Betatesting Blogads 3.0 functionality
Wednesday, May 4th, 2005
Some folks have asked why bloggers would put in the effort to create and manage the nano-networks (links: 1, 2, 3, 4) you’ve seen sprouting this spring. You know… the NYC, Philly, TV, North Carolina, Economists, LA, food bloggers, New England arts, Evangalicals, baseball, gay, and sports networks. (Still waiting for someone to step up to the plate for conservatives and liberals.)
Of course these networks provide the organizers the chance to help other bloggers; there’s some gratification in helping create and grow something; there’s the challenge of sorting through just who is who in the blogosphere; there’s the satisfaction of being the hub for a great bunch of writers.
In the future, there will be money too, though most of the public-spirited folks so far helping create these networks did not know this when they pitched in. How much and exactly what for? If you are a casual reader of this blog, hang in there while we beta test and work out details. If you are blogads geek, give me a shout and you can help advance the idea.
There’s obviously work beyond wires and programming involved in building a network, whether Blogads.com itself or the nano-networks we support. We’ve wanted to judge how much work and what kind. How to help bloggers organize themselves, how to sort out the great from the good from the bad, and how to encourage good citizens versus free riders. These are questions we chewed on while specing version 0.1 of Blogads three years ago. (Here’s the first evidence of Blogads.com I can find, from the Wayback machine from November 2002.) Now, after what feels like decades of working on the network and talking constantly with bloggers and advertisers, we have a better sense of what is at stake.
I’m not going to lay out all the details here yet. But you should note that, as a first step, we are closing the current, annoyingly inefficient application process for bloggers who want to sell blogads. There are simply too many bloggers queuing up to join the network. In theory, we could take everyone on board, but some bloggers might turn out to be nuts (bloggers are not exempt from the general population’s distribution of dementia), others require dozens of hours of support for $5 a month in revenues to us. We would be diverted from focusing on smart bloggers and their advertisers.
So we’ve relied on a rough and ready applications process. Though ugly, it worked for a while. Here’s what we learned: some bloggers have a snowball’s chance in the Sahara of interesting advertisers. Some didn’t manage to answer the five simple questions we posed. Some did, but fudged their traffic estimate by a factor of 100. Some were alone in niches that we know we won’t be able to serve well for months or years. And some, understandably, got angry when we didn’t respond to their entitled insistence that Blogads.com serve them. Worst of all, some great bloggers got lost in the cracks.
I apologize for the shortfalls in that approach. We didn’t like the application process, most of all, because it forced Blogads to be the gatekeepers in a culture that is all about organic connections. We’ve know all along that Blogads isn’t our network. To work, Blogads has to be a collaboration among bloggers. Smart bloggers have understood this and have had a tremendous positive impact on their own and everyone else’s revenues by pitching into our efforts.
So, going forward, bloggers will join blogads on the invitation of current network members, bloggers who, in essence, have helped beta test the Blogads idea and build the network. These “beta” bloggers will evaluate, invite and guide new blogads sellers. New bloggers (theta?) will pay 30% of ad prices to participate in the network, rather than the 20% fee charged current blogads sellers. A sponsor blogger, only a handful at first, will get 5% of her sponsored bloggers’ revenues while she remains a sponsor. Essentially, sponsor bloggers will be rewarded for doing some of the work traditionally performed in corporate publishing by both an editor and staff in the HR department. (To be clear, this means identifying, recruiting and acculturating stars, not managing!) Sponsors are doing work they are far better qualified to perform than we. (Once acculturated, new bloggers will be able to invite bloggers too.)
In the future, other portions of Blogads’ fee will go to other players who help manage networks or sell blogads. As a corporate entity, Blogads.com will net less in percentage terms when the dust settles. We trust the pie will be bigger.
Let’s call this distributed publishing, a lively human-and-Internet powered swarming response to the fat, mechanistic, rigid, hierarchical infrastructure of traditional publishing. (I’ve always had special glee in participating in a business whose gross profit margin is well below the 30% net profit margin of the traditional publishers it competes against. Lots more on this in my May ’02 essay on blogonomics.)
This program will be in beta for a while, working with a very small number of beta bloggers, some of whom are current network catalyzers. We’ll be tweaking the formulas, payouts and the processes. Once we’ve got this nailed down, we’ll roll out other interesting mechanisms as we impliment Blogads 3.0 this summer. If you are a journalist, file this all under the topic of “distributed publishing” for future reference.