Marketing | Environment | Culture

Tag: website

If You Can’t Keep People in the Seats, What Good Is The Game?

You can build the stadium, field a team, schedule the game, arrange concessions, and sell corporate sponsorships, but if you can’t keep fans in the seats all season, season after season, what good is the game?

Answer: if it doesn’t work for the audience, it doesn’t work for anyone.

empty, chairs, crowd, audience

If you can't keep people in the seats, what good is the game? (Image from:

I received an email from a colleague at the office alerting me to a new offering from a competitor.  The offering’s a new website; its url alone was enough to inspire this post.  I’ll go straight to my take.

There are three primary stakeholders here: the website users, the advertisers on the site, and the company building, running, promoting, and selling the site.

This is the list stakeholders who were considered in rank order: the company themselves, their advertisers.  It’s a basic selling orientation, rather than a proper customer orientation.

The website,, is a combination directory, deals, and portal site from a local television station.  Established competitors in this space include Google, Groupon, Craigslist, DexYellowPages, SuperPages, and dozens of others.  And that’s to say nothing of all the local and regional competitors with similar offerings, especially in the deals space.  The market’s saturated – both for audience and for advertisers.

It immediately reminded me of a site they offered up and backed with tens of thousands of dollars in local television advertising inventory a couple years ago,, a local classifieds site.  A visit to that site today is similar to, but far less interesting than visiting a ghost town.  There’s absolutely nothing on offer in most of the categories.  In the common “Cars for Sale,” there are three cars.  More importantly, there’s nothing the site offers that Craigslist didn’t bring to this market nearly a decade ago.

The problem: neither of these sites meets an unserved or underserved market need, solves a problem, makes something easier, delights or entertains, or provides anything unique or new.  A television ad may motivate you to visit (that’s a stretch, I know), but a tired initial experience won’t bring you back.  I would also add that the other audience – the advertisers – does not really have anything new in this offering, either.

Instead, the sites fit these criteria: we can definitely build it and we’re pretty sure we can sell it to advertisers.

The website users, of course, are absolutely critical to long term success.  Even in the short term, though, their interests supersede those of the two other stakeholders.  Yet they feel ignored in both of these offerings.

If there’s no sustained traffic, the sites will slowly die, as advertising contracts fail to get renewed.  I don’t know what the fate of the directory/deals/portal will be, but the classifieds site was DOA and never found its pulse.

Entirely Different Angle

Would the same people who are building, selling, and marketing this site invest in it the project with their own money?  Would they sacrifice their employment within the television operation to dedicate themselves to it exclusively?  If so, there’s more at play here than I’ve observed.  If not, then to whom does the offering seem viable?


My purpose here is not to denigrate a competitor.  They’re not alone in their approach; this is certainly happening everywhere all the time.  Bonus points do go to them for trying to open up new streams of revenue from non-television sources.  And it’s not like I or the local television operation in whose employ I remain for a few weeks is aggressively and insightfully innovating online (on the upside, we remain focused on continuing to be the top-billing station and most-watched news product in the market).

Admittedly – and finally – there may be more at play than I’ve observed (I hope there is).  It’s not like I’m on a “explain your underlying strategy to me” or “describe for me the finer points and assumptions of your business model” basis with these people.  If the site finds success, I’ll stand corrected and be served my own foot.

The Bottom Line

For whom did you build your product or design your offering?  If it’s not for a stakeholder necessary for long term success, it’s time to double back, review, and take another go at it.  Or … what good is the game if you can’t keep people in the seats?

Click here for an excellent overview of a successful local media company.



Crush It! by Vaynerchuk: What It Looks Like Off the Page

If you’ve already dropped your New Year’s resolution and you’re looking to pick up a new one, I recommend that you start to Crush It! The concept is laid out by Gary Vaynerchuk in his book of that title.  I wrote about it late last year.

The subtitle of the book is Why Now Is The Time to Cash In on Your Passion.  In it, Vaynerchuk advocates that you put family first, do what you love and work super-hard.  Tools are now available to help you build your personal brand and monetize your personal passion.  It involves a ton of hard work, but your passion should continue to pull you in such a way that it doesn’t feel laborious.

In thinking again about the key takeaways, I realized that a friend of mine is starting to Crush It!  My favorite part: I don’t think he’s explicitly trying – he’s just doing what comes naturally.

Sawatch, mountain, summit, peak, Emerald, Colorado, Rockies, Rocky Mountains, hike, climb

From Left to Right: Ethan Beute and Matt Payne on the summit of Emerald Peak, Sawatch Range, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado


Matt Payne’s got a full-time management job with Peak Vista Community Health Centers here in Colorado Springs.  He’s a husband and father.  He’s also a mountaineer at heart.  Matt achieved the summit of his first “fourteener” (14,000+ foot peaks for which Colorado is famous) at the age of 6.

After losing touch with this innate passion, he decided a year or two back to revisit a long-time goal to climb the top 100 peaks here in Colorado.  Researching the peaks, planning the trips, getting new and necessary gear, locating and screening climbing partners – it all consumes a great amount of time.  He layered on another set of tasks by committing to shoot photos and write trip reports, which he’d post to a personal blog (now defunct, more on that next) and to other sites, like and

Both SummitPost and 14ers have good features, active communities and loads of information.  Not perfectly satisfied with either site, though, Matt taught himself Joomla, a content management system, and built from scratch.  He’s since added loads of features (interactive map of all the Colorado mountain ranges, deals of the day, photo sales and tons more – like an algorithmic breakdown of summit “impressiveness”).  The blog has turned into a series of Examiner posts.

The new skills he taught himself by building a website with no prior programming experience has resulted in potentially revenue-generating outcome – offers to built others’ sites.  Consider, too, that the Examiner series is revenue-generating (authors are paid per page view).  Add in the various revenue-generating aspects of the site (he gives away 25% to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute).  Also consider the value of building a community around such a focused concept – climbing the 100 highest peaks in Colorado.


In short: Matt’s using newly available tools (like Facebook) to begin to monetize his personal passion.  These efforts eat up nights and weekends.  It’s a sacrifice.  The revenue’s not nearly enough to boot the day job (it may be just enough to buy new gear), but he’s building an asset for himself, for his family, for their future.  The best part: he’s loving every minute of it (or most, anyway).


Related: his wife, Angela, is taking a more blended old-school/new-school route.  We were one of her earliest customers, ordering holiday cookies that she baked and sent to our family’s homes across the country.  Check out The Sweet Shop on Facebook.

Their efforts are young; I’m excited to see where it all goes.  So, will you start to crush it this year?


Photos from our visit to Collegiate Peaks Wilderness to summit Missouri, Iowa and Emerald Peaks are right here.

Photos from our visit to the Sierra Blanca to summit Mount Lindsey, Iron Nipple and “Huerfano” Peak are right here.



Years after writing this post, Matt continues to drive into his passion for landscape photography.

See that passion on display at his photography website and in his landscape photography podcast.


BP’s Photoshopped Command Center: Why It Matters

So, BP gets called out for Photoshopping an image of their Command Center for use on their website.

Here’s a straight take from CBS News.

Here’s a more colorful approach from Treehugger.

Here are the before and after images (actually arranged as after and before):

British Petroleum, oil, Gulf, spill, disaster, PR, public relations, Photoshop, Adobe, manipulate, alter, image, photo

Before and After Photoshop: BP Command Center

I’ve seen two primary, polar reactions to this story:

  1. “It’s no surprise coming from those no-good, lying, reckless, corner-cutting, profit-hoarding goons!”
  2. “What’s the big deal?  They’ve obviously got bigger fish to fry!” (or fish to slick and suffocate, as it were)

I’ll take a minute to stand more toward the middle, but clearly on one side.

Altering an image is directly opposed to fundamental principles of management and public relations.  For the past 5 years, you couldn’t spend 5 minutes with any Harvard Business Review publication without feeling the movement toward transparency and authenticity.

Social media, in particular, has really brought these concepts in practice to the fore.  Fold in some Seth Godin-style storytelling-as-marketing and the picture is even more clear:  every individual and organization has the opportunity to tell the world who they are, what they’re about, where they’re from, why they’re here.  Beyond that, they can always share what they know, when they know it, directly with people who care.

If, however, these efforts are not received as honest and forthright from a good corporate citizen, this may be done for you (witness: BPGlobalPR on Twitter).  Regardless, companies of all sizes have embraced this opportunity and grown as a result.

As small an infraction as filling in a few Command Center monitors with some action shots may seem, it’s not honest.  When your every move is under the most extreme scrutiny you’ll ever enjoy, why doctor the images that are helping tell your story of response and recovery?  Apparently, trucking in workers for a Presidential photo op isn’t enough.

The BP spokesperson’s response to this story wasn’t awful: “Normally, we only use Photoshop for the typical purposes of color correction and cropping.”  Transparency, authenticity and honesty should be employed constantly, not “normally.”  Yes, it’s asking a lot, but truth is ultimately easier and best.

Among many the issues:

  • BP’s recent safety record is horrific compared to industry peers, so the talking point that the company has been “laser focused” on safety under Hayward is absolutely hollow.
  • Original estimates on the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf (5,000 revised to 50-100,000) now seem as ridiculous as the original cost estimates of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($50-60,000,000,000 revised to $2-3,000,000,000,000).
  • BP has actively restricted access to images and information.
  • BP continues to buy pay-per-click campaigns (Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube) to try to steer searches to BP-produced information (to be fair, it’s a fine idea – I mention it because they took some heat for it).
  • BP withheld video of the leak for weeks, only released it through government mandate and continued to withhold HD video from scientists working on the problem.
  • Though off-point with regard to honesty, Hayward’s “I want my life back” and weekend of yachting earned charges of being aloof, insensitive and out of touch (um, 11 people lost their lives permanently in the initial explosion).  He even described the spill as “relatively tiny.”

The list goes on and the point remains: the PR response to the worst oil spill in U.S. history has been neither excellent nor honest.  The scope of this disaster is unprecedented.  It could have happened to any oil company working off shore.  Some PR blunders and gaffes can be reasonably expected.  Active obfuscation, however, is beyond “blunder.”

Bottom line: I find the Photoshopped image to be a micro-representation of an attitude, philosophy and practice completely opposed to the best path forward: transparency and authenticity.

Related Video

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has been very aggressive in covering this story.  A couple videos are linked in the body of this post and here’s a link to another specifically about transparency.  Plus, one embed:

BP CEO Tony Hayward fronts a friendly message with clean birds, clean beaches and colorfully suited workers (kin to the Intel Inside Pentium MMX dancers):

Thoughts?   Feel free to share them.

Happy 5th Birthday, Here’s Your URL!

Chalk Flood

This 4-year-old’s name is Ethan Beute.  He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This photo of him was published to the Grand Rapids Press website earlier this year.

Coincidentally, my name is Ethan Beute and I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for at least 20 years of my life.  I would add that he looks a little bit like I did as a child.

The day a friend of mine posted this as a link on my Facebook page, I knew I had to buy  What parent of an Ethan Beute wouldn’t want to give his or her child ownership rights to  “” as a fifth birthday gift!?  A stretch, I know, but I didn’t want to risk it.

With regard to my surname, my wife and I were the only “Beute” in the Chicago phone book for the 4 years we lived there.  When I witnessed a child with my name living in my hometown, however, I knew that I had to claim my online real estate immediately.

I’m Ethan Beute on Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’m ethanbeute on Twitter and Flickr.  As a natural extension of my personal brand, is the only way to go.

Claiming a url is a simple process; my technical knowledge and skills are limited, yet I had no problem doing it.  I used and paid $10/year for the rights.  I set it up to redirect to this blog site.

I have no idea where all this is going – and by “all this” I mean life online in a very general sense.  I do know that I need to be easily found online.  This online presence is necessary if I’m to have any future in promotion, marketing, and branding.

Recommendation: consider your personal brand.  As a primer, here’s a years-old article from Fast Company (1997!) from the exceptional business mind of Tom Peters (yes, that’s a link to

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