Starting with the headline, an under 400-word article by MHInsider that is reviewed further below is a mishmash of inaccurate, accurate, and misleading information. It looks slick, and in fairness it is crisp writing, but that one sentence analysis will be demonstrated in the fact-check that will follow.
But perhaps as or more interesting? Their own stated rate of readership is low. Sad or surprising? It contradicts other claims that they have made. More on that, based on their own website’s data. That will be relevant to marketers and those seeking more sales, because it is hard to sell someone that hasn’t read or seen your marketing or advertising message.
Let’s look at just part of one MHInsider article and then all of another.
The HUD Code manufactured home industry is underperforming by both historic measures and by current market potential standards. As will be seen below, MHInsider plainly said that they are a mouthpiece of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), only they did so using different wording. As a kind of house organ for MHI, what does MHInsider do? Rather than stress the decline that occurred after this part of their chart, they focused on the years before the more recent decline. Accurate, but misleading, because of how they framed the matter.
Ponder what Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain might have said about the above from MHInsider or what follows from the pro-MHI trade publisher.
- Perhaps the most important part of the MHInsider article that follows below are the first few words in their “editor’s note.” Quoting, “Editor’s note: MHVillage and the Manufactured Housing Institute partner…” Now note that the three letter abbreviation for both the publication and the Arlington based trade group are MHI. No big deal, but an interesting coincidence?
At least through that quoted line they are revealing and documenting what MHProNews has said for some time. MHVillage and MHInsider are a de facto mouthpieces for MHI. They’ve said so themselves on their own website. If they have taken positions that are pro-MHI, is it any surprise that they take stances that are pro-consolidation?
But let’s press on.
Let’s look at an entire article of theirs on an important topic that has been online for approaching two years.
With respect to what follows, first note that starting with their headline, it isn’t “Arkansas” that that settled in favor of “MH Owners, Residents.”
- It was only one town in Arkansas, not the entire state.
- Further, as events since that date reveal, the zoning and placement issues in Arkansas and other states with respect to a growing trend of limiting or outright banning manufactured homes has spread.
- Additionally, why didn’t they ask and answer the question – was it a mobile home or a manufactured home involved in the case?
Can you spell misleading, incomplete, inaccurate, or ‘fake news?’
Let’s begin with screen capture of the top of their article. Then, we will look at a word-for-word recap of all that they wrote, with a screen capture of the same found at this link here. That screen capture merits its own look and can be downloaded for later review.
The layout below mirrors what MHInsider published, including their use of the MHI Logo. That oversized use of the MHI logo may be meant to imply that somehow MHI was involved in this legal matter. More on that in our analysis that follows.
Arkansas Settles in Favor of MH Owners, Residents
By Patrick Revere – December 11, 2017
Fair Housing Update
In September of 2016, a young couple moved their manufactured home to McCrory, Arkansas, from a neighboring community.
Shortly after their move, the McCrory City Council passed an ordinance which stated no manufactured home could be sited in the city “unless it has a value established by a certified appraiser or a bill of sale of not less than $7,500.00.”
McCrory claimed the ordinance was necessary because it provided relief from over-crowding, was good for health and safety of McCrory residents, and promoted orderly growth in the community.
However, after the ordinance passed, the couple that had moved their home to McCrory was visited by the city’s police chief. He told them they’d have to move their home because it was valued at $1500 and did not comply with the city’s new valuation ordinance. Equal Justice Under the Law (“Equal Justice”), a D.C.-based legal aid organization, got involved and assisted the couple in filing suit against the City of McCrory.
Lawsuit Decries Practices Counter to Fair Housing
The 31-page, well- crafted original lawsuit labeled McCrory’s ordinance “a wealth-based banishment scheme, imposing a ‘fate universally decried by civilized people’” that essentially criminalized poverty.
The lawsuit asked for the Federal Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas to declare the ordinance unconstitutional.
Equal Justice was able to get the city to repeal the ordinance and according to a November 28, 2017 press release they finalized a settlement in the lawsuit.
JD Harper, who is Executive Director of the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association has been following the case since its inception calls the case “a significant victory against zoning discrimination.”
He pointed out that the case has caused several other towns with similar ordinances to change their laws, too.
Editor’s note: MHVillage and the Manufactured Housing Institute partner on fair housing initiatives, and as part of that agreement, MHVillage will publish the MHI monthly fair housing
update with this blog as well as its consumer blog www.MHVillager.com.
MHProNews Fact Check, Analysis
Several broad points.
- The article’s use of the MHI logo is arguably deceptive. It may give some skim readers the illusion that MHI had something to do with that legal case. In fact, our contacts with the Equal Justice nonprofit made it clear that MHI had nothing to do with their case.
- The article is misleading in that it makes it sound like this set in motion some positive trend. Hardly. While it was a victory, one that we reported on in far more depth and applauded Equal Justice’s success, there was no court ruling. The case settled out of court. Thus, from a legal standpoint, it has no value as a precedent without a court victory.
- As MHProNews has carefully reported and documented, there is a growing, not a shrinking, national trend toward banning or limiting manufactured homes in cities and towns. MHI has repeatedly declined to lift a finger, per our sources with local officials in each of the cases that we investigated.
- In fact, as MHI’s smaller rival association – the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) recently noted, there has been a mysterious absence of interest by most state associations in taking MHARR up on an offer to battle unjust zoning and placement. Has MHI and the ‘big boys’ exerted direct or other pressure on state executives to keep them from working with MHARR?
But there is more to this fact-check and analysis. There are several reasons to believe that this matters to industry professionals, investors, and public officials who peruse these types of fact-checks and analysis on MHProNews.
MH Marketers and Sellers – What This Fact Check and Analysis Additionally Reveals
MHProNews has used visual and other evidence in prior reports to reflect the point that MHInsider – as pretty as it may look – has low readership. This photo below is but one of several previous examples that made that view apparent.
But now, MHInsider has thoughtfully provided – on their own website – viewership data on articles that reflects how incredibly low their readership is. While George Allen’s blog is also lightly read, it is possible that Allen gets as many reads on his blog post as MHInsider does. But Allen and MHInsider praise each other in an effort to create an echo chamber effect of credibility and feigned superiority. One must keep in mind that the industry is a tiny fraction of the size that it was years ago. Per Cavco, which reports a far higher number than MHI, there are an estimated 75,000 professionals working in manufactured housing. Many of those are working in important jobs, on factory floors, running service, maintaining communities, etc. But the number of owners and managers will be obviously far smaller than that 75,000 total.
By contrast, let’s see a recent data point on just one of our articles on MHProNews. Our #7 referral path from just one of many cPanels we have on MHProNews reported the following, keeping in mind that we have over 20,000 articles online, numbers of which get read years after they are published. Here below is but one example from the end of September 2019, per third-party Webalizer site metrics. While no two articles get read the same amount, and this is an example of an article on the higher end of the scale, there are often articles that will get over 10,000 hits in a single month. The one below which was published late in September had over 19,000 hits in just a matter of days. Let’s note that while our core audience is composed of manufactured housing industry professionals, public officials, investors, and researchers are among the others that frequent the MHProNews site. This is below one of hundreds of examples possible from Sept. 2019 Webalizer data.
Rank | Hits | URL or ‘referral path.’
Put differently, marketers and sellers must step back and ask. Are MHInsider advertisers wasting their money? Another point, unless they are keen on fact-checking propaganda or spin, are MHInsider readers wasting their time? Is it any surprise that Legacy Housing, which tracks their lead sources, reported that MHProNews provided the far superior results?
MHInsider gets credit for chutzpah, a nice look, and good writing/editing of arguably errant or misleading ‘information.’ But they should be held accountable for their:
- Misleading, errant, and at times demonstrably false reports.
- Their demonstrable failure to correct previously identified factual errors.
- Their arguably failure to follow the Society of Professional Journalism’s Code of Ethical conduct.
In just a matter of days, here is what manufactured home industry professionals have witnessed.
- MHInsider’s claims of being #1 is at best misleading, unless they are claiming to be #1 at MHI supporting drivel. We’d give them credit for that, based upon the evidence shown above or previously.
- George Allen is all over the map on his flip flops and often self-contradictory positions.
- Kurt Kelley’s MHR has failed to respond to what appears to be possible plagiarism of an articvle, see that analysis and report linked below.
- Kelley’s readership is masked, but a clue that it is low and falling is that they went from a monthly to a quarterly. Even so, finding meaningful topics pushed them to at a minimum publishing an article without any clear attribution for its source? Again, see the above, which begs the question, have they done so before? Aren’t these other examples beyond our publications all embarrassing for the manufactured housing industry, when outsiders look in?
Part-time MHI catspaw and ‘magician’ George Allen called for a boycott of MHProNews on his own publication, by saying what publications one should read, which include his blog, MHR and MHInsider. All others, per Allen, were verboten. It is noteworthy that in some contexts, legal experts say that a call for a boycott can violate antitrust or other laws. Interesting, given that Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies are allegedly guilty of fostering market consolidation – via purported violations of antitrust and other laws, such as deceptive trade practices.
MHInsider has made claims about their readership that is questionable at best, but under deceptive trade practice law, it may be illegal as well. If your firm has advertised with them, based upon their claim of being the biggest and the best, you may have a suit you could pursue. If others who placed ads with them did the same, that could be a class action suit against MHInsider and/or MHVillage, their obvious parent company.
At times, Allen has made similar allegations against the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis as MHProNews has documented. Why has Allen flip-flopped without explanation?
As MHProNews has said, we don’t believe in boycotts or any forms of threat, intimidation, ethical lapses, or lawbreaking. The above and herein are cautionary tales. It reveals just how purportedly deceptive and misleading the various extensions of MHI’s ‘echo chamber’ can be. That said, using a wheat and chaff approach, we find them useful to the extent that it helps us document just how far the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis will go to spin ‘the news’ as the industry enters 11 out of 12 months of year-over-year national declines.
- Know the information source you are reading, is it reliable and factually accurate? Or is it merely spinning someone’s agenda? If it is agenda driven, who benefits from what they publish?
- In MHVille, our industry should be soaring when it is snoring. Without exposing what’s wrong, there is no real hope of getting to doing what’s right and necessary to return the industry to honorable, profitable, sustainable growth.
See the related reports for more. They are particularly relevant to investors in publicly traded firms that are members of MHI. In wrapping this up, it is worth noting that each one of the rival publishers has at times praised this publication publicly and in writing. That took place before our understanding of the deeper causes of the industry’s underperformance to be made clear.
MHProNews will continue to monitor other publications, firms, as well as nonprofits for questionable ethical, reporting, or other practices. Why? In part because the industry is misunderstood. That implies that there must be sources of misinformation fueling that misunderstanding. That misunderstanding leads to lower sales levels. The text-image box below is a link to a detailed report.
That’s your Saturday report from your #1, most-read trade media — here at your home of manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
Click the image/text box below to access relevant, related information.