Two Way Journalism and 1000 Little IPOs

Two Way Journalism and 1000 Little IPOs

Steven Johnson, best-selling author, talks about Disney’s recent acquisition of Babble, a parenting site:

The coverage of the deal thus far has focused on two primary angles: either Disney acquiring a “hipster” parenting site, or the vindication of the blogger-network content model. (Babble runs a large network of “mommy bloggers,” as they have come to be called.) But I think there’s a simpler lesson here that’s being overlooked. Babble was a cultural and commercial success because It took on a topic that was exhaustively covered by existing media, and wrote it in a fresh, nuanced, and more complex way.

There are two key takeaways from this deal. First, there’s room for both kinds of journalism. On one hand, traditional journalism with its politics and big budgets that can support extensive research for complex projects. On the other hand, “amateur” journalism, with their original agenda-free voice. If there’s still a debate, it’s because we’re failing to see that both styles are necessary. More from Johnson on this point:

The success of Babble should be a corrective for all those folks who think that the Web has lowered our journalistic standards, or that original, provocative writing online doesn’t have a business model to support it. Yes, Babble was not a commercial success on the level of Facebook or LinkedIn or Zynga. Content sites don’t have that kind of scalability. (Though they may well have an easier path to profitability.) But Babble did make a tidy return for their investors…

The second takeaway is, IMO, even more important, and it’s something Johnson noticed as well:

The commercial viability of the web shouldn’t just be about a handful of billion-dollar IPOs. It should be about a thousand smaller-scale successes, where new voices can both find an audience and create sustainable business models. Babble managed to do both those things in just a few short years — and that’s great news for all of us.

When I tell people that they should do their own thing because the tools to succeed are there, this is what I mean. This is the real value of the low costs of technology: Improving the standard of living a little for


The number of super-rich people is small, and it’s only going to get smaller. You can certainly try to get there, but taxes and popular opinion are not very friendly with the super-rich. On the other hand, going after a profitable small business, thanks to the use of low cost technology and communication, is a much surer bet. Not only in financial terms, but it’s also the best bet to achieve the three keys for satisfying work, according to Malcom Gladwell: Autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward.

Think about it this way: what is the first clear advantage that people mention when talking about jobs? Safety. Which means, lower risk. Well, that’s what I mean with the tools being here for people to go solo: it’s no so risky anymore. The more people realize this, the more happy stories like Babble we’ll have.

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