Monetising Disqus

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The Techcrunch switch from Disqus to Facebook got me thinking about how Disqus competes and earns money.  Mark Suster has suggested that Google should buy them which undoubtedly could be a nice financial outcome but it’s probably a little early for the visit to the “pay window” (attributed to JLM).

I’m a huge fan of Disqus, it helps to create a community on a blog.  The thought of posting a comment and it turning up on my Facebook wall, out of context, is a huge turn off to me.  Plus I’d be spamming my friends quite a bit with the comments I make on AVC.

Techcrunch say they switched in effort to stop the trolls, I think this is partly true, although frankly how hard is it to create a fake facebook account if you want to troll.  I’ve seen a few people comment (my favourite is here) that the real reason is because Facebook will bring more eyeballs to Techcrunch and I think that’s also true.

How does Disqus compete with Facebook, well apart from enhancing community features I think they need to capitalise on the information in the blogs that use Disqus and the comment stream and do that from the Disqus website i.e.

  • Search comments
  • Trending/Hot Topics
  • Comment Stream
  • Enhanced Profile, including recommended blogs
  • Blog directory/leaderboard (even premium listings)

Keywords/Tag inserts

A very powerful feature that I think Disqus should implement is to allow blog owners and those who comment to place tags/keywords into the Disqus stream.  This makes it easier for people to search and find blogs and comments that they might find relevant.

The discovery of new and interesting blogs and comments is where Disqus can win.  All bloggers want people to come and read their blog and if Disqus can drive that traffic via a Disqus search or link then I think that would be extremely attractive to them.  Helping to create a community with a great commenting interface is important but driving the traffic  is more important. Which I think will help Disqus beat off the Facebook competition and monetise faster.

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A VC: Marketing

This blog is my scrapbook, it’s primarily for my reference but hopefully some of the stuff here will be of interest to other people interested in the VC and start up world.

Fred Wilson wrote a piece on marketing which turned out to be a little controversial.  There were some nuggets in the comments as usual and typically one of them came from JLM:

Marketing is the 4 Ps — product, price, placement, promotion.

Almost everything Fred describes as an alternative to “marketing” is, in fact, marketing. When Twitter focuses on its logo, that is marketing.

One cannot develop a product without defining it. Marketing.

One cannot develop a product without defining the market for the product itself. Marketing.

One cannot develop a product without defining how it is going to be distributed. Marketing.

One cannot develop a product without pricing it. Marketing.

If you are thinking about any business endeavor without taking the time to understand the unique selling advantage/propositions, without conducting a focus group on a prototype or without plumbing the depth of the consumer pool — then you are just playing at it.

This is essence of business. This is marketing.

When Fred Wilson cloaks his comments in the splendor of his blog — Fred is exhibiting marketing genius.

Every single minute of every day, businesses are engaged in marketing.

Industrial design decisions made by folks like Apple are market and marketing driven.

via A VC: Marketing. ”

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Learning to Code

Start pd

Image via Wikipedia

Whenever I go to networking events I come across people who have this great idea and just need a technical person to build it for them.  Finding that person is way harder than they think.  Most technical people have either been burnt once in that sort of arrangement or take the attitude that they don’t need the MBA type and are sceptical of what they bring to the party.  (I’m not getting into that debate)

If you are in that situation then I’d say go out (or rather stay in) and learn to code.  There is a ton of information, tutorials, open source code on the web that means you can teach yourself the basics and more.  Stackoverflow is an awesome resource, it’s full of people willing to help you with a problem.

By learning to code you are getting involved with the techie community, thus improving your chances of finding that technical partner and also what you learn will be invaluable to you even if you don’t stay involved with the technical side of your project at a later date.   You will have some understanding of what it takes to build a web app.

Which language? That’s your choice.  Google it or take a look on Stackoverflow or ask the question on Quora.

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foursquare needs to up it’s marketing to existing customers

Foursquare (social networking)
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I haven’t used foursquare for months, I lost interest in it, there was nothing in it for me except a bunch of badges.

Has that changed? I don’t know if there is anything new going on at foursquare because they don’t tell me.

I’m not a foursquare fanboi so they can’t rely on me to make the effort to find out if it’s worth coming back.

I think you have to keep in touch with your existing customers at least once a month.  They’ve got my email address, they should be able to tell I haven’t checked in for a while, why haven’t I been sent an email telling me what I’m missing out on?

Maybe it’s because I’m in the UK, maybe they are doing more email marketing in the US.  If they are not they should be.


Funnily enough I received an email like the one I described above from foursquare on 29/01/11  I’d like to think it was because they read this post but it’s more likely to be coincidence!

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Watch Le Web live

Le Web is probably the biggest tech conference in Europe, it attracts some big names.  You can watch it below, the schedule is here

UPDATE – I’ve removed the video now the event is over it was slowing the site down

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VC Office Hours – c’mon Europe!

Doors, Brown, Shipley & Co.
Image by stevecadman via Flickr

Fred Wilson announced on his blog that his firm Union Square Ventures is following Brad Feld‘s example at Foundry and will be holding office hours.

Office hours basically means that you can make an appointment to see Fred, or Brad without any qualification, introduction or filters.  Can you imagine a European VC doing that?!

So here’s a plea to:


Eden Ventures






Open up your doors and let the entrepreneurs in!

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Instapaper vs Readability

I’ve had a fair bit of interest on this post so I thought I’d update it:

I am still finding that Instapaper is failing to deliver new articles on a daily basis automatically to my Kindle.  This problem did seem to go away for a little while but I’m now finding that more often than not I have to go to my instapaper account and press send now.  Really frustrating.  I think @marco is probably devoting his time to the ipad/iphone version which makes sense because that’s how he’s earning his money.

Since this original article Readability have introduced the ability to email articles directly to your Kindle account in the free version, which I really like.  The downside is that the articles are not synced or saved anywhere in the free version of Readability (unlike Instapaper), the paid version of Readability does have that ability.  This doesn’t bother me that much because I use my Kindle mostly for reading not my iPhone.

So on balance I prefer the free version of Readability to Instapaper simply because it’s more reliable.

If you are an iPad user you will probably find the Instapaper app a better option because it syncs and saves.

Original Article:

So I’m a couple of weeks into using my Kindle and loving it.  It’s a great device for reading content.  It’s really light weight and the battery life is phenomenal.

I was also really enjoying using Instapaper but came across a pretty big problem, most of the time my articles that I had saved to be sent to my Kindle were not arriving.  That is really frustrating.  The Instapaper service on a Kindle could be awesome but it is so disappointing when something that has that much potential then doesn’t deliver on service.  I’ve done some trawling around and the implication from Marco is that this Amazon’s fault.

Still that doesn’t solve my problem so I’ve had to revert to a more manual process of getting articles onto my Kindle using the Readbility bookmarklet (which does a similar process of converting a web page into a text friendly page), then printing that page as a pdf, then emailing the pdf with “convert” in the subject line to my address so that Amazon converts the Pdf into an awz file.  Not an elegant solution but it does work every time.

I’m hoping Marco will get it sorted with Amazon, more than happy to pay for the service, it’s invaluable to me.

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Instapaper and the Kindle 3 an awesome combo

Image representing Instapaper as depicted in C...
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Last weekend my parents bought me a Kindle 3 .  My Dad received one in the first batch that went out and I drooled over it, so they kindly bought one for me as an early birthday present (thanks Mum and Dad).   I love the Kindle 3,  it does exactly what it says on the tin as an e-reader and I’ve always loved Amazon, they are just awesome.

So after I had downloaded my first book (Rework – review to follow) I thought I’d see what else I could do with the Kindle.  After playing with the web browser (basic) I decided to link my Kindle account with my Instapaper account.  I absolutely love it.   I used to snack on a few articles on my iPhone using Instapaper but on the Kindle I now have a personalised newspaper that I can sit down with a cup of coffee and read at my leisure, rather than stare at a glaring monitor (where I already spend too much time).  It’s a game changer for me and a real bonus feature for the Kindle.

@marcoarment is the  founder of Instapaper and has just left Tumblr as Technical Lead to concentrate on Instapaper.  If Instapaper works out that is an awesome example of a side project that turns into your main job.  I wish you the best of luck Marco.

In my opinion Marco needs to formalise Instapaper subscriptions and operate a freemium model.  Whilst it’s cool to say “you don’t get anything for having a subscription but you are supporting me” I don’t think that is a business model.

Instapaper is worth paying money for, so people should be paying for it.  I’m not going to pay Amazon to deliver Instapaper content to my Kindle over 3G (I’ll use wireless because it’s free) but I’d be more than happy to pay Instapaper if I want more than say5 articles a day delivered to my Kindle.

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Angelgate EXCLUSIVE: BIN38′s Super Angel Menu Via Techcrunch

Angelgate EXCLUSIVE: BIN38′s Super Angel Menu And More.

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JLM: Borrower V Lender – Game On

Another JLM blog comment on AVC that is pure gold

The VC world — from both sides of the table entrepreneur and investor — is trying to standardize everything. A damn good thing.

In my view a normal maturation of the market which while certainly streamlining the marketplace also stands for the proposition that a few less frogs will be kissed overall. A good thing. Who likes frog slime?

Entrepreneurs have got to get their big girl panties on and do the normal “right” things.

Know exactly with whom you are doing business because a BAD reputation has never really ever been reversed. Get some competition into the mix. Force it to happen. Go meet a lot of folks in a short period of time. Get your pitch razor sharp. Watch their eyes and refine it when they begin to bead up. Kiss lots and lots of frogs. Keep your knees crossed until Prince Charming shows up and then enjoy your night of passion.

Don’t let anyone push you around and go seek the counsel of folks who have been to the rodeo once or twice. They are willing to assist. I promise you that other entrepreneurs WANT to help. Remember that in the marketplace, you do not get what you deserve, you get what you NEGOTIATE.

And, oh yeah, hire a damn good youngish lawyer with whom you have a great connection and relationship. Listen to what he says.

So, bottom line, sure there is collusion going on — what the hell do you think a bunch of VCs would talk about when they had a few drinks in them?

But it really doesn’t mean anything because the world is getting smaller, the capital is more fluid and mobile, you are getting pretty damn savvy about how the money game is really played and, most importantly, you look marvelous!

Do try to do business w/ nice people because it is the most important decision you will ever make.

Big secret — the guys with the money only get paid to give it out. They INVENTORY money.  Sure, they can be a bit prickly to deal with sometimes, but they live to give out money. Help them do it.

via A VC: Collusion.

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