OZY Media is a West Coast based 'new media' start up that has drawn millions in investments and supports a staff of some 17 people. Targeting Millennials, they self proclaim: "OZY is a digital news magazine focused on the new and the next." Based in Mountainview, CA., they've reportedly attracted tens of millions in venture capital and grab some 10 million visitors a month. Ozy boasts of contributors such as: “Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Clinton, who see us as a signpost to the future.”
Today, MHProNews joins The New York Times, Ad Age, Business Insider and Glass Door among those who have reported on their operation. In our case, we do so because Ozy stepped into it with a controversial series on manufactured housing (MH) they've errantly dubbed "Trailer Park Nation," carried under graphically cool banners that proclaim the claim, "A True Story."
"True Story," really? How accurate are their MH stories so far? Do their editors care about precision, or is it more about sensationalism and gaining more audience share?
A tip lead me to the first story in their series. No doubt, this is a sad thing that happened to those impacted by this closure. But as I wrote to the edtiors at Ozy Media, such a displacement by legal acts can happen in apartments or conventional housing neighborhoods too. As the Ozy account read when I saw it, there was a dizzying mix of accurate, clearly wrong and misleading statements. The story was designed to tug at heart strings, as the plight of MH home owners facing eviction from a land lease community closing in Louisiana was spun. We saved that version in screen captures, you can see in the download at this linked here. Let's see check back later and see Ozy Media makes any corrections?
Tom Fath, who we know to be an MH industry professional, had posted this comment.
I reached out via email to Ozy. A reply was not long in coming, which read as follows.
I am the editor on the trailer park series you wrote in about. Thank you for reading and sending a note. I'd like to invite you to specifically cite the errors to which you were referring in the note so that we can look into them.
OZY Media | Deputy Editor
That email from Senjena looked to be a promising start. Here is the Ozy Media 411 on the deputy editor who replied. As you can see, even their bios are designed to attract the millennials their new media brand is focused upon.
The PDF reply I sent her read a lot like this:
Quick Reply to your message.
Please see attached PDF, feedback and follow up are welcome. My phone number is below.
Here was Ms. Sathian reply.
Tony, thanks for writing. My superiors and I have taken a look at your letter and while it adds a useful perspective, we've decided it doesn't merit a particular correction at this time.
OZY Media | Deputy Editor
In turn, I shared the following, clearly stating this exchange was for the record.
Pardon me? Are you and other editors are saying false statements and misleading statements are acceptable?
For the record, please. Thanks.
To which Sanjena shot back...
I encourage you to take a second read of the story. We very much understand the distinction between manufactured homes and mobile homes. This story did not confuse the two, as it refers to a park with those pre HUD standard models, as it points out.
Your other notes offer context, but are not errors in our story; in the case of this particular park, those provisional assistances were not made.
If I've misunderstood you, please let me know, but I'll need you to point to specific phrases where we got facts wrong, not larger thematic issues you have qualms about.
Thanks very much,
OZY Media | Deputy Editor
The exchanged went on a bit, and ended with Sathian stating no changes would be made and “have a good one.”
Please note that my lengthy message indicated there was more errant in their article. Do you see any interest on Ozy's deputy editor in learning what that might be? I don't.
One of a number of fact errors or misleading statements in the Ozy Media story.
Errors and Omissions?
According to StateMaster, the highest percentage of mobile and manufactured homes in the nation stands at 18.8% and is found in South Carolina. To say that 25% of the markets in the South East are populated by MHs is thus misleading at best, or factually in error at worst.
Tom Fath's posted comment points out that some 2/3 or manufactured homes are sited outside of land lease communities. Did Ozy Media correct that error? Not as of this writing.
The under-informed reader is also left with the impression that MH is a fire trap, even though my PDF linked from the downloadable reply to Ozy Media clearly linked to facts from a third party National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) that prove their suggestion to be false.
Bury Your Head In the Sand...
Some in our MH industry's ranks believe that when a bad story hits the media, you ignore it and wait for some thing else to push it out off the headlines. The problem is that this head-in-the-sand pattern has landed MH in the humble state it currently exists, serving a small fraction of the population. Yet hundreds of thousands of home seekers a year might be looking for us if the truth about MH was better understood by the public. There are media professionals – like Ozy? - that bear some responsibility for every errant report that robs singles, couples or families of their piece of the American dream.
With essentially a 4 person team plus volunteer contributors, MHProNews.com and ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com has produced a steady stream of more balanced, accurate and news, reports, video and written interviews and commentary. While financial support for our project has grown, we pale next to the tens of millions that flow into Ozy Media. What could MH do with pro-industry media with something more like their budget?
Answer: it would mean billions in new sales to MH, and it would lead to a rebirth in MH for home owners and professionals alike.
Ozy Media - Lessons Learned?
There are lessons to be learned from Ozy Media and their arguably less-than-true-story, published under a banner that is itself an incorrect use of terminology (“Trailer House Nation”) when applied to modern MH. Last I checked, almost every house in the U.S. arrives by truck to the building site; how are our homes trailers and others aren't? MHPros must combat such image challenges armed with the facts.
One is takeaway is that engaging the media matters. Please see tonight's Masthead blog post. News media must be held to account, or some in it will continue to play fast an lose with facts, as one quipped tongue-in-cheek, in a Brian Williams style.
The other is that MH Pros must be willing to invest in image and public education. To Ozy's credit, there are elements in the Ozy series on MH that - properly told - would appeal to millennials as well as other demographic groups. There is an affordable housing crunch in America. We in MH have the best solution for that problem. See the video of this millennial here.
The next to the closing frame – shown below - of the video on Ozy's site in their "Great Eviction" article raises a point every public official should PROPERLY note. When affordable MH disappears, more people will turn to publicly subsidized housing.
MH is a vital housing solution, and the NIMBY and demeaning-articles-by-misguided-media-crowd are harming Americans, existing MH owners and our great industry.
Appreciation and Depreciation
One of the many errors in the Ozy accounts published to-date is that MH always depreciates. This is not so, and is contradicted by studies, include a recent report out of Michigan. CFED's website says, quoting in part: “Appreciation in value can be comparable to site-built homes.” MH goes up or down in value for similar causes as conventional housing, including the availability of financing, location, demand and how well the property is maintained.
Such false or misleading claims by Ozy or others have to be corrected by MH Industry pros. They won't be corrected by themselves.
I can't speak to the quality of Ozy Media on anything other than their series on pre-HUD code mobile and manufactured homes (MH). Their marketing must be pretty good, or it would not be enjoying such rapid growth.
With respect to our MH industry, their deputy editor clearly did not care enough to want to issue either corrections, or to admit any error. Nor did Ozy care enough to allow a reply Guest Letter or OpEd, something other media is often open to doing.
By contrast, when I contacted Lane Anderson at Deseret News a few months ago about a troubling piece she did that was based upon a flawed story out of the Atlantic. Lane made time and listened. Ms. Anderson then asked me to introduce her to an array of MH industry experts. Lane recently published a far more balanced story on MH that touts our homes as a potential solution for affordable quality living. It is one of the more balanced reports that have come out in recent months from mainstream media.
Engaging the media is necessary and has value. Association executives JD Harper and Jen Hall are examples of recent efforts to engage the media on issues that paid almost immediate dividends. They and all who take the time and effort to reply and hold media to account are all to be commended.
We as MH pros or aficionados also have to be part of the solution, or we are de facto part of the problem. The MH solution Could help millions! It would be profitable. It won't be a cake walk, but as John Bostick likes to say, "Easy doesn't pay well." Let's do what is right and just, which at first will take effort. But the irony is that over time we will see our industry reap the rewards, and out work will become easier, more profitable and more respected, and...
...media like Ozy will be less likely to publish stories that miss-the-mark on so many points. ##