Welcome Back Internet Bubble.
Behold! Another person has shaken the blogosphere and it has left the citizens pretty confused. Needless to say I’m pretty confused myself. As Angie politely stated in her evaluation of the issue, she didn’t necessarily want to write about it. I felt the same way, until I sat down and thought of what Jason was trying to do. Now my view on this might be a little different than hers, or any of the other bloggers out there, but I’ll try my best to get my point across. Or maybe I’ll just say the exact same thing in which case I’ll completely agree with Angie’s comments.
So, Jason quit his job to work full time on his blog. My first thought was if he had done some type of cost-value analysis to see if the money he will make in this venture could have been more than the money he was making at the design firm. But at first glance, I had this feeling of “awesome, another entrepreneur trying to make his way out there” which quickly turned into “what the hell is he doing?” Quote:
I’m asking the regular readers of kottke.org (that’s you!) to become micropatrons of kottke.org by contributing a moderate sum of money to help enable me to edit/write/design/code the site for one year on a full-time basis. If you find kottke.org valuable in any way, please consider giving whatever you feel is appropriate.Jason Kottke
Next thought: “Hi, my name is Jason, and I like to blog, so if you like me, donate some money!” It sort of sounds like the people that approach me on my way to work with new shoes asking for bus money. Now, please don’t get the wrong impression, but first impressions are everything, correct? Jason has literally turned himself into a brand and is selling his blog as his product. Not even that, the “product” in this case is the satisfaction you get knowing that you helped somebody achieve their goal. So, then why don’t you give money to the coffee guy with the nice shoes? By no means am I insulting the idea. First off, I can relate, all of this has been my life for the past 7 years. Avalonstar has been my dream, and my place where I can be “free”. It has been my hobby, my job and my workhorse. But what I am worried about is the model, the logistics and the probability of this actually working.
Recreating the Bubble
Remember those companies back in 2000 that died because they took so much money in but couldn’t make a single cent? The great “dot com bubble”. Those companies had no focus, no plan of action and worst of all - no strategy. Those companies spat in the face of every hard working entrepreneur who did their research and came out with a clear focus, a clear plan and an implementation strategy. As those companies died, the ones who were left had to go back to “tradition”, or face the wrath of termination themselves. This is exactly what I see in Jason’s case. I’m sure he wouldn’t have passed an entrepreneurship class with that kind of “model”.
What scares me that if it does work, it spits in the face of myself and the thousands of potential entrepreneurs who have been formally or self-educated in the business. We have taken our time, done our research and come out with plans that very well could work with the right conditions. An epiphany does not an entrepreneur make, and that’s what bothers me (and the four-year education) the most. If Jason had a clear plan in place rather than depending on donations, I would probably be a little more at ease. But what kind of message will this send to the thousands of young entrepreneurs out there, or worse yet, the millions of internet users out there? That you can simply build a site, and if you have enough friends, you can make a living for yourself? Is that the lesson that should be learned? I guess it just further proves the point that the internet is just like grade school, it’s a popularity contest. It’s first mover advantage and it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is just more proof to those points.
However, I would like to see what comes out of this in lieu of what I might think. Sure we all have our feelings about this issue (some sour, some not) but we have to live on with a smile on our face and some pennies in our pocket. Speaking of pennies, here are some tidbits I’d like to hand off to Jason: 1. Diversify your offerings. The donating thing will get old; make sure you have something up your sleeve to keep the revenue coming in. It can be as small as a private email list or as big as a design repository. 2. Just because advertisements aren’t an option doesn’t mean marketing is out of the question. Keep your name in your visitors’ heads and get it in others. Expand your viewership, and if that means expanding your offerings, do so with a plan in place. 3. In line with the last comment, strategic partnerships are important. Use your networking to its fullest. Be bold! 4. Exit plan. You got yourself into this, so if it doesn’t work, have a plan in place to exit gracefully. 5. Keep your word. Say it and follow through. You can’t be casual or flaky if you’re making a business out of this. 6. Finally, always focus on growth, you have the potential to create a buzz in the blogosphere. Don’t lose sight of that.
In one sense, I hope I can eat my words. But time will tell. Best of luck.