I see your problem
How much would you pay? But wait, there's more! Also 7 other things worth knowing today.
Once again I am very, very happy to ask you to say hello to this week’s sponsor, WineText.com. If you drink wine (and if you like Understandably!), I hope you’ll check them out!
Sign up at WineText.com and receive the absolute best deals on wine each day via text message!
Massive price discounts, free shipping offers and much more! To sign up, visit Winetext.com!
The deals are tremendous. The ordering process is super simple. The wine arrives in lightning fast time. Check out WineText.com today!
(Want to learn about sponsoring Understandably? Please reply to this newsletter with “sponsor” in the subject line and I’ll share the details!)
Oh, before I forget: We have a great Understandably Live coming up. I’ll be interviewing Zachary and Ray Shefska, the father and son team behind the auto expert site and wildly popular YouTube channel, YAA.
(To my mind, they’re like the 2020s version of NPR’s Car Talk and Click and Clack.)
Premium members of Understandably will get a free trial membership at YAA. I’m sure the interview will be fun and interesting. We’re set to go at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday (streaming at this link) — I hope you’ll be part of the fun.
As for today: Tom has some good things to say and I think he needs to write for us again. I’ve wanted to share this one for a few days. Here’s his latest:
by Tom Acquin
Here’s something I’m grateful for that I’m not sure everybody is: Infomercials.
I miss them, actually. I miss staying up too late and having Tony Robbins tell me to unlock my personal power.
I miss seeing Ron Popeil demonstrate his latest kitchen invention. (Did you know he won the IgNoble prize for consumer engineering in 1993?)
Bill, Kate and I had an interesting conversation about infomercials recently.
Bill: “The infomercials of the 1980s and 1990s were cultural. I don’t actually remember watching a Tony Robbins infomercial. But when you mentioned ‘Tony Robbins and personal power,’ I knew immediately what you were talking about.”
Kate: “They were entertaining. You wanted to watch them whether you planned on buying what they were selling or not. They were just fun.”
All of that is true. I also appreciated that they sought to tackle specific problems for their customers. Of course, I knew that they were marketing to thousands and thousands of people, but it felt like they were talking to me one-on-one.
Tony Robbins wanted to teach me how to achieve dreams by making a plan and executing it.
Ron Popeil wanted to make it easier for me to prepare and serve delicious food.
Vince Offer, the “Shamwow” guy, wanted to help me clean up spills faster and easier than with traditional paper towels.
But, times change, and so does advertising. Most of the ads targeted at me now (and you) are fake-personal: algorithmically designed and executed.
With that in mind, here’s a specific problem I recently wanted to solve.
When I was reading all of the archives from Understandably a while back, I started looking for a text-to-speech app. I’ve been an avid consumer of audiobooks since I was 8 years old. I comprehend and retain more information if I hear it spoken than if I read it on a screen or page.
The first screen reader I came across was Speechify. It’s a Chrome extension and app with premium options that will read most webpages to you using digital voices.
I was excited, until I realized that after a 3-day trial, they’d charge me $139 for the year, no other options available.
Now, this is not tacos as a service. It’s an actual tool that makes my work a lot easier. But that’s a bit more of an annual commitment than I was eager to part with—especially without much of a chance to try it first.
Anyway, I tweeted my frustration:
Then something interesting happened. Just a few minutes later, I got a reply—not from Speechify, but instead from their competitor, Speech Central:
Speech Central was available in the Windows app store, so I took a look at it and ended up buying it for $8.99—in total, for life. While Speechify can read faster and has more premium voices, in terms of value for your money there is no comparison.
After using Speech Central for a while I began to think about their marketing tweets. I know it’s a different medium, but I felt the same kind of one-on-one pull that I used to feel from infomercials.
It made me wonder: Was this really the founder of Speech Central reaching out to me individually, or was this some kind of programmed bot designed to look for disgruntled competitors’ customers and tweet at them?
I contacted Ivan Icin, the developer of Speech Central, who lives in Belgrade, to find out. The short version of the answer to my question is basically, “both.”
Yes, he has predefined searches looking for tweets about competitors that mention certain words, and he has messages he’s crafted ahead of time to use over and over.
But, he also adds a layer of manual curation, in that he does actually tweet the response himself and engage if you reply.
Pretty smart. Maybe we should be doing it at Understandably.
Oh, and if Tony Robbins reads this and wants to reach out to me on Twitter, I’ll feel like I’ve gone full circle.
Quick coda from Bill: Tom, thanks for this. In the future, if you need a $139/year subscription to make your work easier, please just tell me. This is why we let our readers support us with paid subscriptions.
7 other things worth knowing today
The Russian Embassy in Ireland is running out of fuel for heating and hot water and is complaining that numerous Irish oil companies have refused to deliver supplies, in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. (Irish Mirror)
Black soldiers in the U.S. Navy say the service’s shaving policy discriminates against them, because even if they get pseudofolliculitis barbae (“razor bumps”), they’re still required to shave, and asking for a medical waiver is career suicide. (Navy Times)
Oklahoma state lawmakers voted to criminalize nearly all abortions Tuesday, approving a measure that would make performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. The state senate already passed it, and the governor promised to sign it. (NY Post)
Honestly, when’s the last time you heard about former President Barack Obama? He was at the White House for the 12th anniversary of Obamacare. (AP)
Tiger Woods: I’ll play the Masters a year after my violent car crash, and I think I can win. (AP)
More than 6,000 gang members have been detained in the first nine days of a state of emergency in El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele said Monday, after imposing the measures to stamp out a soaring homicide wave. There are only 6.4 million people in the country, so this is like arresting 300,000 people in the USA. (France 24)
Why rich people are panic-buying panic rooms. (The Hustle)
Bonus: I was talking with Tom about the video of Prince when he was 11 years old that we shared yesterday, and we discussed the masterful 2004 appearance when Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Windwood, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison paid tribute to the late George Harrison during his Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Honestly, if you could compile my all-time most-watched YouTube list, this video would be near the top. Watch for Prince around 3:27 or so. (YouTube)
Understandably is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.