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FCC Republican excitedly endorses Trump’s crackdown on social media

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Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

Getty Images | Bloomberg

Republican Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission is cheering on President Trump’s attack on Big Tech this week. The commissioner also accused social media platforms of bias against the president and of trying to swing the 2020 presidential election.

Carr has supported Trump’s action in a series of tweets, in an official statement posted on the FCC website, and in interviews including one with Lou Dobbs on the Fox Business channel.

“This is really welcome news,” Carr told Dobbs. “Since the 2016 election, the far left has hopped from hoax to hoax to hoax to explain how it lost to President Trump at the ballot box. One thing they’ve done is look to social media platforms and they’ve put pressure on them for the crime, in their view, of staying neutral in the 2016 election and they’re committed to not letting those platforms stay neutral in the run-up to 2020. So this step by President Trump shines a light on some of that activity and tees up some steps that can be taken.”

@BrendanCarrFCC weighs in on today’s executive order: pic.twitter.com/nR2A1y0AeR

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 28, 2020

Twitter made the decision to take on the president of the United States in a partisan, political debate and it did so in a really disingenuous way,” Carr added, saying that Trump was right to warn of voter fraud in mail-in ballots. In a tweet today, Carr accused Twitter of “punishing speakers based on whether it approves or disapproves of their politics.” He’s been making similar arguments for months.

“If they go after the president, who are they going after next?” Carr said in a separate interview about Twitter, also on Fox.

Chairman Ajit Pai takes measured tone

Carr’s enthusiasm for Trump’s executive order is significant because the FCC would be tasked with implementing part of it. Trump’s order calls on the FCC to “expeditiously propose regulations to clarify” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in order to limit social media platforms’ legal protections for hosting third-party content when the platforms take down content they consider objectionable.

The FCC’s power to do this is limited, as we explained in an in-depth article on Trump’s order today. And Carr may be alone among the five FCC commissioners in actually wanting to carry out Trump’s wishes. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai didn’t carry out Trump’s call in 2017 to revoke broadcast licenses from stations whose news coverage Trump disliked. Pai did question Twitter’s moderation decisions in a tweet today, but he is generally against imposing new regulations.

“This debate is an important one,” Pai said yesterday. “The Federal Communications Commission will carefully review any petition for rulemaking filed by the Department of Commerce.”

Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly wrote on Twitter that Trump “has [the] right to seek review of [the] statute’s application. As a conservative, I’m troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders. At [the] same time, I’m extremely dedicated to First Amendment which governs much here.”

FCC Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel blasted Trump, saying, “an Executive Order that would turn the Federal Communications Commission into the President’s speech police is not the answer. It’s time for those in Washington to speak up for the First Amendment. History won’t be kind to silence.”

Even if the Pai-led FCC doesn’t do much in response to Trump’s order, Carr’s full-throated support for Trump could help him win the job of FCC chairman in 2021 if the president wins re-election. Pai wouldn’t have to step down, but FCC chairs traditionally end their terms after a presidential election even if the same party stays in power. If Trump wins a second term and Pai leaves the FCC, Trump could appoint Carr to be the chairman. Unlike nominations for people who aren’t yet on the commission, which require Senate approval, the president can promote a commissioner to chair unilaterally.

Carr says Facebook is trying to “tilt an election”

The White House Twitter account posted the video of Carr’s interview with Dobbs, and Carr retweeted that. In the interview, Carr criticized Facebook’s oversight board, saying, “If you were to hand-pick a group to tilt an election against the incumbent president, I don’t think it would look much different than the oversight board that Facebook has put together.” Carr previously called the Facebook board “your new speech police” in one of his many tweets about what he considers censorship on social media websites.

Dobbs was in full agreement with Carr. “It’s ridiculous some of the comments that have resulted from the Twitter folks trying to explain their idiotic attempts to limit the free speech of the president of the United States. It cannot be condoned rationally, can it?” Dobbs said. Dobbs also said that Trump “served notice, more than sufficient notice, that he was not going to be trifled with by Big Tech, pencil-neck geeks in the form of one [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey, who has tried to become his nemesis in Silicon Valley.”

Carr conflated free speech on Twitter with the First Amendment, despite the fact that the First Amendment only prevents government-imposed restrictions on free speech (not restrictions from private companies). “Every speaker in this country has a First Amendment right to free speech,” Carr said in the statement he issued on the FCC website. In the Fox interview with Dobbs, Carr continued:

Here’s what’s really important about the president’s executive order: Everybody has free speech, First Amendment rights. What’s different about these platforms is that Congress in the 1990s afforded them a very special and unique legal liability and protection that all other political actors don’t enjoy. That maybe made sense when you had the Prodigy messaging board that was in Congress’s mind. But flash-forward 20 years, these are now the largest, most powerful corporations when it comes to speech. So I think it’s entirely appropriate for the president to say, is it time to take another look at Section 230 and whether that makes sense, given where we are today.

Carr also accused social media websites of misleading the public about how they apply content moderation. “If you’re any other type of business and you represent to Congress and the public that you’re a neutral platform, and you engage in some of the conduct that we’re seeing, you’d be held liable for an unfair business practice at that point,” he said. Carr, who was the FCC’s general counsel before becoming a commissioner in 2017, said that he wants “a neutral application of terms of service to all Americans.”

While Carr supports Trump’s attempted crackdown on social-media websites, he has consistently fought against consumer-protection rules for broadband providers that the FCC regulates. When Carr voted to kill net neutrality rules, which prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, he said, “I am proud to help end this two-year experiment with heavy-handed regulation—this massive regulatory overreach.” That vote ended the policy of regulating ISPs as common carriers and eliminated other consumer protections such as rules against hidden fees and a process for consumers to file complaints about unjust or unreasonable prices and practices.

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MARKETING

For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience

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For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience

“The stock market is not the economy.”

When the stock market is up, it doesn’t always follow that the economy is great. When the stock market crashes, it doesn’t always mean the economy is bad.

That’s as true today as it was 25 years ago when I first got into marketing. And it’s a great reminder to avoid basing business decisions on faulty connections.

Over the years, I’ve learned an adjacent lesson about content and audiences: Popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation. People don’t necessarily regard what is popular among online audiences or the media as high quality – or even true.

If you successfully chase trends and feed popular content to audiences, you have not necessarily differentiated your content. On the other hand, differentiating by taking a contrarian or highly niche view of what’s popular doesn’t always work either. How do you blend popularity and differentiation?

#Content popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Red and blue ocean strategies

In their 2004 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne explain red and blue ocean strategies for marketing. Red oceans are crowded markets where popular products abound and cutthroat sales and marketing strategies rule. Blue oceans are undiscovered markets with little or no competition, where businesses can create new customers or die alone.

In strategic content marketing, most businesses focus on the red oceans – offering short-term, hyper-focus feeding. They look to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions by getting the most people to consume the content. So a red-ocean strategy focuses on topics and content that have proven popular with audiences.

But this strategy makes it difficult to differentiate the content from everyone else’s.

This myopic view of content often prohibits testing the other side – investing in a blue-ocean mindset to find and create new audiences with less-popular content.

Short-term, hyper-focused #Content feeding often prohibits the mindset of creating new audiences, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Finding a blue niche in a red world

I recently worked with a financial technology company that provides short-term loans to small businesses experiencing a cash-flow crunch. It’s as sales-driven as any team I’ve seen.

When they started, they put much of their marketing and content efforts into a blue-ocean strategy, targeting small businesses that will need a loan within a month.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Five years ago, this company wasn’t the only one to recognize the massive opportunity in fast, easily accessible, short-term lending. A red ocean of new customers who needed these loans grew in a relatively robust economy (and historically low interest rates).

The value of these loans grew from $121 million in 2013 to just over $2 billion in 2018. And competition for this audience’s attention grew, too. As short-term, low-funnel content on accessible lending saturated the market, this strategy became less and less successful because so many fintech companies pursued it.

My client’s team knew they couldn’t only count on this red-ocean audience for new business. They recognized the need to invest time in building a new audience – larger, more established, long-term borrowers.

This audience wouldn’t produce immediate lead generation. But the company wanted to diversify its product line and better support the new audience’s loan-related needs.

The genius of this strategy was teaching, targeting, and building demand for new ideas from a niche within the red audience. Put simply: They created a purple audience by targeting a blue audience within the red one.

The blue audience the team targeted consisted of fast-growing smaller businesses that would soon evolve into established, long-term borrowers. These businesses might want to know the benefits of the short-term availability of cash. The team focused the new learning content platform on teaching companies that don’t need a loan now about the benefits of having a solution at the ready when they do.

The purple audiences took time to develop. But when those audience members entered the red ocean, my client company stayed top of mind because it had bucked the popular trends and offered completely different content.

3 triggers for targeting purple audiences

Deciding to invest in cultivating a purple audience requires some thought. These three considerations can prompt the move to a different audience hue.

1. You’re ready to hedge bets on current efforts

So many companies double down on their content to the point where their strategy incorporates the same content at every stage of the customer’s journey. Why? Because everybody is talking about it.

I see some B2B marketing organizations deliver the same “why change” thought leadership content to prospects as they do their customers. Shouldn’t your customers’ needs and wants change after they purchase your solution?

Developing thought leadership you believe is important but current audiences aren’t yet thinking about can be an excellent hedge.

You shouldn’t deliver the same thought leadership to prospects AND customers. After all, your customers’ needs and wants should change after they buy.

2. You believe the consensus is wrong

Many companies fold their content marketing like a lawn chair because their content goes against the consensus. Last week, a chief marketing officer told me, “Our CEO says we can’t go out with that thought leadership message because people will disagree with us.”

You don’t have to invest the entire budget in a contrarian idea. But if you genuinely believe the world will eventually come to your point of view, build the content infrastructure that supports that opinion and experience a multiplier on the investment.

3. You see an opportunity to steal audience

Look at the most popular content, and you see all your competitors fighting over the eyeballs seeking that topic, trying to outrank everyone on search, and fighting a red ocean of potential audience members. Then, look up and ask, “What’s next?”

You might see a slight trend. Or, as my fintech client did, you may notice a niche blue audience in the red audience. Investing in that content can pull audiences from the popular content into your fledgling purple audience.

SAP’s content site The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience illustrates this concept. During the pandemic, the team, led by Jenn Vande Zande, adjusted its editorial focus to steal a segment of the red-ocean audience seeking COVID-19 coverage. Jenn and team designed the content to appeal to people looking not just for lockdown news but also for the most up-to-date practices and industry information for businesses on customer experience in the COVID-19 era.

SAP created a purple audience.

Get colorful

As a marketer, you should think about new audiences. How can you address them with content that may not be widely popular now but can help them better prepare for what you believe is coming tomorrow?

That’s a better question to answer for long-term content marketing success.

Get Robert’s take in just five minutes:

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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