Category Archives: Blogging

So long . . .

Those of you who were becoming regular readers of Colorado Tech Times earlier this year may have noticed the sudden lapse in postings several months ago.

I realize it’s a bit belated, but I’d like to finally offer some explanation for my sudden vanishing act.

No, it wasn’t a case of Fat Tire overdose (see my last post, below).

In May, I accepted a job as senior writer for the Loomis Group, a San Francisco technology PR firm. Since then, I simply haven’t had the time to make further posts to this blog. And considering some other duties I’ve taken on since then, that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon.

Oddly enough, the blog continues to draw readers – as many as 50 a day. So even though I’m no longer posting additional material to this forum, I’ve decided to leave the site and its postings online as a reference for those seeking information about Colorado’s technology industry.

It was fun. I’d love to do it again sometime when time permits. But for now, you’ll have to look elsewhere for news on Colorado’s burgeoning tech sector. For starters, I’d suggest checking out some of the links along the right side of this page.

Best,

– Russ –

A modest milestone

Today Colorado Tech Times attracted its 1,000th viewer, and surged right on past that modest milestone.

Obviously that’s still a long, long way from catching up with the blogosphere’s leading sites, some of which reportedly attract millions of readers. But the growth thus far has been steady and encouraging, with readership now approaching 100 viewers per day.

That’s not so bad, I suppose, for something launched scarcely a month ago with zero capital expense, zero advertising and publicized only by a bit of email networking and word of mouth. Granted, there’s also been no income thus far, and it’s yet to be seen whether, or for how long, I’ll be able to continue doing daily blog stories on top of my paid freelance magazine work.

For now, I’d have to say the jury’s still out on Colorado Tech Times. Virtually all of the feedback has been positive to date, and I’m still having fun writing about an interesting, vital subject in such a new, unfiltered medium.

On the other hand, I hope to eventually get some sponsorship and be able to, as they say, “monetize” the project. So there’s much I still need to learn about the subject of making money in the blogosphere.

Wish me luck, and stay tuned for further developments.

– Russ Arensman –

Blog for dollars? Not that way . . .

Call me old-fashioned, but the practice of writing sponsored posts about various products and brands strikes me as just plain sleazy.

The Los Angeles Times’ Josh Friedman reports that thousands of bloggers are now writing sponsored posts touting such diverse topics as diamonds, digital cameras and drug clinics, and paid for by marketing middlemen such as PayPerPost Inc., ReviewMe, Loud Launch and SponsoredReviews.com.

The funny thing is how little at least some of them are being paid. Blogger Colleen Caldwell, for instance, admits to being paid all of $12 to build buzz about the opening of a Fox Faith film.

The marketing folks see no problems with any of this. Of course not. After all, what’s the difference between blog product placements and “placing” bottles of Heineken beer in the latest Matt Damon movie or Reese’s Pieces in ET? It’s all entertainment, right?

For what it’s worth, you’ll never see this blogger dropping names of sponsored products and brands on these pages. I’d rather get a real job first. The blogosphere’s got enough credibility problems without people selling their souls — cheaply.

(P.S. Advertisers, on the other hand, are most welcome to sponsor this site!)

Why blog?

 

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It may seem presumptuous to address that question barely a week after my first foray into the blogosphere. But the question seems pertinent this weekend as I read through the email comments I’ve received after launching this blog.

There’s been some kind words of praise: “insightful” and “impressive” says one new reader. “Cool” says another, who generously introduced me to FeedBurner’s (http://www.feedburner.com) Colorado technology and entrepreneurs blogger network. Others seem puzzled, but polite. And no one, thus far at least, has gone so far as to label this new venture what it ultimately may prove to be — a colossal waste of time.

Blogged out

The most thought-provoking comments to date come from my former Electronic Business magazine colleague Bill Roberts, a veteran business journalist who’s been around the block long enough to know a thing or two.

“Frankly I’m blogged out,” writes Bill. “There are too many blogs and too much blather. My fear is we as a culture are blogging on and on and not attending to the real problems we face. . . . I’m tired of blogs. Rome burns and we all blog…”

Hard to argue with that. Clearly there’s a shallowness and self-absorbed, self-referential quality about much of what passes for commentary and content in the world of blogs that’s downright irritating. Any medium that devotes this much attention to celebrities, pets, geeks, teen diaries and extreme political rants deserves to be treated with cautious skepticism.

A particular point of concern to those of us in journalism is how the opinions and “insights” of bloggers — most of whom conduct no original reporting or research — often are given equal weight to those of us who do this for a living, and often have spent years getting to know a particular subject.

Big, corporate-owned media certainly has its faults and biases, but the day it finally fires all the journalists and switches to the much cheaper option of bloggers writing about other bloggers is the day we’re all in very big trouble. (insert your own rant here about the First Amendment, the watchdog role of the Fourth Estate, the decline of modern civilization, etc.)

Corporate blogs

Yet it’s hard to ignore the sheer magnitude and momentum of this social media phenomenon. Blog search firm Technorati (http://www.technorati.com) is now following more than 70 million blogs, up from 50 million scarcely a year ago. And it’s no longer just teens and tech geeks that are blogging. These days even companies — running the gamut from IBM, Microsoft and HP to McDonald’s and General Motors — are posting blogs on a variety of topics.

And yes, you can apparently teach an old dog to blog. I recently came across a new blog (http://www.blogs.marriott.com)
from 74-year-old Bill Marriott, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Marriott International, who in recent weeks has begun to comment on topics ranging from recycling, immigration, education and the Mormon Church, to his company’s 80 years in the hospitality industry.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Marriott is doing the actual writing himself, but the ideas seem to be his own. For investors, customers and competitors, Marriott’s blog provides new insights into this $12 billion company that runs nearly 3,000 hotels worldwide. It also helps to put a human face on a unique corporate culture that otherwise might be obscured by the usual corporate posturing, positioning and blather.

If Bill Marriott isn’t afraid to stick his neck out into cyberspace, why should the rest of us be?

Why blog? (continued)

So, getting back to the original question: Why blog?

In part, the motivation is little different from that of a merchant who posts a sign next to a busy highway. The Internet is now the world’s biggest and busiest thoroughfare, one that crosses all borders and time zones. Any professional or business person who fails to establish a presence there is missing an obvious opportunity. After all, if you don’t let people know you’re out there, they’re not likely to beat a path to your door.

For a self-employed writer and editor like myself, there’s at least the faint hope that making myself more visible online may eventually generate additional freelance assignments, new contacts and interesting article ideas.

OK, the truth is, I’m still waiting for the financial benefits to roll in. I suspect the payoff, if any, could be many months away. But the new blog has already sparked some interesting contacts and helped renew some old acquaintances.

“Man, what a blast from the past! what have you been doing since the late 80s?” writes a business editor who used to publish my freelance articles when I was editor of a weekly newspaper covering Vail and Beaver Creek. “I realize I owe you a phone call,” writes another editor who’s been missing my calls in recent weeks.

Filling a niche

There’s also the rationale of filling a niche, scratching an unsatisfied itch, even accomplishing a sort of personal mission. You see, I could just as easily have started a blog about skiing, parenting, environmental issues or local and state politics, all of which interest me and consume significant amounts of my time.

But after following and writing about Colorado technology and the state’s emerging information economy for well over two decades, I’ve developed a personal attachment to, and interest in, its success. I’d like to see this industry continue to flourish and provide jobs and (hopefully) clean industry for my kids and future generations.

As I wrote in my opening post, “all too often this state and region gets precious little recognition and attention in an industry largely focused on Silicon Valley (and Asia).” That’s a shame, because there’s been some great stories, colorful personalities and important contributions that have come out of this state and region. And the story is far from over.

I’ve long believed there is ample editorial fodder here for a strong regional tech-business publication. But finding a way to pay for it is a far bigger challenge. Most national business and technology publications are struggling to survive since the post-millennial tech wreck. And that’s despite having vast resources and advertising sales organizations to rely upon.

A broken business model

The traditional advertising-based publishing business model is broken, and publishers left and right are either failing or cutting back their investments in editorial content. The remaining journalists in the field are bombarded by literally hundreds of press releases weekly, and far more marketing and public-relations pitches than they could possibly find time to look into, even if the topics happened to be newsworthy.

As one of my journalist colleagues wrote recently:

Companies are using the Web to communicate with customers and prospects, so they don’t need to rely on magazines either for advertising or even for articles where they have no control over the outcome. Companies are realizing that they can communicate without the middle medium — but thankfully they also realize that they can’t just shove marketing crap down people’s throats. They know that customers are still looking for value in their information.

Yes, customers, and readers of all stripes, are looking for reliable, objective information sources. But increasingly they don’t want to pay for it.

Ahh, forgive me. I’m about to head off on another rant. . .

Turning the tables

The point is, blogging offers at least the potential to turn the tables on the tired old paradigm of publishing that’s developed over the past century. It’s an opportunity to break free of the capital-intensive system of printing presses and elaborate distribution systems controlled by a handful of self-interested publishers, far too few of whom still retain any sincere commitment to public service.

It’s a chance for virtually anyone with access to a computer and the Internet to say whatever they like, for better or worse, to anyone they can manage to interest. It’s a true marketplace of ideas, thus far mostly unfettered by regulation or economic restraint.

The blogosphere these days is the Wild West of publishing, and it’s providing a forum for literally millions of amateurs, idiots, charlatans and opportunists, as well as a growing number of thoughtful new voices.

Remember the mid-1990s, back in the early days of the World Wide Web, when thousands of odd and interesting websites were popping up around the globe? Remember people scratching their heads and saying: “Sure it’s cool, but how in the world can we ever make money off of it?” Then, within a few short years, we were caught up in the euphoria of the dot-com boom, and its subsequent, painful bust.

Many millions of dollars were poured into what were, in retrospect, remarkably, brazenly stupid ideas. But along the way a few good, well-timed and well-executed ideas stuck. Raise your hand if — like me — you shopped at Amazon, iTunes or Best Buy Online this past Christmas. Enough said.

Betting on blogs

The Internet has matured into a vast new economic arena, and the blogosphere is headed that way as well.

Will most of us make our fortunes there? Of course not. Only a handful of lucky, and sometimes prescient, pioneers ever reap the riches of any new era. But will we at least have a bit of adventure and a few amusing anecdotes to share with our grandchildren? Let’s hope so.

And for all those new bloggers who’ve never before experienced the thrill of seeing your words plastered across a magazine’s cover or the front page of the local newspaper, let me welcome you to the party. My friends, your day has finally arrived.