Poke, Poke… Who's There? It's Seth Godin

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How many difference makers are there in the industry you serve?

When it comes to marketing and communications, Seth Godin is – without question – a true game-changer. He holds many professional titles, including best-selling business book author (each of his 13 published books have been best-sellers and collectively have been translated into more than 30 languages), professional speaker (he was named one of the top 21 speakers for the 21st century by Successful Meetings Magazine) and entrepreneur (Godin was the founder of interactive marketing company Yoyodyne, which Yahoo acquired in 1998). He currently runs Squidoo.com along with his latest business, The Domino Project, a new/disruptive book publishing company powered by Amazon. BusinessWeek magazine called him, "the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age," and if you have not read such books as Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, The Dip, Tribes and Linchpin, you are doing a disservice to your professional development and the evolution of your business.

In August of last year, many media pundits and business journalists thought Godin had lost his marbles.

He announced on his blog (one of the most popular business and marketing blogs) that he would no longer be publishing books "traditionally." In a post titled Moving On, he wrote: "The thing is – now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you. As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive. …I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade. The question asked by the corporate suits always seems to be: ‘How is this change in the marketplace going to hurt our core business?’ To be succinct: I’m not sure that I serve my audience (you) by worrying about how a new approach is going to help or hurt Barnes & Noble. My audience does things like buy five or 10 copies at a time and distribute them to friends and co-workers. They (you) forward blog posts and PDFs. They join online discussion forums. None of these things are supported by the core of the current corporate publishing model."

So, that’s it? Godin – in his bestselling prime – walked away from multimillion-dollar advances, prime real estate in major bookstores and all of the notoriety and opportunity that went along with having an international bestselling book? Hardly.

"I was aware that I was being a hypocrite," said Godin via Skype chat last Friday. "I think the publishing industry is killing itself. They embrace scarcity instead of abundance. They make it hard to find their product, buy their product and share their product. It costs too much given the alternatives – most of which are free – and it takes too long to reach the marketplace. On top of that, the publishing industry thinks that the customer is the buyer at the big chain retailer and not the reader. I can say all of that, but if I’m sitting around taking advance money and playing games with those folks, I can’t be taken seriously. As I was writing my last book, Linchpin, I was saying that I could not see myself going through that process again within the existing system. My latest book, Poke The Box, is a book about what I am now doing. I’m now trying to innovate, initiate and launch something new in the book industry. Hopefully, my friends in the book industry will take notice, copy me and use what works from what we’re doing. I’m not trying to take over the publishing industry, I’m trying to shine a light on where I think we’re going next."

Godin’s Poke The Box (out today) is the first book published under his new imprint, The Domino Project.

The concept of "poke the box" is not about learning . it’s about doing. When Godin stopped working at Yahoo (after his company was acquired by them), he made a conscious decision to change the way he works. Godin believes nothing matters unless you "ship" (aka: put stuff into the market) and the reason most people don’t ship is because they never push themselves to do new things. Poke The Box is about how to nudge yourself out of the starting blocks.

Start and fail.

"There’s a tyranny that’s quite prevalent in our society, which is the tyranny of being picked, of waiting to be selected by the boss, by the HR person, by Oprah or by someone who will anoint you as the winner. The Internet is opening the door and allowing people to pick themselves," said Godin about why he chose to publish one of his own books first and why anybody should think differently about the work that they do. "That’s what I am doing. I picked myself, and I think that’s what people ought to do. People have asked me how they can submit their book ideas for me to publish, and my answer is, ‘don’t.’ Just publish it yourself. Give it away, watch it spread and build a platform. The cost of failing has gone way down. It is far cheaper to fail now than ever before. If you failed when you were designing the plant for General MotorsSaturn car, the cost was a billion dollars. If you failed with a Super Bowl ad 10 years ago, the cost was $2 million. If you fail with a blog post, it costs nothing, and yet bosses say, ‘yes, go innovate . but don’t fail.’ You can’t have success without failure. So, what I’m really trying to sell people on is that it’s now okay to fail. Here’s what I know: I have failed more often than anyone reading this, and if you fail more than me, you’ll be doing just fine."

The entire 40-minute audio conversation between Seth Godin and me will be made available this coming Sunday, March 6th 2011 as episode #243 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. Make sure to listen to it.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

Exclusive interview with Seth Godin from GiANT Impact on Vimeo.


  1. Mitch
    This was awesome. I am doing my own interview with Seth next week and am doing as much research as I can to make sure that I am prepared.
    I did my own thing with The New Small, in large part inspired by Seth. I love the results and completely controlled the process. I can’t see ever going back.

  2. I cant wait to hearing this interview! I definitely agree with the statement: “you can’t have a success without the failure”. But how many can stand it in order to gain success nowadays…

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