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5 Questions For Ken Schafer, Tucows & One Degree

Ideas, connectivity and community. Those elements are the essence of One Degree.
When Ken me to Five Questions about a year ago, I was honored to be included on the list. I was the eighth person to be interviewed, only four removed from marketing guru Seth Godin . (That’s is likely as close to 15 minutes of fame as I will probably get.) The roster of individuals for Five Questions has become a who’s who of the digital industry – a huge accomplishment in just over a year.
But there is a glaring omission on the list. It dawned on me that no one has interviewed Ken Schafer. So, after becoming a One Degree contributor myself recently, I told Ken that my next contribution would involve rallying up five industry leaders (also One Degree contributors) and turn the table on him – interviewing the brains behind it all.
So, without further adieu, here are Five Questions for Ken Schafer, one each asked in order by Michael Seaton, Kate Trgovac , Sulemaan Ahmed , Mitch Joel Bill Sweetman .

Seaton: “Ken, what are two major changes you have witnessed in the digital world since launching One Degree that you believe will change marketing forever, and why?
Two major changes in the last 18 months, huh? I know online marketing changes fast, but I’m not sure it changes _that_ fast. 🙂
The two things that weren’t on my radar a year ago were the importance of social media sites and video.
18 months ago when we launched I would have cited “LinkedIn”: and “Flickr”: as my prime examples of social networking. But the concept has now exploded and we’re seeing community, communication, colloboration, and shared wisdom flowering all over the place. I’ve been expecting this for ages but now that the “hive mind” is starting to emerge it is truly exciting.
Video has been on the Net for ages of course but the ascendence of “YouTube”:, “Google Video”: and video content via “iTunes”: has reshaped the online landscape this year in ways I wouldn’t have expected.
My guess is that we’re seeing an acceleration in adoption of new services and business models that will make business that much harder. How do we keep up when sites go from not existing to the top ten most trafficked on the net in a year or two?
Trgovac: “What is your career-planning advice for a high school grad that comes to you and says “I want to get into marketing.”

You mean other than, “find something productive to do with your life?” 🙂
The secret to career success is *action*. If you want to succeed, *do something*. Start a blog, a little web business, or hook up with some “DemoCamp geeks”: and offer to do their marketing for a share of the micro-business they’re starting. In particular marketers looking to build their careers *have to blog*. I’ve been interviewing for a bunch of marketing jobs recently and a strong online presence lets me see so much about a potential hire – how they think, how they work, how connected they are, how clueful, and whether they can communicate effectively. This stuff tells me *way more* about someone than a resume – particularly if they are fresh out of school.
Ahmed: “You’ve launched a new e-commerce site but your marketing budget is almost non-existent. What online marketing initiative do you focus on first and why?(You can only pick one…)”
If it is a niche site that has a small product set of interest to a small audience I’d integrate a blog into the business and I’d blog up a storm about my products, my company, and those things that interest the community I’m looking to serve. That would get me get viral and SEO opportunities for free and would build credibility for the site quicker than most anything. Of course I’m assuming if _I_ launched the site it was built to be search-friendly and that it follows web site best practices.
If the site is a major new e-commerce site and I had an almost non-existent budget I’d look for a new job because whoever is behind the thing clearly doesn’t get that you have to market online properties MORE not less than traditional ones.
Joel: “Ken, at last year’s Digital Marketing Conference, you said “email is dead,” or something like that. What do you think is the current state of email marketing, and with all of this social media taking off are banners and search also on the death march?
I guess that email gets to say that “rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated”.
Assuming there is no recording of that CMA session I’d like to point out that I didn’t say “email is dead”. I said “email is dead to me” (And I’m putting Stephen Colbert _on notice_ for appropriating that expression).
I’m really bored with email. There seems to be little or no innovation in the space and all we have to talk about is how hard it is to get legitimate mail delivered these days, and how no one opens our messages even if they do get them. Yes it still works and most marketers would be foolish to not make it a core part of what they do. I just wish it would go away so we could talk about something more interesting.
Sweetman: “Ken, you’ve been a valiant champion of Internet marketing for over a decade, and it is no doubt still a struggle to convince some companies of the merits of all things Internet. What keeps you motivated to keep on fighting the good fight? (Translation: Why haven’t you given up?)”
I did give up. “Joining Tucows”: was very much about an increasing frustration I had with repeatedly explaining why the Net mattered to each new client. I really wanted to “build a dream team”: that got it and to work with a company that was 100% pure Internet. Tucows is full of smart people who get why Web 2.0 is important but they’ve been around long enough to avoid the pitfalls all the new kids on the block are making (like not having business models).
I guess I keep “keep on fighting the good fight” through my work here at One Degree and teaching for the Canadian Marketing Association but in both of these cases I feel like I’m helping those who want to be helped and I have all the time in the world for that.
My new goal isn’t to convince people that Internet matters but to say to smart marketers “if your company doesn’t get the Net by now it never will. Get the hell out of there while you can!”

One Comment

  1. Michael Seaton
    Michael Seaton September 25, 2006

    Hey Ken,
    This was a lot of fun to spin questions back to you. Thanks to everyone who agreed to participate and give One Degree readers an insiders perspective on the brains behind one of Canada’s best collective marketing voices.

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