Responding to Mitch’s missive on “new” blog ad formats (also known as bloggers getting paid to be shills for advertisers)

Mitch has some thoughts on the insane advertising ideas some people have been floating around for the past couple of weeks. Some good thoughts, so I thought I would reprint my email to him below.

Mitch, I’m going to go over your three suggestions point by point and ad some thoughts along the way.

Mitch: * Give sponsors an account on the blog, so that they can post themselves. This is the most explicit way to enter the conversation. The blogger simply says “This company is paying me for access to you, dear reader.” Postings by the sponsor are identified by the name on the posting and in the headline (e.g. “Sponsor posting”). The text could be a different color to further differentiate the sponsor’s words from the blogger’s. This forces the blogger to manage the amount of posting the sponsor does, but the actual words and frequency are the sponsor’s. In this scenario, the sponsor could invade the blog, which would force the blogger to manage the sponsor, which is still better than having the sponsor manage the blogger.

What you’re basically saying above is that sponsors would be better off using the blog format in their advertisements then a traditional banner. I think that is very true and I have no problem with it. However, there really is no reason the sponsors need to have an account to the blog, they should just send the creative for their ads to the sales people as they normally do.

Also, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with the current CPM, CPC and CPA-based models. It seems like the folks who are not making money from these models have the biggest problem with them. All the energy these cry-babies are placing on trying to “fix” advertising would be better spent on them making a better product that draws a better and/or bigger audience.

The audience doesn’t have to be bigger, advertisers do buy quality. However, many of these cry-babies seem to over value their limited audiences to the point of absurdity (i.e. 40% of the Technorati 100 read my sitewow, great there are so many advertisers interested in those 40 people). If you have a small readership blog and the advertisers are not calling you then you need to live with that. If this audience was valuable trust me the advertisers would contact you! (I know this because I’ve watched blogs go unnoticed by advertisers for months and then one day they get discovered by advertisers and BOOM!, you’re in business).

Nothing needs to be fixed about Internet advertising at this point. It works *brilliantly.” I think some folks look at “low” click-throughs and say “my gosh we have to move the clickthroughs from a measly .5-1%!”

One or two out of a hundred people clicking on an advertising is just fine.

Mitch: * An intermediary might manage the placement of standard advertisements on blogs, as BlogAds does today. Take this model another step further and imagine a cadre of bloggers who post as sponsored guest bloggers on other sites, along the lines described in the previous scenario. These hired guns – for they are like mercenaries – are under the management of the intermediary, removing the direct ethical challenge from the individual blogger’s day-to-day concerns. The conversation at the party gets more intense, but the host isn’t whoring for the sponsor.

So, to break this down you’re basically saying that advertisers who do pursue a “blog post” format for their advertising should hire qualified copy writersperhaps even from the blogosphere. I would say this is a fine idea, as advertisers could use some help in moving from banners to blog post style ads. As long as these ads are very clearand not written by the editorial staff of the blogI don’t see a problem with this. In the analog world this is custom publishing in magazines.

Mitch: * Pay bloggers for feeds of their sites that are aggregated to topical blogs hosted by a sponsor. For example, if a snack food maker wants to have a blog, fill it with postings provided by food enthusiasts. Any number of companies are in the position to fulfill this role in the market. By hosting the comment sections for the aggregated blogs, these companies would provide sponsors the ability to participate in the conversation without necessarily intruding on the source blogs’ discussions.

What you are talking about here is enhanced licensing I take it. We’ve seen this in the early web days and it never really worked. Some licensing does occur, but in general brands don’t see their websites as the place to pull in a truck full of unfiltered content.

Perhaps times have changed, and some of the big brands of the world would be more open to bringing in outside content. However, it is a much easier solution for companies to encourage their people to get out on the web and post comments when their products are discussed in other places. Folks like Macromedia and Microsoft are already doing this, so this is probably the easiest solution.

good thoughts,

best j

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