Disagreeing with Seth Godin is basically a cliché now, but I'm going to do it anyway—or quibble with him, at least. I like this chart on Seth's blog (who doesn't like charts?) that plots some broad cultural phenomena against two axes, the sophisticated/tacky axis and the techie/tech-phobic axis. The challenge, he says,
is in designing structures and transparency that will attract the good guys while burying or repelling those that seek the new technology (because they can't find anywhere else to go). In other words, you either need to move the top left to the top right (not easy, but possible*), or educate the bottom left of the grid in how to contribute to the culture (really difficult indeed). The best new media (like blogs and possibly twitter) open doors to people who didn't used to have a voice. The worst ones (like blogs and possibly twitter) merely create new venues for scams and senseless yelling.
He points out that Gourmet being shut down is "what happens when the top left refuses to move right." Well, sort of. Quibble #1: Conde Nast moved right when it made all the recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit available online through the very popular interactive site Epicurious.com, launched in 1995. The problem, it would seem, is not that the publisher rejected technology but embraced it so fully, it pushed the print channel of Gourmet (and, quite possibly, the need for brand separation between Gourmet and Bon Appetit) into obsolescence.
I think Seth is right that the cultural capital of "sophistication" isn't enough for long-term, widespread success if you don't embrace change and technological advances. Only die-hard devotees and practicing artists themselves pay attention to the most high-culture arts like orchestral music, ballet and poetry.
Which brings me to my next quibble: Seth lists "novelists […] musicians […] chefs, artists, fashion designers, movie stars [???]" as exemplars of the top left quadrant (sophisticated but non-techie) but notably leaves out poets. As a poet, I may be biased, but since when are movie stars considered high-brow?
Which brings me to my next quibble: In the right quadrant (both sophisticated and techie) he gives us the Huffington Post. Who's in the what now? Do people really consider the HuffPo sophisticated??
Here is a sampling of current headlines from the Huffington Post (all from the "Most Popular" section, no less):
- Jessica Simpson Dons See-Through Jumpsuit, Muumuu (PHOTOS)
- ESPN's 'Body Issue' Of Naked Athletes: Serena Williams, Dwight Howard, Adrian Peterson, More Pose Nude (PHOTOS)
- Guy Ritchie: Madonna Is Retarded
- 5 Ways to Age Naturally
Here's the first paragraph of that last story:
Although 50% of the population in the United States will be over 65 by the year 2025, aging does not have to mean lower productivity and quality of life. In order to stay healthier longer, many people are seeking out the time-tested wisdom of Chinese Longevity Medicine. AGING MAY BE INEVITABLE, BUT POOR HEALTH IS NOT!
I take it back. The HuffPo is totally sophisticated. If tabloids had better websites, they'd be "leading the culture" too.
I modified Seth's chart so the examples are a bit more to my liking. He may be the idea man, but I know what's classy.
This Week's Search Marketing Gems
SMX East 2009 was this week, so there was plenty of live blogging from the usual live-blogging suspects. I don't always enjoy reading this kind of post (it's kind of like looking at pictures of a party you didn't attend, no?) but I did find a few of them quite interesting and helpful, including:
- Ask the Linkbuilders: Virginia Nussey covers this roundtable discussion with Rae Hoffman, Debra Mastaler, and Eric Ward, who tackle the tough questions about paid links, nofollow and link-sculpting, directory links and more.
- Twitter Marketing Tactics: Lisa Barone  blogs a session on marketing through Twitter, featuring Michael Gray, Chris Winfield, and Tamar Weinberg. They talk about Twitter spam, hashtags, real-time search, customer service, Twitter tools, how to get more followers, how to get retweets, and how to automate without going overboard (i.e. how to do the robot without being a robot). Great tips!
And a couple of stand-out, non-SMX-related resources for you:
- How Keywords Help Determine Site Architecture: This article from Search Engine Watch explains how to apply your keyword research to your information architecture  for a natural, user-friendly organization. We are big proponents of this tactic.
- SEO Cheat Sheet: Anatomy of a URL: Who doesn't like charts? Oh wait, I already said that. SEOmoz consistently delivers useful and attractive graphics, and this breakdown of both SEO-friendly and old-school dynamic URLs is no exception.
It's #FollowFriday Time
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