Skip to navigation

Thursday, July 15, 2004

AlwaysOn: Bloggers vs. "Big" Media Competition

Peter asks Dave: What's the state of the blogosphere? Dave refers to graph showing 325,000 3.1 million weblogs, 275,000 posts to weblogs per day, equates to 3 updated per second. Next graph shows there are a number of different types of bloggers out there, the "attention index." Shows big media at top, Slashdot as most widely read blog. Shows the decentralization of media. Last slide is "The Power Law Revealed." Traditional media greatly outnumber the weblogs in terms of readers and overall reach, but on the blogging side, because the friction of creating and publishing is so low, the power law applies to five orders of magnitude. You've got sites with flow that rivals that of the big media sites, all the way down to sites with one or a few inbound links. What we're seeing is it's not necessarily big media vs. bloggers, but it's all lined up on a continuum, as publishing becomes more frictionless, more and more people are participating in the conversation.

Peter introduces video from New York, "I'm from The Internet, and we're asking folks if they're bloggers..." Very funny answers from folks who haven't any idea. One guy says, "I'd like to see it put television out of business." Another says bloggers are people "with way too much time on their hands and way too much to say."

Peter: Let's get into the blogging and journalism conversation. Chris says blogging is Napster for the newspaper business. You've got a lot of people with a lot of ideas who are frustrated with what they read in the paper. She reads the paper and smoke comes out of her ears, then she remembers, "I have a weblog, I can fix this."

Tony mentions member designations for AlwaysOn (Chief, Geek, etc.). Only 7% of members describe themselves as a "Scribe." (I did...)

Chris thinks Fox is successful because whatever it does, it's entertaining. Same with the New York Post. Blaise adds they have passion.

Dan: The beauty of the blog is the ability to fill a niche, to express something about nuance as much as about anything partisan. The variety is key.

JD: Talks about blogs as news channel, a lens to help you understand what's going on. Show of hands: about 1/3 of the audience has a blog, a handful are blogging the conference, a smaller handful use their blog in connection with their business.

Chris talks about Joshua Michah Marshall, Talking Points Memo. Thinks he's the perfect blend of blogging and journalism.

Dave: Comes back to the incredible variety of subject matter written about on blogs. You have the ability for anybody to publish, and you have an authenticated place on the Net that is your own. This is really important because people own their words. As email reinvigorated the art of letter writing, blogging is starting to reinvent the art of civic dialog.

Dan: It's not echo chamber, that's a mistaken view. There's something we haven't talked about, and it's the elemental quality of the Web: linking. That's the crucial aspect, along with voice. You're pointing to things that back up what you're saying, "here's the evidence." Then, you get into the conversation. The tools for following the conversation are still pretty rough, and that's what Dave's working on.

Tony brings up objective vs. subjective journalism. What's happening in the blogging community about owning your own words, he'd like to see that translate to big media like the New York Times. Chris thinks this is happening more and more. The Times today ran an editorial about the admission of bloggers to political conventions. They're doing it because there are lots of critical voices out there.

Tony: Marc Cuban, Michael Powell, other notables are blogging because the media is not translating them in the way they'd like.

Dan: All big institutions are being forced to become more transparent as the result of all these technologies, not just blogs, but cameras, etc., etc. And it's good.

Chris: Because the Dean campaign blog was so successful, it became something that fed itself. She thinks the newspaper business has gotten very open, the same kind of conversations from blogs are now happening in newsrooms.

More video: shoeshine guy in New York, has never seen a blog, but thinks blogs will benefit their writers and hurt big media. They go to the park to get online, they visit Chris Nolan's site. She's covering the role of blogging and the Internet, she says it's Geeks vs. the Moguls. Who's winning? He says the Moguls (Chris says the Geeks), because he "lives in the real world." They visit Dan Gillmor's blog too, and the guy says "good for him," as to the causes he takes on, but let's just say he doesn't express overwhelming confidence...

Moving to the business model. Chris: it's about the eyeballs, the readers. It's back to Dave's chart. It's a little early to sit around and say this business model works and this doesn't. She and her publisher make no bones about the fact that for them, this is a test. They're playing around, they'll see where this goes. Blaise mentions Engadget, Gizmodo, and also the tip jar model. Then there's Slashdot, the open source model with lots of participation. What's interesting is there's nothing that compels big media to keep their assets open, so the blogs that will rise to the top are the ones that have their own assets. Tony: about 80% of AlwaysOn's content comes from its members, and he's making money on it. Dan, quotes Dr. Weinberger: "In the blogosphere, everyone's famous for 15 people." Tony: Look at the kids' blogs, replace little turnkey diaries, it's very therapeutic for them. Chris: reporters who listen to their communities are the good ones.

JD: We're letting big media off the hook too easily. JD worked for a big newspaper for 20 years, and always used to wonder why people complained about the media. Now, on the other side of the fence, he sees better what some of the problems are. Time and time again, for example, a reporter will pursue an angle that is tangential to what was focused on in an hour long interview. Posting of interview transcripts now can address this, and people are doing it. Just a handful of big newspapers are getting and embracing this.

Tony: talks about the meritocracy aspect. Chris: the reason Web sites and independent journalists will do well is because most newspapers suck. They're bad. They run wire copy. She has to hold a gun to her head to read the SF Chronicle every morning.

More video: street dancing in front of the New York Public Library. More people who've never heard of blogging. "I don't think that's fair." "I've heard about it but don't have any interest in it." Finally he finds a blogger, wrote one for a class. Finds another lady selling Internet access for $1, but she doesn't speak English. Asks other folks where the blogosphere is, no clue. French girls asked what a blogger is, "We are French, we don't know."

Susan Mernit asks whether anyone besides journalists cares about blogging vs. journalism. The panel all shake their heads no. Chris: there's some interesting stuff going on very quietly with ad sales. The Tribune recently settled a case for $35 million with its advertisers for lying about its circulation. That kind of money is going to go somewhere, and it might well be blogs. Dan: One interesting recent development was a congressional campaign in Kentucky that spent $2K with BlogAds. Within a couple of weeks they raised over $80K. We'll see more things like that. Dave: there's a difference between the broadcast model and a particiipatory model. There's an incredibly high response rate when you can reach an influential person, and his or her readers, more directly. Ross Mayfield is doing some leading thinking about a new kind of model for measuring these things. Tony: In this crowd, paying attention to the blogs is very important. Bloggers are breaking original content, they're not subject to editors, deadlines, or space constraints. Blaise: Wired runs an ad on BoingBoing. The people in New York he had to pitch it to got it, but the reaction was similar to the videos. They're doing this on trust

Ross Mayfield from the audience: every person in this room could have a site themselves and play a role in passing things along. It doesn't matter the number of impressions you have, it matters who you impress. You need a different measure that tracks not just who's reading, but how it's grabbed, endorsed, and passed on. Dave: there's advertising that you see, that you read, and now there's advertising that you share. There are some marketers that are taking advantage of this.

[I missed blogging the conclusion because was trying unsuccessfully to sneak in a last question about the legal aspects of "Open Source Everything." Look for more on this next Monday in my upcoming contribution to IP Memes.]

Creative Commons LicenseUnless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Denise M. Howell and included in the Bag and Baggage weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.