Any other business

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Blog wars

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A tasty spat is fomenting in US techno-blog circles. It was kicked off by Michael Arrington, who publishes the Techcrunch blog. Reflecting on the arrival of serious venture capital investment in blogs, Arrington argues that consolidation is inevitable among bloggers in order to provide an exit for these investors.

Arrington says: "At some point it’s going to become painfully obvious that the only way to get to a massive valuation is for the top talent to band together in a company where they each have an equity stake and therefore a reason to work all night on that next great story."

Cue angry response from another big-league blogger, Tom Foremski on his Silicon Valley Watcher blog, who argues that the blogosphere won’t stand such oldy-worldy M&A activity:

"… it’s a personality driven business and the egos can barely fit on the Internet let alone within a single company. Would Om Malik work for Mike Arrington, or vice versa? No way. That’s true for every other A-list blogger.

"Roll-ups and consolidation are a natural trend within all industries. Companies acquire other companies and reap economies of scale and other competitive advantages.

"You can roll up companies but you can’t roll up personalities."

Quite why the blogosphere should be different to any other business or other entrepreneurial environment beats me. Media has been one of the most active sectors for M&A in the past few years. (in fact, it’s been going on since the beginning of time.)

Self-regard doesn’t get more inter-galactic than Tyler Brule’s and he stuck with Time Inc for six years after it bought his creation, Wallpaper. And how about the countless monstrous TV luvvies who’ve folded themselves into TV production consolidators? They may not have loved it, but the likes of Shed Productions or Ten Alps in the UK have built up pretty handy businesses on the back of such consolidation.

As an "old" media business that’s moving rapidly online (and gaining much as a result), it’s remarkable to observe the "new" media belief that they are somehow immune to the natural order of business. 

Here in the UK, one of our best-known bloggers (Iain Dale’s Diary) has just been loaned a big chunk of money by Conservative benefactor Lord Ashcroft to move offline and launch a free-circulation print publication called Total Politics. Dale told the Guardian: "We looked at other ways of doing it, including online-only, but we weren’t convinced that it could work. Given the age demographic of our potential readers, how many were actually going to download a PDF?"

Ego-management is the time-honoured role of the publisher. And it’d probably be easier for them to tend to their reluctant incoming bloggers – at least they wouldn’t have to have them in the office!

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