I’ve been raising.

      And you? You’re still “gjessie youwishyouwerejessiesgirl@__________com” throwing rocks from the sidelines… anonymously.

      As you say: “Really?”

      • gjessie

        You’re absolutely right Alan, I do choose to stay anonymous and it’s because I see how you attack and bully people on your site and in social media–in fact, by displaying a portion of my email address it puts this aggressive behavior on display.

        You won’t intimidate me.

        Being anonymous is my right. And it doesn’t remotely delegitimize my perspective nor undermine my critique of your actions. Yet you’re trying to insinuate that it does by saying I’m “throwing rocks from the sidelines.” That somehow my choice to be anonymous make me less engaged, knowledgable, or responsible.

        Anonymous critique has a long storied tradition in our society and I find it laughable that you continue to attack mine.

        When you did start to answer a question you simply avoided and pointed the fingers at others, including myself.

        To be clear, I didn’t ask about the state of the industry, I’m very well versed in it. I was inquiring about two specific things: 1) what are your ideas (since you’ve indicated you’ve provide multiple) and 2) what experience do you have to support those ideas.

        I’m unsure as to why you’re reluctant to answer the questions. Especially when it’s the exact same approach that you take with everyone else with your rapid fire tweets and that you then regularly criticize when they don’t respond to your interrogations.

        I’m providing you with the same opportunities you’re trying to provide others, like Jeff Collins, in explaining and defending their actions. I just don’t understand why you won’t answer to me and your readers.

        As for “we,” remember there are people familiar with you and your time here at the Society.

        • Hi Jessie,

          Thanks for your note. Some responses:

          1. I didn’t mean to be aggressive by posting part of your email address. In fact, your address was so long I figured it was a fake one you use just for this site. In any case, I just deleted your address from the comment above. No harm intended.

          2. Anonymous critiques may have a “long storied tradition in our society,” but it still baffles me why you insist on hiding behind the veil. You can, of course, keep hiding — and I’ll still answer your questions — but it still seems odd to me. And FWIW: You sound like you’re a current employee. Which means you probably don’t want to be caught hanging around here. The reason for that is something worth thinking about….

          3. My ideas, in a nutshell:

          a. Stop trying to inspire people to care about the planet; instead, embrace the editorial outlook that made NGS great, and which still could inspire a crowd, namely: celebrate open societies, freedom, free speech, and democracy. Don’t try to be all things to all people. And stop suggesting that NGM has “no agenda.”

          b. John Fahey should acknowledge — in the pages of NGM, on the website, and wherever possible — that technology has fundamentally changed photojournalism forever. Stop playing the game “We are the Photo Gods on Olympus, And You Are The Unruly Mob.” In other words, stop with the Our Shot / Your Shot conceit. It’s silly.

          c. Use the Magazine not as a monthly dispatch from Olympus, but as an example of “best practices” in photojournalism. Here’s what some of the finest shooters in the world can do, and now, thanks to the tools now available, you can do some great work too.

          d. Really use the Magazine as the Society’s “official journal.” Talk to people like they are members of the Society — and (again) spell out exactly what the glue is that keeps our Society, and our society, together.

          e. Completely change our advertising strategy. Specifically: Instead of selling pages to Shell & Ford, create affiliate relationships with other non-profits who would love to reach our audience. Then, give them that exposure (ad pages, banner ads) for virtually nothing in exchange for their promoting National Geographic with their own networks. …. Example: I love Heifer International. They do great work that’s worthy of our support. Give them an ad page in exchange for a promotional partnership with the people in the Heifer network — say, with a page in their annual catalog. … As a result, we’d expand our membership network by expanding our relationships with other like-minded communities.

          f. The Groupon idea you’re already familiar with: Pay $20 to join NGS… get $30 off your next Canon camera.

          g. Book Clubs: Make the NG network a truly social network. Enable members to find each other by zip code (opt in) so that you can get together IRL to chat about the latest issue… your new camera… Heifer International… and more. Use the Magazine as a catalyst for social interactions (and, therefore, creating value in being a member).

          h. Completely separate the business & editorial of NGM from the rest of the Society — esp the Channel. Otherwise, the Fox stuff will ultimately kill NGS.

          i. Launch a project you might call 1,000 True Fans (with a HT to Kevin Kelly): Hold luncheons in 10 different cities with 100 loyal & enthusiastic current members of NGS in each city. Spell out exactly what the problem is at NGS, and describe how you’re hoping to fix it (see above). Also encourage them to contribute ideas. After all, it is their Society. Use that seed of 1,000 people to begin evangelizing for the NGS of the future.

          j. Improve transparency: John Fahey, Tim Kelly, Chris Johns, Betty Hudson — they are virtually invisible online. I’d suggest that’s very bad for business, and should change ASAP.

          k. Answer some of the questions I’ve been raising. Not because I’m trying to grandstand, but because the questions are real ones that won’t go away. In fact, I believe they address issues that, if ignored, will ultimately destroy NGS.

          In short, I’d stop trying to monetize the content (cheetah pictures, which are now a commodity) and begin monetizing the network. That is, create value in the connection people could have with the National Geographic Society — and with the adventure NGS once grasped & celebrated… but which has been abandoned. Namely: We’re not watching The Adventure, we’re living it. We are the actors on History’s stage — not just Mike Fay & Sylvia Earle.

          How’s that for a start?

          If you’d rather respond in person, please feel free to give me a call: 202-643-7430.


          P.S. Say hello to everyone for me! 🙂

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.