Category Archives for newspapers

You Did What? Where? How Many Times? Whoa…

Saturday, 1:29pm
Austin, Republic of Texas
We’re the Free Texican Airforce, and we’re flying tonight…” (Peter Rowan)


People constantly ask me for simple tips to write copy that persuades.

And I like to drop lots of easy shortcuts.  However, I often cloak them in riddles or inanity.

People seem to learn better when not lectured to, but rather teased and forced to think.

If you want to write copy that persuades in this day of lightning fast tech, AI and chatbots, this is a handy ‘lil resource you’ll want to get your hands on. Like yesterday. And it’s FREE too. The details here.


But get this:

In the process of reminding folks about the value of journalism when communicating with prospects…

… I sorta accidentally came up with a VERY cool new twist on a traditional rule…

… that just may be the Mother Of All Shortcuts to writing killer ads.

Wanna hear it? Okay, here it is:

The fundamental rule of journalism (which you should have been taught in grade school, had you existed in the parellel universe where the American education system hasn’t been degraded and murdered) is to communicate the “essence” of a story as succinctly as possible…

… so that even skimmers can get the specifics.

You’re excused if you’re young enough to not remember when newspapers and real TV newscasts dominated the info media world.  Pre-Grid, and yes, I understand how difficult that concept is to get your brain around today.

And even if you currently read newspapers (say, online) you may be hearing about this rule for the first time…

… because journalism is now into it’s second generation of pure, unadulterated FAIL and suckiness.  Reporters now consider their opinion and personal experience to trump the need to disseminate actual news.  (But that’s a rant for another time.)

That basic journalism rule for reporting is to make sure you deliver on the “who, what, where, why, when and how” of the story as promptly as possible.

 “Mayor Flytwaddle, speaking to reporters from his office downtown yesterday afternoon, insisted he did not know the dead hooker found in his secret apartment last night, despite the discovery of his handwritten check for $75 in her purse, nor could he explain how she had a key.

Or something like that.

The key is communication of the specifics… MINUS all external bullshit (like the reporter’s opinion, political spin, or personal context).

Just the facts, m’am.  

As Sgt. Friday used to say.

When it’s done right, you come away from reading a story (by a crack reporter) knowing as much as anyone.  And if someone’s hiding something, you know that’s the case, too.

You are informed.  You are hip.  You are The Man.

Most folks, untrained in allocating and delivering basic information, can instantly transform their ability to communicate clearly just by having this checklist tattooed on their forearm, and going down the list as they speak.

So, instead of “Dude!  It was, like, totally awesome!“…

… you get: “So, yesterday afternoon, Jimbo and I were at the park practicing Frisbee golf, when this sheriff’s helicopter landed right next to the statue of General Lee. We overheard a cop say the tail rotor was wobbly, so they needed to do an emergency landing, and nobody was hurt…”

Now, yes, there is some argument to be made that a primal form of “essence” associated with the experience is actually contained in “Dude! It was, like, totally awesome!“.

But “essence” isn’t communication.

As a professional communicator — the raw definition of a good marketer — you can’t rely on dude-speak to persuade anyone to buy your shit.

Thus, this simple journalism tool really can shortcut you into being a better salesman.


I’ve come up with an even more awesome (awesomer?) way to use this checklist.

First, make sure sure you deliver (in your ads) on the “5 W’s + H” basics:

1. Be clear on WHO you are, and who your intended audience is.  You want to identify yourself to strangers, and remind your fans… and you want to be clear on the needs, fears and dreams of your prospect.

2. Have a freakin’ point.  Be able to simply explain WHAT you’ve got that is so special, it requires an ad.

3. If there’s a deadline for acting, say WHEN it is.  (Classic old-school blunder was placing a print ad for a gazillion bucks in a big newspaper, and forgetting to say when an event was being held.)  (Second only to the more common botch-up of printing the wrong phone number.)

4. There is always a “WHERE“, too… whether it’s virtual and online, or in the real world (like at a hotel in the middle of Texas, where even the armadillos won’t leave the shade when it’s 107).  You want to give your reader a sense of “place”.  Our brains are still wired for jungle living, so help folks undertand if travel is required, virtually via the mouse or in the sky via jets.

5. Explain WHY it’s so important to hear your message, and to possess whatever crap you’re pitching.

6. Finally, tell me HOW to get this ball rolling.

So, as your reader, all my questions are answered (to whatever degree of satisfaction I require), and I’m able to release the lock on my greed glands and get busy getting what you got.

But wait…

… I’m adding one more “W”:

7. Take a hint from the tabloids like Weekly World News and the NY Post…

… and add some “WHOA” to your tale.

Meaning — shoehorn a truly startling hook or twist that causes me to say “Whoa!  What up with that?

For an ad to be world-class good, it has to be the best thing your prospect reads or hears today.  It’s got to lay out the basics, yes…

… but more important, it’s got to grab attention, hold it, and deliver on being something that was worth waking up from his zombie-like daze and hauling out his wallet for.

Thus… it’s who, what, why, where, when, how…

… and whoa!

Journalism profs, please take note of this change in the curriculum.

And for cryin’ out loud, get my free report already.

Stay frosty,


P.S. For even more biz-boosting resources, feast your eyes on this bonanza.

The Naughty List For Businesses

Sunday, 11:59pm
Reno, NV


Quickie post here, cuz I’m a walking petri dish of germs. There’s a slug of Nyquil sitting here with my name on it, and I’ll be worthless about three minutes after I slam it.



Here’s the post (while I can still type): One of the grand traditions of year-end journalism is the round-up of “worst” lists.

I love ’em all.

In truth, 2007 had some totally bitchin’ highlights for me and my colleagues. The gloom-and-doom mainstream media would prefer that we all become quivering masses of hysterical anxiety… but after you’ve been around the block as many times as I have, you get some perspective.

Things have been worse. And they’ve been better.

That’s kinds how the world works.

Still… there are all these wonderful lists to enjoy.

So here’s a good one, in case you missed it. Not your standard “celebrity eats own head” kind of material, either.

It’s literally a “worst of biz” 2007 list. By Fortune magazine.

Read, enjoy, discuss:

Stay frosty… and don’t catch what I have…

John Carlton

Next Stop: Panic & Chaos… Or Maybe It’ll Be Fun…

Sunday, 12:04 am

Do you like gruesome, everybody-dies horror stories set in the near future?


Cuz we all may be living through a real one in about… oh, less than two years.

Maybe sooner.

This happy news comes out of a wire service story launched by PC World publications yesterday afternoon.

Consider: A fresh study just released by an organization called the Nemertes Research Group — a self-described “independent analysis firm” — says the sky could very well be falling on our heads very soon now.

The virtual sky, that is. Specifically: The World Wide Web is about to blow its circuits as the new wave of video content overloads capacity.

They’re calling it an “exaflood”, because video really is the main culprit. (An exabyte is 1.1 billion gigabytes, higher than I can count. And apparently we’re flirting with disaster because of the dramatic increase in the size of data being shared, viewed, created, and stolen.)

I can see the final straw now, announced in banner headlines on the last of the real paper newspapers (because Web brown-outs have left everybody with blank screens across the land): “Ten-Millionth Viewing of Dancing Blonde Yeti Being Run Over By Speeding School Bus Video Shuts Down Web!” (Okay, I made that up.) (But you just know that — if a cyber-armeggedon does happen — it will be from some silly, non-essential piece of streaming video that goes apeshit viral.) (Though, I’d watch a dancing Yeti get run over any day…)

The key to avoiding such an ignoble fate: About $137-billion in infrastructure upgrades.

Or approximately what Bill Gates normally carries in his wallet.

And, man, I sincerely hope Bill and his buds (including Jobs, The Other People Who Own Silicon Valley, and the evil Google trolls) do pop for the upgrades, so I can continue my dreamy cyber existence without burps or other inconvenience.

But here’s why I’m just a tad suspicious of this news: First, I’ve been hearing about the imminent collapse of the Web for years now.

And for excellent reasons, too. (Excellent reasons.) The billions-deep parade of new-to-the-Web Chinese logging on every hour (with their cheap communist computers)… the crumbling 30-year-old analog gateways of the original Internet, still supporting the entire slap-dash network like an exhausted Atlas, sagging dangerously under the weight… pissed-off anarchist hackers from Eastern Europe eager to bring the entire world to its knees… and on and on.

Yet, we keep passing up the deadlines for disaster without, um, any disaster.

Second: There’s a very interesting tidbit of info in this new study… which admits that the current fiber and routing resources actually support “virtually any conceivable user demand…”

However, the authors warn, all this new-fangled video, music file-sharing, and other “content” crap we’re flooding the joint with is gonna blow the circuits. Very soon now!

You’ll see!

Not the Chinese hordes logging on. Not the absinthe-swilling nihilist hackers. Not the inherent weaknesses of the system.


It’s all this damned content.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m all for the end of civilization and all that, as long as it’s like a good George Romero movie.

But I kinda resent being jacked around by Servants of The Man whose real agenda for scaring people like this… is their desire to control what we watch, what we read, and what we share.

The one guy quoted in this article is a dude named Bruce Mehlman from something called the Internet Innovation Alliance… who claims to have been warning of this imminent melt-down for ages.

Name sounded familiar… so I did a little digging.


Bruce is not a geek, as we understand technology lovers.

Rather, he’s a wonk-type-geekoid… a political animal who gave in to the Dark Side long, long ago.

In 2001, after trying to tell Cisco how to run its biz, Bruce oozed over to the Bush Administration… where he became assistant secretary for technology policy.

Now, I don’t care what your politics are. I believe that, in order for this nation to survive, we need both set of wingnuts doing their thang, so neither side takes over completely. (It’s a balanced view, in the way that allowing your nutso mother-in-law to move in with you balances out the unbridled fun you used to have as a couple. You can still have fun, but now you gotta be clever about it, like civilized adults.)

Anyway, I have far right friends, far left friends, and every other stripe of political beast represented in my address book of colleagues, buddies and resources. They are all sane in some ways, insane in other ways, and I learned long ago that nothing I say or do will sway them in the least, politically. So we peacefully co-exist.

But here is something I believe with all my heart: You simply cannot let agenda-driven political hacks be in charge of technology.

I’m sorry. You want a non-political group of dudes, ideally. Or at least someone who wasn’t in an administration that actively distrusts the Web. (I’m serious. Tom Delay, the former majority whip for the GOP House, has never let up on his insistence that people who do research on the “Internets” — as W. has famously called the Web many times — have committed some obvious weird blunder.) (Hey — google it, if you don’t believe me.)

Look. Vote how you like. I’m not writing a political blog here.

But seriously. Melman’s ultimate comment — after jumping on this uncertain study as proof of impending disaster — is that we first need to stop taxing Big Telecom. You know, so they can invest in infrastructure instead. (Major GOP talking point.)

I’ll let that point slide. Maybe there’s something to it, maybe not.

It’s the unspoken next point that is the kicker: We also need to immediately stop all this uncivilized file-sharing… or we’ll all die!

Especially video. And music sharing. And other should-be-illegal stuff those darn kids are doing.

I don’t yet know if this news release has gained traction in the “if it bleeds, it leads” mainstream press. I found it on the Washington Post’s website… so at the very least, it’s leaking into Beltway brains this very evening.

The doomsday scenario presented by the study seems to be fragrant with fairly easy, painless solutions… like pumping some money back into the infrastructure. And I kinda doubt that Big Web (I just made that up, to represent all the large corporations finally dragging their asses online in a big way) will sit by while this wonderful new way to reach customers shrivels and flickers because of Youtube enthusiasm. (I mean, Big Web just bought Youtube for a gazillion bucks.)

I’m just warning you.

If the story does gain traction, don’t swallow it whole.

There are people out there who are deeply frightened by the uncensored freedom of the Internets. Many of them are in powerful positions… and the entrepreneurial Wild West environment of the Web gives them ulcers.

They need to be watched carefully… cuz they would dearly love to clip the Web’s wings, so the big corporations could settle into their rightful place online, controlling and dominating everything. Without having to worry about all these “little guys” making waves.

Their dire tales of wolves gathering nearby need to be filtered through your Bullshit Detector. That’s all I’m saying.

Now, I’m gonna go enjoy some viral video…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Did you see this story anywhere else? Was it buried, or is it spreading? Heard references to it on any of the prez debates?

Lemme know what you’ve heard… and what you think.

And if you have inside info on this “collapse of the Web” thing — because you work in a secret dungeon in Silicon Valley or something — let me know THAT, too.


R.I.P. Elvis Sightings and Exploding Preachers

Dateline: Miami, FL — The one-time juggernaut Amercian Media, Inc, announced that they will cease to publish the Weekly World News tabloid in August, after 28 years of faithfully delivering the most delightfully outrageous crap imagineable.

I, for one, will shed a tear and lift a toast.

When I began my career, one of my copywriting-skill-strengthening rituals included frequent jaunts to the local newsstand… where I would pick up a stack of headline-heaven magazines like Cosmo, Reader’s Digest, Playboy… and of course the Weekly World News, the National Enquirer, and any other tabloid rag that threatened to rattle my cage with weird, beautiful, titillating cover copy.

All the top copywriters I knew were devoted to these beastly publications. We never had to read further than the headlines on the front page, either, to get what we wanted — truly wicked phrases and Power Words artfully arranged to amuse, intrigue, delight and enrage.

In other words: Hooks.

Anyone who has heard me lecture knows that I urge everyone with advertising dreams to adopt the same reading rituals. If nothing else, you’ll learn about the power of finding a good angle.

When the tabloids strike a nerve with a killer headline, the publications fly off the shelf.

Boring heads, however, mean slow death from being ignored.

It was — and always will be — a fundamental lesson that even the most cocksure writer needs to keep being reminded of, over and over and over again.

The staff writers at WWN were “money scribes”… meaning, they were deadly serious about goosing the American unconscious with their “Vegan Vampire Attacks Trees”, “Man Bothered By Martian Telemarketers”, “Abe Lincoln Was A Woman” (and killed by a jealous Booth), etc., headlines. Because there was cash on the line.

They knew where the soft spots in people’s defenses were, and they knew how to skewer them.

Fabulous stuff.

For copywriters, there was no better lesson in delivering a verbal sucker punch that will not be ignored.

My favorites: “Boy Eats Own Head”, and “Preacher Explodes On Pulpit”. Super tight writing, almost minimalist haiku that tells a story you just gotta find out about.

I’ve been aiming at the very high bar set by those crazy headlines ever since I wrote my first ad with a real hook.

It’s an insight that can create fortunes: A great hook isn’t always pretty… but if it inflames curiosity and desire, then you’ve done your job.

With a great hook, the rest of your sales pitch is just mop-up duty.

Oh, you really didn’t want to buy that tabloid. It was just too embarrassing to be seen even picking one up. You couldn’t hide it in your cart, and even the most jaded check-out clerk would glance up to see what kind of person you were, buying this crap. (Or, just as often, they’d stop the register cold so they could finish reading the entire front cover. I always knew there was a writing lesson waiting when that happened.)

Standing in line at the grocery, I know you’ve snuck peeks at it, maybe picked an issue up if no one was watching… but buy a copy?

Did anyone actually plunk down cash for the Weekly World News?

Yep. In its glory days, hundreds of thousands of people paid good money for the ol’ WWN every week (and its sister publication the National Enquirer had weekly sales in the millions). Millions more ogled it while in line, or stole friend’s copies.

More than a few famous writers have copies framed on their office walls.

Ah, but all printed publications are having a rough time of it, now that the Web has won the attention-deficit wars.

And so, we bid adieu to probably the best-written trash in publishing history.

We hardly knew ya, kid.

You shall be missed.

I’m sure there will soon be sightings of Elvis reading a classic issue, perhaps while strolling through crop circles in the shape of Bat Boy…

John Carlton

P.S. Small bit of good news — apparently, the WWN will contine to exist in some form online. I hope that’s true… but trips to the grocery store will never be the same…

P.P.S. Got a favorite headline? Leave it in the comments section, will ya?

The Squares Are Coming! The Squares Are Coming!

Every once in a while, I try to take my own advice.

And lately, I’ve become a little jaded about online marketing… and isolated from the rest of the world.

You see, my closest buddies and favorite phone pals are all very hip to the online world… and most are thriving. We’re all old-hands at discussing the latest and greatest Web technological burps and breakthroughs, like SEO, Adwords, affiliate programs, RSS feeds, whatever.

Ancient news, all of it.

After a few months of hanging around this very successful echo chamber, though, I’m no longer fit company for anyone outside the group.

I forget that most people in the world — including most people in America — are absolutely clueless aboutRead more…

Why Clueless Marketers Are Terrified Of The Web

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner… and you’ve been earning a few bucks online using any of the tactics you’ve learned from me (or any of the other veteran marketers online)… then pat yourself on the back.

You’re doing something that many “mainstream” businesses haven’t yet figured out how to pull off.

And… if they continue to ignore the basics of direct selling (which you’re taking for granted as necessary for profits)… they won’t be “mainstream” much longer.

They’ll be extinct.

Bye bye.

Here’s what I’m talking about: The Web has “officially” become the Number One source for advertising for many of the culture’s biggest advertisers — a year earlier than predicted. Gazillions of bucks that used to be channeled through “traditional” media (newspapers, magazines, direct mail, television, radio, etc) have now been measurably diverted online.

For the people who keep track of this sort of info, this news is astonishing and troubling (if not unexpected).

The entire foundation of our capitalistic economy is shifting, and most of the former movers and shakers simply are not prepared for the change.

The obvious signs of upheaval are the disappearance of entire market segments. Like most of the music-selling stores (Tower, Wherehouse, your favorite former local hipster CD haunt).

Less obvious is the way the Web has changed profit margins in markets like new cars — buyers are walking onto lots armed with reams of research on price… and they’re totally hip to ALL the old fall-back upsell tactics. (The last time we bought a new car, we had the salesman literally in tears as every one of his price-raising schemes was shot down… and none of the “invisible” tack-ons made it through the sale. Because of their stubborn reliance on scamster-style price boosts, we figuratively stole that car from them.)

Currently in the news — ironically — is the plight of the daily newspaper.

And there’s a lesson here for all of us. A basic lesson in fundamentals.

Harken: Nearly every newspaper in America now has an online presence. They’re working out the kinks of suddenly having the ability to cover stories in real time (which changes the very nature of reporting and writing stories)… with varying degrees of success.

The local paper here in Reno actually has a great site. Many of the national papers — like the New York Times — could pick up a few good tips from, in fact.

Yet, nearly all newspapers (both locally owned and chain-owned) have the same complaint: They still aren’t able to turn a profit providing an online product.

And, if you have any entrepreneurial chops at all, you gotta be shaking your head in wonder.

The NY Times, for example, gets millions of hits each week. Millions. And then more millions. They are connected to thousands of other sites who link to them — blogs, other news channels, e-zines… it’s a network of feeds to die for.

And they COMPLAIN about not being able to make a profit?

Anyone with a drop of salesman’s blood in their veins has got ot ask: “What’s the friggin’ PROBLEM?”

I work with entrepreneurs and small business who earn fortunes with a flow of traffic that wouldn’t even be a ripple in the NY Times readership. Not even a tiny little splash.

What would YOU do, if you suddenly had access to millions of hits… all spending oodles of time on your site, reading and paying attention?

You’d… um… sell something.

No brainer, right?

Not to the brain-clogged morons running the show at those big sites.

Go take a look at the ads running on any of the big newspaper sites. Pathetic.

I chose one banner ad, at random. Lots of real estate taken up, nestled next to a riveting front page crammed with content… and the advertiser has a nice photo of a shoe, with some tiny, tiny, tiny printing saying “Introducing the Spring 2007 Collection”.

That’s it, my friend. Shoe, five words. No obvious link.

I ran my cursor over the space until I discovered a link… the designer did a great job hiding it… and I was whisked to a site with a bigger photo of some nice wingtips… the words “distinction being noticed without standing out” (sic), a link “View the spring collection”, and the logo: Allen Edmonds.

Pretty much it. Oh, wait. Six-point type links (all delicately lower-case) that look like border designs: “about allen-edmonds”… “”store locator”… “contact us”… and a Search box.

I spent ten minutes navigating this site, seeking out the secret entrances to something even remotely like a page SELLING something.

And hey — if you’re stubborn about it, you can actually find a way to buy a pair of shoes.

But you better have some time on your hands. And really, really, really want those shoes… cuz buying them isn’t easy.

The insanity of all this is clear: The advertisers shelling out for banner space at the newspapers don’t know how to sell online… and the newspapers aren’t clued-in enough to help them.

The blind leading the blind.

Were I running the advertising department of the Times (I shudder at the thought), I would first get hip to what entrepreneurs are doing to actually SELL stuff online… and then I would help educate my advertisers to the same tactics.

Because, if they learn to sell stuff… and keep track, and see the results of putting their ads in front of millions of eyes riveted to the content of the newspaper… they will see the very great advantages of buying up banner ad space there. And become repeat clients, willing to pay lots of money for that banner.

Clueless, they get to continue to ignore the Web. “We tried advertising online. It does’t work.”

Well, yeah. Because your online ads SUCK.

This is horrible news for big-name advertisers. To really succeed, they’ll have to killl everyone in their marketing department, and somehow replace them with new people who are hip to selling online… and good luck to ’em on that quest.

Because they’ll continue to rely on Madison Avenue ad agencies for their ads… not realizing that few folks at Mad Ave have a clue what to do.

This is great news for entrepreneurs and small business owners online, of course. Because you are on equal footing with everyone else online, more or less. You may not have the big fancy store in downtown Manhattan, and you may not have any staff at all (let alone a marketing department)… but online, your ad can outsell the Big Guys by vast margins.

Because you know how to sell.

The Web is getting crowded. But classic salesmanship still rules the roost (as it forever will).

While traditional businesses — used to being bullies and dominating their market by sheer size and access to advertising media — stumble and flail impotently online… you can enjoy all the low-hanging fruit still out there.

The way people buy things is changing, fast.

But people still buy things.

It’s just a great time to be selling online. I do hope the NY Times gets its act together, and doesn’t fold for lack of understanding the nature of commerce on the Web.

But I’m not holding my breath, either.

Keep paying attention to the basics of classic salesmanship. All the noise about “new” ways to sell online is coming (mostly) from marketers engaging in fantasy play. The large ad agencies still can’t sell their way out of a wet paper bag. Don’t listen to ’em.

“Introducing the Spring Collection”, indeed. Those kinds of all-attitude/sales-phobic tactics — beloved by clueless marketers with zero salesmanship chops — will murder a whole bunch of businesses trying to make it online before the traditionalists give it up and start paying more attention to the way entrepreneurs do it right.

But the food chain is pretty thick with cluelessness right now.

We live in interesting times.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. I got on this kick today because I was just interviewed by Garrett Sutton (one of the Rich Dad/ Poor Dad authors) for his e-radio show on… and we were talking about classic salesmanship tactics.

I can go off for hours on every part of a good sales pitch — the hook, the close, the take-away, urgency, credentials, whatever. It’s just second-nature to me, after all these years of crafting killer pitches.

And yet, it’s still amazing news to “sales rookies”. Even the fundamental drop-dead basics are a revelation.

Something to remember, as you keep testing and improving your sites. Don’t be afraid of going after large market niches seemingly dominated by traditional bullies. Check out their sales tactics… and if they suck, maybe you’re the guy to teach them a lesson.

The End Of Civilization As We Know It

When my father was drafted during World War II and dumped in Belgium just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, my mother and his first two kids (I wasn’t a glimmer in his eye yet) waited days for even a hint of news about the war… and waited months for letters from Pop himself.

The news came in painfully slow trickles. First rumors, then snatches of broadcast bulletins on the radio, then a newspaper story that may or not have been accurate… and in none of this was even a prayer for specific news from or about Pop.

That kind of no-news existence is just hard to imagine now. Online, I can watch stories develop just by refreshing my Google homepage — really hot news is updated constantly, within minutes of dramatic fresh input.

Heck, I can see minutes-old footage of events on YouTube, and read real-time blogs from every corner of the English-speaking world.

The delivery, consumption, and digesting of news has done changed in radical ways.

We all knew the Web was gonna morph our reality into something new… but even a year or so ago, most prognosticators believed we had some inkling of what the brave new world might look like.

Forget about it, now. All bets are off, all predictions inoperable.

No one knows what’s in store.

Least of all the news organizations we call “mainstream media”.

The fate of newspapers is interesting to me… both because I grew up loving my daily dose of whatever local rag served the town I was living in… and because the culture of the news junkie was well-defined. (And I have been a news junkie since I was old enough to read.)

We knew what was going on in the world, and we read enough varied takes on events to form an independent opinion.

It’s one thing to embrace the world and enjoy adventures… but it’s another thing to seek to also “know” the world while you plow through the decades.

Like the guys selling horse-drawn buggies 100 years ago, refusing to realize the exploding market share the automobile was gobbling up… mainstream newspapers have been slow to give the Internet credibility for news disperal.

I think local papers will survive in some form (probably mostly online, though)… because communities need a central clearing house for local news.

But it’s gonna be a painful transition. Because newspapers are owned by techno-phobes who regard online existence as some unknowable alien universe… and they just cannot, for the life of them, figure out how to make it profitable.

Please. The shake-out will produce a good alternative to the daily tree-killing newspaper… but not until the old diehard newsmen wander away, and news-dispensing organizations learn how to incorporate what entrepreneurs already know about making money online. (Right now, most newspapers see their online versions as “newspapers without paper”… but the old model of selling classifieds and department store inserts for profit don’t work online. The guy selling his 1998 Honda Accord is now on eBay and Craigslist, and the department stores that are surviving have gotten hip to email blasts and list building. Oops.)

The local paper here in Reno actually has a pretty damn good Website — and I now go there first when I need accurate weather news (important when you live in the bosom of the Sierras in winter), and also whenever I see a fresh plume of smoke wafting up from the valley floor, or hear sirens close by. (Every once in a while, I’ll sip my nightly beer while watching traffic cams around the city — real-time views of mostly routine intersections, with the occasion reward of getting to watch a three-car pile-up as it happens. Voyeur heaven.)

However, no one knows exactly what the newspaper will look like in the very near future.

This matters to marketers, very much. As the affiliate world grows ever more incestuous, and competition for pay-per-click gets nasty (not to mention the gruesome, unpredictable and never-ending rule-changes by the Google Gods), the “old” ways of reaching prospects (by finding out where the eyeballs gather) will start to look attractive again.

Soon, too.

I know of several top marketers who aren’t using PPC at all anymore. They use banner ads on sites that attract the kind of prospect they desire, as well as Hartunian-style PR releases and the cultivation of “go to guy” status in online communities that thrive on — yes — breaking news.

So it’s probably time for savvy entrepreneurs to start paying closer attention to where people-with-money are going for decent-length visits and multiple page-views. (Not ADD surfers bouncing off sites like a pinball.) (You young-uns know what a pinball game is, right? They still have those, down at the arcade? Jeez, I haven’t played a game that wasn’t virtual in years…)


One of the strongest players in the “new” news game was also one of the first on the scene. I don’t think much of Drudge, the man (his radio show is incoherent, and his obsession with Walter Winchell is creepy)… but his newsy “bulletin board” site,, has ruled the roost for years.

With the same college-dorm quickie design format he pioneered in the late 90s. It looks awful. But it gets the hits.

As a news junkie, I visit Drudge everyday… mostly to get the right-wing spin on developing stories. I’m an independent who likes to watch the wingnut fights… I get my left-wing spin from, and then check the somewhat middle-of-the-road Wall Street Journal subscription site (one publication that seems to have discovered how to be profitable online), the MSN daily e-mag, and then a bunch of newspapers across the world.

But Drudge is always the first stop.

He doesn’t write ANYTHING for the site… except to rehash the headlines of certain stories he’s pitching. He has a staff who combs the world’s media centers for print and broadcast news, and offers up simple links to those sites.

That’s it. He’s a bulletin board.

And yet he has earned frontpage stories in the Washington Post and New York Times, and been called “the future of journalism”. Why? Because, as simple as his site is, he gets something like 15million visits a day. While the Post sells 5 million tree-killing newspapers a day, and pretty much has no clue how many people really read its Website.

So it’s more likely that mainstream media will begin to look more like Drudge, than the other way around.

Never visited the site?

This is why I’m writing about it: I don’t care if you visit it, or if you like it or hate it.

As a marketer, you’ve GOT to pay attention to the way it’s morphing the Zeitgeist of our culture.

You can get links to the top stories there… and when, for example, Hurricane Katrina hit, you could read what local Louisiana media outlets (both print and broadcast) were saying. And compare that with linked stories from the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald-Tribune.

If you went to the Washingtom Post site, all you’d get was their reporter’s version, and maybe another view from the AP wire service.

But Drudge covers “newsy” stories almost reluctantly. Like most of the talking-head cable TV shows, he really got a boost from the OJ Simpson trial, the Monica-all-the-time-Lewinski scandal, and the never-ending trials and tribulations of the current political fiascos.

The site is like 3 completely different people sitting across from you at the family dinner table –your serious-minded friend, earnestly talking about famine, war and economic theory… trying to outtalk the gossipy aunt who has never heard a secret she isn’t eager to share and elaborate on… both vying against the weird cousin who follows all UFO conspiracies as steadfastly as he does the latest box office battles of Hollywood studios.

It’s the New York Times meets the Hollywood Reporter meets the National Enquirer.

And you know what? It’s friggin’ fascinating.

Here’s a sample of the headlines for stories Drudge had up a couple of days ago (while the Washington Post was thick with more serious news on more serious subjects):

“Probation For Man Who Had Sex With Dead Deer.”

“Private Rocket Lost Shortly After Launch.”

“Dating Site Courts Only The Good Looking.”

“McCain Warns Of Spreading Socialism.’

“Judge Pulls Gun In Florida Courtroom.”

“Dog Performs Heimlich Maneuver On Owner.”

“Wolfgang Puck Bans Foie Gras.”

“Mystery Rash Closes Ohio School.”

And yeah, I read ’em all.

Me, a busy, busy, busy professional (and hot prospect for many online marketers) with not much spare time to surf the Net.

And I will wait two minutes for the podunk Florida news site to download the video of the probation hearing of the guy who did the nasty with a dead deer.

We’ve all got to start exploring new ways to find our target audiences online, in situations where they aren’t zipping by in a panic.

Drudge doesn’t take much advertising (not sure why), and I’m not convinced his banner ads are efficient (because they change so frequently).

Still… the ancient desire of humans to want to hear more than rumors on breaking news (and gossip) will never fade.

Just tuck this fact away somewhere as you ponder future marketing moves (and while your email delivery rates continue to slide)…

Dead deer, indeed.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton