The weirdest thing has come to my attention lately and it’s just too ludicrous to believe. But, it seems many of you have been convinced by some wingnut that putting your digital products exclusively on CD or DVD is a good idea. At least that’s what I hear and I’ve now watched at least one friend do it themselves. The reason? Apparently, whomever they’re listening to is paranoid about selling anything online anymore because he thinks everyone is out to get him and stealing his stuff. I’ll tell y’all what I told my friend, “I don’t know what he said to everyone to get them following his lead on this, but it sounds like a bad idea for several reasons.”.
First of all, if you want to protect anything online you don’t just slap it up on a page somewhere with a regular link that just anyone in the world can go to. Duh, right? That’s what I’m told this “teacher” used to do anyway. First of all I’d never do that, but if I did… how could I then turn around and complain about people getting it for free? (Another thing I hear he did, when I asked about all this.) By putting something online without any security at all, I’ve essentially just donated it to the world. Besides if people really want to pirate your stuff they’ll find some way. Also, in my experience the tiny amount of sharing going on, especially in Internet business where it’s even more scarce, simply doesn’t cut into the bottom line as much as a lot of companies like to pretend. I think the ones that claim huge losses due to imagined piracy are probably looking for a government handout or lying for tax reasons or something.
Listen… The magic, (and also the danger, if going without protection), of digital products is that they can be instantly delivered, which means, as a consumer, you don’t have to wait around for days or weeks to get what you just paid for. That’s supposed to be a good thing.
What about the energy and resources wasted and the environmental cost of forcing your customers to exclusively purchase disks and have them shipped around the world? The extra plastic alone is enough to be worrisome, but transportation and shipping organizations are one of the worst polluters out there, so that’s probably the biggest waste. When it’s a downloadable digital product in the first place, why not allow your users the convenience and satisfaction of an instant download? Why make them wait around for an extra needless step, like shipping, to be completed? Because you don’t understand basic website security? That’s a terrible reason.
Sure, having the ability to send out disks when customers request them is a necessary function of many software and Internet business companies. Some people would just rather, for whatever reason, order a disk of your product. So… put in a link. Offer it on the side if you want for the few people that occasionally come along that have to have it that way. But, for the majority of your customer’s sakes and even for the planet’s sake, don’t turn a perfectly good download into a physical product for no good reason other than your own selfish needs. It’s bad for your customers and it’s bad for the planet and so it’s just bad for business.
Although I can’t be sure, this seems to be another example one of the biggest problems that I see happening with Internet business over the last few years. I don’t know if it was because the usual hoard of offline sales sharks finally started recovering from the whole dot com bust or what. But, somebody noticed that resourceful Moms & Pops were still making plenty of money on the Internet and over the last several years the online business world seems to have been inundated and virtually taken over by the old offline sales and marketing crowd.
They bring with them the ugly sales culture that causes even people like my own Mom to wrinkle their noses when I tell them I now teach Internet business and marketing , and say, “Oh, you’re one of those?”, like they just stepped in poo… forcing me to try and explain, beginning with, “No, no, I’m not one of those jerks, I promise”.
Another thing that seems to be becoming more and more popular these days is turning an online newsletter into an offline newsletter. At first glance it may seem that I would naturally be opposed to this too. But, you’re wrong there. An offline newsletter can be a very good thing for some online businesses because it gives the writer a much deeper sense of contact with a smaller audience and he or she can share more personal, or business trade secret, type information with his or her readers. Although, it still creates what might be further unnecessary resources and time wasted for both you and your customers, because of the extra shipping and waiting time and paper used, taking a second look at it reveals that the offline newsletter has some huge benefits that keep it from raising my ire for the time being.
One great example of why I like offline newsletters is what a friend of mine, Aaron Brandon is doing over at: http://www.AaronBrandon.com/newsletter/. Although, his offline newsletter is brand new, it already shares with it’s readers some wonderful insights into online business and marketing, not to mention some awesome deals and giveaways… things that he would never be able to share publicly with just anyone and everyone. As we all know, some kinds of business information are best kept on the down-low, or the next thing you know, whatever it may be will end up flooded with copycats.
Another point in the offline newsletter’s favor is that the offline newsletter is a nice convenience for many that find reading on-screen more difficult, or like to relax on the couch while absorbing information. Also, the offline newsletter, gives the writer more assurance of security; that his information is only going to the people it’s meant to go to. While securing information like this in a private members area online is probably a faster solution for your customers, and usually just as secure, there is always the possibility of some genius hacking in for some nefarious purpose, I suppose, however unlikely that may be.
So, for these reasons, I won’t be so hard on the idea of offline newsletters as I was on the notion of forcing your customers to buy all your products on disk only. For one, there are actually some positive reasons to still offer a paper newsletter in the age of digital. For another, mailing a few letters out to a small group on your special offline newsletter list doesn’t cause even close to as much waste, in time and energy and land-fill space, as does having disks pressed for every one of your customers. And finally, if it really is a secret idea… then protecting it from prying eyes, even from a single super geek set of eyes one single time, is much more crucial than protecting a copy of some download.