Saturday, January 06, 2007

Where is the money in Local news sites?

This just in: CEO and co-founder of BackFence, a pioneering startup that had set out to create local web sites for every community, Susan DeFife has resigned from the startup. 12 out of 18 Backfence employees have left so far.

Is the Web 2.0 slowdown already in?

Susan DeFife says
“Ultimately, we did not share the same strategic vision for the company as the Board of Directors...

Allow me to translate that:

1. The money is not coming in from the local news sites as much as expected. I guess you need at least 25% of the local population to be using the site to be able to generate profitable ad revenues.

2. Perhaps there is deficit of properly written and researched local stories – in the end; the news quality will have to stand out.

3. You will need more founding to counter efforts of established local newspapers who are slowly learning from the likes of Rob Curley about creating great local news web sites.
For money, you will need more participation. Topix has built a great Forum service.
Perhaps, local news sites may also try serving as an aggregator of local news and a host for topic forums. Even a Link aggregator such as Digg has great comment section.

Second thoughts on Second Life

Gigagamez cites an analysis that shows that on average, about 35 to 40 percent of the total Second Life population log in. Numbering around some 200,000-230,000, these active Second Life users reportedly spend $50-60 a week within the Second Life Economy - commerce between fellow Second Lifers is healthy, it would seem.

Eventually, Second Life might end up with 7.2 registered million users with 1.6 million logging in over the previous sixty days.

These are early times to be analyzing what fate awaits Second Life.

There are many questions apart from ‘actual users versus registered users’ controversy:

1. Why are other Second Life type startups? We see new Web 2.0 ‘me-too’ startup coming to life every other day, so why is Second Life enjoying the benefits of being a first and only one of sorts?

2. What is the fun in living in a life where you will see the same brands proliferating as you do in real world? The graphics is not of the PS3 realistic type either. Is Second Life just a “Try me” virus? A ghost town? PR hype backed up venture capital money? In the World of Warcraft, users have to do something – hunt, fight, loot, make money. What is there to be done in Second Life other than reading news from Reuters and looking at the latest Toyota that you cannot buy in real life?

3. Is it true that the mainstream media is more excited about Second Life than web users? The PR money is working full time, it would seem.

4. Will Marketers spam Second Life just as they did with Myspace?

5. What happens when robots invade Second Life? Faceless, nameless avatars exploiting gullible cash-heavy, web-unsavvy people lured in by gushing mainstream media writeups?

6. Is Second Life just a glorified Web server rent play?
The Second Life idea is so simple it is brilliant. An excerpt from an excellent write up in Gigaom:
Unlike other online worlds, Second Life has no monthly subscriptions– instead, if you want to own virtual land for a home, a business, or other project, you pay Linden a monthly land use fee, based on the amount of acreage in your account (from $5/month up). For the most ambitious subscribers, Linden also sells private islands of 16 acres each, which they can buy outright from the company for about $1600, while paying a monthly land use “maintenence” fee of several hundred dollars. (Each island is actually a single server; in fact, think of Second Life land as analogous to renting out server space for a website or file storage or whatever– it’s just that in SL, the data is represented in 3D.
More questions on Second Life here.

Creating a Digg of Diggs

This is a post about aggregating the aggregators.

Last year, we saw an avalanche of startups in the news aggregators and social news field.

Among the single-page aggregators, Popurls holds the fort.
Among social news sites, Digg ruled despite problems of frauds, ‘cabals’, and having too many news to be looked at (and rated) realistically.

People can create their own Digg on a niche topic using free software such as Pligg.

As Jason Calacanis says, ‘let a thousand Diggs bloom’.

By the way, did you know that to justify its valuation, Digg has to make $30-50M in revenue 4-5 years down the line?

NYT Digital grossed $66 million only I 2006 after so many years of operations.

Making the same amount with a links-based system seems far-fetched.

How do we monitor so many aggregators?

Techmeme does it by limiting the number of sources and stories it displays.

I have an idea:
Let us build a aggregator, with tags as categories and using data from all the aggregators and social news sites.

A Digg of Diggs? What do you say?

Blogging: where do we draw the line?

In a response to Sam Whitmore's Media Survey, which asked prominent bloggers and journalists to give advice to tech publicists, Michael Arrington of the Techcrunch blog network had this to say:

"I'll make time for people who will help me be successful in the future, it's that simple.

Michael Arrington reportedly also added that he's happy to cover a marginal client
"if I know I'll get scoops down the road."

Why do we blog?
Many bloggers blog in the hope that one day, readers will take them as seriously as they treat traditional reporters. They hope that they will ultimately create a name for themselves. They also hope that they will reach a position to challenge mainstream columnists and publishers.

Michael Arrington reportedly wants to be the Cnet of the Web 2.0 age. He built his Techcrunch brand covering the so-far endless stream of Web 2.0 startups. The jury is still out on how long this stream will gush. To boot, Michael Arrington has a long history of traversing the grey line in online reporting. Yes, 1 year is a long time in online terms. I covered the latest episode some time back.

Traditional reporters make deals when they know that in turn they are getting information. Bloggers, like Arrington must make sure that they do not cross the line and make deals only to further other ambitions.

I do not have a degree in journalism but I think reporters must be skeptical. They must seek beyond the façade of all that web 2.0 shine. They must ask questions that no one else is asking. Valleywag and Rough Cut (Nichoilas Carr’s blog) do this elegantly. If being ‘snarky’ is bad, then so be it.

It is better to be feared than loved, as far as reporting goes.

If any of you bloggers want to build a better brand, I am sorry to say that you will have to find a better role model than Techcrunch.

Read what other bloggers and journalists said in response to the survey here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The two basic types of bloggers

Firstup: a roundup.
The image above is a graphic representation of types of bloggers. Via.

I did a Google search and came up with the following lists of types of bloggers:

Mr. Snitch’s list is a favorite. He lists out 7 types of bloggers:

Meme-du-jour bloggers (example: Scoble), Caterers ( example: opinionated political blogs), , Nicheblogger ( example: shoemoney), Internet guides( example: Metafilter), the celebrity-blogger ( example: Huffington blog), the service blogger (example: all those feeding Digg), the long-tail blogger ( example:this blogger)

Another article mentions about three types of blogs:
Producers, Reviewers and Pointers.

This 2002 article lists 8 types of bloggers. They are:

Link Blogger(Blinker), Goth Blogger (Glogger), Hippy Blogger (Bippy), War Blogger (Woggler), Blog Blogger (HasTooMuchTimer), Trailer Blogger (Trogger), Techie Blogger (Togger), Teenie Blogger (Teenoger).

Google is a free and great school. I also learnt there were 6 types of business blogs:

Sales blogs, Relationship blogs, Branding blogs, Knowledge blogs, Collaboration blogs, Culture blogs.

Somewhat similar to Mr. Snitch’s list, this article lists 9 types of bloggers:
The Godfather (early entrants, like Dave Winer), The Conference Groupie, Target the A-Listers type, Diamond in the rough type, the namer (like Target the A-lister type), the pseudo-sage, the Tipping Point type, the hack, the would-be consultant and the lister.

At present, as this article shows, the listers are floating everywhere on the scene.

Another list of 10 types of bloggers:

The whinny Girl Blogger, the Funny Man Blogger, the Personal Porn Blogger, the Mass Blogger, the "you're obviously a writer" Blogger, the Overly Emotional/Opinionated Blogger, the Dynasty Blogger, the Schenck Blogger, the Causal Blogger, the Attention Seeker Blogger.

Then there are the anonymous bloggers, out to give vent to their feelings, which they cannot in person – workplace rants, personal fantasies, and so forth.

Treading where others have ventured before, I would say that all these types notwithstanding, there are primarily two types of bloggers:

1. Blogger with a full-time job:
For example, Steve Rubel, who is a senior marketing strategist and Senior Vice President at Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm. Steve also writes for the popular Micro Persuasion blog.

Steve Rubel often uses his pioneer blogging credentials and his blog to further his interests, by ‘interests’, I mean his company’s goals. While fellow bloggers rarely attack each other personally, Steve would happily say that the popular Valleywag blog is ‘nasty’, when Valleywag dares to write about the space where Steve’s blogging meets his PR Company’s goals – a grey area at the best of times.

2. Blogger depending on blogging for his meals:
This is where most of us stand. Slowly, we are learning about the secrets of creating useful, entertaining, and mention-worthy posts. Whatever style, we may use, our desired result are some Google Adsense cents.

I think both these basic blogger types are well aware of the cons of blogging too.

Bloggers with full-time jobs learn to stay clear of writing about their organization.

This blogger learnt that the hard way some time back.

I left an editor postion at an Indian Blog Network some months back. A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article on the Sam Sethi- Arrington issue. I have been busy with starting an online news startup but startup in Delhi is hard. So, when I got an offer to join as an editor at another company, I grabbed at it. As due process, I gave the number of my Ex-CEO for reference purposes, fully confident that since I had left on good terms and my performance was satisfactory, the ex-Boss would do the needful. However, he went ballistic and advised the recruiter in the negative.

I guess that comes with the Job.

When you blog, you take a risk too.
However, when you blog, you let your voice free, too.

P.S.: The recruiter later informs me that she could sense the Ex-Boss was lying. I got the job. I have postponed the media startup for a couple of months.