The b5media Masterplan
It was good to see Duncan Riley back at the Blog Herald, if only as the guest on Matt Craven's podcast, which has become something of a "must-hear" item lately. Naturally, the main topic of conversation was the recent VC funding and what b5 intends to spend it on. What emerged was very much in line with what we expected. Essentially, the drive will be on pro-ing up every aspect of the enterprise, converting a small "family" firm into a real, meat-red business. The emphasis is on bringing in expertise across areas unrepresented in the starting lineup. In terms of the product itself, though, it seemed a little hazy. Maybe Duncan was being cagey and not letting on, or there are some decisions which await agreement with the new corporate johnnies joining the board. The nub was that they'd get through Christmas, concentrating on boiler room stuff, like project management systems and new designs, especially a fresh front page for the b5 blog, which will serve as a portal to the network. All very sensible stuff. What I was waiting to hear, though, was whether they would separate the operator (b5media) from the product (the network) by bringing in a new name for their distributed publication : the 150 blogs. In my view that needs a strong identity, a brand, if you'd prefer. You can't call any publication, even an online one, "b5media". The Weblogs Inc model is not going to work here because they haven't got an Engadget. I was also looking for something on how the network will be developed as a publishing product. Is it just another dreary old blog network? Will young kids be asking their mothers : "Mommy, what's a b5media?" They need a strong ID for their product, because apart from Problogger.net which covers areas they are leaving behind, there is no single dominating entity that holds the whole together at the public coal-face. I suppose what I'm saying is that they need to appoint someone to lick the product into shape. And by "product" I mean the publication and its content, not the back-end stuff. The tech and business sides are well served in the new setup. They also have Mark Evans onboard, a journalist, but also with a strong technology bent. If I were them I would bring in a top-flight editor from the world of print magazines. Not another of the tech-squad, but someone experienced in general serial publishing of mainstream magazines. There are many out there, and I'm sure they could find one of those brilliant New York types who would spend one day a week for them at a price they could afford. If they go for the best, the jigsaw will be complete, and I might well want to invest some of my own dosh in their inevitable IPO.
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