Sites' modus operandi differs from tightly-controlled media congloms
Is big media really ready for the world of blogging?Time Warner is about to find out now that AOL has acquired Weblogs for a reported $25 million. Founded just two years, privately held Weblogs runs 85 blogs covering everything from videogames to diabetes to scuba. Last week’s deal comes soon after Viacom started negotiations to buy iFilm and News Corp. picked up MySpace.com. All three dot-coms share one quality in common: Most of their content is created and filtered by users or amateur enthusiasts. That, of course, is the exact opposite of the tightly controlled content production and distribution model media congloms are used to. Weblogs’ own home page boasts: “We don’t tell our bloggers what to write.” Big-media defenders say these deals offer much more upside than downside. Since they all draw significant traffic, the worst case is that they’ll offer an outlet for new owners to grow their online advertising business. The upside could be huge, with blogs giving congloms a way to reach young consumers spending less time in front of a TV set. On the other hand, many can’t help but wonder whether we’re viewing the early stages of dot-com bubble, version 2.0. Five years ago, dot-coms thought they were bigger than “old media,” as exemplified in AOL’s disastrous acquisition of Time Warner. After a few years of evolution, are the two now ready to get along? Nick Denton, owner of Weblogs’ major competitor, Gawker Media — which operates sites including showbiz-focused Defamer — has his doubts. “The whole point about blogs is that they’re not part of big media,” he wrote — where else? — on his blog. “Consolidation defeats the purpose. It’s way too early. Like a decade too early.” Time Warner promised the blogs will operate with full editorial control and independence. But even so, if Weblogs comes under a cloud because of its new ownership by mainstream media, the conglom may discover it’s destroyed the very value it was trying to acquire.