Friday, March 30, 2007

Goodbye Dumpster Bust, Hello Online Media Cultist!

Dumpster Bust has been around since 2003, when it existed as an e-zine distributed via e-mail to family and friends. Since coming to blog-land in late 2004 it's been a blast to rap about whatever happened to be on my mind. But all good things must come to an end, particularly when I feel as though I'm not so much leaving as moving onto bigger and better things.

And that would be a brand new site, a brand new name, and a continued focus on all things online media.

Online Media Cultist is where I'm hanging the e-hat from now on. Please stop on by anytime!

I just finished writing the About section for OMC. Here it is:


About Online Media Cultist

Online Media Cultist lurks and percolates and sizzles and snaps on the new web frontier. From social networking to social news to social media to social studies (one of those might not be covered as much as the others) OMC serves at the alter of what's new and hot and fresh and webtastical. Whether its blogospheric machinations, golden start-up discoveries, or the maddeningly glorious convergence of what's old and new, what's expected and what's about to become the fleeting norm, Online Media Cultist is there to bear (can I get a) witness.

If you think you might be a card carrying online media cultist, you already are. And by golly, you've just found your new home.

Some recent greatest hits (these stories originally appeared in Dumpster Bust and were imported to OMC at launch in late March 2007):

The Power of Twitter Compels You

The Grind and Crunch of Blog Production

Top 10 Favorite Online Media Blogs: From Mathew Ingram to Deep Jive

Netscape Represents the Future of News

The Economist Tinkers With Blogs to Expand Free Online Offerings

About Cultist-in-Chief Eric Berlin
Online Media Cultist has its roots in Dumpster Bust, a wide-ranging e-zine and later blog that delivered miracles from mind trash to the masses. While covering politics and television and music was super fun, it became clear to me over time that I wanted to focus my attention on the Interwebs, a universe I fixate upon and examine and revel in all day as a web producer in downtown Los Angeles.

I'm also the exec producer of Blogcritics, an online magazine of more than 1,700 superior writer/bloggers. It's my pleasure and honor that Online Media Cultist is the latest addition to the growing BC Network of sites, which includes GlossLip, Desicritics, BC Goodie Bag, and Confessions of a Fanboy.

For more mini-thoughts and observations, catch me on Twitter here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the Internet, Everything is Marketing

When I graduated from college and entered the business world for the first time (I had studied history – ha!) I found the word "marketing" to be an odious term. I cringed at it and felt much the same way as Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything when he makes his convoluted speech about not wanting to sell, buy, or process anything in the hideous machinery of the corporate life.

But the reality is that life is a long series of sales presentations. The best way to sell yourself, of course, is to just be yourself. But on the Internet, if no one knows who you are you won't have the opportunity to make the pitch.

So how can you be yourself on the Internet while getting the word out to others about how great you are? Ah, that's where even stranger terms apply, "viral marketing" and "social media marketing" and such.

A piece that came out today called Social Media Marketing for Small Business has some great tips for anyone who simply wants to be heard and enter the great Internet conversation via blog or small business website or what have you.

I'll run through a few of them. Most of it is common sense, but it's also good sense.

Comment on other blogs
If you're going to become a great crime fiction novelist, you absolutely must become an expert on the legends of the genre, know who made the rules and then broke them, and who are simply pulp-writing hacks. On the Internet, you have to know who is in your "space," who are the best at it, and who are the most popular. That learning process will help you to hone your own knowledge and help you to figure out how to create the best possible content or experience for your visitors.

One of the great things about the Internet is that you have the opportunity to meet and interact with people while you get your learn on.

Another great tip for aspiring writers is that if you want to be a great writer, you need to read a lot and write a lot. On the Internet, that can be modified to: you need to read a lot and write a lot and comment a lot. Commenting says a lot about who you are, how professionally you present yourself, how easily you mix with and play with others in a visual medium, and most importantly allows you to show off that you have something interesting and pertinent to add to a conversation.

Like real life conversation, commenting and interacting with other commenters is an art form. Do it in the right places and do it well and people will take notice. Do it well enough and the "legends of the genre" will take notice, and then you're on your way to being a player.

Try StumbleUpon
I'm not a huge fan of StumbleUpon, but plenty of people rave about how much traffic it can bring you. Nonetheless, social bookmarking and social news sites can be invaluable ways of getting the word out. Digg, Reddit, Netscape, and are all great places to submit stories. Of course, it helps to have friends around to vote/submit for you as a single person does not have great power to drive attention on those sites.

Mailing lists and RSS are also extremely important. The more you can do to make sure people that have somehow found you and are interested in what you have to say/sell can easily find you again, the better. If you're ambitious enough, collect contact names and send out newsletter announcements or press releases.

Join groups & mailing lists
Again, this is a vital way to stay informed and join conversations. Getting hooked up with a good RSS reader and piping in both those "legends of the genre" and a bunch of other smaller but interesting fish let's you stay up-to-the-second.

Joining groups can be helpful but it should be something you're genuinely interested in investing some time in. People can smell spam from a mile away so it's not advisable to pop in and say, "Hey, check out my site, it's like super awesome!" Likewise, when you leave comments anywhere, it should be in service of the conversation and not merely a thinly veiled ploy to drive attention to your site and yourself. But if you get and stay involved with the right group, you will be able to develop a loyal group of online supporters.

The Internet is not like television. No one will know when a new "Internet channel" comes on the air unless you get on peoples' radars and give them a compelling reason to spend their limited time on you.

That's why marketing is not such a terrible thing, actually. It's simply spreading the word.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So, There Is Money In Social Networking

No wonder that hundreds of social networking start-ups – eyeing niche markets from dog enthusiasts to high level executives to moms – are sweating and grinding to peel away some of MySpace's market share. With the announcement that MySpace is now earning "in excess of $30 million" a month in revenue, the days of speculation over whether there was any real money to be found in social networking are long gone indeed.

Pete Cashmore at Mashable asks: "Should we be surprised that one of the world’s biggest websites actually has the ability to generate some revenue?" If anything, it was surprising to me that it took them this long to ramp up earnings on an audience roughly the size of Jupiter.

CenterNetworks' Allen Stern uses this news as an opportunity to speculate that the transition from print to online news and magazine publications will quicken. He then asks: "Will the Internet become clogged with these new online-only magazines?" I would think that the Internet is already "clogged" with just about everything. Quality content and hardnosed marketing and audience acquisition and community building are the keys to the online content kingdom.

MySpace is without doubt king of the hill in the social networking space. They're now making money through advertising and cutting deals to allow some exclusive third-party widgets to reside on user profiles. But if they don't innovate and give their massive (and fickle) audience a reason to stick around, social networking-seekers will find innumerable other places to decorate their personal space.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Twitter as Communications Platform

One of the reasons why Twitter's audience has grown so quickly is because its open API has allowed a multitude of applications to be developed to support and enhance the Twitter-universe.

The basis of Twitter's popularity is very simple, elegant, and potentially addictive: send super short messages (maximum 140 characters) to groups of "followers" via web, SMS, or IM and receive the same messages from all of your "friends." Now, TechCrunch reports this morning that "a subtle upcoming change to Twitter's API" will allow for more advanced functionality.

Dave Winer writes that there is "no user-level functionality yet to report," but that he will keep us posted.

The idea will be that you can send a simple "command" message such as "weather" or "score" to a specific "follower" and that profile will generate information in response, i.e. "It's hailing, take cover" or "Your boys are getting smacked by 'Bama," or whatever.

Again, this simple premise may have yet another profound impact on Twitter's penetration. Particularly for the mobile set, Twitter has the potential to become a dominant communications tool, not only for receiving and transmitting idle chatter, but for collecting quick and relevant information as well.

Businesses will build atop this platform. Sports updates, stock quotes, specific news and information queries, restaurant and club reviews, album and record reviews (send the ISBN or UPC code and instantly receive a 1-10 score as voted on by users, let's say): the sky's really the limit, all focused upon short, simple, and fast. That's the killer app.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is MyBlogLog Losing Its Buzz?

Don't get me wrong, I really dig MyBlogLog, the simple and stripped down social networking tool for bloggers with the killer app widget that lets you see and interact with the readers who visit your site.

But I'm wondering if the buzz is wearing off. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the activity level on the site has subsided considerably since the admittedly recent days when blogger-fueled hype was high and the announcement of MBL's acquisition by Yahoo! was making the rounds.

Certainly for several months it seemed as though there was a lot of activity on the site itself. I received friend requests frequently for example (see my profile here without doing much to earn the honor, and it was easy to tell just by clicking around that many people were discovering and making use of the site's features. I'm not getting that sense of late. My activity level on the site is about the same, but the number of friend requests and messages has dropped considerably.

Perhaps even more telling is that I haven't read anything about MyBlogLog in a while (this Technorati chart is a bit inconclusive, I must admit). Could it be that the early adopter crowd has incorporated MBL into ho hum everyday online life and moved on? I'm guilty myself, having caught the Twitter wave and am very much fixating on that particular e-vortex as the latest-greatest thing.

While Alexa rankings must be taken with a grain of salt, it shows that MBL traffic has leveled off. It's still ahead of Twitter, though it's close now!

I still appreciate and love MyBlogLog's best feature: I get to see the faces (or avatars, or artistic representations) of some of the people who stop by my site.

I'd love to see what other people think: what's the deal with MyBlogLog these days?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Politics and MySpace, "the leading social networking blogosphere"?

I love Howard Fineman. He's one of the best political writers in the business. He's great on Hardball, and his coverage and analysis of elections and the pure sport of politics is second-to-none.

But still, it's hilarious when non-tech savvy journalists wade into those electronic weeds.

The Internet is now a part of politics as it never has before. As Fineman rightly notes, it was Howard Dean's (and Joe Trippi's) success in raising money and building grassroots community online in 2003 that ushered political campaigns into a new era. Politics and politicians have always followed the money, and therefore 2008 presidential hopefuls are online and actively seeking advantage, dollars, and voters. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama broke away from the long tradition of officially announcing a presidential campaign in a hometown dripping from its very pores in Americana, for example, and instead announced via online video.

Politicians are now seeking ways to integrate technology into their relationship with constituents as well. Obama has made at least one appearance on popular left-leaning political blog Daily Kos during the run-up to the pivotal 2006 midterm elections, and '08 presidential aspirant John Edwards delivers regular posts on Twitter, the newest rage of the tech-bloggy set. (Edwards staff has thanked his "followers" on Twitter for all of their words of support over the recent announcement that Elizabeth Edward's breast cancer has returned.)

Journalists are trying to keep up. It's chuckle-worthy every time that Hardball's Chris Matthews (another favorite of mine) announces that features and video clips can be found online. He has a look of smirking wonder that seems to say, "There's this thing called the Internet and people actually do stuff there, can you believe it?"

This week, in the midst of an interesting-as-usual piece called "Out of Control," which looks at how technology and the media now leave political candidates with less control over the message of campaigns than ever before, Fineman let this beauty slip: "Last time I checked, MySpace, by far the leading social networking blogosphere, had more than 60 million registered members."

The leading social networking blogosphere. If only he had just scaled it back half a notch and left it at "leading social networking website." Or platform, tool, place, locale, or e-shack of misbegotten ill designed schlock. But blogosphere has a pretty clear if broad connotation, representing that vast array of millions of blogs, most of which are separate online entities from one another.

MySpace certainly has millions of profiles, all of which have a blog feature. So I suppose it would be okay to call MySpace a blogosphere unto itself, though I would wager that's going a bit too far. And it would be definitely be inaccurate to compare that "blogosphere" with the blogosphere.

So MySpace is not a social networking blogosphere. It's a huge and monstrous social networking site. The blogosphere is its own universe (thus the 'sphere!) and many who occupy it are more than happy to not be associated with MySpace.

Howard, we love you, but you gaffed a little on this one!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Twitters of the Day: Starbucks, Han Solo, and Netscape

Lots of great stuff coming out of Twitter (the wunderkind short, simple, and snappy tool that lets you post 140-character maximum rants, pontifications, links, and random musings about personal peccadilloes to groups of "followers"), I may have to make Twitters of the Day a regular feature.

Jason Calacanis: correcting WSJ errors at my blog. uhhhh.... dont even work there anymore and i'm fighting the good fight. i guess i need to let it go huh?

Jason is referring to his spirited defense against a Wall Street Journal piece that claims that Netscape traffic is way down since the switch over to the "new" social news-driven platform (which I have declared, with its problems and all, is the future of news). Like many arguments, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle on this one. That said, Netscape is a perfect choice to continue to lead out a broad-based general audience social news experiment. I just wish that their editors were a little less trigger happy on editing/yanking submissions and would more closely cooperate with submitters and publishers, without whom the site would have no content.

Bloggers Blog: Will newspapers/magazines make all the journalists Twitter like they made them blog?

There are a bunch of great and interesting and probing questions that sweep Twitter everyday. I think this one is a little bit tongue-and-cheek but I do think it likely that some journalists will get on board with Twitter before too long. We may see reporters in battle zones giving live on-the-ground snippets, anchors at the desk musing about life on the news set during commercial breaks, and solicitations for questions prior to interviews. Pretty cool stuff in other words, and it all lies ahead.

Bloggers Blog: Poor Han Solo. Darth Vader is crushing him in followers 1250 to 56

Bloggers Blog delivered the goods today! There are a bunch of fake Twitter profiles, which I see as a sign of the site's health and popularity. I haven't friended any of them yet, so if any of them are particularly funny, please let me know.

Robert Scoble: I told Dave to pop up some Starbucks ads on TwitterVision just to freak everyone out. -- I'm addicted.

Ah, that rascally Scobleizer. TwitterVision is a site to behold, a really easy and mesmerizing way to see how this simple little product is providing yet another short cut to instant and immersive (and even substantive, sometimes!) conversation between friends and followers and lurkers around the globe.

Drop me a line at my Twitter page. You'll be hooked before long!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Mashtracker Tracks Social News Stories, Techmeme-Style

Mashable and news tracker site Megite have partnered to launch Mashtracker, a "memetracker" that focuses on blog conversations stemming from stories published by Mashable.

This is an interesting development on a few fronts. Gabe Rivera's suite of memetracker sites – anchored by politics-centric Memeorandum and tech-centric Techmeme – does an excellent job of selecting hot stories (based on an algorithm that uses factors such as links and "influence") and then surrounds them with related stories and blog articles in story clusters. These clusters change and evolve and move up and down the page fluidly, so it's easy to see which stories are hot and being talked and buzzed about across the Internet.

Included stories cover a wide range of subject areas and are selected from both mainstream media publications as well as the blogosphere. The new Mashtracker narrows the focus by just tracking social news stories published by Mashable, and the related conversations that spring up around them within the blogosphere. Mashable has a unique opportunity here to be successful, I'll wager, because it already is a trusted source for social news. (No one does a better job of keeping up with the current blizzard of social networking start-ups, for example.)

And the particular focus on blogs is another step forward in terms of the blogosphere's credibility. In essence, this is another way in which the blogosphere is declaring that it is in many ways a better source of Internet news, reviews, and opinions than traditional media.

While Mashable's layout is similar to Techmeme's, the design is a bit more clunky. That said, I do like that company logos are used to anchor the lead stories. I imagine they'll clean things up and streamline as the new site matures.

Twitter of the Day: Take Over the World Style

Best Twitter "twit" of the day that I ran across comes from Ben Yoskovitz: I'm up. It's early. Ready to take over the world. You with me?

Now that I am down with. Get the coffee fired up and the Firefox tabs a flying.

My Twitter page, by the way, can be found here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

There's No Way That Tom From MySpace "Personally Contacted" Tila Tequila

Everyone knows Tom, right? He's your friend, he's everyone's friend. He's the first guy you see smiling back at you from an odd-trendy camera angle when you and 80 million other people sign up for a MySpace profile.

Now, like the beginning of a rich and wonderfully Byzantine novel, let me layer in the next part of the story. It's amazing how wrong traditional media and professional journalists can be in reporting on the technology and media industries. I had some level of personal involvement in a story that got some major play last year. It had to do with potential gaming at a major social news site, and while there were wild allegations and a few bits and pieces of the truth thrown in, the actual story – while pretty much in the public eye for a careful journalist to uncover – went virtually uncovered.

Back to MySpace. It's well known that MySpace is trying to figure out ways to block some third-party widgets and music/video players so that they can lock in exclusive deals for themselves or flat out force people to use their own products and tools. The trick of course is that one of the key reasons why MySpace became the superstar of the social networking space – and why they leapfrogged Friendster at a crucial juncture – is because they are largely hands off about what people do with their profile pages.

Developments in that storyline make for a good story, and The New York Times does a good job overall with today's "MySpace Restrictions Upset Some Users." It runs down MySpace's new restrictions on a music e-commerce widget called the Hoooka, and how it personally affected musician Tila Tequila's profile.

But it rankled me to read that "the Hoooka disappeared on Sunday after a MySpace founder, Tom Anderson, personally contacted Ms. Tequila to object, according to someone with direct knowledge of the dispute."

I have no personal knowledge of this story and I don't know Tom (although he's my friend!), but I'd be amazed if Tom took the time to contact Ms. Tequila personally about her use of the Hoooka widget. MySpace has a boatload of customer service employees, and Tom's busy being Tom. My assumption is that someone told NYT reporter Brad Stone that Tom was involved, and it sounded good, so it made the story. MySpace's official reaction, which the piece also covers, makes much more sense: MySpace sent Tequila an e-mail demanding the removal of the widget for violating terms of service.

In any event, Mashable rightly points out that MySpace's move against Hoooka is likely because it's trying to better position the Snocap widget, which has a deal in place with MySpace. Snipperoo holds no punches, declaring that MySpace has turned into a Corporate Evil Monster.

Overall, I think trying to sell music directly through social networking sites is a short-sighted business. Like Internet content in general, there's just too much free stuff out there. The old music industry in particular is dying, and selling mp3s for indie bands won't save them. Advertising-supported free music is the future.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Power of Twitter Compels You

After a brief and fleeting spell of ambivalence, I was sucked straight into the depths of the Twitter vortex, the finger-snapping, trigger-happy, easy-to-use "mini-blogging" application that lets you send short messages to your group of "followers" via web, IM, or SMS. At its essence – I've spent some time thinking about this – I think that Twitter is yet another shortcut to meeting the compelling need for people to express themselves and partake in the ever quickening Internet conversation.

It's really simple and really easy too, which always helps and usually is at the heart of great and powerful tools and products. Sign up, add a friend or two, compel one or two people to "follow" your words of infinite wisdom (say whatever you want in answer to the question "What are you doing now?" just making sure it's under the 140 character limit) and you are on your way.

The more I play with Twitter, I think it's a keeper.

Another theory: Twitter may be a tool that particularly attracts those who already blog and are therefore already used to publishing online and interested in both attracting and audience and entering the Internet conversation. While I spend a lot of time looking at social networks such as MySpace, I never find a great and compelling reason to stick around. I particularly like MyBlogLog because it's a great networking tool for bloggers (and an experience that lives outside the site through the use of its great blog log widget), but it's simply not fun in the way that Twitter can be.

Other Twitter thoughts, culled over the weekend:

* Twitter has the potential to replace your RSS reader. It's fun to get Mashable and Wired and Techmeme updates via Twitter, and lots of people simply send links around, which becomes a hyperkinetic and viral method of information sharing.

* I'm apt to add twitter friends that I wouldn't add to my rss reader. Twitter's an outstanding way to get the shorthand thoughts and tid bits from blogging luminaries (or whomever, it's up to you!) that you don't have time to read on a regular basis. For example, I don't read Dave Winer's or Robert Scoble's respective blogs, but I've enjoyed following their Twitter conversations thus far.

* Twitter has fake profiles. These include Borat, Darth Vader, Bill Clinton, and fake Jason Calacanis and Nick Denton profiles. I take this is yet another sign that the Twitter aquiver with buzz. Take note that the John Edwards page is real!

* Lots of Twitter supporting sites/tools popping up. I'll just mention one here, because it deserves some attention. Twittervision is a mesmerizing Google Maps mashup that lets you watch Twitter messages emerge all across the globe in real time. If you like Digg Spy, you'll like Twittervision.

* Bold proclamations. Jason Calacanis declares that 90% of his blogging will now be delivered via Twitter. Personally, I love Twitter for its capacity for "casual" blogging, which gives you the ability to loosen up and say whatever you want without worrying overly much about spelling, grammar, or coherence. Blogging is a place to be a bit more structured and meaningful. Of course Twitter and blogs are merely platforms and the great thing is that everybody can help define them.

* Great quotes. I've seen some great quotes just over the last few days.

From Steve Rubel:
* JCal [Jason Calacanis] will become the first blogger to turn a full-time Twitterer
* Great businesses and greater ideas will begin as conversations on Twitter.

From Jason Calacanis:
* Who's building a twitter/google adsense widget? I need to monetize this medium before [Nick] Denton.
* Twitter is like cb radio without the static

* Are people talking about Twitter? That would be a 10-4, as this chart displaying the "twitterfication of the blogosphere" shows.

Welcome to the Twitter Vortex

Okay, it happened this weekend: I've totally been drawn into the Twitter vortex. I should have a piece up in the morning about my various findings, but for now check out Twitter Vision, which I think is one of the coolest mashups I've seen in a long time. It basically allows you to see Twitter conversations emerge in real time, popping up all over a Google Maps map of the world.

Twitter supporting applications and satellite websites (like Twitterholic) are already emerging. This thing is real, and getting bigger each day.

The premise is very simple and very catchy – jabber on about anything or simply link to things, and all your "followers" get the message. Addictive to those who already get some kind of buzz from online publishing, and perhaps one of the most killer of its apps is that it's a way to publish without worrying about proofreading, professionalism, and all the other issues that most online writers take seriously when churning out blog posts. There's a downside to all of this to be sure, but the upside is driving a new kind of online community and forum.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

MyBlogLog Is Rad

How cool is it that right now I can look at Dumpster Bust's MyBlogLog widget and see Mathew Ingram and Tony Hung – two esteemed members of my top ten favorite online media bloggers club – smiling back at me?

MyBlogLog is an outstanding and blessedly simple social networking tool to network with other bloggers, but most of all it's super cool to be able to see who has been checking out your site from the MBL community.

If You're Trying to Make $50 Million, Online Media is a Rough Biz

Making lots of money – particularly $50 million – is a difficult thing to do with an advertising-supported online business, The New York Times tells us today. Apparently, you need to get lots and lots of people to come visit your site all the time.

This is (very) old news for anyone who has made a serious go at monetizing online visitors through some sort of website, whether it be a blog or online magazine or fancy-fandangled web 2.0 media operation.

Just as thousands people start a novel and never finish it each year, thousands of people (probably) start blogs every day without reaching that final goal of filthy riches and e-caviar dreams. And just as a tiny percent of aspiring novelists ever complete a polished final draft, an even tinier percent actually go onto have it published by a sizeable press and make significant return on all the time and sweat that was poured in.

The same is true of bloggers and website publishers. Quite simply and brutally, it's just that hard. There's a bit of a heated discussion today between Tony Hung and Jason Calacanis, two of my favorite online folk, over on Tony's Deep Jive Interests. Part of the argument is over the notion of "A List bloggers" versus "blue collar bloggers": whether the two groups actually exist, and what the latter group can and should do if they want to make the esteemed ranks of the former.

Trying to find some common ground between the two sides (I know, to be a well known blogger you're supposed to be provocative, but I usually trend toward a consensus and Big Picture take on things) in saying that one thing that everyone can agree upon, if you want to be a successful blogger, is that "hard work, hustling, great ideas, consistency, original reporting etc." is key, "AND there are some natural advantages that some current A Listers used and use to their advantage, and there’s nothing wrong with that."

Obviously, most people and even most website publishers aren't seriously trying to grab $50 million in yearly revenue. People are online for many different reasons, with different goals and aspirations. Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 is disturbed by the fact that the current online advertising marketplace is such that only the top online media properties, such as CNN and Yahoo, are able to charge premium prices (akin to other forms of media) for premium ad space.

Probably a big factor will come when advertising reaches a tipping point and budgets are increased online as competition increases for valuable and targeted space. Even then, it's likely that only the best and brightest and the most cunning will make big money online, with the rest content to pick up a few bits from Adsense every now and again.

And Speaking of Convergences: Live TV Channels on Google

Last post I talked about how the blogosphere and social networks have been colliding and that 2007 will be a year when the gaming world and MMOs will incorporate social networking in a big way. Another huge convergence that's been happening all the while is that of the television and the Internet, to the point where the meaning of "TV" is rapidly changing.

Case in point: now you can add a widget to your Google home page that pipes in live TV updates from networks like CNN.

It's no wonder that the music industry is crumbling and that Viacom is suing Google for $1 billion for alleged copyright infringement on YouTube. The old establishment of entertainment and content distribution is dying, fueled by technology and innovation and a public that increasingly demands that it should consume the content it wants anywhere, anyplace, any time.

Picked up on the Google widget story on Micro Persuasion.

A Post-Convergence (Virtual) World: Gaming and Social Networks

In 2006, I think one of the most interesting developments in the online world was the convergence of blogger culture with social networking culture. Sites like Vox proved that social networks could successfully cater to grownups and bloggy-types, while blogs and social news platforms made efforts to beef up user profiles and social networking features such as friending, in-site mail, and media (pics, videos, audio, and text) sharing. One of my favorite social networking sites, MyBlogLog, is a stripped down social network that serves as a powerful networking and profiling tool for bloggers.

This year, I think there's going to be a lot of action in combining the immersive virtual world of MMOs (massive multiplayer online games) with advanced social networking features. Or, 2D-meets-3D if you like. TechCrunch's review of Kaneva showcases a good example, "a new social network that extends the concept of MySpace into a virtual world."

While Second Life has received quite a lot of buzz, a fair criticism is that people don't have a lot to do there. New MMOs will have a focus, even if it is to extend the hang out/check out bands/check out each other culture that thrives at massively popular social networking hubs such as MySpace. But I think that the online gaming world, more than anything, will incorporate web-based social networking features that support and extend existing game communities.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This Is The End Of The Twitter As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Lifecycles and trendcycles keep getting faster and faster. Just as I was getting up to speed and offering some limited pontifications about the mini-phenomenon known as Twitter, its demise is already being predicted.

Twitter is a simple to use and potentially addictive service that allows you to post very short messages to groups of friends via web, phone, or SMS based upon the premise of what are you doing right now? So for example, I'm hopping over there at this very second and writing "I'm doing the bloggings" (check this at my personal Twitter page), which automatically sends that riveting message to all of my Twitter friends.

web1979, who claims to have "vintage 1979 eyes," boils down the argument to three points: there's no value (or no there there), it takes too much effort, and that key users or early adopters will bail.

While that's certainly possible, I think Twitter will be one of those things that stick around for the long haul, even when the buzz wears off. When I first wrote about Twitter, I was a little bit negative about it, so here's why I think it will be around far past 2007 (maybe even into 2008!):

* It has useful applications for events and conferences (the buzz it garnered at SXSW this week will carry over to tech-centric and then business-centric conferences for years to come).
* It's a very easy way for celebrities and politicians and industry leaders and bloggerati to stay in touch with fans and followers. It's pretty cool and says a lot about the candidate that John Edwards has been Twitter-ing during his presidential campaign, for example.
* The kids will use it, or The MySpace phenomenon if you like. As much as kids are attracted to social networking websites so that they can connect with one another while defining and expressing themselves, Twitter can act as a short cut to doing all of those things. Imagine high school home run circa 2007. What are you doing right now? I want to stick a fork in my eye. And so on.
* The web goes mobile. The web-mobile connection can't be discounted here. The ability to post and receive posts via mobile device is really the key functionality that will give Twitter staying power.

A Quick Visual History of Web 2.0

No one can agree on what "web 2.0" means, or if it even exists (and to be fair, most folk have never even heard the term). But if you want a quick and breezy and fun visual overview on how we got to the now of now, this video is for you.

Picked this up via RSS Blog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Here Comes Mark Cuban!

You knew that Mark Cuban would come out swinging on this one.

In a piece entitled You Go Viacom! the Blog Maverick ripped into "Gootube" (one of his favorite current targets) for being complacent and basically setting itself up for the massive $1 billion lawsuit that it's now looking at from heavy hitter media company Viacom.

Cuban uses the example of HBO programs to explain the case from the standpoint of television content providers, noting that the reported $2.2 million fee per episode that A&E paid to syndicate The Sopranos would be far devalued in a world where the hit show was easily available via YouTube.

Cuban ends on an ominous note, writing, "Google may not know it, but they have already lost," on the notion that entertainment companies are if nothing else superior in bending copyright laws to their needs.

While my opinion is just one more blogospheric whim in a sea of speculation, my hunch is that Viacom is looking to cut an advantageous deal here, and the $1 billion number is simply bluster and a means to gain leverage. This is not the age of Napster, the music industry in particular is in mortal danger, and entertainment companies will not be able to use the legal route forever as a last stand against the Internet wave.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Topix to Google: "You Could've Given Us Help, But You've Given Us So Much More"

That quote - you could've given us help, but you've given us so much more - actually comes from the mouth of Bill Murray's character in Quick Change (one of the all-time underrated comedies) to a magnificently and contentedly unhelpful New York City taxi driver.

It could easily however have come from Topix CEO Rich Skrenta to the monolith that is Google. A Wall Street Journal piece details Skrenta's and Topix' frustration with Google over the company's change from a .net domain to the more popular .com. That change, on top of costing Topix $1 million in acquisition fees, may end up costing a lot more due to lost search engine traffic, the lion's share of which stems from Google.

It's painfully hilarious that the CEO of Topix, a pretty large and well known web company that reportedly receives 10 million visitors a month, received the following advice at a time when it could potentially lose millions of search-based visits: "…an email recommending that, if the switchover were to go badly, the company should post a message on an online user-support forum; a Google engineer might come along to help out."

Skrenta very rightly responded with, "'This can't be the process…You're cast into this amusing, Kafkaesque world to run your business.'"

A host of web publishers shares Skrenta's pain. Breaking through the layer of automated responses when attempting to contact Google is a Tolkien-esque quest that many have attempted and few have succeeded at. Because Google so tightly guards the nature of its search algorithm and system of "page ranking" web pages, it very rarely will dole out specific information about why a particular website moves up or down its search rankings.

Small variations in page rank can have an enormous effect on placement in Google's search rankings and effectively cause thousands or even millions of visitors to show up at a website. Or, in the case of the new, potentially not.

The Big Guns Come Out: Viacom Sues Google, YouTube For $1 Billion

Some of the smartest people I know are on opposite sides of the YouTube debate. One camp thinks that YouTube that was worth the gargantuan sum that Google paid for it, while the other foresees major troubles ahead, whether it be loss of market share because of the relatively easy replication of the platform (a danger most online media websites face: in the end, the value lies in community and the ability to hold onto it) or because of some kind of major lawsuit over copyright issues.

The announcement today that Viacom is suing Google for $1 billion over "unauthorized use of its copyrighted entertainment" is a pretty big test case. I would write "major test" except for the fact that Google is amongst that select group of companies on the planet for which $1 billion is but a pittance.

The suit centers around an alleged 160,000 uploaded "unauthorized" video clips. It will be very interesting to see if YouTube/Google will be able to cut a deal with Viacom to let these clips slide. It's entirely possible that Viacom is using the suit as a gambit to put it in a position to insert its content offerings online in a more "legal" (read: profitable to the company) manner.

There will undoubtedly be a flood of reaction across the web about this today and throughout the week. I'll try to add an update or two as this story plays out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Where Some See "Hyper-Localism," Others See More Choices

Gone are the days when the vast majority of the public was collectively comforted by Walter Cronkite and other legendary news anchors. Technology alone did not drive this new age of splintered interest, where many people – and many more each day – draw their news from a number of sources, many of which are likely online.

A new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism warns that these trends and the resulting loss of audience and revenue for traditional media companies are driving a phenomenon that it calls hyper-localism, "…'hyper-local' coverage in newspapers; encouraging citizen journalism on the Internet; and giving rise to opinion-driven television personalities like CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly."

There is a danger if most people truly choose to get their news from a narrow channel of "hyper-local" sources. Jon Stewart likes to joke that members of his influential audience only get their news from The Daily Show, for instance. Likewise, if someone chose to believe the gospel of Al Franken or Rush Limbaugh without visiting a single other news source, that would likely not be a good thing.

However, the reality is that now that the choices are many, people are finding a full and rich palette of news sources and are able to cobble together their own version of the truth of the whole on their own. This undoubtedly frightens traditional media companies, but in the end the trend is a good one in that people have the freedom to utilize print, television, radio, and online sources in any way they wish. And while traditional newsroom staffs in the United States are sadly shrinking due to budgetary concerns, it is still possible for people to find an enormous amount of high quality news reporting (in aggregate more than ever before, most likely).

Excellence in journalism will never go out of style. The way in which people find and access and integrate that journalism into their understanding of the world will likely forever be on the move, and that's a good thing in most ways.

People Are Freaking Tweaking on Twitter

Maybe that's going a little far, but a lot of people are certainly talking about Twitter, the so called "micro blogging" service that fires super short and super simple messages to groups of contacts based around the premise of: "what are you doing right now?"

That's the spirit of the Internet, really, capturing the essence of what's new and what's hot and what's going on this very second, and Twitter has found a way to capture some buzz, at the least, by harnessing that wave. I've just returned to the country after a month of mostly being offline (on a quest to find hobbits, as legend has it), and Twitter Fever has emerged as the big story during my absence.

Pete Cashmore at Mashable pulls out the "cat blogging" card in a snort-worthy piece entitled "The Evolution of Blogging, Cat Version." (Cat blogging is a derogatory term for navel-gazing bloggers who write about what they had for breakfast, how they felt after cleaning the dishes, and yes, what Fluffy McWhiskers has been up to of late.) Pete breaks down the issue perfectly by depicting two camps: those who see a "new blogging paradigm - short, to-the-point messages that let your friends, family and the world know exactly where you are and what you’re doing, every second of the day" and those who scratch their heads (or navels) and ask, "what's the point?" It's pretty easy to see where Pete stands on this one.

Mathew Ingram is by measures kinder in writing that the name Twitter "…is perfect, since it conveys precisely the kind of instantaneous, frivolous, and maybe even scatter-brained nature of the app itself, like a bird twittering." He admits, however, that it is "… a pretty cool way of sending out short thoughts."

While admitting that it's "antithetical to life-hacking," Chris Brogan of is a big fan and opines on five ways to use Twitter for good, including quick surveys of friends, news briefings (you can sign up for RSS-like updates from sources such as CNN and BBC), "friendsourcing" (using contact lists to seek out resources or information), and sharing information.

Marshall Kirkpatrick runs down Top 10 Twitter Things, which includes searchability of Twitter entries on blog and other search engines, the applicability of the product to save lives during a natural disaster, and BART updates for Bay Area commuters.

I spent some time messing with Twitter today and don't think I'll be utilizing it in my daily online activities, but I can see how people will find unique and personalized ways to use the service. Webomatica defines Twitter's realm as "a small space between IM, MyBlogLog, email, and blogs." Steve Rubel, for instance, enjoys the fact that Twitter allowed him to find out that Scooter Libby had been convicted – thanks to a Twitter message sent out by Jason Calacanis – through the service's IM applicability (it can also be used via SMS).

Another pretty cool use of Twitter: Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards has joined in, so you can keep up with his undoubtedly hectic schedule as he attempts to capture the White House.

My guess is that over the long term, regular Twitter users will fall into three broad categories: manic warriors of the web 2.0 edge (Rubel, Calacanis), obsessive social networkers (a selection of MySpacers), and niche users (San Francisco commuters).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Digg and Netscape Struggle to Prevent Gaming and Other Shenanigans

I'm still sifting through the avalanche of e-mail that piles up during a month away from the laptop, but I must make mention of the most interesting article I read today, sent to me around a week ago from my partner and buddy over at Blogcritics, Phillip Winn.

It's a little experiment that Annalee Newitz of Wired pulled off: create crappy content and then buy your way onto Digg's front page with it. That Annalee was able to do this when purposefully creating low-grade content (a blog that's mission is to take pictures of crowds but offer no psychology of such or any commentary at all to explain it) tells us that Digg and all popular social news sites have a ways to go to lock out gamers and spammers.

It's a good problem for Digg in that it proves that companies (such as User/Submitter) see value in offering a service that gets submissions onto the treasured real estate of Digg's front page and that publishers are willing to pay to cheat to get that front page exposure. However, Digg will need to continue to become more sophisticated in sniffing out and squashing gaming and collusion.

From the publisher perspective, the negative ramification is that quality submissions can get squashed for appearing to be suspicious when in fact they may not be. Human interaction from site editors should be useful here, but that is also not always the case. Netscape editors, for instance, will at their discretion switch out story links on submissions to those that they feel are more original. In essence, they're trying to prevent "re-blogging," where a blogger will blatantly republish someone else's content or excerpt a story and add no real value to it. That's all fine and well, but I've witnessed numerous cases where unique takes on breaking news stories were dumped for a more "original" one. That practice is dangerous in that it will turn off eager news submitters and, for hardworking publishers, is generally non-cool.

Update: Jason Calacanis makes a great point in asking Digg to make bury/sink votes more transparent. Adding to that, I'd like for Netscape to be more communicative with publishers that are accused of re-blogging!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Gladly Back to the Interwebs Salt Mines (of Moria)

Anyone want to catch us up on what's been going on with the Interwebs the last month or so (he wrote, grinning)?

I'll be catching up over the weekend and getting prepped to hit the ground running next week. There are great plans in the works for this site, great changes in the works as well. Very exciting time. New Zealand is sweet as, as they say, but I'm glad to be back to the Interwebs.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Off to New Zealand: See You In March!

Sadly, after really revving up and fine tuning Dumpster Bust in '07, I'm forced to take an extended absence as I'm off for several weeks of touring and outdoor adventuring in New Zealand (which is really entirely not sad in every other conceivable way!).

I've really enjoyed honing in on blogging, social news, and Internet-y 2.0 stories and opinions over the last few months, and look forward very much to picking up when I get back. In fact, there are some grander plans in the works including a re-branding of sorts and tighter integration with Blogcritics' BC Network of sites (speaking of: if you're into gossip and celebrity-related stuff, please check out the newly launched and super rad GlossLip, run by the great Dawn Olsen).

The slow and incremental rise in RSS readers is encouraging as are the great notes and encouragement I've heard from many of y'all, so I'm excited and anxious to get back in March to proceed upon cracking with the online media cult-ery!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blogger Tags and the Mysteries of Search Engine Traffic

I just realized that Blogger allows you to add tags to blog posts.

Actually, I must give credit where it's due and that belongs to my online pal and fellow member of Blogcritics Magazine and The Mondo Project, Mat Brewster. I've seen tags appear on blogspot blogs countless times, I'm sure, but absolutely assumed that they were part of some fancy plug-in that was not for the likes of me.

Part of my reintroduction to blogging from my own site on Blogger (as opposed to writing exclusively for BC, which I did for about a year) is that I've been able to better tune in to how bloggers are organizing themselves and their information, promoting themselves, and building audience.

This post is a bit of an experiment. Since I started posting here regularly since the first of the year, I've noticed that the majority of my traffic comes from the following sources:

* MyBlogLog: A great networking site for bloggers, it also helps to bring in some traffic.

* Techmeme: Great great source for following current tech and online media stories and the conversations springing up around them. I've been able to hit this page a nice number of times, and have brought back some visitors because of it.

* Blogcritics Magazine: Cross-publishing at the old battleship BC absolutely has a positive effect on one's "home site" bottom line.

* Search traffic: mostly, but drips and drabs from Yahoo!, Ice Rocket (I think mentioning Mark Cuban's name helps, which is indeed worthy of another experiment!), and Google Blog Search.

Search traffic is that great randomizer. If you can pull lots of it, you can sail off to Tahiti for six months and still have rip roaring traffic stats when you get back. If you don't, it's a grind-it-out battle to itch and scratch each reader home for supper.

This is somewhat the topic of a raging debate of the online moment, with entrepreneur and provocateur Jason Calacanis setting off fireworks with talk of SEO (search engine optimization, or rigging one's code to harness more search engine traffic) being "bullshit" and a swift and immediate blowback from the likes of Neil Patel following, who challenges Jason to allow him to increase his own traffic "by a minimum of 10 to 20% after 30 days of putting my changes into effect" with promises of no shady dealings on route. And it seems Jason has accepted – the great SEO throwdown is on!

In any event, without being shady (I know so little about code that this would be very difficult anyway!) and as openly as I can, I've placed a nice number of wide ranging links and references here that hopefully add up to nearly a coherent whole.

I've listed the following blog tags as part of this post: blogger, blog, blogs, google, search, SEO, ice rocket, mark cuban, google blog search, techmeme, mybloglog, blogcritics, jason calacanis, neil patel, page rank

So the questions are: did I "optimize" this post by writing a decent piece and linking out to fellow bloggers and engagers in the online conversation? Or will dropping a deluge of tags at the bottom help auto-magically bring home some visitors? Or, perhaps, did none of this pile up to a hill of e-beans in the vast vacuum of the blogospheric realm?

I'll report back the results, and look forward to your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New York Considers Pedestrian Ban On iPods In Crosswalks

New York, my homeland, is considering legislation that would levy a $100 fine for pedestrians who listen to a mobile audio device while crossing the street.

This, in my view, is cruel and unusual punishment for the iPod set. Sure, it's possible that listening to Slayer at 900 decibels might prevent you from seeing that Mack truck just before it splits your dome, but isn't that your decision to make as a pedestrian? Doesn't the pedestrian "always have the right of way," even if they're lost in la la land?

I'm more liberal than not in my political leanings, and I like to think that means respecting the rights of individuals. For the most part, the vast majority of people listen to iPods responsibly: while walking about town, on the subway, crossing the street, and so on.

At some level, people must govern their own actions and act responsibly outside of a set of legal strictures. While I'm not a lawyer, I'd love to see a legal mind argue against this bill with counter-legislation that makes it illegal to listen to the radio above a certain volume level (anyone remember the "red line" on the stereo from one of the opening scenes in Say Anything?).

Engadget has a hilarious picture of a chalk outline of a presumably murdered ipod here.

In sum, to quote Gizmodo: "This has got to be the dumbest ban I've ever heard of."

Monday, February 05, 2007

How Does StumbleUpon Help Bloggers?

Yeah, I feel a little bit silly and sheepish about it, but I must admit that I don't really get StumbleUpon.

The idea behind the site is pretty simple: a downloadable tool bar add-on allows you wander around the Internet (via pressing the Stumble button) with the presumption that the more you interact with the tool (rating sites along route with a thumbs up or down) the more it knows what you like and helps you to discover cool sites that you would likely never find on your own.

I get that part. It's not something that I would personally get into, but it's a nice little service. Where I start to lose grasp is in understanding how StumbleUpon has become "a substantial driver of traffic," as Mathew Ingram and many others have noted, and how publishers are supposed to take advantage of the site to harness the stumblers.

Getting the toolbar installed and logging into StumbleUpon was a somewhat clunky experience for me, but perhaps that was an aberration. Figuring out what to do next as a publisher was, however, where I really got lost. I was eventually able to figure out how to submit a site URL, but I was left confused as I've seen other writers note how they've used StumbleUpon to drive traffic to individual stories.

After spending a fair amount of time investigating, I realized that there's a tagging feature in which you can add tag words to individual "pages." I'm not sure if adding tags to an individual "drilldown" story page in effect submits that story into the StumbleUpon system with those tag words attached, or if you're simply associating tag words with an entire website or blog.

I like to think that I'm a relatively savvy Internet user, so if I'm confused, I'm guessing others are as well. For non-publishers, for those people just looking to stumble around and find cool sites, the service is likely less of a headache to figure out. But I'm genuinely curious to hear from bloggers who utilize StumbleUpon as part of ongoing promotion efforts. Is it necessary to tag your own pages every time you publish a story, for instance? Or is some other action involved?

There's also a social networking side to StumbleUpon where you can find and socialize with other stumblers who have interests similar to your own. Again, I'm guessing that there are those that find this to be an engaging feature, but I've never really believed that social news or social bookmarking sites have an overwhelming amount to offer in terms of social networking. In other words, when I visit Reddit I'm interested in finding stories that I'm into and don't really care connecting with others who may be as well. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeonly electronic loner though, who knows?

A standout exception to this is MyBlogLog, which does a great job of building community around the blogging experience, playing into the inherent need for bloggers to self-promote and connect with fellow online scribes.

In any event, I'd love to hear from those who have had some experience with StumbleUpon, particularly from the publisher/promotional perspective.

In essence: is there more to get than I've gotten?