News flash: There’s no free lunch

Today’s award for the most obvious statement about a Web-related issue has to go to the New York Times, which wrote an entire story about how getting “users” to generate advertising actually — audible gasp! — takes work, in the sense that someone has to weed through all the crap in order to produce anything useful. Does this really come as a surprise to anyone?

snipshot_e41cavpxmu70.jpgAs a commenter said on Ryan Sholin’s blog, this definitely falls under the heading of “Free Lunch — isn’t one, etc.” If any of the advertisers quoted in the New York Times story were told by a “Web 2.0” advisor that they could somehow outsource ad production to “the crowd” and wind up with something just as good as what they produce in-house, then they should sue. But I suspect they weren’t told that. They may have wished that was true, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride, as my mother used to say (actually, she still says that). Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 has more on the subject.

As a number of people (including commenters on Scott’s post) have pointed out, however, whether an ad is technically or even creatively as slick and well-crafted as a Madison Avenue spot isn’t the only factor that needs to be considered. In some cases, a quirky, user-created ad like the one Global Nerdy likes, or like the Diet Coke and Mentos video, might actually work better. And getting people to “engage” with the brand may be even more important than the actual technical brilliance of the ad.

Let’s put it this way: there are plenty of ads that are slick and well-produced and no doubt cost millions, and do absolutely nothing for me whatsoever, just as there are Hollywood blockbusters with stars up the wazoo and giant budgets that barely even register. But a small, quirky, independent film can really touch you. As Heather Green notes over at the BusinessWeek blog, there has to be some kind of connection there or it won’t work.

Be careful what you wish for, iLike

server_fire.gifIt has to be pretty great to see your application become the new hot thing — with everyone wanting to sign up all at once — and to be able to piggy-back on the success of something as huge as Facebook’s new F8 platform in order to get there. And hopefully that feeling of joy and well-being will sustain the crew at iLike through the next couple of days, as they watch all their servers explode into flames from the heat of 50,000 new users all wanting to log in at the same time. According to an email posted at Venturebeat, the company doubled the number of servers it had, then doubled them again, then again, and then again — and is still getting slammed.

Scott Karp wonders whether Facebook will become the arbiter of which Web 2.0 apps become successful (or which ones get hammered into the ground, in iLike’s case). Will all of those 180,000 signups translate into real traffic and/or revenue for iLike? That remains to be seen. Some people prefer an app like Last.fm, which doesn’t have a Facebook widget but has acquired one unofficially, thanks to the resourcefulness of Jeff Jarvis’s son.

And my friend Paul Kedrosky makes a typically insightful point about Facebook’s success — it isn’t that the apps are so good, but that Facebook brings them all together in one place, in the same way Microsoft Office does. That and the social glue that is created through Facebook are a powerful force.

CBS extends its content further

After announcing deals recently with everyone from AOL and Microsoft to CNet and Joost — and fresh from its acquisition of Howard Lindzon’s brain with the Wallstrip deal — CBS Interactive continues to roll out its distribution strategy. From MediaPost:

CBS Interactive said its month-old, ad-supported CBS Audience Network, previously known as the CBS Interactive Audience Network, has added 13 partners in the social- and community-network realms.

The agreements are designed to empower the embedding of clips from CBS shows into user profiles, Web sites, blogs, wikis, widgets and community pages.”

New partners include Matt Mullenweg’s WordPress, Clearspring (a widget creation network), Goowy Media, Ning, RockYou, Slide, VideoEgg and others. Smart strategy, I think. Jeff Jarvis has more — and he’s right that CBS probably means “embed” where it says “mash” on the widget.

Doc Searls is dead wrong on newspapers

I have a lot of respect for Doc Searls — he’s been at this whole blogging/social media thing a lot longer than I have, and he is a thoughtful and sincere guy. He also sent me a high-res copy of some of his sunset photos after I saw them on his blog, and for that I am grateful. But I still think his latest post about newspapers and what to do with them (which sprang from a recent WSJ opinion piece by Andy Kessler) is totally wrong.

snipshot_e41cuj0qpkuh.jpgOkay — maybe not totally wrong. I think he is right that some people will always want to hold a paper in their hands, just as some people want to hold books, or listen to radio plays. But the number of those people is dwindling. As I mentioned on my friend Kent Newsome’s blog, I think Doc would probably like to return to a happier time when newspapers ruled the world. So would I. But that’s not happening. And to say that newspapers should charge people for the news and give away their archives is — sorry Doc — one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Almost as dumb as the guy Jeff writes about here.

Would it be nice if we could go back to those days? Sure it would — but we can’t. I’m sure the record industry would like to keep overcharging people for CDs full of crap too. That ship has sailed. If you restrict access to your content some people will pay for it, but the vast majority will go away and never come back. That’s not much of a business model.

Update:

Doc has responded to some of his critics (including yours truly) in a post here, and admitted that I… er, we are right 🙂 Please read that and his comment below.

Smart thoughts on newspapers

From an opinion piece by Andy Kessler, one-time Wall Street hedge-fund manager and all-around smart guy:

In the meantime, rather than just charge for content, I’d be licensing every type of newfangled software and Web service until I could come up with a tight community of interest around my newspaper, local or national.

Don’t just start the discussion, keep it. This means comments, reviews, personalized newsfeeds, social networks of like-minded readers, whatever. Give advertisers a little “link love” so they don’t stray to generic search engines. Google, Microsoft and others dropped over $10 billion to buy online ad-delivery companies in the last few weeks alone.

The value is there: Newspapers aren’t in the printing business, they’re in the ad business.