I’m diggin’ the new ads.txt initiative from IAB:

The mission of the ads.txt project is simple: Increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers and is a simple, flexible and secure method that publishers and distributors can use to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory.

I found out about this via Google’s Doubleclick for Publishers documentation:

Use of ads.txt is not mandatory, but is highly recommended. The ads.txt file can help you protect your brand from counterfeit inventory that is intentionally mislabelled as originating from a specific domain, app, or video. Declaring authorized sellers can help you receive more advertiser spend that might have otherwise gone toward counterfeit inventory.

While I’m not doing much ad management these days, I think it’s valuable to look at both sides of the (current) ecosystem, at what’s happening on both the publisher and advertiser side of things.

Solve for the one before solving for the many.

By doing freelance work (like consulting, writing, designing… for example), you can learn how you solved it for that one person, what went right, what went wrong, and what they valued the most about the solution. Then do it again for someone else, and learn from it. Then again, then again.

Source: Freelancers make the best products

Related: Do things that don’t scale.

Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.

If products are all about scaling an experience, you need to figure out what that experience is. Then you start replacing the manual processes and handcrafted messages with smart automation and time-saving templates. Then the human effort moves elsewhere, like to enterprise sales or higher-tier support.

Microsoft completed their mission. Now what?

“The problem, in hindsight, was clear. Microsoft was a company that had already fulfilled its mission. There actually WAS a computer on every desk and in every home. So now what?”

via Satya Nadella, Empath.

Enjoyed this read on how Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has taken the company in a new direction. It’s about his new book, Hit Refresh, but it’s also about his philosophy on corporate culture and what makes an organization great.

Another choice excerpt:

“In Hit Refresh Nadella is resetting any number of old Microsoft habits, and giving his troops black-and-white, on-the-record permission to do things a new way. Partnerships? Yes, we’re going to be the best partner out there (this was never Microsoft in its first two incarnations). Cloud-based AI-driven products that are responsive to customer data in real time? That’s what we’re all about! Abandoning old school, short term profits in favor of costly but long term winning strategies? All in! Thinking about sustainability and impact across all stakeholders, not just shareholders? Check, check, and check!”

The three most powerful email automations, according to Paul Jarvis

Another delight from Paul’s Sunday Dispatch newsletter:

  1. Before the (hopeful) purchase: Make sure your leads get to know you before you try and sell them stuff. Educate them, show them why what you’re selling is valuable, show them there’s more than just you talking about your products.

  2. After the purchase: Make sure your customers know how to, then use what they’ve just bought. Teach them the ins and outs or little tricks. Show them what they bought is valuable and how they apply that value to their own lives or businesses.

  3. Building the relationship: Make sure you keep them coming back for more. Give them a reason to. And then treat them like super stars when they do.

Relevant aside: Paul sells a MailChimp training course called Chimp Essentials.

I don’t use MailChimp much these days — I work at GoDaddy and we have GoDaddy Email Marketing, aka GEM — but if you’re a MailChimp user, his course is worth a look. 🙂


Launch ASAP and iterate.

Surprisingly, launching a mediocre product as soon as possible, and then talking to customers and iterating, is much better than waiting to build the “perfect” product.

Source: YC’s essential startup advice

This applies as much to content and media as it does to products.

Shows take a while to find their footing. Writers take a while to find their voice. Performances take a while to find the flow between talent.

That gap between when you start and when you hit your stride will be a different lengths for different projects. And sometimes you won’t hit your stride at all.

Those times when the recipe is off, when the formula doesn’t work? Those are painful. But the faster you try, and the faster you fail, the less time you’ll waste, and the sooner you’re on to the next thing.

Quick note though: This “move fast and break things” mantra doesn’t apply across the board. There’s a tipping point where risk and responsibility demand a cautious approach. (Lookin’ at you, heart surgeons!)

But there’s a balance, I’m sure, somewhere in the middle, where you can preserve the startup spirit of risk and reward, without abandoning diligence altogether.

Productize your services.

One reason that many freelancers burn out is because they offer services, but not products. Services tend to be customized to the client’s need and billed by the hour. Products are customized by you and sold for a flat rate. Products also create the opportunity to create a repeatable process that can be streamlined as you sell more. This means your margins can increase as you are able to work more efficiently and eliminate or automate some of the administrative work that typically goes into services.

Source: How to Make $100,000 Per Year as a Freelancer | QuickBooks

If I were to get into freelancing again I’d absolutely structure my services as a product.

Everything else — the labour, the method, the work that gets done to deliver the product — becomes a system to refine and scale over time.