Times are tough in both old media and new media, as old media sites fight to try and stay relevant in the face of a rapidly-evolving sphere where disparate voices, from bloggers to social networks can command attention that was once only possible through corporate brands and news organizations. Robert Scoble, who has achieved one of the more visible personal brands online in the technology space, recently sat at the crossroads of this development, trying to make an old media brand (Fast Company) into a new one. The trial proved difficult, and as has been announced today, he's striking out again in a position I believe will have much more success - as he joins the Web hosting company, Rackspace, building a new plan he calls "Building 43". In his new role, Robert will have the chance once again to leverage his personal brand, offering new media expertise, to a technology company that wants to be seen as a thought leader.
Building 43 is named after the famous Google and Microsoft buildings, both number 43, intended to be what he calls a "decentralized community for people fanatical about the Internet". And Scoble won't be limited to simply posting a blog on the Rackspace site. You can expect the Building 43 plan to be diverse, on all the social media networks where Robert has been building a solid presence the last few years, including Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed.
When I talked to Robert by phone about his news a few weeks ago, I was impressed by the plan - not so much because it's a clear path to riches, because it's not, and all work will still be a challenge, but instead because it put him back in the trenches of Silicon Valley, doing and creating and evangelizing. (Although yes, his work at Microsoft was in Redmond, WA) The move by Rackspace will help the company be better known for innovation, and will undoubtedly raise their visibility as Internet innovators work with Scoble to be featured and interviewed. The end result could even mean that many of the people Robert and his team work with could end up being hosted by Rackspace, for starters.
There's a big difference between writing about the news and following the news and making the news. Scoble, who has a resume of working at tech companies like DEC and Microsoft, now gets the chance to be a part of a company that's doing just that, while letting him stick to what he enjoys. When he and I talked, he made it clear that this would not be a one person deal. Over time, he hopes to bring in more folks to be part of Building 43. Joining him at start will be his pal Rocky Barbanica, who also was part of his team at Fast Company.
You can find out more about Building 43 at http://building43.com/. TechCrunch's writeup on it is here: Scoble’s New Thing: Building 43 and Robert's is here: Robert and Rocky ride again at Rackspace.