Sunday, April 03, 2005

"We Can All be Ted Turner"

Last week, Yankee Group analyst Dana Gardner dropped by our offices for a brain-teasing chat on blogging and "consumer-generated media (CGM)." How is it changing our business and his?

We covered some familiar ground, discussing the evolution of vehicles that are finally delivering on the one-to-one marketing vision that's been bandied about for years. A few years back, TechTarget had the foresight to flip traditional publishing on its head. Rather than launch a print pub with a companion on-line vehicle, TechTarget used its niche on-line sites as trial balloons. Those with high readership got spun out into print pubs. (The outfit uses the tagline: "The Most Targeted IT Media.") Today, the publishing outfit boasts 29 highly specialized sites and three print magazines.

With zero cost of entry, blogs are the next step in this evolution, enabling marketers to exploit a communications vehicle that can effectively target an audience of one. As Dana put it, "We can all be Ted Turner, creating our own highly tuned channels."

Dana drew an interesting parallel to open source software and the blogosphere. In both cases:
  • The cost of entry is low
  • The traditional commercial model is being disrupted
  • New generation companies are springing up as a result
  • The technology can be a loss leader, dragging in more revenue via the traditional business model
He noted, the status quo of publishing is fast eroding into something else; we're not sure just now what that will be. But in the meantime, there's little doubt that the traditional ways of affecting markets are changing and every responsible communications professional had better be thinking about ways to exploit the new modalities.

And if that wasn't enough material to get the synapses firing for a bit, Steve Rubel directed us to this fascinating read this morning in his invaluable daily Bloglet alert. It's a parable about Rafat Ali, who created paidContent.org, a premier blog. It perfectly captures everything we've been thinking about regarding the evolution from traditional media to "minimedia," including the phenomenon of the chain reaction that can occur when a single blogger picks up a concept, which in turn is picked up by two other bloggers, and the hive really starts humming.

An excerpt:

At the other, older end of the spectrum, mainstream media (or msm in digi-hipster parlance), should feel anything but safe. Blame it on hard-charging technogeeks like Ali, who fell hard and fast for the notion of an everyman's media: You make it, you shake it, you share it. What a simple, elegant, and suddenly possible concept. And yet, when the son of an Indian biochemistry professor, with only a thousand dollars in his pocket chose to study journalism at Indiana University in 1999, he could not have imagined that something called Web logging would transform his life and, more profoundly, media everywhere on the planet. Right place, right time, right mindset.

And on that note, it's time to go grab a coffee and read the Sunday Boston Globe. Print still has its place.

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