Creating a Small Blip on the Radar Screen of Humanity
Somewhere around 5:30 am each morning I roll out of bed and roll up to my computer. Blurry eyed, before I brew up my first cup of tea, I grab the mouse and check Google, searching the phrase “taste & smell patents”, recording the results. On October 12th the number is 5,070. Five days earlier, the same search produced only 2 results.
The online reputation of the DaVinci Institute is a huge factor in determining cash flow. Consequently we spend most of our days trying to figure out how to create more buzz.
2004 has been a very difficult year for us here at the Institute. With the elections sucking almost all the money out of the non-profit world, and a struggling economy in Colorado, we resort to unusual tactics to survive.
Some call what we do guerilla marketing, but its more than that. Bootstrapping is now a way of life, and we find the tools at our disposal now and mechanisms for influencing our online reputation continuing to grow exponentially. But it’s tricky. The online world will quickly turn against us if we make a mistake.
The article I write on October 5th titled “Intellectual Property’s Next Big Wave – Taste & Smell Patents” is a rare success. Here’s a quick summary of what I call the “buzz chronicles”:
Tuesday, October 5th: My best writing time is early in the morning. With ideas fresh in my mind, I spend roughly 2 hours creating the first draft. The article talks about how the recently announced Nobel Prize in Medicine, defining how people can recognize and remember an estimated 10,000 smells, will pave the way for the creation of taste and smell patents.
Before publishing the article, I run it by Tom Franklin, my friend who is a patent attorney at Townsend & Townsend, to make sure I’m not going off the deep end. Tom is a good sounding board for crazy ideas. This makes him a good fit for working with us. He makes some corrections and we debated the pros and cons of how this might change the intellectual property industry. Our discussion gives me clues as to how controversial this topic will be.
I do my first Google search on the phrase “taste & smell patents” (in quotes) and record the number of unique visitors to the DaVinci Institute website.
Google results – 0.
DaVinci unique visitors – 134.
Wednesday, October 6th: Publishing the article, I have three ready avenues. I post it on the DaVinci Institute website, publish it on the Impact Lab blog site, and sent it out as the lead article in our weekly “News from the Future” Newsletter. As a second step, I send out a short blurb about the article to 50 blog sites. And finally, I email it to 10 local newspapers, offering it as a guest column.
The first site to post the article is Always On, a well-known “blogozine” featuring top writers. This is very encouraging.
Google results – 0.
DaVinci unique visitors – 191.
Thursday, October 7th: The next major hit happens with a post on Slashdot in the wee hours of the morning. Slashdot is the epicenter of the geek world boasting an audience of 9 million regular readers. The blurb on Slashdot generates 190 comments on their site. The number of unique visitors on the DaVinci Institute website jumps from an average of 150 unique visitors per day to 2,022.
I receive several emails throughout the day about the “smell patent” topic, with a few other bloggers wanting to post the article. This is a very good day.
Google results – 2.
DaVinci unique visitors – 2,022.
Friday, October 8th: I get word that the Denver Post has agreed to run the article as a guest column in the Sunday paper. While I have had other articles published in other local papers, this is a first with the Denver Post.
Many blog sites have a direct RRS feed to the Slashdot article. I’m not sure how this translates into actual viewers. My guess is that if the title catches their attention they click through to Slashdot, but fewer are likely to click through to the actual article – too many clicks.
Google results – 864.
DaVinci unique visitors – 381.
Saturday, October 9th: There is a lag time in Google’s ability to index all of the websites. A couple weeks ago a search expert told me that Google only indexes approx. 4% of the web, and many results are simply not findable because search engines don’t know they exist. I know the 4% number is just someone’s guess, probably coming from some meta-search engine’s biased white paper.
Only a few blogs actually write a commentary on the article. Tim Armstrong from Harvard’s Cyber Law Dept suggests it will be more appropriate to copyright smells rather than patent them. I ask Tom Franklin about this and he said he would prefer patents because of their 20-year life rather than copyright’s 70+-year life.
Google results – 2,670.
DaVinci unique visitors – 133.
Sunday, October 10th: The article shows up in the Denver Post inside the Perspective Section. I research the Post’s circulation and find a March 2004 report stating that the Sunday Denver Post has the 6th largest circulation of any Sunday paper in the U.S. selling 783,274 papers. I’m not sure how many of these people actually read the Perspective Section. The paper world isn’t translating well into the dot com world, making it difficult to track the metrics. Past articles about the DaVinci Institute have generated a few emails and phone calls. This one doesn’t, so I’m guessing the placement has affected the number of people reading it.
Google results – 4,210.
DaVinci unique visitors – 138.
Monday, October 11th: One of the things we track on the DaVinci Institute website is the duration of visits. The average duration is normally in the range of 200 seconds. The Slashdot crowd has a much shorter attention span and drops the duration to 139 seconds. But this is still far above average. According to Nielson Netratings, the average time spent on a website in the U.S. is 55 seconds. In Japan its 31 seconds and in Germany, the average is 38 seconds.
Google results – 4,830.
DaVinci unique visitors – 202.
Tuesday, October 12th: Google results reach their peak today. Since there is a lag time indexing these sites, the peak probably occurred on Saturday. Links to the Slashdot, Impact Lab, and AlwaysOn articles start to decline.
Google results – 5,070.
DaVinci unique visitors – 209.
Wednesday, October 13th:
Google results – 4,780.
DaVinci unique visitors – 248.
Thursday, October 14th:
Cool weather makes it feel much more like fall in the Rock Mountains. Leaves are beginning to fall. Fewer people spend their time outdoors with more and more spending time online. But for this article, the buzz has run its course.
Google results – 4,650.
DaVinci unique visitors – 160.
It is now eight days after I published the article and already it is becoming old news. Information in today’s world has a very short half-life. However, the adrenaline rush from causing a small blip on the radar screen of humanity is quite intoxicating. Like most information junkies, I’m now looking for my next buzz-fix.
By Thomas Frey