Birth of a Startup, pt. 2 (8/30)

Much of the problems facing Thoughtscream Media boiled down to “uniqueness.” E-zines are a dime a dozen, as are their originating paper mediums. Online aggregates too, even ones curated by human editors and sprinkled lightly with half-hearted commentary. Trying to eck out something that would stand out from the crowd is, to put it mildly, extremely difficult. Finding an absolutely guaranteed answer is the dream of every media mogul everywhere.

It is, however, Thoughtscream’s position that there are significant fields of possible design philosophies that have not been trod upon much by their competitors – even ones that would benefit more from human control than automation.

How the heck are you guys going to be profitable? At all?

An interesting question! And a dangerous one to ask, really, as I can probably go on for hours for what we’re planning to do.

We’re not an app developer, for one. So any plans for profitability requires us to consider many, many different means of revenue generation.

First and foremost is, of course, advertising. In fact, it’s very much first – a lot of our plans for original-content-to-profitability turnover first requires, well, content creation, and it’s a little hard to produce a vast range of multimedia production when your founding staff consists of an editor, an audiovisual expert, and one coder.

The idea here is simple and pretty much irrefutable – targeted advertising is more efficient than general advertising, and targeted demographics is more efficient content delivery than general demographics. Which is why Thoughtscream Media targets the Geek Demographic, or the 18-34 year old subculture enthusiasts, mostly male, that may very well be the marketer’s dream targets but get almost no focus, recognition or concern by the mainstream presses.

(Seriously. The last time Mercury News really concerned itself with the geek world was when Magic: The Gathering had its 10th anniversary. Talk about a crap deal.)

We then take that demographic’s interests, generate a flurry of content either directly related to them or sculpted in such a way as to best appeal to our shared sensibilities (and it really is shared – the best person to write to a demographic is somebody within it), and use an internally developed meta-tag system in which to assign advertising. All the while using a human editor to ensure best-fit.

Oh come on. It’s been done before, hasn’t it?

The skepticism is warranted. Google Adwords does something within the same vague phase-state of contextually targeted advertising, as does a plethora of competing systems. However, automated advertising has many problems – you know that the keyword system is fundamentally flawed when major news sites have adverts screaming “LOSE WEIGHT NOW” or “DON’T PAY FOR CREATINE” alongside stories relating to biomedical breakthroughs. Or swine flu.

What we do is take out the AI middleman. The advertising plan is to, instead, work directly with the companies seeking advertising – offer placement and even levels of customization based upon purchasing access to trending content metatags, of which are assigned by human editors in hierarchical order to pages and content.

The advantages to doing so are numerous – not the least of which is the fact that, vastly unlike print media, advertising space expands linearly with content. Any print editor would know what I’m talking about – the need to produce a paper whose pagecounts are determined by the number of adspaces bought up puts an intrinsic upper and lower bounds on content, both in terms of quantity and quality. An online news site can, with careful design, avoid this problem entirely – rather, ad space scales with generated content, not the other way around.

Of course, this is only true if you’re not exhibiting the same cycle feed of advertisements through the entire site.  Rotating banners are so late-90s. Rather, this is the second advantage of metatag advertising – content-specific advertising, in that ads purchased under access to a metatag or tag category only shows up in content that it relates to.

It’s pretty clear why this is important: given that a user clicking on a story is the closest guarantor you can have that they’re interested in that particular story or subject, ensuring that you only show up in content of that general, or even specific, discipline greatly enhances an advert’s chance to be noticed – and taken seriously. The additional element of a human editor for both assigning metatags and finetuning ad placement further deviates from common industry methods – all for the better.

The third, but far from last, advantage is simply its scalability – to budgets of nearly any size. The hierarchical nature of metatags, the inherent inclination towards increasing content creation, and the records we’ll keep regarding their trends over time all sums up to a plethora of available advertising “slots” instead of an exorbitant sum for lump, across-board, low-efficiency exposure.

Be it multibillion-dollar corporations or basement startup, advertising with Thoughtscream Media ensures that your message not only reaches your intended audience, but increases the your relevancy amongst them. You can’t ask for much better – and certainly not from AI systems.


~ by Gonzo Mehum on November 13, 2009.

5 Responses to “Birth of a Startup, pt. 2 (8/30)”

  1. Question!

    How are you going to handle situations where reporting the straight facts behind Story X, or even reporting on it at all, is going to upset, piss off, or simply drive away advertisers.

    Yes, it can and will happen.

    I’m interested about how you will approach that situation. Self-censorship, or reporting on it anyway?

  2. Oh, good, a question – a stinger at that.

    I’ll address it next, before I go into the technical details of implementation.

  3. I don’t know if I speak for you as well, but my general thoughts on the subject is it’s much easier to replace a pushy advertiser than the hordes of readers who will invariably discover that you’ve lost your credibility as objective.

    Or, I suppose, more simply, we only advertise things we generally support. Though, I suppose that could lead to conflict if opinion is split within the staff.

  4. You’re a cofounder – your words’ve got as much weight as mine on the matter.

    Actually, a split amongst the board’s opinion, in my eyes, merely means we now have two or more potential advertisers… but I’m kinda predatory like that. In reality, a consensus is preferable, and you’re right – the system should ideally support readers over advertisers.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by gonzomehum, James Chen. James Chen said: New meta-WTHX up at […]

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