Aaron Sagray points us to www.dontclick.it.
The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.
John Dodds points us to the Retail Alphabet Game, which has been around nearly as long as me, though I never saw it before.
Part of the surprise of the game is that when it's easy, it's really easy. Most of the time, it's impossible.
I think this tells us something insightful about logos, though I'm not certain what it is.
I also think it tells us something even more insightful about names and experiences. I won't forget, probably ever, the horrible way a flight attendant called Sigma treated me on a Northwest Airlines flight on Monday, but I honestly can't remember their logo. And thirty years later, I still remember the incredibly nice people at the Cleveland Airport Hilton, but yes, I admit, it might have been a Sheraton.
Big companies don't hesitate to drop a fortune building and then repeating a brand image. But that little umbrella over the T in citibank (that's a hint for edition 4, folks) has zero emotional resonance.
Abhishek Singh writes:
A is the 'ideavirus' curve. Ex: Myspace, Ideas that really take off like 'The Long Tail', 'Big is the the new small'.
B is the 'Flavor of the Month' curve. Ex: Social Networks that are the buzz for 1.5 weeks.
C is the 'Blogs' curve. An idea that has tremendous potential but takes a few years to hit the mainstream and become a force.
D is the 'Idea before its time' curve. Ex: Thin Client PCs in the late 90s.
An anonymous reader wants to know what he should do.
" They'll send it out on their servers, so blacklisting of our email servers isn't an issue. (We've gotten burned on this in the past.)"
A trusted vendor offers to spam millions with no blacklisting. What to tell the boss?
Hey, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should!
In parts of Montana, you can probably drive 150 miles per hour and not expect to get a ticket. Doesn't make it less stupid.
Email marketing is not about what you can get away with. Email marketing is about treating people with respect so that they will listen to what you have to say. So you can build your brand. So you can tell your story.
A no brainer as far as I'm concerned.
John Battelle talks a bit about how Google is about to offer video hosting combined with video meta data combined with Google payments. Which means that you can upload video and charge for it. John Battelle's Searchblog: News: Google To Launch Online Video Playback This Monday. It still needs a subscription, not a pay per view, model.
This is exactly where I see podcasting going. If there was an easy and cheap (and possibly subscription based) way to pay for podcasting, there'd be a dramatic increase in the quality and quantity and accessibility of the stuff available for a listen.
It's pretty much true that you get what you pay for.
But why the panic?
Why the front page headlines in New York (no sharks here)? Why the emergency orders and the closed beaches?
Last year there were 30 shark attacks in Florida. This is fewer than the number of people killed by deer accidents (not deer attacks) in the United States. Fewer than the number of people killed in just a few hours of Labor Day traffic. Yet you don't see people paying money to see movies about killer deer, or fretting about driving to see Aunt Sue.
Shark attack is like cancer. The phrase alone gets you to sit up and take notice, to have a sharp intake of breath, to hope that everything is okay.
Cancer kills about as many Americans as heart disease, but we react completely differently to news about a friend or a colleague with one disease or the other. We ostracize smokers but few people are serious enough about heart disease to become vegetarians… very different reactions to similar disease-causing lifestyle choices.
The new thing to be irrationally frightened of is terrorism. But of course, this isn’t a discussion about rational thought—it’s about worldview. For whatever reason, human beings are hyper-alert to certain things. We’re afraid of snakes and pit bulls, but not three wheeled go kart ATVs.
Awareness of worldview is critical in world affairs and in marketing as well (same thing, if you ask me). Books about dieting sell, but books about avoiding heart disease don’t. Not because one book is inherently more valuable than the other, but because deep down, consumers believe that a book can help with losing weight (turns out it probably won’t) but a book on heart disease is probably not worth seeking out (big mistake).
One thing you can do as a marketer is rail against worldview. You can whine and complain that your service or product is better, pays for itself, saves lives, improves democracies, whatever. Whining, as we see over and over, has little impact.
For a while, an important corporate worldview revolved around quality. You could sell most anything under the cover of a story about improving ISO 9000/six sigma/Deming quality. Then we had the deep-seated desire (and big budgets) associated with the Y2K problem. Like most worldviews, this was a worldview that got there before most marketers arrived at the scene. Smart marketers used the opportunity to start a conversation and then tell a story and sell a product that companies actually needed in the long run—and turned that window into a long-term business. Others just manipulated the system and took the money and ran. Those guys are no longer around.
Same thing happened with web mania. The need to avoid the shark attack of missing the boat pushed change-resistant consumers and corporations to invest in all manner of web stuff. Some companies (like Yahoo!) turned that into a foundation for a real company. Others are long gone.
I don't think I'm being harsh... I’ve seen far too many great ideas fail to believe that I’m being cynical in this post. You may have the greatest thing ever, but if it doesn’t match a prevailing worldview in the market where you hope to tell your story, you’re invisible.
All Marketers are Liars was probably a dumb title for my latest book (if my goal was to sell a lot, fast). It doesn’t do a good job of matching the worldview of the people most likely to buy it or talk about it. Perhaps I should have called it, “The Orange Kangaroo: How Smart Marketers Tell Stories People Want to Believe.” Same book, different worldview. To be fair, my goal wasn't to write a sequel, though, it was to change minds--which is a very time-consuming and difficult thing to do.
If you don't have the energy or the time to change minds, though, what should you do? You need to realize that changing a worldview requires you to get your prospects to admit that they were wrong. This is awfully hard to do.
I think that tapping into a worldview almost always requires more than a new title or a new wrapper or a new ad. I think it requires rethinking the product itself, starting from scratch with the worldview in mind.
If you could start over, what story would you tell?
Various footnotes: On my way through security at LGA today, I saw a display that indicated it was against the law to carry on or pack mouse poison. Not sure why you’d want to do that, but I’m also not sure why it’s a bad idea to have it in your luggage. Could it be the “national security” worldview at work? Also worth noting that in just eight hours, the death toll in Rwanda was equal to the tragic enormity of the losses of 9/11. And this went on for 24 hours a day, for 100 days and almost no one noticed. Because of worldview. Also worth noting that according to Tom Peters, 100,000 Americans check into a hospital every year… and don’t check out. Because of infections or other illnesses caused by the system, not by their condition. There is no outcry, no big budgets. Because of worldview.
This time from Bruce Allen
A. Hero Curve (what everyone predicts they can achieve)
B. Loyalist Curve (several cash cow products with this curve create a saleable business)
C. Warrior Curve ("true-believers" and evangelists live on this line)
D. Hindsight Curve (only a co-dependent optimist can survive along this line)
Andrew Tonkin points us to Penguin Remixed -.
A very clever way to embrace, not fight, the creative impulses of your audience. I wish they'd post one of my audio books...
Sam Sugar (SugarBank) takes the first shot:
A - The Joker
B - Marvin (Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy)
C - Charile Brown
D - Mona Lisa
any other suggestions?
A is the curve of the hot knife through butter. A is the curve of big buzz. A is the curve of the unserved audience and the perfect product.
That's what you want.
Usually, though, you get B.
B looks the same as A for a while. But then it stops.
B stops because your product isn't for everybody. B stops because many products and services have a small but eager audience of early adopters, just itching to try something new. And then, once reality sets in, your idea stops spreading.
When I launched my ebook, I thought for a minute I had A. I sold a bazillion of them in one night. And then, bam, I had B. Sales slowed really fast. Why? Was it lousy? I don't think it was. I think the audience of people who were standing by to buy an ebook from me was very connected to me and to each other, they heard about it right away, they bought it right away and then, there you go, the entire market was saturated.
Curve C is the most likely curve of success, not A. Curve C is the remarkable product that takes a while to find its footing. Then, the idea starts moving through communities and slowly builds, until, yes, this product is remarkable and you've got a hit.
Alas, soon after launch, there's no way to tell C from D, is there? D is the curve of the dud. Most launches are duds. Not a lot you can do about it.
The challenges are pretty obvious. First, how do you decide where to put the dotted line? Second, how do you avoid killing something too early, or celebrating too early. And last, how do you know when to kill a dud? The odds are with those smart enough to launch something new tomorrow.
But I probably should be.
Very few conferences are hard to miss. This appears to be one of them: Gnomedex 5.0 Updates.
Ron McDaniel would like you to check out: Buzz marketing: Start Building Buzz Today - Buzzoodle.com.
I think they're about to discover that people don't do it for the rewards... and that the rewards can actually get in the way of finding the right people.
Jeff Goldman points us to Stop Alien Abductions.
I guarantee that 100% of the customers have never, ever been abducted. Guaranteed!
The first example is not a dilemma at all.
A clerk in the shipping department of your company gets arrested for embezzling funds from the Girl Scout cookie drive. She confesses and is about to be sentenced. Do you fire her?
After that, though, it starts to get pretty tricky. The off-shore factory that makes the shoes you sell pays its employees the prevailing local wage, which is far less than the workers would make in your home town. You have leverage to move to another factory or try to change the system, but you don’t think Wal-Mart will pay you the premium you need to pay more for your sneakers.
Your sneakers are made under your control, but the machines used in the factory are made in another factory that uses slave labor.
You have a freelance programmer who, when she’s not working for you, designs websites for groups you find politically repugnant.
You really love your Toyota Prius but it bothers you immensely that Toyota makes a ton of money selling inefficient SUVs around the world.
The University of Michigan just placed Coca Cola on probation to protest the company’s actions overseas (India Resource Center - Coca-Cola Placed on Probation By University of Michigan .)
Do you use Google or MSN or Yahoo? Are you less likely to use them when you hear about censored pages in China? (MSN Censorship & Revisiting The Need For Better Disclosure)
Money equals power. Money flows via marketing, and it flows to organizations that provide goods and services that make us feel good.
But what happens when the non-delivered-non-product-based actions of those organizations start to impact the way we feel? Do consumers (industrial and individual) have an obligation to spend their cash in an ethically consistent way?
I have a valued business partner that creates products I’m ashamed of. What do I do now? Do I have an ethical obligation to change how I work in order to make my feelings clear? Do I have a marketing obligation?
What happens when consumers use the power of their money to make their feelings clear? What happens to Chick-fil-A or Bennetton when every purchase becomes a political act?
None of this used to matter very much. Corporations had far less power and were far less global. Their actions were more contained--you probably didn't have programmers in three continents and factories on four. And the competition for dollars was much less severe.
Today, though, we're seeing documentaries about the community-breaking power of a Wal-Mart. We hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks that oil companies manage to lobby for. And an oil spill or industrial disaster can wipe out big chunks of the environment.
To date, with the exception of easy (and juicy) black and white scandals, consumers of all stripes have been resistant to taking action with their dollars. Part of it is laziness, part of it is selfisness and part of it is a long history of a laissez faire disconnect between what we spend and what we believe.
I think that's about to change.
Corie Conwell sends us to: SPAZZSTICK dot com :: The World's ONLY Caffeinated Lip Balm!. Be sure to check out the back story.
It's Seth Godin Week!
In honor of the second anniversary. Thanks, Mark! This Is Broken.
Here's what the email I got the other day said:
"...always assumed you were a blowhard who didn't know his ass from his elbow, because you present yourself as a marketing guru and I find that those who say they are marketing gurus seldom know anything about marketing."
Name a cellist. Did you say, "Yo Yo Ma"? Of course you did. There are other cellists that might be as good in some ways, but you don't know who they are. Could it be because Mr. Ma knows something about marketing?
Name a religion. Did you say Shaker? Of course not. Could it be because the major religions of the world are organized to spread, while the very structure of the Shaker religion ensured its demise?
Think of the people you know--in every endeavor, in every line of work. What business discipline would they most benefit from? Would it be the ability to do a spreadsheet or manage inventory? Perhaps they'd do better in their careers or with their passions if they were better at conforming to human resource regulations... I don't think so. It all comes down to spreading ideas. If you can get your art or your political cause or your restaurant's ideas to spread, you win.
Somewhere along the way, people were sold that marketing [equals] advertising. Somewhere along the way, people were trained that marketers are liars (oops). And now we wonder why people are so clueless about what marketing really is. Maybe it's because marketing has a marketing problem.
Marketing is not about trickery or even insincerity. It's about spreading ideas that you believe in, sharing ideas you're passionate about... and doing it with authenticity. Marketing is about treating prospects and customers with respect, and realizing that it's easier to grow the amount of business you do with happy people than it is to find new strangers to accost.
Think about that the next time you hang up on a tele***keter.
Joel Spolsky points us to: The myth of the CMO. It surprised me after I read it, because I wrote it! If I can't remember stuff from five months ago, that's not good. Not good at all.
Brandon Hull points us to: A4Flash - flash templates, flash template, flash intros, flash presentation and flash web design. I have no doubt they can make things move. I'm not sure, though, that this site makes people click.
The best sites are often designed with a paper and pencil. If your arm gets tired, you've probably overdone it.
Karl and Andrew pointed me to this study less than five minutes apart, so it must be good. How to tell a story with your name: Florida Red or Moody Blue: Study Looks at Appeal of Off-beat Product Names - Knowledge@Wharton.
Ejaz Mohammed points us to: 'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says.
Perfect is the enemy of good. No doubt about it.
The excellent feedback I got from readers made it eminently clear that you agree with this sentiment. If you don't ship, it's not really worth doing. More important, we've only got a finite amount of time and resources to invest in anything (thanks, Chris Morris). The real issue is this: when do we stop working on something (because it's good enough) and work on some other element of the offering.
When do we stop working on making a keyboard better and start working on the packaging or the promotion? When do we accept the status quo as unchangeable because the marketplace has embraced a standard, and then put our effort into less earthshattering, but presumably higher leverage tasks?
If you riff through your top 10 great successes of the last decade (you pick your field, doesn't matter) aren't most of them areas where someone refused to accept that the industry's status quo wasn't good enough, and instead set out to change a fundamental rule of that industry?
Maxwell House settled. Howard at Starbucks didn't. American settled, Jet Blue didn't. Vogue settled, Daily Candy didn't.
I'm not arguing that nothing is good enough. Far from it. Every time I give a speech, I spend two slides saying, "everything is good enough" and at some levels, I'm totally right. But for those that are intent on creating something remarkable, it seems that the attractive vision is to believe precisely the opposite, at least about the stuff you care about.
Andrew Tonkin sends us to Sprayonmud Products.
Not only isn't your SUV actually safer, but now you can spray on mud to prove that you are using it to its full potential. Or not, who knows...
Tons of mail on my recent posts. Three kinds:
1. Starbucks coffee isn't that good. "It's the story, not the coffee" you wrote.
2. I'm right, nothing is good enough.
3. I'm wrong, I'm elite, everything is good enough for most people. And having people agree on screws is a good thing.
Philips head (the kind with the X) and slot screws are quite common. And they don't work nearly as well as they should.
McFeely's sells square drive screws (see Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools.) These are better in every way. And you don't have them.
Why? Because the "original" kind are good enough. And once Home Depot and the local hardware store and the contractor agree on something that's good enough, the market gets stuck and we end the relentless search for better.
If it weren't for the web, these screws would have their own tiny niche (except in Canada, where they know better). I wonder if thanks to a few blogs, better starts showing up?
What an amazing world we live in. Information flying about at the speed of light. Cures or treatments for many major diseases. Airplanes. Food for many, if not most. Cat food that tastes like pate.
It almost feels churlish to complain.
But here's the deal: almost everything is lousy.
Sure, it's way way better than it was. Sure it's a miracle.
But is anything as good as it could be?
Maybe a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Scharffenberger chocolate bar. But almost everything else needs a lot of work.
That canoe could be half the weight. There's no reason to wait an hour to get on an airplane. Software development should be twice as fast at half the cost.
And what's with the layout of this keyboard? They came up with a keyboard a century ago, decided it was good enough and then stopped! Holy Carpal Tunnel, Batman.
I've got a few posts worth on this topic, but here are my two big ideas to start:
1. Humans tend to work on a problem until they get a good enough solution, instead of a solution that's right.
2. The marketplace often rewards solutions that are cheaper and good enough, instead of investing in the solution that promises to lead to the right answer.
This all sounds pessimistic. Are we doomed to inefficient products, unreliable computers, overpriced services and new devices that last for a while and then just plain break?
I don't think so. I think that the open nature of the web and the hypercompetitive environment of worldwide competition are pushing things in two different directions at the same time. First, the hyper-cheap, sort of junky stuff that discounters and others want to sell in volume. And second, the relentless pursuit of better. (RPB). RPB is the opposite of good enough. It's not Jack Welch's six sigma nonsense in which engineers codify mediocrity. It's a consistent posture of changing the rules on an ongoing basis.
David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue, was talking today about the way he's running the airline. By any measure, it's good enough. Hey, it's far and away the best airline the USA. But he's not even close to settling. He riffed today about turning one out of three bathrooms on every one of his planes into a ladies only room. What a great idea. Low cost. Fast. And RPB.
I asked him why he doesn't raise the price on the 20,000 flights they fly from New York to Florida (every day). If he raised it $10, he'd make an extra $11 million a year in profit! Without losing a customer.
He said, "We could always do that later. Right now, it keeps us focused and hungry and efficient to do it for less."
I was walking on stage, Tom was walking off. I got to talk to him for thirty seconds.
My energy level tripled.
Tom Peters does that to people. He does it on purpose. Do you?
Ever since the first poor cow got her skin burned by a paranoid cowboy worried about rustlers, branding has been an exciting, controversial and occasionally painful field.
Joi Ito points us to Dan Gilmor's A Minute with Dan: Bad Behavior | Bayosphere. It really is a minute. A minute of audio, the idea being to tap into the emotional power of the human voice without adding a lot of time or technology constraints.
A quick definitional thought: podcast ≠ online audio. Online audio has been around a long time. What makes a podcast a podcast is that you subscribe to it. I've been the online subscription guy since 1991, so that's a great thing. But earning a subscriber is difficult, and keeping one is harder still. Things like Dan's minute are an interesting way around that.
Don't bet against selfishness.
I'm spending the weekend feeding the cat across the street while my neighbors go hither and yon. If you don't already believe that All marketers are liars take a look at this promo copy for Fancy Feast Cat Food:
Fancy Feast Gourmet cat food is finely ground and smooth, like paté offering a taste and texture to please every cat's discriminating palate. Choose your cat's favorite flavor from our 11 different flavors, for complete and 100% balanced nutrition every day.
Did you know that cats had discriminating palates? When was the last time a house cat starved to death? Remember, these are animals that capture, torture and then eat small rats.
Do the cats know that there's gravy in the chicken? Do the care about the pate-like texture?
It's pretty obvious who expensive cat food is for, and it sure isn't cats.
And baby food isn't for babies, and life insurance doesn't work until you're dead and ....
"...If merely four people of out of a hundred can make gridlock go away by choosing not to use their car, imagine the other changes that can be wrought just by four of us out of a hundred. Take a hundred musicians in a depressed port city in Northern England, choose John, Paul, George and Ringo and you have "Hey Jude."
Take a hundred computer geeks in Redmond, Wash., send 96 of them home and the remainder is called Microsoft. Take the Power of Four and apply it to any and every area of your concern. Politics: Four votes wrung from one hundred into another hundred is the difference between gaining control and losing clout..."
Tom Hanks, speaking at Vassar
Walter Johnson sends us this graphic essay from the brilliant Scott McCloud: I Can't Stop Thinking! #6.
I'm not sold on the mechanics of his solution, but I completely believe this: We get the content that we (our society) pays for. Maybe we pay for it with ads, or patrons, or souvenirs or directly, but the quality and quantity goes up when there's some sort of compensation.
Read any good poetry lately?
Some podcast stats for you, from Feedburner:
-- FeedBurner points to nearly 6,000 podcasts now, up from about 500 in
-- The average number of subscribers to FeedBurner-managed shows is up
to 33 from 15 last year.
-- The top 20 most popular shows have "thousands of subscribers and our
couple of top podcasts have tens of thousands."
Addendum: if you have 5,000 subscribers, I figure that equals 500 listeners to a whole show if it's really good, or 50 if it's not. That's based on my audiobook experience (as a writer, reader and listener).
Jack and Meg of the White Stripes were on Fresh Air with Terri Gross today. You can find the link on their site: WhiteStripes.com.
What I loved about the interview was how aware Jack is of the stories he's telling and how, more important, his audience is telling themselves a lie. He says he's opposed to the preconceptions and the buzz and everything that has nothing to do with the music, and then spends hours and dollars creating preconceptions (is Meg his sister, his wife, both?), focusing on colors (there are only three, because three is a perfect number) and on and on.
Lots of artists are poseurs, acting out the lie to tell the story. And we love it. But Jack (Meg is basically mute, at least in public) was clearly enjoying his simultaneous roles of debunker and bunker.
Not one, but two emails today asking about Apple's switch to Intel. Both writers were sure that Apple had blown it (one works at Intel!) and wanted my take on how this changes Apple's story. The thinking is that after years of telling people that they are better because they don't use Intel, how can they change their story?
The problem with this analysis is that only geeks and journalists are listening to Apple's story with that sort of clinical attention to detail. Ask ten typical Mac users and perhaps one can tell you which company made the old chip. Mac users don't like Macs because of the chip. Far from it.
If the Mac looks the same and the mouse moves the same, they don't care.
If Jobs is smart, he'll use the increased heat efficiency and scale of the Intel chips to put more money into drop dead sexy cases for superlight laptops. That's the story Mac users want to hear.
I posted the sequel (see the post below: Seth's Blog: The first sequel to Knock Knock) and in three hours sold more copies of my ebook than I had in any single day over the last two weeks.
Obviously, this was an experiment, not a clever tool to sell more ebooks. The fact is that human beings, even human beings who are smart and focused and paying attenion, need (and want) to be reminded of stuff.
I could spend part of every single post hawking my new book (Amazon.com: Books: All Marketers Are Liars) and no doubt I'd lose readers. I'd also be bored. But, surprisingly enough, I'd sell more books, books to people who were glad to be reminded.
The challenge this new medium faces is that no one has figured out the standard that feels right. On TV it's 11 minutes of commercials an hour. On some highways, it's a billboard every 50 feet. Without an FCC and with 20,000,000 people experimenting, I wonder if we'll ever figure it out.
[interesting statistical aside: I sold more than half of the total sales of my ebook in the five hours after the original post. There's no other medium in history where that sort of effect is true.] And yes, it's all an experiment. No animals are injured in the production of my ebooks, but all profits go to charity.
John Nardini points us to: Ronald McDonald made over.
I don't think this is going to work. The reason? The entire value of Ronald is as a reminder of what we (boomers) felt like when we were six. Going to McDonald's is a way of reliving that memory.
If you change Ronald too much, either we'll ignore him (likely) or reject him.
Yes, McDonald's could conceivably spend the cash necessary for a reinvention, but why bother? Why not invent someone new, someone for a new generation?
Andrew Tonkin points to: Cash-Strapped Airlines Try In-Flight Advertising.
My favorite part is the spokesman who says the flight attendants do it "voluntarily."
Imagine different classes of service--bad ads, bad ads with a loud person sitting next to you shilling, bad ads with smellovision, funny ads, no ads.
vs. treating them like they're stupid.
Have you ever noticed that marketers repeat themselves a lot? That it's not unusual to see 50 or 100 billboards for the same brand, or 30 or 50 promos for the same TV show?
Traditional media is filled with repetition. The more they tell us, the theory goes, the more likely we are to take action.
If you think about it, that means the marketer isn't holding your decision making ability in very high esteem, is she? After all, a "smart" person ought to see an offer, make a decision and then move on. No need to repeat the offer, because he's already decided.
Don't interrupt that show to show me another promo for the series finale of Frasier. I mean, you just showed that to me an hour ago. Either I'm going to watch it or not!
Blogs are different. There's a presumption of informed mature decision making. I come out with a new book, I mention it and then we all move on.
You're smart. You can handle it.
How, then, do I explain the phenomenon that every time I mention a past post or an ebook or another blog, the traffic and the sales go up! Right away. A lot.
In fact, some of the biggest successes online have come from doing precisely that. AOL sent out more than 500,000,000,000 disks to people to get them join the service over the last decade. This was to an audience that was media-savvy, largely upper income and ostensibly smart.
Did you sign up the first time you got a CD? The second? The tenth?
What is it about (smart) people that makes them succumb to mindless repetition?
There's a whole bunch of stuff that bloggers want you to do. They want you to buy stuff, read stuff, email about stuff and tell your friends about stuff. They are sorely tempted to use up their permission to talk to you by repeating themselves, because every time they do, the audience (that's you) does what they are hoping for.
AOL annoyed everyone with their CDs. And then built a company worth many many billions of dollars on the back of that. Is annoying people worth it?
Most blogs have a center well of the "new stuff" and then links and ads along the sides. And it's pretty sacrosanct that you put the repetitive stuff on the sides, while the center column is for the new, the stuff that people give you permission to say, the stuff that actually gets read.
A blogger in Switzerland reported that while her traffic keeps going up, her revenue from AdWords keeps going down. Why? Because she's trained people to ignore the ads. The good stuff is in the center column, and we ignore the rest.
It's only a matter of time before this dynamic gets wrecked. Advertising is insidious, because people are people. And people respond to interruption and repetition. The minute we stop doing that is the minute advertising stops wrecking the editorial process. I'm not going to hold my breath...
[added an hour later: smart and stupid were a poor choice of words. Since that's my business, double apologies. I should have said alert and asleep.]
What do you do once you realize the power of small? (tiny correction... eBay has more than 8,000 employees! That's a lot of mouths to feed).
It's one thing to say, "yep, of course, small is the new big." It's quite another to actually do anything about it.
For the last six years, I've had exactly one employee. Me. This has changed my worklife in ways that I hadn't predicted. The biggest changes are:
1. the kind of project that's "interesting" is now very different. It doesn't have to be strategic or scalable or profitable enough to feed an entire division. It just has to be interesting or fun or good for my audience.
2. the idea of risk is different as well. I can write an ebook and launch it in some crazy way and see what happens. I can build a dot com enterprise with a questionable business model and just see what happens. Because my costs are a whisker compared to a large organization, there's just no comparison in the way I can approach something (compared to, say, a publisher).
Does this mean that little companies just do little things? Of course not.
Example: My friend Michael Cader (Publishers Lunch) has bootstrapped his tiny business into the single largest, most influential voice in the entire book publishing industry. When he needs help, he outsources it, probably to someone way too good and way too impatient to work for him or his competition. With a staff small enough to fit into a BMW, Cader has a business with a bigger circulation than the huge and fabled Publishers Weekly magazine, owned by a conglomerate.
Is this only for writers and such? What about the solo builder I met who competes with giants by aggressively outsourcing his design and labor?
What about the architect down the street who tripled his income by leaving the huge firm and only taking on the high leverage assignments he actually enjoys?
Or the lawyer who left a giant firm, works half as much and enjoys it for the first time?
A dear friend of ours left her housewares sales firm and is now inventing things, getting them built in factories she doesn't own and selling to retailers who are dying for innovative stuff that feels risky. She doesn't take any risk at all... except her time, which is cheap now because she's on her own.
One of the implications of the Long Tail is that you don't know what's going to work. That it's easy to launch stuff, hard to figure out where it's going to land. If you don't have to bet the farm on every launch, you're way more likely to launch more, and more randomly, which vastly increases your odds.
So, what do you do if you buy this? Quit.
Don't grow unless it gives you joy.
Dare your employees to become freelancers instead.
Do it on a weekend until it doesn't scare you quite so much.
It's no longer about access to cash. Now it's about choosing the right model and being remarkable.
Big used to matter. Big meant economies of scale. (You never hear about “economies of tiny” do you?) People, usually guys, often ex-Marines, wanted to be CEO of a big company. The Fortune 500 is where people went to make… a fortune.
There was a good reason for this. Value was added in ways that big organizations were good at. Value was added with efficient manufacturing, widespread distribution and very large R&D staffs. Value came from hundreds of operators standing by and from nine-figure TV ad budgets. Value came from a huge sales force.
Of course, it’s not just big organizations that added value. Big planes were better than small ones, because they were faster and more efficient. Big buildings were better than small ones because they facilitated communications and used downtown land quite efficiently. Bigger computers could handle more simultaneous users, as well.
Get Big Fast was the motto for startups, because big companies can go public and get more access to capital and use that capital to get even bigger. Big accounting firms were the place to go to get audited if you were a big company, because a big accounting firm could be trusted. Big law firms were the place to find the right lawyer, because big law firms were a one-stop shop.
And then small happened.
Enron (big) got audited by Andersen (big) and failed (big.) The World Trade Center was a target. TV advertising is collapsing so fast you can hear it. American Airlines (big) is getting creamed by Jet Blue (think small). BoingBoing (four people) has a readership growing a hundred times faster than the New Yorker (hundreds of people).
Big computers are silly. They use lots of power and are not nearly as efficient as properly networked Dell boxes (at least that’s the way it works at Yahoo and Google). Big boom boxes are replaced by tiny ipod shuffles. (Yeah, I know big-screen tvs are the big thing. Can’t be right all the time).
I’m writing this on a laptop at a skateboard park… that added wifi for parents. Because they wanted to. It took them a few minutes and $50. No big meetings, corporate policies or feasibility studies. They just did it.
Today, little companies often make more money than big companies. Little churches grow faster than worldwide ones. Little jets are way faster (door to door) than big ones.
Today, Craigslist (18 employees) is the fourth most visited site according to some measures. They are partly owned by eBay (more than 4,000 employees) which hopes to stay in the same league, traffic-wise. They’re certainly not growing nearly as fast.
Small means the founder makes a far greater percentage of the customer interactions. Small means the founder is close to the decisions that matter and can make them, quickly.
Small is the new big because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model when your competition changes theirs.
Small means you can tell the truth on your blog.
Small means that you can answer email from your customers.
Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others, while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable and tell stories to people who want to hear them.
A small law firm or accounting firm or ad agency is succeeding because they’re good, not because they’re big. So smart small companies are happy to hire them.
A small restaurant has an owner who greets you by name.
A small venture fund doesn’t have to fund big bad ideas in order to get capital doing work. They can make small investments in tiny companies with good (big) ideas.
A small church has a minister with the time to visit you in the hospital when you’re sick.
Is it better to be the head of Craigslist or the head of UPS?
Small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big.
Don’t wait. Get small. Think big.
[this post is now the title essay of my new book.]
July 11. Hugh is nice enough to host: gapingvoid: london marketing soiree, july 11th.
...die by the cow.
So, what's up with Apple? iPod sales are rumored to be flattening and the stock gets hammered. Well of course! And Krispy Kreme? The donut fad fades, and they fire the CEO. Or just about every other example of some cool organization from ten years ago...
The thing is, if you want to play the fashion game, to create a Purple Cow then you must embrace the fact that it won't last forever. It might not last very long at all.
Organizations are not very good at creating the remarkable. People are. And after a person creates a purple cow, the organization milks that cow, relentlessly, for as long as it can. If the people in the organization don't have the guts and the energy to ready a new cow, then the organization's days are numbered.
I had an interesting back and forth with Johnnie Moore here: Johnnie Moore's Weblog: Nagging doubt about the story thing.
My point is that you can't easily change people's minds, even with a powerful story. But you can (you MUST) surprise them if you want to be remarkable. You get in because you match their worldview. You spread because you're surprising or magical or special.
I don't like traveling.
That said, my trip the other day set a new record. I chalk it up to the new "We don't care, we don't have to" economy. In many segments, so much profit has been squeezed out that there's no room to hire and train great people. And there's not enough competition to harm the bad actors.
I got to JFK with plenty of time. Good thing, too, because the parking lot next to the terminal is closed. The signs are optimistic, though, and point you to the relocated short term parking. Same crazy pricing, of course.
Well, it turns out that it takes half an hour on the bus to get from the parking to the terminal. They have half as many buses as they need, and at $24 a day, it's not because they can't afford it. It's because they don't have to care.
Got to American, an airline that gave up a long, long time ago. The line for security is 30 people long. But wait! there's a sign that says, "Business class, Gold, Platinum, etc." I walk over to the sign. The harried woman checking boarding passes says, "Go to the end of the line."
"But there's a sign."
"I know there's a sign. We ignore that."
As I stand in line for ten minutes, I watch this act repeated with no less than ten people. It never occurs to the TSA or to American to take down the sign. They don't care. They don't have to.
I get on the plane. It hasn't been refurbished in a decade or more. The seats are creaky. The flight costs more than ten times as much as JetBlue, but nothing about it remarkable in any way. The amazing thing is that I recognized the staff from past flights. Good people. People capable of trying. But they don't care any more, because management gave up a long time ago.
I get to the Avis counter at SFO. The two women behind the counter have no other customers. I am not making this up--they literally are cackling with glee when my paperwork is messed up. The best thing that happened to them all day. And then when I present my credit (not debit) card, they cackle that they don't take debit cards, and engage me in a spirited debate about whether or not it is a debit card after all. They don't care, they don't have to.
The good news:
Dragging my butt, disheartened by the new "we don't care, we don't have to" economy, I showed up at the W hotel in San Francisco. Other W hotels hadn't blown me away, but this place was across the street from my speaking gig and the booking agent put me here, so no big deal.
I walked in with diminished expectations.
Two extremely attractive people behind the counter looked up. The guy said, with a genuine smile, "welcome." And it all started to change.
These people were actually trying. Because they wanted to, not because they had to.
I got to my room. The turn down person handed me a crisp fortune cookie as I walked past her on the way to my room. My room had an etcha sketch on the desk, a tres cool CD softly playing on the stereo and very neat toiletries in the bathroom. Extra cost, maybe $3.
I called for a wake up call. A truly nice person answered the phone, not a computer. They also asked if I wanted breakfast (at 4 am!!). I did. Net profit for having a person answer? $15.
There is no perfect experience. But this was great storytelling, storytelling with authenticity from caring people. It restored my faith (at least a little) in what organizations can do.
Your prayers are answered:
click on Se senaste programmet. (a realplayer will opend up)
And then click on:
It's about one minute in, after some unusual footage of a guy on a bike and then David Bowie (of course).