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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RSS Marketing Roundup 03.23.06

Time once again for a roundup of what’s going on in the fast moving world of RSS, the Internet content delivery standard that is becoming the increasingly attractive alternative to email publishing and even web browsing.

But first . . .

The Importance of Email

In my ongoing examination of the adoption of RSS feeds for content delivery and marketing purposes, one thing has become abundantly clear — the continued importance of email. Thirty-five percent of the subscribers to Copyblogger do so via email, and it’s my fastest growing subscriber sector. And this with a blog aimed at bloggers!

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No Email Taxation Without Requisition

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and a host of others have released an open letter to AOL asking the ISP to reconsider adoption of the proposed Goodmail “email tax” that made big news not long ago. At the time, I said I didn’t care about this, as it would only speed the inevitable adoption of RSS for content delivery.

But upon continued reflection, it’s simply a flat-out disturbing development. AOL’s plans represent only the first step down a slippery slope towards fragmentation and corporate control of the Internet’s historical open access, and we shouldn’t let it happen without a fight. It can only hurt the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are continually moving into the growing online marketplace, not to mention charities, non-profits, and just regular folks.

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Trading Words For Traffic

Many professional copywriters don’t think of blogs as a way to generate sales. Why? Because blogs are not a “direct-response” environment, and some of the very best copywriters are in the direct-response field.

Direct-response copywriting is a form of marketing designed to elicit an immediate action that is specific and quantifiable. Meaning, you’ve essentially got one shot at getting a certain percentage of readers to respond in the way you want them too. The response rate dictates your level of success.

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The Blog Network Killer?

The beta version of the Rojo FeedShare service has been released, and I think there are some interesting implications. At its essence, FeedShare harkens back to the old traffic-exchange programs of the early web, with a dash of the ezine co-registration programs mixed in. As Rojo explains it:

You give exposure by displaying “Feed Listings” (see examples) which display the name and description of blogs and other feed publishers. When visitors click on these listings they can then subscribe to the RSS or Atom feed for that blogger or publisher in any one of several feed readers.

You then create a listing for your OWN blog and for every impression you donate to the network on your blog, you will receive a listing on someone else’s blog or in The goal is to help build the feed subscriber base to your blog, increasing awareness and traffic to your site.

In essence, FeedShare provides some of the cross-promotional opportunities that attract traffic-starved writers to the growing crop of blog networks. While many blog networks offer much more than traffic, they also generally want content ownership, have posting guidelines, and in some cases can even be stifling due to political rivalry with other networks.

The thing to consider here is this: any properly-positioned blogging service provider can create a network that offers this type of promotional opportunity, and will be motivated to do so by the viral exposure (and blog real estate) it receives by facilitating the network. Rojo is smartly doing this, but it may not present a huge challenge to the young blog networks.

But what if Feedburner decided to do this? Or Technorati?

Or Google?

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RSS Marketing Roundup

A big part of my going-forward focus is the ways in which RSS will transform content delivery and direct marketing online. It’s such a fast moving area, though, that if I only comment on items in my typical long-winded fashion, a lot will slip by.

So here’s my first edition of the RSS Marketing Roundup, a look at what went on this week in the world of marketing and promotion with feeds.

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