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Archive for January, 2009

Politicker pickled

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This is old news, but worth chronicling for the record.

Earlier this month, Politicker, a network of state political blogs funded by NY Observer owner Jared Kushner, amputated most of its sites, leaving on a rump focused on NY and NJ.

Someone near the scene told me that almost 40 people are out of work, a quarter of that in IT. More than $4 million down the rat hole. Any confirmation or other details out there?

Goodnight Pajamas Media

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Blogads.com’s first competitor is the first to give up.

Pajamas Media was our first blog advertising competitor, created in November 2005 by a bunch of conservative and libertarian bloggers we’d previously worked with.

PJ’s ringleaders looked at our success and said, “Gee, that looks really easy. Let’s get someone to give us $3 million and we’ll kick Blogads’ butt.” That’s almost an exact quote, though I can’t point to source documents. (Anyone?) They went out and recruited ~75 conservative and libertarian bloggers we worked with. (Not everyone who joined PJ thought we were stupid or PJ was brilliant — a few remained friends, but went to PJ for outrageous guarantees.)

A year later, PJ’s management went back to their investor, a conservative billionaire [name?], and got another $3 million. Or was it $5 million? And that’s what they’ve done each year since. Until now…

As Pajamas wrote its bloggers yesterday:

As the end of the first quarter approaches and we near the production phase of Pajamas TV, we will continue to build our emphasis in this area. As a result we have decided to wind down the Pajamas Media Blogger and advertising network effective March 31, 2009. The PJM portal and the XPressBlogs will continue as is.

PJ’s fairly negative (and still not updated) history is here. And sadly, still no mention this Dunkirk-scale retreat on the front page of PJ’s site.

We’ll likely start working with some of these folks again via the conservative hive.

Google apps rag time

by henrycopeland
Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Lots of fun lessons in here about relying on Google, registrars, customer service, Monday AM QBing, big companies replying in comments.

NC unemployment jump nation’s worst?

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Wow, this is bad news. What puts NC on the bleeding edge? From the WSJ.

Gold shines in Europe

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Europeans, with hundreds of years (and wars) more experience than North Americans in weathering the vagaries of financial uncertainty, have driven gold to new highs in sterling (£661.55) and euros (€701.55). (Rubles too, no doubt.) The FT reports.

The total amount of gold held by the world’s gold ETFs last week rose for the first time above the 40m ounce level. Together, such investment vehicles are now the largest holders of physical gold after the official reserves of the US, Germany, the International Monetary Fund, France and Italy.

“The aggressive appreciation in the ETF contracts … is the clearest signal to date this year that gold is one of the limited assets that investors want exposure to during these frantic times,” Ms Tully said.

John Reade, a precious metal strategist at UBS in London, added that the change in ETF gold holdings so far this month, at plus 2.5m ounces, was “impressive”, but he warned that the figure fell short of the 6m ounces achieved in mid-October, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

ETF Securities, which provides commodity-based exchange-traded funds, said it saw record inflows last week, with $500m invested in its products in just two days.

France “buys” newspapers

by henrycopeland
Monday, January 26th, 2009

From AFP:

France will offer all 18-year-olds a free daily copy of the newspaper of their choice, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday, announcing a package of measures to help the beleaguered press.

In addition to the free paper scheme, Sarkozy announced plans to double the government’s budget for buying advertising in the press, a freeze on the cost of postal distribution and a reduction in payroll taxes for newsagents.

Bloviating about Twitter

by henrycopeland
Monday, January 19th, 2009

Budapest has many joys: hanging out with old friends, drinking great wine, philosophizing, candlelit dinners in gorgeous homes. Saturday night, I got to enjoy all these with Tom and Annabel high in the Buda hills. We talked about “the well,” TTT, inflation, Hungary, guide books, humidors, obsessive letter writers, batteries, Twitter, Marai, infantalized dialogue, Halo3, currency levels. Here’s a Winkball snapshot of the evening:

Suxorz panel complete

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 17th, 2009

The panel I’m moderating at SXSW now has its fourth panelist: Sara K. Smith of Wonkette fame.

Smith joins Zadi Diaz, Jeff Jarvis and Mike Monello.

We crowdsourced the fourth panelist, pulling submissions from Facebook and then running balloting through Surveymonkey. Smith got the biggest chunk of the 2,059 votes cast.

To prime your water cannons for our Saturday morning panel in Austin, here’s the panel description:

Bring popcorn and rotten tomatoes! Braving hate-mail from last year’s “winners,” the Suxorz ’09 panel returns to dissect the ten worst social media and web 2.0 ad campaigns of the year. Together, we’ll shame the marketers who abuse people-powered media.

See any social media marketing horror shows recently? Head over to our Facebook group to nominate.

Federated mud

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 16th, 2009

Just nine months after this:

After turning down a $100 million buyout offer, Federated Media Publishing has opted instead to raise $50 million in a C round led by Oak Investment Partners. As was reported two weeks ago, the rumored valuation is $200 million. While the company is not confirming that number, publisher Chas Edwards quips, “We have to be worth at least $101 million.”

We get this:

Sometime in the next hour or so, John will announce on the FM blog what we’re telling the staff right now: A small number of employees are leaving FM today. We’re sad about losing good people who have made valuable contributions to FM. We honor their service, we wish them well, and we’ll do everything we can to help ease their transition.

Federated has fewer than 75 staff, so they can’t have spent $50 million in just nine months, even with San Francisco’s inflated salaries. (Right?) Surely that small number of employees could be retrained if Federated was on a decent trajectory, right?

Federated appears to have gotten caught by the classic VC squeeze: first, agree a huge price tag. That’s fun for both the VC and the investee to brag about publicly. Then dole out the money in a series of chunks (called “tranches” by VCs) that are released only after the investee hits certain benchmarks.

Why does this happen? Well, at the end of lots of boastful presentations in the money-raising process, the investee is caught in a logical bind when the VC says, “You’ve made big promises and since you’re so sure of your story, let’s just add a small clause that covers our investment in the event you don’t live up to those promises.”

Having made this bargain/bet, the company starts spends madly trying to hit its benchmarks. Then when that scramble fails, the company has to pare back quickly to get to profitability.

It’s a nasty gambit, but greedy folks fall for it all the time.

Nine months after Edwards said “we have to be worth at least $101 million,” I wonder what the right number is today?

Suxorz panelist ballot

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Nominations are in and now it’s time to vote for the fourth and ultimate Suxorz panelist.

Vote here!

For those of you who’ve forgotten, Suxorz is the panel I’m moderating at SXSW Interactive ’09. Here’s the description SXSW’s site (tweaked):

Bring popcorn and rotten tomatoes! Braving hate-mail from last year’s “winners,” the Suxorz ’09 panel returns to dissect the ten worst social media and web 2.0 ad campaigns of the year. Together, we’ll shame the marketers who abuse people-powered media.

Everyone on the ballot was nominated through the Suxorz Facebook page and has affirmed their willingness to participate.

Write a blog post, call grandma, twitter your kids, or tell your neighbor to vote & and we’ll release results Friday!

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