Spend Matters: Reporting, Analysis and Aggregation — What is the Right Balance?

I caught up with an old friend last night at a technology networking event in Chicago, whom I'd describe as a reformed Big 5 consultant turned entrepreneur turned trader. He also happens to write -- from time-to-time a financial blog that looks at the economy and investment trends. He told me he reads Spend Matters to stay in touch with trends in the broader economy based on actual buying and global supply / demand behaviors. But more important than why he spends time curled up to our homely site in particular is his perception of what the balance of content for blogs should be. In his view, most blogs spend too much time being filters for the news rather than making or truly analyzing it. Spend Matters, in his mind, strikes a balance between reporting, analyzing and commenting.

I'm not so sure, however, if it's always the right balance. When it comes to technology, I like to think of us as a market maker for information that counts. We don't always get things entirely right when we move into analysis mode, but I think that over nearly six years, we've been right more than we're been wrong in terms of casting opinions. It's this part of Spend Matters which excites me most. Under ideal circumstances, I'd like us to devote even more time to analysis and op/ed type of writing rather than reporting on the events of the day and serving as a filter for information. Still, there are many who tell us that they like the part of Spend Matters that serves as a filter on the news. Our new "Afternoon Coffee" is the quintessential example as a blog as filter and even though we've not gotten much feedback on it yet, I personally find it valuable.

This question about the ideal role of blogs is even more appropriate given the FTC's new interest in potentially taxing blogs that leverage traditional news sources. According to the above-linked post on the subject, the FTC believes this redistribution of wealth effort "could provide subsidies and tax credits to help news organizations survive. In addition, the FTC suggests other equally inspired options, including limits to fair use and federal hot news legislation. Both would specifically target aggregation services that many believe have caused the pain of newspapers and other traditional news organizations."

I'm not sure where I come down on all of these issues yet. I know, for example that our tech analysis is frequently used by others in their own journalism/reporting, analyst research and client analyses, yet we would never see a penny for our efforts under the FTC proposals because they'd probably consider us a blog rather than a newsmaker (I consider us a hybrid of the two, BTW). Moreover, if we take the FTC argument to an extreme, perhaps trade publications and others should pay software vendors and others to license the use of their press releases that often become the basis of "reporting."

It's obvious this issue is not black and white. I actually think the FTC is right to ask these questions even though I hope that the free market for information ultimately wins out over regulation and taxes in any shape or form. What do you think on the subject? And closer to home, what is the ideal "mix" of Spend Matters content on the blog and in our Compass research? Are you happy with it today or should we skew in one direction more than another? I'm all ears.

Jason Busch

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