Steal This Newsletter

According to my friends at the Reference Desk of the Boston Public Library, the U.S. retail industry lost $10 Billion in 2004 as a direct result of shoplifting. That’s right, a staggering twenty-seven million dollars a day walks right out the door.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy way to put an end to all this? Well, with that in mind — and in an effort to put to bed rumors that I do nothing all summer but waste time sitting around in shorts and a T-shirt — I’m happy to report that I’ve come up with a simple solution.

And here it is: Strip search all shoppers as they leave the store.

Think about it — every person, every store, every day, retailers around the country enlist an army of people to search shoppers for stolen merchandise. Instead of hiring Greeters to shake your hand as you come in, Wal-Mart would hire Gropers to shake everything else as you leave.

Put down your stolen merchandise and raise your hand if you think this is the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard. Me too.

The problem of course, is that the solution — while certainly helping on the stolen merchandise side of the equation — would have an even greater (negative) impact on the sales side. Few people would submit to this type of harassment, and whatever a store gained in reduced theft it would lose many times over in lost sales.

By the same token, there’s an element of your newsletter which, although similarly well intentioned, also has the potential to create more problems than it fixes. I’m speaking here about your newsletter’s fine print (or more specifically, excessively nasty fine print).

Most newsletters these days contain a standard copyright notice; something along the lines of, “Copyright © 2005, Michael J. Katz. All rights reserved.” Perfect. This reinforces the value of your publication in the minds of readers (all “real” publications have copyright notices), and warns people not to steal your thoughts.

Unfortunately however, many companies take it a painful step further by adding all kinds of onerous legal text, warning readers not to reprint, reuse, redistribute or even think about the contents of the newsletter, less they face legal action, the likes of which would cause even Michael Jackson’s attorneys to run the other way.

Hello? Remember that as a professional service provider, you’re not in the publishing business… you’re in the client service business. And while you certainly don’t want anybody to steal your original thoughts and words, I’m willing to bet that visibility is a much bigger concern for you than loss of intellectual property. In other words, the benefit to you of having more people read your newsletter far outweighs whatever “risk” there may be in some people using it inappropriately.

With that in mind, I strongly recommend that you use the fine print of your newsletter to encourage redistribution (with attribution and a link back to your web site), rather than discourage theft.

In the case of this newsletter, I go as far as to tell readers that they can use the content without even getting in touch with me, so long as they give me the credit. The way I see it, what’s the worst that can happen? Somebody “steals” it and includes it in their own publication with my name and a link back to my web site?? Where I come from, we call that advertising.

Bottom Line: If your content is well done, sooner or later somebody is going to steal it. For those people, all the scary language in the world isn’t going to make a difference.

My suggestion? Don’t drive away the good people in your zeal to catch the bad people. Instead, do as any successful retailer does and write off that kind of theft as simply the cost of doing business. Then focus your attention on encouraging the world to share your wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *