Harvard’s Manila server is down.
Frank Barnako: Rocketboom may charge for shows.
Andrew Baron: “Rocketboom will remain freely available.”
Dan Gillmor takes off the gloves.
On March 12, I wrote a cautionary tale, part of the history of UserLand. The story was written in a general way, and raised a bunch of questions. Today I’d like to answer some of those questions.
1. It’s really weird to be sued by your lawyer. Not a very nice feeling. Sort of like being made sick by your doctor, deliberately.
2. There are now two UserLands: The original company, and a new one which was formed in 2004 to market Manila and Radio, to create incentives for a new management team, and to settle claims by our law firm.
3. I stopped working for UserLand in 2002, for health reasons, but I never sold my stock. Today I own 90 percent of the original company, and more than 50 percent of the new company.
4. Jack Russo was UserLand’s attorney, a board member, secretary and my personal attorney, from 1988 to 2005.
5. Russo and his law firm, Russo & Hale sued UserLand, Scripting News, and myself, in August 2006. Earlier this month, the court ruled to disqualify Russo & Hale from representing UserLand’s shareholders due to conflicts of interest. Their strategy was clear — to force me to spend a lot of money on lawyers while they used their own in-house, relatively inexpensive, legal resources.
6. In the 2004 settlement, Russo released all claims with UserLand and myself. He was compensated with a large share of the stock in the new company. He drafted the agreement, it was signed in his office in Palo Alto.
7. As I said in the previous piece, the company was in awful legal condition. While I take blame for that, as founder and former CEO, some of the responsibility must also lie with Russo, as the company’s lawyer.
I’ve been trying to get someone to go in business with me on this idea, but it ain’t happening, so what the hell, here it is.
Start with a two-person video crew, like Andrew and Joanne, in New York, and every Tuesday, rain or shine, go to Times Square and interview 20 or 30 people, asking a very simple query. Tell me about a product, service or company you hate, and why. Then on Wednesday morning, release a video, very well branded, through every channel imaginable, with the best interview from Tuesday. By best I mean most enthusiastically hateful. The company who most screwed someone recently, told graphically and personally, from the point of view of a user.
Of course the companies who are targeted may try to sue you, but what would they sue you for? You’re just relaying a customer’s experience, told in the first person. Buf if they sue, so what. It’s great publicity, the best.
Then one day, probably not very far into it, one of the companies will get the idea that if they respond to the complaint, people might actually like them. They might turn hate into respect, derision into love, if they do the totally un-American thing — listen to a customer, and respond as if they care.
“Yes, we know we let you down, but we promise to fix the problem, and to do better next time.”
Then you know what happens — sales soar. This is really great marketing. Much better than ads that say “Our product is great, we don’t suck, buy buy buy.” Because everyone knows you suck. There’s no such thing as a product that doesn’t suck. But we’re going to give our money to the company that knows that and is trying to do better.
I think this is a gold mine. The video producers that capture people’s imaginations with real-life product nightmares will own the brand of the future in advertising, because this is the future, user-perspective marketing, where the users define your products, and you make the products they want you to make. Same with politics, btw.
I’ve pitched this to lots of people in the video world, but they don’t believe. Now at least my stake is in the ground. I bet that by this time next year, someone will be doing a great job of this kind of video, and they’ll be raking in the bucks from the people who used to waste money on the old kind of advertising. I’d love to work with a team that really wants to go for this, maybe even invest.
Todd Cochrane (via email): “The man on the street proposal you have is how I got GoDaddy as a sponsor. I bashed the hell out of them on a issue they responded very publicly and fixed the issue and those actions have earned them a significant amount of money through my show. While I still jump on them when they screw up I do it publicly and guess what they generally fix it. I love your concept and think it is a great one.”
Ryan Tate: “One our most talked about stories at the Business Times a few years ago was one with some architects complaining about what buildings they hated most.”