Inspiration in the For Dummies Brand

I want to be clear that BoomerangBeat is not “for dummies” and it is not a “dummied down version of the news” but rather accessible news. News for the busy.


Quote pulled from an Entrepreneur Magazine article.

Dummied down describes a deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture. Or to “revise as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence”.

Those that don’t fully understand what’s going on in news, or with politics, aren’t stupid. They’re not necessarily any less intelligent than those that can follow, they’ve just chosen to focus on other areas of life.

We live in a world of constant content, “breaking news”, sensationalized stories and headlines, misreporting, and propaganda. We are in the age of information overload and organizational mistrust.

Those of us outside the news industry bubble often lose the context of the story as media continuously caters those that are ready, at any minute, to absorb the latest detail.

The For Dummies Success Story

A short paragraph pulled from their website:

In 1987, new technologies were popping up all over the place. But computer manuals were dull and difficult to understand. A frustrated customer in a computer store, who knew nothing about computers, was looking for a simple, basic book about the difficult DOS operating system. “Something,” he suggested, “like DOS for dummies.” We knew the man’s frustration was shared by many other computer users, and we set out to do something about it. Thus, the For Dummies phenomenon began.

From the start, For Dummies was a simple, yet powerful concept: Relate to the anxiety and frustration that people feel about technology by poking fun at it with books that are insightful and educational and make difficult material interesting and easy.”

Sound familiar?

I re-wrote their story in terms of today’s technology and media landscape:

In the aftermath of the dot-com boom and bust (early 2000s), the web quickly became ubiquitous. New ideas of sharing and exchanging content rapidly gained acceptance in the form of Weblogs, RSS, and later, social networks.

The media’s obsession with 24-hour news coverage was bolstered by the popularization of social networking. This rapid development of messaging soon gave way to “up to the second” updates and a media-wide “first to report” race.

The information overload, continuous “non-news” broadcasts, and misreporting left many frustrated at the missing context and propaganda-driven agendas of major media outlets. So, I’m setting out to do something about it.

BoomerangBeat is a simple, yet powerful concept: Relate to the anxiety and frustration that people feel about the current state of the news industry and make difficult topics interesting and easy to understand.”

The Mission Statement

I’m not exactly sure what the For Dummies mission statement is but there are a few quotes I pulled that directly relate to (and inspire) BoomerangBeat. I rewrote them for my case.

BoomerangBeat is not for dummies. It’s a reference guide to the news for the rest of us.”

“Making everything easier.”

“BoomerangBeat is a website intended to present non-intimidating guides for news consumers new to the various topics covered.”

“BoomerangBeat is a simple, yet powerful concept: Relate to the anxiety and frustration that people feel about the news industry… and make difficult material interesting and easy to understand.”

The For Dummies books are incredibly popular for a reason. And just like I’m hoping to do with BoomerangBeat, their readers outgrow them too.

News for the Busy

I describe BoomerangBeat’s content as “news for the busy.”

If you’ve seen my articles (they can get long), you may think that statement is contradictory.

However, catering to the busy doesn’t/shouldn’t always mean you have to deliver shorter, faster, wherever-they-are updates.

It can. But it doesn’t always have to.

If you have no idea what’s going on in a complex situation, faster, shorter, wherever-you-are updates won’t necessarily help.

Without context, the chances of being overwhelmed are high.

We can’t forget that “catering to the busy” may also mean taking it back to step one, untangling the mess, and presenting it in an easy to digest manner.

 

Entrepreneur Magazine – Powerful Women to Watch 2014

I read Entrepreneur magazine religiously and while I’m often  frustrated by the lack of female representation on their covers (one to two a year with the second almost always being shared by a male counterpart), their January issue featured  seven of “The Most Powerful Women to Watch of 2014” (these are the articles I often find myself daydreaming about being a part of).

Two profiles in particular stood out to me. While it wasn’t necessarily the women that I connected with, it was the role they were fulfilling in their careers that piqued my interest.

The two qualities – the bridge builder and the fixer – are the ones I identify with when it comes to BoomerangBeat.entrepreneur magazine - most powerful women to watch

Michele Weslander-Quaid – The Bridge Builder

As a Google executive, Michele’s defining characteristic was that of a bridge builder. “A big part of my job,” she says “is to translate between Silicon Valley speak and government dialect. I act as a bridge between the two cultures.”

In terms of BoomerangBeat, this is how I feel about news-speak. I want to be the translator between in-depth news stories/correspondents/mainstream media and the general public.

If you want the general public to understand and have an opinion (their own opinion) then mainstream media, and even several niche sites, are writing to the wrong level of consumer.

“Good content is targeted content. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for beginner home cooks, you’re on the right track. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for master chefs, you’re not.” [source]

The media is backwards. They’re feeding master chef recipes to beginner home cooks hoping they stick with it, understand it, and care about it. In a world of a million recipes, no less.

Where are the news 101 options?

We’re grouping those that don’t understand and are frustrated with those that don’t care. This is a mistake.

Caryn Siedman-Becker – The Fixer

As chairman and CEO of CLEAR (airport security), Caryn’s defining characteristic is the fixer. Her main objective is to rebuild the trust and integrity of airport security with their customers.

This is what needs to happen between the Millennial generation and the news industry.

We are constantly tuning out of mainstream media and into niche alternatives (think PolicyMic, Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable).

While traffic and consumption looks healthy for these outlets, they’re still niche websites and thus, missing a very large portion of available audience and topics.

Enter: BoomerangBeat.