The Incredibly Dangerous “Info Cliff”

I was drinking an espresso, which Seth Godin had made using his very expensive and fancy espresso machine.

It was 2002, and I was sitting in Seth's office with a small group of entrepreneurs.

Career in the job

We were discussing the future of marketing, and our individual marketing challenges.

“I'm in the radio business,” I said to Seth. “What advice do you have for me?”

Seth didn't even miss a beat.

“If I were you,” he said, “I would pretend that one year from today the government was going to take away my transmitter. And then I would build a plan that will keep me in business after that happens.”

We brainstormed how I might do that.

I flew back home to Spokane, Washington, full of optimism and excitement.

Like Seth, I had seen the handwriting on the wall for the radio business… it was about to be completely murdered by MP3 players, satellite radio, and this little thing called the Internet.

But now I had a plan.

I was going to go home and show my radio brethren how we would leverage the Internet to our advantage, build permission-based lists, and move away from the old paradigm of selling interruption-style marketing to local businesses.

Only one problem.

None of my radio brethren wanted to hear that.

It was as if they were all lemmings, determined to march over the edge of a cliff, and despite my ardent warnings they would not be deterred.

I tried for a while to convert them to my way of thinking.

For a couple of years, I was the agenda chairperson of the largest seminar in the radio business, the Country Radio Seminar. It's held each year in Nashville (of course).

For two years I was virtually shouted down by my peers, who actually said to me that MP3 players and music-over-the-Internet were “just passing fads”…

Hey guys, to quote the great theologian Toby Keith, “How do you like me now?”

I digress.

Radio was down for the count.

I decided it was time to move on.

I left the business of broadcasting, and hung out my shingle as a direct response copywriter for Internet marketers.

My radio friends were aghast.

How could I leave a cushy six-figure position in the broadcasting business to do “marketing on the Internet”? Was I crazy?

Of course, they didn't ask me if I was crazy, they were much more polite. But the question hung in the air.

It wasn't long-perhaps a few months-before I started getting the phone calls.

Radio was going through a big round of layoffs, as more stations were bought by consolidators and employees were being eliminated to shore up the bottom line.

Suddenly, the same people who thought I was nuts only months before were now wondering how I managed to make a living without a job.

Those calls came in fast and furious for a while, and then began to subside. I still get a call or two like this every month.

This story does have a point, beyond illustrating how smart I am (tongue now planted firmly in cheek).

Here's that point…

The industry I was part of (the radio industry) was headed for a cliff.

Some of us saw the cliff coming, and took a different route.

We avoided being pushed over the edge. Most did not avoid that fate, some of them are still out of work to this day, and almost all of them are busy whining and complaining about how they were “screwed” by the industry.

But we all had plenty of warning.

Even if one couldn't figure out what was happening on one's own, there were the prophetic voices of the industry, shouting from the rooftops that the end was near.

But much like the prophets of the Old Testament, the people didn't like that message. So they didn't listen. And they stoned the prophets.

Why am I telling you this story?

For the last decade or so, I have been enjoying the life of my dreams, fueled by my own business.

More than just a copywriter these days, my business consists of many facets: consulting private clients, writing books, speaking at conferences, creating and selling my own information products, and yes… I occasionally write some copy.

But this industry – what I would refer to as the “information marketing industry” – is approaching a cliff.

I call it the “Info Cliff”.

What does that mean?

It means that in the old days (maybe two years ago) you could still make plenty of money just by selling information. And lots of people did just that.

But by and large, that information was “how to” information. The marketplace has been flooded with plenty of eerily similar “how to” resources.

“How to” has become mostly “me too”.

You're either regurgitating what someone else has already said, or you are providing fuel so that someone else can regurgitate what you said.

Either way, you are awash in a “sea of sameness”.

This is why many top info marketers, coaches, speakers, and other experts suddenly find themselves without cash flow.

The rising tide that floated all the boats has gone out. And, as Warren Buffett observed, when the tide goes out we can all see who was skinny dipping.

Many well-known names in the information marketing business are now completely out of that business. Some of them are selling software now. Some are buying and selling domain names.

Some have even gone back to working at j-o-b-s. Yup, you read that right. I'll let you do your own research to figure out who.

What led to these dire consequences?

These folks simply fell off the “Info Cliff”.

Definition of “Info Cliff”: a condition in the marketplace of a proliferation of tired, regurgitated, recycled, and easily duplicatable “how to” information and products. This condition leaves prospects overloaded with information that they cannot use, that they've heard before, and that has absolutely no emotional appeal.

When information becomes a commodity, the buying criteria becomes price.

This is why a course that sold for $1,000 last year is being given away for free as an opt-in bribe this year.

So the question is: how do you avoid falling off the “Info Cliff”? How do you avoid being pushed off the edge by a competitor?

You've got to do exactly what I did when I left the radio business. Take a different road to reach your destination.

No, I'm not suggesting you get out of the business of information marketing.

No need to switch to a profession that requires wearing a paper hat.

What I am suggesting is that you “steal the ball” from the other players in the game, and do something that leaves them stunned and asking, “What just happened?”

I am suggesting that you try something so radical and so different that even when your competitors recognize what you've done, they have virtually no hope of duplicating or counteracting it.

Naturally, at this point, your question must revolve around exactly how you might do that.

That's what I suggest you spend your time thinking about. And think hard.

Because thinking is hard work. That's okay. Because it's also high-paying work, when you do it right.

And it's something most of your competitors are simply not willing to do.


Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • Powerful copy on both of these last 2 posts. I’m in. See you tomorrow.

  • Lifting yourself out of the morass of sameness requires a new way of thinking. Changing paradigms offer great opportunities for those who can apply a higher, or maybe more innovative, approach but if history teaches us anything it is that many will fall, and few will soar.

    Who can see with new eyes and put off the conditioning of the past? Thank you for stimulating some thinking in my grey matter.

    Great post as usual, entertaining, thought provoking and informative.

  • Ray, you’ve given a name to a phenomenon that I’ve also seen online during this past year, in several topic categories. The “me too” flood of blogs and articles has discouraged me at times because I didn’t want to just be “adding to the noise,” as the song by Switchfoot goes.

    The Wisdom Thesis gives us an excellent and powerful way to do deep thinking and make meaningful contributions to the conversation. Thank you for teaming up with Rick and generously sharing such great insight with us!

  • I like the idea of trying “something so radical and so different”. It’s this outside of the box thinking that may lead to greener pastures down the road.

  • Just for a touch of push back… “outside of the box” and “greener pastures”; even suggesting “thinking” have been around for a long time. What about “thinking about thinking” in a whole different way? Instead of “the Info Cliff” — what about “the Info Potential?” Is it time to do more “forward thinking” instead of “backward thinking?” About what’s right and has potential to grow, more than what’s wrong and has potential to wither and die?

    • I like to be challenged, at least occasionally. Especially when it’s done with thoughtfulness and intelligence. Thanks Max!

  • I’m guessing you’ve got a whole lot more to say on this… it’s such an important concept for future success. Point me to more on this? Thanks, Ray!

  • The “sea of sameness” not only applies to business, but to our personal lives as well. The Wisdom Thesis finally gives us a tool to move from sameness to significance in all areas.

  • Alan

    Accurate thinking, as Napoleon Hill adamantly espoused, may be even more essential today as the speed of change escalates exponentially. As you point out, thinking is hard work…not something most are willing to do, especially if it means swimming against the tide.

  • Ray Eickhoff

    I believe the power of thinking has been in the shadows too long. Let’s encourage one another to think!

  • zzdiana

    Yes Ray, we’ve left the Information Age.
    So, what Age are we on the brink of? It’s digital, it’s electronic, it’s minimalist, it’s biological and neurological.

    There’s a refreshing integrity birthing and an awakening that we are more than consuming clones. I think that it’s a consumer driven evolutionary leap, one that may be as significant to our collective cultural future as was the Agrarian Revolution.
    Watch this space . . .

    • zzdiana

      Oops. I left out two vital components of our growing awareness of a meta-shift in being: the dawning of emotion as more relevant to well-being then cognition; and spiritual values. : ))

    • zzdiana

      Oops. I left out two vital components of our growing awareness of a meta-shift in being: the dawning of emotion as more relevant to well-being than cognition; and spiritual values that underpin a search for meaning beyond materialism. It’s an exciting, heady – and yet refreshingly real time in the evolution of being. : ))

  • zzdiana

    Yes Ray, the Information Age is in its twilight days.
    So, what Age are we on the brink of; what’s the next phase in our evolution? It’s electronic (digital), it’s minimalist, it’s quantum, it’s spiritual, it’s conscious, it’s biological and it’s neurological.

    There’s a refreshing integrity birthing and an awakening that we are more than consuming clones. I think that it’s an evolutionary leap that’s driven from deep within the spirit of each one of us.

    This embryonic phase in human development may be as significant to our collective future as was the Agrarian Revolution to our remote ancestors.
    The near future is now. Watch this space . . .

  • JD

    Wow! Ray laid-it-down on this post. A must read if you are concerned about your future.

  • Ray,

    This was one of your best posts… so many great points and quotables.

    Thank you for writing it and leading the way my friend.


  • Mark Coudray

    Lots to think about in this post. I find it ironic in an age where knowledge is expanding at a rate that is a shadow curve to Moore’s Law that we are on the edge of an Info Cliff. The lifecycle of an idea, product, political system, etc goes through four stages: Invention, Invention Extension, Functional Substitution, Devention. The proliferation of “me too” products marks the Invention Extention phase. The is more life there, but it requires thinking differently and not more of the same. To echo zzdiana, we are moving away from consumerism to a new age that embodies all of the elements she describes. The challenge for us in post consumer time is how to lead the transition in a way that makes sense for all those who are searching for meaning and value in ways that are not longer working.

    The reason the profit and the messengers usually get stoned or burned at the stake has to do with how the message is delivered. If it is to disruptive, and not transitional enough, it isn’t embraced. The challenge of bringing fresh, new ideas is to bring them in a way that is just distruptive enough to cause cognitive dissonace and pattern interuption, but not so radical as to be dismissed outright. For me this is an incredibly exciting time as we are in a position to set the new course and create the new rules.

    Thank you for a great post.

  • I love this post! I had a “come to Jesus” moment recently about how important it was for me to stop waiting for people’s permission or approval to be as creative as I can be. This is great fuel for my new fire! Thanks for giving me warning about the cliff! God bless.