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Archive for January, 2005

Weekend reading

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 29th, 2005

Atlantic Monthly: “Flexibility, irony, class consciousness, contrarianism. I’d gone to Princeton, and soon I’d go to Oxford, and these, I was about to tell Karl, are the ways one gets ahead now’not by memorizing old Ralph Waldo.”

Washington Post: “Perhaps best of all, you can indulge your megalomaniacal tendencies by approving or declining potential ads at will.”

The Atlantic Monthly:

Some niches are so small they’re approaching the vanishing point. There are now hundreds of thousands of bloggers, individuals who publish news, commentary, and other content on their own idiosyncratic Web sites. Some boast readerships exceeding those of prestigious print magazines, but most number their faithful in the double and triple digits. …

It’s instructive to remember, however, that the centralized, homogeneous mass-media environment of Cronkite’s day was really an anomaly, an exception to the historical rule. For two centuries before the arrival of television America had a wild, cacophonous, emphatically decentralized media culture that mirrored society itself. And something like that media culture seems to be returning right now. …

Yet even though the media of the [early 19th century] were profuse, partisan, and scandalously downmarket, they were at the same time a powerful amalgamator that encouraged participatory democracy and forged a sense of national identity. Michael Schudson, a professor of communication and sociology at the University of California at San Diego and the author of The Sociology of News (2003), says that the rampant partisanship displayed by newspapers “encouraged people to be attentive to their common enterprise of electing representatives or presidents.” Commenting that “politics was the best entertainment in town in the middle of the 19th century,” Schudson compares its effect to that of sports today. “Professional baseball is an integrative mechanism even though it works by arousing very partisan loyalties,” he says. In other words, newspapers helped pull the country together not by playing down differences and pretending everyone agreed but by celebrating and exploiting the fact that people didn’t. It’s the oldest American paradox: nothing unifies like individualism. …

The “Trust us, we know better” ethos that undergirded the broadcast era today seems increasingly antique. If red and blue America agree on anything, it’s that they don’t believe the media. To traditionalists worried about the future of news, this attitude reflects a corrosive cynicism. But in another way it’s much like the skepticism that animates great journalism. As the media have become more transparent, and suffered their own scandals, the public has learned to think about the news the same way a good journalist would’that is, to doubt everything it’s told. …

Moreover, for all the pointed criticism and dismissive eye-rolling that niche and mass outlets direct each other’s way, the two are becoming more and more symbiotic. Where would the Drudge Report and the blogging horde be without The New York Times, CBS News, and The Washington Post? Were it not for the firsthand reporting offered by those media dinosaurs, the Internet crowd would have nothing to talk about. Conversely, where would the Web versions of mass outlets be without the traffic that is directed their way by the smaller players? If there’s a new media establishment taking form, it’s shaped like a pyramid, with a handful of mass outlets at the top and innumerable niches supporting them from below, barking upward. …

And although much changes in the media over time, there are some eternal truths. Most outlets crave two things, money and impact, and the easiest path to both is the old-fashioned one: grow your audience. Ambitious niches will always seek to become larger, and in so doing to attract a more diverse audience. It’s only a matter of time before the first mass blog is identified, celebrated, and showered with minivan ads.

Finally, there’s no substantive evidence yet that the rise of the niches is bad for democracy. The fractious, disunited, politically partisan media of the nineteenth century heightened public awareness of politics, and taught the denizens of a new democracy how to be citizens. Fast forward to the present. The United States just held an election that was covered by noisy, divisive, often thoroughly disreputable post-broadcast-era media. And 120 million people, 60 percent of eligible voters, showed up to cast their ballots’a higher percentage than have voted in any election since 1968. Maybe we’re on to something.

I’d only add two points: the pyramid implies hierarchy, while the new model is probably more of a fast mutating, 10 dimensional mobius. We’ll see that minivan ad this year. It’s definitely coming, for better or worse. Our job will be to make sure that the ad sheds the motifs of hierarchical megaphone media and adjusts to the reality of the blogosphere’s skeptical, conversational maelstrom.

I listened to the BBC reporting from Iraq’s election. When even jaded Brit journos are teary eyed, you know something awesome is happening.

Kerry campaign online metrix

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 28th, 2005

For those of you who still reading last century’s newspaper,online advertising moves minds. Brought to you by the good folks at MSHC.

Friday miscellany

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 28th, 2005

For eight-year-old boys obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records — reading it every day during library time — here’s a 3000-person snow-ball fight.


Big and little pictures

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Via HighwaysWest, I found these great panoramas. Here’s Lees Ferry, where Grand Canyon rafting trips begin.

And down three orders of scaling magnitude… Noting that someone just paid to have “Save Martha! Sign the petition to pardon Martha Stewart!” tatooed on the guy who put his arm up for bid on eBay, Prof. Bainbridge suggests Blogads might muscle in on mediating such advertising transactions. Actually, we’ve already sunk some serious money into R&D for just this idea, working with web entrepreneur Chris Pirillo. Don’t even try to think of beating us to market with this idea — this post was written 24 months ago.


by henrycopeland
Friday, January 21st, 2005

Since I hope soon to hire a salesman/consultant to help us connect bloggers and advertisers, taking some pressure off Miklos, Peter and me, it’s time to stop relying on our inhouse wiki and notebooks to keep track of our customer universe. Ben, Dana and I were talking about the need for a product that is simpler and cheaper than Salesforce.com, which we used five years ago for Pressflex sales when we dreamed of 5000 clients and $5 million in VC. Idiots we.

Ben does some Googling and suggests SugarCRM Any thoughts? I certainly agree with their
analysis of the problem:

The reason there are so few CRM vendors is not because it’s costly to build great CRM applications, but because of the costs required to market and sell CRM applications. Take a look at the financials of any of the established CRM players, both hosted and on-premise. What you will see is that less than 15% of a CRM vendor’s revenue is applied to product development and easily 50-70% of revenue is allocated to sales and marketing expenditures. This has been the norm for traditional software companies, but is it the right model for today?

A similar analysis applies to advertising, BTW.

48th and Broadway today

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 21st, 2005

Attending the AMA’s “blog day” in NYC today. Toby Bloomberg led off with an anecdote about, as a little girl, going to a bakery with her grandmother. The ladies behind the counter always gave her a cookie, “forging a personal relationship that kept her grandmother coming back for more.” In the era of mass-markets and bigger is better economies of scale, business has lost the personal touch. Blogging can return humans to commerce, she said. Toby gets the Cluetrain — will be interesting to see whether the folks here — way down the corporate hierarchy with a focus on making their numbers — can escape their corporate boxes and think p2p and try to win on metrics that haven’t yet been invented.

Dozing on the plane coming here, I kept mumbling: lattices are stronger than ladders. Too many companies (certainly all publicly traded companies) believe in ladders, indeed were born and bred as ladders.

Ben McConnell offers an amazing graphic from the Harvard Business Review, correlating airline company profit and positive word-of-mouth over a three year period. He seems to have focused his business on promoting customer evangelism. Happy customers breed success and new ideas.

Steve Rubel gives a great and funny evangelical romp about blogs.

On course for a PhD but practicing in the trenches at a giant trucking company, Dana VanDen Heuvel has great graphic representations of blogging’s relationship to marketing and companies. (Talks about the role of sharing personal details even in corporate blogging — my view is that offering some personal flavor is essential both for the reader’s pleasure and your own — btw, I forgot to mention my wife dreamed earlier this week that she was playing chess with our dog Taco, who seems increasingly human to us. We keep expecting him to talk. Apparently, he’d made a nice move with one of his white paws. We chuckled all day long.)

Sitting on the day-wrapping panel, I was asked to name my favorite industry blog. I cheated and picked two: Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine for its pugnacity and perspicaciousness on topics that fascinate me, and Rick Bruner’s personal blog, because it’s unique weirdness has rekindled my affection for someone I knew well but briefly a dozen years ago on another continent. (Rick edited a newspaper called The Budapest Week when I got started as a journalist in Budapest.)

Sign up to attend the AMA Chicago blogs and advertising event on February 18, where I’ll lead the day-wrap panel. (Apparently ticket sales are on a record pace.)

And while you’ve got your credit card out, sign on for the May 17-18 Syndicate conference, where I’m chairing a day on marketing and leading a panel on “conversational marketing.”

Safire: the bloggers are coming

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 21st, 2005

William Safire flatters bloggers with the leadoff position in his oped about the depressed press:

America’s quality media are now wading through the Slough of Despond. Our self-flagellation, handwringing and narcissism threaten our mission to act as counterweight to government power.

Hear the wailing: The bloggers are coming! The Bible-thumpers are cursing our secular inhumanism! The plumber judges are plugging our leaks! The Yahoo president ducks our questions and giggles at our gaffes! News is slyly slanted as bias rears its head!

Cheer up. Despite the recent lapses at CBS and previous mishaps at The Times and USA Today, here’s why mainstream journalism has a future.

1. On the challenge from bloggers: The “platform” – print, TV, Internet, telepathy, whatever – will change, but the public hunger for reliable information will grow. Blogs will compete with op-ed columns for “views you can use,” and the best will morph out of the pajama game to deliver serious analysis and fresh information, someday prospering with ads and subscriptions. The prospect of profit will bring bloggers in from the meanstream to the mainstream center of comment and local news coverage.

On national or global events, however, the news consumer needs trained reporters on the scene to transmit facts and trustworthy editors to judge significance. In crises, large media gathering-places are needed to respond to a need for national community.

Funnily enough, Safire wrote a brief column a couple of years ago mentioning bloggers (early to the worm), but suggesting that bloggers would never get ad revenues. Eventually, he’ll stop writing in the future tense. (Thanks for the lead Mom.)

Iraqi bloggers in the cross-hairs

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

Jeff Jarvis gives an outraged deconstruction of an article about Iraqi bloggers in today’s New York Times.

Square every criticism ever aimed at bloggers by the corporate press (the folks who write for bosses) and you might be able to describe the blithe arrogance and willful sloppiness in this story.

Here’s my personal angle: I met one of the brothers at the Harvard conference mentioned in the article. The two guys were visibly and increasingly distraught as naive Americans at the conference asked them “how do the terrorists relate to blogging?” The short answer obviously was: they kill bloggers, particularly those who get publicity in America.

These guys are genuine, and this article is another (and particularly) idiotic example of a traditional journalist (and her editors) not understanding that even (and especially) people not annointed by editors deserve a legitimate voice online.

Department of silly headlines

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 14th, 2005

The Wall Street Journal headlines an article today “Dean Campaign Made Payments To Two Bloggers,” reporting excitedly that the Dean presidential campaign paid bloggers Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Jerome Armstrong last year.

(Taking a crack at link whoring, the WSJ unpasswords the article and solicits a link from ur-blogger Matt Drudge, who links with these words: “BOUGHT AND PAID: Dean Campaign Made Payments To Websites — To Hype…” Update: as of 4.20PM, Drudge had toned his headline to remove the possibly defamatory “BOUGHT AND PAID” to the simpler “Dean Campaign Made Payments To Websites — To Hype…” Wonder if he’ll further undefame that to “seeking to hype” before the headline comes down.)

The WSJ “provides context” for the “news:” “The issue of political payments to commentators has become hot following disclosures that the Bush administration paid a conservative radio and newspaper pundit, Armstrong Williams, $240,000 to plug its ‘No Child Left Behind’ education policy.”

Newsflash: there’s a world of difference between people like Williams who hide payments that have a contracted goal of sweetening his public position, and people like Moulitsas Zuniga and Armstrong who go out of their way to publicize financial relatonships that might impact their opinions.

Since the financial relationship was explicitly disclosed and highlighted daily on DailyKos throughout the period in question, the WSJ article might as well be headlined: “WSJ didn’t read blogs last year when they were making history.”

Here’s a disclosure I’d like to make: my views may be favorably biased towards Moulitsas Zuniga and Armstrong, since my company receives a portion of the revenues from ads purchased on their blogs.

And here’s a disclosure the WSJ and similar “old news” businesses might make: their reporting may be negatively biased against bloggers, since their bloated businesses are losing mindshare and ad revenues to bloggers like Moulitsas and Armstrong.

Ken Layne shoots up the west

by henrycopeland
Thursday, January 13th, 2005

Figuring you write best about what you know and love — “the dry weather, the brilliant skies, the jagged-ass mountains, the dry lakes, the sage and rabbitbrush flats, the gnarled conifers, the rickety little bars filled with old bikers and prospectors and fighter pilots, the endless criminal melodrama surrounding Area 51 and Yucca Mountain and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, driving a hundred miles without seeing the slightest hint of human settlement, the wild horses, the Basque restaurants, the kamikaze jackrabbits, the violent blizzards & thunderstorms, the unique mix of cowboy and Mexican cooking, etc., etc.” — Ken Layne is launching Highways West. Go buy an ad and wish this blogging cowboy well.

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