Seth Godin Should Read His Own Book

I was really surprised to see an entry in my icerocket.com feed from Seth Godin saying that “

Mark Cuban Is Completely Wrong About Aggregators

I was particularly surprised because I am in the middle of reading his new book LinchPin which actually makes my point about why its a poor business move for newspapers and many others to be indexed by Google.

I love Seth, but in this article he is simultaneously wrong and hypocritical.  In the article, he makes my point very well when he says
” The person who chooses that information has power.”
What does he think newspapers do ? Randomly publish stories ? Randomly assign stories to writers and editors ? Of course not. The value in their brand comes from choosing stories, some of which come from 3rd parties and some of which they originate. By allowing themselves to be part of the Google Index or Google News, they become one of thousands of content options.  They transition the power of information selection from their newspaper brand to the aggregator brand. Thats just stupid.
As far as his Oprah example in the article (saying its like turning down a chance to be on Oprah when you remove yourself from an index), its ridiculous. If Google called a newspaper publisher and said they would highlight and promote their paper on Google’s homepage, then it would be analogous . When Oprah has you on the show, you are highlighted to her audience, not one of thousands of books on a  list.  Which is what happens when you are indexed by Google. You are one of thousands or more in a list with no declaration from google how you will be presented. Completely different than discussing with Oprah the time, day and show you will be on, and how the book would be presented and discussed.
Seth should re read his book Lynchpin and recognize that in this post industrial information age, if you are just one more entry in an algorithmically defined index, the index algorithm makes even the most amazing employee the digital equivalent of a 1909 Ford production worker. Ford didnt care if you were the most productive in the plant. Google doesnt care if you are the most valued brand in the index. They will assign their own value to you. You are just one more entry into an equation. An equation that you dont have access to . Thats about as close to Henry Ford’s 1909 plant as you can get.
To be amazing as an information originator, you must stand out and become indispensable. You must show that you dont belong in a list of books on Google, but rather highlighted and featured on the Oprah show.  If you cultivate and collect information, you must be your own aggregator, which a newspaper is, and through the value of your content, show your potential audience that you are amazing as an aggregator, cultivator and originator  and define to your audience why you are worth having to type a URL for rather than just being found in a search results page on Google
No question that search simplifies, but it also stupifies. Type in a word, find whatever Google finds for you. Trust in Google.  That worked well for a while Seth. But those were the good ole days.
In a world of social networks, if you are amazing and you stand out, people around you will tell others, who tell more people and your amazing product  becomes viral. Being indispensable to your community is incredibly valuable. You dont need to depend on people to search Google to find you. Your friends will help their friends find you through status updates, emails and notes. This social graph value  far exceeds the brick in the wall value of being in a search index, without making your brand secondary to the vampires who cycle you through their algorithms.
Read your book Seth :).  Being algorithmic output is not being indispensable nor does it reflect amazing.

34 thoughts on “Seth Godin Should Read His Own Book

  1. Murdoch claims that the iPad will save the industry by charging $4.99 a week for news. I’ll call his bluff and pass on the $4.99 subscription.. Rupert Murdoch defiant: ‘I’ll stop Google taking our news for nothing’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/apr/07/rupert-murdoch-google-paywalls-ipad

    Comment by worldbfree4me -

  2. Looks like Rupert Murdoch has picked up on this story as well “Rupert Murdoch defiant: ‘I’ll stop Google taking our news for nothing’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/apr/07/rupert-murdoch-google-paywalls-ipad

    Comment by worldbfree4me -

  3. Seth Godin is really good at marketing himself. Yet, the quality of his advice is…less good. For example, I recently read his book, “The Dip.” Basically, it all boiled down to “focus because there are asymmetric payoffs.” and then were were a couple cute stories. the end.

    Comment by http://dingoscalzones.blogspot.com -

  4. I thought the same thing! A newspaper is a brand worth more than Google search. I love Google and what it brings to the table, but these newspaper companies need to find another way to gain revenue. And not everyone is using a kindle or Ipad yet.

    Comment by davidfoustinc -

  5. Mark, I agree with you on newspapers and any other local content originator. I think there is a business to be created here. The depth of the content is the key. Having many years in the industry, I have a vision I am working to put some business criteria around. Today’s Google is tomorrow’s AOL (only maybe not as fast a decline).

    Also, put me down for 4 seats at Cowboys Stadium for a mavs game.

    Comment by tjm3343 -

  6. seth godin is a very very smart guy, and (from what i hear) a very nice and genuine person

    but his views are entirely colored (and corrupted) by the fact that he is independantly wealthy. extremely so. he has has no money worries whatsoever, because he became so wealthy selling his company yoyodyne to yahoo in the 1990s

    if he had to actually make a solid living, he would not be so cavalier about giving away his material and advising everybody, the world is about free content and aggregation, get used to it

    not to disrespect seth, because i believe he is honest and genuine, but its a little bit of “let them eat cake”

    http://www.cekmagdurlari.com

    Comment by sumimasen1 -

  7. mark and inkaudio i think you’re both right on in regards to not necessarily needing to drive search traffic directly from google anymore. social sites will drive more traffic in the long run, and its already starting to happen. here’s some more recent stats on where facebook is driving more traffic than google. albeit its not for all sites, but the trend is definitely changing. google will definitely have to join in on the social wars

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/02/15/BUU51C0AMN.DTL#ixzz0fjBOYn22

    Comment by toekneelc -

  8. Mark,
    On another note, I completely agree on playing a Mavs game at the new Cowboys Stadium. The venue is unique and will likely remain unqiue for another decade or more. I’ve never been to a Mavs game, but if you schedule a game there against the Spurs, I’ll come. :-)

    Comment by bradnabors -

  9. This ended AP stopped redirecting to subscribing newspapers for readers that clicked the link at Google and started displaying the content in a google branded page. From that point on newspapers were paying AP to help Google kill the newspaper industry.
    It is just taking a few years to play out. But, at some point, the value of local content will still present itself as a viable market, just not on a scale that would interest most people.

    Anybody can be a “columnist” now, but not everybody can observe and Report facts as news. Entirely too many newspapers hung on to overpaid columnists, at the expense of actual reporting. They simply can not compete, local columnists writing about broaders stories that are aggregated in Google constantly is a losing proposition. “selling” it to AP, only to have Google post it in their branded window is not a viable longterm business model.

    Comment by mrbaker206 -

  10. he’s focusing on something different than you are and mistaking it for the only thing. there are two types of news–low quality, AP-format “this happened here at this time”, which can be aggregated and transferred cheaply (i.e. by pretty much anyone); and high-quality analysis of and reporting on events. the price of the first HAS shot to roughly zero because its cost has. the price of the second was dragged that way because it got caught up in the mix, but it’s still sustainable because it has real value

    here are my basic thoughts on where news is going (i’m not sure if you have linking rules, but this is relevant so hopefully it’s not too-shameless a plug):

    http://follyschizo.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/a-new-model-for-news-publishing/

    Comment by follyschizo -

  11. I’m not sure they don’t make money from Google news traffic. Is it a fact?

    We know that people come from news aggregators, see ads, subscribe (if there’s a subscription), they can become a direct traffic.

    Which means traffic = money.

    And another fact is most news are commodity.

    Comment by cturanli -

  12. The sad, maddening, amazing and slightly beautiful thing about it is that most things Seth Godin smack of truth, and insofar as I can tell, he’s not too far off from the truth here.

    Real. Motivation. CZATheCEO.com
    BlockStandard.com “The Currency of the Community”

    Comment by thecza -

  13. I know citizens will scoff my typos and that i offered fin advice to a gajillionaire but at least i am tring to help someone and help myself last sem jr just bought this laptop 3wks ago 3.62 prelaw gpa almost NEVER use a computer and am ready to have my feelings hurt by the hateful judgemental bloggers most comments are like corrective towards Mr. Cuban why do yall read his articles if you dont like their content what happened to the days when u couldnt talk in the library and if u didnt have good stuff to say then say nothing…..

    Comment by hedgeboyxxx666 -

  14. pablo again $$not spent due to snowmaggedon

    Comment by hedgeboyxxx666 -

  15. MR. CUBAN:

    bwld is at 41.50 I am a poor college student but hail from fairfax va n mont co md all that $$$ not spent and slightly less than expected earnings are all thats wrong use 45 mikkion it wont even effect you and make some free money sir and if you are happy send me 2k for college at university court apts#713 8445youree drive shreveport louisiana 71115. It will rebound qickly I hope you read these comments so many people not in reality I wonder how will u see this or even believe that as lifetime rest. worker and from there that i could know anything.Goodbye and gooday sir.
    Pablo Clark.clarkp96@lsus.edu

    Comment by hedgeboyxxx666 -

  16. sorry mark. i didnt read your previous post.
    I was linked into this specific one.

    Comment by mverinder -

  17. @ Alex

    I am not saying that search engines are not valuable, but in your example what you are referencing is how a search engine can be used as a tool to solve a problem. In your case, how to stop the burning in your throat.

    From a news perspective, content that is being uniquely created with an expensive behind it, is being collected and categorized in an aggregator like Google news with other similar content. A potential long-term reader where a relationship can be made via Fox News directly, is now being diverted to a site like Google News which does not spend any money to make that content and where that direct relationship has been stolen.

    Comment by ianbell330 -

  18. Mark-

    I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin and just finished “Linchpin”. I totally agree with your assessment, however. Being on the Google landing page=Oprahlike…being within the Google Search Engine=not necessarily remarkable. He made a point some time ago about being the top of search for YOU…IE be the top of the search for “SETH GODIN” not necessarily “most popular bloggers”…This makes more sense than his commentary regarding you.

    PPC4

    Comment by ppc4 -

  19. You make a valid point about word of mouth marketing, facebook is driving a lot of traffic to many sites and in some cases driving more traffic than google to sites like CafeMom.com and events site Evite

    see: http://paidcontent.org/article/419-facebooks-influence-as-a-traffic-source-is-on-the-rise/

    Comment by inkaudio -

  20. Hey Mark.
    I read this on techcrunch

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/03/mark-cuban-may-hate-news-aggregators-but-he-also-wants-to-invest-in-them/

    about how you were a current investor in aggregators..
    any comment?

    Comment by mverinder -

    • yeah, read the blog post I wrote about it. Actually you should actually read the aggregator post before you comment on it. I dont have a problem with aggregators in general. I have a problem with aggregators for newspapers.

      Comment by markcuban -

  21. wow mcafee red all over that u413 site..
    dont follow that link !

    Comment by mverinder -

  22. @ianbell330

    I think you are way off base. I am of the opinion that search has revolutionized the web. Just because a friend links me to a page doesn’t make it relevant to my interests. When I type a search I am shown a list of results that is much more relevant and useful to me than randomly stabbing my way through links.

    I also think search has revolutionized my sites as a web developer and host. It forces me to customize my content so that it flows neatly and adheres to what the visitor is searching for.

    Sure, sites getting more traffic without the help of search engines might mean more to those with the “back in the old days” attitude, but it means nothing to me as someone who’s started off in the web 2.0 world. It sounds to me like you are suffering from the same syndrome that players of the game World Of Warcraft suffer from if they’ve been playing since release day. I recently started enjoying this amazing virtual universe and I am loving the streamlined experience and have had very few complaints. All the old players can do is complain that it’s too easy now and your skill used to mean more and blah blah blah.

    When I can type, “my throat is on fire” into Google and instantly learn about acid reflux it doesn’t get much better than that in my opinion. Back in the days of no search there were a few popular sites that made it through the grapevine. http://www.TheBestPageInTheUniverse.com is a prime example of a website that, at the time, got more traffic than McDonalds’ website that they spent billions advertising. All Mr. Maddox does on that site is rant about stuff he hates. Sure, it’s funny and witty and entertaining, but when sites like that are topping the charts it’s obvious to me that people were having a hard time finding things they were actually interested in.

    $0.02

    - Alex

    Comment by chevex117 -

  23. Mark, wouldn’t a content provider need to remove itself from the AP as well? Otherwise wouldn’t it be in jeopardy of having it’s content republished by a provider involved with Google? How many newspapers provide enough content to be able to step away from the AP and stand on their own?

    Comment by Matt -

  24. @ Waltford

    Agreed that the traffic is still meaningful to you. It just isn’t meaningful to those that are trying to monetize it. Comscore, Nielson, etc cannot differentiate.

    Comment by ianbell330 -

  25. @ianbell330

    I understand what your saying. It’s easy to get lost in the sea. I am merely pointing out that the ability to drive the traffic that really means something to you has not been taken away. Search engines have not diminished our opportunities to drive our own (meaningful) traffic in the ways that you mention above.

    Comment by waltford -

    • If you are a site that still needs all the traffic it can get, you should not remove yourself. If you are a major brand to which a direct relationship with the consumer is important AND you are unable to monetize the traffic you are getting from them, you should remove yourself.

      Comment by markcuban -

  26. Mark – instead of the bloggy-back-and-forth, maybe you, Seth, Danny Sullivan, Rupert Murdoch, Eric Schmidt and a few others should share the stage at “Content-con 2010″ and discuss the issues in person. Maybe the losers could get tackled by Abe Vigoda and Betty White in a muddy field. :-)

    Comment by johnakerson -

  27. @ waltford

    Because a million visitors to your site is not a big deal anymore. Google has allowed anyone that understands SEO, PR linking etc to benefit. Nothing separates the good content from the bad. It is all equal in the robot’s (Googles) eyes.

    1 million people passing through a site they stumbled onto through a search engine keyword and not finding what they wanted is just as value as a visitor that intentionally went to a site to read it. Advertisers and those driving the ecosystem are not differentiating the two.

    Aggregators are simply taking what Google deems as valuable (keywords) and collecting articles produced by others that are keyword rich, then beating the content producers at their own game. It’s easier to copy content from 30 different sources than to create that many original pieces.

    The value of visitors has changed. That is why Rupert Murdoch and other content creators are mad. Makes sense to me.

    Comment by ianbell330 -

  28. In response to ianbell330,

    Why would you consider the growth of search to have leveled the playing field? You began your comments by suggesting you could get 1 million visitors to your site through word of mouth and other sites linking. Why would you not be able to do this now? I believe that this type of traffic is still as important today as it was in 2001 and the growth of search only gives you a bonus.

    Comment by waltford -

  29. Just a small nit: it’s not LynchPin, it’s Linchpin. I made the same mistake myself in a tweet.

    Comment by michaelhyatt -

  30. It is sad to see how the online economy has changed from depending on themselves to drive traffic to relying on Google.

    Back in 2001 when we started up a site (before there were blogs), 1 million visitors was a huge deal because those visitors came from word-of-mouth and other sites linking to them. Search engines were not huge at that time, nor did they drive any significant amount of traffic.

    Things have changed. Site depend on Google for traffic rather than links coming in from others or word-of-mouth. SEO wins, peer recommendations lose now. You can trick people into coming to your site and as long as you have traffic that is all that matters to advertisers, potential acquisition suitors etc. In fact, sites are not afraid to link out to others (often adding the no-follow) for fear that Google will penalize them.

    Google is responsible for this and it has changed how information is viewed and shared. Google has leveled the field like you mention Mark so that FOX is now considered the same value as any no name blog. It’s sad.

    You can’t be original and creative to a search engine, a robot. Everything it valued equally, dependent on what that robot deemed valuable at that time.

    Comment by ianbell330 -

  31. “To be amazing as an information originator, you must stand out and become indispensable.”

    Tell this to the newspapers, Mark.

    The ONLY reason so many of them are going down the tubes is because they have ignored that advice for too long, preferring, instead, the easy simplicity of having others do the reporting for them (AP, Reuters), and relishing their long-held positions of authority within the limited areas they serviced.

    Gone are the days where a newspaper could become prosperous by being the only game in town.

    They need to get used to it, and get on with it. Either do such a good job that they stand out from the masses, or don’t. It’s their own funeral to plan, and they are working hard on it by failing to adapt to the new world order.

    I’m from the newspaper realm, having spent way too many decades building them, and I can feel the heartbreak. However, in any industry, it is incumbent on the buggy whip manufacturers … er … newspaper publishers to grow with the industry. Sitting on their hands, wailing about how this aggregator or that aggregator stole their thunder isn’t going to make the adaptation any easier.

    Comment by stupidscript -

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