Wet Dreamers, Gamblers, & Cheap Tricks

Over a coffee, the real story of dark corners in the internet will be told... / © 2009
Over a coffee, the real story of dark corners in the internet will be told… / © 2009

I don’t like to tell negative stories or put down people which are not getting results. They may be doing less than they can (or should), or simply doing the wrong things. Yet, in our business, we need to be careful of the people and companies which could get us in trouble. This has happened to me a few times, so I have real life experience. Most of this you don’t read in the daily blog and content marketing expert sites. With the good, informative, and “what really works”, it seems like this type of information is missing.

Wet Dreamers

These are usually middle managers that don’t have experience. Or their experience is what you call: “watching from the sidelines”. It seems like almost 30% of the people I speak with the first time, want either content or results out of proportion. For example, they want you to create 100 original pages in three months, with first page results for 5 to 10 pages. There are “results only” managers who simply “want to increase sales by 700%”. These goals usually come from either seeing a competitor (or a site in a different sector). They see a site starting up and in three months have “100 great pages”. If they know something about the site, or the company behind it, they assume that one or two people work on the design, technical programming, and content writing. They may be correct in their observation. A good writer can write a page a day and edit another one. Usually that’s in context of a company with experience and material already written or at least defined. A writer in a company with some knowledge base. It could also be a company with a product in a field where there is ready content to edit, comment, or simply process and create original material. In most areas this is the case. If you write for “green tourism in South East Asia” there is more material than you can ever imagine. I have a friend who writes for such a site. He reviews hotels, tour guides, remote locations, food, and overall travel experience. He only writes an article every few weeks. But the editors of the site have lots of material on travel to the area. They also find material from travelers, hotel owners, and travel guides. In addition, there is lots of material from government and business organizations. This includes videos and photos. Some are excellent and original. A site like this with dedicated workers can get content up quickly. Usually the editors and writers have experience in the area. They were usually writers or editors in print publications. They could also be travel guides or travel organizers. Some actually make their life fit with the work and are travelers. If you are experienced in your “domain area”, you could guide a writer, editor, photographer, to create great material quickly. What you need to watch for is the “wet dreamers” who are not domain experts. I notice this in areas which are hot now. There was a time when “gaming” sites were hot. This attracted many entrepreneurs, who did not have expertise in specific gaming areas (i.e.  poker, slots, sports). Recently an era of FOREX sites ended with a big thud. In this case, sites tried to “sell” or “trade” in foreign exchange options. Essentially you would bet on a foreign exchange value (dollar vs. euro) for a period of time (day, week, month). If you guessed correct, you will get some gain in your “investment”. For the most part, these sites did not actually “buy” the options they sold you. They were betting against you NOT GUESSING RIGHT. This is what most casinos do with their gamblers. As can be expected, from hundreds of sites all over the world, a few, maybe five to ten, actually attracted enough people with money and actually made a great deal of money. Like any business, the rumors of overnight millionaires were fast to come. In the US, there is a “legal marijuana” craze. I hear it all over the place, people who want sites of doctors who prescribe “legally”, experience of people who are now getting legally prescribed (social media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.), finally, people actually want to sell something, the easiest thing is advice (essentially opinion) or “digital products” (i.e. eBooks, videos). There are many examples of nice, useful, and successful sites. But seeing one and understanding how it was done, even seeing others do it, is not enough to duplicate the work and have the same success. There are many reasons why a site does not succeed. Even timing could be the problem. Often if you duplicate some else, just a few months later, you simply don’t get the market attention. Timing failures are not unique to the Internet business, ask a shoe seller what happen if his supply is three months late…

Gamblers

Gamblers in the Internet business are very much like horse gamblers and stock market speculators. You start out with $1,000 and hope to end up with $35,000. Where do you get the idea of 35 TIMES return in a short time? In horse races, a “dark horse” / long shot, with 35:1 odds win almost every week.  Every stock speculator sees prices of obscure listing go up a few hundred percent in days or weeks. A mining company hits a vane of gold. A small tech company gets selected to supply Apple’s iPhone (that happened to me). So why not pick a small niche specialty field, put up a site, claim that you can help everyone, save them money, make them happy or rich… you get the point. A small headphone retail shop in the next town wanted to sell headphones locally on the web. The idea was to offer the same savings on special offers as they do in the shop. Now they realize how many sites sell headphones. You can buy them from anyone, there are many brands and quite a few known brands (Sony, Sennheiser, Koss) , there are sales on top models all the time… etc. So the competition is known, maybe not enough in the Internet world were SEO and reference links are more important than large selection and low prices! BUT, a gambler will put his money down (who sang that tune?) So you hire two people, one for the technical side (shopping cart, security), and one for content (style, design, writing and photos), and you hope that once the site is up, it will at least pay for itself. If you are lucky, you will make a million. For the most part, just like novice horse gamblers, you end up losing your initial development investment. You may also lose money if you bought inventory and paid for advertising. Nothing done right on the web is really cheap. It may cost less than a brick and mortar shop, but still you need to do some things right. I see “web gamblers” almost every week now. I use to sit and start explaining the risks and the costs. I don’t do it any more now. I even thought of writing a: “Guide for Internet Gamblers” of sorts… but alas, time passes and interest goes away.

Cheap Tricks

Cheap trickster are usually looking to do something really simple. The ones trying to copy the mobile games Angry Birds and Candy Crush are the classic in this category. I know a guy who has a very simple trivial pursuit game. One question at a time. He asks you the question and you choose from four possible answers. You get a smiley face if you are correct or an angry one if you are wrong. He gets lots of hits and has Google Ad-Words banner ads all over the page. These sites tend to do OK if you have something that many people search and you get the Google search traffic. There are as many ideas to give people cheap tricks as there are people who want a site. I even get serious companies with technical products who want some “kick” / “buzz” to their site. Even large companies use some kind of mascot like a bird or animal (the GEICO Gecko to Americans seems the most interesting) to spice up their site. If a campaign is done right, anything small and interesting can make a series site feel a little more fun. The problem is hard to crack. I have seen countless marketing manager come up with funny little characters or other gimmicks. mostly seem strange or silly. If you don’t have the time, money, or creative streak, don’t do cheap tricks. This is true for most serious products. If you have money either license something, like technology companies which use Dilbert and all his characters. Don’t feel bad, even Met Life, one of the largest American insurance company, paid for Snoopy!

A Personal Note: It’s All In The Perspective

If you are one of the characters above, take heart, it’s all in the perspective. I met many gaming and financial gambling site owners who do not think of themselves (or their customers) as gamblers. The ones who make (or made) money, actually look at their business as the norm on the web. They see small, highly developed sites, which do not make money, as the “losers” in the new game of Internet entrepreneurship. They are the ones who are making money and developing new ways to give people something. Even if it’s a thrill of gambling at home without going to Monaco or Macau for a short trip is a contribution to the world of Internet technology. Perspective, or what your filter from the real world is a crucial skill to develop early. If you know who you are, what you are prepared to do, AND WHAT YOU CAN DO! you will surely not step into situations that are uncomfortable, or downright dangerous FOR YOU! The one thing to take away from these, are the wide range of sites, characters, and work you will find on the ‘net. As time goes by, the Internet is a reflection of all our lives in the real world. It is virtual, and you can’t really touch or smell it. But it has the same character as the real world. Gambling in a casino has it’s benefits, but so does an Internet casino. So don’t be too judgmental of others… but be careful out there (Hill Street Blues quote).

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