You are currently browsing the archives for May, 2006.

San Jose Appeals Court: Bloggers Are, In Fact, Journalists

In a case brought by Apple against blog sites AppleInsider and O’Grady’s PowerPage, a San Jose appeals court ruled in favor of the First Amendment rights of blog authors. The reasoning: They’re journalists too. Go figure. From NY Times:

In its ruling, the appeals court said online and offline journalists are equally protected under the First Amendment. “We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news,” the opinion states. “Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment.”

Starch: Ads in High-Engagement Mags Don't Work Any Better

Ads in magazines with highly engaged, highly loyal readers don’t perform any better than ads in other magazines, according to the latest Starch Communications study (AdAge). Starch’s SVP Philip W. Sawyer says of advertising effectiveness, “it’s a creative issue.”

Ads on Pringles

This is too much! John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing reports to eating Pringles potato chips with ads on them.

Tivo-Proofing “Lost”: Product Placement Turned Inside Out

All sorts of good stuff waiting for me at PVRBlog after falling two weeks behind on my reading! Such as:

“Tonight’s [May 3] episode of Lost — a show already so deeply embedded with secret signs and clues — will feature details about the episode sprinkled within ads themselves. This is both brilliant and frightening. I can’t recall wanting to watch commercials other than the annual Super Bowl but tonight I’ll actually refrain from hitting the FFWD button so I don’t miss anything.”

Matt hopes this kind of Tivo-proofing won’t become too common, but one thing I like about it: It forces marketers to think hard about what the content-makers are doing to engage with the content-consumers. If you want to join the conversation, you have spend some time listening! As Matt points out, “it must take tremendous planning to have every company with a commercial to film it featuring some tidbit from the show.”

Warner Bros Offers Streaming Rights to Affiliates

Matt Haughey at PVRBlog reports on some good news for local TV affiliates and viewers who prefer to watch the digital versions:

“Warner Brothers is offering online streaming of their sitcom reruns to their affiliate stations. This is a big move as other networks have chosen to sell or stream shows directly to viewers, bypassing the local stations. Also, it’s great to see networks offer fans ways to view older episodes they might have missed, which until now could usually be found online from less-than-legal avenues like bittorrent and usenet.”

And, who knows, serving your customers what they want may even be good business.

Everyone's a Copywriter with Modem's “Rant” Banner

A year ago in a letter to the editor at the NY Times (link, reg req), I argued that agencies would never support a TV ad model that required them to create hundreds of discrete creative units — one for each micro-target — for every campaign:

“Sure, the concept of targeting ads to tiny clusters of TV viewers, 300 households at a time, holds a certain appeal to marketers and consumers (Jon Gertner, April 10). But here’s the rub: This kind of ad targeting requires dozens if not hundreds of 30-second commercials for every single advertising campaign, each spot racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in video-production costs. In other words, creative costs could quickly outpace the media costs to place those spots on the air.”

Two months ago, working with a few blog authors, Microsoft’s agency (IPG’s McCann SF) figured out one way to do it efficiently, online anyway. They pointed these authors to the product’s brochure site and let them each develop ad messages for their own readers (ChasNote 3/8/06). Art directors stealing a page from Silicon Valley’s “distributed computing” playbooks! Or perhaps a Napsterization of ad creative, where content and server power is a shared effort. One blogger-copy ad drove a 60% improvement in click-through rates over the standard agency banner.

This past week, Stanford-based Modem Media (part of Digitas) took distributed creative a step further: Rant banners. These are ad units that create a conversation not just between a brand and individual customers, but among a community of customers all sharing with each other their experiences related to a particular brand, product or service. The banners feature a rolling thread of reader posts, like a group IM chat.

As Mark Galley, Modem’s VP / Creative Director, describes the first batch of rant banners for IT-jobs site Dice.com, the ad units are “a place where IT folks can vent to the world about how much their job ‘sucks’ (to use their language). Beyond that, it’s just flat-out entertaining to not only post as many comments as desired, but to read the endless amount of rants from other techies in similar situations. All that adds up to a ton of time being spent with the brand.”

You can’t beat that for engagement marketing. And it’s highly endemic: The particular conversation at a site, since it’s literally written by that site’s readers in their own voices, takes on the tone and personality of that community. There’s a safety valve, too. When someone posts a new comment, he or she sees the comment appear immediately in the banner, but in fact this instant-gratification process is a local one. I see my own “rant” right away, but I’m looking at a version of the banner cached locally in my browser. Before my comment shows up in the conversation that is viewed by other readers across the web touched by the campaign, my comment is vetted by Modem’s content filter to strip out inappropriate language or reference to company names.

Three days into the Dice campaign, the performance data is still being compiled. But the early signs are promising. Most people who have posted rants so far are posting multiple times, so time-spent will be the metric to watch. And personalized posts such as “Katie, are you there? Are you seeing this?” suggest that Modem and Dice have built an ad experience that their customers want to share with their friends. That’s more than cool.

Bolt Study Finds 16-24 Year Olds Can't Even Name the B'cast Networks

“In a recent survey, one out of three users of Bolt Media, a youth-focused user-generated content and networking site, were unable to name even one of the top four TV networks.” Ouch. MediaPost

New Yorker Doesn't Get “Me Media”

In the May 15 issue of the New Yorker, John Cassidy can hardly contain his distain for the young entrepreneurs behind Facebook.

After acknowleding the site’s enviable loyalty metrics (“Two-thirds of Facebook members log on at least once every twenty-four hours, and the typical user spends twenty minutes a day on the site,” he tells us), Cassidy seems to feel an obligation to belittle its magic formula: “Ultimately, though, the success of sites like MySpace and Facebook may have less to do with the opportunities they provide for self-expression than with peer pressure.” He cites Duncan Watts, a sociologist at Columbia, who argues “there’s a certain lack of purpose to just hanging out in public, and it’s hard to justify it if you don’t have a lot of free time.”

I wish instead he had tracked down a few media executives for the article. (VC Jim Breyer is quoted as saying that the Washington Post Company’s chairman, Donald Graham, “thinks of [Facebook] as a next-generation media business,” but that’s about it.) There are probably many sociology professors (among others) who would argue that television only exists because everyone in the world has too much free time on their hands. Ditto the movie industry. Ditto the video game industry. Ditto book publishing, minus guide books, school texts and self-help manuals. But there’s usually something positive

to be said when a media enterpreneur creates a product that captures the attention of 8,600,000 people (two-thirds of Facebook’s 12.9 million monthly uniques, according to Media Metrix) for 2 hours 20 minutes a week. Let alone a product that has them interacting with other college kids rather than, say, half-comotose on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Another thing that bugged me: While New Yorker writers usually leave out transcription conventions to indicate stutters, regional accents or spoken pauses such as “um” and “ah” between words, Cassidy quotes co-founder Dustin Moskovitz with the blemishes left in: “We had, like, a kitchen table, which we sat around. We had our laptops there, and we, like, hammered away.” Gosh, those Harvard drop-outs who have built a company that the world’s top VCs value at $500 million are practically illiterate!

(Disclosure: Dustin is my wife’s cousin.)

BlogHer Network Launches

MediaPost reports on the launch of a new network of leading writers that cater to female readers, BlogHer. Regarding their model —

“If they choose, participating blog publishers can refuse to carry a particular advertiser. They may also carry ads from other networks, but BlogHer is insisting that its advertising be the only graphic media advertising on a partner publisher’s blog…. Participating bloggers retain their own URLs, traffic, and communities, and agree to publish according to editorial guidelines.”

– I think it’s a brilliant approach. Though it sounds kinda familiar!

Searchblog Readers on AdWords & AdSense

Battelle posted news (Searchblog) that, earlier this week, he launched his first AdWords / AdSense program promoting a real service, FM’s new media planning interface. Perhaps it’s no surprise, his readers lit up the comments line. What did surprise me is how much his readers — the gurus and wizards of the search marketing world — still DON’T know about how Google’s ad programs work:

“I have wondered for a long time why Google doesn’t provide more transparency with its click data. Your content click reporting issue occurs with site targeting as well. Not sure if they are consciously hiding the information from advertisers or just don’t have the tech to push this data out.”

The person who wrote that comment did put a winking emoticon after that last line. Of course Google “has the tech” to push out that data; they apparently don’t want to.