Posts from May 2002

11thOn Sunday, I said that

On Sunday, I said that I had missed the fact that the day before was the 11th. It was the first 11th I had missed since September. I thought it might be a sign of healing.

I was wrong.

Sunday night, I watched Telling Nicholas on HBO, a documentary about a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother in the World Trade Center attacks and about his family’s struggle to tell him that she was gone. We are brought into his family’s home on Staten Island as they hopelessly hold onto hope, as the wacky sister feuds with her brothers-in-law, as the family gives DNA samples to try to identify their loved one, as the filmmaker befriends the son of a Muslim victim of the attacks, as the grandmother goes into her dead daughter’s apartment for the first time after the attacks and faints.

I couldn’t believe where this was heading; I couldn’t believe what they did:

They recorded the moments when Nicholas’ father told him that his mother was dead. They recorded this dear little boy crying his life out. They recorded him telling his family that “my Mommy is dead.”

I was enraged at the filmmaker and at HBO for this sinful theft of privacy, for this shameful lack of respect, for exploiting this child’s unspeakable pain to make its point.

Point made: The pain is not over. The fear is not over. This crime wounded all of us. It especially wounded the young. It wounded the future. The pain is unspeakable. It could have been any of us. It could have been our children.

They did not need to use this poor little boy to say that.

God, it hurt.

I had not cried once since September 11, not once, no matter what, not from my own memories of surviving the attack, not even from seeing other families devastated, not from the nightmares.

Sunday night, I cried.

A question
: Can any and all of you who know of newspaper people who maintain blogs please send me addresses (email at right)? Thanks much!

Mirror, mirror, on the Web….
: It’s no surprise that the Weblog Foundation idea is No. 2 on blogdex and No. 3 with a bullet on Daypop. Face it: It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in this self-referential world to write about blogs and then wait for blogs to link to something about blogs. Jane, stop this crazy thing!

: Also predictably — and properly — thoughtful counter thinking and concens are bubbling up.

From Olivier Travers: “I personally don’t see the problem Jeff Jarvis is trying to solve…”

And W6Daily says: “From the Too Much Time On His Hands department: Jeff Jarvis has an idea that he thinks might change everything for weblogs. The Weblog Foundation seems to be an idea balanced on the edge of a knife. It has the potential to be something good, and a perhaps-equal potential to be a self-serving ego trip for the select few bloggers that are able to take advantage of it, the ‘in crowd.’ ”

: If you wonder why I thought a foundation was needed, hear these tin cups rattling.

Weblog Foundation: Reaction: Thanks, everybody,

Weblog Foundation: Reaction
: Thanks, everybody, for links to the Weblog Foundation idea today (scroll down or click here).

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.

: Glenn Reynolds offered links and support before anyone. Ditto Eric Olsen.

: 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…

Good Web, Bad Web: Compare

Good Web, Bad Web
: Compare and contrast Bj

It’s about time: Cats closes.

It’s about time
: Cats closes.

Adam Pepper
: Do not miss Dawn Olsen’s [other half of power blogging couple with Eric Olsen] takedown of Adam “I’d vote for Pim” Curry:

What was Glenn Reynolds thinking when he resurrected this relic from the 80’s, who in his heyday was an uncool – disconnected from anything remotely cool, without one fucking ounce of coolness in him – helplessly rejected, bad-hair-life-having, sphincter-plug? It just brings back horrible, terrifying, nightmarish thoughts of ’80s hairmetal and all the cliches that go with it.

If you haven’t guessed who I am talking about, let me help you out: Adam Curry. He was the 80’s Carson Daly minus any semblance of a sense of humor and with less charm. Just because the guy lives in Amsterdam, was once a celebrity, and has an opinion (which I couldn’t give two rat hairs about) regarding Pim Fortuyn doesn’t make him any more newsworthy than any other useless, washed-up has-been.

I went to his site just to be sure I wasn’t missing something that more intelligent people may have picked up on, and guess what: I am not missing a damn thing. I did discover he is still a pompous, ego-inflated, wholly uninteresting dwid with worse grammar and spelling than mine. Can someone tell me why this abomination has been dragged back into the spotlight? Is it so he could be cruelly and maliciously ridiculed? Is it to give us an example of what NOT to aspire to? Or is Glenn just being subversively funny and I didn’t get the joke?

Go, girl.

: Now Richard Bennett weighs in on the commercial future of blogs, arguing that technology will replace Instapundit et al.

That’s a technologists view of things.

It misses one crucial, human element: Opinion. Voice. Personality. That is what weblogs bring to the party. Steven Johnson and Richard Bennett are right that weblogs do a good job of pointing to the most notable stories, by the weight of their linking. But that’s not the only reason I read [pardon me for not linking these; I’m lazy sated with red wine] Reynolds, Welch, Layne, Denton, Johnson, et al. I read them because they’re readable. They have something to say. They’re human. They’re not just a search engine. That’s still a virtue.

All this talk has inspired a Big Idea in me. More soon.

Phone mail jail via Kafka
: Hilarous post from Nick Denton today on the perils of technology.

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.