As recently as the summer, nanopublishing was pretty much a US game. They’ve had the likes of Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis with their Gawker and Weblogs Inc empires for some time now. But, on this side of the Atlantic, there hasn’t been much.
There has been something. We’ve been conducting some very successful experiments with blogs, while gadgets guru Ashley Norris and friends have been testing the water with their Tech Digest and associated sites as well.
But suddenly there are greater signs of life, around two years after Denton first drew attention to the possibilities of nanomedia by launching his Gawker blog in the US. For me, the most significant UK nanostartup so far went public last week, in the shape of Azeem Azhar’s new Minkmedia.
For launch it has two sites – Honourable Fiend (politics) and Wanda Lust (first class travel). Those are interesting areas to launch in. Posh travel blogging sounds like a good idea, especially in these dark winter months, and – playing, as it does, to the affluent blog readers’ demographic – you can see the e-biz tie-ins from a mile off. The site’s written with a bit of spark, and there’s even been a little behind-the-scenes blogworld drama, as Wanda Lust writer Sabrina Dent tells, on her personal site, of her sacking from Weblogs Inc.
I’m less convinced by the politics site. Granted, Denton’s Wonkette is a success in the States, where her bitchy style looks great against a dull mainstream media. But even her stats (outside election time) are less spectacular than – say – gadget site Gizmodo’s. And in a world where weblogs seem to be best targeting deep niches, just exactly what demographic is reliably reading political blogs?
To be fair, Fiend is no Wonkette, describing himself as more an aggregator than pure blog, but if they’re going to build an audience they won’t be wanting many repeats of Thursday’s “The Hon. Fiend was on the move today and couldn’t do much in the way of posts…” If posting frequency is the heartbeat of a blog, you want to avoid heart attacks early on in life.
It also looks a little tame compared to the very promising Guido Fawkes’ political blog; a lovely spicy read from someone who clearly has ideas about breaking a few decent stories, judging by the tip-off come-ons that plaster the site. One to watch.
But those aren’t the only new arrivals. We’re also seeing the arrival of the uber trendy Gothamist concept with Londonist, a blog about London. A little bit wide-eyed in beta, it might have to develop a bit more bite than its parent if it’s to woo London readers raised on the acerbic Friday Thing, but there’s lots of time yet for it.
Then there’s new media veteran Leslie Bunder – with whom I worked at Teletext a few years back – unveiling Journalistic, a blog about new media journalism. He doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to the nanopublishing trend yet, despite being part of it, but if he taps this seam he’ll be kept busy for a while.
Y’see, there’s more to come. Ashley’s getting ready to unveil Shoewawa, a site about shoes, which sounds bonkers until you think about the size of potential audience for a site aimed at “every shoe loving gal out there”.
Meanwhile Azeem plans new arrivals in all the areas mentioned above. So… Londonist better watch out for his Sqreech, a site “for London, vice, virtue, stuff to do, gossip”, while Tech Digest should brace itself for Gadgette, and Journalistic will have company from GrokSpin, a media site. Nothing about shoes yet, mind, but give the man some time.
Good luck to them all. They’re trailblazers, and that likely means they’ll all have to work very hard to build an audience, and even harder to persuade the advertisers to pay for it all.