Saturday, July 05, 2008

Links to Smarts

Cleaning out emails on Thursday, before leaving town for the 4th of July, I found this for your weekend pleasure and learning:

The Dusty Archives

Posted: 26 Jun 2008 07:34 AM CDT

I was strolling through the dusty THINKing archives the other day and realized how much good stuff was in here that you may have missed. So, I’m digging out the top 10 postings of all time. Enjoy.

Top 10 Story Starter Tips for Blocked Bloggers

What Customers Want

Patience? No, Let’s Kill Something

When Billboards Go Bad

Twittering Journalists

RSS 101 Top 16 Links to Get You Started

A Bigger Logo Necessitates A Smaller Idea

Search Me

Marketing By Mistake

Top 17 Media Relations Links

Know Your Media - Newspapers

It’s The Relationship, Stupid

46 Essential PR Links

Sex Sells

Media Relations How-To From My Creative

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Using Media or Press Kits

I recently started subscribing to a site called the Weakest Link. They recently gave us some tips on Press Kits or Media Kits...

Media Kit Secrets

If you are intending to market your business to - or through - media channels, your best friend will be a well designed Media kit. Media kits (also called Press Kits) help interested parties to find key information about you, your company and your products right when they need it. Click here for the whole article!

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Email Marketing Tips

Not all Email Marketing is Spam. But Email Marketing is different from Direct Mail. Check out this article from

This Message Isn't Direct

Loren McDonald begins a post at the Email Insider blog by declaring, "Email is not direct mail." Though an obvious statement, it's something worth emphasizing. "I sense an assumption that the same basic rules apply to both channels," McDonald notes. "At some levels this is true, of course—with common principles including the role of segmentation and personalization, the importance of good creative, [and] recency and frequency models." But, beyond those similarities, the online world requires an entirely different marketing approach. For instance:

The email recipient has more power. She gives you permission to send her messages; wants to customize content and frequency; expects a transparent privacy policy; and will be unhappy if an unsubscribe request is not immediately honored.

Deliverability is more complicated. While emailed messages reach your audience much more quickly than those sent through the postal service, they face spam filters and folders, and cannot be forwarded to a new address like snail mail.

There are no guarantees about the look. According to McDonald, a worst-case scenario for direct mail is that it gets mangled during shipment. With email, however, you’re facing preview panes, blocked images, competing ads and multiple platforms—each of which can alter how your message is viewed.

The Po!nt: Email marketing is a skill unto itself. "[E]mail has a number of ... challenges and rules of the road that require direct marketers to approach their email programs quite differently," says McDonald.

Source: Email Insider. Read the full post here.

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Seth's What Every Good Marketer Knows-35

Each day I’m adding another tip from this list from Seth…

What Every Good Marketer Knows:

By Seth Godin

1. Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk.

2. Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.

3. Your best customers are worth far more than your average customers.

4. Share of wallet is easier, more profitable and ultimately more effective a measure than share of market.

5. Marketing begins before the product is created.

6. Advertising is just a symptom, a tactic. Marketing is about far more than that.

7. Low price is a great way to sell a commodity. That’s not marketing, though, that’s efficiency.

8. Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.

9. Products that are remarkable get talked about.

10. Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy.

11. You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people, once unfooled, talk about the experience.

12. If you are marketing from a fairly static annual budget, you’re viewing marketing as an expense. Good marketers realize that it is an investment.

13. People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.

14. You’re not in charge. And your prospects don’t care about you.

15. What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love.

16. Business to business marketing is just marketing to consumers who happen to have a corporation to pay for what they buy.

17. Traditional ways of interrupting consumers (TV ads, trade show booths, junk mail) are losing their cost-effectiveness. At the same time, new ways of spreading ideas (blogs, permission-based RSS information, consumer fan clubs) are quickly proving how well they work.

18. People all over the world, and of every income level, respond to marketing that promises and delivers basic human wants.

19. Good marketers tell a story.

20. People are selfish, lazy, uninformed and impatient. Start with that and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

21. Marketing that works is marketing that people choose to notice.

22. Effective stories match the worldview of the people you are telling the story to.

23. Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others.

24. A product for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone.

25. Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in an conversation-rich world.

26. Marketers are responsible for the side effects their products cause.

27. Reminding the consumer of a story they know and trust is a powerful shortcut.

28. Good marketers measure.

29. Marketing is not an emergency. It’s a planned, thoughtful exercise that started a long time ago and doesn’t end until you’re done.

30. One disappointed customer is worth ten delighted ones.

31. In the googleworld, the best in the world wins more often, and wins more.

32. Most marketers create good enough and then quit. Greatest beats good enough every time.

33. There are more rich people than ever before, and they demand to be treated differently.

34. Organizations that manage to deal directly with their end users have an asset for the future.

35. You can game the social media in the short run, but not for long.

Obviously, knowing what to do is very, very different than actually doing it.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Targeted TV Ad for Denny's

We ate breakfast at a Denny's in Ohio this morning. Here's what they are doing to get you to visit them:

Click here for the rest of the story.

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Quantity or Quality?

You can't have both. Pick one. Either one is valuable, if you are set up to handle the one you select.

Here's more from Seth's Blog:

Who vs. how many

Scoble has a great post about a 14 year old kid with 45 million viewers on YouTube.

45 million! He wins. You lose. You won't have more traffic than he will. Ever.

And what about your ads? Are you busy sponsoring sites that have less traffic than he does? Sure you are. Why? I thought it was all about reaching the masses...

Well, since you're over that now, since you realize that "how many" is not nearly as valuable as "who", why not put that into practice?

Just because something is easy to measure doesn't mean it's important.

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Due to the magic of being able to plan ahead, I am writing this on Tuesday night, even though it is showing up around 3pm on the 4th of July.

So I have no idea what I am doing as you are reading this. Maybe I'm grilling in the backyard.

Here's the odds:

The Harris Poll® #70, July 1, 2008

Yum! Steaks or Burgers? Many Americans Fire up the Grill All Year Round

July is National Grilling Month and as a new Harris Poll of 2,454 U.S. adults surveyed online between June 9 and 16, 2008 by Harris Interactive® shows, Americans like to grill and they do it all year round. Specifically:

  • Half of Americans (50%) say they grill at least a few times a month with one-quarter (23%) barbequing at least once a week. Just one in six (14%) say they never grill or barbeque outdoors;
  • Over half (57%) of grillers do so in the summer, two in five (40%) grill in the Spring and one-third (33%) grill in the Fall.
  • Two in five (39%) grillers say season doesn’t matter and they grill all year long.

Click here to read the rest.

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25 Networking Tips (plus 1 more)

Don't be a loner, instead be a loaner. Here's 25 even Better Tips from the DLM Blog:

25 Absolute Essentials for Networking Success

Posted: 01 Jul 2008 09:28 AM CDT

Written on 7/01/2008 by Anand Dhillon, of Self-Help for Self-Mastery.

In business, it is often said that success is determined not by what you know but by who you know. Additionally, the level of your success is determined greatly by the quality of your relationships with others.

While for some, networking is something that comes naturally and effortlessly, for others it is an area where significant improvements are needed. Small, consistent improvements over time will open up far more opportunities and resources to you.

Whether you are a seasoned connector or someone who needs to jumpstart their relationship building, here are 25 essential tips to ensure your networking success.
  1. Start before your need it
    The best time to start building your network is yesterday. The second best time is today. Relationships are cultivated over time. Begin by making networking a priority now. It is a simple habit that you can start now that will pay great dividends in the future.

  2. Learn about people’s goals
    The best way to have an impact is to add value directly where it is most important to the other person. Find out what the people in your network are looking for and look for ways that you can help achieve them. Everyone wants to be friends with someone they know is on their side.

  3. Connect people you do know
    Use your networking not only to benefit yourself but also to benefit others. Connect people in your network that could provide value to one another. For example, if one of your associates is in need of a web designer and you happen to know one, connect the two people together. Your two associates benefit from the business arrangement and you benefit from the good will developed.

  4. Give more than you expect to receive
    If you want to build trust in your relationships, always seek to add more value to the people in your networks. When people are consistently benefiting from a relationship, it moves their desire to connect with you more. Focus on the giving and you will surely get what you want.

  5. Be genuinely interested
    Be sincere in your dealings with others and focus more on being interested than interesting. People love to talk about themselves and the more you understand about someone, the more you will be able to speak to them in a way that is appealing.

  6. Always follow up
    When making new contacts, make sure to always follow up. A quick email or phone call within 24 hours of meeting someone can lay the foundation for a fruitful relationship. It doesn’t take much effort but it can make a world of difference.

  7. Know people in different worlds
    Don’t focus solely on your own niche or industry. Instead, diversify and reach out to as many people as possible. Having people from a wide variety of fields in your network helps you become the master connector (#3) and provide more value.

  8. Learn to listen
    The skill of listening seems simple enough but in experience, it is a rare skill to find. The secret is getting out of your head. Put your complete focus on the speaker instead of thinking about what you are going to say when they are done talking. Try to really understand where they are coming from.

  9. Be authentic
    People crave authenticity in business. Many people are starved of it because the amount of manipulation and politics that can go in an interaction. Hold yourself to a higher standard and you will stand out from the crowd.

  10. Take the initiative
    Play a very active role in networking. Be the person who starts the conversation. Be quick to introduce yourself. Also, be the first person to offer help when it is required. Developing the habit of initiative will make your networking efforts easier and more fruitful.

  11. Always stay in touch
    The major determinant in whether or not a business relationship develops of fizzles is staying in contact. Remember to regularly check in with your associates with a quick email or phone call. Regular contact will allow the relationship to develop slowly over time.

  12. Be personal
    Take the extra time to add a personal touch. A handwritten card says a lot more than an email. Although this may require extra time and effort on your part, it will stand out in the eyes of others.

  13. Be humble
    Nothing turns people off quicker than an arrogant attitude. Humility, on the other hand, is very commendable. Being humble will keep you grounded even when your network starts to grow. When you reach the top, it will ensure that keep doing the things that got you there.

  14. Always say thanks
    Thank you notes are a quick and easy way to connect with someone. Plus, the actual card serves as a reminder of you every time the other person sees it.

  15. Do your homework
    When contacting people, make sure you are well informed about their situation. You should know, for example, if they recently released a new product or moved to a new office.

  16. Express your enthusiasm
    Remember that passion is magnetic. When you are excited about what you are talking about, other people will become excited as well. Your enthusiasm will give you a charismatic presence that will make your memorable.

  17. Promote your purpose more than your self
    When promoting to others, put the majority of your focus on the mission and purpose of your business. Although it can be fun to toot your own horn, set your ego aside and focus on the real purpose: your company’s ability to deliver value to people.

  18. Join associations
    Professional associations are a great way to network with people. Use the internet to research associations in your area and make sure to attend the next meeting. The people you will meet there will also be eager network.

  19. Attend conferences
    Conferences are a great way to meet like-minded people. The speakers can be good, but the real value is in the people. Do some internet research and find a conference you can attend in the near future.

  20. Leverage the networks of others
    Use the networks of others to expand your own network. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to people you have only heard of through an associate. Make this a regular habit and your network will start growing faster than you can keep up with.

  21. Act with integrity
    Stay true to your principles and hold them above all else. While this may lead to some short term setbacks, over the long term, it will build a lot of trust in your character.

  22. Build close relationships
    The closer your relationship is with someone, the more they will be willing to help you out when you need it. Unfortunately, there are no quick fix techniques for this. Close relationships take time and effort.

  23. Ask for what you want
    Don’t be timid or shy. Be direct and ask for what you want. There is no other way to get it. Remember: the answer to every request that you don’t make is no.

  24. Create a personal board of advisors
    Focus on building a team of experts that you contact quickly for advice in each of the major areas of your business. They will prove to be priceless when you have difficult business decisions to make.

  25. Write things down
    As your network grows, it can be difficult to keep track of all the information about your associates. Make sure your write things down and can readily access information about any one of your business contacts.

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Funny on the 4th

If you think baby farts are funny, then click here.

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Seth's What Every Good Marketer Knows-34

Each day I’m adding another tip from this list from Seth…

What Every Good Marketer Knows:

By Seth Godin

1. Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk.

2. Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.

3. Your best customers are worth far more than your average customers.

4. Share of wallet is easier, more profitable and ultimately more effective a measure than share of market.

5. Marketing begins before the product is created.

6. Advertising is just a symptom, a tactic. Marketing is about far more than that.

7. Low price is a great way to sell a commodity. That’s not marketing, though, that’s efficiency.

8. Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.

9. Products that are remarkable get talked about.

10. Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy.

11. You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people, once unfooled, talk about the experience.

12. If you are marketing from a fairly static annual budget, you’re viewing marketing as an expense. Good marketers realize that it is an investment.

13. People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.

14. You’re not in charge. And your prospects don’t care about you.

15. What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love.

16. Business to business marketing is just marketing to consumers who happen to have a corporation to pay for what they buy.

17. Traditional ways of interrupting consumers (TV ads, trade show booths, junk mail) are losing their cost-effectiveness. At the same time, new ways of spreading ideas (blogs, permission-based RSS information, consumer fan clubs) are quickly proving how well they work.

18. People all over the world, and of every income level, respond to marketing that promises and delivers basic human wants.

19. Good marketers tell a story.

20. People are selfish, lazy, uninformed and impatient. Start with that and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

21. Marketing that works is marketing that people choose to notice.

22. Effective stories match the worldview of the people you are telling the story to.

23. Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others.

24. A product for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone.

25. Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in an conversation-rich world.

26. Marketers are responsible for the side effects their products cause.

27. Reminding the consumer of a story they know and trust is a powerful shortcut.

28. Good marketers measure.

29. Marketing is not an emergency. It’s a planned, thoughtful exercise that started a long time ago and doesn’t end until you’re done.

30. One disappointed customer is worth ten delighted ones.

31. In the googleworld, the best in the world wins more often, and wins more.

32. Most marketers create good enough and then quit. Greatest beats good enough every time.

33. There are more rich people than ever before, and they demand to be treated differently.

34. Organizations that manage to deal directly with their end users have an asset for the future.

Obviously, knowing what to do is very, very different than actually doing it.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Last Minute Words of Wisdom

Okay, I'm done writing for a few days. There will be at least 3 or 4 articles a day over the holiday weekend. Here's one last one before I slip into vacation mode, direct from my email, to your eyeballs:


Dear Scott,

Marketing Lesson #23: Good Signage is the best investment in advertising you can make besides a better location. - Dave Young, Wizard Partner

In this issue:

1. Three Marketing Ideas to Get You Through the Recession

2. Make Your Mission Statement Ring

Your goals are your own business. Helping you reach them is ours.
Craig Arthur - Wizard of Ads Australia

PS. Have you booked your seat to Boom Your Business, Nashville? (Aug 1st & 2nd)

1. Three Marketing Ideas to Get You Through the Recession

Michele Miller.jpgIf the winds of change haven’t reached the sails of your business yet, they will. Guaranteed.

"Yes, you’re feeling the pinch. But don’t go all Wolverine on us and slash your marketing budget to shreds."

By Michele Miller, Wizard Partner

Here are three things to keep in mind to help weather the storm:

1. Don’t focus on growth – focus on staying even. Over the next two years, it will take all of your wit, cunning, and common sense to maintain your current revenues, let alone grow. If your year-end financial reports show that you stayed even with the year before, you will have done a tremendous job of remaining steady at the wheel. And if you experience single-digit growth, grab a handkerchief and crank up the Greek dancing tunes, ‘cuz it’s time to celebrate. The key is efficiencymaking the highest and most effective use of your marketing and operating dollars to streamline your message and customer experience.

2. When it comes to customers, there’s a pecking order. Even in good times, smart marketers know that the care and feeding of existing customers takes precedence over capturing new ones. These are the folks who already believe in what you do; give them consistent, genuine TLC and never stop asking them what you can do better. In return, they will remain loyal to your brand. Depending on your business category, they may not be able to afford what you sell today, but by not forgetting them during the tough times, they’ll think of you first when they’re once again flush and ready to spend. Building brand confidence and love can’t help but generate good word-of-mouth about you – some of the smartest (and cheapest) marketing you’ll ever do.

3. Don’t stop taking chances. Now more than ever, it’s critical to continue branding your business in the hearts and minds of customers. Yes, you’re feeling the pinch. But don’t go all Wolverine on us and slash your marketing budget to shreds. Keep on keepin’ on, and mix it up a little. There’s good advice in Roy's memo How to Make Business Good When Times are Bad. Have you built your business on low, low prices? Start talking about the “relationships” you have with your customers. Have you created good brand mojo through meaningful connections with customers? Extend it by telling them you feel their financial pain… then lower your prices just a tiny bit. (If you’re successful at being as efficient as you possibly can be, it gives you the breathing room you need in order to do this.)

Things are scary and are going to get scarier. Concentrating on even just one of the three tips above will give you a clearer focus and a steadier hand; delivering all three at a high level will definitely keep you dancing through the roughest of waters.

From the Editor: Michele Miller is our resident "Marketing to Women" specialist. Actually Michele is in the top 3 researchers in the world when it comes to Maketing to Women. (If not THE Number 1) Michele's diary of engagements is normally booked out 9 to 12 months in advance, so if you get the chance to hear her speak... do it.

Marketing Lesson #24: In your ads don't tell your whole story, just your best one. Have the courage to leave stuff out.

2. Make Your Mission Statement Ring

Roy-Flip.jpgAn extract of the Monday Morning Memo dated 23-6-08 by Roy H. Williams

“The fundamental shortcoming of most mission statements is that everyone expects them to be highfalutin and all-encompassing. The result is a long, boring, commonplace and pointless joke. Companies are all writing the same mediocre stuff.”
- Guy Kawasaki

Most organizations try to define themselves by telling us what they believe in, what they stand for. But self-definition isn’t believable until you tell us what you stand against.

Do you want your mission statement to be read, quoted, cussed and discussed? If so, don't tell us what your corporate culture includes. Tell us what it excludes. Tell us what you’re fighting against.

Most mission statements are pointless for the same reason most ads are pointless:
1. They're not written to provide focus or clarity.
2. They're not written to separate you from the pack.
3. They're not written to persuade.

They're written not to offend.

My first book, The Wizard of Ads, was named Business Book of the Year 10 years ago. Do you remember the subject of its very first chapter?

Take a look.

craig-arthur-a.jpgClosing Thought...

When it comes to marketing your business...

"Get off your tush and do something." - Princess Pennie

See you next week.

Craig Arthur & The Wizard Partners

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Kudo's to Kia,com

Try saying that 5 times fast, "Kudo's to, Kudo's to, Kudo's to, Kudo's to, Kudo's to"...

Here's something easier from Click on the charts to make them BIGGER: Most Useful Auto Manufacturer Site for New-Car Shopping ranks highest among automotive manufacturer websites for usefulness in new-vehicle shopping, according to (pdf) the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study (MWES) - Wave 2.

The semi-annual study measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites during the new-vehicle shopping process. New-vehicle shoppers evaluate websites in four key areas: appearance, speed, navigation and information/content.

Kia ranks highest with an index score of 872 on a 1,000-point scale - marking a nine-point increase from the last wave of the study, which was released in January 2008.


Closely following Kia are Ford (871) and Mazda (870), with Ford performing particularly well in the appearance factor. Also performing significantly above the industry average are Honda, Jeep, Lincoln, Porsche, BMW, Cadillac and Subaru.

The study also finds the following key patterns:

  • Satisfaction with a manufacturer website tends to increase shopper visits to the dealership, as 75% of shoppers who give high ratings on a site are more likely to go to a dealership to test drive a vehicle.
  • Overall satisfaction with manufacturer websites has increased to 849 - eight points more than the previous wave of the study.
  • In particular, satisfaction with loading speed has increased as manufacturer websites have employed a variety of techniques - such as better navigation schemes, more aggressive caching, better page load order and pre-loading of content - to offer rich content that loads quickly.

“Over the years, Kia has successfully satisfied shoppers with its straightforward, intuitive website by providing pages that load quickly and that are easy to navigate,” said Arianne Walker, director of marketing/media research at J.D. Power and Associates. “By focusing on these key aspects of the website experience, Kia has continually met the expectations of its customers. In fact, this marks the fourth time in 10 reporting waves that Kia has ranked highest.”

On average, most manufacturer websites undergo a major redesign every two to three years. While redesigns can eventually lead to increased satisfaction, small updates to improve critical areas on a manufacturer website - such as information and content and ease of navigation - can also positively impact the customer experience in a more cost-effective manner.

In particular, Ford and Porsche have made frequent tweaks and updates to their sites, all leading to a steady increase in satisfaction scores during the past four years, without a major redesign. Specifically, after enhancing navigation following the second wave of MWES in 2007, these manufacturers have also made significant improvements in speed since January 2008.

About the study: The 2008 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study - Wave 2 is based on evaluations gathered in April 2008 from more than 11,400 new-vehicle shoppers who indicated they would be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months.

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10 Cool Ideas to Stimulate your Brain

You can subscribe to the Springwise weekly newsletter (free) and get this sent to you too:

It's time for your weekly fix of entrepreneurial ideas! The latest Springwise newsletter is
now online
. Here's a quick run-down of the promising new businesses featured this week:

Map on MoviqHome flirting lets owners test the market
Homes & housing / Financial services

We've covered several ventures that help potential homebuyers
proclaim their interest in homes that aren't on the market. Turns out
that this is a two-way street.

Map of San Francisco showing hot spotsNightlife mapping tool uses GPS to reveal hotspots
Telecom & mobile / Lifestyle & leisure

Deciding when and where to go out on a Friday night just got easier
for San Francisco residents with a new, mobile map application that
automatically shows them where the hotspots are.

Arm wearing Dance Charge deviceCharging cell phone batteries by dancing
Eco & sustainability / Telecom & mobile

No sooner did we write about Orange's wind-powered recharging
station at Glastonbury Festival, than one of our spotters alerted us to
another eco-innovation for charging cellphones.

Man shovelling dirtHomegrown vegetables, no green thumb needed
Food & beverage / Eco & sustainability

My Farm calls itself a decentralized urban farm that grows vegetables
in backyard gardens throughout San Francisco. If they produce more
than they can eat, customers sell their veggies through My Farm.

Pile of notes and papersSocial event planning with a side of local search
Life hacks

Center'd aims to make it easier to plan an event of any size. The site
uses social networking and web 2.0 features to help smooth the way
for planners.

Stardoll logoAvatar fashion for the real world
Fashion & beauty / Gaming

The fashion market for avatars brought real-world brands and designs
into the virtual realm. Now, the trend appears to be going the other way
as consumers get their avatar fashions made into real-world clothes.

Buttons for Fear Factor and other tv showsCreator of Big Brother looks to crowds for new
reality shows

Entertainment / Media & publishing

Media entrepreneur John de Mol is tapping the crowds to find the next
big ideas in non-scripted television.

Three matryoshka dollsClothing rental for size-changing dieters
Life hacks

For dieters, maintaining a decent wardrobe can be an ongoing
challenge on the way to a target size. Transitional Sizes rents out
name-brand clothing for temporary use while the pounds come off.

Guitar player sitting on a chairOnline music lessons taught by the artists
Education / Entertainment

There's nothing like a great song to inspire fans to want to learn to
play it themselves, but doing it right is rarely easy. Enter Now Play It,
which offers video instruction taught by the actual recording artists.

Four nested VerTerra bowlsPressed leaves transformed into disposable dishes
Eco & sustainabilty / Style & design

Inspired by a technique used in rural India, VerTerra's dishes are
made entirely from compostable plant matter and water, with none of
the chemicals found in disposable paper and plastic options.

Our next issue will arrive in your inbox on 9 July 2008. In the meantime, please
check out our daily posts.

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Establish Credibility

This week, I met with a small business owner that is looking to use my radio stations to help his business grow. I passed this advice on to him from

Education-Based Marketing: How to Make Business Come to You

By David Frey

There is a misconception in small businesses that your marketing's most important function is to promote your products and services. In fact, the most important function of your marketing should be to establish that you are knowledgeable and can be trusted.

Most of us don't do business with people we don't trust. Even if you have the lowest prices, if your prospect doesn’t trust you, it will be difficult to close the sale. This is the basis for Education-Based Marketing.

Education-Based Marketing is a powerful marketing strategy that establishes trust and credibility using educational messages. It is the direct opposite of traditional marketing, which uses selling-based messages.

People are tired of hearing worn-out, old sales pitches. Barriers shoot up the moment you begin delivering a sales pitch. In contrast, people sit up and listen when you share important facts and expert information that help them make a good buying decision.

Determining Your Educational Message
Imagine stepping into the mind of your prospect and listening to their mental conversation at the very moment they decide to begin shopping for a spa or pool. What questions are they asking themselves? The secret to attracting qualified prospects early in the sales cycle is to find out the answers to those questions and use them as the basis for your educational marketing message.

For instance, if you were to offer your prospect the choice between two free special reports, one titled “Why brand A is the best widget on the market” and the other titled, “Six Little-Known Secrets to Purchasing the Right Widget for Your Family,” which do you think would be chosen?

From my experience, the second report will out pull the first report 10:1. Educational information that helps your prospects solve problems and make better decisions is the type of information that will attract prospects.

How To Package Your Educational Marketing Message to Generate Qualified Prospects
Once you have developed your educational message you need to package it and offer it for free in exchange for your prospect’s contact information. This is critical. Effective marketing is not just a matter of getting the word out but more importantly, getting a response back.

You can package your educational message in a format your prospect will respond to such as a written special report, an audiocassette, a video tape, an email course, a CD-ROM, a seminar, or even a toll-free phone message.

An important aspect to making your educational message enticing is to give it a great title. You’ll notice in the second title I just mentioned I used a number (six) and the word “secrets.” People like numbered lists and knowing things other people don’t know (i.e. secrets). Put those two together and you have an almost irresistible title. Give your educational messages exciting titles and they will attract qualified prospects.

How To Deliver Your Educational Marketing Message
Now that you have developed and packaged your education message, you should develop strategies and processes to give it away. To do this you must first identify all the “customer touch points” in your business and offer your educational message at each one of those touch points. Common customer touch points are your business phone, website, advertising, publicity, networking conversations, home shows, etc.

For instance, instead of ending your business phone conversations like this:

“Well Mrs. Jones, thanks so much for calling and I hope you come by and visit us.”

End your phone conversation with an offer like this:

“Well Mrs. Jones, thanks so much for calling. By the way, we’ve just developed a great special report that talks about the top 10 common mistakes that people make when buying a widget. If you’ll give me your address I’ll send it to you free of charge. Would that be okay?”

You’ve just accomplished three very important things with this telephone strategy, (1) you’ve generated goodwill by offering a valuable free gift, (2) you got your prospect’s contact information so that you can continue to market to her, and (3) you now have a reason for a follow up phone call after she receives and has read the special report.

Resist the Urge to Give a Sales Pitch
It’s easy to set your small business apart using Education-Based Marketing because most of your competitors are using selling-based marketing. The beauty of Education-Based Marketing is that you give prospective customers what they want, information and advice — and remove what they don't want, a sales pitch.

By offering helpful advice, you establish yourself as an authority because prospects see you as a reliable source of information. Be careful not to give in to the urge to include a sales pitch with your educational message. This will only erode the trust you have established and make you the same as your competitors in the eyes of your prospect.

Instead, after you have provided some helpful information you should warmly invite your prospects to call you, visit your website, come to your store, or take advantage of your free offer to do an onsite visit.

Education-Based Marketing captures prospects earlier in the decision process and establishes a relationship of trust, resulting in dramatically higher sales and closing ratios. Those small businesses that seek to develop a relationship of trust by delivering a non-threatening educational message will position themselves as their prospect’s first choice from which to buy your product or service.

© Copyright 2003 David Frey, Marketing Best Practices Inc.

David Frey is President of Marketing Best Practices Inc., a small business marketing consulting firm and the editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter. His products include The Small Business Marketing Bible, Instant Referral Systems, and Coaches and Consultants Marketing Bootcamp.

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New Way to Deliver Obits

This is similar to an idea that I was talking to a friend about the other day.

My idea is that there is an email based system where you can enter all your contacts and when ever there is an obituary for any of them, you get it in your email.

LinkedIn and other social media sites use this business model, and as we get older, wouldn't be nice to know that Joe died within 24 hours, instead of a few years later? When it is too late to pay our condolences?

Look at this:

Monster Founder Sets Sights on Online Obits
Fourteen years ago, Jeff Taylor helped set off a tectonic shift in recruitment advertising by founding, one of the first online companies to challenge a big profit source of newspapers, reports Seth Sutel of the AP (via Editor and Publisher's Web site). Now, just as papers are reeling from a massive drainage of ad dollars online, Taylor thinks he's found another one of their strongholds that's ripe for online competition: Obituaries. more »

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Watching TiVoed Commercials

Yes, it's true, we don't hate all commercials, just ones that are dumb, stupid or about stuff we don't care about:

TiVo Stop||Watch: Commercials That Get Noticed
by Wayne Friedman, Wednesday, Jul 2, 2008 8:31 AM ET
What commercials give DVR owners pause? Not just the obvious ones for summer blockbuster movies, but also commercials for more mundane products like water sealants. Results from TiVo's Stop||Watch ratings service in May revealed that not-so-obvious commercials touting everyday products have gotten some DVR households to sit up and take notice--or at least have them push "play" on their remotes.

In surveying the least fast-forwarded commercials in May, only two of the top 10 in prime time were movie commercials: Sony Pictures' "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" and Warner Bros.' "Sex in the City." May is a typically heavy period for film marketers, touting their big summer releases.

The least fast-forwarded brand on broadcast television was a Dominos Pizza spot, followed by an E-Trade Financial commercial. "Zohan" came in third place, with "Sex in the City" in fourth. SC Johnson & Son was next. Then came American Express, Thompson's Water Sealant, Macy's and Honda Pilot.

Media analysts believed that mostly entertainment-oriented commercials, such as movie trailers and spots akin to TV program content would score high viewing levels among DVR consumers, moving them to view these marketing messages at their normal speed.

Instead, a variety of marketing categories--restaurant, financial services, pharmaceutical, retail, credit card, and automotive--had viewers hitting play.

When looking at both cable and broadcast, TiVo says the mix extends to baseball playing cards, food products, surfing boards, airlines and muffler replacement. Topps Baseball Cards and Banzai Skimboard Surfer ranked among the most successful in avoiding fast-forwarding. No movie commercials made the top 10, according to TiVo.

TiVo's Stop||Watch ratings service, which started in February 2007, tracks 51 ad supported TV networks. TiVo's clients include Omnicom Media Group, NBC Universal, CBS Corporation, The Interpublic Group, Starcom, Carat USA, MPMA, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Media IQ and Euro RSCG New York.

The results come from an anonymous random sample of 20,000 TiVo units, which collect second-by-second data.

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Who's watching?

Television is so old skool, according to this report, (which means it will be cool again in a few years):

(Regis & Kelly's average age is 57.)

Average Age Of TV Viewers Hits 50
For the first time, the broadcasts network's median age is outside of the vaunted 18-49 demo. According to a study released by Magna Global, the average viewer of the five broadcast nets' last season, not including delayed DVR viewers, was 50.

ABC, NBC and Fox continue to grow older, while CBS--the oldest-skewing network--has remained fairly steady. "With traditional television no longer necessarily the first screen for the younger set, the ages of the broadcast networks keep rising," says Magna researcher Steve Sternberg.

When DVR viewing is factored in, the nets (except CW and Univision) drop by only a year. Sternberg notes that Fox and CW maintain median ages that are closer to the actual age of the population, which averages 38. - Read the whole story...

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Rush Limbaugh New York Times Interview

Rush Limbaugh is probably the reason that talk radio is a viable radio format. The station I run, brought Rush Limbaugh to Fort Wayne a long time ago before it moved to another radio station. (This was before I was there and under different ownership.)

Rush makes money, both personally and for his advertisers. This week it was announced that Rush signed a multi-year deal for $400,000,000. Yes, $400 million.

One of the newsletters I receive included a link to a New York Times interview that will be in the print editions Sunday.

I have it for you now:

July 6, 2008
Magazine Preview

Late-Period Limbaugh

This article will appear in this Sunday's Times Magazine.

‘The Rush Limbaugh Show’ goes on the air every weekday at 12:06 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.

At one time, Limbaugh did his program from a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper he dubbed, with tongue-in-cheek grandiosity, the Excellence in Broadcasting Building. These days, he mostly broadcasts out of a studio in Palm Beach, Fla., which he calls the Southern Command, and describes on the air as a “heavily fortified bunker.”

In fact, Limbaugh’s show emanates from a nondescript office building on a boulevard lined with tall palms. There isn’t even a security guard in the lobby. The elevator opens directly onto a pristine anteroom furnished in corporate glass and leather. An American flag stands in the corner. Only a small, framed picture of Limbaugh, bearing the caption “America’s Anchorman,” reveals that this is the headquarters of one of the country’s most admired and reviled figures.

The anteroom was empty when I stepped off the elevator one afternoon in mid-February. Limbaugh receives very few visitors at work, and no journalists from the hated “mainstream media.” When I was buzzed into the control room, I was met by Bo Snerdly — a very large man in a Huey Newton beret — who glared at me. “Are you the guy who’s here to do the hit job on us?” he demanded in a deep voice.

“Absolutely,” I said.

Snerdly, whose real name is James Golden, held my eyes for a long moment before bursting into emphatic laughter.

“It’s just that we aren’t used to seeing reporters here,” said a woman named Dawn. She is a stenographer whom Limbaugh hired in 2001, after he went deaf. These days he has a cochlear implant that enables him to hear callers, but Dawn sends him real-time transcripts of on-air conversations, just in case.

“The media doesn’t know about this place,” she said. “They don’t know where we are. During Rush’s big drug story they staked out the whole town, even his house, but they never found us here.”

For the next hour I sat behind the glass panel of the control booth and watched Limbaugh at work in front of the “golden E.I.B. microphone.” Unlike Howard Stern or Don Imus, he has no sidekicks with him in the room. He does, however, keep up a running conversation with an unheard voice. I always assumed that this was just imaginary radio shtick. Now I saw that the voice was attached to a human interlocutor, Snerdly, who banters with and occasionally badgers Limbaugh via an internal talk-back circuit.

After the broadcast, Limbaugh waved me into the studio and offered me a seat directly across from him. The room’s acoustics make it relatively easy for him to hear, but he also reads lips.

I had come to talk to Limbaugh about his role in Republican Party politics. During the primaries he assailed John McCain as a phony conservative and apostate Reaganite. Despite Limbaugh’s best efforts, it now appeared that the Arizona senator would be the nominee. There was speculation that Limbaugh would not support him in November.

“I’ve never even met the man, never spoken to him,” Limbaugh said. “I’m sure there are things about him I’d like if we meet. This isn’t personal.” He then delivered a litany of the presumptive nominee’s personal failings — too old, too intense, too opportunistic, too liberal. But, he assured me, he would be with McCain in the fall. “It’s like the Super Bowl,” he told me. “If your team isn’t in it, you root for the team you hate less. That’s McCain.”

It already seemed, when I made my visit, that McCain’s opponent might well be Senator Obama, and I was curious to know how Limbaugh planned to take on America’s first African-American major-party nominee. “I’ll approach Obama with fearless honesty,” said Limbaugh, who speaks of himself in heroic terms on air and off. “He’s a liberal. I oppose liberals. That’s all that’s involved here.”

I asked if he had any specific tactics in mind.

“I haven’t yet figured that out exactly,” he said. “You know, I’ve had a problem with substance abuse. I don’t deal with the future anymore. I take things one day at a time.”

In this case, it took two. I was back in New York, listening to the radio, when I heard Limbaugh say: “Ladies and gentlemen, I had a conversation with a friend Wednesday afternoon after the program, and he said, ‘Nobody’s criticizing Obama. How are you going to do this? How are you going to handle criticizing the first black American to run for president?’ I said: ‘I’m going to do it the way I always do it. First, at the top of the list, I’m going to do it fearlessly. I’m not going to bow to political correctness. I’m going to do it with humor. I’m going to focus on the issues. I’m going to react to what he says. Simple. I’m going to do it just like it were any other case — he’s a man, right? He’s a liberal. How do I criticize liberals? I criticize them.’ But I have devised, ladies and gentlemen, an even more creative way of criticizing Obama. I have, just this morning, named a new position here on the staff that is the Official Obama Criticizer. The E.I.B. Network now has an Official Obama Criticizer. He is Bo Snerdly.”

Snerdly introduced himself as an “African-American-in-good-standing-and-certified-black-enough-to-criticize-Obama guy,” and declared that he was speaking, “on behalf of our E.I.B. brothers and sisters in the hood.” The bit was typical Limbaugh — confrontational, deliberately insensitive and funny. It was also a declaration of independence. Whatever special courtesies John McCain might plan to extend to Barack Obama, Limbaugh is going to conduct his air war, as he always has, by his own rules of engagement.

ON AUG. 1, LIMBAUGH WILL CELEBRATE the 20th anniversary of his national radio program. At 57, he is an American icon, although his fans and critics don’t agree on precisely what he is iconic for. I’ve heard him compared to Mark Twain and Jackie Gleason, the Founding Fathers and Father Coughlin. Serious people have called him a serial liar and a moral philosopher, a partisan hack and a public intellectual, nothing more than a radio windbag and nothing less than the heart of the Republican Party.

One thing is certain: Limbaugh has been a partisan force for two decades. In 1994, he was so influential in the Republican Congressional landslide that the grateful winners made him an honorary member of the G.O.P. freshman class. He moved not only voters, but the party itself. “Rush talked about the ‘Contract With America’ before there was a ‘Contract With America,’ ” Karl Rove told me. “He helped set the agenda.”

Limbaugh has been a factor in every national election of the past 20 years, but not since the mid-1990s has he been so prominent. Democrats have blamed him for everything from invading their primaries to starting scurrilous rumors about Michelle Obama. Limbaugh denies the latter accusation, but he happily embraces the former. His vehicle was so-called Operation Chaos, a radio campaign designed to encourage Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton and prolong internecine fighting among liberals.

Nobody quite knows how effective Operation Chaos was. Karl Rove said he thinks it helped tilt Texas for Clinton. She herself gave this some credence on the day after the vote by jauntily saying, “Be careful what you wish for, Rush.” Howard Dean implored primary voters in Indiana and North Carolina to ignore Limbaugh. The Obama supporter Arianna Huffington called Limbaugh and other conservative hosts “toxic curiosities.” After Clinton won in Indiana, where 10 percent of Democratic primary voters admitted to exit pollsters that they were really Republicans, Senator John Kerry accused Limbaugh of “tampering with the primary” and causing Obama’s defeat.

Limbaugh was delighted. He deemed Operation Chaos to have “exceeded all expectations” (his customary self-evaluation) and explained once again that he wasn’t supporting Clinton but merely trying to bloody Obama because John McCain was too chicken to do it and because he believed that Obama would then be easier to beat in November.

Probably both the Democrats and Limbaugh overstated his actual impact. But Operation Chaos was a triumph of interactive political performance art. Limbaugh appointed himself Supreme Commander, deputized his listeners and turned them into merry pranksters. “Rush is a master at framing an issue and creating a community around it,” says Susan Estrich, who ran Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign and has since become a talk-show host herself. Operation Chaos drew a crowd, which is what Limbaugh does for a living. It got people laughing at the Democrats, which is what he lives for. And, ever the devout capitalist, he turned an extra buck by peddling Operation Chaos gear. The stuff flew off the cybershelves of the E.I.B. store, the biggest seller since his Club Gitmo collection (“my mullah went to Club Gitmo and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”).

None of these high jinks would have mattered if Limbaugh were a regular radio personality. But he isn’t. Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, a trade publication, puts Limbaugh’s weekly audience at 14 million. Limbaugh himself says it is closer to 20 million. Either way, nobody else is close. He has been the top-rated radio talk-show host in America since the magazine started the ranking 17 years ago.

Such massive and consistent popularity makes Limbaugh a singular political force. “Rush has completely remade American politics by offering an alternative to the networks and CNN,” Rove told me. “For 20 years he has been the leader of his own parade.”

Harrison offered an even more grandiose view: “He’s a phenomenon like the Beatles. Before Rush Limbaugh there was nothing like talk radio. He’s been to talk what Elvis was to rock ’n’ roll. He saved the AM dial.”

ANTICIPATING A QUESTION,” Limbaugh said when we pulled into the garage of his secluded beachfront mansion in Palm Beach, “why do I have so many cars?”

I hadn’t actually been wondering that. Very rich people tend not to stint on transportation. For example, we drove to the house from the studio, Limbaugh at the wheel, in a black Maybach 57S, which runs around $450,000 fully loaded. He had half a dozen similar rides on his estate.

“I have these cars for two reasons,” Limbaugh said. “First, they are for the use of my guests. And two, I happen to love fine automobiles.”

He also loves space. There are five homes — all of them his — on the property. The big house is 24,000 square feet. Limbaugh lives there with a cat. He’s been married three times but has no children.

Limbaugh informed me that I was the first journalist ever to enter his home. Mary Matalin, the Republican consultant, calls the place “aspirational,” which is one adjective that fits. The place, largely designed by Limbaugh himself, reflects the things and places he has seen and admired. The massive chandelier in the dining room, for example, is a replica of the one that hung in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel in New York. The gleaming cherry-wood floors are dotted with hand-woven oriental carpets. A life-size oil portrait of El Rushbo, as he often calls himself on the air, hangs on the wall of the main staircase.

Unlike many right-wing talk-show hosts, Limbaugh does not view France with hostility. On the contrary, he is a Francophile. His salon, he told me, is meant to suggest Versailles. His main guest suite, which I did not personally inspect, was designed as an exact replica of the presidential suite of the George V Hotel in Paris.

Limbaugh is especially proud of his two-story library, which is a scaled-down version of the library at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. Cherubs dance on the ceiling, leatherbound collections line the bookshelves and the wood-paneled walls were once “an acre of mahogany.”

A fastidious man, Limbaugh has a keen eye for domestic detail. His staff lights fragrant candles throughout the house to greet his arrival from work each day. Limbaugh led me into his private humidor, selected two La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel stogies for us to smoke and seated me at an onyx-and-marble table in the study. The room opens onto a patio, a putting green and a beach. On the table was a brochure for Limbaugh’s newest airplane, a Gulfstream G550. It cost him, he told me, $54 million.

Limbaugh can afford to live the way he wants. When we met he was on the verge of signing a new eight-year contract with his syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks. He estimated that it would bring in about $38 million a year. To sweeten the deal, he said he was also getting a nine-figure signing bonus. (A representative from Premiere would not confirm the deal.) “Do you know what bought me all this?” he asked, waving his hand in the general direction of his prosperity. “Not my political ideas. Conservatism didn’t buy this house. First and foremost I’m a businessman. My first goal is to attract the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates. I happen to have great entertainment skills, but that enables me to sell airtime.”

The average AM radio station reserves 18 to 20 minutes each hour for advertising, devotes about 5 minutes an hour to news and spends the rest of the time on other content. Limbaugh is not only paid by the stations, but his program also owns five minutes of every hour of airtime, which it can then sell to advertisers.

Some simply run their usual ads. Others use Limbaugh as their pitchman, which costs them a premium and a long-term commitment. And lately he has created a new option. At a much higher rate he will weave a product into his monologue (To a caller who said he took two showers after voting for Clinton in Operation Chaos, Limbaugh responded: “If you had followed my advice and gotten a Rinnai tankless water heater, you wouldn’t have needed to take two showers. And I’ll tell you why. . . .”)

Limbaugh is being uncharacteristically modest when he attributes his wealth to simple salesmanship. First, you have to draw — and keep — a crowd. “Rush is just an amazing radio performer,” says Ira Glass, a star of the younger generation of public-radio personalities. “Years ago, I used to listen in the car on my way to reporting gigs, and I’d notice that I disagreed with everything he was saying, yet I not only wanted to keep listening, I actually liked him. That is some chops. You can count on two hands the number of public figures in America who can pull that trick off.”

Glass compares Limbaugh to another exceptional free-form radio monologist, Howard Stern. “A lot of people dismiss them both as pandering and proselytizing and playing to the lowest common denominator, but I think that misses everything important about their shows,” he says. “They both think through their ideas in real time on the air, they both have a lot more warmth than they’re generally given credit for, they both created an entire radio aesthetic.”

LIMBAUGH STARTED LOSING HIS HEARING seven years ago, at the age of 50. Increasingly powerful hearing aids helped for a while, but eventually they stopped working. For almost two months he did his show without being able to hear a thing. Regular listeners began noticing that something was wrong. “When I found myself going deaf, I didn’t panic,” he told me. “I was diagnosed with auto-immune disease.” (Limbaugh says he doesn’t know what kind of auto-immune disorder it was.) “Once I knew the problem, I looked for a practical solution,” he continued. “Eventually I flew out to California and had a cochlear implant. Luckily, it worked.” Doctors, he told me, attribute this positive outcome to the relatively advanced age when he lost his hearing and the short time he was deaf.

Limbaugh is known for his wicked impersonations of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, John McCain and others.

“How can you imitate anyone if you can’t hear yourself?” I asked him.

He touched his throat. “I know how the muscles are supposed to feel when I do the voices.”

Limbaugh’s voice is his instrument, and he has been honing it since he began his radio career as a high-school disc jockey. He still loves music, although he hears it most clearly in his memory. “The last song I actually remember was probably a Luther Vandross tune,” he told me. “But if I put on oldies I know how they are supposed to sound.”

He still uses a lot of rock ’n’ roll in his broadcasts, introducing segments with Tina Turner’s “The Best” or sampling an old Bo Diddley riff: “Come on in closer baby, hear what else I got to say. You got your radio turned down too low. Turn it up!”

We were on the way to Trevini, one of Limbaugh’s favorite Palm Beach restaurants. Once again, Limbaugh was at the wheel. His girlfriend, Kathryn Rogers, a West Palm Beach events planner, rode shotgun. They met at a golf tournament last summer and have been an item since.

The Maybach was quiet enough for easy conversation, but the restaurant was a different story. We sat at a prime corner table, but the place was packed, and the decibel level caused him to frequently cup his hand to his ear, and sometimes miss entire sentences.

Throughout dinner, people approached our table. Most were prosperous-looking Republican men of a certain age. “God bless you,” they told him, or, “Keep up the fight.” He smiled and thanked them in a good-natured way. One elderly gent in a blue blazer and gray slacks went into a long spiel about his good works on behalf of several conservative causes. Limbaugh nodded through the recitation, but when the man left he confided that he had not understood a word of it.

Meanwhile, waiters buzzed around our table. They seemed to anticipate Limbaugh’s every wish, refreshing our drinks, serving unasked-for delicacies, periodically checking to make sure everything was exactly to Limbaugh’s satisfaction.

Table talk focused on Limbaugh’s house, or rather his concern over my reaction to it. That afternoon I wondered aloud what a single man with no kids could possibly want with a house that size. He frowned, obviously interpreting it as a hostile question, a Democrat question. Now he wanted to revisit the topic.

“When you saw my house today, you probably noticed that it isn’t filled with pictures of me and famous people,” he said. “That’s not me. I don’t have a home that says, ‘Look who I know!’ ”

“No, you have a home that says, ‘Look what I have.’ ”

“Why would you say that?” He sounded genuinely surprised, possibly even hurt.

“It might have something to do with that acre of mahogany you mentioned earlier.”

“My home is a place I feel comfortable in, a place for entertaining my friends and family,” he said.

Later, his friend Roger Ailes, a frequent guest and the chairman of Fox News, put the Limbaugh lifestyle in perspective. “He lives the way Jackie Gleason would have lived if Gleason had the money. Some people are irritated by it.”

Dinner was winding down, and I called for the check. It tickled Limbaugh to be taken out to eat on The New York Times. A few weeks later, he sent me a copy of an interview with Jeremy Sullivan, a waiter at the Kobe KobeClub in New York. Sullivan told a reporter that Limbaugh, a fellow Missourian, was the biggest tipper in town: “He likes to throw down the most massive tips I’ve ever seen. The last few times his tips have been $5,000.” When I read this, I felt a stab of guilt toward the hyperattentive staff at Trevini. If I had only known, I would have let Limbaugh leave the tip.

LIMBAUGH WAS A FAILURE almost as long as he has been a success. And although he is now an apostle of sunshine (“having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have,” he crows on his show), he spent many years trying to convince his family — and himself — that he wasn’t wasting his life.

People sometimes wonder if Rush is a real name. It is, times three. He was born Rush Limbaugh III in 1951, in the Mississippi River town of Cape Girardeau, Mo. Cape Girardeau was Eisenhower America, Middle Western but far enough South that Limbaugh’s younger brother David still speaks with a discernible twang. “Rush got the voice in the family,” he told me, unnecessarily.

The Limbaughs were local gentry. Rush’s grandfather, Rush Sr., was a venerated lawyer who practiced law past the age of 100. Uncle Steve Limbaugh is a federal judge, although he will soon step down as his son, Rush’s cousin Steve, joins the federal bench. David Limbaugh, who still lives in Cape Girardeau, writes books and a syndicated political column, along with handling his brother’s legal work.

Limbaugh’s father, Rush Jr., was a lawyer, too, a prominent local Republican activist and the most influential figure in his sons’ lives. He served as a pilot in World War II and became vehemently anti-Communist and very much committed to the ideas and ideals of small-town Protestant America. Limbaugh remembers his father playing host to Vice President Richard Nixon in Cape Girardeau in the 1956 election. To this day, Limbaugh calls his father “the smartest man I’ve ever met.”

Certainly he was one of the most opinionated and autocratic. “On Friday nights my friends would come over to the house just to listen to my dad rant about politics,” Limbaugh recalls. “He was doing the same thing as I do today, without the humor or the satire. He didn’t approve of making fun of presidents. He didn’t think that sort of thing was funny.”

Dick Adams, Rush’s boyhood friend and high-school debate partner, told me: “Mr. Limbaugh didn’t suffer fools lightly, let’s just put it like that. Many times I was over there when he called down Rush or David in harsh tones. There was usually a string of expletives attached.”

Father-son arguments weren’t political. Rush seems to have swallowed his father’s monologues whole. Like the great black singers of his generation, Limbaugh took the familiar pieties and ambient sounds of his time and place and used them to create a genre of entertainment, full of humor, passion and commercial possibility. There are many ways to look at Rush Limbaugh III: one is that he is the first white, Goldwater Republican soul shouter.

But first he had to get out of town.

“My father expected me to be a professional man,” Limbaugh told me. “The problem was, I hated school. I hated being told what to do. In the Boy Scouts I never got a single merit badge. In school my grades were terrible. I just didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to be on the radio.”

Rush’s father hoped the boy would grow out of this ambition. But to appease him, he lent 16-year-old Rush the money for a summer course in radio engineering in Dallas. Limbaugh returned with a broadcaster’s license, which he parlayed into a job at the local radio station. Soon he had his own show. Being on the radio made him a local celebrity, and he never lost the taste for it.

Limbaugh was miserable when his father insisted he attend college. Under protest he enrolled at nearby Southeast Missouri State University, where he lasted a year. Somehow he even contrived to flunk speech.

“My mother used to drive me there and pick me up, just to make sure I’d go,” he told me. “But it didn’t do any good. First chance I got, I was out of there.”

Limbaugh hit the road in a 1969 Pontiac LeMans. He spent the 1970s spinning records at radio stations around the country under the name Jeff Christie. From the start, he had a knack for making people laugh. In Pittsburgh he sometimes convinced callers he could see them via a special telephone. He did voices and parodies.

Limbaugh drifted from job to job. He was wounded by his father’s disapproval, unable to make a real go of the radio business and unlucky in marriage. In the mid-’80s he took a job in the front office of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. He was making $12,000 a year, and he almost quit to take a more lucrative job as a potato-chip distributor. “They were offering $35,000,” he told me. “That sounded like a lot of money.”

Instead, he decided to take a last gamble on his talent. He found a radio job in Sacramento where, for the first time, he started airing his conservative opinions and really developing his bombastic, politically incorrect, El Rushbo persona. The show was a hit.

“In those days the mainstream liberals had a media monopoly,” he says. “All three TV networks, CNN, Time and Newsweek, and the newspapers. AM radio was considered a dying venue. Nobody did political talk, let alone conservative political talk.”

Limbaugh said things that people had never heard on the radio. He mocked the women’s movement (“feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society”); scoffed at sex education (“condoms work only during the school year”); and took on conventional wisdom (“using federal dollars as a measure, our cities have not been neglected but poisoned with welfare-dependency funds”). It is hard to imagine, so many years later, how strange and rebellious, how simply wrong, such sentiments sounded.

In 1988, Limbaugh moved to New York and took his show national. He came to the city with the usual make-it-there, make-it-anywhere expectations. The show, carried locally on WABC-AM, was a national hit. But socially, he flopped.

“I assumed there was a fraternity of broadcasting guys in New York,” he told me. “I thought my success would launch me into a circle of accomplished people. Look, I admired these people. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather — people watched these guys. I thought they would welcome me as one of them. I was wrong.” Eventually Limbaugh came to a rather obvious conclusion. “I realized that my professional achievements were discounted because of my conservatism and my constant criticism of those who I thought would welcome me.”

Why on earth did he expect people he was mocking on the air to embrace him, I asked.

“Immaturity,” he said. “I was shocked by the visceral hatred. Nobody hated me growing up. Nobody hated me in Kansas City. Even in Sacramento, which is a liberal town, nobody hated me. That didn’t happen until I got to Manhattan.”

Not everyone in the big city gave Limbaugh the cold shoulder. William F. Buckley Jr., the publisher of The National Review, saw the young broadcaster’s star power and took Limbaugh into his orbit. Limbaugh was honored by the attention.

“I grew up on National Review and Mr. Buckley,” Limbaugh told me. “Aside from my father, he’s the most influential man in my life.” In Buckley’s circle he was an incongruous figure — provincial, self-educated and full of déclassé rock-and-roll enthusiasm. But Buckley took Limbaugh seriously, cultivated him, promoted him and saw to it that he connected with the right people.

Buckley died a few days after my first visit to Limbaugh in Florida. Limbaugh mourned him on the air and off. But he also had a sense that, with Buckley’s passing, he now became the movement’s elder statesman. Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at The National Review, watched Limbaugh’s tutelage under Buckley, and he takes Limbaugh seriously as a polemicist and public intellectual. “I hired a lot of people over the years, fancy kids from elite schools, and I always asked, ‘How did you become a conservative?’ Many of them said, ‘Listening to Rush Limbaugh.’ And often they’d add, ‘Behind my parents’ back.’ ”

Limbaugh’s audience is often underestimated by critics who don’t listen to the show (only 3 percent of his audience identity themselves as “liberal,” according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press). Recently, Pew reported that, on a series of “news knowledge questions,” Limbaugh’s “Dittoheads” — the defiantly self-mocking term for his faithful, supposedly brainwashed, audience — scored higher than NPR listeners. The study found that “readers of newsmagazines, political magazines and business magazines, listeners of Rush Limbaugh and NPR and viewers of the Daily Show and C-SPAN are also much more likely than the average person to have a college degree.”

For his part, Limbaugh sees himself as a thinker as well as showman. “I take the responsibility that comes with my show very seriously,” he told me. “I want to persuade people with ideas. I don’t walk around thinking about my power. But in my heart and soul, I know I have become the intellectual engine of the conservative movement.”

In truth, Limbaugh is less a theoretician than a popularizer of what he regards as the correct conservative responses to contemporary issues. Most of his concerns are economic. “I consider myself a defender of corporate America,” he told me. Limbaugh is admired by the religious right, but he is far from pious on matters of adult behavior. He is also one of the few commentators — left or right — who never speaks cloyingly about America’s obligation to its children and grandchildren.

Recently, I sent Limbaugh an e-mail message, his preferred means of long-distance communication, asking what his own presidential agenda would look like. His answer reflects his actual concerns. A Limbaugh administration would seek to:

1. Open the continental shelf to drilling. Ditto the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

2. Establish a 17 percent flat tax.

3. Privatize Social Security.

4. Give parents school vouchers to break the monopoly of public education.

5. Revoke Jimmy Carter’s passport while he is out of the country.

6. Abandon all government policies based on the hoax of man-made global warming.

No. 5 was a joke. I think.

EVERY APRIL, LIMBAUGH HOSTS A WEEKEND at his Palm Beach estate for his closest friends. This year the guest list included Roger Ailes, Mary Matalin and Joel Surnow, a creator of the television series “24” and a leader of the small Hollywood conservative community. The event is social but hardly nonpolitical.

Anyone looking for an informal gathering of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy could do worse than this. Limbaugh is also close to Karl Rove, who dined with him a few weeks earlier in Florida; Justice Antonin Scalia (last year he attended a dinner at cousin Steve Limbaugh’s Cape Girardeau home); and Justice Clarence Thomas (who officiated at Limbaugh’s third wedding). He describes his fellow Floridian Matt Drudge as a buddy. George H. W. Bush invited Limbaugh to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.

More recently, Dick Cheney toasted Limbaugh at a dinner party; a copy of the vice president’s remarks hangs on Limbaugh’s wall at home. But Limbaugh’s real hero and constant role model is Ronald Reagan.

Limbaugh admires many aspects of Reaganism, but he is especially animated by his belief in American exceptionalism. “Reagan rejected the notion among liberals and conservatives alike who, for different reasons, believed America was in a permanent state of decline,” he wrote to me in an e-mail message. “He had faith in the wisdom of the American people. . . . He knew America wasn’t perfect, but he also knew it was the most perfect of nations. Reagan was an advocate of Americanism.” In response to a separate question, he wrote: “America is the solution to the world’s problems. We are not the problem.”

Limbaugh said he believes that President George W. Bush is well meaning but far from the Reagan standard of excellence. “I like President Bush,” he wrote me, “but he is not a conservative. He is conservative on some things, but he has not led a movement as Reagan did every day of his career. Bush’s unpopularity is due primarily to his reluctance to publicly defend himself and his administration against attacks from the left. . . . The country has not tilted to the left in my view. What has been absent is elected conservative leadership from the White House down to the Congress.”

Needless to say, Limbaugh doesn’t see John McCain as the answer to this problem, and it infuriates him when McCain claims to be a Reaganite. “McCain and Reagan do not belong in the same sentence,” he wrote.

Of course, his problems with McCain won’t prevent Limbaugh from trying to defeat Obama or from trying to push McCain toward his views. Some think he is already succeeding in the latter mission. Mary Matalin, who has a great belief in Limbaugh’s powers of persuasion with the public, said: “Why do you think McCain changed on the immigration issue? Because of his advisers?”

Karl Rove says he thinks Limbaugh’s greatest influence in this election cycle will be as a backbone-stiffening agent: “He’s a leader,” Rove said. “If Rush engages on an issue, it gives others courage to engage.”

It is a tough job this year, and Limbaugh said he knows it. Despite his insistence that Obama is just another liberal, attacking and ridiculing him will be delicate work. “There is nothing worse than being branded a racist,” he told me at the end of our last meeting in Florida. “That’s what Bill Clinton tried to do to me.”

At the first White House correspondents’ dinner of the Clinton administration, the president cracked that Limbaugh had stood up for Attorney General Janet Reno, but he “only did it because she was attacked by a black guy.” (The “black guy” being Representative John Conyers.)

Limbaugh was in the audience, and he was livid. He demanded, and received, a White House apology. It was reminiscent of the time F.D.R. went after the legendary H. L. Mencken at a Gridiron Club dinner in 1934. Limbaugh took it as a warning. “If they successfully tar you as a racist, you are David Duke,” Limbaugh told me.

On May 16, Limbaugh delivered a monologue on what you can’t say about Obama: “With Obama we started out, we couldn’t talk about his big ears ’cause that made him nervous. We’ve gone from that to this: Not only can we not mention his ears, we can’t talk about his mother. We can’t talk about his father. We can’t talk about his grandmother unless he does, brings her up as a ‘typical white person.’ We can’t talk about his wife, can’t talk about his preacher, can’t talk about his terrorist friends, can’t talk about his voting record, can’t talk about his religion. We can’t talk about appeasement. We can’t talk about color; we can’t talk about lack of color. We can’t talk about race. We can’t talk about bombers and mobsters who are his friends. We can’t talk about schooling. We can’t talk about his name, ‘Hussein.’ We can’t talk about his lack of experience. Can’t talk about his income. Can’t talk about his flag pin. This started out we can’t call him a liberal. It started out we just couldn’t talk about his ears. Now we can’t say anything about him.”

So far Limbaugh’s tactic has been to frame his attacks on Obama in the words of liberals themselves. Among the musical parodies, which he writes with the comedian Paul Shanklin, in his arsenal is “Barack the Magic Negro,” sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” by a dead-on Al Sharpton impersonator. The song was met by indignation when he first played it in March — until Limbaugh revealed that the title and the idea of Obama as a redemptive black man à la Sidney Poitier — came from an op-ed piece written by a black commentator, David Ehrenstein, in The Los Angeles Times.

Sharpton is too much a master of such signification to miss the art in Limbaugh’s boomerang trick. “I despise his ideology,” Sharpton told me, “but Rush is a lot smarter and craftier than Don Imus. Limbaugh puts things in a way that he can’t be blamed for easy bigotry. Some of the songs he does about me just make me laugh. But he’s the most dangerous guy we have to deal with on the right, including O’Reilly and Imus. They come at you with an ax. He uses a razor.”

THE ATMOSPHERE in the studio on the morning after our dinner at Trevini was relaxed, even festive. When I arrived around 11, Limbaugh was at his computer, wearing shorts and doing prep.

Augusto, his personal chef, was there, preparing lunch, signaling an occasion. Limbaugh skipped the meal, explaining that he doesn’t eat close to show time for reasons of “burp prevention.” Snerdly, Dawn and the engineer joined me in the dining room, which looks as if it were decorated by Nancy Reagan’s fussy aunt.

Limbaugh’s program that day was, as usual, a virtuoso performance. He took a few calls, but mostly he delivered a series of monologues on political and cultural topics. Limbaugh works extemporaneously. He has no writers or script, just notes and a producer on the line from New York with occasional bits of information. That day, and every day, he produced 10,000 words of fluent, often clever political talk.

There was nothing he said that was startling — he spent parts of the show mocking Obama’s “change” mantra and excoriating those who believe in global warming and talking about foreign affairs. But if you think it is easy turning ancient Greenland, the influence of the teachers’ unions or changes in E.U. foreign policy into polemical comedy that will hold an audience for three hours — try it for 15 minutes at your next cocktail party.

Limbaugh entertains, but he also instructs. He provides his listeners with news and views they can use, and he teaches them how to employ it. “Rush is an intellectual-force multiplier,” Rove told me. “His listeners are, themselves, communicators.”

After the show, Limbaugh and I sat in the studio for several hours talking. He was in an expansive mood, and he didn’t duck when I asked him about the most infamous chapter of his career, his drug bust. In 2006, after years of addiction to painkillers, Limbaugh was charged in Florida with “doctor shopping” prescriptions. He pleaded not guilty and cut a deal; the charges would be dismissed after 18 months if he continued rehabilitation and treatment with a therapist.

Needless to say, the case became a national scandal. His enemies jeered that the white knight of American conservatism was a junkie. His fans feared the scandal might end his career. Some prayed for him. Limbaugh’s lawyer, Roy Black, hired a Florida psychologist, Steve Strumwasser, to evaluate his client.

“I assessed Rush, and I saw he had a problem he couldn’t control,” Strumwasser told me in a phone interview authorized by Limbaugh. “I knew his name and what he did for a living, but that’s about it.”

Strumwasser recommended that Limbaugh check into the Meadows, in Wickenburg, Ariz., a rehab center that specializes in celebrities.

“They guarded his privacy, but other than that, he was treated like everybody else,” said Strumwasser, who traveled with him to Arizona and checked him in. “Rush did individual therapy, took part in group sessions and got along with everybody.”

According to Strumwasser, Limbaugh had previously tried twice to stop using drugs on his own and failed. “It takes most people a lot of time to assume personal responsibility for an addiction,” he said. “Especially in a case like this, where there is a professional risk involved. But by the time I met him, Rush wasn’t denying his problem at all. He went about getting better in a very passionate way.”

The passion was muted when Limbaugh returned to the air, after six weeks. He candidly but drily, discussed his addiction and legal status, told his listeners that he was not a victim and then went on with the broadcast.

In the studio the day we spoke, Limbaugh was more emotional. “I thank God for my addiction,” he told me. “It made me understand my shortcomings.”

Being Limbaugh, he said he believes that most of these shortcomings stemmed from his inability to love himself sufficiently. “I felt everyone who criticized me was right and I was wrong,” he confided. But, he says, he left his insecurities behind in Arizona. “It’s not possible to offend me now,” he said. “I won’t give people the power to do it anymore. My problem was born of immaturity and my childhood desire for acceptance. I learned in drug rehab that this was stunting and unrealistic. I was seeking acceptance from the wrong people.”

Limbaugh told me he is no longer concerned about the opinions of his colleagues and rivals, and he makes no effort to disguise his contempt for most of them. Michael Savage, ranked No. 3 among talk-radio hosts by Talkers magazine? “He’s not even in my rearview mirror.” Garrison Keillor? “I don’t even know where to find NPR on the dial.”

At dinner the night before, Bill O’Reilly’s name came up, and Limbaugh expressed his opinion of the Fox cable king. He hadn’t been sure at the time that he wanted it on the record. But on second thought, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.”

Limbaugh does have his favorites. He admires Ann Coulter’s ability to outrage liberals. He is a fan of the columnists Camille Paglia and Thomas Sowell, both of whom he considers honest thinkers. And he is especially impressed by the essays of Christopher Hitchens. “He’s misguided sometimes, but when you read him, you finish the whole article.”

Limbaugh has a deeply conflicted attitude toward Sean Hannity, his one-time stand in and now perpetual No. 2 on the Talkers list. He speaks of the younger man with the same condescending affection that Muhammad Ali once showed Jimmy Ellis, a former sparring partner turned challenger. But he wanted me to remember who is the Greatest. “I have no competitors,” he said. “Hannity isn’t even close to me.”

Hannity became a touchy issue in the late spring. For more than a year he was on what appeared to be a quixotic campaign to raise the issue of Obama’s controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Then the story exploded. Not only that, Hannity also led the pack on Obama’s connection to the former Weatherman leader William Ayers. Operation Chaos was still garnering attention and amusing listeners, but the election news was being made elsewhere.

From New York, I sent Limbaugh a teasing e-mail message: “Hannity has been first and hardest on the Reverend Wright controversy and the Bill Ayers thing. Is it possible that he is running a separate Operation Chaos with superior intel?”

Limbaugh didn’t dispute that Hannity was first on the Wright and Ayers controversies. But, he wrote: “Things only take off when I mention them. That is the point.”

Two weeks later, The Daily Telegraph in London published a list of America’s most-influential pundits. Limbaugh finished fourth, behind Hannity. Once again I wrote a message to Limbaugh: “Are we looking at a changing of the guard on the right side of the dial?”

Limbaugh scoffed. “Since when have I cared what the media says?” he wrote. “Media polls are not the measure. Ratings ‘polls’ and revenue are. And it still ain’t close.”

I couldn’t resist. “I wasn’t asking about the media,” I wrote him. “I was asking about Hannity. Hannity can fairly take credit (as he does now, every night) for being more influential than any other commentator in changing the course of this election. That strikes me as new. Or am I wrong?”

At which point Limbaugh, who patiently and graciously answered dozens of my questions, allowed me to invade his bunker and his castle, shared hours of his time, permitted me access to his closest family and most-intimate friends, even his therapist, had enough. “Write what you want,” he snapped across cyberspace.

AS A BOY, Rush Limbaugh always preferred the company of adults, and it seems to me he doesn’t consider liberals to be real grown-ups. “They are destructive of the institutions and traditions that make this country great,” he says. “I want to reduce them to a small group. I want no more than 10 to 15 of them in Congress.”

Limbaugh has no illusions that this will be the result of the 2008 election. “Real conservatism wins every time it’s tried,” he told me. “But the party has abandoned conservatives as a base. McCain doesn’t want to criticize Democrats; he wants Democrats to vote for him.”

The oddity is that Limbaugh himself makes this strategy possible. Why, after all, should John McCain take the low road, antagonize independents and become embroiled in racial controversy when he can count on Limbaugh to become the G.O.P.’s most-effective unofficial Obama Criticizer?

If McCain wins, Limbaugh will spend the next four years tugging him to the right. If he loses, it will not be, in Limbaugh’s estimation, Limbaugh’s fault, and it won’t be the end of his world either. A secret of Limbaugh’s success is that his uncompromising, often harsh ideas are offset by a basically friendly temperament. He is less like his angry father than his mature role models, Buckley and Reagan, for whom sociability and fun were integral to their conservative world view.

And increasingly, he has other interests. He’s been spending more time with his extended family in Cape Girardeau, where he’s so popular that the municipality runs a Rush Limbaugh tour for visitors. He toys with the idea of buying an N.F.L. franchise. His friend Joel Surnow says that if there were a Rush Limbaugh movie, it would be something along the lines of “Citizen Kane” meets Howard Stern.

As for politics, Rush has already picked his candidate for the Conservative Restoration: Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a 37-year-old prodigy whom Limbaugh considers to be a genuine movement conservative in the Ronald Reagan mold — “fresh, energetic and optimistic in his view of America.” In the meantime, though, there’s the Democratic convention in Denver to muck around in, and then the main event in November. Operation Chaos is over, but Rush will come up with something new to delight his fans and infuriate his foes. Presidents rise and presidents fall, but “The Rush Limbaugh Show” will go on, weekdays at 12:06, Eastern Standard Time.

Zev Chafets is a frequent contributor to the magazine. His last cover story was about Mike Huckabee.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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