Scalable Cool

Mobilizing the blogosphere seems like a no-brainer, except perhaps when you actually apply your brain to it. In addition to the frequent updates that make blogs perfect for all-day mobile access, they also use a one-to-one conversational form that dovetails with the phone's core voice functionality much better than less dynamic forms of content. And since RSS is the lifeblood of blogging, the distribution system is easy enough to draw into mobile formats. In fact, I already use Google's mobilized reader to pull some of my favorite blogs together.

But like other forms of social media, finding a viable business model for mobilized blogs likely will be a tough drive. Surely top blogs in existing networks like Federated Media and Gawker Media will explore mobile strategies. I expect we will be seeing blog collectives and networks trying to leverage the usual banners targeted contextually by channels. There will be mobile land grabs of properties, claims of huge reach, and buckets of inventory that still may sell at single-digit CPMs. And just as likely, buyers will complain about the lack of scale in these individual networks as well as the content quality issues.



I wonder if blog networks should be pursuing scale at all on the mobile platform and instead craft different models that leverage their unique relationship with readers as well as their presence in multiple settings with a range of interactive tools. Blogging itself may be a no-brainer for phones, but a good business model for them is more of a brain-teaser.

The newly beta-launched Snakk Media blog hub attempts to break the mold, or at least it intends to. The portal deftly shapes over 100 music, entertainment, fashion, and celebrity news sites into something like a trendsetter network. I guess it's a good thing that an aging fart like myself never heard of "Miss Expose" or "Blackarazzi" or "Poponut." But apparently the young tastemakers have.

Targeting this group of influentials and minor pop culture stars is part of the ad model, says head of sales Derek Wiggins. Sure, you can buy banners and mobile-only programs across the 100 sites. Target was a launch partner that promoted the latest Christina Aguilera CD. But this blog mix also lends itself to unique custom opportunities. "We have DJs and celebrities, which gives us the opportunity to take this further," says Wiggins. He envisions a mobile media buy that also extends into the physical world of a DJ or musician blogger as they go live. The ad campaign might give a WAP push to a sponsor's landing page with free tickets for the blogger's next gig. The sponsor might come into the live venue itself and underwrite text-to-screen messaging during the show or Bluetooth downloads. "We are looking at building all these different layers of higher value user experience to connect the brand and all these tastemakers on mobile," says Joe Kavanaugh, vice president of strategic development.

All of this "mobile guerilla marketing" sounds like a tough, custom sell in a challenging environment. Wiggins admits that only about 10% of his current blogger crew is doing something of value offline and merit these kinds of programs, but he promises more announcements soon. Not surprisingly, The Hyperfactory is one of the investors behind Snakk Media. Hyperfactory's campaigns for a number of leading brands worldwide often engage that live street dimension and attempt to "mobilize" a promotion in the broadest sense. Clearly, Snakk has that in mind.

For the moment, however, (it gets its name for the Los Angeles area code) is a damn fine blog network in its own right. The blogs are indexed vertically and horizontally. You can see the latest postings aggregated on the home page, use a drop-down menu to access specific blogs, or see more targeted aggregations across six channels (Celebrity, Fashion, Music, Movies, TV, Games). The entries are nicely formatted and all work within the interface.

Like all such aggregations, Snakk Media's will have to decide how much it wants users to personalize and filter the experience over time as the available content gets overwhelming. The bloggers themselves are getting free syndication onto another platform and some promise of growing audience through natural cross-promotion at the hub. Still, one perhaps inevitable risk in a hub structure like this comes in compromising the very hipness of the original blog brands.'s interface is very slick and easy to use, but the individual blog identity is a banner beneath a menu beneath the large host company's logo. There is nothing I can see to tell me who this speaker is, where he or she comes form or why I should care. In fact, the logo stands in when a blog entry lacks an image. If the street cred of these hipster bloggers is so valuable to the business model, perhaps the host brand needs to do more to cultivate and cross-pollinate them.

My quibbles aside, Snakk's is a good first stab at moving blog content onto phones in a scalable but novel way. But it also underscores the challenges of translating the cool blogs's unique voice and user relationship to the phone. An obvious next step is providing the audience with a more direct feedback loop to the individual bloggers from the phones (shouldn't mobile blogs someday have audio comments?). Trendsetting bloggers, if they're any good and deserve an audience, have a strong personal voice and identity, and this is why we go to them. Perez Hilton didn't make it big by being shy (or accurate, for that matter). The key to mobilizing the blog is keeping the cool at scale.

2 comments about "Scalable Cool".
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  1. Tamara Gruber from Crisp Wireless, December 2, 2008 at 3:52 p.m.

    Perez Hilton also hasn't been shy about promoting his mobile site at Between a well viewed video and a permanent button from his online site, Perez Hilton mobile is now generating page views equal to major news sites -- without even being on-deck. We expect to see many other blogs follow the footsteps of Huffington Post and Perez Hilton.

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, December 2, 2008 at 5:12 p.m. today launched its successful online blogs for culture, food and style on mobile at the interesting thing about this move is that NYMag decided to lead its mobile strategy with blogs. I suspect there is a clue here for traditional media brands looking for a mobile strategy. I know that at's good mobile destination I go for Swampland and the other blogs. If the voice is right, a mobilized blog feels like checking in with a buddy in the know.

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