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Content Coup is a full-service content marketing and legal document preparation company. It was founded by Brian A. Wilkins in 2016.

We tell brand stories that give clients authority in their respective industries. Our mission is to apply legal, scientific, social, and other marketing research in devising and executing content strategy and campaigns.

Content Coup assists pro se litigants with legal research and document preparation for criminal defense, criminal appeals, civil, family, and bankruptcy cases. We also do legal research and document preparation for attorneys.

Tyrone Evans Clark talks video game crash of 1983 and the future of gaming

May 5, 2020

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for Atari 2600 is considered by many to be the worst video game ever created.

Pac-Man was the first international celebrity in video game history. Japanese developer Namco first released the arcade version of the game in May of 1980. Midway Games spotted Pac-Man at the 1980 Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) expo. They began distributing the game in North America later that year. The rest, as they say, is history.

Pac-Man spawned all kinds of merchandise, a Saturday morning cartoon, and even a Billboard Hot 100 top 10 single, “Pac-Man Fever,” in March of 1982.

The video game industry, anchored by Pac-Man, grossed more in revenues than all Hollywood films and pop music combined in 1982. Arcade games like Space Invaders (developed by Taito), Defender (Williams Electronics), Donkey Kong (Nintendo) and Q*bert (Gottlieb) were huge successes as well. The gaming industry appeared indestructible. But Namco granted Atari the exclusive right to create home versions of their arcade games sometime in the late 1970s. The agreement almost killed an entire industry.

Bubble burst in 1983

The much-anticipated release of Pac-Man for the Atari VCS (later renamed Atari 2600) happened in March of 1982. The game ended up selling seven million copies, mostly on name recognition. But critics were not impressed. They lambasted the game for its terrible graphics and awful design. Meanwhile Intellivision, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Apple II, TI-99, and other home computer and gaming systems were trying to make their marks in the industry.

Atari attempted to redeem itself later that year. The company was granted a license to make the hit movie “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” into a video game. But Atari executives wanted the game developed and completed before the holiday season. Thus the company developed and released the disaster of a game in six weeks, without any quality testing it at all, to ensure huge Christmas sales.

Atari received most of the blame for the video game crash of 1983. The company ended up dumping millions of unsold cartridges and consoles into a landfill in Alamogoro, New Mexico that year. The industry grossed $3.2 billion in sales in 1982. That number dropped to $100 million by 1985. Over-saturation and bad game design overall also contributed to the crash. Bowling alleys and arcades kept the gaming industry afloat until the Nintendo Entertainment System rescued it in 1986.

The gaming industry grossed upwards of $150 billion in 2019, depending on the source. Mobile gaming is the biggest earner, followed by PC gaming and home consoles. These figures also include augmented and virtual reality revenues, both of which are fast becoming major players in gaming.

Game developer Tyrone Evans Clark talks past and future of gaming

Mr. Tyrone Evans Clark.

Tyrone Evans Clark is an actor, video game developer and 3D animation artist. He’s worked for Disney Interactive, Storymind Entertainment, Greenhouse GFX and on several individual projects for other companies. We asked him about the video game crash of 1983 and how he sees the future of the gaming industry.

Content Coup: What are your impressions of first-generation gaming consoles like Magnovox Odyssey and Coleco Telstar? What about the second generation like Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Intellivision?

Clark: Odyssey was ok but you had to put a plastic screen on the television for you to know you were playing a different game. I give it about a C+ as far as graphics and game play. It was pretty cool for it’s time. Vectrex was original.

Vectrex gaming console.

It had this vector screen where you saw everything as an “etch,” like the old Etch A Stetch with the sand inside. That was the whole style of the system – etchings. It was pretty cool, but didn’t do near as well as Atari and ColecoVision.

I respect Atari because it started as a game company. Coleco started off doing different stuff, then started making games. I respect ColecoVision because they partnered with Nintendo to make great games like Donkey Kong. Atari is still making games today. Centipede, Asteroids and Pong put Atari on the map. Dragon Ball Z came along later. The list goes on for Atari. I’m still a fan of Atari and can’t let go of it. They are a respected company that started off making games and that’s why they’re still successful today.

CC: What was your first home video game system? What games did you enjoy most on them? What made a game “good” in your view when you were a child?

Clark: My first system was the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was 7-8 years ago. Mario Bros. was probably my favorite game. I remember Duck Hunt with the gun. The graphics were kick-ass. I just couldn’t put down the controller. Games with characters were the best. Mario eating mushrooms and saving the princess from Mr. Koopa was everything for me. The graphics and interaction with the characters made a good game for me.

CC: Most people blame poor game design and a flooded market that caused the 1983 video game crash. Some place the blame squarely on that horrible E.T. game for Atari 2600 that was completely pointless. Sales dropped from $3.2 billion in 1982 to just $100 million the following year. Why do you think the crash happened?

Timing was the issue. Pricing was also an issue. People went to arcades, skating rinks and bowling alleys to play games for $0.25. That was a social norm in the 1980s. The crash happened because people couldn’t afford the systems. The poor timing means taking a game in an arcade, and trying to turn it into a game system that people can buy around the world. Many mistakes were made. It’s like Coleco Telstar.

Coleco Telstar

They decided to do a system on a whim and it just didn’t work out. They eventually evolved the entire franchise and came up with ColecoVision.


Sometimes you have to fall on your butt to be successful.

CC: Video games are far more advance in 2020 than the console in 1983. What makes a video game successful in 2020? What’s most important – graphics, story lines, pricing, etc.?

Clark: There are more gamers now. People play games to relieve stress, to feel happy. You can go on a video game like “Grand Theft Auto” and shoot people up to relieve anger. You can have sex with avatars in games today, where you’re literally mimicking the thrusts to display them on the screen. Technology has advanced in so many ways.

The military uses this same technology to train troops, people use it to learn how to dance, workout videos, losing weight, being able to communicate with the world, artificial intelligence. Story line is so important and the technology facilitates that. When you give characters depth, background and stories, it’s a big thing.

People want characters they can relate to. People like Mario because he is Italian, like mushrooms, and saves a Princess. Sonic the Hedgehog was huge because of the character. It’s all about story lines and characters.

CC: Autodesk first released Maya in 1998. 3D Studio Max was released in 1996. How did these applications change the gaming industry?

First of all, the graphics. Accessibility allows people to create their own content. Now we have open source software where people can make their own stuff, like Blender, that is free to the public. These apps pushed the envelope on so many levels – creating CAD models, assets, meshes for games, controlling polycounts, crunching polygons for video games.

You can control the amount of realism in games, and the amount of fantasy. People now know more about games than ever. There’s more behind it than just graphics. You have to have artistic appeal. I respect Autodesk because they have great customer service that answers questions and provide tutorials. These apps completely revolutionized gaming.

CC: What are some games you have contributed to as far as creation? What are/were some of your favorite projects?

Clark: Good question. I’ve worked on so many. “My Eyes On You” for Xbox One, PS4. It’s a third-person action-adventure, a fantasy, shoot-em-up game. It’s based in the slums in Chicago, which is where I’m from. I also loved working on “Eden Fallen” by Razor Edge games. It’s also fantasy, apocalyptic, dark, disturbing. I love that kind of stuff. My life was not always a fairy tale and these types of games related to me.

The Disney Infinity franchise, “Dungeons and Dragons,” “WWE Smackdown vs. Raw,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” are some others. I like action games. The graphics have to be kick ass. I also love games that challenge my skill sets. I have more projects coming up. But I cannot disclose them due to agreement. But there are a lot more on the way.

CC: Video games in 2020 appear to be recession-proof, unlike in 1983. How has the gaming community changed society? What does the future of game design look like as AR and VR advance?

Clark: People are able to be the characters they love. You’re adding something to your reality with AR. You’re adding yourself to the reality with VR. Put those two together, you have mixed reality. There’s also XR, extended reality. That’s a combination of all of them.

Everything is geared towards making the player, the actual character. Instead of just playing Halo, you ARE Halo. You are the Superman. You are the Iron Man. You are the Black Panther. You are the Wonder Woman. That’s where it’s going. People want a place to escape. Some people want a friend, especially during the coronavirus season. Gaming technology allows people to have imaginary friends. They already did it with Pokemon Go.

True story, a guy was so obsessed with Pokemon, it ended up killing him. He fell off a bridge trying to catch a Pokemon. They have conventions and communities. People are really into it. Being able to add yourself to that world takes gaming to another level.

It’s all about applications for smartphones. But these technologies are also used for real-life experiences. It’s not just for video games. I’m honored and privileged to work with this technology. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. If they don’t use AR/VR for video games, they’ll use it for something else. Games are here to stay.

5 Characteristics of Effective Human Resources Thought Leaders

The concept of “thought leader” is relatively new. Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that the term barely registered in print prior to the late 1990s when internet became mainstream.

Thought leaders had no readily available media to convey their expertise before blogs, social media, and podcasts. That changed at the turn of the century.

Thought leaders are individuals or companies that are experts in their respective industries. They built reputations for being accurate, authoritative, innovative, and reliable commentators in specialized fields. Thought leaders are influencers with the power to start discussions about various aspects of their industry, and disrupt the status quo.

Human Resources thought leaders understand the changing dynamics of the industry in the 21st century. Globalization and technology have streamlined some HR duties, while simultaneously expanding the overall scope. Thought leadership is essential for influencing policymakers, advancing successful practices, and shaping the industry as a whole. The most successful HR thought leaders possess the following five characteristics.

Confidence is Key

Self-confident people overcome fears. They set high bars for themselves, step out of their comfort zones, and believe in what they’re doing even when others don’t. Human nature innately processes self-confidence as appealing, fascinating and magnetic. Some researchers suggest that both men and women are more attracted to self-confidence over looks on first dates. Self-confidence provides a preview of other personality traits (e.g. kindness, ambition) that cannot be directly observed in one evening. This same theory has been proven in occupational settings as well.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that overconfidence in oneself led to higher social status. The study also found that overconfidence was perceived as competence by others. People with bloated egos continue their behavior because it leads to higher social status. The science is clear. Present yourself as confident and others will listen and follow you.


JK Rowling is the most successful author in history. She became the first billionaire author in 2015 when the Harry Potter series sold its 400 millionth copy. It is the best-selling book series of all time. But Harry Potter may have never happened without Rowling’s perseverance. She wrote the first Potter book in cafes while surviving on government benefits. It was rejected by twelve publishers before one finally accepted. Rowling continued forward despite all the setbacks, and the rest is history.

HR managers present ideas to C-level management that sometimes get rejected. They overcome these challenges by asking questions and making adjustments. Perseverance is also crucial when learning new, complex technologies and skills. Intelligence gets you to the starting block. Perseverance guides you to the finish line.

Consistent Content

Thought leadership is a form of content marketing. The most influential thought leaders regularly utilize blogs, Youtube, social media and podcasts. Consistent publishing is essential not only for keep followers engaged, but also for SEO purposes. Regular blogging and social media posting make you stand out from the crowd. But all content is not created equal.

Content marketing is time-consuming. Google and Facebook algorithms favor content that teaches, engages, and adds valuable to the given subject matter. Most thought leaders hire freelance writers or employ full-time strategists for their content needs. Organizations ask employees to write blogs. Consistency is the key regardless of method and medium.

Be proactive

A faint grinding noise while braking in your car is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. Worn brake pads are likely. But the problem could be more complex. That faint grinding noise gets louder the longer you ignore it. Repairs costs would have been $100 had the work been done immediately upon discovery. Now the rotors and calipers needs replacing as well, bloating the repair bill over $1,000.

Strong HR leaders nip problems in the bud immediately. They don’t wait for problems to fix themselves. Fixing minor issues before they hurt the company is the philosophy of proactive HR managers. For instance, an employee brings their dog to work everyday because company policy allows it. The HR manager notices the looks on other’s faces as the dog walks around the office and interrupts their workflows. A private conversation or email to the dog owner stating that they are abusing the policy prevents the issue from spiraling out of control.

Lead By Example

Whether its new time clock procedures or new healthcare plans, the burden is on HR to ensure everyone understands and acclimates. Humans are creatures of habit. We don’t necessarily like change. HR managers must demonstrate all new protocols and answer questions thereof. Make private meetings with employees who are reluctant or having a hard time adjusting. Smooth implementation means comprehensive communication.

HR leaders place their companies in the best position to succeed with these five traits. They set themselves up to become thought leaders in the industry.

Content Coup specializes in content marketing and legal writing. My client are small business owners, large corporations, marketing firms, attorneys and pro-se litigants. Contact me today to discuss your project scope.

Content Marketing 2019: How To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

October 31, 2018

High-quality content has been the catalyst behind all successful digital marketing campaigns in the last decade. That trend is not going to change anytime soon.

An April 2018 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that 73% of B2B marketers ranked blogs as the most effective tool for generating interest and growing their brands. E-books and podcasts tied for second as early stage content that guides consumers through the sales funnel.

A blog full of high-quality content, combined with a social media strategy to help disseminate said content, are characteristics of successful, profitable companies. These firms are increasing their content marketing marketing budgets in 2019 to ensure continued prosperity and growth.

Content must provide real value not only to get noticed by search engines, but also to build and maintain that ever-important trust factor with your audience. Consistently educating, entertaining, and/or engaging consumers with high-quality content leads to higher conversion and retention rates in both the short and long terms.

The new year is fast approaching, giving marketing departments and small businesses the opportunity to evaluate their content marketing efforts and make the necessary adjustments. Here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize returns on content marketing in 2019.

Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters

People are searching the internet differently in 2018-19 than they did in 2008-09. Google recognized this trend and as a result, changed its search algorithms to accommodate this ubiquitous behavior.

Gone are the days of stuffing your yoga blog with keywords like “yoga pants,” yoga mats,” and other related phrases in hopes of ranking high in search engines. Alexa, Siri, and other voice-recognition applications have given consumers more freedom. Robotic search terms like “sushi restaurant” have been replaced by more conversational phrases like “where should I get sushi tonight?” Bloggers and SEO personnel are incorporating these long-tail keywords into their overall strategies and driving more organic traffic. The idea is to naturally incorporate said terms into content without it looking spammy and forced. This strategy results in higher organic reach despite Google devoting more first-page results space to paid ads and its Knowledge Graph content.

Data analytics firm Ahrefs performed a study on 1.9 billion search queries. It found that over 29% of said keywords that got 10,000+ monthly searches contained three or more words.

In other words, content creators have more flexibility and creative freedom when incorporating keywords. They are no longer beholden to saturated keywords that everyone else is already using. Topic clusters and pillar pages address this phenomenon and keep your company blog and website optimized for maximum organic (free) reach.

Pillar pages are blog posts or web pages that addresses a broad (saturated) keyword or topic. This content is long – typically 2,000 words or more – but does not get into great detail about subtopics. A fantasy football advice website, for instance, has a pillar page called “Winning Draft Strategy.” This article has a 300-word intro, then five headers break down draft specifics.

The first header is “Know Your Scoring System.” This section informs readers that standard fantasy football leagues award four points for touchdown passes, six points for rushing and receiving touchdowns, and zero points per reception. Most draft cheat sheets are based on standard scoring rules. Load up on running backs and wide receivers in the first three rounds and wait for your quarterback and tight ends later in these standard leagues.

A PPR (points per reception) fantasy football league awards one point (or some variation thereof) to a player every time he catches the football. A separate blog post entitled “PPR draft strategy” is linked within the pillar content to further explain the nuances of PPR. Running backs who catch a lot of passes out of the backfield and high-volume wide receivers are ranked far higher in PPR leagues than standard leagues.

There are 6-point passing TD leagues. Another separate blog post is created and linked within the pillar that explains how quarterbacks are far more valuable in these leagues and your rankings should be adjusted accordingly. Some other cluster content pages for this pillar include “Return Yardage League Draft Strategy,” “Individual Defense Player (IDP) Draft Strategy,” and “Keeper League Draft Strategy.”

This model, assuming you are producing high-quality, premium content, not only helps more pages on your site rank in Google and other search engines, but organizes your website so users can easily find what they are looking for.

People Trust Reputable Content, Not Ads

Traditional ads by Google, Facebook, and other platforms have the potential to reach a lot of people. But all reach is not created equal, particularly when it comes to intrusive ad campaigns.

Market research firm eMarketer estimated that 25% of internet users employed ad blockers in 2016. The firm said that number increased to 30% in 2018. Laptop users are far more likely than smartphone users to employ ad blocking, mostly because there are less options for ad blocking on mobile devices. Younger consumers are also far more likely than their older counterparts to employ ad blocking technology. This is not to imply that traditional ads are completely obsolete. But those expensive campaigns are not even reaching 30% of your target audience at a given time.

A 2018 report by digital marketing firm Bazaarvoice found that over 80% of buyers conduct online research about brands, products, and/or services before buying. That research includes reading reviews on Google, Yelp, and other platforms. Its still an effective strategy to flash a “50% off today” ad to trigger impulse buying based solely on savings. But consumers prefer to read about your products and/or services to determine why they should select your brand over a competitor.

Consistent publishing of high-quality content conveys authority in your industry and commitment to your consumers. The global marketplace means consumers have more choices today than at any other time in history. Brands that speak to their audiences in a transparent, honest, and useful way stand out in the minds of potential buyers.

The 2019 B2B Content Marketing Report by CMI found that 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy that is consistently followed and executed.

Companies and brands that are serious about capitalizing on content marketing must have a strategy with tangible goals and KPIs. A content calendar, social media schedule, and email marketing schedule are all essential elements. Brand loyalty is built when consumers expect new, quality content every week and receive just that. Bad reviews on Google and Yelp should be thoroughly and comprehensively addressed directly on said sites.  It may even be in your company’s best interest to write a separate blog post about certain reviews (good and bad) to address concerns in even greater detail.

Companies are expanding their content creation operations because it builds credibility and trust with their audiences. Conversion rates positively correlate with brand confidence and transparency. High-quality content is no longer an option in 2018-19. It is a necessity for companies wishing to compete in their respective industries.

Balance Long-Form and Short-Form Content

It’s no secret that Google and other search engines prioritize longer, in-depth content on search engine results pages (SERPs). Content marketers are well-aware of this trend. Average blog post length continues rising every year as the arms race for relevance shows no signs of slowing down.

Graph via Orbit Media.

The average word count for all first-page Google results was 1,890 in 2017, according to SEO firm Backlinko. But every topic and keyword combination does not need 2,000 words to get the point across. Content length and depth also depends on the audience. Generation X and Baby Boomers overwhelmingly prefer long-form content versus snippets. Millennials prefer shorter, more visual content.

The easiest way to balance these dueling demographics is to break content up into sections and provide “eye rest” with strategic photos and images. A 2,500 word blog post does not have to be a text-only, exhausting piece. Embed a few videos and even Tweets from relevant influencers. Every blog post also does not need to be highly-indexed on SERPS. Some posts simply expand on a social media post promoting some very specific event, product, or service. An aesthetically-pleasing, 300-word summary is more suitable in these instances.

Millennials also prefer infographics and video content over long-form pieces. There are numerous free infographic-building apps that are simple and easy to use. Videos do not need to be Hollywood-level productions to be effective marketing tools. A well-dressed, well-spoken individual looking into a camera and telling your audience what they need to hear versus making them read it, addresses the short attention span demographic and provides variety to your blog.

Expand Content Types

One of the most under-utilized and highly effective marketing tools of 2018-19 are e-books. These 30-50 page books contribute greatly to your brand’s overall perception, particularly when it comes to authenticity and trust.

The 2017 Consumer Content Report by Stackla found that 86% of consumers view brand authenticity and transparency as a major factor when determining whether or not to support brands. A study by public relations firm Cohn and Wolfe found that the top quality demanded of big brands is honesty about their products and services.

The 21st century consumer has better B.S. detectors than their predecessors because there is so much information to digest in a short period of time. Lazy, opportunist companies use tired, regurgitated marketing tactics that instantly raise caution flags. Authentic companies offer their audiences useful content that guides them through the buying process.

Branded e-books show audiences that you are committed to researching and sharing knowledge about your products and industry. A potential customer is far more inclined to choose an automotive technician who offered them a free e-book on DIY car maintenance versus the guy offering 10% off to come get the repair done today. E-books are also quintessential lead magnets. Consumers willingly provide their email addresses and other information in exchange for e-books about subjects that interest them.

Quizzes are another engaging lead magnet. There are several free apps that allow you to create quizzes and embed them directly on your website. Slideshows act as more condensed, visually-focused e-books.

Quality Over Quantity

There are several easy ways to get your website de-indexed from Google and destroy any chance of becoming a thought leader in your respective industry.

Google algorithms easily identify and de-index hastily-created spam content stuffed full of keywords in hopes of ranking high organically. Another way to get de-indexed is by using so-called “free hosting.” There is no such thing as free hosting. These companies bombard your website with ads, making for a horrible user experience. Spammy comments also get you dinged by Google. Make certain to either moderate your comments sections in real-time or do end-of-day QA.

Content creation is time-consuming and is best done by professionals who understand SEO, brand voice, and authenticity in writing. Don’t publish new content just to say you published new content. Everything on a company website should provide value, and present your company as authentic. Google’s quality guidelines are clear: focus on content, not keywords. Google is in the business of answering questions and does so by ranking the best content related to the instant query.

High-quality content gets shared by users. It tells great stories that get re-told on social media. Your company has the opportunity to take the lead on subject matters related to your industry. All it takes is commitment to quality content, consistency, and the desire to succeed. Everything else will take care of itself.

Content Coup is your one-stop shop for all things content. Our professional, in-demand writer and editor has over 15 years experience working in-house at some of the world’s most respected content marketing agencies and has an independent journalist and content marketer. We specialize in on-page web content, blog posts, white papers, business plans, e-books, and everything SEO.

Contact us today with your ideas and questions. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours.




Pro Se Litigation: How To Avoid Costly Mistakes When Representing Yourself In Court

October 30, 2018

Pro se litigants, also known as SRLs (self-represented litigants) to legal types, are increasing in frequency every year. There aren’t a lot of recent, concrete data showing the exact percentage of cases involving pro se litigants in U.S. courts. But the numbers are quite high based on past research and the “justice system” remaining consistent in its customs and traditions for many generations.

A 2005 report on New Hampshire courts found that 70% of family law cases in state superior court had at least one pro se party. California reported 67% of family court cases had a pro se litigant in 2004. Counsel repesents landlords 90% of the time. Tenants represent themselves 90% of the time. A 2015 study by Jessica Steinberg of George Washington University Law School, estimated that upwards of 90% of civil cases nationwide include pro se litigants.

A 2013 report by the State Justice Institute (SJI), a government agency ran by Presidential appointees, recommended a minimum national standard that mandates state court systems keep concrete, annual statistics on cases involving pro se litigants. These reports should, among other things, provide insights as to pro se litigant case types, event types, and other data points.

While 87% of case management systems (CMS) in U.S. court jurisdictions have the ability to keep such statistics, most simply do not. The SJI report indicates that 41% of jurisdictions only run reports on an “ad hoc” basis, not regularly. Further, only 18% of jurisdictions said reports “can [could]” be run regularly. But administrators, again, choose not to do so. The definition of “SRL” is inconsistent, further complicating the data collection process.

The Courts’ Opinions on Self-Representation

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right of the accused to receive “Assistance of counsel.” The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in Gideon vs. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), that the Fourteenth Amendment required states to provide counsel to indigent defendants accused of felony crimes. The Court further clarified the Sixth Amendment in 1975 when it ruled that the right to self-representation is also guaranteed when the litigant “intelligently and voluntarily” requests to do so.

The Sixth Amendment further guarantees the right to effective counsel in all situations, even for convicted killers. David Washington received a death sentence in Florida. He pleaded guilty to murders committed in 1976. The legislative history of this case formed what is now the standard for “effective counsel.”

Washington sought relief in post-conviction proceedings. He claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The defense failed to call character witnesses. Counsel also failed to request psychiatric reports and other items that could have been considered mitigating circumstances. The trial court denied relief and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence.

Strickland v. Washington chronology

Washington next sought relief from the U.S. District Court of Florida via habeas corpus. Note this case occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980, well before the one-year statute of limitation for federal habeas was implemented via the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act  (AEDPA) of 1994. Washington again claimed that ineffective assistance of counsel led to the death sentence. The District Court denied relief, ruling that counsel may have “erred” in judgment, but the conduct did not prejudice Washington.

The habeas case got interesting on review. A three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit of Appeals rendered a mixed decision in 1981. It remanded the case back to the District Court with instructions on how to determine “ineffectiveness” of counsel. But the decision came at a time in U.S. history when the Fifth Circuit was partitioned into two courts.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was officially established and opened for business in October 1981. The new court now had jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia District Courts, while the Fifth Circuit maintained jurisdiction over Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and the Panama Canal Zone. The latter was ceded to the Panamanian government in 1982.

RELATED: The Legislative History of the Creation of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (via Florida International University Law School).

The first case to reach the new Eleventh Circuit was Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir.1981). The court ruled that all “old Fifth Circuit” decisions are binding precedent for the new Eleventh Circuit. But the court decided to rehear Washington’s appeal en banc. The Court created its own test to determine attorney effectiveness, and remanded the case back to the Florida District Court with new instructions.

The State of Florida appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately reversed the Eleventh Circuit’s decision and created its own two-part test to determine ineffective assistance of counsel in Strickland vs. Washington:

1. Defendant must prove that counsel’s performance was so “deficient,” that counsel was “not functioning” as a lawyer guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; and

2. The bad performance prejudiced the Defendant and denied them a fair trial.

In short, public defenders unwittingly forced into people’s lives and/or paid attorneys who charge $10,000 retainer fees for representation, must, by law, represent you in an objectively-diligent fashion. But many public defenders across the country are tasked with thousands of cases at once and want to get through them as quickly and with the least amount of effort as possible. Paid attorneys are simply inaccessible to most Americans.

Data from the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) says there are about 0.64 civil attorneys for every 10,000 persons who cannot afford lawyers in the USA. Some attorneys charge $200 just for an initial consultation, then five-figure retainer fees. Attorneys that charge $100 per hour in small towns are considered “cheap.” But that number is rare and unrealistic in medium and large cities.

Self-representation is usually done out of necessity (lack of money). The odds are heavily stacked against litigants who take the self-representation path. But those who follow these five tips will at least put themselves in the best position for justice.

Play Offense, Not Defense when self-represented

Justice Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a dissenting opinion in the case of Merritt vs. Faulkner, 697 F.2d 761 (7th Cir. 1987). He said, “It is unfair to deny a litigant a lawyer and then trip him up on technicalities.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that “In civil rights cases where the plaintiff appears pro se, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt.” Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 757 (9th Cir. 2003).

Self-represented litigants must not get into reactive patterns and allow their adversaries to dictate the pace and flow of legal proceedings. You may not know exactly what a motion in limine is or know how to file a petition for special action in an appeals court. But do your best to draft and file them when necessary as, again, the courts are supposed to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Whether its a wrongful termination, alimony, or breach of contract case, its essential to stay on track. Don’t be afraid to ask the judge via motion for extensions of time for filing briefs if you’re behind on your research. Missed deadlines derail the entire case. Opposing counsel knows the self-represented are vulnerable due to lack of money and legal knowledge. They will exploit these realities because their goal is to win as well. The aggressor, however, typically comes out on top in court battles. Keep that in mind throughout.

Do your research and double-check it

Legal research is boring, tedious, and seemingly endless. It also requires reading through and translating a bunch of lawyer and judge mumbo-jumbo to determine what exactly you need to do next.

When all else fails, always default to the Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure for the respective court. Judges instantly dismiss pro se litigants as nuisances and start viewing their briefs as frivolous if said briefs appear hastily constructed, overly emotional, and nonsensical. If you truly want to win your case, consider hiring a legal writer or paralegal to research and write your briefs. It costs a fraction of what lawyers charge, and provides you a teammate in a difficult game.

Don’t let all your hard work and research go to waste due to a preventable legal technicality.

Self Representation and Overconfidence

Its a great feeling when a self-represented litigant gets past the demurrer stage of their civil case and the judge advances it to the discovery stage. Celebrate the victory because you’ve effectively convinced a judge that your case is not entirely frivolous. But now the real work begins.

It’s time to re-read procedures, learn discovery rules, and determine how you’re going to handle depositions. Court reporters cost money and you’re going to need them for depositions and appearances. Some expert witnesses may testify for free if you’re case is compelling and well-though-out. Exercise due diligence. No matter what, you are the underdog and must embrace that role to the end.

Seek outside help when necessary. Most federal and state courts have self-help documents and people readily available. You’re not a law expert. Thorough preparation is key to potential success.

Don’t Mention Settlements; Let Them Do That

The moment you start talking about settling out of court, your opponent knows you want to get the proceedings over with quickly, without much work. Its true that 95% of civil lawsuits end in pre-trial settlements or dismissals; and around 94% of felony convictions are the result of plea bargains (settlements), not jury trials. But that doesn’t mean cases immediately arrive at that point.

State governments, federal government, and private attorneys know that trials are expensive and time-consuming. They almost always want to settle and end the case quickly and cheaply. Many litigants are now forced into arbitration and not even allowed to put their cases in front of a judge and jury without jumping through a lot of hoops. Everyone involved in court cases want quick dispositions. But you cannot blink first because it reveals your hand.

Once the opponent commences settlement talks and makes an offer, always counter with something heavily in your favor. The final settlement is always something in between.

Self-representation mean checking and double-checking everything

This is a rule of thumb for professional writers. Its extremely difficult to edit your own work effectively because you created it. Its always best to have another set of eyes look it over.

Whether its your husband, wife, or 18-year-old daughter, have them read over your self-written briefs before filing. Make sure they understand what you have written. If a layperson cannot understand it, a judge is unlikely to understand it. Judges decide quickly if actions are legitimate or frivolous. Make certain it’s clear, chronological, and concise.

Self representation requires courage and maximum effort. Leave no stone unturned in your journey towards justice. Good luck!

Content Coup offers personalized legal research and document preparation to assist litigants with self-representation. We’ll help you navigate your case through the court system and give you the best chance to win at a fraction of the cost of an attorney. Contact us today with details about your case, and our legal writer will get back to you in 24 hours.

Ethical Considerations For College Students Hiring Professional Ghostwriters For Essays, Term Papers

October 29, 2018

Essay writing factories are unethical. Not because of the service provided. But many of these companies pressure and harass students into buying. It’s also disingenuous not to point out the fact that many essay writing factories use writers from countries where English is not the first language. Content farms use writers outside the USA for lower rates. I’m all for finally putting to rest that old riddle:

Q: What do you call someone that only speaks one language?
A: An American

But the fact is that college professors easily spot essays written by non-native English speakers. Content farms, essay writing factories, or whatever you want to call them, are essentially the Walmart of content marketing. They are ubiquitous and cheap, but you ultimately get what you pay for and entrust.

Professional, independent writers and researchers, on the other hand, have a skill that is useful to students: a natural passion for the written word. A five-page, APA-style essay on stock market trends for a Business 201 class could take a 19-year-old preoccupied student 2-3 days to write, just to earn a low ‘B’ or ‘C.’ A professional writer can do this same job in 6-8 hours or less, and get you an ‘A’. Why not hire them?

Ethical Issues For Students

Some consider it unethical for students to hire professional ghostwriters for their essays and other classwork. But its certainly not illegal. In fact I’d argue that professional writers are a valuable tool at the disposal of students with access.

College is very expensive. The average cost for four years of in-state tuition, fees, room & board was about $80,000 through 2018, according to CollegeData.com. Private colleges were over $180,000 for four years. A college education is the second-most costly investment after buying a home in many people’s lives. The diploma and transcripts get you that first job. Both are mostly useless after that, as subsequent employers use previous employment as the barometer to gauge your fitness for their open positions.

Paying a trustworthy, credible, intelligent writer to ghostwrite your college papers is protecting your investment. The content of said papers is original and passes plagiarism checkers. A good number of autobiographies and memoirs of very famous, important people are ghostwritten. These individuals get the writing credit, and the ghostwriter gets paid. Those are the basics of a very traditional process.

Bottom line is that the ethics considerations are debatable regarding ghostwriters and college students. There could of course be academic consequences if a professor can prove the paper was ghostwritten, which is a difficult task that is rarely pursued. Choosing a writer who understands all the foregoing and subsequent dynamics minimizes any potential risk to the student.

Ethical Issues For Writers

The United States of America is a capitalistic country. The International Monetary Fund defines capitalism as follows:

“…an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society.”

Granted the IMF couldn’t care less about the best interest of society. But the organization is an essential element in the capitalistic world. Professional writers are just like all other professionals who set a price for their services and allow the market to justify that price. Its not unethical for a writer to practice their very respectable craft that pays their bills and provides their well-being.

Attorneys are considered highly-respectable, both as a profession and career in the United States. Many are paid six-figures or more, and live very well. It isn’t necessarily ethical for criminal defense attorneys to represent murderers and rapists. But that is the job they are trained to do. An acquittal in a murder case with an obviously-guilty defendant may not win the defense attorney many popularity contests. But it will set their career for life, as all criminal defendants will want their services and law schools will want them to speak.

Writers who are good at what they do have the right to earn a good living in the same way.

RELATED: Are essay writing services ethical?

Writers write. Most people in the USA can write, just as almost everyone can drive. But not everyone can be a NASCAR driver, just as not everyone who can write is a professional. Writers simply use their gift of the written word to provide a valuable service and do what comes naturally to them.

Precautions for Students

The writer you choose should be affable and personable from the very beginning. They should answers emails and even provide you a phone number for text messages, to prove they are in the USA, and are a real person. They should ask you several basic questions immediately:

1. What is the due date?
2. What is the subject matter?
3. Do you have the rubric?
4. Can you provide any potential readings necessary to complete the assignment?

The writer should say something very insightful about the subject matter and show a genuine interest in writing the article. Of course they are doing it for compensation, but its easy to detect enthusiasm and natural desire to write. Academic writing is fun for professional writers because it piques already curious and wandering minds. If all the aforementioned characteristics and questions are not present, don’t use that writer.

Some students are concerned about login locations (IP address) if/when the ghostwriter must log into their online student profiles. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are common tools in 2018-19. They mask and change IP addresses on computers and smartphones. If your professor happens to say anything about login locations (which is highly unlikely),  just tell them you use a VPN. But its best to directly provide any/all reading materials, including the rubric, in a separate form so the ghostwriter does not have to log into your student profile. Just eliminate that risk altogether.

Metadata on Microsoft Word that potentially reveals someone else wrote the article is another common concern. Professional writers should provide the paper in three formats: .DOC, .PDF, and plain text. The .DOC version is in APA or MLA format and ready to turn in. The writer should strip the document of code and re-paste it into another Word doc to delete the metadata before sending it to the student. But this process is not 100% effective all the time.

The PDF version is best for turning in, if your schools allows it. PDF does not have all that metadata that Word sometimes carries over. Plain text is just that: a version without HTML or any other code. Students who are extra cautious can paste this version into a blank Word doc, open the completed Word doc provided by the ghostwriter, and just manually add all the bolds, italics, tabs, etc. that are in said doc. It will take you less than a half hour and completely eliminate the already razor-thin chance of discovery.

Essay writing is fun for professional writers and a necessity for students. We live in a capitalistic society and ghostwriting is a long-time, respectable tradition in the world of publishing. Look at it that way and the ethical issues matter not.

Ready to hire a personable, professional, and passionate ghostwriter for your college essays, term papers, and other assignments. Contact me today and I’ll get back to you in 24 hours or less.

Size matters: search engines, readers favor long-form content

(updated 8:42 PST) — The quantity vs. quality debate is perpetual in the worlds of digital marketing and SEO. But there’s one fact that cannot be denied when it comes to blogging: frequent publishing on company websites increases the chances of acquiring new customers.

All blog content is not created equal however. Its difficult to determine how many blog posts are published everyday in the world. WordPress powers 26% of the internet and holds a 59% market share for content management systems, according to W3 Techs. WordPress users publish 84 million new posts per month, or about 2.8 million per day and over one billion per year.

I’ve personally written well over 2,000 content marketing blog posts for various companies in the last seven years. At least 90% of them were between 550-800 words. The question “what would you say is a good average word count for a blog post” on Quora has a top answer that suggests 750 words is “ideal.” The next two answers say “500-750 words” and “300-400 words” respectively. Hubspot’s 2016 State of Inbound Marketing report found that roughly 80% of company blog posts are less than 1,000 words.

Publishing frequently on your company blog positively correlates with the number of leads that turn into paying customers, as referenced above. Quick, simple blog posts fill the quantity aspect of company blogging. But all those short posts are clumped together with billions of others trying to get recognition from Google and potential customers. Blog content requires more depth (i.e. more words) to stand out from the crowd and to establish your company as an industry authority.

Long-form content is king with Google

A 2012 study by serpIQ analyzed 20,000-plus keywords and found some telling trends regarding search engine rankings. The top five results for the keywords averaged over 2,300 words, and all of the top 10 results averaged over 2,000 words.

The age of domains also played a role in search rankings, with 55% of the top three results being on websites that were at least 10-years-old.  A more recent analysis by Hubspot found that blog posts between 2,250 and 2,500 words got five times more organic traffic than posts with 1,000 words or less.

Aesthetics are important too

Longer is better for SEO, but not necessarily for lead conversions. A 2013 experiment by MECLABS managing director Flint McGlaughlin ran a series of tests on lead conversions when readers are presented long-form versus shorter content. A key finding was that content presentation – the way its displayed on screen – played a role in conversion rates. When it came to landing pages, fewer words resulted in higher conversions for a company that offered free psychological evaluations.

Shorter copy was also effective for company landing pages asking for email addresses for subscriptions and to get discounts on certain products. But long copy was more effective when readers were asked to make more difficult decisions. A second test measuring conversions for a mental health and addiction center found that longer copy with the call-to-action at the bottom of the page had a conversion rate of 2.48% vs. .78% for the control (shorter, clumpier) copy: a 220% difference.

Dr. McGlaughlin concluded that decreased friction (anxiety) related to the decision, increased lead conversions.

Sequential, comprehensive , descriptive content soothed and supplemented the mental effort. Long-form copy for the mental health facility created a value proposition in the beginning and continued to carefully build trust and explain to readers the benefits all the way until the call-to-action. A decision to add your email address to a newsletter list is much easier than deciding whether to have a mental health facility contact you. Shorter copy is effective for lower anxiety decisions; while detailed, sequential copy works best for more complex, expensive buying decisions.

Constants in ever-changing Google algorithm

Its disingenuous for anyone not working in one of Google’s 68 office locations to claim expertise regarding the company’s search algorithm. Google literally makes changes to its algorithm everyday and rarely provides specifics as to what the changes entailed. Granted most of the changes are small tweaks that likely won’t negatively effect the current SERP (search engine results page) rankings of your blog. But you don’t have to be a mathematics and computer science nerd to understand Google’s ultimate goal.

For those unfamiliar, Google’s search algorithm is the sequence of calculations performed to determine hierarchy of search results for long-tail and single keywords. There have been several major updates to the algorithm in the last seven years. The Panda update (also known as the “Farmer update” to SEO folks) in February of 2011 was the first one to hit spammy, shallow websites hard. All those formerly high-ranking articles written by college students for $.01 per word were removed from first page results. Some of the reasons included, but were not limited to, grammatical and factual errors, one-sided opinion pieces, keyword stuffing and randomness of topics not relevant to the website itself.

The Penguin update in February 2012 took things a step further. It dinged websites that used blackhat SEO techniques to push themselves up Google rankings. A common SEO practice before Penguin was paying established websites to place links to your site in already-existing blog posts that ranked highly for certain keywords. The unnatural authority and credibility gained by these backlinks were considered violations of Google’s terms, resulting in numerous websites being de-indexed for varying amounts of time.

Google Hummingbird went live sometime in August of 2013. It was a complete overhaul of the old algorithm instead of just updating a few things. The general understanding is that Hummingbird wanted to better understand what exactly users were trying to find. Language recognition via verbal queries on smartphones, along with long-tail keywords becoming more common, motivated Google to understand the context of words instead of just knowing all possible synonyms.  Amit Singhal, former senior vice president of Google, told reporters at the official unveiling of Hummingbird in September 2013 that the new algorithm made it possible to find what you’re looking for without exact keywords. Search queries were getting longer and more ambiguous, and Hummingbird accommodated this new phenomenon.

Several more updates, including Pigeon, RankBrain and Possum, have been publicly acknowledged by Google since Hummingbird. These updates mostly focused on providing better localized searches, artificial intelligence to better understand user behavior, and diversity of results based on user location. “Fred,” launched in March of this year, is the most recent, confirmed update to Google’s algorithm. Google has not provided many specifics as to how Fred affects SERPs. But early tests have shown websites with low-quality content and posts meant solely to generate revenue are being dinged hard.

Though search algorithms are complicated to understand, there is a common theme with all Google updates. Seven years ago when I transitioned from broadcast and print journalism to content marketing, there was a lot to learn. Despite the continual algorithmic changes to search engines since 2010, one thing has remained constant as far as Google favorability: content quality.

I wrote an article in August of 2010 entitled “Eleventh Amendment is Unconstitutional; Must be Repealed” for an obscure, anti-government website. It took a few weeks. But the post quickly became the #1 result for the keywords “Eleventh Amendment Unconstitutional.” If you search those same keywords right now in Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo!, that article is still #1 seven years later. It’s placed over well-respected articles by Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley and Justia. Why? Its very factual, has videos and diagrams, and is published on a website that covers that type of subject matter (relevance). It also has 1,557 words (not the traditional 550-800) and the domain is nine years old.

“Don’t count characters. Make your characters count.” Barry Feldman.

There are several considerations when deciding how long a blog post should be. Promoting your company’s forthcoming Memorial Day sale doesn’t require more than 550 words. But answering the question “how to buy and use bitcoins” likely requires a minimum of 2,000 words plus a lot of reassurance within the content to ease anxiety about a complicated subject matter.

A general rule of thumb for writers is to simply write until you’re finished. Predetermined, forced word counts lead to fluffy, empty copy that neither Google nor your readers will appreciate. Long-form content is favored by search engines and is shared more often on social media. Frequent publishing of blogs is also favored by Google and readers. A mix of content is best for overall effectiveness. If you’re publishing five times per week (as all companies should be doing), at least one of your post should be more than 1,200 words.

Writing long-form content is a daunting task for non-professional scribes, but a necessity for SEO and lead nurturing. Turn your content needs over to professional writers with good track records. Inbound marketing (blogging) cost much less than all outbound channels and yields three times more leads per dollar. Now is the time to address your marketing strategy and reap the benefits of both long-form and traditional content.

Ready to start publishing long-form, high-quality content on your company blog? Check out our content packages and make sure to sign-up for our monthly newsletter in the left sidebar.

Will artificial intelligence render content writers obsolete?

A study released earlier this month by market research firm Forrester predicted that automation (robots) will kill 24.7 million U.S. jobs by 2027. The firm concluded that automation and other developing technologies will create 14.9 million new jobs in that same time frame. That’s still a net loss of nearly 10 million jobs. Customer service, manual labor and complex calculation tasks are the most at-risk.

Writing would seemingly be the last jobs robots take over because of “human exceptionalism.” Emotional nuances, cognizance and other human faculties are ostensibly unique to homo sapiens. People craft words that resonate with other people. Star Wars fans remember when Luke Skywalker first met C3PO in The New Hope. Luke asked C3PO about some of the battles he’s seen between the Rebellion and the Empire. But C3PO was programmed only to be a language interpreter. He did not have the functional capacity to tell a story. C3PO apparently received more advanced programming in Return of the Jedi. He sure told the Ewoks a compelling story.

Artificial intelligence technology in 2017

There are already robots writing certain types of copy. The practice is growing in scope. Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and chief researcher at Gartner, said at the company’s Symposium/ITxpo 2016 in Orlando that robots will author 20% of business content by 2018. Budget reports and quick recaps of sporting events are currently the most common types of content written by artificial intelligence (AI).

Financial writers combed through 10-K, 10-Q and other SEC earnings reports in the old days (meaning a few years ago). They took notes in the margins and even did audio narratives of their weeks-long absorption of these textbook-like documents.  Some 10-K and 10-Q reports for large companies easily exceed 100 pages of headache-inducing, cryptic blather. Writers translated the garble and wrote articles that regular readers could understand.

The Associated Press (AP) reported in January of 2015 that it previously wrote about 300 articles per quarter about corporate earnings. The tasks was too tedious to assign much more to financial journalists. The AP formed partnerships with Automated Insights, Inc. and Zacks Investment Research in late 2014. Automated’s natural language generation platform called Wordsmith, combined with Zacks’ research and analytics, enabled the AP to published 3,000 such articles in one quarter. That’s a ten-fold increase in production.

Artificial intelligence and copywriting in 2017

Automated Insights was purchased by venture capital firm Vista Equity Partners in early 2015. Vista also owns Stats LLC. Fantasy sports players recognize the name Stats LLC. as one of the industry leaders in providing real-time scoring for their leagues. The partnership is only scratching the surface as to its capabilities. Stats’ huge vault of sports data and Insights’ AI technology provide endless opportunities.

Scientists at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad, India, also married sports and AI in late 2015. A robot “watched” hundreds of taped cricket matches on the ESPNcricinfo website. It also watched the Indian Premiere League channel on Youtube. The robot learned via word association. It matched actions on the screen and players’ names with the announcers’ commentary. The computer taught itself an algorithm to write its own real-time commentary during live games. It was 90% accurate in its commentary. Robots have also tried their hand at writing movie scripts. But the end results didn’t exactly impress the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Successful writers are perpetually adapting to the ever-changing landscape of SEO and content marketing. It comes with the territory for those who wish to remain in the industry. The expansion of AI is simply another challenge writers must accept.

Sports and financial writers’ jobs at risk?

Robots have the ability to view box scores and write intelligible summaries about the game. Fox Sports and Yahoo! have been generating this type of content with AI for several years now. Chicago-based Narrative Science is leasing its natural language generation platform called Quill to financial firms like Credit Suisse and T. Rowe Price. It writes performance reports on mutual funds, hedge funds, and stocks.

The days of sports writers sitting in press boxes, collecting stat sheets from team personnel, and writing recaps after games are likely numbered because of AI. But robot commentators won’t be doing play-by-play for basketball, football and ice hockey anytime soon. Opinion journalism is the norm in professional and amateur sports. That gives human writers the edge over machines.

Sports and financial writers have adapted to this reality. Job security and fierce competition are forcing their hands. Financial writers used to let the numbers speak for themselves. But a human touch is essential in the fast-paced 21st century. It distinguish them from both machines and their human competition.

Artificial intelligence isn’t cheap

Automation is on the wish lists of many companies. It streamlines workflows and significantly reduces the time it takes to complete certain tasks. The reality is that AI is cost prohibitive for most businesses.

The legal industry is bullish on AI for its potential money and time-saving capabilities. But Connie Brenton, chairman of the board at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, is more skeptical. She told law publication Corporate Counsel in February that AI is not a “silver bullet” that will disrupt the legal profession overnight. Brenton elaborated at Legalweek: The Experience 2017 Conference. She noted that initial costs exceed six-figures in many cases. There is also a 5-6 month time investment before virtual assistants are ready for implementation into legal workflows. Full-time administrators must be hired to maintain the system. Frequently consultation with the AI vendor is also necessary.

Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science, agreed that cost and time investment eliminate AI as a realistic option for most companies in the near term. Earley suggested via Harvard Business Review that the more realistic option for small and medium-sized companies is what he termed “AI Lite” systems. They lack cognitive computing ability. AI Lite is programmed to complete only certain tasks. These systems require additional coding to learn new tasks. But AI Lite is scalable. It provides a foundation for companies as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible.

Breathe easy, writers

Financial writers had job security because few people understand economic regulations, indexes and statistics enough to compose compelling stories. AI is already impacting that segment of writers. The journalistic aspect of financial writing is still a human activity. Interviews with industry experts, CEOs, etc. provide perspective to readers. Journalists have difficulty contacting sources on the phone and/or via email to get direct quotes. Its doubtful CEOs and market analysts are willingly to talk to robots on the phone or via email versus responding to another human being.

AI is everywhere in 2017. The trend is not slowing down whether humanity likes it or not. Robots drive some cars today. But 75% of Americans and a majority of Europeans are afraid of autonomous technology. They would rather drive themselves. An Indiegogo virtual sex robot campaign was suspended because demand was so high. But most (normal) people still favor sex with other humans, not robots.

A 1940s experiment also proved human touch is vital to human life. Note this was before the United States had medical ethics. One group of caretakers was ordered to hold, look at, talk to, etc. a group of babies. The other group only changed the baby’s diapers and fed them. They excluding all physical contact, communication, etc. The experiment ceased after four months. Four of the babies that received no human contact died. Two more died months later even with real parental care thereafter.

Artificial intelligence not ready for prime time

AI is presenting writers the opportunity to better themselves. Writers must be subject matter experts in more industries. They must acquire new skills like graphic design, web design and/or SEO. Writing is innately a human form of communication. It requires humans to craft and subsequently appreciate.

Professional writers know the basics: cite primary sources, use keywords in headlines, hit deadlines, etc. But most importantly, give your writing that human touch. Humans understand and appreciate other human experiences. Adapt or be replaced. It’s as simple as that.

Facebook: the unnecessary nuisance for marketing departments

Facebook had 50 million active business pages as of December 2015, up from 40 million eight months earlier. Assuming sustained growth through today, there are upwards of 70 million active Facebook business pages in April 2017. It makes good business sense for small and medium-sized businesses to follow this trend when they glance at the numbers.

Facebook boasts an astounding 1.23 billion daily active users, and 1.86 billion monthly active users. Facebook is a theoretical must-have for all businesses due to the sheer number of potential customers that can be reached. Unfortunately great odds don’t necessarily translate to success.

Social media is an important part of all marketing strategies. Facebook marketing has taken on a life of its own in the last couple years. But the resources marketing departments are allocating to the world’s largest social network are better spent elsewhere.

Numbers perspective

Facebook’s 1.86 million active monthly users are nothing to sneeze at. That is a humongous potential profit pie for companies to explore. A more comprehensive look at the numbers tells a different story.

A vast majority of Facebook users, more than 85%, are located outside of the United States and Canada. China, the most populous country and fastest growing economy in the world after surpassing India last year, banned Facebook in 2009. Some Chinese people still access Facebook via VPN, but there’s no way of estimating how many.

Facebook’s first quarterly earnings report after its IPO in 2012 indicated that at least 8.7% of users were fake, meaning they were duplicates, “misclassified,” or “undesirable.” The company’s 2015 annual report put the number at about 7% fake accounts. Averaging those numbers out, upwards of 150 million Facebook profiles are fake.

Despite all the aforementioned, there are still millions of Facebook users who may be interested in your product or service. Now its just a matter of reaching them.

Facebook algorithm changes

Facebook Ads launched in November of 2007, with one of the features being that businesses could “build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences.” This was only 28 months after the company acquired the domain Facebook.com for $200,000, so business (fan) pages have been around for most of the social network’s existence. The way these pages operate has changed dramatically since then.

When business and fan pages started, administrators enjoyed very high organic reach with its followers. Facebook was the go-to platform for major brands and small businesses to build large followings and post unlimited promotional and customer relations content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) in May of 2012 immediately changed how the platform worked. The company now had shareholders to satisfy. Its entire philosophy changed almost overnight, and made many influential people angry in the process.

George Takei, the long-time Star Trek actor, noticed the change in June that year and posted a not-so-subtle note to his two million followers about it.

A Facebook employee responded to Takei, saying the company had not changed anything about the way posts were disseminated. Instead, according to the employee, Facebook made the user experience better by making the content they see more relevant. But Takei was not satisfied with the explanation, as he posted a very similar note several months later.

Billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, talked about the changes to Facebook business pages in November of 2012. The team posted a promo for an upcoming game on Facebook assuming it would reach a large percentage of its 2.3 million followers at the time. The post only reached 27,000 of the Mavericks’ followers organically (or about 1.1%). Cuban tweeted his assessment of Facebook, along with a screenshot of Facebook demanding $3,000 for the Mavericks to reach about half of their followers (NOTE: the tweet has since been deleted).

A few days later Cuban expanded on his tweet in a Huffington Post article. He was not recommending companies leave Facebook, but that they de-emphasize it in favor of Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networks.

Post-IPO Facebook changed its news feed algorithm to reduce average organic reach by business pages to 16% of its followers, according to a 2014 white paper by Social@Ogilvy. Further, the more followers you had, the less your organic reach. By October of 2013, average organic reach dropped to 12%. Pages with more than 500,000 followers, however, dropped to an average of 4% organic reach. Four months later, in February 2014, average organic reach for all business pages dropped to 6.2%, and to 2.1% for pages with more than 500,000 followers. Facebook announced more changes to its algorithm in June of last year, leading to even lower organic reach.

There are things you can do on Facebook to increase organic reach of followers. As Mr. Takei suggested above, tell followers to prioritize your posts. Today this is done a little differently than he described in his 2012 post.

Facebook Live broadcasts and videos published on the native Facebook video platform (versus externally-linked videos) tend to get more interactions. The algorithm also recognizes quality content, which uses factor such as word frequency, choice and count. Its just another reason why company blogs with high-quality content are such valuable assets.

The only way businesses truly reap the benefits of Facebook is by paying for it. We recently tested out paid advertising on Facebook for a clients’ business page that sells encrypted email service. We authorized Facebook to take $50 from the clients’ credit card to “boost” a post about online privacy in the wake of Senate Joint Resolution 34 being signed into law earlier this month. The campaign was supposed to run for four days. Facebook ultimately took $30 from the client’s credit card and ended the campaign after three days for whatever reason. The client just joined Facebook that week, so only had five followers before the boosted post, which ultimately reached 1,266 news feeds (60 organically), got 110 total engagements, and only ONE click on the actual link.

Some data is excluded due to confidentiality agreements.

At that rate, you’re paying about $30 per click-through to your actual website, even when the audience is targeted by demographics and user habits. A higher budget will help, but that money is better spent investing in your own website, particularly on publishing daily, high-quality blog content and growing your email list.

Social vs. professional network

When you log into Facebook, you expect to see embarrassing breakups, what people are having for breakfast and the new sweater somebody bought their dog. Its nothing short of cringe-worthy when the same type of stuff shows up on LinkedIn. Jerome Knyszewski was the first to publish an article on LinkedIn about this, and there have since been several iterations by others.

Facebook specifically states on its homepage that it is a social network that helps you “connect with friends.” LinkedIn specifically states on its company page that it exists to “[connect] the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”

LinkedIn has a fraction of the active users of Facebook, with about 467 million registered users in 200 countries. The U.S. has the highest number of registered LinkedIn users by far with over 133 million. India comes in a distant second with 39 million. LinkedIn is the obvious priority for U.S.-based B2B companies’ social media investments. B2C companies have more opportunities to leverage Facebook in their favors, while LinkedIn provides a means of connecting with others in their respective industries.

The 2016 Hubspot “State of Inbound” marketing report proved two things: old school still works and investing in your own website instead of social media is smart. Whether sales teams increased or decreased in numbers, companies identified phone and email communications as the most successful channels for their salespeople to reach prospects.

Phone communications typically originated from email communications via prospects and leads contacting or subscribing to company blogs or websites. The report suggested that companies stop cold-calling and contact warm leads who responded to content on their websites. Growing your email list is thus more important than growing your number of Facebook followers.

Though there was no significant difference between Facebook and LinkedIn success rates for salespeople, the tiebreaker is organic reach. Last week on LinkedIn, I published an article on my personal account with only 225 connections. But as of publishing 110 people saw it, or about 49% of my followers. Further, big brands are using Twitter far more than they do all other social networks, according to Forrester Research.

Bottom line

If you’ve had a Facebook business page for years, and have over 1,000 followers, its unwise to just ditch it. Its best to learn more about your followers with Facebook Insights and try to figure out from the data the best approach to increase organic reach. Unless you’re willing to spend more money, time and effort to reach followers, its best to prioritize your own web properties.

A Facebook business page is good to have even if you don’t use it a lot. People may search for your company on the platform and find contact information. Even the largest, most successful brands in the world aren’t heavily active on Facebook because of the time and investment it takes to get even minimal returns. Coca Cola (102 million followers) and Starbucks (36 million followers) sometimes go weeks without posting anything, but they’re still on top of their respective industries. Both companies have very active blogs with great content.

All companies – small, medium and large; B2B and B2C – should have a Facebook page for SEO purposes and to have another means of communication with customers and leads. Investing a lot of time, money and effort into it takes away from investing in your own websites that you have 100% control over. Use Facebook to supplement your blogs and websites, not the other way around.

RELATED: How much should you pay for content marketing?

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5 company blogs that are doing it right

Successful company blogs typically have three things in common: consistent editorial calendars, high-quality content, and effective calls-to-action. They make mundane topics interesting and interesting topics fascinating. Companies that prioritize blogging quickly establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries, while being rewarded by Google’s ever-changing PageRank algorithms for regularly publishing new content.

Several companies are trendsetters and/or standard bearers when it comes to how a company blog should be ran. Here are five of the best company blogs in 2017.

Disney Parks

Whether you’re a baby-boomer who grew up loving Mickey Mouse, or a millennial who fell in love with Princess Jasmine from “Aladdin,” it seems everyone has a favorite Disney character. The parks are also pretty popular (understatement alert). Disney World in Florida attracts over 54 million visitors per year, while well over 700 million visitors have been to Disneyland in California since opening in 1955.

The Disney Parks blog provides a virtual ticket inside its properties right from your laptop or smartphone. It frequently publishes personal accounts of visitors’ experiences, including celebrities. The Disney Parks blog also displays photos of its regular authors within posts, giving it a more personal, human feel (those using WordPress can install a simple plugin to do the same on their blogs).

When readers visit the Disney Parks blog, they feel and experience the brand as one would expect: fun, professional and inspiring.


Active, outdoorsy-types have likely stumbled across the REI blog while searching for the latest cycling, hiking or camping gear. Known as the “Co-Op Journal,” the REI blog conveniently displays all of its blog categories as a main menu across the top of every page.

REI’s content epitomizes balance. It educates readers while subtly plugging its products without sounding overly advertorial. For instance, the company offers advice on how to choose the right sleeping bag. Obviously REI hopes you choose one of their options, but provides objective, actionable tips and commentary to help you make an informed decision.

The “rate this story” feature gives the REI blog a social media feel on its own website. It also confirms that readers enjoy the content. All posts on the Co-Op Journal’s front page earned at least four evergreen trees out of five (as of April 21).

Southwest Airlines

The marketing team at Southwest Airlines gets kudos for creating one of the funniest, most clever advertising campaigns in history. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Southwest’s marketing team inspired humor and creativity in others.

They also deserve credit for thinking outside the box when it comes to their blog. The “Nuts About Southwest” was launched in 2008. A group of employees post regular content relating to everything from TSA regulations to new planes joining Southwest fleet. But a majority of the content is posted by customers.

Southwest allows users to create profiles and post their questions, concerns and compliments as actual blog entries. Southwest employees sometimes respond directly to these posts, but typically other readers answer them first. One user recently posted a complaint about ambiguity in Southwest’s unaccompanied minor policy on international flights. Another reader posted the policy’s full text in the comments section, answering the questions at hand.

This type of setup isn’t ideal for every company, but it works well for a large airline with millions of customers.

Dollar Shave Club

There are some interesting and entertaining results when you enter “men hate shaving” in search engines. But two of the most consistent complaints are that razors are expensive and dull fast.

For those unfamiliar, the Dollar Shave Club is a mail order service that delivers customers a fresh supply of replaceable blades for its custom razor handles every month.

The company also sells a line of personal hygiene products, including shaving cream and after-shave. But few companies can pull off the edginess Dollar Shave Club does on its blog.

Most marketing executives would balk at the idea of a story entitled “Do I Need To Wipe If I’m About To Shower” being published on its company blog. But how many of you just clicked the aforementioned link out of total curiosity? Dollar Shave Club blog has perfected the art of writing catchy headlines and discussing intimate personal hygiene issues others would rather leave alone.

The blog is also a standard bearer for balancing quality and quantity. The company posts upwards of five new articles per day, but all of them are either educational, interesting or just down-right funny.

Bigelow Tea

Like our own Content Coup blog, Bigelow Tea shows that quality content is far more important than aesthetics when it comes to reader acquisition and retention. The company uses a very simple, no-frills theme that is not going to win any web design awards or even subtle praise. But when you get hundreds of “likes” and shares of your content, none of that matters.

Tea drinkers tend to be earthly, spiritual, healthy people. The Bigelow Tea blog caters to this demographic while subtly highlighting its products. A blog post about how to start an indoor garden gives instructions on how to plant seed that grow in tea bags.

The blog touches on subjects like what foods go best with different Bigelow teas, better snacking habits, and relaxation methods. It also keeps customers apprised on the company’s conservation efforts. The only glaring flaw on Bigelow’s blog is poor navigation. There is no “home” button at the top and clicking on the blog title takes you to the Bigelow website (away from the blog). But again, good content is the equilizer and keeps readers coming back for more.

Are you ready to add your company’s name to this list of impressive blogs? Contact us today at support@contentcoup.com. Check out our content packages and FAQ section. Cut out the middle man and join the revolution today!

#Happy420: Is writing about cannabis on company blogs still taboo?

The United States is a much different place than it was 80 years ago. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized cannabis for the first time in U.S. history. The federal law required anyone who possessed or distributed marijuana to obtain and publicly display a federal tax stamp.

But the process of acquiring the tax stamp was viewed as an admission of criminal activity in a court of law. Doctors and commercial hemp farmers were typically the only people issued tax stamps without much hassle. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in 1969. Requiring defendants to incriminate themselves to obtain the stamp violated the Fifth Amendment. Congress quickly passed the Controlled Substances Act a few months later. Possession and consumption of marijuana remained a federal offense as a result.

Attitudes towards cannabis have changed dramatically in the 21st century. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana. That’s a significant increase from the 36% that supported legalization 10 years earlier. Eight U.S. states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational use in that same time frame. Meanwhile 21 more states allow medicinal marijuana and/or have decriminalized the plant.

The legal conundrum between federal and state law complicates matters. A memo issued by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month said it will enforce federal marijuana laws even in states that have legalized it for recreational use. Eleven U.S. Senators declared in March that they oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in their respective states.

The cannabis industry has morphed into a powerful economic force. The state of Colorado hit the $1 billion mark in cannabis sale by itself in 2016. Total North American revenues for both recreational and medicinal marijuana products reached $6.7 billion in 2016, according to data compiled by Arcview Market Research. That’s a 30% increase from the previous year. Tom Adams, editor-in-chief for Arcview, told Forbes the only industries he’s ever seen experience that level of compound growth were post-dot-com era broadband sales and cable television subscriptions in the 1990s.

Cannabis retailers and growers talk about their primary products on company blogs. But the cannabis political landscape still makes it a sensitive subject matter on company blogs in other industries. Here are a few things to consider before writing about cannabis on your company blog.

Location, Location

National and international companies should not mention cannabis on their blogs. But local and regional businesses with finite customer bases and physical presence have more freedom in this regard.

The above map from Governing.com shows geographic trends pertaining to marijuana attitudes across the country. Companies that are physically located in bright-green states, and have customer bases within said boundaries, should feel comfortable writing content about cannabis. All other should avoid it.

Relevance equals legitimacy

Auto repair shops, toy stores and accounting firms have no business mentioning cannabis on their blogs. But yoga instructors and massage therapists may speak to the relaxation properties of certain cannabis strains. Personal trainers and fitness instructors helping people lose weight may want to discourage cannabis due to what is known as cannabinoid-induced feeding, aka “munchies.” Travel blogs can provide maps and information on the best recreational cannabis shops in Colorado, Oregon and other legal states.

Companies with genuine, business-related reasons for discussing cannabis should feel comfortable doing so on their blogs.

Stick to the facts

Cannabis is a subject that triggers different emotions in different demographics. Most people have hard-wired viewpoints and are unlikely to be swayed by other’s opinions.

When writing anything about cannabis, always utilize original sources. Don’t make claims such as “marijuana cures cancer” without citing reputable, verifiable university and medical studies. Use the same approach when presenting negative information about cannabis, such as “it leads to other things.” Stating opinions on any controversial subject, regardless of which side you’re on, alienates some of your reader base and completely derails the discussion. Stick to indisputable facts and everything else will take care of itself.

Do you have white-glove type content ideas for your company blog that would be best produced by a professional content strategist and writer? Join the Content Coup today! Cut out the middle man and be a part of the revolution!