Media Grok Rises from the Dot-com Media Deadpile

“Media Grok,” the saucy and sardonic media watchdog newsletter that had been published under the Industry Standard brand, relaunched Friday, four months after the company that offered it ceased publication online.

Newly dubbed “Media Unspun,” the newsletter is published independently from any large media entity, but the content and writing crew remains the same to offer more of the biting, yet witty, parsing of the way the media does its job day in and day out. The key difference here, and it is really key, is that subscribers will eventually have to pay for the newsletters that used to drift into their-in-boxes for free.

Published by original publisher Jimmy Guterman vis-à-vis his media interest, The Vineyard Group Inc., Media Unspun will be published once a week for free until March 8.

Then, Guterman said, in the publication’s inaugural addition Friday:

“We have enough funding to get us started, but we won’t last long unless we take in revenue. We’re going to distribute Media Unspun for free while we publish it as a weekly, until March 8, but when we return to the grind of daily publication, on March 11, we need to get paid.”

Paying Unspun for its acerbic philosophies will cost previous Grok subscribers $39.95, which is a special introductory rate. New subscribers have to pay an even $50, which, in this economic climate, may be a hefty sum when one considers that Unspun is an online newsletter, and considering that online subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, a hearty, full news site, cost $59 per year. Or is it?

Guterman, who admitted that Unspun would succeed only if we can get our readership back into the six figures during the introductory period,” told InternetNews.com Friday that Unspun has already signed up a significant number of subscribers willing to pay for the newsletter (he would not reveal exactly how many), so much so that if Vineyard got as many new paid subscriptions every day it would be in great shape. And, while Guterman said it was unlikey that Unspun would win a similar, single-day number of new readers Monday and after, he doesn’t see the WSJ analogy as an issue.

“The Wall Street Journal is ridicuously underpriced,” Guterman said. “The [$59] represents enormous value.”

This underscores Guterman’s belief that if you publish a quality product, people will pay for content delivered online. The key, he said, is not setting up the business, but sustaining it. He said the time looks ripe now that so many former rival newsletters, such as those published by Inside, Webnoize and Red Herring, have fallen.

While Unspun no longer has access to Media Grok’s 100,000 readers, it’s for real. Like any other publication, it will begin running advertisements this month, Guterman said. He also said he has hopes to become a full Web site if the conditions are right.

So, how do you subscribe to Media Unspun? The publication has set up an account with PayPal and users may sign up through vineyard.com or guterman.com.

Lastly, as proof that Unspun is really just the same crock of Grok, Guterman said: “our goal is to keep our readers up to date on the most important business news, show how different news outlets interpret the same information in different ways, and, if we’re lucky, entertain you.”

Grok’s revamping as Unspun is the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, as it attempts to sustain life on its own. Its former parent, could not. Media analysts claimed The Standard’s technology focus made it vulnerable to the overall advertising slowdown. In September, the company’s assets were bought in a San Francisco bankruptcy court for $1.4 million by Time Inc. and Boston-based International Data Group (IDG), which owned the new economy publication until it got $30 million in VC money back in 1999.

While online advertising took a remarkable beating in 2001, some research firms, such as GartnerG2, expect the sector will see an upswing, ballooning from current figures of $7.9 billion annually, to $18.8 billion by 2005.

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