Friday, June 29, 2007

Widget windfall

It was almost exactly one month ago when I posted something to this blog about Facebook's decision to open its API to any developer who wanted to build a widget for the site. I said then that Facebook's decision "is going to prompt a shift in the world of online content -- similar to the shifts that came with the rise of content aggregation and search. Once again the way that early adopters find, consume and share content is going to change. More importantly, an entire new class of entrepreneurs will emerge to build content companies on top of Facebook's API."

Now Google has thrown its support behind the widget phenomenon. Google has created a venture fund that will offer financial support to developers who build widgets for Google's Gadget API. (Thanks to Matthew for pointing me to the news.)

So if it wasn't clear before, it should be clear now -- something significant is happening.
And if I haven't been clear before, let me say it again -- B2B journalism isn't ready.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Taking a second look at ...

It's been a long time since I wrote about Second Life. Heck, it's been an even longer time since I visited Second Life.
But a reader of this blog sent me a link to a video that:
a) had me laughing out loud like a crazy man, and
b) had me missing the virtual world something terrible.
If you've been to Second Life, then you too will get a kick out of the video.
If you've never been there, I don't think the video will make much sense to you.
Take a look.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Selling your reputation

I don't accept ads on this blog. There are lots of reasons for that, but the core one is this: I don't want readers to worry about bias. When I say that I like a particular magazine or Web site, I don't want anyone to think that I was paid to say so.
I view this blog as a service, not as a business. I write about things that interest me in the world of B2B journalism. And I try to offer insights, guidance and suggestions to my peers in this profession.

But it would be misleading for me to describe myself solely as a journalist. I'm also an entrepreneur. I run a consulting business. And this blog is most certainly a promotional tool for that business. In the world of B2B, I'm best known as Paul Conley, the blogger, not as Paul Conley who used to be Midwest Bureau Chief at the Journal of Commerce, or as that Conley guy, who used to be a v.p. at Primedia Business.

Nonetheless, on this blog I strive to keep a church/state wall between my business interests and my journalism passions. That's why posts on this blog often contain disclosures about my business relationships with companies such as IDG, Primedia/Prism/Penton, N.Y. Times Digital/About, SmartBrief, Cygnus, etc.

But every once in awhile, someone offers me a chance to "monetize" my blog through ads or pay-per-post or some other such scheme. And I've never had a hard time saying "no."

But in recent weeks, some of the bigger names in the blogging world have apparently succumbed to temptation. They took money to write positive things about an advertiser. And they failed to disclose the relationship.

Much of the blogging world is abuzz over the controversy. And as is often true when controversy moves through the blogosphere, Rex Hammock is the guy I'm most likely to agree with.
But I will add just one small point to the arguments over what is, and is not, permitted online.
As I said earlier, I am both an entrepreneur and a journalist. And it is in my role as a journalist that I can find all the guidance I need as I navigate the ethics debates.

Here's what ASBPE's ethics guidelines say about writing about advertisers: "Favorable editorial coverage or preferential treatment in an article must never hinge on the prospect of ad sales, financial gain, or other factors that are not related to editorial integrity." Here's what ABM says on the subject: "Advertisers and potential advertisers must never receive favorable editorial treatment because of their economic value to the publication."

For me -- and for all of us in B2B journalism -- the rules are clear. Whether we work in print, or online or both, we must behave as journalists. Or, as I have said more times than I can remember, the rules haven't changed online, and you shouldn't let them.

(Note: Longtime readers of this blog may remember the first time someone offered to pay me for my work here. Take a look at how I responded.)

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The best and the bankrupt

Allow me to offer my congratulations to the finalists in ASBPE's Magazine of the Year and Website of the Year competitions.
ASBPE announced the final cut earlier this week. There are 20 magazines (in two circulation categories) left in the running. While 10 Web sites still have a shot at the grand prize.
The full list of finalists is available on ASBPE's Web site.

It's worth noting that one of the Web finalists is eWeek, the same publication that outraged me when I found it was a finalist earlier this year in ABM's Neal Award. ABM later showed the good sense not to give the award to someone who violated the ethics rules of our profession.
eWeek also later came to its senses .
But I would still hate to see a publication that demonstrated such disregard for our standards be named the best B2B publication on the Web. So I'm hoping that ASBPE opts to snub eWeek as well.

Note: in the Jan. 29, 2007, post in which I first complained about eWeek's unethical practices, I also made note of the parent company's dismal financial situation and predicted that "regardless of how things turn out, it’s unlikely that Ziff Davis’ owners, private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners, will get back anything close to the $780 million they paid for the company in 1999."
Well today Ziff Davis announced it was selling its Enterprise Group, which includes eWeek, for $150 million. The company remains riddled with debt. So it now seems likely that bankruptcy court will be the next stop for Ziff Davis.

Click here to read min's coverage of the sale.
Click here to read Folio's coverage of the sale.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cygnus becomes a sinner

Whenever I think that B2B media has turned a corner and committed itself to the highest standards of journalism, something happens to remind me of why so many people look down their noses at trade publishers.
A reader of this blog sent an email to tell me that Cygnus, a former client of mine, has begun inserting ads in the editorial -- the exact same offensive practice that Ziff Davis and CMP recently abandoned.

If you want to see the ads, take a look at this article or this one.
If you have any doubts that this practice violates the ethics guidelines of our industry, please take a look at this earlier post in which I praise ASBPE for issuing a clear and definitive statement saying that such ads are inappropriate.

And if you have any doubts about where the bending of editorial rules can lead -- if you have any curiosity about what the bottom of the B2B ethics barrel looks like, then check out the Nuclear Power Journal, where news releases are run for a fee. Click on the media kit and read about "editorial participation."

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CMP goes Web first; closes three magazines

There's some tough news today in the world of B2B journalism. CMP is restructuring and laying off some 200 people. The move is predictable, and even wise. But it's still sad to think that so many of our comrades are out of work.

The move is prompted by CMP's realization that last year its non-print revenue surpassed its print revenue for the first time, Chief Executive Officer Steve Weitzner told Folio. And according to Weitzner, "that trend is continuing and the gap is actually growing. We want to realign internal resources around these growth areas and look at opportunities in the marketplace and really go after them."
Or, in other words, CMP is putting its online business at the fore.
According to BtoB Magazine, CMP is closing three print magazines and reducing the frequency of two others.

CMP's restructuring comes less than three months after IDG's InfoWorld announced that it was going Web-only. I said then that "no matter how we look at the changes in media, it's clear that part of what is happening must be described as loss ... but something is gained, too ... a trail to follow, and vindication for the trailblazers."

I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. So today, despite the losses at CMP, I also feel better about our industry as a whole.
Bit by bit, day by day, we are getting to where we need to be.

For more info, check out min's blog.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

More on widgets

My recent post about widgets, Facebook, the future and B2B journalism generated a few emails. And two readers pointed out that there are now at least two widgets in our industry.

First, if you're attending the Circulation Management show in New York this week, you can check out the debut of a widget from NXTBook. I'm afraid I don't have any details yet. But I'm eager to see it.

Second, Penton has a widget of its SearchFinace tool, built with Yahoo's widget technology. Take a look at the lower left-hand corner of for info on how to download it.

For more on widgets, take a look at the Sexy Widget blog. (It's worth noting that Sexy Widget's Lawrence Coburn is considerably less pleased by Facebook's recent move than I am.)

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

A win for the ethical folks

Folio magazine has an article in its June edition about my recent battle with Ziff Davis over that company's unethical use of IntelliTXT ads inside editorial copy. And if Folio is correct, then this fight is over. Michael Vizard, editorial director and senior vice president for Ziff Davis’s Enterprise Group, tells Folio that Ziff Davis has removed the ads.

And as I take a look through Ziff Davis' sites tonight, I can find no evidence of the offensive ads. And I'm just thrilled.

If you're not familiar with this issue, you should be. These ads have become a plague in our industry. So please read the Folio article. Or take a look at my post that stared this fight.

Also, I'd like to once again thank ASBPE for taking a forceful stance on this issue. The support of that organization has been crucial.
At the same time I feel obliged to voice my great disappointment in American Business Media and the American Society of Magazine Editors. It was exactly a month ago tomorrow that I asked the three major trade associations to clarify their ethics policies in regard to IntelliTXT ads. And while ASBPE responded rapidly, both ABM and ASME have remained silent.
That is shameful.

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