Well, it’s been an interesting week; I’m out of the closet yet again as the new media project I’m working on with Roger Simon and Charles Johnson went public at the L.A. Press Club on Tuesday.
Much of what we’re working on isn’t really grist for public blogging yet. There’s some potentially protectable IP, and a lot of business negotiations that are best held out of the public eye. If you’re a blogger and interested in signing up to Phase I, which will be – in simple terms – an ad network, send an email to join-(at)-pajamasmedia.com and you’ll hear back about some next steps.
It does explain the dearth of blogging by me, though. And it’ll be a while before I have the chunks of time I usually use for blogging; I do miss it.
I’ll take a moment, though, to set out some of the strategic ideas behind what we’re trying to do, and see what the folks here think about them.
I’ve believed in the power of the Internet to disintermediate different sectors of the economy for quite some time. The reality is that the different layers of middlemen in the economy really do three things – they help you find things, they buffer supply, and they catalog information. Two of those three things are done better by information services, and one of them is done better by the manufacturer.
I’ve also believed that – in Mazlow’s hierarchy of need – that Western societies will be far more concerned about self-actualization than productive work in the coming decades. That’s a good thing on several levels, one of which is that it will soften the blow of global leveling, as our reduced lifestyles are combined with improved aesthetic sensibilities. But that means that there is a virtually limitless supply of talent (some better than others…) out there looking for an outlet.
And home music studios (and soon film studios), and on-demand printing, and blogs will make it easier and easier for the genteelly poor creative classes to create.
Look at CD Baby sometime.
In no small part, the engine behind blogging is really this same thing.
As someone who writes business models the way other folks do grocery lists, I’ve laid out several models for businesses to do this – working with Dutch software guy Donovan Janus, first taking a stab with Iverdean, a digital fulfillment service which morphed into Exposure Manager, an online photo gallery/fulfillment service which is actually beginning to chug along as a business.
What does this mean for the ‘legacy’ companies that are in these spaces?
Hugh Hewitt flat out said that big newspapers are dead.
Usually, I’m a lot more liberal than Hugh, but in this case, I’m a lot more conservative.
I think that newspapers – as a model for the kind of legacy information middleman that makes up the media industry – are badly wounded, but I doubt that they will die.
But they will go from the 93% of the market for written news – and more important for a certain class of advertising – that they once owned to, say 50 – 60%. And more, they will lose the ability to set prices for advertising in the market, which will make the business model for the newspaper much, much tougher.
As an institution, they are going to have to change, and change a lot. I’ll pat myself on the back for a moment here; I was interviewed by Harry Chandler for a job in the fledgling “new media” division of the Times back in 1995 or 6. I did some homework, and as we sat and chatted, he asked me what the “new media” Times ought to look like; I told him that first of all, it was going to have to be much leaner. About 30% of the bottom-line revenues of the Times had come from classified ads, and those ads were about to go away, I told him. And world and national competitors were going to go after their readers – the Washington Post would compete on coverage of national politics, and the BBC on coverage in Europe. Their answer was to regionalize.
He didn’t like either answer, and I didn’t get the job.
Blogs are moving toward a critical mass, in which they break out of the enclave we all have been living in, into the wider world of media.
Blogs will become another media channel. It will happen in part as top bloggers become media figures themselves (and vice versa); as media companies create or sponsor blogs; as blogs intertwine with ‘tentpole’ media properties that are somehow related to them (www.cooksillustrated.com and food blogs; www.vivid.com and sex blogs; and so on).
But the heart of the blogosphere will be the emergent, fast-changing, unstructured (formally, anyway) world of blogs as we know them.
And the questions will be how to build useful interfaces between that world and the highly structured world of advertisers, media consumers, and blog novices while respecting the dynamic nature of the blogs themselves.
That’s the three-pipe problem.