Aggregators – Aggre-great or Aggre-vating?

jacobIn response to my recent post on Apple stickers, I received the following comment:

Stephen:
Congratulations on your Blog
I really like your writing style. Would you like to be a guest author on the Jacob Report? We have been voted one of the Top 100 Blogs in America, and we are assembling some of the best Blog Authors from around the web to contribute. We would like to include you as a guest author.
The Jacob Report is everything Sales and Marketing, and it looks like you would be a great contributor!
Let me know as quickly as you can please.

Andy Jacob

He has an interesting model here.  He gets a bunch of other people to generate (most) of the content for his site, which drives up its Google ranking and links, which drives up traffic to what is essentially an advertisement for him.  I don’t begrudge his cleverness — its win-win-win.  The contributing authors presumably get a little more exposure that they otherwise would; site visitors get some (occasionally) good insights into sales & marketing; and he gets more traffic.

He is not alone in exploiting this strategy – the top 10 blogs according to Technorati are ALL aggregators.  They all feature multiple authors grabbing content from all over the Web that meets the theme of their site.  They throw in a personal comment or two, and post many entries a day.  People who are interested in that content visit every day to see the latest stuff.

And it’s not just blogs – the highest-ranked non-search engine site (YouTube, #3) is the mother of all aggregators, with millions of contributors and thousands of new “articles” every day.

So should I be honoured that Mr. Jacob thinks enough of my work to add me to his stable of (mostly unfamiliar) authors, or affronted that he wants me to help him make his blog more popular? 

And amazingly, I can tie this back to bar marketing.  Let’s say your place has a particular theme: Irish, Sports, Country (as in music), Country (as in bucolic), Literary, Granola, Biker, Goth, whatever.  You should encourage your customers (blog analog = readers) to become contributors.  This could be by having them make art for your walls, bring in books that they want to share, help with the garden or houseplants, donate antique licence plates or mounted deer antlers, whatever.  By helping to shape the environment they essentially become part-owners, and therefore much more loyal.

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This Really Pushes My Buttons

elevWhen I was in France last month, I noticed something that was different from here.  Well, actually many things, like for instance everybody spoke French, but this post is about just one of them: when you push the “Close Doors” button in elevators there, the doors actually close!  Immediately!  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the same is not true here in North America.  As far as I can tell, pushing the Close Doors button here has absolutely no effect on when the doors actually close.  (Although the “Open Doors” button works just fine.)

I’m sure there’s a good reason for this – probably somehow safety-related or something.  But if the Close Doors button is useless here in North America, why even have it?  My theory is that it gives the elevator rider the illusion that they have control.  Being in control is a very good feeling, and one that marketers would do well to try and provide to their audiences.  Unfortunately, most marketing up until now has been about taking control away  from the audience.

If you were in control of your web experience, would you have pop-up ads?  If you were in control of your e-mail, would you ask for 100 Viagra emails per day?  If you were in control of your TV, would you have commercials?  Most of us would say, “no,” and that’s why we have pop-up blockers, spam filters, and TiVo.

But if we can make our message so compelling that people will ASK for it, and search for it, and come and get it, then we’re doing our customers a service, not annoying them.  We’re letting THEM push the button, and we give them what they expect (or more) when they do it.

A slightly-related, probably apocryphal story:  Apparently, in the early days of skyscrapers, a man who was building one visited the nearly-complete structure.  He rode to the top floor on the elevator and said to the project engineer, “This is unacceptable!  That trip takes far too long!  Make this elevator go faster!”

The engineer puzzled over how to overcome this challenge.  It was unsafe or prohibitively expensive to actually make the car speed up.  Nonetheless, when the building owner visited the site the following week, he found the ride to the top noticeably shorter and complimented the engineer.

The engineer had made only one change to the elevator – he had installed mirrors on the walls.