We’ve all got problems. Some of us pay shrinks to work them out. If you can’t afford that you can always bore your friends over a beer or cocktail. Worst case, the cocktail will help. But for many people the best solution is the anonymous interaction with an expert.
It won’t come as a shock that relationship advice is what most people are craving from advice columnists. Why? Because that’s the stuff that’s hardest to talk about. You want to be able to spill your guts, make yourself look stupid, reveal your innermost secrets and if all else fails blame others.
For some outrageous sum you could build up that kind of trust in your shrink. Maybe. But instead you can just write a letter or email to your favorite sex/love/relationship columnist and get the clear cut answer in a few paragraphs. You can be anonymous, so that’s easy. And it’s free! It’s probably not the equivalent of 5 years of analysis, but hey, who want to end up like Woody Allen?
Veni, Vidi… nihil, nuttin’, nada
I came. I saw. What the heck? I had to email someone, fill out some form, or god forbid write a letter with some object that was probably in use in ancient Egypt. Then I had to send it by pony express and check the paper every day? You have got to be kidding me. That thing needs fixing.
Veni, Vidi… Advici (that’s Latin for Kick-ass Advice)
What to do?
First, obviously put it online.
Second, is email really the state of the art? Come on. Let people just ask a question, like they would in any Q&A.
Third, instead of picking questions out of a hat, why not let the other people vote on the one they most want answered? Stop the guessing game, give the audience what it wants.
Fourth, you can’t answer all the questions. So let the readers pitch in and give it their best shot. Worst case it’s bad advice. But if experience is any guide, someone will have had and resolved that very problem. The sum of the readers is better than any single advice columnist.
Advice is For-Profit
Sure you want to help people. That’s great. So do shrinks and they get paid. Why shouldn’t you? Advice has always been a for-profit business. You even have to pay for the beer if it’s your friend.
So skip the email, the silly forms, the exclusivity of answers, the wizard hat for choosing the best question. Put it all out there. Let people ask, vote, answer, contribute, help. And hey, when someone’s question get answered why not send the the answer in an email?
Drive traffic to your site. Yes, advice shouldn’t be a column in the 21st century, it should be a site. You could even invite guest experts with specialties outside of yours. More traffic. More content. And expert advice is good content. People even want to advertise on expert advice.
Some people don’t want to talk about their relationships. These people are known as men. They want advice on how to fix their car, replace a plumbing fixture (when they get around to it), fix up their home theater so it looks and sounds like a real movie theater. And hey, they don’t want to screw up on valentines day, and they definitely want to know what to do if they forgot their anniversary, and they may have the odd sex question or two. So there’s room to cater to them in that domain too.
There’s a Forum For That
Before everyone starts sounding like an iPhone commercial. Yes, there is a forum for that. There are 100,000+ forums. Some of them are the best places to find out about anything. But let’s face it. When it comes to finding them and navigating your way through them. Good luck. That’s why we never get to that plumbing fixture.
The only thing older then the agony aunt (as the Brits call them) are forums. It’s time for an update. Come out of the dark. Welcome to the world of expert Q&A. The sun never sets, the SEO is beautiful, and you can even broadcast everything in Twitter and Facebook.
The problem is agonizing enough, don’t torture us with a bad UI.