by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IV, No. XXX
For the Week of July 24, 2000

This Week's Clue: Help Wanted

This Week's Clue: Help Wanted

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

Where's the Store?

Hey Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of This Hat!

The Truth about Content 

Clued-in, Clueless

The way is now clear for a new type of artistic agency to be born.

Today's agents specialize in one medium (book agents, movie agents, TV agents, sports agents) and provide one major service - negotiation. Some firms (especially in the sports category) provide financial services as well. This can either be a boon (as at Mark McCormack's IMG agency ) or an invitation to major fraud (Tank Black is accused of bilking most of his clients on investment scams ). Leigh Steinberg is among a handful of agents offering career advice (find a charity, wear a suit, don't be John Rocker in public) but that's about it.

Few agents deal in the mid-market. Music agents may use bird dogs to find new talent and sports agents may have bag men in college locker rooms, but most book agents have been paring their client lists for years. The Internet has changed the rules.

Today's Internet bird-dogs should be prowling the Web for newsletters, MP3 files, video files, anything indicating that talent exists. They can then provide a presence and the marketing support (a brand name) that draws advertisers, affiliate relationships, syndication, speaking or playing gigs - a host of potential revenue sources. 

Writers, musicians, and artists don't have the time (and often lack the talent) to market themselves effectively, especially when they're new. Here's where a brand name agent, marrying technical and marketing support, can not only make a big difference but win lasting loyalty from their clients. It's lasting loyalty because the Internet is a worldwide medium - why go to William Morris when you're already doing well as insertmynamehere.com. 

Let's look again at some of these newest revenue streams:

This doesn't just work for creative types. Assembly language programmers, open source developers, and the folks who will man the barricades at this new agency - they can all use better representation. Who wouldn't want a Web presence and a fan club (technical wizards need only impress small numbers of people) - especially if the up-front cost for the talent is little or nothing?

Everything can work on a minimum, a percentage, a sliding scale - you negotiate win-win deals one-by-one. You've got Web hosting, e-mail serving, site development, affiliate relationships...we haven't even started talking about the services (and potential revenue streams) current agents access. You open for business with the same skeleton staff every other good Internet start-up has - a technical wiz, design skills, bookkeeping, and a rainmaker. As it pours it scales, the way every other Internet business scales. But the investment is minimal, and the staff virtual.

Right now there are a host of mid-market writers, garage-based musicians, programmers, and Web authors looking for this new agency to be born. They are currently handling their own marketing. They're not good at it, and it takes time from what they do best. All the pieces are in place. Whoever gets into this market first gets the gold. And when you do get in call me first, will you?

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I'm spending a few weeks guest moderating John Audette's great I-Sales list . If you're not on it already, get on it. It's incredibly useful.

I'm still making myself available for consulting to a limited number of clients, with an eye toward assuring their long-term success. If you're interested give me a shout at 404-373-7634.

Also, please pass this along to friends and urge them to join our list. And don't forget our new e-mail address .

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 the Chicago Tribune . Once every other month I'm in CLEC Magazine. Twice each month I'm at OneChannel.Net  and I've recently joined the staff at ISPWorld. You can always buy my book . Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.

Remember that it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...

Takes on the News

Where's the Store?

The big question proponents of Internet sales taxes refuse to answer is where's the store?

So far, their answer seems to be that the store is where the buyer is. That's the opposite of the situation in the real world, where the rate is based on the location of the cash register. The difference is important because requiring online stores to maintain a presence everywhere is a huge barrier to entry. Naturally, the concept is pushed most strongly by big retailers  who like barriers to entry. Gov. James Gilmore's EcommerceCommission  refused to deal with this question, so we're stuck back at Square One.

Questions of jurisdiction are even more vital when you start crossing national borders. Federal Trade Commission chair Robert Pitofsky addressed this question recently and his remarks are important. He's consistent in supporting "country of destination" rules, so disputes are governed by the law where the buyer is located. As with sales tax, this is a burden on businesses, but otherwise, he writes correctly, you have a "race to the bottom" where Internet merchants all seek location where consumer rights are weakest.

Questions of jurisdiction on Internet transactions won't be discussed anywhere in the coming U.S. political campaign, but they should be. Internet businesses and consumers should demand answers.

Hey Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of This Hat!

The movie bombed and so, frankly, did the latest ICANN meeting, which proposed new extensions for Internet domains .

I've said it until I'm blue in the face . The domain name problem doesn't lie after the dot, but before it. This problem began when greedy registrars stopped insisting that .net designation go to networks, .com designations go to businesses, and .org designations go to organizations (like presidential campaigns.) Instead, businesses were urged to reserve their name in every Top Level Domain (TLD). The (predictable) result was a shortage of business names and a secondary market run by speculators.

Leave it to Ralph Nader (who wants to be our Cuauhtemoc Cardenas ) to show how silly this is. He has proposed creation of new domains like .sucks, which only corporate (and political) critics could own. Yes, this puts ICANN in the position of deciding who's a real critic (you think Bush campaign chair Karl Rove won't have a straw man register georgebush.sucks in a heartbeat?) but that's the goal we should be moving toward.

Someone, in other words, must have power to decide when a registration is appropriate to the domain it's being requested for. Someone, in other words, must have the power of "no" over domain registrations.

The Truth about Content

Here's a Clue the record companies don't and won't get concerning Napster, Gnutella and similar programs. The "thieves" they're complaining about, college students, aren't (and never have been) buyers.

Think back to your own college days. When someone had a great album and you couldn't afford it what did you do? That's right, you taped it. You may have spent hours in a friend's room, dubbing multiple tracks onto a favored tape, but you can't get blood from a stone and if you ain't got the money you do what you have to do.

Most Web users are like that. If they can afford to pay they will, but usually they don't give value until they get value (if then). All the new business models offered by content owners, including Bill Bales' AppleSoup , ignore this reality.

Look instead to business models that have worked. Shareware authors finally stuck ads in their software that play until you pay. Subscriptions for demos, for an artist's full library, and for ancillary merchandise are all good revenue streams. Radio drives CD sales, and has since the days of 78s. Pay-before-you-view doesn't work, and never has.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Senator Patrick Leahy , who not only talks about the Internet but uses it a lot. However he stands on Internet issues, his views are based on practical experience.

Clueless is any site trying to get teenagers to rat on their parents' financial status in exchange for "free gifts."

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