United Airlines and the cost of being hated

I’ve analyzed lots of corporate screwups in this space. Most of those companies will recover just fine. But a few now have a permanent reputation for being a bad and hated company, with real costs that will continue for decades. Let’s look at some of the corporate stupidity on display in the last year or so and … Continued

Is Facebook responsible for hosting a murder broadcast?

Facebook user Steve Stephens used Facebook on Sunday to build an audience for murder, posting videos of his plan to shoot somebody, the shooting itself, and his confession. Facebook explained the changes it will make in reviewing videos like this, but avoiding taking responsibility or apologizing. In the end, how much fault lies with Facebook? While … Continued

Should you start with a story or a lede?

The best way to hook an audience is to start with a story. The best way to get people to read what you write is with a descriptive title and a few summary sentences (or as journalists call it, a lede). How do you resolve these contradictory pieces of advice? When I got this question … Continued

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos shareholder letter has some gems . . . and some clunkers

Jeff Bezos’ latest Amazon shareholder letter is striking in its clarity, directness, honesty, and meatiness. That’s unusual in communications from a CEO. Here’s a look at what’s great — and not so great — in this 1800-word letter. It’s well organized, with an effective lead In a read-on-screen world, you should start everything with a summary, but that summary doesn’t … Continued

Hey Marvel Comics, you can’t take a stand in the passive voice

When Marvel Comics artist Ardian Syaf secretly inserted Indonesian political images into his X-Men comics, Marvel fired him. Its passive statement about the incident isn’t fooling anyone. Ardian Syaf inserted secret messages into comic art In the Muslim-dominated nation of Indonesia, some Islamist groups are now in conflict with the Christian and ethnically Chinese governor of Jakarta, Basuki … Continued

The 11 qualities of highly paid, ultra-valuable editors

Some editors get paid $40 per hour. Others charge $400 — and their clients are glad to pay it. What could an editor possibly do to be worth this much? An ultra-valuable editor is a writer’s essential partner, enabling writers not just to accomplish their goals, but to become better writers. To be an editor like that, you … Continued

United breaks passengers (and apologizes feebly)

I didn’t want to write another United Airlines post, but so many of you insisted — and United’s apology is even lamer than the one from two weeks ago. On an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville, United Express needed space to ferry four crew members to another assignment. After an $800 bribe persuaded only two passengers … Continued

Some stuff that doesn’t matter and some stuff that does

I was just thinking about what matters and what doesn’t matter, because, being human, we get it wrong a lot. It doesn’t matter whether the new Yahoo/AOL product from Verizon is called “Oath.” What matters is if Verizon can take a bunch of lame and aging properties and make them relevant again. If they don’t, … Continued