Advertise Yourself – The Flat World WaySeptember 6, 2006
Thomas Friedman’s bestselling book, The World is Flat, continues to sit high atop the New York Times Bestseller List – and has for the past 71 weeks. That’s not too surprising when you realize (as thousands more do each week) that his book explains how technology and the Internet are empowering small companies to compete with, and even surpass, their bigger rivals.
But there are two Flat Worlds out there, folks. The first is Friedman’s “Flat World of Competition.” The second is the much seedier and less well documented “Flat World of Hucksterism.”
Somehow, technology seems to breed hype and hucksterism. When it comes to the Internet you know hucksterism all too well – “We’ll Boost Your Web Site to Number 1 on Every Google Search” – “1001 Ways Google Adwords will Make You Rich” – “I Made $2,765, 230 in 2 Days, and You Can Too!” This kind of hogwash and horsefadoodle entraps thousands of poor souls every day. You may well know someone who shelled out their life savings in pursuit of instant Internet fortune (or you may be that person). The sad truth is that most of the time the only person getting rich is the person hawking the dream. Don’t believe me? Just go to www.gurudaq.com if you’d like to travel through the world of the Internet carnival barker. This site, created by John Sikora, gathers hundreds of “Internet marketers” in one place, ranking them like the NASDAQ ranks companies and comparing their methods. I think you’ll be surprised and I think you’ll agree it’s eye-opening to see how similar (and often cynical) the techniques of Internet sales exploitation really are.
One way to test if someone is trying to “sell you” is to do a simple test we call the “Elbow Grease Test.” Just ask yourself – “are they selling me something that doesn’t involve me?” Weight loss hucksters have done this for years. In many weight loss programs you are sold an “easy” weight loss system and the results are always the same – they get rich and you stay fat. It’s the same with technology. If you are offered first place ranking on Google without any elbow grease on your part – well, just beware. If, however, your upcoming fortune comes with some considerable effort on your part, well then, maybe, you’ll want to keep listening. This “Elbow Grease Hucksterism” test is an almost foolproof way to separate the hustlers’ promises from the legitimate products.
One example of a company that passes our test is ARA Content (www.aracontent.com) – a company that delivers true value for a fair price. ARA Content could not have existed just 15 years ago, but today they offer a way to get your articles published in hundreds of newspapers around the country – at a fraction of the cost of advertising in those same newspapers. ARA Content is so good we feature them in our seminar, Hidden Sales Treasure of the Internet.
I first learned about ARA Content when a news alert for the “invisible web” landed in my e-mail inbox. This particular article from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania newspaper wasn’t quite a news story and it wasn’t really a press release. It was something else I couldn’t quite figure out. Checking more closely, I could find no byline – just these words at the end of the article: “Copyright © 2005, ARA Content.”
When I read the article again I noticed something else. Although the article was informative, it also appeared to include an (ahem) “advertisement” for the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now, the folks at the Hill Library offer a search service and a web site (www.jjhill.org) that is one of the crown jewels of the Internet (and another example of the flat world of value – and a service that passes our hucksterism test with flying colors).
But, why had a Pennsylvania newspaper published an article that was such a great promotional piece for the James J. Hill Business Library? Who wrote it? And what the heck was ARA Content?
By now you probably know that doing a simple Internet search for “ARA Content” will lead you to www.aracontent.com. Let’s talk about what makes this site a true Hidden Sales Treasure of the Internet. The main benefit ARA Content provides to businesses both small and large is the chance to promote their own business or new product by writing articles that may be featured on the news web sites and real “hand-held” paper editions of newspapers around the country.
How do they do this? Newspapers often need stories to fit a particular section, topic or even an empty space. With reduced reporting staffs these days they often feature content written by other experts or specialists. Newspapers will do this because for them it’s easy and it’s free. ARA Content is the broker for such articles to something like 50 of the 100 top circulation newspapers in America – such as the Los Angeles Times, the Kansas City Star and the Star-Ledger in New Jersey.
So, if the Los Angeles Times doesn’t have to pay for these articles, how does ARA Content make money? Time for the bad news now – and welcome back to the world of reality, boys and girls. If you are going to have ARA Content feature your articles in such newspapers you’ll have to pay for their services (I know, the world just isn’t fair). However, they will be completely up-front with you about whether or not your company should even buy their product.
And, you’ll have to invest some considerable elbow grease before you should even consider their service. You’ll have to make sure you have a product or service that is not only different, but newsworthy. And you’ll have to write the articles, making them informational and not just a press release (although their editors will help or even write the content for you if you don’t write that well). ARA is not selling you easy money. What they are selling (at a fair price) is one of the craftiest, sanest and thriftiest ways to promote your business, new product, or special expertise that has ever been invented.
“Big deal,” you say, “I’ve tried those article sites and they never get me any business. It’s a waste of time and money.” ARAContent is definitely not like those sites. Those sites are a perfect example of the Flat World of Hucksterism. ARA Content, however, is an example of Thomas Friedman’s Flat World – the world that is revolutionizing the competitive marketplace. The value of being published as an ARA Content article is what they call “ad dollar equivalency.” The short explanation of ad dollar equivalency is what it would have cost you to place an ad for the same space as your article. What would it cost you to place an equivalent ad in the Los Angeles Times? The cost of your ARA article is peanuts compared to the cost of “equivalent” ads.
Yes, it will take work (and money) on your part to be featured in these newspapers, so ARA passes our “hucksterism” test with flying colors. Start your work by going on their site and reading some of the articles in categories similar to yours. Then, begin the work of deciding if you have something that is different enough and newsworthy enough to be picked up by newspaper editors.
What kinds of things might you write about that would get your company more attention? Here are some of the approaches we saw when we visited their site:
• Products – promote your new invention, game, or even groups of products (CompUSA wrote an article about hand-held gadgets – and many smaller companies wrote of their new inventions)
• Contest or Fund Drive – an association fundraising for a new program to send students to study in foreign countries or a company sponsoring a contest around a newsworthy topic
• Service or Expertise – newsworthy service or specialty
• Differentiation – almost any thing that sets your company, product, or event apart is fair game
Let’s be clear here. ARA’s services pass our hucksterism test, but their service is not for everyone. You might say that ARA is for the “big dogs.” By that I don’t mean mega-corporations, but in the context of the NSA convention, likely ARA customers might be the National Speakers’ Association itself, some of the bigger speakers’ bureaus and some of the more established, newsworthy and differentiated speakers and authors. The keys are a newsworthy hook and a differentiated product, book or service.
You can learn more on how to make good decisions about online resources and where to find trusted Internet business services in our seminar, Hidden Business Treasures of the Internet.