ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Nobody Knows You —

There was this chat I had a few years back. It was a very memorable chat, because I still remember a sizable chunk of it and I still live off advice from that chat.

It was with Jack Rickard, founder and editor of Boardwatch magazine, who had since retired with many millions from the sale of his properties and was now living a very enjoyable life in the midwest restoring antique airplanes and fixing up a beautiful old home so that it was modern (in function) but maintaining the quality that drew him to it in the first place. This meeting was for my film, and while you can’t see it in the final video frames, the Mississippi river flows serenely over his shoulder in the background. It was a great interview.

That I was even in Jack Rickard’s presence and interviewing him for my documentary was because of the efforts of one Bob Hartman, Fidonet architect, and don’t think I forget for a minute how much Bob’s efforts in finding Jack and other luminaries improved my work immensely. Guys like Bob are golden.

Jack’s golden too; after interviewing him about his history, we chatted about my project and he gave me an awful lot of advice. Jack was famous for giving advice in the pages of his magazine, so this would probably be expected. But the advice was amazing. Some of it led to great success with the film, financially. Other advice has borne out in dealing with detractors or critics. But there was one piece I thought I’d mention today.

I forget what triggered it, but I suspect we were talking about the future of my little film and promoting it, getting the word out. I likely used a phrase similar to saying that I was worried about saturating my potential audience with promotion and mention of the final film.

Jack was clear about this. “You will never reach your potential audience. You won’t even come close.”

The idea he put forward was that even companies with millions of dollars of advertising budget are unable to reach everyone who could potentially benefit or want a product; there was no way a single individual was going to achieve this, even with a relatively obscure and narrow subject matter like I had chosen. This wasn’t to discourage me from trying; it was to encourage me to try harder without being worried I’d done it “too much”, and that everyone had been reached. It wasn’t something I could “finish” doing, in other words; I wouldn’t reach a point that I’d go “Well, everyone knows about it now.” and shut off the website.

I’ll add to this theory of his by making it clear that it’s certainly possible to saturate a specific group that you’re promoting through; if every time you go into the same office you’ve worked in for 3 years and let everyone know you have a new t-shirt for sale through your home business, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than a couple rounds for everyone to know about it. And if your weblog has 30 readers, those 30 readers will probably get the hint after a couple postings. But I’m talking about out there, in the world, the wide wonderful world. It’s too big. You’re screwed.

In other words, don’t fret you’re talking about something important to you and which you worked hard on. There are people you will never reach.

This advice is wonderful. Nearly a half-decade since he gave me this advice, I keep seeing it bear out.

Unfortunately, this puts me in a strange position as regards examples; I could list cases where I thought saturation had been achieved and how you see people coming along completely unaware of the situation, newly-minted with the morning dew, unaware of any of this “old” information. But then you would be, more likely than not, to have not heard of what I’m talking about either.

So let me say, simply, that every week someone comes along to find out I made my BBS Documentary, which has Jack Rickard on it, and someone discovers my new film being worked on, and someone writes me to say they just found, and so on. All my old news is someone’s new news.

This myopia is rampant in all things; folks drop names and lines and places and their audience or readers have no idea what’s being referred to. They might look it up, or they might not. The assumption that people have lived your life and have your interests, which logic says can’t be the case, still rules the day.

I endeavor not to blast the same people with the same information. But I also know there are people out there, coming in new, who will experience stuff I’ve put up for the first time. It’s the way of things. It’s not bad. It’s the way things are.

Which reminds me of this funny story about hot-linking…

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  1. When I decided to leave comments open on my blog, I discovered that people were still stumbling upon old articles. Right now I’m certain there are a hundred thousand potential readers or more who just haven’t made it to the site.

  2. Chris says:

    “So let me say, simply, that every week someone comes along to find out I made my BBS Documentary, which has Jack Rickard on it, and someone discovers my new film being worked on, and someone writes me to say they just found, and so on. All my old news is someone’s new news.”

    I didn’t find out about the BBS Documentary until about a year after Jason had finished it. I had found as a result of a Yahoo search in early 2006, when I had been trying to find out whether or not any dialup BBSs still existed in Rhode Island. I immediately purchased a copy of the documentary, not wanting to be “too late”, fearing that Jason would run out of new copies to sell.

    I have since spread the word about the documentary, and this site, to several other people, two of whom were late 80’s era sysops, certainly part of the target audience.