Category Archives: Walt Mossberg

True/Slant gets funky with ad integration


If Facebook, Digg and The New York Times had a drunken ménage à trois, their lovechild might look like True/Slant, a new ad-inside-journalism web model. The concept is simple: Journalists write; readers comment to push up articles and their own personal fame; and advertisers get to write their own pages, too. The site is heavy-up with skilled authors formerly of NYT, Financial Times and Rolling Stone, but it’s the ad integration that has Walt Mossberg buzzing.

Walt notes: “In a highly unusual move, the site plans to offer advertisers their own entire pages where they can run blogs and try to attract a network of followers. These will have the same design and features of the journalists’ pages, but will be labeled as ad content.” It’s actually brilliant integration — the ad content has the heft of the real articles, but the clear distinction — both in labeling and in authorship — keeps the gray shadiness of sponsored posts at bay. The site even gives reporters a cut of ad revenue, inspiring them to write strong authentic pieces that attract a loyal following and thus more ads.

We like it. Now if only someone would clean up the layout.

True/Slant gets funky with the ad integration

If Facebook, Digg and The New York Times had a drunken ménage à trois, their lovechild might look like True/Slant, a new web journalism model lauded in a puff piece by Walt Mossberg of WSJ.com. The concept is simple: Journalists write; readers comment to push up articles and their own personal fame; and advertisers get to write their own pages, too. The site is heavy-up with skilled authors formerly of NYT, Financial Times and Rolling Stone, but it’s the ad integration that has Walt Mossberg buzzing.

Walt notes: “In a highly unusual move, the site plans to offer advertisers their own entire pages where they can run blogs and try to attract a network of followers. These will have the same design and features of the journalists’ pages, but will be labeled as ad content.” It’s actually brilliant integration — the ad content looks the same with the heft as the real articles, but the clear distinction — both in labeling and in author — prevents the gray shadiness that creeps into blogs that are paid posts. True/Slant keeps the journalists separate, but as their individual rankings rise, they get a cut of the advertising they attract — thus they are inspired to write better authentic content, which in turn will attract more eyeballs and clearly defined advertisers.

We like it. Now if only someone would clean up the layout.

Walt Mossberg and the future of video: Beauty or the beast?

We love Walt. But watching the WSJ guru on camera makes us wonder: Why is so much web video still so bad? It looks like Walt forgot to clean his office before this take.

We wonder if the emergence of video — yes, real democratized video input will soon be here, with every cell phone inputting images to the web once the U.S. finally gets high-speed mobile figured out like Europe — will threaten old-school writers who, while brilliant, don’t have the anchorman smile of standard TV production. Or maybe viewers will lighten up and learn to enjoy a more gritty world where content, and not beauty, drives communication images.

Wanna bet?

Why it feels so right for Walt to be so wrong


Years ago we read a Request For Quote from a mobile phone company desperately seeking advice on how to stop its customer churn. It faced a horrific, potentially bankrupting problem — the business was losing nearly 25 percent of its customers every year.

Which is why we find Walt Mossberg’s polemic against cell phone carriers so interesting. Today WSJ devoted an entire special section to its technology columnist’s rant against the many sins of big wireless cos. Geez, Walt. You even called them a Soviet Ministry.

Sure, there’s a lot to dislike: Onerous contracts, inflated phone prices, artificial rebates, locked technology, incompatible networks, overage charges, rollover minutes that vaporize, spotty coverage, missing SIM cards, missing software, crappy web interfaces, incomprehensible bills, and inconsistent subscription pricing. In fact, you probably pay a very different rate for your monthly service than other users on your network. Don’t believe us? Get your bill, call your carrier, explain you want to sign up as a new customer — and hold your breath at the price differential.

Alas, there is a reason for all this mess, and it’s you, dear customer. You see, customers are fickle, and a sizable portion of the population skips around from utility to utility every year. Admit it. A sexy new cell phone comes strutting by, and you’re out the door. If this were a human relationship, you’d be a floozy.

Companies that provide commodity services such as cell phones — remember, it’s just a phone call, after all — have to compete with other companies that offer exactly the same service. And they know you’re cheap. Now, put yourself in their shoes. About 20 percent of their customers defect every year. They have to replace them. So big wireless cos do two simple things: Install switching costs to keep old customers from leaving, and offer discounts and incentives to get new customers to sign up.

Rollover minutes? They are a positive switching cost — if you leave, you give up something of apparent value, the 2,000 “free minutes” you’ve accumulated. Termination fee? Now that’s a negative switching cost. If you leave, that will be $299 please. Get it?

We’re sorry to inform you, Walt, and you, U.S. consumer — but everything you hate about cell phone companies comes from your own behavior. In a commodity marketplace where consumers constantly shop around, the big companies will create barriers to try to wall them in. They have to, to recover the billions in investment they make in cell phone towers and untested technologies. If you took out loans to build cell phone towers, you’d be worried, too. Years ago, priests invented marriage contracts to keep us all in the pen. Now, we have cell phone contracts. If we humans all weren’t so disloyal, maybe our communications would work just a little bit better.