Blast from the Past: Infopreneurs

Long before there was Search Engine Optimization and the WWW, people were starting businesses selling or offering information via the phone, newsletters, books, videos, CDs, and other media. These were like the pre-Internet predecessors of ecommerce.

Reading Infopreneurs: Turning Data into Dollars by Skip Weitzen was a blast, and a quick read. It was like looking into the past, but also seeing how the past formed our present. Weitzen’s old text, I think, makes him a Nostradamus of ecommerce.

Clay Shirkey saw the Web and Internet as a human-communication revolution, and described what we call social media.

The lesser known Michael Hauben invented the term Netizen and envisioned the Internet as communities, back in the 1990s.

Seth Godin saw the Web and email as a supercharged direct mail.

Weitzen’s ideas formed in the era of modems and telephone services, and described the emerging information economy, where information became a product with value.

The value was realized through the following actions:

  • Selling information products that make business more efficient and profitable.
  • Extracting data from a database: querying and reporting.
  • Putting data into a database, if it’s not already in one.
  • Facilitating access to the data with targeted reporting delivered quickly.
  • Repackaging existing data for a niche audience.
  • Providing around-the-clock access, via computer or telephone.
  • Combining data access with telephone based ordering or transactions.

If these different ways to make money with data sound familiar, it’s because all this stuff has become “ecommerce”. Weitzen, back in 1991, was describing dozens of different business that would implement one or a few of the above actions.

Today, an ecommerce strategy usually involves all those things (except the telephone parts, usually), but in a single integrated system.

You can find copies of this book, cheap, on Amazon, Ebay, BN, AbeBooks, and Alibris.