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New York Bloggers Event—-2004.05.02


Following are my informal notes from the New York Bloggers Event—-2004.05.02:
Details: http://www.gothamist.com/nybloggers

Host : Jake Dobkin

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Publishers panel: Nick Denton, Jason Calacanis, Moderator Jeff Jarvis

(This was a good panel, except for excessive use of double entendres and vulgarities by the speakers. Jarvis did a great job as moderator.)

What’s more valuable: brand or byline?

Denton: group blogs don’t work
Calacanis: yes they do. (e.g., Boing boing). But brand is less valuable with blogs, because it’s lowered the barriers to entry for writers/ editors to publishers.
EGadget, Gawker are very shaped by their authors. The good authors will get better & better venues.

Calacanis: I’m your partner. Denton: I’m your employer.

Calacanis: Two factors in publishing: how much do I pay the writers? And how much can I monetize them? His job is to keep a difference between them.
His model : take first $1000, and then split profits 50-50. with Denton’s model, he’ll lose writers regularly for better venues.

Denton: with my model, I’m giving people something of value (salary) , not the promise of a revenue share. (At Ad Age, he said blogging is a hobby.)

Calacanis is getting $4500/month on social software blog in advertising. It’s sold out for 8 months.

Only 5-6 of his blogs get >10,000 views.

Mark Cuban actually blogs himself, unlike Bush/Dean/Kerry blogs, where a PR person blogs.

Cuban recently got misquoted about Kobe Bryant trial, and as a result told all journalists that they can only quote him via the blog.

What is essence of a blog?
Denton: 1) independent media, with 2) a certain style of writing. And 3) you never sell out content to advertisers.
Calacanis: 1. no editor, so it’s unfiltered. 2. If it has no comments, it’s not a real blog.

What are limits of this business?

“Denton’s not a pornographer even if he has a porn site.”

We don’t want blogs to become journalism. These are conversations. Blogs trade accuracy for speed, but are much better at correcting errors than traditional journalism. E.g., Calacanis uses the strike-out feature throughout his blogs, which was never used before in conventional journalism.

Denton : we need separation of church & state. E.g., don’t compensate writers based on advertising coming on.

They’re working together on a blogger disclaimer, saying ‘these are conversations.’

We need transparency & disclosure.

Esther Dyson: “It’s easy to spread rumors on the internet, but very hard to suppress the truth.”

Drudge, SmokingGun.com, etc., are bloggers. Jarvis : Drudge is #1 referrer to NY Times & Wash. Post.

Is Drudge too influential at some point?

EGadget took Peter from Gizmodo. But will Walt Mossberg blow them all away?

Denton: good thing about blogs is you need very little advertising to survive. All you need are a few cutting –edge advertisers who can tolerate edgy content.

Calacanis: both of our companies have about <5 employees each.

Q: how much is your co. worth in 5 years.

Calacanis: ~ 100 blogs this year, 200-300 next year, 500 in 3-4 years.
They should break $10m in ad revenues in 4 years or so, with $2-$3m in profits. Multiply that by 2-10 to get a valuation.

Denton: we’ll launch fewer sites and take more care of them, and won’t sell out.

Q: what needs to exist but doesnt yet?

Denton: an ad rep firm that works with blogs.
Calacanis: we need more scale

Q: traditional media will steal your best writers, right?

Denton: that’s good! We tell writers blogging is good for your career.
Calacanis: we tell them , we wont edit you. And we tell them that they own their own words (e.g., if they go write a book)

We’re a service company—we service the blogger.

Calacanis: Blogging has been around since 94. eventually, we’ll make some blog posts subscription-based. His co. started in trade verticals, but is moving into consumer space. They’re also moving into other languages.

Q: What about people using RSS to take their content and cut out the advertisers?

RSS aggregators are good for less-active writers. Calacanis tells such aggregators to cut it out.

Calacanis was at Milken conference recently. No one knew what blogging was. If you’re on the top 100 blog list now, that’s meaningless. We’re only at the beginning of this phenomenon.

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Technology Panel: Meg Hourihan & Anil Dash. Paul Ford (Ftrain.com) moderator.

Meg is co-founder of Pyra/Blogger. Recently left Kinja, at time of launch. Has been writing megnut.com for 5 years.

Anil Dash has run dashes.com for 5 years and is VP BizDev of Six Apart.

MEG HOURIHAN: In 99, when they started blogger, some people didn’t see a value in a tool. Geeks forget how what’s under the hood is boring to 99% of people.

ANIL DASH it’s still not that easy. Needs to be as easy as hotmail.

Q: where’s the wall?

ANIL DASH people don’t understand the difference between the various options. Needs to be simpler to get started & up & running. Needs to be simpler for others to find what you’re doing & share it.

ANIL DASH I only write for about 20 people I care about. We’re working on tech to make it easier to restrict your content to the audience you care about. “Moveable Type is the Photoshop of blogging.” Adobe makes several related software products—you take the one that you like.

ANIL DASH we have over 2m bloggers. Blog publishing tools are the only tools easy enough to use, vs. other content management systems.

Key blog features: Clear readable output, update from anywhere you want, input from readers.

The % of people who blogs to keep links is going down.

Theres a Mozilla plugin such that every bookmark you add, it will add it to your blog list.

Q: Given unlimited resources & time, what would you do in this space?

MEG HOURIHAN: maybe use blogs in public schools to promote literacy, computer familiarity, etc.

ANIL DASH: kids see a book as something they read, not something they write. TV is important, radio is important, but I cant do it myself. Blogs I can do myself.

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Editors panel:

Moderator Felix Salmon
Choire Sicha (gawker.com—writes for NY Times, GQ, etc.)
Lockhart Steele
Jen Chung (gothamist.com)

Q: Why are you doing this & why should we care?

Chung: she’ll sometimes delay posts.

Lockhart started for 5 people and then gawker made it much more visible

Both Chung & Lockhart have full time jobs

They’re writing because:
Lockhart: I like to write.

Choire: “I get to write things that no one else will let me say, and I get paid for it! How good for me, and how bad for everyone else!”

Q: are there perks to being a celebrity blogger?

Choire :none

The internet is littered with lots of low-quality material.

Chung: because bloggers have little credibility to start with, people are defensive. “Attacking bloggers is like attacking a little bunny rabbit.” [Teten: this one of my favorite lines of the night!]

Choire: people are learning how to write on the internet. We’re launching a new site t
omorrow for gawker.

Lockhart: the feedback from readers is like having a personal news service. People email you about what you’re interested in, and then you share it with everyone.

Gothamist, unlike Gawker, has comments

Q: Does the fact that you’re building a brand, and feel obliged to post, distract from the informal nature of the blogging process?

Q: we’re really just writing for age 25-35 manhattan media people. Aren’t we all just irrelevant?

Q: what are the top reasons why your blogs are so popular

Chung: I write for my friends, and other people like that

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