I got what I hoped for from the Blogosphere: lots of support, lots of questions, a little good argument. And I got lots of email. I will not answer it all; I’m holding onto it as I let the idea ripen and we see what’s next. Let’s call this a week’s comment period. Among the reaction:
: Nick Denton called it “brilliantly obvious.” I was hoping for “obviously brilliant,” but I’ll take what I can get.
: Metafilter has an active thread. Some folks object to any advertising on weblogs. Some say money ruins weblogs: “money taints.” Others say it’s no different from giving grants to artists. Then again, others say this is hardly an art form.
: Matt Welch frets about organizations that “create ‘standards’ or prattle on about ‘ethics.’ ” Amen. I don’t want to see us start some dutiful, PC PBS/NPR/NEA quota club.
: Esteemed pioneer Meg Hourihan posted and emailed encouraging notes.
: Reid Stott wisely says he hopes that various visions for weblogs’ future come together. I agree. If a strong commercial venture emerges, this should recede; this idea is only meant to pave ways, fill gaps.
: Dr. Frank says it’s “so crazy it might just work.”
: Richard Bennett says: “I used to joke that we made a mistake in the design of the Internet by making the ‘money’ module a sub-class of ‘porn;’ let’s do a redesign where it’s a subclass of ‘publishing.’ ”
: Howard Owens fears that ads would distract from blogger content.
: John Scalzi asks: “Why? Why must Weblogs be profitable at all? One of their attractions is that there is no moderating influence on their content: No editors, no advertisers to piss off, no rules other than what the ‘blogger imposes on him or herself….”
: Ken Layne fears that he has financial coodies: “When it comes to making money, it’s best to leave out the likes of me and Welch. We’ll be there with sweat and labor and writing once the operation is safe for money-making.” But he likes it anyway.
A start… We’ll see how this ferments.
Proposal: The Weblog Foundation
: I propose the creation of The Weblog Foundation for the advancement of weblogs and online media.
The foundation would support weblogs with hosting, software, and honorariums for a wide array of selected webloggers. It would raise money from sponsor/underwriters, who would receive advertising on selected weblogs, as well as from technology underwriters, readers’ contributions, and other activities.
I’m inspired to suggest this by the considerable discussion lately about the financial prospects of blogging. See Eric Olsen (multiple posts); Reid Stott on the difficulty of selling to advertisers; Nick Denton, who will help bring commerce to weblogs; Glenn Reynolds; Mickey Kaus, now making money on Slate); Christopher “Gonzo Marketing” Locke, who inspired part of this idea; Steven Johnson; Jason Kottke; Andrew Sullivan, who’s actually getting money for his weblog; Richard Bennett; Doc Searls, and me and me again, — not to mention recent Oliver Twist “please, suh, may I have some more” posts from the great Matt Welch, Ken Layne, and Charles Johnson.
I’m not waving the white flag of financial surrender and declaring weblogs to be unprofitable. Quite to the contrary, I believe that we need to take action such as this to prove that weblogs can be profitable. We need to demontrate their value to the Web, to media, to advertisers, and to society. We need to bring business discipline to the world of weblogging so we can show advertisers (aka sponsors or underwriters) how to use weblog to reach influencers and give them the responsiveness they demand. I had at first thought of this as a for-profit company, a weblog ad agency. But based on experience on the Internet, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. This is too new, too strange to advertisers (as Stott makes clear). We must prove our value first.
If we do not do this, then I fear that many great weblogs will disappear as life and its bills get in the way. But if we do this, I believe we can support (and not compete with) commercial ventures from Denton, Henry Copeland, other entrepreneurs and individual webloggers.
Thus, the foundation. If you like the idea and would support it — with effort, with promotion on your own weblog, with contributions — then email me.
Here is the complete proposal with more details on how it would work…