News that AOL is paying $315 million for the Huffington Post forces me to write again about one of my favorite people in this business, Markos Moulitsas.
And his biggest screwup ever.
It goes by the name DK4.
By saying this I don't mean to criticize the new site itself. It's lovely. Nor do I wish to criticize the many decisions Markos has made, both in front of and behind the screen, in order to make the new software happen.
The problem is that it's kept his whole attention.
Markos is an entrepreneur, but in this case he has been betrayed by his nature. He is, by nature, a techie. There is nothing wrong with being a techie, if technology is your business.
But technology is not Markos' business. Content is his business.
Most of Kos' work is focused on community content, with a lot of rules for getting it and handling it. But that's not what the content business is about.
The content business is about monetizing content, and about acquiring it, in whatever form the technology allows.
DailyKos is not the only content site in which Markos holds an interest. SB Nation is an interesting sports site. Street Prophets is one of the most interesting sites on religion around. But these sites, like DailyKos itself, are about putting ads against community content.
That's a limited view.
Instead of focusing on his technology, Kos should have been focused instead on his business model. And he should have focused that attention not on bringing in money for operations, but in bringing money to his content creators.
I am amazed at how little the ZDNet business model has been studied. At ZDNet bloggers are paid based on page views. No page views, no money. Lots of page views, however, means lots of money. The site does a lot of work advertising its content, through e-mail and house ads. The tiers are set at such a level that writers know their employer is making money, and when both sides in a content transaction know they're making money they work harder.
There's another aspect of the ZDNet business model that deserves study. That is its focus on building markets, on organizing and advocating the industry it serves. This is something DailyKos has done in some fashion. Its Netroots Nation is a trade show, his fundraising efforts like ActBlue and Accountability Now important. But they're limited to a niche.
There are many areas beyond politics where content happens, as Kos himself knows. There are also many areas beyond text where content flows. By limiting himself to what he cares about, Kos has acted like a small businessman, not an entrepreneur.
Huffington, on the other hand, has worked like an entrepreneur throughout. You can call her news aggregation theft, you can argue with her business model and methods, but she has always known she has been running a business, and has now benefitted from that. She lets other people handle the technology.
But he has to be more than a politician or a blogger to do it. He has to become a businessman. A media tycoon.
Like this fellow.