Koch Industries Fights Back ...


The balance of power in media channels has shifted.

It used to be that if a company felt wronged by the media, the next logical step involved arranging a press tour to counter the “injustice.” Thanks to the rise of owned media and paid content sometimes masquerading as journalism, companies are no longer dependent on journalists to tell their side of the story.

We saw this back in 2014 when Walmart’s David Tovar channeled his inner seventh-grade English teacher with red pen in hand and wrote a post that literally marked up the NYT article for what the company considered to be unfair treatment.


Walmart's response to critical NYT article


A couple years later the Brookings Institution published a 6,979-word treatise that point-by-point refuted a New York Times story that questioned the independence of think tanks.


Brought to you by Koch Industries

Which brings us to those rascals, the Koch brothers and their unflattering portrayal in the media.


The Guardian: "The Koch brothers tried to build a plutocracy in the name of freedom"


While I’m not a fan of the Koch brothers’ ideology, their recent communication to the outside world shows a certain savvy in controlling the owned media and paid media levers. I’m going to outline an example that starts with paid content in the Axios newsletter, a media property with a reputation for dig-out-the-facts journalism. Check out how the sponsored content from Koch sits between two pieces of journalism.


Axios newsletter with Message from Koch Industries embedded


Yes, the newsletter states, “A Message from Koch Industries” at the top, but the look and feel — typography in the headline and body copy, packaging, etc. — will have many perceiving the sponsored content as journalism. Next, we click the “Listen In” which takes us to Koch’s owned media:


Podcast episode with Charles Koch as guest


Again, the packaging gives the content the illusion of journalism starting with the illustration that has an editorial flair.


Can You Hear Me Now?

And the last step of the journey, a click to hear the audio interview lands on the podcast of bestselling author Tim Ferriss who’s known to zig when everyone else decides to zag.


Tim Ferris Show: Charles Koch episode


Did Mr. Koch pay Tim Ferriss for the audio real estate? While there’s no indication that’s the case, I’d put the probability of some type of quid pro quo — couldn’t resist — at better than 50%.

Regardless, I think we’re going to see more blending of paid media and owned media as a way to counter unfavorable media coverage.

Mr. Koch isn’t the only one who’d prefer to not deal with pesky reporters.



This is my last post for 2019. Our holiday break officially starts on Dec. 23, so the “Gone Fishing” sign goes live at the end of Friday.

If you have ideas or even specific topics for 2020, by all means send them my way.

I wish you and your families a healthy and fun 2020.


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