How come I didn’t hear about the buzz agents next door?

Commerce | Access/Network
Thanks to the Rob Walker’s article in the NY Times today — the media does not get more elite or mainstream than that– I learned about BzzAgent, the company that pioneered Word of Mouth marketing over two years ago. The article also the curious story of David Wallace, a London man who began a cult all by himself simply by asking people to sign up. They do good deeds.

Savor the irony. I keep hearing that the mainstream media doesn’t get it. How come I haven’t heard of BzzAgent before via the alternative media? I read plenty of magazines. Ok, I’m out of the loop on a lot of marketing trends, that’s what what marketing friends are for. How come I didn’t hear through social networking sites, like Friendster and LinkedIn, where I’m four degrees away from BzzAgent founder Dave Balter. It’s even a Boston company!

I don’t read many blogs, as very few live up to my reader standards of journalistic convention– like a summarizing layout, an editorial focus, etc. But I thought I would be aware of this from some of the leading experts in the year.

One such person is Doug Rushkoff, whom I’ve been reading for six years, and email a few times a year. Nothing on his blog, besides some update about trying to fix MovableType, but if I recall, the the Rushkoffs are expecting their first daughter this month. I watched his Frontline documentary on “The Persuaders” last month, as well as his “Merchants of Cool” in 2002. The closing message of each of these shows has been a Pogo-like realization: “they” (those evil marketers) are now “us,” as we are all marketers now. Walker’s article adds the additional revelation that many of the Bzz “Agents” are mostly volunteers. They don’t get paid, and they like to do it.

Seth Godin got some nice coverage in the article, which is why he gives gives props to Rob Walker in his blog. I wonder why I never really paid attention to Godin before? Whatever was Rushkoff’s advice, I wondered. Searching Google for Godin Rushkoff I find an article in disinformation where Alex Burns passes along on Rushkoff’s thoughts on Godin’s Unleashing the Media Virus: “That book that bastardized Media Virus?” ( Burns thinks highly of Rushkoff, writing in another piece that Rushkoff “is a candidate for the most high-profile (and widely read) cyberculture analyst to emerge from the US in the early 1990s”)

I also might have expected to hear this from the ol’ Cluetrain Manifesto, the book version of which was picked by Business Week as the #6 business book of 2000. The online version still lists its “95 Theses,” about the supposed revolution in marketing due to the Internet. They did not use the phrases “viral” or “word of mouth,” but they sound awfully similar: #18: “Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity. #25: “Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.” #91: “Our allegiance is to ourselves– our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.” I skimmed through most of the book earlier this year, found it rather obvious, but did like the section where one of the authors explained how he broke all the rules of PR at his firm– talking directly to real people instead of writing bland press release. If only he stuck with the idea. The Cluetrain website tells me to follow the conversation continues on the separate websites of its authors.

Which I did, running a Google search on each of their sites, and found nothing. I check out David Weinberger, who I occasionally have distant conversations with, and whose JOHO blog I occasionally read/ He’s waxing about some new essay by political pundit Dinesh D’Souza. And also explaining his MovableType upgrade. Doc Searls quotes a Washington Post story about Pat Tillman, football player-turned-soldier-turned-political-prop. And other random things about blogs and politics. What happened– these guys re-invented marketing, and seeing it done, they moved on to higher matters? Even so, as political canvassing was such a skill in demand, this year, I’m surprised this simply wasn’t a footnote to the political conversations.

Over to Chris Locke’s blog, which is on the other side of coherence. He sure has a lot of pictures on his blog. Oh, some text. Last week he was named the “Chief Blogging Officer” of High Beam Research. So he has a new blog,, where I tune in to find out that the breaking news that… he has a cold. Well, what I do when I have cold, I don’t spread it. I wrap myself in a blanket, mix myself a half-gallon of OJ/water, sit down at the computer and research and write long pieces.

Looks like I’ll have to find some new experts who have the early buzz on things.