You are currently browsing the archives for March, 2006.

FM Now Accepts Payment in Linden Dollars

It was a big week for Linden Lab, makers of the wildly popular virtual-reality game Second Life. First, they closed an $11 million financing round from Globespan Partners, Jeff Bezos, Mitch Kapor and Omidyar. (Disclosure: Kapor and Omidyar are investors in FM too.) I first saw the news at Fred Wilson’s site. Second, in-world blogger (and recent addition to the FM family) Wagner James Au announced that FM’s virtual ad-sales office opened for business in the Shipley district (New World Notes).

To put these events in context, FM’s virtual office is on the brink of its first transaction, valued at L$13,500, with one of the leading in-world fashion designers. That other bit of Linden Lab news is worth more like L$3.3 billion. But it’s pretty darn exciting — to me anyway — to consummate my first-ever advertising deal in a virtual currency used by denizens of an online nation (population: 165,000), a currency that converts into US dollars in FM’s PayPal account.

Making User-Generated Content Safe for Advertisers

As young, upscale consumers spend more time with user-generated content at sites like Facebook, MySpace, Boing Boing and Digg (and less time watching TV or reading magazines), advertisers are eager to market themselves on these sites. But for certain brands, especially those accustomed to well-regulated media environments, it can be quite a leap.

Fox, the new owners of MySpace, are hoping to make that leap easier by top-down advertiser-friendly content filtering. From MediaPost:

“…perhaps most importantly to advertisers, the company has added resources to monitor the site’s mass of user-generated content. Advertisers have been reticent to experiment with MySpace since the content can be risque and, in some cases, offensive. News Corp. now reviews 2 million images a day and has removed 200,000 profiles it felt included ‘questionable material.’ Still, Levinsohn said, the content is practically infinite with 66 million profiles, making it impossible to inspect it all.

‘It’s not for every advertiser, clearly,’ Levinsohn said…. [But at the same time:] ‘We’re turning very much into a youth marketing company.’

The risk, of course, is that this approach may damage the credibilty of the service to its millions of members. The financial liability of that

situation is far greater than the lost revenue from a handful of conservative advertisers who need another year or two to remember that — as they’ve always done — they need to take their brand messages to their customers wherever those customers choose to hang out. And sending a corporate parent to chaperone the dance might turn away some of the cool kids that advertisers most want to reach.

Conversation with Sam Whitmore on Blog Advertising, Endemic Creative & Editorial Decision-Making

From Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey:

Leading bloggers need help selling ads, negotiating deals with bandwidth providers, and the list goes on. From a business standpoint, there’s a ton to do and no time to do it.

For a piece of the action, Federated Media Publishing (FM for short) is more than happy to ease bloggers’ pain. FM vice-president Chas Edwards, a sales veteran of TechTV and CNET Networks, explains. His words help clarify just how quickly “tech blogging” has become “tech publishing.”

Hear Chas in his own words on the SWMS Tech Media This Week (13:29) podcast, which is now posted.

Click here to listen to the conversation: Tech Media This Week podcast.

ARF Defines “Engagement” Metrics (Sort Of)

“Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context,” says Advertising Research Foundation Chief Research Officer Joe Plummer in AdAge. Hmm, catchy but kinda vague. But certainly a move in the right direction. More from AdAge:

“Greg Smith, exec VP-media insights, planning and analysis at Aegis Group’s Carat Fusion, said that gross rating points-based analysis not only doesn’t show the full-picture, but it actually leads to certain kinds of marketing communications that aren’t measured in its terms to sometimes get short shrift. Two examples he cited were search marketing and consumer-generated media.”

Battelle in Forbes: “High-Quality Blogs and High-Quality Audiences Engaged in Talking”

Yesterday in Forbes, Battelle answers questions on what makes our little company, FM, special:

“I believe very strongly that we’ve seen an evolution of online media, and that authorial voices are breaking out and should be supported. There is a new model emerging where the author is in charge, and it’s our model to support them. I’m not going to wave my hands and say ‘old media is dead,’ not at all; I’m just saying that there is another model that is evolving where the head of the spear are high-quality blogs and high-quality audiences engaged in talking.”

iMedia's Ad Networks Crib Sheet

iMedia just published their 2nd installment of its “Ad Networks Crib Sheet” round up. Here’s the summary on Federate Media.

Today's ChasNote, Brought to You by JP Morgan Partners!

Today FM announced the completion of a Series A funding round headed by JP Morgan Partners. More at FM’s weblog.

Can Authors Acknowledge Advertisers & Still Be Credible?

A VC author Fred Wilson, whose site is a member of FM’s network, recently took Sonos onto his site as a sponsor, and then — gasp! — he told his readers all about the deal (Fred’s post). The sponsorship includes 120×600 ad banners as well as a “sponsored by” wrapper around Fred’s “In Heavy Rotation” music list. Full disclosure: As FM’s sales guy, I’ll get paid commission on the deal.

Pamela Parker, in a story for ClickZ, honed in on the fact that Fred asked Sonos to send him their product to try out, and he promised his readers he’d blog his thoughts after he does. “But what if he finds it crappy?” Parker rightly asks. Since Fred himself accepts (or declines) any prospective ad campaigns before they run on his site, and since his site is so closely aligned with the brand of Fred Wilson, I’m guessing he’d be honest, if polite, and not accept future business from Sonos.

A point that ClickZ did not pick up is that Fred gives away his ad-sales revenue. From Fred’s post: “Most of my readers know that I donate all the revenue that this blog generates to non-profit organizations and the money that Sonos pays for this sponsorship will go to FM, who will take their cut, and the balance will go to good causes. I am not doing this for the money.” That policy, it would seem, puts Fred in a fairly unimpeachable position with respect to talking openly about advertisers on his site.

But the broader question is still open: Can journalists talk openly about advertisers on their sites without breaching the trust of their readers?

My post congratulating Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin on her transparent review of an advertiser’s service (ChasNote 12/14/05) received some spirited feedback. (Thanks for writing, my spirited friends!) It seems to me, though, the answer is yes. If a cable network loses credibility with a viewer, that viewer has hundreds of other choices one thumb-click away; if a website does the same, that site’s readers have millions of alternatives, listed one after another on Google results pages. Technorati indexes more than 30,000,000 weblog sites alone. If a site stops delivering on the promise that attracted readers in the first place, it couldn’t be easier for those readers to abandon the site. And as reader-authors (them bloggers) and other online publications find less credible content at that site to which to link, the Googlejuice dries up, and it becomes harder for new readers to stumble upon that site. Among those 30,000,000 blogs there are undoubtedly a bunch of bad apples and squirrelly journalists. But all 30,000,000 of them are up against a self-policing system that may, in fact, have more teeth than old-school editorial committees.

Google Selling Demos Along with Keywords

According to Battelle’s sources (reported on Searchblog), Google AdWords customers can now buy paid-search clicks based on demographic profile as well as keywords. The demo data will come from the Comscore/Media Metrix panel so I’m assuming demo data is only available for sites with more than a few hundred thousand uniques (if you’re a publisher using, say, AWStats — your server logs would need to show 500,000 monthly uniques or so). And given that Comscore built its panel by offering a browser-accelerator app, its respondents may skew toward low-bandwidth home users. But still interesting to see where this will lead.

The Secret to Successful Blog Marketing

Check out my guest column on MediaPost!

The Secret to Succesful Blog Marketing: Invite ‘Em Into A Conversation

by Chas Edwards, Wednesday, Mar 8, 2006 6:00 AM EST

In 2001, I was involved in building CNET Networks’s “engagement marketing” programs. In the early days, engagement marketing meant convincing prospective customers to provide contact info so that the vendor’s sales reps could go have a “conversation” with them.

Successful marketing on Weblogs today–and on traditional sites as they begin to imitate the participatory nature of blogs–means a different kind of engagement. It requires that the conversation begin at the first point of contact between the brand and the consumer.

Inviting consumer participation is the stock-in-trade of Weblog authors, and it’s what has driven the enormous popularity of the top Weblog sites. Exceptional, proprietary content (think ESPN.com) or meaningful personalization (think myYahoo) certainly engenders loyalty. But so does inviting readers into the content experience–and publishers can accomplish the latter even without the editorial and product development war chests on hand at Disney or Yahoo. Reading group blog Boing Boing, you’ll notice that most posts end with “thanks, so-and-so!” It’s a publication created as much by its readers as by its four editors. Those four editors, meanwhile, have attracted 2.2 million readers! Given the sense of ownership those readers-slash-contributors feel, perhaps it’s no surprise that when Boing Boing surveyed them, more than 80 percent of them reported to reading the site once a day or multiple times a day.

And once readers get the participation bug–when listeners are given a chance to talk– they can’t seem to stop. Across a dozen sites affiliated with Federated Media, including GigaOm, 43Folders, Wi-Fi Net News, TechCrunch and Gadgetopia, 60 percent of readers publish their own sites. It’s hardly a leap of faith, then, to assume that great online marketing campaigns need to do the same.

Hey, if the pundits and journalists can give their readers a turn at the keyboard (gasp!), surely marketers can do the same–especially if there’s a scalable way to do it.

Conversational marketing doesn’t need to mean staffing a 700-person call center to hold up your end of the conversation. Here are a few examples of simple, scalable and highly effective advertising conversations.

Lenovo figured laptop buyers would have a greater inclination to buy a product they had a hand in designing. But instead of flying wannabe industrial designers to company headquarters at Raleigh, N.C., Lenovo set up a site that allowed buyers to vote for the color (black or titanium?) on the next line of ThinkPads. A small but significant step toward conversational marketing: the company gave its customers a mechanism to talk back. As I write this, 183,394 people have voted so far.

Hotel Web site Quikbook ran a static 150×60-pixel GIF ad on Boing Boing with some custom copy, “A directory of wonderful hotels,” to play on Boing Boing’s tag line, “A directory of wonderful stuff.” It was an effort to tell Boing Boing’s readers that Quikbook wasn’t “targeting” them based on their “demographic profile.” Instead, with a single line added to their banner, they were asking to join the unique conversation already in progress on the site. So when one of Boing Boing’s readers–Xeni Jardin, also one of Boing Boing’s editors–had reason to try the service, she blogged about her satisfying experience. Quikbook’s servers had a workout that day!

Enterprise-search vendor FAST Search & Transfer invited its customers into a face-to-face conversation–for those willing to pay $600!–at its FastForward conference in Miami. One of the featured speakers was John Battelle, Federated Media’s CEO, but more significantly in this case, the author of Searchblog. Given that many readers of GigaOm, TechCrunch, TechDirt and especially Searchblog have participated in online conversations with John, FAST included John’s name in the ad copy that ran on those sites. An invitation to talk to John in person! According to Julie Ginches, FAST’s senior director for PR and analyst relations, “the blog campaign pushed the conference over the top. Not only did it sell out the remaining seats, it also created the groundswell among the industry leaders who brought enormous energy to the event.” In addition to paid sign-ups, the campaign brought 700 visitors to the conference information site.

In the works: A leading software vendor has enlisted several authors at FM’s B2B sites to help write advertising copy that will spark a conversation with their readers. Now we’re talking!

If you too are trying to crack the code on “conversational marketing,” join me at OMMA Hollywood, March 27-28, and bring your own war stories to share with me. I’ll be on the “Marketers as Publishers? How Client-site Video, Gaming and Podcasts Impact the Media Mix” panel, Monday March 27, 4:30-5:15pm, hoping to listen as much as I talk!

Chas Edwards–who blogs at ChasNote.com–is vice president of sales & market development for Federated Media, a network of independent Weblog sites, including Digg, Fark and Boing Boing. He will be speaking at OMMA Hollywood, which will be held March 27-28.