Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Alarums. Excursions. Enter the Queen, Prince, and Exeter

- Shakespeare, Henry VI

[The wonderful and disturbing image below was created by Visual Snark and is included here by permission. Many thanks! - The Management]

[And see? See? See why one ought to have a graphic art department at one's disposal? - The Management]

I've been thinking a great deal about blogging as a writer's medium lately; see my post on Missy's blog if you are interested in further reflections of mine upon this topic. Guh, I sound like a professor. But read it anyway if you haven't yet. And by the way, sorry if I was SCREAMING in that particular entry; some of my formatting didn't transfer exactly (not Missy's fault).

I think that "Publish Or Perish" entry begs the question of how one might utilize blogging to write and make money. This is a question near and dear to my heart as you might imagine. Here is what I've come up with:

I think someone -- you -- should become a syndicator. Go and scout out and sign up people with creative professional-quality blogs like Chasing Windmills, pink india ink, Visual Snark, or (dare I say it) myself. Develop a portal that has pages of, say, four quadrant panels, each quadrant containing a preview of the current entry for one of these pro blogs. You can link to the blog itself from the portal and read it. Along the sides are various ads from sponsors that, by the way, are not click-based.

The syndicator / portal creator (you) would get income from selling the ad space and use that to pay the writers (me et. al., but especially me). You would also handle the RSS feeds from the blogs and sell ad space on them (see the Onion feeds for examples of this). Probably the portal should be able to be personalized for an individual in a fashion similar to the Google or Yahoo! home pages one can set up. This ends up being much like an aggregator, but a slicker one than any I've seen. My imaginary portal page is pretty, damn it, and graphically interesting, not just lines of text.

I imagine that the blog content provider (me) would work with the syndicator (you) to create a personalized blog page "look and feel", so that (for example) pink india ink would still have a pink background (and damn if I don't feel gay every time I pull it up but fortunately I'm used to it by now). Probably the syndicator would also sell ad space on the blog page itself. The blog page would of course link back to the portal, so that traffic could be shared among the content providers (Person X reads Kat and also is steered to Visual Snark, for example).

The syndicator could / should also provide employment to some of the graphic artists that are currently bartending. I should be able to say to the syndicator (you) that I need pictures of malefic clowns or squirrels with push-up bras and the syndicator's graphic art department could provide them and integrate them into my blog content. Maybe I'd use more graphics that way, who knows. The down side is that we'd have to find new bartenders.

Also, when you first pull up the master portal, it plays the theme from The Jetsons. This is very important to me for some reason.

The real job of the syndicator is to sell ad space, of course. Yech, personally, but some people are good at that stuff. Go find 'em, unless you're one already. But notice that your startup costs are about a hundred bucks and it's all virtual, so you can run the business out of a bar with wireless access, at least until you die from cirrhosis of the liver.

It doesn't take a genius like me to realize that this vision plus about ten minutes of work equals a business plan for some ambitious person out there -- namely, you. I'd do it myself, but I'm too busy creating content -- that is, writing. Plus I have a related project in the works already. So go for it. Tell your friend.

You could send me a big check, though. It would be the gracious thing to do.

-- Hulles

P.S. No, this sort of thing doesn't exist already. I know this because no one has called me.


Anonymous said...

hah ... now you must go look at my 4/10 post!

i know you start with the premise of "professional quality blogs" but i think that idea needs underscored in what the syndicator's job is.

Anonymous said...

"Also, when you first pull up the master portal, it plays the theme from The Jetsons. This is very important to me for some reason."

oh...and it could somehow automatically be programmed to show, in a synchronized fashion, the icons (hyperlinked, of course) of the top four (meet george jetson, his boy elroy, daughter judy, jane, his wife!) blogs by hits or comments in the last 24 hours.

Stephen Blackmoore said...


It's too goddamn early for me to think too much on this (being on the west coast, I've only just now stumbled into my office, blearily looked at my monitor and trying to form coherent thought - it's not working well). And anything I say I suspect you already know and have thought about, but I'll say it anyway, because I'm the pretentious, arrogant Scorpio that I am.

So, please forgive me if I'm talking out of my ass here.

Looking at this seriously (something I can usually only do when coming off a weekend tequila bender), there are a lot of different ways to do this. There's one site that I contributed to for a while called LA Voice (http://www.lavoice.org) that opened up articles to pretty much anyone who wanted to drop one in, provided it fit in with Los Angeles life, politics, etc.

And there are lots of group blogs, as well, with regular contributors. One, in fact, is a network of sorts called Metroblogging (You can see the parent Los Angeles site at http://blogging.la), that has spawned off several related Metroblogging sites through every continent except Africa and Antarctica (I'd personally love to see a Metroblogging McMurdo), including a fictional one (Azeroth from World of Warcraft). No St. Paul, though there is a Minneapolis (http://minneapolis.metblogs.com/).

So lots of different ways to do these things. However...

The main problem (I don't believe there are any insurmountable problems - otherwise I would never have gotten dates) I can see with the idea of a blog portal site (if I'm understanding correctly and that's what you're getting at) is that I already have access to several that I have quite a lot of control over. I use Google Reader a lot, for instance. A prettier one is Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com/), which is a personalizable portal (Man, I must be tired. I'm spending a lot of time in parentheses). It actually has a structure similar to the layout you described.

Anything that has an RSS feed can be dumped into it in its own little graphical box along with your email (support for Gmail, .Mac, Hotmail, etc. - see it's those damn parentheses again), calendar, to do lists, and so on. The good (for the reader) and bad (for the creator) is that RSS readers don't pull in the ads. I spend a lot of times on blogs only when I'm commenting. Usually, I access them through a reader. (Like how I read your post today - Dear god, stop me before I parenthesize again!)

I think the danger to a business model like that is the changing landscape of users' expectations. Example.

I want my music. I want to play it in the car, on my computer, in my iPod, on my Rio player that I wear when I work out, and pipe it throughout my home network and play it on my television. Why? Well, for the same reason I've followed through with a lot of bad ideas; because I can. Problem is no one offers me an easy, legal way to do that. So I go to BitTorrent and pull the MP3s.

Same thing with news. I don't read a newspaper, but I do read the LA Times (though it's a joke - dammit, I told you to stop me parenthesizing!) because it's loaded with lots of shootings and the New York Times because it adds to my pretentious demeanor, even though I care fuck all what happens there, online. I'm not alone, which is why newspapers are dying.

The content providers aren't the ones making the cash. Yes, everyone is scrambling madly to get content for their sites, but much like the gold rush, the people making money here aren't the miners looking for gold. It's guys like Levi Strauss and Mr's Smith and Wesson selling shit to the miners.

Everything Google does is in support of their ad model. GMail, Calendar, Reader, all of these things are loss leaders that make them a brand name and force people to their sites to see their ads. They don't have to change their business model to take advantage of changes in user's expectations.

I can see content providers and syndicators having to constantly adjust their models to take advantage of those changes. They are essentially a niche within a niche. More than just changing their subject matter focus (because you never want to be too all over the place. If you don't know what you're looking for, you're not going to find it)

Jesus H. Monkeyfucking Christ. I didn't expect to write all that. Anyway, that's my cent and a half. I'm going to lie my face down here on the keyboard and go to sleep.

Hulles said...

Whew. Who knew that I would get such responses? Well, me, at least I hoped I would. That's part of the reason I wrote this.

visualsnark, you have become like a goddess to me. Your 4/10 post is fabulous. I'd tell people to go see it but (as you know) I'm trying to get your permission to include the image here. You rock my house.

And as far as the Jetsons, absodamnlutely it can be programmed to do that. I could do that myself, actually, if you give me a little time. Animation (or any visual art related thing) is not my forte but I am a computer geek, after all.

And Stephen, thanks for taking the time to write all that. Good thing this isn't print or many trees would have died in the process. And thanks lots for your cent and a half, I found it very interesting.

First, I am also a pretentious and arrogant Scorpio, which is why I wrote this entry in the first place.

Second, I'm a little surprised you didn't actually makae a stronger case against doing what I was trying to suggest. The thing I was imagining seems to have survived your comment.

I know the RSS feeds don't have ads, or at least not as separate entities from the content itself. I was imagining the portal would produce the RSS feeds instead of consume them from the individual blogs. I was mistaken when I was talking about selling ads on the feeds a la the Onion; I was actually thinking of the Onion subscription HTML emails I get which do have ads. I also get my RSS stuff via email so I confused the two in my mind (such as it is).

Actually, I think I'm going to wait and respond more to your comment after I check out the sites you mention. But thanks again for taking the time to chime in with such good stuff. Later.

Anonymous said...

of course you have my permission to include it :-) the image is stored at http://www.visualsnark.com/images/_sometimes_.jpg (there are underscores on both sides of sometimes in case this comes through as a geniune hyperlink)

Hulles said...

Thank you so much. I abase myself at your feet. Hope you washed 'em recently....

I love that image!

Stephen Blackmoore said...

I didn't make a stronger case against for a couple of reasons.

One, I hate the idea of killing an idea in its infancy simply because I can. Unless it's the kind of idea that holds my having bits of genitalia routinely poked at by lit cigarettes as its central theme.

And two, I don't think it's a baseless idea. I think there are challenges, and I think it would need to be looked at in greater detail as a viable business model, especially taking into account the competition it would have from other services, other blogs and the way that users are actually interacting with content.

Hey, at least I didn't say interfacing with the actionable paradigm.

If I've learned anything it's don't sleep with an angry cellist with daddy issues. After that, it's that nothing in the whole web scheme of thinking is impossible.

Things are moving too quickly and there are too many niches to assume that any idea is faulty simply because there are other people doing something similar.

This is the age of the long tail, and, much like Grant's strategy in the Civil War, you don't have to win, you just have to not lose.

Anonymous said...

Maybe what we need are content provider agents to round up the corporate sponsorship must as writers get agents to get filtered up to publishers.

Hulles said...

Stephen, remind me to ask you about the angry cellist sometime. And thanks for not dismissing the concept out of hand. In return, I forbore suggesting that lit cigarettes be applied to your genitalia, so maybe we're even.

Very thoughtful comments.

visualsnark, I really like the idea of content provider agents. I think they'll have to wait until the pot for content providers is a little richer, though. But I really do believe that will happen, my way or some other way.

Anonymous said...

and who wants agents taking 10% to 15% off the value of a running contract.

SuperBee said...

Ugh. Once people start bandying around the words "Paradigm" and "module" and "lexicon" and "Global World City," and "geographically-diffused diaspora of multinodal/bi-modal transport hubs," and "ethnic enclaves of service industry providers" I get flashbacks to my upper-level Urban Planning classes in Science Hall, and visions of unshaven (female) grad-students, eating vegan curry and arguing about the Feminist Global Perspective on Urban Development, and I officially tune out and deem the entire conversation overly-academic, while being underly interesting or substantive.

Those words make me smell that chick's curry and see flecks of rice stuck to her lip, and suddenly, the desire to hatefuck another grad student in the class, a semi-cute guy with early-Elvis hair and Birkenstocks comes back to me...

Stupid self-important windbags, who stretched a one-sentence concept into a thirty-page article that I had to read and bullshit essay answers to... when all I really wanted to be doing was smoking pot and eating gyros...

Hulles said...

Merciful heavens, Superbee, I can't believe you jumped somebody who wore Birkenstocks. Ah, we all have our sordid pasts, I guess. I think you'll enjoy the next post, by the way.

SuperBee said...

Oh! No! I didn't do it! I just wanted to hatefuck him. I'd never have sex with a Grad Student. They're not people!