Thursday, February 22nd, 2007
Talking about SL and other virtual worlds, someone recently muttered, “who has time for it?”
Talking about SL and other virtual worlds, someone recently muttered, “who has time for it?”
Considering yesterday’s wager, Valleywag quips that Jason Calacanis won’t get “even get out of bed for anything as paltry as Copeland’s $10,000.”
Well, I’ll consider bigger $$, but remember, my wallet isn’t padded with AOL bucks. And if the odds make Jason queazy about getting out of bed, we can talk about something easier. (Assuming his pride will let him play a 12 year old without giving huge odds.
Fact is, last night Jason did his pre-dinner vanity Googling and left a rambling comment on Jake Luddington’s blog post about the bet, tossing off a cloud of “it was just a joke” and “apples and orchards” and “henry is making a couple million for bloggers.”
“A joke” — Ha indeed. I look forward to laughing with Jason’s $100k in my pocket.
“Comparing an ad network to a blog publisher is apples and orchards.” Well, Jason’s WIN may have ended up as a publisher, but it originated as an ad network with a software kicker to justify its 50% rev share.
Here’s WIN’s pitch to bloggers circa May 2004 and continuing through October 2005… “Our goal is to partner with individual bloggers, letting them do what they do best (writing, creating community, researching) and support them with what we do best (upgrading the software that drives their Web site, generating revenue, running the business). We split the profits 50/50 with each of our bloggers taking out only hard costs (i.e., sales commissions, credit card fees). We also allow bloggers to leave our network at any time, for any reason, and take their content with them.” There was lots of noble rhetoric about valuing blogger automony … “After the bust everyone realized that a) no company is loyal to them and b) that they can often make a better living on their own and have a better lifestyle.”
If WIN gave up on that approach and turned to straight publishing, it proves my point, no?
“A couple million for bloggers?” If Jason will step up and wager, he won’t learn the exact figure, but at least he’ll know it’s bigger than whatever figure WIN paid out for ’06. (I hope it was more than a couple million!)
My $10k says he’s been bluffing.
Asked whether his new venture will take on Blogads.com, Jason Calacanis responded, “That’s like Michael Jordan going after a 12-year old in a game of 1-on-1.”
I laughed when I first read that. Typical Jason.
But, having thought about it, I think there’s an interesting game to be played.
Does Jason think he’s the Michael Jordan of blog businesses? If he really believes that mallarky, I’ve got $10K that says he’s wrong.
For those of you who don’t know Jason, he’s the hyperarticulate entrepreneur who made his fame by poaching pioneer tech blogger Pete Rojas from Nick Denton, duct-taping Rojas to Brian Alvey‘s smart software and Google Adsense, calling it “WeblogsInc” (WIN!), then talking AOL into buying “the future of blogging” for what some say was $25 million and others say was $6 million with an earn-out.
Jason, of course, views this feat as proof he’s the Michael Jordan of building blog businesses. If you measure business as a) talking very fast and sometimes brilliantly, b) embracing Pete Rojas, and c) putting the most money in his own hands, Jason is Michael Jordan.
Fact is, on all the key metrics, Blogads.com creamed Jason.
ROI: While Blogads.com bootstrapped with less than $20,000 in cash in the bank, Weblogsinc reportedly relied on millions invested by Jason’s buddy Mark Cuban of Broadband.com fame.
Innovation: While WIN was peddling web 1.0 ad units, Blogads has pioneered genres of ad units designed for social media — long before the concept of “social media” existed. More on the way, too. (WIN’s “comments on ads” came 18 months after our experiment; like us, WIN discovered that mutating ad creative (at least from smart advertisers) fast obsoletes each comment.)
Staffing: While WIN had a handful of full-time staff (5 or 10?), we’ve got 22 brilliant staff (and dog Taco!) in Europe and the US with new office space to grow…
Why is Jason so cocky? Personality aside, Jason is inebriated on the big city/old media parochialism of NY/LA/SF. Nothing significant happens in places like Carrboro, North Carolina ’cause rednecks don’t read the internets, right? Jason and his cronies want to forget that the blogosphere transforms the outside into the new inside.
Now Jason has departed AOL and is entrepreneur in residence at Sequoia Capital. Should I be wary of Jason? Absolutely. He’s had five years to study our business and has a excellent track record of “borrowing” good ideas/people, whether from Gawker or Digg. He’s sitting in the offices of a VC who backed Yahoo, Apple and Youtube. Even a midget can jam the ball if he has a ten-foot ladder. So I won’t make predictions about the future.
But let’s talk about the key performance metric. Does Jason want to put his big money where his bigger mouth is? I’ll wager $10,000 that in 2006 Blogads earned more for bloggers than did WIN. After all, blogger earnings is the true measure of a blog business, right?
What kind of odds would Michael Jordan give a twelve-year-old in a game of 1-on-1? A million to 1? Maybe 10,000 to 1… with the MJ blindfolded and his shoes tied together?
Well, this twelve-year-old would be happy with 10 to 1 odds, Jason’s $100K to my $10K. If those odds make Jason queazy, I’d be happy to discuss something gentler.
Jason apparently got $25 million from AOL and is the Michael Jordan of blog businesses, so he’s got the cash to toss on the table. Does he have the guts?
Details: the arbiter will be a mutually agreed independent accounting firm (in Vegas?) with an NDA to all parties, comparing both companies’ 2006 totals for net blogger earnings.
Let’s play 1-on-1 Jason.
… processes, attitudes, cultures, not just cars.
While many in MSM are afraid of blogs and are starting to bias their coverage away from the fact that blogs might be commercially disruptive to their business models, the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Schatz gives blogs their due:
Nearly a year before the first caucuses and primaries take place, the 2008 presidential campaign advertising war is under way online.
Candidates of both parties are already buying space on search engines, blogs and other Internet sites popular with political junkies and potential donors. With 18 candidates vying for the most open race for the White House in 80 years and front-runners on both sides announcing plans to forgo public financing, the 2008 election promises to be a huge revenue opportunity, not just for TV broadcasters.
“There’s a blog primary going on right now,” says Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads, a North Carolina-based advertising service which automates the process of placing ads on blogs in exchange for a 30% cut of the revenue.
We’re a long way from capturing the $1 billion that will be spent on this election cycle, but we’re making inroads.
Meanwhile, BL Ochman compares the Journal’s audience to blogs’.
The Wpost’s ombudwoman squirms. Readers are confused because they think blogs are part of the “real” Post. But blogs aren’t official because they aren’t edited. Except when they are edited, but not by someone senior enough. Got it?
Did one online column irreparably damage Post national security journalism? No. But it does show that an online column rubs off on the newspaper. Opinions on Arkin vary among Post reporters who write about the military and national security. Some respect him; others think he harms The Post’s reputation.
Arkin is no rookie. A national security and human rights fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, he has written books, spoken at the armed services’ war colleges, and been a consultant to the Air Force and human rights and environmental groups. He is a military analyst for NBC-TV and has broken national stories.
“What makes me successful is that . . . I write a blog, and a blog is a highly personal venture,” he said. “If I try to do it without a voice and without my sarcasm and without my digs and without my crazy lens, then no one would read it.”
Bloggers thrive on their opinions. Many newspaper journalists, often attacked by bloggers, think they are the “real” journalists, working in a parallel and better journalistic universe.
I’m sure journalists at washingtonpost.com see their work as the journalism of the future, while we of the dead-tree format can be seen as the past. Arkin said that “newspaper reporters would try to wipe me off the bottom of their shoes . . . if they acknowledge [bloggers'] existence.”
Arkin apologized. He said he was “dead wrong” to use the word “mercenary,” that it “is an insult and pejorative, and it does not accurately describe the condition of the American soldier today. I sincerely apologize to anyone in the military who took my words literally.”
Readers usually take things literally. And an editor should have told him to take out the word. That’s what editors are for: They keep opinion writers from making fools of themselves.
Arkin is unrepentant about two things: He works for The Post. Period. And he said he is “probably one of the best-known and respected anti-military military bloggers.”
An editor read his column before it was posted but didn’t see the problem. Jim Brady, washingtonpost.com’s executive editor, said that had he seen it, he would have asked for changes. Arkin said he would have made them.
What’s the difference between opinion writing for the newspaper and for washingtonpost.com? The writing can be similar, but the editing is more intense at the newspaper. More experienced eyes see a story or a column before it goes into the paper; The Post has several levels of rigorous editing. There is “less of an editing process” for blogs at the more immediacy-oriented Web site, Brady said.
Seeing The Queen a week ago made me sentimental for London, where I spent a life-changing 84-85. It was the coldest winter in England’s long economic stumble. Arthur Scargill’s miners were in their last face-off with Maggie and the pound could be bought for a dollar a some pennies.
Anyway, a friend wrote Friday and mentioned he’s in London and asked for some tips. I was thrilled to advise. I’ll put them here before they disappear beneath the strata of my outbox…
Check out a pub called The Old Dr. Butler’s Head in The City. You can either have a pint and sandwich in the bar or go upstairs for more formal stuff. Also good to eat at Simpsons on the Strand. May be a tourist trap now, but fun for roastbeef and port. Try The Grapes, somewhere down by the Thames. May have gone upmarket versus 20 years ago with the Docklands. Also fun to drink (in better weather) on one of the bars with a terrace at one end of the top of the Covent Garden buildiing. Try to buy last minute tickets at a theatre — a lot cheaper than NY and often amazing. Finally, go to Portabello road on Saturday AM for antiques and a good pint in the pub about halfway down the road on the right. And if your budget is unlimited and you want to get truly electrified by bottles of ice-encased vodka, Nikita’s is the place.
(BTW, Miklos and Tamas are visiting for the next two weeks… we’ll try to post pictures.)