Blog Begets 100

It’s hard to believe this is my 100th post on Corporate Intelligence Radio.

I started this blog over two years ago, about the time I committed to writing my novel, which I announced last month.  Soon after I started the novel, it became clear that it was going to be a very long time before anyone read a word of it.  Initially I was okay with that.  Then it became overwhelming.  I needed to publish something, to start this dialogue, and I needed a way to warm up my fingers before filling blank pages with thousands of words.  The blog became part writing exercise, part wish-fulfillment, and part therapy.  It also caused me to talk less to our dog when I was having a particularly slow day on the word processor, which I am not sure she misses.

One of the questions I often get is why I called it Corporate Intelligence Radio.  My friend Mitch Dolan who used to run ABC Radio named it.  He likes to call me KennyG.  If you know me and you know my taste in music, KennyG is a tough fit other than the extrapolation of my name, but Mitch does like to come up with names where I’m concerned.  He knew my book was about a radio talk show host and that someday this blog would feed the story, and we have always talked about doing some kind of a show together, so he just said to me over dinner in New York, call it Corporate Intelligence.  I tried to get the URL for that but of course could not, so I added Radio and there you have it, a bit of nonsense referencing radio on the internet.  Maybe someday we will do that show together and it will make sense, or perhaps when you meet Kimo Balthazer, one of the main characters in This is Rage, you’ll understand.  Or maybe I’ll change it.  Who knows?  Another distinguished publisher I often cite has since started calling a section of their periodical Corporate Intelligence, but I predate them.  Plus I have my Twitter handle CorporateIntel, and that will always be mine.

There are a bunch of things I have learned since I began blogging.  They are the kinds of thing I really couldn’t have learned any way but doing it.  Here are a six (6) that come to mind:

1) STYLE IS CONTENT – For the first year, the hardest part was finding a voice.  I had lots of topics, things I wanted to write about, but finding the right conversational tone that could both be mine and yours was the hard part.  There were more things to write about than there was a clear way to express them.  The longer a post took to write, the less conversational it seemed.  I had to learn not to over rewrite, the opposite of the book, where there is no such thing.

2) CONTENT IS HARD – After the first year, coming up with a worthy topic became the hard part.  I had honed my blogging voice, but I didn’t want to bore you with things that didn’t matter.  To this day I would write more often if I could think up more interesting stuff to write about, but I have a newfound respect for journalists who write a weekly column.  For the old school guys who did it daily — Herb Caen (San Francisco Chronicle), Jack Smith (Los Angeles Times), and Mike Royko (Chicago Tribune) — I have no idea how they did it without going bonkers.  Sports writers and movie reviewers enjoy a steady stream of topics, news reporters get desk assignments, columnists just gaze until something comes to mind.  Pondering is weird, and makes you weirder.

3) THE FIX IS IN – Electronic publishing is really cool, because it lets you fix things and change your mind.  I have rewritten very little once I have published here, but every once in a while when I think of a better adverb, I can deploy it painlessly and not even tell you.  I can unceremoniously make a No a Yes and vice-versa after rethinking it.  I love the Update button on WordPress.  Sometimes I wish the rest of the world had an Update button — or the “recall” function on email actually worked, which we know it does not.

4) KEYWORDS RULE, DUDE – Keywords are the lifeblood of online traffic acquisition.  Learning to tag is an art and a science, brewed with a touch of alchemy.  It never ceases to amaze me how people get here, but other than regular readers, the best door remains random keyword searches, that in Google’s eyes aren’t random.  So many of my readers land here accidentally because I indexed well on some search term they queried,  and then they subscribe without my asking.  What Google sees matters, and what Google indexes is the whole shooting match (plus good writing, of course).

5) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT STICKS – There is literally no way to know what will get people’s attention and inspire their imagination.  Little throwaway pieces I have done have become among my most read, and proclamations of vision and justice died in a few days.  You write, and then you set it free.  Words have a life of their own after you give them away, and the writer doesn’t get to decide their fate, only their intention, which matters increasingly little across the democratic digital world.

6) TALKING BACK CAN BE A QUIET AFFAIR – I get a lot more private than public comments.  No matter how much I encourage people to comment publicly, most people are shy, especially when they have to post under their own name.  I don’t blame people for this, who wants to say something in public and risk attack for no particular gain, but it does remind me how brave and vulnerable all writers are.  I have become increasingly brave and vulnerable each time I push the publish button, and that’s with a book of fiction on the horizon.  Oy, please come along with me, and hey, keep the comments coming, public or private.

So here we are together at my one hundredth blog post, and this is an especially ironic bit of timing because I have just submitted my pre-copy-edit draft of the book to my wonderful publisher, The Story Plant.  I promise you I didn’t time it this way, it just sort of happened.  I used the blog to pace writing the novel from the blank page through countless rewrites, and sure enough it all came together this year right before Memorial Day.  I will continue to blog on the topics I cherish — innovation, creativity, imagination, leadership, vision, business ethics, smart marketing, well-reasoned investment strategy, creative destruction, and every so often politics (say it ain’t so!) — and I will also keep you posted as we take my novel from manuscript to release date on October 8, 2013.

I have already begun discussion of a follow-up book and may bend your ear on that, and of course I want to include you in the sales and marketing journey as my first book comes to market in paperback and eBook.  Mostly I just want to thank you for being friends, listeners, readers, and clever people who tell me things I need to know.  I have learned way more from writing this blog then I ever imagined, and it is because of you.  Writers write surely to be true to themselves, but without an audience it is even more lonely an activity than good sense would suggest.  Knowing someone will read the words and share the ideas makes it a community, and hey, that’s intensely gratifying.

Again, my deepest and most sincere appreciation for sharing the journey with me!  We’re maybe in the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader, so grab a bag of peanuts and plan to stay awhile.  We still have a lot of ground to cover and it will be entirely more rewarding if we do it together.

100 Candles

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Corporate Intelligence Radio is On The Air

Isn’t this where we came in… ?

My Turn
by Ken Goldstein
Game Daily, January 2004

Happy New Year! Holiday 2003 is now handed off to accounting, winners and would-be winners for the key selling season are now largely known, and one thing becomes certain: the uncertainty of a platform shift looms menacingly ahead.  Details will begin to unfold, and together we lean forward to the next frontier… but if history tells the tale, not before one last great harvest.

Thus our beloved game industry is presented with a significant opportunity over the next few years.  The entertainment community is taking note that games are a meaningful business opportunity, no longer a niche play.  Mainstream press and consumer audiences are taking note as well.  Since the turn of the Millennium we have seen a huge up-tick in consumer and business press devoted to games, not to mention dedicated cable TV channels now focusing on our universe.  My sense is that once again the challenge for our industry is one of creativity – how will we manage through the dip that so often precedes full acceptance of next generation platform evolution?

My fear is that because we have done such a good job squeezing performance out of our current platforms, we may squander these precious years – a time when we have a ripe audience for the innovation of our field, our art form, and when we could be meaningfully broadening our core audience, surging into the mainstream and building our future.

More specifically, my fear is that because we’ve maxed out technology on current platforms – games are as realistic as they are going to be in the near term and you can’t throw more polygons at a game to leapfrog the competition until new machines arrive – we will wait around for technology to push us forward rather than showcase and advance the field while we have the world’s attention.  Current trends seem to support that.  More and more games seem to be relying on pure outrageousness to drive hype, and not surprisingly, exploiting those all too familiar lowest common denominators.  The wow factor of current platforms is behind us, so why not get headlines the easy way: shock and awe.

I’m taking “My Turn” to challenge us as an industry to resist the pull of this platform shift to lull us into creative laziness.  I am in no way puritanical, there is nothing I would not do to defend our First Amendment rights, and I am not saying there aren’t businesses to be built on more exploitative titles.  What I am saying is that there are very good businesses, as well as interesting, creative and innovative games based on strong characters and storytelling, to be created if we make this a priority.   Examples already exist: Mario, The Sims, Oddworld, Animal Crossing, the Backyard Sports series.  But there are not enough.  Look at the past holiday release list and you won’t find a great deal of diversity – and for where our overall market stands, you might conclude we left money on the table as a result of a too narrow focus.  You see it coming every year at E3, just walk around and you aren’t surprised with tone we set for success.

I know what many of you are thinking.  You’re Disney, your brand compels you to pursue E rated, non-violent games.   While that is indeed true, I continue to believe our industry as a whole will benefit if we begin to offer a broader array of games to consumers, and a much deeper selection of non-violent games.  I’m also not necessarily speaking of E rated or children’s games.  The true market leaders of our industry, those who find repeat creative and financial success year after year, fully embrace the notion that it is smart business to make interesting games – even war games – without piling on gratuitous sex or violence.

If there is at last an underlying art and science to what we do that is a partner of commerce, then perhaps there is nobility in not letting our talent be exploited.  There is revenue, and plenty of it, to be found beyond the obvious.  The market will always decide what titles make it and while I am certain the young adult male audience always will support mature rated games, I wonder who is not playing games, or not playing very often, because the options we have presented are limited.  Simply put, we are not going to increase female gamer counts with the current top ten.  Roughly speaking, that is one in two human beings we continue to chose not to serve.  And yet, I have seen our own Toontown Online take the MMORPG genre into this realm, where boys and girls, gamers and non-gamers, parents and children all play in the same virtual space.  If there is a more hard core genre than MMORPG, I await the opportunity to play there as well.  Creative challenges are met by inspired individuals because they are driven by a muse, not seduced by easy money.  And by the way, in a platform shift, there is no easy money.  It will take every brain cycle we have to get our businesses to the other side.

Let’s not ride out the platform shift waiting for technology to push us creatively.  Let’s take the higher ground, take some risks, and do something interesting with our collective talents – and while we’re at it, let’s broaden the game market so that when we have more polygons connected through broadband networks, we have many, many more players who are waiting for us to deliver against our artistic potential.