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Archive for October, 2008

To Make Money Online, Sell Content — Don’t Give It Away

October 31st, 2008 by Bob Bly

“The only way to bring in real money from your blog or web site is to deal with the ‘c’ word,” says veteran mail order marketer Jim Straw.

“Yes, I’m talking about ‘charging’ for your content,” says Jim. Not — as so many new media gurus advocate — giving it away.

“Take a look at a few successful Internet marketers and pay attention,” advises Jim.

“It shouldn’t be too hard to guess what really brings in the big bucks — subscription-based products with recurring revenue!”

I imagine the readers of this blog will have a field day responding to Jim — both pro and con.

Let’s see if I am right…..


Category: Online Marketing | 54 Comments »

Bad Times Ahead for Freelance Writers?

October 23rd, 2008 by Bob Bly

On one of his web sites, Internet marketer Abel Cheng sells a guide to do-it-yourself content creation.

To make the sale, he compares the cost of his product ($17) with the cost of hiring a professional writer.

He says (I kid you not) that the going rate to hire a professional ghostwriter to write a 500-word article is $5.

Not $500 or even $50. But $5. That comes to a penny a word.

The going rate for writing freelance magazine articles used to be a dollar a word, give or take 50 cents.

Now, says Mr. Cheng, a writer is worth a penny a word.

The frightening thing is, Mr. Cheng is right.

I’ve bid out writing jobs for CTC Publishing, my online publishing company, on the Internet — and it’s shocking how little writers will charge to create content.

My question is: who out there is writing articles for a penny a word — and why?

Let’s say it takes you 2 hours to write that article. Your hourly rate is $2.50. Less than half what you’d make wearing a paper hat and asking people, “Do you want fries with that?”

Has freelance writing truly become a commodity?

Or is Mr. Cheng just scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel?


Category: General | 56 Comments »

Is Blogging a Good Profit Center for Freelance Writers?

October 18th, 2008 by Bob Bly

No, according to Garry Trudeau, writer of the Doonesbury comic strip.

In Doonesbury, one of the characters is an older experienced journalist (I am not a regular reader, so I do not know his name).

He has been let go by his paper in a round of layoffs, and to make a living, he has turned to blogging.

When his son asks him how it’s going, the reporter replies:

“Okay, I guess. I’m piecing together a living. But only barely. It’s tough to leverage a byline in a media environment where anyone who can type gets a byline. I’m competing for eyeballs with millions of narcissists, almost none of whom expect to actually get paid.”

This reveals a rule of thumb for freelance writing success that has been in effect for decades: namely, it’s very difficult to make a good living as a professional writing something that millions of amateurs are more than willing to write for free.

This is why things like short stories, poems, and essays pay so poorly.

It’s also why copywriting pays so much better than most journalistic and literary endeavors.

Millions of Americans dream of writing the Great American Novel … but relatively few want to write the Great American Annual Report.

Therefore, novelists submitting novels on spec are a dime a dozen, while top annual report writers are in short supply and command high fees.

I know there are exceptions, so you don’t have to tell me about the rare blogger or screenwriter who made it big.

There’s an old saying: you can get rich in writing, but you can’t make a living.

Those that hit it big in hyper-competitive markets like screenwriting or blogging are few and far between (how many JK Rowlings are there)?

If you want to write for a living — and live well — writing for business customers is the surest road to a six-figure income, for the reasons stated above. (And yes, those business assignments can include corporate blogs.)


Category: General | 43 Comments »

Should B2B Copy be Devoid of Emotion and Salesmanship?

October 16th, 2008 by Bob Bly

LT, a veteran B2B marketer, took me to task in an e-mail he sent me, in which he disagreed with my claim that many consumer marketing techniques can be profitably applied to B2B selling.

According to LT, good B2B copy meets the following criteria:

1–It is completely fact-based — full of numbers, statistics, graphs, tables, charts, data, specs,and whatever other technical content the prospect needs to make a correction buying decision.

2–It appeals to logic and rational decision-making. Business prospects are professionals, and to pander to them with emotional consumer appeals insults their intelligence.

3–It is short … as short as possible. Business prospects are busy and have too much to read. The less there is to read in your copy, the greater your response rates will be. Long copy in B2B gets tossed in the trash.

4–The style should be “professional,” not the “conversational” style we advocate for consumer direct response. “These are eduated people and you must talk to them on their own level, which is high,” says LT.

5–You should liberally and deliberately use jargon. The prospects use it, and you want to speak their language, not yours.

In your experience, is LT right? Is brevity, directness, jargon, and heavy technical content the best way to sell to the B2B market?

Or do the same appeals that work so well in consumer direct response — e.g., curiosity, flattery, fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, human emotion, and a me-to-you conversational style — also boost response in B2B?

What say you?


Category: General | 44 Comments »

It’s Not Too Late to Profit from This Hot Marketing Trend

October 14th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Normally, by the time you read about a new idea in marketing, it’s too late for you to stand out as an early adopter, because the early adopters are all already using it.

But online video is a growing trend, and it’s NOT too late for you to boost your online conversions, sales, and traffic with it!

According to an article in NJ Biz (10/6/08, p. 5), video sent as data over the Internet will grow from 10% of all video this year to 35% by 2013.

Yet right now, most Internet marketers are not taking advantage of the selling power of online video: most landing pages and web sites you see are text and graphics, with little or no streaming audio or video.

Have you tested adding online audio or video (or both) to your web sites, landing pages, and micro sites? What lift have you seen in conversion? Or (heaven forbid) did the online video actually DEPRESS response?


Category: Online Marketing | 44 Comments »

Madison Avenue Agency Fails Advertising 101

October 9th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Last night I saw a Burger King TV commercial in which two guys dressed in hamburger costumes go to Wendy’s to order hamburgers, only to conclude that Wendy’s doesn’t offer burgers as good as BK.

The primary visual displayed on the screen throughout most of the commercial is the giant Wendy’s sign in front of the Wendy’s the burger guys go to.

In their argument with the server about who has the best burger, the name “Wendy’s” is mentioned about the same number of times as the name “Burger King.”

Consequently, the average viewer who sees the commercial is more likely to think of Wendy’s than he is of BK.

In fact, if he was paying scant attention as so many viewers do, he may even think he has just seen a Wendy’s commercial.

Does BK’s ad agency not realize they have made a giant blunder here?

Hard for me to accept that grown adults hold those agency jobs, created the commercial, and thinks it’s good — and that grown adults at BK approved it.

Did none of these folks pass Advertising 101?


Category: Advertising | 188 Comments »

Fruit by Mail: Why?

October 2nd, 2008 by Bob Bly

When I took his direct marketing course at NYU back in the early 1980s, Milt Piece taught us that “the ideal mail order product is one that is not available in stores.”

But the catalog company Harry & David sells mainly fruit (also chocolates and cakes) through mail order … all of which are also available in stores.

An article in the October issue of Catalog Success notes that Harry & David has annual sales well over half a billion dollars a year.

Why do you think they are able to generate these huge revenues selling mostly pears, apples, grapes, and other produce you can get at your local supermarket?

What’s the secret of Harry & David’s success?



Category: General | 98 Comments »