Andrew Sullivan and Kurt Andersen have been emailing back and forth about blogs. Both are friends. My wife and I are contributors to Andrew's website. I was a columnist for Inside.com and Inside magazine (which Kurt started). Kurt's wife, Ann Kreamer, and I may soon be working together on various consulting projects. And so much for all that.
Both men make good points. The most interesting idea came from Kurt. Raise $30 million (as he did for Inside). Invest that money in T-bills. Use the roughly $1.5 million annual interest to create a Blogazine, with smart editorial direction, strong back-end technology and the talent pool that already exists within the Blogosphere. If nothing happens, the investors get their investment units back. If Blogazine finds a workable business model, the investors make a healthy return. As "Internet" ventures go, not a bad proposal.
And it seems clear to me (at least) that such a thing could be profitable, if one of the big advertising and marketing services companies was engaged to develop what you might call "just in time" advertising. "Just in time" advertising is a service we all need, but don't get. It works like this. We need something. We need as much available information about quality/price/design as possible. We need to be one double-click away from that information, so that we can make a smart choice.
So, for example, bedding. People need to buy a new bed, if memory serves, every seven years. Right now, bed-selling companies advertise every day in the newspaper, even though they know that only 1/2500th of the population is in the market for a bed. The better solution for bed-sellers is to have the bed-buyer make his or her need known to the seller and then have some intermediary handle the information transfer as well as the transaction itself. Double click on bedding and an email arrives that gives a range of deals on a range of beds. This is an on-line advertising model that would work very well. And Blogazine (working in concert with, say, OMC or IPG) would be a good place to develop such a model.
The second revenue stream that Blogazine could develop is syndication. Good columnists are hard to come by, as anyone who has ever read a Gannett newspaper will attest. Blogazine would be full of good writers, people whose work would fit in every part of a local paper. Sell it at below market rates and my suspicion is that Blogazine could quickly compete with every syndicator in the business (and with a roster of hundreds of bloggers).
The third revenue stream is the one Sullivan already uses. Buy these books from Amazon (by linking through andrewsullivan.com) and andrewsullivan.com gets a small cut. The problem here is home page clutter. The best home pages are like the best front-pages; they're all editorial content. But you can banner and sidebar these "adlinks" without detracting (too much) from the home page front.
Moving right along, there are three things that the blogosphere does very well. First, it connects communities of interest. If you're into tech gadgets, as I am, then Hiawatha Bray's blog was really great. (I say "was" because he seems to have stopped blogging.) If you're into Massachusetts politics, as I am, then Hublog is very helpful.
Second, blogs are great infomediaries. RealClearPolitics neatly sums up political op-eds. The Political Wire collects most of the major US political news. Watch puts most of the War news in one place. Etc.
Third, blogs enable great voices to be heard (for the first time or more frequently). Truth be told, there aren't a ton of great voices in the blogosphere. But there are many. Six that you should bookmark are Sullivan, Kaus, Reynolds, Lileks and JaneGalt.net and Simmons.
I agree with Andersen (although, of course, he didn't put it this way) that there is something very sad in thinking that "fact-checking" The New York Times matters much. I suppose it keeps them on their toes. I know they read it (never have people so critical been so thin-skinned). But at the end of the day, I just cancelled my subscription. I'd rather read Lileks than Frank Rich.
Maynard Handley points out that the current T-bill pays 1.5 percent interest. So we'd have to put that $30 million into Sam Israel's hedge fund (Bayou Securities), which is having another great year and could probably produce the $1.5 million return needed (annually) to fund Blogazine.
Friday, September 06, 2002
Posted by John at 9/06/2002 10:36:00 AM