I am surprised to say I’ve become something of a fan of marketing author Seth Godin.
I find his blog purposefully insightful, thought-provoking and strangely general. A person from just about any industry could take lessons away from his posts, which, of course, is likely his purpose.
It’s in that way that if, say, a fellow young journalist asked for a few blogs to follow, I’d suggest at least two that really don’t have any direct relationship to newspapers or even media. I’d certainly say Godin’s, and I’d also say Mark Cuban‘s — but that’s for another post.
I have to fight an urge to share very nearly everything they post.
Last month, though, I found a bit of a theme in Godin’s posts. It may have been because of my focus of my own announcement of intentions to monetize Technically Philly, but no matter the reason, I think Godin offered a series of interesting thoughts on making sales, all of which correlated, I thought, to Web startups.
He posts nearly everyday, and I usually only plow through his feed once every few weeks because few are all that time sensitive, but I was taken by how many seemed to be related to just what I was trying to do.
- “It doesn’t hurt to ask” on May 18 — We at Technically Philly have been very deliberate in our monetization. We didn’t want to work with an ad network or use Google ads. We didn’t want to seek seed funding. All three of us could very (very, very) much use funding or see even a trinkle of money coming into the TP coffers, but from very early on, I’m proud to say that all three of us realized we had to take our time making money. Even now that we’ve introduced our plans to monetize and begun talks with a series of possible advertisers, we are remaining in no rush to tackle any of our monetization strategies — advertising or otherwise. And it’s because of this very concept of Godin’s. The common phrase is that ‘it doesn’t hurt to ask,’ when, in fact, it very often does. If we announced too early that TP would begin to try to make money, the community we cover may have likely seen it as a money grab. Even now, we think if we were to employ too rapidly the series of small profit-makers we hope to introduce, those we cover and those who read might be turned off. We know this is not all about money — that we want to give voice to a community we respect, that we want to try all the suggestions for newspapers and media we’ve had — but they might not. So we’re moving slowly, and continuing to freelance. We aren’t yet asking the possible partners and advertisers and merchandisers we think we can work with to create a fiscally-sound, niche-focused news organization because, in fact, sometimes it does hurt to ask.
- “Eternal September” on May 21 — You continuously have to introduce your product to those you hope will buy it, read it or otherwise use it. It doesn’t stop. We’ve received wonderful, wonderful feedback from members of the creative economies whom we cover in Philadelphia. But, as an online news startup we regularly have to show we have value to people who, in turn, have value. In a small way, we try that in our media kit, though comments on the site and the activity around our content on Twitter and elsewhere gives that sense, too. This is all important when dealing with advertisers and other partners. When you’re selling ads for the Philadelphia Inquirer or any entity with a smattering of history behind it, this is an easier road to hoe. The Web news startup is a still very new concept, so it is absolutely necessary we never stop trying to find ways to show our value to our community.
- “Your world vs. the world” on May 22 — I’m not a software developer. Fellow TP founders Sean Blanda and Brian James Kirk don’t do work in the life sciences or biotech industries. While it may help that we all have interest in technology, the Web, sciences and innovation — the broad areas we hope to cover with Technically Philly — we don’t do for a living many of the things our readers do. We are trained, professional journalists, who happen to also enjoy tech and innovation and following those communities in Philadelphia. Likely, as time goes on, we will increasingly hope we can attract readers like us, we aren’t, really, our core audience. This is, of course, the reality for most news products, though we’re excited that community news bridges that a bit more than a general-interest newspaper does. If we want to keep our content relevant, we have to remember this. With a certain degree of obsessiveness, we track Web metrics for our site, our social media presence and the conversation surrounding us. the power of the Web, of course, is how easily we can see just what is being read and by how many and how well we can develop a sense of who is reading. While we’re always wishing for more feedback, we try to keep our ear to the ground to see what the community is saying. If there’s a conflict, most often, they’ll be right, and we’ll be wrong. ..Most times.
- “Nostalgia is a basic human emotion” on May 23 — There is a very real power in community news. We take very seriously the journalistic ethics of critically viewing what we cover, but we make no apologies for being a part of, respecting and involving ourselves in the community we cover. Thusly, we like to think the community we cover actually wants us to do well and to do more, even if that means covering the good with the bad. I very much think nostalgia is very related to that interest in the success of something that validates what you do, covering the people, places and things you know. That’s what we hope to do. As we grow and create a fiscal sustainability, we can give a greater, more powerful voice to our community, which, in turn, strengthens it. In this way, we think there is some degree of mutual benefit in all of our successes and growth. Selling nostalgia is just like selling community-focus. There isn’t necessarily a number tied to it, but because of that mutual benefit, our community ought to know we have every reason in the world to be here for the long-term, though we’ll need their continued support and their help. We’ll need to learn to sell that and sell it well.
- “On becoming a household name” on May 24 –This relates well to “Eternal September.” We are pleased with our growth in just a few months, but we don’t think for a minute we should be anywhere near a traffic plateau. Still, in some portions of this region’s creative economies, we are becoming somewhat of a recognized entity. I like to think it’s because of original reporting and consistent coverage and our hopes to do only more of it as we begin to be able to compensate ourselves. As that name grows and, we hope, becomes associated with Philadelphia’s technology and innovation communities, we also need to learn to sell that, like nostalgia and community-news. As Godin directly mentions in his post, this is something particular valuable in banner advertisements for some. If our brand continues to be familiar and respected to our community, advertisements surrounding it — regardless of click-throughs — should be more valued. We need to sell them as such.
Any of these hit home with any of you? Any advice for us!?