by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IV, No. IX
For the Week of February 28, 2000

This Week's Clue: Making Simson Rich

This Week's Clue: Making Simson Rich

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

Right-Click DoubleClick

Why No E-Bills?

Welcome, Drew

Clued-in, Clueless

It's early, but so far the most important book of the year in this space is Simson Garfinkel's "Database Nation."

This is a very subversive book. It took courage for O'Reilly & Associates to publish it. It summarizes all the technologies that are taking away our privacy, and suggests how you can get involved in taking it back. But it's also not an easy read, which is unfortunate. By piling all his evidence between two covers, Garfinkel risks losing the market his heroine Rachel Carson captured in her environmental classic "Silent Spring"

Garfinkel writes, in his first chapter, that his vision is that this book will do for the privacy movement what Carson's book did for the environmental movement. In his desire for scientific exactness, however, he has left money on the table. 

We can see how much money he left by looking at the work of Jim Sterne, who gave us our Sterne lecture two weeks ago. Sterne has several stories to tell (marketing as well as customer service) as well as multiple revenue streams for each story. He's a great speaker (imagine if Seinfeld were about something), a stellar consultant, and he writes articles. Right there, "above the fold" of his home page, you can buy his latest book on Web Marketing. (Great piece of work, by the way - I heartily recommend it

Now notice what I just did. You may have bought Sterne's book on the above link, but if you did I just ate some of Jim's lunch, because the link references my associate relationship with Amazon, not Jim's. Associate marketing is a revenue stream that Jim Sterne taps, but one he doesn't fully exploit (mainly because he only sells himself through it). You'll also notice that his page carries no advertising, and while he offers a free e-mail he doesn't, like Ralph Wilson, sell a separate paid newsletter . In other words, we just found several revenue streams the great Internet marketer himself hasn't tapped.

Why is that? The fact is no writer of accomplishment has the time or ability to tap all these revenue streams. I don't, Jim doesn't, and neither does Simson Garfinkel. Who does? Well, an ethical professional might. 

Consider all the possible revenue streams open to someone like Simson Garfinkel:

A good agent will build this business by making Simson a regular on TV, by pushing his free e-mail newsletter in every way possible (along with the book), and in short by making Simson Garfinkel the leading brand on the subject of privacy.

Well, now, I can hear Simson say, that's all well and good. But I don't want to just be a privacy advocate. I want to do other books, on other subjects, like Jim Sterne does. I want to follow my muse, like any artist (or any journalist) does. That's fine, the agent replies, the money you're making by putting some of these efforts on auto pilot (Corey Rudl's phrase) buys you the freedom to pursue only the work that most interests you. With all the money you're making as a brand, you can even hire an associate who will write those e-mails and help you do your research. That's how some of our greatest journalistic names got their starts - as someone else's associate!

Now, some mistakes have already been made, as I hinted at above. "Database Nation" is too long, and provides detail that might better be offered on a Web site, a site driven by (what else) a database! Simson already has a basic Web site , but making the book's research searchable and providing real-time links to its sources (not to mention updating it) would be incredibly powerful (mellow and profitable, in the words of the "Muppet Movie" ). By shortening the book and putting extraneous material online you make it accessible to a much wider audience, the kind of people you'll reach when we get you on TV. (That's one of the things agents do, they get their top talent on TV.) If all this sounds too valuable to just post on a Web site, sell memberships to the database, and pay people to update it regularly.

Work with me on this, Simson-baby, the agent might continue. I'm going to make you a star! I'm going to make you rich! I'm going to make you a brand, like Coca-Cola! How does that sound, Simson-baby? 

My guess is if you gave this pitch to Simson Garfinkel, demonstrating you had the knowledge and staff to back it up, it would sound pretty good to him. (OK, the last paragraph might smell a little fishy, but what's a salesman without enthusiasm?)

It sounds good to me, too, and if it sounds good to you, too, give me a shout. It's about time we did something about it. 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I've got a new e-mail address - danablankenhorn@mindspring.com. Over the course of the next few weeks the AT&T mailbox will go away.(So, for that matter, will my BellSouth mailbox)

If you like a-clue.com, feel free to pass it along to others. Subscribing to it is easy, reading it is fun, and the value is unquestioned. I write daily for ClickZ, and weekly at Andover.News. I write monthly for  NetMarketing, Boardwatch, and  Intellectual Capital. I've been in Advertising Age and I'll soon be in the Chicago Tribune again .Once every other month I'm in CLEC Magazine. You can always buy my book . Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.

Remember that it's still journalism that keeps the Clues coming. Give me a shout at 404-373-7634.

Takes on the News

Right-Click DoubleClick

DoubleClick and (by extension) the entire area of explicit ad targeting are being hammered for pursuing their business plans .

It's obvious that targeting people by what they do rather than what they say they do works best . Naviant  uses the example of a biker named Axle who's actually gentle and likes roses. But maybe Rev. Bob from the First Baptist Church also likes to go to biker chick Web sites at night - what happens when Mrs. Rev. Bob uses the Web to visit her crochet circle the next morning and learns that?

DoubleClick is getting the most attention because it's the largest player here, and because its acquisition of Abacus last year gives it, in theory, the ability to combine cookie and personal databases (once it gets a personal identifier on a cookie owner). Suits have been filed and are seeking class action status (thanks to Jonathan Shub  for pointing out it hasn't been granted yet). The Michigan and New York attorneys general smell political profits and are investigating. The Federal Trade Commission has been nosing around, and Sen. Robert Torricelli has introduced a bill against the practice.

The first Clue you need to understand this is that the issue is not technical, or economic, but political in nature. You get big and you become a target. That's why Amazon.Com and its Alexa unit are also in the FTC's sights . Regulators must react when politicians' knees jerk

The political problem is that explicit targeting isn't permission-based, as Mark Welch  has pointed out. "Psychographic profiling and targeting are great, but they require a LOT of data about a consumer, far more than most will share willingly with any single party -- and asking for the data would seriously damage the trust relationship" he wrote Online Ads  recently. Or, in the words of a character in a recent "Cathy" strip, "everyone wants to be understood and no one wants to be known."

What DoubleClick needs, in other words, is permission, and to get that it needs to target the people giving the information, not the people it's selling information to. This looks like a political problem, but it is in fact a business opportunity crying out for a solution.

Why No E-Bills?

If the Web taught us anything, it's that standards mean everything and that a standard must be universal to mean anything. If size and negotiation meant everything we'd all be using X.500 now instead of TCP/IP.

Sure, Windows is a de-facto standard, but it's not universal so you can't translate it online. That's why we're not all paying our bills online. There was a Checkfree system, a TransPoint (Microsoft, First Data, Citibank) system, an Intuit system, a Web-only system, and a banking system standard called Spectrum, backed by Sun.

The recent merger between CheckFree and TransPoint (and Intuit's support) would seem like a good thing. But consolidation doesn't create standards. Standards must be agreed-to by all players. The fact is, as Zona Research correctly puts it, we're still fighting a Microsoft vs. Unix battle here (all trying to basically plug-into IBM mainframes), and consumers don't care about that.

My bank has a Web-based banking offering, but it doesn't connect to the Quicken program my wife runs, and there can be huge (unspecified) delays in making payments to merchants who still aren't online. So we've still got a checkbook. The Clue is simple. Fix my problem to win my business, in other words - not yours.

Welcome, Drew

The big underground story of the year 2000 is the move by direct marketers (with all their discipline and experience) into the area of Web marketing.

So let's have a hearty welcome to one of the giants of that business, Drew Kaplan. The man behind the DAK catalogs is back. He blames Asian banks for the catalog's closing, but that's not important.

What is important is his strategy. Get the e-mail, get the e-mail, get the e-mail. (That's his strategy.) Kaplan's site will push entertaining, sales-oriented e-mails. He'll be building a list, checking it twice, then pushing sales through that channel. I think it's the most fascinating start-up of the year.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Altavista.Com's new capabilities, especially its image and video searches. The new "vanity search," I guess, is to look for your picture, and pictures that relate to it. (Here's one I found while looking up my name - )

Clueless is GoHip.Com, which tried to steal start page defaults and got busted . If you promise now to download anything I'll now take you to the "scene of the crime." (We're clicking, we're linking, we're looking (hang on to that "back" button....))

A-Clue.Com is a free weekly email publication registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as number TXu 888-819. Subscribers can receive either a .txt file or .htm file. The .htm version features links that become active from inside a browser. To take your name off the list, simply write REMOVE as the subject, or content, of a message replying to any issue. To request your free copy, write us at DanaBlankenhorn@mindspring.com  or +A_Clue . To subscribe you can also write to a-clue@list.mmgco.com  with the word "subscribe" in the subject. (Address your request for the .txt version to a-clue_textonly@list.mmgco.com . You can unsubscribe with a note to the same addresses and the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.. We're on the Web at http://www.a-clue.com and http://www.ppn.org/clue.