A magazine about blogging? No thanks

A magazine about blogging? No thanks: I’ve been asked by Robert French
about some spam he received for a magazine about blogging. A magazine
called, “Blogging! Magazine.” (Not to be confused with a great new
weblog from magazines.com called Blog Magazine that’s a
blog about magazines, not a magazine about blogs.) I haven’t been
spammed, but here’s what Robert says he received in what was a pitch
for advertising in the new “magazine”:

We are announcing
an opportunity to advertise your business in theupcoming debut issue of
blogging! magazine. We are offering incrediblyaffordable advertising
for the March 2005 issue. This is asubscriber-based magazine that is
provided online in .pdf format thatwill be very affordable, selling for
nearly $1.00 per issue.The advertisements are $100 per full 8½ X 11
(1275 X 1650) page with alink to your business site, or $50 for a half
page (1275 X 825) adincluding your web link. We are offering a special
price for a bannerlink within the magazine at $20 per banner.
Advertisements will onlybe accepted through the close of business at
5:00 p.m. CST on February26, 2005.

So, from parsing
this copy (admittedly, I didn’t see the rest of the e-mail, so this may
be clear), the “magazine” is not really a print magazine but a “.pdf”
document, which I’ve said many times on this weblog, makes little sense
to me as a media form. (The page-rate sends off other red flags, but I
won’t discuss that other than saying, buyer beware.)

However (and
believe me, I’m wrong all the time), I think a magazine about blogging
is about as appealing as a magazine about talking on the telephone. Or
a magazine about using a fax machine. But then, there are countless
magazines about knitting and scrap-booking, and owning a dog in New
York City and some of them thrive as a niche play.

But if I were
investing, I’d choose a knitting magazine over this idea. If the
magazine is “about blogging” then there is absolutely nothing, and I
mean nothing, one can achieve in a magazine (especially a PDF magazine)
that could not be better achieved in a blog. However, I think such a
magazine idea is a trap that is fairly typical when “old media” types
encounter a new media: let’s do a magazine about it is a fairly
predictable reflex. Sometimes it works (TV Guide), but more often, it
fails miserably: Yahoo! Internet Life.

Now, if blogging further
develops as a stand-along industry (which I doubt will happen), I think
IDG or others will successfully launch a business-to-business title
that will include tradeshows and books and other properties built
around it.

If the audience for this magazine is bloggers, I
think something built on an RSS-enabled platform that is designed to be
read in a newsreader would be a more appropriate medium. You know,
something like a blog.

That said, as a magazine wonk, I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

The reason you’ve heard of podcasting is because no one first “demo’d” it at a conference and no corporate marketers were involved

No offense to VCs and the people who try to get their ideas in front of them. And no offense to big corporate marketers who are somewhere creating the next great gizmo. And no offense to the bloggers and journalists who serve as the acolytes of VC-funded start-ups andconsumer electronic marketers…

But, when something is going to be big. Really big. You rarely see it demo’d.

Usually, when something is big, it’s, well, boring and obvious…and, at first, not cool.

And, rather than an innovation, it’s usually a hacked-adaptation of existing, widely available, easy-to-understand — and freely available — concepts and technologies. And almost always, there were no meetings involved in its development.

But then, someone looks at that hack and thinks about it. And then, they come up with an inspired metaphor to describe it. And then, well, that’s where the fun begins. And it’s fun because no one is in control except people who understand how metaphors work — and “experts” rarely do.

Case in point: podcasting.

About 20 weeks ago, on September 28, 2004, I heard the term “podcast” for the very first time when Doc Searls explained it on his “IT Garage” blog. He said then that the word podcast returned 24 results on Google. After reading the long, long NY Times piece yesterday on podcasting, I wondered how many results the word would return. Yesterday, it was 687,000, today it is 1,700,000. A rather wide range, but the point is, it’s a big number. (Update: Panaytonis Vryonis at g-metrics.com (see comments) showed me a really cool way to track these kind of things.)

Twenty weeks. That’s 140 days. Can you imagine how far along “podcasting” would be if it had been a corporate idea: An idea some media company or technology company developed and “brought to market”? Or even some hot shot start-up?

Here’s a long list of hot new products that were being “DEMO’d” in 2004. Some are on their way to
greatness.  But as a “movement” and as for being “big, really big” are any close to podcasting?

If a big corporation marketing team had been charged with rolling out podcasting, they would still be sending out memos setting up the first meeting to discuss it. Teams of lawyers would just be entering the picture explaining why the concept would violate any number of regulatory guidelines and international laws and trade agreements. Corporate communications and marketing types would be debating “branding” issues and who could speak for the company. IT departments would be the scenes of shouting matches over interoperability and feature sets.

And the lawyers at Apple would be debating whether or not to sue someone over usage of the word “pod.”

Thank god podcasting was not a corporate idea. And not even an idea of the Silicon Valley tech intelligensia. (Although open-source alpha-geeks jumped in fast and furious.) The podcasting horse left the barn toofast for anyone to make up rules about what it should or shouldn’t be…except that there are no rules. It took off too fast for anyone to claim it (although Dave Winer and Adam Currey get my vote), brand it, define it or even explain it.

Now. Please. If you’re a podcasting pioneer. Don’t go screwing it up by thinking that what you’ve done in the past 140 days is to establish some sort of dogma and chissled-in-granite paradigm as to what is — and what is not –podcasting. Just keep doing what you’re doing and stop reading any NY Times articles explaining things you already know.

Podcasting is bigger than that.

(Flashback:  On October 6, a week after I first heard the term “podcast,” I had these things to say about podcasting. On October 11, I observed there was a mad rush by some to claim they were the first podcasters by claiming that Marconi personally taught me how to podcast. (Which led to a nice, who is “Marconi” discussion. And somewhere — I can’t find it — I think I got into a friendly debate with my friend
Steve Rubel on whether or not the word “podcast” could be changed to
something else.)