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Archive for June, 2008

Pure B.S. or Great Copy?

June 30th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Critics often accuse direct marketing copywriters of hype and puffery, but I think the real B.S. artists in marketing today are wine and beer writers.

Listen to this description of Route Des Epices beer from the Beer of the Month Club newsletter (vol. 14, no. 12):

“On the nose, you can’t miss the influence of black and green peppercorns. Behind the peppercorn is a mild citrusy character with a caramel backbone, a touch of spruce and almonds, and some floral hop tones. Look for an emergence of tequila-like notes amidst a subtle floral character, notes of coriander, subtle apricot tones, and a woody spruce-like component.”

In the same issue, another beer, Rosee D’Hibiscus,” is said to have “notes of under ripened peaches, coriander, and pomegranate.”

Talk about piling it on high and deep. I drank a bottle of each, and they both tasted like beer.

Why do people rabidly attack direct marketing as hype-filled and sleazy, but ooh and ah and nod their heads in wonder at the writer’s sophistication when they read B.S. like the above beer reviews?


Category: General | 102 Comments »

Business Entrepreneurs

June 25th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A radio spot for Web site developer American Eagle tells how the company created a successful Web site for a “business entrepreneur.”

Business entrepeneur? As opposed to all those entrepreneurs who have nothing to do with business?

Obviously, “business entrepreneur” is redundant — given that the Oxford English dictionary defines an “entrepreneur” as “a person who sets up a business.”

Is using the term “business entrepreneur” a bad thing?

Admittedly, it’s not a huge sin.

But it bothers me — especially in a commercial for a company in the communications business.

The problem with redudancy is twofold. First, it wastes words. Second, it demonstrates suboptimal language skills.

I might trust American Eagle to design my Web site … but not to write the copy for it.

Your thoughts?


Category: General | 85 Comments »

What’s Better — Traditional or Self Publishing?

June 22nd, 2008 by Bob Bly

MF has written a nonfiction business book and wants to know whether I think it’s better to self-publish or look for a traditional publisher.

Here’s what I told MF….

If you want to establish your reputation as a though leader in your field, gain visibility, and build credibility, getting your book published by a mainstream publisher like McGraw-Hill or John Wiley is the best way to accomplish those goals. It is the most prestigious form of publishing, the one most likely to impress others.

If you want to maximize your revenues from sale of your book, I’d go with publishing it as an e-book. You can charge more than for a regular book, and your profit margin is much higher than with a printed book.

If you are a frequent speaker and need to get a book out on your topic quickly — to sell at your talks or to send to meeting planners to convince them to book you — a self-published printed book is the way to go.

A famous self-publishing guru once said in a speech that self-published books are no less prestigious than traditionally published books. “People don’t shop for a McGraw-Hill or a John Wiley book. They don’t care who the publisher is.”

True, but many people (not all) look down on self-publishing. Every self-publisher I know save one (the guru mentioned above) has confided in me that the moment they reveal their book is self published, they feel somehow embarrassed or apologetic.

Mainstream publisher for prestige … e-book for profit … traditional book for back of the room sales or a give-away to potential clients. That’s what I told MF. Do you agree with my assessment of her book publishing options?


Category: General | 85 Comments »

Does IQ Need an IQ Boost?

June 20th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A radio commercial I heard this morning from IQ offers a free CD that promises to “boost your reading speed 1,000%.”

The commercials explains: “you’ll be able to read 10 book in the time it used to take you to read one book” — a tenfold improvement in reading speed.

The only problem is that reading 10X faster is a 900% improvement, not a 1,000% improvement.

It’s a small error. But for a company called “IQ,” I think it damages their credibility a bit.

Do you agree, or once again, am I being too nitpiky?


Category: General | 145 Comments »

The Best Way to Make Money Online

June 18th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A friend, AF, wants to make money in his spare-time on the Internet.

He asked me about making money with a blog. I told him: “Forget it.”

Instead, I recommended to AF that he do what I do: sell how-to information products online.

(The method I used is explained on my site

It has certainly worked out well for me.

I earn a six-figure income online “working” only a few hours a week.

But now that I think about it, maybe I didn’t give AF the right advice.

It’s my feeling that other than the occasional blogger who gets a lucky break — e.g., a book deal, a huge following, or makes money speaking and consulting — most bloggers make little or no money from their blogs.

Am I wrong?

If I am … and you are a blogger who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in your spare time blogging … can you let me (and AF) know what you did and how you did it?

After all, he could use the extra income (who couldn’t?) and I would hate for him to miss out on an opportunity for blogging profits because of my advice.

Can bloggers get rich online from blogging? What say you?


Category: General | 2,648 Comments »

Magazines 2.0

June 17th, 2008 by Bob Bly

One possible future for magazines is to make them more like the Web — in particular, like social media and other Web 2.0 sites.

For example, according to an article in Circulation Management (6/08, p. 12), Erik Torkells, editor of Budget Travel magazine, published a June issue in which nearly 100% of the content was generated by the publication’s readers.

The magazine received approximately 2,800 pitches from readers resulting in 324 contributors to the issue.

“In the future, love it or hate it, an editor’s role will be to lead a conversation, not deliver a monologue.”

Is quality a problem when peers rather than professional writers provide the content?

Yes, says Torkells, who said the June issue required an “extraordinary amount” of editing, without which it “would have been a mess.”

“Editing non-professional writers is never easy,” he notes.


Category: General | 401 Comments »

How Would You Rate This Headline?

June 12th, 2008 by Bob Bly

I received a mailing today promoting a stock newsletter.

In big, bold type, the headline on the outer envelope reads:

Inside: Three stocks set to quadruple in price in the next 12 months.

Now, if you are a new copywriter … or new to financial subscription promotion … you might think this is a good headline.

But to anyone with experience, it’s fairly lame.

Yes, it makes a big promise.

The problem is, I — and everyone else on the mailing lists used in financial direct mail — have read this headline (or others nearly identical) about a zillion times before.

The lack of originality robs it of impact — and reminds us that it’s a pure sales pitch.

You can’t know this unless you are an active writer or reader of financial DM.

That’s why you need to be on as many mailing lists as you can — online and offline — and read all the print and Internet promotions that come your way.

Not only does this give you ideas and show you what’s working.

But it also educates you on what has been done to the death — and should be avoided in your own work.

Doctors, engineers, and scientists keep up with the latest developments and current activity in their respective fields.

Copywriters and marketers must, too.

So … how would YOU rate “Three stock set to quadruple in price in the next 12 months” as a headline — good, bad, or terrible?


Category: General | 39 Comments »

Overstating the Case for Social Media

June 11th, 2008 by Bob Bly

If you say to me that social media is the most significant marketing development of the 21st century and will become the dominant marketing channel, I can see your argument — though I don’t necessarily agree with it.

But in an interview with DM News (6/9/08, p. 47), Saul Colt, VP of FreshBooks Marketing, goes way too far when he suggests that one single social media site — Twitter — could by itself be the next big thing in marketing.

Colt states: “Twitter is here to stay and in time could be your most valuable marketing tool.”

His reason: “There is a good chance your customers are already there and perhaps talking about you.”

Saul, are you serious?

Do you really think that Twitter specifically — not social media in general — could become the #1 marketing tool of any B2B or B2C marketer?

Does anyone else out there think Twitter is an important, powerful marketing medium? Do you already get business from Twitter?


Category: General | 63 Comments »