Some stories you might’ve missed:

ClickZ, an online news site notably fond of the colour green (which, like orange, survives well online) and the typeface Rotis (which we’ve had quite enough of for one lifetime), explains how they make money and Salon doesn’t: Low overhead.

”Low” is relative, but a loss is a loss. Milquetoast standard-bearer and one-time journalist Michael Kinsley of co-opts the lingo nonetheless: “ ’Frugality, more than Microsoft’s deep pockets, has brought us to the threshold of financial success,’ Kinsley said, noting Slate’s relatively modest staffing. Yet Slate is still in the red, with losses of ’less than $10 million a year,’ with profitability yet to be projected.” Truly frugal Web sites could survive for ten years on Slate’s FedEx bill alone.

En tout cas, while the ClickZ article hints at ClickZ’s many sponsorship methods (steal these ideas, kids!), we keep wondering why the low-overhead philosophy isn’t obvious and actually needs to be stated. Is it true, however, that spendthrift content sites deserve to die merely because of their managers’ overspending?

We regret to say that the answer is a clear yes. Hubris invites retribution. Ask Shakespeare.

Similarly, the Economist almost misses the point. An article carries the title “The Internet Disappoints Big Media,” as if Big Media were the only media around. The article engages in Orwellianism by deploying the term “general entertainment” to refer to moving pictures. “The Internet is pretty good at delivering music and text to customers, but not video, which makes up the biggest slice of the entertainment industry’s output.” Then give us more licensed music and text, fools. (And not E-books. Not yet. Shortly.)

Why can’t hubristic new-media executives face reality? Convergence is a myth.

Frankly, we are quite happy to watch NBC and Disney lose millions of dollars, if only to stoke our retributive passions. What we would have preferred to see, however, is even a tenth of that sum invested in a range of small-scale niche sites.

But that horse has pretty much bolted from the stable.

Another Economist howler: “But there is also, says Cynthia Brumfield, publisher of Broadband Intelligence, ’a chicken-and-egg problem.’ Because the content isn’t there, people are not rushing to get the connection; but without the connection, there is no market for the content. That, she reckons, is one reason why only 6% of those to whom a broadband cable connection is available have taken up the offer, and fewer than 1% of those who could get a telephone broadband connection have one.” In reality, not everyone is all that wild about sitting in front of a computer and navigating Web sites. Not everyone has a computer, for any of a range of reasons. While this would seem to amount to an argument for TV-based Internet, that is even worse.

It is farfetched to claim that a lack of content deters would-be Internet subscribers. How would they know there isn’t any content if they are not subscribers in the first place?

”The good news for the incumbents in the entertainment business... is that they are not under siege from the expected rush of Web-savvy competition. The bad news is that their Internet businesses do not, by and large, look much healthier than the upstarts’.” Small is beautiful, baby. Big becomes beautiful only when you can actually pay the freight.

Yawn. Another is-content-dead? article, this time from that content powerhouse, USA Today (“Let me glance at you!”). (To be fair: It’s an Associated Press story.) “ ’No doubt about it, it’s hard to be independent these days,’’ said [some analyst or other].” Well, how the hell can you call independent? You’re not independent if venture capitalists are funnelling tens of millions of dollars down your gullet. In fact, usually you become a slave. The analyst concludes: “The pioneering days of the Net are all but over. I’m bullish on the content business, but only when people have a reasonable scope in mind.” Well, duh. Spend millions without millions coming in and you threaten to kill off an entire genre – at least in the minds of shallow journalists.

Meanwhile, the incendiary Diane Francis – we like to think we’re almost as incendiary, though we respect the truth more – sullies her unmentionables in a profile of Keith Kocho, majordomo of the most self-impressed of the Toronto nouveaux-médias shops, Extend. (Just try using their site without an “approved” browser.)

Keith Kocho is central casting’s version of the e-entrepreneur: Bearded, blue-jeaned and interviewed in a boardroom beside man’s best friend, his faithful dog Scout.

Wow. We were under the impression that gushing over the physical characteristics of a subject in a business story was a tad outré. And anyway, what Francis knows about “our interactive multimedia future” seems to derive more from publicists’ telephone pitches than from actual Internet usage. She name-drops some ridiculous pretense for a cooking show as harbinger of a digital future. (We watch cooking shows a lot, and snap to attention when we hear the phrase “Fukui-san!This cooking show stank.) Run in fear from any nouveaux-médias executive who says the following with a straight face: “Why should McDonald’s buy advertising on television when it can create its own wonderful kids’ program that everyone will watch?” Run screaming in fear if this pundit also unironically opens paragraphs with “in five years’ time.” In five years’ time, we’ll be flying robot cars to the moon.

Go ahead. Prove us wrong.

The Mom Test: Writing in BusinessWeek, Heather Green blows the alleged effectiveness of banner advertising out of the water with the Mom Test: “Ask your mother, as I have asked mine, if seeing a banner ad blinking at the top of the screen gives her the same emotional reaction she gets from one of those quirky, fun Volkswagen TV ads. My mom says, no way.” More interestingly, Green mentions a Procter & Gamble site that – gasp! – verifying how custom-written content is necessary online. “[The much-feared advertiser and consumer-product colossus] says the most effective forms of online marketing it has tried include providing content for a site. One example: an article on hair care on a Web site for women sponsored by P&G’s Physique hair-care products. The difficulty, of course, is that this kind of marketing takes a lot more work.” Well, what are your marketing departments for? Rubber-stamping banner-ad buys, or creating actual campaigns? “A lot more work.” Please.

Posted on 2000-08-26