Blog mogul? The NYT’s David Carr has a piece today about Nick Denton that includes this quote regarding the PaidContent.org mixer in New York last week: “It made me want to move to Budapest, batten down the hatches and wait for the zombies to run out of food.” (Note: What follows is a rant about the article, not about Nick.)
Where to start? First: Blog mogul is an oxymoron, but I’ll skip that one for now. Second: I was at the mixer and the vast majority of attendees were wearing nametags that suggested they work for the digital divisions of traditional media companies. These were NOT blogger types. They were mobile phone types. They were HBO and MTV and New York Times types. They were Reuters and AP and McGraw-Hill and Time, Inc. types. Indeed, I must have seen a couple dozen name tags with New York Times on them, including the publisher (although I don’t think he was wearing a name tag). My point: there may have been some bubbling at the Paidcontent.org mixer, but it had little to do with blogging.
As for Nick Denton’s Gawker media empire and David Carr’s characterizing his shuttering a couple of titles as “turning bearish,” I would only repeat what I’ve said here many times: TV networks try out new shows every year (and now, throughout the year). Some work, some don’t. Magazines work the same way — companies launch and shutter them all the time. Book publishers have a poor record of publishing hits, but they keep putting them out into the marketplace. If one is trying to use a blog format to create a network of websites covering an array of topics, then, there will be hits and there will be flops. No surprise. No bust. No boom. Nick is simply running a business — and it appears he’s running it wisely.
Bubbles, booms, busts, bears: these are financial terms that are confusing to me when mis-applied to blogging and the adaptation of personal media. Blogging (except to a small universe of individuals who see everything in financial terms) is more a social or cultural phenomenon than a business and financial one. I certainly think personal media will have a tremendous financial impact and transform certain aspects of the way business is conducted, but even finding a “pure play” in the blog-arena is going to be a challenge for the lay investor (not the professional one), so how can there be a bubble in the classic sense?
Unlike the financial bubble/bust of 1998-2001, there are few ways the general investor can participate in any business-related pure-play blogging bubble. The investments in blogging made by traditional media companies are a miniscule slither of their overall operations. There are no infrastructure build outs, i.e., fiber optics, that is accompanying the blogging boom. Other than marketing and labor, what are the capital requirements for media companies built on platforms related to personal media? (Okay, bandwidth and storage, but how cheap is that compared to 1999? — or to the cost of producing a line-up of TV shows?) As I’ve stated before, the money that will be lost (and there will be plenty of it) will be lost by the pros: VCs, media companies and wealthy individuals who are deploying a small fraction of their available assets in any one company. The greatest loss will be in time and passion devoted by individuals who are working on startup ideas that don’t pan out — but they’ll learn from it and move on and chances are, they’ll benefit from the experience down the road.
Update: There are plenty tech bloggers commenting on the Times article. See techmeme.com, Also, Heather Green thinks there may be a headline-writer problem as there is a disconnect between the article and the headline.
Update II: Dylan Stableford is aggregating coverage over at fishbowlNY. Also, Jeff Jarvis says what Nick’s doing is “simply management,” as do I.