Link love/Tough love

Link love/Tough love

: This story makes me wonder why anyone would pay attention to reporters analyzing a story when they could hear instead from a pro who speaks from experience — that is, a player who blogs.

I’ll start near the beginning: Jason Calacanis, founder of WeblogsInc, sent me and VC Fred Wilson emails gently whining that we had not given his new Autoblog any link love.

Fred returned, instead, with some tough love. He gave Jason some very fine advice. Damning with faint praise, he said Autoblog was the best looking of WeblogInc’s blogs thus far; he then went on to say the rest “feel very bland.” Next, he said he doesn’t care about cars, being a New Yorker. Next, he asked, “Where is the advertising?” And finally, he said:

I am not sure I get where Jason is going with Weblogs Inc. I thought it was a trade publishing model with a focus on tech and startups. But now he’s got Engadget, AutoBlog, and BlogMaverick which are more consumer focused. It may be that he’s putting up a lot and seeing what sticks. That’s not a bad model early in a market. But I think he’s eventually got to pick a target market and focus on it.

Bottom line – Autoblog is a nice blog. I bet it will build a good audience. I am rooting for Jason and everyone else who is trying to turn blogs into a business. Jason is smart, scrappy, hungry, bold, brave, and agressive. He’ll figure it out.

I agree with Fred. Most startups begin wanting to do a half-dozen things and then finally figure out the one thing they should be doing. Jason did the opposite: He started with a clear focus on trade tech blogs and then expanded into a half-dozen things from consumer to celebrity to software. I’d advise Jason to focus on building a big business on what he has proven he knows well: Take trade content and build it into a content, advertising, data, report, and conference business under a strong brand — but at less cost than in the old, print world and way ahead of any of those old, print competitors. A company needs to figure out its essence — just as I advised SixApart that they should be doing — and that’s what I happen to think the essence of WeblogsInc. will (or should) be.

But that’s not the point of telling the story. What impressed me about this little episode is that here’s Fred Wilson, a top-of-the-heap VC who has raised and won (and, of course, lost) more money than most of us can count, giving free — and public — advice to Jason.

I happened to sit last week with Fred and his partner Brad Burnham (who ought to be the next blogging VC) as I introduced them to someone else and as we chatted about this company and that, I was impressed anew with a VC’s ability to summarize the essence of companies and industries and opportunities and risks in just a sentence. Through experience, they take on the art of abstraction of poets. And that’s what Fred is giving Jason in that post. And he’s doing in public, so — unlike any time before — we get to watch and listen and learn. It benefits Jason. It benefits Fred or else he wouldn’t do it; this is how he will make contact with people who will come into the relationship knowing what he thinks. It benefits our baby industry because, as Fred says, if Jason succeeds it’s good for everyone else who wants to succeed in this space. And it benefits us, the VC voyeurs.

Finally, that’s what makes me think there’s no reason to listen to the analysis of a reporter who makes himself an instant expert on a company or an industry when we can go to a player’s blog and learn from their expertise and experience.

Welcome to our new transparent world.