It is this strange combination of the extremely human (ie ability to scale and maintain relationships with other people) and the extremely technical (ie ability to establish fully accountable performance based advertising networks) that exemplifies arbitrage today on the Internet.
I’ve been banging my head against a Radio Shack wall all day at the Gartner Symposium. Colleague David Berlind has been graciously walking me through his last 3 months of hell, as I try to get various mikes, mixers, my Mac, and my tablet to work together. On a parallel track, the world of attention is slowly but surely coming together. Today’s NY Times announcement seems bifurcated into two pieces–one smart, and one that will fragment the Times’ opinion brands.
The decision to offer the full electronic version for print subscribers makes all the sense in the world, but it will increase the pressure as RSS continues to scrape away the viability of the Lexus Nexus archive access in favor of a Bloglines-style aggregation point. Carving away the opinions from the free product will isolate the columnists, destroy their link cred and page rank, and create a facetious distinction between bloggers, podcasters, and commentators that will not be appreciated by an attention-fed audience.
Like my wiring diagram between tablet and powerbook, the mainstream/realtime media collision will sort itself out quickly. Evertime I read that people don’t understand RSS except in very small elite numbers, I smile in recognition of a new form of digital divide–between those who want to know and those who need to. Once you recognize the need to manage information more efficiently, the tools become obvious and, quickly, available. In terms of my podcast studio, I’m veering toward Skype and away from POTS, toward two-machine intercom and away from Tiger or XP stress tests, toward portability and away from "the studio."
I don’t agree with Dave Winer’s thesis that production value is a signal of divided loyalties, but I do subscribe to the notion that the highest form of production value is the truth (or humor, whichever works best.) As I hassle with connectors and the Times fumbles around in the blazing sunlight, the shape of the work ahead maintains its power to surprise and delight. More and more I see less and less distinction between entrenched and emerging media. If Rafat Ali and Om Malik can go full text within two weeks of Frank Rich being projected behind a pay wall, then my bet is that Frank will not tarry long outside of the conversation.
From my admittedly attention-filtered view, the pace of change has slowed just enough to allow the pace of consolidation to accelerate. The Newsgator/FeedDemon deal validates the folly of a proprietary synchronization spec (yes, Nick I know you’re paying attention but WTF). No matter how nice Greg’s walled garden is, I’ll stay with Rojo and Thunderbird until you guys support an attention-like (or lite) open sync exchange. And Chris Pirillo’s fab interview with Nick and Greg needs to be IN THE FEED.
Which reminds me: those who still fear ads in feeds, try this experiment–give us a full text feed with ads (or not, if the content is the ad) and maintain an abstract feed without. Then let the market choose. I know what I think will happen. And quickly too. All we are saying… is give feeds a chance.