Friday, February 02, 2007

John Battelle boasts and whines

I was over Professor Battelle. I buried the hatchet. I was going to let him rot in his own pompous hell. It was either that or go insane. Then I saw a link to a February 17 Business Week story. Bigger Bucks For The Blogoshere. I drank it faster than a bottle of whisky at my AA meeting.

The lede: "Over the past decade, John Battelle has shown a flair for creating innovative media properties. In the 1990s, he helped found Wired magazine. During the dot-com boom, he launched The Industry Standard." No mention that those were busts. No mention of the many lives ruined by those innovative media properties.

The article's author, Spencer E. Ante, should remember those rotten times. In 2003 he reviewed a book about the The Industry Standard's epic meltdown and the liquidation of John's grand, arrogant promises. "Ever cocky, Battelle once boasted to staffers that the publication would have 900 employees and $1 billion in sales by 2005." That wrinkle is forgotten in the rush to write about the newest fad.

Anyway, what's a billion dollars between friends? Ante reports with a straight face that in 2006 Federated Media "sold more than $10 million in advertising for about 90 Web sites. This year, Battelle says it is on track to turn a profit and increase sales fivefold." Hubris is in full bubble again.

Factcheck! Get out your calculator. 40% of $10 million is $4 million dollars. John reportedly had fewer than 20 hirelings last year, so unless he's renting the TajMahal and paying himself $500,000 and everyone else $200,000, $4 million should have given John a healthy profit 2006. That $10 million smells rotten or maybe John is paying himself $1,000,000. OK, that's possible.

I Googled more and tripped over this screamer. "It was a strange Davos moment--a large "media lunch" with bloggers and MainStream Media in one room which included Jeff Jarvis and Arthur Sulzbergers Jr. The MSM folks were complaining about the decline of quality journalism due to a fall in advertising causing cutbacks of seasoned reporters in foreign and domestic bureaus. Nothing new there. But then there was John Battelle, king of the bloggers, complaining about the lack of advertising for blogs. He's aggregated a bunch and is trying to sell them to advertisers but they won't pay much for quality blogging. It's all about CPM, he said and they didn't understand quality blogging."

Is anyone editing over at Business Week? I pick random sites listed on John's site. Metafilter = no ads. Lifeclever = no ads. Digg, are they still with him? On Digg, ads from Google. Is the pompous professor taking credit for Google sales in his $10 million? If so, is he charging bloggers 40% for putting Google ads on their sites?

John thinks that saying something makes it true. He's a writer and words are more powerful than reality. Say you are professor and you are a professor. Say you sold $10 million in ads and you sold $10 million. Yeah, that's right, and next year I'll sell $50 million.

Ante should have asked these questions. But of course, John knows how to play journalists. Give 'em some candy, flatter their writing, hint that they might join you some day. The market for advertising may rise and fall, but the market for self-aggrandizing self-delusion never goes down. Having been suckered by the companies he wrote about and depended on for ads through the first dotcom boom, John has himself learned how to play uncritical journalists for amnesiac fools.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Federated Media loses Fark and Digg

True, I've not updated this site in five weeks. Apologies for that; life has interfered with Battelle Watch. Unlike Mr. Battelle, I've been forced to work for a living since his earlier Internet bubble schemes collapsed.

Today, there is good news for the online industry. Federated Media has lost Fark.com and is about to lose Digg.com. FM is supposed to sell ads, but it can't seem to sell ads for its two biggest clients.

The "Valley Wag" site has details, and also apparently has a new editor who calls the good Professor "passive aggressive."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Federated Media outsourcing ad sales to Europe?

Interesting developments:
Sources confirmed to me last night, ahead of an official announcement, that Batelle is contracting out sales of UK and European traffic across its network to a company based out of London called Net Communities. NetCom used to sell traffic for popular Brit news rag The Inquirer before that venerable publication was bought by VNU Publishing, and the company now also dabbles in Podcast creation.

NetCom, ironically, has also come under fire in the past for its lack of advertising sales at the Inq, so cynics might suggest that the company may be a good match for FM. Can traffic at the 'author-driven' business be successfully monetised? That's the question on the lips of everybody, it seems - except for Digg's staff, who have repeatedly stated their desire to build traffic, not revenue.
Thank you for this tip.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hmm, where's Professor Battelle?

Check for yourself: http://journalism.berkeley.edu/faculty/battelle/

The screen capture:

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What does it mean?

From a new article on the Click Z advertising site:
I talked to the group at Federated Media Publishing a while ago. They totally forgo (when possible) CPM (define) or impression-based buys. They have a network of very influential bloggers and are more interested in creating clever, new connections between brands and consumers via these people.
That sounds very new-age, but what does it mean? The cost per impression (or Costs Per Thousand, which "CPM" signifies) is a bookkeeping method, not a philosophy. If you don't know how many ad impressions you're selling, then how do you charge for the advertising?

Another Click Z article from last week describes Federated Media as "Battelle's high-touch, high CPM network." Does anybody understand what's going on here?

Not senile, just mature

This bit from Paid Content caught my eye. It repeats what I've already mentioned here: that Federated Media is backing off from adding new sites to the network. Why? Market maturity, of course.

And then there's this from a site called "Hot Entrepreneur," which has a very 1999 name:
How to earn $20-30 CPM rates on a website? Well, it's not easy. But some companies out there are doing it. Federated Media, a blog ads specialist, is working on getting their clients these ad rates. Currently, CPM rates average about $8 for FM clients.
Anyone getting $8 CPMs from Federated, or any blog advertising network?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Smart move or private meltdown?

I don't know what to make of this Monday night announcement on the Federated Media site.
With the addition of these quality sites, FM will slow the pace of new Author recruitment in the coming months. The company has been fortunate enough to attract the interest of hundreds of web publishers, but, given the personal attention FM'’s model delivers to each site, FM will focus on servicing existing Authors and evaluating prospective Authors with which it has already begun discussions.
On one hand, a company with a fairly small staff can't be expected to represent hundreds and hundreds of sites - especially when a lot of the current sites are clearly unhappy with FM's advertising sales.

On the other hand, this fits my theory that Battelle never planned to do anything with FM beyond a) bilk a bunch of VC types, and b) sell FM right before the bubble bursts. He's got a handful of high-profile sites and three score that nobody's ever heard of. Time to dump this turd.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I bet he co-founded MTV and Apple, too

Battelle continues to claim he "co-founded" the important technology magazine "Wired."

Did he? How does his claim stand up? I was an early reader of Wired. My office received the first edition back in 1993. It was an interesting journal of technological ideals.

The New York Times (in a 2003 book review) describes the co-founder of Wired as none other than Wired founder's Louis Rossetto's partner Jane Metcalfe. Are you pretending to be Jane, John? Why not just admit you were an editor at the magazine after its founding?

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Relative obscurity drawing to a close"

It would be difficult to describe Federated Media's kid-gloves treatment by the media and bloggers as an example of "obscurity," but that's just what Battelle does in this Federated Media screed about the mean people complaining about his company:
As we build FM, I've realized that our period of relative obscurity is drawing to a close. We are under increasing scrutiny, and should be, given the high profile sites we now represent.
I was also struck by this odd defense:
FM's model is based on the idea that content creators should get 60% of the dollars, not 10-15%. Sounds a lot better, doesn't it?
Yes, that sounds quite wonderful. The question is this: Has there ever been an online advertising agency that claims 85% or 90% commissions?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Exciting news: Battelle Watch has readers

Traffic to this site has been going crazy, from "no readers" to "quite a lot of readers for such an inside-baseball subject."

In recent days and weeks, the following sites have linked to Battelle Watch. Thank you to these discriminating tech news sites:

* The Register - The snarky British tech site linked to this post about John Battelle's cozy relationship with the subjects of his book about Google.

* Valley Wag - This is a newer Silicon Valley gossip site with the sort of bite we all could've used five years ago. Battelle Watch gets a whole little article. This made my day.

* Newsome.org - The blog of techie/lawyer/investor/musician Kent Newsome says of this site, "a little harsh and a little funny at the same time."

* Brand Destruction Research - This site has an interesting post about what we're up to at Battelle Watch:
Reading Battelle Watch, I kind of think that Mr. Bubble is more or less who he says he is because who else would care about most of what he's discussing?
Admitted: This is not exactly the most popular subject in the world. Yet all of these sites sent quite a few readers to Battelle Watch in August and September. Mr. Bubble is grateful.

All is well!

The young gentleman from Newsvine says everything is great with Battelle. The Federated Media button appears now on the site. Who's Falk? The company apparently placing the Tickle advertisements throughout Newsvine. Do you count those "sign up for Newsvine" things at the top of Newsvine as Federated ads?

This was originally posted before Labor Day. Somehow I changed it back to "draft" and it vanished.

Bitter bubbles

A mole inside Mr. Battelle's folly notes that Federated Media is having trouble fulfilling its promises.

Someone at Newsvine - one of the big-name sites that's depending on Battelle for money – posted a bitter note about the situation:
Although the site has tripled its unique visitors since May, recording our best month ever in July, you may have noticed that ads have been very slow to roll in. This disappoints us, because even though we're now visited by several hundred thousand users a month, the site (and all other sites within the FM Publishing family, including Digg, Fark, Metafilter, etc.) still has a high level of unsold inventory. To the average web user, less ads is a good thing, but we're very concerned about helping you monetize your content and paying our own bills as well!
A smart VC reporter in Seattle noticed the FM troubles and wrote a good article.

Just one week later, the starving bloggers at Newsvine "suddenly saw all kinds of advertisements appear.

And today?

Federated Media is no longer brokering ads for Newsvine. Some company I've never heard of – Falk – is now serving the Newsvine banners.

Hello, John Cook. This one needs a follow-up.

This was originally posted before Labor Day. Somehow I changed it back to "draft" and it vanished.