Shooting for the Starbucks of blogs

This week I was sitting in a crowded cafe off of a hotel lobby in New York City.  The cafe offered free coffee for the hotel guests and I helped myself to the delicious hot drink. I am not a coffee elitist. In fact, the more my coffee tastes like a milkshake, the happier I am.

A group sitting next to me had another idea.  They scoffed at the free coffee and sent a scouting party across the street — in the freezing sleet and rain — to round-up four coffees from Starbucks.  Probably paid $4.50 apiece for them.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between me — taking the convenient ‘free content” — versus the alternate group willing to go out of their way and pay for their content. As marketers and bloggers, isn’t that really our goal?  To be so unique, so insanely great, to be able to summon a powerful emotional connection that would drive people out into the sleet to find us!

That’s awesome. That’s what I want to be when I grow up. Or {grow} up as the case may be. I don’t intend to charge for blog content but I do want to provide that kind of value to readers. A few people have told me — “I would pay for your blog.” I think that is the highest compliment possible!

How about you? What would it take for people to want to PAY to read your blog? Are you up to that big of a challenge? If you reached for a goal like that, what would you be changing right now about your blog, your career, your team, or your company?

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  • Or if you are like me or any true coffee snob out here in SF, you’ll turn up your nose at paying 4.50 for Starbucks because their coffee sucks. Blue Bottle ( at 4+ a cup? Yep, it’s worth it. Peet’s ( Worth every penny at 4.50. NY Times – not really. I was a regular times reader until last week. I can get EVERYTHING I was getting there on MSNBC, Politico, Epicurious, Washington Post and Grow for nothing.

    I’ll take another cup of that free coffee, Mark.

  • I happen to like Starbucks, but free is one of my favorite words!

    I want people to be excited enough about my personal blog content that they book me to speak, That is my big goal. What would I have to do? Continue to be myself, and begin getting the message out to women who feel they cannot leave their abusers that they can do it. I did it, and I am a better person for having gone through that.

    The message that I want to have people crossing the street for in the sleet is really very simple – we are never without hope. If I can do nothing else in this life, if I motivate even one person to leave an abuser, it will be well worth it.

    That is worth crossing the street in any weather to me.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    What an entertaining comment, thanks Marc. Very well-written. Glad to see you back in the comment section my friend!

  • I love to teach and coach, so I hope people would cross the street to read my blog and offer to let me teach at their organization or school………….

    Have a great weekend!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Wow, what a powerful message Nancy. I would cross the street in the sleet for that and I think a lot of other people would too. We’re all in this together, as always, so let me know what I can do to support you!

  • This is a nice piece of content to chew on over the weekend Mark.

    Pushing your community to do better, eh???

    Love it sir.

    Have a great weekend Mark, I appreciate all you do… And yes, I would pay to learn from you.

  • The stuff that comes out of my coffee maker only look like coffee. It tastes like it was scraped off the wheel well of my car after driving I-80 from Sacramento to San Francisco. (If I knew what that tasted like.) So I am far from Starbucks. (Of course, it would be nice to have a good cup every now and then!)

    Blogging. Shh. This is a secret I think most people don’t want to hear. Because blogging is 100% you, it takes more work than you have ever put into anything. You can go to your day job and phone it in. Really. You can. (We have all done it from time to time.) But blogging? Nope. You gotta pay all your dues.

    Are you up for that challenge? I believe I have a good work ethic, but blogging has been pushing me – in the right direction. I think I am a better writer and communicator, and I’m finding my niche. All of that may work to my advantage.

    Now. . .I just need coffee to get me there.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Great attitude Carolee. Good job!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Just sent your invoice. : )

  • Mark W Schaefer

    You are such a great writer Paul. Love the way you add to the discussion. This is a great point. Really hits home!

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  • Erica Allison

    Good Morning, Mark! Heck, I’m happy when people pay me for what my company does! To amp up the blog to that level…well, it will take a LOT more coffee for this girl.

    Seriously, you pose an interesting point here. I want people to glean enough about me and my business from my blog to want to hire me and yes, pay me for my services. My blog is the ‘sample’ that gets them to buy the package.

    Your blog? Well, it’s the special sauce that people line up for! (That’s a hint to the topic of my blog post yesterday, in which you were a featured mention : )

    Take care, Mark and SO looking forward to meeting you soon!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Love your passion Erica. Thanks for contributing today and thanks for the mention!

  • Anonymous

    Mark, I’m adding your quote to my mindmap goals board, if I may: “To be so unique, so insanely great, to be able to summon a powerful emotional connection that would drive people out into the sleet to find us!” Love it!

  • Carolynn Kutz

    “I don’t intend…” I see you may contradict your goal. Charge! $4.50 per month. @ckdozi.

  • Anonymous

    You sir, serve up excellent free content I enjoy almost everyday with my coffee. I get the beans shipped in fresh from Storyville Coffee ( ) but that’s another story.

    What some may not know about your complimentary content is that as good as it goes with coffee, it’s just a taste of what you can do for them. Your work in education, consulting, strategic planning and creative collaboration on special projects is where even more value is available.

    MLT Creative has been smart enough to invest in all of the above and what you have taught my team, how you have helped by consulting with us and our clients and engaged with us on special projects has been worth every dime. I have the case studies to prove the positive ROI.

    It seems that most of the active members of this {grow} community are about growing their business or building on their dreams. Many, like me, are in marketing of some kind and in addition to their own business also have clients they work to help grow. I am hesitant to suggest they do what I do and pay for your professional services because then you would be too busy to see the big {grow} logo projected on the clouds, put on your cape and fly to Atlanta to save us like you usually do.

    I hope to still get the content with my coffee for free but will gladly pay for your professional help growing my business because it always pays off. Thanks Mark!

  • Great questions Mark! Plan to spend the weekend answering while re-energizimg, refocusing and relaxing. Enjoy your weekend. Be back on Monday?

    P.S. Gave up coffee for tea ; )

  • Sometimes I wish I could pay myself to run my blog, let alone people pay me :=)

    Seriously, though, I don’t think I’d ever charge because my goal is not to grow into a media channel like the folks at Gawker, albeit the business equivalent.

    What I love about blogging and content creation online whether it’s a blog, podcast or vlog, is that it has the opportunity to bring people closer to you. I don’t think that would come from charging.

    Sure, I have to remind myself to push myself professionally and to make my company blog as good as I possibly can against the limits of doing client work, and I guess that’s my round about way of saying I’d cross the road and pay to be able to blog for the way it brings me both business (growth!), personal growth and contact with such a hotch potch of wonderful people – like you, for instance.

  • This is a great analogy! As more and more content is thrown onto the web, there’s going to be a point where only the “starbucks” bloggers will create a community willing to invest in their ideas. It reminds me of the article “1,000 True Fans,” where a small group of loyal members can support a creative’s lifestyle.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Well that does sound like a pretty good challenge, doesn’t it? : )

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Nah, but thanks for the push and encouragement Carolynn. I’m having too much fun and don’t want to mess it up for something stupid like money : )

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Now listen everybody, this is important! I SWEAR I did not pay Billy to write this.

    What a wonderful thing for you to say Billy. Working with the energitic minds and passionate hearts of MLT Creative is one of my favorite things in the world. Many thanks!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Ha! Well, the weather is supposed to be lousy here this weekend, so that kind of thinking will be going on here too! Thanks Dr. Rae!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I agree. Plus, I would not want the pressure. Sometimes I’m a little goofy on this blog. I want to do that if I want and not worry about the paying customers! I worry about that enough. I want to keep blogging fun! Thanks for your very kind words, Jon. The feeling is mutual!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I had not heard of that post Brad and was curious so googled it. I see this is a theme and it is quite interesting. Here is one link that i think describes this theory in case other readers are interested, too:

    I learned something from you today. Thank you!

  • I read the article a few years ago and it blew my mind. from then, it completely altered my strategy in business… glad you found the article interesting too!

  • My pleasure Mark! We’re having the same weather here in Pittsburgh ;(

  • A start that may become the next “Starbucks of blogs”
    Just signed up for Kindle Publishing for Blogs! ; )

  • Rhondahurwitz1

    To create a brand so strong is powerful stuff. Since it isn’t the stuff IN the cup alone that commands the premium for Starbucks (or why would it have the nickname “charbucks”) but the roll up of product/brand experience/image that does, I wonder what the analogy is for a blog? Surely not the content alone.

  • Hi Mark,

    Found you via google, while looking for reviews of spamming tools for twitter. Ha! Irony. Read your thoughts about blogging, metrics, you and Chris Brogan (one of my faves and he even follows me!). 🙂 Interesting. You had me at “quality followers’ list” and “I want an audience I can be proud of.” As a career educator who happens to also be fascinated by (and participating in) social media and best business practices, I believe maintaining my public image is hugely important ~ even if it means taking time to block, block, block spammers on twitter.

    Now, about this coffee….

    You asked: “If you reached for a goal like that, what would you be changing right now about your blog, your career, your team, or your company?” Great question! As I attempt to build my fledgling professional blog (after successfully building a ‘fun’ one), I struggle w/ this question a lot… what to do differently.

    And as I transition from being an educator employed by a school district to being ‘my own boss’ while serving others via freelance and consulting projects (I’m a literacy educator & professional development designer/facilitator), I’m getting asked this question by those who don’t know me: What do you do differently? Not so easy to answer if you haven’t REALLY thought about it, right?? I’m changing my career (slightly) and must bring something different to the table… your question will continue to resonate within me…

    Glad I found you. Have subscribed via e-mail. Do hope you’ll find me ‘twitter worthy.’ 🙂


  • Thanks for the resource, Mark, and big thanks to Brad for sharing the 1,000 True Fans topic with us. I clicked over and have more to read over Saturday morning coffee.

  • Mark – I think that for people to go across the street in bad weather to read my blog, it would have to be something unique. Starbuck’s doesn’t consider their coffee there primary product. Rather it is the “coffee shop” experience.

    My blog, or any one for that matter needs to be unique within my niche. I need to be real and original rather than stale and “me too.” I for one am really thinking about how to become unique and to make people want to come to me for what I give that is different and that is good!

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  • Interesting analogy and I’ll take it a step further, would the weather (convenience) have an influence on your decision as well?

    If you are going to take the time to monetize your efforts you really have to bring quantifiable value because there is so, so much free access and a lot of noise out there.

    Ultimately you need to find the consumer’s ‘why’ and then bring value to the proposition. You also need to remember what you ‘offer’ will not be for everyone.

    Good post, and I’m stopping by because @Brankica recommended it. I’ve seen you out and about in the blogosphere and certainly have heard about your book. I’ll have to come back and check it out as I’m just progressing from the crawling to walking stage in this twitter world.

    See you soon.

  • Oh it has very little to do with what is in the cup. Kind of like Coke. Brown sugar water, right? No, the brand exists as much more in people’s minds. Thanks!

  • Of course you are worthy, which really gets to the heart of your question of differentiation.

    You are amazing in your own way. You have a unique set of educational and professional experiences that you can use to help people. Digging deep, recognizing those differences and having the courage to share them in a blog is the most powerful point of differentiation you have on the social web. Just be you, deeply and courageously.

    Its not as easy as it sounds by the way. The anonymity of the web allows people to seem like perfect super heroes. But we’re not. The true power of connection comes from vulnerability, which I constantly struggle with.

    One of the things I offer to any of my blog subscribers is the opportunity to connect in a deeper way by email or phone. As you move forward with your blog, if you get stuck and think I can help, let me know.

    Im glad you found me and look forward to you being part of the blog community Robin.

  • Perfectly stated, Dave! You have certainly hit the core idea. I think there is a personality that comes out on any product that is the core of a brand promise. Blogs included.

  • Really glad you found me Bill. Brankica rocks. If you are just starting on Twitter I highly recommend The Tao of Twitter. That’s why I wrote it. Helping people understand what it is all about is not something that can be covered in a phone call or over coffee. It took me MONTHS to understand Twitter. Hopefully this book will help shorten the leaning curve for others. Thanks for joining in!

  • You and I keep having this conversation on our own blogs, but never together. I’m with you…I’ll never charge for our blog content and lots of people have said they will pay for it. Which is part of the reason we have a new business coming. The blog will remain free and I will continue to be the one writing it. But we think we’ve figured out how a way to become the Starbucks of content.

  • Cant wait to see it Gini!

  • Mark, aloha. What a terrific analogy. Thx for issuing the challenge and providing the goal. This post inspires me. Thx so much. Aloha. Janet

  • Glad this was useful to you Janet. Thanks for taking the time to say so!

  • Glad this was useful to you Janet. Thanks for taking the time to say so!

  • Peter Larsson101

    About Americans and coffee I must tell, that I am From Sweden, and Coffe from Usa, or German, is only the flush water after we Swede´s has clean the coffee machine. When I am In Us or German I must have white me, nescafe, to put in side, when I by coffee on a public place. Becasue it is not possible to drink it. I get problem in the stomack. But you have right about the point.

  • I don’t drink coffee, but I do like a good couple of blogs in the morning. I can definitely say the ones I like best I go out of my way to get to.

  • Jerry

    man,just give me a cup of luke warm tasters choice and i’m ready to go.

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