Gene Marks is dangerously wrong about "Tech 'solutions' your small biz can't use"

 by Martin Belam, 8 January 2008

A couple of days ago via the extremely useful Sphinn I was directed to an article on MSNBC by Gene Marks - "Tech 'Solutions' Your Small Biz Can't Use".

MSNBC article header

In amongst it he lists RSS, blogs, SEO and Web 2.0 as tech that have no uses for the small business. Once I'd spluttered out my coffee and started hammering my outraged response, I realised it was a great bit of linkbait designed to get lots of people frothing at the mouth, and figured that I might as well wait and instead round-up some of the best responses to it. Here were a few I spotted:

However, I found that actually, in the end I did still personally want to address three important points that Gene Marks gets completely wrong - in fact I'd go as far as to dangerously wrong for small businesses in one case.

My first issue is that he misunderstands the read/write nature of some of the technologies he is describing.

He speaks of RSS feeds over-whelming a small business with useless information, and says that "most of the business owners I know have abandoned RSS and gone back to controlling when they get their information".

Just leaving aside here the whole issue of whether RSS does actually give you less control of how you get your information, he makes no mention of the value to businesses of publishing information in the RSS format.

RSS is not a one-way street.

I get direct information via RSS from lots of businesses I am interested in, and I'm more likely to use their services or purchase their products or recommend them because of it.

Gene Marks makes a similar mistake with blogs - although here it is the reverse. He can't see the value in a small business producing a blog - but he doesn't even mention whether it might be worth a small business reading blogs.

I'm not suggesting that every small business in the land should suddenly throw themselves into the blogosphere, but let's be honest here, most small businesses care what is written about them in the local press. So why wouldn't they care what was written about them in blogs written by local people?

I'm not even suggesting that they sign up for using Technorati or Icerocket here. A quick search for their company name every now and then in Ask's blog search or Google's blog search might turn up a wealth of comment, praise and criticism of their service that would be useful business intel.

Secondly, in amongst the useless tech he names 'Spam Filters' and 'Antivirus Software'. Now, whether RSS or blogs can be useful is a matter of opinion. However, the insecurity of computers on the net is a fact.

Hitherto, I'd have thought that the only people who were likely to advise small businesses that they should run Windows PCs linked to the internet with no spam or virus protection in place were Russian gangsters looking to add to their spambot army.

Now, I'm not exactly a fan of some of the ways that McAffee and Norton and their ilk run on Windows machines, but honestly - when was the last time you heard someone seriously suggest that connecting unprotected computers to the web was a good idea?

Finally, he illustrates that he fundametally does not understand the 'clip-culture' of the web when talking about YouTube.

"Ron, a reseller of computer software, thought his business would be perfect for online video, what with the amount of Web-based training and support he provides. Ron figured he could post some videos on YouTube to help his clients. He soon learned that the cost and complexity was just too high. Quality videos require production companies. Otherwise you'll have grainy, useless footage. And videos that run beyond a certain length aren't even YouTube-able".

But why would anyone commission a high-quality video that over-ran the YouTube limit just to put it onto YouTube? The thing with YouTube is that you can convert your web-based training into teaser spots on YouTube, or break up your 20 minute video press-pack into a couple of short snippets.

And nobody using it, apart from Gene Marks it seems, expects YouTube clips to have the production values of a TimeWarner movie. Sure, it helps to look good, but has Gene Marks not heard that some of the most popular and viral promotional videos on YouTube were uploaded from mobile phones?

Having prodded a hornet's nest of bloggers and SEO experts to rip his frankly ignorant article to shreds, the worry is, of course, that anyone who has swallowed his line will never look further on the web to see how utterly wrong Gene Marks is. And what poor advice he has just given for their business.


You know what the worst part of this is this is the type of content that Google and other search engines wind up trusting and keeping online for years to come, being that is on an authoritative domain like MSNBC. it will wind up ranking for really good keywords. This is just one of 1000s of articles of incorrect information that people would trust because of the source.

I agree Jaan. Gene Marks totally got this wrong. Three other blogs written about this same guy are:


Blue Chip Marketing


Kalena Jordan goes further and awards 'Dumbass of the Week: Gene Marks'

I also posted my own entry at SEO Hong Kong.

For quite obvious reasons, MSNBC chose to remove that article we've been linking to.

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