Search Results for: shell

The Shell Game in Aspen

NG Blogger Quits Over Shell Sponsorship

Robert Stone, an award-winning film director, was recently hired by National Geographic to be a Featured Blogger for The Great Energy Challenge. Last night, Robert quit. Here’s why:

Robert explains his concerns in greater detail in Who’s Defining The Energy Debate, his third & final post which went up on Wednesday. Be sure to also read the comment by Alex Moen of National Geographic, followed by Robert’s withering response.

We feel Robert’s pain. We’ve never liked this NGS partnership with Shell. We worry it compromises our Society, and sullies Our Brand. We feel like we’re being used — no doubt for a handsome price. We think Shell’s participation distorts the debate, making our great energy challenge even more challenging. Which is why we hope these sorts of NGS “partnerships” will stop.

How will the project’s other bloggers respond to Robert’s concerns and his decision to resign? Bill ChameidesRaymond OrbachTimothy F. SutherlandFrank SesnoScott Bittle and Jean JohnsonJames BarrettPhaedra Ellis-Lamkins,  Martin Chávez, John R. Hickox, and Gregory Kallenberg — what do you all think?

For those of you following along at home, what’s your advice? Should the remaining bloggers stay or should they go?

[polldaddy poll=4265682]

[polldaddy poll=4265719]

More to come….

The Shell Game in Iran

If Shell’s environmental record in Nigeria (and the oil company’ s partnership with NGS) isn’t keeping John Fahey up at night, then what about Shell’s disturbing dance with Iran’s belligerent regime?

From the Iran Energy Project @ the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

Royal Dutch Shell resumed its gasoline shipments to Iran, International Oil Daily reported this morning. The company got back into business with the Iranian regime after a six-month hiatus. The move is a slap at the U.S. Congress, which has been working to develop energy sanctions that could curtail the regime’s nuclear weapons program, human rights abuses, and support for terrorism….

How abusive are Iran’s human rights abuses? What type of regime is Shell aiding and abetting? Consider the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot and killed during the election protests last June in Iran:

Neda Agha-Soltan

Then watch this HBO special:

Then ask yourself: Why is this relationship…

… a healthy one for our Society — and our society?

The Company We Keep: Shell in Nigeria

What is the impact on National Geographic’s brand — and its future — when one of our Society’s big corporate partners makes news like this?

(Hat tip: Alun)

Read the whole thing here.

And in case you’re wondering about Shell’s backstory in Nigeria, consider this rap sheet from Essential Action:

Shell and the military dictatorship of Nigeria have earned billions at the expense of the people of the Niger Delta, who now live in extreme poverty.

Shell has imported weapons for the Nigerian military, its business partner in the oil business.

Shell is fully aware of its environmental devastation in Nigeria. In the early 1990s, the head of Shell Nigeria’s environmental oversight team quit to protest Shell’s environmental racism in Nigeria.

Shell alone provides over 40% of the Nigerian dictatorship’s budget, and has the influence to force the military to reform and insure that a just and democratic government is formed which represents the interest of all Nigerians.

We can do so much better than this.

NGS & Shell: Just Imagine…

We’ve written about the NGS-Shell Oil partnership here and here and here.

Now imagine if these birds off the Louisiana coast were coated with Shell’s oil instead of BP’s:

Obviously, these birds didn’t decide to kill themselves by intentionally immersing themselves in this toxic cesspool. But our Society has intentionally chosen Shell as a corporate partner.

Why are we running this risk, John Fahey? Are we that short of business options? In this marriage of two big corporate brands, who is ultimately leveraging whom? And honestly — doesn’t just saying the words National Geographic partnership with Shell make you a little nervous?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

≡  photos:
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel via The Big Picture

On advertisers, accountability & trust


Read the whole thing here.
Brain Pickings is here.

From Society Matters in November 2011:

From Society Matters in December 2010:


Today at the top of National Geographic’s home page:



John Fahey National Geographic

The Photo Society

Do National Geographic contributing photographers need to get paid for their work? Of course they do.

But do they need National Geographic magazine to share their work with you? Of course they don’t.

They all have websites of their own. And now they have a communal showcase for their images. Introducing The Photo Society:

You might argue that much of the work showcased at The Photo Society is possible only because National Geographic paid for it — and you’d be right. But that pool of money is disappearing as Society membership continues to fall. Yes, some revenue can still be generated via corporate “partnerships,” but, as we’ve repeatedly suggested, that’s a losing game.

Which is one reason why The Photo Society… … Kickstarter … IndieGogo … Burn … and others are saying: The work itself ultimately matters more than The (Magazine) Brand, especially when The Brand itself engages in so much self-abuse.

BTW: We love the “Society” touch (for obvious reasons) and look forward to how this community will take shape in the year to come. We just hope The Photo Society won’t rely on the old model — we’re the Photo Gods on Olympus, while the rest of you are and forever will be anonymous supplicants with disposable income. That idea still animates NGM (the Our Shot / Your Shot silliness), but it certainly won’t sustain it.

Best of luck to Randy, Michael, Matt, Paul, Mike, Bill, Melissa, Tyrone, Gerd, Jim, Brian, Amy, Steve, Vince, Ed, Joel, Ami, Tim, Richard, and George. We hope TPS is a huge success.

Study in Contrasts

Back in 1985, when John Sculley and the Apple board basically fired [Steve] Jobs from his own company, they were disgusted that he had left billions of dollars on the table. First, unlike IBM and Microsoft, Jobs had decided against licensing the Apple operating system to other manufacturers, thus discouraging outsiders from developing software apps, which in turn limited  the brand’s appeal beyond the aforementioned cultists. And he seemed uninterested in foreign markets, or any market that required him to cleave to market tastes. He was interested only in developing better stuff, and willing to cede 90% of the market to Big Brother along the way.  “It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want,” he famously asserted.

Bob Garfieldco-host of WNYC’s On The Media


John Fahey, CEO  of the National Geographic Society, has approached his job in a very different manner:


1: Who’s Afraid of Rupert Murdoch  (on News Corporation’s ownership of the National Geographic Channel)

2. NG Blogger Quits Over Shell Sponsorship  (on maintaining editorial independence)

3. Over-extended?  (on leveraging the Brand)

4. Adventures in Global Media  (on the very high cost of becoming International Geographic)

5. The Troubling Case of Uncle Milton  (on partnering with a company that gets an F from the Better Business Bureau)

6. Losing Control of Our Society’s Good Name  (on selling National Geographic’s education division to a private equity fund)

Intra-marketing (part 2)

Does it matter that ngconnect, our Society’s intranet, is essentially a platform for intra-marketing instead of serving as a virtual water cooler where staff could discuss the past, present, and future of the National Geographic Society?

Yes, it matters. From the 95 Theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual:

click to enlarge

… 40.  Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.

41.  Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.

42.  As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company — and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.

43.  Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.

44.  Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.

45.  Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.

46.  A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.

47.  While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.


Best we can tell, ngconnect is a top-down intranet. It’s mostly about “HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.” It’s about selling a message rather than catalyzing a conversation. It’s about seeing employees as consumers instead of as long-term partners.

Which is too bad. We believe a fully networked National Geographic Society — one that connected management, staff, and members — could create the foundation for a sustainable, independent Society that wouldn’t have to sell its soul to survive.

Buying Eyeballs

If this report is accurate, then it should be an interesting marriage — especially given ScienceBlogs experience with Pepsi, and National Geographic’s experience with… well, with all the brands that have successfully blown up the advertising-editorial divide at NGS.

As for all you ScienceBlog bloggers out there: Be sure to review Robert Stone’s short-lived blogging relationship with National Geographic. Sad to say, his NGS engagement didn’t have a happy ending.


UPDATE 26 April 2011, 8:30 am:
Check out this informative Storify, courtesy of Martin Robbins.

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