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Blue MauMau officially launched its site three years ago today. My how time flies when you're having fun!
It is fitting that the birthday for this high-tech medium for citizen journalism is on America's election day, November 4.
This site was launched because a significant group of franchise owners and potential buyers were saying that they were very uncomfortable with the reliability of information they had available to them. It read like propaganda, news that is hard to base a business investment decision on. Some felt that they would hold their nose and plunge in with their hundreds of thousands or millions. Others walked away.
The problem was that the industry is sometimes an old boy network. There are some who fear that leaders in a franchise association or franchise brand might black ball them or their business.
To get through such road blocks, a citizen journal model in South Korea was looked at. Blue MauMau was set up with a model in which industry insiders could directly share news stories, tools, content, insights and learn from one another on what's a bad investment and what's a good one. The site started out slow, looking more like a blog site than anything else.
It grew. We now have over 5,000 articles, 20,000 comments from largely insiders of specific franchise brands, franchise encyclopedia entries, buying tools and oodles of original documents. In reporting the news, we have an absolute affinity for publishing court documents, original letters, and especially figures - e.g. charts and spreadsheets.
By allowing anonymous tipsters and guests to post comments under news stories and forum remarks, news scoops can now be captured without jeapordizing the person posting. Such remarks tip off our journalists, and others, that there is a news story to investigate.
Besides news coverage, we have franchise leaders contributing insightful expert advice columns on various aspects of buying and managing a franchise.
The upshot is that when readers contribute, there is a better degree of transparency in understanding a franchise system. It allows us to get around the gate keepers and barriers to real news that exists in the industry. The more contributions, the better the information. And paradoxically, even if public comments are muddled on a particular franchise brand, those sources can be leveraged by our system to create better and more reliable news reports. The real news is allowing certain franchise brands to rise above the pack. Investors can know the good concepts from the troubled ones.
Our grand news publishing experiment seems to be working.
I spoke with a CEO of a franchise system many months ago. Besides reading Blue MauMau's articles, this leader was hooked on reading the public comments under the articles and the forum discussions. This seasoned leader said that he learned about things on Blue MauMau that he did not know after being in the industry for decades, nor could he find such news elsewhere. He had been guided by bad business and industry myths.
Imagine that! If a CEO of a brand has been having trouble finding honest and real information about the industry and franchise systems, think how troublesome it is for franchise owners to make informed decisions. Before there was Blue MauMau, many readers either refused to invest or just held their nose.
Another CEO, this one a leader of a large franchise network, said he was surprised that we were so honest in our reporting. An editor for a trade journal had told him that they had cut out what they regarded as controversial because it might embarrass or give pressure to their advertisers. His innovations to help franchise owners had not been reported for years.
We report the news with frankness for franchisee investors, and with a sense of humor. Where a business journal reports, "Can you buy a big franchise?", if we were to summarize such a news story, you would probably see, "Do Big Franchisors Want Your Mullah?"
The negative part of our model is that without readers sharing news and information, there is little news on Blue MauMau. Our system of investigators and experts kick into high gear when a reader contributes a comment or posts a blog. That is to say, if no franchisee or insider in the automotive or quick print sector contributes, then it is highly unlikely that news about those sectors will be covered by reporters. They'll be busy covering other rising stories.
As this online experiment in journalism turns three, please tell your colleagues about this site. Share the news with them on what you find here. The more, the merrier—and the more informed we will all be.
And what's in store for the future?
Blue MauMau will be launching more community tools. Think MyFace meets the Wall Street Journal or Business Exchange meets BusinessWeek. Google News meets Google Groups. Stay tuned. The experiment continues to grow.