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Porn and Activism: Signs Your Platform Is Working

From Ethan Zuckerman’s post on his Etech talk The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism:

We [at the website hosting service Tripod] sincerely believed that the purpose of the web was to give college graduates helpful information about renting apartments, applying for jobs and investing their money. Our users rapidly told us that what the web was really about was publishing their own information… which left us with the difficult challenge of figuring out how to make money off of people’s collections of cat pictures.

User-generated content, on average, is a lot less interesting than professional content. But there are a lot more people creating their own content for fun than those doing so for a living, and in aggregate, that content is at least as interesting.

Among all the cat videos and porn, it turns out, there’s lots of quality content out there. Build a useful platform, let the pornographers road-test it, and soon you’ve enabled a community to do something valuable.

Newsweek: There's No Money In Blogs

From Dan Lyons’s latest piece at Newsweek:

“while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn’t one of them…. Technorati, a blog researcher, estimates that bloggers who run ads earn an average of $5,060 per year. Don’t call the Ferrari dealer just yet.”

That’s good advice, but I don’t know why bloggers are being singled out. Lots of people play pick-up basketball and the NBA is a huge, multi-billion dollar business, but most pick-up basketball players should not call the Ferrari dealer just yet. Same goes for aspiring movie makers with a digicam. Same goes for daytraders with an internet connection. Commercial success in every business is hard, the publishing business is no different.

If money grew on trees, we’d all plant trees. In the meantime, making a living is still hard work.

(Also check out FM’s Matt DiPietro’s take, at the FM blog.)

Birds of America release

Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008

Technorati is out with the new State of the Blogosphere report. Lots of great stuff. My favorite part: More evidence that blogs are becoming more like normal old websites:

“as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs.”

Microsites Should Mimic Blogs

That’s the advice of David Armano in a column for Ad Age:

“we have to ask ourselves why formats like blogs, social networks and other manifestations of emerging digital media have become so popular. Blogs look nothing like microsites. But what they have in common is the delivery. Web pages — pages that can be bookmarked and e-mailed, among other things. And they offer niche content, lots of links and, of course, the ability for people to talk back. Long-form content is the new design language — I have become a convert. Debating the above-the-fold argument is a moot point — we should start channeling our energy into debating how we can provide VALUE to users who are clearly getting it elsewhere. I propose that we breathe new life into the microsite format by fundamentally rethinking it.”

AOL Stops Sharing Revenue With Its Bloggers

From Erick at TechCrunch:

“Plenty of people blog for free, but when you are blogging for a multi-billion-dollar media conglomerate like AOL (a unit of Time Warner) at least you can expect a steady paycheck. Or not. Recent belt-tightening at AOL is hitting its network of bloggers, many of whom are being asked to curtail their posts or stop altogether. Others are being asked to post for free, and are actually doing so in the hopes that they might save their jobs come August.”

Blogging For the Health Benefits

Research from Swinburne University of Tech says bloggers are better adjusted and have healthier social lives (from TechCrunch). However, “some ‘potential bloggers’ start from a less socially integrated position.” Hmm. If I knew what’s meant by “less socially integrated,” I might be worried about my own well being.

Even Business Travelers Read Blogs

From NY Times:

“According to Forrester Research, in the second quarter of 2007, 21 percent of business travelers who use the Internet read blogs, not just ones about business travel, but also those involving sports, business, finance and other topics.”

I’d like to learn more about those business travelers who aren’t yet using the Internet.

JP Morgan: Portals Losing Share Fast

Another powerful data point from JPMorgan’s Nothing But Net report:

“While portals were once dominant, Yahoo!, AOL, and Microsoft only accounted for ~29% of minutes spent online in August 2007, down from 42% in August 2002. Meanwhile, blogs, online gaming, and social networking websites have experienced double to triple digit Y/Y growth rates in page views. This fragmented audience not only makes it more difficult for advertisers to reach their target audience through only a few publishers, but also makes it difficult for publishers to attract advertisers given their limited scale. We believe that companies that can aggregate traffic through the development of ad networks or partnerships will be more successful in driving growth in 2008.”

Blogs Are The New Trade Press

That’s the headline for Greg Jarboe’s column today at Search Engine Watch. I worked with Greg at Ziff-Davis in the mid 1990s and was at CMP before that, so it’s sad to see the group tombstone for the trade magazines that have gone under in recent years.

Trade Press Tombstone

The good news is that the readers

of those magazines did not suffer the same plight. They’ve just gone online and, in most cases, filled their informational needs with leading business blogs for their industry.

“According to Compete, 382,749 people visited Search Engine Watch in November 2007; 342,970 visited Search Engine Land; 278,014 visited WebProNews; 139,914 visited Marketing Pilgrim; 77,085 visited Search Engine Roundtable; and 32,398 visited Search Newz.

“This puts them in the same ballpark as the circulation of print publications: 440,000 for InformationWeek; 400,100 for eWeek; 58,979 for Advertising Age; and 23,152 for AdWeek.

“More to the point, the number of visitors to the online publications and group blogs covering the search industry is in the same ballpark as the number of visitors to the websites of trade publications in the technology or advertising industries.

“According to Compete, 424,773 people visited InformationWeek.com in November 2007; 331,060 visited eWeek.com; 213,900 visited AdAge.com; and 101,140 visited AdWeek.com.”

Will Traditional Media Buy Up Top Blogs?

According to Douglas McIntire at 24/7 Wall St, that’s what’s coming, the only remaining question is when.

“…with the internet operations at newspapers and some other tradition media companies making very little headway, the big blogs take on a very significant attraction. They reach audiences in great numbers. They have credibility. They are not expensive to run. And, they make money.

“Take Huffington. According to research firm Compete, it has an audience almost as large as the online version of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As a part of a larger newspaper organization like The New York Times (NYT) or Washington Post (WPO), that audience could probably be much bigger. NYT and WPO need a Huffington or two. Their internet revenues are under 10% of their total and not growing fast enough to keep up with falling print sales. Huffington has raised $10 million in VC money. What is it worth? $100 million. Maybe more. Worth it for The Times or The Post. With the trouble that are in, yes.

“The big tech blogs are even larger than Huffington.”

The theory makes sense, up to a point. Audiences are moving online and advertisers, inevitably, are following them. If traditional publishers and portals can’t keep pace with the independent sites on the audience-growth front, acquisition is the likely strategy. The hard part, though, as McIntire points out is maintaining (and growing) the value of those acquisitions:

“The problem for the potential buyers is keeping the talent at the blog sites.”

It’s a problem that needs to be solved on both sides, the buyer and the seller. If the value of an independent media brand is only that of its front man or woman, the deal terms are bound to penalize him or her for leaving — some kind of long-term lock up that may not be appealing to a site’s author. The independent authors and publishers may want to change this formula. And if a potential acquirer can’t find a way to encourage a site’s author to continue to build relationships with a growing audience of readers over the long term, how will the acquisition premium ever justify itself? Acquiring entities may need a new approach, a model by which they pull top content-creators into the fold, but do so loosely enough that the content-creators can enjoy the freedom and decision-making authority they do right now.