July 28, 2006

"all existing business models are wrong. find a new one."


Probably my favorite bit of "How To Be Creative" is the intro to Point Number Eleven:

11. Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There's no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.

It's weird when you find yourself a professional cartoonist, even though you don't really publish anything in the conventional sense.

Instead of using the cartoons to sell books, t-shirts, magazine editorial etc, I use cartoons to sell $10 wine, suits, yachts, software, whatever. All very indirectly. The more indirectly, the more I prefer it.

Would this approach have been possible before the internet and what Chris Anderson calls "The Long Tail"? Of course not.

The journo from the WSJ can yak on to the contrary all he wants [As long as his bosses don't fire him, which, by the way, I believe is an important point to remember]. But he's missing the big picture.

[Order The Long Tail book at Amazon here. Congrats, Chris!]

[UPDATE: Lee Gomes, the WSJ journo in question, responds.]

Posted by hugh macleod at July 28, 2006 12:13 AM | TrackBack


As an aside to your links to the Long Tail "fallout" I am amazed how, while improving business, the Internet and blogosphere have an uncanny ability to turn people into high school girls!

People tend to rant and complain about what "he said or she did," but fail to converse with each other to rectify disagreements.

"Piss me off? Well, I'll blog about you rather than talking to you."

See the Rocketboom fallout as well.

Why is it that normally professional, upstanding people can gossip like high schoolers when it comes to the blogosphere?

I'd like to get Chris and Lee together for a cage match!

Posted by: Kevin Behringer at July 28, 2006 2:08 PM

hmm bizarre. my name is chris lee.

Posted by: Chris Lee at July 28, 2006 4:43 PM

You make a good point that gets lost in the rush to debunk Anderson's book. Even if the tail is a long way from equaling the head in the marketplace, it is clearly getting bigger, and the Internet, as you point out, is allowing more people to step foot in the marketplace in the first place. As more people do, thus offering more choice, the head will shrink (I love the wordplay all of this allows). There always will be hits, but there is increasingly room for those offering something on the other end of the spectrum to carve out a comfortable niche.

Posted by: John at July 28, 2006 5:38 PM

Isn't this new "long tail" phenomena Chris Anderson actually describes something that has been known for a while -- only it has been described in another way.

Years ago in the publishing world (I don't know if this is still the case), although the publishing houses were eager to print as many best-sellers as possible, the goal was to build up a healthy _backlist_: books that might not be part of the "head" of the tail (to use Anderson's terminology) but would sell a profitable number year after year & provide a steady & predictable income so they would have to the money to risk on potential best sellers. I think the name for these was "midlist titles".

The reason why these midlist titles were profitable was that the cost of their development -- editing, creating a master to make copies with & advertising -- had been paid for. When was the last time you saw an ad for one of Hunter S. Thompson's books, let alone a classic like Homer's _Iliad_ or Gibbon's _Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire_?

What I believe has happened (I stopped following the publishing industry closely years ago) was that as coporations came to control more of the industry, they started pruning midlist titles & authors because they didn't bring in "enough profit".

What vendors like Amazon & Netflick has done is found a way to broaden the category of this midlist thru technology, so that they can make "enough profit" from the products that aren't the best-sellers.

Another benefit of this broadened "midlist" is that they can keep in the market items that might be okay sellers -- but become best-sellers due to outside events. I don't claim to be a successful businessman, but it seems to me that it's easier to make "enough profit" selling something that you have in stock than to have to order it & hope it arrives before the demand fades.

A last note: I find it fascinating that what is heralded as a "new discovery" or a "revolutionary change" with Web 2.0 is often an old idea described in different words. Wikis seem to be all the rage now, but they are very similar to what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he invented the World Wide Web: an user-edittable environment.


Posted by: llywrch at July 28, 2006 7:29 PM

Hugh - I'm curious if you think your particular business model (now that you're doing it) is now WRONG for others - say poets, musicians, sculptures or other "artists"?

Can a poet give away poetry for free and hope in indirectly sells shoes? Can a musician give away his music and hope it indirectly sells furniture?

Posted by: Jeff Schmidt at July 28, 2006 9:42 PM

Kevin Behringer has found my major concern... why would i want to risk my business by putting it out in front of bloggers... for them to destroy it?

What may be perfectly useful and valuable for millions can be chopped down by two dozen bloggers.

Anyone know how to avoid this?

In the "old world" your product or service would have to earn it's way into irrelevance and disdain... today people will do that for you who have never needed, truly used, or benefitted from what you have.

Posted by: Lost Flier at July 29, 2006 7:44 AM

Ah! But Hugh, humans love three things: to abstract, generalize and to try to find the magic formula for turning stones into gold. Now, on the physical plane that is an utopia and what happens is actual diversity. Still, the intellect likes to focus on small aspects of something or other and generalize or pretend that it has discovered something new and fantastic that is finally going to turn crap into gold for all. The generalisation idea is not wrong, after all nature is fractal, but that is not the end of the story.

Posted by: Dannie Jost at July 29, 2006 7:54 AM

I agree. As a film maker I sick of the Hollywood business model - its broken anyway. I'm going to make a film and give it away free (it'll be funded by adverts) and the www.365films.com idea (make a film in a day, everyday, for a year) is also taking off with some serious interest from big companies.

Posted by: Tim Clague at July 29, 2006 7:47 PM