Ever go to a content mall? Well, there sure are a lot of them being built. It’s where the VC’s are seeing some potential cash, at least in part because that’s what Jason Calacanis did when he built Weblogs Inc. and sold that to AOL for somewhere around $25 million. Get 100 or so niche bloggers (I’m focusing on videobloggers and podcasters) together, lash them together with links, hire a sales team to sell advertising, and build value through a good community, both inside and outside the firewall.
First, a disclaimer. I’m a content mall builder. But, when you are doing something you should stop and appreciate the great work your competitors are doing, right?
So, who else is building content malls?
Let’s start with Leo Laporte. He is kicking a** and taking no prisoners. I’m listening to this Inside the Net show right now. Oh, OK, I must admit I’m a Laportean at heart (I helped run his chat room back when he was on KGO AM radio back in the mid 90s before he joined TechTV). Leo already has nine “stores” in his content mall. Including Paul Thurrott on Windows and Denise Howlett on Law. Great stuff and a HIGHLY engaged audience. When I was on TWiT dozens of people called or emailed me, that’s the only time that’s ever happened when I’ve been on someone’s show (even being on the BBC didn’t bring that kind of reaction).
Now, let’s head over to PodShow. Adam Curry’s network. Patrick loves Dawn and Drew. But they have tons of great shows including Geek Brief TV, Gillmor Gang, and are actively hiring more content producers. They have $23 million in venture, so are actively spending it trying to build bigger audiences so their salespeople will have more inventory to sell.
B5 Media. Jeremy Wright’s network. More than 100 bloggers. Doing a great job. Lots of bloggers I respect. Key features of their network? They are paying people to blog and also have built a private community that rocks and rolls (they have a gold medal swimmer, a few scientists, and some of the best bloggers out there). They just picked up some venture capital from Rick Segal and Co.
Federated Media Publishing. This is John Battelle’s company — which is so busy he’s turning down new bloggers — and is a bit different in that he’s not trying to get exclusive employees like some of the other malls, but partners with A list bloggers like Boing Boing, Tech Crunch, and 85 others and sells ads for them on a CPM basis. Some of the bloggers I’ve talked to are very happy. They are getting up to $16 CPM (dollars per thousand page views) out of which FM takes 40%. All content malls take a percentage, it’s just I know FM’s, not sure what the others take.
Gawker Media. This is Nick Denton’s content mall. I don’t know much about Nick, although I know they produce Valleywag and Gizmodo, two popular blogs that I read a lot.
ZDNet Blogs. Dan Farber has signed up a great group of tech bloggers for ZDNet. As I understand it, they get paid for each post they make and also have incentives for traffic and comment posts.
Other up and comers in the content mall business?
Om Malik, with his GigaOm network. Mike Arrington with the growing “TechCrunch.”
Revision3, which produces Diggnation, which has hundreds of thousands of viewers a show.
Do these content malls matter? Not to most users. But they do link to each other more often, which helps, and they can group together enough audience to sell to advertisers and sponsors (you and I can’t walk into the ad buying group at a car company, but many of these content malls can).
So, how does PodTech compete? That’s for the market to decide, but by the end of next year we’ll be judged a few different ways against these competitors:
1) Audiences. (Which comes from serving niches well — Calacanis had gadget blogs, auto blogs, parenting blogs, etc etc).
2) Revenues. (Revenues follow audiences for the most part, but some audiences are more monetizeable than others — the business guy in me would rather have a blog focused on real estate than world peace, for instance, because more advertisers are willing to pay more money for real estate-focused audiences).
3) Brand quality. (If you ask 1,000 participants in these content malls what they think of each, the answer demonstrates brand quality, also what bloggers and other influentials say based on blog searches).
4) Engagement. Ze Frank, for instance, has signed up tens of thousands of people for his ORG (which is a club of other ZeFrank viewers). That demonstrates engagement. Also, how many people follow a link to other sites. Does economic or adoption activity happen for sponsors/advertisers or just by getting mentioned?
So far PodTech has had pretty good success in hiring interesting people and in building the Vloggies, which got TONS of respect and response from the blog and videoblog world (Leo Laporte mentioned it tonight, for instance).
The next six months are going to be very important ones. We’re signing up TONS of new content partners. It’ll be interesting to see if we can finish up the technology-focused part of our content mall and get some key stores in other areas like movies, sports, lifestyle, built up.
Either way, the content mall expansion projects are underway at all these companies. What do you think and who is most likely to get the advertising and sponsorship revenues and respect of the community?
Who else has a content mall under development? (I’m talking about new companies, not older ones like Yahoo or Washington Post, etc).
And, yes, we’re looking for great “stores” to join our “mall.” My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
If you’re a blogger/podcaster/videocaster, are you thinking of joining a content mall? If so, how are you going to decide between all of us?
UPDATE: I totally forgot the most excellent GearLive Media (headed by Andru Edwards) and the Podcast Network (headed by Cameron Reilly).