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Welcome to the hobby economy

Economists don’t know what to do about it.

It’s hard to measure, hard to quantify and a little odd to explain.

More and more people are spending more and more time (and money) on pursuits that have no pay off other than satisfaction.

"Why should you have a blog?" they ask. "How are you going to make any money?"

"Why post your photos on flickr?" they wonder. "You don’t get compensated by people who see them." Or your garage band’s songs on an MP3 site. Or spending time and money on projects like: The Basket Book: Over 30 Magnificent Baskets To Make and Enjoy.

Of course, economists don’t really worry about this. They understand perfectly well that economics is able to easily explain that human beings pursue things that satsify them.

What the web is doing, though, is exposing lots of avenues for people to use to find satisfaction (but not necessarily cash). Make magazine is page after page of geek projects that are fun, but not profitable. Other sites make it easy for you to build a tube amplifier or splice your own DNA.

Now that white-collar workers regularly spend 75 hours a week at work (did you know the CEO of GE has been spending more than 100 hours a week–for twenty years?!) there’s plenty of time to surf the web and get paid for it.

Human battering rams

Yesterday I was cold-called by a telemarketer from the (formerly) prestigious Roundabout Theatre Company.

This morning, it was phone spam from my bank (when I told her it was okay to send me a brochure, she said, "please tell me what your business does." When I mentioned that my bank already knew what we did, she said, "oh, we just call people. They don’t tell us that.")

And this Project Description from elance makes it clear that you can now easily buy inbound links to your website to manipulate the search engines. Cheap, too.

When people following a manual will do what you tell them to do (because they don’t think they have any other choice) and you’re willing to ignore social convention, the possibilities for spamming or manipulating systems based on trust are almost endless.

Not just trash, but attractive trash…

Handbag_1and sometimes in Spanish.

Check out these new handbags.

Great Marketers are Architects

A friend sent me this note yesterday:

happy holidays  to you and family
After much thought  I want to go after a senior marketing
person ,Obviously  you might know of someone. any thoughts? if you
do send my way . salary plus percentage of increase in biz and new biz

I wrote back:

you need to be clear with yourself about what "senior" means and what
"marketing" means.

Do you mean a commission based salesperson who pretends to be a
marketer? Do you mean a CMO who comes from ESPN or JetBlue? Or do you
mean an advertising person?

You won’t get what you want unless you know what you want.

And his response:

Agreed . But I am sure. A strict marketer who can take the existing biz
a maximize both ends and find new revenue streams. 

Of course, this isn’t going to work. It’s not going to work because  "take the existing biz and maximize" is the job for a direct marketer, or an ad guy, not an architect.

What does an architect do? She reinvents the very nature of what’s delivered and how it is delivered. She reimagines the inputs and outputs of the organization, as well as its story, to create an engine of revenue that grows while benefitting all sides.

The reason we hear about google and apple and jetblue and starbucks all the time is that these are poster children for re-architecting existing business models into something very different. The marketing is not slapped on. Starbucks is not Dunkin Donuts with a clever sign. If Dunkin Donuts goes out to hire a "senior marketer" and gives that person traditional senior marketer duties, not much is going to change.

I thought of this when I saw my friend Lisa’s thriving non-profit, Dos Margaritas. The website isn’t the snappy page you’d imagine if you wanted a "senior marketer" to build you something that would spread the word and increase donations. But the business itself, what they do and the way they do it–that’s brilliant marketing architecture.

Who’s that wearing the Spurs jersey?

Ernie Mosteller has a riff about Southwest’s home page… an image that’s all about Southwest, and not one bit about Ernie. tangelo ideas – erniesblog: November 2005.


PicklebarDo you serve pickles?

Harold’s, a New York-style deli in Edison, New Jersey, has a pickle bar. All you can eat pickles with every meal, including breakfast.

What a silly gimmick.


Harold himself told me that he serves 14,000 meals a week. This at a restaurant at the back of a Holiday Inn. At a restaurant that serves a $30 turkey sandwich!

It’s pretty obvious that Harold does just fine giving away pickles–no matter how many you care to eat. Not a gimmick at all, it turns out.

The inanity of the American consumer

ToastNever before in history have so many needed so little.

"What do you get for someone who has everything" takes on a whole new meaning in the face of the BTB TEM 500.

This device will toast your muffin, poach an egg and heat your ham, all at the same time.

What kind of person, exactly, needs this?

If you’re the rush out the door guy who stops at McDonalds, then there’s no way you’re going to stop and clean the thing.

And if you’re a gourmet, you probably want to make more than one at a time, and you still don’t want to clean it.

Not only don’t people need it, it’s unclear that they even want it.

It seems as though we’ve marketed ourselves into a corner, where the only way to grow is to find increasingly narrow niches of decreasing utility. The consumer portion of our economy is now dependent on a four-week long debt-fueled race to buy the useless.

Surely consumers can do better. And maybe, marketers can lead us there.

A Norwegian analysis of web 2.0

Flickr wins because of timing/story/openness, not by being first: A classic web2.0 case.

Can more than 50% be wrong?

Seexperimentgraph012,000 people have taken a blind taste test. You do a search you’re familiar with, it shows you the results from Google, MSN and Yahoo. Which is the most relevant, it asks?

Almost 60% of those tested said that Yahoo or MSN was the most relevant.

Which reinforces my point that Google isn’t "better" for most people if "better" means more relevant or deeper. Google is better because it feels better and quicker and leaner and easier to use. The story we tell ourselves about Google is very different, and we use it differently as a result. Think about that the next time you insist you need a "better" formula or a faster server or a stronger first baseman.

Music sounds better through an iPod because we think it does. Design matters. Stories matter most of all. (note: I’ve adjusted some of the numbers on this post, because I, um, read them wrong. Sorry.)

No good home pages?

We’re deep into a discussion of Squidoo’s home page, and it occured to me that except for the exception that proves the rule (Google), there are no good home pages.

Certainly not Amazon or eBay or even Yahoo. Not MSN or AOL or Technorati, either. Go look at these pages through the eyes of a newbie, or of a power user or of someone who stumbled over without knowing exactly why. Do they succeed?

Home pages try to do too much. They try to explain to the unitiated, retrain the veterans, and get out of the way of the power users.

It’s a little like book covers, actually. Book covers generally fail to sell a book. What they do if they succeed is they get you to pick the book up, and to pick it up in the right sort of mood.

My new strategy is:
1. above all else, interact.
2. avoid the home page at all costs. If I can get you to use the product without having to work your way through an artificial front door, that’s a good thing.