Today I got a copy of the new book Be Unreasonable: the Unconventional Way to Extraordinary Business Results by small business coach Paul Lemberg. In the book, Lemberg uses me and True as an example of starting a business in an “unreasonable” way (in his chapter on “Unreasonable Thinking”).
He summarizes the birth of This is True and how my colleagues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab were “disbelieving” and “discouraging” of my idea to quit JPL and work online full time with my news commentary feature — because they couldn’t see how it could possibly work when my plan was to give it away for free.
“Talk about unreasonable,” Lemberg writes. “At the time, the Internet was considered to be a pristine, unexploited commons. There were all sorts of cultural rules and norms in place forbidding commerce: nobody was going to sell anything, and certainly no one would be making any money.
“But Cassingham, seeing the future, charged ahead and ignored those rules. (If you think this is common now, it is. But not in 1994!)”
Lemberg raised his eyebrow over another set-in-concrete rule I broke: while I have a clear copyright on True, he points out that right from the start its wording encouraged readers to share the (free edition) issues with friends. It was an unheard of idea in publishing.
Thus, he concludes, “This is True may have been the first viral marketing success.” Maybe so.
If you’re interested in more, click the cover to see more about the book.
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Related: the story of how This is True started.