Somebody get these guys a mirror

Well Pajamas Media, nee OSM, nee Open Source Media, nee Pajamas Media is trying to do some navel-gazing on Thanksgiving and one thing becomes painfully, loudly, self-apparently apparent:

They have no idea what they want to be or why they exist.

Which is what I’ve said from the start.

Really: Just read the closed-loop discussion among only the PM people — no outsiders allowed, no comments allowed (though Roger is thinking about requiring a donation to God-knows-what charity to be allowed the privilege of allowing comments), no different perspectives welcome. And boy, do they need some.

Here’s the challenge, folks: Stand back and see whether you can agree on just one thing. Finish this sentence in no more than 10 words: Pajamas Media is _________________.

Until you can do that, there is no sense in arguing over logos, names, functionality, linking, comments, anything. What are you? Why do you exist? Until you can answer that, you shouldn’t exist. You don’t exist. You are just, everyone there seems to agree, a corporate-looking page that does too little.

But it sure is amusing to watch.

  • http://www.drmenlo.com/lgfquiz/ LGF Quiz

    But it sure is amusing to watch.

    ————–

    In a schadenfreude kinda way….

  • http://www.drmenlo.com/lgfquiz/ LGF Quiz

    Just read the closed-loop discussion among only the PM people — no outsiders allowed, no comments allowed… no different perspectives welcome. And boy, do they need some.

    ————–

    Actually, that sounds exactly like Little Green Footballs.

    Johnson is gonna have to figure out at some point that things that work with insular communities of true-believers can’t always be scaled to suit different situations – the ill-advised foray into Althouse’s comments is another example of the same.

  • Jim Jones

    Pajamas Media is a new kinda old kinda echo chamber.

  • Mork

    I’m giggling at the unintentional irony of Cliff May musing on how to demonstrate that they are a “counter-intelligentsia”.

    Guys – you’ve got that one sewn up. Just keep talking!

  • http://anechoicroom.blogspot.com Elmo

    No ….. well actually Buzz, that kind of sums things up perfectly.

    A blank space ….. (nothing there).

  • http://isfullofcrap.com/ Laurence Simon

    Jeff-

    Let’s be a bit more specific. It’s not even PM discussing it… it’s the PM *elite* that were having the discussion. We mere commoner members weren’t informed of this discussion or invited to this discussion.

    The discussions are talking about fundamental parts of the scope of the overall project. Wasn’t this stuff hammered out before? I could have sworn it had been. Where’s my archive of emails and notes…

    I’m having flashbacks to my days as an IT guy at an ABC O&O when we wanted a website, ABC bought Starwave, and then proceded to transform into Go.com which told us that despite our owning them, they flat-out refused to build a website for us. They instead pawned us off on a bunch of incompetents at iXL who flubbed everything for a year or so. In the end, they never accomplished anything in the scope of the project we’d contracted them for, and they were eventually paid to go away.

    In the meantime, Go.com became DIG, battle-tested minds at ESPN Internet Ventures pretty much took control of DIG, and we were invited back into the family for sites when they realized that LOCAL might have some value to them in the end.

    A conference call would be held, and we’d be told “X was decided” or “Y has been rejected” when X and Y had never been discussed in the first place by the folks responsible at the station level such as myself. “Are there meetings and discussions and decisions being made without us? Then why are you wasting out time asking us what we want if all you’re going to do is tell us what we get?” was said a lot.

    All through this process, I felt like I was being dragged behind a pickup on rougher road than anything James Byrd felt in his last moments. No control, nobody listening to feedback or complaints – just floor it and ignore the screams coming from the back.

    I popped “Lost in La Mancha” into the DVD player this afternoon and watched it. Gilliam’s mantra throughout is “Not another f-ing Munchausen!” and that’s exactly what his beloved Don Quioxte movie becomes as it melts down.

    I hope not to mutter “Not another Pathfinder!” or “Not another Go.com!” or “Not another iXL!”

    These folks need to go back through your archives and read your hammered-upon bulletpoints: two-way communication, local, accountability, transparency, etc.

    As Han Solo once said: “I have a bad feeling about this.”

    Oh well. At least it’s entertaining. And maybe… just maybe… this rambling wreck might just make it after all. For now I’ll just not plan on spending the next check before it arrives and keep the BlogAds bar open.

    -ls twice-over PM “commoner”

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  • http://blog.ladow.net Bob

    I agree, Jeff. There has been much made of the launch, but I have yet to read substance. And given the players all blog elsewhere, collectively they offer what? Color me unimpressed . . .

  • http://blowingsmokethemovie.com Jim Treacher

    Pajamas Media is Pajamas Media.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Services on the web are only as strong as the communities that participate in them. Key word – participate. Lawrence above makes some important points here. If Pajamas gets them – they will survive and do well – no matter what they decide to be.

    Their community has a hell of a starting point – a fiercely loyal audience, talented bloggers, Google-juice among many – and money to make it happen.

    The funny thing – for me – is immitation is the sincerest form of flattery – I realize where my ideas have come from – I am indeed – an immitator – but they don’t seem to recognize that they are NOT innovating here. That what they are talking about has been done before. Glenn Reynolds in particular, seems to be advocating a site that works, if not resembles, Philly Future and others like Greensboro101.

    Whether it be Slashdot, or Digg, Weblogs.com, or Memeorandum, all of the approaches they are discussing in that thread have been experiemented with to one degree or another. Yet those sites go unmentioned. They talk as if they are the first. I detect a form of snobbery that just makes no sense. It’s that same closed thinking about what is currently in existance on the web that rubbed me the wrong way about the name.

    I repeat – services on the web are only as strong as the communities that participate in them. They have a hell of a community. Hopefully they better realize that’s their strength.

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  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Try this: “Pajamas Media is an attempt by somewhat successful tradespeople to get admitted to the High Society of the media”.

    I mean, it’s screamingly obvious. The site has every marker of an out-group that desperately wants to be a part of the in-group. That’s *why* it looks so dull. It’s aping the most staid look-and-feel to be found in big newspaper websites. The writing format is pure stylebook (e.g. “Compiled by [NAME] staff …”). The keynote by Judith Miller. On and on. They have all the affectations of the mainstream media, but no solid business plan – which says it all.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    And here goes the funny Seth… they feel and are acting as if they are the out group – when they most certainly ARE not.

    It all counts upon your point of view though of course.

    But don’t count me upon the naysayers – I do expect them to pull it together eventually. In a way we are witnessing a very public business launch and in a way – that’s a refreshing change.

  • http://www.libertysblog.com Liberty

    I had such high hoped for Pajamas media, even though I’m not a participent., but I thought it was prety funny that they called themselves open Source Media, although they had no way that I could see for an outsider to input feedback, comments, or suggestions, There was nothing bloggy about the whole thing.

    Blogs are all about unique points of views, personalities, and charactor. If I want to read news and talking points I can find it on most any MSM site. Once one goes to the main page and gets bored outa ones skull, one doesn’t find any intresting places to go. Its a portal into nowhere. A shame really, lots of talent there that could be highlited. If I want to find good blog postings I still have Technorati, google blog search or Any number of blogrolls.

  • http://donsurber.blogspot.com don surber

    Seems all they have are mirrors!
    No paid ads. Hmm.
    Oh wait. Lemme translate that:
    Heh. INDEED

  • http://www.privateradio.org Private Radio

    First off, what’s the point? So possible competitors can get an insight into their strategy?

    Notice how they didn’t talk about ads? Was anything said about actually *making money*.

    Well there was the $3 thing, but let’s give it to charity.

    Was it a good time to introduce the bathrobe?

    For the love of God, get a small business person in there. Get George Jefferson.

  • Mark

    Pajamas Media is (10 words): disappointing in the initial iteration; Wright Bros. ate sand first.

    The Wright Bros. may have wanted to fly, but that wasn’t the be all and end all of their ambition. PJM is flying first — someone has to.

  • http://ancapistan.typepad.com/the_palmer_periscope/ Tex MacRae

    Seth:

    “Pajamas Media is an attempt by somewhat successful tradespeople to get admitted to the High Society of the media”.

    I mean, it’s screamingly obvious.

    Maybe so, but the point remains that they got venture capitalist funding to do this, so it must be predicated on some formula for making a profit. They also sold their participating bloggers on a scheme for acquiring advertising so that the participating bloggers could make money from their blogs in return for allowing PJM to syndicate their content.

    But, what is the plan for making a profit?

    There are, as the MSM online knows only too well, only two ways to be compensted for content: either you sell advertising or you sell subscriptions.

    PJM has neither. So, how will they pay their bloggers?

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Mark, I thought you were spot on until you said “PJM is flying first — someone has to.” PJM walks in the footsteps of others. They just aren’t recognizing it.

    If you want to find folks actually experimenting with new ideas – you need to dive into the tech community and follow folks like Dave Winer and Seth himself (in this thread). Gabe Rivera of Memeorandum. Shelley Powers of Broadband Mechanics. Early adopters and innovators.

    PJM isn’t about early adoption. Slashdot launched 1997. RSS around the same time. EditThisPage and Blogger.com 1999.

    What this is about is mass adoption – and about folks who already have considerable resources trying to find a way to harness that for … well it seems for profit. I think. But they are still working that out.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Not to mention Henry Copeland of Blogads, John Battelle of Bettellemedia, Nick Denton, Jason Calacanis, David Sifry, whomever it is that runs Truth Laid Bare (I forget), whomever it is that runs DayPop, – well the list goes on and on.

    We all walk on their shoulders. To pretend otherwise just seems… wrong. Then again – I can be me who is reading them entirely wrong.

  • http://www.catch.com Kevin K.

    I think the $3 subscription fee will be donated to DEBKAfile.

    On a more serious note, isn’t it odd that they didn’t even run the new (bad) logo by the board and instead decided to publicly “surprise” some of its members with it during this “Blogjam”?

    And, hey, call me picky, but shouldn’t they have pulled the watermark of the old logo from behind “CURRENT HEADLINES” by now?

  • Mark

    Karl, Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I intended.

    What I meant was the Wright Bros. first had the dream of achieving flight, but knew that it was eventually going to be much more than that.

    PJM has taken flight first (not first in relation to other endeavours) and is up in the air trying to figure out where they’re going before they run out of fuel. I think they’ll figure it out, but they had to try regardless of the ultimate outcome.

    If they make it, good! If they fail, others will learn from their (transparent so far) mistakes. Either way, us regular seekers of knowledge win eventually.

  • richard mcenroe

    Tex Macrae — In case you hadn’t noticed back in the 90’s… venture capitalists invest money in Dumb Shit quite often.

    But say they were shown a formula for making a profit with PJM/OSM/PJM/Occupant… these discussions we’re being permitted to witness would indicate that formula is not currently operative. So where do they stand relative to their investors (“Hey, that business plan you gave us all that money for? Well…”) More to the point, the bloggers solicited to sign on with PJM/OSM/PJM/Occupant were, presumably, solicited under that original formula. So what are they signed on for now?

    Now this is SOP for Hollywood, where a touching human drama in the first draft becomes a middle aged cop who lives by his own rules with a wisecracking sidekick and a 20-something leading lady by the time it goes direct to video, but it doesn’t work very well anywhere east of the San Gabriels…

  • http://www.andilinks.com/ Andi

    Well this 1990’s term ‘burn rate’ comes to mind. Do people curious about a branding faux pas click ads?

    I wish them well and have given them a link on my home page, but I am embarrassed for them over the bumbling, or apparent bumbling.

  • http://blog.spartac.us/ Brian O’Connell

    Right now, seven of nine of their top headlines are from Xinhua. People have been bitching about this all week. Why can’t they get that ratio down or remove Xinhua from their feeds until they figure out how to get a proper mix? Who’s in charge of that?

    (Yes, Jeri Ryan.)

  • Robert

    The first comment at the link Jeff posted gives a lot of insight into why the Pajamas Media project is such a debacle. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) says:

    I think that overall the Pajamas / OSM operation has relied too much on the services of consultants and experts. They know stuff, but the results tend to be, well, corporate and sterile. And don’t even start me on the “branding” experts. I hope the check hasn’t cleared yet. . . . .

    This is the OSM™ excuse. Consultants, experts and branding pros, oh my! It’s their fault, not ours.

    As an advertising veteran, let me just say that job #1 in this business is to fulfill the client’s vision. I have no clue who the “branding” experts are in this case but I’m willing to bet they followed all the usual procedures of listening to the client and meeting all their desires/requirements, giving them a series of choices for name and design, and ultimately delivering something the client fully agreed to and signed off on after several iterations and refinements.

    Clients are not powerless victims by any stretch. They choose to engage a branding agency and participate fully in the process. They are free to say “No, this isn’t right” at any point and alter or terminate the business relationship if it isn’t working out.

    I’ve never seen an agency contract that says “Client must do our bidding no matter what.”

    So I can only assume that what OSM™ presented at launch was exactly what they meant to present. That it was, and is, an utter failure is not the fault of the agency that they hired and worked with to bring their vision to life. Corporate? Sterile? That must’ve been what OSM™ was going for – after all, they decided on it and went with it.

    A great name or logo can’t save a website with no focus or worthwhile content, and a lousy one can’t kill a must-read one.

    The problem with Pajamas Media is that there’s nothing interesting to read there. No amount of branding experts, or avoidance of them, could ever fill that giant gaping hole.

    But instead of taking responsibility for the choices they made, the proprietors of OSM™/Pajamas are in essence saying, “We were duped! The Bad Men of Expert Consultancy led us astray!” They’re crying victim and that excuses them, uhh, how exactly?

    And then, to top it off, Glenn Reynolds advocates dishonorable business conduct by hoping that the people responsible for giving OSM™ exactly what they asked for not be paid.

    So let me get Law Professor Reynolds’ argument straight: The OSM™/Pajamas folks were foolish to follow the advice they actively solicited. To make up for that, they ought to be dishonest by failing to pay for the services they voluntarily contracted.

    Yeah. That’ll work.

    Heh, indeed.

  • http://markdaniels.blogspot.com Mark Daniels

    This lack of clarity has been endemic to the entire project from the start. Nothing has changed.

    Reading the “About Us” link on the PJM/OSM site is almost painful. You go there, thinking that here, finally, after months of their highly-trumpeted enterprise, they’ll explain themselves. But, there as well, they fail to shed any light on what they’re trying to accomplish.

    The whole thing is a mess. I posted about this just now at: http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2005/11/thoughts-on-osm-blogging-worlds-big.html.

    Good insights here, Jeff.

    Mark Daniels

  • richard mcenroe

    Pajamas Media is (or wants to be) the Blockbuster Video of blogging.

    Of course, they seem to be emulating that model’s mistakes, first.

  • http://jaycurrie.info-syn.com Jay Currie

    Entertaining as it is to pile on….

    What would make sense for these folks to do right now?

    a) lose the bathrobe.
    b) lose the news feeds until they can get it right
    b.1) call Gabe Rivera and ask, nicely, if he’d be willing for 10k a month to give them an exclusive ad free feed from Memeorandum’s American politics bot
    c) move the Blogjam to the front page – see The Corner or, in Canada where Thanksgiving comes early, The Western Standard
    c.1) have the Blogjam the lead feature with lots of links out to the blogs the PJ folks are reading
    d) get some Yahoo/Google/Chitika ads and see if there is any money to be made
    e) understand the real market. I point this out on my own blog but with my numbers it will get missed: there are millions of people who read blogs in the US, there are tens of millions who don’t. The one’s who don’t are the market.
    f)Seth is dead right about this looking like a bunch of folks trying to build their own Boeing. Imitating MSM is not the same thing as actually being MSM nor will it get more than a couple of contributors more than the occassional op-ed gig.
    g) Set the goal of replacing MSM. But recognize that comes through sheer volume.
    h) Where is Matt Drudge??
    i) Where is Nick Denton???

    It is easy to sit in my pyjamas sniping and I know just how hard it is to get something like this off the ground. But with 3.5 million in the bank (less consultants’ fees so call it 3.0) moving forward is not that tough. What is tough is getting beyond the blogging world with content not found anywhere else and an interface that does not simply lift OS-X’s “cool two years ago” drop shadows.

  • John Barr

    The suits lied, Pajamas Media died!

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    I don’t know what their business plans are, but I do know that the success of any business depends on its people and Pajamas have plenty of clever, funny and professional people involved in it. I haven’t read all of them, but those I have read interested me enough to want to read the rest of them.

    I check in now every day and I’m finding that they give comprehensive coverage to each story they feature and they make it easy to follow what’s being said, both in the MSM and in blogs.

    I enjoy reading them and have so far found their standards to be high.

  • http://Dans FloridaPatty

    Yawn.

    Speaking of Navel Gazing, in other news, Tom Cruise bought Katie Holmes…

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Sounds fascinating. Why don’t you Spew about it?

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  • http://pjmdeathpool.blogspot.com Timothy

    Well, this is a bit OT, but in the spirit of finishing this sentence: Pajamas Media is _________________. I’d like to encourage y’all to join the Pajamas Media Death Pool.

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Last time I checked out the death pool, Timothy, it had all of $3. ;)

    I’d like to point out that three and a half million bucks can sustain a project for some time. It might be a long wait before you get to claim that $3!

  • http://pjmdeathpool.blogspot.com Timothy

    Hey, I need to update that, we’re all the way up to $6!

    And it won’t get bigger unless you contribute!

  • http://pjmdeathpool.blogspot.com Timothy

    Besides, it’s not about the money, it’s about the schadenfreude!

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Touché, though that old saying, twice nothing is still … does spring to mind, but I’m too big to mention that here.

  • Jim Jones

    Pajamas Media is a metaphor for the Iraq War. They aren’t trying to be the MSM; they’re trying to be the anti-MSM — that’s the main justification. But like the Iraq War, there were other justifications and the news feeds will provide handy denials. I suspect, however, that the real justification will never be uttered. The real justification is wrapped up in ego and the desire to be seen as a successful alternative media and not to waste all that political capital accrued from the relative success of amplifying the pro-war case when they had a broad coalition . But their unilateralism has alienated former allies and engendered anti-Pajamas Mediaism. Any suggestions of lack of planning or poor execution will be met with the same counter-rhetoric: critics are objectively pro-MSM, good news is being ignored, missteps aren’t that bad and are really more indicative of misunderestimated strategic genius, media realists are too cozy with the status quo and their own self-interest to accept revolutionary new ideas, defeatists suffer from Pajamas Media Derangement Syndrome and are simply full of hate, it’s us versus them and they hope for our failure and are motivated solely by their own desire for power and to bring us down without offering any alternatives, they even voted their support for this endeavor based on the same intelligence we had. Pajamas Media is staying the course. They will not admit to mistakes, be held accountable or accept responsibility for any shortcomings. Pajamas Media will become more insular over time as non-loyalists are purged and those who give bad advice but give good rationalizations are promoted. Eventually, they will revert back to campaign mode to defend against what are now clearly enemies, to recreate the buzz that once garnerd high approval ratings, and to explain again what Pajamas Media is about. Then, facing unrelenting snark without adequate armor, they will look for an exit strategy. Then Pajamas Media will become what it really is: just another group blog making the same arguments that once gained them some notoriety but have been long since played out. The MSM and the rest of the blogoshere will stand up and Pajamas Media will stand down. Mission accomplished.

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Baloney.

  • diane

    >They talk as if they are the first. I detect a form of snobbery that just
    > makes no sense.

    It may not be snobbery. Remember these people didn’t know how to use google to look open source media. They really think they’ve invented all these things.

  • http://www.horsebackriders.com Nick @ HBR

    Pajamas Media is the fat girl who calls you ugly.

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Had a traumatic experience somewhere along the line there, huh Nick?

  • http://www.americandaughter.com American Daughter

    “Somebody get these guys a mirror”

    But it IS smoke and mirrors.

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  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I’m working with a company right now that has a wonderul idea and all it’s ducks in a row. They’ve been pitching VC’s & Angels for months now to no success. The keep getting the same response: “We need to see a track record.” Makes you sick to see these other guys that have it so easy piss it all away.

  • http://www.bloodandtreasure.com Noel Guinane

    Cameron, you might not like it, but that’s life. Some people have advantages. And those of us who don’t have them have to earn them, but the opportunity to do that is there. Keep plugging away and one day you’ll have that track record that will open doors without you having to break them down first.

  • http://oraculations.blogspot.com Howard

    Let’s cut to the chase: they were out there to make money, not to put out a quality product, AND they just couldn’t start at the bottom and build; they, like Air America, just had to start at the top, and with OPM ($3.5 million, which may cause them additional problems) natch. I posted a couple of times at my place WITH a constructive suggestion.

  • Jeff Miller

    When I look at the blogs I read regularly, most of them are written by:

    a) former journalists
    b) Working journalists
    c) Bloggers associated with a traditional journalistic entity

    I don’t think that’s a coincidence. If you want to see what OSM / Pajamas should have been, take a look at TPMCafe. Josh has done a fantastic job bringing in lefties who know their shit cold to blog and he’s now going one step further by hiring muckrakers to do real journalism.

    Now that’s damned exciting. And it really is new media.

  • http://maddox.wordpress.com maddox

    My take on Pajamas media is that is direly in need of a father figure. Roger Simon is a dweeb, he has no leadership qualities. But think if they hired Maddox to lead them into the Blogosphere 2.0 they might have success. Probably not. They have really screwed up this time. Don’t they know that a bathrobe is not a pair of pajamas?

    That just shows you how incompetent they are. And they can’t get there site to be at pajamasmedia.com

    they are dorks.

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