Answer those questions and you will have a good idea if the blogosphere really is about to explode as the Next Big Thing, whether OSM is the blogosphere's first Apple/Netscape/Google, and whether you should start thinking about jumping on board as a player, employee, investor or shareholder.
Just got an e-mail from an old San Jose Mercury-News employee describing the flattened morale there in light of the triple whammy of falling circulation numbers, the rumors of a pending breakup or sale of Knight-Ridder, and the golden-parachuted early retirement of more than 50 veteran staffers. The first two have received a lot of attention in the last couple weeks (including in this column) as early indicators of the slow death of newspapers in the U.S.
But, to this old Silicon Valley hand, it is the last event that, to my mind, is the most conclusive. If there is one thing I've learned over the years covering high-tech companies, it is that money, even technology, is less important than talent. If you follow the paths of the handful of the top people in any industry, you can pretty accurately predict where success will strike next. Intellectual capital contributes more than any other factor to the bottom line.
The Mercury-News (like just about every other major paper in the country) has either forgotten that, or has decided it no longer matters. There, on the list of 52 buyouts, which included some of the most talented and experienced reporters and editors at the paper, were the names of the two newspapermen I admire the most in the world, the two men who taught me most everything I know about newspapering: columnist Leigh Weimers -- "Mr. San Jose," the most beloved writer in the South Bay; and Pete Carey, two-time Pulitzer winner and the gold standard of investigative reporting on the West Coast.
You might be able replace people like Leigh and Pete. But you have to start with enormous talent -- and that talent is going online these days, not to newspapers. Also, you need to spend 30 years seasoning that talent -- newspapers don't have that much time left.
You may have noticed the sudden recent burst of stories about the blogosphere in the last few weeks, some of it sour, most of it with that stunned amazement we last saw with the rise of e-commerce companies -- i.e., "Who are these people? Why is everyone talking about them? Are we missing something?"
Given this flurry, one recent story was almost buried that, in quieter times, would have gotten a lot more attention. It too, I think, is a bellwether of things to come.
The story is that Andrew Sullivan, onetime enfant terrible editor in chief of The New Republic, and lately one of the world's most popular bloggers ("The Daily Dish") is moving his site over to Time.com, as the first storefront in what Time is calling a new "blog neighborhood."
This might seem like a retrograde move -- and time may prove that to be the case. But for the moment, it illuminates two important trends: