I was asked today about how blogs should be built and leveraged from a commercial perspective. It seems to be a regular question I’m asked. The giving element that is required in the blogosphere seems counter intuitive to the way our minds have been trained via the industrial complex. They often struggle with the fact that we just have to give, and the law of natural economics just kicks in. So I came up with this analogy which I think makes sense and explains how it should be approached philosophically.
Blogs are like a football stadium.
The game is played in the middle of the ground.
In blogs the middle of the ground happens to be where our posts are geographically placed.
This is why people come to our blog. To see the action. To learn from and be entertained by the actual game (posts)
But like all good stadiums we have related infrastructure around the edges. Our details, company, tweetstream, contacts.
If they like the game we play (our posts) they return. The crowd gets bigger, and they tell their friends to come.
Like the stadium the revenue comes from all the related elements like the concession stands, the parking and the sponsorship. The stuff that generally lives around the edges… both in stadiums and our blogs.
But we must never forget why they are here. To enjoy the game. They only ever return because the enjoy the game (the blog posts). So what we need to do is build our industry around the game, rather than charging for tickets at the gate. Charging entry just doesn’t work beause there is far too many games they can attend. (more than 200 million in fact)
So when someone asks you about how to make a blog work. Remind them of ‘stadium economics’ and that it’s the quality of the information and entertainment which earns us the right to sell them the occasional hot dog.
I caught up with all round good guy Ned Dwyer yesterday. We chatted about many things, of which the top of the list was the recent launch of “And now it’s in print.” A project Ned is heavily involved with. Let me just say this. It’s one of my favourite startups this year. The world over. For many reasons, but here’s one:
I asked Ned what the business model was, and this was his reply:
“It’s too important to have a business model. We decided instead to just make something awesome and see what happens”
That’s it my friends, the startup ethic we all need to aspire to. Doing it because it matters.
A couple of other smart ideas entrepreneurs can take note of.
- They limited their production run to 500 copies (invent demand through limiting supply)
- All the articles and visuals are from content they found on line (blending off line & on line worlds)
- The idea was borrowed from South by Southwest (share ideas, re-interpret)
- They proved print can still be awesome. (Print isn’t dead, print industry management is brain dead)
- They set themselves an impossible launch deadline, and made it. (Don’t think too much, get it out there)
Kudos from me.
Humans are compelled to count. We count everything. Days, weeks, months, years, birthdays, money in the bank, salary levels, years of experience. It’s part of the human condition, maybe it helped us evolve to a civilised existence .
As startup entrepreneurs we need to let our people count something. Whether it’s the savings they made or they friends they have, there needs to be a way for them to keep track. So our people know they have made progress. Commerce is an anthropological game of football. So we must keep score. But it must go beyond the corporate scoreboard of profit, share price, turnover, number of employees… it has to be an audience focused score. Like followers on twitter. It has to be about them, not us, it’s how humans roll.
Before the Industrial Revolution the average number of hours worked in the western world was less than 6 hours per day. Some say we worked less than two and a half days a week.
I won’t quote what the average number of hours are today, but it’s more for everyone I know personally. I’m certain many people reading this would work in excess of 12 hours on certain days.
So what happened?
We got stooged. The industrial revolution made it possible for a larger segment of the population to work year-round, since this labor was not tied to the season and artificial lighting made it possible to work longer each day. Peasants and farm laborers moved from rural areas to the factories and work times during a year has been significantly higher since then the important innovation of piece labour. That is, the ability to earn income based on output. Think bolts in car doors.
Over time longer hours lead to greater amount of industrial accidents and workplace injuries. Unions formed and laws changed on the factory floor. But, the office was a different place altogether.
Office workers – salary based workers who where historically in management worked for salaries. A fixed wage for a fixed number of hours. My father constantly reminds me that in his day office workers only worked from 9am until 4.30pm. That tradesman and factory workers were the only people who did extra hours. And they did this to make up for the pay discrepancy which was favour of salary workers.
Clearly times have changed. If you are working in a large corporate, cubicle farm, in front of a screen or any place where you don’t get your hands dirty then chances are your are part of the ever growing white collar underclass. Here’s the some of stuff that defines members of the White Collar Underclass:
- A fixed salary with no overtime (factory workers, tradesman, retail staff all have overtime)
- Regularly working beyond the ‘official hours’ including weekends.
- It is expected that you arrive before and leave after your official hours.
- No representation in your industry to protect employment conditions.
- No tax benefits or uniform allowances, because your work clothing doesn’t have a logo on it. Even though it is in real terms a ‘uniform’ and costs you 10 times what hands on workers wear to work.
- Your annual performance review is based on the subjective assessments of your direct manager who may or may not like you.
- You work in a large building full of people who look and act like you do, and no one really knows what anyone else does.
- In an economic downturn, you panic, because you know what you do is essentially expendable.
- Large parts of your day are dealing with procedure, invented by other workers to justify their own existence.
- You look at a screen for large parts of your day, but have restrictions on what information you can bring onto the screen from the outside world.
- You feel as though your rarely use the skills acquired in the formal education you needed to get that job.
- You can work for days, weeks and months without any physical evidence of tangible outputs of what you have done. You don’t make or fix anything real.
If some of the above apply to you, chances are you are part of the white collar underclass. A group of people who have been victimized by efficiency. A group of people who don’t do anything real. Which is why there will be a significant value shift and higher pay going to people (like tradesman) who make stuff. Simple supply and demand. In the past 50 years companies have became so good at what they do, that very few people really do anything, including you. But you are giving so much of your time… you know it, and it eats at your soul.
Startup blog advice: Earn your living. Do something that adds value, not takes up space. Even if it must be done at nights and on weekends. Even if it provides no income. The human soul feeds on real activity, not simple economic existence. Feed your soul in 2010.