Everybody’s a network

In the future of media, which is now, everybody is a network. In the past, networks were defined by control of content or distribution.
But now, you can’t own all distribution and content is controlled
where it’s created. So, I wonder, where’s the value and
where’s the money in the fully networked world?

is a network now? Your friend pointing you to something to read or
watch is a network. The collection of people putting a YouTube video on
their blogs makes a network. BlogAds
bringing together 800 blogs for an ad buy is a network. When
you subscribe to a collection of feeds, or when you publish up a
blogroll, or when you put a tag on your blog post, or when you use a
Flickr tag that others use, you are a network.

Networks are
about sharing now; they used to be about control. Networks are two-way;
they used to be one-way. Networks are about aggregation more than
distribution; they are about finding and being found. Networks are now
open while, by their very definition, they used to be closed. You join
networks and leave them them at will; you can join any number of
networks at once and content can be found via any number of networks,
there is no practical limit. Networks used to be static. Now networks
are fluid.

For us, the people formerly known as consumers,
this is a better world. We can find the content we want from anywhere
by relying on networks we trust because we know them more intimately
and they even know us; we are no longer a one-size-fits all mass. For
content producers, which is any of us now, it’s also better, for
the barrier to entry — and to the public — is destroyed.
And for content itself, it’s better because the good stuff can be
found, amended, corrected; it can live longer and live in context.

But what about the networks themselves? Where is the value in networks now? Where is the money?


old networks are hosed and they are finally realizing that. Suddenly,
the dominoes are tumbling, all at once. We all know the latest signs:

pissed off its old channels of distribution — broadcast
affiliates, cable system operators, and retailers — by putting up
its shows on iTunes and online. Umair Haque says
they didn’t go far enough and that’s true, but I say this
journey begins with a single step and ABC’s first step was a

Warner Brothers, in turn, is willing to piss off its
channels of distribution — namey, networks like ABC — by
doing a deal to sell shows directly to consumers via Bittorrent. Who
needs networks?

At the same time, Ad Age reports
that Bolt found “only one in four 12- to 34-year-olds can name
all four major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.” I
tried that experiment at home with my teen son
and he couldn’t name them, either (”uh, ABC…
NBC… CNN?”). My preteen daughter has no idea what
broadcast is. The power of the networks as distribution platforms and
brands is diminishing fast.

On the business side, the old networks have no end of new competition. The scarcity economy
is over; networks cannot continue to raise their rates even as their
audiences shrink, because they no longer control the clock; there is
always somewhere else to reach audiences — somewhere more
efficienct and less expensive, by the way. The upfront buying season
for commercials is going on now and the only way the networks can save
themselves from the inevitable shrinkage Warren Buffett predicts for newspapers is by coming up with blockbusters. But as Umair Haque points out often, the blockbuster economy is not a longterm winner and it is getting riskier and riskier. See also Seth
Godin: “If your marketing strategy requires you to hit #1 in
order to succeed, you probably need a new marketing strategy.”

the “consumer” side, the people formerly known as viewers
have taken control of what, when, and how they watch and they do it
without commercials.

And of course, the networks face no end of competitors in content, as well. Rocketboom
now has twice the audience of many cable news shows because the
stranglehold the networks had on distribution and audience is over. The
audience is on stage. Your customers are your competitors.

maybe not. The smart network response to all this is to liquify. You
let your stuff be found anywhere, in any medium and any network. You
let your public distribute for you (see
Jon Stewart’s Crossfire rant). Most important — and this is
where Umair said ABC should have been going next — you should
recommend good stuff to people and it shouldn’t be just your
stuff; you use your relationship, trust, and resources to aggregate
stuff and audience across the world of possibilities. (This is
essentially what I’m also suggesting to the BBC in my Guardian
column this week, coming soon.) In the old static-network world, it
made no sense to send people to other networks; in the new, fluid
world, they’re going to go there anyway, and so the best thing to
do is to help them find the best stuff, redefining the value of a
network. And from a business perspective, I argue, you’re wise to
grow audience and ad inventory across open networks of the stuff you recommend. Umair says
that ABC took a good move in unbundling content from distribution but
what it should really be doing is rebundling content with audiences:

Rebundling is where value capture will happen – at
communities, reconstructors, markets, networks – that direct
people’s attention to individualized ‘casts. This is where
branding will be reborn – and where advertising is already being
disrupted, ripped apart, and reborn (viz, Google, PPC, pay per call,

Add to this Om Malik arguing that by giving and selling their shows directly to the public, the networks and producers are also disrupting the folks who thought they were the networks of the future: portals.

And see John Hagel saying that networks have a choice between content and relationships.

The most powerful brands in the media business will be
held by successful intermediaries that help to consistently improve
return on attention for audiences. In the process, the nature of the
brand promise will change in a profound way. It will be a massive
opportunity for media companies that understand the shift in economic
and competitive dynamics and that focus on the rebundling plays
required to build these brands.

There’s another way to frame the strategic
opportunity/challenge for media businesses going forward. In addition
to unbundling and rebundling of content, media companies face a choice:
do they want to remain product businesses or do they want to become
audience relationship businesses? …

Of course, media
companies have elements of both embedded in their companies today, but
their hearts and minds are firmly in the product business. Here’s
the test: how open is the media company to providing access to third
party content on behalf of their audiences? ….

relationship businesses take these proliferating content options as an
opportunity, rather than a challenge. The more options there are, the
more value that can be created by organizing, packaging, presenting and
adding to these options for specific audiences.

agree that we’re headed to a relationship/aggregation economy in
media. I think that networks will become fluid, ad hoc, two-way, and

But then I still have to come back to the question:
Where is the value in fluid networks? Where is the money? I don’t
know the answer. For once, I won’t even pretend to.

: : :

These seem to be the choices:

you just recommend great content, you may build a trusted relationship
and a strong brand. But how do you get money — with ads people
see on the way to the destinations you recommend? OK, there’s
certainly value there. (See BoingBoing, Instapundit, and portals.) But
I don’t know how much, or how many will make much, or how long it
will last.

If you just aggregate content in full (that is,
presenting the complete content over linking to it), you may have
viewers but you soon won’t have content, for the creators will
want the traffic to come to them in their space serving their goals.
(See Yahoo, Breitbart, Blogburst.)

If you just sell ads on
these recommended places, you can make money and so can the sites. (See
FM Publishing, BlogAds.) I’ve been pushing for an open — and fluid — ad marketplace.

you just make content you will, of course, have value, but you
won’t recognize that unless your stuff is seen and that means you
need to be part of networks or have to spend marketing dollars. (See
any producer, publisher, writer.)

The advantage of the old,
closed networks, of course, is that they combined all this: ABC
recommended the show by putting it on the air; it aggregated the
content; it aggregated the audience; it sold the ads; it shared the
revenue. Life was so simple. Well, so much for that. So what systems
will serve the interests of producers, audiences, aggregators, and

I wonder whether success in the future, even in
an open world, will depend on offering more than one of these aspects
of fluid networks:

* You put together recommended sites and sell ads across them.

* You create content and aggregate others’ content.

In a different context, one of the smartest media execs I know proposes
another hybrid model that shares ad revenue between destination sites
(to give them the motivation and resources to do good work there) and
sites that send them traffic (to motivate them to do that).

the added complication in all this is that you won’t join just
one network. You’ll go to multiple places to get recommendations,
and you’ll want your content to be linked on many places to get
traffic, and ideally you’ll be able to get ad revenue from
multiple sources. This suggests an even more complex hybrid model: He
who sends you traffic gets to share in (and perhaps sell) ad revenue
based on the traffic sent. So if Instapundit sends me traffic, I give
him a share of my revenue for doing so. Or I let my content appear on
another site via, say, Blogburst, in return for a piece of their ad
revenue. It’s getting overcomplicated very quickly.

for this overlong treatise on networks. My point, in the end, is only
that we are entering uncertain and uncharted waters in fluid networks.
It’s not clear where the value will be captured and how it will
be shared.

: LATER: See also David Galbraith, Kevin Werbach, and Cory Doctorow on the post-scarcity economy.


Email between Kevin and David

All of these lists were around 5-10% higher at the start of the year,

but we’ve finally started cleaning them to remove dud and inactive

subscribers, which was long overdue.  The first phase of this was

implementing a new email tool (which we completed in April) which

finally syncs data real time with our main activist database.

We implemented such a tool in mid-2004, and had to watch our list
“shrink” a lot that year as the bouncers were removed. About 20 percent
of our list was bouncing. Of course, these weren’t real recipients any
way, so it was good to see the real numbers.

  Then with

the help of xxxxxxxxxx, we did some work looking at how active our

activists actually are and the results were pretty scary. We found that

more than 50% of the people on our core list have only ever taken 1

action or less, which almost made me fall off my chair when I read it!

So the next stage for us is to look at how we can re-engage these people

(interestingly many of them still receive and open emails we send) or

remove them from our lists altogether So I would expect that our main

list may well decrease by say 20% of its current level before it begins

to actually ‘grow’ again.

It’s amazing what results you can get with that kind of data mining.
Even with the bouncers removed, another 20 percent of our list is
inactive – never opened a message or clicked on a link since
registration. I’m not sure why … Perhaps the messages are being
diverted by spam filters.

More dramatically, I looked at the participation in our discussion forum
(sadly now closed). There were about 55 thousand comments, which sounds
impressive. About half of these were anonymous and another half from
people who logged in.

Of the 25 thousand logged-in comments, a quarter were posted by just 10
people! Another quarter were posted by 22 people. So half the
non-anonymous comments on our discussion forum were posted by only 32
people – people who obviously had a lot of time on their hands.

Most discussion participants only posted one or two comments. So it
became obvious that the vast majority of our activists are not really
interested in a full discussion – they just want to comment on something
from time to time. They don’t want to get into a prolonged debate.

So if I was going to restore GRozzo discussions, I think that I
would implement something more like the BBC “Have Your Say”,


One result of this bulk of inactive people is that our response rates

suffer heavily as a result (around 10% on average last year) which is

way below what we’d normally expect. One good piece of news here,

however, is the open and click rates are now heading up towards 20%,

mainly due to some of the clean up work and various small changes we’ve

made to the email designs. So we will be looking at making more design

tweaks etc. over the coming months to nudge these figures up further.


Out of interest, what would you say is your average result for an

action which you include in your main newsletter? We are normally

getting between 8-15 thousands activists taking each action, depending

on the issue. I’d expect your’s would be much higher bearing in mind the

list size?

Not that much higher.

For a really good ezine, we get a 30% open, a 50% clickthrough and a 85%
followthrough rate (people who actually did the action). So that is:

200000 x .3 x .5 x .85 = 25500

That’s a very good response. A poor response might be half of that – a
typical one in-between.

We’ve learned quite a bit about improving the clickthrough rate. By now
I can almost guess what it will be by looking at the ezine layout. But I
 have had less luck improving the open rate. Even the most dramatic
subject line I ever wrote: “GRozzo whale activists in danger” only
increased the open rate by about 5 percent. It almost seems like the
open rate decays like a radioactive material – mailing lists have half
lifes, just like uranium. Our newer lists have open rates higher than 60
percent and our older lists drop towards 20%.

As the specific people who open a message vary from mailing to mailing
(it may be 30% but not always the *same* 30%), the best suggestion I’ve
heard is to remail a slightly modified version of an action a few weeks
later to people who did not open the last one.


Mails are currently sent in English only, although our main activist

web site is available in 8 or so languages. We hit the resource wall

unfortunately, so emails in different languages were never possible. We

are now looking at testing emails in some key languages such as

Brazilian Portuguese to see what kind of response we get and if that

works then try and do more in the future. But at the same time we will

scale back some of the overall online language support to focus on fewer

languages so we can manage them more effectively. This will be done as

part of a bigger change to GRozzo which we are planning at some point

this year.

My sense is that GRozzo-2 (our list with 30 segments and 11
languages) is likely to be abandoned as an interesting failure that
never attracted enough support from our national and regional offices
and cost too much for professional translation and internal staff time.
So next year, we will likely return to English only. But I’m not sure yet.


How to Handle Online Criticism

So, your nonprofit organization has started an online forum for its
volunteers, so that these volunteers can talk about various issues
relating to their service and to help each other. Or, your executive
director is posting her own monthly blog to the organization’s web site.

Whatever the interactive forum, eventually, you are going to be faced
with a discussion that includes criticisms of your organization. It may
be about your organization’s new logo or mission statement. Or about
the lack of parking. Or about the volunteer orientation being too long.
It may be substantial questions regarding your organization’s business
practices and lack of transparency. Online criticism of your
organization, even by its own supporters, is inevitable.

How a nonprofit organization handles online criticism is going to speak
volumes about that organization, for weeks, months, and maybe even
years to come. There’s no way to avoid it, but there are ways to
address criticism that can actually help an organization to be
perceived as even more trustworthy and worth supporting. To be
successful with online activities, a nonprofit organization MUST be
able to honestly and openly deal with online criticism, particularly
from supporters and participants. Otherwise, the organization puts
itself in a position to lose the trust of supporters and clients, and
even generate negative publicity — and, once lost, trust and
credibility can be extremely difficult to win back.

Before staff panics at the idea of supporters not being so supportive,
or the organization removes its online forum altogether, withdraws its
participation from someone else’s forum or gets defensive, remember:
being perceived as allowing such discussions reflects very
positively on a nonprofit organization. By contrast, the aforementioned
alternative responses will be perceived as negative, and will probably
do more to hurt the organization’s reputation and credibility than help

  • You must address the criticisms directly and promptly. If you
    cannot respond immediately, then at least immediately acknowledge that
    the complaint has been read by the organization and a response is
    coming promptly . A week or more is not prompt in online community conversations.

  • Also, it’s very important to realize that, no matter what you say, your organization’s actions are going to speak much louder than its words. Examples:

    • If you say a response is coming promptly, then it had better come
      promptly. Again, a week or more is not prompt in online community

    • Don’t just say you welcome criticism — allow critical
      messages to be posted to your discussion group or comments board on
      your blog, so long as such criticisms don’t use inflammatory language,
      encourage criminal behavior, are filled with obvious inaccuracies,
      include confidential information, aren’t verbatim posts from the same
      person over and over again, etc. (and if you ban such a person, say so
      to the group, so they know such action has been taken, and WHY).

    • Walk the talk:
      If you state that your organization engages in activities to recruit a
      diverse representation of staff and volunteers, it had better be
      engaging in actions that back up that statement, obviously and clearly.
      If you claim to be a “green” organization, make sure a television crew
      walking through or around your office would see activities that
      demonstrate this.

    • Don’t just say your organization is transparent and
      consults with membership — show it, in activities that make this
      quality obvious. In fact, showing it is more important than saying it.

    • Posting a response or two and then asking the
      debate/discussion to stop will result in people perceiving your
      organization as not open to criticism, and will result in even more of

    In other words, what you do is going to be more powerful than what you say.

  • Contrary to a widely-held belief and frequently-made
    suggestion, you do not disarm criticism by thanking someone for their
    feedback in the opening statement of a response; it’s been done so
    often that most people see it as the beginning of a “canned” statement.
    Save the compliment for somewhere else in your response — and say it
    only if you can demonstrate that you truly mean it. Volunteers and
    clients are much more inclined to trust someone who shows respect for
    them and for what they say. There are a number of ways that you can
    give a real indication that you are “hearing” the complaints: ask the
    critic(s), “What do you think would make this situation better?” or
    “How do you feel this situation could be improved?”. Also, assure
    critics that their criticisms and suggestions will be represented to
    the leadership at your organization, and that they will receive an
    update regarding the leadership’s reaction. If the criticism is going
    to result in a change or action of any kind, or a staff meeting to
    discuss further action, say so! Offer as many details as possible.
    Also, If it is appropriate, you could even ask a critic to take part in
    a staff meeting, or create an online forum specifically to address the criticism.

  • If anything in a criticism is accurate, acknowledge it.
    That doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with the person. For instance,
    “You are correct: our organization does not address environmental
    problems. I understand that such is a very important, even critical
    issue, but our nonprofit has chosen to focus on preventing the abuse of
    children, and here’s why…” Even better: can you think about the
    criticism from the person’s point of view, and therefore, even agree
    with some of it? That’s a powerful way to turn a critic into a

    Is the critic actually doing you a favor by offering you
    feedback that may not have been discovered otherwise, when damage was
    done to your organization’s reputation and credibility? Again,
    acknowledging a real problem is a powerful way to turn a critic into a

    If the complaint is legitimate — for instance, that the organization’s
    past annual reports aren’t on the organization’s web site, get them up
    ASAP, and offer an apology for not having done so earlier. Don’t try to
    defend or excuse your original decision not to. Take the lumps with
    grace and honesty.

  • Some excuses can make a situation even worse, even if
    they are true, and should be avoided, as they are perceived as red
    flags for incompetence or mismanagement. Excuses to avoid regarding
    complaints include:

    • “we didn’t have enough money”
    • “we didn’t have enough staff”
    • “we didn’t have enough time”
    • “we’re an all-volunteer organization”
    • “our computer system wasn’t working properly”
    • “so-and-so was on vacation at that time”

    Instead, take responsibility. If the critic is pointing out
    something your organization should have done, but didn’t, for whatever
    reason, accept the criticism. Consider offering a straightforward and
    sincere apology, and details on how the problem will be addressed.

  • You may need to ask for clarification or more information
    before you respond to criticism, and that’s fine; it will probably be
    perceived by those watching the online conversation as a very positive
    step on your part. But don’t say, “I don’t understand why you are asking these questions” — every question is legitimate, and should be treated as such.

  • If a complaint doesn’t present the whole story, then do
    so yourself, as quickly and thoroughly as possible. If a complaint is
    off-base, counter it with indisputable, dispassionate facts.
    And offer to supply any other facts that will clarify the situation,
    and ask the original critic if he or she has any questions or comments
    about the facts as you have offered them.

  • Be detailed about how a complaint is addressed. If a
    decision is made by the organization in response to the complaint, be
    detailed on how the decision took place and exactly who was involved in
    making the decision (by job title rather than name is okay). If it was
    not a democratic process, then say so. Not all decisions can be taken
    by such, but no matter how a decision is taken, an organization should
    be transparent if that decision, especially if it has resulted from a
    complaint by volunteers or other supporters.

  • Don’t post once or two responses and then ask for the
    debate to stop. A better strategy is to let the debate play out. If you
    respond to a criticism, and someone says, “that didn’t address my
    criticism”, then re-review the original post and respond again, and/or
    ask the person what would better address their concerns. If it takes answering each question or sentence individually, do so. Also, ask the entire
    community how they feel about the debate — are their own questions or
    concerns being addressed? As long as someone doesn’t meet the
    definition of a troll (see below), let the debate rage on. In the best
    of worlds, the community itself will bring the debate to a halt — and
    be your greatest “defenders.”

If you have already worked to create trust with those with those whom
you interact online, long before criticisms surface, through
transparent and honest information in past communications, you are
going to have a much better time dealing with online criticism; readers
will already trust you, and be ready to give you the benefit of the

Something to consider: is a complaint an indication of a greater
problem? Could there be a credibility gap among some supporters that
could spread to others if not addressed? Could online criticism be an
indication of a problem or perception among supporters you were not
previously aware of? It might be worth brainstorming with staff and
supporters onsite, in a special meeting, to find out if there is
something more to criticisms that might meet the eye.

Can online complaints go too far? Certainly, and your organization is
entirely inline to prohibit certain topics from discussion its own
forums, such as information about clients, internal documents, and
other confidential information, or to censor such information. You
would also be within your rights to censor foul language, and to ban
someone from your own forum for using such. Again, if you ban someone,
the group needs to know who and why.

When does someone move from being an angry person with legitimate
criticism to being a “troll” — a person who is arguing for the sole
purpose of derailing conversations and creating mistrust? When that
person consistently strays from facts, makes insulting personal
comments, posts the same information over and over again, and posts
messages obviously designed to annoy and antagonize other members and
engage them in a fruitless confrontation. But someone who is
disgruntled, suspicious and questioning is NOT automatically a troll —
be careful in dismissing someone as such, to avoid being seen as just
trying to shut down legitimate, although uncomfortable, conversation.

It’s fine to remind users of the forum rules, and what topics are
off-limits. It’s also a good idea for a staff member to occasionally
enter the conversation, to let participants know that staff are aware
of what’s being discussed, that you appreciate the feedback, and what
is happening as a result of the feedback. But don’t shut down a
negative conversation on your online discussion group.

What about when the criticisms are happening on someone else’s forum,
web site or blog? You can’t control what other people post on their own
online site, unless they violate the law. If the site allows online
discussion or has a comments board, you should engage in any of the
aforementioned activities on this other person’s site, and invite the
other forum’s participants to write you directly for further
information/clarification. If the site does not have a discussion forum
or comments board, you should write directly to the author with your
information/clarification. You may also consider posting information on
your own online forum in response, if you feel that the criticisms
could cause concerns among supporters.

How can you find out if online criticism is happening outside of your
own online fora? Ask your volunteers to be on the lookout for postings
about your organization on the online groups and blogs they frequent —
encourage them to pass on such information so your organization can be
more in tune with public opinion, NOT so you can shut down criticism.
Also, go to Google
or any other online directory system and search for your organization’s
name, or the name of your organization’s executive director. You may
find criticism or praise from a volunteer, donor, or client about your
organization that you will want to address. You should also check your
organization’s name on
Wikipedia, a free online
encyclopedia that is staffed by online volunteers. If your organization
is listed, is the listing accurate and complete? Is there a subject
listing that you feel should link to your organization’s web site? It’s
easy to edit listings yourself on the service, which are then verified
by wikipedia volunteers.

Online criticism is not always a bad thing
A short case study: the Henderson Humane Society
In March, the local government of Henderson County, Kentucky, received
information from a staff person at the Henderson Humane Society, which
operates the animal shelter there. This information documented horrific
conditions at the shelter, and gross mismanagement. Unfortunately, not
much changed, so the staff person then contacted the People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, which then launched an online campaign in
the Fall of 2005, and to a local television station, which produced a
story about the inhumane conditions at the shelter. It was the online
criticism and online activism, as well as the resulting local press
coverage and further public outrage, that at last prompted radical
changes at the shelter, and a vastly-improved organization. In April
2006, the local newspaper ran a glowing story about the changes at the
shelter. How the organization handled its initial criticism — by
ignoring it — lead to even more intense and public criticism,
including online with a major national advocacy organization, and a
great deal of public mistrust and loss of credibility. How it handled
the resulting more intense criticism, by accepting it fully, by firing
some staff members, by changing leadership and by addressing
complaints, has lead to a very different, and much better, organization
that’s on its way to restoring its credibility.

But what about an organized, pervasive online effort to discredit your
nonprofit organization, one that results in individuals, knowingly or
naively, spreading falsehoods, about your organization via various
online fora? A good example of this is the seemingly-grassroots
campaign to discredit the UN Population Fund
by a variety of right-wing activists. I’ve written to UNFPA directly to
see if they will share their strategies to counter such efforts, and
posted to various online fora to gather ideas from other organizations
— I’ll update this page as soon as I can pull together some concrete
good examples.


Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore

“Thou shall post every day” is the most fundamental and most well known principle of blogging….

new blogger is warned about “the” ultimate rule and is
confronted with the pressure of a day going by with no new post. Every
one has in mind the examples of successful bloggers, like Robert Scoble at
Microsoft, who post several times a day. Daily posting shows that you
are serious about blogging, generates traffic and drives reader
loyalty, as readers come back daily to check your new posts. You cannot
be successful if you do not go by the rule, right? RIGHT?

Wrong. Daily posts are a legacy of a Web 1.0 mindset and early Web
2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting
frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity
of blogging. Here are 10 reasons why.

#1- Traffic is generated by participating in the community; not daily posting
The blogosphere doubles in size every 6 months and cutting through the
clutter will become ever more difficult with a new blog emerging every
second. Daily posting deals with the clutter by adding more clutter.

Although this strategy made sense 12 months ago and still makes
sense for the top bloggers, its effectiveness diminishes with every new
blog created. Traffic is generated by successful bloggers linking to
you either in their posts or in their blogroll. Mack at Viral Garden
has a series of great posts on the importance of joining the community.

#2 – Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success anyway– Unless you specifically target bloggers like Bruce,
are a blogging consultant or blog about your latest book, traffic is
irrelevant to you. What matters most is whether you are reaching your
target audience (which may be narrow and focused), not necessarily how
many people read your posts. Engaging with the audience you want to
have a relationship with is a much smarter strategy than posting

#3- Loyal readers coming back daily to check your posts is so Web 1.0
– As the blogosphere matures, the number of new readers and
bloggers will decrease and loyal readers are going to matter more. I
have heard many bloggers tell me that they will lose reader loyalty if
these readers come back daily and do not see any new posts. This
perception is still very strong although irrelevant. Loyal readers
subscribe to your blog via RSS feeds and have new content pushed to
them. They will remain loyal because they have subscribed, not because
you post frequently.

#4 – Frequent posting is actually starting to have a negative impact on loyalty: Seth Godin (a frequent blogger) has a very interesting theory.
According to him, RSS fatigue is already setting in. With too many
posts, you run the risk of losing loyal readers, overwhelmed by the
clutter you generate. Readers will start to tune off if your blog takes
up too much of their time

#5: Frequent posting keeps key senior executives and thought leaders out of the blogosphere
My colleagues and industry peers cite bandwidth constraints as the
number one reason for not blogging. They are absolutely right: frequent
posting is not very compatible with a high pressure job. As an example,
not one single blog is authored by a senior corporate marketing blogger
in the top 25 marketing blogs listed by Mack. Not only does the
blogosphere lose valuable thought leadership, it runs the risk of being
overlooked by these very same marketers.

A recent study by Forrester found
a reluctance among marketers to shift from more tried-and-true online
channels like search and e-mail marketing. Just 13 percent reported
using blogs or social networks in marketing, and 49 percent said they
had no plans to do so in the next year. If the blogosphere wants to
become more mainstream (vs. being the latest hype), frequent posting
and required bandwidth are undoubtedly a major barrier to adoption.

#6: Frequent posting drives poor content quality
– The pressure of daily posting drives many bloggers to
re-purpose other bloggers’ content or give quick un-insightful
comments on the news. Few bloggers have enough time (or expertise) to
write daily thought leadership pieces, thus adding to the clutter. Ben
at the Church of the Customer Blog
explores the 1% rule and cites the Wikipedia example: 25 million
readers visit Wikipedia every month, but the number of people who
actually contribute content to Wikipedia is about 1-2 percent of total
site visitors. I would argue that the same is valid for the blogosphere
as a whole where most of the original high value content is driven by
1% of the bloggers. Some of the most insightful –and most quoted-
marketing thought blogging leaders are actually infrequent posters,
from Sam Decker to Charlene Li or Randi Baseler.

#7: Frequent posting threatens the credibility of the blogosphere
– as many bloggers re-purpose existing content under the pressure
of daily posting, they do not take the time to do any sort of due
diligence and conduct effective research. Errors snowball in the
blogosphere as they spread from one blogger to the other. The
collective wisdom of user generated content was supposed to provide an
alternative to biased traditional media content – it is instead
echoing the thoughts and biases of a few.

#8 – Frequent posting will push corporate bloggers into the hands of PR agencies
As they struggle with bandwidth constraints as well as peer pressure to
join the blogosphere, more and more companies will resort to partnering
with their PR agencies to create blogs. The blogosphere will in turn
lose some of its effectiveness and value.

#9 – Frequent posting creates the equivalent of a blogging landfill
According to Technorati, only 55% of bloggers post after 3 months of
existence. The pressure of the first months to write frequently
certainly contributes to people abandoning their blogs. Is that in the
blogosphere’s best interest to have a third of its participants
frustrated by their initial efforts?

#10 – I love my family too much Ann pointed out to me this cool blog that highlights the challenges of blogging addiction – Bloggers Anonymous. Very funny…..

If you want to be a top 50 Technorati blogger, you will most
probably still need to post several times a day. But for the rest of
us, we should think seriously about the added value of frequent
blogging. Actually, according to Technorati, only 11% of all blogs
update weekly or more. What will matter more and more is what you write
and how you engage, not how often you write.

As the blogosphere matures, the measure of success will shift from
traffic to reader loyalty. As Seth Godin says in his post,
“blogging with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay,
that’s a long way of saying “making every word count”) will use
attention more efficiently and ought to win.”

As for me, I will continue to post only when I have something to say.


Helping people to decide

Decades ago people used to do deep and interesting social psych research.  They’d set up strange and complex situations, then watch how people reacted.  Some of these were scary-scary, but some were actually insightful in the day-to-day world as well. 

What does this have to do with Creating Passionate Users?  Let me tell you…

1965, back when the Beatles were singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a
few social psych folks did a compelling study about what makes people
decide to do something. 

First they showed a bunch of college students a film about the horrors of tetanus (Lockjaw! Seizures!  Death!)  that ended with the strong recommendation that everyone get a booster shot.  They even told them where the student health center was.  Careful
testing showed that the students actually learned something AND that
their long term attitudes about tetanus and the need to get a booster
shot had really changed.  This was great!   

Then they watched to see how many went to the college health service to get the booster. 

It was a total flop.  Less than 3% actually went for the booster. 

Then they gave exactly the same information in written form.  Again, a graphic portrayal of what would happen to you if you didn’t get a booster shot.

And again, it was a flop.  This time 3% showed up for the shot. 

Sound familiar?  That 3% number is roughly how many people RTFM for your great software and will actually use it to full capability.

But then they had a stroke of genius:  What
if they showed the movie AND gave the students a piece of paper with a
map to the student health center with times you could show up for the
booster.  They also asked the students to DECIDE when to actually make it to the clinic.   

Voila!  Suddenly, the number of students that showed up for the booster jumped to 28% of those in the audience.  And interestingly enough, it didn’t matter if the students saw the movie or read the paper version of the tetanus scare story. 

What made the difference? 

Two things seem to make the change… 

they gave the students something to take-away from the meeting—a piece
of paper with all the information they needed to act.  The health center was clearly marked on the map with a big circle.  Times for open appointments were on the page as well. 

Second (and just as important), the students were asked to make a decision about when they would go to the clinic.  They actually had to make a choice about when they’d show up for their booster shot.

So, what does this have to do with Creating Passionate Users? 

You already know users need really clear direction.  It also really, really helps if they have something to guide them in the completion of the task.  A cheat sheet is great, especially if it’s in the language of the user and helps them satisfy a need they acknowledge.  Keep them short and task-specific. 

It also helps if your user has to make some kind of commitment.  We’re
not talking about a lifetime of togetherness, just something simple
like working through a short but compelling tutorial that shows off
exactly how great your system really is.  You need some kind of engagement with the user to make the connection between the download and what your stuff can really do. 

Here’s the bottom line:  Be specific in your help and support.  Be very clear.  And get your users to decide to do something with your product.  Don’t let it just lie there and go out of their attention—get your users engaged!