An Open Letter to Marc Canter: Please don’t pimp the blogosphere.

In response to Marc Canter’s latest crazy idea.

Marc,

Love the idea of bloggers making money, and I *like* the idea of working on new formats for doing this. This is the core of why Brian and I started Weblogs, Inc. in fact.

However, Internet advertising is not brokennot by a long shot. Online advertising is working fabulously, that’s why advertisers are pouring money into it, Google’s revenue is soaring, and so many publishers are investing in online media.

It clearly ain’t broke, and truth be told, your mad scientist mind might actually break it! Let me explain why.

Proposing that bloggers take money from advertisers to promote their products is a horrible idea, and not necessary since bloggers who reach critical masssay 250,000 pages a monthcan easily monetize that at a $2-5 CPM (or $500 to $2,500 a month). If they want to make more then that all they have to do is invest in better content and watch the page views go up along with their revenue. If they can sellout their inventorylike we have at Engadget.comthey raise their CPM to the $8-12 level like Nick Denton and I have.

If you get less then 250,000 pages guess what? You’ve either got more work to do or you need to look at your blog like the hobby or labor of love it is. If you really want to make it a business simply work hard enough and wait until you hit 250,000 pagesit will happen, trust me.

Taking money to blog about products is selling out. Only bloggers who can’t commit themselves to reaching significant page trafficor those who choose topics which will not reach significant page trafficneed to do this. I guess greedy bloggers who do have critical mass could take the low road as wellbut they would still be prostituting themselves for no reason but to make a quick buck.

Every time a new advertising medium comes up technologists like yourself try to convince publishers like me to get our journalists (aka bloggers) to sellout to advertisers. This same thing happened when webpages first showed up, as email became popular, and recently as text links became effective. For an example look at the ultimate sellouts, Vibrant Media, who sell keywords inside of contentpure evil.

All these ideas are pushed by technologists who want to be revolutionary and the evil marketers who are playing them to go down the road of sin. Just because you can come up with a technical idea of how to do something doesn’t mean you should.

There are two key reasons why getting the writer/journalist/blogger/etc involved in advertising is bad:

1. It creates the appearance of impropriety, and in the view of the public the appearance of impropriety is impropriety. If readers see CNBC report on parent company GE they look at it skepticallyand they should. What your proposing will result in readers always assuming the blogger is in on the takea horrible thing. Writers shouldn’t have to work through all these conflicts of interest, and it is the job of the publisher to remove as many of these as possible. Consolidation of media due to deregulation was the worst thing to happen to journalism to date, and ironically blogs have become popular as a response to that consolidation! You want to make a quick buck and sell out our one strengththat we’re not in on the take!

2. It gives the marketers a direct line of communicationand leverageover the writer/journalist/blogger. This is horrible, and it’s the reason why magazines sit ad sales and editorial on different floors! When marketers get their hands into the editorial talent pool they immediately try to put pressure on the writers. If your plan works and the bloggers start making money don’t you realize that these marketers will inevitably use the $10-25,000 a year they give to writers over their head? I don’t blame the marketers, it’s their job after all, but that is why publishers don’t let them talk to the writers! Now, if you think markers will keep paying bloggers who trash their products you’re wrong. They won’t, instead they will give the money to the bloggers who suck up to them. Now you’ve created a world where writers who prostitute themselves get reward and those that don’t can’t make a living. Great job Marc!

The most powerful thing that we bloggers have is our independence and our integrity. You’re concepts are going to destroy that.

You say “Money breeds corruption – so we gotta vet out this shit – upfront.”

We do vet this out alreadyadvertising is clearly labeled. We have a term for it, it’s called Church and State (or “the Chinese Wall“), and we publishers have been very successful in keeping a hard line between the advertisers and marketers for decades. Your quest for optimizing things in the short term is going to destroy things in the long term.

There is no rush here, bloggers who get little traffic don’t need to make money. In fact, I’m kind of sick of this meme that is spreading that all bloggers should be able to make a living from it. Guess what? Not everyone can build a magazine, newsletter or blog into a business, and that Darwinism is part of what makes the United States the greatest producer of media in the world!

You think Nick and I are making a profit on every blog we do? Wrong. We’re investing in these blogs and we expect that we will have to loose money for six, or 12 or 18 months before we can make them into real businessesthis is how brand building works. There are no short cuts. Boingboing.net is making money right now because Mark, Xeni, Cory and David spent years building up their audience without making money. Again, it takes years to build a successful media business.

Publishers and bloggers who reach critical mass have the *ability* to make money. What you’re providing is a short cut that could seriously damage the blogosphere. If you want to sell your integrity on the corner for quick money that is your business. However, I can tell you that any blogger who does this will be looked at as nothing better then a $10 whore turning tricks on the West Side Highway moments after they do it.

Marc, you’re a mad scientist and I love your energy and ideas. However leave this one on the cutting room floor before you turn into Dr. Frankenstein!

best regards,

Jason
co-founder, Weblogs, Inc.

Leave a Reply