Seth Godin on Blogging, Business Books, and Creating Content that Matters

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

All hyperbole aside, season two of the Internet Marketing for Smart People radio show kicks off with author, entrepreneur, and prolific blogger Seth Godin.

A lot has changed since Seth pioneered effective email marketing in the mid 90s. And he set the standard for many of us when he switched to blogging over a decade ago.

But perhaps the most striking changes have rolled over the book publishing industry — an inevitability Seth foresaw even as he cranked out one best seller after another.

Today, you’ll hear about all of that, and much more.

In this episode Seth Godin and I discuss:

  • How Seth writes (kinda, well, you’ll see…)
  • Why Seth’s blogging style is totally irrelevant to your blogging success
  • Is the traditional business book still relevant?
  • Are rich, interactive eBooks better than text-only eBooks?
  • Why The Domino Project is only publishing short manifestos
  • Seth’s simple advice for writers struggling to ship
  • Why now is the time to do something that matters

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The Show Notes:

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Google+.

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  1. I’ve got to say that I’m totally with Seth on this. I’ve been experimenting with video over the last couple of months, and people are LOVING it.

    It reaches a completely new audience, and people who have never commented before are commenting. And people who have never shared or interacted with me before, are doing that too.

    So when’s the first Brian Clark video popping up here on Copyblogger? :-)

    • As soon as I lose 20 pounds? ;)

      • Better make that 30 then – don’t forget the camera adds 10! ;)

        • I was already factoring in the “Camera 10.” Sheesh, I’m not that fat. ;)

          • I kind of guessed that! Sounds like a bit of resistance to me…I kind of knew I had to make videos for my website in the early days and resisted it. I had all sorts of excuses….wrong equipment, no camera, blah blah blah plus I love to write.

            But no-one was reading my articles or coming to my website – Sean (D’Souza) made me create a video for a course I was taking with him and post it. Traffic and subscribers literally quadrupled overnight…and just kept growing.

            There’s no easy way – which you already know – you just gotta go out and do it!

      • The Ugly Duckling Video Technique is perfect for you then. Just put your narration to text and you have yourself a video. At least that way, we get to hear your voice as we read/see.

        • You mean doing something like a screencast?

          I find those to be really useful, but I’ve never heard it called the “Ugly Duckling Technique”, ha!

          I guess it is good for people who have qualms with being filmed on camera.

          Either way, putting video up is win-win, YouTube isn’t going anywhere and it’s a great way to get free exposure and provide value, so why not?

    • Seth’s on the right track with video – but I disagreed with his comment on videos with “someone just talking directly to a camera.”

      That’s not going to cut it with people. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how most bloggers do it.

      I come from a background in producing TV news. If we have a soundbite that is longer than 20 seconds – it almost always gets “covered” with some video (aka B-roll).

      There are ways to make simple videos that aren’t boring. Derek does a nice job on Social Triggers using a whiteboard – not to mention he’s an engaging speaker. Using screen capture software is another simple solution – Power Point slides easily become text graphics.

      But DO NOT sit on your beige couch in front of a blank white wall and just talk into the camera! (Unless you are naked)

      The internet is full of distractions…listen to this, read that, click here! If your videos start to bore people they’ll leave fast.

      Just like your writing needs to capture attention quickly with good headlines and ledes – effective videos include a little frosting and cherry on top. You don’t have to be a video expert to do it – just a little bit creative.

  2. I nearly fell off my chair – I was listening whilst doing some editing on my ezine and Seth Godin mentioned me! How crazy is that!

    And I can tell you, video is rocking my bass guitar website.

    Crazy!

  3. Very insightful podcast. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Seth is a great marketer. He really got the ball pinned when he decided on blogging. It’s a motivator for me as an upcoming blogger. I hope I achieve success with his teachings and talks.
    Keep up the flag dancing.

  5. Pretty amazing stuff. This is why Seth will continue to lead the way in this industry .

  6. I’ve been looking forward to this since you let it slip a little while ago.

  7. Amazing talk by Seth Godin!

    It sure gives us a deeper insight into things and being a freelance writer, I liked the part about his advice for writers struggling to ship and blogging style is totally irrelevant to your blogging success.

    Thanks for sharing Brian :)

  8. I just had a conversation last night about how important an e-book would be to the visitors of a website on which we partner–but how to make sure that the e-book we create has true value. And I’d been kicking around the idea of adding video to my own website. How fortuitous to hear this podcast to confirm that we are headed in the right direction!

  9. Interesting stat on using the words Pls RT getting 4 times the amount of RT’s, guess people need a call to action in their twitter stream to react.

  10. what a fun talk you guys had, it seemed to cut out rather suddenly though, thought you should know. I already have video blogging in my plan but I’ve noticed something about myself. A video requires my full attention, usually I end up listening and changing screens while one is going unless it’s evident there’s something vital for me to see. Does that happen to other people and do you think it will affect how well video works as a medium?

  11. The bit at the end is spot-on. There’s always someone trying to make a buck every time the world shifts, but it’s the people who do that while making a difference that we remember.

  12. Awesome episode featuring that always-exciting, cross-eyed discus thrower!

    Blogs, videos and such are all terrific, but I can’t imagine ever letting go of books. I think of the influence that the format of messages has on me and only a book or live presentation seem to reach my core. Everything else seems so superficial and disposable.

  13. Are we really entering a “post-literate” society? Granted, language has broken down quite a bit since Shakespeare’s day, and one could successfully make the argument that linguistics are now more informal than ever, thanks to the advent of the Internet and text technology. However, perhaps BECAUSE of the Internet and texting, haven’t we, in essence, become even more literate than ever? Don’t most people find it more prudent to send a text now – linguistics in a compact narrative – than to actually pick up the phone and call the person?

    • We’re actually much more literate on the whole than we were in Shakespeare’s day.

      I’m with you on this one — people have been saying we’re entering the post-literate society since Reagan got elected, but I don’t think we exactly are. It’s evolving and changing, yes. I think the 20th century was probably an anomaly in the level of literacy of the general populace, but we’re not melting into the Idiocracy just yet.

      I hope. :)

    • The only thing the Internet did for language was give the average person a platform. In the long run we’ll end up with better overall communication.

  14. Hi Brian,

    I enjoyed your conversation with Seth Godin. There is so much of experience and knowledge this audio has to offer.

  15. Not available through iTunes. The latest podcast is dated June 10th. :(

  16. Awesome interview. Nice start to the new season.

  17. First, the hard-drive on my mac crashed. Then, when I plugged in my iPod to charge it on the PC at the office, it wiped out all my music/audio files.

    I’m trying to look at the bright-side though… Now that IMfSP Radio is back, I have a fresh podcast to download :-)

  18. So, you recorded this somewhere in the 18-21 range of August.

    Brian, your content creation may be sporadic, but you make up for it by planning ahead. ;)

    Hurry up with that diet. I’m eager for video.

  19. Glad that Seth thanked you (Brian) for your willingness to share. You have helped me a ton!

    As far as video goes, make sure that your video settings allow “mobile devices” to see what you have produced. Yes, it is a setting that you must select if using the YouTube.

  20. It’s great to have the CopyBlogger radio back again, and what a way to kick things off.

    Brilliantly delivered Robert.. and Seth… well fantastic insight as always.

    Seth in my mind is definitely the ultimate thought leader in marketing, but goes way beyond marketing even… I love the way he is trying to change the way we see the world through thought provoking content… ;-)

    BTW: Dan’s post has changed the way I tweet now… LOL

  21. “How do I use writing to advance my mission.” Yes.

    “Write. Just write. If you don’t put it in front of people, it doesn’t count.” Yes.

    Derek Sivers’ book rocks, btw.

    Nice grace notes at the end as well.

  22. Barbara Saunders :

    I just HATE videos with people talking at a camera. When I see one of those, I scroll down to look for a transcript, and click away if there isn’t one. I can’t be alone on this!

    • You’re not alone, but lots of folks are different from you, too. :)

      I’m not big on video, I almost never watch video posts, but it’s good for me to recognize that not everyone feels the same way.

  23. I love his innovation, he is a true leader and innovative writer. I’m 2nd time reading his book: Linchpin don’t miss out this potential book if you want a real and productive changes in your life.

  24. This was awesome. Listened to it on my evening run tonight. I love the way Seth processes ideas — how he took every question you asked, Brian, and reshaped in a way that focused on the bigger picture. (If he weren’t such a noble man, he could use his powers for evil… or politics.)

    I also love Seth’s answer about multimedia books; I was actually wondering why the Domino Project hadn’t experimented with that. I loved that his reasoning was part business, part psychology, and part book purist.

    Again, I loved this. Especially the standup bass playing. Was that you, Brian, or Seth?

  25. Yes awesome interview…I’ve been wanting to write everyday ever since joining Sean D’Souza’s membership site, but always had an excuse…and as we all know, excuses are like…belly buttons, everybody has one. Loved Steven Pressfield’s book…”The Resistance”, it has definitely kept me from doing lots of things like writing every day, writing an eBook, etc. Thanks Brian, thanks Seth!

  26. Where have you been all my life? I have just discovered ‘copyblogger’ by chance tonight through Catherine Caine’s inspirational article re ‘useful and beautiful’ writing.
    Finding ‘copyblogger’ is like finding a magical treasure chest bursting with compelling ideas! The interview with Seth and Brian provided so much to think about and has resonated in so many ways; I can’t wait to find out more. I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat as I savour the delight that there are so many more articles just waiting for me to read! Thank you.

  27. Wouldn’t a podcast be more analogous to the book (the perfect experience) for those who do not like to read? Why a video of some person talking?

    • If all you have are words, I would agree. Audio is more portable and much easier to produce. I’d choose video when visual elements can help you communicate an idea more effectively.

      But at the end of the day (read Doris’s interesting comment below), it’s about how your audience prefers to take in information. If your people like video, then video makes sense, even if you don’t have a lot that’s visual to communicate.

  28. Videos and phone are the way of the future, time is always about change.

  29. Thank you very much for this inaugural audio of which I am an avid listener since the beginning. Missed you during summer! I have been publishing “How To” videos since 2005 first without vocals and still today no talking head – but mixing attractive no frills slides type visuals with screen capture how to’s, where necessary.

    We intended these short video clips as a supplement to written course supports which we noticed were barely read and then forgotten in some drawer at the bottom of the shelf. 2005 was early days and I must admit, things did not really take off in a big way – also because I did not consider these videos as a new business at that time but just as a support to our core activity with is IT Training.

    Since then, video is slowly but surely replacing our initial core activity and going well beyond IT Training. Reading the comments on this blog post, I am amused to find the same mixed bag of reactions we already got a few years back: the ones who love it and the ones who don’t. Whilst the ones coming round to video will increase, there will always be a substantial number of people who won’t be comfortable with that medium. And quite rightly so. As was said in the interview, written text, audio and video each have their place and purpose and need to be woven judiciously into our communication strategies.

    For example: I think video is great as a refresher of already existing knowledge. It triggers the right switches in our brain and brings back to the surface knowledge we thought we had forgotten. I believe visuals are more successful at triggering the recall than text.

    From my little corner here in Geneva, Switzerland, I observe a trend that has been confirmed in a more formal way by a recent Forbes study (Insights, December 2010). 59% of senior executives would end up watching a video instead of reading text if both are on the same web page.

    Now, when we get to reaching decision makers with video, that’s interesting. But I am still not sure whether all of us need to rush to the “talking heads”. There is only so many talking heads you can take in a day! :-)

    Video, just like text, needs care and a respect for the viewer. By this I mean that the scarcest and most valuable element of our life is time. And when someone takes the time to explain to me something in a concise manner, so that my own time is not wasted, I am forever thankful and will return.

    Much more to say about all this. There are two things I’d love to learn from you: as Seth said, how to write for video (writing great scenarios) and, more techy, keep us up to date about SEO with regards to video. Looking around, I don’t see any SEO innovation about video at this stage. Yes, video does come up more often in search engines if published on YouTube, DailyMotion, etc. But who wants to put all his eggs in clouds? (Absolutely agree with Sonia’s recent post about how you can lose a business over night).

    Thank you, copyblogger, for being here. You are a never ending resource of encouragement, great quality and transparency. And then you are erudite, friendly and open. In short, you do what is one of the great strengths of the US, still today. As a European and worldwide citizen, I can only approve of your approach.

    Kind regards, Doris

  30. I must say that listening to this interview with the “Godfather of blogging” ‘Seth Godin’ has really opened my eyes upon the direction I desire to go with my writing. I must have hit rewind 4 times yesterday morning to make sure his words permeated my brain and took root. He really hit home on so many thoughts I was having in regards to my blogging, my online business, and the da*n book I keep trying to write yet have not been able to buckle down and do. Kudos to you Brian for taking the time out to interview him and share it with us. It is much appreciated.

  31. ..the first podcast where I was actually looking out for the sequel. and what a great way to start it off
    Thanks for providing such a powerful platform to share all these insights.

    2 questions:
    1. may I also assume the return of Robert B in the coming episodes?
    2. wat is the story behind the funky tune in the outro? ;)

    Thanks,
    Reinier

  32. This audio rocked. It’s hard for me to get around to listening to these posts, but they’re totally worth it. I loved Seth’s point about doing something bigger than just swimming in the affiliate pool. Inspiration.

  33. I’m late to this party … I am encouraging all my clients to use video … but it’s difficult to get them to actually do it. I’m writing interview questions for them or talking points … as opposed to scripts. We’ll see how it works out … none of them have actually done any of them, yet.

    Besides video, I believe writing shorter pieces at 5th and 6th grade level will be critical in the future. Not because people are dumb, but because writing at an elementary level forces us to be absolutely clear in our copy. It also allows the busy reader to grasp the content quickly. It’s a relief for them when they come to a page and it’s well written and clear.

    It’s also important to write these pieces to “go with” the video. Some busy people will always prefer reading … it’s faster than video.

  34. I really enjoyed listening to this, thanks! :-)