Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at June 1, 2011

Category: Consume!, Marketing, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

[MINI-UPDATE (03 Jun) – THE object to my use of the word ‘dishonest’ in this headline. I stand by my use of the word, but as a courtesy, I have placed this prominent and immediate link to the relevant correspondence so readers might better judge for themselves.]

Regulars of Bloggerheads will be aware that my family and I been through some difficult times recently. During the rolling crisis, several two-bit operations have sought to hijack the ‘bloggerheads’ name that I created, but my priority has been those attempting to associate this unique name (and mine) with paedophilia, stalking and what have you.

Recently, I complained to staff at the magazine Times Higher Education about their use of ‘bloggerheads’ – a unique name that I created to title my blog about blogs – to title a web round-up feature (i.e. their blog about blogs). I repeatedly made it clear that I wanted them to come up with their own name, especially when they clearly planned to use it to blog about other weblogs. They pretended there was no room for confusion, offered to put ‘the’ in front of it as a “concession” and left it at that. Almost immediately references to their magazine started turning up in Twitter and Google in searches for my unique name.

I complained again. They gave me the very clear impression that, were the name protected as a trade mark, they would immediately comply with my wishes.

Several times I pointed out to them that I had a significant and demonstrable moral claim to the name dating back many years, but they dismissed this notion in the most patronising way possible. I also pointed out that if they seek to market themselves on the via web/blogs, then there are far better ways of going about it than hijacking an existing name, which is one good reason why the expense of a trade mark has never been necessary before now in the decade I have been using the name ‘bloggerheads’.

I also pointed out that I was busy battling an ongoing campaign of harassment, and their position compelled me to spend money we could ill-afford at the moment, but they stood firm on their position (along with the ridiculous implication that they had searched the trade mark database but not Google when they decided on using this name as their own).

Ultimately, Times Higher Education Editor Ann Mroz left me with no choice but to trade mark the name so I might call their bluff and take further steps to protect it from recent misuse and/or appropriation by their organisation and others.

But now I have begun the trade mark registration process, they have changed their position, and plan to continue using the name as they have before!

That’s a class act, all the way. After compelling me to trade mark the name, now they’re going to compel me to await the completion of the registration process (and then, presumably, take them to court) before they will be in any way reasonable about this.

Their Deputy Editor can’t even name the sub-editor they claim ‘invented’ the word, but Times Higher Education staff are unwilling to admit that they made a mistake by using this unique name without first researching it. They even have the audacity to minimise the significance of its use from their point of view (e.g. it’s ‘only’ on page 24 of their magazine), but surely if it’s no big deal to them and a bloody big deal to me, then that’s even more reason for them to back off and do what they should have done in the first place; come up with a unique name of their own invention.

[Other, smaller, organisations who have recently sought to appropriate this name have also been contacted about this matter today. I am hoping that they will be more reasonable. I certainly can’t see how they can top this response from Times Higher Education. I realise THE are in the education sector, but surely they’ve grown out of playground games by now.]

UPDATE – Check the comments for a contribution by ‘Malcolm Kent’. It was submitted using false details, and is an obvious sock-puppet.

Posted by Tim Ireland at December 8, 2004

Category: Marketing

Bloody hell. Take a look at this complete waste of space. (That goes for the web space itself and the dipsquit behind it.)

It’s pretty obvious what he’s up to, and how little thought/effort has gone into it.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 12, 2002

Category: Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation


At the moment, there’s very little commercial intrusion into weblogs. Most of this is due to ignorance, leading some bloggers to think that this is working to preserve the integrity of our interactive community. It is. For now.

Unfortunately, due to the impact we as a community have been enjoying, nothing can stop awareness from spreading. Awareness does not counteract ignorance.

What this article sets out to do is make clear what weblogs are (and are not), plus what can and can’t be done to make them work in a commercial sense.

What is a Weblog?

Well, we have to include this, but I’ll be quick. A weblog is a running log or diary that is published on the web. Weblogs are not an enclosed community of geeks, but an eclectic selection of individuals, groups (and sometimes organisations) that feel suitably empowered by this new publishing format to get out there and have their say.

Previously, establishing a web presence required a great deal of planning and forethought. For many, this was simply not worth the effort. What a weblog interface allows you to do is publish your thoughts, interests and opinions one sentence at a time.

Look at this amusing site. Read this interesting article. I like kittens.

Such posts may seem trivial when observed individually, but together they form a running commentary that defines the experience – and purpose – of the user. (And, just for the record, I loathe, despise and distrust kittens.)

What and Where is the Weblog Community?

On a wider scale, bloggers communicate not only with their audience, but also each other. Some of these relationships are strong and ongoing, others are tenuous and fleeting, but all contribute to an enormous ecosystem of constantly exchanged information.

We aren’t hosted at a single server, we don’t all use the same publishing tools, we’re not all into the same things and reaching one certainly weblog does not guarantee that you will reach all of the others.

The only thing we really have in common is our wish to share information and a publishing format that lets us speak our thoughts and store them sequentially.

What’s This Whole Google Thing About?

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, has recently taken to listening in to this global conversation, which is what most of the excitement in the commercial sector is about. To put it briefly, your audience does not have to know about weblogs for you to reach them via weblogs. I’ll go into more detail in a moment; hang in there.

Yes, this situation can be used for commercial gain, but first you have to get something into your head: this new publishing format has encouraged many to exchange information in new ways, but we’re still communicating for much the same reasons that we always did on the web, via email or in Usenet.

This is a conversation. It’s fun. It’s fulfilling. We’re learning things about ourselves and each other. If you come charging in with a commercial message, you’ll be about as welcome as an Amway rep at a cocktail party. Cool your jets, shut your mouth, grab a drink, and listen up.

The World’s Largest Cocktail Party

So here we all are, a wide variety of people from all walks of life, getting together purely because we like to interact with each other. Like any form of fulfilling social interaction, listening is as important as talking. Those in your immediate circle know what you do for a living, and this may even form part of your introduction or crop up in normal conversation, but if all you talk about is work, then you’re going to find yourself in a very lonely corner of the room before the ice has melted in your first drink. If you were stupid enough to bring some pamphlets or maybe even an educational slideshow with you, then you can be sure that everybody will be laughing and pointing as well.

At this stage, it’s time to leave. You probably won’t be welcomed if you ever have the guts to return.

So how does your message reach this audience (and the wider one outside the party)? Well, this is where Google comes in. Google, as we said, listens into this conversation. By opting to index weblogs daily (because they update daily) Google has provided a function that brings forward the most recent information available. It actually rates ‘buzz’ as an important factor, so much so that as few as three weblogs can have a significant effect on the search results for any given web page, merely by linking to it.

If you interact with people, if you engage them in conversation, then when someone on the other side of the room (or even outside the building) mentions to another individual that they are seeking your kind of service – or even better, questions the almighty and all-seeing eye of Google – then your name will crop up.

The more highly regarded you are, the more likely you will be seen to be relevant by Google – and the more likely people will be to refer you on a direct and personal basis.

Exactly the same kind of real information exchange is required to gain both of these differing forms of recommendation.

So, Are We On The Same Page Now?

OK, so hopefully you’ve learned enough to put your goddamn pamphlets away. You know how important it is to show respect for the community (even if it’s just from a practical standpoint). It’s now time to learn how we as a community might be of help to you.

What you want to do in the end is reach Joe Blogs (heh, it tickles me that this classic pseudonym now has a much wider meaning) and if you don’t mind, we’re going to continue with the cocktail party metaphor from time to time to keep you on track.

Two Examples of Weblog Marketing

1. Join The Conversation

One of the most perverse methods of cashing in on the daily indexing function of Google is the ‘reinvention’ of the press release section of your site as a weblog. This would be incredibly easy to do, as the updating function exists already, and all you would have to do is slip in a bit of code that instructs Google to drop by daily or weekly for regular updates.

The only problem is, we don’t care which industry award you won or how many fucking units you shipped last quarter. We want to hear about the human side of what you do. We want to talk to a real person.

What you need to do is appoint an ambassador and get them to publish either at your presence or at a new one that links to yours prominently. You’ll have to sacrifice a great deal of control, as there’s no point in sending someone to give a formal presentation when what the audience is expecting is conversation.

A lot of the content on this weblog won’t focus directly on your company, but as you should already know, successful networking requires charisma above content. Popularity is the key, and if you’re successful, then Google will be more inclined to recommend your site over another that doesn’t contribute to this natural form of informational exchange.

2. Bring a Few Links To The Party

A lot of noise has been made about viral marketing in the past, and its image has suffered because so many folks have got it wrong. The key to viral marketing is weaving your commercial message into a mechanism that people want to share.

Formatting this mechanism in a way that it encourages people to share it by linking to it (rather than, saying, directly forwarding it by email) increases its commercial benefit greatly.

Be it in a game, a novelty, or a useful tool, even the most cleverly integrated commercial message can go astray. Indeed, in some cases, it often pays to be as low-key as possible about the commercial message in order to increase the mechanism’s viral potency. Normally this would be a Catch-22, but when weblogs, Google and the factor of link popularity get involved, the odds are tipped significantly in your favour.

People may not know who brought the links to the party, but Google will. General search results for your main page(s) can improve significantly – often overnight – due to this kind of activity.

Warning: Word Count Approaching 1,500

So here you are, a little bit older but hopefully a heck of a lot wiser. There’s not a lot more I can do for you now except suggest that you get out there and do some research. Yes, articles can help, but each and every one represents a single opinion of something that’s very hard to define. What you really need to do is mingle. Listen to the conversation, find out where you fit in and come back to us when you’re ready.

We’ll still be here and willing to listen, but try not to fuck up the party for the rest of us, OK?

Posted by Tim Ireland at June 20, 2002

Category: Marketing

You’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to have noticed this week that PWC Consulting plans to change their name to ‘Monday’ once they separate from PricewaterhouseCoopers – but I suspect there may be a few awareness problems on their end, too.

They have a top-heavy launch page at which is very nice, but it seems that they neglected to also purchase, which was quickly snapped up by a B3tan and includes a lovely message for the bods at PWC. Erm, and some donkeys.

I also blogged a few days ago that they had spent US$5million on the brand, trademark and domain name

I have no idea what they paid for, which I can only presume is going to be their main address once the change kicks in, but I can confirm that they have also neglected to purchase the domain name

I’m sure you saw that coming, but the full implications are far more amusing than you may first suspect.

The domain name is owned by the email service, which means that anybody who uses the service (or takes out a 30 day free trial) can get their own email address

You can do this in about 30 seconds just by clicking here and seeing what’s available.

Fun, huh? Sadly, manic@monday was already gone – but I did manage to pick up a pretty good alternative. My new email address is:

Hooray for me! All those years of hard work have finally paid off. I plan on dropping a line to my Mum & Dad this afternoon to advise them of my exciting new career. They’ll be so proud.

Hell, I may even make a donation to the Labour Party while I’m in the mood. I can afford it.

(I have to go now. I have a helicopter picking me up at 12:00 and my secretary expects me to chase her around the desk for at least 15 minutes before I take off. Cheers all. Enjoy your email addresses.)

UPDATE – About a month (and £75m) later PWC abandoned their rebranding. £75 million down the tubes. What a waste.

Posted by Tim Ireland at February 22, 2002

Category: Marketing

In this age of increasing privacy awareness and regulation, the message is finally starting to filter through to the snake-oil salesmen that they actually need your permission before they send you junk by email. This is why you’ll more often than not see an ‘opt-in’ box adjacent to most forms that require you to enter your email address.

Normally, there are two kinds of opt-in box:
1. The ‘Do you mind if we send you junk?’ box
2. The ‘Do you mind if we sell your email address to other companies so they can send you junk?’ box.

They provide you with this choice so as to comply with data protection laws, but be warned that their main priority is to get as many email addresses as they can (to use or sell as they wish). Because of this, they use a number of tricks to make you opt-in when you have no intention of doing so. My favourites are listed here for your entertainment and awareness.

Opt-In Assurance Scheme 1
The Pre-Approval
A simple technique, this – and one of the most common. The checkboxes are set at active by default. In simple terms, this means that they come ready-ticked for your convenience (in order to secure an unwitting opt-in from the lazy or distracted). You haven’t said ‘yes’, it’s been said for you. An important distinction.

Email :   
Click here if you wish to receive important news and updates from us.
Click here if you wish to receive relevant information from carefully selected partners.

Opt-In Assurance Scheme 2
The Refreshed Default
OK, so you’ve filled out the entire form including your name, address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name etc. etc. etc. and you’ve also carefully unchecked the opt-in boxes. You’re ready to submit, and submit you do – but oh my goodness, one of the fields has been filled in incorrectly. The page refreshes, helpfully reloading the information you’ve entered, highlighting where you have made an error and, most importantly, returning the boxes you have unchecked to their active default. Basically, this means that even if you’d said ‘no’, the page refreshes as if you’d said ‘yes’ to this option. Most people would assume that if all of the other information fields have been reloaded as they set them, then their opt-in selection would also stay the same. Not so. Many will also be distracted by the bright alert text and/or harried by the minor hassle of correcting the form, and will click ‘submit’ without even checking the rest of the page just to get the process over with. Less scrupulous sites will even engineer things so that there is always an error or a reminder of some kind. Sound dishonest? It is. Sound simple? You’d be surprised at how often this one works.

*Please check that your address is correct
Email :    
Click here if you wish to receive important news and updates from us.
Click here if you wish to receive relevant information from carefully selected partners.

Opt-In Assurance Scheme 3
The Double Bluff
A neat trick this one. Again with the active default, but watch out what you’re approving when you uncheck those boxes. The first makes it clear that if you uncheck this box then they will not send you junk by email, but the second says that if you uncheck it, they’re allowed to sell it to someone who will. Not many people would go on to read the second option in full before unchecking it and submitting with gay abandon. Sometimes these options are reversed, but the one you’re meant to check or uncheck to say ‘no thanks’ to is always first, and I’m sure that you can guess why.

Email :   
Click here if you wish to receive important news and updates from us.
Click here if you don’t wish to receive relevant information from carefully selected partners.

Opt-In Assurance Scheme 4
The Stash
Devilishly clever in its simplicity, this last example. Feed the punter the one or two fields they would normally expect, but hide an unexpected opt-in somewhere in the regular fields or about 5 miles below the submit button where they’re unlikely to see it. Hey it’s not their fault you couldn’t be bothered to read the whole page, is it? In my all-time favourite example of this (reproduced in jest below) it was actually hidden in the privacy statement. Now that takes some cheek.

Email :   

Click here if you wish to receive important news and updates from us.
Click here if you wish to receive relevant information from carefully selected partners.

The so-and-so company respects your privacy. To read our privacy policy, etc. etc. What usually follows here is a longwinded privacy statement in small, hard-to-read italics that most people stop reading after the first line, so they don’t get to bit where it says ‘from time to time we share information with relevant parties, well, actually, anyone who pays us really. Please note that we consider ‘relevant parties’ to be completely different to ‘carefully selected partners’, so even if you said ‘no’ to one, you can still say ‘yes’ to the other, so if you don’t want us to sell your email address to Brazilian porn mongers, then you might want to click the following button.
Please note that we’ve barely stopped for a breath to include the radio button, because we really don’t want you to see this. We also haven’t checked the radio button (and made sure that the wording ensures that it staying unchecked means that we can sell any or all of the information we have from you) because a checked radio button is more likely to draw your attention. We don’t want you attention, just your email address. So we can sell it. For more details about or privacy policy, blah blah, blah…

So there you have it. In the marketing world there’s permission, and then there’s ‘permission’. Think about that next time you register for anything online – and look both ways before clicking ‘submit’!

Rant over.

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