January 16, 2006

Blog Revenue

I have been searching for a way to understand the potential monetizing of blogs. I found this great piece from www.buzzmachine.com. It is a good start.

Me and my ads
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I am trying to learn how ads are working on blogs and so I’m trying to be promiscuous with nearly every method out there. I’m doing this for a lot of reasons: pure curiosity and pure greed among them, but I also want to inform some thoughts on the need for open ad marketplaces to support this new, distributed world. I also have joined with Burst’s Jarvis Coffin to work on a citizens’ media trade association (more on that later). And I want to learn lessons to teach in a journalistic entrepreneurial course I’ll be teaching at CUNY. So, a few tales thus far….

: The most effective means for me has been Henry Copeland’s Blogads. I put them up in the summer and every time I sold an ad, I raised my rates and I still got ads — not a landrush, but some of them included ads for movies and TV shows, which amazed me. I made a few grand and it works well from my end; I don’t know how it works from the advertisers’ end, buying sites at varying rates and efficiencies. But since especially entertainment advertisers keep coming back, I have to figure it’s working, measured either on value or buzz. I just took down my Blogads for now, but only so I could keep playing the field.

: I just joined up with John Battelle’s Federated Media, which is putting together an impressive network (if I can say that) of “author-driven” blogs. FM has a sales staff that promises to sell major advertisers. So far, I’ve had one ad, for the Wall Street Journal (and Fred Wilson made fun of me for that). This is a different model, where the sales negotiation process will determine the cost-per-thousand or cost-per-click rate. Time will tell how it works and who buys. (By the way, please take my survey so advertisers can see how damned smart… and rich… and profligate you all are.)

: I use both Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network targeted text ads, trading them off in the space. See Bill Burnham’s quarterly financial report; he has done better than I have with these methods. There have to be ways to improve the targeting and efficiency of these ads (and Mark Pincus’ Tagsense project has found some ways). But right now, it’s not worth much.

: I have ads on my Feedburner feeds and can’t get to the stats for those, but I am not quitting the day job. Well, actually, I did quit the day job, so I suppose I should regret that now.

: Here’s the tale that amuses me most: Out of nowhere, sometime ago, I got an RFP (request for proposal) from Warner Brothers asking me to bid to get ads on Buzzmachine for the movie North Country. I could not understand a word of the thing. It was filled with jargon: ad-agency media-buyer and ad-technology buzzwords and acroynms aplenty. I had no frigging idea what to do with it. Mind you, I have been in the internet publishing business since practically the start — even sold my first online ad in 1995 — but I had no idea what to do; I can’t imagine what most bloggers would think of this.

Luckily, I happened to be seeing Jarvis Coffin, who’s a good guy and, unlike me, knows what he’s talking about. He said that Burst, the large ad network serving niche-interest sites he founded, would rescue me. So the good folks at Burst responded to the WB RFP with yet more jargon. One email flew buy asking whether Buzzmachine had “100 percent SOV.” I asked what the heck SOV meant. They explained that it’s “share of voice.” I still didn’t understand. But I soon learned it’s something about being the only ad on the page.

The tale continues: WB included Buzzmachine in its buy. But they wanted one of those fancy-t0-them, annoying-to-us ads that pops onto the page for a few seconds. I was willing to go with that. But there were problems. First, because of that SOV thing, I couldn’t have another ad, which meant that Burst had to serve its filler ads on my page and I heard from readers who wondered what was going on. The other problem was that the advertiser’s technology didn’t work; they said it would serve once per user session but instead they apparently set a cookie that said that users would get the ad only once in this lifetime in this or any parallel universe. As a result, I never saw the ad on my site and no one saw it more than once, which meant that Buzzmachine was, as they say, underserving. And that meant that the ad stayed up forever but all anyone ever saw were the filler banners.

And the net result of my first big studio advertising RFP was that I made next to no money and couldn’t put up other ads for weeks.

: No conclusions to all this…. yet.

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