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HP Employee Blogs About HP Voice Post Campaign

Tac Anderson at NewCommBiz called his post “Is this really advertising?” His answer:HP

“Is this really advertising? 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.”

Thanks, Tac! And thanks, Jared, my FM colleague, for pointing Tac to the voice-post project!

Original story on voice post sponsorship, and a follow up piece on readers demanding them.

AOL, Yahoo Struggle to Grow Ad Revenues

Excerpt from today’s NY Times:

Online advertising in the United States is expected to increase 28.5 percent this year, according to eMarketer, a research firm. AOL’s ad revenue increased 16 percent in the last quarter after gaining 40 percent in the previous quarter. Revenue at Yahoo, the No. 1 Internet portal, rose 8 percent in the latest quarter.

Part of the challenge for portals is that people are starting to approach the Internet in a different way. A new generation of Web users has grown increasingly adept at finding what it wants online and is less reliant on portals for guidance. What is more, younger audiences are spending more time on social networking sites and less time on traditional Internet portals.

“Just like Yahoo, AOL is fighting MySpace, Facebook and others for audience and ad dollars, and those are tough competitors,” said Jordan Rohan, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

Social networking sites are not the only culprits. Thousands of smaller Web sites, like blogs, news collectors and niche content sites, are also attracting growing numbers of Internet users and advertisers.

Social Networking Sites Require Conversational Marketing

According to Forrester’s Charlene Li (see VNUnet):

“Social networking sites cannot be treated as channels because their members are not passive web pages.”

Battelle Interview with Intel's David Veneski

From FM’s blog, here’s John Battelle’s interview with Intel’s David Veneski:

“The second of a series, here’s my four questions with David Venski, who has worked with FM on Intel’s integrated campaign over at Digg and Digg Labs (Check out Arc!). David is Intel’s Digital Campaigns Manager for the Americas Marketing Group, and he’s been a lot of fun to work with….”

FM Launches Proprietary Search Tool

Amid yesterday’s news that Glam is raising $200 million in venture capital at an estimated $500 million valuation, a Glam press release “announced the launch of Glam Search, a proprietary search tool aimed at delivering top quality and highly relevant content from Glam Media’s Publisher Network of 350+ lifestyle, celebrity and fashion sites, as well as its flagship site,”

Moments later, in a crass ploy to boost FM’s valuation, we rolled out our own proprietary search tool aimed at delivering top quality and highly relevant content from the 130 sites in the FM family.  Voila!!  Here it is.

Blog Advertising Leads to Funding?

Steven Finch at Crenk speculates that advertising on FM sites leads to healthy B Round investments:

“KickApps have recently been advertising on some of the worlds largest technology blogs such as Gigaom, Mashable and Read/Write Web, this i think was done through Federated Media and it seems to have grab some attention. It has been reported by Mashable that the social network builder has raised a large $11 million Series B round.”

Well, it’s true that KickApps advertises on those sites, and it’s true that tech investors, VCs and bankers read those sites, but I’m not sure I’d make such a direct connection between their ad campaign and the $11 million infusion.  But, hey, the campaign probably didn’t hurt their fundraising efforts!  Thanks for the kind speculation, Steven.

As Voice Posts Add to Content Experience, Readers Demand Access

Over dinner last weekend with Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz, he told me some readers of the site have emailed the Boing Boing editors because they couldn’t view or access the voice post player (those who use Flash blockers), and given that the Boing Boing editors are using the technology to integrate complementary audio elements into stories, those readers were feeling short changed. So Boing Boing has begun to publish text-based instructions at the bottom of voice post stories:

[Browser-compatibility note: The audio link in this post appears as embedded Flash, and is brought to you by HP's iPaq 510 Voice Messenger. If your web reader doesn't allow you to access Flash, here's a direct MP3 Link. Enjoy!]

What a win for HP, the sponsor of the voice post series! I don’t think I’ve ever before seen editors publish a guide to help their readers turn off ad-blockers, let alone a guide that mentions the sponsor by name.

BB Audio from Guatemala

Glam Raising $200 Million

According to TechCrunch, Glam is raising another $200 million, and expects to generate $21 million in 2007 revenue.

“But the company is driving that revenue by selling ads for partner websites, not on their own page views. A minimal amount of research into their business shows that the company is an ad network, not a content site.”

WebEx Sponsors Conversations — Without Meddling In Them

Every brand marketer, these days, wants his or her brand to be “part of the conversation.” Last month’s launch of editorial voice posts on a handful of FM sites, and HP’s sponsorship of the series, reminded me to review data from WebEx’s sponsorship of several editorial audiocasts earlier in Q2.

Sponsored editorial webcasts raise the same questions as does HP’s un-meddling sponsorship of the voice posts: When it’s your advertising money, why fund editorial projects over which you have no influence? When there are ample opportunities for advertorials about your own company and products, why pay to sponsor content that isn’t a direct plug for you?

The WebEx experience provides one answer. As part of a paid sponsorship arrangement with several FM sites (John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing, John Battelle’s Searchblog, and others), WebEx asked authors if they’d host one thread of their conversations-in-progress — their on-going, organic, editorial conversations — on a live, webinar platform. In other words, WebEx was not involved in the content, just the format. WebEx provided the technology platform and bought co-branded ads on each site inviting readers to join the events. In John Jantsch’s case, he picked as a topic “Feeding the Small Business Ecosystem” and blogged an invitation to his readers to join the live discussion. Battelle invited his readers to help him pick the topic (fifteen of his readers volunteered ideas here), then reminded them to tune in,
and finally thanked them (and WebEx!) for making the event a success.

Why would WebEx do this, pony up sponsorship dollars but give up control of the message? Well, they recognized that it’s easier to join an organic conversation than to create a new one, especially if your expertise is in software, not conversation-starting. So they tracked down their customers (business professionals) and found them already engaged in a variety of conversations — at sites like Duct Tape Marketing and Searchblog — on topics of their own choosing. When WebEx paid to sponsor a new technology platform on which to host those same conversations, they found themselves, obviously, sponsoring web events that their customers wanted to join, so the ad units promoting the events delivered click-through rates on the high end of the spectrum.

The campaign succeeded in another way, too. Since the authors of these sites signed up to host the events, they had skin — or at least some ego — in the game. Above and beyond the promotional units WebEx bought to promote the events, the authors used editorial real-estate to encourage their readers to tune in. To be clear, the authors were not obligated to talk about the WebEx brand or services. And these editorial plugs didn’t say anything nice about WebEx or their products (other than “thanks, WebEx” in cases where the authors opted to say so) — that, or course, would jeopardize their journalistic cred — but they did drive more business professionals to the events, where each one gave the WebEx platform a test drive.

In the case of the Duct Tape Marketing webcast, in fact, 93% of the traffic to the registration page got there by way of the editorial promotions versus the ad units.

Update 9/19: Here’s a screenshot of Searchblog with a co-branded ad from WebEx.

WebEx ad on Searchblog

GigaOM's Future of Software

Yesterday, Om Malik announced a new special-report mini-blog at GigaOM, The Future of Software:

“a micro site that over a period of one month will take a look at some of the major trends that are changing and influencing the software business…. [A] variety of contributors (including myself) will explore these topics. At the end of the month I will offer it to you a neatly packaged report as a PDF download. This concept is really a twist on one of my favorite sections in the old Red Herring, Briefing. It took an analytical look at one thin slice of the technology industry, say optics, from many different angles. I have sorely missed, and hopefully, this special mini-blog will fill the gap.”

Om says this will be the first of many “Future reports” on a variety of topics, underwritten by sponsors initially (but written, of course, by the editorial crew at GigaOM without any help from the sponsors!).  “The plan is to evolve these special reports into premium for-pay briefings, but for now we are going with the ad/sponorship model. Sun Microsystems is the sponsor of this inagural effort.”

Congrats, Om, and thanks for the support, Sun!