Bruce Judson has a long-held reputation as a successful Internet marketer and business leader. So why is his new venture, Free for Today, so lousy? Judson cofounded Time Inc.'s storied Pathfinder website back in 1994. At the time, it was a groundbreaking media portal, unlike anything else on the Web. He's written popular business books about the Internet. He's founded several Internet businesses. He's been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and Advertising Age. Judson even holds a senior faculty fellow position at the Yale School of Management. But Free for Today has all the marketing finesse and business savvy of a low-brow, late-night infomercial.
Free for Today is a free newsletter (available by email or RSS feed) that promises consumers deals on, well, free crap. Of which, of course, there's plenty on the Web. Just like that question-mark guy, Matthew Lesko, who you may remember polluting late-night airwaves in the '90s with his over-the-top promises of free stuff, the site, with a design that might have been considered "professional" in 1994, is laden with superlatives:
Don't miss your chance:
* To save thousands of dollars!
* To give yourself a free gift each morning as you turn on your computer!
* To stop paying for products and services when high quality versions are available for free!
* To add more fun to your life!
* To add more excitement to your life!
* To add more surprise to your life!
The redundant if exuberant sales pitch owes more to Time-Life than to Time Inc.
Lesko enjoyed mainstream success and celebrity for a time, but now, despite continuing his pitch, he is considered a misleading huckster pitching free stuff that most don't want or aren't eligible for. It's always the case with promises of free stuff.
But in the case of Judson's Free for Today, it won't take years to catch on. The Internet is replete with more respected coupon sites, more nefarious "free stuff" scams. People are more aware. Although these bottom feeders can always catch a few suckers, there is no real business potential to them. The site is merely a cheap attempt at capitalizing on the efforts of even shadier advertisers targeting down-and-out users searching for "free stuff" — debt consolidators, email marketers, franchisers, and so on.
A man who once wrote books about the Internet is now reduced to hawking free crap on the Internet. Like Suzanne Somers, Bruce Judson is trading on his past reputation. But its his personal brand that's getting the squeeze.