A snapshot in time…
EMasters was started in 2002. Before the arrival of the major platforms around 2005, products & services were promoted via the email lists of independent websites together with a networked community of independent publishers. This was a synergistic mix where websites offering products & services were matched with communities of publishers that were a fit for them. And good independent publishers were able to thrive by offering Advertising spaces & promotions.
With the arrival of the platforms things began to change — see article on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Flowing from this legislation the traditional wisdoms of Marketing were upended.
Allow me to illustrate from our own experience when publishing the first iteration of our ezine — It’s My Life — in the early 2000s…
We learned from there that the same person needed to see and hear from us roughly 7-8 times before they engaged… so we constantly monitored our opening rates. Are our stories compelling? Is our environment conducive? What about the presentation, visual and otherwise? The order of information, who on our list is attracted to which sets of information, etc etc?
Note: We did not use clickbait where headlines and content did not match… and we did not try to be everything to everybody.
So we curated the products & services we supported. We also curated the Ads that appeared in our e-magazine — we wanted it to be a safe place, so suspect Ads were filtered out.
By cross-promoting with like-minded publishers we had a big reach. And by being consistent, we built trust.
Note: We also did not buy subscribers or hits to artificially inflate our stats. And so we grew organically… and it worked because our stats reflected real subscribers who resonated with our work.
Then came the platforms…
Under Section 230, platforms are legally protected from being liable for fraudulent content. And the marketplace soon began to morph because in order to provide ‘free content’, platforms needed Advertising revenue to survive. And so checks and balances were relegated to supercharged Advertising revenue streams. Many independent publishers, like ours, folded because we just couldn’t compete with their purported ‘value propositions’.
Note: Also, independent publishers did not have the level of legal protection the platforms had.
So we shut down our ezine and moved to web design exclusively in 2005.
However in 2016, when we were invited to provide Internet Marketing solutions for Nusantara Collection, we needed to revisit the current platform Advertising & Marketing models since they had changed so much from the time we started as a Viral Marketing company in 2002 …and I consulted with experts from top Advertising agencies among others.
One of the experts I consulted was my son, who is currently Director of Strategy of one of the largest Advertising companies in Malaysia. What he told me profoundly impacted our decision for the way forward. He informed me that his company has over 200 people dedicated to platform Marketing and they are still figuring out how to use it effectively. Another issue he raised was the constant shift in rules and procedures, that fully occupy his Team to remain current. And so he advised me that this was perhaps not the route our small company — without that kind of resources — should take.
Another problem that arises is that with so many fake accounts (bought subscribers & hits) on so many lists, a lot of data is misleading. Another expert I consulted provided services to large companies, with proprietary software to manage large Advertising campaigns across many platforms. I asked him if his software could filter out real from fake accounts. His answer was “No” …and for me, this means the analysis he provides cannot be fully relied on.
When I wrapped my head around what I learned… together with how current Advertising & Promotional models use intrusive Ads that disrupt otherwise well-presented promotions; the way algorithms worked for influencer Marketing; race-to-the-bottom price competition, etc (all housed within a very crowded, confusing environment); and how algorithms work in placing posts on say Facebook feeds (who sees what, and in which order) which challenges all the tried and tested wisdom of yesteryears…
I concluded that platforms are ill-suited to promote products & services that are attempting to move up the value chain via compelling storytelling and/or value creation. For that particular niche, what was needed was the type of Community Marketing that thrived in the early 2000s.
Towards a ‘new’ Non-Platform Marketing model…
This new understanding also corresponded with our own experience where, over the last 21 years, we have seen more and more small companies in this lifestyle niche moving offline to do in-person events, pop-ups, etc.
So we decided to revive It’s My Life and rebuild a community of publishers in the lifestyle niche so that selected lifestyle SMEs…
- independent fashion & lifestyle brands — slow, handcrafted & artisanal niches
- artists, artisans, makers, designers, creatives, authors
- micro & small businesses with bespoke programs and products that support the well-being of mind, body & spirit — eg. coaching, counseling | destinations, travel, retreats | food, dining | health, nutrition, fitness | home, decor, feng shui | mental & spiritual wellness | parenting | style, beauty | etc
…can showcase their value creation and unique value propositions to an engaged audience in an uncrowded, serene and safe space.