Searls, David 1947-
SEARLS, David 1947-
PERSONAL: Born July 29, 1947, in Ft. Lee, NJ; son of Allen Henry and Eleanor (Oman) Searls; children: Colette, Peter. Education: Guilford College, B.A., 1969.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Linux Journal, P.O. Box 55549, Seattle, WA 98155-0549.
CAREER: Matzner Newspapers, Wayne, NJ, editor, 1970-71; Community Action Council, Hewitt, NJ, social worker, 1971-72; broadcaster for various radio stations in Durham, NC, 1972-75; consultant in Chapel Hill, NC, 1975-76; Hodskins, Simone & Searls, Inc. (public relations and advertising company), Palo Alto, CA, partner and vice president, 1976-98; founder of The Searls Group (marketing consulting firm), beginning 1978; Linux Journal, Seattle, WA, senior editor, 1999—. Cofounder of political action committee GeekPAC. Has appeared on many media programs, including for CNBC, CNET Radio, and TechTV, and on Web radio programs The Linux Show and The Gillmor Gang; director of Web journal Reality 2.0. Member of advisory boards, Ping Identity Corp., Technorati, and Jabber, Inc.
(With Rick Levine, Christopher Lock, and David Weinberger) The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, Perseus (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Contributor to periodicals, including PC, Omni, Upside, Wired, and the Toronto Globe & Mail. Sometimes writes as Doc Searls for Linux Journal and other periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist and public relations/marketing consultant David Searls has been interested in the marketing potential of the Internet for decades. Having worked with many companies—from corporate giants such as Motorola, Hitachi, and Nortel to new start-ups endeavors—Searls quickly came under the impression that the majority of these businesses did not have a good understanding of how the Web affected their marketing efforts. When creating Web sites or advertising for the Internet, these companies were still stuck in the mind-set that they needed to forcefully persuade customers into buying their products, and they had no clue as to how to take advantage of the potential of customer service on the Internet. Instead, Searls believes that the Internet is much more effective as a type of interactive forum between businesses and customers, where the two sides should participate on a much more even playing field. To get this message across, in 1999 Searls and collaborators Rick Levine, Christopher Lock, and David Weinberger began the Web site Cluetrain.com, where they outlined their manifesto for the new Web era of marketing. The next year, they expanded this concept into the book The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.
The Cluetrain Manifesto includes chapters from each of the authors, all technology journalists, arguing that companies need to look at e-commerce as a series of communications, rather than focusing on only the actual transactions. As Giles Turnbull put it in a Manchester Guardian article, "Fundamental to the Manifesto was the idea that online communication is between real people—individuals with humour, sarcasm and an ability to spot insincerity a mile away. A person with a human voice speaking from within a company would have far more impact on that company's reputation than a multimillion dollar public relations campaign, the Manifesto said."
But while the Web site idea for the manifesto was often lauded by reviewers, some felt tha ttransforming Cluetrain.com as a book worked less well. For instance, Washington Post contributor T. R. Reid wrote, "Frankly, it was better on the Web. As an attention grabber, a conversation starter, the seven-page document on the Web is great. The basic idea, that businesses need to adapt to the Net, is clearly right, and the warning that customers know more than the boardroom thinks they do is valuable. But the authors haven't done enough—haven't done much of anything, really—to turn these two insights into a book." Richard Blackburn similarly noted in Personnel Psychology that the authors have not really organized their thoughts well in the book version, commenting that they evidently "did not spend a great deal of time talking with each other, or with their editor(s). We read the same things over and over again in succeeding chapters." Blackburn was also bothered by the fact that "the authors seem to assume that all who are carrying on these Web conversations by which we make the market smarter are honest and trustworthy. Given the recent scams in the penny stock markets, in stock chat rooms, and at auction sites, this seems rather naive."
However, many reviewers still appreciated the book as containing themes that needed to be said. For instance, New York Times Book Review contributor Rob Walker, felt that "while this [manifesto] . . . often strains credulity in the particulars, the general thrust is on the mark." Marketing reviewer Abby Hardoon asserted, "This book is for anyone interested in the internet and e-commerce," and Terry O'Keefe concluded in Long Island Business News that "you owe it to yourself to check out the world from Cluetrain's point of view."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Business Communication Quarterly, December, 2000, Melinda L. Kreth, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, p. 106.
Denver Post, April 30, 2000, Stephen Keating, "Business Gets Dot.comeuppance High-Tech 4 Sniff at Top-down Types," p. F5.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 27, 2004, Giles Turnbull, "Life: Online: The Long Conversation: How Have Business and the Media Adapted to the Arrival of the Internet? Giles Turnbull Spoke to the Authors of the Seminal Cluetrain Manifesto, Five Years after It First Appeared Online," p. 19.
Latin Trade, June, 2000, Andres Hernandez Alende, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto, p. 100.
Long Island Business News, June 2, 2000, Terry O'Keefe, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto, p. A47.
Marketing, August 3, 2000, Abby Hardoon, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto, p. 64.
Newsbytes, April 10, 2002, Brian Krebs, "GeekPac Takes on Microsoft, Hollywood, Tauzin-Dingell," p. NWSB02107004.
Personnel Psychology, summer, 2001, Richard Blackburn, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto, p. 541.
Sales & Marketing Management, February, 2000, Andy Cohen, review of The Cluetrain Manifesto, p. 22.
USA Today, April 17, 2000, Bruce Rosenstein, "Climb Aboard 'Cluetrain' for Net Lesson," p. B13.
Washington Post Book World, May 14, 2000, T. R. Reid, "Net Profits," p. 4.
Linux Journal Online,http://www2.linuxjournal.com/ (January 6, 2000), "David Searls."
Searls Group Web site,http://www.searls.com/ (November 9, 2004).*