For the Week of June 20, 2005
In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.
Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms. Let's sell ads.
Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.
Kaneva , which I've been working with a bit lately, is a beta version of a commerce site. It's built for enabling the sale of things like ringtones, games and video files. It makes being a retailer almost as easy as being a blogger. But, again, how are you going to get people into the store?
The old media answer to these problems is to have the stores created by Kaneva advertise on the blogs through Google AdSense. After all, AdSense can sell results, clickthroughs, and you can measure clickthroughs against sales to come up with an estimate of how an ad should do for your bottom line.
Again, this is an old media answer.
The new media answer is to enable deep commerce (as practiced by Kaneva) alongside deep content (as offered by Drupal). The deep content not only brings people in the door, but lets these people aggregate themselves as magazine subscriptions do. What you need to turn this straw into gold is a commerce engine lined up right alongside it.
Personally I think there's a final, vital step here. That is, to align the commerce engine to the real world. Don't just sell files. Sell goods.
And while we're at it, let's find the editorial voice of your local store, and match that to the commercial needs of your blog audience. There's no reason why merchants can't blog, and manage their own communities of users. They might, if they're offered an integrated package by a site manager that doesn't require them to build an online store, that lets them offer the knowledge or depth they already have, and that helps them spin this into money.
I've been asking for this over 10 years now, and no one has cracked the code yet. In order to justify the expense of deep content, you need deep commerce. You have to go for the commissions generated by creating sales, not just the billboard space occupied by an ad. You've got to solve the merchant's problem of finding prospects, and closing on them, while at the same time helping the audience find solutions to their own problems of what to buy and what to do.
The way commerce is done today is that you have mass advertising for the store brand, massive quantities of merchandise made available, and people aimlessly wandering the aisles without a Clue as to what they should be getting to make their lives better. There's no model for selling the content within the merchandise, the benefits that let us integrate products into a better lifestyle. When we find something really beneficial it's usually by accident.
No one knows anymore whether TV ads or any other ads work. It's all guesswork. And no one knows how to turn audiences into money anymore.
You won't find the answer in advertising. You'll find it in commerce, by crossing the line of editorial, by directly shaking hands with your buyer and delivering the editorial value of your merchandise, both before and after the sale.
That last is important. In today's commerce we think of things ending at the point of sale, the next goal being merely to up-sell or cross-sell. That's not the end point. The end point is service, and customer satisfaction leading to recommendations and future sales.
Deep commerce enables that. But we need people working at these sites who grok what deep commerce means, and who can deliver that to their merchant customers, just as the merchants deliver the editorial value of their goods to their own customers. And we need people in journalism - whether they call themselves bloggers or editors - to reach across the divide as well.
At Blognashville a few months ago I was chatting with Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who said that one of his most popular bits was to recommend the Mister Clean Magic Eraser to his readers. That's great. But what if he could find a way to monetize that recommendation? And what if he understood that his credibility - his value to his readers - was based entirely on the honesty and credibility of those recommendations? (In other words, if the Magic Eraser were a piece of junk it would hurt him in the pocketbook, now and in the future.)
These are the kinds of questions we need to approach now, from both trains, commerce and editorial. These trains, running in parallel, can change the world. Run them into each other and you're just going to have a mess.
It's time for new businesses to be born.
I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet.
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
Given all the deaths from SIDS I would think parents would love a mattress that could warn you before your child dies. Given the ravages caregivers face with Alzheimers (not to mention patients), a network of motion sensors telling you when you really need to help grandma (and when you don't) sounds like a very, very good thing indeed.
We're not used to thinking in terms of conservation of memory, taking programs out of memory that aren't doing us good and, in fact, may be doing us harm.
When evolution accelerates size becomes a disadvantage.
The 1990s were all about the Internet. This decade is all about gadgets.
Sometimes a negative response comes in here that's so well thought out and cogent that I just need to share it.
There are always dangers in technology. People die in traffic accidents. Most mass entertainment is bad for your mental health. If you play video games too much your thumbs will hurt. But to condemn new technology because of the potential dangers if it's misused is Luddism at its worst.
Here's another bubble. Google. Sorry, it's not worth $80 billion. It's worth some multiple of its earnings, and with earnings growing quickly it's worth a premium on that. But it's not worth 25 times its sales of $3.2 billion. No company is. Some part of that valuation, maybe a large part of it, is pure speculation.
The real problem is that most users, especially most Americans, don't believe it should be governed at all. But it is governed.
Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.
The folks at RepRap would like you to think they've got something truly revolutionary. But they don't. The technology has been around for some time. You need to input a lot of files to make anything, so there's a lot of intellectual capital involved.
As a young writer the force was strong in Orson Scott Card.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Howard Dean. He knows exactly what he's doing, and exactly who his enemies need to be, both in his own party and in the other one.
Clueless is Thomas Ricker of EnGadget. Dismissing always on applications is Luddism at its worst.
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