Sunday, October 31, 2004

Now, I Agree This Money-Making Idea IS a Bad One

I know I just posted that I didn't think ads on blog would necessarily indicate the sky was falling and that the blogger involved would lose all credibility.

But Marc Canter has come up with a money-making scheme for bloggers that I do think will bring in short-term cash and long-term trouble.

Basically, he proposes signing up influential bloggers to talk for three months about a product. (So, note, again, this may not be an opportunity for any but the most widely-read bloggers, in other words...probably not you or me.)

The blogger can "say anything."
The blogger can admit they are being paid to say the "anything" that they say.
The advertiser guarantees to pay for three months, even if the blogger bad-mouths them.
The advertiser is free to renew or not renew with a blogger after the three months.

Why would this work at all?

You are incented to speak highly if you truly want ongoing revenue.
You run the risk of losing your revenue stream if you speak badly about a product.
You run the risk of being considered a shill by your readers if you speak highly of it.
You run the risk of losing your revenue stream when you've lost enough readers to make you not an influencer anymore.
Sounds like a vicious cycle to me.

I'm not going to get all motherhood and apple pie about the integrity and transparency of blogging. But one of the beauties of blogs is that the writer writes about what they want to write about. It's that sense of informality and authenticity that keeps readers interested.

But, here's my alternative, radical idea: if advertisers wants to take advantage of blogs, they should have their company start one. Then people know what they're getting. And if they're interested in the product/service, they'll come back anyway. Especially if you let them participate in the conversation.

I do think it's entirely possible to have an interesting and ethical corporate blog. I write blogs for theatre companies. My most active one currently is for 42nd St. Moon, a musical theatre company in San Francisco. It's their blog. But I write it. I write about the company. I interview the artists. I get inside scoop on why they chose Show X, or the historical background of Show Y. Sometimes I simply write about other Broadway Musical-related stuff going on in the world. If I see one of their shows, yes I write about it. but I'm not posing as an objective reviewer.

It's a marketing tool. There's no secret about that. And yes, I get paid. And I see little room for people to question the ethics or wisdom of this company hiring a blogger to tell their story.

Can't say the same thing about Canter's idea.

Source: Marc Canter's original post on his proposal.
Source: Red

Blogs hitting the Mainstream: More From Newsday

The third (and I believe final) part of Newsday's series on blogs, how to start one, how to spread one, and now how to make money off of one, is here.

It focuses exclusively on making money by being a really popular blogger. IF you're a really popular blogger, AND your blog is somewhat targeted, then advertisers may choose to run ads on your blog, and you get a cut.

This being the focus makes this story of completely limited use to the vast, VAST majority of bloggers.

The people who hope to make money off of blogs in this way are considering themselves to be freelance writers, essentially starting their own publication, analogous to any magazine or newsletter. Just like any other creative profession, from fiction writing, to acting, to music, to photography... it is the tiny minority who become famous, or who even make a real, un-supplemented living from their creative pursuits. I write my monthly column in the Metro, and I can tell's Starbucks Latte money at best. And the rates for similar kind of writing for the San Jose Merc aren't much better according to a buddy of mine who's done this kind of freelance work. So right off the bat, after the top 100 blogs or so, readership drops off to levels that won't encourage advertisers to spend a lot of money on your site. They may spend some, if your blog is tied in a very relevant way to their product, but not a lot.

Now, some folks get themselves in a real snit about the very idea of blogs advertising, contending it will in some way lessen their credibility. I just don't believe it. First of all, publications take ads. That's what they do. It's how they fund their publication. And I see nothing inherently evil about it.

Secondly, most bloggers are publishing their opinions and analysis. Most bloggers are not out there a) on investigative trips or b) creating the news stories of the day. Yes, we can point to RatherGate as being escalated by the blogger community, but generally speaking, bloggers report on what is already news...with their own interpretation, opinion, analysis research etc. And most people read bloggers because they like their writing, and probably agree with their perspective.

In other words, I believe most bloggers are creative, not journalistic, in style. We don't read them to get the facts; we read them to hear what they have to say about the facts.

So, I have said it before, and I will say it again: blog writers are writers. They have the opportunity to make money the same way other writers do. And they have the greatest likelihood of making money by hiring out their writing skills, as opposed to purely writing on their own behalf.

More writers make money writing ad copy and white papers and corporate newsletters than make money publishing their fiction masterpiece. Or you can get lots of freelance gigs that add up...writing for newspapers, magazine etc.

Your blog can get you such gigs. And increasingly those gigs might entail creating or participating in blogging...for businesses, for an online publisher etc.

I wish Newsday would have thought a little bit more outside the BlogAds box and addressed other ways the average blogger could make money.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Special Double Silicon Veggie Column

In honor of the Metro's semi-annual Food Issue, I got double the space and an extra column:

It's provocatively called "Right To Choose"

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Newsday does a series on blogs, but...

...focuses solely on blogs for their personal pontification and punditry potential.

If you're considering a blog for business purposes, then you may have a myriad of applications in mind. I've covered many of them in previous posts:

Blog Applications #1-5: Political Punditry, Personal Publishing, Online Navel Gazing, Marketing & Customer Support Tool, Educational Tool
Blog Application #6: Project Management Tool

And depending on the app you care about, the point may not be to get 500K daily hits on your blog. The point may be to get the right 20 hits on your blog.

Too often blog pundits go on and on about how to get the most mass dissemination of your blog. This may be the right path if you're a mass market company. But it may be just a big waste of time if your target segment is a little smaller than 'everyone on the planet.'

I'd like to see Newsday do a piece on how blogs can be used as a marketing tool, not just as an ego-fueling tool.

And telling me in next week's piece that you can make money by placing ads on your blog isn't going to do it!

Part 1: Setting UP Your Blog
Part 2: Getting your Blog Noticed

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Presenting to the EBIG WIG

I'm presenting it to the Women's Interest Group (WIG) of the East Bay IT Group (EBIG.) Yes, I'm doing it just because I love the whole acronyms thing. I'm giving this talk to the EBIG could anyone resist meeting this group of people?

Anyway, the topic is: "Advancing in the Technical World, with a Non-Technical Background."

This is a presentation I've given on several occasions. In fact, giving this presentation to the National Association of Minorities in Communications (NAMIC) is the reason I was in NYC that fateful day over 3 years ago.

If you're an East Bay chica and want to come hear about how I managed in a technical environment with my lack of formal technical education, here are the deets:

Monday November 8th
Location: The Outsource Group
1646 North California Boulevard, Suite 210
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Fee members: $10.00 Fee Guests:$15.00
Cost includes wine and dessert.

6:30-7:00pm Networking & Registration
7:00-7:15pm Introduction & Announcements
7:15-8:30pm Presentation
8:30-9:00pm Q&A

Web site for more info: EBIG WIG

In addition, the abstract for the presentation is available on my web site here.

When Companies Let Their Customers Influence Them!

I went to Beverages & More on Thursday, buying way too many beverages for a little gathering I had last night.

And while there, I noticed with some surprise, that their store sign now says BevMo! Their URL is also

BevMo has been a nickname for Beverages & More for nigh on a decade I would's been at least 6 years since I first heard it...I know that.

But I think it's completely unusual for a store to acknowledge that their customers have this nickname and turn it into the name they use. I might add that not all BevMo customers use that moniker. I've met plenty of people who've never heard mostly seems to be power users who plan a lot of events who use it.

Anyway, I found that really fascinating.

And I'm waiting for Target to change their store name officially to 'Tar-zhay'!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Another Worker Bees Discount

42nd St. Moon's 'Can-Can' has two more weekends, but we've already moved on to the next show, from a marketing perspective.

This show sounds fascinating. It's called "Hooray For What", and it's really one of those lost gems. It required a lot of restoration work, but more than that, its theme sounds incredibly relevant to today.

It was written in 1937 as the world was on the brink of war, and it's a wildly farcical indictment of war and war profiteering. How they take such serious subjects and make them wildly farcical is the mystery that can only be solved by seeing it. You can learn a lot more about the show's fascinating history at the 42nd St. Moon blog:

Meanwhile, the discount:

Unlike with Can-Can, 42nd St. Moon heeded my advice to offer a discount for every performance, except their Sunday matinees (which are nearly sold out via subscribers already.) Cherrypicking particular performances to discount makes the customer think too hard, and makes the marketing message to cluttered.

It is still a little complicated because the there are really two discount levels: All seats $12 for some of the performances, and all seats $20 for the rest of the performances.

But, definitely a better deal for customers, as it gives real flexibility in choosing when to see the show.

You can get the discount details right here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Steve Jobs on Innovation, and the Power of Saying 'No'

I read this blog entry with an excerpt from an interview with Steve jobs as follows:

Q: How do you systematize innovation?

A: The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.

But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.

And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.

I could weep at the idea that such a company really exists and really functions under such principles.

My experience tells me that usually management much prefers saying 'yes' to 1,000 things and walking away leaving a bunch of under-resourced and over-stressed people in their wake, trying to figure out how they can possibly execute!

It's more than Jobs' touting the idea of saying no. I also really appreciate that he touts that Process is not a dirty word when it comes to fostering innovation. Process is never the end, in and of itself. Process is the means to getting to your ends quicker, more economically, more accurately.

Process in its proper place rocks. And learning what to say 'no' to is just part of the process.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Networking Blah Blah Blah

I can be a pretty boring person. Sometimes I get an opinion in my head, and I stick to it.

And then I'll read a post like this one from the re:invention blog for women entrepreneurs, and I'll be gratified to find someone fairly like minded.

I confess that most organized networking events and sites leave me cold and, more accurately, completely skeptical.

Oh, I'm a big believer in networking. Scratch the surface of how most people got their jobs or their consulting gig or met their spouse, and it was via someone they knew.

I just think my definition of networking is a little more narrow and little harder work than some folks might want to hear.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Blogging Doesn't Have To Be a Conversation?

Over at the Corproate Blogging Blog, Frederik opines that blogging does not necessarily have to be a conversation. In other words: just because your blog doesn't allow comments it doesn't mean it is automatically a lesser blog.

I have to agree. I think certain kinds of blogs beg for commentary...political blogs, for example. That doesn't even mean that the comments add much to the regular reader. Mostly it means the commenters enjoy the experience more when they feel involved, and therefore come back often.

But on many blogs, not just my own, I don't see a lot of commentary. And on the blogs where I do see it, I often don't go read it.

The truth is I read a blog because I've discovered I like the blogger, not the blog's readers. If you're using the blog to reach out and communicate to your audience, that may very likely suffice.

Blogs have matured past being some online and possibly interactive diary. They have become a media and marketing tool. The potential for interactivity is cool, but to my mind, not required.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Marketing's New Definition

MarketingVox is getting all snarky about it, but the AMA has published a new definition of "marketing."

And the winner is:

"An organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders."

True, I suppose. But I don't really think this definition will resonate with the upper management of Silicon Valley's various engineering-driven and led companies.

Why? Because natural blinders will lead to the following dismissal of the components of the above definition:

Creating the value? Everyone knows Engineers create the product.

Communicate the value? The only ways to communicate value is via a press release or when a Sales guy takes a customer out for golf or dinner.

Delivering the value? What do you think Manufacturing does?

At every step in the long product development process, it's a challenge for Marketing to combat the perception, however unfair, that it is other groups that really "own" a function.

But in truth, Engineering can only create the value, if Marketing has accurately identified and articulated what the market will find valuable. It's Marketing's job to not be seduced by technology alone. (And can we admit that many companies experience their greatest failures when they confuse great technology with a great product?)

And while press releases are nice, and might even have short-term impact on stock prices, they aren't really about communicating value to customers in a way that makes them whip out the checkbook, or submit a P.O. And all externally-facing functions, like Sales, need not only a compelling value proposition to communicate, they need supporting materials for making that compelling argument.

As for delivering...raise your hand if you think the transition from Engineering into Operations is the part of a product introduction process most fraught with peril! It is Marketing that facilitates this transition, and that should be the gating factor.

Perhaps the definition would have more impact if it imagined a world without Marketing, such as:

"Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes, and is the only thing standing between your company's strategy and a tactical reality of shoddy product delivered late to a market that doesn't want it, need it or understand it."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Blogging and Employment

There was an interesting article in the NY Times last week. [Annoying registration required, and they archive after a week.]

The topic was how blogging plays into the employment picture.

I have long known that what you blog is public, and if you're worried abut prospective employers/clients being put off by your writings, then you better make the effort to anonymize yourself. I've personally been contacted by recruiters that not only found my traditional CV materials online, but also my Personal Blog and other info about me by Googling me.

Google has become a great resource for recruiters to find references that really relate to a job applicant's fit for a job, from incidents of being published, to being quoted in the press etc.

But this article brings up another aspect of it altogether...the fact that prospective employees may look at blogs of people who work at a company...whether the blog is officially connected to the company or not, and find out more about a prospective employer. This can be positive for the company, and as you can well imagine, negative too.

It's nice for once to have something about job seeking be a two-way street.

But, the bottom line is: any company out there should be regularly ego-surfing. Find out what's being said about your company and your management. And any company out there should consider creating a blog for that company.

The job market will be heating up again, or so they tell me, and when it does, you will once again be in the position of trying to establish your company as a creative, forward-thinking place to work, with an attractive corporate culture. A blog can send you on your way to establishing and communicating your corporate culture, in a way that prospective hires can appreciate before they ever walk through your doors.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Just Humbly Pointing Out My Own Prescience!

A couple of years ago when I left my cable industry job to strike out on my own, I made a couple of predictions that some of my colleagues thought were nutty:

1. I predicted that for plain old service, without the voice and data bells and whistles...cable would lose out to satellite in a big way. I had made my own conversion to satellite, and could see NO reason to choose cable for video. Digital means really digital in the satellite world, not just for the premium channels. And you have all the same choice, if not more. And I've never had a moment's reception trouble, even in the wind and the rain. And yes, California does see some winds. And it's cheaper.

This Multichannel News article [registration required] basically confirms that cable is losing basic subs. Their basic cable penetration rate is down to less than 55%. That's pretty amazing.

Now the cable guys are taking the typical head in the sand approach and saying, "oh we're only losing those old, cheap basic cable subs that don't spend much money anyways." Not that they're backing that claim up with stats, mind you. And hello? Not an old basic cable gal right here, and neither are my friends...and yet we ALL have switched to satellite.

Oh, and guys? You gotta have the customer to upsell them to more expensive services. I've ranted before about the idiocy of Comcast penalizing their high speed data customers who discontinue video service. They tack on a huge bump to their data bill. You know what does? It incents them to move over to DSL, just like my folks did.

We are not in a monopoly situation anymore. Most urban and suburban areas now actually can choose...between satellite and cable, between DSL and cable modem.

Cable needs to stop acting like the dominant player, and start acting like a scrappy competitor.

And that's something I've been saying for ages now.

So, what was my second nutty prediction? That ultimately cable would lose not only to satellite, but telcos too. The telcos will solve their bandwidth issues, and they will win with their greater receptiveness to both bundling and a la carte service offerings.

Besides, you've never heard anyone hate their phone company the way they hate their cable company, have you?

A Little Story About Communication

Even when you think you're being perfectly clear, things go awry, and I had my own personal experience with that recently.

A member of one of my many online communities posted a notice looking for people interested in going to see a preview of a show with him, playing at one of my client's. I immediately emailed him and said:

"FYI: I'm just starting to do some promotion work for xxx theatre, and there will be a discount offer for that night. I don't have it set up yet, but it's coming. So don't purchase tickets yet! Also, I will go on that evening, although I think I can get comps from them. So add me to your list, at least for the dinner part."

Later when I got the offer hammered out, I emailed again (Subject Line = Discount for xxx):

"xxx Theatre has decided on all seats at $12 for the previews. You can go to this URL to order online" (The URL followed.)

The URL took him to a page that allowed you to order tickets online via PayPal or call, and the page said to use a promotion code. I however, never specified all those details in my email, I just told him to go to that URL.

There's the big mistake. And there were two misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding #1: Despite my mentioning both times a discount he should take advantage of, and giving him a URL to go order tickets, he only remembered and focused on my mentioning I could get comps. I literally meant I could get comps for me only, so he should order his tickets without me. But we had to clarify that in several more emails, and he told me he was "miffed" with me about it!

Misunderstanding #2: By directing him to the URL to get more info, I didn't close the deal. I'm not sure if he ever went to the URL or not. But once he understood, no, he had to buy his $12 tickets, he showed up live and in person at the box office asking for yes, the $12 tickets. He didn't have the promotion code, and he didn't order online or via phone, which were the two methods specified in the URL I tried to send him to. So he ended up having to argue with the live, in-person box office person quite a bit to get his discount. And I have no idea whether, in the end, it will go down as a trackable sale for me or not.

So what have we learned?:

1. Certain things catch people's the words FREE, or COMPS. They lose all ability to appreciate the finer details, the fine print, once their eyes are dazzled by the FREE word.

2. People don't always follow instructions. You should instruct them while you have their attention. Telling someone to visit a URL to get more info is often done. But if you've already got their attention, why not give them all the info, and send them somewhere else just to execute, if you must?

3. People hold on to these little disappointments. I was actually quite taken aback that my theatre-going companion would express aggravation with me, several weeks later, when from my perspective he is the one who clearly mis-read and misunderstood. And getting comps for a group of five people is certainly expecting a lot. But, it's not the point. People don't immediately shed their dissatisfaction when they realize they were somehow all or in part to blame for it. And it simply illustrates that a bad customer experience will far outlive a good one. I'm sure my friend has no recollection that he was about to go buy full price tickets until I stopped him. But he'll remember the miscommunication.

Why is this here in my Worker Bees Blog, and not my Personal Blog?

Because at its heart this is a story about communication, clear messaging and customer satisfaction.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Only one discounted performance remains for 'Can-Can'

42nd St. Moon was offering a discount to readers of their blog for four performances only: $12 per ticket.

Well, three of the four performances are sold out, so if you still want to get the $12 tickets, your only option is the Saturday 10/16 1PM matinee.

You can still go here to purchase those tickets or call their box office at: 415-978-2787.

Good luck.

And if you can't get the cheap seats, I would consider seeing it anyway. It's so rarely performed; it has one of those classic Porter scores, and I hear it's simply charming. Check out more info about it at the blog.

New Discount for "Addicted" Up & Running

Well, better late than never...a discount for online customers has been approved for "Addicted."

You can take $10 off every ticket (Saturday evening performances excluded.)

Use Promo Code: ONLINE (very creatively named!)


or by calling: 415-771-6900 or 1-877-771-6900 (Toll free)

As I just posted, Mark Lundholm is phenomenally talented, and I can personally vouch for it that this show will make you laugh, even as you gasp! It's that kind of dark humor.

We loved it.

Right now they are only selling tickets through 10/17, so you better hurry if you're interested. I certainly hope it picks up steam though, and that they extend.

Great review for Worker Bees client: "Addicted:"

Check out this San Jose Mercury review for "Addicted."

Combine that with my personal blog rave review of his stand-up show, and you're probably convinced this is a show to see.

At least I hope so.

Sometimes, especially perhaps in these times, it feels pretty good to laugh out loud...repeatedly and raucously.

Monday, October 04, 2004

More Mis-interpreting the impact of Blogs

I know I harp on this topic sometimes, but I really think the blogging community is either a) fooling itself and/or b) actually holding themselves back by insisting that blogging represents a revolution, not an evolution.

The latest example: A political strategist that was critical in running howard Dean's online campaign has written a book, and the blurb that promotes his book tour includes this lofty statement:

"Trippi turned traditional campaigning upside down with his use of the Internet in managing Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid."

Maybe if they had said "traditional fundraising" upside down, I would buy it. But campaigning? Not so much. If he really had, then Dean might have won in at least one state. No, in the end, it was the traditional campaigning techniques that won out: ads and feet on the street.

More evidence? Just today MarketingVOX posted a Pew research report indicating that the Kerry and Bush campaign made less than 1% of their media buys online.

I don't think folks are really fooling themselves; I actually think they're trying to self-promote themselves into some new segment of business.

But it continues to be my opinion that blogging, just like any kind of marketing tool will have to compete against the other traditional marketing tools for the mind and budget share of businesses out there. Promising a revolution will result in dashed expectations. Comparing your results to existing tools used will paint a better picture of blogging and online advertising as part of any smart Marketing Director's mix.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Overture Update: A Lesson in Web Design

Cross-posted in Personal Blog.

If it's below the fold, it will get missed, people.

Overture is back up, and along with being back up they have a new log-in page design.

Previously they had wasted space on the entire left-hand side of the log-in page...I'm sure taken up with logos and graphics...can't even really say.

So your log-in section ran down the right hand side. And on my screen...which isn't mammoth, but certainly isn't tiny...that was about all I saw without scrolling. And why would I scroll? I logged in, and there it was.

Today their new log-in page has dumped the left-hand side beautification, and the log-in info runs across horizontally. Meaning you can now see more of what's below the log-in form.

Meaning you can see a little box with an Alert in it...warning you that, you guessed it, the system was planned to be down from Friday through Sunday morning for enhancements.

Again, on the default report page I have set up, if I scroll to the right I see another alert box, and again, I never scrolled.

If you're like me, you have a routine for getting you daily info from these sites. You're in' you're out; you're on to the next part of your morning program tracking routine.

Mea culpa, indeed...I'm sure many people are going to think I should have noticed those alert boxes.

But I think the Overture folks could have placed them where they knew they could NOT be missed. Top, center....not down at the bottom and off at the side.

It's my opinion, but I also think it's good UI. (user interface)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

In Love With Your News Reader?

Well, this blogger is.

And I have to say I agree.

Her main point: no feed? No read?

And again, I agree. (As I posted in a comment on her entry.)

Not using a news reader app? Well, I use NetNewsWire and like it a lot.

If you follow even a few blogs, you should really use a reader. you will wonder what you did without it in just days.

Attn: Overture: Customer Service = Communication

OK, I already prefer using Google Ad Words to Overture. For numerous reasons.

One of the reasons is NOT better click-thru rates. Actually in my B2C world Overture seems to get better rates. But everything else about the Overture customer experience lags behind the Google customer experience.

There are things I figured out how to do pretty easily with Google that I can't figure out with Overture. yes. I'll have to go read documentation. Boo. If Google can make it easily intuitive and found in their online Help, then Overture should be able to manage it too.

But here's what my snit is about today:

Google never sends me much email. Overture, on the other hand, seems to send me "helpful" emails every few days. Fine. Some of them actually do look helpful. I'll read them some day.

But since yesterday, from at least 4PM...could be earlier for all I know...Overture has been down. "System temporarily unavailable." Now, NOT their marketing site. That's all working just fine. But if you try to log in...nope, not possible.

And it happens to coincide with the time that I am trying to compile my month-end reports for my clients.

They're so sorry, of course. But sorry doesn't cut it. If you plan to be down for what is now 16 hours for maintenance...then let your clients know.

And if you didn't plan it? At some point, change that damn landing page to give a little more info than "System is temporarily down."

Because I'm thinking 16 hours is no longer "temporarily."

And, all I'm saying is: if you can send me marketing emails all the clearly have my email address.

You still have to worry about your marketing image after you land the customer. And yours is pretty bad in my book right now.

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