Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Amazon: Action Steps to Protest

Angela Adair-Hoy, co-owner of Booklocker, has posted a number of links on her Writers Weekly blog, including an online petition as well as contacts for Amazon execs.. If you want to register your protest about the demand to only print at BookSurge, or if you want to better understand the fallacies of such a move (from her perspective as publisher of some 1500 books, go and visit.

One of the things you’ll see: a public statement by PublishAmerica, which I excerpt here:

Quite some time ago, sir, long before you were born, American soldiers fought the Battle of the Bulge in Europe. When the 101st Airborne Division found itself surrounded by the enemy, the Germans presented U.S. general McAuliffe with a piece of paper that demanded his surrender.

McAuliffe looked at it, borrowed a soldier’s pen, wrote in caps, “NUTS!”, then proceeded to win the battle.

There’s our answer, sir. Couldn’t have said it any better.

Mind you, this is not an endorsement of PA. I am generally not a fan of PublishAmerica and have warned authors away from their standard contract. But on this, they are right on, and I salute them for being early and public and firm in their opposition.

My friend Marion Gropen posted to a discussion list that Amazon’s tactics remind her of Standard OIl; it’s a good analogy. Standard Oil’s monopolistic and bullying practices actually caused a years-long anti-trust action by the federal government.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Amazon’s Stupid Anti-Competitive Move

Amazon wants to force publishers to use its wholly-owned printer, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports. If it thinks this is a good idea, needs its collective head examined. I think it’s one of the dumbest moves I’ve heard of in a loooong time.

Amazon gets a lot of its books through a company called LightningSource, Inc., or LSI–which is owned by Ingram, the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. book wholesaling world. LSI prints digitally, which enables production of books as they’re ordered, in runs as small as a single book.

Thousands of publishers, from one-title solopreneurs up to the biggest names in the industry, use LSI for some or all of their printing–in part because it allows flexible inventory management, and in part because the connection with Ingram means any bookstore is automatically set up to special-order those titles.

LSI has many competitors, though it’s the only one to offer the Ingram connection. Amazon owns a competitor to LSI, called Booksurge/Createspace. And it’s going to force all publishers listing digitally printed books on its site to use this company.

The Journal reporter sees this move as rosy for Amazon:

The move will likely generate significant profit for Amazon, which has evolved into a fully vertical book publishing and retail operation.

Well, ummm, I don’t think so. This is what I see happening instead:

• Publishers, not a bunch that can be bullied easily (what’s that old saying about never getting into an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel?), will haul Amazon into court for restraint of trade
• Publishers who control mailing lists totaling hundreds of thousands of names will tell their public about Amazon’s bullying, and encourage them to buy elsewhere (there’s already quite a bit of rumbling from publishers who say they themselves will shop elsewhere)–they may even get customers to write massive numbers of letters to Amazon saying if you want to keep my business, reverse this policy
• Subsidy publishers, which print perhaps 50,000 titles per year by mostly unknown authors, have promised those authors to get them listed both with Ingram and with Amazon, and are in a position to orchestrate a massive rebellion
• Publishers will withdraw book titles from Amazon, severely damaging its brand identity as “Earth’s largest selection”–on which they built their business
• If Ingram sees Amazon as

an enemy, and Ingram is a very powerful company, it will not be pretty

Of course, I may be wrong. Publishers may choose not to fight Amazon and to print non-exclusively with both LSI for Ingram and Booksurge for Amazon. Or they may simple knuckle under as if they’re John Kerry or Michael Dukakis attacked by Swift Boaters. But I’m betting this comes back to bite Amazon, hard.

Anti-competitive measures have a way of backfiring. There’s already been some backlash against certain independent bookstores that are demanding authors who do events with them don’t include links to Amazon. Amazon joining the fray will be shooting itself in the foot. The Abundance mentality, which I write about regularly, says it’s smarter to network with your competitors and to build alliances with them than to try to cut their throats, and end up cutting your own.

HuffPo: Time to Re-regulate Business

Writing in Huffington Post, Hale “Bonddad” Stewart makes a compelling case that business practices need immediate attention––NOW.

From contaminated meat to toxic toys, Stewart attacks multiple industries.

And the subprime mortgage crisis, he says, could have been avoided easily if regulators had bothered to pay attention to numerous warnings over many years:

Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve governor who died in September, warned nearly seven years ago that a fast-growing new breed of lenders was luring many people into risky mortgages they could not afford.

But when Mr. Gramlich privately urged Fed examiners to investigate mortgage lenders affiliated with national banks, he was rebuffed by Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman.

In 2001, a senior Treasury official, Sheila C. Bair, tried to persuade subprime lenders to adopt a code of “best practices” and to let outside monitors verify their compliance. None of the lenders would agree to the monitors, and many rejected the code itself. Even those who did adopt those practices, Ms. Bair recalled recently, soon let them slip.

And leaders of a housing advocacy group in California, meeting with Mr. Greenspan in 2004, warned that deception was increasing and unscrupulous practices were spreading.

Let’s remember the business climate in 2001. A long period of economic growth had crested, business scandals were being exposed everywhere, the economy was heading downward–and plummeted later that year, in the aftermath of 9/11.

If ever there was a time when it made sense to look at risky lending practices and a baseless assumption of permanent housing price spirals, that would have been the time.

So why did Greenspan ignore all the warnings?

–> In my writing, and particularly my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I repeatedly demonstrate that business ethics is more profitable. Don’t know why this lesson is so hard for some of the “mainstream” players to learn. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all had a conversion and started signing (and taking seriously) the Business Ethics Pledge, in droves?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Brief, Wonderful Article on Using Emotion in Copywrting

Specifically, the emotion of empathy.

I’ve been urging my clients for years to do what they can to be seen as the caring humans they are, and not some faceless corporate monstrosity/bureaucracy.

Chris Haddad gives some very powerful examples, including the wonderful idea of the “maybe bullet”:

What’s a “maybe bullet?”

A “Maybe” bullet is a short statement that “paces” the feelings and emotions that your customer are going through and shows them that you UNDERSTAND them.

He also gives two specific examples of empathic copy. Go read it.

In my own copywriting, I often use “perhaps” rather than “maybe.” It does the same thing but sometimes seems more personal–and sometimes I alternate.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama, Wright, and The Hypocrisy Parade

A lot of people have been dumping on Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, for his remarks about 9-11, his endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, and various other things.

Obama has consistently publicly and thoroughly distanced himself from Wright’s positions–a clear repudiation even of a close personal friend. Obama also immediately got rid of the key staffer who called Hillary Clinton a “monster.”

Meanwhile, it looks like a lot of those shaking their fists in the air about this have some reluctance to criticize others who surround themselves with extremists and questionable characters–or, in some cases, are guilty of this behavior themselves.

You want examples?

• First of all, Fox (big surprise) took Wright’s remarks wildly out of context, according to Alternet. Wright was quoting someone else, Edward Peck–the white former Ambassador to Iraq (under Jimmy Carter) who might be expected to actually know about such things. And Fox’s camp-followers and parrots in the mainstream media (I don’t consider Fox to be mainstream in spite of its large viewership–it’s politics are extremist, its columnists act as attack dogs who use hate and intimidation, and its journalistic style seeks not the truth but the discrediting of those who disagree) didn’t question this, and repeated the accusation.
• Clinton herself seemed remarkably unwilling to part company with Geraldine Ferraro, despite Ferraro’s crude racist remarks about Obama.
• The ever-loathsome Sean Hannity, says Huffington Post, has ties to a neo-Nazi, Hal Turner.
• And last but certainly not least, John McCain actively went after his endorsement by pastor John Hagee, an open homophobe and right-wing demagogue who is at least as extremist as Wright, and to my mind quite a bit farther out–and why isn’t the mainstream media, or Fox, jumping on McCain for this?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Transparency: David Patterson’s Smart Move

David Patterson, New York’s new governor will never need to stand, ashen-faced, and admit that he cheated on his wife–as his predecessor, Elliot Spitzer did.

Why? Because, knowing that skeleton was in his closet, Patterson pre-empted it with an act of transparency. He openly admitted, at a time, place, and manner of his own choosing–actually on the very day he was sworn in as governor–hat he and his wife had both had affairs during a difficult time in their relationship. He maintained control of the discourse, and the admission can never be used as a weapon to destroy him, as it would very much do if he’d been suddenly, unexpectedly, “outed.” As Spitzer found out very quickly.

For all we know, the Pattersons may have even had an agreement that theirs was an open relationship–in which case, the word “cheating” wouldn’t even apply. It’s not cheating if you have permission from the cheatee.

Transparency is a good strategy whenever there’s an ethics issue. It means you can’t be blackmailed. It means you minimize the hurt to other people. And you stay in control of the situation.

Almost four years ago, I wrote about a utility company that handled a gas explosion with rare good sense. Like Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol poisoning scare years earlier, this company was both transparent and extremely customer-centric, and thus enhanced rather than destroyed its reputation.

Gay and lesbian activists have understood this for almost 40 years, since the 1969 Stonewall riots. The closest thing to a rational reason for keeping gays out of sensitive jobs (say, those that expose the employee to highly sensitive information) is the fear of blackmail. But when the gay employee is already out of the closet, that weapon fizzles away.

I’d say that transparency, combined with Nelson Mandela-style reconciliation, creates powerful momentum in favor of the person making the confession, whether in business or politics. Plus, as the Catholics with their confession ritual have understood for centuries, there’s tremendous personal release in not bottling up secrets.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Black-Hat Sploggers Leave a Bad Taste

The other day, I got invited to help promote an Internet marketing report. Sicne I never endorse anyting I haven’t seen, I asked for a copy–and boy, was I appalled.

The model these folks were pushing was to steal content, intersperse enough meaningless blather so Google doesn’t think it’s a duplicate page, and build traffic/ad revenues.


I let it simmer for a couple of days, until I could response with enough politeness to get read, and until I could find a way to talk to the part of these people that wants to be better (with a tip of the hat to my friend Bob Burg, who taught me how to do that), and then responded this morning, thusly:

“Let me know what you think, good or bad. I appreciate your opinion.”

OK, you asked. I read it over the weekend.

I’m sure you have good intentions, but frankly, I find your business model unethical. It is one very small step above splogging; the only difference is you’re adding meaningless content around someone else’s words instead of just presenting someone else’s hard work.

It devalues the Internet as a useful information medium; I’d hate to see search results be as useless as e-mail, but if people follow your model, they contribute to poor search results.

And then there’s the matter of making a buck on other people’s hard-earned intellectual property without compensating them in any way, or even asking permission, and doing so in a way that most definitely violates the Fair Use provisions of the copyright law.

I think with the intelligence and understanding of the Internet that underlies your black hat approach, you could come up with a business model that would be just as profitable and a whole lot more palatable. Come talk to me when you’ve done so.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Some Debates Have Only One Side: Martin Samuels in the London Times

I love this article! Starting with the debate on whether, after five years, the Iraq debacle can be called a success or failure he goes on to explore other arguments that really only have one side, such as did Gandhi have his assassination coming to him? Was Lee Harvey Oswald merely keeping the powerful on their toes when he shot JFK?

And then he comes back to Iraq:

Ah, yes, but things are so much better for women in Iraq now. Try walking down the main drag in Basra in a short skirt and lippy, sunshine, then report back on that one.

If we remove this desire to acknowledge both sides of a moot argument, other issues become clearer, too. Barack Obama voted against the invasion of Iraq. Hillary Clinton did not. On the most important judgment call of the early 21st century, he was right and she was wrong. Any small changes in her stance have come now the calamity has unfolded, meaning that her shifting positions could be exploited by the Republicans as evidence of opportunism, a problem Obama would not have. See how it all falls into place?

You want a debate, though, we’ll have a debate. Is the region safer? No. Is the world safer? No. Is the West safer? No. Are the Iraqi people safer? No. Have we made a bad situation worse? Yes. Has our international standing improved? No. Did we find any weapons? No. Did we find Osama bin Laden? No. Will it be over soon? No. Is it a recruitment poster for al-Qaeda? Yes. Did we at least get some cheap petrol out of it? No. Well, I think that about wraps it up for this one, folks. Read my lips. Worst. Decision. Ever. Now here’s Jim with the travel.

Whew! The whole article is that sharp. Highly recommended.

Victory for the People–And Common Sense

We celebrate a huge victory against special interests this week in my town of Hadley, Massachusetts: a retail development that was waaaay out of scale for the town, and would be illegal under current zoning, has been withdrawn.

Let me give some background. I’ve had some involvement with land and resource use/planning issues all the way back to 1972, when I was tangentially involved in opposing a nuclear power plant proposed two miles from New York City (where I was living at the time). Two years later, when I researched the safety of nuclear power for a school project, I realized just how dumb an idea that had been. Later, that was the subject of my first book.

Over time, I’ve been involved in a number of efforts around sensible development, including founding and serving as publicity chair for Save the Mountain, a group that successfully blocked a very inappropriate mountaintop development (bringing it from 40 houses going up the ridgeline to two at the bottom, and getting the remaining land protected forever).

This project, a Super Wal-Mart, would have added 6000 cars an hour, many of them crossing a very popular bike path with no traffic control. One of the streets is two lanes. The other becomes two lanes about a mile in either direction. And that corner is already facing two other large retail projects plus a large housing development. This in a rural town with a population under 5000 that already has a non-super Wal-Mart just a few hundred yards from the proposed new one–and when that was built in 1998 the company promised it would not be back for a larger one.

Wal-Mart pulled out because “Hadley [our town] had become too difficult” a place to build.

I translate that as the citizen opposition group, Hadley Neighbors for Sensible Development (in which I’m a proud participant), made it clear that this project would be opposed at every turn.

This development is dead, but the actual applicant was not Wal-Mart but Pyramid, a mall developer. It is unclear whether the developer can exercise the remaining four years of its grandfathering under the previous zoning with a different tenant.

I’m hoping that if Pyramid does come back with a different plan, that it is, in fact, a sensible development, in keeping with the nature of the town.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

House Passes Ethics Office Legislation

Well, what’ya know–Nancy Pelosi actually showed some leadership and got the House to pass a somewhat weak measure establishing a special office of ethics, as many states have had for years. And against strenuous opposition (WHO are these people?) from both parties. The New York Times headline says it all:

Kicking and Screaming Toward Reform

If you want to thank her, visit MassPIRG’s page set up for the purpose, here. If you have autofill in your browser, it takes under 30 seconds.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

“Shut Up and Sing”: The Dixie Chicks and Freedom of Speech

By Shel Horowitz

I’ve been wanting to see the Dixie Chicks movie “Shut Up and Sing” since I saw a trailer for it about a year ago. Last night, we watched it on video.

It tells a gripping story about free speech and repression that started on the eve of U.S. invasion of Iraq. Lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” And all of a sudden, the biggest selling women’s band in the country couldn’t get radio airplay, was picketed, watched right-wingers engage in mass collection and destruction of their CDs, and lost a big chunk of their conservative country music audience.

Interestingly, their sold-out 2003 concert tour continued to draw wild throngs of enthusiastic fans–but their next tour didn’t do so well. And their next album–an album that contained sharp, penatring original songwriting about the whole experience, a first for this former cover band–was deliberately (and very succesfully) launched through other channels than country radio.

It is a sad, sad day when the U.S., the country that not only pioneered free speech but enshrined it as a founding principle, in the First Amendment to the Constitution, can be so vicious to its dissenters. These women received death threats for speaking out!

I want to know how is that when Bill O’Reilly said on national TV that they “deserve to be slapped around,” there was no boycott of his books, no mainstream call to get an advocate of violence against women thrown off the air. How come he wasn’t Imused while the Dixie Chicks got Dixie Chicked?

Let’s go back to the First Amendment for a moment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It seems to be that in the “with us or against us” years of the GWB administration, a lot of people seem all-too-willing to forget this powerful language that has kept us reasonably safe from internal tyranny for years. Yes, I know there are some very unpleasant exceptions, including not only the McCarthy era of the 40s and 50s but also the Palmer Raids following World War I. And Jefferson, a slaveholder himself, “forgot” to block discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity, which was a shame. It would have been helpful to have an early, consistent, and strong legal argument against slavery.

We got that protection decades later, in the Fourteenth Amendment–and even that wasn’t enough to stop the extreme segregation that followed for a hundred years after the Civil War…the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II–but not German- or Italian-Americans…and the roundups of Arabs and Muslims without due process that took place during the current administration.

Now, I happen to be a First Amendment absolutist. In fact, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson principal authors of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution) were absolutist as well–saying in the original draft and in later statements that the First Amendment means “there shall be no law abridging”…from Congress or anyone else (i.e., the states, the executive branch). I actually did some research on this back in 1972, for a high school paper, although I’m not turning up the citation in Google. But it has stuck with me all those years.

In other words, I think Bill O’Reilly and Don Imus have the right to spew their filth–and their employers have the right to terminate their employment. I think the pro-war faction has every right to stop patronizing the Dixie Chicks, and to picket, and to make noses impugning their patriotism, event hough I happen to think the DCs are the patriotic ones here. But I have issues when that broadens to actual suppression of dissent.

The DCs were suppressed. Word came from on high from the headquarters of at least two radio networks: Don’t play their music, or else. It was not left to the individual DJs, or even the individual stations. In the movie, we see Senators John McCain (in the days when he hadn’t yet thrown away his integrity) and Barbara Boxer skeptically quizzing record company executives about this. Not shown in the movie but also very much at issue was the “guideline” from Clear Channel to its 1170 stations: don’t play these hundreds of songs, including John Lennon’s Imagine! And the pressure on journalists to go along with the war and beat the drums–and to exclude opposing viewpoints from mainstream channels (casualties included Bill Moyers and Phil Donahue, among many others)…attempt to suppress Michael Moore’s latest book at the time…and a gazillion other examples.

(My friends Charlie King and Karen Brandow sing a wonderful song by the Prince Myshkins about this: “Why Aren’t WE On the List?

Yes, we must be vigilant against attacks on our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, press, and assembly. I think I just might go out this weekend and buy that Dixie Chicks album.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Palast: Spitzer Taken Down to Protect the Banks and Bush

Wooo-eee! Columnist Greg Palast has a powerful commentary on the difference between the trashing of Elliot Spitzer, crusader for consumers in the mortgage mess, and do-nothing Republican Senator David Vitter.

Spitzer, says Palast, was pretty much the only one standing in the way of a Federal reserve $200 billion bailout of banks who lost money in subprimes. Does this help the overmortgaged householder in any way? Nope.

And Spitzer was ready to take on the Bush administration over this, and in fact that’s what he was doing in Washington on that fateful night.

Fascinating reading. Here’s a little taste:

Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That’s Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure – and got to keep the Grinning’s house. There was no ‘quid’ of a foreclosure moratorium for the ‘pro quo’ of public bail-out. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.

Every mortgage sharking operation shot up in value. Mozilo’s Countrywide stock rose 17% in one day. The Citi sheiks saw their company’s stock rise $10 billion in an afternoon.

And that very same day the bail-out was decided – what a coinkydink! – the man called, ‘The Sheriff of Wall Street’ was cuffed. Spitzer was silenced.

Funny–one thing I haven’t heard discussed at all, is that Spitzer built his reputation as a consumer advocate, yet he was willing to pay far more than the going rate. Forgetting for a moment about morality, about idiocy, about hypocrisy (this guy was a prosecutor before he became governor, and he even went after some of the high-end “escort” operations), about throwing your entire career away for a few minutes of pleasure–you really do have to wonder how someone who works so hard at stopping consumer ripoffs would pay, on multiple occasions, $5K to spend an evening with a call girl. I’ve owned cars that cost me less than that!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer Caught in Prostitution Scandal

The danger in being an ethics warrior is that if you get caught with your own pants down, you’re in trouble. You’ve lost all the credibility you spent all those years building up.

It happened to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods last year. This week it happened to the crusading anti-corruption New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer, who apparently uses a high-end call girl service similar to those he investigated as Attorney General.

It’s really a shame. There’s been much to admire in the public positions of both men. But if you make your living touting honesty, you should, quite frankly, know better. I’m not trying to sound self-righteous here, really I’m not–but from a marketing point of view, if you stake out your reputation on being the best and then get caught dealing in lousy product, you’re going to fall a lot harder than if no one expected any better from you in the first place.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Don’t Waste Your Money on Marketing Like This

I won’t embarrass this company by naming it, but boy, they could use some marketing help. They really haven’t got a clue.

I found their quarter-page ad in the program guide of a play I attended.
here’s what it contained:

• An attractive, professionally done logo with the firm name (but no clue either in the name or in the graphic representation about what this company actually does)
• This very pleasant quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” (Still don’t know what they do)
• Street address, phone number and Web URL–which is such an abridgment of the firm name that it does nothing to reinforce brand identity

I am guessing I will be the only person to type in that URL on the basis of that ad–and only because I wanted to be able to write this blog post. Turns out it’s a financial services firm, ad even that wasn’t obvious at first glance. the home page is dominated by a picture of a park and skyline in a nearby city–but this company is actually located in a nearby suburb.

And the copy–oy! It’s the perfect example of what I call “we, we, we all the way home.” See for yourself:

We are a fully integrated financial services company. Our mission is to help our clients build, protect and preserve wealth to meet their long-term financial goals.

(Firm name)’s centerpiece is our own unique Process approach, which allows us to offer comprehensive advice to our clients. We have an exceptional degree of expertise across four disciplines, including Wealth Transfer, Investment Management, Executive and Employee Benefits. Each discipline works together to meet our client’s goals.

Let’s see…out of 74 words, eight are either “we”, “our”, or “us”. That works out to 10.8 percent.

Now…how many times can you find a “you” or your”? I’ll give you a hint: a four-letter number that begins with z and ends with o. Yup–zero. They do say “clients” or “client’s” twice, d would have been easy to replace those with “you” and “your”, respectively.

Okay, how about any testimonials? None on the home page. How about anything about what makes the “Process approach” (and whose idea was that bizarre capitalization scheme?) different from/superior to any other agency’s offering? Nope.

I’m sure this is a well-meaning company and probably does right for their clients–but I think they could have more clients if they stopped patting themselves on the back, stopped assuming people know what they do by their firm name (two last names), and started positioning themselves as people who can help answer your investment questions.

And yes, I know, the ad that caught my ire was a charity ad that they don’t really expect to bring them any business. But why exclude the possibility?

It would have been just as easy to make the Emerson quote smaller (it fills fully half the ad) and then add a line like “For enthusiasm about growing your investments, please call or visit.”

It would have cost nothing more to make the home page you-focused, and to make it obvious on first click what exactly their offering and what their specialization is. (A headline would help; there isn’t one).

And then people say marketing doesn’t work. Of course it isn’t going to work if you can’t be bothered to even try!

Unfortunately, this is all too typical.

I’m sorely tempted to dig through the contact page and send a gratis copy of my book Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World–but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be appreciated.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Kevin Kelly: Hope for Struggling Artists/Authors

Artists, authors, and other creatives, take note: Kevin Kelly, the guru of Wired Magazine, says you don’t have to be a starving artist anymore. Instead of grabbing for crumbs at the very end of the long tail, build a base of 1000 uber-fans. All you have to do is add one person a day for three years (not that long to pay your dues, really–historically, many artists spent decades to achieve this kind of fan base).

Better yet, Kelly outlines how to make this self-funding without anyone worrying about not getting their money back if you don’t make your goal, through a very cool Web 2.0 website,

Over the years, I’ve always liked Kelly’s work–although sometimes the layout of Wired makes it rather unapproachable. This article, however, is on a blog called The Technium, and it’s very easy to read.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Social Responsibility Questions and the Presidential Race

A day after the Texas, Ohio, RI and Vermont primaries, and the Democratic nomination is once again totally unclear. It’s time to ask how social responsibility issues will affect this election.

Both Obama and Clinton are talking about change, but neither is really putting forward a dramatic change agenda. Clinton has taken heat for her vote for the war, Obama (whom I’ve endorsed, in spite of his shortcomings) for what seems at times like empty rhetoric, and McCain for flip-flopping on torture and on campaign finance reform. And both Clinton and Obama have made some good noises on climate change.

Meanwhile, I haven’t heard any of them talking about business ethics, a meaningful exit strategy in Iraq, or the questions of poverty raised by the Edwards campaign–to name just a few.

I think the American people are ready for a candidate who is willing to go beyond rhetoric and propose substantive social change, especially in health care and the war. Unfortunately, the Democrats have driven out the multiple candidates who put forth those positions, the Republicans apparently have no interest, and our system treats third parties as thrown away votes (unlike most of Europe).

Meanwhile, the mainstream media focuses on “soma” (a word invented by Aldous Huxley in his book, Brave New World) like the shenanigans of Britney Spears.

Tortured Responses on Torture

Even after seven years of the long night of the GW Bush administration, I can still be shocked by how low he is wiling to go. His latest and continuing embrace of torture just makes me sick. This mini-item from Democracy Now, “Bush to Veto Bill Outlawing CIA Use of Waterboarding”:

President Bush is expected to soon veto a bill that would have required the CIA and all intelligence services to abide by the same interrogation standards as outlined in the US Army Field Manual. The Army manual specifically bans waterboarding, mock executions, the use of electric shocks, beatings, forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts and depriving prisoners of necessary food, water or medical care. President Bush says the Army rules are too restrictive.

This is the same man who claims to be strongly influenced by his Christian faith. Did he maybe skip the sections in the Bible about the golden rule, turning the other cheek, and treating even those at the very bottom of the social ladder with utmost respect. Harumph–endorsement of torture strikes me as within the impeachable category of “high crimes and misdemeanors”!

Oh, and didn’t occur to him that he is putting American servicemen and servicewomen at severe risk? If we torture those we capture, what happens when our people are captured?

Meanwhile,a perceptive piece by Marty Kaplan in Huffington Post on this issue:

When Dana Perino told the White House press corps that the Field Manual is “perfectly appropriate… for young GIs, some so young that they’re not even able to legally get a drink in the states where they’re from,” but not for trained intelligence agency “professionals… with an average age of 40,” it’s a wonder she wasn’t asked a follow-up about how tall you have to be to ride the Constitution.

The same piece has some speculation on why John McCain, long a champion of treating prisoners right, and himself an ex-POW, is now willing to go along with torture.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Scott Karp’s Challenge to Print Media: Be Relevant to Me

Over at, Scott Karp takes the Washington Post to task for using the same old coupon-style discounting offers they’ve used for decades–when in order to get him to pick up a physical newspaper, they’d have to speak to why it’s a better option than just logging on to read online.

He cites one motivation that might have worked for him: enjoying an unplugged no-computer day kicking back with in-depth analysis he wouldn’t normally have time to read.

Fr me–and I still read the print form of my local daily paper–a key argument might be reduced eyestrain. I’m always looking for ways I can get offline to do some of my work.

I discuss in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, and elsewhere, why discounting is often a poor strategy for lots of marketers. It’s always better, as Scott points out, to show the real value you add.