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Not sure which is more surprising…

According to MarketingVOX, online media accounts for 12% of media consumption. That’s a stunning rise: one out of eight, up from zero in just ten or so years.

At the same time, though, they report that online media accounts for just 2% of ad spending.

This could be because online media doesn’t work (but it does)
or that it’s hard to buy advertising in it (but it isn’t)
or that it’s radically underpriced and a bargain (which may be true).

The real reason is pretty obvious: organizations hate to change. (so do people, but that’s a different story).

Whenever you are faced with a situation where your competition is afraid to change but you can see the reality of the situation, you have a huge opportunity. This is the biggest growth and market share opportunity in at least a decade.

Short version: corporations, politicians, non-profits and even individuals who overinvest in online will see the same spectacular bounce that companies saw from TV in the fifties and sixties.

Winston tastes good…

The Cliff

I got two different business plans from friends today.

Both of these guys are big thinkers, entrepreneurs through and through and destined for greatness. And both had precisely the same problem with their plan. It’s a problem that’s becoming very common… for products, for services, online and off. The problem is caused by our networked world, the quest for the Cow and the goal of reaching a Tipping Point.

In the old days, there was pretty much only one way to grow a business. Start small, make some money, get a little bigger, repeat. Over time, you could fund your way to bigness. VCs can help you jumpstart, sure, but raising 100 or 400 million dollars to skip all the steps on the way to bigness is rare indeed.


A magazine, for example, can’t have a business plan that says it will accept no ads until it’s bigger than Time or Newsweek. I call this a cliff business… a business that doesn’t ramp up, but one that runs flat until, miraculously, the business hits critical mass and works.

In our networked world, cliff businesses are a sight to behold. eBay, for example, or Microsoft. Natural monopolies that work when everyone uses them. That’s one of eBay’s best assets–everyone wants to use the system that everyone is using.

The problem is, it’s almost impossible to bootstrap a cliff business. The Bluetooth standard, for example, is a great thing when every cell phone and laptop uses it. But it took more than five years of high-overhead standards-setting and meetings and commissions and committees before it even began to take off. Had Bluetooth been a business, it would have disappeared long ago.

The best cliff businesses online started with little fanfare (Blogger, or ICQ, for example). Doing it on purpose is difficult indeed. That’s one reason you don’t want your kids to grow up to be songwriters trying to write Top 40 hits. It’s a great gig if you can get it, but you can’t count on getting it.

So… if your product or your service or your business is going to be nothing but trouble until it reaches the cliff, I think it’s better to pick something else to launch. Something remarkable and cheap and likely to make customers and investors happy long before you get to the cliff.

How far…

every once in while, those of us who are busy obsessing over the changes getting made in our lives from day to day or moment to moment benefit from taking a look at the long term.

I was born in 1960… Thanks to Mark Hurst for pointing me to this original version of the google interface from that same year.


Seth Godin: Spammer

A friend was checking his email on Yahoo yesterday, and he accidentally hit the Spam Folder button.

Up popped a list of 1,232 soon to be deleted pieces of spam. The first one? An announcement from me that I had emailed to my super-permissioned email list. This is a list of people that has never been rented, sold, harvested, compiled or messed with in any way. By any definition of spam (except of the one that matters… Yahoo’s) this is not spam.

But they say it is, so it is.

I’m not annoyed at their filter or even at the situation. I am disappointed, though, that spammers have had such an impact that email marketing (or even email notification of free online content with no money involved) is breathing its last.


RSS can’t come a moment too soon. It’s become more and more clear to me over the last five years that email is simultaneously too powerful (people who read it jump) and too weak (spammers have trained us not to read it) to last for much longer.

Are blogs backward?

Newspapers come out every day. You read today’s issue, even if you’re new to a town and you’ve never read that paper before. The editors assume that you’re reasonably informed and up to date on “the story so far” and they just pick up where they left off.

Books, on the other hand, come out every year or five or ten. An author assumes that you’re going to start reading on page one. If she’s written a sequel, she assumes you’ve read the book that comes before, but a good editor will often push the author to spend the first chapter catching new readers up to speed.

Weblogs were designed to be like newspapers. The idea was that people would stop by and read some more every day, and that each post would build on what had come before… and that frequent readers would have no trouble keeping up.

This is great in a world with a finite number of blogs and a static community of readers.

Today, though, there are two factors to keep in mind:
1. We’ve now got more than 3,000,000 blogs, and every two weeks (my guess) the number of people reading blogs for the first time increases by 10 or 20%. That means that most of the people who are reading your blog are doing so for the first or second time.

2. A lot of blogs are no longer about the original intent–to link to current posts on the web with small comments. Instead, corporate and personal blogs are much more focused on telling a story, a story that has a beginning and a middle, not just a current end.

This leads me to two thoughts:
a. a lot more blogs should be posted in chronological order, like books. If you’re trying to chronicle something, it makes a lot of sense to start at the beginning, as long as you provide regular readers an easy way to just read the current stuff (That’s what RSS is for, right?). No, this isn’t right for gizmodo. But it makes a lot of sense for someone, say, chronicling her experience in a 12 step program.

b. we need Movable Type or someone to create a simple way to create “greatest hits” pages. Not an archive, but a simple way for a new reader to read the ten posts we want them to start with, in the order we want them read, before they dive in.

I know it’s weird to read a chronological blog. It’s worse, imho, to leave a great blog just because the last two posts don’t make sense out of context.

Purple Cows as a force for good


Superhero Supply tells the story of Dave Eggers very cool new tutoring center. Kudos to Dave for doing it, and for the brilliance of making the entry to the center itself a Free Prize. As soon as my cape needs repair, I’m up for the road trip.

Thanks to Amit for finding this one!

More of a rollout than a launch

But I thought you might be interested in the project my amazing interns have been building all summer.

You can read about it here:
Worthwhile: What Seth Is Doing

And here: Read and Pass.

We lauch in the middle of August, and I promise an email alert to subscribers right at the start. In the meantime, we’re quietly sharing the ideas behind ChangeThis.

I hope you decide it’s worth thinking about!

Disappearing channel scarcity

Just had brunch with my new friend Bob. He’s in the TV business.

Twenty years ago, everyone in the TV business believed in the three channel universe. Cable was a myth. That’s why the big networks did such a bad job of starting cable networks. They couldn’t believe that it was even remotely likely to succeed.

Of course, the first 20 channels did succeed. In a very, very big way. Billions of dollars worth of success.

It took about a decade, but the tv business recalibrated. They now believe that we have reached the natural number of networks and that’s it.

What happens, I asked, when Tivo has Java and TCP/IP and there’s a million channels?

The people in the TV business can’t imagine this. They can’t imagine a world where there might be 20 A&E networks, or where there might be a channel just for shows on how to build a model airplane.

XM radio and the Net just increased the number of radio stations by a factor of 100.

And today the NY Times reports that 175,000 books are published every year. And rising.

And we just hit 3,000,000 blogs, up from 100 five years ago.

The number of channels for just about anything keeps going up. The number of GOOD channels, where good means a built in high traffic audience that is non-discerning, keeps going down. The number of good newspaper PR outlets is down to a handful. The number of retailers with shelf space that really matters is tiny. Yes, you can get your thing out there. No, you can’t expect that distribution (or carriage, as they say in TV) is going to make you successful.

In other words, owning a printing press is not such a big deal. Knowing the buyer at Bed Beth & Beyond isn’t much better.

Did they spell my name right?

I don’t usually like reading interviews I’ve done, because I’m always saying, “I didn’t say that!”

But this one is a good one. The Seth Godin Interview – Global PR Blog Week 1.0. I talk about the brand cocktail party and PR and blogs and stuff.

So, the Alexa fan club…

appears to have no members. It was (repeatedly) pointed out to me how unreliable my stat (see below) was.

May be true.

The anecdotal evidence remains strong, though. Most of my audiences at speaking gigs have never heard of a blog.

You can stop spewing about Alexa now. Thanks.