A Blogger’s Store

09012009814Earlier, Dave Winer wrote about an idea for a blogger’s store in NYC. Anjali at MxM picked it up and RT’d it pointing out to me and Dave that it seemed to be like Tuttle.

Yes, in lots of ways, but…

This happens whenever you have a new idea – other people go “oh yeah, that’s like X” which is useful because it helps you refine what you’re thinking about by finding the differences between what you were thinking and what X seems to be. Or find that the new thing that you were thinking of is really only new to you, and someone really is doing it.

So Tuttle seems to share something with what Dave’s talking about. In particular, his last para: “One thing is for sure, whenever we come up with a way to make the blogosphere show up in realspace, something interesting happens.”

For sure. That’s definitely been my experience too. And most of it is outlined in posts here and on the Tuttle Club blog. But we’re not a store, we’re not a retail operation, we’re a group of people who get together regularly to do cool stuff, together.

And we’ve done lots. We’ve met every Friday (except for Christmas) since February 2008 and show no signs of stopping. Today there was a clip of us (albeit uncredited) in the video for this BBC news report.

Most of our original members have transformed their careers in the last couple of years, and whether they think it’s anything to do with Tuttle or not, few would say that the time they spent here was a waste. Indeed, the idea has spread widely.

We’ve created, even if we haven’t exploited fully, an interesting consulting model that’s congruent with the way that the group works, in the same way that I hope the group is congruent with the way the web works. You can see some of those principles drawn out in the first Annual Report I wrote.

But we haven’t done retail.

And it’s difficult because you have fixed overheads from day 1 and you have to work out what it is that you’re actually selling and whether that can cover your costs and preferably make a profit.

If you have a way of making enough money off bloggers reading their stuff and people paying to come and be part of it then fine, but I suspect there’ll need to be other stuff that becomes the bread and butter, that pays the bills, and that, sooner or later, always takes over from the reason you wanted the space in the first place.

Like blogging, you have to make careful decisions and disclaimers about where money comes from and what people get in return for that money.

You can sell coffee and cakes, of course. Everyone likes coffee and cakes especially with free wifi thrown in, but I never really wanted badly enough to be in the coffee and cakes business. And coffee and cakes are everywhere, better make them really good, otherwise, why wouldn’t bloggers go somewhere else, anywhere else to do their thing?

When we’ve talked about retail opportunities, it’s always come back to us selling our own stuff, whatever that stuff happens to be – it becomes a realspace Etsy store for our people, whatever we’re making right now. But woah! that gets complicated when you have more than a few sellers and products. How does the money get accounted for? What happens if something doesn’t work. All the stuff that we give to online stores to do for us, work for them because of economies of scale. Trying to replicate an Etsy experience on a human scale is hard – as far as I can see.

The other way is to have products that are all collaborative works eg the book of #tuttle2texas, we haven’t gotten round to doing any of those yet either :) This is where most of us go quiet and then find something else to do quickly, something that works more easily.

I’m not saying it can’t work. I think that NYC is a far better place to try it than London, you have far more top-notch, well-known bloggers coming through NYC than we do. We’re also told again and again that it’s so much easier to do business in the USA than it is here.

And I think it is the right thing to try to do, to keep trying to complete the learning loop having invented something new on the web, asking how can we apply this to improving something similar in realspace.