Tag Archives: Journalist

Amazon‘s Echo Look: Exploiting Our Inner Narcissist

The depth to which a corporation will sink to exploit our insecurities and separate us from our money knows no bounds.

Amazon now wants to tell us how to dress.  I can hear is now,

“Alexa, do these jeans make me look fat?”
“No, but these jeans, for $79.99 (free shipping), will improve your look. Make sure you share this with your friends.”

Do we really want an organization, motivated solely by money, to become such an integral part of our lives? Is it in our best interest to give Amazon so much of our personal information, not just want we are wearing, but also what insecurities are?

By giving Amazon so much of our personal information we help them, and anyone else they sell our information to, exploit us for profit.  We are being manipulated without our knowledge and in ways we can‘t fully appreciate or comprehend.

Protect yourselves by protecting your privacy.  

The government is not going to help protect you.  Journalists will let you know what is happening and help you understand why it matters, but their platforms and reach are being weakened every day, and are no match for the slick presentations of Amazon.

All of this while Amazon eliminates jobs across the country.

Back in September of last year (2016), the American Booksellers Association and Civic Economics released a full update of their “Amazon and Empty Storefronts” study.

“The updated study again shows that — whether it’s in dollars lost in sales and property tax revenue, far fewer retail storefronts serving local communities, or significant job losses — Amazon has a massive, overall negative impact on the American economy,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “We need to come to grips with the fact that every American consumer is paying a high price for Amazon’s growth.”
—“Updated Study Drives Home Amazon’s Negative Impact on Economy” By David Grogan, Sep 28, 2016

ESSENTIAL NATIONAL FINDINGS 2015 (read the full report)

  • In 2015, Amazon sold $55.6 billion worth of retail goods nationwide, all while avoiding $704 million in sales taxes.  The cost of lost sales taxes falls equally on state and local governments.
  • These sales are the equivalent of 39,000 retail storefronts or 133 million square feet of commercial space, which might have paid $528 million in property taxes.
  • A total of more than $1.2 billion in revenue is lost to state and local governments.
  • Amazon also operated 75 million square feet of distribution space, employing roughly 111,000 workers.
  • Even counting all the jobs in Amazon distribution centers, Amazon sales produced a net loss of 222,000 retail jobs nationwide.

How Amazon Impact Job Growth and why it matters

June 2016 Newsletter Celebrating the Best in Black Literature

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Carter G. Woodson Award Winning Books

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The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) established the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for the most distinguished books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States. First presented in 1974, this award is intended to “encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social studies books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and race relations sensitively and accurately.”

The awards are given in the following categories, Elementary (K-6), Middle (5-8), and Secondary (7-12) grade levels. This is arguably the most diverse list of children’s books you will encounter. Check out our book cover mosaic for these award winning titles.


New Books Coming in July

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Jewell Parker Rhodes, Towers Falling, is a novel for younger readers, which helps them understand how a tragic event, that took place before they were born, impacts them today. Learning in Womanist Ways: Narratives of First Generation African Caribbean Women by Jan Etienne is a fascinating study of Black Caribbean women who went to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s in search of a better life. New York Times bestselling authors, Ashley & JaQuavis are back with installment #6 of The Cartel series, and celebrity insider, Flo Anthony keeps the drama going with One Last Deadly Play. You’ll also find a new book of poetry featuring the work of Kwame Dawes, as well a highly touted debut novel, Here Comes the Sun, from critically acclaimed writer, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and more.


Book Club Selection for July 2016

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Folktales’ Black Women’s Literary Society from Austin, TX is reading Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. The author, Dr. Damon Tweedy, explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients.

All the chapters of the national book club, Go On Girl! Book Club, Inc., are reading Loving Day by Mat Johnson. Loving Day was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR and others.

Girl Fridayz Book Club out of Buffalo, NY are reading Victoria Christopher Murray’s bestselling novel, Stand Your Ground, and the San Francisco Bay Area’s, Turning Pages book club is reading Langston Hughes’ classic, The Ways of White Folks.


“I’ve heard black books are dead…”

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“I’ve heard black books are dead, and it’s not true. There’s a thriving market; it just has to be nurtured. I am carrying the banner and banging the drum.”—Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, CEO of the Literary Media and Publishing Consultants. To help beat the drum, Vanesse was joined by; Regina Brooks, CEO of Serendipity Literary Agency; Ken Smikle, president, Target Market News, and former publisher of Black Issues Book Review; and Troy Johnson, president, AALBC.com. You may read about this panel discussion in the Chicago Defender and Publishers Weekly.


Report from the Journalists Roundtable by Richard Prince

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Much of the discussion was about how to get companies to recognize their obligation to advertise in the Black press, given the number of dollars African Americans spend with those companies. A. Peter Bailey, an author, speaker, journalist and former Malcolm X associate, suggested that publishers make public the number of dollars Black consumers spend with certain business sectors. “Let these people see that you’re not doing us a favor,” he said. Peter added that Black publishers should require organizations whose leaders want columns in the Black press to make sure their members are reading Black newspapers.

On a note related to leaders not supporting the Black Press; George Curry said, back in 2014, “There is a disrespect for the black press that we have not seen in recent years. For example, we have requested — every year — an interview with the president. He can ignore 200 black newspapers and 19 million viewers but he can give one to every stupid white comedian there is on TV, the black ones and the white ones, and has time for all types of buffoonery but they will not respect the black press enough to give us an interview…” As far as I can tell, the Black press has still not been granted an interview with President Obama (If he has please share the links).


Literary Triumph Despite Adversity…

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Mazaradi Fox (center) is the author of The Game Don’t Change The Players Do… (Infamous Books, November 2016). Fox wrote this novel in 2013 during his incarceration at the Orleans Correctional Facility. Excited to learn about this upcoming book from a new author, I ran a quick search and learned, not only was Fox (born Jamal Green) a novelist, he was rap artist signed to 50 Cent’s G-Unit label. I was stunned to discover that Fox was murdered on the streets of Queens, NY in 2014. His tragic end, though it happened two years ago, hit me harder than I would have expected; simply because it could have been any of us. Mazaradi’s story prompted me to post these stories so that we can celebrate the Brothers that achieved literary success despite the odds.

D. Watkins an East Baltimore native, once a teenaged crack dealer, is now a college professor at the University of Baltimore. When he was 16 years old, Dwayne Betts carjacked a man and spent a nine years in the toughest adult prisons in Virginia. Today he is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, and a 2016 graduate of the Yale Law School. Antwone Fisher was born in an Ohio prison to a teenage mother and became a ward of the state. Today he is a screenwriter, poet, and a New York Times best-selling author. Mitchell S. Jackson spent 16 months in prison for selling drugs. Today he is an awarding author and serves on the faculty of Columbia University.


Use Facebook, Don’t Let Facebook Use You.”

news-facebook-debugger (1)Have you ever shared a link from a page on your website to Facebook, and have you wondered how Facebook chose the image used? You can control the image used when anyone shares a link from your site onto Facebook. You can even use an image specifically designed for Facebook—even one not used on the web page itself.

The links I share on Facebook are selected with thought or are crafted in such in a way to increase the likelihood a reader will click the link and visit our web site. In order to help accomplish this I take advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph Debugger Tool. Learn more about this valuable tool.


Books Published by Theatre Communications Group

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Are you a fan of playwrights August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, or John O’Neal? Then check out the books published by Theatre Communications Group.


Events Coming in July

news-soulful-chicago-book-fairHarlem Book Fair, July 16 – Harlem, NY
▪ The Soulful Chicago Book Fair, July 16 – Chicago, IL
▪ Phillis Wheatley Book Awards, July 17 – New York, NY
▪ National Book Club Conference, July 29 to 31 – Atlanta, GA


Promote Your Book for $75 for the Entire Summer!

news-75-for-the-summer-dealYour book will appear on AALBC.com’s Homepage and our Book’s Main Page for the the entire summer! As of June 29th that is 84 days. The sooner you start the better the deal. Your book will be seen by tens of thousands of readers of Black literature, for less than $1 per day. Click here to get started.


news-aalbc-18 (1)Dear Reader,

As I continue working through AALBC.com’s website upgrade, I just can’t helped but be moved by the wealth of talented writers we have available to us. I created a page to which lists all the authors that are profiled on AALBC.com; currently there are 2,417 are on the list, and this is the tip of the iceberg.

Some suggest men don’t read because nothing has been published which speaks to their experience. In reality a great deal has been published that they can relate to; we just have to actively ensure these stories are shared. Do not take it for granted that everyone knows about these books. We have to spread the word.

If you discover a book on our site or newsletter, please share it with others. This is the only way our literature, our stories, indeed our humanity will rise above the sensationalism and dysfunction favored by mainstream media.

As always, thanks for reading!
Peace & Love,

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Troy Johnson,
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com


You may receive messages like this directly in your email-box by subscribing. It may also be read on your Kindle ebook reader, or any device by downloading a PDF version.  Enjoy all of our previous eNewsletters and consider sponsoring our eNewsletter or a dedicated mailing.

AALBC.com eNewsletter – Originally Emailed June 29, 2016 – Issue #235

ankh

Serious Problems With Facebook Promotion

Writers, if you are using Facebook to promote your work—especially paid promotion— invest 30 minutes of your time to watch these two videos, and read the article.  It will probably change the way you think about Facebook and save you some time, energy, and money.

 

AALBC.com’s Last 3 Million Visitors

As a content publisher, marketing is part of the job.  As an independent publisher, with limited resources, it is critical I use my resources wisely.  My website’s analytics is an important tool for me. Below is a Google Analytics report which shows the source of AALBC.com’s last 3 million visitors.   last-3000000-visitors

Organic Search Brings AALBC.com 75% of Our Visitors

Ranking high on Google and Bing’s search engine results contributed to bringing AALBC.com more than 75% of our last 3 million visitors.

Creating high quality content, results in higher rankings in search engine results¹. The creation of high quality content is perfectly aligned with AALBC.com’s goal.  No writer or content producer could reasonably argue against a system where the creation of higher quality content results in more visitors.  Visitors, of course, are a primary driver of revenue for a website.

Direct Traffic is Not Too Shabby Either at 13%

The source of our direct traffic is trickier to nail down precisely, but it does result from visitors who come to AALBC.com, by clicking a link on my emailed newsletter, through a bookmarked page, typing an AALBC.com page directly into the browser, and any instance where referral data is not passed².

With all the hype surrounding social media, and Facebook in particular, many writers are ignoring time tested marketing techniques, like a solid mailing list.  Our mailing list has just under 11,000 subscribers, and 100% of them have opened an email within the last 6 months (we actively remove subscribers who haven’t).  Open rates for a typical mailing is at least 20%. This means every mailing will be opened by at least 2,000 readers.  In addition, many of our subscribers are generous enough to be paid subscribers. We also send a mailing, once a month, that is sponsored.  Not only is our eNewsletter an effective way to reach our audience, it is a revenue generator.

Approximately 90% of our traffic is generated directly and through organic search.  The remaining 10% comes from other websites including social media.

Facebook Brings AALBC.com 1% of Our Visitors

It is interesting to note that Wikipedia and Rottentomatoes (RT, a film review aggregator website) sends us just about as many visitors as Facebook.

Publishers have the ability to post links back to their websites on related Wikipedia articles. In general this practice is considered “promotion” and is purportedly against Wikipedia’s guidelines.  Despite that, I’ve followed the lead of major corporations and posted links back to related AALBC.com content.  As the report shows the tactic works as well as engaging on Facebook, but with a fraction of the effort.

Side Bar: I actually stopped posting on Wikipedia over a year ago; the last straw was a battle I had with one of Wikipedia’s editors who seemed hell bent on promoting Zane’s tax liabilities and marginalizing her numerous achievements.

I post interesting AALBC.com content on Facebook almost every day (I’ve shared this article on Facebook too). Again, Wikipedia, where I have not posted a thing in over a year and is free, drives as much traffic as Facebook where I post almost every day and have paid for promotion.

If I add Facebook mobile, Facebook made up just 1.3% of my overall traffic (40K of 3M+ visitors). Of course it is better to have those visitors than not, right?  Well that depends on the effort it takes to get those visitors, and what those visitors do when they visit AALBC.com.

Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach³

Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach

One major problem with Facebook is that the quality of your content is of little significance. Facebook controls who sees your content. Search engines control who sees your content too, but search engines are motivated, and rewarded, by giving visitors quality search results.  Facebook, on the other hand, is motivated by maximizing their revenue and engagement on their website.

I have watched AALBC.com’s Facebook page “likes” quadruple over the last couple of years, while organic (free) post engagement has dropped substantially.  This is Facebook’s way to create an incentive for marketers to pay for post promotion.  I have experimented with paying for post promotion, but I have yet to reach the level of engagement I enjoyed organically, a few years ago, with far fewer fans.

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AALBC.com Last (and Final) Promoted Post Statistics

Despite having more than 20,000 fans and almost 5,000 friends, I reach less than 300 people organically with a typical post.  If I spend $7, I can increase this to 2,000.  But still, this is less than 10% of my fan base and I have to pay to reach them.

Keep in mind this is an audience that I built through my efforts of actively engaging with people on Facebook.

Again, I used to achieve this level of reach without having to pay for it. But those days are over as Facebook has made it clear that organic reach is a thing of the past³ .

And of course all of this assumes you can trust the data the information being provided to you from Facebook.  As the videos above assert there is a lot of click fraud occurring on Facebook.  Are the 2,310 people I paid to see my ad real?  Are the 19 who clicked the link real?  If you ask me, I’d say, “no.”

Take a look at a report (below) which shows the “people” who clicked on my Facebook advertisement. The ad ran for 7 days, from October 1 to October 7, 2015. You will see that the Avg. Session Duration is 00:00:00—this means that none of the visitors to the site looked at a second page, they all left immediately4.session-refferal

Sadly, there is no shortage of social media marketing “experts” who promise to help you maximize the effectiveness your advertising campaigns on Facebook.

Few of us are sophisticated enough to evaluate the effectiveness of these experts or the effectiveness of a Facebook advertising, particularly when the data supplied by Facebook is suspect.  Indeed, many social media marketers would claim, “We got you 2,310 views for only $7.” When in reality, what I got, in this case, was ripped off.

Someone looking at this report may notice that all of the Facebook referrals came from mobile users (m.faceboo.com/) and claim, well Troy your website, AALBC.com, is not optimized for mobile displays.  That is true, but the page I was advertising is optimized for mobile displays.  In fact the link is to a newly redesigned version of AALBC.com which will be officially rolled out in early 2016.

For writers and other content producers managing their own websites, with limited resources, adding the additional effort of maintaining a Facebook page comes at the expense of maintaining and publishing content on your own website.  A compromise that few of us can really afford to make.  That $7, I wasted with Facebook, could have gone toward paying a writer for content that a reader visiting my website would enjoy, and that another website link to.

Why would I continue to take precious resources away from the production of quality content on AALBC.com, which is responsible for 90% of our visitors, and generates revenue, and redirect those resources to Facebook, who we have to pay, to bring of 1% of our visitors, many of whom are probably fraudulent?

On top of that, by promoting posts (a form of advertising on Facebook), I’m literally paying Facebook to provide them with free content.  Continuing to do this defies all reason and logic, so I have stopped.

As mentioned in the first video above, the YouTube social network pays content producers for publishing videos on their platform.  This is the way it is supposed to work. Facebook should be paying us for publishing content on their websites.

Independent Websites Send More Visitors to AALBC.com Than All of Social Media

otherwebsites-linking-to-aalbcIf you were able to scan further down the list of the sources of AALBC.com last 3 million visitors, you would to see the impact of other websites.  If all of the visitors, from hundreds of others sites, that link to AALBC.com were added together they easily exceed all of social media referrals—not just Facebook!  Here is a google search showing other sites with links to AALBC.com, excluding Facebook and Twitter.

Individually, none of these sites (see a short sample listing on the right) are sending as much traffic to AALBC.com, as Facebook, but collectively they send much more—and therein lies our potential.  We just need to recognize the power we have and use it.

Often, the only effort on my part, to get another website to link to AALBC.com, is to publish content that the website’s owner feels is valuable enough to link to.  AALBC.com links to thousands of other websites; rarely do we publish a document that does not link to another website.  Sites linking to each other naturally (organically) is the true nature of the World Wide Web.

Another strategy get referral traffic from other websites is to engage on their discussion forums or comment on their articles.  To be clear, I’m not saying spam the comments section of websites with unrelated promotional material. What I am saying is look for articles related to what you may have written and comment in a meaningful or helpful way. A properly curated and managed site, welcomes this type of interaction.

There are websites however that don’t recognize our collective strength and actively avoid linking to other websites. Once I ran into a problem with Ebony Magazine, posting in their comments, and got my feeling hurt 😉  But websites that react the way Ebony are exceptions and definitely not the rule.

AALBC.com has operated a discussion forum for over 15 years. Authors are encouraged to post information about their books  and engage with readers. However, author have turned to my Facebook page instead of using my website.  I’m seriously considering removing the Facebook page as it is cannibalizing visitors to AALBC.com.

Posting information about one’s books on related Facebook pages or another user’s wall is a strategy many use.  This has resulted in many groups degenerating into a places where writers make “drive by posts,” sharing content from their own pages without even visiting the groups that they are posting to.

Even if many people engage with your content on Facebook, this serves to highlight Facebook’s site, not yours.  A very small fraction of people will actually leave Facebook—and why should they if you are constantly posting on Facebook.

Unfortunately, a Facebook page is becoming the ONLY web presence for many writers and even businesses—they don’t maintain a website at all.  Even a simple website is far more feature rich than a Facebook page can be.  If we factored in Facebook’s invasion of our privacy, selling our personal data, and controlling access to updates; the choice between a Facebook page and a website should be a no-brainer.

If this trend continues the world wide web will be a far less rich place as folks migrate from maintaining websites to creating Facebook pages. Profits generated on the web will be concentrated at the top, greatly reducing the potential for independent websites to grow and for new ones to get started.

For a content producer having a Facebook page as your only web presence is a mistake. Because you are limiting your audience, not just to Facebook users, but to the Facebook users (real or otherwise) you pay Facebook to show it to.

Many writers will tell readers to “follow me on Facebook” and fail to mention their own website, or blog.  Some writers even put the Facebook logo on their business card and marketing material.  Even AALBC.com has Facebook icons on virtually every page.  We give no other entity, save Twitter, as much free promotion as we give Facebook.

All of this attention paid to Facebook reduces attention paid to websites.  In fact many excellent writers, have just given up blogging, or their blogs languish in obscurity, because they not getting enough visitors to make it worth the effort to maintain.  Engaging more aggressively on Facebook, to increase blog readership, is not helping.

The Facebook Game is Rigged

Some might suggest that if you are only getting 1% of your traffic from Facebook, then you must be doing something wrong.  Well you are not.  The game is simply rigged against you as I hope my reports, these videos, and perhaps your personal experience has demonstrated.

Now if Facebook was sending AALBC.com thousands of visitors, who spent time on the website, this article would not have been written.  If there were countless stories of bloggers, magazines, newspapers and writers who realized tremendous success and an increase of readership through their efforts on Facebook, this article would not be necessary.

Instead what I’m experiencing, witnessing and learning in my research is a very different story. It is also a story that is not being told, especially in the Black community.

There is Hope

AALBC.com’s time, energy and money will continue to be directed to two primary activities moving forward;

  1. Producing Quality Content
    I first started AALBC.com exactly 18 years ago today (October 10, 1997).  Providing a platform to connecting readers with books about Black culture is what attracts people to this website. Our planned website upgrade will allow us to share information on books in a way that no other website is currently doing.
  2. Advocating, Sharing , and Collaborating with Other Independent Websites
    Spread the word about websites you enjoy.  Figure out ways to collaborate with other websites.  Post comments in the comments section of those websites. If we don’t have an network of strong, independent websites working together, none of us will survive, and our only option will be a Facebook page (or a page on whatever platform has the most power at the time).Despite all the caution described about Facebook, we can, for now at least, make Facebook work for us, rather than the other way around, without spending a penny, by simply sharing content on the platform.

If you found this message helpful (or not), please comment below and share it with others.

Notes:

¹ Of course this is a simplification.  There are other strategies one can employ to rank higher in organic search engine results, without producing high quality content.  Search engines are engaged in a constant effort to defeat those that “game” the system, to rank higher in search results, with lower quality content.  Search engines don’t always get it right, but it is a very difficult task.

² I really should take advantage of tagging URLs.  This will help me identify of the “Direct” traffic in my analytics reports. In fact, I’m also contemplating paying writers by the traffic they help generate to the website, through the use of tracked URLs.

³ In 2012, Facebook famously restricted organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 percent. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced it even more.  By February 2014, according to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, organic reach hovered at 6 percent, a decline of 49 percent from peak levels in October. (All of the detailed data, analysis and practical recommendations are in their white paper.)

An earlier version of this article indicated that the time spend on the site was zero seconds. Google says that they assign a value of 0 seconds to all visitors who only visit one page because they had no way of determining how long the visit lasted unless the visitor goes to a second page.