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November 9, 2007

Closing Keynote With Mark Cuban

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(Please excuse any crazy grammar in this one. I had even less time to reread it and edit than I usually do. Take pity.)

Boo. Hiss. Scowl.

Sorry, had to get that out of the way. Let me tell you that the line to get into the Mark Cuban keynote was absolutely insane. I’m talking all the way down the hall. And that was for those of us that got here 20 minutes early. Luckily, I managed to get seat. You’d swear they were secretly hiding Britney Spears in here or something.

Our moderators tell us that Mark speaks his mind. He participates in the discussion, He promotes and challenges us. Aw!

Mark takes center stage and starts off. He says…

It’s funny talking about blogging and doing Dancing with the Stars (he brought that up pretty quickly, eh?). The experience with Dancing with the Stars taught him so much about the value of different mediums. People would tell him that they read his blog but now little old ladies come up to him and tell him that he was cheated and that the judges were mean to him.

Mark started blogging in 2004 after he did an email interview with the Dallas Morning News about the Dallas Mavericks and everything he said was completely misconstrued. That day Mark decided it was time to start a blog and the first thing he did was post the email exchange he had with the newspaper to show what really happened during the interview. He says the response was amazing.

It was really important in regards to the response he got from the newspaper. The Dallas Morning News learned that they couldn’t just write what they wanted. That’s when people realized that blogging isn’t just about people getting things off their chest. It’s a way for the truth to come out and to create a forum for people to exchange ideas.

As his blog evolved over time, he started to understand what blogging meant to him. In the past, he could call up his buddies and they could talk about all the stuff that was on their mind, but it was limited to the 5 or 10 drunks that he knew. Blogging changed that. With his blog he gets to talk to a whole universe of people. The importance of the blog and the exchange wasn’t what he was saying; it was about how everyone else was responding and what they were saying.

He talks about when Steve Nash left the Mavericks to go to the Phoenix Suns. He knew the media would have a field day so he decided to pre-empt them. He used his blog to write verbatim the entire process of what happened with Steve Nash and the Mavericks agents. More than a million people read that blog entry. The software couldn’t even support all the comments that were left. That comments he got from that entry changed Mark’s perceptions of the Mavericks. Mark learned that he doesn’t own the Mavericks, Dallas Fort Worth does. He just takes care of them. He got to see that what he wrote was just a tiny, tiny part of the importance of the blog.

One of the biggest challenges in the movie business isn’t trying to make it, but trying to market it. He wrote a blog entry challenging people to come up with a better way to market movies. He got 1,500 responses. One from a grassroots marketing agency and now they’re trying to link up voting stats with what movies people are interested in.

The key to a successful blog is honesty. Are you honest with what you write or are you not? Are you writing about things that you think will help get your blog read? If you are, you’re no better than mainstream media and people will see right through you. When Mark sells something on Blog Maverick, he’s honest about the fact that he’s pitching to them. He learned from his experiences on Dancing with the Stars (ding!) that you have to be brutally honest. We’re all trying to find a way to brand ourselves. That’s the hardest job in the world. If you’re going to be successful in doing that, you have to be brutally honest.

When you start blogging you often start putting filters on what you say. Fight the temptation to pander for readers.

Mainstream media is trying to introduce blogs. He doesn’t get that. Either you’re a reporter or you’re not. Putting a newspaper on a Web site doesn’t make you a blogger.

If you’re not part of an aggregation environment you have to work extra hard because beyond honesty what has to stand out is effort. As witty as we all think we are, and as exciting as we think our opinions are, we only have X number of them. At some point you’re going to run out of steam. In order to break through the barriers and the writers block, you have to do the work.

Mark wrote a blog recently about Facebook and the potential of them opening up their API vs. what Google is doing with Open Social. When he started doing more and more homework on it he realized that if he didn’t keep doing research he would look dumb when it tried to publish it. He didn’t want that. He says that if you want to be a profitable blogger, you have to do the work. Everyone thinks they’re "the witty guy" "in the group. Well, that’s not holding up any longer. You have to be more than that.

If you’re in the business of blogging you have to compete with nonbloggers. It’s your opinion vs. the NYT opinion vs. the WSJ. You have to keep replenishing yourself and you do that through old fashioned research and work.

Decide if this is full time for you or part time. Is this who you really are or is it not who you really are? Are you still a blogger if you’re getting paid to blog for someone else and it’s all about the money? What’s the difference between someone getting paid to write for a blog and someone getting paid to write for mainstream media? The best blogs are the ones where people don’t think of it as a full time job. When you take the step to be paid to blog you lose your ability to be perfectly honest because somebody wants something when they pay you money.

[So, you're not a real, authentic blogger if you're getting paid for it? What sense does that make?]

One of the hardest things Mark has gone through with blogging is resisting the temptation to fight back. Everyone has an adjective to define Mark. Once you start using your blog as a baseball bat, things get really different. The hardest entries to go back and read are the ones where you’re screaming and yelling. Before you write something, remember that these posts are forever, even if you try to delete the post afterwards. The wars that seem important today won’t see important down the road.

What appears to be an honest answer that brands you successfully today may not be the same way in 2008 and beyond. Realize that what you write is going to brand you for years to come. It’s going to tell your kids, your employees and your friends exactly who you are. You have to be extremely aware of that. Mark says he’s not one to hold back, but he’s got a lot more money than us. Heh. He can stand on stage and be in situations and not care, but not everyone is that fortunate. You have to care.

Question & Answer

You don’t have advertising on your blog. Do you think its better in the early stages of starting your blog to stay away from advertising?

Mark says absolutely. If you get a sponsor early on, those people own you. He also says that ads cheapen blogs. Do you trust a blog with or without ads more? Once you start getting traffic, then you can make a decision. But at the beginning, he doesn’t think you should do it.

How do you find time to blog?

It’s on the fly. He blogs when he comes across things that are of interest to him. He’s interested in technology so he tries to pay attention to things that are happening around him. When he starts trying to think things through it typically generates a blog post. For someone in the corporate, blogging is a way to proactively communicate. You’re going to have to spend time dealing with customers one way or another. Blogging lets you proactively answer customer’s questions. It’s better to have people comment on your blog then to have them go to a forum somewhere and kill your company. He thinks its time saved, not time lost.

Have you ever considered turning off comments

Absolutely. He’s turned them off and he’s deleted them. With anonymity on blog posts, people say the darndest things. Hee. Your blog is not just an open forum, it’s yours. That’s not to say that criticism can’t help you, it can. He has no problem turning off or deleting comments.

You asked people to vote for you on DWTS. Did it work?

I was a complete whore asking people to vote for me. I think it worked.

[He rambles more about Dancing with the Stars and how the voting system worked. I'm not liveblogging it because really, who cares. If you do care, Mark says he'll be doing the foxtrot in the finale. He also thinks Marie Osmond may have fainted her fainting spell. He says he's kidding but I don't believe him.]

What do you think of the future of blogging? What can change?

The history of blogging is just Web sites. You can go back all sorts of years.

How did you get to where you are? Do you have mentors?

I’ve never been a mentor guy. I’m a bull in a china shop. I’m ready, fire aim. The cool thing that he’s been able to experience is that he’s had great timing and a whole lot of luck a few times. Technology is changing so fast that all he has to do is work harder than his competition to beat them.





One response to “Closing Keynote With Mark Cuban”

  1. Jill writes:

    Interesting. Thanks, Lisa!

    But I do think you are the unusual one who gets paid for blogging and is still able to be authentic. I bet for many under those circumstances, Mark Cuban is probably right.



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