Category Archives: journalism

Oakland Trib’s Not-Just-A-Number improves on crime data visualization

OJR’s Jim Wayne dives into Oakland Tribune’s “Not Just A Number” web site. The service won the Service Journalism Award from ONA for an amazingly powerful view of crime data.

The basic premise was to create a data visualization for Oakland homicide crime data that made the victims and, more importantly, the people in their lives real participants in the story rather than pure statistics (or just plain ignored entirely).

It’s a very powerful site and a model for all local newspapers to follow. It’s disappointing but no surprise the media creates these kinds of community services before local governments do. At least we’re getting more access to crime data.

Wayne also points to a crime data visualization from the Los Angeles Times called The Homicide Map that I wasn’t aware of.

They have a nice map mashup that takes a more statistical approach, yet they also include things like images of the victims.

Unfortunately, as Oakland Tribune producers Katy Newton and Sean Connelley point out, a mug shot is not a fair image to use for a violent crime victim in a statistical map. But I’m glad to see them exposing data that needs to be shared.

732 homicides in Los Angeles so far in 2007! Unbelievable.

Building community is hard

Jay Rosen has an interesting post on the failure of AssignmentZero, an effort to build a publicly funded crowdsourced news organization.

Among the many lessons, he keeps coming back to motivation and incentive.

“A well managed project correctly estimates what motivates people to join in, what the various rewards are for participants, and where the practical limits of their involvement lie.

…amateur production will never replace the system of paid correspondents. It only springs to life when people are motivated enough to self-assign and follow through.”

The idea wasn’t fundamentally broken, in my mind. Crowdsourced news is very powerful. As Derek Powazek said,

“At its best, crowdsourcing is about expanding the walls of the newsroom to the internet, giving an opportunity to people with real experience to share their expertise. This is a point that’s often lost on people who are just looking to make a quick buck on Web 2.0.”

More than anything else, I suspect that AssignmentZero failed because there weren’t any readers. Motivation wouldn’t have been a problem with a NYTimes-sized audience.

To date, I’ve never seen a better explanation of the motivations in collaborative online experiences than Yochai Benkler’s paper called Coase’s Penguin. One of my favorite excerpts from that is where he warns against paying for contributions from the community:

“An act of love drastically changes meaning when one person offers the other money at its end, and a dinner party guest who will take out a checkbook at the end of dinner instead of bringing flowers or a bottle of wine at the beginning will likely never be invited again.”

There are as many motivations as there are contributors in a shared media project. What holds them together is more art than science. Some of that art includes good timing and luck. But it also requires a unique kind of commitment and salesmanship from the leaders of the project.

I’ve begun to wonder if the tipping point happens when the confluence of the community size, the ROI to the contributors and the depth of the trust relationship with the company or the brand creates more value than the sum of the parts. Maybe the science of collaboration services can be found by quantifying the meaning of the relationships between those elements: size, cost, benefit and trust.

Or it could also be that the secret sauce inside the Craig Newmarks, Stewart Butterfields and Jimmy Waleses of the world is much more complicated and nuanced than anyone realizes.

Why Outside.in may have the local solution

The recent blog frenzy over hyperlocal media inspired me to have a look at Outside.in again.


It’s not just the high profile backers and the intense competitive set that make Outside.in worth a second look. There’s something very compelling in the way they are connecting data that seems like it matters.

My initial thought when it launched was that this idea had been done before too many times already. Topix.net appeared to be a dominant player in the local news space, not to mention similar but different kinds of local efforts at startups like Yelp and amongst all the big dotcoms.

And even from their strong position, Topix’s location-based news media aggregaton model was kind of, I don’t know, uninteresting. I’m not impressed with local media coverage these days, in general, so why would an aggregator of mediocre coverage be any more interesting than what I discover through my RSS reader?

But I think Outside.in starts to give some insight into how local media could be done right…how it could be more interesting and, more importantly, useful.

The light triggered for me when I read Jon Udell’s post on “the data finds the data”. He explains how data can be a vector through which otherwise unrelated people meet eachother, a theme that continues to resonate for me.

Media brands have traditionally been good at connecting the masses to eachother and to marketers. But the expectation of how directly people feel connected to other individuals by the media they share has changed.

Whereas the brand once provided a vector for connections, data has become the vehicle for people to meet people now. Zip code, for example, enables people to find people. So does marital status, date and time, school, music taste, work history. There are tons of data points that enable direct human-to-human discovery and interaction in ways that media brands could only accomplish in abstract ways in the past.

URLs can enable connections, too. Jon goes on to explain:

“On June 17 I bookmarked this item from Mike Caulfield… On June 19 I noticed that Jim Groom had responded to Mike’s post. Ten days later I noticed that Mike had become Jim’s new favorite blogger.

I don’t know whether Jim subscribes to my bookmark feed or not, but if he does, that would be the likely vector for this nice bit of manufactured serendipity. I’d been wanting to introduce Mike at KSC to Jim (and his innovative team) at UMW. It would be delightful to have accomplished that introduction by simply publishing a bookmark.”

Now, Outside.in allows me to post URLs much like one would do in Newsvine or Digg any number of other collaborative citizen media services. But Outside.in leverages the zip code data point as the topical vector rather than a set of predetermined one-size-fits-all categories. It then allows miscellaneous tagging to be the subservient navigational pivot.

Suddenly, I feel like I can have a real impact on the site if I submit something. If there’s anything near a critical mass of people in the 94107 zip code on Outside.in then it’s likely my neighbors will be influenced by my posts.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures explains:

“They’ve built a platform that placebloggers can submit their content to. Their platform “tags” that content with a geocode — an address, zip code, or city — and that renders a new page for every location that has tagged content. If you visit outside.in/10010, you’ll find out what’s going on in the neigborhood around Union Square Ventures. If you visit outside.in/back_bay, you’ll see what’s going on in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.”

Again, the local online media model isn’t new. In fact, it’s old. CitySearch in the US and UpMyStreet in the UK proved years ago that a market does in fact exist in local media somehwere somehow, but the market always feels fragile and susceptible to ghost town syndrome.

Umair Haque explains why local is so hard:

“Why doesn’t Craigslist choose small towns? Because there isn’t enough liquidity in the market. Let me put that another way. In cities, there are enough buyers and sellers to make markets work – whether of used stuff, new stuff, events, etc, etc.

In smaller towns, there just isn’t enough supply or demand.”

If they commit to building essentially micro media brands based exclusively on location I suspect Outside.in will run itself into the ground spending money to establish critical mass in every neighborhood around the world.

Now that they have a nice micro media approach that seems to work they may need to start thinking about macro media. In order to reach the deep dark corners of the physical grid, they should connect people in larger contexts, too. Here’s an example of what I mean…

I’m remodeling the Potrero Hill shack we call a house right now. It’s all I talk about outside of work, actually. And I need to understand things like how to design a kitchen, ways to work through building permits, and who can supply materials and services locally for this job.

There must be kitchen design experts around the world I can learn from. Equally, I’m sure there is a guy around the corner from me who can give me some tips on local services. Will Architectural Digest or Home & Garden connect me to these different people? No. Will The San Francisco Chronicle connect us? No.

Craigslist won’t even connect us, because that site is so much about the transaction.

I need help both from people who can connect on my interest vector in addition to the more local geographic vector. Without fluid connections on both vectors, I’m no better off than I was with my handy RSS reader and my favorite search engine.

Looking at how they’ve decided to structure their data, it seems Outside.in could pull this off and connect my global affinities with my local activities pretty easily.

This post is way too long already (sorry), but it’s worth pointing out some of the other interesting things they’re doing if you care to read on.

Outside.in is also building automatic semantic links with the contributors’ own blogs. By including my zip code in a blog post, Outside.in automatically drinks up that post and adds it into the pool. They even re-tag my post with the correct geodata and offer GeoRSS feeds back out to the world.

Here are the instructions:

“Any piece of content that is tagged with a zip code will be assigned to the corresponding area within outside.in’s system. You can include the zip code as either a tag or a category, depending on your blogging platform.”

I love this.

30Boxes does something similar where I can tell it to collect my Upcoming data, and it automatically imports events as I tag them in Upcoming.

They are also recognizing local contributors and shining light on them with prominant links. I can see who the key bloggers are in my area and perhaps even get a sense of which ones matter, not just who posts the most. I’m guessing they will apply the “people who like this contributor also like this contributor” type of logic to personalize the experience for visitors at some point.

Now what gets me really excited is to think about the ad model that could happen in this environment of machine-driven semantic relationships.

If they can identify relevant blog posts from local contributors, then I’m sure they could identify local coupons from good sources of coupon feeds.

Let’s say I’m the national Ace Hardware marketing guy, and I publish a feed of coupons. I might be able to empower all my local Ace franchises and affiliates to publish their own coupons for their own areas and get highly relevant distribution on Outside.in. Or I could also run a national coupon feed with zip code tags cooked into each item.

To Umair’s point, that kind of marketing will only pay off in major metros where the markets are stronger.

To help address the inventory problem, Outside.in could then offer to sell ad inventory on their contributors’ web sites. As an Outside.in contributor, I would happily run Center Hardware coupons, my local Ace affiliate, on my blog posts that talk about my remodelling project if someone gave them to me in some automated way.

If they do something like this then they will be able to serve both the major metros and the smaller hot spots that you can never predict will grow. Plus, the incentives for the individuals in the smaller communities start feeding the wider ecosystem that lives on the Outside.in platform.

Outside.in would be pushing leverage out to the edge both in terms of participation as they already do and in terms of revenue generation, a fantastic combination of forces that few media companies have figured out, yet.

I realize there are lots of ‘what ifs’ in this assessment. The company has a lot of work to do before they breakthrough, and none of it is easy. The good news for them is that they have something pretty solid that works today despite a crowded market.

Regardless, knowing Fred Wilson, Esther Dyson, John Seely Brown and Steven Berlin Johnson are behind it, among others, no doubt they are going to be one to watch.

IDG does the right thing

For a company that avoids PR so actively, IDG has recently launched itself onto the media stage with great vigor.

The closure of InfoWorld magazine a month ago signalled the end of an era across the magazine market, and then Colin Crawford’s conflict with Harry McCracken resulted in a very public slap on the wrist from IDG headquarters.

IDG Chairman Pat McGovern isn’t known for tolerating mismanagement at any single business unit. He gives each business unit leader great control, but that comes with responsibility. As people have joked in the past, McGovern gives them enough rope to hang themselves.

Here’s how Business 2.0 described the turn of events:

“In a rare and dramatic victory for editorial independence in today’s dismal magazine climate, PC World has ousted the CEO who spiked a story critical of a major advertiser — Apple Inc. — and reinstated the editor-in-chief who had quit in protest.”

What I find most interesting about the PC World story is the fact that both employees have decided to stay at the company. I don’t blame them. It’s a great place to work.

Harry’s profile while already high at the company will become an important symbol for all IDG editors who occasionally get challenged by the business pressures to file fluff. His return means this wasn’t a personal quest for martyrdom but rather a compassionate stand against unpleasant and maybe unethical working conditions.

On the other hand, Colin’s reassignment will create new challenges for an already difficult role as a centralized service in a truly decentralized organization. At a company where credibility is so important, Colin will have to redeem himself to be effective.

But Pat McGovern is not a spiteful man. I wouldn’t find it surprising at all if Crawford gets reassigned yet again when his skills make sense in another context at the company. Chad Dickerson insightfully identified the guiding hand behind the public voices in all this:

“I don’t know the inside scoop of what happened at PC World, but you can bet that Pat McGovern was in the mix, empowering people like Bob Carrigan to make the right decision in the end. In the news cycle, this might seem like a flash-in-the-pan story about journalism, but for me, it’s a story about respect and good business in the long term. Hats off to IDG and Pat McGovern.”

Agreed, Chad. Well done, Pat, Bob and Harry.

Here’s more on the story:

Media As A Service

Much like print and tv are becoming marketing vehicles to drive people online, the domain name for an online media service is becoming sort of an abstract utility or maybe just a brand address for media services rather than the real estate upon which the core activity occurs. The service a media vehicle provides matters more than the vehicle itself.

And this isn’t only happening in the content space. Every aspect of the media business is pointing to a services model. Here’s what the key pieces look like, in my mind:

  1. Data is infinitely distributable. All data…not just editorialized words. The RSS standard opened the doors for vast distribution networks, and services like Yahoo! Pipes and Feedburner figured out how to make the distribution methods meaningful. There’s an endless supply of microchunks flying around the Internet, most of them unattached to any domain or URL except as a handy reference point.
  2. Data can be visualized in meaningful ways. AJAX and the many freely available widget kits and javascript libraries such as YUI are rendering these microchunks in the right place at the right time in the right way for people which, again, is not always on a web site. The Internet user experience is no longer held back by the limitations of HTML and the packaging a site owner predefines for their media.
  3. Media is created by everyone. Whether written in long form by a reporter or researcher, captured as video by a mobile phone owner, or simply clicked by a casual web site visitor, expressions of interest are shared, measured and interpreted in many different ways. This results in a seemingly neverending stream of media flowing in and out of every corner of the digital universe.
  4. Distribution technologies are increasingly efficient and inexpensive. Personal media services like instant messaging, blog tools, podcasting and collaborative media services like Wikipedia, del.icio.us, Flickr, etc. are easy to use and often free. Web services and open source software enable people and companies to scale distribution and production functionality for large audiences or groups of users with negligeable costs. Most importantly, these tools enable people to be influential without ever owning a domain.
  5. The distance between buyer and seller is shrinking. There are more and more ways for buyers to find sellers and sellers to find buyers from search engines to recommendation tools to coupon rss feeds, etc. Distributed ad markets like Right Media are enabling marketers and service providers to negotiate both the methods and the value of a marketing message. Advertising can operate as a service, too.

After re-reading this description myself, it looks like I’ve just echoed much of the whole Web 2.0 thing yet again. That makes me think I didn’t articulate the concept properly, as I believe there’s a very different way to visualize how data get created, packaged, distributed and remixed and how the various parts of a media business can be coupled both within the organization and across the wider network. Maybe that’s Web 2.0. Maybe it’s edge economics. SOA. Whatever.

The important thing is to think of how your media business can create for yourself or leverage how others offer Marketing As A Service, Sales As A Service, Operations As A Service, in addition to your editorial and community building efforts. Here’s a quick chart of how a media business might look that hopefully gets the point across:

Staffing Model Source Data Coopted Data Distribution Services
EDITORIAL Reporters, Community Managers, Assemblers (formerly known as ‘Producers’) Original News, Analysis, Columns News Wires, Paid Data Feeds, Free RSS Feeds, Links, Comments, Votes, Ratings, Clicks RSS Feeds, Content API (Read and Write)
MARKETING Customer Service, Evangelists, Event Organizers SEO, SEM, Paid Inclusion, Sponsorships, Staff Blogs Partner Promotion, Customer Evangelist Blogs Customer Help, Usage Policies, SLAs, Traffic/Referrals to favored partners
SALES Sales Engineers, Business Development Customer Data, On-site Inventory Partner Inventory, OEM Partner Services Ad Service API (Read and Write)

We’ve seen Journalism As A Service evolve with a little more clarity, particularly recently. Mark Glaser provides a step-by-step guide on how to structure a community-driven news organization:

“Reach out to the community for bloggers, muckrakers and go-to experts. Each topic area would require more than just reacting to news. The Topic Chief would be sure to enlist as many experts as possible not only to be sources but to also be contributors, commenters, and word-of-mouth marketers. Anyone who possesses the skills that go beyond basic participation can be hired on as freelancers or even full-time staff.”

Similarly, Doc Searls’ “How To Save Newspapers” post also lays out what needs to happen on the editorial side. Here’s step #5 in his list:

“Start looking toward the best of those bloggers as potential stringers. Or at least as partners in shared job of informing the community about What’s Going On and What Matters Around Here. The blogosphere is thick with obsessives who write (often with more authority than anybody inside the paper) on topics like water quality, politics, road improvement, historical preservation, performing artisty and a zillion other topics. These people, these writers, are potentially huge resources for you. They are not competitors. The whole “bloggers vs. journalism” thing is a red herring, and a rotten one at that. There’s a symbiosis that needs to happen, and it’s barely beginning. Get in front of it, and everybody will benefit.”

There is lots of guidance for the newsroom, but all parts of a media business can become services.

For example, the ultimate in Marketing As A Service is the customer evangelist. It’s not about branded banners, as Valleywag points out,

“When paid-for banner ads lead to another site that’s supported by banner ads, you know that something’s wrong. Anyone who relies on that circular spending is asking for trouble.”

Marketing should be about enabling customer evangelists whether your customer is simply promoting your stuff for you or actually distributing and reselling it. Fred Wilson thinks of this in terms of “Superdistribution“:

“Superdistribution means turning every consumer into a distribution partner. Every person who buys a record, a movie, reads a newspaper, a book, every person who buys a Sonos or a Vespa becomes a retailer of that item. It’s word of mouth marketing, referral marketing, but with one important difference. The consumer is the retailer.”

None of this needs to happen on a single domain. The domain chain in any of these actions probably should be invisible to people, anyhow, except maybe to ground the events in trusted relationships.

Now, there are many domains that can create wonderfully useful and valuable destinations once they reach a certain critical mass. Invoking another over-used dotcom jargon word, this is what happens at the head of the long tail. And there are obviously lots of nice advantages of being in that position.

Most media companies want to be in that position and fight tooth and nail for it even if it just means being at the head of a niche curve. But instead of or maybe in addition to competing for position on the curve, most media companies need to think about how they provide relevant services outside of their domains that do something useful or valuable in meaningful ways across the entire spectrum.

Posting articles on your domain isn’t good enough any more. The constant fight for page views should be positive proof of that. There’s a bigger, deeper, longer term position out there as a critical part of a network. Sun Microsystems’ mantra “The Network is the Computer” is still meaningful in this context. What is your role if “The Network is the Media”?

Similarly, is Marshall Mcluhan’s widely adopted view that “The Medium Is The Message” still true? Or, like many have asked about the IT market, does the medium matter anymore?

If we are moving to an intention economy, then those who best enable and capture intention will win. And that doesn’t have to happen on a domain any more.

Decentralizing journalism and everything

Dave Winer said something the other day during the latest “Newspapers are dead” meme that I can’t get out of my head:

“In the future, every educated person will be a journalist, as today we are all travel agents and stock brokers. The reporters have been acting as middlemen, connecting sources with readers, who in many cases are sources themselves. As with all middlemen, something is lost in translation, an inefficiency is added. So what we’re doing now, in journalism, as with all other intermediated professions, is decentralizing.

I remember the whole disintermediation discussion from around 1998 when people debated which markets would be crushed by the Internet first. It was obvious then that just about any job that functions like a broker or agent would at least be challenged if not destroyed completely. It was amazing to watch the travel agency business disappear as fast as it did.

But there are subtleties to the form of disintermediation playing out today that seemed impossible 10 years ago. Umair Haque and John Hagel have suggested in their investigations of edge economics that any job function that makes money off the friction of distribution of information is threatened.

This kind of ends the whole debate about whether or not content wants to be free. That doesn’t really matter. The question is more about how else can we remove friction in the flow of information. What other kinds of information will be decentralized and when?

A magazine I would love to read

There’s a magazine that I’d love to read if someone published it (yes, the print kind). Of course, it’s about the Internet. It’s about the stack that makes up the Internet, the platform or, as many people are calling it, the Internet Operating System. It’s mostly technology. But it’s a little bit business. And it’s definitely artful.

It’s not Business 2.0 or Red Herring. It’s not The Industry Standard, though I’d be happy to read that again, too. Those were/are too business-focused and often misunderstand the wider impact of many breakthroughs.

It challenges the people in positions to change things to make changes that matter. It exposes the advances in the market that have negative repurcussions to the Internet as a platform for good.

It’s critical and hard-hitting. It’s accurate. And it is therefore trusted and respected.

It isn’t first to report on anything. It might even be last, but it gets the story right.

It dives into services like Pipes, EC2, and Google Apps. It analyzes algorithms, data formats, developer tools, and interactive design. It studies human behaviors, market trends, new business models, leadership strategies and processes.

It’s not about startups, but it may be about why VCs like certain startups. I love the fact that Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures disclosed the broader motivations for investing in AdaptiveBlue:

“We are particularly excited about the prospect of AdaptiveBlue developing tools that allow users to build the semantic web from the bottom-up to fill in the gaps and correct the top-down approach when necessary.”

This magzine should be printed monthly with lots of possibilities online that may actually be more successful in the long term. (I can imagine the print magazine turning into a sort of marketing vehicle for the web site. )

It includes longer deep-dive articles that have been throughly researched and copyedited. The editors are paid very well because they are experienced and talented. It also includes samples from the blogosphere and insights from contributors and participants who care deeply about the subject. There are intelligent interviews of people who are innovating and actually doing important things. There are insightful case studies of both the methods and results of certain technology breakthroughs. And there are columns that remind us to keep it real.

What I want from a new magazine about the Internet Operating System is to understand the technology breakthroughs and their meaning in the conext of the history of the Internet. I want to know what we can learn from art and innovation online to understand what lies ahead. The business model breakthroughs matter hugely, but I think they often matter as a result of an innovative technology rather than serve as a driver.

How is the Internet as a platform, operating system, network — whatever you want to call it — evolving? Who and what is influencing change? What are the trends that indicate this progression? How do new online developments impact communication, governments and social organizing principles?

Of course, a lot of this is out on the web in bits and pieces. But I’m too lazy to go through my entire feedreader and follow all the links to all the interesting stories out there. Maybe someone could invent a personalized and distributed Digg that surfaced what mattered to me more efficiently. But even then, I’d still pay a subscription fee and happily browse through endemic advertising for someone to assemble something thoroughly thought through, designed nicely and printed on my favorite portable reading medium — paper (recycled, of course).

And I’d read it in part because I would know everyone in the business would be reading it, too. At least, I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this…?

Do you want my clicks or my attention?

I’ve been a believer for a long time that the magazine business is best-suited amongst the “old” media markets to embrace and extend the online media world successfully. They understand communities. They understand niche content. And they get targeted advertising. They intuitively understand some of the hardest things to get right.

But watching eWeek handle the recent IntelliTXT controversy (more here from Paul Conley and here from Jason Calacanis) reminds me why there are newcomers in every market nearly every day displacing the magazine incumbant in that space.

RollingStone is kicking itself while MySpace displaces everything they once were. It continues to pain ZiffDavis and IDG every day that CNet and Slashdot control more and more of their once-dominant market positions. Everyone who was working at Time Inc. while Yahoo! rose to power is embarrassed every time they check their email.

Instead of embracing the Internet, the magazine businesses, particularly niche publications, choose to hide under their old business models. Then each time a Digg or a BoingBoing or the next new media site screams across the network, the internal fingerpointing and backroom politics escalate. And while everyone plots the next move, key thought leaders inside the company head elsewhere for employment.

There was a collective ‘ouch’ when InfoWorld lost Jon Udell to Microsoft.

I’m surprised that the trade associations are only just now picking up on things like this and the damage they cause. Martha Spizziri of the ASPBE takes a first pass at what IntelliTXT means:

“…at best the IntelliTXT model is annoying–in the same way that even editorial links can be annoying when the text is vague. In both cases, you aren’t really sure what kind of information you’ll get if you click.”

The American Business Media, on the other hand, has chosen not to take a side. In fact, they’ve chosen eWeek as a Neal Award finalist instead. B2B media watchdog Paul Conley explains why that’s a bad idea:

“it’s beyond me why the screening judges at ABM would think that a site that embarrasses the entire world of B2B journalism should be considered a symbol of what is best in B2B journalism.”

And Bill Mickey at Folio faults eWeek for being desperate:

“I’ve written about this before, as has Conley, who this time suggests that pressures stemming from owner Willis Stein’s efforts to sell Ziff Davis have resulted in a revenue-at-all-costs Web site strategy.”

Its obvious to everyone that print is struggling. And the stories of a market in turmoil only get more critical when a leader like eWeek sells out its last asset…the words on its pages.

Look, relevant advertising is great. It works for everyone in the media ecosystem. But when credibility is the elephant in the room, you can’t disrespect your customers. It’s as if your own content is getting in the way of what you want from people.

Do you want my clicks or my attention? If you capture my click, you’ll have a dollar today. If you capture my attention, you’ll have a customer tomorrow.

Valleywag is becoming essential

I have to echo Fred Wilson’s view that Valleywag has suddenly become a must-read for me. Despite the incessant Yahoo! bashing recently, Nick Denton has finally created an insightful Silicon Valley gossip rag that’s worth the time put into it. Fred states,

“Under the old regime, I never read Valleywag. Now I read it every day. Sure its still snarky. Sure its still evil. But its relevant. Nick is reporting on real stuff, with classic Gawker attitude.”

For example, he covered today’s Glam.com hype by exposing the story behind the high traffic numbers. First, he colors the piece with the appropriate human elements that make the story tangible and interesting:

“Samir Arora looks so beatifically happy in that photo, and it’s no wonder why: Glam Media, the fashion site headed by the smiling web guru has just raised an astonishing amount of money, $18m…7m [women] visit each month, an achievement of which Glam is so proud that it places the claim in the logo. Unfortunately, as claims go, it’s a stretch, and here’s why:”

Then he goes on to explain how a network of smaller blogs make up the total traffic and that Glam is not as big as you might think.

Denton’s next post is a reaction to Seth Goldstein’s incomprehensible Root Markets business. It’s short, menacing and basically spot on.

“I never understood Seth Goldstein’s most recent company, Root Markets…Root’s website, a blank page with a mysterious log-in box, doesn’t help. And nor does the advertising guru’s personal website, which leads off with the following gobbledygook headline: API: In the middle of the middle, about Poverty & Wealth in the Gesture Economy.”

This kind of journalism, though not for everybody, clearly, and no doubt difficult to get right, is exactly the kind of commentary that creates a center of gravity in a market. He’s creating cocktail party quotable stuff here for the whole industry and maybe even influencing the way people think about what’s going on in the Internet business.

He publishes stories very quickly, often first. Every post is always about people. He may get frivolous, but his viewpoint is always colored by experience in the market rather than some removed personal opinion. His opinion is a filter on the story, not the story itself.

This is exactly how John Battelle initially conceived the editorial voice of The Industry Standard in the early phases of defining the business. He wanted to create Silicon Valley’s Variety. I’d say Nick is well on his way to making that vision happen here.

And as Fred pointed out, the numbers prove that it’s working whether you like what he has to say or not:

The strategic role of high quality editorial

Quality editorial is not a growth position for a media company. It may be a competitive advantage. And it will surely be a brand differentiator. But it won’t by nature expand audience or increase revenues. It’s not necessarily even a loyalty control.

Of the many great things the Internet has done for media, it has failed to value trustworthiness enough. Instead, it values speed, plasticity, and access. Information is rewarded when it is first to appear, maleable and distributable in numerous ways, and available through multiple channels — links, feeds, indeces — and through other people.

How is a niche publisher to compete? First, catalyze relationships with and amongst people. Second, leverage the value chain as it is to your advantage. Paying more per word for content that is slow, static and hard to get to is a recipe for failure online.

This is the strategic play that makes the MySpace acquisition seem even smarter than I think Fox was aware of at the time. YouTube has adopted a few of the social aspects that make MySpace successful, but I wonder if it will be able to catalyze those relationships into something more meaningful than a one-upsmanship JackAss competition.

What publishers do understand well is the role a media brand can play in facilitating meaningful activity in a community. The nature of the relationships with and amongst the community members have clearly changed. And high quality editorial is a piece of that relationship, one that reinforces trust and understanding, particularly in niche publishing where it’s harder to find good information.

The easy mistake to make is believing that because you have good information people will come. They might, and they’ll just as quickly leave if you don’t give them a reason to create a relationship with you or other members of your community.