Monday, November 9, 2009

The Medium is the Message: What "Free" Means to an Internet Marketer

Well, Mr. Fire took a solo trip up to New York City where he twitted away like he was in the lap of luxury that he's never experienced before. He even ate at the same restaurant movie stars do! Wow! The innocent, child-like schtick goes far, though, as at least one of his fellow twits wrote that he was so down to earth.

I guess she isn't aware of his extensive car collection or his lavish Rolls Royce, his first class flights, etc.

Don't know which planet earth she referred to, as it most certainly isn't the one I'm walking on.

Vitale was the last segment of the Fox and Friends morning show, encompassing all of 4 minutes. His primary focus was selling his latest book, Attract Money Now. The book is available as a free download or for $30 if you want a hardcover.

Across every single page of this book is a mention of his miracles coaching program. The back is chock full of mentions of his products. Well, no wonder he's giving it away. No wonder he's got infomercials airing across the country promoting the book.

We're led to believe he's giving you a gift, a gift of precious information he's learned over 30 years of building the Vitale Marketing Empire, a gift he's giving away out of the goodness of his heart. But any rational person would have to be suspicious of someone who would spend so much time and energy to give away a book, especially someone who performs as much conspicuous consumption as Joe Vitale.

I don't discount that there may be valuable information in the book. I don't discount that there may be some value in some of his products.

The problem happens when we begin to associate the value of the information with the values of the individual. These things are mutually exclusive. Just because he's giving away information, information that is pretty much available many other places, this does not mean he's a good person doing this out of the goodness of his heart.

The INTENT is what is important here.

Vitale is a businessman, a businessman whose present and past behavior points towards one thing and one thing only: making a profit at all costs. The profit comes first and foremost in his intent.

You only have to look towards some of his products and services to understand this.

So, say you read the book and decide to purchase products or spend thousands on his miracle coaching program.

Does Joe Vitale himself become your "miracle" coach? Far from it. He's got a staff of many individuals who will provide this service, and upsell you on other services. Their job is also primarily to turn a profit, a profit for the miracle program. Vitale himself does not oversee this individuals. In fact, you're not even working with a company he owns. He's outsourced it. These miracles coaches are going to do their best to turn a profit for THEIR company and employer, too.

Look, Vitale started out as an internet marketer. Do people forget this? He likes to call himself the buddha of the internet, whatever the hell that means. His fortunes started because he was good at writing copy, writing copy that encouraged people to buy. He sold this skill to corporations for a large sum, and then he began to turn that skill towards making his own corporation financially successful.

The message may be altruistic, but the medium is the message in this case, too. The medium of a "free" book, conspicuously given away, should be your foundational message about what the book means. Take whatever information from it that helps you, but make sure you realize that the information that helps you is cloaked in a sales letter intent upon upselling you much more expensive products and services.


  1. It's a good argument, it doesn't quite do it for me. You see, Joe was pretty much inspired to give away his book by his friend Todd Silva following an interview on his radio station.
    I genuinely believe on some level Joe Vitale has a pure intention to put the book into the hands of people and benefit them.
    You can argue that the intent behind some of his other products may not be as altruistic, but this one, I believe, is genuine.

  2. "The medium of a 'free' book, conspicuously given away, should be your foundational message about what the book means."

    The operative word here is "conspicuous." So many in the New-Wage biz play the conspicuous-altruism card as it suits them. Occasionally the altruism may come in the form of, say, a generous donation to help save an individual person (particularly a child) who is ill or suffering from some sort of trauma. It's a win-win situation; the child gets helped, for a while, anyway, and the giver gets to write a few blog posts showcasing his/her generosity.

    Sometimes the altruism may show up as a "charity" or program devoted to a serious social problem such as homelessness or poverty. Never mind that the program doesn't actually seem to be *accomplishing* anything, other than operating as a placeholder. It's something that the New-Wage guru can point to as yet more proof of sincere goodheartedness.

    In the case of the "free" digital version of "Attract Money Now," the "gift" is a pretty transparent marketing ploy. And it appears that the folks on the FOX & Friends "Aftershow Show" weren't buying Joe's "karmic marketing" spiel. Yet some folks apparently are, judging by that Tweet you linked to above. Even Joe's sweetie Nerissa contributed her part to pimping him as generosity personified, when she Tweeted about him paying his own expenses to New York. Are we supposed to be impressed that he treated himself to a first-class flight, a high-end hotel room that even included a butler, and dinner at a celebrity-infested restaurant? And then Tweeted nonstop about it?

    There seems to be more than a hint of desperation in some of his more recent marketing ventures. Any day now, I expect to see him selling the "digital version" of his Rolls-Royce Mastermind sessions for only $97. ("That's a $900 discount off the regular price! Pat said I was crazy to do it, but I know times are hard and I want YOU to have this.") For your $97 you'll get unlimited printouts of pictures of the interior of the Phantom (a you-are-there perspective). The package will of course include audio files of Joe spouting some inspirational platitudes and Pat playing some music to help jump-start your creativity. And it will include an optional upgrade to a real RR Mastermind session, with a $97 discount. What a deal! With your digital Rolls *and* your digital wish-dolly, there's no telling what you can accomplish for Joe's bottom line.

    PS ~ My verification word is "tranny." Does the Googlebot know something we don't?!?

  3. Thanks for your comment, Mark. We're all entitled to our opinions, and the only person who knows REALLY what the intent of this product is is the man himself. I'm going to stand by my observations, though.

  4. Mark, although Joe has mentioned his friend Todd Silva on an occasional blog post, I believe he got his real inspiration for the freebie marketing plan from Chris Anderson's book, 'FREE.' He Tweeted about that work shortly before he began promoting the Attract Money Now "free" book, and he blogged about it once the marketing was underway:

    I have a copy of the free digital version of the book, and frankly, I had trouble getting past the "Author's Amazing Introduction," which starts out with a copied-and-pasted blog post about a conversation Joe had with a couple of participants who went on one of his $5,000-a-head Rolls Royce Mastermind dinners. According to Joe, one woman asked him to tell the tale of how he became homeless, and he pretended that it was a question he'd long been dreading. He wrote that he had never told the story before, up until then. And then he made kind of a big deal about screwing up his courage and proceeding to tell the tale.

    But in fact he HAD told it at least twice during interviews in recent months previous to that night. And one of his readers even pointed this out to him in a comment to the blog. So if he can't even tell the truth at the beginning of the book...

    Not that there isn't some good advice within its pages, among all of the requisite self-promotional stuff. But it's basically the same thing he's written hundreds of times before, repackaged as yet another "new" seven-step formula.

    Moreover, for people who are really struggling and don't even have regular and reliable Internet access, a free digital version of a book (that is so "secure" it cannot be printed out) is really not much of a gift.

    So when Mr. Fire says, "I’m honoring my heart, my passion, and the Divinely inspired marketing idea," you're welcome to read anything you want into that, as am I. My take on it is that Burned By Fire's observations are spot-on.

  5. I forced myself to actually download and READ the entire eBook, so that I would have enough information with which to make an informed opinion.

    I am in no position to judge the man's intentions - after all, I am not in his shoes - but I absolutely can examine the content of the book and decide if it has value.

    What I discovered as I read, is that the "steps" are written in such a way as to ensure that the serious student will NOT be able to "attract money" without getting additional education.

    The action steps are very much like saying "Buy Low, Sell High" without telling what to buy, how much is low, how much is high, where to sell, how to sell etc. They may be accurate, but they are incomplete, and do not stand alone.

    In addition to the MANY links to Joe's products and services, the emphasis on thinking up a product or service that can be sold on the internet is a veiled sales pitch for internet marketing classes and tools.

    Take a look at Step 6, which is "Think Like An Entrepreneur" [Internet Marketer would have been more accurate]

    "write down 10 things you love to do

    consider which one you could turn into a product or service

    write down ways you could sell your product or service online

    take action today to make it happen"

    Not very helpful, but a second "hypnotic" suggestion that learning internet marketing would be an appropriate action.

    I suppose that from a purely marketing standpoint, it's a pretty slick item. However, that said, it's one more example of what I don't want my writing to be.

    Oh, wait, I almost forgot - there actually is one good piece of advice in the book - in the afterward portion:

    #28 Get a job. While you pursue your dream, feed yourself with work.

  6. LOL, CCGAL.

    Once again, that entire list in the Afterword is recycled material:

    But what a list it is -- full of useful tips such as Number 7, "Watch the movie 'The Secret'"; and Number 8, "Watch...'The Compass,'"; and Number 9, "Watch...'Try It On Everything.'" (You'll have the time and mental space to do all of this if you do Number 11, "Turn off the mainstream news.")

    Number 26 on that list is pretty useful too: "Imagine what you would do if you won the lotto for $37,000,000. Do it."

    But the most useful of all is Number 17: "Practice the seven steps in Attract Money Now."

  7. "buddha of the internet" is really funny. he calls himself that b/c of his supposed 'spiritual and marketing acumen.' don't forget he also calls himself the "charles atlas of the internet." as i recall that is b/c of his devotion to fitness & weight lifting etc. i suppose that lugging such a ginormous ego around for so many years would help a guy develop muscles.

  8. All I have to say on this topic is that a gift is not a gift unless it is given freely and lovingly, fully released, and given without the expectation of some future recompense.

  9. I just watched the Fox video, and was delighted at the subtle knowing looks the news guys exchanged among themselves, as if to say, "this guy is such a bullsh*t artist!".

    I was amazed to hear JV describe the rudraksha seeds he is wearing as "prosperity seeds"; wow, it really is all about the money, eh, Joe?

    Hey, maybe Shiva needs to take Joe's course on how to use correctly those "prosperity seeds" that he loves wearing himself - head to toe.

    Get with the times, Shiva. You wear deerskin and ride a bull?? Listen to Joe! Attract money now, with them prosperity seeds you gave to the world. Time to upgrade to a million dollar mansion and a Rolls.