Friday, January 05, 2007

A day in the life of Daylife

I've just come home from my grandmother's funeral so I missed the kerfuffle over Daylife. I consider Daylife to be a potential competitor, if tangentially, so it's an important issue for me.

Marc Hedlund, one of the names on the practically endless investor/advisor/friends list of Daylife founder Upendra Sharma, quoted Sharma's original five-second pitch for Daylife as being "IMdB for the news". IMdB has a database of hundreds of thousands of people in the movie/TV business, plus thousands more entries for the movies and shows, all cross-referenced. To that extent, you can see what Upendra was getting at with the "connection" feature, where each topic page includes links to related topics down the left side. However, one feature which Daylife hasn't got for its topics is permanent descriptive content, at which IMdB excels with its comprehensive CVs containing biographies, work histories, trivia and user comments. That kind of high-quality descriptive text is GOLD, JERRY, GOLD for Google spiders, they love that shizzle. Let me tell you, that's pretty fricken hard to build up, so I don't envy Upendra's job there. Unless he convinces his VCs to give him money to buy those databases off someone else, in which case good luck to him.

Speaking of VCs, Michael Arrington blasted Daylife even though he is an investor, causing a few raised eyebrows, but the reason is obvious: Michael has developed a sincere and public dislike for the doings of the New York Times group, and the NYT is the lead investor into Daylife... and most importantly, Daylife's structure has seemingly been designed to pander to the needs of the NYT and its fellow MSM broadcasters. Very few blogs appear in the results, it's mostly stuff you'd see on Google News. Take their John Howard page, which shows that Daylife tracked 72 mentions of his name in news sources on December 7 and only four blog mentions. Who wins out of Daylife? At the moment, it's not Daylife's investors - it's AP, Reuters and Getty Images. Like Newsvine, the VC moolah is not going mostly to fund new technology based on new understandings of the way media works - despite the manifesto - it's acting as outsourced R&D for the wire agencies... and Daylife is paying those agencies for the privilege!

Actually, on that manifesto, does it not strike you as a highly politically charged document? There is precious little focus on the user (or whatever you want to call the customer/consumer/reader/person). It seems to me to be a sop to the varied special interests in the Daylife investment ranks. To wit:

1. Provide a wide variety of perspectives, framings, and points of view – and help people triangulate stories and form their own perspective

Call this one the Jeff Jarvis Rule. Bloody hippies.

2. Surface the interconnections throughout the world we live in

Um... what? Someone was hitting the bong a bit too hard that day. The only things that should surface are things that had previously been submerged in liquid.

3. Provide more ways to engage with the news, and increase the utility of news and reporting

To... engage with news. And increase its utility. So nothing about increasing the quality of the news that users get, or broadening their choices. News is a nebulous Singular Thing, not to be fragmented. Yep, that's a sop to the NYT, alright.

4. Make the news ecosystem more transparent and self-correcting, for the benefit of all involved

All? Seems like that benefits the New York Times better, doesn't it, especially given their recent scandals?

5. Consider and serve all stakeholders - citizens, journalists, newsmakers, suppliers, the environment, shareholders and employees

This should never be a part of a manifesto by a startup. If you have a list of seven stakeholders, it should contain these seven only: users, users, users, users, users, users and users. And now, here's Gir to sing the Doom Song!

6. Develop new models for funding journalism

Aha, here's the Craig Newmark Rule. I knew it would get in here somewhere. He still feels the need to prove to all those journos he indirectly retrenched that he's not the Son of Satan. Good luck with that one, bro.

7. Enable a civil discourse that is pragmatic, solutions-oriented, and doesn't exaggerate divisions in favor of celebrating what unites us

Is Kofi Annan a secret investor? WTF? What sort of solutions could a news aggregator possibly provide for any division? Call this the Oh Fudge, Our Investors All Hate Each Other, Quick Write Something Telling Them Not To Scapegoat Us Rule. Well, I guess that one didn't work Mike! :D

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