The Four Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse

Just when you thought it was safe to get really excited about the fantastic possibilities of the Internet again, a dark cloud looms. The Internet as you have always known it is facing a serious threat that requires your attention.

The issue is Net Neutrality. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll try to succinctly sum up its importance to you.

All of your current Internet marketing plans depend on Net Neutrality. And likely, a lot of what you do online outside of the scope of business depends on it too. Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech.

So who are the Four Horsemen looking to destroy the Internet as we know it?

The reformed AT&T wants the power to allow big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web to muscle out startups and entrepreneurs. The little guy will be left in the “slow lane” with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.

Comcast would just love it if they could favor their own services, so you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.

Could Big Media partner with companies like Verizon to put bloggers out of business and silence the threat to their content monopolies? It would be simple under such an arrangement to skyrocket the costs to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.

Likewise, when Time Warner Cable has the ability to steer the choices of your customers (and you) to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc, your business and your freedom are history.

This is not a conspiracy theory.

The US Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality currently prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner from deciding which Web sites work best for you — based on which site paid them the most. Without Network Neutrality, the scenarios outlined above are just the beginning. And it will affect people all over the world, not just in the States.

To learn more, and get involved, you can do several things:

  1. Educate yourself about the issues. Read Doc Searls article from last year on the topic (this is what first alerted me to the issue, and allowed me to spread the word a bit, most notably to Liz Strauss, who took the ball and ran with it).
  2. Visit the Save the Internet website and blog to learn more, and to send a quick and easy letter to Congress voicing your opposition.
  3. Spread the word. There’s a huge viral marketing campaign going on right now to spread awareness and galvanize support. Help spread the word with your blog, by email, or come up with a viral video concept. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that if the big telcos and cable companies get their way, grass roots viral marketing will be a thing of the past.

They WILL win if we are apathetic. Do something, or find a way to earn a living that doesn’t involve the Internet.

UPDATE: In a surprise victory, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a “nondiscriminatory” manner.

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Read This Before You Buy Any Copywriting Resource

As you might imagine, I’ve got a bunch of copywriting books and courses.

It’s been said that selling with words is the most financially lucrative skill one can possess. That’s true for me, even when factoring in law school.

You can always make money if you understand good copywriting, and as long as we have the Internet or a postal service, it doesn’t matter where you are, what you look like, how you dress, or where (or if) you went to college.

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The Two Most Important Words in Blogging

Imagine… by the end of this post, you will be a more effective blogger, all because you learned two very important words, and the specific reasons why those words are so crucial.

Actually, both words can be found in the preceding sentence, along with hints related to their importance.

Did you catch them?

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Available for a Limited Time Only

What made the 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card worth $1.1 million at auction?

Why were people willing to pay to get an invitation for a free email account from Google?

How come Seth Godin’s Whiteboard Seminars always sell out, even at $1,650 a pop?

Scarcity.

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You Like Me . . . You Really, Really Like Me!

Blog Triggers

At the 1985 Academy Awards, actress Sally Field won Best Actress for Places in the Heart, after having won the same award in 1980 for Norma Rae. She never actually said the exact words I use in my headline, but everyone thinks she did. Regardless, Sally nailed it.

Liking matters.

In my previous life as a litigation attorney, I recognized early the truth in Clarence Darrow’s famous quote: “The main work of a trial attorney is to make a jury like his client.” I saw first hand that how the jury felt about the client was more important than the law, the evidence, or the truth. You’ve likely witnessed the same thing with a few celebrity trials.

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You Must Respect My Authority

Blog Triggers

One of my favorite episodes of South Park is when crass little Eric Cartman puts on a police officer’s uniform. He trolls around on his Big Wheel, screaming “Respect my authori-tie!” before bashing people with his baton.

In his quest for authority, Cartman knew what he was doing by putting on that uniform. And given that he was on the giving and receiving end of electric shocks in The South Park Movie, he probably would have loved to participate in the following rather disturbing study.

Shocking Results

You see a newspaper ad saying the psychology department at Yale is running a little “experiment on memory.” Paid volunteers are needed for the hour-long study, so you figure what the heck. Upon arrival at the lab, you meet two men — a research scientist in a lab coat, and another volunteer just like yourself. The researcher proceeds to explain the study to you both.

He tells you that the study is about the effects of punishment on memory. The task of the other volunteer will be to learn a series of word pairings (he’s called the “Learner”). Your job as the “Teacher” will be to test the Learner’s memory of the word pairs, and administer electric shocks for each wrong answer. And also for every wrong answer, the voltage goes up.

You’re not sure about this whole thing, but it must be OK, right? The testing begins, and when the other volunteer misses a question, you pull a lever that delivers a mild shock. Over time, though, the shock levels increase, and the Learner is grunting audibly. At 120 volts, he states that the shocks are really starting to hurt. At 150 volts, he tries to quit.

The researcher tells you to keep going, and that the electricity will cause “no permanent tissue damage” to the Learner. At 165 volts, the Learner screams. You continue questioning and delivering punishment for incorrect answers. At 300 volts, the Learner refuses to respond any longer, as the shocks are impairing his mental capacities. The researcher tells you to treat non-responses as incorrect answers. The Learner is screeching, kicking and pleading for mercy with every subsequent shock, all the way up to 450 volts when the researcher finally stops you.

This couldn’t possibly have really happened, right? Well, actually, it did, in 1963 at Yale, during a series of experiments by Stanley Milgram.

But here’s the real scoop about the Milgram experiment: there were no actual electric shocks; the Learner was an actor; and the study had nothing to do with memory. What Milgram wanted to know was how far the Teachers would go when told to continue to deliver those shocks, since they thought they really were.

About two-thirds (65%) of the subject administered every single shock up to 450 volts, no matter how much the Learner begged for mercy. However, without the researcher’s encouragement to continue, the study found that the test subjects would have stopped giving punishment quite early on. A 2002 meta-analysis of the original data confirms the validity of the findings.

The results shocked the Yale psychology department, and have become a part of modern lore. Every aspect of the experiment had been carefully vetted to pull test subjects from a standard cross section of ages, occupations, and education levels. In other words, these were not sadistic savages, they were people just like you and me. What could possibly lead to this behavior?

Milgram says it’s our deep-seated sense of duty to authority. We’re trained from childhood to respect authority, and the obedience that comes with it stays with us throughout our lives, even when we feel something may not be quite right.

Perception of Authority Matters Most

Our deference to authority is driven mostly by perception. That’s why a lab coat, police officer’s uniform or $4,000 bespoke suit alone can facillitate influence over or control of others. We even act differently toward other people depending on our perception of their authority level, sometimes even adopting their mannerisms and speech patterns.Another study mentioned in Influence: Science and Practice analyzed episodes of Larry King Live, and observed the ability of perceived authority to alter speech patterns. When King interviewed people with great levels of social standing or prestige, his voice style changed to match theirs. When interviewing people of lower status, King remained steadfast, and the voice styles of the guests shifted to match his.

The most important aspect of the data demonstrating the power of authority is that context matters more than actual content. In other words, if a person is perceived as an authority figure, what they say is taken at face value and accepted as fact more readily. It helps someone bypass otherwise common objections. Building authority is therefore crucial to building a business, especially if you are selling services or knowledge products.

Content Creates Context

Good blogging creates authority, plain and simple. Writing consistently about your area of expertise makes you an authority figure within your industry and niche. You will enjoy a definitive advantage over competitors who do not blog, and likely even over those who have been blogging for shorter time periods.

Professionals and other business people have long been writing for trade publications and newspaper columns to build authority, coupled with networking in the community and at trade shows and conferences, all in an attempt to build word-of-mouth referral business. With blogging, you’re building authority and networking all at once, and on a global scale if your business model benefits from that kind of reach.

The goal is not to be on the A-List as determined by the Technorati Top 100 Blogs. Your goal is to be on the A-List for your niche, geographic region or industry. Hopefully you’re well on the way with your own blog.

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