Some day the market will eliminate ‘boring’ news as an inefficiency

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Also redundant coverage. Do we really need 635 versions of the same wire story cropping up on Google News?

“serious journalism was described at the conference, repeatedly, as something like broccoli, or medicine the citizenry needs to spoon down, no matter how unpalatable, if democracy is to survive.” He “[struggled] to think of another industry that views its premium product as something akin to a nasty cough syrup – necessary, good for your health, but irredeemably foul-tasting.” He wondered, shouldn’t at least some of the value and energy journalists now place in investigative and civic journalism be placed toward making their work more “palatable?”


Nanny-Journalism is the mother of all news business problems
from The Future of News

Why new media brands are mostly invented by crazy people

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Media brands / businesses are shitty businesses. They’re plagued by narrow profit margins and high overhead (people’s time being the most expensive resource of all).

Starting a new media whatchamagidgit is like saying “I’m going to be a rockstar” or at least “my Jimmy Buffet cover band is going to make enough money to pay for my mortgage and my new baby.”

Only crazy people decide to become content creators or, worse, aggregate the work of content creators into a destination called a ‘website’ or a ‘magazine.’

Is it any wonder so many magazine editors are egomaniacs whose pathological need for narcissistic supply has driven them into the only position on earth where they can exploit a constant stream of it?

What characterizes this bunch of cranks, their one redeeming quality, is a kind of blind faith. Exactly the kind you have to have when you are racing down a runway of uncertain length, burning cash, desperate to connect with the disparate audience you know is out there, hungry for your product — because the most powerful bits of recurring content, be they a show, a column, a blog or a magazine actually define whole new audiences, and gather together people who were previously unaware they were part of a larger community of similar tastes.

And anyway, with the shift to yet another new medium — the web, which is really all mediums in one, delivered in a sort of liminal dream state in which the number of access points to any given piece of content multiplies each day and the behavior of your audience is as maddeningly inscrutable as the movement of the stock market — means none of us who have already committed ourselves to this path have much of a choice. Digital delivery is here, only “here” keeps changing, rapidly, and if we don’t keep up we’ll be erased by someone too naive to know they weren’t supposed to succeed in this sphere.

Here’s rule 0 — 0 because it comes before all the other rules:

The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.

Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

Seth Godin, via Brian Alvey

Seed does the next logical thing: takes ScienceBlogs overseas

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It’s really too bad Seed had me sign a contract that prevents me from talking about anything they do that could vaguely be construed as a trade secret, because the ScienceBlogs model is worth talking about from both a business and a media perspective.

Regardless, there is plenty about ScienceBlogs that is not the least bit secret and is obvious even to an outsider, which I am rapidly becoming having left Seed almost two years ago after starting ScienceBlogs. For instance their latest move: partnering with German publishing company Hubert Burda Media to do a European edition of ScienceBlogs. (press release here)

(Aside: What is it with all these privately-held Western European publishing companies getting into science publishing? Holtzbrinck (German) owns Scientific American and Nature, while Bonnier (Swedish) bought Popular Science and is about to launch a new title called Science Illustrated. I suppose it’s obvious: they don’t answer to shareholders, so they’re free to get into solid, slow-growth niches, and they’re from science-savvy countries.)

Another aside, this one on significance: some people think ScienceBlogs is niche… but it’s only as niche as science itself is. On the web, it’s a monster. Just check out this Alexa graph, in which I compare it to a known quantity, namely the traffic of Sciam.com.

scienceblogs traffic

I’m guessing, based on that graph, that ScienceBlogs is doing at least 4 million pageviews per month, and as many as 5-6 million, and scoring at least a million and a half uniques. (Update: Paid Content reports that Seed claims 1.7 mm uniques / month.)

On top of that, everyone knows that, as hobbyists with day jobs who really just want a platform from which to speak, bloggers work for peanuts. (Just ask Jason Calcanis, who built Weblogs, Inc. on the backs of bloggers making $4 a post. Bloggers are making more now — I heard treehugger pays $10 a post and SuicideGirls, which, believe it or not, has a ‘news’ service, pays closer to 12 or 13, but it’s still nothing compared to what journalists get paid for their time… or is it… I’ll have to post on the economics of being an actual blogger another day.)

Update: Paid Content also reports that Seed is now offering revenue share to bloggers, or at least to the ones they’ll launch with in Europe. I sure hope the bloggers in the U.S. are getting the same deal.

The point I’m getting to in a roundabout way is that going overseas is a completely logical move for Seed. That’s because the entire ScienceBlogs model is built around acquiring, acquiring, acquiring. If you’re making money on every single blog, why not just keep adding them to your network, up to the limit of quality blogs that are out there? It’s what Clive Thompson called the Record Label model of the blog business (whose adherents include Weblogs Inc., B5Media, PopSugar and its companions, etc.), and frankly, it’s the future of online media. That, too, I will have to save for another post.

So having hoovered up all the good U.S. science bloggers (believe me, I know… every time I look around for good blogs that aren’t on SB, I realize just how many of them they’ve already got) why not expand into other languages? Frankly the only thing limiting the ultimate growth of SB is the amount of resources Seed wants to throw at it, and possibly also the potential for the overall quality of the site to go downhill if too many voices dilute its lovably idiosyncratic personality.

I’m glad that ScienceBlogs seems to be doing so well. (Seed, the magazine… not so much… but maybe that’s just because I’ve seen the sausage being made.) Mostly because when I was building ScienceBlogs, I was scared out of my mind that, as with all startups, things wouldn’t work out, the company would go under, and ScienceBlogs would be shortly disbanded. But it didn’t, and Michael Behe will forever rue the day.

Lessons from just-flipped video blog Wallstrip

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Wallstrip

Wallstrip is a web-only TV show about Wall Street. So what, right? Well despite the fact that it started only last October, CBS just bought it for $4 million. Ah, so now you’re paying attention…

Liz Gannes of the GigaOM blog NewTeeVee had dinner with the folks of Wallstrip the other day, and here’s what they had to say about web video:

• Don’t do anything on the web that would be better on TV.

• The mass audience will cease to exist.

• Distribute video where it’s contextually appropriate, so people find it when it’s relevant to them, and watch it then. Don’t worry about centralization.

• Authenticity is the number one rule for web video. Wallstrip is going to start doing product placement, but will make fun of itself (note: not the product) for doing so.

Since I’m in print, I’ll re-write these for that medium:

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