I collect fitness newsletters. I do delete about 90% of them, but some, which either seem different or very representative, I move to a file I named “MARKETING STUDY PRIMARY SOURCES”. I think at some point I wanted to study them, but they are not methodologically sampled, I can’t correlate their strategies to actual corporate success, so they are just sitting there. Some interesting things I learned:

  1. There are waves of paid content, so you see exactly the same text, written in the first person, in different coaches’ newsletters. That is at least funny, but also scary, since many different “low level authorities” claim they found out something, or vouch for something. The same “something”.
  2. About 80% of the time they follow one of the subject line success recipes:

– lists (“seven tips”, “three keys”, “10 reasons”)

– magic bullet (“the ONE best ____”, “the #1 reason”, “the #1 exercise”)

– “How to __________”

– Imperatives: “STOP doing ___”, “Start ___”

– Never/always

– catastrophic statements: ” ____ causes cancer/Alzheimer/60% testosterone drop/diabetes, etc)

– superlatives: “INCREDIBLY strong”

– “the TRUTH” phrases (“the truth about cancer”, “the truth about strength”, “the truth about muscle building”, etc).

  1. I have no idea how some of them manage to stay in business with a pretty bad text leading to a link to one of those videos that never ends unless you close the tab.
  2. Some coaches hire different ghost writers and they don’t even take the time to reformat the text. The fonts are different and often they come from different countries, so it’s hilarious to read content with American English and the next newsletter with British English, with words spelled differently and completely different styles.
  3. Some are scary. The same individual/guru will claim not only proficiency, but excellence, success and merit by any measure in subjects as different as: business, nutrition, aging, coaching women, cooking, motivation, depression, and many other different subjects, with very long emails (easily a 2000 word article), not a single technical reference and abusive use of authoritative (fake) technical jargon. We have about 10 going around like that. Some are actually good writers. It reminds me of when my friends and I, in college, high as kites, had this game where we wrote fake references and the others had to tell which ones were real and which were fake (in pre-google days…). One of us actually published his MS thesis with a footnote containing the following reference: “Morrison, J. Breaking through to the Other Side. The Doors Open University Press, 1971.” He passed with flying colors and nobody noticed it.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? I am a writer at a Science Education organization and for each assignment (which I don’t get to pick, I just receive) I collect over 100 references, reject about half and read the rest. Because, honestly, we don’t really know enough even about our subjects to write an authoritative piece without digging into our files and quoting publications. Unless it is a training issue and it is 100% based on experience (and the article is about sharing yours).

Scary.