An unproar in the world of tech blogs is uncovering a broader fault line between writers and advertisers. Om Malik's GigaOm and his other blogs have dropped their outside ad-sales firm, Federated Media, a startup run by John Battelle. Federated isn't just another ad network, nor is Battelle just another entrepreneur; he helped start Wired and The Industry Standard and an author of a book about Google, thinks that the future of marketing is conversations. And he launched Federated around that notion. Rather than shouting at readers with ads, marketers will use blogs to engage with their readers — and pay handsomely for the privilege. That's his theory, at any rate, which he is expounding in a forthcoming book.The reality: Battelle's dream of conversational marketing has turned into something more like the schlocky endorsements radio hosts get paid to do. By falling so short of his rhetoric, Federated's experiments have mostly ended in embarrassment, both for him and the bloggers he represents. Last year, he roped Malik and other writers into a scheme to have them recite a Microsoft slogan. And though Battelle apologized for that advertising campaign, he's conducting a similar campaign for Intel — though he has wisely picked so-called "social media marketers" with less journalistic credibility to lose; most already willingly shill for products on Twitter, Digg, and the like. That's the insult. But Battelle's company has also delivered an injury, in the form of an abrupt slashing of advertising rates. GigaOm, TechCrunch, Silicon Alley Insider, and a host of other tech blogs represented by Federated have had their official rates cut 35 percent; deals negotiated with large advertisers are presumably being struck at even steeper discounts. So Malik has taken his business elsewhere, to IDG, the publisher of PC World and several other large technology trades. As with Federated, IDG will sell ads, keep a large portion, and share the rest with Malik's company; 30 to 40 percent is a typical commission in the business. IDG has a vast army of salespeople to serve its print publications; as the print business vanishes, it makes sense to busy them with selling online advertising. Federated, meanwhile, has had to assemble its sales team from scratch. Federated's slogan is that it is "author-driven." What does it say that an author has been driven from its ranks? Malik and Battelle are both savvy businessmen who know each other well. (I have known both for a long time, too, and edited their columns at the late Business 2.0 magazine.) IDG simply cut Malik a better deal, I believe — and no amount of rhetoric about "serving authors" from Federated could make up for the financial shortfall. In every negotiation, the time arrives to wrap up the conversation and strike a deal. (Photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid)
"If we want NYC to kick ass in the world's tech community, we have to stop favoring a few 'friends' and let everyone get time on stage." CenterNetworks founder/writer/editor Allen Stern doesn't just complain about inbreeding in New York's Web 2.0 scene, he documents it by listing the companies that presented at last night's NY Tech Meetup, and speculating on their potential conflicts of interest. Jeez, Allen, wait'll you find out I used to be on the secret MacArthur committee. Here's what we're group-thinking out here in our Valley chatroom:We sure do love to watch New Yorkers catfight on Twitter. But if you literally "let everyone get time on stage" you won't have a punk-rock utopia, you'll have a boring parade of bad ideas and worse PowerPoint. Think TechCrunch50 expanded to TechCrunch52,157 and you get the idea. Still, we sense it coming: Look for CenterNetworks' own startup event in early 2009. (Photo by Brian Solis)
The founder of the GigaOm blog network isn't one of those guys who just wants to write, write, write. Om Malik, who reported on Valley VCs for Red Herring and Forbes in the '90s, is now on his second stint as a venture capitalist. His announcement this morning of a $4.5 million round of investment led by Palo Alto-based Alloy Ventures isn't aimed at readers, but at competing blog businessmen — specifically TechCrunch owner Mike Arrington. Malik's message: Kiss your dreams of owning me goodbye.Arrington headlined his own post about the news "GigaOm ignores my advice," linking to a long, telling post from earlier this year in which he attempted to explain why blogs should remain financially independent. What he really means is: GigaOm shouldn't take VC because TechCrunch is the only blog that's supposed to get VC, so Arrington can buy his competitors. Arrington has said publicly that he wants to be the one to consolidate the blogging sector into one big Voltron-like online publishing empire. When he wrote this morning that "we are one of the last large blog networks to remain independent," he probably wasn't intentionally lying. But his Web-2.0-centric worldview ignores bigger non-tech networks such as the local Sugar Publishing and the British Shiny Media. By taking on five million dollars in further investments, Malik hasn't just picked up capital to expand his staff and marketing. Like a pufferfish circled by sharks, he's made GigaOm a much bigger ball for Arrington or anyone else to try to swallow. (Photo by Brian Solis)
GigaOm's Om Malik and Mashable's Pete Cashmore like to present themselves as leaders of a new kind of Web 2.0 journalism. Both turned up at Current TV's offices Friday, ostensibly to cover Current's Twitter-enhanced coverage of the first Presidential debate. Truth is, Current's publicists had called reporters to tip us off that executive chairman of the board Al Gore would be there. Gore didn't bother to use Twitter himself — he didn't even stick around for the debate. But he did take time to pose for photos.Malik and Cashmore, perhaps taking a cue, didn't do any real reporting on the event, leaving that to Threat Level and Laughing Squid. The two simply blogged their Al-and-me pictures as news stories on GigaOm and Mashable, bringing themselves one step closer to the old media stereotype of the vain reporter who can't stop inserting himself into the story — or in this case, into the non-story.
No one's surprised that GigaOm founder-and-whatever-else Om Malik has joined True Ventures as a partner. Or that he buried the news near the bottom of a lengthy blog post last week. Or that it took days for reporters to discover the blog post, with its classically obscure Malikian headline, "Evolving My Work Life." The New York Times felt obligated to quote a journalism ethics prof on the potential conflict of Om being both a Valley VC and a reporter on Valley VCs. But let's be honest about the Valley's take: No one cares. Like fellow reporters-turned-moneymen Michael Moritz and Stewart Alsop, Malik will finally, finally be taken seriously by the people he's been following for years. (Photo by Brian Solis)
The tenth anniversary festivities for search engine-turned-advertising company Google are in full swing, but don't expect the founders to invite all their old friends to the party in Greece. Tech blogger Om Malik hasn't heard from the original team in over a decade. It's another sign that the Valley has gone Hollywood. I'm reminded of a friend I met at a downtown L.A. hotel last year who complained that uncannily beautiful actor Adrian Grenier hadn't called since he'd achieved a little notoriety on HBO's Entourage. Imagine how you could treat old friends with a $140 billion market capitalization. [GigaOm] (Photo by AP/Paul Sakuma)
Almost every technology and business publication, including Valleywag, has been all Yahoo, all the time. Between the Microsoft merger talks, proxy board battle with Carl Icahn and employees leaving nearly every day, there's been lots of deliciously bad news to report. However, my old boss Om Malik over at GigaOm has been fairly quiet on the issue. One reason why is because a lot of his sources at the company have probably left, which is good for them but bad for a good reporter. Today, however, he weighed in with his analysis.
I can report that Om Malik, the blogfather behind GigaOm and Giga Omnimedia's stable of sites like NewTeeVee, Earth2Tech, OStatic and Web Worker Daily (which I like to call, collectively, "the Ompire") has been doing well since suffering a heart attack at the end of last year. He's also scaled back what little excess there was in his workaholic lifestyle, and while he promised he wouldn't be changing his avatar, he's done just that — getting rid of the cigar, the fedora and the argyle sweater for a warm gaze and new media-blue shirt.
The plague of viral video has an epidemiologist: NewTeeVee Station, a spinoff of GigaOm's NewTeeVee, a blog which tracks the online-video industry. "Basically, we think this online video stuff is more and more legit," NewTeeVee editor Liz Gannes IM'd me earlier today. "We are betting on that, and treating it like a real entertainment medium." Liz Shannon Miller, pictured, will edit NewTeeVee Station's reviews of popular videos. First up: YouTube sensation Judson Laipply's "Evolution of Dance." More importantly than just describing the videos, the site will track who made the videos, who appeared in them, who funded them, and whether they profited. (Laipply, for example, hasn't made money off YouTube, but he did get on Oprah.)
Anyone telling you that Federated Media, the online ad network which reps Boing Boing, GigaOm, TechCrunch and other blogs, has raised $50 million from investors is dead wrong. It's true, Oak Investment Partners and others paid $50 million for shares of Federated. But only half of that went to the company, we're told; the rest went to founder John Battelle and other employees. According to our source, Battelle's take was roughly 90 percent of the insider shares sold, or about $22 million.
From his hospital bed, stricken GigaOm blogger Om Malik posts an update on his health after he suffered a heart attack last month. And he manages to work in a review of a new voicemail-transcription service into the blog entry. Any questions on how he landed in the hospital in the first place? The man never stops working.
Blogger Om Malik could never have predicted he'd have a heart attack at the age of 41. But he did foresee one thing clearly: He would never build a business on a single blog so closely identified with one author. His spinoff blogs — Web Worker Daily, NewTeeVee, Earth2Tech, and FoundRead — have not matched GigaOm's success; of the four, only NewTeeVee, in my opinion, shows promise of being a breakout hit like the original. But unlike Michael Arrington, who built TechCrunch solely on his startup cult of personality, Malik has sought to diversify his media startup in a way that it can survive him. Until December 28, this was merely wise in theory.
No laughing matter: GigaOm blogger Om Malik reports that he had a heart attack last week at the age of 41. At Business 2.0, where we both worked before going blog, Malik and I teased each other constantly about our weight. At one point, he and I lined up with two other rotund members of the staff for a photo. The four of us totaled nearly half a ton. The photo was meant to kick off a weight-loss contest that never really happened. The origins of the name GigaOm, in fact, were not in broadband, but in a broad waist. As Malik has told many friends, his mom gave him the nickname when he returned to India enlarged by his sojourns in the West. I say this not to make light of the situation, but to hammer home a point as serious as an infarction: Maintaining your wetware requires a large portion of your bandwidth. Best wishes for a fast recovery, Om. (Photo by zippy)
An actual headline from Om Malik at GigaOm today: "Like Gaboogie, Foonz Losing Its Voice Too." The extra "too" really clears things up, doesn't it? TechCrunch picked up the story with a sardonic cliche: "News flash. There's just no money in giving people free calls." The actual news flash: There's just no money in drawing conclusions about technology from the failures of startups no one has even heard of.
Visits and page views to Valleywag were about 50 percent of a normal weekday both yesterday and today, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As the guy at Tully's Coffee said, "Any day that half your clientele shows up at the door is a business day." With half the Net still going at it (see chart: Most of our traffic comes from people clicking links), it's kind of weird to see the go-go business blogs — TechCrunch, GigaOm, VentureBeat — shuttered for the day. Couldn't you guys have queued something up? The old-media dinosaurs at the NYT managed to print an issue, even if it's padded with heartwarming holiday filler. I'm starting to think the Objectivists are right: The problem with Christmas is it's not commercialized enough. Whoops, update: Duncan at TechCrunch just posted some actual news, but it's already late Wednesday morning for him in Australia.