I have a friend who started a national newspaper.
In this post I’m going to explain what he tried, why he failed, how you can avoid similar failures, and I’m also going to reveal who my friend is.
My friend’s goal was to try and build an audience up through the newspaper, and then profit by advertising things the readers could buy.
He saw what other successful newspapers were doing, so he figured he’d put out the same type of content as they were, since it seemed to be a proven model.
It saved him a lot of time and energy. He could just replicate what was already working, and reap the rewards.
He decided to offer the newspaper for free in hopes that he’d grow the audience more quickly, which he thought would enable him greater profits long term.
He launched his newspaper and ran into a big problem. Despite offering it for free, he couldn’t give it away! He tried all sorts of popular marketing tactics, and couldn’t get any traction.
Some people would take a copy here or there, but it was hard for him to get them to come back for another.
“How am I ever going to sell them stuff if they won’t read my papers?!”
He’s right, that would be a problem.
So, he worked even harder on marketing. He wrote articles for other newspapers, appeared on TV shows, and basically did anything and everything he could to get the word out about his newspaper.
He slowly started to get a small audience just because he was working so hard to promote it.
Image courtesy of https://library.hsu.edu/
He wanted to start monetizing since he wasn’t charging people to read it.
So, he wrote a book and started marketing that in the newspaper. He also started offering a seminar teaching other people how they could start a national newspaper.
I ran into him and he was just glowing.
He was stoked about the potential of this. He had been waiting to make the newspaper profitable, and now not only did he have an income source, he launched two different products at the same time.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for”, he said. “After this I’ll never have to work for anyone else again.”
He had a swagger in his step. Now that he was launching these products, he was as confident as I’d ever seen him.
A few weeks later I got a phone call.
It was him.
He was frantic.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“No one’s buying my stuff”, he said.
He continued and vented about the fact that he needed people to buy or he’d have to go back to his job. He didn’t want to work for anyone else so he had to figure out a way to sell these products. I could hear his voice cracking, and could tell he was tearing up on the other end.
I was pretty confident I could help him solve his problem, but I wanted to be careful not to upset him further. He seemed devastated that this wasn’t going as planned.
I asked him if I could help him try and solve the issue by asking him some questions. He seemed to perk up a bit when he thought their might be a solution. He said I could.
I thought a few simple questions could help get to the bottom of the problem:
Me: So, one of your products teaches people how to start a newspaper… why would readers want to start a newspaper?
Him: To make money!
Me: But, isn’t one of your frustrations with the newspaper that it doesn’t make money?
Him: Ya, but if I can figure out how to get people to buy my products it will make money. I need to focus on copywriting and conversions. That will help sales.
Me: So, copywriting and conversions are why the products aren’t selling? If that were really the case, wouldn’t it be a relatively easy problem to fix?
Him: The market of people who read newspapers is so big, if I can just get a fraction of the market to read my newspaper, and then convert a small percentage of them, I’d crush it.
Me: So, you believe that the entire market of people who read newspapers is your potential audience?
Him: Well, not necessarily the whole market, but for the topics my newspaper covers.
Me: Okay, so for the topics you cover, what do you cover better than any other newspaper in the world?
Him: Better than anyone in the world?? I’m not trying to break records here, I just want to make enough to not have to work a real job.
Me: But, how does you not wanting to work a real job add value to your readers?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Well, every decision you seem to make surrounding the newspaper seems to be revolving around all the things the newspaper can potentially do for you. You started the newspaper because you didn’t want to work a job. You wanted to focus on selling a book and seminars to try and make yourself money. You haven’t once mentioned the value that your readers or potential customers are getting.
Him: There’s lots of newspapers with the same information I’m putting out. There’s also people selling books and seminars on these subjects. So obviously there’s a market there for it!
Me: You just described another one of your problems. You’re putting out content and products that already exist. Your offering doesn’t differentiate from what already exists in the market, so why the heck would anyone want it? If you aren’t offering something that’s better than what currently exists in the market, why does it need to exist at all?
It was silent on the other end of the phone.
I couldn’t tell if he was angry at me for having been blunt with him, or if he was finally realizing why he had failed up to this point.
When he finally spoke, there was a hint of frustration, but he seemed to have a bit of clarity. The frustration seemed to be that he couldn’t believe no one had told him his offering wasn’t any good before. They’d all congratulated him on launching, and told him how impressed they were that he was launching his own products.
He had felt like a king for all the wrong reasons.
He was king of a no value throne that constantly swallows up aspiring entrepreneurs by focusing on everything except what’s important.
You see, the problem he was trying to solve, was the wrong problem.
He started the newspaper based on what he thought it could do for him. If he wanted his newspaper to be successful, he needed to start a newspaper based on what it could do for his potential readers.
He was more concerned with solving the problem of how the newspaper was going to make him a lot of money. A byproduct of making that his focus, means that the value to the readers would be low, because that wasn’t his priority.
He wanted to help himself, not his potential customers. His goal didn’t align with the customer’s goals.
“I don’t want to work”, was his goal.
That translated to his thought process being, “I need to convince people to buy my shit”.
This fooled him into thinking that more marketing tricks were the answer.
His answer should have been “let me offer something of value better than anything else in the market”. That goal aligns with his customers, and would have helped with his goal of not wanting to work a job.
I have a confession to make about my friend.
My friend is probably you, or someone you know.
I see thousands of people who launch ‘national newspapers’. They’re called blogs.
Almost everyone who launches their ‘national newspaper’, launches it because of what they think it can do for them.
It’s an “easy” business to launch. The launching of businesses are what’s celebrated these days.
Remember the swagger my friend had after launching?
Well, he got his swagger from the wrong place. He got excited about the “launch” of the products as opposed to ‘making something valuable.’ That’s where your swagger should come from!
Whether it’s blogs, or businesses, people view ‘the launch’ as the success.
That’s like walking into the gym and high fiving everyone and celebrating just for having walked in the door, then going home.
It sounds comical, but that’s exactly what everyone online is doing.
Courses congratulate people for “launching”, as if they accomplished something, even though they shouldn’t have even launched. They want people to “launch” so they can claim great “success” rates, even though they’ve ‘succeeded’ at nothing other than launching a shitty business.
They’ve accomplished nothing, but are tricked into believing they have done something worthy of praise.
This false praise is only going to confuse and distract from the reality that you have succeeded in launching something that no one wants or needs.
Those who give false praise to their neighbors are setting a trap for them.
Have you been showered in false praise recently? Many times those showering you in false praise are doing so, because they profit from you.
Here’s a message I saw recently on one of my feeds(some things x’d out for privacy):
“Congratulations to XXXXX, a XXXXX student who has successfully launched their XXXXX devoted to promoting your ebook.”
Holy false praise of false praises. With one look at what they were offering you could tell that not only did they not offer anything substantially different than what the market already offered, but their marketing/promotion plan for their launch was not good, yet they were launching something teaching other people how to promote, when they clearly shouldn’t be.
They were congratulated with false praise on the “launch”, by someone who financially benefited from telling them to launch it.
It was a perfect example of someone who either doesn’t understand what makes a business successful or doesn’t care, telling someone else to launch something because they profit from it. All they’ve done is helped someone “launch” something of little to no value, which means the person launching it will receive little to no value in return for their efforts.
All that “coach” did, was get them into something that will lead them down a path of a lot of wasted time. The coach happily promotes the “success” story of a launch, but no one will hear that the business will fail, along with the majority of their other clients who “successfully” launched future failed businesses.
Most people are looking for the marketing tips and tricks that will help make their product or service succeed. The thing is, solving the problem doesn’t involve continuing to force a mediocre product or service down people’s throat, it involves scrapping it in exchange for a product or service of great value. The popular/exciting answer, and the one most “coaches” and “consultants” are paid for is telling you to launch your idea and then start marketing, but that’s usually not the answer you need.
In The Incubator, I actually tell many people NOT to launch their initial idea.
At first, many people say, “wait, I thought the goal was to launch a business?” That’s where people get confused. The goal should be to launch a successful business.
It’s more exciting for people to be sold the dream of the launch, but that’s not very helpful. Once the temporary excitement of false praise wears off, you’d still be left with a shitty business.
I won’t lie to you and pretend that you launching something that adds no value is an accomplishment.
There’s plenty of people making a living selling false praise for that.
“Just put out content and then sell stuff to make money.”
“Just launch and use these marketing tips and tricks to increase profits”
Those sound easy.
Easy is sexy.
What’s not sexy is putting in the work necessary to be #1 at whatever it is you’re doing. What’s even less sexy is understanding the variables that make becoming #1 a possibility.
The dream is easier to sell, and thus, is sold.
Are you creating something of value better than what already exists in the market?
If not, you’re probably letting the bright lights of the “launch” blind you from what real success actually is.
One will lead you to success and financial rewards. The other— temporary excitement and false praise.
Make the decision to invest your time and money creating value in a way that no one has done yet.
Otherwise you’ll find yourself swimming in a fountain of false praise where you’ll find no coins at the bottom. Dive as deep as you want but you’ll drown before you reap the financial rewards you seek.