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Google Adds Insult to Injury for Print Publishers

As nearly every business or professional print publisher is beefing up its Internet presence in order to reclaim ad dollars that have gone online (see the latest news at MIT’s Technology Review, Boston.com), Google has started selling print ads.

From CNET’s News.com:

“The search king, which makes 99 percent of its revenue from Internet ads, is quietly testing the waters of print advertising sales, according to executives at several companies that have bought the ads. Google recently began buying ad pages in technology magazines, including PC Magazine and Maximum PC, and reselling those pages — cut into quarters or fifths — to small advertisers that already belong to its online ad network.”

You optimists out there may say, Great news — Google is boosting revenue for print publishers! (UPDATE: In fact it is. Battelle does the math at Searchblog.)

I say, Eek! Is Google’s AdSense platform more capable of selling print ads than the account execs at PC Mag or Maximum PC? As someone who’s built a career on the premise that my unique human capabilities captured a premium, this news makes me feel a tad redundant. On the other hand, it signals a leap forward for media companies when self-regulating systems (like those built by Google, Yahoo or eBay) create greater efficiency for both buyers and sellers of marketing services.

Media Measurement Is Bad Everywhere

Joe Mandese in MediaPost reports on a new study by the Advertising Research Foundation that finds “none of the major media have audience measurement methods that are adequate for the way people use those media today.”

Phew, we’re not alone! In fact, the respondents voiced greater dissatisfaction with measurement tools for traditional media. “TV audience ratings, the subject of a number of controversies including a Congressional investigation, possible legislation and legal suits, is especially poor.” Nielsen’s TV ratings came under fire for, among other shortcomings, tracking only viewership for the programs, not the ads themselves. Radio’s measurement standards (namely the paper-diary system) were called “relics of the past.”

ARF’s report lessens the frustration (if only a bit) I was feeling earlier this month as I compared NNR’s and comScore’s studies of blog traffic. One of the sites FM works with, BoingBoing, registered 849k unique visitors according to comScore but only 605k based on NNR’s count. BoingBoing’s server logs peg the monthly unique-visitor count above 1.6MM.

Japan's TV Ads: TV Ads Not Working

Hiroko Tashiro’s piece in the September 5 issue of Business Week (BW’s Talk Show section):

“Throughout August, 133 Japanese TV stations are airing commercials to promote the importance of…commercials. Japanese advertisers, like those in the U.S., worry about growing use of digital video recorders, now in 15% of Japan’s homes. By letting users skip ads, DVRs have knocked $489 million off the value of commercials to advertisers, says the Nomura Research Institute. To win back advertisers, the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan named Aug. 28 TV CM (commercial) Day. In one spot, a singer Aya Matsuura works a puppet that says, ‘Commercials are fun, aren’t they?’ adding, ‘It’s ventriloquism, so of course I’m made to say so.’ Viewers, of course, may skip these ads, too.”

Is this a joke? Does Japan’s NACB think this will turn the tide on commercial skipping, and save those $489 million dollars from migrating to more effective media platforms? I don’t know how Japanese media buyers are responding, but I question the wisdom of a month-long broadcast campaign that reminds them how much of their ad budgets are going to waste.

Advertisers: Let Publishers Pick You!

Flatiron Partners VC Fred Wilson talks about a new sell-side advertising marketplace for blog advertising (Fred’s blog). Advertisers post their ads at Word of Blog, and blog publishers pull down (and place on their sites) ads that are appropriate to their audiences. “And there is no fancy contextual targeting engine [eg, AdSense] working at Word of Blog” — just good old fashioned human publishers who know their readers and seek advertisers who will fit into the dialog (see my post on the endemic relationship). What a wonderful new use of the term “opt-in marketing.”

Comments:

Bill Fritter said… The model Fred is proposing isn’t it Commission Junction?

Chas Edwards said… Is CJ a platform for CPM advertising? Although Fred talks about effective CPC, it sounds to me like Word of Blog is attempting to create an exchange whereby advertisers are willing to pay for exposure in front of an audience they haven’t put through the standard paces of media planning. Instead, publishers pick the advertisers they predict will appeal to their own audiences. What’s interesting to me is that the currency of Word of Blog’s sell-side transaction is impressions rather than relatively low-risk clicks to an advertiser’s site.

Publicis Ventures Investing in Media Companies

According to MarketingVox, Publicis has formed a venture unit to invest in media companies in order “to assert economic influence over new media and technologies on behalf of advertising clients.” MarketingVox cites Mediapost (MediaBuyerPlanner) as its source. It’s almost funny (in a Stalinist way) to imagine this trend over the next decade — rate negotiations among media buyers & sellers who all have the same boss!

Google AdSense: Rates Up, Publishers Happy

Like previous moves by Overture (now Yahoo), Google is pushing up minimum bid prices for paid-search advertisers. This is good news for publishers and bloggers. According to News.com, “While advertisers were grumbling, Web site publishers were reporting that they were seeing an increase in revenue from ads on their sites provided by Google’s AdSense program — the service that allows publishers to display AdWords on their sites — since Yahoo launched a beta of its competing Publisher Network program earlier this month.”

Feedster's Own Influence Index

Feedster announced the debut of their Top 500 list (Feedster 500) to compete with Technorati’s Top 100. The concept is the same — both are lists of the most influential blogs based on in-bound links from other sites. But the methodology and results are different. Technorati has BoingBoing at #1 (15,770), while Feedster puts them at #3 (36,229). Feedster’s #1 is Engadget (54,380); Technorati puts Engadget at #6 (8817). Other discrepancies are more troubling. Metafilter, at #17 on Technorati’s list, doesn’t show up at all in Feedster’s 500. Om Malik’s GigaOm and Waxy Links, numbers 52 and 60, respectively, on Feedster’s list, don’t make Technorati’s top 100…. ClickZ’s Search Engine Watch dives into the controversy (SEW).

Aug 18 update: Feedster apologizes for missing some blogs that should be in the top 500. It would be nice to learn what about the methodology led to the omissions. Are there others, like, say, Metafilter?

“No list is perfect and, unfortunately, we managed to not list several prominent blogs that should have been in the August Feedster Top 500. And our guess is that they will be in the September Feedster Top 500. But for right now here they are along with their approximate ranking:

* Top 20 — Stephen’s Web by Stephen Downes
* Top 50 — Jason Kottke
* Top 75 — Search Engine Watch
* Top 75 — We Make Money Not Art”

Paul Graham on Why “People Working for Love Often Surpass Those Working for Money”

According to Paul Graham, what worked for Linux in the enterprise — better products emerge when smart people do work because they love it, not because they get paid to do it — is driving the success of leading blogs (Paul Graham). I love his point, too, about the competition between blogs and the mainstream outlets:

“Those in the print media who dismiss the writing online because of its low average quality are missing an important point: no one reads the average blog. In the old world of channels, it meant something to talk about average quality, because that’s what you were getting whether you liked it or not. But now you can read any writer you want. So the average quality of writing online isn’t what the print media are competing against. They’re competing against the best writing online.”

Blog-Reader Demos from ComScore & NNR

New ComScore research done in partnership with SixApart and Gawker shows that blog readers are richer, spend more time & money online (MediaPost).

More detail at Nick Denton’s blog, NickDenton.org.

Aug 17 update: Nielsen/NetRatings is also out with reaseach on blog usage. Unique visitors to the top 50 blogs is up 31% since January, to 29.3 million in July 2005. Yet only 11% of those blog visitors are subscribing to RSS feeds (RedHerring and Mediaweek).

News.com's John Roberts Corrects My Numbers

News.com’s John Roberts brought to my attention some bugs in Technorati’s counting system (see his May 2 post, Clock). Below I searched Technorati for links to www.news.com; News.com also does business from www.news.com.com, which receives another 12,646 in-bound links. Thanks, John!