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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Business 2.0 Unveils New Strategy: All Journalists Must Blog

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I2m_msquaredlogo At the extremely well attended M-Squared marketing event at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco yesterday there was a series of extremely strong speakers on hand to discuss the future of marketing from many different angles.  Among the speakers were Chip Conley from Joie de Vivre Hospitality, Jim McDowell of BMW/MINI, John Battelle of Federated Media and Josh Quittner, editor of Business 2.0 magazine.  Josh kicked off the event and offered an interesting retrospective history of Time (the publisher, not the concept) full of examples of the enormous impact that the duo of Colombia Journalism School and Wired magazine have had on the publishing industry today.  As editor of what I would consider one of the more forward thinking publications in the market today, he talked candidly about the future of the publishing industry, his early efforts at working to create a business model for online content and the current success of CNNMoney in driving actual subscriptions (up more than 300%) and bringing in lots of ad revenue.  The most interesting part of his talk came as he described the soul searching as editor of Business 2.0 that came when Om Malik decided to leave the publication to focus solely on his highly popular tech blog GigaOm. 

Josh described this defection as the point when he started to consider that perhaps it would make more sense to move his publication to a new model that embraced blogs as a part of the identity of his publication.  Other publications like BusinessWeek, Vogue and many others have integrated blogs into their content - but none has really focused on instilling blogs and the creation of personal media into their culture as far as Business 2.0 is now poised to do.  As part of his new directive, Josh has charged every journalist at Business 2.0 with creating a blog and has soft launched in beta release a group contributed model where there is one blog that pulls content from all journalist blogs, as well as 18 individual journalist blogs.  He notes that this will eventually replace their current blog and discussed the following benefits for him in taking this approach:

  • Allows smarter and more engaged reporters
  • Adding a requirement of 1-2 posts on business per day ensures continually updated content
  • Offers more ad revenue opportunities across multiple sites
  • Has CNN articles pointing directly to journalist blogs, offering reporters a personal stake and individual traffic
  • Preserves the church and state separation issue of editorial versus journalism
  • Releasing some editorial control offers faster turnaround and more cutting edge work
  • Offering an edited "uber-blog" allows Business 2.0 to pull out the best content and feature it consistently

During the question and answer session of his talk, someone asked the reasonable question of what this opening of control and influx of opinion might do to the credibility of the publication and Business 2.0 brand.  To answer, Josh provided what must certainly be one of the best ways of describing the necessity behind this new innovative approach to integrating blogs into a mainstream publication's culture ... "blogs can create the essence of your brand, instead of detracting from it."  Are blogs the missing essence of your brand online?


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I'm curious about two things:

1. "The current success of CNNMoney in driving actual subscriptions (up more than 300%)." Subscriptions to what? Are subscriptions to Business 2.0 up 300%? What does that percentage refer to?

2. "Preserves the church and state separation issue of editorial versus journalism." Maybe this is a typo. If not, I'm curious what it means. Does Business 2.0 make a point of keeping journalism out of its editorial content?

Some responses:

1. Yes, I believe he was referring to subscriptions of the print magazine.
2. By editorial, I meant opinion based writing versus more balanced journalistic reporting. I will update the post to clarify this point.

To address the bullet points of idiocy:

Blogging does not make a reporter more intelligent or more engaged. It makes him distracted.

Putting a quota on blog posts detracts from their quality. Some bloggers are capable of more posts, some are not. Telling someone who can put together 1 excellent post every two days to put out 1-2 every day is not going to do anything positive for you. These arbitrary rules are idiotic from a management perspective.

Having more sites does not increase your ad revenue potential. Having more views, in general, will do that. If you drive repeat traffic to one good site (like Myspace does), that works well enough. Trying to drive lots of traffic to several crappy sites would be less effective.

If a journalist doesn't feel that he has something at stake (read: his reputation) by putting his name on an article in the first place, what makes you think that linking people to his blog is going to change that?

I can tell you from my experience running newspapers that some people's opinions flat out suck. Forcing these people to express their opinions is not helping you keep editorial separate from journalism. All it's doing is creating misery. Stop before you start, Business 2.0. Please.

Releasing editorial turnaround lowers the quality of the final product. You might get more of it faster, but it won't be nearly as good. Call crappy workmanship 'cutting edge' all you like, but you're only fooling the blind.

Yes, editing your publication allows you to feature 'good' content more consistently. Giving all your journalists blogs would, in a short-sighted idiot's perspective, seemingly provide the best of both worlds. All it really does though, is put added pressure on your writers and detract from the time they have available to research.

God, this is stupid shit.

Yes of course all journalists should blog. But they should do it right or they'll miss their way to great values both in fame and wealth. I am blogging a CTPM way, which can be downloaded upon a click on my name.

This is very much a West Coast way of thinking...but when one gets away from the bubble of San Francisco, it becomes quite clear why more journalists *aren't* blogging--in fact, with the Hiltzik, Siegle and other sock puppetry scandals, some newspapers are outright forbidding journalsits to blog.

There is, however, another step that publications might think of doing first--hyperlinking within the web verisons of print articles. I've been quoted in several prestigious publications--including Time and Newsweek--but because of the way in which the text is transferred from print to the web, I have never received links back to the posts that contained the quoted content. When publishers begin to value links appropriately, then they might begin to see the value of granting their journalists permission to blog.

Well, on the subscriptions thing, I seriously doubt that Business 2.0 subscriptions are up 300%, unless there's a pretty heavy-duty footnote involved. Maybe they're up 300% from some point in the far distant past, but my guess is their overall circ has been roughly unchanged in the last few years, maybe some marginal increase. But 300% over what their subscriptions were, say, a year ago, would mean that they have circ over a million, at least. And I doubt that's the case. If Business 2.0 is a huge publishing success story, then that's a fairly well-kept secret.

The overall point is that just passing along some powerpoint bullet about "up 300%" isn't really very useful unless you have the context, like actual numbers.

I also tend to agree with comment that all in all, requiring someone to blog -- with a post quota system, no less -- is a silly idea.

RW et al

What he *clearly* meant was that B2.0 subscriptions *generated online* (as opposed to via traditional routes like blow-in cards & direct mail) were up 300% over some previous period, probably a year or two.

Ummm ... is it that unobvious? Sheeesh!

Could be, John, I wasn't there. But that's not what this summary said, and that's why I pointed out that what it does say is almost certainly not true. It sounds very exciting to say subs are up 300%. It sounds less exciting to say "online-generated subs are up 300%." In fact it sounds like no big deal at all, since it probably means it went from 20 online subs to 60, or something on those lines. Maybe the numbers are different, I don't know -- but it would be interesting to get actual straight facts rather than unclear happy-sound hype. May apologies for such old-school thinking on my part. Sheesh indeed.

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