Monthly archive

April 2005

Insert your own bullet-related hedline here

  • MNSpeak looks to be embracing a lot of the same ideas we are, just on a more limited scale.
  • Jarvis: Tipping point or melting point?
  • A great Media Center report on the future of news. It’s a punchy 4-page read– highly recommended for newbies to this whole "sky-is-falling; let’s-build-a-new-sky; long-live-the-sky" discussion about news.
  • There are a lot of great ideas out there for local digital content. I’m just not sure that a blog is necessarily the right medium.
  • Hugh Macleod: There a was session there where journalists were asking a lot of
    questions. I came away thinking, "Dinosaurs don’t like meteors". There
    is no point trying to sell a dinosaur a meteor. He/She ain’t buying, so
    stop trying to sell him/her the meteor story etc.
  • John Battelle: The Mobile Web Sucks
  • Rex Hammock touches on the future of advertising in the course of a post on RSS ads: Every ad a wanted ad. And to those who say that they don’t want any ads, I say "poppycock."
  • Local = plastics.

Journalism 2.0 in practice

I’m starting to notice instances (as opposed to discussion) of the kind of journalism that we intend to make SOP at Pegasus News:

  • Andrew Lark notes the new transparency in media relations via both interview-by-blog and posting of full transcripts.
  • Our gracious host, Jeff Harrell, blogs about a new urban myth as well as its verification and semi-debunking. He uses a variety of online sources; then conducts an interview with one of the parties and posts the audio online.
  • It’s nice not having to wait a whole week (or several months) for Eric Celeste’s latest Belo update.
  • And Jeff Jarvis dispatches with a misguided perverter of Journalism 2.0.


This George Will column on the woes of newspapers isn’t anything new to our readers. But his punchline may become my new standard answer when I’m asked "Why won’t the incumbent dailies just copy you?":

The future of the big media that the young have abandoned is not
certain. But do you remember when an automobile manufacturer,
desperately seeking young customers, plaintively promised that its cars
were "not your father’s Oldsmobile"? Do you remember Oldsmobiles?

Behind the curtain: Moving day

As we move from blather-only to the blather and work stage of Our Little Project, we’ll offer occasional war stories and entrepreneurial insights as a regular blog feature.

Although we took possession of our office space last week, today is the true "move-in" day. After a morning of phone work, we’ll be picking up a U-Haul and making the rounds to the various homes, friends’ offices and used furniture shops from which we’re procuring our furniture, eventually wending our way to the office.

I’ll allow a moment of pride in our bootstrapping here: On Thursday, we’ll have fully functional office space in a nice location, furnished well enough that we’ll be quite comfortable. (The only holdup right now is our DSL installation.) And as of Thursday, we’ll have spent a total of $531 on facilities and equipment. And a good chunk of that is the commercial insurance required by our lease. That also includes estimated rental on the U-Haul. To be fair, there will be install bills to come later from SBC, but I still think that’s pretty good.

We couldn’t have done it without the kindness of some of our true friends and associates. I think we’ll be saying that a lot in the next few months.

Bullet-in board

  • Fred Wilson: Online does not cannibalize offline, it turbocharges it.
  • Jarviswatch: Tipping point for new media; undervalued online advertising; and Skype (my new favorite company) as an example of how control of distribution is worthless in all digital industries (including media)
  • To that last point — this is where I get excited about our prospects. All the hot plays in our business right now seem to be about aggregation — but I wonder if, in the long haul, aggregation isn’t just another means of distribution? In a bit of entrepreneurial hubris, I’ll declare that the real value will be in truly unique and reliable content.
  • And now, to contradict both Jarvis and myself: For advertisers, distribution still matters.
  • Greensboro News & Record with a cool dicing up of audio content from a tense City Council meeting. The key line on the page:
    We’ll have more on the Truth and Reconciliation debate in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.
    These guys have the cart and the horse in the right order.
  • Tim Porter has a great summation of the moment we’re at in media. Must-read of the week.
  • Tom Biro: Print is dead. Long live news.
  • RSS on Tivo
  • Ken Sands sees where a lot of new media experimentation is going wrong. I’m hanging this mantra on our door: People don’t need more sources of information, they need fewer. Graham Webster sees it too.
  • Alan Mutter sees the potential for collabortition between Craig and mainstream dailies.
  • Eric Celeste re-enters the blogosphere with some perspective on the DA’s Belo investigation.
  • Trendwatching: Customer-made

Latest validation

Just last week, I was cautioning one of my partners about aligning us too closely with the blogging movement, because blogs are but one part of our plan — and much of our content will be more tradiitional journalism, turbocharged with blogging’s best features.

But I’d be remiss in not pointing our BusinessWeek‘s cover story on blogging and the similarity of their conclusions to much of what we’re planning:

Try Johannes Gutenberg
out for size. His printing press, unveiled in 1440, sparked a
publishing boom and an information revolution. Some say it led to the
Protestant Reformation and Western democracy. Along the way, societies
established the rights and rules of the game for the privileged few who
could afford to buy printing presses and grind forests into paper.

The printing press set the model for mass media. A lucky handful owns
the publishing machinery and controls the information. Whether at
newspapers or global manufacturing giants, they decide what the masses
will learn. This elite still holds sway at most companies. You know
them. They generally park in sheltered spaces, have longer rides on
elevators, and avoid the cafeteria. They keep the secrets safe and coif
the company’s message. Then they distribute it — usually on a
need-to-know basis — to customers, employees, investors, and the press.

   That’s the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head. Set up a free account at Blogger
or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of
publishing has fallen practically to zero. Any dolt with a working
computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the
10 minutes it takes to sign up.

How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast
new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it’s a digital
hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and
libel? They don’t exist, not yet anyway. But one thing is clear:
Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their
message. Now they’re losing control of it.

Want to get it back? You never will, not entirely.

Change content, and inevitably you change advertising. And that’s where it’s hard to be an army of one:

Still, blogs could
end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the
splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to
tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super
Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast
blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to
individuals — and their friends. That’s every marketer’s dream.

The big companies have what the bloggers lack. Scale, relations with
advertisers, and large sales forces. They can use these forces to sell
across all media, from general audience to bloggy niches. Already,
Yahoo and Microsoft have been investing heavily to position themselves
for niche advertising. And in February, the New York Times (NYT
) laid down $410 million for About Inc., a collection of 500
specialized Web sites that smell strongly of blogs. "What’s to stop
them from turning those 500 sites into 5,000?" says Dave Morgan,
founder of TACODA Systems, an Internet advertising company.

Most excitingly, the BusinessWeek folk get the ramifications of putting true open-source journalism into play:

What would this article look like if it were a real blog, and not just this glossy simulacrum?

Think of the way we produce stories here. It’s a closed process. We
come up with an idea. We read, we discuss in-house, and then we
interview all sorts of experts and take their pictures. We urge them
not to spill the beans about what we’re working on. It’s a secret.
Finally, we write. Then the story goes through lots and lots of
editing. And when the proofreaders have had their last look, someone
presses the button and we launch a finished product on the world.

If this were a real blog, we probably would have posted our story pitch
on Day One, before we did any reporting. In the blog world, a host of
experts (including many of the same ones we called for this story)
would weigh in, telling us what’s wrong, what we’re overlooking. In
many ways, it’s a similar editorial process. But it takes place in the
open. It’s a discussion.

Who's our reader?

That’s one of the inevitable first questions when we’re talking up our business plan. When the question rolls out, you can tell that the expected answer involves the twenty-something digital natives.

But it’s also older readers in the mold of Ken Ferree, the new President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:

The problem for me is that I do the Internet news stuff all day long,
so by the time I get to the Lehrer thing . . . it’s slow. I don’t
always want to sit down and read Shakespeare, and Lehrer is akin to
Shakespeare. Sometimes I really just want a People magazine, and often
that is in the evening, after a hard day.

It's not the droids we're looking for

Another AP thought has been kicking around my head the past couple days — Simon Waldman catches a nice bit in Tom Curley’s speech:

Who is in control? The gadget makers? The search engines? The online
and wireless networks that transport our digital content?
Look closer and you’ll see the users themselves are the ones in
control, and their demand is pretty clear: They want what they want
when they want it. And therein lies our opportunity.
All of us here today in the so-called “mainstream media” have the power
— individually and cooperatively — to reclaim our relevance to modern
audiences and to move news back to the center of the information
It’s a world too sophisticated to be left to farms of servers and
robots and business models built only on them.

This hearkens back to the recent discussion of scale: What I’ve seen in internet media, and particularly local internet media, time and time again, is the quest for a machine that you can turn on and let run itself whilst advertisers and readers naturally flock to it. That’s what most people think of as scale.

Just won’t happen. Ever. The trick is to create a technological system that enables humans to provide the right content, at the right time, to the right people — in an economically scalable environment.

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