We at e-conjob.com specialize in asking the obvious questions — the ones that everyone else avoids. So we are going on record and asking, "What's with Yahoo!?"
Remember when word came down that the überportal was going to start selling Web porn as a way to make a buck? We thought, It's about damned time! What has always been the only guaranteed revenue generator in human history? Aw, c'mon. You know.
What struck us as weird was that prior to the big announcement, you could already purchase blow-up dolls and fuzzy handcuffs on Yahoo! (or so we'd heard, heh heh). The company simply made it official. It was the business equivalent of telling one girlfriend about the other. How did that ever seem like a good idea? Outraged cards and letters came avalanching in. It's the oldest dictum in business: The First Rule of Commerce — naughty sells — will always be eclipsed by the Second Rule of Commerce — whoa! Not that naughty!
Fortunately for all of you dotcoms that are nearing the end of your stay on life support, we at e-conjob.com are better students of human nature than those yahoos at Yahoo!. We know that the only thing that truly sells in "polite society" is NaughtyLite. Fortunately, we live in a culture where NaughtyLite is open all night.
No, it's not too late. Dead dotcoms, consider yourselves merely dormant. With a little retooling of your formerly unimaginative business model, you can overcome your economic dysfunction and appear to be edgy and outré — but not really! There's an entire range of human behavior that passes for bad, but that makes people feel good about themselves. NaughtyLite lets you succeed where Yahoo! failed. So here are some free NaughtyLite suggestions.
For generic content.com sites: Merge with www.teenageboyhumor.com. For a small subscription fee, you can offer Farrelly Brothers-type jokes — stuff guaranteed never to have left the 12th grade. Specialties include: dead-baby jokes, airplane-crash jokes, book titles (example: Under the Grandstand, by Seymour Butts), plus a collection of ethnic and racial humor.
Here's one for Kozmo.com: Wait! Don't retire all of those puffy orange jackets! Relaunch with a new offer: a complimentary doobie with each and every order.
SportsLine.com, ESPN.com, and the rest of you who believe that as long as you furnish stats, They Will Come. Nuh-uh. Here's the deal: Get Vegas, or get dead. NetOfficePool.com is looking for a partner. We're betting that's your future — and remember the special function that allows the holder of the pool to skim a little off the top.
For Borders.com: If you'd embraced Abbie Hoffman, you'd still be alive. Tell your customers to forget about searching for an out-of-print title. Just go to the local library, and, hey, Steal That Book!
PetStore.com: Two words (and we know you have a lot left over): dog collars.
Beefjerky.com: It's self-explanatory.
Yahoo!, we haven't forgotten you. How are you going to recover from your misstep? Simple: Merge with us! What? No interest in joining forces with the only dotcom that knows how to plumb the dark desires of users everywhere? You should really reconsider. Terry, we happen to know how many hotel bathrobes you've pinched in your day. Not to mention all of those honor-bar cashews that you've consumed but have never copped to. Naughty boy.
This is the latest episode in the Spy's continuing saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).
A version of this article appeared in the July 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.