crosscut: keeping the viral in viral marketing

Last week I signed up on the advance mailing list for Crosscut, the new online Northwest news/opinion/whatever published by former Seattle Weekly co-owner and editor David Brewster (for whom I worked way back when). Yesterday I received their first email, and what a misbegotten piece of cheese it is. In addition to noting their imminent launch date (lucky for them the first Monday in April is the 2nd, not the 1st), it also engages in a piece of promotion designed to drive away anybody with a sense of online etiquette. If, they inform me, I am one of the first ten people to forward their email to ten of my friends, who then themselves sign up for Crosscutís mailing list, I will receive a ten dollar gift certificate from Elliott Bay Books. If this is Davidís idea of online marketing, then heís placed himself about a half-step up from the spammers who promise to sell me cheap software, loan me vast amounts of money at almost no interest, and enlarge my penis. A chain letter is a chain letter, no matter how good the cause or how itís delivered. Itís worse than it looks, too: if I really wanted to score that ten bucks (why, thatís enough to buy a couple of magazines! or four fifths of a paperback! or one third of a hardback!), the law of averages says I would need to forward that email to a lot more than ten people, because most of my friends are smart enough not to read forwarded advertising, even from a friend (which I wouldnít be much longer if I kept sending them crap like this). David is a good editor, but heís always been a little behind the curve when it comes to marketing (nobody could ever convince him to make the Weekly a free paperóit didnít change until after heíd sold it). Even though I hate the name, Crosscut may turn out to be a welcome addition to local news, but alienating your core audience with clumsily offensive promotion is a bad way to start.

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