by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume VI, No. XLI

This Week's Clue: How to Make Permission Marketing Work

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This Week's Clue: How to Make Permission Marketing Work
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
SP (Shameless Promotion)
Business Journalism Self-Exam
His Loss is Your Gain
A Clue from Random Violence
Clued-in, Clueless

Your Web site may be hurting your business! An inefficient, hard to use, tired looking Web site could be doing your company more harm than good. Can your site be easily found by the Search Engines? See "Lost on the Web."

Problems with navigation, speed, meta-tags, appearance and textual content, (or lack thereof), can be a big turn-off to potential and existing customers. See "Case of the
Hijacked Web site."

Does your site need a "make-over"? It can cost a lot less than you think -- Talk to us!


For the Week of October 14, 2002

Time is the common currency of the Internet.

Interruption marketing understands this. Interruption marketing is behind the whining of people like Jamie Kellner, who said recently that video recorders like TiVo could destroy "free TV." A search on Kellner's name is now filled with anti-Kellner vitriol but if you're an interruption marketer you're saying "right on."

Interruption marketing gets brands, and brand messages, in your face in order to force them into your brain and create a response. Interruption marketing puts brand names on stadiums, street spam on telephone poles, and spam in your e-mail.

Interruption marketing is also behind the latest Web ad "trend," ads that fill portions of a screen's editorial hole (including the story lead) for a timed interval - usually about 15 seconds. Sometimes this is accompanied by sound effects. The idea is simple. You won't read what you want until the brand's message is forced down your eyeballs. (The same trend pushes branded products into the story lines of popular TV shows, or movies.)

The alternative to this isn't to hate advertising. The alternative is permission marketing. A recent eMarketer study claims consumers don't differentiate between spam and commercial e-mail but draws the right conclusion: you should work on targeted e-mail marketing that is sent with the recipient's permission.

But there's more to it than that. There is no difference between most commercial e-mails and spam. Most commercial e-mail offers no entertainment, no valid exchange between the reader's time and the offer it's making. It's not permission marketing - it's interruption with permission.

There is a difference. Drew Kaplan has some of that difference down . His site is designed to get you to take the e-mail. His e-mail is designed, not just as a sales pitch, but as an editorial service to fellow gadget freaks. You're an amateur gadget freak, with money to spend, but no time to waste. Drew is a professional gadget freak, with time to spend sorting through the Far Eastern markets, offering to save you time and money.

The difference between Kaplan and most of what passes for permission marketing is an "editorial perspective." You don't just identify the audience, you identify with it, you become part of it. Then you ask yourself, what do I (since I'm now the audience) want? Deliver that in an entertaining way and your e-mail will be anticipated (as you anticipate this one).

But you want to know a secret? This is hard. Great publishers and editors are as rare as great advertising creatives. But this is a Clue for the 21st century. If you're to move toward permission marketing, the publishers and editors are worth more than the ad guys. Attention that's seduced, and valued, will be worth far more to your bottom line than attention that's grabbed, and abused, in the Internet Age.


SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

You can buy "Moore's Lore: The Pace of Progress," in PDF format right now . The print version should be available soon, but I heartily recommend the PDF. It has more pictures, it supports links directly (as opposed to through footnotes) and it's much less expensive. If you like me in e-mail, you'll love me for $7.95.

You can also follow the story on my "Moore's Lore" blog ( Drop by and watch it grow. I'm still trying to arrange a "book promotion" tour for February or March in Australia.

My other books include "Boom, Bust & Beyond: The Best of Dana Blankenhorn," , "The Time Mirror," and "Living on the Internet" . I still write for Boardwatch , Boardroom , Marketing Profs Thom Reece's eComProfits and BtoB . I still produce I-Strategy for Adventive

I'd like more readers, so tell your friends, clients, partners, and Congressperson about You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know .

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


Shameless Promotion

You're never too old to rock and roll if you're too young to die. And if you're happily married, you won't find a better friend in rock than Roger McNamee and the Flying Other Brothers .

Part Little Feat, part Who, part Austin Lounge Lizards, and based on listenable California blues-rock, their latest album "52-week High" even has a little Blues Traveler thanks to the harmonica stylings of Tony Bove (alias "T Bone,"), who wrote the Lennon tribute "Johnny B." You'll also laugh with songs like "Clueless" and their bonus track (wait for it), "Double G-Double U." The opening track is also "ripped from the headlines."

But the heart of this album are Mr. and Ms. McNamee's tributes to long-lasting love, an unusual rock theme that millions will appreciate. Buy it today . This may be the only 52-week high you see this fall, but your ears will profit.


Takes on the News

Business Journalism Self-Exam

Margaret Scardino of Pearson asked the right question recently . How was it that the business press completely missed Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and how grand theft lying became common practice in the last years of the 20th century?

There are plenty of fine theories, some of which I've discussed here. Readers, businessmen, and advertisers don't like bad news and are reluctant to pay for its publication.

But there's a bigger question, which only publishers like Scardino can address. And in addressing this the carping of the workers is, in a word, irrelevant .

The question is, should business journalists challenge their readers' assumptions? Must they always just go-along? Or should they also have minds of their own, and publishers with the courage to back them in the face of advertising (or reader) pressure?

This is not a question in much of the media. Political reporters often question political leaders skeptically, and write the resulting answers cynically. Many sports reporters question the honesty of college athletics, and ridicule baseball commissioner Bud Selig . (Our international audience should substitute FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter for Selig.)

Reporting on entertainment isn't all breathless excitement ; much of it is scandalous . (Some of it is even thoughtful. ) The questioning attitude is what distinguishes real reporting from blatherskite , and readers can tell the difference.

Yet the business press, and especially the technology business press (where I work), has always been an exception to this rule.

There are critical stories printed, from time to time, in "The Wall Street Journal", in Scardino's "Financial Times", even in "Forbes". But when it's time to do something about these injustices, what do the bosses say (and where do ambitious reporters put their hearts)? Do they want more cops on the beat to stop the crime in the suites? Just the opposite - they want fewer, preferably none. They don't really care if the economy is screwed, to them it's just an entertainment. And in the end, they do the crooks' bidding right down the line. It has become an ideology as rigid as Marxism.

This is not just true in regulatory policy. It's also true for more basic questions. The business press refuses to challenge the economic or political assumptions of the wealthy. They refuse to bite the hand that feeds them.

It has always been thus. The editorials of Steve Forbes are no different from those of his grandfather, B.F. Forbes. The editorials of today's Wall Street Journal could have been written in the 1920s. Henry Luce (founder of "Fortune") and Harold McGraw (founder of "Business Week") weren't liberals. In fact, if there is indeed a right-wing media conspiracy, it is centered on the business press, which hasn't challenged its readers since its creation.

Here's one infuriating, recent example. A "reporter" for CNBC was talking with an "analyst" hired by the network. The "analyst" said Republicans were concerned that if they didn't win both houses of Congress in November, "Social Security reform might be dead."

To what was the analyst referring? He was referring to what was called, until recently, privatization, investment accounts replacing Social Security, whose returns would be subject to the market. Republicans found in recent surveys that this proposal scares people, especially those who bought the words of their bosses and put their 401(k) money into, say, Enron stock. So the word "reform" was substituted, Democrats derided as being "against reform." The truth is hidden, the lie is told, and that's fine, that's politics. But whose interests are reporters serving when they buy the lie whole, and pass it on to viewers as truth?

You won't hear the answer on CNBC. As in the print media basic Republican assumptions of economic policy are never questioned by its reporters, analysts, editors, or those they interview. I've seen CNBC's "Capitol Report" actually "balance" an interview of one Republican Senator (Kay Bailey Hutchison) with a second Republican Senator (Peter Fitzgerald). Even Fox wouldn't call that balanced.

This makes it impossible for the business press to address the present recession. Why is it that for 70 years markets have done better under Democratic Presidents than Republican? Is it really coincidence? Or could it be, perhaps, that the rich don't know what's good for them?

Consider it from a strictly economic perspective. Blinders off, please. (I know, the light is bright. Don't worry, you'll get used to it. Better? OK, let's begin.)

Give investors money and you increase the supply of capital. Give consumers money and you increase consumption, increasing demand for capital. Which path offers investors a better return? (I'll wait.) Here's a Clue. Both investment and consumption are markets. More money chasing fewer investments means lower returns. More consumption, on the other hand, increases returns.

So when President Bill Clinton defied Republicans and lowered taxes on consumers in 1993, while raising them slightly on investors, who benefited? And when the Republican Congress then spent six years rejecting Clinton's budgets, and his efforts to increase SEC enforcement, who was hurt? In the end it was rich people. Their excesses weren't corrected, and much of their money went to money heaven.

It's worse in the technology press, and it's important here to note the price of this willful ignorance. The "computer press" never did anything more than PR work for advertisers, and the bigger the advertiser the less-questioning the attitude became. Readers' interests were never consulted. So when the final curtain fell, the "computer press" disappeared. There was no credibility to fall back on, and no readers mourned because few readers cared.

Unless the business press wakes up, it could easily suffer the same fate. It's not just that when questions aren't asked the story isn't done. When assumptions aren't questioned liberty is threatened. Our protection lies in a diverse marketplace in which arrogance is punished with bankruptcy and the right call is rewarded. We don't have that in today's monopoly media.

The ultimate answer, for a questioning public, for skeptical reporters, and for new entrepreneurs, lies right here, on this great, green business field of the Internet. Any niche, no matter how small, can be served here. The costs of posting and "publishing" are nil. What turns this from a hobby into a business is the discipline to identify the niche, target it with ads, and serve the market through databases and (welcomed, not just tolerated) e-mail.

The best news is that the mainstream media thinks the whole effort is crazy. That means we can engage in this business without interference from the Clueless. When we succeed (and we will) we'll also be on the road to a politics where you can really decide, based on what we report.


His Loss is Your Gain

There's some evidence we may finally be hitting a bottom in high tech (although how long we stay there is anyone's guess). The volume of lay-off stories at Phil Kaplan's F%*#*@ed Company is declining markedly.

Where a few months ago his page was filled with high-tech names letting people go or declaring bankruptcy, most of his items now are either personal advertisements, non-tech stories or meaningless nonsense. The ultimate "good news" from this site is that it disappears from lack of interest and advertising, but that's still some time away.


A Clue from Random Violence

Say what you want about the Arabs but for my money America still makes the finest terrorists in the world . Two guys exercising their Second Amendment rights were able to kill a half-dozen people and completely terrorize a major metropolitan area, with just a single gun and a single truck.

As this was written their nationality wasn't known, but I really doubt that their religion is Muslim. It looks to me more like random nutcase violence, the kind of thing American laws make bang-bang easy, and the kind of violence the American people have no solution for.

Here's a Clue. Once the gun fires, you're dead. BANG! You're dead. It doesn't matter if someone later kills me with a needle in my arm. You're dead. It doesn't even matter if you have a gun, assuming I have the drop on you. You're still dead. You're going to stay dead, forever. D-E-A-D dead. And the U.S. Attorney General says that high-powered rifle is my constitutional right, a right given to me, as an individual, not through a militia .

This means y'all get one shot free, or as many shots as you want, so long as you're not caught. It's your American right. A sniper and his sidekick have gotten more than their share, sure, but this can happen again and again and again and again (and it will). Maybe you're next. But if you're an American, you don't care. You're not willing to do anything to prevent it. You may want to kill the killers, but you won't lift a finger to prevent the killings.

Who needs Osama Bin Laden when you got two guys in a truck.


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Drew Kaplan . He's asking the right questions in permission marketing.

Clueless is C|Net CEO Shelby Bonnie . He's in over his head. He doesn't understand that he runs a technology publisher, not a computer or Internet publisher. So instead of moving his readers toward the leading edge he has stuck them in a cul de sac. And the stock pays the price. Fire him now while you still have a company.


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