Web 2.0: Prosumer Media Conversation
Being a believer in consumer-generated content, I was really looking forward to the Prosumer Media chat with Mark Fletcher, founder of Bloglines, Mena Trott, co-founder of Six Apart, and Rich Skrenta, founder of Topix.net.
There were only a couple of insights here, unfortunately. I suspect one reason is because insight often comes at the intersection of disagreement. Hearing why people think the way they do yields understanding, and when people disagree, they're forced to explain their points of view.
There were some nuggets here, though. Read on for my notes.
Q: Did you see prosumer media as being a big business?
Mark: I started Bloglines to scratch my own itch.
Q: In the last year been called by every newspaper chain asking what the heck to do about people like you (rich).
Rich: We're driving a lot of pageviews on other people's sites. We get people to what they're looking for, wherever it is.
Q: Six Apart faced a seminal moment, and you wrote about it on your blog, Mena. The issue was should Six Apart go big or stay small?
Mena: It goes back to the Fried conversation. We're relatively big, 100 people. We're ambitious, we could have been a lifestyle business but wanted to have an impact.
Q: How do you feel about Google having a feed reader?
Mark: It's one more datapoint that validates our original vision. It's only easier to create content. To be able to track things you're interested in is very important. Everybody who surfs on a regular basis is going to need a tool like this. I've heard from countless users that Bloglines changes the way people use the internet.
Rich: Microsoft and Google helped other people build businesses. Recalls quote from someone at AOL: "the best way to build a successful business is to help other people make money."
Q: Will companies you're running help move the polls towards a populist vision, away from celebrity?
Mena:Ii totally buy into that. i think first and foremost we're in the communication business.
Q: What's different about conversations in 3,5,10 years, and what's changed in the last year?
Rich: With prosumer media we're where the web was in 1994. We're going to go in the next 2-5 years from 1M bloggers to 10M or 100M. Then the question is how do you find those new blogs.
Mena: It's fun to have conversations with small group because then it doesn't become performance art.
Q: Can you / will you be watching high quality video in Bloglines?
Mark: It's difficult to skim a podcast, difficult to skim video. Text will be king for the forseeable future. 20% of all email on the internet goes through Yahoo groups. As the internet matures, different communication mechanisms develop. We'll come out with more nuanced means of communication so my thoughts can be distributed through email, blogs, IM, etc.
Mena: Nobody has accurate number of bloggers out there. What matters is that people are active right now. The question is how do you keep people doing what they're doing?
Q: Spam. What do you do about it, is it a threat?
Mark: We have natural filter against spam blogs, we only crawl sites that our users are subscribed to. Peopla are great filters for spam because they don't read spam blogs.
Rich: 97% of internet will be spam blogs. My email account from 1991 gets 4k pieces of spam a day--it's almost unusable. Spam created an opportunity for Google to deiver ppl relevant results.
Q: I'm a religious Bloglines user. It doesn't seem to take advantage of new techs. I'm concerned that purchased companies can't get bought and continue to innovate, how do we make sure that happens?
Mark: We've doubled our user base in last 6 months, tripled articles in last 6 months. We didn't have greatest architecture in the world when bought, so our #1 priority is to keep trains running on time. That's our priority but we want to get on track soon and innovate.
Q (Jason Calacanis): Mark--how will you monetize RSS, what is the revenue strategy?
Mark: We don't have a revenue strategy yet, it hasn't been a priority. One possible strategy is we don't monetize, we use Bloglines to drive users to other areas of uncle Barry's empire. If we don't monetize, our message is that we don't exist without our content providers. If we go down the monetization road, we'll be having that conversation with publishers [about running ads against publishers' content].
Q: From what I'm hearing at the conference, it seems that the only business model seems to be to get acquired. I'm trying to understand how to build your businesses, so I'm trying to understand how to be accountable to your investors but at the same time "don't worry about business models".
Rich: We self-funded and really cared abour revenue from day one. This allowed us to innovate around technology and products. For example, we built an ad engine optimized for news, which wouldn't have built from day one if weren't self-funded.
Mena: If you wanted to flip, should've done it a couple years ago. It makes sense to have a traditional business / services company and see what happens.