You are currently browsing the archives for May, 2005.

Salon's Opt-In Advertising Takes Off

"While Salon has only about 85,000 paid subscribers [$35 per year], between 175,000 and 200,000 users visit each day using the Site Pass

"–an option that grants visitors free access to Salon’s content if they view an ad before entering (Wired News). As much as I want to believe Salon’s SVP of sales when she claims that these ads experience click-through rates between 5% and 20%, those percentages sound exaggerated. But even if those numbers are half right, it’s a wonderful phenomenon: When consumers are reminded of the role advertising plays in supporting quality content, they respond more favorably–and more often. I hope Salon has started a trend.

Books-on-iPod

Acording to today’s NY Times (reg required), "Fewer Americans are reading books than a decade ago, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, but almost a third more are listening to them on tapes, CD’s and iPods." And HarperCollins forecasts 40% growth in their digital audiobook sales next year (PaidContent.org). This suggests to me that whitepapers-on-iPod or technical-user-guide-on-iPod (see my 5/17/05 post) might just have a market.

… To that earlier post, one reader’s comment: "It seems there is a lack of engagement opportunity within the pod environment, something that is critical in most if not all B2B marketing initiatives today…." Perhaps podcasts don’t allow 2-way engagement. But if, in fact, a prospective customer tunes in to a 30-minute vendor podcast, that listener is certainly "engaging" with the vendor’s brand.

… Podcasting threatens Audible’s business (Forbes). Audible CEO Don Katz disagrees (Audible.com’s blog).

… Earlier this month at the Syndicate conference, Michael Dunn told Rok Hrastnik that paid subscription models will pay the podcast bills (Dunn interview).

Ugh: Blogvertorials

Here’s a stupid idea for bloggers: Letting adertisers pay you to "write about the products the advertisers want to advertise. Any journalist would immediately cringe at the conflict of interest, but the service claims that no credibility is lost because the blogger can say whatever they want. Right…" (TechDirt).

Rip-Cord Ad Deals by BP, Morgan Stanley

Sock it to em, AdAge!

"Shame on BP. And shame on Morgan Stanley, and General Motors, and any other advertisers involved in assaults on editorial integrity and independence. By wielding their ad budgets as weapons to beat down newsrooms, these companies threaten the bond that media properties have with their audiences, the very thing that gives media its value to advertisers to begin with" (AdAge.com).

I would go further. As reaching an audience–registering an "impression"–grows tougher and tougher, it is all the more important for marketers to seek out media entities that have created deep, meaningful relationships with their audiences. Marketers should be looking for ways to support and strengthen, not undermine, those bonds.

Making Podcasting Pay

Durex condoms needed a racier advertising environment than FCC rules would allow on TV or terrestrial radio, so they took their dollars to podcasters Dawn and Drew of “The Dawn and Drew Show.” A few of those dollars, anyway. It was an “incredibly small” investment according to the SVP / media chief at Durex’s agency (AdAge, reg required); small, no doubt, in proportion to the listener base of “The Dawn and Drew Show.”So, then, as the commercialization of podcasting begins, what’s in it for marketers?

For Durex, a few ad dollars put against “The Dawn and Drew Show” landed them some positive, on-brand press attention, not to mention a media channel outside the jurisdiction of FCC rules. Presumably a handful of podcast hosts will eventually reach large enough audiences that advertising in their programs becomes practical for media buyers. Other podcasters will reach a meaningful constituency by banding together, either online or—as Infinity Radio began testing earlier this week at KYOU (News.com) in San Francisco—as a slot on the AM dial. When they do, these podcasters and podcast networks will offer marketers an opportunity to get in front of demographic segments that have abandoned current mainstream media outlets, such as males 18-24 who show up less and less these days in television’s Nielsen ratings. And, to the extent podcast listeners do so with earphones tucked into their ears, marketers might just have a way to cut through the cacophony of today’s ad-impression overload.

This is great for promoters whose brands go nicely alongside Howard Stern or Dawn and Drew, but does podcasting offer anything for more serious business-minded marketers?

ZDNet’s David Berlind actually beat Dawn and Drew to the punch: He sold ads in his IT Matters podcasts back in April via eBay (Podcasting News), and donated his own “incredibly small” payday to the 2004 Tsunami Relief Fund. But despite his stature as a leading podcast voice among business and IT audiences, his odds of developing a big-reach advertising platform are far worse than Dawn and Drew’s.

The gold-rush enthusiasm surrounding podcasting (fueled by the “monetization” potential of the roughly 25MM iPod or other MP3 users in the US) reminds me of streaming-video advertising in 2001. That year broadband Internet connections—the technical infrastructure required to enjoy a passable video experience—hit nearly 25 million US households, critical mass for ad-supported cable TV networks (Broadband Reports). The killer app (with killer reach among these broadband-connected consumers) was just around the corner. Four years later streaming-video content and marketing may be catching up with the 2001 hype. Maybe. And the success stories so far (ESPN Motion, Yahoo’s Launch.com, Atom Films or CNET’s Gamespot) still don’t provide especially efficient vehicles for B2B marketers to connect with business buyers.

While all eyes watched and waited for that streaming-ad killer app (did Subservient Chicken, who arrived on the scene three years later, deliver??), 2001 also quietly ushered in the era of B2B webcasting. Registration-required webcasts—like ad-supported streaming media—were made possible by the pervasiveness of broadband connections. But unlike its sexy streaming cousin, the webcast model succeeded with small numbers. Marketers gladly paid $25-100 for each viewer since one-to-one engagement and lead-capture via webcasts cost substantially less than similar interaction with prospective customers at face-to-face events. Webcast publishers (like CNET Networks, Ziff Davis Media and IDG) could cover production costs as long as a few hundred business buyers were willing to share their contact info in exchange for deep, relevant and professional content.

I see a similar opportunity for B2B marketers to leverage podcasts: intensive educational content—“fact-based marketing collateral,” to steal a phrase from a friend on Oracle’s marketing team—that will appeal to high-value niche audiences. I’ve got to believe there is enormous value to a B2B marketer who implants a few hundred portable editions of his or her technical audiocast onto iPods of serious business customers.

Since most of you ChasNote subscribers witnessed the early days of streaming-video hype (and helped shape today’s reality), I want to enlist you to do the same with B2B podcasting. I’ve moved ChasNote to a blog platform to facilitate sharing of ideas, to argue over the above premise, and to start testing the models.

Do I have any takers?

If we can build out a pilot of some kind, I’ll report on our case study in a future ChasNote, making you an instant celebrity among the elite crowd that reads this newsletter. Hey, perhaps we can even win some coverage from the MSM! How about it?

Berlind on the Podcast Rev Model

“Advertising is always the primary revenue stream for any media property,” says David Berlind in his interview with Rok Hrastnik of MarketingStudies.net.

Denton: Blogs Ain't No Revolution

Nick Denton starkly at odds with the ChasNote editorial board!

From Tom Zeller’s piece in the NY Times Magazine (reg required): "As for the blog revolution, Mr. Denton put it this way: ‘Give me a break. The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe…. They want to believe there’s going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed.’"

Tapping the “Endemic Relationship”

When I read last week’s news that AdSense will allow marketers to buy specific sites and deliver graphical ad units rather than just anonymous text-based CPC programs across Google’s wide web of affiliates (News.com), I said: Uh oh, here comes Google. Paid search is moving beyond its roots in direct-response marketing to create massive advertising networks, a scary prospect for AOL’s Advertising.com and Claria, for sure, but should Yahoo and CNET Networks worry too?

Why not — a little paranoia keeps the innovative juices flowing. But upon further consideration, Google’s latest move signals a recognition that context matters, in fact, more now than ever before. John Battelle (Wired, Industry Standard and now FM Publishing) saw this trend coming at least a year ago. In his 5/25/04 post he discussed the “endemic relationship” among three mutually-dependent constituencies: content publishers, advertisers and the audience they both need to connect with.

His point of view isn’t completely new: industry publishers since Gutenberg have built businesses around “endemic advertisers”

. But in talking about the “endemic relationship” among community members (including the advertisers), Battelle is talking about something richer and at the same time less limiting. The magic of niche publications, online or off, is that “readers enjoyed the ads nearly as much as the editorial, because the ads served them, seemed to understand who they were in relation to the community the publication created.” What we at CNET Networks refer to as the “authentic brand experience.” Behavioral targeting, paid search and sprawling ad networks all sever the meaningful relationship between marketers and the prospective customers they want to reach: “Advertisers in these networks are not intentionally supporting the publication, and by extension they are not supporting the community the publication has created. In essence, they are not being good citizens of the community where their advertising is being displayed.” This logic also explains why non-category advertisers on tech sites, say General Electric underwriting (NPR-style) an Esther Dyson video series on innovations and business, can succeed within new contexts: By understanding and participating in the endemic relationship — “the special sauce that keeps the audience coming back” — advertisers can leverage the rabid publisher-audience affinity of niche environments.

The challenge marketers face has only grown tougher. The proverbial thirty-two flavors of Crest — “segmentation vertigo,” according to Kerrie Jacobs at MetropolisMag — means exploding consumer choice. Ad saturation combined with media fragmentation (500 channels, 9+ million blogs and 40,000 news ones each day) means that it’s harder than ever for a marketer to make an impression, let alone build a relationship with a consumer. This dilemma pushed many marketers toward the safety of paid search and direct response metrics. But this solution came at the expense of building partnerships with publishers — ”tapping into the endemic relationship” — that might have given them a shot at some audience bonding.

Google, of all people, knows the CPC love-fest won’t last forever. Marketers need more out of their media partners than clicks. My prediction is that CPC/PPC — ”the currency built around diverting customers from edit environments to marketing environments” — will give way to a model where marketers join forces with publishers to create content environments that include edit and marketing content in peaceful cohabitation. Marketers will spend less time creating executions that convince consumers to click on links, and more time porting aspects of their brand experience to high-engagement contexts. TrendMicro’s CEO, Eva Chen, for example, recently posted her blog to ZDNet (Eva’s blog), inserting herself right into the fracas that gives ZDNet credibility with its audience.

CNET #8 on B2B Mag's Media Power 50

CNET’s B2B sites–News.com, ZDNet, TechRepublic and BNET–ranked 8th on B2B Magazine’s Media Power 50 List.