Friday, August 24, 2012

One Man, One Million Dollars, Nine Days

Want to know how to succeed on-line?  Look at The Oatmeal, the website of bizarre posters and satire.  Matthew Inman was a programmer in the Seattle area who wanted to find a way to express his point of view, and by the start of the '10s his creation was clocking over four million uniques a day.

How to describe The Oatmeal?  Maybe Mental Floss run by Gary Larsen.

He recently used the power of his following to generate a million dollars to seed a Tesla museum at the legendary scientist's old labs in New York.

He did it in nine days.  You can read his take on the success on his blog.

This isn't his first foray into fund-raising.  When a website was infringing on his copyright -- and Inman called it out -- the website had the balls to sue Inman for defamation.  In true digital century style, Inman fought right back, creating the "Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad" cartoons and campaign.  The illustrations featured the website's owner's mother seducing a Kodiak bear (you might now get a sense of the humor displayed at The Oatmeal, made famous by cartoon concepts like Five Reasons to Punch a Dolphin).

The battle was not fair.  The Oatmeal asked for donations to cover the $20K in damages called for in the suit.  He raised $220K, with proceeds split between American Cancer Society and National Wildlife Federation.  The website then filed a federal suit against The Oatmeal, ACS, NWF and IndieGoGo, leading to another round of blowback.  Eventually, the site backed down dropping its suits.

What can we learn from The Oatmeal?

Born Digital:  The Oatmeal is the poster child (hmm, quite literally) for an enterprise that would never exist absent the networked media.

Single-minded focus: The Oatmeal is one man's vision of the world, and relentless in promoting and defending it.  His previous big moment was shouting down some detractors.  Living proof that we have to come up with some different way of expressing "don't get in a pissing battle with people who buy ink by the barrel" that fits the digital age.

Genuine: What you see is what you get, and not unlike George Takei on Facebook, The Oatmeal is legend for saying what he thinks in a sincere and endearing way.

Unique: This is Gary Larson 2.0.  If you haven't read much of The Oatmeal and you are of the generation that misses that warped yet spot on take of the world, you need to take some time to read the back catalog.

Learn more The Oatmeal background from WikiPedia and from Inman.

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