Recently the New York Times unpacked Gwyneth Paltrow’s blockbuster lifestyle brand, Goop. Brilliantly written by Taffy Brodesser-Anker it shows how calculated controversy (generated in part by vagina steaming and coffee enemas) is part of the strategic plan for this 250 million dollar media company. Check out The Guardian follow-up that captures how Goop has built its success on the foundation of ‘hate clicks.’
So how to handle the Goop Effect?
If you’re concerned with the public health of young women you can’t ignore the visibility and influence earned by Goop over the past few years. But despite guerrilla efforts at educating the public on the lack of evidence behind Goop’s wildest health recommendations, the machine continues its content churn. In fact, the more intense the effort to thwart dangerous health advice with evidence, the greater the growth and visibility of the advice. It’s the Goop Effect.
So how do health professionals handle something like this? What is our obligation to get involved?
Engage sponsors in the discussion of responsible journalism
One approach to would be to connect Goop’s sponsors to the site’s health recommendations. This stands the strongest chance of driving more responsible editorial standards. This can begin by drawing on the collective action of digital KOLs and engaged, public physicians. Extremely small individual efforts can scale.
When the public conversation moves from the actions of an organization to the supporters of an organization, accountability becomes more important.
The importance of collective physician participation
Goop’s model of traffic fueled by Paltrow’s ‘cultural storms’ represents something few physicians have ever seen and even fewer can even understand. This is no longer 1999 where information was free and empowering for consumers. The medical community finds itself in really foreign territory.
And all indications are that the Internet will continue to grow as a source of misinformation constructed to manipulate healthcare consumers. As an example, this report from Nieman Lab offers one illustration of how altered video can be used to game unsuspecting consumers. Chilling stuff.
So physicians need to rethink their broader role in the public conversation. Dr. Jen Gunter has set a bold standard for individually exposing medical misinformation. But how physicians use collective social network power to counter something like the Goop Effect needs reappraisal.
The changing role of facts in a post-truth age
The illumination of the truth with evidence has traditionally been a powerful tool for change. However, in the post-truth age we shouldn’t expect medical evidence to move anything other than page views for Goop. Those interested in moving the chains will need a calculated, collective approach that understands the Goop Effect. A strategy that targets the media’s source of energy and goes beyond the visceral emotions of outrage and anger that drive Paltrow’s media model.
Modified photo by Samuel Zeller