Famous Last Words: Getting Paid

Jay Leno once described his personal business model in six words: “Write joke. Tell joke. Get check.”

The two key words: “Get check.”

When Peggy and I ran the WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service, we had a paid circulation, plus paid services such as consulting, selling folding dummies of successful direct mail packages, as well as ancillary income from books—The Directory of Major Mailers (still being published 25 years later) and Who’s Charging What (a directory of freelancers and what they charge). A teeny extra bit of income came from occasional ads in the newsletter.

Our business model was a variation of Jay Leno’s.

When Target Marketing bought our little business and we moved to Philadelphia, the corporate business model was basically advertising-
driven. Trade magazines were published and sent to qualified readers whom advertisers wanted to reach, and so paid for ads to reach them.

I was never really comfortable with this system. If a trade magazine is covering an industry that hits a rough patch, the first thing that is cut back is advertising and you are hurt. This is despite the fact that you are cranking out content for readers to help them prosper in an economic downturn.

In other words, you have no control of your business. Your advertisers have tough times and you go broke, even though your readers need you.

Amazing Yahoo!
About six years ago, I dropped AOL for Yahoo! AOL used to hit my credit card automatically for $23.90 a month ($286.80 per year) for its services.

In the past seven years, I have never paid Yahoo! a nickel. I not only get elegant email capabilities, but all 17,708 emails that I have sent since Nov. 12, 2005 are archived—all in a searchable database.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • JA T

    I nominate you to be the next CEO of Yahoo!…

  • Barry Dennis

    What’s a fun-loving girl to do? Yahoo and AOL and others are in a no-win situation. People want their service, but since it’s free from the biggest "hooker" in town-Google-it’s hard to get real traction, much less monetize their service portfolio to a larger degree. Google frequently announces improvements to it’s search algorithm; Bing infrequently, Yahoo and AOL never. (Hint: Coasting" is a recipe for failure.)
    There is a business model that AOL or Yahoo could use which would generate substantial and reliable revenue, fund product and service portfolio expansion, build customer loyalty and increase "time spent" and predictably, ad revenue as well.
    I’d tell you what it is but I still have to make a living, so I have to charge.
    Question. If search engines were the final iteration of Internet evolution, why are ALL the browser software companies so desperate to add on products and services to their portfolio? Is there a "better mousetrap" in the (near) future?
    Oh, and Denny? I note that your readers seem to be the smartest, most pragmatic and your Commenters, at least, give great weight to your opinions.

  • JSR

    Denny Hatch,

    This is one of the most boring and outdated articles, I’ve ever read. In fact it’s almost as outdated as your 18th century black and white photo. First, free email has been around FOREVER. Secondly, Google is the new king of search. Third, who visits yahoo anymore, really? As a current email marketer yahoo accounts for less than 5% of all email accounts. It’s Gmail that rules the cloud these days. End of my rant. Please write purposeful articles, if you don’t target marketing is well on it’s way to demise like yahoo.

  • Marty Kenney

    Interesting observation. Yahoo does deserve to be paid, although if they go to a paid model, then they will lose users/audience and therefore advertising impressions and ultimately ad revenue. If their model goes to a paid subscription base that pays $2.95 monthly, they may not lose that many users, so the loss of advertising revenue would be hopefully offset by virtue of the large number of newly paid subscribers. Of course, this is easy for me to discuss from the cheap seats, since I don’t really know much about their business model.

  • steve m

    you make a good point. I would like that archiving element to (peace of mind). nothing wrong with a "premium" user offering. $25/year gets you that email archiving, plus you also get x y and z (whatever awesome stuff they want to include).

  • Will Ezell

    Great article!

    You taught this old dog a few new tricks to add to his repertoire – thank you!

    People do buy for 4 reasons only –

    And they only want 2 things – Solutions and results.

    I always say:

    • What’s wrong with me?
    • Can you fix me?
    • How long will it take?
    • How much will it cost?

    I admire you, and I appreciate you, Denny. Thank you!

    Best personal regards –