Fun with Co-Writers

Fun with Co-Writers

I’ve been busy.

I know. We’re all busy.

But I have a plan I have to stick to, and I can’t do it if I completely drop off the map.

So! I have teamed up with two writers, and a long time behind the scenes collaborator, to bring you new stuff.

Basically, I’m giving them the ideas and doing some light editing, and they’re doing the writing. So if you’re like, “This stuff doesn’t sound like you!”, I know.

K. Thor Jensen, who recently put out an interesting new graphic novel called “Cloud Stories” is working with me on proving (or disproving) a theory about “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” You can catch the first article, “The Gentle Art of Judo” here on LinkedIn.

Some of you might have seen the Marie Claire story where my ghostwriter (now co-writer), Jaclyn Schiff, got namechecked. Once she’s free we’ll work on some more marketing-focused content that’ll pop-up on some other websites you’ve probably heard of. (Not here, though.)

My long time collaborator, Amanda King, and I will be bringing back the book summaries here on this website. I realized after I wrote an 11-page one for “Start with Why” that I should work with someone to help crank these out faster and keep them manageable for those of you who don’t have time to read 12,000 (or more!) words about a book that you can probably read in that time it’d take to read through my notes.

Those summaries will run either here or on a new website. I haven’t decided yet. Until then though, enjoy the new stuff!


On the 120th Anniversary of Dracula, an Update on My Take

On the 120th Anniversary of Dracula, an Update on My Take

I’m a day late on this. Still getting adjusted to having a day job and a schedule. May 26 was the 120th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” If you haven’t read the book yet, you can get it for free on a variety of platforms here. If you’re like me and prefer reading books in print, Barnes & Noble typically has a copy of “Dracula” floating around along with their reprints of other classic books. (Of course, I rather you buy the thing from your local, independent, bookstore, but those are becoming harder and harder to find these days.)


“Dracula” starts slow, but if you stick with it, the pacing of it picks up dramatically and it becomes a bit more of an action-adventure novel. There’s also a lot of (unintentionally?) funny moments in it. It’s those funny moments I want to talk about.


Almost 10 years ago I started work on a parody of “Dracula.” It was originally called “Dracula and Kittens” but then later became “Cold Hilarious Fate” after the kitten subplot mostly got cut from the manuscript. (And yes, the new title is a reference to the often underappreciated “King of the Hill” cartoon.) The book was created just before books like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” became huge hits but never quite got off the ground. Putting parts of the manuscript online did get me a book agent, and that lead to the creation of “Social Media Is Bullshit,” but for years “Cold Hilarious Fate” languished.


A big part of the book was highlighting the odd moments of humor found within “Dracula” and completely amping them up. Dracula, standing at the doorway of his castle and unable to move until Harker agrees to enter plays as weird in the original book, but in “Cold Hilarious Fate” is a moment for Dracula, who is an asshole, to further mess with Harker.


I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the book. It seems like I revisit it every few years and then abandon it when other stuff comes up. So, don’t hold your breath, is what I’m saying. But that said, if you want to know what the book would be like, you can check out the first chapter of it for free.

Chapter 1. Crime Knows No Color

(From “Cold Hilarious Fate” written by Bram Stoker and B.J. Mendelson)

I’m on my way to Romania to do some work for Carlin, Prior and Hicks. It’s my first big assignment outside the office and only the second trip abroad for the firm since “The Happy Loman Incident.”  Since the firm was footing the bill, I decided to take a minor detour through Germany and spend a few days here. My grandmother’s family had been wiped out in the Holocaust, and  I wanted to see the place where anti-Semitism is made.


My detour took me to Munich and the Hotel Munchen Palace. In further proof that Yelp can never completely be trusted, the hotel was great, but they still used Yugos to transport their guests around the German countryside. Noticing the hotel manager,  I walked to my Yugo as quickly as I could. I had hoped he didn’t notice me, but Mr. Jonathan P. Heidenreich saw everything. He emerged from the hotel drenched in Coppertone and stared at my ride with a look similar to what the Nazis must have given Poland just before invading it.


Heidenreich was a bit of an odd character. Portly, bald, and disheveled he seemed to enjoy sharing his poetry unsolicited with all of the hotel guests. Each night during my stay here, I heard Heidenreich roam the halls, knocking on each door under the guise of asking his guests about their stay, but then saying in perfect English, “May I read you this poem I have just written? It is about my cat, Ilsa.” When I saw him making his way toward our vehicle,  I rolled up my window and said to the driver, who had introduced himself as “Johan,” “I hope he’s not going to read us more of his fucking poetry.” Johan did not respond in any discernable way. Typical German. No sense of humor. Smiling I guess is also prohibited within the confines of this horrible vehicle. Although truthfully, if I owned a Yugo, I wouldn’t be smiling either.


Instead of molesting our ears, Heidenreich curtly wished me a pleasant trip, perhaps indicating he, in fact, knew what was done to his lobby bathroom, and then he said to Johan, “Show our amazing American Bavaria’s beauty but be back before early evening. You know what nasty night it is.” Johan, not impressed at all with needless alliteration, or life itself, answered Heidenreich with an emphatic, “Ja.” Johan Schulz: Man of many words. On his days off, Johan offers rides to tourists around the Bavarian countryside. Heidenreich had introduced us when I checked in a week ago, but it was a brief encounter. Johan simply took out his hand, I shook it, and then he walked away without saying anything further. Johan was certainly a model for cold, emotionless, German efficiency. I bet he would have made a great Nazi.


As the Yugo’s “powerful” engine came to life, I asked Johan what was happening tonight. Johan simply crossed himself as he answered laconically: “Walpurgis nacht.” “What THE fuck does that mean?” Johan snorted in response to my inquiry and looked at his watch. It was a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a Volkswagen. His eyebrows gathered together as he gave me an impatient shrug. I realized this was him being passive aggressive. Had I consumed a proper German breakfast this morning, I would have replied to his passive aggressive behavior by farting at him and showing him the terrible vengeance I have brought upon his country during my trip abroad. But as an American in Europe, I am obligated to act classy at all times when within the presence of a European, least they think of me as one of “those people.” You know the ones I’m talking about. The Americans who visit Germany for the first time. Fat, out of shape, ignorant, wearing jean shorts, and constantly asking anyone who even remotely looks German, “Where do you keep the Jew Gold?”


About an hour into our trip, I saw a road that looked little traveled, and which seemed to dip through a small, winding valley. It looked so inviting that I asked Johan to stop his plodding Yugo. He did with a heavy sigh and a cross look. I momentarily reconsidered farting at him. I then told Johan I would like him to drive us down that road, which prompted a seemingly endless barrage of excuses delivered in broken English, many of which were followed by Johan crossing himself at the conclusion of each statement. His reluctance to make a simple left turn piqued my curiosity. We hadn’t stuck to any sort of course on this trip, going wherever I wanted, and now we came across a seemingly harmless road and he won’t go down it? Fuck that. I have Johan as my driver for another few hours still. Something was up. I started to ask him various questions. He answered fencingly, and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest as he did. Frustrated, I then told Johan I wanted to get out of the car. But before I could even take off my seat belt, he had opened his door and raced out in front of mine, blocking it with his enormous Aryan frame. I didn’t think a German could move that quickly unless he was taking something that didn’t belong to him. Johan towered over me by at least a foot and had about 200 pounds of muscle to my 145 pounds of lank. He made an impressive road block. If I was in a more joking mood, I would have said something witty to break the tension, like “With speed like that, the Aryan Barbarian will capture the world wrestling federation title in no time.” But I wasn’t feeling very funny. I was kind of pissed off at his odd behavior. Even the monsters don’t act like this. Well, except the one that ripped off Happy Loman’s arms and beat him to death with them.


There was an awkward moment that followed between Johan and I. I, in the car looking up at Johan, the Aryan Barbarian. Him, peering down at me with all the menace you’d expect from an angered German. It crossed my mind to inform him that my mother was Jewish, just to see if he’d flip out, enter Beast Mode, and put his fist through the window in an effort to hoist me over his shoulder and shake me to see if any hidden “Jew Gold” came loose, but I thought better of it. Instead, I rolled down the window and informed him that I wanted to exit the vehicle. There was another pause before he finally sighed and took a step back. I am pleased to inform my readers that, yet again, a German surrendered to an American.


Once I finally got out of the Yugo, Johan implored me not to go down the road. He seemed always just about to tell me something–the very idea of which must have frightened him; as each time he would cut himself off, cross himself and say mysteriously, ‘Walpurgis-Nacht!’ Each time I would reply to him by saying, “I still don’t know what the fuck that means.” I tried to argue further with Johan, but it’s difficult to argue with a man whose native tongue is German. Even the nicest things said in that language sound like a chainsaw cutting through rusted metal in the midst of thrashing guitars, thunderous drums, and some kind words about Jesus. This was Germany after all, and aside from murdering millions of innocent people, they’re also known for their uplifting brand of heavy metal music that focuses on positivity and peace. The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone.


A couple of horses from a nearby farm had apparently heard our argument and had moved closer to us. At one point standing mere several inches away, separated only by the farm’s odd, white picket fence. You would think the German owners would have gone with cold steel and misery, but apparently, that wasn’t the order of the day when they built that fence. At one point, Secretariat and Barbaro had started to queerly sniff the air. At this sight, Johan grew pale and looked around in a frightened way that didn’t befit his murderous German heritage. Whatever was going on, the next thing I knew Johan had picked me up over his shoulder, which prompted me to immediately inform him that I did not possess any sort of “Jew Gold” on my person. Johan swiftly opened the passenger door, and then threw me into the car as if I were a feather pillow. He then got in and drove a few feet down the road to get away from the horses. “Johan, I know one of those horses appeared to have taken a dump during our conversation, perhaps indicating their agreement with my position, but I feel you’re overreacting!” He said nothing. When I asked again for an explanation, he again crossed himself and pointed to the spot we had left. “’Buried him–him what killed themselves.”


“Jesus. Again with your strange and mysterious German shit! Do you mean he killed himself, Johan?  A suicide? You know, the thing your former dickhead leader did instead of manning up and letting the Russians play soccer with his skull, which they probably did anyway? You people still bury your suicides on the side of the road? What the fuck is wrong with you people? I mean seriously. Have the people of Germany ever stopped, looked themselves in the mirror and went, “Wow. We’re pretty fucked up. We’re like the neighbor who molested Punky Brewster on one of those very special episodes.” As Johan was about to respond, we heard a sort of sound that straddled the sonic line between a belch and a roar. Johan, for the second time in a short period, again went pale and said simply, “A drunk bear.” I asked, “You have wild bears in Bavaria?” I didn’t realize there were still bears in Bavaria. Especially after the Germans had taken it on themselves to kill what was apparently a peaceful one named Bruno a few years earlier for no other reason other than that he was adorable. Classic Germany.


“No. Circus. Abandoned not long ago. Now roaming freely” Johan added. “And they’re drunk?” “Circus rum.” I immediately got out of the car, informing Johan, “I have got to see this.” Upon exiting the car, in the event Johan attempted to again hoist me over his shoulder, I took from the seat my solid oak walking stick — which I always carry in the event I needed to fuck up a mugger — and closed the door. Johan again followed me out of the vehicle, but this time nowhere near as fast as he had previously. Perhaps with my stinging Punky Brewster remark and wooden weapon of choice, he had decided it would be for the best if a drunken circus bear devours me. At the very least he’d return with a good story, and one the fucked up people of Germany will all probably blog and brag about to their weirdo friends in Switzerland.


I noticed at this point that dark clouds had started to swirl across the sky. The sunshine passed, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift past us, sort of like that creepy feeling you get when you’re talking about someone who died and all of a sudden the room gets cold. It was only a brief breath, however, and honestly, it felt more like a warning than anything else as the sun soon came out brightly again. If it was a warning for what’s to come on my Eastern European adventure, I’d like to take a moment here and put God on notice: Nothing can stop my mighty mugger stick! Johan, tall enough to be blinded by the sun, looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said: “The storm of snow, she comes.” Then he looked at his watch again and straight away got back into the car. This time, I didn’t join him.


This lead to yet another awkward moment. One more of these and we would have pretty much guaranteed that we would have our own BBC series together. Although this time it was I who was now towering over my monstrous German friend as he rolled down his window. “Where does this road go Johan?” Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer, before he answered, “Unholy.” ‘”What is unholy?’” “The store.” Curious, I asked, “ You guys have a Costco down there?” Apparently annoyed by my nonchalant retorts and eagerness to walk down this road, Johan burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not understand everything, but I did gather a few things:


-There was a popular pet store down this road many years ago. I didn’t catch the name. Something, obviously, had happened at that store.


-The employees were all from Romania, and the store exclusively carried kittens.


-The German government turned the area into a sort of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This road marked the entrance to that area, and it is completely restricted. Nobody goes in, and apparently, nobody comes out.


Johan was evidently afraid to speak those last words. Unfortunately, as he proceeded with his narration, he grew increasingly excited and began to speak entirely in German. So whatever he was saying was completely lost on me. I can speak in tongues. Even some Aramaic for that one time Jesus wanted to sue Mel Gibson. But German? Forget it. I never learned the language out of spite. I doubt it would have done me much good here as he was babbling endlessly, apparently going pale and then trembling with fear to boot. Never saw a German do that. I didn’t think it was something they did as a people, aside from the ones my grandfather-in-law saw just a moment before flattening them with his tank. Johan was looking around wildly now as if expecting some drunken circus bear would manifest itself right then and there and maul him while wearing a silly hat. Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried: ‘Walpurgis nacht!’ and started the car. I could only take so much of Johan and his “rumpus night” crap. I am an American. Nobody tells me what to do in a foreign country! “For someone of your size and heritage, you should be ashamed of yourself Johan. You are afraid my friend. In America, we’d call you a pussy, but I think right now that’d be an insult to pussies. So do me a favor and go home. “Rumpus Room” doesn’t concern Americans. None of your fruity Euro-bullshit does!”


Johan excitedly implored me not to do anything foolish. I pitied the fuck, he was deeply in earnest; but all the same, I could not help but laugh at his apparent nervous breakdown. What had happened to the calm and efficient killing machine that I began this trip with? Feeling slightly guilty about that, I turned and walked away as he continued to jabber on German. With a despairing gesture, which I promptly replied to by flipping him a little something I like to call “the bird,” Johan crawled off toward Munich in his busted ass vehicle. I leaned on my mighty mugger stick and looked as he drove off. He went slowly along the road for a while until there came over the crest of the hill a tall and husky man. He appeared to be black, which in America would necessitate a subconscious tightening of my grip thanks to years being brainwashed by the evening news, but I could only see so much of him in the distance. When the man drew near the horses, they began to jump and kick about, then scream as if farmer Bill had arrived to send them to the glue factory. Johan must have heard the commotion as his shitbox from hell roared, making the jump to hyperspace and leaving my view entirely. I looked at the horses and then back for the stranger, but found that he too was gone.


I was now alone, left with nothing but guilt for my display of mild racism and my mockery of Johan’s fear. What was he trying to warn me about?


– John Harker


P.S. My grandmother, who originally owned the mighty mugger stick, had a completely racist name for it. My father, when he gave me the stick, tried to justify his mother’s use of a racist word in place of “mugger” by saying, “Well in her day things were different.” I once admonished her about the name of the stick saying, “Grandma, crime knows no color!” Funny enough, her racism later would vanish when she was mugged on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue by a bunch of white guys. Serves her right.







Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Just a quick note that issue #4 of Vengeance, Nevada (VN) is now online.

This is the second year we’ve been running the comic, and this time, Piotr and I decided to do something different. Instead of releasing each issue in three parts like we did the first year, we’re now releasing the entire issue all at once.

Issue #4 is also the first one where Nakoma isn’t present. You probably won’t see her again until issue #6 beyond a flashback scene. I’m attempting to do a Game of Thrones thing where we follow different sets of characters that will all intersect as the story progresses. So in Issue #4, we get to see what Open Grave and Liberty is doing in Chicago. And then in Issue #5, we’ll see what’s going on over with our supervillains in The Kingdom.

I figure since it’s my comic, given away for free on this website, and released on my schedule, I can do what I want with it. Hopefully, you like the end result.

Issue #5 will be out in August.

Issue #6 will be out in December.

I know. It takes a long time between issues. Everyone is busy. I’m happy if we can hit three issues of the comic a year.

There’s really no rush to doing them, you know? I pay for VN out of pocket. I write the comic because it’s fun and I always wanted to write one, and there’s no real end game to doing it.

You can also tell there’s still stuff I struggle with. How much action goes on one page, how much dialogue. I look at this more as an experiment than anything else. So by the time VN finishes, I hope to have that all worked out.

Someone asked me recently what I wanted to do with VN. I’d love to take the first eight pages and turn them into a short film, but we’ll see. That will take more money than I have at the moment.

Until then, enjoy the comic. The podcasts will return to this site soon, as will the book summaries. I just have to adjust to my new schedule first.


Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Every day, I make it a point to answer a marketing question on Quora. This is mostly to get my brain working because it usually needs some kind of prompt to get me writing. One of the questions I see come up on there frequently is how to hire someone to do social media, SEO or other digital marketing work. And then a second question that goes with that, which is, “should I hire an employee or an agency?”

As you might have guessed, I have an opinion on this. And rather than answering the same question over and over again on Quora, I figure I’d just answer it here. So …

“Who Do You Read?”

Most marketing people are clowns. Not all of them. There are some great people that work in this industry, but they’re outnumbered by the bozos and doofuses that we all like to make fun of. You can tell who the clowns are based on where they get their information from. If they tell you they read Forbes and follow Gary Vaynerchuk, you shouldn’t hire them. Gary hasn’t had anything interesting to say since 2007, and Forbes lost all credibility when it moved to a content farm model (and still to this day has not moved away from that like everyone else.)

I struggle with this, but sometimes if they namedrop Tim Ferriss, you should also be skeptical. I like Tim Ferriss’s books, but I think he suffers from the “Fight Club Problem.” The “Fight Club Problem” refers to how there were two kinds of reactions among people who read “Fight Club.” They either thought it was awesome and totally serious, or they got that Chuck Palahniuk wrote an excellent satire on hyper-masculinity and generally where we were as a culture before 9/11.

So Tim Ferriss has that same thing going, where people either read and appreciate his work for what it is (great advice for rich people), or think that what he writes is the be all, end all on how you should live your life.

Anyway, the clowns like Ferriss and Vaynerchuk and go to crappy places like Forbes to keep up with things.

The good people struggle through the Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, name check and UNDERSTAND (this is important) Ryan Holiday’s first book, and pull their information from a variety of sources. So for example, right now on my desk is the two most recent issues of Fortune. The February / March Harvard Business Review, this week’s Adweek (although Adweek and Adage can often be problematic in their own right), Sam Walton’s “Made in America,” and Stephen Oates’s book on Abraham Lincoln, “With Malice Toward None.”

Let me be blunt: I don’t know anyone who enjoys reading the Harvard Business Review. Turgid doesn’t begin to describe how most of the content in there is written, but if you can work through it, you’ll often find one or two things that are useful. I’ve been suffering through reading that magazine since grad school in 2007, but I can honestly say it’s worth it.

The Ryan Holiday book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying” is good as long as you understand what he’s saying and don’t walk away from it going, “Wow, journalists are dumb! The media sucks!” No. That’s not the point. The point is there’s a particular process to get news coverage that existed (and still kind of does) today that can be exploited for a variety of troubling societal and business reasons.

The other magazines and books I mentioned aren’t to show off; I just mention them because my larger point is this: If you’re going to hire someone to do your marketing for you, where they get their information from is incredibly important; Especially if they are pulling their information from unexpected places (an old biography of Abraham Lincoln) or from excellent case studies from wildly successful people (“Made in America”).

So, “Who do you read?” is the question you want to ask when determining who to hire.

You also want to ask them for case studies. “What have you done?” is the second, and arguably more important, question to ask. Past performance and past campaigns, especially in marketing, don’t carry as much weight as you think because every company, brand, product, not-for-profit, etc. is different. But it’s important to ask for references and to look at previous work.

I know. This all seems like common sense, but the fact that the question appears as often as it does on Quora tells me it’s not.

Reputation Design

This will get me some shit for sure, but you should always hire an employee (ideally) or a freelancer (less ideal) to handle any aspect of marketing that you’re looking for help with.

An agency can be great. The problem is a lot of the big agencies today are too busy chasing rebates and automating themselves out of existence that I have real concerns about the overall health of the advertising industry at the moment. And the trends suggest I’m not the only one with those concerns. A lot of brands are parting ways with their agencies and moving the marketing work in-house or creating their own agency like McDonald’s just did.

So keeping in mind the caveat that everyone is different and has different needs, my own preference is that you hire someone internally. Especially because marketing takes time.

I’m going to repeat that because over the past year I’ve encountered many people who don’t seem to understand this: Good marketing. Takes. Time.

If you’re doing content marketing, unless you’re spending money to support it, you’re looking at six months at least before it starts to take root, and even then, maybe even a year before it starts generating the kind of results you’re going to be happy with. The same is true for SEO. Unless you’ve got the cash to juice it, SEO takes months and even then, you need to stick with it because things change all the time between Google, Bing and others like DuckDuckGo.

PR, social media, Influencer Marketing, Digital Reputation Management and word-of-mouth? Same deal. I like to roll those all together and refer to it as “Reputation Design.” Reputation Design takes at least a year to get it right. You CAN see some success before that, especially if you have the money, but all those things require an extensive infrastructure to be built, and most people don’t know how the fuck to do that.

And, you guessed it, the people who do know how to build the infrastructure to launch and operate a successful reputation design campaign will tell you that it takes time.

So, you can hire an agency and spend a ton of money, or you can hire people internally and control costs because you know it’s going to take a while to lay the groundwork.

Better still, the stuff I dump into the bucket of “Reputation Design” (Word-of-mouth, PR, Digital Reputation Management, Social Media, Influencer Marketing), works the best when it’s baked into the internal functions of your organization. Not when you bring in an outside party that doesn’t understand you, your culture, and your organization and frankly, they don’t care to understand it in most cases. They just want your money.

By hiring people to work internally for your company, you’re able to have the Reputation Design conversation early, meaning you can bake it into the product as you develop it. That’s the big joke with “Growth Hacking.” “Growth Hacking” is bullshit. “Growth Hacking” is word-of-mouth Marketing with a new fancy term to describe it because some asshole in Silicon Valley thought there was an opportunity to cash in on the general ignorance and distrust of marketing people among the tech crowd.

That dislike and distrust come with good reason. Do you want to know why? Because in the first dot-com Bust, a lot of tech companies went under because advertising and marketing agencies like Razor Fish were bankrupting them. (This is even more insulting when you recall the guys behind Razor Fish, a marketing agency, couldn’t explain to 60 Minutes what they did at their company before the bubble burst.)

So, I get why “growth hacking” became a thing, but you should know it’s just “Word-of-mouth Marketing” and the idea that you should bake that, and PR and influencer marketing, into your product as you develop it. Not when it’s finished. Which is why you want to have marketing employees working for you internally.

All of this stuff takes time, and the sooner you start doing it within the internal structure of your products, the better your results will be.

(Also: Before anyone throws shade at me for coining the term reputation design, I got nothing to sell you. If you want to read my book, email me, and I’ll send you a free .pdf copy of it. The only reason why I invented the term was because I was lazy and got tired of writing “Digital Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization” on a Chicago startup’s marketing collateral.)

Moving on to the Next Thing

Moving on to the Next Thing

If you count March 2016 to March 2017 as one year, I’ve had the roughest year of my life personally and professionally. So much so that I think I went and undid any and all progress I made since my book came out in 2012.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

So, I’ve decided to do something different. I’m shutting down work on “The Internet is Magic.”

I can’t seem to crack it as a book. I don’t feel I’m the appropriate person to write a self-help book given where my life and career is right now (the toilet) and that I’m in therapy and getting my OCD treated.

The second part of the book, which acts as an updated version of “Social Media Is Bullshit” could be great, but there’s not enough in there for it to be a book on its own. A series of excellent articles, for sure, but not a book.

Besides, I can sum up that second half of the proposed book like this:

-I told you so.

-“Content Shock” and “Peak TV” are not a thing because most content sucks.

-Everything I said from the last book still holds. Just swap out some of the names of those old platforms with names of current platforms and it’s still the same deal. (See: Snapchat’s most recent IPO, Facebook flat out lying about video views, and the increasing number of news stories about bots generating fake traffic.)

-Most marketing people are clowns that shouldn’t be trusted. You can tell who isn’t a clown based on what they read and who they quote.

-Barring a revolution in the advertising, marketing and media industries, nothing I say matters because we’ll just jump from one hot mess to another. See Chatbots and AI right now. Nobody knows anything, everyone with a financial interest is going to exaggerate, the tech people are (mostly) assholes taking advantage of media, marketing, and advertising people who have developed tunnel vision to ensure job security. The bullshit cycle will continue in perpetuum.

(That’s fancy asshole speak for “forever.”)

That brings us to the third, and final, part of the proposed book, the advice.

There’s certainly a framework I can present to you that can increase the probability of your success. Note the key word here: probability. There is NO guarantee of success when it comes to this stuff. Every situation is entirely subjective, and there are variables that you may have to deal with that someone else won’t.

For example, if you’re an afro-Peruvian jazz band, how you’re going to promote yourself is going to be different from a rapper or a rock band. You have different audiences with different expectations and different tastes, and even though you’re all musicians, the tactics the jazz band is going to use are going to be distinct from the rapper and the rock band.

And that’s just within the music industry!

Are there some things you can all do that might work? Maybe. Facebook ads do work, they’re just expensive and become ineffective the longer you run them. SEO is something everyone can do, but most SEO today is just good PR. And social is driven by offline word-of-mouth and what the media is talking about (usually), which means that it too is an extension of PR.

That means you have a PR book on your hands. That’s not quite something publishers want. At least, I don’t think. And it’s also not something I want to write. If you want to be good at PR, all you have to do is read books by Edward Bernays and know how not to bother a reporter. (In other words, pitch the reporter by email, wait a week, follow-up once, and then never bother them again if you don’t hear back. And when possible, always see if someone can introduce you to the reporter instead of pitching them cold.)

Good news: Edward Bernays has been dead for a long time so that you can find his books out there at the library for free.

Bad news: Nobody wants probability. Everyone wants solutions. And that’s not their fault; it’s the fault of decision makers chasing bogus metrics to justify their existence and tech companies justifying the billions of dollars they’ve raised.

The question you should be asking is not, “How do we hit our traffic goals?” The question is, “how do I deliver legit, high quality, repeat traffic to my advertisers and build a relationship between us as content providers, the sponsor as the people who keep our lights on, and the audience as the people we serve where everyone is happy.”

Hint: Auto-playing videos, ads that invade and abuse a users’ privacy without their permission, full-page takeovers, and other units that make browsing the web (regardless of browser or device) a horror show are not the answer.

“Less, but better” traffic is a hard sell. I haven’t encountered many people in the corporate world that want to hear that.

So given all that, I’m throwing in the towel on the book front. When I have something interesting to say that can justify an entire book, I’ll let you know.

Until then, I’m going to post everything that would have gone in “The Internet is Magic” here.

If you have not read my first book, don’t worry. Just email me at, and I’ll hook you up with a free .pdf of it. The only thing I ask is that if you like it, feel free to pass on and share the .pdf with anyone you want.

I know this will be disappointing news for like the three people who care about what I write, but I think it’s the right choice.

You don’t get rewarded for being right. Instead, you get to spend years after saying something that was right watching people attack you, and then those people completely flip their positions and repeat what you had to say on their own as if you didn’t exist. And then when the industry does catch up and absorbs the ideas you’ve put out there into their system, it doesn’t correct itself. It just keeps plowing ahead while everyone winks and nods and goes, “Yeah I know it’s all bullshit, but our boss loves it, so what are you going to do?”

The answer is that you move on to the next thing.

That is not the only change I’m going to be making given the past year I’ve had, but it’s the only one I’m ready to talk about at the moment. I’ll have more news eventually.

You’re Better Than That

You’re Better Than That

In life, you’re going to make giant, horrible mistakes.

If you’re lucky, you won’t make too many of them. Maybe one or two. You went to kiss that girl that one time because you thought you were on a date but thought wrong, and now in the back of your head, you think you’re a creep for the rest of your life.

Or maybe you should have said no to the crazy people who offered you a job and focused all your efforts on dating this awesome woman you totally would have had children with. But your new insane co-workers made it impossible to devote the time and attention needed to grow that kind of relationship to get it where it should have been, instead of where it ended up.

If you’re like most people, you acknowledge what you did wrong, you feel bad about it for however long that you feel sorry about it, and then you try to move on with your life the best that you can.

If something was outside of your control, you learn not to think about it because there’s no point in worrying or thinking about things you can’t solve.

If you’re like me and have OCD, you obsess over everything that has ever gone wrong in your life all day, every day until it drives you just a little crazy and makes it virtually impossible for you to open up to another human being in a non-professional setting. Mostly out of fear of adding to the list of giant horrible mistakes that you constantly think about.

You don’t want to be like that either.

You can’t let the mistakes you make define who you are. You also can’t let your mistakes prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to do what you want to do with your life.

You know I hate the “fail and fail often” thing that startups believe in. It’s real easy for them to say that when they’re wasting money that’s not their own. I’m not suggesting you go that far and embrace failure at every turn, but I do believe you have to make a concerted effort, every day, to try things without having that fear in the back of your head about what you’re trying turning into another giant, horrible mistake.

The biggest problem I’ve encountered over the past four years is that people don’t know what they want, so I’m not able to come up with a plan to get them to where they want to go. The second problem though is that, once the plan is put together, they’re afraid to try things. “I can’t.” “I won’t.” “That won’t work. “We can’t do that because …”

You have to get past all that. Unless there is a logical reason not to try something, then you’re just working off emotions. And unless there’s a strong feeling in your gut saying not to try something at that point, you should try it and see what happens. (If your gut is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. I’m a big believer in trusting your gut.)

Life is short. It’s cruel. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. And for that reason alone, it’s up to you and me to take risks and be adventurous.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

There are plenty of people out there today who are utterly miserable because they’ve let that fear keep them from doing what they want to do with their lives. Don’t be that person. Don’t be just another person in the long, exhaustive history of them, who didn’t want to take the action they needed to get shit done because of some convenient excuse.

You’re better than that.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

This is the last installment in a four-part series about measurement. I get asked a lot by people how to figure out if their marketing efforts are working or not, and so this is my answer. You can catch Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Give it 90 Days

You might be wondering, “OK. I know what to look for to measure success, but how do I know if the campaign is a failure or not?”

No volume, no velocity. Sure. Obvious signs of a failure, but what about this patience thing? How long should you give any campaign before you decide to pull the plug on it?

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote a concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio. In the case, the Supreme Court was attempting to define obscenity because the state of Ohio was trying to ban a film from being watched because the state said the film was “obscene.”

In the concurrence, Stewart was trying to explain how he knew something was pornography or not, and he said, “I know it when I see it.”

I know our data-obsessed culture isn’t very big on gut instinct and feelings, but that’s what I go with. You should always trust your gut.

I know. Like the rest of this advice, that’s easier said than done, but it’s the truth. And look, I don’t always follow the obvious advice either. Nobody’s perfect. We all fuck up. Just recently this company wanted me to work for them, and I met one of their executive team members and everything in my gut was screaming, “You’re not going to get along with this person, don’t work with them,” and I said yes anyway. It was a huge mistake. I should have trusted my gut, but I didn’t. So I know when I say stuff like that, it sounds obvious, but the challenge for you and I is to be mindful of what we’re doing every day. If our gut is telling us, something, you have to stop and listen to it over all the other noise that bombards us on any given day.

Of course, if you design the marketing campaign correctly, it should NEVER get to the launch phase where you have doubts about it. That’s a post, or maybe a book, for another time.

But let’s say the campaign somehow gets past the planning phase and you still have your doubts. Then you see people aren’t responding in the way you had hoped. Or how about this. Given that this world is wild and unpredictable let’s say something happens which just completely blows any chance of this campaign working, no matter how well planned or executed it was.

What I suggest is this: You launch the campaign and give it 90 days. A month is not enough time to carefully evaluate anything. Diffusion among people regarding ideas that stick and resonate with them takes longer than that. (My hunch, not yet backed up with data, that’s why I’m researching for the book right now. I suspect the research will show that I’m right on this.)

At the end of 30 days, if something needs to tweaked, you can make those tweaks on Day 30, which resets the clock. So that brings you to Day 60, where you can recalibrate again. If after the second recalibration things aren’t working, then you can safely kill the campaign. I think that’s more than fair. 90 days is plenty of time to test, evaluate, tweak, and test again while also giving the campaign enough time to diffuse among your target audience (and the people you want your target audience to share the campaign with.)

Just Do It

I’ve spent most of my life broke. My family wasn’t poor, but we were broke. And then I went to college just as the dot-com Bubble Burst, and then got married just months before the Great Recession started. (One of the key reasons we got divorced was money. The other was that I was an asshole.)

I tell you that because when we talk about promoting yourself, your business, your cause, whatever it is you’re looking to share with the world, I know these things cost money.

And don’t buy into that crap that you don’t need to spend money on marketing, PR and advertising. You do. The game you’re playing is rigged. You may not need to pay for those things if you were accepted into Y-Combinator and had access to all their resources and connections, or if you went to Harvard, but for the rest of us? You gotta put money into this, and that can be scary because we don’t have a lot of it to work with.

So when I talk about volume and velocity and talking to your customers, and picking the metric that matters most, the suggestion I want to make is this: Be patient. I don’t believe any campaign is a success unless it makes its money back. Or, the campaign pays off in some other way. I should be clear here: Not all marketing and PR campaigns are done to make money. For example, your goal may be to get something, like a deal with a record label, or to show people within your industry that you know what you’re doing and can walk the walk.

You may, also, not make money back in the way that you think. I made more money speaking and consulting than from book sales, for example., So it’s possible that if you do make your money back, it may not come from the source you expect.

Now that being said, you have to give it time. That’s not something our metrics obsessed culture is comfortable with. Good marketing, advertising, PR, sales, it all takes time. That’s why the velocity metric is so important. You might get real hot out of the gate, but then that’s all the activity you ever see. The only way to know for sure is to allow for these campaigns to breathe. Set the budget, and then let it go to work for you. Don’t second guess it or get bent out of shape if it takes a while to see results.

You may find that the volume increases slowly over time, and then the velocity of that activity spikes and then stays spiked because success breeds success. But you can’t get to that point if you panic and cut the legs out from your campaign because the MBA types get nervous.

That was Ray Kroc’s attitude with McDonald’s. He knew he’d make the money they spent on marketing back. Can any of us argue that he didn’t?

So set the money aside for the campaign, take a deep breath, and do it. If you did everything else right (and we’ll talk about “everything else” soon), then you won’t have anything to worry about.