The Daily Trap, Trap of the Day: Green Cars

In my business experience, I recognize at least one basic truth: If a consumer or business identifies a need, trust that an entrepreneur will quickly recognize the opportunity, and just as quickly figure out how to fulfill that need with a specific product or service. The case for electric cars is not driven by a specific consumer need, but rather by a larger, well organized global initiative to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

As a replacement for actual consumer demand, federal and state governments have stepped up to offer would be buyers – and manufacturers – incentives to make sure electric cars are getting due consideration in the competitive market for automobiles.

Consider the 2012 Nissan Leaf, which has a sticker price of $37,250 but qualifies for a federal taxpayer-funded rebate of $7,500. Meanwhile BIG subsidies are saved for those who manufacture electric vehicles. The Tesla Roaster, for example, has received over $500,000 in federal grants and loans to produce their $120,000+ playthings for the Hollywood rich and frivolous. Meanwhile, GM has received hundreds-of-millions in federal grants to produce the controversial Chevy Volt, an electric-gas hybrid most famous for battery explosions.

According to GM’s CEO, the average family income of the Chevy Volt buyer is $170,000 – which is a mere pittance compared to the buyer of the taxpayer-subsidized Tesla Motos, whose average family income exceeds $250,000. One may wonder, if EVs are so desirable, why the average working family of four should be contributing hundreds of dollars per year to make sure that billionaire Elon Musk can build hot rods for those that certainly can afford to buy them without help.

James Holman, an economist for The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, claims that when all government subsidies paid to GM and its suppliers to produce the Chevy Volt are considered, each Volt sold in 2011 cost us – the American taxpayer – about $250,000. Now, critics of Holman point out, with merit, that this calculation considers only the Volt’s first year sales – which GM admits were disappointing and far below projections. So I guess we should be happy – if Volt sales take off, our relative tax burden may fall precipitously – perhaps even less than $100,000 per car sold!

But hey, let’s forget about the economics – it’s the Earth that matters, right? According to the 2011 Annual Greenhouse Gas Report, 14% of all emissions originate at the exhaust pipes of vehicles used for transportation. In contrast, 21% of these emissions are belched from power stations, which are still dependent on – you guessed it – fossil fuels. In the US today, there are about 300M cars registered. By 2020, JD Powers and Associates estimates 100,000 of these will be electric, requiring those same fossil-fueled power stations to charge their Lithium Ion batteries. A good trade off for the billions spent in taxpayer money? You do the math.

-Gary

The Daily Trap, Trap of the Day: Bobby Petrino

Sports and scandal. Two words that have become inseparable lovebirds in the world of athletics. As the sports editor here at Trapit, I find myself on a weekly basis pondering, who is next? Who will be the next sports “professional” to slip up and make the headlines for the wrong reasons. Like clockwork, the next name gets thrown my way ready to get trapped.

This week, the gold medal for sports idiocy goes to (former) head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Bobby Petrino.The public gaffe took root behind the scenes, as the 51-year coach pursued a double life off the football field. In a bizarre unfolding of events, Petrino was discovered to be having an affair with a university employee half his age. In Petrino’s eyes, he wasn’t cheating, because he hadn’t yet been caught. Then it all came crashing down on him. Literally, crashing.

Petrino’s name became sullied after he crashed his motorcycle going on a scenic highway ride. How romantic. The details of how he crashed were far less compelling than whom he was with when his tires lost traction. Riding on back was 25-year old Jessica Dorell, an employee working in the Razorbacks’ athletic department. Here’s the catch—Petrino himself was the one that hired her! To make matters worse, Petrino had to face the public for the first time donning a ridiculous looking neck brace underneath that scraped up, bewildered expression on his face.

Cheating on your wife is one thing—it will get divorce papers filed in a hurry. But cheating with a woman that you strategically brought into the athletic department to work a very desirable job, well coach, that’s what gets you fired. And that’s precisely what happened.

Turns out, the two had exchanged thousands of text messages and phone calls over the course of their clandestine relationship. Phone records also indicate that Petrino’s cheating ways may not have begun with just a single woman. Did a Miss Arkansas bikini model come first? Get this, the other woman in question once won a Miss Motorcycle Mania competition. Oh, the irony.

Well, what did we learn from all this? This writer provides 21 lessons.Without even reading the piece, I can provide one valuable lesson: Don’t be an idiot when you know the public eye is watching.

It just keeps getting more and more interesting (and sleazy) in the Bobby Petrino trap!

-Geoff

The Daily Trap, Trap of the Day: NCAA Transfer Debate

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As young adults, one of the toughest decisions a budding mind must settle on is where to enroll in college. For aspiring student-athletes, this decision is far more pressing knowing he or she must weigh out what’s in their best interest for both for athletics and education. The headlines this week feature a young athlete who made the wrong choice and is now feeling the repercussions.

Meet Jarrod Uthoff, the 6’8” redshirt freshman power forward from Cedar Rapids. Just a year prior in the state of Iowa, he was known as Mr. Basketball. After being strategically recruited by the Wisconsin Badgers’ assistant coach Gary Close, Uthoff signed a letter of intent to play ball in Madison. The expectations for Uthoff’s potential in a Badger uniform were sky-high.

After riding the pine during his redshirt season, Uthoff decided Wisconsin wasn’t the place for him. He cited the desire to be closer to home as his reason for administering a transfer request to the Wisconsin athletic department (apparently a three hour drive is far enough to feel homesick). This was unusual for Wisconsin—they rarely come across signees wanting out.

Even though Uthoff had yet to play in a collegiate basketball game, his name inevitably began swarming the headlines after Badgers’ head coach Bo Ryan announced heavy restrictions on Uthoff’s rights to transfer…that is, his rights to transfer to certain schools. Uthoff was denied “permission to contact” any school in the Big Ten Conference, along with various schools spread across the country, such as Marquette, Virginia and Florida. Ryan was given the chance to explain himself on a popular ESPN talk radio show, Mike & Mike. The interview seems to have ruffled the feathers of the twitterverse, as analytics suggest 71% of fan reactions toward Ryan’s dialogue with ESPN were perceived in a negative light (sprinkle a grain of salt, of course).

After feeling the hot water in this transfer fiasco, coach Ryan took a step backward on his stubborn stance yesterday, lifting his original transfer restrictions on all schools except those in (Wisconsin’s) Big Ten Conference. The University followed up with an official statement of their own.

This raises an interesting debate in collegiate athletics. How terrible of a precedent could this be setting in an organization that is supposed to be working in the best interest of its student-athletes? Where should the NCAA draw the line when it comes to its policy on transfer requests? Should head coaches at universities be allowed this type of veto power, or should it fall into the hands of NCAA officials to ultimately determine a fair compromise for all parties involved?

The discussion continues in the NCAA Transfer Debate Trap!

-Geoff

The Daily Trap, The Marketer’s Dilemma: The art of storytelling

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Storytelling has endured as a form of communication since before humans invented the written word. Throughout the centuries telling stories was a way to educate and preserve. It informed vital political, religious, cultural and family matters. Without stories, history, values, events, even a good laugh would have been lost. Stories have been told not only in the narrative sense but also through art – think about the stories told in caves, pottery, fabrics, coffins, and other artifacts. Imagine just how personalized and relevant these stories must have been.

We learn through stories – we remember facts better when there is a context in which they are presented. Most of us recall vividly stories we heard as children. Fairytales, nursery rhymes, and fables that our families shared with us – these all had purpose. They became something that we believe in – something that we go back to time and time again – something that, in some cases, built our core values and eternal truths.

How do we bridge our love of storytelling to today’s reality? Humans have been telling stories in different ways throughout history. With new inventions we are able to reach more broadly and with new ways to communicate. From a picture on a wall to a digitally created application – the spectrum is broad and the results through time are staggering. The Internet has provided us an ability to know about stories that we otherwise might never see. But therein lies the challenge. How do you discover stories that really matter to you?

Stories are extremely relevant in how we think about marketing our companies, our products, or ourselves. Many brand executives would argue that it is the story not the features/function of the product that captures the audience and keeps them connected. The ability for a brand to present itself in context with something that resonates with the target audience is essential to drive a trusted relationship. This ability to provide a context around the brand and educate your audience is what differentiates a great marketing strategy from a good one. We are all hearing the buzz about “content marketing”. So what kind of content should be marketed?

Let’s step back for a moment and think about this marketer’s dilemma. How does the marketer educate while driving loyalty, capturing the audience with something that really matters to them? Making it personal – something that we say “oh yeah – I understand – I get it – I need it – I will buy it.” And then ensure that they come back time and time again – because they believe and they are loyal.

Are brands now becoming publishers? Do brands need to publish contextual stories so that they educate and delight their customers? Few would argue that this is probably true – so now the question becomes how to deliver the “promise of value” in a compelling story AND make it personal.

Hypothetically let’s take a stab –

Let’s say a given soap is marketed as a great moisturizer for women’s skin – leaving skin soft, subtle and clean. The story line is about a woman who used the soap and received great results. Perhaps this is enough for the consumer to decide to trust the soap based on the personal results of the woman who tells her story…

But what if not only could one hear her story – but also could also start to learn about what else is important regarding women’s skincare, health concerns, cosmetics, new medical procedures and the like. What if the brand could begin to publish this type of relevant, personal and real-time content to the potential customer?

This example can be applied to almost anything.

The answer to making this a reality can be quite simple. How about creating an application that provides the stories, relevant, personalized, customized, real-time and mobile – that seems like a great place to start. And in order to do this well it is important to have access to great content – content that is original and of high quality. And much of the content that might apply could be hidden somewhere inside your organization. Perhaps somewhere in those databases that are very hard to navigate.

Or leverage your website and house cool stories that delight and educate your audience and capture mindshare. Remembering that it is important that the stories be pertinent and available – allowing your customer to read the stories where and when they want to – this too will create value – why – because you are making it simple for them.

At Trapit we provide an easy and comprehensive way to support marketers in becoming a trusted advisor, educator, and storyteller. We are supporting publishers and marketers with an ability to access our 100K plus vetted sources, integrate in their own sources, and provide a real time, highly personalized, and mobile experience. With Trapit you can capture your audience with something that really matters to them.

Come learn to tell stories again – visit us at www.trapit.com

-Patricia

The Daily Trap, Smashing the Walls of the Echo Chamber

We all have a strong set of core values; we wouldn’t have come as far as we have if that weren’t the case. We do our best to sleuth out the most important facts and figures, and we craft for ourselves a narrative of the truth that aligns not only with what we value, but with what we hope others will value in themselves.

This helps explain why we’re all so good at attracting like-minded individuals to ourselves and our causes – when you’re passionate about something, it shines through, luring others with the same passion to the same luminous sources. And yet, this also poses an incredible problem for all of us. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, “One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people’s minds.”

He’s right, of course. You cannot change someone’s mind who vehemently disagrees with you. But what you can strive to do is to go all the way back to the beginning of the process and remember how they arrived at their position in the first place: based on their values and the information that they deemed was important and reliable. The people with core values that oppose our own are not the people whose hearts and minds we even want to win over, but what about the people with similar values who just chose to emphasize a different selection of facts as their starting point?

The biggest problem with information these days is not that there’s too much of it, but that we’re surrounding ourselves with people who are already beginning with the same predispositions that we are. If we’re all going to the same sources, if we’re all reading the same interpretations and presentations-of-facts, how are we ever going to grow? This problem — the echo chamber problem — is something we’re all unwittingly creating for ourselves. If we fall prey to it, we run the risk of shutting ourselves off from important information that might add nuance or value to how we construct our overall narrative.

And yet there’s one simple value we all share that makes us recognize the dangers of the echo chamber and the need to break out of it: the truth matters.

It’s sometimes a disconcerting process, especially when the new information challenges our preconceptions, but new discoveries are exactly what we need to break out of our comfort zone and reach our full potential. Because at the end of the day, we don’t just want a selection of available facts, we need the full suite of information that’s out there. We don’t just want interpretations from voices that already agree with us; we need a variety of views that emphasize different points, all of which may be important to us in varying degrees.

It’s a bold step to take. Sometimes it means acknowledging a positive advantage in one of our competitors, or admitting a fault or prior bad decision, or that there’s a difficult situation with no universal solution. But it also means that you’ll discover new things with the potential to delight and convert new eyes and ears to a way of thinking that might not have occurred to them before. And that’s how you grow in today’s world: not by staying within a safe social space, but by informing and inspiring your audience to take a step they never would have considered otherwise. So step out of your comfort zone and discover something new; you just might be surprised at who comes with you on the journey.

-Ethan

The Daily Trap, Quality Checked by Humans

The Internet is full of spam (among other kinds of “nefarious” content). If you’ve ever been on the Internet you probably know this.

A thing that makes Trapit unique is our approach to our sources. You may not know this, but we have a human (that’s right an actual living breathing person) look at every source before we let it into our system. Granted, humans make mistakes, but by and large this process has ensured that your traps are not flooded by content farms, snake oil peddlers, or horribly designed sites like this one.

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Why do we need humans to vet the sites that come through Trapit? Well partially because I’m a librarian, they hired me, and I say we do, but really it’s because computers can’t read like a human reads. Computers are good at finding. But finding is not reading. A computer can go out and look for keywords, but it cannot necessarily tell if those keywords are being used in a valuable or useful way. Spammers know this so they embed unique keywords in otherwise useless content.

In other words a computer can’t necessarily tell the difference between a Weekly World News article on alien life forms and one in Science, but you can, probably at a glance.

From our vantage, not vetting our sources, and simply automatically crawling the web and adding anything found, would be akin to a library’s collection development policy being simply to add everything to its shelves that is donated. With this sort of policy, family bibles, duplicate cookbooks, and out of date textbooks, would quickly crowd out high quality sources that patrons actually need and want to read.

At Trapit we value a few things about sources. Primarily original content, significant content, and source integrity. Sources that exist simply to sell, confuse, generate clicks, or are obviously not adding value to the Internet dialogue-“Bloggers” that simply quote entire stories from other sources, without commentary (or even worse, steal them)-do not make it past our human check.

We also prize free speech and keep our personal opinions out of it (did I mention I’m a librarian). It doesn’t matter if I agree with a particular blogger’s political or religious opinions, what matters is if that blogger is providing original content and gives me enough information to be fairly certain that their main prerogative is to provide information (however unpopular the viewpoint).

Unlike a library we’ve got ample, endless shelf space and the personal blacklist feature we provide our users makes every user their own collection development manager (that’s library speak for, if you find something distasteful, you can stick it in the trash bin).

Source vetting is a time-consuming process (and the Oregon economy thanks us for that) but it’s worth it and it’s part of what makes our product special.

If you know of any unique, niche, new, or just plain awesome sources you think we should be aware of, tweet them to @trapitsources and we’ll check them out.

Laura

The Daily Trap, Party Planning With Trapit

We are officially in the thick of summer now, and one of my favorite things about the warmer months is that entertaining becomes so much more fun. With long summer days, beautiful weather, and everyone feeling a bit more relaxed, casual dinner parties and backyard barbecues seem like perfect ways to get friends and family together. Some people I know revel in being the best possible host or hostess, but for others entertaining can be a big headache. Whichever camp you fall into, Trapit can help up the ante on your entertaining skills as well as make hosting a little easier on you. Whether you’re throwing a birthday party for a little one, hosting a casual family gathering, or having friends over for an evening party, use these tricks to always be prepared and help you look like a hosting natural.

Keep a virtual recipe box: If you tend to get stuck on deciding what food to make for a gathering, remember that you can save great recipes you find on Trapit to your reading list for later. Make it a habit to check out our featured food traps, like Appetizers, Foodie, and Grilling and save any recipes that look particularly tasty to your Trapit reading list. Do this by clicking the bookmark icon on the article and then the Trapit button to save. You can save recipes during your regular browsing time, and when the time comes to choose something for a get-together, you’ll already have a virtual stash of delicious ideas.

Trap by ingredient or event: For those who want to serve something really special for a specific event, try creating your own Traps based on either a great seasonal ingredient. For a summer party ingredient discovery, you might try typing in blueberries, artichokes, or avocados. If you’re looking for a main dish, you might type in the kind of protein you want to use, like chicken, shrimp, or black beans. If thinking of a specific ingredient isn’t your style, try making a trap based around the kind of event you’ll be hosting. You might try discovering grilling recipes, brunch recipes, or potluck recipes, for example. Whichever style you try, you’re sure to end up finding some delicious inspiration.

Don’t forget the drinks!: No matter the event, Trapit can help you find or create the perfect beverage choice. For strictly wine or beer drinkers, check out our featured Wine and Beer & Brewing Traps for a little inspiration on what to choose and what’s getting rave reviews. For even more specific recommendations, make a Trap on a regional wine (I might type in Oregon Pinot Noir, for example) or local style of beer. Or go the extra mile and create a signature cocktail for your event with a little help from The Cocktails Trap. For non-alcoholic drinks, try making your own trap on lemonade, iced tea, or mocktails.

Add some DIY flair: To add a little something extra to your party or event, let Trapit help you find a fun DIY project for party decor, fun crafts for kids, or a pretty addition to the serving table. Check out The DIY Trap for all kinds of ideas or try creating your own. Some good discovery terms to try might be party crafts, DIY party, or DIY entertaining.

And don’t forget to have fun, let loose, and enjoy the party! Happy entertaining!

Kelly

The Daily Trap, Is Discovery the Key to Keeping Users Engaged?

Discovery. It’s one of those Internet buzzwords that gets tossed around without a lot of explanation – everybody wants to be part of it, but what does it really mean? The jury’s still out on any hard-and-fast rules, but as far as I’m concerned, discovery on the Web is what happens when you stumble upon something that both surprises and intrigues you. You probably didn’t know you wanted it, but now that you’ve seen it, whatever it is, you want to know more. It’s serendipitous and unexpected – much different than going to Google in search of something specific. It’s the phenomenon that happens when I see a fun new hair trend on Pinterest and 30 minutes (and many clicks) later have an entire Pinboard dedicated to hair chalking. I spontaneously discover something interesting and fresh, and all I want to do is keep clicking and learning more. Therein lies the importance of discovery.

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone reading this on more than one occasion. You’re perusing one of your favorite websites (or social networks) and you see a photo, video, or article that catches your eye. If it’s something that truly interests you, you’ll click on other similar content if it’s presented to you on that website. Eventually you’re 12 clicks deep and have been on that website for 25 minutes. As a content marketer, that is a dream situation. Yes, it’s important to get people to initially come to your website, but what is arguably even more important is getting them to stay there. And in the digital age, where consumers are pulled in a thousand different directions every time they open their laptops or check their smartphones, it’s no easy task.

Some people will say that flashy headlines or just putting your links out there on social networks will get readers to your website. And maybe it will, but will it make them stay there? I would venture to say no, unless those readers are also discovering new and interesting content that relates to their interests after they make that first click. Like a lot of other people I know, I’m guilty of some digital ADD. I usually have about 18 Google Chrome tabs open at once, and often click in and out and back and forth way more than I’d care to admit. It’s pretty rare that I stay on a single website for more than 10 minutes, but when I do, it’s when that website has tapped into a specific interest, is showing me more and more interesting content, or is offering something I’ve never seen before.

In the hair chalking example (see photo above), I didn’t know about this crazy trend until I happened upon it while browsing Pinterest. I stayed on Pinterest because I was interested in this new discovery and the website kept showing me more of what had pulled me in in the first place. Each click led me to something else of value, so I kept clicking. If all websites could do the same thing, we would have a lot less digital ADD going on. The mistake websites make is putting too much emphasis on that first reader click and not enough on what happens after. Without presenting that user with more valuable information related to what they are interested in, that click will be gone in a minute, or maybe less. And while having a lot of clicks on your website is good, having users who actually stay there (because they feel they are discovering something new) is even better.

-Kelly

The Daily Trap, Curate Content from Other Sources and Become a Topic Destination

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As a marketer, creating enough original content for your brand can be a constant struggle. With the hectic pace of online publishing, you want to get enough content out there to support your brand and keep readers coming back, but you also want that content to be of the best quality. And quality takes time. Unless you have a large team of writers and social media contributors at hand, creating solid original content each and every week is no small feat. But original content is not the only way to keep your customers loyal and engaged. In fact, expanding the content you share to include useful information from other sources may actually help build loyalty. You’re probably thinking why on earth would I share content that’s not our own? But hear us out.

Bring Your Audience What They Care About

Like we talked about last week, finding your niche in content is paramount. Zoning in on your area of expertise can help you build a devoted audience instead of one that is just made up of casual passers-by. As many of us learn in life, trying to please everyone rarely works to your advantage. The same can be said for content. Whether it’s social media marketing, new indie music, or vegetarian cooking, staying laser-focused on your niche will attract an audience that is as passionate about the subject as you are. Creating original content for your brand with this kind of specificity in mind translates to getting that content into the hands of the people who really want it. But the people who really want content in your area of expertise don’t just want content from you. They want all the high-quality content in that niche topic, and they will go where they need to go to get it. Why not make your brand the only place they need to go?

Become the Destination

We’ve already established that creating high-quality original content around your area of expertise is a major player in attracting an audience, but to go one step further and hang on to that audience, curating content from other sources can make your brand stand out from the crowd. The Internet is a big place, and even the most niche topics have plenty of content to choose from. That fact combined with a good case of digital ADHD means that your audience is likely bouncing around from site to site to get all of the content they crave. If you break the mold and start giving your audience quality original work and valuable content from other thought-leaders in your area, chances are that audience will stick with you. By hand-selecting the best of the best content (including your own) in your area of expertise, your brand will become an authoritative resource for content, instead of just one of the many. Curating from all over the web can make your brand the only click your audience needs to stay informed and well-read on your subject area.

As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” If you present and curate the best content in your field, both yours and from others, the audience will come – and they will stay.

-Kelly

The Daily Trap, Creating Traps with a URL

Did you know that you can start a Trap with a URL?

If you find an interesting article or blog post on a topic you’d like to start a trap on, just copy the URL in your browser, click “new trap” in the upper right hand corner of your Trap.itaccount, paste in your URL, and click “create trap.” It’s that easy.

Using a URL to start a trap works best when the article or post is fairly specific to the topic you want.

This is because Trap.it uses the page you’ve provided the link for to determine keywords to use for your trap. The presence of words is crucial and specificity is key, so make sure you choose URLs for articles/posts that are specific to the topic you’d like to start a trap on and contain text (articles/posts that contain only images or videos don’t give keywords to work with).

For example, I’ve chosen to start my bounce music trap using an article on Big Freedia taken from the LA times Pop & Hiss music blog. I was reading the blog in the general blog view but made sure to click through to the Big Freedia post to get to the URL that is specific to this post, rather than the general URL for the entire blog (ie I used http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2011/07/big-freedia.html instead of http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/).>

If I’d used the URL for the entire music blog my trap would have been too general because it would have pulled keywords from the entire blog. Providing the more specific URL means I wont get articles about Harry and the Potters or Coldplay in my Bounce Trap.

If I was interested in creating a more general trap (say a music trap) I would probably start that trap with keywords rather than a URL to make sure that my trap was general enough. Because if I started a music trap using the URL for the entire LA Times music blog Trap.it would pull some rather specific keywords (Coldplay, Big Freedia, Harry and the Potters…) that would narrow the focus of my very general trap too much. Starting a music trap with the keyword “music,” on the other hand, would start my trap very general and allow me to narrow its focus as needed through training.

Speaking of training, remember to train your traps no matter how you form them. Language is a complicated thing and just because my original Big Freedia article prominently mentions the Echoplex doesn’t mean I want more information on that venue. Like articles and posts that are relevant to your trap and dislike the ones that aren’t to refine the focus of your trap.

-Laura

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