AFP Foundation Reloads Right Online

Posted: May 04, 2015 2:15 PM

Americans For Prosperity Foundation decided not to hold its annual digital conference–Right Online–last year, but they brought it back with a new flavor in Washington D.C. over the weekend. From self-promotion, monetizing your blogs, and the latest in social media apps, the conference was a mix of panels detailing the latest trends in technology and how to use them to advance economic freedom.

That dichotomy was shown on the first day when Sharyl Attkisson, formerly of CBS News, shared her story about how the biases within the mainstream media prevented her from covering certain topics. Attkisson, who’s now at the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, spoke about the time she was covering the Fast and Furious story and was denied entry into the Department of Justice building due to her reporting on the subject. She was told she needed a DOJ-approved pass even though her press credential allowed her in any building, including access to the President of the United States upon an interview request. To show how thin-skinned this administration was concerning their image, she recalled the Obama White House’s war with C-SPAN.

Yes, the most innocuous news source in media drew the fury of the Obama administration when they conducted an interview with the president for an upcoming documentary on the White House on August 12, 2010; the whole saga is detailed in Attkisson’s new book, Stonewalled.

When the interviewer, Brian Lamb, asked why the president hadn’t redecorated the Oval Office, Obama said, “We have not yet redecorated this room . . . Given that we are in the midst of some very difficult economic times, we decided to hold off last year in terms of making some changes.”

Two weeks later, the White House told the Washington Post that a multi-million dollar redecoration project was in the works (via WaPo):

White House official, then-TV liaison Dag Vega, wanted to “make sure” that C-SPAN didn’t run its Obama interview snippet after the story in The Post surfaced. “The one taped just days before in which President Obama had implied, that in the spirit of austerity, there would be no Oval Office redecoration,” writes Attkisson. Actually, the president merely said that they’d made a decision to “hold off last year” on the changes — not that the changes wouldn’t be coming soon.

In any case, the White House, via Vega, wanted C-SPAN to drop the footage later, to coincide with the release of its full documentary about the White House. Not when it was most relevant, and when it would raise questions about why the president had spoken of austerity.

On Aug. 31, 2010, The Post drops its story on the Oval Office makeover, much of which took place while the Obama family had been on vacation (between the time of the Lamb interview and the story in The Post).

C-SPAN blows off the White House fussiness and publishes its interview. That very night, Josh Earnest, then the White House deputy press secretary, sends a tough e-mail to C-SPAN accusing the outlet of “being egregiously unethical and of violating terms of the interview. Though there’s no evidence of the existence of any prior agreement, he continues to insist the White House would not and did not agree to an interview with the president without specifying the terms under which it would air,” writes Attkisson, adding that the White House official threatened to “withhold future access.”

Attkisson said that the consensus amongst reporters is that the Obama administration is the worst regarding transparency. She also said that there are many ways to uncover corruption–or stories government doesn’t want you reporting–by looking at campaign contributions, family ties, etc. there’s a paper trail for everything. That also applies in the digital world as well.

After Attkisson, David Rowan of Wired UK presented a thorough and highly engaging presentation on technology and its impact of society and culture. In an indirect way, he was saying how technology and its various markets prove that capitalism works. There are many ways to slice the economic pie to achieve success since the market thrives on innovation and flexibility.

Rowan noted how a flying car was a concept of science fiction. There are now start-ups devoted to the manufacturing of flying cars, which were shown to the audience through a series of clips supplied by Mr. Rowan. Also, driverless cars might become things to see in the foreseeable future. 

Concerning using technology and social media for entrepreneurial ends, Michelle Phan is a great example. She took to YouTube giving make-up tutorials for women; her videos garnered over 1 billion views; she starts her own make-up company Ipsy; and that venture generates over $10 million a month. Kim Kardashian’s game that’s based on her life netted the socialite more than $40 million a few months after its release. The game is free to download.

He also noted how the market for technology changes rapidly. It’s almost incredible that Kodak once employed 140,000 people. When the first mobile phone emerged, it’s even more surprising that consulting firms told telecommunications companies, like AT&T, that there will be 900,000 cellular phones in the United States by the end of the 20th century. In the end, that figure was off–109,00,000 cell phones were being used in the U.S.

The night concluded with Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw being named as the recipient of the much-deserved Americans For Prosperity Foundation’s Blogger of the Year award.

The panels ranged from reaching a wider audience by “escaping the echo chamber,” how critical it is to generate good content, monetizing your blog, building your brand, and net neutrality issues. Far too often conservatives and liberals feel comfortable in their own bubbles. It’s time to get beyond that and engage each other. Yet, there are some forces, mostly on the left that seek to end the discussion.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey noted that blogging could be a career, but it’s risky. Just like any other business venture in America. To succeed, you need to have a good product, which Morrissey added was your blog posts. If you don’t have good product, you can’t monetize it. As for custom web design, Morrissey said it’s a definitely worth it if you have the resources. If that option is not in your budget, keep your site simple and easy. Don’t get hassled with blinking ads and other widgets; you don’t want to induce seizures with your readers, he said.

As for spreading buzz about your blog, networking is essential. This is a digital world we operate in, and putting a face to the name is a must. It may land you your dream job. Yet, Morrissey also noted that when emailing established bloggers about your content, like Instapundit for example, make sure you know what these people cover and their interests. It’s not optimal to send a link to a post about Second Amendment issues to a blog devoted to debunking global warming.

Concerning self-promotion, IJ Review’s John Brodigan, Howe Creative’s Ben Howe, Hot Air’s Mary Katherine Ham, and FTR Radio’s Fingers Malloy all pretty much said that being nice can go a long way in building yourself on social media. Also, don’t brag, or talk about yourself all the time, is another example of self-promotion done right, according to Howe.

“Self-promotion is all about subtlety,” said Mary Katherine Ham. “Picking your best work and push it out.” At the same time, she also said you need to balance being persistent, while not being overwhelming.

Guy Benson, who moderated the panel, aptly noted that being ambitious is fine. You can certainly think about where you want to go in your career, but you need to “do the job you currently have with excellence.” That will go a long way in achieving your goals.

Other things during the panels just showed how vast digital media has become. There are 152 million blogs, 1.35 billion Facebook users, and 24 million active Twitter users. There are 1 billion tweets every two days.

There are many ways to carve your success in tech, whether it is in politics or some other entrepreneurial venture. The tools are there; let’s go.

Last note: It was great to see Jim Hoft (Gateway Pundit) at the conference. He looks great given that Hoft’s health was in serious condition in 2013. We’re glad he’s back–and congrats on being this year’s recipient of the Andrew Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Journalism!