Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Plan for the Future Online

Over the past eight or so years, I’ve had occasion to write online for others. While one experience proved fruitful, after a fashion, the other experiences have left me cold to the so-called social media revolution.

In a few situations, my writing went directly to an existing or developing Web site, and while I was paid for my effort, credits did not come my way, which was ok with me. In fact, those experiences are not the ones that leave me cold to the potential of social media. It’s the blogs that give me a jaundiced view and, as in one case, providing snippet writing for one of those AOL “information” sites that are akin to fast food: the site editors demand adjectives and nouns as verbs (sugar and salt) to make everything go down pleasurably and to hide the minimal to no information (nutrition) inside; that gig lasted only briefly, and, thankfully, my name was not attached to the entries. I understand that after Arianna Huffington merged her site with AOL, the direction of that particular site was changed.

Blogging-for-hire gigs ran for me the gamut from useless to discouraging.

The first blogging I did for someone else was intended as a favor—until I discovered that the site owner was planning to use the free writing to help move his online career forward without so much as even a promise to take care of the “volunteers” later on.

The second blogging was for a new site that started out with a mission in which I played a role, and was paid for my part. Within just a few months, however, the mission had changed and my blog was moved out with the old mission.

The third blogging went on for almost a year albeit, chasing payment each month made it seem like two years. But over time, I noticed the site’s overall bent had changed and that all the bloggers that had started with me were gone (what would be next?).

When I started to write for a living, many of the present blog owners were still shitting in their diapers. I say this not to boast, certainly not to point out our age differences, but to point out that while so many of these start-up geniuses were being told in school that they are special and that they cannot lose, many of us were in the trenches having to prove our “specialness” and the battles that we lost built scar tissue as well as experience—we were forced to learn something.

In business, whether print or online magazines, ideas are cheap when they are not accompanied by due diligence and a good business plan. The many start-up and crashed-down online sites that I’ve seen over the years plainly illustrate that their owners and originators spent most of their time thinking about the idea without understanding how to implement it.

To bring this particular diatribe of mine to a wine analogy, starting an online business is no different from starting a winery. In either case, the first consideration of the business plan is to identify who will buy your product and why, and if you can’t illuminate others concerning your target market within a few concise paragraphs, you probably have a weak future before you.

Oh, sure, some people blindly stumble into horseshit, as we used to say in Brooklyn, referring to the notion that stepping in the dung would bring good luck. But trusting in the cosmic belief that “I am special, as is my idea” will work for only a small portion of us. The rest of us will go the way of a previous era’s advanced product, the Ford Edsel, or more closely related, television, which four generations ago made promises that it broke about three generations ago. That’s fine, except when our failure causes us to break promises and to treat others like commodities rather than as valuable, talented assets to help move our ideas forward.

To put this blog entry into concise perspective: it’s about time that the many people who presently apply hyperbole to social media grow up and come back with a real plan—and a market for it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2011. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author's permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement--period.

2 comments:

Marcia Macomber said...

All of what you say is completely true, Thomas! I, myself, continue to stumble through the social media-sphere online sometimes wondering, "Where is this going exactly?"

I don't buy anyone making all/most of your sales through Twitter (unless you have no other online vehicle). Time will tell if we're ready to hit the delete button for various venues....

Thomas said...

It's always the same message, Marcia: if you don't know the history, you are likely to repeat it.

Television is the best model that I can think of that relates to the hype of the Internet. In fact, the promises of the Internet almost come to us in the exact verbiage and syntax of the promises of TV in the late 1940s and early 50s.

I can't imagine anyone accepting that TV lived up to those initial promises.

In America, and now globally, everything is about sales and marketing--we are all pawns.