Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Blogs as a Business: Why Should it Be Any Different?

David Carr at The New York Times interviews Gawker Media impresario Nick Denton in the wake of Denton's somewhat sour comments on weblogs at last week's ContentNext mixer, focusing on his culling of Gawker Media's portfolio of weblogs and shuffling of management. Carr's observation: gee, this is just like a regular media company, isn't it. Unh-huh. I don't think that it's any secret that the Gawker portfolio was designed from its outset to be a high-flying set of media properties, not built around any one particular personality (even Wonkette alter ego Ana Marie Cox proved to be expendable) but around pumping out content that could sustain a robust revenue stream. To that end, many of these properties focus (obsess?) on the usual mass media stuff: sex, toys, cuss words and gossip. Not exactly long tail stuff, for the most part.

It's fine and admirable that Denton and others have figured out how to leverage a new publishing technology for profit and there's no shame in applying long-valid lessons from publishing to making their properties successful mass media ventures. But the current "bubble" posing by many who stem from the old "new media" crowd seems in large part to be sour grapes over a new landscape in publishing that favors those who don't get invited to industry parties as much as those who do. Put simply, there are oodles of content producers, both individuals and non-media corporations, who have different measurements for success in publishing and who don't really care whether the party is there or not.

I think of navigation skills as a corollary: not long ago you had to be pretty darn good with manipulating some very rarefied instruments to get from point "A" to point "B" in a ship or airplane. Today with GPS receivers any one with a few hundred dollars can know within a few paces where they are and where they should be going. That doesn't mean that hundreds of people are lining up to become professional navigators, but it does mean that there are a world of people who move about with far more confidence than ever before. So a round of full applause for the Nick Dentons of the world who have figured out how to apply traditional media lessons to a new publishing medium - and a fuller round to those who are content to communicate with focused communities with or without a crowd of elbow-rubbers to admire them.
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