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Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.




Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

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.




Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.



Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.



Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).




The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.



The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.




The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.




The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.





"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.




Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.



V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.




We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« December 2007 | Main | February 2008 »


Yes, of course a blogger benefits when you subscribe to her blog.

But even better, you benefit. Home delivery (for free) of blogs is perhaps the greatest bargain on the Internet. You can get my blog by email every day by clicking here. Or even better, get it free with your new, free RSS reader).

Thanks for reading.

Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.

Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there's no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.

Real permission is different from presumed or legalistic permission. Just because you somehow get my email address doesn't mean you have permission. Just because I don't complain doesn't mean you have permission. Just because it's in the fine print of your privacy policy doesn't mean it's permission either.

Real permission works like this: if you stop showing up, people complain, they ask where you went.

I got a note from a Daily Candy reader the other day. He was upset because for three days in a row, his Daily Candy newsletter hadn't come. That's permission.

Permission is like dating. You don't start by asking for the sale at first impression. You earn the right, over time, bit by bit.

One of the key drivers of permission marketing, in addition to the scarcity of attention, is the extraordinarily low cost of dripping to people who want to hear from you. RSS and email and other techniques mean you don't have to worry about stamps or network ad buys every time you have something to say. Home delivery is the milkman's revenge... it's the essence of permission.

Permission doesn't have to be formal but it has to be obvious. My friend has permission to call me if he needs to borrow five dollars, but the person you meet at a trade show has no such ability to pitch you his entire resume, even though he paid to get in.

Subscriptions are an overt act of permission. That's why home delivery newspaper readers are so valuable, and why magazine subscribers are worth more than newsstand ones.

In order to get permission, you make a promise. You say, "I will do x, y and z, I hope you will give me permission by listening." And then, this is the hard part, that's all you do. You don't assume you can do more. You don't sell the list or rent the list or demand more attention. You can promise a newsletter and talk to me for years, you can promise a daily RSS feed and talk to me every three minutes, you can promise a sales pitch every day (the way Woot does). But the promise is the promise until both sides agree to change it. You don't assume that just because you're running for President or coming to the end of the quarter or launching a new product that you have the right to break the deal. You don't.

Permission doesn't have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.

When I launched my book that coined this phrase 9 years ago, I offered people a third of the book for free in exchange for an email address. And I never, ever did anything with those addresses again. That wasn't part of the deal. No follow ups, no new products. A deal's a deal.

If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you're right. That's why so few companies do it properly. The best shortcut, in this case, is no shortcut at all.


Insiders know what it is, but it's a new term to many.

Here's what you do:
Put a picture on your website. Something novel but still recognizable.
Or something really useful.
Then, put lots of links to various websites within the image.
Or, if you want, make it something remarkably honest or confessional or provocative.
Or make it a top 10 or top 41 list.
Then, tell the people you're linking to about it.

They link back to you because it's funny or new or makes them seem smart or just feels sharable.

It gets ranked up high on Digg and the other social networking sites.

You get a TON of visits. Like 250,000 new people.

Sure, only a few will actually click around and interact with you, but still, it's neat to have it happen and it might very well have ancillary benefits in your search results.

But mostly, do it because you can.

The web has been doing this forever, and it's likely we still will. It's a fine hobby, but I sure wouldn't want to build a business around it.

Here's today's example.

Tribe Management

Brand management is so 1999.

Brand management was top down, internally focused, political and money based. It involved an MBA managing the brand, the ads, the shelf space, etc. The MBA argued with product development and manufacturing to get decent stuff, and with the CFO to get more cash to spend on ads.

Tribe management is a whole different way of looking at the world.

It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organizations can build isn't an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about.

And of course, since this is so important, product development and manufacturing and the CFO work for the tribal manager. Everything the organization does is to feed and grow and satisfy the tribe.

Instead of looking for customers for your products, you seek out products (and services) for the tribe. Jerry Garcia understood this. Do you?

Who does this work for? Try record companies and bloggers, real estate agents and recruiters, book publishers and insurance companies. It works for Andrew Weil and for Rickie Lee Jones and for Rupert at the WSJ... But it also works for a small web development firm or a venture capitalist.

People form tribes with or without us. The challenge is to work for the tribe and make it something even better.

The Hyping Point

A few readers have written in, asking me about a recent article in Fast Company about Malcolm Gladwell's  Tipping Point and new research by Duncan Watts. (Cory's take on it is here). Full disclosure: Duncan is brilliant, and so is Malcolm. Which is my point, I guess. Duncan's work does nothing at all to discredit the importance of what Gladwell is saying in the Tipping Point. Mostly, I think it's a provocative headline designed to get clicks for the magazine...

As I understand it, people are influenced by the people around them. That we act, like buffalo, in a herd. The idea that a single influential individual (even a blogger like Guy or a talk show host like Oprah) can individually change the herd is crazy, and I don't think anyone has argued that.

What should be really clear, though, is that people with big audiences certainly count as one of the people around you. If the guy down the row at work buys a Mac Air, it counts. If Guy buys a Mac Air, it counts just as much (or possibly a bit more). If a kid in school is listening to Ini, it counts. And if you hear HotStepper on a popular radio station, it counts just as much. Since people with big audiences have more 'friends' and have more 'people down the hall', they have more influence. Not because they count for more, just because they 'know' more people. (Forgive the excessive use of single quotation marks, please).

Unleashing the Ideavirus didn't spread because 'important' people endorsed and promoted it. It spread because passionate people did.

One more reason not to obsess about the A list in any media category. Worry instead about people with passion and people with lots of friends. You need both for ideas to spread. That was Malcolm's point all along.

After the lawyers

Flowermarket If it's in print, it matters even more. Things in print have a tone and a finality that add an impact that you need to care about.

So, after the lawyers are done, let the marketers make sure it sounds like you. Your signs, your contacts, your fine print... your words don't just sit there, they shout.

Consider this sign (hidden camera quality, sorry). Here are the highlights:

At a florist? The people here are uniformly nice. Why are they yelling at me? Why not ditch the capital letters and the rigid rules and say something like,

"At Surroundings, it's really important to us that you be delighted (not just happy). Please keep your receipt and be sure to bring it with you if there are any problems. We'll be happy to exchange any cut flowers that aren't just right--we'll give you a store credit or any other item in the store of equal or lesser value. Unfortunately, we can't exchange plants. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask any of us for help."

Same rules, different marketing.

Don't get fooled again

Next time you get an email (copied to all your friends plus people you don't know) warning you about some horrible computer virus, some sick kid collecting greeting cards or the National Do Not Call List, don't just blindly follow instructions and then forward to everyone you know.

Instead, go to Google and type in the word "snopes" followed by the gist of the cause or the event or emergency. Snopes will then tell you whether it's a hoax or not. Save you and your list a whole lot of time.

Needle in a Haystack marketing

So, why bother everyone with a blog post about iPhone voice mail?

It used to be that marketing to the masses cost a fortune, or sometimes, two fortunes.

With a blog or CraigsList or Squidoo, you can enter your information into the vast online database for free.

No, doing that won't reach everyone. In fact, it will reach almost no one.

But that's fine if the few people you do reach are the people who are looking for you. My iPhone post will get seen by the hundred or thousand people who do the precise Google search that turns it up. And they'll be glad they did.

If you're using a tool that supports this sort of deep search (this blog is a poor example of that, of course) and you've got the time, go ahead and solve very specific problems, realizing that you won't reach everyone, just the people who care a great deal.

The two tips I have for you:

1. Be sure to really and truly solve the searcher's problem. Boilerplate and selfish redirection of attention are bogus strategies that don't pay off. I like this solution to the search for "Michelle Obama pictures," and it's no surprise it comes up first.

2. Make it a habit. Solve five or ten or fifty problems a day and soon you'll have thousands of solutions, which ought to be enough.

If your iphone voice mail is silent (no sound)

I discovered a bug with my iphone over the weekend. Due to an update, when using it with Bluetooth, I found that while I could make and receive calls, my voice mail showed up but I couldn't hear it. AT&T blamed Apple and vice versa. Finally, we discovered that it was sort of sending the sound to Bluetooth, but not really.

We reset everything, including clearing all my voice mail. Nothing worked.

All I had to do (which is a bit of a pain in the neck) is route the audio to the handset manually and ...fixed.

George, check your spam filter

If I was in the middle of an email dialogue with you and suddenly I'm not, please check your spam filter. I've heard from about six people that my email is starting to show up there instead.

Sorry to interrupt everyone else, but it's a bit of a catch 22... if the only way to tell you that you're not getting my email is by email...

Who are these people?

If you look at the numbers, you soon realize that a huge portion of the population apparently:

  • Has read two books in the last year, Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code
  • Uses only two websites, Google and Facebook
  • Visits only a few blog posts a day, and every single one of them is on the home page of Digg
  • Watches only two or three TV shows, including the Super Bowl
  • Eats only at McDonalds
  • Watches only incredibly snarky or juvenile videos on YouTube

Mass phenomena are tricky things. It's true, the typical American reads exactly one book a year. How are you going to predict which of the 75,000 books published are going to be that book? You can't.

Many bloggers seem to be on a perpetual hunt for the front page of Digg. Sure, it brings you hordes of eyeballs, but then they turn around and leave. What's the point of that, really?

I think that are plenty of tips you can follow to optimize your offering for this fickle mass group. But it's still a crap shoot. Doesn't it make more sense to incrementally earn the attention of a smaller, less glitzy but far more valuable group of people who actually engage with you? And the best part is, your odds of success are a lot better.

Just say it

Don't let the words get in the way. If you're writing online, forget everything you were tortured by in high school English class. You're not trying to win any awards or get an A. You're just trying to be real, to make a point, to write something worth reading.

So just say it.

The last interaction

Marketers (and high school kids) focus a lot on the first date. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

I recently had some waterproofing done in the basement. The first date was great. The company was professional and had every single element down, from their AdWords to the web site to the way they interacted on the phone and in person.

I think that stuff is pretty important, but I'm way more interested in the last interaction than I am in the first (and if you care about word of mouth, you should be too).

After they finished the job, they left my basement a mess.

Forever, my only memory of the job is going to be the mess. Forever, the only thing I'll talk about is the mess. The last interaction, in my experience, is responsible for virtually all of the word of mouth you're going to get, positive or negative.

That free muffin at the restaurant or the lollipop at the barber or the call from the Realtor a week after the house is sold and contracts are signed and the movers have left... believe it or not, it matters.

PS The waterproofing guys took the time to call me before I did this post, and that call led to a new last interaction... my bad feelings are already fading, because they stepped up and took action. More proof that it matters.

Bad judgment

All day, you run into people with bad judgment. That critic who didn't like your last movie, or the prospect who refuses to buy your product even though it's better. Or the angry customer who is bitter, vindictive, loud and out to cost you your job... even though they must know it's not your fault. Or perhaps it's the employee who refuses to exert a little extra energy even though it would help all of you.

It's enough to make you scream. Or give up.

Here's a thought: Maybe it's not bad judgment.

Try this on: "If I believed what you believe, I'd probably be acting exactly the same way you are right now." (Better thought than said, probably).

You know what, that's almost certainly true... if I believed what you said when you wrote that angry blog post, I probably would have written the same thing.

Once we realize that it's not a matter of judgment, but a matter of belief, everything changes.

That's because marketers are charged with changing what people believe.

If I can help change what you believe, I bet I can change your actions as well. And respecting your judgment is a great place to start.

Getting stuck in your head

That's what great marketing and great ideas do. They get stuck. This song from Ini Kamoze just won't leave my brain (and if you listen once, you've only got yourself to blame.) The video is lame, but the song is absolutely perfect if the goal is to spread the hook.

Authors and bloggers try to do the same thing. I did a talk yesterday with Chris Anderson, Tim Ferris and John Jantsch. I hope it sticks in your head. Here's the audio: (file download is here).

What’s a Blog?

I try to avoid any advice that includes the word "must." It seems like Brian has a similar take.

The thing is, for big organizations to embrace something, they often need the template, the strict rules, the golden path. TV commercials must be thirty seconds. Public companies must have a big lobby and a receptionist. Like that.

The reason that there's so much pressure and focus on finding an ironclad list of musts is that the big and the slow demand it. That doesn't mean you have to listen to them.

Help wanted: Software Developer--$3,000 bounty

Squidoo is looking for an amazing developer to join our team (a 25% hiring spree...). Here is the job description.

If you know the perfect person, send them over, please. $3,000 reward if you find us the right person... see the post for details. Thanks.


Here's what we used to do:

Create ---> Edit ---> Launch

Here's what happens now:

Create ---> Launch ---> Edit ---> Launch ---> repeat

Someone asked me which post on this blog represented the turning point of its growth. The 'breakthrough' post. It turns out that there wasn't one. Instead, there were 2,500 posts, one after the other, each building (and I was learning from each) as we went.

Wikipedia is built on a bold idea: launch with a few hundred mediocre articles. Challenge people to add a few more. And then, day after day, layer on top of that, improving each one, improving a hundred thousand of them, improving a million of them. One after another, layer after layer.

Squidoo is a bit different. Let each person layer their own page, instead of a crowd. And then, as time goes by and the crowd gets bigger, the new folks are smarter (and building better pages) because they've watched the results that others have layered up.

Organizations that make the same mistakes every day (hidebound ones, rulebook based ones, airlines) rarely get to layer. They don't grow and improve, because they're not organized to do so.

And thus the challenge. We live in a layered world now. Those that plan and plan and then launch are always going to be at a disadvantage to the layerers.


Nic created the video below--the subtitles and edits are his. The bad cold is mine. I hope you like it (the video, not the cold).

Updated link:

'curiosity' from Nic Askew on Vimeo.

How much for digital?

The movie studios are starting to get excited about renting movies digitally (via Apple and others). The pricing seems to be modeled on Blockbuster (+). Figure $3 a rental, another buck or so for HD. That seems 'fair', because it's in the same range as we're used to.

But wait.

Blockbuster buys DVDs for $15 or $20 (probably a lot less in volume, but I have no clue what the real number is). The studios have to pay for duplication and warehousing and marketing and they take a risk with every pressing that they'll have to shred the leftovers.

Blockbuster then rents them out 30 or 40 or more times each, meaning each rental costs Blockbuster fifty cents. Not to mention rent, surly clerks, cost of capital, advertising, etc. Or, in the case of Netflix, stamps.

In the case of online rentals, all of these intermediate costs immediately disappear. Gone.

So, why try to mimic the current model when it comes to pricing if the costs are mostly gone?

The same thing goes for online music and for PDF versions of books. Kevin Kelly figured this out with his book on films. He makes $1.50 a copy regardless of whether you buy the beautiful color edition or the cheapest edition he sells. Why should he care which version you choose?

The current phone novel craze in Japan is even more evidence for why this makes sense. 2,000,000 people download the phone novel you wrote (it costs you nothing) and then, when it becomes a hit, you make millions on the sales of the paper book and the movie...

No, I don't think Free is always the answer, but I do think the studios are about to make a mistake of RIAA proportions. I'd charge fifty cents for an online rental. It would immediately hammer the rental stores (which is fine with Hollywood) and DVD replicators (also fine with Hollywood) but would instantly teach people a new habit. Then, once the new habit is set and you've earned permission, sure, charge more for new movies and for blockbusters. 300 million movie theatres, all selling tickets every single night--you don't need to charge $10 a seat when you have access to everyone.

It's important to charge something, because the act of paying fundamentally changes the dynamics of the relationship. The question is this: at the start, is your goal to maximize profit or to build a platform that scales? The fact is that the market is too small right now for the price to matter. What matters is whether you can build an audience that is in the habit of paying you, an audience that wants to hear from you, an audience that you can build a business on.

At fifty cents a rental, all desire for piracy goes out the window, replaced by convenience, ease of use and a clear conscience. More important, entire new services show up, habits are built and the studios end up with a direct relationship with consumers who want to hear from them. If they don't get greedy at the start.

A shortage of digital coaches

Here are three things that are true:
1. Digital technology, especially computers and cell phones, can dramatically increase productivity.
2. More and more users of digital technology are small firms or individuals.
3. The vast majority of users of digital technology are totally lame in getting the most out of the investment of their time and money.

"Oh, I didn't know I could do that."

"You mean I don't have to manually type my address book in by hand?"

"There are graphs in Excel?"

"Gmail is free?"

Here's what I haven't found: people who charge $100 an hour to hear what you do and how you do it and then show you how to do it better. People who organize data and put it in the right place. People who overhaul the way small groups use technology so they can use it dramatically better. People who use copilot to take over a PC and actually rearrange it so that it works better.

More examples: Teach people to back up. Show them how to check their email on the road. Help them understand how to use online networking when it's appropriate (and warn them when it's not). Show a restaurant how to use OpenTable to keep the place full, or to use a blog (with an RSS feed) to easily communicate with loyal customers. Teach a company to keep tabs on itself with Technorati.

This is a growth area. The tools are finally in place to market yourself, and even better, the productivity increases you can produce for $500 or $1,000 are not just valuable, they're actually priceless.

I bet you're out there. I bet there are people looking for you. Show yourself on this showcase for digital coaches...

Bananas are underrated

Flowers with a sense of humor.

The problem with perfect

When was the last time you excitedly told someone about Fedex?

They're perfect. The only time we notice them is when they screw up.

And that fancy restaurant with the four star reviews? They've got the fine linen and the coordinated presentation of dishes... it costs hundreds of dollars to eat there, but it's okay, because they're perfect.

Which is a problem, because dinner consists of not much except noticing how imperfect they are. The second course came five minutes later than it should of (ten, even!). The salad was really good, but not as perfect as it was last time. And the valet parking... you had to wait in the cold for at least ninety seconds before your car came. What a let down.

A let down?

The place is a gift, a positive bit of karma in a world filled with compromise. And all you can do is notice that it's not perfect.

As the quality of things go up, and competition increases, it's so easy to sell people on perfect. But perfect rarely leads to great word of mouth, merely because expectations are so hard to meet.

I think it's more helpful to focus on texture, on interpersonal interaction, on interesting. Interesting is attainable, and interesting is remarkable. Interesting is fresh every day and interesting leads to word of mouth.

I think our Fedex delivery person is interesting. I like her. I talk to her. And yes, it changes my decision about who to ship with. I also think that Spicy Mina is an interesting restaurant. So far from perfect, it's ridiculous. But I talk about it.

A few more interviews

The post2post tour continues: Spinning Silk, Brand Mix and  Make it Great. Thanks, guys.


Along the way, some people in search of the remarkable have resorted to gimmicks to get the word out about their work. Gimmicks might work fine if you run a chain of fast food restaurants or a website, but gimmicks certainly get in the way of building a reputation if you're a lawyer or a doctor.

So, where to draw the line?

If a product or service adds value for the consumer, it's not a gimmick. Toll free customer support, for example, was seen as a gimmick when it came out in the 1960s. At least by competitors. Now, of course, it's required.

Banks open on Sundays? Well, it seems like a gimmick at first, until customers realize that they can't live without it. Then it's not a gimmick any longer.

Or consider a doctor who has completely reinvented the way he practices medicine. If it works, it won't be a gimmick. Because both sides with benefit, for the long haul.

As you sit down to consider ways to be more remarkable, the challenge is to be worth talking about... at the same time you are adding value for the person who's talking about you.


A workaholic lives on fear. It's fear that drives him to show up all the time. The best defense, apparently, is a good attendance record.

A new class of jobs (and workers) is creating a different sort of worker, though. This is the person who works out of passion and curiosity, not fear.

The passionate worker doesn't show up because she's afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it's a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation... because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it's a lot more fun than watching TV.

It was hard to imagine someone being passionate about mining coal or scrubbing dishes. But the new face of work, at least for some people, opens up the possibility that work is the thing (much of the time) that you'd most like to do. Designing jobs like that is obviously smart. Finding one is brilliant.

Polly's best riff... ever.

Work isn’t a place you go, it’s something you do.

The more people you reach the more likely it is that you're reaching the wrong people

Who vs. how many.

Customers that care

I visited the new Apple store in NYC on 14th Street yesterday. This one isn't as flashy as the one in midtown, and it has a fairly annoying design flaw. The two front doors don't close. Push them open, walk away and the door stays open.

On one visit, they had two full-time employees standing there, walking over to each door to close it. At the time, I figured it was actually a design feature... they had a doorman. How quaint.

Yesterday, though, with the temperature outside about 45, they just left both doors open.

I asked Jeff, the employee greeting visitors, "why don't you guys keep the door shut?" After all, it seems extremely wasteful. Al Gore is on the board, but even if he wasn't, it must be costing them a fortune.

Jeff told me that people complain all the time and it can't be fixed.

Obviously, not everyone complains all the time. Perhaps it's just a few a day. But the people who complain, care. And it's the customers that care that actually have a huge impact on your business.

If no one cares, you've got trouble. Goal one is getting people to care. Goal two: listening to them.

Encyclopedia salesmen hate wikipedia...

And CNET hates Google
And newspapers hate Craigslist
And music labels hate Napster
And used bookstores hate Amazon
And so do independent bookstores.

Dating services hate Plenty of Fish
And the local shoe store hates Zappos
And courier services hate fax machines
And monks hate Gutenberg

Apparently, technology doesn't care who you hate.

What does cheese say when you take its picture?

Thanks to John Moore (again) for giving me a chance to be funny. With straight lines like that, I could go far...


Unless you just started, your organization is different than it used to be. It has evolved.

2217transitionalfossill The marketing you do, the decisions you make, the hurdles you have to go through probably have vestiges of the old model. Sometimes, like the little feet on the back of a whale, it's easy to ignore the vestiges. Other times, it's entirely possibly that they prevent you from achieving your goals.

Example: years ago, Prodigy, the original big online service, reflected its origins from Sears, CBS and IBM when they unveiled chat and discussion boards. Every single message posted was read by a censor before it went online. At one point, they had literally hundreds of full time editors sitting in an office tower outside of NY, painstakingly reading every single post.

Example: the production values of an HD TV show are lost in the YouTube environment, yet plenty of studios and advertisers are having trouble giving up the staffing and hierarchy that served them so well in the other medium. So the vestiges remain, slowing down the entire process (and making it a lot more expensive.) 25 people to film a three minute clip is just silly, but it makes sense if you look back at how they got there.

Example: local banks with limited hours were the norm just a few years ago. The move to online hasn't changed the way they all see the world... it's a skeleton staff at night, because that's the way it always was.

If you're working hard to work around a vestige, maybe it makes sense to work just as hard to get rid of it all together.

More marketing links than you can read in a weekend

Which is too bad, because Tamar has found some good stuff.

Plus, four posts recommended by Maki:

40+ Social News Websites: A List of General and Niche Social Media Communities

The Secret to Building a Popular Blog (and Getting Tons of Readers)

Are You Using the Right Content Development Strategy for Your Website?

16 Effective Strategies to Expand Your Blog’s Reach in 2008


Oded told me about a major website vandalizing the Consumer Electronics Show by turning off TV monitors using a remote control. They took down entire walls of monitors and interrupted presentations.

Sorry, guys, but this is just like shoplifting or spam or breaking windows. It's not 'no big deal', it's a very big deal. Here's why:

First, in a society where we make concepts, services and ideas as opposed to stuff, breaking that process is identical to breaking the stuff was back then. In other words, it's vandalism.

Worse, what happens when everyone does it? I remember getting my first piece of spam in 1995 or so. Back then, one piece a day was no big deal. But 500 people at CES would be enough to bring the entire show down. Can I protect my monitor with a piece of black electrical tape? Sure. But why should I have to give up using my (authorized) remote in order to put on a public display that people are actually paying to see? When there's two or three or five people at every movie with a laser pointer, the movie is no longer fun to watch.

Here's the downside of the openness that the Web is promoting: the next group of people coming online from around the world will have a lot more to gain by gaming the system, by running confidence games, by spamming comments, by figuring out how to rip you off... It's a lot easier to leave the doors of your house unlocked when you live in a remote village--one where everyone knows your name.

If the standard of the culture we're building online is already low, then it makes it even easier for organized crime (and just plain disorganized scammers) to have a serious impact on the rest of us. Anonymity is the enemy, whether it's online or walking around a trade show with a clicker in your pocket.

Tolerating vandalism doesn't seem to have a lot of upside for the community, imho.

Always easier to just say "stop"

Fred Vogelstein does a dissection of the evolution of the iPhone in Wired. The takeaway for me is that there were nearly insurmountable hurdles in terms of investment, partnership, technology and even security, and that at any time, the easiest thing would have been to just say  'forget it.' Everyone would breathe a sigh of relief and move on. Important stuff is usually like that.

It was interesting to see that the code name for the iPhone was Purple2. I wonder if they were inspired by Alice Walker's book?

I gave at the office

Mark Rovner has an insightful post about the current state of fundraising and non-profits.

The short version: most big charities are based on direct mail fundraising, and as you're read here before, direct mail is dying. What to do?

I'll start with the bad news: I despair for most of the top 50 non-profits in the US. These are the big guys, and they're stuck. Unlike the Fortune 100, not known for being cutting edge in themselves, the top charities rarely change... if you're big, you're used to being big and you expect to stay big. That means that generation after generation of staff has been hired to keep doing what's working. Big risks and crazy schemes are certainly frowned upon.

The good news is this: the Internet is not a replacement for direct mail fundraising. It is, in fact, something much bigger than that for just about every non-profit.

As soon as commerce started online, many non-profits discovered lots of income from their websites. This was mistakenly chalked up to brilliant conversion and smart marketing. In fact, it was just technologically advanced donors using a more convenient method to send in money they would have sent in anyway.

The big win is in changing the very nature of what it means to support a charity. The idea of "I gave at the office" and of giving money in the last week in December speaks to obligation. Many people donate to satisfy a guilty feeling, or to please a friend. This doesn't scale. Not one bit. It's super easy to ignore a direct mail solicitation when all you have to do is hit delete and no one notices.

The big win is in turning donors into patrons and activists and participants. The biggest donors are the ones who not only give, but do the work. The ones who make the soup or feed the hungry or hang the art. My mom was a volunteer for years at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, and there's no doubt at all that we gave more money to the museum than we would have if they'd sent us a flyer once a month.

The internet allows some organizations to embrace long-distance involvement. It lets charities flip the funnel, not through some simple hand waving, but by reorganizing around the idea of engagement online. It means opening yourself up to volunteers, encouraging them to network, to connect with each other, and yes, even to mutiny. It means giving every one of your professionals a blog and the freedom to use it. It means mixing it up with volunteers, so they have something truly at stake. This is understandably scary for many non-profits, but I'm not so sure you have a choice.

Do you have to abandon the old ways today? Of course not. But responsible stewardship requires that you find and empower the mavericks and give them the flexibility to build something new, not to try to force the internet to act like direct mail with free stamps.

Dumbing down

"Our readers won't understand this."

"Our customers are too busy and won't get this."

"The people who come to our restaurant want red meat."

"No one is going to want something this good..."

Think about the stuff you hear on the radio or read about in mass market publications. When they attempt to cover something you really know about, they seem pretty stupid, don't they? Oversimplifying to the point of getting it completely wrong. They're busy pandering to the masses, dumbing things down for the lowest common denominator.

You're under pressure to do that with your restaurant and your spiritual advice and your stump speech and your non-profit pitch. There are gatekeepers pushing you to dumb it down for the average.

The thing is, when you dumb stuff down, you know what you get?

Dumb customers.

And (I'm generalizing here) dumb customers don't spend as much, don't talk as much, don't blog as much, don't vote as much and don't evangelize as much. In other words, they're the worst ones to end up with.

I'll take the smart customers/readers/prospects every time, please.

How to title stuff

(Books, blog posts, breakfast cereals, whatever).

I was talking to someone yesterday about naming books, and I realized that there are three useful schools of thought here.

  1. You can pick a completely descriptive, generic, boring name that precisely describes what's inside. Like "Shredded Wheat" or "12 Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog" or "Installing Linux on the 8088 Platform in 24 Hours". The advantage of this approach is that Google likes it, and so do people who are quite goal directed. If you've got a Linux installation problem and you find that book at your local B&N, not only are you going to buy it immediately, you're going to do it with a smile on your face.
  2. You can pick a more clever name that's designed to entice the reader to read the subtitle, or the first few lines of your post or the back of the cereal box. You can imbue the name with some attitude, like BlogWild, or you can pick a name that just begs to be researched, like Join the Conversation.
  3. The third approach is to pick a name that gets talked about. To create a phrase that you hope will enter the vocabulary. Yes, that's my strategy. My goal is to have people call something a Purple Cow or eviscerate the boss for suggesting yet another Meatball Sundae. It doesn't always work, but when it does, you sell ten books, not one. (From my point of view, though, I'm happy to sell zero if the phrase catches on... the book is just an excuse for making change).

And now, to really gild the lily, the guys at 8CR have figured out a way to get you a free action figure (yes, there really is an action figure, and yes, it really is a joke) when you buy ten copies of the new book at a discount price, one for everyone who can't figure out what you're talking about. And yes, they ship worldwide. Imagine everyone's delight when you give them one for Valentine's Day.

While we're on the topic, Jackie has a fairly disgusting video.That's not why the book made the WSJ bestseller list, but it can't hurt.

John wrote a crisp review. So did Marc. I'd say "thanks for reading," but what I really want to say is, "thanks for talking about it."

Music lessons

Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart)

The first rule is so important, it’s rule 0:

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late.  Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success
Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s no reason to believe you’ll succeed at it tomorrow.

The music business had a spectacular run alongside the baby boomers. Starting with the Beatles and Dylan, they just kept minting money. The co-incidence of expanding purchasing power of teens along with the birth of rock, the invention of the transistor and changing social mores meant a long, long growth curve.

As a result, the music business built huge systems. They created top-heavy organizations, dedicated superstores, a loss-leader touring industry, extraordinarily high profit margins, MTV and more. It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever?

It didn’t. Yours doesn’t either.

2. Copy protection in a digital age is a pipe dream
If the product you make becomes digital, expect that the product you make will be copied.

There’s a paradox in the music business that is mirrored in many industries: you want ubiquity, not obscurity, yet digital distribution devalues your core product.

Remember, the music business is the one that got in trouble for bribing disk jockeys to play their music on the radio. They are the ones that spent millions to make (free) videos for MTV. And yet once the transmission became digital, they understood that there’s not a lot of reason to buy a digital version (via a cumbersome expensive process) when the digital version is free (and easier).

Most items of value derive that value from scarcity. Digital changes that, and you can derive value from ubiquity now.

The solution isn’t to somehow try to become obscure, to get your song off the (digital) radio. The solution is to change your business.

You used to sell plastic and vinyl. Now, you can sell interactivity and souvenirs.

3. Interactivity can’t be copied
Products that are digital and also include interaction thrive on centralization and do better and better as the market grows in size (consider Facebook or Basecamp).

Music is social. Music is current and everchanging. And most of all, music requires musicians. The winners in the music business of tomorrow are individuals and organizations that create communities, connect people, spread ideas and act as the hub of the wheel... indispensable and well-compensated.

4. Permission is the asset of the future
For generations, businesses had no idea who their end users were. No ability to reach through the record store and figure out who was buying that Rolling Stones album, no way to know who bought this book or that vase.

Today, of course, permission is an asset to be earned. The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. For ten years, the music business has been steadfastly avoiding this opportunity.

It’s interesting though, because many musicians have NOT been avoiding it. Many musicians have understood that all they need to make a (very good) living is to have 10,000 fans. 10,000 people who look forward to the next record, who are willing to trek out to the next concert. Add 7 fans a day and you’re done in 5 years. Set for life. A life making music for your fans, not finding fans for your music.

The opportunity of digital distribution is this:

When you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread (if it’s good). If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop.

Many authors (I’m on that list) have managed to build an entire career around this idea. So have management consultants and yes, insurance salespeople. Not by viewing the spread of digital artifacts as an inconvenient tactic, but as the core of their new businesses.

5. A frightened consumer is not a happy consumer.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but here goes: suing people is like going to war. If you’re going to go to war with tens of thousands of your customers every year, don’t be surprised if they start treating you like the enemy.

6. This is a big one: The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.
It’s not so easy for an unknown artist to start from scratch and build a career self-publishing. Not so easy for her to find fans, one at a time, and build an audience. Very, very easy for a record label or a top artist to do so. So, the time to jump was yesterday. Too late. Okay, how about today?

The sooner you do it, the more assets and momentum you have to put to work.

7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: it’s not just a record, it’s a movement.
Bob and his handlers have a long track record of finding movements. Anti-war movements, sure, but also rock movies, the Grateful Dead, SACDs, Christian rock and Apple fanboys. What Bob has done (and I think he’s done it sincerely, not as a calculated maneuver) is seek out groups that want to be connected and he works to become the connecting the point.

By being open to choices of format, to points of view, to moments in time, Bob Dylan never said, “I make vinyl records that cost money to listen to.” He understands at some level that music is often the soundtrack for something else.

I think the same thing can be true for chefs and churches and charities and politicians and makers of medical devices. People pay a premium for a story, every time.

8. Don’t panic when the new business model isn’t as ‘clean’ as the old one
It’s not easy to give up the idea of manufacturing CDs with a 90% gross margin and switching to a blended model of concerts and souvenirs, of communities and greeting cards and special events and what feels like gimmicks. I know.

Get over it. It’s the only option if you want to stay in this business. You’re just not going to sell a lot of CDs in five years, are you?

If there’s a business here, first few in will find it, the rest lose everything.

9. Read the writing on the wall.
Hey, guys, I’m not in the music business and even I’ve been writing about this for years. I even started a record label five years ago to make the point. Industries don’t die by surprise. It’s not like you didn’t know it was coming. It's not like you didn't know who to call (or hire).

This isn’t about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free, on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen.

The last person to leave the current record business won’t be the smartest and he won’t be the most successful, either. Getting out first and staking out the new territory almost always pays off.

10. Don’t abandon the Long Tail
Everyone in the hit business thinks they understand the secret: just make hits. After all, if you do the math, it shows that if you just made hits, you’d be in fat city.

Of course, the harder you try to just make hits, the less likely you are to make any hits at all. Movies, records, books... the blockbusters always seem to be surprises. Surprise hit cookbooks, even.

Instead, in an age when it’s cheaper than ever to design something, to make something, to bring something to market, the smart strategy is to have a dumb strategy. Keep your costs low and go with your instincts, even when everyone says you’re wrong. Do a great job, not a perfect one. Bring things to market, the right market, and let them find their audience.

Stick to the knitting has never been more wrong. Instead, find products your customers want. Don’t underestimate them. They’re more catholic in their tastes than you give them credit for.

11. Understand the power of  digital
Try to imagine something like this happening ten years ago: An eleven-year-old kid wakes up on a Saturday morning, gets his allowance, then, standing in his pajamas, buys a Bon Jovi song for a buck.

Compare this to hassling for a ride, driving to the mall, finding the album in question, finding the $14 to pay for it and then driving home.

You may believe that your business doesn’t lend itself to digital transactions. Many do. If you’ve got a business that doesn’t thrive on digital, it might not grow as fast as you like... Maybe you need to find a business that does thrive on digital.

No_one_cares 12. Celebrity is underrated
The music business has always created celebrities. And each celebrity has profited for decades from that fame. Frank Sinatra is dead and he's still profiting. Elvis is still alive and he's certainly still profiting.

The music business has done a poor job of leveraging that celebrity and catching the value it creates. Many businesses now have the power to create their own micro-celebrities. These individuals capture attention and generate trust, two critical elements in growing profits.

13. Value is created when you go from many to few, and vice versa
The music business has thousands of labels and tens of thousands of copyright holders. It's a mess.

And there's just one iTunes music store. Consolidation pays.

At the same time, there are other industries where there are just a few major players and the way to profit is to create splinters and niches.

13. Whenever possible, sell subscriptions
Few businesses can successfully sell subscriptions (magazines being the very best example), but when you can, the whole world changes. HBO, for example, is able to spend its money making shows for its viewers rather than working to find viewers for every show.

The biggest opportunity for the music business is to combine permission with subscription. The possibilities are endless. And I know it's hard to believe, but the good old days are yet to happen.


Turns out that for the last seventeen twenty-seven years, every single movie that managed to win the Oscar for best picture was also nominated for best editing.

Great products, amazing services and stories worth talking about get edited along the way. Most of the time, the editing makes them pallid, mediocre and boring. Sometimes, a great editor will push the remarkable stuff. That's his job.

The easy thing for an editor to do is make things safe. You avoid trouble that way. Alas, it also means you avoid success.

Who's doing your editing?

The truth about word of mouth

It's hard.

Sure, it's hard for you. Your brand doesn't get as much as you like.

But that's not what I mean.

It's hard for the consumer. A few people like to blab and babble. Most people don't.

Consider Iowa. Caucus turnout was huge. And yet it only represents a tiny percentage of the people who vote in the actual election in Iowa. What? The caucus stage is so much more important in the scheme of things (the Iowa electoral vote essentially never influences an election). So why skip the caucus?

90% of voters skip it because they don't want to stand up in front of people and tell them who they're voting for. They don't want to be challenged or made to look foolish. So they keep quiet.

That's what most of your customers do. They lay low, because they're afraid or shy or just not used to talking about brands and products or experiences.

Sure, 1% of your customers blog or post or just plain talk. They're louder than ever before. But the other 99% represent a real opportunity for you. Figure out how to get them out there. Cajole them to go to a caucus.

Making promises

Is that what marketing is all about?

I think so.

Make promises and keep them.

Some organizations work very hard to weasel in the promises they make. They imply great customer service or amazing results or spectacular quality, but don't deliver. No, they didn't actually lie, but they came awfully close. The result: angry customers and negative word of mouth.

It's very easy to overpromise. Tempting to shade the truth a little bit, deliver a little bit less to save a few bucks. Who will notice?

The consumer notices.

If you need to overpromise to make the sale, don't bother. It's not worth it.

The best way to generate word of mouth is simple: overdeliver.

Interview and seminar

Here's a conversation I had with Hugh. Inside-baseball writing stuff.

And, if you like, here's a free online seminar to sign up for.

Who you know

One of the mantras of networking (and the many social networking sites that people are flocking to) is that it matters who you know. The goal of having a thousand or more friends online is that you're well known. Connected. A click away.

I wonder if there's a more useful measure: who trusts you?

Blogs and self promotion

A few years ago, Oprah sold her autobiography to a major New York publisher. You can imagine the delight among booksellers.

At the last minute, she backed out, never really explaining why.

I wonder how many books she would have sold? A lot, certainly, but as many as the titles she regularly promotes?

Here is a fascinating statistic:

Last month, I posted excerpts from my new book. I also wrote a glowing post about Garr's new book on presentations.  Guess what? My stats show that I sold more copies of Garr's book than mine.

The truism of the web: people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself.

Clearly, just about everyone who reads my blog enjoys my writing. You'd think that a significant percentage would then hustle over to buy a copy on Amazon the moment they heard about it. But, just as Oprah is at her best when she's talking about somebody else's book, something funny happens when a blogger talks about his work.

Cory and Mark both have terrific books out. And as co-editors on the world's most popular blog, you'd think that they could use boingboing to sell a ton of books. But it doesn't happen. Lucky for bloggers, if you write a good book, a few other bloggers will write about you and then the sales start happening.

Once again, what do you know, it takes patience. It's not a direct, first-order promotional thing, the way old media is. Instead, it's one thing causing something else, which leads to a conversation and then, maybe, a sale.

Interesting irrelevant aside: how come books get blurbed and promoted by other authors, but movies don't get blurbed and promoted by other directors and actors?

The first thing to do this year

Google yourself.

If you're a salesperson, your prospects already do.
If you're looking for a job, your prospective employers already do.
If you've got a job, your co-workers already do.

What do they see? Do you know?

If you don't like it, you can fix it. Start a blog, even if it's just a few pages worth. Have some colleagues suggest you for wikipedia (if the powers that be think you're notable enough) or make sure you're represented on HubPages or Squidwho or write an article for ChangeThis.

You can be finished by tonight. It's worth it.

Solving problems

There are three ways to deal with a problem, I think.

  • Lean into it.
  • Lean away from it.
  • Run away.

You lean into a problem, especially a long-term or difficult one, by sitting with it, reveling in it, embracing it and breathing it in. The problem becomes part of you, at least until you solve it. You try one approach and then another, and when nothing works, you stick with it and work around it as you build your organization and your life. [I don't mean you just bully the problem, or attack it. I mean that you accept it, live with it, breathe it and whittle it until you've achieved your goal. Once you start looking forward to your interactions with the problem, then you're leaning into it.]

Some people choose to lean away from the problems that nag them at home or at work. They avoid them, minimize them or criticize the cause. Put as little into it as possible and maybe it will go away.

And sometimes, a problem is so nasty or overwhelming that you just run away.

I'm a big fan of the first approach. And sometimes, quitting isn't such a bad idea. The second approach, alas, is the one that many of us end up with by default, and the one that's least likely to pay off.

If that helps with this year's resolutions, it was worth thinking about...

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