Are you running a platform shell game?

BY TJ Walker

I constantly run across would-be gurus and have conversations like the following:

TJ: “What are you doing these days?”

Would-be Guru: “I’m working on getting on as many talk shows to promote my new book.”

TJ: “That’s great. Who is your publisher? How is it selling? Are you getting good distribution in bookstores? Are you making money yet?”

WBG: “Actually, I am self-publishing my book. It’s really more of a vehicle and publicity hook to help me with the rest of my platform.”

TJ: “Hey, that’s OK. I’ve done that too. What is your main financial driver that you are promoting? What is your main service for making money?”

WBG: “Oh. Lots of things…”

TJ: “Hmmmm…”

WBG: “I’m looking for TV and radio talk show placements to help me build up my radio show.”

TJ: “Oh. OK. That sounds exciting. I love radio. I’ve hosted many shows too. What station or network will you be on?”

WBG: “Blog Talk radio.”

TJ: “Okkkkkkkkkkkkk…….”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing a show on blog talk radio on the Internet. It a platform for streaming audio and talking phone calls. But you have to create an entire audience from scratch. And then you have to try to sell ads on your audience. As a practical matter, I can reach a lot more people yelling out my window in New York City and selling banner space on a sheet I hang off the ledge than I can with a stand-alone internet radio show (and I say this as someone who loves internet audio and video!). Sure, a few people are able to painstakingly build enough of an audience after years of work to sell a few hundred dollars worth of ads a month, but they are the elite few.

Starting a radio show from scratch on the Internet can be a tiny piece of your overall PR and marketing puzzle, but it can’t be an end in and of itself and it’s certainly not a short-term financial driver.

Of course I was polite when speaking to the would-be guru from above. But I quickly concluded, and I hope you do to, that there was no there there. There was no bedrock service or product that the would- be guru had identified. PR, media attention, talk shows—all of that is worthless unless you’ve got something to promote. Soap Operas (at least the ones still on the air) are worth something because they had major soap advertisers like Tide and Cheer willing to pay millions of dollars for advertising spots.

Cross-selling, media synergy, being multi-platform, being fluent in txt, video, and audio live and tape—these are all interesting and fun topics, but they can seriously lead you off of a cliff. Some time the some of the part simply don’t add up, or don’t add up to much more than $20 a month, in which case you aren’t likely helping yourself or the world either.

Make sure you aren’t running a shell game, because the only loser is likely to be you and your immediate family.

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