Hubert Georg Feil, Managing Director of Culturebrand spoke with David Weinberger, editor of the “Cluetrain Manifesto” about the effects of the manifesto on the new economy, permission marketing, the European Online Market, the online renaissance of culture and the arts and the so urgently needed new type of manager.
The Cluetrain manifesto has reached the world of economy. Managers are shocked and moved a the same time after reading the basic theses of the manifesto. Since the start of the cluetrain manifesto in the internet the theses are making an enormous impact worldwide.
Interview with David Weinberger, editor of the “Cluetrain Manifesto”
Hubert: So far, the Americans fancy the cluetrain manifest much more than the Europeans because they calculate more strictly below the line. In the USA and in Europe, which similar effects on the marketing and the 1-to-1 communication can we establish up to today? Where are the differences between the two?
David: There are, of course, differences between US and European attitudes towards work and marketing. But some things seem in common. We all hate being marketed to. We listen — as customers or employees — to the language coming from corporations and recognize the dead, soulless sound of half-truths and lies that are trying to manipulate us. And in both parts of the world, the initial corporate reaction to the Web was one of fear. “How can we *control* what’s happening on the Web?” seems to have been the common reaction of corporations. “How can we continue our monotonous monologue as if nothing has changed?”
The book hasn’t been published in Europe yet, The site was put up in March 99, so it’s hard to judge the reaction, although we have gotten a lot of interest in the Web site from Europe.
Finally, in both Europe and the US, much of the excitement about the Web has come not from the commercial possibilities but from the fact that the Web gives us a way to connect with others and to engage in conversations in our own voice.
Hubert: In Asia, for a long time the internet hasn’t really been used. But since this year, the number of users is growing steadily. How would you describe the development in the far East? Are they also involved in the new economy policy?
David: I’m not an expert in this, so you don’t want to believe what I say about it. Nevertheless, it does seem that around the world the Web is being perceived as a way to escape the control of business and government, to join in excited conversation with people who share your interests and passions.
Hubert: It is claimed, that the internet is able to revitalize culture and the arts. How would you define these chances?
David: No one knows what art forms are going to emerge from the Web. It’s certain, however, that the Web lowers the hurdle to publishing your digital work — text, graphics, music, anything that can be digitized. This democratizes access to art and enables small clusters of people — globally distributed, perhaps — to share their passion and to support artists who otherwise would go unnoticed. It seems quite possible that there will be more art than ever before, that the diversity of art and of art appreciation will increase, that more voices will be able to be heard — which of course also means that there will be more braying from untalented, self-important people claiming the mantle of “artist.” But is that really such a bad thing?
Hubert: The long-time-ago born managers are mostly ignoring the power of internet. The younger managers are trying to understand the power of internet, but are more likely to adapt themselves instead of using the internet as a powerful instrument. For the near future, do you believe that we need a new type of manager, one who is able to live his visions and is able to think more metaphysically?
David: We certainly need new types of managers. (And, by the way, lots of older managers are aware of this; there have been large volume purchases of our book at some very large, old-line companies.) The old type of managers will simply be ignored. Having knowledge no longer makes you special and no longer gives you the right to lord it over other people. Knowledge is easy these days. Everyone can get knowledge. So, what value does an old style manager bring to me? He’s probably only interested in trying to exert control and defend his territory. So, screw him. I’m able now to find people I respect and trust anywhere in my organization, or even outside of it. We can work together without getting permission from anyone. We organize ourselves, we manage our own affairs, we get a lot done. My manager is obsolete. We as a culture are just now inventing the new type of manager — a leader who is an equal, someone who not only knows a lot but cares a lot, someone who is fun to work with, someone who can represent us and our interests to the other groups in the organization.
Hubert: Speaking of the older managers, some of the blue-chips had dramatic problems in adapting to the power and the fast development of the internet. Speaking of the case that they will get back on their feet, do you think that we will soon have the old hierarchy?
David: The old hierarchy is going to be difficult to uproot. But it will happen. Give it time. After tasting freedom, no one wants to go back to work in a classic hierarchy.
Hubert: Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing is trying to be copied by several companies, but a lot have misunderstood the meaning and are now overwhelming their customers with direct-mailing attacks. What is your comment to this thesis? And where is the link to the cluetrain manifest?
David: Seth Godin is absolutely right to emphasize the need for “permission” marketing according to which you do not market to people unless they have explicitly given you permission to do so. This ties in well with the Cluetrain Manifesto, for a main point of the book is that traditional marketing is a hostile act perpetrated on markets. The fundamental fact of marketing is that you’re trying to persuade an *unwilling* public to buy your crap. If marketers practiced permission marketing, this fundamental fact would be overturned.
People who take Permission Marketing as a technique for spam have really badly misunderstood Godin.
Hubert: A lot of companies were able to react right away and they understood the cluetrain manifest correctly. Which firms would you name, talking of the correct transformation?
David: The book is read by individuals, not companies. Companies aren’t transformed by any book. Individuals have their minds changed. So, while I’ve been brought in to talk to Procter & Gamble, and they bought copies for their global brand managers, for instance, I can’t say the company was transformed by the book. Likewise, we know that people at Ford read the book, and we heard that it circulated quite high in the organization. Was that in some way responsible for Ford’s buying computers for their 350,000 employees? Who knows? I don’t want to claim causality where it’s indirect or unknowable.
Hubert: Has the cluetrain manifest changed you personnally since its publishing and did you expect this phantastic reaction / response?
David: I’ve been amazed at the response. We were trying to articulate some ideas that are obvious to people who have been on the Web and who have been touched by it in important ways. So, hearing from thousands of people who tell us that we’ve said something they’ve been trying to say is tremendously satisfying. And, of course, it’s great to keep hearing about the book showing up on desks in companies that I would have thought would have really disliked what we’re saying.
Hubert: Besides the creators of the cluetrain manifest, which are the five most important people/visionaries in the new economy market?
David: There are ten thousand people with great ideas on the Web, ten million who write fantastic email, and two hundred million who care so much about something that they’ll talk about it with open hearts in public. “Visionaries” always come after the fact.
Hubert: And last, but not least. Which are your favorite websites in the new economy market you frequently visit?
David: My answer will be completely conventional. For example, I use MyYahoo maybe ten times a day to gather headlines and other information I care about. Does that make it one of my favorite websites? Nah, I’d change in a minute if I found something better. I go to GOOGLE maybe 5 times a day. And the “web site” I visit most often and spend the most time with very clearly is my email client. (Yes, I know it’s not a Web site, but the distinction between the Net and the Web is hardly worth preserving any more.)
Thank you David!
© 2018 – 2022 by Hubert Georg Feil