You Have Been Consulted, And Here You Are Being Consulted Again

The excellent writer Paul Ford of Ftrain says, “The web is a customer service medium, not a publishing medium.” Ford’s declaration has the potential to help a lot of people get the web right.
Ford is a writer, so he knows people in the book- and magazine-publishing industries. Some people in these industries–the ones who believe in the cultural primacy of writers and editors–Ford calls, the “Gutenbourgeois.”

They believe it is their job to drive culture forward. The web, they are a little proud to admit, confuses them. They say: “We gave away all those short stories on our website but it sold no books.” Or: “We built a promo site for our famous author who does the crime novels and it was just a total boondoggle with no traffic.” Or: “The magazine can’t get enough pageviews, even after we hired the famous blogger. Now management wants to make people pay for access.”
“Look,” I say, “maybe you’re doing it wrong.”
“But,” they say, “we tweet.”
That’s when I tell them about the fundamental question of the web.

That question is: Why wasn’t I consulted?
In other Fordian words, “The web is not, despite the desires of so many, a publishing medium. The web is a customer service medium. ‘Intense moderation’ in a customer service medium is what ‘editing’ was for publishing.”
As someone who writes for a web audience every day, I feel like I need to stand back and examine this line of thinking to the best of my ability. Clearly, the majority of what I do here is traditional. That is, I produce an editorial product and sometimes engage in comments with readers. Ford thinks that’s a missed opportunity.

This is what I tell my Gutenbourgeois friends, if they’ll listen. I say: Create a service experience around what you publish and sell. Whatever “customer service” means when it comes to books and authors, figure it out and do it. Do it in partnership with your readers. Turn your readers into members. Not visitors, not subscribers; you want members. And then don’t just consult them, but give them tools to consult amongst themselves.

I’m imagining now what AdPulp might be if I was a moderator first and an editor second. And you dear reader, would you be happy to use AdPulp tools, more so than stories, to connect around the marketing and advertising topics of the day?
It’s strange. The editor in me isn’t sure he wants to be a moderator of a tool set, but the marketer in me is open to suggestions and thinks maybe there’s something to this “Why wasn’t I consulted?” logic.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.