That’s My Brand and I’m Sticking to It

Weblogs, Inc. produces over 50 blogs (a.k.a. “weblogs”) including Engadget.com, Autoblog.com, Joystiq.com, BloggingBaby.com and Mark Cuban’s BlogMaverick.com. With blogs ranging from trade to consumer, Weblogs, Inc. is the largest non-pornographic blog publisher in the world. [ source ]

I am not dinging Weblogs, Inc. here at all. Really. I just think the above quote from a recent Weblogs, Inc. press release (yeah people still use those, go figure) is, well, odd.

It says to me, “We’ll publish anything! Except porn, like that other guy who will publish anything including porn.”

All this new-nouveau-riche media is still too new for most people to realize that there is some empire building going on. Basically, and please correct me if I am wrong, there are three empires currently under construction: Weblogs, Inc., Gawker Media, and About.com.

About.com? Wha? Yep. No one (to my knowledge – remember I like to know the truth) really talks about About in terms of blogs, but there they are anyway. And frankly, much more entrenched than the other two.

My guess as to why Weblogs, Inc. won’t touch porn blogs is that in their model, all (or most, as I only looked at a few) their blogs allow comments. Gawker Media doesn’t, and they will touch porn. Okay, there are so many things wrong with that sentence…

Comment management is a big time consumer. But it is also a great way to manage a relationship with your customers and potential customers. I think it would be even more time consuming to manage comments on a porn blog. Especially if you were trying to build an empire that appeals to the masses.

This also isn’t a ding on porn. It’s a ding on the part of the human brain that is used for appreciating porn, because that part of the brain tends to be capable of only single syllable words that tend toward the primitive. This is also not a ding on people who appreciate porn. I think that while anyone can talk about porn, you can’t really have a discussion about porn, especially in a textual (pun intended) medium.

The main reason a business opens comments on their blog is to learn more about their audience. I don’t think you’d learn more about your audience on a porn blog with comments than you knew before. People like to look at naked people. ‘Nuff said.

I do understand Weblogs, Inc. reluctance (if it is reluctance) to start a porn blog. A porn blog can be a money maker (I assume Fleshbot does pretty well) but building one with an open comments model could pull resources away from other efforts related to empire building.

However, the press release quote above still cracks me up. As a business, and I have said this before, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Either you cost less (and this stuff is free) or you have better quality. Or, I guess, you point out what you won’t do that your competition will.

We are just going to keep plugging away on that whole “quality” thing.

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20 Responses to “That’s My Brand and I’m Sticking to It”

  1. Nakijo Says:

    You forgot one – that Scrivs guy and his crew…

  2. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Scrivs who?

    And why is it never, “That Matthew guy and his crew?” I tells ya.

  3. gulliver Says:

    >you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Either you cost less or you have better quality.

    Both are short term. They ‘ll get you the same place as Billy the Kid. And you’re missing the BIg Deal. Be unique.

    Quality and price are just shades. A genuinely different product is a big help – in the absence of which the true differentiator is the ‘personality’ of the op.

  4. gulliver Says:

    Almost forgot…

    >Comment management is a big time consumer

    Needn’t be.
    I challenge anyone to find a way of successfully managing comments to the satisfaction of everyone. There’ll always be dissent and likely someone who gets pissed because they found the post three weeks late and the original author has been too busy to leap in and respond within 3 minutes.

    Accepting ‘failure’ as inevitable, you simply explain ‘hey look, we have real work to do so after we post we don’t often get back to check… so speak among yourselves and contact us direct if appropriate’. This way you’ll still piss-off folk – but at least it’s done honestly.

  5. Michael Moncur Says:

    I don’t think the comment issue has anything at all to do with why WIN doesn’t have a pornographic weblog. I think they’d turn off comments on any blog if it wasn’t working out, and I don’t think that’s an essential part of the model. Important, yes, but essential, no. I don’t know their objection to porn, but I could think of a couple (offending advertisers, and the vastly different network traffic management strategies involved with porn.)

    I think there’s a bigger reason to allow comments than to learn about the audience: to create a community and let the audience feel like (and be) part of the process.

    (Disclaimer: I am a WIN blogger. But I don’t speak for them.)

  6. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Gulliver: You can only be unique for a while. If you are unique to the point no one is interested, you go out of business. If you are unique and successful, you won’t be unique for long and you are back to what I said before. So actually I think what I said is long term thinking.

    And about comment management. The reason this takes time is because I am not just talking about deleting spam, and making sure people are playing nice with each other. I actually think those tasks are not that noteworthy other than being annoying.

    The other aspect of comment management, which was actually my point in the post, is that you need to be reading all the comments. Tracking them over time. Looking for trends. Etc., etc.

    We comment when we can. But my point was that if you are going to open comments, you need to set aside time to be involved.

  7. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Michael: Absolutely right about building community. Sometimes I focus too much on internal business process. :)

    One point though about having comments then turning them off if they don’t go well… I can see this working on a per post basis, but across the site? I am not sure how well that would go over.

    I guess if your (not you, I mean that in the general sense) site were still giving quality information it might be okay, but I bet the hit meter would see a drop for a while at least.

  8. gulliver Says:

    Constructively confrontational… and tell me if I’m wrong…

    >You can only be unique for a while.

    That’s nonsense. Things are rarely identical, just similar.

    >If you are unique to the point no one is interested, you go out of business.

    That’s bad strategy and execution. Easily rectified.

    >If you are unique and successful, you won’t be unique for long…

    > Again, that’s nonsense. see #1 identical/similar.

    Think for a moment about prods/servs which are genuinely unique or at least appear to be so. It’s not a short list.

    > …comment management. The reason this takes time is because I am not just talking about deleting spam, and making sure people are playing nice with each other.

    If you believe in the worth of your material to sufficiently detatch and stand back, ‘trust’ will become established and the thing will look after itself.

    Michael’s point ‘…to create a community and let the audience feel like (and be) part of the process’ is full-on the money. Absolutely right. As part of that process it’s fair to proactively communicate guidelines on ho wmuch interaction the principals will have. Not only polite, it’ s strategic.

    >you need to be reading all the comments. Tracking them over time. Looking for trends. Etc., etc.

    Why?

    >We comment when we can. But my point was that if you are going to open comments, you need to set aside time to be involved.

    And my point stands – you’ll never achieve total satisfaction. Someone will always feel sleighted. Sometimes deservingly. Build-in a proactive element of human-ness. That ‘unhelpful or offensive’ reminder below is out of balance. It’s like the big desk and lower chair thing in the boss’s office

    Whatever. I’ve done my bit. Should anyone wish I’m happy to continue this personally – I don’t have the time (nor, honestly the interest) to revisit all logs upon which I comment. Why is there no ‘subscribe to’ feature?

    Sidenote – the ‘preview’ fetaure is generating a bunch of redundant paragraph tags – doesn’t seem to alter the on-screen rendering, but is confusing.

  9. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    g: A unique thing is a unique thing. If some thing has a similarity with a unique thing it is no longer unique.

    If you don’t have the time or interest to track your own conversations, why do you start them in the first place?

    There is an option to track comments through our comment feed. Perhaps we should put a link to that feed on the individual pages… I love user feedback. Good thing we track the comments. :)

    And we’ll look into the preview issue you raised. That is odd.

  10. gulliver Says:

    >If some thing has a similarity with a unique thing it is no longer unique.

    Missing the point, dude. ‘similar’ doesn’t equal ‘unique’. They’re sufficiently different.

    >If you don’t have the time or interest to track your own conversations, why do you start them in the first place?

    To add to the beast and leave it better than when I found it by passing on stuff that seems appropriate.
    Parrallel: Stranger to passer-by in busy street: ‘Hey man – your shoelace is loose’… it’s something which happens in passing and both parties contiinue their lives – it doesn’t need to lead to a discussion. Similar with logs. Finger writes then moves on.

    >There is an option to track comments through our comment feed. Perhaps we should put a link to that feed on the individual pages…

    That’s a good idea. Another is to include a ‘Notify me when someone replies to my comment?’ checkbox.

  11. Phoat Says:

    Gulliver: You are no longer unique if alternatives exists in the market that can satify the same needs. There needn’t be an identical copy of your product or services to stop being unique, just similar enough that someone now has more options.

    Pablo the garbage man is unique as an individual, but his neighbor Marty can pick up garbage just as well as Pablo can. Therefore, as a garbage man, Pablo is not unique.

    BTW, the whole redundant p tag thing… only happens when you preview your post more than once. I guess the post script processes the comment and then reinserts it into the text box rather than just carrying it over. Probably an easy fix.

  12. David Krug Says:

    From personal talks with Calacanis I think it is more of a personal thing than a startegic time consumption thing as far as resource management thing.

  13. Alexander Savenkov Says:

    And we’ll look into the preview issue you raised. That is odd.

    Matthew, that thing cannot be odd forever. I mean, it was reported more than once before!

    You surely read your readers’ comments, but do you actually memorize anything from them? At least you could put a buglist into the Basecamp which is heavily advertised here sometimes.

  14. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Golly gee, Alexander. I surely do appreciate you taking the time to point this out. Maybe you could help out by opening a [ad]Basecamp[/ad] account to track our bugs for us?

    That’d be swell.

    And actually, while you are at it, could you also link to all the comments on this site where this issue was raised? I’d appreciate that too. In this thread was the first I had heard of it. Sorry again to everyone for not springing into action to fix a bug that was keeping you from completing the “leave a comment” workflow.

    I know those extra paragraph tags are just keeping everyone from doing anything ever.

    Keep up the good work trying to find minutiae fault with everything we do. It only makes us better.

    And on a non-dripping-with-sarcasm note… If you do find something odd with the site, let us know. If it is an actual showstopper, we will put it in our bug list on Basecamp, prioritize it, and fix it accordingly.

  15. gulliver Says:

    M – simple observation here…

    Alex made a good point which deserved a better response than you presented. Behaving thus does you no favors. We all err – and the graceful/wise course is to recognise, accept and appreciate the efforts of others. Whatever. Moving on…

    Phoat’s line:

    You are no longer unique if alternatives exists in the market that can satify the same needs.
    Pablo the garbage man is unique as an individual, but his neighbor Marty can pick up garbage just as well as Pablo can. Therefore, as a garbage man, Pablo is not unique.

    misses my point entirely and I stand firm on ‘the true differentiator is the ‘personality’ of the op’.

    With similar market offerings, choice is often made on price and quality. When ‘similar’ becomes ‘very similar’ the line blurs. It’s at this point that ‘increasingly personal’ factors enter into play. There’s a raft of ways in which Pablo’s market offer can be successfully differentiated.

    Anyway, I’m done. It’s not my intent to labor the point ad infinitum.

  16. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    We all err – and the graceful/wise course is to recognise, accept and appreciate the efforts of others.

    Well, I erred. I shouldn’t have responded in the tone I chose. However, I don’t think Alex made a good point. He reiterated a point already made and did so in a non-constructive way.

    Alexander, and all, my apologies for the sarcastic tone of my previous response.

  17. Alexander Savenkov Says:

    Matthew, I’ve no problem with your sarcastic reply. It just seems inappropriate here (and not just to me, as you could see). It could have been appropriate on some personal homepage.

    You cannot expect some pleasant tone from me because you and this project in my opinion just didn’t deserve it for now. So, I’m just saying Fix this bug, Matthew, it was reported before and you missed it. instead of Mr. Oliphant, could you do me a favor and fix this stuff, please?.

    Keep up the good work trying to find minutiae fault with everything we do. It only makes us better.

    My personal attitude to you and this project remains positive, despite this insulting remark. I still think any bug is worth fixing especially the one that constantly irritates the visitors (read: potential customers). Calm down, please, I wasn’t attacking you.

    [Alexander] reiterated a point already made and did so in a non-constructive way.

    That is from your point of view, Matthew. From the point of view of the visitors, you’re not reading the comments and/or ignoring the useful points.

    I wasn’t going to do your work for you, Matthew, but I guess the readers need to know that I’m not lying about multiple reports:
    Report #1
    Report #2
    BL Response to report #2

  18. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    That is from your point of view, Matthew.

    Actually, I almost wrote, “In my opinion…” But then thought, “Well, I am writing it, so of course it is my opinion.” I guess I shouldn’t have second guessed myself.

    Alexander, thank you for the links. What interests me most is the last one. The one where Mike said, “We’re on it.”

    Like I said, this thread is the first I heard of the issue. There is another error on the site that takes precedence over the overly egocentric paragraph tags (they think it’s all about them:).

    Once that gets fixed, we will fix this one. Mike is on it. ;)

    And as a comment overall on this thread: Business Logs is run by people. We try to be ourselves on this site. Whatever you read here is us (or the us that wrote the particular post anyway).

    Like most humans we have good days and bad days. The sarcastic post was a bad day. And thanks to about 6 hours of actual sleep over the past three days, the bad day continues somewhat. Oh well for me.

    Again, my apologies.

    [Alexander, I only edited your comment so the URLs wouldn’t push the content column over so far, but they are still the same URLs.]

  19. gulliver Says:

    As someone said…

    “Knowlege is only as good as what we do with it.”

    Blog well.

    Love,

    g

    PS. Please mister, can we have a new thread? This one’s getting all used up.

    PPS. I think we’ve all learned though. I’ve certainly gained.

  20. Andrew Denny Says:

    When you quoted: “With blogs ranging from trade to consumer, Weblogs, Inc. is the largest non-pornographic blog publisher in the world”, it reminded me of something. I found it quickly:

    “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout history” – Stanley Baldwin, 1930, On media ownership.

    The Duke of Devonshire said on hearing this, “Good God, that’s done it. He’s lost us the tart’s vote.”