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September 07, 2008
Blogging: A Bibliography
What I have learned so far about blogging has been through experience advice from people involved in warwick blogs and what I have picked up from various sites. I haven't as yet read any '(very) old media' - i.e. books on blogging. However now I'm going to start teaching about blogging it seems sensible to provide indicators to what is available and also gathering a bibliography starts to give people an overview of what is happening in this area of new media.
Certainly when I tell friends and colleagues that I blog they don't quite know what to make of this. They don't quite know what it is and their impression from the media is that it is largely done by a load of ill educated people who are either sad cases wanting to spout off to the world or else tecchie geeks who don't have a life outside of the internet. Beginning to gather a list of what is available and the dates and also which publishers are involved provides clues too what is happening in this rapidly evolving area of virtual society.
Cetainly I havn't yet come across any more scholarly analytical work on the growth impact and changes that blogging is making. however there are a lot of get out and do it type of books and also plenty of marketing and business style books. This in itself signifies a changing culture.
I've just ordered a couple of titles from Amazon (where else) and will eventually provide some brief annotations. This might help teahcers / lecturers / librarians prioritise what might be useful for their students.
This page will be updated on a regular basis as I'm sure there will be plenty of words pouring out.
Gardner & Birle. 2nd Ed. 2008. Blogging For Dummies. Wiley
I haven't actually used any of the For Dummies series but the ability to search through the cahpters online showed me that a lot of the content looked good for non-technical people like me.
Grappone & Couzin. 2008.Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day. Wiley-Blackwell.
(Why I ordered this. SEO as I've outlined elswhere is crucial to making any web presence effective. This is a recent book and published by Wiley / Blackwell publishers that I have trusted over many years to produce good quality academic and technical books. We will see if my bet is right :_).
September 01, 2008
Developing Your Blog 2: Content
If you have been using the posting on developing links and thing about search engine optimisation (SEO) you might well have found some links that emphasise the need for the highest possible quality in your content. If you want people to take you seriously (even as a comedian) the content needs to be good. It needs to add something to what is already available for a start. This means that once you have decided what you want to write abut you need to start researching what is already out there. The is no point in just reinventing the wheel people will not bother to link to your site, place comments or help your blog by word of mouth. Low amounts of traffic mean that search engines will give you a very low ranking if they see you at all. This means you will get little or no traffic. Unless you plan and strive to create good content your blog or website will fail to attract attention and you will probably stop bothering. Here I'm assuming that you are writing the blog for others to read. Obviously if they are private entries none of this applies however here we are considering blogs and websites as part of the mediascape and being open to the public.
The first thing you need to do is to focus carefully on what the core content of your blog is going to be. It should be on areas you know about or are very keen about and wish to research and comment upon further. This Kinoeye blog started as an educational resource area for one film course that was being delivered. That was its only focus at the start and it took a long time to learn how to do these things well. One good thing about blogging is that your work isn't set in stone. You can go back to entries and reedit them and develop them in all sorts of ways. I certainly want to do this with some of the earlier entries as I have got better at using the available tools and the tools themselves have been improved. You will be on a learning curve don't worry about just do it as the advert says.
My suggestion is that you start out by planning out what it is you want to write about and prepare to get good at it. you might be writing about, fashion, film stars, endangered newts, global warming, the Russian invasion of Georgia. whatever it is you can bet that there are a lot of web entries out there numbered in hundreds of millions however once you get to know an area you will start to dsicover gaps in the coverage. For example only yesterday I was developing a page on Channel 4 and its relationship to the British film industry. I was searching through a Google for good quality entries on the film the Madness of King George. I was surprised that there wasn't an entry worth linking to in my opinion. That means I need to find the time to do a review of it.
Content can provide a range of services which don't currently exist on the Web below I give a couple of examples from my site which seem to be providing visitors with a service which wasn't otherwise available.
I see the Web as being content driven and this is the dominant position at the moement. However not all people agree with this perspective. Andrew Odlyzko considers that communications capabilites through connectivity rather than content (seen as entertainment is actually 'king'). He has written an online article entitled "Content is Not King" (2001). Doubtless the irony of cliking on this link is apparent :-).
What this argument suggests is that the Web (and browsers in particular, which made the Web user-friendly) may have created a misleading impression. By focusing attention on centralized delivery of content, the Web may have prevented a proper appreciation of the importance of the often chaotic and generally unplannable point-to-point communications. The Web and the browsers may have played two main roles. One was to force online service providers to accept an open interoperable standard that made the entire Internet accessible for communications for everyone. The other was to introduce a user-friendly graphical interface for e-mail, chat, and netnews, which made such communications easier. However, the Web is not as important to the Internet as is commonly thought.
Now there is no question that Odlyzko is making some powerful points and those intersted need to study his peer assessed article carefully. However since 2001 things have moved on considerably. The enormous expansions of social networking sites with people generating their own on-line spaces as well as a proliferation of blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other aspects of Web 2.0 clearly challenges the binary position which he has established becuase connectivity and content do appear to be converging between these forms. In this sense user generated content which goes beyond the point to point or one to one of the personal letter or telephone call is significantly different. whether the business models of Google, My Space , YouTube and Second Life will succeed is yet to established however all of these are in someway dependent upon user generated content to drive the Web. This sems to counter Odlyzko's arguments against content which in terms of what might be described as Media 1.0 with centrally delivered content and control are convincing arguments. The upshot of all this is that producing worthwhile content for your target audience will help drive the web and if it is good content will help add value to humanity in general.
Planning your initial postings
Before you start blogging on the area of your choice you would be wise to plan out several articles and preferably think about how they can complement each other so that you can then interlink them. Even when you do things right it will probably take search engines time to notice you so don't expect instant and immediate results. Once you have a small body of work written then it may be a good idea to contact the search engines and alert them to your developing site. Again this is prioritising content and it ensure that once search engines start to crawl your pages there is something there that people will want to read. In the long-term you will want people to revisit your site, bookmark it and even link to it. You need to impress that audience who may also be publishers that you are worthwhile putting into the loop.
Providing a Service
I have mentioned this page in the previous section on web development so skip it if you have already visited. As my main current research project is a history of European Cinema in the five main industrial countries since 1918 I needed to map out which countries had been producing which films when. I realised that a simple table drawn up as a chronology / timeline would be incredibly useful. I could could make easy comparisons. I then realised that I could link each entry into the best article on that specific film that I could find on the web. I decided to do this very thoroughly and went down to page 20 of a Google for each entry. Very occasionally I turned up something excellent like a brilliant thesis on page 15 which nobody had noticed. This provided a service in several different ways. For any researchers it could be a useful first stop, for those who had published something unseen I was contributing to bringing it to light, for film programmers and films clubs across the world it provided easy access information to make decisions or to put into their local marketing. At a perwsonal level it gives me a useful research tool as well. another advantage of doing this although I hadn't realised it at the time was it was a page that would appeal strongly to search engines because of all the external links. It was acting in accord with the principles of Web 2.0 which encourages interlinking as much as possible. Over time this has developed into a strong page and there is still more to be done.
My second example of a good service page which has done surprisingly well is a page on the Greek Director Theo Angelopoulos. I have seen very few of his films but those I have seen I really liked especially one called The Weeping Meadow. now it maybe too slow and meditative in its style but its a way of making films I enjoyed. When I came to look for more films of his available in the UK there simply weren't any DVDs. There were still a couple available on video but I didn't want to buy at full price as it was old technology. As a result I decided to create a list of good websites and bibliography about him so that anybody who was intersted in his films could follow it up a bit more. Hopefully it will help to create a market for the films currently unavailable. This therefore helps fans and students the filmmaker himself and the company that has the rights but is uncertain about whether the is too much of a financial risk in reissuing them. Despite the fact I have no great expertise on this particualr director I could still do something useful and educational. Somebody else will hopefully develop a more informed page or write a good thesis and publish it on the web.
Remember Content +Tagging & SEO
As has been dealt with in part one just having the content isn't enough it must be combined with ways of ensuring that search engines find the pages through tagging. I have pages which still need re-editing and tagging more effectively which were the product of a lot of research and work with useful content. These pages still don't register in a Google ranking and are barely visited.
I learned a valuable lesson yesterday when checking up on one of my pages which I though should have worked its way up through the Google search results to at least the page 5-7 region. The page was on Mike Leigh the film maker and included a good range of links a biography and a filmography as well as some biographical details and I considered that the page had more to offer than the Screenonline biographical notes and links thus meeting my page performance targets. Pages like this have worked their way up effectively in the past so I was surprised that even by page 22 it hadn't appeared. What was even stranger was that a page on his most recent film Happy-go-Lucky published only a couple of days previously was on page 22. It was then clear that I had done something wrong!
On the Mark up page I realised that I had called the page British directors: Mike Leigh. It was called this as it was part of a series, however in the header of the blog post which is read by the search engines this was the name. I Googled the term British Directors: Mike Leigh and it came out first on a global search the problem is that nobody is likely to use that as a search term. As a result I had to edit the page and it is at least getting visitors. I will google it in a couple of weeks to see if it is in the top few pages of a Google search under the term Mike Leigh. I realised that I had made a similar error with several other director pages and had to edit them as well. hopefully they will perform better.
The lessons to be learned from this experience are that content and correct titling of the page and good tagging must be combined in order to achieve success.
Researching Your Content
Researching your content effectively is fundamental to success therefore you must learn how to do it well. It helps if you are clear about what you are intending to research from the outset. This enables you to reject the mountains of spurious information that you are likely to turn up.
You need to research what is already available on your chosen subject. Now when you are researching as an individual to get information you might want something very specific, lets us say for example information about Ken Livingstone the ex-mayor of London and his enthusiasm for Newts.
For the purpose of this posting I entered the search term 'Newts Ken Livingstone' and turned up the fascinating paper Newtsweek. I also discovered that this search term returned about 16.5K hits. The search term Ken Livingstone returned just under 2.2 Million. Therefore it is useful to narrow the terms of your research as it should make it quicker and easier to find the information that you want.
If you are comparing somebody who has recently been promoted as a 'celebrity' such as Keira Knightley. Entering Keira Knightley as a search term returned 11.2 Million hits. Apart from anything else this tells us that for many people their priority is engaging in discourse about somebody who has gained a lot of publicity but drooped out of college and hasn't got any A levels! By comparison somebody who has been Mayor of London both in the early 1980s and again for several years until 2008 and influences policies which affect 10 million Londoners plus millions of visitors gets comparatively little attention!!
If you are trying to build a service as this blog is providing resources about cinema I will need to trawl the search returns for Keira Knightley. This is becuase this is the most likely search term that people will put in initially. They might put in terms such Keira Knightley Atonement (662 thousand hits) or Keira Knightley The Duchess(351 thousand hits). Again these terms have narrowed your search down significantly.
Once you have got your Google search running you then need to start being discriminating and learning how to use what Google returns as efficiently and effectively as possible. Assuming you want the best quality writing and best researched entries then you don't need to work your way through every item on the Google page. Many will be fansites just trying to sell visitors something, others will be DVD Companies trying to sell DVDs and so on. some will just be tacky pages gibbering on about ridiculous things which inevitably surround star personas. If you are investigating the construction of stars then these pages could be very valuable by the way. What you are accessing depends upon what your article is trying to achieve. If you are trying to evaluate and review how good a performer Keira Knightley actually is in terms of her ability at acting then these sites are just so much junk. The search term 'Keira Knightley Acting Abilities' returned just over 55 thousand hits. Clearly this isn't the primary concern of most sites, which are parasitical and ephemeral in nature.
Anchoring Your Research
When you find appropriate sites for the purposes of your forthcoming blog posting you should develop a weblography. One of the foremost complaints about websites is that a visitor has no idea of how relaible the person is who has developed the site, how well they research things, and how good they are at analysing what they have researched. Most thoughtful people think that most websites are unreliable sources of information. A well known informational site such as Wikipedia suffers from this problem. The articles are multi-edited. Sometimes those workingon articles in an altruistic way are highly informed whilst at other times they are not. Wikipedia has now become more demanding by asking that those working on articles leave accurate citations for example. It wikipedia need to do this so do you!
Things to do to gain your website visitor respect:
Create a webliography that is linked. Visitors can then check your sources of information. You may be proceeding with the information in good faith but it might be out of date or the fundamental research behind ideas might be weak. Some visitors will take the trouble to check and challenge the validity of your concluding comments.
If you have some books or articles or newspapers etc that you have used then create a bibliography. There are different ways of constructing a bibliography but the essence of any referencing system is that any reader should be able to check back on the accuracy of the conclusions you have drawn from the work you have used. Remember journalists and commentators who write for large commercial and non commercial media institutions have access to powerful sources of information as thay will have good libraries for example as well as excellent electronic resources. They are frequently acknowledged as being very expert in the fields thay cover. Therefore articles from the Financial Times, Guardian, BBC and similar media institutions already carry an weighting that individual bloggers with no history can emulate. Many of these organisations will employ their own researchers that a specialist journalist can call upon.
These articles will have been through the editing process and the editor will have spoken to the journalist and checked that the sources for the ideas are relaible. This is one reason why I tend to use a lot of referances to the above organisations when I create a webliography. I respect (although may not agree) the quality. This is what good journalism is all about.
What makes me very suspicious is uninformed opinion. This is clearly a problem with the Huffington Post which is trying to be a successful 'New Media' online newspaper. It has a low level of resources and its contributors are relaitvely unknown and don't have a great deal of respect for their opinions developed over years or else because they are associated with media brands that have a repuation for good journalism. Joshua Chaffin in the Financial Times (30 / 31 August) commented in a worrying way that her site has benefitted:
...form her tart commentary and conviction that the mainstream media is handcuffed by striving for a false objectivity.
however in fairness Chaffin in an earlier article on the Huffington Post has noted:
Like a standard newspaper, Ms Huffington insists that her contributors maintain accuracy. All errors must be corrected within 24 hours, lest bloggers have their posting privileges withdrawn. Yet she argues that one of the blog's strengths is an attitude and immediacy that distinguishes it from the mainstream media's sometimes-tortured attempts at objectivity. "None of this 'on the one hand, on the other hand', " she says. "You have to believe that there is a truth to be ferreted out."
Once one reads between the lines this seems that Huffington wants her cake and to eat it. In reality a blogging contributor isn't checked out and isn't necessarily someonewho has the reliability of a system which works to certain professional standards. The search for 'immediacy' could weaken accuracy and when it comes to serious stuff anyway accuracy is important. Who actually cares about the love life of some overpaid tawdry celebrity. I think that Huffington will have to get better standards than this if she is to succeed in the long-term.
You need to strive for professional accuracy in your blog. this means taking more time on postings however once a good posting is up then this builds your blog portfolio and will help generate a stronger presence on the web. It is likely to gain you loyal visitors over time and this is what you want.
Keeping the comments box open to readers is a good idea. You can delete the rubbish which turns up but keep the thoughtful and serious stuff. It all contributes to your site and underpins a core message of Web 2.0 that the sharing of ideas becomes a powerful tool for everybody, which adds a lot of value to society.
A rules of Engagement PAGE
This idea comes from the Jeff Jarvis Buzz Machine blog and might be csomething you wish to do. In any case the work which is your own writing is your own copyright including original images, sounds and video. You may wish to license it through creative commons.
Rules of Engagement
- Any email sent to me can be quoted on the blog.
- No personal attacks, hate speech, bigotry, or seven dirty words in the comments or comments will be killed along with commenters.
- Any comment or conversation on this blog may be quoted elsewhere.
The copyright notice on my site for years was:
It’s mine, I tell you, mine! All mine! You can’t have it because it’s mine! You can read it (please); you can quote it (thanks); but I still own it because it’s mine! I own it and you don’t. Nya-nya-nya. So there.
COPYRIGHT 2001-2003-20?? by Jeff Jarvis
OK, seriously, I license everything on Buzzmachine under Creative Commons. I own copyright but license use with full attribution and links.
Andrew Odlyzko "Content is Not King" (2001)
Chris Brogan blog . How Your Blog Helps You Do Business
August 31, 2008
Web 2.0 Opportunity For Entrepreneurs: The Huffington Post
I almost always find something of media related interest in the Financial Times Weekend and this weekend was no exception. There was an interesting article by Joshua Chaffin on the rise and rise of the Huffington Post an extremely successful blog based "online-newspaper" in the US. It is run by Arianna Huffington whom some of you may remember from the 1970s as the infamous anti-feminist Arianna Stassinopoulos.
In many ways Chaffin's article supports some of the points I was making in a discussion of the issues being raised by some media analysts around the need for Media Studies 2.0. My argument then was that the present user generated content from blogging and similar types of new media associated with Web 2.0 would eventually fragment into work which was being done professionally / semi-professionally and a more leisure-based hobby based type of approach. The latter being very much a virtualisation of small scale hobbyists, magazines etc. These might generate small amounts of advertising for relatively small niche markets. For the more serious bloggers the aim is to make a splash and also to earn money through the enterprise because to blog seriously and to research the content would be pretty much a full time job and the rest. This means that inevitably the best bloggers will either re-prioritise their time to do something else, be highly succesful at blogging so that they generate sensible amounts of advertise revenue / sponsorship to make a living or else they will build a user base which might conceivably be seen as 'added value' if a fully fledged media company decides to buy them out and use the virtual real estate and pay a salary for the generation of future content.
The Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington don't quite fit any of these models. She became a born again blogger early on and, given her past, is extremely well connected at higher levels in Californian society. As a result she has beeen able to gain professional advice, as well as venture capital from people like Alan Patricof to help establish her political blog. According to Chaffin's article it is receiving in the region of 4 million unique users per month. The blog was founded in 2005 and is now one of the most popular political blogs.
There has apparently been much talk about expansion of the blog with the intention of establishing new sections. She is hoping to raise another $10-20 million dollars to back this expansion. some people are speculating that the site could be worth $200 million however this could be rather an overestimate for as Chaffin notes cautiously:
...the site is not consistently profitable .Bloggers have not yet proved they can convert traffic into advertising dollars. (Chaffin W/E FT p 11)
Naturally this argument was of interest because anybody trying to raise $10-20 million for a blog is redefining the meaning of the term which originally signified slightly geeky people whipping out their thoughts to the world which for the most part ignored them. Here Web 2.0 is turning into a serious media venture. OK the model doesn't precisely fit but it shows that there is venture capital money out there backing likely looking ventures and trying to establish new audiences interacting with media in different ways, which accords with the spirit of my argument. Certainly Jeff Jarvis has been impressed as Chaffin has noted in the FT:
"They laughed when Arianna sat down at the keyboard, but she was right, and she's built something pretty incredible," said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York who also writes a media blog, BuzzMachine.
So how does a site like this make money and how does it build its audience? these seem to be the critical questions for new media enterprises which makes them exactly the same as so-called old-media. Everything must change so that everything remains the same to paraphrase Lampedusa in The Leopard! Chaffin put it very clearly in an earlier FT commentary in 2007:
These days, Ms Huffington and her partners tend to recoil slightly when the Huffington Post is called a blog. To them, blogging is merely the latest technology tool to transform the news industry - just as cable television yielded CNN and the 24-hour news cycle. While that tool may be central to their success, their aim now is to expand the Huffington Post into a mainstream media business - a path that other blogs are also pursuing as the once-fledgling medium becomes more professionalised.
What Happens at the Huffington Post?
Well, with 4 million unique hits per month its a little hard to define the audience however to put the numbers in perspective the Guardian released its figures a couple of weeks ago and the numbers were in the 18 million range with the Daily Telegraph lagging not too far behind. Obviously a key difference between these well established British dailies which have developed parallel web-based facilities is that they have already got a brand name, a well developed regular readership and a well developed peripheral readership who probably buy / read the paper on an intermittent and possibly regular basis. I usually get a Monday Guardian for the media pages for example but the Weekend FT and the Independent occasionally as well. Yes they are available online but I actually like a hard copy especially on the train if I'm travelling that way.
Both the Guardian (8/10 Google ranking just for the blogs page ) and the Daily Telegraph (7/10 just for the blogs page)have developed blogs from some of their regular correspondents. So has the Financial Times (6/10 Google ranking) although the FT has a more sophisticated system for registering and providing online services primarily targetted at business users. There is then a parallel subscription service as well as the online advertising model that they all use. The BBC Blog Network (7/10 Google ranking) is a recentinitiative by the BBC to centralise all their blogs as well, to date people have been accessing them independently via links on the current newspages for example. Doubtless the Google ranking will rise as more people discover the page full of links to all areas of the BBC. As a regional paper the London based Evening Standard blogs page gains (6/10). Even a much smaller paper such as the Coventry Evening Telegraph blogs and forum page gains a Google 5/10 ranking. This quick research of the web based aspects of older media organisations shows that many if not most of them are in the process of making well organised transitions to a web based format runnng in parallel with the main services previously offered. With the exception of the BBC (for obvious reasons) all seemed to have a healthy balance of adverts, so advertising too is making a good transition to the web. None of the sites mentioned seemed to suffer from irritating pop-ups.
Obviously potential advertisers will be given access to at least some of the key analytics benchmarks in terms of not just number of hits but regulararity of use, and the most accessed columns and pages and how long users stay on them. The cost of advertising can then be worked out in a similar way to hard copy. Furthermore the greater the use the better the quality of advertisers drawn in which means better graphics, more amusing adverts etc. In reality good adverts provide users with a far better media experience and can prove to be an attraction rather than an irritant if they are well used.
Audiences for mainstream media sites in the UK seem to be strong. Remember 4 million hits per month is in the region of 120,000 hits per day and the problem with measuring who "unique" users are is difficult if people are not logged into the site's own system as then a regular visitor could be using the site from different computers. Chaffin reports that Huffington's site has 4 million unique users as measured by the analytics system but these cannot be totally accurate and it may be possible to "cookie" the books:
Authentication, either active or passive, is the most accurate way to track unique
visitors. However, because most sites do not require a user login, the
most predominant method of identifying unique visitors is via a persistent cookie
that stores and returns a unique id value. Because different methods are used to
track unique visitors, you should ask your tool provider how they calculate this
A unique visitor count is always associated with a time period (most often day, week,
or month), and it is a “non-additive” metric. This means that unique visitors can not
be added together over time, over page views, or over groups of content, because
one visitor can view multiple pages or make multiple visits in the time frame studied.
Their activity will be over-represented unless they are de-duplicated.
The deletion of cookies, whether 1st party or 3rd party, will cause unique visitors to
be inflated over the actual number of people visiting the site. Users that block
cookies may or may not be counted as unique visitors, and this metric is handled in
different ways depending on the analytics tool used. Ask your tool provider how
blocked cookies are managed in their tool: it is important to understand how this
impacts other metrics with regard to these visitors. (Web Analytics
Association Standards Definitions. My Emphasis)
What Future for the Huffington Site?
Huffington has been a social networker for decades gradually moving from right to left in the political spectrum, opportunism eclecticism if not 'me-ism' are the core values I suspect. Here's what one interested blog critic has to say:
The very things she has been mocked for over the years—her ability to shift swiftly from topic to topic, her swashbuckling political rhetoric, her penchant for attention-getting—are what the online world is all about. She’s found her home in the blogosphere.
Walking into the offices of the Huffington Post, I have a dizzying flashback to 1995: It’s an airy dot-com loft that—unlike, say, Air America, whose corporate cubicles we’d visited that morning—feels exceptionally well funded. Bright Pop Art splotches adorn the walls. Twenty-five-year-olds huddle on sofas eating takeout. There’s an MTV-logo-shaped fish tank in the lobby and a massive portrait of Muhammad Ali and, of course, a pool table. (Adam Ash Blog 2006)
As a consummate networker and has somebody who keeps churning out books over the years Huffington has gained something of a brand name and being an 'early adopter' along with some financial backing and a business plan has helped her to gain an online presence and she is clearly trying to compete with established media forms. The reality is that if one visits the Huffington Post site it is rather more than just a blog but laid out professionally with tags across the top and a range of pages dealing with things such as entertainment, business etc. Huffington on today's visit has her latest blog comment posted., with enough of her own characterful interpretations of whatever to attract a certain audience. The 'blog' is effectively an online newspaper which provides a range of links to other news sources. The front page has developed an excellent Google weighting of 8/10. This is only one point behind the BBC Online News Front Page which is currently 9/10. However these figures could exaggerate the Huffington site's importance because of the way search engines work.
Google reportedly has over 200 parameters when it assesses the importance of sites and pages within them via is web-bots. One aspect that Google values as good web 2.0 promotion is lots of linkages. It may well be that a more detailed analysis of the Huffington Post pages shows strong attention to this, certainly as something which is more parasitic in terms of largely acting as a hub and organising links this site's importance in real terms could be exaggerated. It is quite obvious that the web weighting by Google of Huffington Post is skewed when compared with the BBC. I don't know if the BBC release their web useage numbers broken down to the public but as it is probably one of the largest sites in the world if not the largest with thousands of pages available online. I strongly suspect that being based in California Huffington has a couple of smart tecchies working very hard on web optimisation, probably from an SEO optimisation consultancy. This would certainly fit in with Huffington's overblown real world persona.
Chaffin reports that The Huffington Post relies almost totally on news collected from other links although he managed to find an example of somebody who managed to upstage the professional news reporters. The reality is that Huffington swans around and a bunch of minions who know something about specific areas such as fashion, business or green issues sort out linkages. There are a few other bloggers on the site who presumably are regulars. Some bloggers will write for nothing as guest posts into order to advertise their own blogs. I suspect this is what Huffington gets, success berreds success and it drives down the cost of her content:
Sell Your Guest Posting Services:
Most bloggers write guest posts for other blogs for free as a way to promote their own blogs. However, you can also offer your guest posting services for a fee. (Make money blogging)
If that is the case it largely bears out my theory that the best bloggers will get sucked in to something else. Some advertising is via Google and others appears to be sponsored links. The site itself is keen to get registered users and the temptation to become registered is increased by some web marketing which offes lots of freebies, but you need to register first to access information about these!
Overall then overheads appear to be quite low compared to the sites of conventional organisations, in that sense it is a sort of parasite as it appears to contribute little to the public sphere as such merely act as a sort of hub and as an advertising vehicle. Whether this will prove to be a feasible new media business model remains to be seen. My interests are firmly in the range of already existing news organisations which are already developing excellent web based and new media systems. If I want continual updates I can connect with an RSS feed anyway.
My own suspicion is that once the intitial palaver about Web 2.0 / Media 2.0 dies down, things will gradually default to the mainstream media unless people like Huffington can compete for the highest quality analysts currently employed by the BBC / Guardian / New York Times etc. This though would mean money to put people into the field otherwise it hard to discern what the Huffington Post offers that can't be gained usually for nothing.
Once the hype is stripped out of the notion of Web 2.0 the issues of having the time to undertake all this possible interaction becomes paramount for most people. As for the Huffington site, well venture capitalists are usually working to a tight business plan. Real world businesses usually take 5 years on average to move into consistent profit, and the Huffington Post has been going for three. When venture capitalists are involved they are usually looking for an exit at a very high rate of profit (Return on Investement or ROI) and they are not known for being altruists. As with much about the web there is much hype and speculation. They are probably trying to get the revenue streams and user figures up in order to exaggerate the value of the site and then sell it on to some other media firm making a quick exit. This looks as bad an investment as ITV for the long-term, I quite simply don't believe it. I've more confidence in Second Life.
Please note I haven't put a link into the site quite deliberately, I don't want to push it further up the Google rankings and add "virtual value" to what is largely puff.
This morning's Media Guardian is carrying an interesting article on yet another business model for the record industry in the digital era. You too can become a venture capitalist. Well at least it could be more fun than being an investor in Northern Rock :-). (Health warning this isn't a recommendation).
Blogs get the old-media habit. Joshua Chaffin Financial Times
Deals Pioneer Gets Second Wind. Joshua Chaffin in Patricof the venture capitalist behing the Huffington Post and other technology start-ups