Why I Won’t Buy Seth Godin’s
Meatball Sundae

Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

For the first time, Seth Godin is releasing a new book, and I won’t be buying it.

You’d think that a shameless Seth fanboy like me wouldn’t be able to pass up the purchase. But it’s not happening this time.

Why? Because for the first time, I got a free advance review copy. I guess being a shameless fanboy has its perks, so I’ll go ahead and share my impressions of the book with you.

Meatball Sundae is the least appetizing book title Seth has ever come up with, and it’s absolutely perfect. The corporate skepticism for new media marketing may be over, but that doesn’t mean the people in the big boardrooms have a clue. They’ll heap on some tasty “new marketing” whipped cream and a cherry on the same commodity meatball of a business, and end up with a nasty mess.

Perhaps marketing executives figure they’ll get them some blogging, and some of that podcasting, maybe some of those viral videos too, and then they’ll be able to keep selling the same stuff they have for decades. Seth explains that you’ve got to reinvent your business to fit the realities of the new marketing (rather than the other way around), because ideas that spread through groups of people are far more powerful than ideas delivered at an individual.

Those are Seth’s words, and that’s the best definition of social media marketing I’ve heard. If the new marketing is all about the stories we respond to and share, what’s the unique story behind your business?

Meatball Sundae is not just for clueless corporate types. I see small business bloggers and online marketers who “get” blogging and social media, but there’s nothing new or unique about the underlying business. That’s why many are spinning their wheels with online marketing, no matter how much content they produce.

What’s your story? Why will people talk about you, and what will they say? If you don’t have those answers yet, getting them is the most important business task you face. You’ve got to develop a truly unique position in your market space, or maybe even create an entirely new market. The ideas in Meatball Sundae can help businesses of all sizes figure out how to make that happen.

I do, however, have one reservation about the book. And it’s fairly substantial.

On pages 83 and 84 of the book, there’s a subchapter entitled “Digging Brian’s Copy.” Yep, Copyblogger is used as an example of how independent authorities are building audiences with social media.

I guess we can forgive Seth for one lapse in judgment. But seriously, I can’t have this—people might start thinking I’m respectable or something.

All kidding aside, there is one irony related to Seth’s ideas on new media marketing being delivered via a book. Seth wrote Meatball Sundae a year ago, and it’s just now being released at the end of this month. The publishing lag time must frustrate Seth to no end, but then again, he simply must publish books to reach the corporate crowd who desperately need to understand these ideas.

Here’s an excerpt of what Seth wrote about Copyblogger that shows the contrast between traditional book publishing and the real-time media space we operate in:

His site has grown to six thousand subscribers in less than a year, mostly by practicing what he preaches.

Some readers will dismiss six thousand subscribers as a tiny number. It’s not. Most trade magazines have fewer than twenty thousand subscribers, and most of those subscribers don’t even bother to open the magazine.

Well, the Digging may be done, but it’s nice to know I’m beating most of those pesky trade magazines a year later. This long publishing lag time is one reason why I can’t talk myself into writing a book, especially given the stuff I like to write about.

Luckily, Seth’s ideas are well ahead of their time even a year later, and he demonstrates that we’re in the very early stages of a huge shift in business and marketing. Meatball Sundae provides plenty of food for thought, and yes, the bad pun is intended.

You can buy your copy of Meatball Sundae at Amazon.

Time to take a break from blogging, and get ready for 2008. It should be another fascinating year in online marketing, so stay tuned.

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Reader Comments (55)

  1. says

    I can’t believe you “got me” with that headline, but you did 😉

    It was worth being “zinged”, as the content made up for the hurt feelings you caused by “tricking me” into reading.

    You rule.

  2. says


    I got a free copy as well.

    Very actionable advice inside this book. Seth really does a good job of “putting it out there”.

    By “out there” I mean that any forward thinking business owner should get this book.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  3. says

    Mentioned by Seth Godin in a book? Why, in the marketing world, that’s kind of like being knighted. I suppose you want us to all start calling you Sir Brian now? :-)

  4. says

    I also received a ‘free copy.” I will be doing a review and also interviewing Seth for a “virtual book tour” next month. I’m almost finished with the book and loving every page of it and I’m not saying that because it was given to me. I’ve been give or “won” other books and they are just sitting on the shelf. Sometime early next year I was planning on leading a seminar on the same subject and thankfully this book is out as a resource.

    I must be a very disturbed individual because I own a book by James Lileks called, “The Gallery of Regrettable Food” while humorous it also showcases some of the goofy marketing done by food companies in the guise of cookbooks. I don’t know if it would ever work but I would love to see Godin and Lileks colaborate on a project.

    Your title really got to me because for a second I thought we had conflicting opinions and you still managed to mess with my mind in the copy of the article itself! Well I’m on page 139 and plan on finishing tonight. Will be back later.

  5. silvino says

    i want it too! and i guess seth is still a gazillion years ahead of his time, just as great thinkers were. with just a couple of simple ideas, twisted again and again, he gives people time and space to digest.

  6. says

    Actually, the formula dictates the title should be:

    “Why 4 of the 5 reasons to NOT buy Meatball Sundae are invalid.”

    C’mon, Brian. You’ve *got* to have a list!

  7. says

    Hello Brian,

    Great summary post. I, too, am a Seth Godin fan. His understanding of what REALLY makes a successful business tick is unparallelled.

    I look forward to getting my own copy of Meatball Sundae for I know it will be an intriguing, informative, and action inducing read.

    And again…thanks for your insightful post!

  8. says

    Hey Brian,

    Catchy title… you got me with that one. I posted a goal setting article on my blog a couple of days ago about my top five people I would want to have dinner with. Seth actually came out on top followed by Malcolm Gladwell and the Heath brothers. If Seth ever takes me up on my offer I’ll have to think about a Meatball Sundae. Thanks for the review!

    BTW Brian… if you are ever in Temecula, California, lunch is on me.


  9. says

    Add me to the list of people sucked in by the post’s title! A lesson on how to write a compelling article title.

    If this article was written by anyone else on another blog, it would probably be titled something like: “5 reasons why Seth’s new book is like chocolate”. There are far too many of those kind of titles at the moment.

  10. says

    As much as I love the technology I use books to have an advantage. They work anywhere, I can use them when my computer is using up all it’s resources doing something else, I can share one with people, etc. This book also has a different slant the Purple Cow. The book is specifically about marketing strategies and how change them or your business as the tools and way people find products change. Purple Cow, which still talks about marketing is more inspirational and focused on the overall vision and business model of companies that stand out.

  11. says

    hi brian,
    sorry if this comment is misplaced – it’s about your post about seth godin’s new book and why you won’t buy it.
    I’ve posted about it on my blog, but I must tell you I haven’t fully gotten your point.
    what’s wrong with seth quoting your numbers, even if one year late?
    isn’t the fact that your site has grown so much proving his point even better?
    you’ll find my post here (placing english translation for you):
    I’m sure my readers would like to better understand you.
    thank you in advance and all the best for 2008 from milano, italy – max

  12. says

    I’d just gotten to the section about you in the book and decided that since I hadn’t looked in a while I’d stop by for a look. The title definitely got me hooked…

    Best wishes for 2008!

  13. Michael says

    I don’t know why Seth even bothers with traditional publishing. He could pay a competent person to edit his book and then just use print-on-demand, ending the lag time problem. He will make more money, sell just as many books, and if he really wants to reach those corporate dodo heads, have a traditional publisher pick up his book on the back end.

  14. Kenny D says

    I just listened to the Meatball on my iPhone and couldn’t agree more with you and Seth. Businesses today don’t get it. As a marketing professional, you’d be amazed at how difficult it is to convince meatballs who want to make their businesses “viral” on the web what true meatball sundaes they truly are. None of them “get it.” And most are not willing to reinvent themselves. It’s actually sad.

  15. says


    RE: your comment “This long publishing lag time is one reason why I can’t talk myself into writing a book, especially given the stuff I like to write about.”

    If you are so keen to write a book, would you consider using a print-on-demand-right-now service like lulu.com? The lag time gets reduced to zero, and let’s face it, you could easily sell a hell of a lot of books to us lot, and all your marketing would be done for you by other A-list bloggers who no doubt would recommend you. So your book might not make the millions it could by hitting the bookstores, but at least it would be out there right now in the hands of the right readers.

    I want to write another book this year, and know I will probably go this route again – my readers/listeners will get it fast, and I don’t have to worry about dealing with publishers.

  16. says

    Good article. You got me with the title as well. It really is amazing that he finished the book a year ago. It does seem that 2008 will be the year for new media to change, where it moves to ‘thinking big’ and becomes really valuable to people.

  17. says

    Such a Seth lovefest! Thanks for the review Brian. It’s too bad that this crew ignores the obvious flaws in Meatball Sundae:

    –the self promotion is over the top (Squidoo)
    –the backbreaking contradiction over the ‘storyteller’

    Feel free to visit the ReidWegs Report for an objective review of what could have been a very important book.

  18. says

    You got me, I admit.

    I’m downloading the book as I write. Your review convinced me even after finishing Godin’s Tribes book today (audio) which was really weak. I was reticent to give him another try but hopefully, Meatball Sundae, lives up to your recommendation.

    We shall see )))

  19. says

    There’s far more to the title than meets the eye.

    Being Jewish, Seth Godin would, at least, be aware of the prohibition against mixing milk and meat. His upbringing may even have engendered an aversion to the mix.

    Brian Katz – Analytics – VKI

  20. says

    An often debated point is whether to use target=_blank to force links to open in new tabs or windows so visitors are not invited to leave soon after their arrival.

    I see you don’t use target=_blank. Why (not)?


  21. says

    I wish I had more time to read these books, but I’m just insanely busy juggling some rather interesting projects.

    Which in a way kind of sucks, because I really could use more time to push pace on my own projects.

    Honestly though, the single most important pearls of wisdom I picked up in the past few years of webmastering around for several years of my (assumedly) adult life:

    Optimize above the fold, painstakingly.

    Split test different elements diligently.

    By applying these seemingly inconsequential principles, I have multiplied the the earnings of most websites in my portfolio, in less than a month.

    It’s all about first looks, and it’s all happening above the fold. You need to use that space to somehow make people want to either a) click something inside the website or b) scroll around the page.

    By focusing on above the fold optimization of my websites, I’ve achieved some drastic performance improvements. Really, it’s amazing just how far you can go with the same website traffic, if you just focus on re-fining your landing pages, and specifically your above the fold content.

    In fact, consider this pitch for a guest post I could write for you:

    “How I quadrupled my Adsense earnings within a month”


    “Doing so, I tapped into the surprising potential of my available traffic.”

    Interested? I’d very much like to have some of my mercenary writing published at copyblogger. In fact, I actually submitted a finished article a couple weeks ago, but I guess it was too bland, at least not enough to entice a quick reply.

    I’m very much willing to go for another round though, and this idea sounds neat now that I think of it. Yeah, well…

    If someone human is pre-approving this comment, can you pass the message around to the person who handles guest writing submissions, please?

    Thanks in advance,


  22. says

    I’m doing some background research for a talk I’m giving on Sunday on structured content (microformat, microdata) in WordPress, and this review came up in slot 29 of my SERPs for “seth godin reviews.”

    Couple of things:

    * There is no author attribution displayed, which surprises me.
    * There is no review microdata displayed.

    What I’m looking for is a review with author attribution, and I thought Copyblogger would be a slam dunk for this. Darn!

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