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Archive for February, 2005

Another blogger rumble

by henrycopeland
Monday, February 28th, 2005

The blogosphere and Larry Summers, summarized by NYTimes.com:

Today’s Internet-driven, media-saturated era is promoting two things inimical to the sort of absolute power Harvard’s leaders have long been used to: transparency and the ability of like-minded people to network easily. …

The Internet has played an unprecedented role, both in spreading the news and in rallying the troops on both sides. The liberal blogosphere has taken up the controversy energetically: a single anti-Summers post on Daily Kos drew more than 800 comments, some from Harvard alumni. Other sites have posted the main documents in the dispute, and are encouraging people to contact the media. Mr. Summers is being defended by conservative blogs and studentsforlarry.org, which has an online petition. Even the normally reclusive Harvard Corporation has posted a letter supporting Mr. Summers on an alumni Web site.

Let’s run through the list of people the blogosphere, history’s most powerful tool for transparency and networking like-minded people, has significantly helped or hurt: Clinton (1998), Lott (2002), Raines (2003), Dean (fall 2003), Rather (October 2004), Bush (October 2004), Jordan (January 2004), Gannon (February 2004), Summers (February 2004).

Bush? Why Bush? Because he might well have lost if the blogs hadn’t broken Rathergate.

Notice the acceleration? Graph those and it looks kinda like a seismograph leading up to a 9.0 earthquake.

(Imagine Watergate on blogs.)

Two new blogads tools build bundles and buzz

by henrycopeland
Monday, February 28th, 2005

We’ve been playing around with a couple of new tools in recent weeks. Both grow from our accelerating knowledge that blogs are fundamentally different from other websites and that, therefore, the best blogads will behave in ways unimagined by traditional advertisers.

One new tool is a simple list of some of the best blogads, a kind of library of best practices that we hope that advertisers and bloggers can refer to as they shove this medium forward. Here’s the blog advertising sandbox.

The second tool allows a blogger to create a mininetwork that pulls together their peer blogs in one convenient package for advertisers. Here’s the beta model, a bundling of options for New York advertising on blogs, a network of nearly 20 bloggers pulled together by Amy Langfield. Amy assembled the list and recruited the participants. Here’s a logo:

pic

All of those bloggers pointing into that page should generate some orders, and it will also make it much easier for us to direct ads to that group, since many are too small to find and monitor as we’re putting together large ad proposals. This tool will be available to some other bloggers in coming days.

Some bloggers will obviously worry that by promoting advertising opportunities on other blogs they will cannibalize their own sales. Wrong. Smart bloggers small and large agree that the ONLY way to grab a significant chunk (0.1%!?) of the $250 billion spent annually on advertising in the US is to band together. What’s been true of blog content will also be true of blogads: a single blog is an easily ignored ant — 100,000 ants together is an unignorable hive.

Why have we created these two tools? Traditional advertising has amount to walking into a buzzing cocktail party and then suddenly, like an autistic sales drone, chanting the same five words over and over: “Buy my book, it’s great!” Or, if the ad campaign is really imaginative, it may say: “OUR BOOK IS GREAT, BUY IT!”

Do that and blog readers, like any community, will immediately turn their backs on you, unless they are really desparate for what you are peddling.

The idea is slowly emerging that smart blogads instead seek to quietly engage the community. Knopf’s recent ad for Hurakami is one example.

Today, new ads up for Pennsylvannia candidate Chuck Pennacchio push the idea in a different direction, offering up actual news, links to MP3s of a conference call between bloggers and the candidate. Finally, a real conversation between advertisers and the blogosphere!

We hope building the examples page should help accelerate learning so more advertisers adopt conversational strategies. And helping bloggers create their own networks should make it easier for advertisers to intelligently communicate with blogging communities.

We’re still elaborating on the very simple ideas articulated in the Cluetrain manifesto in April 1999: Cluetrain Manifesto:

Markets are conversations.

1) Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

2) Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

3) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

4) People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

5) The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

6) Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

7) In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

8) These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

9) As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

10) People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products. …

Keep watching this page. We’ve got some other ideas to nudge forward in coming weeks.

Misc

by henrycopeland
Saturday, February 26th, 2005

Matt Welch: Revisionism is one thing, but this is head-in-ass-ism.

Politician and former Linda Ronstadt date Jerry Brown comes out as a blogger: “Bloggers are a force. The established order of politics (EOP) and the MSM face a big challenge from this fearless army.” Fearless, maybe, but certainly armed to the fingertips with snark. Brown’s first commenter, named “you_follow_trends,” writes, “d00d — got an iPod yet?”

For oldsters looking for a (horrifying) glimpse of what today’s 4th graders are grooving to, visit this site. And there’s this.

A blog is just another web site, like man is just another ape

by henrycopeland
Saturday, February 26th, 2005

I got to thinking after reading this wonderfully obtuse definition of blogging today quoted on Joho:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web.

Ahh, yes, a species of electronic diary, and an inferior one at that.

Blogger Randy Balko raises that bar a little.

blogs are nothing more than a relatively new way of distributing information, just as radio, television, newsprint, and conventional Web sites once were. Blogs differ from other media in that they provide links for easy referencing, they’re more easily and quickly updated (and, consequently, many times less carefully edited), they allow for more interaction between reader and publisher, and there’s virtually no barrier to entry ‘ meaning just about anyone can start his or her own blog. You don’t need to win the approval of an editor. You don’t need start-up money from a publisher. You don’t need a radio tower.

Bloggers also can operate outside the “rules” and standards ‘ in terms of attribution, verification of sources, objectivity and concerns for libel and lawsuits ‘ that are supposed to govern traditional journalism.

Other than that, blogs aren’t all that different the traditional media. The “blogosphere” isn’t so much an alternative to the conventional newsstand as it is a massive extension of it.

Kinda like saying that man nothing more than a newer edition of the ape, except he’s got some tools and sometimes uses them and a bigger brain and, oh, yeah, an opposable thumb… oh, and speach too. But other than that, man is just more of the same. That is of course, true, if one is looking at chemical composition and basic functionality, but dramatically underplays the fun of the new model. It’s like saying that a bottle-rocket is just salt-peter, sulfur and charcole with a little fire mixed in. Nothing more, really.

Sometimes quantitative changes become qualitative changes. And the emergence of the blogosphere is one of those times.

See blogs ARE just web sites that allow human beings to publish without editors. Not much really. But put thousands of these things together at once, wire ‘em up at the speed of light, pull them together from across the globe into a space that is 9 x 12 inches and give them all instant access to 60% of everything ever known by man… and you’ve got something magical. And fundamentally new.

A few bees are a pain… ten thousand bees, operating at the speed of light, are a mighty mean swarm that overwhelms anything the media ecosystem has yet mutated out of the inky, pixilated muck over the last 400 years.

The monkey has spoken. The fuse is lit. The swarm is aloft.

There’s no turning back.

The blogosphere is nothing more than a new species of… consciousness… mind… society?

We’ll see.

Tulips for Algernon

by henrycopeland
Thursday, February 24th, 2005

I got a chuckle out of William Powers’ recent National Journal column summing up the the blogging boom and upsurge in bloggers-bite-journalist stories.

Anyone who isn’t exhilarated by the bloggers and the havoc they’re wreaking has lost touch with what American journalism at its best has always been about: making trouble to get at the truth.

Turning the heat up on powerful people, questioning their work, and undermining their authority is the media’s job. Of course, nobody ever expected we’d do it to our own powerful selves, that blogger spies would infiltrate the grand councils of Davos and rat out a media muck-a-muck. How wicked of them.

The current moment is troubling for a lot of people precisely because it’s so cannibalistic. In the last half of the 20th century, the media consolidated a great deal of power for themselves in a tiny tribe of supreme outlets. Since those outlets had strong tendencies toward the center (because that’s where the big audiences and the money are), it was inevitable that a lot of news consumers’those who aren’t so centrist’would be unhappy with the product.

Bill did a good job of summing it all up then tripped and concluded, “media consumers are not about to abandon their desire for solid, middle-of-the-road news from the old, largely trustworthy, still impressive establishment outlets. We’re having a Dutch tulip moment with the bloggers. This, too, shall pass.”

This too won’t pass. Bill misses two points. Blogging is fundamentally different from what’s gone before. Sure we’ve had pulpits and letters and pamphlets and newspapers and websites before, but we’ve never had the blogosphere, this wonderful fast-as-light network of individual minds that collaborate far more effectively and swiftly than anything corporate schemers can devise. (

See, Bill, blogging may be new to you, we’ve been hearing this “boom, but soon to bust” story about bloggers since at least 2001. Who among us remembers the bold Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray, who declared in early 2002 that “”blogging is an ephemeral fad, destined to burn itself out in a year or two.” Well, braying Hiawatha is blogging today here.

Like Algernon, some publishing minions are digressing and regressing as their corporate wiring slowly comes unplugged.

Second, media consumers may “want solid, middle-of-the-road news from the old, largely trustworthy, still impressive establishment outlets” but they don’t show much willingness to pay for the stuff. And the advertisers who’ve previously underwritten publishing enterprises and their shareholders are exceedingly excited to reaching those same media consumers more cheaply and effectively in other venues… whether via Craigslist, eBay Google or… Blogads.

OK, a related tangent…

Thank you to Sandeep for mentioning Blogads blog advertisings service in the New York Times today. God bless journalists like Sandeep and their smart editors for pulling together the pieces and presenting them to the masses in an intelligent way. I hope the media ecosystem can evolve to keep these folks fed when the lights go out in the corporate behemoths that currently pay their salaries.

A final disclosure, as I rail against corporate publishers: I’ll admit I labored for six years as a freelance journalist in the 90s. I had great editors, but generally thought publishers were dolts. Ever hear the old business school joke about the bottom decile going into publishing?

In a fun twist, blogad seller Andrew Sullivan once edited a story I wrote for the New Republic about some overly enterprising young investment bankers doing business with crypto-communists on Uncle Sam’s dollar.

My HST

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

Matt Welch has rounded up reminiscences of and tributes to about Hunter S. Thompson Hunter S. Thompson. Seems like lots of people met Thompson.

So here’s my contribution:

I spent some weeks in the summer of 1984 painting condos in Snowmass Colorado. One night I was in the Woody Creek Tavern, right up the road from Thompson’s cabin. There at the bar was the man himself, as always clad in shorts, white socks with his signature cigarette holder dangling from his clenched jaw.

I steeled my nerves and sidled over to express my admiration for his writing and ask for an autograph. Thompson scrawled on the back of a bar tab — “Thanks for scoring the smack in Grand Junction. The check is in the mail. HST” Or something like that.

So what is the signficance of this story? I was startled to learn Thompson’s obituary that he was 67. Only 67. This means that when I met him in September 1984, Thompson was then only 46 or 47, just a few short years older than I am today. (43 in two weeks.)

At the time I met him, Thomspon was a literary god from another age. He looked, but more importantly, seemed ancient to me, an Olympian who had fomented the grand era of new journalism. Was he really only twenty-something when he did all that amazing writing?

(Speaking of reminiscenses: floating somewhere out there is a great story about Thompson’s Hungarian translator, Andras B. Vagyvolgi, traveling to Colorado book in hand to meet HST in the late 1980s, knocking on the cabin door at 10PM, and then being forced to read the Hungarian translation until 3AM to a bug-eyed, inebriated, gun-waving Thompson.)

The best blogad ever

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

If you check out the new ad top right on the Largeheartedboy blog you will see the best blogad yet, in fact, the very first real blogad.

Or, longer term, you can see the ad (and my commentary) here.

The ad, for a new book by Murakami Haruki’s new book Kafka on the Shore, is essentially a blog post about a new book site.

A blog ad.

The image isn’t amazing. The text is what’s exceptional.

Rather than trying selfishly to pull clicks to her author’s site, Farah Miller at Knopf Books bought the blogad to encourage readers to read other well-regarded blogs that have posted about Haruki’s book and site.

Like a good blog post, the ad doesn’t just quote, it links directly to the relevant posts on other blogs.

The ad won’t deliver directly countable clicks, but should spark more linking into the Murakami’s site (people read the other links and do their own posting about the site) and definitely earns you major coolness points in the blogosphere.

In any market segment, at least 70% of purchases are driven by word of mouth. So smart advertisers try to catalyze and amplify word of mouth… which is exactly what this ad does.

(BTW, visit blogads.com/examples to see a bunch of interesting past blogads… we’re just populating the pages now… if you’ve got past examples you’d like to nominate, please let me know. If you are a blogger publicize this page so we can get the word out. Smart ads do lots better than dumb ads and smart advertisers will put a lot more money in bloggers’ pockets in the long run.)

NYT changes headline on blogger story

by henrycopeland
Monday, February 14th, 2005

Earlier today, the NYT’s headline read “Bloggers as News Media Trophy Hunters”… now the headline is “Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs”… wonder what the story is there… perhaps blogger pushback on self-centered editorial paranoia (“shreek, they want our hides!”) embarrassed the headline writers into a less hysterical head?

NYTimes continues to puzzle over “Web logs”

by henrycopeland
Monday, February 14th, 2005

More nominclaturial weirdness today in the NYTimes: “For some bloggers – people who publish the sites known as Web logs – it was a declaration that this was just the beginning.”

In fact, as I showed yesterday, almost nobody but the New York Times calls them “Web logs.” “Blogs” or “weblogs” are the terms everybody else uses. Why does the Times persist with this?

More unintentially funny commentary: “some in the traditional media are growing alarmed as they watch careers being destroyed by what they see as the growing power of rampant, unedited dialogue.” Wow, beware “the growing power of rampant, unedited dialogue.” Look out! Readers are writing! Citizens are talking!

Hot topic for marketers

by henrycopeland
Monday, February 14th, 2005

This week’s American Marketing Association’s event about marketing and blogging in Chicago is sold-out.

I’m told by AMA insiders that this is the biggest AMA “Hot Topic” event ever.

I’ll be in Chicago Thursday before moderating part of the event on Friday, so if you’d like to get together, drop me a line.


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