Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Industry Standard is back. Why?

The Industry Standard ably chronicled -- and, eventually, mirrored -- the tech boom that began a decade ago and died a few years later. (Disclosure: Despite its occasional excesses, I am honored to have been associated with the magazine.) After years of noticing that thestandard.com was still receiving ample traffic and -- with one brief exception a few years back -- not doing much about it (I wonder if pointcast.com still gets lots of visitors), IDG, which was the Standard's lead investor and picked up the carcass in bankruptcy court, has relaunched the site this week.

The new site is, to these eyes, an unintentional parody of Web 2.0 features. Rather than mere advertising, it has a more high-end sponsorship model (i.e., one pay-for-it-all advertiser), it seeks to create a community (you have to sign in to enjoy the more interesting features), and it combines aggregation and a sliver of original material with a "wisdom of crowds" prediction market. To give you a sense of how well the prediction market is going so far, as I write this every prediction on the site was submitted by thestandard.com's no-doubt bare-bone staff (that's how Web 2.0 works, too). And, of course, to keep costs really low, this time the brand is online-only.

I'm not sure what's being accomplished here, aside from the modest monetization of a dormant but still semipopular URL. It's an attempt to revive a once-very-popular name, synonymous with original content, with as little original content as IDG can get away with. Maybe that will change.

Recently someone I hadn’t been in touch with for more than 20 years found me on Facebook and suggested we "reconnect." But if we really wanted to "reconnect," whatever that means, we might have done so at least once during the previous two decades. That’s how I feel about The Standard coming back: it’s too late, it’s pointless, its time has passed. The new site should rise or fall on the basis of its own achievement, not on those of an entirely different team a boom and a bust ago.

(later posted to Radar)

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