Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Toronto Meetup Event - b5media and Blogging

Last night I attended my first Third Tuesday Toronto networking event in ages. It's part of the Meetup network of in-person events/get-togethers/networking/socials - you get the idea. Whatever you want to call them - you know what they are, and it's a great way to engage like-minded communities on a local level. I've attached myself to a few of these here in Toronto, and this was the first one where the schedule worked out for me to attend.

The topic was definitely of interest - blogging and online advertising - with the guest being Jeremy Wright, Pres/CEO of Toronto-based b5media. His company is a blogging network, and they've been evolving a business model for bloggers over the past 4 years. What made his talk so interesting was hearing how the whole space has been adjusting to the economic downturn, which of course impacts the advertising that supports so much of this activity.

Jeremy addressed many of the questions you'd expect from an audience no doubt made up largely of hopeful bloggers. I followed his company early on, but not recently, and it's nice to see that there are models here for bloggers and companies like this to make it in our brave new world of digital media. It's still not clear to me how the quality of content or integrity of the bloggers can really be monitored in a network such as theirs, nor how you get off the slippery slope of fact-based journalism vs. opinion-based blogging.

I know they have some basic editorial guidelines and QC, but I still have a fundamental issue with trying to monetize user-generated content that has no true peer-review process. It's the same problem that YouTube has, and as long as the model stays this way and the hosting costs don't put you out of business (remember, there will be no shortage of people willing to do this. But is there money to made here?

It's the $64K question, of course, and I saw glimmers last night that b5media has some ideas about how to do this, even as advertising falls off. A lot of this has to do with moving beyond the atomized world of individual bloggers with individual followings, and creating more integrated communities that generate new forms of value from collective knowledge. That's where the social media phenomenon comes in, and when these pieces get mashed together, I can see things getting to the next level - Blogging 2.0 I guess - where everyone makes money, and there's dynamic, multimedia, real-time content that people will pay money for. I would - wouldn't you?

With that said, I've always been very wary of how the Internet seems to legitimize any form of writing, just like how being seen on TV magically makes you important. I guess we just have to accept that anything goes on the Web, and it's up to the readers to decide what's real and what's crap. Well, it is all free, so you get what you pay for in the end, and that's why we pay to subscribe to newspapers - although, the latter looks to be on shaky ground these days. I'd better stop now - there's just way too much to talk about here, and hey, nobody pays me to write this stuff. :-)

Anyhow, about 130 people turned out, and it was a very friendly crowd. As one might expect from this group, some people have posted reviews already, and you can check them out here. And after that, you might want to consider looking into your own local Meetup groups - looks like these things are everywhere.

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