Standard at the New Standard: The Game of News

Diehards have tried to revive The Industry Standard, the original dot-com tome that went bust in 2001, more than once over the years. But even their most recent efforts have been met with, at best, muted enthusiasm. More evidence of a bubble, the New York Times declared of the latest revival; can the market bear one more tech pub? PaidContent asked. No one’s ever really thought a rerun of the house-party-throwing-new-economy-cheerleader was a good idea. (Wait a second…)

But this time the Standard holdouts and their patrons at IDG are onto something with The Standard deux (which comes out of beta today) — it’s just that this time what they’re onto isn’t really news, but gaming.

Matt McAlister is one of the editorial old guard still involved. Derek Butcher, who briefed us, is the techie-GM now running the show from IDG. (IDG held a majority stake in the first Standard, bought its assets out of bankruptcy for $1 million, and now owns the new version outright).

Sure the new Standard will have news, but this time it’s not being churned out by an expensive staff holed up in expensive downtown digs. This time, Butcher says proudly, they’re doing editorial on-the-cheap: “standard” news stories (appearing in the left column in the screen shot below) will be mostly non-exclusive content collected from IDG’s own news service (they have hundreds of reporters), from freelancers, or from syndication deals with third-party bloggers — one such deal is with VentureBeat.screenshot_homepage.jpg

More “differentiating stuff,” Butcher says, will come in the form of analysis from folks like VCs Fred Wilson and Guy Kawasaki, or contributors from and The Economist (which doesn’t sound so cheap).

“There were so many different voices out there, a lot of them are really great, so we decided on a roll-up, a one-stop resource of what people are saying,” Butcher says. (Techmeme already does a great job at this.)

But the unique thing on the new Standard — and the main reason anyone will choose to add it to their frenzied RSS feeds — is “Featured predictions.” This is where readers get to, as Butcher puts it, “place bets on whether news events will happen — like if Apple will sell 10 million iPhones.” (Not such interesting odds there, but we get the point.)

Registered readers can suggest a prediction (editors vet the prognosticators prior to publication) or use virtual Standard coin to place their bets on the outcomes. Pay-out is 100 (in virtual dollars, of course; this is a cheap operation), but if you’re any good at predicting things, like whether Yahoo or not will get a white knight, your virtual net worth will ramp.


Good betters can exchange their winnings for prizes like a Slingbox, free ad space on the site, or stuff that’s harder to come by: passes to the keynote at Macworld, for example, or dinner with a prominent editorial contributor — even a briefing with IDG Ventures (a very valuable pay-out, if you’re a startup founder.)

But the big beneficiary of making a game out of the news this way will be the Standard: Butcher has an IDC researcher whose sole job is to pull data from the “predictive activity” and correlate it to Standard reader demographics. Butcher will then turn around, package the data, and sell it into the IT channel. As he explained:

“What if our data shows that CTOs are all ‘betting long’ on Apple selling 10 million iPhones by December, and at the same time ‘betting short’ on RIMM or Palm gaining share? There are [people] in the IT, financial and media sectors who’d like to know.”

And marketers who will pay the Standard and IDG big bucks to tell them, first. Most of what Standard Duex does is just retread. But the betting stuff is genuinely fun. It’s also a creative — albeit cheeky — way to push the relaunch above the fray, to where readers already overwhelmed by content will not only notice, but hopefully, get hooked.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, there will be parties again — eventually, according to Butcher. “But this time around,” he noted, “we want make sure we’re economically responsible.”