Douchebaggery in Online Business (FS013)

There are people who do business in ways that turn your stomach. They’re willing to do unethical things, take advantage of people, and sacrifice their audience on the altars of profit and short term gains.

In this episode we explore this kind of business and provide the counterpoint, complete with a mind-boggling quote from Walt Disney, some tough-love sentiment from John Gruber and advice from one of the original big bloggers to folks just starting out.

We also talk about how knowing who the “bad guy” is in your industry will give you more direction, purpose, and focus.

Here’s to the idea that we can all focus a little less on the tactics of making a buck and a little more on the art of providing real, human value.

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“We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.” ~ Walt Disney
  or copy + Facebook

Don’t do stuff that seems profitable but potentially messes up why people like you.”

Merlin Mann

There is an easy formula for doing it wrong: publish attention-getting bullshit and pull stunts to generate mindless traffic. The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.”

John Gruber

Show Notes:

Scamworld: ‘Get rich quick’ schemes mutate into an online monster | The Verge

The Good Show | Radiolab — “there is no doubt that today’s plants and animals carry the genetic legacy of ancestors who fought fiercely to survive and reproduce. But in this hour, we wonder whether there might also be a logic behind sharing, niceness, kindness … or even, self-sacrifice. Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest?”

Is Marketing the Scourge of the Internet?

How NOT to Be a Marketing Douchebag (Without Becoming a Broke Fool)


Givers, Takers, and Matchers: The Surprising Science of Success | Brain Pickings

Chris Guillebeau

Chris Johnson of Simplifilm“sales is simply being intelligent enough to be in the right place at the right time.” If you haven’t yet, seriously, get into Fizzle and watch this interview. Sensational.

Merlin Mann’s Advice to Bloggers Who Want to Take it Seriously

43f Podcast: John Gruber & Merlin Mann’s Blogging Panel at SxSW | 43 Folders — required listening for any blogger. (at least in Chase’s opinion)

Marco on craft porn — why we’re all getting a bit too precious about “craft” and “work” and how better to think about it.

Chase’s sad news. Here’s a longer article of notes about the experience. There’s more music and thoughts to scan through on his tumblr.

Get the free guide to defining your audience
  • John Shea

    I will have to give this one a listen guys, definitely a topic I have struggled with myself. Sounds like this episode matches the saying “You are most like your top 5 friends”. I have found the same to go with online marketing and who you decide to learn from and surround yourself with.

    If I had not discovered Pat Flynn, I may have never discovered Corbett leading me to this blog!

  • dan

    Im sure this will stir a good discussion. It’s a subject that I spend hours mulling over; what defines “good” and “bad” and is there enough money in ethical business practice or any money at all depending on the industry?

    What really goads me though is businesses trying to steal as much marketshare as possible by being rubbish in a lot of areas rather that good at one. And their focus is low cost leadership then this destroys potential profit for entrepreneurs who as you say, want to provide “real, human value”.

  • Chris Willow

    Great episode, really loved the insight on balancing ones craft with marketing it. You’d think focusing on a great product is enough.
    Then again there are starving developers trying to reach perfection and never charging actual money for their work.
    And on the other hand you have the people aggressively pushing “products” they’ve thrown together in an evening, which sucks even more, in my opinion.

    Anyways, this was fun to listen to. Thanks.

    • Chase Reeves

      I’m glad you say that, Chris. Cheers!

  • Patty E.

    Hey Guys, Thank you for continuing to “Keeping It Real” week after week! I love it!! Speaking of “Keeping It Real” – Chase…my heart, love and prayers go out to you and your family during this difficult time. Know that your Family, Friends and Fans LOVE YOU beyond your imagination and may all the kind words, love and support that are coming your way comfort you and your family during this difficult time. You Are AH-MAZE-ING with Corbett and Caleb and WE (The Fizzler Fans) LOVE YOU!

    • Chase Reeves

      Thank you, Patty.

  • Leo Gopal

    – with my deepest condolences to Chase. <3

  • Willie Jackson

    lol @ the “long island guy” described.

    • Chase Reeves

      All for you, boo.

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  • Veso Mitev

    Good topic!

    Personally, I was disappointed by many “online marketing” guys. As you implied in the podcast, when the primary goal is – making money – the whole thing gets corrupt. A lot of them, unfortunately, are at that place.

    The greatest problem I have identified – mind, something that wasn’t easy to spot initially, at least for me – is that the deception was in the grand concept.

    Let me clarify the vague explanation I just gave.

    * “They” sell business advice – how to make money selling info products online using various techniques.

    * Their target message – the message that uses the very same techniques they teach (or close) – is specifically designed for a particular target audience. The target audience, in vulnerable spot, highly emotional about making money, and very – VERY unsuited for this kind of business.

    * The audience – They lack experience, they lack knowledge, they lack intuition – something that usually takes YEARS of experience to get the hand of it. And they don’t see it. They see the unrealistic image those marketers have poked out of their dreams.

    So, we have people who sell tools for people, that are not ready to use those tools. And the worst part – the people that sell the tools – they know that.

    Technically – yes the tools are working, but everything else (the rest 90%) not quite. Some manage to succeed, but the most simply fail. And this is not good.

    I am preparing a post on the topic how to filter scammy “self-improvement” products, for perhaps the same reason you made this podcast.

    Keep the good work guys! It’s very motivating!

  • Darlene

    In over 25 years in the photography industry and business I can say without any hesitation that the photographers that I’ve seen be “successful” over the years were the ones that were good at business. They aren’t afraid to charge what they’re worth, what they need to make a living.

    There are also many others that are great at the craft or art of photography that never made it because they weren’t good at business.

    Does that makes the ones that aren’t afraid to market and sell douchy? The other category might consider them so – but they aren’t really. One of THE best sales guys ever in history – Zig Ziglar – always said that sales is really just about finding out what people want, and helping them to get it. So in my opinion if you don’t do that, you’re failing your customers. Sometimes the customer doesn’t know what they need or want, helping them with that isn’t douchy IMO.

    But there is a line where you cross over into being pushy and in appropriate – which I’ve also seen. I think it just mirrors society – there’s good, bad and everyone in between.

    • Chase Reeves

      Good words, D.

  • Omar

    Awesome line: “He’s such a douchbag, he doesn’t make art with his buggers.”

    On a serious and embarrasing note, I bought programs from some of these ‘marketers’. Some costing upto 2k a pop. I was new and desperate to learn how to be successful online. Most of what I learned to date has been the hard way, experience and good old books.

    And to be completely honest, there are some insights or small take always in some of these programs but they’re worth more like $15. Nothing I couldn’t get from a good book.

    So you now can see why I love Fizzle so much. I’m simply greatful it exists, let alone all the value it actually offers.

  • Jason

    At multiple times during this podcast, Chase sounded like a mixture of Spongebob and Fry. Cracked me up. And nice Slingblade.

    One thing that is starting to trouble me is the 6 degrees of Douchebaggery. There are a few sites that I used to follow that are now off my radar due to too much selling. However, some other sites I still follow have close affiliations with said Douchebaggedness. It’s a little disheartening to hear respected blogger A is in a mastermind with DB blogger B. Makes me question everything.

    • Brandon Davis


      Loved the “6 Degrees of douchebaggery.” Anyone who can work in a Kevin Bacon quote is ok in my book.


  • Kristy

    I’ve been meaning to write a comment for a while now as I love the show and listen every week. To be honest it was a bit of a slow burn for me, I thought it might be a little too ‘in joke’ for me but something compelled me to stick with it and I’m so glad I did. I really look forward to each new episode.

    As a new and tentative blogger who is super wary of coming across as a douche or pushy or fake in any way I found this episode, and the whole Fizzle concept, to be really reassuring. I suppose the flip side of this is that I’m also wary of being too open, too raw and exposing too many of my opinions and realities for fear of being judged or deemed unworthy. Maybe you guys could discuss this side of things some time, I’d be interested to hear your take on it.

    I’m not a Fizzle member yet and I’ve been contemplating it for a while now. I can’t really afford it but every podcast I hear brings me closer to thinking this is a community I want to be part of. I’m going to have to make it happen.

    To Chase – my heart goes out to you and your family. You don’t know me but please know that there are people on the other side of the world who are thinking of you and your family and sending you all the love and good vibes we can muster at this unspeakably difficult time.

    Thanks guys and keep up the real work.

    • Chase Reeves

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Kristy. I love your story.

    • dan

      nice comments kirsty.
      “wary of being too open, too raw and exposing too many of my opinions and realities for fear of being judged or deemed unworthy.”
      also something I’ve thought about many times. i’d also be interested to hear the guys thoughts on gaining the self confidence to stand by your opinions and have a voice.

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  • Todd Kuslikis


    I am so sorry to hear. I just read what happened and wanted you to know that my wife and I are praying for you. I can’t imagine what you are going through.

    Here for you.


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  • Chris Johnson

    glad to be in the ‘douchebaggery’ post.

    I always thought I was more of a pompous asshat, but hey, this is a title I’ll wear with pride.

    • Chase Reeves

      You earned it, honky.

  • Brandon Davis

    Hey Bros,

    First off, this episode had be me “belly laughing” (real laughter, not that fake shtuff).

    Second, Walt Disney = Badass and that quote proves it. In fact, the Dos Equis guy is probably Disney’s son? True story.

    Third, I don’t have anything for this one right now but when I do it will be legen – wait for it – dary!

    So, yeah….That’s all I got for now.

    (clinky) <– Those who listened to the show know what I'm talking about.

    Brandon Davis

  • Brandon Davis

    I just listened to the end of the show and Chase, my heart aches for you brother. You don’t know me from Adam, but I wish I had some profound or magical words I could say that would help you and your family in some way but we all know they don’t exist.

    So, I’ll do this…I’ll pray for you and your family.


  • Nancy Tierney

    Chase, I can’t remember which episode it was, but you made a comment that if you could, by making these podcasts, simply made some poor schmucky entrepreneur feel a little more hopeful, a little less alone (this is my broad and projection-infused interpretation of what you really said), that it would all be worthwhile. I don’t know if you meant it, or if it was yet another one of those things that seem to just fly out of your mouth, but you should know, that’s exactly what these podcasts have done for me,

    Yes, they have great content, and they’re funny and smart and insightful and all those groovy things. But mostly, they make me feel less alone in what I’m trying to achieve in my biz.

    And when I heard about your baby today as I was listening to the end of this podcast, I felt sick at heart. Helpless and stupid and heartsick. I’m so, so sorry. I cannot pretend to imagine what you’re going through. But I do know there’s tons of love cascading your way, from all of us out here in Internetland.

    You may not know us from Adam, as Brandon said above. But love is love is love. And we’re send buckets of it to you and your wife.

    As a wise man once told me, the only thing left to do is feel like shit. Let yourself feel what you feel, sweet man. It’s a bitch. But it’s real.

  • Sheila

    Excellent episode guys! Just listened to it today. I must admit, I came close to believing some of these Internet Marketing guys. Unfortunately, my folks signed up and paid for a ‘lifelong membership’ with one. And yes, it cost thousands… over two grand I think? The guy also held seminars at the Gold Coast (yep, from Aus) which cost a bit and my dad was wanting to go to.

    But my gut instinct, ofcourse told me something was dodgy. One red flag was poor/ spammy design on their webpages, newsletters and software tool. They sold DVDs for hundreds, which are utter crap, btw, and looked like they’ve been filmed on someone’s mobile phone – and by that, I mean an old Nokia or something – and then burnt it onto a DVD. The image and sound quality was that rubbish – yours, Pat Flynn’s, Chris Guilleabeu’s videos which are posted for free are so professional! Another red flag, is that he sells himself as an IM guru, which all these guys do. And ofcourse, has the same sob story about how he started out as a poor copywriter until he figured out internet business. Plus, as shown on Scamworld, the main focus is about making money quick, and not about building a product or even writing content on your own!

    My dad asked me to help him figure out the crap software and that’s how I got to know the content. Red flags and alarms everywhere! I googled him too and there are ofcourse, doubts about him being legit. After that, I warned my folks and said I didn’t want to get involved. *sigh*

    It’s sad that these IM gurus can effectively target such a vulnerable demographic of naive people who are ignorant of how the online world works. I wouldn’t say that my folks are weak, gullible or naive, they have done very well for themselves and have both worked in IT. But I just don’t think they know that much about the online world, or what ‘dodgy’ looks like online. Seeing this IM guru’s BS content made me sick to my stomach because I spend a fair amount of time online and could tell that they deliberately used jargon that made them ‘sound’ like an expert to those who were unfamiliar with it.

    I just wish my folks didn’t waste their money on this crap. They haven’t mentioned it since, so I hope they’ve ditched it.

    It was also disappointing to see one of the interviewees off The Foundation podcast featured on Scamworld. o.O Theirs is one of my other favourite podcasts! Never mind, I will still keep listening. =)

    I don’t normally comment, but this podcast has inspired the above rant. Thanks if you’ve read it and sorry it’s so long. *sigh*

  • Sheila

    And dear Chase: I’m so sorry for your loss. I looked at your blog for the first time, and the pictures were so unbelievably moving. (You do great photography!) I’m glad you’re getting all the love and support you need. Passing a bit of love to you and your fam from little old me from Aus!

    S x

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  • Chase Reeves

    thank you Rory.

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