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Publishers on Push: Carl Steadman
Apr 22, 1997 :: Carl Steadman

Push is one of the more useful concepts we've come up with in online media. While "hypertext" and "interactivity" were suitable as rallying cries, push, as a concept, has the right kind of elasticity to both expand our thinking and wrap around traditional forms of media, so that we're no longer stretching when we're trying to bind old readers to new concepts. It's interesting that those who embraced the initial push for distributed media are often those most resistant to push as a way to increase distribution.

Push is interactivity on demand. It's active content for passive viewers, and interactive content for an involved audience. Push is just as much about positioning and marketing as it is about about content: it's about providing both content AND context. It's not about producing media, but about delivering an experience.

True marketeers push the relationship, not the product. Before the personal computer, we had personal relations: a mainframe salesforce that wined and dined potential clients, knowing that a handshake didn't so much seal a business deal, as begin one. Without a relationship, you can't provide a whole product that delivers on an end-to-end solution.

The challenge is to reverse-engineer products to provide the whole product: to see how people actually use products within their daily lives, to create a new generation of product delivery that ships a truly durable good: that of a lasting relationship.

The Columbia Record House is a prime example of the success that can be achieved through push marketing: Columbia House doesn't sell CDs, it sells a long-term relationship. Tell Columbia House your favorite kind of music - jazz, R&B, alternative - and your friends at Columbia House make a music selection each month that not only reflects your tastes, but predicts them. And each month, Columbia House provides a magazine to help you keep abreast of the exciting world of music entertainment.

In the same way, online services based on traditional media models could adopt push marketing to provide whole product solutions, to finally deliver on the promise of new media. Take Peapod: Peapod bills the consumer as if it were maintaining a relationship - the "service" costs $6.95 a month, on top of a delivery charge and transaction fee. But shopping via Peapod is, to its detriment, like real shopping, creating a virtual, if menu-based, experience of walking through supermarket aisles.

Instead, consumers should subscribe to a recipe service, not to a shopping service. Peapod should suggest several recipes, in the proper proportions for your household, a day. Point and click those recipes into your meal planner, and Peapod NG delivers the groceries to your door that you need to prepare those meals. But instead of charging for delivery, Peapod NG loads its fees onto the front end, charging for its content: you can imagine a partnership between Peapod and a fine Conde-Nast publication, such as Gourmet or Epicurious. Push marketing blurs the line between content delivery and service delivery, delivering a highly desirable end-to-end solution.

Trust me on this one.

Carl is your pal. He owns the domain "baffler.com," among others.

 

 

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