On M.I.A., "Born Free"

So the beginning drum breakdown (breakup? whatever) reminds me of Silver Apples, specifically the song Cockroach Noodle, so maybe she's been listening to a lot of crazy twiddly dials duos from the 70s lately in general?

Also ... Choire and I at the Observer had wanted to start a gossip column about noncelebrity year-rounders in the Hamptons over the winter co-written by anonymous middle aged women who called themselves "Sleigh Belles." But it never really quite came off.

Posted on April 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm 0

On The New Media and the Attention Economy: "Syndication"

I think there is a distinction to be made between syndication that is an agreement among publishers to distribute content by writers who are paid for their work, and reprinting stuff from nonprofessional bloggers who don't get paid for their work. One is mostly a marketing and sometimes a revenue share deal, which helps publishers fund original content; presumably these deals only get made when both parties benefit from them. The other does just seem like free labor.

Posted on April 23, 2010 at 11:36 am 0

On How Web Writers Get Held Responsible for the Lawyers, the Sales Guys and Even the Coffeemaker

jfruh: I think you make a good point here! And also, I think lots of web sites in their youngest stages make the mistake of spending too much salary chasing CPM's they have no hope of getting. This is true both on the editorial side--the "star" factor--and on the ad sales side--not selling enough ads? Hire more salespeople!

I think this fact is sort of littered throughout the entire discussion on both sides: If at your organization, salespeople are base + commission, then the base is the fixed cost, right? The irony here of course is that one balloons ones sales department when one is convinced that one's editorial product is fine but just not "connecting" with advertisers willing to pay the rate (or, say 60 percent of the rate at least!) that you've published in your rate card. So it comes back to the same basic gut call. Hire more ad gnomes and then make your edit gnomes make hot slideshows?

Also ... once you've got them spending all their time making hot slideshows, pageviews or no, are they really still worth 60K/year plus benefits? There is a business to nearshore to Boise!

But of course, all these arguments are a bit totalizing. Felix Salmon may well be right about a new site, and wrong about a three-year-old site; and a publisher may well make wrong decisions about overhead expenditure, sales staffing, and--yes--edit staffing, that force him into a manic pageview-hunt that, dollar-per-pageview, is not actually that efficient.

That Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers are in on this argument is particularly interesting. Both have worked with companies through pretty much every stage of development, and didn't the two begin as partners in a weird little blog called Gawker that spent time (and very little money, at first) building an unassailable brand on pure editorial guts that turned into an empire? I guess the question is whether it's possible to do that anymore.

2/3 costs going outside the product seems like a lot in the early stages of a company to me. But I don't really know what the overall costs are either. Maybe the question is really: Can a brand be said to have reached financial maturity if it has to keep switching editorial tack to keep pace with outgoings? Perhaps branding is the long, slow, cheap startup game, and a good measure of whether it's been done right is whether the company is in a position to continue to assert its brand and reach profitability.

Of course I am taking for granted that brand-building is the first mover and profitability the second; I believe there are sites on the horizon attempting an experiment in the reverse order (Ahem! AOL!)

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm 0