Steve’s question (and answer):
Will Jason Calacanis’ stable of bloggers get their fair share of the money too? I sure hope so. They are the company’s greatest assets. Jason is surely the visionary but without them, there is no company.
One may recall these same questions were asked (and are still be fought out in court) during 1999 1.0 as well. Whether it be about AOL “volunteers” or regarding About.com “guides”. Other acquisitions of “communities” led to philosophical, if not legal, handwringing as well. I can remember two especially well: Andover.net’s acquisition of Slashdot and Amazon’s acquisition of IMDB.
In other words, it’s a relevant question that has been asked for a long time: Can something that is created by a “community” of creators be purchased and sold without compensation going directly to those who create the, excuse me for the following word, content? (I could chase some rabbits here about all media concerns worth purchasing being collaborative, but I’m going to restrain myself.)
Frankly, Steve’s question — and the issue it raises — can be applied to any business: If a company is sold, let’s say a PR firm, the employees have the opportunity to walk out the door. If the employees do not feel they participate in the “upside” of the transaction, they are free to come and go as they please. Therefore, the world of mergers and acquisitions has developed means to encourage the most important asset of the acquired company to stay around. When one hears “earn out” attached to the acquistion of a company (as are the rumors regarding Weblogs Inc.), for example, one can translate that to mean the acquirer has the concerns Steve raises.
In the Weblogs Inc case, however, it appears to me there are lots of opportunities for win-wins (a 1999 1.0 term) all around the table. As the contributing bloggers share in the revenue (the old About.com business model), it would appear they will benefit directly from the increased traffic and advertising potential AOL can bring to the table.
I feel certain they will be incentivized (another 1999 1.0 term) to hang around and will certainly recognize the opportunity for advancement afforded in the new corporate structure. That, or they’ll be embarasssed to say they work for AOL and will leave. Or, they can point with pride that they work for Time Inc. and stick around. Or, they can, etc.
Bottomline: For the record, I predict 1999 2.0 entrepreneurs who succeed (especially those who want to succeed more than once) will figure out ways for all involved to succeed.
*I use the terms “1999 1.0” and “1999 2.0” to refer to certain similarities in the “business cycle clichés” appearing in 2005 that harken back to an earlier era. In no way do I want to imply that all 2005 ideas will crash and burn, as many of those 1999 ideas were rather brilliant and successful. However, those 1999 2.0 ideas that are merely about fad-chasing, VC-focused business plans will likely “bust.”