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  • Boom or Bust

    Posted by James R. Rummel on November 16th, 2005 (All posts by )

    So the day that would never arrive has dawned. Open Source Media finally got off the ground with a great deal of schmoozing and feel-good speeches. That’s great, and I wish them all the luck in the world. I just don’t think it’s a great idea for the Boyz. There are a few reasons for this.

    Steven den Beste is worried about all of this. (If there’s any way to link to an individual post at Chizumatic, I haven’t found it yet. Just look for the essay that starts “20051116: Single points of failure…”) The reason why is that it puts a great deal of blogs that he now reads on one platform, which means that a great deal of content is now on a single point of failure. This is proof positive that Steven is first and foremost an engineer.

    Still, he makes a good point. The core reason that the Internet was created was to disperse communications so they couldn’t be destroyed in the event of a nuclear war. It wouldn’t take nearly as much firepower to down OSM. A few lawsuits would do it.

    The main appeal for OSM seems to be the promise of ad revenue. People who have been struggling with trying to make blogging pay think that they’ll sign up, blog as usual, and then the cash will come rolling in. I really doubt this is going to happen.

    I know that I’ve raised the question of getting some cash for blogging in the past, but it was all a bit of japery. Andrew Sullivan managed to get some hefty bucks for this little hobby of ours, as does Kos and a few others. But I really don’t think there’s enough ad dollars out there to pay off everyone who blogs.

    I was extremely fortunate to meet someone who was involved even before they laid the keel for OSM. Dennis the Peasant is a very smart cookie, a lot smarter than I am. He jumped ship long before the blueprints were sent to the shipyard because he was sure that it would sink as soon as it rolled off the stays. (How’s that for beating an allegory into submission?)

    Dennis makes some very interesting points from a business standpoint. He came away from the whole thing with a boatload of frustration, so it’s tough for someone with no business experience (such as myself) to be able to tell if his pessimism for OSM’s chances are sour grapes or savvy financial acumen. The only thing I can say is that he convinced me that he knew business theory and accounting practices, and I’m not at all sure that anyone else involved has as much experience.

    Like I said before, I hope that the whole thing is a big success. Nothing would please me more than to see OSM get to be so big that there’s a repeat of the payola radio scandal, but with blogs this time around. I would certainly cry myself to sleep every night if Madison Ave. firms started dispatching vans full of high-class hookers and envelopes of cash all over the portion of the Blogosphere that OSM controls and we didn’t sign up in time. Something tells me that it isn’t about to happen, though.

    Keep in mind that I’m just a contributor here and have little influence as to business decisions. If Jonathan decides to sign up with OSM then that is that. I’m just a bit leery of the idea.

    UPDATE
    Steven tells me in the comments that I got it wrong. Dennis the Peasant didn’t leave OSM voluntarily. He was booted out by Roger Simon at the same time they informed 230 other bloggers that they were no longer part of the system.

     

    14 Responses to “Boom or Bust”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      I just checked out their homepage and how…boring. AP news feeds? If I want to read AP, I will go to AP or pick up the local paper!As an interesting aside, Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs, who is one of the founders of OSM has made boatloads of posts over the past year shredding AP. Like you said, I hope this thing doesn’t bring down some good blogs with it. Ahh, that’s what they get for not inviting me with my 150 or so uniques a day. If this is all they have to offer, I will just keep parked here and a few other blogs. I am interested in what Jonathan has to say about it.

    2. ed in texas Says:

      Yeah, but the deal is, the experiments you learn the most from are the ones that fail. That’s because they teach you what you’re wrong about. If it doesn’t work, there will be reasons why it doesn’t work, which will indicate what will work.
      Sorry, I’m getting pedantic here.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      I looked at Pajamas/OSM a while ago but didn’t understand the business model and decided to pass. I wish them all the best.

      Viable business models for news-and-opinion blogs appear to be developing slowly. The Kaus/Drum/Sullivan model of paid blogging seems to work for a few. Sponsored ads like those of BlogAds and Intrade work well. (Unfortunately, on this blog a lot of the revenue gets eaten up by expenses like hookers, envelopes full of cash and web hosting.)

      Context-sensitive ads do not seem to work well for non-product-related sites, but I think this may be changing. One of the new schemes gives bloggers the option to select their own key words. I think this system might work for book reviews and other conceptual writing that can nonetheless be tied to particular products. I don’t think the ad company gets it (they rejected this blog, for instance), but over time they or someone else will probably figure it out and we will have more options.

    4. Omnibus Driver Says:

      I am simply amazed that they’ve been able to raise $3.5 million in venture capital. Bad business model. Seeming lack of due diligence in choosing/trademarking name. (Not to mention a complete lack of imagination.) They are not a moving target. They are sitting ducks. And it’s a shame, because there are some brilliant writers in that bunch.

      I just keep getting the feeling that it’s the dot-com boom and bust all over again. A few people are going to make a LOT of money… and a LOT of people are going to get burned.

    5. Mike Says:

      Is it just me, or does their logo have that “going-down-the-drain” look already built in?

    6. Steven Den Beste Says:

      Dennis the Peasant didn’t “jump ship”, he was booted out by Roger Simon. This happened about the same time as they unceremoniously dumped 230 sites which had previous been told they were part of the system.

    7. David Foster Says:

      I think what OSM is doing is interesting and potentially very important. However, I’m concerned about the site design. The home page is very, very cluttered, and reminds me of the look of some of the MSM attempts at web products.

      I don’t think we have yet discovered the best way of organizing and displaying text on-line, but in general simpler is better.

    8. corbusier Says:

      I’m a bit underwhelmed by OSM. Beyond the confusion of their business model, the site suffers from a poor layout and a dearth of different kinds of visible content. Drudge does a much better job of this, in spite of the lack of flashy graphics. I find LGF has a similar problem as well. I’m working on graphics right now, and I sure do appreciate those who do it well.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      The OSM site does have that designed-by-committee look.

    10. Anonymous Says:

      also…I don’t think that the common statement was that the Internet was created for nuclear survivability is actually true. See this brief Internet history written by Larry Roberts, one of the original Internet designers:

      http://www.ziplink.net/~lroberts/InternetChronology.html

    11. Murdoc Says:

      I applied for and received membership almost immediately after Pajamas Media was announced, though I’m sure I would have been among those dropped later. I’m a believer in the “new media” movement and in a blog network-ish model.

      At the time, I couldn’t figure out exactly why I was supposed to sign a contract. I didn’t understand exactly what Pajamas was going to do. I still don’t.

      Maybe in the end I’ll wish I had joined up. Right now it ain’t really looking like it, though.

    12. Jeff Says:

      As a reader of several of the OSM blogs, I’m baffled about what the added value to me is supposed to be. I can get the same news feeds from numerous other sources, I can search for commentary on a given topic via Technorati in mere seconds on my own, and I can skim all of the relevant blogs simply by starting at one of them and jumping from blogroll to blogroll.

      Basically, they’ve re-created The Huffington Post with less original content and a different ideological slant. Why do I need as my media gatekeepers people who’ve long proclaimed the ossification of the old gatekeepers?

    13. snitch Says:

      Why do I need as my media gatekeepers people who’ve long proclaimed the ossification of the old gatekeepers?

      Because a certain aging screenwriter and a certain middle-aged musician are considered by Hollywood/MusicBiz to be over the hill, and are desperately seeking second careers….

    14. LotharBot Says:

      I don’t need OSM as my media gatekeepers… but I think they’ll make a nice filter, as one among many resources. Chicago Boyz is another, and there are others I use as well.

      If OSM manages to bring together the best content from multiple sites, I’ll be very pleased with it. I don’t know whether I should expect it to or not, though…