For the Russian speakers out there, here's a very handy series on how BizSpark members AtContent tweaked and worked with Windows Azure to get their company up and running. People who don't read Cyrillic can translate in Bing and enjoy the useful experience. It's important to read it, because they are using Azure as a backend to -- they hope -- transform how publishers and data / media consumers use and share on the web.
AtContent is an interesting disruption in the publishing industry. I talked to Co-Founders, Alexey Semeney and Nikita Berdnikov on a Skype call this week and got to understand the business a little better. Basically, they want to help transform blogging into a pay for articles business, which may sound like music to big publisher ears, and to the ears of small blogging businesses. But it may suffer from some issues, which Alexey and I talked about -- among them, many successful blogs got started by being free. Who will accept a pivot into something that's pay to read? We'll get into that. But first, what is AtContent, and what does it do?
Check out these links to a TechCrunch demo page and the Financial Times, one of the most successful paid circulation newspapers in the world. This Azure-hosted startup wants to make it easy for anyone to distribute articles through social networks, and then use those social networks (as well as the main pages of publishers) to serve as a kind of e-commerce store for information and media. It's a fascinating idea. If AtContent is in place, you can make your daily reading a kind of hub for media distribution, and, through sharing articles to your social networks, you can take a cut of articles you "sell" to your own readership. It's kind of like making your daily reading into a paper route. If only the music industry would have figured this out first, and made it standard practice.
We love our BizSpark startups, and we love the audacity of this Russian startup trying to do this. We think it will be difficult to change mindsets, but it's not impossible. And it may even be lucrative and beneficial to large and small publishers in the long run. Continuing to run on advertising dollars forever just doesn't seem a likely scenario, for any mainstream publication. For the best, this seems like a really great practice for any small scale publisher trying to make it big. People who will spread your articles are incentivized to accept some cut of the transaction to get your name out there for you. Spreading through cash rewards. It has worked in so many other areas, from car sales, to coupon clipping.