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212 Newsmaker Night with John Battelle: Arthur of The Search

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By Joseph Pratt

I’m looking at John Battelle’s words that I jotted onto my notepad: “ephemeral to the eternal”. He was describing the permanent trace we leave behind as Internet users – how our immediate needs or curious whims are logged forever through the process of search. These electronic etchings serve as treasure maps to those nimble and opportunistic enough to read them. Search is a vitally important aspect to the users and businesses alike, and there isn’t a better guide in the field today than Mr. Battelle. When people ask me about search, which is often; I immediately refer them to his blog, Searchblog (www.battellemedia.com), without qualification.

I went with ICMediaDirect.com’s VP of Sales, Diana Lee, to hear Mr. Battelle speak last week in New York City. It was 212 Engagement’s “Newsmaker Night”, sponsored by CBS Digital Media. He authored ‘The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture’, he has an influential search industry blog aptly named Searchblog. He founded The Standard and Wired Magazine. And there’s even more, but what interests me is that his opinion shapes the opinions in the Search world. Simply put, Battelle’s credentials impress.

With all his accomplishments, Battelle still has plenty on his plate. A professor on leave from U. Cal Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, he’s also Chairman and Publisher of Federated Media Publishing or also known as FM, an author driven advertising enterprise focused on, yup, authors – those folks writing the blogs we read.

Since FM consumes most of his efforts these days, Battelle spent a good portion of his floor time on his venture and on blogging in general. His presentation was, like his writing, witty and easy to follow. I found his message relevant and spot-on since his experience is intimately connected and reflective of the Internet and search trends.

Battelle’s Federated Media caters to the blogger. But not just any blogger; there are literally millions. The only ones are those who has established readership. FM provides them with the advertising legwork and control in order to free them up to do what they do best, blog. The star in FM’s stable is Boing, a top-5 in readership blog.

While Battelle explained his vision for FM to be an advertising network for top bloggers of all kinds, he also had some interesting thoughts for aspiring bloggers:

1) Update regularly. Citing outdated personal experiences, he stressed, annoys the readers. If you’re not updating, some other blogger is – and readership responds to this because they want “fresh” information.

2) Have something to say. Battelle gave examples of blogs that disappointed, corporate blogs that launched despite having nothing to say. Think of blogs as a tool for expression, a tool for writers to expound on themselves. No one wants a blank newspaper.

It was a novel experience for me to see a blogger whom I hold in such high regards. There was also an unexpected jolt for me with Searchblog. Something that shouldn’t have surprised me at all, but the site denotes reader appeal that is based on blogs. He mentioned in passing having 75,000 regular visitors. This matter of fact just floored me. The informal feel of my favorite blogs tend to leave me in a frame of mind where the content I read is among the authors, arbitrary readers, unworthy stragglers, and me. This makes up Seventy-five thousand?? Our tiny little club is huge. The NY Post doesn’t leave me feeling like that.

I liked Battelle’s broad descriptions of online publishing, such as general aims of the industry a few years ago versus now. The goal used to be to get visitors to websites for waiting content or message, like online informational or service depots – dreams of one stop websites were common then.

Instead, today it’s about the process that matters, not the package. Battelle calls this “marketing to the intent” to the Internet users and not merely marketing websites with content. Search is the key ingredient here, bypassing clumsy chores of selling and branding and whatever else it takes to get someone interested in electronic point of sale or content. He noted interactivity, where users create content, thus making the Internet closer to a platform than a destination.

He also cited today’s popular phenomenon – MySpace. In viewing the new media, or what’s been widely introduced to us by Battelle and friends as “Web 2.0”, a process rather than a packaged end like a newspaper for example, we can now see the capabilities at play with open source. MySpace, the corporate entity, produces almost no content in relation to the content it offers. That’s content by web users and an almost perfect web utility, though I tend to imagine it’s just filled with school girl angst, unicorns, and boy band music, but that’s just me “playerhating” – the game is…”coolio?”

Since I’ve read his book and check his blog daily, I readily concede that it is not coincidence that many of my views match John Battelle’s. Like his blog, I can also recommend his book, ‘The Search’. Together or alone, they are excellent resources for understanding the search industry today.

About The Author

Joseph Pratt
Media Analyst
ICMediaDirect.com
http://www.icmediadirect.com
e: joseph@icmediadirect.com