Freakonomics Podcast

One of the most frequently listened to and most successful podcasts in the world, Freakonomics, all began when author and New York journalist Stephen Dubner traveled to Chicago to write a column about award-winning economist, Steven Levitt, for the New York Times Magazine. Through this undertaking, the two men developed an unexpected friendship, leading them to co-write a book, Freakonmoics, which covers a variety of bizarre topics ranging from “cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing realtors, etc.”

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The men anticipated their book would only sell approximately 80 copies, however their prediction was incredibly low—Freakonomics spent more than two years on The New York Times Best Seller list, selling more than 5 million copies in 40 languages. Not to mention, this unforeseen success resulted in two more books (SuperFreakonomics and Think Like a Freak), a blog, a documentary and a radio show.

Freakonomics Radio is an award-winning weekly podcast, airing on public-radio stations all over the country and receiving an average of 7 million downloads each month. In fact, Dubner and Levitt have turned this show into a full-time job, as they co-host every episode together.

While on air, the two men discuss an assortment of topics concerning the puzzles and challenges of everyday life and the peculiarity of human nature—focusing their shows on themes such as cheating, crime, parenting, gender roles, food/diet, health, etc.

Freakonomics’s exceptionally high number of listeners is no surprise, as Dubner and Levitt cover subjects that are of interest to individuals of all sorts:

“Our listeners are, in a nutshell: rather male (77%); relatively young (45% are 25-35 years old, another 24% are 35-44); well-educated (38% have a graduate degree; another 43% have a bachelor’s degree); and — according to the survey data at least — pretty well-off (17% earn more than $150,000 and another 23% earn between $100,000 and $150,000; then there are the 14% who earn between $0 and $30,000, most of whom are likely students),” wrote Dubner.

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In fact, personally speaking, one of my most favorite recent Freakonomics podcasts called, “When Willpower Isn’t Enough,” discusses the idea of “temptation building.” This is a topic that listeners of all ages are likely to relate to, as almost everyone strives to make positive and healthy lifestyle decisions, but the idea is sometimes easier than accomplishing the actual goal. To help listeners gain a better understanding of this topic, Dubner features professor and researcher Katherine Milkman, who discusses a somewhat new field called behavioral economics. Essentially, this topic combines psychology and economics inhabited by people who blend economist view incentives with the psychologist interpretation. Milkman realized that after a long day of work, she should push herself to go to the gym, but always ended up coming home to relax and watch her favorite television show instead. In an attempt to solve this habit of procrastination, Milkman only allowed herself to watch her shows while at the gym. Thus, Milkman found an effective way to combine a temptation/guilty pleasure with something she knew she needed to do, but struggled doing.

A podcast on my weekend trip to London, England

 

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Politics 2.0

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This week’s lesson focused on the idea of Politics 2.0, ultimately highlighting the idea that social networking and e-participation technologies will revolutionize our ability to follow, support, and influence political campaigns. This form of strategy was especially present in Obama’s 2008 campaign—Obama instantly acknowledged the fact that most people weren’t interested in politics itself, but rather how legislative decisions affect themselves and their life/occupation.

If one thing is evident in Politics 2.0, it is that the United States and Spain have very different ways of addressing voters:

  • Microtargeting in the U.S.— This advertising strategy uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals/small groups of similar people to successfully influence their thoughts through their preferred communication channel.

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In both 2008 and 2012, Obama established a massive analytics group comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians to interpret data such as voter history, demographics profiles, financial standing, and even what magazines people read in order to better understand and influence Obama’s target audience.

Not to mention, Obama’s use of microtargeting even allowed for an effective broadcast buying approach—although both Romney and Obama purchased spots on local broadcast stations, Obama added infomercials to networks such as TV Land, whose viewers were determined to be “less political,” and therefore more likely to be persuaded.

  • Election manifesto in Spain— In Spain, both those elected and working on a campaign are professionals from businesses specialized in politics. Thus, an election manifesto is a straightforward booklet that tells people exactly of its political party’s programs, opinions and policies.

In Spain, it is sometimes considered taboo to be patriotic, whereas in the United States it is common for ultimately every citizen to be patriotic and proud of your country, regardless of political party. Growing up, I have always associated nationalism with Fourth of July barbeques and wearing red, white and blue. In contrast, in Spain the idea of being patriotic is perceived in a much more political manner. For example, in Barcelona I have noticed that the only devotion citizens’ show is wearing national colors for an FC Barcelona match.

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Truth & Trust

This weekend, I came across an intriguing podcast titled, “The Blindness of Exuberance – Mike Daisey and the Apple Factory.” The podcast is based on a famous journalism case known as “Truthiness: This American Life and the Monologist” details the difficult decision TAL is faced with when discovering the subject of one of their most popular radio shows, Mike Daisey, fabricated approximately half of his “nonfiction” broadcast. This dilemma is especially problematic for TAL, as unlike most deceitful news that is published as true, TAL was completely unaware of Daisey’s lies. Although this inaccurate story has already been listened to by thousands of TAL’s loyal listeners, I believe this is an example of an ethically defensible error. Considering TAL “followed its usual procedures” in fact-checking and contacting a variety of industry sources, it is clear they deemed Daisey’s story to be accurate and truthful. However, the radio station should have further investigated Daisey’s main source, translator Anna “Cathy” Lee, after Daisey stated her phone numbers “just weren’t going through”. If TAL had taken similar steps as reporter Rob Schmitz, such as contacting China correspondents and googling “Cathy Shenzhen,” the crisis they are currently in could have been prevented.

Although it can be extremely challenging to determine the dependability of a source, if TAL abides to the NPR ethics handbook, which opposes letting “sources offer anonymous opinions of others” and advises avoiding “pseudonyms for sources whose names we [NPR] withhold,” their chances of experiencing mendacious sources would be less likely.

In all honesty, I believe the standards of truth should be equally abided in both journalism and other nonfiction genres. If one publishes their work as a nonfiction piece, whether it’s a monologue, article or radio broadcast, it should be completely factual—distinguishing the truth from a lie should be strictly black and white without any gray zones.

To regain audience trust, TAL must be straightforward and apologetic. In fact, I believe the uncovering of Mike Daisey is just as intriguing as the original broadcast. If Rob Schmitz agreed to an interview, TAL could dedicate an entire episode discussing Schmitz’s trip to China and the importance of source accuracy.

Path to Journalism

Ever since I was little, storytelling has been the essence of my imagination. To this day, my mom still laughs at the memory of me begging her to recite Cinderella over and over again until I memorized the entire book before even knowing how to read. The simple act of writing words on a page can affect individuals in all sorts of ways—it can provoke emotion, resurface memories, and inspire creativity. Through the writings of others, I have been fortunate enough to encounter all of these reactions at various points in my life. In the future, I hope my words will both captivate and inform people in the same ways that I have experienced.

Two summers ago, I traveled to the Middle East for the first time. In fact, I have never been anywhere so culturally dissimilar from my home in San Francisco, California. Even though I live in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, everyone respects one another equally. Whether you’re straight, gay, black, white, wealthy, or poor, uniqueness is embraced and accepted. However, after flying sixteen hours across the world, I received an entirely new perspective regarding the ways that people of contradicting ideals treat one another.

During my travel, I gained the once in a lifetime opportunity of touring a village that also doubles as a bomb shelter, located near the border of two conflicting countries. Never before have I seen groups of individuals so prominently separated. As I gazed off in the distance to find the tall, chain link fence containing large coils of barbed wire at the top, I realized the separation of these opposing worlds is much more than a physical barrier, as the history behind these divided states dates back hundreds of thousands of years ago. Although weaponry and technology has advanced, the common argument of land ownership remains constant.

As I stood on the sandy, arid ground, I realized the surface beneath me has come to be defined by those who inhabit it. Acceptance and appreciation of diversity is crucial to be able to embrace the countless varieties of races, ethnicities, and cultures that surround us. At that moment, it became apparent that providing honest news to Americans, not to mention citizens all around the world, would be my primary goal in striving to inform and better future generations.

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As strange as it may sound, a newsworthy story and a renown fairytale share a common theme, in that they are both made possible by protagonists who act contrary to expectation; who would have ever thought Cinderella would have the guts to oppose the projected life of being a maid for her abusive stepmother, and instead, attend a royal ball where she meets her prince charming? Whether it is an enchanted myth or an article in a newspaper, a story is worthy if it draws the reader’s attention. People are the essence of storytelling—nothing would be communicated if there was not a daring individual to create a momentous headline and an eager watchdog to relay the occasion. Although I may never partake in actions that will allow me to star on the front cover of The New York Times, I hope one day I will be fortunate enough to write about a daring individual of that sort.

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Marta Alonso

During Wednesday’s class we had the pleasure of hearing from Marta Alonso, former head of digital in Edelman, Spain and current founder and director of CircleLine.

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During the presentation, Alonso explained that although she enjoyed the working as Edelman’s Senior Account Manager and learning the ins and outs of the digital world, she wanted to further her creativity to generate desirability among brands that seek a modern day management title amongst today’s clients/users.

Thus, in 2010 she created CircleLine, a digital storytelling agency that builds creative narratives and marketing tactics for all sorts of brands in order to build a long lasting relationship between the company and the buyer. To do this, Alonso explains that every worthwhile campaign must be delivered through all relevant social media platforms that combine interactive content on social networks with brands.

During the initial launch of the corporation, Marta developed offices in Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Andorra dedicated to the externalization of Community Management and development of software for social media with clients such as Doctors Without Borders, Spanair and Fira de Barcelona. Soon after the success of the initial publicity, Alonso continued to expand her clientel by creating the first community in the world of what is now the global network of Instagramers, which is basically an online FAQ for new users that consists of 400 international groups in 3 years. Since, Alonso has acquired clients of all sorts, including FC Barcelona, ​​Vueling, Damm Group, Sonar Music Festival, PayPal, Rockabox, Sagrada Familia, Catalan Tourist Board and the Generalitat de Catalunya. Not to mention, she has also worked as a journalist for RTVE and media as guest professor at La Salle, TecnoCampus (UPF), University of Barcelona and University of New Haven (Barcelona).

After further researching Alonso, I was extremely impressed when reading about one of her most well-known campaigns with Vueling, an airline I’ve happen to fly on quite frequenty during my time studying abroad. Ultimately, Marta took an idea that Vueling originally created, and used her creativity and marketing experience to generate a visual production capable of impacting our society. The final product is truly a work of art and was not possible without Marta’s input and assistance.

Marta’s background and accomplishments are both unique and inspiring, as there are not many people who are able to take something they have a passion for, in Marta’s case, Instagram, and turn it into an effective, successful, and most importantly, enjoyable, career.

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Zara—A Customers Utopia

As technology of the Information Age continues to advance, modern-day innovations have the possibility of being manipulated to both “create insights” and “facilitate cooperative work between people,” or to “amplify human misery” when people sacrifice their freedom to the government and become “dependent on complex technologies that they don’t comprehend.” In simpler words, these two platforms can be defined as utopian and dystopian.

On one hand, a utopian perspective ultimately exaggerates the benefits and desires of social changes, as the use of “specific technologies play a key role in shaping a utopian social vision.” Although forms of mediated communication change from one generation to the next, a utopian standpoint assumes that the adoption of mediated communication will always be synchronized and thriving. Thus, by allowing technological access to all will guarantee an optimistic life for all members of society.

Images of what department stores are thought to look like in the future.

On the other hand, a dystopian or anti-utopianism perspective examines the possibilities of computerized systems for coercion, while others emphasize alienation. Dystopians disagree with electronic technology for a variety of reasons—withdrawal from social interaction, diminished long-term relationships and overreliance on the Internet as a primary source of information are only a few anti-utopianism motivations for limiting the use of new technology.

Immediately after entering Spain, or ultimately any European country, a Zara clothing store can be found on virtually every corner. In fact, there are approximately 1,120 shops in Europe, 449 being in Spain. Founding chairman Amancio Ortega, who keeps an extremely low profile and is rarely photographed, opened his first Zara store with his wife Rosalía in 1975. In fact, last August, Inditex, Zara’s parent company, reached a valuation of €100 billion for the first time in its 30-year history. Of the eight brands housed under Inditex, Zara is the flagship and, as of December 2014, represented 66 percent of total sales.

After further researching Zara’s corporate philosophy and approaches compared to traditional retailers, I believe this clothing company reflects a utopian perspective on technology. Just from the optimistic and environmentally advanced words used in their mission statement such as, “eco-friendly,” “energy-saving,” and “environmentally aware,” it is clear Zara views mediated social possibilities as a positive advancement, catering to its customers to provide the best shopping experience possible. As Kling explains in his writing, a utopian vision normally serves significant roles in “giving people a positive sense of direction” (Kling, 42). Zara’s corporate philosophy does just this by stating that, “[our] commitment extends to all our staff and increasing awareness among our team members.” This norm primarily focuses on individual experience and a clear, simple store face that can be comprehended by all. Zara also promises to transport products as sustainably as possible by using biodiesel fuel, along with using ecological fabric and organic cotton to create each individual garment.

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Another reason supporting the company’s utopianism is its democratic approach. Rob Kling states “the goal of participants in these civic networks is to make information flows more democratic.” Likewise, Zara attributes its success to their quick response to consumer trends, embracing the fast-paced world of fashion crazes. In order to accomplish this, Zara has established an extremely effective supply chain that enables new deliveries of fashion as soon as a fad emerges. In terms of businesses strategies and brand awareness, it is likely that as the output of information by independent writers and bloggers continue to increase—with the growth of communication technologies in the past decade, Zara will have the ability to produce and deliver quicker than ever before. This eventual transition will minimize the purchases of magazines and newspapers, and instead, influence people to rely on the ideas of others.

Another one of the most important things that Zara has accomplished is perfecting online shopping, directly leading its audience into a utopia of “integrating new databases” and exploring new wardrobe necessities and accessories. Kling explains these improvements in precise words, writing, “the cost and complexity of advanced computing systems tend to give special advantage to already powerful groups in shaping their use, and in turning them to the further advancement of group interests,” (Kling, 28). Because new stock drops twice a week on Mondays and Thursday (the same as in-store), if you don’t live near a Zara you still receive the same benefits as an in-store customer would. Additionally it offers an ‘in-store availability’ function, which allows for fast and free delivery on orders over €50 to either your home address or a Zara store of your choice. If something is out of stock, the system offers an email alert system that informs the customer as soon as the product he/she desires becomes available again. These details highlight Zara’s utopian-centered values, as the company continues to expand opportunity for information and push the limits of existing technology.

Lastly, Zara’s overall corporate philosophy proves to possess a utopian quality in that it enables wide-reaching communication to and from computers all over the world. In Kling’s piece, he goes on to express his optimism regarding technological development, explaining that the need for information crosses all borders.” Although Zara originated in Arteixo, a small town in northern Spain, the business’s mission is to “facilitate access to information for the entire world, and in every language.” The company successfully supports this key value by offering a search interface in dozens of different languages, hundreds of Internet domains, stores in numerous countries, as well as creating translation tools and a variety of formats for universal convenience.

All in all, Kling describes technological utopianism as, “the assumption that a society that adopts the proper technologies will be harmonious and prosperous remains constant” (Kling, 42). It is evident that Zara’s corporate philosophy would seamlessly fit under Kling’s definition, as the company uses software to solely focus on each individual user to provide high-quality searches and additional applications to expand modern conveniences. Zara’s “constant dissatisfaction with the way things are” serves as an incentive to continue finding new ways to make a difference in the technological world, therefore demonstrating utopianism in all ten facets of their corporate philosophy.

Zara Overview Video:

Zara Employee Interview:

Works Cited:

Kling, Rob. “Learning About Information Technologies and Social Change: The        Contribution of Social Informatics.” (2000): n. pag. Center for Social Informatics, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Web. Mar. 2016.

 

Marketing & Advertising via Social Media

One of the most well-know companies in terms of using social media such as Instagram and Twitter as the main source of brand advertisement is the UK-based coconut oil dental product–Cocowhite. Cocowhite applies a variety of online promotional strategies to reach their target audience. First and foremost, the company keeps their natural teeth whitener simple and straightforward by offering one product in three different flavors.

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As soon as Cocowhite began business, they already had enacted their main strategy of paying celebrities and models to promote their products on social media. Within 6 months of launching a social media account, Cocowhite gained 28k followers on Twitter and 316k followers on Instagram, thus resulting in a quick and effective way to generate sales. Not to mention, the majority of Cocowhite’s brand representatives have millions of followers of their own, allowing the endorsements to reach users all over the world. If you are an avid Instagram user it is ultimately impossible to escape seeing a picture of the Cocowhite product while scrolling on your newsfeed.

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The company also realizes the importance of maintaining and increasing brand awareness among young consumers—Cocowhite takes today’s generations new craze of selfies into consideration by leveraging the trend of ‘#selfie”. On each Cocowhite package, for example, the company writes: “TAKE A #COCOSELFIE & TAG @COCOWHITEUK ON INSTAGRAM FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AMAZING PRIZES! DETAILS: COCOWHITE.COM/WIN.” Cocowhite clearly embraces the trends occurring throughout social media and applies these fads to grow their brand.