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Oct 19, 2012

Communications should cost more

As we are preparing for marketing campaign for our 2013 off-campus cohorts, I am worried and wondering about getting the word out. As the cost of communications got very low, the supply understandably increased. Anyone can communicate with anyone in the world for free. In the past, every piece of communications had cost: books were expensive to print, postage and paper used to cost real money. The labor of handwriting or typing something up was significant. Now it is all very cheap, which is good, right?

However, when distributing information used to cost more, the cost served as a barrier. You would not put up money to print a book if you did not believe it was important. Now anyone can self-publish, and we have no idea if it is even worth taking a look. More recently, it took some significant skill to put together a decent-looking website. Now with Work bench and Google Sites, it takes no skills at all. Anyone can s end an e-mail to thousands of people for free, so we are drowning in e-mail.

The information market, however, did not go away, because while the supply of information is limitless, the supply of human attention is not. People simply ignore most of the information they receive. This is why it is so frustratingly difficult to get anyone’s attention, even though it does not cost anything to send them a message. For example, we do not have teacher’s individual e-mails, but we do have principals’ emails. So when we have a program for teachers, we send it to principals. But a school principal’s inbox is a graveyard of information. I suspect they won’t even open most e-mails, not to mention trying to read it, consider, and forward.

Of course, we can call them on the phone and leave a message, but this would cost much in time. We could design a viral campaign, using the social media. But it requires an enormous creative input, because people won’t recommend their friends something that is boring. We would be competing with real marketers who can hire the best creative talent. You see the paradox – as information is getting cheaper, it actually becomes more expensive to communicate. The proposals for e-mail tax have been around for a while. Just try to Google for it. They have encountered much resistance, but I would welcome it any time. Just stopping the African scam alone would be worth it. Indeed, marketers like us should pay for the school principals’ attention and time. After all, it is taken away from running their schools. Of course, we’re not selling cologne, we’re selling better teachers, but they don’t know it when they see our e-mails. So I want to pay, if I knew how. Ideas?

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