Fact Checking in the Internet World

Photo credit: Adam Crowe

Like many other industries, journalism has undergone a vast paradigm shift in the last decade. Like advertising, the music and film industries, marketing, public relations and virtually all other professional fields, journalism has had to adjust to a new “immediacy” brought about by the Internet.

Now, by all reports, most people get their news from online sources and, while “online sources” are often venerable traditional media sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post, more often than not, blogs have become major sources of breaking news, and exclusive reports.

In fact, it was Pakistani IT specialist Sohaib Athar, now more famously known by his Twitter handle @reallyvirtual, who unwittingly live-tweeted the Osama bin Laden raid while Libyan rebels send on the ground status updates where traditional journalists have limited or no access. (Andy Carvin of NPR, known as @acarvin on Twitter,  has become somewhat notorious for his months-long curation of such tweets out of Libya, Egypt, Yemen and other Middle East hotspots).

There is no denying that the social tools available today have changed the face of journalism. Yet, despite these boons, it troubles me that basic principles of journalism seem to be consistently ignored.

At the end of the day, the practice of journalism (as with any industry) will evolve (and always have) with the tools and technology of the day. However, though practices may change, principles should never change.

One such principle is fact-checking. No matter who you are, or what era you’re in, fact-checking is rule number one in journalism. Don’t report until you have three independent sources is a good rule of thumb that is often ignored.

Case in point. The Wall Street Journal‘s All things D[igital] posted an article the other day titled, “Confirmed: Twitter Plans to Announce Photo-sharing Service This Week“. By all accounts, and history bearing witness, All Things D has been a reliable source of technology news since it’s inception. Founded by media moguls Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, it later became part of the WSJ family and has maintained a high level of journalistic integrity and excellence for years.

But something troubles me about this article. With a headline like this, it seems strange that this paragraph would then be included in the article:

I am indeed aware that D9 is the conference put on by this very site, but was not able to get sources to confirm the image-hosting announcement on the record. Twitter spokespeople did not reply for a request for comment on the matter.

Of course, the news did in fact turn out to be a true story and Twitter did announce on their official blog that they would be partnering with Photobucket to offer an image hosting service.

Notwithstanding, everyone seems to agree that this play has been a foregone conclusion for a long time. And TechCrunch did write a story speculating on the service. But even in that news announcement, there was no real substance with Alexis Tsotsis concluding the article with:

I’ve got no details on what exactly the photosharing URL shortener will be if any (Twitter has owned Twimg.com for a long time) or what the Twitter for Photos product will look like. Just that it’s coming, soon. And if they’re smart they’ll put ads on it.

No sourcing. No fact checking. No confirmation.

While the need for speed is certainly required in today’s immediate, persistent news cycles, it bothers me that articles are being written claiming confirmation when no confirmation exists and that articles are being written from a speculative perspective (no issues there, just call it that!) and being held up as fact.

Though the Twitter news ended up being accurate, I plead with All Things D and all other internet publications to do yourselves and the public a service and stay the main tenets of journalism. Respect is at stake.

Convergence of technology, journalism and sports

Sheer erudition — and erudition of a very specific type — throws up large barriers to entry. Too often, newer, younger, and more casual sports fans “can sort of get to a certain point of enthusiasm before they hit the ‘stat wall’ where discussion of sports becomes pedantic and quantitative for no discernible reason other than as a social indicator of investment/knowlegeability,” says Grantland’s Katie Baker. “In particular, I constantly see women driven away from sports because they are fed it as a zero-sum game: either you know everything about everyone or you don’t.” [via Tim Carmody]

Making Decisions Inebriated

“But the ancient Macedonians used to make important decisions only when inebriated, the idea being that only when mentally lubricated are you free of the societal filters and self-doubt. Therefore you think and act as your true self. Therefore you are thinking and acting truthfully, and hence correctly.” [via Jason Cohen]

You Can Never Take My Freedom

You can take my life, but you can never take my freedom. ~Sir William Wallace, Braveheart


Photo by MarkyBon on Flickr

You cannot protect intellectual property in the Internet age.

At all. Don’t try.

The idea of increasing protections on the Internet to ensure that piracy, plagiarism and other forms of intellectual property theft is sexy to content producers who attempt to eschew the freedoms provided by the Internet in the 21st century.

Photographers don’t like to have their photos used without permission, often times. Legitimately so. But that doesn’t change the fact that photos are used without the permission of the photographer anyway. Regardless of protections currently in place or employed.

Writers don’t like their articles copied wholesale or scraped from the web an re-purposed or re-published elsewhere. Their writing is valuable and their ideas are their own. Why should someone else gain the benefit? But that doesn’t change the fact that words are commoditized things worth little and that the writers of those words are the silos for the intellect and the ideas. Therefore, artificial protections of articles as intellectual property does little in protecting that actual value… the writer. The writer who cannot be stolen.

Musicians get paid very little money, when signed to record deals, because the labels and distributors end up taking most of the money for “overhead”. So musicians balk at the idea of someone else dipping in and profiting in even the slightest way from their work. Except the artists who have recognized the nature of the 21st century have proved a model of profitability that end-rounds the tired oligopoly of the labels by going directly to the consumer. Try Radiohead, for instance, who in 2007 released In Rainbows directly on their website to consumers. 22,000 records were sold in the first week in the United States 1.

The Internet, for more than 20 years, has survived and thrived based on freedom that levels the playing field for the world.  Thomas Friedman has long been the champion of a flat world where all are socially, economically and technologically on a level playing field and, while his idea has merit, does not entirely pan out as the digital divide still exists with more of a concept of hills than the mountains that existed 20 years ago. Regardless, the Internet (and really technology as a whole, considering consumer electronic progresses) has indeed made it possible for accessibility in technology.

Take, for instance, the hobbyist photographer who can have access to high quality cameras and lenses for under $1000. Cameras that, today, will shoot HD video as well. Instead of requiring expensive film and dark rooms, the art of photography has been opened to the masses for a relatively inexpensive cost.

Musicians can save overhead on production simply by having access to moderately priced software for their Macs, instead of renting costly space at a studio.

Writers can be heard by millions of people worldwide, simply by having a blog. In fact, major media (early nemeses of the Internet-era technologies we use today), now embraces citizen journalism and related platforms like blogs and Twitter.

Photographers like Thomas Hawk recognize that their work will be “stolen” and have come to terms with that insisting that he won’t run away from the inevitable but will embrace it and leverage it.

Freedom can never be sacrificed for the sake of protection. To do so thrashes against the very currents that are already washing away these protectionist ideas.

Osama, Closure


Photo taken by theqspeaks
This post is therapy for me. Twitter and the media have already done a fine job of reporting and I am intentionally 12 hours late. There’s no new information I can provide, nor do I wish to.

Last night was important. It was important for the world, the United States and me.

I remember 9/11, as so many other people also do. It was one of those key moments in history where everyone remembers where they were when they got the news that an airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

For me, it was a day like many others. I was living in Maryland at the time. I lived out in the country about 30 miles west of Baltimore. It was a small place that my new wife, at the time, and I had moved into after we had gotten married. We both worked at a government facility doing mundane contract work in a data center.

I remember that 30 minute drive into work that day around 7:30am. The sky was blue. Not a cloud in the sky. There was a definitive autumn crisp in the air that reminded me that summer was over and winter was on its way. I could smell the clean air with the faint smell of oak and cornfields. It was a beautiful day.

When I got into work that morning, after making small talk with the guys I worked with, I remember going through my daily routine. After firing up my computer and ensuring there was no pressing emails to attend to, I took a ten minute walk to the other side of the compound to a little deli. I grabbed some coffee (cream and sugar), a pre-packaged muffin and and orange juice and I sauntered my way back to the data center I worked in, stopping briefly along the way to jaw with colleagues I ran into en route.

When I got back to my cubicle, my coworkers Mark and Marty were not around. I didn’t think much of it. They had their morning routines as well.

But then a minute or two passed and Mark came rushing over in a frenzy. He said something quickly about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC. I was confused. Must have been some errant propjob that got lost. I went to my computer and pulled up the Internet. Surely, CNN.com would have the story? Couldn’t reach it. MSNBC.com? Nope, can’t reach that either.

Is the Internet down? Nope, Amazon.com loaded fine. Hmmm. Well, let’s go next door to the command center, I suggested.

The command center was, as you might expect, a darkish room with televisions and monitors to allow contractors and employees to monitor every aspect of the mainframe system housed in the data center. They also had a consistent cable news feed so if there was news, it would be on there.

When Mark and I reached the command center, it was already overflowing with people who had also heard the news and had the same idea I had. By the time we arrived, only one plane had hit the towers. No one was really sure what the hell was happening, but no one was really thinking terrorism at the time. Just some unfortunate mishap in the worlds largest city.

Within minutes of being in the command center, I witnessed the second plane hit the towers. There was no mistaking this for anything less than a choreographed attack. Now people were pissed and you could sense it in the room.

Until the breaking news came in from CNN that the Pentagon had also been hit. The anger in the room immediately changed to fear. We were sitting in a government facility and “they” were attacking DC. Were all government facilities targets? What about schools? Are our kids safe?

People started rushing from the room, grabbing their jackets and belongings and fleeing the building. Many were not so much fleeing the building but going to immediately fetch their children from school. We had no idea what would happen next.

That day I wept like I never wept before. Hours of endless tears as the horrors were played over and over on television. Eight days later, I would be in New York City, another place I once called home. I would get as close as 4 blocks from Ground Zero and still smell the burning ammonia, debris and flesh. I remember it vividly right now as I describe it and my stomach is turning.

This is what Osama bin Laden did to me.

We were all affected in different ways. Many people were not immediately affected, but their lives would radically change in the 10 years that would follow as loved ones went off to war to fight an undefined enemy with an undefined location. Some of those loved ones, sadly, never returned.

Some people lost friends and family in the Towers, or the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania that day. They will never return. The finger print of a murderer who cost us much more than just 3000 lives in 2001.

We all mourned in our own way. We were allowed to. We were encouraged to. We had to cope in different ways just because we are all different people.

This morning I awoke to a world without Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t change the past. I mourned again last night as I relived that September day 10 years ago. I watched crowds spontaneously amass in Lafayette Park in Washington, and in New York at Ground Zero and Times Square. I watched Twitter people question the mode in which other Americans celebrated. I watched people frown at beach balls being tossed. At least in one place, the celebration was encouraged.

This is closure.

We all mourned in our own ways on September 11, 2001 and that was expected. We all now have an opportunity for closure and that process cannot be dictated. People are wounded and scarred. This news is a reminder of that day 10 years ago and, like me, many are now re-living it. However one gets the necessary closure at this time, let it be done and get out of peoples way.

Product is King. Content is Not.

Photo by The Rocketeer on Flickr
Remember the bad old days of blog networks. Like when I was at b5media championing the idea of content as the great savior of the Internet, the bellwether of future journalism, the dawn of an era of online advertising as the dominant (and only) truly valuable means of creating revenue online?

Yeah… so about that.

I was wrong.

I was wrong about the idea of wide adoption of online advertising as a primary revenue source for the long tail. I was wrong about content not being a commodity. I was wrong to think that successful online startups could have successful advertising models. I was just wrong.

As recently as this week, AOL laid off it’s “freelance writer” staff as part of the recent Huffington Post acquisition and subsequent roll-up of AOL properties.

All you people thinking you can make money online using the standard advertising/content model… well, think again. You’re not.

Advertising is a commodity. Commodities, by definition, are resources that flood the marketplace, diluting the individual value of each resource. Advertising online is dominated by “remnant” advertising, which is cheap commodity advertising that costs the buyer little to purchase in bulk (think Adsense) and results in little payout to the publisher. There’s very little real money in commodity advertising. The real players are getting paid on direct sales advertising targeting big sites with high payouts (Think Apple taking out prominent advertising space on the New York Times for tens of thousands of dollars).

Content is a commodity. There are millions of bloggers. Millions of publishers. Hell, just this week, I migrated a site to WP Engine that had 11k+ sports blogs. Content is a commodity and, by definition, not valuable.

But if you want to keep thinking it’s valuable, go for it. You keep writing blog posts and giving yourself some sense of value. While you’re at it, take a look at the sky and convince yourself it’s actually orange.

Content companies are not likely to generate enough value in today’s economy. Certainly not for any kind of acquisition or exit.

I was wrong. I’m man enough to admit it.

In today’s internet economy, the real value and, in my opinion, the only viable model for successful online business is in product. Products. Real, tangible products. An iPhone app. A digital goods marketplace. A software product. A social network, perhaps. Something that has measurable customer acquisition and a real exchange of monetary value. You know, like the good old days where I pay you for something that I can, with certainty, validate receipt. I give you $30, you give me a text editor application for my Mac. I pay you $15/mo, I get an online invoicing service. I pay $0.99 and get a car locator app for my phone.

Content commoditization strategy says, I do something for you, Mr. Advertiser (put some code on my site), and you may pay me something if anything productive (click, action, impression) comes from it and, oh yeah, there’s no real measurements or guarantees for said exchange. Keep churning out content and page views will pay me.

No. That’s not how it works anymore. Why do you think Netflix built their model on a pay-for-service concept instead of intro/outro/in-video advertising? Why do you think Amazon continues to diversify their product offering with no real advertisement and certainly no content? Need a server? You can have 10 for cheap. Need music? We’ve got that covered at a competitive rate and now you can play it from anywhere. Need toilet paper? We’re partnered with retailers across the country to provide any essential product you might need and you can even have it shipped free if you pay for this other service we call Prime

See? It’s product… not content. Content is becoming significantly less valuable.

Time to pivot.

The WordPress Bible

The WordPress Bible is the guide you need for all levels of skill and expertise in WordPress. If you’re just beginning, I give you tricks and tips on how to make use of the WordPress administrative interface, how to install and configure plugins, themes and widgets.

If you’re a theme developer, I give you insight into the variety of template tags, theme hooks and best practices for building a theme that will wow your readers.

For plugin developers, the many APIs and classes that WordPress has to offer are at your fingertips.

The most popular open source Content Management System on the internet!

As of late 2014, WordPress powers over 20% of the internet. Put another way, one out of every five websites you visit on the internet is likely built using WordPress in one way or another. As of this update, WordPress 4.1 1 has been downloaded over 14.1 million times.

There’s a reason why this book was written for you. Don’t get left behind.

(And if you catch me out and about and own the book, I’ll gladly sign it for you!)

Purchase it today!

Notes:

  1. The WordPress Bible was last revised for WordPress 3.1, but almost everything in it still applies

Venture Capital Irony, Bubbles and Booms


Photo by epsos

Late in 2008, after the rest of the economy crashed and burned due to the housing crisis, the tech sector seemed to be fairly resilient. Maybe it’s the nature of the industry… less money at stake, generally, in tech VC deals than other industries. For instance, Biotech.

That all went out the window when Valley-based VC behemoth, Sequoia Capital, gathered a now-infamous meeting of all its portfolio companies and gave them what can only be described as a “the sky is falling” lecture.

In that lecture (that presentation is shown below), they advised their companies to buckle their seatbelts, lay off employees, and get rid of non-essential expenditures. They said it would be a dangerous ride ahead and that only the companies that had enough forward-thinking prowess to survive, would do so.

The presentation opened with an ominous title slide with the words: “RIP Good Times”. The presentation instructed CEOs to look for M&A deals as quickly as possible, raise new cash now (i.e. late 2008) if they were looking to raise a new round, and have at least a year of cash in the bank.

Pretty ballsy move that, frankly, spelled the beginning of the tech sector decline. If Sequoia was instructing their companies in this way, then something must be severe, thought many other VCs who followed suit with their respective companies.

In some ways, Sequoia was correct. It would be a long road to recovery. In other sectors of the economy, the recovery is ongoing or is just beginning.

The tech sector is not that way, however. In the past year, we’ve seen huge investments in 2010. Twitter raised $200M+ on a $3.7B valuation. Zynga, the social gaming company, raised $147M on an estimated $5B valuation. Tumblr raised $30M.

The bubble has been gaining full steam. And then there was yesterday.

Yesterday, you might ask? Yes… yesterday. Yesterday it was announced that Sequoia Capital led a $41M Series A round (Yes, you heard that right… Series A!) for new mobile social photo sharing company, Color.

I’ll let you read about what Color is because, though it’s a bright, shiny object that is interesting in some ways, it’s not, to me, a $41M play.

Sequoia seems to be taking the approach that many smart VCs these days, including Mark Suster from GRP Partners, said last week when describing investment strategy relating to teams and not products.

Whatever you’re working on now, the half-life of innovation is so rapid now that your product will soon be out-of-date. Your existence is irrelevant unless you continue rapid innovation. Your ability to keep up is dependent on having a great team of differing skills. Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do.

And while I fully agree with Mark, I do have to question Sequoia making a $41M play less than three years after they virtually single-handedly drove the nail into the coffin of the tech sector. To me, it seems Sequoia made an opportunistic opportunity to drive the market rates down on valuations, to eventually make a big play like this at lower valuations (Disclaimer: I don’t actually know the terms of the Color deal). With a lower valuation, they can throw more cash and own the lion share of the available stock ownership. You know… waiting for a slam dunk, as it were. Mission Accomplished!

However, it’s notable that the Color team is truly a notable team. The former Chief Scientist at LinkedIn. The guy who sold Lala to Apple in 2009. Five other notable experienced entrepreneurs and successful startup people.

I’m sure Sequoia knows what it’s doing. It’s certainly interesting to watch investors defend them. There’s just very practical questions about how the company that started the tech recession could come out guns blazing on this one.

SXSW Protips


This will be my fifth SXSW interactive. It’s also, notably, the first SXSW that I am an Austinite. Since SXSW starts next week, the usual flood of tweets asking for advice or emails asking me to provide tips or asking me to be their guide began. It started earlier this year (back in January) than in years past. I’m chalking that up to the fact that I’m also living in Austin and am expected to “know the ropes”.

Trust me. I do. On Austin and on SXSW.

I’ve got a rant going up on Get Off My Lawn next week. But this post is not a rant. This post is about trying to be helpful to the many attendees coming here without having to commit to coaching each of you. This is my coaching. :-)

There are 18,000 Attendees this Year

That’s right. 18k. That’s more than every other year of interactive and is now the largest of the three SXSW festivals, eclipsing music for the first time and dwarfing film. You can’t meet everyone. Don’t try.

Attendees will be everywhere. They will be at the convention center. At the bar getting a beer during the day. In the Hilton Lobby, a place WP Engine Advisor Ben Metcalfe (@dotBen) posits the following observation:

Sitting in Hilton lobby bar during SxSW is like sitting a safe distance away from the car stuck on the level crossing with the train comingless than a minute ago via YoruFukurou

My point is… people are everywhere. Don’t be in a rush to be someplace. Ever. You’ll miss out on an opportunity.

The Right Place, The Right Time

Continuing that thought, if you’re scheduling your day out, you’re doing it wrong. As my friend Jeremy Wright (@jeremywright) puts it:

@duanebrown most of southby is knowing your options, and then making a choice on the fly.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Use your Plancast, Google Calendar, or whatever. Use these tools. Give yourself options. You may have some things that are required items and are non-negotiable (i.e. you’re throwing a party… it’s your party. You better be there). Other times, you just need scaffolding to give you options. Then you make your decisions in real-time. If you plan everything out and try to stick to that plan, you will miss out on opportunities and people.

Anecdotally, because I was in the right place at the right time, I’ve met NBA Dallas Mavericks owner and serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban, former Twitter CEO Evan Williams, Fark.com creator and Chief Looney Officer Drew Curtis just by being at the right place at the right time.

If you rush, you’ll hate SXSW and you’ll miss opportunities.

Hydrate!

I cannot emphasize this practical tip enough. In Austin in early March, you’re going to have warm days (the long-range forecast at this time shows mid-70s most of the time) and cool nights. (We’re also good for a monsoon-like storm at least once… it happens every year). You’re going to be drinking a lot at night. You’re going to be walking a lot during the day. With a bag on your back. Hydrate. And take a 5 hour energy* before you start going to town on booze… you’ll thank me in the morning.

Strategic Locations for Some Random Product that May be Launched on Mar 11

Apple Store – Barton Creek Mall
2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy
Austin, TX 78746 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 15 mins

Apple Store – The Domain
11410 Century Oaks Terrace
Austin, TX 78758 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 25 mins

AT&T Store
1011 W. 5th St
Austin, TX 78703 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 5 mins

Verizon Wireless
9600 S IH-35
Austin, TX 78748 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 20 mins

You know… just in case.

Food

Go to @peachedtortilla, my favorite food truck in town, and say hi to Eric and Lou. Get some Banh Mi tacos or pork belly sliders. I think they plan to be around Congress and 6th 5th and Colorado but follow them for more details.

Also, on the Saturday of SXSW (Mar 12), Franklin BBQ is opening up a short walk away from the downtown center at 11th just east of I-35. Franklins is somewhat legendary in Austin because of their original restaurant farther north.

Grab the chicken fried steak and a Mexican Martini for lunch at Cedar Door 3 blocks away from the convention center at 2nd and Brazos (behind the Hampton Inn).

Enjoy some Absinthe-based drinks at Peche on W. 4th St in the Warehouse District. It’s a mere 6 blocks and worth it. Don’t ask for vodka. No, really…

Finally

Don’t be a douche. We welcome visitors and want you to enjoy this fine city. Leave it the way you found it. Remember, you are a guest and we have long memories. Tip your bartenders well. Did you hear me… WELL. If it’s an open bar, assume no one is tipping them. Carry some cash for the occasion. Bartenders do remember bad patrons just like patrons remember bad bartenders.

You’re not entitled to anything. Don’t jump party lines or use “Do you know who I am?” lines. No one gives a shit and you look like a prick. Treat people respectfully… Most of you do. Some of you don’t.

And that’s it. Any veterans have some protips to share as well?

* 5 Hour energy tip given by D’Ann Faught :-p

AOL, 2006 Called and Wants Its Content Commoditization Strategy Back…

Photo by jdlasica on Flickr
It was a Monday like any other Monday. After a weekend of too much drinking, low-key football-centric Sunday celebrations (Go Packers!) and an early night to bed, I woke up this morning in the way I normally do on a Monday: Cursing ye gods of Mondays past, and hoping the day would not turn into the inevitable case of the Mondays that they all do.

Wearily, I reached for my laptop to find out what the Monday morning tech news buzz was and my eyes flew open in surprise: AOL had acquired the Huffington Post for $315M in a hybrid cash and stock transaction. This only a few months after TechCrunch had been acquired, also by AOL, for an undisclosed amount.

It was a deja vu kind of moment this morning as I saw the stereotypical business model of the mid-2000s flash before my eyes. In those days, everyone thought they could make money purely on advertising and content. Crank out the content, get more eyeballs, get more ad dollars, PROFIT!

The problem was (and still is!) is that the more content that is produced, the less valuable it becomes. It’s really very simple economics. More importantly, the advertising world has two buckets… maybe three if you put Adsense by itself in the lowest bracket. You have direct-buy, expensive, high-return type ads. These are most often purchased by big companies with big advertising budgets like Apple, Cisco, etc.

The second type of advertising (putting aside alphabet soup forms like CPA, CPM, CPC, etc) is generically called “remnant advertising”. Remnant ads make up the vast majority of internet advertising. It’s cheap to buy in bulk (and in a less targeted way), doesn’t usually pay a lot and, in general, is a good way to do commodity advertising.

This is what we did at b5media. I’ve not spoken much about my time at b5media because, frankly, it disgusts me where they’ve come. We actually had a good product going and things went awry. I won’t place blame. But what I will say is… we built that company on commodity advertising, commodity content, and had a tough time growing the company. I left with over 350 blogs in a dozen “channels”, each channel being a grouping of 20-30 blogs around a topic like sports or entertainment.

It was easier to try to do ad sales for a group of blogs on a topic, than it was to do targeted, lucrative advertising.

The problem with the b5media model, along with the Weblogs Inc model that sold (ironically also to AOL), the Gawker model, the Glam model, and now the AOL model, is that the content quality sucks. When I pick up a magazine or newspaper, I would not liken most media to The Atlantic or The New Yorker, both of which are highly intelligent publications that put out content that is exceptionally tuned and academic. The quality of the content is orders of magnitude higher than most newspapers or magazines (obviously including this blog).

Those publications are rare and can get private money from subscriptions, etc. The advertising route is the cheap route, and the route that business models go when they aren’t good enough to charge for access (a more reliable revenue source).

For the record, commodity business don’t normally pay their writers anything comparable to what their “colleagues” at uncommoditized media organizations get paid. That’s because, their work is not valuable unless it is in bulk.

Going back to the $25M Weblogs Inc acquisition in 2005, AOL has gone down this road of commodity content before. They even killed off a bunch of the WIN properties keeping only the ones that were truly valuable – like Engadget. They are taking a different approach and buying individual high-productivity sites now – which is better – but then their strategy is one that involves combining these sites, at least on a content integration level, into a mass-produced, commoditized content machine.

So is it really different?