So, Dan Gillmor, who we last visited with just about a year ago, has been named as a fellow to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The interesting thing about this is that this is Gillmor’s second attempt to study blogging as a social movement. The first, Bayosphere, appears to be plugging along, though doesn’t appear to have caught hold the way Gillmor probably was hoping when he left the Mercury News. What I find most interesting about the move is that it doesn’t look much like he’ll be doing anything different, except that now he’ll be doing it in a non-profit environment. How much does this say about the profit-potential for blogging? It’s tough to say, both because Bayosphere doesn’t have to publish its financials and so could be profitable, and because some folks do appear to be making money (Gawker Media comes immediately to mind, despite Nick Denton’s
posturing protests to the contrary).
CNN Money published an article not long ago in which they describe/critique the many business models from which blogs can choose. It’s a decent read, though they’re overthinking it. Blogs, and most online businesses, basically can pursue one of three strategies: focus on content (like what AOL Time-Warner and Disney try to do); focus on distribution (like what Google and MySpace try to do); or attempt some form of hybrid (where to begin — almost everyone’s doing it to some degree, including most of the folks I just named).
In the early days of radio, and then television, individual stations created their own content solely for local distribution. Over time, networks of stations evolved, with the network chosing from the best content created at each of its stations and distributing it to the other member stations (these types of media networks still exist, with PBS one of the best known examples — Howard Stern on ClearChannel was, until recently, another great example). In many cases, the ownership of a large, popular station would buy up a number of stations in other regions, too. Finally, specialized production houses started producing content, with networks buying the content and providing distribution (independent films probably illustrate this model best these days). Obviously, hybrid approaches of just about every stripe exist, too. What’s happening with blogs these days, such as AOL buying Weblogs, Inc. (which itself followed the network model), looks increasingly like history repeating.
Which model will win out? It’s probably too soon to say, though, there’s really no reason that companies following each won’t do well. So, good luck, Dan. For profit or non-profit, we’ve really only just begun figuring out how the world will look down the road because of the Internet. It’s going to continue to be fun to see where that road will take us.