The occasionally irascible but always entertaining billionaire sports-team owner and media gadfly Mark Cuban (hey, that would look good on a business card, wouldn’t it?) has a great post today about blogs and the traditional media. His first point: “A blog is media.” Simple, and yet many people miss that one completely, or go around talking about “the blogosphere” as though it’s a single giant entity, which drives many (including Jeff Jarvis) crazy. Say it with me, everyone: the blogosphere is “made of people,” just like the stuff in that great old campy horror movie Soylent Green.

In his post, Mark notes that:

“In traditional media, you are first defined by your medium. There is some constraint to the physical or digital definition of the medium the content is delivered on or by, that for the most part determines how you are perceived. There is a cost vs time vs interest vs access series of constraints that determines who your audience is, how you reach them and what they expect of you.”

In other words, newspaper comes to the door in the morning and is read (or not) at the table or on the bus, radio happens now and then in cars or during dinner, TV is on in the morning and after dinner but rarely during the day, and so on. Newspapers have to print stuff on rolled-out sections of dead trees and then load it onto trucks, radio has to beam stuff from tower to tower, TV has to pay anchors obscene sums of money for hairspray and plastic surgery, etc. etc.

The other big point, however, as Mark puts it, is:

“In a nutshell, blogging is personal. Which is really where the paths of blogging and traditonal media diverge. Traditional media has become almost exclusively corporate while blogging remains almost exclusively personal… Sure, there are bloggers that want to make money from their blogs [but] they are the infinitesimal minority. 99pct of blogs are about what someone has to say. 99 pct of traditional media is about making money.”

In typical Cuban-esque fashion, I think that hits the traditional metal fastening device right on the head. Blogs are personal, traditional media is corporate. Are there columnists and stories and people within the regular media who achieve some personal connection to readers or listeners? Of course there are — all the way from Howard Stern to your favourite columnist at the local paper. But it’s harder. Blogs make that a whole lot easier, and therein lies their power.

One interesting subtext to all this, of course, is that the personal power of his blog has gotten Mark Cuban into trouble before — including just yesterday.

Update: Jeff Jarvis has taken issue with some of what Mark said in a post at Buzzmachine, and Mark has responded in the comments. And Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has an interesting take on Mark’s post, about the differences between “vocational” and “avocational” media. Interestingly enough, Mark has also followed up his post with another one on what newspapers do better than the Internet.

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Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

8 Responses to “Mark Cuban makes a great point”
  1. that big media cannot break free of the shackles of its medium. Many or most won’t try, that’s true, but there’s nothing to say that a newspaper reporter must stay trapped by paper.” On a side note, Mathew Ingram, who also agrees with Cuban’s post,points out

  2. Bleh. “Blogs *good*, MSM *bad* – “Blogs *people*, MSM *corporate*”.
    How is this not at heart as repetitive as my simply saying “Bah, humbug”? It’s the hoariest blog triumphalism.
    ALL media is “made of people”, in the sense that it’s people communicating with one another. But the A-lister is no more a real person than the newspaper columnist. And sure, you can write stuff, but if you actually want to get HEARD, it’s a very different story.
    How many people hear him ranting, as opposed to hear me? Do you think that he has an enormous pile of money, and I don’t, might have something to do with it? Just a little?
    (someone will immediately straw-man this, to say that money is not the only factor – but it sure *iS* a factor!)

  3. Obviously, money is a factor Seth — and I don’t think anyone, least of all me, would pretend that Mark Cuban would get just as much attention if he weren’t a rich sports-team owner. But I think part of what his blog unique is that it isn’t the kind of blog you would expect from a CEO or rich sports-team owner — and in that sense he proves his own point, which is that blogs are a more direct conduit between a person who writes and their readers. Newspaper owners and TV networks don’t tend to let people speak their mind in that way, or at least not often.

  4. Ah, but what is his point, when examined critically? It’s rather uninspiring for a multimillionaire to be proclaiming how great it is that he can run a PR apparatus so much more cheaply these days. What is elided in the phrasing about “person who writes and their readers”, is that there’s still a conduit between readers and writers, in his case that conduit is the huge attention he has, by virtue of his wealth and ownership of attention-generating asserts. Those are major factors in *getting* him readers.

    So he likes ranting instead of being a grey flannet suit. So what? Thus his wealth and connections get him an audience – that’s not a triumph of blogs, it’s triumph of wealth and connections.

    The fallacy arises because of a false comparison between what it would entail if he had to use someone else’s attention-network (a lot), versus what it costs him for incremental use *once he has gotten his own comparable attention-resources* (which represent an astonishing amount of bubble money).

  5. That’s a fair point as far as Mark Cuban is concerned, but then I already awarded you that point. But I think his argument holds for others as well, not just himself.

  6. Yes, I understood both “already awarded” and asserted “hold for others” point – my underlying point is contesting the latter, his argument does not generalize. Rather, generalizing his success is another way of stating cliched blog triumphalism. He’s got’s power because he’s got power, and blogging gives very little unless one already has a lot (with some extremely rare exceptions).

  7. I disagree (but then you probably figured that out already). I think his argument does generalize, because I don’t see him arguing that anyone with a blog can somehow become as widely read or “powerful” — whatever that means — as he is. I see him as saying that blogs simply are more personal than traditional media, and therefore readers (however many there are) can form a more personal connection to a blogger than a member of the traditional media. And I think that is true.

  8. It’s linked. He can AFFORD to be personal, in many senses. You’re missing the aspect “Personal blogs don’t get read by almost anyone else unless the person writing them has something comparable to the attention aspects of traditional media”, hence the misleading comparison.

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