Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire?
Do these names sound familiar?
Remember the good old days when one-to-one communication and content created from the ground up were going to change media? I worked for the aforementioned companies. No, strike that. I ran and developed the ad sales and marketing strategies for them.
Substitute Gawker, Friendster, Blog.com, etc. for any of the above and you will see that all that is old is new again...or something like that.
Blogs are hot. Everyone has one. Blogs about Christianity, blogs about pets, about cars, about cooking, about a single woman dating in NYC, even blogs about blogs dot the online landscape.
There are discussions about the new business models and valuations of blog companies, or about which is the best blog company.
I guess the original blogs were written on caves in the stone age by the ancient Egyptians. However, blogging came to a screeching halt when book publishing took off. Who knows when that was? Perhaps Guttenberg could tell us if he had a blog.
Blogs will probably be around online and offline and in mobile apps for many years to come.
But blogs making money will never happen. Why? The numbers do not add up.
If advertisers allocate x percent of their budgets to blogs as a branding vehicle, and they sponsor an auto blog, and their cars are trashed for having a bad fuel injector or they are the subject of a recall, they will not want to pay for the right to be denigrated. Ask the numerous magazine publishers and TV networks how much business they have lost due to "incompatible" or "negative" edit.
I remember when I was in magazine publishing rearranging the layout of the book prior to printing to accommodate the tobacco and liquor companies. In 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese electronics companies warned us to let them out of any issues that contained negative edit regarding Japan and WWII. (That pretty much killed our December 1991 business from them.)
Direct response ads on blogs will not work either. Forums and BBS are notorious for low click rates.
My days at Geocities and Tripod were even worse. As we allowed our audiences to build home pages about any topic they desired, we would present numerous pages about computers or movies or autos, etc.
We thought this was a great way to show advertisers that their brands were perfect for our site, since they were mentioned so many times by our audience of real enthusiasts. We told them that they could get great research data from this audience too. In fact, that was true 90 percent of the time, and the concept served us well at the beginning. However, the bubble burst for me when, at a meeting of one of the top computer hardware companies, the advertiser went onto our site in a big meeting and responded to my sales pitch by showing me the number of porno home pages on my site.
If you do not control the content, you cannot keep enough advertisers happy to make a long-term media business.
Cave, hieroglyphics, home pages, blogs... next ?
Counterclick By Jason Heller
I agree with Paul regarding "what is old is new again." But there are some distinct differences in the overall market dynamics since the days when we all thought that community sites were going to change media by providing aggregations of many targeted and potentially effective opportunities. One dynamic that is a constant, however, is consumers' desire to become empowered and connected online. Community sites, forums, and discussion boards have evolved into blogs. From a hype perspective, the "blogosphere" has become the most talked about suburb of "cyberspace."
The truth of the matter is that forums and community sites have only grown over the last few years. Consumers couldn't care less whether advertisers want to support these sites or not. Community and consumer-generated media empowers and connects consumers with information, entertainment, and each other. Paul hits the nail on the head when he says that these types of environments have two major hurdles for us media-buying folk--extremely weak response and ad interaction (yes, even brand marketers care about response), as well as the lack of content control.
Paul says, "Blogs making money will never happen." Let's first remember that, unlike the Geocities of the world, most blogs will never have a long line of venture capitalists, the SEC or stockholders to answer to.
Maybe I'll rephrase Paul's comment. Blogs making money as stand-alone media companies will never happen based on current and foreseeable future market conditions.
Some blogs do in fact make money, but revenue streams are not always as straightforward as (impressions/1000) x CPM = revenue. Blogs have already become effective marketing vehicles, more so than advertising opportunities.
Let's look at some of the obvious benefits of blogs:
- Blogs create targeted environments of like-minded consumers
- Blogs create public forums where consumers can create positive buzz about your brand or product that you are unable or unwilling to make. Of course this can also be a double-edged sword and work against you
- Blogs allow a brand to engage in a deeper relationship with higher value consumers
Marketers are more willing today to execute sponsorships and integration deals as they navigate the delicate world of increasingly sensitive and personal media environments. Blogs provide opportunities for marketers to make an association with the interests of their target consumers, but we must tread carefully in doing so.
As media consumption continues to fragment, evolving digital sub-channels are becoming more personal and meeting consumer demand for relevance and control. The allure of including marketing messages within "consumer-generated media" can be crippled if we focus more on the media than the "consumer."
Will "blogvertising" be the next spending bubble? No way. However, marketing opportunities with blogs can take many shapes and forms and pose a great opportunity for all those who are willing to market to the consumer and not to the media.