Saturday, January 31, 2009

Something Under the Business Model is Drooling

Pajamas Media, the Left Coast “balanced” blog conglomerate, has slammed the door on all its associate bloggers. Roger Simon is the CEO and his charmless pink slip reads much like the nastygram we got back when they banned us for daring to be politically incorrect. Of course, since we were being banned rather than merely made redundant, we got a phone call, too, informing us of our sins.

This time, PJM is not just booting the bad little bloggers who color outside the lines, like Gates of Vienna. Now, as of April 1st, it’s shutting the doors on all those bloggers who signed on and stayed on with them through the past few years. One would think that they’d have enough courtesy to at least personalize their form letter a bit. But no, everyone got the identical heave-ho.

Roger and PJM

In case you weren’t around then, or have forgotten, our sin was in posting an essay which described possible scenarios if Europe continued in its downward spiral of lawlessness and demographic decline. We were careful to bracket the discussion as descriptive, not normative. Truth to tell, I don’t think the folks in charge out in Hollywood understand the difference between these two categories.

At the point we were canned, I realized we weren’t dealing with conservatives at all. Instead, this entity, PJM, consisted of some venture capitalists and a front man, all of them 9/11 converts - as in “Help! We gotta do something!” But their conservatism was barely skin-deep. They’ve been in Hollywood too long to even notice or care beyond whatever numbers they need to generate in order to consider themselves successful. Out there, appearance trumps everything.

Atlas Shrugs has a good description of what went wrong. She also suggests, in her inimitable way, that she could have done it better with one hand tied behind her back. I think she might be right.

Now, having one failed business plan under its fedora, PJM is turning its talents this time in the direction of a hybrid, something called PJ-TV…
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Our satellite hookup does not easily allow us to watch streaming video, so I haven’t experienced their new paradigm firsthand. But from what I’ve read - and that’s not much - their new model is a paid subscription to watch talking heads bloviate. Good heavens! Isn’t that what they do on television already, for free? Are there really enough people willing to fork over money to watch people they don’t know say predictable things on a computer screen? And just how are people who sneak their blog reading at work going to get away with having streaming video up and running during work time?

TV is easy to make fun of, but at least their front men are pretty enough and while what they say is mostly nonsense, they say it with a bit of verve.

In other words, I can’t imagine this new model succeeding. Have any of you ever had the experience of showing up to hear a beloved author talk at a book signing only to find that he or she is a bit lusterless in person? I am afraid that is the future of PJ-TV. People will wander away.

Tiger Hawk suggests some good reasons for the failure of the blogger side of PJM at this juncture. Among other points, he says:

There are probably a number of reasons, but the main one -- the decline of conventional internet advertising -- overwhelms the otherwise reasonable premise behind Pajamas Media.

Conventional internet advertising is generally down. Mainstream media sites have seen a huge surge in traffic in the last few years, but a decline in online revenue. Suffice it to say that this is very bad news for the big news organizations, which were hoping that online business would grow quickly enough to sustain their newsgathering operations. It is also bad news for people who want to sell ads on blogs, because it means that they are competing with a very hungry mainstream media

I’m glad we don’t have to sell ads to meet the expenses of running the blog. We never set out to try to make a living as bloggers; that would make it work and the Baron already has a job that supports us both. Yeah, I’d like to see him get paid for this, but then again, I’d love to be well enough to go to work myself. However, as we've all learned the hard way, man proposes…

When we first started, the expenses were few. But as we’ve grown, we’ve had to add a site to store images and an internet satellite connection, in addition to keeping our dial-up ISP for emergency use. Satellite connections don’t like bad weather.

Eventually, as Blogger becomes more restrictive and/or whimsical, we’ll have to migrate to another site. That gargantuan task will definitely be put off until it reaches the “HAVE TO” stage.

I feel sorry for all the about-to-be former PJM bloggers who have been shown the door. But at least they have two months’ notice to make other arrangements. That’s more than we outlaws got, though, as I said, being thrown into the outer darkness was indeed a liberation. Our readers was instantly generous in making up the short fall and then some. Notice we haven't had to do a bleg since that first one. And still ad free!

Most of the bloggers who’ve been made redundant will also find this to be true. I wish them good luck in their transition back to the regular ol’ blogosphere.

Yes, it is indeed frowned upon to create your own versions of Calvin and Hobbes. Putting Calvin in Roger’s fedora and changing the title probably doesn’t make it, huh?

Sorry, Mr. Watterson. We simply couldn’t resist. Calvin is Everyman at one point or another (which is why your books continue to sell after all these years). In this episode and at this juncture, Calvin most resembles the hapless Roger Simon.

For our European readers not familiar with Calvin and Hobbes, please see Something Under the Bed is Drooling. Two generations of American children have learned to read on their own by perusing the pages of Bill Watterson’s comic strips.


kepiblanc said...

Oh, dear Dymphna, I can assure you that Calvin & Hobbes insn't restricted to the 'New World'. In fact it's very popular and well known over here, at least in Denmark, where the name is Steen & Stoffer - (Steen is well known to all and everyone here at GoV and Stoffer can be interpreted as either 'drugs', or 'cloth' i.e. 'plush' as in 'plush tiger'...

An example: Cuckoos in the Galaxy.

Unknown said...

It's also very popular in Ireland. I have Homocidal Psycho Jungle Cat and The Essential Calvin and Hobbes.

Anonymous said...

Dymphna, you are seriously hilarious. I love you.

Dymphna said...


You're the right age. Did you learn to decode the written word via Calvin?

The future Baron was always a serious tad, careful to color in the lines (unlike his rowdy parents) so he was fascinated by Calvin's ability to be baaad -- and since he was an only child (at least existentially; all my other children were grown when he arrived), he dearly loved Hobbes and had his own version(s) of him.

We live in the country so he had limited contact with other children for the first few years. As a result, these animals of his were forced to play all his board games with him. They all had names, biographies, and complicated relationships I couldn't penetrate. Only a southern child would care about a first cousin, once removed.

Anyhow, that's the way we learned that he had an almost photographic memory. He could recite long passages of the Preface to "Soemthing Under the Bed is Drooling", which begins:

Another night deprived of slumber.
Hours passing without number.
My eyes trace 'round the room. I lay

Dripping sweat and now quite certain
That tonight the final curtain
Drops upon my short life's precious play…

Hearing those lines recited in their correct ponderous tones by a four year-old with a lisp was...memorable indeed.

We probably traumatized the fB with ol' Calvin, everyone's favorite Id.

Y'all --

I'm glad to hear Calvin is not confined to our shores. I really think Watterson used the names "Calvin" and "Hobbes" as a secret joke, though I've not seen this idea discussed

What I mean is that when he chose those names he was referring to John Calvin, the very stern religious reformer, and Thomas Hobbes, whom many consider the founder of modern political philosophy. At least he (the real Hobbes) set the terms for our debate, right down to the present. If you listen (read) Hobbes' lines carefully, you will hear echoes of the one who lived in the 17th century.

[If I'm right, then translators would use the given language's names these two real characters in the title. Anything else doesn't ring true]

With Bill Watterson, there is always more than meets the eye. They say he has become an artist in his retirement. Given his public body of work, I can only imagine what his art must be like today...

X said...

Dymphna, at least one other person has made the connection with very cute results. ;)

Dymphna said...


What a grest site! And the picture of Calvin and Hobbes is wonderful. Can you figure out if one is allowed to embed it or if the requirement is purchasing a print. that I think of it, the print would make a great birthday gift for the fB (who is way too busy doing chemical experiments on fermented grapes to read GoV).

"Deviant Art" indeed! Radical is more like it...and obviously a genius since he, too, thinks Calvin and Hobbes both got their names from their famous predecessors.