Dead animals, large and small
Three weeks ago, Newsosaur’s admittedly modest traffic spiked to an all-time daily high of more than 1,000 visits as the result of this link from a blog called, I kid you not, Small Dead Animals.
Two weeks ago, by contrast, Forbes and Business Week each quoted Newsosaur on their websites, and those links resulted in a single, solitary hit from a Business Week reader.
So, there you have it: Small Dead Animals top Large Ones by 1,000 to 1.
One event, of course, doesn’t prove much. But here’s what happened next:
Newsosaur’s comments last week on the silliness of news helicopters and the likelihood of Rupert Murdoch behaving himself attracted not only a new link from Small Dead Animals but also links from such Large Ones as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Philadelphia Daily News.
Once again, the traffic generated by Small Dead Animals overwhelmed by a substantial margin the combined (but still gratefully appreciated) referrals from the Large Ones.
By me, this is a trend. And here’s what’s behind it:
Small Dead Animals is a creature of the web, by the web and for the web. Unlike the blogs grafted as an afterthought onto the sites of Forbes, Business Week, the WSJ and the rest, Small Dead Animals is a primary destination for readers hooked on what, in this case, is the bracing point of view of Catherine McMillan, an airbrush artist and schnauzer breeder who resides in a small town in Saskatchewan.
Although the Large Ones deserve a C+ for making an effort to add blogs and a few other modern touches to the print content they recycle at their staid and static sites, the banal results please neither their traditional readers nor the connoisseurs of such sites as YouTube, Gawker or the Huffington Post.
As a result, readers of the traditional media have been conditioned over the years not to look to the Large Ones for the quirky news, dorky videos and (knee) jerky opinions that, for the most part, saturate the blogosphere. And Kos-inistas largely view the mainstream media, when they view them at all, as fodder for future potshots.
With the formidable creative talent, market reach, commercial relationships and financial capability they possess, the Large Ones ought to have an enormous edge over Canadian schnauzer breeders in creating editorially compelling and commercially successful online content. But they are failing, because they try to confine their new media ventures to the tightly edited and carefully modulated conventions of their existing brands.
If they want to be serious about the new media businesses, the Large Ones are going to have to establish skunkworks where people who really get the new media are given the resources and support necessary to develop original, independently branded fare. And the Large Ones will have to restrain themselves from over-managing these necessarily alien efforts.
The coolest blog ever produced by someone at one of the traditional media companies is The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, a stealth spoof penned by Daniel Lyons, a senior Forbes editor whose efforts evidently were unknown to the magazine until the New York Times unmasked him last weekend.
Playing catch-up, Forbes.Com, to its credit, acted quickly to promote the Fake Steve diary on its site, where it now appears incongruously amid the buttoned-down coverage of fed rates, hedge funds and, ironically, the authentic Apple CEO.
The question is whether Real Forbes can sustain the magic of Fake Steve. Or will Fake Steve fans flake when they realize their secret pleasure has been hopelessly co-opted?