DUBE: Why do you think it failed?
wasn't a failure, and I'm not in denial. We had an excellent
editorial product and we filled a real need. There are other
very good daily newsletters that go over some of the same turf
-- "Good Morning Silicon Valley" comes to mind -- but Unspun was
all about combining the useful and the entertaining. On a
personal level, I am pleased to have been able to pay some top
business journalists for their work during a year when a lot of
fine business journalists didn't make a dime. It's only on the
financial side that the newsletter didn't thrive -- and I
recognize that's a huge thing and that's why we're closing down.
This is a business, not a hobby.
We knew launching a new publication about the technology
business during a technology and publishing recession might be
rough, but why not try? And we needed to launch as soon as
possible after Media Grok's demise, rather than wait six months
or six years or how ever long it takes for business prospects to
brighten. Our readers said they wanted us to keep publishing.
They didn't say wait until NASDAQ is above 4,000 again.
DUBE: What did you learn from your experience
running Media Unspun?
I was the editor of Media Grok, but I was the editor,
publisher, circulation manager, customer-service rep,
syndication director, tech-support guy, publicist, ad salesman,
accountant, web lackey, and janitor for Unspun. I had an
excellent staff of writers and a copyeditor to keep the
editorial product strong; I had to do pretty much everything
So it was great for me to learn other parts of the business.
I hope I don't lose my editorial bona fides by admitting that I
enjoyed being a publisher.
I learned a great deal about the particular challenges facing
email newsletters (everything from how to get past
overaggressive spam filters to which ISPs deliver more slowly
than others). The greatest pleasure was working with the
editorial team, of course.
DUBE: The demise of well-respected publications
such as Media Unspun is certainly disheartening. What do you see
as the future of independent Web publishing?
need to band together as a network: preserve our idiosyncratic
voices, but share a business back end. I've written about this
frequently, most recently in two pieces for Business 2.0:
Message to Online Publishers: Unite or Die
How to Save Salon
DUBE: And what advice do you have for other
independent Internet publishers?
Either band together or don't expect to be building a business.
DUBE: You developed a
unique way to
use the Weblog concept, by creating one for Media Unspun
subscribers to reply to or discuss articles published by Media
Unspun. How well did that work?
Well, I started it too late; we should have had it from Day One.
That shortcoming noted, it was wonderful. If I showed you the
email the writers and I get, it would be clear that Media
Unspun is a community in which the readers are as engaged as the
DUBE: Along those lines, what do you see as the
future role of Weblogs in journalism?
Well, first I want to be clear that Media Unspun itself was
not a Weblog. We're big fans of the freedom and diversity of
blogs, but we were not a blog. Blogs go from a single person's
mind to the Web with no intervention (team blogs work the
same way). Unspun has writers and editors, all of whom
collaborate to create a product we intended to be professional
as well as useful and entertaining. That noted, I think the
current celebrity Weblog notion that MSNBC and others are
fostering is short-sighted and won't work, either conceptually
or in a business way. Journalistic Weblogs have to be two-way to
work, otherwise they're either vanity publishing ventures or
traditional columns pretending to be hip.
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