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Archive for May, 2005

CNET cries uncle, Calacanis cries libel

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

CNet senior editor Molly Wood writes:

There are no secrets in technology today. Thanks to rumor sites such as Engadget, Gizmodo, and the army of sniffer sites they link to daily, nearly every big product release (along with some small ones) has been revealed, dissected, and evaluated long before it hits the shelves. Leaks, once the primary purview of political and business journalism, are the bread and butter of modern-day gadget hounds. …

Thanks to the Internet, there’s a new model for controlling information–that is, a complete lack of control. Bloggers, rumor sites, and even inside sources are running the show, but tech manufacturers are still stuck in their Cold War-like product release behaviors. They tightly control the distribution of both goods and information, hoping to maintain absolute secrecy in order to generate maximum results (that is, buzz) upon release, as well as protect any possible industrial advantage. But at this point, the only ones who are still following those rules are the journalists whose job it is to give you complete reviews of new products, so that you can make well-considered buying choices. …

As you know, Mac OS X Tiger was released today. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that Apple is a big vendor offender, when it comes to getting its hardware and software into the hands of reviewers, who can then helpfully inform your buying decisions in a timely fashion. I know–since my very first day as a tech journalist, and for the five years I spent on the Apple beat, the company tormented me by refusing to send hardware (its belief is that it’s better to have the stuff on the shelves than in the hands of reviewers), withholding software until the last possible minute, then calling me to complain about the rare review that wasn’t utterly glowing. …

Get a group of tech journalists together and you’ll hear them all complaining about the same companies regularly withholding review units or demanding a mountain of paperwork in exchange for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loan period. But we’ve made these deals, over the years because we had to, in order to get the products into the labs, and tell you what to buy and what not to buy in a helpful fashion. Nowadays, our Faustian bargain is breaking down. …

On the one hand, the media are the idiots in this story. We’re the ones running around, tearing our hair out, agonizing over breaking NDAs on products that have been completely revealed by so-called unofficial sources. …

We media types need to quit kowtowing to manufacturers who are trying in vain to hold on to the last shred of control they think they have. Those manufacturers need to wake up and smell the RSS feeds–the information’s already out there. Quit acting like you’re doling out spoonfuls of sugar to the deserving few. Your audience is getting its sugar elsewhere. …

Meanwhile, Engadget.com’s publisher Jason Calacanis (who gave me the heads up on the CNET article) attacks Wood, suggesting that, in engaging in this self-flagellation and mentioning her own company’s policy of returning review products and refusing to do paid reviews, she “claims that Engadget and other blogs have no ethics.” Jason invites bloggers to investigate CNET’s ethics.

Another great blogad (and lots of stupid ones coming)

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

Another great blogad to consider as you build your own: by Vivavi.com. This ad is a round peg for a round hole. The guy buying the ads wrote to say “we’re very pleased” with the clickthru and that Vivavi’s “contemporary, ‘green’ products cater to a lifestyle-driven, issues-oriented consumer, which makes the blogosphere an ideal place to hear about Vivavi.”

I got a huge chuckle today when I read that a new Forrester research study finds 64% of companies planning to advertise on blogs. (via Mr. Barnako.)

Ha. Ho. Hee. From what I’ve seen, 93% of those companies still don’t have an actual clue what a blog is and, of the remaining 7% (ie 4.2 of the total), only .01% actually understand why blog audiences are fundamentally different from the audiences you can buy from MSNBC for 10 cent CPMs or Google for 25 cent clickthrus.

Compared with those mass market audiences, blog readers are more finicky and less likely to click. They are more likely to complain or to deride an advertiser’s product. Like an antique violin, they are harder to play, harder to keep in tune.

So if that 64% “gimme some of them blog things!” advertisers factoid is within a factor of 100 of being accurate, there are going to be millions of square pegs chasing round holes in coming months.

And shortly thereafter, there’ll be as many bitter “advertising on blogs sux!” stories. You’ll see a tremendous backlash of “I tried to advertise my mobile home business and ended up with $47 CPCs” or “People laughed at the movie our agency advertised, now the client is mad, please give us our money back ASAP” stories.

We’ve now done this three years three years, seen thousands of ads and talked with hundreds of advertisers, from the biggest to the smallest. There are, by my count, still fewer than a dozen advertisers in America, out of the hundreds currently advertising on blogs, who really understand why and how to communicate in the blogosphere. Most of these folks are independent companies outside the big agency pipeline, the pipeline that so efficiently dilutes interesting products and ideas into least common-denominator cookie-cutter ads, ads that fail miserably to connect with America’s most sophisticated, pugnacious thinkers.

As I said, the coming year is going to be mighty amusing. Gee, maybe the backlash will go so mainstream that Business Week’s cover will detail the “Blog bubble: how we all drank the coolaid and got a stomach ache.” And all the Rosie Ruizes will head home to the showers.

At which point, a couple of thousand patient and ever-iterating advertisers will actually understand this stuff. And then real fun will begin.

Department of disquieting declarations

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

“Print Insists It’s Here to Stay” — the headline in yesterday’s NYTimes yesterday — ranks right up there with Richard Nixon’s “I’m no crook” in the department of disquieting declarations.

Turns out newspapers and magazines are going to spend 10s of millions of dollars advertising to… umm… remind advertisers that their money is best spent in newspapers and magazines. Watching the pulp-vendors spend that money will be a major test of their own perception of where readers are headed. They won’t spend the money in their own pages, obviously, because they can place house ads for free, right? Anyway, the challenges are great.

Earl C. Cox, who is the Martin Agency’s chief executive and is leading the newspapers’ public relations campaign, told newspaper executives at a recent conference that the current perception of newspapers among advertisers was that they were “static, inflexible and hard to buy.” And, he added, “It doesn’t help any that media buyers are under 30 and their focus is elsewhere,” mostly on the Internet.

Hmm. Maybe these folks should consider advertising on blogs?

I should make clear that I love reading The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Time and Newsweek in print. I’d hate to recline on the couch clutching my laptop. But I’m increasingly annoyed by articles and ads I see in newspapers. They look dull and preachy and dated. I wonder how long it will before advertising in print, like not having a URL a few years ago, hurts a company’s image?

Nanonetworks grabbing mindshare beside old media brands

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

Amy Langfield’s New York blog advertising network got a perceptive write-up today in MediaPost.

ANDREW RASIEJ, ONE OF THE challengers to New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, has turned to the Internet to promote his candidacy in the Democratic primary this September. His campaign went live Monday on over 20 New York City blogs, NYTimes.com, New York Magazine’s Web site, and a handful of influential progressive political blogs.

Can you hear the drip, drip, drip of sales oozing away from corporate media? A group of NYC bloggers of all interests and political stripes have banded together and made buying/editing/monitoring an ad an affordable no-brainer… as easy and obvious as buying ads on venerable, ancient media brand-names. Amy says two blogs are joining, with others in the wings.

Meanwhile, Adam Kuban’s food blog advertising network is getting good traction with food bloggers… soon to be joined by two of the top foodblogs: Chocolate and Zucchini and 101 Cookbooks.

From pulp to pulp

by henrycopeland
Monday, May 2nd, 2005

Newspaper circulation off 1.9% in the last six months.

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