ChasNote

31 August 2005

Google Adds Insult to Injury for Print Publishers

As nearly every business or professional print publisher is beefing up its Internet presence in order to reclaim ad dollars that have gone online (see the latest news at MIT's Technology Review, Boston.com), Google has started selling print ads.

From CNET's News.com:

"The search king, which makes 99 percent of its revenue from Internet ads, is quietly testing the waters of print advertising sales, according to executives at several companies that have bought the ads. Google recently began buying ad pages in technology magazines, including PC Magazine and Maximum PC, and reselling those pages -- cut into quarters or fifths -- to small advertisers that already belong to its online ad network."

You optimists out there may say, Great news -- Google is boosting revenue for print publishers! (UPDATE: In fact it is. Battelle does the math at Searchblog.)

I say, Eek! Is Google's AdSense platform more capable of selling print ads than the account execs at PC Mag or Maximum PC? As someone who's built a career on the premise that my unique human capabilities captured a premium, this news makes me feel a tad redundant. On the other hand, it signals a leap forward for media companies when self-regulating systems (like those built by Google, Yahoo or eBay) create greater efficiency for both buyers and sellers of marketing services.

29 August 2005

Media Measurement Is Bad Everywhere

Joe Mandese in MediaPost reports on a new study by the Advertising Research Foundation that finds "none of the major media have audience measurement methods that are adequate for the way people use those media today."

Phew, we're not alone! In fact, the respondents voiced greater dissatisfaction with measurement tools for traditional media. "TV audience ratings, the subject of a number of controversies including a Congressional investigation, possible legislation and legal suits, is especially poor." Nielsen's TV ratings came under fire for, among other shortcomings, tracking only viewership for the programs, not the ads themselves. Radio's measurement standards (namely the paper-diary system) were called "relics of the past."

ARF's report lessens the frustration (if only a bit) I was feeling earlier this month as I compared NNR's and comScore's studies of blog traffic. One of the sites FM works with, BoingBoing, registered 849k unique visitors according to comScore but only 605k based on NNR's count. BoingBoing's server logs peg the monthly unique-visitor count above 1.6MM.

28 August 2005

Japan's TV Ads: TV Ads Not Working

Hiroko Tashiro's piece in the September 5 issue of Business Week (BW's Talk Show section):

"Throughout August, 133 Japanese TV stations are airing commercials to promote the importance of...commercials. Japanese advertisers, like those in the U.S., worry about growing use of digital video recorders, now in 15% of Japan's homes. By letting users skip ads, DVRs have knocked $489 million off the value of commercials to advertisers, says the Nomura Research Institute. To win back advertisers, the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan named Aug. 28 TV CM (commercial) Day. In one spot, a singer Aya Matsuura works a puppet that says, 'Commercials are fun, aren't they?' adding, 'It's ventriloquism, so of course I'm made to say so.' Viewers, of course, may skip these ads, too."

Is this a joke? Does Japan's NACB think this will turn the tide on commercial skipping, and save those $489 million dollars from migrating to more effective media platforms? I don't know how Japanese media buyers are responding, but I question the wisdom of a month-long broadcast campaign that reminds them how much of their ad budgets are going to waste.

25 August 2005

Advertisers: Let Publishers Pick You!

Flatiron Partners VC Fred Wilson talks about a new sell-side advertising marketplace for blog advertising (Fred's blog). Advertisers post their ads at Word of Blog, and blog publishers pull down (and place on their sites) ads that are appropriate to their audiences. "And there is no fancy contextual targeting engine [eg, AdSense] working at Word of Blog" -- just good old fashioned human publishers who know their readers and seek advertisers who will fit into the dialog (see my post on the endemic relationship). What a wonderful new use of the term "opt-in marketing."

24 August 2005

Publicis Ventures Investing in Media Companies

According to MarketingVox, Publicis has formed a venture unit to invest in media companies in order "to assert economic influence over new media and technologies on behalf of advertising clients." MarketingVox cites Mediapost (MediaBuyerPlanner) as its source. It's almost funny (in a Stalinist way) to imagine this trend played out over the next decade--rate negotiations among media buyers & sellers who all have the same boss!

23 August 2005

Google AdSense: Rates Up, Publishers Happy

Like previous moves by Overture (now Yahoo), Google is pushing up minimum bid prices for paid-search advertisers. This is good news for publishers and bloggers. According to News.com, "While advertisers were grumbling, Web site publishers were reporting that they were seeing an increase in revenue from ads on their sites provided by Google's AdSense program--the service that allows publishers to display AdWords on their sites--since Yahoo launched a beta of its competing Publisher Network program earlier this month."

16 August 2005

Feedster's Own Influence Index

Feedster announced the debut of their Top 500 list (Feedster 500) to compete with Technorati's Top 100. The concept is the same--both are lists of the most influential blogs based on in-bound links from other sites. But the methodology and results are different. Technorati has BoingBoing at #1 (15,770), while Feedster puts them at #3 (36,229). Feedster's #1 is Engadget (54,380); Technorati puts Engadget at #6 (8817). Other discrepancies are more troubling. Metafilter, at #17 on Technorati's list, doesn't show up at all in Feedster's 500. Om Malik's GigaOm and Waxy Links, numbers 52 and 60, respectively, on Feedster's list, don't make Technorati's top 100.... ClickZ's Search Engine Watch dives into the controversy (SEW).

Aug 18 update: Feedster apologizes for missing some blogs that should be in the top 500. It would be nice to learn what about the methodology led to the omissions. Are there others, like, say, Metafilter?

"No list is perfect and, unfortunately, we managed to not list several prominent blogs that should have been in the August Feedster Top 500. And our guess is that they will be in the September Feedster Top 500. But for right now here they are along with their approximate ranking:

* Top 20 -- Stephen's Web by Stephen Downes
* Top 50 -- Jason Kottke
* Top 75 -- Search Engine Watch
* Top 75 -- We Make Money Not Art"

Paul Graham on Why "People Working for Love Often Surpass Those Working for Money"

According to Paul Graham, what worked for Linux in the enterprise--better products emerge when smart people do work because they love it, not because they get paid to do it--is driving the success of leading blogs (Paul Graham). I love his point, too, about the competition between blogs and the mainstream outlets:

"Those in the print media who dismiss the writing online because of its low average quality are missing an important point: no one reads the average blog. In the old world of channels, it meant something to talk about average quality, because that's what you were getting whether you liked it or not. But now you can read any writer you want. So the average quality of writing online isn't what the print media are competing against. They're competing against the best writing online."

09 August 2005

Blog-Reader Demos from ComScore & NNR

New ComScore research done in partnership with SixApart and Gawker shows that blog readers are richer, and spend more time & money online (MediaPost).

More detail at Nick Denton's blog, NickDenton.org.

Aug 17 update: Nielsen/NetRatings is also out with reaseach on blog usage. Unique visitors to the top 50 blogs is up 31% since January, to 29.3 million in July 2005. Yet only 11% of those blog visitors are subscribing to RSS feeds (RedHerring and Mediaweek).

04 August 2005

News.com's John Roberts Corrects My Numbers

News.com's John Roberts brought to my attention some bugs in Technorati's counting system (see his May 2 post, Clock). Below I searched Technorati for links to www.news.com; News.com also does business from www.news.com.com, which receives another 12,646 in-bound links. Thanks, John!

03 August 2005

The Influence Index

Last week I spoke to a group of publishers and marketing directors at Primedia Business. I was invited by my friend Pete May (group publisher over a dozen Primedia titles) to speak on the topic of “Blogs: This Year’s Trend or Something We Should Actually Care About?” Or something like that. All the fixings for a warm welcome!

It started badly when I referred to 13,500,000 bloggers out there. Everyone in the room had a story about a silly blog published by some nephew in elementary school. And it got worse when I belched out jargon like “the linking ecosystem,” “the long tail” and “atomized content.” I was just what they expected: a blog evangelist riding the latest fad and trying to convince them that traditional magazine publishers need irreverent, amateur content that’s refreshed frequently or they’ll be out of business by Thanksgiving. For god’s sake, I even showed them my Del.icio.us bookmarks.

The tide turned, though, when I pulled up some stats from Technorati. I managed, finally, to shed the BS and talk about concepts that are familiar territory to good publishers of any era, regardless of format. One, the importance of authoritative voice. Two, the need to establish influence among a desirable audience.

Technorati tracks in-bound links to websites. Another way to think about this: Technorati ranks the relative importance of a publisher, based on the Googlesque logic that the more sites that link to you, the more trustworthy and relevant you are. If a particular site (published on Blogger for free or on industrial-strength servers running Vignette) has 100 in-bound links, it means that 100 other sites respect that site’s content enough to refer their own readers to it. Being linked to isn’t unique to the blogosphere. For example, 48,000 sites point to The New York Times. Here are the numbers for some top tech and digital culture sites:

* Wired, 42,471
* Slashdot, 23,983
* BoingBoing, 15,770
* Gizmodo, 9770
* Engadget, 8817
* PC World, 5440
* Metafilter, 5237
* PC Mag, 3247
* CNET, 2211
* Tom’s Hardware, 1969
* Waxy, 1835
* News.com, 1404

The “bloggers” such as BoingBoing, Gizmodo, Engadget, Metafilter and Waxy fare remarkably well alongside the best-known, best-resourced traditional publishers in the category. (Disclosure: BoingBoing, Metafilter and Waxy are affiliated with FM, the company that employs me.)

There are undoubtedly a variety of factors behind this phenomenon, having to do with evolving frameworks for intellectual property (back to “atomized content” again!). But I’ll skip my theories on the root-causes. The point is this: marketers will always gravitate to the authoritative, trusted and influential voices. The most successful publishers—be they bloggers or media conglomerates—will be the ones that wield the most influence in their marketplaces.

Content Is King (For Real This Time)

Venture capitalist Roger McNamee on the changing dynamics for content creators: "Media was dominated by distributors who dictated how, where and when we would get content. Now technology has taken media from being location-tied, and lessened the control of distribution -- content owners can be independent of distribution operators," (SmartMoney). This explains the rising influence of top-tier bloggers, those with authoritative voices and high influence among their audiences. But this isn't a wholly new dynamic. Think of the leverage held by rockstar DJs (eg, Howard Stern), news anchors (eg, Bill O'Reilly) or newspaper columnists (eg, Walt Mossberg).