Saturday, April 28, 2007

Get off your high horse when you are online

Penelope Trunk has written a great piece of advice for print journalists seeking a future in online writing.

Her important advice: be humble and join the conversation.

She points out to the example of writers Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin, who have excelled as writers and speakers in the offline world but who don’t participate in online conversation.

While Malcolm Gladwell just ‘reprints’ his New Yorker articles online, Seth Godin does not accept comments.

He is an extremely highly paid public speaker who writes an online diary.

I think Penelope has touched a raw nerve here.
In fact, you can call up instances of many other so-called ‘A-listers’ who
1. Use Akismet as an excuse to filter comments
2. Write a post proudly saying whom they will link and whom they won’t (Jason Calacanis, for example)


British women outnumber men in buying books

Joel Rickett writes in the Guardian about a research done by consumer research agency BML, reporting that while women bought 188 million books in the UK in 2006, men bought only 128 million.
Women bought 8% more than they did in in 2005. On the other hand, men bought only 2% more than 2006.

What about the U.S., which accounts for a third of all book sales worldwide?

The data from Publishers Weekly is old dating back to 1997-1999, but I think not much would have changed to alter the way of things:

According to Publishers Weekly, in the U.S., Women buy 68% of all books. Moreover, 55% of fiction is bought by women; 45% by men.

About India, all I can say is that the two Indian (or of Indian origin) winners of the Man Booker prize in these last years have been women.


Friday, April 27, 2007

2 things Web 2.0 is yet to crack

1. The walls of big business
I am not talking about the occasional blog by the company’s favorite trusted guy, the PR hack, rants of the guys in Sys Admin department, or the odd enlightened CEO.

As a recent McKinsey report says, companies lag far behind in implementing web 2.0 tools including blogs, wikis, mashups, podcasts, ranking & rating, social networking among others.

To many in companies, using web services was as far as they are prepared to go.

Bruce Nussbaum at Businessweek goes at heart of the corporates’ reluctance, correctly diagnosing that,
Corporations Like Web 2.0 But Not Blogs. They're Afraid Of Their Own People.
One of the top quotes about Web 2.0 of all time in my book.

2. The Mobile Web
We talk about user empowerment, two-way conversation, things that mean nothing to Mobile service providers who have a stranglehold over the whole mobile experience.

Each new piece of software or data has to be Okayed by the provider.
The absurd data usage charges add to the fun, doesn’t it?

Mobile web 2.0 needs a serious dosage of disruptive innovation.
Myspace on mobile doesn’t cut it.


10 Viral Marketing tools

1. Useful, entertaining Microsites: Centered on a concept, new product or service or a special service for your customers.

2. Online games/quizzes/polls: Flash games are very popular at the moment. Many sites often carry these games and polls on a Microsite (which you clearly advertise) versus a Pop up (which surprises and annoys people, especially if you don’t inform them about the pop up status)

3. Video clips: The in-thing in this age of video sites such as Youtube. Produced for anything between free and $50000 and upwards on a cellphone or on full-fledge sound stage.

Viral videos are the third most effective tool for Viral marketing, according to a study by, behind Microsites and Online games, quizzes and polls.

However, you must keep in mind that most videos don’t go viral. In fact, many of the successful viral videos have been that individuals create instead of corporations. Besides, the effectiveness of specially produced Viral Video may also suffer from over use, having to compete with others; often you will find yourself spending money to spread the message about your $50,000 viral video.

Marketing Sherpa says that 10% of people who see a video will ell others about that clip,

Check out this Wikipedia entry cum list of Viral marketing campaigns.

4. Audio clips: In form of podcasts, song clip., etc

5. Tell a friend feature on web sites: Heavily used by Web 2.0 startups.

6. Encouraging e-mail forwarding: News sites thrive on it.

7. Offering e-cards and special ‘cool-looking’ single page, easy-to-download (that is, not heavy) documents.

8. Refer-a-Friend: A staple of social networking sites, including Digg.

9. Free tools and Widgets:’s SEO tools are very popular.

10. Community marketing: Actually, it is an alternative to Viral marketing methods. Jeremiah Owyang says that Viral campaign is like getting ‘digged’ – a initial spike and then back to normal. Rather, as Jeremiah suggests is to nurture a community which will eventually deliver your business compounded growth year after year.

There are no short cuts to business success.

If you succeed in satisfy at least a small group of customers, they will speak about you to many others. Isn’t this Viral marketing or what?

Your core group of users/customers: those are the ones who pay attention. Of course, people selling alcoholic beverages, movies and all that involves huge back-end expenditure usually forget this and go for short cuts.

According to Jeremiah,
Viral Marketing effort that will be like the ‘pet rock’ of the 80s.
Jeremiah has this great list of Online marketing tools, worth checking out.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

My favorite blogger quote of April

Coming from a country ravaged by so called Messiahs, I am not a big fan of all who people call pundits.
Carries too much baggage of self importance, you see.

My policy against Pundits begins in the real world and then onto the virtual world.

Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jehan (mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal) was also a poet who said:

“Heaven is that street where Mullah and Pundit (hindu) don’t live”

Unfortunately, the web is no heaven.

Fortunately, the web also punishes its pundits swiftly.

Take the Steve Rubel case, where the so-called Pundit first ranted against PC Mag, but since he also also works for a PR company, Steve apologized and backtracked from his words on his blog.

Steve wasn’t prepared to stand for his words.
I guess that was supposed to happen if you ride in two boats.

The Fake Steve Jobs blog sums up the situation:

What's really admirable is the ease and style with which Steve Rubel handles the fellatio. No attempt to defend what he wrote. No pretending to have any integrity. Just "whoops, the boss says I gotta reverse myself, and also I have to blow you, so down on my knees I go."

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The Ultimate reading list for aspiring blog network moguls

Let us not get into this unending debate about whether Blog Networks are dead.

If you have access to affordable web server and adequate bandwidth, add in dozens of rewriters in China or India, you can still fulfill your dream of being the big time media magnate you promised your mother you would be one day.

So, here it goes:

Part 1: Intro

Introduction to Blog Networks
Written by Darren Rowse of Problogger, from the b5Media Blog network.

Top Blog Networks
List of 80 blog networks.

Top Blogs
List of blogs top in Technorati and Alexa.

Part 2: Funding & Running

Funding Blog Networks
Figures explaining how much it really takes to run a viable Blog network, valuation of Blog networks, among other things.

Blog Networks Need Term Sheets
Calling for rationalizing the relation between the blogger and the network owner.

Paying bloggers
A detailed article by Jeremy Wright, also from the b5Media blog network. Also covers payment method of other blog networks.

Part 3: The criticism

Why I think blog networks suck
Written by SEO expert Aaron Wall where he refutes all the plus points, point by point.

Blog Networks and the Long Tail
Do you create blog network to develop quality content or to earn Google adsense money?

Why Blog Networks Failed
Written by Paul Scrivens of the 9Rules Blog network.

Related coverage on blog networks and failure:

Blog networks - Worth the money?

Why Blog Networks Failed 2

Blog Networks: Time for a Reality Check !

Part 4: What’s next?
FeedBurner testing Blog Networks
FeedBurner is beta testing a new product called “Networks” which are groups of blogs on a single topic.

Big Blog Networks: my vision for Networks of Niches
Richard Macmanus writes about networks of Niches, which are groups of niche bloggers, ''each with their own unique look n' feel but collectively part of a branded network of like minds.

MediaVidea: Mybloglog: a better model for blog networks?

MediaVidea: Blog Networks: an overview

The 9 models of bloggers’ collectives


The 9 models of Bloggers’ Collectives

David Cohn at New Assignment wrote about the evolution of what he calls ‘Citizen Networks’, when bloggers come together – propagating a cause, sharing information, group writing and so on.

Often, informal Citizen Networks come into being during times of crisis or tragedy, such as the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech.

Group blogging often bring more credibility to the project at hand. David writes,
‘A (lonely) blog is only as credible as the individual behind it.’

It is not too fantastic to imagine a future of thriving bloggers’ collectives, rivaling the likes of the New York Times in the credibility stakes, as being ‘blogs of record’, so to speak.

Here is a short list of models for bloggers’ collectives:
1. Global Voices: a major source of original reporting by bloggers all over the world.

2. Assignment Zero/New Assignment: Pioneering Pro-Am journalism. Not a collective in the real sense but most contributors may have their own blogs as well.

3. The Blogcritic model: online magazines run by group of bloggers.

4. Desipundit: A group of Indian bloggers who submit interesting links (about India) throughout the day,.

5. Blog networks: Bloggers’ answer to mainstream media, often running into 100 or more blogs. Mostly run by one publisher, quality is an issue.

6. Mybloglog: Tries to create network of like-minded bloggers, often misused for spam purposes.

7. Group writing projects: Popularized by the likes of popular Problogger blog, where bloggers write on a chosen topic, often for traffic or a prize.

8. Katrinalist, Tsuanmi help type sites: updated by anyone (often moderated) with the latest useful information.

A proposal: a Digg version of New Assignment
Pre-populate it with set of issues, letting users add new issues, rate on stories, among other things. A section on ‘news items that need extended/investigative coverage - the more votes it gets, the better its chances of being explored further.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Advertising on UGC sites 50% more cost effective

In a new study by BlueLithium labs, while ads shown on non-UGC (User Generated Content) sites had a 32 percent higher conversion rate, because of lower cost of advertising on UGC sites, the ‘cost per conversion’ for non-UGC sites was 58 percent higher.

Moreover, non-UGC comScore 250 sites have 7 percent higher cost per conversion as compared to UGC sites.



Is blogging making us unsocial?

There are multiple ways you can interpret the latest spat between A-list bloggers and Wired Magazine:

1. Which interview method is best?
It depends on the topic in hand and the objective of the journalist reporting it. Does he go for a pre-scripted email interview, a lively chat via IM, or does he want to gauge the interviewee’s body language/tone, looking for clues that might tell a real story?

The reporter knows better that words comprise only a part of the full message – nothing beats doing it live.

I read a Jeff Jarvis post about the new Telegraph news room, where he ends by writing that the newsroom should make reporters uncomfortable enough to go out into the community and get stories.

Bloggers still have to learn this, I guess. Early times.

2. Learning from A-listers and their linkbait tactics.
Some might say that it is easy for so-called A-list bloggers to rake up minor issues, knowing perfectly well whom to target, and whom to ignore.

Choose your targets well – Wired is big target, no doubt about it.

3. Look into your own backyard.
While it is a habit for us bloggers to diss the mainstream media and its ‘capricious’ ways, some might even point out this episode gives more visibility to Calcanis and Arrington’s new venture, the Techcrunch 20 event.

4. Is blogging making us unsocial?
Is blogging the new email? The new IM (this would be more appropriate in case of Twitter)?

Many of us find it easy to say in our posts what we wouldn’t care, or dare to say in person.

The recent Kathy Sierra case was blogging at its worst.

Many of us find our comfort zones, away from the human eye, shielded by our words.

Are words enough?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

News Channels of the future: List of RSS feeds with checkboxes?

The idea is simple. The broadband homepage of a news channel shows up a list of RSS feeds for topics, sub-topics and hot topics for the day, with checklists.

Everyone gets to watch what one likes on your favorite news channel (and others, too)

Dave Winer suggests this model with his MSNBC of future mockup.

It would have been handy for those of us who were bored to death by the channels' blanket coverage of Abhi-Ash wedding, while important issues like the reservation debate were happily ignored.


Web 2.0 & the age of recycling

When I wrote in January that 2007 is going to be a year of consolidation in Web 2.0, few paid attention to it.

Most of truisms about web 2.0 are already out in public domain.

However, the so-called pundits cannot help recycling those truisms into yet another ‘groundbreaking’ study on how people use the social web.

The people at Forrester have released ‘the new social technographics’ report', where they have again looked at how people…you know what.

If you look at the above graphic, do you see anything new?
To me, this looks like they have taken Jason Calacanis' observation about social networking/web 2.0, namely '80% consume, 19% comment, 1% contribute", added up known observations taken by the Pew Research and voila!, a new report is born.

1. Does it tell us that social network traffic numbers are not reliable enough to wager our lives with? No.

2. Does it tell us that more than 50% of messages on social networks are spam? No.

3. Does it tell us that social networks are new porn? No.
(For the first time, traffic numbers for social networks are more than that of porn sites. However, it is also true that sex plays a big part in the social networks)

4. Does it tell that that despite all the hype around social networks, people are still reluctant to share information? No

These are all common sense observations.

If you are on the net for a while now, you can guess the directions things are going.

However, the so-called pundits are writing for that grossly overpaid, 'too busy' (huh?) executives eager to pay big amounts for the report. (note: substitute kids instead of executives and you would know what I mean)

Free Advice for busy executives: Look at Gartner’s hype cycle report and you will know how long will it take a technology to enter the mainstream and help us do things better. Until then, it is all hype and regurgitation.

What surprises me is how eagerly gatekeepers like Techmeme lap up all this recycled material. If the gatekeepers do it for long, they are in danger of becoming irrelevant.

I do not know about you, but of late, I have not been excited by stories appearing on Techmeme. I fear it is fast becoming a place for A-listers, consultants to sell their wares, add in the occasional story from NYT.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Blog Networks: an overview

This above chart shows rankings and other important detail for main sites of the top blog networks, followed with a chart of top individual blogs and news sites. This does not take into consideration all the blogs in the fold. These are just the flagship/main blogs. Except for Weblogsinc and Gawker, all other main sites may be number one in their respective sites.

Much has happened in the blog network business since the second half of 2005. Many blog networks came into being hoping to emulate the early success of Weblogsinc and Gawker.

However, much water has flown under the bridge since then. Sanity has returned and people are asking whether it is really that easy building long-lasting online media brands.

A brief look at the major trends:
1. Many blog networks since then have either folded down or were sold to bigger blog networks.
2. Blog networks as loose federation of blogs are still doing okay:, Federated Media
3. Blog networks started by Journalists: Om Malik’s Gigaom Network and Rafat Ali’s Paidcontent sites have made it in a big way.
4. The Techcrunch success story: Erstwhile lawyer Michael Arrington started Techcruch in the last quarter of 2005, focusing on Web 2.0 startups. Now the Crunch network has many more online properties in its fold and Techcrunch is ranked 9th in Technorati.
5. Many News organizations have started blog networks, which supplement their main offerings: BBC, Reuters New York Times, Economist and the Guardian have succeeded in creating useful and informative blogs.

What are the issues that play a major role in making or breaking Blog networks?

This brief overview aims to throw some light on the matter:

The importance of Flagship blogs
Flagship blogs/sites build brand and revenue.

Jason Calacanis, who founded the Weblogsinc blog network, often talks about the importance of creating Flagship titles. In the 2 years that the Weblogsinc blog network took to establish itself, it grew to more than 80 blogs at one time. However, AOL, which bought the network in 2005, has started pruning many blogs.

Three blogs, namely Engadget, Joystiq and Autoblog were the flagship blogs that were responsible for the network’s growth in a big way.

Similarly, the Gawker blog network has Gawker, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Kotaku pulling the whole network.

Multi-author focused blog versus a Blog network.
This is an interesting debate.

There are many blogs and news sites that are huge – bigger than many blog networks.

The Engadget blog, for example has 15-20 contributors at any given time who contribute stories throughout the day. Engadget is organized and run along the lines of a magazine.

In fact, one blog network, Syntagma Media, which had more than 50 blogs, cut down on all redundant blogs and ended up with just 3 sites, which are now being run along the Engadget model – as magazines.

The problems with ‘100- blog’ networks

Not long ago, blog networks proudly shouted about the number of blogs in the network. However, as shown above, numbers have nothing to do with success.

Problem #1: manageability.

How do you supervise the content that goes there?
Story selection, copy editing, checking for copied matter - to manage 100 blogs, you would at least 10 editors, minimum. For cash-strapped startups, that is indeed difficult.

It is not surprising that most huge blog networks do not add any value – in terms of exclusive content. At most, the content is rehashed from RSS readers.

In this scenario, it is difficult a brand around highly atomized, keyword- focused, long tail blogs.

Then, you would need a sales team, or, at least a full-time sales manager.

Since, you don’t have unique content; you need an Evangelizer to promote the blog network/blog on social media sites, forums, etc.

Problem #2: Focus
How do you make a name for yourself?

Like many others in the blogosphere, most blog networks pile on to the usual topics – celebs/scandal/gossip, gadgets, gaming, cars, environment, and health, without standing out in any.

However, some blog networks are doing it with better focus:

B5media specializes in Celeb blogs
Sugar Publishing (owner of Popsugar and other blogs) specializes in female-centric coverage – style, celebrity, etc.

Problem #3: Getting advertising
A ‘100 blog’ network is in deep trouble if it has been unable to build flagship brands.

How do you convince a prospective advertiser about advertising on your ‘atom’ blogs, where traffic is anywhere 100-2000?

It is hard to convince these hard nosed people into sponsoring, say a gadget channel, comprising 20-30 blogs, as it would be hard for the client to gauge the effectiveness of message dissemination.

Problem #4: Paying the bloggers
It takes at least 2 years to put a up a successful blog. A top blog on Technorati is at least 32 months old.

Revenue sharing makes bloggers focus on the topics that bring in traffic – gossip, gadgets, etc. This is good for a while.

For example, B5 media reportedly pays its bloggers using this formula “$100 a month plus $1.50 for every 1,000 pageviews“.

( Via David Krug)

How long will a blogger in the west continue to blog in saturated topic area?
The traffic is bound to plateau after a while.

Not surprisingly, places likes India and China are the best places to run a 100/200 blog network, paying bloggers $100-200 per month

The above chart with the help of two useful tools from Text Link Ads:
Blog Juice calculator and Link Value Calculator

Correction 24.04.2007: John Evans from SyntagaMedia has pointed out that they still have 55 blogs in their networks, arranged across 3 channels.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

What to do if your blog is your resume

It is no secret now that maintaining a blog about a topic if interest or on the industry you work can work as a worthy resume.

Mindy McAdams has written about things a journalist should keep on his professional web site/blog.
People in other fields can learn from this as well.

It is important to know that merely writing about one’s topic area is not enough.
We should provide easy access to other things too.

What are those things? A look at Mindy’s list:

1. A resume: as a post, properly tagged and categorized. Many blogs have the ‘About’ category’ which would be appropriate.
2. Link to a .pdf version of your resume.
3. Link to a Youtube video about yourself – listing your work, experience, etc.
4. List of your works – articles online (with links), web sites where you worked, etc.

5. A brief personal bio – who you are, what you aim to achieve professionally, in not more than 150 words.

6. Organize all the above information in 1 page, linking to individual entries.


Map of the blogosphere: revisiting the A-listers, needlessly

Discover Magazine has come up with a map of the blogosphere, showing the top blogs as bright stars and the rest of 70 million or so blogs as mere specs of dust in the blog universe.

Star dust, if you will.

The magazine took the help of ‘Social media expert’ Matthew Hurst to build the map. I have had enough of experts. Actually, the guy works for Nielsen Buzz Metrics and now that he has been mentioned in the mainstream media, he is now an ‘expert’.

I fail to see anything worthy coming out this map.

A good PR exercise for the magazine and for Nielsen Buzzmetrics for sure. Last year, it was the New York Magazine whichdid this.

Doesn't tell us anything we didn't know before.