Gather Them Eyeballs!

Jason is not going to like it, the eyeballs are back and with a vengeance. And they are being chased by VC money.

With advertising dollars flying to the Internet, it is no surprise to see so many sites pop-up to simply cash in on the ad-sense bonanza. And to package these in the “death to the media” message is the new black! Latest one to say that is none other than Jim Manzi, co-founder ex-CEO of Lotus, who has teamed up with several others to pump $6 million into a New England start-up called Gather. This on top of $1 million in seed funding from Minnesota Public Radio.

”No longer must I accept much of my content from what I have called the Literary Industrial Complex, that group of concentrated media organizations with their small elites and self-reinforcing arbiters delivering my news and information ‘top-down,’ ” Manzi wrote, casting Gather as a democratic alternative to the mainstream press.

Manzi, who should be remembered for creating selling software that was so cumbersome that it makes Microsoft Outlook a paragon of consumer friendliness, is now an expert on Media, and how it needs to be reinvented. Oh please! Now if he really believed that, I bet you, the first story on the company would not have appeared in Boston Globe, but instead in the open media. Never mind the nagging details.

So what kind of revolution is Gather going to unleash?

They will pay bloggers/contributors money to write, and if the story is popular, then the contributors will make a lot of money. Just the sort of thing that Jason and Nick did two years ago, without venture capital funding. And did it quite well. Jason lets loose on his blog. There are others who are attempting this same model, Squidoo, Backfence, PersonalBee etc etc etc.

Mathew Ingram says it well when he writes, “Will any of these startups find success, or will they all? It’s a bit of a crapshoot at the moment. Fun to watch, but nerve-wracking to work in, I imagine.” My other Canadian friend Mark Evans takes an even tougher stance. “ epitomizes what I increasingly see as a troubling Web 2.0 trend in which VCs jump on start-ups amid the fear of missing out on the action,” he writes.

(I do like the fact that these folks are trying to pay their contributors, but my issue is that paying the contributors is addressing the wrong side of the equation.) What is the problem with a models like that of Gather? They are looking at the world of media from the wrong side of the prism.

Citizen reporters mean eliminate the cost of creating content, and a bottom up revolution. Absolutely no problem with that, because that’s how we get new voices like David Zatz. Still, this notion of content creators as a cost center, is absolutely bogus. (See the paycheck of a beat reporter, and you realize, that cannot be the problem!) Most media companies, especially the local dailies are suffering because they have an inefficient infrastructure.

Paper expensive, storage cheap. Printing press expensive, bandwidth cheap. Craigslist takes their classified business because its easier, and cheaper. The news paper classified ad departments are how should I put it mildly … lazy. The legacy costs of doing the business are at core of the problem facing media right now.

You want to see a true model of the new-new media, then look at PaidContent. Two reporters, two laptops and a whole lot of money. Staci and Rafat, like true reporters, dig dig dig, and scoop, scoop and scoop. (Sorry Jeff, scoop is the honey that gets the flies!)

From the archives: Dawn of The Micro Pubs.