How did I start with my professional web publishing career? What was I doing before? How did I get to name myself Robin Good from Sharewood? What do I see in the future of those wanting to find a way to leverage the Internet to do and live off what they are really passionate about?
If you want to find out a bit more about my story as an online independent publisher, how I started and how converted my total resistance to advertising into a win-win partnership, my unrehearsed performance / presentation at the 6th Girls Geek Dinner in Athens, Greece, this past weekend, is definitely a good opportunity to know a bit more about how it all came to be.
Full English Text Transcription
I'm going to tell you a little bit about my story, how I became the first Italian probably and one among the first Europeans that has been able to live completely off the Web.
That is: my dream was to stop to have some customers, some clients, some people to consult to, because one way or another, I always ended not liking the situation.
Either because they had you work too much and they paid you too little, or because they have you work too little and they pay you a lot but they never pay you, or because you have to go to the lawyer to get your money, or the bank doesn't get you that check for two-three-four-five-six months. This is life I think not just in Italy, although we have our peculiarities about business, but I think is a matter of everywhere you live.
Business is business, and there's always smart people trying to get the greater part of your business, and somebody taking advantage of you, and so I'm a very raw, sincere, direct type of person, and I didn't like this thing, because the wheel kept going.
You have to find a consulting job, and then when it's over, assuming you've liked it and you've made some money, you got to find another one, and another one, and another one. For all of your life. And then you have to pay the rent, the leasing of your car, whatever else. This to me is not life.
Life for me is the ability to do what I like to do. All of the time, as much as I can.
My Past Work As Communication Consultant...
What I was doing before was to be a communication consultant. I worked for international organizations like those that help Third World countries, war situations, and they bring rice, they bring money, they bring volunteers help. Humanitarian type of organizations. And in Rome, Italy, where I was born, there are a lot of these organizations. It's like Geneva, it's like Washington. There's a concentration of them there.
So, since I knew very well English, I decided way before that the Internet came about and the idea of working for niches, to specialize myself for an English-speaking market. I was in Rome, I didn't want to have any competition, what could I do? I said: "I know English well, who can I talk to into business?"
The embassies and these international organizations came to mind. I started to work with them, and I said:"What a great idea to work for organizations that are helping the world become a better world. Isn't that nice? I'm not just doing an advertising for a big company to promote their products, which I don't care anything about maybe, but I'm helping, in my head, the poor guys out here and there across the world live or get out of the trouble."
That's what I thought. And I spent quite some years, ten or fifteen years working for those organizations.
What i did for them was help them put together the communication products. Manuals, books, brochures, which are usually in five languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish. Or do CD-ROMs first, and then the Internet came about. It's been a very fantastic university for me because in that environment, no matter how much money I made, I was able to work with lots of different things, lots of challenges, lots of new things.
The other thing I did for them was to immediately give back to them what I was learning through that job. That is: if they give me a project to do something, I would discover some tools, some methodologies to do this, and so I'd offer this same organizations that I would do some training for them."I'm doing this project for you, and this other one. You liked them very much, why don't I come and train your people, so next time you don't call me, you can do this by yourself?."
I did ten years of training. I would have classes about eight, ten, twelve people, and would do training on all the topics that dealt with communication and technology.
So, you start with PowerPoint. Everybody's using PowerPoint. I hate it personally, but most people use it, so you got to know not only to click and what to do, but also how to communicate a little more effectively with the tools, how to do web publishing, how to do information design, that is how to use text and graphs in a way that this is more effective than the work we can get out of PowerPoint, or Excel, or Graph. These are the things I did for them.
Then, all of a sudden, I said: "But this world here is not very different from business world." Even here, the big boss maybe was coming from Africa, but it was a big boss inside the organization, would say: "Make this thing inside here just a little green, I don't like it blue, or this thing put it a little like that."
They were spending tens of thousands of dollars and then they were changing the color because the boss liked it more. That really gave some bad feelings inside my blood. I said:"This is not the type of organizations that I thought. These are not really always helping the people, maybe there is some other way that I can get some satisfaction from what I'm doing."
The Turning Point
Because, do you know what my problem was? Not the money, not the work, because it was always different, but the personal satisfaction. They can pay you all kinds of amounts of money, but if you're not able to do what you can do best, and see the people use it, or appreciate it, I feel like shit. I don't know about you, but that's what I feel.
What I did, since I felt very depressed by the fact that I had all this work, they paid me well, but I didn't like it, I said: "Let me do something that I really like." And so, it was about 1998, I said:"I have all these names of these people that have come to my courses. Why don't I tell to these people, when they come to the course, and they give me the feedback, let me put an extra box that says: "Do you want to receive some information from me? I've got a newsletter, and I'm going to send them something." "And all the people in the courses said: "Yes, I want to have some information from you, I liked your course, give me more".
And so I started a newsletter. What did I write in the newsletter? Everything I learned in my work. What tools I used, what approach I took, what was a better methodology to do this or that, and so the newsletter gave me immediately the satisfaction that I wanted, because people started to build up in number. 20, 30, 100, 500, 1000, 5000. "Wow! - I said - 5000 people reading my stuff!", and I wasn't even using a web site.
I did have a web site, but it was... nothing. It was a brochure, like everybody when you start a website, you kind of do these dead thing: "I am this company, I do this and that", but is nothing like we see today where there are conversations going on many things.
I said: "Maybe the brochure on the site is not very up-to-date, maybe I should change that". S,o I started publishing the stuff of the newsletter on the web site. That's kind of the opposite that the people do today, but that's how I started. I took the newsletter stuff and put it on the site, every week and I got this newsletter bigger and bigger, and bigger. 30, 40, 50 pages. I couldn't print it and read it back home myself. It was so much writing. I said: "This is amazing. I'm happy I'm doing all this, but there must be something beyond." I didn't know where this was going t go.
AdSense and The Final Decision
One day two friends of mine, Antonella and Massimo, came to me and said:"Robin (actually the said "Giggi", because I wasn't Robin at the time), why don't you put some advertising on side of your site? Are you stupid, what are you doing? You got all these readers and you don't make any money out of this."I hate advertising, I really cannot stand it. It really bugs me every time I read something. I don't want that stuff. It's distracting, it's not what I want.
I want to help people, I want to share what I know, I want to give to others things that they like."Oh you're just stupid, you don't understand. Look there's a new advertising program from Google that's called AdSense. You should look into that.""Google? AdSense? Let's go see". Some of you've already seen this, but some of you have not.
This advertising program is based on something completely different from traditional advertising, because,
- first of all, the ads are generally just text. A small text information with a link.
- And secondly, what was really revolutionary at the time (and we're talking about 2001-2002) is that these ads come up intelligently.
If you write an article about loaf, or cooking, the ads that will come up are about eating spaghetti and getting a great pizza, and what is the restaurant to go have a dinner tonight. I said:"That's not distracting, that's complementary information. If I write about Bruce Lee killing somebody, then there's Judo shoes, or punching gloves. That's cool. Let me try this, let me put those ads on the page."
And a miracle happened. Because, again, I never started with the idea of becoming a web publisher, of making money online, or even living off of it. But once I put these ads on the pages, the money started to come.
And I was in trouble, right away, immediately, because AdSense was not available in Italy. So, I said: "How am I going to get paid? I'm making money, but I can't take it!" So, I called my friend Kelsey in California, and I said: "Kelsey, you got a bank account? I need a favor. I got this AdSense money that is coming in and I don't know where to put it. Can you take them from me, and then you once in a while send me some?" "Sure Giggi, no problem, I can do that." "Ok, fantastic!"
And so the money started to come up. 1000, 2000, 3000 dollars per month. "Whoa! - I said - they were going! I can do whatever I want, I can go to the tropical island and keep writing, and the money keeps coming! Is it possible?" And I realized it was seriously possible when Kelsey called me back:"Giggi, my wife is asking me where is all this money going? Whose these money? She's telling me where I'm sending all these money. I cannot do this anymore. It's too much money every month. You got to open your own account."
And happily Google decided, it was about 2003-2004, that Italy was ok and that we could have our own accounts and receive the money, and so I was even happier. But that wasn't the end of the story, because we were talking... what? 4000, 5000 dollars every month, and that was pretty much what I was making as a consultant.
I had one foot inside the international organization, and one foot inside my publishing stuff and Google AdSense. I said: "As soon as I make 4000 or 5000 dollars these feet are gonna be both there." And in fact they moved automatically, I didn't have to do any command. I just found myself here. The international organizations gave some bids, I said: "I cost 2.000.000 (dollars)" and so they said: "Forget it"." I just made myself loose out all the competition, so that I didn't have any regret or say: "I should be doing this or that. That was my old business, is secure, oh, but stay here."
I wanted to stay in the risky business, because it gave me so much more satisfaction and energy that nothing beat that.
How I Became a Google Premium Partner
What happened next, was really the most amazing thing. That is: Google itself came to me and said: "You're doing such a great job, we want you to be our premium partner". Whoa, I had read this word before, "premium partner".
I said: "What did I do wrong? I read to be a premium partner you got to have 10.000.000 visitors. I don't have 10.000.000 visitors! Maybe there's a mistake..." So, I wrote them back and said: "I'm very happy, what can I do for you? How can you help me being a premium partner?" And they said: "You got to do nothing, we're going to just help you make more money."
"You are going to help me make more money? How?""We're gonna give you just a few tools, and we're gonna dedicate an account manager in Dublin, Ireland, for you. You can call her anytime you want. Plus we're going to give you some secret stuff that you can put inside your pages that are going to make your ads even better.""Whoa - I said - I'm not going to say no. Give me everything you've got."
And they really gave me lots of valuable tools to make my job better. And so, jumping about four years ahead, here I am.
My Business and My Partners
I have now about 600.000 unique visitors from around the world who come every month. I publish my site in English, and I write in English, but I've also been able to build some partnership with some very nice people.
I had also got that Russian edition, but I've lost my editor, so it's sitting there sleeping. I haven't got a Greek edition, because I haven't got to know anyone of you yet, but I'm definitely looking all the time for more partners and more languages. Because the partnership that I've made up is very simple.
When I find somebody who's very reliable and trusted, and who's passionate about the stuff that I write - and I write about how to use these communication media to communicate more effectively, and if you want to become self-sustainable - if they're passionate about this, I tell them: "Look, you just translate what I write in your languages - I have policies, I can use some training - and the we split 50 / 50 all of the advertising money that your edition creates". If the Latino edition makes 5000 dollars in a month, 2500 are yours, 25000 are mine.
And this has worked really well, because some of these people are not writers, but they're passionate about what I write and what I research, and so for them is double good. They learn something, while they translate and they write it, they make good money, and they get a lot of visibility as well.
That's the story, the business story. There's a lot more data and you are going to ask me some of this.
Why Robin Good?
The second question people generally ask me before I give them the microphone is: "Why did you choose to call yourself Robin Good?" Robin Good! Robin Hood is my uncle. He lived in... did you know where Robin Hood comes from?
Sherwood. S-H-E-R-WOOD. The wood of Sher. I'm Robin Hood nephew, and I come from a nearby village that's called Sharewood. But is spelled S-H-A-R-E, the forest where you share stuff. "Robin Good from Sharewood, you're really out of your mind Robin, how did you get all these stuff in your head?"
You have to know that each one of us has a little Google engine inside his / her head. Most people don't know, they think that they have bad memory, because they don't know how to use their internal Google.
One day I said:"I want to use my internal Google, and I want to find out how can I make myself some kind of a brand, something that people are going to remember. One because the name is easy, and secondly because my name is going to tell them something."Because my name, beside "Giggi", is really a lot difficult, kind of aristocratic name that nobody can say correctly, when I travel to other countries, they all reverse it all around. It's really displeasing. By the way, it's Luigi Canali De Rossi. So I get to be, Mr. Du Rossi, Mr. Luigi, Canali Di Rossi. They never get it right!
I said to my internal Google:"Listen, Google, I have to find a name that I can use over and over that it's easy to pronounce wherever I go and that is going to represent me. That when I say it, I feel I'm that one. It didn't choose my mother or my father, it's my choice."
Do you know how this Google works? You know when you say: "Shit, I don't remember that stuff, I have it here... it's not coming to me..." When you say "shit", you're telling Google: "Don't search for it. Forget it, I don't know it", so he just doesn't find it.
Pay attention to this. Some of the time you say: "Oh, it's just there, hold it, it's going to come then you're going to say something else, and bang! It comes!" Because you said to the internal Google it's coming, so he's working there! he listens to your commands. "So, Google, I know you can work with my commands. I know it's going to take you some time, just go and do your job." And so he went and did his job, he completely forgot about it. Three months went by.
Then one day, I was there on my motorbike, doing my own thing, looking at the red light... bang! "Robin Good from Sharewood." It just came, all done, in the package ready to use. How can you say no to such a great name? It represented me fully!
I'm the person who likes to share with a lot of people, that is what gives me satisfaction. I didn't get into the web publishing business to make money, but because I enjoyed the sharing with other people. And Robin Good.. that's fantastic, he's the guy who's stealing from the big guys and giving to the poor, so "What's the correspondence in my world - I said - Maybe who do I still from? Microsoft?"
At the time I would give to Google, but now... you don't know anymore who to steal from... but the idea is to get these fantastic ideas that are all over the place, and give them out to people, because to be successful online doesn't really take a lot of money, and a lot of investment, but a lot of good thinking and asking lots of questions, and looking around, and talking to people. That's what it takes.
Be a Guide For Other People
These are the typical two things that people ask me, when they invite me: "What's your story, and how do you make all this money, and how you got to name yourself Robin Good".
The rest maybe you want to venture asking me something else, because I've plenty of things that I could tell you about newsmastering, or which type of content can make more money, but I would really like to serve you not to be here, to celebrate myself.
I'm here to have fun. So you're very welcome if you're a small entrepreneur, a video producer, or somebody who's venturing out on the Internet and want to get a different point of view, not the Bible. I'm not that. Let's talk a little bit.
Is anyone out there trying to make some money on the Internet? Raise your hand. 1-2-3-4-5. Anyone of you have some immediate questions or do you want me to provoke you? Maybe... some people ask me often: "Is that Google AdSense really the panacea, the perfect recipe for being successful?" And that is only one way.
Today there are many different ways, and think the little pearl, of value that I want to give you out today, is the fact that what is going to work extremely well and some of you today, the presentation, I could not understand the words, so I didn't know the names, but this beautiful girl who's in front of me me introduced a thread that is going to be a winning one. Maybe the way she's interpreting it's the wrong way, but the idea is this:
In the near future, because of the economic crisis, because of the way schools are, because of the need to learn continuously new stuff, because no matter what job you do, doctor or traffic cop, you got to learn new stuff, new rules. Things change continuously and they do change faster and faster.
It doesn't take to be Leonardo da Vinci to understand that the business of the future is helping others get where they want to get. There are a number of people that want to get somewhere, there must be some other people who help them get there. they cannot go there by themselves.
It doesn't matter if you're an expert about cultivating tropical flowers, or if you're an expert about healing rats that fill your house. It doesn't really matter. What matters is dealing today with the most valuable thing, after knowing English and the computer, is being able to communicate effectively to others. Because if you can communicate effectively to others, you have a huge business ahead of you that is not going to end.
We're entering an era in which each one of us that wants to, is going to become an independent teacher, a guide, a mentor for others. This is what is meant to be.
The Value of True Education
You don't hear this story very much around, because schools and universities have the monopoly on education. But on a fake education. Especially the schools, because what you get out of schools is just learning how to pass an exam.
What is the most intelligent question a student today can have? "What's going to be in the exam?" That's all they want to know, they don't care about the Sumerians or why they did certain things ore others, or the Egyptians, or the formulas, because the teachers expect them to memorize stuff and repeat it at the time of exam.
There is very little understanding or knowledge. There's very little communication and discovery going on, but there are plenty of possibilities to change this if we don't leave it to the schools only.
We can't destroy the schools, we don't want to have a revolution, we don't want to shoot the teachers. We want to have a quite, peaceful upheaval, change, revolutionary approach to education. And each one of us can start. Because when you're having dinner with your kids, with your daughters, and with your family, that's the time where instead of just talking about what the weather is, you can inject some of the true knowledge, you're discovering every day.
You just forget that the true learning that takes place everyday, takes place when you're just not thinking about it. When you're talking at the water cooler with somebody and he says:"I've discovered this hat and this is fantastic stuff, because it's not just like Velcro, this one when you open it creates energy and then there's a light that lits up here, and so when you're going..."
You discover stuff by talking to people, by searching on Google, by asking others, by going to places where there are all the people there and you hear the stories. But this is not what we do in school. Absolutely not. Nor we learn anything about "how to do this".
To end my story: future, successful revenue business models for Internet, a great deal of them, are going to be based on your ability to share your knowledge. And you don't have to talk about astrophysics. You can talk about anything you want, because there are people interested in about mostly anything, and when they find somebody who they can see is sincere, is generous, is going to listen to them, they are going to say: "Hey, you got to tell me how much money you want. I want some stuff from you. Man, woman, give me something."
That's what happens when you like somebody. It's natural. If she sits with me and she tells me for an hour ten secrets of video publishing that I've never heard before, I say: "How can I take you to dinner, where can take you tomorrow?" And so, when you're doing business, that translates into: "Can I buy your DVD, can I come to a workshop where you tell me this? Can I come to a teleseminar and ask you questions?"
Whatever you give them, they're going to want it if you're good, passionate, serious, and sharing
Originally shot and recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on January 27, 2009 as "The Story Of Robin Good At The Girls Geek Dinner 6 In Athens Greece".
Intro - Girl Geek Dinner 6
...and Coach - Jiri Kabele
The Turning Point - Aaron Amat Zaragoza
How I Became a Google Premium Partner - Ryan Pike
Be a Guide For Other People - zts
Intro - IreneK
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.Robin Good -