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Briefing #005 – September 9th, 2018

Don't Let Your Mechanic Write Your Love Letters

Gif by Radio.
Talented friends,

It might surprise you how many brands are still trying to make destination content sites these days. 

As in: a web site people type into their address bar. As in: Something people seek out. Something people miss. Something people wonder about in the empty spaces, like maybe while they’re waiting for the elevator, or getting copies from the printer. 

In a word: Incorrect. This mistakes how often people think about brands. It mistakes how people use this jalopy called the internet. And it misunderstands what content is for: Content isn’t a place you travel to, but a thing that takes you where you want to go.

At its best, content isn’t about you, the brand, and what you want to sell. Content is about you, the reader, and where you want to go. Done right, where you’re going leads to a sale — sometimes the sale of a product, but more often the sale of an idea.

Read the latest: Don't Let Your Mechanic Write Your Love Letters

Go easy,
 @stevebryant, Chief Storytelling Weirdo
Article Group

What we're working on this week –  Robbie and Duffy and Steve are meeting with a prospective client – Andrew is helping a non-profit in Thailand – Liz is synthesizing data for an infographic series – Article Group is a philocalist creative marketing agency and this is our weekly missive about the business of creativity – reply to this email, we’d love to hear from you.
  1. Lessons from the Screenplay: Don't underestimate the audience (the 2+2 storytelling technique)
  2. Storytelling 101: Super Basic Shit from Dan Harmon
  3. When should content strategy enter into the design process? ASAP.
Looking for a previous briefing? Ruminate in the archive.
Last weekend your correspondent went island camping in upstate NY with the BioLite CampStove. This thing works. Boiled water for six people for three day. Was amazing. Highly recommended. BioLite also recently kickstarted a new smokeless FirePit.
Where we've been shopping: The Sill (beautiful plants)Usagi NY (Japanese curation), Grandpa (Scandi life), One Grand Books (curated by movie stars), Bass Weejuns (classic men's loafers), Momosan (neutral home goods), Todd Snyder (handsome menswear), Poketo (design goods), Choosing Keeping (desk objects), La Matera (Meso-flavored clothing), Only Once (vintage desirables), TRNK (gorgeous furnishings), Garrett Leight (v sweet sunglasses). Have a favorite shop? Let us know!

>> “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

In 1991, back when your correspondent was still enthusiastically wearing acid wash jeans, John Cleese gave a lecture at Video Arts about creativity. In that lecture, he suggested five factors that can make your life more creative and stressed that being creative is a process of decision making — not, as some assume, an innate skill. This is a profoundly simple practice we apply with our clients as well: create better systems for creating, we argue, and you will create better things. Do read the piece.

Related: Where Good Ideas Come From (Steve Johnson, TED transcript)
Related: Too stupid to rob a bank, aka the Dunning-Kruger Effect (NYTimes)


>> What brands can learn from magazine covers

“[With magazine covers], the conventional wisdom was that you had roughly three seconds to catch a prospective buyer’s attention at the newsstand. The covers need to be instantly compelling in one way or another, either because it’s beautiful, it’s revolting, it’s astonishing. But you just don’t have a lot of time.” In The Ringer, an investigation into how magazine covers — which may be the last remaining influence magazines have — attract audiences. Publishers know something a lot of B2B brands don’t: the less you make your audience think, the more attention you convert. That's the key to awareness content.

Related: What brands can learn from journalism’s inverted pyramid (Article Group)
Related: How cognitive surplus will change the world (Clay Shirky TED transcript)
Related: "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” —Alfred North Whitehead


>> The story behind the Myers-Briggs test is wackadoodle

“It was, in its original essence, the work of a salty and extremely committed mother-in-law who needed to understand what the hell was going on with her daughter’s romantic choices.” In The Ringer, an amusing look at everyone’s favorite woo-woo psych test created by “two admirably prickly women.” At Article Group, we're interested in the MBTI not because we consider it psychologically valid (we have our suspicions!), but because it was an early corporate tool for trying to solve complicated management problems. A new book on the test, The Personality Brokers, is out now. Do read the article.

Related: "Offering up glib ways to create identity — shortcuts to the self — is a winning business proposition" (Columbia Journalism Review)
Related: "The best path for life is not regret minimization" (Tyler Cowen)

 How AI-Generated Music Is Changing the Way Hits Are Made

"All you have to do is go to the website and pick a genre of music and a mood. That’s it. You don’t have to know code or composition or even music theory in order to make a song with it. It builds tracks from prerecorded samples and spits out actual audio, not MIDI." In The Verge, a fascinating look at the frontier of music where music is made by machines

Related: The Verbasizer was David Bowie’s 1995 Lyric-Writing Mac App (Vice)
Related: "Create the perfect soundtrack for your slideshow" (Amper Music)

 “Teachers Are Moonlighting As Instagram Influencers To Make Ends Meet”

“How financially lucrative this kind of work can be varies a lot from teacher to teacher. “I know people that make $20 a month, and I know people that make...” Dingraudo trailed off, giggling, “...a lot of money.” In Buzzfeed News, example #buhzillion of how the attention economy is changing lives. Everything, from restaurant design to book covers to summer jobs, is organized around Instagram. As Father John Culkin once wrote: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us."

Related: Posting Instagram Sponsored Content Is the New Summer Job (The Atlantic)
Related: Instagram is Pushing Restaurants to be kitschy and colorful (The Verge)
Related: You Can Rent a (Grounded) Private Jet Just to Take Instagram Photos In (NYMag)
Related: Bookstagramming is influencing cover design (The Guardian)


Personality tests are fascinating. At the individual level, they're mostly harmless: they provide a shortcut to identity, a contextualization of self. Hence America's love affair with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which is kind of like the intersection of astrology and spreadsheets. But the MBTI wasn't created to be a slightly more rigorous Buzzfeed quiz; it was developed to help corporations with their “fantasy of rational organization of labor.” In other words, the MBTI wasn't made for you. It was made by for your boss. The Personality Brokers is the story of how of the infamous personality test was conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter—fiction writers with no formal training in psychology—and "how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond."
Oh hello, it's the first-ever, first-weekly Article Group playlist — a handcrafted, desktop-to-inbox mix of thematic tracks by our very own Mike Spiegel. This week's entry: something for all you overworked, over-scheduled, and just about over it Dicks and Betties out there: A Playlist for Totally Ignoring Calendar Invites 🕺
Dogged Content Intern, Article Group
We need help producing this newsletter and brainstorming new ideas! "The ideal candidate loves the internet. Like, really really loves it. You aspire to work in advertising or publishing as a writer or creative. You have wizard-quick research skills, impeccable taste, and a deep curiosity about business, culture, technology, and storytelling. This role is part-time (about 12-20hrs per week). Compensation is hourly. NYC candidates only. Please be awesome, professional, and kind." 
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Social Media Assistant, It's Nice That
One of our favorite inspiration sites is hiring! "We're on the look out for an enthusiastic and creative social media assistant to join It’s Nice That team for six months. Within this role you will support the social media manager in delivering It’s Nice That’s evolving social media strategy, and play an integral part in championing our creative community." 
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The three wise monkeys actually have names. Mizaru 🙈, Kikazaru 🙉, and Iwazaru 🙊.

You are more likely to buy a house if your friends on Facebook made money on theirs. Facebook is another word for Myers-Briggs.

There’s a shed of the year competition in England. Whimsical! Terrifyingly competent!

Amazon Go is coming to NYC. Tourists, please do not walk three abreast down the aisles.

On average, the pockets in women’s jeans are 48% shorter and 6.5% narrower than men’s pockets. Crash the system! 
Article is a 100% organic, free-range, desktop-to-inbox newsletter published once per week by Article Group, a delightful creative consulting agency of talented problem solvers. Article covers the essentials of brand innovation — brand strategy and messaging, creative systems, and content — that affect your organization, your creativity, and your career. We also recommend the products, books, and recordings that we love. It’s work and play for innovators, leaders, agencies, and brands. We deliver 6pm ET every Sunday. Want to work together? Article Group is for hire.
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