Archive for October, 2007

Techmeme Does Digg

I suspect Scoble will be vindicated on video. I think we’ll all take another step out into the world and publish not just our written words but also out likenesses, speaking words. I like Scoble videos, although I tend to agree with this comment’s sentiments.

In his latest video, Scoble reverse engineers Techmeme. I’m not going to rehearse his video. Others already have, but you should just follow my link and watch it, if you’re interested.

I can add value by correcting Scoble on one point. Techmeme does digg. In fact, on Techmeme right now, the story right above Scoble’s reverse engineering includes Digg as a “subnote.”

PS. Deeplinking into video has got to catch on. I want to link to the part of the video when Scoble talks about how Techmeme ignore Digg and Reddit and StumbleUpon, but I can’t.

In “Plug ‘n’ Play” Journalism, Plugs Very Expensive

Pondering the Future of News, Steve Boriss asks, “if it is financially viable for TV networks to embed advertising into individual programs then make them available for download on any web site, why can’t independent reporters do the same with their stories, particularly those involving video?”

The answer is very high barriers to entry that come by way of transaction costs, which are just too high relative to potential ad revenue for it to make sense for buyers of ads. There’s a guy—a guy in fancy clothes sitting in his glass-paneled office on Madison Avenue—who’s got to make decisions about the best uses of his time. It doesn’t make sense for him to buy $1000 in ads from Joe Regular.

That’s where advertising networks come in. Putting google ads on your site will help you out, for instance. For the time being, however, google pays too little because it has little competition but also, more importantly, because its targeting isn’t good enough yet. The ads aren’t actually worth enough.

Coase-based advertising in which users auction their attention stream to advertisers by way of a grand platform is the way to go.

RE: Telling stories on the Web is like developing software using agile principles

My human-readable un-remixing of Michael Amedeo Tumolillo’s remixing of Alex Iskold’s mix (itself a comment on this awesome book):

In the Web world, stories have ill-defined and constantly evolving requirements, making it impossible to think everything through at once. Instead, the best Web story today is created and evolved using agile methods. These techniques allow journalists to continuously re-align stories with business and customer needs.The Waterfall Model of storytelling, coined in 1970, will not work in such a world. Its idea was to tell stories by first reporting, then creating the story, then editing it, then creating and editing it again, and finally publishing it in one linear sequence.

The Waterfall Model is now considered a flawed method for Web stories because it is so rigid and unrealistic.

Non-storytelling people tend to think that stories are soft or easily changeable. Nope. Stories, like any system, have a design and structure; they are not as soft as they seem.

Yet the accelerating pace of business requires constant changes to storytelling. Using the Waterfall Model, these changes were impossible, the development cycle was too long, stories were over produced engineered and ended up costing a fortune, and often did not work right.

A problem with the Waterfall Model was that in the information jungle, dynamic stories are not told once; they evolve over time in bits and pieces.

Storytelling needed. First, stories have to embrace change. Today’s assumptions and requirements may change tomorrow, and stories need to respond to changes quickly.

The stories created using agile methods are much more successful because they are evolved and adapted to Web customers. Like living organisms, these stories are continuously reshaped to fit the dynamic Web landscape of changing customer attention.

Stories have lots of moving parts, in other words, in the sense that they’re dynamic systems whose parts influence one another.

Tumolillo’s grokking a general point, of course, and I don’t want to read too deep in to his analogy. But one possible issue with this conception of the bits of content writers/publishers produce is that it may still neglect the necessarily short-term economics of the news. Developers can rejigger an application two weeks after its debut because they’re confident that people will still care about the application two weeks thence. Stories are ephemeral—or at least much more so. Life comes and goes.

That’s why I think it makes sense to distinguish between the article and the story:

The article has taken the story hostage. That must be turned on its head: the bits of content must be contingent on the people they discuss. The people, and also the issues, who constitute the story, as it were, must be liberated from the confines of the article. That’s the promise the internet makes to journalism in the twenty-first century. That’s the promise the database makes to news.

You can’t change the stories. Someone’s got to write them—and get paid for them, and move on to writing the next one. That’s partly why blogging was so transformative. Bloggers write something one day. And then they let it stand, never changing it. If they want to elaborate or correct or just revisit, they just write another post and link back.

The story’s in the map! (Or what I called a “news graph” in a fit of facebook exuberance once not too long ago.)

So let us have a web application that brings together the articles that compose a story—all of its sides, elaborations, corrections, and more. I’m looking at you, kindly folks at the Knight News Challenge.

I know I can do it.

PS. Don’t apply now. Sadly, the deadline has passed.

Google’s Ads Will Pay Publishers More

But not until other ads pay publishers more.

This is only speculation, really. But isn’t the point obvious? Despite Google’s nearly-by-definition efficient auction with AdWords, AdSense refuses to reveal what portion of each dollar of AdWords revenue goes to AdSense publishers.

Google will share more when it has to. Till then, it will enrich itself. I don’t fault Google for that. I fault others for failing to get at their own pieces of the pie.

Some other ad network will pay more. But first it must bring users to ads as well as Google does.

In the end, other ways of serving ads could work. But the economics of advertising call for networks—big platforms. The folks buying the ads demand that. RSS aggregators could serve their own ads and share revenue. Or Techmeme could set up a network in which bloggers allow Techmeme to display an entire post coupled with an ad and then to share the revenue back with the blogger. Once we figure out better platforms that serve at least as effectively as Google does, they can grab Google market share by paying more. If Google’s marginal revenue is greater than its marginal cost, it will begin to pay more.

And then news’s bright future will become more apparent.

(It’s been a long day, and my brain is creaky dead as a doornail. Many thanks in advance to the person who can tell my why the following it true (it’s got to be, ya?): If markets are working, then mathematically speaking, the product of Google’s effectiveness and its sharing coefficient (the portion of each dollar of AdWords revenue that goes to AdSense publishers) should be about even with, say, the product of Yahoo’s effectiveness coefficient and its sharing coefficient. If Google’s contextual search is more effective, we would expect its sharing coefficient to be lower. If Yahoo’s search is less effective, its sharing coefficient should be higher.)


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