Posts from March 25, 2004

Bloggercon: The business of blogs

Bloggercon: The business of blogs

: I’m delighted that Dave Winer has asked me to handle a session at Bloggercon (I had a ball playing Oprah — complete with bad words — at the last BCon).

The topic: Making blogs a business.

Please start the discussion here and now. In Dave’s wise view of these sessions, there are no panels — hell, in this area, there are no experts (yet) — and so everybody is on the panel, everybody is an expert, it’s all your show. Shape it now. Ask questions. Push the discussion. Let’s get to Cambridge ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Let’s make clear from the very start: Many people don’t want their blogs to be a business. Dandy.

But for those who do, I want to see everyone in the room answer two questions (or you tell me what the questions are) in a giant white-board business brainstorming session. My starting list:

1. What is the business potential of blogs? What is their value? Can they sell products? Can they sell subscriptions (to themselves or to other media)? Can they provide consumer opinion and buzz? What about sponsorship and underwriting? How many tip jars can the world support? What about blogging for The Man? Is Google enough to support this medium? Let’s sell blogs to ourselves and find all the ways they can be supported financially.

2. What’s required to make that happen — from a business and a technical perspective? Do we need reliable ways to count traffic, demographics, behavior, authority, and so on? Do we need technology for standard ad calls and reporting? Do we need our own PR to sell the value of blogs to marketers?

And we should also ask: What are the booby traps? How should bloggers handle conflict of interest? Do we need to guard against our readers being ripped off by bad advertisers? Do bloggers need to worry about being ripped off? Does it ruin this personal medium to become a business medium?

That’s just a start. So keep the discussion going now — here and on the Bloggercon site.

Hope to see you and hear you in Cambridge!

: Here’s the run-up to Jay Rosen’s session on journalism at Bloggercon (I’ll be there).

: And here’s the start of the power law discussion (based on Clay Shirky‘s writing), to be led by Nick Denton.

: Henry Copeland of Blogads is properly reminding us all that weblogs already make money — thanks to Blogads (plus Google AdSense). Sorry. I assumed that. No need to sell the sold. Blogads is growing like mad. But I’m also talking about how to get the most out of that — for example, how do we get more blogs involved and convince more advertisers to use them — and how to imagine new value and new revenue; let’s dream!


: Damn. I have tried to move every mountain to go to David Isenberg‘s WTF but those damned mountains won’t budge. The agenda looks great. If you’re around NY, go! And blog!

Koranized for your protection

Koranized for your protection
: Fleet Street Blogger sends us to an absurd story in the Guardian about the Guardian:

A newsagent cut pictures out of the Guardians he sold this week because it offended him. The picture was of a sword over the Koran.

As FleetStreet points out, what’s even more disturbing is that the customers who bought that paper and the paper itself didn’t complain but instead tripped over themselves to be PC about it:

In a letter published in the paper yesterday, a human rights lawyer, John Rowe QC, described buying his Guardian “in this most tolerant of cities” and finding that it had a front page hole.

He said yesterday: “I bought my Guardian, went to Starbuck’s, got my tall latte, settled down, opened the paper – and found I could see Deansgate through it.

“I raced back to the shop and asked ‘What have you done here?’ and was told ‘I have done it to all of them’.”

In his letter, Mr Rowe said: “We parted amicably and I quite enjoyed being tolerant.”

Well, yes, that’s where the media world is going: Why not go to a newsstand that matches your sensibilities: We take out all stories Republican [or Democrats] wouldn’t like as an addes service for our customers.

Arrrrgh. [Thanks, Nick]


: I happen to have today’s Rumsfeld briefing on and the questions are particularly dumb today.

One guy asks how many terrorists are there who want to attack the U.S. Well, how the hell could he know? Hold still, Osama, it’s time for the annual American-hating terrorist census.

And then another reporter gets all PC asking whether it was in poor taste for the President to joke about trying to find WMDs at last night’s radio and TV correspondents’ dinner — and Rumsfeld wasn’t even at the dinner and didn’t tell the joke or laugh at it. Oy. Spare me a world in which the secretary of defense has to pass a daily PC cuddly test.

The apology

The apology
: Something’s not resting well with Richard Clarke’s apology for September 11. He said before the commission and families of victims yesterday:

i also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television.

Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.

This assumes that government absolutely could have stopped the attack — and failed. Oh, I wish we could be guaranteed that government absolutely could stop these things but I’ve seen no proof or assurance of that.

He’s practically treating government the way a fundamentalist treats God: an omnipotent being who could and would intervene and fix this if he wanted to. So he’s turning government into a bad god — is that thus a devil? — who could have stopped these attacks but didn’t; it failed.

It may seem like he’s quite the mensch by including himself in this apology: “I failed.” But he’s throwing himself on his rhetorical sword so he can accuse the government — the administration — of failing and thus, by its sins of omission and negligence, of practically being complicit in the deaths. I find that offensive; As I said yesterday, it plays into the politicization of 9/11; it makes this about us vs. us instead of us vs. them.

When I first heard Clarke’s apology and the start of his testimony, I thought there might be something to listen to here. I haven’t said much about Clarke because I haven’t yet decided what I think of what he’s saying. But I have to say that as his apology sat on the stomach like a bad burrito and came up this morning like a burp, I came to think that his apology was disingenous, melodramatic, and ultimately divisive.


: David Schuler has more to say on the apology, including this: “There is so much room for the assignment of blame that the very act of attempting to assign blame is frivolous.”

: Rex Hammock is mad:

Okay, Mr. Clarke. The government that failed those families has now dedicated billions of dollars and hundreds of lives of its courageous military to stamp out those who threaten our shores. In all theaters of battle, young American soldiers and sailors have printed the the words, “We shall never forget” on weapons, vehicles and military aircraft in honor of those who died on 9/11.

Mr. Clarke, what similar level of resitution have you displayed for your failure other than an attempt to cash in on that tragedy with your book promotion? And now, on the graves of those victims, you grandstand an apology to promote its marketing efforts.

So therefore, Mr. Clarke, I suggest you do this: Announce today that ALL PROCEEDS of the book (not just a portion of the profits, but ALL PROCEEDS) will go to one of the funds that have been set up for the families of the victims…or another specific charity that will help give meaning to your disingenous apology.

: EVENING UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg responds to the apology:

But just reading those words in newspaper reports made me think that the words of the former head of counterterrorism will go down as one of those defining moments in American public life, like the Army-McCarthy hearings’ “Have you no decency, sir, at long last” or the Watergate hearings’ “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Because Clarke’s words exposed a deep emotional vacuum in the Bush administration’s handling of 9/11. Bush and his team won widespread acclaim for their bullhorn-toting, Bible-waving, smart-bomb-dropping reaction to the terror attacks. And each of those responses had its place, accomplished something in the long process of coming to terms with the death and destruction of that day. But the Bush approach, with its macho swagger punctuated by interludes of lower-lip-biting moments of silence for our collective loss, has never fully satisfied the national psyche.

Oh, fercrhissake, this is not about feelings! This is about life and death! This is about finding bad guys and killing them before they kill us. Enough with apologies and emotions and psyches. This is war. Let’s go win it.