Niche Blogs and Long Tail of Content

Mike Rundle of 9rules writes:

At 9rules, were not interested in the hits, were interested in the best niche content. Many blog networks start new blogs on technology, gadgets, and gossip not because theyre bringing a fresh perspective or brand new content to the arena but because theyre emulating existing blogs on those topics that they consider to be hits, or, blogs like Engadget, Techdirt, or The Superficial. The problem with emulating existing hits is that they are hits for more reasons than just their content, in fact Id say that most of the Technorati 100 are on there because of external factors that have nothing to do with their content.

On the Web there are millions of choices for content, and the people who consume this content dont care if its coming from a 14-year old in Germany or The Pope himself, as long as 1) its interesting to them, and 2) its of a high quality. Look at how much time people spend browsing through YouTube videos or reading MySpace profiles compared to how many hours of TV they watch or how many newspapers they read, thats the sign right there that in this near-infinite supply of content readily available, consumers will find the content they like the best and not what other people *tell them* is the best. This Long Tail of content consumption on the Net is where blogs fit in perfectly, because no matter how obscure your content subject or niche, there will always be an audience looking for your content.

The Internet As Network of Networks

Tiim O’Reilly writes:

The other day, I was explaining to a reporter how I could be lumping in cellphones and the next generation of sensor networks into Web 2.0. “Well, Web 2.0 is really not just about the web. It’s really about the next generation of internet applications, and includes things like P2P file sharing and VoIP, which aren’t based on the web at all. And actually, now that I mention it, it’s really not even about the internet, narrowly defined as a class of TCP/IP-based networks. It’s really about the internet as it was originally conceived, as a ‘network of networks.'”

The internet is not just about TCP/IP, though it is about the principles that made the TCP/IP based network win out over all the others, and become the lingua franca of interoperability that it is today. We’re pushing the boundaries of the old internet, as it comes to include the cellphone network, telematics networks, and other emerging forms of connectivity.

So let’s ask, where else can we apply the principles that we’re learning from the internet?

Wiring Rwanda

WSJ writes:

Mr. Wyler’s company, Terracom, expects the tower to start beaming services in the coming months, including, for the first time, cellphone coverage, Internet access and television. Rwanda is among the least-connected countries in the world. Mr. Wyler wants it to be the first completely wired African nation, with citizens paying $80 a month for Terracom’s Internet service.

Terracom now has about 220 miles of fiber in the ground, bringing broadband to more than 150 locations, Mr. Wyler says. He wants to install another 700 miles of fiber during the next two years. The price of Internet access is still well beyond the reach of most Rwandans, but is a fraction of earlier offerings and for much higher speeds. In Terracom’s Internet cafs, users pay 20 cents per 15 minutes.

Marc Andressen and Opsware

WSJ writes:

Most of Mr. Andreessen’s energy for the past seven years has been focused on Opsware, which he started with three other Netscape alums during the height of dot-com bullishness in 1999. It has been a wild ride, but there appears to be a payoff coming: Next week, Opsware, which now sells software to help big companies like General Electric Co. and Sallie Mae (formally known as SLM Corp.) automate functions in their massive corporate-data centers, has said it expects to report a quarterly revenue increase of more than 60% for its second quarter ended July 31 when compared with the same period last year. It also expects to break even in terms of profitability, excluding certain compensation and acquisition-related expenses.

As for Opsware’s new software focus, “as mundane as it sounds, it’s actually pretty important to a large enterprise IT shop,” says Stephen Elliot, a manager at market-research firm IDC. Companies use Opsware’s products to more efficiently install software patches, load servers with other software and distribute Web traffic, among other things. Mr. Elliot’s most recent analysis shows Opsware holding 17.1% of the “server-provisioning” software market, behind leader IBM. Mr. Elliot says Opsware likely gained more market share last year.

Mobile Ads

USA Today writes:

While the industry is in its infancy, ad campaigns for the tiny screen have increased sharply this year after several years of spotty efforts, and they’re likely to take off by early next year, says Tom Burgess, CEO of Third Screen Media, a mobile-ad network.

Driving the surge is the increased use of text messaging, the wireless Web and video in the past 18 months as wireless carriers rolled out bigger, more colorful screens and faster broadband networks. About 30% of the 217 million U.S. cellphone subscribers text message at least once a month, Yankee Group says. Such services are more ingrained in the younger set: At least 55% of 13- to 24-year-olds regularly send text messages. About 10% of cellphone users regularly browse the wireless Web, MMetrics says.

TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: Viewing

So far, the viewing experience of content on the mobile phone has left much to be desired. WML was a hard language to create content in, and the wide variety of implementations in browsers made for looks that weren’t necessarily consistent or as desired by the content creators. This is changing with the emergence of XHTML and CSS. Most phone browsers now support XHTML pages. That will increasingly become the standard for mobile phones.

Mobile viewing is very different from that of a PC. On a PC, a user has tens of links equidistant on a large screen. The mouse can easily select one of these links. On a mobile, this is not so. Links necessarily tend to be sequential and thus the links lower down on a page need scrolling to get to them. Thus, designing pages for the mobile requires a much deeper understanding of what the user is likely to do.

Publishing is much more than just creating XHTML pages. Given the small screen size, a lot of thought needs to be given to navigation and context. Navigation is about getting the user quickly to the information desired in the fewest clicks possible. Context is about understanding what the user is likely to want. For example, for a TV Guide, instead of showing the entire set of programmes for the day or week, only those programmes that are currently under way or likely to start in the next hour should be shown.

An interesting way to look at News and RSS feeds is the River of News. Originally coined by Dave Winer, the River of News view is about showing the newest items organised by source. In this view, the assumption is that there is a steady stream of items that are coming in, and the user is shown the newest items from across the sources. The River of News combined with ‘subscriptions’ (what the user chooses) can be especially powerful for the mobile.

Subscriptions is a form of Personalisation. Subscriptions can be thought of as relationships with future content (as opposed to Search, which works on the past). Subscriptions are to the incremental web what Search is to the reference web. As publishing becomes easier, we will see a proliferation of ‘real-time’ content. This is where subscriptions will come into their own. Subscriptions will need the equivalent of an RSS aggregator to provide the right viewing experience. It will need the ability to track what items (and feeds) a user has seen and not seen. The aggregator will, therefore, need to optimise the user’s attention which at different times could range from as little as a minute to as much as an hour. For static pages, Personalisation will take the form of Bookmarks very similar to that what we see in browsers.

Tomorrow: Business Models

Continue reading TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: Viewing