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Archive for December, 2004

Is the Internet Killing Writing and the Arts?

December 22nd, 2004 by Bob Bly

Next time you want to download copyrighted material from the Internet illegally, think of my friend Bob.

?I was a singer-songwriter who had an ?artistic development? deal in Nashville during 2001 to 2002,? Bob wrote me in a recent letter.

?However, the music downloading issues of the past few years killed my Nashville deal. Much of the music industry was hit hard from this illegal activity. From 1999 to 2002, CD sales were down a staggering 30%.?

According to an article in BusinessWeek (12/27/04), online thieves download 2.6 billion illegal music files and 12 million movies a month, costing the music and movie industries millions of dollars a year: “The problem is finding a way to protect copyright holders without blocking important innovations such as the iPod.”

As Harlan Ellison explained to me when I interviewed him for the May 2004 issue of Writer?s Digest magazine:

?There is a culture of belief today that everything should be free. The Internet is the glaring promoter of such slacker-gen ?philosophy.?

?People have been gulled into believing that everything should be free, and that if a professional gets published, well, any thief can steal it, and post it, and the thug feels abused if you whack him for it.

?I?ll go to speak at a college, and I?ll have some kid stand up and say, ?Well, writers shouldn?t be paid; they should put their stuff up; and if people like it they get paid for it.? And I think: what the hell looneytune universe are you living in, kid? The question indicates a total lack of understanding of how Reality Works. This kid?s been living off mommy and daddy too long.

?These mooks don?t think of writing as a craft or even as an occupation. They think it?s some kind of dilettante behavior. Much like their own lives.?

So let me ask: Why are people who advocate Citizens Publishing so dead set against business models where creators charge money — and get paid — for fiction, journalism, music, art, and other content?

Why should ?content be free,? as so many Internet enthusiasts insist ? while people in all other professions, from plumbers to psychotherapists, get paid for their expertise, talents, and efforts?

What say you?


Category: Writing and the Internet | 146 Comments »

Blogs vs. E-Zines: Round One

December 20th, 2004 by Bob Bly

A number of bloggers have told me, ?There?s not much difference between a blog and an e-zine.?

I disagree. There are at least three important advantages I get with my e-zine that I (can’t speak for others) don?t get with my blog:

1. With my e-zine, I own all the names in my subscriber database. That list has commercial value. I can rent it, swap it, and sell other people?s products to it as an affiliate (I make thousands of extra dollars a month through such affiliate deals — with zero work on my part). With my blog, the RSS feed owns the names ? I never see them.

2. With my e-zine, I can send out a message and know it will be received by my 63,000 subscribers the same day. With my blog, I have no idea how many people get it via RSS feed — or how many of those go to the new blog entry when notified.

3. With my e-zine, I can actively promote my own products and services to the list. E-zine readers accept and expect promotions. I wouldn?t dare do that on my blog; it seems to violate the unwritten rule of blogging as a ?pure? content medium.

Bloggers: do you promote products and services on your blog? Can you track the results?

Do you read blogs that blatantly pitch products and services? Do blogs influence your buying as a business or consumer?

Is it appropriate or inappropriate to advertise on one?s blog?


Category: Blogging | 171 Comments »

How to Increase Posts on Your Blog

December 15th, 2004 by Bob Bly

Ever the direct marketer, when I began my blog only a few weeks ago, I instinctively ended my blogs with a call to action ? or at least an invitation to continue the conversation I had started.


?What do you think??

?Am I accurate here? Or way off base??

?Is this on the mark, or do you handle it differently??

I know bloggers know that they can respond to blog entries with their own posts ? but as a direct marketer, I know that when you ask for a response, you get more responses.

My own blog generated more than 50 posts within 24 hours of my putting it up online, which Paul Chaney says is an unusually high volume.

Is that because the blogging community wanted to see what I (a self-confessed blogging skeptic) was up to ? or that my first entry naturally stimulated conversation?

Maybe. But I bet part of the reason was that I ended with an invitation to respond.

In direct marketing ? online or offline — we call this ?asking for the order.?

Now, I?m new to blogging — and I don?t really understand it as a marketing medium.

I get the feeling that having a lot of posts isn?t the goal here, but I don?t really know what is.

So, dear reader ? can you clue me in here? What’s the goal of a blog and more important, how do you measure it?


Category: Blogging | 134 Comments »

Answers to E-Mail I.Q. Challenge

December 14th, 2004 by Bob Bly

The subject line ?Free Direct Mail Encyclopedia? outpulled ?Boost Sales, Increase Profits, and Expand Market Awareness? by 25%.

Three lessons we can learn from this:

1. Just changing the subject line can dramatically increase e-mail response rates.

2. You never know which subject line or headline is the winner until you test it. (The reasons some of you gave for why A would win seemed to me equally as valid and strong as the reasons others gave for B.)

3. The increase in response from the pulling power of ?free? more than outweighs any decline in response that may occur from ?free? triggering spam filters.

To download your free bonus prize ? my $29 report on improving online marketing results — go to and click on Reports.

By the way, this is a classic example of A/B split testing: test two approaches, and see which works best.

Don?t debate the merits of copy by arguing around a conference table. Test it and learn definitively which headline works best.

This is the basic philosophy that separates direct marketing from general advertising ? and by the way, it?s completely in keeping with the Cluetrain and blogging philosophies of marketing as conversation:

Don?t tell the market what you think sells. The market will tell YOU what they will buy.

P.S. If you guessed B instead of A, don?t feel bad. I often guess wrong on these challenges myself ? which is why I encourage clients to test more than one approach.


Category: Online Marketing | 117 Comments »

Test Your E-Mail Marketing I.Q.

December 11th, 2004 by Bob Bly

Edith Roman Associates, a mailing list broker, uses e-mail marketing to promote their services.

In a recent e-mail offering free list recommendations and a free catalog of mailing lists, they split test two subject lines:

A. Free Direct Mail Encyclopedia.

B. Boost Sales, Increase Profits, and Expand Market Awareness.

Which do you think was the winner — and why?

Choose correctly, and you win a FREE special report on how to improve online marketing results (list price: $29).

(I’ll tell you how to get your free prize when I announce the correct answer.)


Category: Online Marketing | 134 Comments »

Dead Tree Media: Not Dead Yet

December 8th, 2004 by Bob Bly

Rick Bruner, an active blogger and my polar opposite in all things marketing, questions the effectiveness of my use of traditional media ? specifically, articles I write for DM News

He derisively refers to trade journals and newsletters as ?dead tree media,? and suggests that online communication, like blogging, is really where it?s at.

I?m not so sure.

So far my blogging has brought me a lot of fascinating discussions with bloggers (about 80 posts in its first week), but no posts from potential clients.

My DM News articles, on the other hand, bring me more than a dozen leads per article, all from the direct marketers who are my potential clients — because that?s who reads DM News.

My ?dead tree? medium is highly targeted. I am not sure who reads blogs ? but DM News has an audit-verified circulation of 50,000 direct marketers, which is my target market spot on.

Here?s my quick take on online vs. offline media?.

Online is more high tech, more today?s hot topic, more the flavor of the month, more appealing to the under 30 crowd, and more interactive.

Online is easier to respond to, and the response and discussion is immediately visible to everyone on the Internet. The conversation can spread like wildfire, which is a real plus.

Offline is more traditional, more appealing to the over 50 crowd, and has greater selectivity.

Anyone can publish a blog, Web site, or e-zine. That?s why David St. Lawrence calls blogging ?Citizens Publishing.?

But not everyone can get published in Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal ? or convince McGraw-Hill or John Wiley & Sons to publish their book.

And that?s why these dead tree media, unlike a blog, give the author a certain status and credibility that self-published online writings, like e-books, do not.

The best tact is a mixed-media approach: For instance, I am a regular contributor to dead tree media including Writer?s Digest and DM News. And I am the author of 60 books published by such mainstream publishing houses as Prentice Hall and Amacom.

But I also publish a blog, a free monthly e-zine, and downloadable free articles and special reports available on my Web site.

Does anybody have an opinion on which is better ? traditional paper publishing, online publishing, or a combination? What has worked for you guys?


Category: PR | 211 Comments »

A Blogging Observation and Tip

December 4th, 2004 by Bob Bly

One thing unclear to me, a blogging newbie, is how often to write a journal entry in one?s blog.

From an ROI point of view, one should make the fewest entries (because of the time required) to generate the most posts, traffic, and buzz.

From a pure ?fun? point of view (the way I am doing it), one should make a new entry whenever one has something interesting to say.

However, it?s probably best to wait and make that fresh entry when the amount and frequency of posts made in reaction to the current entry diminishes to a negligible volume.

Reason: If you post earlier, you rob yourself and your readers of ongoing, active conversation on a topic they are still interested in and that has not died down.

Yes, they can still post to that old entry, but in my admittedly limited experience in the blogosphere, I?ve noticed that most of the focus and action seems to revolve around the freshest entry.

My friend, blogging authority Deb Weil, says: ?If you’ve launched a blog and are not posting new entries once a week or so, you’re not blogging enough. The name of the game is fresh. Fresh content, fresh ideas, fresh ways of thinking, fresh links.?

Derek Scruggs offered me this pragmatic, time-thrifty advice: ?For you, blogging should be 30 minutes a week, tops.? He suggests I simply post my DM News articles on my blog with a comments link.

Bloggers: How close am I to the mark here?


Category: Blogging | 159 Comments »

Harlan Ellison Speaks Out on Writing and the Internet

December 2nd, 2004 by Bob Bly

David Lawrence loves blogging and the Internet. He calls it ?Citizens Publishing,? which I think means (a) anybody can say anything and (b) immediately publish it on the Internet where (c) everybody can read it for free.

I interviewed writer Harlan Ellison in the May issue of Writer?s Digest, and he had this to say about writing and the Internet (not specifically blogging):

?Vast hordes of semi- or untalented amateurs festoon the Internet with their ungrammatical, puerile trash, and they think because this ?vanity? publication gets seen by a few people, that they are ?writers.? Horse puckey!

?That isn?t being published; that?s the fanzine press. And there are fewer and fewer real venues for a professional writer nowadays to make a decent living at the craft. Half the world is illiterate, and the other half treads water in the gravy of hubris secretly knowing they can write, if only they had the spare time.

?The Internet has destroyed the use of the library, it has destroyed the use of the dictionary, and as a result people don?t speak as well, because when you go looking up a word in a dictionary, you pass fifty other words that stick in your head and you find other serendipitous stuff, and you just become a better, more literate, smarter and more well-rounded person.?

Writers, publishers, bloggers — is Harlan right? Or out of touch?


Category: Writing and the Internet | 196 Comments »