November 23, 2005

Midtown Manhattan Madness: Launching the Yahoo of Blogs


Roger Simon Launching OSM: "Okay, break's over. Everybody back in their Pajamas."

They came from the hills and mountains, the valleys and the plains.
Some were kind and gentle, and some too wild to tame.
A string of fearless hearts, on an endless ball of twine.
It's the same old train, it's just a different time

-- Marty Stuart, Same Old Train

ROGER SIMON is looking hatted, happy and haggard as we stand on the edge of a crowd that is, in its variations, the most unlikely looking group of people that the revoltingly trendy W Hotel in midtown Manhattan has ever hosted. Downstairs in the lobby with the pile-driving rap soundtrack and $12 drinks, the Pradas and Manolos are piling up on the ever-so-modern and ever-so-uncomfortable sofas, as the Roofies are being fondled in the pockets of sharp-dressed men with black town cars on call. Up here, in our alternate universe, the blogging crowd comes in all sizes and shapes with wardrobes that run the gamut from t-shirts and baggy denims to bespoke suits with pocket squares with custom folds.

"Just look at them," Simon says with the weary tone of man who has accomplished something very difficult and ever so slightly insane. "Just imagine how smart they all are. Just imagine the overwhelming intelligence of this group."

Around a hundred people are milling about with iced beverages in their hands and talking with and to each other as if they've all been locked in their rooms for a very long time -- which, in a sense, they have. The hotel hasn't finished setting up the main room and so, for the nonce, we're all jammed into the low-ceilinged foyer. Like other flocks, herds and tribes we're all strangely comfortable, at ease, warm, happy -- and talking, talking, talking.

Over the years, I've been to hundreds of cocktail parties and receptions in New York City but this is, by far, the most animated. Exactly who is talking to who is a bit of mystery since, when I entered, the fellow checking the list said, "We've had a rebellion. Nobody will wear name-tags." And indeed, everybody is refreshingly name-tagless. What you see is what you get not who you get; its what they say, not who they are. Which is, I suppose, the whole point of bringing the top bloggers of the world to New York City. Off the Internet, nobody knows you're a blog.

I glance back at Roger Simon who's looking at the assembled with unconcealed pleasure. They say that getting people online to do anything together with equanimity is like herding cats, but Simon and his partner, Charles Johnson, have done it here tonight. Just for a few minutes, an appreciable subset of the best writers on the Internet have been herded into this foyer of the W Hotel, given free drinks, and set loose among themselves. What will happen in the future when this group and others are set loose on the Internet is unknown. For now though, they are happy. Pleased to be here, pleased to be among others of their kind, pleased to be putting a face to the words, pleased to be out of their rooms and out of their pajamas. Above all, slightly astonished that any two people in the blog world could be so together and so focused that they could actually conspire to make this two-day party happen. Of those that are amazed in this way, I put myself in the top ten.

Not that many months ago, when Roger told me, in essence, that he and Charles were "putting a band together" in the sense that they would found, fund and organize the top bloggers of the sphere, I thought that they'd be better advised to simply load pistols and fire them into each other until empty since that process would be quicker, cheaper and a lot less painful. Getting a bunch of world-dispersed bloggers to assemble and agree to do anything together is about as easy as building a full-scale replica of the Great Pyramid out of damp sand on beach during a hurricane. And yet, only a few hours earlier, everyone was sitting in The Rainbow Room high above Rockefeller Center watching the portal page of the Yahoo of Blogs projected live on a large screen as Open Source Media's launch. It was virtual and it was real. Roger and Charles had actually made it happen. You knew the virtual was real because of two factors common to blogging today: 1) Laptops were out on the tables and the bloggers attending were blogging about their attendance; 2) As true bloggers will, many were already -- less than 10 minutes into the launch -- complaining about various aspects of it.

If "attention" is the currency of cyberspace (and it is) then complaints are its small change. For example some didn't like the name, Open Source Media, and carped along about the "loss of integrity" when the company lost the working title, "Pajamas Media." These bloggers would be the ones who never had to present a multi-million dollar new media project to serious businessmen and make ad sales calls on serious media directors at serious advertising companies with serious ad budgets in the billions. Trying to get in the agencies doors to make presentations and sales is tough enough for any new venture. If you call and say you're from something called "Pajamas Media," that is a perfect formula for never, ever getting the appointment or even the call returned. "Pajamas Media" is a spiffy little name, a quaint handle, a warm notion, and above all two words that have "inconsequential" stamped across them in bright red letters. Sometimes you have to let the things of childhood go in order to make your way in the real world and to get a chance to run with the big dogs. Much in the way that kids get upset when you take a toy away, so a bunch of bloggers were upset a name rich in nostalgia but little else has to get put away. They were upset in less time than it takes a knee to jerk and that knee has kept on twitching. You might say that the group could have gone forward and, by God, made those big advertisers pay attention no matter how funky the name. Perhaps. But in general nothing is impossible to those who don't have to pay the bills, find the revenue, and do the work.

On a certain level, I'd offer those who ate the chicken, listened to Judith Miller blather about how great in bed the newspaper that betrayed her still is, and drank the Kool Aid at the W Hotel a steaming hot cup of that classic blog beverage, STFU. But they're bloggers and bitching is what they do. You might herd cats but that doesn't mean you'll ever change them.

And who would want to? Nobody sane at Open Source Media. And because they're so not sane, they've done the perfect akido move in the blogsphere and gone back to their Pajamas. Adios Open Source, we hardlly knew ye. I guess big media will just have to get used to it. Do you Yahoo? Do you Pajamas? Are we not men? No, we are Pajamas! We shall just push this flannel rock up the slope again and again.

There are many who would question the sanity of anybody, founders, staff or bloggers, aligned with Open Source Pajamas Media. You all know those people. They're the same people who couldn't understand why anybody would want to bid online for the contents of America's basements and attics; the same people who thought buying a book you couldn't hold in your hands now pay the lease on a thousand failed bookstores across the country; the same people who didn't buy Google at $100, $200, $300 and $400 because it was "too expensive." Don't listen to Roger Simon and Charles Johnson. They're so crazy they've actually organized bloggers, signed up the top 100, gotten a lot of them to come to New York and drink, eat and talk together, and created the "Yahoo" of blogs at Open Source Media. Don't listen to them. It's better, much better, to listen to the calm and rational voices that told you to short Apple in 2003.

Isn't it?

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Posted by Vanderleun at November 23, 2005 11:18 AM | TrackBack
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AMERICAN DIGEST HOME
"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Pajamas Media has generated a tremendous buzz in MSM and blog circles, which was one of the goal's of last week's big debut. The name change was unfortunate, but it's good to see the company returning to its roots. These are the inevitable growing pains that many startups experience.

The key to PM's success will be the demographics of its readers. PM Research Director Vik Rubenfeld told me that PM's readers compare favorably with readers of The New Yorker in terms of education and income. That should get advertisers' attention.

Posted by: Jonathan at November 23, 2005 12:49 PM

The palm of your hand.

Posted by: JOEY at November 23, 2005 3:36 PM

It's called mainstream.

Posted by: jeffersonranch at November 23, 2005 4:14 PM

The name changed for whatever reasons of convenience or legality or concession (to love struck bloggers). But the website didn't change.

They never left their roots anyway. The site is a convergence of bloggerS and news and entertainment.

I really don't think the website is going anywhere but up. Now does that means tremendous success? That I don't know. I'd bet on them though. The founders had accomplishments in and outside the blogosphere prior to this venture.


Posted by: CrazyLikeFox at November 23, 2005 6:53 PM

So, when can I buy some stock? (Got Google--two shares!--at 219!)

Posted by: Julie at November 23, 2005 7:39 PM

a rose is a rose is a rose


How sweet this rose smells will depend on how many of the Dan Rathers of this world, fingers get pricked by its' thorns.

Posted by: Joel Mackey at November 23, 2005 8:18 PM

btw, perhaps OSM would have had more life if the logo wasnt some poor knock off of a merck or phizer product.......

Posted by: Joel Mackey at November 23, 2005 8:22 PM

I sincerely think the name that suits this network more, looking at the structure and the vision as well as the people behind the network is mediarati.

Posted by: victor at November 27, 2005 12:29 PM

The Yahoo of blogs? Are you kidding? Have you visited the thing lately? It reduces the mighty
Mississippi of Blogland to a pitiful little drainage ditch.

Posted by: John Van Laer at December 3, 2005 12:53 AM
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