I'm sitting here waiting for my best friend Anthony to call me from his cell phone and tell me he's lost somewhere on the way to my house.
We first met more than 10 years ago when he called me up from a direct competitor to ask if we could swap publication buyer mailing lists. I said, "Heck yes."
That's because people in the offline paid publishing world all know that aside from their in-house list, direct competitor's buyer lists are the most profitable lists you can mail. It's well proven that information buyers tend to buy more information on the same topic -- as long as the title appears to just different enough from the stuff they already bought to also be useful.
The differences don't have to be that big. For example, if a competitor told me he was doing a report on "Advanced subscription sales tactics" or "Selling subscriptions to consumers" and he wanted to swap lists with the buyers of my general "How to sell subscriptions" report, I'd say ok. We're both going to grow our businesses easily that way. It's a happy thing.
Which explains why many print paid publishers are not only close friends with direct competitors, but also they are careful to develop complimentary products rather than identical head-to-head twins.
With complimentary products everyone makes more money because they can cross-promote. With head-to-head, it's a waste unless the market is a giant boomtown that can sustain almost anything *and* you intend to never ask competitors to swap lists for other products in the future. (Because no one will swap with someone who might cross-sell a head-to-head.)
I suspect in the online world, competitor-who-will-swap-lists relations are even more invaluable than they are offline, simply because there are so few online-content-buyer lists on the rental market. Swapping may be your only chance at getting your hands on good lists.
If you view the competition as "the enemy we must beat", you're going to lose. If you view them as "our best marketing partner who we treat as well as possible", you're going to win.
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