“Pay up or die”

National Geographic’s mission:
To inspire people to care about the planet.


Rupert Murdoch laughs

John Fahey National Geographic

Amy Maniatis & the new world of NGS “membership”

In the weeks to come, we’ll have some thoughts & analysis about this video and National Geographic’s new definition of “membership.”

But for now: Hats off to NGS & to Chief Marketing Officer Amy Maniatis for making this video publicly available — and enabling the world to see what’s happening inside our Society.

UPDATE @ 10:30pm: Actually, the video does exist, but soon after I posted the clip, which was available at noon today on Vimeo, National Geographic took it down. Here’s what the splash screen looked like on my phone:


Another part of the video (full screen):


It’s worth noting that nothing in the video is a company secret. For instance, look at the frame above: Is this something we need to hide from the public?

During this 60-minute all-hands staff meeting, one presenter (whose name I didn’t catch) talked about recent brand research which revealed that National Geographic is a highly respected brand around the world. Robert Michael Murray, NG’s VP for Social Media, shared data that reflects how deeply engaged people are with the Society’s online content, with millions of fans, likes, shares, and comments. Kara Marston, Social Media Manager, said the new member platform was generating all sorts of great data about who visitors are, where they’re from, what they like, and so on.

The only real surprise came from Norman Gorcys, Vice President of Product Management, who said:

Membership is a product and we’re treating it like one. … The message we’re trying to give is that membership doesn’t exist without the other content that the Society provides.” 

In the eyes of National Geographic managers, membership is a product, not a relationship. Which sort of drains away the warm & fuzzy feeling most people get when they join a mission-driven organization.

Maybe that’s why the video was taken down.

As for the membership strategy as a whole, the focus is on harvesting data about site visitors, and then serving them customized content — and advertisements. Ads are how this platform will be monetized because “membership” is now free. You can now “join” the National Geographic Society for nothing. Zero. Zip. Just hand over your name and email address, and you’re part of the club.

This approach reminds us (yet again) that if you’re not paying for the product, you’re not the customer; you are the product being sold.

Taking down this video may hide the way NGS managers talk about us “members,” but there’s no hiding how we’ll be treated online. It’s now in full view here, and it serves as a perfect reflection of what Norm Gorcys said in the video: “Membership is a product and we’re treating it like one.”

Dear Norm: Thank you for the warm welcome.

The waning power of The Brand

When John Fahey arrived at National Geographic in the mid-1990s, he spoke frequently and with great conviction about the power of the National Geographic Brand. Protect the brand… leverage the brand… capitalize on our brand equity… the word has been the cornerstone of his strategic plan for our Society for more than 15 years.

So it was a great surprise to read this story — and this quote from John:


So much for the primacy of The Brand.

The good news is: John is right. And the question he asks is critical: What is National Geographic trying to bring that is unique?

The answer can’t be “good stories” or “great science journalism” or even “outstanding photography” because all those things can be found all over the web, in enormous quantity, for free.

The answer can’t be our history of exploration because that doesn’t speak to our present — or future.

And the answer can’t be expeditions such as James Cameron’s recent deep-sea dive because (a) it revealed nothing much that was new, (b) we can’t afford to launch such expeditions often enough to create profitable content, and (c) James Cameron is an embarrassment.

But here’s a viable and compelling adventure story upon which we can build a future: For 125 years, National Geographic has told the story of the West meeting the world — and it’s a drama that’s still underway. Perhaps the story’s most exciting element is that we — the citizens of free, open, and democratic societies — are both observers and participants. We’re not simply watching The Democracy Story unfold, we’re living it. We’re creating it. We all have a role to play, and each one of us has been blessed with a speaking part.

Imagine, then, if John Fahey stood up in the pages of our Society’s official journal and said something like this:

The skills needed by good journalists — the ability to ask incisive questions; to evaluate information; to communicate clearly — are the same skills that empower citizens in free and open societies. National Geographic cares about these societies at least as much, if not more, than we care about the fate of Big Cats.

To that end, we will help equip, empower, and inspire the members of our Society with tools, training, and community support. We’ll serve as an international basecamp for those who want to Join The [Democratic] Adventure.

Our ultimate goal: To make The Democracy Story (and the National Geographic Society) a success for generations to come.

In other words: Take these ideas, which John shared during a recent and barely publicized event in Washington, DC…


… and make them the cornerstone of everything we do at the National Geographic Society.

(Based on the video teaser for National Geographic’s Great Migrations.)


Your thoughts, John?

John Fahey National Geographic

Ushering in a new year of hope, good tidings & “caring about the planet” at the National Geographic Channel (2013 edition)

On New Year’s Day 2012, the National Geographic Channel featured an all-day marathon of prison & drug shows. This year, it’s a full day about The End of the World.

Happy new year!


“You won’t be missed” (encore presentation)

{ first posted June 21, 2011 }

Why is the National Geographic Society’s (new-ish) mission
to inspire people to care about the planet
if the planet doesn’t give a whit about us?


Mother Gaia

Mother Gaia, by *Humon


Our rebuttal:

Dear John: The Roma desperately need your help

Another open letter to John Fahey, 
Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society

Please see live links at bottom of this post.

Live links from above image:
≡  Like the Hutterites, they want you to cancel the show and issue a formal apology.
≡ The protest letter, press release, and other documents can also be read online here.
≡  Would you or Delores be willing to send along these documents & this link?
≡ We don’t have to let The Murdoch Method become Our Society’s New Way.


Watch as our Society pursues its official mission:
“To inspire people to care about the planet”

{ click image to enlarge }

John Fahey rarely, if ever, gives interviews.
But we’re requesting one — partly to ask him this question:
How does AMERICAN GYPSIES further
the National Geographic Society’s official mission:
“To inspire people to care about the planet”?

You can help us get an answer
by clicking Like, below.

332 more people like Dear John: Let’s Talk but we can’t include their names.
(They’re either not on Facebook, or they’ve asked to remain anonymous.)
If you’re in the same boat, please email me
alan [at] societymatters [dot] org
and I’ll increase the total tally by one.

≡  Photo of toilet & TV, plus caption, via Boycott American Gypsies on Instagram

“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. 

Save Big Cats. Stop infantile baldness. Give now.

Before it’s too late….


CEO Studies by IBM

It’s not really an interview, but at least John is talking in front of a camera:

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