Ditto.net gets put to one side by Bauer Media

It’s with a little sadness that I’m writing about the decision by Bauer Media to shelve Ditto.net – the social entertainment guide which I was fortunate enough to have been involved with for a time.

It’s an understandable decision by Bauer Media. Having apparently spent £1 million on funding the site and development, there wasn’t a huge amount of either revenue or growth becoming available. And it makes more sense to use the technology to enhance the already popular brands in the portfolio than to continue trying to develop an entirely new one which hasn’t quite made it.

It’s understandable – but not necessarily the right move.

With some tweaks and some more time I still believe Ditto could be a major success.

If anything the need for a product to filter the sheer volume of entertainment content available has become greater in the time since Ditto launched. The amount of text and video online outweighs the production output of the printing press and the celluloid camera by some considerable margin. And there are relatively few solutions that work effectively – and even fewer from any established media companies.

But building growth, particularly organic, sustainable growth, takes a longer amount of time to show a return than a comparable print launch, because the combination of purchase price and higher advertising rates in print make an instant impact against the costs. It took Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Ebay, Flickr etc a surprisingly long period to reach the exponential growth which gave them the ‘overnight success’ tag.

Combine that with a revenue model which relied on traditional display advertising sales, and there was always going to be a problem.

Having said all that, there were some really interesting successes, including the promotion of ‘The Rock Stars of Web 2.0’, in conjunction with Dave Cushman, and which showed how traffic and inbound links could be generated.

Still, at the end of the day I enjoyed a great learning experience helping the Ditto team (And just to clarify after a flattering mention on PaidContent, I was involved as a marketing manager, rather than a developer. Sadly I can only aspire to the technical skills to be a developer!). And the co-founders have and will continue to have great success – Colin Kennedy was recently announced as the new Editor of FHM, and Dhiraj Mukharjee will always be working towards something interesting.

My only regret is not pushing harder for the revenue model I proposed for the project (but that means it’s still up for grabs one day!), and never managing to get them to redesign the Ditto Blog!

Sharing the music: The spread of the Web 2.0 rock stars

Two months ago, my colleague David Cushman and I started compiling a list of ‘Web 2.0 rock stars‘. It was partly a bit of fun, but also to see if it might bring some attention to www.ditto.net (disclosure: Both David and I work at Bauer Media, who own Ditto, and know/work with the Ditto team). We also though it would be fun to see a public vote, rather than one created either by Google page rank, Technorati, or by a small group of people on an editorial team.

But there have been some really fascinating outcomes:

  • Being able to watch how people are using the voting tool on Ditto – some vote for their single favourite/some re-order the entire list.
  • Adding people that David and myself hadn’t encountered and discovering some cool people we might have missed. And we’re still adding more (Suggest someone/yourself in the comments, or email daniel dot thornton at bauermedia.co.uk)
  • And seeing how a list with minimal promotion (Mentioned only on this blog and Faster Future) has been picked up by lots of people, including several of the notables on the voting list.
  • And also turning it into a bit of a resource after David added videos to almost every rock star. It’s a good example of what the Ditto team are trying to achieve (You can see and hear one of the founders, Colin Kennedy via Dave’s writing on /Message)

So where did it spread to?

Blogs:

AFP Mediawatch

Doc Searls

Euan Semple

Joseph Jaffe

Jason Calacanis (in the comments of Rich Millington’s post)

Stowe Boyd (written by David Cushman)

Jonathan MacDonald

Wikinomics

Comments:

Shel Israel, Corvida, JP Rangaswami, Veronica Belmont and Doc Searls all appeared in my blog comments (which I suspect wouldn’t have otherwise happened!), or contacted me via Facebook. As did Jonathan Yarmis, Stephanie Frasco, Josh Bernoff, Brian Solis and The Kaiser via email. (Jonathan’s inclusion apparently made his mother very proud!)

And it also created even more debate and mentions on Twitter and Pownce:

ciaranj

enikao

Ditto

waynesutton

stoweboyd

technofeliz

jasonrysavy

askfrasco

j_mac

(At which point Twitter Search broke)

And despite a relatively ‘niche’ subject compared to ‘The Best Movies of All Time‘, it’s still ranking as one of the most popular lists on the site!

All this was possible for two reasons:

1. Cush, myself, and the Ditto team (Especially John!). Between the three of us, it probably took 1-2 days to have the list at the stage it is now.

2. The desire of people to discover, share, link and contribute. From the first post I made, people were contributing great suggestions (I forgot to include Cory Doctorow, for example) And even though no-one was taking it seriously with a title like ‘The Rock Stars of Web 2.0’, almost everyone was happy to be included, supply pictures, correct information, and link back (even if they were embarrassed to be included, eh Euan?). And it was a pleasant surprise to find a namecheck from Doc Searls today.

And none of this was broadcast to anyone. As David examines in more detail, we didn’t email anyone to publicise the list. We didn’t prepare a press release, or even use Bauer Media’s global brands. We both blogged and tweeted about it in an honest and fun way, and waited to see who discovered and contributed to it. And all the rest of it occurred naturally, as people self selected whether they wanted to be involved, and whether they wanted to encourage voting from others. It didn’t make Techcrunch or Slashdot, or the front page of Digg. And judging by the timing and tone of many of the posts, people were discovering it individually, and passing it around their social networks, but it hasn’t been bridging the gap across them as you might imagine. (See Slide 4 in Cush’s excellent presentation on the future of PR)

And the great thing is that it’s an ongoing thing. We’re still adding more and more people – and the voting never ends. Unfortunately submissions are via a slightly clunky ’email daniel dot thornton at bauermedia dot co dot uk with name, details and a headshot’ method but we’ll work to get everyone online as soon as is possible. Voting is rather slicker! At regular intervals we’ll keep everyone up to date with the results at the time, further learnings, and how we’re continuing to be surprised by the wonderful thing which is humans interacting.

Oh, and if you’ve contributed/suggest for the list, or allowed the use of your photo via Creative Commoncs, then many, many thanks. It’ll take me some time to list everyone that contributed via me, but I’ll happily list anyone as they remind me (or whinge in EaonP’s case!)

Is Clay Shirky the biggest celebrity of Web 2.0?

Because ‘The Rock Stars of Web 2.0‘ list on Ditto.net certainly seems to think so! (Disclaimer – I work for Bauer Media, who created Ditto, and help with some marketing…)

At the moment, Clay Shirky tops the list, followed by Doc Searls, Stowe Boyd and Wayne Sutton. The top female web 2.0 celebrity on the list is Veronica Belmont, who is in joint fifth place with Euan Semple, JP Rangaswami and David Weinberger.

Right at the bottom of the list, with a minus score, is Jason Calacanis! And he’s joined by some pretty big names, including Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington (Techcrunch), Tom Anderson (Myspace), Bill Gates and Barack Obama!

If you don’t think the order is right, get voting at ‘The Rock Stars of Web 2.0‘. And if there are people missing from the list, let me know in the comments, below.

Value can emerge from the frivolous thanks to the net

When colleague and chum David Cushman and I compiled The Rock Stars of Web 2.0 list on Ditto.net is was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way to play with an interesting website from the company for which we both work, and on which  help with some marketing.

We thought it may turn up something interesting, but we really didn’t know what…

Voting is still continuing, but it’s already teaching us a number of things about how people are using the site, how they’re ordering information, and about how the people in question are perceived.

And it’s also starting to become a valuable resource for information. Ditto itself is a social entertainment guide to help find right signal in the increasingly noisy world of entertainment, and it allows you to add relevant videos. Which is just what has happened, started off by David!

So now it starts to be more than a popularity list, and also becomes somewhere to find the best bits of information/entertainment from those on the list. It’ll be interesting to see if it has any bearing on the voting!

Is your online identity in your control?

Image by stevec77 on Flickr

This post was inspired by a request by an individual to be removed from the voting on The Rock Stars of Web 2.0 list on Ditto.

We quickly complied and I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no malice or irritation at someone wishing to be removed. If it had been an article of a blog post which was in the public interest, things would have been different, but the list is intended to be an interesting bit of fun, nothing more. Although I’d always suggest polite responses will get a quicker reaction.

But it raised some interesting questions about online identity, as the reason given for removal was that the profile listing (Image, name and main claim to fame) ‘was not approved’ by the individual in question. It’s lead me to wonder if anyone can really hope to control their online appearances to only those which are officially approved, especially if they have any level of internet ‘fame’.

A quick Google search for the name reveals many thousands of mentions, images, quotes etc. Are we right to assume that all of these have been individually approved? Or are they seen as valid if they are on established sources, blogs, or media sharing sites? Is it the voting mechanism which prompted the request?

And how would I feel about a similar situation? I’d be happy if I was considered a ‘Web 2.0’ celebrity (which I’m blatantly not), but what if I was at the bottom of the list? (Luckily at the moment it’s Jason Calacanis, who never seems particularly fussed about risking negative sentiment online).

And what happens if it was a list which I found distasteful or offensive? Something which was racist or homophobic for example? Would I even know it existed in the first place, if it didn’t pop up in a Google alert, or someone didn’t bring it to my attention somehow?

So:

  • How do I reassure myself I can find every instance in which I appear online?
  • Do I need to check the context of every appearance?
  • Should I expect to give my approval every time I appear somewhere?
  • Should I expect to be able to request my removal and have a prompt response?

The first task is tricky. A Google search will pick up a lot of things, but not all of them. There could be some bizarre story or rumour about me, hidden away on a tiny un-indexed website, that could, theoretically, suddenly make the front page of Digg at any time (It’s pretty unlikely though!). If my online identity and network are what I base my career on, one big article, image, or video could have a big effect on the people that know me, and a huge effect on anyone seeing me or my name for the first time.

That’s why I do tend to check the context if I see or hear my name mentioned somewhere. It’s not about checking mentions are always positive, and getting upset if they aren’t (Like famous actors, I never read reviews!). But checking that things haven’t been mis-attributed, taken out of context, or words put in my mouth.

But I definitely don’t expect websites to seek my approval before they publish anything about me, or for them to necessarily remove it if I complain. And a removal request wouldn’t be triggered by a positive or negative response. It’s dependant on whether the mention is truthful, although I would expect a right to reply for a negative response, and they should be asking for my response before publication. It’s good journalistic practice and also good from a legal standpoint.

And anything I do online is done with the knowledge that it could be re-used, re-compiled, or twisted with, or without my knowledge, and that although technology and good working practices should mean I have a chance to respond to any damaging mentions, hopefully I’m now findable enough that anything out of context will be obviously so, by comparison to my blogging, twittering, facebooking etc. There will be rotten apples online as well as offline, and having control of a brand, even a personal one, will have a limited impact at best.

At the end of the day, perhaps the best way to ensure a consistent online identity is to be open, and swamp anything out of character with quality insights into what you and I are really about?

I’m really interested to hear what other people think, although I’d like to stress this is about identity rather than a place to spam online reputation management services…

(Funnily enough I just logged into Flickr to find the above image: Who Am I by stevec77, and found a message asking to use one of my images for an article on lolcats. Having to register to agree to let them publish it, and in the process having to sign up for emails as part of the Ts and Cs is pretty rubbish, but hey, I’m always interested in crowd powered media. And lolcats.)
Hizzy as a lolcat

Voting open for the rock stars of Web 2.0!

I’ve posted in preparation long enough – you can now vote for the people you rate as the true rock stars of Web 2.0.

How you define a web rock star is entirely up to you – which is the fun bit. This isn’t a list defined by a company, magazine, or website – it’s purely decided by the voters. Which means it’s already had some surprising results – I wouldn’t have tipped the four or five early leaders to be out in front, for example!

As Ditto’s categories are primarily set-up for general entertainment, I’ve volunteered to collate additional entries and suggestions, and missing pictures etc, (daniel dot thornton at bauer consumer . co . uk).

Help to complete the list of Web 2.0 Rock Stars

If you’re on the following (subjective) list of Web 2.0 Rockstars which I’m compiling with my colleague David Cushman for publication on Ditto.net, or you know one of the nominees, then could you email me a portrait photo? If not, you might find yourself represented by a blank space, a hastily-drawn cartoon, or similar!

The list itself will open for voting very shortly, once the images have all been uploaded:

That’s as close to the final list as possible – although if there’s a glaring omission and you can make a case for it and email me a picture asap, there’s still a chance for inclusion. Email the pictures to daniel dot thornton at bauerconsumer.co.uk and please be aware they’ll be appearing as a list on ditto.net.

Pick and vote for the top Web 2.0 Rockstars

I need your help!

My colleague David Cushman and I are coming up with a list of Web 2.0 Rockstars to use for a fun list on Ditto.net. Ditto is a fun and easy way to find entertainment and other interesting topics, ranked by user voting. And it’s constantly evolving, with some big changes on the way. (Disclosure: I do some work with Ditto as it’s owned by the company I work for, Bauer Consumer Media)

So we want to celebrate the changes with a fun vote on who is the biggest ‘rockstar’ in Web 2.0, whether it’s because they founded the biggest site, live the most glamorous lifestyle, or have an addiction to Guitar Hero! You can see the list, links and info below, and add your suggestions and comments below, or on the Ditto blog. David and I will be compiling them all, and will let you know as soon as the list is ready for voting…

Forget Google Page Rank, Technorati listing, or Twitter followers…this is all about your opinions….

Rock Stars of Web2.0…in no particular order

And more being added after suggestions here, on Dav’s blog, on Ditto, and on Twitter:

So let’s hear the suggestions, omissions, complaints…

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