The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Changing Perceptions 

This will probably be my last substantial post on OSM (the other Open Source Media). Others who are probably more knowledgeable than I have already talked about why ad revenue might not stream in like the founders think. I'll leave you to read their thoughts on that matter. Instead I wanted to talk about the perceptions of bloggers, and how it relates to market share. OSM is trying to turn blogging into a profitable venture... and one of the first things one has to do when entering a market space is to examine that space, and who already plays in it. What is your product, and who are you selling it to? Also, is there room in the market for another business?

OSM is attempting to enter the news and commentary market. This is a large market, with a lot of big players and stiff competition. We're talking about going up against CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, and a whole host of other news and wire services that are too numerous to name. That is the competition, and the essence of the product right there. What I don't think the good folks over at OSM have considered however is the cost of their product to their customer. Not being an insider, I could very well be wrong about this, but for now that's the assumption I'm working off of. Right now they're concentrating on ad revenue, and whether their customer is willing to spend money on products that companies may advertise on their affiliate blogs. However I don't think they've considered the most important cost to the customer... time.

Reading news, and following political commentary takes time. People only have a finite amount of it, and they're only willing to spend a certain percentage of it reading news. In other words, the resources of your customer are fixed. What changes is where they're willing to spend that fixed amount of time. The other concern is that most people who would be interested in your product already get news and commentary from some source. That means that in order to get people to come to your site, you have to convince them to stop going to another, because odds are you're not going to be able to convince them to take more time out of their busy day for more news and analysis. This is where perceptions come into play.

Ann Althouse recently pointed out that the inaugural featured post on OSM was content from Jeff Goldstein (aka Protein Wisdom). Her comments, which were largely brushed off by OSM contributors as sour grapes, showed concern that people unfamiliar with blogging would be turned off by this, or at the very least wouldn't understand it. I don't think the OSM board understand how important her comments actually are. OSM was created for bloggers... but it has also been formatted and marketed to bloggers and blog readers. In other words, they're not trying to take readership from sites like CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews. Whether they realize it or not, they're simply taking readership from already existing blogs. While this may be a good short term solution, in the long run it won't pay off.

Don't get me wrong... I think Protein Wisdom is great. He's very funny, and I personally make sure to check out what he has to say on a daily basis (which is why he's in my blogroll). But the question is, would someone unfamiliar with that style of commentary coming from a mainstream media source understand what they're looking at? Remember... the goal of this venture is not to take market share away from bloggers, but instead is to take it away from the MSM. If you're not taking market share away from the MSM... then what good are you? You're just another blog aggregator, and frankly there are more than enough of those. OSM seems to be making a lot of assumptions about their readers knowledge. In other words, when they point people to someone's blog, they're not telling the reader what to expect. They're expecting them to see the author's name, and simply know what is to come next. While that is fine for a blog aggregator (whose primary purpose is to simply tell you when a known site is updated)... a news service has to do more.

So how do perceptions come into play? Bloggers have a perception problem outside of the blogosphere (and remember that is where OSM needs to get its readers). Bloggers are perceived as "those guys who write whatever the hell they want to in their pajamas". Like most groups who are smeared in this sort of fashion, bloggers took ownership of the name, and made it their own. Instead of fighting the idea of pajama clad pundits, they owned it, and even advertised that fact with pride. I think this was generally a good idea (in that it actually served to deflect criticism), but it has a problem. While taking ownership of the name (like Pajamas Media did) is a good first step, it doesn't do anything to change the perception that caused the name in the first place.

People who read and like MSM news sources aren't going to switch to bloggers for their news if they see them as unprofessional yutzes. The goal of OSM, I thought, was to create a site for citizen journalists, that would bring the best philosophies of blogging to news reporting. This means first hand accounts, accountability, transparency, and immediate corrections. However, standard blogging won't cut it, because there is a lack of professionalism there. It doesn't have a professional voice, which people expect when it comes to news reading. Citizen journalism isn't just blogging, and I hope that OSM realizes that so they will be as successful as possible.

Update: You know... at the very least I thought I could have been oatmeal with raisins... or maybe that stuff with the cinnamon swirled right in there with little apple chunks. Was this post really that bland? Alright... I didn't have breakfast and now I'm really hungry. But I'm definitely not having oatmeal... I hate that stuff. Fruit Loops anyone?

Comments:

People who read and like MSM news sources aren't going to switch to bloggers for their news if they see them as unprofessional yutzes. The goal of OSM, I thought, was to create a site for citizen journalists, that would bring the best philosophies of blogging to news reporting. This means first hand accounts, accountability, transparency, and immediate corrections. However, standard blogging won't cut it, because there is a lack of professionalism there. It doesn't have a professional voice, which people expect when it comes to news reading. Citizen journalism isn't just blogging, and I hope that OSM realizes that so they will be as successful as possible.

My blogging is anything but standard.

I never suspected OSM wanted me so that I could do my best to act like a reporter. I'm not. And blogging IS different from the mainstream media. So why try to immitate it.

Blog readers eventually caught on to how to read blogs, and they enjoy that style of getting their news; why do you suspect those who are just being introduced to the form wouldn't follow suit?

  Posted at November 20, 2005 9:49 PM by Blogger protein wisdom  
First of all... I never say they should itimidate it. However it would be foolish to ignore EVERYTHING that the MSM does as wrong. How they organize and present the news can actually be beneficial. Its the content and methodology that is the problem, and where blogging brings its strength.

As far as readers eventually catching on... I'm sure they will. But the goal of OSM (or any other similar venture) ought to be to help speed the increase in readership, and help introduce people to it... not to make it harder or not help at all.

  Posted at November 20, 2005 10:35 PM by Blogger Nick  
Right-of-center bloggers, like Jeff here, were very effective in re-electing Bush and since I believe that the Bush Doctrine is the only hope we have for peace in the Middle East, and by extension the rest of the contentious world, I was very concerned that the PJM/OSMTM was a not-so-subtle attempt to blunt their effect on the next election by nudging them leftward.

Over the past months, I had noticed that Instapundit and Vodkapundit among others had become more critical of how the war in Iraq was being waged and were looking at viable Democratic candidates. Even Hillary wasn't ruled out on some blogs formerly staunchly behind Bush. The announcement that savvy venture capitalists were investing 3.5 million to support an effort that seemed unlikely to be profitable, confirmed my worst fears.

After checking out the new website, it's not a blog in my opinion, and reading about Simon & Johnson's shabby treatment of the original partners and the more than 200 bloggers who had originally signed up, has lessened the high regard I once held for them. Their comment sections have become cheering squads of cult-like admirers taking their cue from their leaders in damning the critics. It's really too bad because this portion of the blogosphere was known for fun and light hearted banter mixed in with brilliant analyses and insights, not vicious attacks.

In the silver lining department, I feel a lot better about things now and if any of the right-of-center bloggers choose to move leftward which I hope they don't do, at least I'll be reasonably sure that it won't because they were told to do by the editorial board at OSMTM.

  Posted at November 21, 2005 12:04 PM by Blogger oldgranny  
Oldgranny... I'm not sure where to go with your comments. First of all... I have yet to make any substantive comments about the people involved in OSM. I have no gripe with the people... and I want to be clear on that. I'm trying to add constructive criticism about the venture, because I am technically a contributor (although the mostly lowly of the low on their list). I try my hardest not to make personal attacks, and I hope my posts bare that out.

My issues come in with reading the initial information about OSM from months ago and comparing it with what I see today. They are quite different, and I think that is unfortunate. Frankly, I think they've hurried things out the door too quick, and it might bite them.

As far as OSM pushing bloggers to the left... I see absolutely no evidence of that. If you'd like to point to OSM content that shows right of center bloggers somehow being cajoled into turning lefty... I'd be curious to see it.

As far as Instapundit and VodkaPundit go... I don't see the same things you do. First of all, I have a great deal of admiration for both, and read each daily. What I've seen in their recent postings is the same things I've seen for quite a while from them... good details analysis, and constructive criticism of what they see in Iraq. If that means criticizing Bush... then so be it. I don't cheerlead him, and neither do they. As far as the love for Hillary... I'd ask that you provide evidence, because I don't recall much at all, if any. Criticism is a good thing when framed in a manner that is meant to be constructive, which I believe the both of them do very well. Nobody benefits from an echo chamber, especially the President of the United States.

As far as Simon and Charles go... Simon is not on my blogroll not because I don't like him, but because I've just never taken the time to really read much of his. I have limited time too, and he never made it on my regular reading list. Charles... well LFG is always on the border of being yanked from my blogroll. I read it for a few minutes to get news I normally wouldn't see in the MSM, but I never read the comments. His commenters aren't much better than those who are regulars at Kos... and they're the reason I have a hard time recommending his blog in my blogroll. Well... that and his sometimes abusive style turns me off. Same thing goes for DailyPundit, although his regular are pretty respectful, and add to the discussion instead of whip things into a frenzy.

  Posted at November 21, 2005 12:30 PM by Blogger Nick  
Nick, I didn't mean for you, or Jeff, to go anywhere with my comment. They're just that -- my thoughts. No implied criticism of either of you. My perceptions were that there was a subtle shift to the left. I didn't think to save links so I could make a case for these perceptions. I am concerned because I think the left will go to any length to discredit Bush and to regain what they think of as their rightful place in power. This scares the heck out of me.

Naturally, none of us want cheerleaders for Bush, on the other hand while we're in the middle of a war and our enemies both at home and abroad are trying to defeat us, might not be the right time to obsess about domestic spending and other criticism of the White House.

Let's win the WoT and then we can debate in perfect leisure the domestic issues.

I wish the OSM well, but they don't offer me anything. I already have more than enough blogs I've identified as must reads, what I need is more time to get to them all.

Thanks for your courteous reply, I found it very informative.

  Posted at November 21, 2005 5:39 PM by Blogger oldgranny  
Not a problem oldgranny... though I do have one more comment in response to your latest. I don't think we can frankly afford to wait until the War on Terror is over before debating domestic spending issues.

The War on Terror will last for many many years. If we continue to spend like drunken sailors, there won't be any more money to continue to spend on fighting the war, or anything else for that matter, unless you want your taxes jacked up another 10% or more (and I sure as hell don't want that). Fighting a long protracted war means that we have to more responsible with our discretionary spending, not less.

When I vote for someone, I fully expect them to be able to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time... that means fighting the war, and being responsible at home with money.

  Posted at November 21, 2005 5:53 PM by Blogger Nick  
Nick you are aware the deficit is 2.6 % of GNP, a literal drop in the bucket, and, to use one of the media's favorite words, plummeting toward zero as the economy bubbles along. Pork, aka one hand washing the other, has been a way of life in Washington since hector was a pup and seems to work. Think of it as a job creation programs that stimulate local economies.

The media have seized upon big spending as just another stick to beat up Bush and Republicans have picked on it as something their constituents can be made to readily understand. On one hand Bush is slammed for "cutting" benefits to the downtrodden, of course, by "cuts" they mean a slightly lower rate of growth and on the other he's being slammed for out-of-control spending.

Until Bush can get the Republicans in congress to back his incentives, there's little he can do to reform social security, appoint conservative judges, build nuclear reactors, explore domestic oil reserves and -- insert your favorite domestic issue here.

I say this out because like you I want a president who can do the job and I think Bush is doing an heroic job against the relentless barrage of lies and distortions from all sides.

Interesting developments at PJM. There may be hope they'll return to their original idea of acting as a quasi-agent representing bloggers and selling them to advertisers. Big market out there. People who read blogs are a demographic most advertisers only dream about finding all in one place.

Again thanks for listening and have wonder Thanksgiving.

  Posted at November 24, 2005 9:08 AM by Blogger oldgranny  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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