“Set It and Forget It” Doesn’t Apply to Comments

Fred Wilson discusses the effort behind good user comments and conversations: But if the author of the news story, or opinion piece, or blog post, tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the…

Fred Wilson discusses the effort behind good user comments and conversations:

But if the author of the news story, or opinion piece, or blog post, tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the loudmouth bullies, and generally runs the comment threads like a serious discussion group, a serious discussion will result.

It’s an issue for the news industry because tending to comment threads is not part of a journalist’s traditional job. But I would argue that it is now and they ought to get busy doing it. For one, the journalists that do it and do it well will be better read. And they’ll be better informed. They’ll get tips in the comment threads. They’ll get constructive criticism that will help them do their job better. And they’ll get leads on new stories before others will.

I’ll add this: The tipping point for comments is when users stop talking to the author of a piece and start conversing intelligently with each other. Reaching this commenting utopia requires an inclusive mindset from the original author/writer/poster. You have to value discourse, not just top-down pontification.

The Wall Street Journal is Not a Newspaper

Rupert Murdoch continues to bang the drum for pay walls: “Quality journalism is not cheap,” Mr Murdoch said, noting that the success of The Wall Street Journal’s online subscription offering has convinced him that consumers will pay for news online…

Rupert Murdoch continues to bang the drum for pay walls:

“Quality journalism is not cheap,” Mr Murdoch said, noting that the success of The Wall Street Journal’s online subscription offering has convinced him that consumers will pay for news online that differentiates itself from the mass of information available free on the web. “A newspaper that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting.”

There’s a fine distinction within this excerpt: The Wall Street Journal is not a newspaper. It’s a provider of targeted information that its audience uses to guide financial decisions. The value proposition is driven by the actions and outcomes the information facilitates. General news rarely offers this type of value, which means the commonalities between the WSJ and newspapers are limited to bits, print, ink and distribution.

That’s not to say the WSJ doesn’t provide a lesson for general news publishers. The key is to provide tangible, actionable value for the audience via content. That’s what WSJ subscribers are buying (or configuring …)

Piracy Is About Choice, Not Free

Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek just landed a future customer (me) with this comment in the New York Times: “Piracy is essentially the consumer’s wish to have everything on demand. It’s not like people want to necessarily have it for free,”…

Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek just landed a future customer (me) with this comment in the New York Times:

“Piracy is essentially the consumer’s wish to have everything on demand. It’s not like people want to necessarily have it for free,” Mr. Ek said. The problem is that there have not been commercial services “that allowed people to discover new music and easily share music with friends,” he said.

Well put.

Content Creators vs. Content Aggregators: Can’t We All Get Along?

ReadWriteWeb looks at the increasing popularity of Breaking News Online, a news aggregator that’s harnessing the power of Twitter and other Web platforms (and it just happens to be run by a 19-year-old). Within the piece, ReadWriteWeb hits on the…

ReadWriteWeb looks at the increasing popularity of Breaking News Online, a news aggregator that’s harnessing the power of Twitter and other Web platforms (and it just happens to be run by a 19-year-old). Within the piece, ReadWriteWeb hits on the central issue of aggregators: can they use original content created by other outlets to turn popularity into profit?

All of this is fascinating, but isn’t BNO still just an aggregator? In traditional media outlets “aggregator” is a dirty word (unless they are the ones doing the aggregation). In fact, Breaking News Online does very little original reporting. The company is going to monetize its research flow, editorial judgment, distribution channels…and links to other peoples’ content. If BNO is successful, there is a real risk of original content publishers objecting to the fact that someone else has found a way to make money off of (links sending traffic to) their content.

This aggregator antagonism needs to end. Like it or not, content creators ultimately benefit from the increased exposure and traffic aggregators supply. Creators are generally lousy at Web distribution because they can’t shake the allure of lock in (you need to read my content on my site), but aggregators — unencumbered by oldthink — know the value of broad and diffuse distribution. Compare Breaking News Online’s Twitter presence with that of most mainstream outlets and you can see the stark difference: BNO understands you have to serve the audience through the platforms where it’s already congregating. Repurposing RSS feeds as tweets isn’t enough.

What kills me about all this content creator chest pounding is that these organizations are missing the central point: As long as aggregators point traffic back to source sites, both sides benefit in this relationship.

Amazon’s Kindle Kill Switch Now Fully Operational

Update, 7/17, 9:36PM: Ars Technica gets to the bottom of the Orwell deletions. The ebooks weren’t legitimate and Amazon’s system automatically deleted the copies, which is even more unsettling than a manual kill command. According to Ars, Amazon is changing…

Update, 7/17, 9:36PM: Ars Technica gets to the bottom of the Orwell deletions. The ebooks weren’t legitimate and Amazon’s system automatically deleted the copies, which is even more unsettling than a manual kill command. According to Ars, Amazon is changing the system to prevent future auto-deletion.


We already knew Amazon could reach into Kindles and disable text-to-speech functionality, but now comes word that Amazon invoked the kill switch on copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm” (irony unintended, but appreciated):

… apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Remote wipes / kill switches are fine if they’re controlled by the consumer (e.g. MobileMe’s remote iPhone wipe is an excellent feature), but this manufacturer overlord business is foolishness. If I buy a product — digital or otherwise — you do not have the right to dispatch your deletion ninjas on my file on my device.