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What a year it's been...another record breaker for Creative COW

COW Blogs : Ron Lindeboom's Blog : What a year it's been...another record breaker for Creative COW
Last year, around this time, we posted that in late November of 2008, the COW passed the Google Analytics ONE MILLION unique visitors a month marker. This year, as we wind down to year's end, we have passed the Google Analytics 2.2 MILLION unique visitors a month threshold. In fact, Q3 of 2009 sustained growth that saw the COW growing by adding another 100,000 visitors every 10 days or so.

Against this backdrop, the other day I read a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that said: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." When I read this, I had to smile, especially considering the last 15 years or so that Kathlyn and I have been building media professionals communities online. I read Ghandi's words out loud to Kathlyn, and she smiled. It was the story of Creative COW in a nutshell.

In the beginning, many people in the industry didn't get it. But those that were trying to keep their jobs -- floundering in the wake of rapidly changing technologies and production processes -- they got it. In fact, as Kathlyn and I have mentioned before, the most rewarding experience we've ever had at trade shows, is when people come up and talk about how they've been coming for a decade or more and how the community we've help build helped save their job. That will humble you, when you consider their family and ponder how something you have done has helped someone else protect that family. It is truly an honor that we do not take lightly.

In the beginning, the industry trade magazines and other well funded entities in this field, ignored us. We sent press releases time and again that never received coverage, as they chose to ignore us. Just like Ghandi said they would.

When we changed our strategy and launched Creative COW, they laughed at the company with the funny name. Ghandi got that one right, also. In fact, we once heard from one of the people that had worked with one of these companies, that on the day that we announced we'd be going into print, the company they worked for had a meeting in which they mooed and laughed and talked about what an aborted foray into print this would be. "Who's going to read a Creative 'COW' Magazine?" they laughed. The answer? Their former readers, it seems.

Every year that goes by, there are fewer and fewer magazines in this market, and there are more and more websites opened, but there is still only one Creative COW -- a site with more combined traffic than all of them combined.

Is it because we are so smart? No. Then why is it happening this way?

Once upon a time we received a call from a billion dollar publishing conglomerate (who I won't name to spare them the embarrassment) that had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in this market, trying to lead in this market segment. They called us from England on a speakerphone from their board room and asked how on Earth we always managed to beat them? They told us that no matter the money they spent, we just kept growing and undoing everything they were trying to accomplish.

We told them the simple answer: we listen to our people and we build that. They wouldn't believe the simple truth, and because of it, they failed -- not long after selling off at fire sale prices the under-performing company they tried to build.

We have failed plenty ourselves. Having just passed 59, I look at my failures -- and my successes -- and my failures have ample company, while the successes don't come anywhere near the "populace of profusion" that my failures occupy.

What surprises me, is that some people will not listen to their failure and the lessons it is trying to teach them. They will keep going the same way, time after time, in a strategy that has never worked and that is failing -- doing it again and again. [Insert sound of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" here.]

Unlike most businesses, we do not hold monthly or quarterly strategy meetings. In fact, truth be told, we hold them DAILY. Daily? Yes, it is THAT important in a rapidly changing world such as ours is today.

The time it takes us to hold these meetings is more than made up for in a company that can turn on a dime and rapidly respond to the ebb and flow of today's business climate.

Sound crazy? It works. It also allows us to try things and to play to our opportunities in ways that we could never exploit if we met monthly, quarterly or annually.

As I wrote in one of magazine columns a while back: God gave you two ears and one mouth and is trying to teach you something in the arrangement.

We watch this market like hawks in flight. We constantly discuss what we see and where we are spotting opportunities. We fight aggressively to prove the vitality and practicality of what we see, believe and are bringing to market.

Our competitors quit laughing some time back. Now some of them call us liars and say that the comparative statistics we publish are false. Most of our partnering companies see the desperation in those words, but for the few that believe their claims, I ask them why their lawyers never contact us? We aren't misrepresenting anything, and our publishing of these numbers is just that -- us, posting data that is available from 3rd party sources. Nothing more or less.

So we continue to compete and they compete against us. Another magazine in this market announced last October that they will go "all digital" in 2010. Two others against whom we have had to compete already went to web-only in 2009.

Tim Wilson and I understand the move to digital but not when the titles doing it have a tiny web-footprint to work from. Tim and I call these kinds of moves "imploding onto the web" and we believe that failure in print does not entitle you to success on the web.

The market is thinning and we continue to hold our daily strategy sessions and to do everything we can do to guarantee that Creative COW Magazine will continue to grow in 2010. We don't plan to go all-digital anytime soon, and would only consider such a move if there were a distribution technology that our members saw as especially valuable to them and worthy of such a change.

Don't let your own strategies be timid in 2010. Learn to thank like a marketer. Market. Listen. Fine-tune. Move. Assess. Move again. Refine. Learn from your mistakes. We do.

Today, you have to experience your failures quickly and move to your next step of refinement quickly. It makes me think of that old song by 38 Special called "Hold On Loosely (But Don't Let Go)." You have to hold and measure the move with fluidity and a ease and speed of movement that allows you to quickly adjust.

The advantage that mammals had over the dinosaurs, was that the mammals were stealthy and agile.

There's a lesson in that one, too.

Have a great New Year and we wish you every success in the days ahead.



Comments

Congratulation Ron, Tim and all the
by Paolo Ciccone
Congratulation Ron, Tim and all the people who made the COW the amazing success that it is.

The COW success story reflects a lot, IMHO, the story of the Web itself. I was working in software development when the Web "exploded" and when companies like Oracle and Sun where trying to coerce it in the direction that they wanted. They didn't understand the fundamental simple concept that the Web is not TV and you do not have a "captive audience."

All their millions and clever marketing (remember "the power of the dot"?) accounted to nothing.

Many times I saw "the next big thing" fade and vanish because it was not what people wanted.

Congratulations on this success, the incredible growth and the acumen to work on such simple premise: give people what they want.

Cheers!
You Learn Something New Every Day
by Mike Cohen
For example, I always wondered who 38 Special was talking about in their song "Hold on Lucy." I thought maybe Ricky Ricardo had written the lyrics.

Seriously, I, once upon a time, stopped paying Media 100 $995/year for phone support once I realized that I could get faster and more helpful help from Creative COW. This was before Google mind you - but today if you type "unexpected error premiere" or whatever into Google, you inevitably get results on Creative COW, so you might as well do your searches here to begin with.

I have spent many days over the past few months in strategy meetings with my colleagues, also evaluating the market and planning our efforts for the year ahead. You never know how or when a useful idea might emerge - so I agree that frequency is a good thing as useful meetings go.

I am a firm believer in "do what you do best; don't try to be something you're not." While the COW has migrated from forums to blogs to video reels (it is amazing how quickly the number of videos has grown) to a glossy magazine, what remains is that the content is relevant and interesting to a wide and/or targeted audience (with perhaps the exception of my blog entries featuring pictures of my cats (but c'mon, who doesn't love cute cat photos - I believe that Al Gore was looking for a way to send pictures of his Tabby to Tipper when he invented the internet)). And it is done well.

I too have received invites to visit other web-only magazines, but they are just not that interesting, and there is no community to speak of. My fellow bloggers and forum hosts on the COW are becoming like siblings (or uncles, Tim) - you don't get that from a static web site.

Keep the magic coming.

Happy to help.

Mike Cohen
100,000 new visitors every ten days? That's it?
by Chad Brewer
So, roughly around 10,000 new visitors everyday?

Come on, you can do better than that in 2010. ;-)

Ron, I felt that since nobody has yet responded to what a great success story of a blog you started, I might post something. If for no other reason, to let you and CowDog know that someone read the damn thing, is impressed and congratulatory, and has become more stealthy and agile than he was before because of the Creative Cow.

I hope CowDog gets along with my avatar as well as he gets along with Boris. My avatar represents a real animal I have at home. Not, the infamous Snow Leopard, but the domestic version of the black Leopard, a.k.a Felis catus.

Chad Brewer





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