Monthly archive

July 2005

Busted bullets

in Uncategorized

Still don’t know the fate of the data on my hard drive (which means that if you communicated with me late Thursday or early Friday, I don’t have your message). But, I can access Typepad and Bloglines, so:

  • Newspapers are where TV Guide was ten years ago. Both should’ve listened to Jeff Jarvis.
     
  • Matt Thompson makes an argument that Al Gore’s lightning-fast communications juggernaut actually slows down the news cycle.
       
  • Neither quality nor quantity?
       
  • Update, Sunday night: Back in business, thanks to Matt Lewis at Geeks On Call.

On the right track

in Uncategorized

At a party last week, I noticed that either our concept is becoming more mainstream or my schtick is getting more comprehensible, as I had several folks actually chasing me around trying to learn more, and no one giving me the "Big Brother" objection to our content serving and ad measurement mechanisms.

Adoption of that is one of the bigger bets in our business plan. When future questions arise, I’m going to start handing out Fred Wilson’s post, "Tracking is good":

It’s the future of advertising and it’s great for everyone.

Marketers love it because it makes their ad spend more
efficient.

Publishers love it because it monetizes their pages better.

And consumers love it because the ads become content instead
of noise.

Signal over noise. That’s what we all want. And
tracking is the way to get it.

So track my behavior please.

Read the whole thing. As to some of the "ick" debate in the comments, the key is that it really has to make the customer experience better. I think Amazon manages that. Google does not.We’d better.

Helpless (but not really)

in Uncategorized

Some of the audio and video apps we’re playing with were slowing down my computer, so I ordered some additional RAM from Dell. Said RAM fried my hard drive, which they’re replacing. I’m waiting for a (non-Dell) tech to come try to retrieve my data.

Although this is a generally lousy situation, in comparison to a couple years ago, it’s not so crippling. Most of my apps (like Typepad, clearly) are web-based. Even though I’m horrible about backing up, there are only two things on the drive that are irreplacable: my Outlook .pst file and my Itunes library XML file. Hopefully I’ll get those, and everything else back.

Anyway, if you’ve corresponded with me by email since last night, and I haven’t replied yet, there’s an excellent chance that it’s lost to the ether. So, re-send and we’ll try again.

What's in a name?

in Uncategorized

One of the things we worked on the past couple of days was the "branding": stuff like logo, typefaces, etc. In the process, we discovered some serendipity in the naming of our little enterprise.

I’ll confess that when I first dubbed us "Pegasus News," it was more for need of "a name" than "the name." Pegasus is the closest thing Dallas has to a civic symbol, and I’ve got some personal affinity for the image because of a magazine cover I helped design in the early days of the re-relaunch of D Magazine. My old office overlooked Pegasus Plaza and had signage for Pegasus Credit Union. It lived at the front of my brain, so I used the name. (Interestingly, I’ve found that the name often resonates more with out-of-state colleagues who don’t get the Dallas connection.)

A couple things have come out in this process that have cemented my belief in the name.

One was a reading of The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. Pegasus is one of the authors’ examples of a strong brand archetype, and is even featured on the cover. Even better, part of the archetypal association is of Pegasus as an enabler of heroism, rather than being the hero himself.

Rather, Pegasus helped Perseus and  Bellerophon kick ass.

Another decision that’s come along in the past few days is our name for the feature that feeds you relevant content (both news and advertising) based upon your implicit and explicit preferences. Colloquially, we’d adopted "The Daily Me," but we’ve now gone to "The Daily You."

"The Daily Me" is a term I learned from JD Lasica and Jay Small, and was coined, I think, by Nicholas Negroponte. And it’s a good term. We’re going with "The Daily You," partly because the "My" phenomenon online (My Yahoo!, My YPO, My ____), has become a bit o’er-ubiquitous. And, it’s a bit disingenuous, indicating that the reader made the news themselves. While some may be that engaged, most are not. To us, the you sounds more like we’re serving "you," which is more on point.

Or that could be a big fat rationalization for the fact that one URL was available and the other wasn’t.

In any event, we’re going to start with "The Daily You." Our hope is that if we do a good enough job, it will engage you more deeply in your community, while filtering enough noise to give you enough bandwidth to join us in creating "The Daily We."

Distributing relationships

in Uncategorized

One reader wasn’t so thrilled with the Ikea catalog in the DMN:

Your second graph "This morning’s DMN came in a bag touting the new
Ikea store in Frisco….." aptly describes what is taking place in the
Circulation process of the newspaper industry. When Editorial was in
charge of the newspaper the graph would have read "A catalog touting
the new Ikea store came with the DMN….".

The newspaper is no longer the driving source of what is being
distributed but simply a tool to load as much advertising as possible
into the container circumventing postal rates, ABC rules etc. The DMN
even hides behind the cloak of First Amendment Rights regarding the
right to distribute news
by
masquerading their "Third Party newspaper distribution.

Stuff a newspaper in a bag with any catalog, potato chip bag, chewing
gum, or door hanger and you have an instant cheap delivery service.

And, we can’t let Editorial off the hook so easily either. Tuesday’s
Business section of the DMN has almost two full pages of fluff re: the
new Ikea store in Frisco. This was preceded by Monday’s front page
story. Does all this "ink" have anything to do with the contract the
DMN had to deliver over 330,000 of these catalogs this past Sunday?
A paid "escort" is still a whore. As long as newspapers continue to
pimp themselves out to whoever offers the highest dollar, they risk
their further decline. And they wonder why they are losing circulation?

Since the DMN won’t listen, I suggest people contact the advertisers and complain when they receive this unsolicited material.

Enjoy your catalog but remember the expense (not $$, but integrity) that  it took to get it into your hands.

No one’s ever accused me of being an apologist for the daily newspaper industry, but I think our friend is throwing the wrong rocks here, and along the way illustrating our business concepts.

First of all, Editorial never ran the newspaper. Ever. As much as we want to enable old-school beat coverage like in the old days, I’ve got no illusion that those days were some sort of editorial Camelot. April is fond of reminding me of all the old movies where the reporter is quashed by the publisher kowtowing to the big advertiser. Tale old as time. Even the good guys worried about the store having a big sale than the capture of the itenerant bank robber.

Now I believe in the church-state separation more fervently than most, as I’m confident any reporter or editor who has ever worked with me will attest. But, I’ll argue that part of the reason we worry so much about these issues in our industry in the first place is because of the wrong definition of news. We act as though news is "what should be important to you" instead of "what is important to you." Does Ikea deserve to be the front page story in the paper? Probably not. But to many people, it is bigger news than a triple homicide on the other side of town or the latest city council imbroglio.

April spent more time with that Ikea catalog than she’s spent with a Sunday paper in five years. It was news to her. And I don’t entertain any illusion that the story would have been different in the halcyon days of newspaper competition.

I have no idea whether there was a quid pro quo on editorial coverage here, although I doubt it. Ikea is news. I’ll agree that in a short print business section, two pages more than a week out from the grand opening seems like overkill. But online, with nearly infinite space, why the hell not? If there’s a passionate user who wants to create an Ikea mini-site inside our walls, why shouldn’t they? It’s our job to make sure they’re not hiding the fact that they’re on the Ikea payroll by doing so, but that’s something of use to many of our users, whether or not Ikea pays us a dime.

And that’s where our reader helped me see that the inability to deliver that catalog to our readers isn’t quite the liability I thought. Because the Ikea catalog came buried amongst lots of flyers for groceries and refigerators and other things we didn’t care to read about.

In the end, (as usual) Jarvis was right. It’s not about distribution. It’s about the relationship we can create with our community by separating the wheat from the chaff on an individual level. Your insightful investigative report is my Ikea store opening. And that’s OK.

(In)communicado

in Uncategorized

I realize that a lot of people have been trying to reach me the past couple of days. As I alluded to earlier, we’ve spent the past two days working with our lead developer on the nitty-gritty of the techno-magic that will help us help you. Since that time was so dear, I haven’t been responding to email, and particularly phone or our Journalism Jobs listings. I have a scad of meetings this afternoon, so I’ll dig out and start responding today and tomorrow.

Riding the bullet train

in Uncategorized
  • As we’re building our product, we sometimes get worried about not getting all the cool features into the launch release. Cathy Sierra reminds that it’s good to help users get to progressively higher levels.
       
  • Off-topic: This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.
       
  • A discussion of why print isn’t dying that explains why print is dying.
       
  • Privacy v. relevance. This will be the great battle of the next few years.
       
  • A great set of S&P’s for newspaper bloggers. For all bloggers, actually.
       
  • The Long Tail of Long Tail aggregation.
     
  • You say "adware"; customers hear "spyware". One of the benefits of a closed semi-permeable network, like a subscription-based site, is that neither is necessary.
       
  • Forget circulation– advertisers are looking for "engagement" metrics. I smile.
       
  • I’ve deleted today’s earlier SPCA post, because it is clear that a group with an agenda and a mean streak is pushing out a lot of information allegedly related to Garcia’s past. (If they have their facts straight, I’m not criticizing that, but it’s hard to take stuff with this much bile at face value.) Unless and until the information is credibly documented, I’m not going to repeat it, even if other media outlets do.

Limitations

in Uncategorized

Jeff Jarvis uses sleazy advertising cover-wraps on AM New York as a jumping-off place for a discussion of the value of online (relationships) versus print (distribution and audience).

But, there are benefits to distribution. This morning’s DMN came in a bag touting the new Ikea store in Frisco, and contained a full Ikea catalog. April spent the better part of the day reading the catalog, and was so excited about the prospect of going to the new Ikea store that I can safely say that she, for one, welcomes our new Swedish overlords.

I believe we’ll have an incredible relationship with our customers and community. But, there’s no good, cost-effective way we could have gotten that catalog into our customers’ hands. You can’t be everything to everyone, but that still sticks in my craw a bit. Pondering…

Free-dom's just another word for easier to use

in Uncategorized

Fred Wilson’s post riffing on Stewart Brand’s quote that "Information wants to be free" has been sitting in my Bloglines queue, taunting me all week.

We’re fervent believers in that concept, and yet we’re charging for subscriptions. I initially had a hard time reconciling those two notions.

Then, on a sixth reading this afternoon, I caught the key differentiator (emphasis mine):

[Craig Newmark] has kept it mostly free with the exception of certain categories,
Jobs to start, and soon Real Estate, where a paid model turned out to
be a benefit to the community
.
That last point, that a paid model can actually be beneficial, is really interesting and needs to be better understood.

That’s the key. Information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be of the greatest benefit possible, without being constrained by its price or lack therof.

In some cases, like not forcing someone coming to your site off a link or a Google search to register just to read one story, free is the way to go. But without going deeper into our business model than I’m prepared to do right now, the only reason we’re charging for subscriptions is that the act of payment (as opposed to the revenue accrued) will make our service far cooler for our subscribers. That’s why it’s so durn cheap.

A good test of our model versus our principles. I’ll sleep well tonight.

Why Wright is wrong, verse nine

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So we’re flying someone in for a couple days of meetings and work. He lives in a state just outside of Southwest’s Love Field reach.

A one-stop flight on American costs almost as much as a nonstop to Bogota, Columbia. The nonstop American flight costs $400 more.

In contrast, a round-trip to Little Rock (where Southwest can fly direct) on American is only $200.

The most ridiculous part of this madness is that I can’t go to Southwest’s website and build a multi-segment trip to work out the transfer. More than doubles the time involved in booking a ticket, as you have to match up the disparate connection times. (My understanding is that this is part of the Wright requirements and not web laziness on the part of SW.)

Wright Amendment protectionism may be good for American Airlines, but it’s bad for my small business. And lots of other businesses and consumers like me.

And I’m not even sure it’s good for American. Unless their flight is full, they’re going to have a $0 revenue seat on a flight where they could have gotten $400 out of us.

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