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Archive for June, 2006

Mags versus blogs

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Josh Marshall has done ‘em both.

I can understand someone from the world of small magazines being shocked by the responsiveness, rambuctiousness and even hair trigger hostility of the blogosphere. I haven’t done much magazine writing in the last couple years. But I come out of that world of small political magazines. And it is, in many more than just the obvious ways, a different world.

Write a piece for the New Republic or the American Prospect or even the far wider circulation New Yorker and you may get a few letters in the mail from readers. Not that many or that often, but sometimes. Friends and colleagues will tell you what they thought or argue with you about it. The publication will probably get a few letters to the editor. But that’s about it.

Your contact with the people who read what you’re writing is quite limited. On the other hand, TPM gets anywhere from 2-500 emails every day. Needless to say, many fly in within minutes of your finishing whatever is being responded to. And, believe or not, not all of them are nice.

Not long ago I got on the wrong side of the ridiculousness of the proprietor of one left-wing website. And his antics were so dishonorable and shameless that I don’t think I’d ever speak to the guy again. Still, I don’t think he was a fascist. I think he is, mundane a category as it may be, a dick. Or perhaps I’m the dick. To him, certainly. Still though, I don’t think fascism has anything to do with it.

More generally, I think the blogosphere, in contrast to more staid venues for writing, is something like the much more popular and participatory sort of theater culture you had in the 19th and well into the 20th century (you may remember seeing some hint of this funned up in old Bugs Bunny cartoons) where, if the audience didn’t like what they were hearing or seeing, they started booing. Or hooting. Or heck, maybe tossing raw vegetables.

Blogs, left and right

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 26th, 2006

Poll of DC insiders says netroots deeper for Dems. Mike Turk analyzes the data.

Meanwhile, Mike Cornfield says blogs are the agenda setter for the agenda setters.

The agency of the future

by henrycopeland
Sunday, June 25th, 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the future of ad agencies. They’ve evolved over the last 150 years to mirror the massive industries they serve. Top down, structured as silos, good at scale and, generally, bad at nuance and speed. What’s next? Here’s a good interview with Clement Mok of Sapient.

By training, many designers are taught to give structure to form and systems, and create order out of chaos. That’s one kind of design; but then you have the medium of interactive games. I think from an engineering perspective, you would tend to structure and systematize the game’s play. However, when designing interactive games, you actually want the user interface to support wandering and exploration, as opposed to a structured and readily apparent system. It might not be a good idea to impose structure, rules, and order if you want to encourage play.

Other experiences like chat rooms, MySpace, and Instant Messaging facilitate a non-linear structure of play. Randomness, and the ability to find a unique experience, are part of the strengths and charm of these services. Having too many rules and structures might actually hinder a user experience. I think design should enable these experiences to happen. Design should provide the platform or system that will enable discovery and understanding. … An advertising account executive once told me that creative, media, and financials drive the world of advertising. If one fails, it affects the other. In my humble opinion, I think all three drivers are at various stage of failure.

I think the financial model of advertising and design is the most broken. The incentives and focus are in the wrong place. Agencies are spending too much time focusing on the size of their client’s marketing budget, when they should be focusing on how much value an agency creates for their client’s BUSINESS. In a world of fragmented markets, with more choices of media outlets and delivery platforms, not knowing how effectively one spends on media can bury you.

In the advertising world, one makes money by discounting creative, and charging for media purchases and placement. This used to be lucrative, because the channels were limited and because one can leverage a single creative for multiple media execution options. The industry evolved to a point where they can decouple the message from the media placement – they actually have agencies doing media independent of content. Now the clients have gotten smarter, and they’re doing the media buying themselves. As a result, the advertising agencies are hard pressed to recoup their creative cost without the media purchase component. Clients are now outsourcing their SEO/SEM work to firms that have little or nothing to do with the agencies.

The agencies are succeeding right now in spite of themselves because their clients don’t have anywhere else to turn. Look at what’s been happening the last three years in the relationship between clients and agencies. Clients and agencies used to have five- or ten-year relationships. When they talked about a long-term relationships five years ago, they started talking a three-year relationship. Over the last two to three years, the relationship tenure has just gotten shorter and shorter. The clients can’t afford to build those relationships now unless the agency can to demonstrate that they can bring the value they want.

The model of the big idea and the big content campaign is still relevant for certain industries, like fashion or maybe the movie business. They have not been able to translate those campaigns into other logical secondary platforms. They don’t have the capabilities to do it, and if they decide to do this, they don’t have the technical core competencies to do it well. If anything, the execution of those campaigns tends to be dumb and dumber, and the result is a very frustrating experience: long downloads, multiple instances of entering data, clumsy execution, and a lack of connectivity with other systems.

unCGM

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 19th, 2006

Last fall I annoyed some people by taking a potshot at the moniker CGM — consumer generated media — which I think fails miserably to capture the spirit the online revolution.

So I’m thrilled to hear some new voices in the anti-CGM choir. Brad Berens writes that the idea of “consumer gererated content” is a terrible name for the fan ads people are creating about various products.

Tom Hespos chimes in that

“User” is better than “consumer,” but only marginally so. While “user” doesn’t necessarily have that nasty connotation that comes from corporations seeing their customers as mere consumers of product. But it does do something that “consumer” also did, which is to draw an artificial line of distinction between “ordinary folks” (as Brad termed them in his article) and what we’ve traditionally thought of as professional content producers.

Thoughts from the trailing edge

by henrycopeland
Sunday, June 18th, 2006

An interview with Mr. Newmark’s boss:

“In the big Internet boom, thousands of companies were set up,” explains Mr. Buckmaster, who also counts himself as CFO and COO of the company. “With the exception of us, pretty much all of them were set up with the primary objective being to make a lot of money.” And yet, he continues, “Almost all of those businesses went under and never made any money. Even businesses like Amazon still haven’t made any money. They are still, over their entire lifetime, net negative. Here we are, we’ve been in the black since 1999–six or seven years.”

Although Mr. Buckmaster is a man who speaks sparingly–even reluctantly–he is given to occasional, and somewhat turbid, outbreaks of jargon-laden speech. Such as this, offered here merely as a sample: “I do think that the Internet is a spectacular tool for any information business–newsgathering and other journalistic enterprises are essentially in the information business. Another aspect to it that gets reported on is drawing the lines within the Internet itself with respect to content generators and various kinds of aggregation and search tools.

“Where does the revenue end up in those kinds of scenarios over time? I think you’ll see the lines will move from side to side in terms of where the revenue lands among the various players in the information economy, which is still very young.”

NYT online ad sales soar (at a below average pace)

by henrycopeland
Friday, June 16th, 2006

NYTimes online revenues were up 27% May ’06 versus May ’05, apparently its best growth so far this year.

The stock popped 5% when the news was reported after the close, up to $24 off of new lows (lows not seen for a decade.)

But isn’t online advertising growing at 37% a year?

Tv ads, Czech pols and NYT shares

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

Happy bizness. And a slap. Wood Goldberg. Flydini. And NYT:
pic

All websites are alike?

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 12th, 2006

In Fortune magazine, David Kirkpatrick wrote a half-right essay suggesting that “all websites are alike.” It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s an extract:

All Web sites are alike. Regardless of their owners, they can all do the same set of things. In that fact lies the profound crisis facing all aspects of the media industry.

It doesn’t matter whether a Web site’s owner once focused on publishing newspapers or magazines, broadcasting television or radio, making music or producing movies, or even selling soft drinks. Any Web site can host text, audio and video, it can facilitate connections and communication between users, and it can enable those users to create and display their own text, audio or video.

Coke can release music; ABC can publish articles; and Forbes or The New York Times can broadcast video.

The Web is one big level playing field of competition for the customer’s time and attention. The quality and relevance of the content will be what drives viewers to devote that attention – not whether the host happens to be Coke.com, NYT.com or Disney.com.

While publishers ARE in trouble, I don’t think it’s because “all web sites are alike.”

Most websites are indeed alike, whether produced by “Coke.com, NYT.com or Disney.com.” And yes, any company can now create content, get traffic, & “compete for the consumer’s time and attention.”

But ‘quality and relevance of content’ are NOT the only drivers of online success. A few sites are now living, breathing communities. eBay. Flickr. MySpace. Threadless. Slashdot. These are places where people invest some portion of their lives, producing something that their peers consume and vice versa. (Worth rereading Adam Cohen’s The Perfect Store: Inside eBay.)

Forget “spectators,” think participants. Forget “visitors,” think inhabitants. Forget “consumers,” think creators.

Now try to name one incumbent publisher or business that has created a community of its customers (or customers of its community) whether offline or on. WashingPost, Coke, Ford, Disney, CNN, Gillete, Hilton, Merk, Microsoft, Pizza Hut, Conagra? Nope. (There must be at least one, but I can’t think of it. Quicken maybe?)

In an age in which anyone can generate page impressions, the “community gap” will be a key differentiator. I spent the last four days at the (1st annual) YearlyKos convention in Los Vegas. 1000 so-called readers have flown in from around the country to talk about the site and the movements it embodies. Sure DailyKos does 15 million impressions a month. But that’s not the essential measure of its publishing footprint. That’s not why presidential candidates are lining up for the community’s blessing. When was the last time any publisher had 1000 readers fly to a convention? The whole thing is run by volunteers, btw.

Maybe the new metric will be Share of Life, or Share of Passion, or Share of Community. Investment? And on these metrics, publishers and their potential “corporate competition for page impression production” are all currently no-shows.

(Update: social networking for cars http://www.boompa.com/index.html and dogs www.dogster.com.)

NYTimes snippets on YearlyKos

by henrycopeland
Monday, June 12th, 2006

Adam Nagourney in the Times: “If there is an emerging consensus among much of the Democratic Party establishment, it is that blogs are an important, potentially crucial emerging power in American politics, as reflected by the turnout of Democratic leaders here this weekend.”

Maureen Dowd: “If I had to be relegated to the Dustbin of History, I’m glad it was in Vegas. I, Old Media, came here to attend a New Media convention of progressive political bloggers aiming for a technological revolution that would dispatch mainstream media to the tumbrels. It was the journalistic equivalent of mingling with your own pod replicant in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Dance to this

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Shankar Gupta reports on a contest to “build a band:”

The contest began May 23, with a Bolt staffer contributing a track of rhythm guitar, and auditions for a drummer opening. Prospective band members can download the existing track, listen, and add in their own layer. Pop band Three Days Grace then judges each entry, and the winner’s layer is added into the track, ready for the next round of auditions. Currently, the contest has selected a drummer and a bassist, and is looking for a lead guitarist, vocalist, and a “wild card” performer.

I’ll say it again: blogs are just the beginning. “Consumers” and “media” are web 1.0. And soon to be DOA. We’re entering an “unmediated/participant” economy that is far bigger and more dynamic than today’s. Restaurants that let customers use their food/kitchen to cook for friends. Auto companies that invite people to design cars to sell to friends and colleagues.

What does this mean in politics? Youtube is filling up with repurposed TV ads from candidates for California governor. Here are a bunch of ads for Phil Angelides. And here’s the opponent’s low tech response. A step in the right direction, but not yet unleashing real folks doing the talking, rather than the pros.

Not there’s not room for pros. Consider this brilliant ad. It’s just that, so often, amateurs say it so much more powerfully.


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