It's hard to run a business, and keep it running. It's even harder to be consistently funny. So imagine a funny outfit registering not only laughs but also some serious success in business. Peel away the layers, and you'll find lesson after lesson.
It's hard to be funny.
I learned this in high school. Jerry Seinfeld was a year ahead of me. He was funny and worked hard at it. Comedy looked too much like work, so I stuck with journalism. I'm his definition of "schoolyard funny," a wiseacre who remains an amateur.
I still admire people who can be funny on demand. It's a great skill to have, especially when times are tough. But it's also a demanding business to be in. You need a recognizable style ("what's this stuff about..."), you need consistency, and you need to deliver the goods.
I seldom visit Phil Kaplan's site anymore -- the joke has grown stale -- but he did manage recently to catch a memo to employees (which he claims he hasn't read) from a funny outfit with a lot of business wisdom inside it -- The Onion.
Onion Inc., based in Madison, WI, has some funny stuff, but it's actually a serious business. The memo, from President Pete Haise to all employees, also includes some valuable lessons all content sites need to memorize:
If the answer to that is "nothing," "nowhere," or "It's entirely too long, I'm tired, I haven't read it, have no clue what it's about, bleh," then you have a problem. Either find someone who isn't that bored and make him or her your boss (and accept your lowered financial horizons), or just get out of business.
Are you running a Web site or a Web business? Those who are running Web businesses not only read memos like Haise's, they write them.
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Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.
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