Friday, June 10, 2011

New Publicity Tactics in the Blogosphere

There must be some new wave of thought and/or practice sweeping over the business blog environment regarding use of them for free publicity.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post concerning David Einhorn echoing my long-held position on the need for Steve Ballmer to be kicked out of the helm at Microsoft. Regarding Einhorn's fame and my comparative anonymity, I wrote,

"Does it matter that someone with billions to invest decides on publicly stating the same sentiments I've written for a few years?

In some ways, it does matter. For instance, I don't hold Microsoft, and, even if I did, I wouldn't own as much as Einhorn's fund probably does. So I wouldn't have the investor influence that Einhorn does.

But, in another way, it doesn't matter that Einhorn has now agreed with a position I've held for years. The facts of the case should be based on their merits, not simply on who is voicing them. In fact, sometimes you should assign more credibility to someone who is objective. Someone like me who doesn't own Microsoft shares, but simply observes real performance and comments thereon.

Of course, another reality is that I can write about Microsoft's, Ballmer's and Gates' failure over the past decade all I want, and I'm not going to get the coverage on CNBC, Bloomberg and in the Wall Street Journal that a wealthy hedge fund manager like Einhorn will receive for pithier comments at a much later date.

Is it gratifying for me to see business media embrace Einhorn's views on Microsoft and Ballmer, which are, essentially, my own for years? Yes.

Is it frustrating to know that I can write the same conclusions as Einhorn, for years, and garner no media attention? No. I'm sanguine about having one of millions of blogs. Mine is neither famous nor, on a traffic basis, very heavily read.

However, that said, a series of equally-candid posts about GE earned me an appearance on the most-watched cable news program, O'Reilly's Factor on Fox News, a little over three years ago. And that appearance got the attention of GE's headquarters staff.

Years ago, when the Wall Street Journal featured blogs which discussed topics appearing in the paper, I routinely saw my blog posts featured, driving readership of my blog up over 100 daily visits. Even now, I have about as many daily RSS feed readers as I average in direct readership. And it's fairly common for me to see IP addresses from companies like Goldman Sachs, Lehman and other well-known firms, as well as the US Senate, House and other government entities and universities visiting my blog.

The truth, however, is that I write the blog for two reasons that have nothing to do with other people. The first is to provide myself with ongoing anecdotal reinforcement of the key proprietary research findings which drive my equity strategy. The second is to compile a library of my own thoughts and observations, the better to use to build upon those prior recorded impressions and advance my own ideas about business, finance and economics."

These days, my average direct readership is about 70 readers, with about 40 more reading via RSS feed. As I noted above, a fairly modest, unassuming little business blog.

So imagine my surprise to receive two emails in the last two days from other business people pitching me on topics.

One evidently represents new media approaches to book publishing. Here's what the email contained,

"Can we interest you in a feature story, a review or an interview with the authors of ___________________? Two of the nation’s top financial experts are available to make financial statements easier to understand and more powerful to use than ever before.

If you’d like to see their book, please verify your best street address and let us know how we can help you.

Paul Krupin, Publicist for William S. _______, Ph.D. and John _______, MBA"

Note the funny block character in the email. Very impressive. And these two guys, of whom I never heard before, are apparently "two of the nation's top financial experts." Wow! If they want me to review their book, does that make me "one of the nation's top financial experts," as well?

I had no idea.

I skimmed through the rest of the email and found it to be completely uninspiring. But it says something if this guy Krupin felt it was worthwhile to find, contact and offer me an apparently(?) free review copy of his clients' book.

Then there was the email I received the prior day from some guy out near Santa Barbara. He felt compelled to inform me personally of his views on Netflix and Cisco, despite my own considerable posting about both. Then he directed me to what apparently is the URL of an audio of a radio program he hosts on which he recently discussed some forgettable energy company out west.

He has a website which links to writing he does for SeekingAlpha. I investigated that site years ago, when my erstwhile partner suggested I write for them. Trouble is, SeekingAlpha is one of those idea-of-the-day sites. Hardly appropriate for a buy-and-hold-for-awhile style of equity management. But apparently right up this other guy's alley.

Finally, yesterday, after I'd finished composing this post, I received yet another unsolicited, unwanted, pain-in-the-ass email regarding somebody's report or newsletter. A guy named Eric Mangan wrote a canned email with absolutely no reference to my blog, extolling the benefits of his clients report on commercial real estate.

Did I write a series of posts suggesting an interest in this sector? I did not. Not content with one unwanted email cluttering my inbox, Mangan sent another on the pretext of correcting some trivial item in the first. I replied in no uncertain terms describing my disdain for his unwanted invasion of my privacy and his client's report, explaining that if I received one more communication from him which failed to cite specific posts from my blog, he'd be blocked. All of the sudden, Mangan assumed a puppy-dog demeanor, replying that my attitude wasn't appreciated and all I had needed do was politely ask to not be contacted.

I beg to differ, and did, in my email reply to Mangan. If nobody objects to this tide of eflotsam from purveyors like him, they'll continue their noxious, unsolicited and unwanted communications. Evidently some blunt words get their attention. Point delivered, if unacknowledged.

Again, why am I so blessed with this unwanted attention?

Mangan's exchange, besides being the last straw of the week for me on this topic, also suggested in more detail the new media approach. Basically, survey anyone with a business blog, get their email, and sell it for direct email prospecting to people publicizing books, reports, what have you. These emailers exhibit a shocking lack of personalization, with salutations like, 'Mr. Neul, Blogger.'

Then there are the occasional requests I get from people to guest-write on my blog. Or to be featured on theirs if I write on topics they prefer.

My head fairly swims with all this new media attention. But, of course, there's no money in any of it. Mostly people wanting favors to access my blog's comparatively light daily traffic. It suggests a surprisingly primitive attempt to emarket to business bloggers with no segmentation or market targeting whatsoever, not to mention a complete failure to comprehend the motivations and mindsets of such bloggers.

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