Seth Godin Tries Out Brandjacking


ballsSeth Godin has ginormous balls. There, I said it.

This morning, Seth used his much respected blog to reveal the news about Brands In Public. If you missed it (and if you did, you should really adjust the volume on your Internet), Brand in Public was designed to show the world just how much Seth cares about your brand. Yep, he loves you so much that he has sent his team of goblins out to register your Brands in Public company page for you, fill it with scraped content (blog posts, tweets, Google News, Trends, etc) and then lock it down so that you have absolutely no way to touch or control it. Unless you pay him.

Four hundred dollars. A month.

Wow. I’d personally like to welcome Seth Godin to the world of brandjacking and hostage taking. I didn’t know you had it in you.

It may sound as if I’m being flippant, but honestly, I’m more horrified than anything. That someone with the respect, authority and following of Seth Godin is using it to take advantage of people. And that’s what he’s doing here.

Brands In Public helps no one. Except maybe Seth Godin.

If you’re a large brand like Guinness, Home Depot or All State, you don’t want Brands in Public. You’d be much better suited creating your own internal dashboard to track mentions or investing in a program like Radian 6. Brands in Public isn’t nearly as powerful as you’d need it to be. To be honest, Brands in Public is nothing more than a 5k a year public Google Alert. And it’s the “public” part that Seth says makes these pages so valuable. It allows you to do your monitoring in full of view of everyone on the Internet. Personally, I’m not sure why the thought of that is so exciting. I tend to look at brand monitoring like showering. They’re things I like to do in private. Or at least only with people I really, really like.

And if you’re a small or medium-sized brand, well then you’ll really hate Brands in Public. Because they’re trying to extort 5k a year from you for a free listening station you could very easily create all by yourself (or for $18/month with Trackur). And if you choose to continue doing it by yourself, you still have to accept the fact that Seth just brandjacked your name. And now you have someone representing your brand when they have no affiliation with your company. Thanks for the online reputation management nightmare, Seth!

Seth is right on one thing, though. These conversations are already happening throughout the Web. He’s not doing anything but aggregating them. But he’s aggregating them in a way that takes advantage of brands and the way search engines work. Because these pages are going to rank. So you either give him his 5k a year in hush money or you let someone else rank for your brand. There’s a reason that username signup company only allows people to register brands they can prove an affiliation with. Because knowem is not corrupt.

It’s hard when the people that you once respected start forgetting why they were unique and start doing stupid shit. When they grow up to think they’re better than the community and that others have to bend to them. It now looks like Seth Godin has headed down that path.

Well, Seth, I hope you went out and registered one of those hijacked brand pages for your own brand because it partially went up in flames today. You may want to head back to yesterday in your blog to your post entitled win the fight, lose the customer. It seems especially appropriate right now.

UPDATE: 48 hours later and Seth has changed his position on Brands in Public.  He has now made the system opt-in, rather than opt-out.   Good move, Seth.

Your Comments

  • Ben Cook

    Seth Godin and Squidoo have quite simply become SEO extortion artists. They’ve joined the ranks of such scum as ripoffreport and other “review” sites that provide a pulpit for nut jobs to spout their unfounded claims about your company.

    Will they make money? Probably, but like Lisa, I’ve lost a lot of faith and respect in Seth today. And of course, like the serial accomplices they are, Google will do nothing to combat this obviously growing problem.

    Instead they’ll continue using their FUD tactics to scare people away from buying links or SEO in general while spewing nonsense about wanting a “level” playing field.

  • Jonathan

    I think it was only a matter of time for someone to come out with a service like Brands in Public [I’ve been waiting for Cp+B to launch their dashboard to the public, as a pure aggregation tool.] Aside from the brand highjacking that you covered so well in the post, I think it only gives brands more ammo to engage with users in a “shoot first, aim later” approach – oh as long as they are willing to shell out $400!

  • Jim Kukral

    I have to sleep on this one. At first my reaction is the same as yours, but not sure. Thanks for pointing this out. Interesting for sure.

  • Nathan Schubert

    I agree with you, Lisa.

    Seth’s blog post is telling me that you need one place to respond to all this negative publicity, basically, and that Brands in Public is the place to do that. Unfortunately, the service doesn’t remove negative publicity from any other websites (obviously) and nobody is forcing visitors to those sites to visit Brands in Public in order to get “the real story” from the brand itself. Not that people trust the brands anyway, in most cases.

    Seems to me that they’re trying to create the perceived need for this service, at a pretty penny, without actually solving the problem. That’s pretty shady in my opinion.

  • Julie Roads

    Damn, girl. Well written, well dissected, well blasted. I’ve got to say…I think your balls could easily crush Godin’s.

  • Lee

    Seth commented over here that they’ll take down the page if asked.

  • Lisa Barone

    Ben Cook: I have to say, my impression of Seth Godin is radically different today that it had been. I am all people making money on the Internet, but holding brands hostage isn’t the way to go about that. If someone else was to register your brand and hold it for money, we’d call that brandjacking. It’s not LESS offensive because the person doing it is Seth Godin.

    Nathan: All it does is aggregate what people are saying. Which is fine. But that doesn’t necessarily give companies a better shot at responding to it. And any good that could have been created was negated once companies had to pay to play and protect themselves.

    Julie: Aw, my mother will be so proud. :)

  • Michael

    I think Seth is probably one of the great idea peeps of our time, and I respect him for that. He sells loads of books centered around high-level concepts. But he is the perfect example of the rift between theory and practice.

    Squidoo is a mess – and this next venture has exploitation written all over it.

  • Angel Djambazov

    Seth is smart gambler. He is betting that for large brands no one will blink at $400 a month. Most such brands have a media buyer who can approve anything less than $5k without asking for approval. Is it a smart buy? No. There are better, more effective ways to manage your brand’s image. But at that price point Seth is betting his own equity as a household name will make it a “no brainer” and no one will think about it. Odds are he’s right.

  • Lisa Barone

    Lee: Making it opt-out doesn’t ease my concerns too much. Probably doesn’t for a lot of small businesses either.

    Angel: Maybe it’s a decent pricepoint that enough people will buy into it. But he’s lost far more equity than he’ll be able to gain back by launching it. In my opinion.

  • Michael

    @Angel – the main issue for me is the erosion of Seth’s character with this move. If you see if for what it truly is – some might call it brandjacking ;) – then Seth is KILLING the trust he has built with the community. Sure, he *may* make a few bucks, but at what cost?

  • MikeTek

    If Seth’s comment about their willingness to take the page down if asked is legitimate the “brandjacking” label doesn’t quite stick.

    I have my doubts that Seth would take a move that would “kill” the trust he’s built up over the years. I somehow think he’s a little wiser than that. But I’ve been surprised before…

    I’m withholding my judgment until I see this thing in action. But I don’t necessarily like the smell of it so far.

  • Nick Mattern

    This is the first OSM that I’ve read in it’s entirety. A few more quality posts like this and I might have to start liking Lisa Barone again! :>

    While it’s no different than what 1000 other sites do on a daily basis (jack/repost RSS/social feeds) the ‘in public’ site doesn’t really hit that happy medium with companies, it’s likely either going to be too expensive for the small guys to afford (who don’t care to begin with) or a sore point for big box brands in addition to being a volitional litigation risk.

    I think Lisa’s “ginormous balls” call is right on target. The idea is lame at best. Wonder how many corporate legal suits will cream themselves silly after seeing their client’s brand on the site.

  • Lee

    @Lisa I agree. It appears that Seth values that $400 p/month higher than he does his own reputation.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    So, here’s my thought process. Everyone knows this happens in the ORM world. It isn’t news. Everyone can be bought and they are. Lots of sites make a happy living off of it, so who gives a crap if Squidoo does it? I don’t. I think Squidoo is a bastardized spam haven, but I don’t think Seth is. I like Seth. He’s intelligent, snarky and inspiring. We hold him to high standards, so when news like this comes out it’s like having one of our heros shown to be a fraud. He’s suddenly hanging out with Guy in our minds and that makes sad. We don’t expect him to play the game like everyone else. We know better now.

  • Lisa Barone

    Mike: You can have your doubts about it, but I think he did. Imagine if it wasn’t Seth. If it was Google. If Google registered your company name, filled it with information, and then left it there to rank. Then in really small print AFTER the fact said, “oh, well, just contact us if you don’t like it”. The THIS IS HOW YOU REMOVE IT section was conveniently not part of the initial hub bub. Probably because it didn’t exist until people got loud. :)

    Today caught me off guard because I wouldn’t have labeled Seth “that guy”, but… I’ve had guys surprise me before too. :)

    Nick: Well, that was a nice backhanded compliment. :p I think it’s more than lame. I think it’s downright offensive. And dirty.

    Lee: Word. :)

  • Geordie

    I’ll bet they only decided to take down the pages on request after everyone (including this blog) called bullshit. This is a complete SEO play, and like Get Satisfaction, it will get a lot of brands to “participate” with a gun to their heads, especially the small guys.

    Why is it that when the luminaries of our industry launch a product of their own *cough**cough* it’s just a crappy scraper?

  • The Barking Unicorn

    Is there any reason anyone should care about Seth or his little Web site?

  • Jon Henshaw

    I don’t have a problem with creating communities where people can talk about the good and bad of a company in a public forum (especially if they’re being hosted on squidoo-spamsville). That reflects the spirit of the Internet. However, the $400/mo to take control of the message appears to be nothing more than extortion.

  • David Wallace

    When I read this I immediately thought about Rip Off Report. Online extortion if you don’t like what is being said about your brand and want to do anything about it. I just hope this fails otherwise it may become a trend across a spectrum of social media sites that carry weight and authority.

  • Tim Bay

    Lisa, great article – I agree with you. In addition to the points you raise, I don’t quite see the value for the consumer. As I best I can tell (I looked at a few), I can’t really interact with the brand or others who want to talk about it through the Squidoo site and still need to use Twitter, FB, etc. to do so.

  • Todd Mintz

    “…If you have the tools and wherewithal to build a page like this on your own site, you should consider that. The challenge is getting it done, regardless of where the page lives (from Seth).”

    Seth is absolutely right on this point. His idea (in theory) is quite good.

    If Seth’s execution of his idea is offensive to you all, beat him in the marketplace. At his high price point, it probably wouldn’t be that difficult to do. Also, if you don’t like what’s on a particular page…parts of each page are definitely gameable :.)

  • Ro

    Good post Lisa, I completely agree with you on this one. The only saving grace I see here is that maybe these pages won’t rank very well for branded terms? I’m wondering if it’s just scraping comments off of Twitter and other online sources if the engines won’t give that much credibility since it’s duplicate content (of the worst kind IMHO). I personally have not seen Squidoo lenses rank very well for branded terms. I still think it’s evil, but if no one is even finding it who cares? I’m definitely not paying $400/mo for it if no one is looking at it!

  • Atom McCree

    I agree with the comment on the CP+B dashboard. It is in a demo stage but it is bound to launch sometime. The difference is the brands are CP+B’s and the brands want it up. When I saw this today I was unimpressed. Sure they are link jacking but so are sites like Alltop to increase their rank and not yours. It does have a bad taste in that it costs such a large amount to be able to aggregate info. A better solution would be to offer the brands adspace on their own pages in place of the normal ads served on their page. This would be an opt-in strategy and also offer them the option to block their brand from the site as well. For being such a marketing guru he wasn’t thinking this through. Extorting a brand makes them hate you and in turn it causes you to have a bad reputation, which is all he has with his blog presence. If he loses that then he will lose his career. Bad move indeed.

  • Stuart

    I noticed several trademarked logos being used without permission on these pages. If someone did this on Facebook (for example) we’d file a DMCA notice and have the page removed. This doesn’t feel any different than other scraper sites or fake Facebook brand pages I’ve seen.

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    This is exactly the kind of stuff I have written about – the importance for brands to recognize that unless they register and link their social media networks together, and secure them now, this problem presents itself.

    Take the ability to hikjack Google local listings as a starter for 10. That’s even before you go out on the Social Networks and start registering Brand usernames and accounts.

    What Seth’s doing is merely putting a spotlight on something that has and is going on as we speak.

    The failure of brands to recognize this, is just the SEM/SEO/SM marketeers inaability to have grasped that this is a concern for them, and to tell them in a language that is clear and actionable.

    Of course, not everyone is doing that.


  • Neil DuPaul

    Perhaps justice is best served by all of us upset by this, by collaboratively creating an aggregate page for Seth and his new venture. I’m sure it would see plenty of activity and wonder if Seth would see the value in paying to comment on that.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jon, David Wallace: Totally agree.

    Tim: Yeah, there’s no way to interact through the site…it just aggregates it there. Like I mentioned, it’s really nothing more than a public Google Alert…which frankly, I shouldn’t have to pay $400 for.

    Todd: If Seth would have left it as an aggregator, fine. But he’s charging people to be able to use their names. Which, in my mind, doesn’t seem so on the table. It’s extortion.

    Stuart: A very valid point.

  • Michael W.

    Provided he leaves a way for brands to remove themselves from his “hijacked” index, I don’t see a problem with it. Seth is merely trying to monetize reputation management the best way he knows how.

    Don’t get me wrong, this move only magnifies the inherent trust issues behind any service that looks to make a buck off mitigating a reputation that will exist whether someone aggregates it or not.

    I’m not naive enough to think that big brands aren’t planting people to sway online conversations artificially, but I think making people pay $400 to “curate” their brand’s conversation is misleading.

    Public opinion isn’t something you can control. True reputation management is about how you appropriately respond to people trashing or lauding your brand, not how you domineer it – and I think services like “Brands in Public” only serve to detract from that principle.

  • ChrisK

    So do you think Godin will put up Brands in Public sites for and given the storm in the blogosphere about this service? ;)

  • Steve Early

    WHOA! I think I just got brain whiplash. I can’t figure out if this is a bad thing or a “was going to happen anyway” thing, but I don’t think i’m real thrilled about it. I may have to lie down and think about it for a while.

    Great post though, Lisa – and very Outspoken as usual.


  • Stuart Foster

    Ouch. On the plus side? This graphic once again comes in handy:
    (MS-Paint FTW)

    When I did a once over of this this morning I didn’t realize that it was scraping. I thought it was just pulling in a variety of content that could be augmented by a company. Then to charge $400 a month on top of that? Wtf…

    Bad move. Possibly even a worse move the Squidoo which is about the most irrelevant thing ever.

  • netmeg

    I see lawyers in the future.

  • Lisa Barone

    Stuart: Awesome. :)

    Netmeg: Jill Whalen remarked the same thing on Twitter and I’d have to absolutely agree. Someone is going to stand up and point out the ridiculousness of this. Just takes one good example.

  • Chase

    I don’t agree that this is an “erosion of Seth’s character.” This is a hat-tip to the fact that the conversation is happening and that it has repercussions. This isn’t “hijacking”, it’s aggregating, as you mentioned in your article, Lisa. And you should note this is not “scraping” anything; it’s simply pulling in RSS feeds.

    Everything on these pages is public, you can find it all elsewhere, except for the “Share your story” or “Guinness in a can or draught” (sidenote: is that even a friggen question?!) and the like widgets. As you mentioned, these pages are simple aggregates giving consumers an opportunity to “Share”, “Comment”, “Explore.”

    The $400 a month goes to curating the page. Want to add a new “Water or Guinness” poll? That’s why you pay the $400. I’m sure owners’ comments come in as a different color and you see some sort of stats and catch emails when a new comment is posted… But according to the FAQ, all the news/blog/forum items on the right side of the page stay no matter what. It’s unclear as to whether or not you get to delete/moderate comments.

    I guess I see these pages as another opportunity for the consumer to have a voice. On the HomeDepot page (who already purchased their page, BTW) there’s some comments that look like they’re from real consumers (and a few that are obviously not). Same with the Guinness page.

    Let’s be honest, true reputation management is not good responses on this or that forum or social site, it’s about being a good company, having a good story, being notable in the right kind of ways. I sort of like the “3rd party” quality of these pages.

    Anyways, what is important is the idea of having big time monitoring tools available out in the public. That’s a big paradigm shift. Can you imagine a public radian6 dashboard for your brand? That’s way more important of an idea than the execution of this brands in public… But I do think this is an interesting step towards that.

    And, my caveat is that I’m not as pro at this stuff as most of the commenter here… I’m just feeling my truth at you.

  • Seth Godin

    Hi Lisa

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to think about what we’re offering.

    I’m not sure it’s brandjacking any more than a Google search or a Twitter search is brandjacking. I guess the difference is that we’re making it really easy for the brand to show up next to the stream of comments.

    Geordie is incorrect. We have from the start made it easy for any brand that doesn’t want to make it easy for people to see the comments assembled in one place to do so… we’ll take it down. Of course, that doesn’t change the streams of comments that are showing up around the web, it just means that they won’t be on our site.

    We’ve also made it clear on every page that hasn’t been adopted that it’s unofficial, just a collection of streams.

    The thing that I’m gratified by is this: the big brands we’ve talked to (and it’s quite a few) think that this is terrific and they’re interested. Also, if you read my post, you’ll see that I’m encouraging people to build their own if they don’t want to use ours.

    I guess we’ll just have to disagree about this one, Lisa.

  • Lisa Barone

    Seth: It’s actually very different from a Google or Twitter search. You’re registering other people’s trademarks and then charging them $400 a month to have access to the page that you created. You’re also putting their brand name in the page title so that the chances of it ranking in the top 10 are fairly high. Which means you’re creating a high profile page, in their name, that they can’t control unless they pay you. It feels a bit like you just stole one of my children and won’t hand it over. That’s brandjacking. In the purest form.

    No one is debating that these conversations are taking place and that companies should be monitoring them. I think the way you’ve just chosen to handle it has surprised and turned a lot of stomachs. Regardless of the moot “unofficial” label you slap on after the fact. Perhaps the big brands who are out of the loop don’t know any better or realize what you just did…but the rest of us do. You created an opt-out where you take first and hope no one noticed. And if they did noticed and are savvy enough to figure out how to contact you, then you’ll be kind and take the page down. That doesn’t seem very generous and it was not something many of us would have expected from you. You have a different brand aftertaste today.

    We will have to disagree, but I respect your coming by to give your side of it. That, also, takes balls. ;)

  • john andrews

    Hmm… I need a way to make a contact with every digital marketing department at every one of the Fortune 10,000, so I can pitch my consulting, my marketing programs, my books, and my new paid inclusion directory that doesn’t look like a directory. And I’d like to do that for free. Or better, have the outreach process actually bring in revenue, so I can pay the sales people I need to hire to do all that pitching. Better set the price high enough so the Fortune 1000 sure-things fund going after the rest. Maybe start with $400 and see how it goes?

  • Geordie

    How come there’s no Seth Godin Inc. brand page on Brands in Public? If someone else sets one up, do they get $400?

  • Geordie

    Also, if there was a Seth Godin Inc brand page on Brands in Public, maybe all of this “aggregated” discussion would be showing up there, providing the ‘perfect place’ to respond/monitor these conversations. Instead, Seth is responding to this discussion of HIS brand on this blog rather than his Squidoo page.

  • James

    As I see it, the only way to ethically run this type of service is to have brands opt in. If Squidoo were confident of success, this is how they would work, instead of holding brands to ransom (which, Seth, is what you are currently doing).

    Sure, a brand can opt out and have their page removed, but doing that is only going to upset the people who were using that page to express their thoughts about your brand (which, by the way, isn’t aggregation).
    If I wrote a fair criticism of a brand who’d been screwing me over and they had the page pulled rather than deal with me, it would upset me even more. If a big brand did it, it’d probably get some blog coverage, creating an additional ORM problem.

    Come on Seth, the internet has already taken Santa Claus, Sarah Palin and Miley Cyrus from me, you’re the only role model I have left.

  • Tom Royce

    So if I register the domain and do exactly what Seth is doing will I get rave reviews and the adulation of the crowds? (I doubt it…)

  • Rob Sellen

    Bit late to reply, but only just seen all this, and I tweeted as much, I asked if I was the only one who thought it was taking the piss.

    As much as I respect Seth and his blog (the first I usually read daily) I think it leaves a bit of a shitty taste in the mouth!

    Like others have said here, I would not have expected that from Seth.

    No reason brands can’t use something like and create their own from all the aggregated conversation …which Seth did say to do, but Lisa is right on the money in my opinion.

    Sorry Seth, I think it was a bit :o/

    Was it worth this conversation being started, considering its now about YOU as a brand?


  • geoff

    hell hath no fury like blog envy.

  • Corel

    The post is informative, though, it would’ve added more honesty to your actions should you disclose the affiliate link you baked in the post (

    I mean, come on lady, if you are gonna shit on someone’s face at least do it with class, not with the same silly low ball approach.


  • ricnunez

    I think you should charge him $400 to remove this post

  • Rob Sellen

    James.. I am worried about you mate… you need proper role models.. :P Miley Cyrus??

  • Lisa Barone

    Corel: We endorse products we like. If you have a problem with the Trackur affiliate link and think it taints the post, then you can start your Outspoken reading here:

    I surely didn’t write this post so I could drop the link. It was actually brought up to me after I posted that I should include it. So I did. I wouldn’t call anything in this post “low ball”, but then again, I’m a girl. So clearly I’m ranting or have an agenda. Just ask Geoff up there.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Equating a referral fee to a $400 month brandjacking service is less than comparable.

  • Ken Jones

    So is that one teeny tiny little affiliate link to trackur how you make the $300-500 per day that you’ve been DMing people about on Twitter. Wow, you must have one hell of a CTR. I’m impressed (and I’m also wondering if Corel was sent her by Seth to derail the conversation).

  • Lisa Barone

    Ken: Clever. Really, if you’re reading this and you got a spam DM from me — sincerest apologies. My Twitter account was hacked. Password has been changed. Now I just have an endless amount of apologizing to do. :/

  • Ken Jones

    Actually I didn’t get the DM from you or anybody else. I feel so unloved *sniff*

  • Alice Seba

    For someone who insists (accurately, in my opinion) that not everyone is your target customer and that they’re only your customer until they aren’t your customer, I’m surprised Mr. Godin would think this was a valuable service.

    Certainly, reputation management is important, but to pull together everything some idiot with a net connection says about you and show it publicly doesn’t quite make sense.

  • Mark sherrick

    A bold move, Seth…will this kind of thing be in your next book? Somehow I doubt it. Great post, Lisa.

  • Nathan Hangen

    Love the post Lisa. Almost get the feeling that Seth is creating a disease so that he can sell the cure…brilliantly disgusting.

  • Norcross

    Clearly I’m late to all of this commenting, but reading through Seth’s site, combined with a few other examples that other commenters left, I’m really trying to see how this is different from…say…Mafia extortion? Pay us to protect you from us?

  • Brad West

    Thanks for this Lisa,
    I have been reading for about 2 hrs now, Really do have a bunch of other things I need to do. But There are other things I also pay attention to like what Big Pharma is doing. I just posted on the Guild an article about charges being filed with the FBI in New York last Friday.

    Len Horowitz – Pandemic Charges Filed With FBI In NYC
    The whole H1N1 development was a ploy to make money and kill people off, read this in it’s entirety and it will make you sick before you are exposed to this vicious man made flu.

    I only brought up because this whole thing with Seth has a disturbingly similar ring to it. Produce and distribute the virus and then get paid to distribute the the cure. I don’t believe Seth is going to kill as many people as Big Pharma, but the personal gain from extortion is very simular.

    But isn’t it us with the power really?
    Is it not time for us to band together and have a voice for what is right?

    There are a lot of unjust things happening in the world and because people are getting real fed up with the crap. It is starting to become more common for people to face their consequences justly. Now we just have to yell a little louder and get the other 75% of the people to take their heads out of their butts and we may be able to accomplish something. Keep Yelling!

    Sorry if this sucked, I am also trying to watch criminal minds.
    Speaking of heads being lost!
    Brad West ~ onomoney

  • Andrew

    I’ve read through the initial post here, and all the comments, and I have to say I find the brand-jacking aspect of the service to be both an accurate descriptor, and a disappointing one. However, part of this all was a bit fuzzy for me, so I thought I’d post and help clear something up for others who read through this:

    Lisa, you replied to one of the commenters here and stated that the service was purely an aggregator of various feeds. I couldn’t, in turn, sort out where this $400/mo. fee fit in. So I looked into what the service supposedly provides, and just what one is paying for. According to the official site:

    “When you take over your brand’s page, you get to edit the introductory text, highlight the tweets and posts you like, point to your blog, your videos, your twitter feed, your corporate website and even (if you like) highlight ways to contact you.

    When you take over your brand’s page, you don’t monitor the conversation (there are plenty of companies that will sell you that service for a lot of money), you coordinate it. In public. Where it’s happening.” (via

    I really think this should be included in the initial post, as it only further drives home the brandjacking aspect, and it’s from the site itself.

    To me, it reads as:
    Pay us $400/mo. and we’ll give you access to the page about your company that we already made for you, so that you can filter out the bad comments and highlight the good ones. The second paragraph seems to be saying, “We’re not Google Alerts, because everyone can see our results, and we let you add favourites and links!”

    There is, as previously mentioned, nothing novel about what they are doing. In fact, if you imagine a hypothetical scenario where they decided to launch the project as a purely opt-in system at the same price, you’re left wondering why anyone would want to sign up. $400/mo. for a public RSS aggregator with filtering? Really?

    Given this, it’s hard to believe that the brand jacking was anything other than an integral part of the business plan. Without it, there is no value in the service.

  • David Shantz

    Brutally direct and critically skeptical coverage. You must admit that these sorts of unauthorized content aggregation are likely to be exponential in number.

    Let the games begin.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    But isn’t this the beauty of Social Media; calling out anybody, even those that profess to be the leaders of this movement when they do something as f*ckd up as this. This was a great read. I am curious what Seth has to say… But then again, he may just be doing what Brogan was doing with trust Agents, trying to monetize through the following he has developed, though crudely.

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    Wow Seth’s discovered scraping. Must have been that influx of new talent he had – there was that intake competition for new Sethers. :)

    All it takes is one person that know what they are doing to aggregate all this stuff for a brand, and you don’t have to pay $400 a month to maintain it. It’s gotta be the easiest money he’s ever made [congrats]. Wait until some of these public scrapers start getting blocked, or start getting sent the bills by the people providing the data.

    Advice for brands…ignore it, but learn from it now.

    Squidoo might mean something to some people, but your company brand name is always going to be known by more, and you’ll always come out on top.

    Get the strategy right.

    Stop listening to the fluff.

  • Brendan

    Interesting post and replies. A good discussion.

    Two thoughts:

    1) 400 bucks might be a lot to you or I. It’s less than nothing for Allstate. Less than nothing.

    2) Wouldn’t a solution be to just do a better job at producing what your customers want?


  • Darius

    “Making it opt-out doesn’t ease my concerns too much. Probably doesn’t for a lot of small businesses either.”

    Lisa, I think small businesses are safe. It’s impossible for Squidoo to create a page for each of the millions of brands worldwide. Brands will have to ask it specifically and pay for that. Anyway, I wouldn’t mind if my brand would appear there. People talk about my brand whether I like it or not. And I have no control whatsoever on what’s said.

  • Paige

    No permission marketing, huh?

  • Jeff

    I don’t think you get it Lisa. A big company really needs to be aware about the public opinion and what people are saying about their brand. This is an excellent way for them to be able to interact with their customer and to address complaints.

    You say they should have built their own. If they build their own as say a blog, people may not find it. BIP is a nice clean layout that can be very interactive.

    And about $400 a month, do you think that is a lot of money to Home Depot or Guiness? I think that amount is enough to keep it from having every Tom Dick and Harry from making one and that is not a bad thing.

  • Contempt

    Quite the interesting move. Now this is going to become a whole new business for some people. Let the fun begin. I agree entirely with the comments about them becoming more and more like ripoffreport, etc. A lot of companies are taking moves like this because of the simple result: It makes more money, and it’s not illegal. Bravo to this one.

    Will be fun to abuse it, as well.

  • neko

    Well its an interesting idea. I checked out the Home Depot in Public page and I must say I was impressed. $400 per month is great to be able to say I’m in charge of a page which has lots of twitter spam links and knowing that people on twitter are also saying this about my brand:
    @mooncigar lmao its ok im still awake too! U jst better b home when i come by. lol

    I still wouldn’t call it brand jacking, and after reading what you get for the $400 per month, (a left column for you to post to, no moderating as such) wouldn’t it just be easier to comment on twitter, or respond to the original blog post and just have brandsinpublic use its algorithmic feeds to post your reply up for free? Then squidoo can collate all the stuff for you, and your replies, while paying for the hosting. So in the end I think it could be a good thing. Unless they filter out your replies from the net, then they couldn’t rightly claim that they are aggregating everything about the brand from the web, only everything they want to aggregate. Interesting.
    PS. Methinks they may need to tweak their algorithms.

  • charly

    Great article Lisa, I’m very disapointed with this, I just stumble upon Seth’s “Bootrapping Book” a couple of days ago, I’m very disappointed with this. It’s actually good Idea, but very bad implementation. I came across a similar Post from 37signals complaining about almost similar practice of getsatisfaction a couple of Months ago. Out of this, i really enjoy reading Seth and learning from him. So Buddy, fix this, you have some fans out there.

    (beta comment)

  • scottdot

    How would people feel if Wikipedia locked out all users and continued to hold misinformation within its articles? There’d be outrage. How can companies like Home Depot, Guinness, etc. be the least bit happy about what he’s done here.

    I’m not overly familiar with Seth, a friend has mentioned him a few times over coffee/SEO chats, but this sort of thing just registers to me as bastardly.

  • Kristinadee

    I read this yesterday…

    I slept on it…

    It still stinks today

  • Robert Enriquez

    This is no different than Wikipedia, but it will have interaction. Wikipedia is at least free, and they ‘may’ allow you to change your company/bio page.

    This will make it harder for ORM, but that’s if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    If you really ‘think about it’ there are ways to remove (yes i wrote remove) a ripoff report from page 1 of Google. I’m not talking about ‘pushing down listings’ to page 2 or 3…..

    This new thing by Seth Godin can be removed. Put on your thinking caps!
    I’m not going to say how or we’ll have website owners taking down other competitors site.

  • Eric Friedman

    This is definitely a different tactic than others have taken – it will be interesting to see how this plays out with the public and with the brands.

  • Dan Hughes

    I know the concept is not quite the same, but for the man that (claims to have) invented Permission Marketing this seems incredibly out of character.

    My fear is that this not out of character and the principals and ideals that Seth runs his businesses with are not those he writes about.

    This reminds me of when Tim Ferriss started using Twitter and we all learned that he was a just another d-bag selling a book.

    I loosing confidence in Gurus…

    Damn it, I’m gonna have to start thinking for myself.

  • Victoria

    Yea…not feeling this whole Seth Godin shenanigans. I am aware that there are ALOT of companies that are ignorant when it comes to online reputation management, but I feel that they should be educated first, rather than having to fork over $400 in order to become aware of what is already out there.
    Do you think his next move will be putting smaller brands on there and making them pay a lesser fee?
    Good post Lisa!

  • Lisa Barone

    Nathan Hangen: My sentiments exactly.

    Andrew: That’s a really interesting way of looking at it, actually. I suppose it is interesting that Seth used the word “curate” when talking about the control people would have over their page. It really is as if they get to pick and choose and hide whatever they’d like. The whole thing just stinks.

    Marvin: He has every right to monetize based on his brand. But he doesn’t have the right to monetize by stealing other people’s brands. It’s very different, in my opinion, than what Chris Brogan did through Trust Agents.

    Brendan: Four hundred dollars isn’t a lot of money to me and that’s not really the point. The point is, he’s selling people back their brands that he took and giving them content they can get for free. It’s extortion.

    Jeff: Respectfully, I think you’re missing the point. Brands need to be aware of what’s being said about them. If you’d like to pay $400 for a Google Alert that vomits it on a page for you, then I have some ice I’d also like to sell you. If that’s what people think “monitoring” social media is, they’re doing it ass backwards.

    Victoria: Honestly, no I don’t think there will be a smaller fee for smaller brands. But even if there was, why the hell should I have to pay to get a brand name back that you stole from me? Since when do we negotiate with hostage takers? ;)

  • Joseph Rooks

    The owners of these brands should not have to ask anyone to take down a page that manipulates and exploits their brand, any more than a band should have to ask file sharers to stop stealing their music.

  • Bob

    Seth is smart — he understands that the big money is in ripping the social fabric as much as possible without getting arrested. (Extra points for ripping off “Get Satisfaction.” Honor among thieves, and all that.)

    I don’t know why American Express is associating with the likes of him, though.

  • Martin

    Either Squidoo pages are powerless and then the whole brandjacking concern is irrelevant or Squidoo pages are powerful and a valuable tool in the hand of brands.
    If it works the idea is smart, if not … so what ???

  • Greg G

    The internet has changed the rules of the game. Not long ago, a brand was controlled exclusively by the brand owner. Now the web has laid bare what was the essential truth of brands–its really an agreement between brand owner and brand user. A brand boils down really to reputation and who owns your reputation? To some extent you, to some extent others. If Seth didn’t do this, someone else would. It was bound to happen. A natural consequence of both free speech and capitalism. Not saying its a welcoming trend, particularly for individuals. Think corporations have it tough. At least they have lawyers and full time PR teams. Imagine a wikipedia entry for each and every American citizen in where people can write whatever they want about you including gossip and where we are forced to monitor that page or risk being smeared (remember Juicy Campus?). Where does one’s rights to privacy begin and where does it end?

  • Elise Bauer

    Hmm. Do you realize that brand managers at major brands will spend thousands of dollars a month to pay for what is essentially a clipping service from so-called “social media” agencies? Yep. Instead of following their own brand on Twitter, they’re paying someone else to do it, and deliver the results in weekly/monthly pretty reports.

    So Godin has managed to make these dashboards of publicly available information public, and in one spot. Of great interest to a brand manager, and perhaps the brand manager of a competitor, and maybe 5 other people. For the privilege of manipulating that dashboard, so that maybe what people see isn’t entirely an unbiased showcase of information that anyone can get on their own anyway, Godin is charging a small fee. Yes SMALL fee. $400 a month is nothing for a major brand, or even a non-major brand. Given that this company manipulation possibly lowers the value of the information of the service because now it isn’t really unbiased anymore, Godin is fairly asking for compensation. For a brand savvy enough to find Godin’s site and unhappy about the use of trademark, Godin will take it down. For the rest of the brands who don’t know and would care if they did know, well too bad. They probably don’t care that they’re getting slammed in Twitter or on FB either.

    I’m guessing that brand managers around the Fortune 1000 are expressing delight at Godin’s service. “What? I don’t have to pay some 23 year old $5K a month to tell me what people are saying about us on Twitter or in their blogs? I can just come to this page and see it right here? Awesome!”

    This is a non-issue.

  • Bob

    Darius said:
    Lisa, I think small businesses are safe. It’s impossible for Squidoo to create a page for each of the millions of brands worldwide. Brands will have to ask it specifically and pay for that.

    Not at all — this is the Ripoff Report model, where all it takes is one anonymous complaint to trash your brand. But Seth will take that anonymous flame and make it RANK — unless you pay.

    No matter how many names in his Blackberry, no matter how many bestsellers under his belt, Seth Godin is just a two-bit shakedown artist.

  • Bob

    It’s so funny to see that Godin’s working the phones right now, getting his publicist buddies to post here about what a great “service” this is.

    I hope you stooges understand that you’re fooling no one.

    I hope you stooges get that you’re trashing your own brands when you do so.

  • Sean Wyseman

    Seth Godin Rebrands himself overnight with just one strategic decision..

    This reminds me of the career of media darling Annette Funicello. Her fans were growing up — but her screen characters still embodied and ideal in the minds of her fans. She shattered their fantasy about her wholesome image when she made the movie that killed her career. In 1967 in the movie “Thunder Alley” she gets drunk — something she’d never done before. That single move instantly alienated the majority of fans who created her celebrity image. It destroyed her film career overnight.

    Celebrities tend to believe that they are the ones who make themselves famous because they are so wonderful. In fact it is the fans who believe that their hero embodies certain ideals — and it is the fans that make the celebrity — not the other way round.

    It appears that Seth has suddenly slipped to the dark side — rebranding himself overnight. I’m convinced that he does not see it though or he’d not likely be defending his move the way he has. He seems to have gone from listening to people and being their voice — to telling them how it is or should be. Major shift if you ask me. It will be interesting to see if he can engage an entirely new audience quickly enough to avoid slipping into oblivion.

    Who will hire Seth as a speaker now that he has something to defend? How will the corporate moguls that wanted their people to listen to him — justify putting him in front of their people now that he has a vested interest in getting paid for the dirt he can scrape up on their brands — and then charge them to manage the obscure and irrelevant dirt he has escalated to front and center?

  • Crystal Touchon (luvmyludwig)

    Well this rant is rather interesting, but you’ve neglected a few things in your post.
    1) You mention several brands including Home Depot saying that they don’t want this, well you’re wrong because Home Depot has purchased theirs already.
    2) If the brands don’t want it then they can request that it be taken down.
    3) $400 a month is peanuts to the Brands that will have Brands In Public Dashboards.
    4) Smaller business can make free lenses to promote their businesses and keep them up themselves. They can rank high in search terms because of the tools that Squidoo provides for free.
    5) Squidoo is an amazing community that does their best to control SPAM. SPAM is everywhere. Things are getting better.
    6) Seth Godin has a following because he is innovative, creative, and intelligent. When you go against the grain, ignore the box, and do something different someone’s going to have issues with you especially when you’re successful.
    7) It doesn’t matter if the brands buy or not, if the pages rank then it’ll be good for the company because they are linking to the company’s websites, blogs, and more. Some of these pages have multiple links to the company’s website. How exactly is this bad?
    8) The pages host conversations about the brands, but are set up by people who love and believe in the brand, so they are more positive than negative.

    Have you seen the BIPs yet?

    Everyone is has a right to an opinion, so here are some more facts to aid your decision. I personally think it’s a great tool for major brands.

  • John Barton

    Am I missing something here or is everyone attacking Seth Godin for building an aggregator?

    I dont get why you are all so upset? The man is a genius and he is trying out a business model. If brands pay for it, fair play to him.

    The conversation is happening with or without brands using his service.

    I havent studied the service in huge death but it would seem all he is doing is aggregating these comments… not “providing a platform for wackjobs” as I think someone said above.

    Good luck to him. This is just my humble opinion of course but never a big fan of a witch hunt especially when it appears a little over the top.


  • Bruce Keener

    I’ve been losing respect for Seth Godin for several months. I just recently had an article about one of his: Dear Seth Godin: Have You Lost It? (Have We All?) To spare you reading it, in a nutshell Seth describes how to get what you want on a project by going to your boss with a description that she will obviously want to modify, and which you easily agree to … then, she’s gotten her way, and “you get your way on the rest of the project.”

    Of course what he described was nothing less than intentionally deceiving your boss to get what you want. When someone advocates being deceitful, how am I to believe in anything they say?

    But back to your point: this latest maneuver is pathetic. The pricing is so high that it is just plainly unethical. I’m done with the guy. Seth’s blog is now out of my feeds. Yours is in.

  • ChrisK

    Elise, you’re wrong. It is an issue. It didn’t need to be–it’s clear to me that there wouldn’t be such a storm if this had been an opt-in offering from the beginning, plain and simple.

  • Jay Cuthrell

    Not a regular reader here… but I am now.


  • Lisa Barone

    Crystal, John: The price tag really isn’t the issue. He could be charging $25 for Home Depot to take control of their name and it will still be ridiculous. How about if I break into your house, steal your television and then sell it to you for $5? I mean, it’s not that much money, right? It’s nothing.

    The offensive part isn’t the price tag. And it’s not the aggregation part either. It’s that he stole people’s brand names and threw content on them without their permission and is now trying to SELL them back to them. A “little” extortion is still extortion. Even if he is a “genius”.

  • Crystal Touchon (luvmyludwig)

    John Barton,
    “Good luck to him. This is just my humble opinion of course but never a big fan of a witch hunt especially when it appears a little over the top.”

    I agree with you here. I have no problems with people disagreeing, but if the brands are not going after him then why is everyone else. He just may be paving the way for others in the future. You don’t know if something is successful unless you try it.
    Kudos Seth.

  • Ryan

    Its sad to see that Seth Godin is just like Jason Calcanis.

    • Jeff

      Ryan, that was actually a really good point. I cant stand the garbage that Mahalo scrapes together with bots and says they are human made.

  • Crystal Touchon (luvmyludwig)

    you state “It’s that he stole people’s brand names and threw content on them without their permission and is now trying to SELL them back to them”

    Providing a service is not stealing. When you say outright “Hey look (insert brand name here), I have this great new tool for you to see. Here are your options. 1)You can leave it up I have a great person who loves your brand who will manage this page for free. 2) You can buy it and change it how you like. or 3) If you don’t like either idea then you can say so and we’ll take it off completely. No harm, no foul”

    If the company doesn’t complain or doesn’t pay we’re to conclude that they’d prefer to let someone else manage it for them and just check it now and then.

  • Bob

    Crystal, you have no credibility outside of your own skull.

  • Lisa Barone

    Crystal: He took their brand name and likeness. If that’s cool with you, that’s cool with you. It’s not cool with me. But we can disagree on that. And just because a company doesn’t know enough to complain or get it removed, doesn’t make it right, IMO.

    Bob: Alright, alright, let’s hug it out. :)

  • gregorylent

    banality in a designer suit, always has been .. i blame his fans for buying his schtick for so long ..

  • jaamit

    Loving the comments here as always! (although people you have taken an hour of my time! have some consideration!)

    I wont repeat many of the excellent points from Lisa and most of the commenters here calling this out for what it is: a cynical moneyspinner from a guy who has made his name on being authentic and creating value rather than trying to make money by hoodwinking people.

    I did notice that at present, all the links to these brand pages are nofollowed. Wonder why this is? The business model has gotta be getting these pages visible in search engines – if they’re not getting any internal link juice they aren’t gonna rank…!

  • James

    There’s a big difference between

    “Hey look (insert brand name here), I have this great new tool for you to see. Here are your options.”


    “Hey [brand name], I created a mediocre web page that is pretty much guaranteed to get attention, slapped your name on it and invited your customers to express their feelings about your products and services. Best of all, I didn’t even ask for your permission before doing all this. If by chance you happen to hear about ‘your’ page before it becomes a problem, you can get it pulled quietly, if, however you’re not so lucky, you get to pull the page not so quietly or pony up $5k a year (no, I’m not kidding about the price, my balls really are that big).”

  • Wendy

    I read this yesterday and after examining it from both angles, I have to say that this whole idea is a brilliant way of taking advantage of big brands, who are (for the most part) stuck in the dark ages of old media, and are desperately trying to catch up, and for a measly $400 a month, they can feel like they’re social media experts.
    From Seth’s comment above: “The thing that I’m gratified by is this: the big brands we’ve talked to (and it’s quite a few) think that this is terrific and they’re interested.”
    Of course they are. The big brands I talk to as a part of my business don’t even know what Twitter is, or what RSS is, or even how Google Alerts work. Instead of hiring someone in-house or as a consultant to help them develop a Web and social media presence, they can just pony up $400 a month for scrapers Seth to do it for them.
    I have a lot of respect for Seth and his ideas, but this isn’t a good one.

  • jaamit

    The comments about Seth having destroyed his brand with this move is not quite right.

    Seth Godin, like any other brand, has made a mistake with this. This is provable because he’s pissed off many of his own fans, who have bought all his books, forwarded his blog posts and evangelised his ideas to random people in the street. Well mistakes are natural, everyone makes them and it’s not a disaster in itself.

    Just like when any brand makes a mistake that pisses off its customers and fans, the question is what you choose to do about it. Do you take the traditional PR approach of coming out and making excuses to justify your decision and then carry on? Or do you realise that these people are the reason you exist in the first place, and take action to turn things around by fixing the problem and humbly apologising? The latter action is how you can actually turn something like this into a positive by proving that you care about your fans and you’re willing to really listen to them. What’s more, the latter way of thinking is what I’ve actually learned from Seth Godin in the first place!

    Seth Godin’s reptutation isn’t ruined yet. It could be, if he ‘listens’ to all the criticism but carries on regardless. On the other hand, it could be actually improved if he reacts well to it. Sadly, his initial reaction in the comments here doesn’t give me much hope.

  • JadedTLC

    Seth Godin is genius. He’s figured out how to milk the major brands to build HIS site out. Why didn’t I think of that?

    Seriously, Seth needs to re-read your post and digest it with less bias. His response here took balls, but was entirely defense-motivated. Read it and concede.

    And @LisaBarone keep speaking out loud. That’s the only way we can lead sites out of their unethical behaviors (ie the digg bar non 301 incident).

  • ricnunez

    We are given too much of attention to this man and the website. He is getting what he was looking for, free promotion.

  • Jeremiah Andrick

    I really couldn’t agree more with you on this and I am a bit disheartened that all those in support of squidoo and Seth keep saying “these conversations are happening out there so it is ok.” I have never heard a more ridiculous argument.

    This whole thing aggravates me at a really deep level.

  • Chris

    Lisa, re: your last comment –
    The service in question doesn’t “steal” anything for christ’s sake.

    The responses in this thread read like a circle-jerk. Brands in Public is quite clearly a *business* – they aggregate publicly available content, and offer corps. the ability to edit a page containing content and stats related to their brand. I wish I had thought of it first.

    Corporations don’t have the right to control speech or information related to their brand. Wake up sleepy heads.

  • Noah

    @Ricnunez, not like he needed the free promotion. And I don’t particularly agree with the whole “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” thing, either, so hope he enjoys his free bad publicity promotion!

  • Paul "The Pageman" Pajo

    When are you getting the page? Or are you going to wait for a third party to resell it to you? :)

  • Melinda

    I see the value, and I don’t hate on him for charging for that value, but at least ask the customer if they even want the service.

  • hydo

    I think comment #83 explains this very well. Seth has a corporate niche market he is selling this too. Lisa keeps hanging onto this intellectual property and using their brand argument, but that isn’t really an issue. On the example pages Seth posted I didn’t see any logos, just a collection of what people are saying about X brand. What is the problem? If I start a blog where I talk about Home Depot am I infringing on their brand? What am I missing Lisa?

  • Lisa Changed My Anchor Text

    probably the most unexpected and slightly shocking piece of news I have heard in a long time in dubdubdub-land. Sick linkbait and marketing by Godin, a sick stunt, and close to ransom, but i guess a lot of companies will use this as a forum for client / customer interaction… Well played mr Godin though, seems like a licence to print money, and tbh who doesn’t want one of those.

    thanks for sharing, and the interesting perspectives in your post.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Nice call out on this, Lisa.

    Saw earlier where Seth said:

    “We have from the start made it easy for any brand that doesn’t want to make it easy for people to see the comments assembled in one place to do so… we’ll take it down.”

    No. If it were easy, they wouldn’t have gone up in the first place. Instead, he’s created work, something else a brand manager has to ponder. Do I want this or not. Thanks for that help.

    It’s also not that easy to locate. I went looking. From the Brands In Public page (, the FAQ link doesn’t work. So I went to the Google page on BIP, and the main instruction you see is at the top — “Click if you work for this brand. You can curate this page.”

    Click on that, and you get the sales pitch to buy on the brandsinpublic domain. You have to go further into the FAQ on that page (or the FAQ on any brand’s page way down at the bottom), then scroll through the FAQ to see this:

    “We don’t want there to be a page about our brand. Will you take it down? Sure, if you ask nicely. Up to you. Your fans might be disappointed though.”

    Elise, it is an issue. Clearly. Over 100 comments speak that plenty of people disagree.

    Do you realize that some people will spend hundreds of dollars to monitor their credit? Is Seth going to create a public credit reporting tool and put it out there for everyone and charge only $9 per month for you to have. If he does that, has he helped by doing something you didn’t ask for?

    If Seth has a great new service that will save brand managers thousands of dollars, let him advertise that, and let the brand managers who want it actively purchase it. If it’s that great, he doesn’t need to seed all these pages in search results.

    In fact, if these pages are, as you say, of interest to only like 5 people, what’s the value in them again. I mean the value of having to shove them out in public like this, on the Squidoo domain, apparently in hopes of ranking for these brand terms?

    I think it’s obvious. Get them pulling traffic, and then charge people to access the “dashboard” if they want to have a voice at the top.

  • Gwen Bell

    This will be a case study for new journalism students, business students and brand managers everywhere. The part that resonates most for me is that brand monitoring, like showering, should be done in private or only with those you really like.

    Perhaps the most challenging bit about this is Seth’s response to you in the comments. I think you handled it well, Lisa. And maybe a fruit basket is, as you mention on Twitter, in order. Or you could send crow. Just in case.

  • ricnunez

    @Noah I agree he don’t need the promotion, but when you launch a new product even if you are Microsoft or a Apple, you always want the buzz. I don’t agree with “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” either, ask Kanye.

  • Darryl Halse

    Seems like a very simple solution to this would be to make Brands in Public an Opt In model rather than an Opt Out model.

    From a bit of reading it seems obvious that Godin has a host of larger companies eager to get on board. Let them do just that and set an example for smaller companies or those not in the loop. Spread the Brands in Public message through example and allow others to come to you and opt in on your cool idea – rather than feel threatened or coerced into giving Brands in Public their attention (and cash).

  • Gus

    Brand in Public’s new keywords; blackmail, extortion, coercion, bribery, exaction, hush money, milking, payoff, protection, ransom, slush fund, tribute, shake down, sqeeze, badger, bleed, force, hold for ransom, put the shake on, shake down…

  • Brennan Sayre

    A bad idea by Seth Godin and Squidoo. No company will pay $400 monthly in extortion fees. Google has already decreased Squidoo and deindexed a lot of their spammy pages (which is most of them). I guess Squidoo is now taking business ideas from the mafia and making businesses pay protection money.

  • Richard Barratt

    Sorry to rock the boat here, but I actually think he’s come up with a good idea here… At the end of the day, it’s business and he has the opportunity to profit – so fair play.

    Big brands don’t have to take part but they have a platform to do so if they wish. Yes, it will cost them 5k a year which is s drop in the water to them and will be more than a worth while investement for them to fight any fires they may have to do from time to time.

    Needless to say, the cumulative effect for squidoo is very profitable – which is good – they make money so it creates jobs, not just for squidoo but also for the outlets where squidoo spends the money it makes.

    Squidoo also gives a %age of their profits to charity, so any extra money they make swells the non-profit purse as well.

    So that’s the ‘Capitalist’ side of me happy!

    As for any ‘left’ leanings I have – big brands have had us over a barrell for years so I think it’s kind of cool they’re on the receiving side for a change! ;o)

    I apprecite that some people may feel let down by him (is his action doll going to be changed into a voodoo doll by done?) – but he has slapped Squidoo up there as well, so at least he is going to either live or fie by his own sword!

  • Emma Alvarez Gibson

    Lisa —

    Just want to echo what so many have already said here; namely, that what you’ve written is right on.

    And, further to Gwen’s comment: I vote for crow.


  • Tom O'Brien

    Hi Lisa:

    Nice post – this is pretty interesting – and one of the reasons we (MotiveQuest LLC) don’t do dashboards – cause they are going to be free! (see: Addictomatic, LookingGlass)

    I am pretty surprised that Seth Godin is selling the Brands “presence” for $400/month. Guess we’ll have to see how that works. For me that sets up some pretty strong cognitive dissonance with my prior understanding of the Seth Godin “Brand”.

    I’m interested to take a look at a few of the brands on here (where we have done projects) and compare what “Brands in Public” shows about them and what we see with our techniques.

    My guess is that there are lots of issues underneath the “Brands in Public” presentation. I think this because if you asked me (or MotiveQuest) to do all the linguistic coding required to:

    1 Include all the relevant data about (for example) Ford + Models and exclude all the irrelevant data and

    2. De-Dupe and De-Spam all of that,

    It would be a pretty big project. To do this well for hundreds of brands?? Well, you get the difficulty.

    Interesting nonetheless.

    Tom O’Brien
    MotiveQuest LLC

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    People like Seth for some of his ideas. He’s obviously human though and just as obviously, driven by the fact that making money is more important than ethics. Heck – Squidoo itself is proof of that. He’ll probably get away with it because of the price-point. Just like big companies ultimately settle out of court rather than fighting some lawsuits, it’s more cost effective from their perspective. That’s part of the problem of a free market economy. Scummy people always find ways to milk the system regardless of ethical concerns.

  • Paul Cunningham

    Maybe someone has mentioned this already and I just missed it in the comments, but it seems to me a better business model would be selling the *tools* to create public brand feedback aggregation pages on the company’s own website for $xx/mth instead (just some embedable code basically). That makes it completely opt-in and completely avoids any brandjacking. Just my thoughts.

  • Trey Pennington

    Seth is most likely the hall of fame marketeer of our time. ANYONE who can bring so many very bright people to one blog post to contribute the best of their thinking (for free) is simply brilliant. So, kudos to Seth for pushing bright people to think, share, engage, debate, argue, and ponder. Kudos, too, to Lisa who was brilliant enough to create something worth gathering around and breathing even more life into.

    Good show.
    Let’s connect on Twitter, too. Thanks.

  • Kent Lewis

    This is a very intriguing conversation, and I see both sides. You may want to check out an interview with Seth Godin on my blog. There were a few comments along the same lines, and I’m wondering if his answers shed any additional light on this discussion.

  • Daniel Redman

    Ok, so obviously we’re talking about self-propogating a cyber squat strategy. It should be named tropeR ffo-piR; Otherwise known as the most corrupted pay for play scoundrels of the net. The only thing that really makes this a difficult task is the public embarrassment factor. If Godin is simply crowdsourcing through organic arbitrage and offering helpful segmentable data, we have ourselves something that nobody can argue with. His focus should be on the value provided to the user: A helpful, social, ad free (cringe), way to develop consumer reviews. Without getting too dramatic, making his business development less of a force feed by giving one-way mirror access to brands.

    Panties are being bunched over this being a bad idea, it’s not, it just hasn’t been packaged well.

  • Liene Stevens

    I actually saw it from a different point of view – not as a clipping/aggregation tool for the brands to use (because as you rightly mentioned, there are other listening mediums such as Google Alerts for that) but as an aggregation tool for potential clients and customers. I work in the wedding industry. When a bride looks up a vendor she’s not searching twitter, creating Google Alerts, etc to find out about them. She’s reading whatever shows up in the first two or three pages of Google.

    Take, for example, a bridal salon, such as Kleinfeld’s in New York which is featured in the weekly TV show Say Yes to the Dress and has a lot of conversation and online chatter happening about the show and the store. For them to be able to have a site that shows up in the top listings of Google and collects all that info for their brides to read at a glance is well worth it for them. They could easily create this themselves on their own site, but $400 a month is much less than it would cost to pay a social media consultant to create and monitor that type of page for them.

  • olivier blanchard

    I don’t see the brandjacking element here, but maybe I’m missing something. In a way, (aside from the price) it gives companies just starting out in SM an easy to manage turnkey dashboard to monitor and engage. It isn’t very good, but at least it’s already built. (That said, $400 a month for this tool is ridiculous.)

    If Seth priced it at $120/month and gave the customer complete control over the dashboard (not just the left side of the screen) it might not be too bad for a company just starting out in SM monitoring.

  • Joshua

    I think if he had launched it with only a few companies pre-signed up & onboard, giving those as the examples of what brands *could have* if they too signed up, we’d be talking a lot less about it right now.

    Because it is simply an easy-aggregator/dashboard/about page, he had to make it something to talk about.

    Someone already mentioned he was a smart gambler. I concur.

  • Mark Riffey


    Since youve already busted him (rightly so) about comments being closed, did you happen to notice how many trackbacks that his blog post has?

    ZERO, after more than 24 hours.

    Hmm. Must be turned off. Doesnt want to hear from his tribespeople, I guess.

  • Adam Singer

    Perhaps Seth just wanted to get all of us talking.

  • Che

    Given what Seth can charge for speaking gigs and his book revenues I find it very hard to agree with the speculation that this is an underhand attempt to generate $400 a month from brands.

    Really guys, you think he is doing this for money. Come on.

    I have to agree with the witchhunt call.

  • Brian Littleton

    I agree with Michael from post 29 … online reputation management sites that allow brands to actually control content will eventually become marginalized as consumers learn that it is all fluff under their control. Reminds me of when the BBB calls and peddles their membership fee because “someone made an inquiry about your company”, etc…

    I’m glad they will offer opt-out (although I agree that the page should never be generated in the first place unless the brand purchases the service), and otherwise I think it is just something that will go away… eventually. My bet: we won’t be talking about this next year.

  • Adriel Hampton

    Yelping the Internet with help of outsourced coders. Cheap and dirty.

  • Rachel Luxemburg

    I loved “Tribes” and have recommended it to friends. But Brands in Public is IMO a fail.

    I work for one of the big brands listed on Godin’s new site. And (speaking solely for myself) I could care less that I have the opportunity to monitor & respond to brand feedback there. There are a LOT of other places much more obvious to our customers where we participate, get engaged, and respond. And (as Lisa pointed out) a lot of other monitoring tools.

    In short, we don’t need his site. And the implied threat that “oooh people will go there to learn about a brand and see bad things” is IMO highly dubious. Outside of the SEO world nobody gives a **** about Squidoo, after all. Why would Joe or Jane Customer turn to this new site before Twitter, Facebook, Google search, or any other known and trusted resource?

    Or am I missing something in my analysis?

  • Mr B

    I tend to agree with James {42} in that opting in would appear like a more honest model…and less like a hostage situation. On the other hand, Seth might also decide to drop the fee to almost nothing (or totally free) to avoid the appearance of extortion. This would allow the site to grow much quicker and would make Seth appear to be a service provider instead of a brandjacker.

    We all know that Seth is a clever guy and I’m sure that Brands in Public will be running on a completely different model in the next 4-6 weeks after pulling the best ideas from blogs like these. If not, I think it’s fair to say that Kawasaki’s version of Brands in Public will! ;)

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    It’s being said that Seth has done something new? He hasn’t, but he’s a very public figure, and I’m glad that the news it out.

    Perhaps this is finally going to make Brands sit up and take notice how easy it is for their brand to be slated or hijacked.

    If I choose, I can scrape data on a brand from the Net, and using some very public online tools output a harmless feed into something much more negative. Brand managers are completely in the dark on this stuff – I speak with them and they barely understand what Twitter is – and if I were them I’d be very VERY concerned. Can you imagine running sites that update automatically news on a brand, but that transforms that news into something negative. And the best bit, once the site manager has setup the site, there is NOTHING more to do. The content won’t look like the lost child of Markov either.

    That’s possible now, and it’s easy.

    Be concerned, and take steps.


  • John Barton


    The price isnt really the core of my point either. My main point is that this is an aggregator. The content already exists. Seth is doing nothing more than making it accessible to the every day man who isnt au-fait with industry tools.

    I can find the exact same content in seconds on radian 6. Now I’m sorry but if I am a brand and I have a terrible reputation online the issue is much bigger than seth godin aggregating it on his page.

    In fact if I am skilled up in the channel I will have a team of social media experts in place to deal with the situation. EXTERNALLY of godins page. Afterall if my rep is good, do i really care about seths page?

    Its hardly holding anyone to ransom. Hes not offering anything original other than a tool that anyone can use. If brands are stupid enough to pay for it then sorry I am still wishing him luck.

    But the main point is that Seths page is like a mirror – nothing more – if you dont like what you see… then you know what you have to do to change it…and it certainly doesnt start with paying Seth for his page.


  • John Barton

    Just noticed that Rachel Luxembourg has hit the nail on the head.

    Couldnt agree more.

  • trevelyan

    As an entrepreneur, I don’t see what the problem is here. Brandjacking is only a problem for businesses that can’t rank for their own names. Otherwise there are SEO benefits to having the link.

    Are people outraged Seth is trying to make money?

  • Jon Harris

    At the moment, we don’t know what Seth’s motivation was for this. Maybe it will come out in a few weeks, but at the moment it does seem as if it is just purely financial.

    Yes, it is nothing new. Yes, it is a weak tool. Yes, it is overpriced. However, surely it is just Seth capitalising on his experience and public image. We all know of 100 products that are not the best in their market, but are top sellers because of their brand. Seth is just that – a brand.

    I can see why people are disappointed though, because he is a very well respected figure and the fact he is trying to profit in this way is being viewed as basically selling out.

    At the end of the day, he will make money from this because marketing managers somewhere will hear about this, freak out, and pay the fee so they can sleep better at night.
    However, these things have to stand the test of time. If industry opinion mirrors the majority of the comments on here, it will have a limited shelf life because agencies and marketers will not be putting it forward to clients as a useful tool.
    If that’s the case, the site will fall into obscurity and Seth will have made a few thousand dollars. Maybe he won’t care too much about the industry backlash when he is sitting on his new fishing boat next summer.

  • Kate Hussey

    Where in principle I agree with the model, an aggregation of brand reputation (which is already occurring), the issue that I have, is that there are brands that are not ready to be in the limelight and may take a couple more years to be able to interact / engage in this space in a constructive manner. Whilst these conversations are happening, they are not aggregated into one area and the client is not currently being ‘forced’ to engage without actually being able to offer value to their customers. I agree that this is a shoot first and aim later strategy which is what we in the digital space should be moving away from! Strategy is key.

  • Robert Barr

    Squidoo plans to create hub pages about lots of brands and then populate those pages with scraped content such as blog posts, tweets, Google News, Yahoo News, Google Trends, forum posts and a whole host of other content

    How is this no different from the splogs we detest?

  • Don Makoviney

    What a strange topic to wake up to this morning.

    As someone who has bought every book of his starting with “Permission Marketing” in the late-90’s, I am really disappointed Seth would do this. Not only do I agree this is 100% brand jacking, but what a headache to have yet ANOTHER place to go and manage your brand.

    My feeling is that if it’s a conversation, the brand needs to go to WHERE THE CONVERSATION IS, not some middle page like BrandsInPublic. That’s why Twitter keyword filters exist. It’s why Google Alerts exist. There’s absolutely no reason to have some other place to login and manage “reputation”. It’s just a redundant service stacked on top of another marginally useful site (Squidoo).

    Unfortunately Seth isn’t the only one disappointing me at the moment. There are some great A-List bloggers that are all shoving redundant “Blogging Courses” down our throats as well.


  • Justin Basini

    The question for me is whether this initiative will ever amount to anything more than a storm in a teacup. I don’t like the brand-jcking aspects but that is only really an issue if it answers a need and therefore might get take up:

    1. From a marketers perspective….most big brands are monitoring this information and insight anyway and if they aren’t they will (and this might well prompt them to)

    2. From a consumer perspective…..does it really tell me anything I didn’t know or suspect already – I bet it doesn’t. Therefore unless it adds new insight it might get a brief look but it won’t command much authority. The SEO threat is real but I think most consumers understand to treat much of the chat on the internet about brands with a pinch of salt.

    All in all I doubt it will really become a big part of consumers or marketers lives.

    Good chat though.

    Justin Basini

  • Benjy

    Wow… Godin backed down! He announced today that they’re adjusting their model for the Brands in Public to make it opt-in instead of opt-out.

  • Tom O'Brien

    I you want to see how weak the thinking and execution behind this concept is all you have to do is go look at the “brands in public” UPS page.

    Among the top five news stories about the UPS Package Shipping Company

    “Chile central bank UPS credit line . . .”
    “Eminem, Public Enemy, Tom Morello Bring All-Star Team-UPS to . . .

    It isn’t so easy to exclude the data you don’t want and include the data you do want using (apparently) simple keyword searches. (I guess this is Seth’s business partner’s responsibility – BzzAgent.)

    You know what they say – GIGO!

    Tom O’Brien

  • rishil

    I wish I had time. I would love to create an Alltop on Squidoo and a Squidoo lense on Alltop. @Lisa – want to help? :P

  • Kae Kohl

    I see that Mr. Godin has adjusted his sails to take advantage of the prevailing wind. Opt-in makes a lot more ethical sense than opt-out. I think you had a lot to do with his new tack, Lisa. Good job.

  • Chris H.

    I don’t buy for a second that their intentions for building the sample pages were just “letting brands see them in action,” and not to profit off of these brands’ reputation. Seth Godin and Squidoo should have known exactly what the results would be when they created those sample pages, but obviously didn’t foresee the backlash it would create in the internet marketing community who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

    I’m glad they took the pages down, but I’ve got to say, this has really changed my view of Seth Godin. I will probably be promoting his content less in the future.

  • Bob

    Google needs to slap sites like Squidoo down to zero.

    There’s not a single sincere page on the domain.

  • GA

    Well done re the TechCrunch mention

  • Fabian

    Lisa this is one of the best, well written articles I have ever read . Your wording, your tone… the passion is fascinating. Thanks so much.

    I’m subscribing right now :)

  • Chuck Reynolds

    Well Said… well said. Initially it surprised me he made that move – glad he just made it opt in – not like he had a choice haha.

  • Dan

    My problem with how Seth has been trying to smooth things over is the passive-aggressive tone in a line toward the end of organizetheconversationsb.pdf, which he linked in the announcement post.

    “Brands in Public will soon start appearing in search results.”

    That may seem pretty innocent on its face, but it has a definite unappealing undertone. Seth is well aware of what he is doing. His 200 example pages (who needs 200 examples, anyway??) were intended to rank in the SERPs, and provide leverage to sell his service.

    Nice backpedal.

  • nils

    I have no respect for Seth Godin, well, he reacted relatively fast and jep he probably reacted the right way but excuse me?! Why this move from somebody who always pretends the fair and open-minded prophet?!?!?!??!?! –

    Seth Godin – you are definitely not the godfather of WOM, Social Media, or the new marketing and you proved like all other traditional marketers – once they become big they become money making machines!

    Seth – you are the liar you talked about in your precious books which are useless to me right now and definitely find their to the trash can!

  • Rosemary

    Thanks for alerting us to this latest unwelcome development. Ive only just become aware of your existence Lisa – thru Techcrunch – and now Ive signed up to hear more of your insights. Cheers Rosemary

  • mtlb

    I read a lot in the comments here from supporters of the concept that it’s fair play and just Seth aggregating what’s already out there. If that’s all it were.

    Except it feels like blogjacking.

    Look at it from the POV of the content creator whose work will now appear in a given brand page there. No big deal normally, except, I would think an attorney versed in copyright law might want to take a closer look.

    Like me, a lot of bloggers have Creative Commons attribution on their blogs as well as an implied copyright in place, things which clearly say while content may be shared, it is not to be used for commercial purposes.

    Making $400 off someone else’s blog posts sure seems like it could qualify as commercial use, almost as much as me taking a bird logo off Twitter’s site and selling t-shirts with it. I’m pretty sure Biz would have a problem with that, no?

    Does this mean I need to send Seth an invoice for each appearance of my content? It might.

  • George Angus

    Hi Lisa,

    Never been much of a Seth fan anyway (closed comments is arrogant and puts me off). This seals the deal.

    He’ll never get a penny of mine…


  • Mike Gibbons

    I think Seth Godin makes a lot of people frustrated (with) & mad… at themselves

  • sib

    Loved your post Lisa! I was one that honestly felt REALLY disappointed in Seth Godin for doing this. And, honestly have REALLY lost respect for him. Imagine that… here we have the Guru of “transparency and authenticity” shilling such an idea – and under some kind of lame auspice that it should somehow be perceived as an honorable endeavor. PAY HIM to control your own brand? Or even better yet, pay him to be able to push the “negative feedback” further down your “paid for” squidoo “lense”. Methinks not.

    I would have made the same observations as you (probably more though because this sort of “duping” really undermines everything he claims to stand for…) — the only change I would maybe have made was in the title. I would have put something like: “SETH GODIN REINVENTS HIMSELF AS DON CORLEONE”.


  • Lorenz Lammens

    I don’t see anything wrong with creating an aggregator. In fact, I think it could be very useful to the general public.

    The issue is that the whole package is misleading. The big official looking logo, the fact that the naive surfer doesn’t immediately realize that this is in no way an official page, the fact that the opt-out for brands is hidden.

    It all looks much more like a robbery than a service.

    Yes, I am disappointed with this move of Seth Godin. If it was anybody else, I would just anger me as another money grabbing scheme – enough companies do that every day. But with Seth Godin this is more: he stands for delivering extraordinary value, that is the message he spreads every day.

    The message and the brand seem very much separated.

  • Mark

    I would consider this YAPR–yet another protection racket–which it is of course, but there’s the added bonus that Seth pointed out above that he’s gotten love from a bunch of BIG brands. Aside from the fact that you have to opt-out (isn’t that sort of anti-permission-marketing?) I guess it’s not much different from other efforts to WalMartize the Web. In the long run it’s always good for people to finally come out from behind the well-crafted persona and reveal themselves.

  • Jim Rudnick

    Hmmm…bit late coming to this, but IMHO, this is a simple marketing tactic that will bring Seth $$$, at the expense of those who believe that they’re “now” playing the social media game. Big brands are late to that arena, and the $400 monthly is peanuts…so yes, I’d assume that there will be tons of same in a few months…..sigh…..wish I’d a thought of it myownself!


  • Sandeep Bali

    If someone else would have done this, it would probably not become such a big topic of discussion.. and if that person would have fixed it after this.. people would have rather said good things about him.

    We must accept that Seth is just as humane.. and everyone wants to make money.. he did something which majority don’t agree with, and he fixed it. I guess we should let it go now.

    He has really been very kind with his knowledge, and I am sure there are far more easier ways he would have made more money than by doing this hq thing.. i am not very sure if it was for money..

    i still love Outspoken Media.. i still respect Seth Godin

  • Dan

    I thought of this post, and the backlash Seth Godin received when he announced Brands In Public, while reading some posts about Google Sidewiki. I can’t help but think that Google’s new product is so much worse for ORM than Brands In Public ever could have been. And I wonder if Google will have the good sense to can 86 Sidewiki before the comment spam gets out of hand.

    Apparently, it’s already being used to falsely label people as pedophiles and other unseemly things. Pretty short sighted of Google.

  • Pamela

    It’s Seth’s way of getting money and nothing but money. He just didn’t care to see if it has a good effect on the brand and the consumer as well.

  • Carol

    I do agree with what Seth says about constantly getting contacted by brands and being told to ‘take it down’ (re the content). Sorry guys, sue me.

  • Andy Mutt

    Lovely Post! I am one of the biggest admirers of Seth Godin. I’ve improved most of my marketing techniques reading his blog. If you don’t know Seth Godin, then you are just a newbie.

  • Charles

    Do you consider and Guy Kawasaki a scraper?

  • Cilt Maskeleri

    It’s Seth’s way of getting money and nothing but money. He just didn’t care to see if it has a good effect on the brand and the consumer as well.

  • Jack

    Is it OK for me to contact him to get him to do the brandjacking thing on mysite? I didn’t understand how we can get him to do it.