As the world moves merrily along towards roughly Web 2.26beta (by my calculations), we are seeing the beginning (I think) of the thinning of the ranks with existing Web 2.0 plays. I received an email the other day from the folks at Fruitcast. Fruitcast is/was a play that catered to providing integrated audio ads for podcasters. In the email, they outlined the reasons why the service was being shut down, albeit allegedly temporarily.
I want to point out a couple of things on this front, though.
First and foremost, I want to point out that this isn’t a knock on Fruitcast, or their team. It seemed like a great service (I even used it myself.) However, I am always of the belief that if you can learn something from the failures of others, the better. If I’m gonna fail, I’d rather fail by committing my own, unique, blunderous errors, rather than falling prey to “common pitfalls.”
Next, I want to talk about the “seven P’s”. You may remember the “4 P’s” from your Marketing 101 class in college (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). Well, the “seven P’s” of which I speak are not related to those “4 P’s” from Marketing 101. They are different.
What are the “seven P’s”? With a nod to Dick Marcincko, former U.S. Navy SEAL, who introduced me to the phrase years ago:
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Fruitcast clearly did not secure enough capital and resources to move their plan forward. I am also reminded of the quote from German Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke:
Kein Plan überlebt Kontakt mit dem Feind.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
Their email (full text below) provides a litany of issues describing why they are having to take a “hiatus.” However, many of the stated issues could have (should have) easily been addressed in the planning stages of their business (bandwidth, server downtime, lack of customers).
One of my favorite lines is where the Fruitcast guys inform us that they are “going to put Fruitcast on a brief hiatus, so we can work on it without annoying our member podcasters in the meantime.” Hmm. Call me crazy, but I would call shutting your service down for the summer “annoying to your members.” Probably even more so. A proper development plan would have provided an environment for handling such an event. The current service could have been continued while work progressed on the “2.0” version. Just my two cents.
Bootstrapping isn’t for every business, and it isn’t for everyone. I believe you can bootstrap your way into relative obscurity if you aren’t careful. At some point, if you want to go big, you need capital, be it from the inside (founders, organic revenue growth, etc.) or from the outside (investors).
Finally, I will leave you pondering these questions:
I certainly wish the Fruitcast team nothing but success. I think the core of their idea is still a solid one.
Here is the original Fruitcast email, if you’d like to read it:
We’re not going to beat around the bush — Fruitcast needs a lot of work. As one of the podcasters who has signed up for our service, you’ve experienced our ups and downs, server moves, service outages, etc., and most of you have been wonderfully patient with us while we try to figure all these things out. Now it’s time to make some things right.
-= OUR MAJOR ISSUES =-
Here are the biggest problems we’ve been facing:
1. LACK OF ADVERTISERS. We’re working on educating the ad industry, but it’s going to take some time before we have enough advertisers to satisfy even a fraction of the podcasters who are wanting to run ads. We’re now working on some exciting new ways to make it even *easier* for smaller advertisers to run campaigns on podcasts.
2. BANDWIDTH. If we were a VC-funded firm with heaps of money to throw around, we could easy take care of this — but we’re not. We’re running on a relatively efficient budget, and we’ve had to try to find a good balance between power and cost. Our current hosting solution just isn’t cutting it (as you may have noticed), and we’re working on some potential relationships with hosting/bandwidth providers to get the kind of solution that Fruitcast really needs.
3. SERVER DOWNTIME. It’s totally unacceptable for a middle-man solution like Fruitcast to go down as often as it does. There are a combination of issues, including the hosting platform, code quirks, less-than-adequate handling of non-standard feeds, etc., that are causing some of these problems. In addition to seeking a more stable platform, we’re also building a number of monitoring tools that will help the Fruitcast system react and self-adjust as necessary to ensure uptime.
-= HOW WE’RE GONNA FIX IT =-
You guys, the podcasters, have been bearing the brunt of these issues. Because we’re a genuinely podcaster-oriented company, this has been an acutely painful truth for us. We could continue to tweak and hope that you guys put up with these issues until we could finish them, but we simply can’t tolerate the downtime and other issues that you’ve been facing. We’re not going to get between you and your listeners until we can promise consistent uptime and high-quality service.
So, we’re going to take some drastic measures:
1. FRUITCAST IS OUT FOR SUMMER: We’re going to put Fruitcast on a brief hiatus, so we can work on it without annoying our member podcasters in the meantime.
2. REVAMPED PLATFORM: We’re going to completely rewrite our ad serving platform to incorporate the many fun, fascinating, and occasionally painful lessons we’ve learned over the past several months.
3. MORE FLEXIBLE OPTIONS: Long ads, short ads, live reads, sponsorship spots, radio spots. We’ve listened to your feedback, and you’ve indicated that you’re quite comfortable with offering a variety of options to advertisers. We’re going to give it to them.
4. MORE PODCASTER CONTROL: You should have the ability to approve or reject every advertiser who wants to put a spot on your podcast. We’ll give you that ability.
5. MORE PROMOTION: Our new system will give allow you to recruit potential advertisers right from your own website. (We’ve also got a number of other clever ideas up our sleeve.)
6. QUALITY CONTROL: We’ve allowed every podcaster who signed up to be listed in our directory, and it doesn’t seem like that’s fair to the advertisers, or to podcasters who are putting a ton of effort into their work. We’re not going to tell you what to podcast about, but we will have certain requirements for feed integrity, hosting consistency, audio quality, etc.
-= WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU =-
The most important thing for you to do right now is to CHANGE YOUR FEED to use your base url instead of your Fruitcast url. For most of you, this should be as simple as changing the url in Feedburner, but some of you may have used the actual Fruitcast url as your primary feed, and you’ll have to let your subscribers know that it’s changing. (Sorry!)
We’ll do everything we can, including manually redirecting every feed, to make this as smooth a transition as possible. However, the sooner you can get your listeners back onto your base feed url, the easier the transition will be.
-= THIS IS THE BEGINNING =-
We’re going to bust our behinds and come out with Fruitcast v2.0 as soon as possible. We genuinely appreciate you, the members, for standing by us through the rough times of an early startup. This isn’t goodbye — it’s more like a trip to the supermarket. We’ll be back, and we’ll be bringing ice cream with us.
(More updates will come soon…feel free to reply with any questions you might have.)
Good night, and good luck!
The Fruitcast Crew