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Archive for January, 2006

100 conservative blogs

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Congratulations to John Hawkins, my fellow tarheel and the organizer of the conservative blogads network, who is the first to push a blogad network into triple digits. John, who blogs at RightWingNews pulled the 100th blogger just in time for the SOTU.

Meanwhile, in addition to the 80 member liberal network, we’ve also got local political networks fermenting in Oregon and Texas. More mininetworks here.

Signs of the times: 1000 blogs, Kodak and t-shirt

by henrycopeland
Monday, January 30th, 2006

Just completed our first 1000 blog proposal. 1047 to be exact, with an estimated 70 million impressions in a week. Wowee. We had to work hard to pull together 800 blogs for MSNBC in December. And I remember in December of 2003 being thrilled to be able to pull together an ad proposal for ~50 blogs, one month, totalling 5 million impressions.

Meanwhile, some media is making the transition from old to new, reports the WSJ:

While stung once more by the rapid slide in film sales, Kodak found solace in its steady drive into the digital era. Its overall digital sales in the quarter surged 45% to $2.67 billion, while revenue from film, paper and other traditional, chemical-based businesses slumped 21% to $1.51 billion. For all of 2005, digital sales accounted for 54% of total revenue, marking the first time in the company’s history that digital exceeded traditional sales. In July, the 125-year-old company disclosed plans to lay off 10,000 employees on top of 12,000 to 15,000 job cuts targeted in January 2004.

Meanwhile, Pete Nelson gives a real time update on his success as an advertiser. on Diggers Realm: “We ran a blogad from 12/3 to 12/17 for $50. For those two weeks, we had six sales totalling $207 that we can track directly back to a clickthrough from the blogad.”

Catching up

by henrycopeland
Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Last night, we celebrated Chinese New Year with a trip to the Jade Garden in Carrboro. Amazing mongolian beef, and the best sesame beef ever.

Last Sunday night, I flew out to Park City to support Indiewire‘s launch of SF360. (Yeah, right. I went to gawk at Sundance, which I’ve heard about but never seen.) I slept on the floor in Paste Magazine‘s house high on the hill above Main Street. I saw Peter Coyote. Brian spotted Steven Spielberg. I met Heather and Jon and believe there’s some photographic evidence of our conclave. I chatted about blogs with Al Gore for 45 seconds; he reads them occassionally but seemed decidedly unexcited by the topic — or just about me?

The highlight came at the end of the Discovery party. I shuffled out into the sub zero night and began contemplating the climb home. I noticed an old station wagon with a small film projector poking out of the trunk, flanked by a man and a woman playing various small instruments. They told me they couldn’t get into Sundance proper, so drove down from San Francisco and pitched a tent off the back of their 10 year old mobile right outside Robert Redford’s restaurant in 5 below night to show their “home movies” (silent movie stuff with faux naive/evilish Mr. Bill style plots) accompanied by harmonic warbling, zylaphone thumping, guitar strumming, tinkling and humming on 60s-vintage toy pianos and organs. The 16 mm projector was powered by the car battery, which kept running down. So they had eventually had to crank up the car, which then shrouded the scene in carbon monoxide and steam. They’d spent their last $ on bread and cheese and a grilled cheese machine, but it wouldn’t work with their converter. I borrowed their video camera and shot some footage — see screenshot below. My debut as a documentarian was cut short after a couple of minutes when the cold killed the battery. I’m sticking to my day job. (More info about Ben and Libby here.)


An new project: 25 Bloggers in Amsterdam

by henrycopeland
Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Late last year Sebastian Paauw, a cool young guy at the Netherlands Board of Tourism, approached us about buying ads on blogs. There’s lots of interesting blogging going on in Holland, so I could turn my normal sales pitch off and listen to Sebastian enthuse about how influential blog readers are. After some brainstorming and number-crunching Sebastian came back and asked about bartering blogads for trips, saying they normally had a pile of plane tickets for journalists and that it would be fun to see what happened if these went to bloggers instead. Sebastian suggested that we could, as part of the deal, interview the bloggers to capture some of their experiences for posterity, and then use some of their insights in the bartered blogads and other marketing.

We all agreed from the beginning that asking bloggers to blog about the trip should definitely not be a condition for going. And agreed that the project should be as transparent as possible, with all bloggers linking to a disclaimer explaining the whats and whys of the project. (While we’ve heard of companies giving freebies to bloggers, there has been no standard yet for how to disclose the nature of the gifts and whether there are any quid pro quos. We hope this project helps to highlight the question of best practices on disclosure. I’m sure we’ll get some feedback on this and look forward the discussion.)

After some further brainstorming with my colleague Justin Abbott, we decided to pull the blogger interviews and any other ephemera around the project into its own blog-style site. (Taking a page out of BL Ochman’s playbook with UpYourBudget.) What exactly is going to happen? We’re still trying to figure it. I have to say that Sebastian and his crew have been amazingly laissez-faire in their outlook.

Having originally started talking about five tickets, Amsterdam has gradually bumped the total number of invites up. Which brings us to 25 BloggersInAmsterdam!

When the gun is in the other hand

by henrycopeland
Monday, January 23rd, 2006

Journalists have enjoyed a relative monopoly on the public podium, expecting to present their cauterized and packaged distillation of events without much dispute or amendment. Many journalists have not been aggrandized by this power and remain humble, personable scribes. Unfortunately, some journalists think they’ve got a monopoly on the power to report, as Cathy Seipp discovered recently when exchanging e-mails with New York Times reporters. (Link via Matt.)

Meanwhile, in today’s NYT, we get what looks like an auto-obituary for the newspaper industry.

“Papers are so clunky and big,” he says. If those words are alarming to old media, they are only the beginning of a larger puzzle for today’s marketers: how to make digital technology their ally as they try to understand and reach an emerging generation.

The article goes on to describe an intensely networked group of young folks who find newspapers irrelevant. But the problem isn’t really with newspapers, you see. Oh no. It’s that these kids are sheep.

Dr. Levine said he had encountered concerns that some young people lacked the ability to think and plan for the long term, that they withered without immediate feedback and that the machinery of groupthink had bred a generation flush with loyal comrades but potentially weak on leaders.


Finally, best wishes to Matt Welch as he joins the op/ed staff at the LATimes. Journalism needs razor-sharp skeptics like Matt now more than ever, journalists who know intuitively (and celebrate) that readers aren’t sheep just ’cause they don’t value what journalists are scribbling. (Meeting Matt and friends in 1991 diverted me from Wall Street to journalism and Central Europe… one of my best diversions ever.)

Essential reading for politicos

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 20th, 2006

Don’t miss Daniel Glover’s great article in the latest National Journal about blogs and politics. He slices, dices and interrogates the subject at every angle. In five words: blogs are big and getting bigger. Here’s a bootleg version.

And here are some outtake interviews with Arriana Huffington, Glenn Reynolds, Andy Rott and me.

Interesting nuggets I gleaned from the article:

In a February 2004 study, George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet found that 69 percent of blog readers are “influentials, or opinion leaders and trendsetters with their friends and neighbors.” Institute Director Carol Darr said in a recent interview that the news and political junkies who frequent blogs are like “honeybees, kind of feeding the culture” with the information they gather and with their comments and diaries at the sites.

(That compares with 50% of NYTimes.com readers and 35% of WPost.com’s readers… or maybe I’ve got the numbers backwards. Cliff?) And another chunk:

Defenders of Wildlife used blog ads to promote PomboInTheirPocket, a Web site that tries to link Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., to land developers, oil companies, and lobbyists who want to amend the Endangered Species Act. The two-week ad buy ran mostly on California blogs, said Mark Longabaugh, the consultant who helped the group put it together. It included three “action items”: telling a friend about the site, e-mailing Pombo’s office, and making a contribution.

The ad raised about $50,000, Longabaugh said. “That would have more than covered the ad buy.” He added that it generated thousands of impressions more than Defenders of Wildlife could have expected from a television or newspaper ad — and it reached the right people. “The blogs tend to be where a lot of conversation is going on these days in terms of politics,” he said.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America was equally pleased with its blog ads to enhance awareness of the group’s BuySafeDrugs site. The ads were placed periodically on an array of blogs, generally for about a month at a time, according to Ken Johnson, PhRMA’s senior vice president of communications. “It’s an effective, cost-efficient way to reach select, targeted demographics,” he said. It also gives drugmakers direct access to patients without their message being filtered by the media. PhRMA plans to develop more ads this month focused on topical news events, Johnson said. And the group plans to have a blog of its own at some point. “We’re trying to make it where it’s not a dartboard,” he said. “It’s one thing to hear what other people have to say. It’s another to put a bull’s-eye on your forehead.”

Defending her honor

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 20th, 2006

Some pompous curmudgeons folks have been incensed by Dr. Myra Vanderhood’s Pherotones, claiming that she’s engaged in “trickster marketing,” besmirching the honor of the blogosphere and/or insulting the intelligence of web readers.

For instance: “When people stop calling it ‘marketing’ and start calling it ‘lying,’ you’ve probably made a mistake, gang. And dissing Web denizens everywhere by messing around with Wikipedia and the guys at Boing Boing? Even bigger mistake.”

Can a site that says “can one ring tone can make you irresistible?” be construed as a lie, or are web readers a lot more gullible than I think? Who buys into a product called “Testosteroni” without Googling the scientist behind it?

If the folks at Boingboing buy “world-traveled intimacy expert” Dr. Myrna and her products, we’ve learned more about Boingboing than the good Dr. (Don’t miss her blog. )

Maybe I’m too cynical, but when was the last time anyone took ANY interesting advertising literally? Watching Careerbuilder’s office-full-of-monkeys Superbowl ads last year, were we really to conclude that Careerbuilder’s ad agency had found an office somewhere in America full of monkeys? Does every joke need a disclaimer? Or do we fear webettes are so infantile that ads need to include: “NOTICE: these monkeys were trained to look human.” Is the web to be premodern and not postmodern? Must tongues never meet cheeks? Is there to be no fantasy for God’s sake?

[Insert THUNDERING APPLAUSE, interspersed with CATCALLS for webocrats.]

Print and TV advertising long ago evolved beyond simple descriptions of products — ads now often don’t display a product, let alone describe its features or merits. Ads deploy narrative arcs, startling images, interesting/attractive characters… all of them fictional, none of them a lie. We should expect the same online. No. We should CELEBRATE it.


Proving that some people have a sense of humor, it appears that Dr. Myrna last night not only showed up to debate a critic, but bought an ad on his blog.

It’s only advertising folks. Leave the preaching to the pope.

Disclaimers: The applause above was simulated by trained monkeys. Blogads is serving ads for this wonderful product. And yes, it really does work.

Signs of the times…

by henrycopeland
Monday, January 16th, 2006

The Oregon Progressives blogad network just launched and attracted an ad for a Hillary Clinton campaign stop.

Meanwhile, more wild stuff from blogad auteur Brian Clark. Who the heck is Benjamin Stove anyway?

A fun ring tone blogad from Doctor Myra Vanderhood just down the road in the famed RTP. Add a few links and some text from specific pages like this and this, and she’s got a winner.

Finally, some folks in Boston just raised $6 million to fund a business based on the premises that a) the blogospheres aren’t optimally social b) blogging tools aren’t easy enough to use and b) good bloggers deserve money (or maybe frequent flyer points?) The powerpoint bulletpoints, blunt, greed-provoking and flattering to the viewer’s sense of brilliance and omniscience, almost write themselves.

(OK, call me a purist, but how ’bout a quick flag to the NYT’s ombudsman: the Boston Globe, New York Times-owned newspaper, managed to quote “entrepreneur” John Battelle without mentioning that he runs a company funded by the New York Times that is vaguely competitive with the company being profiled. A couple of months ago, NYT’s editorial page ran a column by Battelle arguing that the Internet boom isn’t a bubble this time; a mention of the seemingly pertinent entwinement of writer and publisher’s financial interests was omitted that time also.)

Saturday AM notes

by henrycopeland
Saturday, January 14th, 2006

My age-twin Meredith wrote to say she’s quit her job at AMD.

I liked this song on WXYC this AM: Rza and MF Doom Biochemical Equation Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture.

We’ve been playing a lot of Canasta at home, a game I last played when I was 10 or 11 with the Tewson family.

Friday, Team Blogads went to eat another superb BBQ at Allen and Sons. Stopped back for a chat with the owner: learned he charges just $12 per plate when catering whereever… Maine, Texas, DC or Durham — plus expenses for getting there and back. (“Doing it this way means I can sleep at night.”) He’s booked six months in advance for graduation weekends. Details gleaned from past visits: starts out with 800 pounds of pork at 3AM. Regulates temperature with doors acting as baffles. Done right, he ends up with 600 pounds of BBQ, done wrong, 500 pounds or in the worst case ashes. (Pork is $1 a pound, so the $100 difference can be the difference between profit and loss.) In the half hour between lighting the fire and moving the coals over to the barbecue pit, he bakes cakes and pies, restocking.)

This week a bunch of us drove over to Durham and sat in on a talk that Cliff Sloan, publisher of Wpost online, gave at the Duke Law School. Some interesting stuff he said:

1) “The internet disaggregates everything that used to be aggregated and aggregates everything that used to be disaggregated.”

2) Wapo.com does 200 million page impressions a month and Slate.com does 50 million impressions a month. (Add those together, and you’ve got the same page impressions as 900 bloggers spread across the country (disaggregated) and cooperating (aggregated) through Blogads.com.)

3) Sloan also noted that a “significant” portion of traffic to Wapo’s sites comes from links on blogs. But he declined to say how much.

The umbrella is turning inside out — the old edges are the new hubs and vice versa. No amount of glue or good will or philosophical gloss will save the old hubs, the newspaper businesses whose economics and infrastructure are premised on exploiting the now-useless monopolies on printing presses and distribution channels.

And the campaign of the year is…

by henrycopeland
Friday, January 6th, 2006

Mack Collier, writing at BeyondMadisonAvenue has declared the UpYourBudget blog blitz the “campaign of the year:”

But there’s another reason to sing the praises of Budget’s campaign. And we see it everyday.

Many advertisers portray their customers as idiots. The examples come to our mind early and often. Maybe it’s the guy that gets stuck/locked in an air vent chasing a credit card bill. Or maybe it’s the father that tells his family to call him on their cell phones, then realizes that no one in the family actually has a cell phone. Kodak engaging in assvertising? The fat idiot in the Capital One commercials that never can figure out that ‘the answer’s always NO’?

Budget’s Up Your Budget campaign was so significant because it totally reversed this trend. Budget made their customers partners in spreading their message. Basically, they told bloggers “Here’s what we are doing, here’s why we think you should care. If you agree that what we are doing is interesting, please help spread our message.”

What Budget did, in a year where many companies told their customers that they were too stupid to realize that they thought of them as idiots, was tell their customers that they looked at them as equals. And furthermore, were going to trust them to help spread their message for their company.

Congratulations to BL Ochman and Komra Moriko who conceived the campaign. And congratulations to the couple of hundred blogads sellers who provided the commercial platform that made the campaign such a success.

More background on the campaign here and here and here.

Mack put it well. Smart advertisers understand blog readers as actors rather than audience.

The industry is slowly evolving. Most of the best blogad campaigns, like UpyourBudget, have at least one blogger involved in the process, either as the buyer or the creator or the designer. (For example, this was also the case with the award winning Audi A3 blogad campaign, quaterbacked by blogger Brian Clark.) We’ll see more and more of these “blogger conceived” blogads as blogging grows, as bloggers advance in their organizations AND as the folks who are doing cutting edge work today get recognized and recruited into more campaigns. These are the folks who see the new dimension of the “actors not audience” paradigm shift — everyone else doesn’t yet really have the intellectual or emotional vocabulary to really understand what’s happening.

The tradititional advertising model — and the publishing industry it piggybacks — treated readers/consumers as passive recipients of information. Like blogging, UpyourBudget treats the public as participants, as co-conspirators, as actors not audience.

Advertising on TV or print or radio has always been a one-way street. Unfortunately, the “we talk you listen” mentality still rules online, where it’s even more embarrassingly threadbare compared to the riches of the giant, rich social fabric being spun out hourly. Sadly, though called “interactive” today’s online advertising offers little more real interaction than the 70s video-game Pong. It’s all pretty mechanical and two dimensional.

Advertisers still view online communities almost exclusively as mere buckets of eyeballs. But as people grow more adept in their online avatars (whether blog or game identities), social networks are mutating and multiplying. To keep pace, online advertising excellence will depend on a company’s willingness to catalyze, engage and/or harmonize with online social networks.

I’m also thinking about places like Threadless, where the community seamlessly creates the product, and Myspace, where the community forms around products, and Craigslist, where the community inhabits the product and vice versa. These communities have formed organically. They do NOT prove the success of communal marketing because there are far more failures in the same spaces than successes. (On the contrary, they are the exceptions that prove the rule that most communities fail to flourish; for every 1 New York City, there are 100 Syracuses and 10,000 Nyacks.)

More thoughts on this to come…

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