Since the publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto, the phrase 'markets are conversations' has been cited widely.

In the last two weeks I've been reminded on three separate occasions about how these market conversations are happening, quite literally.

There are three 'theses' that I'd like to refer to Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger's original work and have mapped these to the three recent events on my blog.

1. Markets are conversations.

The first of the three events this week is to do with splogs - spam via RSS feeds and blogs.  I posted about my experience of the problem and called out:

"Question to the feed search engine folks...(David Sifry Blake Rhodes, Bill Bob Wyman are you listening?)...how do we stop this? Can we?  It can't be good for your business if this kind of thing takes off, can it?"

Within 24 hours David, Blake and Bob each posted a comment on my blog, acknowledging the industry-wide issue and confirming their companies' commitment to solving the problem.  Bob even took the time to point out that Bill Wyman (as I originally wrote) was in fact, and to my acute embarrassment, a Rolling Stone. I noticed the rocking Bill Wyman didn't come to my blog to correct me ;-)

I spoke, they listened and responded. Who am I? A nobody, but we conversed anyhow.

19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

The second event blew me away (and a few others).  John Montgomery posted a 'I don't get this' type post on the subject of a new start up called Ning, created by Marc Andreessen (of Netscape fame and fortune).

In response to John's question about how the company was planning to make its money.  I speculated on a couple of revenue models and wrote, tongue-in-cheek:

"Good question John, I don't know either. Marc Andreessen might but hasn't share the biz-plan me yet.  Are you there Marc?"

Within hours, Marc Anreessen posted a comment on my blog:

"Alex -- your description of what we are trying to do is very well said. It's an experiment, but those are the goals.

We are going to see if we can generate enough revenue through a blend of advertising (like Google, Yahoo, etc.) and premium services to be able to support what we are doing, including the free developer accounts.

Thanks for the thoughts and comments..."

I fell off my metaphorical seat (and physical seat if I recall). Marc Andreessen is listening in on the blogosphere and taking part directly.  This is what the smart companies and people are doing. They 'get it'.

25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

My third piece of evidence to show that markets are really are conversations came in yesterday.  It relates to a product I've used for some time now - FeedDemon (an RSS feed reader), now owned by Newsgator.

Nick Bradbury (the original developer of Homesite, TopStyle) posted about a new feature available in a current beta release of FeedDemon.

I posted about how I thought the new feature was cool but I had an 'ask':

"The file can't be exported (OPML, would be nice Nick?...anything!)"

Nick commented on my blog explaining that I could get at my attention data but through another larger file. I wasn't 100% satisfied and suggested a separate OMPL file for ease of use.  Nick commented again two days later:

"Just wanted to let you know that I've added OPML export of the reports to the next build of FeedDemon - expect to see this in RC2."

No Ivory Towers here, just stunning stuff.

Markets really are conversations

If I was ever in any doubt the notion that markets are conversations (not that I ever was) or considered the Cluetrain Manifesto as a theoretical concept only, these two last week's activities on my blog would have eradicated those doubts from even the most cynical critic.

Blogs have made the mantra become real.  For those who choose to participate, markets really are conversations.

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