Mocking the World since 2003

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

NYC Bloggers Recap, Part I 

WARNING: There will be several lengthy posts today regarding last night's blog dork activities. Those of my loyal readers who are not interested in such things and would rather hear about kitty-strangling may prefer to postpone their SD reading until later today or tomorrow. You've been advised.

Last night there was a very interesting New York Bloggers panel at the Apple Store. The panel was organized by Jake Dobkin [BlueJake, Gothamist] and consisted of a debate between Nick Denton[Gawker Media] and Jason Calacanis[Weblogs, Inc.], moderated by Jeff Jarvis[BuzzMachine], a technology panel including Anil Dash[Dashes.com/anil]and Meg Hourihan[Megnut], moderated by Paul Ford [Ftrain], and an "editors" panel including Lockhart Steele [Lockhart Steele.com], Jen Chung [Gothamist], and Choire Sicha [Gawker], moderated by Felix Salmon [MemeFirst].

Publishers Panel: Denton vs. Calacanis, moderated by Jarvis

This panel had a better debate than the others because the two do have fundamentally different ideas of their roles. Nick Denton seems to be more interested in the idea of blogging as a business than the cash, whereas Calacanis is hoping to build a multi-million dollar blog empire from which he can profit.

Before launching into the festivities, let me give you a brief background of the two companies [Also, see CORRECTION below]. Nick Denton's Gawker Media focuses on creating brands, like Gawker, Fleshbot, and Gizmodo. His bloggers are his employees and are paid a part-time salary each month. His blogs endure after the departure of the individual bloggers (as Gawker did following Elizabeth Spiers move to NY mag and Gizmodo did following Peter Rojas' move to Engadget) and he owns what is written in the blogs. He deals with all of the technical/advertising/business aspects of the sites and the writers are left to produce the content.

Jason Calacanis creates 50-50 partnerships with his bloggers. I believe the bloggers receive the first $1000 in advertising a month and then split 50-50 with Calacanis after that. His bloggers own their content and so if they decide they would like to leave and create their own sites or books using the content they've created, they can. Given that this is a 50-50 partnership, the bloggers have a much greater involvement with the recruiting and management of advertisers. [CORRECTION: Jason has clarified that the bloggers have no involvement with the process of selling ads. I misunderstood. My apologies.] Jason is out to build a blog empire of, and I quote, "500 blogs". Thus he spends less time on each blog individually.

Given that background info, here are some choice quote/paraphrases from the discussion. I arrived late (of course, as a good blogger should) and thus missed the first 5-10 minutes of this. Quotes (as I heard them) are in quotation marks. Paraphrases are not. My own commentary is in italics.

On their business models:
Jason: "You can't trust your employer" and that is why a 50-50 partnership works better.
"I don't think Nick's model is sustainable because he will lose editors every 6-12 months."

Nick: I don't want to tell writers "you may get rich" as they did in the dot com era.
Writers want to be writers, not business people.

Is Blogging a business?
Nick: It is a business because you can make enough money to run it.
Making money is not my prime goal.

Jason: Online advertising is the most efficient form of advertising. This will be very profitable.
Next year we will grab a serious writer from someplace like the New York Times who earns $75,000-$100,000 a year.

To Nick, are you jealous of Jason having Mark Cuban as a blogger? Do you want celebrity bloggers?
Nick: "I think bloggers should become famous.

To Jason, is Mark Cuban an investor in your company? Will he be in the future?
Jason: He is not an investor right now, and in the future I will not disclose my investors (read:yes he will be)

What is the Essence of a Blog?
Nick: It has nothing to do with the format
"A Blog should retain a bloglike tone."
"Never sell out to advertisers."

Jason: Two things. One, there is no editor. Two, there are comments.

Nick: Gawker lost a German auto manufacturer advertiser because Choire wrote a post about Ryan Seacrest and skull fucking. We stood by the post and not editing yourself is the essence of a blog.

On Fleshbot
Jason: "I'm not saying you're a pornographer even though you have a porn site." SMACK!

How Transparent are Blogs?
Jason: "Although they trade accuracy for speed, they are much better at publishing corrections."

Nick: There must be a separation between the editor and the advertiser.

On Drudge
Jason: "He's a fucking blogger." He says he isn't but he is.

How much will you be earning 5 years from now?

Jason: [In a very very convoluted answer, he said something like this] We will have 500 blogs in 3 or 4 years. We will "Easily break $10 million."

Nick: "We'll probably be worth less than Jason."
"We won't sell out"

To Be Continued...

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