Posts about Business

Buzz, blogs, and bucks

The Wall Street Journal tries to find a story in bloggers being on the advisory board of FON and blogging about it but they don’t come away with much because most of those bloggers disclosed that they were on the advisory board.

This raises a question about conflict of interest — a question with a pretty simple answer: Disclose.

But it raises a bigger question about whether all these bloggers are trying to be journalists. They’re not. Some are just people. Some are advocates. Some are journalists. Newspapers tend to think that if it has words it must be somebody trying to be like them. But that’s not always the case and it’s a mistake to think that all bloggers are trying to be minimedia. They are what they are: people.

And those people do, indeed, need to care for their credibility. If a neighbor told me to go buy tile at a great store and didn’t tell me he owned a piece of it, I’d be pissed if I found that out after I had a problem with the place; I wouldn’t trust his next recommenation much. Credibility and trust matter in life as they are supposed to matter in journalism. Trust is the organizing principle of life.

But that doesn’t mean that we all have to take some journalistic vow of uninvolvement. What, David Isenberg can’t both write about open networks and be involved in them? Of course, that’s ridiculous. David Isenberg has a stance on networks and I expect him to live and talk from that perspective.

Similarly, considering my health hiccup of late, I’ve been reading lots of sites and blogs and articles and PowerPoints by lots of people, including some from the company that makes the drug that I’m taking now. I know their perspective. I take that into account. But I find them all valuable. In fact, I find what some of the affiliated people have to say more valuable than some of the unaffiliated precisely because I do know their perspective.

The secret to this is disclosure. And the irony of this is, of course, that journalists are the worst at disclosing. They think they shouldn’t or don’t have to but they are the ones who demand that everyone else should disclose. Doctor, take your own medicine.

: Don Dodge also writes about how much easier it is to launch a company today in part because you don’t have to do through the gatekeepers of the press. Witness the launch of CoComment this week, upon which I commented along with many others. They launched via blogs and they got help doing that from the guy who understands spreading a message via blogs better than most anyone: Hugh MacLeod. Says Dodge:

We now live in a meritocracy. Money, VCs, and the press no longer decide what will be successful. Great products/services with intuitive designs that solve a real problem win.

The people who are in the best position to know what’s good are often those are most deeply involved in the arena a company is entering. Once I know their relationship, I can judge what the say accordingly, can’t you?

: And here is my disclosure.

: LATER: David Weinberger responds to the article. He’s nicer about it than I would have been. But then, he’s nicer than I am.

: Doc has links to much more discussion.

Breaking up is easy to do

Paid Content is reading the giant Lazard report urging the break-up of Time Warner so we don’t have to. Here’s The Times coverage. And Gawker quotes Michael Wolfe’s Vanity Fair column arguing that Time Warner doesn’t have a reason to exist.

In some sense, the best that people can say about Time Warner is it is somehow not like other companies–which are fundamentally about ownership and control. It’s a postmodern entity: the inevitable result of consolidation is that everything is connected in such a tortured and ham-handed way that nothing is quite connected….

No investor, man on the street, politician with his finger in the wind, or employee would tell you differently: Time Warner, along with all the other centralized, vertically integrated, horizontally organized, multi-platform-function media companies, is just too big. The idea of agglomeration without limit turned out not to be such a good one. A no-brainer bad one….

There may be nobody who actually believes in big media anymore.

And this, folks, is why I do not think that media consolidation is an evil ready to eat up the world. Media consolidation makes companies too big and too dumb and the marketplace will take care of them.

I can’t wait to get my proxy to vote on Icahn’s efforts to break up (AOL) Time Warner. I’ll vote yes.

AOhell: Some people never learn

Steve Case wrote a Washington Post op-ed yesterday that made the lead of the front page of The Times today, pushing for breaking up the merger he made.

Pardon me for being just a little cynical, but the Time Warner stock I got while working there, which I stupidly held onto, was the FU money that F’ed me. And Steve Case is greatly to blame. He is the snakeoil salesman who sold a bill of goods — a company whose strategy he neglected — to the gullible, directionless, frightened fools at Time Warner.

Yet in the Post op-ed, Case is incredibly unselfaware. He paints AOL is the victim in the worst merger in history. And he doesn’t bother taking for engineering that failure.

While most criticism of the merger has focused on how it has failed to yield the expected benefits for Time Warner, it is worth noting that the combination has not helped AOL much either. Some benefits that AOL expected — such as replacing Road Runner, Time Warner’s broadband cable service — did not materialize. Meanwhile, unexpected roadblocks — such as internal pressures slowing AOL’s efforts to make Internet telephone service commercially available — unfortunately did. Instead of propelling AOL to new heights, the association with Time Warner has weighed AOL down, while its competitors, such as Google and Yahoo, have made important strides forward.

Case argues that Time Warner should be split into four parts: cable, publishing, entertainment, online. I actually agree on that score, as I agree with Carl Icahn that a drastic and clean split has to be made. Richard Parsonsis taking the baby steps that have always been characteristic for the company: He hinted at selling AOL, which was only a feint, and then at selling a piece of AOL, also a feint, to try to raise the value of an ad/distribution deal with Google or MSN. He doesn’t do the strategically bold thing. The last strategically bold thing this company did was merge with AOL. Ah-hem. The last strategically bold thing they did before that was merge with Warner Bros. and the only reason that worked was because there was a mogul, Steve Ross, truly in charge of the company. After that, the company was not run on vision. Instead, they thought it would be run on cooperation … in a culture where everyone hates everyone else. They still haven’t figured out how to spell sinergy synergee cynirgy synergy. So without a mogul truly in charge — a Ross or a Murdoch — the only sensible option for Time Warner is to break it up.

And the day that happens, I’ll sell my stock as fast as I can. I’ll be more than happy to sell that AOL stock to Steve Case. That would be justice.

Customers’ revenge

: I got a great hoot out of this: My Dell Hell saga is now the subject of a white paper by three UK PR, marketing, and monitoring firms. It’s a PDF, even.

I’m not sure I understand their methodology but they profess to find a new measure for an “issue influence index” and they say that Buzzmachine is influential in impressions of Dell customer support. They say that through their calculations regarding searches on Dell customer service…

a) Jeff Jarvis’s Buzzmachine is the key online source for those who have a negative perception of Dell’s customer service;

b) Its influence is enhanced by support from a closely allied group of bloggers;

c) Dell’s own influence on the topic of its poor customer service is weak; …

e) Taken all in all, Jeff Jarvis’s Buzzmachine is the eleventh most influential voice on Dell’s customer service in general….

That’s a lot of fun, but I don’t buy it. I don’t think I influenced a thing. I do think that I happened to be a magnet for an apparently unlimited number of unhappy and frustrated Dell customers who were already there with lots of pent-up anger (and the parade doesn’t end; I still get emails and comments and links from Dell victims every day, though there’s really nothing I can do for them).

I was merely a leading indicator of the problems that had built up in Dell’s customer base with its unreliable products and unsatisfying service. I could have put my story out there and no one could have responded. Instead, hundreds responded. When you saw that, folks, you should have sold your Dell stock. Fast.

: See also Thomas Hawk’s story of his complaints against a New York camera story that mushroomed with stories online — some of which referred to my Dell Hell — and attacks against the store’s site and phones, apparently by fellow bloggers. Hawk doesn’t endorse that. Neither do I. Nonetheless, every customer-facing service and brand has to learn: We have more friends than you do.

: And while we’re on the topic of pissed off consumers getting their revenge… Nick Denton launches his newest blog, Consumerist, for shoppers with bad attitudes. It…

…hates paying for shoddy products, inhumane customer support, and half-assed service….

The Consumerist will highlight the persistent, shameless boners of modern consumerism — and the latest hot deals, discounts, and freebies around.

Join us. You’ll tell us when you’ve been royally screwed by yet another company, and we’ll channel your rage. Together we will storm the revolving doors of faceless corporations to call them naughty words for genitals, and they will begin to fear us.

The Consumerist. Capitalism is broken. We’ll help you fix it.

: LATER: When you click on this link, you will see how it is a perfect circle, jerk.

Another dull blow to newspaper kidneys

Microsoft is now going into the free classifieds business.