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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Signal to Noise Ratio Feels Out of Whack To Me

Comments (21)

I monitor around 400 blogs and try to stay on top of them daily (I use FeedDemon and NewsGator Online and have developed an awesome personal algorithm for getting through all the items quickly.) I also use a handful of services such as Tech Memeorandum to follow what people are talking about. I’m a fast reader and excellent skimmer so that helps.

I had a very busy day yesterday that started early so I didn’t read anything from Thursday evening through Saturday morning.  I just finished going through everything and was stunned by the amount of discussion about the Yahoo / del.icio.us deal.  I’m very excited and happy for everyone involved, but as I read through post after post after post saying “Yahoo bought del.ciou.us” I started to feel something was wrong.  I checked on Technorati – “delicious” is the number one search this hour (and Yahoo is four; Delicious Yahoo is six).  I checked NewsGator’s Latest Buzz – the first is Joshua’s post and the second is Jeremy Zawodny / Yahoo’s post.

Forget about the TAR stuff (trust / attention / relevance) for a second – there is a huge content imbalance when everyone is writing about the same thing.  There was a very large and interesting deal done on Monday last week that arguably has much greater importance to the structure of the tech / media business than Yahoo / del.icio.us and it had extremely little coverage by the tech bloggers.  Can you name that deal?

Liberty Media acquired Provide Commerce for $477 million (PRVD was public – $33.30 / share – 50% valuation increase in the past 60 days).  Now, maybe I’m more sensitized to PRVD and L since they are both Colorado related company (L is headquartered here, PRVD is headquarter in San Diego, but the founder and good friend Jared Polis is based in Boulder.)  This is Jared’s second monster win – his first was the sale of BlueMountainArts.com to Excite in 1999 for around $800 million.  Oh – and he had other successes like the sale of AIS to Exodus in 1995.

But – no one is talking about this.  More specifically, very few people are speculating on what Liberty Media is up to.  John Malone and Liberty are clearly interested in making yet another round of moves, this time with focus on Internet related properties.  Greg Maffei joined Liberty Media as CEO a few weeks ago and – while Fortune had a decent introductory article setting up the landscape – there’s been very little chatter about what might become another key entrant in GAAMEY (Google / Amazon / AOL / Microsoft / eBay / Yahoo).  Oh – and where is the discussion about InterActiveCorp (IACI) - same drill  – $9 billion market cap company with key online assets and a chairman (Barry Diller) who happily and regularly makes big strategic moves.  Should GAAMEY become GAAMEYIL (or maybe AGILEAMY in honor of my wife.)

I’m perplexed.  Fortunately I have a two hour run today to ponder this more.

  • http://woodrow.typepad.com/the_ponderings_of_woodrow Jason Wood

    Brad,

    A couple of thoughts if I may.

    1) Someone as active in the blogging community such as yourself can’t be surprised by outpouring of discussion on Yahoo! & del.icio.us, can you? Del.icio.us is a property that most tech-related bloggers feel some proprietary rights to. 300K subscribers sounds like a lot in the context of how many people read the average blog, but in relation to the world who accesses the Internet for news or content, it’s a rounding error upon a rounding error. Seeing del.icio.us get bought was akin to bloggers being told…”Hey guys! Stuff you like [in this case social networking], matters.”

    2) Perhaps you need to diversify your RSS/OPML roll. You mentioned 400+ feeds [I wonder if I'm one of the lucky 400], but yet, there are millions upon millions of unique takes on the world. I’ve found over time that categorizing my aggregation feeds works wonders.

    3) There certainly ARE people, many of them thoughtful, discussing the issues you bring up. I know, personally, that I discussed Diller’s investment in Brightcove on my blog, and mentioned Greg Maffei’s joining Liberty, as well.

    4) Tech.meme is a must read for me too, but honestly, I have real frustration over the system by which articles are referenced. I know it’s supposed to be driven by “relevancy” but often I’ve found analyses that are far superior [or unique] in alternative blog sources that simply never get enough click throughs to make the front page. It would be great if, say with something like Yahoo!/Del.icio.us…any blogger with a unique and value-added take had a way to be seen instead of the same short list of more popular blogs. Did you have ANY doubts as to which blogs responses would be listed yesterday? I didn’t.

    5) While the blogosphere went into a hive mentality yesterday related to Yahoo!/del.icio.us, conventional media barely paid it any notice. Although blogging is an essential component of my daily communication, I’ve not forgotten that relying on one channel [in this case blogging], regardless of which it may be, is too focused a lens to rely upon.

    Regards, and I hope the weather in Boulder is treating you well!

    Jason

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Jason – all good points. I wasn’t surprised by everyone talking about it – but after the 200th post saying basically the same thing (a deal happened) I started wondering about whether there was something else going on. Granted – my 401 (I just added you) feeds are tech heavy – but the cover a pretty broad spectrum. Also, I read a bunch of other stuff, including online web sites and physical media.

    My biggest concern was that the RATIO of discussion was out of balance. Let’s be generous and say I had saw one post about the L / PRVD deal. That’s 1:200. That doesn’t make sense to me.

    Or – let’s use Technorati. A search on “liberty” and “media” and “provide” and “commerce” and “liberty media” shows 45 posts in the past 4 days. A search on “Yahoo” and “del.icio.us” is 7200 posts. That’s 1:160.

  • http://mp.blogs.com Michael Parekh

    Thoughtful post, Brad…besides those two important deal, there also was no coverage on memeorandum of the Electronic Arts/Jamdat Mobile deal as well.

    Tech.memeorandum can get extremely focused on the GAMEY companies. I’m not sure if it’s a result of how the blogs are seeded and/or the algorithms. But it can get claustrophobically myopic at times.

    Hopefully that’ll change over time as we see more services entering the field with alternate approaches.

  • flopdoc

    Brad, I like your pondering though I can’t help but wonder if this deal is getting so much blogplay because of the “man bites dog” quality to the story itself. I mean, while it might be important, to most ordinary tech-types like myself the L/PRVD deal was simply a “dog bites man” kind of Wall Street M&A thing.

    But here we have a guy who made this hugely popular/influential web destination “on nights and weekends” with no obvious business model, landed some professional money, quit his day job and flipped it in 8 months to one of the major players for (probably) 8 figures. Moreover, Y! has unleashed this kind of lightening three times now (1:flickr, 2:upcoming, 3:delicious) this year alone!

    I think it’s the kind of story that gives all technology salarymen (and women) the hope, even if false and fleeting, that someday we too might actually achieve something like this. Hope (and to a lesser degree, envy) springs eternal…

  • http://tech.memeorandum.com/ Gabe

    Oh yeah, blogging has a long way to go before you can expect most important stories to be even mentioned, let alone analyzed. Tech.meme would be vastly better if we were there, but we’re not. 1:160 suprises me not the least bit. Here’s an other experiment: plug any of the headline urls from The Alarm Clock (which lists various multi-million deals) into technorati and see how many are linking. The median number of links is zero.

  • http://www.psynixis.com/blog/ Simon Brocklehurst

    You thought that the Delicious coverage was over the top? Surely you can’t have missed incredibly important world event that was The Ben and Mena Show?! ;-)

  • http://www.zoliblog.com Zoli Erdos

    Another recent imbalance: the eBay/Skype deal completely overshadowed to Oracle/Siebel one, both announced the same day.

    Anyway, I have a PC and an honest/cynical theory:

    PC: We all add some value to the discussion by bringing our own points of view. In my own post the “extra” was a comparison of Yahoo vs. Google, with Yahoo catching up/passing Google in certain areas and becoming “cool” again.

    Honest/Cynical(?): We all love getting extra Technorati/Google juice…it appears to be mandatory for the top bloggers to mention events like this, even though already well covered, whether they add value or not.. even if just referencing other posts. A not-so-meaningful post on a well-blogged popular subject with a bunch of links yields more Technorati-boost then a well though out long article presenting original content. :-)

  • http://blogs.magierski.com Brian Magierski

    Amen! I’m glad somebody said it. I think every other blog in my feed reader was about Yahoo/del.icio.us.

    While on the topic of relevance, do you have any desire to share your filtering algorithm, or at least what it is based on? I’m searching for a way to automate (1) finding relevant blogs and (2) parsing for relevant posts to insert into a meta blog or category. The reason for #2, is that even my favorite blog subscriptions have postings that I have no interest in reading.

    I’m wondering if a form of a collaborative filter would work if someone provided a service where all users uploaded their feed lists? I’m going to be posting on my blog later today on the notion of a relevant blog feed service.

    Based on this post I’m going to add #3 to the above list …. a redundancy filter.

    – bkm

  • http://www.psynixis.com/blog/?p=63 Simon Brocklehurst&#

    The Ben and Mena Show…

    So… the “big story” to come out of the recent Les Blogs 2.0 conference was “The Ben and Mena Show”. If you’ve an eye for trivia, you will know all about it by now: Mena Trott – CEO of Six Apart – was giving a talk…

  • http://gaurav.wordpress.com Gaurav Agarwal

    And because of these reasons companies quickly pass under the radar of bigger companies and become bigger in their own way. For e.g. walmart! Just nice to see that in this world where news travels very fast, it is still possible for good companies quitely grow and not get acquired as every other good company does.

  • http://www.psynixis.com/blog/?p=63 Simon Brocklehurst’s Weblog

    The Ben and Mena Show…

    So… the “big story” to come out of the recent Les Blogs 2.0 conference was “The Ben and Mena Show”. If you’ve an eye for trivia, you will know all about it by now: Mena Trott – CEO of Six Apart – was giving a talk…

  • http://web.corante.com/archives/2005/12/yahoo_makes_a_delicious_acquis.php Ken Yarmosh

    Brad…I agree there was an enormous amount of “Yahoo! bought del.icio.us” and nothing more. I caught a couple of good analytical pieces and highlighted them on the hub (as well as added my own 2.0 cents).

    These unfoldings speak to some larger issues in the blogosphere and from my perspective, vastly reduces its value. Not everyone can be the newsbreakers or newsmakers that Steve Rubel and Mike Arrington are. Since those “models” work though, people often attempt to mimic them.

    The push putton publishing model of blogging facilitates the “first to print” mindset. I think we will see an evolution going forward, where bloggers who bring unique perspectives, not entirely consumed with ‘the now’ will gain more traction. That’s not to say that the newsbreakers and newsmakers will lose their seats – I just think those seats are all filled up.

  • http://www.ensight.org Jeremy Wright

    I specifically don’t blog this kind of thing because I’ve realized after 3 years that I have little to add.

    The irony of the whole situation is that I found your post through Memeorandum ;-)

  • http://www.porn.teen-fantazi.net john

    It’s good!
    And because of these reasons companies quickly pass under the radar of bigger companies and become bigger in their own way. For e.g. walmart! Just nice to see that in this world where news travels very fast, it is still possible for good companies quitely grow and not get acquired as every other good company does.

  • http://www.agileprogrammer.com/eightytwenty Gordon Weakliem

    I think that part of the reason is that even after reading the Fortune article, I still have no clue what Provide commerce does, and by the admission of several analysts in the article, nobody’s really sure what Liberty does. Am I supposed to get excited about this?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work Mathew Ingram

    I agree that there is a bit of an insular (or incestuous) quality to memeorandum’s links sometimes, and what I value is finding the alternative voice. But at the same time, I would argue that memeorandum does a pretty good job of finding and linking to those too — I found your post through memeorandum as well. Just because everyone is writing about Yahoo and del.icio.us or about Skype and eBay doesn’t mean that they are all saying the same thing about those topics, and often the discussion about important deals like those ones helps to stimulate ideas about other things. So I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing.

  • http://evans.blogware.com mark evans

    brad,
    i agree with your position, although it’s difficult to not get on the bandwagon when a well-known player such as del.icio.us gets acquired. that said, most of my better-read posts have been my own ideas rather than bandwagon jumping. i did one on the size of the latest wired magazine that much to my surprise got all kinds of attention. i guess it shows people like original ideas.

    cheers, mark

  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    Increasingly, we’re absorbing data but not taking in information. Filtering out the most relevant – interesting – provocative of the 100 posts on the same story is a massive challenge. What we need is a relevance engine (with apologies to Alec Saunders) to address the many different contexts and criteria involved in filtering everything that comes in. So far, the only thing that comes close is the brain, so I work furiously, every time that list creeps up to 300+, to get it down under 100.

    Cheers,
    Rob

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