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Archive for January, 2003

Making waves in an ocean of entropy

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 31st, 2003

The Internet has outstripped TV and newspapers as an information source, says a new survey. At the same time, people believe less of what they read online and therefore have to do more cross-cking of information.

There’s a glut of ad slots and ads, news and news peddlers. In fact, thanks to the likes of CraigsList and Slashdot and what Clay Shirky labels the “mass amateurization of publishing,” both could be virtually infinite.

Traditional ad-funded media may soon be swamped in the ever-expanding info universe sparked by the Internet Big Bang. But this spreading ad and info entropy will also challenge advertisers; traditional demographic-based advertising will soon be as effective as trying to heat the moon with a blow drier.

Against this backdrop, I’ve argued that “hubness” (like hipness, but more businessy) will be the thing that differentiates blogs from other media and gives hub bloggers premium CPMs. The best blog ads will be like the billboards on Times Square — more expensive in terms of eyeballs, but good value for signalling to customers, competitors and business partners that “we’re serious.”

These blogad buyers will be the types of buzz-seeking, network-aspiring companies — software vendors, media producers, fashion peddlers, auctioneers, artists, and service providers — who traditionally promote themselves through what economists refer to as “common knowledge events,” the socially intertwined spectacles, forums and media within which participants can look at each other and say “you know I know you are watching.”

Granted, bloggers will have to cultivate and then publicize any claim to hubdom in their respective niches. (And yes, at present, few bloggers even have defined a niche beyond “what interests me today.” That’s not a bad niche, but obviously won’t cut it commercially.)

Can the blog compete commercially in the age of media entropy? As commercial organisms, blogs have short life-cycles, small metabolisms and are run by flexible egos. Up against the old, thick-shell, high-burn, multi-cell media organisms, the blog is an ideal candidate to evolve and exploit the new environment.

Blogads: ‘a strip mall run by maniacs’

by henrycopeland
Thursday, January 30th, 2003

Two posts of interest for Blogads users this morning. In the Guardian, Jim McClellan surveys the prospects for commercial blogging and features Blogads. From the grassroots, Ken Layne blogs: “My BlogAds make me happy. Currently, this site is offering a gun T-shirt, an Arizona politics blog, corsets, trial subscriptions to the Los Angeles Examiner paper, and a link to an L.A. news-gossip site. It’s a strip mall run by maniacs.”

Infectious blogging…

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

I was on a blogging panel Monday afternoon at DCdotcom, an event for DC ad execs. The day was well-run and kept the 220 attendees entertained/informed.

There was a lot of interest about blogging, but only 10% of the audience had ever read a blog and only 2% had actually blogged. Wake up ladies and gentlemen! Dave Barry has a blog. GWB reads blogs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Meg Hourihan in person, but am afraid I borrowed her stomach bug. Jennifer, did you fare any better?

Hmm… blogging seems to be something you can only catch in person too. Let’s see if more DC ad folks catch the blog flu.

A Washington Post ad VP gave us his spiel. He emphaized some good stats — the web is number 1 news source for business decision makers, number 1 media during work.

My favorite line was this classic pitch: “some of our clients don’t want us to tell people how well they are doing with their online advertising — they don’t want their competitors to find out.” I liked this line because a) it is funny to hear someone from the Post resort to this genre of aluminum-siding-sales-training-school “trust me” pitch. And b) although the pitch was dripping oil, it was a good point and probably true. The neat thing about the web is that your competition can be TOTALLY ignorant about how well you are doing. There are no parking lots to check, no shelves to watch.

Of course, this can also pose a problem because people like to deal with companies that are successful… and e-businesses are still working on ways to reflect “popular” or “busy” or “buzzing” online.

Deflation articles: Whoppers and meltdown

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 25th, 2003

You know I like to beat the claxon about deflation. For some good anecdotes about the phenomena, see David Leonhard’s story; among other things, he notes that the price of Burger King’s Whopper has declined by a third in the last twenty years. And if you want to look under deflation’s hood, don’t miss Megan McArdle’s explanation of the pernicious economics of deflation. In short, “the mechanism for generating money starts to break down.”

CraigsList, Blogads and GE

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 24th, 2003

The NYTimes profiles CraigsList, the famed free classifieds site started in San Fransisco in 1995. The only revenues come from job listings for SF, but now suffice to cover costs including 14 staffers.

CraigsList is doing 200 million page impressions a month in SF alone, according to the article. What the article doesn’t highlight is that this traffic (in what some New Yorkers would consider a backwater media market) is not far below that of America’s top news site — yes, NYTimes.com — which is running around 300 million page views a month. Ahh, context.

Wonder what the CraigsList’s monthly page views look like across its dozen markets? Here’s a graph of the growth of NY apartment listings. Looks exponential to me.

As CraigsList chews the belly out of newspapers’ core market, where does Blogads fit into the new media ecosystem? I’d say that “hubness” (like hipness, but more business) will be the thing that differentiates blogs from other media and gives hub bloggers premium CPMs. These blogs will be key venues for those advertisers who not only want clicks or branding, but who want to be seen to be “at the center.” So good blog ads will be like the billboards on Times Square — more expensive in terms of eyeballs, but good value for telling competitors, business partners and customers “we’re serious.”

Fading industrial powerhouse GE won’t run any of its newly bought 500 million Imagination ad impressions on blogs, but the entrepreneurs who are tomorrow’s megabusinesses — e-book publishers, software programmers, gadget vendors, eBay traders, e-commerce gurus — will understand the unique value of advertising where ideas happen, rather than where they get reported.

Young media versus old monopolies

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 24th, 2003

Why is the UK press so much spicier than the American? Former FT scribe and new New York news monger Nick Denton offers a good guess.

Blogads developments

by henrycopeland
Thursday, January 23rd, 2003

Some work for a big publishing client and a necessary but arduous software/hardware upgrade put us into hibernation for the last six weeks. Now we’re back! We’ve just created a CSS adstrip, which simplifies design customization from the blogger’s side. Today, we’ve also revived optional comments on ads, something we experimented with a few month ago. Comments are working well on sites like Fark and Kuro5hin and should exponentiate clickthrus on ads for artistic works. (Although some artists won’t like everything that gets said about their work!) You can see the CSS adstrip at right and use the comments feature on the Blogcritics ad.

Also, we’ve just reorganized the order page to a) give priority to bigger sites and b) make it easier for advertisers to comparison shop. (The page view estimate come from the number of times each adstrip is served from our server.) If you want to support great bloggers, please feel free to link into the page. Here’s that URL again — http://www.blogads.com/order_html — so you can copy/paste right now.

One marketing-savvy blogger, Olivier Travers at Scifan, now nets an incredible average of $20 per CPM on his Blogads. This blows even leading publishers like the WSJ.com out of the water, especially since Olivier doesn’t have to underwrite the ad salespeople, Oracle DBAs, Vignette licenses, copy editors and lackeys who bleed “real” new media operations. How much does Olivier sweat to sell ads? He mentions the ads to every author and PR person who contacts him. The rest of the time he focuses on dominating his niche.

The Layne diet for Salon…

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2003

Doing some free consulting for one-time high-flying Internet magazine Salon, Ken Layne suggests cutting the staff of 50 to 8. “Get out of that ritzy office space — two floors? — and take 1,500 square feet above a bar in Chinatown. Hold meetings at the bar.” I remember visiting Ken in the dingy offices of his protoblog Tabloid back in… 1998 was it? Salon would be rolling in dough (and Dow?) if it had copied that strategy.

“Sit Down diner mystery deepens”

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2003

My daughter and her friends are abuzz with news that the owner of a spiffy local diner has vanished. They are doing Google searches and hypothesizing about his possible whereabouts. The owner didn’t tell anyone he was shutting down, changed his cell-phone number, stopped ordering food and then didn’t return from one week being “closed for repairs.” The whole thing is right out of Nancy Drew.

Blue light blackout

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2003

E&P reports: “David Keyes was just about to turn in his 2003 annual budget last week for the Bonner County Daily Bee, a 4,701-daily-circulation newspaper in Sandpoint, Idaho, when his secretary slipped him a message that made him blanch: Sandpoint’s Kmart was among the 326 stores chosen to close as part of the retailer’s plan to exit bankruptcy. Since it opened in 1990, the Sandpoint store has come to be the Daily Bee’s fifth-largest advertiser, accounting for about 8% of the Hagadone Corp. paper’s ad revenue.” As the tides shift, so shift the sands we build on.

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