Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

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.

13 Responses to “The b5media Masterplan”

  1. I’m not sure why the “b5media” as a name won’t work for the product of 150+ blog or why we’d need to separate it out.

    Are kids asking their mommy what a “Google” is? No, they’re explaining to their mommies how to use it. What’s Syntagma really mean? It doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the content. The name, whatever it is, will become synonymous with the product.

  2. Yes, but Jason, Google isn’t a publication. The b5 network is. That’s what the tech people behind blog networks haven’t grasped yet. They are publishers and they need to observe the logic of that. The name doesn’t have to mean something, just be memorable and sound like a publication.

    The other questions are : is each blog a standalone publication? Or is the network the publication? Until you sort that out, you won’t get a handle on what it is you’re producing.

    At present Syntagma is the publication, but we’re going to spin off some of our streams into new and separate publicatons. That’s what b5 needs to crystallize or it will just be a jumble of blogs. In other words it needs a publisher and/or General Editor.

  3. A network of what, Aaron? A network of blogs? Well, blogs are online publications. But, in themselves they’re not strong enough to pull in the income you need with your new funded structure, and satisfy the VC exit strategy. Barring a couple of Engadgets, that is.

    You have to go mainstream or stagnate. Jeremy understands that very well. In which case, you’ll need to clarify what you are for the mainstream reader and advertiser. “A network” will not be enough.

  4. I don’t see the problem at all (and remember, I’m a non-techie, and a very newbie blogger too), I think most mainstream readers and advertisers on the internet know what blogs are by now!! It differs per country, but I think everyone is catching up fast!

    I’ve always seen it as a network of publications, and the publications in this case are blogs.

    Having media in the name is actually a good description, and it’s not to specific, so if they decide to head into different directions, it will still fit.
    If people then look further into the different publications, they will find the seperate blogs with their own names.

    I don’t see why anyone will need to ask about the name. Do people ask what BBC means, or Newscorp, or Fox Interactive Media etc etc? I think it will be good when b5media has a good central site/portal, but I don’t think their main aim will be driving the ‘mainstream’ readers to that(my guess).

    And how do you know they’re not strong enough to pull the income??

    What I also find interesting, is you seem to think b5media all have tech backgrounds? As far as I can tell, that’s not really the case with Darren, Duncan (sort of, but more writing and politics?) and Shai.
    And I think blogs are completely different to printed magazines.

  5. There are very good reasons for them to split the operating company, b5media (not a sexy name) from the product. It’s also good for them to examine the product and ascertain what it is. Once they’re clear about that, they can then start applying good brands to it. Whether the channels become the publications or the 150 blogs becomes a single publication, is not the problem.

    The problem is that if they’re not clear about what they’re offering, neither will the public.

  6. At the moment you’re the only one saying it’s not clear what they’re offering….

    If I can get really annoying for a moment, I would say that ‘network magazine’ would be confusing, to me. Are you a print magazine that also has blogs online…. are you a magazine about networking… are you a network about magazines (I see magazines as printed stuff)….. And you say blogs are seen as unprofessional (and I agree that their are many people out there that see blogs as personal diaries), but your header designs and ‘logos’ here to the right remind me more of personal blogs, myspace and geocities than any ‘problog’ or magazine!!

    And at this point I’d just like to make clear, I don’t have anything to do with b5media, haven’t even had contact with any of them (except the odd comment left), or Martin, ha ha! :D

    And I’m much more peed off about what some of those 9rules people are saying, so I should really go and comment on their blogs!

    Anyway, good luck with the seperating of your different streams, I think I can see the logic in that for you. :)
    And now, once again, it’s past 1am, and it’s time for bed!!

    p.s. (!) I have a feeling blogging in the UK might not be as popular/well known as in the US, or even Australia? Can’t bothered looking it up…

  7. Simone,

    We are the first in the new native, online, network magazine industry. Magazine is derived from the French word for “shop”, so applies to any commercial publication that aggregates different topics under one roof. But a magazine needs a good title/brand.

    I’m only trying to be helpful here, unlike some of the other snark-merchants and link baiters.

    They’re getting all this consultancy for free. I’m such a generous chap.

    PS I lived in Perth for two years, near The Harvester dry-bed swamp. Or was that the blogosphere? :-)

  8. b5media is a blog network – to call them anything is misleading, confusing, damages their brand, and confuses the hell out of everyone else.

    Matt

  9. Never heard of that place, most probably because it is Perth in the UK, and not Perth in Western Australia?

  10. No, it’s Perth, WA, in a place called Glendalough.

  11. Ha, what a small world it is…

    You must be talking about Herdsman Lake (which is half swamp, half lake). We actually lived in Mt Hawthorn for a year untill last year, which is on the other side of the freeway from Glendalough.
    Herdsman Lake is even on my blog…
    http://www.enjoyperth.net/2005/10/herdsman-lake-and-out-in-subi/
    Though it’s a post from another blog when it was still a ‘personal blog’.

  12. Matt: a few years ago, there was a guy somewhere in Wales who made short films on a shoestring. They were bought by around 1000 enthusiasts who liked that kind of thing.

    Then he made a much longer one which was highly praised. Out of the blue, he was offered national and international distribution and the chance of winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. His audience of 1000 or so went crazy and accused him of selling out. He refused the offer and has never been heard of since.

    Is b5media going to do that?

  13. Yes, of course, The Herdsman. Silly me. There was a good pub by the same name there too. How could I forget. Thanks for the link.

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