Cry Me a News River, Dave Winer

Dave Winer boasts about earning millions in revenue last year by blogging.

Over in another part of the tech blogosphere they're having a discussion about blogs that make big money. I still think Scripting News has the record there, by a wide margin.

Last year we did $2.3 million in revenue. Expenses? One salary (mine) and about $1000 per month in server costs. A few thousand for contract programming. Pre-tax profit? Millions.

His claim to have made seven figures blogging is a stretch, since he's referring to the sale of Weblogs.Com, which wasn't an extension of Scripting News. The service also relied on the largesse of other programmers to keep it running -- me for six months and several people at UserLand Software before that. (That's a recurring theme in many of Winer's accomplishments -- share the work, hog the credit -- going back as far as Frontier and ThinkTank, for which Doug Baron and Dave's brother Peter Winer are too infrequently described as cocreators.)

But I'll agree that he's got a killer strategy for turning a high-traffic blog into bling:

People think blogs are about advertising, and I would agree, but they're thinking in terms of clicks and eyeballs, and I'm thinking of technology that's created using the intelligence of community participation. ... We will get a whole new flow built here, through persistent experimentation, refinement, listening, promoting, thinking, and looping.

I can't think of another technologist who is better at singlehandedly getting people to buy into his ideas, whether they're good ones like XML-RPC or inconsequential ones like a simple mobile RSS hack, which is being touted as something revolutionary by Jeff Jarvis, Dan Farber, Read/Write Web and Dave himself:

I've not been so excited or so sure about a new direction for mobile technology since podcasting in June 2004. I'm sure we'll look back on this as a turning point for mobile news.

Now that I'm on the outside of this phenomenon, I have to laugh at how he's able to portray mobile news reading as completely uncharted territory. If mobile developer Russell Beattie was still blogging, I'm sure he'd be asking himself, "Why didn't I think to put news headlines on a no-graphics page for easy reading on your PDA or phone? Genius, thy name is Dave Winer!"

But it's sad clown laughter, like that unreleased Jerry Lewis movie from the '70s. In six months, we'll all be arguing about whether Winer invented mobirivercasting singlehandedly, as Robert Scoble believes, or must share the credit with others.


It's pretty clear Dave is one of the last to figure out that people want news on their mobile devices. At the MacWorld conference in July '99, I remember being astonished when a friend showed me the ability to get headlines from the New York Times on his state-of-the-art Palm Pilot. A year later, I was downloading avantgo content to my handspring before I left the house, and reading the morning headlines in traffic as I drove to work.

This "River of News" seems to be a "River of old" ideas people had already figured out.

I was reading the New York Times, Slate and other news sites regularly on an HP Jornada back in 2001. I'd still be doing it today if I hadn't dropped it on a hard floor.


My concern isn't Dave's trumpeting old ideas. Instead, he's republishing other's content without their permission, removing their copyright notices and in the NY Times case, removing their advertisements. Considering Dave's track record about a creator's rights, I find this disturbing but not shocking.

Isn't that illegal?



are the ads he's removing ads that are in the NYTimes stories on their site, or are they ads in the Times RSS feed?

If they're not in the feed I could see an argument that it's OK to republish without them (you're just echoing the contents of a feed into 1997-style HTML). If the ads are in the feed, though, that would seem another matter entirely.

From the NY Times RSS Page:

"We encourage the use of RSS feeds for personal use in a news reader or as part of a non-commercial Web site or blog. We require proper format and attribution whenever New York Times content is posted on your Web site, and we reserve the right to require that you cease distributing content. Please read the Terms and Conditions for complete instructions."

I stand corrected. Since his site is non-commercial, it sounds like it's OK.


It is rather ironic to watch Dave getting so excited about something that Mark Pilgrim was doing many years ago and Glenn Reynolds continues to use. I guess late is better than never.

I'm certainly not a geek, as you know, but I have to laugh when I read bluster like this from Dave Winer. I lived at his uncle Ken Kiesler's commune for quite a few years and Dave came to visit a few times while I was there.

He was kind enough to put me up at his apartment in New Orleans (while he was going to Tulane) when I stopped by hitch-hiking my way west, but silly me for thinking there might be some quid pro quo for a substantial little gift I had made the last time he had paid us a visit. The ingrate wouldn't lend a hippie bum like me $5 to assist my departure from town.

I don't know much about Dave Winer, but now that I have read several of your screeds concerning him, I still don't know much. Or, possibly I'm just confused.

"Cry Me a News River, Dave Winer"

This catchy play on words probably did it because it seemed that Dave was in some sort of trouble, or actually complaining about something.

"Pre-tax profit? Millions," just didn't seem to have a plaintive ring, and it was only until I had read to here, that things started to clear up:

"I have to laugh at how he's able to portray mobile news reading as completely uncharted territory."

Wait, I thought, where did Winer say mobile news was completely uncharted territory?

Well, of course, he didn't! Click! The old Aesop angst ...

Dave was very clever to avoid any appearance of trademark infringement by coming up with such a unique url. I'm sure the nytimes will have no-problemo with it.

Rogers, don't hold back. Tell us what you really think!

It almost sounds like the standard /. refrain.

1 Think of an idea, original or not.
2 Blog about it incessantly.
3 !!!
4 Profit! Millions in fact!

This mobile thing does seem a lot of bluster on a miniscule amount of tangible material, rather like an act of desperation. You don't think maybe he's spent that $2.3M..?

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