MSNBC is abandoning banner ads, fearing that the rectangular IAB standard advertising units are becoming a commercial coffin.
Good for MSNBC!
We’ve been arguing since 2002 that IAB standard units were going to be first ignored by readers, then commoditized by advertisers. And now it’s happening.
The current short menu of industry standard ad units — basically just Google’s text ads and 728 x 90 pixel banners (and their boxy cousins) — is little changed in concept in the last 8-10 years. (Standard display ad units have gotten bigger, yes, but better… no.) And the menu of choices is incredibly impoverished when you consider the creative flexibility that the internet has unleashed for both publishers, advertisers AND audiences.
We’re still in very early days of ad units. We predict there’s an optimal ad format waiting to be invented to maximize results for every different type of advertiser in each different flavor social media. Yes, that’s potentially thousands of different combinations, but that’s where the market is headed.
We’ve got a couple of new ad units in the pipeline for launch next month. Hang on for the ride.
Next week’s Economist has a good article arguing that blogs are maturing, if not dieing. The article notes that the number of blogs on major services are declining and that the frenetic energy that once flowed through blogging is now being captured by Facebook and Twitter.
Has blogging jumped the shark. I think maturation is the right word.
First growth and innovation are slowing as niches are filled and creative possibilities fully explored. Second, bloggers, whether working independently or spitting out hourly posts within a larger news organization, are now totally accepted as full-fledged media players.
But it’s important to remember that maturity isn’t senescence… if anything, the growth of Twitter and Facebook have improved blogging, since the two played have creamed off the idle chatter and social preening that used dilute thoughtful blogging. What’s left behind in the blogs is, on average, far more useful and thoughtful than it was 5 years ago.
What we’re seeing is analogous to the speciation that occurred over the 150 years after the invention of the printing press: the unitary concept of “the book” slowly evolved into multiple printed species — books, pamphlets, magazine, daily newspapers — with distinct names, characteristics and audiences. The new formats first became distinct, then stabilized, then flourished and continued to slowly evolve and feed new appetites. Different trades and guilds emerged to support these genres.
BookExpo America (held in NYC this year) is the US’s largest trade show for the book and publishing industry. The good buzz this year was about ebooks and ebook readers. Hey, without printing costs, maybe there’s more upside? The bad buzz was about the lack of free wifi in the Javits Center, the dearth of a common hashtag, and the event’s shrinkage versus prior years. Barbra Streisand’s keynote was also less than riveting.
Our team reports from the trenches:
*We saw the cute 75th Anniversary Penguin car on its journey across the US.
*We walked 40 miles in 2.5 days over the NYC landscape and partook in only one subway ride.
*We enjoyed a lovely evening at Hudson Bar & Books with book industry insider and Blogads blogger Ron Hogan (Beatrice.com), watching a stream of people trip over the raised sidewalk in front of our table.
*Our t-shirts were declared the conference’s “coolest swag.”
*While waiting in line for Tony Hawk’s autograph session, Megan Mitzel was interviewed by CNN. So, if you catch a clip of BEA coverage, here’s a little insider info from the gal in the Blogads T: “childhood hero” means “I spent hours playing Pro Skater on N64.” (Hawk was signing “How Did I Get Here? The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO” in the Wiley Booth.)
In 2002 Henry Copeland started brainstorming a service to connect bloggers and advertisers. Here’s the original Blogads manifesto. The Blogads domain was registered March 5, 2002, and after six months of prototyping and programming, the service launched August 13. Things were quieter than expected. The first ad, for $32, didn’t trickle in until September 2.
During the ’04 and ’08 elections, Blogads ran hundreds of ads for different candidates and causes, more different political ads than any other single online media. Henry “makes blogs possible,” said leading bloggers.
Henry, 48, grew up in Wooster, Ohio and in 1984 received a BA in history from Yale University after scraping by classes in economics, math and computer science. After working on Wall Street (’84-91) and in Budapest as a journalist (’91-’98), in 1998 Henry founded Pressflex.com, the parent company to Blogads. Pressflex today serves as the webmaster for nearly 100 newspapers and magazines across Europe.
And talking with Epic Fu’s Zadi Diaz about social media advertising:
Department of dubious distinctions: Henry was named “most argumentative” in the Wooster High class of ’80. Henry’s blog is the sixth oldest by an American CEO, according to this list. And Henry is one of Gawker’s New Dorks of All Media.
Favorite business books: The Innovator’s Solution, The Loyalty Effect, Emergence, Sam Walton: Made in America, Fooled by Randomness, Only the Paranoid Survive, Crossing the Chasm, The perfect store: eBay, Moneyball, The Machine that Changed the World, and Linked.
We are extending to all bloggers our feature that pays bloggers who help sell ads on other blogs working with Blogads. Think of this as grassroots ad sales to support grassroots news.
Here’s the idea: the total commission on buys through hive order pages will rise to 40% from the current 30%. On any buy referred by a blogger through the hive order page, 14% will go to that blogger, 6% will go to the hive manager, and 20% will go to Blogads. So, for example, if a blogger refers an advertiser to the hive for a $3,000 purchase, that blogger will make an extra $420 above the revenue from the ad itself.
To get the commission, bloggers will use a specific URL when sending advertisers to the hive. If an advertiser doesn’t buy immediately but returns to the hive within a month, the referring blogger will still be commissioned.
This commission will compensate a proactive blogger for her hard work or connections. The sales effort could be as simple as putting an extra link to the hive order page in the blog’s nav bar or as full-throttle as sending a link out to contacts or writing a blog post extolling the virtues of advertising on the hive.
(On a related note, we’re lowering the commission for ads sold when buyers click on the “advertise here” on individual blogs, currently at 30%, to just 14%. We’re keeping less money because we do less work on these deals; we want more money to flow to the people who are doing most of the work.)
Why are we doing this?
Niche blogs are vital players in the media ecosystem and they MUST be funded. In a world in which algorithms and top-down solutions increasingly drive both content creation and advertising, we think this collaborative ad sales solution could a significant impact on the livelihoods of niche bloggers.
In both competing for eyeballs and ad dollars, blogs are up against giant competitors… not only the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN but content megafactories factories like Demand Media, AOL, and HuffingtonPost. There are now literally billions of pages online for readers to mine for information and for advertisers to use in promoting their goods and services.
Amid a Gobi-sized desert of generic media mediocrity, blogs have something special to offer both readers and advertisers: an oasis of human quality, a strong sense of connection with and among readers. For advertisers looking to elevate their brand and really connect with influential readers — as opposed to just getting clicks from random consumers — there’s nothing better.
We think that some niche bloggers will bring their passion for their niche and investment in its success to selling ads. Since nobody knows niche blogs better than the bloggers themselves, a self-organized group of bloggers seems like an ideal platform for selling those ads. Bloggers are often uniquely well-connected in their own communities of interest, whether in a given locale or a niche. In a sense, the blogger sales commissions is a continuation of the ideas — niche-focus, self-organization, DIY, bottom-up — that we started chewing on clear back in 2002, when we launched Blogads.
We created hives (then called “mini-networks) in 2005 to try to stay sane; we had topped over 1000 blogs and couldn’t keep track of who was who. Rather than try to determine who, for example, was a liberal blog we turned this over to the bloggers to determine. So we let bloggers create their own hives and promote sales commonly. The hive adminstrator, for his or her troubles, would then get 5% of sales.
Over time, we’ve realized that the hive’s cataloging function the hives was the least of their utilities. The blogs in the hives, reading each other, linking to each other, e-mailing behind the scenes, have incredible power. We hope the new idea will extend this power even further and fuel new profitability for locale and niche blogging.