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.