Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Frontlist: Digg for wannabe writers

Every writer, save a lucky few goes through the timeless chore of knocking on publishers’ and agents’ doors, hoping somebody might give some time to their manuscript and one day, okay it for printing.

The Frontlist ( is site where users submit their work, and review and rank others’ works. The idea is that slowly traditional book companies will pay attention to the top ranked story and pick them up. The Guardian reports that a couple of agents and publishers have already evinced interest in the project.

To reach a critical mass, the site will need a big pool of writers and publishers and agents as supporters.
Moreover, at prsent does not have a Web 2.0-type sub,ission, excerpts, rating look on the front page.

The Frontlist also gives me a couple of ideas:
1. It may also become a viral generator for good works.
2. Writers who get good rankings may then approach Print on Demand service providers such as and become publishers themselves.

Loving Digg…why?

Looking unhappy with all that criticism directed at Digg, Om Malik writes:
is it just fashionable to diss Digg!

Om is missing the point here. It is not just people who can't get to the Digg front page that are complaining. When people write about what's wrong with Digg, they are showing their disappointment with Digg. Digg could have changed online news with its voting system.

However, Digg has become a victim of its own success. There are more than 4000 stories daily and no proper way other than Cloud View or 400 page views to look at all the stories present for display.

Secondly, what goes to the front page does not necessarily mean quality stories.

IMHO, Digg can handle no more than 500 news equably, without the ‘cabals’ and moderators coming into play. I think Digg should have stayed with Technology and left other topics to others. The same people who vote on tech stories vote on politics, get my point?

I am also disappointed with online newspapers not doing enough to create Digg-like community. We only have Calacanis’ Netscape changes to thank for. We need more Diggs.

More of my Digg and online news roundup here:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Yahoo’s local newspaper deal does not mean better local journalism

Jonathan Weber runs NewWest.Net, a news site that focuses on original local journalism. His views add to mine on Yahoo’s recent deal with a consortium of 176 newspapers that the actual need of the moment was being ignored. He writes:

Personally, I’d rather see Yahoo teaming up with small publishers and helping to underwrite a new, Web-centric, participatory form of journalism, one that breaks away from the aging, print-based formulas of old-line newspapers.

True. Newspapers must not be blinded by Craigslist’s assault.

They must also be not too dependent on Yahoo's content-related offerings. I understand that they did good with this deal and ensured better online ad revenues, however, they must also improve their product by focusing on LOCAL MATTERS.

The Best blog in the world and lessons for citizen journalism

The Sunlight Foundation’s group blog won this year’s Best Blog awards at the recently held Best of Blogs (BOBs) awards, in Berlin, Germany.

Amidst the likes of Engadget, Boing Boing, Lifehacker and blog champions, what makes Sunlight Foundation’s group blog stand out? While Engadget and others work like online magazines, Sunlight’s blog works on issues – issues that affect citizens.

The core issues are government transparency and corruption. The group blog involved heavy reader participation its well-known projects – the Punchclock Campaign which gets elected representatives in America to put their schedule online, and Exposing Earmarks, which finds the source of funding for earmarks in bills.

Applying Sunlight's ideas in citizen journalism
What if pioneering citizen journalism initiatives worked on the same principle?

Working on getting more and more reader participation through issues – thus ensuring regular, passionate participation; remember the 1% rule in social media – only 1% contributes, rest only consume.

Related idea: crowdsourcing-based journalism
Jeff Jarvis gives an example of a radio reporter using reader participation to conduct a survey on what programs schools have at the moment.

CitiJ sites must be great at surveys. They must also partner with other media like Radio to spread the effect.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Techcruch & Valleywag: Chalk and cheese?

I have long held that the comments section in Techcrunch is more useful than the writeups.

A friend recently said that Techcrunch is like magazines such as Upside, The Standard during the Dotcom bubble era of late last century. They loved building up things, painting rosy scenarios. I remember, one of these magazines hold the record for carrying most advertisements at a time. Maybe, Techcrunch follows that model, complete with all the tech-events it holds, without thinking about any conflict of interest.

A brouhaha broke out between the two premier business & technology blogs over coverage of Jason Calacanis’ departure from AOL – Valleywag was anti-Jason while Techcruch was pro- Jason. Whatever the merits of the story, Valleywag continues with its habit attacking the big names.

We need more Valleywags to bring sanity to all that web 2.0 insanity.

Robert Scoble writes:

TechCrunch is all about building companies and people up while Valleywag is all about tearing companies and people down.

Use Blog tours to promote your book

Budding authors can try a Blog tour. It is a one step up from having a blog devoted to your book or creating a site and writing one chapter at a time, with help of reader inputs. I think Blog tours are a great idea, they help bring traffic to you site/blog as well.

Start with a good book. If it is crap and people will find our soon and spread the word around.

I found a short piece on 37signals about book promotion. They recently had a big hit when they sold more than 20000 digital copies of their book, “Getting Real”. Of course, it helped that 37signals have a great cult-like following owing to their philosophy of keeping things simple, like Google, you might say.

I found a gem of an advice in the comments section. It reads:
One thing that (the Author) did to support her book was a blog tour. She visited a wide range of blogs and participated in interviews. All of the blog stops are on her website…

How to go about it
So, the next time you want to promote your book, do a blog tour if you can’t get a book tour. Make a list of at least 100-300 blogs in your niche area and send emails about your book, the idea behind it and how the readers of the interviewing blog can benefit from the interview and of course, the book.

Paying users of Web 2.0 sites

Web 2.0 is all the rage. It is a rage created by the Venture Capitalists, I think. On one hand, users are hailed as the new heroes and so forth, but the sites take all the money.

First, let us look at the most popular sites that don’t share revenues or share minimally.

No sharing. Users bring all the news and Digg reportedly earns $300,000 monthly.

There are talks about sharing money as Google has bought the startup.
Is purely free. No ads as well. As such, users won’t probably ask for payouts.

No payouts. However, many photographers, graphic designers post stuff in order to get more assignments resulting from increased exposure.

Again, Fox gets all the money - $ 200 million last year, I think. However, Myspace is a haven for musicians who just want the exposure.

Blog Networks
There are too many of them. Some pay salaries and some share revenues with top bloggers.


The scene is different in case of pure news-based web 2.0 sites that are seriously working working on payout methods in order to get more people to contribute as citizen journalists.

Google Adsense makes it possible for sites/networks with content providers. The publisher can paste his adsense code into as many sites as he/she wishes.

Michael Hiemstra suggests that news/CJ sites can have each author/reporter record their Google AdSense code in their profile, and then modify the site’s software to use that code for any ads that run along with their stories.

News Assignment has an exhaustive look at news and content sites that pay:

Revver: One of the few video sharing sites that shares ad revenue with users.

BlogBurst: Aggregates and syndicates qualifying bloggers with big online publishers. Bloggers who make it into the top 100 get a quarterly payout from $50 to $1,500. A recent deal with Reuters allows syndication onto print media. It pays $100 for mobile phone footage to $1000 for a commercial. Most feature programming on is called ‘pods’ - non-fiction shorts that are 3-7 minutes long getting $500 - $1000 per piece.

While citizen researchers will contribute on a voluntary basis, and an experienced editor (or team of editors) will be paid to “bring the project home.”

GroundReport: A new news site. Shares ad revenues with contributors based on the popularity of their articles. Gives Nonprofits 100% of ad revenues for their articles.

Contributors get 90% of the ad revenues created by their articles, with the remaining 10% going to whoever referred them to the site.

Writers can make money in two ways: by landing a headline on the front page, or through voluntary contributions from their readers and peers via the “tip jar.” Top stories get about $20. Ohmynews is in the news for not living up to its promise and for having no proper business model.

This is an initial list. There are other web 2.0 sites with pioneering business models that I would like to report about.

I would also suggest to the news-based sites to look at others ways to generate and share revenue :
- Classifieds are a great way to start.
- Books are another - posts wriiten in a series fashion , so that later a book may be created.
- Video tutorials can bring in some money.

Update#1 : 27.11.2006, a video-sharing site has just announced that it’ll pay $400 for user-generated videos and up to $2,000 for animated shorts.

Update #2: 27.11.2006 pays $5 for every 1000 views if a video breaks 20,000 views.

Update #3: 6.12.2006
Vplyr is a user generated video online marketplace where creators set prices for their work in a protected media player.

Book of the month: "Capitalism 3.0, A Guide To Reclaiming The Commons", by Peter Barnes

Consider this book as 'Web 2.0’-ization of capitalization. In this web 2.0 world, users are taking control of the conversation.

Similarly, this book pushes the case for ordinary citizens having more control of their lives in a capitalist world where businesses can no longer have all the say. If businesses are destroying he environment we live in, we want them to pay; if businesses want to use our land, we want a share and most importantly, a say in how they use our land. That is the general idea in the book.

The writer, Peter Barnes says:
Capitalism 3.0, we’ll have plenty of goods, but not too many. We’ll have more things we truly need — healthier ecosystems, communities and culture — and less junk that we don’t need. We’ll be more connected and less isolated, more secure and less stressed. Overall, we’ll be happier.

Nice idea. But I fear Capitalism 3.0 will be a mirage like the present Web 2.0 world. Users create the content for free and businesses profit from it.

Robert Altman: What they said

He was a ‘maverick’, an ‘anti-establishment success story’, who ‘applied chaos theory’ to how Hollywood operates.

Robert Altman ‘made an art out of cinema satire on modern manners’.

He preferred making black comedies with unhappy endings.

Read all the news about his death here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

11 Things to read before you build your web site

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
Charles Darwin

I have compiled the following resources to help you make an informed planning of your web site project – it can be a personal, business or a startup web site. This is a rudimentary list – I have only included things that have helped. For example, the comparison of hosting providers.

The Basics

18 Questions Your CEO Forgot to Ask When Building Your Website.

The Sweet 16: Principles for Building a Successful Internet Business .

How to conduct a Web site competitive analysis.

Designing a great site

Designing a great web site: Ben Hunt’s Web Design from Scratch.
This complete guide covers all the basics, usability, information architechture, planning stages and everything else.

Formula for a perfect web site.

How usable is your web site?

How to Convince a Client They Don't Need a Splash Page.

Don’t Look At Me - YOU Killed Your Website.


Comparison of Shared hosting providers.

Comparison of Dedicated hosting providers.

Analyzing website performance

The most powerful Internet metric of all.

Hope this helps. Feel free to add to this resource listing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How Microsoft can still save the world

Did you know that we spend $5 to $7 billion dollars every year powering inactive computers?

Foreignpolicy magazine suggests that Microsoft should issue a software upgrade that adjusts the computer's energy-saving settings for maximum efficiency, to every computer running Microsoft Windows worldwide.

Microsoft powers a major part of about 660 million computers in the world. Barring mission-critical computers such as those in air and rail traffic control systems and those manning the nuclear silos, it may be feasible for the computers to open their ports for the upgrade, if that indeed happens.

If we can get at least 100 million computers to go into energy-save mode daily, Foreignpolicy estimates that we can cut CO2 production by 45 million tons per year.

Besides generating good PR, Microsoft can also trump Google which has recently announced plan to solar panels its its campus.

Let a new breed of competitors emerge!

DRM=BNC (Buyer has No Control)

Microsoft and all big media corporations have control issues.

Do you know that once you buy a DRM-enabled media content,Microsoft and all big media corporations have control issues. Do you know that once you buy a DRM-enabled media content such a DVD, however you may imagine, you are not the owner despite having paid cash.

With DRM –enabled content, the media corporations are dictating what you can and what you cannot do with the product. In one stroke, the media company has taken your cash and your right to do as you will.

Imagine having bought a shirt and the shirt company dictating when you can and cannot wear the shirt.

DRM=BNC (Buyer has No Control).

Learn about the main arguments against DRM here.
Defectivebydesign is a great place to learn about DRM.

Yahoo’s newspaper deal: the big picture

A Bank of America study says Online advertising will grow from $3.4 billion this year to $12.4 billion by 2010.

For quite a while, newspapers are losing revenue to online job sites and the so-called ‘Craigslist’ phenomenon.

Google vs. Yahoo question
Yahoo’s current deal again reinforces the idea that Yahoo’s focus is on content, while Google’s focus is on search and advertising. Moreover, Google is also moving into radio, TV and print advertising.

Yahoo has faced much flak this year – its shares are down 40%. The recent Peanut Butter Manifesto gives us a glimpse of the churnings in a so-called ‘underachieving’ media company.

While Google has been good at partnerships and big buyouts, before this deal, Yahoo has only done small buyouts. Moreover, these buyouts are in the same fields in which Yahoo already has a product.

Google also resells advertising space for 50 newspapers via a deal announced earlier this month. Google also works with The New York Times.

Significantly, Yahoo trails Google in the hot paid search market and that reflects in the two companies’ performance and market capitalization.

As of Yesterday, Google’s market Cap. Stands at $ 151.56 Billion , while Yahoo’s market cap. is 36.35 Billion. Google’s revenues were $2.69 billion for the third quarter of 2006, an increase of 70% compared to the third quarter of 2005 while Yahoo’s revenues were $1.58 billion for the third quarter of 2006, a 19 percent increase compared to $1.33 Billion for the same period of 2005.

Yahoo’s deal with 176 newspapers may help
The 176 newspapers are spread out in 38 states with a paid circulation of 12 million. Their web sites attract 58 million monthly visitors. Yahoo attracts 130 million monthly visitors. Yahoo knows that these papers operate in 13 of the top 15 national newspaper markets, including San Francisco,and Atlanta.

Under the deal, customers of the 176 newspapers can also place their recruitment ads on Yahoo’s HotJobs site, which has reportedly ‘28 million registered job seekers and hundreds of thousands of job listings searchable by location’.

Later, the news sites can also add Yahoo search tools, maps, event listings and other features. Yahoo sites will also carry the newspapers’ news content and archived news stories.

- Although analysts think that think this time around, Yahoo has done a broader deal than Google, there are some who might ask: Can Yahoo! and Local Papers Save Each Other?

- Some may say this deal is too little, too late.

- Others might point that local papers must focus on building better web sites, which promote user participation on a healthier scale.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Why Media and Celebrities make a good couple

The Peanut Butter manifesto, written by Brad Garlinghouse, a Yahoo senior vice president, has succeeded in bringing some good PR for a company dealiing with mid-life crisis questions.

Think about it: company goes into trouble - isn't getting favorable media attention, write a memo about it and whoa! Earlier it happened with Ray Ozzie's memo at Microsoft.

Google internal meme is at least 3 years away, or maybe sooner. Depends on the the so-called Adsense dependency bubble.

In an open letter to Jerry Yang and David Filo, Eric Jackson suggests things that he thinks Yahoo should do right now,

7. Indefinite Moratorium on Celebrity Appearances at Yahoo! The stars of this company are its employees. This isn't Hollywood. This is a business. Celebrities don't bring up team morale; great leadership does. Tom Cruise has left the building and let's keep him and other A-listers away.

Without offending the purists, I think Media and Celebrities go hand in hand.

Even in the blogging world, it is all about names - use keywords, cover celebrities and brands and so forth.

Media and celebrities, they are made for each other, they feed each other. Yahoo is a big, big media company. Whether Terry Semel goes away or remains at Yahoo, this won't change.

Have you noticed what mainstream magazines such as Time, Fortune and Forbes do to survive in today's 'web 2.0' world? They come out with lists of important people, take interviews of celebrities, etc. It is their compulsion, you see.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What’s smart about Wearesmarter Wiki book project? is a Wiki book project initiated by publishing giant Pearson which has joined hands with a couple of business schools to create a business book that will be edited ‘wiki’ style by an online community.

Now, since this project has been started by Pearson, I am sure the PR angle is working overtime. No publisher would give out books for free. I think Pearson and other publishers have learnt from the relative failure of the Wikitexts project from the Wikipedia foundation. Students and academic boards haven’t picked up on it. Why? The schools are very much rule-tied. Books have to go through the accreditation process and Publishers know that the real money is in Academic Publishing.

At best, Wikitexts is a great model for open schooling and self-learning types.

Pearson is aiming to kill two targets with one stone: It gets a book for free and later, it will sure license out versions or additions to the book (audio, video, additional material, worksheets) to the schools.

Smart idea, wouldn't you say?

Media Project of the month: The Polling Place Photo Project

Taking pictures of every polling place in the United States.

This project was started recently, covering the U.S. elections, where citizens were called upon to document and submit photos and interactions with local voters.

The idea behind the Polling Place Photo Project was to find ways to improve the experience of polling.

I am sure my camera phone toting countrymen would do something similar during the next elections. Going to vote in India is the ‘occasion’ and servers would be crashing with photos and videos.

More on the Polling Place Photo Project here.