Saturday, April 21, 2007

New media gurus as old media wonks in costume

This gem goes straight and undefeated into the top quotes about Web 2.0, New Media and all that.

Bryan Eisenberg has written a good critique on the so-called demise of Page Views and what major media publications like the esteemed WSJ think to be substitutes of pageviews.

Bryan questions the usefulness of Time Spent metric, which may be no use in a Firefox world (and Opera, followed by IE) where users often leave many tabs open at a time.

To illustrate, while I write this, I have 9 tabs opened. The Guardian tab is opened since morning when I haven’t even looked at that page since I open many tabs via a folder marked ‘Daily Read’.

Bryan writes,
The Wall Street Journal's reporters are top-notch journalists. Journalists are paid to ask the right questions. Yet today, while they report that Nielsen is shifting from page view metrics to time-spent metrics, nobody questions the absurdity

No one really knows anything with 100% surity about things.
If you don't like A, switch to B, that might work - the mantra that has stood the test of time.

The so-called Web 2.0 experts are as excited and confused as the new Facebook user.

Which brings us to the oft-trodden crossroads of the web 2.0 boom:

1. What really works?
No one really knows, including the experts.

2. Do the experts know everything?
No. They just read more than we do and live on the fabled West coast.

For more on this great Web 2.0 crossroads confusion, read this.


Top 7 uses of Digg API

This list is inspired by how people use Google News:

1. Top keywords of the day
2. A tag cloud of popular stories, comments.
3. The day in pictures (for example,
4. Stories on a map.
5. Top Digg users of the day on a map.
6. Taking a top story and putting all who dugged this story on a map.
7. Ratio of dugg stories (2+) and undugged stories. So we know how many stories are being submitted in vain.

The Digg API

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Rising power of female users

According to the latest eMarketer report, there will be an around 97.2 million female Internet users (3 years and older) in 2007, amounting to 51.7% of the total online population.

Moreover, in 2011, 109.7 million US females will go online, amounting to 51.9% of the total online population.

There’s more.
The report says that more of the female population goes online.
In 2007, an estimated 66.2% of US females (3 years and older) will use the Internet at least once a month, compared with 64.2% of males.

By 2011, 72.1% of females are expected to go online, vs. 69.3% of males.

Implications for online publishers

Female users have taken to social networking sites in a big way.

Sugar Publishing (blog network), Martha Stewart Omnimedia, the iVillage network are some of the smarter publishers, who already address the demographic.

Hot topics for publishers
Shopping, parenting, lifestyles, celeb/scandal, ‘my experience’articles, etc.

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Virginia Tech shootings and the news media’s job

Should the news media publish or show everything?

A debate has sprung up about whether the U.S. TV channels were right in showing the Virginia Tech shooter an armed Cho Seung-Hui in full form.

Were the channels right?

Those who support airing the videos:

Washington Post’s Marc Fisher, who says,

Journalists do not have the right to hide material that is so clearly essential to a full understanding of a major public issue. ...Especially in a case as emotionally difficult as this one, the public has a right to see key evidence that helps us understand just how detached from reality this guy was, and just what kinds of social ills are reflected in his particular psychosis.
Those who oppose such practices:

CBC News editor-in-chief Tony Burman, who says,

… I think their handling of these tapes was a mistake. As I watched them last night, sickened as I'm sure most viewers were, I imagined what kind of impact this broadcast would have on similarly deranged people. ... I had this awful and sad feeling that there were parents watching these excerpts on NBC who were unaware they will lose their children in some future copycat killing triggered by these broadcasts.

(both links via Romenesco)

Deborah Jones at the Canadian Journalist blog rounds up the situation with the headline, “On giving a killer what he wants."

There is too much media.
To make money and to stand out, these ‘corporation’ would go to any lengths, justifying things with the usual ‘it was our duty’ routine.

Too many channels, too many banalities.
We can make a sound case for the trivializing of the mass media.

If the aim was to go inside the mind of a troubled man, they should have gone ahead, built a documentary, a movie, National Geographic special, expert panel discussions, among other things.

Going inside the mind of a troubled mind – this reminds me of the anchor asking a journalist standing in traffic jam on a crowded, hot and dusty junction in New Delhi, "How do you feel?"

Too many channels, too much redundant behavior.

Cho Seung-Hui was a troubled person who committed meaningless crimes.
Why put more meaning to it than necessary?

Giving attention is giving importance.
That is the media secret.


The confused person's guide to web 2.0 (aka 14 things to know about web 2.0)

There is only thing that I am sure of about Web 2.0.
Two-way conversations are in.

As for the rest, check this list out that I made:

The confused guide to Web 2.0

1. User-generated content is the big thing.
Remember the 80:19:1 principle? (80% consume, 19% regurgitate, 1% contributes)

2. Old media is dead. New media is in.
You still have to make money, right?

3. Mass Media is crap.
How about those Myspace and Facebook comments?

4. Web 2.0 is about people.
Web 2.0 is about controlling people’s data.

5. Hits are out. (Wired Magazine, The Long tail).
Hits are in. (The Mathew Effect, 80:20)

6. There are no more gatekeepers.
Yeah? So, why do we need Techmeme, Digg and the A-listers?

7. It is not about making money.
It is about paying the bills, paying for net access and all that coffee.

8. Web 2.0 sites are great places to hang out.
Indeed. You do the content production, while others make money.

9. Everyone among us is a publisher.
It is hard making money online. There are too many of us.

10. The Wisdom of crowds.
The madness of crowds (Digg bury, flaming)

11. Startup is easy and cheap.
Standing out is hard and expensive. Did you put an ad on Techcrunch?

12. Blogging is in.
Spam, spam, spam.

13. Video is in.
Only spoofs, fun and sex sell.

14. Anyone can get attention.
Yeah, right. Got to game Google and Digg.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Microsoft hopes to buy poor people’s loyalty for $ 3 a pop

Microsoft is reportedly going to offer a lite version of Windows XP Starter Edition and Office Home and Office 2007 for only $3 to poor people in developing countries.

Governments in poor countries will reportedly foot the bill for the software and will bundle it on to machines that may cost around $300.

On the other hand, the One Laptop per Child will sell for only $150 and runs on open source software. It is already being tested in Argentina and Nigeria among other nations.

Strangely, the Indian Government is non-committal to the $150 Laptop. Microsoft’s considerable lobbying and PR machinery is working hard to make sure that governments in the poor countries opt for its still expensive (compared to FREE) software.

Details about security features of the $3 bundle are still not clear. Since these will come preloaded on the PC, what options do the consumers have when they format the PC?

This wouldn’t add anything to Microsoft’s coffers but the company hopes to convert these poor people into buyers of more expensive software.

At best, it is a wet dream of a collective group of overpaid hacks selling shirnkwrap.


Virginia Tech, the Always-on generation and citizen journalism

The tragic shooting at Virginia Tech once again brought to the fore the rising power of citizen journalism over the traditional news media.

1. Everyone with a communicating device is a reporter.
The young of today are more networked than ever before.

Om Malik writes,
Facebook and MySpace pages, LiveJournals, and Flickr give us back story and the unfiltered play-by-play.
We must not view the coverage of the shooting in terms of victory of a particular brand of social network (Facebook).

Doc Searls quotes Sci-fi writer William Gibson who once said, "The future is already here — it is just unevenly distributed".

Let me explain: not all human beings are as massively connected as the students of today are. Many villages in India are still not on the communication grid and big media often filters and manipulates most news coming out of these places to suit its 'requirements'.

2. We need more experience reporting from citizen reporters.
I am sure there is a massive need for experience reporting – the “man on the spot” stories, “what it feels like stories”, things that made BBC what it is today.

Writing about the Virginia Tech incident citizen journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor writes,
“We used to say that journalists write the first draft of history. Not so, not any longer. The people on the ground at these events write the first draft.”
Dan goes on say,
They brought to mind a blog post I spotted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by a young man in Brooklyn, N.Y., across the river from the World Trade Center. He wrote, “Now I know what a burning city smells like.”
3. CitiJ sites must aggregate news from universities and social network sites.
Jean Luc Goddard once said, “every edit is a lie.”

We need CitiJ cooperatives (as you know, AP is a cooperative) so that we can put a check on big media ‘editing’ stories.

In fact, I would like to think that a loose confederacy of embedded citizen reporters working out of universities, marketplaces, businesses would give a sound challenge to wire news-heavy MSM properties.

In the Virginia Tech case, big media companies like CNN, MSNBC were competing with those on the spot for ‘exclusives’ (a much abused media tactic).

4. User-generated content and traditional media can complement each other.

User generated content does not aim to eliminate big media (or, organized media). The idea is to bring a richer bouquet of voices into the conversation stream.

P.S. I am sure you must have read this Adage story about media companies buying Google Adwords keywords for the Virginia Tech shooting. (Via Boing Boing)


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Introducing the Blogitzers

The Pulitzer prizes for excellence in journalism were announced just a while ago. The Pulitzers are given out for a wide range of criterion – from public service reporting and investigative reporting to poetry and general non-fiction.

What options do we have in the blogosphere?
We have the Bloggies and Weblog awards among a host of others.

However, I think these Blog awards must evolve beyond giving prizes to individual blogs based on reader votes, across Google adsense-focused categories – best food blog, best gadget blog and so on.

If blogs are to challenge the supposed quality mission of MSM properties, we should have the Blogitzer, where we judge blogs on how they have helped bring change to the status quo, among other things.

We should get out of this Insider Mentality funk, where we are more concerned about links and comments than bringing in value.

If we had the Blogitzers up and running, we should have awarded the following:

- the blogger who helped bring Don Emus to book.
- the Newsvine user who brought the Virginia Tech shooting to front page.
- The blogger in India who brought attention to the alleged misdeeds at a supposed premier business school.
- Bloggers in Egypt who are standing up to the dual opposition of an autocratic government and muslim hardliners.
- Bloggers who converted their blogs into successful books.
- Blogger who helped bring a new music talent in public eye.

I am sure there can be many instances and we must award them.


Google, the universal ad broker and site censor?

Google started out with the aim of organizing the world’s information. However it may deny it, Google is surely on its way to being the world’s top ad broker.

People and companies change their approach all the time. Take for example, Tim O’Reilly, who has graduated from ‘web 2.0 being about people’ to ‘web 2.0 is about controlling data.’

Money and power are the foundations of any enterprise. Forget Google’s hoary ‘do no evil’ and other PR-minded maxims. The company hopes to exercise unprecedented power over the media industry as a whole.

Forget what Microsoft and Yahoo are complaining about Google’s monopoly in the online ad business. They allege that it bodes badly for online privacy, among things. That is all losers’ talk. Coming from Microsoft’s mouth, it is especially cute.

In the garb of delivering better results, Google has now decided to go after the Paid Links market.

However, Paid links are not the same as Spam, which Google has still been unable to deal with.

Google has not been able to find an answer to Paid links and Social media marketing.
In both cases, people pay greater attention to what they are putting on their web site. They write better articles in the hope of getting traction from social media sites like Digg.

'Their content becomes ads'

They make deals to put paid links from sites that match their own site’s topic. This is what bugs Google. Until now, it was sure that matching sites, topics and keywords was the preserve of its adwords and adsense services.

The best forms of Paid Links can be more efficient than adwords.

Raising two very important points, Aaron Wall writes on Threadwatch,
1. ...there are far more efficient ways to reach early adopters. Social influence is far more important than most people give it credit for.

2. Editorial and social relationships have far more value than Google realizes, and Matt Cutts's recent outbursts are just a hint at how Google is losing their dominant control over the web.

This is the reason why Google is going to penalize sites that have Paid links. It does not like competition.

Bottomline: Do not believe when Google says it is after paid links because it wants to give you better search results.

No one must control the net, not even Google.

A site owner should be free to display whatever links he wants.
He must not be punished by a monopolist, which owns the search market too.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What were Digg users doing?

Did you hear about reports that say that Newsvine users beat Digg and Reddit users in promoting the Shocking shooting at Virginia Tech campus in the shortest amount of time?

The story here goes to report that by the time writer noticed the Shooting story on Newvine’s front page, it was languishing on page 3 on Digg.

Check out the screenshots here.

Thus the question:
Is social news only about algorithms, karma, cabals and what not?
Is it about burying news items, and ranting disguised as meaningful comments?
What about timely news?


Time for Spam and Cookies

News Item #1: A detailed research from HP reveals that 43% of Facebook messages are spam. Marcus from Plentyoffish dating site puts it correctly that you would similar figures on any other social networking sites.

NewsItem #2: A recent Comscore study reports that 3 out of 10 U.S. Internet users delete cookies, which means that sites may be overestimating audiences by a factor as high as 2.5.

Both pieces of information have implications for advertisers who use cookie-based visitor counting and rates of social networking site usage.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Socially aware Pagerank, anyone?

Can too much of crowd wisdom lead to bad search?

David Weinberger points to a study called Traffic Characteristics and Communication Patterns in the blogosphere by researchers at Boston University and Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The study basically goes into how we discover blogs. The press release about the study says what many of us know: Page rank is not everything.

All well and fine, but then the study suggests (at least the press release does) that a new page rank algorithm is needed that takes into consideration the social attributes of the blog owner: celebrity status, reputation, and public image and so on.

1. How do we determine what determines social status?
Number of digged stories, bookmarks saved in, technorati favorites, all of which are subject to gaming.

2. Would page rank spiced up with social status give better results?

3. We already have something called Social Search, people sharing useful searches and links.

4. Doesn’t this lead to a ludicrous scenario where writers and analysts are hell bent on becoming famous for being unspectacular like Paris Hilton instead of their core areas?


The Mathew Effect and what you can do about it

So, there is an A-list.

Finally, someone actually went out and proved it scientifically (read about it in NYT here) why people in the movie start clapping after you clapped first.

You need the approval, votes of at least a few people (hate that term, early adopters).

Paul Kedrosky points to the Matthew Effect, which says the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…eminent scientists become even more eminent.

Notes on the Mathew Effect:

1. Be the first. Dave Winer was the first blogger. Michael Arrington was the first to cover web 2.0 startups. Rafat Ali and Om Malik were the first journalists to go into online publishing. Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis were the first to start blog networks. Jeff Jarvis was one of the first MSM journalists to see the future online. Digg was the first voting site. Myspace was one of the first Social Networking sites.

2. Be there first. Show others the way.

3. Blogging is passé…soon it will be as normal as websites or portal. It is just a publishing tool/medium. (This is valid for all those who want to get rich with blogging. Ignore if you blog to build your corporate brand, personal brand, or professional brand)

4. The blog networks of today will become the media networks of tomorrow. Go into blog networks only if you can monetize quickly.

5. Standing out is hard.

6. Look at those tiny blips on Digg Cloud, which no one reads.

7. Look at yet another new Web 2.0 application. Today, for example, it is Leaptag, yet another social bookmarking tool. Few think beyond the early leaders as, Flickr and Stumbleupon.

8. Look at the Digg cabal (yes, it does exist) which makes sure that one of ‘their’ story gets the boost with at least a few votes which makes the story stand better for attention from other diggers.

9. The gap between top blogs and bottom blogs is getting bigger and it has nothing to do with quality, better news, better opinion, or anything.

10. Some say even Mozart would need a talent agent and mentor if he was alive today.

11. Invent something new.

12. Invent a new publishing tool that can beat blogging.

13. Try something new. There is a reason behind the recent craze for twitter, tumblr etc.

14. Combine data from blogs in a unique way. Be the first blog aggregator. (Aw, someone has already been there)

15. The popular guys do not necessarily have the best ideas, original ideas. Michael Arrington may not know everything about web 2.0 success, Glenn Reynolds is not the best political opinionist, Robert Scoble is no Mencken…

16. You write an original essay on web 2.0, only 2 people read it.

17. You write about your so far weird life, your friends will surely read it. Ride for your community, for like-minded people, rather than for those faceless souls who won't comment, won't click on ads.

18. Ride on the success of the successful. Techmeme does it daily.

19. The blogosphere gives you few opportunities for you to stand out. Clay Shirky once wrote about David Sifry of Technorati talking about starting Technorati Interesting Newcomers List, on Technorati. That was only talk.

20. What about holding a Blog Idol? Even Steven Spielberg is into finding new directing talent through a new reality show titled ‘On the lot’.

21. Keep trying out new things. That is how new actors, directors, musicians do it.

22. You need one big success to make it – a successful blog, a story that has been dugged by thousand people. A movie actor or pop artists need at least one stand out act and he is on his way to gold plated Jacuzzi.

23. Don’t link to top bloggers. Link to small bloggers.
Don’t let the top ones gain more advantage from free links. Hell, they don’t even work for links anymore.

24. Since you can’t force bloggers not to link to top bloggers (free country and all), pay them to link you instead. However, big daddy Google is against after paid links.

25. If you still think you can make your blog a commercial (and linking) success, try out best of breed marketing and content strategies. Learn from the local airport bookshop, see what titles sell best. Employ all available SEO tactics. If you still can't make it, try some black hat and if even that doesn't work out, bring all your stuff offline. :-)

26. If you can’t be number 1 , at least get to number 2 position. According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of the population is holding 80% of the wealth. This analogy easily translates into business activities. Al Ries and Jack Trout have written that the top 2 companies in any market capture 80% of the market.

27. If you can’t be number 1, change the way people do things. Google changed search. Myspace looked ugly but people found it easy. Start by attacking and having a sharp tongue. Nick Douglas at Valleywag does it best.

Related MediaVidea Posts
Do we really need blogs?
Downside of A-list economy: Link Baiting is easy
Rules of the Superstar Economy
A-Listers vs. Long tail: An underdog's story

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Too much of snarkism is not good for health

Having a contrarian view is essential for reaching balance in a hyperactive environment, such as that of the user-generated content and web 2.0 boom of today.

So, while on one hand you will find bloggers such as Michael Arrington writing about yet another supposedly innovative product/company launch, we thankfully have people like Nicholas Carr (famous for ‘End of IT’) who have written in detail about the big questions about user-generated content (For example, who is going to pay all those Diggers? How long will people continue to submit content for free? The stupidity of business models based on mashups) These are valid questions and add to the quality of debate.

This writer tends to be dark about some issues as well, but the idea is to add to level of debate, and to draw attention to new ideas on how we can improve things. For example when I have written against Digg, I have also written how we can improve the online social news experience.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, you will find hawks like Andrew Keen, who claims to be a ‘self-styled’ contrarian. Mr. Keen champions the side of traditional media and conventional thinking about the web 2.0 boom - it is all hooey.

Mr. Keen has come out with a book titled The Dark Side Of The "Citizen Media" Revolution, where he disses the citizen media revolution, calling it ‘amateurist ****shit”.

As an strategy to promote his book (and his columnist credentials), Mr. Keen chooses to pick on a big target to lambast – the Cluetrain Manifesto written in the 1990s, which many believe is the principle behind the citizen media boom.

I could go on and on picking on Mr. Keen’s thesis about citizen media and how he is wrong that only traditionally media is the epitome of quality.

However, Stowe Boyd has already written in detail about Andrew Keen’s assertions.

He writes,

Keen doesn't get what is happening in the blogosphere. He sees self-publishing where community is growing. He sees narcissism where people are sense-making collectively. He sees utopianism where people are engaged in changing the word one post at a time. He sees a dark side, a technological elite hornswoggling the average person, where there is emergent participatory culture changing society for the better. He sees a mob of semi-literate and self-absorbed slobs, where a dynamic participatory learning environment is being fostered.

…Power has moved from the organized media that Keen is implicitly supporting, the failing broadcast media empires.

Finally, Stowe asks an important question:
Why is it narcissism when people participate in media?
Read the Post by Andrew Keen (please read the comments)

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Some useful blogs for web entrepreneurs

Om Malik’s GigaOm network has launched Found+Read, a blog for web entrepreneurs.
This is the second blog from the GigaOm network focusing on online workers, after

A roundup of other useful reads for startups that I have found to be useful and hope you would as well:

Dharmesh Shah ‘s On Startups - Advice For Software Startups

Paul Graham’s essays.

Startup Review. A good read if you want to know how successful web sites made it big.

Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World blog.

Seth Godin’s Blog

Written by Fred Wilson, a New York-based venture capitalist. has a listing of useful readings for entrepreneurs, covering Blogs by famous entrepreneurs and VCs.

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