All this web stuff is kind of fleeting

wispI wrote a post for Voce Nation the other day that talked about Facebook’s buying of Friendfeed and the imminent shut-down (now apparently delayed) of that tied the two together to show just how impermanent the web services we use really and truly are. Also hitting the same subject is Marshall Kirkpatrick at R/WW and his piece is definitely worth a read.

While all of this discussion is more than a little “inside baseball” for the general audience, the point of it all is to point out that while there are a ton of people out there who promise to show you the secrets of this that or the other thing, very little of it is permanent. And more than that, what exists today is bound to be competing against what’s two or five or however many years down the road with other things we haven’t even thought of.

Just keep that in mind before you rush out to buy the “Friendfeed for Dummies” book or things like it.

Do bloggers need representation?

I’ve been mulling over a post by Jeremiah Owyang from last week that poses the idea that a cottage industry will emerge of “bloggers agents.” In Owyang’s mind these are akin to speakers agents and would help arrange brand sponsorship that allows bloggers to attend conferences and other events.

The reason it’s taken so long for me to roll this around is that I don’t feel like the analogy quite matches up but I’m not sure how. Belonging to a speaker’s circuit, to my understanding, gives those looking to secure a speaker a single point of reference to go to and book them. On the other end of that equation, the speaker gets a professional go-between so they don’t have to turn people down directly.

But what Owyang is proposing isn’t quite that. If anything it feels more like something that should be part of an ad network offering and his use of ad networks as examples means, I think, that he would agree with that. “Event Attendance Sponsorship” should be something that’s on a blogger’s list of acceptable ad units, alongside banner units and a monthly shout-out to the sponsors.

Obviously this is going to be something that has more impact in the higher echelons of the blog world, the kind that are already highly coveted and held by ad networks and those that are reaching sought-after audiences. But I don’t think this will be a separate industry that develops. Folding this sort of thing into an existing ad network relationship makes more sense for everyone, most of all the bloggers who then don’t have to put up incredibly awkward “Sponsor My Trip To….” posts as was the case in many places in the build up to this most recent BlogHer.

Twitter policies making news

(Ed. Note: I wrote this, sat on it while I considered it and, while I was doing that, Biro wrote essentially the same thing for PRWeek. That’s what I get for 1) Having smart friends and 2) sitting on my hinder. –Chris)

Everyone’s talking about corporate Twitter (and larger social networking) policies the last 24 hours so let’s see where we are in the conversation right now.

The U.S. Marine Corps has banned for one year access to Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and other social networks out of a fear that they could open up the military network to threats of information exposure.

ESPN has been catching (unduly, I think) flack for reports about a policy that many thought would limit employee tweets to only those that serve ESPN business needs. Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that (isn’t it always?) and that there was some language in their memo that might have been overly restrictive, but they wanted to make sure people weren’t talking out of line about sports related news and topics, an area that directly impacts ESPN’s business.

Finally, Izea has launched a Sponsored Tweets business to connect advertisers with people with a sizable and targeted Twitter following. The only thing surprising about this is that it took so long to get officially rolled out since there have been one-off experiments along these lines for the last year or so by other players and companies.

Twitter keeps growing and has redesigned its homepage not only to emphasize search (the area everyone keeps focusing on as we run toward real-time information and it’s refreshing lack of context) but to give first-time visitors a better idea of what’s going on and convert more folks into consistent users. The company even launched a Twitter 101 guide for businesses looking to get the most out of the service.

While a guide like this is great, it’s still up to each and every user – whether personal or corporate – to suss out for itself how it’s going to best use Twitter and what it’s specific employee guidelines are going to be.

And that’s where I’m going to go ahead and disagree with much of the “sigh” and “they’re wrong” commentary about both the Marine Corps and ESPN. I get the thinking behind the military not wanting to unnecessarily expose its network to attacks. If there’s one industry I think is right for not wanting to take any more risks than it absolutely has to, it’s that one. There’s probably a work-around – I’ve heard reports they’re looking into offering computers that aren’t connected to the rest of the network that soldiers could use – and they’ll probably find it.

ESPN, for its part, has clarified its policy a bit and made it clear it simply wants to make sure employees aren’t crossing any lines that shouldn’t be crossed. We can debate these but they’re not inherently or overtly “bad” as some people have labeled them.

It’s important to remember that, despite the hype and despite the length of time that some people have been using it, Twitter is still relatively new. So companies and working on how to integrate it into their overall communications plans (indeed the best ones are part of a bigger plan and not just one-off efforts). But the best policies are also worked out in conjunction with employees and are part of a good *internal* communications plan, as I’ve previously stated.

So Twitter, blog and other social media guidelines are dependent on both internal and external communications. Companies have to have a dialogue established with employees. That last part is often – wrongly – overlooked when hashing these things out, a process that can take time and may not wind up in the same place it starts out in and should certainly be open to evolving over time.

The new media model

I’ve long maintained (I think I’ve been saying this since 2004) that newspaper’s major failing online – outside of not linking out, starting out with pay walls and such – was that it didn’t realize there were people within the community that would gladly write for them for nothing or almost nothing, just the giddy feeling of contributing to a blog on the newspaper’s website or some other form of social currency. I felt that if they had reached out to people in the community who were starting their own blogs and said “Hey, let’s integrate your stuff into the paper’s website – you get exposure (and maybe a cut of the ad revenue) and we get some niche-focused content under our brand umbrella” we’d be looking at a very different media picture than we are right now.

ChicagoNow LogoThat’s why I’m such a fan of ChicagoNow, because it basically does just that. The site is not so much a single publication so much as it is a collection of blogs, ranging from newly launched ones to existing properties like CTA Tattler and others that existed before but now have been brought in-house. You can read about happenings in the legal community, follow a Naperville woman’s travels in Iran, find out how to maintain a garden in the city and explore a bunch of other very niche content.

And that’s the genius of it. It’s a broad site with 74 bits of niche appeal. And that’s exactly what a media property should be. Don’t try to be all things to all people and reach everyone with all the content you produce. That’s not going to happen. Instead be all things by offering a single point of content that will appeal to *that* person. Reach me. Get my interest.

This isn’t “aggregation” in the way that the term has come to be understood thanks to HuffPo where an original story is rewritten with a cursory link that no one follows thrown in at the end. This is “aggregation” in the “Hey, that’s a cool blog that fills a gap in our current offerings. Wanna write for us?” sense and that’s much more sustainable and a much better way to embrace and be recognized by the community. ChicagoNow could conceivably bring in all sorts of stuff and all of it would fit.

The site is now out of beta which is why this is on my mind. Good luck to everyone involved here.