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2010 Whine Guide

2010 July 4
by Greg Satell

I’ll admit it, I like to complain.  I find it gratifying and self-affirming.  It allows me to let off steam and the same time feel superior to whomever or whatever I’m complaining about.

Whining is another story.  It stinks of weakness and has none of complaining’s therapeutic effects, which makes it a waste of time.

Complaining about whining, however, is a worthwhile sport.  So here’s a guide to the most popular whines among media and marketing people this year.

We Can’t Make Money By Giving Away Content

The media industry was built on free content.  While this is obvious for broadcast, it’s also true for print, where people don’t pay for content but for distribution and even that is heavily subsidized (as much as 90% in the US).  Somehow, a lot of people decided that they can’t make money this way and that makes them angry.

There are, of course some important exceptions.  Some businesses have been very successful getting people to pay for their content. HBO, The Wall Street Journal and Pay-Per-View all spring to mind, but that’s a pretty small slice of the overall pie.

Most of the time, people want access to basic information and the room for paid content is going to remain a small part of consumer’s media portfolio.  Advertisers, however, have been willing to consistently spend about 1% of GDP on advertising and there’s no sign that’s going to change.  Most probably, ads will continue to be the most common way content is financed.

So don’t worry, be happy.  Here’s a post about how to make digital media profitable.  Now go out and play.

Advertisers Just Don’t Get It!

Yes, we all want attention, but sometimes marketers are busy with things like researching consumers, developing new products and optimizing TV campaigns.  Whatever you’re selling, it is most likely a small part of what they need to get done.

Consumers lead full and vibrant lives, they go online, watch TV, shop at malls and commute to work.  There are a variety of ways to reach them just as there are a multitude of ideas about the best way to go about it.

If you go talk politely to your friendly neighborhood media agency they might be nice enough to show you the expenditure trends for your target industry. Then you can evaluate the media mix and figure out where you might fit in.

Alternatively, you can barge into a meeting unprepared, blather on for an hour about how your offer is different from the hundreds of others they will receive this week and get their name wrong on the way out.

Life is full of choices.

I Want My ROI!

Yes, and I want to sleep with a supermodel.  Life is full of these little disappointments.

You see following trends and deriving regression models only tell us about the past.  The future, however, is always uncertain which is why the viability of any prognosis should always be in doubt.  We can, and should, make some educated guesses, but in the end any single action is always a crapshoot.

In actuality, it’s not trends that are interesting, but inflection points.  Those are what create the big hits and the catastrophic failures that make life and business really exciting and worthwhile.

The best opportunities lie where the data is scarce and hard to come by.  If we could predict the “next big thing,” it would be the “present big thing.”

All They Talk About is Discount!

If your clients are treating you like a commodity and all they want to talk about is what discount you can give, then it probably means:

a. You haven’t shown them any value

b. They have lots of similar offers

c. They have no intention of buying and just want to use a good discount as a negotiating point with another supplier.

d. All of the above

Whatever the case actually is, the failure is yours.  A price is a market mechanism, if you can’t get the prices you need to make your company profitable, then you’re probably in the wrong business.  Figure out the right one to be in and fast.

Also, you might want to think about how you’re doing negotiations.  You could probably get some use out of this game theory approach.

Whiny Profits

The nice thing about whines is that they almost always signal a profit opportunity (albeit not for the whiner).  Whining means that somebody isn’t doing their job.  It means they’re losing and just begging for someone to come along and take whatever little money they have left.

It also means that they have somehow missed the boat, which has sailed elsewhere.  That boat is going someplace worth finding out about.

The best way to find it is to keep moving.  We only cry for things that are lost.

– Greg

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Einat Adar permalink
    July 5, 2010

    Wonderful post, thank you.
    I identify with every line, including the one about the advantages of complaining. It’s fun!

    My favourite whine is “the economy is bad”. As if every small business owner manages the entire nation’s budget.

  2. July 5, 2010


    He he. I never thought of that one, but you’re right!

    – Greg

  3. July 6, 2010

    “Whining means that somebody isn’t doing their job.” Especially the whiner…we’ve either got time to make excuses or make alternative plans and take action….so if you’re busy whining, that tells me what you’re not doing. Nice post…pointed but too scathing.

  4. July 6, 2010

    Thanks Allison. I’m glad you liked it:-)

    – Greg

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