Clip Liverpool, they're a football club steeped in history of spine-tingling glory and at times, truly heartbreaking tragedy. But when you are part of Liverpool Football Club, you'll never walk alone.
Matt What are you a fan of? We all have things that we have a strong interest in or a deep admiration of. It could be your local football team. It could be the band you have listened to since school. It could be a particular beach resort on the island of Ibiza. But what about your car insurance company? Are you a fan of them? Are you a fan of your local gas station? Probably not, but you could be. The most powerful marketing force in the world is die-hard fans. So how do you create a fandom in something that appears on the surface maybe a little mundane, dare I say, boring? Welcome to the Great Indoors, a podcast where we look at the lasting technological changes brought about by the pandemic and how technology can potentially help solve the other challenges facing humanity. I'm your host, Matt Roberts, and joining me is my co-pilot and producer, Larisa Yee. So our guest today on this new season of the Great Indoors is the one and only David Meerman Scott. Now, David is the author of 12 books. Three are international bestsellers. He is best known for the New Rules of Marketing and PR, which is now in its eighth edition. It's been translated into 29 languages and is a modern business classic with way over half a million copies sold so far. When it was first published, it was considered revolutionary. Now no one knows more about creating digital content, using social media and real time tools with strategies to spread ideas, influence minds and build business than David Meerman Scott. So how do you create that fandom? David's latest book is co-authored with his daughter Reiko, entitled Fanocracy. It was published literally months before COVID-19 changed our world and was a contributing factor actually to the thought process behind this podcast. It's also a Wall Street Journal bestseller. So I'd like to welcome to the Great Indoors, Mr. David Meerman Scott. I'm very excited for this new season and our first guest, even more excited to introduce Mr. David Meerman Scott. Sir David, welcome to the Great Indoors.
David Thank you, Matt. I'm so pleased to be leading off your season three. Thank you for having me on.
Matt Great. And where are you enjoying the great indoors from today?
David At the moment because you said today I am in my primary residence, which is outside of Boston, and it's a beautiful day. Summer's here, the birds are out, COVID is in retreat. So what more can we ask for, right?
Matt Absolutely. Absolutely. And we always start off with a sort of standardized question for our guests and we have a new one for season three. And it's as you said, now that COVID is in retreat, restrictions are being relaxed. What have you done lately that you haven't been able to do during the last 18 months? What has been some level of normal activity that's given you joy?
David Well, last night, I was really happy to have gone out with some of my fellow speaker friends, so I was with some of these names, you may recognize C.C. Chapman and Jason Falls and Tamsen Webster, and we just went to dinner here in Boston. And it was amazing because the last time I was together with a group like that in a restaurant was March of 2020. And then last week I went to my first live music show since March of 2020. I went to a show with my friend and so live music is back. That's super cool, and it's also super cool that we can gather together with friends at a restaurant. And I never realized how important such small joys are, but they really are after more than a year of not doing them.
Matt No, absolutely. Absolutely. I was telling Larisa, obviously, we're a little bit behind the unlocking here in Ontario. But last Thursday night, I went to Walmart with my children and it was an amazing, amazing evening and they were so excited. What's more, we went into Walmart and there were lots of other families there enjoying the wonders and splendors of the environment. And we were so excited. We hope to go to Home Depot this weekend. So life is returning. Life has returned, and we're really excited about it. So that's great on the live music front, David, I know you're a huge live music fan and that's inspired a lot of your books. And, you know, you've written how many books now? 12? Is that right?
David 12 books. And one of them, the New Rules of Marketing and PR, I'm currently working on the eighth edition, so depending on how you count them, I've written 12 books or way, way, way more than that if you count individual editions.
Matt Right. Well, we're going to talk a lot about Fanocracy, but you're one of the most foremost experts on marketing. What is it about the marketing discipline that appeals to you? And why have you devoted almost your entire life's work to it? And I say that as a fellow marketer as well, we share a similar passion.
David I think throughout my entire career, you're right, I've been doing marketing, I would say, since I was 11 years old and I started cutting grass in the neighborhood for people and so on. I just think anyone who's learned how to do marketing in a formal way doesn't do good marketing. And I'm just trying to beat that down and have been since the very beginning, you know, things like spending ridiculous amounts of money on paid generating attention. And I'm not suggesting it's always wrong to pay to generate attention, but there are so many marketers who only pay to generate attention. So, you know, starting 20 years ago, I started talking a lot about the idea of generating your own content. What we're doing right now, you know, you and I having this conversation together, we're generating attention for Amdocs, for me, for you, just by having a conversation that we make available to other people. And that, in my mind, is marketing in a much more interesting, fun, believable, organic, authentic way than spending a whole bunch of money on some television ads or newspaper ads or Google AdWords or something. Now, I'm not suggesting that that's always wrong. I'm not suggesting that for some companies that might work, but it's just so many people spending so much time and effort on, in my mind, a lot of the wrong things.
Matt No, absolutely. And your first book, as you said, it's almost in its eighth edition, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, was pretty revolutionary. I think you've been widely acknowledged as one of the first marketing authors to really identify social media and the Internet and the digital world we live in as being something that would deliver change to this particular discipline. So give us just a quick overview of the New Rules of Marketing and why that was so transformative in our industry.
David Yeah, I started writing the ideas that became the book back in around 2004, but I was actually practicing them in in the 1990s. I was really lucky that my early career, I started off on a bond trading desk in New York City and then I quickly transitioned to the information side of the financial markets. So I worked at an economic consulting company that was delivering information electronically through the Dow Jones systems, and this was back in the 1980s, so can you imagine writing a blog in the 1980s, which is what my company was essentially doing. And then I worked for companies like Thomson Reuters, like Dow Jones, providing the terminals that bond traders and bankers used, as well as the data behind them. And I did that job for 15 years, so I learned a ton about electronic information. And because we were supporting bond traders, how people use information to make decisions. And this was all pre-web, so when 1995 came around and the first Internet browsers from Netscape, none of this was weird or new to me. The idea of electronic information and content was not strange or new or weird. It was natural. This is what happens. So I saw that many people around the world were not understanding the electronic transition in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They were essentially taking what they already knew, which is spending money on advertising and putting that onto the web. So that was the era of all the banner ads. So companies and people and everyone was just like, let's do more banner ads or do more banner ads or do more banner ads, because that's what marketers did. They spent money on advertising. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no. This is about publishing content. This is about creating a great website. This was pre social media in the beginning. This is about creating a great website. This is about blogging. This is about, you know, using great photographs. And then later on, of course, it also became about social media and video and other things. And it was revolutionary because it was a real new concept, an idea for people. To me, it wasn't revolutionary because that that's what I had been doing for 15 years prior to that. So you're right. I'm widely credited as being the first person to have written about those ideas. The New Rules of Marketing and PR, originally published in 2007, as I was writing, it was pre Twitter, it was pre YouTube, it was pre Facebook being available to the public at that time it was students only. So pretty early with all that stuff, changed a hell of a lot since then, which is why I have to keep updating it now into the eighth edition.
Matt And obviously there's been a plethora of other great books in between. But let's go to your latest book Fanocracy.
David Yeah, Fanocracy came out and in 2020. And you know what's interesting about Fanocracy, it's all about turning customers into fans. And what I was struggling with in 2018, 2019 when I was thinking about these ideas about fandom that became the book Fanocracy, what I was struggling about was how these ideas that I've been writing about for 20 years about marketing going online, I was starting to see a lot of negative aspects of that. You know, in the beginning I was just a big fat cheerleader. This is all great. You know, everyone can create content. It's fabulous. But I was seeing real dangerous things. There's a lot of reasons, but mainly because the social media companies' algorithms, especially the Facebook algorithm, is so utterly destructive. I believe the Facebook algorithm is the most destructive technology ever invented by humans. Now, imagine that what other technologies have been invented by humans that are destructive, like the atomic bomb, for example, I believe the Facebook algorithm is even more destructive. The reason is because it naturally creates polarization. If you click on something, you get more of it. If you follow certain friends, you get more of what they follow. And generally the idea of that algorithm is to get you to stay longer on Facebook because then they can sell more ads. Now, the other social media companies, whether that's YouTube or Instagram, which is part of Facebook or LinkedIn and Twitter and so on, also have similar algorithms. I think the biggest problem is with Facebook, and that means that somebody's grandmother gets sucked into conspiracy theories and somebody's brother-in-law gets sucked into a polarizing political environment where the other side is the enemy. And I believe that is unbelievably destructive. And so I was trying to push back on that idea, and I thought, well, what else is there? And I just hit on this idea of fandom, that when you become a fan of something, it becomes such a great way to live your life and to see the world. You know, in my case, I'm a fan of live music, I'm a fan of surfing, I'm a fan of the Apollo lunar program, among other things. And those fandoms are my tribe, my tribe of like-minded people, other people who love the Grateful Dead and live music, other people who love to surf. And it's a lot more than just some artificial algorithm created by a technology company that wants to make money for its shareholders now.
Matt And I think we'll get to what I believe is some of the negative connotations of the tools you talked about there because I'm 100 percent with you on that. And if we go back to Fanocracy, I think you use some great case studies in the book. And it came to mind when I was preparing for this podcast because I listen to a lot of podcasts. Obviously, I have certain topics and things I like. But talk about the case study you reference MeUndies in Fanocracy and then I'll tell you why it kind of came to my attention, because I thought we've never on this show so far discussed underwear. But this is a really great case study that you elevate it in the book.
David I don't normally talk about my underwear either, but I have been recently so, you know, for most of my life I would buy new underwear when the old ones got holes or started to sag. And it wasn't really very much fun. And I would usually go to a discount place and buy some boring old underwear. And then somehow I just learned of this company MeUndies. I believe it was because somebody on social media shared a photo. I actually frankly can't remember how, but I looked on their website and said, oh, this is really cool. It seems interesting. There's people who seem really excited about their underwear. So I decided to buy one pair and I got it. And it was comfortable and I liked the design. And then I discovered that you can you can subscribe to a subscription underwear program. And I thought, well, that's really weird, but let me give that a shot, because it's $16 a pair to buy one off and if you buy, well, I forget the numbers, but call it $20 to buy one off and $16 if you subscribe per month. One pair per month. And I thought what's really interesting. So then I realized that they were creating what I now call a Fanocracy. They were creating a fandom, a group of like-minded people, a tribe of people who all coalesce around an idea, because when you become a subscriber, you actually get access to prints that you can't buy as a one off. Well, that's interesting, my underwear is now something that other people can't get or they have his and hers underwear. So that means that any different permutations of partners or friends or lovers can wear the same print. And what I think was most interesting, however, is that people, and I haven't done this yet, but maybe I will one day, people freely share photographs of themselves in their MeUndies and they share on their social media, especially on Instagram. And then MeUndies the company will share that sometimes with their followers. And they will sometimes ask those people, if we can use you in our advertisements and our television and our YouTube videos and so on and our Instagram posts and on our website so that the people who model MeUndies and the people who are showing what these underwear look like are real people and they're real people who love the product and they're real people who are doing it, not because they're being coerced, but because they want to. And I forget the numbers, but I think it's over a half million Instagram followers of an underwear company, which is just, you know, that's just out of control that many people are fans of an underwear company. So I think as an example that we highlighted in our book and I say we because I wrote Fanocracy with my daughter Reiko, as an example that we highlight in our book, I think it's a wonderful one because they truly have created a fandom. They've created a product in a category that not very many people thought much of underwear and turned that into something that people truly become a fan of.
Matt And what I love about their marketing now, and it was why I talked about the podcasts I listen to, one of our former guests on the podcast, Rainn Wilson, who is most people know from when he was on the Office, he does a free podcast like a free audiobook now called Dark Air, and it's free content and he's already had a million downloads after, I think about six or seven episodes. So it gets a great following. But obviously he has sponsors to promote the show and obviously to finance the show. And rather than just drop in advertisements kind of all over the place and disjoint the flow of the podcast, they actually become an integral part of the show and the story. And MeUndies features every week as part of that story. And that's what brought my attention to it. But it's become a part of the podcast. And I thought that was a really novel way of marketing.
David Yeah, no good. And I appreciate you you asking about that example. One of the things that I try really hard to do, I have with all of my 12 books is use examples that other people are not using. You know, you and I both know that so many lazy people are constantly citing the same examples, you know, Apple. Apple is you know, everybody talks about Apple or Zappos. Right. And it's just laziness. It's people who really aren't deeply thinking about marketing and companies that are doing good marketing. And so I'm always looking for new examples. And when I first started talking about MeUndies, I had never seen anybody else talking about MeUndies. And so it warms my heart that Rainn Wilson is now also talking about MeUndies whether it's paid or not. It doesn't matter to me. It's just interesting that it's become so popular. I could have predicted that. When I first started talking about them, they had not yet sold a million pair. And now they have this wonderful slogan. And I don't know what the number is now, but let's call it, for argument's sake, "10 million happy butts and going strong." So they really crushed it. And it's a great example.
Matt But I think all the examples you have in Fanocracy are, like you said, things that you might not necessarily have heard of before. But I think they're all personal examples for you as well, David, things that when you talk about the Kampgrounds of America is one example I remember, the insurance company. I mean, insurance is such a homogenous sort of necessity that it's difficult to get excited about. But the brand that you reference, it's really amazing the way they've got you hooked as a fan on their product or on their service.
David Yeah, the example we use there is an auto insurance company called Hagerty. And prior to March of last year, I did a lot of in-person speeches and I would always get up on the stage and I'd say, who loves their auto insurance company? And there'd be almost no hands in the air. People would laugh or giggle or squirm in their seats. I mean, who's a fan of your auto insurance company? Right. You pay them money and you hope you never have to use their product because it meant you crashed their car. And so I started to learn more and more about Hagerty, and they do classic car auto insurance. And so much so I'm actually a customer, have been for 15 years. And I actually decided to interview the CEO of Hagerty, McKeel Haggerty. And he said, David, we cannot market the same way that other insurance companies do. We're not going to become the low cost provider. We're not the cheapest. I'm not going to spend more money on advertising than everybody else. We just can't win that battle. But what I can do is build fans. And so what Hagerty did was they set out to build fans their auto insurance company. And because they do classic car auto insurance, they were able to go to the places that classic car owners love to congregate, classic car shows, auctions and so on. And there they are. They've got a booth set up. They're chatting with people. They're a part of the of the show. They have a wonderful website. They have a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers. They have a database of the price of the different classic cars per year and so on, so that if you own a particular model in a particular year, you can see what it's worth. And all of that is free. All of that is what Hagerty is doing to create this fandom culture around both Hagerty and classic cars. And as a result of doing that, they've become very quickly the largest classic car auto insurance company in the world. And they're going to grow by 200,000 new customers this year. And they're just doing a superb job at building fans of their business and not doing business like everybody else in that industry, which is either be the low cost provider or spend more money on ads.
Matt Yeah, absolutely. Now, you mentioned before that you wrote Fanocracy with your daughter, Reiko. And I have three daughters. The eldest one is 11. They're all massive Harry Potter, massive Harry Potter fans. And I know that can be said of Reiko as well. But how was the experience writing with your daughter? I know she injected a sort of scientific neuroscience element into the book, but how was the whole experience? It sounds great.
David Yeah. I mean, as a father of daughters, you would you would appreciate this although yours are younger than mine, so the way this started was six, seven years ago, I started thinking about this idea for this book, which eventually became Fanocracy, at that point, didn't have a title or anything. It was just, I wanted to do a book about fandom and, you know, so I started asking Reiko, you know, she's my daughter. So she's a different generation. As you mentioned, she has a scientific bent. She's now an emergency department doctor at Boston Medical Center. And when we were writing the book, she was in medical school. And she's also a fan of different things than I am. I'm a huge fan, as I mentioned, of live music. I'm a huge fan of surfing. I'm a fan of the Apollo lunar program and so on. Reiko, like your daughter, is a huge Harry Potter fan. She's read every book, of course, seen every movie multiple times, of course, gone to the wizarding world of Harry Potter theme park. By the way, if you haven't taken your daughters there, that is a must see at some point. And then she also went to the UK to go on the studio tour. But she also wrote an 85,000-word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series, where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the order of the Phoenix. And she put that it's a full length novel. Put that on a fan fiction site for anybody to be able to download for free. So she's dug in deep into the Harry Potter world. So we made a perfect team. Oh, so we were talking about these ideas of fandom. And I was telling her I'm a huge fan of live music, which she, of course, knew. And she's like, yeah, daddy, I'm really into this Harry Potter world. And she's also very much into K-pop as well and has written about K-pop and so on. So we decided to collaborate on this book and it worked out so great because we're utterly different in many, many ways. But we saw the world the same around this idea of fandom. So we spent roughly two years researching and writing and editing and then marketing the book. And it worked out great because what we were able to do is transcend the father-daughter relationship pretty much for the first time, because it could not be a hierarchical relationship when you're writing a book like this. She had to be totally confident in telling me that something I wrote was not working or that an idea I had for the chapter or story was a bad idea. She had to be able to tell me that, and I had to be able to recognize that her ideas were equal to mine. And if she wanted to do something and felt strongly about it but I disagreed, that I would let it fly anyway. And that worked out great for the book and it worked out great for our relationship. So, you know, having a millennial mixed race, Harry Potter loving woman be a coauthor for a middle aged white guy who loves the Grateful Dead, that was a really good thing.
Matt Now, let's switch gears and go into the pandemic. How do you think Fanocracy has played during the pandemic? Has it become a more important factor? And how do you think it will play as we as we said at the beginning, as we start to put it all behind us?
David I've had hundreds and hundreds of people reach out to me through social media, through email, my emails, public email addresses published on my website, Davidmeermanscott.com, people who know me, people who don't know me and say how the ideas of Fanocracy have been so helpful during the pandemic. And the main reason for that is if I were to really just break it down into its simplest form, the idea of fandom is being a part of a tribe of like minded people. And being a part of a tribe of like minded people is something that's rooted in every one of our DNA because it's actually a survival technique. And Reiko's undergraduate degree was in neuroscience, and we ended up speaking with a bunch of neuroscientists about this idea of what drives fandom in our brains, and it is rooted in neuroscience and there's a number of reasons for that. But the primary reason is that we feel safe and comfortable when we're around people who are like us. So if you're at a sporting arena rooting for the team that you love and you're around other people also rooting for that same team, you feel an affinity to everybody in that in that sporting arena. Same thing is true if you're at a concert with the band you love and even if you don't know those people and that goes back to tens of thousands of years ago when we would be roaming the deserts or the plains or the woods hunting for our food. And if we ran across another tribe of people, it was a dangerous situation. If we ran across our own tribe, we were fine. And another concept within Fanocracy is the concept of kindness and generosity, and so those things kind of came together around the pandemic where people very often retreated to their tribes to survive the pandemic. And that goes back tens of thousands of years, if disease or danger is spreading to your community when you're living in a cave somewhere or in a tent somewhere, you would retreat to your tribe to maintain your safety. The same thing happened during the pandemic, kindness and generosity, helping out your fellow man and woman. Also something that's rooted in humanity, was a big chapter in Fanocracy, it became something that people really identified with during the pandemic. So I could not have ever predicted that within two months of the day the book came out that we would be in a total lockdown. And I have had dozens of speaking gigs booked to talk about the ideas in Fanocracy, and I had to either cancel or postpone all of them or turn them into virtual. No one could have ever predicted that. But I do feel pleased that the ideas in the book became helpful to a lot of people at a tough time.
Matt No, and I mean, they certainly helped us with what we were doing and we pivoted our marketing thoughts around that, the idea of sharing common stories, sharing common values and interests with our customers and beyond. Now, something you mentioned there as well, David, was you had to cancel a whole bunch of speaking gigs. And one of the most interesting things I read in the book was the idea of proximity. So the closer you get to people into that personal space, you know, the stronger the fandom you create. So when you had to cancel your physical events and do everything, you know, virtually or some things virtually, and what we saw was there was just this deluge of virtual digital events. It was like a bombardment. So how has that played out? How have you sort of got over the how does proximity play in the virtual world and the way you describe it in your book?
David Well, there's a couple of things at play here. So, first of all, I mentioned at the top of our show how I've always noticed that people try to take what they already know and apply it to a changed world. So when the web, the ability to do marketing on the web came along, people simply wanted to spend money on banner ads because what they knew about marketing was spending money on advertising, as opposed to understanding that things have completely changed and now you can publish content for free and that can serve as your marketing. So it took me and others, but primarily in the beginning me to talk about how this is a changed world, this is about publishing. The same thing happened with this idea of virtual events, and I noticed immediately that people were trying to take their in-person event and cram it into a zoom room. And it just didn't work because it's a completely different thing. And I realized that to do a successful presentation, you have to reimagine what's possible rather than try to recreate what you already are familiar with. An in-person event is on a big stage and, you know, you've got lots of room, you can see the audience. It's just a very different thing than playing to a camera or a set of cameras. So that's the first observation. And you're right that we talked a lot in Fanocracy about this idea of proximity. And then I was able to translate that to virtual proximity. So the idea of proximity was first talked about by a neuroscientist named Edward T. Hall is that the closer you get to another human being, the more powerful the shared emotions, either positive or negative. And that goes back to what we were talking about earlier, about this idea of being a part of a tribe. So if you're with your tribe of people, you're with your friends and you get together. Being close to them is a super powerful thing. If you get into a crowded elevator, you don't know those people, that can be a negative thing across a crowded train car or something. You know, you can't help it. That's a natural human reaction. So he identified several different levels of proximity relating to how far away you are to another human being, further than about ten feet, he called public space. And our brains do not track people in our public space, we may know they're there, but we don't actually track them inside of 10 feet becomes a social space and we begin to track those people. We know where they are because it's important for us as humans to understand where potential danger might lie. And that's why you get tired the more people get into within 10 feet of you. So when it's really crowded, your brain is working overtime and then within four feet is called personal space. That's where the most powerful interactions happen. So if you're with people you enjoy, like at a cocktail party, four feet is cocktail party distance, that's super positive stuff. And so the virtual proximity comes in. Something called mirror neurons is another part of neuroscience, part of our brains that fire when we see somebody do something or even hear somebody doing something as if we're doing it ourself. And I'm going to demonstrate that for you now. Now, you and I can see each other on video. And I know many people are only listening in, but this demonstration also works just if you're listening in so pay attention. What I have in my hand is a lemon and a slice of lemon. And you can see this or imagine I've got a lemon in one hand, a slice of lemon in the other hand, if I take a bite of this slice of lemon, my brain fires like crazy because it's a super powerful thing to bite into a slice of lemon. But if I bite into a lemon and simply describe it, if you're listening, your brain fires too, and I'm going to do that. Now, let me take a bite of this lemon. Wow, so it's super powerful. It makes my eyes close and my eyes are watering a little bit, my mouth puckers up, I can feel it on my lips and my tongue biting into a lemon is super powerful. Matt, are you feeling the love?
Matt Yeah, I am now.
David Interesting, right? So and even those of you who could not see the lemon could still through just hearing me imagine. I bet your mouth is watering a little bit and you're actually tasting a little bit of that lemon. That's the power of mirror neurons. Now here's where it becomes really interesting for virtual events. If you do a virtual event and you're filming within somebody's social space or personal space, in other words, the camera is cropped as if you're about four feet away or cocktail party distance or the distance that you would be if you were at a small table and there are two people having dinner together that becomes through mirror neurons, our brains process as if we're actually in the same room, even though intellectually we know we're not. Now, Matt, you and I right now are two countries away from one another. We're not even the same country. We're looking at one another on cameras where we're cropped about four feet away, as if we are at a table talking to one another. And through mirror neurons, our brains are actually processing that we're in the same room even though we know we're not. This is exactly why you feel you know a movie star personally or a television star personally, even though you intellectually know that you've never met that star. So we can use this technique in virtual events to be able to have what many argue is an even more intimate experience than an in-person event. And I became so fascinated with these ideas. I did put out another book at the middle of last year called Stand Out Virtual Events: How to Create an Experience Your Audience Will Love. It was a quick e-book I wrote it in two months about how to do great virtual events based on this idea of neuroscience, based on my experience having presented at hundreds of virtual events and like we talked about before, a bunch of different examples of organizations and people who have done a good job of virtual events. But the bottom line with it, you have to reimagine what's possible rather than recreate what you already know.
Matt That's amazing. That's really amazing. I feel like I need to go and get some lemons, honestly it's really, really incredible. As we come out of the pandemic now, are you looking forward to going back on the road? I know you did a lot of speaking engagements, events. Is the hunger there after all this time to really get back out there and hit the stage?
David It's interesting because prior to starting my own business and writing and speaking, I had been traveling all my career a lot internationally. And I ran Asia marketing for a company called Knight Ridder for six years. I ran global marketing for another company called News Edge that was acquired by Thomson Reuters for five years. And then when I started my own thing, I was doing 30 or 40 speaking gigs around the world every single year. So I was getting on planes almost every week. I haven't been on an airplane since March of 2020 and so I'm torn. While on one hand I do miss travel, meeting interesting people, getting on a physical stage and doing my thing, I also have really appreciated the last year and a half where I don't have to travel and I can really dig into some things that I want to do. So I'm looking now to figure out what the right compromise is of maybe doing 15 or 20 in-person speaking gigs a year, maybe one or two a month, rather than three or four or five a month, and doing a lot more local where I happen to be at the time, I've got several houses and a camper van. So I'd like to be in different places and without getting on airplanes. And so that's going to be my challenge going forward. And I'm only now dealing with it because only in the last roughly week has the in-person speaking gigs and invitations really started to come through. I booked three or four just in the last couple of weeks, so I now need to be too careful of not doing too many. I'm in the fortunate situation this far along in my career that I don't need to make decisions based on the financial implications. So I have the luxury of being able to say no if I don't want to get on an airplane.
Matt The last thing I want to talk about and we talked about it right almost at the beginning, David, was social media and you talked about Facebook and its destructive algorithm. And I think this is going to be one of the subjects that we really focus on in this new season, because we've always looked at social media as being this positive, a lot of positive social movements have grown out of social media. But I think we had a moment of reckoning at the beginning of the year with social media when some pretty crazy things happened. And it's clear that there's some negative aspects and externalities that come out of these platforms. So what are your thoughts on this? You know, as far as regulation, as far as reform, we know that the Communications Decency Act, Section 230 can't really control or wasn't really built for these kinds of platforms. What's your thinking on the future of social media and how to temper some of the damage that potentially can come out of it?
David I think by far the biggest problem is the algorithms. I think by far, far and away above every other aspect that people have cited as problems is the way that the social networking companies and they all do this, they all have algorithms that do the same thing. Facebook, I think, is the most destructive. They all reward the kinds of social posts that people will engage with and people will generally engage with things that are surprising, that are funny, that are polarizing, that victimize other people, things that have a distinct enemy. You know, we hate the other side kind of things. Those tend to get amplified more because people tend to click on them more. And so in an artificial kind of way, if you if you happen to follow somebody because you went to college with them or something, or they're your neighbor, and then all of a sudden they get into a destructive conspiracy theory or supporting a political candidate who's always doing negative things, then when those people that you follow that are part of your friends circle begin to amplify the voices of those people that they support, whether that's a conspiracy theory, they got sucked into or a political candidate, that's all of a sudden going to be on your feed, and if enough of those people's reactions are in your feed and you're a little naive about how social media works, you then start to say, well, everybody knows that's true because everyone's talking about it on Facebook. Well no, the reason you believe everyone's talking about it on Facebook is because if you click a couple of things, Facebook shows you way, way, way more of that. And we've never had a situation like that as the way of disseminating information before in human history. It's always been about people figuring out something to talk about and then, you know, news is to sell newspapers, of course, but it's not about amplifying things that are untrue or things that are that are destructive. And so I think that the answer is much less trying to regulate what is truth and what isn't truth. I think that's really hard. And I think it's much more the idea of figuring out how those social media algorithms can be tuned to not share the most destructive elements of people, because I think that's where the problem comes.
Matt And I think it's all set up for the next year to be looked at. And I tried to look at what the antonym of a fan was. And it was it was a non-fan. And I thought, well, that doesn't sound great. My closing question will be this statement. And I think this is something that unites everybody. We talked about the polarization and the division that can be caused by social media. But in your book, and I think it was Reiko who put this in one of her chapters, she talked about how the Boston Marathon bombing brought the people of Boston together. They rallied around the sports teams she herself became a fan of, I think it was the Red Sox. And there was a greater sense of unity and fandom around the Boston sports because of this negative disaster that was caused by the bombing. As we come out of the pandemic, there will be a rallying, a unity, a strength of many different, you know, elements of mankind that come together and we've become stronger because of that adversity.
David I wish I could say yes, but I have to say no. And for the reason that we talked about in the last couple of minutes around social media algorithms. Unfortunately, because of exactly what I talked about, social media algorithms favoring things that are polarizing and conspiracy theories and alternative viewpoints that are dangerous, I'm afraid that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world, tens of millions of people in my country, the United States, who don't even believe there was a pandemic, who think that the vaccines that many of us have chosen to get are evil for whatever reason, who believe because of what they've read on social media, that there are certain elements in the government trying to control them and force them to wear a mask and so on. And I think if we can't agree on the fact that we humans collectively just faced a pandemic and came through it, if there's somewhat close to half the people who can't even agree that that's true, then we are, excuse my language, f*&^ed. And the difference with the Boston Marathon bombing is that the bomb went off and it was awful and everyone was affected in one way or another in the city of Boston and beyond. And that's something we could rally behind. I'm just a little bit pessimistic when you have, for example, an entire mainstream religion with tens of millions of people in the United States of whom, 55 percent do not believe that getting the vaccine is the right thing to do, that we don't have a collective mentality around the pandemic we've just gone through.
Matt I's a really good point, and I think with the Boston Marathon bombing, nobody was disbelieving that it happened, right? It was clear that it happened. And I think if social media injects and weaponizes this disinformation, it just creates this inherent division in society on any topic, regardless of what it is.
David Yes, I think that's exactly right. And I don't think the bigger problem is people creating original content. That's patently untrue. I think the bigger problem is the social media companies amplifying that so that people believe it to be true because of the way they gather that information.
Matt That's perfectly well put. So what's next for you? David, what have you got lined up next from either a work publishing perspective or even from a vacation? Have you got that vacation plan yet to go surfing?
David Well, you know, my wife and I try to live our lives so that we can work and play simultaneously. And we have a house and a vacation spot that we'll spend a couple of months here, two weeks here, two weeks there over the summer. And I also own a wonderful brand new camper van. It's built on the Mercedes Benz sprinter platform. And it's got a bed that retracts in the ceiling and a toilet and shower and kitchen and solar power on the roof. It's four wheel drive, I can be off grid for as long as a week. So we're just all about doing our work in interesting places without having to get on an airplane and we'll see, certainly this summer we'll be doing a lot of that. So I live in the Boston area, so we've spent time in Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont and just beautiful, wonderful places that are only a couple hours' drive.
Matt Well, I'm going camping next week and I'm going up to Manitoulin Island, which is the biggest freshwater island in the middle of Lake Huron. It's about a six hour drive to Tobermory. And then you get a two hour ferry across to the island.
David How big is the island?
Matt I'm not sure dimensions, but it is the biggest freshwater island in the world. And you can see it quite clearly on the map right in the middle of Lake Huron, sort of between the top of Michigan. So I recommend that, David, as soon as you're able to cross the border into Canada, if you can head up to Manitoulin Island, there's wonderful camping, wonderful campgrounds, amazing scenery and wildlife.
David Have a great time. I've camped all my life when I was a kid, we camped a lot, but I got, you know, got a little bit too set in my ways about the things I like, like a comfortable bed to do the tent camping much longer. And so getting the camper van is a great compromise.
Matt Excellent. Where can our listeners find out more about your work?
David So my website Davidmeermanscott.com. Or if you just Google David Meerman Scott, I'm the only one on the planet, so you will find me. Reiko and I have created a great website at fanocracy.com to learn more about the idea of fandom and the book Fanocracy and on most of the social networks I am dmscott.
Matt Wonderful. Well, listen, I've absolutely enjoyed our conversation immensely. David, thank you for taking the time to speak to us on the Great Indoors.
David As did I, Matt, great conversation. I appreciate it.
Matt What a brilliant conversation with David. I'm a huge fan of his work, and, you know, if you haven't already, please check out his latest book Fanocracy. It's a fantastic read, it really is. David said something, you know, that we touched on last season. We will continue to discuss this season, and that is the externalities associated with social media. David said that Facebook is more destructive and harmful to society than anything else that humans have ever created, maybe more than the atomic bomb. It's clear that the most divisive and polarizing subjects in our societies are amplified by these platforms. But what's the solution? We'll continue to look at this as the season unfolds. Now, if you haven't already, please subscribe to our podcast, particularly if you're a first timer to the Great Indoors. Please feel free to leave us a review or a rating. We'd appreciate that. You can follow us on social media. Our details are in the show notes and visit our website, amdocs.com/thegreatindoors, where we have a jamboree of interesting content that accompanies the series. Now, we'll see you again in two weeks' time. I'm Matt Roberts for Amdocs in Toronto. And have a great day wherever you are.