The Lede: Hangout Hot Seat with Brian Clark

Google Hangouts are an invaluably useful tool.

We’ve made mention of this before.

And if you’ve been listening to the New Rainmaker podcast, then you recently heard Brian and Robert discuss the concept of repurposing content — using the same content in multiple ways.

In this episode of The Lede, Demian and I put the usefulness and versatility of Google Hangouts on display and demonstrate how Hangouts can be used as part of a repurposing strategy.

Here’s how …

The incredible, embeddable Hangout

In less than an hour’s time, we created a piece of content that:

  • Could have been broadcast live to our audience
  • Can now be embedded anywhere, in perpetuity (assuming it doesn’t cause issues with your feed)
  • Was fairly easy to convert into a podcast
  • Was turned into text content as a transcript

And all of that is on display right here in this post.

Oh, and the custom nameplates you see and the sound effects you hear? All built right into Hangouts.

See what I mean? Invaluably useful.

So what’s so interesting about this Hangout?

We are calling this Hangout showcase the “Hangout Hot Seat” … and the first* episode features none other than the Frank Underwood of Copyblogger.

Yes, Brian Clark.

In this episode, Brian answers the following questions:

  • What does “Media, not marketing” mean?
  • Is Google-Plus still an essential tool for content marketers?
  • How and why could Google become the next big movie studio?
  • How can you balance native advertising and journalistic integrity?
  • Should writers fear Google, and should writers ever guest post again?
  • Why did Copyblogger close blog comments?

But that’s not all.

The fun part about the Hangout Hot Seat is that it’s not all business all the time.

Our goal with these episodes (yes, there are more coming in the future) is for you to learn something that can help your online business and let you get to know a member of the Copyblogger family better.

So we also ask Brian other, more lighthearted questions like:

  • What was his first-ever concert?
  • Seriously … why does he like the Foo Fighters so much?
  • How does he rank Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Wire?
  • Why isn’t he on Twitter as much these days?
  • Would a Texas A&M alum who is also a Broncos fan rather have Peyton Manning or Johnny Manziel?
  • Has he taken voice lessons?
  • If Brian is “Frank Underwood,” who’s the “Raymond Tusk” of Copyblogger?
  • Who do Demian and Jerod look like?
  • What is the most satisfying book mention of his career?

And more.

*Note that the real first episode featured Jessica Commins (you’ll hear us mention this), who was gracious enough to let us practice this new format with her to work out the kinks. Thank you Jessica!

Watch this episode of The Lede

There is so much more we can and will do with these videos in the future: branded intros and thumbnails, indexes, etc.

For now, we wanted to keep it simple.

Click here to watch the video exactly as it was uploaded to my account immediately after the Hangout ended. Nothing has been edited.

[Editor's note: we originally had the video embedded here, but it caused an issue with our feed ... so we've removed it for the time being.]

And now, for those of you who would rather listen and/or read, here are the links you’re used to …

Listen to The Lede

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Click here to read the transcript

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

And since it’s rather lengthy, use these links to skip around in the conversation:

Business questions:

Fun questions:

Here is the transcript:

The Lede Podcast: Hangout Hot Seat with Brian Clark

Jerod Morris: All right, everybody. Welcome to the first episode of The Hangout Hot Seat, the show where we ask questions both useful and fun so that you can learn a little something and get to know a member of the Copyblogger family better.

And speaking of the hot seat, when your first guest is your boss and CEO, who’s really on the hot seat?

Joining Demian and I today, all the way from Boulder, Colorado, is Copyblogger CEO Brian Clark. Brian, welcome to the show. Are you ready for The Hot Seat?

Brian Clark: I am, and I think everyone knows that you guys actually run the show, so….

Jerod and Demian: (Laughter)

Jerod: Okay, so here are the ground rules really quick. Demian and I are going to go back and forth, asking you questions, and you’re going to have about 30-45 seconds to answer each one. When you hear the ticking sounds (ticking sound), assuming I’m bold enough to play it while you’re talking, that means that….

Brian: (Laughs)

Jerod: … your time is running out and we ask that you…

Brian: (Laughing) Just like the Oscars music thing?

Jerod: Yes.

Brian: Now, I do have executive privilege to override that, right?

Jerod: Right. You can talk right through it. Exactly.

Brian: (Laughing out loud)

Demian: (Laughing)

Jerod: And then when you’re done we will then judge your answer and give you either applause (applause sound) or probably, very rarely, the sad trombone. (Trombone sound)

Brian: Oh, this is great! I love it!

Jerod: And Demian’s going to be keeping track so that we’ll be able to tally it up at the end. Okay.

Demian: This was Jess’s score.

Jerod: Yes. That’s what you’re aiming for. Yeah.

Demian: 9.76.

Brian: Oh, I could take Jess.

What does “Media, not marketing” mean?

Jerod: That’s the goal. (Chuckles) Okay. So our very first question to kick things off: The tagline for New Rainmaker is “Media, Not Marketing.” What does this mean in a nutshell?

Brian: In a nutshell, it’s a different way of explaining content marketing, because content marketing is probably the worst phrase ever invented to describe what we do online in order to effectively market.

So it’s not creating some keyword-stuffed content, because Google wants you to create content, and it’s not just creating some stuff because people want to share content on social media. It’s really taking this media-first approach to marketing in which you give valuable information like would appear in a magazine or a cable television show. You get the idea. Or a radio broadcast, or the analogous thing for hangouts. It’s giving people something useful that they might want to consume as opposed to your marketing spiel, which they don’t. (Ticking sound) But it all ties together to what you do as a business.

Jerod: Excellent answer. Applause. (Applause sound.)

Demian: So can media still — can it be entertainment, too?

Brian: It can be. I mean, what we think is entertaining may not actually be …

Demian and Jerod: (Chuckling)

Jerod: Exactly.

Brian: (Chuckling) For example, this.

(Laughter all around)

Brian: We’re having a good time.

Demian: He just lost a point there.

Brian: Yeah, of course. I mean, going back to the early days of Copyblogger it’s kind of normal now, but no one was making pop culture analogies to try to teach online marketing. That was my way of trying to make it entertaining and engaging, but also educational.

And again, that’s why I use cable television shows like Mythbusters, or Love It or List It, or all of these things. They’re entertaining, but they teach you something in the process. That’s the idea.

Is Google-Plus still an essential tool for content marketers?

Demian: Right. All right, Brian. So we’re coming up on the third anniversary of Google-Plus. What are your thoughts about Google-Plus now? Anything changed? Still a must in the content marketer’s tool box, and why?

Brian: I love Google-Plus. Always have. That hasn’t changed. I don’t spend as much time on it because I just don’t have as much time.

But the interesting thing is that Facebook keeps sticking it to people — marketers, mainly. Facebook has its own issues where they’ve got more money than actual passion in their community anymore, so they have to go buy WhatsApp and all this kind of thing. So that remains to be seen, what happens with Facebook. But I do think it’s an opportunity that remains for Google Plus.

The other thing is, Twitter is basically going to overhaul everything that made it what it is, so that it can become more like Facebook, I guess. That’s effectively going to have more and more people looking at Google Plus, because guess what? Google doesn’t need to make money from Google-Plus like Twitter does, like Facebook does. It’s a data collection outpost that fuels their main business.

Now, will eventually you get ads on Google-Plus? Sure. But it’s not going to be horrible. Google-Plus can always hang back and say, “You guys go ahead and screw it up, and we’ll wait and welcome everyone with open arms.” And I really think that this year you may see more migration.

People have stopped hating on Google-Plus quite so much because they’re like, “Wait a minute. This may be our viable alternative.”

Demian: What one thing can Google-Plus do to make it better, and what one thing would you like to see it improve on?

Brian: I love the way comments work, the way rich media works. It’s very friendly. What they can do is leave their hands off it from a monetization standpoint, get the crowd over here, because number one, you get the direct benefit of access to what’s working as far as content.

They don’t have any access to Facebook, and they don’t have access, really anymore, to Twitter because they don’t have the firehose agreement. So Matt Cutts has said, “We don’t use those two platforms in our algorithm because we can’t trust that we’re getting an accurate signal.” They’ve got that with Google-Plus. (Ticking sound)

But what they need to do is just make sure more of the crowd comes over, and they’ve got, really, an amazing data platform.

(Applause sounds)

Demian: Yeah.

Jerod: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian: Was that a golf clap, Jerod?

Demian: (Laughs)

What was Brian Clark’s first-ever concert?

Jerod: No, no. That was a legit clap. We’re going to go back to talking about Google in a second too, so hold that thought. But I want to ask you about music, because you’re obviously a big music lover. And so I want to ask you specifically about concerts.

What’s the best concert that you’ve ever been to, the last one that you went to, and then the next one that you want to go see?

Brian: Oh, man. Those last two are tough because I’m old now, in case you haven’t noticed, and by the time the concert starts I’m usually asleep at this point.

(Applause sounds)

Brian: (Laughing) We’ve got two great theaters here in Boulder, The Fox and The Boulder Theater, and there are great bands coming through all the time, and I have yet to be at either one in two years. But I’m going to cheat and say, let’s see … okay, my first concert was Kiss in fifth grade.

Demian: Wow.

Brian: It was awesome.

Jerod: Wow.

Brian: Yeah. And I was like, you know, I went with my friend’s little kid. We were all little kids, but…

Demian and Jerod: (Laughter)

Brian: … my friend’s mom took us, you know. My parents? God, no. They wouldn’t do that. But I was like, “What’s that funny smell in the air?” And now, being in Boulder, that’s what I smell everywhere I go. So talk about enjoying your childhood….

Demian: That was the first concert my wife had ever been to, a Kiss concert, too.

Brian: Really? I mean, yeah. If you’re Gen X and you can say your first concert was Kiss in the fifth grade, that’s like, cred points right there.

Seriously … why does Brian Clark like the Foo Fighters so much?

Demian: Yeah. All right. So speaking of bands, why in the world do you like The Foo Fighters so much?

Brian: I’m not sure I like them so much. I just started Foo Fighters Friday because I like alliteration.

Demian: (Laughs)

Brian: I mean, you know. I like Dave Grohl a lot. I think he’s an awesome guy.

Demian: Yeah.

Brian: I don’t religiously listen to Foo Fighters music, though.

Demian: All right. All right. So did it upset you — so I’m a big Kurt Cobain fan. When he died, I remember exactly where I was. But the idea of David Grohl going up and now being the front man of a band really upset me. Did that do it to you too?

Brian: No. No, I mean … I even said this once on Twitter, which got mixed reaction, like a lot of things I say on Twitter. But I was like, “You know, Dave Grohl’s the hero, not Kurt Cobain.” Because Cobain … yeah. It’s really hard to say.

Yes, I’m like you, at that time I identified with him. I was 26, and I knew all well the 27 club that he joined, and I was a very angry, self-destructive young man at the time. So at that point, literally, I was like, “Uhhhhh….that’s next year, I don’t think I’m ready to go.” So by the time I was 30, I had completely reinvented my life. So it’s like, you know, it’s like Zeppelin said, Demian. There are–what is it? There are two paths you could go, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.

(Laughter all around)

Jerod: That was a good answer! (Applause sounds) We’ll applaud that one.

Brian: (Laughs out loud)

How and why could Google become the next big movie studio?

Jerod: Okay. So I want to go back to talking about Google really quick. On a recent episode of New Rainmaker with Robert Bruce you talked about how Google could become the next big movie studio. How would this occur, and why would it occur?

Brian: Well, that was just throwing out there the idea that companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, Amazon have more money than any other media company on the planet. By far. It’s not even close, right? Like Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post himself, with change that he had in his couch, okay?

So the idea on one hand that media is the most powerful influencer on the planet by far, combined with these companies that have better business models, when you put that together that’s what content marketing is. That’s why we at Copyblogger take a media-first approach to marketing, because it’s more powerful, and we can make more money. Literally ten times more, if you look at what our traffic is on Copyblogger.

How much we could make from an advertising model compared to the model that we have, right? So if Netflix can become a producer of original content, why can’t Coca-Cola, or Google, or whatever?

I recently spoke at SMX and instead of movies for Google, I had Google News on a slide, and I crossed out “News” and put “Journalism.” Because isn’t Google already moving from the organizer of all the world’s information to producing it, or at least scraping it and putting it out above the top results, right? Is that really inconceivable for where Google might go? I don’t think so.

(Applause sounds)

How does Brian rank Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Wire?

Jerod: All right. And speaking of original content, Demian, I’m going to ask you now to step aside, because you won’t get any of the references that I’m about to make here, because I want to ask Brian: I want you to rank the following shows: Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Sopranos, and I’m leaving Mad Men out currently only because it’s not finished yet.

Brian: You know the answer to this. It’s Breaking Bad.

Jerod:

Brian: Oh, right, right. You know? I’ve never watched The Wire, and I’ve been told…

(Trombone sounds)

Brian: (Laughs) I knew I had to get one sometime! No, it’s been recommended to me for years, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. It’s almost like it’s too gritty.

Jerod: And I’ll make this admission: I just got started with it. I’m at the beginning of Season Three right now. I can see why everybody loves it, because it’s phenomenal.

Brian: Oh, right. So give yourself the trombone.

(Trombone sounds)

Demian: (Laughter)

Jerod: Okay. Sad trombone for myself.

Brian: (Laughs out loud)

Jerod: But yes. I would rank Breaking Bad at the top as well.

Brian: All right. So I don’t need to watch The Wire, then, right?

Jerod: Well, but you still should …

Brian: Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!

Jerod: It’s still worth it, though. And I haven’t finished it yet, so I don’t know.

Brian: I just got through watching True Detective, and I can’t process where it ranks in the overall scheme of things. But that was pretty amazing.

Jerod: I haven’t seen that one yet.

Brian: Oh, you’ve got to see it. You’ll love it.

Jerod: Demian, do you know — do you know what we’re talking about?

Demian: No, not really.

Brian: Demian doesn’t have a TV, does he?

Demian: No, we do have a TV. We have a huge TV. But we have an antenna. I swear to God, we have an antenna.

Brian: So does Tony. What’s with the antenna?

Demian: It’s so I can watch football. That’s about it. That’s the only thing I’ll ever watch on TV, is football. Or documentaries via Netflix, or something like that.

Brian: The funny thing is….

Demian: We do watch a lot of kids’ movies, though.

Brian: That surprises me, because I would think he’d be watching television and then not watching football.

Jerod: (Chuckles)

Brian: You don’t look like the football type.

Why isn’t Brian on Twitter as much anymore?

Demian: I don’t know, man. Yeah, long story on that. Hey, speaking of Breaking Bad …

Brian and Jerod: (Laughter)

Demian: … back in early 2013 you said you might come out of retirement to kick my writing ass, then not long after that you skewered Jay Baer for writing a dumb headline, and …

Brian: I did?

Demian: Your Twitter persona is infamous for the harassment, right? So should people actually follow you and engage you on Twitter?

Brian: You’ve noticed that I’ve been much more muted on Twitter.

Demian: Yes. You’ve been mild.

Brian: I’m too busy…

(sound of a cash register, laughter)

Brian: …and too old. But … I don’t know. Twitter to me, Twitter to me is just a goofy diversion, and if you get my sense of humor then you know never to take me seriously. But that’s the thing when there are 160,000 people following you. They DON’T all know me.

Demian: Right.

Brian: At all.

Demian: Right. Right.

Brian: And so finally I just kind of said, “You know, I’m tired of being misunderstood.” Is it really worth it, to throw out some obscure, funny thing that some people get but most people don’t?

And the other thing is, I tend to be fairly … on a range from ironic to sarcastic, that’s me. And it just amazes me because I once read a statistic, and I don’t know the exact percentages, but an alarmingly large number of people can’t detect irony or sarcasm, and our whole culture seems to be built on irony and sarcasm. So do people — is, like, most of the population like my mom? Just going through life, and it’s all going whoooooosh…right by them?

Jerod and Demian: (Laughter)

Brian: I just save it for you guys which, you know, Demian doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, but Jerod does. So it…

Demian: Right.

Jerod: Right.

(Applause sounds)

Brian: (Laughs out loud)

Jerod: That’s right.

Brian: And Demian must be in charge of the buttons.

Demian: No, he is!

Brian: (Laughs out loud) No, I meant Jerod. That’s right. Yeah. But did I say that one time? One of you is from Indiana, and one is from Illinois, and I confuse the two, and I said “whatever” on it?

Demian: I was actually born in…

Brian: Now you know what our editorial meetings are like.

(Laughter all around)

Demian: So my favorite part was when I was at — you know, the conference call phone calls are like, you can’t understand crap anyway. Brian, you’re talking, and you’re going on, and talking about somebody to do something, somebody to do something, and you’re kind of giving directions and stuff like that, and then it dawns on me: He’s talking about me! And the thing was, it’s when you’re pronouncing my name wrong, because I was like, ‘I need to tell him, man!”

Brian: Oh, that was a long time ago.

Demian: That was a long time ago.

Brian: Who needs to spell “Damian” with an “E”?

Jerod: (Laughs)

Brian: Didn’t you see The Exor–wait, no. It’s “The Omen.”

Demian: That’s it.

Brian: We do have two rottweilers, if you want to borrow them.

Jerod: (Laughs out loud)

(Drum and cymbals sounds, laughter all around)

Demian: Jerod, just quit it, man.

Brian: (Laughs out loud)

Jerod: (Laughing) It’s too much fun.

Brian: Okay. So getting back to this. I don’t know if everyone is enjoying this, but we are. So …

Jerod: Mmm-hmm.

How can you balance native advertising and journalistic integrity?

Demian: All right. So to comment on your Google-Plus journalism thing. So of course, journalists are worried that native advertising will skewer the truth, and I’ve gotten a few comments during this native advertising survey that, in essence, say, “How are you going to keep a journalistic balance?” And so my question for you: What’s your response to that?

Brian: Us?

Demian: Yeah.

Brian: We’ve never tried to keep a journalistic balance. (Chuckles) We make it quite clear that we are trying to teach you, and we are also in the process of trying to sell stuff.

So we are transparent, and because we are marketers speaking to other marketers, early on I went kind of overboard on the transparency thing. I turned everything into a wink and a smile, a game, a spot-the-technique kind of thing. And now you’ll see that a lot of people, especially in the startup world, but you know, people like Moz. Rand Fishkin is so transparent he makes me squirm. You know?

I mean, but that’s the thing. You may wonder if this amount of transparency is right for you, but you’ll never say, “I think they’re hiding something from me.”

Demian: Right.

Brian: And I get in arguments with journalists all the time because I’m like, “Do you really believe you’re objective?” Not you, but journalism as a whole.

Now of course, everyone will say, “Okay. So Fox News, we know they’re not objective.” But really, is anyone to a certain degree? Any human being. The choice of words they use will demonstrate bias. I mean, anyone who understands cognitive psychology knows there is no such thing as objectivity. We are subjective beings. So we can try to be objective, or we can adapt and we can just be ultra transparent.

And I think we’re going to end up debating about this quite a bit, as you’ve seen, Demian. But it’s not going to change the fact that if you want journalism to exist, you’re probably going to have to go with native ads. Because we can rat around everything else so easily.

And that’s why content marketing works better than advertising and traditional marketing, but there still has to be some way to fund models that aren’t going to sell stuff. Like if the Dallas Morning News can start selling software, you know. It’s just not going to happen.

(Applause sounds)

Would Brian — a Texas A&M alum who is also a Broncos fan — rather have Peyton Manning or Johnny Manziel?

Jerod: I want to talk about your hat, Brian.

Brian: Yes.

Jerod: For those listening on the podcast, it’s a Broncos hat. A Denver Broncos hat. How long did it take you to pull that back out and get it into the rotation after the events of early February?

Brian: So what’s today?

Jerod: Today’s March 24th.

Brian: And this is, as you know, is the only hat I had in the office after I got here, realized I was about to be on video, and had been moving all morning from one house to another. So, I’m not saying I’m not still proud of the Broncos, but I have not worn any Broncos gear until today. And it’s still kind of searing my head a little bit right now.

Jerod: Okay. So before I ask you a follow up question on native advertising, I want to ask you a Broncos question that I was thinking about as we prepped for this moment.

Brian: How ’bout them Cowboys?

Jerod: (Chuckles) Hey, I’m no …

Brian: That’s my answer.

Jerod: I’m no Cowboys fan.

Brian: (Laughs) Well …

Jerod: No, and you have DeMarcus Ware now, so you took the Cowboys’ heart and soul.

Brian: Yeah.

Jerod: But, question about the Broncos: Would you rather have the next two or three years of Peyton Manning or would you rather have the next ten years, the career, of Johnny Manziel? And you are, of course, a supporter of the Aggies. Which would you choose?

Brian: Wow. Um…

Jerod: Maybe I should have given you some prep time on this one, huh?

Brian: Well, the question is, okay. At some point soon, Peyton will retire. That frees up, like, what? $18 million dollars. But there’s no one you can go get who’s going — you know, you just can’t swap out quarterbacks that way. So you’re going to have to bring someone up, right?

Now, I have a sentimental interest in Johnny, but I am not convinced he’s going to make it. I mean, in the NFL. Those guys are big. They really are. And one day you’re not going to get that scramble done, and boom. (Laughter)

Jerod: It’s true.

Brian: I don’t know. I’m rooting for Johnny, but I think he’s going to be with another team, and we’ll let him try them out. And then we’ll take $18 million dollars and give it to him if he’s still around.

Jerod: Yeah. And you’ve got a chance to get back to the Super Bowl in the next couple of years. Good answer.

(Applause sounds)

How do you do native advertising right?

Jerod: All right. Okay. So let me ask the really quick follow up question on native advertising, then. What do you think is the single most important factor for doing native advertising right?

Brian: So I wrote this article over at SayDaily and linked to it on Copyblogger as a way to start the conversation.

You know, some people don’t even know what native advertising is, which is kind of surprising to me because there’s been so much talk about it for the last year and a half. And there were really three things that I pointed out in that context, but I’m going to boil it down to one, which was the final part of that article: which is you use native advertising to build an audience … while traditionally with advertising, we were simply buying someone else’s audience temporarily.

If you are smart in this environment and you have a long-term strategy in mind, then you — effectively, you’re content marketing, but you need to accelerate that outreach and exposure. You know, Jerod, you’ve started many blogs. Demian, you’ve started — you did Copybot. I, you know, the beginning days of Copyblogger were like crickets chirping for those first three months while I constantly …

(Cricket chirping sounds, Jerod chuckling)

Brian: … Exactly. It was that cricket, actually.

You were trying to get someone to notice. It wasn’t like the content’s not good, but it still takes everyone that hustle period. And that’s the whole concept of the minimum viable audience. When you get to that point, your life changes because the audience starts building itself. Until you get to that point, it can be lonely and you’re going to have to spend time or money to get it to the MVA, and I see native advertising as a way to accelerate that process.

But you’d have to be silly to keep going back and paying them to borrow the audience when you can build your own. But I see a lot of short-term thinking out there. It’s just like, “Run the ads! Sell the product directly! Money now!” You know? It’s unfortunate, because an audience gives you that compounded, exponential return over time instead of just placing another ad. It seems very disempowering, if you will.

(Applause sounds)

Has Brian taken voice lessons?

Demian: So, I think it was the third or the fourth episode of The Rainmaker, you said that you were going to start taking voice lessons. Did you do that because someone made fun of you?

Brian: (Chuckles) No.

Demian: Okay.

Brian: In fact, most people said, “You sound fine, don’t worry about it.”

Demian: Right.

Brian: And then I — mainly, it’s because Robert is a professionally trained voice actor in addition to being an actor.

Demian: Is that why he sounds so good?

Brian: Yes, Demian.

Demian: It’s not natural talent?

Brian: No, Demian. (Chuckles) But, so yeah. That was really what prompted that. But Robert said, just keep going. And generally, you know, I trust what he says, because he’s not afraid to tell me what he thinks at all. But he’s noted that I’ve gotten better with every episode, and I’m getting — really what it comes down to is, I need to sound as natural as possible, and I have a way to go, but from looking into voice lessons, practice is the most important thing that gets you better.

Demian: So are you taking lessons?

Brian: No. I’m just doing.

Demian: Just doing.

Brian: The other interesting thing, also, is that the second season of New Rainmaker, if you will, we’ve already decided how we’re going to do that, and we will be playing to each other’s strengths, so you might imagine whose voice you may hear more of.

Jerod: Mmm.

Demian: Oooh.

(Dramatic music and a voice saying “Aaaaah.”)

Brian: Is that a Darth Vader thing?

Jerod: No, no. They describe it as “drama” here in the effects page for Google Hangout. It’s all built into Hangouts. It’s part of why we’re doing this, so we can show people the full breadth of capabilities that hangouts have.

Should writers fear Google, and should writers ever guest post again?

Demian: Let me ask you another question. So last week, to get your thoughts on another scandal, if you will.

Brian: Scandal! (Chuckles)

Demian: Last week, Google…

Brian: We’re such nerds that we think any of this is scandal.

Demian: I know, right?

(Laughter from Demian and Brian)

Demian: I know. So last week, Google penalized a huge guest blogging network, My Guest Blog. What’s your response? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Why should writers care? Should writers fear Google, and should writers ever guest post again?

Brian: This is an interesting question, because when that network debuted, I asked Ann Smarty on Google-Plus, “Please, I’m really interested. Please explain to me how this isn’t going to get you penalized?” And she never responded to me. And then this happened. And I’m not going schadenfreude on this at all. I really wanted to know. But from my perspective, I’m like, that’s what’s going to happen to you, you know?

Demian: Right.

Brian: My entire career, I guess, since starting Copyblogger, the idea was always: never bet against Google.

Demian: Mmm-hmm.

Brian: That was why, even back when the black hat stuff still worked better, I was straight-and-narrow, content, no buying links, no building links, attracting links. Everything you have to do now, right?

Demian: Mmm-hmm.

Brian: I was doing back then, and teaching people, and half the people listened. And those people never got hit by Panda or Penguin, or anything. The other half said, “You’re a loser,” and then rebuilt their sites five times.

So I hate waking up and having something I’ve worked hard on penalized, or whatever. It just makes me sick. And I know some really smart SEOs who love the challenge of, you know, outsmarting the current version of the algorithm, but I don’t like that. I love it — that’s the media approach. You don’t do three seasons of Seinfeld thinking, “Well, this could get us thrown off the air, but we’ll take that chance.”

Jerod: Right. Right.

Brian: No one wants that, right? And that’s the different in mentality.

Demian: Right.

Brian: So that’s another example of what I mean by “media, not marketing.” You know, long-term value over short-term results. So I feel bad for all the people that got dinged by that, but I just thought that that seemed kind of like a foretold outcome based on how it was structured.

Demian: So guest posting, is that still a legitimate strategy?

Brian: I think it is in the way that it works offline. Like if you want to get published by The Atlantic, then you submit an article, and they review it, and if it’s up to their standards and fits their editorial mix, then they will edit it, and they will publish it, like we do on Copyblogger.

Media, not marketing.

Demian: Media, not marketing. I see. That’s a pretty good answer, man.

Brian: This is the gist of what I’m trying to get across to people at New Rainmaker, which is everything you do that doesn’t mimic offline media is probably going to get you in trouble.

Demian: Right.

Brian: Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things inherent about the online environment that allow you to scale in certain ways and allow you to do really cool things. But every time people try to avoid just the basic work of producing media-quality content something bad tends to happen.

Demian: Right.

(Applause sounds)

Who is the “Frank Underwood” and the “Raymond Tusk” of Copyblogger?

Jerod: Okay. So one more quick pop culture question for you, before I get to a question about our decision earlier this week to remove blog comments, which I know people will love to hear your thoughts on. I want to talk with you really quick about House of Cards.

Let’s say that we were casting House of Cards from the Copyblogger Universe. You might be Francis Underwood. Robert might be considered Doug Stamper. Sonia absolutely would not be Claire Underwood. But what I’m curious about is who would be Raymond Tusk?

Brian: Raymond is Francis’s right-hand man that — are we allowed to give spoilers?

Jerod: Ummmm…

Demian: Yeah, why not?

Brian: Right. But I’m blanking on the name, so that’s….

Jerod: Oh, Tusk. He’s the guy that was opposing Francis Underwood.

Brian: Oh! That …

Jerod: And he had to go there and get his approval to be Vice President in season one.

Brian: You mean Warren Buffet.

Jerod: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Brian: Warren Buffet would be Tusk.

Jerod: Okay.

Brian: Well, you didn’t know he was on our board of advisors.

Jerod: Yeah, and well, there we go. Now we know.

Brian: No. In the Copyblogger universe …

Jerod: Yeah. In the Copyblogger universe.

Brian: Well, that’s …

Demian: So what’s the guy like?

Brian: He’s like Warren Buffet. (Laughs)

Demian: Like really wealthy, and …

Jerod: He’s from Saint Louis, actually.

Brian: Well, we don’t know that Warren Buffet manipulates the political system behind the scenes, but that’s the implication, right? I mean, they did cast this guy in a very obvious way.

Jerod: Ha!

Brian: I don’t know much about Warren Buffet, but you know. Anyway. In the Copyblogger universe? First I’d like to object that you think I’m Francis Underwood.

Jerod: (Chuckles)

Brian: I am nowhere near that good. But I’m working on it. Um … Who would be Tusk? No one. I wish we had a Tusk.

Jerod: Yeah. Okay.

Brian: (Laughs out loud)

Demian: That was a good answer.

(Applause sounds)

(Laughter from Brian and Demian)

Why did Copyblogger close blog comments?

Jerod: Okay. So let’s move on here. Regarding comments on the blog.

We recently closed them, obviously. When did you first consider closing them? I mean, obviously it’s not something that was decided just in a day. When did you first get the inkling that it was something that you might want to do? Might want to consider? And I guess just your general thoughts on what the reaction has been, and what you think of it so far.

Brian: First considered it about eight years ago.

Jerod: (Chuckles) Right around when the blog started.

Brian: About three months in, once the audience showed up, I was like, “Some of these people…” No. Seriously, though, we’ve probably, the last three years …

It’s interesting because feedback is such an important part of the model that we talk about. And then at some point, on Copyblogger, the feedback no longer played a role.

I think there is the life in a publication where you understand your audience from serving them year, after year, after year, to the point where you’ll see newbies come by and say something that reflects that they have no idea, necessarily, what they’re talking about, but that doesn’t make us change anything. Right? The feedback stopped impacting editorial as much as it does when you have a younger site, okay? And that’s really a good thing.

Again, for three years we didn’t just turn them off. We said, “You know, maybe this feedback function is not as critical to our editorial direction as it used to be, because now Copyblogger reacts editorially more toward — it’s always reacted within the context of the broader industry, of course — but it also reacted on a more personal level during the early days.

So you’ll notice that I went over to Entreproducer and started testing out my newer ideas with a new audience, a smaller audience. I relished the feedback, and that’s how New Rainmaker was developed. I’ve never said that out loud before, but that’s the truth.

(Flourish of horns)

Brian: So now, at New Rainmaker, as I said on Twitter today, we do have comments open because I still think at this stage I really want that intimate feedback mechanism.

Demian: Right.

Brian: But you know, on big sites like TechCrunch, for example, they have comments for page views. That’s it. They don’t care what you think, right? I mean, so we — everything we do is designed to have a purpose that is constructive and useful, and most of the best conversations that we have right now are on Google-Plus, where people are who they say they are, not Seattle SEO Services.

(Jerod chuckling)

Demian: They’re still there, though.

Brian: (Laughs) I mean, and again, the whole misguided teaching by some gurus of blog commenting as a traffic strategy. I had to fight that the whole time, and it’s really annoying.

Demian: Right.

Jerod: Yeah.

Brian: But anyway. I think comments are invaluable in a blog’s life, but we stopped being a blog a long time ago, when you think about it.

Demian: Right. Right.

Brian: But at some point, they become more of a meaningless chore than they become of any real value when most of the best stuff is on Twitter and Google-Plus, LinkedIn, Facebook, without the moderation. Because we’re answering people there already, and moderating … How many a day, Jerod? I remember when you took over, and I said, “Are you having fun yet?” And I was still going in there and moderating comments, because the spammers are so clever about — the ones that are borderline.

Demian: Right. Right.

Brian: You’re like reading it, and you’re like, “Oh, you are a total spammer! Delete!”

Jerod: (Laughs)

Brian: But you don’t just delete comments without really making that evaluation, and that’s not something that’s quick, you know. That started slowing things down a lot.

But I am insanely anal about what appears on our site, you know? And if I let a spam comment slip through, I’m embarrassed. I’m mortified. Maybe I’m overreacting, but that’s how I’ve always approached Copyblogger. It’s like our sacred ground. This is our one place in the universe that we control, you know, the content and the quality. And that’s important.

(Applause sounds)

Demian: Yeah, and the idea of …

Jerod: Demian’s getting annoyed with the applause.

(Brian laughs out loud)

Who do Demian and Jerod look like?

Demian: I wanted to say, Jerod. You look a lot like Wolverine.

Brian: (Laughs) He does! I would — that’s a good point! He does …

Jerod: Thank you.

Brian: … look like Wolverine.

Demian: Now, I was going to say, about the …

Brian: And you look like our Lord and Savior.

(Laughter from Jerod and Brian)

Demian: That’s the new name of the show, right?

(Brian laughs out loud)

Demian: Wolverine and Our Lord and Savior!

(Laughter all around)

Brian: Wolverine and Our Lord and Savior! Today on Google-Plus!

Demian: That’s right! So … (Laughs) But I mean, yeah. Comments being a user-generated SEO strategy … that went away a long time ago, too.

Brian: It hasn’t been relevant in so long I can’t believe it, you know?

Jerod: Right. Right.

Brian: But on Copyblogger you would always see this cycle. There’d always be the class of whatever for six months. And then they’d finally give up and quit commenting on Copyblogger, and then you’d see a new group of people who got the advice that “you need to comment on big blogs.”

Demian: Right. Right.

Brian: It’s not like we don’t know that, all right?

(Laughter from Jerod and Demian)

What is the most satisfying book mention of Brian’s career?

Demian: All right, hey. So I’ve got one final question. So on your bio on Copyblogger, it says you’ve been mentioned in 17 books. What is the most satisfying book to be mentioned in?

Brian: “Lynchpin,” by Seth Godin.

Demian: Why is that? Because it’s Seth?

Brian: Because it’s Seth Godin, and it was using me as an example of a lynchpin. That’s pretty damn flattering, right there.

Demian: Yeah.

Jerod: Yeah.

Demian: Yeah, that is. That’s better than a blog post, so …

Brian: I was actually mentioned in Meatball Sundae, and I’m like, “Seth, thanks; but no one read that book. That’s the worst title ever.”

Jerod: (Laughs)

Demian: Yeah, I thought that was pretty bad too.

Brian: (Laughs)

Demian: I let Seth know that, by the way.

Brian: No, actually. I’m honored to be mentioned anywhere.

I mean, people don’t realize. They think that, “Oh, well, you get mentioned a lot, and it means nothing to you,” but no. It’s always an honor for someone to write a book, which is torturous, and use you as an example. I think that’s really cool. So that’s why I always link to everyone’s book if I am aware of it. You know, a little give-back, I guess. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to say you’ve been mentioned in books.

(Applause sounds)

Demian: That’s why you’re our CEO.

Brian: It’s going to be you guys going forward. No one’s going to know who I am, and that’s okay.

Jerod: All right. So Demian, do you have a final tally?

Brian: Then I will be Raymond Tusk at that point!

Jerod: Yes! There you go.

Brian: We’ll just pick it up a little. I will be Raymond Tusk.

Demian: In spite of….

Brian: Frank Underwood has way too much exposure. (Laughs)

Jerod: True.

Demian: In spite of Jerod’s overzealous use of the applaud button …

Brian: What? I think he’s been doing fantastic!

Jerod: (Laughs) Watch. I can also mute Demian too, see? He’s muted now, and he doesn’t even know it. (Laughs) Oh, that’s awesome.

Wait, come back, Demian! How do I un-mute you? There you go. Are you back?

Brian: No, he’s still muted.

Demian: No, I am there.

Jerod: There he is.

Brian: Oh, there he is.

Demian: So just keep in mind, okay, this is a new world record on our show.

Jerod: 9.77 out of 11, for those listening on the podcast.

Brian: And so basically I got the trombone because I haven’t seen The Wire? You know? If you guys would work harder, I’d have more TV time!

(Laughter from Demian and Jerod, drum and cymbals sounds)

Demian: Yeah, so we’ll be seeing that memo later, right?

Brian: (Laughs out loud) I’m going to have an autoresponder: “Watching The Wire.”

Jerod: Watching The Wire.

Brian: You need to do that yourself.

Jerod: Yeah.

Demian: (Laughs)

Jerod: That’s pretty much how it goes.

Demian: All right. Thanks, Brian.

Jerod: All right. Yeah. With that said, this episode of Hangout Hot Seat is over. We thank Brian Clark for joining us. Demian, thank you for the exuberant question-asking. I very much appreciate it. And we will catch you next time.

Brian: Cool. Thanks, guys.

# # #

*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.

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About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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