Making a million from new-age tat

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop business is widely mocked. She’s laughing all the way to the bank.


Gwyneth Paltrow: grabbing people's attention by annoying them
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2017 Shutterstock. No use without permission.)

Ever since one of our ancestors died of a Porterhouse Blue, we Slides have been sceptical about the value of higher education. Indeed, I viewed my time at university as an unwelcome interlude between boarding school and the smoky pubs of Fleet Street. So when I learned a few months ago that Harvard Business School had invited Gwyneth Paltrow to talk, it confirmed all my long-held suspicions about academia. According to Taffy Brodesser-Akner in The New York Times, the film star was there to talk to them "about Goop, her lifestyle-and-wellness e-commerce business", and how they could learn from her example to create a "sustainable competitive advantage".

So what is the secret of Goop, which is now worth $250m, according to "a source close to the company"? Some of it is undoubtedly down to people wanting to emulate Paltrow's "rarefied lifestyle".It's also due to the large market that exists for a mixture of "totally legitimate wellness tips and completely bonkers magical thinking". There is, it seems,no shortage of people more than eagerto snap up products such as "Psychic Vampire Repellent", a brush to "help your lymph flow" and a water bottle with rose quartz in it to "infuse your water with positive energy".

Unsurprisingly, such claims have led to "a barrage of complaints", says Harriet Alexander in The Daily Telegraph. Two years ago a division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus began an inquiry into Goop for deceptive marketing claims about the life-optimising powers of Moon Juice products. Similarly, another watchdog complained to the local District Attorney over "numerous instances of deceptive marketing claims". Nasa also complained "after her site promoted wellness stickers' that claimed to use Nasa technology". Cond Nast cancelled a planned collaboration with Paltrow because it "objected to Goop magazine's promotion of Goop products".

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Haters gonna hate

Still, maybe the joke is on her critics,as Paltrow doesn't seem to care aboutthe ridicule she attracts. In fact, asGaby Hinsliff wonders in The Guardian, maybe the former film star welcomes it, because she's discovered that, in this day and age, "haters gonna hate, but at least [they're] also gonna pay attention".The strategy of grabbing people's attention by annoying them isn't new. Give Piers Morgan a breakfast show and people will watch "purely to see how awful he is".

If Paltrow isn't the first to use this technique, then she at least deserves some credit for taking it a step further. Not only has she discovered "that an awful lot of online traffic can be generated by saying something so mad that millions will furiously disagree with it", but she has also worked out how to turn that fact "into an efficient method of selling handbags". So while everyone is complaining about how her new-age nonsense is "dangerously undermining belief in scientific expertise", she is "laughing all the way to the bank".

Tabloid money don't take the plastic surgeons' blood money

Advertisements for plastic surgery during Love Island, this summer's hit reality television show, make me even angrier than ones for betting during sports programmes, says Rachel Johnson in The Mail on Sunday. The sun-sex-sangria fiesta has sucked in 40% of the impressionable 16-24 audience. Many of them women girls even who must be all too conscious that they don't conform to the impossible, whitened, lifted, augmented Love Island standards. Megan Barton Hanson, a 24-year-old model from Essex and star of the show, is believed to have had nine different procedures, and has been accused of "normalising" cosmetic surgery. These advertisements are designed to hook young women into a lifetime of unnecessary procedures. "It's blood money, ITV. Don't take it."

That fewer teenagers are finding part-time jobs probably has less to do with laziness than with the difficulty in telling the difference between full and part-time work these days, says Martin Townsend in the Sunday Express. "Summer work, in my experience, was always elusive." Shops in the mid-1970s always wanted "experience". Then I got a job at a pub hotel which are gradually being demolished all over the country. That's a shame as they provided generally well-paid work for a lot of youngsters. When, decades later, my youngest son got a similar job in a Thames-side hostelry, I knew what he meant when he said it was "really hard, but really good".

Everyone is saying this summer is just like the one of 1976, says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. That's led some right-wingers to declare that life was much worse in those "dark, pre-Thatcherite days". "Which is a load of Space Hopper-sized balls." As the New Economics Foundation says, 1976 was the best year on record for equality of incomes and quality of life. We had a sense of community and fairness. We invested in public services so that you could get seen at hospitals, and borrow books from the library. Councils filled in potholes. Jobs were more secure and offered decent pensions. "I'm not saying everything was hunky-dory. But compared with today, 1976 seems like a long holiday spent in a hot tub with Charlie's Angels."