WWTDD on the Blog

Back in 2008, Qloud got acquired by BuzzMedia and Toby and I were assigned to running the product and engineering divisions of the company.  Buzz owned at the time around 50 blogs around music and celebrities such as Stereogum and TheSuperficial. I wasn’t that familiar with many of the blogs, but i quickly realized that some of them were really good and pretty funny.  

Probably my favorite of the bunch was a blog called WWTDD which stands for “What Would Tyler Durden Do” which is named after the main character in Flight Club.  The site is not what you would call an example of journalistic excellence. He would post a picture of a celebrity – often a very good looking woman – and usually make fun of her.  The difference here is that he’d do it in a really funny and clever way.  He did this all day, every day, 365 days a year.  It was sort of incredible. 

I’m writing about this because the writer of WWTDD wrote a blog post yesterday that the days of doing what he does are over. He doesn’t think it works anymore.  He writes: 

When I wrote Superficial and then co-created Tyler, there were like 3 other sites (Pink is the new Blog, Perez, called Page 666 at the time, and Defamer). Now every dickhead who’s ever gotten an “LOL” on a message board thinks he can write a website, and almost every single one follows that exact model that I created.

And it does not work anymore. It simply does not. It’s 2013 and that old shit is not good enough. I know what to do and I have been begging to change things. It’s frustrating, and I apologize to people who read the page as I got more and more bored and annoyed.

Unfortunately he doesn’t say what the new model is but he implies that it’s coming. I really quite curious. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Why Newspapers Will be Dead Soon

Read this post this morning by a former editor of the Chicago Times.  He writes: 

Several years ago, the Washington Post convened a series of focus groups to learn why most individuals under the age of 45 did not subscribe to the newspaper. It’s not that people didn’t like the Post, reported the American Journalism Review in an article describing the research project in 2005. The problem was that the respondents – many of whom happily consumed news on digital devices – drew the line at piles of old newspapers cluttering up their lives.  According to a Post executive quoted by the AJR, more than one respondent declared: “I don’t want that hulking thing in my house.” 

Totally true. I don’t want the actual paper showing up every day and creating another task for me to do.  I’d rather just read it somewhere and then forget about it.   A few other facts listed that i thought were interesting:

  • Print newspaper readership ranged from 16% of forty-somethings to only 6% of those in their twenties (survey by Pew).  By contrast, Pew found that 30% of Americans aged 50-64 and 48% of those over the age of 65 had read a newspaper on the prior day.
  • Pew found that only 29% of the American population read a newspaper in 2012, as compared with 56% in 1991 – the first time researchers asked the question.

The newspaper is totally dead.  People like me and my age are not reading it at all. The USA Today given to me at the hotel is totally ignored.  This is part of a general trend of things we like as stated by Mary Meeker in this 2012 report.  Such as: 

  • We don’t want to own CDs, haul around books, buy cars, carry cash, or do our own chores  
  • We will use smartphones to buy, borrow or steal media
  • We will rent shared cars at home or book shared rooms when traveling
  • We will hire people to buy groceries or cut the grass
  • We will use apps from Starbuck’s and Target to pay for lattes or redeem coupons.  
  • We prefer short-term gigs that allow us to arrange work around ours lives, rather than arrange their lives around our work. 

This isn’t 100% true for everyone, but it’s not not far off

My Fav Stuff: Tech Tools and People I Follow

I re-posted an interview last week that I did for KillerStartups.  That one was all about Kapost.  Here’s the 2nd half of that interview that’s more personal stuff.  I never get a chance to write about this stuff on Loo.me so i thought i’d share. 


What is your favorite tech tool?

I personally love basalmiq. I getting into wireframing a lot these days. What i love about it is that it allows me to get thoughts out of my head. I was never a great artist, and now I don’t have to be.


What’s your “man, I wish I would have thought of that” startup and why?

(I’ve written about this on Loo.me before here)

Nobody is really doing the startup that I’m waiting for yet.  I want a startup to launch a service that will record everything I do.  Not just API’s into Foursquare but allow me to import email, telephone and credit card info. I want all my digital files indexed by person I did it with and where I was at the time (person and location). I don’t remember phone numbers anymore due to my cell phone and I want to stop remembering conversations, meetings and what I ordered.  The companies Evernote andTimehop are getting close but they aren’t quite there yet. I really can’t wait for this service. I had this idea since 2005. To me, it’s inevitable that it’ll happen someday. 

Are you a Mac, Windows or Linux kind of guy?

I love the idea of Linux, but I love the usability and power of the Mac more.  At this point, I’m a big fanboy with iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air and AppleTV.  In 2012, that’s a great place to be.

3 people we should follow on Twitter?

1. Michael Arrington– and you should read his blog. He is one of the few people who legitimately has something to say and substance beyond the headline. I usually always enjoy his posts.

2. Fred Wilson– Although he’s widely known, I still think he has a great grasp of web products – how they work, why they succeed and where they are going. Very few investors or entrepreneurs can articulate trends, thoughts and findings very well, but he does a great job – and he does it every day.


3. John Borthwick – He doesn’t blog or tweet much, but I admire what he’s doing at Betaworks. It’s sort of the old-school studio model where you have a group of talented folks and you churn out product. People used to do this with albums and films, and he’s doing it with web companies. I think it’s great. Anthony Batt (@djabatt) had the same idea 10 years ago and he’s just now starting to do it at Ashton Kutcher’s company.

A 4th for fun… 

4. Bill Simmons– I’m a big listener/reader of his. To me, publishing and media is changing pretty rapidly. The old school had traditional journalists that are objective and do research to gather stats and then report them. On the other end of the spectrum, there are bloggers who are entirely subjective and shout out their opinions without any facts. There is a middle ground emerging of opinionated folks who have been given access previously only provided to journalists and they can message both an opinion and well-researched facts. Bill is a pioneer there and his insights into sports are great.

Kapost Interview on KillerStartups

The other day, I gave an interview about Kapost to KillerStartups and i realized that i have a lot more to say than i thought i would.  I’m going to republish some of it here.

First, I haven’t talked much about Kapost on this blog, so i’m going to republish those questions first.  Here they are:

What’s kapost all about and what makes it stand out from the competition?

Kapost is a content marketing platform. Many businesses are spending less money on ads and more money on creating their own content. The idea behind that is that you can spend $5k a month in search ads and have a spot at the top of a search results page, or you can spend $5k a month creating content and have links in the search results page. These links are more authentic and over time much more effective. But, as a result, you have many businesses becoming publishers and creating a lot of content. What Kapost does is manage that content for them and provide insight into which content is working. Similar to how a CRM like Salesforce helps a sales team organize and evaluate performance from a formalized business process, Kapost helps a marketing or publishing team organize themselves and eventuate how they are doing from a content perspective.

Continue reading “Kapost Interview on KillerStartups”

The Future of Content

Over here at Kapost, we talk to a lot of publishers and people creating content.  These are all sorts of people such as large known publishers, college newspapers, small company blogs and mommy blogs.

We noticed one obvious trend and one not so obvious one.

The obvious trend is that traditional journalism is struggling.  Companies that rely on their content to generate traffic for ad revenue are hurting.  They aren’t getting enough money for their content so they are doing all they can to get leaner and meaner.

The not so obvious trend is that many companies who are not content-based companies are hiring more and more journalists for themselves. They are doing so to populate their blog.  This is a marketing tactic and one that is pretty effective and becoming more and more popular.  This is a large emerging segment and, in my opinion, is the future of content.

My partner Toby wrote a great piece about this that was published today about this topic.  He goes even deeper and gives some good samples of why hiring journalists for non-content companies work and why it doesn’t for ad-supported folks.   He compares Fitness Magazine with the company Weight Watchers.  Both produce high volumes of content about dieting and exercise for essentially the same audience.  He concludes:

Fitness likely generates around a $6.50 effective CPM for the ads that it runs, a blended rate for its direct-sold and remnant inventory that is consistent with industry averages. Assuming that three ads are run on each page and that the average visitor visits five pages, Fitness would have an ARPU of about $0.10.

Weight Watchers, on the other hand, does not run ads, but tries to convert visitors into becoming paying customers. Given its $194 price point and a conservative 2 percent conversion assumption, the ARPU for Weight Watchers is $4. What we see here is a 40X ARPU difference between the media publisher and the content marketer.

This is a big difference.  People follow the money, and the money now is in content for marketing and not content for revenue.   That’s the future.


I Still Believe in Patch

AOL released their earnings last week and the market did a collective vomit-in-their-mouth over the results and their market cap dropped by one third.

Lots of the criticism came from AOL’s expenses in producing content and skepticism that they will ever make enough money on the content they are producing.  It also came out that they are spending $160 million a year on Patch which equals about $150k a year on each site.  One analyst (Robert Peck at Quasar Capita) said about AOL, “If you sell lemonade for $1 and it costs $800 to make it, that’s not a great business.”

Personally, I think AOL should continue to focus and pursue Patch. What’s their alternative?  Since Tim Armstrong has taken over, AOL has gone down the path of being an online content company.  That’s their strategy.  To abandon it would mean to become something completely different – something they have no vision or focus on.  Web companies don’t succeed and don’t create value by copying existing incumbents. They do it by innovating and building new distinct and unique offerings.  A hyperlocal site that covers and reports local news, that has local advertising and other deals tied in will exist.  The world is asking for it. AOL is uniquely positioned to build and provide it.  The newspaper is dead, and in 10 years online/mobile outlets are going to be the primary way news is found and read.

Of course, there is a question of whether they are structuring it correctly.  $150,000 a year seems steep for each site.  Could they do it more efficiently? I’m sure they can.  And, even people working there are admitting that their current attemps at revenue have been bad. But to call for them to stop doing it is just dumb.  I’m bullish and still believe in Patch and i think it’s a bold and interesting strategy for AOL and their only chance of being a relevant company in the web space.  I hope they make it work.

Speaking my Blog Post

I get tired of remembering and also tired of writing.

My new desire is to just speak stuff and have it appear.  Twitter was easier than blogging but talking is even easier than that.

Henry James dictated his novels to his secretaries and it seemed to work out ok for him.  I was always hesitant of voice recognition but it’s now so good in fact that I just dictated this entire blog post via the Dragon app on my iPhone. It was a total joy.  I’m able to talk at 300 words a minute but I can only type and 50. It’s actually a no-brainer and I’m now wishing there’s a version of Dragon I can just leave running all day and have a text archives of my conversations in the office. I want everything I talk about be captured.

The web is already filled with tons of useless babble – and it’s about to be filled with a lot more of it. 

The Machines are Coming! (at least in publishing)

Last week I spoke at the NYC Hacks/Hackers conference which was a pretty great gettogether of journalists and technology folks. I spoke about all the editorial tools that Kapost provides and got a pretty good response.

One other company that was there was a company called Narrative Science and they sort of blew my mind. This company takes formatted data – think of a baseball box score or census results – and algorithmically turns that data into a news story. So, a boxscore that used to just be 9 innings with numbers in it becomes this:

Michigan held off Iowa for a 7-5 win on Saturday. The Hawkeyes (16-21) were unable to overcome a four-run sixth inning deficit. The Hawkeyes clawed back in the eighth inning, putting up one run.


They are doing 1000 stories a week, and now that they have the template for baseball nailed, they are going into census data, crime information and other avenues that typically just produce data. It’s only a matter of time before SkyNet appears.

New Startup Ongo Raises $12 MM and Starts Sprinting Off a Cliff

The new company Ongo announced today that it’s raised $12 million from a handful of big media companies (Washington Post, NY Times, and Gannett who publishes USA Today).  The service they are offering is, according to the NY TImes article about the investment:

Ongo is for readers who peruse a variety of publications every day and want to read them all in one place. It shows articles from about 20 publications, and is in talks with dozens more.

The catch: Readers pay $6.99 a month for the service, while most of the Web sites whose articles it shows are free. In exchange, readers see no ads or cluttered pages, and can search for articles, save them and share them with friends — all from one site.

The article then has this quote from the founder, “I just don’t think my friends are as good as professional editors in finding stories for me to read.”

I don’t see any way for this company to succeed.

Continue reading “New Startup Ongo Raises $12 MM and Starts Sprinting Off a Cliff”

Long-Form Content is Coming Back

I’ve noticed over the past year or so that the number of friends of mine who blog is decreasing.  I’m seeing less posts.  To me this is because Twitter and Facebook have taken all their thoughts.  The “I love Tron!” thoughts are now going into status messages and not into blog posts.  Which, to me, is fine.

But there’s actually been an increase in long-form posts i’m seeing.  The blogs i’m reading are full of actual articles of great stuff.  It’s great to get the “I love Tron” type comments on to Facebook and Twitter so the blog can hold longer form of actual thoughts and analysis.

I recently read a great article by Clive Thompson about just this topic.  His theory is that something more complex and interesting is actually happening.  He says, “The torrent of short-form thinking is actually a catalyst for more long-form meditation.”  He states, “We talk a lot, then we dive deep.”

Continue reading “Long-Form Content is Coming Back”