14 Apr 2010

Forbes and the market for ideas

So I was pleased to see my piece on human rights in the Forbes magazine, on the newsstand:

....but then I noticed how many other magazines were also vying for attention. Then there are newspapers, TV, blogs and LoLcats to contend with. How do we get an audience to listen to the message (the most important one, of course) when there are so many other "distractions"?

The interesting thing for me, is how little buzz this article (Water Rights and Human Rights) has attracted compared to my earlier Forbes article (The Water Shortage Myth). That one wasn't in the magazine (just the web), but it got a lot more attention.

I think it's because shortages are more interesting to readers than human rights, because most readers are worried about the former; Forbes probably doesn't have a big readership in developing countries.

Further, I think that this topic -- human rights and water -- is so emotional for some people,* that they will not listen to different views. The pro-right crowd is willing to fight for what they believe, even if they are not sure how to get it delivered. They do know that they are right, so don't bother offering an alternative view. That's sad for the people they want to help, who care more about results than ideology.

Bottom Line: The market for ideas has savage competition on the supply side and a demand side that is not often in the shop.

* A woman at the oil+water conference didn't like the piece because she was "a Maude Barlow person." "Oh, I disagree with her," I said. "Why don't you like her?" she asked. "It's not about her, it's her ideas that I don't like. I am looking for results, not ideas."


  1. 1. Good content attracts the readers that you want to attract. Bad content drives them away.
    2. Total number of readers is not important. The only readers that you care about are check writers and doers.
    3. What do you want the readers of your article to do? How would you know if they did it without contacting you?

  2. @Eric - right. On #3, I want a thank you note :)


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