Home' Technology Review : August 2005 Contents 36
D whom you
talk to, Web logs, or blogs,
inspire excitement, alarm,
or a yawn. They are the
personal diaries that now
litter the Web, composing a newish on-
line medium that is simplicity itself.
Most blogs consist of musings posted
to idiosyncratic and amateurish websites.
But while blogging is a favored mode of
expression for blowhards of every stripe,
it is also the basis for a new crop of edito-
rial products with high-quality content
and loyal readerships. Over the past sev-
eral years, blogs have become platforms
for political discourse, Hollywood gossip,
and insider information on subjects rang-
ing from the latest Apple operating system
to presidential-election results.
Several factors have contributed to the
emergence of blogs. First, they can be
started with very little, and very inexpen-
sive, editorial content yet are capable of
exerting extraordinary in uence. Blogging
software is inexpensive---or often free---and
easy to use. Low bandwidth requirements
and Web-hosting fees keep the ongoing in-
frastructure costs of maintaining a blog
very low. And new, easy-to-use advertising
services such as Google AdSense, which
frees content creators from having to deal
with actual advertisers, have breathed fresh
life into online media.
The accessibility and ease of use of
blogs have had a dual e ect, a simultane-
ous erosion and improvement of quality.
At the low end, blog-platform sites like
LiveJournal and Xanga provide an outlet
for hobbyists and diarists. More-serious
bloggers, however, have increasingly ap-
proached their sites as they would any
other sort of editorial platform, with regu-
lar publishing schedules and clear edi-
torial missions. These bloggers tend to
use more-sophisticated software than do
more-casual bloggers. One such tool is
Movable Type, made by San Francisco--
based Six Apart. Movable Type is custom-
izable and can help make a blogger s
postings look professional.
All these trends are leading a num-
ber of media entrepreneurs to wonder
whether blogs can generate meaningful
revenues or, for that matter, o er a legiti-
mate alternative to the business models of
existing media companies.
Two of those entrepreneurs are Brian
Alvey and Jason McCabe Calacanis. They
are the cofounders---Alvey is president
and Calacanis is chairman and CEO---of
Weblogs Inc., a network of 80 blogs. The
pair bootstrapped Weblogs with their
own funds, and barely 18 months after
the network s January 1, 2004, launch,
they were already earning revenues. But
it remains to be seen whether the busi-
ness model will deliver pro ts.
New Medium, Old Partners
This is not the rst time Calacanis and
Alvey have collaborated. They attended
the same Brooklyn high school and started
their rst venture, a magazine about on-
line ser vices called Cyber Surfer, in 1994.
Two years later they launched Silicon Al-
ley Reporter, a magazine that covered In-
ternet startups and ser ved as an East Coast
foil to the better-known California-based
tech tomes of the late 1990s, such as Red
Herring and the Industry Standard.
Silicon Alley Reporter prospered in the
days of pro igate advertising budgets,
and it launched additional businesses,
such as an events-planning division, e-
mail newsletters, a website, and a radio
show. Calacanis established himself as a
familiar pundit of the East Coast tech
boom. He served as CEO of the company,
while Alvey, who built TV Guide s web-
site in 1995 and was a member of the team
that built the rst BusinessWeek site later
that year, was chief technology o cer.
When the market crashed in 2000, and
other Internet-focused media companies
went out of business, Calacanis retooled
Silicon Alley Reporter to focus on venture
capital. In 2001, he changed the name to
Venture Reporter, ditched the advertising-
based business model, and increased the
price of the magazine, turning it into a
high-end business-information o ering.
Venture Reporter charged up to $1,000 for
research reports and from $1,000 to
$5,000 for access to a proprietary database
of information about venture capital in-
vestment and mergers-and-acquisitions
activity. The makeover narrowly rescued
the company from oblivion. After Venture
Reporter was acquired, rst by Wicks
Business Media and then by Dow Jones,
Alvey, and eventually Calacanis (who stuck
around until 2004), decided to move on.
In early 2003, Calacanis and Alvey be-
gan to discuss new business ideas in the
media sector. They d followed the blog-
ging exploits of two former Silicon Alley
Reporter employees: Xeni Jardin, who is a
contributor to the popular collaborative
blog Boing Boing, and Rafat Ali, who
publishes PaidContent.org, a blog about
THE CASE: Blogs are the soapboxes of the Internet era---
independent platforms for everything from personal
diatribes to political discourse to tech-gadget reviews.
But with their growing popularity, could blogs also
become media platforms capable of making money?
Two entrepreneurs are trying to find out.
EVAN KAFKA (CALACANIS)
Headquarters: New York, NY
Bloggers under Weblogs umbrella: 80
Total monthly page views generated by
Weblogs bloggers: 60 million
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