February 18, 2005

NY Times buys About.com for $410 million

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Mainstream media has taken a big punt on the blogosphere this week, or something close to the blogosphere, with news today that the New York Times has purchased About.com for $410 million USD cash.

About.com, originally the Mining Company, provides information on a large number of topics using paid “Guides”, recently rebranded itself as blogging site.

Internetnews.com reports the NY Times said it wanted About.com to extend its reach among Internet users, diversify its online advertising inventory and add pay-per-click ads.

The combined entity will have approximately 35 million viewers.

The $410 million purchase prices is said to be ten times earnings for the last year.

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Open Government Act to recognise Bloggers as legitimate journalists

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation on Wednesday to achieve meaningful reforms to federal government information laws, most notably the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA). The Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005 (OPEN Government Act) is aimed at substantially enhancing and expanding the accessibility, accountability, and openness of the federal government. U.S. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s senior Democrat, is the bill’s co-sponsor.

“This reform legislation was created from the belief that FOIA establishes a presumption of openness,” said Cornyn, who in 2001 was presented with the James Madison Award for his efforts to promote open government by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. “Open government is one of the most basic requirements of any healthy democracy. It allows for taxpayers to see where their money is going; it permits the honest exchange of information that ensures government accountability; and it upholds the ideal that government never rules without the consent of the governed.”

“This bill advances one of the most fundamental rights of Americans, the public’s right to know what its government is doing,” said Leahy, who has been a longtime champion of FOIA in Congress. Leahy sponsored the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments, which updated FOIA for the Internet age, and in 1996 he was installed in the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame.

Importantly for bloggers, the Cornyn-Leahy legislation grants privileged FOIA fees for bloggers and writers for Internet outlets, providing the same status as old media and will protect access to FOIA fee waivers for legitimate journalists, regardless of institutional association – including bloggers and other Internet-based journalists.

This act potentially opens up a new sphere in bloggers investigating and reporting on Government information and demonstrates a true maturity of the medium, now recognised at the highest levels of Government.

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February 17, 2005

Crossing Jordan features blogging

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Steve Valentine is not a computer expert, but he plays one on NBC’s “Crossing Jordan.” His character, criminalist and forensics expert Dr. Nigel Townsend, uses scientific techniques and outstanding computer skills to help Boston medical examiner Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh solve crimes, and that’s where Nigel’s newest hobby comes in, blogging, with a real life blog called Nigelblog, with posts asking for information on an unsolved triple homicide in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood reports Earthlink.

Whether bloggers are going to respond well to another fake blog with fake stories to promote a television show or commercial product is not yet clear, although as always, you are welcome to leave your comments (if Spam Karma doesn’t try to block them again).

The site went live Feb. 13, and from March 4, users will be offered a “reward” for helping to solve the murder case, and those who correctly answer online questions about the clues will be entered to win a “Crossing Jordan” prize package. On March 22, five winners will be randomly chosen out of the correct entries.

On a bright note, atleast blogs are being used and mentioned more frequently in fictional television programming, which is representative of the influence and frequencing of which blogs now play in everyday life.

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Weblogs Inc named in top five online firms to watch in 2005

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Jason Calacanis’ Weblogsinc has been named as one of 5 internet firms to watch in 2005 according to Business Week.

In the report from Scott Kessler, he writes:

Weblogs [inc] is the purveyor of a network of more than 70 blogs, which it characterizes as the world’s largest. The company is dedicated to creating trade blogs across industries in which user participation is an essential component of the resulting product. Weblogs network categories include Consumer, Technology, Wireless, Video Games, Media & Entertainment, Business, Life Sciences, Personal, and Events.

I believe blogs will grow increasingly prominent, because they offer interesting and unique content, are easy to search and organize, and have the potential to generate notable revenues and profits through the use of online advertising (primarily keyword search) and affiliate marketing. Gawker Media is another major network of blogs.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see companies such as these make news on the financing front in 2005, by possibly raising private capital or taking steps toward an IPO….

An IPO of WeblogsInc, now we’d like to see this. Congrats to Jason though on the profile.

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New attack in the War on Blogging

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A new attack today in the war on blogging, this one being sourced from Matt Cooper of the Newspaper The Register-Guard from Eugene, Oregon.

In an article titled “Beware the blogs, for truth isn’t a fact“, Cooper trots out a number of old media types to attack the credibility of bloggers.

First to be quoted is John Russial, an associate professor in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication with “The danger in blogging is that there isn’t that level of checking…Information can get out there and it can be spread like wildfire, when in fact it might not be true.”

Just like old media Mr Associate Professor, or was Rather right?

He continues; Blogger information can be suspect, but the practice is on the rise, and traditional news organizations are watching the “blogosphere” more closely, looking for story ideas, Russial said.

Then there is the whacky: “There are laws against libel,” said Tom Layton, a part-time education consultant in Eugene. “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech is freedom of speech.” Layton advises on the use of blogs as educational tools, and, as with anything on the Internet, he said the mantra that teachers must drive home is, “consider the source.”

Just like old media again. hmmmm…

There are a number of other quotes, including a few positives from the Poynter Institute, but once again old media has gone on the attack as they face the threat of bloggers.

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Is Mark Jen the Blogosphere’s dumbest blogger?

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Duncan Riley> Yes, I know I’m going to get blasted for this headline but tough, after reading over and over again about poor Mark Jen who got sacked from Google for blogging, here it is:
Is Mark Jen the Blogosphere’s dumbest blogger?
Mark has given an interview to the IDG News Service where he talks about his experience, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he is. But alas, I may be wrong in the way that some people speculate that Paris Hilton is not really a dopey blonde bimbo but an extremely smart manipulator, because if Mark Jen is not a dill on steroids, then he is a master manipulator who has created a situation to propel himself to the top of the blogs and to deliver himself his 15 minutes of fame. Being the nice person that I am though, I’m betting on the first option.
Let’s take a look at a few choice quotes from the interview:

IDGNS: Are there any lessons you learned that you can share with others who may be in a similar position of blogging about work in their personal blogs?
Jen: I’ve learned quite a few lessons from this entire episode. First of all, I learned that blogging is a public forum, and ideas you express are going to be read by more people than you think. That’s a crucial lesson. Another lesson is to clear up with your employer before you blog what exactly [it considers] acceptable and unacceptable

Wow! Blogging in the public forum might mean the public might read what you right, shucks, and we only though the internet was accessible to the 5 members of the secret council of Zion. And jee-whiz, make sure that before you openly criticize your employer that you make sure that your employer, the one paying your wage and putting food into your mouth (or in Mark Jen’s case, medicine) is ok with you slandering and attacking them in an open forum, because employers might not all be like the ones in Marks head who while skipping around a Kombi van signing songs whilst smoking pot, enjoy and encourage their employees to go for the jugular.

But wait, there’s more:
Jen: I definitely was surprised at being terminated. It’s a shocking thing.

That’s right again, Jen thinks it’s acceptable to criticise his employer openly on the net. Future employers beware.

IDGNS: Are you going to make a claim against Google in any way?
Jen: No, I’m not interested in that. I don’t think that’s going to be productive.

Translated this means: not productive because it might highlight how stupid he is.

Now, some may be shaking there heads by now and saying, Tssk, Tssk, Duncan, you are becoming far to jaded and are being mean. Tough. Bloggers like Mark Jen give other bloggers a bad name. As someone who has managed a business in the past and has been responsible for hiring and firing employees before, I wouldn’t have thought twice about sacking him. On what planet is it acceptable to openly trash your employer and expect your employment to be ongoing?

I’ve personally supported the call for blogging policies to be introduced, as is being pushed by Ellen Simonetti, because I believe her situation, and that of a number of others, notably Jeremy Wright, was unjust and unfair, but it takes a real Grade A moron to think that its acceptable to do what Mark Jen has done and get away with it.

As an advocate of free speech I respect Mr Jen’s right to exercise it, but I also more respect Google’s right to disagree with him and sack him.

My only wish going forward is that we all move on and quickly cut Mr Jen’s 15 minutes of fame to 10 minutes, and leave the tale for the 1st episode of America’s Dumbest Bloggers, premiering on Fox in 2009.

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Business Week Champions blogs

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After a week under fire from old media, Business Week has smelt the wind and come to the defence of blogging with an article from Stephen Baker: “Don’t Fear the Blog and the Fury

In it, he states “Read the papers, and you’ll think there’s a menace growing in American society: the blogosphere.”, he goes on to analyse the Eason Jordon affair and concludes “In truth, blogging represents an explosion of free speech.”. Good reading. Snaps to BusinessWeek.

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Tropical TV Man says Newspapers being killed by blogs

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Jason Salas, of NBC affiliate KUAM News in Guam, has written that Newspapers are a dying medium, and their impending death in a result of blogs.

He contiunes: “The rise in blogging applications and the millions of people flocking to use them, serving as ad hoc reporters, has already blurred the definition of what a traditional professional in our beloved field is. One of the main advantages of being a journalist in years past was that you belonged to a somewhat-elite industry, meaning only that you had to be officially employed as such. Now anyone can just jump in and arguably be legitimate…most newspapers will fall victim to their own ignorance/arrogance and failure to realize they’re too far behind the times until it’s too late. They’ll be dead before they know it – a sad but not unexpected casualty in the name of industrial progress. ”

Whether old media relents and gets with the program or withers away is yet to be seen, but its interesting to note that even from Guam, mainstream media commentators are catching on.

(via Steve Rubel)

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CNN.com Offers Free RSS Feeds to Users, Bloggers

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CNN.com has introduced a new self-syndication feature to enabling users to post and view the latest headlines through an RSS aggregator or on their blogs.

The feeds can be accessed directly at CNN.com/rss.

“Our new RSS feeds provide an additional way for our users to access CNN.com quickly and easily,” said Mitch Gelman, senior vice president and executive producer of CNN.com. “The feeds provide fast access to CNN.com’s top headline news and allow users the opportunity to then experience the full breadth of CNN.com’s special reports and interactive features.”

With the feeds, users have access to CNN.com headline feeds in 14 categories, including the day’s top stories, most popular articles, world news, U.S. news and entertainment news, financial stories from CNNMoney.com and sports coverage from SI.com. The feeds are available free to users for private, non-commercial use.

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Rescue Magazine launches blogs

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US Magazine Rescue, a lifestyle magazine that has been called the “Anti-Martha” magazine by USA Today and Time, has joined the blogosphere with a multi-blog site that is being marketed as helping to re-define what a house/garden/food magazine website can be.

The blogs include a crafting blog, I Survived the Nuns, a funny spin on crafting and the crafter that stems from surviving Catholic School, a Parenting blog, Purty Mommie, aimed at the 30-something mothers who “don’t have time for the Oprah (Baby-Boomer) melodrama of parenting”, plus 8 more blogs with similar satirical yet useful information.

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