What are the tech bloggers missing? Your business!

I’ve been watching the tech bloggers quite closely for some time now. Here’s a database of more than 17,000 of my favorite posts, Tweets, and videos from them. But I’ve noticed a few things.

1. They are AWESOME at covering news. For instance, watch how TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Steve Gillmor, Louis Gray, Hutch Carpenter, and a variety of others ask questions at the friendfeed press conference (part I, part II, part III, part IV, part v).
2. They are pretty good at explaining how to use a particular technology. For instance, here’s Marshall Kirkpatrick explaining how to use Yahoo Pipes to build an RSS and news site for your project.
3. They are really good at aggregating attention. Louis Gray even noticed that TechCrunch is making sure its headlines work well on Twitter. Why? Because lots of people hang out on Twitter and click on links.

But what don’t the tech bloggers do well?

Bring home all these new shiny objects and explain why they matter to a mainstreet business.

Yes, there are a few that are trying, like this blog that focuses on social media and your business, but notice the difference between that one and, say, TechCrunch. The headlines are boring. The text is uninteresting. There aren’t very many videos or graphics. And very little engagement on comments.

Or, on the other side, are “pro” sites like About.com that also try, but notice how bad their layout is and how much color and advertising there is surrounding their content.

It’s to the point where I’m wondering if I’m missing something. Is anyone doing a good job of explaining how to bring a business into the modern age?

Last week I was talking with Graham Weston, chairman of Rackspace (I now work for Rackspace) and I asked him whether he knew of anyone looking out for regular everyday businesses. I showed him the Web site of KSCO, a small radio station in Santa Cruz, and noted that it sucked, but that it is emblematic of a whole raft of businesses. Most of whom really don’t get the Web and understand how their customers are using it.

Heck, just yards from Facebook’s main building on University Ave is a great restaurant, Junoon. Do you think they get the modern Web? Absolutely not.

They have tons of Facebook employees as clients. Do they have Facebook Connect built into their Website? No. Do they have any real people on their website? No. Do they have any real interactivity? No. Do they have a mobile client? No. Do they have a community, er, forum? No. Do they have Twitter integration? No. Do they have a way to get people into the restaurant during dead times? No. Did they have any SEO help so people can find them easier? No (their site is largely Flash).

Now, if the business right by the front door of Facebook isn’t getting it right, what are the chances that any of the other millions of businesses around the world are getting it right?

And why aren’t the tech bloggers helping them?

On the other hand, this shows the opportunity open to Twitter, friendfeed, Google, and Microsoft.

Facebook has NOT sewn up the business market yet. Heck, they haven’t even gotten the business right by their front door to use its Connect technology yet.

This market is wide open for anyone to snatch it away from Mark Zuckerberg.

Is anyone showing businesses like Junoon or KSCO why they should use social media and how to do it? I keep thinking I’m not following the right bloggers.

Who should I be following that’s helping out real businesses figure this stuff out?

Being creative after a layoff

I’m also now blogging about business stuff I’m seeing over on my Fast Company blog. Here’s one I did titled “You’ve Survived a Layoff at Work, How Do You Get Creative Again?”

A ton of ideas on how I’ve seen people get creative again after a layoff. On Sunday Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, admonished me and told me it’s very important to get back after a layoff and be optimistic again. Otherwise your work will suffer and people around you will see you as having less value.

He’s right, so I’ve been working on just that. Do you have any other ways you get optimistic after having a bad day at work?

JPG's dead. Why your advertising-funded business could be next…

JPG Magazine is dead. That’s a bummer because, as TechCrunch wrote this morning, it was a radical idea in publishing: one that used crowd-sourced data to serve the magazine’s readers.

There were a few problems here:

1. They never got a large enough following to make a business viable. That’s because book stores are going away and the ones that are left are not willing to increase the shelf space to magazines. Tim O’Reilly talked about this in the interview I did with him a couple weeks back for FastCompanyTV. To make it in media you’ve gotta be where there’s increasing shelf space. Today what’s increasing? Newspapers? Nope. Magazines? Nope. iPhone apps? Yes! Facebook apps? Yes!
2. Photography is a tough place to make money off of advertising. Look at Flickr itself. Why haven’t you seen many ads there? Because advertisers haven’t figured out how to sell stuff by putting their messages next to photography. If they can’t figure that out online there’s no way they’ll figure that out in a magazine.
3. The web overwhelmed the model. Flickr has a really cool page called “most interesting over past seven days.” Look at it. I’ll wait. Now, why would I wait eight weeks to get those same photos sent to me on paper? Hint: I’m not. If you can’t answer the question of why I would change my behavior from what already exists, your business will be in trouble.

But, there’s something deeper here. If you’re going to go after advertiser dollars, you’ve got to have a pitch for how they are going to sell more stuff. This is why Engadget is such a great advertising play. Everyone visits Engadget to look at gadgets. People who look at gadgets probably buy 300x more than people who don’t. Right now Microsoft is advertising on Engadget. Why? Because they know that the audience that both cares about, influences other people about, and buys gadgets is there. Now, go back to JPG. What kind of audience is there? One that likes old photos from Flickr? Can you see the advertising sales problem there?

Many companies are making the same mistakes that JPG did. Thinking they are in a hot space just because they are associating themselves with the power of the crowds, and social software, and all that hot hooey. Me too! This is why Arrington and Calacanis, when they tell me to get back to blogging thoughtfully instead of spending all my time over on Twitter and friendfeed, are right!

You’re advertising-funded business is next after JPG if you:

1. Rely just on the geeky audiences that read Techcrunch. Or me. (Which is why I spent time getting to know other networks the past year).
2. Don’t have a well defined audience that you can present to advertisers. Facebook, for instance, goes in saying “we can introduce you to very specific demographics. You want to reach every 22-year-old woman who skiis, is Republican, likes Daft Punk, lives in New York, and who posts at least one video a month? We can do that.” What could JPG present to its advertisers? “We have a bunch of people who care about photography.” Not nearly as effective a pitch.
3. Are not gathering transactional people. Why does Popular Photography (a magazine that’s been around for a long time) do so well? It gathers people who are transactionally-oriented. What do I mean by that? Walk by a magazine rack. Most of the best photography magazines do NOT display photography on their covers. What do they do? They have EQUIPMENT on their covers! Why do they do that? Because they really don’t care if you are into photography. They care about gathering people who are into buying equipment. Why? Because that’s who advertisers want to reach. So, are you gathering transactionally-oriented audiences? If you aren’t, you’ll be swimming up stream. This is why Flickr itself is a tough business.
4. Aren’t giving advertisers a good way to talk to customers. This is why, I believe, Flickr recently added video. Why? Photography just isn’t a very good way anymore to reach customers, especially in today’s real-time-web environment. What is? A place that has a mixture of video, text, photography, and interactivity. What does that look like? Well, it isn’t printed on paper anymore.
5. Aren’t getting “shelf space.” Or, distribution. You might be the best community in the world, best blogger, best videographer, or best social network, but if you can’t get people to see it, use it, try it, you’ll be toast. JPG just wasn’t able to get the shelf space necessary to attract the audiences it needed to attract advertisers. I never saw it on the news stand. So, now, if you are an iPhone app and you can’t break into the top apps, you better figure it out or you’ll be toast.

Here’s hoping that we all avoid the problems JPG is having. Good luck out there! If you’re an advertising focused business, how are you closing deals and getting revenues? Any good ideas? Love to hear them, leave a link to your blog here.

UPDATE: JPG should have called SmugMug’s CEO. He wants to help save the magazine. Funny, because SmugMug doesn’t live off of advertising revenues. They have hundreds of thousands of users who pay money to use SmugMug.

Guy Kawasaki says outrageous things about Twitter

Guy Kawasaki is a pretty influential guy and when he says “Twitter is a weapon,” in an interview I did with him my ears perk up.

But he got more outrageous from there. He took on TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington with a challenge. Guy would rather give up his cell phone for a week than give up Twitter for a week.

Oh, Guy said a few other fun things. Which is what you’d expect from the first technology evangelist (a role he held at Apple back in the early 1980s).

Not to mention that he started a cool social media directory, AllTop, and promptly put his own name at the top of the ego page. Oh, he’s not just outrageous about Twitter. In reality we were there to discuss his new book, Reality Check: the Irrreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.

“I’m so sold on Twitter.”(1 minute in)

“I think Twitter is, arguably, the most powerful branding mechanism since television.” (2 minutes in)

The essence of a good pitch (3 minutes in)

“I would sell to Toyota,” when I asked him what he’d do about GM (4 minutes in)

Twitter should be bailed out by the government (4:45 in)

“The thing that drives your competition crazy the most is when you are successfull and they are not.” (7 minutes in)

“Is your boss an asshole?” (10 minutes in). Leads to a fun discussion about Steve Jobs. Funny how that happens!

Why your company can’t be successful like Apple or Google just buy spending money on goodies (14 minutes in)

“For me, Twitter is more important than a cell phone.” (16 minutes in)

“Twitter is a weapon.” (17 minutes in)

Thanks Guy for inviting me over for a fun conversation. Now back to Twitter. Follow Guy @guykawasaki and follow me @scobleizer.

UPDATE: over on FastCompanyTV this video is getting more comments than any other in recent memory, which brings on this outrageous Scoble rule: get a famous Twitterer to say outrageous things about Twitter and you’ll get more comments on your blog.

Will paying the crowd be new business model?

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Dave Ingram, CEO of Brownbook.net, had a business problem: how can he build a world-wide business directory, but one with much more up to date info than any database that exists so far?

Well, he’s paying people who add data. He and co-founder Marc Lyne explains how it works in this video.

Already they are seeing 40% growth per month and tons of new businesses added all over the world. Can’t argue with that. I’ll be putting in my favorite Half Moon Bay businesses into Brownbook.net.

FastCompanyTV moves to China (for a visit)

No, we’re not outsourcing, next Wednesday we’ll be going to China for a sizeable trip to hear from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists there and get some tours around factories. I’m telling you this so we can arrange some fun dinners and other impromptu events. It’s Rocky’s first time there, and I haven’t been to China in 10 years, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences.

November 5. Travel day.
November 6. We arrive in Shanghai in early evening.
November 7. Going to Wuxi to see Seagate’s factory and possibly others there.
November 8. Travel back from Wuxi, we’d like to have a dinner in Shanghai — any ideas where we could do that? I remember having fun at the Peace Hotel, but looking for other ideas.
November 9. Meeting with VC’s and entrepreneurs in Shanghai.
November 10. Travel to Shenzhen.
November 11. In Shenzhen. Meet with Phil Baker and Liam Casey, “Mr. China.”
November 12. In Shenzhen. Anyone want to meet up? Let us know.
November 13. In Shenzhen. There’s a Blogger Dinner planned that evening that I’ll attend.
November 14. Travel to Guangzhou to join up with the also happening China 2.0 blogger tour.
November 15. In Guangzhou for the Chinese Bloggercon.
November 16. In Guangzhou for the Chinese Bloggercon.
November 17. Travel to Hong Kong. Any bloggers want to get together in Hong Kong? We’re looking for a fun dinner or something to do.
November 18. Travel home.

We’re also planning out some trips to factories and other things but will try to fit other things in. Hope to see you there!

Recession Proof Your Startup

Today on Techmeme there are a bunch of stories encouraging entrepreneurs to startup companies right now. Here’s a couple that caught my eye.

Paul Graham talks about why to start a startup up in a bad economy.

Don Dodge urges entrepreneurs to go for it.

OK, rah, rah, rah, we all know some startups will take off in the recession. Microsoft and Google both either got started in, or accelerated through downturns early in their lives.

But I think some of the advice I’ve been seeing out there it a little too optimistic.

Last night on Donny Deutsch’s show an entrepreneur called up and was crying. He had started a business that was selling promotional cookies and swag to corporations and his business has dried up. Clearly not EVERY startup will do well. Why? People change their behavior in recessions, but that behavior does NOT change equally. In this case companies had stopped buying non-essential items, which means that promotional items get cut first.

So, the question to me is “how do you recession proof your startup?”

That’s the conversation I’m hoping to see happen. Already VentureBeat is putting together an event to discuss how to manage through a downturn. I’m attending that and will bring any good idea I hear.

Some ideas I’ve already heard though:

1. Make sure your startup is aimed at a real pain point of other companies. I was speaking at Cisco a week ago and saw that lots of people really are struggling with email, for instance.
2. Have a startup who’s customers and users are recession proof. For instance, education is probably not going to cut back a lot, so if your customers are teachers and educational IT people, you’re probably a lot safer than if you sell to small businesses like restaurants like my brother has.
3. Have a business that helps people or companies save money. Both Dodge and Graham pointed this out. I’m starting to use services like Mint, for instance, which look at my behavior and try to find me ways to save.
4. Look for upturns due to change in behaviors. For instance, if you can’t afford to go on long trips anymore, you’re more likely to stay home. That might mean more people will work on home projects or try things like crafts or games. Make Magazine might be well positioned here.
5. Diversify your customer base. Are you only reaching customers in USA? What about going international? Often times, one country’s economy will do better than another, or might be more open to new approaches.
6. Have enough cash on hand to last at least a year without any revenues. Who told us to do that? Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
7. Look for new opportunities that happen because of the downturn. Banks might start paying money to maintain houses that have been foreclosed on, for instance.
8. Look for new distribution channels. TurnHere, for instance, told me about landing YellowPages.com and that’s meant that their business is taking off. If yours can land similar distribution deals that might really help you accelerate through the downturn.
9. Be innovative with marketing and advertising your startup. For instance, if you do a Google Search for “Recession Proof Business” and you’ll find an ad that says “start your own economy.” That took me to CircleDog, which is a customer relationship management software package. Hey, if the economy is falling apart, I want to start my own! Not to mention it caught my eye among the ads because it was different. Now, let’s say you’re going to CES or SXSW or the Web 2.0 Summit next week. How can you find new customers without spending much money?

How about you? What are you doing to recession-proof your business? Would love to see some ideas.