Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher

From Ben Franklin to Google: Jessica Weisberg traces the history of advice in ‘Asking for a Friend’

June 6, 2018

Writer and audio producer Jessica Weisberg talks with Recode’s Kara Swisher about her new book, “Asking for a Friend: Three Centuries of Advice on Life, Love, Money, and Other Burning Questions from a Nation Obsessed.” Starting in 1690s London, Weisberg examines how advice became a cultural force in America, and how professional advice-givers presaged the internet by creating the first platform for people to ask difficult questions anonymously. She discusses Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which made earnest advice more palatable through comedy; the bitter rivalry between twin sisters who both became advice columnists, using the pen names “Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby”; and how the once-strict views of parenting guru Benjamin Spock and other columnists mellowed over their long careers. Weisberg says Google and other internet forums are the new advice-givers for millions of people, and questions whether any one writer today could be as widely read and trusted as these predecessors.

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