POD Thoughts

Some thoughts on the state of the pod-world today. This started out as a response to the question “why?” asked in the PODforYou Forums about recent changes at CafePress.com and Zazzle.com but is a bit long and rambling for a forum post.

Zazzle and CafePress are attempting to manage an aging dieing concept and maximize income while they can. 10 years for a web-based company is like a century for brick & mortar concepts. Not an impossible lifespan, but very rare.

Evidence of my claim? Well, I used to just delete the 10+ emails I receive each week from CP with discounts, coupons, sales and ‘specials’ but have just begun to save them in their own folder so I can verify exactly how many they send and just how low they the pricing goes. 60 to 80% is pretty typical- and not just on one or two items but often site-wide. Anything we add to their MP may be offered through everything from A to Z (literally: Amazon to Zulily) at pennies on the dollar. I’ve also signed up for Zazzle’s ‘newsletter’ to see what they are sending out to their customers.

If these companies just want to segregate their MarketPlace from our shops they could do so without the extremes they employ; the ‘nofollow’ coding, the refusal to put any significant effort (or resources) into fixing issues that primarily affect shops, etc. POD-sites need to change in order to survive; CafePress went shopping for related companies. Zazzle seems to have chosen to focus on their (perceived) “core competency”.

Compuserve is gone, AOL is close behind; Prodigy, Delphi et al are unknown to anyone who didn’t go on-line before ’98 or so. Lycos and Altavista gave way to Yahoo which has fallen behind upstart Google. The last two have expanded into being so much more than just a search engine in the hopes of continued existence.

My strategy is somewhat similar; to reduce the amount of time I put into working any pod-site and focus most of my POD effort on my shops at Skreened until such time as they reach the same point. At the same time I’m re-thinking all on-line sales efforts; on-line galleries for my photography and digital art and print on demand books are being worked until they too succumb to whatever is newer, hotter, cooler, cheaper, etc.

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  1. Another factor, as I was reminded by a post in the forums at http://www.podforyou.com is the saturation of artists & designers. Between people laid off and those working part-time (and/or at minimum wage) everyone is looking for a way to earn more money.

    This is similar to the issue raised in a newspaper article about three or four years ago that multi-level-marketing (MLM) organizations such as Amway, Mary Kay, and others would soon have so many people signed up to sell that the pyramid structure could not add another layer.

  2. In response to a comment on Facebook, I added the following note:
    "I agree that a web-site that is designer-driven could do well for all involved. As you note, that would mean a different approach to marketing, product selection, etc. In fact it would require a long-term approach that no publicly-traded (or pre-IPO) company will take. While it might not inherently preclude 'quickie designs' (i.e. inspired by heroes/ tragedies/ events of the day) it certainly implies a different core approach.

    "In fact it might only work with a site that asks for and receives Exclusivity from a designer. That is an old-fashioned concept; publishers and authors very rarely sign anything long-term; movie studios no longer have stables of contract players and production companies won't sign an actor long-term when networks rarely commit to a full season. Which is not to say it can't work- just that "conventional wisdom" (which drives so much of corporate thinking) is agin' it.

    "And to be blunt, right now few, if any, of the designers I know would really be comfortable signing such a deal with any pod-site."

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