Killing 3,000 Weblogs? Child's Play. I Killed 7,000 Subscribers

I've probably been noticeably less than hostile about the demise of Weblogs.com, the former free Manila-based Weblog service. I've posted here some tips on retrieving content on your own, and the notion that you get what you pay for when it's free and hosted versus free and source code. (Perhaps that's free as in free code, not free as in free storage.) Weblogs.com was a training wheels situation for me, and when I was ready to solo, I didn't fall off the bike too often.But I sympathize with the intersection of time, energy, finances, and expectations. From 1994 to 1996, I ran the Internet Marketing Discussion List, which was a seminal force for discussing ecommerce and marketing. At its height, it had 7,000 subscribers. In mid-1996, I was in the middle of contemplating how to best capitalize on the list, which took a fair amount of time. I'd already gained some sponsors and asked for voluntary subscriber fees, both of which helped subsidize my substantial commitment during a time that I was the head of a fast-growing but tiny-scale Web site development company. But I was hoping to push forward, producing a book with a publisher, creating new discussion forums on the Web, and so forth. I was also discussing a merger with a design firm. But when I proposed on the list that I might produce a CD-ROM with archived posts among other things, people flamed me for selling their words. I know now that you need to require people to agree to a non-exclusive license for their posts before they subscribe, but those were the early days. That, coupled with a long-planned three-week vacation that summer led me to shut the list down, pretty abruptly. It had become somewhat stale, and my plans were to revitalize it. But with the list increasingly crowded with newbies, with successful marketers no longer contributing (because they had their secrets now, and didn't need to give back), and with the negative reaction to making it a sustainable line of business, I said, it's time to stop. I got some anger and praise in equal measures, sure. Some fraction of those 7,000 people emailed me with all kinds of complaints, suggestions, thanks, and so forth. Mostly, people were sorry to see it go but hadn't felt it was that useful near the end of its life. I promised to promote any new list that might form, but to avoid privacy problems, I wouldn't pass on the subscriber list. As you can imagine, nothing really materialized. Some lists focused on online advertising did pick up traction, as that industry was starting to come into its own. But mostly, it just fizzled out. The merger didn't happen. I sold the firm a few months later and joined Amazon.com (briefly), and then emerged in the "mature" phase of my career as a journalist, conference builder, and Webpreneur. I don't feel that I let anyone down. It was my time, freely given, although supported by a small number of gratefully accepted contributions. And it was time to move on to other things and let the community figure out its own future.