Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Would Happen If Rep. Trent Franks’s Abortion Ban Passed?

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee approved Arizona representative Trent “Little Women” Franks's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act today, a bill inspired by the Kermit Gosnell case that would ban abortions after twenty weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can feel pain. The committee hearing yielded June’s first GOP rape gaffe, when Franks argued against Democrat-proposed exceptions for rape and incest. “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” the congressman said, echoing Todd Akin. He later clarified in a statement that he meant that late-term abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape are rare.

A similar bill recently failed in the House, but hypothetically speaking, what would be the effects of such legislation, which would limit women's Roe-protected right to an abortion until viability, or 24 weeks?

Conveniently, The New York Times Magazine has published a big story on just that. Today. It traces University of California San Francisco demographer Diana Green Foster’s long-term study of abortion, the first to compare the effects of having an abortion to the effects of being denied an abortion, a.k.a. the “turnaways,” most often because of gestational limits in state laws similar to the one Franks has proposed. It's not good: Turnaways had higher rates of hypertension and chronic pelvic pain and were three times more likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Motherhood, Stephanie Coontz wrote in the New York Times this week, “is now a greater predictor of wage inequality than gender in the United States.”

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Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue Gets The Bling Ring Treatment

Wherever the Bling Ring cast travels, it now seems inevitable that a jewel heist will follow — or, in New York's case, occur just prior to the red-carpet premiere. Joining the back-to-back gem thefts that added an air of mystery-drama-crime to Cannes is another casual walkout burglary that occurred at the Tiffany & Co. shop on Fifth Avenue last Friday. The New York Daily News reports that police are on the lookout for "a well-dressed thief" who swiped two necklaces worth $100,000 off the store's counter after distracting the store clerk. Does this mean Coppola's film will trigger mass jewel hysteria upon national release? At the very least, expect to see the Tiffany & Co. flagship bulk up security with an army of personal guards.

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Excerpt: How the (Real) Bling Ring Robbed Rachel Bilson Five Times

This Friday marks the New York and Los Angeles opening of The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s film about those L.A. teens who stole millions' worth of designer clothing, jewelry, gadgets, and cash from celebrities including Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom. Allegedly led by Rachel Lee, a high-school student in Calabasas — a wealthy suburb in the Valley — the kids would read gossip blogs or social networks to find out when their celebrity targets would be traveling. Then they’d walk right up to the front doors of their Hollywood mansions, often finding them unlocked or with keys under the doormat, and proceed to raid the place, especially the closets. Though the ring was first exposed by trashy tabloids, Coppola based her script on a 2010 Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales, who joined in on the Hollywood buzz by consulting on the project and using her extra reporting to expand her story into a book, which the Cut has exclusively excerpted here. Below, follow and learn as Lee and her main accomplice, Nick Prugo, invade Rachel Bilson’s home repeatedly. —Erica Schwiegershausen

In the first two weeks of May 2009, the Bling Ring burglarized Rachel Bilson’s house five times. They went back again and again, trying on her clothes, looking through her things. They put on her makeup and examined her jewelry. They went “shopping” and then decided they wanted to go shopping again. “Ms. Bilson was probably the most emblematic of how this group typically worked,” Officer Brett Goodkin told the Grand Jury on June 22, 2010, “where the accomplice,” allegedly [Rachel] Lee [the group’s ringleader], “identified [Bilson] as a target and [Nick] Prugo went to work and they committed numerous burglaries all within an approximate two- to three-week period.”

By now, they had gotten it down. Rachel picked Bilson as the next victim on her list, Nick said. “She loved her clothes.” Like so many young actresses today, Bilson, then 27, was admired as much for her fashion sense as for her work. She appeared at events in an array of dazzling gowns and around L.A. in unfailingly eye-catching ensembles. She was the object of many a “style-crush” among young women. She had a vintage, boho style which she told reporters was inspired by Diane Keaton and Kate Moss. In 2008, she worked with DKNY Jeans to create the junior sportswear line Edie Rose.

Ever since the fashion world success of Paris Hilton, P. Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, and other celebrities, having a clothing line — one of the potentially most lucrative franchise opportunities for a personal brand — has become de rigueur for starlets and reality stars alike. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Lauren Conrad, Selena Gomez, Mandy Moore, Kelly Osbourne, Hillary Duff, Whitney Port, and Avril Lavigne all have had lines, to name a few. In 2010, Women’s Wear Daily reported that The Jessica Simpson Collection had become the first celebrity clothing line to top a billion dollars in retail sales. Simpson’s reality and fashion stardom would seem to suggest her as an object of Bling Ring interest; but they never targeted her. “Rachel would never, like, carry a handbag that wasn’t made of real leather,” said Nick, referring to Simpson’s more downscale merchandise.

Rachel Bilson, on the other hand, offered Rachel Lee a whole sleek package of things Lee admired: she was beautiful, stylish, famous, rich, designed for Donna Karan — plus they had the same name. “Rachel-Rachel,” Nick said. “Rachel identified with her.” Both Rachels were from the Valley.

Nick did the research. He found out the location of Bilson’s four-bedroom, 3,662-square-foot home in Los Feliz, an L.A. neighborhood popular with Young Hollywood. Bilson had purchased the white Spanish-style house for $1.88 million in 2006, three years into her role as Summer Roberts, the unashamedly shallow rich girl on The O.C. (2003-2007). When the Bling Ring kids were robbing Bilson, they were also robbing Summer — which for them, it seemed was a form of flattery as much as it was a crime; the character was the embodiment of the sarcastic, slack-mouthed, eye-rolling mode of discourse (“Seriously?”) so prevalent now among teenaged girls on television and, consequently, in real life.

Nick and Rachel scoped out Bilson’s house, Nick said, doing their usual reconnaissance. Sometimes they just sat and watched with binoculars, and sometimes they did leisurely drive-bys, casually searching for clues about how best to get in and do the job.

For a couple weeks, Nick checked on Bilson’s comings and goings around L.A. “This was their operating norm,” Officer Goodkin told the Grand Jury. “Mr. Prugo would go to work with doing his kind of back-office research on the Internet, finding out where that victim lives, where is the primary resident, and then culling through Internet source stuff to determine is this a victim that travels a lot, is this a victim that’s not home very often.” Nick discovered Bilson was planning a trip to New York for a couple of weeks with her then fianc├ę, Shattered Glass (2003) star Hayden Christensen. As soon as the paparazzi shots of her at LAX appeared, the Bling Ring was on its way.

Nick said he and Rachel and Diana Tamayo burglarized Bilson’s home four times in the beginning of May, entering through an unlocked door. (Tamayo’s lawyer, Behnam Gharagozli, denies Tamayo had anything to do with the burglaries of Bilson.) Nick said they took Bilson’s designer clothes — pieces by Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Zac Posen — and her vintage shoe collection; she was a size 5, too small for either of the girls, but they wanted the shoes anyway. They took Bilson’s handbags and extensive stash of Chanel makeup, her Chanel No. 5 perfume, her jewelry, “underwear, bras. With these celebrities everything’s brand-new,” Nick said, “they still have the tags on the items. But of course they would take dirty or non-dirty and wash ‘em, whatever — anything and everything that would fit, that they liked, they would take, and being that these were all women there wasn’t a lot of stuff for me….”

Rachel, he said, had gotten so comfortable with the routine that during one of the burglaries of Bilson’s home she took time out to have a bowel movement. “We were in Rachel [Bilson’s] bathroom and Rachel just had to go, so she just … yeah. I remember the incident so well. I can recall the smell, which is really nasty, disgusting. I know I would never like … When you’re in there,” robbing someone’s house, that is, “you have a rush, like I’ve had to pee when I’ve been in there, but I would never use their bathroom, just in fear of that maybe some type of evidence would be left there. I think that’s weird, personally. But yeah, she did.”

They took so much from Bilson, Nick said, he and Rachel “got a lot of her stuff together and sold maybe thirty purses” on the boardwalk on Venice Beach. “During the day there’s these stalls you can rent where you can set up like a shop to sell things to people that walk along,” he said. “We came up with maybe a thousand dollars each from Venice, just like selling [purses] for like fifty bucks a piece. We had all these designer things and people would jump at the chance.”

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Solange, the Print-Mixing Queen

Yesterday, the younger Knowles sister, currently making her rounds in Europe, showed up at Art Basel in Switzerland to perform in typical Solange style in an art bar installation by artist Mickalene Thomas called "Better Days." With her braided hair twisted and tied up in an extravagant updo that GOT women wouldn't even be able to handle, the singer sang and side-stepped her way in the "art bar" wearing a multi-print, mock-neck dress by Mary Katrantzou. She showed off her expert color-and-print-mixing skills by adding polka-dot sandals to her look, and painted her tips a bright orange. Of course.

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Why You Shouldn’t Create a Newsletter (and What to Do Instead)

Posted by Jon in Email, Newsletters, RSS | 156 comments

Jun 12, 13 Why You Shouldn’t Create a Newsletter (and What to Do Instead)

Can I be blunt with you for a moment?

Not just direct, but say some things that’ll make some people mad?

Because you see, the world has changed.

Once upon a time, the online newsletter was the goose that laid golden eggs. Instead of hammering poor, unsuspecting website visitors into buying a product or service on their first visit, businesses got smart and asked them to subscribe to their newsletter, gaining permission to follow up again and again, sneaking in little sales pitches with every newsletter, and creating a nice flow of sales every time they published a new issue.

It was a game changer. Businesses went from converting 1-2% of visitors to an astonishing 5-20%, not because of a better pitch or product, but simply because they could stay in touch, educate the prospect, and occasionally nudge them to see if they were ready to buy.

And the best part?

It cost almost nothing. You could shoot out a new edition of your newsletter to thousands or even tens of thousands of people whenever you wanted, as often as you wanted, for a couple hundred bucks (or less) per month.

The result: enormous profits. Not just for big corporations, either, but for Main Street businesses, stay-at-home moms, and savvy writers around the world who wanted to make a living from their words. It was (and is) one of the biggest and most important changes in business in the last decade.

Nowadays, it’s pure foolishness.

If you’re publishing a newsletter, you’re potentially missing out on thousands of new subscribers, strangling growth by word-of-mouth, and depriving yourself of feedback from your readers, provided on a regular basis at no cost whatsoever to you, telling you exactly what you’re doing right and wrong.

Where newsletter publishers used to be the smartest people in the room, they are now the sad old fuddy-duddies of the online marketing world, hopelessly outdated, clinging desperately to a dying technology, destined to be crushed by new and savvier competitors. And if you’re publishing a newsletter, you’ll probably be pulverized right along with them.

Here’s why:

Not long ago, publishing was a one-way street.

You wrote a newsletter, article, or white paper, sent it to your readers, and they either read it or ignored it. End of story.

With social media though, communication now flows both ways. Yes, we still publish information, but now our readers respond back to us, leaving comments, sharing with their friends, and linking to us from their own blogs and websites.

It’s a complete game changer. Rather than publishing an article you like and hoping your readers enjoy it, now you know what they think within a matter of minutes. You can also compare the response to different articles to see what your readers enjoy most.

The most important shift, though?

Thanks to social networks, it’s now easier than ever before to grow by word-of-mouth. If your readers like what you publish, they’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, sending you hundreds or even thousands of new visitors for every article you publish.

Here at Boost Blog Traffic, we receive 50-100 new email subscribers per day exclusively through word-of-mouth. That’s not search engine traffic. That’s not advertising. That’s just readers talking about us on social networks.

It also grows over time. The larger your audience becomes, the more readers you have talking about you, and the more visitors you receive. It’s a snowball of traffic that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The problem?

For the most part, they’re still a one-way street.

Yes, some newsletter publishers give you digital archives and buttons to share past issues, but are your readers using those features? Nopers. They just forward the newsletter to somebody they think might like it.

While that’s certainly appreciated, one forward usually exposes you to just one person, where one share on Facebook or Twitter exposes you to hundreds or thousands. It’s an enormous difference. Where your newsletter might get forwarded to a dozen people, the same article on a blog could reach hundreds of new readers.

You also feel like you’re writing in a vacuum. People recognize mass emails for what they are, and unless you train them to respond to you, you’ll hardly ever hear from anyone, not because they have nothing to say, but because they realize it’s not a conversation. It’s a one-way street.

So, they don’t ask questions. They don’t compliment you on your writing. They don’t correct your mistakes. They don’t give you ideas for new products and services. They don’t tell you what articles they’d love you to write next.

Instead, there’s just a vast and empty silence.

It’s disconcerting, because even though you think you’re doing and saying the right things, what if you’re wrong? What if you’re really just a gigantic ass? What if you’re wasting your time?

You don’t know, and not knowing can drive you crazy. You start second-guessing yourself, and before you know it, you’re changing the name of the newsletter or redesigning it or any number of neurotic activities we creators engage in without feedback.

The good news is there’s a better way. And it cost nothing.

What do you call a newsletter with built-in sharing for social networks, a place to leave feedback on every article, and an ongoing digital archive where all of your old articles are automatically indexed in the search engines?

Simple: a blog.

Whenever somebody tells me they don’t understand blogs, I tell them, “Imagine a newsletter where all the issues are stored online, people can leave responses to your articles, and they can share your articles with their friends. Imagining it? Great. Now you understand blogging.”

People act like social media is this mystical, indecipherable being that governs the web with a fickle, invisible hand, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s simply an evolution of technology. It’s the conversion of a one-lane street to a two-lane street. Nothing more.

Of course, you might be wondering, “If blogs are so clearly superior to newsletters, why do some bloggers have both?” Let’s talk about that next.

The short answer:

No. Absolutely not. Start a blog and skip the newsletter altogether.

The long answer is more interesting, though. If you look around, you’ll see lots and lots of bloggers who also have email newsletters, and you might be wondering why.

It all starts with a technology called RSS. Once upon a time, people used RSS readers to subscribe to their favorite blogs, and it would collect all of the latest articles from those blogs and put them in one place for easy access, kind of like a clipping service that would remove articles from your favorite magazines and put them all together so you could skip the ads.

The problem?

Forgetfulness. Yes, you can get lots of people to subscribe to your blog with RSS, but most folks don’t check their RSS reader that often. They subscribe to a bunch of blogs, forget about them for a while, and then when they remember, their RSS reader is clogged up with hundreds of articles, and it’s too overwhelming to deal with.

The result: RSS delivers pitiful traffic.

A few years ago, I was thinking about buying a blog with 60,000 RSS subscribers, so I asked for their RSS stats, and I was shocked with what I found. Out of those 60,000 subscribers, only about 1,200 read any given post. That’s only a 2% engagement rate!

Email newsletters, on the other hand, typically get 20% or more to at least open up and take a glance at the content. That’s 1,000% better engagement. Or in other words, an email newsletter with 60,000 subscribers is the equivalent of a blog with 600,000 RSS subscribers.

Realizing this, a lot of bloggers decided to start an email newsletter in addition to their blog. The idea was to convert some of their RSS subscribers into email subscribers, making them much more engaged. And it worked. Engagement improved, revenue went up, and the blog grew faster than ever.

So, naturally, everyone started doing it. No one understood why they needed both a newsletter and a blog, but monkey see, monkey do.

It’s also the reason why a lot of email newsletter publishers criticize bloggers. On average, a popular email newsletter is massively more profitable than a blog with the same size audience, so they conclude newsletters are fundamentally better than blogs.

But they’re not. Email is just fundamentally better than RSS.

Only… who says bloggers have to use RSS?

Look around this site, and you’ll notice something peculiar:

It’s not possible to subscribe via RSS. You can only subscribe via email.

When you do, you’ll see I don’t spam you with a bunch of advertisements for our products and services. I just email you whenever there’s a new blog post for you to read. You don’t receive the entire post either, but a simple explanation of what the article is about and a link.

The result?

People I link to tell me I’m now sending the same traffic as blogs with more than 200,000 RSS subscribers. Here’s why: massive engagement. We only have about 26,000 email subscribers here, but because I routinely send out high-quality articles, as well as prune subscribers who are no longer reading, our open and click through rates are off the charts.

The blog is also growing like mad. As I mentioned earlier, we get about 50-100 new email subscribers per day purely through readers sharing the posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. And that number is rising. By the end of the year, I bet it’ll be up to 150-200 per day, all thanks to those little sharing buttons.

And just look at the number of comments. It’s hard to find a post with less than 50 comments, and many of them I have more than 100. Not only is that immensely encouraging, but those comments also contain ideas for future posts, new products and services, and even separate businesses. You guys are literally telling me what to do next. I don’t have to guess at all.

In other words, I’m getting all the benefits of email plus all the benefits of blogging. It’s the best of both worlds.

And the real shocker?

It’s dramatically less work. Since launching on March 12, 2012, we’ve only published 27 blog posts. Of those 27, I’ve only written 10. That’s less than one post per month. Granted, I usually spend around 10 hours writing each of my posts here, and there’s also some editing time for the guest posters, but I would guess it’s no more than 20 hours a month.

And remember, we grossed nearly $500,000 last year. Here’s why: minimizing the amount of time I spent writing allowed me to focus on creating products and services, promoting them, and giving customers an out of this world experience.

Blogging isn’t about publishing as much as you can. It’s about publishing as smart as you can.

Which is smarter: publishing your posts to a reader’s inbox, which they check several times an hour, or publishing your posts to RSS, which they might check once or twice a month?

Which is smarter: asking readers to go through the effort of forwarding your content to friends and family, or giving them a button that makes it easy to share it with everyone they know in a single click?

Which is smarter: making it easy for readers to give you feedback and then carefully studying that feedback when deciding what to do next, or just continuing blindly forward without any idea if you’re on the right track?

Of course, it’s obvious when you put them side by side, but most folks never think through it. We just blindly copy what the “authorities” are doing without having any idea what the results are.

That’s why I tell you guys so much about the results we get here at BBT. It’s not just to brag (okay, maybe a little); it’s so you can see the results of what we’re doing and copy the right things in the right way.

The bottom line?

Email kicks butt. Blogging kicks butt. Put the two together, and you’ve got the biggest can of whoop ass in the history of publishing.

Use it.

 About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness,” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Boost Blog Traffic, LLC. Poor man. :-)

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Philip Pullman argues that authors are being shortchanged on e-book loans

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DNP Philip Pullman argues that publishers are shortchanging authors on ebook loans

Few people understand the magic of libraries better than Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, but all is not well when it comes to digital lending. As the soon-to-be president of the Society of Authors, Pullman is leading the charge against publishing houses that may be shortchanging writers on e-book loans. In a letter to major publishers like Random House and Bloomsbury, Pullman argues that selling e-books to libraries as single sales rather than licenses costs authors up to two-thirds the income they receive from print loans. The Society's brief calls for the industry to reconsider existing models for compensation so that writers can continue producing books with which to line library shelves. After all, without authors, there would be no books, and as Pullman himself wrote, "Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all."