Email From Stratfor, called “the business of stratfor” leaked from wikileaks sent from one vice president to the rest of the companyPosted: February 27, 2012
The Business of STRATFOR
After fifteen years in business it surprises me sometimes how many people wonder about who we are, who funds us, and what we do. The media refers to us as a think tank, a political risk consultancy, a security company and worse–academics. The Russian media calls us part of the CIA. Arab countries say we are Israelis. It’s wild. The only things we haven’t been called is a hardware store or Druids. Given this confusion, I thought it might be useful to occasionally write to our members about the business of STRATFOR, on topics ranging from our business model to how we gather intelligence.
Let me start with basics. STRATFOR is a publishing company and it publishes one product—our online intelligence service. STRATFOR focuses on one subject, international relations. It uses intelligence rather than journalistic methods to collect information (a topic for a later discussion) and geopolitics as an analytic method for understanding the world.
Stratfor currently has about 292,000 paying subscribers, divided between individual subscribers and institutional ones. This inflates our subscriber base. There are many organizations that buy site licenses for all or many of their employees. We know that most of them never read us. From a strictly factual point of view, 292,000 paid readers is the number. Practically it is less but we don’t know how much less. On the other hand, our free material, two weekly pieces that are sent to our free list and then circulates virally as they say, has been estimated to reach about 2.2 million readers each week. Where our paid subscription is certainly increased by an unknown degree, this is probably and accurate number.
The reason that I can be so casual about these numbers is that we do not allow advertising in Stratfor. If we did, we would be obsessed by the accuracy. But we don’t for two reasons, one of which is not that we are concerned about advertisers skewing our objectivity. We are too ornery for that. The reason is business. We are in the business of gathering intelligence and delivering it to readers. Being in another business, selling our readership to advertisers is too complicated for my simple brain. Plus we would wind up not only depending on my dubious business acumen, but on the acumen of our advertisers. Second, advertising on the internet doesn’t come close to paying for the cost of content production. Content aggregators like Google take free content from others and advertise against that. That’s great business. But when you are actually producing content, advertising simply won’t cover the costs.
We are therefore one of the few original content producers to be making money by simply selling subscriptions on the web without advertising. I’m pretty proud of that, in a world where experts say it can’t be done, and I wish I could take credit for that, but it actually is something our Chairman, Don Kuykendall, came up with in 2000. His view was simple: if you can’t sell at a profit, you don’t have a business. So we asked people to pay and to my stunned surprise, they did. So we had a business.
Until that point we were a consultancy. Only we weren’t a consultancy because a consultant is an expert drawing on long experience to give answers. Its nice work if you can get it. But we never were a consultancy really. We were a service provider—we would find out things in foreign countries for our corporate clients, usually expensive work in unpleasant countries. The problem here was profit margin. It costs a lot to gather information in foreign countries, so the nice fat contracts looked very skinny by the time we were done. We do some intelligence for companies who have been clients of ours for a long time, but at this point about 90 percent of our revenue comes from publishing—you subscription. That supports over 100 employees in the U.S. and sources around the world.
So think of us as a publishing company that produces news using intelligence rather than journalistic methods. That means that we have people in the field collecting information that they pass on the analysts who understand the information who pass it to writers who write up the information, with any number of steps. This division of labor allows us the efficiency to produce the product you pay for. And it has to be a quality product to earn your continued subscription get you to continue to pay. Still gets the point across but sounds less cavalier about it…
The nice part of all of this is that we really aren’t beholden to anyone except our readers, who are satisfied by what we produce, since we have one of the highest renewal rates in the business. Our goal is simple—to make the complexity of the world understandable to an intelligent but non-professional readership, without ideology or national bias. Dispassionate is what we strive for, in content and in tone. In a world filled with loud noise, speaking in a subdued voice draws attention. With over one-quarter of our readers coming from outside the U.S. and Canada, and that percentage growing, these are essential things what are?.
We are more aware than our readers of our shortcomings—everything we do comes under scrutiny from whoever wants to take a shot—including everything I write. Knowing our shortcomings (I will not tell you about them until we fixed them in the event you missed it) is the key to our success. Fixing it is our challenge. We are now in a six month surge focused on increasing quality and staff. The two seem contradictory but that’s our challenge.
Hopefully this gives you some sense of the business of Stratfor that will help you understand us. I’ll be doing these very few weeks (I don’t want to be tied down on a schedule since I travel a lot—heading to Indonesia at the end of this month). But its probably time to make sure we aren’t thought of as a think tank—a term I really hate. When you think of it, think tank is a really bizarre term.
It’s not enough to be there, in terms of emotional sympathies, for a cause if it does not help to inspire real change.
For instance, in the case of Antonio Buehler and his fight against APD. THere is an Occupy Event on the 19th that will meet and protest outside of the building, but then there is also Oathkeepers on his otherside working on providing him a legal team and cheaper legal advice. (he’s facing a third degree felony) What would he rather have? sympathies or finances? the occupy spectacle is nice if it affords OATHKEEPERS more resources, but chances are occupy will exhaust its own resources, asking more from its own under-funded people, while oathkeepers will ALSO take a hit. Instead of using occupy and oathkeepers together to perform the same task, we put them at odds. Solidarity should be a mutual commitment to fighting a common enenmy inspite of your obvious differences
“International solidarity is “not an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.” – Samora Machel”
Solidarity is enough to conquer the power elite, its not enough to sit around and feel for someone else. good intentions thoughts emotions and prayers are the key to carving out a positive mark on the world, but at the same time if these good intentions and thoughts convinvce us that we are doing some real good in the world by them ALONE then we are missing the point.
Solidarity can be enough if we work together, we need more to fight police, the armed guards, and those who continue to defend the power elites goals. but to do this we need to network occupy, oathkeepers, alex jones, ron paul, and all others who are fighting power elite (who might disagree on governing principles)
I wish the media would admit to blacklisting somebody, but what would be the use in that?
People are accusing Ron Paul supporters of being like Ayn Rand Objectivists, always winning polls because Objectivists are just incredibly highly opinionated. The argument against us is that we internet savvy, young, and loud on the internet but this isn’t reflective of the actual opinion of most Americans. The Rhetoric for why the opinions being expressed by the people are not represented on the spectacle of government is a deadly one. We cannot accept any illegimate reasons for misrepesentation. This is a democracy, where people are truely entitled to proper representation on the stage, isn’t that the american ideal we’ve fought for far and beyond property/consumerism/good health? (proper representation?) How can we as americans sit and piss our lives away while we witness incidents of democratic heresy. If we vote 80/20 and somebody says it 50/50 this is a deeper violation of our 1787 rights we fought for, then violation of our body as property or our house as property without a proper warrant or reason. MSNBC polls to ask “who did best among pundits” with Ron Paul winning by a landslide, while the formal MSNBC question after that is “who did better, Romney or Perry?” . New York times features a picture cutting out Pau. Even the Daily Show which has John Stewart joking about how the aristocracy picked the two candidates they thought would be good for the GOP 4 months ago and are making the people accept it yet even “oh my god: rick perry is going to be the next president” title of the show admits the truth of the matter.
This is clearly an implicit violation of freedom of the press. We are not having our freedom-to violated but our freedom from. The press is free to say whatever it wants, legally, but it does not have freedom from the social elite (aristocracy) that influence politics. This line should be severed.
No, bloggers are not being assassinated or tortured, and no state agency or private agency is trying to not allow me to type this, but somebody at LA TIMES framed the debate a certain way, somebody at NEW YORK TIMES had to frame the debate a certain way, if journalist are still under fire for telling the truth, he was canned from new york times for speaking out against the IRAQ war (After spending 33 years in lebanon as a correspondant) then there is somebody getting fired right now for not wanting to ignore the problems and republish material that only supports the ideas of the ruling class. Lord only know in 6 months and in 12 months when there is even more character assassination versus Ron Paul and a crazy amount of insane praise for Rick Perry, What can we do as citizens and as excited bloggers? We must use our techno-opportunity for the good of those who truely need liberty!
“A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of its citizens. But when a government is to receive its support from the aid of the citizens, it must be so constructed as to have the confidence, respect, and affection of the people.” Men who, upon the call of the magistrate, offer themselves to execute the laws, are influenced to do it either by affection to the government, or from fear; where a standing army is at hand to punish offenders, every man is actuated by the latter principle, and therefore, when the magistrate calls, will obey: but, where this is not the case, the government must rest for its support upon the confidence and respect which the people have for their government and laws.
The body of the people being attached, the government will always be sufficient to support and execute its laws, and to operate upon the fears of any faction which may be opposed to it, not only to prevent an opposition to the execution of the laws themselves, but also to compel the most of them to aid the magistrate; but the people will not be likely to have such confidence in their rulers, in a republic so extensive as the United States, as necessary for these purposes. The confidence which the people have in their rulers, in a free republic, arises from their knowing them, from their being responsible to them for their conduct, and from the power they have of displacing them when they misbehave: but in a republic of the extent of this continent, the people in general would be acquainted with very few of their rulers: the people at large would know little of their proceedings, and it would be extremely difficult to change them”
In light of the recent Debate that Ron Paul Won but neither the Media like New York Times, or La times give him any mention, it’s apparent that this has grown true. That the aristocracy is so strong that the majority can loudly scream something, but they end up controlling certain opinions, opinion polls, the way our emotions of discontent our represented, and the way the world sees America.
Objections to This Constitution of Government
“There is no Declaration of Rights, and the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitution of the several States, the Declarations of Rights in the separate States are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of the common law.
In the House of Representatives there is not the substance but the shadow only of representation; which can never produce proper information in the legislature, or inspire conficence in the people; the laws will therefore be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their effects and consequences.
The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the president of the United States, although they are not the representatives of the people or amenable to them.
These with their other great powers, viz.: their power in the appointment of ambassadors and all public officers, in making treaties, and in trying all impeachments, their influence upon and connection with the supreme Executive from these causes, their duration of office and their being a constantly existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with their being one complete branch of the legislature, will destroy any balance in the government, and enable them to accomplish what usurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.
The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended, as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several States; thereby rendering law as tedious, intricate and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England, and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor.
The President of the United States has no Constitutional Council, a thing unknown in any safe and regular government. He will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites; or he will become a tool to the Senate–or a Council of State will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments; the worst and most dangerous of all ingredients for such a Council in a free country; From this fatal defect has arisen the improper power of the Senate in the appointment of public officers, and the alarming dependence and connection between that branch of the legislature and the supreme Executive.”
It sounds very Star Wars, or if you’ve seen avatar. But by giving the president no poltical power he is suspect to various “consultants” and bully pulpit advice. Would a triumphrate help in this aspect or not? 3 People at once is hard for people to think about, people like the trinity but they want to focus on either Jesus God or the Holy Spirit. Jesus Saves You Camps or Strict Presybertian Boring or Pentacostal Spirit Filled, we all choose one of the elements over the other. I wonder if we could have a system like neon evangelion “magi” 3 compotents at once http://en.gigazine.net/news/20081201_magi_system/
This is simultaneously both a demonstration of hemegony and the uselessness of information. There was a poll in 2000 in Business Week of over 1,024 interviews, over 70 percent favoring globalization, and recent polling backs up this information. In 2004 the University of Maryland commisioned a poll showing that slightly more than 50 percent of respondents saw globalization as a positive thing. It’s not surprising that at the same time large banks are preaching things like globally (recently the president of the Bank of America discussed taking money out of local investment and turning it into “global investment”), with advertisements from the Teda China convention center . More from the great Manfred Steger :
“The polling data presented in the BusinessWeek cover story reveal the existence of a remarkable cognitive dissonance between the American people’s normative orientation toward globalization and their personal experiences in the globalizing world. How can one explain that a sizeable majority of respondients are afraid fof the negative economic impact of globalization (open door policy) while at the same time deeming globalization to be a good thing? One obvious answer is ideology. Promarket visions of globalization have shaped a large part of American opinion, even if people’s daily experience reflect a less favoraable picture. For example, BusinessWeek article tells the harrowing story of a factory worker employed by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Dadsen, Alabama. Having lost his job after Goodyear shifted most of its tire production to low-wage jobs in Mexico and Brazil, the worker was only recently rehired by the same company for less money. Still, the article concludes this disturbing story by reaffirming the overall positive impact of economic globalization: “Polls have shown for years that a solid majority of Americans believe that open borders and free trade are good for the economy” – Manfred Steger
Yes, and repeating this statement over and over makes it true. Its nuts. America is in debt with magical money to IMF(an agency of the UN) since it dropped the gold standard in 1971 and the whole world based its global currency on the gold standarded dollar since the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference Agreement (united nations before there was any) made a global standard an aim (for banker).
Complaining about immigration but supporting open borders, free trade, and Rick Perry (an international Hawkist who fights for global presence) is like saying you vouch for internet security and safety but demand that the wifi hot spot be public and no computer can have any isolate protection! who can operate without paranoia if he is constantly looking for somebody new on the horizon, a stranger, to walk in eagerly, yet fight on behalf of trans national corporations that depend on this open border free trade agreements? More recent Polls require further investigation.