I’ve learned so much about writing from John Battelle and all the FM authors I’ve collaborated with since 2005, but I’m still having trouble finding the right words to announce that I’ll be leaving FM.
It was almost exactly 4 years ago that John, Andre Torrez, Jen Charette and I huddled around a whiteboard upstairs from a garage in Ross, CA, trying to convince ourselves that we could convince brand advertisers to support independent blog authors with their media dollars. Along the way, we’ve been luckier than we could have imagined back then. Our greatest luck was finding a group of kindred spirits to help us turn this idea into a media business. I’m so grateful for the support of the independent publishers who are rethinking how brands can join the conversations they facilitate; to the marketing innovators at large companies who put their necks out and entrusted us with their brands; and to the 80 some-odd people who share a passion for the FM idea so deeply they’ve put it on their business cards. You are the greatest teachers I’ve ever known. A special thanks to you, John, for giving me the opportunity to help shape FM, and for having the faith to make me your partner in crime.
It’s time, though, for my next adventure.
In the coming weeks I’ll be joining some old friends and business colleagues at Digg, to be its publisher and chief revenue officer. In the spring of 2006, I first met Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson when they came up to Sausalito to talk to Battelle and me about an FM-Digg partnership to bring brands and sponsors to Digg. For the next year and half I spent lots of time with Mike Maser and John Moffett, two of the business leads at Digg. A small group of us (some on the FM payroll, others on the Digg payroll) worked with Intel to bring the Digg community some new product experiences, such as and , a labs project that provided a view of Digging activity at the topic and subtopic-level. We also partnered with IBM, Sony and others to build new, of Digg that aggregated and republished already-Dugg content about their own brands.
In the grand scheme of online advertising, these were small experiments. But the Digg process made an impression on me. Sometimes the best sponsorship ideas came from Kevin, ostensibly the head of product. Other times, Mike (the head of business) hit the pause button on a half baked — but fully funded — idea to make sure the sponsor integration wouldn’t disrupt the authenticity of conversation among the Digg audience. The best media businesses always work this way. Advertising doesn’t perform for the advertisers if it doesn’t also resonate with the audience; it succeeds only when it enhances the product and the conversation among those audience members.
And while Digg is a news service that’s grown to more than 35 million monthly readers over the past 5 years, it’s still early days for figuring out the models that bring brands into conversation with the Digg community. It may be the biggest media start-up (if you can still call it that) I’ll ever get the chance to work for, but it’s a project that’s as new and inspiring (and daunting) as the sketches Battelle, Andre, Jen and I scrawled on that whiteboard in 2005.
Maybe it’s time to spark up that Digg-FM partnership again! In the meantime, FM runs in my blood. To my friends at FM: See you at Red’s Javahouse and Sala NYC soon and often. I owe you more than I can ever repay.
MORE: Battelle’s post at the , including word on the promotion of two of the greatest stars in digital media: Pete Spande and Josh Mattision. And Jay’s post at the .