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Comedians Stumble Upon Viral Marketing Concept

By Matt Hockin
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Viral Marketing" is the latest buzzword for the oldest form of promotion in the world... "Referral" or "Word of Mouth."

With a click of the "SEND" button, Internet e-mail enables people to quickly and easily refer things to their friends and families. These e-mail messages often spread rapidly through the Internet and to the far-reaching corners of the world.

Many smart marketers have learned to harness the power of viral marketing with "eBooks," the Internet's digital equivalent of the paper book. Two stand-up comedians from San Diego, California say they were surprised when they accidentally discovered this powerful phenomenon.

Steve Roye and Paul Stoecklein were trying to think of ways to Promote their new web site ( when one simple idea caused an unexpected result.

"At first, we didn't know what we had," says Roye. "And when it finally dawned on us, we were shocked to discover that nobody else was doing it."


The idea is very simple. Roye and Stoecklein created a second Website called ( offers free downloadable joke books and humorous tales in the form of executable files. Created with the help of a compiler, the eBooks look like individual web sites. These eBooks circulate via email and feed traffic back to both web sites through hyperlinks.

"The embarrassing thing is," said Stoecklein, "I didn't really consider the email part of it at first. I just thought of the books as freebies to give people and hope they might come back to one of the sites. End of story. I really didn't consider the viral effect these things are having."

Although the idea seems painfully simple, it appears to be uncharted territory. Many people circulate jokes over the Internet as a marketing tool, and many people circulate eBooks, but nobody seems to be circulating joke eBooks - until now. Stoecklein says that their eBooks take advantage of the massive appeal of humor, but he stresses that the hyperlinks in their books are not deleted by readers like they are in regular email jokes. Therefore, the potential for subsequent web site traffic is much greater.


Roye and Stoecklein launched on March 3, 2001 by sending one of their eBooks to just a handful of friends and family members. Within days, they had recorded over 30,000 hits from several countries all over the world.

"We hardly did anything!" says Roye. "Within hours, we had people in Finland reading our books. I don't know about you, but I don't know anybody in Finland... Fresno yes, Finland no."

While the forecast may look good for, the two comedians admit that everything is far from perfect and that they are continuously perfecting the concept.

"We're learning as we go," Roye says. "We're comedians, not Internet experts. Our biggest flaw is that we often ignore the rules." And what is their biggest strength?

"We often ignore the rules," he smiles.

About the Author
Matt Hockin - Interactive Marketing, Inc. For information about the best viral marketing resources and techniques available on the Internet, send e-mail to:


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