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January 26, 2006

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Jason

>> he still doesn't have a handle on what bottom-up
>> grassroots really is, and it can't be faked,
>> manufactured, freeped, stapled, mutilated, or folded.

Curious, what do you base that on?

We have 150 unfiltered bloggers getting paid to blog about what they are passionate about--how is that not bottom up?

>> He came in thinking money and top down

That is not true. I never thought about the money or be top down--that's laughable in fact.

We never tried to control our bloggers--they would leave if we did! We simply took on all the grunt work (tech, accountings, sales, etc) and let blogger do their thing.

Chris

Hi Jason, thanx for stopping by. I'm assuming this is really you and not a spoofer.

Sorry if it seemed like I was taking a cheap swipe. Top down vs bottom up stuff is a bit of an ongoing meme I have on here, and I think I blogged something on your $25M deal back when it came out, I'll have to look up the permalink.

I will try to respectfully address your questions here, tho.

I will agree that you came into the blog movement fairly respectful of its forms and mores. In other words, yup, you certainly do let your people run and focus on platform and promotional issues. You were building a stable of bloggers, and I see nothing wrong with that. You did a good job of it. Others (Huffington) are doing the same thing in different forms, and I think there can be power in creating an influential stable of folks.

So in respect to form, I have no quarrel.

Where iss-ewws kick in with me is with concepts and terms that were carried over, like cobwebs still clinging to our clothing, from the late 1990s buzzwords. You were a guy of that moment, and I read your magazine quite often.

So you came in with big talk about how to "monetize" this thing, and with huge numbers about the potential you saw in it. Now you can make the case, justifiably, that your prediction certainly came to pass, at least for Weblogs, Inc. I'll grant you that. The focused energy and work you put into it paid off.

Critics have chimed in that the pay scale for your bloggers is a tad out of whack in relation to that $25M valuation, but of all I've seen of they way those things break down, you base it on traffic, but with a fairly low base rate. It could provide incentive for bloggers in your stable to adopt an "anything for a hit" kind of senasational appeal, but that isn't what fuels Engadget, which is your big anchor.

When you take a comparison to Gillmor's Bayosphere venture, or Jonathan Weber's NewWest.net, you see some of the different values I'm looking at, citizen journalism values, community-building values, both failures and successes and inbetween. I don't mean to compare apples and oranges, but I am casting around looking all different types of stables of bloggers and writers and how they function. You might argue that those ventures aren't reaching for higher valuations, VC, or big buy-outs (for that matter, to some extent they eschew that world and its vocabulary), so maybe there's no comparison at all, except that you are all part of this blog-media landscape.

I want to make sure I don't ramble too much and address the issues you raise above. I'd guess I make the claim that you came in thinking money and top down because of the statements I read from you quoted in the press back at the time of your launch, because you invoked all those dot.com bubble words, talked big valuations, talked about how much gold might be in these hills. I don't have the links to those articles handy, but I may have blogged about them at the time, so I can probably dig a little and find them.

If those articles were not true representations of your position at that time, perhaps you did try to correct the inaccurate reporting that I base my assumptions on, and somehow I missed reading the corrections. If so, I apologise, as I'd be happy to give you the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that you were looking for and found a buyer so quickly (and in interests of full disclosure, I should note that your buyer was a division of the company I work for, my day job. You could be giving my stock options a boost, dude) does imply that the desire for high valuations, perhaps inflated valuations (a matter of opinion, but you of all people should know how sensitive the whiff of inflated valuations is to many folks in this biz), is perhaps not as laughable as you claim above.

Where I won't split hairs is on whether my grassroots is better than someone's else's grassroots. You know the tech community, and if that is your grassroots, then I'll let you claim it. I tend to think of the tech community as more related to the elites of our culture in general, people who have access to privileged technology, the newest toys, the cutting edge stuff. But just because they are elite and many ordinary folks can't get their hands on a lot of that stuff doesn't make them any less rank and file than they wanna be, I guess.

But in the frame I'm looking at, I want things to trickle down further, and bubble up more. Maybe I'm still not out in the land of Joe Six Pack (except perhaps in my day job), because the citizen journalism stuff I'm thinking about are people who still do have online access, even if on machines in libraries or cybercafes.

I mean, one of the neatest things I saw NewWest.net doing around Missoula, an area that is definitely not dripping with money and rich people, is sponsoring branded WiFi hot spots at all kinds of Joe & Jane Six Pack restaurants and coffeeshops around town, because Missoula is a town that isn't dominated by big chain generica. The point was to reach the people who weren't the elites, and to give them avenues to participate in the citizen journalism in their community.

Reaching ordinary folks, that's what I see as the biggest challenge for ventures like NewWest.net and Bayosphere. That was, I think, the thorn in Dan Gillmor's side in making Bayosphere work. I don't know how it will go for NewWest, but I like the things Jonathan and Courtney are trying.

So that's the context I was commenting in. You can probably still take issue with what I wrote, but that would depend on how married you are to the statements you made in the press at the time you first launched your venture. You know how folks buzzed and characterized it at that time, and later, with the sale. You are primarily a franchiser, not a content provider. I guess that's the way I'd characterize it. You're looking to increase the value of your franchise, regardless of the value of your content, or the communities connected with it. That's a matter of emphasis, and not necessarily a value judgment. Although it could be.

Thank you for pressing me on the issue, as it gave me an opportunity to justify myself and not just fall into sloppy or lazy thinking, or hasty generalizations.

Chris

Jason

There are so many errors in what you're saying that it would take me hours to fix them. I'll just take on this one for now:

>> You are primarily a franchiser, not a content
>> provider.

Not true. Take a look at the coverage we did of CES. Take a look at the two Bill Gates interviews we did in the last year. Or the tell the six bloggers doing sundance with me right now that we are not a content provider. That is a silly statement... we produce content all day long. We reviewed more movies than Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Indiewire--COMBINED--at this sundance.

>> You're looking to increase the value of your
>> franchise, regardless of the value of your content,
>> or the communities connected with it. That's a matter
>> of emphasis, and not necessarily a value judgment.

That is just dumb. Of course we care about our community--both the readers and our bloggers. BloggingBaby, Cinematical, Engadget, and Autoblog all have huge communities associated with them These folks read the sites multiple times a day, post comments, and our bloggers are recruited from our readers!

We are obsessed with the quality of our content.

If you want to base your opinion on quotes you can't even remember that's fine, but I think you should go look at Engadget, TVSquad, etc. and talk to the bloggers who work really hard to make those sites before you make blanket statements.


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