”News” Site Fark Accused By Customers Of Below-Board Practices. General Crankiness Ensues.

Ultra-popular web destination Fark has been accused of seeding their headlines with sponsored links without noting for readers which stories are sponsored and which are not.  The result is a potential blurring of the line between editorial and advertising, according to this rant by Jason Calacanis.  According to Calacanis — who was also a potential advertiser on Fark:

"I was shocked…all this time I’ve been reading Fark.com it turns out that some percentage of the stories are paid for…I feel like I can never trust Fark again.

The stupid part about all this is that Fark.com could easily just put ‘Advertisement’ by the stories and their readers would click them 2x as much just to support Fark. It is so dumb."

After the discussion continued in this followup, the story was picked up by Wired News and Drew Curtis of Fark finally comments on the situation, saying:

"Wired called me the other day and asked me a few questions about Calacanis’ comments regarding an ad representative selling links. I gave no descriptive comment because I’m not in the habit of airing difficulties that I have with individuals."

The feedback on the issue is polarized.  In reading through a number of the comments on both sites, some readers of Fark seem to feel that this issue is a tempest in a teapot — they don’t care if the links are sold, as long as they still find them entertaining.  Others seem to feel that their trust was betrayed, and they will stop visiting the service.  Additionally, one potential advertiser — read "customer" (Calacanis) — has gotten into a web-based shouting match with a company that he originally wanted to spend money with.

This is a case where the vendor (Fark) has chosen secrecy and a non-committal approach over transparency, and in the process has alienated a vocal group of readers and advertisers.  From where I’m sitting, Fark’s Curtis needs to come clean and explain what’s going on as to not erode his brand’s credibility any further.


What About Our Relationship?

More voices chiming forth on what really matters in Sales Effectiveness. Are you ready for this? It’s all about…relationships (you know, people getting along together), not technology.

Aberdeen’s Chris Selland has put out a new report on sales effectiveness that shows that collaboration is key. A good point to note is:

“The report also found that it is often lesser-known technologies — such as social networking, incentive management, ‘point of close’ tools and marketing process enablers — which have the greatest impact on sales effectiveness.”

Addtionally, today Denis Pombriant answers the question “What’s Next In CRM?” and again…surprise!…it’s not about technology.

“Although a lot of progress has been made in CRM, the technology suite
is still largely a transaction-oriented one. As I have said before, current CRM does a great job of helping management but not necessarily a very good job of building the customer relationship.”


(BTW…bonus points to the first person who knows what cult classic the phrase “What About Our Relationship?!?!!” came from…)

”They’re Like Locusts!!!”

Call me crazy, but when a customer describes your sales staff in terms of a Biblical plague, it’s pretty safe to say something is amiss.

The back story…I was speaking with a colleague this evening. This colleague, a medical doctor, is a partner at a successful practice with a staff of about thirty physicians and support staff. We were getting caught up after not being in contact for a while, and the topics covered the standard range of fare from family to children to vacations. Then I made the fatal mistake of asking “how’s work?”

Then came the rant from which the title quote was pulled.

Apparently one of the drug companies that commonly sends drug reps to their location to deliver samples and talk up their wares now has not one, not two, but EIGHT reps covering their office. One rep for each of the eight drugs that they sell into this market.

You think this is an industry that’s in need of some improvements in how their sales teams go to market?

Social Networking, Business, And Sales

Xeni Jardin has just written a great article for MSNBC called “Online Social Networks Go To Work” that focuses on Enterprise Social Networking. It’s great to see this starting to make it out of the realm of arcana and emerge into the broader business context.

From a “how does this matter to customers?” perspective, UC Berkeley’s Danah Boyd nails the crux of it:

“Salespeople know how to work their black books to make sales, and rolodexes can be a businessperson’s best asset. These Web sites just take that online.”

Ultimately, it’s all about the relationships between customers and the people who are trying to serve them, ain’t it?

Here’s A CEO Who Gets What CRM Really Means

Holy cow…talk about listening to your customers. Technorati’s CEO David Sifry gets it.

A little background: Technorati is a site that indexes weblogs (like this one), and provides a means to search the blogosphere and get a pulse as to the hot topics of the day. The site has generated a ton of buzz in the blogging community, and is even one of the darling sites of those following the political conventions here in the US.

Unfortunately, they’ve been a victim of their own success. Reports of technical issues abound, and there has been no shortage of criticism.

One of the critical sites is located at Micro Persuasion. In a post entitled “Smells Like Dot-Com Spirit,” the Technorati site is taken to task for a long list of issues, ranging from technical instability to their PR strategy.

Now, click on that link again. And scroll down to the comments section.

“Hi folks.

Thanks for the feedback and criticism. A lot of your commentary is dead-on, for example, our biggest issue is making sure that that the service is reliable and accurate, 100% of the time. We’re not there yet. I’m sorry that we haven’t met your expectations, there’s no good excuse for service failures.

We are seeing a tremendous growth in both the size of the blogosphere and in the number of people coming to the site and using the service. Our recent service upgrade this week is a start – but there’s still a long way to go.

I’m really sorry we haven’t met your expectations. We’re working really hard to achieve 100% reliability and 100% accuracy. I hope that we haven’t lost your confidence entirely, but I understand if you don’t ever come back. We’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, just trying to keep up with the incredible demand we’re seeing.

Please don’t hesitate to send me direct email at dsifry@… or call me at 415-846-…. if you want to discuss this directly.

Again, I’m sorry for the problems.


Posted by: David Sifry | July 27, 2004 10:38 AM”

Damn. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Sales Effectiveness Increases In Importance

Today’s CRM Daily has a great article on the increasing (re-)focus on sales effectiveness with respect to Sales Force Automation and CRM.

According to the article, derived from data collected by the Yankee Group, sales people are most concerned with:

  • increasing the rate of deal closure
  • decreasing costs
  • improving solution selling

Also stated in the article was that, from the sales person’s perspective, “reducing administrative burdens falls nearly at the bottom of their list.”

CRM Player Salesforce.com Taken Out Behind The Woodshed

So, salesforce.com had their first investor/analyst call today. After having their IPO delayed a number of times, yet still riding a hype wave to the biggest first day gain for an IPO this year, the market pummelled them for missing analyst projections. Oops. Stock goes down 27%, giving up a good chunk of their gain to date in one fell swoop.

Too much hype makes the market cranky, especially when you don’t live up to it.

Who Do You Want To Do Business With?

While doing some research over the weekend on buyer-seller interactions, I came across a fascinating site called DiverseNation. At first glance, DiverseNation is just another online classifieds directory. But a further look finds something completely different.

What’s different is that the classified listings themselves are shunted off to the side, almost appearing to be an afterthought in the site design. What is front and center is the ability to choose what type of business you want to engage with, based on religion, ethnicity, or gender of ownership.

Whoa. Why don’t we add “political affiliation” to the list while we’re at it and go for the quadfecta of taboo cocktail party conversation?

DiverseNation as a website itself is not going to set the world on fire (a quick perusal through the classifieds shows only one listing), but the model is fascinating. Instead of making the primary search based on the product or service that is desired, DiverseNation seems to be saying that who you might want to do business with is at least as important as the type of business you need to do. This is a radical idea.

This is not limited to sites like DiverseNation. We are even starting to see this kind of clustering actvity starting on some of the social networking sites like Orkut, where there is a flap going on between American and Brazilian users around inclusivity.

There is, of course, the well-worn saw of the “old boys network” and that “birds of a feather flock together.” But there’s something different here. Instead of talking about it in hushed tones near the water cooler, or brushing it off, it’s being presented head-on. Is this a unique occurrence? Or is this the beginning of a trend?

Is It Better To Be Big, Or Agile? The Analysts Disagree.

A number of analysts have weighed in this week with divergent opinions on where the CRM market is going. Computerwire stakes their opinion on “survival of the biggest” and feels that the spoils are going to go to the one-stop-shops like SAP.

Denis Pombriant, on the other hand, is on record “believing that the current state of the market in enterprise software is at a high point of complexity and that the next move is not greater consolidation but greater flexibility through modularity and improved integration facilities.”

I’m going to line up with Denis on this one. The all-in-one solution game is zero-sum, and eventually will lead to price-cutting and unnatural acts between the big players, as they eventually resort to squabbling over an ever-shrinking number of large customers.

Flexibility and ease are going to be the keys — and that goes for flexibility and ease in understanding the solutions, selling the need internally, getting purchasing approvals, performing rollouts, and education of customers and internal users alike.