Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Where do sneezers come from?

A tale of two workout techniques.

In today’s Times (Getting Fit, Even if It Kills You – New York Times.) a story about crossfit.com. Here’s the closing quote:

But for Mr. Glassman, dismissals of his extreme workouts merely help
him weed out people he considers weak-willed. "If you find the notion
of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then
we don’t want you in our ranks," he said

His technique, apparently, is growing like crazy.

Compare this nutso approach with the practical vision of Fred Hahn. Fred wants you to lift weights once or perhaps twice a week, do it very very slowly and not hurt yourself. And it works.

So why does crossfit grow faster?

Because of cognitivie dissonance and because the stories are more fun to tell.

Because someone doing it needs to justify her behavior by talking about it.

Because the stories spread.

More often than not, ideaviruses start when the early adopters are dissatisfied with some element of the experience. Pleasing customers doesn’t always lead to conversations. Delighting them, enraging them, hospitalizing them or surprising them–that’s how sneezers are born.

A New York minute

Jason McCants is impressed by how fast Google got these adwords up.

Not me. I’m impressed by the advertisers!

Of course some of these ads are totally relevant. They weren’t relevant yesterday, they might not (hope not) be relevant tomorrow, but right now, for that searcher, they’re gold.

Useful fear

In the following riff from Jarvis on BuzzMachine, just replace [the newsroom] with the name of your organization.

The first job is to instill fear in [the newsroom]. Oh, there’s fear there now. But it is fear of the unknown. What we need is fear of the known: the facts about falling readership and advertising and the reasons behind both and about new competition. Fear alone won’t lead to a strategy, of course. But until there is an imperative to change inspired by that fear, it won’t be possible to move past the complacency and resistance that populate so many newsrooms now. In later posts, we’ll look at means to replace fear with excitement about new opportunities. But first things first.

Horizontal Knowledge

A great phrase coined by Glenn Reynolds: TCS: Tech Central Station – Horizontal Knowledge.

It’s best understood by thinking about its opposite: Vertical Knowledge. The stuff you get from the boss or the MSM or the person at the front of the room.

Whenever I go to a conference, I learn more from the people in the lobby. And the web is one big big lobby.

There’s a throwaway line in his post that I really enjoyed. Glenn riffs about the fact that there’s no way, in 1993, that anyone could have predicted the Internet of 2003. In fact, critics might say that even if we planned for it, we never could have built it. Then he says:

Actually, that final statement is true. If we had started planning in 1993, we probably wouldn’t have gotten here by now.

Planning implies vertical, top down thinking. And in many areas, it’s backfiring.

Promotion, self-promotion and [insert ad here]

Remember the MTV astronaut?

If you ask someone about MTV in the 1980s, they might mention Adam Curry or Toni Basil or Robert Palmer, but odds are what they’re visualizing are the promo ads.

The music videos weren’t unique. They were provided by the record companies to anyone who wanted to broadcast them. The VJs were largely forgettable. But the promos–they were constant (five or ten an hour) and constantly changing. MTV created an entire gestalt (it even became the inspiration for a pop hit and a video compilation). It turns out that we liked the ads.

Try reading a copy of Vogue without the ads. Totally useless.

And at a trade show (which people invest huge amounts of time and money to attend), the only reason to go is to see the ads, the banners, the paid-for booths and self-promotional speakers.

Public radio is no longer a bastion of silence. Every station is filled with self-promos, often twenty an hour, along with interruptions from sponsors and of course, pledge week. And the bumpers and audio cues that the stations use become part of our experience. We miss them when they’re gone.

All as a way of introducing you to my dilemma about blogs.

In email, no one, at least no one I respect or believe, enjoys getting spam. Ads in email don’t work because email is a tool, not a medium. If I subscribe to a permission-based email campaign (like those notes from Amazon or a gift certificate on my birthday from Yahoo) then I look forward to it and respond. But ads in the sense of unanticipated, impersonal and irrelevant… not on my agenda, or yours, when it comes to email, or RSS for that matter.

But the blog experience is different. Maybe.

The most popular blog in the world carries more than 25 different ads on its home page. The other most popular blog in the world carries just 1. Clearly, one blog profits more than the other, but it doesn’t seem to affect readership.

And what about within the blog? One author I know featured his new book 11 times in a month where he posted on twenty five days. When I launch a new book, it gives me a headache to mention the launch/sales of the book more than twice, unless I’m riffing on an idea. I feel like I’m imposing.

Last month, after months of working on it, my team launched squidoo, a web 2.0 innovation that we’re very proud of. But you’re not seeing it on my blog… except for one interview last week. Is that the right thing to do?

The post below this riff is about my new seminar, given next month. The writer part of me wants to believe that my alert, quickwitted readers only need to see it once, and that they’re mature enough to make a decision about whether they want to come or not. Of course, I’m completely wrong. I mean you are in that esteemed category, but most people are not. Most people need to see that link three or four times a day, several times a week, and then they’ll take action. And they’ll be glad they did.

I regularly (as in every day) get email from people who bought this book or that book or even this book and are surprised that they didn’t know about it and are glad they discovered it. Does that mean that it’s my job to advertise them incessantly, regularly reminding people that they exist?

Imagining for just a moment that there’s no self-interest, no profit motive, imagining that the blogger is doing what is in the best interest of the readership–what’s the right balance? Is it one ad per page? 25? Is it no promotional links to new projects (from you or from those you respect) or is one the right number?

I thought I had figured it out. The idea was to do interesting things, announce them just once on your blog, and then use those interesting things to inform the stories you tell moving forward. When I riff about storytelling or about anticipated advertising or about viruses, I’m not doing it to sell a book. I wrote the book so I could learn about that topic, so I could start a conversation going, and then I riff about them online because I figure my readers can learn (or at least be entertained) by what I’m discovering… whether or not they buy the book. And this "don’t buy, just learn" approach has ended up working out for me.

But when I see how other blogs serve their readers with promotion, MTV style, I wonder… I honestly don’t have an answer for you… this is a question, not a rant. If promotion works, if it brings people stuff that they’re glad they got and it makes the experience more exciting, then what’s wrong with it?

In the same breath, I wonder whether that sort of promotion should really be necessary. I wonder whether readers will think the blogger is selfish or self-serving (when I’m sure I’m really not.) And I wonder about the future of the medium, because the nature of promotion is that "10" is never enough. You always need to be at "11". And when the competition hits 11, that becomes the new 10.

When Katrina hit, blogs broke all their rules about promotion. It was understood by readers and by bloggers that the cause was good enough that people really needed to be pushed. Do you need to be pushed?

Magazines run ads.
Books don’t.

What are blogs?

The new whiteboard seminar (you’re invited)

It’s back. UPDATE: Seminar is SOLD OUT. Hope to do another one, but not sure when.

By popular demand, the day-long Seth Godin Whiteboard Seminar is going uptown.

Last year, I ran only four seminars (each sold out), so if you’ve been waiting, here’s your chance. No promises about when it might be offered again.

On Thursday, January 26, you’re invited to attend an all-day seminar with me in New York. It will be held in the beautiful Harold Pratt House located at 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10021. As you can see from the picture, this majestic brownstone is totally upscale. Most days, it’s the headquarters for one of the most prestigious thinktanks in the world.

Brand managers, CEOs, entrepreneurs… Actually, anyone who’s working to spread a big idea about a product, a service, an organization, a rock group or an open-source piece of software. Anyone with a website. And especially for people frustrated with the status quo.

The seminar is about the way you market, it’s about managing people in times of change, and most important, helping great ideas spread.

In the past, senior managers from Fortune 100 companies have sat next to solo entrepreneurs and even ministers. Non-profits in a hurry to grow have benefitted, and so have long-time marketers from traditional industries. The man running one of the world’s most successful book publishing companies has participated, as did the deputy campaign manager for a nationwide presidential campaign.


Some of the people who have written me the nicest letters afterwards have been CEOs of very tiny businesses. I’ve also been privileged to watch huge companies embrace some of these ideas and run with them. One thing is certain: it will change the questions your colleagues ask, which is the point.

Bring your boss. That’s the big win.

The morning is devoted to a blazingly fast, high-impact overview of several of my books. The purpose is to give you the ammunition to sell these ideas to to the people you work with.

The afternoon is nothing but riffs about your organization and your problems. By taking them one by one and talking them through, you not only get direct feedback on your issues, but you quickly see how there are only a handful of answers to just about all that ails everyone’s marketing challenges. In other words, once you hear other people work through their issues, it’s a lot easier to handle yours.

It’s interactive, but it’s very much my show. I talk a lot, push you a lot and end up exhausted in a heap at the end of the day. The more you bring with you, the more you get back. The best seminars are filled with people with big issues, provocative solutions and a desire to speak up.

If you don’t think it’s worth what it costs, send me a letter when you get home and I’ll refund your money. Alas, no refunds for no-shows.

There are ten slots for non-profits. These are available by application (see this file
for details). It’s free to the ten accepted, but you pay in advance and I send you a refund if you show up.

A standard seat costs $1,650 for the day. Coffee, lunch and snacks are included. I promise you’ll get to ask your questions and talk about your organization.

If you buy three seats for your colleagues, the fourth is free. Buy six and get three free.
Feel free to round up friends and come as a group if you like.

It’s sort of by application, but applying early increases your chances I can find you a slot.

We don’t bill, you have to pay in advance. See this file for details.

Feel free to arrive as early as 8:45 am at the venue. The event begins at 9:15 sharp.

We work all day, right through lunch until 4:30 pm.

It’s in mid Manhattan, in the fanciest neighborhood in North America, so hotels and cabs and airlines should be easy to identify and book. You’re on your own.

If someone mentions your blog when they register, I’ll pay you $100. One blog per registration, of course, but no limit on bonuses per blog, naturally.

When the seminar is full, I’ll edit this post and tell you. Until then, feel free to submit your registration info.

Blog issues

I can imagine how frustrating it is when the phone rings at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and an irate customer is yelling about a missed newspaper delivery.

I mean, you write it, you edit, you put in the pictures, you print it and then you hand the paper off to a 13 year old kid who throws it into the bushes…

So, for those of you frustrated by the missing pictures, missing posts, RSS glitches and other blog noise going on, I promise you (if it makes you feel better) that I’m just as more frustrated.

Hopefully, as the winter solstice passes, the fidelity of blog delivery will increase.

The amazing thing, which a few friends and I were talking about last night, is that all this stuff works at all! Imagine how many free (or close to free) tools we depend on every day. Stuff that was not just impossible but not even conceived of 15 years ago.

This is the fastest idea-to-tool cycle in the history of the planet. Glitches are part of the deal.

Changing behavior

" . . . mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are

Pretty recent quote about how hard it is to get people to change. Sent by David Carter.

Written by T. Jefferson, 1776.

The e-consultancy interview

You can find the original here. Pithy, for sure:

. . .

1. Does it perplex you that many big brands still have reservations about the web?

Not at all. Big brands got that way by doing the things that worked
over and over. They’re not good at the new, and they’re horrible at

2. Should every business use the internet to communicate? What are the basics of an internet communications strategy?

You should only use the internet if you want your communications to
be FAST and you want to reach LARGE NUMBERS with no intermediaries. If
you can’t handle that, though, you shouldn’t try.

3. How can an enthusiastic marketing executive convince a senior board of Luddites to invest in digital?

What works is success. That’s how Google got so big. Once people
make money paying 10 cents a click, they beg to buy more at 15 cents a

The best online efforts have worked because of this incremental approach.

4. You’ve written about permission marketing extensively, yet
intrusion is still a big part of the average internet session. Does
this frustrate you?

Not any more. Like everyone else, I ignore it.

What a waste.

5. Interruptive online ads are thought to damage brands, yet we
still see an awful lot of advertising clutter on the major publishing
sites. What would you say to these publishers and advertisers?

They’re not listening, so I can’t say much of anything.

If they were listening, I’d ask them to do one thing: measure.

6. About 7 years ago you suggested that banner ads would be
finished by 2000. Well, we’re still seeing them, but paid-search is now
king. Is there a place on the web for display advertising?

I was awfully close to being right, my friend. The value of online
banner ads is close to zero. The best display ads are contextual,
relevant and interesting. And not banner shaped.

7. Does online advertising have to be purely about response? What about the brand benefits?

There’s zero evidence that you can build a brand with interruptions online that don’t lead to action. Zero.

8. Something like one in four rich media ads are those horrible
floating ads, essentially pop-ups 2.0. Is it just me or is this totally
nuts, given the ever-increasing percentage of installed pop-up

Not sure how many people have them actually installed, and
ironically, most of these are bought by those that measure (spammers
measure too). If it works, people are likely to try it…

9. Do you have any insight on the value of a customer who responds
to an intrusive call-to-action such as a floating ad, as opposed to
something permission-based?

It depends what you’re selling. There are many businesses that depend on (and profit from) clueless consumers

10. I guess that the majority of online marketers still perceive
the web as an acquisition channel, rather than a customer relationship
channel. Would you agree?

I would agree that they perceive it that way, and of course, they’d be expensively and dangerously wrong

11. I think a big trend over the next few years will be a shifting
focus towards using the web channel to increase retention, repeat
business and referrals. Can you sum up the basic opportunities in this

It’s like dating. Communication is good. Isolation is bad. No sense letting people simmer with bad feelings, right?

12. Right. So what about email? What’s the future looking like for email marketing?

Not good. RSS, I believe, is the next big thing

13. Yahoo has just added RSS feeds to Yahoo Mail, which will help
RSS reach the masses. Right now RSS usage isn’t into double figures,
but could this be a white knight for email marketers?

It is if they do it right. Abuse your RSS feed and you’re invisible (again).

14. What’s Squidoo all about?

Squidoo lets anyone build a simple, free web page that points to
blogs, online stores, maps and other information on a single topic—any
topic. Each page can contain insight, bullet points, links, products
and pictures, and each page earns royalties for its creator or for

Squidoo leverages the power of personal recommendation. The site
will eventually host millions of handmade ‘lenses’, each a focused,
useful guide to some area of expertise, some glimpse of the net.
Instead of aimlessly poking, a lens lets a user see the big picture—a
human being’s big picture, the overview you need to get the meaning of
the idea.

15. Can you explain more about ‘lenses’?

The heart of Squidoo is the lens. A lens can point the best hotels
in London. Or blogs with pictures and articles about Paris Hilton. Or
personal accounts about Hurricane Katrina.

A lens can expose a cross-section of the web, a more personal and
more humanly relevant take that no computer could ever create. A lens
is an easy-to-build page of links and referrals. Two lenses may be on
the same topic, but they are never the same — every lens is personal,
and every lens is built by a person, a Lensmaster.

16. Soothsayer alert: 5 predictions for 2006?

1. Inventory of adsense begins to catch up with demand

2. Thumbnail photos show up in adwords

3. Web pages get DRAMATICALLY better at teaching and interacting

4. Several large marketers cease to do TV

5. The Supreme Court bans email attachments

Seth was interviewed by Chris Lake, editor. Comments? (mailto: chris@e-consultancy.com) Email me or take them to the (http://www.e-consultancy.com/forum) forum.

If everyone had a foundry

What would the steel industry be like?

This announcement: Alexa Web Search Platform seems like a big deal to me. It means that the haystack that is the web is now easily parsed by any business that wants to leverage huge computing and data power to find needles.