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4 posts from February 2020

Start from accepted values

We actually can't change someone's values by talking with them. We could possibly affect their values by doing things with them. But more immediately we can show them that the values they currently hold are consistent with more options than they realize. 

Stumbling and Mumbling: Conservative arguments for radical ideas, 2020-Jan-03 by Chris Dillow

...we don’t persuade people by telling them that their worldview is wrong and by demanding that they change the ideas of a lifetime. We are more likely to succeed by showing them that their ideas are consistent with things they might not have considered.

Here are some examples of what I mean....

Worker ownership. This sounds like a radical idea. But it’s not – and not just because law and accountancy practices are routinely owned by their workers. One inspiration for it comes from Hayek’s important point, that central planning is impossible because economic knowledge is fragmentary and dispersed. Worker control, more than hierarchy, can mobilize such knowledge. Hayek’s key insight – “you don’t know what you are doing” – is a challenge to top-down managers.


Email productivity defined

These days our emails are so complex, and our email sending platforms put out a firehose of data. If we could only get one piece of data, what would it be? 

For most of us, it's whether the email we're sending is delivering our target audience to the web site. If 3% of the emails we sent resulted in a link-click. Then we're performing as well as can be expected. 

Email Optimization Shop: From the Boards: CTR or CTOR? 2020-Feb-1 by Jeanne Jennings

CTR gives you a good read on how interested your recipients are in your message. That’s pretty much all your recipients — everyone that you sent the email to minus those that bounced.

Let’s keep the math simple. If you send to 100,000 people, and 1,000 of them bounce, your CTR denominator is 99,000. If 4,000 unique people click on a link in your message, that’s a CTR of 4.0% (4,000/99.000). We know that 4.0% of the people we sent to clicked on our message. Let’s call this pretty good, since the latest Q2 2019 Epsilon Email Trends and Benchmarks Reports put average CTR at 2.9%. 


To be successful, we have to humbly admit what we don't know and can't do alone.

Sputnik ATX: What Entrepreneurs Really Need (and It Isn't Funding), 2019-Nov-19 by Joe Merrill

What you think holds you back:

  1. Startup Funding (from investors)
  2. Bug fix (make it work better)
  3. Design (make it easier to use and pretty)

What actually holds you back:

  1. Launch (get product to market)
  2. Design (make it easy use and pretty)
  3. Pricing (create consumer surplus)

Remember, high growth covers a multitude of sins.

Short on cash? Sell more. Product buggy? Get code fixes to market now.

Alternatively, Failory did a study that patterned start up data to identify why some fail and some succeed. The 4 reasons for failure generally fell into four categories:

Incompetence – lack of planning Inexperience – lack of product know-how Inexperience – lack of managerial skills Personal problems – you’re a hot mess.

The worst thing you can do, is say to yourself, “I believe, therefore I am right.”...

We see many founders who fail to identify that they are in one of these categories. Successful founders know that they are always one or more of these, and fill their gaps by building a diverse team that is united and motivated around common goals and vision. It takes humility to assume you know nothing, and build a team with the skills to succeed. And humility is what you really need.


When it comes to building community, go small or go home

For years I've helped companies send hundreds of newsletters to active customers. However, the newsletter that I'm working on now will serve a community. A much different approach is required. You don't want people to click to order--you want them to engage in a conversation. Person-to-person recognition is required, and if the community will really grow, then we have probably have to staff employees to members at around 150-to-1. The total audience can be larger, but not the active community. 

Local News Lab: Journalism’s Dunbar number: Audience scales, community does not. 2019-Mar-4 by Damon Kiesow

To succeed, local media have to abandon scale and refocus on community. Advertising remains part of the equation, but reader revenue, donations, foundation funding — yard sales if necessary — are all in the mix.

Twenty years ago, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar postulated there was a limit to the stable and close social relationships a human being could maintain. He informally defined it as the number of people you know well enough to join “uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

“Dunbar’s number” is 150 — and he argued it was set by the cognitive capacity of the human brain. Smaller primates with smaller brains have smaller social groups.

Media have a similar limit — it is the number of readers who feel you are part of their community and are willing to invest their time or money with you.

We can work to boost that number, but it takes more than a marketing campaign. It requires actively listening and sincerely engaging with your community — see Trusting News as an example. It takes better understanding your readers, and better serving them — Shifting to Reader Revenue/API. And it takes a retreat from the artifacts of scale that litter your websites, organizational structure and business model.

What does that look like? How about fewer people focused on SEO and building products for Big Tech, and more working to source story ideas from the community — like Hearken. More ability to do targeted local news products such as pop-up newsletters and less time chasing the next “pivot” strategy — see Lenfest for local ideas. And less space on the story page taken up by spammy recommended links and… well, there is no “and” there actually, we just need less of some things.

But individual tactics are not as important as the philosophy: Local readers need to be served at local scale. The internet is infinite, your community is not. Go small or we are all going home.