Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

July 27, 2007

HBO's To Close launched in late 2006 and was a collaberative project of AOL and HBO. The site featured original streaming video content, plus material repurposed from HBO's various comedy properties. The site ran advertising placed by, and AOL subsidiary.

What went wrong? Well, without access to any inside information I'll offer the following:
  1.'s content was funny, but humor is a commodity on the Web. If you're looking for funny, this is the place. In fact, it's almost impossible to find anything that's not funny on the Web. The whole frickin' place is a funhouse. Why add to the surplus?

  2. JustInTime spent a lot of money hiring talent, including Amanda Congdon, Dane Cook, and others. Comedians demand to be paid up-front, in cash, and aren't going to settle for rev share agreements or "viral exposure" as payment. This meant that JustInTime had to spent thousands of dollars -- maybe six or even seven figures -- before it even launched.

  3. Was this site heavily promoted via offline channels? I don't own a television so I can't tell you. But only consistent promotion can drive eyeballs to the Web. I'd bet that there were many opportunities for promotion which weren't fully exploited.

  4. Standard-rate CPM or CPC advertising will never be able to earn enough to dig a site out of the hole dug by high talent upfront payments. had advertising pasted into every available spot on its pages, but whatever it made was less than what it needed to survive. This advertising doesn't appear to be targeted toward the content of the video. It looks like low CPM, RON junk to me, in fact a lot of slots appear to run house-ads for other HBO properties. This is no way to run an ad-supported Web site.

  5. The site never caught on with users. To its credit, it did allow users to embed and forward its video content, but it seems that few did. Its Blog format was the right choice, because it provided for frequent rotation of content, but it seems that nobody cared. According to Alexa, JustInTime's current traffic rank is 50,503. In comparison, the traffic rank for (the site you're reading) is 122,763. You can't run a niche web site and pay talent at the same time and expect it to survive for long without a lot of traffic.
I'd like to think that Old Media will wake up one of these days and finally launch something that will endure, grow, and genuinely take advantage of the full potential of the Internet. But the more I view their failed efforts, the less confident I am that this will ever happen., it seems, is just another nail in the many now embedded in its coffin.

Labels: , ,

Nearly Half of Weblogs Inc's Blogs Are Dead

Well, it's time to needle Jason Calacanis again. I like needling Jason because I know he has a customized alert set up, just like Danny Sullivan and other Web bigwigs with robust egos. Whenever anywhere in the world, from Zanzibar to East Harlem, mentions Jason or Danny, alarm bells ring and Klaxons blare in their offices, and they immediately come over to see what the ruckus is.

It's frickin' Pavlovian.

What's the ruckus today? Well, it looks like almost half of the Blogs at WebLogs Inc. are no longer updated. Of 106 Blogs listed within the network, only 54 remain active, with 52 being classified as "inactive/on hiatus." Now I know this isn't Jason's fault -- after all, he sold WebLogs to AOL back in 2005 for about $25 million, and while he's still listed on Weblogs Inc's masthead, he's not responsible for all the bitrot that's been piling up there.

But Jason, look dude, can you really sleep at night knowing that you profited so mightily from selling property which less than two years after its transfer is starting to look as weedy as Grey Gardens? I mean, 50 percent of these Blogs are dead. Sure, you got over AOL in a big way and that's no small achievement. After the way they treated you at, I'd be the last one to tell you to return any of this money. But wow - is this whole Web publishing thing for real or just a new age version of Glen Garry Glen Ross? Are none of us anything more than salesmen of swampy real estate to clueless buyers?

Labels: ,

What's Behind Fox News' Attacks on Bloggers?

The video embedded below, assembled by Brave New Films' Robert Greenwald, documents the increasingly vociferous attacks made by Fox News' spokespeople on Bloggers, particularly

I have no connection to DailyKos, other than the fact that I briefly met Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga at Steve Gilliard's funeral. Nor do I have any desire to discuss politics on Ghost Sites: that's for other sites to take care of, and there are plenty of them, both left and right, which do a fine job of it.

What I will say is that contempt for "the Blogosphere" on the part of the Mainstream Media (AKA "MSM") is nothing new. A high level of hostility bordering on hysteria has been evident among journalists and representatives of analog networks for at least 10 years. The Web -- a truly insurgent, disruptive communications medium -- has been slowly sucking audiences and the ad dollars that follow them from old media for a long time, but it's only in the past year or so that the "pain point" has been reached. This is why these attacks are happening now.

Keep this in mind as you watch yesterday's world-striding pundits froth at the mouth about "hate speech on the Internet." You might love Bill O'Reilly or hate his guts, but you should understand that it's economics, not politics, that is the force driving these attacks and those to come.

Labels: ,

Click Here to Return to the Ghost Sites Home Page