Ep. 14: Protecting Yourself from Online Privacy Lawsuits with Donata and Hans Skillrud
Announcer: You're listening to the Content Heroes podcast where entrepreneurs, marketers, and creatives share how they build profitable businesses on their own terms by creating content online. And now your host, Josiah Goff.
Josiah: Welcome to content heroes, everyone. I'm here with Donata and Hans Skillrud, founders of Termageddon. And I'm really excited about this conversation. Thanks so much for being on the show you guys.
Donata: Hey, thank you so much for having us.
Hans: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Josiah: So let's start with the backstory of Termageddon and why you started a company about online privacy policies.
Donata: Sure. Hans, do you want to take this one?
Josiah: I love it.
Hans: So yeah, that's how it all came together.
Josiah: Cool. So when you started this, what, you know, you made the decision to jump in, what did that look like? What were the kind of the beginning phases of the company?
Donata: So we basically got a quote for what the software application would look like and we spoke to a few people and got investments and I started writing everything out and planning everything out. And yeah, that's just kinda how it started.
Hans: Yeah, a micro business plan and just kind of like a, Hey we think this could be cool and we think we can start it off like at a reasonable price point to see if it can happen. And we actually create a Termageddon before even GDPR was a thing. So this, Termageddon was being discussed in 2016, I believe. And yeah, it was kind of always just the backburner project though, me running an agency and Donata you know, heading council for big firms like well it just was always a backburner project. But at the beginning of 2019 after GDPR where we definitely saw an uptick, but in 2019 with more and more States adding privacy, proposed privacy laws, we started to see like real traction. So yeah, we made, I made the very difficult decision to sell my agency and go full time Termageddon. And shortly after Donata joined. So we've been doing it now for a little over eight months full-time. Although it's been in the works for over three years.
Josiah: That's fantastic. So what has been your primary strategy for growth? I know the content has been a core piece of that.
Donata: Yeah, it really has. So we do a couple of different things for customer acquisition. One of our main strategies is partnering with agencies. So we give agencies a free license and if they like it they can refer or resell us to their clients. And then another really big piece of our growth has been due to content. So we really focus a lot on education. Not a lot of people know about their privacy obligations when they have a website. Not a lot of people know that they need a terms of service and what those policies for websites are and what's going on with the privacy laws and privacy bills in the US. So education is a huge part of our strategy and it drives most of the traffic to our site.
Josiah: That's great! So what's been your approach in the content creation process? How do you get people's attention and get them interested in a subject that most people don't really want to think about?
Hans: Well, I would return and ask you the question, are we talking about how do we get like publishers of content to listen to us about our proposed copy? Or are you saying, how do we get someone who's landed on the page to actually read it?
Josiah: Well, both.
Hans: Okay. Yeah. So Donata has been instrumental with both. I can speak for you or you could just, we could hear it right
Donata: I guess.
Hans: the direct source.
Hans: And just, you know, there is one area that I think is worth discussing cause not just discuss two spectrums, the agency side where web agencies get a free set of policies and we write a guest blog posts for them. And then on the other side, which is with a bunch of other lawyers, well, there's this middle ground web-hosting companies. Web-hosting companies are very often I would say all of them are offering blogs and content and copy to, you know, to bring users to their host provider for them to come off as thought leaders in the space. Well, every single hosting company in the world that is focused on making business happen, it is focused on messaging the importance of security. That is a huge talking point that these hosting companies have security, security, security because that's an expectation from the consumer. Well, security we realize is not that far away from data privacy compliance. In fact, some might even say like under the security umbrella, that's where privacy compliance is located. Security, meaning protection, you know, protection from fines, lawsuits, all that stuff. So once we realized that, we then had an angle to come into these hosting companies and be like, look, we see you talking about security and the importance of it. Like you know, I don't know if you have any plans, but I didn't notice any articles talking about the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is hitting in 14 days. You know, do you have any plans to release something or could we work with you on getting something up? And nine times out of 10 they are like, yeah, we don't have a privacy attorney on staff. We have no idea what this is about and we would love to talk to you. And it's a topic that no one wants to talk about except us. So that's really nice because it allows for many opportunities to exist to write copy.
Josiah: That's fantastic. What I love about that is your approach to content is not just so it's like a win, win, win, right? So you are providing valuable content to the end user, to the people reading it. You're providing a valuable service to the person who's publishing the content by giving them valuable content that their customers will love them for and we'll help them. And then you're also putting out content that gets people to know, like, and trust you and come back in. And if they want your help, they will become a customer. So that's fantastic. I love it.
Hans: Awesome. Cool. Cool. And Donata has also done a great job. You'll see in Termageddon blogs, like you know, we tried to start off every single blog with like an opening paragraph that is super lighthearted, probably sarcastic. You're going to laugh like, and then like just a real, real like deep meme, like a meme. Like, and it's talking about something funny. So like start every article she writes starts off with some lighthearted and fun and you know, you might be thinking, well this is about data privacy, so it needs to be serious, you know, but as you scroll down you'll realize, okay, this person clearly has their stuff together. Like they're writing really good copy here and everything like that. But we like to say, Hey, before you dive deep, here's a little joke. You know, to keep things lighthearted.
Donata: I mean you kind of have to do that, right? Because there's so much content out there, you have to make sure that yours is different. So whether you make it funny, whether it's a topic that not that people are talking about Or it's a topic that people have a lot of questions about, it kind of has to stand out from the usual crowd of things because you know everybody's writing stuff now. So it's all about how are you going to make yours more interesting or more appealing to people.
Josiah: Yeah, exactly. So I'm really curious, what are some of the big things that content creators, online content creators need to know right now about online privacy and how, if or how they might be vulnerable?
Hans: or comments are.
Donata: Yeah, and I think like before when there weren't that many laws and that many regulations, like you could write something being like this is the information I collect, this is what I do with it, this is who I share it with. But right now there's so many specific requirements. Like for example, the California law, which goes to effect, January 1st has a requirement that some businesses have a toll-free phone number for people to exercise their rights. And if you haven't read the law before you wrote the copy, you wouldn't know that. So I think there's a lot of these pitfalls right now because these laws are so specific as to what the disclosures are and that it's really easy to miss. So
Josiah: Okay, cool. And how does copyright fit in with all those?
Donata: So copyright comes in when you're doing your website or you're writing articles, you could potentially take an image that doesn't belong to you or that you don't have the rights to. You could get sued for copyright infringement in those cases. But in your terms of service, if you write it up correctly, you might be able to place yourself in a safe harbor under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And the DMCA allows you to say, okay, if you think that I've infringed on your intellectual property or like your copyrights, contact me here instead of suing me and we'll resolve it that way. So the terms of service has that included if you, obviously if you write it up and that would help protect you from copyright infringement claims. And then I think also for content creators it's important to mention affiliate links. So if you're writing copy for you know, a company or if you have an article about something and then you include an affiliate link, you should have a disclaimer that says, you know, we use affiliate links here and we get paid for, you know, whenever you purchase something through the affiliate program. And that's actually required by most affiliate programs out there that you can use is to disclose that in the disclaimer.
Donata: Totally. Yeah, I think there's some different ideas that people can use in different solutions. So they could hire an attorney if they wanted to, but you would have to make sure that they're, they specialize in privacy, you know, to write those policies up for you. You would also have to ask them, you know, what do you do when the laws change? So they'll tell you that's kinda your problem now. Or I'll send you an email and I will update you and this is the cost or you know, there is no cost. I think people can also use generators. That's one of the solutions that we provide, which is basically you go in, you answer a few questions about your website and then it generates a policy for you. If you do want to try to write it yourself and learn all of these things yourself, I would definitely recommend that you check out the International Association of Privacy Professionals, which is iapp.org and they have some resources about like what new laws are coming out and what they mean. So that's something to look out for to.
Josiah: Yeah, I love it. One of the things that we've talked a lot about on the show is, you know, one of the ways that we, as content creators, and I mean number one is burnout, right? And one of the fastest ways to burn out is to try to do everything yourself. And do all of the stuff that, especially all the little things that is just not in your wheelhouse and the, you know, the people that are in it for the long haul who really succeed over time and grow a thriving business. They have shifted their mindset to thinking like a CEO and what can I offload? Like how can I delegate or outsource the things that are not my unique contributions to this business so that I can stay energized, you know, stay leading the company or you know, creating the content and continue to do that day in and day out without getting burned out. And how can I get everything else off of my plate? And so I love that you guys have created just this really elegant, simple solution that takes care of something that would, if you tried to do it yourself, you can if you want to, but it would just be one of those things that would, would not be worth it.
Hans: It technically could give yourself surgery, too. I mean it's just like, it's not advised, you know, advisable. So no, I really appreciate that. And, and you're right, I agree with that outlook as we both discussed, we are both agency owners. Like that was something that fundamentally shifted me as an individual was when I realized, okay, I can create standard operating procedures and have staff do things that I need them to do to grow my agency. Like it's the same concept is like, all right, like let experts be experts and turns out like you can be so much more profitable or successful by realizing instead of spreading yourself too thin, where that never is a good strategy at all. Even in board games, like not in risk, at least. Never do it. You know, you want to delegate appropriately. So, yeah, I really appreciate that. Yeah, it's really cool.
Josiah: Cool. Well, Donata, Hans, I really appreciate you being on the show today. I've learned a ton. I know our audience has as well. Before we hop off here, can you share where people can find you online and learn more about Termageddon?
Donata: Yeah, so we're on any social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, just @Termageddon, and there's going to be a link to our website in the description too.
Hans: Cool. And users will actually be able to get 10% off their first order by visiting a website URL, right, Josiah?
Josiah: Yeah, so that'll be contentheroes.com/termageddon.
Hans: Cool. And Termageddon is like Term-aged-don, so T-E-R-M-A-G-E-D-D-O-N.
Josiah: Awesome. Thanks again for being on the show.
Hans: Hey, thank you so much.