Monday, October 20, 2008

When Content Isn't King

Last week on Cult of Gracie, Callie & I were joined by Pearly Writes and Rebecca Deos for a long conversation about SEO and content.

For the most part, we all agree: content is the best organic SEO. You'll have to listen to the show for where we split hairs regarding SEO and social network sites, etc., but worthy of noting here today was our discussion regarding use of content.

Callie and I began the conversation by stating that before you blog (or your business, really) you have to know your mission. How else are you going to measure your success? Part of this business of your mission relates to content, how to use it, and the matter of "should you give it away for free?"

While we all agreed there are times to withhold content for money, deciding 'when' is the tricky part. Callie, who does consulting & writes conceptual articles & "how to" posts, discussed how some of her most thoughtful "free stuff" was often either not understood & therefore misapplied, or read too quickly (a kind way of saying that folks didn't really get it) and the information was not used correctly. She's decided that she won't be giving such things away, but rather saving most of her "goodies" for clients ~ not just to be paid, but to ensure that the advice or concept is applied as intended. Rebecca, an escort, uses her blog to write about things that interest her purely as a way for prospective clients to know more about her. And certainly an author has to decide what stories/columns should be sold versus what can be given away for free, as 'exposure.'

In any case, this "to be paid or not to be paid" is a rather subjective decision ~ one which can only effectively be decided once you know your goals/mission.

But this lead to a conversation about the worth of writing ~ again, partially based upon all the recent loss of so many "sex columnists". (It's a conversation I appreciate being kept alive by grande folks such as Amber, Dacia, & Callie.)

My thoughts wandered to the matter of value ~ value beyond paid or not, or how much per word, etc., but the matter of the value of adult writing on human sexuality.

We know that sex is deemed a less legitimate conversation than say politics, finance, or technology. Everyone knows I find that both a stupid ideology (everybody literally has a reason to both know about & explore sexuality) and a dumb argument in light of the fact that sex does in fact sell ~ and I'm talking actually selling sex, be it porn, toys, or sex worker services ~ to the tune of millions, billions of dollars annually. But the value of sex writing, fiction and non-fiction, cannot be discussed only in terms of its relation to non sexual writing ~ if only for the fact that we're missing the definition of the value of writing in general. Time for some conceptual algebra.

What value does writing have? And perhaps, more pointedly, just what is of value on the Internet?

Lately I'm more and more struck by the freakish facts which point to the fact that technology & its tools (the code, widgets, etc. known as Web 2.0) garner more money, attention and credit than content.

Name a site, strip it of its content and what do you have? Just a bunch of code. Yet people are buying code and concepts of code & tools rather than putting money into what it is that people really come to, return to, and love sites for: content.

All websites are publications/productions, so this monetary focus on the tools of the publication/production is akin to gushing over the pencil, the typewriter, the lush yet blank pages of a magazine. I'm focusing on writing here (and perhaps it's warranted because words are still the way things are found on the Internet), but this applies to images too. For example, Flickr without photos and images is nothing but a a potentially cool tool that's not being used; it only becomes popular when the tool is used to deliver content.

But the money seems to be going to the folks who create the tools, while content creators, adult or otherwise, are slighted. It's too lopsided.

So perhaps the question we should all be asking isn't, "Should I give it away for free?" or even "When should I give it away for free?" but rather "When are the big sites with budgets going to realize how damn important content is?"

For the flip-side of this argument, please read Rebecca's thoughts from after the radio show.

And then, please do tell us all what you think about the use of content and the value of writing.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Technorati Family Feud: Survey Says!

Technorati released its State of the Blogosphere for 2008. Being a survey of 1000 bloggers, a rather small sample, it poses more questions than 'facts' for me.

Let's start with gender.

The survey says more males are blogging.


And more men describe their blogs as professional, "about your industry and profession but not in an official capacity for your company"; while more women describe their blogs as personal, "about topics of personal interest not associated with your work."

As this matter of definition is purely subjective, I can't help but wonder about each gender's own bias here.

I did not see any information regarding the gender split in corporate blogging.

While women are more likely to seek to monetize their blogs, it seems they invest 50% less money in their blogs and make 50% less money in return.

Global Bloggers by Gender

Demographics Female
(N=438)
Male
(N=852)
Personal Blog 83% 76%
Professional Blog 38% 50%
Median Annual Investment $30 $60
Median Annual Revenue $100 $200
% Blogs with advertising 53% 54%
Sell Through a Blog ad Network* 16% 7%
Have Affiliate ads* 41% 32%
Have Contextual ads* 61% 73%
That ROI is something to think of when keeping things on-the-cheap ~ and far more informative than most of what is discussed in Slate's coverage of this Technorati survey, Blogging for Dollars: How do bloggers make money?. (That article is really a more theoretical conversation on popularity ~ which does affect ad revenues, but we'll get back to that later.)

However, women also stated they had benefited in other ways from blogging, with 9% more saying they had converted business leads from their blog.



Interestingly, women are said to have participated in more traditional blog networking (blogrolls, linking to other blogs, etc.) than men ~ including producing more content for other blogs. No number was given, but it makes me wonder about this in terms of blog investment...

Writing may be "free", but the sweat equity isn't noted in the discussion & in fact seems to have little payoff in terms of annual revenue. However, this sort of promotional writing could account for the conversion of business leads. I'd love more information on that area.

As far as topics go, Technorati calls them "diverse."
Blogging topics are diverse

Both personal and professional topics are equally popular. Forty percent of bloggers consider their blogging topics outside of these categories. “Other” blog topics include: 2008 election, alternative energy, art, beauty, blogging, comics, communication, cooking/food, crafts, design, environment, internet/Web 2.0, Jamaica, and media/journalism.

Three-quarters of bloggers cover three or more topics. The average number of topics blogged about is five.

There were some global differences. Music is more popular and politics is less popular in Asia, while personal, lifestyle, and religious topics are less popular in Europe.

You probably see what I see ~ an absence of "sex" as a topic.


It appears that Technorati did not include "sex" (or "adult" or "mature") as a topic in their survey; I'd gather that with those choices many sex bloggers would identify their blogs as "Personal/Lifestyle" blogs ~ or use the "other" category.

"Sex" is still not listed as a response in the "other" category. I have no idea if Technorati opted not to include "sex bloggers", if they edited/censored such responses when they published their findings, or if there were too few "sex" responses to qualify for a mention. Those surveyed may consider their blogging part of another category. For example, sex workers may state "business", authors "books", and sex positive feminists who discuss sex regularly might classify their blogs as "political" or "media/journalism" just as others who are not sex positive might (may also include "religion" as well).

Or perhaps survey respondents with sex blogs who noticed the "sex" option missing felt stating "sex" would mean they'd be excluded from the survey data.

The omitted options for "sex" and the lack of stated identification as "a sex blogger" does make me question the survey responses. As sexuality is just part of a human being's existence, I wouldn't throw the survey out completely; just keep the omissions in mind when reading & digesting.

Which poses more questions...

For instance, as the most popular sex bloggers are, collectively, female (no doubt due to photos, descriptions of personal actions etc., which draw many male readers), what does the possibility of censoring/ignoring sex bloggers mean for the simple "more men are blogging" data? Does this account for the "more females have personal blogs" finding?

I don't know; I'm still mulling it all over.

In terms of privacy, only 1/3 stated a concern for their privacy; I believe this would likely be much higher among sex bloggers.:
The majority of bloggers openly expose their identities on their blogs and recognize the positive impact that blogging has on their personal and professional lives. More than half are now better known in their industry and one in five have been on TV or the radio because of their blog. Blogging has brought many unique opportunities to these bloggers that would not have been available in the pre-blog era.
And, I find the connection between "openly exposing identities" and "better known" murky. I'm certainly better known in both my personal and professional life; but the name on my birth certificate, my legal name, is neither Gracie Passette nor The Marketing Whore.


Of those concerned about exposing their identities on their blogs, 36% said "other" ~ which included, "I've chosen to blog as a character." Maybe those with pen names, online identities, whathaveyou, answered the privacy/popularity questions from the point of view of being a character?

Now onto popularity...
Technorati 100, Next 500, and Next 5000 comparisons

We analyzed the Technorati index data to see whether higher-authority bloggers behaved differently from other bloggers.

Posting by Technorati Authority
Group Average Authority Avg Days Posting
(June 2008)
Avg Monthly Posts
(June 2008)
Top 100 6,084 23 310
Next 500 1,551 20 125
Next 5000 439 13 25

Blogs with higher authority are typically updated more frequently than blogs with lower authority. The Technorati Top 100 blogs had more than twice as many postings in June 2008 as the next 500, and more than 12 times as many postings as the next 5000.

What's missing from the discussion here are contextual issues such as monetization &/or business conversions and intent of the blog. Without knowing those variables, how can we call a blog successful?



There sure seems to be a connection between a blog's popularity and ad dollars, but this begs several questions...

1) If a Technorati Top 100 blogger is posting 10 or more times a day, with all the research & writing that implies, are the ad sales fair compensation for the number of hours a blogger works?

2) Are readers satisfied with such a saturation of posts? Lots of eyeballs do not automatically grant things such as loyalty & trust, nor translate into company endorsements & branding.

3) Are advertisers happy with their conversion &/or branding at these sites? Customer & potential customer impressions of the company /product/service are more important than number of ad impressions.

If all three are not satisfied the old "blog bubble" (at least as far as a business model) bursts.

For more anecdotal & theoretical conversations about this, I again refer you to Slate's piece.

Other tips included in Technorati's survey results: Technorati Top 100 bloggers are twice as likely to use tags in their posts, and they use the "news" tag more than two times as much as the next 500, and 19 times as much as the next 5000. (And, of course, their list of top tags for June does not include anything sexual.)

As for the results regarding branding in the blogosphere, there's a lot of chatter about how important bloggers think blogs and other bloggers are. I'm not saying I disagree with these findings, just that business might want to keep in mind that people within the group often are rather high on the group; your results may vary.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Clash Of The Sex Writers: Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?

A further, even lengthier, response to Audacia Ray's The End of the Sex Writer?

Like myself, Audacia says she sees herself as an activist, an advocate; and that writing is the medium for her message. In that sense we have to accept that there will not be paid writing gigs ~ in fact, there really are no paid activist positions.

No, not because getting paid is becoming "a sell-out to da man," but because no one pays a person directly for their activism. (Unless you count lobbyists; but so far, I've found no one willing to back sex as an issue. Let me know if you have any leads and I'll give you my packet.)

You could start a non-profit; but in order to become paid you'll need to be the executive director (at the beginning, you'll be lucky if you can afford to pay for even that position). But then, because staff members are usually not allowed to be on the organization's board, you will lose ability to control the organization. (After several years in the nonprofit sector, I've seen how the, "Oh, but I've selected the board to maintain my vision," works out. That varies between "poorly" and "horrific," by the way.)

I've written before about having to decide if you're in business or an activist, so I'll refer you to that post.

Now, if you've opted for "business" (with or without a dose of "activism" or "cultural mission" to your branding) and refuse to monetize your own site(s), looking elsewhere for a paycheck, let's look at what's happening in the business of sex writing.

Sex is still a taboo. Those of us who work with/in/under/behind/through any issues of sexuality, legal or not, face discrimination (and I mean real discrimination, not the made up kind). There are less options in general and they come with higher fees we must pay, further scrutiny for services, and even bigger prices in terms of employment and social relationships. Audaica (who I swear I am not picking on!) has been running into these issues head-on recently, as noted by Chris in The Shrinking Public Square.

I don't mean to sound bitchy or condescending here and I'm certainly not trying to alienate myself from anyone, let alone anyone in the business of taking sex out of the closet and having it be a recognized & respected part of the human experience; but I've been talking about all of this stuff here, and here, and here, and ~ hell, pick a site, a post, as you'd like. It's been a decade of writing online, folks.

It's not that I'm whining that no one's listening to me (although, who doesn't like to be noticed?), but it seems that there's a huge gap in understanding. Maybe it's due to age & experience (I'm likely at least a decade older than most of these folks). Or maybe it's a failure to understand how publishing works ~ especially when it comes to mainstream publications and sex.

The fact is that these publications which were paying sex columnists were not in the business of sex education nor with a mission of sex positivity.

Be honest, dear readers, if you weren't following the authors involved here because you knew them, would you ever turn to Valleywag or Wired for your sex info?

Does anyone read Fleshbot? It's no literary journal; it's a smorgasbord of tits & ass for 20-somethings who don't know better (and for older folks who should know better). This is due, in no small part, to cranking out way-too-much content ~ as Audacia mentioned. That's not only a shame, but a failure on the part of the writer &/or activist who expects to be read at a site that pushes more pink bits than the eraser factories do.

Naked City ~ that blog was so clunky I heard things fall off when the page loaded. And don't even get me started on what's wrong with the Village Voice.

So, times get tough, advertising shrinks, and these publications decide to axe writers. It happens; in print, on the web, everywhere. It's tough for smart writers who know they had done nothing wrong, had nothing to do with the decision (nor any of the decisions prior on how to run their business), but that's the way it goes.

For all the "newness" of these Internets, business still has the same old model to follow: make profit. (And more than a few of them are missing the boat by applying the same practices that they mock print for; but that's for another time.)

Do I think sex writers were likely viewed as the first to go in these economic cuts? You bet I do. In fact, if I were sitting there, making the decisions, I'd likely have done the same thing. A) Sex is not representational of the companies' core missions, and 2) having sex on pages can will deter advertisers.

If these companies had committed more to the issue sexuality as a right and therefore an integral part of their publications, rather than posing as sex positive hipsters exploiting sex columnists & titillating titular to garner some eyeballs and a wink-wink-nudge-nudge mentality, then my call ~ and likely the publishers' ~ would have been different.

On one hand I am frustrated by a world which refuses to have sexuality be a part of legitimate conversation; I'd love to see sex included as an important, fundamental human issue for grown-ups period.

On the other hand, these places were only using sex as a loss-leader and they could no longer absorb the loss.

That was their bottom line talking.

And they had no sex positive mission to adhere to, remember?

Now, when it comes to "sex writers," we all have our choices to make. Not just, "stay or go?" but if we stay, how? Are we in business? Are we activists? Both? And if both, how will we blend the two?

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Read, You Will

Links from my Delicious Bookmarks:

Oversharing, Blogging, And Transparency: Notes—And Quotes—From A Talk
Susan Mernit reports on a talk she gave at Arse Electronika, the conference about sex and technology and culture, on blogging, transparency, authenticity, and identity.

Mediabistro Panel topics?
What kinds of panel topics would you like to see mediabistro.com produce in 2009?

A Slip of a Girl: I Read, I Rant; It's As Simple As That
Who told you to make a 'cutsie website in flash'? Whoever it was, they ought to be shot. The person/persons behind the push of flash are idiots because...

High-Five Fridays, The Banned Book Week Edition - Sex~Kitten.net (NWS)
Celebrating Banned Books Week the Sex Kitten way.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Online Sex Tricks & Treats

In Compartmentalize, or you'll get 20 lashes! (unless you're into that sort of thing) the always wonderful Amber Rhea talks about why 'sex' is really a dirty word online, exposing (some of the many) tricks deployed against any honest discourse regarding intercourse. Especially if you are a woman.

I know I've talked about this before ~ and no doubt shall again & again; but now you get to hear about it from someone else (that's your treat).

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Friday, March 14, 2008

High-Five Fridays #9

High-Five Fridays
1) Violet Blue with coverage of sexual privacy and SXSWi.

2) Three Wise Guys on those strange outside bathtubs in erectile-dysfunction ads.

3) Just what is the big deal about sex?

4) Bombshell Betty starts a series on getting paid to perform ~ keep an eye on it for more.

5) One of my favorite perfumes is Shalimar. Reformulated, re-released, but never the same.

Want to give your own high-fives? Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!

Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).



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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Midsleeper's Wet Dream Becomes Marketing Nightmare

'Everyone' is talking about Woolworths pulling the Lolita bed; The Marketing Whore is someone, so she'll talk about it too.

The Lolita Midsleeper beds were designed for six-year-old girls and this unfortunate name ('Lolita', not 'Midsleeper' which I find dreadful ~ but I'm not British, so what do I know) has resulted in upsetting parents.



The main complaint seems to be that the name 'Lolita' on a bed implies that the youth which sleeps upon it is of little virtue ~ or will be perceived as such by others. This due to, in case you didn't know, "Lolita", the 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, in which the narrator becomes sexually obsessed and then sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter when she seduces him. The icing on the cake is Lolita is not a virgin at that time either.

While the beds of ill repute were shown on the Woolworths' site, they were not an actual Woolworths product; this apparently caused part of the confusion in the handling of the complaints, as one of the upset parents received the following reply from Woolworths:
- they say they will 'pass my letter onto the buying dept' but also state
"Our aim is to attract a broad customer base of all ages and we make every effort to stock items, which appeal to the whole family. However, we also have to respond to customer demands and follow current trends. "
That one customer service kid hadn't heard of the book, or the two films, is a bit surprising... But it only gets worse as eventually that complaint, or another like it, was passed along and higher-ups confessed:
"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either," a spokesman told newspapers.

"We had to look it up on (online encyclopaedia) Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."
It seems to me that someone should have known... I mean eBay and plenty of other sites actually forbid the word 'Lolita' from appearing in listings & profiles (at least for specific categories) and also police word combinations and content, just in case it would appear that you are trying to market to and profit from pedophiles.

Anyway, the product's been pulled and the world is safe from tramp-making beds.

The bad news is that selling Bratz dolls and thongs to little girls is just fine. As a culture we've decided that marketing to and profiting from turning girls (and boys) into sexually active preteens is fine and dandy. Not only do parents buy into it, they actually buy this stuff.

I just don't get that.

The good news is that there finally is a marketing horror story to put in textbooks ~ even if it's not based on literal translation.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Uh-oh, The Villagers Have Pitchforks & They Want Digg's Secret Editor List

OK, so maybe that title's a bit 'too much' in terms of link bait ~ becoming more like flame bait. But it seems to match the mood of Internet villagers upon hearing that Digg employs invisible editors.

I concede that nameless, icon-less, user-name-free persons (who are empowered to do more than dump the spam and protect kiddies from porn, but who can also edit submitted links/stories) could should be less invisible; folks should not only that someone has the access to edit, but know who it is, even if it's Monster814, so that users can take the issue up with them in the event they feel some censorship was at work. That would be 'transparency' vs. 'invisibility'. But is anyone honestly surprised by this?

Anyone who has ever moderated a forum, or their own blog comments, knows there must be some human involvement here. And if folks don't know by now that humans are biased creatures, with their own points of view, if not out-right agendas, well, that person doesn't understand how communities work, and, fundamentally, how Digg works. I'm not just talking about Internet communities, but real communities of actual lifeforms.

However, it seems to me the real danger or upset here is not that Digg uses editors, nor even that users cannot see/communicate with them, but that Digg doesn't seem to even understand it's own purported purpose.

If Digg is to be a democracy, where The Public of users, or members of the Digg nation if you will, determine the success and failure of Digg's gross national product, why don't the citizens have any control in the elections or evaluations of the public officers who over-see such things? Shouldn't the citizens have the right to know, address, challenge, or at least report on those who are in charge of citizen security (protecting them from public enemies #1 & #2, porn and spam, respectively), and who, due to access, shape public policies (editing for outcomes to suit own beliefs)? Where's the public accountability in the democracy that is Digg?

Some of you will likely counter with facts declaring that Digg is not a nation, but a business; &/or pick at some flaw in my (very brief & greatly simplified) civics comparison. But spare us all; the former because Digg compares itself to a great democracy, the latter because I've not been hired as your Civics 101 instructor.

What matters here is that in Digg's growth the mission has been somewhat lost, and as such it stands on shaky gound. It's not that it cannot adjust; it certainly could...

But while they are busy defending their need for invisible editors, the public sees shadowy figures in the dark. That's a PR problem. Domestic and foreign. When your GNP is based on user created content, you'd better be taking the matter of public perception to heart; those villagers with pitchfolks matter.

Meanwhile, as Digg founders are busy rationalizing, others are ready to exploit. If secret editors were intended to keep the country safe, the borders are now in danger.


I found this story at Scott's blog, along with the above image, and that's what I'll leave you with today.

You may now sort our your feelings, & write a response.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Since We've All Been Discussing Sex Coming Out Of The Closet...

Friend & PSO, Secondhand Rose, has just had her interview published in Radical Vixen's "Sex Worker Solidarity" series. (At the bottom of each post, you'll find links to the other parts which have been published so far.)

I encourage any of you who identify as a sex worker to join the conversation. (It can only help with our 'authority' problem.)

Also, this reminds me of another excellent resource, Sex In The Public Square.

Remember, though, if you do not wish to make activism part of your business mission, consider that when selecting your user name and profile information and when leaving comments at Radical Vixen's blog.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

A Different Kind Of Authority For Sex Bloggers

Dear friend, Amanda Brooks, has an excellent post at Bound, Not Gagged (NWS). In it she discusses a certain big blogging kahuna...

A couple months ago a very popular “self-improvement” blogger wrote a post that mentioned prostitutes in Vegas. Although he knows it’s illegal in Vegas, he was under the impression (like most people) that the laws weren’t enforced much. He toyed with the idea of interviewing a prostitute and posting the interview on his blog. He was sure it would get a lot of Digg hits. And that’s the important thing.

I’m sure he wouldn’t have offered to pay for her time (What? Pay for anything with a sex worker? Doesn’t that incriminate you?), but would happily pick her brain for as long as it took him to run through his questions (most of which she’s probably tired of answering), just so he could get a lot of Digg hits and bring lots of traffic to his blog. Hopefully some of that traffic would click on his AdSense ads and affiliate links and bring him some money. That’s the really important thing.

...I don’t think we get on Digg much, if at all. I don’t know how many blogs (beyond sex blogs) link in. Or how many non-sex sites link in. I don’t live and die by Digg or Stumbleupon (because I’d already be dead); I feel there is a huge knowledge/awareness gap because we haven’t achieved the Web saturation and “authority” that a single navel-gazing blogger has.

Most adult blogs do not fare well on Digg, and the other social bookmarking tools. While some are clearly focused on technology or other subjects which are not predisposed to our topics, others just feel the need for social safety and apply a censorship condom. There are those which do not, but excluding us is more often by design than not.

But back to Amanda's story...
I e-mailed him privately and he was surprised to learn there are sex work blogs out there. He wasn’t personally aware of any and he attributed that to the lack of blog marketing skills of sex workers. That may be true, or it may be that he has never curiously searched Blogger or WordPress for call girl, escort, courtesan or sex worker. But still, the Internet masses have granted him “authority” on any topic and sex workers apparently lack it – even if blogging about sex work.
Wow. "The lack of blog marketing skills of sex worker"; that would hurt if it weren't so ludicrous.

The point is that this big kahuna is big in his own pond and forgets there are other ponds. I don't mind admitting I don't have the slightest clue who this guy is, and in fact, it illustrates my point. I don't ponder or search for "self-improvement", so I don't know him; he doesn't search for "sex workers", so he doesn't know us. Clearly he mistakes his too-lazy-to-search curiosity for an absence of information, sources or authorities on the subject. In short, he thinks his own micro-universe is The Universe.

But of course it's not.

I exist, Amanda exists, and there many more of us ~ some could argue too many of us. *wink*

Within our community, there are many big kahunas. Each with PageRank, Technorati "authority" and interviews to prove it. But this is not the type of authority Amanda is getting at.
I don’t know if a mass community considers BnG to be an “authority” or a “voice.” Where were the mainstream op-ed pieces from sex workers? (Not to imply that BnG is the only Internet outlet for sex workers, simply that it’s The Huffington Post for sex worker activists.)

Nor do I worship mainstream media. But to change minds, we need access to mainstream media. We need them to listen to us and allow various voices to be heard. What credentials are we lacking to be considered authorities on our own experiences? Once we target our media deficiencies, how can they be overcome?

I don’t have any answers. I’m only beginning to work through the questions. But I think it’s a vital issue because positive change will not happen for sex workers until mainstream America hears us.

Comments on Bound, Not Gagged (NWS) aside (I have no ill feelings for it as I'm obviously reading it; but I don't want to discuss how big it is in terms of ponds or micro universes), I feel the anguish in Amanda's questioning.

It's akin to the matter of your mission. At least part of it is.

Another part, or line of questioning, is about the situation all adult marketers face: We just aren't accepted &/or recognized by mainstream society.

We can't get press releases distributed, our ad purchasing power is limited, and we are thwarted on the Internet too (directory listings, social networks, link swaps, blog awards, etc.) because the censorship condom exists. We can't reach the masses to show we're OK unless they let us in; and they won't let us in because they fear us. I've been at this for a decade now, and believe me I know this chicken v. egg problem. (If only that censorship condom didn't exist ~ then we could fertilize that egg!)

But meanwhile, as we sex workers, sex bloggers, and adult business folks swim in our ponds or spin in our micro universes & connect with others, we continue to build authority.

And it's my hope that eventually our numbers, our issues, will force water to flow towards us, into their ponds, or orbits to be shared ~ whatever it takes for conversations to take place.

Meanwhile, we'll keep on keepin' on.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Oogle vs. Google

I don't think Google is horrible, but I do chafe over it's increasingly anti-adult stance. No AdSense for adult bloggers or advertisers seems silly for a tech giant which surely could arrange an algorithm to screen & match smutty product with smutty publisher. And now, as part of this 'kinder, gentler' Google, they've even blocked lingerie ads as being too racy. :sigh:

You sighing too? I thought so. Then y'all might enjoy this bit: Before Larry and Sergey named Google after a typo, Larry Page called his Stanford project BackRub.

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The Modern Social Networking Version Of "It's All About Me"



Behold David Armano's brilliance:

When we think about social networks—we tend to focus on the connecting nodes. The links that bind us and what makes a network, a network. But the less frequently told story is the one where we spend countless hours building and maintaining our own little "social solar systems". In these "social systems" we have multiple planetary ecosystems revolving around us.

We are the center of our own micro-universe.

The trick is to get others to agree that your micro-universe is cool enough to visit & connect with, which is pretty hard to do when everyone is the center of their own, however micro, universe.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Changing Signs Of The Times Charm & Disarm



I didn't just post this because we had such a giggle spotting it on the road that we turned the car around to snap the pic, but rather to illustrate that there is something very charming and in fact disarming when we see the people in business.

I've noticed this in my business too. When sites are too corporate, too serious ~laced-up & polished to the point that personality and humanity are absent ~ the interest wanes. I do believe that in the age of the Internet, with its user driven content and blogging, that credibility suffers too.

The formality that once translated to 'good business sense' and trust has shifted to a transparency that not only lets consumers see inside, but like Michael Keaton in Gung Ho, lets consumers know it's fun too. We want to have some sense that the culture is less rigid and more able to deal with and reflect our own cultural 'Casual Friday' changes.

A sign like this reminds us that there are folks employed there, just doing their job, and maybe even having some fun while they do it too. And that means more to folks driving down the street than some ad in the Yellow Pages, or even a slick skyscraper ad at the big boy websites. And what do they see or sense when they do arrive there?

What sort of things can you do to charm and disarm, to let folks know that there are real people working to create/sell/deliver your product &/or services?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

All Things Equal? I Wonder...

The Internet has been touted as being the great equalizer; allowing the average man and small businesses to more readily (cheaply) access others. It was said that these smaller voices could carry as much weight as the big guys because the Internet (being 'virtually free') had leveled the playing ground.

But in the past few years, we've seen many sites gobbled up buy by the large corporations which would be their true competition in the first place, and buy by big media outlets which are already in bed with the corporate competition.

I ask you, how level is it now?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Adult Industry Quote Of The Day

"Porn, that most graphic of genres, is nevertheless responsible for the wholesale obfuscation of several terms, especially what it means to be a MILF in this country. Let's say one is an expectant father and wants to know what sex will be like after the post-partum depression wears off. He buys a MILF movie from online porn merchant Gamelink only to discover that the "MILF" is not a mom at all -- she's merely 29."

~ Gram Ponante ~ (NWS)

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Relationships With Bloggers

Brian Solis' Blogworld Expo: Building Relationships with Bloggers is excellent.

However, I do take issue with this point:
You don't have the "right" to pitch bloggers, so really think about it before you approach anyone.
As noted later in his post, "The pitch is dead," so I'm going to address this from the point of view of the right to start conversations.

I do think you have the right to start conversations with bloggers ~ with anyone ~ just as in the real world you have the right to start a conversation with anyone. But starting that conversation from a defensive stance, one of justification, &/or with the cocky notion that people will or must give a crap isn't going to work. Unless, of course, your goal is to alienate. But you can start Internet conversations, using the same common sense you would walking about on earth.

Link found via Spin Thicket.

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Beware Branding Marks

The New Deal: Band as Brand:
Though [Paramore's] success is in large part due to smart pop songwriting and a fashion-forward frontwoman, music executives and talent managers also cite Paramore as a promising example of a rising new model for developing talent, one in which artists share not just revenue from their album sales but concert, merchandise and other earnings with their label in exchange for more comprehensive career support.

If the concept takes hold, it will alter not only the way music companies make money but the way new talent is groomed, and perhaps even the kind of acts that are offered contracts in the first place.

Commonly known as “multiple rights” or “360” deals, the new pacts emerged in an early iteration with the deal that Robbie Williams, the British pop singer signed with EMI in 2002. They are now used by all the major record labels and even a few independents.
While I post this as a bit of marketing news, I also can't help but wonder what this really means for the word 'artist'. Music is an industry, a business, and certainly celeb status helps push product (both their own product, music, and the products of others), I wonder what this means for those of us who want music. Real music, not 'a brand'.

It wasn't that long ago that 'world music' had appeal for some of these very reasons ~ we wanted music for music's sake, not some commercialized glut.

Admittedly, the panache of posh persons has always been a regular in the marketing and making of damn near anything and everything; but this open move towards acts signing these 360 deals seems to be counter-productive to the current age of transparency... Now we the consumers know what companies, acts and performers are the least artistic. For it's not about the music, getting it out there, but some sort of success measuring stick which must include marketability beyond the main product. In other words, bands are not to be signed unless they are great cash-cows ~ selling more than CDs to music lovers, but shoes, shampoo and heaven knows what else.

In the case of established artists, like Madonna, this is not so shocking. But what of the new artists? Who won't be signed because they either have no track record of being able to push other (non-musical) products at us or are viewed as not being able to reach such commercial status. Shouldn't recording artists be judged solely for their ability to sell records?

In an age of cynical consumers, such transparency could bite the hand that pretends to feed. I know when I see its be-jeweled fingers pushing, I'll certainly be suspicious.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WAHM Adult Marketing

Back when I started on the Internet pitching adult work to WAHMs and/or other stay-at-home-mom sites was verboten. Now it seems de riguer.

How to Become a Sex Industry Professional Whether You're a Woman or a Man: A New Option for Today's WAHM

Get extra income
from your Mobile Phone, 24/7!


Even the moms themselves are more accepting ~ and this is from 2004. Note the few 'Christians' who place judgment even while saying that's for God. :snort: Their minds will never change, but it's nice to see so many accepting the validity of the choice to enter into the field, be it PSO work or home lingerie party plans.

Here's another forum with leads (though you'll have to get the domain names from the email addresses listed ~ I don't know why they just didn't link to them).

What this means is that the place for marketing has widened some. I don't recommend blasting your name/product all over such communities, but a graceful toe in the door can be accepted. And that's just a step away from getting inside ~ and heaven knows what wonders you can work there.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perspective

You know, it's good now and then to exercise my other identity, the one who is 'mainstream' and can be seen. Some days I think this other side of me doesn't get out enough.

This other me I call Mainstream Me. She is not, as some would say, the 'real me' just because she is easier for others to accept. On the contrary, I find her to be less than the Real Me. Real Me is what (too) many call Adult Me. Adult Me is Real Me because Adult Me accepts Mainstream Me.

I'm integrated, evolved; understanding and accepting that I am a sexual being and that the world at large is comprised of other sexual beings.

Would that the whole world was this way... But I digress.

When I walk about as Mainstream Me I see things from a different perspective. Or maybe it is that being seen from another perspective I react differently. Certainly I am treated differently.

In college we had this Into to Communications prof who made us each sit in a different spot each class. His excuse was that even a small change in visual perception changed our own perceptions greatly. And since part of our shifting seating included who we were sitting near, it also affected our behaviors. No longer were we in our comfort zones ~ not necessarily put into discomfort zones, but we had to shift.

Today was such a day.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Race: It's Not Just Something You Win

My post on Minority and Media Marketing made The 16th Erase Racism Carnival.

Should you be looking for more, check out this post on race and marketing at BlogHer too.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Tips From The DC Madam

I can't believe I forgot to post Radical Vixen's Interview With Deborah Jeane Palfrey, AKA The DC Madam!

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Minority Media & Marketing

Found in an unlikely spot (Silent Porn Star's post on risque Nipsey Russell recordings), I found this great bit on media and minorities:
The cover states it was the Negro National Network, but it was (should you care to continue searching) in reality the National Negro Network, started in 1953 by Leonard Evans. W. Leonard Evans, Jr. died in June of this year (2007); he left a wonderful legacy of African-American media. Here's a wonderful 1963 interview with Evans titled "Why Do We Need a Negro Sunday Supplement?" Should that site remove the recording, or you'd prefer to download it for listening to later (it is quite long), I've uploaded a copy here.
While hearing the word 'negro' sure is shocking, the 58 minute interview is worth downloading and listening to. Have we come a long way? How many of the questions and issues raised by Evans are worth asking today?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shoe Fetish?

Naughty Surrealism Used to Sell Shoes - Fashion Mag Gets Controversial (GALLERY)

(TrendHunter.com) V Magazine used a controversial fashion editorial to showcase this season's must-have shoes. Combining images of the female form and stylist Brian Mollov's foot-wear picks for the fall, the magazine spread is tastefully done, yet is still facing a lot of scrutiny by more conservative types.

The ph… [More]

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Burning When Twitter Pees

Them: Gracie, where you been? And why don't you twitter?

Me: Working. And twitter wouldn't count ~ it rhymes with fritter. :P

Them: But they all say twitter is "It." Not only are the big names are using it, but it's the best way to contact them.

Me: I thought "it" belonged to eBay?

Them: lol But... Twitter is HUGE.

Me: In my business, using twitter is just asking for trouble. The minute we use it we're the burning when they pee, the symptoms of STDs. No one wants porn at their party. At least that's what they say. But ask the working girls why they attend conventions ~ any convention ~ and the truth is seen. Twitter's just too public for folks who want sex to remain private, or folks who want to remove sex from the world. "All hail the petri dish."

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Today's Word: Evolve

I love the Evolve campaign by Trojan. Love, love, LOVE it.

In the commerical, male pigs hit on women, striking out until one decides to be prepared for safe sex, getting a Trojan, and then becomes human.



I love it because it's relateable. I love it because, as a woman, it's grand to see the message that women aren't assumed to be the party responsible for safe sex &/or birth control. (It's so annoying to live in a world where men are allowed to be sexually aggressive but leave the consequences to the women.) The Evolve ad depicts men who aren't prepared for safe sex to as pigs and juxtaposes that image with condoms, the responsible behavior.

All this means I love it as a marketer.

Interestingly, Trojan, isn't spoken and even the logo appears only briefly on the bathroom's vending machine and at the end. Jim Daniels, vp of marketing, said the company was focusing less on growing market share than growing the market. I think the commerical serves the intent and the brand well, very well, indeed.

However, both CBS and FOX rejected Evolve ads by Trojan. In its rejection CBS wrote, "while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative, we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions."

"It's so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious," said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. "I mean, let's get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure."

Amen.

This points to the current problem those of us in adult marketing face every day.

"We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can't use sex to sell condoms," said Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for Ansell Healthcare, which makes LifeStyles condoms. "When you're marketing condoms, something even remotely suggestive gets an overly analytical eye when it's going before networks' review boards."

Why is it unacceptable to be so damn honest? Honest about your product; honest about human needs. It's stupefying. Why doesn't business evolve and get their heads out of their behinds?

It's like we're the women and the folks who make decisions like CBS and FOX are the pigs.


The good news is that the commercial will run on ABC, NBC and nine cable networks, and print ads will appear in 11 magazines as well as on on seven Web sites. (Feel free to write emails and letters of support to these folks, letting them know you approve!) All will highlight a Web site, trojanevolve.com.

Daniels also said that the company was spending more on the Evolve campaign than any previous campaign, though declined to say how much.

(Hey Daniels, I'll run your ads! And I can get you a free list of more who will do the same. *wink*)

Source, New York Times.

Trojan is owned by Church & Dwight Co., Inc.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Definitive Piece On Censorship

Yes, I'm still on my WKRP kick ~ but with such excellence, why not be?

This clip is from the "Clean Up Radio Everywhere" episode, in which the gang discusses media censorship when they face pressure of a "moral" group.

Everything is still true. :sigh:



Funny and sad, but Les sums things up the way many folks (I think) still likely feel:
In a situation like this, I always ask myself, what would my hero Edward R. Murrow think? And I think that Ed would think that this was censorship. Then I think about what my other hero, General George Patton, would think, and I think George would think that radio and television ought to be cleaned up, and if he were alive today, he'd take two armoured cavalry divisions into Hollywood and knock all those liberal pinheads into the Pacific! So as you can see, I'm a very confused man. And when I get confused, I watch TV. Television is never confusing. It's all so simple somehow.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

True OR False: Ads Don't Work On The Internet

Continuing my thoughts on marketing in a digital world...

To understand the situation, one needs to begin with a look backwards at the brief evolution of the Net in terms of Internet marketing.

Remember when banner ads were all the rage? Touted at the way to promote and advertise, they were compared to billboards, ads and other branding methods. At first, the click-thru rates were high, and investments in the standard 60 x 468 were considered de riguer for any decent webmaster.

When those lost their punch, one needed flashing and/or animated gifs. 'Movement' was deemed the best way to engage surfers. When those links pages became a swirling sea of flashing and animated banners, we quickly moved to skyscraper ads and ads placed within content rather than relegated to links pages. Their very size and prominence indicated power and deep pockets, their performance numbers were high ~ but quickly, surfers lost their interest in these too.

We were then told to forget about banners and branding and directed to buy keywords and start affiliate programs. Without really saying so, at least not directly admitting 'why' this was so, we were told banners didn't work. Pay per click and pay for performance models were better than spots based on time limits or impressions.

Next it was SEO. Text links (or 'hard links'), we were told, were far better because this was more powerful in feeding search engines. We were also told that surfers wanted or at least reacted to text links.

Along the way we've been told and coached that low click-thru rates are the norm. To make the most of the numbers game, to make that low percent a high number of clicks, we now are told to covet social networking linkage. No matter what the context, get linked there ~ it's where the cool kids are! So what if the rate is low, the percent of clicks nominal and conversions an even smaller percentage, we should settle for them because that's just the way it is.

But that's not 'just the way it is.' Or at least few are examining why it is that way.

When you look at the past, patters emerge. All these web promotions began with great results and then were dumped in favor of the next new thing. This isn't so surprising. Early adopters have better (the best) success rates. Innovators usually do. But their are other assumptions being made here which should be looked at.

The belief that once the numbers are low, the whole thing should be scrapped is a bit foolish. It's like throwing the baby out with the bath water, for Pete's sake. I'm not saying we should settle for low numbers and poor performances, but while we need to keep our companies and marketing campaigns out of the red, we cannot view things as simplistically as black or white. There are shades of grey (such as branding) and perhaps more importantly, one should look at why these campaigns failed.

There are many possible reasons for this: poorly created ads, poorly targeted ads, poor products/companies, companies with such large PR problems that ads are rendered useless, companies with such big profiles (saturation points) that ads are not relevant (at least in terms of triggering a click response), are just a few.

A popular assumption is that Internet advertising has failed (or has very low performance numbers) because Internet users bore easily and tire quickly of the ads. There's some merit to this, but I don't just think it's short attention spans.

Another popular assumption is that no one has either found the right way to implement ads (from a mechanism or technological point of view) or discovered a way to appeal to Internet users, as if we are some different species of human. To some extent Internet users are different than non-Internet users. But only in the same ways that TV viewers differ from radio folks, book readers differ from movie goers ~ as a target market. (And as you know, many target markets overlap ~ the key is in knowing the essentials of your business.) We are not a whole other species.

The bottom line is that most of us, Internet users or not, are tired and unresponsive to ads in general.

With cultural shifts towards skepticism and unethical business practices only adding to this mindset, this new medium and the citizens which virtually live in it aren't going to fall for the same old tricks. It's not just the novelty of 'new' which they/we tire of, it's the whole advertising system.

People today are bombarded by ads; and we are, by and large, OK with that. Call us practical, call us jaded, we understand the economics of companies selling things. We don't mind it. We don't mind it so much we tune it out most of the time.

The few things we do remember about ads is how they talk down to us, how they think we are incapable of thinking and researching for ourselves, and perhaps most of all, how companies, despite having copious amounts of information about us, do not know us at all.

We aren't so much offended by advertising as we are by how companies talk to us and about us.

Where the proverbial shit hits the fan with regards to the Internet is not that we are a new species, but that we are more vocal. This comes from a combination of factors. One, our youth, which generally brings with it more of an outspoken nature. Two, the fact that (duh) this new medium doesn't just 'allow' for interaction but is built upon it. So Internet users will speak out and loudly about idiot campaigns ~ and the companies which use them.

This is good news.

A smart marketer will spend time listening to what people are saying, especially to those groups they feel best represent their customers and potential customers, and put that information into use.

Does that mean ads don't work? No... Not entirely.

The real changes here are the new medium which presents new challenges in presentation and monetization, and the cultural shift to skepticism which is admittedly both affected by the Internet ~ as well as using the Internet to further drive and voice the shift. The good news is that we can not only use the Internet to see what works, what doesn't, and what's going on in our target market, but that we can find this all out rather quickly. If we are willing to listen and collect information, examine what we see and hear, and put it into use.

Subscribe to The Marketing Whore Newsletter and you'll get my ideas on ads and marketing campaigns that do work.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ethics, Advice and Fencing

In the LA Times Karen E. Klein addresses the question of starting a new retail business.

Specifically the question is, "I'm working on a business plan for a lingerie store but feel overwhelmed about where to get information on economic trends. Can you please help?" But no matter the venture or location, the advice is still rather sound. Use the contact information in articles and advertisements to further your research, talk to suppliers but remember they are trying to sell you something, so take what they have to say with the old grain of salt, and attend trade shows:
Attending a trade show will give you enormous insight into your new industry, how it operates, who the big players are and where the niche opportunities exist. Finally, visit some companies that cater to the same market you will but don't sell products that will directly compete with your store. "Most small-business owners are more than willing to speak about trends in their own business -- as long as they are sure that you are not a competitor," Keane said.

Take willing entrepreneurs to lunch and ask about sales trends, locations, what to focus on (quality, price, service) and what problems they encountered early on. "Speak to as many people as you can and see what resonates with your own ideas for the business. Most of all, remain open to learning new insights," Keane said.
Anyone who has ever gone this route, either attending trade shows or otherwise trying to interview other business folks regarding their business, knows this isn't as easy as pie.

On one hand, you've got the sunshine blowers who want to make you happy by warming your bum as they blow their sunshine up your skirt. On the other, those who are so tight lipped you wonder why they ever agreed to talk with you. There are also those middle-of-the-roaders who tell you generic stuff, sitting on the fence as far as giving you the truth of where things (like sales volume) lie.

With any of these folks, the interview is more like a fencing match where your direct question is a thrust and they parry.

Oh, and don't forget the flat-out refusals. Some folks won't even bother to talk with you at all.

Why the fencing? Why the refusals? Because people zealously guard their shit.

Everyone is in competition with everyone. (Or after the interview they will be.)

It seems that the only folks will to be interviewed (or happy to have their brains picked) are those who feel they are helping a student with a school report. Then it's all blither-blather ~ at least until the savvy student asks a question which seems too intelligent. (You know, a question which contradicts something they've said, or one that requires an answer with real information. Oooh, that's scary and upsetting for the interviewee.)

You could ask all the questions in a submissive round-about way, creating the illusion that you are dumber than a box of rocks. Of course, this means you'll have to hope they think you're such an idiot that they let some info slip ~ but not a large enough idiot for them to become annoyed and cut the interview off ~ and that they aren't just messing with you for their own entertainment purposes (and noob stories to tell their cohorts later).

It would seem that the only way a person interested in learning the facts might obtain them is to lie and say they are a college student (or high school if you can pass for that). But even then, most of these people present their industry as the best one for students to enter (they are no threat at entry level jobs), which is hardly the information looked for.

I don't think it's ethical to lie about the nature of who you are or your fact-finding mission. But I also don't think it's very ethical to say you'll be interviewed or talk about the industry if you're not really going to dish. With a respectful nod to 'knowledge is power' and the fact that knowledge does have worth and should be compensated accordingly (hence my own fees), I do wonder why people guard their own shit to the point of their own detriment.

Yes, to their own detriment.

People, "Experts," lose credibility when they don't follow through, especially in the guise of mentoring. Professions suffer when ignorant people join their ranks. Businesses falter when folks plans and dreams are fostered on false facts. Blowing sunshine, shoveling BS, and, yes, even avoiding answering questions only leads to bad decisions. These lead to bad press, bad reputations ~ and entire industries suffer (i.e. one bad lawyer apple ruins the whole barrel).

I am a member of several professions &/or industries which suffer from the idiotic actions of its members &/or public perception. For example, the adult industry, publishing, and marketing (the latter likely holds 1st Place in general mistrust these days).

Not coincidentally, these are some of the industries and professions not exactly prized for their knowledge sharing (you could also insert the buzz-word "transparency" here).

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Talking Heads

Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who must hail from Uranus, says that TV is going to hell and that those darn women-folk are to blame:
"The trouble is the BBC now is run by women and it shows soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn't have had that in the golden days."

I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC - making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching

"I would like to see two independent wavelengths - one controlled by women, and one for us, controlled by men."
The ass-tronomer said female newsreaders (talking heads) are "jokey" and called for ~ get this ~ separate channels for the sexes.

Spike and Lifetime may agree, but then they exist in a marketplace as options and I don't think anyone believes that menfolk sit in their parlors with brandy snifters and cigars watching Spike while the womenfolk wash dishes in the kitchen and cry into their dishtowels as they watch Lifetime ~ and then they turn off their television sets to each crawl into their individual twin bed, occasionally pushing them together to procreate (but always with one foot on the floor at all times). Sheesh.

I think this guy's insane. Not just British, but insane. "Sir" Patrick Moore was the giant head on GamesMaster, which either way serves to A) discredit him as a man of media taste or 2) proves that he has a rather large head ~ in which case I still feel vindicated.

Maybe I should just give Max Headroom a call and see what his thoughts are...

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peek-A-Boo Transparency

When it comes to visibility on the Internet, there's a delicate balance to maintain.

Transparency is desirable, but as any woman can tell you, you certainly have to protect yourself.

Des Walsh writes discusses anonymity from a practical sense, but so does Jennifer Woodard Maderazo at PBS.

The dilemma is between being known and credible, and being 'found' and frightened.

Obviously I'm a huge advocate of pen names. I have a history which makes them second nature and deal in a subject matter which makes one mandatory. So I began my life here on the Internet with a working name ~ a professional name I work under. (Gracie Passette, not just The Whore; I find the latter fun.) And I advocate pen names for anyone, in any profession. I don't believe that pen names make you less credible.

(I often think it would be great if you could literally make a name for yourself in your 9-5 cubicle, and say work as "John Peterson" rather than use your birth name. It makes it so easy to un-plug at the end of your work day when you stop being "John" and start being David aka The Real You.)

But if this doesn't sit right with you, or if you've already begun your career with your real name, for heaven's sake be careful about it. Consider what you share, how you share it, and with whom you share it. Tell the truth, but cloak what you can.

It's like dressing to tease, but still allowing for some modesty.

(In truth, many bloggers etc. use their real names not for their current level of credibility, but for the vanity of it).

You aren't faking anything, just being discrete for safety reasons. And anyone who thinks you have something to hide, some hideous skeleton in your closet or facet of your life you are trying to hide, is well... Partly right. Maybe not about the skeleton. But you are trying to hide some part of yourself so that you can be safe and live your life. (As can your family and friends.)

Not using your real or birth name isn't any different than electing not to put up photos of yourself. But then again by the same token, don't use a name which belongs to someone else or describe yourself (character, integrity, knowledge etc.) other than what you are. That's like using a photo of a model; that's misrepresentation, lying.

Sure, when you become famous you won't be easily getting that table at (insert whatever hot spot for dining you'd like), but then you won't have someone following you to your home either. Or at least you've made it more difficult for them to do so.

Being accessible is a huge part of credibility; but that doesn't mean you must allow anyone, everyone, into your home.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marketing In Communities: To Join or Not To Join

I dislike the term "Web 2.0" because it's a really cold term covering what technology does rather than what people want. For example, people don't want "Web 2.0" they want conversations; they do not want "social networking" as a industry folks call it, but a means to connect to people. (If escorting taught me anything, it's that the human desire for connection is very strong.)

So if you've been following my rants, my blither and my blather, by now we should be clear on what I think Web 2.0 is ~ better tools for communities. And communities are nothing new, nor new to the web; and the tools aren't revolutionary, just a bit evolutionary.

Don't get me wrong; I agree that communities are powerful and those dubbed social networks are a very important part of individual lives. In fact, this is my point! Communities are made of members who are there for their own reasons ~ which probably don't include being sold a bunch of stuff.

If you want to reach these community members you're going to have to join them in their communities.

You don't really make friends by adding one to your profile, and you don't make sales simply by having an account or profile. You're really going to have to join the community and become a participating member.

Like joining the church, you're going to have to play by their rules, go to all their functions, pay your dues and yes, actually convert. In fact, while in some faiths you may confess your sins and be forgiven, there's really no equivalent in social networking. Sure, you can make another account, take on another ID, but when all is said and done your previous damage is real (leaving you with one hell of a PR problem) and anything that remotely smells of your old self and your company/product is likely to have a very difficult time of it.

If you're going to join, you'll need to play all their reindeer games. This means you're going to have to read what other members post, participate in conversations that (at least sales wise) will seem to go nowhere, and in general know and care about who is there and what's going on there. I don't mean to sound like a jaded cynical bitch; but joining a community online isn't any different than joining one offline. Heaven help you if you join and are discovered to be a shill.

Sincerity, interest and integrity cannot be faked, so the only real way to survive this all is to join communities you'll enjoy participating in. This is easy if you really like your market and your product.

The double-bind comes in when you evaluate your potential communities in terms of your target market.

Spending your time in places you like, with people you like is fun; but if your goal is to market (yourself, your product or company) then you'd better be spending all those hours in places which matter. (And fun or not, this is going to be a huge investment of your time.)

To identify if a community is good for you, I always recommend lurking first. And not just one day. And even if it means registering to do so. Lurking lets you learn the unspoken rules and get a feel for the place. Better to lurk and leave than really step in it.

While lurking you are looking to see if:

The community seems worthy of your time. Is your target market really there?

As mentioned before, the hot spots for erotica authors aren't always where the (potential) book buyers are. In fact, one of the largest mistakes I see in marketing via communities are when folks gravitate towards groups which are very interesting, but do not contain their target market.

One of the best examples of these are entrepreneurial sites.

These and WHAM (Work At Home Moms) groups can be some of the most active communities, but think about it... Here's a group of people all trying to 'make it big,' trying to sell to one another. Most of the time, each member has less money than the next. Aside from the "I'll buy from you, you buy from me," at holiday time, what chance of sales do you have? Unless you're selling B2B, are offering a legit business opportunity, or want link swaps, I wouldn't bother. (Not to mention anyone with 'adult' products is likely not going to get a warm welcome.) Even adult webmaster boards fall into this category. (Sure, go, and learn; but be careful how much time you spend there and don't bother whoring yourself to the other whores.)

Think you see your target market there? Really? If so, you should be able to identify specific members who are part of your target market.

If you can't, then you need to do more research.

If you can, then you've likely identified influencers ~ those community members who are not only part of your target audience, but those who have the most authority and influence over others too.

The community (or your target market population within it) is large enough to warrant your time. Do the active member numbers support your investment in time?

The community is interesting enough, possibly enjoyable even, for you to honestly join and participate. In all the posts you're reading, have you found any which you would be willing/able to comment on?

I do not mean one or two, but several ~ and for heaven's sake, don't post until you're evaluation period is over ~ one-post-wonders are considered spammers.

The participation level is within your time constraints. How much time would being an active member require? And do you have it?

Slower or quieter communities may not be a bad thing. Depending upon your available time, it may be the only way you can really be an active member, or it may mean you can sneak one more community into your schedule.

If all your lurking research is favorable, then proceed slowly and according to the group rules (as stated and as witnessed).

If any answer is, "No," that doesn't mean your time is wasted. For one, you've saved yourself some future time on participating in a community which is not for you. And you've also likely spared yourself a PR problem. But you've also learned a few things ~ maybe even who the influencers are? If you have, perhaps you're best off contacting them to see if they'll post a review for you?

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How Blogs (Don't) Work; Or, The Great Blog Shake-Out

I do agree that shake-out is here and it's only going to continue. Not due to any blogging bubble being burst, but for the very reason blogging is popular: people want connection points (not drivel).

There are many blogs, with more being started every day. The reason that many fail is that many blogs do not offer conversations. A blog ~ a real blog or at least the kind of blogs I am referring to when I write here ~ is a place to publish ideas and to discuss those ideas.

It's the power of people to connect and discuss. Unlike passive or cold forms of communication, blogging is participatory. Receivers of communication are not just receivers but have the ability to become instant senders of messages of their own. I don't think this desire to connect is going to diminish anytime ~ the means by which we do it may, but the desire remains.

The shake-out I refer to is the process by which blogs survive. With so many choices, which blogs will people continue to read and (this is the really important part) carry out discussions in?

Here are some blogging 'styles' which do not foster conversations:

A) A business blog which just states press release info in a more casual tone without official formatting is not a blog ~ it's a listing of pitches from most recent to last. Ditto with authors, film makers etc. who announce their latest releases.

B) Having a blog which points to the latest news isn't necessarily a conversation. Your selection of news on a topic may be a service, for which you may have many readers, but it's not a conversation. In order to have a conversation you need to put more than the idea out there as a link or a sentence or two. You need to discuss it, not just present it. (Or consider yourself offering a service, not a conversation, and look at your stats and marketing accordingly.)

C) Having a blog which consists of pointing out all the ad campaigns which do not work or otherwise mocking others may be entertaining, but it's not a conversation.

D) Have a blog which is all photos and no talk is not a conversation. If it's porn, it's a masturbation session; if art, it's a gallery exhibition; but neither is a conversation.

In the adult industry this last one is the most prevalent problem. There are countless boring blogs which offer nothing that a pay site tour gallery doesn't. These folks just copy & post an image, stick in a link to their own site or an affiliate link, and call it a blog. "Look at naked Betty Sue" is rarely a discussion.

In fact, sex for all its popularity is one of those least likely to get a conversation; I know this from years with Sex-Kitten. It's difficult to get people, even anonymous ones, to talk about something so private. It's much easier to get someone to look at photos or a movie than it is to get a conversation going. Columns, reviews and op-ed pieces on sex tend to be 'just read' rather than discussed. Your traffic (as in visitors and readers) may be huge, but your conversations? Not-so-much.

This is why so many erotica authors I know resort/return to blogging about the business of being an author. When they blog about problems with publishing, publishers and other industry information they are far more likely to get others engaged in the conversation. But in doing so, they lose the interest of readers of erotica, who really aren't interested in this uglier (or more boring) side of books; erotica readers read erotica for arousal and entertainment, not for author bitch sessions. When authors (and others) do this, they've switched target audiences and no longer reach readers (potential buyers).

I know that this higher volume of comments makes you feel as if you're meeting your goal, but you're not. Sometimes you just have to satisfy yourself with your stats (traffic and page views) rather than your comments. (And don't think I'm backtracking on my statement about blogs being conversations ~ I'm not! But we'll get to that later; I don't want to get too far off-track now.)

Those who blog in these styles are likely the ones whining that the blog bubble has burst ~ or that blogging never was big anyway. Or, they soon will be. Because blogs like these will suffer in the shake-out.

At best what these bloggers are really doing is offering a conversation elsewhere ~ like passing a note in school. And like anything else in business, consumers like to cut-out the middle-man. They'll just go directly to the source instead.

As people pick and choose from the ala cart experience which is the blogosphere, there will be shake-out. But that's just the stuff of a competitive market. Even if it's for free, people select what's the best and toss the rest aside.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh

As mentioned, humans are social beings and we love to connect. But as I've said, Web 2.0 (last time, I swear) for all its inflated headlines (and bottom lines) is nothing more than advances on things we already have. Messages are substitutes for email addresses, bulletin notices are group mailings, etc. Oh, just when I thought my rant was over...

I promised you some facts about social networking and I do plan to give them to you ~ but I'm still a bit frustrated over this whole matter of inflated importance and I feel that you all must understand some things before we get into the matters of working within such 'gold mines.'

What is all this stuff?

It's the creation of communities.

Each social networking site operates as a large group forum with smaller user created groups or forums. Even social bookmarking, video & image sharing, are really just connection points for groups to interact by means of posting comments, which is really a forum or message board system created around a subject matter. Forums have user profiles ~ being able to designate specific users as your friends is nifty for those who like to follow the pack or use the buddy system. (On the flip side, for lone wolves all this forced connection is rather annoying.) The bottom line is all this stuff is just another bunch of words for community.

Internet or digital communities are not only not new, they are not foreign concepts. Nor should they be the least bit unfamiliar. We all belong to communities, large and small. Where you work, your coworkers, your regular lunch spots ~ all are communities. Where you live, your church knitting group, your mommy and me group ~ these are all communities. Anytime you have groups of people regularly meeting or associating you have communities. In fact, wherever you have people gathered you have groups (which are not unlike communities except that the rules are more implied than stated rules of conduct). For example, going to the park with the kids on a Saturday is not a even organized or coordinated by all those who go to the park, but all agree to basic rules of behavior.

Why I'm being so damn obnoxious stating the obvious is because if this were really understood, people wouldn't be so damn confused about how to participate in social networking sites. Folks wouldn't be so inappropriate on message boards, booted off lists, or wonder why no one's clicking their posted link at 'such a popular site.'

If people knew the obvious, if they understood that online groups are no different than offline groups (as far as human expectations, tolerance and limits), they wouldn't be confused or make such a mess of things. And they do.

WalMarts are pretty busy places, especially on weekends. But you don't see anyone running in and yelling, "My DVD's are the greatest! You've got to come buy one from me!" Not even targeted attempts, bursting in to reach moms at Mommy and Me meetings or conservative women in their church groups, works this way. So why do online marketers do such things in online communities?

Well, for one, they keep seeing these communities as consumer laden gold mines. But they keep forgetting these fish may all be in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them.

To Be Continued...

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