“Pay up or die”

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


Rupert Murdoch laughs

John Fahey National Geographic

Growing the Murdoch Way

The gentleman’s question clearly piques the interest
of John Fahey, Chairman of the National Geographic Society.
But John makes no attempt to answer it.

Then again, maybe there’s no need.
After all, John led the National Geographic Society into a “partnership”
with one of the biggest media growth machines in the world:

{Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel.}

What does Rupert Murdoch do with the money he makes
by leveraging the good name of National Geographic?

He exerts his political influence.
Which means he does stuff like this:


September 15, 2013

Does that mean the National Geographic Society
is helping climate deniers like Murdoch
confuse the public and muddy the waters?

Does it mean that National Geographic
is putting money in the pocket
of a media mogul who is pro-fracking,
who disparages environmentalists as “greenies,”
and who is unabashedly pro-growth?

It sure does.


(I think he means “fracking,” not “tracking.”)

Dear John,
How long do you think this game can go on?

John Fahey National Geographic

History isn’t over

Which begs the question:
Which side of history are we on?

From National Geographic’s archival Tumblr:

China NatGeoMag balloons


Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

The end of Taboo?

No formal announcement seems to have been released by National Geographic. But the Channel’s Twitter stream reveals this interesting item: Taboo USA, which has been one of the Channel’s most offensive shows, may have finally been shuttered:


The question, of course, is why? Could it be the popular backlash to this sort of programming?

BDSM Facebook comments



Note to National Geographic:
Sexual slavery is not a “lifestyle.” It’s slavery.

Rupert Murdoch laughs

John Fahey National Geographic


The Pro-Am Divide: Two Stories

The Chicago Sun-Times recently fired all its photographers.
The paper’s new plan: Hire freelancers.
And give each Sun-Times reporter an iPhone
along with tips on how to use its camera.
So when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this week,
the Sun-Times published this:

Chicago Sun Times Stanley Cup cover

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune, which still maintains
a staff of professional photographers,
published this:

Chicago Tribune cover Stanley Cup

Score one for the pros.
On the other hand…
When Rusty, a red panda, escaped from the National Zoo this week,
professional photojournalists and videographers
ran a slow second:

Old media meets new media

Score one for the amateurs.

≡ Stanley Cup covers via PetaPixel 
≡ Tweet by @Patrick_Madden

Dear Robert: We tried.


{ You can’t make this stuff up. }

Our Society, by the numbers (update)

Here’s the latest financial snapshot of our Society
via IRS Form 990:

(click to enlarge)NGS_990_2011_2007_summaries

It’s worth noting that in just four years:

  • Revenue from membership has dropped roughly $25 million, or 16 percent.
  • Net revenue has nosedived by $76 million (96 percent).
  • Net assets have dropped $190 million (21 percent). 

The good news, if you’re simply counting the money, can be found at National Geographic Ventures (NGV), our Society’s wholly-owned and taxable subsidiary. NGV is the corporate umbrella for all our new media and digital initiatives. It’s also the legal home of the National Geographic Channel, which is majority owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NGS has roughly a 30% stake in this joint venture.)

From all indications, the Channel appears to be a huge financial success. Exactly how big a success for NGS is difficult for me to quantify because NGV’s tax returns are not available to the public. But the 990s provide a hint about how much money is coursing through the Channel. On Schedule R (Related Organizations and Unrelated Partnership) in the 2011 filing, you’ll see this:


Column “f” says our Society’s share of the Channel’s income is more than $201 million; about half that amount is paid to the Society, while the remainder is retained to help the Channel grow. And grow it has: column “g” — $1.49 billion — represents the Society’s 30% share of the roughly $5.0 billion value of the Channel itself.

$1.5 billion out of $5.0 billion. That’s pretty serious money, especially when the Society’s initial investment in the Channel was less than $140 million.

How did the Channel do it? Why is it generating such impressive returns and experiencing such dramatic growth?

The short answer: People apparently love the programs about gangs… Nazis… drugs… prisons… sex addiction… prostitution… the Bikini Test… men who are sexually intimate with inflatable dolls… a woman who is addicted to having sex with strangers in a parking garage (with requisite on-screen analysis by a behavioral scientist)… Cops… lesbians in a Brazilian jail… and so on & so forth, ad nauseam.

Oh… and don’t forget about humiliating the Hutterites and the “gypsies.”

Programming brilliance? Not really.

Then again, this discussion really isn’t about Rupert Murdoch. We’ve always known who he is.

In the end, this is about who we are, and who we want to be – as a Society and as a society.

♦  Can National Geographic put its iconic name & logo on fairgrounds & brothels (the Channel) and, at the same time, on libraries & nunneries (i.e., the Magazine) — and still be taken seriously by the public?

♦  Can National Geographic build a sustainable future on a network of brothels, which are raking in the cash, while the libraries wither on the vine — and the Society’s members continue their mass exodus?

♦  Most of all: How can John Fahey manage the National Geographic brand when the Channel, which reaches hundreds of millions of people around the world, is beyond his editorial control?

Put another way: What happens to The Brand’s hard-earned reputation when the Channel showcases stuff like this in prime time…

… and programs like this one called Sex for Sale, which is about “high-end sex work”…

… while our Chairman & CEO shows this earnest face to the public:

… but makes jokes in private about the Society’s embrace of “factual fiction”:

From a no-nonsense, hard-headed business perspective,
is this wise brand management?
And: Is it sustainable? 

We posed that question to Professor Sanal Mazvancheryl,
an expert in brand management
who teaches at the Kogod School of Business at American University:


John Fahey National Geographic

National Geographic vs. Instagram & Flickr?


David Lyle & The Layoffs

What a great name that would be for an indie rock band. Unfortunately, it’s our headline for the ongoing pistol-whipping of the National Geographic brand by our “partners” at Fox.

This week in Washington, D.C.:

One of our Society Matters stringers, who attended this session, sent along a few text messages:

“”Wow, in a talk where David Lyle is being grilled about ‘lowering” the NG brand. Ha. And holy crap that man has no censorship… As in “who actually buys the [National Geographic] magazine anyway?… They’re either 70 yrs old or dead. There’s a reason you see an old NG magazine and it doesn’t even look read… Because no one reads them!” Then he goes on to how he IS making something interesting and entertaining.”” 

“It’s Lyle and a guy from PBS. The talk basically put PBS (who “stood the high ground”) with ngc [National Geographic Channel] (who “went to the low ground“). Ha. Shocked the talk/conference is so bold.” 

“Lyle just went on about how he’s a commercial enterprise, and out to make money. But to not lower himself as low as i.e. Honey BooBoo which is laughing AT them, not with them (and then he said “if you stick all of those people’s IQ’s together, I’m still not sure they’d be able to sign a consent form.”

“Now the moderator just showed a clip of that Amish show I think it is with a bunch of girls talking about bikinis. Now Lyle is tryin to defnd himself.”

Stop and consider: National Geographic, which once proudly showcased its award-winning documentaries on PBS, is now the counterpoint to PBS in a Low Road vs. High Road debate. Yet Mr. Lyle somehow believes that slithering down the Low Road is good for the Brand. Here’s a tweet from the same conference session:

If no one is reading the Magazine — as Mr. Lyle insists — then the National Geographic Channel isn’t “supporting” the Brand; rather, the National Geographic Channel now IS the Brand, which Lyle is undermining with crap like this.

In related news: Five more National Geographic magazine staffers — all of them women — were fired this week by Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns.



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