Tuesday, February 14. 2012
We noted yesterday the spat between the NYT and Silicon Valley bloggers re Path and its (ahem) "data sharing features" (see here). This has now opened into a full blown blogspat, with Dan "Fake Steve" Lyons weighing in with some interesting thoughts of what the wanna-be-rich blogger may do:
First you establish yourself as an “influencer” by posting a lot of noisy stuff on a blog and building an audience. Then you need to “monetize” your influence. You tell all the VCs in the Valley that you are starting an “angel fund,” and you ask each one to give you, say, $500,000. They go along because (a) $500,000 is pocket change to these guys — so small, in fact, that they don’t care if they lose every penny of it; and (b) you’re an influential hack and they don’t want to piss you off; and (c) they figure you can maybe write nice things about their portfolio companies, which would be especially useful if/when one of their portfolio companies gets caught up in some scandal; and (d) if any independent journalists write something critical about one of the VC’s portfolio companies, you can can use your influential personal blog to savagely attack those journalists and try to discredit them.
As Lyons notes, this is in fact just a new version of an old racket that used to be practiced in the tech space by “independent analysts.”, ie: “Pay seven figures a year to buy a corporate subscription to my newsletter and I’ll say nice things about your company, and when the press needs a quote, I’ll be there to puff you up. Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.” Most big companies paid up and considered it a cost of doing business. (I believe in even earlier days this was called a protection racket, where you pay me to protect yourself from your foes - and from me)
Anyway, Lyons believes Mike Arrington's new vehicle, CrunchFund, is up to this now. And given his insightful Fake Steve Jobs satires, it is clear he probably knows of what he speaks. Naturally of course, Mr Arrington and other Ex TechCrunchers ride to their own defence. Arrington has a good point - why pick on just Path (and by extension, why pick on just Mr Arrington....), but - to my mind anyway - this is all still avoiding the underlying New Media business model issue, ie the conflict of interest of investing in the companies you write about, or take advertising from, etc etc - because getting a user to pay, and finding a sustainable business model, has proven very hard so far. In other words, big picture, will some form of independent media exist in the professional non-mainstream media arena?
Also, as Dave Winer (another old hand) notes, the initial underlying Social Media issue - the abuse of user privacy - is increasingly being lost in the noise:
Given we are entering the last phase of the Bubbletime, you can be sure the hype machine will still get a lot louder and shriller, but - as opposed to the dotcom years - it would seem that those who wish to puncture the bubble have better access to media too.
I can't help juxtaposing this with the ongoing Leveson enquiry into the UK media, dealing with mainstream media abuse of privacy (phone hacking, paying people for data, etc) and the emerging realisation that they are on the horns of a dilemma:
- firstly, regulate the mainstream media how you will, the blogosphere will still say everything they can't anyway, so any censorship is probably moot
As we have remarked before, Bubbles have a role of washing away the old and bringing in the new, and we suspect that mainstream news media may well be collateral damage in this next Social Media Bubble cycle - the Old Media business model is not really working anymore, to my mind CrunchFund et al are looking for new ones. A blog protection racket may not be the end game for the New Media, but I was struck by something my colleague Martin Geddes noted yesterday about the binary "New Media Technology" market that is emerging, viz:
"Two stable states: user is customer, user is product. No viable space between"
I think he is on to something here.........and I think it will apply to Media. You will either pay for truth, or have to mine it yourself from the free media
Thursday, November 10. 2011
Interesting article by Mike Butcher at TechCrunch EU on Tech blogging in Europe - the times, he says, are a-changing:
I do hope the economics change - we are that classic "Consultancy-with-a-blog" model Mike mentions above, in 2006 we felt that you had to put your mouth where your money was (or in blogging's case, wasn't...) and actually use the technology we were consulting on. We have certainly learned a lot from blogging and the blog has led to some interesting assignments and opportunities indirectly, and forged some good friendships, but it has certainly not been a profitable endeavour - we see it very much as a marketing cost. In fact, we took a bit of a hiatus this summer because we were so darn busy with client work!
It's interesting that the US blogs now have a "European Foreign Correspondent" too, so lets see, maybe Mike is right. Our own observation is that there are only 3 scenes in Europe that are really worth keeping an eye on - London, Berlin and the European emigres to Silicon Valley (with maybe Paris deserving the occasional glance as a 4th) as pretty much anything happening in Europe will wash up in one of these nets. Most of the running is still very US centric.
Mike also wants to see more attitude...well, Broadstuff has always been a tad, well, satirical - Bubblewatch has been this year's running joke - In fact more than one person has told us we could never get Ads owing to that Broadsnark. We are quite proud of that actually
So clearly we may even be on the right track.
Thursday, July 7. 2011
You may have noticed that the blog output is much less recently - the reason is simple - very busy on client work - that happens - but now with a lot of travel thrown in, which has just made me too tired most of the time. In addition, to be honest a lot of the stuff that has been on Techmeme and has happened in the last few weeks has been less interesting than the client work I have been doing, which is all about Enterprise 1.0 - 2.0 stuff - so expect a lot more down that line when I have the time. (I had to stifle a yawn over the "Content Bubbles" the other week, we've been writing about that for years).
With Twitter, the reason is twofold, firstly the new Twitter interface on my mobile is crap. But secondly, and more to the point, the content is just not compelling enough anymore to make me bother to get a better client. The question re content is interesting, I am saddened that a lot of the people I followed who were interesting are saying less, and (sadly) some other people seem to have shifted to a sort of perma-pimp mode.
With Spotify, its interesting - I had it going pretty much constantly while I was doing rote work at my computer. Then they cut it to 10 hours. I racked up my 10 hours the first month. As an experiment I decided to see if I could go "Cold Turkey" for a week. You know what - by day 2 I didn't even notice it was gone. There is just so much good content on the 'Net its like restaurants....one service closes down, or you don't like the food anymore, plenty more are out there.
Saturday, November 20. 2010
Broadstuff has been quiet the last few weeks, owing to the annual vacation and the inevitable massive workload before and after going (I need a vacation to recover from my vacation....)
Anyway, that meant I was nowhere near social media for a good 4 weeks, and I think the experieince is interesting. I have gone "Cold Turkey" in a way, as coming back to Twitter, Techmeme, TechCrunch etc I was struck by how much PR cr*p is on them all now!
I am sure it was not always thus, so I had a look at Techmeme by about 3 years back , and - this is just an impression, rather than a scientific study - my impressions are:
In other words something has been lost - maybe it was ever thus, but the content now is - in my view - very lightweight. Now, this is clearly good for advertising - my experience with this blog is that lightweight, topical content drives far more traffic than long, considered articles in the short term. The question is whether it drives influence for that blog or writer. For the promoter it clearly does - the more blogs parroting a story the better, there is a quality in quantity, but whether it is good for the blogger is another matter. (Over the last 3 yaers, my "biggest selling" articles have been the longer, more thoughtful ones and those have oened the door to the conferences, clients and so on)
With Twitter, the thing that really hit me coming back after 4 weeks was that it was a complete tower of babble, and the sooner I can get self-determined filters that I control on this sort of medium, the better.
For "Social Media" I think it has hit its Point of Maximum Hype and is on the slide - the grasping at "Social Commerce" is the last desperate act to monetise the f*cker. (A point made on one of the posts three years back was that Social Commerce was like your friend coming up to you at a pub or dinner party dressed in Coca Cola gear (or any other brand you care to name) and trying to recommend you buy it, knowing he gets paid for it, and wondering why the guy didn't realise he was being a complete w*nker).
Anyway, they knew it wouldn't work then, but clearly today the need to monetise these companies has unleashed a blizzard of tame pundits trying to persuade us it will actually work, and that you will take said friend unto your bosom, welcome him heartily, and (most importantly) buy the stuff.
A nation no longer of shopkeepers, but of virtual Ponzi salespeople. These are what the word "friend" is used for these days.....
Tuesday, October 12. 2010
Anil Dash, talking about the overstated Death of Blogging on O'Reilly Radar:
If I spend an hour writing a couple hundred words about a really interesting challenge that we face as an industry, as a society, as a culture, sometimes I'll get the person that I'm writing about to respond. I could write something about Twitter and get somebody that works at Twitter to respond, or write something about government and get someone who makes policy to respond. That's still a thrill. It also kicks off really meaningful conversations. I think that's all you can hope for.
Thatb is my experience too - In Social Media, Twitter or a Facebook update is a far weaker commitment to a narrative than a blog post. I think Gladwell was onto something when he talked about weak tells in social media, and I think blogging is one of the stronger social mediums. I would suspect that a blog post has far more influence than a similar number of twitterwords say. (If I were Gladwell I'd be wryly amused that the best Revolution that Twitter has so far enabled was chaning the Gap's logo back. I mean, talk about making a difference.....
This also resonates quite well with my other post today about eBooks being a Snacking Medium.
Tuesday, October 5. 2010
Reading about Jason Calacanis' new Tech Media pre-startup, Launch in the Grauniad I saw this:
Wry smile from Broadstuff Towers here - like every other blog writer, I guess we know the truth - worthy, in depth pieces are fine but if you really want to generate traffic, then short, topical ephemera are what really do it. And yes, people tell us that its quality, not quantity that drives influence, but as far as today's metrics, and thus perceived valuations work, quantity has a quality all of its own.
Add to that the economics. I have a rule of thumb that says roughly every time you double 500 words, you triple the time taken to write it.
So big, qualitative pieces cost more to produce and are less valuable in the blog market. A real recipe for success then......
My view, from about a year into writing this, is that blog media works best as a sketch media - watercolour vs oils etc - at least with the current reading tools, I can see that e-Readers and Tablets may change this over time.
Monday, August 23. 2010
Lots of wailing this weekend that Leo Laporte's Buzz stopped buzzing and no-one noticed, and Paul Carr (he who hath renounced all Social Media save Twitter) going off about the fact that the less effort you put into what you write, the less impact it will have (also known as Hen3y's Law):
Louis Gray, as is his wont, reminds us of Friendfeed and other Ghost Town socnets through which digital tumbleweeds roll.
To these wothies I would like to point out that one of the Gurus of Web 0.0 had it taped a long time ago - over to you, T S Eliot:
By the way, Laporte, Carr and Gray now all say that of course these Microservices were just hollow voices, quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass - and that Blogs have always been The Right Way forward, and that this was always going to be The Endgame. Nothing like rushing to the front of a crowd already headed in a direction and yelling "follow me" eh chaps*
But, watch what they do, not what they say - when they all bail off Twitter I'll believe the New Mantra. In reality, the truth is these services all support different roles in the coommunications ecosystem, along with email, video, telephones (fixed and mobile) etc etc. There will be a need for a short message service, an IM service, an aggregation service, etc etc. What is unclear is which will win, its far too early in the development of these things. What is also clear is that (most) people like things to interwork without too much hassle, intrusion and clutter.
Which, of course, is why Buzz and Friendfeed ended. With whimpers............
*PS - Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I do recall Carr and Gray being promoters of the shiny new microblogging thing a few years back. Anyone?
Wednesday, August 11. 2010
Pretty Girl with Whiteboad says it all.....
Yesterday a "viral video" went round about a girl who (apparently) resigned by sending photos of herself to her boss (original here), and this was put up on a fairly small website and then picked up by some of the major blogs and touted round the 'Net as the real thing.
Except it was a hoax, and the original website did it just to prove they could.
And (if I may say, in patronising after-the-factness) it was pretty damn obvious just looking at it that it wasn't real. We all thought it was a standard viral vid doing the rounds, had a laugh, emailed a few friends that it would amuse, and left it at that (in fact yesterday the better resignation story was the air steward who opened a 'plane door, inflated the exit raft and slid away).
But Lo and Behold, it seems like many of the leading lights of the the Tech Blogosphere got taken in and pimped it as a real resignation, despite the far more common probability that it was Yet Another Daily Viral Vid:
It's that whole backstory bit - whether it is missing out a pretty obvious hoax, or being asleep at the wheel when it comes to Google and Net Neutrality, or not doing the hard analysis behind some of the PR guff that comes out, the "A List" Tech Blogosphere is - in my view - doing an increasingly lousy job on quality reporting (and not just the Blogosphere, some print media journos are becoming rather breathless regurgitators of the Kool Aid too).
As the original team noted, these people wanted to believe, probably needed to believe:
The purpose of the hoax was to entertain and inspire, not to inform, so what difference does it make if the story has a single ounce of truth? After our second hoax I remember a reporter telling me, ‘Well it looks like you’ve fooled us twice. Won’t get away with this nonsense again.”
But they will.....if you are chasing clicks, you can't be a laggard to the virals
As they chase the need to monetise, the Big Blogs seem to increasingly be blurring the distinction between journalism and PR channel - this was already highlighted as a problem in Print media in Flat Earth News, but my impression is its getting worse in the Big Blogosphere too (I just think the A List bloggers of 2006 or so would have seen this one coming)
But, to help the Big Blogs, a quick checklist for the next New News:
1. Does it come from a source that would benefit hugely from the clickstream oxygen
3 out of 3 means check the backstory..................
Wednesday, July 21. 2010
A bit of holiday reading - John Brockman on the demise of the old literary intellectual and their replacement with...well, that's an interesting question and I'm not sure he has it right. I first read his book "The Third Culture" (in which he argued that there needs to be an intellectual culture that blends new thinking encompassing both science and liberal arts) some 15 years ago. In his view the traditional 20th Century "Intellectual" is intellectually redundant:
"Traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time."
He is talking about the (often proud) ignorance of science and technology (and I wouldn't limit it to Americans either - in fact in his Third Culture he had a good go at European intellectual tradition as well). Observing the chattering class British disdain of science (still largely prevalent today), I was somewhat sceptical that a 3rd Cuture would come tofruition anytime soon. And waching the rise of pseudo-scientific hokum movements from creationism to ..... since then has made me even less convinced.
So who does he believe the New Intellectuals are? Well, if his own books are anything to go by, he has assempled all the "writers of books" that have a scientific bent (rather than scientists per se). Well, being a publisher, he would, wouldn't he?
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy these sorts of writers hugely (Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Jaron Lanier et al), but I do wonder if this is a bit akin to looking for lost keys under existing lamplights? Does being an Old Skool publisher lead to missing the point as much as an Olde Intellectuals does?
The one thing that has interested me is the last 5 years and the rise of the Blogosphere, where there has been a massive rise in people who, because they are not constrained by conventional limits, do cross these intelectual lines quite unconsciously and happily. The difficulty with the Blogosphere of course is that it is huge, chaotic mass and (as it gets easier and easier to use) increasingly polluted with pure cr*p so it is hard to find the good stuff at first.
But what has happened - big picture - is a rise of a very large volume of people putting new ideas together in new ways, so you ar awash with new thoughts. Let me give you an example - this week for the first time I heard of (and read a bit of the works of) Vaclav Smil (who also writes on the development of technology and energy over the last 100 years or so). Now here is the interesting thing (to me, anyway) - there was very little he has written that I didn't already know about by reading the blogs I do read in this space, and yet I had never heard of him - yet Bill Gates apparently hangs on his words.
The point I am making is that new ideas are now arising and disseminating in multiple channels, and the Blogosphere - distilled - is its own intellectual - as well as its own Hello! and Pseud's Corner and sheer Crap-o-Sphere (500 million people on Facebook and nothing on.....)
The problem going forward, in the arising tide of sheer noise that is the New Social Media, is finding them. The Web will need its John Brockman style publishers as much a Olde Media did.
Tuesday, April 13. 2010
Read Write Web:
Google's CEO Eric Schmidt addressed the American Society of News Editors yesterday in D.C. As part of an apparent strategy of mollifying the media, he insulted the integrity and professionalism of bloggers and the quality of blogs. You know. Like this one.
What he means Google has more information, and you get less privacy....
Or maybe he was after one blogger in particular
Good heavens , what a day - first Mary Meeker shocks us all and says that "Mobile Internet will be Huge" and Twitter does a Feedburner flameout, now this.
Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction..............
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