Is the lack of open source marketing a problem?

Summary:Strategic leadership in open source is like herding cats, and thus giving everyone the same marketing direction becomes nearly impossible. It leaves most projects without the scale to compete when what they're doing becomes really hot.

Marketing
Open source requires a stripped-down business model. With no product revenues coming in, and with service often priced at a mark-up of time, a lot of frills have to go.

Marketers hate to be considered a frill, but in this case some are. There are very few open source marketers. The best ones don't seem like marketers at all, but evangelists (in the technology sense). This leads some observers to scratch their heads and start comparing open source to religion, which it's not. (This image, titled marketing, is from Markzware, which produces software for marketers. Hopefully they will see this and join our discussion.)

As any economic movement scales, however, the need for strategic thinking increases, and good marketing is nothing if not strategic. So the question occurs again, is the lack of open source marketing a problem?

In a strategic sense, yes, the movement is vulnerable. Strategic leadership in open source is like herding cats, and thus giving everyone the same marketing direction becomes nearly impossible. This leaves most projects without the scale to compete when what they're doing becomes really hot.

There are exceptions projects that are so Internet-dependent and basic that they create scale, and enough revenue to afford marketing, as if by magic. Google is an example of that, but does Google really do marketing? (They certainly don't do advertising.)

I think all business problems are opportunities in disguise, and I feel IBM has taken great advantage of this one. Could someone else? Could you, for instance? How?

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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