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Archive for June, 2005

Stocks to short?

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 20th, 2005

A little brainstorming about putting money where the mouth is.

Media companies:

NYT: $32. Short interest: 4.4%

GCI: $75. Short interest: 2%.

TRB: $36. Short interest: 1.6%

KRI: $63. Short interest: 6.1%

Amazed to see that only the NYT is significantly off its highs. Hmm. More context. Always worth remembering that markets can take 2 or 3 years to correct, and that bears lose lots in squeezes in the mean-time. Soros got killed waiting for the Japanese stock market to plummet in the late 80s. I got killed shorting Yahoo in the summer of 1998. Calling from Geneva, my guru Humphrey today reminded me (quoting Lance Armstrong): “the pain is temporary, but giving up is forever.” Or, paraphrasing Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, “just don’t get out.” Anyway, another wall to consider slamming your head against…

Housing stocks:

KBH: $75. SI: 7.9%

TOA: $24. SI: 1.8%

LEN: $62. SI: 6.3%

DHI: $37. SI: 2.9%

PHM: $84. SI: 5.8%

(For reference, GOOG’s SI is 3.5%, F is 4.3%, MRK is .8%.)

Finally, if you are still reading this far, you are indisputably a close friend or blood relation, so might enjoy blast from the archive of the Pressflex LLC proto-blog about a company set up to compete with our first, and still growing, venture that rents websites to newspapers and magazines in Europe. Punchline: the Swedish competitor’s URL is now for sale for $670.

Publishers tip-toe into blogging sand box

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 20th, 2005

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, Randy Dotinga takes a balanced look at the likelyhood that traditional publishers will successfully piggyback the p2p communications avalanche (aka blogging/IM/forums/wikis) by inviting plain old folks inside the curtain wall of corporate publishing.

This development raises profound questions about the news biz and its evolution – from what role a newspaper should play in its community (opinion leader versus discussion facilitator) to what “professional” standards should apply to nonprofessionals. Will editors accustomed to tight control ever adjust to the free-wheeling world of the Internet? Will online users view tradition-bound newspapers as anything but clueless has-beens? And finally, will the online world ultimately boost the industry’s sagging fortunes?

I’m quoted saying that bloggers are, by their nature, likely to make “comments that offend one constituency or another.” That’s a blogger’s peril and her charm.

Law blog network’s first sponsor

by henrycopeland
Friday, June 17th, 2005

We just saw the first purchase of a sponsorship across the law blog network. Laura Simmons, who made the buy for National Data Support wrote me: “Appellate attorneys and judges love our hyperlinked briefs. But the institution of law is generally very conservative, so we want to target those who thrive in the hyperlinked world. I’m really excited to sponsor the Law Blog Network.” Here’s her ad. She was smart to buy for three months.

Truth in advertising

by henrycopeland
Friday, June 17th, 2005

MONICA VON DOBENECK “Of Our Palmyra Bureau” reports that a rural Pennsylvania county is going to be promoting the county with brochures that includes a scratch and sniff section scented with cow dung. An official says: “This is to educate people that if they have a farmer for a neighbor, they might have manure smells.”

Damn, we need this kind of thing for blog advertising. My colleagues and I spend a lot of time trying to explain blog readers to keeping up with the Jones advertisers. In fact, I’m eventually going to add some text up front on the site that says

If you are looking for cheap clicks, go here here. If you want 10 cent CPMs go here. If you want cantankerous, hard-to-convince, die-hard mavens stay here [link to here.

Blogonomics and bloat?

by henrycopeland
Friday, June 17th, 2005

Matt Welch points me to photos from inside the HuffingtonPost’s opulent offices. So, please forgive me a knee-jerk rant:

There are lots of definitions of blogging: it’s a simple technology, a diary, a minimalist strip of HTML updated daily, a line of single time stamped posts in reverse chronological order.

Or, it’s a spirit: giddy, bawdy, gutteral, spontaneous, grass roots… real, man.

All that is empirical. I always add a puritan prescriptive twist to the answer.

Blogs are written by autonomous human beings, not corporations. Blogs are tools of autonomous personal expression. They may be commercial, but they are not corporate, because corporate means literally (and legally) “formed in a unified body of individuals.” Unified bodies of individuals can’t play tennis or kiss or blog. (Yesterday, Tony Pierce offered 31 tips on blogging, including “28. tell us about your friends.”)While people inside corporations can blog (using the pronoun “I”), corporations can’t blog successfully with the pronoun “we.”

This isn’t just grammar or semantics. Bloggers have some huge advantages over corporations who pretend to blog.

a) Bloggers speak authentically. They don’t have to worry about what their bosses say tell them to write. “Real” blogs are very much about personal expression. Bloggers have a
genetic advantage over traditional publishers. Blogging is in our social DNA, just like conversing, except blog conversations are amplified by the Internet to reach around the globe and entwine with thousands of similar conversations. Basically the blogosphere is a big
cocktail party. A blogger may dish out an anecdote about what her son ate for breakfast, an endorsement of a candidate, a curse word or a prayer and a movie review. In that mix are bound to be comments that offend one constituency or another. That’s human.

A newspaper can’t do that. Newspapers can’t knowingly offend a portion of their readership or shareholders. Newspapers are well-oiled machines designed to create a uniform product with all the sharp edges rounded off. Nobody would invite a newspaper to a cocktail party. It’s not human.

b) A blogger doesn’t need a policy hand book, because she’s already got a personal code of ethics … and, assuming the person is sane, the two always align.

c) Not least, bloggers have the lowest overheads. Bloggers can blog from their bedrooms, not 1500 square foot offices, which in the long run gives them a distinct economic advantage.

Gradually then suddenly

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Jeff Jarvis overhears press poohbahs bemoaning the state of their industry and brainstorming: “Various ideas were raised by respondents that made my spine shake: taxing ads to support publications with fewer ads, giving postal subsidies only to publications below a circulation threshold, government search engines.” As Jeff put it: “Arrrrrgh.”

They sound desparate, don’t they? Recently, Jeff made ten reasonable sounding suggestions for saving journalism in this post. I offered some additional suggestions, which I’ll repatriate now to my own blog…

Suggestion #11: read Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive. Paraphrasing Hemingway, industries go bankrupt two ways, first gradually and then suddenly. By the time “suddenly” comes, it is years too late. After a four hundred year run of steady growth, the newspaper industry is a lot closer to suddenly than anyone thinks. (How many other large-scale industries have survived four centuries with their basic DNA intact? I’m sure there must be a few, but I can’t think of them. Shipbuilding? Government?)

Yes, the newspaper industry has been around for 396 years. (I’m using the word “industry” to categorize a single owner organizing a group of people, dividing labor, pooling resources and coordinating across time and space.) The machinery has improved light-years, but the industry’s core organizational DNA has been in place since 1609. Though substantial, changes since then have been quantitative, not qualitative.

Suggestion #12: read Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. A business is a complex organism with myriad interdependent parts coordinated via a command-and-control hierarchies. And industries are, in turn, complex intermeshed ecosystems built of multitudes of these individual organisms.

There are too many moving parts for massive change to be successfully be planned and executed. Imagine one commuter trying to change-out the engine block on his moving vehicle … in the middle of an LA freeway without killing himself and many others. When the operating environment shifts radically, de novo evolution from small, low-overhead organisms is the only route to inventing a new industry.

Beyond urging business executives to remember that everyone is trying to eat their lunch, Grove’s message is that business in the midst of fundamental environmental transitions need to listen hard, experiment daily and view everyone as a peer/partner and/or poacher. The key piece is listening hard. Institutions are built to cruise forward like aircraft carriers. But sometimes conditions fundamentally change, and survival requires the maneuverability of a one man kayak on a Class IV rapid.

Business is one half turning your own noise into signal and the other half distinguashing the environment’s core signal/trajectory from myriad noises. Grove offers a recipe for managing a business that has worked really well for 3 or 30 or 300 years when, suddenly, a bigger than average cloud of little things start going wrong. Just a rough month or the beginning of the end? The life of a business is full of three steps back followed by four steps forward & lost battles that win wars. You get used to taking the bad with the good. Sometimes, though, there’s a deeper message in the lost battle. In hindsight the tide’s turn is obvious, but lived in the moment, inflection points are invisible to almost everyone.

I’d urge everyone in the news business to reread Grove’s book. It’ll make your gut wrench.

Finally, to be clear, I don’t think publishers are in crisis because anyone does journalism better. Publishers are in crisis because someone does their business better. Their ad revenues are being vaccumed up by lower-cost non-publishing competitors. Worse,eBay, Google Adwords, CraigsList, Monster and even little Blogads are doing advertising cheaper/faster/better and along new axes. I too will rue the day the NYT stops publishing, but, sadly, I won’t be willing to pay $1500 a year for a subscription when advertisers have deserted it.

Publishers are also in crisis because they are losing the contest to engage readers. Which brings us back to paranoia. Publishers DO need to be paranoid. Their own customers, the readers, are competing with them in this game. Readers, whether as bloggers or commenters or list-serve correspondents or IMers or Amazon critics, are collaborating in a massive hive to process galaxies of information unimaginable just 5 years ago. This collaborative mode is a brilliant advance over corporate publisher’s proprietary/hierarchical/linear approach of processing information. It is faster, more cost-efficient and produces readership engagement that surpasses anything newspapers can imagine.

Blogads du Jour

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Advertise on Tour de France Blog by clicking here. The three month ad seems like a good deal, taking you right through the race.

And if you are trying to reach the lifehacking crowd (I should be so lucky as to require hacks rather than complete overhawls), advertise on 43folders by clicking here.

Backhanded praise for music blogs

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 13th, 2005

Just as the music blog network launched, the NYT gave a amusingly backhanded compliment to two of the blogs in the network in an article on music blogs:

Only a handful of music blogs, with names like Fluxblog, Stereogum and Largehearted Boy, have any influence, but even those still have a long way to go to fundamentally alter the landscape of the music industry. Many labels view blogs as little more than potential providers of free publicity; even a blog like Music for Robots, which gets about 8,000 unique visitors a day, is little more than a blip on the radar of major labels.

But blogs are acting as incubators for new talent like the Hysterics. It’s doubtful that MTV would have discovered the band as quickly otherwise.

News from Nickolas

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 13th, 2005

Mark Nickolas, the visionary campaign manager who last year bought Blogads for congressional candidate Ben Chandler and made a 40-fold return on the investment, has launched a new venture: www.bluegrassreport.org

Blogads campaigns hit

by henrycopeland
Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Lots of traffic for Gilligan’s Pie-fight.

And it looks like the Audi A3 “Heist” viral campaign was a big success. See some blogads from that here.

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