Oh god, part N

Last weekend the cover essay in the Review section of The Wall Street Journal was The Customer as a God, by yours truly. Now that a few days have gone by, and I’ve done lots of responding in the comments below that piece and elsewhere, I can start looking at some of the responses that have appeared on the Web. Aside from a zillion tweets (mostly approving, and now all scrolling to oblivion — save, maybe, for Topsy — having completed their brief dances across the Short Attention Span Theater stage), I find there were (to me) surprisingly few responses in blogs.

When I searched for “The Customer as a God” on Google (which is almost link-proof, since the URL is mostly cruft about the browser and stuff), most of the top results were mentions in faked-up news sites that scrape stories from the mainstream press. (Victory for SEO at all costs there.) Bing at least has a copy-able search URL, which is here, but the results are just as crappy. (And the results were little different in either engine when I searched in private or “incognito” mode.) So here were the few I found, all but one buried below the first page of results, plus others sent to me by readers…

  • In The Customer as God, Nic Brisbourne of The Equity Kicker and the investment firm DFJ Esprit says he’s ready to help the cause: “I’m writing about this now because I just read an interview with Doc Searls about his new book, The Intention Economy. The interview is a good reminder of the problems with the existing advertising system and how things will look different in the future. As I say, I still believe in the vision of VRM, but equally the path that gets us there still isn’t clear. I think developments in smartphones and intelligent agents are bringing us closer to the point when that clarity will arrive though, and I’d be happy to hear from any startups working in this area.” (The interview of which he writes is the WSJ essay.)
  • In Personal Power and Vendor Relationship Marketing, Susan Lindsay of Brick Meets Click writes, ‘Consumer technology use has shifted the balance of power from retailers to shoppers,’ we say these days, but has the industry fully grasped how far the pendulum could swing?  ‘No!’ says Doc Searls in a provocative WSJ column. He describes a future in which shoppers define and drive what could be called the ‘C2B’ economy via ‘intentioncasts.’ They broadcast their need to vendors who meet their terms and conditions, collect offers from them, and then make a selection. He calls it VRM (for Vendor Relationship Marketing), and it completely reverses the direction in which CRM flows.”
  • Consumers to Battle the Healthcare Gods, by Caroline Poppler, M.D., M.P.H., in Popper and Co. “The ‘inflection point’ of medicine—where portable devices, low-cost genetic screening, and a wealth of accurate online health information all merge to allow a consumer to call the shots—isn’t here yet, but it’s close.”
  • In What Peter Drucker Would Be Readingthe Drucker Institute blog begins, “1. The Customer as a God: Some of us find the power of large companies to be frightening, with too much of our personal data falling into the hands of strangers. For now, writes Doc Searls in The Wall Street Journal, many businesses view the free market as “one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest.” But in a few decades, the power balance will shift more decisively to the consumer: “Progress in empowering customers won’t be smooth or even, but it will happen.” Drucker is one of my heroes, so that one is hugely gratifying.
  • In Doc Searls: WSJ Centerfold, David Weinberger (my colleague, pal and fellow Cluetrain author) kindly writes, “It’s a testament to Doc and also a hopeful sign of the times that the WSJ today features on its weekend cover a story by Doc about the theme of his new book, The Intention Economy. The title of the piece is “The Customer as a God,” a headline Doc didn’t write and isn’t entirely comfortable with. But the piece is strong. And getting it on the cover of WSJ is like getting a story about VRM on the cover of CRM Magazine. Which Doc also did.”
  • In The (Smart) Customer as a God, Bruce Kasanof begins, “Our friend Doc Searls carried the flag this weekend in a major piece he wrote for the WSJ.. The flag is Smart Customers Stupid Companies, the name of both the blog and the book by Bruce and his co-author, Michael Hinshaw.
  • In Doc Searls on the market of one, Espen Anderson of Applied Abstractions writes, “customer power is increasingly on the rise – though it has come much longer in the USA than it has in Europe, no matter how much legislation EU has as opposed to the USA. The wonders of competition and falling transaction costs…
  • In Is your business ready to pick-up intentcast from Customers? Sivaraman Swaminathan of Customer World writes in agreement with the essay, adding a number of additional points. The first: “Businesses are increasingly finding a large majority of their customers really don’t want them to be reached out to. The digital mediums of mobile, web make this “shut-out” very easy. I have heard customers say that You Tube Ads are annoying – be it the banners or the ads before the videos. They just are blind spots. The best customers don’t want to be bugged with messages and worst customers  businesses don’t care any way!  They need to find a new model to appeal to both.”
  • The Customer as a God: Is This a Revolution in Business? in LinkedIn Today. A series of short tweet-like posts.
  • Vendor Relationship Management, in The Customer Institute, the blog of William H. Beuel, Professor of Decision Sciences, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University. “The implications of this idea will all to ultimately have a profound effect on what we currently mean by customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. No longer will companies be the dominant force in the company customer relationship. The customer will become the dominant force and will make decisions based on a greater set of data but also instantly available data.”
  • In The Customer as a God, Tribal Warrior on The Island of the Misfit Hams says nothing but embeds the video of my talk titled User-driven Democracy at the Personal Democracy Forum last year.
  • In Doc Searls in the WSJ: The Customer as a GodDrummond Reed on the Connect.me blog calls my case “a compelling argument for customer empowerment, one of the core beliefs of Connect.Me, where we have always felt that the empowered customer and control of their personal data is a major benefit for both companies and customers.”
  • In Treat Your Clients Like Gods… Or Don’t (The Ideal State of Client0Advisro Relationships)DJ writes this in the blueleaf blog: “The optimal state of affairs for customer/vendor, client/advisor relationships is no different from any other relationship: they ought be healthy, balanced, open, and above all be characterized by mutual respect.” Most of the rest of his post was disapproving, based mainly on the title of the essay, which (as David W points out above) was not mine. I address the misunderstanding in a comment under his post.
  • In To Bee or Not To Beebigbear posts The relationship with “customers” and says “I don’t believe in objectifying people as ‘customers’, because  I don’t want to fall into that mind trap of thinking of people as walking bundles of money.”

I’m sure there are more, and I’ll look for those tomorrow, which is now today, I just noticed. Midnight just went by.

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4 Responses to Oh god, part N

  1. Chip says:

    Doc “few responses in blogs” : we’ve drifted to Facebook (although that may be fading too)
    Spotting your piece, I immediately posted to FB with note “read it”

    That said, just this week, I’ve started to drift back to blogging
    FB is fine for one liner’s, snarky comments, “here check this out” links and occasional grenade tossing (or pot stirring if you like) to elicit responses or start synapses trigging by others.

    But it doesn’t lend itself to longer, more reasoned pieces.

    Granted, I’d often blogged as a book mark, but for that, we’ve got Evernote.

    So … lack of citations in the blogosphere may be more a data point on blogs than of your work.

    Keep it up, we aren’t old, just “experienced”


  2. Hmm … presumably, you went looking for a human connection, some engagement with your ideas. You say “most of the top results were mentions in faked-up news sites that scrape stories from the mainstream press” – low-class SEO spam. The automated creation technology had driven out the human responses, being used by businesses out to pollute the social environment in order to make a buck (or more like a fraction of a cent) at any human cost. Perhaps there is a lesson in here about what could become of your VRM ideas? Just a thought.

  3. Doc Searls says:

    Actually, I just wanted to see what people were saying about the piece. That’s why the search was for the headline. I could do other searches, but haven’t yet.

    The lesson I see is that Google search has become a monoculture, and is highly gamed. If VRM becomes a monoculture, it will have failed. From the start I’ve encouraged anything but a single company running things. I don’t know how things will play out, though. It’s still very early.

  4. Hey Doc – thanks for the pointer. Keep up the good work, and point any interesting European startups my way!


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