November 29, 2005

"The reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing."

The Christian Science Monitor has a big article on Pajamas Media:
Though Pajamas Media is bringing even more attention - and possibly a new revenue model - to blogging, the reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing. One site, pjmdeathpool.blogspot.com, is collecting guesses as to how many weeks or months Pajamas Media will last before it folds.

"If you say [something] is going to be great for months, and you announce it with a big gala bash, you're asking people to look at it," says Ann Althouse, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and a well-known blogger (althouse.blogspot. com). The nature of bloggers "is to mock and pick at things," she says, "that's sort of to be expected." But the Pajamas Media site hasn't helped itself, she says. It's been bland.

Mr. Simon urges patience and promises that the best is yet to come. "I don't think the site is going to seem the same to you in three weeks," he says. "We're learning. We are a work in progress. We are new media in the most extreme sense."

UPDATE: Daniel Solove responds to the article:
Pajamas Media seems like a corporate wrapping around the blogosphere. It has too much of a corporate structure and neglects one of the key elements of the blogosphere -- the unexpected way various blogs gain attention from the ground up. Blogging is a bottom-up grass-roots kind of practice, not a top-down enterprise.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. This is key. The great power -- the great beauty -- of blogging is the natural formation of connections among individuals. (Much more at the link. Go there.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View responds to the article. I like the way he makes his argument initially just by boldfacing some of the language in the article. He's got some laugh-out-links and a profoundly true link at "This is blogging." Hey, I was so there last February! MORE: here.

IN THE COMMENTS: I have cause to say: "I'm thinking of 'The Producers.'" And Jim makes a sublime wisecrack:
Best quote from the article: Simon wants The Entity's site "to be the place for breaking Internet opinion." And here we have the one objective that's actually been met, since they seem to be breaking it right and left.

21 comments:

Simon Kenton said...

The problem for them is that we've all been velocitized. Nobody can stand having their ancient computer whirring and clanking and taking long moments to paint a screen; or their constipated internet connection squeezing out electrons one by one. Same with internet sites: impatience. I went by PJM a couple times and there was nothing there, and nothing that gave promise that anything worth visiting, reading, or thinking about would ever be there. I will try one more time. That will be it.

In this (I guess - wouldn't want to have to put money up about it) I am probably indicating a little more smart than a Skinnerian pigeon, which will continue pecking at a 1:7 reinforcement ratio; and a little more dumb than a lab rat, which will be foreever dissuaded by 1 or 2 jolts.

Palladian said...

"Mr. Simon urges patience and promises that the best is yet to come. "I don't think the site is going to seem the same to you in three weeks," he says. "We're learning. We are a work in progress."

Pajamas Media is evolving, eh? Well, from the looks and performance of the site up to this point, we can be certain that this evolution isn't guided by Intelligent Design. That leaves only Darwin, and you know what he said about natural selection. The problem is that the internet's evolution moves at a pace Darwin couldn't imagine and before your site has gotten past slime mold, you've already been mushed underneath the feet of things that grew legs.

Dave said...

"velocitized"?

What's that mean? Sounds suspiciously Dilbert like, like one of those mission statements its mission statement generator spits out.

And what's "Skinnerian"? B F Skinner?

Not really sure what the first commenter is going on about.

jim said...

In the CSM article, the lede asks: "If a single thought-provoking weblog can find a large audience, might 70 or more linked together start a revolution?"

And all Simon seemed to say,
One and one and one is three
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Come together
right now
over me.

paulfrommpls said...

And again, it seems the function of pointing readers in interesting directions is already filled by a certain kind of also organic blog, with Instapundit the main example.

Massoud said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Finn Kristiansen said...

That article seemed pretty evenhanded.

Pooh said...

Must stop looking...can't stop looking...must stop looking...can't stop looking...

Pablo said...

Solove provides some wise counsel, as well as a clever, amusing dose of classic blogger self-aggrandizement.

He's absolutely right on virtually all points. While it's an excellent synopsis, I can't imagine that any of this is news to the PJ brain trust.

In short, the blogosphere has succeeded by working from the bottom up. It is experimental, inclusive, spontaneous, collaborative, creative.

And downright nasty. Just ask Mary Mapes. :)

erp said...

Lots of interesting question about PJM.

The most important question in my opinion is why did savvy venture capitalists give Simon and Johnson 3.5 million dollars when, as Simon recently confessed, they are still a work in progress a couple of weeks after the launch? If there is any kind of a business model, I wonder if even those on the Advisory/Editorial Board have been briefed about it?

That brings up another interesting question. There seems to be some confusion even as to the name of the board. The PJM official website says Advisory Board, yet in a comment at PJM Discussion Board, Glenn Reynolds references "PJ Media editors and editorial advisory board." Are these two different entities? There's quite a bit of difference whether the board is editorial, i.e., managing content, or advisory, i.e., managing non-content, organizational and financial matters.

Reynolds further said (see link above) in his comments, that his board met for the first time the day after the launch and he didn't seem to think it was any part of their duties to advise, or even be aware of, organizational matters and thus the board, whatever its name, washed its hands of the debacle surrounding the launch.

Another interesting question is what strings, if any, the VC attached to their funding? I believe Jeff G. when he said that nothing could make him change a word on his blog and probably other member bloggers would echo that sentiment. However, I believe there will be subtle pressures to conform to the PJM paradigm, whatever that may turn out to be.

The blogosphere seems to moving from the earlier emotional and humorous articles on the PJM to the more low key and thoughtful articles like those linked to on this post. What I'd like to see are articles that delve even deeper into how PJM went from a come-one-come-all call to bloggers to join a group advertising venture to a million dollar by-invitation-only enterprise that hasn't as yet defined itself or its goals.

Ann Althouse said...

erp: "I believe there will be subtle pressures to conform to the PJM paradigm."

Well, there is already obviously pressure not to criticize PJM and for PJM-ers to link within the PJM family. Some of the PJM-ers have very individualistic blogs that include some really nasty and un-advertiser friendly kind of speech. Yet PJM hopes to win over mainstream advertisers. The whole project seems to depend on taming people who were mainly interesting because they were untamed.

"What I'd like to see are articles that delve even deeper into how PJM went from a come-one-come-all call to bloggers to join a group advertising venture to a million dollar by-invitation-only enterprise that hasn't as yet defined itself or its goals."

Well, to bring people in they had to have a pitch. I have a feeling at least one insider was always about the money. My question is why so many good people didn't see the problem. I suppose the dollar amount they were quoted was attractive enough, and they wanted to believe this thing would work.

MJ said...

My question is why so many good people didn't see the problem.

Who wants to think about problems when your being offered big money? Bet they wish they had now.

What I'd like to see are articles that delve even deeper into how PJM went from a come-one-come-all call to bloggers to join a group advertising venture to a million dollar by-invitation-only enterprise that hasn't as yet defined itself or its goals.

See above.

XWL said...

This wouldn't be the first time that VC money was spent on a highly speculative enterprise. The sum is massive to bloggers, but a small chunk of change if this thing takes off. Think of how much of google or eBay you'd own and what it'd be worth now if you threw 3.5M their way very early on. That explains the thinking of the VC folks, 'we don't understand this blog phenom, maybe the bloggers themselves do, and money can't hurt so let's get in on the ground floor'.

Now from the bloggers of PJM perspective money maybe has distorted their views of themselves and the import of the project they are undertaking.

The reasoning along the lines of, 'If they gave us the money, we must have something good going here'. Rather than getting money after proving the concept. They have money in hand and only vague ideas (or so it seems from the outside).

It's all speculation on my part, but there's time to rethink, reformulate and correct course, or the founders can take the money and run and light their cigars with Benjamins, either way it's their choice.

(we just get a front row seat at all the shennanigans)

Ann Althouse said...

I'm thinking of "The Producers" now.

jim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jim said...

Best quote from the article: Simon wants The Entity's site "to be the place for breaking Internet opinion." And here we have the one objective that's actually been met, since they seem to be breaking it right and left.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why non-PJM bloggers would want to assist and feed The Entity. PJM's site is legally protected from free and easy citation: they can quote you with attribution and without hassle, but you have to ask permission from their Sales Office(!) to use material from them for purposes other than for personal, single copies.

Also, no matter what they say, PJM bloggers are going to link to each other more than to you, and the links and leads you give them (voluntarily or they read and cite your blog) will serve to enhance PJM and enrich the principals. Looks very much like Roger is counting on more facetime in the mainstream as the face of newstream, but does he rep you, especially when you're not one of his chosen "elite" 70 in his part of the sphere? Simon and PJM need lesser bloggers to hold out hope they eventually will be asked to join The Entity and so will link and knock themselves out to curry favor with it.

PJM is an imposed corporate stratification of the sphere that is drawing a line between "elites" and "peasants" as decided by a few self-appointed bloggers, probably based on hits and ad money potential, and we've already seen how one Peasant has been woefully shafted. Where's the trust, people? The corporate Entity is also managing to divide the sphere into opposing camps of its own dreamer/joiner/company men versus a loose confederation of business and blog savvy independents. Too, seems very likely that PJM will spawn other corporate ventures to harness new media (soon to become old), and bloggers will stop sharing news and views when there are competing profit motives. No doubt PJM's answer to this possible ruination of the sphere would be to insist they be the lead or only corporate entity to speak for all of us.

BTW, just want to mention that Dennis the Peasant's father-in-law just passed away, so people might want to drop by and give their condolences.

jim said...

Left out the Peasant's link: try this.

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: You are so right, and you make me want to identify the speaker I quoted saying as saying "Nothing we are doing is evil." He meant to talk me down if not reassure me. But I heard it the way most people hear Nixon's "I'm not a crook."

jim said...

Sadly, that's funny, Ann!

Did you see that some PJM ads are out now? Am waiting for this one ad/exhortation, though:

Are you a PJM wannabe? A supporter? A blogger who's not mean and jealous, just needy? Are you one to know your "elite" betters, and are you honest enough to admit it? Then please know we're going to allow you, yes you!, to endlessly link to our corporate portal, to send us readers and hits, and to provide us with news leads and opinion angles we can use and exploit for our corporate good name, ad revenues and profit.

Above all, please help Roger get on television by sending his company's site a really great news or Internet opinion story that we can "break". You could be just the blogger to bolster Rog and PJM's cred and quarterly earnings! In return, here's what we'll do for you: after you give us your best info and writing and manage to build up your site with sufficient readership and commercial potential, we might consider you for membership to our corporate club.

But nothing's for sure, so don't count on being invited to join- we have "editorial" considerations and personal likes and dislikes, you know- and certainly don't be in a hurry. PJM principals' man-purses need filling, and coins come by off the backs of bloggers we're not obliged to pay each month are extra nice. (Don't even ask how we structure the pay rate for our members- our "honest and transparent" approach to news and views reporting doesn't mean we can't have our corporate secrets, byzantine biz and non-disclosure clauses, you amateurs.)

Remember, all you little PJM hopefuls and true-believers of The Revolution, Inc. need to keep doing the selfless bloggy thing and get cracking, clicking, linking, writing, opining and no whining about us, understand? You know you want to give it away for free to benefit our corporation and the almighty Blogosphere. It's the right thing to do.

Internet Ronin said...

Jim's 11:27 a.m. comment pretty well sums up my thoughts about all this. One change in my habits I did not anticipate is my second-guessing of any links provided by Instapundit, which I visit often. Until now, if he mentioned something interesting, I almost always clicked through without first checking where the link was going. I've noticed that I now tend to mouse over the link, and if it directs to "osm.org," I skip it. I really did not anticipate that reaction on my part.

Ann Althouse said...

Ronin: Yes, this is a big problem with forming a group. It creates a conflict of interest and undermines credibility. Even if the blogger doesn't change his behavior, we don't want to be chumps. It's especially a problem with those links where you don't know where you're going until you click. If I clicked to the Pajamas site itself, I'd feel had. But even if it's just another Pajamas affiliate, it feels off. Of course, the whole Pajamas project is based on building traffic within the syndicate.