Earlier this week, several FM sites rolled out their first “voice posts,” a new series of editorial segments served up as audio files on blog sites. HP is the sponsor of the series, meaning their logo appears under the audio file with copy that says “voice post technology sponsored by HP iPaq 510.” HP also bought banner ads on the sites. Beyond that, though, HP has no relationship to or influence over the content of the voice posts — a brilliant stroke on their part. Why? Two reasons.
First, by giving blog authors a new, easy-to-use platform to talk to their readers (listeners?) about topics of their own choosing, HP stands a much better chance of creating a “voice post habit” among top independent bloggers. Mark Frauenfelder, for example, one of Boing Boing’s editors, reads an excerpt from his book, “The World’s Worst.” According to Amazon, the paperback edition is 176 pages long. If Mark gets good feedback from Boing Boing readers, he’s got a lot more book to read — in his own voice! — for voice-posting on the site. Not that HP’s logo will necessarily accompany hundreds of future voice posts on Boing Boing (their current sponsorship runs for 2 months); but presumably the HP and the iPaq brands benefit if more bloggers and more online media consumers get comfortable with voice-to-text and text-to-voice activities.
Second, not every visitor to these sites will understand what’s meant by “voice post technology sponsored by HP iPaq 510.” So David Ponce at OhGizmo used a voice post to explain to his audience exactly what HP paid for (ads on his site and the HP logo under voice posts), and what they didn’t (his editorial content). Transparency and full disclosure, never bad things, are enormously important practices for independent publishers (who tend to face greater, or at least more vocal, scrutiny than traditional publishers, see this or this) and for publishers exploring marketing that goes beyond standard ad banners. And while HP didn’t pay OhGizmo to write or “voice” a disclosure, they benefited from it: It’s impossible for an author to disclose a sponsorship relationship without naming the involved sponsor. In OhGizmo’s case, David mentions HP or iPaq five times in the voice post and another five times in the accompanying text post, both under the headline “Voice Posts On OhGizmo: An Explanation, A Disclaimer And An Example.”
Nice going, HP.
(Disclosure: FM represents OhGizmo and Boing Boing and takes a commission on advertising that runs on those sites, and I work for FM.)
Update 7/24: The voice post technology arrives just in time for John Battelle at Searchblog, who broke one of his typing hands last week at camp with the kids. I know what you’re thinking — I made him break his hand as part of the HP sponsorship deal, but, alas, I didn’t. Also, Ken Fisher at Ars Technica debuts his site’s voice post series with a review of Tivo HD.
Update 7/31: Boing Boing uses voice posts to add the soundtrack to their site.
Update 8/14: As voice posts add to content, readers demand access. Here’s what the editors at Boing Boing are doing about it, according to David Pescovitz.
Update 8/31: HP marketing staffer and blogger Tac Anderson asks the question, Is This Really Advertising?, to which he replies:
“Technically yes. The better answer is that this is the way new media advertising *should* be done. It leverages ad dollars to bring additional value to a community that is not interruptive. I don’t know who on the HP side came up with this but I think it’s great.”
Update 9/15: Here’s a handful of comments from readers of Battelle’s Searchblog.