When I started charging vendors for advertising on Muniwireless, which by the middle of 2005 had become the online portal for news about municipal wireless broadband projects, I began running into potential advertisers who wanted me to say nice things about them in my blog posts. This is common in the publishing industry, I found out, but I was aghast at how aggressive some of them were. But I found a way to deal with them.
The marketing VP of a company whom I will not name, kept sending me press releases and requesting telephonic briefings about their activities (none of which were interesting), but insisted that they would not advertise unless I said very nice things about their products. I told him that Muniwireless.com is my blog and I will write whatever I want. But he kept sending me emails about their activities and since I was on Skype, he would ping me when he saw me online.
That’s when I created my Ninth Circle of Hell:*
– I blocked email messages from him, not just on the email software on my computer, but at the server level;
– when that did not work, I blocked all emails from his company’s domain name and when he started sending me emails from a Yahoo address, I blocked all emails that mentioned his company’s name;
– when he started posting comments that promoted his company on my blog, I used my comment spam filter to delete automatically all comments that mentioned his company, and also deleted ALL references to his company in any articles I had written in the past.
To my audience, his company ceased to exist.
Any company that wasted my time and made ridiculous demands was banished to my Ninth Circle of Hell.
Lesson 5: Create a Ninth Circle of Hell for people who waste your time and make outrageous demands. As a pajama entrepreneur with no staff and very little time, you have to be efficient and effective.
Lesson 6: The most powerful word in publishing is NO. If your advertisers are pressing you to lower the quality of your content, just say no (Note: this is the advice I got from Dave Morgan, founder of Tacoda, a behavioral targeting ad network. Dave has been in the publishing industry for many years and is also the founder of Real Media (1995). I met him at the Burda DLD Conference in January 2007).
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*Note: This refers to the final circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. The Inferno is the first of the three canticas in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the others are Purgatorio and Paradiso. I read the Anthony Esolen translation of Inferno and it is excellent, highly recommended summer reading.