Posts from June 2005

Blogging 1.0 (continued)

Possibly my most popular post ever was one called Blogging 1.0.

It got 20 trackbacks and god only knows how many more links.

It was a long missive about the early experiments in "citizen’s media" like Geocities and About.com.

I wrote it about five months ago in early February.

So much has happened in the ensuing five months that its time to return to this topic.

First, About.com was purchased by The New York Times Company for $410 million in late February. I blogged about that deal at the time and I think it was a very smart move for the Times to make.

But more importantly, Blogging 2.0 has developed to the point that the $410 million that The New York Times paid for About.com is going to look really cheap in a few years.

Take Weblogs Inc for example.  Everyone knows Jason Calacanis and he certainly is a controversial figure.  But how can you not be impressed with what he’s built on a Blogging 2.0 platform in less than two years.

Just one of his blogs, Engadget.com, does about the same traffic as Slashdot.com does.  Here are the Alexa stats:

Engadget_vs_slashdot

That’s just one of his blogs.

Then there’s his blog on cars, Autoblog.  How does it compare to the websites of Motortrend and Popular Mechanics?  Glad you asked.  Here are the Alexa stats on that:

Autoblog

That’s just one more of his blogs.

This Blogging 2.0 model is really really powerful.  It takes between $25k and $50k to launch one of Weblogs’ blogs.

Jason is not alone. Nick Denton is doing the same thing with Gawker Media.  In fact, Nick invented this model.  Jason paid him the ultimate compliment by copying it pretty much verbatim.

And the Gawker Media properties have similar action.

Here is Gawker vs MetroNew York (the New York Magazine site). It’s not even a contest.

Gawker

And here is Defamer vs Variety.com.

Defamer

I talked to Nick and Jason this week about the ways they monetize these sites.  Although they do "sell" advertising, most of the action is in ad networks and related "automated" ways they monetize their content.  There are probably 50 or more advertising services vendors of one sort or another knocking on their doors to get their ad systems onto the Weblogs and Gawker properties.

This puts them in a position of incredible leverage, both with the vendors, and with their businesses.  The money just rolls in.  The traffic keeps going up.  And profits start flowing.  Soon they will be big profits.

When is a major media company, other than The New York Times, going
to wake up and realize that they need some of this Blogging 2.0 mojo? 

If they do it soon, they might be able to pay less than the $410
million that The New York Times paid to get its Blogging 2.0 platform.

If they wait, these businesses are going to sell for a lot more than About.com sold for.  Meanwhile, Scott Meyer and his team at About.com are going to reinvent About.com to look like these businesses.  It’s where the action is in online publishing today.

The scalability and leverage of the Blogging 2.0 publishing model is really mind blowing.

VC Cliche of the Week

I am going to do something that I may regret.

I am going to mix business and politics to make a point about both.

When I read Bush’s comments last night about the war in Iraq, I immediately thought of Bliss McCrum’s old cliche about follow-on investing.

"You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results"

Every time a company runs out of money and comes back to the VCs for more, you have to assess the management on how well they are doing, whether they are accomplishing the results that everyone wants, and whether its worth putting more money in.

We generally want to support our companies and lean very much in that direction.  But when the results are not good, we go back to Bliss’ cliche about expecting different results.  And so many times the price of the new money is not only dilution, but also some material change in direction of the company.

Because you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

And that is my issue with Bush’s "stay the course" agenda in Iraq.  I personally am well beyond whether this war was a good idea.  We are there and we’ve caused a lot of suffering in Iraq with our forced regime change.  At this point, I am not a fan of pulling out.  I am a fan of getting the job done.

But you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results
.

Bush and his team need to do some things differently.  More troops?  A more agressive effort to take on the insurgents?  A deal with the neighboring countries? 

I honestly have no clue about what they need to do differently, but they’ve got to try some new stuff.

Because their current approach isn’t working too well and the country knows it.

Big Deal for Bigfoot

It’s time for some brogging (Brad Feld‘s word for bragging on your blog).

Bigfoot_logo

Flatiron’s portfolio company Bigfoot Interactive announced yesterday that had just signed a big deal with Amazon.com to power the email for Amazon Services.

The fact is that email has the highest ROI for customer retention marketing efforts and Amazon knows that. 

By partnering with Bigfoot Interactive, Amazon gets a best of breed email solution for their enterprise customers.

It’s a big deal for Bigfoot Interactive and makes me proud of them.

I love moments like this.  Building companies isn’t easy and you have to believe in the management and support them.  Events like this are the rewards for all of that.

Want To Waste A Half Hour?

Download Google Earth.

Sorry, no Mac software yet.

But this is an incredible piece of technology.

Google’s been showing it off on Google local for a while and I blogged about that in early April.

It’s so much fun to type in addresses of places you’ve lived, places you’ve visited, and be taken there through the power of desktop computing and satellite imaging.

Wow.

Sweaty Blog

Lot’s of people have told me I’d like Weezer.

But for some reason, I’ve never really gotten into them.

The family doesn’t dig Weezer so that’s a big strike against them.

But last week, a blogger named Sweaty Blog tagged two songs for me.

Perfect Situation by Weezer (off their new disc – Make Believe)

and

Kill by Jimmy Eat World

Of the two, I like the Weezer song better, but both of them are quite good.

So, I am now going to listen to the new Weezer album in Rhapsody sometime this week.

And I’ve added Sweaty Blog to my feed reader.

I love that fred’spodcast thing.

Goodbye iPodder, Hello iTunes!

This is big news.

iTunes 4.9 is available and it supports podcasting.

I’ve moved all of my podcast feeds from iPodder into iTunes and the files are being downloaded as I write this.

I am removing iPodder from my system and now podcasting has become one step easier.

But this is a really important step, because everyone who has an iPod has iTunes.  That’s more than 6 million people.  All of them will have a podcasting client once they upgrade to 4.9.  That won’t happen overnight, but this is a big positive development for podcasting.

Here are a few other interesting things about podcasting in iTunes:

  • You can publish your podcasts to the Apple Music Store in iTunes.  They will review it and if it passes their smell test you get distribution in iTunes.  I did that for Positively 10th Street already and hopefully we’ll get a few more listeners via Apple.
  • iTunes automatically downloads the most recent podcast and you get the option to "Get" any of the old ones.  Very nice.
  • You can subscribe to RSS feeds of video content (videocasts?) and iTunes will apparently play the video in full screen mode.  So iTunes can also be a videocast client.  I couldn’t make this work but I have heard that others have.  I’ve added a del.icio.us tag called fred’svideocast if you want to tag some videos for me.  I put the Tom Cruise kills Oprah video in it to start it off.
  • When you synch an iPod with iTunes, the podcasts all show up on the iPod as a single playlist called Podcasts.  That’s not good.  I liked the iPodder approach better where each podcast showed up as a separate playlist.  I need to figure out how to fix that.  If you listen to a lot of podcasts, that is not going to work very well.

I am really excited by this development.  It should make podcasting easier for everyone.  Just yesterday I sent four CDs of Jason Chervokas’ Down In The Flood shows to a friend of mine.  Had I known that iTunes would support podcasting this week, I might not have done that.  I might have just sent him the URL and told him to download them in iTunes.

Balance

A friend commented on the Business 2.0 article about Union Square Ventures.

She said, "Your quotes were a mix of unbridled enthusiasm and measured market
intelligence."

I was glad to hear that because its a balance that we have been trying to strike and its hard to get it exactly right.

On one hand, we are huge believers in the transformative power of the Internet and internet-based technologies. When you get us talking about all the interesting stuff that is happening out there, we sound like unbridled enthusiasts for sure.

On the other hand, we lived through one internet bubble and don’t really want to see a second. Talk to the entrepreneurs who we are saying no to and you’ll hear that we (and others in the VC business) are being too cautious.

Getting that balance right is hard.

But if you get it right, you can be a very effective investor and partner for the entrepreneurs you back. You have to believe in what you invest in and work hard to get others to believe in it too.  But you also need to be bring a dose of reality to everything you work on. Entrepreneurs are also unbridled enthusiasts and one of the main roles for an investor is to pull on the reins from time to time.

So I am happy that we came across with that balance.  It’s something we work hard on and it’s important.