You can either buy attention or earn it


Most businesses are not fucking Coca-Cola. They don't have this secret recipe that's the foundation of their success. The vast majority of businesses succeed or fail on the basis of their execution and their timing. There just aren't that many profound secrets that completely alter the trajectory of wherever some company's going.

But I absolutely loathe the term content marketing because it sounds so contrived. It sounds like something planned and measured and designed where I don't think that's where the interesting lessons are. I do not think, what is it that the audience exactly wants to hear? That's not where you're gonna get the good stuff. I think the good stuff comes out when you're simply sharing what you're doing without this transactional approach to it.

And I think when you earn someone's attention by actually sharing something that's interesting, actually sharing something that they learn something from, it is a far more valuable connection that you establish rather than just plastering a bunch of ads in front of them. You can use ads too, of course, and they can work, and you can even use them in concert. But the connection you establish when you truly teach someone something, when you truly change their mind on something, or at least provoke them to think about that topic in a new way, it's just so much deeper.

And this is the stuff that I love hearing from people who've been following us or been inspired from things we've done over the years. Some of them will say like, Oh man, I read all your stuff for years. And then, hey, I just signed up for Basecamp yesterday. How do you even track or quantify that?

Just you put good stuff into the universe and most of the time the universe will return good stuff to you. And even if it doesn't, you should still be enjoying it. I enjoy the sharing what we do for its own sake. It is actually a source of energy for me to share what I learn when I learn it. And I would do it whether there was a return or not a return.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Creator of Ruby on Rails, co-owner & CTO of 37signals (Basecamp & HEY), best-selling author (REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, REMOTE), Le Mans class-winning racing driver, antitrust advocate, investor in Danish startups, frequent podcast guest, and family man.