The meaning of blog: NIck

The meaning of blog
: NIck Denton has been doing a lot of good thinking and talking about the future of the blogbiz lately, because he’s starting one. And he points today to somebody else smart who knows blogs and is thinking about them: Steven Johnson, cofounder of Feed and (full disclosure: where I served on the board of directors). Very wise words:

The true revolution promised by the rise of bloggerdom is not about journalism. It’s about information management. The bloggers have the potential to do something far more original than offer up packaged opinions on the news of the day; they can actually help organize the Web in ways tailored to your minute-by-minute needs. Often dismissed as self-obsessed “vanity sites,” the bloggers actually have an important collective role to play on the Web. But they’re not challengers to the throne of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. They’re challengers to the throne of Google.

And then Jason Kottke weighs in with the technical ways to make this happen. (To which I will add one comment: It is unwieldy to expect disorganized bloggers to reliably tag their content for reliable searching but it is not impossible to do some contextual analysis of the content of blogs to aid the process; that’s actually how the ill-fated Excite started when it was Architext; it could summarize the content and direction of a story with surprising clarity).

Anyway, I want to have lunch with these guys. At the Conde Nast cafeteria. On me. I’ll enjoy listing to smart people talking about a subject I love.

I sold my soul to the company store…
: Reid Stott has a wise response to my post below on marketing via blogs, saying that ad agencies will stare at us like confused German Shepherds if we try to sell them on community marketing in blogs. The conversation goes like this: “So, you want me to sponsor this forum, er, community thing. What’d you call it? A Blorg? OK, whatever, they’re talking about my market, I can see these are people I want to reach. How many ads do I get for my money, and how prominently will they be located?” In other words: Where’s my banner? And what’s my clickthrough? And what kind of discount do I get?

Reid’s absolutely right; that is just what would happen.

I have a small answer to him first, though: I have talked to a few marketers myself about this and for very little money (small to the marketers; to the bloggers, it’d be enough to buy plenty of Fat Burgers) these smart folks could sell their products to a targeted audience in a quality product and measure and test the results. One person wants to sell subscriptions this way. The real barrier: Getting the right collection of blogs (which is my next business… but that’s another story for another day).

Still, these are high barriers indeed. So Reid’s absolutely right that we’d better speak in neon-obvious terms and we’d better give the marketers — the advertisrs — just what they want if we ever have the slightest hope of making a penny.

Reid brings up an even more important point, though: Depending on ad agencies to support something new is dangerous. No, it’s deadly. For that’s what happened to the Internet, folks.

No matter what you read on f’dcompany or what I hear from my very wise wife, it’s not necessarily so that we were all dumb to give away our content. Take many a high-gloss magazine; by the time you acquire the subscriber (upwards of $30 per) and pay for the printing and postage (upwards of $60 per year) and then take in only $1 per issue (which you share with the sales agent), you are losing something like $75 per subscriber. But clearly, you make money because that audience is valuable to advertisers who want to speak to them and who want to be associated with this magazine’s gloss. That’s the way the biz works (at least in the U.S.).

On the Internet, we weren’t going to spend a fortune on paper and postage and subscriber acquisition marketing but we were going to have a valuable relationship with our audience and we were going to make lots of money from advertising because we could target and measure our performance better than any medium before.

Didn’t work. At all. Why?

Ad agencies didn’t buy it.

They often said that this is not a “branding medium” — that gloss does not rub off on a computer screen. They’re wrong about that but then, they’re the ones with the checkbooks.

They said that we weren’t giving them sufficient measurement or, when we were, we weren’t giving them sufficient return on investment. They’re wrong there, too, because we are efficient and can prove it. But they have the checkbooks.

They treated us as a fringe or niche medium when, in fact, we are now mass; lots of online media properties are as big as or bigger than their print and audio and video forebears; the audience is online bigtime. But again, they have the checkbooks.

And the truth is, I can’t blame the agencies too much. It’s not their job to develop new media and I wouldn’t want it to be (anymore than I would want ad agencies to decide what a good TV show is or how it should be written or who should star in it). Ad agencies have a job to do: They sell products. We, on the media side (even this, the amateur end of media) have our job to do: We deliver a quality product and a devoted audience. If we can do that well and simply, as Reid counsels, I think we could actually make something out of this. But it will take a great deal of work and selling (not begging) … and praying.

: So I think I’m just going to prostitute myself and go for the ultimate in advertising, full product placement, a plug a day. I like Cosi sandwiches and coffee in New York (even if they are a bit high-priced) and so I’m going to hope that this will get me a free sandwich, at least. Grilled chicken, cheddar, and dijon, please. I expect to see Sullivan holding up his favorite antacid, Reynolds his favorite firearm, Lileks his favorite cookie…

: Eric Jacobson writes: “your comment on German Shepherds reminded me of an obituary of David Eggers’ Might magazine: ‘Advertisers regarded the magazine the same way you might look at a retarded kitten.’ (don’t remember the source, sorry)”

I’m glad it wasn’t any of my magazines. Or I hope it wasn’t.

: And the alleged Eric A. Blair nya-nyas bloggers for being poor. Patron of the arts that he is.

: Blogs are, as Oliver Willis predicted, at least leading to books; a list of current titles on Microcontent News.

: All of which makes me wonder: If I were writing a business plan for blogging (oxymoronic as that would be), I wonder what it would look like — infrastructure, audience, cost, revenue….

Bang, bang
: I’m starting to get the response one would expect after criticizing guns. Gunner20 is preparing a response. Just to be clear, here’s what I just emailed to him: “it’s not that i say owning a gun is a sign of imbalance (though i do confess to not understanding the appeal); it’s unwillingness to try to license them that strikes me as a loose string on the mandolin.”

The path to the future has potholes
: The first Segway accident. [via Shift]

Deep think
: Ralph Nader takes on Belo for its policy against deep linking.